Home | Forum | Mailing List | Repository | Links | Gallery
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 18

'If you try and stick that needle in me, Hank,' said Azimuth, and her tone made it clear that she was serious, 'I'm going to twist you so hard your brains ooze out your ears.'

Beast shot her a startled look. 'I had assumed,' he said, somewhat concerned, 'that you would prefer an epidural. There is far less likelihood of trauma to yourself or the child if you would allow me to proceed with the injection.'

The smile she gave him was winsomely sweet. 'You know,' she asked, 'how Remy hates going into the medi-lab?' Hank nodded, bewildered at the change of topic. 'That's his phobia,' said Azimuth. 'You've just met my phobia. You stick a needle in me, particularly one with an anaesthetic in it, and I'm going to be forced to kill you. Nothing personal, you understand, but I'm not going to let you near me with that in your hand, okay?'

Cecelia's voice was cool, professional. 'I suppose it is time to make yourchoices clear, then,' she said. 'You can have this child without an epidural, which would mean natural childbirth and the possibility of considerable trauma and pain for yourself or you can have an epidural and choose between reasonably pain-free natural birth or a C-section. Do you think catering to your phobia is sufficient reason to go through all of that suffering?' Her stance as she gazed at Azimuth was only slightly defiant. Cecelia had been practicing her bedside manner and could now nearly manage compassionate.

Azimuth's glare at her was modified into a grimace and her hand tightened over Remy's in an almost painful grip as she panted through the labour pang. 'I'm going to have to go through hours and hours of this, aren't I?' she asked.

Cecelia nodded. Her voice was grim as she said, 'I can fill you in on all the unnecessarily gory details about pain and blood and stitches as well, if you want.'

'No, thank you,' said Azimuth. She turned to Hank, her face outwardly calm, but he suddenly saw the shattering panic that lurked at the back of her eyes, held back only by a monumental effort of will. 'Beast?' she said, very softly.

Beast sighed, sat down next to the bed, engulfed Azimuth's free hand in one of his. 'I apologise, dear lady,' he said. 'It is normal for your physician to discuss epidurals and other such accompaniments to childbirth with you prior to the commencement of labour. I'm afraid the suddenness with which your body decided that it needed to finalise this whole matter has made me somewhat remiss.'

'Please, Hank,' said Azimuth. 'Just tell me what I need to know.'

'An epidural,' began Hank with a sigh, 'is essentially an injection into your spine - the epidural space to be precise. An anaesthetic is then introduced which numbs most of the pain sensations but allows you to continue pushing with your contractions. If we introduce the epidural that I feel would be most efficient it does mean that you won't be able to lie on your back. It is generally the most painless way of having a child although there can be some side-effects. It can also allow us to undertake an emergency C-section if such becomes necessary. Your other choices are either to undergo natural child-birth with the possibility of less effective pain-alleviation techniques or to choose a C-section now - which will involve either an epidural or full anaesthetic. I strongly recommend that you choose an epidural, Azimuth, to make this as easy on your good self as possible.'

Her eyes were dark with fear as she glanced up at Remy, looked back at Hank. 'I can't,' she said softly. 'I'm sorry, Hank, but I just - I *can't*. The thought of an anaesthetic - I can't handle it. I'm sorry.'

'There is no need to apologise,' said Beast, his eyes liquid with compassion. 'I can understand your experiences have rendered such techniques unacceptable to you. But are you sure you wish to undergo natural childbirth?'

'There is another way,' said Cecelia before Azimuth could answer.

Hank looked at Cecelia, raised one eyebrow in enquiry. 'Continue, oh dearest damosel of my demesne,' he said. 'What convoluted pathway has your most devious and delectable mind devised to cause our dilemna to desist?'

'I was thinking about 'paths,' said Cecelia, her demeanour unchanged by Hank's playfulness. 'We've got a couple of telepaths in the Mansion right now and I know that Jean, at least, has been working hard on pain-control techniques. I can't see why she and Psylocke can't learn all about the joys of childbirth.'

Hank nodded slowly, thoughtfully, turned back to Azimuth. 'It's up to you,' he said, 'but I think it may be very beneficial.'

Azimuth stared at him for a long moment, turned her attention to Remy. He smiled down at her, stroked her hand lightly. 'It's your decision, chere,' he said, gently. 'Whatever *you* choose to do. Though anyt'ing dat stopsyou squeezing my hand quite so hard be nice.' He grinned ruefully. 'Don' t'ink my fingers ever be de same again.'

Azimuth swatted lightly at his hand, a quick grin flashing across her face.She turned back to Hank. 'I suppose I should try and stop the Master Thief there from never being able to work again. I'd like to try it, Hank.' She grimaced again, panted her way through another contraction. 'Actually,' shesaid, when she caught her breath again, 'I think I'd really, *really* like to try it. Right now, if possible.'

'At your service,' said Hank and carefully sent a thought out. ~Jean,~ he called, then, ~Betsy.~

~Hank,~ came Jean's reply first, the strong, no-nonsense tone of her thoughts followed by the soft, subtle whisper of Psylocke's echo.

Beast explained the dilemna, his thoughts compressing the whole situation into a quick byte of mind-sound, both telepaths more than skilled enough to unravel it in seconds.

~Of course I'll help,~ replied Jean, her mental tone almost warm.

~I am on my way now,~ came Psylocke's terser, flatter response.

'They're coming,' said Hank, unaware his pleased expression had already given that away.

He had barely said the words before the door opened to admit both telepaths. Beast was fascinated to see Azimuth's eyes narrow as she half-glared at Jean to be followed by a friendlier nod at Psylocke. It was the opposite to the reactions the two women normally attracted and Hank wondered what exactly Azimuth saw when she looked at them.

Jean intercepted the look Azimuth gave her, understood it. 'Are you sure you want me to do this?' she asked, her voice cool. 'It will mean allowing me access to your psyche, possibly for hours.'

Azimuth nodded. 'Yes,' she said. 'I'm willing to trust you.' Her tone made it clear that trusting did not necessarily equate to liking.

'I am not as skilled as Jean in pain-control,' said Psylocke, who had a tendency to dispense with the preliminaries. 'I believe it would be best if we worked in concert. This will enable me to pick up the techniques and allow each of us to rest if it becomes necessary. Is this acceptable to you?' she asked Azimuth.

'Pretty much anything you two do is acceptable to me,' replied Azimuth. 'So long as it means I can get the werechild out of me with the minimum of pain.'

'Then we might as well begin,' said Jean and slipped her psyche into Azimuth's mind.

'I am never,' vowed Remy to Azimuth, 'going to tell you how difficult t'ieving is again. Never. In fact, I don' t'ink I'll ever tell you how difficult anyt'ing whatsoever is again.'

'That's sweet, LeBeau,' said Azimuth, puffing. Her hand soothed gently at his, where she had been - not to put too fine a point on it - crushing it. Jean and Betsy had been doing an excellent job of keeping the pain to a minimum, but Cecelia had strictly forbidden either of them from interfering with Azimuth's perception of her contractions. As she had also, so far, forbidden Azimuth from pushing, it meant that Azimuth had a general desire to squash something whenever a contraction shook her. First candidate tended to be Remy's hand. She had offered to crush something else but he had refused to relinquish his grip. If nothing else it meant that he had an excuse not to travel any further down her body than the pelvis. Remy was not normally a squeamish man but he had suddenly discovered he just didn't want to get that intimately acquainted with the processes of childbirth.

'Glad you t'ink so, chere,' he replied to Azimuth's comment. 'Dere's not much else about dis whole experience dat's sweet.'

'No, not really,' she agreed with him. 'I just wish it was over quicker.' She grunted after the last word and her face contorted with effort but no pain as Jean and Betsy tweaked at her perceptions and held the pain in abeyance. 'CeCe,' groaned Azimuth. 'Please let me push. Please. I want to get this thing out of me.' She panted madly, used all of her willpower to stop herself bearing down her abdominal muscles as she so desperately wanted to do.

'Not yet,' replied Cecelia, implacably. 'You've only just reached the active stage of labour, which means that the child is just starting to make its way down the birth canal. That's why you've got such a strong compulsion to push. But you're not sufficiently advanced or dilated and if you try and push now you're just going to do yourself and the baby damage.'

'But it's been hours,' wailed Azimuth, her grip tightening inexorably on Remy's hand.

'Four,' said Cecelia. 'Long labours are fairly common for first-born children.'

'Oh great,' panted Azimuth, and then relaxed back with a long shudder as the contraction ceased. 'I really didn't need to know that.'

'It can be quicker,' said Hank. 'If you agree to a C-section this could all be over fairly soon.'

Azimuth shook her head sharply. 'Not unless I have to,' she said. 'I want this - this *thing* - out of me but not that much. Not yet.' She nearly spat the word thing, her hatred for the werechild suddenly back in full force.

'It's aware.' Psylocke's soft voice suddenly cut through the noise in the infirmary. All eyes turned to her and she flinched slightly at the sudden attention. 'I just felt it then,' she said. 'When I slipped out of Azimuth's mind, I felt the child's psyche. It is aware of what's going on. It's like - it's like - an adult mind.'

Remy and Azimuth were the only ones unsurprised.

'Can you give us more information?' asked Hank, frowning.

Betsy shook her head. 'I just brushed it,' she said. 'Very lightly. There was awareness but I couldn't sense much more than that. It is very,' she paused, searching for a word, 'guarded.'

'An adult psyche in a child's mind,' breathed Jean. 'A child made by Sinister. Did you sense anything that may indicate danger?' she asked Betsy.

'No,' shrugged Psylocke. 'I only glanced past it. But it did not seem pleasant. It certainly did not welcome my presence.'

Jean turned to Azimuth. 'Do you mind,' she asked, 'if I try and contact it? I'd like to try and find out if there'll be any danger when it's born.'

'Go ahead,' said Azimuth. 'But I can tell you now it's got a nasty little mind.'

Jean aimed a sharp glance at her, then shut her eyes and cast her psyche out into the astral plane, seeking the mind that Betsy had so briefly happened upon. She concentrated fiercely, shut out the purple shadow of Psylocke's mind, whispered through the plane with her shields built high around her. Her instincts screamed at her that this was a child, only a child, to drop her shields and seek a mind that needed only nurture, only love, but her intellect told her that this was a child made by Sinister and there was no guarantee that it wouldn't be aware of her presence - or that it wouldn't be hostile.

~There,~ breathed her astral self. Something small and dark and inturned, barely noticeable because it curled in and over itself. Jean wrapped herself around it, shields held high, and tried to open it out.

The blow to her psyche was shocking. Not because of its power - it was weak and unfocused, the soft blow of the untrained - but because of the sheer black malevolence that drove it. It skidded off her shields and slipped away but not before Jean's astral body reeled in shock at the hatred aimed in her direction.

She caught herself, wondered for a moment if she should try again, decided against it and slipped from the astral plane back into her body. She began to say something, a warning and realised that she was too late.

The pain had come, so swiftly, so strong, that neither Jean nor Betsy was able to catch it. Azimuth's scream rang out hoarsely through the infirmary and her body arched up and forward, curving over her pregnant belly, clutching at it in a paroxysm of agony.

'What's happened?' screamed Cecelia, thrown into almost-panic by the sudden change in Azimuth's condition.

Jean didn't answer, her mind slamming instructions into Psylocke's and then curling down around the werechild, wrapping it tightly in her telekinesis, holding it still. Azimuth's screams subsided as Betsy's mind soothed into her pain receptors, dulled the agony into an ache.

'Get it out of her,' growled Phoenix.

'Azimuth doesn't want the operation,' began Beast but Jean interrupted him harshly.

'It's trying to kill her,' she said, her voice harshly precise. 'The damned thing is inside her body where it can do the most possible damage and it knows it. It wants to kill Azimuth, Hank. Just get it out of her, now!' The whip-crack of command underscored the last word, pulled from Jean by horror as she felt the tiny fists of the werechild beat against her telekinetic cocoon, felt it kick and gouge and tear, trying as hard as it could to rend and destroy.

'Azimuth?' asked Hank.

'Do it, Hank,' she responded, and her words were dull with remembered pain. 'Any way you have to. I didn't think it'd try . . . get it out of me, now.'

The doctors needed no second urging. 'Betsy,' said Cecelia, briskly. 'Can you keep Azimuth's pain under control if we do a C-section? I'd prefer not to have to put her under general anaesthetic.' Psylocke's brief nod reassured her. 'Jean, you keep it still, stop it trying to attack Azimuth. Hank, I need a swab and then a scalpel. Remy, get out of the way. Go and stand against the wall or something because you don't want to see this.' She cut Remy's incipient protest off with a glare and he meekly stroked Azimuth's hand one last time and then went and took up his post against the wall. 'Azimuth, we don't have time to get a screen up so, whatever you do, don't look down.'

Cecelia worked efficiently, years as an emergency intern coming back in what might have been a nostalgic rush if the circumstances weren't quite as fraught. She swabbed Azimuth's abdomen clean, made a swift, neat cut down the midline of her grotesquely swollen belly, quickly sliced down to where the baby lay wrapped in the golden hint of Jean's telekinetic bubble.

~Not lay,~ thought Cecelia, shuddering. ~Fought. Battered.~ She could see it now, see the curled fists and kicking feet battering against the bubble. She reached out to take it from the womb and then drew back, unable to do it. Working with the X-Men had taught her many things, but it had not prepared her for this.

'Hank,' she said, her voice oddly weak. 'You take it out while I cut the umbilical cord.'

There was something strange in Hank's eyes as he reached out, his gloved hands massive yet gentle as he lifted the child out of Azimuth. He stood while Cecelia tied and cut the cord from where it curved outside the bubble and then curled the baby close against his chest. Behind the near-invisible sheen of Jean's shield, red-on-black eyes glared wildly at the world.

The day had long ago gained the complexion of a nightmare in Hank's mind. Azimuth's labour, her unexpected intransigence in the matter of an anaesthetic, his feelings of helplessness and then the sudden deterioration in her condition had all made this a dark day for him. But nothing made him feel worse than looking down on the child, held in gentle hands and strong cocoon, and knowing that it was evil. How could he possibly present this frail scrap of hate to its parents, parents who had never wanted it?

A gentle hand touched his arm and he looked up into Remy's strangely calm face. 'Give it to me,' said the Cajun.

'It's your child,' said Hank, his voice dreamy-lost. 'She has your eyes.'

'I know,' said Remy. 'Now give her to me.'

Hank held the child out carefully, deposited it into Remy's hands. Remy held it securely, his unusually long fingers wrapping around the bubble to prevent the violent movements of the werechild from making him drop it, and studied it carefully. Tiny fists flailed at the shield, red-on-black eyes focused on his in mirror image. It shouldn't have been able to focus, Remy knew. Human babies couldn't focus their eyes until they were much older. But human babies couldn't send out the seething waves of malevolence that pounded against the shields in his mind either, waves that shattered into prismatic shards of hatred. Specific hatred, focused hatred, deprived hatred.

'You lost,' murmured Remy and his triumph washed over the werechild, a wave that made it pound harder against the TK shield around it. 'She's still alive,' he whispered to it. 'You didn' kill her. Do you understand? Azimuth's alive. And you can' kill me now , either.'

Hatred seethed against his mind but Remy ignored it as he turned his attention to Jean. She looked wan, sickened by the emotions the werechild was broadcasting, her attention divided to where she was using other parts of her telekinesis to assist Cecelia in closing Azimuth's wounds. 'Drop de shields, Jeannie,' he said, wearily. 'It can' hurt me. Can' hurt us.'

For a moment Remy thought Jean would refuse but then her eyes dropped and she nodded. The hint of gold disappeared from around the werechild and fluid stained Remy's hands suddenly, dripped to the floor.

He felt something push against him, some force he didn't recognise, partly a mental push, partly physical, feeble and barely controlled. Remy held it off with contemptuous ease, deflected it away from him.

The werechild glared at him with a hatred that seemed too large to be contained in such a fragile body, a feral desire to hurt that Remy hadn't felt since the last time he had faced Sabretooth in one of his berserker rages. Then the child drew one short, gasping breath and died.

Stunned silence filled the medi-lab for a few seconds, all eyes suddenly on the child in Remy's hands.

Stunned silence until the voice came, gravel wrapped in acid.

'As ever, LeBeau,' said Sinister, 'you are the most flawed of my creations.'

Remy's eyes didn't lift from the child in his hands. 'You're de one who made me,' he replied. 'Don' blame me if you didn' do your job right.'

Sinister stepped forward from the corner in which his tesseract doorway had opened. 'She would have been perfect,' he said, looking with something that might almost have been mourning at the child in Remy's hands.

'How did you get in here?' gasped Jean, sharply.

Sinister looked at her, bared the ends of pointed teeth. 'Do you really think, Mrs Grey-Summers, that the X-Men are the only ones capable of technological advancement? And while I have no doubt you have contacted your redoubtable husband telepathically, I can assure you that your alarm is not necessary. I have come only to claim my property back.'

'And who dat be?' asked Gambit. 'Gambit? Azimuth, maybe? We still your property, neh?'

'You will always be mine, LeBeau,' said Sinister. 'As will she. But you are more trouble to keep alive and quiet than I am willing to stand for right now. I've come only to claim the child.'

The door opened, Scott carefully sidling in, his instructions from Jean keeping him quiet. He wouldn't interfere unless he thought the situation was getting out of hand. No-one but Jean noticed his entrance.

'She would have lived,' Sinister was saying. 'If you,' his glance at Azimuth was scathing, 'hadn't escaped. I also presume that my difficulties in finding you again are related to your particular abilities. I am beginning to think that I underestimated your potential. I should have locked you up tighter.'

'Coming from you,' said Azimuth, her face drawn with hatred, 'that's almost a compliment.'

'You don't even begin to understand what I have lost,' snarled Sinister. 'If you had stayed where I put you, I would have made sure the child lived.'

'And Azimuth would have died?' said Remy, grimly.

Pointed teeth bared in a mirthless grin. 'What does the government call it?' asked Sinister. 'Ah, yes. Collateral damage.'

'Fuck you,' snarled Remy. 'I'm glad dis child is dead. Glad it isn' in your hands so you could warp it worse dan you already done.'

'Oh no, LeBeau,' said Sinister. 'You don't understand. She would have been perfect if she had lived. She would have advanced my cause a thousand years in a day. Your ability to manipulate matter on a molecular level, Azimuth's ability to warp reality, tied together in one body. She could redesign DNA with a touch, LeBeau, reach into your genetic matter and remake you into whatever image I assigned. And she had the courage to achieve the potential of which you always fell so pathetically short. But she was flawed, deeply flawed on a genetic level because of the handicaps in your DNA, LeBeau. I could have kept her alive, could have fixed her flaws if *she* hadn't escaped.' His glance at Azimuth was scathing. 'You failed as a father, Gambit, failed to keep your own child alive, failed to allow me to correct the flaws I introduced when I made you.'

'I keep lettin' you down, don' I?,' sneered Remy. 'I don' turn out de way you make me, ruin your plans to decimate de human race. Den I let the nex' little genetic freak you make die. Don' expect me to shed any tears over dat flaw in your plans.'

'You were always flawed, LeBeau. Right from birth.' He turned to Azimuth. 'Do you know,' he said, 'that she is the only child you'll ever have from him? I modified his DNA too extensively when I made him, for him ever be able to form a viable zygote. Not without the levels of intervention that only I am capable of achieving. How does it feel to know that, if you choose to stay with him, you shall be forever barren?'

'At least I don't have to worry if I miss a day on the pill,' Azimuth snarled in response. For once Sinister looked genuinely startled. 'Some of us don't have your psychotic obsession with having children, with passing on our glorious genetic heritage.' The last words were twisted with sarcasm. 'I never felt the need to breed, Essex, and if I ever thought of having children before, I certainly don't want to now. Not after what you and that werechild put me through.' Unconsciously Azimuth's arm cradled around her belly where her stitched wound was aching.

'Do not put too much faith in that belief, Azimuth,' said Sinister. He stepped towards Azimuth, raised his hand. Her flinch stopped him, along with the sudden tension that radiated from the assembled X-Men. 'You may be barren if you choose to stay with him, but only until I intervene. I own you still, just as I own Gambit, and you have secrets in your genes that I will unlock. When I have done so, I shall reclaim all of my property and you shall give me the child I desire. Never doubt that, in the end, I shall come for both of you.'

He stepped backwards, ignoring Azimuth, his eyes only on the child in Remy's hands. With a surprising gentleness Gambit handed the child's corpse to Sinister and then watched as the geneticist slipped back through his tesseract and was gone.

Silence filled the medi-lab again, shocked silence, all eyes on Remy and Azimuth.

'I need to wash my hands,' said Remy suddenly, his voice too loud in the empty silence, speaking to no-one. He slipped away and everyone turned to look at Azimuth. Her eyes were closed, however, and she never noticed.

It wasn't until Remy walked back into the room that the X-Men found anything to say.

'You let the child die,' said Scott, his voice hoarse, accusatory.

Defence came from an unexpected quarter. 'It never would have lived,' said Jean. 'It's lungs hadn't formed.'

'It was premature,' began Hank but Jean was shaking her head.

'No,' she said. 'I felt it, Hank. They hadn't formed at all. There was no way it could breathe, even in an incubator. There was nothing to breathe into.'

'It was evil,' Psylocke added, unexpectedly. 'It is better that it died.'

'How can you say that?' said Scott, his eyes wild. 'It was only a baby.'

'Psylocke's right,' said Remy and Azimuth nodded, finally opening her eyes.

'Letting the werechild live would have been a disaster,' she said. 'Didn't you hear what Sinister said? It could rewrite your genetic code just by touching you. And if you could have seen what it was - what it really was . .' She trailed off, shuddering.

'It was your child,' whispered Hank, unsure himself whether he meant to accuse or express sympathy.

'It tried to murder Azimuth,' said Jean. 'If it was willing to do that to its own mother, what would Sinister have let it do to the human race?'

'So you approve?' asked Scott, his tone bitter for reasons even he didn't understand.

Jean did not answer, but her gaze on him was steady and she did not back down.

'Remy,' said Azimuth suddenly into the silence that had grown again. He looked at her, and her hand curled out to his in supplication, her face suddenly distorted as she tried to hold back tears.

His hand on her back was gentle as he sat on the bed beside her, curled her into his embrace. She felt fragile, breakable beneath his hand, stretched thin by ordeal.

Remy felt her tears slip down her face, soak into his neck where she had buried her head. 'I'm so afraid,' she whispered. 'I'm so afraid of him, Remy. What are we going to do?'

'I don' know, chere,' he replied, his hand stroking her back. 'I don' know.'


GambitGuild is neither an official fansite of nor affiliated with Marvel Enterprises, Inc.
Nonetheless, we do acknowledge our debt to them for creating such a wonderful character and would not dream of making any profit from him other than the enrichment of our imaginations.
X-Men and associated characters and Marvel images are © Marvel Enterprises, Inc.
The GambitGuild site itself is © 2006 - 2007; other elements may have copyrights held by their respective owners.