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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 23


I'm sorry. Tell everyone I'm sorry.


'You alright now, chere?' Remy asked, his hand lightly stroking over Azimuth's sweat-sheened leg, warmed by the heat of their recent exertions.

She laughed, low and smoky. 'LeBeau, sometimes you can make me forget my own name. Nightmares about the boy? Pffft.' She dismissed the nightmare that had driven her terrified from sleep with the easy nonchalance born of long practice. She turned to nestle her back against him, languorous in the aftermath of frantic love-making. 'So, you going to tell me why we're here?'

'Because it's your apartment,' he hazarded and was rewarded with a cynical snort. 'Didn' t'ink dat'd work.' He sighed, twisted until he could settle Azimuth more comfortably against him. 'I know where Sinister is,' he said softly.

The shape of Azimuth against him changed, became the arc-tight tense of a nocked bow-string. 'No-one ever knows where Sinister is,' she stated flatly. 'With all his bases and tesseracts, no-one can ever know.'

'I know where he is.' He pushed at Azimuth gently, turned her over until she faced him. She was half-curled in a foetal position and too tense to press against him, so he moved until they touched, forehead to forehead, knee to knee. 'I've had Lynch working on it. Dere are ways of tracking him, if you try hard enough. Supplies. Deliveries. I know which lab he's working in now. I know where we can find him.' He leaned back slightly so he could look into her worried grey eyes, hold them with his own, trying to infuse her with his own sense of purpose.

'So I guess that means he's in Chicago.' There was no lessening of the tense unhappiness in Azimuth's tone. 'That's why we're here.'

'Close 'nough. His base is a few miles south of de city.'

'So what are you planning to do, LeBeau?'

'He made a mistake,' said Remy gently, stroking her hair lightly. 'When he made me. He gave me too much power.'

'What do you mean?' Azimuth frowned at him, surprised.

'It's de classic mistake, chere. Sinister made a weapon wit' enough power to destroy him. Wit' what Jean did in my head I got access to my full armoury. Why do you t'ink I never told de X-Men how my powers had changed? I'm half-afraid I could tear de world in two.'

'Surely not. Essex couldn't give you that much power.' Azimuth sounded as if she wanted to believe that more than she actually did and Remy winced internally. He'd known that the extent of his modified powers frightened her. Hell, they frightened him.

'He tried to,' he responded. 'Didn' manage it. But he gave me enough to take him down.'

'And that's your plan? To take Essex down?'

'Do you want to spend de res' of your life lookin' over your shoulder, chere? Knowing dat he wants us? He ain' goin' to stop unless we make him stop. And I'm not goin' to live my whole life waitin' for him to come out of de woodwork again. I'm *tired* of t'inking of all de ways he can find me. I'm *tired* of being his fucking puppet. His made t'ing.' Anger thickened his accent, made his eyes burn with inner fire.

'And I'm tired of being his favourite mobile womb,' Azimuth flared back at him. She caught herself, bit her lip. 'But facing him - in his lair - Remy, I don't know if I can.' Her eyes pleaded with him for understanding.

Understanding, he caught her chin in his hand, kissed her mouth softly, her nose, her forehead. 'I need you,' he said. 'I can' do it wit'out you.'

'What do I have to do?' she asked warily, drawing back from him.

'Hold him,' he replied. 'I need him to stay. I can' do dat unless you twist him.'

'So you want me to hold him still while you kill him?' she asked, without emphasis.

'I wouldn' ask you to do dat.' Remy sighed, sank back slightly into the bed. 'And I t'ink I been hangin' around de X-Men too long. I don' want him dead. I jus' - want him out of my life. *Our* lives. But I don' plan to make you a party to murder.'

Azimuth was not mollified. 'So what do you plan to do to him, Remy? Spank him? Think that'll make him stay away?'

'Sinister is logical, non?' he asked her, half-smiled at her emphatic nod. 'All I have to do is show him de cost of trackin' us down is too high to pay. He won' try it again, not if it'll hurt him. He's got other obsessions to keep him busy.'

'So we loose him on the unsuspecting world?' Something bitter twisted behind Azimuth's words. He knew what it cost her, knew what it was costing him. Anyone who'd been one of Sinister's playthings wanted the man dead, but both of them knew that the price of murder was too much for a soul to bear.

'I can',' began Remy helplessly and stopped, ordered his thoughts. 'I can' be responsible for de whole world. Jus' you and me. Keep him away from us - dat's all I wan' right now. Maybe, if dis works out, maybe den I can try and save de world from him. But now - jus' saving us will have to do.'

She stared at him for a long moment, a dubious look, but he held her eyes steadily. Finally she sighed and burrowed in close against him, dropping her head so her words whispered against his collar-bone. 'I don't know if you can trust me. I don't know if I'm brave enough to face him down. I don't want to let you down, Remy.'

'Den how about we see, ma amant? Come wit' me and we'll see,' he whispered into her hair.

For a moment, a fleeting moment, she trembled against him and then it stilled. Her nod, when it finally came, was fierce with determination. 'When do we start?' she asked.

'Dis afternoon,' he replied.

She shook again, and it took a moment for him to realise it was suppressed laughter. 'So when were you planning to tell me about your little plot, LeBeau?'

'Well,' he began innocently, 'I was t'inking maybe 'bout lunch. I t'ought you might not be too happy 'bout it, so I didn' want to have to tell you. Just cause I'm basically a coward, non?'

She laughed again and then turned her face up to him, grinning widely. 'I'm a coward too, you know. I don't even want to think about what you've just talked me into. Can you think of any way to distract me?' He could see it there in her eyes; the desperate knowledge pushed down and back, the forced overlay of cheerfulness, the pleading for anything, any way, that would stop her having to think about facing Sinister.

So his mouth on hers was soft and he lifted it only long enough to whisper, 'Oh, I t'ink I can,' before he set to the task of thoroughly distracting them both.

They had discussed their plan thoroughly, finally, aware they couldn't be sure of getting to Sinister without knowing exactly what they each had to do. Azimuth had been reluctant, questioning each nuance of Gambit's strategy but in the end, grudgingly, she had agreed that he had calculated the best options.

The sun hung low on the horizon as they parked the car behind trees, made their way cautiously to the depression in the ground that they both knew too well as the entrance to one of Mr Sinister's bases.

It was at that point that Azimuth's courage had deserted her entirely.

Remy had sensed the change, turned quickly enough that he was able to see the colour drain from her face, the quick sway of her body as she looked down at the depression. The look she turned up to him was utterly stricken, fearful, lost.

'I can't do it, Remy,' she whispered and swayed again, caught herself and stood firm. 'I thought I could but . . . what he did to me . . . going back in . . . seeing it again. Oh, gods, I just can't face Sinister again.'

Something inside of him, for a moment, longed to go to her, to hold her in his arms and whisper that he understood her fears, felt them too, that they should leave and never come back. But it was only a fleeting instant and then his heart hardened. His voice was flat, emotionless, as he said, 'You're always tellin' me dat you ain' a victim, Azimuth. Well, dis is your chance to prove it. You go in dere, you face Essex down and den you can say you ain' his victim. You run away, den you spend all your life waiting for him to catch you up again, take you away, hurt you - den you're still his victim, every day of your life, no matter how much you deny it. You make dat choice now, chere - whether you be a victim or not.'

The look she gave him was hard, her jaw locked. 'You're a cruel man, LeBeau,' she said eventually.

'When I have to be.' The words were flat truth and he didn't attempt to soften them.

For a long moment, Azimuth looked at him and then reached behind her back, pulled out her bo, telescoped it out to full length. 'Lead away,' she said, her stance resolute, the feel of her against his empathy cold with fear and something near hate.

He ignored her feelings, knowing they were only temporary, sure that she would soften when she realised the truth of his words. ~Or die along with me,~ his brain added grimly, traitorously. He ignored that too, only nodding once, pleased with her choice and then set about working his way in to the base.

Images of destruction.

A bo arcing out, driving upwards, Riptide's head snapped back mid-whirl, neck breaking, body falling, scattering projectiles like autumn leaves.

Scrambler, reality twisted, reaching out for Vertigo, turning her power inside out, leaving her retching on the floor, an easy target for a charged card.

Sabretooth, all riven to pieces by the cloning that wouldn't take on his healing factor but raging onwards nonetheless, being taken apart limb from limb by skilled opponents, sending him back and forth between them, rending him into a final peace.

Scalphunter, satisfied aim from beyond the edges of the fight, his mind suddenly exploding with a telepathic bolt he didn't expect, couldn't expect, that none of them had programmed into their memories, and dropping in agony, to lose his life to his own weaponry, picked from the floor and used with easy skill.

The same weaponry, looted from his body, used over and over to take down clone after clone sent after them, until at last the two thieves separated. They were so prepared, so wrapped in their plan that they didn't even glance at each other, running down separate hallways, the layout of the base etched in old, painful memories. Gambit sent one desperate thought at Azimuth, felt the answering rush of warmth and fear and love and need whisper past him, all coldness, all hate forgotten. Bolstered, he turned, took stance against another Scrambler, blew the smaller man away and ran into the darkness again.

'I didn't expect you to get through my security measures,' said Sinister, not even looking up from his paperwork as Gambit eased through the smoking remains of the lab door. 'You are full of surprises, LeBeau.'

'I am what you made me,' replied Gambit. He went to continue, but his mind suddenly filled with the itch/buzz of Azimuth twisting reality. His glance nearly flickered upwards to the airconditioning duct where she was supposed to be - where she obviously was - but he stopped himself.

'So why are you here?' asked Sinister, finally glancing up at Gambit, his expression mildly curious. 'Some heroic last stand? Bearding me in my lair? Come to kill me, perhaps?'

'Not'ing so ambitious,' responded Gambit. 'I been a lot of t'ings, Essex, but I ain' been a fool since I got out of your hands. I jus' wan' you to stay de hell away from me. From us.'

Sinister's smile was chilling. 'Tell me,' he said, 'how is Azimuth? Better now? Well enough for me to use again, perhaps? She owes me a child, LeBeau. As do you.'

Rage seared across Remy, hate/fear/anger reinforced by the sudden wash of emotion sharply cut off by Azimuth. 'You ain' goin' to touch us again,' he ground out. 'If you come near us, I'll make it cost you more dan you can stand. More dan you can afford. Jus' stay away from us both. Dat's all we want.'

The laugh rolled over him, harsh as acid, prickling his skin with contempt. 'Is that what you think, LeBeau? That you can come in here and threaten me and I'll leave you alone? I made you. I own you. I can do whatever I want to you, whenever I choose. And with Azimuth. What could you possibly threaten me with that would make me give up your genetic potential?'

'I am what you made me,' repeated Gambit softly. 'You gave me too much power. I can end you.'

'You?' The laugh again, incredulous this time. 'You can't kill me, LeBeau. If you even had a chance I could use a tesseract. Not that you have a chance. What would you do? Bring the building down on me? I have survived worse than that. Harm me physically? Your cards won't touch me and you can't charge organic matter. There is no way you can "end me".' Sinister's tone was mocking.

'I can' charge organic matter?' asked Gambit mildly. He held up a hand, flaming crimson. 'Den what am I made of - plastic? I've always been able to charge livin' matter. I jus' chose not to.'

For a fleeting moment doubt entered Sinister's eyes and then it was gone. 'You think to fool me? Why would you choose not to charge the flesh of your adversaries? I am not so naive as to believe that of you.'

'Good reason,' responded Gambit, his eyes dark with memory. 'I had good reason, Sinister.'

Jean-Luc had bought him a puppy.

Brought into the LeBeau family, given a new name, a life, Remy had taken a long time to adjust, drifting along in the silent closed world that had kept him alive on the streets, willing no-one to notice him. When finally he began to speak, to interact with his new brothers, his new family, Jean-Luc had smiled and hugged his son tight to him. To celebrate the occasion, Jean-Luc had bought him a puppy.

He had loved that puppy, went with it everywhere. The disaster had come one bright summer day when it had bounced into the bayou, come out shivering wet. Concerned, new-come to power, he had reached out to warm it, tucked it close against him, sent power through his hands to dry and soothe it. Something strange, a thing he did not know until far later was his ill-made telepathy, woke within him at the touch of his kinetics upon living cells. It combined with his empathy and his kinetics, and all had spilled out of hands and mind, melding him with the puppy, losing himself in warmth and sharing and a joining that wasn't reading minds but something new and different. Sensation and feeling fed back upon themselves, magnified each other, drove power through him and out of him, and he could not, would not break the loop until everything had exploded into pieces and shattered him.

Jean-Luc found him later, shivering, hidden as deep as he could go into the bayou, covered in blood, his hands badly burnt. It had taken him six months to heal, to grieve, to use his power again. Remy had tucked the memory down deep, never thought of it, didn't let it stop using his powers. But he had never let his charge touch upon living matter again.

'I had good reason,' Gambit repeated slowly. 'I can charge organic matter, Essex. I can charge *you*.' His smile was grim, utterly determined. 'I don' even care what it costs me. So long as it costs you *more*.'

For the first time Gambit had ever seen, Sinister looked shaken. 'You are not what I made you to be, Cajun,' he said. 'I gave you enough power to rip half the world apart, but you can't use it.'

'You fixed me, remember?' said Gambit. 'And Phoenix trained me. I'm everyt'ing you always wanted me to be.' Slowly he advanced towards the scientist, held out one hand. 'Don' you want to test me out?'

Sinister made a movement that might have been an aborted flinch, then straightened to his full, imposing height. 'You think that you can threaten me?' he asked. 'You think I know you that little? You are the sum of a hundred failures, LeBeau. You have never managed even the smallest victory over me. Even if you can get close enough to touch me, I can destroy you before you can think of hurting me.'

'Are you so sure?' said Gambit. He had held his augmented powers back with the X-Men, willing them not to notice the change, but now he let them surge within him. Both hands burned suddenly with a scarlet flame, the air sizzling as it touched the roiling curl of his power twisting around them. He ignored the itch/buzz in his mind that had risen suddenly to a high-pitched whine. He knew what it meant, that Sinister wanted to create a tesseract and escape, that Azimuth was obviously pouring all of her power into keeping the geneticist there, but he didn't let it distract him. 'I just want you to leave us alone, Essex. Is that so much to ask?'

'You belong to me,' said Sinister. 'I don't understand why you are having such difficulty with the concept. I can do whatever I choose to do with you and yours. You owe me your existence as Azimuth owes me her life. I believe that gives me all of the power. I shall never let you go, no matter what you choose to threaten me with. It cost me too much to make you, to ever let you go. As for your power - I should be very interested in seeing its effect on flesh. An experiment, perhaps, for a later date. But for now I doubt you have the courage to overcome whatever childish phobia you have about its use.' He held out his hand, in mocking mirror image of Gambit's earlier gesture. 'Show me what I have created, LeBeau.'

Gambit took one step forward, clasped Sinister's hand and let loose his power.

He had thought he could control it. That's why he had taken this gamble, had dared to try and face down Sinister. He'd long known that it was his telepathy that had created the strange unbreakable link with his puppy, had driven his other powers awry, a telepathy that, on the few occasions it had been released from behind his shields, had leapt out of his control and attacked whoever was in range. But the training that Phoenix had implanted in him, that had allowed him to finally gain some control over the ravaging surge of it, had made him believe that he could use his biokinetics on another living being without being consumed by them.

He was utterly, completely, wrong. The crimson tide of his power flowed up Sinister's arm, rippling through his cells in a wave of heat. The returning warmth took longer than it had before but when it came it nearly took Gambit to his knees. Something, some intense, heated thing, ran back down his arm, his spine, drove power of a nature he didn't understand back through him. His telepathy slipped out of his control, snapped out, wrapped around the mind of Essex, dragged it into his own and melded them together.

It was as if he stood inside his power, inside the heated ache of it, feeling cells flow and burn beneath him, inside him. His mind touched upon Mr Sinister, upon Nathaniel Essex, sifting, drifting, feeling the pulse of identity and dreams, of the shape of hope and fear. Not animal dreams this, but human shapings, all too human things inside him, holding him, driving into him, reaving him and leaving him gasping and weak, unable to loose his grip upon Sinister. The itch/buzz that had been in his head fell away, ceased, and he knew why. Azimuth didn't have to hold Sinister there any more, because Sinister, too, had fallen into the hot ecstasy of cell death, the meld of minds.

Only the smallest part of his identity, curled behind his heaviest shields, was left free and it was that part that listened as Sinister gasped, watched dispassionately as the crimson pulse spread over his torso and down his legs, met the scientist's desperate gaze. Some part of Essex also held back from the merging and it was that part that looked out at Gambit. '*This* is what I made,' said Sinister and his voice was filled with wonder.

'Yes,' whispered Gambit. 'I can end you,' he said again.

The fear struck through their melded minds as Sinister at last grasped the danger he was in. 'You want me to leave you alone.'

'Both of us,' breathed Gambit.

'I can do that.' His eyes were pleading. 'Let me go. Never again.'

'Can't.' It was a breath. The rest, the disbelief, the lack of trust, was within the melded thing.

Nathaniel Essex offered. Anything Gambit wanted - his secrets, his bases, all was offered to him. Take it, said the Essex-thing inside his mind. He had lived a long time, but it wasn't long enough, railed Essex. He wanted to live. He couldn't let go, couldn't release the joy that burned in him, but he wanted to stay alive and would do whatever it took to make Gambit free him.

'I can tell you,' he choked out as the power filled him, the scarlet force enveloping him in its glow. 'Your mother.'

The shock was so great that it actually pushed the melding back in Gambit's mind, gave him a small space to think, to be himself. He tried, he tried so hard, to open his hand, to release Sinister, but the ravishing, heated feeling scored through his veins and he couldn't even want to do it, let alone succeed. For a moment he let himself think of having a mother at last, someone who would almost be family, but then he remembered what had happened to Azimuth. His laugh obviously startled Essex. 'She's dead,' whispered Gambit. 'Or was one of your slaves. If she lives she wouldn't want to claim the thing you forced upon her.'

'Let me go,' said Essex, terrified.

'Can't,' repeated Gambit, and then the small space closed and this time it took over the places that had held back previously and the melding was complete. Gambit's mind filled with Essex and a glow heated his body to a pitch beyond anything he had felt before, a sensation so pure, so frenzied, that he could not even think of letting his power stop flowing. He was going to die, he knew it, knew that the things he poured out of his hands into Essex would blow the doctor in pieces, take him with it, but he faced the prospect with nothing more than a whimper. They stood, like two statues, one glowing red, one still, and neither could let go as the power grew to a whine, a scream within their cells, taking away their volition with its sheer ecstatic heat.

Lost somewhere in his euphoric state, there was still enough of Gambit left to hear the screams, to see something punched out of the wall, fall down beside him. 'Remy,' Azimuth was screaming, 'let him go.' He couldn't, couldn't even wish for it, and he hoped she would understand.

Then the itch/buzz filled his head again and his hands were suddenly not warm with heat, but burning with acidic fire. The shock of pain broke through the ecstatic power that filled him and Gambit pulled back, pulled his hand free of Sinister's grasp. The doctor gave him one agonised glance, his body wreathed in crimson fire, his mind suddenly shrinking back into his own body, leaving Gambit free.

'Get away,' screamed Azimuth and then dived back into the depths of the airconditioning duct.

Gambit took one step, two, before everything erupted in red fire. He felt himself picked up, flung through the air by the shockwave of the explosion. Something struck him, then struck again. He felt the crack of bones breaking and then his head slammed into something that did not give and he fell down into the dark.


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