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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 24


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


It was, unsurprisingly, Hank that picked up the phone when it rang at 2am. 'Xavier's,' he said absent-mindedly and then his attention was caught by the voice on the other end of the line. 'Hank,' it said, full of pain and weariness. 'Azimuth?' he responded. 'Azimuth, where are you?' 'Chicago. Hospital. Remy's been hurt, Hank. I need you to come. Please.' There was a half-sob, quickly stifled. 'What's wrong with him?' he asked, his mind suddenly ticking over, making an inventory of supplies available, time to travel, required documentation to practice. 'He broke bones. Skull. Brain damage. They think. I can't . . .' Her voice trailed off to a gasp, again stifled. 'Are you alright?' Hank asked, his concern for Remy suddenly paired with concern for Azimuth, the pain in her tone. 'Azimuth?' he said sharply when she didn't respond, her breathing harsh against the receiver. 'Migraine,' she finally said, and Hank understood then the staccato words, the inability to connect thoughts. He'd suffered occasionally from the killer headaches and knew how they destroyed consciousness, left you trapped inside the pain. 'Too much power. Hank, can't - they can't help Remy. The doctors don't understand his physiology.' Connecting the thoughts, the words, took an obvious effort. 'Please. Come.' 'Where are you?' he asked, letting explanation slide in favour of practicality. There was the soft murmur of words in the backward, a muted voice reciting a name and address, Azimuth repeating it into the phone. 'I know where that is,' said Hank tersely. 'I'll be there in the Blackbird in an hour. Okay?' He barely waited for Azimuth's affirmative before hanging up and starting to gather supplies. In the hospital Azimuth put the phone down carefully, as if it was fragile. Not the phone, she thought, but her head might shatter if she moved too fast, thought too hard. Pain lanced behind her eyes, filled her head with the white noise of agony, of power pressed too hard and the backlash of the explosion that had so injured Remy. It had waited, thankfully, until she had managed to extricate the unconscious Remy from the shattered remains of the base and call an ambulance on her cell phone, not willing to risk the time it would take for the X-Men to come and collect them. By the time she had finished the phone call, the slow swell and throb of pain had started inside her head. She had ignored it at first, using hard-won skills in field medicine to slow Remy's bleeding, some of the fancier Thieves' Guild medical toys to try and repair some of the more obvious damage. By the time the ambulance had pulled up at the side of the road, however, the pain had taken had a tighter grip and she had been leaning her strength into holding a pressure bandage down on the worst wound in Remy's thigh, unable to do any more. She had sat in the ambulance beside him, holding his hand, but the pain had been so intense by then she hadn't been able to answer the questions of the ambulance men. They had checked her out for damage but her physical responses had convinced them it was nothing more than migraine. She knew what had caused it. Staring down at Sinister, holding him in place, she had tapped the wellspring of her power, drained it dry to hold the geneticist there until Gambit had laid one glowing hand upon his skin. Drained, shattered, she had let the last dregs of her power slip through her mental reins, slumped in relief as Sinister had stopped needing her twist upon his mind. For several long moments, she had sat against the wall of the air-conditioning duct, her eyes closed in the exhaustion that had washed through her, gathering strength for their escape. It was when she had opened her eyes again that she found that everything had gone to hell. Not Remy walking away from Sinister. Not the doctor agreeing to leave them alone. Not peace and freedom and safety. Her lover and Sinister, locked together in crimson fire, minds intertwined, all reality shot to pieces inside their heads, only the wanting, the needing to fall into the ecstasy of heat-death. She had panicked, bashing out the cover of the duct with one hand, screaming something, anything to Remy to let him go, to escape, to get away. It had made no difference, as she had known it wouldn't. In the extremity of her terror she had reached down past the exhaustion, past the places where her power resided, boring a hole into the fragile shape of her psyche into some unknown space where the rawness of her power was born. She had gathered mental handfuls of it, shaped it, forced her mind to find the spaces in the Gambit/Essex entity before her and *twist*. Pain she made, pain to drive them apart, pain that had worked. 'Get away,' she had screamed as she had seen Remy's hand slip apart from that of Essex and then the fear of explosion to come had sent her diving back down the shaft, curling in a ball as power had ripped apart, turned the world red, sent air and sharper, harder things hurtling past her. She didn't want to think about what she had seen in that room, what remained of Sinister. She barely remembered the nightmare of carrying Remy out of the shattered room, struggling to get out while fearing at every moment that more Marauders would come when she had no capacity to fight them. But she had got free, had saved Remy and now was paying the price for it. Azimuth wanted to understand, wanted to listen to what the doctors were saying, telling her about Remy's condition. Words came through, making her aching brain cringe, gave her some understanding of the doctor's fears about Remy, about their inability to understand his physiology. They thought there may be brain damage but they couldn't be sure because it may be the way his brain was structured due to his mutancy - did she know of anyone who had old brain-scans, who might understand how he was put together? Pain had nearly made her cry, a spike through the roof of her mouth that impaled her brain, pain and the irony of explaining that Remy had just killed the person who had made him, who knew his body best, had built it. But then she had thought of Hank and phoned him and now she settled down to wait for his arrival. Pain robbed her of thought, of speech, and there was only enough left of her to hope that Remy would survive long enough for Hank to save him. * * * * * It had seemed like madness. Through the blur and ache of her head, the noise in her ears that made it seem the world was made of rushing water, the trip from the hospital had seemed an Escheresque nightmare. Lost in the tangled strands of her own pain, Azimuth had felt the gentle touch of Hank's furred hand on her shoulder, raised near-blind eyes to see his blurred blue visage. She was breathing heavily, open-mouthed, trying to lessen the pain that stabbed through her eyes like knives. Hank had noted her distress, listened to her disjointed words about Remy, what alias he had been admitted under, what she had told the doctors and followed her pointing finger to find the nurse. Somewhere in between organising Remy's transfer to the Blackbird he had obviously talked to the doctors about her, because someone came and gave her an injection - she was too shattered with agony to make more than a token protest. Then she had waited, watching as Hank organised Remy's movement out of the ward and into the Blackbird. It would have been impossible, she knew, for an ordinary doctor to so quickly cut through the bureaucracy, but she could see the respect the staff had for Dr Henry McCoy, Avenger and medical superstar, and Remy was quickly readied. Strange, disconnected snippets of conversation ran past her, to be replayed later, made sense of. 'How can you look for blood in his eyes when his sclera is black?' a doctor said. Another said something about anomalous readings, a heart-rate too low for the stress the body was under. Strange clotting patterns in the blood. Over-stressed muscles, massive bruising, too few broken bones. The important thing, over and over again, fractured skull, possible brain damage. Azimuth had followed, walking with a gliding gait designed to stop her head from falling off, as Hank, Dr McCoy as he was in this world, had supervised the trolley covered with medical monitors to the ramp of the Blackbird. It had seemed mummy-like, a thing unconnected to her life, until she had seen the half-shock of auburn hair above the sheet. A pain had gone through her then, a stab of agony through her heart that had nothing to do with her migraine. She had sat quietly in a chair and waited for the world to start making sense again. It took thirty minutes. The iron bands that enclosed her head, driving inwards, crushing her, snapped - eased open, let her free. With a sudden gasp Azimuth raised her hand to her head, closed her mouth to still her stertorous breathing. 'What did you give me?' she asked Hank who was looking over Remy. He glanced back at her and smiled. 'Imitrex,' he said. 'Filled you to the brim, dear lady. I thought it may be efficacious against your ills.' 'Thank you,' she said and then tried to put things together in her head, piece together the sequence of events. 'They shaved his head,' she said softly, looking at Remy's face. 'Half of it. To get to the skull fracture. They thought they may need to operate but they weren't sure what to operate on. Our Cajun thief here has a somewhat unusual brain structure - it appears to be related to his powers. I do believe you called me at a most serendipitous moment. If they had tried to perform surgery on his rather delicate cerebral cortex, I'm afraid your beloved may have suffered, instead of relief of pressure from a blood-clot, a rather injudicious lobotomy.' 'Will he be okay?' she asked. Hank looked down at the unconscious thief with sudden, undisguised affection. 'I do believe so,' he said softly. 'I can't immediately ascertain the facts regarding possible brain damage, but the scans I'm getting seem to match his previous scans, even if they are not in the realm of a normal Homo sapiens - or even a normal Homo sapiens superior for that matter. He is also most fortunate that Lilandra sent a new Shi'ar biobed last week, so if there is any damage I think it can be most speedily mended. Other than that, his wounds were not fatal. A few broken bones, deep abrasions, the odd laceration. They have all been most efficiently dealt with by the hospital. I think Remy will soon be on the mend.' Azimuth felt the relief scald through her, let it out in silent tears. 'I was so afraid . . .' she started and let it trail off. Hank knew why she was afraid and gave her a reassuring smile that faded slightly. 'And you? I did not realise you were subject to migraines.' 'I'm not usually,' she responded. 'Used too much power. Trying to save Remy.' 'Then it was power well used,' he said. He looked down again at his patient, frowned as a monitor beeped in some semi-urgent message. 'Excuse me,' he said absently and turned all of his attention to Remy. Azimuth shifted herself in her seat, found a place where she could see the pale, pale face of LeBeau and finally let herself relax. * * * * * She was close to sleep by the time the Blackbird landed, slipping into exhaustion easily but determined to stay awake until Hank had finally confirmed the extent of the damage. She had followed the trolley through the Mansion, past the quiet ranks of X-Men, into the old familiar room next to the medilab. Cecilia had been waiting there and had stopped her, pointed her at a couch, then followed Beast and Remy into the medilab, very firmly shutting the door on Azimuth. She hadn't known how long it was. Ororo had come at some point and sat beside her, but there was no capacity for conversation left in Azimuth. Quietly she had sat, curled in on herself, hugging all the fears and lack of sleep to her chest and Ororo had taken the hint, sitting beside her in silence and waiting. Finally Azimuth had closed her eyes and dropped her head down, entering some zone that wasn't sleep but was a black space where thought would leave her alone, waiting only for the sound of the medilab door opening. It came eventually and she lifted her head, looked up at Hank with too much hope in her eyes. He smiled at her and there was nothing held back. 'He'll be fine,' he said. 'There was a blood clot under the fracture but we managed to sort it out. His brain scans are normal, his other injuries will heal. There's some swelling in his brain and I want to minimise the risk of that causing any damage, so we'll keep him unconscious for a few days to help him recover. He'll be back plotting to steal the Crown Jewels before you know it.' 'Oh,' said Azimuth, almost unbelieving, feeling the length of the day crash down on her in a terrifying attack of fatigue. 'Thank you,' she breathed. 'What was it?' asked Ororo suddenly. 'Was it a heist gone wrong?' 'No, no,' replied Azimuth, her words slurring almost drunkenly with tiredness. 'Wanted to be safe - thought we'd be safe. Maybe we are now.' 'What do you mean?' asked Hank from somewhere very far away. 'Sinister,' she whispered. 'Sinister is dead. We killed him.' Then her consciousness fled into the black peace of sleep. * * * * * 'You know the others want to know what happened,' Ororo reminded her softly. 'I know,' responded Azimuth. She looked up from her book, smiled at Storm. 'Thank you for keeping them away. For giving me time.' She smiled, a fleeting flash of teeth. 'I didn't think you were quite up to a de-briefing session yet.' 'Actually, I probably am,' Azimuth replied candidly. 'I don't have a problem with telling them - I just don't know what to tell them.' She looked at Remy's sleeping form, ran her finger softly, lovingly along his cheekbone. 'We didn't mean to kill him. LeBeau never wanted to. Right to the end. I watched most of it, 'Ro, and there was nothing in his head about wanting to kill Essex. He was so *sure* he could get him to stay away from us. I just don't know what went wrong. I don't know why he couldn't let go. I don't know why he killed him.' The last was said in a strange tone, half disbelief, half joyous wonder. Azimuth hadn't wanted Sinister killed but she didn't hide her happiness at the fact that it had happened. 'How can I explain to the X-Men what happened when I don't know myself?' 'You're sure Sinister is dead?' Ororo asked the same question she had asked half a dozen times, still trying to believe the answer. Azimuth gave the same answer she always did. 'Positive. Remy took him apart at the molecular level. I know Sinister can - could - bounce back from most stuff you could do to him, but he needed a . . . a . . . template. A body memory. There wasn't enough left of him to put back together. He was just atoms.' She shrugged. 'Besides, I saw what he looked like, just before the end. Sinister knew what was happening to him. He knew he was going to die. He's dead.' She hugged herself tightly for a moment, suppressing emotion. 'He's *dead*.' 'You could tell the others that,' suggested 'Ro gently. 'Their patience is growing somewhat thin.' Azimuth shook her head stubbornly. 'It's not my story,' she said. 'I can't tell you why Remy did what he did and I'm not going to be involved in useless speculation. You know they're going to ask questions that I can't answer. I'm not - I can't. When Remy's awake, fine. It shouldn't be long.' 'It should be today,' said Beast from the doorway. He smiled at the women. 'Soon, I would imagine. The swelling in his brain has reduced considerably, so I took the liberty of lowering the levels of certain medications this morning. I would suggest our calamitously-inclined Cajun shall be awake and aware within the next hour.' 'He's breathing on his own,' observed Azimuth. She had noted the removal of the intubation when she'd come into the room that morning, had wanted to ask Hank about it. 'Indeed,' responded Hank. 'The reduction in the level of the barbiturates means that there's no longer a need to assist his breathing. And it's always more comfortable for patients if they wake up without a tube down their trachea. It is not one of the more pleasant medical experiences.' 'Are there any pleasant medical experiences?' asked Azimuth, more than a little sceptical. 'Non,' said a voice weakly and her eyes snapped back to the patient. 'Remy?' said Azimuth uncertainly and his eyes opened. The smile he gave her was weak but it was enough to start the tears flowing down her cheeks in an agony of relief. 'Remy,' she whispered again and all the love she felt was in that word. 'You are awake,' said Hank in mild astonishment. 'You do have a flair for dramatic timing.' 'Oui,' said Remy, his voice harsh from the intubation. 'How are you feeling?' asked Hank. He moved forward, standing beside the bed, his eyes checking the various monitors connected to Remy. 'Like merde,' said Remy. 'My head hurts.' 'You fractured your skull,' replied Hank. 'That's not really surprising.' He frowned down at the monitors, then smiled up at Remy. 'Though all seems well with your vital signs. I need to check some things. I need to see if you can move your limbs. Well, the ones without fractures perforce. Can you move your right foot? Just wiggle it for me.' He nodded as Remy's foot twitched. 'And your left hand? Excellent,' he said as Remy's left hand clenched into a loose fist. 'Can you tell me the name of the President?' He nodded at the correct answer. 'Well, on the Glasgow scale I think we would have to say that you no longer fit the definition of comatose. You are recovering remarkably well. Normally it would take far longer to waken from a coma, but between the bio-bed and your anomalous brain structure, it seems that you are well able to recover so quickly.' 'Well-made,' said Azimuth very softly. She half-snorted at Hank's look. 'He should be dead,' she pointed out. 'He shouldn't have survived the explosion. He's well-constructed.' Her hand stole out and over Remy's. Remy turned his hand over and gripped at her fingers. 'Indeed.' Hank couldn't help but agree. 'You have some rather serious lacerations and bruising that puts the Aurora Borealis to shame over most of your body. Your left shin is broken, as are your right humerus and ulna, you dislocated your left femur and several fingers on your right hand, you cracked your pelvis, you've got some bruising of your internal organs and you've cracked a few ribs. And there was the fractured skull and the associated blood clot and swelling. We've put you back together - rather well, if I do say so myself - but it is going to take you some time to recover, even with sessions in the bio-bed. You are going to be in that bed for a while, Remy, and you will probably sleep a lot for the next few days. Do you understand?' Remy nodded, closed his eyes. 'I hate hospitals,' he whispered. 'You are becoming far too familiar with the inside of Henry's,' said 'Ro, as she moved forward to stand beside Beast. 'Do not do it again,' she admonished. Remy smiled faintly. 'Promise, Stormy,' he said contritely, fervently. 'Do you remember how you came to be here?' asked Hank, ignoring the flashing, agonised glance of Azimuth. For a moment Remy's face was blank and then the expression altered, twisted to a strange mix of remorse and hate, pain and grief. He turned flaming red eyes to Azimuth. 'He's dead, isn' he?' he asked. There was nothing but honesty in Azimuth, no part of her that could lie to Remy. Slowly she nodded. 'He's dead. Do you remember?' 'Everyt'ing,' he responded and his focus narrowed to Azimuth, excluding Hank and 'Ro from consciousness, from memory. Her fingers hovered against his cheek, her light touch connecting them. 'Not again,' he whispered. 'I can' believe I did it again.' Then his composure broke and the X-Men withdrew as Azimuth drew Remy close to her, cradled his head against her as he wept the tears of a lost and terrified child.


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