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Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4


Written by Ephiginia
Last updated: 01/02/2007 02:01:11 AM

Chapter 1

In the small circle of pain within the skull

You still shall tramp and tread one endless round

Of thought, to justify your action to yourselves,

Weaving a fiction which unravels as you weave,

Pacing forever in the hell of make-believe

Which never is belief: this is your fate on earth

And we must think no further of you.

-T.S. Eliot, Murder in the Cathedral

He was in a cage suspended in nowhere. The bars, twisted and barbed, were vaguely reminiscent of the ironwork of the old New Orleans cathedrals, set in a gothic pattern which might actually have been beautiful, if seen from the outside.

Beyond that, there was nothing but a pale red light and the hint of the sound of rushing water from far away below, or in another direction, perhaps upwards- he wasn't sure, he couldn't tell. He waited for his eyes to adjust and allow him to see, but as the minutes stretched into hours, and the hours into something longer, he decided with a grim heart that he'd either gone partially blind or partially mad, or had been captured and shoved into some odd corner of the Astral Plane. In any case, he was startled when something red hit the cage with all the force of a brick, and it began to swing precariously from side to side. He grabbed the bars reflexively, and didn't pull back until he saw his own blood streaming down his bare arms from gashes in his palms, a vespertine black.

The cage was hit again, and this time, he saw that the "something" had been a bird. It came once more, as forcefully as though it had been thrown. This time, it opened its beak and chirped before falling away.

He edged closer to the bars and tried to peer through, but there was nothing outside other than the pale light.

A moment's pause, and then the return of the cardinal. It became stuck in an iron loop, its wings flailing helplessly until he took a hold of it and pushed it out, avoiding its snapping beak.

It hit again in seconds.

"What's wrong wit' you?" He yelled at it, frustrated. "Gonna get y'self killed!"

It screeched angrily in reply as it crashed into the cage, which shuttered violently. The bird seemed far too mangled by then to fly, and he felt almost positive that someone really was throwing it.

That wasn't the case, however. It flew a pace back on skeletal wings before hurling itself toward him again, and then falling away.

"Stop! Y'want y'self t'be dead? Y'tryin' t'kill y'self?"

The cardinal didn't return.

He waited for it until he'd noticed the sound of water again, and the way the red light was glinting off his body armor. Then another bird hit.

No, not a bird- an angel.

"Murderer!" the Angel screeched, striking the cage with his fists. "Vilest of the vile ... lowest of the low ... "

"Warren!" Remy shouted, "Stop! You'll hurt us both!"

"Baby killer ... Hitler! Thief! Traitor! The Marauders were too good for you! No death could be too painful ... "

"No ... stop it, now!"

Warren's face changed, and somehow, it multiplied, until it had become many more heads, more bodies, spinning around Remy's cage in dizzy circles.

"Turncoat ... liar ... Judas!" Jean yelled, her voice accompanied by the accusations of the others; his team, his family, his X-Men.

"You make me sick!"

"The Devil couldn't even want you in Hell!"

"You deserve any torture ... "

"...any death ... "

" ... any bloody fate."

"I don't!" He yelled back. "I don't, I don't ... just hear me out ... "

"Kill him ... "

"Tear him up ... "

"Bury him alive ... "

He grabbed the bars again, face contorted in fear. "Don't kill me!"

"We'll make him pay ... "

"...for what he did to the innocent ... "

"...and for his betrayal."

The bars grew hot with energy, nearly white with heat. The sparks which flew into his eyes didn't bother him, or them, as they pressed forward, and he continued to charge the cage.

"I want his head as a trophy ... "

"I want his hands ... "

"I want his eyes ... "

The cage blew up with such force that he was tossed what seemed an eternity away, flying through darkness until he landed far below in a shallow stream of water.

Around him settled ashes and bits of metal, and occasionally something which smelled of burnt flesh. His hands were burnt so badly he could barely move them, and the rest of his body wasn't in any better shape. He looked down at his fingers, unable to think for a moment. It wasn't until a long, metal feather landed at his feet and bobbed away in the stream's current that he realized what he'd done.

"Oh, Hell," he muttered, "I've killed the X-Men."

And then he woke up.

"You know, Hank, I envy you."

McCoy favored Bobby with a small smile before leaning again to peer into a microscope eyepiece. "I'd imagine most anyone does," he said, "but just between you and me- I alone can pull off blue fur. It just wouldn't work for you."

"That's not what I meant."

"I'm not sure my superior intellect would suit you, either ... " Hank yanked his hand away as a crust of ice formed around the microscope's adjusting knobs. With a sigh, he pulled off his glasses and turned in his swivel chair with a distinctive creeeeek to look at his friend. "I'm all ears."

"What I meant was that I envy your drive," Bobby told him, gravely. "The way you know what you want, and how to get it." He spread his arms out in a gesture meant to indicate the entire room. "I mean, look at all this- all those bazillions of pages of notes, all those experiments you're running all at once. You're always in here. ALWAYS. You're wrapped up in something you love."

"You envy me for having no life."

"I'm trying to be serious here."

"Perish the thought!" Beast sat back and considered Drake for a long moment, taking in the rings around Bobby's eyes and his slouched posture. "Don't you love being a hero?"

"No ... I mean, I do ... but its not what I thought I'd be doing all of my life." He picked up a half-empty Coke which had been sitting on the table for an indeterminable amount of time, downing it all and crushing the can in his hand. "When I came here, it was to learn how to keep my powers under wraps so I could go out and do something more ... normal. Saving the world is great and all, but the problem is, I want to do other stuff, too. Like you do. Except I have no idea what that would be."

"I'm struck by a vision of you in the 2000 Winter Olympics."

"Not funny."

"Listen," Hank said, pulling off his lab coat and setting it aside," I don't think this is a problem to be solved over cold test tubes. I suggest we take it elsewhere."

"As in?"

"As in, the movies."

"Great, we'll talk about my slide into depression over popcorn during the sex scene."

"I wouldn't have thought you'd want to miss that ... and pul-eese, Bobby, it isn't as though you don't talk non-stop through movies, anyhow."

"It's just active movie-watching."

"And after a healthy dose of slapstick comedy, maybe your head will be cleared enough to talk like the semi-rational semi-adult you are. As of now, you're making no sense, and you're not responding in your usual, oh-so-cute way to any of my jokes." Hank grinned wide, his massive canines shining in the lab light with all the ferocity of a puppy's. He clapped Bobby on the back and began shuffling through labeled petri dishes on the table. "Just give me half-a-minute to do something, and we can go." When Bobby didn't respond, he added, "and maybe you should take that time to get dressed more ... formally. You never know, Cindy Crawford might be taking some undercover time in the Salem Center theatre."

Drake peeped down at his frowzy pants and sighed, pushing himself out of the chair with great effort and waddling to the door. He'd nearly gone out when he heard an unfamiliar crackling sound, which almost reminded him of rumpling a candy bar wrapper. Or of sparks.

Bobby turned, and didn't see McCoy. "Hank?" He walked around the desk until he saw an outstretched blue paw on the ground behind a lab table. "Hank!"

He raced to the Beast's side, nearly choking as the burnt gash which cut nearly to Hank's heart came into view. His blue eyes fluttered madly, until Drake grabbed his hand and checked his pulse, which was racing ... and slowing ... and slowing ... and very ... slowly ... thudding ... to ... a ... stop

Bobby screamed for help.


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