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Part 19

Disclaimer:  Marvel characters belong to Marvel and are being used without permission and for no monetary gain.  Extra Marvel credit goes to Chris Claremont, for some of the dialogue used in the first scene.  The song quoted in Logan's scene is 'Things Have Changed' by Bob Dylan.

Big big thank yous and hugs to Andy, Peter, and Dannell for their opinions on this chapter :)

AUTHOR'S NOTE:  As those of you who have been reading this story know, it's been almost ten months since Chapter 18.  Many things contributed to the delay, chief among them killer writer's block.  For the last few chapters I have been struggling to make what I want to write now fit with what I had written before, as well as with the universe I had decided on - a wretched process.

With Chapter 19 I found it impossible to force it any longer.  I didn't like the limits I had set on myself, and I didn't want to switch universes midstream, retconning my own story.  I started writing fanfic because I was sick of retcons ;)

When I began the story I tried to make it mesh with the Claremont style and mood of the time.  I also was on an anti-angst kick, and made Jean's return much smoother and more chipper than it should have been.  I look back at early chapters and have no clue what I was thinking ;)

I also think the quality of my writing has improved since I began this story three years ago, and feel that a long story should have a more cohesive flow.

So, after much agonizing, I've decided not to finish this story.  Instead, I'll be starting over at the beginning of a different universe - changing what I want from the get go and having the confidence to tell the stories the way I want to.  I'll still deal with all the plots I began in Risen, but do it in a more managable way.  A succession of short stories making up a universe is infinitely easier to deal with than an Endless Epic.

And I will write them, promise - no more year long sabbaticals ;)  I'd forgotten how much fun I used to have, writing one shots and short stories. I'm currently in a plotting frenzy and excited about fic again, something I never thought would happen.

I was not going to send out this part of 19 - it's not finished and I plan to steal massively from at least one scene for another story, but I changed my mind.  Enjoy.

Dedicated to Min, who helped me make a decision :)

A night full of talking that hurts,
my worst held-back secrets.  Everything
has to do with loving and not loving.
This night will pass.
Then we have work to do.
    ~Jelaluddin Rumi

~~  There is electric pain, a lightning quick sting as I offer myself up for them to use; and then our psyches link, networked through the switchboard of my mind, and I feel the rush of contact, need so badly to peel back the layers of their minds, see beneath their cursory reactions to this routine invasion that I can *taste* it, feel it in my *blood* .


Open my eyes.

Scott looks at me from behind dark glasses, pulls me to him, his hands cupping my face as he kisses me deep, devouring, his mouth so hard and hungry that I lose myself in him forget to


"I won't let anything happen to you," he says, and I want to tell him that he needs to pull the team out now because Charles was right, this is a trap.

But I don't.

And I don't know why.

He takes the umbrella from beneath his seat and dashes around the front of the Rolls to open my door.  ~Ororo and Peter are inside~ I tell him as we cross the rain slicked street.  ~They say all is well.~

~I wonder how long that will last?~  he replies, shielding his growing apprehension from the others.  The doorman greets us and we smile as though we belong, as though we are not the enemy; and then we are inside and a hundred psyches swirl and pulse as they wash over me, through me, lucid thought like fireflies against the night.

This hunger is eating me alive.

A wicked smile plays at the corners of Scott's mouth, skims across his mind. ~By the way~ he says, ~ I like your dress.~

His hand is warm and dry against the bare skin of my back as he holds me close, a touch that calms, excites, and I lean into him as we dance.  ~I thought you would -- ~ I begin, and then



and there is no despair, no fear, only Jason - husband, master, he who forgives my transgressions, indulges my desires, makes me merciless.

And I am merciless.

Liquid fire courses through my veins as telepathy and telekinesis entwine, raw psychic energy that aches like sex; and I strike Scott down where he stands, burning him with flames that leave no mark and drinking of his love and pain and shock and guilt and fear, drinking until I am filled up and reality flickers and I want to cry because he is my everything but he should not be *this*.

"Magnificent, my love," Jason purrs,  "but the Hellfire Club wants the X-Men alive.  Is Cyclops -- ?"

"Had I struck to kill there would be nothing left but ashes."  He thrills to the violence of the assault, the detachment of my voice, as faceless guards appear, lift Scott's unconscious form and this is not *right*, this should not *be* --

"Come."  I resist and Jason's grip on my shoulder becomes painful, threatening.   "Come," he repeats.  "The boy is nothing to you.  Nothing."

His words are lies, his lies are truth, truth that bleeds, suffocates.

"You are mine."  Fury, lust, clouding his mind, mine, as he unlocks the door to the bedroom.  He touches me, and something inside breaks.

And I begin to fall.~~

"I want to come with you," Rebecca said, studying her husband as he retrieved his passport from the wall safe, the faint light from the lamp on the desk casting shadows across his face.  "I want to see this man.  I want him to look me in the eyes and explain to me why my child is dead."

"No."   She was dressed, Nathaniel noticed, dressed in black cashmere that matched her hair, her eyes, her grief.  But she was dressed.  "It's too dangerous."

"But not for you."  She seated herself across from his desk, her anger at him soft and slow, accusing.  "I didn't want Adam to go to New York; but you took him anyway, remember?  You owe me this much, Nathaniel."

"I said no."

"I hate you."  Still soft, still slow, not sure whether she meant it.  "You took my son --"

"He was my son too, *remember*?"  She turned away, staring at the wall as he knelt beside her on the floor, resting his forehead on the arm of her chair as though exhausted.  "I am sorry, Rebecca.  I am sorry that I wasn't a better father, that I'm not a better husband; but you cannot come with me."

"Please," she began, then stopped, realizing his intentions.  Her hand went to her mouth, lips pressed against the cold metal of her wedding band. Thirteen years.  "You lied to me, Nathaniel."  Calm.  Not as upset as she thought she would be.  "You're going to kill a man."

He raised his head, but she still did not look at him.  "You don't understand," he said softly.  "He's not a man."

Jean leaned forward in the inlaid mahogany chair, brushing her fingertips lightly across her face to trace the lines of her nose, her brow, her cheekbones, lingering beside her mouth as she studied her reflection in the mirror, remembered falling.

Remembered the sting of tar in her nose, the small, sharp points of gravel digging into her knees and the burn of the asphalt through her jeans, Annie's blood a spurting, searing river that sluiced the dust and grass and dirt from her hands, the sun too hot, too bright, a scorching pain inside her head, behind her eyes -

'Shock', the doctor had said, his mouth moving too slowly for all the words she heard, her head too full.  He did not understand the dying not dying, the awe and the fear, the whispered sorrow that the darkness had not taken her too.  He did not understand what it was like to shatter, what it was like to fall.

'Things will be better in the morning,' the nurses had said as they washed the blood from her hands and face and dressed her in pajamas with little frogs on them, gave her chocolate milk and something to help her sleep, left pieces of themselves embedded in her like broken glass and -

And -

Jason, behind her, reflected in the mirror.  "Shaw is waiting."

She watched him without turning, kohl rimmed eyes dispassionate, strong. "Let him wait."

"Such insolence."  He bent his head, reaching past her for the long strand of black pearls that lay on the dresser, his beard scratching against her ear when he spoke.  "I hope you will not regret it."

"I'm not afraid of Shaw," she told him as he slipped the jewelry over her head, catching her breath as his hand paused against her collarbone.  "You are."

She held his eyes in the mirror as he clenched his hand, his fingers pressing hard into the hollow of her throat; and then he stepped back as though stung, clutching his wounded hand.  She smiled, small and wicked.

He was never going to hurt her again.

"Got white skin, got assassin's eyes," Logan muttered, the mellow scratching whine of the song on the jukebox sinking into his bones as he set his half empty beer down on the bar and reached into his jacket for his lighter.

'Standing on the gallows with my head in a noose, any minute now I'm expecting all hell to break loose'

He had never intended to stay, he recalled, lighting his cigar, the thick, rich smoke filling his lungs.  He had never wanted to.  Never wanted to let go of the violence, the vicious anger that had become the only thing he could trust, the only thing he still had the strength for.

The government had been paying too much attention to Alpha Flight, looking too closely, making him so uneasy there were times he thought he would lose his mind, times he thought he already had. Xavier's offer had been nothing more than a way out of a situation gone from bad to worse, the rescue mission to Krakoa the justification he had needed to desert Mac and Heather, the X-Men an easily forgotten hassle.


Except he had been so restless and she had smelled so good, lime and cardamom skin cream faint against the natural scents of her body, ginger and willow, the salt of sweat, a maddening hint of musk as her breathing quickened, matched her heartbeat.

Ororo's exquisite, wintry beauty was unsurpassed; but it had been Jean he found irresistible, lithe strength and earthy sensuality clad in faded blue jeans and a flimsy cotton blouse, pale skin hot under his hands as he pressed her against the tree, nothing in his world but the smell of her the taste of her the feel of her -

Her mind in his.

"I'm not afraid," she had said, cool green eyes stripping away the hardness and cruelty, the savagery and the heat, finding the humanity he thought he had lost and quietly enfolding his scarred and calloused hand in her own,
holding it to her heart until he stopped shaking.  "I'm not afraid."

Mariko was his love, his light, his life, the woman who had tempered the rage and the bitterness, whose gentleness and grace had soothed the animal and nurtured the man; but Jean was the woman who understood the pain, who saw the devil inside and did not turn away.

And there was no way in hell he was abandoning her now.

"Across the bar," Kurt said in a low voice as he returned from the men's room and picked up his own beer.  "Familiar, no?"

Logan frowned, tapping his cigar against the rim of the ashtray as he recognized the scent, his eyes flickering to the far corner of the room and the mammoth, russet haired man attempting to inhabit it.  "Juggernaut."

"Stealth is one trait I never thought we'd ascribe to Marko," Kurt observed dryly; but Logan only flexed his hands, instinctively, and returned to his drink, his head still thick with the past.

"My Lady."  Shaw bowed low and graceful, a genuine, unnerving lack of hostility in his thoughts.  "You are a vision of elegance and beauty."

"Sebastian."  Jean tilted her head in greeting, burnished copper curls brushing against her shoulders as she allowed him to raise her hand to his lips.  "I hope I haven't kept you waiting."

"Not at all," he assured her, "but you must promise me something."

She played absently with her necklace, her other arm held across her body, hand flat on her stomach.  "And what might that be?"

"Only that you will continue to make Wyngarde so deliciously miserable." Shaw glanced across the lavishly decorated parlor to where Jason sat, watching them with barely contained hatred.  "Champagne?"

Jean accepted a flute from the young, thin lipped waiter but did not drink. Sebastian's honest, pleasant manner was far more unsettling than the sly, ruthless enmity she had expected; and she strengthened her shields as he moved to introduce two of the guests.

"Senator Robert Kelly and the enchanting Elizabeth Braddock," Shaw began, gripping Kelly's shoulder warmly and Jean smiled, gracious.  "Our Black Queen - the Lady Jean Grey."

"Pleasure," Elizabeth murmured; but Jean had fixed her eyes on the Congressman, his whole being seeming to... shift with the mention of her name, a bewildering flash of something dark, something *more*, so quick she thought she must have imagined it.

" - impressive, Sebastian," Kelly was saying, his mind as open and human as his face.  And yet -

"I'm so pleased that Emma could join us," the Senator continued, helping himself to another canape as the White Queen entered the parlor.  "I had hoped to thank her in person for her generous contribution to my campaign."

"Emma has been most generous of late," Shaw remarked.  He looked at Jean, the amiability of his thoughts abruptly souring.  "She's even brought a gift for you."

"Oh?"  She arched a cinnamon brow questioningly, calmly, a soft flutter of unease high in her chest as she turned to greet the other telepath.

And found herself face to face with Warren.

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