|Fri, 26 Feb 1999|
Love Lies Bleeding
I think I managed to answer nearly all the challenges in this one story. The Kill Rogue challenge, the break-up challenge, the 3 words challenge and the disability challenge (and I didn't even know about that one when I thought of the story). It's nasty, it's gruesome and at least some people will probably want to hurt me when they read it. Ah, well, just another day in my head <g>.
Disclaimer: They belong to Marvel. I don't think they'd ordinarily do something this revolting, though.
Love Lies Bleeding
She was having a dream, a nightmare - she couldn't move, couldn't breathe, she was weak, weak, held in place, screaming, fighting, nothing would come out, she couldn't move, she was trying but she couldn't - *couldn't* - escape.
She woke to find it was real.
There was nothing - *nothing* - holding her down but she couldn't move, nothing making her weak but she was and when she opened her mouth to scream nothing rushed into her mouth and stopped her screams in her throat.
Panic threatened, blind panic nibbling the edge of her mind, blackness and fear eating away at her as she pushed limbs suddenly weak against bonds she couldn't see and desperately tried to scream.
The voice came from the dark and stopped panic in its tracks.
'I'm sorry, chere,' he said from the dark.
She tried to shout his name, to ask him what was happening, to get him to release her, but her mouth was still stoppered with nothingness and she could only turn beseeching eyes to where the dark was thickest.
So when he stepped into the light she saw him and her eyes grew wide with fear and wonder and, if she could speak, she would have been rendered speechless.
He looked down at himself as he saw her puzzlement and suddenly a wry grin twisted the half of his face not rendered immobile by scar tissue.
'Gambit forgot, Rogue,' he said. 'You been lookin' on this face for twenty years now, I forgot that you never see what was done to me.'
He moved further into the light, sat down on her bed and she saw that the scars twisted down his neck and disappeared into his collar. But what made her small breath catch in her throat was the fact that his empty sleeve was pinned to the front of his armour.
His grin was nearly whimsical as he gazed at her immobile form. With infinite kindness he leaned forward and stroked her hair. With unstudied carelessness his hand touched her forehead and she flinched backward in genuine terror. But no flood of memories invaded her mind.
He studied her, head tilted for a moment and then realised the cause of her terror and smiled again. 'Don' worry,' he said and lifted his wrist, showing the bracelet that decorated. 'I'm still wearin' my bracelet so you can' absorb me. Forge made it for us. He made de device that holdin' you down, too. A miniature force-field tuned especially to you - it stops your powers, it hold you down, it cover you up to your mouth. Jus' remember to breathe through your nose, chere.' His eyes gleamed at her, one fire-bright, one a gleaming ember in the cave the scar tissue had made.
He settled back on the bed. 'Sorry we had to restrain you, but we didn' want you screamin', waking de other X-Men. We need to do this quietly.'
He leaned forward again, stroked her cheek gently. The touch delighted her and she turned her head slightly to him, nestled her cheek in her hand.
'Twenty years we've had, chere,' said Gambit. 'Twenty years together. Two beautiful children - a boy and a girl. Marriage. Leadership of de X-Men. Paradise, non?' If she could have she would have nodded.
'This happens to me tomorrow,' he said and shrugged his empty shoulder, turned his scarred face to her.
'It was meant for you, made for you, a liquid fire tuned to your power - to be absorbed by you and to eat you alive from de inside. I stepped in front of you, took the fire to myself and let it eat me away, eat de half of me so you would not be hurt.' Dark sorrow flowed through her.
'I t'ought you were worth it,' and a smile that danced with love touched his mouth.
'When you realised how close you'd come to losin' me, you finally went and got Forge to make me somet'ing to wear so I'd be immune to your powers. You slipped it on me when I lay unconscious and when I woke from my coma you kissed me and asked me to marry you.'
'Six months later I did.'
'Blissful years, chere, in your arms. Twenty years of beauty and joy and happiness. Beautiful children, our beautiful baby twins, with your eyes and my hair. I taught them to pick locks almost b'fore they could walk. De mischief they got into - oh, chere, it'll break your heart wit' de joy.' She could feel the tears run down her cheeks - tears of joy, of love, of longing. She could touch, she would love, she would have beautiful children.
'We lived in our little golden world, chere, where not'ing could hurt us. And none of it did. Not when de X-Men began to die, when Logan went mad, when Jean killed Xavier as the Prime Sentinel unfolded from his body, when Cyclops was reduced to brain-damaged oblivion by Magneto, when de schools closed their doors, when de laws were brought in, when de statutes were implemented.'
'You became de leader of de ever-diminishing X-Men, chere, and watched as they were whittled away from under you. I could not lead - I could barely assist in a good fight anymore. But I would sit on de side-lines and cheer you on as you fought our enemies - our leaders, our cops, our government.' The tears were not joy anymore - hot grief spilled over her cheeks.
His eyes closed for a moment in bone-deep, soul-deep weariness. 'We were fighting de army on our front lawn when de government went in de back and took our babies. We looked so long and so hard and we found them - and because I was still de best t'ief in de world I snuck into de government labs and found that they'd given our babies to de Magistrates and I saw what they'd done to them.'
He raised eyes that carried the grief of worlds in them to hers. 'There was nothing else I could do,' he said, and she knew what he had done and her heart wailed inside of her and inside her head she screamed for her babies, her poor, beautiful babies.
'Path came to us, de few pitiful remnants that we were. How he escaped de Sentinels, de Magistrates, de tests, I'll never know. He's de only new mutant we'd seen in five years and he told us what we needed to know. He told us how to change it.' Sudden hope bloomed in her - her love had come back to tell her what she needed to do to change everything, to stop her babies dying.
'Path doesn't see de future,' said Gambit. 'He looks into de past, into what has been, and he sees de nexus-point where everyt'ing turn, where de change has to be made to turn de time-lines.'
'We met, you, me, Forge, Path and we decided what had to be done. I had to come back to you, chere.'
He leaned forward to her and all the light has gone from his eyes. Dark coals alone look at her. 'I have to make sure you die.'
Shock ran through her like pain, fire in her veins, shivers in her soul. Her eyes begged with him, pleaded to know why.
He told her. 'Tomorrow you are supposed to die. I saved your life then, but it was not supposed to be. So long as you live our future will come to be.'
'You were not worth it.'
He leaned forward into the light so she could see that there was nothing for her in his face, his eyes, no hope for her to cling to and he pulled his gun from its concealment and shot her between the eyes.
He dropped the gun to the floor, unconcerned by evidence and watched the slow leak of blood from the neat hole the bullet had made, the slow leak of life from her brilliant green eyes.
'I'm sorry, chere,' he said and hoped that it was true.
He closed his eyes and went through the mental checklist. He had a few minutes still, before the time-lines re-aligned and paradox consigned him to oblivion. He had sent the e-mail to his past self in the hope it would survive paradox and explain what had happened. He trusted himself to be discreet. He had done all the things he was supposed to do.
He looked down at the woman he had saved, the woman he had killed - she who had made him, she who had broken him. Twenty years in the future they had made their suicide pact and he had gone back to kill her so that hope may live. Forge had given him the means, Path the direction, she the permission.
He looked at her and thought of all he had not told her, even in the future. He had not told her of the hollow hate that had gnawed his bones after he had looked into the broken eyes of his children, had not told her of the loathing that ate his soul after he had watched the life leak from them after he had slit their throats. It had eaten the insides of him as he cursed the whole world for the death of his children.
Until the day Path had told him that she was the reason why he had had to kill his own babies.
He had looked up into his wife's eyes and known that he would hate her forever. Killing her had been so easy.
'I hate you,' he whispered to the corpse on the bed and knew it wasn't true. He didn't hate this one - she was the one who died, the one who brought back hope. The one who made his own suicide a noble thing.
She was the one whose death killed the one he hated. He hoped, in the future where she waited, Rogue had felt herself die. He hoped it hurt.
But this one didn't deserve his hate.
So he climbed into the bed beside her and cradled her to his chest, letting her blood stain his scarred face as he waited for the end.