Eurydice Rising

Textual Poaching Alert: Marvel owns everyone, although Social Services would have stripped custody long ago...

I said 'I love you'.

He said something about having won.

We laughed.

And then we ceased to be.

At least for a while.

I thought the battle was over.

In fact, the battle had yet to begin.


I have never been known a rash individual. I don't make choices by the seat of my pants. I am so far from spontaneous that my wife likes to tell people that she can time my decision-making with a sundial.

Truth be told, it is am image I don't mind fostering. I'm a leader and I'm supposed to be responsible. If they're complaining that I'm ponderous, that means that they know I'm thinking, even if they don't like the speed (or lack thereof) at which I do so.

I'm not impulsive, so what am I doing now, trapped in a moment that is neither here nor there? Actually, it's familiar surroundings. I've been here before, watching Apocalypse trying to merge with yet another cheap copy of my only-born son.

We stopped him before, too - me, Jean, and Nathan - even with my son too young, too inexperienced to have much power or much control. Which, apart from the lack of youth and too much experience, is pretty much where he is right now, sprawled out on the ground somewhere in my peripheral vision. We should still be able to do it again.

But I can see Nathan's face and I know that expression. I've known it since he was a babe, just barely old enough for Jean to teach him how to hold his body together. Which is what he's trying to do now, brow creased in concentration as he tries to fight back the techno-organic virus that has been eating away whilst he battles his life-long foe. Nathan's in no shape to do much of anything.

Neither am I. For I am watching Apocalypse and Nate Grey as I watch my son - clearly, without the crimson haze of ruby quartz. As Slym Dayspring once did - and will do - I gave all that I could with my optic blasts. So now I stare with harmless eyes as the scene unfolds before us. And Jean, the light of my soul and the fire of my heart, my precious, brave Jean, can't do it alone without us.

Slym Dayspring was a much better father than Scott Summers ever ended up being. He was there to watch his son learn to walk and learn to talk, he was there to teach him to play catch and to soothe away his nightmares. I'm best remembered for missing out on the birth and then walking out on my son and his mother.

My one advantage over Slym Dayspring is that I have two good knees. Two good knees on which to pray. Two good knees on which to send one last message to my wife along our telepathic bond. Two good knees on which to rely to carry me forward and into my one last chance to soothe my son's nightmares. And the X-Men are about nothing if not second chances.

I hear Jean scream, but I don't hear her - I've cut the bond so that she doesn't try to stop me and doesn't have to be such intimate witness to what I know will happen next. I can sense Nathan's realization, can feel him trying to pull me back telepathically, but mass times velocity equals a momentum that can't be overcome by even my son's psionic yank.

And then there is pain, pain unlike anything I've ever felt. And then there is pleasure, like the longest, hardest orgasm I've ever had. And then there is the sound of laughter that I can feel comes from me.


I've been in this game too long not to realize when I'm being watched. Sometimes it's pleasant, like when I can feel Jean on the other side of the bed watching me sleep. Sometimes, it feels like spiders crawling up and down my back, like any of the myriad times I've woken up a prisoner shackled to some wall in some dungeon.

This is more like the latter, so I open my eyes. And see nothing. I can't tell if I'm blind or if it's perfect darkness, but it really doesn't matter. The response is the same: stay calm. I've been blinded too many times in my life to freak out whatever the answer is.

"So, how long have you been watching me," I ask conversationally as I sit up. The ground is firm and cool, but not uncomfortable. I'm wearing clothes, at least, ones that feel somewhat like what my early X-Men uniform used to feel like, back before Shi'ar fabricators and after lycra.

There is a long pause and then a dusty cough of a laugh. "A week, a month, six hours, six years? It does not matter."

The voice is both accented and accentless, the way white is both no color and all colors at once. Even if it didn't sound like an old man, I'd know it was one. It is the voice of too many experiences collected together for any one to take precedence. Face enough Externals and Eternals and all of the others who count birthdays by the dawn and nova of stars and you eventually start to pick up on things.

"If I asked any of the obvious questions, would you answer?"

There is that dry, dusty laugh once more. "We are in limbo, Summers. We are waiting."

I nod, although I'm still not sure whether my companion can see me.

He says nothing after that and I have nothing else to ask. At least nothing that would give anything away. If I'm blind and powerless, there's no point in announcing it to anyone.

I don't know how much time passes before I think I see a light high above me. Not a bright light, so I can't tell if my eyes are playing tricks on me, but after it flashes a second time, I am sure that they are not.

I am also sure of a few other things by this point. First, I am not blind, just sitting in pitch blackness. Second, my optic blasts aren't working. Actually, that should come first, as that was immediately evident. Third, I've realized who my companion is.

"Do you know what that is, Nur?" Apocalypse. En Sabah Nur. The Tomorrow Walker, the (original) Chaos Bringer. A million other names, a million other lifetimes. Except right now, he's here with me. Wherever that is...

"What we are waiting for," he replies, unsurprised that I've figured out who he was. It certainly took me long enough. "The prize."

"The way out?"

"Among other things."

We fall into silence for a while longer, watching the light appear and disappear, like the laser at a light show at the planetarium. Sometimes bright, sometimes dim, sometimes seemingly closer for its size, sometimes seeming distant and tiny like the furthest star.

I have time to think then. To think on his words - 'the prize'. The way out of this dark prison. A way back to Jean. A way back to my wife, my life, my son... Nathan. Who, despite my apparent sacrifice, I have still failed so long as Apocalypse lives, even if this isn't life.

I'm not sure what this is, though. Or whether it qualifies as living. I think, therefore I am, at least according to Descartes. (And yeah, Hank, I know that's really supposed to be a proof of the existence of God, but work with me, okay?)

But if I am, then there is an awful lot that I am not. I'm not hungry, not cold, I don't have to go to the bathroom and I don't need to sleep. Maybe we're both dead. But not dead permanently, not the two of us. Nur is an External and I am the next best thing - an X-Man. We are harder to kill than cockroaches.

Nur must enjoy this. It is the ultimate test of the strong. Only one of us will get out, that much is obvious. Else, we would be collaborating our efforts. The strong shall survive, indeed. I wonder if this 'younger' Apocalypse knows what sort of decadent, cankered mockery of his precious maxim will persist unto his death. I wonder if he cares even if he does know. I'm constantly thinking of ways to correct my own mistakes. But maybe that's what made me (and my wife and my son) victorious in the end - we were never complacent.

My wife and son. Jean. Nathan. Is this what Nathan felt like while he was doing mental battle with Stryfe? To be trapped within his own mind, to be the prisoner of his greatest foe in a jail made from his own memories... Is that where we are?

I can't claim to remember much else from my philosophy classes beyond Descartes, but I have dim memories of collective souls and eternal souls living on past their mortal bodies. But even if we are just souls, we still have to be somewhere. It almost makes sense we're in my head. Apocalypse needed a new body. Nate Grey's was the one he wanted, but mine would do in a pinch, right? We have to be somewhere.

Where we aren't is somewhere familiar to Nur. He's as lost as I am. Even if he does know where we are, he doesn't know how to get out. Else he'd have done it already.

The light gets closer again, close enough that I can see it's really a ball of light, like an energy web of some sort. It is, but is more than that. For something so bright, it doesn't throw shadows along the wall I know I am leaning up against, it doesn't illuminate the hand I know is in front of my face. It doesn't show me where Nur is moving around to, or even what his face looks like.

As the ball comes lower, I stand up and I think I can hear Nur shift as well.

Seemingly simultaneously, we both must have made a jump for the ball, like the tip-off at a basketball game. Where I made contact, gold colored the white flash. Where Nur did, black. But neither of us can grab hold and we fall back. As I hit the ground, I get this bizarre mental image of two sperm fighting for an egg.

The ball comes lower still, so we try again. I don't have to jump to reach out, but as the flash of gold burns brighter, the pain grows more intense. When it starts to feel like the flesh is burning away, I pull my hand out.

With the ball of energy so close, I can see Nur. He looks like he did when we killed him two millennia from now - wrinkled and leathery. This is what he looks like without a host, I suppose.

"Only the strong, Summers, only the strong," he calls out as he pushes further in. The ball's light darkens - it doesn't dim or fade, just blackens as it absorbs Nur's essence.

But where his pain threshold may be higher (if that is in fact what it is - I'm more concerned that I'll need the hand later on), Nur's strength (and it is Nur here, not Apocalypse) is not sufficient to hold on. He gets in as far as his head and shoulders before he is thrust out again. I can't see where he lands because of the darkness, but I can hear the grunt as he makes contact with the ground. The energy ball's light brightens again, although it is obviously still affected by Nur's black aura.

I try again, my golden touch all the more striking against the now-tainted light. The pain is incredible, but I persist until I get my arm in to the shoulder and then my head, despite the feeling like my eyelashes are frying off.

And then I am illuminated. In many ways beyond the literal.

I thought the ball was just a portal, an exit. But it isn't.

With my head inside, I can see the world. Through somebody else's eyes. He (I can tell) is huddling on the ground, a beautiful woman leaning over him, brushing his hair away from his eyes. I can feel her fingers, but in an abstract way.

I can also feel her evil. It's not the aura of a leaking telepath, just... a hunch. The kind you get after fighting Brood Queens and Skrulls and other co-opters of physical appearances. She's making all nice, but I can't help feeling like this poor guy's really just dinner.

"Be careful!!! She's dangerous," I call out in my mind. If the guy hears me, he makes no indication.

All of sudden, I feel something that I never thought I'd feel again, a burning deep in my head that I'd know as well as Jean's touch in my mind. And before I can say anything, I feel the hum that I have lived with since puberty, since the doctors at the orphanage in Nebraska got to find out the hard way just what part of the brain had been affected by my falling out of a plane. The part that controlled my optic blasts.

<ZAKKK!!!>

And then the world disappears. He's closed his eyes, never to re-open them if he's anything like me... which he is, I mentally smack myself. As my son would say, that's you, you flonqing idiot.

And then it is not. Like a magnet suddenly faced with its identical pole, I'm thrown out of the web, landing hard on my shoulder.

I scrabble to my feet and reach for the web again, but Nur's there first. Apparently, it'll only suffer one of our touches at once, so I find myself unable to hold on. Nur doesn't push through, but instead stands there with his hand in the matrix. When he's this close to the light and to me, I can see his face, his eyes much more alive than the rest of him.

"And now you see why I will prevail, Summers," he says. "It is only a matter of time, now before I shall gain the prize."

"What makes you so sure?"

"You saw Anais, did you not? Beautiful girl. Her greed makes her most obedient..."

"What does the girl have to do with anything?"

"Scott Summers is dead to the world, lost. Nobody even knows to look for you. But I have been found. And soon, Apocalypse shall reign for eternity."

"We'll see," I grit out. I refuse to believe he's right, that instead of nobody looking for me, it's just that Apocalypse's minions found him... found us first. But, a nagging voice in my head calls out, he's right. You didn't look for Jean. You haven't looked for Alex... why would anyone think to consider that you weren't dead... Except... what happens if I get back into my body, even for a moment. Get control, call out to Jean...

"We have seen," he smiles knowingly and pats the web with the hand that isn't already inside the matrix. The longer he holds on, the darker it glows as his blackness pervades the very strands. "And then I shall destroy you once and for all."

"You don't scare me, Nur," I shake my head and smile. I wonder if I look like Nate when he's being belligerent, when he knows that someone has mistaken him for an X-Man. I hope I do. "You aren't going to do anything to me. You can't. Either because you need me - after all, this is my body - or because you physically can't. You don't leave an enemy sleeping peacefully if you don't have to."

"A temporary grace, Summers. A temporary grace," he cackles as he dives into the ball. The taint of his essence has made it easier for him to enter, and he gets his entire body inside before falling out once more.

I'm not sure which concerns me more - the ease at which he jumped in, or the fact that the ball has not purged all of the blackness. The taint is permanent now, I'm guessing. If I want my body back, I'm going to have to get it before the soul is corrupted for good.

That last thought overrides whatever hesitation I had and I dive hard as I can into the web. The pain is worse than before, I can feel Nur's corruption of the matrix fighting me off, but I grab on and pull myself deeper inside, handhold by handhold. And unlike last time, I don't let go.

There is darkness again, my eyes are still closed, apparently. For good reason, though, as I can feel the hum in my head that means my optic blasts are charged.

I don't want to waste time. I call out mentally to Jean even as I feel around in my mind for any trace of our psychic bond.

{Scott? Scott, is that you? Please, Scott...}

Oh, god, a lifeline... Jean. I try to answer 'telepathically', but all I hear is the echo of my own thoughts. This may be my body, but I'm not in control, not just yet.

Which does lead me to wonder exactly who is driving this ship... If I'm going to get out of this, however, it had better be me.

Thanks to my wife, I have a better understanding of mind-body control than probably any other head-blind person around. Back when she was still going by Marvel Girl and still coming to terms with her telepathy, I used to let her practice on me. With the promise that she wouldn't make me cluck like a chicken, I'd let her make me move my arms, stand up, walk around, whatever. It was good for her to develop her powers, Professor Xavier had said, and it was good for me to start developing more complex mental shields. It was also very good for our relationship, especially after she 'made' me walk over to her and kiss her...

But back to the matter at hand. Literally. I try to burst through the miasma that separates me from my body and I can feel, slowly, as I gain control. It's a weird feeling, like warm honey flowing through my veins, down to the hands that I need to push myself up off of the ground, to feel around for walls, to help guide me away from Anais and hopefully, eventually, towards Jean...

Jean, whom I can no longer feel. I must have traded any presence on the astral plane I had for control of my body. But Jean knows I'm alive now, so help is on the way, it has to be. In the meanwhile, I run.

All of a sudden, I feel a shock, like I'm being electrocuted. Not Scott Summers, blind bat feeling his way around in the real world, though. But me, here, in the web. I open my eyes to see that the web, which had been glowing black-laced gold, is now gaining in darkness. Nur is here inside with me.

I tighten my grip on the strands of the matrix, but it feels like I'm squeezing barbed wire and I know I'm losing control. If this web that we're in is some sort of link to the astral plane, then it's no surprise. Wrinkled old man or not, Nur is an External, far more powerful than me. Inside this web, he will win any battle between the two of us.

Which leaves me only one choice. Get us both out.

I let go of the matrix with one hand, ignoring the surge of black that accompanies the movement, and I reach for Nur. I feel control over the body... my body slip. And so just as I found a boy who is willing to help a blind, raving foreigner, instead of getting him to call the Xavier Institute, instead of getting him to call the American Embassy, I hear my voice asking to be led to Akkaba.

{Scott? Are you there? Scott? We're here. Nathan's here with me. We've come to get you back. All you have to do is climb out of the p...}

I grab hold of the matrix as tightly as I can as I feel the connection with Jean breaking. Climb out, climb out... if only she knew.

{Scott? No!!!}

Nur's got control of the body, he's doing something to Jean? I can't see, I can't sense... He can have me, but he can't have Jean. Never her. I'll let Nathan kill us both before I let him touch Jean...

I grab the scruff of Nur's collar, and to my mild surprise, I can hold onto it. I half expected that both of us would be ghost-like, like Kitty Pryde. But we're not and I yank hard with one hand, trying to get the collar tight around his neck.

He turns to me and smiles. "Go ahead," he croaks at me. "Do your worst, Summers. I will win in the end."

I twist harder and pull until I can feel the material strain against his throat. The web is darkening with every moment and I need to get him out of here before it goes black. Even if I it means taking myself out as well.

{Scott, remember the ro...}

I don't have time to think about what the hell Jean's talking about as I tackle Nur and we both go flying out of the matrix.

The ball now looks like an overfed bee, all black and gold and humming as it pulses with energy.

"Can't you see now?" Nur calls to me over the buzz. "Our essences, merging into one. And then we shall be one."

But not an equal partnership, he's neglecting to mention. I'm starting to realize why Nur is keeping me alive. I thought it might be because we couldn't kill each other - if were as ghosts, it would be almost impossible. But I pulled him out of the energy ball, nearly choked him, so it's inconceivable that Nur couldn't have done worse to me before I awoke.

Instead, it is the other choice. He needs me around long enough to imbue the energy matrix with enough of my essence to give him better control over my body. This is what he meant by a temporary grace. I'm saved long enough to be drained dry, then he'll kill me.

Except if I kill him first.

For a moment, I hesitate. Not the usual X-Men-Don't-Kill kind of hesitation. Regular rules don't apply here. I hesitate out of selfishness.

When I threw myself between Apocalypse and Nate Grey, it was impulse, a drawn out moment of action and reaction operating as one and the same. But now, I know what I am giving up, I have tasted its sweetness once more and I don't want to not be able to taste it again. There is a very good chance that I won't survive a second attempt on Apocalypse's life. And for once, I find myself hesitating whether it's worth the effort.

I reach for the matrix, hoping the burning pain will clarify my mind even as it singes my nerve endings. And, connected to the energy, I am once against connected with the outside world.

{Scott?... Dad?}

All of a sudden, I feel like I'm going to vomit. Nathan. Oh, god, how in my greed could I have even for a moment have forgotten my son? I have waited a lifetime - two lifetimes, if you could that of Slym Dayspring's - to hear that word out of my son's mouth. How could I have for a moment forgotten my debt to be paid?

Nathan Christopher Charles, born with the Summers nose and the Grey eyes, but everything else he has been given has come with mixed blessings. A chance to erase the holocausts of history, but he must bear the scars of the past as it was; he could have gotten my perspective and Jean's generosity, but instead he's got my tendency to keep my own counsel and Jean's overly developed tendency towards self-sacrifice. This was supposed to be my chance to save him from his fate, save him from himself. I can't let my own wants get in the way.

I push once more into the matrix, climbing in as Nur does and we battle for control both of the energy web and of each other. The body itself is swaying between our thralls. I pick up thoughts, sounds, but not every one, almost alternating.

But I can feel my grasp loosening. Nur has started to tilt the balance of power, started to gain control. And I know there is enough of me in this ball of humming energy that I am no longer necessary. More of my essence would be nice, but not required, so Nur can kill me as soon as he feels like I have turned from toy to threat.

"Nathan, do it," I call out as I feel control of my corporeal body slipping finally from me. "Do what must be done." And then I feel, almost hear, Nur mocking my son, daring him to commit patricide.

{Scott, love, please, come back out. Remember the rope...}

The rope... That's it. That's what she was trying to tell me.

When my optic blasts manifested, I closed more than my eyes. I closed my heart and closed my mind. I created a room in my mind, a cave really, where I could sit in the darkness and be by myself. No noise, no light, nobody I could harm and where nobody could harm me. I withdrew so far into myself that nobody could come and get me. At least without resorting to physical violence.

By the time the X-Men came into existence, I wasn't visiting too often anymore. And even if I was there, Xavier's gentle mental touch would retrieve me without leaving a welt on the outside. Jean had stumbled across its entrance back in those same days when she'd be telepathically getting me to poke myself in the eye, but hadn't ever said anything.

Instead, she had acted on her own, without telling me. I only found out when I saw her for the first time after she.. after the Phoenix had died, when I was sitting on the dock, unshaven and unhinged. I withdrew into that pit of despair (Jean's term) and found a glowing rope hanging down from the mouth with a tiny sign written in Jean's rounded, girlish script "tug once, you idiot." And I did, and the rope started to rise into the darkness and carried me out of my cave.

The rope... I let go of the energy web and grab on to Nur and we both come tumbling out of the matrix. I look around in the pitch darkness, trying to find the rope. I feel a surge of energy, a sense of anticipation akin to how you feel when you're playing chess and realize that you're one move away from setting up an endgame. But much more intense.

I feel the rope rather than see it, against the wall. It doesn't glow, but I can feel the sign at the bottom. Nur is within the glow of the ever-brightening ball of energy, but he is still outside, which means I'm probably stronger. I tackle him and drag him by the arm back to the rope. It's a struggle, but I get him tangled up, if not exactly tied up, and I yank. The rope, with its cargo, begins to rise into the abyss, although not before Nur can kick me *hard* in the head.

I'm staggered, but I retain consciousness and still have enough sense to head back to the energy mass. It is still black and gold, the dark poison not fading even though I can no longer hear Nur curse in languages too old to understand.

I touch the ball of energy, willing my own essence to overcome the foul taint. It does, somewhat, but not enough, not completely, by the time I can vaguely hear Jean calling to me. It's time to go home.

I dive in to the energy mass and can only wonder how much of this darkness will affect me. Because there is no way it cannot. I feel my way through to the middle of the mass and focus on the miasma that keeps me from my body, from my life, from my family.

But this time, I don't have to fight my way through the haze alone. I see familiar blue and fire-colored light burning through from the other side and don't look back. We are a family, after all, and have gone through worse things together.


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