Stomping the past back down

October 26, 2017:

Continues from Demon Bear: The Trials of Illyana, Dani and Rachel Grey Part 2 - Illyana catches up with Rachel after their first encounter with Dani's Demon Bear.



NPCs: None.


Mood Music: None.

Fade In…

Stupid. STUPID. Ridiculous. Stupid. It's only been a few minutes since the danger room scenario and Rachel's still not certain if it was some kind of weird glitch in the programming, some weird hallucination trip, or what exactly transpired, but she's not happy about, and more than that, Rachel's pissed at herself and her actions. What happened? Why'd it happen that way? Why did she act like a crazed wild-man when just the image of Ahab appeared? She thought she was over that. She thought she had managed to come to terms with that part of her life, and yet - the instant she's placed in that situation again, Rachel acts like an insane lunatic.

After exiting the mansion, Rachel's path finally leads her to the skies, taking off and up into the clouds, soaring high above the rain filled pillows to clear her head.

It is this reason, she's not really paying too much attention to where she's going, nor what she may head into. She's lost in her own thoughts, her own world, confused, annoyed, and greatly needing to clear her head.

Illyana has many talents, but flying isn't one of them. From far below, she catches sight of a fast-moving spear of fiery red-gold light as it vanishes into the clouds, and grimaces. "Drama queen." She says under her breath, but there's a calculating look in her eyes. If Illyana wants to catch up with the redhead, she's going to have to take a different approach.

And she does want to catch up with the redhead. There has to be a story behind that reaction, and Illyana wants to hear it. Considering her suspicions about how over that whole mess in the Danger Room really isn't, she probably needs to hear it, too.

It's a good enough justification for her curiosity, she decides, and summons a glowing portal to transport her to Limbo.

As for Rachel herself, she might think that she's free and clear, at least until another portal opens right in front of her, exactly on target. Given her speed, there's not much time to react before she's… somewhere else.

Somewhere there aren't any clouds, and the sky's an unnatural burnt orange. It's also hot, even at Rachel's altitude. A lot hotter than the place she just left. Below, seeming to stretch away to the horizon, is a sea of sluggishly moving lava, the air above it shimmering with a haze of heat. Mesas, both large and small, some no bigger that sea stacks, others the size of islands, rise above the lava, some reaching hundreds of feet above the surface. There's only a little wind, but as the breeze winds around the mesas some strange property of the local geology makes it sound, right on the edge of hearing, like something's screaming.

On one such island in the unnatural sea, Illyana stands, waving to Rachel. It's half a friendly 'hey I'm here' wave and half an imperious 'get down here' beckon. Incongruously, she's now dressed in cutoff denim shorts and a crop top, and there's a large cold box at her feet.

It isn't very difficult, given Rachel's trajectory and current speed, for the portal to open out of no-where and Rachel to fly right on in. She does so. With only a momentary, 'Oh shit', before stopping and hovering within this new part of Limbo. A wry twist of Rachel's lips is given, momentarily. Hot burning lava? Like a red-head's temper? Catching sight of Illyana below, Rachel's next course of action is to land next to the blonde, offering a sarcastic. "You could have called. I do still have my communicator, and cell phone." Both of which are pulled from Rachel's jacket, shown, then stuffed back into the pockets. (The jacket she regained from Dani before Rachel fled, of course.)

There's a guarded sense to Rachel right now, she really doesn't want to talk, and as a result, is less than forthcoming on why she took out in a rush. Instead, her hands gesture around her, casting a gaze about the fiery domain that Illyana has transported Rachel to.

"So this is impressive. Damn hot. But impressive. Any reason other than showing off a part of Limbo I haven't seen?" And Rachel's tone remains a forced bemused expression, gaze flicking back towards Illyana as she does so.

For Rachel, her jaw is clenched tight, teeth smashing together creating an occasional twitch in her cheeks. While she's trying to keep herself loose, she's doing a fairly bad job of things, hands balled into fists, then shoved into the pockets of her jacket. She doesn't go so far as to ask, 'what do you want', but she does at the very least remain quiet allowing Illyana to either explain, or talk.

Illyana smirks quietly to herself as Rachel decides to accept her invitation. It makes things so much more pleasant for the both of them. The show-and-tell that Rachel provides with her phone and comlink broadens that smirk into a grin, and Illyana shakes her head, sending her long blonde hair swaying. "Oh please. We both know those things are for when WE want to talk to someone, not when THEY want to talk to US." Just ask Scott, who's given her more than enough grief about not answering her comms in the past.

Illyana deals with Rachel's obvious mood by not dealing with it. Or at least, by not making any allowances for it. When Rachel gestures to their surroundings, Illyana scans their volcanic surroundings with a bit of smug smile. "I'm glad you like it. I thought I'd pick somewhere that matched your mood." Definitely smug now. "You're welcome." She adds, then leans down to recover a couple of cold beers from the box at her feet.

"I seem to remember we had an agreement." She says, as she straightens up. "If the past gets its hooks in one of us, the other one tears it off and stomps it back down where it belongs." Illyana tilts her head to one side, offering a bottle of beer to Rachel. "Or am I wrong?"

Collecting the beer to offer a quirk of her brow at Illyana, mostly for not just remembering that agreement, but actually following up on it - Rachel doesn't say anything, right then. Instead she's half pleased that Illyana remembered, and half annoyed as well. Popping the top to take a swig, Rachel constructs a chair out of the surrounding cooled lava flow, making one for Illyana as well. Nothing fancy, just a couple rocks telekinetically made to be smooth on top, and even have a slight back.

If she's going to talk, Rachel would rather do so seated. Another quick telekinetic manuevering places a small 'table' (or a smooth rock formation) between the two as Rachel sets the can of beer down on top.

Once that's done, and Rachel's stopped stalling - the redhead finally lets out a quiet, "What was that, what did we just encounter? That wasn't a danger room scenario, was it? That was something else, entirely?" She's avoiding the main problem, that being Rachel's past, and instead is seeking some form of an answer to what transpired.

"I have never experienced something so very strong - that it took everything out of me to get out, nor so real that I had such a bad case of post traumatic stress, that I wigged out and nearly took the danger room with me." Rachel's voice just sounds defeated now, as she slouches down in her lava-made chair, one hand running through the short locks of hair that are beginning to stick to her head, given the heat. "And, as a final note, I do like the surroundings, it does match my mood."

Be careful, when you make deals with demons. They have long memories and they're apt to collect at the most inconvenient of times. Rachel's quirked eyebrow is met with an almost imperceptible nod from Illyana. Satisfaction? Encouragement? Both are possibilities.

Illyana doesn't take offence as chairs and a table are sculpted, and sits down as soon as her chair is ready, slouching down in it and starting to pick at the label on her bottle, the very picture of indolence. Except her eyes, of course. They're not on the label she's so meticulously destroying. They're sharp, and watching Rachel.

"That was something else, entirely." Illyana echoes Rachel's words, to confirm her suspicions. She doesn't mind Rachel stringing things out. She has as long as is necessary, here. "Something from outside our world, but the simulation gave it a way in. Weakened the walls between your world…" A slip, or something intentional? "And its world. Just enough to let it reach through." Illyana smiles. "It didn't really want us, you know that right? Our Dani's been keeping secrets from us, which just isn't nice. She and I are going to have a talk…" Illyana's tone is musing, almost soft, until she adds, "…because this isn't over."

The label on her bottle now thoroughly picked apart now, Illyana takes a sip of her beer and sits up on her chair, leaning her elbows on the table as Rachel gets to the good bit. "I got that." She tells the redhead, in an amused but not unpleasant tone. "Good thing you didn't, then you'd be talking to Scott and Jean, not me." Illyana's sure she doesn't need to make the warning any more explicit than that. "It tried to push my buttons too. Didn't work." Illyana says, then winces and adds, "But it got close. Still, it won't get me that way again." Her eyes fix on Rachel. "How did it get you, and how are you going to stop it next time?"

Illyana gives the question a couple of seconds to hang, then smirks. "And will you please change before you melt, or I'm going to do it for you."

It is the last that Rachel actually laughs at, the sound more a forced chortle, but there. Without much more than a thought, her clothing alters around her, a pair of shorts and a tank top of blood red now reside where her costume was before. Her leather bomber jacket is the only thing unchanged, that is shimmied loose from and placed down next to her. Once again, Rachel's fingers run through her hair, a nervous reaction to everything that Illyana is telling her.

She can almost understand what Illyana is saying, it felt like an alternate dimension in that dark, black, icky domain. It was also able to read thoughts, horrors, deepest fears and agonies. Finally, Rachel comes clean. "It." She begins. "It showed me a moment of my past that I'll forever hate, and be ashamed of. Being a hound again, trapped by leash and master, forced to serve another against my will."

A shake of Rachel's head comes next, as her mouth twists into a grimace. "I thought I had moved past it, but for a instant, it was so real, and brought up such memories, I was once again that hound, that beaten slave, and I hate myself for letting it get to me, and I hate it even more for dredging up memories best left buried."

The bottle is swiftly downed in a few quick gulps, 'chugged' is the proper term, as Rachel soon lifts the back of her hand upwards and wipes her mouth, removing any foam or left over liquid. Her gaze finally moves to focus back on Illyana, for before she couldn't quite look anyone in the eye. "Dani's in over her head, if that things after her. We need to get out of her what it is, and what's going on, more than that, I'm need to know -how- I can stop it. This is beyond just physical might, Yana. It's beyond me. This is your game, and I'll be the brute force, but I can't stop something mystical."

Illyana isn't fooled by Rachel's poor excuse for a laugh, but when the redhead finally gives in to the heat of her surroundings and alters her outfit, she takes it as a good sign. "Better." Illyana allows, approvingly. If Rachel had been wound any tighter Illyana was half convinced she'd snap… and that's part of the reason they're having this conversation in Limbo.

It's a lot easier to clean up the mess.

Illyana lets Rachel speak, taking the occasional sip of her beer, but otherwise just absorbing what the redhead tells her. Which is still a little on the vague side for her taste. When Rachel upends her beer, Illyana silently reaches down for another and rolls it across the table without a comment. For now, she lets the conversation shift away from Rachel.

"No kidding." Illyana says sourly. "And she is NOT going to want to let us in. Lucky for her I don't take no for an answer." She's completely unashamed about that, too. Rachel's question makes Illyana pull a face that can best be described as disgusted. "That's going to be the trick. You saw what happened in the Danger Room?" When this…" And the Soulsword is in Illyana's hand, apparently spirited from nowhere at all. "Got STUCK in the damned thing?" She's inspecting the blade for imperfections, as if there's an answer to be found there, first one side then flipping it over to study the other, before letting the sword vanish once more. "That doesn't happen. It's anathema to beings of magic. It should have cut right through and ended the fight right there." She might be exaggerating a little, but it's only a little. "It doesn't get STUCK." She shrugs. "It might be the Danger Room. Maybe the bear…" She looks at Rachel and shrugs. "The real bear, the demon bear… was animating the Danger Room construct. Maybe in its pure state it'll be vulnerable, the way it should be."

Illyana broods at her empty beer bottle for a few seconds. She doesn't like admitting that she doesn't have all the answers. She shrugs again, an edge of irritation in the movement, and looks back up at Rachel. "Maybe I get first crack at it, and you make sure I don't get sucked inside it again if it doesn't work. If I do… getting out again will be a trick." Leaning back in her chair, she tosses her empty bottle over the edge of their little island with a flick of her wrist. Drawing up one knee, she rests her arm on it, and just asks Rachel directly.

"It's going to try that on you again. Make you the Hound. And next time…" Illyana smiles, the look in her eyes cold and hard. "I've played some of these games, on both sides." She slowly waves her other arm across her surroundings. "There's no other way to win, or keep, all of this. It's smarter than the average bear." The smile, again. The same lack of humour, again. "Next time it might show me. Or… others. Can you handle that?"

"NO!" The sound is defiant, scared, borderline terrified and also - digusted. Rachel has to pause at her outburst and collect herself a moment. The second beer is gazed at, then opened, taking only a sip before she lowers it to the make-shift rock table. Shaking her head, Rachel really doesn't want to open up to Illyana about this, but she has done so in the past, and she's going to have to do so now.

"That is a shame I have little desiring sharing with the rest of the world. If they knew, what I've done…" And Rachel's voice trails off, as her thoughts move towards the morose and angstful. In the blood red tank that she's wearing, the place where the maggot had burrowed in is red and swollen. The costume piece that was used to staunch the bleeding is now a matching hue to the color of Rachel's shirt. She picks at it slightly, shifting the make-shift bandage around with a wince.

Her eyes lift upwards again, finally, gazing at Illyana with emerald intensity. "What if your worst nightmare, your most vulnerable moment was on display for everyone to see, to judge. Dammit all."

"I guess, I'll have to." Rachel finally admits, grinding her teeth down, "And take the consequences, though if any one single X-Man or no offers me pity, I'll deck them." And she means it.

Illyana's completely unmoved by Rachel's violent denial. Doesn't flinch in surprise, doesn't shift in embarrassment. Doesn't smile because she was right. Just stays in her comfortable, reclining position, and waits for Rachel to collect herself again.

Rachel's physical discomfort, the pain of her wound, draws Illyana's attention. Picking scabs, the physical pain distracting Rachel from deeper wounds that she's less equipped to deal with. Illyana's eyes narrow, remembering how that wound was inflicted. She doesn't sense anything from it… but she doesn't like that the bear's left a mark on any of them. "Hold still." She tells Rachel, narrowing her eyes, and makes a complicated gesture with her hand. A silvery construct that seems to have too many angles appears at Illyana's fingertips, and she flicks it toward Rachel. When it hits, it seems to dissolve into her. The pain of her wound will flare, and then fade to nothing. "No charge." Illyana says, waving a negligent hand.

Rachel should probably avoid being healed too many times in Limbo, but Illyana doesn't mention that now.

"I'd make sure there were no witnesses." Illyana answers the question, even if it was rhetorical. "I'm good at hiding bodies." If it's a joke, she's not trying very hard to make it funny. When Rachel's finally finished, Illyana allows a sardonic smile. "I think I liked your first answer better." She tells the redhead. "It was honest."

Illyana studies Rachel for a long moment before she speaks again. "Tell me. Here, where there's no one to hear you. Where no-ones going to send you a bill for the damage you do afterwards. Make the choice before something makes it for you."

"And let you know every little dirty secret I have?" Rachel returns, her gaze never leaving Illyana's. "Only if you'll open your mind to me, I'll give you every little secret, I'll take you to that moment, let you see all that this bear did - and more. But I'm not talking about it. You have to see for yourself, feel for yourself." Because if Rachel's going to let Illyana in, and let her see all that Rachel has to hide, she's got to have something in return, and that means Illyana's mind has to be opened.

"If you're not willing to do that, then just know, before I came to this time, before I was transported here, I did terrible things, and not even Kitty knows all that I did, or what I did to survive." Rachel's content just leaving it at that, if Illyana is not willing to open her mind.

Illyana holds Rachel's gaze, a little impressed that the redhead's managing it, but snorts quietly at 'every little dirty secret'. Ferreting out secrets is a hobby of hers, but that's a game for another time. Right now Rachel's an unstable atom bomb, and Illyana's trying to remove just one of her triggers.

Illyana's eyes narrow fractionally when Rachel makes her offer. She'd been prepared for a refusal, as much as that would have disappointed her. She'd been prepared for the redhead to bridle at the implication of cowardice and open up without thinking. But this? Rachel's not as easy to manipulate as Illyana had thought. It makes the game that much more fun.

"Ray, you got drunk and told me you killed family." Illyana just puts it out there, after the redhead gives her vague warning about terrible things. The words are just spoken conversationally, to show that it's not news to the demoness. "I'm expecting much worse. Come on in." She tells her, pushing back her demonic nature, making her mind human enough for the telepath to forge a connection.

And delve into Illyana's mind..? Actually, Rachel doesn't, instead she brings Illyana into Rachel's mind, and memories. This way, Rachel wouldn't be tempted to delve into things that Illyana might not want known. While Rachel doesn't have a lot of morals when it comes to utilizing her telepathy, on friends and family, that's a different story altogether.

Thus, Illyana will suddenly find herself in Rachel's mind, in the mindscape that Rachel is allowing Illyana to view. "Killed family doesn't even begin to describe it." Rachel intones quietly, though that's the last vocal, physical words she offers. No, instead everything from this point on is mentally communicated.

Within this mental memory mindscape, 'a' Rachel appears next to Illyana. She's dressed in a red leather outfit, it might actually be fairly 'radical', in today's society, complete with spikes and a collar around her neck. It's easy to see it's Rachel at a much younger age. Rail thin, emaciated even, the scars of a hard life, a difficult childhood, a broken spirit, behind the 'Young' Rachel stands the figure of Ahab, leash in hand, vile laughter in his gaze.

Next to Illyana, Rachel's voice can be heard, "This world is really similar to the one that Nate lived in. Odd, isn't it? We Summers/Greys tend to have great childhoods. As you know, Sentinels ruled this earth, and the dead were left to rot were they fell."

True to Rachel's voice, everything around Illyana shifts to show the world as it was, the dead, dying, the ones reaching out for help from the 'young' Rachel, only to find nothing in return.

It's a sickening thing - for most to handle. "Doing as I was told, I was allowed to live, I used my powers to hunt my fellow mutants down, one by one. As I said, one by one, it didn't matter if it was family, friends, foe, or unknown. I did it. And worse, I never stopped to help, or offer sympathy, I was just a hound, a slave, a monster for Ahab to enjoy destroying." Rachel's voice pauses, as the scene shifts, and Illyana is given a glimpse of Rachel's life, from beginning - the death of Charles Xavier, and Rachel there, listening as his thoughts fade away, to the moment when she was freed from Ahab's control, and the savior Magneto, Kate, Piotr, giving hope to a child that had none, and was filled with guilt. To the death of the one person that Rachel loved, and could never get over, to the words that Kate whispered to Phoenix that sent her home.

After everything is exposed, and Rachel does offer everything, she closes the connection down, allowing Illyana's mind to go back to her own head, and nothing - Illyana will not feel any intrusion, no invasion, nothing else is done.

Illyana's no telepath, but she's capable of astral projection. The sensation of her consciousness being drawn out of her body and into Rachel's mind isn't as unsettlingly familiar as it might be for most… but that still doesn't mean that she likes it. Surrendering control in any arena is not something that she enjoys, but necessity is a powerful motivator.

Re-embodied within Rachel's mindscape, Illyana's avatar doesn't gasp or stumble, but looks around with interest. Rachel's ominous words only serve to increase her curiosity. Rachel might have been talkative, that night on the beach, but Illyana never for a moment believed she'd given over all of her secrets. As another, younger Rachel appears beside her, Illyana senses that the show is about to begin. She doesn't betray any shock at Rachel's appearance, just looks at her for a couple of seconds before her eyes follow the leash from Rachel's neck to the hand of Ahab, then up to the Houndmaster's face. Illyana's cold blue eyes linger there for a moment, narrowing slightly, as if committing the face to memory.

Illyana's eyes return to the scene before her as Rachel's voice speaks in her thoughts. The first thing that Rachel tells her isn't news. So that's why you were a basket case there, and I had to hunt down my 'brother' with Dani, Illyana doesn't say, doesn't dwell on it. Just watches what Rachel chooses to show her.

Illyana expected to be unmoved and she's… not. Not quite. Too much of Rachel's experience mirrors her own, for the demoness to divorce herself entirely from what she's seeing. But there's one important difference. None of Rachel's crimes cost her a portion of her soul. It's that bitter understanding that keeps Illyana silent, until she's back in her own body, gazing across the table at Rachel once more.

Illyana only has one question. "Is he dead?"

If there is one person that Rachel would murder in cold blood, it would be Ahab. She'd do so, and she'd do it without remorse, even if it meant she'd never be an X-Man again. There are few that Rachel would ever go that villainous for, but Ahab - is one. The redhead's expression remains mute for a moment, before she admits. "I don't know. The last I heard of him, he was still alive." And it's a bitter, bile taste in the back of Rachel's throat that she states this. It leaves such a nasty aftertaste.

And now, Illyana's seen it all, everything that makes up Rachel's haunted core. With a dismissive hand, Rachel plucks up her beer and takes a long, slow swig, before setting it back down. "The scars on my face? I'm content to let them show, I thought - and I knew, that part of my life is who made me, but not defined me. And yet, with that - whatever that thing was, I was back to being that scarred teenager, too frightened to be more than a slave. I was nothing more than a frightened hound again, and that pissed me off more than I can ever begin to say." Rachel's nose wrinkles upwards, her eye blazes with the aura of the Phoenix but for a moment, before fading just as quickly.

"And if you tell anyone what I just told you, I will make certain the entire mansion believes that you need hugs on a daily basis." And Rachel's not kidding.

Illyana nods, as Rachel gives her the final piece. It all makes sense now, but still Illyana doesn't speak. Not yet, not even as Rachel takes a long drink from her beer. She senses that the redhead isn't done, that there's more she needs to say, even if Illyana doesn't need to hear it. She's pretty sure she can guess the rest.

In Rachel, she sees herself, before she faced Belasco for the final time. She couldn't kill her demon without becoming him, but she fought him and won. Rachel hasn't beaten her demon yet. Illyana understands, and she doesn't pity Rachel.

She lets Rachel deliver her threat and snorts back laughter. If nothing else, the redhead seems uncannily good at figuring out what Illyana hates. "You win. Piotr's bad enough." She says, even holding her hands up in an 'I surrender' gesture before letting them drop to her sides.

"I suck at pep talks." Illyana says after a moment. "Because I'm pretty sure that most of the time, the one doing the talking just wants to make themselves feel better about something they can't understand and can't change." Illyana shrugs. "I'll say this, though: The only person who doesn't realise you've already won? You. But we both know that's not enough, so I'll make you a deal: If he ever finds you for real, I'll bring you here, and you can kill him." Illyana smiles, and there's an almost inhuman look of anticipation in her eyes. "And no-one but us will ever know."

Illyana blinks, and the look is gone as if it never was. "All you have to do is help me save Dani from her own stubbornness, and laugh in the bear's face if it pulls the same trick on you again. Sound good?"

"Deal." And Rachel means it as much as Illyana does. They both know the risks, and they both know their own demons. Rachel also knows that if she ever got the chance, she would risk being an X-Man to kill her demon, and if Illyana follows through with her promise, should Rachel ever meet with Ahab? All the better.

"And yes, I will help you with Dani's monster, bear, demon, terror, whatever that thing is. And if it pulls that trick again, I will do my best to laugh in its face, I don't want to give it any further fuel for the fire." Rachel agrees, strengthing her resolve to do just that. There are other things the bear can use, but that one, her past, Rachel will not allow it to do that much harm to her, again.

"However, if you get pulled into that thing, once more, we really need an escape plan to get out. If that thing was only at half its power, I barely was able to pull us out." Rachel downs the last of her beer, before rising upwards. "It took every ounce that I have, and every bit of anger that it gave to me, and even then I didn't think I was going to make it."

As an aside, Rachel also belatedly thanks Illyana for the 'cure' to her wound. The pain that she initially felt was raw, but it's Rachel, she didn't let it show, now that it's gone, she's just glad she doesn't have to worry about infection. "Thanks, again for that. Now, if you don't mind, I'd like to go. Limbo's a great place to visit, but your beer tastes too earthy for my tastes."

Deal. The word is spoken, and Illyana smiles. Rachel doesn't need to worry, Illyana keeps her promises, and this one, if it comes to pass, would put the redhead in her debt… Illyana stops kidding herself. After what she saw, she'd happily kill Ahab herself, if Rachel didn't need it more than she did. It's faintly alarming to discover she cares.

"It shouldn't have been able to do that either." Illyana grumbles, before also standing up. "I have a couple of ideas." 'Ideas' is overselling it more than a little. "An anchor in the real world, something I could find even inside the bear's shadow." She looks like she has a bad taste in her mouth. "No idea if it'll work until I really NEED it to work, though." She stops musing to herself and looks to Rachel with a smirk. "And your way nearly crushed me, so yeah. Let's work on an alternative."

With a wave of her hand, Illyana opens a portal back to the Institute. "It's you, not Limbo. Nate hates the food and drink here too. Must be genetic." With a flash of light, they're gone. On the empty island above the lava they leave behind, all is stillness for a time, and then with a cracking, groaning sound the land reclaims Rachel's constructions, erasing all sign they were ever there.

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 License