Regrets For What Never Happened

April 30, 2018:

While the fake Brotherhood attacked Xavier's school, Illyana and Nate had a serious conversation about her life choices (or lack of them) and what happened in the House of M illusion.

Limbo's Citadel

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions:

Plot:

Mood Music: None.


Fade In…

So yeah, Illyana was 'stupid'. Well, reckless, careless.

In Nate's experience Illyana is never reckless unless she gets angry. Admittedly, it is not difficult to provoke her, but in this case she has few reasons to be angry. Sinister was just his usual creepy bastard self. It was nothing personal. And he doubts mentioning the Mad Monk Rasputin would have rattled Illyana.

So he finishes his burger and follows her into the school building. "Wait, Illy," he says, once he has swallowed the food. "You can't avoid the issues forever, silly witch."


Illyana left the barbecue specifically because she didn't want to talk about recent events. So, typically, they follow her inside.

She'd clearly been making for the upper floors, possibly intending to actually occupy the room that's nominally hers for a change, rather than slink off to Limbo as she so often does. She has magical studies to catch up on, but… the tension in her straight-backed posture suggests she's not about to settle down with a good book. Or even an impenetrably dull tome of spells.

When Nate calls out to her from behind, she has a hand on the stair-rail and she's about to take the first step up. She hesitates, debating whether to just keep climbing the stairs, but then lets out a quiet, irritated sigh and turns around, leaning against the wall and crossing her arms, body language clearly defensive. "What issues do you think I'm avoiding, Nate?"


Nate walks closer, stopping just short of invading her personal space. He gives her a knowing look and folds his arms. Then he gives her ten seconds for self-analysis before speaking. "I know you," he points out. "You are not coping, you are just avoiding. You went after Sinister to keep busy. You didn't want backup because you didn't want to talk about it. I think you are far more bothered by that illusion than you want to admit to anyone, including yourself."

He sighs. "I have been jumping between realities since I was seventeen. I'd like to say I am used to this kind of crap. But who the hell can get used to this? So, okay. I know you are a very tough girl and all that. But I still think we should talk."


Illyana doesn't move as Nate approaches, but there's a slight tightening around her eyes that increases the closer he gets. It's a subtle, silent warning, but in the end she doesn't need to act on it. He knows how close he can safely get.

If only he was so well trained when it came to talking about subjects she'd rather not discuss.

"I didn't 'go after' Sinister." Illyana tells him, slightly annoyed that she has to crane her neck back to look up at the much taller man. "But we needed to know if we could get back inside that facility, so that's where I went." She's meeting his gaze without effort, her tone is completely confident, she might even be telling him the truth as she sees it.

But she's always been such a good liar.

"Besides, who was I going to take to back me up? Alex could barely walk in a straight line, Lorna had just been through involuntary baby-removal and even I can see she's not herself, and you?" She smiles. "Sinister doesn't make you think clearly, and I wasn't sure if you were going to need a white stick and a dog." She's so sensitive about his eye injuries, as always. "You didn't need to worry. The door's not there any more. The facility is… kind of." Illyana's face scrunches up, as she tries to explain in layman's terms. "It's like it's just off to the left of our dimension. I can't get in." She pauses, then says almost to herself. "At least not yet." She might not be out of ideas yet, which may or may not be worrying.

"And as for the rest? Like you said, it was all an illusion. Nothing we saw, nothing we did, was real. And it's over." It seems like that's her final word on the subject, but after a long moment she blows out a frustrated breath. "But if you want to talk about something that never happened, fine. OK. But not here." With a flare of light, a portal appears right behind her, and she steps backwards into it. "Your choice." She says as she vanishes.


"There were other options," points out Nate. Rogue, for instance. Very good wing-woman. Heck, Cable has experience dealing with Sinister and plenty of smarts and firepower. And it is not as if being half-blind is a major problem for a telepath. Regardless of how irrational he might get about Essex (very - Sinister is his Belasco).

And look, she is fleeing again. Nate follows through the disk. "I guess you feel safer here, hmm? Makes sense," he comments with a lopsided grin. "As for what was real or not… Illy, there is nothing that hurts more than regrets for what never actually happened and can't ever happen. It is the worst feeling."


There are always other options, and from the look on Illyana's face she's almost challenging Nate to list some, so she can continue refuting them as easily and confidently as she dismissed the idea of taking Alex, Lorna, or Nate himself back for a second round with the pasty geneticist. There's every sense that she's prepared to carry on deflecting for the rest of the afternoon, if Nate pushes her.

Instead, he wants to talk about illusions and (ugh!) feelings. Those are harder to escape by listing other people's deficiencies.

When Nate follows through the stepping disc, he will, of course, find himself in Limbo. Although this time they're not in the throne room proper, rather on the large star-shaped balcony that projects from the side of Illyana's citadel, and the blonde is looking out over her domain moodily. Her outfit has shifted again, the shorts she was wearing for summer in Westchester exchanged for her customary black jeans, boots and skull-motif top. She looks around as Nate joins her.

"Safer, right." She replies sardonically. Look where they are, Limbo doesn't exactly scream safety. A point she's made to Scott more than once. Any amusement vanishes from her face when Nate continues, her jaw tightening. "You really think that's a lesson I need to learn, Nate? You say you know all my secrets, you know the life that never happened and can't ever happen for me, and you know why. You're standing in it." A hand is flung out, to indicate the wilds of Limbo beyond the citadel, before Illyana's normal control reasserts itself, and she boots herself up to sit on the parapet of the balcony, regarding him keenly.

"Are you sure it's me who's having trouble with coming back from Sinister's paradise and not you? What do you regret, Nate?"


"Safer for you," clarifies Nate. Not safe for most people, but he knows the blonde is connected to this place in ways he can't quite define. It is magic.

He looks at the desolation without fear, so alike his own world in most ways. Humankind does not need demons to turn Earth into Hell.

"I tease you saying I know all your secrets," he adds. "Which is… unlikely. I know enough to sometimes make you uncomfortable, though," he glances at the blonde, smirking a bit. "You dislike people getting to know you too well. Some would say it is a demon instinct, but there are plenty human people that feel like you do. I think demons imitate people, not the other way around. They are actually simpler than us, a created race, hmm?"

That is a different subject for another occasion, though.

"I am sure we both do have trouble, but it is not my first rodeo, Illy," he adds, returning to the matter on hand. "What do I regret? That depends on the day. Right now… I miss those two kids we were, they were… nice. Kinda innocent, but not stupid."


Illyana snorts, something flickering deep in her eyes. Safer for her now? Maybe. But all the very worst things that ever happened to her happened right here, too. "My pets know better than to try to eat me, and no-one can knock on my door uninvited. I suppose that counts as safe." She's being flippant, and deliberately difficult. As usual.

He does get one straight answer, though. "I don't like not knowing what you do know." She's told some people a portion of her secrets. Rachel. Scott. She's still waiting to see how that experiment plays out. But she likes being the gatekeeper of her secrets. The knowledge of her that Nate implies, that she didn't choose to share with him makes her feel less in control than she likes.

She snorts, again, when Nate decides to lecture her on demons. "They're mirrors of you. Your darker emotions, your worst excesses. They just don't hide what they are behind an innocent face. For all they lie, corrupt and kill, they're more honest in that way." She smirks. "I'm not. Most people prefer the lie, too." Her smirk grows a bit. "You just have to be different."

Illyana shakes her head when Nate answers her question, blonde hair swaying. Unlike him, she's really not so different from the way she appeared in that dreamworld. A little older, sure, but outwardly just as flawless as she was there. "You got to be the favoured son. Wealth, power, everything you wanted. I got a tiny apartment and drafted into SHIELD. I thought we were supposed to get what we wanted." The sardonic tone is back in Illyana's voice. "What do you miss about her?"


"Don't be silly," replies Nate. "Wealth is nothing to us; we can get whatever wealth we want. Because power we already have in spades. No, what I got was family, peace, health and sleeping soundly every night. The things I never had and I never thought I would truly need."

Those are the regrets for what never happened and can't ever happen.

"You? You had a choice. You choose to be a warrior and a hero." He smiles, "same choice you made here, I suppose. But I think it felt better, didn't it? No one pushed you."

What does he miss about 'her'? Oh, what a question. Indeed, what a think YOU want to know, Illyana. "I think… I will miss I could touch 'her' and 'she' wouldn't recoil." He looks uncomfortably sad for a second. "But really, we were there like six hours, all the rest are ghostly impressions of memories that never happened, you know? I bet they don't even match. What do you miss?"

Then he smirks, "and the colorful dresses looked good on you, too. Black looks good on you, but so does everything else."


So Nate's not going to let her complain that he got all the good stuff in the dreamworld and pretend that actually mattered? How inconsiderate of him. And it gets worse. If he'd left it at 'wealth is nothing and we have power in spades', she'd have just shrugged it off. But sleeping soundly every night? That pulls her up short. For a moment the mask drops and the look in Illyana's eyes is unfriendly. He'll know he touched a nerve.

"Did I choose? Did you? Really? Or were we just playing the parts that Sinister picked for us?" The challenge is reflexive, but Illyana's combative response doesn't last. "It was easier." She allows. "Simpler." Amusement flickers in her eyes. "No risk of bringing hell to Earth if I screwed it up… and it felt like my decision." She shrugs. She might continue, but what Nate says next seems to freeze her solid.

Illyana doesn't look away, but the usual walls behind her eyes suddenly seem higher and thicker. She chooses her words very deliberately. "She was never me, Nate. Nothing that happened to me here happened to her there." Illyana gives him a couple of moments for that to sink in. If he knows her secrets… even if he doesn't, she's not going to elaborate. And that's only half the story. "She didn't know what she really was. I do." That's far easier to admit.

She takes the escape route that Nate offers her, whether it was intentional or not, and suddenly grins. It doesn't quite reach her eyes. "Now I see what this is all about." She says, as if she's just learned some secret. "Colourful dresses aren't me." She tells him, her tone far lighter than it was a moment before. "And I have my image to consider." Here? Or back in the real world? She leaves that to him to decide, slipping lightly down from her perch on the parapet. "But I'll see what I can do." She sound almost playful now, and with a shimmer of light her outfit changes.

It's still black. She did warn him. But now she's wearing a sleeveless, close fitting black top without even a single skull on it, and a black skirt falls in a straight line from her hips to her ankles, a silver zip running all the way from top to bottom in front. It's not a dress, but… "Better?" She asks, watching him for a reaction.


Of course Nate gave her an easy way out. But also gave her something to think about it. Or so he hopes, as the blonde has showed some great skill at avoiding some matters. But perhaps she will still consider them while waiting for that sleep that won't come easily.

They are mature, responsible adults now, aren't they?

Except maybe when she plays dressing up. "Maybe make it red and gold?" He suggests with little hope. "Otherwise pretty nice."

"As for the illusion…" yes, he can't leave it alone, "it was apparently built from the subconscious wishes and needs of the subjects, the background was some kind of common setup where Magneto was the king because the Genoshans wanted it, or maybe he wanted it that bad." Nate is not so sure about that part, but he is pretty sure about the wishes. Madelyne said so and it makes painful sense. Anything less wouldn't have hit them so hard.


"You want me to steal Ray's colours?" Illyana asks, still not sounding particularly serious. She makes a play of thinking about it for a second or two before she shakes her head. "That would just get awkward. I'd have to worry about turning up wearing the same outfit and stuff like that. Too much work." As if Illyana's ever been worried about social faux pas like turning up in the same dress. Or as if both she and Rachel couldn't change their outfit at a moments' notice.

Any hope that Illyana might have had that Nate's been distracted evaporates quickly when he attempts to drag the conversation back onto what's currently his favourite topic. Illyana folds her arms and shoots him a dark look from beneath her bangs, but he's undeterred.

"Sounds like Mags will be heartbroken it was all a dream. I'm surprised you're talking to me and not him, I'd have thought you'd want to rub it in." A thought strikes Illyana. "I don't think he would have even known who I was, in his fantasy. Think I should be offended?" She knows very well what Nate's getting at with his talk of subconscious wishes and needs, and she's not biting.


Nate allows himself a small smirk at how Magneto must be feeling. Was it worse for the old monster than for Illy and Nate? That would be something.

Smile fades quickly at thinking how the millions of people affected in Genosha must be feeling now. Aster the traumatic civil war they got the House of M. Psychological aid needed for millions, now.

"He seems to have kicked out most reporters now," he comments. Not that he has been back to Genosha. Maybe he should. He thinks a few seconds and removes his prescription glasses.

The left eye, the one that is being affected by the technovirus seems normal. Maybe a more pure blue it was before, the green seem to have faded. The right eye is bloodshot and the pupil is a pinprick, almost closed.

"Yeah, well. Screw him," he decides, looking at Illyana again. "As for colors… hell, I should ask Ray to get you some colorful clothes. Maybe you will do it if she pushes you. You never listen to my fashion advice." Which is questionable, contrarily to Rachel's.

And… "now stop avoiding the subject, Illy."


"After the PR disaster that his daughter's wedding turned into, I'm not sure I blame him." Illyana comments. She has no particular love for the man, but where Magneto's concerned Nate's the vengeful one for a change. A slow smile spreads across Illyana's face. "That reporter who hit the Marauders with a brick." From the tone, that reporter has joined the short list of people who Illyana's impressed with, although apparently not impressed enough to remember her name. "I don't normally bother with the news, but I should see what she wrote about it." The smile broadens a little more. "She'd better have said nice things about us after we had to carry her out." There's not even a hint of seriousness about Illyana's words.

Nate's final word on Magneto draws Illyana's attention back from where it had wandered, and the revealed eyeball gets an eloquent grimace. Or possibly that's her response to the idea of Nate's fashion advice. "That's because your fashion advice amounts to 'wear more armour', Nate. Ray has taste."

And then Nate has to spoil the banter by telling her to stop deflecting. "I should make you put those back on." Illyana says with her customary lack of overt sympathy, nodding toward Nate's sunglasses. "You'll scare the demons." She looks at the offending eyeball for a moment longer. "Come on. It's darker inside. I'm not getting in trouble for making your eyeball look even worse." Dropping her arms to her sides, Illyana moves past Nate into her throne room, her skirt flicking around her legs as she walks.

True to her words, it is darker inside. Darker than usual in fact. The torches lining the walls burn low, only a little more than embers, and Illyana's black clothing almost disappears into the shadows. By contrast, her blue eyes are brighter than they have any right to be, when she turns around to face him. "What do you think I'm avoiding, Nate? You want me to admit that the other me, the one in that illusion is what I'd want to be if you took away Limbo and all my memories of it? Is that it?" The blue eyes remain locked on his mismatched pair. "What difference would it make?"


Maybe he should give some color to that dress. But he is not sure what kind of material she used. Changing the colors is sometimes trickier than changing shapes. "At least you have started wearing real armor." He murmurs, following the blonde inside.

Limbo is always darker than Earth, anyway. But yes, lets not provoke Nurse Annie's wrath. She patches them up.

What does he want her to admit? Ah, good question. "Not only that," he decides. "I think you already know. But admittance is the first step. The second would be doing something about it. You can't get rid of Limbo, and you can't forget. But you can move on and build something better for yourself. You… this is odd now I think about it, but I think you live in the past too much. It is as if… you never moved too far from your personal Age of Apocalypse. Your Hell. But it has been what? Six, eight years? You deserve better."


Illyana's eyes narrow to slits. Admitting she has a problem is the first step? She almost makes an acid comment that this is Limbo, not Alcoholics Anonymous, and that she's not an addict who needs an intervention. That or opening a stepping disc at his feet to drop him back to Earth, possibly from a great height. The trouble is, she knows he can fly. No, she's not being honest with herself. The trouble is, he's one of about three people she'd allow to psychoanalyze her like this, and she's not even sure why he's on the list.

Maybe there's just a little of the naive, innocent idiot that she thought she was still hanging around. The one who had friends for no other reason than to have friends, and who'd counted Nate as one of them forever. Maybe she still remembers a life that never was.

Maybe she recognizes that she's never let anyone say these things to her, and it's about time someone did.

"You don't know what I did to win this place, Nate." Illyana tells him, her words quiet but her tone level. "Don't you think it's possible I deserve everything I've got?" That could certainly be taken two ways, but Illyana doesn't clarify her meaning. "You can move on, because you don't live in that world any more. Ray, too. Me?" Illyana actually takes a step or two closer, coming a little way out of the shadows. "This isn't the past. This is now. And for me, this is forever. Your world's a nice place to visit, Nate, but whatever I do, this is where I'm going to end up."

Illyana shrugs, and finally looks away. "Why get attached to something you can't have, right?"


"Whatever you did it is about time you forgive yourself," Nate adds, stepping close. This time he is somewhat invading her personal space. Except this is Limbo-space, not Earth-space. "That was also the… something I needed to move on. And it took me years. Being the last survivor was bad for the head."

Finding out he was not the last survivor five years later was nice, but it was something that wasn't hurting so much as those first couple years.

"Now, I know you are the guardian of this place, not just a queen," he adds, looking at the dark room. "It is your fortress, but it is also the albatross around your neck." Did he got it right? He looks at the Russian woman. Always hard to read, even with his empathic abilities. "So yeah, you have to stay. But this is work, this is not your life. Your life is wherever you can be happy."


Illyana's head turns, sharply, as soon as Nate takes that step toward her. If they were on Earth, Illyana would step back as soon as Nate moved forward, just to maintain the gap between them. But this is Limbo. Her domain. She doesn't step back here, and there's a warning look in her eyes.

"You don't…" She begins, then winces. She's starting to sound like a stuck record, and she doesn't like it. She's already told Nate he doesn't know what she did to claim Limbo. If she keeps repeating herself, he's only going to ask what that was… and her mind recoils from even the idea of telling him. That will never happen. But where does that leave her? Torturing herself for eternity?

What she said was true. Limbo is forever. She'll end up here, eventually, when the X-Men are dust. When Nate is dust. When even Piotr is dust. She'll have forever to contemplate her sins, a treacherous part of her mind points out. Would she really be any more damned if she took a little time off her self-imposed penance, while there are still people alive who know her name?

While she's been turning that over and over inside her head, Nate's been talking. About guardians and queens and… albatrosses? She might have missed something profound, but she's pretty sure she got the bare bones of it. "We just got back from being abducted, drugged and fed an illusion, and you think I'd be happier there and not here?" The sarcasm is probably expected, but it's clear that her heart's not in it.

"Maybe." She says, finally, reluctantly. Maybe she'd be happier back on Earth. Maybe it's time to forgive herself. She doesn't elaborate.


Such optimism!

Nate would laugh at the idea Illyana could be alive in 10, much less 50 years. Oh sure, maybe demons are forever, but they? Mutant 'super-heroes'? (Not that Nate would use the word 'super-hero' to define himself). They are living on borrowed time.

Then again he never expected to live to 21, and look at him. He is mostly alive. So maybe they will die of old age and Illyana will keep going and going like the energized bunny. And maybe she should start looking for friends among Asgardians, vampires and robots. Those people that is not going to age and that think death is a minor setback.

Anything better than sit down in the stone throne of Limbo and brood like a Summers. And worry about could happen in 50 years.

But all Nate knows is that Illyana had to run to the bathroom to vomit when she remembered who and what she is. It talks about a degree of self-loathing that is way beyond anything he had suspected so far. He needed to talk to her. He *needs* to try to pull her out of her well hidden misery.

Because she is a dear friend. Because she was more than a friend in the illusion. "What are you worried about?" He teases gently. "If you try to be happy and it doesn't stick, you can always come back here and feel bad at yourself."


That was it? That was all she had to do to stop Nate from trying to make her open up? Say maybe?

If she'd known that when he caught up with her back at the mansion, she might not even have needed to bring him here to talk. Maybe doesn't mean anything. Maybe doesn't commit her to anything… except she knows that he's taking it as a promise, and at least this time, she didn't intend to lie.

She doesn't know what's going through his head. As Nate himself said, it's very likely that their individual realities in the illusion didn't quite match up. She doesn't know why he's suddenly so interested in her forgiving herself. That's probably a good thing.

Nate's suddenly teasing tone gets a wordless, annoyed humpf from Illyana, who attempts to shove her hands in the back pockets of the jeans she's not wearing. That doesn't do much for her attempt to look irritated with him. "If I start being happy and pleasant people might start to think I'm approachable and try to talk to me." Illyana replies, darkly, making herself shudder for effect. "Then I'll have to come back here just to get away from them." Illyana mock-glares at him. "I've changed my mind, this is a terrible idea." She announces, but there's a light in her eyes that wasn't there before.

The stepping disc that suddenly flares into existence in the semi-darkness probably wasn't fair on Nate's eyes, but she's still Illyana Rasputin. "Let's get out of here before I think better of it."


That 'maybe' means Nate just got some… he is not sure what. "Whatever you did in the past, Illy, does not determinate what you can do in the future. And don't tell me you are a demon, I don't think your pets know regret, and you do. You are human enough for me. Horns and hooves, and warts and all."

And monochromatic clothes. But that one battle he is going to delegate on Rachel.

"Lets get out of here," he agrees, putting back on his funky sunglasses. "I will take you out to watch a movie, and maybe clubbing later, hmm? Hopefully Magneto won't come to destroy the mansion this afternoon."

Well, the fake Brotherhood just did, and lets not forget Polaris/Malice. There is not going to be a movie after all, they are going to be busy cleaning up the mess.

BUT there is always tomorrow. 'Maybe'.

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