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"Lights in the Dark"

Lights in the Dark

Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Author's Notes

DISCLAIMER: This is an unauthorized work of fiction using characters that are (c) & TM by Marvel Comics Group, DC Comics and Chris Claremont. No profit is being made on this story, which is (c) Tilman Stieve ( You can download this and copy it for your entertainment, but don't sell it for profit, or Marvel will set their lawyers on you. Please do not archive this on your website without informing me first.
Not sure about this, but according to some people's rules this story might be labeled "mature themes".
In an ideal world, dear reader, you would already have read "A Year in the Life", "A Day's Work", and "The Time the Twain Shall Meet" (available on this website!) before starting on "Lights in the Dark", but there really should be no trouble understanding the story on its own once you're past the prologue.

Lights in the Dark


The big man with the studded shoulderpads was shouting from the top of the stairs: "Could you hurry up with the food please, Cruiser really needs it!" The two girls turned in his direction. The man, obviously someone with superstrength, was very agitated. "I have to say, ladies," he told the two owners of the cappuccino bar, "it would have helped a lot if you'd told us about the bloody great cavern you have hidden beneath your tavern. Surprises like that, and the warriors who protect it, we could do without!"

The two women behind the bar quietly conversed, while the busboy came up to the girls' table, bearing a mountain of sandwiches on the tray on his left hand, three hot coffee mugs on that in his right. The brunette couldn't resist asking: "Somebody need a rescue?"

"Just the hired help," replied the young man, half of whose head was shaven bald. "Who gets the latte?"

"My bookbag, please," came the reply, as if it was the most normal thing in the world.

"Ohhhh-kay." The waiter was nonplused.

"Forget it, roomie," said the younger girl with the straight blond hair, "absolutely no way, it's not our problem. This homework's our problem. We don't turn it in, we're history."

Conal set down the mugs on the table and withdrew, carrying his food tray up the stairs. Hidden behind Kitty's hand, Lockheed's snout appeared from her bag, and his long extended tongue began to lap up the foamy caffelatte.

"I mean, we're risking trouble enough just being here!" Illyana added for effect. When Conal Savoy was out of hearing, she relaxed. She lowered her voice: "Well, 'roomie', by the pricking of my thumb I'd say this is the place."

"Yup," replied Kitty Pryde, better known to the world and its media as Shadowcat, co-founder and mainstay of the British mutant team Excalibur. Quoting from the opening scene of Macbeth, Illyana Rasputina had not simply made a literary joke, she was obliquely referring to her supernal senses. Senses she had developed as a young sorceress, raised under the tutelage of the notorious Belasco, who had kidnapped her to his daemonic Limbo and raised her for several years as his pupil. Later she had defeated him and returned, only to find that while she had grown to a thirteen-year-old, only seconds had passed since she left on her native Earth. Using the Russian codename Magik, she had joined Charles Xavier's junior team, the New Mutants, but during a later adventure that had taken them to Limbo, she found herself unable to return to Earth. For years of her subjective time she was stuck in the daemonic realm with its unpredictable time streams and eddies. Only a few months ago had she managed to escape, sneaking out under the coattails of a group of dimension-hopping villains. Annoyingly, but not unexpectedly, she re-entered her native dimension at a point somewhere in the middle between the time she had left and the one where (when!) she would have been if she had not traveled to Limbo that day. Back then she had been less than a year younger than her best friend, now she was Shadowcat's junior by about two. But what had come as an even bigger shock was that everyone thought she was dead. During the same adventure that had left her stranded in Limbo, a pre-teen doppelganger of her, who must have been created by one of the many time paradoxes Limbo generated, arrived on Earth. She had contracted the Legacy Virus and died within two years.

Kitty continued, she too keeping her voice down: "By the features in this magazine I'd say you're right." She pushed the slightly battered copy of Newstime towards Illyana Rasputina. The gossip section featured half a column, including a color photo of the happy couple, on the wedding of Fire, a member of the Justice League, and Guy Gardner, late of the Green Lantern Corps. Neither the bride and groom, nor these organizations, existed in Kitty and Illyana's native universe. By the printed evidence, they were on foreign ground, in the home dimension of the foursome that had unwittingly helped Magik to escape from Limbo.

After her return from her second exile Illyana had returned to school, joining Generation X at the Massachusetts Academy. Apart from the normal curriculum she concentrated on learning to handle her sorcerous talents, trying to balance the dark arts she had learned at Belasco's feet by apprenticing in white magic with the Scarlet Witch. It helped that Wanda Maximoff was now living in the Xavier Mansion, as part of the Avengers/X-Men exchange program. During the fall break Wanda had taken her to her own teacher, Agatha Harkness, and Dr. Strange was also taking an interest in the young Siberian.

Kitty and Illyana were in Crossroads on the trail of Illyana's 'schoolmate', Jubilation Lee, who had recently disappeared. That had happened around the time that Illyana had returned, shortly after Jubilee had met with her old friend and, at times, surrogate father, Wolverine. She had left a telephonic message at the Xavier institute, but had been too excited to notice that her unstructured account had been cut off, leaving her message all but unintelligible. So now here they were, acting as if they were 'ordinary' students from Jubilee's school so as not to arouse suspicion, while the two headmasters and two GenX'ers were unobtrusively posted in different places outside.

"You're the sorceress," Kitty said to Illyana, "so what do you think? This town or this café must be some kind of nexus between realities."

"Definitely this house, Katya," said Magik, "I feel it in my bones. It is entirely different from the vibes I got outside. And you heard what big guy said about the cavern beneath. I wouldn't be surprised if that cavern is a passageway to ... somewhere else entirely."

"But the folks don't seem to keen on us snooping around. Well, I guess we found out pretty much all we could as 'normal' customers..." Kitty moved to rise. "Unless Jubilee actually bothered to leave a message for us. Now you ask when you pay at the bar, I'll go and have a look in the little girl's room. That's always a possibility, and would be pretty much Ms. Lee's style..." Actually, she had not met Jubilee that often, but her reputation had a way of getting around. Kitty had insisted on being involved in the investigation because she felt a certain empathy for the young Chinese-American. Like her, she had once been relegated from the X-Men to the junior team, only Kitty only had to stay with the New Mutants, while Jubilee's transfer to Generation X was permanent.

Illyana had no luck: the owners remembered Jubilee when she showed them a photograph, but they had no message. But Kitty, when she rejoined her, had a contented smile on her face.

"It was behind the mirror," she said in a low voice as she slipped a small envelope into Illyana's bookbag. The two friends proceeded towards the door.

"Hey, what's keeping you, Illyana?"

"Dunno, something's holding me back by the bag..." She paused for a quick analysis. It must be that issue of Newstime and the letter inside that did kept the bag from passing back into their native universe. "Kitty, could you come back in and shield me from view," she whispered, "I want to try something."

Magik quietly summoned a small stepping-disk onto the threshold. Lockheed suddenly took flight, his flightpath curving around the disk as Illyana carried her shoulder-bag over it. She was able to get outside into the free air with it, but when she opened the bag, the contents had visibly aged. The paper of the magazine had yellowed and crinkled, while the apple which Illyana had brought along for Lockheed to eat was only a small disgusting sticky brown mass.

"Damn," cursed Illyana beneath her breath, "guess we'd better try to find another way to get Jubilee back..."

The two got into Emma Frost's limo, which was waiting with its motor running and Sean Cassidy at the wheel. In the back they were received by the White Queen, Synch and Husk. "Well, let's have a look at the letter," said Kitty, "it's addressed to all of you."

Dear Logan, Ms. Frost, Mr. Cassidy, fellow Xavier students,

Just a few lines of explanation. I tried to leave a message on the machine, but the dumb thing cut me of. Now, where to begin?

I hope some of you'll remember (cause your memory is'nt what it used to be) the time our universe merjed with this other one and we were set up as some kind of american gladiaters to decide which was going to survive. I'm not sure you will, becuase I did'nt forget about it only because I kept a diary. I mentioned it on the machine, so I guess it's to late to tell you not to read it. Maybe it'll help to get your memories back. And you'll have seen all the juicy detales about me and Robin, the guy who suddenly appeared on my bed and who beat me hands down in our part of the contest.

Any way, last summer I suddenly got a chance to go to Robin's realty + to see him again just after Logan + me met in Crossroads. I did'nt know if I'd ever get another one, so I took the plunge + got on a bus to Gotham (that's the city where Robin lives - it does'nt exist in our universe. I had to lerk around for a while, but it was only a matter of time since Robin and his partner, The Batman (they allways say 'the Batman', as if the 'the' had a captial 'T') go on patrol every night.

So we met again, and of course Robin was bowled over seeing yours truly (was there ever any doubt?). Not so the B-man, who is a bit of a scientific whiz and got a bit antsy about visitors from another dimention. He even took me to Crossroads to try + get me to go back. But I could'nt get out of Robin's universe. Not that I tried THAT hard. But we decided that the caffé was accessible for visitors from your Earth, because we found a recent 'Daily Bugle' there. Which means we MAY have a chance to at least meet here and see what we can do. How does my birthday strike you? In the meantime, I think I'll try to make most of my chance to reaquaint myself with Robin (grin).

Well, take care everybody. I'll try to be at Crossroads on my B-day, it would be mucho appreciated if some of you could be there.

Hang loose,

JFK Airport, early in the morning. A battleship-gray Rolls-Royce stopped in front of the terminal. The driver, a dignified older man impeccably dressed in an old-fashioned three-piece suit, walked around the car to open the door for his passengers. An attractive young woman in a sharp costume got out, followed by a big-framed, blue-furred man in slacks and a pullover.

"Thanks, Jarvis," said Dr. Henry McCoy, better known to the public and the media as the Beast. "I'll take the suitcase of our television reporter extraordinaire."

"Very well, sir. I shall return in an hour to pick you up, then. Good bye, Ms. Tilby," he added to the journalist, somewhat formally inclining his balding head, "and, as I we won't be meeting until then, I would like to wish you a merry Christmas and a happy 1998. Godspeed, Ms. Tilby."

Trish and Hank waved good-bye as Edwin Jarvis, the Avengers' faithful butler, drove off in search of a place to park. They walked inside to check in Trish's luggage and then sat down together in a nook of one of the cafeterias over two nondescript plastic cups of coffee. It had come as an big disappointment for both of them when Trish had suddenly been assigned to cover the latest crisis in Genosha, which put paid to their plans to spend the holidays together with Hank's parents.

"Well, Blue," said the young journalist, "this is a bit of a come-down from your folks' full Christmas dinner."

"Yes, Patricia, and that makes it three Christmases in a row that we cannot celebrate together. And it adds a certain esthetic balance, as last year we can't do it because of my professional activities, while this Yuletide season we are confounded by yours."

The year before that they had just separated (temporarily, as it thankfully turned out) in disagreement over their professional ethics. But both were too diplomatic to bring that up. Henry McCoy, wearing his genius scientist hat, had wished to keep the fact that the Legacy virus now also could be contracted by Homo sapiens sapiens a secret. Trish had made it a story in her news program, whereupon Hank had accused her of personally betraying him and he and Charles Xavier had attempted to fool the public into believing Legacy was still just the "Mutie Plague." Which ultimately was a stupid mistake, as other scientists were also researching the virus and for a while the reputation of McCoy and MacTaggert fell back behind some of the other teams when within the next year it gradually emerged that Tilby's report had got most of the facts right.

Hank had let his personal feelings of betrayal outweigh the real problem of whether it was right to keep the news of the new danger from Stryfe's virus a secret from the public in order to prevent a mass hysteria that might vent itself against innocent mutants, or whether it would be more immoral to keep the public in the dark and thereby increase the risk of infection. But a combat injury gave him plenty of time to think and meditate, and on reflection he decided that there was something to be said for Trish's point of view too. The public's reaction was rather mixed. The more violently inclined had indeed intensified their attacks on mutants, but in other sections Legacy consciousness rose and led to calls for more funding of research into the disease, the emergence of a rudimentary support network, and to the collection of money to supplement the in many ways insufficient public funding of Legacy research.

Hank eventually reconciled with Trish, and he only had to grovel a little. He apologized for not taking her concerns seriously, she promised she would make a more determined effort to at least talk things through with him when she worked on a story of similar importance, and then they no longer had to use words for a few minutes.

Trish too apparently had thought of this, for after a moment's reflection she smiled and answered: "Of course the balance would be even prettier if by next Christmas we'd be together on a more permanent footing..."

Hank's jaw dropped, and his plastic cup almost did the same. Had he just heard what he thought he heard?

"Uh, Ms. Tilby, is this an oblique reference to some form of rite of passage with view to some connubial arrangement or maybe a form of concubinage, or is this hirsute Hankster inferring too much into your parole?"

Trish had to smile at this very Hank-like utterance: "Why, Dr. McCoy, no more than four syllables in a word? No, I think you got my meaning just right. And what do you think?"

For an entire second the Beast was actually at a loss for words, so Trish pressed on: "Or would you prefer me to get on my knee and ask you to move together with me. Or maybe even..."

"...marry you?" Hank quickly recovered his composure. "As a matter of fact, I have cogitated on these matters somewhat..." Ever since we started keeping toothbrushes in each other's bathrooms it was hard not to think about them, he thought.


"Look, Trish, we've been through a lot of things, we keep having fun together, we get menaced by superpowered homicidal sociopaths together, you're not allergic to my hair..."

Trish took his right hand and stroked its furry back. Over the years they had known each other his strange blue fur and even his well-developed canines had become the most natural things in the world to her, even though they were in fact the legacy of an experiment gone wrong. Only in springtime did she sometimes complain about him shedding hair and leaving it everywhere.

"'re everything I would ever want in a female of the human species. We've worked out our misunderstandings and, ahem, disagreements, we're comfortable with each other..."

" longer have those inferiority complexes we used to have about each other," she added. Hank remembered the fears he had that Trish might ditch him after he had first met her (conventionally) handsome ex-husband at that, but noticed she had just said 'we' and 'each other' -- in his own worries he had not taken into account that as a superhero-slash-scientific-genius he could also put others in awe. He continued:

"...and learned not to listen to well-meaning friends telling us we're too good for each other." Such as the aforementioned ex who pointedly asked Trish what she saw in 'this blue-furred freak' or, more recently, Warren and Logan, who did not bother to hide their displeasure that he got back together with 'that back-stabbing bitch'. Trish held her own in the exchanges ('excuse me for not unquestioningly accepting the judgment of a man who did his best to kill a good friend so that a mass-murderess could go on killing; but maybe I'm prejudiced because Selene's victims were flatscans?'), but the air still was highly charged whenever Trish and Logan were in the same room.

"No, Patricia, the thought of spending the rest of my life together with filled me with joyous anticipation, I only never seemed to be able to find an opportune moment to bring the subject up. And I was not sure what kind of an arrangement you envisaged, since you have been singed, matrimony-wise."

"You sure it's not that you aren't sure yourself? Look, Hank, I don't want to push you into a marriage if that's not what you want."

"No, ma très ravissante Patricia, in that respect Norton and Edna McCoy's little boy is quite old-fashioned." He took both her hands inside his.

"Most charmingly so, Blue. So, when do we make it official?"

"No, first I have to do something..." Taking some effort to loosen it, he slipped off his college alumnus ring. Then, dramatically placing his paper napkin on the floor, he got on his knee, held up the ring to her and solemnly intoned: "Patricia Tilby, would you consent to marry me?"

"Henry P. McCoy, my adorable blue-furred jester, I was about to ask you the same question."

As was his wont, Hank had injected a little humor into his proposal, but it was a solemn moment. He rose as she pulled him up and they silently embraced. As they joined in a lingering kiss he could feel a tear rolling down her cheek and getting soaked up by his soft facial hair. An elderly woman sitting at the next table smiled at the couple and a passing young man wearing an Avengers baseball cap gave Hank a thumbs-up sign. And still their kiss continued, with no bigots around to take offense (luckily!) and nothing to spoil their happiness but the prospect of Trish's imminent departure.

When Jarvis picked him up about half an hour later, 'Master Beast' wore an almost euphoric expression.

"I trust everything went well, Dr. McCoy?"

"It did indeed, Jarv old buddy, it did indeed."

Snow Valley, Mass., Dec. 20, 1997

Lyubeznaya Katya!

Hope you are doing well in Scotland.

Sorry you're so busy with Excalibur that you could not be with us the day before yesterday when we celebrated Jubilee's 18th B-day (or is that the 19th by American reckoning? i keep forgetting) in the caff we staked out this summer in Crossroads. (Hey, i just remembered, isn't that also the name of one of these really cheezy old British soap operas?). I guess most of the others preferred going there to passing through Limbo to get to the universe where J.L. is now living. But judging by all accounts I probably would be the only one who'd immediately feel at home in her Gotham (grin).

We were quite a crowd: all of Generation X were there, with both headmasters, plus Logan, Rogue and Ororo of the X-Men. Jubilee had her boyfriend along for the ride, who seemed a nice guy. He's about her age, but not as precocious as Ms. Lee. However, they do seem happy as clams together (why you Americans consider molluscs a standard of happiness is beyond me) and Jubilee does not seem to intend to come back anytime soon. And of course she would wait until she reached her majority before she met with us on neutral ground. I think Ms. Frost was tempted to make her return telepathically, but now she's one of the good guys she's no longer allowed to do that.

In any case, we're not even sure if under present conditions it is possible to travel between our respective realities without complications (you'll recall the incident with my shoulder-bag), so maybe it was best to leave things be. Jubilee did not exactly choose a safe place for her new residence, but she does seem to have made some useful friends and superpowered mutants are not treated different from other super-types. But not everything is wine and roses in Gotham -- Jubilee puts on a brave face, but in an unguarded moment she admitted that the Bat-Man's taskmasterly attitude at times had made her yearn back for Sean and Ms. Frost.

It really was an eerie experience. I mean, this was the first time I met her face to face, and one of the most harrowing things she remembers from her time at the School is me (or rather my younger self which had somehow gotten out of Limbo) dying of the Legacy Virus. But why am I telling you that -- you went through the same thing, if not worse (you were a lot closer to me and my younger self than she was). Talk about feeling like someone is dancing on your grave (or, more appropriate to you as the near-genius straight-A fiend, Intimations of Mortality).!

It will be great to see you again for the Holidays, even if you'll doubtless room with your new boyfriend (you rat!); still, it will be nice to finally get a chance to meet him.

See you soon,
your ex-roomie,


Continued in Chapter 1


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