Out of Time

Summary:
October 12 2014: Illyana and Jericho realize they're running out of time. Magik resolves to confront Belasco alone.

Unit 24F

A nice, comfortable three bedroom apartment with a view of the Hudson


Characters

NPCs

  • None

Mood Music:
[* None]


Jericho is in the center of the living room. It's just past sunset, and the furniture has been pushed back to make a space on the carpeted area. His shirt is off because he'd planned on getting sweaty and boy is he. Just a simple military workout. Pushups, situps, variations on excercises designed to strain his arms, legs and abs. He's just finished his last set of the former and is down on one knee, breathing a bit hard and staring at the floor. When you can't Rest, you might as well do something productive. Keeping in shape doesn't happen by accident after all and staying in shape is as much survival as it is habit for the hacker. K'nert had been watching him a for a while, but got bored and wandered off.

-

Supplementing Jericho's Rest is starting to take its toll on Illyana. She's starting to sleep more than eight hours a day and still looks tired when she wakes up. That's where she's been while Jericho's been exercising. Sleeping. She's also started sleeping through, no wake-ups. Which would be great, if it weren't that she seems to be so tired the nightmares don't wake her anymore.

Her door opens and she wander out in her pajams with that zombie-like expression that's starting to become entirely too common on her features.

-

The expression on Illyana's face, and the fact that he sees it more and more now worries him. He's starting to wonder indeed if he shouldn't have asked her to use black magic on him. This is slowly draining her and it's hard to watch, the more so when he knows that her nemesis is lurking out there somewhere.

Jericho gets up and walks over to greet Illyana with a hug. "Hey there." Nightmares again, it looks like. "Hungry at all, or do you just need to sit?"

-

Illyana leans into Jericho as he hugs her a lot more heavily than she normally would. The way she settles her head against his shouler might make one wonder if she plans to go back to sleep right now. "Mmm. No. Not hungry. Just tired." She's been eating less, and drinking more. Something to try to keep the nightmares away that isn't particularly effective, but better than nothing.

-

Jericho nods, though Illyana probably can't see him do so the way she settles in against him. He moves her over to the couch. If she's too weary she may actually find herself picked up. The nightmares… hers have been as bad as his lately, but rather than waking her up they're just leaving her robbed of energy. It's like she spends all of it in her sleep, leaving nothing for when she's awake. To be honest if she went back to sleep right now he'd probably just let her sleep on him, try to catch some himself. He still can, sleep that is. His body needs to. But without Illyana it does nothing for his mind. Once or twice when she's had to stay awake he's felt the difference. He wakes up just as wound up and anxious and worried as when he went to sleep.

-

Illyana doesn't protest when he picks her up, even as sweaty as he is. She just curls in against him with a sigh like his presence as though relieved in some way.

"I'm going to need to face him. I'm not going to be able to do this much longer." Pracitcal, is our Yana. Even if it's walking into a trap. Better to go down swinging, right?

-

"I know…" He murmurs. "Would it be better if you cut the link? Recovered a bit?" Jericho can probably keep it together for a bit if she does that. His Rest was missing for a bit before Illyana noticed and while he's fairly certain that she only slowed his decline… he can probably make himself not go off the rails for a little while, which is not to say it'll be pleasant for anyone.

Well, that is, if he doesn't go insane with worry first. He's not sure if Illyana is still planning on going it without him though if he's honest with himself she has some fairly valid reasons for doing so. Especially if she doesn't wish to follow K'nert's advice.

-

Illyana draws in a slow, deep breath. It's filled with the scent of Jericho, which makes it soothing as well as steadying. "I should. Then tomorrow, day after at the latest, I need to try to get the piece of you back." She knows she's not in a state to do it right now. Not as she is. "Hellboy hasn't gotten back to me but I think I've bought us about all the time we can afford."

-

Jericho nods and runs his fingertips along Illyana's spine. "Who's going with you, then?" Kitty and Logan seem like likely prospects. Maybe some of her old classmates or team mates in X-Red. Just so long as she tells him she's not doing it alone…

He pulls his thoughts away from that. This one is out of his hands, in a couple senses. If she doesn't want him to come not only can he actually not come, but he really shouldn't. If he's going to trust her, he needs to trust her.

Which, naturally, doesn't mean he enjoys the notion.

-

The question of who she'd bring with her is followed by way too much silence. It's not that Illyana thinks she doesn't need the help, it's putting friends and loved ones in harms way. In some cases, again, even if they don't know it. Too many X-Men have died at Belasco's hands for her.

-

Silence is… well, not unusual for Illyana. Jericho knows she's someone who likes to consider her words. Actions mean more to her, but she says little - well, to people who aren't him - so she tends to pick her words carefully. That she should not answer him means, likely, she hasn't decided who is going. Or, possibly, she hasn't decided if she can bear to take anyone with her.

He understands, in some fashion. He's similarly unwilling to risk those closest to him, and when he must he holds that above many other things. It's a mark of how important Jericho things a matter is that he will risk his friends to see it dealt with. So far he's been lucky. There've been no… repeats of certain expereinces. Ones that haunt him still. But can it last? He's not sure it can and so he brings people into his messes only sparingly. His fingers idle around the small of her back, stroking lightly as he squeezes her in what he hopes is a comforting manner.

-

Finally, she answers. "I don't know.The Red folks would come with me, but they've never had to face anything like him before." And those are her friends. She has so few. Belasco is sure to dredge up all of her skeletons, the things dark and awful parts of her that she doesn't like to talk about. Doesn't like to show the others. "And Kitty would go but…" Her mouth sets into a hard line. She can still hear Cat's neck snap. Feel the bone break under her hands.

-

"But something happened last time…" Jericho says quietly. "You've never spoken of it… and you know I won't ask, but the way you are when she comes to visit… it's more than just the meeting of old room mates. I know that look." It's the look that says she knows things that others don't. And frequently she does. "You don't want what happened last time to happen again, and you're worried it will."

-

Illyana is still getting used to having someone that can read her as well as Jericho. Accepting it. Trusting in it. She still stiffens a bit at the beginning, her default reaction to someone that Knows Too Much about her. "I wasn't the first Illyana that Belasco managed to coax into Limbo. Another six year old Illyana came to Limbo, but the X-Men came to resuce her." She gives a soft huff of amusement. "My brother was one of them. That Illyana managed to escape. The X-Men saved her. But they ended up the ones trapped in Limbo, instead of that me." There's a long pause. "None of them made it out alive." That's why when she had the run-in with the evil Nightcrawler, she took it so badly.

-

Those gleaming amber eyes watch Illyana for a long moment in silence, Jericho's fingertips still lightly playing on her spine. "But they weren't all gone when you came, were they? You knew at least some of them." It's the only explanation for so many things. The corrupted Nightcrawler for one. Illyana's horror hadn't been one of assuming Belasco had somehow gotten to Kurt. It couldn't have been, Kurt was right there. It had been terror and recognition. That had been someone she had known. And if him, then who else?

-

"Some of them, yes." Illyana says softly, closing her eyes as she leans her head against his shoulder, letting his touch soothe her at least a litte. "Ororo and Cat, they rescued me but Belasco had already created the first Bloodstone. Ororo taught me White magic but Cat… she hated magic. She talked me into leaving with her and she taught me how to fight. It didn't matter though. When Belasco wanted me back, he took me. I became his apprentice and Cat became his pet. More animal than human. She couldn't even talk." The words come soft and slow, things she hasn't shared with others.

-

Jericho sighs sadly. Her mentor, then. The one who had taught her swordplay and survival, reduced to that. And Illyana either willingly or unwillingly the apprentice once more. "Did she turn on you?" He asks finally, "Or did you offer her mercy?"

Were it different, had it been one of his friends, Partisan, perhaps, that were reduced to that Jericho knows he'd be tempted to simply release her. Okay, that'd be a lot harder with Partisan, but still.

-

"She wasn't my friend anymore. I keep telling myself that. She was defending Belasco and… I killed her." The words are hard to say. They stick a bit but she manages them. "She was… my best friend."

-

Jericho would love to tell Illyana that that was then and this is now, that her friends are strong and brave and it can't go that way this time. He doesn't. He knows it isn't true. Magic of the kind Illyana and Belasco can wield don't care how brave or strong you are. It's the work of a moment to undo the hardiest of fighters. Unless the mage wants to draw it out. Then it can be months or years of slow torture. As awful as her fears are, she's entirely justified in them.

Then again, he's used to that being the case, at least in his own life. Fears often are justified. The trick is figuring out what to do with them once you realize that they are and have to be accounted for. So instead what Jericho says is: "You've done her proud, I think." She survivied. She won free and if she was scarred and changed by the experience, no one who has been to war - and that was nothing less - would sy any differently.

-

Illyana turns her head in towards his shoulder, and since he's not wearing a shirt he can feel the hot, wet track as the salt of her tears joins that of his sweat. She got out of Limbo when she was fourteen, and she hasn't had someone to lean on like him in all that time. The slow inhale she takes stutters a bit, catching even as she tries to keep calm. Keep it together.

-

Jericho doesn't say anything. Doesn't tell her it's okay or to let it go. He just tugs her a bit closer and tangles his hand in her hair, cradling Illyana against him. It's a slightly possessive hold, but more than that, it curls him around her so that she's surrounded. And safe. It's safe to be herself in front of him, just as it's safe to show weakness, or even worry, sorrow or fear. He's acquainted with such things in his own life, and far, far too attached to her to ever think less of her for being as human as he in all the ways that matter.

-

The way her knees pull in closer, and she presses herself against him, she indulges in that offered shelter. Something she hasn't really had in so, so long. Maybe it's that exhaustion wearing on her that has her lettin gher guard down quite that much. Maybe it's just that effect Jericho seems to have on her.

Eventually her breathing comes even again, and the tension bleeds out of her again. She doesn't try to shake off that close, possessive hold though. "I don't want Belasco to get ahold of her again. For her sake, and mine. He knows how to push my buttons." Part of her worries that, like Nightcrawler, he'll have brought back Cat as well. And oh, the story he would have to tell Kitty about who and what Illyana really is…

-

"And there's still that doppleganger out there… possibly more than one." And they'll know how to push her buttons too. It worries Jericho probably at least as much as it worries Illyana. "This is going to get really personal… and really ugly before it's done." Odds are she knows that already but they might as will put it out there to be considered. It's too bad Belasco chose the piece of him to steal so well. Otherwise they might simply do without.

-

"Yeah." Illyana says in that too-quiet manner, her exhale soft against his skin. "And he obviously knows how to use you against me too." And of course, because of Jericho's vulnerability, the one person that she's fairly secure in seeing all t he dark, twisted parts of her can't have her back.

-

That Belasco means to isolate Illyana is clear to Jericho. That there are other aspects of this rather multilayered attack on her is also clear though he knows he can't see them all. But in one stroke against Jericho, Balsco managed to render him useless in a fight, provoke and taunt Illyana and get her to weaken herself taking care of him.

"There are others perhaps I could ask to help, people who would do it for my sake, but they'd be just as vulnerable as your friends and you wouldn't be able to trust them as much…" He shakes his head, gently kissing Illyana's neck and cheek. "And if you go alone, that's giving him more or less everything he wants." Aside from another potent caster on Belasco's level, Jericho is probably the most dangerous in a fight not because he's powerful - compared to some who might aid the sorceress he's not - but because the skeletons in her closet can't be used to make him shy away from her.

"Risk me, Illyana." Even if he has to accept that he's going to get some magic torn out of him. If there were a way to secure him against that… well… there is, she just doesn't like it. "You know I'm more than willing to accept it for your sake."

-

Illyana shifts in his arms so she can look at him. Some of the chill has faded from her blue eyes as her exhaustion takest he edges off of her control and where others see emptiness, that lack of emotional connection to another being for Jericho there is a bright spark. It may be bright and sharp instead of warm, but such is Illyana's passions.

"Even if I were willing to spend your life on this like a shiny coin, he'd break you in front of me and then use all the power in you to supercharge himself. It's not even a gamble, Jericho."

-

"Then take it for yourself so that he can't." Jericho murmurs. "Or lock it away so that he can't touch it." His hand comes around, caresses Illyana's jaw and brushes her hair back to hook behind her ears. "Just… just don't give him you. Not for this."

-

Jericho knows that if there positions were reversed, if Illyana had been somehow maimed for being close to him that he'd be ready to do anything to restore her. But he suspects that if he were thinking of doing something like this she might have… words for him. With him it is different. He won't tell her not to, but that doesn't mean he ask her to think about what she's really doing. Attacking Belasco exactly as he wants her to? Surely he'll have prepared. It's tantamount to surrender.

-

"I can't do anything like that to you without resorting to black magic." Illyana's repitoire of White magic is much smaller, and her ability to back up h er spells with power so much less. She meets his amber eyes with her blue ones and the sad smile that curves her lips doesn't warm them any. "Not for what, you? Even the chance of saving you is worth me."

-

"Illyana…" Jericho says gently but quite seriously. It's true that in Limbo she's a power to be reckoned with. Hell, she's the power to be reckoned with. But Belasco is an ancient demon lord with experience on his side who has been steadily stacking the deck against her. Jericho's martial instincts are all telling him one thing about how this will go. "If you go in there alone we both know what's going to happen." Best case scenario, Belasco kills Illyana. Worst case? He takes her, maybe forges two more bloodstones out of her soul and unleashes the elder gods, maybe just tortures her. Neither will help Jericho a single bit - and while that's rather a secondary consideration to him, he knows it's not to her. Certainly there's a chance she might beat the odds. She's nothing if not resourceful. But that kind of hope generally just gets people killed.

-

His gentle tone just gets a small, wry smile out of her. "I beat him once. I'll do it again." Her expression hardens. "I won't let him take what's mine."

That probably came out badly to anyone that isn't Jericho, and might object to anyone claiming some sort of ownership over them. Especially knowing that for demons, it's not just a playful turn of phrase.

-

Jericho doesn't say any more, though he's a lot more worried now, knowing that she's likely planning on going alone. There's a part of him that wants to snarl and argue… fortunately the part of him that knows that won't produce anything but a stubborn Illyana is still talking and more-or-less in charge. So all he does is pull her close once more and stroke her long blond hair. "Alright." He murmurs quietly and kisses her jaw once more.

-

Illyana closes her eyes, savoring the sweetness of that moment. All too soon he's pulling away and she draws in a fortifying breath. "I'm going to sever the link now." It's said softly, almost reluctantly as she places her hand on his chest over the beat of his heart.

-

Jericho nods and closes his eyes. "Do it." He whispers, dropping his hand to hers, placing it over hers to hold it there in silent promise. It's funny how he'd bear the weight and pain of this and many other things for her sake without complaint. But knowing what she's up against and being powerless to help her seems more a burden than any he's ever borne before.

-

Where forging the link was a thing of ritual and lights, releasing it is painfully easy. He feels the influx of energy he's been recieving slow to a trickle and then stop. After days now, it's become familiar and its absence is a large, glaring thing. "Done." Illyana says, words soft and sober.

-

Jericho feels the weight of exhaustion pressing down on him once more, a thing of the spirit and mind rather than the body. Illyana bought him some time, though and he doesn't simplpy collapse or snap. Rather he simply sinks against the couch and keeps her there, seeking reassurance in her presence even as he offers his own to her. There's nothing really for him to say. He knows all to well that it worked. Now, at least though, any rest she gets will be her own.

-

Illyana stays curled up against him, her gaze watching him as that connection is severed and her expression is pained. She leans forward to brush her lips against his and then slowly climbs to her feet. "I'm going to take a shower. Could you make some coffee?" It may not have had a 'please', but it was definitely a request, instead of her usually stated directive.

-

"Of course." Jericho murmurs, letting her go and letting his gaze linger until she disappears from sight. Only once she's gone does he finally get up and move over to the kitchen to put the coffee on. Something for energy is better than nothing and he's got, as has been said before, 'miles to go before he sleeps.'


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