EPILOGUE: When All Is Said and Done

by Samy Merchi


"How are you feeling?"


"Not talking to me, or can't come up with anything to say?"

"The latter, I suppose."

"You know that this place is a perfect replica of Wolf's Drop back home?"


"It's weird how there can be a place looking just like Wolf's Drop in here... What a coincidence, huh?"

"It's not a coincidence."

"What d'you mean?"

"Well, when we moved our base to Limbo, I thought that you might like something here reminding you of your home, so I took Illyana to see Wolf's Drop so she could craft a replica of it here."

"... That's so sweet of you."

"Well, in retrospect I think I shouldn't have done it."


"Because. It just brought us closer. And I was married already at that point. I shouldn't even have been thinking of trying to seduce other women."

"You had no need to seduce me. You already had me. You know that. You -knew- that. You weren't trying to seduce me."

"Oh yeah? What was I doing?"

"You wanted to make me happy."


"Am I wrong?"

"... No."

"That's one of your sweetest qualities, you know. You really want to make a girl happy. And you'll do anything to accomplish that."

"Too bad I usually mess up, huh?"

"You don't."

"Look at where I have gotten you, me and her."

"... You aren't completely to blame."

"Who is?"

"I am. She is. All three of us are."

"She isn't."

"Oh? And I am?"

"I didn't say that."

"Because you want to be polite. One of your failings. You're a sucker for a pretty face. You can't tell a girl anything bad."


"But you're wrong. All three of us -are- to blame. The two of us for hanging onto our love, and she for -letting- us hang onto it."

"She didn't..."

"She did. Didn't she? She knew all along."

"How do you know?"

"I was there, sorta. When she killed me."

"That wasn't you."

"It was, in a way. All its emotions...thoughts...words... They were all me. A hundred percent. Just pushed to a point where I had to speak out."

"That still doesn't explain how you remember what happened to it."

"It's hard to describe. It's like if you tried to describe me how you do that 'Black Rain' trick of yours. You can't, because it's all mental, and very complicated. But to oversimplify, I have a sorta telepathic link with my creations, to one degree or another. That's how I can keep controlling them. And because it was a hundred percent me, we kinda hit a resonance and it became a complete mindlink. I dunno how to explain it better."


"So, what's on your mind? Mind if I sit with you?"

"No, I don't. She might, though."

"She'll never know."

"So we start hiding again? Keeping things from her until we find out she knew all along?"



"... I don't want that."

"Neither do I."

"So what do we do?"

"You tell me."

"Funny, isn't it? Two of the biggest leaders of our generation, and we can't figure out how to go about this situation."

"Ironic, maybe. But right now, I don't find anything about this situation even remotely funny."

"... I'm sorry."

"So am I."

"About what?"

"Dragging you into all this."

"I'm a grown woman. No offense to your ego, but I got involved with you because I love you. Not because you seduced me or anything. I make my own choices."

"That's what I'm afraid of."

"How so?"

"I'm afraid of losing you."

"You have her."

"I know..."




"... I love you."

"You love her."



"Is it impossible to love two women?"

"No, but it's pretty close to impossible to love the two of us. We're both too stubborn, proud and possessive. I don't want to share you."

"Neither does she."

"I know. That's why she killed me."

"... I'm sorry."

"So am I."

"About what?"

"For loving you."

"Never be sorry for that."

"All it's ever given us is pain."

"Not true. You don't believe that."

"... No. I don't. I have never been as happy as I have been with you."


"I have never really been close to anyone. Except maybe Black Eagle, my grandfather. I was always a hermit, preferring the nature to other kids. I guess because I never felt anything in common to anyone. That changed when I came to Xavier's. Everything changed there. I actually felt close to people. I felt like I meant something. And I made damn sure to not let go of that. Until the Valkyries. I felt even closer to them. They were like the Cheyenne and the mutant, mixed. I felt like both sides of me could cut loose with them. But then I had to leave, and we formed the MLF. And I realized that I loved you. You were my first guy, 'Berto. But then again, you know that. And I know I wasn't your first girl. It's never really bothered me. I guess because I first got to know you as that flirty guy. I came to know you as that guy that every girl fell for. So I knew you were like that. But... When it started getting serious, I started to worry. Because when I started loving you, I also wanted you. All of you. And I wanted to be the only one who had you."



"I don't know what to say."

"Me neither."



"... I -do- love you."

"I know. And I believe you. But that isn't enough. Not for me. Not anymore."

"What do I do?"

"You need to make your choice."

"I already made it."

"That's what she says. Is that what you say too?"

"... No."

"What -do- you say?"



"I don't know."

"You can't choose between us, can you?"

"No. I can't."

"Then you're going to lose both of us."

"I don't want to."



"... Look, I'm sorry."

"For my mistakes?"


"I want both of you."

"You can't have both of us."

"No, I can't, can I? And whichever of you I choose, I hurt the other one. I would rather die than hurt one of you."

"Maybe you should die, then."





"Maybe I should."



"... I don't want you to die."

"You don't?"

"No. I love you, you idiot."

"I don't deserve you. Or her."

"No. You don't. But we love you anyway. And I don't think that'll ever change."

"So the choices left to me are to hurt one of you, or to die. I have to say, I'm not too fond of the options left to me."

"No one would, in your position. But it's a choice you have to make. Just remember..."

"... What?"

"... If you die, you'll hurt both of us. Worse than you could hurt us by choosing the other one."

"Would I? Sometimes I feel like the world would be a better place without me."

"Not for her. And not for me. And not for all the mutants you have helped."

"Too bad none of them can help me now in return."

"Some of them probably could. All you need is to find a telepath to change my and her minds."

"You wouldn't be the women I love if you weren't so proud. That is not an option."

"Oh, and it would be otherwise?"

"I'm ruthless. That's why you love me."

"That's just part of why I love you. And you're not ruthless. You're obsessive."

"Same thing."

"Not always. Ruthless people only think of their own good, and do anything to achieve it. You are obsessive. You think of other peoples' good as well, and will do anything to achieve it."

"... So?"

"So you're selling yourself short."

"It's not as if I'm too proud of who I am right now."

"You should be."


"Because we love you. We aren't stupid. We don't love people who aren't worth it."

"You just a while back said I don't deserve your love."

"Yeah well, are you gonna sue me for false advertising?"


"People are inconsistent. I'm inconsistent. Love is inconsistent. What can I say? It felt like the right thing to say."

"So, do I deserve your love or not?"

"Does it matter?"

"It does to me."

"It doesn't to me."

"Why not?"

"Because I love you anyway, dammit. It doesn't have -anything- to do whether you meet some made-up criteria of 'deserving' my love. I just do. And that's just how it is. Live with it."

"Or die with it."


"I know."

"Why do you have to be so damn stubborn?"

"I'm not. I'm...what did you call me? Obsessive?"

"Yeah. You're definitely that."

"Could you make a choice if you were in my position?"

"No. But I'm not. And you have to make it."

"Thanks for the support."

"You're welcome."



"So, what now?"

"You make your choice."


"I know it isn't easy, but you don't have a choice, -but- to make a choice."

"... I will. But..."

"I know. Trust me. I know."

"What do you know?"

"I know that this isn't an easy choice for you. And if you choose her, it doesn't mean you love me any less."

"Something like that. Does it sound as hypocritical to you as it does to me?"


"I nonetheless mean it."

"I know. And if you choose her, I won't love you any less either."

"Madonna... That sounds so...so...oversentimental that it's almost ridiculous."

"It's nothing we haven't been telling each other for years."

"I suppose. I just... I keep wondering. Somehow..."

"... What?"

"... I don't know. I just feel like this is the last time we two can be happy together."

"Maybe it is."

"Does that mean you will be angry with me if I choose her?"



"... It still doesn't mean I'd stop loving you."

"Would it mean we couldn't get along?"

"Maybe. Probably not."

"We were able to be just friends once. We could do it again.





"... Or not... Look - I just don't know. I -want- you. I really don't know how I would react if you chose her instead."

"I'm not sure I would want to find out."

"Smart, kiddo."

"You said it."

"But... Please... Don't make your choice because you're afraid of angering one of us. Make your choice with that part of you that I love."


"NO!!! *giggle* Not -that- part!!!"

"Hrmp. Oh well..."

"Listen - I meant your heart. Make your choice with your heart."

"If I use my heart to make the choice, I'll never make it... I would get better results by flipping a coin..."

"... I don't want my future hanging on a stupid coin."

"I don't think I could do it anyway."

"Good. Just make the damn choice, okay?"

"I will. Give me some time?"

"Don't take too long."

"I won't.

"Okay. I need to go now. Will you be okay?"

"No. And neither will any of us."




"Just honest."

"I know. Irritatingly honest... You really like flattering girls, don't'cha?"

"... Well, it isn't difficult to be honest, and if it makes women happy, why not??"

"You're impossible!"

"No. Just charming."

"That too... You're awfully close..."

"I know. It's intentional."

"She's going to find out..."

"I don't care. This could be the last chance we have."

"Well then, you'd damn well better make sure it isn't."

"Hey! What...??"

"Sorry. But I think I'm going to give you some incentive to choose me."

"And running away is going to do that?"

"You're not fooling anyone. Just make the right choice, and I'm yours! Bye!!"

"... DAMN!!!"

Tabitha plopped down on the chair, and popped her beer, taking a long sip before her eyes went to the television. Around her was a light, open room which had been decorated in a fashion one might expect from a rich mansion on late 20th Century Earth.

But the room was not on Earth. In fact, not even close. This was the pocket dimension sometimes known as Limbo, and though that wasn't its true name, it was the name its mistress persisted in using for it, perhaps to remind herself that the place hadn't really changed. All the horrors of her youth were still there... Just waiting for her hold to slip...

None of this fazed Tabitha. She wasn't really even aware of the importance of the dimension surrounding her. Once, in her teens, she had fought demons who had descended upon New York, during a night that later came to be referred to as 'Inferno'. But that was a long time ago. And frankly, she had faced worse threats after that. So maybe it was understandable that she was so unaware of the danger around her. Hiding. Waiting.


Quirking an eyebrow, Tabitha's head turned towards the exit which the voice had come from. At the doorway stood a figure, almost hesitant to step in, just waiting there almost shyly. "Rahne?" Tabitha asked curiously. "What's up?"

With a light step, the woman stepped inside, the grace of her movements perfectly silent, half-lupine, as she settled down to sit on the armrest of a recliner opposite Tabitha. Drawing her knees up against her chest, and wrapping her arms around them, she rested her chin atop the knees. "Och, nothin'..." she said, but her tone was more than obviously lying.

A slight frown. Tabitha leaned back in her chair, and took another sip of the beer, before placing it down on a table beside her. "Okay, spill it", she said authoritatively. "I don't need a crystal ball to predict the obvious", she chuckled, making a joke of Cable's old saying. "Something's buggin' you."

"... Aye..." was Rahne's quiet answer, and she didn't look at Tabitha, keeping her eyes away from the brunette by pretending to look at one of the several statues on the shelves. "What... What happened t' ye an' Sam?" she asked. "I heard th' Marauders plannin' somethin' f'r ye, but I wasnae in time tae stop'em..." Her tone was apologetic, ashamed.

Silence descended, as Tabitha eyed Rahne for a while. The street girl was not stupid. Then, she shrugged and broke the silence, taking a quick sip of the beer. "Long story", she brushed it off, not wanting to discuss her experience.

The wolf-woman tensed up a bit as Tabitha eyed her, and cast her eyes downwards. "I'm listenin'..." she said weakly.

Again, Tabitha eyed Rahne for a while, and finished the beer. Saying nothing, she continued on to take a cigarette from her pocket and light it with a snap of her fingers. "Well... We met Sabretooth, I killed him, then we fell into a chasm and escaped. No biggie." Her tone matched her words, making this seem like an ordinary matter. Even - especially - killing Sabretooth.

"Chasm?" Surprisingly enough, Rahne had almost completely ignored the matter of Sabretooth. "How'd ye fall intae it?"

There was a "hmph" from Tabitha, as Rahne failed to acknowledge her finest hour. "It just...appeared, I guess." She shrugged and took a deep breath of the cigarette. "Came out of nowhere. Why?"

"Och..." Rahne responded hesitantly. "I think I ken wha' happened..." She briefly scratched her head, then looked at Tabitha. "I' must'a been Dani's power... H'r 'solid mirages'..."

With a puff of smoke coming between Tabitha's lips, she nodded. "Makes sense. If we'd had any kind of god damn debriefing for this mission, we could know for sure."

The blasphemy didn't faze Rahne too much, but she did give a slight reprimanding look nonetheless. "Sam dinna believe in debriefin's..." she said quietly. "An' 'Berto an' Dani jus' got out o' th' medlab this mornin'..."

Chuckling, Tabitha nodded. "I'm surprised Bobby hasn't ordered the debriefing yet. I'd bet my boots on him pulling that sometime today..."

"Wha' happened after ye fell 'ntae th' chasm?" Rahne asked quickly. Too quickly. She wanted to change the topic.

The hurried words did not slip past the observant Tabitha Smith, but she decided not to comment on them. Not yet. But she was dying of curiosity. Something was going on... Something she wasn't aware of. And she was going to be aware of it very soon. "Well, Sam came after me..." she explained while her brain went on a completely different track. "He caught me, and just when he got me, the chasm disappeared. Dani musta stopped projecting it. Anyway, Sam's blast field protected us when the stone sealed up 'round us. We knew we'd gone down a long way, and Sam couldn't get us to move a bit with his blast field..." She took a quick breath of the cigarette, remembering the enclosed little life pocket deep within bedrock got her nervous. Not that she'd ever admit it. And she needed something to calm down her nerves. "So, we figured we had nothing to lose... He opened up a hole under the blast field, I put my biggest, most powerful nuke out under us, and Sam pulled his field tighter around us..." Her hand trembled a bit, as it held the cigarette. "Hell, we figured we didn't have anything to lose. If it didn't work, we'd be splattered along the insides of the ground. But if we didn't try anything, we'd suffocate down there anyway..." She swallowed, and went over to the fridge to get another beer, the cigarette shortening quickly as she puffed on it eagerly in nervousness. "Well, anyway, here we are. It worked. My nuke shot us out like a cannonball. Wasn't a nice ride, but at least we're alive."

Listening attentively, Rahne nodded every now and then as the story proceeded, and unconsciously bit her lip, her sharp teeth drawing a bit of blood, but the wound was healed almost immediately by her healing factor. "I... I'm glad ye're okay... I'm sorry I couldn't be there in time tae help..."

A moment of silence reigned again, as Tabitha kept looking at Rahne while she popped the beer and sipped at it. She concealed her suspicions with streetwise ease, just enough for the already-distracted Rahne not to notice, even with her enhanced senses. "So, what's the story with Bobby? Dani and Amara killed each other yet?"

Responding with a cold frown, Rahne slowly slid down from the armrest, to stand beside the recliner. "I dinnae like ye not carin' about wha' happens tae Dani", she stated.

"Who said I didn't care?" was the response from Tabitha. "I just asked what was up. And you sound a bit high-strung, wolfie. Dani's problems getting to you?" She paused, and puffed at the cigarette, getting calmer now that her own fears were out of the way. "Besides, it isn't my fight."

The growl coming from Rahne's throat was more wolfen than human. It wasn't dangerous, just...frustrated. "Then I'll thank ye kindly tae stay out o' it." She started out of the room with a determined pace. "If ye'll excuse me, I have something tae do..." she intoned in an icy tone.

"Sure", Tabitha answered, while stumping the cigarette onto an ashtray. "Say hi to Bobby?" she bluffed, confident as ever.

"Aye..." responded Rahne in turn, before catching herself. "Och..." Her face twisted, in a mixture of shame at having been figured out, and anger. Then she just disappeared out the same door she had come in thru, without another word.

Tabitha shook her head as she watched Rahne leave. Turning around, she sipped at the beer, and returned her attention back to the television as she sat back down to her chair. A slight chuckle came from her, as she thought about the wolf-woman. o O (Sometimes, she acts just like she was still a kid...)

The light of the stepping disk illuminated the room for a moment, as Roberto entered thru it, the bedchambers of himself and his wife, Lady Amara Aquilla. He brushed his fingers thru his long hair, and then let it descend onto his shoulders, as he sat down onto the side of the bed. "Amara?" he called out, looking for his love anywhere.

There was no response, and Roberto began undressing for shower, while thoughts of all kinds roamed thru his head, confusing him, pressuring him, driving him insane. He closed his eyes for a moment in an attempt to quiet down, clear his head, but to no avail. Everything remained a chaos to him. A jumbled mess, a disorder his life had degenerated so suddenly, when he had thought everything had been perfect.

He had had them both. Amara as his wife, and Danielle as his mistress. Everything had been so good... But like they say, 'All good things...' Roberto concealed his face in his hands, sighing profoundly. Where was his life going now? What was going to happen? Lost in his thoughts, he discarded his last piece of clothing, not noticing the approaching figure until it was too late.

Warm, gentle fingers descended onto his shoulders from behind, as he realized the bed had sunk a bit under the weight of an additional person, behind him. His expression contorted, and he bit his lips. "Amara..." he said with a pained tone.

"Shhh, my love..." answered the voice from behind him, the voice of his loving wife. "Relax... And I will take care of you..." she whispered quietly into his ear, lightly nibbling on it.

"Amara..." Roberto said, reluctantly, and pulled away a bit. He swallowed, and looked at her over his shoulder. "We need to talk..."

Not listening, Amara's hands went around Roberto's waist, and pulled him back to the bed. He struggled a bit, trying to stop her, but his hands fell weak, and he found himself being mesmerized by the unclothed beauty of his wife. "Amara..." he tried one last time, as she pushed him onto his back, and sat atop him, but there was no response, only light kisses raining down onto his chest.

"I talked to Dani", Roberto finally said, feeling too guilty to give himself to the pleasure.

At that, Amara immediately stopped, her face hardening, and her eyes going to his. "What about her?" she demanded venomously, her chin rising in a proud fashion.

With a sigh, Roberto closed his eyes. "She wants me to make a choice between the two of you", he said, his tone revealing how torn he was.

Ignoring his husband's tone, Amara simply discarded the statement as well, resuming her caresses, her hands moving up and down over his chest. "Pathetic", she stated. "You already made your choice years ago when you married me."

No sound broke the silence for three heartbeats. Then, Roberto frowned, and his eyes opened up. "It isn't that simple, and you know it." He kissed Amara's hand, as it came close to his lips. Then, he remembered something, and got up from under Amara. "I just remembered something..." he said, his voice getting the slightest bit enthusiastic.

"The oil?" Amara asked in a teasingly hopeful tone, challenging Roberto to go and get it, as she stretched out on her back all over the king-sized bed.

A chuckle came from Roberto, but he shook his head, as he started going thru his discarded clothes, picking up his pants and searching the pockets. Finally, a small exclamation of "Ah!" came from him, and he turned back to Amara, discarding the pants again, and crawling further up on the bed, with something in his hand.

Tilting her head, Amara watched curiously, and pulled Roberto on top of her, wrapping her arms around him and kissing him passionately for a long moment, before letting him go. "Now, what did you remember, beloved?"

"This." Roberto held in front of Amara's eyes, a ring. It glinted of fiery colors from red to yellow, rubies inset on a golden band in the form of a serpent eating its own tail. And on the inside of the ring were inscribed the words, 'From Roberto Da Costa, to Lady Amara Juliana Olivians Aquilla. I love you, with all my heart and soul. Forever.'

Tears started minutely glistening in Amara's eyes, as she realized it was the wedding ring she had tossed away. The one she had -never- taken off after being married to the man she loved. Except yesterday. She had thought that the ring had been forgotten, left behind, and that she would never see it again. But here it was, right in front of her eyes. The man she loved had brought it back to her. "How...?" she started to ask, but was choked in tears before getting any further.

Smiling warmly, Roberto leaned down to kiss Amara, long and intensely, before he answered. "I took it", he said. "When we fought the Marauders. I got it and saved it." He paused, and looked into his wife's eyes. "Amara... I still love you every bit as much as I did the day we were wed. Will you take my ring back?"

A brief blink to clear her eyes of the tears, and Amara looked seriously into Roberto's eyes. "Nothing would make me happier, my love", she whispered. "But I wish for you to tell me that you love me, and only me, first."

Those words struck Roberto like a slap across the face. "Are you saying you will not take my ring back if I can not say that??" he swallowed, not being able to believe this was happening.

"Why?" Amara asked. "Is there a problem?" Her tone was overly naive, so much so that Roberto realized she was only making a charade. But she was serious as well, and he realized that.

Immediately, Roberto's eyes narrowed. "You know the problem", he intoned coldly, the warmth of the moment suddenly having disappeared into nothingness.

Narrowing her eyes, Amara's expression turned into a vicious frown. "Feh. Dani. I should kill her again." Roberto knew his wife was ruthless. They had both killed when necessary. And on few occasions even when it wasn't necessary. But even so, he would probably not have taken Amara seriously...if he hadn't seen her carry out that threat yesterday.

The answer was quick, and determined. "You will do nothing of the kind, Amara", Roberto snapped, his eyes furious. "Or I will kill you. Is that clear??" His threat was equally valid as hers, and Amara knew it. This time he would carry it out.

Once more there was silence for a while, and then Roberto kissed Amara, this one less passionate, colder than the kisses before. "I will have to make a choice between the two of you, Amara. And even when I have made it, it does not mean I don't love the other one. I just won't show it."

"'The other one'??" Amara asked, her temper starting to get the better of her. "The other one is Dani. You have made your choice, Roberto! You have chosen me! You can not go back! I am yours! You are mine! Accept that!!" Tears started filling her eyes again. "You can't leave me! What about all our plans? Our hopes? Our dreams?? What about us, Roberto???" she demanded.

With a swallow, Roberto closed his eyes. "Amara..." he said quietly, trying to calm her down. "I... You are not going to wear my ring?"

"Not until you love me and only me." The statement was firm, simple, and determined. And Roberto knew that there was nothing that would make Amara change her mind.

Sighing, Roberto rose from atop Amara, and sat down onto the side of the bed, taking his clothes as if starting to get dressed. "Then I think I should better leave."

"NO!" Amara said, and sat up quickly. Then she regained some small amount of control, and she crawled up behind Roberto, sliding her hands around him. "Come back to bed, my love..." she whispered quietly, trying to lure her husband back to her. "We can enjoy ourselves... I will make you forget all your worries..." Her voice was an enticing purr at the base of his ear, pulling at his soul.

But he had to resist. He didn't want to, but he had to. Ironically enough, he knew that just like Dani was trying to lure him in with withholding sex, Amara was doing just the opposite, and offering the sex. So why should he resist? Why not accept the offer? Because it would mean giving in to Amara. Wouldn't it? "Amara..." He stood up, and started getting dressed. "I love you, whether you believe it or not." He closed his eyes as he pulled his pants on. "Forever."

Hardly able to breathe, Amara watched the man she loved, get dressed and walk up to the stepping disk in the corner of the room. She gasped, as he disappeared, and tears flowed down her cheeks. "nononononononono..." she cried to herself, and threw herself onto her belly on the bed, burying her face against the pillow. The large bed felt so lonely alone. Alone. Something she hadn't felt in a long, long time. Roberto had always been there. But now... For the first time, maybe since she thought she was 'Allison Crestmere', a cold fear of loneliness gripped her soul.

"If you steal my husband, Danielle Moonstar, I will kill you. I will not care anymore. Nothing will matter to me then. You will die."





"Without love, there is no creation. Nothing would exist in the first place without it."

"Without hate, there is no conflict. No death and no evolution. Everything would stagnate and die away without it."

Roberto Da Costa appeared in one corner of the cafe Illyana had created to be a nexus point of Limbo. Called Crossroads, and modeled after a place she had visited a few times - though with some minor modifications such as adding liquor to the selection - it contained several dozen stepping disks leading off to various parts of the pocket dimension, and was one of the best ways to get around there.

Silently, he strode over to the counter, not paying any attention to the usual bickering created by the two owners behind it. "The usual", he stated, knowing he would be heard.

The younger owner glanced over to Roberto, and quirked an eyebrow at the stony expression on the man's face. Then, she grabbed a glass, and a bottle of brandy, and brought them over to him. "So, what is it this time, handsome? Woman trouble again?"

It never ceased to amaze Roberto how these two ladies always seemed to be aware of so much. He simply shrugged, and poured himself a glass, downing it with a quick motion. "Isn't that always the case, Pansy?"

"No, not always", Pansy replied. "With you, though, that's usually the case." A playful smirk danced on her lips as she leaned a bit over the counter. "Who is it today, bunkie?"

With a roll of his eyes, Roberto gave his answer. "Dani and Amara want me to choose between them." He poured another glass of brandy and cast his eyes downwards, locking them onto the glass. "How am I supposed to choose one of them over the other??"

"Very carefully", said Pansy's co-owner, as she came over, wiping the counter with a rag.

This elicited another roll of his eyes from Roberto, who sighed and shook his head. "Ha ha, Violet. Thank you for enlightening me. I feel so much better now."

Passing by emotionlessly, Violet kept wiping the counter clean in smooth, circular motions. "Children nowadays..." she muttered under her breath, but in the corner of her eye, there was a good-natured twinkle of amusement.

The floor squeaked a bit as Pansy pulled up a stool for herself on the other side of the counter from Roberto. "Now look, chum", she said in a serious tone, but maintaining the relaxed, smiling expression she had. "Triangles are nasty things. And I don't mean any geometric shapes or musical instruments, but your basic, run-of-the-mill love triangles. I think a wise man once said, 'The battle can be short or long, but the outcome, never in doubt.'"

A slight cough from Violet turned Pansy's head in that direction. "I didn't say anything, dear", Violet smiled innocently, and her attention turned back to the wiping, but with a minutely broader smirk.


The light of a stepping disk grew brighter for a moment, to herald a new arrival into Crossroads. As the three previously-present figures all turned to look, they saw the red-headed Scot, Rahne Sinclair, appear in a corner of the cafe.

With a furious pace, Rahne strode over to Roberto, and narrowed her eyes at the Brazilian. "I'm glad yuir okay finally", she stated in a freezing tone. "Now I can do this!" In an eyeblink, she pulled her fist back, and then sent it forward, crashing onto Roberto's jaw.

Too surprised to dodge, Roberto was caught squarely by the punch, and sent to the floor with a huge crash. Once there, he blinked a few times, and rubbed his jaw. "What...?"

"Tha's f'r all th' heartache yuir been causin' Dani over th' years!" she growled and then reached down, lifting Roberto up by the front of his shirt. Her wolfen strength easily lifted him up, and her skin became a bit darker as she subconsciously reverted a bit more towards her lupine incarnation, slight fuzzy fur growing all over her, and her fangs becoming more pronounced, glinting in the lights of the Crossroads, almost like a vampire's. "I cannae tell ye whit tae do. Tha's up tae you an' her. But I can tell ye tha' I'll be watchin' ye, Roberto Da Costa." Her tone was more freezing than anything he had ever heard before. Not from Xavier. Not from Magneto. Not from Selene. Not from anyone. "I'll be watchin' ye", she repeated, then let do of the shirt, tossing Roberto back onto the floor.

Without saying or doing anything else, she whirled around, and strode onto the stepping disk she had emerged from, and disappeared in a flare of light.


Then, a slight snicker broke the quiet. Pansy was unable to restrain herself, as Roberto stumbled back up. She glanced towards Violet, who was smiling as well, though in a more restrained manner. They shrugged at each other, maintaining their amused expressions.

"Both!" they exclaimed together.

"I suppose you are wondering why I have called you here today..." Roberto was standing on one end of the meeting room, behind a podium, and addressing the rest of the team.

"Debriefing, right?" Tabitha asked, and lit a cigarette by snapping her fingers.

Theresa frowned, and waved her hand in front of her nose. "Put that smelly thing away, Tabitha." But the explosive brunette refused to comply, and Terry had to content herself with looking extremely unhappy, shooting Meltdown venomous glances.

"I'd hope this was gonna be an opportunity for a raise, but I'm not getting paid..." Deadpool degraded into unintelligible ramblings under his breath. "That sucks, by the way. Not that anyone cares, but mercenaries have hearts too." He paused for a moment as everyone turned to look at him. "Okay, so maybe we don't... But we have huge pockets to stuff money into!"

"So that's what it was", Theresa remarked dryly. "An' I thought ye were glad t' see me."

Sam closed his eyes and sighed. o O (Lordy... I'm in charge of the loony-bin...) Wearily, he walked up to the podium Roberto was behind, to stand beside him and address the team before him. "Okay, everyone... Calm down. No, this ain't a debriefin', not that I know of, anyway..." He glanced sideways to Roberto. "Is it, Bobby?" he asked, quirking his eyebrow.

Roberto shook his head, and frowned a bit. "No, it isn't", he said seriously, and then looked to Sam as well, his voice lowering a bit to talk to Sam only. "This is something a bit more personal." He sighed a bit, and looked down. Then, he looked up, and addressed the whole team again. "Effective immediately, I am taking a leave of absence from X-Force."

A few gasps came from the team, then a silence settled. Siryn was the first to break it, in her usual conciliatory manner. "But...why??" she asked.

Both Amara and Dani watched Roberto intently, and with deathly silence. They weren't stupid. They knew his leaving was a direct result of the choice they were forcing him into making. But they waited. For the right moment.

Roberto did notice Amara and Dani's stone cold expressions, and swallowed a bit before continuing. But he maintained his regal, proud bearing. "Undoubtedly, everyone here knows already that my personal life is facing major conflicts. And it is a priority to me. It stands before X-Force in importance. Therefore I have decided I need to take some time off, to think. And make some choices. When I have fixed my personal life, I will return."

Illyana chuckled dryly, sitting on the edge of the meeting table. "Running away, eh, hotshot?" she demanded with stinging sarcasm.

A few people turned to look at Illyana, and Roberto's eyes narrowed at her as well. "I am not 'running away', Illyana. I am giving important things the attention they need."

"And X-Force isna' important?" asked Theresa, but not in an accusatory tone. Merely stating the matter.

Roberto shook his head. "Not as important as my personal life."

Feral didn't seem too happy about this development, as she remained perched on a seat. "I'm comin' wid jou, boss", she stated.

Again, Roberto shook his head. "The absolute -last- thing I need now, Maria, is a beautiful woman around me."

"Th' absolute last thing ye -ever- need is a woman around ye..." muttered Rahne under her breath.

With a slight growl, Feral moved a bit uncomfortably on the chair, but did not argue further.

"Illyana is right, 'Berto", came Dani's voice. "You're running."

The room went quiet for a moment, then Roberto shrugged. "Maybe I am. I can't make my choices while I am here. I need some distance. And talk to some people. And -not- talk to some people."

Sam finally broke in as well. "We don't want you t' leave, Bobby. Why can't ya make your choices and stay here?"

"Because I can't, okay, Sam?" Roberto said, slightly frustrated. "I can't choose which of two cakes taste better when I have a piece of both in my mouth."

There were some blinks in the audience at this metaphor, and a few coughs. And especially Amara's eyes narrowed into very tight slits. But mostly, there was an, if not understanding, then at least some sort of vague acceptance that this was something Roberto had to do.

Sam sighed in defeat, and extended his hand to Roberto. "Okay. Ah guess this is what y' have ta do. Good luck, ol' buddy. Take care of yourself."

Roberto smiled faintly, and took the hand. "To you too, Sam", he replied. "These are dangerous times. Don't take on any foolhardy missions without me to lead them. You'll just get killed or captured", he smirked.

Sam chuckled, and nodded. "We'll try. So, where are ya headed?" he asked.

With a glance towards Illyana, Roberto stepped towards her, away from the podium. "All over the world", he smiled. "New York is as good a place to start as any."

Illyana nodded, and started lifting her hand to summon a stepping disk, but was interrupted. "Wait!" said Amara, and stepped up to Roberto, her hands going around his waist. "I miss you already", she said softly.

Roberto smiled, and his hand came up to caress Amara's cheek. "I miss you too, Amara", he said quietly, and lightly kissed her lips. "I love you." From the corner of his eye, he noticed Dani quietly walking towards the door, attempting to leave without anyone noticing. Should he call out to her, and humiliate her by drawing everyone's attention to her? Or should he let her feel rotten by still being 'just a mistress', until he came back? One glance into Rahne's eyes, and he knew which was the right choice.

"Dani, wait!" Roberto called out, and glanced apologetically into Amara's eyes. The blonde managed to maintain a stony expression despite the furious jealousy raging inside her. He walked up to Dani, and looked into her eyes for a long moment, then leaned up to kiss her on the lips, lightly and tenderly. "I love you", he said audibly, and finally ended all pretenses. As he turned around, he could see how furious Amara was, but on the other hand, he could see how happy he had made Dani. And he smiled. "Okay, Illyana - beam me down."

Illyana chuckled, and snapped her fingers. "Energize", she said, as a stepping disk materialized underneath Roberto Da Costa. And as it rose upwards, it swallowed the man, and he was gone.

A silence settled, and everyone looked at each other uneasily. No one said a word as the room started emptying slowly, people exiting thru the door or a stepping disk in the corner of the room.

Dani was one of the last to exit, and after coming out, she remained near the wall, leaning onto it and biting her lip, her heart thumping hard. She sighed happily, and then let the moment pass, deciding it was time to go. As she opened her eyes, everyone had gone, and the corridor was empty. Except for one person. Amara Aquilla. She was staring right into Dani's eyes, with fury Dani had never before known except in one person. Reignfire. Not Roberto, but only Reignfire had been as psychotic as the look she now saw in Amara's eyes. It didn't scare her. But it did worry her. Their eyes locked for uncounted heartbeats, and then, Amara whirled around, and strode away, her footsteps echoing off the cold floor for a long time since she had disappeared into the darkness.

And Dani slowly slumped down, sliding downwards along the wall, her back to it. She slid down to sit against the wall, and stared in front of her silently. o O (I love you, 'Berto. Please come back soon. I miss you.)

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