'Verse: 616, though occurs before current Uncanny arc and will obviously be AU.
Pairing: Rachel Grey/Nathaniel Essex (Rachel/Sinister)
Rating: Eventual M, though this chapter is not.
Summary: In order to save her family and friends from Sinister's machinations, Rachel Grey decides to do something daring and agrees to stay with him for a month's time, in the hopes he'll finally leave her and her family alone for good.
AN: This is the thing that ate my brain the last few weeks. It's completely finished, too. I was smart and decided not to post it until it was done. Many thanks to resolute for going above and beyond and beta'ing this for me, which included a lot of my confusing emails, fixing all my unnecessary words and helping me out with canon and backstory. ::mwah:: you're the best, babe! Also thanks to willowaus for cheerleading me through :)
The story is in ten parts. Each chapter starts with a quote from The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, from whence the inspiration came for the title. It's a play on those old Victorian horror stories in the genre with Stevenson's classic. There are ten chapters in that story, so there are ten in mine, though that is really the only similarity.
You do not need to know much backstory to follow this, but if you like, you can read Sinister's Wikipedia Entry and Rachel Grey's Wikipedia Entry.
A brief history of both characters is beneath the cut, in case you'd like to read but are unfamiliar with the characters:
Rachel Grey is the daughter of Cyclops and Jean Grey from an alternate future. She returns to 616-reality after hers is destroyed, and is a current member of the X-Men. In her reality, mutants were herded into camps. Rachel was a "Hound" and was forced by her human captors to hunt and kill mutants--hence the "Hound Markings" on her face. She is also one of the last remaining in her family after they were all killed by the Shi'ar, an alien race, who placed a deathmark tattoo on her back so they could always find her. Rachel is currently the Host to the Phoenix entity, and has telepathic and telekinetic powers like her mother.
Nathaniel Essex, Mr. Sinister, is a former Victorian geneticist who made a deal with Apocalypse that granted him immortality and other powers. He has long been obsessed with the Summers/Grey line, and is the one who cloned Jean Grey so that the child Cable could be born. It was said a child of that line would be strong enough to overthrow Apocalypse, whom Sinister hated and wished to destroy. Sinister's powers are sometimes shown inconsistently, but he has telepathy, telekinesis, superhuman strength, is immortal, highly intelligent, and can manipulate force fields and teleport.
"I incline to Cain's heresy," he used to say quaintly: "I let my brother go to the devil in his own way." Robert Louis Stevenson, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Chapter 1.
Something had to be done about Sinister.
Rachel Grey, sometimes Summers-Grey and sometimes Marvel Girl, slumped over in the shower and braced her hands against the slick tiled wall of the shower. Her hands were shaking slightly in the aftermath of her post-battle adrenaline rush, and she could not help but see the slight tremble as anything but a sign of weakness. The water was scalding hot and felt alternately good and bad; she appreciated the sharp sting of pain as a vehicle which to clear her thoughts, but the uncomfortable heat was making her light-headed. Or maybe that was the replay, over and over again, of the destruction they'd wrought in an attempt to spirit her safely away from that red-eyed lunatic.
This was the fourth time in three months Sinister had made a play to grab her. No one was entirely sure what he wanted, but as Scott said (not father, no, that was just a technicality and one which everyone acknowledged but tried hard to forget), knowing Sinister it couldn't possibly be anything good. Rachel was fairly certain it had something to do with the Phoenix entity, since that seemed to be the only reason anyone every really bothered to try and kidnap her. Then again, Sinister had been obsessed with her family for ages, so who the hell really knew anymore? All Rachel did know was there was a parking garage that was nearly leveled after the fight, and that six or seven innocent bystanders had been hurt in the cross-fire of the battle. Not to mention the damage to her teammates--though slight--that required medical attention and a trip to see Hank in the infirmary.
All because of her.
Rachel pushed her hair out of her face and concentrated on washing up, trying to quiet her mind and stop the litany of your fault your fault your fault that seemed insistent on making itself heard in her mind. She knew that they didn't blame her--they'd all had a nemesis at some point, hadn't they?--but it didn't matter. She still felt like that girl in the camps, bringing ruin to her own people as the humans watched with glee.
The taps began to rattle alarmingly. Rachel drew in a deep breath and calmed herself down with effort. This wasn't going to solve anything. The problem was Sinister, and what he wanted from her, and how she was going to keep fighting him off and making sure none of her friends and family were hurt in the process.
Not to mention keeping the Shi'ar off her back. Literally.
Rachel groaned. Some days, it didn't pay to get out of the shower.
Ray? You okay? Rogue's voice, concerned and soft, filtered through the whirl of Rachel's thoughts. We're all a little worried about you.
I'm fine, Rachel sent back, switching off the faucet. She grabbed a towel and wrapped it around her body, noticing the bathroom was thick with steam. Just having a shower.
Been in there an hour. Must be some shower, sugar.
Rachel smiled briefly, pleased she couldn't see her reflection in the fogged-up mirror. She was tired--the fight had taken a lot out of her--and she wasn't hiding her markings as she usually did. That didn't really mean she wanted to see them, though. Yeah. I'm okay. You need me somewhere?
Nah. Just rest. We'll have a briefing in the morning. Sorry to bother you. Rogue's mental presence was gone.
Rachel spared a momentary concern for her friend; Remy's departure after that debacle with Apocalypse was still fresh on the other woman's mind, and she had been more quiet and reserved that usual. Rachel knew how betrayal felt, but more than that, she knew how it felt to be the cause of it--albeit unwillingly--and she spared a momentary thought for Remy, too. Life was so complicated, and it had nothing to do with being a mutant on most days. Maybe it would be easier to just not care about anyone, because that seemed to bring more problems than trying to save the world from would-be overlords or maniacal mutant supremacists ever did.
Still, she was struck with the thought that there had to be a way to ensure that her family and friends were safe from that madman Sinister. Rachel went back into her bedroom, pulling out a pair of black pants and a soft red top from her dresser. The mirror in her bedroom wasn't fogged up, unfortunately, and as she dressed she saw the stark lines of her deathmark on her back, etched in elegant black lines on her skin. The phoenix gleamed around her eyes, and the hound markings taunted her with their very presence.
Anger rolled, sharp like a dagger in her stomach, and she lay on her bed and tried her hardest to breathe through the worst of it, to make all that impotent rage settle back down into the darkened depths of her soul. Rachel hated, hated feeling impotent and useless. She was going to come up with a way out of this dilemma that would make it so she was never again responsible for hurting people she cared about.
The lights began flickering, but she ignored them. She would find a way. She had to.
In the recesses of her mind, the Phoenix began to stir. Rachel closed her eyes and let it come, surrendered to the power of it, and waited for the answer.
* * *
"Absolutely not." Scott leaned back in the chair, arms crossed over his chest. "That's suicide, Rachel. You can't think we'd allow that."
Rachel resisted the urge to point out that no one had to allow her anything; if Emma had been present, she probably would have said it, since the other woman would have been reading her mind anyway. "Scott, you know that I'm a liability, being here."
"You're not. Of course you're not."
It was hard to tell where Scott was concentrating when you couldn't see his eyes. Rachel could have peeked, but then again, she wasn't Emma. "That's just stupid. Sinister is after us for one reason--me--and you know it."
"Sure. And Magneto was always gunning for the Professor, and Sabretooth's always had it in for Wolverine. It doesn't mean you fight him alone, Rachel. We're a team. We protect each other. It's what the X-Men do." Scott stood up, his hands braced flat on the desk as he leaned forward.
"We're not support staff for battles-to-the-death between arch-nemesis, are we?" Rachel's mouth quirked up. "On second thought, maybe we are."
Scott smiled briefly. "No, but you know what I mean. You're one of us. You're family." Scott turned his head just slightly, and his posture tensed the smallest fraction of a degree. Rachel felt the lightest brush of uncomfortable tension emanating from him. "You're my family."
Rachel snorted. "I'm not. I mean, I am, but you're not really my father, and you know it."
"You are my daughter, and Jean's --"
"From another dimension--" Rachel broke in, wanting him to stop in this line of thinking. Scott had enough stress in dealing with the obligations he did have not to go around inventing others because of genetic offsprings with a penchant for dimension-hopping. If anything happened to her, she didn't want him to suffer the same devastation he had when her mother had died.
Scott waved a hand. "You're an X-Man, Rachel. And we're not going to let you fight Sinister alone."
"And the Shi'ar?" Her voice was quiet as she focused her attention on the well-manicured lawn beyond the large picture windows in Scott's office. In her mind's eye, she saw the trees ablaze and the yard littered with bodies and Shi'ar warcraft. She shuddered imperceptibly. No. Not because of me.
"We've kicked their ass before," Scott said with a shrug, sounding remarkably like Logan. "Besides, you're relatively well-hidden here with Emma's psychic shields. As well as you could be anywhere."
Rachel let that pass; she did not have the same faith in Emma's abilities as Scott apparently did. Or maybe she just knew more than anyone how brutally efficient the Shi'ar could be when they tried. "Scott, listen to me. I can't be the reason anyone gets hurt or dies because of this goddamned deathmark on my back, or that mad scientist's fascination with my bloodline--"
"Our bloodline," Scott interrupted, his voice tight. He held up a hand, forcing her to be quiet. "I know we don't discuss this a lot, Rachel, but we do share the same genetic make-up. Maybe Sinister's after both of us, did you think of that?"
"No," Rachel said bluntly, shaking her head. "I have the Phoenix entity. You don't. No offense, Scott, but Sinister's interest in you was to get Madelyn pregnant."
Scott's mouth tightened. "Rachel, you are not going to walk up to Sinister and offer yourself on a silver platter. So stop trying to piss me off just so I'll agree."
Rachel scowled at him. "I wasn't. I'm just trying to do what's right."
"This isn't it," Scott said firmly, shaking his head. His voice softened. "I know you're only trying to keep everyone safe. But the world isn't safe. We just have to find a way to live in it anyway. And Rachel, we're your friends. Your family. We'll do this together, and you're going to stay a part of the team."
"Now you sound like a greeting card," Rachel muttered. She crossed her arms and glared at him. "Are you grounding me?"
Scott's lips twitched. "No. Just reminding you of how things work around here. I know you're upset about yesterday, but the way to get this madman off your back--and the deathmark--isn't waltzing up to him and appealing to his better nature. He doesn't have one. Apocalypse saw to that when he stripped Sinister's emotions."
Rachel closed her eyes briefly. "I wasn't going to appeal to anything. I was simply going to find out what he wanted and offer to give it to him."
"What if he wants you dead?"
"He doesn't. If he did, he'd just try and kill me." Rachel ran a hand through her short hair, irritated. She'd arrived at the decision sometime during her sleepless night that the only way to stop Sinister was to do something drastic; go to him and see what it was he wanted. Then, he'd leave her friends alone. It seemed so very simple, she couldn't believe it had taken her this long to figure it out. Not to mention, if the Shi'ar came calling, she'd rather it was Sinister that answered the door.
"Everything that man touches turns to ruin. I can't believe you'd even consider this." Scott sat back down. "You're not going to get my permission, so you can save all your reasoning. I'm immune to it. If I can say no to Emma, I can say no to you."
"You say no to Emma? When?"
Scott looked up at her. "Rachel."
She looked back, quiet, though she hadn't really thought he was going to agree. She just wanted him to know what she was doing when he found out she was gone.
Scott wasn't going to be convinced that the good of the many outweighed the good of the one, or whatever other pop-culture Star Trek reference was applicable in this situation. It didn't really matter, because he'd been lying about one tiny little point. Scott wasn't the leader of the team. Scott was one of the leaders of team.
The other one...well. Rachel was fairly certain she wasn't going to have as hard a time convincing her that this was the only way to keep everyone safe. After all, few people had such a well-honed sense of self-preservation than Emma Frost. It was time to appeal to the former-White Queen's more pragmatic nature. Rachel had a feeling Emma was going to see things her way.
* * *
Emma was in Cerebra, making notes on a paper and muttering under her breath as she did so. "Come in, Marvel Girl."
Every time Emma said that name, Rachel wanted to hit her. Or maybe that was just her usual reaction to hearing Emma speak. She carefully entered the chamber, fighting the feeling of disorientation it gave her. "I need to talk to you."
"Obviously. I hardly think you came to visit just for the pleasure of my company." Emma was still facing outward, but Rachel could practically hear the smirk in the older woman's voice.
"Look, do you have a minute or not? I can catch you later, if you want," Rachel said testily.
"What is it?" Emma stood up and turned to face her, her mouth set. They would never like each other, despite the fact they'd agreed to stop actively hating each other, and there was a relief in dropping the pretense of it when they were alone.
Rachel didn't mince words as she went through her plan and the reasons behind it, and Emma's mind remained closed tight as Rachel spoke, giving her no hint if Emma was going to agree or not. When she was finished, she stared at the graceful curves of Cerebra's inner chamber and waited for Emma to speak.
"Scott said no, I assume."
Rachel smiled despite herself. "Unequivocally."
"I assumed so. What made you think my response would be any different?" Emma cocked her head, white-blonde hair loose and falling over her shoulders. Emma's outfit was as revealing as ever, but Rachel had gotten used to that.
Rachel met the other woman's calculating gaze with an unblinking stare. "Because. You know that I'm right about this. I put the whole team in danger. Scott can't see past our shared bloodline. He can't see that it's best if I'm gone."
"I don't disagree with you there," Emma said, her voice just slightly edged with something sharp and hurtful. "I'm spending an awful lot of energy keeping those meddling space barbarians from finding you and killing us all. Though Sinister is annoying, he's not terribly threatening--there are more of us than him, you know--and there is always the chance the Shi'ar would spare us and just kill you."
Rachel wasn't sure if she should find Emma's blunt words refreshing or insulting. Then again, that was usually most people's reaction to Emma. "That sounds like you're disagreeing with me."
"Rachel, if you wish to leave and remove the threat of imminent Shi'ar invasion and the rather troublesome attentions of Sinister, I don't see that as a ridiculous plan in and of itself. However, offering yourself to Essex like some proverbial lamb to the slaughter..." Emma trailed off, examining her nails. "That's just stupid."
"I'm hardly a lamb," Rachel said tightly, hands clenching into fists.
Emma looked up and smiled. "No. I guess you're not." Her voice sounded amused. Rachel saw flashes of their battle on the astral plane, and the chair upon which Emma had been sitting began to rattle back and forth, the sound loud in the hushed quiet of the chamber.
"Do control yourself," Emma purred, and Rachel cursed herself for being stupid enough to fall prey to Emma's obvious attempt to bait her.
"He'll leave me alone once he gets what he wants. If he tries to kill me, I can fight him. The Phoenix won't let him injure the host."
"Then why leave at all? Won't you be safe enough from that madman and the entire Shi'ar Empire if the Phoenix is that concerned with your well-being?"
Rachel nodded slowly. "Yeah. No guarantees for the rest of you, though."
"And that is why you want to go." Emma began moving towards her, sweeping towards the door, white cape trailing on the floor. Rachel spared a thought wondering why Emma's outfits never got dirty. It must be stressful, wearing that much white.
"That's why I want to go."
Emma stood very close to her, hand on the control panel that would open the door and admit her back into the hallway. "I can't tell you not to do this. Because as much as Scott likes to think we can order you about like we're the military, we're not. X-Men fight because they're committed, not because you signed some military-esque contract promising your services for a certain amount of time. You are free to leave when you wish."
Rachel gritted her teeth, knowing there was an insult in there somewhere but unwilling to think too hard about it. "I'm committed to saving my friends and family from Sinister or the Shi'ar. This is the only way."
"Then that is what you will have to do. Rachel, I insist on only one thing. Contact me on the astral plane once a week so that I know you're not dead. If you end up chopped to bits on Sinister's altar to science, I am going to resurrect you and torment you for the rest of eternity for having to face Scott's wrath over his daughter-from-the-future's death." Emma scowled. "In fact, I am not looking forward to his reaction when he finds out I gave you permission to go in the first place."
"I thought I didn't need your permission," Rachel said sweetly, following Emma into the hallway. The bright fluorescent lights hurt after the dim softness of Cerebra. "Free to do what I want, and all that."
"You know what I mean," Emma groused, moving towards the elevator. "It is how I see it, not how Scott will see it."
Rachel paused, intending on letting the other woman go alone, unsure her temper would allow for a ride with Emma in such confined quarters. "Just lie to him," she suggested. "It wouldn't be the first time, would it?"
Emma's eyes narrowed, but Rachel had timed her retreating barb to be delivered as the doors closed. Not that it mattered, when one was dealing with a telepath, but Rachel shielded her mind from Emma entirely so as to miss whatever clever rejoinder the other woman threw at her. It was a small victory, but Rachel would take what she could get.