A Year in the Life
DISCLAIMER: This is an unauthorized work of fiction and no profit is being made on it. This work is copyright of me. Please do not archive without informing me first.
X-Factor, X-Men and related characters (with one exception at the end) are copyright & TM Marvel Comics. Twin Peaks and related characters belong to David Lynch and Mark Frost. Any resemblance to real persons and situations is purely coincidental.
This story features sexual themes [M/F, F/F], but it's "off-screen".
A Year in the Life
By Tilman Stieve, aka the Menshevik
Washington, DC, August 28th, 1995
we just returned from Washington State, and as this also concerns you and the others, I thought I'd better tell you at once. And, since all of you were out (so what else is new?), I had to put it down in writing. Hope you appreciate the trouble I'm taking for you, big brother. You may remember that Valerie Cooper's brother is an FBI agent, well, for the past few months he has been investigating a series of strange murders out in the sticks in the Pacific Northwest. A few weeks ago he sends Val a cryptic message that has her barreling to the one-sawmill town he's staying. Then we don't hear anything from them for two weeks - now while a large part of the team welcomed the change of not having her interfere in everything, it was a very much out of character for Ms. Cooper not to contact X-Factor home base for so long. When she did not return my calls, I finally decided to go after her with the team, figuring that we could take in the Cascades or Mt.St.Helens if it turned out a false alarm. But as soon as we arrived, we found ourselves in the midst of a minor war.
From what we pieced together so far, this is what happened: Amahl Farouk had somehow returned. He caused the murders by slipping into people's subconscious. What his ultimate aim was we're not sure, though Forge said something about ancient Indian burial grounds, white cabins in the sky and what have you. Anyway, G-man Cooper somehow tracks him down, has some otherdimensional confrontation with him and ends up being possessed himself. The Shadow King notes he is Val's brother and figures it's a good idea to lure her out west as bait for us in some attempt to get his own back for foiling his plans last time. I tell you, if Forge hadn't been there, I'm not sure if we would have come out of this in one piece! Our new teammate Mystique also did her part, so maybe Valerie knew what she was doing when she pressured her into joining X-Factor, even if I'm still not entirely happy about that since it caused Rahne to walk out on us.
Anyway, you, the Professor, Jean and Betsy definitely ought to look into this, because our lot is somewhat lacking in the telepathic department. We could find no trace of Farouk afterwards, but that's the damn trouble with enemies who are dead to begin with -- when do you know that they are going to stay dead? At any rate, Val Cooper and her oddball brother (I still can't believe they are related!) came through the experience; that is he was in the local hospital last time I saw him, while blondie flirted with the Sheriff with the presidential name at our "victory party". And it wasn't a total loss -- this adventure gave Lorna and me a good excuse for an "impromptu" vacation with grandmother and grandfather in nearby Anchorage (they send their regards).
Give my love to your better half and my regards to everyone at the Mansion,
Washington, D.C., 29 Aug. 1995
hope you are well on the road to recovery - at least at my last visit, you seemed to be well enough to make goo-goo eyes at the hotel-owner's pretty daughter in the bed across the room, don't think I didn't notice! By the way, have they found out yet what caused the explosion in the bank vault? While all this was a harrowing experience, you've now seen me in action with "my" strike force, so think of it as educational... It certainly was for me, since your current place of residence certainly is chock-full of ahem interesting people (some of this stuff just makes me glad I live in the big city). Still, it was nice to make the acquaintance of Sheriff Harry, especially on the last evening at our farewell party and the night after ;-). Well, greet the folks from me when they arrive for their visit.
Wouldn't it be nice if we wouldn't have to wait until Thanksgiving or whatever for our next proper meeting, but in the lines of work we're in, the most we can hope for may be a common de-briefing.
Hang in there,
Washington, D.C., 5th September, 1995
hope you're settling in well in your new home. We miss you, even blondie. Things with the team are pretty much as usual, i.e. totally wierd. We just had a strange trip out West (and I'll tell you the gory details next time we meet in person). The crowd we had to mix with made us look "normal"! Afterwards, we had some good fishing and blondie took a fancy to the boy scout sherriff. But since we've returned to D.C., she's really in a mood. Only this morning she got a phone call from her brother (you know, the FBI agent who landed us in the emergency in the first place). At first she's quite chipper, but then she sours. "What do you mean, he was with you that evening?" she shouts. A pause. "But... if he missed me, then who did I...?" And stone me if she doesn't turn a deep shade of pink and hastily finishes the call. She was so flustered she didn't react at first when I asked her what the matter was. But she rallied "magnificently", told me to mind my own business (charming as ever!) and stormed out of the briefing room. Later, raised voices could be heard from her office, but I'm damned if I know what it was all about. At the evening meeting she had worked up quite a 'tude, barely kept her calm and if looks could kill, we'd be at least one team member short. Wonder what ol' Mystique did to arouse Cooper's ire? All of us are speculating and Random is talking of starting a betting pool. Write soon.
Good night and luv from
Washington, 6 Sept. '95
Dear Scott and Jean,
thank you for your fax, good to hear you enjoyed the trip to the PNW, even if the X-Men telepaths were stumped by some of the weird goings-on. Things are settling back to what passes for normality with us, especially now that la Cooper is back to her normal "sweet" self. Ever since we came back to D.C. she had been disturbingly mellow (Lorna thinks she had a little romance in WA, but I don't think she's the type for short adventures), but yesterday she was short-tempered and gave Mystique a look that would have done Bobby proud. Lord knows why, we were just debriefing on the WA mission and Ms. Darkholme's remarks seemed pretty innocuous to me. Speaking of the woman, her unarmed combat lessons are turning out a revelation for some of us. I think even Random is learning something new about fighting dirty! There are currently some rumblings on the Hill with regard to Forge's department and X-Factor, well keep you posted as definite news come in.
Lorna joins me in wishing you guys all the best,
your loving brother (-in-law) Alex
Washington, D.C. 9/7/95
thank you for writing. I guess now that for once we both have legitimate residences, there is no reason not to stay in closer touch. Kurt also has a mind to take advantage of Valerie Cooper press-ganging me into X-Factor and just wrote to announce (threaten) his arrival the weekend after next (i.e. the 16th and 17th) "To get answers to some questions." Not something I look forward to with relish, but unavoidable given the hold Valerie has over me. Would you like to come too? We could have a family picnic in Virginia (just so long none of the Creeds join us!). I don't know if he'll be visiting Xavier Mansion, so this may be your only chance to see him on that trip. What I can tell you of my current life should sound familiar to you, you went through something comparable when you first joined the X-Men. I get the cold shoulder from a few of my new "teammates" and there also is a bit of an undercurrent of resentment against Valerie Cooper for bringing me in and thereby driving Wolfsbane to leave in a huff (not unlike a person I don't care to mention did when you went to Westchester). At least after I proved my usefulness on a few missions and in combat training, my popularity may yet rise to Random's level. Unfortunately, because of a stunt I pulled in the Jewel of the Forest Primeval, Valerie is not on speaking terms with me at the moment. Living in D.C. rather induces paranoia, so I'd rather have a talk with you next time we meet.
Georgetown, 12th September, 1995
here's some pix of my new digs, like them? We had a run-in with those MLF blorks the day before yesterday. Random got hurt pretty bad, but we held our own (how long the Vault will hold our three prisoners is another question). Unfortunately, your former teammate Moonstar got away. Well, Alex is sending a report to Fuzzy, so you'll be able to get the tedious details in triplicate from him. Lorna and Mysti between them managed to keep Val out of the line of fire, barely -- that woman may be a bit to keen to leave her desk and "lead from the front". The girls gave her a real telling-to after it was all over. Mystique actually sounded a little worried for her -- and in our off-hours we like to speculate on possible motives for her softening attitude. At any rate, she volunteered to give Val some extra unarmed combat classes.
Pity you won't be coming over with Kurt,
PS: proper letter to follow.
Washington, 19 Sept. 1995
Dear Scott and Jean,
our new recruit presented us with a Transatlantic visitor in the familiar shape of Kurt Wagner last weekend, and it certainly was good to see him again. We were a bit surprised he wasn't paying a visit to you guys up in the Mansion, but he said he didn't have the time (since he's the leader of Excalibur now, we'll believe him) and that he only was here on "family business." Could be that Rogue told you what went on at the "reunion", Mystique sure keeps mum. It is weird though -- an old X-Man comes on a visit and the person among us he knows best is our newest (still somewhat aloof) recruit.
I'm enclosing a memo for you, the Professor and Ororo on Robert Kelly's new proposals to the Senate Mutant Affairs Committee. At the moment he's playing it close and even Forge and Cooper don't know much more than the Post, but we'll keep you Post-ed on new developments as they emerge. (Lorna says she won't believe in "leaner gov't" until that committee is abolished). At present, Kelly's crony Gyrich is sniffing around X-Factor; we're pretty much all in agreement that he's aiming for Valerie's job (he has been dropping hints that what the Feds really need is a "strong counterweight" to Forge). Of course Hank and Pietro from old Avenger days know all about what a great gov't liaison Henry Peter Gyrich makes!
Forge, Valerie Cooper and I will fly up to New York the weekend after next to discuss the Sabretooth situation. I'm still rather unsure if transferring him to X-Factor is such a good idea -- Mystique's recruitment caused enough bad blood, I should think. Anyway, we'll talk it over on the 28th.
Best wishes from Alex and Lorna
Valerie Cooper's Diary
9/5/95. sunny. The bitch!!! I knew Raven would try to get back at me, but I'd never have believed she'd sink to doing to me literally what she feels I've been doing to her metaphorically! I might never have found out if I hadn't written to D. to hint (brag!) about my night of passion w/ H.T. -- this a.m., D. phoned back sounding worried for my safety and asking what the hell I had been talking about: H had missed me b/c his visit to D. in hospital took longer than expected and he didn't arrive at the farewell carouse until after I had left and then got caught up in a long discussion of Cheyenne mysticism w/ F.
R. must have noticed my interest in H. & seized the opportunity to take his place and come on strong to me. Having just returned from my visit to D. in the I.C.U., and probably having shared a drink or two too many with that log person my guard was down. What irks me most is that purely from a physical point of view I got just what I wanted from our tryst. (Since she's a woman most of the time herself, she knows what buttons to press and the near-total control her power gives her over her body functions, her "performance" was impressive and satisfying. Her particular talent certainly widens her scope for getting her jollies, damn her!) Guido was in the room when I took D's call, but luckily he did not seem to have caught on what happened. I later had a word with Mystique in my office, but her phony subdued attitude became too much after a few minutes so I finally had no choice but to throw her out. It took all my self-control not to slug her at the p.m. briefing, but the others seem to sense something wrong. I'll have to see I cool off soon!
9/9/95, rainy. Another bouquet from M. - at least it looks like she knows she went too far, and her general behavior puts me in a more lenient frame of mind. Unfortunately, she is one of the best when it comes to manipulating other people, as F. can attest. The sensible thing to do would probably be to confide in him talk the situation over with him -- although by past experience he can't be that good at detecting she's pulling the wool over people's eyes...
Date: 12 Sep 1995
Subject is now with X-FACTOR for one month and has served her duty in three emergencies, twice as part of the full team, once acting in concert with field leader (HAVOK) and AUTHOR. Field leader expressed satisfaction with performance of subject, both re. individual combat and re. co-operation in action with other team-members. Against this must be weighed the continuing stress on personal relations with the others, especially STRONG GUY who still resents that subject's recruitment caused the resignation of WOLFSBANE from team. HAVOK and POLARIS continue to keep their dealings with subject largely impersonal while relations between subject and RANDOM is distant. Co-operation with government liaison staff (AUTHOR and Dr.COOPER) slightly improved though subject still not happy about being forced into current status.
CONFIDENTIAL PERSONAL FILE
ADDITIONAL PASSWORD 1: ********
ADDITIONAL PASSWORD 2: ********
ADDITIONAL PASSWORD 3: ********
Date: 12 Sep 1995
Valerie Cooper just told me: At the conclusion of last month's mission she took advantage of her absence from civilization for a short fling. Only she later discovered that the object of her affection had been away at the time and his place taken by Raven. She already confronted Raven about this and would prefer to work things out herself, but she may be treading on thin ice. As much as she hates to do this, she'd rather inform me in advance to prevent a possible blackmail and in case her involvement clouds her judgment. Although she is ready to take great risks to make Mystique's recruitment and rehabilitation a success, but she does not want to jeopardize the success of the X-Factor experiment. She wants me to be ready to intervene before that happens and thus gave me permission to consult Professor Xavier and/or Alex Summers at a later date if necessary. Hence the following
MEMO: Valerie Antoinette Cooper and Raven Darkhölme's professional and personal relationship goes back years (Raven first introduced me to Valerie; --> NTR_FIASC file). When they first met, Mystique had infiltrated the Pentagon, acting as head of DARPA to cover her activities as leader of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. VC was a rookie NSC special ass't keen on helping Sen. Robert Kelly to "solve the Mutant problem" his way. Both underwent fundamental and sometimes painful changes since then. VC now pursues aims very different from those of her erstwhile mentors RK and H.P.Gyrich and while she has not won much deep affection from the Mutant operatives who work/ed under her supervision, she has gained the respect of many. (X-Factor did not immediately ask for her dismissal when she brought Mystique into the team). RD saw the futility of her terrorist struggle for Mutant supremacy and entered government service to avoid imprisonment or worse. To do this she approached VC, with whom she felt she could work better than e.g. HPG. However, Dr. Cooper kept her on a tight leash, making her personally responsible for the behavior of all members of her team, forcing her to enroll new teammates etc. (--> FREEFORCE files). For RD, the Freedom Force experiment ended in catastrophe and personal tragedy, as Irene Adler's (Destiny's) death in the fight against the Reavers on Muir Island left her for all practical purposes a widow. Shortly after that, the Shadow King (Amahl Farouk) gained control of Dr. Cooper's mind and ordered her to murder Mystique. At the moment of truth Valerie however managed to overcome this domination and turned the gun on herself, though luckily the wound was not fatal. With Nick Fury's aid, Mystique then imitated Dr.Cooper (managing to fool Farouk's telepathic probes through autohypnotic conditioning) and was able to play a crucial part in the defeat of Farouk (--> SHADWKING file). After spending some time with me (--> DUPED file), Mystique went rogue to pursue her vendetta against her son Graydon Creed, before she was finally brought to heel again by Dr.Cooper.
RD is a mistress of deception and accomplished fighter with few compunctions of killing. Giving up her mutant supremacist agenda (originally as a matter of self-preservation) left the protection of her loved ones her prime motivation, although Mystique always was at her most savage when it came to protecting her foster daughter Rogue (--> MSMARVEL file) and in her feud with her son Graydon Creed. Destiny was the love of her life and her death left a void that has yet to be filled. It may be in part because of this that she recently revealed to Nightcrawler that he is her son. At present he and Rogue seem to be the only persons whose opinions of her hold some significance to RD. Mystique's wish to avenge her leman's death is doomed to frustration, as the man responsible, Amahl Farouk is a disembodied presence that by past experience cannot be destroyed for good. (Luckily for me, RD does not seem to be interested any longer in avenging Destiny on me or indeed on Farouk's unwitting pawn, David Charles Haller). Dr. Cooper after her talk with her is of the opinion that one reason that Mystique sought solace in sex with her was her frustration because in all probability the Shadow King "got away again". Since Destiny's death she sought emotional release in a few transient affairs, notably with Wolverine and myself. (In my case she utilized it to extract an advantage).
VC is determined to reform RD and feels she should make an effort to become friends with her, a) by default, since she is the closest to her of those who come into daily contact with her (after my relationship with RD went sour) and b) to help her be more comfortable and tolerant with "normal" Homo sapiens. Two factors VC did not mention may also come into the equation: c) she took Quicksilver's accusations of being prejudiced against Mutants rather hard, so I wonder if she wants to prove something (if only to herself) by taking this personal interest; d) the two are kindred spirits in many respects, both experiencing the lonelyness of command, both able to be quite ruthless if the situation demands (RD obviously to a larger extent, but VC too has sent people to their death without letting her effectiveness be impaired by excessive self-recrimination afterwards), both are very good at manipulation and deception (--> HAVEN file), both are currently emotionally unattached though in the past they have sought a lasting relationship (with differing degrees of success, note: VC's divorce). (Mystique occasionally flaunts her extensive sexual history to shock people; VC is much more discreet). When pressed, Dr. Cooper said she had come to care for Mystique beyond her professional interest at least since her bereavement. She also admitted re. her own attitude that purely on a sensual level she would be tempted to further experiment with Mystique (as I can shamefacedly attest, Mystique does not short-change her sexual partners), not least because her metamorphic powers would enable her to fulfill some of her fantasies. She had never considered a relationship with another woman, but that aspect did not bother her so much as Mystique's deceit and the possible dangers to her position if she should become to deeply involved with a subordinate, and a paroled killer at that.
Valerie Cooper's Diary (2)
9/14/95, rainy, clearing up p.m. Morning as usual. Random released from hosp. 9:30. 10 a.m. A. complained he (team leader) wasn't being consulted by F. & me re. M. -- is afraid of being bulldozed over by gov't. Told him the matter was largely personal w/o going into details, asked him to trust me on this. At the moment team's effectiveness not impaired, when that question comes up, the ultimate decision of course will be his. A. refrained from asking questions, which I appreciate (told him so). 11 a.m. A., L., F. & me conferred w/ Senator K., HPG and a few NSC types. Kelly seems to be determined to test soon if the new majority suits his agenda & has his C. on Mut.Aff. frame a new set of proposals. X-Factor may be one of his new targets. Heart-to-heart w/ M. 3:30-4:30 p.m. Détente is slowly progressing, we are again in a state of suspicious respect between antagonists. Beginning to accept that her stunt in WA was something she did on the spur of the moment (she certainly did not really cover her tracks) partly because she felt down because Farouk is still beyond our reach. It is almost as if she had wanted to be found out. M. says she did not intend to hurt me and that I must have got much of not all of what I wanted out of that evening. I jokingly suggested that next time she'd better proposition to me undisguised (or could it be I was only half-joking and really want her to approach me later? If only I could be sure when & when not to trust her. TGZWCNNA, VJG GPEQWPVGT Y/ O. YCU VJG OQUV CTQWUKPI K ECP TGOGODGT (no surprise in view of her extremely useful powers and experience in this field). Finished off by telling her that I'd love to help her fit in better with the team and make life easier for her, but she'd have to work to earn my trust. 7 p.m. surprise visit from Quicksilver who wanted to see how we're doing but behaved surprisingly civil. Over dinner we also briefed him on the a.m. meeting. In view of Sen. K's new plans it's a good job teams like the Avengers still contain a few mutant members. Rep.mem.
As Kurt Wagner's plane disappeared below the nocturnal horizon, Rogue turned to Mystique: "Okay, momma, ya didn't want t'mention it in front o' Kurt, so I didn't bring it up. So what happened 'tween you an' Val Cooper?"
Mystique told her.
"Whoo-eeh that's some mess you landed yourself in. But why Val of all people? Surely even in a small town like that there should've been other prospects. Not that ah could tell you anythin' on these matters..."
Rogue's smile proved infectious for her foster mother: "No. On the other hand Kurt..."
"...enjoys his life to the full, just like his sexy momma."
"That's right." They headed for the exit.
"Anyway, child, my relations with Valerie are less tense than when I wrote."
"Yeah, ah wondered about that cos you'd never brought up the topic of your love-life t'me before. Not even your li'l escapade with Wolvie."
"How did you know about-oh I guess Jubilee blabbed."
"Got it in one. The chile had one or two glasses of champagne too many at Scott 'n' Jean's weddin'. That gal had a serious crush on Logan. Still has, far as ah know. But this thing with Miz Cooper seemingly spooked you a bit an' far as ah can tell it's not just cos it puts you in a more shaky position in X-Factor. You reckon you care for her a little maybe? Fly you home?"
"Only if you promise not to buzz any Air Force planes on the way. It's a bit complicated, I guess. Sometimes when I look at her, I see myself as I might have been -- if I had pursued a less violent course, had tried more to work through the system than against it. Maybe I could have worked more towards positive change if I had concentrated on being a member of the government hierarchy rather than embarking on a war that just could not be won, as it turned out. Valerie achieved power through her work..."
"...not t'mention her sneakiness."
"True, the way she commandeered Forge's neutralizer still rankles. But that is an aspects where she resembles me. And she's comfortable with being in charge and cares for her people, even if it means confronting a superior or putting herself at risk."
"Like she did when she rather shot herself than kill you?"
"I'm not sure she did that for me so much as to defy the Shadow King. Let's say she earned my respect as an adversary and as a person. Of course I resented how she put me over a barrel to make me join X-Factor and become young Summers' underling. Yet you can't help being touched by the hopes she has for me."
The two had now reached an out-of-the-way nook where Mystique could metamorph into her true blue form and Rogue could take off without nosy observers.
"She looks on me as her special project, thinks it's her mission in life to turn me into a useful member of society. And of course she believes failure only happens to other people. Hey! What are you doing?" Rogue was doing a smart to the left and up, towards an aircraft slowly approaching the Mall. "You promised not to..." "Ya didn't say nothin' about helicopters, momma," the enthusiastic youngster shouted above the slipstream and blew kisses at the pilots and the passenger, "hi, Hillary!"
"Chairwoman of the President's Special Task Force on the Genetically Challenged," grumbled Mystique, "and what a washout that's turning out to be with the new majority."
Rogue's joyflight had taken her off the route to X-Factor's base and extended their journey by a few minutes.
"From what you told me so far, ah'd say Val's providin' the right amount of annoyance t'keep you youthful. Ah sure can't remember you talkin' like that or so much about any other 'normal' human."
"Well, she certainly stopped me from moping and waiting for Graydon's next attack. With Irene ... gone, I had arrived at a bit of a dead point, mostly just reacting instead of getting on with my life. I've fought for a lot less noble causes in my day and now we're all, as it were, on the same side, it's easier to spend some quality time with you and Kurt. And getting to know Valerie more intimately proved an experience in itself. To think I once filed her under 'most likely to be mistaken for a lead character from a Doris Day movie'! I discovered a whole new side to her in that hotel..." Mystique paused in reverie.
"That good, huh?"
"Never you mind, child. Anyway, now that we're patching things up between us, some barriers are coming down, if you'll pardon the mixed metaphor. So, how are things between you and young LeBeau?"
"Okay, ah guess," Rogue added, with little conviction. "Only lately ah've been gettin' these strange dreams about Magneto in which he 'n' ah raise a fam'ly an' he leads the X-Men an'..."
"That's strange, he and Kurt have started showing up in my dreams a lot since I moved back to Washington. Hmm, Magneto. I suppose it was hard for you to get over him."
"Yeah, an' at least with him you knew where he stood. Leastways ah never caught him hidin' his past from me, unlike Remy." She paused.
"Well, here we are."
They had indeed arrived at the building that housed X-Factor. The three former X-Men-Alex Summers, Lorna Dane and Forge-had invited Rogue for dinner before her return to Westchester and were already waiting in the lounge. Valerie Cooper was also there. When the two Darkholmes entered there was a little exchange of small talk and then the X-Men reunion adjourned to Hamish McNasty's Kosher Tandoori Steak House while the other two left for the gym to start on Valerie's first special hand-to-hand combat class.
"Whew, that was some workout!"
Perspiration was dripping off Valerie Cooper's face, down her body where it was soaked up by her sweatshirt. Ruefully the one many team members called "Ms. Government" behind her back felt for bruises. "Oooh, I'll look terrible tomorrow morning."
"No sprain, no gain," replied Mystique. "If you can't get it out of your pretty blonde head to keep 'leading from the front'... Of course the way to really safeguard you would be ask SHIELD if they haven't got any spare battlesuits. They can be quite useful. I know." She smiled. During her criminal career, she had had occasion to test quite a few of them, both by infiltrating SHIELD bases and in her capacity as head of the Defense Advanced Research Planning Agency. "Think you'll be up to another session tomorrow?"
"Don't see why not. 'Tis nothing but a flesh wound."
"Well, let's hit the showers!"
The younger woman was clearly embarrassed. "Um, Raven, not that I'm squeamish or a prude or anything, but in the view of, ahem, recent events, would you mind if we showered separately?"
"Arm-wrestle you for first go?" Mystique smiled broadly. "No, it's no problem, just go ahead. You worked up more sweat."
They continued their conversation through the locker room door, shouting above the din as Val Cooper turned on the heat and pressure. Actually, she did most of the talking: "I know it is rather silly, not just because of last month. It's not as if you'd see something you didn't know. For Pete's sake, you've been me for several weeks down to retina patterns and every tiny mole when you went into deep cover after the shooting, you must know my bodily details better than I do myself."
"Of course the bruises would be new. Only they won't really show until a little later. I suppose that's not so much of a problem for you, what with you power and so on, not that you could really compare it to a healing factor like Wolverine's."
"I don't know, we both seem to manage to delay the effects of old age..."
Val Cooper was finished and came into the locker room wrapped in her towel. Mystique, who had exchanged her costume for a short bathrobe, got up from her bench. She quickly shed it and walked into the shower room, smiling mischievously. Valerie could not take her eyes off her. "I hope, dear Valerie, you don't think I'm trying to get you to make statements that would sound resentful of some people's genetic good fortune and might be seen as ideologically incorrect in this building."
"Ha!" A twinkle appeared in her eye. "After weeks of verbal sparring with Quicksilver, you'd have to do better than that! I'll just learn to live with not looking as youthful as you when I reach your age, old girl."
"How about we go for a short dinner somewhere and maybe take in a movie?"
"Can't - well, maybe a quick snack, but I have a lot of paperwork to catch up on."
"Rather you than me, Val."
Valerie Cooper's Diary (3)
9/16/95. sunny. Today is the anniversary of Destiny's death. Rogue and KW phoned their mother, F & I kept a low profile as far as M. was concerned (we had been in charge of that tragic operation). Actually M. was quite good about it & invited me for a commemorative toast in her apartment when we happened onto each other in the corridor. She had remarkable poise, but you could tell that (especially w/ her foster daughter unable to make it today of all days) she felt down. We spent a long time talking w/ pregnant pauses in between, remembering her companion & the days of the Freedom Force experiment. Oddly cathartic, although M. being who she is showed flashes of resentment against F. & at one point she almost shouted she wished she could find a way to make sure Amahl Farouk stayed dead. "Me too," I could say to that in all honesty. The memory of Farouk's mind-control over me is one that still at times haunts me in my sleep. But the evening ended on a quiet note (acceptance of Irene Adler's sacrifice does not come easy to M.). When I finally left, she suddenly kissed me on the gunshot scar on my head. "Thanks for being here for me. You know that Chinese tradition that if you save someone's life you become responsible for them? You take that very serious w/ me, don't you, Valerie?" This whole emotional display, so unlike our usual mode of dialogue, left me a bit flustered on my way home. Where I found a message from N.F. waiting for me (not using official channels - rep.mem).
9/17/95. sunny. Woke up after a vivid & disturbing dream about M. (rep.mem.) which makes me want to reassess my attitude and interest in her. Never felt like that about any other woman, but then there is no other woman like her. 9:30 a.m. conference w/ A. & F. re. current political climate. Besides Kelly we now have the budget-trimmers to worry about, some of whom want to put us before the alternative of greater co-operation w/ the military & the CIA or become part of the cuts. Maybe Fury's call was a godsend, X-Factor & SHIELD together may have a better chance of maintaining our autonomy. Mentioned this to N.F. when we met in the p.m. at the usual place. But the reason for his call was a more immediate concern - - - - - - - Got home late for dinner & a good read.
10/6/95. overcast. Home, sweet home. We returned from our "week's excursion" to ND 9 a.m., all. Guido, who loudly complained of a C&W overdose especially glad to be back. By coincidence Raven also arrived today (12:30), fresh from the debriefing after her hush-hush op. for Fury (rep.mem.). After the team debriefing Alex gave everyone the rest of the day off and as usual everyone hurried off in different directions to catch up with their lives &/or the scene in D.C. M. & I were held up a little longer to talk the SHIELD job over, so we decided to have a training session & then have a night in the clubs together. As the evening progressed, M. playfully made a pass at me, I "coyly" responded & to cut the long story short - she spent the night with me. CHVGT OCMKPI NQXG CU OCP CPF YQOCP YG FKF KV CU VYQ YQOGP -- VJG HKTUV VKOG HQT OG, YJKEJ VWTPGF QWV RNGCUWTCDNG DWV QFF, GURGEKCNNA CU TCXGP VTKGF VQ QXGTEQOG OA CYMYCFPGUU DA VCMKPI QP OA UJCRG! DWV KV YCU GPQWIJ VQ EQPXKPEG OG KV KU C IQQF VJKPI HQTIG CPF K FGEKFGF CICKPUV VJCV DTCKP KORNCPV.
My name is Dr. Valerie Cooper, I'm Deputy Head of the Department of Mutagenic Affairs, today is December the 5th, 1995. I am recording this on tape for later transcription because the events yesterday rendered me unable to write. As far as I remember, this is what happened:
Yesterday, December the 4th, Victor Creed a.k.a. Sabretooth was transported from an undisclosed location to X-Factor base. It had come to my knowledge that the non-government crimefighting team, the X-Men, had found it increasingly difficult to enforce his discipline. In spite of objections of the field leader, agent Havok, I had offered to accept him into X-Factor, mainly on the insistence of the intelligence services who increasingly call on our department for super-powered secret agents. Like X-Factor agent Mystique, Sabretooth had many years of experience in this field.
At 4:30 p.m., Sabretooth was brought into the conference room for his introductory briefing. With me present were my immediate superior, Agent Forge, and X-Factor agents Havok, Mystique and Polaris. We put to him the alternative of co-operating with us -- which involved affixing to his body a remote-control restraining device constructed by Forge -- or of having his powers neutralized and being handed over to the judiciary (he is wanted for murder in many states, including several that have the death penalty). The threat actually might have been hard to make good since Forge refuses to re-construct the lost prototype of his powers-neutralizing gun, but Agent Havok put it over convincingly. After the opening statements I was called outside to answer a phone call. Soon after I left the room, I heard a loud explosion and rushed back to investigate. The room was devastated and the Forge and the X-Factor agents were lying all over the place, stunned or unconscious. From what I saw, I conclude that Sabretooth (who had not known about the restraining device beforehand) seized what he saw as his last chance for escape and rushed Agent Havok. His furious attack injured and knocked out Havok who in self-defense had shot off a big uncontrolled force-blast with the results described. Sabretooth by virtue of his self-healing power recovered first and thanks to the blast was also freed of his hand-shackles. As I entered the room he was standing over Mystique (against whom he harbored an especially deep hate), ready to kill her...
"Back off, Creed, I'm warning you!"
Something in the voice made Sabretooth spin around. A small-caliber automatic looked him straight in the face. Valerie Cooper was breathing slowly and regularly to force her body to be calm. At least at this moment, the gunbarrel and the two hands behind it did not shake. Sabretooth could smell her fear. And something else, a smell he recognized from Berlin. So, his soon-to-be deceased ex-wife was literally sleeping with the government...
"That little toy gun ain't gonna stop me from ripping out your bedmate's heart, frail." he sneered. He raised his clawed hand in an almost theatrical arc. "And then I'll have yours for dess--"
His left eye disappeared in a red splatter. Alex was shocked to full consciousness by the loudness of the explosion form the "lady-like" pistol. Christ, she just went and shot him, no second thought! But Havok's shock was as nothing compared to that of Sabretooth, whose features slipped into a stunned surprise that Raven Darkhölme's whore actually had managed to hurt him, before they recomposed themselves into a grimace of hate.
"Step back w--"
With an animal roar Sabretooth pounced at her, but not before Valerie had let off a hasty shot. The bullet merely glanced off his skull, not even slowing him down. All it did was make him lurch sideways a little-or was that a kick from prone Mystique?-and that and his loss of spatial vision through having an eye put out made him jump short. The sweep of his slashing claws failed to connect with her throat. Valerie had brought up her left arm for protection and felt the pain shoot through her as her ulna snapped. In desperation because she would not get another chance, she jabbed up her right, ramming the muzzle of the gun under his chin. She got off two more shots in quick succession before her forearm was reflexively mauled by Sabretooth's claws. A last explosion sounded as a painful muscular spasm pulled the trigger, but that shot went through his neck.
The pistol dropped from Valerie's useless hand and Sabretooth moved forward for the kill, but the without a noticeable break his lunge became a collapse and his inarticulate growl a death-rattle. His body had finally registered that nature of its injuries. Valerie, her right arm still in his unyielding grip, was pulled down with him and ended up pinned under him.
Time had slowed down for Alex who after what seemed to him like an age came up to the two of them. He pulled Sabretooth off Valerie Cooper. He put his powered up palm to his temple, but there was no reaction from him. A quick examination revealed no sign of a pulse or of breath. He really was dead. Alex remembered reading that a small bullet actually can do more damage than a big one, because the bigger one would just pass through in a straight line, while a smaller one would ricochet inside the body. He could see no exit wounds on Sabretooth's head-fired at point-blank through the bottom of his mouth and palate, the bullets must have zigzagged through his super-hard cranium like pinballs and done more damage to his brain tissue than any healing factor could catch up with. Or maybe Val had been lucky with her last shot, which probably was lodged in his spine.
Forge and Havok now could shift their attention to Valerie who was relieved to have survived and now was graying out from the loss of blood or because her adrenaline kick wore off. They finally had to use a knife to free her arm from Sabretooth's death-grip, while Mystique hurriedly began to make a tourniquet.
"Come on, Val, don't pass out on us."
Polaris, who had been closest to the blast but had managed to deflect much of it, gingerly rose to her feet.
"We got to get Val to sick bay quick!" Alex shouted. Lorna didn't hesitate and whipped up a stretcher by magnetically transforming three chairs. As they lifted Valerie onto it, something caught Forge's eye. "Oh no, Mystique, your whole upper right thigh's ripped open! Alex help me carry her! Lorna can carry Val by herself."
From Minutes Recorded at X-Factor Briefing on Tuesday, 19 December 1995
[...] DR. COOPER. - It's good to be back. Again thanks everyone for your visits to the invalids. It really helped. Anyway, I have an announcement... Most of you don't know yet, but during my treatment it came out I'm pregnant. I knew I was very late indeed, but I had refused to consider the possibility, because the only person I had sex with in the preceding months was Raven.
- a silence.
- There follows a lively discussion as all present speak at once; a special analysis of the tape would be necessary.
MR. RANDOM. - What's this, Val baby, trying to tie Misty down by forcing her to make an honest woman of you-if that's possible? (guffaw).
- a silence. MS.DARKHÖLME makes a rude gesture to Mr. Random.
MR. SUMMERS. - Now people, people, settle down! Thank you. Val?
DR. COOPER. - Well, if you have sex with another woman, contraception is not something that seems relevant, even if she occasionally 'morphs into the shape of a man --
MS. DANE (interrupting). - Anyone in particular? Erroll Flynn? Fabio?
DR. COOPER. - Never you mind (but definitely not Fabio). I naturally assumed that Raven could not become a fertile man, but judging by the evidence and after we had some tests made... the bottom line is, there was something like a chance in a million for us to conceive a child.
MR. CAROSELLA. - And million-to-one chances crop up nine times out of ten?
DR. COOPER. - More or less. Raven said she had not set out to become a fertile male, but apparently she did (Doctor Fitzpatrick theorized about ova being divided into scads of spermatozoa, but that only makes for a fairly low sperm count).
MS. DANE. - So the child would almost certainly be a girl?
DR. COOPER. - And a mutant, in all likelihood. The last time Mystique successfully mated with a "flatscan", Nightcrawler was the result. If that's anything to go by, we probably wouldn't have to bother with DNA tests etc. to make 100 percent sure.
MR. FORGE. - Will you have the child, Valerie? Even if it looks like any other baby, we probably won't be able to hide its paternity for long, considering the scope of intelligence scrutiny we are under.
DR. COOPER. - Yes. It will probably hurt my career something terrible, especially coming on top of the fiasco two weeks ago, but an abortion would be like chickening out for me. I'll try to think of it as a wonderful adventure.
MS. DARKHÖLME. - I hadn't counted on ever having another child, and certainly not like this.
MS. DANE. - Cheer up, maybe you'll be more of a father to the child than you were a mother to your sons.
MR. SUMMERS. - I appreciate your candor with us, Valerie, but you really put yourself in a terrible dilemma. If you have the child and your relationship with Mystique becomes known, Kelly and his cohorts will be after your skin, but now if you decided not to have it... No matter what we'd say, you'd always suspect that deep down at least some of us would suspect your motive for not having the child was an unacknowledged fear of mutants.
DR. COOPER. - I knew that before I made that announcement; I had made up my mind. I suspect even having a mutant child and sexual relations with a mutant would not be enough to convince Pietro, but I'm really committed. (laughter)
MR. FORGE. - I don't mean to pry, but how is Mystique --
DR. COOPER. - We are working on it. You'll be the first to know.
MR. SUMMERS. - Okay, it's none of our damn business. In the meantime, maybe you should have a close look at the terms of your contract in case Kelly tries to get you fired for "fraternizing with the enemy".
MR. FORGE. - Gyrich is heavily embroiled in the Creed mess, so at least he won't be able to take a shot at Val's desk just now.
- The meeting is adjourned.
Sept mois après
Washington, July 16, 1996
hope you've returned safely from your mission by now and will soon have the time to pop over here. As Charles Xavier must have told you by now, Valerie had a smooth delivery the night before last. Your "stepsister" came into the world at 7 lbs., 2 oz. and 19.5 inches. Her skin is somewhat lighter than mine, but darker than Warren's, and her hair seems to be strawberry blond. She also inherited Val's eyes. Forge, Polaris and my "brother-in-law's" bride agreed to be the godparents. In spite of my protests (and Kurt's suggestion of Elizabeth), Val insisted on naming her Irene. She has brass, it is almost like daring people to compare my relationship to Irene Adler to my new one to her. In her melancholy moments, when she talked of the time when she would not be there anymore, Irene sometimes liked to quote to me:
"The dead they cannot rise, an' you'd better dry your eyes,
An' you'd best go look for a new love."
I just never thought that Valerie Cooper of all people might turn out to be the one she talked of, and not just because of our antagonistic history. After all, Irene indicated that Forge was fated to be my partner. But since then not only has a lot of water flown down the Potomac, but as you and I well know, the fabric of time and causality has been torn and patched up a few times and we must have ended up in another timeline. He is again involved with Storm, and whatever interest he may have had for me is long gone. Although we moved together last Easter and are in fact giving bisexual monogamy a shot, we still shrink from openly admitting our mutual commitment to each other. So it looks as if you and Kurt don't yet have to rack your brain what to call Valerie in relation to yourself (not that the English language has really provided adequate labels for our family even before that...)!
Val is continuing to defend her position but just in case we have taken steps to make her the team's private counselor and lobbyist if she does get fired. Warren has offered to provide necessary funds, and since we leaked out news of that, a lot of people's enthusiasm to get rid of her has cooled down -- figuring she might cause them more trouble out of her current position than in it. (A lot of them had pushed for the recruitment of Sabretooth with too much enthusiasm, and between us, we know where a lot of the skeletons are buried). Still, the fight is not over by a long shot.
I reached Kurt on the phone yesterday, he said he'd be coming over for the christening at the latest. Obviously we won't be inviting Graydon, especially because he apparently was behind that "Mutant Mom Fathers Freak Fille" feature in the "National Investigator" last month.
Regards from Val (did I ever mention she says she likes your costume because it's in her varsity colors?).
Hope to see you soon,
We are happy to announce the birth of our daughter
Irene Lorna Audrey Cooper
Washington, D.C., 14th July, 1996
V. A. Cooper *** R. Darkholme
"A Year in the Life" (which I maybe should have called "When Raven Met Vally") first appeared early in 1995 in MZS-APA. It was written at the time the Age of Apocalypse titles came out, as an attempt to come up with a possible way things might continue (but probably wouldn't) once the mutant books returned to Marvel "normality".
However, the universe in which this and the following Tales of the Twilight Menshevik are set actually diverges from the comic books at an earlier point, around the time when Chris Claremont stopped writing for Marvel. I was less than thrilled by the way other writers regressed Mystique into a crazed killer after the Muir Island Saga, so let us just say that as far as this story is concerned, Mystique did not try to kill David Haller in LegionQuest. IMO that simply made no sense, as she always blamed Forge most for Destiny's death and she is too smart and has too much style to seek revenge against an apparently brain-dead MPD case. Also, she knew that the Shadow King and no one else was responsible for Irene Adler's death. (And the revelation of Mystique's parentage of Nightcrawler did not happen as it is told in X-Men Unlimited #4).
The original impulse for the story came from fandom's recurring discussion of Mystique's sexuality - were she and Destiny lovers or just good friends? I always was convinced of the former. Mystique's power of assuming the form of any human being down to microscopic details is quite a wish-fullfilment fantasy and, as seen in MARVEL FANFARE #40 and her motel tryst with Logan (WOLVERINE #51), Raven Darkhölme is not above using her power for amorous purposes. From there the conclusions flowed naturally -- if Mystique is a confirmed bisexual, why should she restrict herself to female identities when making love, and what would happen if contrary to expectations she turned out to be sexually fertile in "male mode"?
(What I did not know and only learned in July 1997 was that Chris Claremont had in fact wanted to make Mystique and Destiny the biological parents of Nightcrawler. The idea was - unsurprisingly - nixed by Marvel's self-censorship policy).
Val Cooper became my candidate for motherhood as she has been the closest thing Mystique had to a friend throughout most of their common comics existence. The added advantage was that of involving two characters from opposing sides of the genejoke/flatscan divide. At the time, many relationships between mutants and non-mutants had broken up or fizzled out and I wondered if there was an editorial policy against them. I also thought Val had been a bit underused by most writers and could do with a little romance.
The "Twin Peaks" cross-over is Peter David's fault. He indicated that Val and Dale Cooper were brother and sister in X-FACTOR #71. The last chapter quotes the final two lines of "Soldier, Soldier" from Rudyard Kipling's Barrack Room Ballads.
For this posting, the format of this story was somewhat simplified (in the original, there were countless different fonts for different writers and to indicate the difference between typed and handwritten texts). The code used by Valerie Cooper in her diaries has here been rendered as one of the most simple in the world (it just involves moving a certain number of places from each letter), so it is really not necessary to give a solution.
The Westchester Menshevik