This fic was inspired by the recent Livejournal discussions about the possibility of redeemable evil, or more accurately, by the Stryfe *I've* always seen but that the discussion revealed to me a lot of people never noticed. This takes place immediately after the events of Adventures of Cyclops and Phoenix< #3, where a young Nathan and Stryfe meet for the first time over a battlefield. All characters belong to Marvel, archival by permission, feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org, etc. :)
After a while, you didn't even notice the lash of the whip as it bit across unprotected skin, setting nerve endings afire.
...You noticed it. But you could ignore it.
Eventually the rhythm of the blows became another heartbeat, and who noticed their own heart beating? Torture, like a heartbeat, could become a way of life.
He never cried. Stryfe learned that lesson very well. He never cried from the time he was five years old and sobbing for his father to please, come help him only made the beating last until he had finally passed out. When he awoke, he was confined in a cell so small he couldn't even stand upright at that young age. He stayed there, with no food, no water, until he was nearly delirious with hunger and thirst. Until every cut, bruise, scratch and scrape from the "lesson" had multiplied into a hundred lessons of their own. Each one throbbing, burning, a new and far more subtle torture than the original beating had been.
He stayed there until finally, when his father had come, he managed to gasp out an apology. ...And then Father had left, had left him *there*, still aching, still hungering, until the hours and days blurred together in a haze of pain and delirium. Until finally Father came once more.
And this time Stryfe regarded him silently, pridefully, and didn't say a word, even when another blow fell.
Father had smiled, and walked away, leaving the door open, for Stryfe to slowly, painfully, crawl out, down the passageways of the Palace, ignoring looks of pity or contempt from those he passed, until he reached his own room, where food and water and tending to his hurts were quietly available. He'd learned his lesson.
Strength of body, strength of mind, strength of will.
And pride was just another form of strength.
So to show that strength, he never, from that day onward, cried out. No matter how creative the dog soldiers got whenever they were given free rein with the force whips. He'd already been weak, to allow this punishment. He could not be weaker and protest it.
They had a curious sort of relationship, Stryfe and the soldiers he sometimes commanded. Apocalypse rarely commanded on the field of battle anymore. He didn't have to. He had generals to do his bidding. And he had the Chaos Bringer. Though he was young, Stryfe still went out onto the battlefield and commanded the dog soldiers. With the High Lord's Prelate Ch'vayre at his side, supposedly to guide, but really to watch, and to report.
When Stryfe was in command, as he had been that day, he reveled in it. He reveled in the power he could have, of life and death over these soldiers. Death was expected on a battlefield. It didn't matter if he brought it about a bit sooner to a wounded soldier. He'd be dying anyway. Why not take the opportunity to have a little fun?
The soldiers hated him.
But they respected him. That, he made sure of. Or at least if they didn't respect him in their hearts, they did so in their actions, for to do otherwise... It was not wise to attract the attention of the Chaos Bringer.
But when failed, as he HAD that day--and he snarled and seethed at the memory of the strange peasant child who dared to wear HIS face, who dared to use his OWN powers against him, who dared to leave the High Prince of Apocalypse broken on the floor while he and his Clan Rebellion fled and left the base in flames...
That was when the dog soldiers had their day.
Stryfe had always understood the price of failure. He had failed that day, and the knowledge of that burned inside him more than the lash of the whip against his skin. Ch'vayre had carried him out--CARRIED him, he, the Chaos-Bringer! Carried him away from the battlefield of his failure and back to the Palace. Stryfe thought detachedly that it was rather fortunate he'd been unconscious when they'd arrived back at the Palace. Seeing Father's face when informed of his Heir's failure was never pleasant.
To ensure the failure would not happen again, Stryfe was given to the dog soldiers, the very ones he'd commanded on that field, that he'd commanded in his failure. And they were permitted to vent their frustrations however they chose. The High Lord had excellent Healers. They'd be able to put Stryfe back together again... no matter what the dog soldiers did in the interim.
His eyes burned, but not with tears. Soon this would be over, and every scar was one more reminder of what he HAD to become.
One day he'd show them. He'd show them all! He would be the Strongest of them all. The dog soldiers would grovel and beg to be allowed to end their own pathetic, miserable lives instead of having to suffer whatever Stryfe decided to inflict upon them for their part in his humiliation.
Ch'vayre would no longer look at him with insolence in his eyes, thinking that Stryfe didn't see what he was thinking. That the Chaos Bringer was nothing but a spoiled child.
Oh yes, Ch'vayre would see.
Father would look at him... and smile.