back then, it was like a demonic possession. madelyne pryor slipping into her body for a week at a time, molly waking up with headaches, missed messages, an untold amount of unanswered calls, an altered bank account, maybe a note once or twice. until mojodome happened. then, she had woken up to an array of dark bruises, a blackened eye, half healed bite marks, and a moleskine with a bevy of notes to explain.

the terror that time was new. she hadn't been able to laugh about death yet, hadn't experienced maddy's deaths over and over again. hadn't yet converged with maddy into one person, one being who simply had shades of difference and not a gulf.

right now, as she walks upon the leyline that will house the shop she needs, she isn't sure exactly who she is--molly or madelyne. their identities were unsure now, as they had been for years now. her arms carry a black goat, making no noise as she carries her. it was easy to find the farm, coax the black coated beast to her and set out to her true task in the dusk.

the goat and her identity do not occupy her thoughts. no, only that the visions of what was to come, that illyana's words were bringing up a cascade of memories, feelings that she considered dealt with.

only they weren't.

the idea of knowing ahead of time what horrors, what tortures awaites, of walking into instead made her stomach curdle in fear, in disgust. she healed, yet didn't forget the terror of being backed into a corner already awash in other people's blood, rendered powerless again, staring into the faces of hungry beings who were waiting for her to move. of the tang of sweat, the ragged sound of her breathing, just waiting to see who would move first: them or her. both knowing that it didn't matter who moved first, the end result would be their teeth sinking into her flesh, her screams renting the air, over and over again until she was let out to the other prisoners. until she'd be forced to fight for her life again, over and over, and rendered too powerless to fight against her captors once more.

is illyana brave? is she stupid? is she just a little girl in hell again, gripping her sword, trying to save someone who would not save her?

it angers her. being reminded of it, seeing someone she full well knew could defend herself, throw herself in a future, for someone who…

the sentence, the thought winds its way down. there's an unspoken bitter thing at the end of it that she doesn't want to consider.

let illyana deal with her heroics. let them all suffer.

she wasn't going to be involved. leave them to their fates, and she to her own. someone else can save them--heroes always did. she wasn't a hero except when it suited.

right now, she didn't know if she was madelyne pryor or molly saylor. what she did know was that at this moment, she was a witch. a witch with witch's work to do, grueling, bitter, and arcane.

she would turn her thoughts to that.

her footsteps stop, finally feeling more power hum beneath her, almost to the point where leylines intersected, a perfect point to build for a coven. she looks down at her arms, at the goat in her arms. she smiles at it, coos.

"i hope you're prepared, my darling," she smiles wider, letting her more demonic features bleed through, eyes glowing a burnished gold, teeth lengthening into fangs, horns sprouting from her forehead, "it's been some time since i've had to kill to get my way."

the second time it happens, she can smell ozone this time, sharp in her nostrils in the middle of the yard of her house, as if a thunderstorm were on the horizon. the smell is the only warning she has coming. maddy isn't sure if the warning is through the magic or through the phoenix itself, flaring up in defense or some other sense adorned in he or molly.

she should have known that one push wasn't going to be enough for someone truly determined to see something through. it wouldn't have stopped her from a second try, so of course whoever this was would have the same thought no matter the consequences. her fingers tighten on the door knob in front of her, shoulders tensing as the real attack comes, striking from behind at her defenses. it feels like an arcing of pure power, trying to slice into her mind, focused in a way no amateur would ever wield power like this. there is skill, there is intent, and there is will.

they would not be denied by her.

madelyne doesn't know who (or perhaps, what) it is that pushes against her enough to make her body jolt forward from the force behind it all, doesn't know who would be attempting to turn her eye toward them. the options that flitter in her head from jean to betsy braddock to emma frost, they're all options. yet none of them are this brazen, this stupid, even at their most annoying. what she does know is that this person doesn't know who she is if they think that she is going to bend this easily.

she can feel the door knob break in her fist, the shards of it digging into her palm as she opens her own well of power. it doesn't entirely matter if she is drawing from the goblyn force or the phoenix, only that she meets this other power with more ferocity than before. she gives her retaliation no real emotion behind it, only seeking to demonstrate just how deep her own power went, how far she would go to protect herself at any cost. she lets it grow and grow, until it finally crests and descends on the thing attacking her mind.

her power descends, sweeping the intruder in it. there is the distinct feeling of surprise, of pain--

--and at the last moment in a move she knows is desperate, is deliberate it's intention, an image flashes before her. a man with skin made of alabaster, a forehead adorned with a red diamond, grinning at her.

a white hot flash of rage ignites inside of her, flashing outward over the thing still trying to taunt her. immediately, madelyne knows what she's done, as the lights on the porch pop loudly, as several in the house ignite, and her phone starts to warp in her pocket. when it's over, she's digging her own claws into her palms hard enough to break skin, blood seeping down her wrist, staining the porch below.

she knows what she did all those months ago. she knew what it felt like to see him looking fearful as she obliterated him from the inside out. she knows that this is manipulation, a trick to unsteady her. the only question was this: who was doing it? and to what end did they have in mind?

no matter what, they had succeeded in their goal of making her pay attention. madelyne planned to make them regret that.