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Chapter 1


Written by Indigo
Last updated: 01/02/2007 02:01:11 AM

Chapter 1

The costume lies in a smelly, sweaty heap on the floor at the foot of my bed. I could care less. Chrome all scratched, kevlar-nomex of no use to me now. Ridiculous black and Pink spandex protected my body but there's nothing to shield my heart from this. And even if there was, I would refuse it. She deserves that much, and it's the least I can do to honor her.

In the kitchen, I've been stirring -- literally and spiritually -- all day. Since I recovered enough from the shock to stand up and *move* I've been running the stove and keepin' busy.

Chicken gumbo. Jambalaya. Crawdad soup. Bread pudding. Oysters Rockefeller. Some of it's gonna go to waste. I can't eat it all, and I won't share this pain with them -- not when Jeannie got her own pain to deal with. Besides, explaining to them *why* I had a sudden cooking fit?

Yeah, I know they'd care. I know they *do* care. But somehow, some of this pain and grief has to be mine and mine alone.

Red beans and rice.

Crabmeat imperial. Andouille gumbo.

The activity is a distraction, and I'm thankful for it. But I know the minute I stop, it's going to sweep up on me again. And damn me, I can't shed a tear from these eyes. Too much pain. I care, I do -- I *know* I do, but the tears. Won't. Come. I know I should weep. I want to weep. But the tears are eluding me. Maybe it's because I know she wouldn't want me to cry.

I was just glad to be home, such that home was -- in the boathouse. I'd fallen asleep two seconds before my gloves hit the floor, and never even realized I'd lay down. When the phone rang at 6:45, I was shaken out of sleep --disoriented, and annoyed. After what I'd been through, I thought, this had better bloody well be important. The thought wasn't even finished in my head; the phone wasn't even to my ear when I regretted thinkin' it at all.

I'd been to New Orleans two or three times before coming back up to take on Apocalypse with the X-Men in Egypt. Father had told me then that Tante Mattie wasn't doin' so good. I called her, and she sounded tired, but like herself. Wise an' sweet an' like music to my ears. Even though it was a long distance call, I felt her embrace me. I worried -- letting it fall to the back of my mind -- putting things like the New Son and Apocalypse's latest damn world domination plan take greater importance and priority than the woman who was like a mother to me.

I'd just come home from dealin' with Sinister and Creed when the second call came. Pere again, tellin' me it was more serious than they'd thought. Wasn't nothin' simple. It was the serious thing. Cancer. I felt like I'd been kicked in the chest by the Juggernaut. Any elation that had come from my successful hoodwink of my old enemy dissolved like marzipan in milk. I made plans to visit her then and there.

And God, it was good to see her.

Mon Dieu, it was painful to see her.

This lady -- who had been more than a mother to me, even though she insisted on bein' called Tante Mattie -- had been reduced to rocking back and forth in her bed, murmurin' in pain. She kept on her smile face for me, an' I kept on mine for her, but *damn* was it hard to do that. I could see the life an' energy fading out of her. I could see the pain diminishing that fiery spirit. I finally had to 'scuse myself and head back home lest I bawl like a baby in front of her. She knew -- I could tell from looking at her -- that her days were numbered. She knew, I knew. I just couldn't bring myself to let myself realize it. I didn't know it'd be the last time I saw her. I didn't know I'd never get another chance to kiss her forehead and tell her I loved her *in person.*

A couple phone calls, sure. And I couldn't even stay on long -- the pain had weakened her voice so, made her sound like she was suffering. I couldn't handle knowing she was suffering. I was suffering *knowing* she was hurting. But any moment with her might be my last, so I dialed. I talked. For one minute. For five minutes. For two minutes. She was glad to know I loved her, and I did everything I could to make sure she knew.

And then the phone woke me up after the latest mission. It wasn't even in my forebrain, until I heard Jean Luc's broken voice, thick with tears, tellin' me she'd died peacefully -- slipped away in her sleep. She'd been taken to the hospital, but there'd been almost nothing that could be done. Don't know if she really died in her sleep or not or if it was just a mercy

for my sake. If it is, I'm grateful for it, and guilty that I'm grateful.

And somewhere in the back of my soul, I know it hurts. But there's a barrier between me and the pain. Some part of my psyche that wants to protect me. Some part of me that doesn't want it to be *real* until I have to stand there in my black and pay my respects.

So the tears won't come.

And the embraces of my friends -- my surrogate family -- do nothing to console me. Don't get me wrong, I appreciate their concern. It's good to know this swamp rat's worth worryin' about.

My memories are bein' cruel. Playin' back flickering images from my childhood. I remember Tante Mattie's laughter when she would tell me a story and I would listen, wide-eyed an' hangin' on every word. I remember her lookin' disappointed in me the first time she caught me sneakin' snacks out of her icebox without askin'. I remember her face, young and healthy -- and then I see it wasted and thin like death was hangin' right over her.

For all that I can do...

For all that I can accomplish...

For all that I have done to help others in this world...

...none of it was enough to keep my Tante Mattie alive.

I woulda stolen anything if it would've given me one more day with her. If it would have given her one more day on earth.


I woulda stolen anything if it would've erased her suffering and let her live.

I can't be that selfish -- to wish her still living even in agony and pain.

So I try to make it through this first day, knowing I'll never hear her voice again. And I will try to make it through tomorrow, knowing that I'll never feel her arms around me again. Then I'll try to make it through the day beyond that, and remind myself that her spirit is watchin' over me. And each day beyond that, I will try to find a reason to make her proud of

me, like she always said she was.

Au revoir, chere Tante Mattie.

You still gonna get flowers on your birthday.

Je t'aime.

Au revoir.

DISCLAIMER: All the characters here belong to Marvel Comics, and are used without permission. No profit of any sort is being made from their usage.

FEEDBACK: ONLY if it's kind. This story is essentially a filter for a real life experience, and if you're going to find something nasty to say about it, don't bother because it'll only get you my wrath.

DEDICATION: With love and respect to Gloria Harris, my beloved great aunt, who passed away between 6:30 and 6:54 am eastern time, today -- February 3, 2000.

ARCHIVE: If you really feel the need to archive it, please ask.

SPECIAL THANKS: To KayJay, for being a comfort and a shoulder. To Redhawk, Frito, Matt, Mitai, Foenix, Falstaff, Oberon, and the people of #plotting and #subcafe for being there for me while I try to cope.


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