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Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Chapter 7
Chapter 8
Chapter 9
Chapter 10
Chapter 11
Chapter 12
Chapter 13
Chapter 14
Chapter 15
Chapter 16
Chapter 17
Chapter 18
Chapter 19
Chapter 20
Chapter 21
Chapter 22
Chapter 23
Chapter 24
Chapter 25
Chapter 26
Chapter 27
Chapter 28
Chapter 29
Chapter 30


Written by Valerie Jones
Last updated: 03/23/2007 01:26:56 AM

Chapter 23

Remi stared at Cyclops, his mind tumbling frantically. The handful of change he held glowed with charge, but that was all the ammunition he had. He wasn’t sure what he could do with it, anyway. He didn’t want to hurt them. In another life he had loved them each dearly as aunts and uncles in an extended family few could rival.

Cyclops’ expression had gone from surprised to worried to grim. "How do you know who we are?" he demanded.

At the same time, Remi felt a questing touch of Jean’s mind against his. Terrified, he shoved her probe away more forcefully than he intended. That wasn’t a question he could afford to answer. Every moment he spent with the X-Men put the future in greater jeopardy.

Jean winced visibly and touched the fingers of one hand to her forehead. Remi had always wondered why she did that. Putting his hands on his head had certainly never benefited him any, but maybe it helped her to focus. Slowly, she began erecting shields around herself and her companions. Remi was amazed. He was used to Jean’s shields snapping into place instantaneously—tall, thick and impenetrable walls that intimidated him by their mere presence. This Jean was obviously new to her powers. He watched the shields take shape with something akin to bemusement. He had never imagined a place and time when he would be a better telepath than the Phoenix.

Cyclops pinned Remi with an invisible stare, but he could feel the anger that he couldn’t see in the other’s eyes. "I’ll ask you again... How do you know who we are?" His voice was tight.

Remi tried to control his fear as he returned the stare. He felt like he was standing on a precipice. He and Scott were faced off, teetering on the verge of combat. Remi knew he would be hard pressed to react in time if Scott decided to fire his optic blast, and so it seemed that his options were either to try to talk his way out of the situation, or to attack first and hopefully buy himself time to run.

He made the choice instinctively as his spatial power tracked something driving out of the sky toward him. He threw the charged coins in a wide scatter toward Scott and Jean and whirled to face the new threat. Angel slammed into him with enough force to knock his breath from his lungs. They went to the ground together. Remi landed on his back with Warren on top of him, the impact making his wounded side scream. Warren’s sweeping wings bowled Jean Luc off his feet as well, and Remi felt a sudden surge of rage as he saw the thief roll to his feet and move cautiously away. If the X-Men had cost him his contact with the Thieves Guild...

Remi drove the heel of his hand into Warren’s solar plexus and then shoved him to the side as the older boy doubled over, gagging. He scrambled to his feet, searching for Jean Luc. To his surprise, he found the thief with Hank. The two circled each other warily, though from the body language Remi could tell that there had been at least one round of blows already. Hank was barely recognizable in his very human guise. Remi had nearly forgotten that his color and fur were not a product of natural mutation, but now he was grateful. Jean Luc would not have stood a chance against the Beast Remi was familiar with, but this Hank did not have nearly the strength or weight advantages of his later self and Jean Luc seemed to be holding his own.

Jean’s telepathic attack felt like a hard slap through the protection of his shields. Though it didn’t harm him, it stung, and he retaliated in kind. Unfortunately, he was still thinking about the Jean he knew. His psi bolt was just enough to let her know she’d been tagged without really hurting her, as they’d done so many times in practice sessions. But this Jean was only a girl, barely older than Remi himself and not nearly as experienced with her powers. She cried out in pain as the psi bolt struck her and fell to her knees.

Remi paused, horrified. "Jean? Are you all right?" He took two steps toward her before something struck him from the side. He was thrown to the ground, half skidding, half rolling across the cobblestones until he came to a rest. He stared up at Cyclops, stunned. Unconsciously, his fingers crawled across the rough street, searching for anything he could pick up and charge. A shock of cold stopped him. Ice encased his hands and crawled up his forearms as Bobby stepped up beside Scott.

Remi charged the ice and shattered it. But before he could move, a ruby colored beam struck the street just short of his fingers in an explosion of stone chips. Staring up at Cyclops, Remi felt the tears of frustration and hopelessness welling in his eyes. The X-Men were ruining their own future. Had ruined it. Everything Remi had been through had come to nothing because of the X-Men themselves.

The despair that had lain dormant on the edges of Remi’s mind saw its opportunity. It rushed into him, filling his mind and heart, and threatening to overwhelm sanity. Every time he’d found a way, sacrificed another friend or a piece of himself to buy the future a chance, the effort had been ruined somehow. This had seemed like the last chance, and now it, too, was gone.

In that moment, Rem’aillon Neremani ran out of hope. He closed his eyes and laid his head back down on the hard stone of the street. It didn’t matter if he fought the X-Men or not. It wouldn’t matter if he won or not. A tiny portion of his mind insisted that there were still things he could do. He was a telepath. He could modify their memories. He could force Jean Luc to take him into the Guild. He could step back in time a day or two and avoid the X-Men somehow. But those ideas seemed far away—too difficult, too complicated, too unlikely to succeed. More than anything, Remi simply wanted for it to all be over. He was so tired. He just wanted to open his eyes to find familiar faces surrounding him, people he knew and loved and a world that didn’t demand pieces of his soul in exchange for every victory.

He was vaguely aware of people moving around him, but he had ceased to care.

Cyclops stared uncertainly at the boy who now lay quietly on the street, eyes closed. He had not noticed until that moment how thin he was, with hollowed cheeks and a bruised look to his eyes. Marvel Girl came to stand beside him.

"It’s like he just gave up all of a sudden," she answered his unspoken question. "I’ve never felt such-- " She paused to search for a word, "abandonment."

Cyclops looked up as Beast approached. The man who had helped the boy stood at a wary distance, watching them all. Cyclops couldn’t tell who had won their contest, but neither seemed hurt.

"Is this your son?" Cyclops asked him. In the back of his mind Scott was furious with Angel for starting this. Who had told him to attack the kid, anyway?

After a moment, the man shook his head. "Non. I don’ know who he is."

Beast was kneeling next to the boy. He cleared his throat and looked up at Scott. "In that case, he needs medical attention."

"Is he hurt?" Cyclops felt a new alarm. Hurting the boy certainly hadn’t been part of their mission.

"He’s in shock, but I don’t think his wounds are too bad."

"We should take him to the Professor, Scott." Marvel Girl’s voice was thick, and she continued to rub her temples as if her head ached. "He swatted me like I was some kind of fly." She glanced up at him, her gaze surprisingly direct. "We should be glad he didn’t want to hurt us."

They watched as Beast put his hands under the boy’s shoulders and helped him to his feet. He was obviously conscious, but he did not acknowledge Beast beyond a guarded glance. The rest of the X-Men he completely ignored.

"Where y’ takin’ him?" the man demanded. He had moved forward several steps, and now he regarded Cyclops with stern disapproval.

Scott suddenly felt very young. He shoved the feeling away and raised his chin. "To a private facility that specializes in mutants." He watched as the man debated with himself. After a moment, it was obvious that he could not decide whether to interfere or not, so Scott motioned to Beast.

"Let’s go."

Together, the X-Men began to move away from the lone man standing in the middle of an empty New Orleans street. Beast supported the boy with one meaty arm, and Scott couldn’t help but notice that, as they walked away, the boy’s gaze remained fixed over his shoulder on the man who claimed not to know him.

Remi came back to himself once they were in the air. He looked around, taking in the interior of the jet. He didn’t recognize it. In fact, he wasn’t even sure what kind of plane it was. Not the Blackbird, and certainly not the X-Men’s current Aurora. The accouterments were much rougher than he was used to. There wasn’t even a medlab. Instead, he found himself strapped into one of the seats. A bandage covered the wound in his side, which he vaguely remembered someone applying. The X-Men were seated around him, but they rode in silence. Remi watched them surreptitiously.

It was strange, he thought. The further he got from New Orleans, the clearer his head felt. It was as if a great, dark blanket were lifting from his mind and heart. He knew exactly why, too.

Quietly, Remi unlatched his harness and got up. He walked to the front of the plane, stopping just behind the pilot’s seat. Four sets of eyes tracked him, but he ignored them. Right now, they didn’t matter. All that mattered was the fact that every mile away from New Orleans was another mile closer to New York. If the future had been ruined, then it was ruined. The damage was done. He could think about that later. Right now, Remi was going home.


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