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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 30

Charles started at the knock on his door, despite the fact that heíd been expecting it. He had been finding it increasingly difficult to keep his thoughts from wandering as the hour approached.

"Come in," he said, and watched as Scott opened the door and stepped inside. The man who entered behind Scott quickly claimed his attention. Jean Luc LeBeau was dressed neatly in a rather expensive suit, and Charles found it surprisingly difficult to see the thief beneath the businessman veneer. He walked up to Charlesí desk and extended his hand.

"Itís a pleasure to meet you, Mr. Xavier."

Charles shook his hand. "Charles, please." He waved to one of the leather bound chairs that fronted his desk. "Have a seat. We have a much to discuss."

As Jean Luc settled himself, Charles nodded to Scott, dismissing him. Scott left, the door latching softly in his wake. To Charles, the tiny click seemed like a death knell. He clasped his hands together on the desk and turned to Jean Luc.

"Iím afraid this isnít going to be the interview you were expecting," he admitted softly.

Jean Lucís eyes narrowed. Charles could feel the wash of suspicion from him, but his expression did not move beyond innocent curiosity. "What do you mean?"

Charles took a deep breath, acutely aware of the moment. The entire world seemed to pause as he gathered himself. His next words would set the course of history. "I mean that I know youíre here because of Remi."

He saw Jean Luc stiffen, his eyes darting toward the windows as his mind tumbled through various escape routes. Charles held up a hand.

"Please, hear me out. I am no danger to you."

Jean Luc paused, considering. Charles could feel the conflict between warning instinct and curiosity. Finally, he relaxed against his chair, though Charles knew he could be moving again almost instantly. "All right. Iím listening." He made no effort to disguise the wariness in his voice.

Charles nodded. "Good. I have a story to tell you. And then I need your help."

Remi shivered as a new gust drove sporadic raindrops against him, but he did nothing save wrap his arms more tightly about his knees. In spite of the fact that he was not supposed to, or perhaps because of it, Remi was seated on the mansion roof. He could feel Jean Luc LeBeauís presence below him, though he made no effort to listen in on the conversation. The exact words werenít important to him. He already knew what they were talking about, and what his father was going to ask of the thief.

Remi didnít know what to think. He felt like his heart had frozen, and the cold was creeping into his lungs, making it hard to breathe. The truth was, he couldnít argue with the logic. He knew, intellectually at least, that it made the most sense for him to go back to New Orleans with Jean Luc, to pick up Gambitís life at that point. That was what heíd originally intended when heíd jumped to this time, and it remained the only way to keep history on a track that he knew was safe.

So why did it have to get so complicated? After talking with his father this morning, he had come to understand that even that wasnít enough.

A scrabbling sound diverted his attention, and he realized that someone was climbing the side of the house. After a moment, a hand appeared over the edge of the roof. It wandered around, searching for something to grab hold of. Remi watched for a moment and then sighed as he pushed himself to his feet. There was only one person he knew of who would be physically climbing onto the roof. He reached down and grabbed Scottís hand, pulling him up over the shingled lip.

"Thanks." Scott adjusted his jacket and ran a hand through his hair. They ended up staring at each other in uncomfortable silence.

Finally, Remi returned to his previous spot and sat back down. Scott followed him, with a grimace for the wet shingles.

"That man from New Orleans is here." Scott wiped his palms on his jeans.

"I know." Remi rested his chin on his knees, closing his eyes as another smattering of rain blew into his face.

Scottís mouth quirked in a mixture of concern and curiosity. "So who is he?"

Remi glanced over at him, but could read little else behind the quartz visor that covered much of his face. He shrugged. "His name is Jean Luc LeBeau."

Scott digested that with interest. "Do you know why heís here?"

Remi gave him a pained smile. This was the part that amazed him. "Heís looking for me."

"But, in New Orleans he said he didnít know you."

"He didnít." The knowledge that Jean Luc had come for him despite that, sent a small burst of warmth radiating through him. He understood that it was more of Gambit leaking into him, but that didnít change the fact that knowing Jean Luc cared about him made some part of him very happy. "He wanted to make sure I was all right." Remi had been unable to resist brushing his mind against the older manís, just to know what had brought him to the mansion.

Scott shivered and hunched into his coat. "Sounds like you know him, though."

Remi stared out over the grounds. The sudden cold snap, mixed with the rainy weather, had caused a layer of mist to form just above the ground. It blanketed the mansion grounds and twined between the trees like an ethereal blanket of snow. "I guess," he admitted slowly. "In another life."

Scott gave him a weird look, but Remi ignored it. There was little point in trying to explain. They sat in silence as the rain intensified into a steady mist. After a while, Scott reached over to place a hand on Remiís shoulder.

"I canít say I understand whatís going on, but Iím sure the Professor will do whatís best."

Best for who? Remi wanted to ask him, but he was fairly certain he knew Scottís answer. Cyclops was aptly named, not just for his appearance or even his mutant power, but for the black-and-white clarity with which he viewed the world and his place in it. Remi had known his uncle to doubt himself and his ability to accomplish his goals, but he had never seen him question the lines of right and wrong, of conscience and choice, by which he navigated.

"How do you make yourself do something you donít want to do?"

"Huh?" Scott was caught off guard by the question.

"If you know that you have to do something that you absolutely canít stand the thought of... what do you do?"

Scott cocked his head. Remi could feel him gravely considering the question, and was oddly grateful. Scott could have brushed aside the rather personal question, or given him a flip answer, but instead he was carefully thinking through his response.

"I guess Iíd need to know what the consequences are of not doing whatever it is, first," he said.

Remi shrugged. "It could be a lot of things. But chances are that itíll be bad for a lot of people. Including me, maybe."

Scott watched him a moment, as if hoping he would expand on his statement, but then went back to his contemplation. "I guess," he finally said, "that it all boils down to how selfish you want to be."

This time, it was Remi who was startled. "Selfish?"

Scott nodded. "How much is it worth to you to get to do what you want?" He sighed and looked away, out over the grounds. "The Professor wants me to lead the X-Men. I donít know why he picked me, or why he thinks Iím the right person." He shook his head, and Remi could feel his fear of the responsibility. "I really donít want to do it." He turned back to Remi, his expression set. "But I believe in the Professorís judgment, and I trust that his choice is best for the team, even though I donít like it." His mouth crooked in a lopsided frown. It was an oddly wistful expression. "Sometimes, I think Iím going to spend my whole life taking care of other people and never get to do anything I want to..."

Remi could only stare at him as he trailed off. He had always thought that leading the X-Men was Scottís driving ambition. The fact that he was almost as frightened of his future as Remi was comforting to the young prince. Scott had always been one of his heroes. To know that they were this much alike gave Remi hope that he could do what he needed to, and maybe it would all still work out in the end. The Scott Summers that Remi had grown up with was a very happy man.

They sat in comfortable silence, each wrapped in his own thoughts, until a telepathic touch shattered Remiís small measure of peace.

Remi, itís time.

Scott looked up as Remi climbed to his feet. "Good luck," he said. His smile was uncertain, but genuine.

Remi nodded. "Thanks." He walked down the slope of the roof and leapt neatly to the ground. This was not what he had wanted his life to be. But he trusted his fatherís judgment, and, just like Scott, he was willing to accept a future not of his choosing because of that trust.

After a momentís hesitation, he turned his steps toward the mansion and the two men who were waiting for him.

Charlesí hands tightened convulsively on the handles of his chair as Remi let himself into the room. Despite all of the reasons, the solid, logical reasons, Charles hated himself for being there. For doing what he was doing.

Jean Luc turned as Remi came in, and the two stared at each other for a long moment. Then Jean Luc rose, and to Charlesí surprise, bowed. He felt Remiís surprise as well, and his gratification. It was an appropriately respectful greeting for the Imperial Prince, though one that was almost never used on Earth. With a single gesture, Jean Luc had acknowledged the true scope of the sacrifice Remi was making. Charles could see the impact in Remiís eyes, and felt a swell of gratitude toward the Cajun thief. Fate had chosen well when it had brought Jean Luc into their lives.

Remiís gaze moved to Charlesí face, the red eyes piercingly direct. Charles wished that he knew some way to tell Remi how proud he was of him, but he felt like all of the words had been torn out of his heart, leaving him speechless. Instead, he turned his wheelchair and pushed himself out from behind the safety of his desk and approached his son. Remi needed no further invitation, throwing himself into Charlesí lap with nearly the same desperation as the day theyíd met. Charles wrapped his arms around him, and pressed his lips against the damp red hair.

They had talked everything through that morning. Charles found himself going back through the conversation, hoping that he might discover some flaw in his logic that would offer them an escape. But he knew there was none. Remi could not stay with the X-Men. For his own protection, as well as for the rest of them. The structure of his mind was too badly weakened to withstand the pressures he would face. And for that reason also, he had to be hidden from the villains who would otherwise seek him out. There were too many who would try to manipulate Remi and use his powers for their own ends. He needed time to heal, so that he would be able to maintain control over his powers, and so that he would never become a threat to the X-Men or the world. The best way to do that was to bury him in the Thieves Guild, in Gambitís life, where no one would ever think to look for him. Not one of the many villains the X-Men had faced over the years had ever had even an inkling of who, or what, Gambit was, and Charles was confident that he would be safe.

In other circumstances, Charles might have been willing to trade the security of the timeline Remi had shown him for the chance of an even brighter future. Had Remi been able to stay with the X-Men, he would have welcomed the chance. But with the need to protect Remi, they had little choice but to try to recreate the events they knew would lead them through the dangerous maze created by mutants like Apocalypse and the Shadow King. Remiís part in that would be to re-live the events of Gambitís life. Exactly. And here was where the horrible necessity became apparent, because Gambit had done some very ugly things. It was... unconscionable to ask Remi to deliberately choose to repeat some of those actions. Gambit had been party to murder and worse. To do such things out of ignorance was bad enough, to do them deliberately would require a coldness that Remi did not, and hopefully never would, possess.

The only solution Charles could see that would protect Remi from himself and from those who would try to use him, and also protect the rest of the world from the Shadow King, was what they were doing now. Very gently, he touched Remiís mind, and felt the shields quiver and then slowly lower, granting him access. Before he could lose his nerve, Charles moved into Remiís mind, going directly to the place where the hard box containing Gambit was located. To Charles, it looked like a cube of some obsidian material. Patches covered it, gray against the black, where Charles had attempted to strengthen the walls and keep the memories from leaking out. Now, he was glad that he had not suggested destroying these memories rather than resealing the container that held them. But, like Remi, he had been loathe to erase the last remnant of the man who had done so much for them all.

Turning away from the chest-high cube, Charles started to work building a second box. He tried to make it sturdier than the other one, well aware that it would take at least as much abuse. He was not terribly surprised when the structure taking shape beneath his mental hands took on the same obsidian color. It was the color of regret.

Remiís presence surrounded Charles, watching as he finished the box and then took a moment to examine it. He was cautiously pleased with the result, and so started on a second, identical to the first. When he was done, Charles stood back and stared at the two boxes. The open tops gaped at him like hungry mouths, and he suppressed a shiver.

Remi? There were no more reasons left to delay.

Iím here, Aban. Iím... ready.

Charles felt as if his heart might burst at any moment. He could never have imagined how much Remi would come to mean to him in the course of this one week. A week that had changed his life forever.

I love you, Remi, he whispered.

Then, while he could still force himself to, he began to strip out everything in the mind around him. Layer by layer and piece by piece, he took away everything that was Remíaillon Neramani and placed it gently in the first box. Every experience, every hope, every dream and every fear, folded up neatly into that tiny space, until the box was completely filled. To Charles, the interior of the box seemed to shimmer with a million colors, in a design so complex no human mind could encompass it. As he set the last piece in its place and began to close the lid, he could feel Remi fighting his panicked terror. But his trust in Charles was stronger than his fear, and he offered no resistance as Charles set the lid in place and sealed it.

The silence was deafening. Charles looked around, his hands still resting possessively on the box. There was nothing there. The mind around him was completely and utterly empty. Trembling, he opened the patched box and allowed the memories inside to flow out and surround him. He was careful, though. He only needed the first fifteen years of Gambitís life. The rest, he forced into the second box. Every memory of his family, of Chandilar, and even of the X-Menís deaths, went in as well, leaving only the boy who had grown up on the streets of New Orleans.

Charles sealed the second box and turned to his final tasks. He was rapidly tiring on top of the agony in his heart, but this was crucial. There was a four year discrepancy between Gambitís life and the new timeline. The original Remy had been taken into the Guild at eleven, and this version was now fifteen. Jean Luc was aware of the problem, and would do what he could to smooth over anything that came up, but Charles had the responsibility of creating a new set of memories to cover those four years. He drew on Remyís previous experiences, extrapolating a set of events to cover that time, but there was no way for him to match the depth and intensity of real memory. Remy would simply have fuzzier memories of those four years than of the rest of his life. And as long as he never got too curious, it was unlikely he would discover what Charles had done.

After that, it was a simple matter to block access to the time portal, the black disk. With no memory association whatsoever, and Charlesí blockade in place, it would be almost impossible for Remy to accidentally discover the power.

The very last step was to build the telepathic psi defense that would mimic the behavior of Gambitís damaged power, and would also protect him from the probing of telepaths, so that none could discover the truth.

Finally satisfied that he had done everything, Charles reached for the solace of his own body. He was completely wrung out, aching with the knowledge of what was now done. Remy lay in his lap still, sleeping peacefully. Charles had planted a suggestion that would keep him that way for about eighteen hoursólong enough for Jean Luc to return him to New Orleans. Quietly, Charles stroked the thick hair and fought the tears that blurred his vision. He wanted nothing more than to stay like this forever, but he knew that it could not be. Savoring his last moments with his son, Charles slowly straightened and looked at Jean Luc.

"Itís done?" the other man asked. His face was solemn and sad.

Charles nodded as Jean Luc stood slowly and came toward him. The thief leaned down and gently took the boy from his arms. Their eyes met in unspoken understanding.

"Take care of him," Charles said softly.

Jean Luc looked down at the limp form nestled against his chest, and nodded. "Like he was mí own."

Without another word, Jean Luc turned and left. Charles stared at the door long after it had closed in numb silence. Later, he would spend a moment with each of the five X-Men, erasing their memories of the last week. Later, he would program Cerebro to overlook a certain mutant signature. Later, he would begin to think about the future again, to dream of a world where mutants and humans could live together without hatred.

But for now, Charles Xavier could only bury his face in his hands, and cry.


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