Warnings: This story contains some violence, harsh language, and sexual innuendo. Including references to rape and child abuse.

Disclaimer: The important stuff first, right? Don't want anyone getting their shorts in a twist. Well, no more than they already must be. Ahem, repeat after me:

The X-Men characters portrayed in this story are the sole property of Marvel Comics Group Inc, and are used without their express written consent for entertainment purposes only. (The others, Madam D'Sier, Father Benjamin, Andre, Starbright, anyone I missed, belong to me.)

Which, in other words, means: This was a cathartic release. I finally had to write this story down before I became more tetched in the head than I am now and started making my puppies wear X-Men costumes (spandex on dogs is so 80's) while waiting on Marvel to ever again get around to character development or ending any major story line in my lifetime. It also means I am making no money what-so-ever from this (a darn shame by the way), so suing me would only be a laugh riot not to mention a complete waste of time.

Continuity: This story diverges from continuity around Uncanny #341. The group never has to leave for the Shi'ar Empire and No Exit will never happen.

* * are thought parenthesis.


Growing Up

Faith

 

 

One of the oldest human needs is having someone to wonder where you are when you don't come home at night.' - Margret Mead

Chapter 1: Despair

He felt the rain trickle down his neck and under his shirt.

*Fool, sitting out in the icy rain. You'll probably catch a cold.* He pulled the collar of his long coat up higher and huddled beneath it but still made no attempt to leave his perch. *At least being sick might take my mind off being miserable. Humph. Only a warped puppy like me would consider being feverish and achy an improvement in life. Sad part is, it would be.*

He shifted slightly and watched lightening caress the sky. Powerful, erotic, dangerous,... lonely. *Be a beautiful display of Stormy's talents if she actually had her hand in dis.*

He sighed and let the wind rock him in its cold arms.

Fortunately for her, this was the natural weather only matching his mood not hers. Ororo Munroe was humming to herself in her attic as she read a book and listened to the thunder roll, blissfully unaware of the dark mood right above her. Not that she should be aware of it. None of them were, not even the telepaths. His mind was locked tight now and had been steadily sinking deeper inside his psionic shields since the moment he realized there was nothing and no one for it to reach out to. Nothing leaked out now. He may not have been an open book before, but what was once a shadow trying to gain substance was now a black hole, dark and ungiving. The space around him completely cold.

He shivered. He felt as empty as his portion of the astral plane.

*Grey Cow would say I be walking wit de dead.* He wondered where the old man was now. *What Cow didn't be realizin is dat I've been walking wit dem since de day I was born. Only I didn't know dat den.*

He laughed, a quiet angry laugh. A laugh at a cruel joke that had been played on him from the moment of his conception and had only truly dawned on him in these last few days.

*Just proving I'm as dumb and thick headed as I be worthless. If I had brains, I'd have slit my wrists years ago before it be gettin any worse.*

That was the despair talking. He wasn't and had never been suicidal. But not because he wasn't truly lonely and hurting, he was. He had been most of his life. It was just that unlike suicidal people, he didn't believe death would end the pain. More religious than he'd want to admit, he was certain that in death, he'd only move from this hell to the next. So only living offered some relief. One more chance at an adrenalin rush or some physical pleasure, maybe to make some small amends before he left. He had to love life. It was all he had.

He leaned back as the rain came down harder splashing on his face to mingle with the tears. He didn't even know why he was crying. You can't lose something you've never had.

Love. He thought she loved him. But then again, he thought his mother loved him too. *Wrong again, Remy. How many times you gonna keep trying this? Stubborn fool. When you gonna give up?*

He didn't blame her. It wasn't her fault. She didn't have any experience with these things. He'd been attracted to her instantly, her strength, her fire, her compassion, her warmth, even her sadness. He could feel it radiate out of her. And in some ways he felt like she was a kindred spirit, desperately needing someone to say she had worth. Ignoring the dangers of the situation, he'd done that in the only way he knew how, and stupidly fell hopelessly in love with her in the process. That was his mistake. Expecting her to be able to see anything worthy in him in return.

The kiss. Even if she still didn't know the details, she had realized the truth about him in the instant of that kiss. That what she thought and what he seemed were a lie. That there was nothing inside worthy of being loved. He'd bluffed it all with that kiss, and she'd called his empty hand. He didn't know which hurt more. Losing her or knowing he never really had a chance in the first place.

Sure, he'd denied it all his life. Even more so when he woke up alone after it happened. At first, his mind wouldn't let him dwell on the fact. All he could think of at the time was that she was hurt or in danger from his memories or powers. That he had to be there for her. When he heard she was supposedly alright, he tried desperately to ignore her absence, ignore that Betsy invaded his mind not trusting him, ignore that no monitors signaled his return to the living. Ignore that no loved ones were sick with worry or concern. That if he had died at that moment instead, how long would it have been before anyone even bothered to cover up his cold body?

He had to let that go. It wasn't that he didn't know Ororo would have felt his loss immensely. He vaguely remembered her speaking to him in his sleep. But like everyone else she had a life to get on with, other friends to attend to, other concerns more important. She was one of the best friends he'd ever had. Maybe the best. But still she was not family nor loved one. He had neither. He realized that now at last.


"Oh!"

"Jean, what is wrong? Are you alright?"

"I'm... I'm ok, Hank. It's just that I suddenly had this overwhelming feeling of sadness and loss. Must have been a left-over emotion out here. I can't pinpoint any source."

"Well, be careful. You've been at this awhile, and I wouldn't want you caught off guard out there on the astral plane because you are exhausted. I would be no help to you. Perhaps we should stop for a bit while you rest. Maybe start again tomorrow?"

"Thank you , Hank, but no. I feel fine. As a matter of fact, I haven't felt this good in quite a long time. As for you , quit worrying. You're doing great. I know you wanted me to ask Psylocke to back me up during these sessions, but she's been through so much lately, and this is so slow and meticulous, I thought you'd be better for the job. I really shouldn't be in any danger. I only needed some one to run yell for help if something did happen. Thanks for spending the lab time with me."

"No problem. It allows me quiet uninterrupted moments on the computer to work with the legacy virus while sitting with you. So, how has it been going?"

" I'm glad I decided to spend time these last few weeks using Cerebro to check the astral plane after Onslaught. Maybe deep down I always knew something was wrong."

"Then Onslaught was subtly influencing our minds?"

"Yes. And on a whole number of levels. As he grew stronger, the psionic manipulation did as well. It took me a long time to find just the evidence of all the mental influences he left out here to work on us. And even though they are weaker now that he's dissipated, they are still here and hidden well. I want to make sure I've found them all and destroyed them. They hid the dark Beast from us in our very house. Made us unorganized and blind to the obvious. Helped Sabertooth escape by hiding his mind as well. And I have the feeling there is something else. Something personal, and it's hidden even better than the rest."

"Interesting. What could he have wanted affecting us even after he reveled himself?"

"I'm... not sure. But I something tells me I've finally found the little devil."

"Jean?!"

"Relax Hank. It's harmless to me out here."

Jean was thrilled to have finally tracked this elusive one down and picked up the pulse of psionic energy from it's hiding place among colorful waves of energy that normally made up the astral plane. It seemed so harmless, tiny and hidden, but it pulsed out wave after consistent wave of subconscious thought directed at her and the other X-Men.

Not strong but steady.

Thankfully once it was released from containment, it's power and affect on them would dissipate in a few weeks. Jean studied it knowing that whatever this was telling them, they had each been accepting it as much as they allowed themselves. Based on their feeling and perceptions, some would believe it more than others and react accordingly. She wondered what Onslaught had wanted them to do. She cracked the psionic bubble open and let it release it's energy while absorbing the thoughts behind it into her mind.

Jean jerked the Cerebro helmet off nearly stumbling out of the chair.

"Jean!"

Hank jumped up and grabbed her helping her to her feet. She looked up at him with tears streaming down her face.

"Oh god, Hank." she sobbed. "What have we done?"


So it had finally dawned on him that no one had ever cared about him enough to place him above the other important things in their lives. Not his real father, whom he had never met, but could guess enough about to be sure that all he wanted was some uncomplicated sex, not a child. He'd given his mother money to get rid of him after all. Probably married.

*Stupid. Should have used a condom old man.*

Not his prostitute mother. She probably would have gotten rid of him if she hadn't been so devoutly catholic, and if the craving for the heroin hadn't called first. She had tried, he supposed. Best she could. He loved her for the trying at least, but eventually she left him too.

All alone on the streets to fend for himself. ... Not Jean-Luc or Henri, who placed the Guild above him in priority. Not Madam D'Sier and Tante Mattie who tried, each in their own way, to give him some kind of mother. One whorehouse madam and the other voodoo sorceress, always imparting wisdom yet strangely aloof. He wondered how the X-Men would feel to find out one of his godmothers was, as she put it, 'a lady of easy virtue'?

He smiled briefly.

Wolverine most likely would say it figured. Funny, as a child it hadn't seemed so unusual to him. His smile faded... Not Belladonna. Though he'd tried to deny that too. He'd left knowing it but still pretended. True, in a fight, she'd have died for him in a moment of excitement. That was what she loved, not him. She swore she would have left with him when he was exiled, but he knew that was the thrill of the adventure talking. Soon she'd have hated him for taking her away from what she really loved. Her family, her home, her guild. She loved that more than him. Always had. It made her better than him. She only loved the wildness of being with him as long as she could return to the safety of her home afterward. It was more friendship, only Belladonna wanted the excitement of forbidden sex too.

Friendship.

Even Storm would not leave the X-men, her real family, for him after he been nearly brother to her. Nor was Alexandra willing to take a chance on him, and he knew Genevieve was enamored of him, not in love. She'd have realized that in time. Just friendships or attractions mistaken for love.

That's all he and Rogue had. And once she had realized he wasn't worthy of anything more, she had prioritized her time accordingly. Before, he'd never begrudged her friendship with Bobby even though he knew what Bobby was saying about him. Rogue deserved to be her own person too. He had no right to tell her who to have as friends. She didn't tell him to stay away from Storm. But now all of Rogue's time was away from him. Spent on the more important things. Time for herself after the kiss, time for the team, ...and time for Joseph.

He winced at the jealousy that rose in him. Not over Rogue, although that was there. No, it was more than that. What made it unbearable was the fact that the whole universe seemed to be rubbing his face in it. From the moment he'd walked through the X-Mansion doors, no matter how hard he tried to prove himself, no one trusted him, not even Rogue. No one but Storm. Yet the second Magneto, .. Joseph.., he reminded himself, had returned, having done nothing more than be so egomaniacal as to kill thousands without a hint of remorse so that Xavier wiped his mind to stop him, they had welcomed him with open arms. Yet again giving him another chance to start over.

It wasn't even that he begrudged Mag...Joseph, the chance. Joseph was sorry for what Magneto had done. It wasn't even really Joseph's fault. He was nice guy who just happened to be in a Sybil relationship with a megalomaniac. Remy snickered but sobered too quickly. His humor his less effective this night. Sadly, what hurt was that he seemed unworthy of the same consideration. When Magneto had joined that first time, did they beg to know every secret of his past? Of what Wolverine could remember? Or of Rogue every act she loathed? He'd made no secret that he was no saint. He'd been more honest with them than he'd probably been with anyone in his whole life.

Though she didn't know it, he'd told Rogue things he'd never told anyone before. He'd always thought as time went along he'd feel comfortable telling her more, but then she went behind his back to Sabertooth. The sad part was he was planning to tell her that story. He just had to get up the nerve. Only she didn't trust him. And when she found out, she verified all his fears that she'd never understand. Even her forgiveness later was ... cold and aloof. And they never talked after Cody died. She'd been so strong and determined then. Again, he thought they could get through it together, but afterward, they hardly spoke. It was almost like she blamed him. He didn't get the chance to find out either as they rushed off after Legion.

Then she found out more with the kiss and left him completely. He'd never felt so lonely as he had lying in that bed. He still hoped he had a chance though. Chased her to Seattle only to see the hurt, fear, and anger on her face. He knew it was over before he spoke to her, but he had to try. He wanted her to trust him, accept him, them, as they were. Just one little touch, that's all it would have taken, and he'd have told her anything. She obviously didn't think the risk was worth what she might gain. But not so with Joseph.

There was always the possibility Joseph could revert back, but she was willing to risk that to be there for him. So were the X-Men. As if because of his great power and potential, his great mind, because he was a great threat, he was more worthy of their rapt attention, concern, and respect. That more lowly mutants, that less than god-like powers or less than homicidal threats were segregated to second class concerns to be gotten to later. And unredeemable souls such as his barely rated a second glance. That's what burned into his gut. It stared him in the face and told him in the most condescending of tones that Magneto was the better man. That no matter how hard he tried, how good he was, nor how little Magneto had done to actually change his own life, Joseph would always be the better man.

For the first time, Remy wondered if he was all wrong about everything. He believed that the dream was about being a part of something better, a team of people working toward a goal. That's really why he'd stayed, to help, to atone. He remembered a quote from Mark Yost that he'd once heard, 'History, although sometimes made up of the few acts of the great, is more often shaped by the many acts of the small.'

Xavier believed in humans and mutants working together, right? That teamwork could defeat a more powerful foe. Not to mention, Remy'd always found effort and skill to be more impressive than raw power and luck anyway. He guessed that's why he'd always had a soft spot for underdogs. It didn't seem to him that the dream was about the Magneto's or the Sabertooth's who could easily make their own decisions. It was about all those other mutants. The ones that wanted normal lives to live. Normal lives and to just be treated fairly. Sometimes it seemed they spent 90% of their time on the 10% of mutants causing problems. Not that they didn't need to stop, even help, those mutants, but shouldn't they be helping the others fit in just as much? No wonder people weren't sure of the X-Men. And now he wasn't sure of his place here either.

The funny thing was that this didn't all hit home with him until the other evening when he was listening to Bishop. Bishop had been telling him all along he was a lost cause, but it wasn't Bishop's future that convinced Remy. Bishop had finally decided to have Jean help him with his memories about the other reality that had replaced theirs in that brief instance that the crystal wave hit. That was the world that finally put it all into perspective.

Gambit couldn't help but feel the emotions Bishop gave off as he related what he knew and had heard about in that other world. A mild empath could have felt them across the room, but Remy's sensitive empathic abilities had to work overtime to keep even his powerful shields toning them down. Bishop told them about what he knew of the X-Men that replaced them. Of Magneto and his version of the dream. Of the world that they existed in. Of Apocalypse's takeover. Of the almost assassin-like mentality of the team. Of the seeming sacrifice and betrayal of members if necessary to further the cause. Then, of each specific member.

Of him. And of Rogue and Magneto. That's when he knew he didn't stand a chance. Rogue listened with rapt attention to Bishop talk about her and Magneto, their having a son. She glanced at Joseph more than once, and Remy was sure she had tears in her eyes. Joseph listened intently as well. Remy, on the other hand, couldn't listen to it all. All he could remember thinking was that he seemed a better person there than he was here, and it hadn't mattered. That he'd been the one to court Rogue, learn to care about and be with her, sacrifice for her, but Magneto was the only thing that she cared for. He was like a god to her. Just like in this world, the man had hardly seemed to notice her except to forward his ideals until she gushed all over him, and in that world, she was there completely for him, ignoring everyone else.

He'd told her what to believe in and how to be. Then easily used his powers allowing them to touch. And she knew she wanted to be with him instantly. Remy wished love was that simple for him. That he'd been in the right place at the right time to be Rogue's protector and father figure as a child.

*Ya'd need ta be a little older, Remy. .... Still wouldn't work. Probably be worse. Ya know how ya feel bout Stormy. She be like a daughter/sister to ya. Ya just not de good Woody Allen type.*

Or that he could just use his mutant power, and it'd all be alright. The part that hurt the most was that he hadn't even meant enough to her for her to pause a second, have regrets, before possibly leaving him to die while saving Magneto. He didn't blame her for loving Magneto, he could give her everything she wanted, but it hurt to know she didn't really have any feelings for him at all. Not even as a human life. He wondered how his other self took that kind of rejection. It was more than a denial of love. It was a denial of friendship. That he had any value or worth in her life. And he realized that was what it all boiled down to.

When Rogue left the room suddenly, she didn't even look at him, glancing only at Joseph as she ran. Her confusion was so strong, he could feel it through his shields like with Bishop. Being a bit melodramatic, romantics tend to be that way, he imagined she was dragging his heart after her, bloody and lifeless. He hadn't known what to do in that instant and retreated up here to the roof and hadn't left. Not that it mattered, no one had missed him.

It hurt more than anything he could remember. More than Seattle. He thought nothing could have been worse than that kind of pain. It was days like this, when the pain and guilt became too much, that he wished, not for the first time, that Sinister had left him in that theater to lose his mind in peace.

 


 

'A sense of shame is not a bad moral compass' - Colin Powell

 

Chapter 2: Regret

Faith

July 1997

 

The rain fell slowly in the cold mist. Of course, this was Seattle. It was suppose to rain. And it hadn't disappointed him. He'd been here for several days casing the place, and it hadn't stopped. He'd be glad to finish this job tonight and move on. Besides, the artifacts belonged back in the church in San Miguel, and he intended to see them on their way as soon as possible.

After leaving the Guild, getting out of the country seemed for the best. He'd hopped over to Asia and Australia and started plying his profession in ernest. Those were the lean times. He was good, but he needed more experience to fully hone his skills. So he practiced constantly having a number of close calls at first, a few too many splattered with blood. Thankfully not all of it his. Remy didn't like death, but it seemed to find him. Especially as he found he preferred stealing from other crooks. Somehow it fit his romantic sensibilities, not to mention, it was usually more money and way more challenging.

Time passed and he put his old life behind him. He had a string of lovers. Lovely charming ladies, most of whom he still remembered fondly. And it was during this time that he first ran into Yukio. They hit it off like fire and ice - too much alike. And he knew she'd kill him if she got the chance. Once he'd worn out his welcome in Asia, needing to let things cool awhile, he headed for London. He was glad for meeting Alexandra even if she had rejected him. It reassured him that there were good people out there somewhere. He spent too much time in the seedy under-belly of life. Then he moved on to Europe and eventually Candra, only he didn't know that's who she was then. She became infatuated with him after he broke into the Louvre and moved all the artwork around just to prove he could. He was infatuated with her wealth and power.

Ah, youth. It was fun for awhile. He had this thing for strong independent women. But soon he realized how cruel, possessive, and demanding she was. Seemed a vaguely familiar theme in his love life. However, he didn't get his kicks by controlling people, watching them suffer, and refused to do as she commanded. Besides, nobody owned him. She wasn't happy when he disobeyed her and then actually left. No one had ever done that before, much less refused her anything. Given the chance, she'd love to kill him too, only more slowly.

Africa beckoned, and later South America. But in time, barely over two years after leaving, and nce more shadowed by too much death for one so young, he longed for home.

Arriving in Key West, he was now in the beginning of his twentieth year, and well on his way to eing one of the top thieves in the world. Not to mention, rich. He always saved a small cut of the take for himself, living well if not as extravagantly as people would think, then giving the rest away. A portion of his cut he invested. Stocks were like cards, knowing when to hold, raise or fold. It didn't take long. Soon he had all he could ever need, enough to take care of and protect his own, continually reinvested and squirreled away all over the world for his 'retirement'. Having nothing most of your life made you appreciate what you had gained, ...and what others didn't have. The only time he'd ever really took a whole pinch for himself was right before his wedding. He'd recklessly 'acquired' a heroin dealer's merchandise and the buyer's cash using an elaborate diversion. He'd planned it for months. They never knew what happen and blamed each other. And as far as he was concerned, they could take it out on each other. He hated dealers. They preyed on innocents. Besides, they owed him. For Maman. Taking the money and dumping the heroin in the Big Muddy, he bought the house in the Garden District. Being that Belle's family would have let the couple live in the Assassin's huge mansion, his father thought that a strange thing for a seventeen year old to buy, especially his seventeen year old. Remy didn't understand. Still didn't. He only wanted a home.

Master thief, rebel, lady killer, robin hood, ... Gambit. He'd picked the thief name not long after leaving New Orleans. For a brief moment, he felt comfortable with himself, never happy, but comfortable. He was 'home' and doing what he did best. If he was a bit lonely, well, he had always been that, hadn't he? He moved up the coast and across the country. Even stopping in New Orleans under the Assassin's noses to set up a small base there. That and to pick up his annulment papers finally. He'd asked Tante Mattie to secretly work it out with Father Benjamin efore he left. Father Benny was born into one of the thief clans, but renounced the Guild to join he Church, though he came back. Ministering to the lost, he stated, was more important than preaching to the choir. Remy admired the old Father very much and knew that the priest understood his situation. Remy realized if Belle, her family, or his father found out, his life could be forfeit for the slight. It was blatant disregard for the Guild's authority, even for an exile. It was a lot to risk for a few pieces of paper, but somehow having them made him feel better. One less sin to atone for, he supposed. He still couldn't look Father Benjamin in the eye.

He was continually on the move, living life recklessly. The heists were thrilling, the times fun, the women willing. Still, except during the exhilaration of the pinch, or a night of passion, something was missing. Death still followed him even if he willed it not to.

He sort of went in search of himself, and found Millstone, a small town in the middle of nowhere, Arizona, Claire De Luc, and an annoying shaman named Grey Crow who kept saying he had a destiny. The only destiny Remy figured he had was an early grave. But it was nice to put that behind him for a moment. He stayed there as a chef, making Claire swear that his destiny must be to kill them all with his cooking. He couldn't help if she couldn't eat anything spicier than a plain boiled egg. But excitement always seemed to catch up with him soon enough, no matter where he was. It made him restless again. Saying goodbye, losing more friends, he moved on.

It wasn't too many pinches later, around his twenty-first birthday, that he learned about the theft from the Church and decided turn about was fair play.

It went off without a hitch. He'd driven to a postal drop in a seamer side of town and sent his anonymous package on it's way when he heard the woman screaming. Thinking he shouldn't get involved, he left his bike and swiftly eased through the dark alleyways coming upon a scene of a large burly man and a tall skinny woman yelling and struggling. Both had seen better days, especially her.

"Bitch! Ya can't leave me! Y' belong ta me!" The man slapped her hard, and she nearly fell. Would have if the man hadn't held her up. Remy's jaw clenched tight. "Wha'ssss his name, whore?! Who ya leavin me for?! Ya think, ... ya think I'm gonna let you cuckold me?!. Y' mistaken woman.!"

"Nobody... there's nobody! Please, please Jimmy, don't hurt me! I won't run away again! I jus don' want ya hitting me no more! Please, Jimmy."

"If'n ya've spread ya self for someone else, I'll fix ya good. No woman o' mine gonna act like a slut!"

Remy could smell the liquor. The memories were almost too vivid to distinguish from the scene in front of him. Maman and her pimp, Andre, usually fighting over her burdensome little accident.

* Stupid bitch. She shouldn't have let some old guy knock her up in her youth. She'd best be more careful now. He wasn't gonna take care of another of her droppings. Especially not another one like dis one.*

Remy wanted to retch.

"Hey, mon ami." Remy stepped out of the shadows near an old theater. "Dat's no way ta treat a lady."

"Whaaa..?" The man spun awkwardly on him. "This him?!" the man yelled drunkenly. "This here pretty boy's ya new lover ain't he, whore?!"

"No Jimmy, no! I don't know him!...Please mister, please help me!! He's gonna kill me!!" She struggled in the man's grasp.

"Why don' ya be savin ya self a world o'hurt, mon ami an leave de way ya came." Lowering his shades to expose his glowing red eyes, Remy flicked his other wrist to produce a sizzling energy charged card.

"Son of a bitch." The man, Jimmy, gasped. "Yo'are,... yo'are a mutie...." Then anger returned to his face. "A goddamn mutie. You lowered ya self ta fuck a dirty mutie, bitch?!"

Throwing the lady down, Jimmy suddenly let out a growl and charged at Remy. His mistake. Remy never even used the card. He'd hoped to scare him off with it, but the man was too drunk to have any sense. Two well placed blows put the guy down less than gently. Unfortunately he started yelling. And this was his town, and his drunken bigoted friends.

"Jimmy?!, Jimmy?!"

Remy agilely turned to watch the two guys come running out of the late night bar where the two buddies had been waiting after helping Jimmy track down his bitch, who'd been hiding out as a barmaid. He didn't need them to finish 'talking' to her. She was screaming now, and Jimmy was yelling about a mutie bastard fucking his property. Still, they weren't any problem to handle, and once they'd tasted the asphalt, Remy turned to grab the lady and make a simple retreat.

Nothing. ... Nothing in his life was ever simple. She'd stopped screaming. She was too scared for that now. Jimmy held a knife to her throat.

"Ssstand right there, mutie or I cut the bitch."

She was crying, and the scene was like Deja vu to Remy. Desperate, he gingerly let down some of his empathic shields. It hurt feeling all the overpowering disgusting emotions flooding him as he made contact, but he grinned his most winning smile.

"Come on mon ami. How's about lettin her go, neh?" Remy could taste Jimmy's anger and her fear. He hated being an empath.

Remy'd known he was different from as far back as he could remember. Most mutant's unique characteristics and powers didn't manifest themselves until a child hit puberty, but like Hank McCoy and Kurt Wagner, it'd been obvious from the first that he was a mutant. The rest of the X-men assumed Gambit's eyes had changed in adolescence, but the fact was, he had been born with them this way. Only they didn't glow as bright back then. His maman told him it was the mark of sin on him. Her sin. Her sin for listening to the demons in her head, and for letting her Uncle do those things to her. For turning to the heroin to make it all go away, and for leaving New Orleans and coming back with child. He was her penance.

Remy was young and knew nothing of mutants, but he loved his mother. So for a long time, he thought he was dirty, marked. Born carrying sin already in him. Now he realized that she was an empath, just like he was, albeit a low grade one. Other's emotions were the demons she felt were talking to her. And when they were near each other, her emotions talked to him. From his earliest memories, and they were so few, he could feel her with him. He knew now that it was his novice empathic abilities reaching out to hers. She was so sad. He'd hug her wanting so much to comfort her. Every now and then, maybe she felt him too, because she'd smile and say he was sensitive. Remy didn't want to be sensitive. Because of his uniqueness, they lived just outside of New Orleans in a little shanty on the bayou. She wouldn't take him or let him out like other kids. People would know her shame. Instead, she'd given him his first worn deck of cards to play with. They were his only friends. The times he did get to go out was at night after she left to work. A few years after his birth, she started needing more money for the drugs as her habit continually increased. The welfare wasn't enough anymore. That's why she began working for Andre, who got her into town at night and supplied her. Back then, the dark loneliness beckoned to him as it still did even today. His night vision excellent, he'd play in the darkness watching the gators' eyes glow in the bayou while catching their prey.

He imagined himself then. Lurking, sneaky, silent, swift, dangerous, then quietly slipping back into the darkness. He began to know them and the dark bayou well. They were unforgiving, uncaring for anyone save themselves. Not the least bit sensitive at all.


He concentrated on the man in front of him, allowing Jimmy's emotions to wash over him and judging Jimmy's response to what he was saying. Remy didn't have any true 'charm' power as it were. The charm was a talent. He'd learned with his empathic abilities how to talk to people. Know what to say to them. Body language, everything. He could feel when he was saying the right thing and became good, no, very good at 'charming' people, or causing them to be reckless against him. That's why he talked so much. It was an excellent defensive tactic, and it didn't require him to have too much contact with someone's feelings. By now, he'd become so good at knowing what was likely to work, he only had to let down his shields in the most extreme of situations.

He certainly understood why Rogue hated her absorbing power. Using his empathic ability on someone meant sharing a part of their life. Almost stealing it. He couldn't charm anyone into doing what they wouldn't willingly do, but he could try to lead them the way he wanted them to go. And it certainly didn't hurt with the ladies. He knew what to say, what to do, to make most feel happy for a moment, and he liked making women happy. It was one of his passions. It warmed him to have that feeling radiate back to him if only for a moment.

He charged a card behind his back as he slowly advanced on Jimmy. The charging ability was actually an off-shoot of his empathic abilities. One that he had honed in his adolescence as his mutant talents started truly developing. He'd had his agility and night vision since birth as well, but the empathic talents didn't really start becoming powerful until he was almost eleven when other people's emotions started flooding in on him at unpredictable moments instead of being background noise. It was like what he felt with his mother, and he became terrified of being so intimate with someone like that again.

To open yourself up only to be hurt. Abandoned. It was worst than just being alone.

He practiced blocking the contact out. Hiding out in Madam's basement for a whole month imagining he was building walls inside his mind. In closing off his mind to the emotional energy coming from people, he realized he could see it as well as feel it. His eyes had the ability to see a person's emotional self as a glow around them. Once he learned how to focus his mind to see this glow, he noticed that inanimate objects had a glow too. An inherent energy in their atomic bonds that he could see. The larger the object the more bonds. It took some practice, more accidents than he'd like to count, but he learned how to feel this energy too. He didn't mind using his power this way as objects didn't have feelings to affect him. All he felt was a low charge like mild electricity. He learned to tap into it, and release it. He could release as much as he wanted. All of it or just a little. All at once or slowly. Stop and reverse the process. He could even do it without touching the object, but that was harder. Then he had to concentrate specifically on that object and watch it to know when to let go.

It was easier to touch the object. Feel the energy as he focused his power through his hands. He didn't have to watch it, he could feel what he was doing, so he reserved charging objects without touching them as an ace up his sleeve. And he wasn't stupid, although he sometimes liked people to think he was so they'd underestimate him. His mathematical skills and understanding of physics were both exceptional. He knew his empathic power had to work in a similar way as the psionic way he affected inanimate objects. That physical contact would improve his ability to feel the emotions. That he must be able to tap into them... release them if he wanted. But he seeing what he could do with plain rocks, he didn't even want to image what he could do to a person's emotions. Or what those emotions would do to him in return.

His concentration completely on Jimmy and saving the woman, he ignored the warming signals he should have picked up on from both her and his own senses. His thoughts were brutally interrupted by a loud crack and a shooting pain in his head. He heard screaming as he crumpled into a heap.

*Stupid, stupid, stupid.*

He'd turned his back on the others for too long. Through blurry vision, he saw them all standing over him. One of the other men holding a pipe.

"Mutie scum. He musta been messing with my head." Jimmy kicked him in the

ribs.

Remy curled up, hearing sirens wailing in the distance. They could too. And even if it was doubtful the police were coming their way, the group decided it was time to move on.

"Come on bitch. You wanna act like a whore. Fine."

"No please no."

"Grab the mutie. We gonna teach him a lesson about acting above his station in life."

That was the last truly coherent thing that he could remember from that night. They dragged him into the old theater, and two of them began beating on him, with the pipe, their fists, kicking him, and then swapping out with the third who was holding the sobbing woman. His mind flashed back to Andre beating him over and over. His mother usually too stoned to care or sobbing too. At first, when Andre showed up to get his cut, have his fun, and give his mother her addiction to keep her tied to him, Remy tried to protect her from Andre's brutality. But Andre would only slap him hard and laugh, telling him what a useless pup he was. Later, feeling scared and weak, he tried to hide.

Usually half drunk before his visit was over, Andre would get mad about not getting as much time and money out of his mother as many of his other 'mares' since she had to take care of her ill- mannered devil brat. It was obvious Remy's eyes got on his nerves. Rosemary's baby he called Remy. Hellspawn. Needs to be beaten to be kept in line. Teach him not to be insolent. Remy learned to crawl inside himself to fight against the pain of the relentless beatings. Now, Remy barely remembered hearing bone after bone break. Blood came out of his mouth, nose, and ears. They called him every name they could think of. Not being rocket scientists, that meant he heard most of them over and over. Remy lost track of time.

Finally, weakened and in unbearable pain, his mental defenses collapsed. Then all their anger and hatred flooded in on his mind as well. He loathed himself. Eventually, too late for him to care anymore, his body gave way to oblivion.

"Think he's dead?" If'n he ain't. He will be in awhile. Nobody will ever find him in here. Serves him right. No mutie's better'n me. .... Now bitch, you're turn. You wanna act like a whore. Ya gonna get your chance." Jimmy gave a drunken wolfish grin to his friends. "She let a mutie touch her. Seems she aught ta be begging for it from real men."

Remy didn't know how long he'd been out. Consciousness came slowly as something powerful invaded his mind. Memories, purposefully forgotten, returned like an icy lover to wrap him in their embrace.


"Now stay here Remy. I'll be back my p'tite one. I've got to be getting somethin. Then we'll go. If Andre finds I be pregnant again, mon coeur, he'll kill me."

"No maman please. Don't go. I don' wanna be alone here. It's scary." The five year old Remy eyed the city streets from the dark alley he was in. He'd never been in New Orleans before. "You got to, my chere. I have to have my stuff." Her drugs she meant. They were more important than him. "Now be strong. I know you can. You always are. Wait. I'll come back for you."

But he didn't wait. He continually wondered if it would have been better somehow if he'd done as she had asked. He'd peered into the window of the old building she had snuck into and watched her move. She'd been slick once. Graceful if untrained, but the drugs had taken their toll. She must have set off a silent alarm

"Well, well. Once a t'ief, always a t'ief. Wondered where ya been Evangline. Ya didn't show up on ya corner. I had a special trick for ya."

"Andre! You don' unnerstand. I was..."

"You was stealing my money and my stash. ... Bitch!" Two big burly men with Andre pounced on his mother.

"Maman!" Remy pulled at the old rusted window, but it wouldn't budge.

"Andre please... I won't be doin it again. I needed it. Just this once...."

"Don' worry. You fixin ta pay me back." Two new men walked in. "Here you are gentlemen, your date for de evening. Only t'ings have changed. The price is doubled and instead being allowed ta teach her a lesson, you can do whatever you want. There's a quite a nice room in de back, an' since I can' be trustin dis one anymore, make her an example."

The men smiled greedily.

"No" his mother squeaked with wide eyes. "Noooo!" she screamed in fear as they dragged her away.

Remy ran around the building. Trying to get in not knowing what else to do. Sick with fear, he checked window after window. Unbearable terror and pain brought him to his knees. He screamed. It matched hers. He could almost feel the sweaty bodies of Jimmy and the others. What they were doing to her. All of her pain, fear, and revulsion flooded him. His own body wouldn't move, and he threw up from his own disgust.

"Nooo!" a small child-like voice inside his mind cried. "No, maman, no. Please don' hurt her. Maman!"

Helpless, he felt worthless as he sensed her terrified emotions. Knew what they did to her. Knew the torture lasted for hours before he felt her fear as she gasped for air. The end coming slowly , painfully, as her lungs filled with blood. Then it was over, and he lay in the alley sobbing quietly while they hauled her body away. He hated himself. He'd let her down. She'd left him, and she was never coming back.

But that was a lifetime ago. He was young, small, scared. His powers too immature. His mother had called him sensitive then. He never wanted to be sensitive. The anger built inside him, flooding his empathic powers outward with his rage. He'd never struck out with it before. Always kept it tightly hidden behind strong barriers so it couldn't hurt him anymore. But those barriers were gone. It boiled out like a tidal wave engulfing them in a thunderclap of emotion. His, hers, theirs, and half of Seattle's.


"Holy shit!"

"What is it Riptide?"

"Ya whole board jus lit up like a Christmas tree, Sinister. Someone out there just released a whole buttload of mutant energy."

"Is the psionic shield working? Has it isolated and masked the energy release?!"

"Snapped into place instantly." Creed noted.

"Excellent. Professor X should never detect this super-powerful mutant. This one shall belong to me. Heart and soul. Give me the readout." Ripetide handed him the freshly printed paper. "Empathic/Psionic energy levels of the first order. The highest I've ever seen on the empathic side. Incredible. Time for a bit of recruitment I think."


As the woman passed out from her own pain and the sudden calming feeling that engulfed her, the first of her attackers was filled with incredible rage. He attacked the second one with the knife. But long before the other's knife touched him, the second one was already collapsing having died instantly from unimaginable fright. His heart stopping in mid-beat.

While watching his friend fall, anger suddenly turned to self-loathing, and the first one slit his own throat. Jimmy, the last one, got all the guilt. Years upon years of countless thousands of people's regrets and shame. It ate him up inside, and his mind collapsed under the strain. When the police found him and the unconscious beaten woman beside him, there was nothing left but a wailing mindless mass.

Remy felt each's sudden moment of surprise, then their pain, and mental if not physical death. The shock and horror of what he'd done momentarily stunned him. He hadn't meant... he couldn't do....hadn't wanted them... dead. ... Liar. For one second, he had, and his mind had lashed out with his wish. Releasing power even he never suspected he had. He felt the wave, enormous now, wipe past them. Driving outward with frightening speed toward the walls of the theater raging to engulf the rest of Seattle in its wake.

No!

His mind screamed.

What had he done?! He had to stop it. All those innocent people. He concentrated with all his might. His mind felt as if it was tearing apart. He pulled desperately at the empathic horror he'd released. His battered body straining with mental effort. He thought he would died from it, from being so weak. But it'd be better than living with the knowledge of what he'd unleashed. Slowly, almost reluctantly, the empathic wave rolled turning back on itself, slamming suddenly back into him with seemingly more force than it had left.

He had no time to prepare himself. Was probably too weak to do it if he had. Now all of Seattle, all of their hopes and dreams, fears and hatreds, laughter and tears screamed in his mind. Noooo!!! Leave me alone!!! His mind cried out trying to seal its self off once more from all the emotions he'd gathered in his anger. But even at his strongest, it would have taken all his power. For him now, there was no defense, no hope. The tidal wave of emotions crush into him, battering him, torturing him from the inside out. The agony unbearable. His mind on the verge of being swept away.

 


'There are chapters in every life which are seldom read and certainly not out loud.' - Carol Shields, The Stone Diaries

 

Chapter 3: Guilt

Faith

July 1997

 

"Wake up my friend. You are going to be fine."

Remy tried to move but pain lanced through his entire body. He tried to speak, but his jaw wouldn't move. Finally he was able to squint his eyes open. They must be pretty swollen he thought. Through a glass-like shield, a pale man with black hair and a red diamond in his forehead smiled pointed teeth at him.

"Who are you?" he wanted to ask, but it wouldn't come from his wired- shut jaw. However the question suddenly echoed in the room. Remy's bruised eyes managed to widen.

"It's the psionic shield." the man stated. "While it protects you from all emotional energies outside of it until you can return your shields to their normal levels, it also allows your psionic power to express your speaking thoughts."

Remy digested that information. No wonder he was thinking clearly again.

"De woman?"

"Alive, I believe. I put an anonymous call in to the authorities, and they took her away. She was alive then. .... So, how are you feeling?"

"Been better."

The man laughed.

"I would hope so. You are lucky that I came to your aid, M'Sieu LeBeau. I doubt even your stubborn will could have held out much longer against the vast number of emotions assaulting it."

"Merci beaucoup. However, seems I be at de disadvantage. Ya know my name, but I don' be knowin yours."

"The name is Sinister. Mr. Sinister. And I know a great deal more about you than just your name. It seems an old acquaintance of yours is an associate of mine." Something in Remy's gut told him not to trust this man, and who he saw next convinced him.

"Creed."

"Now that didn't sound very nice, LeBeau. An' after I just helped save your sorry cajun hide."

*Wonderful. Don' get all mushy, Remy. You know he only did it on orders. Ain't like you got to like him now. Ain't like you really owe him.*

At least that didn't echo in the room around him so he did have some privacy, he guessed. They could be reading his unblocked mind, of course. Didn't really seem to make much difference one way or the other. It was hard to have much privacy or choice about things while he was wearing an near complete body cast as tubes ran in and out of his body. What was important was he was alive. They'd saved his life. He would never have made it out of that theater intact without help. He owed Sinister, and Remy LeBeau paid his debts. Of course, the cynic in him knew better than to believe that his good fortune was only a random act of kindness. He knew there was a reason they saved him, a specific price for his life. That didn't matter either. Being alive and sane was what mattered. That was the last time he'd ever put anyone else's welfare above his own. Look what it had got him. Look what it always got him. From now on, he only cared for himself.

He was a thief, not a good Samaritan. And most of his 'friends' had always been the less than savory types, anyway. This was the world he understood. It was the life he knew. He could always charm his way through. All the while, a tiny voice in the back of his head kept telling him the price he would be made to pay would cost him things much more precious than his life.

"Rest, my friend." Sinister smiled at him, and Remy got a creepy feeling. "It will take awhile for you to recover from the wounds those genetic inferiors inflicted on you. You are lucky we discovered you in time. Complete rest and some of my healing devices should make you like new. Hardly a scar. Once recovered we can discuss your future. After all, superior beings such as ourselves should stick together."

Little alarms went off in Remy's head, but he pushed them down into the quiet darkness.

Sinister treated him like his very best friend, a beloved son, all through the recovery. Remy'd spent his whole life lying, being lied to, and wasn't fooled. The man wanted something. But it was the first time someone had cared about him for any reason in a long time. At least he wasn't alone. Sinister told him that their kind had to stick together above the rest, look out for themselves. That they were the genetic kings destined to save the world. His work was advancing that along, and he needed a man like Remy. A master thief to acquire him information he had been unable to gain on his own. Things supposedly impossible to obtain. A point man with skills and powers his organization needed. An information specialist and his right hand. Remy would be highly rewarded. Despite his reservations concerning Sinister's philosophy, Remy was intrigued. A chance to do what he did best and repay his debt, no questions asked. Someplace to fit in. Challenges and risks to overcome. Sounded perfectly fine for a while.

He was a thief, not a philosopher. What difference did it make to him what Sinister wanted with the information as long as he got his a cut? After all, he was watching out for himself first from now on.

Once well, he agreed to joining the Marauders as it's point man, promising to help Sinister out, pay him back. He stole numerous papers, information and documents for the man. Sinister was very pleased with the results, praising his skills and paying him well for the services. Over time, Remy met or worked with many of the other Marauders including Sabertooth. The man was still about a likable as a splinter, but Remy put up with it. It helped to know Creed continually complained to Sinister about having to work with him. He didn't trust Remy. There was a laugh. Essex finally told Creed to shut up or maybe he'd find a better use for him. Maybe working in the labs. Remy thought that pretty hysterical, but having never seen the labs, maybe Sabertooth could sweep the floors. Most of the rest of the Marauders impressed him less than Sabertooth. They were muscle, enforcers. Little brains and no style. They hardly spoke to him.

Except Arclight, who had a few interpersonal skills she was more than happy to show him. Truthfully, they didn't really speak that much either. But laissez les bon temps rouler, they didn't really need to. It was just fun. She wasn't looking for ties just explosive heat, and from what she'd seen and heard, she bet he could help her with her quest. Never let it be said he'd let down a damsel in distress.

Of course, this only made him more persona non grata with the rest of the Marauders. How was he to know Arclight and Riptide had a thing once. Wasn't his fault she decided Riptide wasn't fulling his part of the arrangement.. That was before he even showed up. Problem was, Arclight loved rubbing salt into old wounds.

"How's the teacher's pet?"

"Jealous Riptide?"

"You think I'd be jealous of that cajun casanova just because he's knocking boot with you, Arc?"

Arclight smiled. Why had she ever thought this dork was worthy of her time? Oh, she remembered now. He was good at killing people. Beyond that he could hardly keep up a decent conversation. Loser. He'd never amount to anything. Now, she wanted to hurt him for the fun of it. Besides, Sinister said to keep him pissed off for missions. And he'd walked right into this like a moth to a flame.

"Actually no, you're not that smart. But if you had brains, you would be since he's way better than you ever were.... or will ever be. "

"You little bitch!"

"Come on, loser."

Creed grinned breaking it up. Arc was doing her job well keeping Riptide wound up. Frails'll do it to you every time. Not to worry. LeBeau would eventually decide to move on giving her a taste o' her own medicine. Probably just about the time she started realizing she was falling for the cajun charmer. Serve her right.

It was the only thing Sabertooth liked about LeBeau. The kid was a natural born heartbreaker. He could do it without even trying. It was the thing Creed hated about the cajun too. If the kid had the killer instinct instead of being a hopeless romantic, he could be devastating instead of just dangerous. Boy was soft. He just hid it well. Sinister was missing that. And that's why he didn't trust LeBeau . If he had the kid's charm, he'd being enjoying it. Rending a person's heart was just as painful, gory, and satisfying as rending their flesh. Sometimes more. Sometimes much more.

Sinister entered the room as Sabertooth was pulling Riptide away. He smirked momentarily. Another thing Gambit was good for, keeping everybody charged up, usually without even trying. Then he looked serious.

"That is enough. Save it for when you'll need it. And you are going to need it soon."

"Yeah?" Creed grinned. "Bout time. I was getting restless. Time for the hunt. Who's the prey?"

"A colony of genetically inferior mutants living somewhere in New York. And that is the first problem. I must find them. Where they live. All of them. Then you can hunt them in their den and eradicate them."

"I could track them."

"On the streets of New York? I think the X-Men would eventually notice a presence such as yours and mess things up. You do tend to cause a scene sometimes. No. I think this calls for subtly first. And subtle and sneaky is Gambit's department. I'll send him in first to find out about the targets, and then you can finish the job. He'll lead you right to these 'Morlocks", and I want everyone ready when the time comes. Is that understood?"

The eagerness in their eyes told him they did.

Sinister had said this was important. He needed to find these people. They were a previously unknown group of mutants he wanted to track, study, along with all the rest. His gut kept telling him there was something wrong about this, but he ignored the feeling. He knew Essex only looked out for his own interests, his quest for genetic material and knowledge, but Remy told himself he owed the man, and he didn't know these people. So what if Sinister wanted to keep tabs on them? He needed to look out for himself. No one was going to do it for him with out a reason he realized. Humans hated him just because of an accident of birth, and no one else was going to really be there for him. He wasn't good enough to justify the effort. Agreeing to work for Sinister guaranteed he was helped in getting well after Seattle, and the pinches had been pretty interesting and profitable. Sinister watched out for him because he needed him. They were using each other. That he understood, and in the end, that's what he'd learned. The strong survive. The weak perish. Look out for number one.

It took a few days and breaking into a very nice mansion out in Westchester to get the information needed to know where to start. Pretty damn good security, but not good enough. Get in, get the stuff you want, get out . Quick, quiet, efficient. Staying too long, getting too greedy, that's what got you caught.

But knowing where the tunnels were and knowing your way around them were two different things. He hung around subway stations watching them come and go to get food. Waiting for the right circumstances, he 'accidentally met one of the members who frequently came out to scavenge. He knew the feeling of living day to day, and felt a pang of sympathy.

*Number one, Remy.*

Her name was Starbright because she glowed in the dark. She was young, naive, trusting, and friendly. And even pretty in a unique sort of way. He saved her from some gang members, and she didn't stand a chance against his charm. She invited him down and showed him around. Much to initial dismay of Callisto, but he charmed her too.

"No threat me. I'm just an outcast mutant like de rest of you." After a week or so, he could have walked every cavern blindfolded. Starbright was a very good guide. She really was a sweet kid, and he kept telling himself Sinister watching them was no big deal. Sinister tracked mutants all over the world as he identified them. It was part of his research into mutant genetics. So why did this seem so wrong?

"Dis is it. It's an obscure entrance attached to de back caverns. Never hardly used. Sinister can easily use it ta keep tabs on dem." Remy lit a cigarette. "Didn't know you did surveillance work, Creed. "

"Don' get smart, cajun. Lead us in so we can see how close we can get. We'll know how to set the equipment properly."

"Could have set it myself."

"Sinister wants us all to know how to get in here to do anything that needs to be done."

They walked in and out without a hitch.

"This is perfect." Creed growled slapping his hand on Gambit's shoulder. "No problems encountered. Nice work gumbo."

Remy raised an eyebrow at the praise.

"Told you he's good." Arclight smirked at Riptide.

He knew something was wrong. All his defenses told him something was up and to be careful, but when he got to the destination Sinister sent him to, he suddenly knew the eerie feeling wasn't about his welfare. The pinch was a piece of cake. Much too simple to have sent him halfway across the country for. That feeling of dread was back in full force.

Sinister gave the orders and sent the muscle out. They meant nothing to him save being good goons and killers. He was keeping their genetic codes on hand in case he needed that kind of army in the future. LeBeau, on the other hand, had proved to be an invaluable asset. When Creed told him that he'd met the boy before, Essex was pleased to be able to learn some things about LeBeau's mutant powers prior to him awakening. The charging ability although impressive surprised him some. Why use mostly that when the empathic ability was so strong? Didn't matter. He'd help the boy expand his powers in time. Once he owned him. Amoral by virtue of his upbringing and nature, LeBeau was more ideal for his purposes that he could have imagined. His thieving skills were outstanding, and he was able to acquire documents Sinister had been trying to get at for awhile. Not to mention, the boy had excellent underground information contacts even he didn't have. He needed LeBeau out doing this work for him. This reason would have been enough not to send Remy in with the other Marauders, but he had a number of other reasons for Gambit being out of the picture. LeBeau was a thief by nature not an assassin. Mass murder was not his forte like it was with the others. LeBeau really wasn't out to kill people. Oh, he'd killed before in self-defense and was a top notch fighter, better at hand to hand than most of the marauders. And his aim, charging ability and unorthodox methods were impressive in battle, but it wasn't his style. Still, Sinister was sure once the battle insued, Gambit would protect himself. That was always Remy's number one concern. So Sinister doubted the Morlocks could take Gambit unless by accident. But it wasn't the Morlocks he was worried about. Arclight has done her job too well. Riptide might well take the opportunity to vent his jealousy at Gambit by betraying him during the battle and pretending Gambit just got unlucky. Sinister definitely couldn't risk that. LeBeau was indeed a useful ally, but even more important, he was an exceptional source of genetic material and potential. Essex nearly fell on the floor in shock when he finally determined Gambit's paternity, and genealogical potential. He had to double check the tests. Gambit came from a very powerful genetic line he'd been tracking for well over two generations. And he thought the man had never strayed from his wife and children. But of course, he couldn't watch someone morning, noon, and night over a lifetime. Despite the impression he gave off, his vast knowledge on the subject, and his tracking techniques, Essex didn't know every mutant born nor every potential line for mutation. It was absurd to believe any one, even Apocalypse, could keep up with all the infinite possibilities. But as individual mutants, especially powerful ones, were tracked down, he collected data on them and their families. Checked genetic factors and theorized possibilities while back tracking along those family lines. He tried to identify other potential mutations along that family tree. He also kept genetic material on outstanding normal humans to add to the mix as well.

Sinister had been tracking specific families like the Summers since he'd first meet Scott Summers and Jean Grey. His files were as complete as anyone's could be considering the amount of time involved. But bastards like LeBeau proved most annoying since it usually took them manifesting their powers for him to find them. And Gambit's charging ability had not originally intrigued him enough for him to find the boy, and he'd hidden his empathy well. Not to mention, Candra's messing around in New Orleans always interfered with his equipment. He was glad that Gambit had lost control of his empathic abilities, or he would have never known how powerful the cajun was or spent the extensive effort and time the blood tests usually took to determine Gambit's lineage. Especially if he had never run across that line before, it would be impossible to determine anything. However what he found made it all worth the trouble. It couldn't have worked out more perfectly. Suddenly that experiment he'd conducted all those years ago just to see if it would work was way more useful than he had ever imagined. And despite verifying a theory, he'd thought that experiment had been practically useless. It didn't result in exactly what he expected. Of course the problems with that experiment would definitely prove a hindrance to the results he wanted. He supposed everyone needed a challenge.

It had seemed like any other day when it started. Pleasant, slightly cool. But for him it would be the one day of his life that would remain etched in his brain forever. The day he realized he'd sold his soul for self preservation. He would then and forever be like Lady McBeth, looking at his hands and always seeing blood.

Remy didn't return straight from the pinch. He couldn't. Halfway across the country, he felt screams of death. The number of them increasing their affect on the astral plane. He knew then but tried to deny it. It drew him to the Morlock tunnels. It was long over by then. Dead bloody bodies littered the caverns. This was genocide, Auschwitz, Buchenwald. And he had been the train engineer that delivered them. Men, women, children. He picked up the body of a small girl and wept.

*I never meant* he thought, cried.

But a voice in his mind mocked him back.

*No, you never cared. You didn't want to know. Ignorance is no excuse. Just following orders no defense. ... Look out for number one, Remy .... Thief. Cheat. Liar. Murderer. Do you really deserve to be alive in place of this innocent?*

*Innocent. ... Starbright.*

He had to know. He ran deeper into the tunnels, climbing over bodies, nearly swimming in blood. He opened his empathic shields and searched for her. Nothing. She was gone. Fourteen. Sweet. Innocent. Dead. All because she trusted him. He sat down in despair. How many tombstones could have the same epitaph? More than he'd want to admit.

"I'm sorry. I'm so sorry."

"Traitor!"

The huge Morlock was barely alive and screamed in rage as he leapt at Remy. Remy instinctively jumped easily out of the way. If the guy grabbed him, he'd probably kill him. He deserved it. But the Morlock was bordering on death himself.

"I don' want ta hurt ya, mon ami. Let me help."

But the Morlock only attacked again, and again, he dodged. A growl came from a side tunnel and Sabertooth leaped. The two mutants rolled over and over. Sabertooth had made a mistake. This Morlock was more than a match for him in strength.

"Murderer!"

He picked Creed up and slowly started choking him. Sabertooth couldn't break loose but started clawing viciously. Both would be dead in minutes.

"No! Stop! No more killing!"

Remy threw a card that separated the two and tried to get between them.

*Stupid.*

Creed's right hand flashed out and ripped his chest throwing him against a wall. His and the now fallen Morlock's blood trickled across the rocks as he blacked out.

He woke up back at Sinister's with 37 stitches in his chest. So much for helping Creed. Sabertooth sneered at him.

"If Sinister didn't want you alive, I'd have left you there, traitor. You're part of the Marauders. You're suppose to be on our side."

"You killed dem! You killed dem all! Why?!?"

"They were inferior."

Remy sat up clutching his chest to look at Sinister approaching him with some of the other Marauders. Arclight was missing. That was ok. He couldn't look at her after what she'd done.

"You wouldn't have wanted to die with them, now would you?"

Sinister regarded him steadily as the Marauders eyed him. Remy squared his jaw.

*Stupid to die for nothing now.*

"Non." He got up and watched the group.

"But we're square, Essex. I be getting ya what ya wanted. An I don' like bein kept in de dark. I'm out."

He painfully moved toward the door expecting to be attacked. He had two sets of cards charged and ready. Then he heard the laugh.

"You'll return Remy. You have nowhere to go. You are one of us. ... Superior, a survivor, protecting only yourself. You know it."

Sinister laughed again as he opened the door. He turned to stare and felt a chill of fear run through him at how close to home that was. Then he kept going. Walking at first, then riding his bike as fast as it would go, trying to never look back, ... or remember. He'd been running from himself ever since.


PARTS4-6

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