Merely Superstitious

by Nico


Synopsis: While on a routine mission, Gambit and Phoenix are held captive by a woman with strange powers.

Rated PG-13 for obscene things done with Jell-O.

Thank you to my beta and good friend Alexis! speaking of "witch"...hoodoo is an actual, real word! ;)

Continuity: Who knows...I just started picking up comics again after a long Remy-drought.

Disclaimer: Gambit is mine! No, just kidding. Characters belong to Marvel Comics.


Night sloughs over the city of New Orleans, filling the crevices and clefts with pools of inky blackness. Shadows seep from deep doorways and abyss-like alleys, pooling in the streets like spilled wine. In the cemetery of Saint Louis Number One, shadows seem to dance amongst the gravestones, mingling with the steamy mist from the boggy earth. The mausoleums stand grimly watching over the landscape, glowing ghostly white in the moonlight. At this time of night, all but the bravest of tourists have long since departed to the warmth and song of the New Orleans clubs and cafes. Slipping amongst the shadows and veils of mist, a small dark figure glides across the boggy turf, sidling past the worn tombs.

Her small booted feet make no sound as she walks, her long dark cloak swishes softly across her ankles and over fallen stones and statues. Nervously, she glances over her shoulder. The night is silent, and she is alone save for the slinky shape of a curious cat. Despite the darkness, she easily finds the tomb she seeks. The path is a familiar one, worn by the tread of many feet of both curious and devoted alike. With a trembling hand, she reaches out to the pockmarked surface of the mausoleum and taps on the door, once, twice, and a third time. From behind her cloak she produces a bit of charred wood.

In her native Cajun tongue she whispers into the darkness: "Madame Laveau, Queen of New Orleans, hear my prayer." Carefully, the girl reaches out and scratches a cross on the tomb with her charcoal. "Please, Mistress Laveau. I know with all your power that you can help us. Watch over your city and send aid to your faithful followers. Thank you."

The cat, which had been following so closely, reaches out with a dark paw and places it on the young girl's leg. It meows plaintively. The girl nods to it and the two depart, swallowed up by the darkness of night.

Part 1

The bright yellow sunlight shown in swimming dappled patches through the large oak trees leaves just outside the kitchen window. Morning had arrived, and the spirits of the sprawling mansion's inhabitants rose with the sun. There were four at the kitchen table; Bobby Drake, who was reading the comics from that day's newspaper, Jean Grey, who held claim over the Arts & Living section, Hank McCoy, who was studying the local news, and Remy LeBeau, whose cheek was resting on the Want Ads. The latter was dozing, his head down and oblivious to the other three at the table. Taking advantage of his friend・ unconsciousness, Hank used his teammate's head to prop up his newspaper.

There was an early debriefing that morning to discuss an anti-mutant uprising in Brazil. It was decided that two members of their team, the X-Men, would travel to South America to investigate the matter further. While Jean had thoughtfully volunteered, Remy, still groggy from his late night ventures, found himself with a plane ticket to Brazil simply because he hadn't shouted "Not It!" fastest. Remy had unhappily accepted his fate, and had planted himself on the kitchen tabletop for a nap before the afternoon flight. A cup of cold coffee sat in front of the sleeping thief. After one sip of 'Mean Jean's Mystery Brew,' the coffee went untouched.

The brightly-lit kitchen was full of those noiseless sounds of morning preparation: Jean's soft humming as she ran her fingers through her hair and the sound of Hank turning the pages of the newspaper. The much-abused coffeemaker emitted a garbled plea for help. Bobby's conscientious slurping of Fruit Loops from the bottom of the bowl was punctuated by Remy's light snoring. All was well and right with the world until a shadow fell over the contented setting.

Jean, distracted by the fluttering shadow, frowned at the newspaper before turning her eyes away from its pages. At the window was a strange, dark shape. So strange, in fact, that the three conscious people at the table sat in silence staring. It was many moments before their brains processed exactly what was happening. A dribble of milk ran down Bobby・ chin. Jean licked an index finger and reached to turn to the next page.

・hat・・Hank began slowly.

A big, black bird swooped and darted frantically before the window. Panicked, it scrabbled at the glass with sharp claws. It darted away, only to return, diving headlong into the pane of glass. It seemed to hang there for a moment, pressed against the glass as the window splintered. Then there came the sound of shattering glass and the flapping of large wings.

Remy was cut off in mid-snore, quickly took in his surroundings, and fell over backwards in his chair as the black shape dive-bombed him. The other three had backed away from the table, shouting nonsense at one another.

・et a broom!・Jean called, holding a newspaper protectively over her head.

・hoo Shoo!・Hank said, flapping his big, blue-furred arms ineffectively as the bird circled and circled the kitchen.

・ey, whazzat!・ Bobby said, unhelpfully, though it was obviously a bird of some type.

Remy stared at the bird in silence with an expression of what appeared to be growing horror. The bird circled three times before falling out of the air and landing on the kitchen table like a tossed rock. They all watched, unmoving, at the still creature on the table. Pink sugar-tainted milk ran from the overturned bowl and onto the floor. The bird lay on its side amidst brown coffee and soggy Fruit Loops. A small charred bit of wood was clasped in the bird・ beak.

・s it dead?・Bobby asked and looked to Hank, the resident doctor.

Hank leaned forward with a spoon and poked the creature.

・on・ use that! People eat with that spoon you know!・said Jean sensibly.

The bird was stiff, as if it had been dead for hours, rather than just having died in mid-flight only moments ago. For some reason, Jean, Hank, and Bobby all turned to look at Remy. He was caught in the act of crossing himself, before he guiltily stole his hand away.

・at・ bad hoodoo,・ he remarked, though didn・ offer any further explanation as to what ・oodoo・was.


After the bizarre incident at breakfast, Remy was adamant about not going on the reconnaissance mission.

・ou・e crazy!・ he was heard shouting as Scott forcefully shoved him out of his room. His speech decayed further into stereotypical Cajun accent. ・ou weren・ dere! You di・・ see dat hell-devil flyin・bout! I ain・ goin・on dis trip. And its plain insanity you sendin・your wife too! Bad hoodoo I tell you!・

・ould you stop with this nonsense!・Scott Summers exclaimed. ・t was a freak accident. You・e going on the mission, and I don・ want to hear another mispronounced word about it!・With that, he slammed the door behind the spluttering Cajun.

Remy flung out his arms in exasperation. His expression was dumbfounded. As if not heeding the warning words of ・oodoo・was beyond his comprehension. He was still wearing the same look as he later boarded the airplane, with Jean right behind him. Jean had found that if she allowed Remy to walk behind her, he would wander off.

・ death sentence, this is,・he intoned as he took his seat by the window.

・ill you shut up,・ Jean hissed at him. ・hat is wrong with you, anyway? I・e never seen you in such a state!・

・ told you before. It・ bad---!・he began.

・es! Yes! For the last time, it・ bad hoodoo! For the love of god, what is that supposed to mean?・/font>

・ would think you・ be able to tell from context,・he retorted.

Jean glared at him. ・hat, then? Bad what? Bad luck? It was a stupid bird for god・ sake.・/font>

・es, bad luck,・ Remy said. ・nd I・l thank you to stop takin・the Lord・ name. Things are bad enough as it is.・

Jean sighed and sank back into her seat. ・nd what do you think is going to happen to us?・/font>

・hat・ just it,・ Remy replied. ・ don・ know. Bad things happen in three・ you know. It・ just foolishness to ignore de signs! A bird in de house! And de bird of death, no less. We・e gonna die,・he said as if he were resigned to the fact.

・ would have never guessed you were the superstitious type,・Jean said.

・uperstitious?・ he said incredulously. ・ommon sense is more like it. I just don・ want my last meal to be one of those disgusting airplane dinners.・/font>

・eally鴈 Jean said, deciding that the best way to deal with her teammate would be to ignore him. Also, she kind of liked those cute little airplane meals and the peanuts they gave you at the end. In a bored voice she added: ・hat・ interesting.・/font>

・h, now, I get it,・Remy said to the back of her head. ・tupid slack jawed southerner and his uneducated backwater beliefs! No, no, don・ listen to him! He・ just superstitious. Fine, Agent Scully. Be a disbeliever. You・l be sorry when you end up with an alien baby!・/font>

Jean put her hand over her mouth to conceal a smile. She turned to Remy to contradict what he thought she believed, but saw him sulking and silent, and decided to leave him that way.


The beginning of the flight was relatively pleasant, as far as flights go. The little airplane meal was served, but they were out of peanuts.

Down below, America slipped past. Jean closed her eyes and lay back on a tiny paper-covered pillow. She was determined not to become affected by Remy・ nervousness.

When she opened her eyes, it was dark. ・h drat,・she thought. ・・e missed the in-flight movie. I hope it wasn・ ・hocolat.・

But the lights inside the cabin were on, lighting the way to the restrooms. Outside the window, however, it was pitch dark.

・hat time is it?・ Jean asked. ・ave I slept that long?・/font>

Remy tore his eyes away from the window. ・t・ three in de afternoon,・he said. ・ot dark outside all of a sudden.・/font>

Just then, the plane rumbled. ・urbulence,・Jean said, matter-of-factly.

Remy grumbled. ・ can・ wait to tell you I told you so.・/font>

・ow many times has the Blackbird crashed and exploded into tiny bits?・Jean asked. ・wenty two? Twenty three times, maybe? And you・e worried about a little turbulence on a commercial flight?・/font>

The plane shook again, and the lights momentarily dimmed. Jean found herself clenching the armrests. Remy, now strangely calm, nodded his head, as if to say, ・ knew it all along.・He knew a thing or two about bad omens. A bird once flew round and round Tante Mattie・ kitchen. Next thing, Oscar the goat gave curdled milk. If that weren・ bad enough, Aunt Cecile・ fat black cat gave birth to a two-tailed kitten. Three days later, Remy had found himself married at 18 years of age, exiled from his family, and his one-time brother-in-law had a sword sticking out of his chest. Bad hoodoo, indeed.

The captain・ voice crackled over the intercom. ・xcuse me ladies and gentlemen,・he said. ・f I could have your attention please. We seem to have encountered a little turbulence,・as he spoke, the plane trembled again. ・ue to this unexpected storm, we are going to make an emergency landing at New Orleans International. We apologize for the delay.・/font>

Remy threw Jean a black look. A freak storm sticking him right back in the city where he grew up? Coincidence and superstition, my ass, he thought.

It was a rocky landing. The plane was forced to circle the airport several times before attempting to land. The wheels finally hit the asphalt, and the plane taxied to a halt. ・ell, that was fun,・Remy said good-naturedly. ・an we go home now?・/font>

Jean scowled.

The captain came back over the intercom as the storm rocked the plane. ・ttention passengers. Unfortunately, our plane is experiencing some technical difficulties due to the storm, and we・e going to have to stick around until the crew can get a look at one of our right engines. This may take some time, so we・e going to have you disembark.・/font>

・h, crap,・Remy said.

Jean stood, and pulled her carry-on down from the overhead compartment. ・ell, let・ go,・she said. ・・l have to contact the others and tell them we aren・ going to make it to Brazil in time.・/font>

・hey should have stuck to keeping the mutant lynching in New York City,・Remy replied. ・t least for convenience・ sake.・

They walked down the gangway and into the bustling airport. An enormous line had all ready formed at the counter. Two young women were trying to field annoyed questions and placate frazzled customers. Jean and Remy walked to the end of the line, listening to the airline customer service girls repeat the same thing to each person in line.

Finally, it was their turn. Handing his and Jean・ tickets and information over, he asked, as if scripted: ・hen will de plane be leaving?・/font>

The woman behind the counter replied on cue. ・he plane will not be leaving tonight.・/font>

・s there another flight we can take?・Jean asked.

・one leaving in this storm,・the girl said. ・e・l be providing cots---.・/font>

・e are not spendin・ one night in dis town!・Remy proclaimed hotly.

・erhaps you・ like a cot?・the woman persisted.

・houldn・ we be entitled to a hotel room voucher?・Jean asked.

・idn・ you just hear what I said?・Remy began, warming up for another tirade. He felt he was past due.

The girl behind the counter studied the computer screen in front of her. ・ots and dinner vouchers to Popeye・ Fried Chicken will be granted to all passengers,・ the desk clerk said sweetly to Jean, who seemed the less likely to start breaking things.

It was Jean・ turn to frown. Popeye・ Chicken? She might be forced to mind-wipe this little chippy behind the counter if she tried to force that food them. Suddenly, the lights in the airport flickered and died momentarily. They shuddered back on, and the computers beeped unappreciatively. The chippy studied the computer screen again.

・m,・she said and scowled. She poked the keyboard, and squinted. ・ell,・she began slowly, ・t seems they・e just upgraded you from a cot to a hotel room voucher.・ She seemed disappointed.

・ am not stayin・ in dis city,・Remy said quietly, in a way that was more frightening than when he was shouting.

・or once, would you just shut up,・Jean snapped. ・・e about had it with you. You were born and raised here, what is wrong with spending one more night in New Orleans?・/font>

・ad・ooooo-dooooo鴈 he hissed at her.

Jean sighed and snatched the vouchers from the chippy・ hands. ・et・ get a cab and go all ready.・She studied the vouchers. ・nd you can keep this!・Two coupons to Popeye・ Fried Chicken flew into the air. As they fluttered to the ground, several people stepped backward, eyeing the insidious papers warily.


The taxicab slipped out into the dark streets, its wiper blades slapping across the windshield at high speed. The two passengers sat silently in the backseat, both mesmerized by the pounding rain. The city was dark due to many power outages. Every few minutes, the city around them illuminated with a blue-white flash of lightning.

・here exactly are we going?・Remy said to Jean, just audible over the sound of pouring rain.

Jean shrugged, and leaned towards the cab driver. ・xcuse me, sir?・she began politely.

The cabbie made no move to signal he had heard her. ・ir?・she persisted, tapping on the glass between them.

The cab slowed and made a lazy turn on the rain slicked street. A brilliant flash of lightning lit up an enormous mansion before them. A curving driveway hid behind a tall iron fence.

・hat is this place?・ Jean asked.

・ever seen it before in my life,・Remy replied, mystified by the enormous presence of the building.

・his is our hotel?・ Jean asked the driver, tapping again on the glass divider. He did not answer.

The taxi pulled up in front of the double doors of the mansion and came to a halt. ・is can・ be right,・Remy began, as he gathered his carry-on bag. They exited out of Remy・ side of the cab, Jean scooting across the seat and out into the pouring rain. Remy tapped on the cabbie・ window. ・ow much do we owe you?・/font>

The cabbie looked up, startled. He looked at Remy and Jean as if they had materialized from thin air, and looked at the huge mansion looming behind them. Lightning and thunder struck simultaneously. The driver blinked, and with a look of fear and amazement, sped off. His tired squealed on the wet drive, and he fishtailed down the driveway.

・hat in the world---?・ Jean began.

The two of them ran towards the mansion, and ducked under the relative safety of the alcove. They stood there trying to catch their breath and dripping puddles at their feet. They took in their surroundings. The mansion seemed to forget that it was planted right in the middle of an area full of antebellum plantation homes. Instead of down home charm, the building reeked of Transylvanian eerieness. There was no doorbell, just a heavy iron knocker set in one of the doors. It was a gremlin-looking creature with a ring in its mouth.

・ell, Janet,・Remy said. ・hall we see if Dr. Frank N. Furter is in?・/font>

・hat?・Jean said.

・evermind,・Remy grumbled, and reached for the knocker. He picked it up, and let it fall with a heavy thud. The sound echoed.

They stood waiting apprehensively. Jean squelched from one foot to another. Remy rung out his hair. One of the doors began to open. Unsurprisingly, it squealed open on rusty hinges. But instead of being greeted by Igor, there stood a young girl of about twelve years in age. Her black hair was plaited in small braids in which multicolored beads dangled. Curious large eyes looked out from a dark-skinned face. She took in Remy・ long, lank form, then turned her attention to Jean and her shocking red hair.

・ou・e come,・she said, her voice hushed.

・h, yah,・Remy began. ・i, dere, cherie. Are your parents home? Dere・ been a bit of a mix up, and we didn・ quite make it to our hotel. Could we use your phone?・/font>

・ut you shouldn・ be here,・the girl said. ・ot right now.・/font>

・es, dat・ what I・ trying to tell you. Our cab driver left us here, ya see.・/font>

Suddenly, the other door swept open. Behind it, was a woman, older than both Remy and Jean, but trying hard not to show it. She was dressed in black dress, with a long flowing velvet cape. Her breasts over-spilled her bodice, hanging there precariously, like two dome shaped Jell-O molds. Her dark red hair was swept back from her painted-on face. She was also very, very pregnant.

・elcome!・she said, showing all of her perfect white teeth.

The young girl who had first greeted them stood aghast, staring at the older woman. Remy and Jean were doing much the same thing.

・elanie!・she shouted at the girl, only half-jokingly. ・ow could you let these nice guests stand outside here in the rain?・

・e-Beatrice鴈 the girl began. Streaking out from between her feet, a black cat darted out of the open door and into the stormy night. ・h no! Bijou! Come back!・The girl cried and started after the cat.

・ere now,・Remy said, stopping the child. Always the hero, he volunteered to chase after the animal.

Jean watched as he stepped out into the downpour after the cat. She sighed, and began to follow after him when the woman put a hand on her arm. ・et・ not all go out there and get pneumonia. Come inside, come on鴈

Jean let herself be led into the posh foyer of the mansion. ・e・l wait for your friend here,・the woman continued. ・elanie, get away from the door.・/font>

The girl stepped back from the entrance obediently.

・e・e so sorry to bother you,・Jean said to the woman. ・ur plane got caught in this storm. There must have been some mix up at the airport. Their power going out and all鴈 Jean slowed, watching the woman nod at her, that smile still on her face. ・nd our cab driver just dropped us off here.・/font>

・o mistake!・the woman said, too happily. ・o mistake at all! Melanie, come take our guest・ bags now.・/font>

・re-are you sure?・ Jean began. ・y---friend---out there, he said that he didn・ remember there being a hotel here.・/font>

・o hotel here?・ the woman laughed. ・o hotel here, she says,・Beatrice said jokingly to Melanie. ・ell look right there, a service desk, telephone and luggage carrier!・/font>

Jean turned to look at where the woman was pointing. A counter sat in the corner. Behind it was a board covered with little keys on pegs. Jean didn・ remember seeing it when she first stepped in the door. And just as Beatrice had said there was a telephone and a gilded luggage valet. ・h, yes,・she replied, still unsure.

・elanie, cherie, shut those doors will you, there・ a draft!・Beatrice insisted.

The girl hesitated, then pushed the doors together with a resounding thud. ・f you・l follow me,・the woman said, beckoning to Jean. ・ellie, the bags!・/font>

・ut what about Remy?・Jean said, pointing back towards the doors. ・houldn・ we wait?・/font>

・omeone else will show him to his room when he・ through chasing that blasted animal,・ Beatrice said. ・on・ worry about a thing.・She started up the grand staircase that flowed down into the foyer like a bridal gown. After a second of hesitation, Jean followed after the swishing black skirts of the older woman.

・hen are you expecting?・ Jean asked her.

・xpecting what?・ the woman replied, a distracted frown on her face. ・h! Yes, you mean the baby.・She put her hands on her large stomach. ・mn, any day now.・

・ell, congratulations,・ Jean said.

・h. Yes. Well, here・ your room!・Beatrice swept open a heavy wood door, one of many in a dark paneled hallway. Inside, the room was posh and opulent.

・ow, I can・ believe the airport stuck us here,・Jean said, stepping through the door and into the room. Plush carpeting hugged her feet. There was a twinkling chandelier on the ceiling, and a four poster bed against one wall.

・es, well, I am glad you like your accommodations. Now your baggage鴈 Beatrice paused, and looked behind her. ・here is that girl? Melanie!・she shouted down the hall.

・h, don・ worry about it. Remy can carry them up,・Jean said.

The woman looked at Jean appreciatively. ・ou should change from those wet clothes,・ she said. ・n the bath you・l find a complimentary bathrobe. Make yourself comfortable. I・l come back for you at dinner.・

・hank you,・Jean said. The woman stood smiling at her. There was an uncomfortable silence. ・・l see you later,・Jean added.

・es, you will,・ the woman replied, before stepping out into the hall and closing the door after her.

Jean smoothed back her wet hair. ・hat a weirdo.・/font>


Remy sloshed across the waterlogged lawn, trailing after a slick black shape. ・ere, kitty kitty!・he called after it. The cat darted into a bush and Remy scrambled after it. Fat heavy drops of water shook loose from the branches. On the other side of the bush was a small paved area with an overflowing fountain in the center. A stone bench was nearby, for people to sit on and admire the fountain, presumably. The cat crouched beneath the small shelter of the bench.

・ey, you kitty. Get back over here.・Normally, he liked cats. He found them smart, independent, and beautiful. But in the darkness of the stormy night, slogging through the mud, and thoroughly ruining his leather bomber jacket, he had found a new level of loathing for anything feline.

The cat sat unmoving as he approached the bench. Crouching down, he scooped up the unprotesting animal. Surprisingly, it was dry. He tucked it into his jacket and zipped it up halfway, so the cat・ head poked up from the open neckline. ・orry, buddy. No late night rendez-vous for you and me both.・

・ou found him,・ said a soft voice.

Remy started, and looked up at the fountain. The little girl from the doorway stood a few paces from him, rain dripping from the hood of her cape.

・ey, I uh・idn・ see you standin・there,・Remy said. ・ou shouldn・ be out in dis weather now.・/font>

・ had to get you away from her, so you could see the truth,・she responded.

・way from who?・/font>

・rom Beatrice and that other one. They・l only confuse you.・/font>

・hat are you talking about?・Remy demanded.

・ called you, and you came. I・ so glad you・e here to help.・/font>

・elp you do what?・ he asked, approaching her and kneeling on the wet cement.

The girl shot a glance back at the house. ・ou can save us from her,・she paused. ・hat other one, your friend. She・ in trouble. You see, she・ been called too.・/font>

・ean?・he questioned, standing as he looked back to the house.

・urry,・she said.

・irl, what is going on here?・Remy asked, but when he turned to look back at the child, she was gone. The storm raged on and Remy shivered. He started back towards the house; the warm furry weight of the cat in his jacket was the only reassurance that he wasn・ going crazy.

He stood before the large double doors of the mansion, his hand hesitating on the knocker. If the strange girl was right, and Jean was in trouble, then what was he doing walking through the front door?

He slipped off the front porch and skirted along the front of the building. Each window he passed was dark and shuttered. As he rounded the side of the house, a noise caught his attention. On the story above, a window shutter slapped against the windowpane. Remy tucked the cat・ head back into his coat and zipped it up to his chin. He reached up and found a handhold in the mansion・ stone masonry. Carefully, he climbed up, placing his hands and feet in the niches in the wet stone. The windowsill above was deep enough for him to sit in as he forced open the window. As he pulled himself into the house, the shutter slapped against the back of his legs, and he landed on the floor with a thump.

・ot the best entrance I・e ever made,・he said to himself. He unzipped his coat, and the cat jumped to the ground.

・eow!・it said.

・ush up, you,・ he scolded it. ・ou・e only bringin・more bad luck to my door.・The cat rubbed against his ankles.

Remy surveyed his surroundings. The room was dark and empty of furniture. His climb through the window had left streaks through the thick dust on the wood floor. The musty stale scent in the room spoke of unuse. He strode over to the door and put his ear to it. There were no sounds from the other side. He cautiously turned the knob and peered outside.

The hall was empty. There were old gas powered lights on the paneled walls. A worn carpet ran down the hallway・ length. There was no sign of Jean, or of the woman he had seen earlier.

The cat trotted out into the hall, sauntering away with the air of someone who owned all he surveyed. Remy decided to let him go. Even the cat seemed to know more than Remy himself did.

Remy left the empty room and started down the hall. He walked quickly and silently, pausing slightly at each door to listen for sounds of movement. Before long, he reached the stairs that led down to the foyer. He had only caught a glimpse of the inside of the house before the cat had escaped. It had been brightly lit with a plush red carpet just on the inside. The room that lay before him now was dark and dusty, the same as the rest of the house. He tiptoed down the steps. To his right was another set of double doors; to his left was a long corridor. He chose to approach the doors. As he opened one of the doors, the hinge squeaked and he flinched. The sound seemed to echo through the large house. He allowed himself enough room to squeeze into the room. Inside was a library. Tall shelves of books stretched up to the ceiling.

He walked over to one of the shelves and ran his fingers over the spines of the books. He wondered if pulling one would trigger a secret door to slide open. ・hy not?・he thought. ・・e seen weirder things.・His fingers stopped on a thick volume. ・he collected works of William Shakespeare:・it read. Remy wrinkled his nose at it, but lifted the book out anyway. The book fell open in his hands. The pages within were damp and ruined. The book was spotted with mildew and was unreadable.

Above him, a floorboard creaked. He looked up, and a tiny stream of dust lit on his shoulder. He reached forward slowly to replace the book in the empty space. He kept his eyes to the ceiling, following the movement of the person on the floor above him. The heavy book slid back into place, but the shelf protested with a tiny whine. The splintering sound of wood drew his attention away from the ceiling. The shelf collapsed, spilling books across the floor. Then one of the upper shelves creaked and the wood split. Remy hurriedly began to back away, but the fallen books caught his ankles and he fell backwards just as the whole shelf unit began to tumble towards him.

The room fell silent. A cloud of dust settled. A small black shape leapt down from a top shelf and nosed around the wreckage.

・eow?・it said.


Jean sat back in the warm luxury of the bath water. The old-fashioned claw-footed tub had taken an eternity to fill, but Jean was delighted to be able to float in so much warmth. Between the flight, the taxi ride, and Remy・ whining, she felt she deserved to relax. She had tried to call Scott and the others on the old rotary phone on the bedside table, but the line was dead. Probably taken out in the storm. Contacting him by telepathy seemed like a chore that could wait until later.

Reaching in the depths of the tub with her toes, she located the chain to pull the stopper from the bathtub・ drain. It let go with a gurgle, and she slowly stood up from the water. She looked into the large three-way mirror above the sink. The reflection seemed to waver in the steamy room, streaked with droplets of water. The image showed her a woman streaked with rust-colored water, her hair matted and damp. She blinked, and instantly the image in the mirror, distorted with spider webbed cracks, was gone. In its stead was her own reflection, her hair slicked back, her skin slightly pink from the hot water. Shaking her head, she stepped from the tub, and using her telekinesis, called to the terry cloth robe hanging on the door. As it floated over to her, a knock came at the bedroom door. The white robe dropped and crumpled on the floor, like a ghost who had just lost its ambition.

・ust a minute!・ Jean called, stooping to scoop up the robe. She trotted to the door as she pulled it on. She hoped it was Remy with her clothes.

On the other side of the door was Beatrice, holding her dufflebag. ・h, hi,・Jean said, disappointed.

・・e brought up your bag,・she said, handing it to her. ・nd I・e come to let you know that dinner is ready in the dining room.・/font>

・・l be down in a moment as soon as I・ dressed・h damn, my clothes are soaked!・Jean pulled out the rumpled and damp clothing.

・ould you like me to hang them on the line in the laundry room?・Beatrice asked. ・nfortunately, we don・ have many modern appliances, such as a dryer. But the room downstairs is warm and dry.・/font>

・ suppose,・Jean said, tossing her clothes on the bed. ・ut I don・ have anything to wear for dinner.・/font>

・ou could wear that,・Beatrice replied, pointing at the robe Jean was wearing. ・here will be no one but you and I at the table tonight.・/font>

・here is Remy?・/font>

・ulking in his room, I suspect,・she replied.

・hat I can believe,・ Jean said, mostly to herself. ・on・ you have any other guests?・/font>

・t this time of year? No. But you should see us at Mardi Gras.・/font>

Jean looked down at her robe. It fell past her knees, was thick, and tied with a belt. ・ell, fine then, show me the way to the food.・She said when suddenly realized how hungry she was.

Part 2

Remy blinked his eyes open to dazzling sunlight. The sound of surf pounding a sandy beach made him turn his head. He was lying in the sand, looking up into a clear blue sky. The sun was warm and seabirds floated in the ocean breeze.

・hat・・he began, as he sat up onto his elbow. ・here am I?・He didn・ remember making it to Brazil, unless Jean decided to pummel him over the head and had dragged his unconscious body all the way to South America. Taking in his surroundings, it seemed the only logical explanation.

He stood, brushing white sand from his bare legs. He was dressed differently, as well. Some sort of strange tunic that was much the worse for wear. He turned in a full circle. Sea to one side of him, a tangle of trees and vines to the other. When completed his turn, he found himself looking at a figure approaching him along the beach.

・ean?・he thought. But it wasn・ her. The figure was too short, and wider in the hips and chest. He blinked at the woman.

・ogue?・he asked aloud. She smiled as she approached. She was dressed in a gauzy gown, belted at the waist. Her hair was longer than he remembered, hanging in wind-tangled locks past her waist.

・reetings, hero,・ she said.

Remy felt his eyes cross. ・hat?・he said.

・ould you care to join me for some ambrosia and more gentle love making?・

・hat!・he repeated.

・oble Ulysses, do not be coy with the daughter of the magician Atlas!・/font>

He was dumbfounded. He opened and closed his mouth like a beached fish. ・ogue, are you feeling all right?・

She approached him and stroked his bare arm. He flinched from her touch, but he found that skin-to-skin contact with Rogue didn・ affect him. Though returning to unconsciousness was looking more and more appealing.

・ had hoped you would forget your past, and spend the days of your life here with me. But I see you long to return home.・/font>

・amn straight!・ he replied. ・ogue, what is going on? Why are you acting this way?・ He grabbed her by the arms. ・here is Jean?・/font>

・ho?・she asked. ・oble Ulysses, I do believe you・e spent too much time out in the sun. There is no one here but you and I.・/font>

He turned away from Rogue, taking his hands from her as if burned. ・・e died and Saint Peter・ let me over de pearly gates. Stranded on an island, alone with Rogue, and she・ offering me ・entle lovemaking.・Dere・ no other explanation for it. I・ dead.・/font>

・ome,・Rogue said, taking him by the wrist. ・et us have one more night together.・/font>

・uuuhh yeah, okay,・ his brain was saying, but his feet stayed planted. ・o wait, something・ gone wrong. I・e got to get out of here.・

Rogue pouted. Remy took one longing look back at her before breaking into a run. ・lysses! Where are you going?・she called. ・ have to give you the magic silver axe!・/font>

He didn・ answer her, but kept running. ・ilver axe?・he asked himself. ・aybe I・ not dead. Maybe I・e just gone insane.・He plunged into the surf. He could hear Rogue・ voice back on the beach, crying out something he couldn・ understand.

He was swimming head on into the sea. Maybe he should have thought before jumping out into the water. There could have been a raft on the island. Or a raft he could have built. If only he could work fast enough or if had an axe.

He stopped swimming and tread water. What had Rogue called him? Ulysses? If he was Ulysses, and she was offering him a magic axe, then that made her Calypso, a sort of mini-goddess. Now he knew where he was. In the middle of the sea. Somewhere around ancient Greece. In a book called The Odyssey.

He turned back. The island was surprisingly far away. He realized he was being swept back by a strong current. There was something else he knew he should remember from that book, but English 101 seemed so distant. There was something about the sea that was really important. Let・ see. There was Troy, a shipwreck, a Cyclops・/font>

Suddenly, the sky grew dark. Remy looked up to see gray clouds stewing above his head. The sea around him began to stir. Ah yes, it was coming back now. Cyclops was some relative of Neptune, god of the sea. And Neptune wasn・ a happy gray-bearded mermaid with a daughter named Ariel. If Remy was remembering correctly, Neptune was a rather pissed-off guy, on account of Ulysses poking out old Cyclops・only eye.

・ knew you would return!・a voice boomed from nowhere and everywhere at once. Strangely, the voice sounded a lot like Scott Summers. ・ow I have you, Ulysses, and I shall torment you for the rest of your days. Never again will you see the smoke billowing from the chimneys of your household, or the bed you share with your wife---.・/font>

・hut up, will you!・ Remy cried. He could tolerate incessant chatter only when it came from one person: himself.

・ha--What?・the disembodied voice said, momentarily caught off-guard.

・ said, ・hut Up・・ He began to paddle against the rising waves. If he could just make it back to the island, he・ be safe. Still completely insane, but safe.

・ow dare you, puny mortal!・/font>

A wave rose up before Remy, and he sucked in a breath before it broke over him. He was twirling about, deep in the salt water. He fought his way to the surface just as another wave swallowed him. ・elp!・he managed to cry before sinking beneath the waves. Though whom he was calling to was anyone・ guess.

He bobbed to the surface again, gasping for breath. In his blurred vision, he could make out a form standing before him on the waves. The sea around him still bucked and roiled, but the figure hovering above the waves seemed undeterred. Her shape was indistinct, but it was hunched and old. She held out a trembling had towards him. In palsied grip was a flapping scarf. It seemed more substantial than the figure itself.

・ake this,・the woman croaked.

Remy reached forward and lunged for the flapping fabric. When he touched it, the woman disappeared. It was part of the story, he knew. The scarf was supposed to protect him from Neptune somehow. But judging from the enormous wave rising up to greet him, it wasn・ working too well.


Jean was sitting alone at the long dining table. There were two services set, and a pair of silver candlesticks with dripping candles in them. She cleared her throat nervously, and peered at the steaming soup in front of her. It was red and creamy. She took a guess at tomato. Beatrice was no where to be found. Jean crossed her legs and tucked her robe around herself, trying to keep off a draft. She reached for her spoon and dipped it into the soup. Cautiously, she ladled a spoonful to her lips. It tasted rather good. She was about to help herself to the basket of crusty bread before her when Beatrice glided in.

Jean snatched back her hand. Beatrice smiled at her and sat at the head of the table, to Jean・ left. ・ow is it?・Beatrice asked.

・h, it・ very good, thank you.・/font>

There was another uncomfortable silence. Beatrice nodded and turned to the soup bowl in front of her. ・he second course will be done shortly,・she said, as she put her hand over her swollen belly.

Jean dipped her spoon back into the bowl and took another taste. Beatrice made a small noise of discomfort, and Jean glanced back up. ・re you all right?・ she asked.

・ine,・the woman said.

Jean brought another spoonful to her lips, but paused. Her spoon returned back to the bowl, and something black emerged from the red liquid. She watched in horror as a squirming lizard-like creature wriggled to the surface and climbed up on the lip of her bowl. It turned, looked back at her, and a tongue came out and licked one eye.

・o you see that?・ Beatrice asked Jean matter-of-factly.

She was still staring at the creature in her bowl. She nodded her head, speechless.

・hat・ what I was afraid of,・Beatrice replied. She lunged at Jean suddenly, knocking the dishes across the floor. Jean leapt back from the table, stumbling over her chair.

・hoof!・she said, as she hit the floor as the breath knocked out of her. ・ha--!・she croaked, struggling to get air into her lungs.

・ever mind,・Beatrice said as she stood over Jean. She turned her attention back to the bowl and picked it up. ・hat you had should be enough,・she continued as she slung aside the bowl. Red liquid oozed across the floor towards Jean. The little black creature lay on its back, one leg twitching.

Jean watched it as her vision swam. The room around her was growing dark. The rich d・cor was fading out, turning drab and ruined. ・hat・ going on?・she murmured before her head sank to the floor and the world went black.


Remy awoke to find himself on solid ground, dry, but very cold. He was surrounded by forest. His exhaled breath made ghost-white wisps in the air. The sky was dim and the tall black trees were leafless. Crusty ice lay in patches on the hard earth. He was propped up against a tree trunk. Cautiously, he stood. A frosty fog made seeing any distance difficult. He looked down at himself. Again, he was dressed differently. This time his outfit was black, with ruffles at the neck and sleeves. He had a type of cape, which he wrapped around himself.

In the distance, he could make out the murky sound of a conversation. He began to walk towards it. He paused when the shadowy shape of two men materialized in the mist. They were hefting shovels and talking jovially between themselves. Remy listened to the chafing noise of the shovels digging in frozen earth, the clinking of metal against stone. Behind the two men, he could make out other shapes dotting the landscape. He was standing on the outskirts of a graveyard. One of the gravediggers let out a laugh, and flung a shovel-full of dirt into the air.

The soil fell a few feet in front of where Remy stood. Something round and white rolled towards his feet. When it hit the toe of his boot, two empty eye sockets looked up at him. It was a skull, its front teeth yellow and crooked. Remy felt a chill go through him. He turned as someone approached him from behind.

Remy gnawed his lip nervously. The man approaching him was his brother.

・enri?・he asked. But it wouldn・ be. It would be another character from a book, like Calypso-Rogue in The Odyssey. Remy all ready suspected the part his brother had been chosen to play.

Henri nodded at him. ・e should go back to the castle,・he said.

Remy shook his head. ・ need to get out of here,・he said. He could feel his heart pounding. The fear he felt was coupled with the sorrow at seeing his brother alive and warm, standing so close.

Henri opened his mouth to speak.

・o,・Remy held up a hand. ・on・ say it. Don・ tell me who I am now.・/font>

There were other figures approaching, marching through the graveyard towards the newly turned grave. A funeral procession. Remy wondered whose it was. The small family gathered around the grave as the funeral bier carrying the body was lowered. Remy and his brother stepped forward as the funeral began.

Seen in profile, Remy recognized the corpse・ face. His stomach turned, and he came to a halt. One of the members of the funeral procession looked up. Black hatred filled his face.

・ou,・he hissed. ・ou killed her!・/font>

Remy took a step back and ran into his brother. Henri put his hands on Remy・ shoulders, and Remy squirmed away from the unwanted contact with his deceased brother. The other man was fast approaching, his face a mask of hate.

・ow dare you show your face,・he spat.

Remy thought that Julien was acting unnaturally calm, but perhaps the role he had been forced to play confined his true personality. In the swirling mist, he could make out Bella Donna・ still form on the grave. Her vengeful brother was fast approaching.

・his will end badly,・ Remy said, mostly to himself. He broke into a run, dodging past headstones and tree trunks. He could hear his breath loudly in his ears. His terror caused him to be careless with his footing. He tripped and fell, but managed to roll to his feet. He could hear the others behind him. He didn・ want to see the cast of this horrible play. Who would be acting as the evil king? His mother Queen Gertrude? What if he ran into his ghost father out here in these woods?

He suddenly broke free of the woods and found himself at the top of a hill, overlooking a grim castle.

・amlet!・he heard his brother call and the cold all around him seemed to penetrate his very bones.

Remy half-ran, half-rolled down the hill towards the castle. The guards at the gate made no move to stop him as he ran through the front entryway. He skidded to a halt when he reached the main foyer. Julien was standing before him, sword in each hand.

・ake a choice,・ he commanded, offering the hilts of both swords to him. ・t will be your last.・/font>

The others were filtering into the room. Remy strode forward and selected a sword. He was sure no matter which one he chose, it would be the wrong one. The one Laertes-Julien wielded would be the one tipped in poison.

Their swords met and the duel began. Remy felt a wash of deja-vu. Julien would die again today by Remy・ hand. No different than the event that played again and again in Remy・ worst nightmares. The swords whisked through the air, a single slashing fang of a deadly viper. The duelists danced around each other. Unfortunately for Remy, this Julien seemed to have had some practice with a sword.

Out of the corner of his eye, he saw a figure step forward. She raised a cup to him, before drinking. It was the same woman from the last book-world, the woman who had handed him the magic scarf. Her eyes bore into him, then turned and looked purposefully towards a stained glass window. Then she stepped back and seemed to fade into the background.

・nough of this!・ Remy cried, and sent a shuddering blow down the shaft of Julien・ sword, causing it to fly from his hand. Julien cried out and clutched his hand, and Remy plucked the sword out of the air. Now armed with both swords, he kept a wide berth around him, swinging out at any that would approach. He backed slowly towards the window. Through the rippled stained glass, he could see the encroaching army that would soon take over this little castle in Denmark. People had gathered around, faces he recognized, people he once knew swarmed on him. Remy tossed the swords down and ran to the window. Flinging his arms up before his face, he crashed through into the unknown.


Jean・ eyes blinked open. Her head pounded, her mouth felt as if it were full of glue. She found she couldn・ move. She was floating, it seemed, a few feet above a table. Her back was bowed, so that her feet and head dangled back. Her hair spilled down, just brushing the tabletop. Her surroundings were dark. Guttering candles surrounded her, sitting on every available surface. The flickering light danced on glass containers. She spied more of the black lizards crawling over one another in a jar. There were frogs, and beetles, and things she usually made Scott go and kill for her. She was wearing a ratty and soiled sheet, the true appearance of the terrycloth robe she had donned earlier.

On the other side of the room was a heavy draped window; its coverings so dusty that the colors were indistinguishable. Before the curtain sat an old woman in an antique wingback chair. Her long white hair framed her aged face. Her hands trembled where they lay in her lap. The woman・ head was back, her eyes shut and twitching. At her side was the little girl who had first greeted Jean and Remy at the door. Melanie, Jean recalled. She tried to call out to the child, but the girl was immobile, her eyes wide with fright.

Jean reached out with her telepathy, but found it absent. She began to panic.

She turned her head slightly to a new sound. The strange woman named Beatrice was approaching her. ・ou・e awake,・when she spoke, she spoke directly into Jean・ mind. ・he poison must have worn off. We・l have to work quickly now.・/font>

・ou・e a telepath?・ Jean asked, slowly forming the words. Even thinking was an effort.

・mong other things,・ Beatrice replied into her mind. ・ou・e strong, Jean. Stronger than I am. But you are an unbeliever, and so easy to trick.・/font>

・hat do you mean? Unbeliever?・

・ou weren・ suspecting a trap. You couldn・ see through the glamour of this house, or through the spells I cast on you.・

・ad hoodoo鴈 Jean thought, before slipping back into unconsciousness.


When the darkness cleared, Remy found himself standing before a door. He was at least a foot shorter now, for when he stretched his small hand towards the door, he found the knob just below his eye level. ・o now I・ a child,・ he thought. He stepped through the open doorway.

On the other side was an unkempt room. There was one long table set for what looked to be a large feast, but was covered with cobwebs and dust. There were unopened presents piled in a corner, also dusty, as if they hadn・ been touched in years. Only a fire in the fireplace lighted the room. Before the fire was an old woman, seated in a chair, wearing an ancient and yellowed wedding dress.

・rs. Havisham, I presume,・Remy-Pip said. He was shocked to find he had a British accent.

・o, you・e guessed this story all ready, have you?・she asked, as she turned away from the fire.

・reat Expectations. Good old Chuck Dickens,・he replied to her. ・hy is it that you and I are the only ones who know we・e in some type of story? Who are you anyway?・/font>

She leaned back in her chair, the great expanse of her ancient dress lay out before her. ・y name is Xilda. I・ the eldest in our coven of witches.・/font>

・itches, now?・ Remy said as he approached her. ・ knew something like dis would happen. Bad hoodoo I tell her. But does she listen? Thank you for helping me, by de way.・/font>

Xilda nodded at him. ・ou were right---.・/font>

・hank you!・Remy cried, raising his arms to the ceiling.

・t was, as you say, bad hoodoo. You and your friend were unwittingly put under a spell by the middle witch, Beatrice,・Xilda said. ・hen you were knocked unconscious, she had you trapped. The blocks you had on your mind were very strong.・/font>

・y mind? Is dat why people I know keep popping up in these situations? She can read my thoughts?・/font>

・eatrice is a witch as well as a telepath. She has your friend with her now.・/font>

・ean,・Remy said, impulsively looking behind him for an escape route. ・s she hurt? Is she all right?・/font>

・t the moment, she is alive. But Beatrice has plans for her. She plans to transfer herself to Jean・ body.・/font>

・hy?・Remy asked. ・ecause of the baby. There are three of us, you understand.・/font>

・ui,・Remy said. ・he maiden, the witch, and the・h, hag.・

The old woman nodded. ・ight,・she said finally. ・nd I am dying, Remy. Soon to be replaced by a new witch.・/font>

・nd that means what for Beatrice・ That she becomes the hag?・

・mart boy,・she sighed. ・f she frees herself from the coven, then, she・ be free to live as long as she・ like, pulling in all the magic she cares to take, stealing it from the minds of others. With your friend・ power added to her own, she・ grow more powerful as the years went on.・/font>

・ow do I get out of here, then?・Remy asked. ・an you send me to her?・/font>

・ou・e got to quit running, boy,・the old woman said. ・top running away from the things that scare you.・/font>

・ell, I ain・ got a lot to run from in dis book. ・ept bill collectors or some such,・ Remy said.

The old woman shook her head, slowly.

Just then, the door behind Remy burst open. There stood a youngish woman, dressed in Victorian garb, but still unmistakably Beatrice. ・ere・ our Estella, now,・Xilda said.

・ou old cow!・ Beatrice cried, stomping towards her. ・・ going to stop your interfering!・ She shoved Remy aside with ease; he was about a foot shorter and a lot skinnier than she was. With a kick, she sent the fiery logs in the fireplace flying. One landed on the base of Xilda・ decaying dress. Fire caught easily on the dry old furnishings, creeping up the tablecloth and curtains.

・ilda!・Remy cried, but was again pushed back by Beatrice.

・s for you,・she began. ・ou・e going somewhere else. Where she can・ find you. Now let me think鴈

Remy clutched his skull. His head was pounding. A swirl of thoughts spun in his head as she reeled through his mind, spinning through his memories like a top.

・ha!・she said triumphantly. She dragged him up by his collar and reopened the door. ・ut you go!・she cried with a laugh and flung Remy through into the darkness beyond.


The woman had returned. She was carrying a pot of something steaming. Beatrice placed the pot down on the table below where Jean hung in midair.

・hat now?・Jean asked. ・ore soup?・/font>

She could see Beatrice・ smile in her mind・ eye. ・ot quite,・she said. ・ut the time draws near. I start the incantations now.・/font>

Beatrice drew a ladle from the pot, holding its steaming contents over Jean・ abdomen. She tipped it, and dark red slime poured from the ladle. Strangely, it smelled like cherries. Beatrice scooped other spoonful and poured it over Jean・ chest. The warm sticky liquid ran over her shoulder blades.

・hat are you doing, basting me?・Jean asked.

・ren・ we the comedian tonight?・Beatrice quipped. ・ot to worry, it is just the blood of seven virgins.・She laughed at some private joke.

Jean began to feel the effects of the strange liquid. It started with a tingling, then a numbing sensation. With her head tilted back, the juice ran down her neck, towards her face. She swallowed the scream building in her lungs. Streams of the liquid trickled down her face, into her ears. She struggled, suddenly feeling the confines of some levitation spell slip. In her mind, fiery wings beat furiously. She was terrified, but she was angry. With a sweep of mighty wings, her telekinesis sent the glass containers flying; the candles scattered across the floor. But the hot liquid was in her mouth, stinging her eyes. She couldn・ speak or breathe. The wings folded. Phoenix slipped back into her mind, going home to roost.


Remy heard a door close behind him. He looked down at himself. He was the right size again: an adult, and dressed relatively normally, if not a little blandly. ・here am I now?・he asked.

・oom 101,・said a voice.

Remy looked up. There was a lit table in the center of the room, but the rest was dark. ・oom 101?・he thought. So he was in Orwell・ 1984. There were rats in the room; he could hear them now, scuttling around in cages. Though the character he had been chosen to play was terrified of them, Remy felt nothing but mild disgust.

・here are you?・ he called out.

・f you could just lay down on the table,・the voice said.

The back on Remy・ neck prickled with fear. ・o, I think I・l pass on dat. Why don・ you come on out now?・/font>

・ery well,・the voice said, stepping out into the light. ・ere I am, my friend,・he said, snapping on a pair of gloves.

Remy・ blood ran cold. He knew the character・ name: O・rian. But the man that stood before him went by many names, many aliases, one of which Remy spoke now: ・inister,・he hissed.

The man smiled. The expression was so familiar, so terrifying. ・ow,・he said calmly. ・et・ lie down now, right here, and watch a little film.・/font>

Remy backed up towards the door. It was solid and the door would not budge. Suddenly, the room was flooded with light. A half dozen monitors flickered to life. All were lit with the face of the man Remy despised the most. He tried to dash away, blinking in the harsh light, and crashed into a stand of cages. Rats scurried across the floor. Sinister was approaching him, reaching out one latex-gloved hand. He needed to escape, to run away.

Xilda had told him not to run. But what was he going to do? Plunge straight into the arms of his most hated enemy and let him do God-knows-what? He was frightened but angrier still. Angry at having his thoughts tampered this way, using them to terrify him into submission. How many more stories would he have to traipse through? How many more memories dredged up and twisted around?

He cried out and flung himself at his pursuer. ・et away from me!・he cried. ・et out of my head!・He shoved Sinister back. The toppled cages caused them both to trip. The largest monitor was just behind them, and time seemed to stop as his weight carried both him and Sinister into the glass screen. There was the tinkling sound of shattered glass, the lights faded, the spell broke.

Remy coughed as dust rained down on him. There was a little dark face looking down at him, holding a book in her hands.

・ou,・he said between coughs. It was Melanie, the little girl. She was pulling books off of him. The rest scattered as he climbed to his feet. He was back in the library, surrounded by a pile of fallen books.

・ijou didn・ mean to,・she said sorrowfully. ・lease, don・ be mad.・/font>

・hat do you mean?・ he asked. ・h, you mean dat cat. Did he drop de books on me?・/font>

She nodded. ・lease, you have to hurry. Beatrice is going to put her mind into your friend・ head!・/font>

・how me where dey are,・Remy said, and chased after her.


Jean watched the little girl as she got up from the old woman・ side and ran out the door. Beatrice watched her go, anger building in her face. Jean was dreaming about witches. The Wicked Witch of the West, melted by a bucket of water. Then there was Glinda, the good witch.

・re you a good witch, or a bad witch?・she heard Glinda say, sparkling pink and bright.

・hy, I・ not a witch at all!・Dorothy replied.

・ouble, double, toil and trouble. Fire burn and cauldron bubble.・/font>

Those were the weird sisters, not Dorothy, Jean thought. Weirdo, that・ what I called the woman. ・hat a weirdo,・I said.

Jean laughed. ・y the prickling of my thumbs, something wicked this way comes.・/font>

Jean didn・ know why she was laughing. There was something horribly wrong here. Her brain felt tangled up. Balled up like a worn sock and tossed in the corner. She could feel the strange woman standing over her, saying something that Jean couldn・ hear or understand.

She was annoyed by the droning voice of the strange woman. That brought to mind Remy. Where was Gambit anyway? Off enjoying a good book, maybe.

There was a thumping sound on the other side of the room. Beatrice was distracted. The woman suddenly doubled over with a groan of pain. Reality swam into view for a moment. Jean blinked as the world came back into focus. Her hearing returned.

・ean!・she heard her name called.

・h, there he is now,・Jean thought, as she shook her head. Then her memories came swimming back to her.

Down below on the ground, Beatrice was clutching her stomach. ・ot yet, not yet,・she was crying. Her angry gaze turned to Jean. ・o, no,・she said. ・ack to nappy-time for you!・/font>

Jean was writhing in midair. Her arms and legs were locked together with some unseen force. Remy was fast approaching her, running across the room. ・・e got a bone to pick wit・you lady!・he yelled at the witch.

・et back!・Beatrice cried and flung out her arm. Remy flew backwards and skidded across the floor. ・et・ get this over with,・she said.

Jean felt the pressure in her head lessen, but Beatrice・ presence in her mind grew stronger. ・ut! Out! Out!・Jean could hear herself screaming. She could see Beatrice there in her mind. Jean grappled with her, but the woman pushed her aside. Flung her back as she had done to Gambit moments before. Jean let herself get tossed into the air, taking flight on strong red wings. She was spinning backwards, but landed comfortably.

Suddenly, she felt a stab of pain. She looked down at a swollen abdomen. She screamed as a contraction shook her body. ・・ having a baby!・she cried, in a voice that wasn・ her own. She reached down towards the pain, and felt a small round shape between her legs. ・h my God! I really am having a baby!・/font>

She looked up to see the shape of her body still floating above the table. Jean suddenly felt the full expanse of her powers brought back to her. Free of her drugged body, she was able to think more clearly. She plunged her mind back into her body, like a diver leaping from a high-dive into a pool. She found Beatrice・ mind, tired and small, but triumphant in her new body. She was shocked to see Jean return.

・ destroyed you!・ she cried.

・o, you only tossed me so far. And you throw like a girl!・Jean put all her fury into a shove that sent them both flying into different directions. Jean felt herself falling and returned to consciousness just as her body struck the table below her. She grunted and rolled over in pain.

A sudden cry startled her back to the real world. A baby was wailing. Jean sat up on the table. On the ground below her was the still body of Beatrice. Beside her was Remy, holding a blood-streaked child. He looked pale.

Blood was spreading in a pool around them. ・emy, you didn・・ill her?・Jean asked.

He shook his head. ・ think she died in childbirth・r went brain dead. She was still the whole time.・/font>

The baby wriggled in his arms. A woman hustled over, offering a blanket. Jean blinked as she realized that the woman was the little girl from before, only suddenly older. She scooped the bawling baby into her arms.

・ambit?・Jean asked.

・ot right now Phoenix. I think I・ going to pass out.・/font>


The heavy curtains had been pulled aside and morning sunlight spilled into the parlor. Jean sat in a slipcovered chair across from the old woman who had introduced herself as Xilda. Melanie, now several years older, doted on the newborn baby. Remy was impatiently pacing before the window; his shadow passed over Jean several times before she shooed him away. They were both streaked with dirt, Jean・ skin had been stained with the red liquid that Beatrice had poured over her.

・elatin,・Xilda had said in her creaky old voice. ・t・ a bonding agent for the other less pleasant things she put in there.・/font>

・hat explained the cherry smell,・Jean thought.

・atalyst for evil spells, and delicious as well. Will the uses for Jell-O never cease!・ Remy said sarcastically, returning to his foul mood from the day before.

Everything had been explained to her about the witches, the spell, and the enchantment she had been put under. Three witches in a coven and the middle witch had died, sparing Xilda. Remy was not forthcoming with his end of the story, but then, he usually never was.

・ou know, it・ strange,・Jean said. ・hen Beatrice was in my mind, she left some sort of vestiges of magic behind.・/font>

・ow so?・Remy asked.

・ere, watch this,・ she said, pointing to one of the many glass containers lined up against the wall. Inside one, a frog began to expand, until it shattered the glass. When the transformation was complete, a young man sat on top of the shelf, a tiny crown on his head.

・ell, that・l be a great at parties,・Remy said. ・ut usually wit・witches, it goes prince to frog, not frog to prince.・/font>

・ibbit,・the former amphibian agreed.

Jean nodded and the creature returned to its previous existence as a frog with an appropriate puff of smoke.

・hank you Xilda, Melanie, for your help,・Remy said.

・hank you, Remy,・ Melanie said. ・hank you for coming.・/font>

Remy and Jean walked back to the front porch, where their adventure had begun.

・gh, morning,・ Remy winced at the sun. ・nd me without my coffee.・/font>

・ere drink this,・ Jean offered him a thermos.

・hat is it?・he asked, looking in the top suspiciously. ・ot more ・ystery Brew・ is it?・/font>

・ think you・l find it・ been greatly improved.・/font>

Remy took an experimental sip. ・mn, not bad.・He took another sip, then turned to look at Jean. ・id I ever tell you how extremely beautiful you are?・/font>

Jean smiled and shook her head.

・cott is one lucky man,・he paused. ・f I were a man of lesser morals, I would・ean, what did you put in dis drink?・/font>

・hatever do you mean? It・ just a little something I whipped up. I think I・l call it, Red・ Recipe for Romance.・/font>

・hat? A love potion? Jean, you・e poisoned me! Er・gh! Here, darling, let me carry your bags for you・When will dis stuff wear off・a cherie amour?・/font>

・robably by the time our flight lands in New York.・/font>

Remy・ zipped up jacket wriggled suspiciously.

・s that a cat in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?・Jean asked.

・ar har,・Remy said, and a black cat popped his head out from the neck of the coat.

・ou can・ honestly be taking that with you, after everything we・e been through.・/font>

・ellie said I could keep him,・Remy replied. ・ou・e not scared are you? Of a little black kitty? Superstitious maybe?・/font>

Jean tried to slap him on the shoulder, but he dodged and trotted off down the driveway carrying their bags. She wasn・ quite positive, but she could have sworn she saw that cat wink at her.



Melanie walked through the Saint Louis graveyard, her dark black cloak swishing over the grass, still damp from last night・ rain. She cradled a baby in her arms whose scrunched up face turned to the bright sunlight. She approached the tomb of the Voodoo queen of New Orleans, Marie Laveau, greeting it like an old friend.

Crouching, she picked up a bit of charcoal, left behind by some other visitor. She reached out and circled the crosses she marked on the grave, a sign that her wishes had come true. She took in the tomb and saw the many X・ on the grave, some circled, some not. So many wishes.

Strangely, she recalled the symbol emblazoned on the strange suits the visitors had in their bags. A black X encircled on a field of red. Melanie wondered what the X・ stood for, if their wishes had come true as well.

If a kid asks where rain comes from, I think a cute thing to tell him is "God is crying." And if he asks why God is crying, another cute thing to tell him is "Probably because of something you did."