Tears at the Crossroads

By Galaxia Alpha

Disclamer: All characters recognizable as the property of Marvel Entertainment are being used without permission. No profit is being made off of this story.

Continuity: This story takes place after "Diamonds Etched in Blood". That story can be found at http://members.tripod.com/galaxia_alpha This story is also part of a larger arc and will be continued in another story that I am presently working on.

Rating: I give this a PG for some depressing topics, more angst than any sane person should take in during one period of time, and for general unpleasantness.

Feedback: I・d love to hear from you. You can reach me at [email protected] If you wanna archive this, please ask my permission first.

Special, special, special thanks to Faile for beta reading this.




The room was cold, and dim, and sterile. The walls were white, the floor was tiled in a pattern of alternating grays, and the ceiling was hung with square lights that fit into the ceiling tiles. It was all so normal and ordinary, at odds with the purpose the room was made to serve. If one didn・t look at the beds and mounds of equipment that surrounded them, if one didn・t know what a hospital room looked like, one would never guess that so much could happen in a place like this on a regular basis. That people were healed here every day. That people died here every day.

There were two beds in the room, separated by a white curtain. The curtain was pushed to the side now and only one bed was occupied. There was a man on it, but that was as much as could be told from the figure firmly wrapped in bandages parting only for tubes to enter various strategic places. Parts of the face could be seen: mouth, nose, closed eyes, all badly burned. The skin was raw and red and blistered in some places. Second-degree burns. Maybe even third.

It didn・t matter. Either way it was pretty certain that this man was not going to last much longer. The various machines he was hooked up to were the only things keeping him going even now.

There wasn・t much in the way of discerning qualities that might identify the figure. He・d been brought in earlier by a known doctor, Cecilia Reyes. She didn・t work in this hospital, but nobody was willing to argue when she had come in with the patient critically injured and being carried delicately by a bulky figure swathed in so many jackets and clothes that his face could not even be seen. He・d carried the patient to a bed and had disappeared soon after. But some of the nurses knew. Even heavy clothes, a hat and sunglasses couldn・t hide a celebrity like Hank McCoy, the once mighty Avenger, from discovery.

There was something about this patient. He seemed to radiate an aura of mystery, like there was so much more to him than could be seen. There was no way of knowing whether he had once been handsome or at least slightly good looking. There was too much physical damage for that. But there was still something about him, a natural attraction, a strange feeling one got upon approaching him.

Maybe it had something to do with the fact that he was a mutant, that if you lifted his damaged eyelids you would find glowing coals resting on the black of night where normal eyes should be. Maybe it had something to do with the danger he seemed to represent. That once, when one of the nurses had come to take his temperature the thermometer had begun to glow with pinkish energy and had exploded upon her dropping it on the floor in shock.

Maybe it was just him. As simple and as complicated as that.

But did it really manner? He・d be dead by the end of the night anyway.

Rain pattered against the one dirty window in the room, clouds and New York City smog blocking any possible light from the moon and stars. But suddenly the room was aglow with a green illumination. And then the mysterious patient was no longer alone, for there was an equally mysterious woman standing over his bed, her features, her body, her shape etched in a strangely solid green mist.

The new arrival stared at the man briefly, a mix of emotions so complex that no single component could be successfully identified, playing across her features. And then she turned away suddenly, her back to him as if she couldn・t stand to face the reactions he evoked in her, as if he represented some great decision that she had to make, one that she wished she didn・t have to be responsible for.

She walked over to the heart monitor, listened to it beep, watched the peeks on the graph gradually getting weaker, his heart loosing strength, giving up. One slim green hand reached up to brush the display on the monitor as she closed her eyes and assumed a concentrated expression. The beeps steadied, drastically. The peeks on the graph grew more prominent. She stayed like that for a time and while she did it seemed that maybe, just maybe, this patient had a shred of hope. That maybe, with such an improving heartbeat, he might recover. Might survive.

But then she opened her eyes, brought her hand down to her side. There was a breath of air that could have been a sigh or simply a breeze and the beeps started to become erratic again, returning to their previous, perilous, state. The meager shred of hope dissolved into oblivion. Turning, she began to walk back towards the patient, her body seeming to melt as she did so. And then she was no longer a ghostly figure but simply a cloud of green mist that slid into the injured man・s chest and disappeared.

There was a sudden whispering of wind and if one listened carefully they might think they・d heard words in it. "Remy・ It would be so easy to save you・"


She opened the door with all her defenses on as high as she could manage. Her mouth was pressed into a tight line, her blue eyes were distant and unfeeling, every muscle of her body felt tightly twined. Within her, her heart had momentarily frozen, refusing to allow any emotion to be experienced in its shock. Maybe it knew that if it let her realize and react to what had just happened, she would not be able to survive it. Maybe it knew that numbness was the only protection.

Ororo Monroe stared at the bed before her, seeing the figure wrapped up in so many bandages. Unconsciously she touched the white gauze that still stretched across her own forehead, one of the many injuries she・d obtained from her fall from the sky earlier. There had been so much pain for both of them recently.

Finally she managed to bring herself closer to the man on the bed, managed to bring herself to gaze upon Remy LeBeau・s battered face. It was hard, like forcing herself to walk into fire, knowing that it would burn, oh, so bad. She looked down upon the bandages that covered his head, his chest, his arms, looked down at the closed eyes with the red, burned eyelids, at the relaxed expression totally at odds with the charismatic man she knew. And then she waited. Waited for the pain to come in a great giant flood. Waited for the realization to hit.

It didn・t. Because she was still too much in shock. She wouldn・t believe that Remy LeBeau, her friend through so much, had left her. The doctors had let her come here to visit with a strong advisory that this would probably be her last time seeing him alive. They had told her to say her good byes. She would not. If there was one thing she had learned about Remy, it was never to give up on him.

Reaching down, she brushed his reddened cheek that had somehow managed to avoid being covered in bandages. It was warm, like a sunburn might be, and she imagined that he must be quite uncomfortable, so she summoned some cool, moist air with her mutant powers to try and offer him some relief. If it helped, he did nothing to let her know.

She was still waiting for the pain to hit. Was still dreading it. But every time she thought about Remy, about the reckless, charming gambler who could always manage to steal a smile, she found that she could not connect him to the man lying before her, could not think of them as the same people.

There were tears sliding down her face. It was a rather surprising revelation for her. She was unaccustomed to crying when she could feel nothing. Maybe some of the pain was starting to leak out. Maybe the numbness was wearing off just a bit. She wiped at them with the hand of the arm that wasn・t broken and then brought her fingers back to stroke Remy・s face. The water from her tears dripped off her fingers to form shiny rivers down his cheek. And for a moment, her worn, confused mind imagined that maybe her tears could heal. Maybe the love and concern she had for him, the wishing that he would be alright again, could make him well. For a moment Ororo believed in fairytales.

Life was never a fairytale. She should have learned that by now. Behind her, the heart monitor sputtered a bit, missing its rhythm for just a second before recovering and Ororo felt the sharp bite of fear in her chest and the resulting relief when she realized that his heart was still beating.

But still there was no pain.

This wasn・t the first time Remy had done this to her. When he had kissed Rogue and the woman・s powers had gripped his very soul, it had also seemed that he might not survive. But he had woken up last time and had recovered completely. He would do it again. He had to. She knew he wouldn・t leave her like this, not when she needed him so much.

There was still no pain.

It was time to leave. As much as she didn・t want to, there were others who wished to visit Remy this night. She had come as soon as she・d heard, having just woken up from her healing slumber, refusing Hank・s insistence that she rest. She had claimed the right to be the first to see him, fighting for it passionately, but there were still more X-Men out in the hall waiting for a turn. It was only fair that she give them a chance. But then, life wasn・t fair, was it? If it had been, it wouldn・t have done this.

And still, there was no pain.

It came to Ororo・s attention that she had not spoken a single word during her whole visit. But then, sometimes words were not necessary. They were cumbersome things that could do nothing to express her feelings, or lack of. Her presence was enough. Some things didn・t need language to be communicated. And she felt somehow that he was aware of her, and that he understood exactly everything that she couldn・t say. There was an intangible, invisible force that connected them and it let her know that his presence had not left. He hadn・t given up yet.

She gave Remy LeBeau one last look before turning to the door to leave. Her footsteps were noiseless and she walked with a gracefulness matched only by the one presently lying burned and wounded in the hospital bed behind her. Reaching for the doorknob, she looked up at the letters etched into the door, specifying the hospital room・s number. The letters were painted in red. Red. Like his eyes. Like the burns that covered and mutilated his body. Like the burns that were killing him.

And then the pain hit.

She was unprepared for it when it came; it was like a flood, like a flaming holocaust, like a vacuum, like an earthquake all at once. The realization was almost too much for her to handle.

Remy was dying.

Her hands were shaking so much she almost couldn・t open the door.


He was swimming in a murky blackness, reaching, falling, grabbing, missing, and wondering where he was, knowing it didn・t matter anymore, having no feeling, no understanding but understanding all, and there was no more love or hate or pain or joy, just floating nothingness, floating, flying, sinking, suffocating, comforting, and he wasn・t alone but he wasn・t sure how he knew because he didn・t even know who he was or why he was here or what he was doing or how he had come to be but despite not knowing he didn・t really care because he was nothing; he was blackness; he was emptiness; he・ wasn・t.

And he wasn・t alone. She was there. She was always there.


Scott Summers didn・t like having to come here, having to do this. He might not be leader of the X-Men anymore, but it didn・t matter. Gambit was still a member of his team, and somehow, looking at the injured Cajun, he couldn・t help feeling responsible. Could he have made a difference if he had been with the X-Men instead of away recovering in Alaska from his recent ordeals in Operation Zero Tolerance?

Never could Scott have said he actually liked the Cajun. The two were complete opposites, Scott weighing the consequences of each decision, Gambit taking risks at every new turn. To Scott, life was precious, how could Gambit take it so lightly, how could he not put every effort he had into making it perfect? But then・ hadn・t Gambit gotten the most out of life in his own way? He had loved desperately. Had drunken deeply of the wells of passion, joy, and friendship. An image of Storm leaving Remy・s hospital room almost hysterical with tears interjected itself in his thoughts. Remy had experienced so much so deeply. Learned and made horrible mistakes・ horrible, horrible mistakes. But hadn・t Scott made mistakes? With all his carefulness and attention to detail, he could still never claim infallibility. And in the end, it was Remy・s risk-taking that had saved the X-Men. The nanos were gone, according to Hank. They・d self-destructed after much of Sinister・s lab had been destroyed. Sinister was gone. After the rubble had cleared there had been no sign of the villain. The X-Men were free. But at what price?

And even if Scott still didn・t like Gambit, or his cocky, lawless, arrogant attitude; even though he hated the Morlock Massacre and Gambit・s key role in the murders, he knew that the Gambit he knew was no longer the same man. And that he respected the man he knew. Because in the end he had been the strongest of them all, the most determined, a true hero.

There was a feeling of agreement and Scott turned toward his wife, Jean Grey, as she sent her feelings along the psychic rampart they shared. She stood next to him in the bleak hospital room, arm locked with his, as they stood over a fallen teammate. He could feel her distress at what she saw and her helplessness at not being able to help. She had tried. She had poured everything she had into trying, until she was on her knees sweat dripping from her temples, but no matter what she hadn・t been able to help, to bring Gambit back to consciousness, to even reach him at all. He was in too deep, she had said. And Scott had understood that Remy was beyond the point of being saved.

That・s when they had decided to bring him to the hospital, that and Hank and Cecillia・s dismal insistence that they could do nothing for him on their own with the equipment they had. Maybe if they・d still had the Shiar Medical Equipment・but they didn・t. That was gone with OZT.

Maybe if Scott had gotten back from Alaska earlier. He and Jean had come immediately, once Hank had called him telling him that the X-Men had lost their powers and that there were nano-probes in their blood controlling their bodies. Maybe if he had tried to come a little bit faster. Maybe he could have done something to stop this from happening.

*Stop it, Scott.*

He looked sharply at his wife, her stern command ringing through his mind. Her green eyes were liquid emeralds, darker with the feeling behind them. *It・s not your fault. Remy knew the decision he was making. You couldn・t have stopped him.*

Scott nodded, but said nothing, neither mentally nor verbally. She was right, he knew it. But he didn・t have to believe it. Or like it. Sighing, he spoke, "We should probably go now. There are still others that want to see him before・" He shook his head and sighed, leaving the sentence hanging in the thick air.


He watched Jean step forward and place one hand on Remy・s head, while the other came up to touch her own temple. Her eyes squinted closed for a moment and then opened again. Turning she walked away to follow Scott to the door, her task having been completed.

"What did you do?" he asked.

"I tried to tell him・ good bye. And that we・ll miss him."


The man that stood before the bed had light brown hair and hazel eyes, a complete contrast to the reddish-brown hair and crimson eyes of the figure that lay unconscious before him. This was Robert Drake, A.K.A. Iceman. Known to his friends as Bobby. A man who・s mutant power allowed him to change his body to ice. But somehow, he never managed to change his heart.

Gambit confused him. The man went against everything he believed in and yet somehow, Bobby had managed to be both resentful of him in the past and amazed by him now. It was a paradox he couldn・t figure out. He wanted simply to hate him for the pain he had caused so many of his friends, for the way he seemed to go against every X-Men ideal. But it wasn・t that simple. He knew that now.

The sight of the injured man was too much for him, was sickening, and he didn・t exactly relish the feeling of having his gut displaced into his throat. So he avoided looking at the Cajun, and stared blankly at the unoccupied bed next to him.

He found himself feeling sorry for Gambit.

His eyes drifted toward his feet, passing quickly over Remy・s body on their way there. "I never really hated you, you know," he said suddenly, hazel eyes still downcast as if he found security in the solidity of the floor. "・Course, I never liked you either, but I didn・t want this to happen. Maybe at one point I would have thought so・ but now I know I was wrong." He sighed and he imagined he heard a phantom sigh echo his own. But he was alone and so he blamed it on the wind. He failed to notice the window was not opened.

"I never gave you a fair chance. I mean, you were always so arrogant and confident. Maybe I envied that because I was always so worried about impressing Scott and finally ・earning・ my place on the team. Stupid. I earned my place a thousand times over, I just never let myself believe it. I was used to being the baby of the team, of being the least. As much as I wanted to be more, I was too used to people accepting me as being nothing to try and reach my full potential. Heh. Maybe OZT was good for something. At least it taught me that I didn・t need the X-Men to be something worthwhile, that I could stand on my own two feet and actually survive and do some good while I was at it. Can you imagine that Cecilia and Marrow actually started looking to me for leadership?" He paused a moment, thinking. "You know, you never did baby me like the others. Maybe I expected that out of you and was angry when I didn・t get it. But I never really did wanted to be treated like I was an amateur, I was just so used to it・

"It really wasn・t very fair. You got away with everything, all those stupid risks you took and all your low morals. You were the exception. Me, on the other hand, everybody watched and made sure I was acting like a good little boy. I hate that. And I・m tired of it. I think it・s time I proved to everybody that I・m not a kid anymore. But anyway, I always resented you for your freedom and also because you became part of the team so easily. I had been with the X-Men since the beginning, then you came along somewhere in the middle, a criminal and thief to boot, and suddenly you were being hailed as a super hero. What was that all about?

"Oh yeah, and then there was Rogue. C・mon, how could I not have a crush on her? I mean, look at her. And she had that whole damsel in distress thing going on after she kissed you and put you in a coma before that Crystal Wave. I couldn・t help sympathizing with her and disliking you even more. You tore that girl・s heart to shreds.

"And the Trial. Don・t get me started on that. You participated in one of the worst Massacres the X-Men have ever seen," he shook his head in disbelief. His mood suddenly darkening. He said in a quiet accusatory tone, "You almost caused one of my best friends to commit suicide after he lost his wings. And then you go on, smooth talking the world, acting so nonchalant. I don・t know how you sleep at night. I know for the life of me I wouldn・t be able to. I remember finding out your deep dark secret after the rest of the X-Men came back from the Trial. I・ can・t describe how I felt about you after I heard that・ Betrayal comes to mind. I thought I could trust the X-Men. You taught me something about that.

"I was pretty comfortable by then in my policy of not liking you, had plenty of rationalization to keep me happy.

"And then you went and did this," he added in a hard voice.

There was a long pause and then he began talking again, eyes having risen to the adjacent bed again. "You probably will end up having given your life to save the rest of us. Why? There really is no explanation, you know, except that maybe you aren・t the horrible person I always thought you were. Maybe there・s something worthwhile in you and you・re not the same monster that led the Morlock Massacre, or the man I thought had deliberately ripped Rogue・s heart out. So I guess I don・t hate you, considering that you have saved my life・

There was a sigh, and Bobby looked back towards the door. "You know, she ran off. Right after they decided to bring you to the hospital. She was in pretty upset, said she couldn・t stand watching you die. You should have seen the pain in her emerald eyes through the tangled strands of white hair that fell across them.

"I・d like to blame you for that, but I can・t with a good conscience." His voice was resigned and his mood somber. "You・ve gone and saved my life and the lives of my friends and that has to be worth something. I・m not the immature little boy I once was. I・d like to think that maybe I have some honor now.

"So I guess what I・m saying is・ I hope you end up okay, and if you don・t, like the doctors say, I・m sorry for never really giving you a chance. But don・t get me wrong. I still don・t like you very much. But I・m willing to tolerate you, and maybe try to get to know you a little better." Another pause. "And I・m sorry・ I・m sorry it・s probably too late."

Reaching up, Bobby pushed some stray strands of hair from his eyes. The light brown locks were getting pretty long now, still not as long as Gambit・s but long enough that he knew Scott probably wouldn・t approve. He was trying to force himself not to care anymore, because he needed to prove that he was his own man now, not a little boy who needed to be sheltered and protected. He needed to prove to everybody else what he had proved to himself during the course of Operation Zero Tolerance.

There was the click of a lock as the door opened behind him, and he turned to watch Hank McCoy enter, furry blue body hidden in a big trench coat and low brimmed hat. The expression on the face draped in shadows was solemn, the kind that made itself prominent at funerals and such, and Bobby sympathized with his friend. He turned back to stare at the bed next to Gambit again as Hank came to stand next to him.

"Hello, Bobby."

"Hey, Hank." Out of the corner of his eye, Bobby caught the glint of guilt and sorrow that flickered across his friend・s features as he glanced down at Remy.

"I・ umm・ Warren would like a turn seeing Remy before he・ uh・ is no longer with us." The big mutant squirmed slightly with the last part.

"Sure, I was just finishing up anyways."

Neither man moved.

After a short pause: "You・re sure Warren isn・t going to・uh・ hurt him or anything?" Bobby knew Hank would understand his meaning, Angel had been pretty angry over finding out that Remy had been apart of the Morlock Massacre, the same event that had caused him to loose his original set of wings. Bobby wasn・t sure if he・d put it past the man to do something・ rash and violent.

"I believe you could say Warren is starting to have a change of heart."

Bobby nodded, understanding fully. "That・s been happening a lot lately. Even to the most stubborn of us."

Finally Hank turned to glance at him. "Are you alright Bobby?"

"Yeah・ yeah・ I・m fine. Just thinking about how I never really liked him much, even though I never really knew him." He gestured with his head toward Remy・s prone form.

"He had a way of bringing that out in people. I believe the correct phrase is, ・he knew how to push people・s buttons・."

Again Bobby nodded. A brief silence blew through the room, sweeping across the occupants, drifting across the single window with the thick iron bars that made the space feel like a prison, and dancing briefly with the beeping of the heart monitor. Finally Bobby spoke again, "So how ・bout you, Blue? Are you okay?"

Hank didn・t answer for a moment, but his furry paws worked in the sleeves of the large coat.


"We acted as such hypocrites."

Bobby glanced at his friend, the words and tone unexpected. "Huh?"

"We should have never left him in Antarctica," he continued, his voice was worn and earnest. "I used to delude myself with the rationalization that Rogue was the one who had left him, but it・s not true. We waited too long to go after him, and there were too few of us that really cared if we found him or not. It could be said that times were hard, with Bastion, and Scott・s injury, and everything else that was going on. That was no excuse. The X-Men always talk about trying to make a better world for all people regardless of their past or their mistakes or their nature. We preach about taking care of our own and helping those wounded and hurt by what fate has dealt them. And what have we done? We・ve proven that it・s all lies."

"Hank・ it was a mistake, something better forgotten. You couldn・t have done anything to change what happened." Bobby glanced, slightly worried, at his friend. He didn・t often hear the normally jovial Beast talk this way.

"Excuses, rationalizations, they・re all worthless." Hank turned to look Bobby directly in the eye, his expression livid, "I call myself a doctor, I aim to save lives, and then, when one of my own teammates needs me the most, I don・t even try to do everything in my power to help him. Bobby, I didn・t care. I was too busy licking my own wounds and feeling betrayed to put all my enthusiasm into saving his life." He glanced down at Remy again, managing not to wince, but not even trying to hide the guilt that streamed over his face.

Bobby couldn・t help feeling sorry for Hank, seeing him like that. He sympathized with the revelations that plagued his friend, and somewhere, he pitied him for having a heart too big for his own good. "We all make mistakes," he said quietly.

"We didn・t even know the whole story and we condemned him. The man couldn・t control his powers! He was desperate・ And at the same time, is that any excuse for aiding the murder of so many innocents? It・s a paradox, one I have no answer for, though I wish I did, and so I have no right to judge him. And yet I did, Bobby, in my heart I had condemned him for all his mistakes."

"Hank. Listen to me. Stop doing this to yourself. You messed up, so you learn from it and don・t do it again. You aren・t going to do him any good by wallowing in self-pity. He probably did enough of that to last all of us."

There was no answer except the beating of the heart monitor, a shrill solid sound that fluctuated and seemed to scream out in the silence. The room suddenly felt suffocating and Bobby found himself feeling a bit claustrophobic, sharing the space so close to a dying man who seemed to accuse him with no words from behind his mask of misfortune and affliction. It was funny how guilt could tear people to shreds, mutilate their beliefs and foundations at the worst possible times and only when it was too late to do anything to change things. No, it wasn・t funny・it was the greatest tragedy of all. No wonder Shakespeare loved writing guilt-laden soliloquies so much.

Out of the corner of his eye, Bobby saw the blue, furry head nod suddenly under its hat, and noticed that the mutant seemed to have regained some control over himself. "You are right, or course. It seems to me that you have gained a lot of knowledge and wisdom as of late."

Bobby shrugged slightly, tired of all the heavy conversation that weighted the air in the room. "Yeah, well, it happens. When you・ve got it, you・ve got it."

"Actually, I・m more inclined to believe that it is simply me rubbing off on you." A slight smile, almost nonexistent in fact, but prominent enough that it could barely be seen, creased Hank・s lips. It was joined by Bobby・s own weak grin.

"Dream on, Big Blue."

The two stood like that for a short while, until the smiles faded and the solemnity resumed.

"We should give Warren a chance to visit our Cajun savior, now. He is undoubtedly getting impatient by now."

Bobby nodded, pushing the hair out of his eyes that the movement put there. They stood there a moment longer before Hank led the way out of the room. The door shut quietly behind them and silence followed.


Angel stood, arms folded tightly across his chest, posture stiff and taunt, across the room from Remy・s bed. There was anger in his eyes, confusion, and even pity all mixed together and crossing over his face like potent storm clouds. He wished he could figure out how he was supposed to feel about this man. In a way he wished he could be more like Logan. Wolverine had refused to visit Gambit, saying that he had said all he needed to to the man already, and what was the use in waiting to explain your feeling to a person until it was too late? Unfortunately, Warren wasn・t so logical. He still didn・t know whether he forgave this man for all the pain he had caused him.

Of course he・d heard Rogue explain the whole story about Gambit・s powers and his deal with Sinister before she had run off. But in his opinion that was no excuse. They all had troubles, going out and assisting in the murder of a whole civilization of people wasn・t the way to deal with them. Sure he probably had Gambit to thank that his friends were still alive. That little stunt he had pulled back at Sinister・s place had managed to free the X-Men, even if it had mortally wounded him. Lucky for the X-Men the glass cages and the force fields around them had protected them from the worst of the blast before they both were destroyed. And according to those who were there, the blast hadn・t really been directed at them. But it had all been a gamble; luck was all it was. Gambit had no way of knowing whether he would end up killing the X-Men or saving them. And did the lives of a few of his friends make up for the lives of all the Morlocks?

But Gambit had saved the X-Men. Wasn・t that worth something? Didn・t that deserve some recognition? He had made the supreme sacrifice, hadn・t he? But then, when you were as guilty as the Cajun was, what was your life really worth? Was it really such a big deal to give it up?

The man had caused him to lose his wings! Was there any forgiveness for that? How could there be? His wings had been his freedom, his life, without them he had been imprisoned, shackled to a pointless existence dependent on earth beneath his feet. He would have committed suicide if given the chance・ he・d tried to in fact. And then there had been Apocalypse, his savior, his slaver. And the cause of it all was lying before him on this bed, half-dead, and demanding his pity.

Warren shook his head, and began pacing the room, taking quick, angry strides that emphasized his frustration. Both hands rose to run through his hair and then rub over his face. The man looked like Brutus contemplating the validity of Ceasar・s rule.

There were images filling his head. He was in the medlab again, weighed down by dying wings, watching the pure sorrow and regret, worry and guilt that papered Remy・s face as he gently laid Sarah down on a cot, and told her it would be okay. And the arrogance and pompous, charming, louse was all stripped away and Warren glimpsed the man he rarely saw, the man that really did care and really did feel. The one that had never wanted to cause so many people to die. And he couldn・t help but not hate him because he saw all the feelings in Remy that he had felt after he・d been released from Apocalypses hold, the guilt and self-hate for all the lives he・d destroyed without realizing it. He found that he sympathized with Remy and on some level understood.

But Remy had been in charge of himself at the time when he had led the Marauders. Sinister hadn・t been controlling him in the way Apocalypse had controlled Warren. The situation wasn・t the same. It couldn・t be!

But maybe it was. They had both been crushed souls, at the bottom of their lives, in the piths of desperation when they had been taken under the wings of madmen・

Warren suddenly punched the wall with all his rage, his fist hit the sheet rock and went straight through, stopping short of bursting past the wall of the adjacent room. No・ it wasn・t the same! If it weren・t for Gambit, Warren would have never lost his wings and needed to resort to following Apocalypse. It was Gambit・s fault now and forever. There was no forgiveness, no mercy for such a horrific act.

And then there were those pure, raw emotions he had seen on the thief・s face. The ones that wouldn・t leave him alone. The ones that forced him to think of him as a human being rather than as a murderer.

Angel walked closer to Remy, the dark cast of his shadow eclipsing the wounded man. He noticed the bloodstains on some of the white bandages starting to seep through. How appropriate that they clothe him in white and he manage to stain it red with blood. He was so helpless・ so vulnerable. Warren squashed the murderous thoughts in his head before they could fully form. Warren was an X-Man. He had to remember that. Above all he was an X-Man, and the X-Men believed in second chances. Did he? When was it too much for mercy to be applied?

Spinning on his foot, Warren put his back firmly to Remy. He・d come here hoping to figure some things out and had, instead, accomplished absolutely nothing. This man was dying and he wasn・t sure if he even regretted that. Maybe that・s what frustrated Warren most off all, what scared him. Life was precious, how could he wish it to abandon someone?

But he didn・t hate Remy like he had right after the Trial. He wasn・t sure if he really hated the man at all anymore. But he knew he didn・t forgive him. He couldn・t no matter what X-Men ideals were. The man was a murderer. Why couldn・t it be that simple? Why did there have to be complications that made that fact so unreliable?

There were no answers to his questions. The thief had stolen his wings, a part of his life, and he couldn・t even fully, totally, freely hate him. Throwing his hands up in utter frustration, Warren Worthington III strode quickly out of the room.

The door slammed heavily behind him.


The darkness was growing deeper, harder, tighter, and he was loosing the last strands of self he held so desperately because something told him not to let go, that there was so much to stay for, but there was a bigger part of him that was so tired, that wanted rest, that wanted peace, and he didn・t know what the darkness held or if there had ever been light and if there had been he didn・t know where it was or what it was, so the darkness beckoned him with no distraction and he went with little struggle, for he had no ammunition to fight with, sinking, sinking, dissolving in the murky blackness, the strands of his life unraveling and fading away and he no longer knew anything, just felt distantly that he would be gone soon and the confusion and unrest would be over. And then words had no more meaning and neither did he.

She watched. And she fought with herself. So much rested on her shoulders, a life, a death, a future. She had come here with a purpose, a single-minded goal, a mission to save the world from its own creation one last time. Had she done enough yet? Must she do more? Did the future dictate that she watch him die? She could save him, she could reform him. She could change the way things were. But it was a risk. Was the future of the world worth the risk of saving him? She・d given her life for this, must he give his? She wrestled with the questions, with her own mixed emotions of confusion and self-doubt. She・d come here planning to find a madman, an evil, heartless, villain. But she・d found none of that. Instead she・d found Remy LeBeau.


Opening the window had not been a problem, the bars guarding in had bent easily under her strong grasp, and the glass had offered little resistance. It was going through the window that was hard, not because she couldn・t physically go through the small space, but because she wasn・t sure she was ready to face what lay on the other side.

But she had forced herself through eventually, and now she stood on the solid ground of the hospital room, arms wrapped protectively around her body as she stared at the man she thought she loved lying on the bed. It wasn・t as if she could actually see any detail of him, even if the bandages hadn・t been obscuring most of his body, the tears that filled her eyes blocked her vision too much to see more than a general blur. In a way she was grateful. She didn・t want her last clear memory of Remy to be seeing him like・ this.

Rogue had tried to run away. It was times like these, when her emotions grew too dominant, that she had found it easier to be on her own. And that・s how she had always dealt with hard times in the past, by depending on herself and leaving those who would force her to depend on them. As much as she wanted to be comforted, she didn・t want to show her weakness like that, to feel so utterly helpless while she cried on someone else・s shoulder.

But she couldn・t do it this time. She couldn・t run away and leave it all behind. Because she had made that mistake before, had left those that needed her most to selfishly care for herself. Remy meant too much to her now, and it was only right that she stay with him・ until the very end. He deserved that much.

And so she walked forward slowly, her auburn hair with the white streak running through it hanging cold and wet around her, rain having soaked her as much as her tears, and took his bandaged hand in hers, and waited.

Part of her was angry at him for what he had done, for making her feel this way. She was supposed to be stronger than this. She was the woman who could play catch with a 1000 pound bag of bricks and not work up a sweat, the woman who had to deal with the isolation of not being able to touch another human being everyday, the hardened terrorist who had learned the rules of life early on. What had happened to her?

She looked down into the face of the thief that had stolen her sense of self from her. She had become so dependent upon him, so frustrated and confused by him. What was love when it was always just out of reach behind an impenetrable glass wall? It had become too much to deal with. He had taken the hardened warrior she・d thought she was and revealed it for the façade it had always been. Because under it all, she had always been a confused, lost, little girl who life had treated unfairly. She didn・t like that little girl. In fact, she hated her. And she hated the way Remy took down all her defenses. Like he was doing now.

She didn・t know what she wanted. Sometimes she thought that she was better off alone, and now? Now・ with Remy on the verge of death? She wasn・t sure what life would be without him. He・d shown her so much, given her so much, allowed her at least a taste of the love she could never have, made her feel special and wonderful. And now he was leaving her after all he・d done. He・d teased her with the hope of a future that could never exist. And it hurt. It hurt so horribly and deeply and she wished that it could all be okay again and that they could be happy again.

Had they ever really been truly happy? Happiness had never lasted long in her life. Not with what she was, with who she was.

She held his hand tighter. "Dang it, Remy," she choked out quietly, "don・t you dare leave now. It ain・t your time and ya know it. This isn・t supposed ta happen. Ya・re supposed ta grow old, be the witness, outlive us all・" She wiped the tears from her eyes with one gloved hand. Life never did what it was supposed to do. She should have learned that by now.

"Ah, ain・t gonna leave ya, Remy. Not this time. Ya need me and I・m staying ・till ya decide ta stop being stubborn and come back." She wouldn・t consciously accept that he was going to die, not yet. It was a false hope, she knew, but for the moment she needed it, even if she knew that that was all it was.

She was here for the long run. No more running away. She gently sat down on the side of the bed and slowly lowered her body onto the hard mattress until she was laying next to him, hand entwined with his, heart as close to his as she could get it. And she concentrated on his raspy breathing, the ever-dulling warmth that radiated from him, the unpredictability of his pulse・ And she treasured every last moment.


She left Remy・s body to watch the two lying on the bed, keeping her form a green haze of energy that the woman on the bed was too distracted to notice. She knew the woman・s name. This was Rogue. Part of the reason the future was what it was, though she could hardly say it was the woman・s fault. Rogue couldn・t help what would happen to her. Or Remy・s reaction to it.

Did she really have a choice? She・d come back for a reason, had given everything, risked everything, to perform her task. But maybe there was another way. She wanted to believe there was. She wanted to believe in hope, maybe for one of the first times in her life. She wanted to believe in a pure hope, not one laden with blood like the one she・d come here to fulfill. Sure, it had seemed easy enough. It wasn・t like she・d never killed someone before, that was part of survival in her world. But she・d never known someone like this before either. It was the side-effect of her power. She knew everything about Remy, his shame, his pain, his love, his dreams・the ones he locked so deep inside himself to protect, the ones he pretended not to have for their own safety. And he wasn・t who she・d come here expecting. There were people here that loved him, that cared for him despite it all. There were those who were trying to figure him out, and those that wished he・d never come into their lives, but they all cared at least to some degree. None of them truly wanted him to die.

She・d tried to find signs of her future here, to prove that she was right, to justify her mission. She・d found none of that. Only a dream, a belief, and a team bound to make it come true. And Remy was part of all that.

Her logical mind screamed at her to stop this. To do what she・d come here for. Actually, she wouldn・t have to do anything, just wait and watch. The rest would take care of itself. The future wasn・t worth one puny life.

But then there was her heart. The part of her she despised for making things so hard for her. The thing she・d always tried to make a block of stone. Somehow, it always broke through that block. There was the conscience that she・d thought she・d destroyed long ago, returning its voice to the turmoil of her mind after so long. There were her feelings, what she wanted.

And there was the Decision.

She felt him loosing strength. His heart began to slow. And stop. She faintly heard the redlining of the heart monitor, and Rogue・s cry of anguish.

She made her choice.


It was over. He was gone. Rogue tried hard to breath steadily through the pain. Behind her the door rushed open, a half dozen X-Men and a doctor rushing through. She ignored them, because all she could see was Remy, lying limp and lifeless next to her. All she could feel was all her love destroyed. And all she could think was denial and helplessness. For all her power, she could do nothing to save him.

Storm came up beside her, body shaking, eyes glazed over in white. There was the loud crack of thunder outside and the skies poured out their tears in one of the worst storms New York City had experienced in quite a while. Everyone else hung back, even the doctor who knew that it was too late for him to help.

She leaned over him, tears dropping onto his angular face, soaking the gauze that covered him. "Remy・" she whispered faintly, not actually intending to make the word into a sentence. She placed a hand on his chest, hoping to desperation to feel some movement. There was nothing. Bending gently over his face, she brought her lips to his and kissed him. Slowly, lingering for a moment, she brought her face away from his, looking back to see the despondent, empty expression on Ororo・s face. And then she froze, and turned back to stare at her hand where it lay across his chest.

Because she had felt something. She almost jumped when she realized the heart monitor was beeping steadily again.


He・d been away somewhere, somewhere deep in the darkness and he had lost himself to it and had been no more but then something happened and there was a green warmth around him, filling him, becoming him, and the darkness was fading and with it came pain, such horrible terrible pain that gnawed at him, that attacked him, consumed him, and he wanted so desperately and fully to go back to the darkness but he couldn・t because it was disappearing and he didn・t know how to bring it back.

And then he remembered. He had a name. Remy LeBeau. He had a life in the real world. He should be dead. But he wasn・t. He could feel the burns on his skin, the rawness of it, the nausea at the intensity of his injuries, the moisture that wet his face and stung his wounds with its saltiness. He could hear people talking distantly, crying, holding his hands and squeezing them. The voices were getting closer. He began to recognize them.

Rogue. Storm. The X-Men. He was safe.

And he almost burst out laughing despite all the pain.

Because he was alive.

A smile settled on his lips and he let himself fall into a comfortable sleep.

He was too tired even to notice the green mist that seemed to hang before his closed eyes, or acknowledge the cry of anguish that echoed through his mind from a voice that was not his.

fin・ for now