Whispers

 
 
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House of Mirrors: Althea Root


The World is Born Thrice

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To attract benevolent spirits to the home, to find treasure through psychic gifts.

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Mattie Baptiste, or Tante Mattie as she was known to the wealthiest families of New Orleans, though certainly not the most upstanding ones, was a woman of considerable girth, dark skin, and ancient knowledge passed down from healer to healer, or in French, traiteur.

Officially, she was caretaker, go-between, and peacemaker for the many clans of the Guilds. She knew each child of the clans by name and often had their favorite cookies and baked treats waiting for them in her spacious kitchen that always seemed to grow as much as was necessary to accommodate the growing families and stray waifs that wandered through. They looked up to her and minded her as they would a mother, and she cared for them as if they were her own.

Being around that many children with light fingers or quickness with knives had honed her instincts beyond even the natural mothering. So it was no surprise that even in the pressing mob of Mardi Gras, the small hand snaking its way into her pocket did not go unnoticed.

"Honeychile, did y' just stick dem hands o' yours in Tante Mattie's pockets?" she demanded and she whacked him good.

The small boy would have gone careening into the wall beside them if her grip on his slim, wiry little arm had not been so strong. But this was Tante Mattie and it was.

"Y' little urchin!" she admonished as he squirmed against her grasp. "Let's get y' home and get some food beneath dose ribs." She clucked in evident disapproval.

He tried to process her words and looked up sharply at her.

He didn't have much choice, however, as he was yanked after her. This woman was a force to be reckoned with.

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Tante Mattie moved about her kitchen with as much regal authority as any queen. The unruly urchin eyed her warily from where she'd stashed him at the kitchen table. She still couldn't get a look at his eyes. They were buried behind a mop of auburn bangs. His face was dirty and would require a good scrubbing.

All in good time.

"Here." Tante Mattie set a plate of hot pie and a glass of milk in front of him and settled her hefty bulk into one of the chairs across from him. "Y' look like y' can use de food."

When the boy continued to eye the dish with deep suspicion, she let out a loose chuckle from deep inside her. He looked up, surprised.

"Chil', dat food ain't goin' to get up off de plate an' eat y'." Tante Mattie winked at him and he only looked further perplexed. "Why don' y' get eatin' it before I do?"

His mouth opened momentarily, then snapped shut. He promptly started shoveling pie in his mouth as if he didn't know where he would get his next meal—which was probably the truth.

Tante Mattie let out a deep belly laugh. After all, she did know where his next meal was coming from and could afford a little amusement at him.

He slowed in his eating and narrowed dark eyes at her through the bangs.

She just got up and moved over to the sink to get washing up the dishes. "When y're t'rough wit' dat, y' can go get washed up in dat room over dere"—she gestured with a dishrag—"an' den I'll find a place to put y'."

"Don' need one," he muttered almost unintelligibly.

So the young 'un had a voice after all. Tante Mattie flashed him a warm smile. "Good to know y' be talkin', chil'. Y' jus' eat dat right up and I'll find y' a nice, warm bed."

The boy looked uncertain, but he didn't protest when she put another plate in front of him, this one with heartier fare. In Tante Mattie's experience, well-fed was well-behaved.

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It took weeks of skulking around the shadows when the Guild children came round and of pretending he wouldn't speak to her in his New Orleans street slang and of pretending he wasn't coming back when he snuck out and she didn't stop him and of him sneaking food from the garden or the breadbox and looking altogether puzzled when she didn't do a thing about it, but slowly but surely he came to trust her, if from a distance. He'd sit near the kitchen, out of sight but well within hearing, whenever she was baking or cooking or brewing herbs for the healing and there weren't any other children about. He started to pay attention to all the things she talked about while doing it whether or not he responded. He was a wild one, for certain, but not a child born could resist Tante Mattie forever.

But it was well into the seventh week of his grudging, uncertain presence that he finally started a conversation with her. To her surprise, he had picked up her own Cajun accent and that of the Guilds. Still too sharp, too high, but it would smooth out, given time.

"Where d' y' go when y' leave f'r so long?"

Tante Mattie stopped right in the middle of her baking and looked him up and down. He was still the dirty, mop-haired rascal she'd brought home, but there was a glimmer of inquisitive interest in the hidden eyes.

"Why do y' wan' to know, chil'?" She went back to kneading the dough. Just so. Not too much.

The urchin shrugged and leaned his head on her counter, one hand reaching for a cookie. He watched her the entire time, but she made no move to stop him and he bit off the edge neatly before continuing. "Y' always have people over."

"Don' talk wit' your mouth full." She waved an admonishing finger at him. "An' oui, I do. Dey're my families an' I'm deir healer."

"Healer?"

"Mm-hmm," she said, nodding in time with her kneading. "Traiteur."

He frowned and put the rest of the cookie in his mouth. He started to speak, then thought better of it at a sharp look from Tante Mattie. He finished chewing and swallowed.

"Why?"

There went that inquisitive glimmer again.

"Because dat's what I am, chil'." The dough was just ready. She covered it so it could rise. "Always use a light touch."

"Wit' what?" He cocked his head at her.

"Wit' de bread. Y' got t' be delicate. Bread an' people." Tante Mattie settled her bulk in a kitchen chair with a sigh, fanning herself. "Honeychile, dese two feet been about for too long. Why don't y' sit y'self down an' we'll talk proper like."

Warily, the boy came forward and settled into a chair, chewing on another cookie. He had light fingers, that one. She hadn't even noticed him reach for it.

"What's your name, chil'?" she asked when he had made himself quite comfortable.

He shrugged.

"Y' don' know or y' don' trust me?" Tante Mattie asked matter-of-factly.

He looked up sharply. "'S Remy."

"Ah." She leaned back in her chair. "A good enough name." She eyed him critically. "But y' need a bat'."

Like lightning, he had scooted back in his seat, knocked the chair over, and vanished from the room.

Tante Mattie laughed.

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Remy showed up again three days later, hungry as a stray cat and about as scruffed up.

"Who've y' been fightin', chil'?" Tante Mattie demanded, voice sharp, hands on hip, ready to hurt whoever had laid hands on her Remy.

The boy merely shrugged as he continued to stuff food into his mouth far too quickly.

She sighed. "Sit down, Remy. Dat food ain't goin' to run away."

He shrugged again, but at least, he slowed down a bit. When he reached for a bite of the strawberry pie filling she was making, she whacked him good.

"Ouch! Tante!"

"Dose aren't for y'. Dey're for de LeBeau family." She sniffed regally, then glanced over to see him checking his fingers for damage. She chuckled. "If y're good, I'll make y' your own."

Suspicious eyes came up. Still couldn't make them out too well under his dirty bangs, but she could read those expressions and the body language that went with them.

"Not takin' a bat'," Remy said stubbornly.

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It took weeks of slippery maneuvering and sneaking around her before Tante Mattie managed to give him a good washing, and he put up a fight as good as a mangy cat that hadn't seen the inside of a tub in its life. But he cleaned up nice, the little rascal, and she was treated to the sight of the most amazing eyes she had ever seen.

"Hol' still. Dat's better."

She found herself staring into bottomless darkness, like an obsidian scrying bowl just dying to be read, but burning red irises hid his mysteries behind resentment and fear. Le diable blanc, a memory whispered in the back of her mind and she smiled in satisfaction.

Remy stared up at her, stubborn rebellion written across his face. He crossed his arms and scowled.

"Why y' go hidin' dose eyes, Remy?" Tante Mattie shook her head disapprovingly and toweled off his auburn hair. Handsome boy, he was. "Dey're 'bout de nicest t'ing Tante Mattie ever saw."

He muttered something well below his breath.

"Don' care what dem priests may 'ave said about y'." She finished his hair and got her comb ready for the battle. "No need t' be ashamed o' dose eyes wit' Tante Mattie. Or de Guilds."

The Guilds. First time, she came right out and said it and she didn't miss the inquisitive look he shot at her. Then he saw the comb.

"Non."

The small boy would have gone careening out of the bathroom if her grip on his slim, wiry little arm had not been so strong. But this was Tante Mattie and it was.

"Hol' still, chil'. Dis'll only take a minute."

Between the struggling and the complaining and her chuckling at his wildcat antics, it took about an hour.

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Remy still managed to pull an injured look whenever he got around her, but Tante Mattie only laughed at him.

"Y' look better wit' de short hair."

He scowled, slouching further in the kitchen chair. His hair was not short, not really, but it had lost five inches, a great deal of its unruliness, and just about all of his bangs. His red on black eyes were clearly visible, a fact he clearly was not pleased with.

But Tante Mattie loved his eyes and wouldn't hear of his covering them. "Y' jus' sit right dere an' I'll bring y' a piece o' my pie."

Remy still showed signs of being overly lean (rib bones skinny), and he usually managed to perk up at any mention of her good cooking. Not today though. No, he was sulking and slouching and determined to be unpleasant.

Never mind. She gave him the pie anyway and all his surly disgruntlement didn't stop him a mite from eating it.

"De children are comin' by," she said after he'd cleaned his plate and downed a glass of milk besides.

Remy shrugged, but she caught a flicker in the dark eyes.

Yes, he cleaned up good and proper. With the cut hair and the intense eyes and the clean, angular features, he was going to be a real looker one day. If he wasn't now. Tante Mattie sighed. She'd deal with that when the time came. Though the truth was, that time might be just around the corner and getting ready to knock on the door.

Tante Mattie put Belladonna Boudreaux's favorite cookies into the oven.

She always knew she'd have to face the Guilds over him someday.
 


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    House of Mirrors

    FANDOM: X-Men (comics)

    STORY SUMMARY: The many threads of the multiverse are ripe for the plucking. Pick a card, any card. Once. Twice. Pick another. It's a House of Mirrors. Enjoy your stay.

    DISCLAIMERS: Marvel owns it all. I'm just twisting it around a bit.

    CANONICAL NOTES: AU, sort of. More like, visits to some other threads.

    LANGUAGE AND ACCENTS: Cajun French is courtesy of Heavenmetal (many thanks). I will attempt to reproduce accents in this story arc.

    AUTHOR'S NOTE: I never intended to start this, but a certain Cajun had other ideas. If this is frighteningly out of my norm, blame him.

    (UNBOUND) entries are in drafting phase and are likely to change radically before complete.

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    Stories

    All
    1. Diable
    1.1 Devils And Angels
    1.2 Pain And Subterfuge
    3. Traiteur
    3.1 Althea Root
    4. Requital
    4.1 Mercy
    Clips


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