Guilded Pain

Professor Charles Xavier sat at the head of the long oval table in the conference room, better known as the War Room.

He watched as Storm, Ororo Munroe, walked into the room slowly, white hair swirling about the dark skin of her shoulders showing above her blouse with its billowy sleeves. Her eyes and face were still, calm, dignified, despite the flashes of concern and guilt he could read from her mind as she took her seat to his right.

Cyclops, Scott Summers, held similar thoughts of self-recrimination hovering about his consciousness as he entered, eyes hidden behind thick, red-lensed shades, short brown hair tousled from running his hand through it, a frown flittering about the edges of his mouth. He felt responsible for so much here as the voted team leader. He felt responsible for this. He settled in the chair to Xavier's left.

The Professor felt a whiff of calm and saw his recently recalled former student Hank McCoy lumber in to take a seat next to Storm. The blue fur, bulky form, and enlarged canines had earned him the codename Beast. He was mostly in charge of the students, besides having time for his own research projects as a scientist.

Lastly, Jean Grey walked in, carrying a slim file folder and sighing slightly as she dropped into her chair beside Scott's. Her green eyes were tired. She slipped off her glasses, folded them, and tapped them on the table.

Xavier addressed the group. "I'm sure you all know a little bit about why we're here."

Scott frowned and nodded. Ororo refused to respond. Hank took a deep breath.

The Professor nodded at Jean, giving her the floor.

Jean frowned, gathering her thoughts. "I examined him thoroughly," she began slowly. "He'll be fine. He has heavy bruising, stitches in three places, and some scars from what seems to have been about five to seven days ago. He also has minor bruises and cuts from today." She glanced toward Ororo. "In addition to where he was struck on the roof."

Ororo closed her eyes to listen.

Jean continued. "What concerns me most is that he shows signs of being more than an alpha mutant, like I thought. What he calls charge is actually biokinetic energy generated by his body. He seems to have been recently depleted of it."

"How would you know that?" Scott asked.

"Because at the rate that it's increasing, he would be blowing us all up by now if he hadn't."

Jean's words left a pall over the room.

Hank rallied. "Perhaps it has increased its rate of production," he suggested.

"I doubt it." Jean drew her eyebrows together slightly as she studied the table, her hand holding the glasses stilled. She had done that often when studying hard as a teenager and the Professor knew she was trying to piece together a puzzle of some sort. "His cells show signs of being in process of mutating, so it is possible."

Heads snapped to attention. In process?

"However, he seems to be applying some force to slowing it down. The charge became highly active after his injury as if it could perhaps aid in regenerating his cells, but his mental scans show extremely heightened activity and I watched him slow it down with some sort of low level mental power. Almost like he was containing it somehow. He's keeping the charge from fully manifesting. So I don't believe it has increased production. Rather, I believe it has decreased."

As much as his staff could understand what Jean had just explained, Xavier could feel them boggling at it. It was unheard of. A mutant stopping his own powers, caught midmutation.

The Professor mused that Jean was right. Remy was not likely an alpha mutant.

He was almost certainly omega.

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Darkness greeted him when he woke. He moved slowly to get up and winced as pain lanced through his side. He touched his ribs with his gloved hand and found bare skin and bandages instead of a shirt. His coat was gone.

Tentatively, he stretched out with his senses to find motion and almost immediately, the warm thrum of charge began. He retracted hastily and felt around the bed for his coat.

It wasn't there.

He reached into his jeans. Perhaps, he had one left. Two lone cards slipped into his hands. He charged them both more intensely than ever he had charged mere playing cards before and hurled them into the air away from the most delicate equipment. He heard the explosion, felt it only slightly as he held his senses in tightly.

Control. He had to get under control.

The charge was increasing again, but not so fast or strong that he couldn't control it, he told himself.

Remy slid off the bed onto the cold, metal floor of the medical bay. He groped around until he found a chair, his coat. Relief flooded him with a shock of almost physical warmth. He slithered his hand into the inner pocket and felt for a deck. He found his cigarettes.

Good enough.

He lit up with barely a touch and inhaled the nicotine, blowing out the restless tension in his arms. Keep calm, he thought. If he stayed calm, the charge would not increase. The charm stirred as he turned it on himself, calming the raging in his molecules, in his body, in his emotions. He rolled his shoulders backward and reached into the trench coat pockets again. He found another card.

He felt it with his fingers, cursed beneath his breath. The blindfold was stifling, heavy, hot. He charged the card and let loose a flash of the insight he hated. Two of Spades.

Her red hair loose around her, her body suspended in an aura of flaming light. She reached out her hand to use her power.

He cursed and looked away as he drew the charge back in through his fingers.

Two o'clock. Remy consulted his internal clock. An hour. Long enough.

He dropped the card on the bed, shrugged into his coat, and turned a couple times to get his bearings. He located himself within the blueprint in his head and tread quietly out into the hall.

He would have to be careful, he mused. He couldn't get his stitches wet.

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The Professor returned with Jean to the medical bay. She had left Remy sleeping with Kitty, who volunteered to stay with him when Jean asked. When they entered, however, they found Kitty searching frantically for the missing mutant.

"I just went to the bathroom," she said. "I was only gone for a minute!" Both hands flew to her face and a mental wail sang out.

"Calm down," Jean told the distraught girl, reassuring. "We'll find him."

She glanced around the area. Remy had vanished, along with his coat. There was no sign of his presence on the physical or astral planes. Her heart sank. Finding him telepathically would be impossible.

The Professor frowned and folded his hands together. "I have the feeling he will return."

"You do?" Jean glanced toward him.

Kitty turned wide eyes in his direction.

He nodded toward the bed.

Jean used her telekinesis to lift up the small object she found there. A playing card. "I don't understand."

The Professor studied the card intently. "Two o'clock, I believe. Though I do not know where he's gone, I am almost certain that is when he will return."

Jean frowned. Remy was in no condition to go anywhere, but she refrained from arguing. If the Professor thought he was fine, he probably was.

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Bobby was passing by the showers in the boys dormitory when he heard water running. It was an odd time for that, so he opened the door and stepped inside to investigate. He rounded the corner and found Remy.

The tall young man was standing well out of the flow of the water, using a cloth to wash himself off, carefully avoiding a line of stitches down his front and another on his back. His eyes were shut, but the black cloth he usually wore had been removed, revealing a sharp, canny, though handsome face. Bobby couldn't help but feel he was staring at a fighter in every sense of the word, especially as he ran his gaze down the heavy bruises and long scars across Remy's arms. Silvery lines spiderwebbed over the wrists and onto the backs of the hands. He was extremely lean with streamlined muscles.

Staring at the other teen's injuries, Bobby wasn't so surprised now that Remy had seemed pained and tired at times.

"What happened to you?" he asked.

Remy paused, arresting his motion and cocking his head in Bobby's direction. He kept his eyelids shut. "Dese?" he asked, indicating the bruises and stitches down his front.

"Yeah." Bobby sat on one of the benches in front of the lockers.

Remy turned off the water and stepped further toward the benches. He shrugged, rolling his shoulders back. "Caught de bad end o' a charge. Didn' move in time." Remy grabbed a towel off the bench and started drying off, again carefully avoiding his stitches.

Bobby frowned, wondering just what he meant by 'bad end'. "Well, I'm glad you came here," he said with a small smile.

The words brought instant stillness. Remy's mouth tightened. He balled one hand into a fist and pressed at his own closed eyes, squeezing them tighter shut, then reached onto the bench again, feeling about for the blindfold. He wrapped it around his eyes and tied it tightly, then went for his jeans. He turned to Bobby.


"English, Remy," Bobby answered politely.

"Why?" The mouth tightened again.

Bobby felt an intent scrutiny settle on him.

"Well..." he began, then paused, staring into that knowing, unseeing face, realizing that Remy required the real reason, a real answer. Bobby thought and carefully answered, "Because there's a place for you here. And we help each other to 'move in time.'" He remembered his own days of uncertainty when he didn't even know how to turn his power off.

"Tu dis ça maintenant," Remy muttered.

"English, Remy.

Remy jerked his head sharply. "Non."

He stepped toward the bench again, started to lean over, then stopped, clenching his hands, his mouth tightening in a frown. He seemed to be studying his hands, even though he couldn't see them.

Bobby said nothing. He knew the look, knew the girl who wore it so often, that arrested motion, the realization all over again as she snatched her hand back in aborted touch. He walked over to the bench, picked up the shirt for Remy, and handed it to him.

A strange sort of smile twisted up one side of Remy's mouth.

"I always hated it when I couldn't do things for myself," Bobby said abruptly. "You know, for a while, everything was ice. Food, drinks, the floor I walked on. All of it. One nice block of ice."

Remy slowly reached out and took the shirt.

"And of course, it wasn't even a strong power," Bobby went on as if he hadn't seen. "It was the kind that made things hard for your teammates in a Danger Room session when they would find themselves slipping. Took me ages to even be useful. I mean, who would think of freezing your enemies."

"Makes sense," Remy offered.

Bobby shrugged. "Yeah, well, I learned."

Remy pulled the shirt over his head and then laid his hand against his stomach. Bobby watched in wonder as the hazy pink aura faded from the cloth.

"How do you do that?" he asked.

Remy seemed surprised. "Reabsorb de charge?"

"I guess."

"Y' never reabsorb de ice?"

Bobby stopped and thought about that. "Maybe." He clapped a hand on Remy's back. "They're probably wondering where you're at. We should get back."

Remy stiffened slightly, but said nothing for a long moment. "D'accord," he finally said, waving his hand as if it wasn't worth an argument. His hands then slithered into the pockets of his trench coat and stayed there.

Bobby knew the look. He had seen Rogue do the same thing to keep from touching. But he said nothing.

Some things shouldn't be said.

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Bobby walked alongside him, providing a moving reference point that Remy could follow without having to rely on his memory or other senses. Walking alongside held the reassuring comfort of familiarity. He had often walked alongside his older brother, Henri, down the hallways of his own family's mansion.

Jean Grey greeted them in the medical bay, along with the telepathic professor and a slightly flustered Kitty.

"Sit," Jean ordered.

Remy sat on the bed, ignoring the hum of dissatisfaction coming from the doctor. She pulled up his shirt and ran a professional hand along his stitches.

"You shouldn't have gone out while you were injured," she said critically. "You shouldn't have tried to skip out on your appointment in the first place. And you should not have been on the roof."

Bobby piped up as he sat in the chair that had briefly held Remy's coat. "He needed a shower."

"A shower..." Words failed her.

"I didn' get dem wet," he insisted.

"No, you didn't." She conceded the point and pulled her hand from the stitches to scribble on her clipboard.

Remy leaned back and rested one elbow on the bed. "So all dis a 'scuse to touch moi?" He guaged her reaction.

She stilled suddenly and completely.

He smirked at her.

"How old are you?" she demanded.

"Already told y' dat," he replied smoothly. "Seventeen."

"You should not be flirting with an adult," she admonished.

"Or my wife," Scott added disapprovingly.

Remy chuckled. "Never stopped me before."

Bobby coughed, obviously smothering a laugh or some sound of consternation.

The Professor intervened. "Let's try to keep on topic, shall we?" he said lightly.

Remy shrugged the one shoulder. "Y' wan' t' know why I'm hurt, non?"

"Yes." Jean sighed. "Your injuries are extensive and certainly go beyond what happened today."

"Saw a doctor. Mon Pere had dose taken care o'." He shifted uncomfortably. "What more do y' need?"

"Where did they come from?" she insisted.

He stared up into the darkness of nothing, remembering vaguely a man looking curiously down at him and asking that once about his eyes. The doctor's motions slipped about the edges of his senses, and he tightened his hold on them. "What color is your hair?" he asked, deliberately not flirting when he asked it.

She hesitated. "Red."

Red hair. Red aura. He shuddered and answered the question. "De charge. I blew somet'ing up. Somet'ing big. Hit me pretty hard. I woke up in de hospital." He firmly removed the vision from his mind.

He couldn't see her. He didn't know.

Jean scribbled on her clipboard. Bobby sat near him for moral support. The Professor watched with intent curiosity. Seemed some things never changed.

Remy laughed a soft, dry, bitter laugh, bringing the doctor to another pause.


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