Chapter 1: Despair
One of the oldest human needs
having someone to wonder where you are
when you don't come home at night.'
- Margret Mead
He felt the rain trickle down his neck and under his shirt.
Fool, sitting out in the icy rain. You'll probably catch
a cold. He pulled the collar of his long coat up higher
and huddled beneath it but still made no attempt to leave
his perch. At least being sick might take my mind off being
miserable. Humph. Only a warped puppy like me would consider
being feverish and achy an improvement in life. Sad part is,
it would be.
He shifted slightly and watched lightening caress the sky.
Powerful, erotic, dangerous,... lonely. Be a beautiful
display of Stormy's talents if she actually had her hand in
He sighed and let the wind rock him in its cold arms.
Fortunately for her, this was the natural weather only matching
his mood not hers. Ororo Munroe was humming to herself in
her attic as she read a book and listened to the thunder roll,
blissfully unaware of the dark mood right above her. Not that
she should be aware of it. None of them were, not even the
telepaths. His mind was locked tight now and had been steadily
sinking deeper inside his psionic shields since the moment
he realized there was nothing and no one for it to reach out
to. Nothing leaked out now. He may not have been an open book
before, but what was once a shadow trying to gain substance
was now a black hole, dark and ungiving. The space around
him completely cold.
He shivered. He felt as empty as his portion of the astral
Grey Cow would say I be walking wit de dead. He wondered
where the old man was now. What Cow didn't be realizin
is dat I've been walking wit dem since de day I was born.
Only I didn't know dat den.*
He laughed, a quiet angry laugh. A laugh at a cruel joke
that had been played on him from the moment of his conception
and had only truly dawned on him in these last few days.
Just proving I'm as dumb and thick headed as I be worthless.
If I had brains, I'd have slit my wrists years ago before
it be gettin any worse.
That was the despair talking. He wasn't and had never been
suicidal. But not because he wasn't truly lonely and hurting,
he was. He had been most of his life. It was just that unlike
suicidal people, he didn't believe death would end the pain.
More religious than he'd want to admit, he was certain that
in death, he'd only move from this hell to the next. So only
living offered some relief. One more chance at an adrenalin
rush or some physical pleasure, maybe to make some small amends
before he left. He had to love life. It was all he had.
He leaned back as the rain came down harder splashing on
his face to mingle with the tears. He didn't even know why
he was crying. You can't lose something you've never had.
Love. He thought she loved him. But then again, he thought
his mother loved him too. Wrong again, Remy. How many times
you gonna keep trying this? Stubborn fool. When you gonna
He didn't blame her. It wasn't her fault. She didn't have
any experience with these things. He'd been attracted to her
instantly, her strength, her fire, her compassion, her warmth,
even her sadness. He could feel it radiate out of her. And
in some ways he felt like she was a kindred spirit, desperately
needing someone to say she had worth. Ignoring the dangers
of the situation, he'd done that in the only way he knew how,
and stupidly fell hopelessly in love with her in the process.
That was his mistake. Expecting her to be able to see anything
worthy in him in return.
The kiss. Even if she still didn't know the details, she
had realized the truth about him in the instant of that kiss.
That what she thought and what he seemed were a lie. That
there was nothing inside worthy of being loved. He'd bluffed
it all with that kiss, and she'd called his empty hand. He
didn't know which hurt more. Losing her or knowing he never
really had a chance in the first place.
Sure, he'd denied it all his life. Even more so when he woke
up alone after it happened. At first, his mind wouldn't let
him dwell on the fact. All he could think of at the time was
that she was hurt or in danger from his memories or powers.
That he had to be there for her. When he heard she was supposedly
alright, he tried desperately to ignore her absence, ignore
that Betsy invaded his mind not trusting him, ignore that
no monitors signaled his return to the living. Ignore that
no loved ones were sick with worry or concern. That if he
had died at that moment instead, how long would it have been
before anyone even bothered to cover up his cold body?
He had to let that go. It wasn't that he didn't know Ororo
would have felt his loss immensely. He vaguely remembered
her speaking to him in his sleep. But like everyone else she
had a life to get on with, other friends to attend to, other
concerns more important. She was one of the best friends he'd
ever had. Maybe the best. But still she was not family nor
loved one. He had neither. He realized that now at last.
"Jean, what is wrong? Are you alright?"
"I'm... I'm ok, Hank. It's just that I suddenly had
this overwhelming feeling of sadness and loss. Must have been
a left-over emotion out here. I can't pinpoint any source."
"Well, be careful. You've been at this awhile, and I
wouldn't want you caught off guard out there on the astral
plane because you are exhausted. I would be no help to you.
Perhaps we should stop for a bit while you rest. Maybe start
"Thank you , Hank, but no. I feel fine. As a matter
of fact, I haven't felt this good in quite a long time. As
for you , quit worrying. You're doing great. I know you wanted
me to ask Psylocke to back me up during these sessions, but
she's been through so much lately, and this is so slow and
meticulous, I thought you'd be better for the job. I really
shouldn't be in any danger. I only needed some one to run
yell for help if something did happen. Thanks for spending
the lab time with me."
"No problem. It allows me quiet uninterrupted moments
on the computer to work with the legacy virus while sitting
with you. So, how has it been going?"
"I'm glad I decided to spend time these last few weeks
using Cerebro to check the astral plane after Onslaught. Maybe
deep down I always knew something was wrong."
"Then Onslaught was subtly influencing our minds?"
"Yes. And on a whole number of levels. As he grew stronger,
the psionic manipulation did as well. It took me a long time
to find just the evidence of all the mental influences he
left out here to work on us. And even though they are weaker
now that he's dissipated, they are still here and hidden well.
I want to make sure I've found them all and destroyed them.
They hid the dark Beast from us in our very house. Made us
unorganized and blind to the obvious. Helped Sabertooth escape
by hiding his mind as well. And I have the feeling there is
something else. Something personal, and it's hidden even better
than the rest."
"Interesting. What could he have wanted affecting us
even after he reveled himself?"
"I'm... not sure. But I something tells me I've finally
found the little devil."
"Relax Hank. It's harmless to me out here."
Jean was thrilled to have finally tracked this elusive one
down and picked up the pulse of psionic energy from it's hiding
place among colorful waves of energy that normally made up
the astral plane. It seemed so harmless, tiny and hidden,
but it pulsed out wave after consistent wave of subconscious
thought directed at her and the other X-Men.
Not strong but steady.
Thankfully once it was released from containment, its power
and affect on them would dissipate in a few weeks. Jean studied
it knowing that whatever this was telling them, they had each
been accepting it as much as they allowed themselves. Based
on their feeling and perceptions, some would believe it more
than others and react accordingly. She wondered what Onslaught
had wanted them to do. She cracked the psionic bubble open
and let it release it's energy while absorbing the thoughts
behind it into her mind.
Jean jerked the Cerebro helmet off nearly stumbling out of
Hank jumped up and grabbed her helping her to her feet. She
looked up at him with tears streaming down her face.
"Oh god, Hank." she sobbed. "What have we
So it had finally dawned on him that no one had ever cared
about him enough to place him above the other important things
in their lives. Not his real father, whom he had never met,
but could guess enough about to be sure that all he wanted
was some uncomplicated sex, not a child. He'd given his mother
money to get rid of him after all. Probably married.
Stupid. Should have used a condom old man.
Not his prostitute mother. She probably would have gotten
rid of him if she hadn't been so devoutly catholic, and if
the craving for the heroin hadn't called first. She had tried,
he supposed. Best she could. He loved her for the trying at
least, but eventually she left him too.
All alone on the streets to fend for himself ... Not Jean-Luc
or Henri, who placed the Guild above him in priority. Not
Madam D'Sier and Tante Mattie who tried, each in their own
way, to give him some kind of mother. One whorehouse madam
and the other voodoo sorceress, always imparting wisdom yet
strangely aloof. He wondered how the X-Men would feel to find
out one of his godmothers was, as she put it, 'a lady of easy
He smiled briefly.
Wolverine most likely would say it figured. Funny, as a child
it hadn't seemed so unusual to him. His smile faded... Not
Belladonna. Though he'd tried to deny that too. He'd left
knowing it but still pretended. True, in a fight, she'd have
died for him in a moment of excitement. That was what she
loved, not him. She swore she would have left with him when
he was exiled, but he knew that was the thrill of the adventure
talking. Soon she'd have hated him for taking her away from
what she really loved. Her family, her home, her guild. She
loved that more than him. Always had. It made her better than
him. She only loved the wildness of being with him as long
as she could return to the safety of her home afterward. It
was more friendship, only Belladonna wanted the excitement
of forbidden sex too.
Even Storm would not leave the X-men, her real family, for
him after he been nearly brother to her. Nor was Alexandra
willing to take a chance on him, and he knew Genevieve was
enamored of him, not in love. She'd have realized that in
time. Just friendships or attractions mistaken for love.
That's all he and Rogue had. And once she had realized he
wasn't worthy of anything more, she had prioritized her time
accordingly. Before, he'd never begrudged her friendship with
Bobby even though he knew what Bobby was saying about him.
Rogue deserved to be her own person too. He had no right to
tell her who to have as friends. She didn't tell him to stay
away from Storm. But now all of Rogue's time was away from
him. Spent on the more important things. Time for herself
after the kiss, time for the team, ...and time for Joseph.
He winced at the jealousy that rose in him. Not over Rogue,
although that was there. No, it was more than that. What made
it unbearable was the fact that the whole universe seemed
to be rubbing his face in it. From the moment he'd walked
through the X-Mansion doors, no matter how hard he tried to
prove himself, no one trusted him, not even Rogue. No one
but Storm. Yet the second Magneto, .. Joseph.., he reminded
himself, had returned, having done nothing more than be so
egomaniacal as to kill thousands without a hint of remorse
so that Xavier wiped his mind to stop him, they had welcomed
him with open arms. Yet again giving him another chance to
It wasn't even that he begrudged Mag...Joseph, the chance.
Joseph was sorry for what Magneto had done. It wasn't even
really Joseph's fault. He was nice guy who just happened to
be in a Sybil relationship with a megalomaniac. Remy snickered
but sobered too quickly. His humor his less effective this
night. Sadly, what hurt was that he seemed unworthy of the
same consideration. When Magneto had joined that first time,
did they beg to know every secret of his past? Of what Wolverine
could remember? Or of Rogue every act she loathed? He'd made
no secret that he was no saint. He'd been more honest with
them than he'd probably been with anyone in his whole life.
Though she didn't know it, he'd told Rogue things he'd never
told anyone before. He'd always thought as time went along
he'd feel comfortable telling her more, but then she went
behind his back to Sabertooth. The sad part was he was planning
to tell her that story. He just had to get up the nerve. Only
she didn't trust him. And when she found out, she verified
all his fears that she'd never understand. Even her forgiveness
later was ... cold and aloof. And they never talked after
Cody died. She'd been so strong and determined then. Again,
he thought they could get through it together, but afterward,
they hardly spoke. It was almost like she blamed him. He didn't
get the chance to find out either as they rushed off after
Then she found out more with the kiss and left him completely.
He'd never felt so lonely as he had lying in that bed. He
still hoped he had a chance though. Chased her to Seattle
only to see the hurt, fear, and anger on her face. He knew
it was over before he spoke to her, but he had to try. He
wanted her to trust him, accept him, them, as they were. Just
one little touch, that's all it would have taken, and he'd
have told her anything. She obviously didn't think the risk
was worth what she might gain. But not so with Joseph.
There was always the possibility Joseph could revert back,
but she was willing to risk that to be there for him. So were
the X-Men. As if because of his great power and potential,
his great mind, because he was a great threat, he was more
worthy of their rapt attention, concern, and respect. That
more lowly mutants, that less than god-like powers or less
than homicidal threats were segregated to second class concerns
to be gotten to later. And unredeemable souls such as his
barely rated a second glance. That's what burned into his
gut. It stared him in the face and told him in the most condescending
of tones that Magneto was the better man. That no matter how
hard he tried, how good he was, nor how little Magneto had
done to actually change his own life, Joseph would always
be the better man.
For the first time, Remy wondered if he was all wrong about
everything. He believed that the dream was about being a part
of something better, a team of people working toward a goal.
That's really why he'd stayed, to help, to atone. He remembered
a quote from Mark Yost that he'd once heard, 'History, although
sometimes made up of the few acts of the great, is more often
shaped by the many acts of the small.'
Xavier believed in humans and mutants working together, right?
That teamwork could defeat a more powerful foe. Not to mention,
Remy'd always found effort and skill to be more impressive
than raw power and luck anyway. He guessed that's why he'd
always had a soft spot for underdogs. It didn't seem to him
that the dream was about the Magneto's or the Sabertooth's
who could easily make their own decisions. It was about all
those other mutants. The ones that wanted normal lives to
live. Normal lives and to just be treated fairly. Sometimes
it seemed they spent 90% of their time on the 10% of mutants
causing problems. Not that they didn't need to stop, even
help, those mutants, but shouldn't they be helping the others
fit in just as much? No wonder people weren't sure of the
X-Men. And now he wasn't sure of his place here either.
The funny thing was that this didn't all hit home with him
until the other evening when he was listening to Bishop. Bishop
had been telling him all along he was a lost cause, but it
wasn't Bishop's future that convinced Remy. Bishop had finally
decided to have Jean help him with his memories about the
other reality that had replaced theirs in that brief instance
that the crystal wave hit. That was the world that finally
put it all into perspective.
Gambit couldn't help but feel the emotions Bishop gave off
as he related what he knew and had heard about in that other
world. A mild empath could have felt them across the room,
but Remy's sensitive empathic abilities had to work overtime
to keep even his powerful shields toning them down. Bishop
told them about what he knew of the X-Men that replaced them.
Of Magneto and his version of the dream. Of the world that
they existed in. Of Apocalypse's takeover. Of the almost assassin-like
mentality of the team. Of the seeming sacrifice and betrayal
of members if necessary to further the cause. Then, of each
Of him. And of Rogue and Magneto. That's when he knew he
didn't stand a chance. Rogue listened with rapt attention
to Bishop talk about her and Magneto, their having a son.
She glanced at Joseph more than once, and Remy was sure she
had tears in her eyes. Joseph listened intently as well. Remy,
on the other hand, couldn't listen to it all. All he could
remember thinking was that he seemed a better person there
than he was here, and it hadn't mattered. That he'd been the
one to court Rogue, learn to care about and be with her, sacrifice
for her, but Magneto was the only thing that she cared for.
He was like a god to her. Just like in this world, the man
had hardly seemed to notice her except to forward his ideals
until she gushed all over him, and in that world, she was
there completely for him, ignoring everyone else.
He'd told her what to believe in and how to be. Then easily
used his powers allowing them to touch. And she knew she wanted
to be with him instantly. Remy wished love was that simple
for him. That he'd been in the right place at the right time
to be Rogue's protector and father figure as a child.
Ya'd need ta be a little older, Remy .... Still wouldn't
work. Probably be worse. Ya know how ya feel bout Stormy.
She be like a daughter/sister to ya. Ya just not de good Woody
Or that he could just use his mutant power, and it'd all
be alright. The part that hurt the most was that he hadn't
even meant enough to her for her to pause a second, have regrets,
before possibly leaving him to die while saving Magneto. He
didn't blame her for loving Magneto, he could give her everything
she wanted, but it hurt to know she didn't really have any
feelings for him at all. Not even as a human life. He wondered
how his other self took that kind of rejection. It was more
than a denial of love. It was a denial of friendship. That
he had any value or worth in her life. And he realized that
was what it all boiled down to.
When Rogue left the room suddenly, she didn't even look at
him, glancing only at Joseph as she ran. Her confusion was
so strong, he could feel it through his shields like with
Bishop. Being a bit melodramatic, romantics tend to be that
way, he imagined she was dragging his heart after her, bloody
and lifeless. He hadn't known what to do in that instant and
retreated up here to the roof and hadn't left. Not that it
mattered, no one had missed him.
It hurt more than anything he could remember. More than Seattle.
He thought nothing could have been worse than that kind of
pain. It was days like this, when the pain and guilt became
too much, that he wished, not for the first time, that Sinister
had left him in that theater to lose his mind in peace.
Continued in Chapter
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