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"Growing Up"

Growing Up

Chaper One: Despair
Chapter Two: Regret
Chapter Three: Guilt
Chapter Four: Fear
Chapter Five: Shame
Chapter Six: Love
Chapter Seven: Bliss

Growing Up

Chapter 1: Despair

One of the oldest human needs is
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 dis.*

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 plane.

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 give up?

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 again tomorrow?"

"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 the chair.


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 done?"

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 virtue'?

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 start over.

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 Legion.

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 specific member.

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 Allen type.

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 Two.


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