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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 2: Regret

'A sense of shame is not a bad moral compass'
- Colin Powell

The rain fell slowly in the cold mist. Of course, this was Seattle. It was supposed to rain. And it hadn't disappointed him. He'd been here for several days casing the place, and it hadn't stopped. He'd be glad to finish this job tonight and move on. Besides, the artifacts belonged back in the church in San Miguel, and he intended to see them on their way as soon as possible.

After leaving the Guild, getting out of the country seemed for the best. He'd hopped over to Asia and Australia and started plying his profession in ernest. Those were the lean times. He was good, but he needed more experience to fully hone his skills. So he practiced constantly having a number of close calls at first, a few too many splattered with blood. Thankfully not all of it his. Remy didn't like death, but it seemed to find him. Especially as he found he preferred stealing from other crooks. Somehow it fit his romantic sensibilities, not to mention, it was usually more money and way more challenging.

Time passed and he put his old life behind him. He had a string of lovers. Lovely charming ladies, most of whom he still remembered fondly. And it was during this time that he first ran into Yukio. They hit it off like fire and ice - too much alike. And he knew she'd kill him if she got the chance. Once he'd worn out his welcome in Asia, needing to let things cool awhile, he headed for London. He was glad for meeting Alexandra even if she had rejected him. It reassured him that there were good people out there somewhere. He spent too much time in the seedy under-belly of life. Then he moved on to Europe and eventually Candra, only he didn't know that's who she was then. She became infatuated with him after he broke into the Louvre and moved all the artwork around just to prove he could. He was infatuated with her wealth and power.

Ah, youth. It was fun for awhile. He had this thing for strong independent women. But soon he realized how cruel, possessive, and demanding she was. Seemed a vaguely familiar theme in his love life. However, he didn't get his kicks by controlling people, watching them suffer, and refused to do as she commanded. Besides, nobody owned him. She wasn't happy when he disobeyed her and then actually left. No one had ever done that before, much less refused her anything. Given the chance, she'd love to kill him too, only more slowly.

Africa beckoned, and later South America. But in time, barely over two years after leaving, and nce more shadowed by too much death for one so young, he longed for home.

Arriving in Key West, he was now in the beginning of his twentieth year, and well on his way to eing one of the top thieves in the world. Not to mention, rich. He always saved a small cut of the take for himself, living well if not as extravagantly as people would think, then giving the rest away. A portion of his cut he invested. Stocks were like cards, knowing when to hold, raise or fold. It didn't take long. Soon he had all he could ever need, enough to take care of and protect his own, continually reinvested and squirreled away all over the world for his 'retirement'. Having nothing most of your life made you appreciate what you had gained, ...and what others didn't have. The only time he'd ever really took a whole pinch for himself was right before his wedding. He'd recklessly 'acquired' a heroin dealer's merchandise and the buyer's cash using an elaborate diversion. He'd planned it for months. They never knew what happen and blamed each other. And as far as he was concerned, they could take it out on each other. He hated dealers. They preyed on innocents. Besides, they owed him. For Maman. Taking the money and dumping the heroin in the Big Muddy, he bought the house in the Garden District. Being that Belle's family would have let the couple live in the Assassin's huge mansion, his father thought that a strange thing for a seventeen year old to buy, especially his seventeen year old. Remy didn't understand. Still didn't. He only wanted a home.

Master thief, rebel, lady killer, robin hood, ... Gambit. He'd picked the thief name not long after leaving New Orleans. For a brief moment, he felt comfortable with himself, never happy, but comfortable. He was 'home' and doing what he did best. If he was a bit lonely, well, he had always been that, hadn't he? He moved up the coast and across the country. Even stopping in New Orleans under the Assassin's noses to set up a small base there. That and to pick up his annulment papers finally. He'd asked Tante Mattie to secretly work it out with Father Benjamin efore he left. Father Benny was born into one of the thief clans, but renounced the Guild to join he Church, though he came back. Ministering to the lost, he stated, was more important than preaching to the choir. Remy admired the old Father very much and knew that the priest understood his situation. Remy realized if Belle, her family, or his father found out, his life could be forfeit for the slight. It was blatant disregard for the Guild's authority, even for an exile. It was a lot to risk for a few pieces of paper, but somehow having them made him feel better. One less sin to atone for, he supposed. He still couldn't look Father Benjamin in the eye.

He was continually on the move, living life recklessly. The heists were thrilling, the times fun, the women willing. Still, except during the exhilaration of the pinch, or a night of passion, something was missing. Death still followed him even if he willed it not to.

He sort of went in search of himself, and found Millstone, a small town in the middle of nowhere, Arizona, Claire De Luc, and an annoying shaman named Grey Crow who kept saying he had a destiny. The only destiny Remy figured he had was an early grave. But it was nice to put that behind him for a moment. He stayed there as a chef, making Claire swear that his destiny must be to kill them all with his cooking. He couldn't help if she couldn't eat anything spicier than a plain boiled egg. But excitement always seemed to catch up with him soon enough, no matter where he was. It made him restless again. Saying goodbye, losing more friends, he moved on.

It wasn't too many pinches later, around his twenty-first birthday, that he learned about the theft from the Church and decided turn about was fair play.

It went off without a hitch. He'd driven to a postal drop in a seamer side of town and sent his anonymous package on it's way when he heard the woman screaming. Thinking he shouldn't get involved, he left his bike and swiftly eased through the dark alleyways coming upon a scene of a large burly man and a tall skinny woman yelling and struggling. Both had seen better days, especially her.

"Bitch! Ya can't leave me! Y' belong ta me!" The man slapped her hard, and she nearly fell. Would have if the man hadn't held her up. Remy's jaw clenched tight. "Wha'ssss his name, whore?! Who ya leavin me for?! Ya think, ... ya think I'm gonna let you cuckold me?!. Y' mistaken woman.!"

"Nobody... there's nobody! Please, please Jimmy, don't hurt me! I won't run away again! I jus don' want ya hitting me no more! Please, Jimmy."

"If'n ya've spread ya self for someone else, I'll fix ya good. No woman o' mine gonna act like a slut!"

Remy could smell the liquor. The memories were almost too vivid to distinguish from the scene in front of him. Maman and her pimp, Andre, usually fighting over her burdensome little accident.

Stupid bitch. She shouldn't have let some old guy knock her up in her youth. She'd best be more careful now. He wasn't gonna take care of another of her droppings. Especially not another one like dis one.

Remy wanted to retch.

"Hey, mon ami." Remy stepped out of the shadows near an old theater. "Dat's no way ta treat a lady."

"Whaaa..?" The man spun awkwardly on him. "This him?!" the man yelled drunkenly. "This here pretty boy's ya new lover ain't he, whore?!"

"No Jimmy, no! I don't know him!...Please mister, please help me!! He's gonna kill me!!" She struggled in the man's grasp.

"Why don' ya be savin ya self a world o'hurt, mon ami an leave de way ya came." Lowering his shades to expose his glowing red eyes, Remy flicked his other wrist to produce a sizzling energy charged card.

"Son of a bitch." The man, Jimmy, gasped. "Yo'are,... yo'are a mutie ..." Then anger returned to his face. "A goddamn mutie. You lowered ya self ta fuck a dirty mutie, bitch?!"

Throwing the lady down, Jimmy suddenly let out a growl and charged at Remy. His mistake. Remy never even used the card. He'd hoped to scare him off with it, but the man was too drunk to have any sense. Two well placed blows put the guy down less than gently. Unfortunately he started yelling. And this was his town, and his drunken bigoted friends.

"Jimmy?!, Jimmy?!"

Remy agilely turned to watch the two guys come running out of the late night bar where the two buddies had been waiting after helping Jimmy track down his bitch, who'd been hiding out as a barmaid. He didn't need them to finish 'talking' to her. She was screaming now, and Jimmy was yelling about a mutie bastard fucking his property. Still, they weren't any problem to handle, and once they'd tasted the asphalt, Remy turned to grab the lady and make a simple retreat.

Nothing ... Nothing in his life was ever simple. She'd stopped screaming. She was too scared for that now. Jimmy held a knife to her throat.

"Ssstand right there, mutie or I cut the bitch."

She was crying, and the scene was like Deja vu to Remy. Desperate, he gingerly let down some of his empathic shields. It hurt feeling all the overpowering disgusting emotions flooding him as he made contact, but he grinned his most winning smile.

"Come on mon ami. How's about lettin her go, neh?" Remy could taste Jimmy's anger and her fear. He hated being an empath.

Remy'd known he was different from as far back as he could remember. Most mutant's unique characteristics and powers didn't manifest themselves until a child hit puberty, but like Hank McCoy and Kurt Wagner, it'd been obvious from the first that he was a mutant. The rest of the X-men assumed Gambit's eyes had changed in adolescence, but the fact was, he had been born with them this way. Only they didn't glow as bright back then. His maman told him it was the mark of sin on him. Her sin. Her sin for listening to the demons in her head, and for letting her Uncle do those things to her. For turning to the heroin to make it all go away, and for leaving New Orleans and coming back with child. He was her penance.

Remy was young and knew nothing of mutants, but he loved his mother. So for a long time, he thought he was dirty, marked. Born carrying sin already in him. Now he realized that she was an empath, just like he was, albeit a low grade one. Other's emotions were the demons she felt were talking to her. And when they were near each other, her emotions talked to him. From his earliest memories, and they were so few, he could feel her with him. He knew now that it was his novice empathic abilities reaching out to hers. She was so sad. He'd hug her wanting so much to comfort her. Every now and then, maybe she felt him too, because she'd smile and say he was sensitive.

Remy didn't want to be sensitive. Because of his uniqueness, they lived just outside of New Orleans in a little shanty on the bayou. She wouldn't take him or let him out like other kids. People would know her shame. Instead, she'd given him his first worn deck of cards to play with. They were his only friends. The times he did get to go out was at night after she left to work. A few years after his birth, she started needing more money for the drugs as her habit continually increased. The welfare wasn't enough anymore. That's why she began working for Andre, who got her into town at night and supplied her. Back then, the dark loneliness beckoned to him as it still did even today. His night vision excellent, he'd play in the darkness watching the gators' eyes glow in the bayou while catching their prey.

He imagined himself then. Lurking, sneaky, silent, swift, dangerous, then quietly slipping back into the darkness. He began to know them and the dark bayou well. They were unforgiving, uncaring for anyone save themselves. Not the least bit sensitive at all.

He concentrated on the man in front of him, allowing Jimmy's emotions to wash over him and judging Jimmy's response to what he was saying. Remy didn't have any true 'charm' power as it were. The charm was a talent. He'd learned with his empathic abilities how to talk to people. Know what to say to them. Body language, everything. He could feel when he was saying the right thing and became good, no, very good at 'charming' people, or causing them to be reckless against him. That's why he talked so much. It was an excellent defensive tactic, and it didn't require him to have too much contact with someone's feelings. By now, he'd become so good at knowing what was likely to work, he only had to let down his shields in the most extreme of situations.

He certainly understood why Rogue hated her absorbing power. Using his empathic ability on someone meant sharing a part of their life. Almost stealing it. He couldn't charm anyone into doing what they wouldn't willingly do, but he could try to lead them the way he wanted them to go. And it certainly didn't hurt with the ladies. He knew what to say, what to do, to make most feel happy for a moment, and he liked making women happy. It was one of his passions. It warmed him to have that feeling radiate back to him if only for a moment.

He charged a card behind his back as he slowly advanced on Jimmy. The charging ability was actually an off-shoot of his empathic abilities. One that he had honed in his adolescence as his mutant talents started truly developing. He'd had his agility and night vision since birth as well, but the empathic talents didn't really start becoming powerful until he was almost eleven when other people's emotions started flooding in on him at unpredictable moments instead of being background noise. It was like what he felt with his mother, and he became terrified of being so intimate with someone like that again.

To open yourself up only to be hurt. Abandoned. It was worst than just being alone.

He practiced blocking the contact out. Hiding out in Madam's basement for a whole month imagining he was building walls inside his mind. In closing off his mind to the emotional energy coming from people, he realized he could see it as well as feel it. His eyes had the ability to see a person's emotional self as a glow around them. Once he learned how to focus his mind to see this glow, he noticed that inanimate objects had a glow too. An inherent energy in their atomic bonds that he could see. The larger the object the more bonds. It took some practice, more accidents than he'd like to count, but he learned how to feel this energy too. He didn't mind using his power this way as objects didn't have feelings to affect him. All he felt was a low charge like mild electricity. He learned to tap into it, and release it. He could release as much as he wanted. All of it or just a little. All at once or slowly. Stop and reverse the process. He could even do it without touching the object, but that was harder. Then he had to concentrate specifically on that object and watch it to know when to let go.

It was easier to touch the object. Feel the energy as he focused his power through his hands. He didn't have to watch it, he could feel what he was doing, so he reserved charging objects without touching them as an ace up his sleeve. And he wasn't stupid, although he sometimes liked people to think he was so they'd underestimate him. His mathematical skills and understanding of physics were both exceptional. He knew his empathic power had to work in a similar way as the psionic way he affected inanimate objects. That physical contact would improve his ability to feel the emotions. That he must be able to tap into them... release them if he wanted. But he seeing what he could do with plain rocks, he didn't even want to image what he could do to a person's emotions. Or what those emotions would do to him in return.

His concentration completely on Jimmy and saving the woman, he ignored the warming signals he should have picked up on from both her and his own senses. His thoughts were brutally interrupted by a loud crack and a shooting pain in his head. He heard screaming as he crumpled into a heap.

*Stupid, stupid, stupid.*

He'd turned his back on the others for too long. Through blurry vision, he saw them all standing over him. One of the other men holding a pipe.

"Mutie scum. He musta been messing with my head." Jimmy kicked him in the ribs.

Remy curled up, hearing sirens wailing in the distance. They could too. And even if it was doubtful the police were coming their way, the group decided it was time to move on.

"Come on bitch. You wanna act like a whore. Fine."

"No please no."

"Grab the mutie. We gonna teach him a lesson about acting above his station in life."

That was the last truly coherent thing that he could remember from that night. They dragged him into the old theater, and two of them began beating on him, with the pipe, their fists, kicking him, and then swapping out with the third who was holding the sobbing woman. His mind flashed back to Andre beating him over and over. His mother usually too stoned to care or sobbing too. At first, when Andre showed up to get his cut, have his fun, and give his mother her addiction to keep her tied to him, Remy tried to protect her from Andre's brutality. But Andre would only slap him hard and laugh, telling him what a useless pup he was. Later, feeling scared and weak, he tried to hide.

Usually half drunk before his visit was over, Andre would get mad about not getting as much time and money out of his mother as many of his other 'mares' since she had to take care of her ill- mannered devil brat. It was obvious Remy's eyes got on his nerves. Rosemary's baby he called Remy. Hellspawn. Needs to be beaten to be kept in line. Teach him not to be insolent. Remy learned to crawl inside himself to fight against the pain of the relentless beatings. Now, Remy barely remembered hearing bone after bone break. Blood came out of his mouth, nose, and ears. They called him every name they could think of. Not being rocket scientists, that meant he heard most of them over and over. Remy lost track of time.

Finally, weakened and in unbearable pain, his mental defenses collapsed. Then all their anger and hatred flooded in on his mind as well. He loathed himself. Eventually, too late for him to care anymore, his body gave way to oblivion.

"Think he's dead?" If'n he ain't. He will be in awhile. Nobody will ever find him in here. Serves him right. No mutie's better'n me .... Now bitch, you're turn. You wanna act like a whore. Ya gonna get your chance." Jimmy gave a drunken wolfish grin to his friends. "She let a mutie touch her. Seems she aught ta be begging for it from real men."

Remy didn't know how long he'd been out. Consciousness came slowly as something powerful invaded his mind. Memories, purposefully forgotten, returned like an icy lover to wrap him in their embrace.

"Now stay here Remy. I'll be back my p'tite one. I've got to be getting somethin. Then we'll go. If Andre finds I be pregnant again, mon coeur, he'll kill me."

"No maman please. Don't go. I don' wanna be alone here. It's scary." The five year old Remy eyed the city streets from the dark alley he was in. He'd never been in New Orleans before.

"You got to, my chere. I have to have my stuff." Her drugs she meant. They were more important than him. "Now be strong. I know you can. You always are. Wait. I'll come back for you."

But he didn't wait. He continually wondered if it would have been better somehow if he'd done as she had asked. He'd peered into the window of the old building she had snuck into and watched her move. She'd been slick once. Graceful if untrained, but the drugs had taken their toll. She must have set off a silent alarm

"Well, well. Once a t'ief, always a t'ief. Wondered where ya been Evangline. Ya didn't show up on ya corner. I had a special trick for ya."

"Andre! You don' unnerstand. I was..."

"You was stealing my money and my stash ... Bitch!" Two big burly men with Andre pounced on his mother.

"Maman!" Remy pulled at the old rusted window, but it wouldn't budge.

"Andre please... I won't be doin it again. I needed it. Just this once ..."

"Don' worry. You fixin ta pay me back." Two new men walked in. "Here you are gentlemen, your date for de evening. Only t'ings have changed. The price is doubled and instead being allowed ta teach her a lesson, you can do whatever you want. There's a quite a nice room in de back, an' since I can' be trustin dis one anymore, make her an example."

The men smiled greedily.

"No" his mother squeaked with wide eyes. "Noooo!" she screamed in fear as they dragged her away.

Remy ran around the building. Trying to get in not knowing what else to do. Sick with fear, he checked window after window. Unbearable terror and pain brought him to his knees. He screamed. It matched hers. He could almost feel the sweaty bodies of Jimmy and the others. What they were doing to her. All of her pain, fear, and revulsion flooded him. His own body wouldn't move, and he threw up from his own disgust.

"Nooo!" a small child-like voice inside his mind cried. "No, maman, no. Please don' hurt her. Maman!"

Helpless, he felt worthless as he sensed her terrified emotions. Knew what they did to her. Knew the torture lasted for hours before he felt her fear as she gasped for air. The end coming slowly , painfully, as her lungs filled with blood. Then it was over, and he lay in the alley sobbing quietly while they hauled her body away. He hated himself. He'd let her down. She'd left him, and she was never coming back.

But that was a lifetime ago. He was young, small, scared. His powers too immature. His mother had called him sensitive then. He never wanted to be sensitive. The anger built inside him, flooding his empathic powers outward with his rage. He'd never struck out with it before. Always kept it tightly hidden behind strong barriers so it couldn't hurt him anymore. But those barriers were gone. It boiled out like a tidal wave engulfing them in a thunderclap of emotion. His, hers, theirs, and half of Seattle's.

"Holy shit!"

"What is it Riptide?"

"Ya whole board jus lit up like a Christmas tree, Sinister. Someone out there just released a whole buttload of mutant energy."

"Is the psionic shield working? Has it isolated and masked the energy release?!"

"Snapped into place instantly." Creed noted.

"Excellent. Professor X should never detect this super-powerful mutant. This one shall belong to me. Heart and soul. Give me the readout." Ripetide handed him the freshly printed paper. "Empathic/Psionic energy levels of the first order. The highest I've ever seen on the empathic side. Incredible. Time for a bit of recruitment I think."

As the woman passed out from her own pain and the sudden calming feeling that engulfed her, the first of her attackers was filled with incredible rage. He attacked the second one with the knife. But long before the other's knife touched him, the second one was already collapsing having died instantly from unimaginable fright. His heart stopping in mid-beat.

While watching his friend fall, anger suddenly turned to self-loathing, and the first one slit his own throat. Jimmy, the last one, got all the guilt. Years upon years of countless thousands of people's regrets and shame. It ate him up inside, and his mind collapsed under the strain. When the police found him and the unconscious beaten woman beside him, there was nothing left but a wailing mindless mass.

Remy felt each's sudden moment of surprise, then their pain, and mental if not physical death. The shock and horror of what he'd done momentarily stunned him. He hadn't meant... he couldn't do ...hadn't wanted them... dead ... Liar. For one second, he had, and his mind had lashed out with his wish. Releasing power even he never suspected he had. He felt the wave, enormous now, wipe past them. Driving outward with frightening speed toward the walls of the theater raging to engulf the rest of Seattle in its wake.


His mind screamed.

What had he done?! He had to stop it. All those innocent people. He concentrated with all his might. His mind felt as if it was tearing apart. He pulled desperately at the empathic horror he'd released. His battered body straining with mental effort. He thought he would died from it, from being so weak. But it'd be better than living with the knowledge of what he'd unleashed. Slowly, almost reluctantly, the empathic wave rolled turning back on itself, slamming suddenly back into him with seemingly more force than it had left.

He had no time to prepare himself. Was probably too weak to do it if he had. Now all of Seattle, all of their hopes and dreams, fears and hatreds, laughter and tears screamed in his mind. Noooo!!! Leave me alone!!! His mind cried out trying to seal its self off once more from all the emotions he'd gathered in his anger. But even at his strongest, it would have taken all his power. For him now, there was no defense, no hope.

The tidal wave of emotions crush into him, battering him, torturing him from the inside out. The agony unbearable. His mind on the verge of being swept away.


Continued in Chapter Three.


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