She doesn’t tell him directly.
Of course, she doesn’t need to. She doesn’t owe him anything, never has. If anything, it’s his debt that can never be repaid, a debt born of a gift so great he can’t even quantify it, can’t weight it against a thousand diamonds or a fleet of Ferraris. She gave him a reason to live, and how could he possibly ever pay that back? And so, of course, she can’t owe him anything. It’s simply not possible.
It still hurts, though. Sitting in one of the smaller alcove kitchens at the school, his feet up on the table and a cold beer in his hands. It’s the only way he makes it through the school days, half the time. He sneaks away and gets a little buzzed, never drunk, and then he’ll return to Physics an hour later and be able to deal with Quentin Goddamn Quire’s incessant babbling. Ororo caught him at it, once, and gave him a stern look that turned concerned when he didn’t try to make a joke about it, didn’t try to be flippant. She laid a hand on his shoulder, a silent question, but he ignored her and kept tipping back his cheap, cold beer.
Today the other head of school catches him. Logan enters the room muttering a curse under his breath, hands stuffed into his jean pockets. He’s a man who seems to exist solely in flannel, when he’s not in uniform. He goes to the fridge, pulls out a beer of his own, and then turns and stares as though he just noticed he has company. Of course, that isn’t actually the case.
“Join me, homme?” Remy says, this time managing to be flippant. He’s not in costume, just in a plain white linen shirt, sleeves rolled up to his elbows. His black jeans are tight, tailored in a very European way. He hasn’t bothered to cut his hair in months, and auburn strands brush across his distinctive eyes as he leans his head back and raises his bottle in Logan’s direction.
Logan grunts in his usual, noncommittal way and pulls out a chair opposite Remy. For all the money, technology, and time that’s gone into the school, this hideaway is deceptively simple. The table and chairs are simple wood, straight lines and no adornment. The floor is all white linoleum tiles and the appliances look modern, not belonging to some space station sixty years in the future.
It looks, it many ways, like the old kitchen at Xavier’s. The two men sit in companionable silence for a moment, forgetting that this is actually the Jean Grey School and not the old Institute at all.
After a moment, Logan says, “Don’t you have a class to teach?”
Remy shrugs. He’s never really enjoyed standing in front of a bunch of mutant teenagers and impressing upon them the importance of a classical education. Training classes are more bearable, but less frequent. Sex Ed is an event unto itself, but more for the students than for him.
“I’m gonna kick you out if you ditch again,” Logan says.
Remy shrugs, smiles wickedly. “You haven’t, yet.”
“Too lazy to hire someone else,” Logan returns.
“Or too sentimental ta get rid a’ me,” Remy argues. It’s a strange term to ascribe to Wolverine. But then, didn’t he name this the Jean Grey School? Isn’t this room a replica of Charles Xavier’s kitchen?
“Don’t push me, Cajun,” Logan warns. Remy takes another sip of his drink.
Remy thinks that if Logan really were sentimental, the two of them would be out on the lawn digging into each other with mistrust and reckless abandon. Remy would charge Logan’s uniform just to prove he could, and Logan would cut Remy from shoulder to hip just before the explosion blew him backwards. Violent, extreme, and somehow cathartic, their fights used to be all there was between them.
Now they sit in a hidden kitchen and sip beer and pretend they don’t have responsibilities.
“You’re not wit’ the Avengers, today,” Remy comments after a moment.
“They don’t need every team all the time,” Logan grumbles. Remy’s about to add that Logan’s on a fair percentage of those teams, that chances are he’s needed at any given moment. He doesn’t want to see Wolverine’s schedule, with class time marked off in blue and Avengers duties highlighted in red and his time with his elite X-squad, the one Remy’s on, penciled in as an afterthought.
“How’re they doin’, anyway?” Remy asks the question generally, but they both know who it is he cares about. The Avengers mean nothing to him, and he still smarts at the mention of the last time he faced Captain America. Alex was a friend, once upon a time, but Remy made mistakes that cost him many allies. Even his peace with Logan was tentative, for ages, until Laura bridged the spaces between them with her need of both of them, and their need of her. There was only one person, really, who ever welcomed Remy back unconditionally.
“She’s fine,” Logan says, understanding completely. Then he sighs, sets his beer on the table with a clunk and runs a hand over his face. “She ain’t fine. Things’re a mess, and Rogue is only hanging on for Chuck’s sake. Or, she was.”
“Was?” Remy asks. He knows Anna’s been out of sorts, lately. She seems happy enough when she’s at the school—the thought conjures the image of her in a green-and-white baseball uniform, hair done up in a messy ponytail and a wooden bat balanced on her shoulder—but whenever she leaves for Avengers Mansion, she’s angry. Not the spunky, ready kind of anger that kept her strong for so many years, but a deep and bitter suspicion, like she’s balancing on a tightrope and waiting for it to snap.
“Something happened, when we were out in space,” Logan continues. He isn’t the type to mince words, to hide things. His relationship with Remy is such that he’ll tell the other man what he needs to know, even if there’ll be consequences to that. “Between her and Summers.”
Not Scott, of course. “Alex?” Remy’s voice is sharp and he can’t help it. Alex was a friend, once upon a time. They were teammates. Remy had helped rescue him and Lorna and Rachel from space. Now? They hadn’t talked in ages, certainly not since the younger Summers had become a leader of the Avengers. “You’re jokin’.”
“I don’t joke.” Logan says flatly. He picks up his bottle and drains the rest of its contents. “You asked, Gumbo.”
He had, hadn’t he? He doesn’t have many details, but he can imagine. It was in space, he thinks bitterly. He remembers a time, right before things went bad, when he and Rogue stood side by side on the bridge of their ship and kissed through the clear shields of their helmets. When he had memories of touching her, of holding her, of kissing her, but couldn’t act on those impulses any longer. It’d been slow torture.
And now she can touch whomever she wants, and who she wants is Alex Summers. Remy feels like he's going to throw up, he feels like he'ss going to drown. He’d been patient, hadn’t he? He’d said nothing about Magneto. He’d forced himself to not care, to feel nothing, to spin it like it was something good and new.
And now Alex Goddamn Summers.
“Get to class, Gambit,” Logan says, as he gets up from the table.
Remy stays in the kitchen and drinks his way through three more beers.
She didn’t tell him directly. And that, more than the fact itself, tells him how much things have changed.
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They’re Knocking Now Upon Your Door
On the dark and unusual childhood of Reynaud Chastain. 1.4k words
(tw/cw: mention of suicide)
Reynaud was ten when he first saw a Sauvage.
He awoke, in the dead of night, to the distant clang of a bell. Bells had rung all week, as was typical for Carnaval, but they were cacophonous, riotous, the sound of chaos and merriment from one corner of Parletris to the other. But this… this was a singular bell. One clear ring through the night, a high and mournful tone that hadn’t been heard for years. Reynaud was too young to have even heard it before, but still, he knew exactly what it was.
La cloche de la mort.
He’d fallen asleep in the nave again. Father and mother never understood it, when he had a perfectly good bed in the rectory, one with a soft mattress and more pillows than any boy of ten years had a right to sleep upon. Reynaud supposed he ought to have felt lucky to have his own room, as befit a child of the bishop. But then, he thought his parents ought to understand his need to seek the peace of the chapel, even late at night. Were they not the leaders of their order? Were they not holy followers of the Queen, of the Sword, of the lady of Death herself?
Even at ten years old, Reynaud Chastain thought himself but an instrument of la Reine, a servant of truth, and the cool stone of the floor of the chapel nave the only bed he might need.
He blinked in the darkness. One ring. One ring, and from the direction of the Estate.
It could only mean one thing.
His family would have a visitor soon.
Mother and Father wanted to let Helene sleep, with the hour so late. “You should be sleeping yourself,” Father said grumpily, lighting the candles along the back wall of the chapel.
“He should see this,” Mother replied. “How else will he be ready when the time comes for him to begin his training?”
“Ten years is too young for a novitiate,” came the curt reply, but there were no other words on the subject. Reynaud could stay.
And he knew Helene wouldn’t forgive him if he let her sleep through this night.
“I need my coat,” he lied, affecting a shiver. The chill of October did hang in the air, a chill only just now come to this part of the world, with its short, wet autumns and drearily mild winters. Without another word, he sprinted out of the chapel, across the lawn, through the graveyard and into the rectory. His long legs carried him up the stairs and he pounded on the door of his younger sister’s room.
Helene was scowling when she opened the door. “This better be good,” she groused, rubbing sleep from her eyes and yawning.
“A Sauvage has died tonight,” Reynaud said breathlessly. “They’re coming. They’re coming here.”
Helene was wide awake at these words. “Well of course they’re coming here,” she snapped.
Reynaud wanted to slam the door back in his younger sister’s face. “I could’ve let you sleep through it,” he snapped right back, turning to his own door across the hall. “You’d better not let them see you.”
“I’m not an idiot,” Helene scoffed. Still, when Reynaud reemerged into the hallway, her expression had softened a touch, and she crossed her arms as she looked up at her big brother. “Thanks for coming back.”
Reynaud shrugged the too-big wool coat on. “You’re welcome.”
He’d expected a retinue.
So had his parents, by the confused looks on their faces when the massive oak door of the church swung open to reveal only two people. Well, one person, and one body. One man, and the body of his wife.
Reynaud sat in the back pew, his head bowed, and he tried to look as inconspicuous as possible, tried to look like he belonged there, and not like he was some curious interloping child as his father insisted him to be. Still, he couldn’t help but look up as Armand Boucher, a man remarkable only in that he was the one who stole the heart of the sword queen, took heavy strides forward, weighed down by the lifeless body of the queen in his arms.
“Your… Grace,” Father Chastain said, sounding unsure for the first time in Reynaud’s memory. “We are honored to have you—“
“She’s dead,” the other man said, voice cracking on the word. “She’s dead. She’s gone. And she did it to herself.”
Thick silence fell over the nave, with only the sound of the wind outside whispering against the glass windows. It was so quiet, in fact, that Reynaud could hear a sniffle and a cough from somewhere toward the front. Helene. Before anyone could turn, he shifted in his seat, and then stood, making more noise than necessary as he shuffled out of the pew and into the center aisle. He almost didn’t dare look up, unable to bring himself to meet the incredulous, disapproving stares of his parents as he took a few steps closer towards the small knot they formed.
Before he could think, before he could remind himself that he was just a child, and that this was not his place, he reached out to touch the lifeless fingers of the hand that dangled in the air before him. “She’s beautiful.”
The dark-haired man looked down at him, his hard, wild eyes dimming for a moment, and suddenly, all the fire and ferocity there disappeared, a flame snuffed out, and his shoulders sagged beneath the weight of the woman he carried. He suddenly looked old, though Reynaud knew he couldn’t be much older than his own parents, and he looked sad, and he looked… lost. “She is,” Armand finally croaked out. “She always has been.”
Reynaud nodded solemnly, emboldened by the words, still steadfastly ignoring the growing alarm in his father’s eyes, and the way his mother started to shake her head and wring her hands. “The Book says she’s on the wind now,” he said softly. “To cut through the heart and join the spirit of the mind.”
Armand settled down on the bench where Reynaud had just been sitting, still cradling Catarina’s head in his hands. Reynaud could see from this angle now that her neck was bent at an odd angle, and her shoulders twisted in a strange jutting way, like her bones had been shifted, rearranged.
Like she’d fallen from a great height.
“I was never one for the Book, or the cards, not like she was,” Armand said softly. He was speaking directly to Reynaud, not even looking up at the other adults, as he stroked his dead wife’s hair. “But she’d have said the same thing. Whatever it is about the scythe, and how we all fall to the blade.” He looked back down at her face, his gaze gone soft and tender. “I just thought I’d go first.”
“And the babe, my lord?” Mme Chastain stepped forward, still wringing her hands. “We’d heard the bells just before the start of the Carnaval.”
“With her nurse,” came the stiff reply. “Cat made sure she was safe with the nurse before she…”
Father Chastain laid a hand on his son’s shoulder, squeezing his fingers in warning, before he spoke again. “We are honored to lay her to rest,” he said.
“Honored nothing.” Armand wouldn’t look away from Catarina’s bruised face. “I’ll pay you handsomely, to keep it a secret.”
Another hush fell over the vast chapel, and Reynaud could hear that the wind had slowly turned to gentle, murmuring rain. He took a deep breath, closing his eyes against the crushing grip of his father’s hand, and hummed a note.
The grip on his shoulder became something bruising and nigh unbearable, a dire warning, a preemptive punishment, but Reynaud couldn’t stop. He’d already begun to study, even if his parents though him too young, thought him too strange, to learn the rites when most boys his age were raising hell at the docks and picking fights in the schoolyard. He didn’t care what they thought; all he cared about was the Sword.
Armand looked up at him again. “Your altar boy knows well,” he said.
“My son,” said the Father through gritted teeth. “He’s my son.”
Armand nodded. “You know the proper songs, boy?”
Reynaud stopped his humming and blinked rapidly, his breathing gone shallow. “Every word.”
“Come, then.” Armand stood once more, his back straight and tall, and while he spoke to the bishop and the prioress, his gaze never left Reynaud. “You’ll sing for my wife. Sing her to the wind.” He finally looked up at Father Chastain. “And then, we’ll talk of your coin.”
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