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Chasing Sparrows

Remy LeBeau's arrival in New York and his discovery of Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters

 

Chapter 6

"Non!" Remy shook Slice off - again. "Not coming wid me, Slice. Remy take care of dis."

"She's my fucking sister!" Slice snarled.

"An you not know your ass from a pry-bar!" he snapped back.

"I can take care of myself!"

They were arguing their way down the street from the 'Boyzone Internet Café' and Remy was blessing the city that never sleeps with every step. Even at three in the morning, he'd found an Internet connection and from there, he'd found Hastings High School, Westchester NY. Now all he needed was a car and to get rid of Slice. He wasn't going to lose the brother while trying to find the sister.

"Look," Remy turned on him, expression hard enough to make Slice step back, surprised at how thoroughly the casual, easy-going Remy had disappeared. "Not coming wid me. You staying at de SRO and waitin'. Remy jus askin' some questions and getting' som addresses and he not got time to argue wid a punk! Neither do Rachel, eh?"

Rachel's name quieted Slice and Remy used it ruthlessly to get him away and back where Remy could lay hands on him again. Remy stopped at a late model four-door.

"Didn't know you had a car," Slice said.

"Remy don't," he muttered and smashed the window with an elbow. The car alarm began to wail but he paid it no mind, just like everyone else. After years of the nightly chorus of false alarms, there wasn't anyone in America that responded to the sound of a car alarm going off. Reaching in and opening the door, Remy brushed glass off the seat and gave Slice a final warning.

"Be at de SRO," he said. "Your sister, she gonna need you."

He drove off.

This late, even New York had clear highways and Remy put the pedal down and flew out of the city, slowing only when he reached the kind of places experience told him a cop was likely to loiter, looking for speeders. Westchester wasn't so far and Remy could see a bunch of bored kids coming into the city after school. What they were going to do with a mutant girl, Remy had too many guesses, he hoped they'd just scared her then abandoned her out here with no way back to the city.

Drumming his fingers on the steering wheel, Remy alternated between watching the streets and reading the MapQuest instructions until the flat brick and concrete buildings; complete with baseball field in the back, told him he'd found Hastings High. A spotlit sign, in familiar red and yellow, confirmed it. He wrenched the car to a stop in a side street and got out, bits of glass plinking to the tarmac.

The suburbs were quiet, eerie, when Remy was used to the sirens and the arguments, the occasional gunshots of the city. It made him nervous, like there were eyes on him, as he skulked across the street where a cyclone fence kept the kids in their place during school hours. It was a moment's work to swarm over it and drop down onto the neatly mown grass. Slipping in and out of the shadows, Remy found the Administration Building and broke in.

The student records room was neatly labeled for a thief's convenience and the button lock was nothing but a pause with his leaterman tool. Tucking the end of a min-maglite into his mouth, Remy put himself at a computer and began the irritating process of searching the student database. Again, the beating of his heart reminded him of the minutes passing and he scowled and muttered his way through the passwords and firewalls to the pictures that most every school kept of their students these days - for safety, of course.

"Der's my boys!" Remy crowed softly in a few moments. There were the faces he remembered, all buttoned up and looking sweet for the cameras. He memorized names and addresses with narrowed eyes and a hard face. Those boys weren't going to be so pretty when he was done with them if they'd taken Rachel. Underneath the rush, rush of looking for her there was the bitter taste of frustration; another mutant gone missing, another bunch of monkeys thinking they could push somebody around because they were blue or green and no one to care. He snorted angrily and slapped the computer off. Remy cared. This time, the monkeys were in for a surprise.

It was only because it was so dark back behind the school that Remy noticed the dim light in the gym building at all. He almost passed it by, figuring it for a forgotten light but the flicker of a half-seen shadow caught his attention. Someone was in there, someone too careless to be a thief - and what was there to steal in a high school gym anyway? Footballs? He hesitated, torn between finding Rachel and his sense that something was going on over there that shouldn't.

"Won't take long, non?" Remy muttered reassuringly to himself as he darted silently to the light.

The light spilled out from a bent gap in the aluminum blinds on the other side of the glass; it had to be dim even inside. The window was slightly above his head so Remy gripped the edge with long fingers and hoisted himself up for a peek with a soft grunt. Sneakers scrabbling on the bricks for purchase, he peered in past the blinds to see a face he'd just left behind in the computer. "Merde -" he breathed silently. One of the boys, then another, and both of them not so clean cut in the middle of the night with eyes bright with excitement. Remy couldn't see enough, the room was bigger than his view, to know what they were doing. They were too far for him to get a sense of anything about them.

"Doin' something you ain't supposed eh, brats?" Remy murmured and dropped silently to the grass. Circling the building, he found a back entrance, already open for him. He slipped inside, drifting like a lanky ghost in the dark, past the lockerooms - with the smell of sweat and water seeping from them - and towards the back of the building where he'd seen the light. Voices first - one voice especially.

"I'm sorry!" it was Rachel, crying. "I'm sorry! I didn't take your stuff. S-someone else did. He gav- gave it to me! D-don't hurt me, please, don't hurt me!"

"I heard muties don't feel pain like real people -" laughter and a yelp that had Remy racing silently to the door, cards caught between his fingers, shining vaguely pink in the shadows. "Guess that ain't true, huh."

"I heard muties make lousy fucks -"

"Wonder if that's the truth huh?"

More laughter. Rachel whimpering.

"I heard monkeys feel pain real good!" Remy shouted as he crashed through the door, pausing just long enough to mark the targets. Rachel on the floor, torn and bloody. Five of the boys, with the look of sharks in their eyes, eyes that went wide at the sight of him.

"Remy!"

The flash-bang of his cards, scattered the bullies, and Remy leapt in to straddle Rachel. The boys were screaming, Remy caught one, flipping the edge of his sneaker under a knee and sending the kid down with a choked yell. "Get up, cher!"

"There's only one!" Someone from the back, egging on his friends. Fear thick in the air, they rushed him, more because Remy was between them and the door than any courage.

"I c-can't!" Rachel's hands on his pants pulled him to an unwilling halt. A fist smacked his arm then the crush of bodies were on him. They were clumsy, Remy put his elbows and knees where he needed too, dancing over Rachel, keeping her safe. Blood spattered his knuckles as he knocked someone's teeth out. Screams reminded him these were only kids and Remy hesitated then took a punch to a kidney for it. "My leg -"

"Remy got you!" A card thrown to clear the floor in an explosion of rose smoke, the glint of light on cold steel made Remy reach down to haul Rachel onto his shoulder with a panting curse. Her grunting in his ear and clutching his jacket while he swept someone's feet out from under them. Someone had a gun and Remy wasn't staying to find out who. "And you bastards too - ! You ain't playin' wid little girls no more!"

He kicked his way to the door, paying no mind now to the fact these were kids, hearing a real shriek of pain as one of them went down. Remy was running from the gun, running from the moment when whoever had it remembered to use it. Thanking all the spirits that these kids were dumb, looking for nothing but a helpless kid to push around.

Remy hit the door with a jolt he felt all the way to his shoulder and sprinted down the hall to the corner and safety, Rachel getting heavier on his back every step of the way.

"Non!" The burn and the <b>bang!</b> of the gunshot hit him at the same time. Remy tried to twist, tried to make it safe for Rachel but he was going down, leg buckling. Her wail was chopped off when she hit the ground.

"Got the fucker!" Someone crowed in triumph.

"Jesus -! You shot - shot him!" Someone not so excited.

Remy rolled back to his feet with a groan, teeth clenched he threw his cards down - kings and queens all - they went off with more than a bang and a flash this time. The ceiling tiles shattered and rained down in the stretch of hallway between the boys and Remy. When he pulled Rachel up, she groaned.

"Ah - cher," Remy panted, feeling the warm, wet seep of blood down his leg. Carrying her, he hobbled awkwardly for the door. "Stay wid Remy, s'v plait."

No surprise that the boys didn't follow but Remy still hurried to jump the car and get the hell out of there. There would be police soon enough and he was bleeding and, Remy glanced over at Rachel as the streetlight slid across her face. He needed to find a place to get help, a hospital.

"Rachel, cher - you still der?"

Vague mumbling. All one side of her face was black and blue; blood matted the fine fur on her face and still dribbled slowly from her nose. Licking his lips, Remy reached out and pinched her arm, steering one handed. "C'mon, cher, don sleep on me now."

"Don't - don't feel good," Rachel whispered then moaned. Remy jerked back as she heaved onto the seat between them. She hardly seemed to care - or even notice - and Remy hit the gas and the car raced down the dark streets. He didn't know where he was going but they had to go - somewhere. Somewhere safe.

His leg, Remy could handle on his own, bullet had hardly more than grazed him. But Rachel, she'd hit her head and Remy didn't like the way she was limp and moaning. His hands tightened on the steering wheel. He'd been clumsy and he'd been stupid and Rachel was paying for it. They needed help and Remy knew how little help there was out there. Still he pulled over to a payphone in a parking lot. Leaving the door open and the engine running - Rachel wasn't going anywhere - he slipped out to page to the hospitals.

"Eyah - listen, got a girl hurt -" he said into the phone for the fourth time. "She a mutant -"

"Sorry -"

"Fuck you, sorry!" he shouted and slammed the phone down. Feeling the burn of tears in his throat, Remy leaned his forehead against the cool plastic. The early morning breeze ruffled the pages of the phone book and he heard the first of the early birds. Turning his head, Remy could see Rachel's slack profile. He had to do something, it was his mistakes that brought her out here - the boys had picked her up because he'd been stupid. It was like he'd hurt her himself.

"Cher - " he whispered. "Cher - it be okay. Remy, he find a way to make it right."

His fingers found their way through the pages of the phone book as Remy thought about suburbs and schools and stupid fairy tales about a special place for mutants. "Xaviers," he muttered. "Xavier's -"

Only one in Westchester. <b>'Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters'</b> and in neat red print below it; <I>'Dedicated to equality and to encouraging the potential of all children in today's changing world'</I>. Remy squinted at the small add like it was in code. The burn of hope in his belly was strong enough to make him feel sick. Remy tore the page from the book and limped hurriedly back to the car. The driver's side was sticky with blood but he paid it no mind.

"Cher -"

Rachel was motionless in the seat. Remy leaned over her, breath held, until he heard the faint raspy sound of her shallow breathing, nearly drowned out by the sound of his own panicked heartbeat. Tucking the paper between his teeth, he spun the car around and roared out of the parking lot.

"Don get lost," he begged, to anyone that was listening to a thief in the night. Palms slipping sweaty slick on the steering wheel and the air blowing ice cold from the broken window. It was hard to focus, between the cold and the listening to Rachel beside him, listening for every small breath. Counting his heartbeat again, moment and moment and moment - each moment lost. "Don get lost out here. Please - come so far, come so far -"

The roads were winding and he cursed every suburban planner who dreamed them up as he took the shadowy turns and curves at crazy speed. Huge old trees whipped by, half seen, and the sky was navy blue with approaching day. A brick wall reared up on one side, iron teeth gleaming dully at the top. Shivering with sudden chill, Remy nearly missed the glint of a small brass sign beside the iron gates - but the huge 'X' worked into the iron was unmistakable. He slammed on the brakes and skidded to a halt in the turn-off.

Getting out of the car was a struggle that put Remy on his knees, gravel biting into his skin. He pushed himself up in a surge of pain and dizziness. His pants clung wetly to his leg, sneaker soggy - but the wound didn't hurt much anymore. Remy felt as drunk as a sailor as he staggered to the gate. The call box was obvious enough, small button luminous in the dark.

"Allo?" he shouted, hammering on the button. "Wake dose asses up in der! Allo!"

Crackling silence then - "H-hello?"


The sleep foggy voice made Remy crow in triumph. "Come out 'ere, s'v plait!"

"Who are you? Why -"

"Got me a girl - " Remy stumbled, leaning hard on the gate and staring through it at the lights that had sprung alive in one room. "A hurt girl, a mutant girl. Heard - dis a place for mutants -"

Silence.

"Please - s'v plait!" Remy cried, desperation breaking his voice. "Dis a place for mutants? Jus for us? Please!"

Because he had nowhere else to go. Nothing else to do. This had to be the place. The special place. If it wasn't - if it wasn't - Remy didn't know what he do.

"De hospitals -"

"Yes," the voice was awake now, grim, while lights sprang up like smiles in the house - big, big house across the big, big lawn. "We know."

A splash of yellow across the lawn and figures in the shadows, running towards him. Remy backed away from the gate as it groaned to life, swinging open. Even staggering and clinging to the car for support, Remy recognized the reinforced bolts and the heavy-duty hinges; something made for a prison - for a fortress than a house.

A voice like gravel out of the dark, "Dammit, Jeannie - be careful!"

"Logan it's -"

"Non - " Remy cried back. "S'okay - no harm here, homme! Please - de girl, she hit her head. Bad."

Darting into the light, the most beautiful woman Remy had ever seen. Tangled red hair and white skin, rumpled nightgown and bare feet. Doctor's bag and that was the most beautiful thing of all.

"Cher - " Remy breathed shakily, all his strength suddenly gone. He sagged to his knees, palms sliding over hood of the car. She was beautiful like the sun and everything around her was dark, getting darker, farther away.

"It's alright now, I'm Jean and I'm a doctor."

"Mademoiselle -" he could rest now.

END