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  Book One of the Annwn Ryu Cycle
   Chapter V
   Courage Against the Shadows”

"To love someone deeply gives you strength. Being loved by someone deeply gives you courage." -- Lao Tzu

 Cayanne stalked into her room and saw the outline of her father and Marie. Despite her current fury, a slight smile touched her lips, but then her roiling emotions soon had her moving again. 
 Tossing her trenchcoat, shirt, and pants onto the bed, the girl wrapped the blanket around the pillow, sheet, and her boots. Slinging it over her shoulder, she stalked back out, down the stairs, and nearly ran into Scott, who was coming out of Xavier's office.
 "Cayanne, where..."
 "When..." he began again.
 "Later." she growled.
 The tall mutant looked down at her, and the girl glared back up at him.
 "Don' worry, I keep word. Stay onna groun's. Now move, or I run over ya." she snarled, still full of fury.
 Jean spoke from the doorway. "Cayanne, could we speak to you, please?" The tone of her voice was gentle.
 The young Cajun put down her burden, scowling. "Why?" she demanded. "Dis not my home. Not look like it ever be, except for Papa." There was a trace of bitterness in her expressive voice. Internally, she kicked herself for the comment. Her home was with her father, her only family.
 The young woman's eyes were kind as she guided the girl inside, seating her in front of Professor Xavier's desk.
 Cayanne was instantly wary, but his dark eyes were serene as he returned her gaze.
 "It would seem that there was an altercation in the gym, would you like to tell me your side?" he asked, gently.
 Everyone stared at her.
 "Facts, dey speak for demselves, oui? I not think you not know what went on." She shrugged. "Not much for me t'say."
 Xavier leaned back in his chair, regarding the girl steadily. He wished abruptly there was more trust between them, more sense of - safety. Once more, he noticed the feral, sharp features, large, intelligent eyes, and thin, adolescent body. There was still a great deal of question of her abilities - they had obviously only scratched the surface. Disciplining her would likely push her further away, making the girl less trusting of a place he wanted her to be comfortable in, but the fight in the gym...
 The solution suddenly came to him, one that would greatly benefit the youngster - if all parties would agree.
 "I believe that Miss Burke..."
 Cayanne clenched her fists, eyes blazing. "Ne dites pas ce nom en ma présence!" she hissed.
 Jean rested a gentle hand on the girl's shoulder, trying to soothe, empathically and with her presence.
 The girl bounced from the chair.  "Damnez-le!  N'essayez pas cela sur moi!" she yelled, enraged.
 But Jean saw the faintest glint of terror in her eyes. She glanced quickly at Xavier.
 Charles, someone has invaded her mind before. She's terrified of it, of telepaths. Her mental voice was soft with deep compassion and sympathy.
  "I'm sorry, Cayanne." she said aloud. "I didn't mean to manipulate you. I was trying to comfort you."
  The girl regarded her with piercing, searching eyes. "You a telepath, oui?" she asked, deciding to come right out with it.
  "I have some telepathic abilities, but I'm a stronger telekinetic." Jean replied, taking a seat. "Do you know what that is?"
  "Oui. And word is wrong. Psychokinetic." the young Cajun replied, absently, turning the new information over in her mind. "And you, Professeur, you a stronger telepath. Oui?"
  "I am. But I assure you, my abilities are currently, ah, disabled." Xavier had made the decision to be completely honest with the girl.
  "The Tueur D'ordinateur de Secours?"
   Both adults stared at the girl, who shrugged. "Cayanne have strange dreams, sometimes. Just askin'." she said.
  "We would like you to stay." said Xavier, sensing that his young guest would go no further. Jean's smile was almost maternal as she nodded agreement.
  Cayanne looked honestly taken aback. "Why? Not fit in here." she responded, warily.
  "I think you might, my young friend." Xavier's voice was gentle. "If you will be patient with yourself."

  "Ya want me to what?" Logan regarded Xavier with mild disbelief.
  "I want you to train Cayanne." The Professor sipped his tea. "Individually."
  "She's a kid!" grumbled the Canadian mutant.
  "Young, but she is an active, highly intelligent individual with a need for activity. If that is not focused we could - lose her." Xavier looked straight at the other mutant, expression oddly sad. "And I do not think she would deal well in any of the gym classes."
  Logan suddenly remembered her scent. Mysterious and oddly familiar.
  Pepper and spice. Cinnamon. Chrysanthemum's soft fragrance mixed with the gentle tang of a cherry blossom.
  There was a moment's startled silence. Clearly they had believed there would more of an argument.
  But he couldn't forget that scent.
  And he didn't know why.

  Cayanne went back to Scott's office, swallowing hard on her pride. She felt this was the right thing to do, but that did not make it any easier.
  "Cayanne!" he smiled at her, to her surprise. "Come in." He waved her to a chair.
  Stiffly, the girl said, "Come here to say sorry for the fight. Not for thrashin' the one who insult Papa - yer class. So, sorry fer that."
  Scott regarded her through his glasses, seeing the flicker of reds and rubies, pinks and garnets of her body. She was thin, but carried herself with a certain presence he almost envied.
  But he nodded, knowing that to a teen-ager, dignity was as vital as air.
  "Thank you, Cayanne. I appreciate that." he said, warmly.

  When Gambit found out about the fight, he hit the proverbial ceiling. It was almost comical to see him fuss over his daughter, who's hug was as warm and loving as ever.
  "You got in fight with a super-strong mutant, vous pourrait avoir été détruit!" he was saying as they walked back to the mansion from his room.
  "Would've been worth it." Cayanne was aware that her father regarded her in horror. "No-one insult Papa!" Her gaze was unyielding, full of love, pride, and passion's fire.
  Gambit knelt down and stared into her eyes. "No, mon peu d'amour. Not matter what dey say. Matter what you belive to yer ol' Papa, but not matter what dey say." he said, gently. "You not have to...."
  "Always will." Her gaze moved away from his, and he saw the faint shine of unshed tears. "Always! Always love Papa."
  He wrapped his arms around her and held her gently, rocking her against him. She trembled once, able to weep only in the safety of her father's arms, and he lifted her despite her objections.
  "Time for you t' get some sleep, têtu petit ange." he said, feeling her stiffen slightly. "I stay wit you. But you sleep tonight."

  "How is she?" whispered Marie, peeking in the door.
  Curled under a thick, ancient blanket, Cayanne stirred fitfully until Remy rested a comforting hand on her hair.
  "Épuisé, cher." he replied, also in a whisper. "She never sleep well, but tonight she sleep de night away."
  Marie's eyes were questioning.
  "'Cordin' to Hank, she not sleep for most o' de time I been an X-Man." He stroked his daughter's hair. "I not see, cher." His gaze lifted, showing his torment. "How I not see?" He shook his head, hiding his eyes in his hand. "She not sleep. She not eat much. Jean-Paul say she need me, I come back, but she need a father, not an X-Man."
  Cayanne stirred, turning instinctively toward her father's voice.
  Marie wrapped her arms around him, watching the girl's fitful sleep. "It's not too late, sugah. She has you now. And she's safe here." she said, tenderly. "I could learn to really like that kid."
  Remy smiled at her, gently squeezing her hand. "She tired, but dere more. Gambit feel it, she - hidin' somethin' from me. De hurt." he gently kissed his daughter's forehead.
  "You can read her mind?" Marie's voice was startled.
  Remy's expression was thoughtful. "Non." he replied. "Remy - he feel what she feel. Know her feelings. Feel her, like a - a respiration à mon coeur." He shook his head, then looked a little sheepish. "Marie, Remy feel you now, too, different way." His expression was oddly open, as though he fought to force down all the secrecy his life had taught him. "In - mon coeur."
  Marie sat down on the chair next to him. In one way, it was frightening, discovering that he could sense emotions. In the other, she was happier than she could have believed she'd ever be. They were together -
  And suddenly a warm sensation rose in her heart, swamping her with love, hope, passion - and Remy. The sense of him, his warmth, touched her to the very soul. And she knew, in a way that defied explanation, the same intense emotion had just lanced through Remy's barriers, into his own deepest being.
  His expression showed - briefly - the loneliness, uncertainty, mind-numbing terror that had followed him so much of his life. For a moment, Marie knew what she saw was the boy he had been.
  And she knew in that moment that she belonged right where she was.

  The putrid drip of stagnant water. Cold, so cold. Fear/confusion/need/hunger/hunger/need/do it!/nonononononono/do it!/no/run/run/hurts/hurts!
Blood dripping, falling in splatters on the floor.
  Laughter. Voices. The hum of equipment.
Cutting. Blood everywhere. Pain. Cold.
  The whirr-whistle of a whip.
  Darkness. Howls. Need.
  Need. Need.
Shrivelled husk falling, horror, need, running.
Cold. Pain. Hunger. Need.
Darkness. Howls. Rage. Rage. Hunger.

"Noooooooo!" Cayanne bolted awake, over her father's chair, and down the hallway. She clawed frantically at the air, then felt the drop/launch of movement.
  She barely had time to react before she landed on cold stone tiles. Curling there, she felt the crack of her head against it.
Slamming her head once against the floor, she felt something warm and sticky on her forehead, then another drop/launch.
  Swirls of darkness, eddies of emotion. Terror.
  Awareness. Dim, then wakeful.
  Clawing at her. At her mind, her very Self.
  Cayanne howled. A sound of rage, pain, confusion - and need.
Wrenching the thing toward her, she tore her way into it, snuffing it's awareness out like a candle.
  It shrieked, clawing feebly at her.
  A powerful eddy left, flowing up, and she sent it to where it should be.
  The other flailed, clawed, and she snarled, clawing in her mind, past the illusion, into the Ghost Killer.
  She ripped into it's mind, hungering, devouring, draining it dry.
  It fought.
  She enjoyed it.
  It shrieked.
  It was music to her.
  She consumed it all, laughing, filling the dark void of hunger deep within her.
  Then collapsed, sliding into a warm, safe place where she could keep her Papa safe.
  Where she was safe.

 Charles Xavier was wrenched from sleep by his own scream.  His mind was flooded with the power he had lost, opened and receptive, open to all the psychic "noise" he had so briefly not had to shield against.
  Scott. Jean. Hank. Warren. All there. Awakened by his cry.
  Sitting up, he pulled up his psychic shields, smiling reassuringly at his worried students.
  "Are you all right?"
  Bless Scott. Always concerned about those around him. Jean, always caring and warm.
  A muffled rush of air announced the arrival of Rogue, airborne and obviously in shock.
  Gambit arrived a moment later, garnet eyes almost glowing with emotion.
  "Cayanne!" he managed, as Rogue came to a graceful landing next to him.
  The location, as the saying goes, was the last place they looked.
  Onslaught's Enclosure.
  "Mon Dieu!  Non!" cried Gambit, restrained only by Scott's desperate grip.
  "Remy! No! We don't know..."
  "Laissez-moi partir, damnez-vous!"
  Cayanne lay sprawled on the cold metal floor, a faint trickle of blood flowing from her nose and forehead.
  Xavier scanned the area and his expression changed to one of shock.
  Logan, who had arrived last, then abruptly crouched low, growling low in his throat.
  Twisting and thrashing frantically, the girl was caught in her own nightmare, unaware of the newcomers one moment, the next launching herself at the older mutant, black fire dancing around her hands.
  Gambit caught her, held her tightly, clinging to her struggling form. The darkness faded, she clung to him, and silence finally settled, marked only by the shuddering breaths of Cayanne and Remy's soft, soothing voice.

  Cayanne sat in an oversized chair, wrapped in a blanket, holding on to her father's hand. The others had gathered back in Xavier's office, and even Logan remained in the room, hidden in the shadows of a corner.
  "Qu'arrive à moi?" she managed, through chattering teeth.
  Hank patted her arm gently as he said, "Your temperature dropped several degrees, and you have lost a great deal of blood sugar." He was worried about the low blood sugar. "Some nice tea will help that."
  Cayanne snorted. "I t'ink dat not help much." she grumbled.
  Remy's expression could best be described as distraught. His daughter leaned against him, staring at Xavier fixedly.
  Xavier's voice was very quiet. "I have a suspicion, Cayanne." Her gaze did not waver. "But to be sure, I need to do a brief mental scan...."
  Cayanne's voice was just short of a growl. "Non!" she snapped.
  Remy moved from his chair, knelt beside her. "Listen to yer Papa, now, peu d'amour." His voice was soft, velvet comfort. "You hurt, yer Papa, he need t'know. I here." With a flick of his wrist, a card flickered garnet with pulsing energy. "Personne vous blessera." He gathered her to him "Pas toujours encore."
  Eyes closed against her father's shoulder, Cayanne whispered, "For you, Papa, J'égalise ceci." Then, to Xavier, "Faites votre plus mauvais. Je suis en ayant peur!"
Xavier stared at the glowing card, suddenly aware of Remy's fierce protectiveness and deep devotion to the girl.
  His garnet eyes were fierce as the Cajun met the telepath's gaze.
  With a soft sigh, Xavier closed his eyes. Without effort, he reached out, but the girl's mind was strongly shielded. A natural shield, powerful enough to hold him out, but he felt her fight down terror as the barriers went down.
   Gently, he scanned her surface mind, finding the roiling emotions, the tightly controlled panic.
   Do not be afraid. he was careful to "speak" softly.
   Not afraid. Get on wit' it. the reply was swift, shadowed with her fear of manipulation, violation.
   Someone entered your mind before, Cayanne. Against your will.
Non! came the terrified cry. No!
Gently, he warned himself. This is a very deeply buried fear, a trauma much deeper than I can reach in one session. Show me what happened, Cayanne. Show me what hurt you.
Terror. Need. Hunger.
Her mind flinched away from him, away from the memory....

   Cold metal walls, seen through liquid. Voices speaking. Rage.
   "....not responsive..."
   "...what happened with...?"
   "....anti-bonding....what is it....?"
Screams. Soulless husks falling, cracking and disintegrating.
  Pain. Intense pain. Horror and pain. Need...
  "...that's a good girl...." a voice dipped in syrup, devoid of conscience or humanity.
  La Mauvaise Chose.
  Blood. Dripping from the walls, from her hands, coating her in a sticky warmth.
  Chains. Bodies. Fear. Rage.
  Something moving.
  La Mauvaise Chose...La Mauvaise Chose!
It was on her trail. It knew her. She knew it. They were the same. They were one.
  She ran.
  Xavier withdrew from the tormented memory as gently as he could.
  Cayanne trembled, teeth gritted, silent, against her father's shoulder.
  Remy held her, the card dimming and finally vanishing. "Il est tou'exact, mon petit amour courageux. C'est tou'exact.  Je suis ici.  Vous êtes sûr." he murmured, rocking her gently.
  Xavier leaned back in his chair, realizing suddenly he was shaking. The horror of it all was it's reality. She had experienced it. But she had been too young to fully comprehend what was happening to her. He had no such luxury.
  "I take her upstairs." said Remy, quietly. His eyes were shadowed. "I busy until she wake up. Comprenez? Remy don' care if de whole world go to war, he stay with his daughter." He glanced up at Marie, who came around to support him on the left side.
  "We're both busy." she said, and they were gone.
  "Somethin' happened to th' kid." said Logan, his voice almost startling his companions.
  "I think she was experimented on." Xavier's voice was deep with regret. "And I think she was conscious through it."
  A flicker of sympathy - even empathy - danced in the eyes of the mutant known as Wolverine, and the others could only stare at one another, uncomprehending of the cruelty of their fellow man.

  Cayanne woke the next morning in her father's arms. He was asleep, face tense even in repose, and she had several choice words for herself at her emotional display.
  You not a baby 'nymore. she scolded herself. All dis over a stupid nightmare. You needa grow up.
A gentle brush against her mind, like a question in the air, but no-one invaded her mind.
  What you want? she asked, cautiously.
  It's Jean. Breakfast is ready, are you going to be joining us? Friendly and warm, as though it was an everyday thing to be bouncing thoughts around for other people to hear.
  Dunno. I ask Papa. she replied. The warm presence left with the equivalent of a pat on the arm, and she lay still, watching her father sleep. Marie was curled in another chair, her silver lock pale in the morning sun.
  Dey make good couple. she thought, feeling a flush of warmth. She make Papa happy. Papa make her happy.
"Papa?" she kept her voice soft. If he was exhausted, she had no intention of waking him this early.
  His eyes opened, and his smile was warm and loving. "Better, mon petit amour courageux?" he asked.
  "Oui." she grinned mischievously. "But we missin' breakfast!"

  Cayanne tore through a plate of pancakes, two eggs, and a few pieces of bacon in the span of less than half an hour, then settled back with a contented sigh. "Bon repas.  Celui qui le font cuire, font encore!"
  Jean grinned. "We are going to get along famously, Cayanne. At last, someone who appreciates my cooking!" she mock sulked.
  Scott swallowed his bite of ham the wrong way and went into a coughing fit.
  Logan swatted him on the back, almost sending him face-first into the plate, and Remy started to laugh despite himself.
  Cayanne leaned forward and regarded the Canadian mutant. "Watch dat, he might lose control o' himself and act'lly eat a few bites t'day." Her reference to Scott's absent-minded eating habits made even Logan grin, especially with the girl's impish delivery.
  Scott gave the girl a mock scowl. "Is that any way to talk to your English teacher?" he asked, pretending hurt.
  "Non. Is way to talk to man about to get in big trouble with wife, though." grinned Cayanne.
  Remy started laughing all over again. Marie joined him, with the others unable to keep grins off their faces.
  Xavier heard all the commotion, and despite himself, smiled warmly.
  There was hope.
  If only they could protect Cayanne a bit longer.
Translation from the Cajun (French)

Ne dites pas ce nom en ma présence!                          - Do not say that name in my presence!
Damnez-le!  N'essayez pas cela sur moi!                      - Damn it! Don't try that on me!
Tueur D'ordinateur de Secours                                     - Ghost Killer
vous pourrait avoir été détruit!                                   - you could have been killed!
Laissez-moi partir, damnez-vous!                                - Let me go, damn you!
Qu'arrive à moi?                                                          - What's happening to me?
Personne vous blessera.                                               - No-one will hurt you.
Pas toujours encore.                                                    - Not ever again.
J'égalise ceci.                                                                - I do even this.
Faites votre plus mauvais. Je suis en ayant peur!       - Do your worst. I'm through being afraid!
La Mauvaise Chose                                                      - The Bad Thing
Il est tou'exact, mon petit amour courageux. C'est tou'exact.  Je suis ici.  Vous êtes sûr  - It's all right, my brave little love. It's all right. I'm here. You're safe.
Bon repas.  Celui qui le font cuire, font encore!           - Good meal. Whoever cooked, do it again!

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