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  Book One of the Annwn Ryu Cycle

  This is another little interlude, just Stryfe and a certain character of my own. To be continued in Cajun Cinnamon,
Part Seven!

  It was so easy to step into the perimeter. How quickly they forgot - I am a clone. Their precious security recognized me as my brother. It was strange that they never thought of that. Lax. Often, that brought death.
 Or worse.
 I was not wearing what they would have expected. Not the armor. Not the helm. Instead, I had chosen simple attire - loose clothing that would enable swift movement.
 It was habit, really. Only my - parents - and brother were at home. And the Professor, of course.
 Curious. His mind was questing again, searching. So, Xavier recovered his paltry power again, did he...?
 Ah, but that is not fair. I had underestimated him before, to my chagrin. One does not bear the mantle "world's most powerful telepath" lightly.
  I passed each checkpoint with ease, cautious to ensure that the scans were but skin deep.
  The deeper ones I flicked aside, carefully, and proceeded on.
  I was perhaps fortunate that Wolverine was not there. Of all the X-Men, he would be quickest to sense my presence.
  "Evenin', you comin' in or plannin' to lurk out here all de night t'ru?"
  I almost jumped. Instead I turned, and had to look down.
  Clad in a threadbare trenchcoat, shirt, and jeans, wearing old boots, the eyes that met mine were most unusual. Black with a flare of crystal-blue-silver marking the center, they resembled the Cajun member of the X-Men. A girl. A...girl?
  "Name's Cayanne." she stuck out her hand, as though I was any visitor, any man coming to her door.
  I took it with some trepidation. One greeted unknown mutants with care.
  "I am..."
  "Nathan's brother, oui?" she grinned up at me, unafraid. "Resemblance is there."
  I could not decide for the life of me whether the creature was mad or simply hopelessly naive.
  "You know of me." I let the statement hang in the air.
  "Hard not to, you in de database. An' two of ya here - well, dat unusual, even for dis madhouse."
  "Madhouse?" There, she had done it. I had no idea where this was leading.
  She ticked off on her fingers. "Guy who shoot lasers from eyes, mind readers, flying people, dis all new." Another grin. "New, oui?"
   "I am well aware of the powers inherent in mutancy." Why did I not simply mindwipe the girl and carry on my errand?
  She closed one eye, placing one finger on the side of her nose. "You got a sense o' humor, dis a good thing." A pause. "You here to see your parents et frère, or jus' wandering around inna funk?"
  "I am Stryfe." I said it as coldly as I could.
  She burst out laughing. I stared at her.
  "You make trouble?" Her voice was not soft and cautious, like so many women I knew, it was rich and filled with a kind of passion I....envied. "Grand!  Nous sommes beaucoup semblables, puis!"
   I realized my mouth was hanging open and closed it quickly. "I don't think you realize...."
  "Sure I do." Her gaze captured me. I could not look away. "You spend whole life makin' trouble so your family come fix it, oui? Dat way, at least you not alone."
  Ice rose in me, and I glared at her. The idea was....insane!
  "I am not an emotional cripple, needing the approval of one who abandoned me!" Who was I arguing with?
  "Den why you here?"
  The ice cracked. The old familiar rage did not hold, scrabbling frantically for purchase in the tatters of my soul.
  "Look, you come sit with me, oui? We talk, play cards?" Her grin was oddly warming. "You c'n always blast me later."
  She reached out, took my hand, and I stood there, staring at her as though she had suddenly grown a second head.
  "Your family, dey sleep now." Her eyes were impish. "We raid de fridge. Got all sorts of goodies in dere." She grinned. "You tell me why you here, maybe you understand better."
  She did have a point. Oddly enough.
  Cayanne had not dropped my hand, I realized. Her grip was not soft, but it was warm. I found myself unwilling to let go as well, much as that surprised me.
  "You tell me 'bout where you come from?" she asked, as we walked up the trail.
  "The future." Ice and rage. Coldness holding my heart. Emptiness. Nothingless.
  She stared up at me a moment. "Not a good future, den?"
  The girl sighed. "Ever'thing changes de moment de future meets de past, I 'magine." she commented.
  "What?" I was confused again. That was most....unsettling.
  "T'ink about it. You not been abandoned, you not been born. You born later, so you not abandoned now." Her head cocked, thoughtful. "Maybe you take chance to change t'ings. Not have chance like dat often."
  "You are a strange child."
  "You call me chile again and I punch you." she warned.
  Time to call this odd youngster out. "You are a child...."
  The pain in my midriff was notable. I doubled over unconsciously as the girl stood back, fist still cocked.
  We stared at one another.
  The ice cracked.
  Just a bit.
  The oddest thing happened then. Perhaps the strangest thing I had ever encountered.
  I liked her.
  She offered me her hand again, and I took it almost without thinking.
  "I read 'bout you." she said, as though nothing had happened. "But dat just words. You tell me your side. Oui?"
"As you like."
  "You know how to play cards?" her voice was mischievous.
  "No." It seemed rather a useless pursuit for a future conqueror of worlds.
  "Good! I teach you!" her tug pulled me closer to the Mansion.
  Despite my resolve, despite my turmoil, I felt the unsettling urge to turn and leave. This was, after all, the X-Men's home base. I was unarmed, and they would likely not be trusting.
  "Dis new to me too, ya know. And I got an idea."
  "Do you."
  "Oui. Since you not here to cause trouble, I got idea. Stryfe is trouble, so I call you Rafe. Good name, non?" She grinned. "Ever'one deserves a first name, not just an adjective."
  I stared at her. A name? I was Stryfe. Cold. Ice. Nothingless.
  The beginning. I had sworn that.
  "Where did you get that name...chi...."
  Her fist was balled up in her fingerless gloves, and an eyebrow cocked in my direction.
  "Cayanne." I conceded.
  "Rafe? Your name. Stryfe, before. An' Raphael. De angel of changes. C'est un nom très bon.  Costumes vous."
  Indeed. The ice - was cracking.
  I felt a stab of unfamiliar fear. I was afraid.
  There, I admitted it.
  I was afraid of losing myself.
  "I t'ink, sometimes you have to let yourself go t' find out where yer goin'. Oui? Like.....like a fire."
  "What?" My emotions were roiling in a painful mass, tightening my throat. My voice revealed nothing. I was relived.
  "A fire. It start, has boundary." She drew a line in the air, shrugged. "Den it breathe for a while. Learn to like de air. De world. It burn. Bright. Den, there no more need for boundary. Fire burn because it can. Warm because it can. Not 'cause of physics. Nice idea, but not de truth. Oui? Math not make birds sing, or fire burn."
  Shards of ice shattered. Piercing me. Tearing at me. I kept my face immobile. I showed nothing.
  The ice was falling.
  Whatever I was, lurked within.
  "Rafe." I said it thoughtfully, drawing it out on my tounge. It felt...right. "Very well, then."
  "Très bon!" Her grin embraced me and her eyes sparkled with life. "Come den, mon ami! I make you a smoothie that will make yer tastebuds do de tango!"
  The door to the kitchen opened. There was light, warm and golden, that spilled into the night.
  I drew all that I was about me, tattered and worn, stepped inside.
  And a single thought occured to me.
  Could this be...truly...ever...

parents et frère                                                             -   parents and brother
Grand!  Nous sommes beaucoup semblables, puis!       -   Great! We're much alike, then!
C'est un nom très bon.  Costumes vous.                        -   It is a very good name. Suits you.


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