Part 1: Chapter 11
The call was short, a simple conversation between partners that gave away nothing to the passenger beside him, happily eating his cheese pizza. Clay ended the call and put his phone on the dashboard mount, a nice adhesive-type thing that Travis had got him for Christmas last year. He didn’t lose his phone half as much as he used to.
“Who was that?” Sammy asked, with the tactless non-manners most kids had these days.
“Agent LeBeau,” Clay responded neutrally, because he was very used to it. “He’s with your mom. Or was, anyways.”
Sammy shrugged forcefully, and said sullenly, “I don’t care.”
Touchy subject, apparently. “You like rock music or country?” he asked, steering towards friendlier seas.
“Rock,” Sammy said, with an easier tone. Clay wasn’t making him mad, but he might if he continued to talk about his mom.
Clay turned on the radio and didn’t recognize the used up voice of the lead singer, and didn’t understand the lyrics. But, he’d gotten used to that over the years, too. Sammy began nodding his head to the beat after a few moments and continued chewing on his pizza as if nothing were wrong.
“Hey, Sammy?” Clay said, after he let him relax, and after he was finished eating, “You know we need to have a talk, right?”
“Yeah, I get it. I’m in trouble because I ran away.” He rushed his words, but still managed to sound bored at the same time. Teenagers.
“Now I didn’t say that, did I?” Clay asked him, point blank.
Sammy looked over at him, and watched him watching the road. “No, I guess not.”
“Why don’t we start with what’s been bothering you as of late. These past few weeks.”
Sammy shrugged. “Nothing,” he replied.
“Okay,” Clay said. “How about you ask me something first?”
“Don’t treat me like a kid,” Sammy said and he sounded both angry and hurt.
“How would you like me to treat you?” Clay asked. “Like a teenager or a young adult?”
“Is there a difference?” Sammy asked, before he could put away his curiosity.
“Sure is,” Clay said. “A teenager, in my experience, at least, is someone who’s dealing with a lot of pent up issues, you know what I mean,” he looked over at Sammy, and saw he was listening, “School work, girls, sports teams, the idea that they’re not little kids anymore and puberty, to name but a few.”
“So what’s a young adult?” Sammy asked, and Clay saw that he was hoping to fall into that category.
“A young adult is someone who’s dealing with those things, too, but has the wherewithal to let somebody help them through it. See what I mean?”
“Yes,” Sammy said, with a sigh.
“So, which one are you?” Clay asked him.
“It’s all stupid shit, though,” Sammy said. “I don’t really think anyone else would care.”
If Clay’s sons had sworn at twelve, he would have slapped them. And Bridget would have washed their mouths out. Heck, they would have the same reaction if their kids did it at any age. He reminded himself that Sammy’s mouth was not his responsibility, and he said, “How do you know that if they don’t know about it? You’re not psychic, are you?”
Sammy sighed again, as if it was that hardest thing in the world to discuss his life with someone. “My mom ditched me for some guy. She does that a lot you know. And I kinda wanted to talk to her.”
“That’s not fair to you,” Clay replied. “Did you want to spend time with your mom because you missed her, or because you needed advice or something?”
“I don’t know,” Sammy said. “I guess everything just sucks right now.” He looked out the window and Clay knew he was trying to compose himself. Poor kid.
“Why’s that?” Clay pushed. “Are you having trouble at school?”
Sammy shrugged again; a teenager’s most used body movement, that and the eye-roll. “Not really in class. Like math sucks, but the teacher is cool.”
“That’s good,” Clay said, and didn’t push any further.
“Do you think I’ll ever grow?” Sammy asked, rather suddenly, his fears finally out in the open. What he had needed to share with his mother. His short, thin mother.
“Taller you mean?” Clay asked, and felt a sense of déjà vu, and remembered it was because he had thought about this earlier. Sammy was small, and boys didn’t want to be small.
“Yeah, I hate being short.”
“You have plenty of time to grow. More than ten years still,” Clay reassured him, though he couldn’t possibly know if Sammy ever would.
“Really?” Sammy asked. Ten years seemed like a century to a twelve year old.
“You’ve just begun all that,” Clay said, “Trust me. Some boys start growing later, others start earlier. Be patient and don’t drink coffee.”
“Why not?” Sammy sounded curious again, like a kid and not a teen.
“My mama always told me it’d stunt my growth.” Clay was finding it hard to believe that Sammy would run away or remove his scales simply because he was upset he was short. He wondered how well the kid had learned to hide things, to deceive, like his mother did so well. Yet, he also wondered if maybe Sammy was just ultra-sensitive because of the way he had grown up. Either way, it was a sad situation that Clay knew he could not solve on his own.
“Why does it do that?” Sammy asked, his young voice, not yet made unstable by puberty, interrupted Clay’s dark thoughts.
“What’s that?” Clay asked, realizing he wasn’t paying attention.
“Why does coffee stunt your growth? Why did your mom tell you that?”
“To be honest, I don’t know why it would, but I suspect my mama just didn’t want me to drink it. It’s just one of those old wives’ tales.”
“What are those?” Sammy asked.
Clay smiled, just a little. For a moment, he wouldn’t worry about Sammy’s past or the sense that he was probably bullied mercilessly at school, even among those who were different just like he was. For now, he’d just sit back and enjoy the twenty question routine all kids used, either because they couldn’t help themselves or because they wanted to deflect some other emotion from getting too overwhelming. Soon enough, he and Sammy would be back in Salem, and facing reality. But not right yet. “An old wives’ tale is something that got started a long time ago, based on superstition or beliefs at the time, that weren’t necessarily proven to be true.”
His phone rang then, and it was Bridget. “Hey, honey, can I call you back? Yeah, I’m kind of in the middle of something important.” He knew Bridget wouldn’t be mad at him for it, because of their twenty four hour rule. She was only allowed to stew for a day and he was only allowed to avoid an issue for a day. He hung up and put the phone back on Travis’s gift to him.
He could tell Sammy felt good about the comment and that was something he could later explain to Bridget. To Sammy, he said, “Sorry about that. Now, where were we?”
The rookie corridor, more of a partitioning that separated them and two secretaries from everyone else, was where Anna Marie and Kurt had their desks. Remy passed by the secretaries, waving, but not even stopping to pet Trust, even though her tail thumped the floor at his sight. He couldn’t yet make himself comfortable around Ashley, Trust’s owner, and so, he simply avoided her.
He was going to avoid a lot of things within the next few hours. Things like good advice from both Clay and Emma, the email he had received from Dr. Bridges less than an hour ago and most certainly the reunion with Sammy and Lisa. It wasn’t something he needed to see, or wanted to see. He had seen enough of her and frankly, couldn’t waste anymore of his emotional energy on why a kid would run away from a bad home or cut into his own flesh. So, he would head to the Morlock tunnels and meet with the Green Clan. At least he would be smart enough to take the rookies with him.
Kurt and Anna Marie, because they both worked together, had their desks very close, and the closer Remy got to them, the more he smelled the familiar smell – of coffee and nail polish. Or maybe he just imagined it; his nose wasn’t that trustworthy these days. Kurt, because he was nocturnal, drank a lot of coffee, and Anna Marie’s nervous finger-picking habit mixed with her old-time southern beliefs of keeping oneself always in pristine condition made her go through a lot of nail polish. He could just hear his sister-in-law clicking her teeth about chipped nails and not blotting your face.
Sure enough, Anna Marie was the epitome of a well put together Southern woman, with her good posture and her ankles crossed slightly to one side of the chair. And her makeup was perfect, even the bright red lipstick did not seem overdone. She was typing in that delicate way women do when their nails are drying.
Kurt, for his part, was sitting with coffee mug in hand and one ankle propped on a knee, probably talking more about philosophy than doing any actual work. A coffee pot was plugged in behind him and still had one more cup left it looked like. How many times he had refilled it, Remy didn’t want to know – he didn’t drink coffee ever.
Both rookies turned their heads at his arrival, and Anna Marie motioned to a report on the corner of her neat desk. “This is the report Dr. Frost wanted us to write. About the Green Clan.”
He picked it up and leafed through it, perusing their key points quickly, because it was information he knew very well. He knew why Emma had instructed them to write it. Putting it back down where he’d got it, he said, “You’ll need field clothes, suitable for cold weather, and don’t wear anything you don’t want stolen.”
He was already dressed in his full body black tactical field uniform. It wasn’t completely zipped up, and the cold gear Under Armour running shirt was visible; Remy preferred to wear his own cold weather gear instead of the ones provided by S.H.I.E.L.D., because he thought they were warmer and easier to layer. Most likely, he was wearing another lighter one underneath. The silver cross necklace he always wore was visible now, but wouldn’t be once he zipped up.
“We’re going to the Morlock tunnels now?” Kurt asked, and Remy was surprised he wasn’t annoyed, simply curious.
“It’s better we’re there before it’s too dark,” Remy explained. It was already nearly two o’clock and the sun would set in three and a half to four hours. The drive would take them approximately two.
“Without Agent Quartermain?” Anna Marie asked and those pretty green eyes were wide with skepticism and fear.
It was obvious she felt very safe with Clay. But then, a girl who was raised in backwater, Mississippi with a set of parents whose views were that of an American redneck would feel very safe with Clay Quartermain and his simple, black and white ways of what was right and what was wrong. No matter that Remy’s mutant abilities were just as dangerous as a gun, maybe more since he made explosives with his fingers. And no matter that Kurt’s mutant abilities were probably more protective than a gun would be. It didn’t even seem to matter that Anna Marie herself could damn well take care of a situation, with her own deadly bare hands. Remy knew she would always feel safe with any man who reminded her of the father who hated her. Men like Clay. Men like Logan. And, most specifically, not men like him.
“I think teleportation is just as quick as a bullet if it comes to that,” he responded mildly, without giving away what he felt. What he was suggesting, though, he hoped was not taken lightly by Kurt. He was giving the arrogant, theory-influenced rookie a chance to put his money where his mouth is, giving him a chance to step up and play the role that Clay routinely played. And by doing so, it was saying he would trust him.
Anna Marie said, “I don’t think that’s a good idea.” She wasn’t as willing to put her trust in anyone, let alone someone with the same amount of experience as herself. No, only older, straightforward or gruff men got her trust immediately. Even if that trust was shaky, and not exactly grounded in any real reason why that trust might be warranted. It was like, to Remy, at least, protecting yourself from robbers by hiring a robber as a bodyguard. It made him wonder if the Mr. Clean guy from East Salem Apartments yesterday was older and straightforward. Or maybe he was just some redneck that she obviously idolized because of her daddy issues.
“You don’t have to come,” Remy replied, not as mildly now, and it was obvious to Kurt that something was under the surface.
“You might need my help,” she said, and her nose upturned in that annoying way of hers. That ‘I’m going to pick a fight with you, just because I can’ way of hers that Remy had to remind himself didn’t bother him nearly as much as Kurt’s piety did. Her eyes didn’t drop from his as she continued, in that haughty tone, always braver when she was being cantankerous, when her feelings were hurt. “After all, you are a bit compromised.”
Whether she meant because he would be sans Clay or because he was sick or because he wasn’t Logan, he didn’t know, but it pissed him off. He didn’t have time to remind himself that it was probably just because he hadn’t run today, before he said, rather rudely, “Meet me in the carport in twenty minutes if you’re coming. And if I were you, I’d go for demure. Otherwise, you’ll be an easy target.”
Emma wasn’t surprised to learn that Remy would not be handling the meeting between Lisa and Sammy, and she was also not surprised to learn he had decided to go to the Green Clan with only Kurt and Anna Marie. But Clay sure was.
He watched as Emma left the classroom in the HBSS and came towards him. She smiled thinly at Sammy and said, “Sammy, stay here for a minute, will you, dear?”
Sammy shrugged and said, “Sure.” He wasn’t all that ready to meet his mother anyways.
To Clay, she said, “Come with me for a minute.” He followed her into the conference room where she had been when Remy was with Lisa.
“What’s going on? Is Lisa still here?” Clay asked as Emma closed the door only partially.
“Yes, she is,” Emma replied. “We will go through the reunion as planned, and I will do all of the documentation later tonight.”
The original plan was to have Emma watch the entire thing from here, the conference room, while Clay and Remy brought Sammy to his mother. “Where’s Remy at?” His first thought was that he’d gone home sick, but figured that would take a lot more than a cold.
If Emma was mad it didn’t show on her face, but she was nearly monotone as she said, “I’m sure you can guess. I’ll give you a hint and tell you he’s an idiot.”
“So he went to the sewers then?”
“Yes, he did.”
Clay nodded, figuring it wasn’t worth it to be angry or upset. He had a good idea why Remy had not followed Emma’s orders, and it had nothing to do with insubordination, though he wasn’t under her command. “Let’s take Sammy to his mother,” was all he said to Emma. She was a smart young woman; she would figure it out eventually.
Kurt and Anna Marie did not keep him waiting as they met him at the carport dressed exactly as he had instructed in their black tactical uniforms with cold weather gear underneath and nothing of value visible. Anna Marie had pulled back her hair and had wiped off the red lipstick, now appearing much younger and she hoped not an easy target. She supposed that’s what he had been referring to, as if she was some sort of prostitute. Kurt had added a pistol to his utility belt, though he much preferred the look and feel of a sword. “Just in case,” he said quietly, almost respectfully. “I read in your reports they respond well to fear.”
Remy knew when he was being appeased, and simply nodded and got in the driver’s seat. He realized exactly what was happening at the HBSS building – he was pretty certain he could have written a script. It pissed him off that avoiding the scene didn’t help him avoid the feelings associated with it. Lisa would pin it all on a twelve year old kid who, for some strange reason, loved his mother unconditionally even though it was not deserved. Lisa would cry and rage and tell Sammy all about her feelings. And she would not ask him why he left, or what was the matter, or even acknowledge he had feelings, too. Much less, that the reason he left in the first place was because of her. She would probably blame the school.
But, sure, go ahead, Emma, make him sit through that. Instead of just telling Lisa that he was safe in his dorm room, like I suggested, make the kid face his monster of a mother and let her tear into him. Just so you can have the facts, an exact transcript. But, don’t take my word for it.
Kurt motioned that Anna Marie should sit up front. “Your legs are longer than mine, Kurt,” she said, “You go on ahead.”
He smiled, just slightly, and said, “You owe me one.”
“I most certainly do not,” she replied, upturning her nose. She climbed in the back seat of the car. Kurt got up front, thinking he should perhaps pray for strength first.
Emma walked into the room first, giving Lisa only a second of preparation, as she said, “We found him.” There wasn’t enough time for the manipulative Lisa to plan a response, an emotion or even a question as Clay walked in with Sammy close behind him.
Lisa ran over to her son and wrapped her arms around him, sobbing uncontrollably for the umpteenth time that day. Sammy stood stiff in her arms, and Emma knew he wanted to pull away from her and he also wanted to hug her back. He did neither though as she sobbed for probably three solid minutes. A wonderful performance if ever there was one, Clay couldn’t help but think.
Lisa leaned back then, gripping one of Sammy’s arms in each of her hands and looked him up and down as if it had been weeks since she had seen him last. Clay already figured out what she would say, because like Remy, he knew Lisa well. And so, he watched Emma as Lisa began her tirade.
“How could you do this to me?” she asked him, her voice high-pitched and hurt. “Why would you? Sammy, I thought something awful had happened to you.”
Clay had his orders, and he would follow them, but he couldn’t help thinking what Remy might have said. How could you do this to him, Lisa? Why don’t you own up to something for once in your life? Of course, it would be peppered with swear words if Remy had actually said it.
Emma listened carefully as Sammy responded to his mother, his voice wooden and hollow. “Sorry. Nothing happened, mom. I was just mad.”
“Well, how do you think I felt?” Lisa asked him, and her tone was accusatory and self-important. “I was mad, too. I was more than mad, Sammy. I was hurt and scared.”
Clay saw the moment Emma realized why Remy had not come.
Her cold blue eyes switched from mother to son and she knew. It was for this. He knew he wouldn’t have handled himself well, and he had decided to spare himself from it. Not that that made things right. But she had what she needed now, though, and figured she would find someone to counsel Lisa and Sammy, separately, of course.
“Before I take Sammy back to his dorm,” she interrupted what should have been a very different reunion, “should I give you two a moment alone?”
Lisa looked up at the woman she had spent over two hours talking to. The woman who had listened to her problems and gave her the sympathy she deserved. And now she was taking her son away as if she hadn’t heard a damned thing Lisa had told her. As if this woman assumed she was a bad mother. She would take him back as if she knew what was good for him. Back to the school, the very place he ran from. “Why does he have to go back to this place? He ran away from it for a reason.” She looked at her son, her eyes boring into his and her voice went from angry to syrupy sweet as she said, “You don’t want to go back there, do you baby?”
Clay touched Sammy’s tense shoulder; his mother’s hands were still gripping into his arms. He said quietly, calmly, “He’s a young adult now; why don’t we talk to him, instead of around him. Sammy, what do you want to do?”
Sammy said in a small, yet firm voice, “I want to stay at the school.” He did not address his mother, but had directed it towards Clay, who he felt comfortable with.
Lisa released him as if he were a hot potato. She stood up and clenched her fists at her sides. “Fine. I guess your own mother doesn’t get a say anymore. As if nothing I’ve ever done for you was worth a shit.”
Sammy looked at the floor, his eyes welling up with tears, and Clay took Lisa by the arm, calmly, carefully, and said, “I’ll walk you to your car, ma’am.”
The three of them drove out of the compound before anyone spoke. The only sound was Remy occasionally sniffling and clearing his throat. Finally, Kurt could take it no longer. He figured that Remy wasn’t solely angry at either he or Anna Marie and it probably had to do with the bigger picture. Even so, it made it even harder to get along with him. He said, “The main entrance to the Green Clan is on one-sixteenth street, right? And we’re taking that one because they already know we’re coming?”
“That’s right,” Remy replied and it almost sounded as if he were challenging Kurt to question him, as he had done earlier. “All we’ll need to do is go through their homes, looking for any evidence of any remaining MGH.” He paused to cough, “I don’t care about empty vials, paraphernalia, or anyone who is visibly high, so long as they’re not dangerous or in need of medical attention. But, if we see anything that has not been used, anything to indicate they’re storing it, it’s over.”
“How many houses are there?” Kurt asked, and hoped it wasn’t something he should have remembered. The devils in the details had never been his favorite expression; he didn’t often like to look for the devil.
“Nine,” Remy replied. “It’s common among mutant communities to place the strongest, most valuable members in the biggest and best houses. Same goes here, so we’ll start there. Also, we do have allies among them, in the lesser houses, led by a kid named Dirk.” Whether he was trying to soothe their nerves or was just telling them need-to-know information, it wasn’t obvious.
“Why wouldn’t they evenly distribute their strongest members among all of their dwellings?” Kurt asked and he often asked somewhat philosophical questions when he was uncomfortable.
Remy shrugged, “Maybe they don’t care if the weaker members die off, maybe it’s some kind of respect thing. They earned it by being genetically superior so they get the best provisions.” He coughed again, and said, “I only report what I see. I’m not a psychologist. And you won’t catch any of them down there getting their hands dirty.”
Apparently, he was angry with Emma, Kurt deduced, and he wasn’t sure what else he might say, for fear of getting his head bitten off. But, before he could stop his smart mouth, he said, “It’s the same with MacTaggert Hall. No one wants to spend time there, but everyone has an opinion about how those mutants should be treated.”
Remy had done his research on the two rookies and he had known Kurt spent some time in MacTaggert Hall, the dorm hall at the Institute designated for mutants who were way weird and needed extra accommodations. Most of these mutants were physically mutated, like Kurt, but they could not function well, or even normally, as Kurt could. Remy could understand what drove Kurt to give a damn about these mutants, and he treaded carefully as he responded, “I didn’t realize there were complaints about the way they were treated.”
“Not written ones,” Kurt replied and he couldn’t believe he had even started this topic. Certainly not with someone like Remy, who couldn’t possibly understand what it would be like to be signaled out because of the way he looked or the things he needed to function.
Remy heard and felt the bitterness in Kurt’s voice and passed his dark brown eyes over him quickly. He wasn’t sure what he might say, so he said nothing, letting Kurt assume what he would. Probably nothing good.
Kurt figured Remy wouldn’t know whether or not anyone complained in a dorm he had never been in. Remy may have been the head of a group that documented the woes of the less fortunate and assisted them in their assimilation, but that didn’t mean he could ever actually get it. He hadn’t grown up poor, he had never been ugly, he had never wanted for anything, and so really, how could he relate? All he had was empathy, which Kurt honestly thought was bullshit, and more of a selfish reaction to another’s emotion than it was useful. The only thing Remy probably, honestly, felt was pity. And perhaps disgust. However, Kurt supposed, taking a moment to calm himself, his bitterness would not be as helpful as his ability to be better than that. Better than Remy. He could actually relate with these Morlocks; he was ugly, had been homeless and had felt what want was. He would do this job well.
Remy drove much faster than Clay and they made good time on their way to the Green Clan’s dwellings. He pulled against the curb as close as he could get to the subway’s entrance, only a mere three blocks away. Because of the close quarters in the SUV, Remy turned towards the window and stifled two successive sneezes. “Jesus, excuse me,” he said, and he wondered then if Jean was right about that sinus infection because his head hurt from his forehead to his cheekbones. He couldn’t wait until the next couple of days were over with, then maybe he could get a decent night’s sleep.
Exiting the car, he, Anna Marie and Kurt walked down the stairs and to the old aqueduct shed as he had done a little over forty eight hours ago – though it seemed like a week ago, at least.
If Anna Marie was bothered by the smell of rotting fish, he wondered what her reaction might be to the general stink of the underprivileged. Before they entered, he said to her, “Do your best to keep a poker face. If they see your disgust they won’t take as kindly to you.”
She nodded almost solemnly. He continued with, “The most important thing to remember is that we’re in their territory now. They can see better than we can, keep your flashlight at the ready, but aim it at the ground.”
Kurt, whose eyes were able to see perfectly in the darkness, said, “You use it as a weapon, don’t you?”
Remy gauged Kurt’s tone before he answered. Once again, Kurt was not being condescending. “If I have to,” he said. He opened the door to the maintenance shed, and he went in before them.
New York City had been a culture shock to the small southern town raised Anna Marie – but this was indescribable and nothing like she had imagined it would be as they drove here. She had thought that it would be hard to fit through what she assumed were winding tunnels, but there was enough room for even Remy to stand upright. She had also assumed that it would contain mutants just sitting there like beggars on the street, but at first glance she saw no one.
Then, completely round yellow eyes popped out in front of her. She swallowed a scream, and managed only a little squeak. The orbs closed and then opened, and they scanned the three agents from head to toe.
And then Remy spoke to it. “Hey, Randi,” he said quietly to the small mutant with eyes that took up most of her face.
As Anna Marie’s eyes adjusted to the dark, the eyes became part of a form. ‘Randi’ was ugly, hardly humanoid, with large yellow eyes, and an odd-shaped head. Like a flat face attached to a lump that started behind the eyes and nose, leaving no forehead or crown of the head. Randi had a small beak of a nose and lips that were the same color as the rest of the face was and were very small. His or her teeth were tiny and widely spaced and there was no neck to speak of, just folds of skin that drifted into the torso. All of the existing extremities, and there were five of them, were the same size and not distinguishable as arms or legs.
“Randi with an ‘I’,” the mutant responded in a singsong voice – apparently, Randi was a she – as she flapped an arm or leg at Remy. Her voice was as ugly as she was, and sounded as if it was hardly in use with its squeaks and tears. It managed to sound both monotone and happy at the same time.
Remy smiled and continued along. During a census he had taken his first year in the MCRT, he had asked Randi how to spell her name, by asking, “Randi with an ‘i’ or a ‘y’?” He couldn’t have known at the time that she did not know anything beyond what she called herself and the ability to recognize faces. As far as he can figure now, there’s no reason she should be able to do even that, considering she doesn’t seem to have room in her head for a brain big enough to support speech or facial recognition. She relies mostly on instinct and belongs to no tribe or clan or family. She is alone and will probably always be alone. But, for whatever reason, when Remy asked her how to spell her name, she was able to mimic part of what he said and always repeats that same phrase whenever he sees her.
Kurt looked at Anna Marie and together they were wide-eyed. They passed through what appeared to be a makeshift door frame, maybe for structural reasons. The wet, moldy smell that they had smelled upon entering was diminished slightly as their visibility heightened. At their feet, lining the walls were evenly spaced bottles with candles wedged partially inside, reminding them of what Italian restaurants did sometimes.
Between most of the lights were little carts holding things from blankets to pieces of glass. Various mutants were either sitting by the carts, as if watching them or were sifting through them. One of the sitting mutants reached out towards them, and like a magician, produced an interesting-looking pale pink flower seemingly out of thin air. He extended his hand further, nearly touching Anna Marie’s ankle with it.
“Ignore him,” Remy replied, without turning around.
Anna Marie did as she was told and stepped around the man and his pretty creation. He made a sound that perhaps qualified as speech and pushed his flower towards her.
Before Anna Marie could bend down to touch it, Remy stepped on it and flashed his light into the mutants eyes, earning a hiss. To Anna Marie, he said, “He means well, but those flowers are poisonous.” He was glad now that he had told her to ‘go for demure’ earlier, because he wasn’t sure it would have stopped with the flower.
If this was a tour, he would have explained that these mutants, like Randi, belonged to no one; they were the castaways among a castaway society. He added, sensing her discomfort, “We’re almost there.”
The green paint that signaled their arrival wasn’t what Kurt had expected as a marker for a clan. He supposed he had expected some sort of gang symbol or some ancient insignia, as opposed to three not quite parallel slashes on another half-rotted door-frame. “This is it?” he asked.
Remy simply nodded and knocked on the wood part of Red’s house.
Two whole minutes passed, which to Kurt seemed like an eternity, but Remy didn’t seem fazed by it. Kurt had read the description of Red, but words on paper didn’t do the mutant justice. Six foot four or five, with a chest more than double the width of his own, Red was the biggest unfriendly mutant he had ever seen. Colossus, or Piotr Rasputin, Kurt’s friend, would dwarf Red, but Kurt didn’t find Piotr scary anymore.
Also, Colossus had only two arms and well, looked normal. Red was troll-like, with longish arms and squat, thick legs. He reminded Kurt of something from The Lord of The Rings trilogy; movies he had thoroughly enjoyed. Kurt felt a surge of excitement, belying the fear he had felt at first. He watched as Red crossed all four of his arms at his chest and looked at Remy. “What do you want?” he asked him, his voice gruff and a deep baritone.
Again, Remy didn’t seem scared or fazed. Mostly annoyed. “You know what I want Red. Your cooperation.” Remy expected Red to act manly and petulant, trying to show his clan that he wasn’t scared of the prospect of any of them going to prison. He just hoped it didn’t come to physical blows, because he was almost sure even his agility and expertise with his bo staff wouldn’t be enough today. However, he didn’t let anyone see it.
Unlike Remy, Red was a predator, a hunter. And he smiled slowly. Remy may have been able to hide his emotions, but not the quality of his voice. “You want that, you’ll have to go through me first.” He puffed up his chest, as if he was a gorilla.
“That isn’t exactly how it works,” Remy said.
“Maybe in your world, no, but in mine, I make the rules.”
“I hope that works out for you in prison, Red.” If he hadn’t been sick, Remy might have played Red’s game a bit better; he would have put on the charm and said something to boost Red’s confidence and sense of himself while at the same time gaining access to what he wanted. Today, however, his threats were weak and Red knew it. He turned away to cough, and was upset by the surprising acoustics present in the tunnels.
“Hope you brought enough handcuffs,” Red said. “And have fun dragging me to the surface. Cuz I won’t go quietly.”
It was an old game the two of them played many times, the back and forth wasn’t rehearsed so much as in actual words, but in the give and take between the men involved. A word game that sometimes resulted in something physical. This was the reason Remy didn’t treat them as if they were stupid, because Red was not. He had to do what he had to in order to keep his subjects loyal, and that meant playing hard to get with a force he ultimately could not defeat. But his people didn’t know that. And so the game continued. Both men were very much aware of it.
But Kurt was not. To him, it appeared Remy was losing his ground. So, he took his arrogance, and stepped right in between the two, and inserted himself into their give and take. “It’s Red, right?” he asked, not giving Red a chance to answer, he continued, “My name is Kurt, and I think I can level with you here.”
Remy shut his mouth, because it had fallen open, and he took a lesson from Red, crossing his arms over his chest as Kurt dug himself into a deep, deep hole.
Kurt continued as Red looked down at him with confusion. “The reason we don’t want you to have MGH is because of its danger to your and your communities’ health. Not to mention it’s a crime to use it and sell it. When I was younger, I was in a similar situation. But instead of selling drugs, I sought refuge in a church. We can offer you that same refuge, outside of a prison cell, if you come with us.”
Red got over his sense of confusion and continued to stare down his bulbous nose right into Kurt’s face and surprised him by laughing a huge, rattling belly laugh. Then, dismissing him as easy at that, he turned to Remy, and said, “You’ve run out of tricks, have you? Low of you to think bringing your lap dog would help your cause.” Still laughing, he stepped aside, and dramatically motioned them inside, “Look at whatever you please. Then get the hell out.”
The ride back to the complex was quieter than the ride from it. Kurt had taken the back seat, leaving Anna Marie the front. Remy could feel Kurt’s embarrassment like a thick, suffocating sweater. He felt guilty not saying anything, and he felt bad that Kurt had to learn the hard way, but he wasn’t going to reassure him of anything. For one thing, Kurt’s pride had enough and he would take it badly, and maybe more so, because Remy thought it was a lesson in humility that Kurt desperately had needed to learn.
Furthermore, he was angry that Kurt had made it quite obvious that he hadn’t read Remy’s reports, because in one of them was practically the entire description of Red’s clan mentality. And for someone who prided himself on his own intelligence, Remy thought Kurt would be smart enough to read a goddamn manual before jumping into the fray. And where the hell was his partner? Anna Marie should have done something to make him shut up. Didn’t they remember anything from The Academy? And now, he was beginning to second guess his own decision. Maybe he shouldn’t have taken either one of them. Because what if Red had something to hide? And what if Kurt had made him angry? Yeah, Kurt could teleport, but would it be fast enough? And, after seeing how he and Anna Marie did not yet have a feel for the other one, would he leave her there? And Red could surely snap her neck easily. Vampiric skin or not, surely her skin’s ability to take someone’s mutant powers or life force wouldn’t be fast enough. They were both under his tutelage, but he had assumed they knew more than this by now. Logan spoke highly of both of them, but Remy was having a hard time seeing it. And he didn’t want to be the one to have to say anything about it.
He stewed about it most of the drive back, not a fan of doling out lectures, and finally when the entrance to The Rotunda was in sight, he said, “Both of you will turn in separate reports detailing what happened today; I would like a copy and you will also give one to Scott. It would be wise to consider the possibility that your partner might throw you under the bus to make themselves look good. It would also be wise to think about what it means to have one. I will be in D.C. for the next day or so, and that will plenty of time to get it done.”
After giving them their instructions, he left them, deciding he should take his own advice. He would have to tell Clay about Dr. Bridges’ email and probably owed him an apology for not telling him where he was going and why he was going. But then again, he already knew that Clay would understand.