All characters are the copyright of Marvel comics, with the exception of the character Serenade, who I made up myself. This story is for non-profit purposes of private entertainment only.
Moonlight Serenade, Chapter One
Professor Charles Xavier was smiling as he maneuvered his hover chair into position at the Briefing Room table. “It is with good news that I have called us together today,” he announced. “We have a new recruit, and one I believe will prove utterly invaluable to our cause. Also, it seems to me that she may well be an old friend of one of our number.”
This tantalizing bit of information caused a brief susurrus of conversation to ripple through the team. Xavier did not let it last long, however, before holding up his hand for quiet.
“May I please introduce the newest X-Man…‘Serenade.’”
He gave the name a slight French twist, but no one paid any particular attention to the name once the woman appeared. At first it seemed as though she arrived in a shaft of blinding white light that obscured all feature, until it was realized that she was the white light. Although it quickly became apparent that she was not actually luminous herself, her entire visage was so pure and snowy that she seemed to glow even in the dimmest light.
The women at the table gaped, and more than one of the men rose out of their seats, and so there was no telling if anyone recognized her.
“Hello,” she said, her voice shy, lilting, musical, beautiful and resonant and accented in some as yet indefinable way. “Am I happy to be here?”
That she should phrase it as a question was very apt. The staring eyes and shocked faces clearly put her out of countenance, and no wonder. “I sure hope so, lady,” Logan said at last, fervently.
She laughed, the tinkling music of delicate silver and crystal bells. It was clear that laughter was rarely far from her lips no matter how disconcerted she might be. No less than four of the men and three of the women instantly fell in love, although the feeling was in no way related to lust in any case—the young woman’s angelic appearance, a countenance of purity beyond earthly attainment, precluded impure thoughts.
She moved further into the room, her movement graceful and effortless, as though she floated on currents of light itself. Her body seemed to shimmer as she walked, and it became clear that she was in fact iridescent; her pure white skin, hair, and eyes glimmered in phantom rainbows and she appeared to be made entirely of opalescent porcelain. “I am called Serenade,” she said, holding a delicate, long-fingered hand out for Logan to kiss, which, to everyone’s surprise including his own, he did.
“I…I’m Wolverine,” he said.
“I am pleased to meet you, M’sieu Wolverine.”
“M’sieu?” he repeated, as though bewildered by the form of address. Actually, he had just realized that the beautiful young creature before him smelled Cajun.
Standing awestruck at the far side of the table, Gambit finally found his voice. “Subira?” he asked, and his voice sounded weak and distant in his own ears.
Those incredible, elusively-colored eyes turned in his direction, and the young woman’s startled gasp sounded like a summer breeze through birch leaves. She was across the room and hanging from his neck before anyone could react. “Remy!” she cried, covering his face with kisses.
A flurry of Cajun French passed between the two, and no one at the table, no matter how well-versed in the language, was keen enough to follow the dialect. Professor Xavier sat serenely at the head of the table, still smiling. “Serenade is from the Thieves Guild,” was all he said.
There was a long silence from the rest of the team.
“That woman could not be a thief,” Cyclops said at last. Jean elbowed him sharply in the side. Storm shot him a withering look. After all, she had once been a thief herself.
“Remy, Serenade is a friend of yours?” she asked, discretely drawing the two back to where they were.
“Oui, padnat. We grew up together in de Guild. She’s sorta…Gambit’s cousin. Sorta.” He took Serenade’s hands and pulled her back to the center of the room. “Subira, you goan’ like it here. Dese folks is pretty good people, once y’ get used t’ ‘em.” He introduced her to each member of the team in turn.
“Guys, dis is Subira DesChamps,” he finished, presenting her as one might present a fragile and priceless Ming vase.
“Subira; that seems a rather unusual name for a Cajun,” Storm said, quite warmly. “It’s Egyptian. It means ‘patient.’ How did you happen to come by it?”
The girl laughed and blushed, a trilling of colors chasing themselves across her cheeks rather than a reddening of them. “My ma’mere. She name us afte' her cats, Rameses and Subira.”
“Subira had a twin brother,” Gambit explained. “He died, though, when dey was jus’ li’l.”
“How did you come by your nom de guerre, Serenade?” Beast asked.
Gambit grinned at her. “Show ‘em, Li’l Bird,” he said.
She grinned back, a flash of teeth that would have brought Apocalypse crashing to his knees if it shone upon him. Then she closed her eyes, tossed her head back, opened her mouth, and sang.
If English words were pitifully short of describing her physical beauty, there was no language in the known universe that could have begun to turn a phrase describing the power of her song. Eyes closed, bodies swayed, and minds were lost, drifting on the currents of her magical voice. Thought became impossible. Emotion was all any of her rapt listeners was capable of. Transported by the joy in her voice, the joy of music, the joy of making beautiful sounds, the joy of sharing her joy with others.
When she fell silent, a brief eternity later, it took the assembled a few moments to shake themselves out of her spell.
“It’s empathy, isn’t it?” Jean Gray asked, her voice sounding sleep-choked as she swam up out of the mists of the song. “You make us feel what you feel when you sing.”
Serenade nodded. “Oui, m’mselle. I can affect people’s emotions t'rough song. I can also read people’s emotions, an' pain. I also heal.”
“A healing factor?” Logan asked. He had one himself.
“Oui, M’sieu Wolverine, I have a healing factor. But what I meant is dat I heal ot'ers.”
Beast raised a speculative eyebrow. “Empathetic healing? How strong is this power, if I may ask?”
Her fine-boned and delicate face clouded over in apparent consternation, hues of blue and green chasing themselves across her lovely features. “I do not know, Docteur…how does one judge de strength of such a power?”
“What kinds of ailments are you able to heal, for example? What severity of wounds?”
Her face became radiant in gold and silver and she smiled happily. “Ah! Tante Mattie teach me many t’ings about healin' de sick, an’ I work wit’ her a lot befo' I leave home. Once I use my power to cure M’sieu Pierre Saulnier when his appendix poison him, an' many times I heal de t’ieves who are injured in battles wit’ de Assassins Guild. Many of dem very badly hurt. I can’t make arms ‘n legs ‘n such grow back if dey cut off, but I can heal ‘most anyt’ing short of dead.”
Beast was ecstatic. He kissed her hand several times in passionate thanks. “Mademoiselle, as if I was not pleased to have you join us before this news, I am certainly so now. I believe I will like working with you very, very much.”
“Vhat made you decide to leave za Thieves Guild, Fraeulein Serenade?” Nightcrawler asked, very shyly, from the corner of the room to which he had retreated in order to look his fill of the angelic Cajun woman without causing her further discomfort.
“Dis Gambit wanna know, too, chère,” Gambit said.
“Professor Xavier contact Master Jean-Luc. It was Jean-Luc’s wish dat I should come. But he did not tell me you were here, Boom Boom,” she said, eyes wide.
Bobby Drake held up a hand, smirk firmly in place. “Excusez-moi, but did you just call Gambit ‘Boom Boom?’”
Gambit groaned and covered his eyes. Serenade nodded. “Oui, M’sieu Iceman. Dat is what we always use to call him.”
“Boom Boom? Boom Boom LeBeau? Oh, that’s classic!” Iceman roared with laughter. Wolverine, seated next to him, slapped him a high-five. Gambit foresaw bad times ahead.
“I t’ink, before we start spillin’ all de fambly secrets, dat maybe Li’l Bird would like t’ get settled in her room and take a res’ b’fore supper?”
She had been giggling a bit herself, but she settled her face into a polite smile, slightly strained from keeping her tinkling laughter withheld, and nodded. “Oui, Remy,” she said, stressing his proper name. “I t’ink dat would be a fine idea.”
“Your things have already been taken up, Serenade,” Professor Xavier said. “I’m certain that Gambit would be happy to show you to your room—number 155, Gambit. You two probably have some catching up to do, in private.”
“Merci, Chu—I mean; t’anks, Professor. C’mon, babe, le’s shoot de works.” He offered his arm, it was accepted, and they left together. A ripple of uncertain jealousy passed through many hearts left behind.
“So, wha’chu t’ink of my friends, ma chère?” Gambit asked, once they had reached the relative privacy of Serenade’s room.
“Dey seem very nice, Remy. I’m sure I will like working wit’ dem very much.”
She sat down on the edge of her new bed and smiled absently, fingering the soft down comforter folded neatly at the foot. Her colors were not entirely happy ones. As well as he had known her, Remy could easily read her emotions without the aid of his own empathy.
He sat down beside her and put an arm around her shoulders. “Homesick already, chère?” he asked.
“Oui, jus’ a li’l.”
“Why’ju come here, really? I can’ see Jean-Luc sendin’ you off jus’ to fight f’ a cause he don’ b’lieve in. He love you like a daughter, an’ you too valuable t’ the guild, wit’ y’ powers.”
She turned her face away, colors radiating shame and humiliation, and he was struck with a sickening, impossible thought. “Y’ di’n'--nah, not you, surely--di’n’ get exiled, neh?”
“I might as well’ve,” she said sadly. “I can never go home, dat is certain.”
He pulled her into his arms, pushing gently until her head rested on his chest. “What happen, chère? Tell Remy.”
“Marius Boudreaux…he wan’ me t’ marry his gran’son, Julien.”
Gambit’s jaw dropped. Julien. The same nasty little salaud he’d nearly killed after his own brief, ill-fated marriage to Julien’s sister, Bella Donna.
“Mon père, he want I should do dis. Julien, he want I should do dis, though I don’ t’ink he wan’ me in de int’rests of clan peace,” she shuddered at the memory of his lecherous eyes on her body. “But Jean-Luc, he don’ want dat f’ me. He forbid de marriage.”
“Bon!” he cried, vehemently.
“Afte’ dat, mon père, he say I use m’ powers t’ influence Jean-Luc’s decree. He say I put a witch-cas’ on ‘im, but I di’n’, Remy, I swear it!” her big white eyes swam with tears as she looked pleadingly into his face, searching for signs of trust.
He shook his head bemusedly. “I can’ say I don’ b’lieve it happen dat way,” he said. “Y’ père, chère, al’us were too ambitious—he wan’ t’ take over de guild, an’ ain’ any too concern wit’ how. I c’n see ‘im usin’ y’ t’ get what he wan’, but I can’ b’lieve any père cou’d have a daughta like you an’ not put her above everyt’in’ else in de whole worl’.”
She lay her head back on his chest of her own accord, and sighed. “I’m glad y’ un’erstan’, Remy. I hoped y’ would.”
“Aw, chère,” he said, rocking her like a child, “y’ know you Remy love y’, Li’l Bird. Been a long time since I seen y’…missed y’, me.”
“I missed you, also, mon ami.”
He laughed, a slightly embarrassed exhalation of sound. “Almos’ di’n’ recognize y’, an' den couldn't b'lieve it when I did—you grown up lots since I saw y’ las’.”
“Dat does happen, Remy. I was only fifteen when y’…when y’ lef’ N’Awlins.”
“When I was exiled, chère. Le’s not mince words.” He held her out by her shoulders, looking into her eyes. “We al’us was outcasts, y’ an’ me. Me more’n you, ‘cause weren’t many people di’n’ like m’ pretty Li’l Bird, but y’ were an outcast all de same. We took care a’ each other back den, an’ we goan take care of each other now. Jus’ like ol’ times, neh? Amis?”
She smiled. “Pour toujours,” she affirmed.
He gave her a strong hug and a kiss on the cheek. “Fantastique! Anyway, I let y’ get settle’ in, now, ‘kay? I come by t’ take y’ down t’ supper later. Soun’ good?”
“Très bon, Remy,” she said, and smiled. She halted him with a hand on his sleeve as he opened the door. “Merci, padnat—f’ sayin’ you take care a’ me. I don’ like admittin’ it, but I’m a li’l bit nervous ‘bout dis whole X-Man t’ing. Ain’ never been no hero befo’; don’ know if I be any good at it.”
He smiled back at her. “I ain’ much good at it, m’self, chère,” he said. “We figure it out t’gether, neh?”
He left then, and Serenade remained in her room with her thoughts. They were not entirely easy thoughts, although her old friend’s presence had cheered her considerably. She rather wished he had not left her alone, and wondered what to do with herself while she waited. If she were more comfortable here, she might have gone exploring the mansion and grounds—she knew it had to be a long time until supper, and she had always been an extremely curious, adventurous girl. But she did not feel right about poking around this place all on her own. She didn’t feel yet that she really belonged here, or had the right.
Remy probably would have been more than happy to show her around, if she’d thought to ask. He doubtless thought she was tired and wanted to rest, or get cleaned up and unpacked. The truth was she was too antsy to be tired, and had nothing to change into and not a great deal to unpack. She had left the trappings of her old life behind her in the big mansion in New Orleans—those wounds were still too fresh, and she wanted no external reminders of her father’s harsh words or Jean-Luc’s agonized contemplation of how to deal with his accusations. She hadn’t been entirely honest with her cousin—the unvarnished truth of the matter was that she ultimately would have been exiled if Professor Xavier hadn’t suddenly taken an interest in her. There was simply no other solution to the problem her father was causing for the clan Patriarch.
She wondered why Charles Xavier had taken an interest in her. And how he had come to know about her. She had not spoken with him directly before coming here, and not more than a half dozen words had passed between them even then. No, all her information had come through the relieved intermediary of Jean-Luc LeBeau, her Patriarch, and the man who had been more of a father to her throughout her life than her own had ever been. At first she thought that it had been he who contacted Xavier about her, but over time she had rejected that idea. No, he had been too confounded by the problem for too long and too close to giving way on the subject of banishment. His relief at being offered another opportunity for her had been obvious, and she understood now as never before why he had been so eager for her to come here—with Remy to watch over her, he had no worries for her. She wondered, though, why he had not told her that his adopted son was working for Xavier. It was unthinkable that he did not know—although she had not seen or spoken with her cousin in nearly a decade, he had been home to New Orleans many times over those years, secretly, and in contact with Jean-Luc and the clan traiteur, the inimitable Tante Mattie, with astonishing regularity considering that she knew him to be a bit of a scatter-brain when it came to that sort of thing.
No, Jean-Luc had known. He hadn’t told her because…he wanted her to be surprised? That seemed out of character for the man she knew, but it was the only explanation she could come up with.
Frustrated, too many unanswered questions chasing themselves through her mind, Serenade lay back on her bed. It was a soft mattress—really quite luxurious. She wondered what it would be like, sleeping here night after night. She wondered how long it would be until she got used to the little night sounds of this place, the boards that creaked, the wind that howled outside the windows, the branches that scraped the glass, the people who would sometimes walk the halls outside her door at night, bound for bathroom breaks or midnight snacks. She wondered if she would be cold at night in this northern climate.
Curious, she pulled the down-filled comforter up over her shoulders. She had never used such a cover before—back home, sheets were usually enough to handle the night, or a flannel blanket in the coldest chills of New Orleans’ wet winters. The sudden, drowsy warmth of the soft, thick comforter wrapped her in the cozy sensation of being held, much the way Remy had held her. Remembering his solid, comforting presence and the warm, friendly smell of him, she fell asleep.
On to Chapter Two!