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.

Special thanks to "Nameless Entity #1," otherwise known as Isolda, for vetting my French for me. Eventually I may get around to translating it out to Cajun parlance, but then again, maybe not.

Moonlight Serenade, Chapter Three

Mac O'Roni

     Serenade found her room after making only one wrong turn—the mansion was damnably big, even bigger than the huge Georgian plantation on the outskirts of New Orleans. After her nap that afternoon she doubted that she would feel much like sleeping, but after laying awake for only a half an hour or so she slipped into a dream.
     It was not a pleasant dream. It was as much a memory as anything, and not a good one. She was back in the Guild mansion, standing before her father. He was yelling at her in Cajun French, fearful epithets; witch, demon-child, useless bitch. He did not hit her, although he clearly wanted to. He was afraid to touch her, afraid to leave any mark on that flawless white skin. Afraid of what Jean-Luc might do to him if he caught him beating her. She was spared the physical pain of his anger only by the tenebrous implied protection of their Patriarch.
     “Please, pa’père,” she whispered in her dream, “please, I’m sorry.”
     “Ferme ta bouche, salope stupide!” he shouted. “Tu as besoin de ma permission à parler!”
     She flinched away from his hard voice. She knew better than to flinch, but she could not stop herself. He raised his hand to strike her.
     His wrist was caught in a vise-lock grip before his palm could touch her. "Si jamais je te vois lever la main à cette enfante encore, DesChamps, je la déchirerais de ton bras." Jean-Luc spat, pushing him away. He slipped a protective arm around her and held her to his chest. She wanted to cry, from shame, from relief, from sadness, but locked the impulse away inside where it could not be seen.
     "C'est ça, sorcière. Se cachât de moi." her father snarled at her. "Je sais que tu lui as ensorcelé , donc tu n'as rien de craindre de moi, n'est-ce pas?"
     “I am in no one’s power, DesChamps. Not your daughter’s, an’ certainly not yours,” Jean-Luc said. “Continue making dese ridiculous accusations an’ I will have you banished.”
     Pierre DesChamps drew himself up to his full height—still almost a foot shorter than the broad-shouldered Patriarch—and held his head proudly. “Try it, LeBeau. I have enough supporters in de Guild dat dey would overt’row you if y’ tried. Not everyone real happy wit’ de way you runnin’ t’ings, Jean-Luc—firs’ you bring in dat li’l white devil, den you set ‘im up wit’ dat Bella Donna an’ almos’ start a sacredam guild war. Now you forbid my daughter’s marriage t’ Julien Boudreaux an’ mebbe start up anot’er? It don’ seem to us dat y’ got de Guild’s bes’ int’rests in y’ min’ all de time y’ makin’ y’ orders.”
     “What d’ you suggest I do, Pierre, t’ avoid dis?” Jean-Luc asked. Serenade picked up on the danger signal in his tone, but her father was deaf to it.
     “Sen’ dis ungrateful witch int’ exile. I don’ want t’ see her ugly white face again.”
     With all the hateful things her father had said to her, his words still made her shudder. Exile. The most terrifying word any guilded thief ever heard. She had done well in her tilling, could no doubt eke out an existence for herself on her own, but a lone thief’s life is lonely and dangerous, and she had not the skills nor the emotional fortitude of her beloved cousin, Remy.
     “Non. I will never do dat,” Jean-Luc said, tightening his hold on her.
     “Of course not,” her father had sneered, his voice soft and venomous. “Prettiest piece a’ tail y’ ever had, neh? Shinin’ all sof’ and snowy white in de moonlight. Lots softer an’ tamer dan dat red-eyed demon y’ were so besotted wit’…bet she don’ yell so loud ‘r so ugly eit’er. Bet she whisper all sort a’ pretty words an’ sing all kin’ a’ pretty songs while y’ fuckin’ ‘er, non?”
     Serenade couldn’t repress a shocked gasp at her father’s accusations. She was certain that Jean-Luc was going to kill him for those words, and that would be bad—her father had not been kidding about his supporters. They no doubt would try and overthrow the Guild Patriarch if he gave them the slightest such excuse.
     His voice was white and strained when he finally spoke; she could hear the rage boiling red-hot just below the surface of his tightly controlled words—for DesChamps accusations about his relationship with Serenade, and probably even more for his accusations about his relationship with Remy. “Get out of my face, DesChamps,” he said. “Before I knock it de hell in. You are not to come near dis girl anymore. Come, Subira—I have Tante Mattie set y’ up in anot’er part a’ d’ house.
     “Don’ you pay no nevermin’ t’ him, chile,” he said to her as he led her away from her father’s chambers. “Y’ père jus’ stupid an’ vicious—al’us was, al’us will be. Ain’ none a’ dis you fault, an’ I see to it he don’ hurt you n’more. Don’ you take on.”
     She woke up then, unsurprised to feel tears on her cheeks. Most of that had happened exactly as she had dreamed it, and it still hurt to think about the hell her father managed to make her life thereafter, even under Tante Mattie’s protective wing and with the clan Patriarch hovering nearby like a wolf father guarding its cub.
     Feeling ashamed even now for her weakness, for her shameful crying, she crawled out of bed and opened the beautiful bay windows to the night air. She sat in the window seat and let the cool breeze dry her tears. The moon was big, near the full, but covered tonight with a scurf of wispy clouds across its bright, friendly face. She liked the moon—its light was so much softer and kinder than the harsh sun. Direct sunlight made her skin too bright to look at and burned terribly, though she never darkened. The moon’s kind reflected light made her skin glow softly in the darkness like the mythy hide of a unicorn, or some other such fabulous legendary creature.
     Kurt Wagner, alias the Nightcrawler, had gone outside that night because he was feeling strangely restive and unsettled. He eventually found himself perched in a tree on the south side of the house, and although he never consciously realized it, directly across from that most intriguing young Cajun fräulein’s window. When he saw her sitting there, bathed in the soft light that spilled through the clouds from the lady moon, he was moved to tears by her apparent melancholy. To tears, and, oddly, to song.
     He did not know many songs. He liked music, but other than a few religious hymns he’d sung in church, he did not really pay any attention to any specific songs. So it wasn’t so strange, perhaps, that he should choose a religious song with which to serenade the lovely young lady. There was no direct mention of the Almighty by name in the libretto, and although he knew that the song had been intended to praise the Lord and the Lord only, he did not feel he was committing a blasphemy by singing it in praise of this woman whom he felt certain must be one of God’s holy angels come to earth.
     Serenade’s ears perked to the first strains of his soft, clear voice. He was really a fine singer, that heavy German accent choked with true emotion as he sang what was to him this night the very music of the spheres. She knew the song, and loved it.
     “Bist du bei mir…geh’ ich mit Freuden. Zum sterben und zu meiner Ruh’…zum sterben und zu meiner Ruh’.”
     She let him finish out the first lines of the song, and then she answered him on the next verse, carefully keeping her empathy out of her voice. Still, the refrain rang hauntingly beautiful in the still, silent night. “Ach wie vergnügt…wär’ so mein Ende. Es drückten deine shönen Hände…mir die getreuen Augen zu!”
     So enraptured was he to have her angelic voice respond to his pitiful earthly one, so ridiculously honored that her sweet Cajun French voice should answer in flawlessly-accented German, he half-swooned and fell out of the tree. His fortunate prehensile tail, acting as always as if it had a mind quite of its own, was all that saved him from a nasty tumble, wrapping itself strongly around a sturdy limb and breaking his fall. He dangled there, upside-down, still lost in the rapture of the divinely blessed.
     “Are you all right, M’sieu?” her oh so lovely voice called down to him, concerned for his safety. The angel-child was actually concerned for his safety!
     “Ja, mein Liebling. Ich habe ganz Recht,” he said, quite forgetting that she might only be able to sing in German.
     “Gut, mein Freund. Aber Sie sollten unten von diesem Baum kommen, bevor Ihr Endstück nachgibt,” she responded promptly.
     He did come down, and took himself off to his room for a private rapture before his makeshift altar.
     The incident left Serenade in considerably better humor, and so she was in a position to appreciate the next incident that night. It seemed that Herr Nightcrawler hadn’t been the only young man left restless that evening. Buoyed by Kurt’s acceptance, Bobby Drake stepped out of the shadows where he’d been hiding and began his own serenade.
     Bobby knew perhaps hundreds of songs by heart, but when he looked up into that soft, delicate white face he found he could think of only one. The contrast between his selection and Kurt’s forced Serenade to duck back into her room where she could more politely suffer her violent fit of mirth. From Bach to the Backstreet Boys in a single night.
     Unperturbed by her sudden disappearance, Bobby continued to sing. “Can this be true? Tell me, can this be real? How can I put into words what I feel? My life was complete. I thought I was whole. Why do I feel like I’m losing control?”
     He was really awful—completely tone-deaf. She knew she would never be able to suffer through the whole song, but she did not want to risk offending him, so she grabbed the single duffel bag she had brought from home and pulled out the one thing that could help her—the one thing she had seriously debated packing at all, but now thanked her lucky stars that she had found herself unable to part from it.
     It was a black leather trenchcoat, and it was far and away too large for her thin frame. She was a fairly tall woman but the tails of the duster pooled around her feet, dragging on the floor. With the addition of a black balaclava to cover her white hair and face, this enormous coat effectively hid her in the night shadows. With her natural and trained thieves’ stealth and agility, it was no great task to climb unseen out her window and up to the roof.
     Well, almost unseen. There was another man out there in the darkness, hiding in the branches of a tree just far enough away that, even if he were found out, nobody would have been able to accuse him with any certainty of spying on her. Logan had come to this side of the house knowing full well why he was restless; dreamlike visions of a graceful white wraith haunted his thoughts and he could not sleep. He’d come just for the chance of getting a peek at that young beauty that had already thoroughly swamped his senses with trace remnants of her touch, of her scent, of the sound of her voice. He had stayed for the show, amused at the ridiculous spectacle these boys were making of themselves.
     He saw the unlikely shadow slip up to the rooftop and slink away along the ridgepole, and grunted admiringly at her skill and at her tact—if he’d been in her position, which he never had been and never would be, he would have jumped down and beat the living hell out of anyone singing that badly, this late at night. Most people he knew would surely have hollered at Iceman to shut the smack up. He was a little surprised that the unfortunate ladies in the rooms surrounding Serenade’s had yet to complain, but perhaps they were all asleep. He wondered how long it would take Bobby to notice that he’d run her off. He decided to wait and see.
     Serenade, for her part, was looking for a quiet stretch of roof out of earshot of the terrible warbling. She found one, but as luck would have it, it was already occupied. She recognized the lazy, leonine figure stretched almost obscenely across the ridgepole even before she saw the glitter of his glowing red eyes in the darkness.
     “Min’ if I join y’, Rem?” she asked, pitching her voice low.
     “Not at all, chère,” he said, readjusting his position to a slightly less decadent one. “Plenty a’ roof f’ bot’ of us. I, uh…heard de—is dat s’posed t’ be singin’?—an’ t’ought I might be seein’ y’ up here t’night.”
     “It’s kin’a nice, in a way,” she said, grinning as she sat down beside him. “Never bin serenaded before.”
     “Only because it ain’ de bes’ of ideas t’ stan’ outside a house fulla t’ieves in de middle of de night, makin’ noise," he drawled.
     “Never stopped you,” she said. “I remember hearin’ you all night every night, sometimes, trottin’ around up on de roof an’ makin’ all kin’a noise.”
     A wicked grin spread slowly across his face. “Dat’s diff’ren’, chère. I’s l’Diable Blanc; dey was all too plumb scairt a’ me t’ say anyt’ing ‘bout it.”
     She remembered her dream, remembered her father saying all those terrible things about him, and her good mood fell away like broken pieces of glass. She shuddered and drew the trenchcoat tighter around her shoulders.
     He executed a graceful, fluid spin on the old-fashioned shingles, coming up to his knees beside her. “You okay, chère?” he asked. “Did I say somet’in’ wrong?”
     She attempted a weak smile. “Non, mon ami. Non, I guess a goose jus’ walk over m’ grave ‘r somet’in’. Dat’s all.”
     He sat down next to her and put an arm around her shoulders. “Poor Li’l Bird,” he crooned. “Dis been hard on y’, ain’t it?”
     She snuggled into his shoulder and remembered what Jean-Luc used to say about the two of them when he saw them together like this. “It’ like a dove cooin’ up t’ a’ alley cat,” he’d say, affection apparent in his tone. Now that Remy was a grown man, he was more like a Bengal tiger than an alley cat, she supposed, which made the disparity between them only more potent. She had been named after a cat, but there was nothing feline about her. She was a bird—a fearful, fragile little bird quite content to be caged. He was so much her polar opposite that it hurt. She supposed she should be grateful that there really was something to that line about opposites attracting, because in spite of the great gulf between them he still seemed eager to be her friend.
     “You di’n’ tell Remy ev’ryt’ing, chère,” he singsonged, rocking her a little. She got the distinct impression that she had somehow become his cub—a little tiger cub for him to take care of. “Ain’ no goose—somet’in’ Remy say remind you a’ somet’in’ dat damn salau—perdonez, ma chère, your fat’er—done say t’ you befo’ you got ‘way from ‘im.”
     “It’s not’in’, Rem—honest.”
     “Horse hockey. Tell me, chère; it make y’ feel better.”
     And then, just like that, she was spilling everything—all the hard words, all the accusations; all the things she had promised herself she would never tell him. She wondered how he always got her to talk, particularly when he himself had never really confided anything of his troubles to her. She wasn’t usually so open with people as she was with Remy, and she didn’t think it was entirely due to the comfort factor. She wondered if this was caused by his empathy going to work on her, or some other power he might have locked away in that enigmatic—and dashing, oh so dashing—grin of his. Some power of persuasion that couldn’t be completely rationalized as personal charm.
     Her voice faltered when she got to the part where her father had accused her of being Jean-Luc’s whore, and she broke down completely when she told him how he had accused Remy of being the same. He held her tight and kissed the top of her head, purring calming words into her hair in his deep, rusty voice as she sobbed against his chest, but she could feel the anger baking off him like atomic fire, coal and crimson and kinetic.
     She wondered how many times over the next few weeks she would find herself in his arms like this. Twice already in a single day. She found she didn’t mind in the slightest.
     Her tears tapered off and she pulled away, embarrassed by the show of weakness even though she liked the comfort. In the Guild, crying was certainly not considered a mortal sin but it was a venial one. “Je sui desolè,” she said. “I could not help myself.”
     He tilted her face up to his and wiped away her tears with gentle fingers. “A lady don’ never hafta apologize f’ cryin’, Li’l Bird,” he said softly, his anger washed away with her tears. “You had plen’y a reason f’ it, Lawd knows.” She knew it was only her imagination, coupled with the way the hazy moonlight reflected off those strange red eyes of his, but it looked like he was close to tears himself.
     As if trying to hide that liquid glitter, he suddenly looked around to the south side of the house, where a new voice had been lifted in song under Serenade’s still open window. He scrambled to his feet. “Is dat—nah, can’t be…”
     He craned to look over the expanse of roof to the figure standing in shadows below, and laughed. “It is! Bish done been struck wit’ Cupid’s dart! How d’ ya like dat?”
     His boyish hoots of laughter must have carried down to the man, but like Iceman and Nightcrawler before him, Lucas Bishop was completely oblivious to everything except the thought of that beautiful white face. Still, and in spite of the fact that he was a considerably more talented singer than Drake, the stern-faced old-young man sounded more than a little embarrassed to be where he was, doing what he was.
     Serenade stepped up to watch and listen—he really was a good singer, all things considered, and she was deeply admiring of anyone who could carry a tune well. The moon finally came out of hiding as she did, showering its soft radiance down upon her where she stood.
     Entranced, as she always was when she felt the sweet cool caress of moonlight on her face, Serenade unthinkingly allowed her trenchcoat and balaclava to fall off her shoulders to the rooftop, leaving her exposed to the touch of the light. She had forgotten that she wore only her T-shirt and panties, forgotten that she shone so brightly in the night as to seem supernatural, forgotten that she stood beside a young man who had never before seen her like this—for Remy had been exiled when Serenade was still just an awkward, skinny little girl before the bloom of womanhood opened her up into this gorgeous creature now on full display before him.
     And she had never known anything about the way moonlight affected her.
     Jean-Luc could have told her, but then he would have had to tell her everything—about the way he watched her when she walked in the yard at night drinking in the moonlight, seeing to it that no one molested her. He could not tell her because he could not tell her that he often found himself thinking of her in ways that were not at all paternal—how could he not, for God’s sake? He was old but he wasn't dead, nor was she really his daughter, much as he might wish that were not so in the day when these moonlight desires were banished from his mind. The truth was, no healthy male of any age or relation could have seen her in that state, half-naked and writhing in moonbeams like a woman feeling the caress of her lover, and not found himself aroused. The moonlight brought out in Serenade a sensual, sexual creature that hid from the sun like a frightened ghost.
     Gambit was struck utterly dumb by the sight. He had seen Serenade the child in moonlight—and she had always seemed different; more open, more relaxed, more forward—but he had never seen her like this. He watched as she stretched up onto her toes, as if trying to get closer to that beautiful moon. She raised the fingers of her left hand to her own trembling lips, then drew that soft little hand down her throat and onto her own body. He heard her moan softly in pleasure.
     That was all he could stand. The world was suddenly spinning too fast to bear. He reeled, toppled, and fell crashing to the ground, taking several loose wooden shingles with him. “Remy!” she cried, the moon forgotten in her concern.
     Although it was several stories to the dark ground below, Serenade jumped without thinking about anything other than being careful not to land on Remy. Her healing factor would quickly take care of any but the most severe bumps and breaks she might get, but her empathetic healing would not be worth a tinker’s damn to him if he was laying down there dead, his neck snapped.
     He was out cold, but far from dead. Relieved, she let her empathy roam his body, looking for injuries. There were a few contusions and a concussion, but nothing broken except for a couple of cracked ribs. Easy fix.
     He came to slowly, and his first thought was, I’m in bad trouble. He couldn’t seem to move his legs at all.
     Then he realized that this was because someone was sitting on them, leaning far forward, hands on his chest. Serenade.
     He watched her, nervous, wondering what the hell she was up to. She looked a lot like she had on the roof, although they were both in shadows down here. Her eyes were closed, her lips slightly parted, an expression of concentration on her face that he didn’t know he trusted. Then he felt her empathy washing over him, bright swirls of colored emotions that filled not only his mind but his entire body, and he lost all faculty for thought. The pain of his bruised and battered body melted away, and a soft smile curved his lips as he closed his eyes and rode the beautiful waves of her feelings.
     If he could have thought, he would never have done it. But he could not think—her empathy effectively precluded anything but emotion and impulse, and his self-control could not override it. While she was still lost in the concentration her healing powers required of her, he reached up, pulled her down to him, and kissed her, passionately, full on the mouth. In her surprise she withdrew her empathy, but it took a long time to recover from such a deep, probing experience and he was still lost in the fog of feeling.
     She had never been kissed before, not like this—not with warm lips pressed against her own, and eager tongue questing in her mouth. How warm it made her, and how good it felt! Although she was no longer bathed in the light that brought that part of her, the other Serenade—the Moonlight Serenade—forward, that innocent, sensual creature came out just the same, reveling in the heat of his passion.
     She wanted to touch him, to caress his bare skin—to bare more of his skin than was currently exposed so she could caress that, too. But instead she pulled away, sensing that he was slowly waking out of the spell of her powers. Her face warmed uncomfortably as she realized that she had taken advantage of him in the same way her father had accused her of taking advantage of the clan Patriarch.
     He groaned as he woke to full consciousness, sat up and shook his head to clear it. “Cripes, I ain’ fell like dat since I’s a kid. How embarrassin’.”
     “Are you okay now?” she asked, hiding in the deepest shadows.
     “Yah. T’anks, ma chère. Woof, what a weird ride dat was!”
     He doesn’t even know it happened, she thought, and although she was grateful she was a little sad, as well.
     “Well, you better go t’ bed an’ get some sleep anyway, Remy,” she said. “You feel ‘lot better in d’ mornin’.”
     “Yah. You better try, too, neh? Soun’ like yer amours is finished up f’ de night.”
     “Oui, Remy. I lef’ m’ coat up on de roof,” she said, “but I get it in de mornin’. Don’ s’pose Professor Xavier much like havin’ t’ieves up on his roof at night, anyway.”
     “I get it, chère. You need it—ain’ wearin’ enough t’ go wand’rin’ t’rough de mansion, even dis late at night. Dey’s always someone up an’ about.”
     Ignoring her protests, he scurried up to the roof via the drainpipe. He was down a moment later—jumping, with a nice little backflip, and landing on his feet, apparently to prove that he wasn’t normally so clumsy.
     “Say, ain’t dis one a’ my ol’ coats?” he asked, holding it open for her to slip into.
     “Oui. Jean-Luc gave it t’ me when you left N’Awlins—it’s so big on me it cover everyt’ing, and I can hide in the dark instead a’ showin’ up like a lit candle.”
     Please don’t make me tell y’ any more, she thought. Don’t make me tell y’ that I use it as a blanket sometime’ when I can’ sleep. Don’t make me tell y’ that I still put my nose on the collar and breathe it in, pretendin’ I can still smell y’ on the leather.
     He did not. Her explanation was good enough to satisfy his limited curiosity on the subject, apparently. He walked with her to the door of her bedroom, leading her through the halls still unfamiliar to her in darkness.
     He stood with her for a moment outside her door, holding both her hands. “I jus’ wan’ t’ say again how glad I am you here, Li’l Bird,” he said, and gave her a hug and a kiss on the cheek. “G’night.”
     “Bon soir, mon cher,” she whispered, leaning in the doorway as she watched him walk away down the long hall and out of sight.

* "Ferme ta bouche, salope stupide!" –shut your mouth, you stupid bitch

* "Tu as besoin de ma permission à parler!" -You need my permission to speak

* "Si jamais je te vois lever la main à cette enfante encore, DesChamps, je la déchirerais de ton bras." -If I ever see you raise your hand to this child again, DesChamps, I'll rip it off.

* "C'est ça, sorcière. Se cachât de moi." –That’s right, witch. Hide.

* "Je sais que tu lui as ensorcelé , donc tu n'as rien de craindre de moi, n'est-ce pas?" -I know you have him in your power, so you have nothing more to fear from me, do you?

* “Ja, mein Liebling. Ich habe ganz Recht.” –Yes, my darling. I am quite all right.

* “Gut, mein Freund. Aber Sie sollten unten von diesem Baum kommen, bevor Ihr Endstück nachgibt” –Good, my friend. But you should come down from that tree, before your tail gives way.