Truly, Madly, Deeply
By Rebop


Angel came down from heaven yesterday,
Stayed with me long enough to rescue me,
And he told me a story yesterday,
About the sweet love between the moon
And the deep blue sea,
And then he spread his wings high over me,
Said he’s gonna come back tomorrow…* Note

The X factor in my DNA did a lot of wild things to me. I have red and black eyes; I can release the kinetic energy in non-living material, making one hellacious big bah-boom. And although when I wear sunglasses I can pass for normal, I’m really not. My muscle to bone ratio is more like a cat’s then a human’s, and I have night vision and a sense of spatial awareness that can really come in handy.

 And then there’s the empathy. In an ironic twist of fate, I’ve been blessed and cursed with a power that I really don’t understand. It kicked in early, when I must have been around seven. That was a dark, dark year, one of my worst. I was already scared of people; when the empathy began they absolutely terrified me. I spent most of my time in hiding, staying as far away from other humans as possible. I lived out of garbage cans and dumpsters, only coming out of my hidey-hole like a little rat.

 Gradually, not really knowing what the hell I was doing, I built up mental shields as thick as the Great Wall of China. It protected me from all the emotions I picked up from the people on the streets, the hate, greed, fear, anger, lust and despair. I also learned to manipulate or “charm” others. I could distract someone with an emotion and pick their pocket or steal their purse before they knew what was happening. The empathy also saved my life countless times, I could project fear into someone and make a quick escape.

 But I did not have the greatest control that young, and it caused me so much pain. Knowing what goes on in the mind of a pedophile is somewhat akin to sticking your hand into hand in a bag of maggots.

 Needless to say, I did not have the greatest opinion of my fellow man; I absolutely loathed people. Jean-Luc and Tante certainly had their work cut out for them when my guttersnipe self ended up at the LeBeau house in the N’awlins Garden District. Pere must have thought he had adopted a crazed wildcat instead of a ten-year-old boy. But Jean-Luc LeBeau is well over one hundred years old, so is Mattie Baptiste. They had a lot of wisdom and infinite patience on their side. They gradually wore away my fear and distrust, and I opened my shields. For the first time I experienced the other side of the emotional coin, warmth, kindness, joy and laughter. Never the less, took me almost a year to crack a smile or chuckle, and I still can’t cry. Well, hardly ever.

 Letting them finally touch me was also very hard. I will always remember the day that I allowed Pere to pull me into his lap, it was a real breakthrough. I rested my head on his shoulder, smelled his Bay Rum cologne and pipe smoke smell, listened to his gentle, deep voice as he read “the Three Musketeers” to me. I didn’t understand what he was reading, and it didn’t matter. For the first time I felt safe. For the first time I felt love.

 And that’s the one emotion I have the most goddamn trouble with. Lust is no problem, I’ve sort of figured out friendship. But love, that has baffled and eluded me even though I have always desperately wanted it. And when Rogue left me standing there, thigh high in the snow, I just died inside.

 But I didn’t count on Jonothan Starsmore. The first time I opened up my shields to cautiously assess what he felt about me, damn, it was so wonderful, like drowning in a sweet, warm flood. It is so strong too, and it gets stronger day by day. Jono has has biggest heart in the world, and he has given it to me fearlessly. And I, much to my amazement, have given my heart back in return. Jono is mon petite ange.

 Admittedly, he’s not the textbook definition of a heavenly guardian. He’s a tough Cockney boy from Muswell Hill in London, all black leather and attitude. His language can peel paint, he can shock even me, and I’m virtually unshockable. (Tante ever hears him; she’ll paddle his behind but good.) He’s got a powder keg temper, and can be viciously sarcastic.

 But underneath, Jono is as sweet as molasses and honey combined. And when I lie in his slender arms, I feel so safe. He holds me and rocks me after my worst nightmares, soothes away my fears with strong callused, fingers.

 He is certainly the bravest person I have ever known. Jono has a backbone of tempered steel. Yeah, I can run hell bent for leather into a pack of crazed Friends of Humanity and kick me some tail, but that’s a different kind of courage. Jonothan went through a horrifying metamorphosis when his powers manifested, it must have felt like the hand of God was striking him down. And the fact that he didn’t start railing against humanity, lashing out at other people, speaks of a deep inner goodness and strength. If it had been me, I would have turned meaner than a junkyard dog.

 That he got through it all by himself also amazes me. When they found out he was a mutant, his family and friends deserted him. His grandmere was the only person who stood by him. And that poor woman had some kind of heart attack when she came to the hospital to see him. Jono has not seen her since then, I think he still feels too scared and guilty about it. I hope this changes someday; I’d give my eyeteeth to meet her. Jonothan tells me she’s been married five times, plays the horses, wears micro minis and gogo boots, her hair dyed an interesting shade of blue. Before the heart attack, she started out each day with a shot of gin and a pack of  Pall Malls. They still write to each other, her letters are a scream. Jono tells her some pretty elaborate fabrications, as she has a hard time dealing with the whole mutant thing. But it’s obvious she still loves him very much, and that’s all that matters. I guess Jono has told her that he is on some very long school holiday, a lie I find very funny.

 Jono must have gotten all his wonderful qualities from her, as the rest of the Starsmore tribe sounds completely worthless. There’s some real bad shit between Jono and his father. He doesn’t really talk about it, but I’m guessing his childhood must have been a total misery. His old man better pray he never runs into me

 Between his baggage and mine (and I have enough baggage to fill O’Hare Airport.) you’d think we would spend most of our time in a cloud of doom and gloom. But we don’t, not at all. Except for a couple crises (unfortunately generated by yours truly) this has been the best two months of my entire life. I have to keep pinching myself to make sure it’s not a dream.

 I certainly have never laughed so much in my life. Jonothan Starsmore is without a doubt, the funniest person I have ever known. He has a very dry, self-depreciating sense of humor, typically British. Man, he just kills me sometimes. Another thing I really love about him is that he also laughs at himself. He takes teasing very well, which surprised me at first, given his awful temper. But he’s fine with it, and he can certainly give me the business right back. And Jono, for some really weird reason, is also very prone to getting himself into the most embarrassing situations. I told him it must be one of his mutant abilities.

 He is also, Lord have mercy, a terrible klutz. I have total control over my body, so this is very hard for me to relate to. But I swear, Jono could be taking a stroll in the damn Sahara desert and he would find the only rock within one hundred miles to trip over.

 I’ve been teaching him some simple self-defense moves to give him a little more physical confidence. It’s important that he doesn’t depend solely on his powers. I’ve spent most my time knocking him on his skinny Limey ass, but although he hasn’t exactly shown much aptitude, he’s no quitter, and gives it his all. And I want to make sure that he’s ready for anything. The Xmen may think I’m dead, but I still have plenty of enemies that want a piece of me. I don’t want Jono to ever get hurt in the crossfire. Something ever happens to that boy, I’ll die.

 I’m just naturally paranoid, old survivor’s instinct. The house that we are staying at has pretty decent security; it was a gift from Pere after all. I’ve beefed it up since our arrival anyway. Jono’s eyes became big, round orbs of astonishment when I showed him all the stuff concealed in the walls. I’m trying to get him to think like a thief too, not that I have any intention of dragging him into my old profession. But thinking like a thief means that you are observant, patient, and ever so cautious. Jono is really fascinated with all the Guild lore and loves getting me to talk about it, something I never did with the Xmen. It was sort of implied that I should have been ashamed of what I was. And I know that stealing is wrong, but I still feel pride in the Guild, and love the man who raised me and gave me a last name.

 I showed Jonothan how to pick a lock after he pestered me about it, and it was so cute, he was completely tickled when he did it. He would make a pretty good thief too; he has a quick, sharp mind. What? Did I say thief? Scratch that. There’s also that klutz factor. Jono would probably trip every alarm in about five seconds. I shudder at the thought.

 Along with my paranoia, I’m also a little superstitious; Guild thieves usually are. And I’ve revealed that side of myself to Jono too, another thing I would never do with the Xmen. I knew I would get nothing but ridicule, ironic from a group that fights intolerance. Rogue would have had an especially hard time. Deep down I know that gal is a holy rollin’ bible bangin’ Baptist. She would have freaked if I had ever told her I really believed in Voodoo. Yet another reason our relationship was destined to end up in a train wreck.

 But I trust Jono so much, and wasn’t afraid. And I can tell that even though he really doesn’t understand it, he accepts it. So I bought some candles and pictures (the Bahamas have some practitioners around, along with all the Rastafarians) and drew a veve of Dumballah, the serpent Loa, to protect us near our bed. Jono was so sweet, asked me all kinds of questions, and all I felt from him was curiosity and respect. Made me feel so much better, so very free.

 Pere dragged my butt to Mass every Sunday, but I never really bought into the whole Catholic thing. Didn’t ever understand it, didn’t really like it. Too much thou shalt nots and burning in hell. I went along with it mostly to please Pere, although I sure gave the nuns a number of nightmares. Now Tante Mattie is a Mambo, a Voodoo priestess, and it’s from her that I got what little faith I carry around today. Despite all the Hollywood crap, Voodoo is all about embracing life and death and celebrating it. Jono again loves to talk about it, and all I get from him is acceptance. Acceptance. What a wonderful gift that is, and I never knew how much I really needed it. I’ve been able to tell Jono some of my worst, ugliest secrets, and he still loves me, warts and all.

 This is only one of many gifts, Jono is generous. He has made a supreme effort to touch me, for example. It seems like such a simple thing too, but it means the world to me. And it’s funny how significant it’s become in my life. When I was a kid, it terrified me; it meant that I would be hurt. Then, when I discovered what kind of comfort and security it could bring, I became almost a junkie for it. I needed it like air.

 So who, in my infinite wisdom, do I pick to fall in love with? Rogue, a woman who can’t be touched. I fooled myself into thinking I was being noble, that I could have a love that would transcend the physical. In reality, it was some sick, masochistic urge on my part. I must have been out of my rabbity assed mind! And Rogue is so twisted up in her own shit. I think she used it to control me, to keep me in line. Made herself the ultimate virgin prize. I once scored a black-market Genoshan slave collar, tried to talk her into using it. Man alive, we could have fucked our brains out, would have been so good for both of us. But Rogue made me feel like dirt for even suggesting such a thing. Wanted to be able to touch me on her own. Had to be all or nothing with her, and now I have no idea why I got sucked into such a sad, destructive game. Self-hatred, I guess.

 Now Jono isn’t naturally physically affectionate, part of it is his upbringing; some of it is his mutation and the accident. But bless his heart; he tries so hard with me. He hugs and snuggles and strokes and tickles, and he says he’s become an expert in post coital cuddling, and I agree. And me, well, I can’t keep my damn hands off of him.

 God, he is cuter than a June bug’s left ear, that child! I love his long, graceful legs and big feet, his Anglo Saxon skin, paler than alabaster, softer than an infant’s behind. I love his smell, a combination of baby lotion, shampoo and leather. I love his wild chestnut hair and his long, sharp nose. And his telepathic ‘voice’ just turns me inside out. I’m sure it’s close to what his old speaking voice must have been, it’s blues musician ragged, sexy as hell. His grandma must have started him out a child with a fifth of Jim Beam and a bunch of Camel unfiltereds. When I hear it in my head, I get goose bumps, and when that boy moans, he gets me so damn hard. Whoo-ee.

 And lordy, lordy, lordy, do I love Jono’s ass! Shakespeare could have written a sonnet about it. I can look at Jonothan all day, but he’s especially wonderful in the morning. He’s got this dazed, sweetly sleepy look, hair like an old squirrel’s nest. He shuffles around in an old t-shirt, nothing else, giving me a breath-taking view every so often of one of the tightest, cutest, sweetest butts on the planet. More often than not, I get really riled up and pull him back into bed to have my way with him. He never argues.

 He’s a wonderful, incredible lover too. Jono can fuck like a demon, make love like an angel. I’ve finally met someone whose motor runs just like mine. We literally burn up the sheets sometimes. I was always afraid that if by some miracle, I ended up in a monogamous relationship, I’d get bored or restless. But the idea of ever being without Jono seems physically painful. I need him, like I need sunshine or water. He’s my whole life now. Never thought that would happen to an old rakehell like me.

 But the thing I love most about Jono are his eyes. They are so beautiful, even Raphael couldn’t have come close to capturing them on canvas. I think angels, if they exist, have eyes like this, such a deep, soft brown. Jono’s eyes warm up all the cold places in my heart, and they absolve me of all my past sins. In Jonothan Starsmore’s eyes I have finally found love and salvation.

Well, the first week or so in the Bahamas was very rough sailing, and that was all because of moi. I can get wound up real tight, usually because of fear. And I had to confront one of my worst ones.

 After running into Ming in New York, I knew I had to contact Pere. I felt deeply guilty about worrying him. One of the few things in this sorry life of mine I have been sure of is that Jean-Luc LeBeau loves me. And I love him. But I had to work up the nerve to confess some very ugly things to him, I owed him the truth. And that made me afraid. I had been banished from my home, but I hadn’t been banished from Pere’s heart. Yet.

 So one night I drank a bottle of wine and wrote the longest, most difficult letter of my life. I could have called, yeah, but the sound of his deep, soft voice would have undone me. So I wrote him in my best Sister Agatha coerced penmanship, telling him all the sordid, rotten, miserable shit I had done when I left home. I told him about the Morlocks, the Xmen, about Rogue and Antarctica. And I begged his understanding and forgiveness.

 When I was finished, I felt sick, sick of myself. I stared at the letter, a big pile of misery on the table. I was sorely tempted to just charge it up and incinerate the whole thing.

 It was ‘round four am, Jono had gone to bed hours before. I stared out a window at the ocean, the waves rolling in the moonlight. Then I put my head down on my arms on the table. A few minutes later, I felt Jono’s hands lightly touch my shoulders.

 * Eh, Rem, * he whispered.

 I looked up at his pale, narrow face, skin even whiter in the moonlight. His eyes were big, dark pools, half obscured by thick hair; his tall, thin body was draped in a sheet.

 “Go back to bed, cher.” I was being a self-pitying dick. I was feeling so low and dirty; I didn’t want his kindness or love. I just wanted to wallow. But Jono doesn’t back down, he’s not scared of me at all. I could see a frown form in his eyes.

 * I think yer need a bit of company, love. Come back to bed with me. *

 “Non, jus’ leave me be, Jono.” I shrugged away from his touch, got up and went to the window.

 * Don’t be such a drama queen. I know what’s upsetting yer. *

 This really pissed me off. I glared at him. “ You don’ know shit about it Jonothan! You never done nothin’ dat y’ were ashamed of, a t’ing dat y’ were terrified of other people findin’ out. And if dey do, den dey might hate y’ forever.”

 * Yer dad isn’t gonner hate you, Remy. If he really loves yer, he’ll find it in his heart to forgive yer. *  Then he suddenly spun me around, making me look at him. * And for what it’s worth, Remy LeBeau, I do so know all about guilt. And regret. And I also know what it’s like to feel scared and alone. But yer not alone in this, love, remember that. *

 I swallowed hard, tried to look away, but I couldn’t. Jonothan’s beautiful angel eyes bore into me, and I couldn’t resist their pull. I opened my shields a crack and let his love and comfort pour over me.

 “Sorry,” I whispered.

 He drew me into his arms, hugging me tight. * Yer should be sorry, yer great twit.* I buried my face in his soft, fragrant hair, felt him rub warm circles on my back. I let him lead me to the bedroom, where he gently undressed me, and laid me down. He wrapped his willowy body around mine, holding me close. I clung to him, and for a moment, was sorely tempted to ask to make love. But for some reason, it wasn’t the time. It was enough to be loved and held. I rested my head on Jono’s shoulder, and drifted into a fitful sleep.

 I’m afraid I was still utterly impossible after this, though. Mr. High Maintenance, that’s me. I sent off my letter to Pere special express. And that act stressed me completely out. All I could think of was Poppa in his study in N’awlins, holding my letter, his eyes wide in shocked disbelief. I couldn’t shake the vision of him crumpling it in his hand, tossing it aside and cursing my name.

 I got all knotted up, couldn’t really eat, couldn’t sleep, snappy and bitchy as hell. I was a real joy to hang around. I wanted to be left alone, and Jono, for the most part, wisely gave me wide berth. Every so often I felt his steady love and concern, but it didn’t help. I felt guilty over what I was putting him through; he really was earning his stripes. But sometimes I can’t control myself, and it’s best to let the whole thing run its course.

 During this delightful period I paced around a lot, walked up and down the beach. Jono amused himself by hanging out on the deck or in the bedroom, reading or writing in his journal. I certainly hope he vented about me in there, I deserved it.

 Finally, after three days of this unrelenting tension, I got the brilliant idea to get good and stinking drunk. Hey, when I decide to be an ass, I go all out. It takes me awhile to tie one on too. I can hold my liquor real good, and frankly, getting smashed is a very rare occurrence for me. Ingrained thieves training, you need to be on top of your game at all times. But I was so uptight at this point I needed a nice period of oblivion. It was either that, or start screaming.

 So I went out on the deck and proceeded to empty almost two bottles of very fine whiskey. I watched the waves roll in and out in a fixed stare, and my body began to finally unknot. Pretty soon I was looser than a goose, drunker than a skunk.

 I was sprawled all over a deck chair when Chamber found me. He had been out on the beach most of the day, reading and listening to his Walkman. His eyes narrowed when he gazed down at me. I was on top of the world at this point, feeling absolutely no pain. I gave him a big old’ slip-sloppy grin.

 “Heeyy dere Jono, baby. How’s it hangin’?”

 * Just fine, thanks. Probably better than yours at this point. *

 There was a definite sting to his words, but I decided to be amused. “ Maybe so. I’m higher den a kite, me.”

 Jono picked up the whiskey bottles that were rolling around the deck. * I imagine yer quite numb, love. *

 My euphoria bubble suddenly popped here, and my shields were as open as an old barn door. I sensed a dark throb of anger from Jonothan, as well as disapproval and worry. And since I was full up to the brim with hooch, this made me really mad and mean.

 “Hey, I don’ need y’ standin’ dere, lookin’ down y’ nose at me. You ain’t my maman, I can do what I want, when I want.”

 *And does that include alcohol-poisoning, dumbshit? *

 “Oh, fuck off, Jono! You don’ like my behavior, fine, jus’ get y’ skinny Limey ass out of here then! Don’ need you, don’ need nobody. I been takin’ care of myself since Day One.” I got up from the deck chair and had the audacity to be surprised that my arms and legs weren’t working so good.

 * Taking care of yerself from Day One, eh? Well, sorry, yer doing a pretty piss-poor job at the moment. * He folded his arms. * Getting all shit-faced isn’t gonner solve anything.*

 This really galvanized me. I loomed over him, breathing fire. But his dark eyes locked into mine and he didn’t back down an inch.

 “Jus shut up, Jono! Y’ don’ know nuthin’ ‘bout what I’m goin’ through. I didn’t ask for your fuckin’ opinion! I could fuckin’ care less!”

 * Fine! I’ll give yer my opinion anyway! Yer just making this all a thousand times worse by doing this.*

 My meanness boiled in my blood like poison. “ I was okay until you showed up, you little hypocrite! Bet you would give anything to get drunk too. But y’ can’t now, can ya?”

 That hit home, the arrow hit the bullseye with a solid thunk. Jono flinched, and blinked rapidly a few times. And I got no feeling of triumph. Instead, my gut twisted up in self-loathing.

 But Jono, Jono, Jono. Did I say he had a backbone of steel? Non, he has a backbone of adamantium.

 * Aren’t you a right bastard when yer drinking, Remy me boy?  Well, I’m not gonner play this little game with yer. Yer trying to hurt me so I’ll walk, is that it? I played this game meself, so I know how it goes. Sorry lover, but yer stuck with Jono. So go ahead and be a dick, I can take it. And lemme tell yer, LeBeau, I got far worse from me father when he was all tanked up, so any of yer fuss and bother is nothing in comparison. You’re a fucking amateur! So rant and curse all yer want! I’ve got yer number. You’re just scared, Remy. And yer a total asshole. But guess what? I still love you anyway! *

 I swayed for a moment, all the anger and fear draining out of me. “ Jonothan, cher, I-I-” I couldn’t finish because the world began to spin and my stomach began to lurch. My legs buckled, and I started to drop to the deck.

 If there had been any justice, Jono would have left me there. But instead, mon petite ange caught me and half dragged me to the bathroom. For the next half hour or so, all I could focus on was puking my guts out, praying to the porcelain God. I hadn’t eaten much recently, so it was mostly the alcohol. I also had an entertaining period of dry heaves. And through it all, I was dimly aware of Jonothan holding my head, rubbing my back. He put a cool washcloth on my neck, used another one to wipe the sweat off my face. And he murmered softly to me the whole time, saying how everything was going to be all right. Yeah, lovers can say romantic things, buy you diamonds, take you to dinner. But when someone holds your head as you heave, well honey, that really is love.

 When I was finally, finally empty, Jono got me to rinse my mouth out. He managed to get me undressed and wrapped up in my bathrobe, as I was shivering and as weak as a little newborn kitten. He got me tucked into bed, lying on my side. Then he lay down next to me, rubbed my shoulders and back with careful fingers. And he kept saying over and over, * It’s really gonner be okay, Rem, I promise. I love yer, sweetheart. * With his croaky crow voice in my head, I fell into a deep, troubled sleep.

 I woke up the next day, late morning. For a moment, I was confused and disoriented, and when I sat up, my head just throbbed. I had the Hangover from Hell, which I really had coming to me.

 Jonothan was asleep at the foot of the bed, still dressed, all curled up, fetal position. There were a pile of books and magazines all around him; he must have never left my side. I reached out and stroked his thick chestnut hair. I honestly couldn’t believe that he was lying there, that he hadn’t walked out, didn’t hate me. Rogue always ran at the first sign of trouble. But Jonothan, obviously, was made of much sterner stuff.

 I was deeply ashamed of all the things I had said to him earlier, I unfortunately recalled everything. And I was so touched over his gentle care. What had I ever done to deserve him?

 Jonothan stirred in his sleep, then suddenly woke, blinking for a moment. Those big brown eyes crinkled up in a smile.

 * ‘Ello there, Rem. Back amongst the living, are yer? *

 “Not too sure yet, cher.” My voice was dry and raspy, my mouth tasted like I had been licking dog crap. This was going to be one bad, motherfucker of a hangover.

 * Bet yer feel like shit. Yer sure look like shit. * Jonothan observed, a bit too cheerfully. Before I could answer, Jono got out of bed and left the room for a moment. He returned with a big glass of iced tea and a bottle of Tylenol. My God, I love this man, I thought.

 * Here yer go mate. Hope it helps. * Jono handed me the tea, and it tasted like heaven. I swallowed about five tablets, and finished the tea. After I put the empty glass on the nightstand, I took both of Jono’s hands in mine.

 “Cher, “ I croaked, embarrassment and shame flooding through me. “Can’t tell y’ how sorry I am. What a fucking, terrible shit I was to you. I treated y’ so mean, honey, don’ know why y’ still hangin’ around.”

 Jono’s eyes sparked. * Because I love yer, dumbass. *

 I had to laugh, which hurt. That statement was oh so Jonothan though. “ I love y’ too, sweet. “ I kissed his big knuckled hand. “ And I am so ashamed for being such a fuck.”

 * Well, yer should be. But before yer go condemning yerself and all, I should point out that I can be a total asshole as well. So, we’re quite the pair, ain’t we? * He sighed. * Just don’t making a habit of it, love. Not my idea of a party. *

 I suddenly remembered what Jono had said about his father during our fight. I swallowed hard. “Jono-you said somet’ing ‘bout y’ Pere getting drunk all de time...”

 Jonothan looked away, staring at the wall. * Yeah. Don’t think I’d recognize dad sober, if yer wanna know he truth. Mean alcoholic too; not a life of the party, lampshade on head type drunk. Used to smack me and me mum around a lot. * Jono gave a short, sad laugh. * Then, when I was fifteen, I had enough. Knocked him clear through the screen door, broke me hand, which was worth it. Didn’t touch me again, or mum, at least not when I was home. Me family puts the “D” in dysfunctional, Remy. Someday we’ll all be on “Springer”. *

 At that moment, I honestly wished that God would have taken a big, fat, blue lightning bolt and zapped me but good. How the hell could I have put Jono through this? Shame flamed my face. I was also in awe at how much this sweet boy must love me, considering how easily he forgave me.

 “Jono, I am-merde, I don’t know what to say-”

 He shrugged. * Don’t have to say anything, love. And maybe we’ll talk about the Starsmore Soap Opera some more, but not now. We have more important things to discuss. Hope yer up to this. * He clutched my hand tightly. * Package arrived late yesterday afternoon, special delivery from New Orleans. *

 I felt like I had just jumped out of a plane and gone into free fall. My heart was in my throat. Jono stood and picked up a small Fed Ex packet from the dresser, handed it to me. I began to shake.

 * Love, do yer want me to leave so yer can read it in private? *

 That was the last thing on earth I wanted. Jono was the only thing that was going to get me through this. I shook my head. “Non, cher, please stay.” I managed to get the Fed Ex envelope open, and pulled out a thick letter, Pere’s familiar ivory colored Crane’s stationery. I held it in my hands and my blood turned to ice. I tried to open it- an easy enough task, as Jean-Luc still favors sealing wax- but my fingers wouldn’t work. I just stared at it.

 Jonothan finally touched my wrist. * Want me to open it for yer, sweetheart? *

 Like a total, gutless coward I handed the letter to him. “Oui, Jono.” I took a deep breath, not believing I could be this chicken shit. “ And Jono- could y’ read it? Not out loud, but-”

 Jonothan nodded, eyes full of understanding. I saw that his hands shook a bit too as he cracked the seal. I tried not to look at him as he read, stared instead at the light playing across the walls. I tried to keep breathing, to ignore the fear clawing at my stomach.

 After a seeming eternity, I heard the rustle of paper. * Remy? * I looked at him, his eyes were shining. * It’s all right love. Yer dad, he’s incredible. *

 I can’t tell you how relieved I was; it was like a bunch of chains fell away from my heart, like I had spouted wings. I took the letter from Jono and scanned Pere’s beautiful, copperplate handwriting.

 It was truly the most wonderful letter. It was full of love and forgiveness, caring and worry. I was angrily berated for keeping so much from him, and not coming to him sooner. He had gone through hell thinking I was dead. He had called the mansion after not hearing from me for some weeks. He got a strange run around, until finally Storm talked to him and told him that I was either lost or deceased. She didn’t go into much detail, which made Pere very suspicious, and he detected guilt and grief in her voice. Ah, Stormy. Perhaps in your heart, at least, there is some forgiveness.

 Pere used every resource he had looking for me, and they are considerable. He even went to Antarctica, with no luck. He was about to give up; when Tante assured him that I was still alive, that the Loas told her so. I can’t tell you how guilty this made me feel, thinking about putting Pere through all this. But I had been in such a crazed, suicidal haze, I really wasn’t thinking too straight, if I was thinking at all.

 After Poppa got my letter and found out the truth, he considered taking revenge against my former teammates. I was relieved he ultimately decided against it, even though I have a lot of unresolved anger and hurt inside me. Jean-Luc is not a vengeful man, but his retribution can be terrible. He could break them, to be sure. But as torn up as I am over it, I really don’t want revenge. Would be a hollow victory, so empty.

 The letter ran me through a gamut of emotions, the last couple paragraphs nearly undoing me. Poppa wrote:

 “ I want you to know, mon fils, that I will always love you, and that I have always been so proud. Oui, you have made some terrible mistakes, and those mistakes have caused some terrible suffering. But fils, you need to let this burden go. I do not mean forget it, nor should you suddenly claim innocence. But I know, mon fils, that you are a good man, and you don’t deserve the pain you are obviously putting yourself through. You have punished yourself enough, dear child. I do not want you to hurt any more; you have done enough of that already.

 All is forgiven, my Remy. You are the best, most wonderful thing to happen to this old thief. And when you are ready boy, please come home. Exile be damned! I am the Patriarch of the N’awlins Thieves Guild, ‘bout time I started to throw my weight around! Perhaps Christmas? Mattie would no doubt cook up a storm, and we would both love to spoil you. And please do bring that young friend you mentioned along.

 Again, mon fils, do try and remember how much I love you. I have from the moment you picked my pocket on Bourbon Street. As always, your Poppa.”

 I read the letter about four times, my eyes blurring with tears each time. I really wanted to break down and bawl, but I fight crying like my worst enemy. Not remotely healthy, I know, but that’s just the way I work.

 Jono sat quietly at my side the whole time, gently rubbing my back as I read. I drew so much strength from his presence. When I finally put the letter down, he pulled me into a hard, long hug. I buried my face in his thin shoulder, smelled his Jono smell.

 * Of course, I’m not gonner say I told yer so, * he said after a while. * You okay now, love? *

 Okay?  I felt as if I had suddenly sprouted wings, the chains had fallen from my heart.

 “Oui,” Was all I could say. Jonothan leaned back a bit to look at me. He brushed back my hair, cupped my chin.

 * Now ducks, is there anything else I can do for yer? Want to lie down some more? You look awfully peaky. Something to eat maybe? *

 I had to smile. Jonothan fusses over me like an old grandmere sometimes. I’m a bit ashamed to say that I just eat it up too, I’m so shameless. My hangover was still there, although the throbbing in my head had died down quite a bit. Probably because my stress level had taken a significant dip. Anyway, the idea of food made me feel weird, but a shower suddenly sounded just wonderful.

 “ Maybe a little food later, sweet. T’ink I’ll take a shower. “ I managed a leer. “ Care to join me? Maybe you can scrub my back.”

 Jono cocked his head. * Uh-huh. Sure that’s all yer want? Yer not up to much hanky-panky. *

 I stood and the room gave a lurch, but I stayed upright. “ How d’ya know what I would be up to, Mr. Smarty-Pants?”

 He followed me into the bathroom. * Well, generally speaking, Rem, I’ve learned that yer always up to something. *

 I pinched his wonderful, long English nose. “Y got dat right. Now get y’ clothes off before I snatch y’ naked myself.”

 He smiled a Jono smile at me and started to pull off his shirt. As I took off my robe, I glanced at his slender, graceful arms and narrow waist, and felt an unexpected stab of desire. Despite all my innuendo, I honestly didn’t imagine I could even think about getting it up, let alone do it. But as Jonothan continued to strip, the sight of his long legs and delicious ass made a wild heat start to pool in my groin. He just makes me all crazy, that pretty boy.

 I turned on the shower and we both jumped in. It felt so good; I gave a deep, contented sigh. I love taking showers, I love getting clean. I would bathe ten times a day if I could get away with it. This behavior stems from childhood, I know. I was so dirty for so long, and I hated it. When Pere and Tante introduced me to the delights of personal hygiene, you couldn’t pry me out of a bathtub. I’m sure Jean-Luc’s water bill skyrocketed the first month I lived with him.

 After basking in the hot water for a few minutes, I grabbed the soap, and started to lather up. Found some really great stuff at that market we stopped at outside Freeport. Smelled like herbs and the ocean. After I finished with myself, I attacked Jono with it.

 * Err, Remy, this most definitely constitutes hanky-panky, * he said as I spread some suds over his flat, lithe stomach. I love the feel of his skin under my fingers; it’s so soft and warm.

 “And y’ got a problem wit’ dis? “ I ran a hand down his thigh, which was trembling slightly. My wrist brushed against a growing erection, the velvet of his scrotum.

 He chuckled. * Well, no, obviously. * His dark brown eyes twinkled with mischief. * Just hope yer can follow through, stud, if yer get my drift. *

 I pulled him tightly into my arms, pressing a wet body against his. I ran my hands down his back, felt the bumps of his spine, and kneaded the tight muscles. I traced my lips over his face, tasted him with my tongue. Jono’s strong fingers had by this time slicked up my torso, played over my chest. Our cocks started to rub together, felt like heaven.

 “Have I ever disappointed y’, sweet?”

 Another deep, croaky chuckle, so damn sexy it gave me the shivers. * No. Yer a regular Love Machine, Remy LeBeau. *

He found my nipples, plucked at them expertly, which sent a trail of fire to my cock. I threw back my head and moaned a little as he slowly worked his hands down my stomach. He stopped at my groin and kneaded the skin just at my pubic bone. I bit my lip in anticipation, hoping a hand would run over my now aching penis.

 But Jono was in a teasing mood. He gave me another ragged laugh, and mentally whispered, * Yer like that love? Want me to touch yer cock, give yer a thrill? Bet it would feel so fucking good, too. * I started to whimper. He massaged the inside of my thighs, still avoiding the obvious. * I could rub yer balls too, get you so very hard, sweetheart…make you cum…” A naughty chuckle. *But not just yet. * He grabbed the soap. * First, I scrub yer back, like yer asked. *

 I moaned into his hair. “ You mean little bastard. C’mon cher, use dat soap where it do de most good.”

 A snicker. * Sorry. In the mood to torture, mate. Turn round then. *

 “ Jono, didn’t know what a rotten pissant y’ could be.” Grinning, I obeyed him, leaning against the tiles.

 * Such lovely talk to someone who’s gonna be very nice to yer. *

 And he was very, very nice to me. He ran the soap over my back, then started to rub and caress my muscles, which were a lot more knotted up then I realized. Jonothan has the most wonderful, strong hands, and sensitive fingers; he can just about bring me to orgasm with a few deft strokes. He was giving it his all now, and I responded with grunts, groans and sighs, the pleasure was incredible. I closed my eyes and just let myself go, not thinking. The warm water flowed over me as my sweet lover took me to another place with his hands. He worked his way down very slowly, touching, probing. With each deft caress, my cock throbbed in delicious heat, begging for a final release. I bit my forearm slightly, hoping it would be soon.

 And then something happened that really spooked me. Jonothan stopped his massage and reached his arms around my waist to hug me, his body pressed against my back. I could feel his hard on rub against my ass, and a wave of irrational terror and an old, old memory washed over me.

 I instinctively whirled around, all defensive, trembling. For a second or two, I didn’t know where I was. Then I saw Jonothan’s shocked expression. I tried to compose my face, hide the fear. But it was really too late, and Jono had seen.

 * Love, what’s wrong? You okay? * Jono’s “voice” took on the tone of someone trying to calm a frightened horse. * What scared yer? * He very carefully touched my shoulder.

 My throat constricted; I couldn’t speak. And as I looked into those worried, angelic eyes, I knew I couldn’t tell him the truth. That I had just had a rape flashback.

 I have learned to love sex and push all those dark, evil things that happened to me as a child in a far corner in the back of my head. As long as I feel I am in control, calling the shots when making love, I’m just fine. It’s when I think things are getting out of hand that my panic button gets pushed. But this totally surprised me, as I trust Jonothan more than I have any other lover. He’s the first I have ever allowed to willingly take me; to come inside me. We had gotten so carried away on the beach that day, and my empathy felt so much love and desire from him that my usual fear just vanished. And he was so sweet, passionate and gentle, it was everything I had ever fantasized about, it was ecstasy. I had started to hope after that beautiful experience that my old, old shit was finally behind me. But nothing in my damn life is ever easy

 Jonothan pulled me into his arms, patiently waiting for some kind of answer. And I, old liar, couldn’t think of a big whopper to tell him. Plus, I hated feeding him a line. I’d been more honest with him then anyone before. But I sure as hell didn’t want to tell my lover the truth. Never told Tante, never told Pere, wanted to take it all to my grave.

 I made myself talk. “Jono-cher- I’m so sorry. Jus’ started to feel real weird all of a sudden.” This was, without a doubt the lamest piece of BS ever to cross my lips.

 * What exactly does ‘weird’ mean? Yer shaking all over and cold. Yer feel sick? * There was so much concern in his soft brown eyes I indeed felt sick for scaring him.

 “ Not ‘zactly. Jus’ got a lil’ dizzy.” I swallowed hard. “ ‘Poligize, baby. I kind of killed de mood here, me. Y’ were right, I wasn’t up to no hanky-panky.”

 Jonothan gave a snort. * Like that matters. *  He reached over and turned off the water. * Let’s get yer dried off and back into bed, sweetheart. *

 Jonothan opened the curtain and grabbed some towels, and started to briskly dry me off. I didn’t fight his fussing, it was very comforting and it slowed my panic and shaking. He then got me back into my big, soft, terrycloth robe, and it made me remember Tante gently taking care of me when I was ill.

 Jono then got himself dried off, and he started to pull on the baggy, black t-shirt he usually wears to bed.

 “Cher- y’ forgot to put on y’ baby lotion.” That had become a very entertaining little ritual.

 Jono’s head poked through the hole of his tee, and his thick brows knotted together, giving me a puzzled look. * Um, maybe later, Rem. Right now we should get yer arse back to bed. And I should fix yer something to eat. Yer haven’t really had anything in days. *

 I tried to smile. “ Sweet, stop y’ clucking’. I’m feelin’ much better, I’ll be fine.”

 Another frown with his eyes. * Remy, yer ghost white and yer still shaking. * He turned me around, started to push me into the bedroom. * Now behave and listen to Jono-*

 I managed to wriggle out of his grasp and then pulled him into a hug. “ Like dat y’ want to take care of me, Jonothan Starsmore. You so good to me.” I kissed his damp soft hair, his pale forehead, the upper part of his cheek. His closeness and warmth began to turn me on again.

 And then I got this pretty desperate, stupid idea that if we made love now, right now, I would be okay again, back in control. It would push all the bad stuff away, far away in the nether regions of my mind. I wanted a sexual exorcism. I suddenly pulled his lanky body tightly to mine, grabbing his small, bare ass.

 * Remy, what the fuck are yer doing-? * Jono started to protest. I quieted him by immediately pouring it on, sticking my tongue in his ear. This is a move that always gets Jonothan very hot; and it worked, he moaned loudly in my head.

 “Want y’ baby, want y’ bad,” I whispered seductively. I slid my hand over to his groin, closed my hand over his penis, which was nice and rock hard. “ Ah yeah, Jono, you still all het up for Remy.”

 My lover began to tremble, and I felt his fingers dig into my back as I continued to stroke him. I was okay now, back in the driver’s seat. But Jonothan had other ideas. It was like he suddenly shook himself, and then his hand grabbed my wrist.

 *Stop. * There was a definite tone of command.

 I was taken aback. “ Jono, sweet, why?”

 He was staring very hard at me, and it was then that I got real nervous. Jonothan is an incredibly powerful telepath; I don’t think he knows how strong he is yet. Probably omega class. But he has been very respectful of my privacy, and I’ve never felt him try to poke around in my head. And I would know too, my shields set off an immediate alarm if someone tries to ‘read’ me. Both the Professor and Jean were relatively “minds off”, although I could tell that my shields both baffled them and caused intense curiosity. Betsy was another story; she was always trying to snoop. I gave her the surprise of her life once, booting her out of my head.

 But Jono has never trespassed, and that’s one reason why I love and trust him so much. But even I can slip, and I suddenly realized I might have inadvertently broadcast something even the most beta level telepath could pick up. My behavior also was giving him reason to be sorely tempted.

 Jonothan carefully touched my face, his way of kissing. * Love, please don’t take this wrong. But this just feels…strange. You’ve been really upset for the last couple of days, under a lot of stress, and I honestly don’t think this is the best idea. *

 I definitely must have let something slip, but Jono obviously didn’t know the real reason behind my erratic behavior. I would have picked something up empathy wise. Jono is such an emotional person; he’s like Technicolor to an empath. I seriously thought about arguing, but that would have been real stupid. I was skating on very thin ice now; if I pushed it, I was in real danger of getting into an area I never, ever wanted to go.

 So I let out a big, dramatic sigh, and decided to make light of the situation. “ Okay den, have it your way. If y’ wan’ us both with a bad case of blue balls, den dat’s what we’ll do.” I started back to bed. “ Jus’ don’ know what y’ missin’.”

 * Problem is ducks; I know exactly what I’m missing. * Jonothan gave me a slight, playful swat on the behind. *So I’d better get a rain check.”

 “ I’ll have to t’ink about it.” I clambered into the bed and suddenly felt a wave of exhaustion. I hated to admit it, but Jonothan was probably right.

 *Stop pouting. Yer look like a moron. * This was delivered in such a warm, affectionate tone that I wasn’t at all offended. Plus, I like the fact that Jono doesn’t flatter me much. I prefer the cheerful insults. He drew a sheet over me and plumped up my pillows.

 * Now, what can I get yer to eat? ‘Cuz yer gonner eat something. *  Jonothan wore his Brahma bull expression, so there was going to be no point in arguing.

 I had to think about it for a moment. “Um…coffee and toast sound good.” And it actually did.

 *All right then. Back in a jiff. * Jono ruffled my hair, and then went to our dresser to pull on some underwear and shorts.

 “Jono, don’ put dat stuff on!” I pleaded wickedly. I have a hard time letting anything go.

 He rolled his eyes. * Sorry. We’re both behaving for a bit. *

 “You no fun.”

 *On the contrary, I’m quite a hoot. Now lie down! *

 I stuck my tongue out at him and he crinkled a smile at me in return, and happily flipped me off before he left. I had to laugh.

 However, as soon as he was gone, I got the shakes again. I had come close to really giving the game away; how could I have been so careless? I fretted over it for a while, and then I somehow must have dozed off anyway. I awoke shortly afterwards to the smell of something burning. More specifically, toast burning. I suddenly realized what a mistake it had been to send Chamber into the kitchen all alone, unsupervised. I prayed that he remembered where the fire extinguisher was.

 Jono entered a few minutes later, bearing a tray. He looked a tad sheepish, but not singed, so I figured we still had a kitchen. He set the tray down, and it was hard for me not to laugh, it was so damn cute. It was piled high with toast, all in varying degrees of blackness. He had made such an effort too; there was jam and butter and honey, a big steaming mug of coffee, even a flower in a little vase.

 “T’anks, sweet.” I kissed his nose after he sat down beside me. “ Y’ spoil me.”

 * Err…I’m afraid the toast got a bit well done. * Jono sighed.

 “ Mais, honey, it looks great!” I picked up a piece of toast, which felt as solid as a hockey puck. As I spread some butter over it; there was an intense crackle. “I like it well done, me.”

 Jono looked immensely relieved; so I couldn’t really start rolling around on the bed, laughing. Instead, I crunched my way through the driest, blackest piece of bread you could ever imagine. It was like eating a charcoal briquette. Mouth parched, I then took a sip of the coffee. Now given the state of the toast, you would think I would have hesitated.

  Let me tell you what you could do with Jonothan’s coffee: You could use it as rocket fuel. You could kill termites with it. You could most definitely pave a street with it. Drinking it, however, is another matter. As I swallowed the incredible, thick substance, I started to pray that I would have a stomach lining left.

 * Coffee’s not too strong, is it? * Jonothan asked in all wide-eyed innocence.

And here’s where if there had been a camera crew filming me, I would have gotten an Academy Award. “Cher, de coffee’s great! Best I ever had!” I gave him a wide, Cajun smile. Jonothan got an extremely happy look on his face, soft brown eyes shining. I was now in big trouble. There was no way I could drink this coffee, unless I wanted to die of over-caffination. But I am, after all, a Master Thief, and I quickly formulated a plan.

 “Jono? Could y’ do me a favor? Could y’ put Pere’s letter up on de dresser? I don’ wan to get jam or somet’ing on it.”

 * Sure, love. * Jonothan picked up the stray pages and stood up. As soon as his back was turned, I grabbed the empty tea glass that he had brought me earlier and dumped the coffee in it, hiding it behind the nightstand. I thanked God for my mutant agility and quickness; he still almost caught me.

 Jono plopped down on the bed, lying on his stomach, feet up in the air, little boy fashion.  * Remy, are yer gonner take up yer dad’s invitation? *

  ‘Bout Christmas? Maybe-but I wanted to know how you felt about it first.” I took an imaginary sip of coffee.

 Jono traced a pattern in the bedspread. Something was bothering him. * I’d really love to meet yer dad and Tante, but…*

 This was suddenly getting serious. “ But what sweet?”

 * I did notice that Jean-Luc called me your ‘friend’ in the letter. *

 I put the tray on the floor. “ You t’inkin’ I was ashamed of you or somet’ing?”

 * No, love, but…*

 “ Nothing could be further from de truth. I’m proud of you, and I’m so happy dat we’re lovers. I guess I didn’t want to drop everything on Pere’s head in one letter.”

 Jono gave me a worried look. *So yer think he’d be okay with us, then? *

 I had to really think about this before answering. Truth be told, I wasn’t exactly sure what Pere’s reaction would be.

 "I t’ink so. For a guy dat’s over one hundred, he be pretty open-minded. He knows dat I’m bi, known dat for a long time.” I scratched my chin, thinking out loud. “ I’ve never brought a lover home before, male or female, so dis is all new territory. But I’m sure once Pere gets used to de idea, he’ll love y’, sweet. And Tante’s just gonna go nuts.” I smiled. “ Y’ just better watch your language ‘round her though, or she liable to open a can of whup-ass on y’. Worse yet, she put a gris-gris on y’.”

 Jonothan looked relieved, and he came up beside me, wrapping his arms around me. * What’s a gris-gris? *

 “ Voodoo curse.”  I slid us both down on the bed, snuggling close to him.

 A loud mental laugh. * Aren’t I already cursed, mate? I’m stuck with you, aren’t I? *

 I grinned and softly kissed him. “ Fuck you, Starsmore.”

 He pulled my head into his shoulder. * Thought I had a rain check for that. *

 “Y’ do, honey.” I cuddled even closer; he made me feel so safe and warm. I basked for a while in his love, which spread over me like an old security blanket. I closed my eyes.

 * Are yer getting sleepy then, Rem? * He stroked my hair ever so gently.

 I sighed into his neck. “ Lil’ bit. Might take a nap right here. Y’ don’ have to stay though, Jono.” I was so bad. “ Mais, maybe until I fall asleep?”

 * ‘Course, ducks. Never mind holding yer, yer know that. *

 I smiled. “ You be my guardian angel.”

 A croaky chuckle. * More like yer Goth Boy Angel. * He nuzzled me. * Go to sleep now, sweetheart.”

 “ ‘Kay.” And as I drifted off, I knew how lucky I was to have a beautiful Goth Boy Angel watching over me.

* “Angel” by Jimi Hendricks

Continue to Part 5

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