|A Meeting of Minds|
|What: The triplets track down Remy. A little heart-to-heart ensues.|
It's late. Not the godawfully, painfully late hour that Remy normally inhabits. Just regular ol' late. About one in the morning. Enough of the bar's patrons have cleared out that he's been able to claim the pool table. Though it's scratched, stained, and threadbare in spots, it's mostly serviceable. The sticks, on the other hand, are not. They're hopelessly warped from years of being used, abused, and occasionally weaponized.
So Remy's using his bo staff. He's doing pretty well, too. After a couple of practice shots to get a feel for it, he's banking and sinking like an old pro. Which, to be fair, he is.
Presently, he's examining a particularly difficult shot. One eye is squinted shut and his bottom lip is caught thoughtfully between his teeth. A small table off to the side is home to a glass of something amber-colored and an ashtray filled with cigarettes that have burned down to the filter after one or two puffs, leaving long, neat columns of ash leading out from the center like spokes on a wheel.
The girls have been restless, jostling around in the gestalt, arguing, generally out of sorts. They don't even know why, it's been such a good few days, in general. Laura isn't in the Gotham apartment, which makes things even worse. They change into the black clothes they usually wear when ghosting around Gotham and track Remy's mind to the bar where he's amusing himself--after they make sure he's alone.
No one notices them come in and they take seats to watch Remy play as they let their illusion thin out slowly. They can't get into his mind, but their illusions do make them much less visible as the eye slides over them and finds nothing there... it thinks. Still, they can't force the sense of not noticing that absence of them, the odd blankness of the world where they should be.
Remy's dressed himself well today. He's wearing soft, close-fitting black slacks and a matching shirt that's open at the collar. His white tie is loosened nattily and his sleeves are rolled back. If the outfit were a little less flashy, he'd look like a businessman off work for the day. Just enjoying a quiet drink and practicing his bank shot. With his bo staff.
He's in the middle of applying chalk to the tip of his staff when he pauses, his eyes narrowing behind a pair of cognac-tinted glasses. Something's not right. "Come out, come out, wherever you are~" he singsongs quietly. Then he glances over at the half-full glass of liquor on his table. Not his first one of the night. Shrug.
A moment later, he's back to his game of pool. He has to bank twice to successfully make his shot, but he sinks it. And the next one. Humming under his breath, he leans over the table and repositions himself for a third.
"We want to learn this game." One of the girls is standing at the other side of the pool table, scrutinizing it. Sophie, not that Remy knows them enough to tell at first sight--only a few do. "It's interesting." "Distracting." "We want to be distracted." One of the girls is watching from where she sits on a table. The third sister is a little ways away, in a chair.
All of them have a stare so blue it glows right now. Discomfited. That's the only word for it. Confused, dejected, frustrated, thwarted, foiled... and they're not even sure what they've been denied.
If there's one thing Remy has learned about the girls, it's that there's no predicting where they'll show up next. Or when. His only sign of surprise is a slight raising of his eyebrows.
He studies each of them in turn. The look in their blue eyes. The set of their shoulders. So much body language. The Cajun's eyebrows go up a bit higher. "Sure, I can show you how to play," he says. "You okay, though? You don't look like yourselves."
"Don't feel like it, either," the girl nearest Remy says. "It doesn't feel good." She hugs herself and scowls--they each wear the same expression. "We don't want to think about things." "Everything feels wrong." "Like our skin doesn't fit."
Sophie comes around the table to pick up the chalk and test it on her finger. The others drift over to lean against the table, studying the lie of the balls.
"You should teach us things." "We can't see very much in your mind." "And it would be wrong to steal your thoughts." Sophie puts the chalk down and reaches for the stick. "But you know so much, you should tell us things."
For the very first time, Remy hands his staff over willingly. "I will," he says. "You can come find me whenever you want. I teach you my lil' tricks."
Most people wouldn't realize what a huge concession that is. An open-ended invitation into the very private life of Remy LeBeau. He's already re-thinking it, but all he does is smile. "We start with pool. All you do is use de stick to hit de white ball. De white ball hit another ball, and dat ball go in one of de holes. You been watching me, you try."
He walks back over to his small table, picks up his cigarettes, and shakes one free. He produces a stick match with one of his flourishing gestures and strikes it against his zipper. Once he's lit up and is puffing away, he shifts his gaze to the two remaining girls. "Want to talk about it?" he asks them.
"I can do it." Phoebe, Mistress of Things Scientific, holds out her hand and the cue is passed to her. She bites her lip as she considers the table, even takes out a sunk ball and rolls it in the palm of her hand to get a sense of the weight.
"Sophie's angry," Esme says a little defiantly, forthcoming when her sister is least inclined to be. "She doesn't know why."
"I do so. So do you." Sophie flashes an angry look at Esme.
"I can't focus when you're fighting," Phoebe says irritably. "Stop it."
"Everyone wants us to be different people," Sophie says with a catch in her voice. "We are. But... they keep expecting us to be separate. Everyone looks at us like 'which is nicer' and 'which do I like more' and 'which is more like me' and we're not like that."
"We aren't," Esme says, suddenly subdued as the words sink in. It's as though they're hardly speaking to each other in the way they usually do and they're diminished by it. "Sometimes I wish we were but not the way people want."
"Are we scary?" Sophie looks up at Remy, her eyes too bright. "People seem to think we are, but not for the right reasons. Why does it matter if we can't be taken apart for their comfort? Why is it so strange the way we talk?"
"I like de way you talk," Remy says, chuckling and letting out a cloud of smoke with the same exhalation. "Girls. You are who you are. What people think don't matter. You, me, we different. We never gonna be normal. We can be extraordinary, though. We can be great and powerful and amazing."
Another drag, then Remy butts out his cigarette. "So what if you talk funny? Anybody who's worth getting to know will take de time to get to know you, too. I did, didn't I?" He punctuates his statement with a wink and a small, secretive smile.
Phoebe takes her shot--the one Remy was after. She knows she's not likely to make it, but she's a clever girl with great reflexes. Almost and not quite. That it doesn't sink isn't a problem. She's watching what happens with great curiosity. No excuses, just data.
"Maybe it's easier because we don't know what you think beyond the surface," Esme says challengingly. "We don't know if you're sorting us out. You could simply be hiding it."
"Esme," Sophie says chidingly. "What people think does matter to us," she says to Remy. "We know what it is to be powerful. We've felt the minds of millions in our palms and all we had to do was blink them out."
"With our sisters and the right machine, it would have been the world," Phoebe says distractedly. She's figuring out what options come next, her mind ticking away.
"I wish we were people," Esme says, turning away to pay attention to Phoebe.
"We gave up Minde and Celeste to be a little bit human," Sophie says, watching her sisters. "We don't want to give up each other."
Phoebe relinquishes the cue to Esme to let her try something. "It feels like we'll never be human enough and we can't go back," she finishes.
"Hey," Remy says, not to one or two but to all three of them. "Hey! Look at me. You are human. You ARE people. You have emotions. Desires. Dreams. And killing isn't power, by de way. We have dat talk some other time."
Long, nimble fingers toy with the rim of his glass. Tempting. Very tempting. But not right now. It's pushed aside. "I am sorting you out," he continues. "Trying to figure you out. People do dat. S'called 'getting to know each other.' If what other people think does matter to you, you gon' have to get used to it."
"Killing, no. But we could have done other things." Esme shrugs a shoulder. "It still would have been wrong."
"Maybe we shouldn't have done this," Phoebe says, leaning on the table while Esme takes a shot.
"We weren't going to, but then there was Laura," Sophie says. "She was afraid and running from the same people we were."
"And then we knew we were lonely." Esme makes the easier shot and offers the cue to Phoebe. "I like this more than that bird thing you play," she notes.
"We had no idea that we were so different. Two years wasn't enough time--we learned about food and money and things, but not people. Not enough." Sophie shakes her head. "You're right, we will have to get used to it. It just feels terrible, to feel people pulling us apart with their thoughts."
"We really did think we would come to the world and we would find..." Phoebe gestures vaguely. "Home." "But that doesn't happen," Sophie concluded. "Not even for people born here."
Home. There's a subject that Remy can't say much on. He doesn't have one. Just hideouts he uses regularly.
He coughs into his fist and shakes his head. "People always wanna to break things down according to what dey see. You, you look like triplets. Identitical, but different people. Dis what people think when dey see you. You want dem to think different, you gotta let 'em get used to who you are. World's a lonely place if you never let anybody in. And you never find home. Trust me."
Now Remy does pick up his glass. He holds it up to the light, peering through the amber liquor. Then he downs it, all of it, in one gulp.
"We didn't need anyone once," Sophie says, coming over to take the glass away and inspect it to find what was inside. Her sisters are arguing--mildly, in a pleasant way with no heat in it at all--about the next shot and how best to do it.
"We were perfect. We had each other and needed no one. They used to say we had no souls, you know. The ones who made us. No names. No hearts. No souls. Sometimes, we wonder." Sophie looks up at Remy for a long moment, then says, "We like your eyes. They comfort us. But other people must say supersitious things about you, too. But it was only you, we think, and we forget how lucky we still are. We should remember."
"Dat dey do," Remy agrees easily. Then, very deliberately, he removes his glasses.
This is more exposed than he likes to feel. More... honest. "Dey call me 'Le Diable Blanc,'" he admits. "When I was I child, dey say I was de devil. Not an easy thing to hear when you're a lil' boy, me."
It takes a few quiet, pensive seconds for Remy to realize he's let the conversation hang. "Ahem. But I still have a soul, and so do you. Maybe three. Who knows?"
"Children shouldn't hear things like that." Sophie's voice is calm but the weight of all of their disapproval is a black thing in the air. "You're right the way you are. And you do have a soul--if there is such a thing. We understand why you hide your eyes, the way we hide us, but we like to see them."
|"It's a strange thing, to not know your mind and yet to see you for yourself,"| the gestalt says. |"We knew we would feel better if we came."| |"We trust you to say the true thing to us."|
Remy nods amicably. "I'm glad I could help. Dis is what friends do. We help." He tucks a finger under Sophie's chin, giving her a gentle bump. "Chin up. I always tell you de truth. Promise. Worst I ever do is tell you nothing. Dat's a big promise for me."
His sly, roguish smile is back, but it's masking something. Something very different. A nervous twitch around the eyes. "I wonder if I could let you in if I tried. My mind, I mean."
"You could try," one of the girls says. "That's usually the opposite of what people want," the other points out. Sophie's still standing where she was so it's easy to know who she is still, not so much with the others who have come to stand with her, their arms sliding around her waist, their heads on her shoulders. As much as they chafe at and argue with her, she's still their center.
"Maybe a little at a time," Sophie says. She reaches up to touch Remy's face with her fingertips. "We never want to hurt you."
Remy closes his eyes and concentrates on slowing his heartbeat. The buzzing, thrumming in his ears of his kinetic ability diminishes as his pulse slows. He reaches up and lays his hand on Sophie's.
It's that last bit of contact that does it. All the images and ideas and concepts that he holds close and protects are loose. Like dreams, the harder he tries to grasp at them, the more elusive they become.
The face of his ex-wife, Bella Donna Boudreax. This image has equal parts anger and longing attached to it.
Nathanial Essex. Sinister's face looms, and with it comes fear and hatred, but also a strange sort of respect. The respect owed to a very powerful madman.
The massacre of the Morlocks. Remy's inability to prevent it, or to forgive himself for it.
And finally himself. A lonely man surrounded by priceless treasures and no one to share them with. Always stealing, always accumulating riches, but for what? To what end?
The Cajun's eyes are still closed, but they flick back and forth quickly behind his lids. His breath is coming in short, shallow gasps. Quiet ones. He still hasn't let go of Sophie's hand, but it's anyone's guess how aware he is of the contact at this point.
The gestalt is compassionate and tender, a great mind of more-than-three that slips into every crack like a fog rolling off the water, soothing and conceealing even as it sees everything. |"Gently,"| the gestalt says. |"Be easy."| |"We see."|
They take in the memories with more care and appreciation than they would use in handling something treasured, as though they were gathering up children. Sophie leans into Remy, the others shift their weight from her to him, holding him up instead of seeking support.
They let him see into them, opening the door for him to see all of what they know as he wishes. Another world with another time stream, an empty steel room for the five of them, icy-minded scientists and technicians. The knowing their purpose, the planning, the escape. Making the choice of who lived and died. Minde and Celeste, the last time they were five. And then the letting go as they emerged into the terrifying chaos of the real world.
And they let him see him as they see him. Sometimes clownish, sometimes odd, sometimes heroic, and always with a great deal of affection and knowing and sameness. When they look for him, they do so eagerly.
Remy grows stronger once the initial impact has subsided. More confident. Impenetrable walls are thrown up around the massacre. Suddenly, it's as if the event no longer exists in his mind. As if it never existed. Instead, he shows them a troubled, hungry childhood. One where he was mocked, then revered, banished, and now hunted by those he used to call his family.
He opens his eyes and meets Sophie's evenly. Before he breaks contact, both physically and mentally, he reveals his feelings for the girls as they have for him. An awkward trio. Adorable and clueless. Sometimes confusing, but never frightening. And not held to a single definition. Sometimes they are three to him. Sometimes they are one. To him it doesn't matter. A protective sort of affection surrounds all this like a blanket. A desire to shield them, as an older brother guards a younger sibling against pains they shouldn't need to know.
THUNK. The sound of Remy's hand hitting the table. "Wow," he says. A definite understatement.
"Most people don't have so much control." Sophie sounds very impressed. "Or so much courage."
"Isn't this where one says one needs a drink?" Esme.
"We might need one, if it works the way people say it does." Quiet laughter, and that's Phoebe. Even with the voices sounding so much alike, and getting hugged by all of them, it's possible to tell just now.
It's clear that the Cajun is a bit shaken up. Too close. Too intimate. No secrets left.
Caught in the act of bunching up defensively, he freezes, then slowly relaxes. There are arms around him. Lots of arms. He can't help but laugh as he sweeps all three girls up into an enormous hug. "Oh, you poor, sweet things," he says, his voice muffled by someone's blonde hair. "I think we all need a drink after dat. Who knew we'd all been through so much, eh?"
|"It'll be our secret."| The gestalt is full of laughter and Remy gets his cheeks covered in kisses. |"The keeper at the bar is bringing us whatever was in that glass."| |"We'll see if it works as it should."|
The slightly confused bartender is headed over even though... this isn't his job and also wasn't that guy here alone... then, why is he putting glasses down on when there's noone... what the hell, right, he's cleaning tables. Yeah, that. No one here but us regulars. Yeah.
"It's called whiskey," Remy confirms. "And it certainly works on me. You gon' be a handful. I can tell dat much."
There's a smiling warmth to him that's been rare up until now, if it's been seen at all. Acceptance. He's being accepted. That's what it is. "Feel better?" he asks. "'cause I feel better"
"All better," they say cheerfully. "You're magic."
"This smells awful." Phoebe sniffs a glass and makes a face at it.
"Don't be a sissy." Yes, Esme. "It's calories. Calories are good."
"Sit." Sophie nudges Remy into a chair and hands him a drink and it's not -just- so she can steal his lap. If someone's giving order for someone else's own good, probably Sophie. It's clear it's not so much that they're so different as they're multitasking, in a way. Expressing things most people don't sort out that they're feeling all at once. "So," Sophie says as she snuggles up. "What do we learn after you teach us about drinking?"
"Well, here's your drinking lesson." Remy knocks back the drink, again with a practiced hand. Clearly, he's done this before. A lot of times. "Class dismissed."
Grinning, he wraps an arm around Sophie. "Den we do whatever we want. I can let you pick my brain again. You find something you like, den we have more classtime. You gotta give me a sec to catch my breath, though."