Disclaimer: Marvel characters are Marvel's, mine belong to me. (I got tired of listing everyone...)
Author's Note: Ah, the Rahne chapter. Thanks to Denise Keppel and Persephone Kore for looking over pieces of it. Also, the companion page has been changed to http://www.dreamwater.org/tapestry/dofppage.html with a nice little pic of the Manhattan team. I've had it with Fortunecity.
"Well, here we go again," Sam sighed as he locked the last door. "Is everyone set?"
"Aye, Sam," Rahne replied as she shifted Brand. The girl had fallen asleep on her hip, and she was getting heavy.
"Our stuff is all packed," Chase said from his spot by the wall. "Glenn's getting in the last of it." He tried to stifle a yawn. It was six in the morning, and well before his preferred rising time. Rahne could smell the fatigue rolling off him like a fog.
"Occh, I'll miss this place," she said, glancing at the water-stained walls. "Aye, it was small, but it was home."
"Yeah, ain't nothin' beats a direct line ta the sewers," Sam agreed, smiling wanly. "But Ah know what ya mean. Five months o' livin' in a place makes ya kinda fond of it, ya know?"
"Aye. An' the Underground goes through such trouble tae do 'em up, too." Rahne always felt badly about leaving these places; it was difficult enough to host the occasional mutant on the run, but the stress of having the Manhattan branch of the X-Men live in your basement for a prolonged period of time was almost beyond comprehension. For the safety of their current host, a young stewardess who only returned home very occasionally, the mutants were obliged to depend on a series of tunnels rather than the front door. Fortunately, the process of creating the tunnels had been greatly simplified by the appearance of Chase, and no major reconstruction had been necessary.
How long are we tae live like this? Rahne wondered as she rocked a softly murmuring Brand. Scamperin' from place tae place like mice, losin' more and more friends all the while... I dinna ken how much longer I can bear it. Please, merciful God, let this be over soon.
"This is the last box," Glenn said as he pushed a crate full of delicate equipment through the door. He paused to wipe his hands on his jeans. "Has anyone seen Danny? I woke 'im up, but I haven't seen 'im since."
"I'll find him," Rahne volunteered. She passed the still sleeping Brand to her father.
"Poor gel isn't used t' bein' up so early," Glenn said as he brushed the reddish hair from his child's face. "Probably better she sleeps through it, though."
"Aye," Rahne replied. She wasn't the only one who worried about the effects their constant moving had on Glenn's children. Still, their parents had railed against placing them in the care of anyone else in case the government decided they needed a bargaining chip against them, or in the event of some new nation wide "mutant acquisition" act. Rahne found it difficult to blame them after what had happened to poor Rachel.
"I'll be right back," Rahne told Sam, and shifted into her transitional form to sharpen her sense of smell. Daniel's scent was strong here, but he wasn't in the basement. He must have gone upstairs.
Rahne sighed. Of the two children, Daniel was the one with the clearest memory of life before President Creed. He rarely complained, but Rahne could tell he disliked the life of a fugitive. He tended to gravitate towards places of "normalcy"--which were, of course, supposed to be off limits.
Rahne took the stairs calmly, following Daniel's scent. He seemed agitated, as well he might be. His mother was missing, after all, and the move just added fuel to the fire. He hadn't even bothered to close the basement door behind him.
"Danny, lad?" Rahne called as she poked her head through the doorway. "Are ye up here?"
"Yeah," came the soft reply. Rahne let her natural form reassert itself and padded into the kitchen. Daniel wasn't there, but in the living room beyond, curled up on their host's couch and staring out the bay window into the darkened streets.
"Ye know ye shouldna be up here, Danny," Rahne chided gently, taking a seat beside him. He snorted in a noncommital way.
"We're about ready tae get goin'," Rahne continued, folding her hands on her lap. "Ms. Sefton'll be here in a few minutes to take us to our new home."
"It's not home," Daniel said, still refusing to look at her. "Home's in Oklahoma. So're my friends. I don't wanna move anymore. I wanna go home."
"Occh, Danny, ye know ye canna," Rahne said, laying a hand on his shoulder. "It's nae safe. Ye barely got out in time as it was."
"But moving is stupid," Daniel snapped, turning to stare at her with accusing blue eyes. "They're gonna catch us anyway, like they caught Mom."
Rahne frowned. "Is that what's botherin' ye? Danny, we'll yet yuir mum back--"
"No you won't. She's... they're gonna do something bad to her. I can tell."
Rahne's eyes widened. Could he be manifestin' some power, or is he just worried about his mum? she wondered. Nae way of bein' sure now. I'd better tell Sam all the same, just tae be safe.
"We'll find her, Danny," Rahne said, stroking his short, soft hair. "Ye must have faith in that. I know things seem terrible, but we'll pull through. Things will get better."
"Everyone always *says* that!" Daniel cried, jerking away from her. "I want things better *now!* I don't wanna live in basements anymore, and I don't wanna move all the time! I want Mom back, and then I wanna go *home!*" He started to cry, his thin body wracked with sobs. Rahne put her arms around him, and this time he didn't pull away.
"Shh, shh," Rahne murmured, holding him close. "It's a'right, Danny, it's a'right." She knew it was a lie, and she hated herself for it, but right now it was the only thing she had to give him.
How many babes will grow up like Danny? she thought as she tried to soothe him as best he could. Without parents, without even a home tae call their own? How many will die before they even have a chance at life? She held the boy tighter. Nay, I willna allow it. This is what we're fightin' for. We canna afford tae lose.
She released Daniel when his sobs turned into sniffles. His small body had grown hot and sweaty from the outburst, and her nostrils were filled with the scent of his salty tears. She allowed him a minute to wipe his eyes before standing up again.
"C'mon," she murmured, brushing a hand through his hair. "Let's get ye downstairs. The sooner we're out o' here there sooner we c'n start the search for yuir mum. We won't have tae worry about bein' found out while we look for her. A'right?"
He passed a hand across his runny nose, sniffed, and nodded silently. Rahne could tell he still wasn't reassured, but at least he'd gotten it out of his system. She took his hand and led him back towards the basement stairs.
As they were about to enter the kitchen they almost ran into Chase, who was coming the other way.
"There you are," he said, looking first at Rahne, then at Daniel. "Daytripper's here. We were starting to get worried."
"We were just havin' a bit of a talk," Rahne replied. "Has she been waitin' long?"
Chase flipped back his blond bangs. "Not really. She's already taken the equipment, so it's just us left."
The woman glanced down at Daniel. "Are ye ready, Danny?"
"I guess," Daniel sighed. He slipped out of her grip and vanished down the stairs. Chase frowned.
"Is he all right?" he asked, jerking a thumb after the child as Rahne passed a hand down her face.
"Aye," she answered, "as well as c'n be expected. He misses his mum, among other things. It willna be easy without her on watch. I still dinna ken how it happened..."
"The feeling's mutual." Chase rubbed his forehead, grimacing. "But we can't let ourselves be distracted from our mission. That's... that's when things start falling apart." He seemed to sway a bit, but steadied himself by casually placing his hand against the wall. Unfortunately for him, Rahne's sharp ears could detect the slight rasp to his suddenly rapid breathing.
"Are ye all right?" she asked, reaching out as it to touch him. He smiled faintly and moved away, out of her reach.
"Just tired," he replied. "I'm always a little rocky this early in the morning. Never mind; it's time to move." He turned and motioned towards the door with a courtly bow, waiting for her to proceed.
Rahne said nothing as she walked down the stairs, but she couldn't help worrying about what she had seen. Chase had been examined numerous times, but nothing conclusive had been found. At first some of the team had suspected him of being a hypochondriac, but he never avoided his work and generally slipped away to sleep instead of complaining. If he needed or took medication, Rahne never heard about it; in fact, he had been a great help in procuring medication for others. True, he may have disliked offensive missions, but Rahne was willing to forgive him his reluctance in exchange for the peace of mind his tranquilizers gave her during those long, hard nights when Sam wasn't around.
Sam was waiting for her at the foot of the stairs, looking slightly worried. Although his status as an External prevented him from aging, lines creased his forehead and the corners of his eyes. Leadership came naturally to him, but lately Rahne wondered if the strain was beginning to take its toll.
"Hey there, darlin'," Sam said, a smile flickering across his face at the sight of her. "Ready ta go?"
Rahne looked around the basement. Emptied of the furniture and personal effects the space seemed so much larger, so much more desolate. It wasn't their home anymore, and it would never be again.
"Aye," Rahne replied. She glanced over her shoulder. "And ye, Chase?"
"Been ready all morning," the boy assured her. "Let's go."
"You know, I really should make you people start paying for my services."
The scent of strawberries and incense drifted into the room, and suddenly Amanda Sefton was there with them. She was dressed in jeans and a button-up blouse, her long blonde hair tied back in a French braid. She was smiling.
"We couldn't afford ya, 'Manda," Sam chuckled. "Sorry 'bout the short notice, by the way."
"It's all right, you didn't interrupt anything," Amanda replied. "I already sent off Glenn and the kids. I threw in some sparkly stuff for Brand, but I still feel bad about having to wake her up.
"Just consider it payback for all the times she woke the house up with her cryin'," the team leader grinned. "Ah guess we're all set here, so we can go whenever you're ready."
Amanda cracked her knuckles. "All right, then. Here we go."
Rahne slipped her hands around Sam's arm as a warm light began to suffuse her body. She was no stranger to the touch of Amanda's magic--the two women had served in Excalibur for some time, and she'd long since grown used to it. Still, magic always reminded her of her former teammate Illyana Rasputin, the teleporter and sorceress. Although the two women's styles had been completely different, Rahne would never forget the feeling that had always accompanied Illyana's use of dark magic.
Silly girl, Rahne berated herself as she squeezed her eyes shut against the light of the teleportation spell, the poor lass is long dead, an' it's nae right tae think poorly of her for what she couldna control. And then she let herself be caught in the spell, and that was the last of her thoughts.
The air hummed with energy, and there suddenly she was overtaken by a sense of disorientation. She was falling, falling, and she couldn't find her husband's hand--
Then the light faded, and she was standing with the others in a large, bare room, lit only by a single, naked lightbulb.
"Here we are," Amanda said, brushing off her hands. "It's a condemned apartment complex this time, I'm afraid, but the amenities are all intact. Glenn has the details already."
"We're obliged, 'Manda," Sam said, holding out a hand. "Ah don't know what we'd do without ya."
"Glad to help," she said, shaking his hand. She turned to Rahne. "I'm in no hurry--how about you and I make breakfast? The Underground actually installed a kitchen area this time."
"Tha' sounds wonderful," Rahne said, grinning. Their last hideout hadn't included a range and oven in the basement, so they'd had to go upstairs every time a meal had to be cooked. Rahne had hated infringing on their hostess' privacy, but it had been a necessary evil. Now, however...
"I'll show you the way while the boys unpack," Amanda offered. "I stocked the 'fridge before I picked you up."
"Occh, Amanda, ye've gone tae far too much trouble..."
"Nonsense. Actually, I should be thanking you for getting me out of the house today. Kurt's sick."
"Sick? Nothin' serious, I hope. If we lose him, too..."
"No, just the flu, but he's a miserable patient. The last I saw of him was a blue tail sticking out from under a pile of blankets. I left him with orange juice, a hot water bottle, and a box of tissues. He'll be fine."
As they talked Amanda led Rahne through her new home. The place was cleaner than the last despite Amanda's warning that the house above was condemned, and Rahne wondered who had volunteered to repair it. The light conversation reminded her of better times, before everything had gone dark and wrong.
"How's wee Ginny?" Rahne inquired as they entered the kitchenette. Amanda laughed.
"Not so wee anymore," the sorceress replied. "She just turned eight last month."
"No! Has it been sae long a'ready?"
"Don't remind me. I feel absolutely ancient these days. But anyway, how do you like the kitchen?"
Rahne looked around. The floor and walls were bare concrete, and the ceiling was a mass of exposed pipes and wires, but it was equipped with sink, oven, refrigerator and range, just as promised. There were even makeshift cabinets installed above a small table that had been pushed against the wall.
"'Tis wonderful... an' sae much more than we're used tae," Rahne breathed, eyes wide. "Occh, I dinna know how we're tae leave this place when the time comes to move again..."
"Well, it used to be a way station and hostel for the Underground," Amanda explained, starting towards the refrigerator. "It wasn't maintained well, though, so Kurt got some people here to fix it up for you. Hopefully you won't have to move again for some time." She opened the fridge. "I brought Apfelstrudel, Kasebrot and Blutwurst." And then, at Rahne's questioning look, "Mother went a little crazy when I was visiting Ginny."
"Ah. So, is she likin' Germany, then?"
"Ginny? Oh, yes. She loves the caravan. I think Mother's starting to teach her sorcery, though. I asked her not to, but... well, Muttie's always done exactly what she wants, when she wants."
Rahne bit her lip as Amanda moved to the cabinets to get the cutlery. She had never spoken to Margali Szardos, but she had encountered her once. At the time, the sorceress' hands had been welded to the head of her teammate Douglock and she had been in the process of communing with a demon buried beneath the streets of London. Rahne was understandably uncomfortable with the concept of one of her favorite "nieces" being fostered to the woman.
Still... Kurt and Amanda both insisted their mother had fully recovered from the ordeal, and anyway, her mystic powers had long since been destroyed. So perhaps there was no harm in it after all.
"Rahne," Amanda said after a moment, still turned towards the cabinet, "there's something I wanted to talk to you about."
Amanda's tone had changed; it was lower, more subdued. Rahne could feel the other woman's worry.
"Aye?" she replied cautiously, remaining where she was as Amanda extracted a serving platter from the cupboard. Occh, please dinna be askin' what I think ye are. Not now, when everything was going so wonderfully...
"I went to Colorado the other week," Amanda said. She placed the loaf of bread on the tray and turned back to the smaller woman, face blank and unreadable. "I talked to Moonstar."
"Dani..?" Rahne felt a rush of mingled interest and dread. Danielle Moonstar was one of her oldest friends among the X-Men, and one of the most observant. The fact that she hadn't seen Danielle in more than a year might not mean as much as one would think.
"Yes." Amanda settled her hands on the countertop and leaned back, her casual stance belying what Rahne knew was going to be the topic of conversation. "Rahne... are you still having nightmares?"
"Aye, sometimes." What was the use in denying it? Danielle knew. Danielle always knew. It was just sheer luck that she hadn't had the opportunity to nag Rahne before now.
Amanda sighed. "Does Sam know?"
"Aye." Truthfully, it would have been harder for him *not* to know. Rahne had long ago developed the tendency to shapeshift in times of stress, and when the nightmares were upon her the ensuing howls could wake the entire complex.
It had been two years ago, right after Creed's inauguration. Rahne had been on Muir Island with her guardian, Moira MacTaggert, and the visiting Sean Cassidy. She'd been in wolf-form that day, loping around the island and enjoying the cool, crisp weather even as she strained with nose, ears and eyes to find the slightest sign of danger. Something had been off that day, she'd known it, but she couldn't think of why. So she prowled the island, waiting...
Then, when she was almost at past the point where the two crescents of the island joined, she had suddenly been possessed by the urge to return. She'd started to run without even knowing why, and had been almost halfway back when the explosion had occurred.
Strangely, Rahne couldn't remember how she'd made it the rest of the way to the complex. All she remembered was the cloud of dust that coated her throat and stung her eyes. Her claws were not nearly strong enough to lift the heavy metal and concrete that buried her guardian, and even her nose was rendered all but useless by the confusion of smells around her.
And then, against all odds, her desperate cries had finally been answered. Moira's voice reached her sensitive ears, and Rahne had finally been able to find her.
From beneath the rubble Moira had instructed her ward try and find some undamaged phone or radio to use to call for help. Rahne had done so, but it had cost her precious time--Moira's voice was much weaker by the time she returned. She did her best to keep Moira alert and conscious, but the pauses between the questions and the responses grew longer and longer. By the time the X-Men arrived--a mere half an hour after they had been summoned--there were no more answers from beneath the stone and metal. Rahne had stood by helplessly as Rogue and Beast had done their best to unearth the trapped scientist, but the process was painstakingly slow. They uncovered Sean in a matter of minutes, bloodied and unconscious, his left hand completely severed and his right eye put out by a piece of jagged metal, but alive.
Moira had taken much longer. With each chunk of rubble that was shifted Rahne felt her heart constrict another inch, until she was sure that it must not be beating at all. And then, almost forty minutes after their arrival, the X-Men had found Moira MacTaggert: legs crushed, clothing soaked with blood, and dead for at least the last half an hour.
She hadn't cried. Rahne remembered that quite clearly some time after the fact. She'd just knelt beside her guardian's body, breathing in the scent of sweat and blood and bowels, feeling nothing. No pain. No anger. She felt nothing. Nothing at all.
And now, two years later, the memories of that day still haunted her--the smell of Moira's blood on her hands above all...
And Danielle knew. Their psilink, defunct for so many years, had been renewed during Rahne's recuperation. Her friends from the New Mutants, Dani and Sam... even poor, dead Roberto DaCosta had come to see her. All but Rictor, off in some other world with his friend, Shatterstar. Had it been because he hadn't known, or because he no longer cared? Rahne didn't know. Perhaps she never would, with Rictor missing. But she refused to dwell on it; all that mattered was that she'd had friends to help her through the time, and so only herself to blame that the dreams continued, even now.
"Kiddo, you need help," Amanda said, pushing herself away from the counter."I know you were seeing Professor Xavier for it before he... died, but you should have told Kurt that the nightmares were still going on. He doesn't want you to keep suffering like that. No one does."
"Why does it matter what I feel?" Rahne asked. "We've more important things tae worry about. I canna afford tae leave--not now. The little ones... they need someone tae look after them while their mum's gone, and I canna desert them or the team just because I'm havin' nightmares. Anyway, I've been doin' just fine sae far."
Amanda sighed. "If you don't want help, I can't make you ask for it. But peace of mind isn't a sin."
How would ye know? Rahne thought, turning away. Amanda had been lucky. She and Kurt had been attacked, true, but Amanda had been able to cast the illusion of death on both of them; she and her husband had escaped with nothing more serious than fleshwounds. And Amanda had never been as close with the X-Men as Rahne had; except for a short stint in Excalibur and on Muir Island, she was a reserve member. She'd never had to watch people she'd known for years die, literally inches away from salvation. How could Rahne explain that suppressing the memory of that day would be like betraying Moira?
Lady Moira died, an' I just stood by an' watched. How can she tell me I shouldna feel guilty about it?
"I ken what ye're sayin', Amanda, but I'm a'right, truly," Rahne said at last. She brushed past Amanda and began to slice bread. The sorceress just shook her head.
"All right, Rahne," she said. "If you insist." Amanda began to slice the sausage, and that was the end of the conversation.
Some awkward minutes later Chase ambled in, carrying a box of paper towels. He took one look at the two of them and placed the box by the door before beating a hasty retreat. Luckily, the sandwiches were finished by that point, and Rahne had a reasonable excuse to leave the kitchen. She excused herself and went in search for her teammates, and almost immediately ran into Chase.
"Oh, hullo, Chase," Rahne stumbled. "Breakfast is on, if ye'd like..."
"Oh? Thanks." He scratched his neck nervously, then said, "Rahne, is everything all right? You and Amanda looked very... tense."
"She was askin' about muh problem."
"Ah." Chase had asked her about her dreams once, and only once. He hadn't pried further once she'd balked, and she respected him for that. Perhaps he, too, had memories he would rather keep to himself.
"How are you doing on those pills, anyway?" Chase inquired, sticking his hands in his pockets. "I'm going to make a drug-run this week. I'm going to get some antibiotics, just in case."
Rahne shook her head. "Nay, we've got enough, and I havena had a night quite tha' bad fer a while anyway. I suppose they're nae a good idea anyway." The first part of this was frankly a lie, and she did feel a bit of shame about it, but she didn't want him worrying about her.
"So I've been told. But I am glad you're doing better. If you start needing them again just ask, all right? It's no problem."
She smiled. "Thank ye, Chase, but dinna worry about it. Now, off ye go."
Chase ambled off towards the kitchen, and Rahne resumed her search for the rest of the team. She found Sam and Glenn in a smallish room that already included three bunkbeds and several boxes--probably where Glenn and his family would be staying, as Brand had already been tucked into a bed and Daniel was perched on a top bunk, kicking his feet as his father and Sam unpacked.
"Breakfast is ready," she said, lingering in the threshold. Sam looked up from resheeting a bed and smiled.
"Obliged, Rahnie," he said, straightening. His wife smiled wryly.
"Really, 'tis Amanda who's responsible," she replied. "But it does look verra good."
"Aunt Amanda?" Daniel said, bolting to attention. "Is it German stuff?"
"Cool!" He slid off the bed and was out the door almost immediately. His father chuckled.
"I'd better go an' save some for Brand before he eats it all," Glenn said. He indicated his sleeping daughter, who had buried herself under the covers so that only a small tuft of reddish hair remained visible. "I think I'd best let the gel sleep for now. Thanks for the help, Sam."
"No problem, but Ah expect some help unloadin' the gear later," Sam grinned. Glenn laughed and went to follow his son.
"They seem ta be copin' well," Sam remarked as he watched them go. "Better'n Ah would, Ah think. But appearances can be deceivin'. What's your impression?"
"Danny's... as well as c'n be expected," Rahne sighed, slipping into the room. "The poor lad. Occh, Sam, I'm sae tired..."
Sam drew her close and embraced her. Rahne wrapped her arms around him, breathing in the strong, comforting scent of him, and relaxed. He smelled of sweat and earth--like safety and comfort. She sighed and pillowed her face against his chest.
"Lemme guess," Sam murmured, stroking her long red hair. "Amanda asked ya 'bout the dreams, didn't she?"
"She just wants ta help, Rahnie. We all do."
"I know, but... there's sae much more important things tae be done. I'm nae tha' important. Nae compared tae everythin' else."
"Yes, you are." Sam bent over and kissed her on the forehead. "But it's your choice, Rahne. Ah won't ask ya ta do anythin' ya ain't ready for."
"I know, an' I thank ye." She sighed and pulled away. "We should go tae breakfast now, I s'ppose."
"As mah lady wishes." Sam smiled gently and extended an arm.
"Ye're terrible, Sam Guthrie," Rahne said, shaking her head, but she slipped her arm around his. He grinned and kissed her.
"And you married me," he replied. "Now, let's get that breakfast."
Rahne nodded, and allowed Sam to escort her to the kitchen. She was still troubled, but somehow, with her husband's arm around her, it didn't seem quite so bad.