Disclaimer: The X-Men and related characters are the property of Marvel Comics and are used without permission. This is a non-profit making work of fan-fiction.

The Uncanny X-Men

Ghosts

By Duncan Johnson

Episode One

Miriam Cornish liked the colours best. She liked the way the paintings seemed to have their own glow. She suspected that, were all of the lights in the museum to be turned off, she would still be able to admire the artwork.

This part of the museum was not too crowded. People came to the Louvre first to see the Mona Lisa and then, maybe, to glance at two or three other paintings. The majority of work in the gallery went tragically unnoticed. Which was just the way Miriam liked it since it meant that she could admire some of her personal favourite pictures without having to elbow her way across the room to get to them.

It had been Gregory's idea to visit Paris. A weekend away to try to save their failing marriage. Ever since Tommy had died, well, things had been rather strained between the two of them. Gregory had hoped that a holiday might give them a chance to heal, to move on.

No such luck.

They had begun arguing almost as soon as they got off of the plane. Now Gregory was brooding back in the hotel, probably assisted in the effort by a friendly barman, while she went out to indulge her passion.

It had been a tragic accident. Intellectually, she knew that. But Gregory had been with Tommy when he died. Surely there must have been something he could have done.

Someone was speaking to her in French. It was one of the museum staff. Miriam did not speak French - not very well, anyway - but she caught the gist.

'I'm fine,' she said, dabbing at her eyes with a handkerchief. 'I've just got something in my eye.'

She turned away.

'Don't cry, Mommy,' said a voice behind her.

Miriam turned and looked down.

'Tommy?' she breathed.

He smiled up at her. His brown hair had been tussled in the wind and he was holding a red balloon in his right hand. She had given him a red balloon on the day he

'On the day I died, Mummy?' Tommy asked. 'But I'm not dead.'

'No, baby, no you're not.'

Miriam fell to her knees and scooped her son up in her arms.

She was so overcome with joy that she didn't even feel the knife sliding between her ribs.

* * *

'So, why are we here again exactly,' Bobby Drake asked. He and two of his fellow X-Men stood at the stood at the edge of the courtyard that surrounded the glass pyramid that marked the entrance to the Musee de Louvre. Earlier in the day, the courtyard had been filled with tourists. Now it had been occupied by emergency personnel.

'Does twenty-seven dead bodies answer your question, Bobby?' Warren Worthington asked.

'Hey, I'm not pretending something terrible didn't happen here,' Bobby replied hastily. 'I'm just wondering whether this is really X-Men stuff, that's all.'

'Loathe as I am to admit it, I agree with Drake,' Jean-Paul Beaubier added.

'No I know I'm in the wrong,' Bobby muttered.

'You are a practical man, Worthington,' Jean-Paul continued. 'So is Xavier, though he may be given to flights of fancy. Surely you cannot expect the X-Men to respond to every tragic event that occurs around the globe. We should conserve our efforts solely for dealing with mutant-related issues.'

'Well, that's terribly selfless of your, Northstar,' Warren remarked. 'Whatever happened to helping people simply because it's the right thing to do.'

'I am simply saying that our efforts may be better spent elsewhere,' Jean-Paul elaborated. 'Even Drake agrees with me.'

'Hey, I never admitted to that,' Bobby interjected.

'Be that as it may,' Warren continued, 'the Professor had a feeling about this and so we're going to check it out whether you like it or not.'

'A feeling,' Jean-Paul repeated. 'Heaven help us. Very well, where do we start? At least we can try and get this over with as quickly as possible.'

'Got a hot date tonight, Northstar?' Bobby asked.

'Why, is it so hard to believe that there might be one member of this sorry little band who can sustain a relationship?' Jean-Paul retorted.

'Enough, you two,' Warren snapped. 'Northstar, you're going to help me see what we can learn here.'

'And what am I going to do while you two play Columbo?' Bobby asked.

Warren smiled.

'You're going to see what you can learn from the survivors.'

* * *

'Remind me again why we're here.'

Jonathan Starsmore tightened his leather coat as he walked trailed through the dark Moscow streets behind his companion.

'I'm here to visit an old friend,' Logan snarled back. 'Quite why you felt the need to tag along is anybody's guess.'

'Hey, you think this was my choice,' Jono snapped. 'I'm just following orders here. Like I want to be somewhere this cold.'

'Dunno what you're complaining about, kid,' Logan commented. 'I wouldn't have thought you had enough of a nervous system left to feel the cold.'

'Yeah, well, I don't know how it works either,' Jono remarked, 'but it does and I'm bloody freezing.'

'Poor baby,' Logan mocked. 'If you're lucky Andrei's got central heating at his place. Should be able to afford it with all the money he squirreled away during his KGB days.'

Jono stopped walking and stared at his companion.

'Your friend's KGB?' he said.

'Ex,' Logan muttered. 'And maybe not even then. Andrei was the sort of guy who liked to play both sides against the middle as long as he ended up on top.'

'And we're visiting this guy because?' Jono asked.

'Because he asked us to,' Logan replied. 'He claims to have intel I might be interested in.'

'And you trust him?'

Logan sighed.

'Don't be daft. How you ever got to be an X-Man I'll never know'

The walked the rest of the journey in silence. Five minutes later, Logan stopped and rapped on a door with a gloved hand.

'Hey, Andrei,' he shouted, 'you've got company.'

'Guess he's not in,' Jono said when they received no response.

'I'll take that bet,' Logan growled. 'Hear that?'

'Hear what?'

'Sound of a struggle,' Logan confirmed. 'Figure someone's having fun without us.'

'I don't hear anything,' Jono reiterated.

'This is no time for a debate, kiddo,' Logan snarled, popping the three adamantium claws on his right hand and slicing through the door lock. Then he kicked the door in.

'So,' he said to Jono, 'you coming or not?'

* * *

Northstar was not having much luck obtaining information.

'Excuse me, officer,' he began, picking a short, bearded man near the centre of proceedings, 'perhaps you would mind telling me what's going on here.'

'Perhaps I would mind,' the officer said, not looking at Jean-Paul. Then he glanced up. 'Hey, don't I know you from somewhere?'

'It's quite possible,' Jean-Paul said as patiently as he could.

'You mean you don't recognise him, Robert?' Another officer looked over from where he was taking statements. 'That's one of them Canadian mutants. Northwind, isn't it?'

'Northstar,' Jean-Paul corrected. Cretin, he muttered under his breath.

'A mutant,' another cop spat. 'What do we want their kind around here for?'

'Hey,' the officer taking statements said. 'A couple of those mutants saved a bunch of us during a terrorist attack a couple of years back. They're okay in my book. 'Sides, Northwind's one of the good guys.'

Jean-Paul was torn between thanking the police officer or throttling him. He settled for doing neither.

'I remember you now,' the bearded officer - Robert - said. 'You're that Olympic ski champ, aren't you?'

'Former champion,' Jean-Paul said. It was not a boast, just a statement of fact as far as Jean-Paul was concerned.

'The queer ski champ,' Robert continued.

Jean-Paul frowned and he leaned forward slightly, rocking on the balls of his feet.

'Do you have a problem with that?' he asked.

'Damn right I have a problem, Nancy boy.'

Jean-Paul took a deep breath and counted to ten. At super-speed.

'Your narrow-minded bigotry isn't the issue here,' he said. 'I just want to help.'

'Well maybe we don't want your kind of help.'

Jean-Paul clenched his fists, gritted his teeth, then relaxed.

'It never changes, does it?' he murmured to no one in particular as he turned and walked away.

'Any luck?' Warren asked, crossing the courtyard to join him.

'With these imbeciles?' Jean-Paul asked. 'You?'

Warren shook his head. 'Let's hope Bobby's having a better time of it.'

Jean-Paul released a short barking laugh. '

'If our hopes rest with Drake then we really are in trouble.'

'You should cut Bobby some slack,' Warren said. 'He's not a kid anymore. He's proved himself.'

'Not to me he hasn't,' Jean-Paul replied.

Warren was about to reply, but then put a hand to his earpiece.

'What is it, Angel-man?' Jean-Paul asked.

'The professor's getting reports of another incident,' Warren explained. 'London this time.'

'I'm there,' Jean-Paul said, flexing his body and taking to the air.

'Northstar, wait!' Warren began, but Jean-Paul was already just a speck on the horizon.

* * *

'Mr Bertram?' Bobby asked as he stepped into the hospital room.

'That's me,' the old man said, sitting up in his bed. 'And who might you be, young man?'

'I'm Bobby Drake,' Bobby said, extending a hand. Bertram's handshake was strong despite his age.

'You've got cold hands, Bobby,' Bertram remarked.

'Yes, er, sorry about that,' Bobby apologised.

'So, what can I do for you, Bobby?' Bertram asked.

'I just wanted to ask you a few questions about the attack,' Bobby explained. 'If that's okay with you, sir.'

'Why, are you a policeman or something?'

'Or something,' Bobby replied. 'So, what happened?'

'You're going to think I'm crazy,' Bertram said.

'Oh, I've seen my fair share of crazy already,' Bobby told him. 'You'll have to go some to freak me out.'

Bertram smiled.

'Three years ago, my wife died,' Bertram began. 'She had contracted cancer six months before, stomach cancer. The doctor's had tried to treat it, but nothing they did seemed to work. And the pain just kept getting worse and worse. So in the end Marie threw herself in front of a subway train just to end her suffering.'

'I'm sorry,' Bobby said. 'But what does that have to do with what happened in the Louvre.'

'I'm just getting to that, young man,' Bertram admonished. 'I saw her, you see. Clear as I see you standing in front of me now. She was there, in the museum with me. And she talked to me and told me how much she loved me and how much it didn't hurt any more. And she promised to take all of my pain away too. And then she lunged at me with a knife.

'But you know what the worst part of it is, Bobby? For just a moment there, I actually wanted her to kill me. Just so we could be together again. God, I miss her so much.'

'Toad.'

The room was a mess. Furniture was upturned, much of it broken. Logan and Jono were probably standing in the only patch of clear floor space. Toad had avoided that problem altogether. He was sticking to the wall, Andrei unconscious in his arms.

'Wolverine,' Toad said, 'I wish I could say it was a pleasure.'

'Yeah, sure you do, Toynbee,' Logan snarled. 'Now why don't you put the old guy down and you and I cantalk.'

Logan popped both sets of claws and the metal gleamed in the moonlight shining through the windows.

'Oh, I don't think so, Wolverine,' Toad said, flicking his slime-drenched tongue in and out of his mouth. 'Much as I'd love to stay and play, I've got what I came for so I'd best be going.'

'Maybe you don't get a say in the matter,' Logan growled.

Toad sprang. He bounced off first one wall, then another and then both of his feet collided with Logan's chest. As Logan staggered backwards, Toad used his momentum to carry him and his cargo out through the window, glass shattering around him as he disappeared into the darkness.

'You just wait until I get my hands on you, Toynbee,' Logan muttered, regaining his footing.

'Er, Logan,' Jono said, putting a hand on his companion's shoulder, 'I think we have bigger problems.

The ground was shaking. Windows were rattling in their frames. Ornaments wobbled along shelves before falling off of the edge and smashing on the ground.

'What the' Logan began.

Then the building collapsed.

* * *

Waterloo Station had erupted in chaos.

People were screaming. Many were running for the exits. Still others were on their knees, arms clasped around phantoms Jean-Paul could barely make out. As he came into land beneath the clock in the centre of the concourse he watched a patch of blood blossom like a flower down the front of a woman's blouse. She fell forward onto the tiled floor, the light leaving her eyes before she struck the ground.

'Calique!' Jean-Paul swore. He had shot off here without any plan, just a desire to do something. But now that he was here, he realised just how out of his depth he really was. And it was not a feeling the Canadian relished.

'Jean-Paul?' a timid, frightened voice said. 'Who are zese people? What am I doing here?'

A woman was approaching him. She seemed tiny, arms wrapped around herself. Her hair was done up in a bun and large glasses shielded her face.

'Jean-Paul,' she continued in a thick French accent. 'I am so scared. What is zis place?'

'Jeanne-Marie?' Jean-Paul breathed. He shook his head to clear it. What was his sister doing here? She had been missing for months and when last he saw her she had not been Jeanne-Marie. She had been

'Aurora?' Jeanne Marie took off her glasses and threw them away, shaking out her long hair. 'Yes, I'm here, too, brother dear. We're both here to see you.'

'But...' Jean-Paul began.

'You should have searched for us,' Aurora scolded him. 'You could at least have made some kind of effort. But we don't mind. We're here to forgive you.'

And Jean-Paul saw the knife in his sister's hand.

* * *

Paige Guthrie closed the book she was reading and sighed. Theoretical physics she didn't have a problem with, but nineteenth century Russian literatureShe folded her reading glassed and stowed them in her bag. Then she removed the rubber band holding her hair up and ran her hands threw the long blonde tresses.

Stretching to work the kinks from her body, she got up and returned the book to the shelf before leaving the library. She was stiff from sitting down for so long. Perhaps a run would be a good idea. Once round the lake should do it.

She stepped out of the school building and into the bright sunshine. She shielded her eyes with her hand as she hurried back to her dormitory. Her route took her past the basketball courts and she could see that Juggernaut was throwing his weight around again. She could not see what his interest in the game was, though, given that his size meant that there was neither skill nor effort involved in putting the ball through the hoop. A small group of kids had gathered round the edge of the court and were cheering him on. She sighed. It was amazing the sort of things people found entertaining.

Her dorm was on the edge of campus, but that was okay. She liked the walk. The door could only be opened using a swipe card and she paused outside as she rooted in her bag for her card.

Then she noticed movement in the shrubbery to her left.

She took a step closer.

A bald black kid broke from cover and began sprinting in the direction of the tress.

'Hey, you! Stop!' Paige shouted after him.

The boy looked back at her and Paige felt her heart rate quicken as she got a look at his face.

'Everett?' she said.