Holding out for a Hero Disclaimer: Premise and characters are the property of Marvel, I'm just borrowing them for a bit of non-profit fun.

The county fair and attendant carnival drew Remy like a magnet. The holiday mood of the crowd was a balm to his spirit and he knew it would be an easy place to replenish his traveling funds, either honestly as a street performer or through exercising his talents as a pickpocket.

Remy could have made more money breaking into a house or store, given a couple days of study he could have walked in and out of the town bank without breaking a sweat, but he suspected the police report would be the equivalent of sending up a flare with regards to his Oncle and Remy wasn't ready to be found yet.

Settling his sunglasses firmly over his telltale eyes and checking the pistol hidden beneath his jacket, Remy blended into the crowds, ambling toward the dusty ticket gates.

Past the gates Remy stepped out of the crowd of humanity for a moment. Leaning against a whitewashed concrete wall, eyes closed behind his sunglasses, he tipped his head back and let the surroundings wash over him; the feel of the sun beating down mercilessly on the little mid-western town, the smell of dust, greasy foods, animals, the sounds of the midway in the distance, music and announcements piped over a grainy sound system and the sounds of a good natured crowd. Most of all he let the crowd's emotions wash over him. His empathic sense had been dulled to a faint shadow of what it had been by the damage he'd taken. It was only a passive ability now, but with it he could still drown out his own emotions, merging with the shifting tide of humanity for a time and pretending it could carry away the pain he felt. Absently he rubbed the stitched together wound over his heart, pain flared through his chest and Remy felt a moment's bitterness against the blonde girl who took the term heartbreaker much too literally.

He wasn't sure what he believed anymore. Maybe it was Belle's fault the baby died. Her fault for wanting to be an assassin more than a mother. Maybe it was his own fault. His fault for losing his temper and loosing his powers so indiscriminately. He felt sure there was plenty of blame to be shared around, him, Belle, the Assassins, the people who took Belle, Julian, Candra, the world, but the only part of it that he really cared about was how responsible was he and how much of the blame lay at Belle's feet.

He let the grief and pain bubble up to the surface; he'd learned his lesson about allowing emotions to fester. For a moment he let the emotions consume him, then he let the holiday mood of the crowd, the myriad of feelings that weren't his fill his awareness, diluting and overwhelming his own emotions.

Calmer now, Remy rejoined the crowd. Deciding to push his skills he lifted wallets removed a few dollars and returned the billfolds to their owners all without being noticed.

Gradually Remy worked his way out to the midway. The crowd shifted from families to high schoolers. Remy overheard them complaining about boredom, talking about college, getting out of there and talking about what they'd do once life started. Remy felt like he'd have as much in common with Marians.

He caught a few girls giving him looks and knew if he made the effort he could collect a choice of hotel rooms. The faint pull of his stitches killed any desire he felt in perusing that path.

He drifted to the edge of the midway, away from the main body of the crowds. The pickings were slim but the feel of being alien was lessened as well. Remy assumed he must have always felt like that, but he disliked it more now after the taste he'd had of belonging.

It didn't matter anymore. Scott was gone; he didn't have a place with the X-Men. New Orleans was Belle's and he couldn't imagine meeting her eyes anymore. He wasn't sure whether it was what he'd see there or what she'd see that kept him away, either way it didn't matter, New Orleans was closed to him.

A tent at the edge of the fair grounds caught Remy's attention. The feel of the people making their way toward that particular tent set Remy's teeth on edge even as he was drawn in by the promise of distraction.

Remy resettled his sunglasses, brushed a hand over the cold weight of the gun beneath his jacket then joined the line entering the tent. Once inside Remy found a place with his back against one of the supporting poles and a clear view of the raised stage that dominated the small tent.

Remy watched the expressions on the faces in the growing crowd. They were excited, anticipatory, their emotions heightened by a dark edge of fear and hate. They waited restlessly.

Once the tent was well filled a man stepped out into the center of the stage. "You've seen the carnage on the news," he began in a ringmaster's bark; Remy felt a cold fire stirring in his gut. "Freaks of nature or the next step in evolution… Mutants. Twice their Master of Magnetism has declared war on our species only to be brought low by his own kind. And still they seem no more real than the vampires and werewolves of myth and legend. But unlike those legendary creatures, mutants are real."

The man's gestured toward the curtain across the back of the stage. A spotlight illuminated it as the curtain split revealing a scrawny thirteen-year-old boy in manacles. Remy tasted blood as he bit through the inside of his cheek. "Now ain't de time," he told himself.

"Mutants can look like nothing more than the boy next door," the ringmaster barked and on cue the boy raised his head, shaking back overly long black hair to reveal pale, sun-starved skin and huge blue eyes, dominating a thin, hunger-pinched face.

"But beware, such harmless seemings can hide the true monster inside!" At that the boy's features began to shift, Remy could see the bones moving beneath skin as the boy's complexion took on a deep red tone. The boy's mouth sagged open slightly, displaying fangs and a forked tongue.

The show was a masterful performance, playing on the crowd's emotions like a fiddle, but the feelings that captivated Remy were those of the boy. He radiated a desperate, hopeless, misery that stroked the cold fire burning in Remy to a fevered pitch.

The tall russet haired teen's muscles tensed, he closed his eyes to keep the burning glow from giving him away despite his sunglasses. "Not now, not now," Remy chanted inside his head, forcing himself to wait for an opportune moment while all his instincts demanded an instantaneous response to the display before him.

When the show ended Remy trailed the boy and his keeper back to a battered RV. Remy took a moment to check that the surroundings area was quiet then snapped out his bo staff and kicked in the door to the RV.

The mutant boy stared up at him from where he knelt, chained to the table post. The man who'd run the show was just climbing to his feet after locking the boy down when Remy broke in.

"What the hell do you thing you're doing!" He snarled.

Remy swept the man's feet out from under him. He fell flat on his back and Remy smoothly moved to stand over him, the end of his bo pressing hard against the man's windpipe, keeping him pinned.

"I ought to kill yo' and put an' end to de hate yo' spread," Remy hissed, sliding his sunglasses down so that the man could get a good look at his demon's eyes. "Mais, 'M bettah dan dat."

"Demon spawn," the man cursed.

"Keys," Remy snarled putting a touch more pressure on the bo staff.

"Maurice you all right…" the voice from the door broke off as it's owner took in the scene.

"Merde!" Remy swore digging out his gun as the new comer raised the alarm.

Remy shot the padlock securing the boy in place. The young mutant cringed back, his breath coming in ragged, fearful gasps.

A hostile mob gathered in the door. Remy warded them back with the gun. "Come on petite, time to be leavin'," he said. The boy stared up at him eyes wide with shock and uncomprehending. Remy wished he still had the power to sooth the boy's fears with a thought, but that ability was gone, making do without was the only choice left to him.

Remy offered the child a reassuring smile. " 'M like yo' petite. I take yo' 'way from dis mess, yo' jus' gotta trust me 'kay?" he murmured.

His attention focused on the boy, Remy let his guard slip with regards to the mob. A thrown piece of brick smashed into his hand knocking the gun out of it. Remy leaned down and grabbed the man, Maurice by the collar, jerking him up and propelling him through the door.

The body thrown into the crowd cleared just enough room outside the door for Remy to get clear of the trap that the RV had become.

Facing the mob, bo staff held ready, eyes glowing with the icy power raging through his veins, knowing every person in sight could be dead in a heartbeat if he chose it, held back from making that choice by the knowledge that the backlash could destroy the minds of every person at the fair, maybe the entire town, but certainly that of the boy he was trying to save. Remy looked every inch the demon prince these bigots made out the frightened child crouched behind him to be.

Remy heard the rattle of chains and felt a measure of relief knowing that the boy had overcome enough of his fear to follow Remy.

Remy stared into the crowd, a confident smile playing around his mouth then with a shout he attached them, turning their numbers against them as he dove into the center of the mob, laying about himself indiscriminately with bo staff and boots, a moment later the mob broke, their fear of mutants overcoming their hate in the face of Remy's attack.

As they fled Remy grabbed the boy's arm and lit out for the fence marking the rear of the fairgrounds. He was pleased to see the boy had thought to wrap the length of the chain that had bound him around his waist so he wouldn't trip over it.

When they reached the fence Remy crouched, offering the boy his cupped hands. Doubt filled the younger mutant's cerulean blue eyes but he obediently took a few running steps then planted his foot in Remy's hands. The russet haired thief used every muscle in his body to propel the boy upward, tossing him over the fence to make a graceless landing on the far side.

The boy turned back to stare worriedly through the fence at Remy. "Be wit' yo' in a sec," Remy promised backing up to get a running start at the fence. He used his bo to vault over it, landing in a crouch beside the boy then grabbing his arm and leading him farther from the scene of the erstwhile fight.

They took refuge in the shaded depths of a cornfield. The boy collapsed, out of breathe and shaking with spent adrenalin.

Remy ruffled the boy's hair. "Yo're safe now, it goin' to be 'kay," he promised.

The gentle touch and the concern in Remy's voice triggered a release of long built up stress from the young boy in the form of silent sobs. Remy rubbed the boy's back, murmuring a soothingly litany of reassurances in a mix of languages as he waited for the storm to pass. After a time the boy calmed and pulled away.

" 'M Remy."

"Jake," the boy replied shyly. His eyes widened with concern. "You're bleeding."

Remy glanced down to see blood slowly soaking through his shirt and realized he must have pulled his stitches during the fight. " 'S rien, nothing to worry 'bout," he reassured the boy. "Got some bandages back at m' bike, it'll be right as rain. Course I t'ink it be bes' we let t'ings settle a bit 'fore we go wandering 'round. Why don' yo' let me see 'bout loosing dat weight tied to your ankle."

With a very tentative smile Jake extended his leg for Remy to examine. The older teen retrieved a lock pick from his coat then frowned in confusion at the odd design of the shackle. It was composed of two half circles of metal held together in some invisible way with a lock on the side instead of being opposite a hinge.

Remy made short work of the lock. Uncertain of what he'd accomplished he tugged on the two sections of the manacle. One came away easily, showing Remy how the shackle worked; their was a steel spike forced completely through the boy's leg, apparently it was attached to the second half of the shackle, their was a hole in the end of the spike for the padlock.

Remy, stunned by the deliberate cruelty of the restraint, stared at the boy.

Jake shrugged uncomfortably. "When he first caught me I changed the shape of my foot so I could slide the chain off. When he caught me again he did that. I quit trying to escape."

"Don' blame yo'," Remy said. "Even wit' de lock off 'M not shor it's gonna come out."

"I made it heal nice," Jake said and Remy took a second closer look at the boy's leg. Jake was right, despite the cruel wound there was no scar tissue, no sign that the healing flesh had bonded to the metal, in fact as Jake pulled the spike out of his leg, Remy saw a new layer of skin had formed inside the wound.

Jake pulled his ankle into his lap, a look of intense concentration on his face. After a few moments the hole in his leg closed up like it had never existed.

"Neat trick, yo' been trained wit' yo' powers?" Remy asked.

"I've had a lot of practice," Jake said. "He got really mad if I didn't change just like he wanted me to during the shows."

"Speakin' of dat, might be a bon idea for you to look a bit different when we head out of here," Remy said. "Yo' can change to more dan what I saw at de show, non?"

Jake nodded and grinned. A few moments later Remy found himself looking at an individual who was still definitely Jake, but female. The same dark hair reformed in a pageboy cut, the same blue eyes dominating an even more delicately featured face. Remy was a little surprised at the restraint Jake employed reforming his body, rather than looking like a model he looked like an average thirteen year old girl.

"I can only hold this for about half an hour before I revert," Jake warned.

Remy tied a bandana over his hair and pulled his jacket closed to hide the blood on his shirt then they started back around the fairground to the parking lot where Remy had left his bike.

The walk was uneventful, but almost halfway to their destination Remy casually slung an arm around Jake's shoulders, trying to discretely hide that he was feeling a little less than steady on his feet.

When they reached the bike Remy handed Jake his helmet and started the bike then they drove to a park at the edge of town. Remy parked the bike, dug out a roll of bandages then pulled off his shirt and loosened the old, blood stained bandages. "Gimme a hand?" Remy asked his once again male companion.

Jake nodded staring at the surgery scars across Remy's chest. "How'd you do that?" he asked.

"Girl problems," Remy said shortly.

Jake let the subject drop as he wrapped a fresh layer of bandages over the torn stitches.

"Goin' to need to steal 'nother gun," Remy sighed realizing he'd left his weapon back in the RV.

"Steal?" Jake asked.

" 'M a t'ief," Remy replied shrugging as he went to get another shirt out of his saddlebags.

"For real? Cool!" Jake declared.

Remy grinned as he put his jacket back on. Hesitantly Jake held out the motorcycle helmet toward him. "Keep it. Don' want your brains gettin' splattered if I crash. I'll grab 'nother for m'self when I get de gun."

Jake smiled broadly, hastily pulling the helmet over his head and climbing on the motorcycle behind Remy.

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