Characters: Marvel's, but this storyline is Kaylee's. I don't have or want the former's permission. The latter kindly said I could come over and play.
Explanations: I wasn't planning to write any x-fic, b/c while it's very fun to read, it looks stressful to write. However, like probably others reading Any Kinda Breath, I have personal experience that makes it additionally impacting, and when I saw that other people were writing akb-associated stories, I decided to do so as well. Kaylee won't tell how the story is going to end (tease), but she gave me a preview of the last part and permission to write this as long as I tell you that it's an alternate universe sequel and doesn't affect the original. Thanks, Kay. :-) Kaylee's Mooks (and I think all the stories about her guys) are located at Mooksville.
Warnings: Right up front I'll tell you that Remy's dead in this story and there are (and will be in the sequel if there is one) flashbacks to his sickness and death. If you feel that will disturb you terribly, please do not read this, and please do not feel bad about not wanting to read this. This is not a dark or deceptive story however, meant to be harsh or hurtful. I promise not to lure you in and stab you. :-) Otherwise there's some profanity and innuendo. This is probably PG15.
Assumptions: Since I don't know, this story will work off the premise that Remy was on morphine at the end of his life. If that's profoundly moronic for some medical reason of which I'm unaware, please tell me.
Archiving rights: Anywhere The Mooks are, go ahead. Anyone else, ask me first.
Notes: Rod Serling was the host of The Twilight Zone. "Fitshaced" is wordplay on "shitfaced" which means "quite thoroughly drunk." "Nancy" is unflattering but not especially offensive slang for "gay." I promise that the three previous sentences have absolutely nothing to do with one another.
Feedback: springthymes@aol.com

The Nation Isn't Wide Enough
by Thymes

Remy died one year ago and we had a deal and I broke it.

We had lots of deals. He broke some of them. The only one that matters is probably the one that said I'd hang on and love him and never let him go, and he'd beat the odds and win. And live.

He'd sucked on those cancer sticks too hard though. Sucked them all the way down inside. Can't get away from what's inside you, and no one in the world knew that better than Remy. He learned it the best way, for learning, and the worst way, for living. He was so. Not. Perfect.

I loved that about him. I loved how he was trying to be someone better than he thought he already was.

How many of us really try to do that?

Do you?

One year and two days ago. This isn't the anniversary, but it's two days after the day that said I'd been alone for three hundred and sixty-five. That's eight thousand seven hundred and sixty hours. Five hundred twenty-five thousand and six hundred minutes.

I can do seconds too.

But there's no point, is there? I'm two days too late.

I wish Hank were here.

When Remy started getting sick again after the last chemotherapy, no one tried to say he'd make it. Not that time. No one tried to tell me it'd be okay. Not then. No one tried to give me bromides about the big picture, the larger scheme, the divine plan. Not while Remy's skeleton was standing up against his skin.

He made the deal with me on a chilly and snowscented afternoon when he was already a ghost, just still attached. He said that if it was okay with me, he was going to go to sleep pretty soon. The morphine and shit they were giving him made him sound like a stoner, slow and drawly like his mouth was full of cotton and gin. He'd go to sleep (if it was okay with me) and he didn't think he'd plan on waking up (so don't set an alarm or anything) but I had to swear on everything I held holy (he told me to get a bible and I put my oath on a copy of Moby Dick instead, and that was really fucking hilarious, swearing on a moby dick that I held holy, Goddamn I want to laugh or cry right now, swear to Moby) that I'd do something special for him if I could.

I agreed. He said thanks, his way. "Merci, cher." He sounded almost like his old self.

He went to sleep a couple of weeks later, and I didn't set an alarm. My arms were around him and I held him against my heart while he drifted away. I didn't try to wake him.

He'd earned his rest.

Hank called on the anniversary two days ago. He's on Muir. A lot of people are. I found out that while I was busy watching Remy slip away, Moira was sort of dying too. Legacy, right? Not cancer. Hank fights Legacy. Doctor Niles fights cancer. They both lose a lot.

They win a lot too. It's easy to forget that.

The professor knew how bad Moira was getting and didn't tell us. Hank knew and still let me cry on his shoulder about Remy. Nobody tried to tell me I didn't have a right to grieve for my loss when someone else was dying. I felt a little guilty later, but I'm still grateful for that omission.

Moira's not dead yet, so Hank's out there sleeplessly battling Legacy, trying to find a midnight hour cure. I just went to visit her a few weeks ago. She didn't have much body left around her bones, and I remembered Remy at the end of things. She patted my hand like I was a little boy and said something I forgot. I left so quick my footprints probably smoked.

I'm here at the mansion, which is exactly the place I've been planning on leaving for a year (and two days), but have you ever noticed how tough it is to get moving after you've been sitting perfectly still for so long? It's a physics thing. Inertia. An object in motion will remain in motion until an outside force acts on it. An object at rest will stay there with a pillow over its head until it gets kicked in the ass and told to get going.

Who says science is hard?

Accounting in the U.S.A., that's hard. God's world isn't as tangled as the Infernal Revenue Service.


That was Logan. He was at the mansion too.

"Drake, you've been sittin' out here all day."

He doesn't like first names.

"Am I in your way?"


"Then it's none of your business where I sit, is it?"

I've gotten a little cheeky of late. No one scares me anymore.

"You okay?"

"I'm fine, thank you. How are you?"

"When I'm lookin' for sarcasm I'll place an ad."

I rolled my head in the grass and looked at him, making my voice as Rod Serling as I could. (I'm really good at that, but I do a better Shatner.) "It's not whether or not you're looking for sarcasm. Sometimes sarcasm is looking for you." I made my eyes big and do-do-do-do'd the Twilight Zone theme ominously.

He wasn't a fan. "Quit fuckin' around."

"I'm not even dating. Fucking around usually follows finding a person to fuck with." I grinned when I said it, telling him "lighten up, I'm not brooding." He didn't look like he believed me. Oh well. Can't fool all the people all the time, can you?

He started to say hesitantly, "Kid..."

"You know, I haven't really been a kid for a long time," I said thoughtfully. "I have a degree in accounting. I've saved the world ... one, two, three, four, fi- ... a whole bunch of times. I've already loved and lost. I think you can find another pejorative nickname for me now."

He muttered and walked away. I thought that was it. Two minutes later he was back, a dark shadowy blotch of man against the wimpy late autumn sun, and he dropped a cold sloshy thing on my stomach. Beer. Logan brought me a beer. Like a buddy watching the pregame show.

"Sorry," he grumbled, swigging from a matching brown bottle. Some of the amber liquid missed his mouth and curled over the coarse hairs on his chin and dripped off his jaw. He casually toweled it off his face with the sleeve of his red and black checkered flannel shirt, looking at me expectantly. I couldn't get my eyes to stop being so wide. Beer and an apology? Next I'd see pigs fl--

Better not risk thinking that, because with the X-Men you just never know...

He surprised me more. "This is about that road trip, right?"

"How'd you-"

"Cajun told me."


"Few days before he died."

"-told-" "Yep."

"-oh." I sat up, hanging the beer by its neck from my fingers. "I thought he just told me."

"Thought wrong."

"Why would he tell you?"

"My guess is the morphine."

I started laughing. "That could explain a lot of things!"

"Not why you're here."

I quit laughing. "What exactly did he tell you?"

"That you were supposed to take a trip somewhere a year to the day after he croaked. That it was important."

"That's it?"


"Nothing about ashes and oceans?"

"You're throwin' his ashes in the ocean?"

I uncapped the beer and sniffed it. The thick, fermented odor almost made me heave. "I was supposed to. Two days ago." That privately brewed lager stuff Logan liked so much. I swear he's stored it up since the Prohibition. It would probably make me sick.

"Why didn't you do it?"

Sickbooze, trademarked. I bet that name would sell. It slid down my throat like a liquid snake, and it was terrible, bitter and weighty with cheek-caving, lip-puckering aftertaste. I took another swallow immediately. "I forgot."

"Pull the other one."

"I would, but we're in such a visible spot, and you're so shy..."

His eyebrows went up his forehead almost high enough to make him look like he wasn't glowering. I drank more beer, a big gulp more, and burped theatrically.

"If I drink enough of this, will I stop tasting it?"

"That's the idea."

"I thought the idea was to get fitshaced and wallow in self-pity."

"That too. Why didn't you do like Cajun asked?"

I shrugged.


"Hey, he didn't do what I asked," I said defensively. "What's good for the gander is good for the ... other gander."

"Drink your beer."

I gave him a tart look, irritated by the command. "I prefer wine coolers."

"That's cuz you're nancy. Drink."



"Why can't you just say gay? What's wrong with saying gay?"

"Wouldn't get your hackles up. Drink."

Unthinking, I took a big swallow. "What if I don't want to drink?"

"I'll buy ya some wine coolers."

"But wine coolers are nancy drinks."

"Gay drinks then. Come on."

I took his extended hand and stood with the slightest waver of the world. Fuddled already? "I appreciate the thought, but I have a prior engagement to go ponder my failure with myself and me." Bitterness? Couldn't be. I'm a mellow Robert, sad and lonely and mellow, not bitter. "I didn't mean that."

"Yeah, you did," he said without any especial tone of voice. I couldn't be positive, but his eyes looked a little sad too.

Logan does angry. He hardly ever does sad.

Remy should see this.

My eyes teared up and the world went fuzzy. I blinked a few times until everything unblurred. Logan was checking out my face too closely, so I smiled a little and raised the bottle. "To forgetting the doltish things lightweights say after half a beer!"

He clinked his bottle to mine but didn't say the words of the toast. He didn't reissue the invite for the wine coolers either. For the rest of the beer we stood there and drank like countrymen after a long day's work, relaxing and looking over a field of barley wheat and swilling the eventual product. I hadn't done anything worth a rewarding drink, but I drank it anyway. It didn't taste all that bad anymore.

"Do you think he'd be mad?" I asked at length.

He considered it, swishing lager in his mouth, looking at something in the trees. Soon he swallowed in a big, slow motion and thoughtfully pronounced judgment. "Nah."

"I should've done it."


"He wanted the Pacific. You know why?"


"Because it means peaceful. And because of that saying about how it has no memory." I intensely wanted more beer, but mine was gone. "He told me about this place on the coastline, this cliff hanging over the ocean? I was supposed to spend the road trip out there saying goodbye, then stand up there on the cliff and let him go." I pantomimed spreading ashes with the brown bottle as the vessel. "Foosh! Remy LeBeau's mortal remains join three quarters of the planet's surface, Bobby Drake stops sniveling and gets on with life. Pretty, right?"

"Real pretty," he said flavorlessly.

"I cross the nation, I throw away some dust, it's all better." I thought about it. "I -- I grow on the path there. Like a butterfly from a whatchamacallit. When it's not a caterpillar, but not a butterfly?"


He knew that? "That. Like a butterfly from a chrysalis. Then I spread my wings--" I didn't have any wings, but I stretched arms and a bottle and pretended. "--and soar! To the future ... and beyond!"

Logan's eyebrows were up on his forehead again. "What the hell are you like on pot?"

I let my wings droop, then sag into arms again. "Dopey. Quiet. At least that's how I was when I was fifteen."

"Oh really?" His brows went back to hunching over his eyes, which suddenly had a considering gleam.

I laughed a little in my head, but outside just pulled up a smile, and barely that. "He can't be blamed for how cheesy this is, you know."

"Right, cuz of--"

"--the morphine, right."

"Sure. But I didn't say it was cheesy."

"It is."

He looked away again, but not before I saw his cheeks twitch. "Maybe a little."

My smile turned on me and went sad. I think it was in connivance with my eyes, which started stinging again. "Still."

"You should've gone."

"Right. Swore." To Moby.

But it was really to Remy.

My eyes again. A year (plus two days) and I hadn't run out of tears. I'm often better at withholding them though. A playful little frosty wind nipped at me everywhere I wasn't clothed. I shivered and thought about shifting forms, but Logan wasn't shivering. Iceman wouldn't be out-endured by Wolverine in a cold baby wind.

"Do you think--" I started and stopped.

He prompted with a nod.

"--maybe I should go. Now."

He looked at me until I looked uncertainly back. Then he dipped his head halfway down. "That's a thought."

"But I just had a beer." I waved the evidence contritely.

Like any dedicated drinker, he smirked at my lack of tolerance. "That little bitta nothin'? Should be worn off by the time you get done packing, don't ya think?"

"I packed two weeks ago."

The smirk went away. "Thought you forgot."

"I forgot after that," I explained.

He didn't answer and he didn't leave. There was a sense of expectancy coming from him, but not impatience.

"Uhm," I said. My eyes were on the bottle slowly twirling under my fingers, the label peeling off in coiled strips like there might be an orange underneath. I'd go do what I said I'd do, no doubting that now. But.

I don't think I can. Should. Do this alone.

"Would you want to ... uhm..."

"Sure," he said easily.

Sometimes I could swear he's a telepath. "You have time?"

"I'll make time. The road's good for the soul."

"Even with a nancy teammate?" That still pinched a nerve, damn him.

He grinned. "Even then. Just don't try to make me drink them pussy drinks."

Another nippy wind snuck in at the collar of my sweatshirt. This was a gropy one too. I shoved the bottle into Logan's hands and hugged myself, tucking my palms into my armpits, trying to shrink down inside my clothes yet not feeling a strong urge to do more than that for warmth.

Flesh and blood is so much more vulnerable than ice.

Or possibly not. Logan wore just the flannel and jeans and boots and didn't look fazed.

"D'accord," I said. My accent is abominable, I've been reliably told. Someway nights and nights of shuddering and coming while Louisiana Creole was singed into my brain by a hot breath in my ear didn't impart any aptitude for the mother language to me. Still. I like it.

His fist, bottle-necks poking between his fingers, chucked my arm to get me moving. That inertia thing. Outside object delivering a sound boot to the ass. "Get your stuff. We'll take your car."

"My car? My car's a piece of--"

"So the extra mileage won't matter, will it?"

I fell into step, which wasn't as easy as it sounds. He's quicker than stumpy men should be allowed to be. "Why the rush? You've still gotta pack."

"I'm always packed."

"For anything?"

"Anything and everything."

I gave a teasing sultry look. "Everything?"

His eyebrows only went up a little this time. Either I was losing my touch or he was adapting fast.

"Cajun was better at those."

With a nod, I shed the look. "I know."

"Even so," he went on nonchalantly, "you ain't bad."

I stopped in my tracks and stared at him in shock. He kept walking.

"Clock's ticking, caterpillar."

He disappeared inside. Smugly.

I never knew someone could disappear smugly.

"The ocean's not going anywhere!" I finally yelled after him, hands forming a megaphone around my mouth.

He didn't answer.

"And I wouldn't be in a rush if I were you! I know the Bottles of Beer song, and I can count forever!"

The mansion was soundless as a tomb.

That's it, Iceman, Mister Cool. More with the happy imagery.

I sighed, then turned partway and looked back at the spot I'd selected on the lawn, distinguished by stubborn winter rye grass that was just a bit dented from my weight, gradually springing back now that I was gone. Rye doesn't have much of a memory. Like the Pacific, you know. A couple of years ago Remy and I were in that spot relaxing while we waited for Hank to find the elixir to make the mystery sickness go away. He took a nap. I got to be a pillow. It's the last day I remember us having that didn't have an undertide of fear.

I think I'd like to lose some memories in the Pacific. Then I might be able to find some of the unpainful ones underneath.

But there's so much yardage to cover from here to the capacity to let go forever and admit he's really gone. The mental miles are wide and the U.S. pretty much runs out when it hits the sea. I just don't see how this will help me move on, how it can ever be enough.

I can't renege now though. I asked the world's largest bulldog along to make sure.

Westward it is then, to the evening horizon. He wants peaceful waters? He gets peaceful waters. I was never any good at refusing him anything he asked for.

'Sides, I'm irrevocably committed. Swore on Moby.

A guy has to take a thing like that seriously.

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