I didn' wan' go. I tol' de Professor dat too, when he asked me if I'd accept de mission. I almos' tol' him no. I started to protest, but he stopped me.
"Jade, I need you to go. Cerebro is telling me this mutant is a very powerful young girl, but also that she's a special needs child. She's deaf and mute. You are the only person available to me right now who knows sign language. Please."
So dere I was, on my way down to de Big Easy for de first time in three years. I wasn' lookin' forward to it. I knew de second I got to de city I was gon' be watched, an' hopefully dat would be all. I could handle bein' watched. In fact, I expected it. If dey didn' keep an eye on me, den I'd be surprised.
"Dey" were de New Orleans Unified Guild of Thieves an' Assassins. My brother Remy, who is also a member of de X-Men, like me, although I tend to work alone instead of wit' de others, is de Guild Patriarch. Right 'bout de time he b'came deir leader, dey kicked me out of de fam'ly an' de city. I respected de consequences of my excommunication an' left New Orleans dat same night. I never went back. Until now.
Remy hadn' gotten a say in what happened. He voted of course, but dere was a vast majority vote to kick me out, so dat was dat. I don' know who voted against me an' who didn'. It never mattered to me. When dey tol' me de results, dey also tol' me I was to leave New Orleans an' never come back. Dey made it perfectly clear I wasn' wanted in deir city, an' if I returned, I could be killed. An' yet....
"Please guys...respect Remy an' don' do anythin' but watch me...I don' care if you watch me...I jus' wan' do my job an' get outta here..." I t'ought as I disembarked from de jet at de airport, my sunglasses firmly in place to hide my purple-on-black eyes from the curious stares of de public. I took a cab to de Garden District, where Professor Xavier had tol' me was de las' place de deaf, mute mutant was. It also happened to be right smack in de middle of Guild territory. Deir safehouse, where dey lived mos' of de time, was dere.
I swallowed hard after I paid de cabby an' got out of de car. I wasn' happy 'bout dis situation at all. Why did dis mutant have to show up in Nawlins, an' why couldn' Remy deal wit' her instead of me? Simple. Remy didn' know sign language, an' he was on vacation in de Bahamas wit' Rogue, a contradition if ever dere was one. I started walkin', an', as I had expected, within two minutes, I could sense de presence of de eleven Guild members hovering around me in the shadows. I was trained well enough dat I could see dem if I wanted to, but I chose not to acknowledge dem. I kept walkin', almos' amused at how dey moved wit' me. Dey never let me out of deir sight. I absently prayed dey wouldn' get in de way of de job, even t'ough I knew dem well enough to know dey wouldn'.
As de Professor had instructed me, I sought out de police captain in charge of locatin' de young mutant. I didn' have far to go; a squad of police cars had an alley I remembered very well from my own childhood blocked off not too far from the Guild safehouse. "No wonder dey showed up so quickly..." I shook my head, knowin' from experience dat confrontations b'tween police an' mutants, especially if dose mutants are powerful, scared children, tend to go bad...usually for de police. "Captain Descartes?"
De police captain looked up an' almost sighed with relief when he saw me. "You mus' be Jade. Professor Xavier tol' me he was sendin' one of his staff down to help us."
"Oui. Is she in dere?"
"She's in dere all right. Won' let us near her. What do you know 'bout her?"
I remembered what de Professor had tol' me. "She's young, powerful, deaf an' mute. Dat's 'bout it."
"We don' know much else, I'm afraid to say. We don' know her name, or anythin'. What we do know is dat every time we try to go near her, she pushes us back wit' some kinda mental field. If dat don' work, she blasts at us wit' her eyes. I really don' understand it..." Captain Descartes explained.
"Can' hear, can' speak...has a powerful mind an' powerful sight...makes sense..." I muttered. To de Captain, I said, "What do you mean, she blasts at you? Can you describe it?" I remembered Cyclops an' shuddered. If dis girl was anythin' near as powerful as him, we might have serious trouble here.
"Like two laser beams comin' outta her eyes. As far as I know she can control dem, b'cause it only happens when she wants it to. But she's damagin' de city an' we have to stop her."
"Does she have a fam'ly?" I asked.
"Not dat we've been able to find out. But seriously, who would want--"
Captain Descartes stopped in mid-sentence when he noticed my eyebrows raisin' 'bove my sunglasses. I knew what he wanted to say, an' was glad he had sense enough not to continue. If no one wanted dis young mutant, I knew how she felt. For mos' of my life I felt de same way; like no one wanted me. "If no one wants her, an' she's a street kid tryin' to survive...can you really blame her for bein' a little ticked off an' destroyin' de city?" I said. I did de same t'ing when I was young...only I never got caught. "Move de cars 'way from de alley. Gimme some room. She ain' gon' come out if she t'inks de first t'ing dat's gon' happen is her gettin' 'rested."
De police did as I requested an' moved back. All de time dis was happenin', I could sense de Guild members' curiosity, as well as some hostility, mos' of it directed at me. "Gimme a break, guys. I'm doin' my job an' leavin', quick as I can."
I walked into de alley, unsure of what I was gon' find when I got dere, an' wished 'gain dat I didn' have to do dis. Dat I wasn' de only one de Professor had available. I didn' wan' be dere. But yet, I wanted to help de girl. Dat ambition grew stronger once I saw her.
"Mon Dieu..." I whispered.
De girl was no more dan ten years old. It baffled me dat her powers had already manifested demselves, but stranger t'ings have been known to happen. She was small for her age, t'in an' dirty, which tol' me she'd been on de streets for awhile. Her hair was stringy an' reached jus' pas' her shoulders. It was blonde, wit' two bright orange stripes, one on either side of her face. Her eyes were also orange. I imagined de laser beams dat shot out of dose beautiful eyes were also orange. She was wearing torn jeans, ratty sneakers an' a ripped t-shirt. My heart went out to her instantly. But she was wary an' didn' want me near.
"Stay away from me!" She signed, panic showing in her face.
I knelt down to her level, not caring if my uniform got dirty or not. "I won't hurt you." I signed back.
"Why should I believe you? You were talking to the police!"
I sighed. "Just because I was talking to them doesn't mean I'm with them or I even like them. In fact, I don't."
"Why should I believe you?" She asked again.
I tilted my head to one side an' instantly knew what I had to do. "Because I'm like you." I explained. Den I reached up an' removed my sunglasses, showin' her my eyes, which had always been a dead giveaway to anybody who looked dat I was a mutant an' always had been.
De girl's eyes widened in surprise an' curiosity. "What can you do?" She asked.
I laughed. "I can make anything I want blow up. And I can do this." I held open my hand in front of me an' created a ball of biokinetic energy above it. I remembered de firs' time I did dat in front of de T'ieves Guild, when I was a teenager, how shocked dey'd all been. Remy couldn' do dat. But our powers were still similar. "What can you do?" I signed, wonderin' if she'd tell me.
"My eyes have lasers in them." She said, a sad expression crossing her young face. "I can control them most of the time, but when I get angry or scared, then I can't control them anymore. And I can make a field to protect myself, just by thinking about it."
"That's pretty impressive." I smiled. "What's your name? Mine's Jackie. Jackie LeBeau."
De girl hesitated. I couldn' blame her. Finally, she signed, "Hannah DuBois. What's going to happen to me?"
"Well if the police had their way, they'd probably lock you away in an institution somewhere." I sighed. I decided to jus' be honest an' frank wit' Hannah, instead of lyin' to her. I was surprised dat she was trustin' me so quickly, but perhaps my bein' a mutant helped.
"I don't want to!" Tears welled up in the orange eyes an' spilled over onto her t'in cheeks. "Nobody wants me. Nobody likes me."
"I know how you feel." I tol' her, takin' a risk an' reachin' over to her. Sure enough she'd taken her field down. I took her into my arms, not surprised to find her t'in little body shakin'. She pulled away quickly, but dat didn' surprise me either. I accepted her retreat an' stayed where I was.
"How do you know?" She asked me, puzzled.
"For most of my life, no one wanted me either. No one accepted me, because I'm different. But I've found people who don't care that I'm different, because they're different too. They like me for who I am on the inside." I explained.
Hannah t'ought 'bout dat for a few minutes. "Can I meet them?" She asked finally.
"That's partly why I'm here. See, one of them runs a school for people like us. His name is Professor Xavier. He started the school so that people like us have a place to get an education and learn how to use our special powers at the same time. He sent me down here to talk to you about it."
"I'd like to see it." Hannah said. "Would I have a room and a bed and good food to eat?"
I nearly cried, rememberin' my own street-kid-existance. "Of course. And lots of people your own age, and grown-up people to talk to, like me, who understand some of what you're going through."
"Okay. It beats staying here."
"Yeah. Do you have parents or anybody we should tell about this?" I had to ask even t'ough I knew she didn'.
"No. I told you nobody wants me."
"Well you know what, Hannah? I want you. And I know Professor Xavier and everyone else at the school will want you too." I smiled at her. She smiled back at me an' den frowned.
"What about the police?"
"They know I was sent here by Professor Xavier. I'm sure they won't mind you coming with me. Don't worry about it." I assured her.
Suddenly, in my head, I hear a very familiar voice. A voice dat made me cringe, much as I tried not to. "You be takin' too long."
I realized den dat when I had spoken in t'ought to de Guild, Bella Donna had heard me. She was a telepath after all. I glanced into de shadows at de end of de alley, knowin' dat de Guild had moved dere, as well as above us on de rooftops, durin' de conversation. Dey were determined to keep all eyes on me. Tryin' not to let Hannah know it, I rolled my eyes an' t'ought back in a very sarcastic an' dangerous tone,
"You try communicatin' wit' a deaf mute an' see how long it takes. Gimme a break. I mean it."
Hannah looked at me. "Who are you talking to in your head?" She asked.
I blinked. How did she know...? "No one. Nevermind." I signed back quickly. "Come on, do you want to go now?"
Hannah nodded, looking briefly at de shadows an' den turnin' her attention back to me. I knew she didn' see dem. Dey were visible only to de trained eye. I could see dem clearly if I wanted, but no one else could. I stood up an' took Hannah's hand. Together, we walked out of de alley.
Only one police car was left. Captain Descartes looked at me. "I was gettin' worried...didn' know what was goin' on in dere."
"Sorry Captain. Dese t'ings take time. An' patience." I explained wit' a lopsided grin. "Dis little one is gon' come back to de school wit' me, to meet Professor Xavier an' see 'bout goin' to school dere...if dat's okay wit' you."
"Certainly." De Captain agreed. "Mais, you mus' realize dat she can' jus' leave wit'out bein' examined by a physician. We can' run de risk of sendin' her to New York wit' a disease or somethin'."
I knelt down in front of Hannah again. "We have to go to see a doctor so he can make sure you don't have any contageous diseases you don't know about. Is that okay?"
"Yes." Hannah signed back. "I don't want to make anybody sick at the school."
I chuckled an' stood. Hannah put her hand back in mine instantly. She didn' trust de police captain. I didn' blame her. "Dat's fine, Captain." I nodded. "I can take her to de hospital right now if you want. We'd like to leave as soon as possible."
"Very well. I'll leave you two alone den. Once de doctors give you de ok, you're free to take her to de school. T'ank you for comin'."
Captain Descartes got into his car an' left after dat. Hannah an' I started walkin' towards de hospital, an', like b'fore, de Guild members, hidden in shadows, followed. Deir constant supervision was makin' me claustrophobic. I sighed, slightly annoyed. Jus' what did dey t'ink I was gon' do, anyway? I tossed out a warnin' to my former sister-in-law in t'ought.
"Back off, Bella Donna..."
A laugh echoed in my mind. It was a sound I didn't like. "We makin' you nervous, Jade?"
"Claustrophobic an' pissed off is more accurate." I replied angrily. "D'you actually t'ink I want to be here? I don' wan' be here any more'n y'all wan' me here, so back off an' let me do my job so I can leave, which is what we all want."
I noticed Bella Donna didn' bother replyin' to dat comment. As Hannah an' I walked along, I also noticed dat dey did as I asked. Dey backed right off, perhaps rememberin' how dangerous I could be when angered.
When Hannah an' I arrived at de hospital, I was almost shocked to learn dey knew we were comin'. Captain Descartes mus' have called dem an' tol' someone dere to expect us. Kinda nice of 'im; saved us from havin' to wait or be hassled wit' any red tape. I stayed wit' Hannah nearly de entire time we were dere, mainly b'cause none of de nurses or doctors on duty knew sign language.
"Why are they only speaking to you?" Hannah signed to me in exasperation at one point. I played translator very well, but it made for everythin' takin' a lot longer den it normally would, had de hospital staff been able to talk directly to deir young patient.
"Because they don't know sign language." I signed back. "This is going to take awhile."
"Oh." Hannah's face looked crestfallen. I got de impression she wasn' really t'rilled wit' havin' to be dere, even if she didn' mind havin' tests run on her to make sure she didn' have anythin' wrong wit' her.
A couple hours later, once Hannah was safe an' secure in a hospital room, waitin' further tests an' de results of de tests dey'd taken already, she looked over at me curiously. When we were alone, I hadn' been payin' much attention; my mind was elsewhere, an' she picked up on dat, perceptive kid dat she was. Truth be told, someone was nearby; someone I desperately wanted to see an' yet desperately didn' want to.
"What's wrong, Jackie?" Hannah asked, gettin' out of her bed an' standing beside de chair I was seated in.
I looked at her, blinkin', unsure how to respond to dat. "I'm sorry, Hannah. Just lost in my own thoughts and memories. I grew up in New Orleans, just like you have. Haven't been here in awhile."
"You missed home." She replied with a frank look on her young face. "It might not be much help, but why don't you go for a walk and look out windows and stuff? I'll be okay here while you're gone."
Part of me resisted. Dat part of me didn' wan' go. Didn' wan' see him. But de other part of me, de part dat missed him an' missed Nawlins...dat part managed to override de other part an' I found myself noddin' my head. "That's a good idea. Then, before you and I leave, maybe, we can take a walk down to the maternity ward and look at the babies. Would you like that?"
Hannah's eyes lit up like orange stars. "Oh I'd love that!" She quickly signed. "Thanks."
"Okay. Now you get back into bed, and I'll go for my walk. I won't be long, I promise."
I left de hospital room an' started walkin' along de corridors, careful to note de room number b'fore I left. Didn' wan' end up gettin' lost an' bein' unable to find my way back to Hannah wit'out assistance. For a girl who was trained by de Thieves Guild, dat would have been unacceptable an' more'n a little embarrassin'.
Somehow, I wound up in de hospital's cafeteria. I was hungry, but dat wasn' all dat guided me dere. Quickly glancin' 'round an' feelin' disappointed when I didn' see him even t'ough I felt his presence, I bought a bowl of chicken noodle soup an' sat down at one of de tables wit' it. Once I was seated, bein' watched intently by de other people dere, I felt his presence grow stronger. He was comin', I could feel him. I looked 'round 'gain an' still didn' see him. "Come out, come out, wherever you are..." I whispered into my soup, knowin' he would do jus' dat an' prob'ly succeed in scarin' de daylights outta me. He didn', t'ough. I saw his shadow fall from behin' me b'fore he spoke.
"Y'know, you make tryin' to sneak up on you rather hard."
"Isn' dat de point?" I asked b'fore turnin' an' lookin' at him. My heart skipped a beat when I saw him an' I willed it to stop doin' dat. He hadn' changed a bit. Same lanky-but-fit build, same easy, quirky smile, same sparkly blue eyes, same flamin' red hair. I swallowed hard an' motioned to de chair in front of me, across de table. "Have a seat?"
I waited until he was seated b'fore I spoke 'gain, pretendin' to be concentratin' on eatin' my fastly-coolin' soup. "Dey know you're here?"
He shrugged. "Prob'ly. But you know me...never been one to follow de rules. Even when dose same rules are bein' made an' enforced by a professional assassin." He paused an' looked me over approvingly. "You look good."
I tilted my head slightly an' de ghost of a smile crossed my lips. "So do you. How is everyone?" I asked, not wantin' to get to de real reason he was visitin' me.
"Not bad...same ol' go, y'know?"
I nodded, wishin' I was still part of de same ol' go. "Oui."
"You're pretty good wit' dat little girl..." He commented, obviously not wantin' to get to de real reason either. I couldn' blame him. So much time had passed...
"Yeah...wouldn' have accepted de mission, only I didn' really have a choice. It was me or no one. Couldn' stand to have some kid end up dead jus' b'cause I didn' wan' bend de rules for a few hours." I chuckled when I saw him raise his eyebrows. "Oh c'mon, Emil, you know she would've. Dey woulda killed her or institutionalized her or somethin'. At least dis way, if she stays at de school, she'll get a home, an education an' learn how to use her powers properly. Plus, she'll be 'round people who won' reject her for bein' who she is..."
"Dat's true." Emil was t'oughtful. "Jackie...for what it's worth...an' it prob'ly ain' worth a hell of a lot by now...I'm sorry..."
"Je sais." I replied sadly. "You an' Mercy an' Zoe an' Remy an' Tante Mattie. Am I right? I always figured dat was 'bout it."
He nodded. "Oui. How'd you know?"
I chuckled 'gain. "Tante Mattie's like a mother to all of us, she wouldn' turn any of us 'way, period. Remy's my brother, dat's obvious. Mercy an' Zoe always accepted me for who I was. An' you...well...y'know."
A slight flush graced Emil's normally pale face. "Really miss you, chere..."
"I miss you too." An' I did, prob'ly more'n I missed de city itself. Somewhere 'long de way, long b'fore I was excommunicated, Emil an' I had formed a relationship dat went much deeper den mere friendship. My havin' no choice but to leave de life I had in New Orleans had hurt me in ways I couldn' explain to anyone but Emil, because he understood dem, I realized. He felt de same way.
"...I should prob'ly go..." Emil's voice was quiet, thick wit' emotion.
I nodded, fightin' back tears. "Yeah...I...I should be gettin' back to Hannah...de tests prob'ly won' take much longer...den I'll get outta here 'gain so Bella Donna an' de others can quit bein' so paranoid..."
Emil rose from his seat an' looked down at me. Suddenly, actin' impulsively, de way he almost always acted, he took hold of my arm an' gently pulled me to my feet b'side him. B'fore I knew what was happenin', b'fore I had time to react, he brushed his lips against mine in a soft caress dat was over as quickly as it started. He smiled dat easy smile of his an' whispered "Take care of yourself, Jade." b'fore lettin' me go an' disappearin' out of de cafeteria as stealthily as he'd appeared.
"You too..." I whispered to no one in particular as I watched him leave, a sob of longin' almost escapin'. I'd almost forgotten how I felt for him, how much I cared 'bout him. I tossed de rest of my soup into de garbage an' left de cafeteria, keepin' my senses open even t'ough I knew he was long gone.
Hannah smiled brightly at me when I returned to her room. "Hi!" She sighed. I saw de doctor standin' dere, waitin' for me. "He wants to talk to you." Hannah informed me.
"Thank you, Hannah." I signed back and turned to de doctor.
"She's clear." He tol' me. "No diseases, nothin' dat would cause any worry. You're free to go anytime you're ready, jus' let de nurse at de front desk know on your way out. Captain Descartes took care of all de expenses for you."
"T'anks." I told him. "We have plans to stop by de maternity ward an' look in at de babies on our way out, if dat's okay?"
"Dat's fine. Have a nice day. Say good-bye to her for me, would you? An' tell her she was de best patient I've had in months."
I laughed. "I certainly will. She'll be t'rilled to hear it."
Hannah tilted her head at me. "What?" She signed.
I signed back to her everythin' he'd told me an' she smiled broadly. "So we can go now?"
Once she was ready, de two of us walked, hand-in-hand down to de maternity ward an' stood outside de nursery, lookin' in at all de beds filled wit' sleepin' babies.
"Dey're so tiny!" Hannah said as we looked. She tried to read de names on de charts, to see what each of de babies was named, but mos' of dem couldn' be made out. When she finally tired of watchin' dem, she looked up at me. "Let's go now. I've been thinking about that school and I'd really like to see it."
"Okay, cherie. Anything you wish." I replied, takin' her hand wit' a smile. She had stolen my heart as successfully as any t'ief, an' I knew Professor Xavier an' everyone else back in Westchester would love her too. She was a gem of a child, an' b'tween havin' her in my life an' seein' Emil for de first time in years, I felt I owed Professor Xavier an apology for almost turnin' down de mission. Had I known how worth-while it would be, I wouldn' have hesitated.