"Given the information you just told me, Theoren, I believe it would be wise for you to take a little trip up here to Westchester so we can run some tests."
Dr. Henry McCoy's voice was clear as a bell over the phone lines even across the vast distance that separated Westchester, NY from Slidell, LA. Theoren Marceaux, co-third-in-command of the New Orleans Unified Guild of Thieves and Assassins sighed and swallowed hard as he listened into the receiver. He was scared to death of what those tests might prove, and even more scared of becoming a burden to his Guild family.
"I don' wan' dem to know what's goin' on, Dr. McCoy." Theo said quietly. "Not until we get de test results...Dat's why I'm callin' you from Slidell...Tante Mattie's old fam'ly home...instead of de safehouse in Nawlins."
"I don't advise you to keep it a secret from all of them, Theo, but I do understand your concern. At the very least, you should inform Gambit of the events and the course of action you're taking."
"You're right, Dr. McCoy. As always." Theoren sighed again, this time in defeat and acknowledgement. "I'll talk to Remy. An' I'll be dere tomorrow."
"Very well. I'll be expecting you."
After Theoren hung up the receiver, he sat staring at it for a very long time before he moved. The only light in the room was cast by two candles on the mantlepiece that he had lit when he arrived. As he sat there, listening to the quiet of the dark night around the small house, he couldn't help but shiver. "I'm scared..." He whispered to the shadows cast by the candles before he got up and blew them out.
Two hours later, Theoren was back at the Garden District safehouse that housed the Guilds. Remy LeBeau, their patriarch, had recently come down for a brief vacation away from his duties with the X-Men, and after careful consideration, Theoren decided the best place to find his cousin would be on the balcony on the second floor. It was a beautiful mild evening, and Theoren knew only too well how much Remy liked to enjoy such evenings.
Sure enough, there was Remy, a powerful mutant with strange red-on-black eyes, standing gracefully at the railing of the balcony, taking in the fresh air without a care in the world.
"What's on your mind, Theo?"
Remy had sensed his cousin's approach, even though Theoren moved silently. All the thieves had keen senses and could pick up on the whereabouts of their guild-mates without seeing or hearing them. It was just something that had been trained into them from birth.
Theoren joined Remy at the railing with a sigh. He silently cursed himself for it...he never sighed. Ever. But lately he seemed to be doing a lot more of it, and he hated it. "Can we talk?"
"Of course." Remy replied, turning his head and looking at the older man. He noticed that Theo was looking a lot older these days, as if he had a lot more to worry him and bring him down. "Guild business, or...?"
"Sort of. More personal t'ough." Theoren replied. "I'm goin' up to see Dr. McCoy tomorrow...gon' get some tests done..."
"Theo what's wrong?" Remy asked sharply. There weren't many Guild members left. Those that lived in the safehouse were the only ones, and Remy didn't want anything happening to any of them, least of all Theoren, who was the father-figure now that Jean-Luc and Marius were long gone.
"I dunno...it might be nothin', y'know? Dat's why I didn' tell any of de others. Why worry 'em all an' have it turn out to be nothin'."
"Theoren...tell me." Remy ordered quietly.
"You know how on dat show, CSI, de head guy, what's his name, I can' remember it...you know, de grey haired guy wit' de glasses...how his hearin' goin' on him? Well..."
"It ain' my hearin', Remy, although part of me wishes maybe it was..." Theoren sighed. "It's my eyes, Rem. I t'ink I'm goin' blind. An' I've never been so scared in my whole life..."
"I can see why you don' wan' tell dem yet..." Remy commented. "Oh Theoren...do you wan' me to come wit' you? I will y'know..."
Theoren nodded. "Yeah I know you will. But no, it's okay. Maybe I'll jus' need glasses or somethin', y'know? Den Genard can get me back for all de times I teased him 'bout his..." He tries to laugh and it gets stuck in his throat. Somehow they both know it's not going to be like that.
"Well, okay. I'll jus' tell de others you wanted to discuss some t'ings in person wit' Professor Xavier. Dat'll keep 'em from worryin' 'bout you too much. An' hey." Remy puts a hand on Theoren's shoulder. "No matter what happens, no matter what de outcome is, we're here for you, don' ever forget dat."
"T'anks Remy. I really appreciate dis..."
Early the next morning, Theoren slipped off to the airport and got on a flight to New York. Within a few hours, he was getting out of a cab outside the gates of the Xavier School for Gifted Youngsters, which was mainly a fancy way of hiding the fact that it housed the mutant outlaws known as the X-Men. To be sure, the building was a school, but the X-Men also lived and trained there. Theoren was met at the door by Dr. McCoy, who Theo had phoned from the airport on his way there.
Dr. McCoy was a study in contrasts. Codenamed the "Beast" for good reason, he was just that. A big, furry beast of a man with fangs and claws and masses of blue fur covering his body. He was also a brilliant scientist and one of the original members of the X-Men. He was a kind and straightforward doctor, and the members of the Unified Guilds went to him when they needed medical attention because they trusted him and he took care of them.
"Good morning, Theoren! I'm very glad to see you arrived so speedily. We can begin on the tests immediately, if that is alright with you. That way, I should have the results back by early this afternoon and you can be on your way back home where you belong."
Theoren sighed and gave the big blue doctor a small smile. "Dat's fine wit' me, I jus' wan' dis over wit'."
"Understandable, of course." Dr. McCoy said as they walked along. "Professor Xavier isn't home right now, he was called away to Europe on emergency business, but he asked me to tell you that if you need to talk to him, he'd be more than willing to discuss things and help you in any way he can."
"Remind me to t'ank him for dat later." Theoren said thoughtfully.
Within minutes they reached the lower levels of the school, where the MedLab was housed. Without any more ceremony, Dr. McCoy began testing Theoren's eyes and optic impulses and brainwaves. The testing lasted an hour and by the time they were done, Theoren was exhausted, and Dr. McCoy had all the information he needed. As luck would have it, Theoren's eyes started acting up on him during the testing, which gave Dr. McCoy the perfect opportunity to examine what was happening closely as it happened.
"Would you prefer to wait in the waiting room while I analyze these tests, or somewhere else?" He asked his patient.
"I don' care. De waitin' room's fine." Theoren replied.
"Very well. This shouldn't take long."
Forty-five minutes later, Dr. McCoy stuck his head out of the MedLab door and looked at Theoren. "Come back in, Theoren." He said. He waited for Theoren to sit before he spoke again. "I don't have the results of the C.A.T. scan yet, but those should be along in another hour or so. I believe they will only confirm what the other tests told me, so I'm going go to ahead and tell you now, without waiting for that test to come back."
Theoren took a deep breath, bracing himself for the worst. "Okay..."
"As you suspected yourself, you are going blind, and it is occurring at a rather accelerated rate, I'm sorry to say. There are measures we can take to slow down the process, such as glasses and surgery, but ultimately, those are not preventative or corrective measures. As far as I am able to discern, nothing we can do will prevent you from going blind eventually. Our actions will merely slow the process down."
Tears welled up in Theoren's brown eyes. "Dis can' be happenin'...I'm a computer specialist! I need my eyes..."
Dr. McCoy handed the thief a tissue and smiled supportively. "Theoren, tell me something. When you type, do you look at the keyboard?"
"Then why do you need your eyes to work on a computer?" Dr. McCoy was almost maddeningly logical and normally Theoren enjoyed talking with him, but right then it was driving him crazy.
"To see what I'm puttin' on de screen." He retorted.
Dr. McCoy shook his head. "All you need to do is sit at the computer and type. Have Emil or one of the other guild members watch the screen and tell you if you make a mistake, so you can correct it."
Theoren pouted, glared and crossed his arms in frustration. "Ain' de same." He muttered rebelliously.
"No, it isn't. But the fact of the matter is, Theoren, you are going blind and you need to think of things like this. Nothing is ever going to be the same for you again."
Theoren sighed. "Oui...I know...so what do we do now?"
"We begin by setting a date for surgery. I'm going to skip the glasses option immediately because the way your eyes are failing you, from the sides instead of the center, glasses will not help. The surgery will slow the process down, as I said before, and allow you more time to see things before you go completely blind."
"I ain' ever had surgery for anythin' in my whole life an' I ain' 'bout to start now..." Theo protested. Dr. McCoy sighed tolerently.
"Theoren, your eyes are deteriorating at a very rapid rate. I can't force you to have the surgery, but please allow me to shed some more light on the situation. Without the surgery, you will be completely without sight in six weeks. However, if you choose to have the surgery, your eyes could last six months to a year, perhaps even longer, if we've gotten to them in time. There is no guarantee with the surgery, but I can guarantee that without it, you'll be totally blind in six weeks. That much I know for certain."
Theoren took another deep breath and let it out slowly. "How 'bout a week from today?"
Dr. McCoy checked his calendar and made a note with a blue pen. "Perfect." He said, then looked at Theoren, a soft expression on his furry face. "It will take a lot of time and patience to adjust, my friend. But it will be okay."
"I hope you're right, Dr. McCoy."
Later that night, as Theoren arrived back home in New Orleans, he couldn't help but be amazed at himself. Already he'd noticed his other senses, particularly his senses of hearing, smell and touch, were beginning to be even more heightened as his eyesight deteriorated. He walked up to the safehouse, pausing at the door, with his hand on the knob. Through an open window in the living room, he could hear laughter and happy voices as his family spent some time relaxing together playing one of their favorite pastimes, a fun game they'd learned on television called "Win, Lose or Draw."
Theoren sighed and opened the door. The other guild members stopped in the fun as they sensed his presence and all heads turned to the living room door. At that exact moment, almost as if on cue, small patches of darkness appeared on either side of Theoren's eyes, cutting off his periferal vision completely, just enough to be noticable. He'd been noticing those patches off and on for a few weeks, but they'd always gone away if he blinked a few times. He tried this, blinking his eyes rapidly for a moment and then gave up, realizing the patches were permanent. He looked at his family, thieves and assassins alike, and saw the confusion in every face except one. Only Remy knew what the problem was.
"Theo, what's wrong? Why're you blinkin' like dat?" Claude Potier asked his best friend, concern in his voice.
Theoren sighed again and addressed the group. "Sorry I interrupted your game, mes amis, but I have somethin' to tell you. I don' know what Remy said 'bout where I went today..."
"He said you went to Westchester to talk to Professor Xavier 'bout somethin'. Is everythin' okay?" Bella Donna asked. Bella Donna Boudreaux was second-in-command of the Unified Guild and former matriarch of the Assassins Guild. It was her job to keep things running smoothly while Remy wasn't present.
"Well I did go to Westchester, but it wasn' to talk wit' de Professor." Theoren admitted. "I went dere to get Dr. McCoy to run some tests. I didn' tell you b'fore b'cause I didn' wan' worry you in case it was nothin'. But it ain' nothin', I know dat now. I'm goin' back next week for surgery."
"Theo...what...?" His young cousin and fellow computer specialist Emil Lapin managed to gasp out. Theoren almost couldn't hide a cringe. He knew his news was going to effect Emil very deeply, because in spite of the friction that often resulted when the two spent huge amounts of time together, Emil depended on Theoren and both knew it.
"Much as I hate to admit it...I'm gettin' old, guys. T'ings don' work quite de way dey used to anymore, it seems." Theoren joked half-heartedly. "Fact is, I'm goin' blind an' it can' be stopped. Dere's a good chance dat by dis time next year I won' be able to see any of you guys. An' y'know, dat scares me more den jus' 'bout anythin' else I've ever faced in my life."
"What do you need us to do, Theo?" Mercy asked. Mercy LeBeau was a cousin of Theoren and Emil's; she was also Remy's sister-in-law and unofficial mother-figure of the group since Tante Mattie had passed away.
"Well, you can start by not gettin' creeped out if I start starin' at you all of a sudden." Theo said. "B'cause I'll be damned if I'm gon' let myself forget what any of you look like. Help me figure out how I'm gon' make my other senses stronger so maybe I don' miss my eyes so much. Essentially once my eyesight goes, I'm gon' need you guys to be my eyes. I don' wan' be a helpless invalid, dat's not my nature an' we all know it, but I do admit I'm gon' need a lot of help, especially at first."
"We can do dat, no problem." Bella Donna spoke for all of them and the rest nodded.
"Dr. McCoy wants you all to come wit' me next week when I go for de surgery. He wants to talk to all of us 'bout adjustin' an' stuff." Theoren continued. "We got a lot of stuff to figure out, a lot of talkin' to do...an' myself, I got a lot of starin' at t'ings to do. But..."
"But nothin'. We can get t'rough dis. We can get t'rough anythin'." Mercy said, a determined edge to her voice. "De Lord may be takin' your eyesight from you, but He ain' takin' you from us or us from you, so we'll manage. Period."
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