It was uncharacteristically cold in New Orleans, even for mid-January, and Emil Lapin shivered as he pulled his trenchcoat tighter around his body. Emil made a solitary figure as he walked along the streets of the city, his trenchcoat covering up his traditional Thieves Guild uniform, but not doing much else to keep him warm He wasn't fully sure why he had chosen this day to visit the graveyard, but he went anyway. As he walked he glanced up at the slate-grey sky and frowned.
"I don' like de look of dat sky..." He thought to himself. Emil knew why he didn't like the look of the sky, but that knowledge didn't make him any more comfortable. He unsuccessfully tried to push the thoughts out of his mind as he turned into the graveyard.
Emil enjoyed going to the graveyard, because he was at peace when he was there. There he could be alone with his own thoughts and feelings without having to block out those around him, because the people he was visiting were dead. After a brief stop at the graves of his parents, Emil went over to where Tante Mattie was buried. Mattie had been the spiritual guide and mother-figure for the remaining members of the New Orleans Thieves and Assassins Guilds for many years. She was a healer and an empath, and she had passed away five months before. In an effort to have her powers live on in the Guild, she had passed on her empathic abilities to Emil shortly before she died, having known all his life he was the only one with a mind strong enough to handle the influx of emotions.
What Mattie hadn't planned on was that at the same time, Emil would gain another power, one that would work with the empathy. He began having visions, mostly while he was sleeping, but sometimes when he was awake he would get glimpses of things flash through his mind. When the visions occured, Emil would also sense the emotions of the people involved in the visions, and the feelings were often very overwhelming. From time to time, he'd been unable to deal with the power of his abilities and had subsequently put himself into comas in an attempt to make the pain go away. He suffered from headaches almost constantly, and no medication available helped. In desperation, Emil had gone to Westchester, New York to talk to Professor Charles Xavier about his newfound powers, at the suggestion of his best friend Remy LeBeau, who was, aside from patriarch of the Guild, also a member of the X-Men, a group of mutant heroes founded by Professor Xavier.
Xavier had tried to help Emil understand his abilities, and had also put up mental shields in Emil's mind, so that Emil wouldn't be bombarded with the emotions of everyone around him. He taught Emil how to use those shields, and for a few months Emil's empathy would only kick in during visions. Recently, however, his powers seemed to be getting stronger, and his shields were weakening. He was finding himself more and more unable to block out the influx of emotions that assaulted his mind on a daily basis. Hence his enjoyment of the graveyard. There were no emotions there to make his head hurt.
Emil looked at Tante Mattie's grave and sighed. "Why me, Tante? I didn' ask for dis...one or de other, maybe, sure, but both..." Tears welled up in his sparkly blue eyes. "I don' know if I can do dis..."
A cold gust of wind blew through the graveyard, making his trenchcoat flap around his legs with the force of the breeze. Emil shivered again and wished with all his heart that Tante Mattie was there to talk to him and comfort him the way she used to do. She had helped his father raise him from the day he was born, his mother having died five minutes after giving birth to him, and Mattie had been the closest thing to a real mother he'd ever known. He wasn't alone in feeling that way; most of the other Thieves and Assassins could say the same thing. They all missed the traiteur more than they'd usually let on.
"Jean tol' me it was her fault dat I started havin' visions...she had a feelin' my mind was more susceptible to t'ings like dat. Said if she'd known I'd end up bein' mutated, she never woulda taken me to de Astral Plane, not even once. I don' t'ink it's her fault, she didn' know for sure. An' I didn' know you were gon' pass your empathy onto me..." Emil's voice grew quiet and was carried away in the wind. "I can' do dis..."
Somewhere in his mind, Emil heard another voice. "Yes you can, chil'. I knew from de day you were born dat you'd be strong enough to do it. What happened can' be undone, an' I b'lieve Jean tol' you to t'ink of it as a gift. Cherish it. Use it to de best of your ability. You're stronger den you give yourself credit for, an' you know it."
"Tante Mattie...I'm scared..."
"Of course you are, chil'. You ain' used to dis kind of t'ing. But you'll get used to it eventually. You'll learn how to deal wit' it without feelin' de need to put yourself into a coma." Tante Mattie's voice replied.
Emil shook his head miserably. "It's only been a few months, but I've already seen so many t'ings...felt so much pain an' misery. I can' do a t'ing 'bout any of it. I can' even stop it from hurtin' me. Professor Xavier's shields ain' workin' so well anymore..."
"Your powers are getting stronger. Your mind is openin' up to de deeper part of your abilities. I wouldn' be surprised if you ended up actually bein' a telepath instead of jus' an visionary empath. Perhaps Jean shouldn' have taken you to de Astral Plane..."
"I don' t'ink dis is Jean's fault...but you're prob'ly right. I t'ink dis is b'cause of Avatar an' what he did to me b'fore Christmas. I ain' felt right since den...t'ings have been changin'. Gettin' t'oughts along wit' de emotions now. Even when I ain' havin' a vision. De visions ain' changin', but de rest of it is. I...I don' know..." Emil sobbed quietly. "I want it to stop..."
Emil was so wrapped up in his conversation with Tante Mattie, who was really just her voice inside his own imagination, that he let his guard down and did not sense the arrival of someone else in the graveyard. Had that person been desirous to do him harm, he could have succeeded easily, but he wasn't, and only managed to startle Emil out of his thoughts.
"Y'know, Professor Xavier tol' you he could shut it all off if you wanted him to."
Emil jumped and whirled around. "Remy!" He exclaimed.
Remy reached out and put a hand on his cousin's shoulder. "Relax, Lapin." He noticed Emil's body was shaking, and he wasn't sure it was entirely due to the cold. "An' I'm right, aren' I?"
"But you ain' so sure if you really wan' shut it off. In a sense you're gettin' used to it, even now. It's b'comin' part of who you are. I'm willin' to bet you'd feel pretty lost if you woke up some mornin' an' dere was nothin' dere anymore. Right?" Remy said.
"Well...I guess...yeah..." Emil admitted.
"Give it a chance. Give yourself a chance to adapt to it and figure out a way to deal with it. De Professor's offer will always be on de table if it gets to be too much for you to handle."
"Can he put stronger shields up in my mind, b'cause de ones dere now ain' doin' de trick anymore...dey ain' blockin' mos' of what comes."
"I don' know. I don' know if he'd want to...it might do more damage dan we realize. He might not want to risk hurtin' you more den you've already been hurt."
"Hmm..." Emil frowned at the sky as the wind blew around them again.
"What?" Remy asked.
"It's comin'." Emil whispered. Remy was barely able to hear his cousin.
"What?" He tried again. All he wanted was to know what Emil was talking about.
"Few days 'go, had a vision. Knew it was gon' get cold. An' it's comin'. De snow." Emil explained. "It ain' snowed in Nawlins even once in our whole lives, Remy, but it's gon' snow today. An' it's gon' snow a lot. De whole city's gon' shut down. Dere ain' nothin' anyone can do 'bout it."
"Lemme get dis straight. You get visions 'bout de weather?!" Remy demanded.
"I get visions 'bout everythin', Rem. Dey don' discriminate." Emil chuckled bitterly. "I'm sure if I had my powers back on nine-eleven, I woulda foreseen dat too. I saw de whole Avatar t'ing happenin', but de vision wasn' clear enough to give me any kind of idea on what exactly it was or how to stop it. It was too late when I figured it out." He rubbed his eyes tiredly.
"Headache?" Remy asked sympathetically.
"Constantly. Tired a lot too. Tired of bein' awake an' havin' all dese emotions in my head all de time. Tired of all of dis. Sometimes I feel like goin' up to Gris-Gris an' sayin' somethin' to drive him off de deep end so he'll kill me."
"Aw don' worry, Remy, I ain' gon' do it. But I do feel like it sometimes."
"Emil..." Remy said softly. "I don' know what to say. I can' help you."
"No kiddin', Rem. Dat's why I come here a lot. To get away from everythin' an' everyone. I don' know what it is, but I don' pick up anythin' when I'm in here...jus' myself. It's peaceful here. Keepin' me sane."
Remy nodded. "I understand. I'm glad you've got a place where you can go to get some peace. An' you can come talk to me anytime you feel de need to, y'know. Don' forget dat."
"T'anks." Emil smiled gratefully at his best friend. "Dat means a lot."
"So..." Remy changed de subject. "When's de snow gon' start, d'you know?"
Emil looked back up at the sky. The first few snowflakes were just beginning to fall from the clouds. "Right now."
"How can you--" Remy began. Then he saw the snowflakes falling and laughed. "Nevermind. C'mon let's get home b'fore it gets too bad."
By the time the cousins were back at the Guild's Garden District safehouse, the snow was falling heavily around them in almost blizzard-like conditions. Theoren Marceaux, older cousin of both and the biggest worrywart in the Guild, was waiting for them at the front door, shaking his head in disgust at the weather.
"Last time I saw weather like dis I was a kid." He told them as they shook the snow off their coats and stomped their feet before entering the house. "Looks like it's gon' be a doozy of a storm too."
"Oh it is." Emil assured him confidently. He winked at his cousins and walked up the staircase to the second floor of the house without saying another word.