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Chapter 1

With Friends Like This ... - REVIEW THIS STORY

Written by Amanda Sichter
Last updated: 01/02/2007 02:01:11 AM

Chapter 1

It was a bitch of a way to die.

Gambit's face twisted with wry astonishment as he looked down at the three adamantium claws protruding from his abdomen. There definitely should have been more pain, he thought. ~Unless he's cut straight through my spine.~

And then the claws were withdrawn and he could hear the grate of metal upon bone as Wolverine pulled the middle claw from the hole it had made in his spinal column. ~So I was right~ thought Gambit, and then the support the claws had given him was gone and he was falling on legs suddenly numb and useless and the pavement was coming up to meet his face and it was only at the last second that he could get his right hand down in front of him and prevent himself from kissing concrete.

Even so, he smacked the ground hard and it drove his breath right out of him. As he struggled, struggled so hard, to draw another breath Gambit mentally catalogued the damage. A punctured lung, he thought, and some serious lacerating of his innards. And now, on his chest, he could feel the spreading warmth of blood as it sprayed from the three wounds that sheared right through his body, from back to front. But below his mid-waist, there was nothing, no feeling, no pain, no movement.

Wolverine's hand locked on his shoulder then and pulled him over, rolled him up and onto Wolverine's legs, so he was cradled in Logan's arms and on Logan's knees and to someone looking on, it would have looked like solicitude, but there was no comfort in Logan's gaze, only bright, bright anger and a swelling hate.

'Couldn't let her go, could you, Cajun?' growled Logan. 'I told you to let her go, warned you what would happen, but you couldn't let her go, could you? What was it, gumbo, she wasn't pretty enough for you? Or was she just some poor, terrified sap like the Morlocks you helped massacre? Can't you let even one little, twisted, terrified girl go on living?'

~So that's what I'm going to die for,~ thought Gambit, and it was so stupid, so incredibly stupid, that a laugh bubbled out of his chest, a short, gasping chuckle, followed by a bright, scarlet bubble of blood that broke and flowed over his chin.

Running footsteps now and then a face in his view, a face he recognised, her mature features twisted in grief and guilt and obscure pain.

'Oh, God, oh, God,' she screamed and then fell to her knees beside the pair of them.

Logan looked ready to snap out something, to tell her to get back, but she reached out before he could and gently smoothed Gambit's hair back from his forehead.

'She got you, oh God, I knew she would, I told you not to go after her, she was too dangerous. You tried to be a hero and look what happens.'

Logan's face froze, so suddenly still it seemed like a mask, but in his eyes was a dawning horror like Gambit had never seen before.

'What happened?' he whispered, staring into Gambit's eyes, but it was the woman who began to tell the story.

~What happened?~ thought Gambit . . .

. . . he had been doing his banking, dealing with the manager at the counter at the rear of the bank, ensuring his accounts were in order. Moving around as he did, and with his numerous aliases and large accounts, he found it easier to keep everything organised if he dealt with the manager at a quiet counter.

And then she had walked in and something about her, some element of tensionin her, had screamed a warning at him, had pulled his eyes to her, and when he saw that her hands terminated in savage, razor-sharp claws, he had shifted his position, putting himself into fighting stance. But instead of pouncing or threatening violence, she had looked directly at one of the two security guards that stood by the doors and she had chirped.

The guard's head had exploded.

She had turned to the other guard and his expression had barely time to melt into horror, and his hand had no more than reached the butt of his gun, when she looked at him directly and chirped again. Bits of the guard's rib-cage and intestine had sprayed from the hole that had once been his back, over the customers waiting in the teller's queue.

There was no resistance after that.

As the girl quietly took the bundles of money from the terrified tellers, Gambit melted into the shadows at the back of the branch, his hand tightly clamped over the manager's arm, holding her still. The girl was obviously a mutant, but whether her chirp was an ultra-sonic pulse or a doorway into limbo or created a vacuum, it was a deadly and indiscriminate weapon. But she had to aim she had to aim directly at her target and that gave him his only hope.

So when she ran out of the door, Gambit hissed quietly to the manager, 'I'm going after her.'

'No,' the manager's face was a picture of horror. 'She's too dangerous.'

'Exactly,' Gambit grinned. 'Dat's why I've got to take her down now, before she get too much of a taste for killin'.'

His run was swift and silent and made with deadly intent. As he got through the front doors of the bank, he looked both ways and just caught a glimpse of her turning down the street to the right. He had followed her, his hand stealing to the cards in his duster, but then slipping away from them. If he used them, if he caught her attention in any way, she would turn towards him and then he would be lost.

So he ran after her on cat-soft feet, his long stride eating the distance between them as they ran down the near-deserted thoroughfare. One, two, three blocks flew past and then he was on her, his footsteps no more than a whisper, his breathing lost in her heavy, rasping pants. As she ran over the pavement, he had judged his distance and *launched*, his hands reaching forward and clasping, pulling her back, stopping her dead.

Before she could think, could twist in his grasp, Gambit got one hand over her eyes and twisted her head back, so she couldn't see to aim her deadly chirp at anyone and force him to free her, and he slid his other arm around her throat and planted his knee in her spine so she arched back into his grasp and he could pull, pull against her throat until she would pass out and he could be safe.

Then her hands were coming back at him, bright claws extended as she reached blindly backwards, the razor-sharp tips scoring across his jeans and down into the flesh on his hips, so traceries of blood began to trickle down his legs and the pain was exquisite but still he held on, because he didn't dare let go, and then someone was behind him, he could hear them shouting, but he couldn't make out the words, but he recognised ~Logan!~ and knew that Wolverine would help him and then she was reaching her hands back over his shoulders to his eyes, she was coming for his face and he pulled himself back from the lethal claws that were coming for him and Logan was shouting at him and then something had punched him in the back and taken the breath from him and she had slipped from his hands and he had reached for her as she had started to run, but he couldn't reach her, couldn't move forward, his legs wouldn't work and then he had looked down and seen . . .

Gambit locked his eyes on Wolverine's hand. The bright, adamantium claws that had sliced him so swiftly were gone, but a fine spray-pattern of his blood stained the back of that hand, the same scarlet blood that, even now, Gambit could feel creating a pool beneath him.

And then Logan's voice growled out, 'Get an ambulance,' and the manager's hand touched his face once more and then they were alone.

'You went feral once too often, Logan,' gasped out Gambit, his eyes locked on Wolverine's. 'Stormy never goin' to forgive you for dis one.'

Pain, pain such as Gambit had never seen, transfigured Logan's face, until Gambit thought he could even see tears in those eyes. If eyes were the window to the soul, Gambit was looking on a man whose soul had just been shattered into a hundred thousand pieces.

And then pain shook Gambit, forced him to close his eyes as his lung spasmed inside of him, sharp, jagged edges of agony ripping a cry from his throat. Logan's arms tightened around him and even as they did, the pain went, lost in the numbness that was rising upwards from his waist. Gambit had never thought he would be grateful to be feeling the symptoms of shock, but this time he was.

Opening his eyes, he looked up at Logan. 'Never,' he gasped, and then started again when he had gathered more breath. 'Never wanted revenge on de X-Men,' he said. 'Jus' cause you leave me to die, don' mean I need revenge. But it looks like Gambit get his revenge anyway.'

'Gumbo, I never never wanted I thought you were she was just a girl like Marrow I thought it was happening all over again.' Logan's eyes suddenly filled with tears and they pattered down on Gambit, tracing swirling patterns in the blood that stained his chest.

'Doesn' matter,' gasped Gambit, and coughed up another bright bubble of blood. When he could speak again, he said, 'Tell Jean-Luc I loved him.'

Wolverine nodded fervently, but Gambit had closed his eyes again, trying desperately to draw air into his failing lungs. He could feel his heart's laboured beating in his chest, and the cold numbness was creeping up over his throat.

And then Gambit's eyes flew open again and he looked straight at Wolverine. 'Gambit live a bad life, Logan, but die a good death.' He tried to say more, but the creeping numbness had reached his mouth and he couldn't get his lips to move, couldn't get the words out. So it was only in his head that he finished the sentence ~So which one will win, do you think? Who will come to claim me? Heaven or Hell?~

Then the darkness rose up behind his eyes and took him away.

Because Logan couldn't hear the words, he didn't understand the wry smile that twisted Gambit's face. But he watched as those fire-bright eyes went dim and the Cajun's chest rose once more and hitched and never rose again.

He could hear the wail of the ambulance coming too late now, too late from the time his claws had slid into Gambit's unprotected back like an avenging angel's sword. Logan knew they wouldn't take him away, would assume the damage had been done by the girl, and he was suddenly too weary, too bone-deep tired to try and explain his role in this fiasco.

But he knew he would go back to the X-Men and he would tell them and it would tear them into little pieces and scatter them to the winds. And then he would have to go to New Orleans and Jean-Luc LeBeau and explain what he had done that he had killed the man's son and that it would hurt more than anything he had ever done in his life.

Gambit may not have wanted revenge, but he had it in spades.

Logan looked down at his hand, the bright scarlet pattern of blood drying there, and knew that he would never be clean again.


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