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Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Chapter 7


Written by Madeleine Villerot-Taylor
Last updated: 01/02/2007 02:01:11 AM

Chapter 2

She approached the bed a bit less cautiously than the first time but his presence was completely overtaken by pain and she cringed from him. But she had to keep going. She needed to. Everyone else in the complex was either asleep or on guard duty outside. Even Mr. Sinister was gone on one of his mysterious trips. Her hand shook as she reached the bed and tried to grasp his fingers again. His pain almost overpowered her senses but she'd been drawn here for a reason. Against her better judgment. Even in her sheltered life she knew what had killed the cat.

He looked better. It was still horrible, the damage inflicted upon him. Mr. Sinister must have healed him somewhat, for some reason. She saw his eyes, rather his one eye open - the other one was covered by a bandage wrapped around his head. It startled her because it was red on a black background. But who was she to judge? She knew she was ugly -

He tried to speak but he couldn't move his jaw. She attempted to speak to him mind to mind but a kernel of frustration grew when she found she was completely blocked out. She motioned to try to let him know she couldn't speak with her mouth. He had very powerful psi-shields -

He must have felt her efforts or understood her signing because he then projected his question to her. # Where? #

His mind's voice was laced with slow pain pierced by stabs of true agony. She cringed away from it, away from him and he whimpered miserably, seeming to fall in on himself. She was torn by her desire to help and her need to avoid feeling his pain. Curiosity again got the better of her and she opened her mind to his once more.

She tried to answer his question tersely, trying to maintain control as she knew she must - but he hurt so much!

#I'm sorry.# His mind's voice whispered.

A tear leaked out from her closed eyes.

#I'm sorry, too. I wish I could help you. I know you are Remy LeBeau.# She could feel his surprise. #You are in one of Mr. Sinister's labs.# No surprise there.

#What yer name, petite?#

She blushed shyly, dropping her head to hide her ugliness.

#You not ugly, fille. You very pretty and I bet you have a beautiful name to match your beauty, non?#

What a strange accent his mind's voice had.

#It's Cajun, From the Bayou country in Louisiana.#

It didn't mean a thing to her. But she looked up and saw him gazing at her with his one undamaged eye, not turning from her as every other being had. Beautiful?

#My name is Celestine,# she finally told him.

#I was right. Tres joli!# And he smiled slightly, trying to ignore the quivers of pain it sent through his system. His eyes closed and she gasped in empathic response. He must have sensed her ability and tried to dampen his feelings but there was just too much pain. She squeezed his hand gently and he opened his surface thoughts to her again.

#Mr. LeBeau. I need to go now. I can't be caught here or I will be punished severely. But I will come back. You aren't alone.#

And again he smiled very tentatively and the smile could light a room, she thought as she returned it with a grin and crept out into the corridor.

Everyone currently on the 'roster' had been recalled and the X Men had searched all locations where they had previously fought Sinister or his Marauders. But no luck. The mood about the house was strange, quiet yet angry and sad and frustrated all at once. The grounds had gotten a lot of rain in the past week due to Storm's state of mind. Duty had called when they needed to go to Florida and stop a gang of mutants from destroying the Cape Canaveral Base. It'd been almost a relief to have something else to focus on. Perhaps they were a tad more 'enthusiastic' during their fight but no one was hurt badly and the Mutant gang called The Bodybaggers had agreed to cease their criminal activities or be given over to the authorities next time. And who knew exactly what the government, even local ones, did once they had a mutant in custody? So the X Men had let them limp their way home and gone back to see if Cerebro had had any luck while they were gone. The answer was a depressing no.

Logan visited all his haunts, some he suspected were Gambit's but no one in the seedy underworld that Remy and he were so familiar with had seen or heard from the Cajun in a long while. Rogue considered going to her foster mother Mystique for help; the shape changer had once been able to infiltrate the highest places in the nation's capital. But she couldn't locate her.

The Danger Room was more active than usual and tempers flared more often. Even those X Men who'd never really had any love lost between them and the Cajun couldn't help but worry about their teammate in the hands of Sinister.

One day, over a week since Remy's disappearance, Jean had been using Cerebro again, scanning, searching for any new signs that might lead them to Gambit, when suddenly she thought she heard a tiny voice in her mind. She opened her mind even further and concentrated on understanding.

#X Men!# she could barely discern it. #Mr. Remy needs help!# Jean smothered a surge of hope. #I need to talk to someone.# The voice sounded plaintive, tired, as if it had been trying for a long time.

Jean tried to send as gentle a response as possible so as to not startle whoever was broadcasting to her. #The X Men are here.# She felt a surge of emotion from the other end and the next message was clearer, stronger.

#I think I can get him free but we need a way to get him away from here.#

#Where is 'here?'# Jean sent back. #We will come.#

#I'm not sure. I've never been allowed outside the complex fence line. I heard one of the scientists mention a long drive from Roanoke.#

#Roanoke is in Virginia.# Jean felt a shiver of fear run through whoever it was she was talking to.

#I have to go. This is exhausting Remy and I'd never have been able to reach you without his help.

#We might get caught. He says if we can get outside, then you could find him. Is that true?#

#Yes. Can you do that?# Jean asked gently, the connection was indeed deteriorating.

#I believe so.# The mind voice quavered. #How soon can you get here?#

#We'll leave now. Only a few hours.#

#I can't do it before 5:00 tonight. I'll try when the shifts are changing. He's usually left alone then. Please come.#

#We will be there!# Jean exclaimed as the link dissolved completely.

She hurriedly sent out a mental call for all the X Men to assemble in the War Room and then she sent a prayer that this would work and Remy would soon be home with them.

"It could be a trap." Bishop insisted, absently polishing his rifle.

"Probably, but we still gotta try." Logan said, his blue and yellow uniform completely in place.

Rogue could only nod, not trusting herself to speak. The last week had been one of the hardest in her young life so far, waiting, wondering, worrying. She paced impatiently.

Storm's eyes followed her friend as she pivoted to pace back the other way. "Does anyone actually wish to not attempt to rescue Remy? Then stay here but I will be going to Virginia now. We need waste no more time." With that, she stood and walked out the door. Rogue followed only a step behind. In less than a moment, the room was empty except for the Professor, who remained behind as usual to coordinate.

The man stumbled out the door, leaning heavily on the little girl who quickly scanned the area anxiously. It got dark early, here in the mountains, and the lights in the compound would be going on soon. They only had a short window of opportunity. She shut the door quickly behind them, appreciating the skill with which her companion had picked the lock, allowing them exit. They shuffled away towards a nearby shack labeled Armory.

Remy glanced up with his good eye, briefly considering breaking into the shack and retrieving some firepower but knowing he was too spent from the last lock. He could barely walk. He realized Sinister had been allowing him to heal, his usual pattern of torture; let the victim heal enough to feel the next session even more. It was also an effective way to contain the Cajun; he'd never have been able to make this attempt without Celestine's help. Sinister hadn't even bothered to nullify Remy's mutant ability to charge items because he knew he was too weak; he'd discovered that earlier when he hadn't even generated a measly little spark! It was galling to be so 'free' yet unable to accomplish anything. But Sinister must have been unaware of his telepathic abilities which were less energy draining but taxing enough so that he'd only been able to help send the SOS which they were now depending on. They'd had a one in a million chance of that working but thankfully it had. Now they just needed a place where the guards wouldn't find them before they could alert the X Men to their location.

Jusqu'ici, aussi bon. Celestine had told him that Sinister had taken all the Marauders with him on one of his 'trips' and that helped their odds tremendously. They reached the side of the shack facing away from the main building and crouched down behind some crates, Remy's body protesting every movement. He breathed as deeply as his broken ribs would allow and then he cleared his mind. Celestine's small hand was clasped within his and he felt her presence combining with his. She would have to be the one, again, to broadcast for the X Men. He just didn't have the strength; he could only buttress her efforts.

Jean sat up straighter. They'd been scanning a 50 mile radius near Roanoke but nothing promising had presented itself. It was already 4:45 and the level of anxiety in the cockpit had increased substantially. Jean filtered it out as best she could.

Storm and Bishop piloted the aircraft, keeping it cloaked and avoiding the air traffic around Roanoke Airport. Rogue nervously tapped her foot, never one able to sit still. Logan stared out the windows. Cyclops monitored the Cerebro links for any traces of Gambit's mutant signature. Henry was double-checking the medical equipment in the back of the plane for the umpteenth time.

Just as Scott was opening his mouth to inform them that the beeping they were hearing meant that Gambit may be near, Jean spoke rapidly, "Head southwest, Storm!"

Heads swiveled to stare at Jean while Storm guided the plane about. "I can just make out the same person broadcasting for us. Just about ten more miles," she said confidently.

"Agreed. The maps say it's undeveloped, should be mostly forests and hills," Scott said.

"Then what's that, sugah?" Rogue asked, pointing out the window at a shelf carved into the face of the mountain. On it sat a few buildings but nothing that seemed big enough to hide the type of installation that Essex tended towards. Of course, looks can be deceiving, consider their own headquarters! Some attempt at camouflage had been made. They could see guards patrolling.

"Over there!" Jean exclaimed, pointing at a prefabricated shack on the east side of the main building. "She tells me that Sinister and the Marauders are gone."

"There's no place to land, Cyclops," Storm stated.

"Then switch places with me. You, Rogue and Jean take Wolverine, and Beast to retrieve them."

Movement increased, fluid, as the team fell into familiar patterns. Cyclops and Bishop kept the Blackbird hovering, while the side airlock opened and the three women flew out; Jean taking Beast with her in a TK bubble and Rogue holding Logan under his armpits.

They heard a cry from the ground and firearms started shooting at the five mutants who appeared from nowhere. Rogue and Storm evaded the shots while Jean just let them glance harmlessly off her TK bubble.

Rogue flew closer and dropped Wolverine before a group of guards then flew straight at another batch of Sinister's minions.

Jean took Beast straight over to the shack and was stunned to see the normally agile, so lively Cajun hunched in on himself, holding onto a little girl's hand. He was covered in blood-soaked bandages and Beast approached him rapidly. Celestine looked up at her two saviors with a look of disbelief on her small face. Jean went to her and folded her into her arms in a soft hug. Celestine was at first stiff, startled beyond expression but she soon softened and then collapsed into the circle of protection.

Henry carried Remy to where the sounds of battle were already diminishing. He was upset by how light the Cajun was; he was all bones. Jean was carrying Celestine easily. The other X Men finished mopping up with the enemy just as Jean and Beast arrived. Rogue gasped and ran to Hank, taking Remy into her strong arms and taking off to the Blackbird.

Logan spoke gruffly, "Let's get to the jet before any more of these goons appear. As much as I want to kick some ass, Gumbo needs some serious medical attention."


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