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Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Chapter 7
Chapter 8
Chapter 9
Chapter 10
Chapter 11


Written by Steve Paul
Last updated: 01/02/2007 02:01:11 AM

Chapter 7

Gambit and Wolverine, along with their new companion Victoria (or 'Tory' as she asked to be called), made their way through the airport toward the shuttle that would take them to the employee parking lot and her car. They moved quickly and quietly; Gambit had fallen back into a sullen funk after their encounter with Susie's father, and refused to talk. He just walked with his shoulders hunched over, hands in his pockets, lost in his own world. Logan was busy trying to come up with some type of agenda for the trip.

The sudden reversal of the Cajun's temperament irked Wolverine, but it wasn't really a surprise; it was his second or third since the trip began. They were starting to wear thin on the Canadian. He had worked his current options down to two; 1) Ignore this latest mood swing and hope Gambit comes out of it soon, or 2) Give him a good, swift kick in the ass. That had worked earlier, but they'd been alone. Besides, he didn't think their new friend really wanted the interior of her car destroyed. As much as he hated inaction, he went with the first option.

Logan looked over at Tory and considered her for a moment. She was attractive, friendly, and at approximately 5'8 she was also a lot taller than he was, but then again, who wasn't?

She was nervous, that much was obvious to him. He could smell the uncertainty (mixed with a little fear, as well as excitement) easily. The odor 'tickled' something in the back of his mind, and he had to struggle, briefly, to subdue it. He quickly turned his thoughts to other matters to keep his 'darker' half at bay.

If she really were a mutant as she claimed, they'd need to determine what her power was, and if a trip to Westchester were warranted.

Contemplating this as they boarded the shuttle, Logan was vaguely aware of the curious looks he and Gambit drew. Tory's vague brush- off of her co-workers and acquaintances made little impression as well. It was only a matter of minutes before they reached the employee lot, and her Grand Prix. Gambit slunk into the back seat without a word, leaving Logan in the front seat, open to the inevitability of small talk -- something he detested. It began as they pulled from the parking space.

"So...what brings you two to town?"

Tory wanted to keep the conversation light to mask her discomfort: She felt...well, she didn't know how she felt, exactly. On the one hand, she was relieved that she'd finally told someone that she was 'different.' She also felt silly having done so to complete strangers. She felt silly, not only because they were strangers, but because the 'power' she was gifted with was rather...well, it was pretty lame.

"We're here to see a hockey game."

She brightened at his answer; she loved hockey. That was inevitable, growing up the only girl with four brothers, all of whom played the sport. "The Wings or the Vipers?"

"The Wings. Don't even know who they're playin', though."

"Uhmmm...the Oilers, I think. How long are you here for?"

Wolverine thought for a moment. "Ya know somethin'? I don't know." He looked in the back seat at Gambit. "How 'bout you, Gumbo? Know how long we're here for?"

Remy, who had been staring out the window continued to do so as he answered. "How'm I s'pose t'know dat? You da one dat bring us here."

Wolverine shrugged, ignoring the challenge in the Cajun's voice. More to satisfy his own curiosity than to continue the conversation, he reached into his pocket and pulled out his plane ticket. He hadn't looked at it before. In his haste to catch their plane, he just stuffed the ticket in his pocket and forgot about it.

He opened the packet, and removed the ticket. As he did so, Tory emitted a cheery (albeit relieved) "Here we are" and pulled into the Denny's parking lot.

Logan's eyes played over the paper as he exited the vehicle and began to walk toward the restaurant, looking for return information. After a long moment, he muttered a soft "dammit" under his breath, and turned to Gambit.

"Check yer ticket."

Holding the restaurant door open with his back, Gambit reached into his trenchcoat and pulled out his boarding pass. Nonchalantly, he glanced at it as Tory made her way inside. After a moment, he looked at Wolverine, who had been watching him.

"What da hell dis mean?"

"It means, Gumbo," Logan began as he pushed past the Cajun into the lobby, "that Chuck booked us on a one-way flight."

Storm strode into Xavier's study with the bearing of an angry Goddess. Small bolts of static electricity were arcing between her feet and the carpet -- more a testimony to her anger than an indictment of the mansion's humidifier and heating system. She had been roused from a deep, albeit short, sleep by the Professor to discuss a 'serious breach of the mansion's protocol.'

Glancing around the room, she saw Scott and Jean sitting together on the couch. Bishop was standing behind the Professor's desk, where Charles was seated. Henry was present as well, as were Bobby and Sam. Beast was sitting uncomfortably in a chair, and that in itself was unusual; he usually preferred more 'flamboyant' seating. Iceman and Cannonball were seated on either side of the team doctor, looking equally uncomfortable. The Professor began with no preamble.

"Bishop tells me that you and Gambit were in Rogue's quarters early this morning. Is that true?" His voice was cold, accusatory; it was not the voice of the Charles Xavier she was accustomed to.

Storm looked at Bishop; he met her gaze uncompromisingly.

"I saw you through the window. A light flared briefly, illuminating you both."

She turned back to Charles and answered. "We were in her room for a short time, yes. Is there a problem?"

"YES, THERE'S A PROBLEM!" Charles almost screamed his reply. After a moment, he regained his composure, and continued. "I don't think you need me to explain to you what it is either. Gambit needs to learn to respect the property and wishes of other people. It appears, Storm, that is a lesson you need to learn as well. What were you doing in there?"

Charles was staring at her. To Storm, it looked like he was staring through her. His eyes were wild.

Looking around the room, she saw all eyes on her, waiting for an explanation. Apparently, no one else noticed the Professor. She looked briefly at each team member before she answered. Jean gave her a smile of encouragement. Scott was neutral, which was not necessarily a bad thing; he had a tendency to go ballistic any time Gambit's name and any misconduct were mentioned in the same sentence.

"Remy is feeling lost without Rogue. He seems to have hit a low point, and needed to be reassured. Since Rogue was not around to offer the comfort he needed, he did the next best thing; he went to a familiar place. He went to her room to find solace."

"I see..." Charles seemed a little calmer after her explanation, his eyes not so wild. He turned his attention to McCoy. "Henry, you've been watching Gambit, would you share your thoughts with us?"

McCoy smiled. I could, but I don't think you'd like to know what my thoughts really are concerning our Cajun friend. They tend more toward culling, than curing.

The Dark Beast stood, taking off his glasses. He didn't like having this much attention drawn to himself; it put his secret, and therefore his safety, at too great a risk. Declining to talk, however would be riskier still; he had found out that this reality's Beast -- he couldn't really bring himself to think of the mutant in any other terms -- liked to talk.

He also relished the game of flashing the charade in the face of the 'brilliant' Charles Xavier.

"I've spoken with Gambit, in-length, about his current romantic situation. For reasons, which should be obvious, I had to do this over a period of time, without the aid of notes. He was reluctant to talk in too great a detail, but I did have enough discourse with him to be able to come to some conclusions."

A quick glance around the room showed all eyes on him, with great interest. He continued, encouraged by their attentiveness.

"As Storm surmised, our woebegone Cajun is indeed depressed over his failed relationship with Rogue. He feels that the relationship is over, dead if you will, and quite simply, he's not ready for that eventuality."

There was silence in the room. This much, everyone had guessed.

"Why was he in Rogue's room?"

"Basically, what Storm," he stopped to bow toward Storm, who couldn't help but smile at her friend, "said is, again, correct. He is reaching out to anything that reminds him of the better times in his relationship with our prodigal belle. The best place to do that, it would seem to me, would be her room."

All heads, except for Drake's, were nodding up and down in agreement. He had the brief feeling he was surrounded by a bunch of those baseball statues that have their heads on springs. He stood.

"Oh give me a break!" The sudden outburst startled his teammates. "What Hank is saying may all be true, but, come on now, that doesn't excuse him. I was there in Seattle when she left. Yeah, he's sad, and heart-broken, and all that crap, but that doesn't give him the right to break and enter." He looked toward Cyclops for backup. "Right, Scott?"

"Actually Bobby, I've been trying to put myself in Gambit's shoes." He shifted uncomfortably. "No one here denies that Gambit loves Rogue, agreed?" Again heads nodded, accompanied by a chorus of 'yes.' "What I have to consider is 'what would I do if Jean not just left, but totally rejected me?'" He looked over at his wife, who smiled and put a reassuring hand on his thigh.

"Cyclops, would you clarify that for me, please?"

"Sure, Professor."

Cyclops then related Gambit's final encounter with Rogue, which was apparently a new story for everyone, with the exception of Iceman, who reluctantly clarified several details.

"Anyway, I can't say I wouldn't react exactly the same way that Gambit has. Except that I wouldn't have broken into Jean's room..." Bobby started to speak, but Scott silenced him with a hand. "But that's ONLY because I'm not a trained thief like Gambit: I wouldn't be able to do it without causing a great deal of damage."

He looked at Charles. "In my opinion, Professor, I don't really see a problem here, unless there's more we don't know about."

Charles looked thoughtful, as if he wanted to say something, but didn't know if he should. Finally, he turned to McCoy and asked, "How stable is Gambit?"

"That's hard to tell. His faculties are present, and he holds no animosity towards any of us, or even Rogue for that matter." He paused, as if a new thought struck him. "The problem is, in talking with Gambit, that he is in love with Rogue one minute and despises her the next."

"So you're saying he's manic-depressive?"

How should I know, skinhead? I'm a geneticist, not a shrink!

"No, not at all. This condition seems to be related only to Rogue. I believe that, if he were truly manic-depressive, he would act this way all the time, not just concerning our lost little lassie. Besides, other than sitting out on the roof in freezing rain, he's not acting in what I would call 'maniacal' manner."

"Does he pose any danger?"

"To whom? Evil-doers everywhere? Us? Rogue? Himself?" The Dark Beast paused, letting the rhetorical questions sink in. He was savoring this game ever so much! "In my humble opinion, the answers are 'yes,' 'no,' 'doubtful, but maybe,' and a most definite 'yes.'" He stopped, letting them figure out his answer. The room was quiet as they worked it out. Xavier spoke first.

"Hank, are you saying Remy is suicidal?"

If he isn't now, he will be when I'm through with him!

"Charles, you must remember, I am not a psychologist. Having said that, I think that yes, there is that possibility."

This declaration was met with stunned silence.

They ate in silence, letting the revelations of the last half hour sink in. Gambit and Wolverine decided not to worry about the airline tickets and their implications, if there were any, right now; they were in too public a place to contact the mansion. You never knew who was sitting in the next booth. For that reason, they kept their voices low as they questioned Tory about her mutant ability, and it took all of their self-control to keep from laughing when she revealed that...

"I have the ability to, I know this is gonna sound stupid but, I can paintmynails." The last three words were spoken rapidly out of embarrassment. With her eyes closed, she waited for their laughter. When it didn't come, she opened her eyes and looked at her two companions, who were smiling their encouragement. She returned their smile and, at Wolverine's prompting, continued.

"I discovered my 'talent' when I was in high school. It was my brother's wedding, and I was at the church, getting ready. I was going to apply a new coat of polish when I dropped the bottle and broke it! Now I know what you're thinking..."

Non, I don' t'ink ya do, chere.

Gambit sighed and looked around; Wolverine really knew how to show someone a good time. Spotting a passing waitress, he signaled her for more coffee; the way this story was going, he was going to need it.

Wonder how she'd fit in 'Pocalip's 'survival o'd'fittest' scheme?

Oblivious to the Cajun's look, Tory continued. "You're thinking 'why didn't she put her polish on the night before?'"

She stopped and looked at the two men, who just nodded their heads.

"Well, I had. But I smeared them before they were dry. It was late and I was tired, so I cleaned my nails and figured I'd just get them in the morning. Well, the next day I overslept, and was running late, so I grabbed the polish and my dress, and headed to the church! When I dropped the bottle, there was no time to run to the store to get more. I was really afraid I was going to blow my brother's wedding. I mean, the polish was no big deal, right?" She looked at Wolverine who said what he thought she wanted to hear.

"Uh, right kid. Ain't no big deal." He began scanning the room for their waitress. This is almost as painful as losing my adamantium...

"That's what I thought, but it's the kind of thing that'd make my sister-in-law go nuts! I was besides myself, this was my favorite brother's wedding! I knew I couldn't get to the store in time, I kind of started to break down a little, I was crying and all I could think of was how I wished my nails matched my dress. When they came to get me for the processional, the bride asked why I was crying, and I told her. She looked at me like I were nuts, and said that they were painted. I looked myself, and they were!"

Remy had lost interest in the story, and was currently amusing himself by pretending to listen while sending minor kinetic pulses down the booth divider, shocking anyone who touched one in that row. Wolverine kicked him under the table, but that only momentarily deterred him.

Logan was intrigued -- not by the mutant power, necessarily, but by the way it manifested itself under stress.

"Can you do it now?" Tory nodded. "Show us."

The blonde woman put both her hands on the table. Her nails were a light red that matched her uniform. "What color would you like?"

"How 'bout a nice sky blue -- the color of a Louisiana summer day?"

"I'm not sure exactly how that would look, but how's this?"

Before their eyes, her nails changed color from red to blue. Gambit whistled; it was an impressive parlor trick. He did notice that the color changed uniformly: one moment all ten nails were red, the next all were blue. They didn't change one at a time like he'd thought they might. He didn't know if that was significant or not.

"Do dey all gotta be da same color, or can you do dif'rent colors on dif'rent fingers?

"I haven't been able to do that. It's one color fits all."

"This just works with your nails? You ever try to change anything else?"

"Like what? My hair? I tried once, right after I realized what happened, and couldn't do it. I figured it would only work on my fingernails."

Gambit and Wolverine exchanged looks. She probably wasn't an Alpha class mutant, but Hank might be interested in her anyway. They'd let him know once they got back to New York.

Logan assured Tory that she didn't appear to be a 'threat to humanity,' and probably didn't need to worry about idiots like the Friends of Humanity. They did advise her, however, not to flaunt her gift, but to keep it to herself, just in case. Neither X-Man revealed to her that they, too, were mutants.

The conversation continued as they waited for their meal to arrive. Tory had warmed up to the two men; their reaction to her admission was a major factor in winning her over. They still had a dangerous feel to them, though. The man she now knew as Logan seemed more menacing than Remy did...an impression that Logan's looks did little to dissipate.

By the time their meal arrived, Remy had managed to gather his wits, and charm, enough to wrangle a deal out of Tory; she would take them back to her apartment so they could sleep and get cleaned up. In turn, they would take her and her roommate to Greektown for dinner, and to the game with them that night. For his part, Logan was glad that she accepted.

When their food finally arrive, the two men, wired on too much coffee and too little sleep, attacked it with gusto. They ate in relative silence; the only noise was the sound of their silverware on their plates and the soft din of the restaurant around them.

The assembled group sat in stunned silence; Beast's announcement had a chilling effect on all present, even those who didn't particularly like Gambit. The only noise came from the pendulum on Charles' wall clock, and the early morning call of the local cardinals. The silence was unexpectedly broken by a husky Southern drawl from the hallway.

"What's the matter with y'all? Looks like someone just kicked ya puppy!" With that Rogue re-introduced herself to the X-Men.

"By the Goddess! Rogue, you've returned!"

Storm moved quickly to embrace her, followed closely by Jean and Bobby. "It's so good to have you back."

"Thanks, Jeannie. With all I been through, it's good ta be back! I got something ta tell y'all." She looked around the room.

With their backs toward him, no one noticed the flash of anger cross Xavier's face. He didn't really understand *why* he was mad that Rogue had returned, just that he hadn't planned on her presence. Shaking his head, he tried to remember what it was that he was planning, but the thought quickly passed, and was soon forgotten.

"Am I interruptin' somethin'?" She quickly scanned the room. "Where's Gambit?...and Wolverine?...and Warren?...and Betsy?"

"Warren and Betsy are currently in Colorado, recovering from their encounter with Sabretooth."

"Say what, Cyclops?"

"Our Cajun friend is out of the city, with Wolverine, and we are discussing his current mental condition."

"MENTAL CONDITION! What are y'all talkin' 'bout? I take a little time off and this place goes nuts!"

Suddenly, the mansion's intruder alarm went off. Cyclops and Bishop started toward the door.

"Damn...I told that boy t'wait in th' car. Hey guys, hold on a sec. There ain't no intruder. Kill the alarm."

The alarms died with a simple command from the Professor. Now all eyes were on Rogue.

"Uhmmm, well, it's like this. Ya see, I ran inta an ol' 'friend' of ours while I was down south. I brought him here 'cause he needs our help..."


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