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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
Chapter 12
Chapter 13
Chapter 14
Chapter 15
Chapter 16
Chapter 17
Chapter 18
Chapter 19
Chapter 20
Chapter 21
Chapter 22
Chapter 23
Chapter 24
Chapter 25
Chapter 26
Chapter 27
Chapter 28
Chapter 29
Chapter 30
Chapter 31
Chapter 32
Chapter 33
Chapter 34
Chapter 35
Chapter 36
Chapter 37
Chapter 38
Chapter 39
Chapter 40
Chapter 41
Chapter 42
Chapter 43
Chapter 44
Chapter 45
Chapter 46
Chapter 47
Chapter 48
Chapter 49
Chapter 50
Chapter 51
Chapter 52
Chapter 53
Chapter 54
Chapter 55
Chapter 56
Chapter 57
Chapter 58
Chapter 59
Chapter 60
Chapter 61
Chapter 62
Chapter 63
Chapter 64


Written by Valerie Jones
Last updated: 05/10/2010 11:31:24 PM

Chapter 13

Remy paused at the entrance to the medlab. A small voice inside him insisted that he shouldn’t be there. Not now, not with so many things happening. He had done what he could to set the Guild to watching for signs of danger, but that was precious little. Zero Tolerance was out of the thieves’ league for the most part, and those who were skilled enough to take on Bastion and his program were already deployed in search of information on the Sentinels. That was of higher priority than watching for signs that a single reclusive school for mutants was about to be attacked.

Unfortunately, Remy’s own ability to gather such information was extremely limited by the loss of his powers. There were still things he could do, of course, and he would as soon as dark fell and he and Bobby could escape the mansion unnoticed. He made himself a mental note to check with Bishop before then to make sure the other hadn’t made any significant or unexpected changes to the security grid.

Despite all of that and the many other things he should be doing, he found himself instead standing on the infirmary’s threshold. The knot of nervous anticipation in his stomach had absolutely nothing to do with Zero Tolerance, either.

Hank noticed his presence first. He was standing beside Rogue’s bed and appeared to be making some kind of cursory check of her condition. Remy couldn’t quite see what the doctor held in his hands, but guessed he was checking blood pressure or some such from his motions.

Hank glanced up then motioned for Remy to come in. At first, Remy was afraid Rogue was still sleeping, but then she turned her head to look at him.

“Hi, sugah,” she said softly. Remy crossed the room with quick strides.

“How y’ feelin’?” he asked once he’d reached her bedside. He could see her un-injured hand clearly where it lay across the blankets. He knew from the sharpness of the image that she wasn’t wearing gloves, but he resisted the urge to take her hand in his. The ground rules of their relationship had changed radically. He didn’t have any idea how she was going to react.

Rogue shrugged. “O.k... ah guess.” Her voice dropped. “Hank’s been keepin’ me up ta date.” Remy could hear the tightness in her voice and guessed that Kitty’s death in particular had hit her hard.

Ever discrete, Hank had already turned away and gathered up his tools. He retreated without comment, leaving Remy and Rogue to face each other across a gulf of silence.

Remy found himself fidgeting uncomfortably as he tried to think of something to say, and snorted in private disgust. Dis is nuts. I ain’ been dis nervous ‘round a femme since I was a pup.

Rogue stared downward and fiddled with the blanket that covered her. Remy watched the shifting colors that made up her form with interest. Her temperature was rising, the warmth climbing from her chest, up her neck and into her cheeks. He could tell she uncomfortable, too, and was working up the nerve for something.

Finally, she heaved a sigh, her gaze still fixed on her lap. “Well, ah guess one of us is gonna have t’ say it.”

“Say what, chere?” He couldn’t help the small knot of apprehension in his stomach.

The heat in her cheeks intensified. Had Remy been able to see her, he was certain she would have been blushing scarlet. She looked up at him, her body language betraying an odd reticence.

“Your place or mine?”

Remy stared at her blankly a moment before the meaning of the words sank in. Then he shook his head, not certain whether to be hurt or flattered that she had thought sex was foremost in his mind. What he could read from her heat signature and the way she held herself was... inconclusive, at best. But, since she’d started the conversation in the context of a joke, he figured he could follow through with that in fair safety. He summoned a grin and made a show of looking around the medlab.

“Mine, I t’ink,” he concluded dryly. “Yours don’ have a lock on de door.”

Rogue actually giggled in response, and he felt a wash of relief. The short exchange seemed to break the tension. Remy was pleased by how easy it was after that to just talk with her. By unspoken agreement, they avoided discussing Kitty and Jubilee. Remy had the feeling that Rogue was badly shaken by the sudden loss of her powers, and that Kitty’s death was something she hadn’t fully come to terms with yet.

After a while, Rogue slid over to make room for him beside her on the wide bed. “No sense in makin’ ya stand there all day, sugah. Might as well have a seat.”

Remy studied her for a moment then accepted. He felt vaguely disappointed that the invitation wasn’t more affectionate, but did his best not to show it.

Girl c’n tell y’ hurtin’, Remy. The constant activity and lack of sleep were taking their toll. His leg ached fiercely. He leaned back against the pillow with a sigh and crossed his ankles, grateful for the chance to rest despite his mixed feelings. A short ways away, Rogue rolled onto her side to face him, cradling her bandaged hand gingerly as she moved.

“Hank says ah can leave tomorrow mornin’.”

Remy glanced at her. “Good news, neh?”

She nodded, her body language once again betraying uncertainty. “Yeah.” She paused to take a breath. “Ah know this sounds stupid, but ah keep thinkin’ that ah’m goin’ ta go upstairs an’ everybody’s goin’ ta be watchin’ me.” She ducked her head. “... watchin’ us.”

To see if they’d taken advantage of the sudden loss of Rogue’s powers. Remy smiled. “Dey prob’ly will be. Y’ know how de gossip goes in dis house.”

“Some help you are.” Remy desperately wished he could see her expression. Her voice was a little too sharp.

Then she sighed softly. “Ah guess ah shouldn’t care what people are thinkin’.” She sounded like she’d been turning thoughts like these over in her mind for a while and wasn’t very happy with where they led her.

Remy rolled onto his side so he could look at her directly. “Y’ right ‘bout dat. In de end, it ain’ anybody’s business but yours an’ mine.” He shrugged. “Ain’ gon’ stop folks from wonderin’, t’ough.”

Rogue didn’t respond immediately. Remy watched her, taking particular note of her position. She lay with both arms tucked up against her, her posture reflecting an obvious reluctance. Nowhere did he see any hint that his touch would be welcomed.

Frustrated and more hurt than he would like to admit, he struggled to keep his expression neutral.

The silence stretched until Rogue cleared her throat. “Remy?”


“When ya were a kid, did y’ ever play one a those stupid kissin’ games at a party or somethin’? Y’know, the kind where ya get matched up with some boy an’ they make ya go in the closet an kiss each other?”

Remy was taken aback by the off-the-wall question, but he managed to swallow his surprise. “Not really, chere, but I know what y’ talkin’ ‘bout.” Having grown up on the street, he’d become sexually active long before running across one of those parties, so it hadn’t ever held much appeal. “Y’ sound like y’ have, t’ough.”

She made a sour noise. “Ah was eleven... more than a year before I got mah powers. Ah was supposed t’ kiss Donny Knuffner.”

Remy raised an eyebrow, tremendously curious. Rogue almost never talked about her childhood. “So what happened?”

She laughed a little, sounding embarrassed. “Poor kid. Ah was so mad because ah didn’t want ta do it, so ah punched him an’ ran.”

Remy couldn’t help but laugh. He could see Rogue doing something like that. “Is dat y’ way o’ warnin’ me not t’ be too forward, chere?” he teased.

Rogue was silent and Remy’s smile died.

“No, sugah,” she finally answered. “Ah guess what ah was tryin’ ta say is that, with the Zero Tolerance dampin’ field an’ all--“ She sighed resignedly. “Ah kinda feel like you an’ ah have been shoved inta the closet.”

Sudden understanding hit Remy. It was all about expectations. Their relationship had never gotten to the point where they could talk about those kinds of things, especially when it had to do with physical expectations.

In truth, there was really no understanding at all between them of what would happen if they ever had the opportunity to touch.

“Guess I c’n understand dat.”

“Ya do?” Her voice was filled with hopeful surprise.

Remy had to bite back a sarcastic response. Saints, Remy. Y’ spend y’ life bein’ a playboy an’ when y’ finally find a woman t’ get serious about, y’ insulted dat she’s afraid she gon’ be treated like de ot’ers once her powers are out o’ de way. It hurt that she had so little faith in his love, yet he couldn’t help but understand the source of her insecurity.

“Oui, chere, I do.”

Rogue sighed as if he’d lifted a great weight from her mind. She didn’t say anything though, and the silence settled between them once again.

Remy had just decided he needed to say something when Rogue moved. She raised herself gingerly to avoid bumping her injured hand, then resettled herself on the bed. The change was subtle, but it put her just close enough that she could reach out and lay her good hand over his, and, hesitantly, she did so.

Remy found himself grinning like an idiot as he curled his fingers around hers. Rogue laughed softly, her cheeks flushed with embarrassment and possibly something more. For a moment, Remy forgot about Zero Tolerance, forgot about the Guild. All of the things that constantly turned in the back of his mind fell away. He found himself getting completely lost in the indescribable warmth that spread through him.

They lay quietly like that, the only conversation between them the sensation of one hand against another. Remy stroked Rogue’s palm absently with his thumb as his exhaustion settled on him like a soft weight, blurring everything. And slowly, without realizing it, he drifted off to sleep.

“Ready?” Bobby asked as he came into the room he shared with Diedre. Two small bags were packed and set out on the bed. Diedre sat beside them, her hands folded in her lap. She was dressed in jeans and a mint green sweater that clung attractively to her trim form, and Bobby admired her even as he crossed the room. She looked up as he approached. He was surprised to see the glimmer of tears in her eyes.

“Hey, what’s wrong?” He knelt on the carpet in front of her and scooped up her hands in his.

“I don’t want to leave,” she answered simply.

Bobby stared into her sad blue eyes. “I don’t want you to leave.” He kissed her fingertips. “But I want you to be safe, and you won’t be safe here.”

“Neither will you.”

Bobby sighed. Ain’t that the truth. But that was definitely something she didn’t need to hear right now.

“You know I have to stay with the X-Men.”

Lowering her gaze, she nodded. Bobby released her hands and then sat beside her so he could take her in his arms. “I’ll be fine," he promised, "and I’ll come see you whenever I’m in the city.” He brushed his lips against her hair. “This won’t be for very long.”

She sighed and glanced over at him, a hint of a smile in her eyes. “It’d better not. I’ll be lonely without you.” The corner of her mouth crooked playfully.

Bobby returned the smile with one of his own, a feeling of delight in his heart. She was always a gentle tease, and the depth of her love shone from her eyes with a clarity that took his breath away.

They spent the drive to New York talking about inconsequential things as if this were just a normal outing. Bobby had hopes that the X-Men would soon move to a more secure location and that he would be free to spend some time with Diedre in New York. But the truth was that he couldn’t begin to guess what would happen while Zero Tolerance remained in place. It was possible that he wouldn’t see his wife again for quite some time.

He kept his thoughts to himself as he pulled into the parking lot of a small bakery. It was a typical two-story brick building on the end of a row of similar shops. The buildings all shared communal walls, creating a continuous face of brick along the tree-lined street. The bakery sat on the corner and had the unusual benefit of a small lot capable of holding four cars. The shop was Clan-owned, and housed an access to the Guild complex. It was too conspicuous to go to the Club during the day, so the two mutants needed an alternate route. Bobby knew of several.

Together, he and Diedre got out of the car and walked into the store. They would need to trade code phrases with the shop’s owner and then get instructions from him about how to proceed. Diedre’s bags remained in the trunk of the car so they wouldn’t draw attention.

There was a line in front of the counter, so the two mutants fell in at the back, content to wrap their arms around each other as they waited for their turn. The man at the front of the line had just accepted a brown bag from the man at the counter and turned away. As he turned, his gaze swept across the people behind him with a flat disinterest that shattered when he spied Bobby and Diedre.

Without warning, the man lunged toward them, his form shifting rapidly. His face became a mask of frenzied rage. Instinctively, Bobby dragged Diedre behind him and pulled out the handgun he habitually carried as a thief. In the space of two steps, the man changed from a recognizable human into something that had glowing red eyes beneath a shock of white hair. Bobby recognized it as it raised its hands and he knew from watching the news reports that the Sentinel would have weapons built into each arm.

Without thinking, Bobby fired directly into the Sentinel’s face, then turned and ran, pushing Diedre out the door of the shop before him. Screams and shouts followed them out into the parking lot, but Bobby ignored them. He glanced back just in time to see the Sentinel leap through the front window of the bakery. Its face was covered with blood, but it did not seem otherwise incapacitated.

They bleed? Bobby thought dizzily as he ran. I thought the Sentinels were just machines.

Bobby turned and fired two more rounds at the menacing form that closed in on them, then followed Diedre around the corner and onto the crowded sidewalk. His hand remained locked in hers as they ducked and dodged through the lunchtime crowd that had become a sea of chaos because of the nearby gunfire. They had only a moment’s respite as the Sentinel took to the air and flew down the street over the tops of the cars, its head turning from side to side as it scanned for them. Around them, people screamed and ran from the flying figure.

Bobby grabbed Diedre and shoved her through the nearest door. They plunged into a room filled with books and sunlight, and the musty scent of old things. Bobby didn’t stop to look. He and Diedre raced toward the back of the little store as the woman behind the counter gaped at them. The back door that Bobby had hoped to find was in the farthest corner, a tall wooden monster that was secured with multiple loops of heavy chain and a padlock.

Growling curses under his breath, Bobby slid to a stop. Stepping in front of Diedre to shield her, he shot the lock, shattering it. He frantically unwrapped the door handle and shoved on the huge door. He was terrified that he might open the door only to find the Sentinel waiting outside for them, but he pushed that thought away with every ounce of determination he could find. Never t’ink about how y’ can lose, Remy had told him on several occasions. Always t’ink about how y’ can win. People have a tendency t’ do whatever dey’re t’inkin’ ‘bout, whether dey want to o’ not.

Bobby put his shoulder into the door. It burst open, sending him stumbling into the alley. He scanned it quickly, his thief’s senses tuned for any signs of trouble. Seeing nothing, he brought Diedre out as well and they turned back toward the way they’d come in the hopes that the Sentinel would still be headed down the street in the other direction. His heart thudded painfully in his chest as he ran. Pain turned into pure horror as a familiar figure appeared in the mouth of the alley and raised its arms to fire.

Diedre uttered a tiny shriek as Bobby dragged her to the side of the alley, pressing them both against the flat brick wall. The Sentinel’s white beam sizzled as it passed them, close enough for Bobby to feel its heat through his shirt. Bobby stared in numb terror as the Sentinel turned slightly, reorienting on them. The memory of Diedre falling limp in his arms as her blood poured out of her filled his mind. The Sentinel’s laser would cut through her just as viciously as Michael’s exoskeleton had, and this time he would have no power to save her.

From the corners of his vision, he caught sight of two dark forms up on the roof tops. Each held some kind of energy rifle. In the split second before the Sentinel fired at Bobby and Diedre, the alleyway filled with a storm of crisscrossing beams that enveloped the Sentinel and ripped it to shreds. Diedre buried her face against his shoulder, but Bobby watched mutely as the laser fire cut out, leaving nothing in its wake but the bleeding, mutilated form of the Sentinel.

After a moment, Bobby shook himself out of his stupor. He walked forward with Diedre. The two men on the rooftops used quick lines to rappel to the ground and met them beside the Sentinel. Bobby was startled to realize that he knew them both.

Bobby gratefully shook the hand that Marcus Black extended to him in greeting. "You have no idea how glad I am to see you," Bobby told him. "How did you know we were in trouble?"

Marcus exchanged looks with his partner, a man Bobby knew only distantly. “We’re patrolling near all of the accesses, in case our people are spotted trying to get below. Too many Clan mutants are still living above ground.” He shrugged. “We’ve had a couple of instances already.”

Bobby began to tremble from the adrenaline still pumping through his system. "That Sentinel-- " he gestured toward the body at their feet, "It looked just like a regular person. I mean, it was in line getting a bagel when it saw us." Something inside Bobby rebelled at the thought of a seemingly normal person suddenly leaping out and trying to kill him.

Marcus nodded his understanding. His expression was the grimmest Bobby could remember seeing. “Whatever these new Sentinels are... they used to be people.”

Bobby looked down at the body that lay at his feet. “Cyborgs?” He could see some traces of machinery inside the Sentinel, particularly in the head and arms, but Marcus’ point was valid. Bobby reflected that the news coverage of OZT had never mentioned this aspect of the Prime Sentinels.

Marcus shrugged. “I don’t know. Something like that, anyway.” He looked around. “We’d better finish this conversation inside. The last thing we need is to be around when this thing’s friends show up.”

"Right." Bobby felt a twinge of panic at the thought of another Sentinel but suppressed it.

As the four of them slipped quietly inside the bakery, Bobby turned to Marcus. "Whose idea was the patrols?"

"The Guildmaster’s, of course." Marcus gave him an odd look as if he were surprised Bobby didn’t know that. "We’ve got two-man patrols around each of the complex entrances and a couple more floating around the city, particularly in the neighborhoods where groups of our people are still living."

Bobby swallowed a snort. Standard X-Men tactic when we have a lot of ground to cover and no idea of where the trouble is going to come from.

They moved down into the tunnels leading to the Guild complex. Bobby was both amazed and disturbed by the transformation. They passed through three rings of sentries armed with metal detectors and several types of imaging technology. He was reassured that a Prime Sentinel wouldn’t be able to get into the complex unnoticed, but it was unnerving to be scrutinized so closely by people he was coming to think of as kin.

The complex itself was a hive of activity. The dust that covered many portions of the underground caverns had been turned into a film of grime by the constant passage of feet. People passed them going every which direction. Some carted suitcases, others were moving pieces of furniture. Children chased each other through the crowded tunnels, their laughter heartening in the general air of unease that permeated the complex.

“It’s amazing,” Diedre breathed.

Marcus nodded. “Once the Sentinels started targeting mutants, people came flooding down here. Nobody wants to live in the city right now.”

“I can’t blame them.” Bobby felt a hard knot of anger growing in his stomach. “The news is playing down the Sentinels. We haven’t seen anything to suggest they’re hunting mutants.” And since Jean and Betsy had co-opted Cerebro to search for Jubilee, they hadn’t been watching the tallies to see if there were an unusually high number of mutant deaths occurring.

Marcus voice was tight. “Well, they are, and there’s no way to tell who’s an ordinary person and who’s a Sentinel.”

Having just experienced it for himself, Bobby had no reply.

Marcus and his partner left them to return to their patrol once they’d reported the destruction of the Sentinel. Bobby and took a place in line as they waited for their turn to get a room assignment. Bobby was surprised by the amount of organization amid the chaos. Artur and his assistants were doing an amazing job of managing the influx, especially considering that Remy had only started them on this project a couple of weeks earlier.

It took a couple of hours, but they finally got their instructions from Artur and made their way to the stone chamber that was now their home in the Guild complex. Diedre voiced a small sigh of disappointment when she saw that the furnishings consisted of a single mattress on the floor and a small table with a rather ugly yellow lamp. But then she straightened her shoulders resolutely.

“I suppose I can work on decorating while you’re gone.”

Bobby chuckled and hugged her. “Have fun.”

Diedre turned in his arms, her expression suddenly frightened and filled with a passionate yearning that made his breath catch. “Be careful, Bobby.”

Bobby leaned down and kissed her. Her response was immediate. It drove away all of his lingering thoughts as her arms closed around his neck. Bobby held her tightly as all of the emotions he’d forced away while the Sentinel was bearing down on them came boiling out of him in desperate longing.

With one hand, he managed to turn the lock on the door, so they were undisturbed as they said their goodbyes.

Bobby wrinkled his nose at the acrid smell that assaulted his nose as soon as he stepped into the room that housed Cerebro. Jean and Betsy sat together at the console, while Scott stood off to the side, watching impatiently.

Scott looked up as he entered. “Where have you been?” he asked and Bobby raised an eyebrow at the sharpness of his tone. Privately, however, he took it as an encouraging sign that Scott might not be as certain of the decision to stay in the mansion as he pretended. After what Bobby had learned about the Sentinels, that was very good news.

Bobby hadn’t yet spoken to Remy about what happened in New York. He’d only gotten back a short time ago, in fact. When he’d asked, Cerebro had told him Gambit was in the infirmary, but he simply couldn’t bring himself to interrupt. It was important news, but news that could wait long enough to give the two of them some time alone. So instead he had gone looking for Scott, to see if anything had changed while he was gone.

After a moment’s hesitation, Bobby decided to push Scott a little bit. “I took Diedre to her parents’,” he answered the question calmly. “It’s too dangerous here.”

Scott’s expression flickered then disappeared completely. Bobby swallowed a satisfied smile. He was honestly relieved to know Diedre would be safely tucked away in the Guild complex, despite how much he might miss her presence. And, with any luck, he would still be able to find time to go see her. Right now, however, the most important thing was to make sure the X-Men weren’t about to fall into OZT’s clutches.

Jean looked over at the exchange, her expression interested, and Bobby realized suddenly that the smell was emanating from the bowl in her hands. It appeared to be filled with a salad of some sort. She took another bite as he watched.

“What in the world are you eating?” he asked curiously.

Jean glanced down at her meal. “Spinach.”

“With vinegar,” Betsy added without taking her attention away from the screen in front of her. She was currently wearing the heavy Cerebro interface on her head, but that didn’t keep her from joining the conversation.

Bobby made a face. “Vinegar?” A lot of vinegar, from the smell of it.

Jean shrugged. “It’s about the only thing I can keep down right now. That, and lemons.”

“Which she eats peel and all,” Betsy chimed in.

Jean gave her a dirty look.

“Lemon peels?” Bobby wasn’t certain he dared laugh.

Jean grimaced good-naturedly. “Hank said I should eat whatever I have cravings for, so long as it’s real food.”

“Guess that depends on your definition of ‘real’.”

“Bobby!” Jean grinned despite herself.

Bobby echoed her smile, but it quickly died as he focused his attention on the screens. “Any luck?”

Jean and Betsy both sobered. Jean shook her head. “No, not yet.”

“We have to assume OZT is keeping her in a shielded facility.” Betsy glanced over at Scott as if punctuating an earlier discussion that Bobby had missed. “If she’s still alive.”

Beside Bobby, Scott blanched ever so slightly and Bobby felt his stomach tighten. That was a frightening thought, but a legitimate one.

“We have to believe Jubilee is still alive,” Scott grated, the knotted muscle in his jaw twitching reflexively. “OZT wouldn’t have taken her if they planned to just kill her.”

Once they’ve gotten what they want, they will kill her, Bobby argued silently. And she’s just a girl. For him, torture had become an unpleasant reality. Not necessarily the mad scientist variety, though that did exist, but the simple expedience of breaking bones until the poor slob in question gave up the required information. Bobby didn’t have much in the way of personal exposure, but it was a fact of life in the circles he sometimes frequented. Remy spoke so matter-of-factly about the subject that it sometimes gave him chills. But then, Remy had scars. Bobby now knew enough to guess how he’d gotten them.

If he was brutally honest with himself, he didn’t have much hope for his friend at all. Not if this Bastion was a coldly ruthless as he appeared.

Shaking his head, he turned to Scott. “Sorry, Fearless, Betsy’s right. And even if she is still alive, Bastion isn’t going to store her someplace where we can find her.”

Three pairs of eyes fastened on him with varying degrees of surprise. Bobby realized with a start of apprehension that he’d slipped very badly out of character. Idiot! he scolded himself. Talking to Scott like a professional. What are you thinking?

“What, don’t I get to have an opinion?” He whined defensively and saw an immediate response of anger in Scott’s eyes. Whining annoyed the man almost as much as outright defiance, which was a good thing for Bobby. There was no way he would ever be able to maintain a rebellious bad-boy image like Remy’s. Falling back on his old, immature ways was usually his best recourse when he needed to distract Scott.

After a moment, Scott’s anger shaded into exasperation. He turned back toward Cerebro’s displays. He was obviously dropping the subject. Betsy just shook her head as if puzzled by Bobby’s behavior, but Jean tossed him one last glance as she, too, turned away and Bobby could have sworn she was hiding a smile.

Bobby felt a small burst of adrenaline. How much does she know? he wondered for about the hundredth time. For once he found himself hoping that it was more rather than less. If she knew the truth about Remy, then she would certainly have recognized the danger that Remy had tried so subtly to warn them of.

Jean didn’t give him any further insight, and Bobby allowed himself to fade into the background. He watched the women work quietly, until Jean’s comment jerked him out of his thoughts.

“Scott, do you think Bishop could be right?” Jean’s gaze was fastened on the screens as she helped Betsy, but she spared her husband a single concerned look. Bobby wanted to cheer.

Scott frowned, his brow wrinkling. Bobby found it strange to be able to see his entire face, though it did make reading him a little easier.

“Of course he could be,” Scott finally answered. “But I don’t think that Jubilee knows enough about our security system to be a threat, if that’s why Bastion kidnapped her. She hasn’t lived here for almost two years. We’ve made a lot of changes since then.”

Jean chewed on her lip. “Maybe.” She shrugged. “I guess I’m just not convinced those changes have been significant enough to protect us. It might be a good idea to ask someone who can give a more informed opinion.”

Scott cocked an eyebrow, his expression skeptical. “Who would that be?”

Jean cut her eyes toward him. We do have a trained thief in the house who has proven on several occasions that he can break the mansion’s security.” She sounded vaguely irritated and Bobby seconded her feelings emphatically.

Scott stared at her for several long moments, his expression unreadable. “Why are you so worried about this?” he asked, sounding puzzled.

Jean straightened unconsciously and met his gaze. “Because I’m not an X-Man any more, Scott. I’m not a soldier.” She gestured aimlessly as she tried to put her thoughts into words. “I’m not even a mutant.” Sighing, she let her hands fall into her lap. “I’m just a woman-- a mother. How can I protect our baby if I have a bullseye painted on my forehead?”

Bobby could tell immediately that her words had cut to the root of Scott’s private fears. Even if the X-Men’s leader would never admit those fears, Bobby could see the shadow in his eyes that spoke volumes about his internal conflict.

After a moment, Scott sighed resignedly. “All right. I’ll talk to Gambit if it’ll make you feel better.”

Jean smiled. “Thank you.”

Bobby forced himself to maintain an expression of polite interest, but inside he couldn’t help a wide grin. Jean, you’re the best, he thought toward her, even though she couldn’t hear him. No matter what Remy’s reservations, Bobby was very glad he’d trusted her that day. Now, he could only hope that Gambit would be able to convince Scott of the danger they were in.

Scott paused in the doorway to the medlab, surprised despite himself, then crossed quietly to where Hank reclined in his lab chair, apparently resting as he sipped from a steaming mug. The lights in the lab were dimmed. Hank’s form was illuminated by the glow from the computer screen behind him.

Scott raised an eyebrow in silent question, canting his head toward the single occupied bed.

Hank grinned. “They’re downright cute when they’re asleep, aren’t they?” His voice barely rose above a whisper.

Scott only shook his head. Remy and Rogue were curled up like a couple of children on the wide bed, their foreheads nearly touching.

“Just so long as they’re not arguing,” he answered in the same low tone.

Hank chuckled lightly. “Did you need something?”

Scott shrugged. “I was looking for Remy. I wasn’t expecting to have to wake him up, though.”

Hank paused and lowered his mug. “Actually, I’d prefer you didn’t.”

“Didn’t what?”

“Wake Gambit. He was evidencing several symptoms of exhaustion when he came to visit Rogue. I would prefer to let him sleep as long as possible.”

Scott was puzzled. “Exhaustion? He looked like he had a hangover to me.”

Hank shrugged lightly. “The two can appear very similar.”

Scott frowned and turned to look more closely at Gambit, his thoughts turning. Finally, he returned his gaze to his friend’s.

“Hank, is it just me, or am I really that completely in the dark about Remy?”

Hank’s eyebrows rose fractionally. “What do you mean?”

Scott shrugged uncomfortably. “I don’t know. It just seems like every time I turn around someone is telling me I’m overreacting because I don’t know Remy well enough.” He made a frustrated gesture. “If it isn’t Bobby, then it’s you, or Jean.” He sat down in the empty chair beside Hank’s desk with a resigned sigh. “I tell you, Hank, the man drives me up the wall.”

Hank chuckled softly. “That goes without saying.” Then he sobered. “Unfortunately, I suspect that Gambit does it deliberately.”

Scott frowned. “Does what?”

“Irritates you.”

Scott was at a loss for how to respond. Of course he was aware that Remy’s attempts to provoke him were sometimes deliberate. It was just one of several juvenile traits that frustrated him no end, but Hank seemed amused rather than disapproving.

“You seem to find that awfully entertaining.”

Hank’s grin turned wry. “From a certain perspective, I suppose it is. Just like Bobby’s practical jokes are fun so long as you aren’t the one with peanut butter and saltines in your fur.”

Scott swallowed a snort of laughter. “I think I missed that one. What happened?”

Hank’s response was dry. “It was his version of tar and feathering. I locked him in the women’s bathroom at the library for a number of hours because he wouldn’t let me study, and that was his payback.”

Scott raised an eyebrow. “Seems like a bit of overkill to me.”

Hank grinned. “Well, the head librarian found him there. She was... unpleasant, to say the least.”

Scott gave in and laughed quietly at the schoolboy pranks, but then returned to the subject at hand. “All right. So Remy annoys me on purpose. Why? Why me? Or are you going to tell me it’s purely his dislike of any and all kinds of authority.” He paused. “He doesn’t do this to Storm.”

A slow smile spread across Hank’s face and Scott rolled his eyes.

“So if I were a woman, I wouldn’t be having this problem?”

Hank’s smile spread. “Possibly. It’s quite an image.”

Scott gave him a disgusted look. “Seriously, Hank.”

Hank sobered. “Seriously? I suppose my best ‘educated’ guess is that you are on the receiving end of a rather extensive sleight-of-hand. The tool of the con man is distraction, after all.”

Scott narrowed his eyes as the meaning of Hank’s words sank in. “Distract me from what, I wonder.”

Hank shrugged. “I have no idea, but I haven’t seen anything to suggest I should find out.”

Scott watched his friend for several long moments. “You trust him, don’t you?”

Hank lifted an eyebrow. “Does that surprise you?” Then he nodded. “Yes, I do.”


Hank cocked his head as he considered his answer. “If there were nothing more to Gambit than the scruffy, irresponsible scoundrel we see, he would have died on the street after that fight. In fact, he was clinically dead when we arrived here, but somehow Jean managed to hang on to him.” He spread his hands. “I don’t know how. The only thing she would tell me afterward was that his will is tremendously strong and he simply refused to die.” Hank shrugged. “A two-bit criminal doesn’t have that kind of character.”

Scott mulled his thoughts silently. Character was not an attribute he ascribed to Remy. Was there an entire facet to the man that he simply hadn’t ever seen?

“As further evidence,” Hank went on, “let me add this. I don’t know if you or the other X-Men are truly aware of the extent of the injuries Remy suffered.”

Scott bit back his instinctive response and let the other man continue.

“He was tremendously lucky with the gut wound. It missed the spine, missed the liver... “ Hank eyebrows rose, punctuating his words. “His leg, however... “ He looked over at Scott. “Do you realize that I debated amputation for more than a week before Remy’s condition really started to turn around?”

Scott’s stomach knotted at the thought. They all faced the possibility of crippling or deadly injuries in their roles as X-Men, but to come even this close made the possibilities too real for comfort.

“No, I didn’t realize that.”

Hank nodded. “I wasn’t sure what Jean had told you. The point I’m making, though, is that Remy probably should not ever have walked again. Most people wouldn’t have, even with our Shi’ar equipment.”

Scott favored him with a puzzled frown. “Are you saying he did something miraculous?”

Hank’s smile was amused as he shook his head. “No, not miraculous. Amazing, perhaps.” He took another sip of his tea. “Most people do not have the determination to come back from that kind of injury. The rehabilitation is too hard and too painful.” He paused, thinking. “Remy drove himself far harder than I would have, or even could have. He set his own goals and pushed himself mercilessly until he reached them-- sometimes to the point where I was cringing to watch. But he never gave up.”

Scott remained puzzled. “That certainly doesn’t sound like the Gambit I know.”

Hank nodded in agreement. “I can’t begin to explain why he keeps all that drive bottled up and instead spends his days so frivolously...” He spread his hands helplessly. “But it’s his choice. Just don’t be fooled into thinking that’s all there is to him.”

In unspoken accord, the two turned to look at the object of their discussion who remained soundly asleep, oblivious to their attention. The silence stretched between them.

“So, is it something important you wanted to talk to Remy about?” Hank asked after a while.

Scott shook his head, his mind still churning. “I’m... not sure. But it can wait a while, I suppose.”


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