Storm sorted the mail, humming to herself. She was enjoying not having to work like the rest of the team, even if it did mean she and Jubilee ended up doing chores. There were definite plusses to being in a teenager's body. For instance, she could get away with wearing anything - including body glitter. Then, there was the ability to taunt Logan more effectively. She always knew he had a soft spot for her, but now he tried to take care of her like one of his kids. She loved shocking him.
Logan looked up at the sun shining down warmly. He smiled. His students were busy stripping off shoes and socks and shoving them into gym bags. They scrambled into lines. Assorted parents were sprawled on the lawn or the back porch to watch the class. Logan called the students to order and they bowed in. He set them through the opening kata and walked the lines, correcting positions and encouraging them to continue.
"Bobby Drake, CPA" read the nameplate. Bobby was rethinking his choice to open his own practice. He had to get his own line put in soon or he was going to have Scott on him for tying up two of the Institute lines. He started a file for his newest client. He decided he could only manage one more on his roster before he'd have to start referring out. Maybe Jubilee would like a part-time job, he thought.
Hank put the finishing touches on the grant proposal and printed it out for a final proofing. Hopefully, Scott wouldn't be tied up in negotiations with the contractors this afternoon. He decided to wander upstairs to see if the mail was in yet.
Jean and Rogue sifted through the latest e-mail and phone messages. There were donations pouring in. They were going to need Bobby's help. //Have you seen…?//
"Here, sugah," Rogue said holding up the folder with the latest UN policies on mutants.
Jubilee chewed on the end of her pencil and scowled as she read through the soliloquy again. It made no sense. Shakespeare made no sense. Maybe Scott would let her rent the movie.
"What are you looking so smug about?" Scott asked the figment of his imagination sprawled on the couch in his office.
"Not'in', homme," it replied, lighting a cigar and leaning back even further. "Y' gonna let 'em live or level de place?"
"If they'd done it right in the first place," Scott fumed. He rubbed his temples to ward off the headache.
"Why don' y' check de mail? Mebbe dat make y' feel better."
"Another rejection notice maybe?" Scott countered. But, he stood up and the figure blinked out of existence.
Warren hated his cell phone. It was an evil torture device that he was beginning to suspect had been created by space aliens to cripple the earth in preparation for invasion. It trilled cheerfully as he glared. "Worthington," he answered it as he pulled the car over to the shoulder. "Yes, Mr. Brown, we did evaluate the new chip. Your company should receive the proposal today. The courier will drop it at your office."
Betsy groaned as she sorted through another stack of photographs. She brightened as she came across a good one. The woman's purple hair, combined with delicate bones and almost transparent complexion would be perfect. She hummed under breath as she set her in the short stack for future consideration.
//Storm, would you be a dear and bring up any mail for me?//
//Of course, Psylocke.//
Scott dropped the letter on his desk. "Well, I guess I'll keep you," he told the figure that was draped over the back of his chair. "I think we'll start those other stories as soon as I celebrate."
"An' staple de letter t' Ange's forehead?"
"I was planning to do in the leather in his car actually."
"Go on. Bon temps, cher."
Jean looked up at the tap on the door. She was surprised to see Scott there, but she had a throbbing headache which could explain her inattention. She stepped out and shut the door so Rogue's phone conversation wouldn't be interrupted. "What can I do for you, Honey?"
He swept her into a deep kiss. Suddenly, her headache seemed much better. She touched her tingling lips. He kissed her forehead. She giggled, feeling slightly foolish. She was glad no one had seen them. It would ruin her secret. Scott wasn't uptight around her. Well, not all the time.
"I have just entered a new tax bracket. Bobby's going to hate me."
"They accepted the book?!"
"They did. It'll be in print in three months. Hard copy and e-versions. And they want more. They're going to FedEx a contract for three more books."
"That's what I thought. Are you up for a private celebration?" He settled his hands on her hips. She smiled slyly and settled her hands on his shoulders.
"I'll even take you out for dinner." //A moonlit lake. You. Me. Blanket. Wine.//
"You go get to work. You've got three books to write."
"And research. But it'll be fun."
"Reliving your childhood?"
"Just channeling my anti-social tendencies constructively." Scott put on his best professor face. Jean laughed.
"If I had a nickel for every time I've heard him say that…"
"You'd be Warren's girl."
"No way. Warren's too tame."
//And wear that little leather number.//
"Hey, Jubilee, wait up," Bobby called as the teen skated into the kitchen for a snack.
"Can't talk, Popsicle, I've got a term paper to fake."
"I need an assistant. Maybe 10 hours a week. I can't afford too much right now, but something like seventy dollars a week?"
"Coolness. I'm totally there, but I've gotta do this paper or Scott'll kill me. He's already given me an extension and usually someone's gotta be dying' to get that."
"He's been stressing because the contractors messed up the lab. He has to get them back to fix it. He pulled out Warren's lawyers a couple of days ago."
"Well, I'm happy. _Romeo_and_Juliet_ is such a drag."
"Really? I thought it was sweet. Of course, Scott and Jean did the reading for it in class."
"They read it? Aloud? Do you think you could, like, maybe help me talk them into doing that for me?"
"It's possible. Maybe Scott'll let you do a comparison of the movies that are out. _West_Side_Story_ is my favorite adaptation, but if you ever tell anyone that, I will kill you."
"Got it. No one will hear it from me, Boss-man. You talk to Scott. I'm gonna fight my way through the first act again. Why couldn't the man just write normally?"
"It was normal. For Elizabethan England. At least that's what the professor wanted me to believe."
Jubilee laughed. She skated out again.
"Hey! Didn't Logan tell you no skates in the house?" Bobby called after her.
"What was that, bub? I couldn't hear you! Gotta go!"
"Brat," Bobby muttered.
Jean found Scott waiting with a picnic basket on the back porch. He had a blanket draped over it. He smiled at her and held up a bottle of red wine. It was her favorite. "And just where did you find that?"
"You drove out to get wine?"
"And do the rest of the grocery shopping too. I even took Stormy with me."
"Has she heard you call her that?"
"I'm still standing aren't I?"
"You do have a point. Why do you insist on making her angry?"
"Because I like seeing the lightening in her eyes. Shall we?" He offered her his arm. She giggled and settled her arm in his.
//Let's.// They walked out past the docks and settled on the far side of the lake, out of view of the kids and everyone else. Well, Warren did have hawk eyes so he would be able to see them, but he tended to keep it to himself when he did.
"Scott's really gonna be published? Totally cool," Jubilee stated. "Which one?"
"Risky Maneuvers. The first one with Remy." Scott smiled. He offered Jean a bite of shrimp with his chopsticks. "And there's a contract for more. I'm going to have to get cracking, but don't even begin to think that I'm going to let you slack off, Jubes."
She stuck her tongue out at him and turned to Bobby. "About this assistant thing. What sort of stuff do you want me to do?"
"Filing. Answering the phones. No gum if you're doing that. Got it?"
"I hear you. You're getting as bad as Anal-boy, bub."
"Watch it, girl, I'm grading your English paper."
"Bobby acting like you is a step in maturity, Summers," Jubilee said with a false smile. The table erupted into laughter and the waiters looked over at the group of teachers. The group came in once a month to get away from the campus. They weren't certain which one was the teenager's guardian, but it didn't really matter. They didn't even need to bother with menus any more. They were looking happier than they had in days.
"Okay, so we're agreed. We'll chip in a portion of any salary to the general pot for upkeep and all around the house. The professor's trust funds are still in effect and we've been living off of that for the moment, but that money won't last forever."
"We know, we know. No more beer for you, One-Eye." Logan took the bottle out of the field leader's hand.
"Oh, are you getting me a new one? Thanks, Runt."
Logan growled and shook his head. He gestured for the check and paid for it with Scott's credit card number. Scott leaned back in his chair. He felt something brush against his hair and smiled in Jean's direction. //I want you to take you on the table right now,// Jean told him. His smile grew wider.
//No more wine for you, honey.//
Jean brushed her hair away from her face.
"Break it up, you two! Ick."
"You'll understand when you get back together with Pearl," Scott said idly.
"Exactly. See what I mean." Bobby stuck his tongue out at the field leader.
"Welcome back, Scott," Warren said with a wink. "I haven't seen you this way in years."
"I'm searching out my roots. Come on, boys and girls. Let's get out of here so they can close the place down. You have my report done, Jubes?"
Pawns, the third book in Scott's series, had hit the bookstore shelves five days before. It was time to see what the mail had in it. Scott was kind enough to wait until after dinner to open the mail bag the publishers had forwarded. The team gathered in the den for what was becoming a ritual.
"Let's see. Hmm. Nice perfume," Scott said, sniffing the cream colored envelope. "Oh, it's from Belladonna." She wrote after each book. Sometimes, she offered critiques of the fight scenes. Sometimes, she offered an opinion on how "Belle" would react.
Scott opened the notecard, neatly palming the small package. No one needed to know about the little trophies she sent him.
"Bonjour, cher," he read aloud.
"I suppose you think playing off the chess-master rating is cute, but really, we are all pawns unless we force ourselves out of the position. You catch that feeling of helplessness very well. I nearly wept at the hurried conversation behind the bar. It was real enough to hurt. I have had the same type of relationship with my Remy for years. Right now I have to take it on faith that he's not dead.
"If you ever find out differently, please, I need to know. I need to know if he's still flirting and charming his way through the female population. Ma cher Remy.
"As you can tell, your latest work stirred up a lot of emotions. Emotions I, for the most part, shove down into the corner of my heart and ignore. You've been there, haven't you? You've come awake in the middle of the night, dreaming of your lover, only to have her (him? She asks idly.) fade like the early morning fog.
"Not my most inspired letter, I know, but I feel rubbed raw. Every nerve in my cold, black heart, aches with the agony of never being able to grasp what it wants most. What if I never breath the soft, spicy musk that underlies whatever cologne he's lifted most recently? What if I never feel the feather light touch of his fingers across my eyelashes when he thinks I'm asleep? Or the fireflies that crawl across my skin when he charges the dead skin of my scars to force them to fade? Or the crashing wave of his love that threatens to pull me under and forces my heart to open to accept it?
"How can I handle knowing I will never see his grin or hear the snick-slap of his cards the instant before they fly unerringly towards their target? Tell me, Scotty-cher, how did you deal with touching the cool sheets that used to hold the lingering scent and imprint of your lover's body?
"Sometimes, I rue the day I picked up your first book. But, better my heart bleed than remain cold and hard, n'est ce pas?
"No critiques or advice this time, mon ami.
"Signed. Belladonna Boudreaux."
Jean shivered. She reached over to squeeze Scott's hand, as Rogue reached out to pull Bobby close.
"P.S. The perfume is White Diamonds. Fitting, non?"
Jubilee reverently placed the card back into its envelope and put it in the pile of letter to be answered. Bobby handed Scott the package. There was only one so far. Scott slit the tape and frowned at the lack of return address. Hopefully there'd be one inside.
He lifted out the adamantium cylinder. He frowned at its weight. "M' bo," Remy purred into his author's ear. He ran a hand over it. "I can' touch it," he murmured. He looked shocked, as if he'd never thought of that eventuality. Scott stood up and went to a clear space. He spun the tube and the staff extended from both ends. He pressed the button he felt and there were blades suddenly on the ends.
Logan whistled. "Nice piece of equipment, Slim." Scott weighed the staff in his hands. It was perfectly balanced for him. He thought that was odd.
"Remy teach y' some, pup. Mebbe Claws help y' too?"
Scott glanced at Logan. "Harder than a pool cue," he commented.
"Expensive too, if that's what I'm thinkin' it is."
"Feels like adamantium."
"Dis button retracts dem." Scott pressed the rather hidden catch and the blades retracted. His fingers found the next catch without help from his figment. The bo retracted into the tube again. He searched the packaging for a return address. Finally, he threw it away in frustration and moved onto the next letter.
"I am most intrigued by your character. I was unaware that Remy had anything to do with an institution of higher education. His loathing for anything resembling schoolwork used to irritate me to no end. No matter. You capture his essence quite well.
"Congratulations on your success.
"If you see him. Give him this letter. Tell him to call.
"There's no signature." Scott shook his head. "Jean, are you sure that my figment's not a ghost? I mean really sure. This is getting spooky."
"I'm positive, Scott," Jean assured. The lie came more easily now. The only thing she'd ever sensed was a slight projection onto the astral. Scott's own talents could account for that. The minor telepathic latency that he considered his gut could create a shadow projection onto the astral. And the projection was connected to him. But that was far too complicated to explain right now. Scott shook his head and went on to the next letter. About two hours later the group broke up and went to bed.
"We're looking for Mr. Scott Summers." The agent told the white haired teen that answered the door. Ororo cocked her head to the side.
"May I ask what this is in regards to?" The formal speech surprised them for a moment, but they realized that she was probably an exchange student.
"We're from the FBI." The female agent held out her badge.
"I'll get him for you. Please wait here." Ororo shut the door in their faces. She cursed fluently under her breath. She hoped this wasn't what she thought. If they'd tagged Scott as the head of the X-men the rest of the team was screwed. "Scott! Scott!"
"I'm in the den, 'Ro!" He called out. She found him in the den shooting pool. He was wearing the jeans and tee-shirt that had practically become a uniform for him.
"There's two FBI agents at the front door to see you."
"Fuck. Okay. Give me five minutes, then escort them to my office. I have to look a little more presentable. I think I've got a jacket in my office," he was talking more to himself than Storm. She just nodded and gave him a moment to clean the chalk off of his hands. He ran a hand through his lengthening hair. She just now realized how long it was getting. It was still shorter than she and Jubilee were hoping it would get, but it hung down to his jaw now and he didn't seem to care. That was a definite plus from the books. She took the opportunity to watch him walk out of the room. She fanned herself. Damn, Jean was lucky.
After the allotted time, she went back to the door. "Agents? If you would follow me, please. Mr. Summers will meet you in his office." By the time they reached the office, Scott had become much more presentable. He was wearing a button-down shirt over his tee, with a blazer. He looked like, well, like a professor. Storm raised a brow. He didn't take the bait. He set aside the file he had supposedly been reading and rose to meet the agents.
"Mr. Summers? I'm Agent Hanson and this is Agent Taylor," the woman introduced herself and her partner. "We'd like to ask you some questions."
"Ororo, please close my door on the way out. And make sure that someone answers the phones. I don't want the contractor getting away by saying we didn't answer."
"I will see to it personally, Sir," Storm said, hiding her smile. She left them and called out to Jean. //Jean, you might want to monitor the situation in Scott's office. There's FBI involved.//
//I will.// Jean assured.
"Please, have a seat? Would you like something to drink? I'm sure we have coffee in the kitchen."
"No, thank you," Taylor answered. He was shorter than what Scott thought of as an FBI agent. With greying black hair. His partner reminded him a lot of Emma Frost. That scared the hell out of him. His only hope was that they weren't telepaths. "Mr. Summers, you seem to have access to a lot of sensitive information regarding some rather high-profile crimes. We want to know who you've been getting your information from."
Scott stopped dead. This was not the interrogation he'd been planning on. "What do you mean?"
"What Agent Taylor is saying, Mr. Summers, is that some of the details of the crimes were never released to the public. The cases are still open. Where did you get the information?"
"Research, Agents. Research. Let me get my files for you." He stood and opened the top drawer of the filing cabinet he kept his book research in. The top was beginning to become a shrine to Remy. He pulled out the files on the first three books. "These are the newspaper articles I started from." He told them. "This is the copy of the information I got off of the internet. These are the transcripts from interviews I've had with a retired Interpol investigator. These are the blueprints that I got from the museums and contractors. This is the manual for the security system they have in place, which I also got off of the internet. I took the basics of the case, got the additional information and figured out how it had to have been done. That's nothing a good detective couldn't have done."
"Or a good thief."
"Am I being accused of something Agent Hanson?"
"Not right now, but we did some digging. You have quite an inspirational story yourself, don't you? Street child to thief to Headmaster of the most exclusive Institute on the East Coast."
"Yes, it was quite a switch. But Professor Xavier taught me so much. When he asked me to look after things while he went on sabbatical I couldn't refuse him." Scott's face never betrayed the cursing going on in his head, or the fact that his figment had popped up behind the agents and was making faces and rude gestures at them.
"Mr. Summers, we have your file. We know about Jack Diamond."
"Then you know that he is a miserable, conniving, sadistic bastard who deserves to be pounded into his component molecules and then swept away into a sandstorm?" Scott asked in a sweet tone. He didn't like the agents at all. If this had been about the X-men he might have worried, but Jack was another story.
"Y' got depths y' ain' begun to plumb 'bout dat anger, cher," the figment Remy chided. Scott resisted the urge to snap back at him. He didn't want to be committed. "Po' cher, can' even talk back. What say we do somet'in' interestin' t' de agents?" Scott's eyes narrowed behind his glasses. "D'Accord!" Remy held up his hands in surrender.
Agent Hanson was left a little off kilter by the venom in Scott's statement. "We don't have much information on Diamond other than the list of his crimes and his rap sheet. Maybe you could fill us in on his technique."
"She tryin' t' trip y' up, homme." Scott wanted to answer that obvious statement as well. Luckily, they were interrupted by the door bursting open and a hysterically angry Jubilee following it in.
"Scott, Logan's being a jerk! There's like this major party happening this weekend and I, like, so need to go because if I don't, it's like I'm totally trashed forever and the crew over at the Academy will, like, never, ever talk to me again. This is the biggest bash of the year. And I like need to get a dress and stuff from the mall, but Logan says that I can't go out because I'm, like, on restriction. That is so totally unfair. I mean come on, we're talking life or death here." She gestured wildly, completely ignoring the FBI agents that she was fully aware of.
Scott took a deep breath. "Calm down, Jubes. Tell me again why Logan-san grounded you." That stopped her dead. She flushed.
"Cuz I sorta, kinda borrowed his bike. But that's so beside the point. I mean I didn't do anything to it. No one got hurt or anything. And I brought it back. I mean, come on. He was so taken up with Kitty, it's not like he even noticed it was gone until I brought it back."
"You got jealous that Logan was spending time with your sister and stole his bike."
"I borrowed it. It's not like I had to hot-wire it or something. I mean, I just borrowed his keys."
"And for this you were given a punishment of what?"
"Grounding for two months, except for the party which, like, Logan agreed to before the whole bike thing."
"You're lucky Logan is the one who decides your punishments, kid."
Jubilee gaped. "What the flonque are you talkin' about, bub?"
"What you did was reckless, dangerous, and not to mention it, illegal. You do not have your license yet. Yes, I know you know how to drive the bike and I agree that you are mature enough to drive, but the fact remains that it is illegal for you to do so until you turn 16 and get your license. Secondly, you could have been hurt or hurt someone while riding in an angry state of mind. That is a risk that you shouldn't take, at least until you're old and decrepit like me or Logan. Thirdly, you worried all of us by disappearing and not telling anyone where you were going. You could have been kidnapped or disappeared and no one would have known where to start looking for you. If I had it my way, you would be grounded for six months, including the party."
"That's so harsh!"
"If I can't have a life, no one has a life," Scott said in a flat tone. Jubilee couldn't help it, she giggled.
"Okay, okay. I'll go apologize."
"Good. And if you are in desperate need of a dress, perhaps you could ask 'Ro to make you one."
"I never thought of that. Cool. Thanks, Scottie!" She bounced up on her toes and kissed him on the cheek then whirled out of the office, slamming the door behind her. Everyone in the room winced, including the figment. Scott wondered when, exactly, he'd lost control of Remy's appearances. Well, it wasn't like he was causing trouble or something.
"I'm sorry, Agents, where were we?"
"You were going to tell us about Jack Diamond."
"He's an asshole, if you'll excuse my language. His technique. You wanted to know about his technique. Go in, blow it open, take what you want and run. If you're lucky no one ID's you."
Taylor's mouth twitched and Scott knew he was trying not to laugh. Hanson's face got colder.
"Oh goodie, dey gonna play good cop, bad cop. Y' let Remy taunt de femme, non? She got latencies. Can' y' feel dem?" Scott didn't answer, merely faced the agents politely.
"Mr. Summers, this is a federal investigation. Please keep in mind that obstruction of justice is a crime punishable by prison."
"I've committed no crime and I have created a fictional character who happens to be a thief capable of carrying off thefts like the ones I based my books on. I changed the details in the books and left out just enough that no one should be able to use the book as a manual for a crime, but that is beyond my control. If this book had stayed in the back corner of the mystery section, you wouldn't be here. There are plenty of books out there that are based on true crimes. I have an active imagination. I have a good character. That's the difference. Is there anything else, Agent Hanson?" She forced her jaw to unclench.
"Not today, Mr. Summers. Thank you," she said politely. She stood and left. Agent Taylor shook hands with the author as she left the office. He pulled out a well worn copy of _Risky_Maneuvers_.
"I hate to ask this now, but would you mind?"
"Of course not." Scott autographed the book. "You'd better hide that before the Ice Queen comes looking for you."
"Thank you for your time. And if you happen to come across any theories or contacts who might know more about these robberies, would you give us a call? Here's my card."
"Certainly. Let me show you out."
"Did you get his autograph?" Hanson sneered. Taylor smiled blandly at her.
"And a very nice set of fingerprints on the page where he signed. They're for his left hand, but that's better than nothing."
"What did he write?" she asked, putting the car in gear.
"Agent Taylor. I didn't do it. S. Summers. There's a smiley face next to his signature." Taylor didn't have to open the book to look. Hanson's mouth twitched. "Come on, you know you want to laugh." She smiled. Her partner put the book into the plastic bag he'd had waiting for it and marked it. "They'll never let us use this in a court of law."
"No, but damn it, I want to know. You worked the case in that book."
"I'm the one who brought this up, remember? Now, let's just get back to the field office and the case we're *supposed* to be working on?"
She winced. "Sorry, Joe." He shrugged. He was used to her moods.
Scott leaned against the closed door. His mouth quirked up into a grin when he saw china blue eyes watching him. "Come're, Squirt." He gave Jubilee a one-armed hug. "That was one of the most brilliant acts I have ever seen. Logan-san taught you well, Grasshopper."
"What can I say," she said popping her gum, "I'm a natural."
"A natural what, we're not sure yet," Bobby said. "I caught the whole thing on tape. They wanted your prints, Cyke. Logan planted a bug in their car."
"Great. Why the hell do they want my prints? They're already on record."
"Yer prints are on record?" Jubilee said. "Like, they actually have reason to be questionin' ya?"
"I have a juvie record that Professor X never bothered to have sealed. I've never gotten around to it either. I don't tend to go leaving my prints around."
"No one means to, but…"
"Jubes, think about my uniform."
"Oh, yeah. Gloves. Duh. You so owe me though."
"Maybe a new dress. At the mall. My treat?"
"Oh man, are you serious?"
"Dreadfully. Just ask Jean. I can put her to sleep just by talking about my day. Just the other night she was having trouble…"
"You're awful," Jean snickered. "Come on, get rid of that tweedy monstrosity." He shrugged off the suit-coat and tossed it at her.
"Jewelry." Scott blinked. He glanced back at where Jean was standing. An appreciative grin was on Remy's face. Oh, shit, Scott guessed it was time to write. "De petite. She deserve jewelry for dat performance." Scott ruffled the hair on Jubilee's head.
"Go on. Get your coat. We'll go now. Bobby, keep an eye on our Feebies and make sure they don't have the place staked out. I'm taking Jubes to the mall and she's pretending to be grounded." Scott snickered. "Has Logan ever grounded you?"
"Remy's dinkin' de petite fille needs somet'in' real nice t' wear t' de party. She gonna need shoes t' go wit' de dress too." Scott suddenly got a cold knot in his stomach. He realized that he'd just sentenced himself to hours of torture in the mall. What had he been thinking? And to make matters worse, his figment was trying to look down the front of Jean's shirt, which she had barely buttoned over her workout leotard. She and Rogue had been doing some stress busting and brainstorming in the Danger Room. Her hair was still slightly damp. She looked damn good. If he hadn't just told Jubilee he was going to take her out, Jean would not be standing for long. Remy licked his lips. "Y' a lucky man, homme. M' wife. She'd a killed po' Remy f' bringin' de cops home." Scott bit his tongue, hard. He would not talk back to his figment while there were other people around. He would not. "So, what y' dink, cher? Y' stop an' get somet'in' f' de petite an' f' Jeannie?"
"I was thinking that maybe yellow would be good."
"I always wear yellow to parties. I want something different," Jubilee sighed in frustration. She poked through the clearance rack.
"You don't have to worry about sales on my account."
She rolled her eyes. "Don't worry. You'll make a dent in your bank account before I'm through with ya, bub. What do you think about pink?"
"Matches your shades."
"Okay. That was a no." Scott grinned. He studied her.
"What about royal blue?"
She blinked. "Blue?" She wrinkled her nose up and thought. "Possible."
"You could accessorize it with what you've got, but a royal blue, or an electric blue would pick up on your eyes. And maybe one of those translucent wraps."
"The opally ones?"
"That's what I was thinking." He thought a bit longer and studied her.
"Midnight blue with silver shoes?"
"You think I could pull that off?" Scott nodded. "At the moment my, erm, vertical momentum has stalled."
"That shouldn't be a problem, just get a shorter skirt than you've been looking at."
"Well, it is a formal."
"Then a little less skirt than you've been looking at. Go for a straighter skirt."
"Ya sound awfully into this sort of thing."
"You've met my wife."
"Point. So, like, you think a straight skirt. My hips feel absolutely huge."
"Jubes, you aren't even close to being to large for something like that." Scott rolled his eyes behind his glasses. "Or you could go with red."
"Oriental collar, sleeveless, brocade."
"I'm thinkin' that you've, like, got a specific place in mind to find something like that?" Scott nodded. Jubes grinned. "Always planning and plotting. That's our Scotty for ya." She took his arm and they left the store.
Jubilee looked around the cramped and eclectic little store with interest. It smelled of jasmine and green tea. She liked it. "So, like, how did you find this place?"
"I needed to get some incense for 'Ro once. She directed me here. I thought it was interesting." He bowed formally to the older woman behind the counter. Jubilee had to grin. She had her pure white hair up in a bun. She inclined her head.
"Come here, Child." Scott complied much to Jubilee's surprise. She clucked at him. "I will get you something for that headache. Little One, let me find you the dress you are looking for. One moment." The woman got up with self-possessed grace. She used her dragon-headed cane to support her as she walked to the back of the store. She chose two dresses from the rack, then turned an evaluating eye towards Jubilee. She chose one more and handed them to the young woman. "There is a changing room there, Little One. Go, show us how beautiful you will look."
"Mrs. Winter, won't you let me help?" Scott asked as the older woman moved around behind the counter choosing a special blend of herbs for a tea. She shot him a withering look and he stepped back with his hands up. "Sorry. I'll just go stand over here, out of trouble."
"Child, you will never be out of trouble. I read your book. Very nice. Where are you getting your information?"
"I've been doing a lot of research." Unbidden, his hand reached out to stroke the velvet of the cape he was standing next to. "I can't really separate where I got things anymore."
"So you don't know you've a ghost with you?"
"Oh, you mean Figment."
"Figment?" she chuckled. "Very well, Figment then. Who is he?"
"My character. My wife believes that I'm 'creating an astral projection of my childhood grief' or something like that." Mrs. Winter nodded thoughtfully.
"A very wise woman. Most ghosts are projections of one sort or another." Jubilee came out in a midnight blue sheath with a silver brocade dragon that swirled up from the base to the her shoulder.
"You were, like, so right about the blue. The red was just too harsh and Wolvie would kill me if I got black." Scott nodded.
"Come here." She slipped forward on bare feet and he wrapped a velvet cape of blue around her shoulders.
"Scotty! I can't…"
"I told you. My treat."
"Don't argue with the boy when he gets something into his head, Little One. He is a stubborn one."
"Tell me about it."
"Ya know we have to go looking for shoes."
"I was planning on it." He took the cape and laid it on the counter carefully. Jubilee went back to the room to change. "Do you have a book on voodoo around here?"
"Probably. Check the bookshelf behind the raven blanket. Does Ororo need anything today?"
"She didn't tell me about anything. But doesn't she get something monthly from you?"
"Yes, but I am not going to let you handle it. You'll get negative energy all over it," she teased.
"Is there no place I can go where I won't be picked on?"
"Y' could go t' Nawlins, cher." Scott glared at his figment from the corner of his eye as he looked through titles. "Dere, cher, on de bottom. Book 'bout ole Marie herself. Dat's a good one. And den dere's dat one. De Haitian one. Ain' de best, but sometimes y' got t' take what y' can get. And dere's one on de top self." Scott gathered them and set them on the counter.
"And just what do you think you're studying, Young Man?" Winters asked archly.
"Alternative religions." She chuckled.
"You be careful, Child."
"I just want some information."
"That's how it starts," she muttered to herself. "Then you're pulling them out of the flames of a miscast spell, just because they don't ask for help."
"Mrs. Winter! I'm not impetuous." She stopped and turned to stare at him. "Anymore?"
"That's better." She shook her finger at him. "Don't you rush into anything. And come and talk to me before you do anything. Ororo is still too young."
"Yes, ma'am." Scott pulled out his checkbook and started to fill it out. She quoted him a total and he glanced up with a frown. "But…"
"Do not argue with me. I can easily make it up on the tourists." She rolled her eyes. "Those teenyboppers who are still testing the waters and spending their conservative parents' money on the search." Scott snickered.
"You've grown up so much better than I'd hoped." Scott looked up at her with a grin.
"Sh. Don't let anyone know when I met you, okay?"
"What was that? A secret, Scotty?" Jubilee called from where she was putting back the other dresses.
"Right. Fine. Don't tell me anything."
"Okay, I won't."
"Men," Jubilee muttered. Mrs. Winter smiled at her.
"Don't let them fool you, Little One. They are not as foolish as they first appear. Although, I will admit that cutting through all the bull is difficult. But you must persevere."
Jubilee grinned. "Thanks." She took two of the bags, leaving Scott to handle the books and herbs.
"Remember, drink the tea, then lie down for ten minutes."
"Yes, Mrs. Winter."
"Don't forget to come by next full moon with Ororo. Bring the Little One."
"Yes, Mrs. Winter. Thank you."
"Goodbye, Child, Little One."
"Bye!" Jubilee said, leading the way back into the mall. "Where to next, Scotty?"
"Food? At a time like this? I need shoes. Shoes."
"I'm financing this outing. I say food. Or I won't have the strength to make it to all five shoes stores in this mall." He sighed melodramatically and Jubilee giggled.
"Fine. Whatever. Where do you want to go?"
"There's a sit down restaurant around the corner. I'm sure they have something."
"Or we could, like, hit the pastry shop downstairs and spoil our dinner."
"Who's cooking tonight?"
"Pastry it is."
Jubilee tried on the fifth pair of high heels and frowned. "These things are so not stable."
"Then maybe you should try a fatter heel or flats. And if you're going to be dancing you're not going to want to be in anything you can't be up for long in." Scott leaned back in the chair and nodded to the men who passed with sympathetic smiles.
"Point. Let me see these in a six!" she called to the clerk that had chosen to help them. She was holding up a pair of flat silver ballet style shoes. Scott prayed that these would be winning choice.
"Y' don' ask f' much do y', pup?" Remy asked, snickering. "Why won' y' talk t' po' Remy? Worried de petite's gonna have y' committed?" Scott nodded as Jubilee picked up another pair. It was the third store.
"Those are nice," Scott said glancing at the high heeled black boot Jubilee was handling.
"You think they'd go with the dress?"
"Not the short ones, but maybe the ones that go to the knee?"
"Wolvie'd kill both of us."
"True. How about the silver Mary-Janes."
"Mary-Janes? I'm not a kid."
"Right. Sorry. I just thought they'd work with the theme. I like the ballet ones too. I'm just going to wander over here. Call me when you get the new ones on."
"Sure thing." Scott went around the clearance rack and looked at the shoes.
"Jubes, have you seen these?" he asked, holding out a pair of blue flats. Jubilee looked at them.
"Nope." She took them and looked for the clerk.
"Remy dinks de petite's performance deserves jewelry," Scott mimicked. Jubilee giggled and blushed. It took a lot to get a Remy comment out of Scott. "Come on. Sapphires?" he murmured aloud, peering into one of the cases.
The cashier behind the counter commented, "You've cut your hair."
"Have we met?" She smiled.
"Is this your daughter?"
"Earrings, necklace or ring?"
"Earrings to begin."
Jubilee was starting to feel guilty. "This is too much," she hissed.
"Don' have anyone else t' spoil, 'tite." Scott grinned. She punched him in the shoulder.
"I'm bein' serious here."
"So am I. How often do I go shopping?" He ran his finger along the display, creating patterns in the velvet backing. "Do you have any in white gold?"
The cashier thought. "Yes! They just came in." She locked the tray back into its case and went into the back.
"Scott, Jeannie's gonna kill you!"
"Not if I bring her something too. I'll get extra points for that. Emeralds I think." The cashier set out the tray. Remy's breath caught as he peered over Scott's shoulder.
"Oh, cher. Dese!" He pointed to a pair of dangling star sapphires. "Dey go wit' de dress and de petite's eyes. Y' know it too, pup." Scott lifted one up by its post to get a better idea of the look.
"Yer girl's gonna kill ya."
"They're perfect. This pair. And let me see this necklace." The cashier boxed the sapphires and took out the emerald and ruby necklace on its delicate gold chain. The rubies swept up like the edge of a flame on one side of the setting. "And this," he confirmed.
"743.62" Scott blinked.
"Is that all?" The cashier gave him a sly smile.
"Manger's Special." Scott nodded and wrote the check. They collected their bags and left. "Goodbye, Remy," she whispered. "You take good care of this one. Janice! I'm going on break!" She escaped to the bathroom and locked the door to cry in peace.
Jubilee had to try on the whole ensamble. Scott grinned at Logan's suspicious look. Scott gave Jean a small box. She gasped. "Scott!" she chided.
"Shut up, Honey." He put the necklace around her throat.
//It's beautiful, but…//
//Thank you.// He kissed her gently.
"My eyes! My eyes!" Bobby cried. "I'm too young to see that sort of thing."
"Shut up, Sugah," Rogue told him. "Where's Jubilee?"
"You're going to spoil her rotten," Betsy warned. She was settled on the couch with a cold compress over her eyes.
"So? Kids deserve to be spoiled. Besides, she's feeling guilty."
"You are an evil man, Slim. Here's your tea."
"Thanks, Warren," Betsy said.
"So where is our spoiled brat?" Ororo asked, flipping through her newest addiction, _People_ magazine.
"Warren's right next to you," Scott pointed out. Jean smacked his arm. "Hey! She asked."
Jubilee stepped through the door. She looked like royalty. The velvet hooded cape framed her face. The star sapphires twinkled in her ears. The dress fit her perfectly, emphasizing the length of her body, making her seem taller. The blue flats matched the cape. Scott grinned.
"Doncha dare say it, Slim!" Jubilee snapped. He pressed his lips together.
"Ya look beautiful, Kid," Logan told her. She blushed.
Betsy looked her up and down. "Of course. Jubilee, I have a job for you, if you're interested."
"We'll talk. I'm gonna go change. You're the best, Scotty. Thanks." She hugged him then disappeared in a swirl of blue.
Logan shook his head and grinned. "Ya don't need ta do things like this, Slim."
"I know. But I enjoy it." He pulled Jean closer.
"Sorry, Scott, there's a new bill going to the floor and Rogue and I still have work to do."
"I know." He kissed her forehead.
"Dat ain't a kiss, cher," Remy stated. Scott ignored him.
Eventually, Scott escaped to his office. He poured himself a scotch.
"Now, cher. We bot' know drinkin' ain' de answer. What did de connard do t' y'?" Remy asked. He was in the windowseat, smoking.
"I don't want to talk about this."
"Aw, cher, Remy's not gonna judge y' f' stealin' f' y' poppa."
"He's not my father!" Scott snapped. "Just because he put me up, doesn't make him my dad!"
"What makes him not y' poppa? Y' loved him, non?"
"I feared him. I want him dead."
Jean listened at the door. At least part of him was dealing with things from what she could hear. She went upstairs to her office, assured that Scott would be okay.
"Remy, he hurt me."
"How? Tell me."
"Because I ain' gonna tell. Y' so angry, cher. Y' make Remy worry f' y'."
"So I'm angry. It keeps me going."
"Ain't no good t' lie t' moi, cher."
"He beat me." Scott shrugged. "I'm not the only kid that's ever gotten beaten up."
"Non, but y' mine, pup. Y' de only one Remy's got t' talk t'. He gonna be pretty lonely if'n y' get killt cuz of y'r anger or y'r past."
"Great. Now a figment of my imagination is trying to guilt me. How much lower can I go?"
"Scotty?" Remy said softly. He looked at him with compassionate eyes. He stood and moved to perch on the desk. "Cher, don' close m' out. Feels like part o' y' be dyin'." Scott pressed the cool glass to his forehead.
"He beat me. He yelled at me. He treated me like shit. What else is their to know?"
"What's all de anger Remy be feelin' from y'?"
"I didn't deserve it. Damn it! No one deserves it!" Scott thought he could feel gentle pressure against his temples. It was soothing. He closed his eyes. "I've still got scars. The professor wanted me to forgive Jack."
"Non, cher. Don' need t' f'give him. Y' need t' not let him win. Been hurt plenty, me. Y' don' need t' f'give, but y' need t' make sure he don' win. Don' let him ruin y' life, Scott. Don' let it fester."
"You wouldn't be here if I got rid of that."
"Y' underestimate y'self and me. He ain' de only one dat hurt y'?" Scott threw the tumble against the wall, denting the paneling. He pushed his glasses up to rub his eyes. "We write some den, pup?" Remy asked. His voice was soft. Scott pulled down his shades. He had to see the face that accompanied that tiny sound.
The command to "just go away" flickered and died before he could speak. He recognized the slumped shoulders and defensively crossed arms. It was like looking into the mirror. It had been years since he'd cried. Not even Jean's apparent death had brought tears. He clenched his jaw against the tears that threatened. His eyes burned. A single tear did escape.
Cool fingers, insect quick and light, brushed it away. "I'm sorry, Scotty." Scott shook his head, denying the apology. He turned on the computer and dug out a disc. It was going to be a long night.
Scott copied Logan in a mirror movement. The staff felt natural in his hands now. It was a practice staff - not the metal bo that taunted him from the top of his filing cabinet.
"Okay. Ya got the basics. Let's give it a go. Attack. Attack. Block high. Block low. Block right. Block left. Attack. Attack. Sweep." Scott followed the formal exercise. The bamboo felt like a pool cue. He'd been fighting with those for years. This was so formal that his mind wandered. "Ready to try against someone else?"
"Sure." Logan started out gently. He moved progressively faster as he found his student could handle it. Soon he came to a startling conclusion. Scott's reactions were not those of a first year student. The vicious smile wasn't the man he was used to either.
"what's up, Runt?"
"Where'd ya learn yer moves?" Scott blinked.
"Some of it just… feels right." Scott was scared. Logan could smell it. "I've used pool cues before. Ask Warren or Bobby. They had to drag me off of a FOH bastard who'd started making trouble. But that was almost 15 years ago. Plus all the time I spent in the future. I was just using my gut." Logan's nostrils flared looking for a lie. He nodded.
"Let's see exactly whatcha can do with yer pool cue then."
Scott took a deep breath. "Go on, cher. Show him what y' can do," Remy cheered from the sidelines. Logan caught the quick glance to the side. There was nothing there. He chalked it up to Jean's theory. She claimed that Remy held Scott's past. Fifteen years ago was a long time. Hell, he'd have been a teenager. He wondered if Scott was asking for help or calling up memories.
Scott grinned at him, suddenly dangerous. "You sure you can handle me, Runt?" Logan was mostly sure it was an act. Shit, even Hank had never mentioned something like this. Although, it would explain a lot about Jean's reactions to him.
"Yep." Scott's first moves were typical, textbook even and Logan defended with ease. Then, he went on the offensive. Scott ducked and parried his bo like it was nothing. The slash towards his groin almost caught Logan out, but he managed to deflect it into his thigh. Scott jumped the slash to his legs. He used the bo as a vault and went over the shorter man's head. He neatly avoided Logan's backwards stab and delivered a quick rap to Logan's shoulder. He managed to pull it, slightly.
Logan's smile grew wider. He could get to like sparring with Cyke after all. The boy had some good moves for being self-taught. He obviously was. There was very little polish to the moves, but the attacks were fast and furious and used the length of the bo for safety. His defense was a bit predictable, but Logan would forgive that. But the jumps were new. Of course, in battle, Cyke rarely had opportunity to show off, but Logan was fairly certain he'd have seen something like it before then.
Scott heard Remy counting off seconds. He timed the block carefully to that record. He didn't know when he'd started to rely on Remy as an internal clock, but it served him very well. He caught the blow Logan expected to actually connect. He knocked it aside and caught Logan in the back of the knee. "Time," he panted. "Shit. I'm not as young as I used to be."
"Practice makes perfect, Slim. Practice makes perfect."
Scott's hand went immediately to his glasses as he entered his office. Behind his desk, in his chair, was a woman he didn't know. She was in black and red body armor. Her booted feet were up on the desk. She twirled a silver dagger between her fingers.
"If I wanted y' dead, cher, I'd have already done it."
"Belle?" Scott asked, incredulously. She smiled.
"Belladonna Boudreaux, Scott-cher." She stood and moved towards the stunned X-man. She pressed a finger to the bottom of his chin to close his mouth. She paced around him. She trailed her fingers along his shoulder blade and down his back to his hip. "You understand dat I had t' be sure," she purred into his ear.
He opened his mouth to speak, but he didn't know what to say. He escaped into banality. "Would you like something to drink?"
She laughed. It was a surprisingly musical sound. "Oui, cher. Bourbon. No ice."
"Your wish is my command, keeping in mind that I'm married and it's mostly legal." Belladonna seated herself on the couch. She carefully removed her gloves. She pulled at each finger delicately as she spoke.
"Of course it will be legal. I wouldn't want a terrorist t' break de law." Scott kept himself from visibly reacting to that comment.
"What are you talking about?" he asked, keeping his tone light. He wondered why he was feeling a blush trying to creep up his cheeks as she worked her fingers free of her gloves. She moved to the other one as he set the glass on the side table.
"Don' play games, Cyclops," she smiled. She patted the couch next to her. "De X-men ain't exactly low profile."
"Dat's f' sure," Remy commented from his favorite place on the windowseat.
Scott smiled ruefully. "Planning to turn us in?" She rolled her eyes.
"Why would I do dat when Remy's so taken wit' y'?"
"Bella, I've never met Remy. Your Remy at least." She gave him a half smile. She took a photo out of her pocket. "Your wedding?" She nodded. She patted the seat again. He sat down.
Remy knelt in front of her. "Mon couer. Ma chere," he murmured. He ran his fingers down her cheek. His hands began glowing.
She didn't react. She placed a hand on Scott's knee and gave it a squeeze. "Cher, I can' touch her," he said sadly. "I was hopin'… Don' talk t' me, cher. Not wit' her here. She don' like craziness. Even if she believe in ghosts.
Jean stopped short with a frown. There was a woman she didn't know, lounging on the bed. She was twirling a bright silver dagger. "Y' must be Jeannie." The woman slowly curled to her feet. Her braids swayed as she moved. "Tell me 'bout Scotty."
"And just what do you want to know about my husband? And why?" Jean demanded. "Jus' what is de real Scott like? Does he really see ma cher Remy?" The voice was an even, low, purr. She waited for her answers with a slight pout. Her eyes were sharp and cold.
"Why should I talk to you?" Jean's eyes narrowed. "Relax, cher. Jus' wanna know if he's gonna be good f' my Remy. And how did Remy show up? Why does he have my Remy's bo in his office? Is he any good?" She paused for a moment and leaned forward, knife tapping at her lower lip. "And does he like leather or lace?"
"He's my husband, Honey," Jean warned. "I don't think your Remy showed up. We believe his 'muse' is just a composition of his repressed emotions from his childhood coming to the forefront. We don't know where that bo came from. It was sent in a package with no return address. And are you sure it's your Remy's? And what do you think he prefers?"
"Dat makes some kind of sense. Remy ain't never grown up. An' dey got some similar features if'n y' look close." Belladonna tapped a finger against her lip. "It's de eyes dough. Dat's what makes me wonder… ah, forget I mentioned it. And, oui, it's Remy's bo. I had it made for him when we were datin'. I know it inside and out. Dey're custom made f' balance an' all.
"And I'm dinkin' bot' considerin' dat pretty li'l black number in de back of y' closet. Dat a flashback t' dat Black Queen incident I was readin' about?"
"Hey! What were you doing going through my closet? And what about the eyes?"
"Had t' do somet'in' while I was waitin' f' y' t' get back. An' jus' where did y' boy pull de concept of red and black eyes?"
"You could have done the normal thing. Knocked on the front door and waited in the library. Who knows where Scott gets his ideas? There's no one around my husband. Trust me. I'd know."
"Really, cher? Interestin' but lackin' style. Are y' lyin' t' y'self or me?"
"Style isn't everything and I'm lying to no one."
"Believe what y' want, cher. Y' spar wit' him, non?"
"Of course I spar with him. What has that got to do with anything?"
"What's y' choice of weapon?" Belle trailed the knife down her sternum before making it disappear into her sleeve.
"I don't use a weapon."
"Y' loss den. He's good. Bon nuit." She wiggled her fingers at Jean and stepped backwards and out of the window. "Try green leather!"
"Wait a minute! He's good at what? And what about green leather?"
There was no response.
"Damn. Who the hell does she think she is anyway?"
"I always thought green leather would bring out your hair, Jean. Did I interrupt something? I thought I was the only one allowed to talk to myself around here."
"Fuck! Scott, warn a person before you sneak up on them. There was some blonde bimbo in here asking about you and Figment."
"That was Bella? What was she doing here?"
"And I don't think she's a bimbo. She's actually very nice once you get beyond the I want to kill you façade. Showing me photos and fighting techniques. Why? What did she want from you?"
"It's only a façade? Didn't seem that… wait a minute! How would you know about getting beyond her façade? How many times has she been here? She wanted to know about Remy and when he showed up. She wanted to know about the bo and whether you like leather or lace. Just what have you been doing with her, Scott?"
"She's been here a couple of times. Why? Didn't I tell you? I thought I had. I told you, we've been talking about fighting techniques. She showed me some interesting moves that I can't wait to try out on Logan. As for the leather or lace, I think she's just trying to get over the fact that I'm not her husband."
"No, it must have been your other wife you told. And she better understand that you ain't her husband. Your mine."
"Cat fight, cher? Wanna put money on it?" Scott's mouth twitched at the corner.
"I think she does on one level. But she misses Remy terribly."
"Sometimes I really want to smack you, Scott." Jean walked over and wrapped her arms around Scott. "I can understand that. I don't know what I'd do if I lost you."
"Aw, ain't dat sweet." Scott buried his face in the side of Jean's neck and inhale the scent of her hair. Roses and peppermint, he classified automatically. "Kiss her."
Jean frowned as Scott tensed in her arms. "Scott? What's wrong?"
"Close your ears for a second, Honey."
"Okay," Jean said warily.
Scott looked over her shoulder. "Remy, shut the fuck up, I'm trying to have a moment with my wife here. And, just for your information, this is because I want to, not because you suggested it." He lifted Jean's chin and kissed her gently.
Jean wrapped her arms more tightly around Scott's neck. She tilted her head back and deepened the kiss. She pulled back and smiled at him. "I've missed you, lover. We've been so busy lately." Her hands trailed down to the buttons of his shirt. "What do you say we take the afternoon off?"
"Where do you have in mind? God knows we won't get any peace if we stay around here. Logan and Jubilee are arguing about boys. And Bobby and Hank are in the middle of something that I've refused to become a part of. It would ruin my rep."
"We could hop on your bike. There is that out of the way campsite you found."
"That's my, Jeannie." He looked down at her conservative skirt. "I think you'd better change though, unless you want to give Logan a bit more of a sight than he's paid for."
"You may have a point." Jean walked over to her closet and pulled out a pair of leather pants. "What about these, Lover?"
Scott just grinned.
"I'll take that as a yes." She started to shimmy out of her skirt. She stopped and looked over at Scott. "Well? Turn around."
Scott crossed his arms and leaned against the wall. "Why?"
"Cuz I said so. Why don't you go warm up the bike and get everything ready. At least shut the door? I don't want to give Logan more of a sight than he's paid for."
"Fine. I'll just leave my muse to report back to me." He paused half-out the door. "And don't forget the handcuffs." He shut the door and hummed on his way down to the garage.
Jean rolled her eyes. She quickly changed into the tight leather pants and looked back into the closet. She couldn't decide if the leather halter top should go with it. She grinned and changed into the top before going over to Scott's closet and pulling out one of his old white button-down shirts. She slipped it on and buttoned the middle three buttons before tying the bottom in a knot at her stomach.
She opened the nightstand and took out the handcuffs. "Oh yeah. This is gonna be good."
"Oh, cher. Y' a lucky man. How de hell'd y' talk dat one int' handcuffs?"
Scott's smile was cold. "Depths of anger I've not yet begun to plumb. Took you long enough, Honey." He turned and caught a full view of her. "Damn you look good."
"I do try for you, Baby." She ran a hand up his chest and gave him a sultry look. "You ready to go?"
"Oh yeah." Scott kissed her once, possessively, then swung his leg over the bike. "She's mine, Logan," Scott stated before he kicked the bike to life and they took off.
Jean leaned against Scott's back and pressed her mouth to his ear. "I think Logan got that hint a long time ago, Slim," she yelled over the sound of the wind.
"Never hurts to press the point home. Especially with lesser creatures."
"Not nice, Scott." Jean wrapped her arms around Scott and rested her head against his back. She loved being close to him. She ran her hand over his chest and then down to his crotch where she caressed the bulge she found in the front of his jeans.
"Don't get us pulled over again, Red."
"You mean you don't wanna be bent over a car and tossed? Could be fun."
"Not when I'm not doing the frisking." Jean's hand stroked lightly. Scott gunned the engine and the bike surged forward.
"You know you can bend me over your bike anytime, Slim." Jean held on tighter and enjoyed the feeling of Scott in her arms. She knew it wouldn't take long to reach the campsite, but she wanted him wild for her by the time they got there. She lifted her head and licked at a patch of skin just behind Scott's left ear. Scott shuddered slightly at the contact. He turned onto the dirt access road and slowed slightly. He arched to give better access. "Hmm. I don't remember this being the way to the campsite, Scott." Jean nipped at the patch of skin as her hands wandered over his broad chest.
"There's more than one campsite around here. Trust me, Redd. You'll like it." Scott's hands clenched at the handlebars. They bounced through a few twists and turns as Jean's hand continued it's languid tour.
"Oh, I always trust you, Scott." Her hand trailed down to his waistband. She unbuckled his belt and started on his fly.
"You like playin' with fire, don't you, Girl?" Scott purred. He pulled around a corner and into a tree shaded grove. He pulled to a stop in a flurry of old leaves.
"I love playing with fire. As long as its name is Scott Summers." Jean looked around. "You're right, I do like it, but I think we have some business to take care of?"
"Yeah, you do." He kissed her again. "You know how I hate seeing a job half done."
"Well then, Bossman, I'd suggest you get to finishing this job."
Scott's smile was genuinely amused for the breadth of a second, thin it turned more dangerous. He wrapped his hand in Jean's hair and pulled her in for a harsher kiss. "Where are the cuffs?"
Jean reached around to the small of her back and pulled them out of the waistband of her pants. She held them up. "Right here, Lover."
"Good." He snagged them off her finger, tugging gently in the mock tug-of-war he usually won. He slid them along her arm, keeping one hand in her hair. He swiftly locked her wrists behind her.
"You know, Lover, I was thinking about cutting my hair. What do you think?" Jean asked to tease him.
"I think you'd look like a child. I don't do kids." He trailed his mouth down her neck, pausing to feel her pulse beneath his lips.
Jean's breath hitched in her throat and she arched her neck to give him more access. "A child, huh? Someone told me they thought it would make me look more sophisticated."
"They lied. You'd look like a pixie." He lapped the hollow of her throat, sweeping away the small trickle of sweat there.
"And what's wrong with a pixie?" Jean fought against the handcuffs. "Scott, I want to touch you. Take off the cuffs, please?"
"I won't do Jubilee. I wouldn't do you." He ignored the request. It was far too early in the game for that. He pushed the shirt down her shoulders, exposing the halter top. "Not yet," he whispered in her ear. He ran a hand around the waistband of her pants.
"Scott! Please, I need to…" he voice trailed off as he continued his assault on her body.
"You know what leather does for me," he chided her. He pressed a hand to her crotch as the other one slid down her back to check the cuffs.
"Why do you think I wear it? It's all for you, Baby."
"That's my, Redd." He untied the shirt and slid it down to catch on the cuffs.
"I think you're gonna have to release me to get this top off." Jean looked up at him through her lashes.
"Who says I want it off?"
"You're just going to leave it hanging?"
He smiled and tucked the ends up and around her hands so it wouldn't interfere in anything. He stroked her nipples through the warm leather. Then, he slowly unbuttoned her pants.
"Scott, what are you…" The sentence trailed off as Scott ran his hands between her legs. Her hips bucked into his hand. She could feel the warmth of his skin through the tight leather. "God, Scott, no more teasing. I've missed you. I need you. Now."
Scott turned her around to face the bike. Her words came back, echoing in her ears, "You can bend me over your bike anytime," Scott purred. "You better have meant that." He pulled the pants down and bent her over the seat of the bike. He slipped inside of her a moment later.
"I meant every letter, Lover. Fuck me."
"That was the plan," he informed her and set a slow, but building rhythm. She moved back, matching his pace.
"Harder," Jean growled. She tried to buck against him, but his hands on her waist prevented it.
"No. My pace." He slowed further for a moment before returning to his slow steady pace. Jean cursed his self-control. He slowly picked up the pace until she was ready to scream for it. Scott's concentration broke finally and he pounded into her. Jean shuddered in his hands as she came, pumping his spasming cock for all it was worth. Her head dropped down and she gasped for air. "God, Scott. It's been way too long since we did that. My arms are falling asleep. You wanna let me loose now?"
Scott grinned. "I agree." He unwrapped the shirt and removed the cuffs, gently rubbing her arms to return circulation.
"Damn it, Scott, stop messing with my hair," Alex griped from the couch.
"And, how, pray tell, am I supposed to be messing with your hair?" Scott asked as he dumped a load of firewood by the hearth.
"Okay, if you're over there, who is messing with my hair." Alex turned around and looked into black and red eyes. "When did you get a new member of the team, bro?"
"What are you talking about?" Scott asked glancing at his brother. "We don't have any new members." He wondered whether it was Jean or Ororo who was causing trouble this time.
"The guy standing behind me with red and black eyes." Alex jerked a thumb behind him. "Him."
Scott blinked. "You mean Remy? He's been around for awhile. Since, oh, six months before my first book came out? That's almost three years."
"So why hasn't anyone else on the team mentioned him?" Alex turned to Remy. "Hi, I'm Alex Summers. Pleased to meet you."
"A pleasure, homme. Hey, Scotty, how come y' ain't mentioned m' t' y' brother?" Remy affected a hurt pout.
"Can it, Remy."
"He doesn't like to mention me. I think it has to do with the few times I tried to kill him. I apologized but he tends to hold a grudge. Was that a Cajun accent I heard? You must be from Louisiana."
"Cher… f'get it. Ain' even goin' dere. Oui, Nawlins born an' raised. Well, raised at least." Remy shrugged. "As f' killin' him, ain' tried it m'self, but whatever y' like."
"I visited New Orleans once. It was a beautiful city. If you do try to kill Scotty, don't do it where the other team can find you. They get kinda pissy when you try to kill their fearless leader."
"Fearless Leader? I dink I like dat."
"Don't even think about it," Scott warned.
"An' don' worry, homme, dey ain' gonna find Remy."
"You didn't know about the Fearless Leader thing? Geez, how long have you really been a member of the team? Calling Scotty that drives him up the wall worse than almost anything? You good at hiding, huh? I'd watch out for Logan. That nose of his can find you almost anywhere."
"Hmm, non, de ot'ers dey don' talk t' Remy much. An' don' worry. Logan can't find me neither."
Scott snickered and set up for the night's fire The scent of turkey floated in the air.
"You'll have to teach me that trick."
"Dink it's more of a talent dan a trick, cher. An' Remy don' dink y' want t' pay de price f' learnin' it. Where's Jeannie hidin'? An' why ain' y' helpin' her?"
"I have no idea where Jean is. She told me to stay out of the kitchen. I think Lorna is with her."
"Ah, de femmes took over de kitchen, non? Ah well, den y' go find Logan? Let Alex watch y' spar?"
"Remy," Scott snapped.
"I'd love to watch my brother get his ass kicked."
Scott rolled his eyes and focused on the fire until he could hide his smile. "Sounds like a plan. There's not a hell of a lot to do around here until the ladies decide dinner is ready."
"Dat's m' boy," Remy said with a grin. "See y' 'round." He disappeared with a little wave.
"Sort of." Scott gave his brother a thoughtful look.
"Nothing. Just kinda surprised you mentioned Remy, that's all."
"Why wouldn't I mention a new member of the team?"
"No one ever talks to him. Honestly, I'm not making this up. Jean can't sense him. Betsy can't sense him. I *almost* wish the professor would show up… Nevermind. Let's go find short, furry and irritating."
"Why don't they talk to him? That's rude. So how long do you think it's going to take before Logan plants your ass on the ground?" Alex asked grinning.
"Hmm… if he does it in under twenty, I'll stand drinks tonight at Harry's."
"You think you can stand up to him for over twenty minutes? You are on. If you last longer, I'll pay for the drinks."
"Deal. Hey, Jubes!"
"What's up, Bossman?"
"Wolvie's out back. Claimed that the womenfolk were drivin' him to drink." She rolled her eyes. "Me and Ro were gonna head to the store to pick up some brown sugar and marshmallows and stuff. Want anything?"
"Chocolate and… something you can't get."
"Erm, Scott. That is Jubes you are talking to. She and 'Ro are going out, she can get anything you need. Would you mind picking me up some Fruit Loops? I have this crazy urge to relive my childhood, which is scary, cuz I didn't like my childhood."
"She better not be getting what I want," Scott said with a glare.
"Right, not mentioning Ro's fake ID here."
"Exactly, bourbon is not something you should be 'picking up.' I'll get you the cash."
"Heh, okay, so like I'm getting chocolate, Fruit Loops, and I'm not 'picking up' bourbon. Anything else?"
Scott leaned over to whisper in her ear. "Mrs. Winter has a package for me, if you would. Tell her my brother's come to call as well? And cigs. Don't tell Jeannie."
Alex frowned at them. "Better get extra marshmallows," he said consideringly.
"Sure thing! See ya!"
"Oh, and Jubes? No peeking in the package from Mrs. Winter. You never know, there might be a surprise in there for you and I will know if it's tampered with and you won't get said surprise."
She bowed. "Of course, Scotty-san. And would this surprise maybe be that little piece I was looking at last week?"
"If you look you'll never know."
Jubes gave a grin and ran out of the room.
"That is not the same Jubes that I saw the last time I was here. She didn't like you very much before. What changed?"
"I've rediscovered my street-rat roots," Scott said straight-faced. "Angel's car has not yet recovered." Alex howled with laughter. "You couldn't wait till I showed up to do that?"
"It was a spur of the moment decision." Scott grinned ruefully. "I just couldn't take it another minute. I had to. I just had to. The cops didn't fire on it at least. That's better than what happened to the Jeep."
"Just what did Warren do to you this time to piss you off and what did you do to the Jeep?"
Scott shrugged. "I think it was bragging about the latest multi-million dollar deal that Worthington Enterprises entered into. And there was something about *not* paying in a share for food and expenses for the team." Scott shrugged.
"He is such an asshole. So what did you do to the Jeep?"
"Now that was a mistake. How was I to know that there'd been a robbery at the downtown diamond market with a car that just happened to match the description of the Jeep? I had to ditch it and report it missing after the bullets ripped into it." Scott winced. "That was *not* a report I enjoyed."
"They thought you were a bank robber? You didn't used to be this much of a trouble magnet."
"Since you've known me as an adult at least," Scott muttered. He poked his head out the back door. "LOGAN!"
"Whadda ya want, Slim?"
"You up for a few rounds in the Danger Room?"
"Sounds good ta me. The women were gonna drive me up the wall."
Logan brushed off his hands and set his beer on the porch. "And don't even think of it, Slim," he growled. "That's the last of the good stuff. And Jubes is too young to get any."
"Whatever you want to believe is fine with me. Alex wants to know why I didn't tell him about Remy."
"How does he know about Remy?"
"They had a talk in the den."
"Right," Logan drawled. He shook his head. "Let's get goin'. We can have him downstairs to Hank if ya think he needs it."
"What? Scotty told me that you guys don't talk to Remy. Why not? He seems like a nice enough guy."
Logan glanced at Scott. "It's bad enough when ya start talkin' to him. Now ya got yer brother doin' it?" Logan shook his head. "Yer gonna be trouble today," he muttered.
"Scott, why does Logan have a problem with this? The way he's acting it's like he thinks Remy is a figment of your imagination."
Scott smirked. He gave a shrug, but didn't answer. "Got a new move I want to try on you. I need to learn a counter for it. In case Belle shows up again."
"Who is Belle?" Alex asked. "I think I'm really out of touch."
"Belladonna Boudreaux, Cajun consultant. For hire Assassin," Scott stated. "The perfect woman for pissing off Jean."
"I thought you could do that all on your own. Didn't realize you needed help pissing off a red head. And why do you know an Assassin for hire?"
"She likes Remy. He can't talk to her, so she talks to me."
"Why can't Remy talk to her? He shy or something?"
Logan shot Scott a look and raised a brow.
"Something like that. They were married."
"Okay, so they were married, but he can't talk to her… What? She got a restraining order against him?"
"She's an Assassin. Remy's a T'ief. Our parents weren't all too happy dat we fell in love. An' wit' Remy bein' t'rown outta de City an' all.." Alex refused to jump. If he could get used to brimstone, he could get used to this. "Well, Bella, she supposed t' kill Remy when she see him next."
Scott shrugged. That was as good an explanation as anything.
"I see," Alex said, indicating that he didn't. "So, when did you two start working with weapons?"
"What explanation?" Logan asked. "That's it, yer goin' down ta Hank. It's gotta be somethin' in the water. You two are the only ones that drink that shit."
"Storm, Jean, and Rogue drink it as well. I've never seen anything but tea pass Bets' lips. And Belle's got a sort of a restraining order against Remy."
"Okay, I'm still takin' him down ta Hank. We don't need two nuts in this house."
"Hank certified me normal. And Jean's backing him up. And you wouldn't want to piss off Jeannie. Not on a holiday. You know what she can be like when she gets into a leather mood. Oh, that's right, no, you don't. Let's get started." Scott tossed Logan's usual bo to him.
"Ya know, Slim, the new you is kinda weird. The old you was weird too, but you've become a scary weird. What did you put in Hank's food to certify you as normal? And I know you've been messing with Jean's head. It's the only way she's still married to you and not in my bed." Logan grinned at Scott as he tested the bo out.
"You are completely out of the loop, Runt." Scott grinned. "Jean's married to me because I was smart enough to claim her first. And as for Hank, he was relieved to see me 'refining my capabilities for the greater good rather than my own personal edification'."
"That sounds like the fuzzball, but I still think yer on somethin'."
"Not a damn thing and I've got the blood tests to prove it." Scott found the balance of his bo. He was tempted to try the metal one, but it felt wrong, like whistling in a church or something. He bowed formally to Logan, who bowed back. And a breath later the fight was joined. Alex glanced down at his watch.
"Hey, Logan, if you get him down in less than twenty minutes, he pays for the drinks down at Harry's."
Logan snorted. "Right." He pushed things a little faster than normal. He wasn't surprised when Scott met his pace. Alex looked over at the Cajun who was leaning against the wall, eyes focussed on Scott's movements.
"You don't seem surprised to see Scott being about to hold his own against Logan. Why do I have a funny feeling you are to blame for that?"
"Moi?" Remy asked in surprise. "Non, de pup had raw moves already. Bar fights accordin' t' him. Remy, Logan, and Bella, dey just help polish him."
"Scott in bar fights? Well, he was always handy with a pool cue."
"Oui. Dat translates pretty good. Pacin', cher. Watch y' pacin'," Remy called out.
"Come on, Logan. I know you can wipe the floor with my brother."
"Don' listen t' de fool here, cher. We bot' know y' better, if'n y' try!"
"Who are you calling a fool?"
"Shut up, Summers," Logan snapped. "Crazy idiots. Both of you."
"What's you're problem, Logan?" Alex snapped back.
"Random comments about bein' called a fool ain't normal, kiddo. Nice one. That's one of Bella's."
"Works pretty well, Runt. And Logan doesn't talk to Remy!" Scott sent a vicious swipe at Logan's head.
"See now that's just rude. How can he just stand there and not talk to you, Remy" Alex winced at the close call as Logan ducked. "Oh, come on, Logan! You are ten times better than Scott. Take his ass out!"
Remy snickered. "Y' ain' seen not'in' yet, cher. Take him, Scotty. Y' be ten minutes in."
"I am not buying tonight," Scott said through gritted teeth. There was sweat on his brow and he had to admit that Logan was holding out on him.
"There is no way in hell Scott can beat Logan. Scott's a good fighter, don't get me wrong, but Logan has years of experience."
"D'accord, but Scotty's got an edge of mean dat Wolverine ain't touched yet. Come on, cher. Pretend he's Jack." Scott exploded into a more aggressive attack.
"Whoa, where'd that come from? And what edge of mean?"
Remy just shrugged. "Dat's somet'in' y' got t' be askin' y' brother. Dat's it, pup. Beat de connard."
Alex looked over at Remy with a wary look. "How is it you managed to get my brother to talk to you? He's kinda closed lipped if you hadn't noticed."
"Got plenty in common. Duck! Merde. What y' dinkin' boy?"
"That's it, Logan! Come on. You've only got three minutes left. I really don't wanna be paying! My checkbook can't handle it!"
"I'm not paying." Scott stated firmly once more. He vaulted over Logan, bringing his staff down against the small of Logan's back. He pulled it, but was gratified to hear Logan's grunt.
"Yer spendin' far too much time with Jubes," Logan informed him.
"Why whatever do you mean, Logan?" Scott asked as he aimed a strike for Logan's stomach.
Logan leapt out of the way. "At least ya aim higher." He ignored the rest of the comment. He'd been the one to certify Jubilee as a black belt. Scott smiled and blocked the answering attack.
"I can always aim lower if you really want me too," Scott teased and made a faint at Logan's crotch before changing direction at Logan's head.
"Nice," Logan grunted. He snapped an attack at Scott's ribs that he just barely managed to avoid.
"Damn it, Logan! You've got two mintues."
"An' countin', cher. Make dat t'ree, non?" Remy called.
"Ya know, I'm half temped ta lose just ta make yer bro pay fer the drinks.
Scott grinned. "Come on, you know you want to. Just to keep my confidence up."
"Ya really don't need any help in that area, Slim." Logan attacked Scott with lightening fast strikes.
Scott blocked them. He was getting tired, but he was not going to lose. Hell, Alex deserved to pay for once. "Two minutes, ten!" Scott let the familiar count of time recede into the background. When it came down to it, Remy was still his figment. Alex was about to make a comment to the Cajun when he realized that he was sort of flickering. The countdown continued in a soft voice and Scott seemed to be using it. Alex didn't say a word.
Scott's bo flashed as he blocked Logan's attacks. He needed to get off of the defensive because he was in a bad position. He needed to do something completely unexpected. Logan was starting to get used to his jumps, so he needed to do the opposite. Logan's legs were spread to give him a firmer stance as he fought. They weren't moving that much. Scott timed Logan's attacks. They were straightforward, just trying to wear him down. He did a seconds count and took a chance. He ducked the next attack and dove through the opening kicking into the small of Logan's back. He followed up with a fast rap to the back of the head. Logan went down. Scott panted slightly. It was harder than he was used to fighting the man. Logan growled deep in the back of his throat.
"Yer in a mood ain't ya," he said feeling for the blood he knew was on the back of his head. The wound was already healed, but Scott usually had more control than that. He must have been pushed too far. Logan felt almost guilty for that, but not really. They weren't fighting for titles. He wanted the kid to be able to fight for real. That meant not pulling his shots so often. Scott was leaning on his bo.
"You okay, Runt?" he asked. He didn't offer a hand up, but Logan wasn't offended. There was still thirty seconds to go and they hadn't called the match yet. Logan surged for Scott's legs and the younger man just barely dodged the sweep. "Damn it, Runt. What does it take to make you yield a match?"
"A hell of a lot more. Ya know that, Slim." Logan's grin was dangerous. There was no teasing left. Scott blocked the next moves. Alex blinked as they started moving more and more quickly across the floor. He wasn't used to seeing his brother fight like that. Actually, he wasn't used to seeing Logan fight Scott for more than ten minutes. Someone had been leaving things out of their letters. He'd have to have a talk with Scott about lying. Remy was completely taken by the fight now. His eyes glowed slightly as he watched.
Alex didn't feel comfortable just staring at the fight. It was too serious now. "Dey out f' blood now, pup," Remy stated. "Don' worry dough. Dey done dis before. Scotty's gotta let it out every now an' again." The fight had lost the formal edge that had been keeping it light enough for the bet. This was beyond deciding who was going to pay. Scott had no qualms about making Logan bleed. Logan pulled his strikes, but they'd still leave a couple of rather nasty bruises. Logan never did figure out how Scott managed to get him down and hold him there, but he caught Scott's wrists. He didn't like the look on Scott's face.
"Time," he said more firmly. Scott glared at him for a moment. He nodded.
"Yeah." He looked sheepish. "Sorry. I lost it."
"I noticed." Scott stood up. He offered his hand to Logan and helped him up. He rubbed at his arm.
"Jean's gonna kill me," he muttered. Logan raised a brow. "She made me promise that I'd let her watch." Logan snorted.
"Yer wife's a sick woman."
"You didn't buy that whole den mother routine did you?" Logan grinned.
"Come on. Better catch a shower. Don't want the frails gettin' pissed."
"Alex, we'll be out in ten."
"Take your time," Alex said rolling his eyes. "I know the women want pictures though." Scott shuddered.
"You are sick, Alex! Sick and twisted."
"I am a Summers."
"Slim's in a mood," Logan announced to the room before taking possession of the hastily emptied recliner. Jubilee settled in his lap.
"Logan," Scott said in an injured tone. "It's not my fault."
"Right," Logan snorted. "Alex is talkin' to Remy."
"Oh, dear me," Hank said.
"What is this? A shunning?" Alex demanded. "You talk about him like he's not even in the room. And you won't talk to him."
"Can we keep him, cher?" Remy asked tugging on a lock of Scott's hair. Scott shrugged to answer both Figment and his wife's look.
"I didn't think insanity was catching," Bobby said.
"Well, you're a carrier, so you'll never know," Scott snapped back.
"Damn," Warren muttered, "he *is* in a mood."
"What did Remy do that was bad enough to warrant this sort of treatment? He steal Xavier's wheelchair? He's Sinister's right hand man? What?"
"Don' go dere, pup," Remy said, blanching. "Later," he promised Scott's speculative look.
"That could be interesting," Scott commented, searching the end table for a pad of paper. He pulled out his pen once he found it. He settled on the couch and Jean snuggled into his lap. Everything was waiting on the turkey.
Jean whispered into her husband's ear. "How did you get Alex to play along with this?"
Scott just kissed her cheek and put his arms around her waist.
"No one but Scott talks ta Remy, sugah," Rough stated.
"Rogue! You of all people should know better than to judge someone."
Remy snickered. He whispered into Scott's ear. "Do de ot'ers know dey prankin' y' bro? Y' dink mebbe dey dink y' already tell him?" Hank saw Scott's head cock to the side. He was listening to something. He nodded once, then went back to his writing. Jean's theory seemed to be borne out once again. Scott was dealing with childhood issues through Figment. Alex always stirred up memories. However, Hank was impressed with Scott's abilities of manipulation. He'd managed to talk his brother, a fellow stick-up-the-ass-Summers, to pretend Remy was talking to him.
"This ain't about 'Figment's' past, kid," Logan said rolling his eyes. "It ain't even about yer brother flirtin' with Belladonna. This is all about yer brother gettin' ya to talk crazy."
"What the flonque are you people talking about? The man's standing, okay, leaning, right there and you're talking as if he's not even in the room!"
Jubilee snickered. "I have to hand it to ya, I didn't think ya could do it. Scott's only had a coupla hours of rehearsal with ya."
"F'get it, homme. It don't bother Remy none. Jus' de way dings are."
"How can you just accept treatment like this?" Alex asked.
"Practice," Scott answered.
"And how can you, as team leader, allow them to do this?"
"What? You mean not talking to Figment?" Scott shrugged. "He's not an active member of the team. Besides, I'm a hard, callous individual who is lacking a properly structured moral backbone." Bobby, Hank, and Warren started laughing. The rest of the team stared at them.
"You forgot the personal belongings line!" Warren stated through his laughter.
"Oh, yes, a hard, callous individual who is lacking a properly structured moral background, has no concept of personal property laws, nor the appropriate interpersonal boundaries to be integrated into a normal school environment." Bobby's laughter left him hiccuping.
"Chuck said that? About you? Yer shittin' me."
"Language," Scott chided.
"Case in point," Betsy added.
"No," Hank said as his laughter subsided. "It's on his official school records. We know. We broke into the professor's office to read them when Scott first joined us."
"Yeah. The stick was surgically inserted by the professor at a later date," Bobby said sourly. "That's when he became the rigid bastard we've had to deal with for years."
"Hey!" Scott protested. "I'm not that bad!"
"Not since Figment showed up," Jubes countered.
"And Chuck decided to play with his girlfriend again."
"Charles' work with the Shi'ar is important…" Ororo began.
"…in that it keeps him off-planet," Betsy finished for her. "Hank, will your grad assistant be joining us for dinner?"
"No, she's taking the day to shop in the city and attend a revival of 'Damn Yankees'."
"With her boyfriend?" Jubes asked.
"That would imply that she has a life, Jubilation."
"Don't call me that, Fuzzy."
Scott really, truly wanted to wake up, but he couldn't. Jean felt him stiffen and his breathing became more erratic. She opened the link as far as she could, but the new shields he'd built crashed down on her. She felt the blood drain from her face. She couldn't have been wrong, could she? Scott had latent talents, that's how he managed the link, but they were low level. They were enough to project something onto the astral plane. But this didn't feel anything like him. Could he be right? Could his muse actually be a ghost?
Screams rang off the walls and down the tunnels. Blood made it hard to run and he had to dodge the body parts strewn across the bloody cement floors. He didn't dare touch the wall to make it easier to stand up. The wall was covering in blood and brain matter. Suddenly, everything was quiet. He could see a little girl. Maybe, just maybe something would go right. He'd have to hurry. M. Chat was almost on top of her. He grabbed her and winced as hard claws tore into his side. He limped away with the child as quickly as he could.
"I'm gonna kill ya, Kid!"
"Let the kid have his own kill, Tooth."
"Maybe he wants to enjoy her on his own."
"He ain't got the guts." The screams spiraled up again and waves of neausea rolled through his stomach. There was too much pain and he couldn't block it out. He saw a group of survivors in the tunnels. He shoved the girl at them all too aware of the diamond communicator on his collar. His glasses fell off as he stumbled and he abandoned them in the puddle of blood. The woman he'd given the child too saw his eyes and gave him an understanding smile. He staggered back towards the killing fields, but he couldn't go there. He fought the urge to throw up. He felt the stinging pain that accompanied Sabretooth's scratches. He put a hand to his thigh and it came up red.
He heard Sabretooth whistling happily as he came down the hall. A small part of his mind figured out that it was the "Andy Griffith" theme song. All he knew was the deep bone terror that the nightmare was coming for him and he didn't think he'd be able to fight it off. He stumbled into one of the side rooms. There was a child's doll and a filthy mattress in the corner. He picked up the doll and looked at the china blue eyes. Then, the whistling stopped. He didn't move, just put his head down and braced for the impact.
Creed had him pinned to the wall in seconds. His head throbbed. He couldn't run. He couldn't summon up enough charge to even use the doll as a weapon. Damn Sinister. Let him rot in hell. He knew it was too soon for me to be out. Especially with Creed. Creed's fingers tightened. "Yer mine, Kid. They ain't gonna say a word. The boss ain't here ta protect ya." The claws moved slowly down his chest, shredding clothing and skin alike. The pain was too intense to feel. It burned and clawed its way up his throat until he was screaming. The scream was choked off by a harsh kiss. The cement was hard. His hand was finally jarred enough for him to release the doll. He watched as it bounced across the room.
He diagnosed shock. He could barely feel the blows that crushed his hands. Finally, now there were tears. Even if he lived through this he'd never work again. Creed licked the blood from the shallow wounds in his chest. "Quiet? You? What's wrong, kid? Doncha like me?" Creed laughed. "Ya taste spicy. Here try it." Blunt fingers coated with fresh blood forced their way into his mouth. He gagged a little and recognized the taste of his own blood. Creed lapped up a tear. He ran a single claw along the tear streak. Time slowed for what seemed like hours as the claw continued its shaky path. "I'm gonna open ya up and eat yer heart, Cajun. Scream for me."
In those last moments, the pain was very far away. He could see a familiar figure waiting for him. He was washed in the possessive love that the predator has for its prey. He couldn't refuse that love any more than he could refuse the air that he breathed. If this would bring Creed pleasure, he was too far gone to deny him. He reached out for the only security he knew. "Papa Samedi."
Scott gasped awake. Jean was stroking his hair. "Scott, talk to me, honey. Come on. Tell me what's happening." She was whispering over and over. She gloried in the return of the link that let her know everything was all right. She tested for the nightmare but was rebuffed by Scott gently.
"No, this isn't for you to share. Don't ask me to subject you to that. Just, don't let go." She laid down next to him and he pulled