AUTHOR's NOTE: Because Remy ends up in a female body there's some tricky language shifts in this fic. When it's mostly Remy's POV he is "he". Scott sees him as a man. So do Hank, Logan, and the Marauders. The rest of the team and Sinister see Remy as "she" because they see the body not the gender. Shiney? On with the fic.
The X-men were too tired, too shocked, to take much notice of the area around their pens. It had been a tough battle, but in the end even Xavier had been taken captive. Bruised, battered and isolated, they could see one another, but not speak. Xavier was across from Jean. Jean was next to Scott who was next to Bobby. Across from them was Hank and an unconscious Logan. Warren and Betsy hadn't been at the Mansion and no one had seen Rogue or Storm since Gambit's death a month earlier.
Cyclops leaned his head back against the wall. The migraine that he usually managed to keep at bay through several pills every four hours, was slowly growing in strength. He was parceling out his pill box worth for as long as possible. He felt nauseous. He saw the girl was back with trays. She was probably a Jean clone of some sort. She delivered trays of food to all of the other pens before Scott's. She knocked on his glass door. He scowled at her.
She cocked her head to the side and met his eyes for the first time. Red and black eyes glared at him. He sat up quickly. She held up a bottle of Excedrin. "Thanks," he said, quietly, knowing it wouldn't get past the glass. She smiled at him and pushed the bottle under the door-flap. Scott jumped as she was pulled away from the glass.
Remy hated the forced fragility of the body Sinister had put his memories into. He hated the thinness of his frame and the fineness of his features. He hated having to learn how to walk again and fight again. He hated the fact that he had to learn how to hold his bo again. He hated the higher pitch of his voice. He hated how easy he was to man-handle. He especially hated Sinister's reactions to the body.
He glared up at Sinister, trying to feed all of his hate into the look. The doctor laughed at him. Remy twisted in the grip, but it was solid. At least that wasn't something new. "Renee, what did you give him?"
Remy didn't reply.
"Answer me, Renee."
"That ain't my name!"
"It is now. I suggest you accommodate that reality immediately. Now, answer me." Sinister's voice had grown cold. Remy shivered.
Sinister shook Remy again, a little more harshly this time. "You are not allowed to give my patients drugs."
"Go fuck y'self. The boy's hurtin'. They all is! An' what y' done t' Logan?"
"It is no concern of yours. You are not allowed back into this area. Am I understood?"
Remy glared defiantly at the doctor. He received a slap across the face for his trouble. "D'accord," he said reluctantly.
"Go to your room."
"M. Essex, they need tendin'."
Remy slunk to his room. He hated his weakness, but he wanted to live. He wouldn't give Sinister any reason to take that from him. If he played along, he might actually get his real body back at some point. He shivered, remembering Sinister's gentler touches as he was waking. The sooner he got his body back the better. He looked too much like the painting in the doctor's study right now.
Scott snagged the bottle of Excedrin and tucked a few away quickly. The poor girl was already in trouble, he might as well make it worth it. Sinister looked down at him. He switched on the intercom. "Put the bottle back outside, Scott."
He ignored the scientist. Even though he'd already palmed half the bottle, he didn't want to give it up.
"Don't test me, son. I will hurt her for giving them to you."
"You'll hurt her anyway," Scott replied.
"No, I will not. I give you my world. Return the bottle and she will not be harmed."
Scott spun the bottle to the front of his cage.
The field leader got up awkwardly, cradling his ribs. He shoved the bottle through the flap, angry. It bounced off the cell across from him and spun down the hall. Sinister looked down at him. "Temper, Temper," he chided. He left the room, kicking the pills into the corner.
"Rems, you need clothes that fit," Phillipa Sontag - also known as Arclight - told the thief. "You look like an urchin."
"Just need a tailor, me."
"And a bra. I have to admit you make a cute woman, LeBeau."
"Fuck you, Flip."
Arclight laughed. "Come on, kiddo, let's get you something that doesn't make you look like a street rat. Maybe something that actually makes you look less like a . . . well, I guess you are a lesbian now. Unless you really are bi?"
Remy sighed. "Flip, that was somethin' I just didn' need t' hear. Who said I was bi? Chatton?"
"Well, you flirt with everyone. I just assumed."
"Flirtin's fun. Merde. Fine. We get some cheap clothes t' fit. Ain't like I have anyt'in' but jeans. Not'in' girlie. No skirts. I ain't a femme. D'accord?"
"Of course. Let's get V and the doc's gold card."
"Non, I still got access t' m' own money."
"Don't be silly, Ren." Remy followed her with a sigh. He knew better than to argue with a woman on a mission.
"No cigs," Vertigo stated.
"But. . ."
"Renee." Vertigo smirked in the heat of the young woman's glare. She knew it was Remy's mind inside, but she couldn't help but tease him. Renee certainly looked like a woman - a very pretty woman to be more exact. Remy had been pretty, but Renee was a knock-out hiding under Remy's old trench and oversized sweater. "You've got the new body. You want to use it to the best of its ability. No smoking. Besides, the doc would have a fit."
"Oui," Renee admitted, sulking. "Stop at the hair place first?"
"Sure. Need to trim your hair?"
"Need t' style it some. I remember dere was a femme that done it good b'fore at one of these salons."
"We get final hair decisions," Phillipa stated.
"I don't t'ink so, chere. My hair. My decision."
"But we're your fashion consultants," Vertigo said, pouting.
"Fine. Y'all get to pick one outfit. That's all." Renee scowled, eyes flashing over the top of her shades. Vertigo laughed. She slid her arm through Renee's and led her further into the mall.
Remy stared at what Phillipa was holding. "Non."
"Come on, just try them on. They're adorable."
"Non. What I tell y'? Not'in' girlie!" He ran his hand through his hair. It was close-cropped with long bangs that still fell to cover his eyes. It felt a little more normal.
"Oh, they're perfect," Vertigo said pulling out one of the sweaters he'd consented to getting. The colors matched. He scowled at the women.
"I ain't wearin' heels. And I ain't wearin' more than one piece of pink, y' hear me, femme?"
Vertigo smirked. "You said one outfit, right? Well, you chose the sweater. Get the heels and I'll let you off lightly."
"I'll break an ankle in dose t'ings."
"Can I help you ladies?" the saleswoman asked. Remy hated her immediately.
"Well, we're not sure."
"Non," Remy stated. "Not unless y' put those t'ings away and pick up something reasonable."
"Ren, they're adorable. They'll show off your legs."
"And I want t' do that why?" Remy demanded.
"A size nine in these," Phillipa told the girl. "And if you have a pair of black flats and a pair of hiking boots, we'd like those as well. Ignore her. Her brother died and she's not taking it well."
The woman made the appropriate sympathy noises.
"Flip," Remy ground out. She smiled brightly at him, knowing he wouldn't hit her in public. She patted his arm as the woman toddled off. She didn't have a bad ass, he thought randomly. Rogue's was better, but he knew how Rogue worked out to keep it that way.
"Sit down, Ren."
"I hate both of y'. Just so y' know."
Scott ate the sandwich that had been shoved into his crate. He hoped that there was a rescue crew working on getting them out, but there was little enough evidence for them to find them. Charles and Jean couldn't get a message out and there was a good chance that Betsy wouldn't be able to get a message in. He hadn't seen the girl since Sinister had hit her and wondered idly if she'd ever be back. There was little enough to take up his attention. He couldn't talk to his teammates. He couldn't read. There was nothing to do, but sit or work out. And working out had to be done gently because of his ribs.
Jean watched Scott stretch. He was in obvious pain, but there was nothing she could do for him. He'd tried to get out of his cell three times, with no success. She hoped he was just trying to lull their guards into a false sense of security. He was pale. He pushed his shades up to the top of his head and rubbed at his eyes. She smiled at him, but he wasn't looking at her. She sighed.
Sinister looked in on Renee. She was catching up on paperwork, a pen clenched in her teeth like a cigarette. The shopping trip seemed to have done her good. She didn't look quite so frail in the clothes they'd found. The exercises that Arclight and Vertigo were helping her with had given her a bit more muscle. As soon as she accepted that she was in a female body, she'd be ready to do some work again.
Getting ahold of Gambit's body a few minutes after his death had been tricky, but not impossible. He'd dropped off a non-functional clone with similar wounds in its place. He'd affected the transfer of consciousness in less then a minute. He always kept clones of his Marauders ready for the process. He'd been thinking to use the female body as nothing more than a brood mare, but this was a much more efficient use.
She looked up at him with a frown. "Quoi?"
"How soon will the database be complete?"
"One hour less than I told y' last time y' asked." She looked back down.
"And what do you think of the new clothing?"
"You didn't get your ears pierced. I'm surprised."
"Already look too like a femme f' my taste," Renee snapped. "Why y' done this? I know damn well y' made a choice t' put me int' this body rather than one of the ones in stasis."
Sinister smiled. Her eyes hardened. "It's much more efficient for you to become your own long-lost sister than to resurrect yourself."
"I'm an X-man. Happens all the time. M' reputation gonna have t' be rebuilt. An' I can't call Papa. Means I'm likely out of the business."
"You will be in business for me and no one else. As it should be."
"I ain't y' chien!"
"Yes, you are." Sinister crossed the room. He lifted her chin. "Every molecule of your being is mine. And you will obey me. Do you understand?" Furious red eyes glared at him. "Answer me."
It was grudging respect, but respect none-the-less and Sinister was willing to accept that for now. He'd let Remy have too long of a leash. He wasn't going to make that mistake with Renee. "Good girl," he praised. He could see the curses being restrained. He could feel the tension in the jaw that he held. He left her to her work.
Remy rubbed at his jaw. He looked back at the screen where the hack programs were compiling. He'd finished the database and was working on data entry while the other two programs worked in the background. If it worked, he'd have control of the system any time he wanted it. Then, he'd be able to get the team out. He sighed. It looked like his hard-won life isn't going to last. Sinister would kill him for staging a jail-break. He scratched at his shoulder. The bra-straps were driving him crazy. How did women deal with all this shit?
Hank had lost track of days. He'd tried to keep a record by using his claws to scratch the hard surface of the back wall, but it was too solid. He hated having to watch Scott lose strength. He was battling a migraine and losing. His skin was too pale and his lips were tightened into a grimace. The pills the girl had given him wouldn't be enough. Charles had no wheelchair and was trapped pretty much on his toilet. There was nothing else for him to grab hold of. Bobby was shivering in nothing more than his brightly-colored shorts. Logan had finally come too, but his eyes lacked any intelligence. Hank closed his eyes. He couldn't watch any longer.
Vertigo smiled in approval. Renee was finally wearing the outfit she'd picked out. There was a pleated black skirt - knee-length - paired with a white dress shirt and black flats. "Not one word," Renee stated firmly. "Now, where the hell am I supposed t' go f' dry cleanin'? This is the only clean t'ing in my closet."
"You look adorable."
"Don' go makin' m' sick, femme."
"I'll show you where the dry cleaner is. Then, we'll catch some lunch."
"Fine." Renee sighed.
"Next step make-up."
An eloquent look answered her. Vertigo laughed. Cajun-baiting was just too much fun.
Remy twisted in Sinister's grip. "What exactly were you trying to accomplish? Hmm? Was it just the thrill of breaking in? Or was it something more?"
"M. Essex. . ."
"No, lies, Gambit."
"Just wanted t' know! Dat's all!" Remy kicked out, trying to get away. There was no place to run if he did get free, but it was the principle of the t'ing.
"Wanted to know what?"
"Who she was." Sinister dropped him to the ground. They stared at each other for a long moment. Remy wasn't going to back down. He'd done nothing wrong.
"She was your great-grandmother," Sinister said finally.
"Why y' got a picture of her? Didn't t'ink y' kept things like that."
"She was my sister-in-law."
Remy stared, not really able to comprehend that. He tried to think of a follow-up question.
"You do look very much like her. But you look much more like my wife, than my sister-in-law. You will never break into my study again. Am I understood?"
"D'accord." Sinister left him on the floor of the hallway. Remy took a shaky breath. If he didn't act up some, Sinister would find the worm programs that had given him access to everything in the system. He heard Scalphunter coming up behind him. He got up before Crow's unconscious chivalry got the better of him. Crow treated Vertigo and Arclight with unconscious courtesy everywhere but the battlefield. He'd started to do the same to him and Remy hated it.
"Piss off the doc again, kiddo?"
"Careful with that. Of course, he probably won't damage you too badly. It costs him too much to make a new clone for you."
"I try. Come on, brat, let's pick up Riptide and get some dinner."
"Sure." God, it was so easy to fall into the old patterns. The Marauders had always accepted him as an equal. Hell, despite the "kiddo" and "brat" and "punk" appellations, he'd been the boss. He stifled a sigh. Guess I didn't change as much as I'd hoped Stormy. I'm sorry.
Hank looked up when there was a knock on his wall. The young woman who'd originally been bringing them food was there. She looked healthier now and Hank wondered if she'd been too ill to do anything for them before this. She was holding up a bottle and needle. She had a glass of orange juice on the floor next to her. He frowned and came to the wall. She pointed at Scott, then the needle. Hank read the bottle. Morphine. "Forty," he said guessing her question. He held up four fingers, then made a zero. She drew out a measure, then showed it to him. He nodded. It was 42 mil. but given Scott's tolerance, it would be fine. She put it into the juice. Hank smiled. Even here in Hell, there was the occasional compassionate act.
Scott scowled at the girl. Well, she was back and that gave him something to think about. He wasn't hungry. The pain in his head was almost too great to sit up. She displayed a bottle then tapped the glass with it. He pushed himself up and moved to the door. She pushed the juice under the flap, then checked her watch. He drank it down, trusting her for no reason. The morphine hit soon after. The pain eased. She took the glass and was gone. Scott sat with his back to the rest of the cells, letting the medication ease through him.
"Did you drug Cyclops again?" Sinister asked quietly. Renee looked up at him.
"Last night. Did you give him pain medication?"
"You are not qualified to prescribe for anything more than Tylenol."
"I asked Hank."
Sinister frowned. "Very well. If you do it again, I'll have to lock you up. You understand that don't you? I'll have to keep you in the lab permanently." Renee tried hard to look at him defiantly, but he could see the fear there. Gambit panicked at the thought of the lab. He stroked the soft bangs with a gentle hand. "Be good, Renee, and you'll be fine. I'll even let you go out on the town without supervision." The red eyes closed and he knew he'd won this round.
"D'accord, M. Essex."
Rogue stared at the computer screen. It was one of Remy's accounts. It was Remy's phrasing. But Remy was dead. He'd been dead for six months. The rest of the team had been missing for five months and even Storm wasn't holding out hope that they'd be found. Cable had offered to take them into his team, but none of the X-Men left wanted to leave the mansion unoccupied. This was the first place one of them would come. Storm had taken to leaving on the front porch light. It was silly, but it was something they could do. "Alright, sugah, I'll trust you once more." She touched the screen reverently before responding to the coded message. "Storm! I know where they are."
Logan growled as the hum of the generators stopped. His nostrils flared. What was happening? The locks clicked open. He moved quickly to open the door. He put Charles onto his back, worried at how fragile the man felt. He could hear explosions in the other parts of the building. The team huddled together. Scott's jaw was set in a line that told him that the field leader was in serious pain. The door at the end of the hall opened and they froze. "This way," a sweet female voice called. "Blackbird's landin' in the hanger right now. If'n y'all get a move on it, I can help y' out of here." Logan took in the scent. She was telling the truth. He moved quickly to the door. The girl was there, silenced gun in hand. She wore sneakers, jeans and a white shirt. Logan followed her without a word. Alarms rang wildly, but the girl didn't seem to notice them. She moved with single-minded purpose. She shot three of the lab-techs and kept moving.
The blackbird was there, waiting for them. The door opened and Logan waited to see a familiar face before running for it. Rogue looked out at them. She flew to them and took Charles in her arms. "Move it, y'all," she griped when she came back. She scooped up Scott as the rest of them ran. The girl kept rear-guard. "You too, sugah."
"Just go. I'm in enough trouble. He'll kill me if I run."
"I ain't givin' ya the choice." Rogue caught the woman around the waist and dragged her into the plane. She shut the door after a quick head count and they were in the air moments later.
"Merde, femme, y' never listen. I got a bomb in my skull. If'n I leave without permission, he'll set it off!"
"Hank, the med-lab's stocked. We got emergency surgery to do." Rogue kept ahold of the Marauder. She was nominally on their side, but she wasn't going to risk it.
"Jean, if you'll join me. Scott, you too. I'll give you something to ease the pain."
"I can last until we get home. Take care of her."
Rogue wasn't surprised that she knew her code name. All of Sinister's people knew the X-Men. The young woman was smaller than she was, with tight gymnastic muscle. She struggled against Rogue's hold around her waist. Rogue couldn't figure out where the Hell she thought she'd be able to go. "Don't cross me, sugah. We'll figure things out later. You helped the team. We help you. Simple."
Hank put a solid hand in the small of the young woman's back to guide her to the medical lab. "Keep us steady. This could be delicate." The Shi'ar machinery found the bomb easily enough. Hank extracted it quickly and Jean contained it in a small ball of TK. "She'll sleep for awhile yet while the machine takes care of the simple healing. We need to get that bomb destroyed."
"Already done," Jean said with a smirk. The components were shattered. There was no way that it would detonate. "Although I don't think it was a bomb as much as a tracker."
"It would have disabled her though," Hank said quietly. "It would have disrupted her nervous system." Hank drew up a measure of morphine. He could cure the physical ailments that their long captivity had created, but he wasn't so sure about the psychological component.
"What is your name?" Charles asked carefully.
He raised his brows.
"Honest, Charles. He just put m' in the wrong body. Didn' have a male one made up." They'd ensconced the young woman in the nicest of Hank's "private rooms." It was a polite fiction. Rogue thought that if the young Marauder were a "captive" she'd feel more comfortable. Charles was fairly certain that he was being played. The woman obviously knew Gambit and had a similar turn of phrase, but he'd learned his lesson. Gambit had been the consummate actor, able to affect any accent he liked on a moment's notice.
"The truth this time, if you please."
"I done told y' the truth! Should've guessed y' wouldn' believe me. Who would?" She shook her head with a resigned sigh. "Y'all are gonna make somethin' up anyway, non? Who'd believe that Sinister wouldn' make a good clone. Like the man ain't been fuckin' with folks heads f' fun f' years!"
"What did he call you?"
The young woman glared. "Don't matter what he calls me. M' name is Remy. I'm not a femme!"
"Then he did have a different name for you in this body."
"Course. He wants control over m'. Got t' keep a tight leash on m'. He's probably decidin' whether t' let Creed fuck m' again."
Charles blinked, listening to the litany of curses that followed that statement. "What did he call you?"
"Then we'll fake up the documents in that name. Unless you've got another suggestion?"
"I'll make the documents," she contradicted. "I can still find folks. Ain't everyone convinced I died and most didn' know if I was male or female. It'll work out. Y'all can just call m' Gambit. That'll make it easier f' y'."
"We'll talk later."
"When y' lettin' m' out of here?" she asked suddenly.
"As soon as Hank is sure that you've recovered."
"You just had surgery."
"And that machine fixed me right up after it. I'm fine. Y'all are just keepin' me locked up because Rogue got it int' her fool head that I'd run away if y'all let me out."
"And you won't?"
"Where would I go?" Her laughter was bitter. Charles winced.
"The door will not be locked, but please stay in the room until we've decided where to put you."
"Put me back in m' own room. Less of course y'all sold off all my stuff."
"I haven't checked, but I doubt Rogue and Storm would have sold Remy's things."
"My things." She snorted. "Nevermind. Y' ain't gonna accept it. Might as well just blow m' fool head off as try to talk t' y'." She turned away.
"I'll speak with you later, Renee. We'll sort through this."
Remy dealt out a hand of solitaire.
"Hey, Gumbo," Logan greeted. "Want to come up fer dinner?"
Remy snorted. "And have Charles try t' convince m' I'm a girl again? Or mebbe have Rogue look disgusted when I flirt wit' her? Oui, sounds like loads of fun."
"Ya can't hide down here and pretend nothin' happened to ya."
"Why not? It's a nice dream."
"I won't let ya. The sooner ya show them ya ain't afraid, the sooner they'll accept it."
He looked up at the Canadian. He bit his lip. "But I am afraid," he said quietly.
"I know. I can smell it. But they can't. All they know is that there's a girl hidin' in the med-lab that looks like yer sister. Chuck ain't told them."
"But, don't Rogue know yet? And Stormy? Charles knows. I t'ought everyone would. Hank knows."
"He don't break patient confidentiality. How ya wanna play it, kid?"
"Y' accept it?"
"Didn' t'ink so."
"Don't change my question. I'll back ya. I know ya ain't lyin' to me. So ya believe what yer saying. I figure that's good enough fer me." Remy sighed. He got out off the bed and found his boots. They weren't the steel high heels that Flip had made him get as her choice, but rather some sensible combat boots that Betsy had sent down with some clothes. He tucked the laces inside and her Logan chuckle. "Some shit don't change, eh, kiddo?"
Remy shrugged with a smile. "I gotta be me. So who's cookin' t'night?"
"Merde. I t'ink I've changed m' mind."
"I promise. I smelled it on the way down."
Jean looked up. "Oh, you got our mysterious guest to come to dinner."
"Ain't mysterious, Jeannie. Charles tol' m' t' stay in m' room." The young woman shrugged. She settled into Remy's place without a question. "So tell m' chere, after five mont's of not doin' it, y' and Scott makin' up f' lost time?"
She gestured to her throat and Jean blushed red as she realized that she had a hickey. Scott smirked. "So, what's the story, sweetheart?" Scott asked.
"Ain't y' sweetheart, cher," she drawled. "Course, if it'll get m' out of the lab, y' can call m' anythin' y' want."
"Sister? Clone? Twin?"
"Clone. Sinister decided t' put me in this body t' make me biddable. Ain't worked too well." Remy grinned as Scott shook his head.
"Well, I always knew he was an idiot. What's the last thing you remember before waking up as a bimbo? Not that you weren't before, but. . ." Scott shrugged.
"I'm beginnin' to regret givin' y' pain meds. T'ink I liked y' better in that cell. Y' couldn't insult me so easily." Remy considered. "I remember a sharp pain, then darkness. There were voices. I t'ought I heard Henri, but I couldn't concentrate. Next I knew, I was wakin' up in the lab." The thief shrugged. He noticed that Bobby was trying very hard not to stare. He rolled his eyes. "What's the matter, Robert? Suddenly feelin' guilty f' leerin' at me b'fore?"
"I wasn't leering. I was appreciating. That's all," Bobby defended.
Scott considered what Remy told them while the team loaded up their plates. "Why did you suddenly start wearing clothes that fit as opposed to hand-me-downs? You cut your hair at the same time."
"I didn't t'ink I'd been down after the Excedrin incident. 'Til the morphine at least."
"And you were dressed properly when we left too."
"Vertigo and Arclight took me shoppin' on Sinister's card." Remy shrugged. "Y' can't fight when y' trippin' over y' pant legs. And they weren't second hand. It was my old shit."
"You were a Marauder before you came here?" Scott's voice was sharp.
"I invented the Marauders, cher," Remy snapped. "And y' know what? I was happier back wit' them. They don't treat m' like I'm lower than dirt or dumber than rocks. They don' question every motive I've got or what I get up t' when I go out dancin'. They don't care if I build up my rep. The only t'ing they do that I can't stand is kill folks! That's the reason I left. Sinister's a murderer. His team's full of murderers. Come down t' it I'd rather take m' chances livin' on the street than joinin' up wit' them again, but y'all ain't never gonna believe that. Y'all let Creed have the run of the house, and y' brought Rogue in. But the instant I wouldn't tell y' about a past that puts m' int' hysterics, y' didn't trust me. Tell m' one t'ing, Scott, b'fore y' get on y' high horse and start tellin' m' y'all ain't judgmental, just careful. What is Rogue's first name?"
Scott stared at Remy. "You don't care anymore? You're willing to tell me about it? The mysterious past that included a wife you didn't bother to tell me about?"
Remy laughed. It sounded sharp and angry to his ears. "Non, cher, I don't never want t' talk about it. I would never have talked about it. An' y' know the worst part is? I can't talk about it. There's parts of m' memory that just been lost. I can't remember how I found most those folks, or why I hired them. I hired Crow cause we'd worked t'gether. And Victor's the best next t' Logan whether he just wants t' fuck m' or not. The rest? Polaris? Vertigo? Harpooner? I can't remember where I found 'em. I don't know even half of what the doc had them do. Merde, I don't remember have the t'ings he's done t' m', let alone what I done f' him."
"So, you didn't tell me because it slipped your mind?"
Remy sighed. "I should've thrown m'self out of the plane. That way he can't get m' back."
"After what ya did to that lab, ya sure he wants y' back?"
"I done worse than that t' his places b'fore. He wants the body back if not m' mind. He can use the body f' all sorts of t'ings. It ain't sterile yet. Give m' time and some cash and it will be. Then, mebbe, he won't want it no more." Remy poked at the macaroni salad with the tip of his fork, not wanting to look at anyone else. There was nothing more to do to damn himself.
"If he does take you back, what would you do for him? Steal?"
"Steal, program his computers, data entry, security, lab tech shit, sit around lookin' cute so he don't feel like blastin' m' into a wall." Remy shrugged. He filled his mouth with mashed potatoes so that he wouldn't have to talk anymore.
"There's no way you're Gambit," Bobby said quietly. "You wouldn't have told us any of that."
"I ain't got shitall left t' lose, Robert. I ain't got a family no more. I ain't got a reputation. I ain't got a wife. I ain't even got a name 'cause Charles there won't accept it and Logan t'inks I'm insane or programmed. Don't matter no more does it?"
"Sugah, calm down and finish dinner. All this can wait." Rogue's voice was soft and sweet. Remy hated her then, with a bone deep passion. She was treating him like some stray little girl. He wanted to throw something at her. He saw that his fork was glowing, which was probably why she was trying to be nice to him. He forced the charge to dissipate and started eating again. Rogue gave his arm a squeeze.
"Where is she?" Jean asked looking around Scott's office as if the missing woman was hiding in a corner somewhere.
"He," Scott stated.
"So you're convinced it's Remy? Not just some clone? But Remy's body is in the graveyard out there and there's no way that Sinister would have been able to transfer his mind without it."
"I don't think it is. I think Sinister slipped a clone into its place. We don't exactly run autopsies on our bodies."
Jean settled on the couch. She stared out the window at the moon-lit lawn. "I'll talk to her."
"Him. That's not a girl no matter what the body looks like."
"Scott, that is a girl. Even if it's Remy, that is a girl downstairs. A scared, lost, girl, who needs someone to take her by the hand and help her up."
"Do that and she'll bite you."
"No, she'd bite you, not me. I'll take her shopping."
Scott sighed. "I can't stop you. You'll figure it out. Actually, you might even get a kiss out of the deal."
"Just to prove to you that he's Remy. Well, and to piss me off. Gambit is the most contrary bastard I've ever known and this just gives him more ways of causing mischief. Still, if you could talk to Rogue?"
"About not treating Remy like he's brain-damaged. She's been cooingly sweet like Remy's some stray kitten."
"I'll check into it. She might just feel out of her depth." Jean stretched. "I'll go talk to Gambit. She'll need clothing and other things. She can't live in hand-me-downs forever."
Scott shook his head. "Good luck. Don't let him steal too much. It might lower his resistance if you go to the jewelry store while you're out."
Jean laughed and left her husband to his plotting. She knew he was up to something, but she couldn't tell what. It might be as simple as trying to figure out the next puzzle on his favorite computer game. She walked down to the med-lab room. She could hear soft music playing from it. She cocked her head to the side. It was a soft, sweet violin playing through some classical piece she couldn't place. She listened for a moment, then kept moving. She knocked on the door. The music stopped as Gambit looked up. The bow and violin in her hand were a surprise. "Where did you find that?" she asked.
"Where it always been. M' room in the closet on the top shelf. Rogue started actin' funny when I went in there though, so I only got a few t'ings out. I'm plannin' t' wait 'til she goes t' sleep. What can I do f' y', Jeannie?"
"I thought you might want to go to the mall tomorrow. I know Betsy gave you some things, but it would be good to have the right size clothes. You look like you stole that shirt from your boyfriend."
"Mais, m' brother, non? That's Nat'aniel's story at least. He wants m' t' become m' own sister." Gambit sighed. "Guess I could use wit' some. Just done all this shoppin'. If I'd known Rogue was gonna make me come wit' y', I'd've packed some and stashed m' bag in the hanger. I hate shoppin' in girly stores."
"Don't worry. I won't turn you into a preppy by offering my clothes."
"Merci. Wouldn't wear not'in' of y'rs."
"Non, y' legs are too long."
"You're not that much smaller than I am."
"I'm wearin' combat boots wit' t'ree inch platforms. I'm still tryin' t' figure out why 'Lizabetta owns 'em."
"She doesn't wear them." Jean looked down at the shoes. "You're right. Stand up for a second." Gambit set down the violin and bow carefully. She stood up. She came just to Jean's nose. "Oh, sweetie, that was just mean of him."
"Weren't it? On the plus size, I fit int' the air ducts better. But I had t' learn all sorts of new views. Shit just don't look right from this angle."
"I'd guess you're still above average height because I'm almost six foot without heels."
"Oui, but I'm used t' bein' six t'ree! Merde. Y' know Vertigo got m' stiletto heels because I only come up t' Hunter's chest now? It's wrong. Jubilee probably towers over me now."
"We'll have to get her here. Bet you'd get even more gossip from her."
"Nah. Now she's got a crush on Frosty she don't talk t' me. Didn't talk t' m'. Encule. Don't know the right tense no mo'."
"So, when we're out what should I call you. Somehow 'Gambit' doesn't sound right."
"Y' could try callin' me 'Remy' f' once. It is m' name. Most folks don' really know it's a boy's name."
"What does your ID say?"
Gambit scowled at her, then turned to the bed to put the violin away. "Renee," the answer came softly. "But I hate it. It ain't m' name. It ain't a name I picked f' m'self or somet'in'. It's what *he* decided t' call m'."
"Then what would you prefer?" Jean stepped closer to put a comforting hand on the young woman's shoulder. She understood Rogue's impulse. Gambit seemed much more fragile.
"Sam, I guess. If I have t' choose somet'in'."
"Sam LeBeau? Okay. I can deal with that. Can you get your own ID's made or do you want Scott to do it?"
"I can't, Jeannie. I can't use LeBeau less'n I call mon pere and get permission. How do I tell him I'm alive? How do I tell him about this?"
"Oh, honey, it happens all the time. We're X-Men remember? Returning from the dead is par for the course."
Gambit laughed a little at that. "I suppose I should just pick up the phone b'fore it goes any longer."
"That's a good idea. I would have thought you already would have called him."
"He didn't want m' too. Said he'd make sure Jean-Luc t'ought I was lyin'. Said he'd start killin' y'all. I couldn't bear the t'ought of either. Better f' Papa t' mourn m' and move on. Especially since I was havin' trouble findin' m' way out of there. Nat'aniel wanted m' t' be his and no one else's."
"And if you'd stayed behind?" Jean asked softly.
"He'd have just turned m' over t' Chatton f' a few nights, more'n likely. Then locked m' in the lab wit' him so he could keep an eye on m'. M' own cage-side view of the procedures."
"And you didn't want to come with us?"
"Why look how good it's turnin' out? I'm locked in the lab wit' Henri so he can keep an eye on m' instead. I ain't allowed t' go anywhere in the mansion wit'out a guard. Rogue freaks out if'n I flirt wit' her. Betsy flirts back because she knows it ain't serious. Stormy, Lawd, Stormy t'inks of m' as her lil' sister or niece or somet'in'. She won't accept that I'm me in this body. Rogue ain't gay and won't look beyond the outside."
"I always been bi. Don't act on it much, but I'm bi. Seems I'm gay now, non? In love wit' a contrary femme who won't even flirt wit' me."
"Two folks in a marriage comin' back from the dead. Must be a new record. I don' know what she'll say. I'm afraid t' find out. I won't even outweigh her anymore." Gambit was staring at the bed. She wouldn't turn around.
"The phone's right by the bed. If you need to talk, you know where to find me." Jean squeezed the shoulder she held. "If not, I'll pick you up at ten for the mall."
"Oh, am I allowed t' go t' breakfast on m' own?"
"Of course. You aren't a prisoner here."
"Feels like I is."
"I know, I know. Don't usually bother y' when I don' speak proper." Gambit scowled over her shoulder. "Charles made it a not-so-polite order that I stay in this room until he's got papers f' me. Seems he's draggin' his feet. He let me run int' the city and I'd have 'em in no time."
"So I'll run you into the city."
"Merci." She smiled suddenly and Jean felt a flutter run through her veins.
"Rebecca. You look like Rebecca. I never realized it."
Gambit turned around. "Don't say that name 'round m'. He wants m' t' be her, but I ain't her. I won't never be. I ain't sweet and patient and kind. I ain't her! I ain't Renee. I ain't Rebecca. I ain't some femme who's been dead f' a century. I ain't even a femme!"
Jean blinked at the vehemence. Even having listened to her and seen the things that Gambit had done, somehow she'd still imagined it was a game. That this girl was someone playing at being Gambit. Maybe she'd been told that was who she was and coached a bit, but not that she really *was* Remy. It just wasn't possible. She brushed against the young woman's mind, shocked when the shields bit her. She stumbled back, blood at her nose.
"Oh, merde. I'm sorry, chere. Henri! Y' got some gauze or a Kleenex? Jeannie's got a nosebleed. Lean y' head forward and hold y' nose." Gambit didn't come any closer. She hovered near the bed. "He's gonna t'ink I hit y'," she whispered.
//No, sweetie, he won't.// She soothed the young woman automatically. Gambit winced away from the telepathic contact. //I won't hurt you. You have my word.//
"Stop it. None of that mind-talkin'. Please stop it."
"Why? Why should I stop?"
"It hurts so bad, Jeannie. Please don't do it."
Hank interrupted with some gauze pads. "And you are supposed to be resting, Remy."
"But it ain't even nine o'clock. Even Scott's still up. I ain't tired. I ain't sick. And Lord help me, I been in this body f' months. It ain't somethin' new."
"Scott didn't have brain surgery."
"Likely should have. He's insane."
"So are you."
"That weren't kind, Henri."
"Well, if you want to stay up, I do have some data entry that could use some work."
"I know why y' done told Charles t' keep me down here now! Y' just want a slave."
"And you're cute enough to suit my tastes," Hank said mildly. Jean started giggling. Gambit rolled her eyes.
"Y' such a sick bastard, Henri. Why didn't no one never warn me 'bout y'?"
"You weren't a cute, petite, red-head, so no one thought of it."
"Go fuck y'self, mon ami."
"Not my style."
"Y' got a girl on the side already? Y' wound m'."
Hank's smile was a little broader than Jean had seen since their escape. "I promise not to cheat at poker if you do the database."
"Y' ain't good at cheatin' at poker," Gambit replied. "No running blood tests on m' f' at least a year."
"Deal. What data y' need done?"
"I'll get it for you and bring in the lap-top."
"Y' just don't want t' hear my bitchin'."
"Exactly," Hank replied with a smirk.
"Am not. Jean, try to put your head up now. Is it still bleeding?"
"No, I'm okay. You pack quite a punch, sweetie. Your shields were never that nasty before."
"I been livin' with Essex f' a few mont's and he keeps tryin' t' convince m' t' let him reprogram m' t'ought process."
"So I t'ink I'm a femme and that he owns m'. Like a proper Victorian lady. Must t'ink puttin' m' in this body turned m' soft in the head."
"You could be a lady if you worked at it. You certainly have the carriage."
Jean blinked as Gambit blushed. "Henri."
"Stop it. Y' didn't like m' before, don't go makin' passes now."
"Ah, but you see my dear, I'm not gay. No matter what I thought of your mind, your body just didn't attract me. Now, however, you've got intelligence and a pretty face."
"Just get m' the data, Henri, and stop teasin'."
Hank laughed. "Foiled by your charms once again." He handed Jean a handi-wipe to clean off her face. "I'll be back in a moment, Remy."
"He calls you 'Remy'?"
"Oui. He ain't serious about the flirtin', but he likes t' tease and he found a pressure point t' use." Gambit shrugged.
Jean stared at her. "Hank teases you?"
"Oui? What's the problem, chere?"
"Hank doesn't usually tease women."
"I'm not a woman, Jeannie, no matter what I look like. I'm one of the guys. He flirts some now too, but he just teases me the way he always done." Jean noted the softening accent. She blinked slowly. Sadness washed through her. "Why so sad, Jeannie?"
She shook her head. "I'll leave you to Hank. Remember, if he gets on your nerves, pouting works. I softened him up for you."
"Non, he knows better now. Y' ruined him." Gambit turned back to the bed. "Don't tell no one I can play, okay? Let them find out all the shit they don't know on their own. I'm tired of it."
Jean nodded, then left.
Rogue watched the young woman who claimed to be her boyfriend. She moved like Remy - all dancer grace and thief silent. But she was just so different. Her body was smaller, her face delicate. The woman paused at the front of Victoria's Secret and glared over her small wire-rim sunglasses at Jean. Jean tugged on her arm, "Come on."
"Non. I ain't goin' in there. Y' can't make me." The young woman crossed her arms. Rogue felt a strange sense of vertigo. That was the same body posture Remy always had when faced with the prospect of entering this particular store. Maybe Sam was telling the truth. "I got some errands to run. I'll stop at Penny's for underpinnings. Y'all have fun." She turned on her heel and headed in the opposite direction. Rogue caught her arm.
"Now, sugah, don't go running off. It ain't nice."
Sam glared at her. "Y' don't really care, girl. You t'ink I'm blind or stupid? Y' don't believe me. Y' don't trust me. And y' sure as hell don't love me, so what's the point?" Sam pulled her hand free from the shock-loosened grip. "I got things to do." She stalked away from them. Rogue stepped forward, but Jean touched her arm.
"Let her go. She's got a lot to deal with."
"Just imagine for a moment that you woke up as a man." Rogue shrugged. "And imagine that none of us believed you. You were labeled insane. You were treated as crazy by the one person you love the most." Rogue dropped her chin. "Besides, there's no reason we can't get her things and make her wear them."
The ex-terrorist laughed at the idea of Sam wearing lacy clothes willingly. "And how do you plan to manage that?"
"Blackmail and guilt?"
"This I've got to see. Lead on, Jeannie."
Remy stalked into JC Penny's. He found his way to the women's department. "Is Lori in?" he asked sweetly.
"Sure. Let me get her for you." The new clerk disappeared. The old woman that Remy was used to dealing with came out.
"I'm Lori. How can I help you?"
"I'm Sam. Remy said y' might be able t' help me?"
Her face softened into a genuine smile. "Of course, dear, what can I do for you?"
"I lost some weight an' I need t' figure out what size I am now."
"Come into the dressing room with me and we'll do some measurements." Remy relaxed. Lori had always been a nice to him. Even when he was shopping for more than one woman. He was quickly fitted with all the necessary undergarments and with a few that he'd gotten just because he liked the color of them. He picked up some sale tee-shirts that he saw when he was leaving, then headed into the main mall.
He glared at the appreciative young men who were staring at him. That was another reason to hate this body. Couldn't he have made me less pretty? he asked God silently. What did I do to deserve this? He stopped in front of Hot Topic. He smirked. This was one place he didn't have to worry about his eyes. Jean would hate the clothes. It was perfect.
Jean eyed Gambit's bags suspiciously. "Hot Topic? You're going punk on us?"
"Alternative," Sam replied. "Made arrangements for the other things I need. Is there a good shoe store in this sorry excuse for a mall?"
"This is the best mall in the area, according to Jubilee."
"Oui, but I've done shopped at Mall of America. This ain't nothin'."
"We need to get you something reasonable too," Jean pressed. She just knew that Gambit had only gotten pants. "And a skirt."
Sam made a face. "I got a skirt."
"One you could wear to church, sugah."
"I don' go t' church."
would you wear the skirt you got to church?" Jean asked. Sam glowered.
"Non. Fine. We get a skirt. Still need shoes too."
"Let's go to Lord and Taylor. They should have a good skirt." Jean linked her arm through Sam's. "You should see the cute little outfit we got for you."
"For Rogue t' wear for m'? Sweet."
Jean laughed as Rogue rolled her eyes. "In your dreams, sugah."
"Oui, y' know me that well."
"Scott says to remind you that this is the third weekend of the month."
Sam cocked her head to the side. "T'ird? Oh. Oh, shit." She looked down at herself. "I guess I need a dress."
Let's shop then."
to be retro. I prefer green."
"I thought your favorite color was pink," Rogue said with a frown.
"Wit' my hair?" Sam blinked. "I love pink, but I don't wear it."
Jean raised her brows.
"Often," she admitted grudgingly. "It just don't look right. Non, need green, wit' a dancin' skirt."
"You're going dancing with my husband?" Jean couldn't keep the outrage from her voice.
"I always go dancin' wit' y' husband. Every t'ird weekend of the mont' is big band day at the VFW."
Jean stopped dead. "And you go dancing with my husband? I thought you went drinking."
"Y' thought wrong. We both like the music. Y' don't. Plenty of girls there who like t' dance." Sam made a face. "Gonna have t' learn t' follow. Merde."
"You dance with *my* husband."
"Y' don't like it."
"That's not the point."
"Jeannie," Sam shook her head. "Ain't no difference. He ain't into me and I ain't into him. Just fun t' have someone to talk to when everyone around y' is twice y' age. Besides, y' never cared t' find out where we was goin'. Serve y' right if I was dancin' *with* him horizontally."
"Show me," Scott stated as the three women entered the mansion. Or was that two women and. . . no, he wasn't going there. Rogue and Jean looked at him curiously.
Gambit sighed and opened the knot on the end of the bag. The dress was dark blue with a knee-length skirt and short sleeves. "It'll do, oui?"
"Oui," Scott answered absently. A thought struck him, "Well, you'll have plenty of dirty old men willing to teach you how to follow." He grinned before heading for his office.
"Scotty," Sam called sweetly, "I'm goin' t' get Wolverine t' kick y' for me."
"You got him whipped already? Jean giving you pointers or something?" Scott looked over his shoulder. Sam gave him the finger. He smirked. "Not in front of my wife." That got him a hard bouncy ball thrown right at his head. He ducked and caught it on the rebound.
Jean scanned Sam's thoughts. //I'm going to strangle that man. Irritating, uptight, annoying... Wonder if I could get Old Man Bryson to dance with him. Man's always been a little bit lavender. Do Scotty good to get hit on. Stop listening in on me, Jeannie. It fucking hurts.//