"I am Magneto, master of magnetism, the most powerful mutant in the universe. If my demands…"
"Fool. You are not and have not been the most powerful mutant in twenty-odd years," Sinister told the television. "If only I didn't fear his powers would burn him out, he would have already surpassed you."
"Blah. Blah. Blah," Jubilee mocked the television. "Doesn't he ever change his tune?"
"Mags? Non, cher." Gambit handed her the soda she didn't remember asking him to get.
"bein," he responded absently. He was engrossed in his newspaper.
"Have you…" Bobby started to ask.
"By de china hutch in de dining room."
"Okay. Thanks." He didn't think anything of it. He'd been living around Jean far too long.
"Now, cher, dat ain't fair. Bobby can't help bein' a scatterbrain."
Jubilee stared. "Yer a spook? Fine way to tell me."
Remy blinked at her. "Hehn?"
"I didn't say it out loud. Yer the last one I'd've pegged as the thought police."
"Stop thinkin' so loud," Remy responded. He crossed his eyes are her and she giggled. "Y' ain't seen me, 'tite."
"Don't call me 'petite'. Got it, Gumbo?"
"D'Accord, petite." Remy left his paper and escaped to the kitchen.
"Just missed him." Rogue sighed.
"Ah'll find him."
//Serves ya right fer not tellin' me.//
Rogue stood in the doorway of the kitchen. "Well Sinister must be startin' a shelter fer flatscans," she stated. "Remy LeBeau is washin' dishes."
"Dey were here. Ain't got not'in' better t' do."
"Then ya ain't gonna mind helpin' me clean out thah storerooms." Remy sighed.
"Of course, chere. When I'm done here."
"Ah'll be downstairs."
"I'll find y'." She left. He turned back to the sink. He stared at the boiling water in shock. He took a deep breath and released the charge slowly.
Jean had to smile. It looked like Rogue and Remy were back together. She set down the lemonade. "Oh, y' are a most welcome sight." She floated a glass over to him. Surrounded by boxes and newsprint, he looked like a cat that had gotten into the packing supplies. Rogue dropped down from the shelf she was hovering by to accept the other glass.
"How's it going?"
"Dere's a good auction house or two in de city, y' know." Remy ran his fingers over the Staffoshire figurine he'd just unwrapped.
"Now, Remy, the professor just wants everything set up for the appraiser," she chided. Rouge leaned against the shelves. Something shifted and the Rookwood vase from the top shelf toppled over. Before Jean could react, its downward momentum eased. Rogue plucked it from the TK pillow.
"Now dat is a sign dat Remy needs t' take a break." He rubbed his eyes. He picked his way through the scattered packaging. "Come see de sun, chere. Dis hole ain't good f' Southerners." He held his hand out for Rogue.
//We need to talk about secrets, young man.//
Remy perched on the porch rail and inhaled a lungful of smoke. "Dat tastes good."
"Ah'm surprised ya can taste anythin' at all," Rogue drawled, wrinkling up her nose. "Smokin'll kill ya, sugah."
"Ain't doin' me no harm. M. Bete don' like it, but m' lungs be as clean as a bebe's."
"Well, Ah'd say it tastes like shit, but Ah wouldn't know. It makes yahr hair smell stale and yahr teeth are gettin' yellow." Remy sighed.
"In oder words, y' want m' t' quit."
"That was the general idea, Swamp Rat," she said with a smile. He rolled his eyes, safely hidden by his shades. He took another drag.
"It mean dat much t' y'?"
"Yeah, it does, Remy." Rogue rarely used his given name. She didn't think it was fair, considering he didn't know hers.
"Fine den." He tossed the cigarette into the air where it exploded. He did the same with the pack. "Gonna need t' get some gum or somet'in'." Wolverine wandered towards the noise.
"Showin' off, Cajun?" he teased. The young man shrugged. His torn jeans were smudged with ink and dust. He looked tired to the Canadian's eyes. Logan's nostrils flared. Yup, the kid needed to sleep. "Late night?" he asked.
"Non." Gambit shook his head. "Went t' bed early. Teach me, non?"
Rogue studied the thief. "Ya feelin' okay, sweetie?"
"Jus' tired." He didn't mention the fact that everything looked pixilated and that the urge to charge anything he saw was strong enough that it worried him. He ignored the fact that his shields felt as fragile as spun sugar and that everything tasted like smoke.
"Yer gettin' a sunburn," Logan said. He poked a finger at the reddening patch of skin.
"What? That boy ain't evah burned." Remy looked at the burn on his arm.
"Don't feel it. Feels more like I got int' somet'in' dat don' agree wit' m'."
"Hives?" Logan shook his head. "Maybe yer girl'll be nice enough to go to Hank and getcha somethin'." Rogue rolled her eyes.
"Don't worry yahr pretty little head, sugah," she said with a grin. "Ah'll take good care of mah boy." She pinched Remy's cheek, leaving a smudge of ink behind and went inside.
"Ya ain't fine, kid. What's eatin' at ya?"
"Not'in', M. Logan."
"I ain't gonna think less of ya."
"Jus' feelin'… frail."
"Didja eat anythin' today?" It was after noon, but that didn't mean anything.
"Some lemonade. A coupla cookies from de jar." Remy shrugged.
"Ya need some food, Kiddo." Logan shook his head. "Come on. I'll fix ya a sandwich or somethin'. I was headed that way myself."
Gambit had his head down on the table, cradled in his arms. Asleep, Bobby assessed. He roused at the sound of the refrigerator. "What time is it?" Remy muttered.
"Quarter to four." Gambit sat straight up.
"Merde. Only meant t' sleep a minute or two. M' rhythms must be off."
"M' clock." He tapped his head. "Must not be right. Dought it was only quarter after t'ree. Rogue's gonna kill m'." He hurried out of the room. He had to stop in the hallway. Everything was spinning. He could feel every molecule around him. He had to get outside, quickly. "Focus on de here and now," he told himself firmly as memories vied for his attention. He made his way to the back yard and settled in the grass, midway between the house and the lake.
He tilted his face up, eyes closed. He didn’t realize it when he started to glow. Logan watched quietly as the younger man leaked power. The kid must be feelin' worse than he's sayin', Logan decided. Magenta swirls arched up towards the sky. The tips turned blue, then faded to a shimmer of heat.
Charles Xavier also watched the display. He was dismayed to watch the usually perfect control slip. Gambit's attention snapped to a bird that was flying towards his flares. He threw a TK field around it for protection as it flew through the energy waves. "Well, well, well," Xavier mused. "Naughty. Naughty. It's not nice to lie to your teammates, Remy."
Gambit could feel each heartbeat of the bird. The flowing blood echoed in his head. He could sense Logan's concern and Xavier's irritation. He hated his empathy. He felt Scott in his office, gleefully blasting tanks into pieces. He smiled at that. Bobby was helping Rogue in the storeroom .She seemed sad to him. Bobby was concerned. Hank was anxious. Jean noticed his touch to her mind.
//Ready to talk now?//
//Non, chere, please. Feelin' raw.//
She soothed him. //Just checking in?//
Storm was meditating. He stayed connected to her for a long moment, soaking in the peach she found among her flowers. Jubilee was effervescent. She bubbled along the edges of his shields. He stretched into a full arch, then flipped himself up into a handstand. He couldn't keep his balance. He fell out of the stance, feeling like a toddler. He charged the blade of grass his fingers found. It burst into flame.
Logan approached warily, as if stalking a wild animal. Remy wrapped him in a protective layer of TK. "Go 'way, Logan. Don' want y' gettin' hurt. De metal in y' bones be callin' m', cher."
"Whatcha talkin' about?"
"De metal holds de charge so well. De molecules, dey callin' t' me. Can y' feel de earth movin', cher? I can feel de sun, pullin. De earth'd make one hell of a boom." Remy's voice was slurred.
"I'm gonna take ya to see Hank. Ya ain't yerself."
"Non! Y' can' take m' indoors, Logan. Dink of de damage. Probably take de roof off me. Be fine in a lil' bit. Den we go see M. Bete, D'Accord? Need t' reel it all in."
"Okay, Gumbo. Ya do that. I'll wait by the lake." Remy nodded.
"D'Accord." Remy settled in a cross-legged position. He strengthened his shields by pulling the tendrils in one by one. He felt better doing that, safer. The shields worked both ways. They kept everyone else out, but they also kept him in. He closed his eyes and was please when he couldn't hear the whispers of other voices. Logan's concern radiated through them, warm and comforting. He stood up and let Logan walk him back to the house and down to the med-lab.
He panicked within a step of the lab, feeling Hank's all too clear plea for uninterrupted time. Logan's hand clamped down on his wrist. "Yer just gonna hurt yerself if ya struggle, Gambit."
"Non, don' need t' disturb him. Ain't not'in' wrong."
"Ya still feelin' the Earth orbitin'? Remy nodded. "Is that normal?"
"Non. Felt it before dough. Jus' ain' been trainin' enough. Let go, Logan."
"Nope. Yer gonna talk to Hank. Yer gonna tell him about yer fireworks display, yer non-existent eatin', and yer dizziness. We need to know why ya lost control." He pulled the younger man through the door.
Hank looked up and blinked. "What is the matter with out Cajun-compatriot?" Logan started in on the list of symptoms. He forcibly sat Remy on an exam table.
Hank appeared in the dining room. "How's the kid, Hank?" Logan asked around a mouthful of roast beef.
"I had to sedate him. He went into a full panic at the mention of bloodwork," Hank said sadly. Xavier homed in on the conversation from his place at the head of the table. "I should have the results soon."
"What's yer gut, Blue?"
"His metabolism sped up causing a blood sugar spike." Scott nodded to Jean's question.
"Hank, is he showing any unusual brain wave activity?" Scott asked.
"I wouldn't know."
"What?" Jean exclaimed.
"Gambit's talents disrupt the sensors. I don't have any record of his brain waves." Hank sighed. "If I could beg a plate, dear friends? I have a patient to attend."
"Henri?" Hank was startled by Remy's soft voice. "Sil vous plait, Henri. Y' let Gambit up?"
"If you promise not to bolt. There's an IV in and I don't want you getting hurt."
"I promise." Hank released the restraints and Remy sat up. "What y' feedin' po' Remy, M. Bete?"
"A minor sedative to help calm you." Hank gently brushed Gambit's bangs back. "You panicked."
"Dat's why y' have dis damn ding on m'?" Remy touched the collar.
"Yes. You were threatening to charge my fur." Remy blushed.
"Je suis desole."
"Quite understandable, my friend. Not that you're awake I'll remove it." Hank triggered the release. Remy's fingers tingled like they were coming awake. He shook out the pins and needles. "My friend, I have some food from dinner here for you. Will you eat?"
"A bit. Ain't really hungry, Henri." Hank suddenly pricked Remy's finger. "Ow. Bete!" He placed the blood on the testing strip. Gambit sucked on the injured digit.
"You're blood sugars are low. You need to eat, even if you aren't hungry. Would you rather I had told you what I'd planned?" Remy blushed knowing what his reaction would have been.
"Non. Oui, Gambit'll eat. He'll be good f' y'."
"I ought to drug you more often." Remy snickered.
"Dat'd be hell on y' budget." Hank nodded ruefully as he regarded the charring on his wall. He handed Gambit a plate. He picked at the food as Hank question him.
"I'm getting some very pointed questions about your powers."
"Such as, what is the extent of your abilities? And what are they exactly? Your charge seems to have slipped your control today."
"Power spikes happen."
"True. And your empathy?" Remy looked at him oddly.
"Your charm?" Remy shrugged.
"What about it?"
"What can you do with it?"
"Read emotions. Talk people int' dings. Make m' lovers scream," Remy leered. "Like dat de best. Makin' people feel real good."
"And your other powers?"
"The professor would like a word with you when you're feeling better."
"Merde." Hank shook his head.
"Come in, Remy," Xavier called. Hank prodded Gambit forward. He shut the door behind the young man. The thief stared blandly at the man behind the desk. "Please sit down." Remy settled in the visitor's chair. "Now, about your telepathy."
"I ain't a 'path."
"Not to put too fine a point on it, bull. You are an empath. You've admitted to that. Most empaths have telepathic latencies as well. It is nothing to be ashamed of."
"Gambit ain't a spook." Xavier sighed. He steepled his fingers and stared over them.
//I have three witnesses, one of whom is a telepath. You have shut out Betsy's probes.//
//Jubilee witnessed two events, and under duress, said that you didn't deny being a 'spook' to her. You answered Bobby's query without needing him to ask it.//
//Dat's two,// Remy challenged, switching to mind-speak automatically.
//I have seen your 'charm' in action. It's low-grade telepathic hypnosis in combination with your empathy.//
Remy didn't respond.
//Then, there is the matter of your TK. I saw two applications of it today. Jean saw another.//
Remy was silent. His eyes were focussed on the paperweight on the far right of Xavier's desk. Xavier blinked. It was as if Remy were completely gone. He never showed on the astral, so it was no good to check. //Gambit?// The shield snapped at him. "Gambit? Remy? Can you hear me at all, LeBeau?" He maneuvered his chair so that he could reach the young man's hand. He touched the hand closest to him. It was cold. He checked the young man's pulse.
"Gambit!" he said sharply, echoing it mentally. Slowly, the red eyes drifted towards his face. Gambit gave him a lazy grin.
"Sorry, cher. Y' best tell y' girlfriend dat she got a black hole developin' in her backyard. Just a pinpoint at de moment."
"Remy? What are you implying?"
"Dat de Empress needs t' check wit' her scientists."
"You can sense that?" Xavier said skeptically.
"Been feelin' de universe spinnin' t'day. Playin' hell wit' m' balance." Xavier sat back. Remy smiled impishly. "Y' asked m'. Not m' fault if y' don' believe."
//Sir, trouble,// Scott called. //Magneto's threatening Congress.//
He calls that a problem? Remy though to himself. Xavier frowned at him. //X-men scramble.// Gambit waved and left.
"Gambit, think you can disable the sensors Magneto has up?" Cyclops asked flashing up the picture. Gambit studied it.
"Oui. Y' worry if dey get set off?"
"Need m' tools."
"Go. Jean'll link you in for the rest of the briefing." Gambit nodded and headed up the stairs. "Rogue, you're with Gambit." She nodded.
//Sensors on the left are blind.// Rogue offered her arm. She was worried about her partner. He patted her hand. They moved silently closer to the Congressional building. //Second layer,// Remy warned. He worked carefully and quickly to override the system. //Clear. Acolytes ahead.//
//T'ree teams overlapping.// Remy sent a picture instead of words.
//Understood. Get out of sight.// Their only hope was that darkness would protect them. The winds sped up and Gambit tilted his face into them. He closed his eyes for a moment. He led Rogue to the sensor array. They settled behind the tree. There were so few of them. //There's a severe storm watch in effect for the District,// Cyclops smirked. //What luck. Incoming.//
The wind brought the smell of fresh rain. The Acolytes called out to one another. Gambit shook his head. They were just children. They pulled closer to the building until Magneto relented and called them in. The drops were large and hot. Lightening struck the top of the building.
Gambit was desperate to cut off the link to Jean. The small hole in his shields allowed the rising panic of the hostages to batter into him. He tightened his grip on Rogue's arm. //Get us in the building, Gambit.//
They were managing to keep the element of surprise for once. The media trucks were avoiding their area due to a "suggestion" from Jean. The acolytes hadn't seen them. The sensors were down. Wolverine was with Storm and Phoenix in the jet for emergency back up.
//Side door clear.//
//Psylocke will follow. Secure the hall.// Rogue took one end. Gambit took the other.
//Dis just ain't right, Cyke.//
//Too easy. We missed somet'in'.//
//Psylocke take the hall. Gambit check the door again.//
//Door is clear. Vents are clear. It's not mechanical.//
//What was that, Psylocke?//
//Iron. In our blood. Magneto can sense it. We're made.//
//Go, people! Make sure we get as many normals out as possible. Minimal damage.//
Magneto was standing behind the Speaker of the House's desk. "Ah, Cyclops, do come in. I've been waiting for you. Actually, I was expecting Cable."
"Metal arm." Cyclops shrugged. "X-factor called us."
"And who have you brought with you. Oh my, if it isn't Rogue and Psylocke. Now, now, don't be shy. No cigarette, Gambit? However will I recognize you? By now you know my acolytes have sealed the building." Cyclops nodded.
//Storm. Power connection.//
"Where were we? Oh, yes. Mutant registration stupidity." The X-men listened to Magneto's spiel for a moment."
"Entschulegung Sie, Bitte."
"Yes, Gambit?" Magneto took the interruption in stride.
"Do we get equal time?" Magneto blinked, then laughed. He gestured toward the podium.
"The floor is open to the gentleman from Louisiana."
"M… Speaker," Gambit said with a grin. "Many years ago, in a country called Germany, dere was a man wit' a dream. He dreamed dat dere would be a space for his kind only. All oders would be forced out or turned into laborers. He called for all of his kind to unite and make deir country strong. Dey build roads and farms. It was a beautiful dream dat let his people blame all of deir sufferin' and pain on dose inferiors.
"It surprise dis boy t' hear dose same words comin' from someone else's mout'. A man calls himself de savior of de mutant race. Tells dem dey are better'n humans. And dat dey deserve t' rule over humans by virtue of deir blood. He say dat mutants should have a safe living space. Tells dem dat livin' among humans be de root of deir troubles.
"Dis same man suffered as a chile at de hands of de madman in Germany dat dought he was God. An' he makin' chilen suffer now. He makin' dem int' soldiers. He makin' dem part of de violence. An' even t'day he makin' chilen watch an' listen t' his hate." Remy gestured to the front row of pages, huddled together in fear. "M' question t', M., is how do y' become dat which y' most despised? How does a Jew become a Hitler? I cede m' remainin' time t' de floor."
Cyclops wasn't sure what to do when Gambit sat down with the children and started doing card tricks and slight of hand. "A Jew learns to hate by watching his family slaughtered because of their name. He is thrown to the mud and called a worthless Judenschwein. He learns there is no justice as he watches murderers go free and haters rise to power. And he can see not other path than to use the power he was born with to bring those haters to their knees."
Gambit stood up angrily. "A chile learns t' hate when he's beaten t' de ground f' de color of his eyes. When his stomach's been wit'out food so long dat he don't feel de hunger cramps no more. When he watches his meager circle of friends destroyed one by one by de hatred of oders, not just mutie-haters, but women-hater, men-haters, children-haters, self-righteous hypocrites who cry decency wit' one side of deir mout' and pay f' a night wit' an underage boy wit' de oder!
"But he learns dat hate makes y' cold and tears into y' soul like shards of a broken bottle. He watches hate chew maggoty holes int' de nicest person he knows. An' he learns dat if y' don' dink positive, f'give, love or try at least, dat de most important part, de part dat make him different from de rats he bites back in de middle of de night, will die. If a boy can learn dat wit'out a mere or pere, wit'out a fait', why no' a man dat had all of it?" Magneto manipulated the iron molecules to cut off the oxygen supply to the brain. Gambit's hands fisted. "Non! Not 'til y' answer!" Magneto rocked back from the force of the telekinetic shove. The power fizzled as the thunder crashed overhead.
//Took you long enough.//
//Had to locate the generator as well. Besides, how could I interrupt my brother's speech?//
//Gambit, get the children out of here.//
//On it.// Gambit led the kids out quietly. He walked them to the police line and their grateful parents, then jogged back inside. He knocked out two acolytes.
//Rogue, find Gambit.//
//I'm in de hall. I'm fine.//
//Get the flatscans out of here.//
//Naughty, Cyke. Such language.//
//Just do it.// Magneto was surrounded by his acolytes.
//Dat don' look like good odds, cher.//
//Just do what I tell you. We'll discuss tactics later.// They would be safe as long as they could keep Magneto's people over the bomb. The Congressmen and women hurried through the hallways to freedom. The congressman from Louisiana caught Gambit by the arm.
"Young man, if you even need a job, call."
"Oui, M.," Remy said with a grin. "Once de FBI don' want us no more." He ushered the man out. He leaned against the wall, just inside the door. //Head count, Phoenix?//
//Acolytes 20. Magnetos 1. X-men 4 going on 7.//
//Boss? Rogue an' Gambit sweep de basement f' de bomb?//
Rogue looked at Gambit. His fingers were shaking. Other than that he looked perfectly calm. //Cyke?//
//Oh fuck me.//
//If you insist.// Psylocke and Gambit responded.
//That wasn't for broadcast, Honey.// Cyclops informed his wife. //Can you disarm it?//
Rogue considered. //75% odds yes.//
Scott sighed. //We don't have a choice.// Rogue agreed. She carefully opened the controls. Gambit settled next to her to act as "nurse." He kept track of the tools without a word. His head was spinning. Magneto probably didn’t need a remote control, but that was the first thing Rogue disabled.
"Ah'm so glad Ah keep up with this stuff," Rogue sighed. Gambit nodded. Magneto's powers were affecting the gravitational fields. Gambit's head was swimming from the contradictory information. His eyes told him he was upright. His powers said he was upside down. The unstable atoms of the plutonium caught his interest for a moment. He didn't want to think about what sort of damage was being done by the fight above them. "There, that should keep if from firin'. Sugah?" She asked in concern.
"Gotta get de plutonium separate, cher. He don' need no firin' mechanism."
"Ah forgot mah containment suit," she muttered. The bomb was in pieces when she was done. //Cyke? Cyke!// There was no response. Without asking or waiting, she picked up her partner and flew up the stairs. She set him down and they peered into the room. Remy's eyes picked out the details. The acolytes were gone. The X-men were unconscious.
"Merde. De bastard took off de roof." Rain was pouring in. "Dey gonna blame us f' dat. We better get dem out an' fast. Gonna need more'n one trip."
"Ah'll take thah first run. Get Cyke an' Phoenix on the plane. Ah'll get Wolvie. Ya get Storm. Ah'll do thah final for Psylocke while ya'll start thah engines." Gambit nodded.
Xavier looked at the exhausted Southerners. "That was a very nice speech, Gambit." Gambit blinked. "C-span has been running it. But it was foolish to confront Eric like that." Remy yawned. Hank knocked on the door. "Come in, Hank."
"There is no permanent damage done. They are all awake. Slim is already agitating for freedom. Logan is off in the woods. The ladies are complying as they usually do. I came to ask after my first patient of the day."
"Remy's jus' fine, Henri."
"Remy's as weak as a kitten," Rogue countered. "Ah doubt he could walk in a straight line."
"Rogue!" Gambit protested. He looked sharply at Xavier who was exuding impatience.
"I'll look after Remy. Rogue, why don't you get some rest." She was startled by the polite order, but complied. Hank lifted Remy's chin to check his eyes. The pupils were even, but dilated. The sedatives Hank had pumped into him were still in effect. Xavier resisted the urge to "convince" Hank to leave them alone.
"Leave m' be, homme." Remy twisted out of the grip.
"Gambit," Hank began. He sighed. "Get some sleep and some proper food. And don't keep him up all night, Professor." Charles smiled.
"Goodnight, Charles. Remy."
"Bon nuit, Bete." Remy looked at Xavier. "Why y' want t' do dis now?"
"Because Jean won't be listening in."
"Watch your language." //Now then, where did we leave off?//
//Wit' y' leavin' m' alone.//
//Yes, a discussion of your telepathy and TK. Not to mention your increased sensitivity to gravity fields.// Remy stood up. //Sit down.// The sharp order made Remy wince. He sat down.
//I hate dis.//
//You have telepathy.// Remy ceded the point. //Who trained you?//
//Trained m'self. Just like wit' de charm. It's all gut.//
//And your TK?//
//De same!// Remy put his hands to his ears. //Y' sound funny. Tinny.//
//It comes from the shields you have.// Remy nodded.
//Can I go t' bed now?//
Xavier sighed. //We'll speak again in the morning.//
Remy started packing as soon as he got to his room. Jean wrapped her arms around him. "Slow down, Remy." He shook her off.
"Stay the night at least." He nodded.
"Take m' dat long t' pack."
"Sleep, Remy. Please."
"I will, chere." Jean left him. He could sense her sadness. "I'm sorry, Jean," he whispered. "I can't stay. Someone'll get hurt."
"Like ya will if I catch ya tryin' to leave," Logan stated. "Yer scared. I can smell it. What're ya afraid of, Cajun?"
"Get out, Logan." Wolverine slammed the younger man into the wall and pinned him with his claws. Remy struggled lightly. That nicked his throat. It healed quickly.
"So we've got yer charge, telepathy, TK, empathy, healin' factor, what else?" Remy shivered.
"Don' know. I keep tryin' t' push it all back an' it ain't workin' no more." Remy twisted against the grip on his collar. "Let go." Logan growled.
"M' sense of time's all messed up. Seein' dings outta sequence some. Lil' dings, like questions dat ain't been asked. An' dreams of dings dat ain't happened an' didn't happen but might of an' m' clock's all wrong."
"I can feel de universe. Hear it. Feels like Gambit could touch a star an' make it go nova." Remy's voice dropped to a whisper. "Remy do what y' want if'n y' let him go. Make y' feel real good." Logan snorted.
"Yer stayin' here if I have to sit on ya."
"Dinkin' dat be interestin'." Remy grinned.
"Yer nuts, kid." Logan laughed. "Go to bed, Gumbo."
"Oui, M. Logan. Alone?" Remy pouted.
"Brat." Logan let him go and waited for him to get ready for bed. He tucked the comforter up under the young man's chin. "Ya have nightmares call me. I'll sit with ya. Won't even tell yer girl."
Warren tossed and turned, caught in a nightmare. The Marauders had him pinned to the wall of the Morlock Tunnels. The pain throbbed to the base of every feather. Sabretooth continued to gut the helpless victims. Kitty narrowly avoided getting shot, and started screaming. He couldn't make out her words over the taunts of Harpooner. The Inuit man grinned and chose one perfectly white feather to pluck.
Warren lifted his eyes. He saw Gambit twirling the feather between his fingers. There were tears on his face as he looked around. He let the feather drop and float to the ground. "Never knew," the thief muttered. "Mon bon Dieu, I didn' know." He stroked Warren's face. Slowly, the tunnel began to fade. Warren woke, pulling his wings close around him. He'd nearly lost them. He couldn't imaging not being able to fly.
Scott sighed and curled around Jean protectively. She was having a nightmare, which meant he couldn't sleep. He couldn't wake her either.
Jean felt the surge of power run through her. The Phoenix shone brightly against the stars. She soared through space. She laughed drunkenly. She blasted through the center of a star, the after-glow bright behind her eyes. She felt a billion deaths.
"Her, not me. Her, not me," she whispered as Scott rocked her gently.
Rogue stretched out her bare hand. She started in shock when she felt skin beneath her fingers and not cloth. She looked up with a smile to meet loving red eyes. Remy lifted her hand gently to his lips. Then, he ran his fingers down her cheek and leaned in for a soft, sweet kiss.
Her eyes snapped open. "Thank you, Bella," she whispered to the stuffed cat that had the same shade of blue eyes as Remy's wife. The only memories that lingered from her were of Remy's touch.
Remy opened his eyes to the hands of the antique pocket-watch he had on his nightstand rather than an alarm. The time meant nothing to him. He reached out to touch the glass cover. "Oh, Nat'aniel, de temptation is so strong," he whispered.
Warren looked at the wooden box Gambit held out to him. "What is this?"
"Somet'in' dat's yours, Ange." He took it carefully. He opened the cover. A single, perfect white feather tipped with a silver writing nub lay cradled in blue velvet.
"How did you get this?" Warren asked mildly. Gambit ran a finger along its edge.
"A man I worked wit' brought it t' m'. Said it was an ange feat'er. Dought it best y' have it."
"Harpooner?" Warren asked, grabbing the front of Remy's worn sweatshirt. The thief nodded jerkily. Angel twisted the shirt to pull Gambit closer. A thought struck him. "Your powers. He helped you with your charge didn't he?" Gambit nodded. "Stay out of my way, Thief. I can't kill you if I don't see you." Gambit pulled away.
//Gambit, we must… What are you doing?// Xavier asked curiously.
//Prayin'. Listenin' t' de universe. Can' y' hear dem all?//
//That would be the purpose of shields.//
//Like bein' connected, me.// Charles smiled as a rush of giddy pleasure washed over him.
//Well, your mood seems much improved.//
//Shh.. Lil's givin' a speech. An' Scotty's papa is makin' love t' his first mate.//
/Remy,// Xavier chided.
//Well, it's true.//
//You shouldn't listen in.// Xavier looked to the heavens.
//People deserve privacy.//
//I see why Scotty's got a stick up his ass. Y' need t' learn t' relax, cher. Y' feel dat? Dat's someone fallin' in love. Cherry blossoms an' candied apples.//
//Is that what Rogue feels like to you?//
//Non. Rogue is gunpowder an' heat. Sparks an' flashes of passion. Bella is absinthe. Gotta go, Logan's here t' work out.//
//Remy…// The frustrating shields were up again, multiple layers of glass and mirrors.
Logan blinked as his claws went through thin air. "Dat tickles," Remy told him.
"Ya can phase too?" Remy looked down at himself.
"Looks like it. Neat."
"What else are you hiding?" Scott asked as he watched the two men spar from the control room.
Jean sat across from her mentor. Her mouth was grim. "He has to be contained," she said firmly.
"Because he's been toying with us for years. We need to know exactly what he's capable of doing. Because he could do considerable amounts of damage if he loses control like he did yesterday."
"Jean, I don't think he lost control. I think he removed control. He had a power spike. It happens with energy wielders every now and again."
"But this telepathy…"
"He was traumatized by his powers. They have lain dormant for years. We've both suspected his abilities for a long time."
Jean frowned. "If we just let this go it could haunt us forever."
"Are you afraid of him or of yourself?" Xavier asked gently.
"I think you're being blind, Professor."
"'Alo, Stormy," Remy said cheerfully.
"Hello, brother. Do not call me 'Stormy.'" She was working in the garden. Remy smiled at her contentment. He brushed some of the dirt off of her cheek. He kissed her forehead and went ona bout his business. She shook her head fondly.
Bobby stalked his prey carefully. It would be perfect, if he could manage to surprise the Cajun. Remy and Logan were the two people he couldn't prank most of the time. But today Remy looked to be in another world. He's probably just in shock from talking back to Mags, Bobby thought.
Remy paused at the side of the lake. Bobby launched his attack: six snowballs. They thudded against a TK wall. Why couldn't Jean leave well enough alone? He sighed. Remy grinned at him. "Nice try, cher!"
Hank stared at the test results. "Oh my stars and garters. Oh dear." He loaded a syringe. "This is not good at all." He hit the intercom switch. "Scott? Would you be so kind as to escort Gambit to the med-lab?"
//Nat'aniel! Nat'aniel! Help me!// Remy fought the drugs. He felt as if he were sinking fast into a patch of quicksand. //Nat'aniel!//
//Who is Nathaniel, Remy?// Xavier asked.
//Mon ami.// A single tear shimmed a path from Gambit's eye into his hair. //Why y' do dis t' po' Remy?//
//It's for your own safety. Your body is using up too much energy too quickly. Hank is giving you sucrose. We're hoping that by forcing your body to rest, your metabolism will even out.// Xavier stroked the lax hand. //You'll be fine.//
//No, child. Don't panic. Rogue will be down to sit with you.//
//Can' let her see m' like dis.//
//Remy, you're ill.// The young man finally surrendered to the drug and fell to sleep.
The front doorbell rang. Jubilee answered it. She blinked at the man. He wore and old fashioned suit and carried a leather doctor's bag. He was actually rather handsome. "Jubilation, please conduct me to Dr. McCoy's laboratory."
"Who are ya, bub?"
"A friend of Remington's." She blinked again.
"Jubilee," Hank said crossly. "What are you doing bringing a stranger into the house?" Scott marked the page in the book and set it down. He glanced at the visitor.
"What do you want, Sinister?" he asked, standing.
"Really, Scott. I thought that would be obvious. I am here to help." He stepped closer to the bed. Scott stepped to block him. "Don't be stubborn, Summers. I know more about Remy's talents that Dr. McCoy here. I've helped him before. Twice."
"What are you talking about?"
//Nat'aniel?// Remy's mind voice was fuzzy.
"Yes, Remy. I am here."
//Y' help Remy, non?//
"Yes, Remy." Sinister's voice was gentle. Scott let him step up to the bed. He stroked gently down Remy's cheek. "This is a sad state of affairs, old son. I only see you in hospital beds."
//How else can I get y'r attention?//
"Perhaps by not confronting meglomaniacal Omega mutants? The shock alone would catch my attention."
"Gambit not walking into the middle of a dangerous situation?" Scott shook his head. "Dream on."
"I must admit, despite your predatorily possessive and defensive posture, you are taking this quite calmly. You've learned to tame your temper."
"I'm still not sure this isn't a nightmare." Sinister nodded.
"Logical, but wrong. Remy, do you still have the pocket-watch?"
//Upstairs on de nightstand.//
"Jubilation, go fetch it for me." Sinister set down his bag and opened it. Scott nodded and Jubilee ran off.
//Glad y' here.// Essex laid his hand over Gambit's wrist.
"Have I ever let you down or broken a promise to you?"
//Non.// Remy basked in the glow of Nathaniel's affection. //Y' sure y' ain't here f' y' favorite?//
"Are you that blind, Remington? I am here for my favorite."
"Now, don't pout. Jealously does not become you." Scott's lips twitched into a smile.
"I'm the one who should be jealous. Replaced by a thief. How will I survive the blow? What are you going to do?"
"A simple procedure. A single cut to destroy the connection between his powers and the rest of his brain. I've done it twice before."
"Why?" Scott challenged.
"Why limit his powers? I would have thought that you, of all people, would want him at full strength."
"That would burn him out. I'd rather have the irritating little scamp around."
"Yes, moppet." Sinister ruffled Remy's bangs.
//Dink I'm offended.// Jubilee arrived with the pocket-watch and most of the team. //Ooooh. Dey're pullin' out de big guns.//
"What do you want, Sinister?" Xavier demanded.
"Obviously your wit did not come from Xavier," Essex murmured to Scott. "The pocket-watch, child." Jubilee handed it over. Essex made sure it was wound, set it, and placed it into Remy's hand, closing the long fingers around it.
"Hands off the Cajun, bub," Logan growled.
"Stand down, Wolverine," Sinister snapped. "All of you, leave. You are interrupting my procedure. You may see him in two hours."
"Hank and I will stay," Scott stated. Sinister dropped his human form and glared. Cyclops stared back.
"Fine. But get out of the way."
//Scott, do you think this is wise?//
//Professor, Remy isn't scared. He's put his trust in 'Nat'aniel'. I'll back him this once.//
"Time to sleep, Ratty."
//I'd bite y' but I'm too tired.// Sinister increased the IV drip to what Hank considered dangerous levels. The team gathered in the waiting room, as Sinister prepared his patient.
"Jean, Betsy, impressions?"
Jean frowned. "Scott doesn't think there's a danger or he would have reacted more strongly. I'll go with his gut on this one."
Betsy thought long and hard before answering. "I don't think Sinister means any harm. More than that, with Gambit's empathy at full strength, I don't think he can harm him."
"Sinny ain't gonna hurt him," Jubilee said. "He came here as Essex not Sinister."
"Logan? What's your read on this?" Logan shrugged.
"We'll see what happens. But Slim's backing it. It's a safe bet."
"Storm, did you know about Gambit's connection to Sinister?"
Storm considered. "He has never said anything about it. Yet, in battle they have a reluctance to face one another. At one time I wondered if Remy might not be Sinister's son."
"Not father and son, sugah," Rogue contradicted. "That's 'Nat'aniel' of the pocket-watch."
Storm straightened. "Oh my. Goddess bless, I would never have guessed."
"If Jubilee hadn't been lookin' for it, Ah'd've never have guessed."
Warren and Bobby glanced at one another. Warren shrugged. "Women." Bobby nodded. "Translation?" Warren asked.
"Figure it out yourself, Wings. Ah'll be finishin' mah chores." Rogue left.
"I will go start lunch," Storm said as she followed.
Sinister placed the stuffed rat on the pillow next to Gambit's head. Scott snickered. Essex smiled. "Yes, it does rather ruin my image, but he was a child, no more than seven the first time. Lumpy here explained the procedure." Sinister tapped the neatly sutured rat. A line of little black knots were still there from Lumpy's first "surgery."
"And you put him back on the street?"
"Would you rather I had put him in the orphanage?" Scott shuddered.
"He'd have run."
"Like you did. Yes. He was sixteen last time. It's only been six year. His healing factory is affected by diet."
"Healing factor?" Hank queried. "It isn't as strong as Logan's?"
"No, I restricted it's expression as well." Sinister packed his bag. He settled on the chair and held Gambit's hand, clasping the watch between their palms. "He'll be disoriented and depressed at first. I'll stay until he wakes."
Scott straddled a desk chair. He leaned his arms on the back of it. "We're still enemies, you know," he said conversationally.
"Much like Charles and Eric, I suppose. I have never hurt you." Scott stared. "I could have had the Marauders sweep this Mansion and taken you to my labs, but I have not."
"Your Marauders attack innocent people, steal vital scientific information, and sabotage research!" Scott protested.
"But they only attack you and yours when you interfere. My concern has always been for your well being."
"Nat'aniel?" Remy whispered. Essex stood and bent closer so Remy could focus on his face. "Y' came."
"Of course. I keep my word." Remy smiled. "Would you two excuse us for a moment?" Hank and Scott retreated to Hank's office. They watched through the blinds, pretending they weren't interested. Essex placed a gently kiss on Remy's forehead. "You had me worried, Imp."
"Moi? What did I do?"
"I thought you were going to become one with the universe."
"Oh, dat. I like de feel of de timestream. Y' drop m' back t' normal levels, oui?" Remy asked sadly.
"Your charge and empathy are normal. Your telepathy and TK are up to your empathy strength."
"I know. But it is easier to train them than to repress them. The rest of it is suppressed. You'll still have twinges of course."
"I dislike crippling your healing factor."
"C'est la vie."
"I ain't a chile no more."
"I regret that."
"I don'." Essex blinked. "Y' kiss m' proper before y' disappear int' y' lair again?"
"I don't have to leave alone," he offered. Remy shook his head.
"Still got dings t' do here."
"I never meant for you to become another Scott."
//Don' worry, Nat'aniel-cher. Got all de time in de universe. I give dem a bit mo' time. Make sure de Summers boys kill Poccy. Den y' don' have t' look over y' shoulder. Next time, cher, I come home wit' y'.//
Nathaniel leaned over and very gently tasted the spicy heat of Remy's mouth. //You know how to reach me.//
//Oui. Je t'amie.//
//I love you too, Remington. Come back to me.// Sinister took up his bag, opened a tesseract and disappeared. Remy wiped at his tears with the back of his hand.
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