PROLOG: NEW ORLEANS 1808
"Etienne! Start packing. We leave by morning," Dr. Benjamin Adams called to the young man who shared his home.
"Y' know, a man in y'r position should have at least one slave. It ain't seemly."
"I don't like slavery and neither do you, so don’t start. Besides, I've no need of a slave. I've got a student." Etienne looked up from the book he was attempting to decipher.
Benjamin smiled at him. "Apprentice. Student. It's all the same in the end, little thief. You've made a Master's class as a thief, but you are still *my* student."
"Merde. And I was dinkin' I'd grown up."
"You're only sixteen," the doctor chided. "Speak with me when you reach forty and I'll consider the application."
"Y' went and ticked off one of the masters. I warned y' 'bout dat," the younger man chided. "Y' should listen t' Diablo. He knows dis town."
"And we're leaving. I do not wish to lose my head over a dead woman."
"An' jus' who y' gone and killed?" There was no judgement in the tone.
"Morgan Walker's head slave, Charlotte. I slept with her. He returned early. He killed her." That snapped the young man to action.
"Y' go wit'out a femme f' years and y' picked not only the worst possible time, but the worst possible woman t' fall f'. And they say I'm cursed. Mebbe it went and rubbed off on y'?" Etienne continued to talk as he packed clothes, food and money. The books were the doctor's responsibility. They were traveling before the end of the night.
X-MANSION: SALEM CENTER, NY sometime in the near future
"Stormy, y' sure about dis, petite? I ain't exactly hero material."
"Remy," the woman in a teens' body chided, "everyone has a past. They won't care that you were a thief. I was a thief before I joined. Think of this as a chance to start over."
"I'll stay f' y', 'tite. F' at least a few weeks." He put an arm around her shoulders.
Logan cornered the boy two days later. He hemmed him in against a tree with his claws. Red eyes met his own blue calmly. "Dose are new, Logan."
"I thought it was you. Ya got a healin' factor?"
"Somt'in' like dat. Y' be kind enough t' take dose dings away from m' neck?"
"Maybe," Logan said grudgingly. "Ya walked away from that Munich fiasco." Remy winced. He really didn't want to go into that right now.
"Logan, mon ami…"
"I ain't yer friend, Cajun. Spill it."
"Ran into an enemy dat I couldn't run from. Got into a fight. I couldn't get back. I ain't exactly non-descript." Logan nodded. He knew the thief could hide, no matter what he protested. But not necessarily in Nazi Germany.
"Ya disappear in the middle of a mission and I'll make sure ya die, kid." He flicked his claw across the delicate cheekbone and watched the blue flicker as it healed. Remy wiped the blood up with the back of his glove.
"Don't worry. I ain' plannin' t' stay, cher."
"I'll keep yer secret fer now, Gumbo. Ain't exactly fond of the past myself. Hell, come on. We'll go hunt down a couple of beers." Logan was rewarded by a wide grin. He retracted his claws and the thief put on a pair of dark glasses to hide his eyes. In short order they'd settled onto Logan's bike and were speeding towards Harry's.
Storm put her hands on her hips. She summoned the winds and closed the door with a sharp snap. "No, Remy, you are not leaving."
"Put down the bag, brother."
"Do. Not. Call. Me. Stormy. Put down the bag, Gambit. I will not allow you to run away from us. I know you do not like being a part of a team. I know you are happiest alone. But, my dear brother, I see pain in your eyes. Let us help." She crossed the floor and took the bag out of his fingers. "Stay. For me. I don't want to lose my partner. Face your fear, Remy. Let me be with you when you do."
"Y' don' know what y' askin', padnat."
"I know that you've been running for a long time. It is time to stop running. Please, brother, try it."
"Ah, Ororo, y' such a sweet chile," he said shaking his head. "Y' don' understand. There's dings in m' past. Worse dan thievin', dough I don' dink y' boss be too happy if'n I continued dat any way."
"Scott is not that foolish. He knows the worth of having a thief available for unusual circumstances."
"Gambit. I have made up my mind, brother. As anyone on this team will tell you, once I make up my mind I get what I want. I am a Goddess after all."
"Oui, y' an' Fate got a lot t' answer f' then."
"You will stay."
"Oui, Ro. Remy'll stay. F' awhile."
"Good. It is almost time for dinner. And you will have to join us in training sessions."
"I didn' say…"
"Remy," Storm's voice held a warning note. He remembered that note from when he was a child. Grandmere Louisa used that tone of voice. He felt a sharp tug in his heart. He missed her. He'd been so frantic when he'd found her dead. At least Doc had been there for him. And Master Francois. When he looked up, Storm's eyes were concerned. "Do you want to talk to me about it?"
"Non, Petite chere." He pulled her into a tight hug. "Non."
"Where's Gambit?" Scott asked, crossly. "I thought he was going to help with clean up?"
"He's writing his letter. He'll be down in 15 minutes," Storm said.
"His letter? What is that supposed to mean?"
"Once a week, for two hours, he writes a letter. Then, he mails it."
"Who does he write to?" Rogue asked, picking up another load of branches.
"To whom does he write," Scott corrected automatically. He sounded oddly like Xavier when he did that sort of thing.
"Whatevah, sugah. So?"
"I don't know."
"You don't know?" was chorused in varying tones of disbelief.
"I do *not* know *to whom*" Storm stressed for Scott's benefit, "Remy writes. But he does it once a week."
"Fascinating," Hank said. "The Kid-Cajun can write."
You would not believe the idiotic thing I've gotten myself involved with here in New York. I'm in a school. A school, me! Can you believe that? Anyway, I've been here for nearly three weeks, since just after my last letter to you. You remember my suspicions about Stormy? It turns out I was correct and she has been returned to herself. And in the course of that, I have become entangled with a group of honest, somewhat upright, champions of mutant rights, a thought which makes me cringe.
First there is Scott Summers. He is both the best and worst part of the whole problem. And in case you get called away, I will try to capture your attention quickly. He will be one of us. That is the bad side of the equation. He is the spitting image of Danny. That is the positive to this whole realm of madness. He is not married yet, but he is engaged.
He is engaged to Jean Grey. In other words, I will have to kill her before I am able to proceed with what my body truly wants to do. Unfortunately, she can stop a bullet with a thought, can read minds and is rather beautiful in her own right. She has a lovely form, if a little willowy for my taste. Her hair is a lovely shade of red and her eyes are a bright green.
As green-eyed beauties go, I am interested in seeing what Mystique's daughter will do as I continue to pursue her. We flirt, and I think the child might be falling for me. I want her, there's no doubt of that, but I cannot touch her. And that, I think, is what I want more. She is Annie's daughter. The daughter she had to give up to her sister's family. She has Annie's eyes. I promised Annie to look out for her and I will. I think I could love the girl, but at the moment, my heart feels shredded. It's being reminded so intently of my past, I think.
Speaking of the past, I've met one of the men here before. His name is Logan. I met him in Germany during the second world war. He was a part of the unit I had to leave behind when your brother came after me. I did tell you about that right? Please note the nervous laugh that would inevitably accompany that question, as I know that you would beat me senseless if I have not told you. At any rate, he seems content to keep the secret, so long as I don't hurt anyone. And he has a built in defense system of adamantium now, claws. He had the claws when we first met, but they were bone. Dangerous and painful shocks to the system, but I didn't fear a beheading. Nothing in life comes without risk.
Stop laughing. Who shall I discuss next? There's the grounded angel. He's got the most splendid wings. My fingers itch to stroke them to see if they are as soft as my mind imagines them to be. And there is his lover, the redoubtable Betsy Braddock. Yes, the model. Yes, she still has purple hair.
There is Dr. McCoy. He does not go by 'Bones', more's the pity. He is a doctor and he is desperate to get me into his office for a check up. I have been able to convince him to stay away so far, but I am in no way going to lower my guard. He has that look in his eyes. He would see the possible cures afforded in my DNA. He has more than his fair share of compassion, however, so I do not fear him as I should.
His best friend is the irritating and adorable Bobby. He does nothing but play pranks and balance checkbooks. He has the fresh faced look of a child, although he is technically older than this personality. He is a prankster, and if I can win him over than I will know all the ins and outs of the mansion before long.
I have so much more to tell you, but I'm not sure where to begin. We have just managed to get calmed down around here, but it feels as if there is a tension in the air. These children are as tense as any fighting unit I've seen. Yet, they seem so close. It's almost like having a family. I'm afraid that I'm going to get caught up in this. It will hurt to leave. I know it. I don't want to leave my Stormy, but I'm afraid that there will be no choice. These people will expose what I am.
There is something that bothers me so, Ben. Summers looks just like Danny. He has a brother. He claims to know his father. His DNA matches their bloodlines. But he is to be one of us. You know that Candra's kind don't give off the same feel as ours. But that is the only explanation I can come up with at the moment. If you have any ideas as to how this could have occurred, do let me know. It would make me so much lighter of spirit.
When will you come to visit? Or should I come to you? I haven't seen you in ages. And I haven't seen Our Lady of the Light Fingers either. Has she truly taken up with Cory again?
Please write soon. My language is beginning to deteriorate because I don't have anyone sensible to talk to.
Your favorite student, Etienne."
Gambit sealed the letter and addressed it carefully. He put a stamp on it, put away his stationary and walked the letter out to the mail box. Then, he joined his teammates in the garden. It had been quite a storm.
Remy watched the approach of the antique roadster with trepidation. He hadn't seen this duo in a long time. He hoped they were still friendly. He shouldn't have worried. "Sweetie!" the woman said as she jumped out of the car and held out her arms for a hug and a kiss. Her hair was purple. It was a trend he wouldn't mind seeing disappear from the fashion magazines. He liked natural hair colors. She had a ring in her nose. And he realized, as she kissed him, a stud in her tongue. When she let him up for air, Cory was there with his trademark smile. Thank heavens some people don't change. Cory was wearing what was now considered retro.
"Y' bought anyt'in' from after nineteen forty?" he asked the man with a grin.
"My Armani's in the trunk," Cory said rolling his eyes. Cory grabbed the thief's lapels and pulled him into an equally long kiss. "Now, don't say I never give you anything, boyo." Remy knocked the fedora back further on the man's head.
"An' what brings the two of y' int' town? Wouldn't have not'in' t' do wit' the Egyptian gold exhibit at the Met, would it?"
"Remy, what do you think of me?" Amanda pouted.
"That if that weren't it, y'd have already tol' m' what it is."
"We came to see you, of course," Cory said. "And your scout."
"Merde. Don' tell m' y' wan' t' meet him b'fore…"
"Of course we do. Just introduce as part of your ever mysterious past," Cory told him. "This the front door? Nice place."
"Oui," Remy agreed. He didn't have much choice but to lead them into the house. He had one on each arm and they reminded him of over-anxious dogs pulling on their leashes.
"Oooooh! Is that what I think it is?" Amanda squealed, spotting the Chegal in the hallway. She made a beeline for it. Scott leaned against the door of his office.
"Should I increase security for the next few weeks, Remy?"
"Non. The woman knows when t' keep her fingers in check. Don' she?" he asked.
"Would I get you into trouble?" she asked, blinking wide brown eyes.
"Last time I checked the Pope was still Cat'olic. Scotty, these two reprobates are Cory and Amanda. That one's Amanda." Cory took a swipe at the younger Immortal. Remy dodged it. "Taught m' a hell of a lot about what life should be like, oui?"
"And keep him on his toes from time to time."
"Anyone else home, cher?"
"Nope. They're still at the mall. Jubilee is leading the expedition."
"Then Remy takin' y' all t' lunch. An' there ain't no way in hell dat y' gonna wear dat. Go put on somet'in' dat Jeannie'd approve of." Scott laughed. As if he was going to pass up a chance to learn more about their team's enigma?
It was a nice, quiet, restaurant. Scott had a funny feeling that you could pull out a gun and no one would see anything. You really had to love New York. Scott was fascinated by the pair that was with them. Remy had made sure that they were on opposite sides of the table, but that left him conveniently in the middle of them and they seemed to take great pleasure in touching and taunting him. Scott had to smile. It was nice to see the man get some of his own back. "Since we are nearing the height of the meal, I think it's high time that we pull out the baby pictures so to speak." Remy hid his face in his hands.
"Why did I t'ink dis was a good idea?" he asked the plate of grilled salmon and vegetables.
"Because you knew that we'd just sneak behind your back to tell him things no matter where you took us."
"Oui, but I coulda left him home." That earned him a smack in the arm from Amanda.
"You have better manners than that, Baby," she told him. "Let's see, just for that, I'm thinking Berlin."
Remy shook his head. "Non. Just tell m' what y' want, chere."
"Oh, no way, Berlin's tame. I was thinking more along the lines of Moscow."
"Scott, if y' believe anyt'in' they tell y', y' a damn fool."
"If you want embarrassing, it has to be Chicago." The look of horror on Remy's face decided them.
"Chicago it is."
"Remy's just gonna go steal a gun an' shoot hisself now."
"None of that," Cory chided. He fastened an almost painful grip on Remy's wrist. His grin widened. "Then you'd miss all the fun while we were waiting for you to come back. It's not like his opinion of you could go any lower, now is it?"
"Well, at this point, I t'ink I might possibly still have one point or so on the scale."
Scott grinned wickedly. "One *is* the beginning of my rating scale," he commented. "Please, you can't keep me in suspense. What happened in Chicago?"
"Well, there's this club there. There was this club there, had some of the sweetest dancers you've ever seen," Cory began.
"Always made me think of wartime Berlin," Amanda commented with a distant smile.
"And of course, it was the place to be seen. Anyone who was anyone had a permanent invitation. Amanda managed to get her hands on one. And so had this little one over here." Cory flicked at Remy's ear. "And one of them decided to take me." Scott was watching the fascinating spectacle of Gambit blushing. It didn't seem to start at his throat, but rather somewhere along his jaw. He was hiding most of his face with hands and bangs.
"So, finally we get into this club," Amanda said, taking up the thread of the story so Cory could eat a little more of his steak. "And once we get in, it turns out that it's definitely not your typical club." She looked over her sunglasses and winked at Scott. "So Cory and I were thinking that we'd best get our dear, sweet, innocent child out of there."
"What we didn't know is that he knew half of the people there. Most of them a little better than I was ready to imagine. So while Amanda and I are trying to think up a graceful excuse that will get all three of us out before anything goes down that could be misconstrued by the police, this woman, taller than Mandy with this incredible blonde hair comes over. She's wearing more leather and studs than I've seen on anything but a biker. She puts out her hand and our, to our minds, innocent little Remy gets up to dance with her."
Amanda took over again. "Now, I've seen and done my share of dirty dancing. I have never seen anything like that before in my life. And at some point, our dear, sweet, innocent, demon-child, gets a little more intimate with her than decency laws allow. Now, the handsome devil manages to pull off cuffing a woman who probably outweighed him muscle-wise, under the eyes of her husband, I might add."
"And I was thinking that if we didn't get him out of there fast, he'd get killed by this behemoth, who outweighed him by a good two hundred pounds or so. But her husband develops this savage little smile and his little piggy eyes narrow. And this one, he keeps dancing, like there's nothing strange about dancing with a partner whose hands are cuffed. He's got his hands where they shouldn't be when dancing with a married woman, who is quite clearly wearing her wedding ring."
"So piggy-eye finally rumbles to his feet and pounds across the dancefloor. The people around him scatter like he's going to crush them. And Remy just ignores him. He taps our favorite here on the shoulder and he looks up with that little-boy, I didn't do anything, smile and piggy wags a finger at him."
"So, what does our slut do?"
"He bites the finger. And Piggy's reaction?"
"He laughs. And blondie in leather starts to frown."
"See, the attention isn't on her anymore."
"And Piggy. He grabs her and spins her out of the way."
"By this point, the entire club is watching. The bouncer has moved towards them and the bartender's out from behind the bar to add extra support."
"And this little simp of a thing is standing right behind Mandy, chewing on her nails. And she says breathlessly, 'I can't believe Paulie's going to let this go. She's been playing around for days now. And he never laughs.'"
"So, my instincts are screaming that he's going to kill our little boy."
"Instead of even raising a hand, he just kisses Rem's forehead and sends him off the floor. Then, he turns around and lays into his wife for seducing an underage boy."
"I weren't underage," Remy protested quietly.
"Shush," Amanda said. "And the bouncers dive in to stop it. I start looking for Remy and where is he? He's kissing a man, who's got a wedding ring and a whip in one hand and a drink in the other. There's practically a brawl on the floor not five feet from him and he's kissing a married man." Scott snickered.
"Typical," he commented. "I knew he had to have started early. He was what at this point?"
"Around seventeen, I think," Cory said with a grin.
"I was eighteen… almos'," Remy protested. "'sides, Harry's a good guy. A lil' uptight, but good."
"And you knew him how?" Remy didn't raise his head from his hands. He mumbled something.
"What was that?" Cory pressed.
"Which one?" Amanda asked, with a wicked grin.
"That's all you, chere." She clucked.
"That's gonna cost you," Cory commented.
"I know the way t' her heart, don' worry y'self, mon ami." Cory snickered. Remy finally looked up to see Scott's reaction. Scott's smile was speculative. "Non, Scotty. Whatever y' t'inkin'. I ain't gonna do it."
"But really, Emma needs a little shaking up now and again."
"Y'r just pissed cause y' wife don' dress like Frosty."
"Now, normally, I'd guess that you were all college pals, but considering Kid-Cajun, I don't think he'd get that close to a school."
Amanda frowned. "Don't tell me you quit school, Sweetie. You were so close to that doctorate."
"I'd think the old man would beat you if you quit college," Cory added also frowning. Scott was amused watching the two attack.
"It weren't like…"
"And I think I still will. It was so hard to get you into the damn place."
"Do you know what we went through to get transcripts for you?"
"And those don't come cheap. The things we had to do to get ahold of that tutor of yours."
"And to get all the paperwork signed by the city."
"And the scholarships."
"And the grant."
"And the subjects."
"Will y' two shut up!" Remy snapped. "I got the fuckin' degree, f' heaven's sake. Y' know Doc'd kill m' if I quit. It ain't like it's useful or not'in'."
"Honey," Amanda stated, "that is not the point."
"And it is useful. That archeology degree is still getting me updates from colleagues." Remy returned his head to his hands.
"Listen t' Remy, y' two ancient reprobates. I ain't goin' t' be usin' that degree 'cause it gonna get m' int' trouble wit' the wrong people. An' at the moment I ain't plannin' on gettin' shot f' gettin' int' the wrong place. Not in New York."
"Then you need to move to Paris. Listen, I have this great little place on the river, right near the Cathedral."
"I ain' movin' t' Paris. An' Notre Dame's the last place I want t' be seein'." Cory blinked at the harsh tone.
"Oh, damn. I forgot. Sorry," he said cheerfully. He shrugged. "Sometimes I can't keep places straight. You know that."
"Oui, y' still got y' brain stuck somewhere under her skirt."
Scott stared. Oh, this was going to be so much fun when he cornered him and got him too drunk to see straight. Amanda glared over the top of her glasses.
"Just for that, I think I’m getting desert."
"Good. Y' just skin an' bones, chere. Y' an' Doc don' know the value of eatin'."
"Says the man who's been underweight ever since I met him."
"Don't start, Boyo. I've got the right of it this time. And you're still underweight."
"Accordin' t' mon docteur, dat ain' a matter of eatin' or not. Dat has t' do wit' m' bones," Remy stated.
"I bet even Manders could pick you up."
"Don't even t'ink of it, chere," Remy warned when Amanda's smile widened. Scott couldn't completely smother the snickers. Gambit glared at him, but then shrugged.
"Then you did get your degree. Good. It's about time you went to school."
"Amanda," Remy sighed. "Y' know damn well that Doc's the best teacher I coulda had."
"Yes, and I know he stressed the importance of education. So, what are you planning to study next?"
"I hate y' bot' y' know that. I don' like school. They expect m' t' read too much. Don' like people tellin' m' what t' read. Had enough of that."
"Well, you need to brush up on your classical education," Cory stated. "Did you even touch British History in your studies?"
"The English are all pigs that deserved everyt'ing that the French did t' them." Remy said it calmly as he sipped at his wine. "Especially King Richard."
"He was a dick, cher," Remy informed Cory with a smug smile. "An' I t'ink y' probably know that. What was he doin'? He weren't runnin' his country. Non, he was runnin' wit' his boys t' conquer the Muslims an' ruin the architecture an' all of the area. Non, John was the one the English needed."
"Cory, he's just baiting you," Amanda said with a sigh. "You won't do anything but make him worse if you keep talking and we both know it. He's French after all."
"Well, the French did turn over their land to the Germans. It's not as if they know how to run their own government."
"Since this sounds like it's about to descend into a shouting match," Scott intervened, "why don't you tell me how you met Remy?"
"Doc dropped him off on our doorstep for babysitting," Amanda said.
"That's cause he was runnin' off wit' dat rock star of his." Remy wrinkled his nose. "The man ain't got no nose f' talent."
"It wasn't his words Doc was interested in." Remy rolled his eyes.
"Oui, y' right. It be the man's sword work." Amanda snickered.
"Speaking of which. You are keeping in practice."
"Do or do not, there is no try," Cory intoned. Remy smacked his shoulder. Cory grinned.
"Y' do a horrid Yoda." Amanda gestured for the waiter.
"I want the double chocolate cake, with two forks. Cory?"
"The apple pie."
"And four coffees," Remy stated. Scott leaned on his chin on his hand and skewered another piece of broccoli as the others continued to bicker. He knew there was something serious under some of their joking, but he didn't know them well enough to catch all the references. He put down to green stalk and decided to save the rest of his appetite for dessert. The waiter cleared their plates and set down the deserts. He was surprised when Amanda and Remy started sharing the same piece of cake without ever saying a word. Cory watched them fondly. Especially as Remy put down his fork after two or three bites. Cory held out a bite of apple pie with a smile and Remy accepted the offer. Scott shielded his pie. He wasn't *that* altruistic. It was his pie damn it. He didn't care if the man was buying or not.
By the time they got back to the Mansion, Scott felt as if he'd known the couple for years. They seemed to just swallow him into their circle. Remy had somewhat possessively made sure they were sitting together in the car. Scott was actually rather glad of that fact. Amanda and Cory were just a little too touchy feely for his taste. He had a hard enough time putting up with Gambit's flair. He wasn't surprised when the pair kissed Remy goodbye. He was shocked when he got the same treatment. He stiffened, but they didn't seem to give a damn.
"See you around, Kid!" Cory called. Amanda waved and took her place next to him in the front seat.
"It was nice meeting you, Scotty!" she yelled over the engine.
"And so Bonnie and Clyde drove off into the sunset," Scott muttered. Remy laughed at that and shook his head.
"Not in dis town…. I hope," he said. He pulled at his collar. "Gotta get outta dis ding," he said. Scott grinned. Some things never changed.
Three things. Tell Amanda that she is not allowed to claim me as a child she babysat. She looks nowhere near old enough for that. Tell Cory that I want the money from that vault back. It was mine and I don't feel like stealing it back. Last, but not least, BRAILE? That was cruelty, dearest teacher. I love you, Ben, but you're a pain in the ass.
That being said, I was glad to see the most terrifying Amanda and Cory back in town. It was nice to have dinner with someone from my past that doesn't rouse my new companions to murderous rage. I told you that Victor is not in the good graces of this particular crew, didn't I? Well, he has been intimating that he has a commission that needs my particular delicacy. I tried to suggest someone else, but I've been working with him for almost fifty years. He didn't want someone he didn't know. That leaves me in the distinctly difficult position of sneaking out past Logan and Scott and Bishop (our newest addition to be described later) and trying not to be forced into lying excessively when they each demand a private explanation.
It is so hard to deal with Scott. It feels like my heart is being ripped in two every time I look at him. I've managed to keep him away with an almost painful sleight of hand, but it hurts. His voice even sounds the same. I just want to run my hands through his hair. Why am I staying here? I should just wait for him to get killed and then come and get him.
But we both know that I won't be able to do that. So, I am dating Rogue. I can't touch her, even though I want to. I think she's in love with Remy LeBeau. She's not in love with me. How could she be? She doesn't even know me. I'm getting sick of false relationships. And she could take my head off with her bare hands.
Scott is suspicious of my past, but he's seen enough skeletons that he's willing to let them pass. As I told you, Bella Donna came to visit. She didn't even hold a sword to my throat for once.
And you can forget the lecture. She knows what I am. She's known for years. That was my best con, getting Jean-Luc to pretend to adopt me. Well, the boy owes me. He was such a scamp. I needed to be taken back into the clan and the guild in my hometown. I know you're going to lecture me about being connected to a place, but the river runs through my veins and I can't deny it.
Stormy is well, but I worry. She should have a boyfriend. I cannot understand what the girl is waiting for. Have you found someone yet? And when are you and the jazz player coming to New York again? I want to hear him. I might be able to convince Rogue to come with me. If not her, then Storm. My Stormy will do almost anything I want her to. She'll follow me anywhere. She's such a fool.
Come on, Teacher, I need you here. I need someone who knows me, not just a shell.
"All right, Victor, I'm here," LeBeau told him.
"Hi, Punk," Creed grinned. The thief crossed his arms over his chest and frowned. Creed laughed and handed him a beer. "Relax. I ain't gonna do ya here."
"Oh, I feel all kinds of better now." LeBeau uncapped the beer and pocketed the cap. He took a long draught. "What the fuck do you want?"
"I need some plans. Yer the boy to do it." Remy rolled his eyes behind his shades. "Come on, Gambit," he wheedled. "I need the plans to the Executive Buildin' in DC." Remy choked on his beer. He coughed for a moment.
"Executive Buildin'! In DC! Why the Hell? Don' tell m'!"
"It's just a simple killin'."
"Didn' Gambit say, don' tell him?"
"Can ya do it?"
"Non," LeBeau snarled. "Merde. Fine. The usual price, Chat. An' don' y' be tellin' no one else dat I done dis f' y'. Encule! T'inkin' it was not'in' more'n wantin' some money or an ID, me. Saints."
"Oh, cut it out, Mike."
"An' don' be callin' Remy 'Mike'. Mike's dead." Creed leered forward and feinted towards Gambit's stomach with his claws. "Gonna have ya declawed, Asshole."
"Ya can try it, Punk." Creed laid open the thief's cheek with a quick movement and wiped up the blood. He licked it off of his finger. "Too bad ya ain't out of it anymore," he sighed.
"Don' say t'ings like dat."
"I think I liked Mike better."
"Too bad, Vic. Sorry. Mike was a right bastard."
"He was a lot of fun ta hit the town with."
"To the past?"
"To the past." They clinked bottles. "I need 'em as quick as possible." LeBeau sighed.
"Of course y' do. Fine. I meet y' in a week, Chat."
"Why the fuck did you agree to this?" Remy asked himself, pacing the length of the library. He was yelling at himself in Aramaic. Hank stopped and stared as the tirade continued. "You've got a perfectly simple job to do. You steal a couple of plans for Scott once every few weeks and it's all well and fine. What do you have to do? You have to go and accept a commission to get plans for a place that are in a secure building. That's not what you usually do, Boy? Are you insane? This isn't some damned museum. No, if these get out then it's going to be the federal government on your tail. Do you want that, Little Thief?" He mocked himself in the mirror-like surface of the window that looked out on the midnight shrouded lawn. "No, of course you don't. Do you want to get caught? No, you don't. That means you go to Victor and tell him you can't do it. And then after you managed to regenerate all the intestines he's going to drag out, you do it anyway." He gestured to the heavens. "Fate, you evil, lice infested, mutt, why do you get me into these situations?" There was no answer. Hank watched him pace around the room and back to the plans he'd laid out on the floor in front of the couch. "It won't work, Boy. The approach is all wrong," he mimicked in French. "Why, thank you ever so much, Corey, I couldn't have figured that our on my own." He flipped through the blueprints. "Bonjour, Henri. An' what can Gambit do f' y'?"
"Nothing, my fine Cajun friend. Nothing at all," Hank told him, with a smile on his face. He left the man to pour over his documents. He shook his head and smiled to himself.
"Hello, Remy," Storm said. She was just minutes after Hank.
"Hallo, Stormy. Y' be a wonderful petite and bring po' Remy a cup of somet'in'?" She smiled at him.
"Do not call me Stormy."
"Sil vous plait?" he asked giving her puppy-dog eyes. She shook her head.
"What would you like?"
"Very well. Do not get accustomed to this behavior, brother," she warned him. He saluted her. Scott peered into the library. He couldn't help it, he had to know. He looked over Gambit's shoulder at the blueprints.
"And would that be what I think it is?" Scott asked raising a brow.
"Depends what y' t'ink it be?"
"The building where they keep the plans for the government buildings. Like the Pentagon and all."
"Then it's what y' t'ink it be."
"And just why do you have those plans?"
Remy grinned at him. "Mebbe Remy's just doin' mind problems."
"And I'm green."
"Y' mean y' don' know y'r green? That's just mean. No one tells the blind man what color his skin be."
"Very funny. Now, I want the truth. And I want those plans back in my office before the end of the week. Understand? I don't want Jean finding them."
"Oui, Fearless." Remy rolled his eyes. "Got hired by a man that wants some plans that they store there. That's all. Gotta keep up m' rep, non? And mebbe Gambit gets Scotty some copies while he's there."
"I want the Pentagon."
"Oui, cher. All yours."
"I'm here to see Remy LeBeau," Methos told the monitor. The gate opened and he took the long drive to the front of the mansion. The thrill of presence ran through him. Only one. Good, that meant the pre-immortal was still alive. He braced himself for the "attack." He caught the thief in a tight hug. "Hey, Little Thief," he murmured.
"Doc, where the hell y' been, man?" Remy kissed each cheek. He looked the older immortal up and down. "Y' too thin, Doc. Beer ain't food," he chided.
"I haven't had a personal cook of late," Methos grinned. "Besides, how could I deny you of your greatest pleasure? Feed me, Diablo."
"Y' still ain't got no sense." Remy seized Methos' hand and pulled him up the stairs. "What name y' usin'?"
"How boring. What y' doin' wit' y'self?"
"I'm in school."
"Stormy, y' can quit lurkin' in the hall. Come out."
"I must argue with the term 'lurking,' brother. I was merely waiting for an opportune moment to interrupt."
"Ororo Monroe, Pierce Dawson." Methos caught his breath.
"You are indeed worthy of your name. It is a great pleasure to and honor to meet you." He kissed her hand and she inclined her head regally. "And how did you get tangled up with this rascal?"
"He saved my life. I saved his. The pattern keeps repeating over and over." She smiled. "He still curses your name. I assume you must be the famous 'Doc'?"
"Don't believe a word he says, Lady."
"I never do."
"And another one falls t' the charms of Doc." Remy put a tragic hand to his breast. "And y' wonder why I don' introduce y' to m' friends?" Methos cuffed the thief's head affectionately. "We need t' feed the bot' of y'. Come t' the kitchen, mes amis."
"You are going to stuff me, my dear brother."
"A woman needs meat on her bones. Y' seen Roguie around?" Remy asked tucking an arm around each of his friends' waists.
"She went out with Betsy this morning."
"Good." Storm blinked. "Then I don' have t' worry 'bout Doc stealin' her."
After being stuffed with the brandy pudding she hadn't known Remy had made, Storm left the old friends to catch up.
"Walk wit' m', Doc." They wandered onto the grounds and settled by the lake.
"You are so serious, Little Thief," Methos said, reverting to the French his student had first spoken. "What is wrong?"
"You remember telling me stories, Teacher, so that I would not fall onto the wrong path?"
"What have you done, Child?" Methos asked gently.
"Made a mistake. I remembered a man as he was and did not look to see who he had become."
"Not your friend the doctor? I warned you he was mad when you stood by him before."
"You don't feel his grief. I hoped this curse of mine would help him," Etienne said bitterly.
"Gift. It is not a curse, Etienne."
"Non, my dearest docteur, it is a curse beyond measure. What bliss it would be to speak my mind without knowing what reactions I get." He shook his head. "I will tell you what has happened and you will tell me what to do. As you used to. I took a Quickening. Non, let me speak. I was trapped. There was no choice but to stand and fight.
"And my world went insane. I lost all the precious control you taught me. I destroyed a theatre. I didn't dare look at anything for fear of what would happen. I was blind once more, relying on my talents. I found myself in a place familiar and shattered. Nothing seemed right. An old friend came to me. He took me in. Offered me rest and hospitality until I came back to myself.
"All he asked was that I hire him a team of mercenaries. My connections would allow me access to that class better than his own. He needed to take samples. He wanted protection. I delivered to him a group of sociopaths. And they slaughtered a colony of innocents. Every man, every woman, every child an equal target.
"The blood flowed in rivers. Their screams echoed and multiplied in the tunnels. And the wheels once turning could not be stopped. I know of three survivors. They were my sister's people. I orchestrated the fall of an angel." Methos caught the wildly gesturing hands. They trembled in his grasp.
"When could you close your eyes and not hear their screams, see their faces?"
"When that night comes, I will tell you."
"My poor little thief. Why do you believe this is all your fault? If you hadn't gathered these killers, would he have walked away? Did you kill even one of them with your own hands?"
"Non. You are not a murderer. You made a mistake. Have you spoken to anyone else about this?" Gambit shook his head. "You must. I held my tongue. It nearly proved fatal. You are among those who will give you shelter. They have given aid to those whose crimes were much worse. Your letters mentioned an attempt to rehabilitate Creed. Your sweet love as well. Trust in your precious boyscout. Though, the Gods know how much trouble the breed can be. We've both needed teachers in trust. In truth. You are frightened, oui?"
"Terrified." Methos chafed the younger Immortal's hands gently. "I'll speak with Scott." Methos reached out and removed the dark glasses. Etienne winced. "Will you spar with me, dearest teacher. Let me show off for Stormy?"
"I had wondered who was watching us."
"Stormy's watching from the roof. And Logan is in the woods." Methos laughed gently. Gambit grinned, mood switching as if connected to a switch.
"Imp. Fine. You are armed?"
Etienne stood and pulled his teacher to his feet. He spun out his bo. "Adamantium." Methos removed the sword he'd had made of the same material. "Holds the edge, non?" Methos grinned.
"Shall we see what you have forgotten, Little thief?" Remy bowed formally.
"As you wish, Dearest teacher." Logan settled on the ground in the shade to watch. The match began with the regular cadence of an oft practiced routine. The routine exercise moved quickly to more and more dangerous moves. A few blows came too close for Logan's comfort. He liked the Cajun. He didn't want to see him in pieces.
But the wide grin showed how much the kid was enjoying himself. When he sailed over his friend's head, he barely parried the blow that had been expecting the move. "I know your abilities, child," Doc said. Etienne grinned, chastised.
Storm leaned against the gable. She saw Betsy had been attracted by the sound of the fight. She'd settled on the grass to watch. Jean came out onto the porch of the boathouse in her sweats, abandoning her cleaning. Scott settled his arms around her waist and his chin on her shoulder. Rogue joined Storm on the roof. She was chewing on her glove. Storm smiled at her. "There is no danger, Child," she soothed.
"How much do you want to show off, Young Skywalker?" Methos teased, offering. His student's smile grew hopeful.
"You mean it, Ben?" Remy shook off his coat. Methos' joined it. Remy located the silk scarf he used on nights out. He allowed the older man to tie it over his eyes. Logan leaned forward. Etienne took a deep breath.
"Oui." Logan was shocked when the first blow flew without warning and Gambit ducked it.
"Brat's been holdin' out on me," Logan muttered.
The pace of the match was slow at first, then sped faster and faster. It was nearly impossible to follow the blur of motion. Rogue realized she was holding her breath and forced it out, angry she was worried. Methos called a stop to the match, aware of their audience and the fact that it was about to become actually bloody. Etienne slipped off the blindfold. "Thank you, Ben. It's been a long time."
"A pleasure, young one. Now, who do I have to kill to get a beer?" The Cajun laughed, a bright sound Methos had heard too rarely.
"Some dings don' change, cher. Come, I'll get y' a beer." Etienne was ignoring their audience, so his teacher did the same. They found a quiet, private corner, and talked well into the evening.
"Don' be any stranger dan y' always been," Gambit said leading Methos out.
"I'm just down the road at CUNY. Now, remember your promise. Learn from my mistakes so you don't have to make your own."
"Yes, sir." He saluted.
"Yes, Doc, I will speak with the scout." Etienne rolled his eyes. "You have my address, so write t' m'."
"I will." Methos kissed Etienne's forehead, wishing for a moment that he was a child again. He wished that he could bandage a heart as easily as a knee. "If things don't work out as I think they will, come to me. My door is always open to you."
Remy waved as the car left. He settled his current persona more firmly around himself. He found Scott in his office. He took a deep breath. It was best to do it now before he lost his nerve. And before Doc started pestering him. He rapped lightly on the doorframe. "What is it, Gambit?" Scott hastily pulled up a document to cover the soundless Quake game.
Gambit shut the door behind him. "There's somet'in' we need t' talk 'bout. I ain't sure how t' start off."
"A general hint?"
"M' past." Scott was instantly alert. "Past" meant "bad news" in Gambit speak. He gestured for Remy to take a seat. The thief curled up on the windowsill bench. He wasn't looking at Scott, which wasn't unusual at all.
"How bad are we taking here?"
"Need y' word y' gonna hear m' out an' not kill m' immediately. Dat's better'n I probably deserve, actually."
Uh-oh. He's using "I," Scott noted. There be dragons here. "Give me a hint."
"Sinister. Marauders. Me. Blood." Scott carefully moved the keyboard out of his lap. He folded his hands and rested his lips against them for a breath.
"You have my attention and my word. Talk."
"I assembled the Marauders f' M. Essex."
Scott took a deep breath. "I said I wouldn't kill you, but a beating is not out of the question. Tell me all of it."
"I lost control. Burnt out a t'eatre. Hurt a lot of people, me. Nat'aniel rescued m' from losin' m' mind as well. He helped m' contain m' powers. Then he asked m' t' get him the Marauders. An' t' get samples from the Morlocks."
"Samples! They killed everyone they could find!"
"Weren't supposed t' be dat way. Jus' tol' m' dat he wanted blood. Never tol' m' he dought they were wort'less. Ain' such a prize m'self wit' m' eyes." Gambit leaned against the window. "I couldn't stop them. Ange couldn't stop them. Creed clawed m' as a warnin' t' stay out of dings. Stole a chile an' got her out. Weren't not'in' else t' do." Scott paced over to him. He lifted Gambit's chin to stare into his eyes for a very long time.
"Swear on whatever you'll honor that this is the truth."
"On m' rank as Master. By the honor of m' clan. I ain't lyin', Cyke." Scott closed his eyes. He could feel the frantic pulse against his fingers.
"I believe in second chances. If I didn't I'd still be breaking into places or I would have shot Rogue when she got here. We just have to figure out where we go from here. The others have to know. Angel and Storm especially."
"I ain't talkin' t' Ange alone."
"No, that's probably not a bright idea. We can do this at the briefing tomorrow, but we're not keeping secrets." Scott felt the nod and opened his eyes. "Rogue won't take this well."
"Figured on dat. I ain' Prince Charmin'. She be in love wit' bein' in love. Not wit' m'."
"But you love her?"
"Promised her momma I'd look f' her."
"Mystique?" Scott's grip tightened.
"Non. Annie. Her birt' mere. The one dat gived her t' her tante. The ones Rogue ran from before meetin' Raven."
"We lived t'get'er on the street. She was a prostitute. Hooked on heroin. Tol' m' stories of her li' girl. An' what life coulda been like. Rougie's got her hair an' eyes. Mebbe it be the best f' all if'n we do break up. I'm lovin' her mama, not her and she's lovin' an illusion." Scott dropped his hand.
"Tomorrow then." Remy nodded. Scott didn't know why, but he reached out and brushed back the tangled bangs. "Don't worry. I've got your back. Warren can go hang."
"Y' took dat better'n I expected."
Scott smirked. "Give me a couple of hours. Now what was with that Star Wars bit?" Remy blushed.
"I was showin' off f' Stormy, an' f' Doc a bit too."
"And you never told anyone you could do that because?"
"Brings back memories. Most of them are bad. Don' want t' remember them. Doc can make them good. Shine a bright enough light an' I'm blind. Need t' be able t' fight no matter what. Storm's lightenin', if'n I'm lookin', washes out everyt'in' as bright as a nuclear flash. Don' dink about it no more. I jus' do it."
"Gambit…" Scott's frown was enough.
"If Remy'd tol' y', y'd have locked him in the house like a pup. Be gaurdin' the Mansion wit' Jubilee, f' God's sake. Y' seen a problem wit' m' performance? Non." Gambit challenged.
"Damn it, Gambit! I was thinking it was dangerous for you, not the team."
"Worse t' be locked down like a chile!"
"You mean like the fact that you're grounded and I expect your honor to keep you in at night?"
"Grounded? When the fuck did dat happen?"
"About ten seconds ago."
"Yes, Pot?" Remy snickered.
"Fine. Fine. No partyin' dis weekend. Still say dat y'd like it. An', Fearless, I ain't f'gotten 'bout dat break-in comment. If'n y'r forcin' dis po' t'ief t' stay in, y' gotta entertain him."
"Did the two of you sneak something besides beer from the pantry?"
"Then go get some dinner. Danger Room at 4 a.m."
"Merde. Mornin' person," Remy accused. Scott just grinned.
"Go on. Get out."
"Y' just wanna get past Level 4!" Remy called as he left the room.
"Brat," Scott said to the closed door.
Gambit was nervous. The only other person in the Danger Room was Cyclops. Not that he hadn't been really expecting anyone else. Cyclops was pissed. Gambit could tell. He wasn't sure if he should actually fight back or if he should just take the beating and deal let Scott work out his anger. Scott suppressed a grin that would have made him look far too much like Wolverine. "I'm not going to hurt you. Honestly. What do you think I am?" he chided the thief.
"Well, that's true. But I don't stoop to physical violence to control my people."
"Bullshit." Cyclops did grin at that. It wasn't the first time he'd cornered the thief alone in a session. The threat of violence always seemed to make Gambit more honest. It was one of the few places he actually acted like he had a brain in his head.
"All right, I don't stoop to physical violence to control all of my people."
"Better. So what's dis gonna be, homme?"
"A surprise. Together." Gambit blinked, then nodded. He'd known that his little speech would have changed Cyke's opinion of him, but what did the man have in mind? "Start simulation." The walls closed in. Fuck, the tunnels. Gambit's eyes glowed slightly in the darkness. This was going to get ugly. But damn it, Cyke hadn't even been involved in the Massacre. Then, his eyes widened. Damn the man. He'd found Gambit's rendition of the place. He thought he'd hidden that program better. "Safety off."
"For you, not me."
"Then, don't let me get hurt."
The freak. The first scream echoed through the tunnel. Cyclops darted towards it. Fate, you pox-ridden, seven-armed, spawn of a crawfish and a jackal! Etienne thought. Don't you dare let him get killed here!
The rest of the team stared at the two men who were sitting on the floor of the Danger Room, obviously tired. Logan looked at the timer. "Two hours?" he said aloud. Gambit just glared at him. Cyclops stretched.
"Glad you could make it, slowpokes. You're fifteen minutes late. I said six o'clock, not six-fifteen."
"But Cyke," Bobby began.
"I don't want to hear it, Iceman. Gambit, in the control room with me. We'll let these slug-a-beds warm up."
"What, Gumbo?" Cyclops asked with a long-suffering sigh.
"Y' know Gambit hates y', right?"
Summers waved that away. "Naw, you haven't gotten me killed yet. Try harder next time." Gambit grumbled, but got to his feet, using his bo a little more than he wanted too. Immortal healing never seemed to work on muscle cramps and damn if the back of his leg wasn't tighter than Scott's shoulders on a day off. He'd had to restrain himself because of the low ceilings and now he was feeling the after-effects. Cyclops had already left the room.
"Damn. What did you do, Gambit?" Iceman asked. He knew the look of a Cyclops loyalty test.
"Don' ask, homme. Jus' don' ask."
"That went well," Remy said as he rubbed at his ribs. Warren had been a little calmer than he'd expected actually. He'd only hit him once. It had to have been exhaustion from the Danger Room workout Scott had put the team through.
Storm looked at her brother. There was anger in her eyes and the lightening was already flashing outside. He looked at her, poker face in place, but she could see pain in his eyes. She didn't say a word, merely left the room.
"Gambit," Wolverine switched to Japanese, "Because of you one of my children was hurt. I will meet you in the Danger Room at midnight. We will settle this as gentlemen."
Gambit bowed formally. "As you request, Logan-san. Should I bring my weapon?"
"Yes." Having said his piece, Logan sat back. Scott looked between the two in interest.
Betsy cocked her head to the side. "Do you need a referee?" she asked. Gambit shook his head.
"I'll go keep Warren from packing his bags."
"Tell him I want to talk to him," Scott told her. "I'll be up in a few."
"Gambit," Hank said, "I have but one very important question. Why did you get involved in such a thing? I have seen no evidence of the bloodthirsty mercenary behavior necessary for the genocide of an entire tribe." Remy winced.
"I owed the man," he said after a long pause. "I already had blood on m' hands because I lost control of m' powers. He asked me to find the most efficient mercenaries t' act as his personal bodyguards when he went f' t' retrieve samples from a large group of mutants that would more then likely react t' the lab about as well as I do. And the retrievin' of the plans f' the tunnels, that was somet'in' different. Those tunnels weren't supposed t' be inhabited. Those tunnels were t' access this house." Remy shrugged. "He paid m' usual fee. It ain't unusual f' m' t' get plans f' people." Remy looked at Cyclops pointedly. Hank blinking owlishly behind his glasses for a moment. He sighed.
"I need to think about this for awhile. Please excuse me." He left the room.
Rogue was crying softly. "Why didn't yah tell me, Swamp Rat?"
"What did y' expect m' t' do, chere? Come in an' say, oh, by the way I used t' work f' one of y' team's biggest enemies? Victor Creed used t' be m' partner? Give me a break, chere. Why don' y' tell anyone y' name, eh, chere? Because y' don' like the past. Gambit don' like his past neither, so mebbe we just let that go." Gambit was angry. How dare the little bitch.
"Yah made me believe yah were a good person, Gambit!"
"I didn' make y' believe anyt'in', Roguie. Y' believe what y' choose t' believe in. Y' make believe that y' ain't never killt a person, Rogue, an' Gambit, he knows y' have."
"Ah've never been a part of a slaughter, sugah. Maybe yah oughta think about that!"
"Then y' tell m' which of those FOH people y' killt wit' Mystique? Or mebbe y' let m' know why y' attacked Carol Danvers."
"Ah was young!"
"Y' needed t' prove y'self t' Mystique," Remy hissed, "Rosemary Alison McKenna. Y' got the connections, girl. Y' never asked an' y' never looked. The only person y' ever asked 'bout m' past was a murderer who lied t' y' because we still got a score t' settle." Bobby put a hand on Rogue's wrist. He'd known her for years. He knew she had a temper. He was still shocked when she threw off his hand and went across the table towards her boyfriend.
"Don't yah dare try ta blame this on me, Remy Etienne LeBeau."
"Ain't blamin', chere, just tellin' the trut'. Y' ain't looked f' m' past. Y' ain't never asked m' 'bout it. Y' asked Sabretooth before y' asked m' why we don' like each ot'er. That don' sound like y' gonna trust anyt'in' I tell y' anyhow." Remy's voice was harsh and cold. Jean had never heard him so shut off. "Y' can't stand m' not bein' perfect an' clean. Y' never could. Anytime I ain't what y' want, y' push m' away. An' when I pretend t' be the prince y' want, y' let m' get close. Why the hell would I be anyt'in' but what y' want m' t' be?"
"Spoken like thah whore yah are," Rogue stated. "It's over, Swamp Rat. Don't let me see yahr lyin' face fah a long time. And don't even think of tryin' ta talk me down." She stalked out of the room and slammed the door. Remy slid slowly down the wall to the floor. He waved a hand at the table.
"Iceman, Phoenix, seems t' Gambit dat it's time f' y'r say."
Bobby shook his head. "I'm not going to say anything. One of my best friends just got over being the Angel of Death. Another one's an ex-terrorist. I've got a love-hate relationship with the White Queen of the Hellfire Club. Hell, you seem pretty tame to me. Besides, if the Professor had been there for you instead of Sinny, this wouldn't have happened. Sinister would have had to hire his own killers. I'm going to see if I can keep Rogue from demolishing the Danger Room."
"Be careful, Bobby," Scott said. "Hank doesn't need you getting thrown through the wall."
"Remy, I knew you had secrets the first time your shields bit me. That you worked for Sinister is hard to accept, but it explains his reactions to you in battle." She shrugged. "I don't care what you did in the past. The past is over and done with. And we've fought the Marauders a couple of times since then and I don't recall you ever fighting on their side. Besides, I know you didn't tell us everything. You were projecting a bit. I know what you did." Remy's eyes widened. "You saved her life, Remy. I know that doesn't seem to mean a lot considering how many died. But there might not have been survivors." //And if you want to talk to me about the empathy you've been hiding, I'll be here.//
"Merci, Jean," Remy said softly.
"I'll leave you three to figure out where this leaves you. And I think you better figure it out before the Professor comes back from his conference."
"Probably a good idea." Scott waited until the door was firmly closed. "I've already gotten my proof. I don't need to know anything more than what I learned this morning." He shrugged. "Logan?"
"We will decide things tonight in the Danger Room. I promise not to hurt him too bad." Remy rubbed his temples.
"Y' mind if I go up t' lay down?" Scott shook his head. "Merci."
Remy laid across his bed. He hadn't bothered to even take off his coat. Betsy leaned against the doorframe and watched him. He had the pillow over his face. "You can't suffocate yourself. Your body won't allow it." She looked down at her nails and frowned. "Scott's talking to Warren. He should be able to get the man's head on straight. I know I've never been able to. So, do you mind if I watch this spar tonight?"
"It's personal, chere," Remy said slightly muffled by the pillow.
"I never knew you spoke Japanese."
"There's a lot y' don' know 'bout me, Lizabetta." She glanced around the room that she'd never really been inside of. In fact, she had never been beyond the door. What she could see didn't exactly mesh with the man she thought the thief was. The bed was old and sturdy, too functional for his tastes. There were silk sheets on it though and that fit. The paintings on the wall changed from time to time, and she wasn't enough of an expert to know if they were stolen or not. Furniture lined the walls. There was nothing in the center of the room. She assumed that was to give him enough room to practice the katas he obviously did when no one was watching. There were two pictures on the very old fashioned dresser. One she could see was a picture of him and Rogue. The other was angled away from the door. She was surprised to see lace on the dresser and nightstand. "Was there somet'in' specific y' were wantin'?" He pulled the pillow down to his chest and looked at her with bright eyes.
"May I come in?" He looked at her for a long moment, then, his eyes flicked over the room. He sighed.
"Oui, chere. I suppose y' can."
"You've gotten all the evidence out of sight?" she asked with a grin.
"I try," he drawled at her. "What y' be wantin'?"
"To talk to you. For instance, why didn't you tell me you could fight blind?"
"Merde. Mebbe Remy should just send out a memo. Had this line of questionin' from Cyke already."
"Maybe I just wanted to see you in bed."
"Sorry, cher. Ain't in the mood."
"I just want to know how an empath could handle being around all that Death," she said picking up the picture she hadn't been able to see. It was Belladonna. Of course, Betsy told herself. What did you expect?
She blinked. She knocked the door shut and sat on the bed. He frowned at her forwardness. "Talk to me. You won't talk to Jean because she'll tell Scott. So talk to me. I'm the only other person around here who might understand."
"Just as I said, he don't handle it. Not well. Still have nightmares bad enough t' keep m' up all night. That's why I don' sleep. It's more'n bein' a night owl."
"Nightmares. I haven't felt a thing."
"Good shields. Now, I'm gonna sleep some so that when Logan tries t' kill m' I be ready."
"I'll see you at midnight."
Betsy's jaw dropped when she saw what Remy considered an appropriate weapon. "Where the hell did you get that?"
"I made it," Remy answered simply. It was a rather simple sword. Adamantium if she wasn't mistaken. She thought all swords were still made with steel. "But this is just in case the homme really tries t' kill m'." Remy set it on his coat. He pulled a much older and more ornamental sword from his coat. A sabre with more gold on the sweeping hilt than was quite necessary. He let her look at it. She blinked. It was carefully etched with a single blood red ruby in the top of the handle.
"Is this your coat of arms?" she asked tracing a finger over the design.
"And where did this one come from?"
"My master gave it to me," Remy said with a grin. Betsy's eyes narrowed at that.
"Master of what?"
"That's f' m' t' know." He winked. He wasn't in his usual body armor she realized. He was dressed in midnight blue with black stripes spidering across it in random patterns. Her eyes narrowed. Then, he pulled back his hair and braided it, leaving her holding the sword. She took it as the sign of trust she figured it was. "Merci." He took it back from her.
Logan came in at that point, in nothing but the pants of his gi. She saw the momentary blank out of Remy's eyes and had to agree. Wolverine's muscles were definitely impressive. Especially when you were facing him in a duel. She wondered if Jean would be all that troubled if she broke up with Warren and took up with Logan. "Didn't know ya were comin', Darlin'," Logan frowned. He glared at the thief.
"If Remy'd told her 'non', she jus' go int' the control room t' watch." Logan snorted.
"Fine. Bets, this is on yer honor, girl. Ya don't tell no one what ya see here. Ya don't tell what ya hear. Got it?"
She sighed and gave it a long moment of thought before agreeing. "On my honor, what happens in this room will be kept private." Logan nodded.
"Ya okay with that, Gumbo?"
"Oui. She talks, I just have her killt." Logan smirked at the businesslike tone.
"Rules of engagement?"
"Y' know what I can take, Wolverine." Logan nodded.
"Fine. No powers." Remy nodded.
"Until first blood?" Betsy asked, taking the position as a referee even though they hadn't asked.
"Non, cher, till satisfaction."
Logan's smile was cruel. "Careful, boy."
"I know what I'm doin', homme." Logan's eyes met red for a long moment.
"Where's yer gun, kid?"
"In m' coat."
"Give it to, Bets." Remy nodded. He went to get it and pitched it over to her. She caught it. "If either of us loses it, Babe, ya shoot. Got it? Aim fer a body shot. Don't try fer an arm or leg. Just shoot. This still falls under yer honor, Braddock. Just shoot." She stared, then nodded. It was their match, their rules. She made a promise to herself that she'd try not to shoot to kill Logan.
"That was either, cher," Remy said reading the slight hesitation in her stance. "Y' shoot whoever's outta control." She blinked, but nodded. She settled against the wall, out of range and they moved to the center of the room. They bowed formally to one another, from obviously different traditions. This would be interesting.
The familiar ring of swords washed over her, and she had to stare. This was the first time she'd seen Gambit and Wolverine fighting without the restrictions of other people of the room. They seemed to just ignore her. She gaped as Gambit's sword found its way through Wolverine's guard and marked him. "First blood," she called. They didn't acknowledge her. The fight escalated. She stared as Logan laid a stripe of blood across Gambit's arm. The blood flowed freely and he switched hands. Then, something in his stance seemed to break and a flurry of blows flew towards Logan.
For the first time Betsy realized that they'd both been holding back when she sparred with them. She felt like a child. She decided that it was time to force them into teaching her more. Especially that underhanded back alley move that Gambit had just pulled to slice into the back of Logan's leg. He switched back to his other hand and she noted that the cut had healed. "Bloody hell," she murmured, "and I can't say a damn thing."
Logan growled deep in his throat as he went to one knee. He spun to catch the boy in the back, and only missed because Gambit was in the middle of a roll to bring him back to Logan's front side. Gambit's battle-grin was wider than usual and his eyes glowed. Wolverine, in contrast, seemed to get more controlled. He stopped the mild flourishes that he usually employed and was all business. He wanted satisfaction and that meant blood. Gambit knew that too. Logan had seen that in his eyes in that instant that he'd agreed to the terms of the battle.
Soon, the floor was slippery with blood from both of them. Logan saw the effects of the blood loss as he cut deeply once more. His own wounds were mostly healed. He'd have been dead long before if his healing factor hadn't saved him. The kid's light wounds healed quickly, but the deeper ones took more time. He'd have to pull back soon, or he'd end up killing him. But he wasn't satisfied yet. Then, he saw the breaking point pass in Gambit's eyes. And any regret, any remorse, any guilt, was burned away by the simple wish to survive. The Cajun knew that he'd die soon if he didn't get a rest and he needed to put Logan out of commission for that. The Canadian was already stepping back. He had made no move to stop the match, so he wasn't surprised when the lunge came for him. What surprised him was the target. Wolverine, despite his name, despite his healing factor, despite the knowledge that it wouldn't be permanent, was still a human male. When a sharp object went directly for his groin he moved away from it. The point of the sword caught him hard in the upper thigh. Gambit twisted and thrust as far as his body would let him. Then, he pulled back and the blood spurted. He didn't stop. He went for the next major artery he could find and the next. He seemed to realize what he was doing and pulled back, just before Betsy managed to get her aim fixed on him. He stepped back and Logan nodded.
"It's over," he stated. "Ya need to see Hank?"
"Non, M. Logan," Remy said. He was shaking, but Logan wasn't sure what was causing it. "Je suis desole, Logan. That wasn' what I was plannin' on."
Logan shrugged. "Things ain't always predictable. Sit down before ya fall down, Kiddo." Remy settled next to Logan, automatically pressing a hand to the deepest of Logan's wounds. Wolverine snorted. "Damn it, Gumbo," he started.
"Shut up, Wolvie," Remy stated. "Y' heal, but if'n y' die, y' don' come back."
"You trying to tell me something?" Logan asked in Russian because he knew Betsy didn't speak it.
Remy just grinned and shook his head. "Are you still willing to keep my secrets?"
"Promise is a promise."
"Hey, Stormy, didn't know y' were up. Want t' come wit' me and Logan?"
"Where are you going at such an hour?"
"It's only four in the morning. Have you slept at all, brother?"
Remy considered. "Not t'night." He grinned cheerfully at her. "So, y' comin'? We might even let y' shop some."
"I suppose. Let me put on something more suitable for a bike."
"I'll snag Fearless' keys f' y'."
"There is no need for that, brother. I'll simply ride with you."
"Y' gonna wear proper leathers? And keep y' hands t' y'self?"
"Maybe." She winked at him. Then, she changed. Remy was leaning against his bike talking idly to the Canadian. Logan let out a low whistle at the tight leather pants and vest that Storm had dug out of the back of her closet. "I went through a punk phase," she replied to Remy's raised brows. He put on his sunglasses.
"Let's go then, chere."
Remy blinked awake. His chest ached and he realized that he'd been dead. Logan was staring at him with hard crystal eyes. Ororo wiped at her tears and embraced him. Her leather vest did little to keep him from feeling the warmth of her skin. "Do not do that again, padnat!" she ordered. He forced himself to remember that she was his sister. He felt the soft butter leather of her pants under hands were wet with blood.
He smiled weakly at her.
"We're gonna talk you an' me, boy," Logan informed him.
Suddenly, Remy snapped alert. He fixed his face into a blank mask. "Where's your master, boy?" the man who entered the room snarled without preamble. He was Warren's size, Logan judged, but probably a better fighter. He was preparing to go for him when the Cajun spoke.
"Fuck y'self, Peter."
The blond looked down at where Gambit sat. "You've forgotten your place, you uppity nigger bastard. Your first owner would probably still pay handsomely for you. God knows why. Perhaps I'll contact him."
"De fact it be illegal don' bother y' in de least, eh, homme?"
"That's 'master' to you."
Remy shrugged. "Y' pay good money, mebbe Etienne play wit' y'. What's de matter, Pete? Can't get it up wit'out a power play?" The whip cracked in the dingy cellar, stirring the dust. Remy jerked back as a streak of red appeared on his cheek.
"I'll teach you to respect your betters, boy."
Remy snorted, flowing to his feet. "Y' an' m' be de same. We both be orphans. Where's y'r papa, Pete? Hmm? Ain't he here t' protect y' no mo' y' pat'tic excuse. . ." The whip snaked out again and Remy caught it around his wrist and pulled it from Peter Walker's hand. "You call that whip-work, Peter?" Remy mocked Walker's accent.
Wolverine's ears pricked. There was something odd about Gambit's voice – some vibration he didn't often hear. The thief's eyes were glowing as well.
Remy purred softly. "You don't got what it takes to train me to your whip, Pete. You ain't got what it takes to hold me here. We gonna do this proper. You go fetch your weapon. We clear out the morts and we fight. Student to student."
Wolverine's eyes narrowed. Walker nodded. "Fine. You two, go. And don't bring anyone else into this." Remy jerked his head toward the door and Ororo nodded. She knew when Remy said something like that that she had to clear out. Wolverine followed her reluctantly. Walker drew his sword. Remy pulled out his bo and flipped open the blades. He smiled at Walker's surprise.
"We don't gotta use swords. I can take a head with my hands if'n I need to. How about you, boy?"
Storm chewed on her fingernail.
"Why ain't you arguin' to go back in there, darlin'?"
"Hush." Wolverine blinked. He could feel the change in pressure. Storm was calling in the clouds. He raised his brows. "You'll understand in time, Logan."
The first lightening strikes appeared on the horizon and blew in rapidly. Then, there seemed to be an explosion in the basement. Storm caught Logan's shoulder. The storm built around them.
Remy smiled when he heard the wind and rain. He picked himself up off of the floor. He hacked the body into smaller pieces. He shook the blood off of Walker's sword. It was good quality. He'd be able to fence it for a few thousand. He shoved the parts into the furnace stove that Walker had probably planned to use for that purpose anyhow. He destroyed the teeth with his charge. He looked at the blood on the floor. There was nothing he could do about that, but he needed to remove any traces of their presence. He put away his weapon as he perused the shelves. It seemed that Walker had been in the middle of several projects. "Oh, dear, Pete, it looks like your paint thinner fell onto the sawdust. You should smoke around that sort of thing." He lit up a cigarette with his powers and took a few token puffs. Then, he set the place ablaze. He jogged up the stairs to join his friends as it caught fire. He dropped a kiss onto Storm's cheek. "Hit de main power line, chere, and run. We gotta get outta this neighborhood. Any ideas, Wolvie?"
"Follow me." The main powerlines sparked and the three of them bolted as the street went dark. Walker's watcher frowned and snapped a few pictures. The trio looked interesting, but he didn't recognize any of them from Walker's file. Walker had kidnapped them for some reason. He cursed the fact that he hadn't been able to get any pictures onto the network before the lightening had fried his computer. He used his cell phone to call for a clean up crew. He stared as Walker's house caught fire. At least with the rain it shouldn't take out the rest of the neighborhood.
"There's a fire on Birch Pike. I was just driving by and saw it. Somebody better hurry. It looks bad. There's a car there, but I don't know if anyone's in the house. It's not my neighborhood," Remy said hurriedly into the payphone. He wiped it down and they kept going. Their bikes were still in front of the bar. The bouncer looked at them.
"Figured you'd be back, Logan. Nobody touched them. Some blond prick wanted to, but I don't him what I do to thieves."
"Oh?" Remy asked idly as he handed Storm her helmet.
"Yeah, pull off their balls." Remy winced. The bouncer grinned.
Logan pulled two six-packs out of the refrigerator. "Mais, in de mornin', Logan?" Logan shook his head. "Fuck you, Logan," Remy growled. "I’m goin' t' catch a shower and then t' bed. Y'all can sit up and talk, but it's been a long night f' m'."
"What with dyin' and comin' back. I know. But sit yer ass down and talk to me, boy."
Remy shook his head. His eyes were glowing through the shield of his shades. "Non," he purred softly, voice picking up the weird vibration that it had held earlier. "I'm gonna go up and get some rest. And yer gonna let me."
Logan backhanded the Cajun. "I don't let Jeannie get away with that shit, boy. Don't think I'm gonna let you get away with it, *Mike*."
Remy pushed the Canadian away with all of his strength. "Don' push me, Logan. I don' wanna get int' dis t'night. I'll tell y' everyt'in' in the mornin'. Just back off."
"Cuz I'm either gonna kill y' or fuck y'. I gotta calm down." Remy turned on his heel and bolted from the room.
"Give me one of those," Storm said quietly. "I'll corner him in the morning and make him apologize."
"Naw. Don't worry. Been there myself. Know what the kid's goin' through." Logan shrugged. "Sometimes the fight don't tire a man down the way it should. The adrenaline don't stop pulsin'. Unlike Cyke, some of us don't got a girl to wear ourselves out with."
"Do you want to?" Ororo asked seriously as she took a sip.
Logan choked on his swallow of beer. "You ain't serious, darlin'?"
"Why not? We are both adults after all." Storm smiled. "Men are not the only creatures on the planet who get riled up about a fight." Lightening flickered across the sky. "As for Scott's alarm. Jean has assured me that he won't be using it in the morning." Storm held out her hand. Logan shook his head.
"Kid's gonna kill me in the morning. But sure, pretty lady. Let's be wild."
Storm laughed and pulled on his hand.
Scott looked down from the control room in surprise. Remy was sitting in the Danger Room, staring at his hands with a frown. The field leader rubbed his eyes and went down to investigate. "Gambit?"
"Don' come in just yet, cher. I ain't sure the floor ain't plannin' on explodin'."
"What's wrong?" Scott asked from the door.
"Blew up m' pillow. Decided it was best t' come down here f' awhile."
Scott nodded and sipped his coffee. "Can I bring you some breakfast?" It wasn't the first time, nor would it be the last time that someone's powers got unpredictable.
"Non, merci. Almost got it the way it should be. Tell Logan I ain't gonna kill him in the mornin'. It'll have t' wait until this afternoon."
Scott nodded. "You sure you don't want some caffiene?"
"Dat's the *last* t'ing I need right now. G'night, Cyke." Scott blinked in mild shock as the thief brushed a kiss to his cheek as he left.
"Cajun brat," Scott muttered. He went to program the afternoon workout.
Storm smiled as she listened to Logan's heartbeat. Mission accomplished, brother, she thought.
Remy laid his head down on the kitchen table. Jean sat down next to him. "Talk to me, Gambit. What's going on?"
"Just tired, chere. But I ain't sleepy, y' know?"
"Yeah. I could put you to sleep."
"Just a suggestion." She laid a hand on the back of his neck. He jerked up and away. Jean stared. "I'm sorry," she said softly. "I didn't mean to startle you."
"Ain't a good idea t' touch m' t'day, chere. Got a lot of energy, but not enough t' burn it off. I know dat don' make no sense t'all." Remy rubbed his forehead.
"Let me tuck you in."
"Dat's okay, chere." Remy laid his head down on his arms. Jean started making breakfast stuffs to fill the buffet. She didn't bother to stay quiet. She hummed. She clattered. And she was rewarded when the Cajun drifted off surrounded by the sounds of normalcy.
No one noticed that Gambit didn't come to breakfast. He rarely did so on days when they actually had a morning practice, let alone when they didn't. When Storm was late Scott raised a brow. When Logan settled into a chair next to her the other brow rose. That was universally recognized as Remy's chair in the morning, between Rogue and Storm. He did his best not to smile as he figured out what had changed. Jean nodded slightly in answer to his unasked question. He smiled into his coffee cup.
"Really, Bobby, I don't think Hank needs to shave a DNA helix into the back of his head, no matter how hip it might be," Ororo stated. She set the dishes in the sink. "Will you see to the dishes, brother?"
"Oui, Stormy. In a minute." The thief closed his eyes as Bobby continued to make more and more outrageous suggestions about Hank's hairstyle.
"Logan still wants to talk to you."
"Tell him t' fuck himself."
"I'd rather he didn't waste the energy on himself."
Remy sat straight up and stared at the woman he considered his kid sister in shock. "Merde, y're a fast worker, petite. Only took y' how many years?"
Storm merely smiled at him. "I would suggest you catch him soon, while he's still feeling at peace with the world."
"Y're a crafty femme. Gotta be careful 'round y'."
"Go on now."
"Oui. Merci, Stormy." Remy kissed her cheek and went to find Logan. The Canadian was smoking and staring out at the lake.
"Pull up some dock, Mike."
"M' name's Remy."
"Ain't gonna be Remy until ya tell me what the fuck's goin' on with ya."
Remy sat down, long legs folded up tailor style. He stared down at his hands for a long time. "You've seen me die and return, Logan," he said in Russian. "And you've promised to keep my secrets."
"Yes. I have. Now tell me all of it."
"If you cut off my head." Remy sighed. "I fight to save my life. That's all. I don't deal well with what comes after."
"We call it the Quickening. When we kill one another, the winner receives the loser's life energy. It has memories and emotions and simply raw power. If you don't have a strong sense of self, you can lose yourself in the malstrom of it all. That's why Stormy called the rains for me. The quickening looks like a contained lightening storm. It tips my powers off the scales for a few days until I process it. That's why I didn't want to do this last night. I needed to get rid of the energy, the adrenaline, the lasting pieces of his memories and his personality that were stuck in my head. If I hadn't gotten them under control, I'd have hurt you. And even Stormy. I can't let that happen."
"I know, kiddo. Just don't do it too often. You ain't cut out fer it."
Remy grinned. "Ah, homme, y' don' know anyt'in' about Remy's trainin'."
"Nope. But I know ya got a gentle heart, Cajun. Likin' fightin' ain't got nothin' to do with it either, boy. You like fightin', but you ain't got a killer's heart. If you did, you'd be fightin' with the Marauders. And givin' us a run fer our money."
"Ain't in my blood to hurt Scotty. Y' know that."
"I figured that out when you showed up here, Cajun. Ain't like you to stay when you think yer gonna hurt someone."
"On dat note, homme, y' better treat Stormy right or I'll beat y' f' her."
"Don't worry, Cajun. I'm goin' into this with my eyes wide open."
"Now, go get some real sleep."
"Gotta do the dishes."
Logan snorted. "They got ya whipped, kid."
"Oui, but there's a hell of a lot worse than doin' home chores." Remy smiled.
"I know what ya mean." Logan followed a moment later. "Hey, wait up. I'll help ya out."
Are you really coming? Honestly? I can't believe you're teaching at Salem Prep. They're pricks. Anyway. Can't wait to see you. Or meet the only man that managed to tame Amanda for any length of time. We normally drink at Harry's. He even has imports.
"So this is the Highlander? Nice t' meet y', homme." The long-haired Immortal thief put out a hand and Duncan blinked at it, caught unaware.
"Remy Etienne LeBeau, Duncan MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod."
"Pleased to meet you," Duncan said taking the hand politely. He didn't like the fact that the man was wearing sunglasses.
"Cajun, get yer ass over here!" Logan called. Harry's was crowded and he was under strict orders not to lose the kid, er man, um thief. Remy sighed.
"Excuse m'. M' watchdog is gettin' growly. Needs t' be fed and watered."
"Sure, Doc." Remy waved through a space as the crowd swallowed him up.
MacLeod looked at his friend. "A student of yours that I don't want to kill. Amazing."
"Give him time," Methos grumbled.
Logan's grip on Gambit's wrist was painful. "Leggo, Logan." The Canadian's grip tightened.
"Trouble, kid. Creed just walked through the front door. I can smell him."
"He's headin' f' the bar. Merde. Where'd Cyke get to?"
"I'm right here." Scott appeared with three bottles of beer. "Aw, shit. What's he doing here?"
"Dying fer a drink," Wolverine snarled.
Creed paused, placing the familiar scents and glancing around the room. He grinned and moved to the bar, knowing that the X-men wouldn't start anything. He leaned against the wood bar.
"Busy night," he said to the bartender.
"Big group from the school at the other end of town. Teachers mostly. The usuals are talking mutiny. What'll you have?"
"Whiskey. Leave the bottle." Harry shrugged. He poured the first shot.
"Another round, kid?" he asked the auburn haired young man.
"Oui, Harry. Layin' in stores. Slim's glarin' people away from his table." Harry smirked. He turned to get the beers.
"Yer legal, Punk?" Creed asked with a smirk. Gambit ignored him. "Now, that ain't very nice, LeBeau."
"Neither are y'." The Cajun reached for the beers. It was on Cyke's tab and with the crowd tonight he ought to be able to win enough to pay that off. Smiling at the thought of easy pickings, Gambit grinned. Creed's lip curled up, revealing a fang. Harry had been serving the kids from Xavier's far too long to be phased by something like that.
Creed leaned forward to speak low into the thief's ear. "What're ya up to here, Punk?" Gambit tilted his head. He shrugged.
"There somet'in' y' want t' tell me?"
"Maybe I'm lookin' fer some fun to *spice* up my night," Creed purred into LeBeau's ear. The tone of voice usually made him squirm. He didn't really react and Creed's eyes narrowed.
"Then look elsewhere, mon ami," Gambit said. "Ain't not'in' but a normal night out t' be had."
"I think there's at least three things to be had here. None of 'em normal." Creed looked him up and down approvingly. A brief flash of red peeked at him over dark glasses.
"Not'in' t' be had here."
"That ain't never stopped me before." Harry slammed down the glass he was cleaning.
"Kid's told you twice, now back off."
"Stay out of this," Creed snapped. He grabbed Gambit's collar. "Let's finish this away from pryin' eyes, Gumbo."
"The boy will stay right where he is," Methos stated in a voice as cold as Arctic winds. Creed turned to meet the new threat. "Leave. Now. Do not interfere in my business again." The snarl died. He put up his hands.
"Relax. Didn't know he was claimed."
"Out." Creed retreated.
"Y' got t' teach m' dat."
"Simple. You're too nice. And too frightened of that piece of offal. What did he do?"
"Cut me." Harry poured the shot of J.D. without a word and pushed it over.
"Should I call the cops, kiddo?"
"Non. Merci." Gambit bolted the drink down. "The fight was a draw last time, but he weren't completely well."
"Restraining order?" Methos suggested.
"Never seen one of those that worked." Remy shook his head. "Beer, cher?"
"Merci." Methos took the offered bottle as Harry set up the next shot and turned to his other customers.
"Harry!" Remy called. He held up the bottle of JD and the bartender nodded. LeBeau went back to his partners.
"Who just got rid of Creed?" Logan asked.
"Doc. He's here wit' his friend. The one dat works at Salem Prep."
"Does this mean we actually get to meet him this time?" Scott asked pointedly. Gambit looked the two men up and down.
"I guess," he said unhappily. He knew Scott would torture him if he didn't give in to the demand. "They're over there wit' the teachers. I'll go get them. If y' willin' t' let m' slip m' leash." Remy glowered at Logan. The short man bared his teeth in a parody of a smile.
"Go on. Unless they've got a table?"
"No such luck."
Methos patted Etienne's hands where they'd clasped around his waist. "Bonjour, Petite."
"Bonjour, Doc. My scout wishes to meet you." Etienne pulled on Methos' arm. The older Immortal rolled his eyes. "Y' can come, if'n y' want," Etienne offered MacLeod. Duncan accepted the invitation. He was amused by Methos' indulgent smile.
"Hurry. Logan snagged a stool for drinks. We need to fill it before someone tries to sit on it. Half the crowd's been distracted. The principal of Salem Prep is here and he's challenged the Physics teacher to a pool match. These interlopers might free up my table."
"Scott Summers, Logan, Duncan MacLeod, Pierce Dawson." Remy introduced everyone as they surrounded the stool.
"So you're the famous Doc. Thanks for getting rid of Creed. Just how did you manage it?"
"Drama class." Remy snickered. Methos swatted him gently.
"Right." Scott didn't press it. He has a suspicion that there was more to Doc than met the eye. In fact he was thinking telepath. "Aha!" Scott pounced on the pool table. "Do you play, Doc?" he asked Methos.
"Up for a game?" Scott had a theory about how people played pool. It hadn't failed him yet.
"Since you're the guest, you get first break."
"Thanks." Scott watched the technique. He watched the timing. All it told him right off was that this was the man that had taught Gumbo to play and that meant there was more to him than he showed off. What was more interesting was the tension in his shoulders. He was completely loose at first glance, but there was a slight bit of tension there anytime he had to take his eyes off of the crowd and turn them to the game. The only time that tension was gone was when he was near Gambit. It was then that Scott realized his technique wouldn't work. The man played too much like he did. He was hustling. Well, that was something at least. That meant he'd have to find another way to suss out the man's motivations. What was he worried about? What sort of enemies did he have? Suddenly, MacLeod tensed, Doc looked up, and Gambit relaxed into his most negligent pose.
"Damn," Methos added.
"What are they doing here?" Mac finished the thought. Amanda held her arms up in greeting.
"Darling!" she exclaimed as the crowd parted for her. She planted a kiss firmly on the startled Scott's lips. MacLeod raised a brow.
"Amanda!" he said breaking away. "I'm married and most everyone here knows it." She wrinkled her nose at him.
"Don't worry, Silly. No one cares." She turned and gave Mac a quick kiss. She hugged Methos and turned to Remy. "Sweetie, come to mama." Gambit swung her into a deep kiss, well aware of the glare he was getting from Scott and the Scot. "Hi, Baby. Did you miss me?"
"Non," Remy told her, cheerfully. "I missed him. Hallo, Cory." He pulled the bank robber into a quick hug. "Keep her out of trouble," he hissed into the man's ear. "Anything goes missin' they'll blame me."
"Hey, kid. Been what? Six months or something?"
"Closer t' a year I reckon."
"Not long enough to get over the emotional scars then," Cory said sympathetically. "We'll be gentle."
"Too late. Y'r girlfriend already kissed a married man in public. An'… Amanda, it ain't dat type of bar."
"I'm just going to take off my jacket. It's warm in here." She pouted. Scott put a hand to his head.
"Your shot," Methos said mildly. Scott forced his pulse under control. He wasn't going to be shown up at his usual table. Methos smiled in respect as the man pulled himself together. It wasn't everyday you met someone who could quickly shake off an Amandaing. Scott cleared the table.
"Best two out of three?" he offered. Doc smiled. His eyes twinkled.
"Fine. Your break, I believe." Amanda tucked an arm around Remy and pulled him over to get to know Duncan MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod. Remy shot a pleading look over his shoulder, but Methos ignored him. It was several hours, many games and beers later, and Scott wasn't sure how they got onto the topic when Methos stated, "It's definitely possible to win in that situation." They were seated at one of the round card tables now. Methos set up a mock up of the battle. Remy rested his chin on his hands and watched with a little frown. "Show me what you'd think of first." Scott went through his first instinctual plan. Methos' brows rose. "That might actually work, but only if the one you send in first comes back from the dead."
Logan shot Scott a dirty look in response to the smug smile Scott was shooting at him. He kept telling himself that the man was drunk, but that didn't improve things. "I have a good idea of who I'd send in first," Scott said. "And maybe I don't care if they get killed. That's what pawns are for, you know." Methos firmly told himself that he would not do a double take. Oh, this one would be fun.
"Well, to remove that little hitch from the plan, I'd go in this way."
"Oh, sneak in and stab them in the back. That sounds familiar," MacLeod said. "Have ye no honor man?"
"None," Methos and Scott managed to say at the same time.
"I am officially too drunk," Scott muttered.
"No, you aren't too drunk until you follow a unison exclamation with 'jinx.' Then, you are officially too drunk."
"Or channeling a child of my acquaintance," Scott agreed. "So, you start with the sneak attack, sending in your spies. Then, hit them from two fronts while they're still recovering from the loss of their leaders?" He frowned. "Now, the question is, how to do it without killing anyone."
"I've never approached a simulation with that objective in mind," Methos stated. Amanda giggled at something Cory whispered in her ear.
"Hey, Doc, what if you wanted to round them all up for slavery?" Amanda asked cheekily. Methos glared at her.
"Can no one make that woman watch her mouth?"
"No' wit'out a gag," Remy muttered.
"Shut up, Baby, or I'll tell Scotty about Berlin too."
"Takes one," she started and Cory put a hand over her mouth. She squirmed out of his grip and went to settle on Mac's lap.
"But in answer to her question? I'd hire a few mercenaries for extra manpower, then dispose of them after capturing and selling the lot of them."
"Dispose of permanently?" Scott asked.
"Either that or they would come back to haunt you." Scott nodded. He looked at his watch.
"We have to get going. It was good to finally meet you."
"Give m' the keys, Fearless," Remy said, holding out his hand.
"No way are you driving my car. Logan," Scott offered the keys. The Canadian took them. "We'll pick up your bike tomorrow." The two groups separated. Remy snagged Logan's keys and swung his leg over the bike.
"Hurt that girl and I'll kill ya, LeBeau."
"Oui, M. Logan," Remy said with a grin. "She be purrin' like a kitten when Remy's done wit' her."
Joe Dawson was a little grayer than Methos wanted to think about. But he was still in fine health and moving like he was ten years younger. The new advances in prosthetic limbs had helped that. "Joe Dawson, jazzman, meet Remy LeBeau, thief."
"Bonjour. Ignore him."
"Real Jazz?" Remy said looking at Methos for confirmation.
Remy went down on his knees in front of the bluesman. "Just name the time an' place an' price. I'll cover y'." Joe stared at him.
"What the hell are you talking about?"
"Y' want t' start a bar around here or a concert hall or whatever, y' just tell Remy. And the only payment he be askin' is dat y' play f' him." Joe looked at Methos with a quirked brow.
"Oh, he's serious all right. And he's good for it."
"Well, I wouldn't want to go up against that local place."
"The people from the Prep need a place t' go so they don't keep messin' up Harry's," Remy pointed out.
Joe grinned. "School rivalry."
"They're evil. 'Sides. I need someplace that feels somet'in' like home."
"A bar it is. That'll be what? Six now?"
"Yes. And two bookstores." Methos grinned.
"So is your student planning to teach Summers?" MacLeod asked as he and Methos sparred.
"Yes, he is. You're dropping on the left," Methos said as he slashed for the exposed flank with his backhand.
"Do they know he's immortal?"
"Only one of them does. I think another one has some inklings, but she doesn't know the whole truth."
"How did you acquire him? I didn't think you liked teaching?"
"I don't like people who think I know the answers to life, the universe and everything."
"What is the answer to life?" Duncan taunted.
"Forty-two. Do you want to fight, or do you want a story?"
"Fine." Methos saluted with his sword and wiped off his forehead. MacLeod bowed and stepped back. "Good match. Anyway. Etienne. He took Remy later. His name was Etienne when I met him."
Methos packed away his salves. "Thank you, Dr. Benjamin."
"You're welcome, Marie."
He took his leave of the old woman. He stumbled as a boy ran into him. "Pardon, M." the boy called over his shoulder. Methos caught a glimpse of a red eye and his brows raised in interest. That was an unusually rare color. He had to investigate further. He was distracted by the approach of man tramping over the wet ground.
"Diablo, get back here, boy. Your master ain't gonna hurt you if you come back on your own. You make us go into the swamps and we'll beat you and you know it. Docteur," the man tipped his hat. "Diablo, I know you ain't to blame for that stuff. Come on, pup. Don't let them make you a thief."
"Mebbe I am a t'ief, M. Francois." The boy appeared out of the bushes without making a sound.
"Mebbe you are at that. Come home, Diablo. He ain't mad at you."
"He is too. He just don' want t' beat po' Diablo. Den he can't charge f' him." Francois lifted the young man up with one arm onto his hip.
"Docteur. Come on, pup."
"It wasn't until three years later that I took him in. Francois had been killed and Etienne ran from the Antiquary."
"Francois? Was he a good man?"
"He was a wonderful man and a better teacher than I'd ever have been for the boy. They'd had Etienne since he was a baby. Francois had been raising him as a free man. Well, as free as he could. The Antiquary, he's immortal, but he's not one of us. You understand the distinction by now, I think."
"Sorcerer from all accounts. I took Etienne in and raised him as my student. Then, when he was 18 a bastard of a minister tried to beat the devil out of him and killed him in an attempt to save his soul. I was too late to do anything, but hold his hand as he died. I was tempted to kill that man."
"No. He had a heart attack when Etienne's eyes opened. His eyes glow when he's angry. The minister thought he was going to call Hell up for him. The fear killed him." Methos shrugged. "I didn't pawn him off on Amanda until a few years later."
"Amanda's never mentioned him."
"He's too noticeable. We try to keep his existence quiet."
"Amanda, Corey and I. Better that Le Diablo Blanc remain a myth."
"Just like you?"
"Just like me."
Hank McCoy hung his head, tears streaming down his face. He went to the waiting room to deliver the news. He didn't notice the figure that slipped past him on cat-silent feet.
Remy sighed. He carefully shut down the monitors and started removing the equipment with an ease he shouldn't have had. He carefully folded the body's lax hands. He detached the suppression collar and replaced the cracked glasses with a full pair. He tucked a clean blanket over him.
"Oh, Scotty. Y' gonna hate m'," he whispered to the still figure. He settled in the chair next to the bed. Fate, y' miserable pox ridden whore, why are y' doin' dis t' me? Weren't the eyes enough? He asked in a silent prayer.
"Where'd Gumbo disappear to?" Logan asked Storm in a low voice. Jean was sobbing on Henry shoulder. Bobby was staring at the wall and Warren was pacing. Professor Xavier looked very old. After all they'd survived, to have their leader fall to a random bullet in the park was an anti-climax.
"He's tending to Scott," Ororo stated. She gave Logan a weak smile. She was bearing up better than most people. Logan tipped his head to the side. "He could not handle the emotion in this room." She nodded towards Rogue who was curled up in the corner sobbing, with Betsy rubbing her back. Logan gave Storm's hand a squeeze then when into the med-bay to pay his respects. He wondered what Storm wasn't telling him.
He watched Gambit cleaning the equipment. He could smell the sharp tang of antiseptic that was layered over the blood-scent. The thief was singing softly in French. It sounded like an old hymn. He stepped closer to the bed to say good-bye to his chief rival, best friend, and boss. All the tension had fled from Scott's face. Logan closed his eyes for a moment. Letting go was always the hardest part.
He felt a hand on his shoulder give him a quick squeeze. "Jus' hang on, mon ami," Gambit murmured in his ear. "His eyes are brown, by the way."
Logan snorted. "Had to check, huh? Figures."
"Y' know y' wanted t'." Logan opened his eyes. Scott didn't look bad. He looked peaceful. Remy had even replaced his cracked glasses with his spare pair. They were startled when Jean burst into the room.
"He's not dead!" she insisted. "I can still feel him." Gambit caught her as she ripped herself out of Hank's grip and flew towards the bed. Hank was preparing a syringe. "You know he's not dead too, don't you?" she demanded, fingers digging into Gambit's shoulders.
"Jeannie, chere," Gambit soothed, voice dropping into a hypnotic purr. "Y' need t' sit down an' calm y'self." He lowered her gently into the bedside chair. "Now Scotty don't like fusses, chere. We know that. So y' take a deep breath and calm y'r heart." Hank cocked his head to the side in a silent question. Gambit never even glanced in his direction. Hank uncapped the needle for easy access. Hopefully, it wouldn't be needed. "Y' need t' get some rest, cher." She shook her head. "Jean, don't be stubborn. It's been a long day, Honey. Just get some rest." Jean's eyes slid shut. Gambit lifted her carefully and laid her down in the second room. He tucked her in and shut the door.
He bowed at Logan's mock applause. "Ya do a good Scott impression." Logan felt the tears building behind his eyes. Gambit gave him a tight smile. "Storm needs ya, Gumbo."
Remy shook his head. "I can't. Not yet, Logan."
"She said somethin' about emotions." Remy sighed.
"I'm an empath," he said after a long moment. "Dat much grief'll break m'. Better t' tend what I can."
"Thank you for cleaning him up," Hank said. "I didn't want any of the others seeing him like that."
"Y' welcome, Henri. Jus' waitin' f' him t' wake up an' lecture m', non?" Gambit gave Hank a lopsided grin. He took over his chair. "Got t' stand vigil anyway. Y' take care of Stormy, Logan?"
"Sure, kid." He ruffled the auburn bangs. "Ya done good today." Logan left.
Hank rested a hand on Gambit's shoulder. "I am going to make sure the others are okay. Do you need anything for that headache?"
"What headache?" Hank shook his head.
"You two would have gotten along if you hadn't both been too stubborn to ask for help."
"Next y' gonna be tellin' m' I’m hero material. Go on, Henri. They need y'. Chuck ain't gonna be able t' help them t'day." Hank left, closing the door.
Charles Xavier observed for a moment. Gambit was sitting, writing in a leather bound journal. "Where the Hell are y' when I need y', Doc?" he asked the page. "Dings are outta control an' people're gonna get hurt no matter what I do." He tapped his pen on the page. "Y' always tell m' t' write, but dat ain't helpin, Doc. I ain't ready f' dis!"
"Ready for what, Remy?" Xavier asked.
"Merde! Don' sneak up on a body like dat! Y' want some time alone wit' him? I should check on Jeannie."
"I want an answer first. What are you thinking will hurt?"
"Time f' Remy t' be movin' on, I dink. The timin's jus' wrong. Never planned on gettin' attached. Dat's y'r fault," he told the body.
"Is there some reason for you to leave?" Xavier settled next to Scott and set his hand on the lax hand. He didn't think the team would survive if they lost two members at the same time. Especially, not if Jean's grief overwhelmed her and Storm chose to leave with her brother.
"M' gut. Kept m' alive dis long. Ain't in the habit of ignorin' it." He capped his pen and closed the journal. Both disappeared into his jacket.
"Gambit, please stay." Remy closed his eyes. "If there's a danger, we'll face it together."
"Y' do realize that bullet weren't meant f' him?"
"Who do you think it was meant for?"
"I asked first." Remy's eyes snapped to Scott's face. Xavier felt the return a moment before the leader of the X-men sat up, coughing. Scott looked around then snapped at Gambit.
"Report. I was shot."
"Y' got better. Y' died. Y' came back."
"He's an External," Xavier said, settling back.
"Non, not exactly. Externals be mutants. Immortals don't have a blood line and we heal differently."
"We?" Xavier and Scott chorused.
"Why the Hell did y' have t' be an X-man? I coulda just stole y' from the morgue. Then there wouldn't be any trouble." Fate, I hate y'.
Xavier blinked. "Trouble. Stealing bodies. What is going on here, Gambit?" Remy looked to the sky. A lil' bit of help here would be nice, chere.
"Usually, this ain't the way it's done. Remy'd've dug him up or stolt him. Then we'd start over'n I'd teach him. But it be harder when they wake up 'round family. An' Jeannie, she knows somet'in's up. This is all wrong."
"Just tell me." Scott said through clenched teeth, one hand wrapped in Gambit's collar.
"The only way t' kill y' is t' cut off y' head." Scott's grip loosened.
"And how do you know this?"
"Because I'm one too." Scott's jaw worked. Then, he swung with his other hand, hard into Gambit's jaw. He felt the bones in his hand crack. The thief's head snapped back. His lip split. It healed almost instantly. Scott gasped as the bones realigned. "Couldn't tell y', cher. It's against the rules. Ain' supposed t' be tellin' this t' Chuck. Could start a witch hunt. Y' know how people be about simple mutations. Nearly happened a couple years back over in Paris. Ain't gonna let it happen cause of m'."
"I will keep your secrets, Gambit," Xavier stated softly. "Scott is like a son to me. I will not see him hurt for some perverse joke." Gambit's hands fisted and his eyes flashed angrily.
"Leave," he snarled low. Xavier's face went white and he rocked back. Then, his shields reacted. Gambit winced. "Je suis desole. I f'get m'self, M." He felt as if he'd just been gut-punched. Xavier remained still.
"That was uncalled for. I apologize. I know you would never willingly hurt a member of this team. However, I must insist that I know what is going on."
"How 'bout I tell Scott, then he can tell y' what he t'inks y' should know. Need y' word dat y' ain't gonna try t' read him f' the information dough."
"I do not invade other people's minds for the hell of it."
"Bullshit, cher. When Remy was out, y' ordered Psylocke t' read him. We ain't gonna play that game, Professeur."
"I give you my word that I will not read Scott without his express permission." Remy considered for a long moment.
"Fine. Now, y' leave, Professeur an' Remy talk t' Scotty. Y' close that door an' keep people away. Tell them we workin' on the body t' ready it. Or that Jeannie can't be disturbed. Anyt'in'."
"I will." Xavier wasn't pleased with this turn of events, but he accepted the conditions anyway. He left them alone. Scott's fingers twisted into the fabric of Gambit's shirt.
"This better be a damned good story, or you'll be training until you're seeing the Danger Room in your dreams."
"That'd be an improvement, cher," Remy said with a grin. He sobered. "Well, here goes not'in' cher. I was born sometime 'round 1792. Not one word, til I'm done wit' dis, Scotty. And I died m' first Death around 1810. Beat t' Death by a minister that t'ought he was beatin' the Devil outta me." Remy's voice was a little strained. "My own fault f' lettin' someone catch sight of m' eyes. Now, y' be Immortal too. There are rules. M' teacher taught them t' me an' I'm gonna teach them t' y'. First, Holy Ground is a DMZ. No fighting there. Ever. And that means any Holy Ground. A sacred ring of trees. A satanic church. A Catholic graveyard. Y'll know it by feel. Trust me. Y' can get t' like anyt'in'. Second, all fights are one on one. Not exactly a rule, but if y' fight two on one y' gonna be hunted down and killt like a rabid dog because ain't no one gonna trust y'r honor. That's all there is on rules. Y' want t' go on about the mythology that'll take a while. Down an dirty. Y' got an early warnin' system. Y'll know when one of us is around. Others'll want y'r Quickenin'. That's y' life force. When y' lose y' head the Quickenin' is released t' the closest Immortal. It makes y' stronger. Brings some memories and such. Depends on how sensitive y' are t' it. Sorta like how Rogue takes memories. Sucks them int' herself. But f' us it be permanent. Mostly, it just makes it easier t' learn t'ings. I'm tryin' t' remember everyt'in' I'm supposed t' tell y'. Oh, y' gonna need t' work on swords. I'll teach y' some t'ings Logan don't know. But I don' care if'n y' work wit' m', Logan or Bets, but y' gotta learn sword work. I'll get y' an adamantium one. Y'll need t' carry a sword at all times."
"Because the others'll try f' y' head. Anyt'in' that takes off y' head'll work, but there's a form of honor that's got t' be followed too. Y' fight with a sword or somet'in' similar. M' bo's got blades. Could teach y' that, if'n y' don't take t' swords, but I t'ink y' need t' learn bot'. M' teacher made sure I knew all sorts of t'ings. Arranged f' m' t' learn from a bunch of different people. It was harder f' me then. Didn' have dark glasses that y' could see t'rough. Wore 'em, but they weren't dark enough t' hide when m' eyes glow. Had t' go blindfolded most of the time. It's better now, but wit' the problems… shit, I didn’t t'ink about that. Gonna have t' teach y' t' fight blind too. Well, fuck. Guess that means Doc's Qui Gon, not Obi Won." Scott snickered.
"Okay. I think that's more than enough for right now. I want some clothes. I want some food. I want to fuck my wife senseless. And I want to tell everyone I'm alive."
"Y' gonna play dis as an X-men miracle or as if y' become an External."
"Let's just say, I got better and leave everyone to draw their own conclusions. Oh God. You have to keep Hank away from me."
"Y' startin' t' understand m' reluctance about this place?"
"I'm figuring it out." Scott swung his legs over the side of the bed. "Where is Jean?"
"She's right here," Jean said sharply. She glared at Remy. "You hypnotized me! How the fuck did you manage that?"
"Practice. Sit down, petite. This'll take awhile." Remy ran his hands through his bangs. "Why me?" he asked quietly. "Mebbe we should just call a fuckin' team meetin'." Scott reached out and tugged on those bangs.
"Hey, thief. Remember me? Focus."
Remy laughed. "Fine. Chere, I always had somet'in' called the Voice by m' teacher. I called it charm. Let's me influence people when I talk. That's what I done t' y'. Y' weren't in y'r right mind at the time."
"You knew he was alive and let them think I was insane!"
"Distraut. And I weren't sure he'd wake up. I thought he would, but I wasn't sure. How could I tell y' that y'r boy'd be fine if he weren't?"
"He fell into a cataleptic fit because of the shot, Jeannie," Remy stated quietly.
"Bullshit. I checked for a pulse."
"He fell into a cataleptic fit because of the shot. You and me both know that everyone out there thinks he's dead. Charles knows better. Hank had given up hope. Been plenty of people over the years who've been buried alive. That's why y' keep vigil over them." Scott didn't interrupt. He could almost feel something in the air. "The shot shocked him so deeply that he shut off from it to save hisself. He went so deep that Charles couldn't reach him. Y' felt him t'rough y'r link. Y' knew he was alive. But he was so deep in his head. He couldn't find his way out until things quieted and he was healed by the Shi'ar machinery. It maxed out, but it did enough t' save him. Hank didn't want anyone t' know because he didn't know if it was enough or if Scott was goin' to die."
Jean nodded. "That makes sense."
"You really need to get some rest, Jeannie."
"I'm going to go upstairs, honey. I'll come see you in the morning."
After the door shut Scott looked at the Cajun. "Will she even remember that you told her that?"
"Mebbe. But I better fast talk Henri. Y' just lay down and look tired."
"I'll get y' somet'in' in a few." Remy took a deep breath.
"I'll call Logan." Scott smiled.
"Not a bad idea. He's in Stormy's room, I t'ink."
Scott shook his head. "I can't wrap my head around that."
"Don' worry. He'll come around one of these days."
"What?" Scott demanded.
"He'll realize he wants y'. Don't you worry, cher." Remy patted the field leader's knee with a grin.
"Okay, cher, this is a sword. Y' familiar with the concept of fencin'. I know y' been fightin' with M. Kurt and M. Logan f' years. I ain't teachin' fencin'. I'm teachin' saber. There's a big difference. Y' used t' pokin' folks. An' that'll do y' okay in a pinch, but not f' most t'ings. Remy, he learnt a lot of different styles over the years. He's gonna cram as many of 'em int' y'r head as possible."
"Great," Scott muttered. "Are you positive about this killing thing? It isn't more of that mythology you keep telling me? Like about the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse being Immortals? I mean Angel was death, but Apocalypse isn't an Immortal. He keeps changing bodies."
"He's a poser, cher. I swear t' y'. But let's see what y' can do first off."
"Whenever you stop talking we'll start."
"Oh, go ahead, cher. I ain't all that formal in trainin'."
Scott lay on the bench in the men's locker-room. Logan smirked at him. "Cajun stopped goin' easy on ya yet?"
"He never was easy. I'm sore. I'm tired. I'm bruised. If you don't mind, I'm just going to lay here and die quietly."
Logan laughed. "He still in there?"
"Said he had something to practice. I didn't feel like asking."
"Lemme at yer shoulders, boy." Scott turned over - that being the extent of his ability to move at the moment. Logan straddled his hips and started to knead out the stressed muscles.
"You have exactly fifteen hours to stop that."
"Bonjour, Highlander. Have y' seen Doc?"
MacLeod could hear the sounds of clashing swords clearly. He wondered exactly how close to the fight Methos' youngest student was. "He's teaching until three. Do you want him to call you back?"
"Moment. Y' droppin' y' left again. How many times I got t' cut y' t' teach y' t' keep it up?"
"I don't know what's more irritating," MacLeod heard the panting Scott say. "That I can't get past your guard or that you're on the God damned phone!"
The Highlander laughed.
"Oui, M. Ask him t' call. I got somet'in' I need t' tell him. Good, cher, y' actually hit m' leg. Took long enough."
"I am not that fucking condescending during trainings!"
"Yes, y' are. Bon suir, MacLeod."
Duncan shook his head as he hung up the phone.
Remy turned his full attention to his student once more. "Come on, Cyke. Y' can do bett'n this. I seen y' wit' Logan."
"But I was trying to kill him!"
"Y' should be tryin' t' kill me!" The Cajun snapped. "One these days y' gonna figure out this is f' y' life. Merde. Gonna have t' teach y' like Doc taught me." He skewered the younger Immortal, twisting the blade as he pulled back. Scott's lips compressed and Gambit had the satisfaction of seeing him finally fighting full out. Scott still went down at the end of it. As he lay panting on the floor Scott looked at the blood splatters.
"I ain't cleaning this up," he stated.
"Y're my student," Remy pointed out.
"And I'm still your boss for everything not Immortal related which includes cleaning up."
"Y' ain't dead and y' could be. Y' get t' clean up."
"Then get someone in 'cuz I ain't doin' it. Spent sixty years cleanin' up f' Doc."
"Because he convinced you that you were slave labor."
"Cher, I *was* slave labor b'fore Doc took m' in. Cleaned up because he was m' teacher. Not'in' mo'." Remy tossed a rag onto Scott's chest. "But just b'cause y' remind m' of someone I'll do half. Y' get the rest."
"Who do I remind you of?"
"That'd be tellin'." Remy winked at the field leader.
Logan growled as the Cajun lit into Scott for not carrying a weapon at all times. Scott crossed his arms. "Are you done yet?"
"Mebbe. Depends what sort of bullshit y' goin' t' feed me."
"I have a weapon. My blasts."
"Can dey take off a head? Sever a spine? Show m' dat! An' what happens when y' ain't got y' visor? What den?"
Logan's growl grew louder.
"Later, Logan," Scott snapped. "This is between me and the Cajun."
"Seems Gumbo needs to be put in his place." Logan slowly extended a claw. "More'n willing to do it fer ya."
"No, Wolverine. This is personal, not professional. Otherwise. . ."
Remy snorted. "Fine. Get killt. Don' say I weren't tryin' t' help. And y' can fuck y'self, Old Man. I'm gonna catch a beer. *You* stay in the house or wit' Logan at all times."
Scott bristled, but nodded. "Watch your back."
"Always do. If y' feel anyt'in' like a buzz, y' call m' and stall 'em. Use that shieldin' technique I showed y' last mont'. And f' fuck's sake, get y' gods-damned sword!"
Remy slammed out of the room. Logan looked Scott up and down. "Kid thinks someone's after ya?"
Scott sighed. "Yes. More than one. It's complicated."
"Come on. I'm gonna catch a smoke."
"Don't you start."
Logan stared at the younger man. "I've known Gumbo fer awhile, he don't give false info. He says yer supposed to stay with me, that's what's gonna happen."
"When the Hell did I lose control of my life?"
Logan looked at him - trying to catch his gaze. "I don't think ya want me to say it here."
Scott sighed. "After you."
They settled into a steady walking rhythm through the trees. Contrary to his announced intention, Logan didn't light up. Instead, he started talking. "I met the Cajun in Germany in the forties. Now, I don't remember things real clear or coherent, but there was a peculiar thing about him. Boy could talk anyone into anything. Sweetest fellow you'd ever like to meet. He drank most of us under the table, cheated at cards, and played scout into some heavy areas. He didn't talk Cajun then. I figure more of it's a put on anyway." Scott nodded. "He told us outrageous stories. But you couldn't prove any of it was lies. Then, one night he was gone. In the middle of a fucking mission. It was like he'd been plucked out of the tent by the hand of God. Heard rumors later, much later, nods and whisper types about twenty years back that there's been one of the cruelest, smartest SS bastards following us. Seems whatever Mike did that night drew him away from the hunt. It's a shame that most of that unit died thinkin' he was a traitor." Logan shook his head. "So I figure if someone's after ya, kid'll do anythin' to keep you safe. I also figure yer like him."
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"Gimme yer hand."
Scott raised a brow, but gave him his hand palm open. A second later the gash was healing. "Mother-fucking-Mountie-reject!"
"That's what I thought. If half of what I know about Gumbo's true, yer in danger. It's real. I'll teach ya what he ain't."
"I don't remember asking."
"I ain't offerin'. I'm telling', kid."
Scott scowled. "You haven't called me 'kid' in years."
"When ya stop actin' like one, I'll call ya 'Slim'."
The field leader sighed. "I'm not acting like a kid. I just hate the idea of Gambit, of all people, controlling my life."
"He wants to protect ya, Scotter."
"And your point is?"
"Simple. The sooner ya give in and do what he says, the sooner he'll cut ya loose and stop controllin' yer life."
Scott shook his head. "I don't know. I can't shake the feeling that there's something else going on here. Sometimes I think he's talking to someone else when he's looking at me."
Logan pulled out a cigar and chomped down on the end of it. "After awhile, ya start seein' folks ya used to know in everyone. Maybe ya remind him of someone."
Scott blinked. "He's said that before. 'Just because you remind me of someone.' It's usually just before he gives in to something I want."
"Then maybe ya should just ask him."
The field leader considered. Then, he nodded. "I will. As soon as he cools down a little bit."
Logan shook his head. "The two of ya are a matched set, ya know that? Yer both too temperamental."
"I'm not the one who threatened to carve him up."
"That's because his guard's too good. Yer gonna have to start fightin' dirty."
"I always have," Scott shot back. "I just don't carry hold out weapons."
"Maybe ya should."
"Who do I remind you of?" Scott asked as he polished his sword. Remy glanced at him.
"I ain't tellin' y' that."
"Then will you tell me about Sinister? About how you met him?"
Remy grinned. "Well, y' ain't askin' much are ya, cher? This last time or the first time?"
"The first time," Scott said on impulse. He was rewarded by a beautiful smile.
"I'll tell ya all about Nat'aniel. My Nat'aniel, not Apocalypse's."
Dr. Nathaniel Essex was not a patient man. He hurried through the snowy streets of London. The impact stopped him. He saw the young man he'd knocked into lose his grip on the books he was carrying. Then, he noticed the cloth covering his eyes. The young man knelt down slowly, feeling for the books. Ashamed, Essex spoke. "Let me." He recovered the books. "Darwin. Lamarck. Aristophanes."
"There should be a fourth book, Sir." The young man's voice was nervous.
"Ah, yes, Mary Shelley." He pressed them into the young man's hands.
"Thank you, Sir." The boy, for he seemed very young to the physician, took up the cane he carried.
"May I walk with you awhile? The shopping district is just ahead and the Christmas crowds will be milling about."
"I'd forgotten about that. I'd best change course."
"I would like to speak with you, son. I'll keep the heathens at bay." They started walking through the snow. "You have some vision?"
"In low light, I can see some, but during the day, no, sir. You are a doctor, yes?"
"Yes. You aren't English."
"American, but French is my first language. I am told that my German also suffers because of that."
"Ah. I see. Yet you can read?"
"My…" the young man paused. "I live with a doctor. I am his valet, I suppose. He indulges me. His voice is perfect for recitation."
"And what have you been reading of late?"
"Chemistry and alchemy." The young man shrugged, truly revealing his French ancestry.
"Have you read Malthus?"
"Population speculations? Yes, I believe so. I heard M. Darwin speak at the college."
"Are you studying medicine then?"
"No, sir. I study everything." Essex nodded. "May I have your arm until we pass the shops, sir?"
"Of course." Essex had forgotten the boy's difficulties. The young man's touch was light, almost feminine. He held the staff lightly between his fingers, books pressed to his chest. Essex was intrigued by the ingenuity. The staff hit the curb lightly, so that there was no hesitation in the boy's step up. He trusted Essex to guide him away from dangerous obstacles. "Does the noise of the crowd disorient you?"
"No. But the jostling can upset my concentration. You have a family, Doctor?"
"Yes. I have a wife. We are hoping for a child soon."
"I trust you do all that you can to assist in that." Essex was surprised by the teasing tone. "Doctors often forget they have the right touch for that sort of thing. Tell me of her?"
"She is beautiful and cares for me. What else is there to say? She is clever, for a woman. And God fearing. She knows her place is standing with me."
"I wish you the best of luck." Essex couldn't see the rolled eyes, but he heard the indulgent tone. He just didn't know what it was in reference to.
"Thank you. Your doctor is unmarried?"
"To my shame, yes. I do all that I can, but he cannot see his way clear to allow me to arrange a suitable wife for him. He holds a love in his heart for a woman, I think. But she does not or cannot want him."
"I suppose it would be a problem for a wife to accept a man that does not love her and has no need for her, even in practical matters," Essex said judiciously.
"He is a man. He has needs. He merely refuses to acknowledge them." The young man's head tilted like a questing hound. "Is that the clock shop?"
"Yes. Would you care to stop?"
"Just for a moment." The watchmaker looked up.
"Remy? You must be here about the pocketwatch. Come in. Come in. I've just finished it. I'll send the bill to the good doctor by New Year's."
"Merci, Grandpere." The old man beamed.
"He's such a sweet child, don't you agree?" Essex smiled. The old man insisted that anyone under thirty was a child to him. "It is good to see you again, Dr. Essex. Are you keeping this scamp out of trouble?"
"Non! He has dumped me into a snowbank once already." The old man laughed.
"Then you obviously needed it." He ducked behind the counter and came out with the watch. "Put out your hand." The watchmaker carefully set the watch into the open palm. The young man's fingers ghosted over the front, tracing the design.
"Thank you, Grandpere." The watch disappeared in a quick motion.
"Happy Christmas, Remy. Dr. Essex," the watchmaker said more formally, "is there any way I may be of service?"
"No, thank you, Mr. Dawson." Essex tucked the young man's hand into the crook of his arm and they said their farewells to the jovial old man. "So, you do have a name."
"Oui, Docteur. Remy."
"And your family?"
"I do not use my good teacher's name. I am an orphan, Dr. Essex."
"Then you must call me Nathaniel to be fair."
"I prefer the way you say it."
That threw the young man for a moment. "Merci."
"Is there anywhere else you need to stop?"
"No. You've been so kind already."
"My conscience would not let me turn you loose among these creatures."
Remy laughed. "And now you mock me, Nat'aniel."
"No, they would eat you alive. These rabid dogs. Thieves all of them. Not a literate mind among them."
"Now, Nat'aniel-cher, that is so unkind. What of Watchmaker Dawson?"
"He doesn't hawk his wares among the street-rabble. Farmers. Drunkards. Pickpockets. Con artists."
"There are honest people among the poor. It is the nobles one must watch for."
"Remy!" the high, clear voice of a child called. Remy pulled his companion out of the way of a snowball launched by the laughing voice.
"Now, petite, that wasn't nice!" Remy called out. The street-urchin skidded to a halt in front of them. Essex looked at the worn and patched clothing. The stitches were uneven and clumsy. It took a long while for him to realize that the child was female. She wore a floppy hat that hid dirty hair and fingerless gloves that couldn't protect her from the cold. Remy had knelt down to listen closely to what she said. It was gutter talk and Essex couldn't follow it. Remy's smile faded. "Where is he?"
"Come with me." She touched Remy's hand. Essex frowned.
"Thank you, kind sir. I must go." Remy gave him a flourished bow. "Until we meet again, Fate smile on you." He settled his hand on the dirty fabric of the girl's hat. Essex followed them into the back alleys he'd never been into. Wary eyes stared at him. He stopped as he was faced by a mugger with a knife.
"He's wit' m'!" a now-familiar voice called in an unfamiliar accent. "Keep up, M. Docteur." The thugs let him pass. He hurried to catch up. Kneeling in the snow, coat spread out behind him like wings, Remy was checking the pulse of the middle-aged man. He felt for breath. Essex squatted down across form him. He placed his hand over the heart and felt the sticky warmth that indicated blood.
"He's been knifed. Probably by one of the criminals infesting these streets," Essex stated after examining the wound. Remy whispered softly in Latin. Essex realized that he was reciting the last rites.
"Annie! Find Harry. Bring him t' m'."
"Yes, milord." The blonde scampered through the refuse.
"Milord?" Nathaniel asked. Remy grinned.
"Dat's a long story, cher. Michael! Get Patrick and take Robert t' the city hospital." One of the thugs dashed off. "Rachel! Conduct le docteur t' the shops."
"I'll stay," Essex contradicted. "Thank you." Remy frowned and Nathaniel became aware of the eyes on him.
"Shall we conduct him out, sir?" Remy shook his head. He stood. A boy, somewhere in his early teens, skidded on a patch of ice and fell. He ducked his head as laugher greeted him.
"Yes, milord?" the black haired youth said pulling on his dignity.
"Walk dis way. Nat'aniel, stay wit' dis one 'til they take him t' the hospital." Harry's face was a mask of awe as the older thief touched his arm. "The chilen need y' t' protect them. Train them. Y' will do dat, Harry. Y' got y' rank. Now y' train the next ones."
"I will milord. I'll make you proud, Prince."
"Fate watch over you. Tell them what has happened. Keep them safe. And remember y' must teach them t' live."
"Yes, milord." Essex blinked as the youth bowed formally. "Your mark is gaping," Harry said in an undertone.
"I'll take care of him. Thanks, Harry." Remy went back to the body. Micheal and Patrick put him over their shoulders as if her were just drunk. Remy took Essex's arm. "Come, Nat'aniel. It is time t' return t' y' wife. Pete?"
"Here, sir!" a boy of seven said. He placed the books in Remy's hands. "Can I walk you out, Angel?" Remy smiled.
"Thank you, petite." Essex was quiet. Surrounded by decaying trash, crumbling buildings and eyes that could be rats or humans, he was sickened in his soul. Children played in the dirty snow. He could smell fresh bread over the stench. "Welcome to reality, Nat'aniel," Remy purred.
"We aren't going towards the shops."
"No, we are not." Essex found himself echoing the mischievous smile. He was quiet until Pete delivered them to the cleaner streets where the clerks' offices were.
"Ta, Angel! This is your block."
"Ta, Pete." Remy paused as the child stumbled.
"I'm fine, Angel." Remy nodded and the boy took off.
"Read the number for me, Nat'aniel."
"And the next one we'll come upon?"
"1303." Remy nodded. He counted off houses. He turned onto the stairs of a modest rowhouse, between two offices.
"And here we must part company."
"First explain why I shouldn't call a magistrate."
"Because we both know that they won't waste the money to find his killer. He's a known criminal living in the refuse. Don't worry. Justice will be served. If not in this life, in the next. Besides, you don't know his name. Or where he was found."
"But you do?" Essex said skeptically.
"Adieu, M. Nat'aniel."
Essex admitted defeat. "Good day, Remy." Essex hailed a hackney.
Remy shut the door and turned to find his teacher waiting. "Where have you been? Are you all right?"
"I am fine, Doc. You didn't worry this much when you ran to Switzerland with that poet. We were on different continents."
"I knew Amanda was there to watch over you."
"So you trust her more than me?"
"If it were up to me, you'd be on holy ground," Methos said, ignoring the question. "This Guild of yours is driving me to distraction."
"It's only until I've trained a successor. They're used to Candra and the other patrons."
"Candra? Oh the one with the potions that grant gifts like the ones you were born with?"
"Yes. She calls herself an External. She don't have a buzz."
"Yes, sir. Fagin was killed not more than half an hour ago."
"Who is watching the children then?"
"Did you pick up my watch?" Remy emptied his pockets. He pushed the scarf up from his eyes. He squinted at the six watches.
"One of these is yours."
Methos laughed. "Little Thief," he sighed, "What ever will I do with you?"
Scott's head lifted as the buzz hit like a tidal wave. "Cerebro, who is on site?"
"Gambit, Wolverine, Beast, Storm, Phoenix, and Professor X."
"Who just arrived?"
"A guest for designate Gambit."
"Thank you." Scott linked to the security cameras. He relaxed as he recognized Dawson walking up the front stairs. Remy was at the front door to meet him. Scott rubbed at his head. Why wouldn't that damned ringing stop?
"Scotty, cher, come out t' the lobby, sil vou plait?"
Scott stepped into the hallway, then paused. He grabbed the throwing knives he'd been practicing with. They'd give him enough of a chance to get to his sword if Doc turned out not to be friendly. He smiled a greeting. Doc nodded to him and the ringing eased. Scott frowned. "Hi, Doc. What's up, Rems?"
"Just tryin' t' keep y' from gettin' a migraine."
Doc frowned. "Prolonged buzz triggers your migraines? That's dangerous."
"Oh, it's not as bad as a migraine. It just makes me bitchy. And I get to take it out on Remy, so what's the harm?"
Remy swiped at the older, er, younger man and Scott dodged without thinking. "Good, y' gettin' better. Gonna get Logan to take some swipes at y'."
"You think he doesn't?" Scott shook his head. "You know where to find me."
"Wait, Scott, let's talk a bit."
Remy looked at Doc suspiciously. "Y' hurt him, I'll hurt y'."
The man didn't look impressed. "Etienne," he said mildly. His tone quelled Remy instantly.
"I need to bottle that," Scott stated. "I've never gotten him to shut up that easily."
"Then you obviously need to beat him," Doc said flipantly. "If you're good enough."
Scott scowled. "I catch him once and awhile. Come on back to my office."
"I take it that's where you keep your weapons?"
Doc laughed. They walked down to the office. He sprawled in the visitor's chair as Scott settled behind his desk. "Now, let's discuss what exactly my student has told you."
Methos watched the young man in front of him carefully. He wished he could see the man's eyes, but he knew from talking with Etienne that it was impossible. This was a routine conversation. He had it with any of his students' students. There weren't that many of them to worry about. Scott seemed smart enough, and danced well enough around topics he didn't want to discuss to be a politician. This one might have a chance of surviving. And he did look and sound just like Danny Summers. It had to be tearing Etienne apart.
"Has he told you about Danny?" Methos asked softly.
"He's never mentioned a Danny." Scott frowned. "He does say I remind him of someone every once and awhile. Usually when he's letting me have my way."
The eldest immortal sighed. "Danny Summers was probably the first person Etienne ever really loved. He loved him heart and soul, but he never said a word about it. When we left Virginia it nearly broke his heart, but he'd been killed publicly so we didn't have a choice. And considering the fuck up of a best friend he'd had before that I wasn't about to let him out of my sight." Methos shook his head. "You look like Danny and sound like Danny. You don't act much like him though, and that is the saving grace. I want to watch you fight."
"Why is this so important to you?"
"Because I do not want to pick up the pieces of my student once again if you should die through incompetence. He will be devastated if his first student dies because of a lack of training." Methos shrugged. "Besides, he asked me to check on your progress. He thinks that he's too close to you."
Scott laughed. "He's a brat, but he is definitely not going easy on me. Logan either."
"You're getting training from someone else?"
Scott nodded. "Logan's teaching me Bushido. Remy's undoing all of my fencing training. The professor will flip if he catches on, but I never did compete anyway. It was just a way to keep me from hanging out with my delinquent friends."
Methos heard the direct quote in the words and smiled. Some things never changed. "Parents will be parents no matter what we try to say. Epee or sabre?"
"Epee." Scott shrugged. "At least I know some of the defenses already. How did you get tangled up with Remy anyway?"
"I used to treat slaves in New Orleans. Remy was one of my patients." Methos shrugged.
"Slavery? Remy was a slave?"
"You didn't know?"
"It may have been in his lightening fast summary of his past when I was just waking up from dying, but no, we haven't discussed it." Scott frowned. "But he's not black."
"The assumption was that he was a mulato child of one of the masters. There were slaves with just the barest hint of black in their viens. It was a fallacy of law. When I took him in, no one questioned that I had purchased him or been given him for services rendered. It took a long time for that mindset to fade. Parts of it never have." Methos smiled."Some things never will. Let me see your weapon."
This one was better off than MacLeod already. At least one of his students was teaching the proper amount of paranoia. "I want to know what type of sword you're using."
"He's trained you well."
"If I hear one comment or if you call me 'Luke', I will shoot you," Scott stated.
"Now, now, if I'd said 'Trained you well he has.' then you could be worried. But as it stands."
Summers smirked. "If that's all?"
"Do you have your sword with you?"
"I'm sensing a pattern. You must carry it at all times."
"I cannot and will not carry it at all times. I've hashed this out with Remy already."
"And what was his final response?"
"It's your life, you stubborn son-of-a-bitch."
Scott lured Doc into the kitchen with the offer of a beer. Remy was sulking there. "Well, y' ain't killt each other. That's good," he muttered. He was playing with a beer bottle lable.
"Really, Etienne, would I hurt one of yours?"
"Let me think. Like, duh."
"Does Jubilee know you make fun of her?"
"Totally," Remy dead-panned and Scott shook his head. "So, y'all had a good talk, oui?"
"Oui," Doc confirmed.
"And y' know I got t' have a talk wit' Doc now, so y' gonna make sure y' got y' sword wit' y'."
"Remy, you're being paranoid again."
"Logan's wit' Stormy. Y' need t' have some protection."
"I have knives. I have my blasts. I'll be fine."
"You weren't this worried about me before I got shot."
"Well, they was aimin' at Charles. Y' ain't on no one's hit list yet. 'Cept mine sometimes."
"And next you're going to go on your rant about Sinny. Don't bother. I've heard it every day for a week."
"Well, one day y' gonna listen t' me and m' heart'll stop beatin' from the shock of it."
Doc laughed. "Every teacher's dream. A student as recalcitrant as you were."
"Hey now. Mebbe I don' want t' talk t' y'. Y' just gonna be nasty t' po' Remy."
"I could beat Poor Remy for being irritating," Doc threatened with a smirk.
Remy stuck his tongue out at the man.
"Go. Talk. I'll be fine." Scott ushered the two men away.
"Where y' gonna be?"
"My office. I have paperwork to do. Remember?"
Etienne led Methos to the back porch. "We can discuss this in any language you choose, Master," he said softly. "But not English, not French, and not German. They speak those here."
"Very well," Methos answered in Arabic. "You're upset about something and it is not that I was with your student."
"There is something that came to my attention about the Quickening I took." Etienne's voice was soft, hesitant. "Her nightmares have been infecting mine. I have seen things teacher, and I realized now who it was that I killed. There was no choice. She was going to kill me to hurt you. I could not allow it. But then, she tried to drive me mad and in order to get rid of her power, I must talk to you and garner only honest and full answers. There is nothing you can tell me that will change my love for you."
"Hush, Child. Tell me what happened."
"I was working on my doctorate. I had gone to speak with several of the teens that I used in my research. They were not in the old theatre as they should have been. There was a woman there. She was waiting to see me. I assumed that she had been told by one of the teens that I would be there. Pretty woman with dark brown hair and dark eyes. She demanded to know where you were and I didn't respond to her. I didn't know who she was or what she wanted. She tried to use her charm against me and I got angry. She finally pulled a weapon and issued a proper challenge and I killed her." Remy shivered. "It hurt so bad when she jumped into my head. She hated you and she wanted to destroy me. I lost focus. My powers spiked and doubled in the Quickening. And she tried to rape my mind, but I locked it away from her. I pushed her down and away and got control, but it took me over a year. If Nat'aniel hadn't come for me, I'd probably be in an asylum."
Etienne took a shuddering breath and Methos wrapped him into a strong hug. He stroked the young man's hair. "Keep going, little one. You mentioned nightmares."
"I have never dreamt of you."
"You break my heart."
That brought a weak smile back onto the young man's face. "My nightmares now are strange. I've been seeing through her eyes. She hated you with so much passion that it had to have been poisoned love." Remy sighed. "Her name was Cassandra."
Methos hugged his little thief closer. "I know. I don't tend to leave women that angry. She had the Voice as you do. Perhaps you are now stable enough to review and discard of the vestiges of her personality. I know that you've had trouble with that in the past."
"Was she your slave?"
"Yes. A very long time ago."
"I know it was a long time ago. You are nothing like what she imagines you as. She could feel your emotions, but she didn't know what they meant. She created a dream in which she was your lover, not your slave. Fools do that. I learned affection for my masters, but not love. Not for an owner. She was a fool and she never learned to forgive. I have been raped. I have been killed. I have been owned. But I have never become bitter over it. I feel sorry for her, but she will not poison me the way she hoped she could. Still the dreams frighten me. I feel out of control and I don't want to hurt Scotty."
"You will not, little thief. You never could harm someone who was an innocent. No matter what you believe of yourself. I do wish that my past had never harmed you, but I have no control over that do I?"
"No, Master, you do not."
"Why do you still call me that? I have never asked it of you."
"Because it suits you. You know so much and have taught me so much. And any other term I would use for you means the same to me." Etienne shrugged. He was careful not to dislodge the arms that held him close. Methos had been there for him for so long that he could barely remember when he wasn't. "If it hurts you, I'll stop, but I've never sensed pain associated with it."
"No, little one. Call me what you like. You're doing a good job in training your student. You're a good man. Always remember that. You have a good heart. You are a good man. If the nightmares persist, call me. We'll take a weekend and delve into them more deeply. We'll keep your student protected. I'll get him to spend time with MacLeod if necessary."
"My word, little thief."
"Thank you, Master." Etienne smiled up at him. He drew away gently. "Do you forgive me for killing her?"
"There was nothing to forgive. She challenged you. She lost. Actually, it is a relief. MacLeod owed her a head and I was worried that one day she'd show to collect it." Methos paused. "Have you noticed any other manifestations of her Quickening? Your Voice is stronger? You can change into an animal at will?"
"No, I haven't seen anything like that." His brow furrowed. "Do powers transfer like that?"
"I'm not sure. MacLeod has never seemed to pick any up and he's encountered many of the talented among us. He did recieve a Dark Quickening though. My first thought is that is what had happened to knock you off kilter. Now I know it was Cassandra. Don't worry. But keep me informed of any changes." There was a loud crash from the kitchen and both men jumped.
Scott looked down at Logan. The Canadian was glaring at him with hard crystal eyes. "Yer gettin' better, kiddo, but that was instinct, not trainin'."
"Get up. I have to fix the table."
"Slim," Logan warned, "don't ignore me."
"You ain't my keeper, Wolverine," Scott snapped. "I'm sick and tired of this god-damned attitude you and the Cajun have. I'm not a child. I am not some stupid frail that needs protecting." Scott stopped. "And if you tell Jean I used that word as a noun, I'll kill you." The last comment was directed towards Remy. He and his teacher were watching from the doorway. "Stay out of my face, Logan."
"Not 'til ya prove ya ain't gonna make Jeannie cry too early."
"There is nothing garuanteed in the life I lead. Jean knows exactly what she has."
"Jean?" Scott heard Doc ask quietly.
"You didn't tell me he was married."
"Yes, I did. Well, they ain't married yet, just well, common-law, I guess they is, but. . ."
"Oh, petite," Doc said with a shake of his head. "For that, I'll tell Amanda to come visit you more often."
"Y' such a bitch, Doc. Y' still sneak attackin' Logan?"
"Yeah. He's still usin' his blasts."
"You're lucky I am. I don't have to make you clean up the blood. Now, let me fix the table before Charles finds out."
"I'll take care of it, Slim."
Scott took a deep breath, trying to keep his temper. He didn't want to blow up in front of a guest. Remy touched Scott's arm. "We'll talk later, non?" he asked softlly.
"Yeah. I think that's a good idea. Doc, will you be staying for dinner?"
"No, I just stopped by to chat. I'm meeting some of the teachers for dinner." Doc's face was wry. "If I'd known how bloody tight-knit the bastards were, I wouldn't have taken the job."
"And what would y'r boyscout have said?"
"Not a damned thing." Doc's grin was wide. "He doesn't dare. Remember what I told you, little thief." He tweaked Remy's nose, then set off for the front door.
"See y' soon, Doc." Remy looked at the other two. "Suppose we may as well have that talk now, cher. Let Logan take care of this."
"That is part of what we need to talk about." Scott sighed at Remy's confusion. "I'll explain in my office. Okay?"
"D'accord." Remy was pensive. He looked shaken, tired, and Scott hated to be part of the tension he saw. "Scotty, I don't want t' lose y' because of somethin' I didn't do, y' understand that?"
"Yes. I know. I'm not a child though, Remy, and I don't like being treated as if I am one."
"I ain't treatin' y' like that am I?"
Scott sighed. "Sometimes you do. Sometimes you don't. I don't mind learning from you, but I despise this sudden parental attitude you've gotten. You treat me like a teenager. Don't go out without your sword. Don't go out alone. It's worse than being 14 with the professor telling me I can't be out after nine!"
"Scotty, cher, I try t' let y' live, but there's so much t' teach y'. If this was worked the way it usually is, I would've taken y' from the morgue, y'd be dead t' y' family and there'd be just us in the middle of nowhere on holy ground 'til y' was good enough. Merde, I been tempted t' get Stormy t' sanctify the whole area an' see if that'd work. All I been teachin' y' is fightin' that there's so much that I want t' teach y' that it's drivin' m' crazy. I got t' teach y' t' manufacture ID's and t' hack and t' hide y' money f' the long term. There's sword-word and weapon makin'. We ain't even worked on fightin' blind yet and we should. The only thing I don't got t' teach y' is tactics."
Scott stared at the theif for a long moment. "Why did you tell Logan?"
"I didn't have no choice. He was gonna kill m' t' protect y'."
"Non, cher, told y' he'd figure out he loves y' soon enough."
Scott gave Remy the finger. "But this is getting on my nerves, Gumbo. I won't lie to you. I'm pissed off. I know you're trying to be helpful and protect me, but from what I understand there is a certain type of honor and rules of engagement to be kept to."
"Non, cher, there ain't. I shouldn't have given y' that impression. There ain't not'in' t' keep an asshole from challengin' y' right here and now t' a fight t' the death or maybe wit'out even warnin' y'. Young meat is always a good prize. There are folks who just want power, cher, and they're gonna want y' head. Y' got t' carry y'r sword at the very least. I don't want t' have t' bury y'."
"Remy," Scott started.
"Non, cher, please. Don't argue wit' m' on that part."
"Alright. I'll figure out a way to carry it that doesn't make me look like your big brother, as long as you ease up a little bit. I'm not a child."
"I ain't been treatin' y' like one. If'n I was, I'd've spanked y' and sent y' t' y'r room at least once by now. Y' a fuckin' brat Cyke. Y're worse than me."
"And you're a martinet." Scott stopped his attack. "Who was Danny to you?"
Remy froze. "Where'd y' hear that name?"
"Who was he?"
"Who told y' that name? Weren't me."
"Doc. Who was he?"
"I loved him. He was a friend. We worked together for awhile. I wanted to stay with him forever, but it weren't possible." Remy's accent slipped away. There was more grief in his face than Scott had ever seen.
"My grandfather?" Scott prompted.
"Great-great grandfather, I think," Remy whispered. "But it don't make no sense. Immortals don't know their families. Y' shouldn't look like y' family. Y' shouldn't match Alex's DNA. All I can guess is that the mutant gene must have somethin' to do with it. I could go and ask Nat'aniel, but I don't want to." The thief sighed. "I'll ease up if'n y' practice with Logan this week, but that's it. I ain't lettin' y' die out of stubborness."
Scott took a deep breath and released it to calm himself. "I don't mind the training. I mind that you treat me like a child."
"Y' are a child, Scotty." Remy held up a hand to stop the protest. "I know. But I can't stop wantin' to protect y' on a dime. It's only been a few months. I was Doc's student for years before he let me be on my own. He protected me and I want to protect you. I've never taken a student before. We'll have to figure this out together, okay? We'll find a balance, cher. Promise."
"Fine. I'll see you later."
Scott's muttered imprecations made Jean giggle as she brushed out her hair. "Shower's free, Honey. Do you want me to look for awhile?"
"Sure. Thanks. It's a journal. It's in an archive box with some pictures and letters. The inside cover says 'Daniel Summers'. It's from 18-something."
"Okay. I'll find it. Your grandparents gave it to you?"
"My grandfather though he should. Just in case something happened to him." Scott peeled off his uniform and scrubbed off the sweat and grime that always accompanied a battle. As he was toweling off his hair, he received Jean's mental "post-it."
She was sitting cross-legged on the bed looking at pictures. "He was handsome," she commented. She had a tin-framed photo in her hand. "This was when he was eighteen. This is him with his family."
Scott stared. "He looks just like me. That's freaky."
"At least you know you'll age gracefully," Jean said with a grin. Scott didn't bother to correct her. She had repressed the idea that he'd ever actually died. In her mind, from what he could tell, he'd just fallen into a cataleptic fit because of the shot and Shi' ar technology had healed the wounds. He didn't want to confront that yet. "This is the journal. I'm going to bed. Don't stay up too late." She kissed his cheek as he gathered up the pictures and journal. He put them back into their box. He turned out the lights and went down to the living room and settled into his favorite chair. He started to read.
"March 12, 1888
"Jean told me, when he gave me this thing, that someday I'd have a secret problem or worry to write down. I laughed at him. He just smiled. Well, I never did listen to him. He just seemed too young to believe, but he's been right. Every piece of advice he ever gave me has come in handy. It looks as if this book will be next.
"I was following a band of robbers, outlaws. That is what marshalls do. I recognized one of them. He is Dr. Williams' son. There is no other explanation for his face. I tried to convince him to leave the band. I owe Williams that much. I don't know what good it did, but I tried.
"That is not why I had to finally write. No, seeing Williams' face brought back memories. These are memories I cannot share with Madailein. She is a good woman, but she wouldn't understand why I've become so fixated on them. It's nearly fifteen years to the day Jean died.
"This book is so that I never lose these memories. Seeing a boy with Williams' face has made me finally understand that I'm getting old. I have three daughters and two sons. Where did the years go? I met Jean a few years after the war. I'd retired my commission. I could not stomach the hypocrisy any longer. I found myself in Philadelphia. I was looking for a direction and a place to stay. What I saw was a group of toughs surrounding a man my age, 17 years at the most. He was blind.
He seemed more confused than worried. "Can I help you?" he asked as I drifted closer. I get lost in crowds. No one notices me. The toughs were no different.
"Get out of town, Reb," their 'leader' told him. Our boy cocked his head to the side.
"Funny. I don't remember bein' a rebel. Seems that you've made a mistake, gentlemen. If you'll excuse me?" he answered in a sweet drawl that was probably the reason they'd moved in on him. The leader made his move.
The blind man deflected the shove and the leader stumbled into one of the others. A breath later they were attacking. Our Southern friend took out two of them with his cane. I joined in, removing one of his attackers. He took down the leader. Then, one of the two remaining ones ran. The last one surrendered. I was vaguely disappointed. It was nice to have something straight forward to deal with. The young man cocked his head to the side, tumbling his fox-colored hair across his brow. "Have we met, sir?"
"No, I don't think we have."
"You're from London?" he asked in surprise.
"Originally," I answered. He smiled.
"Well, thank you for your help. I better be getting home."
"I'll walk you home." It wasn't an offer. He gave me a startled look, then frowned.
"I can find my own way," he drawled, bristling.
"I know that," I said, insulted. "Maybe I just want to make sure you don't get set on by some of these boys friends."
"Well, I suppose it wouldn't hurt. This here's number 117 right? That direction is 119 and this is 115?"
"Yes," I told him.
"Then give me your arm, son. We go this way," he said pointing across the street. "Now, if you're goin' to be my eyes, you'll have to do better'n that," he chided as I tripped over the hand of one of the unconscious men. I blushed. It wouldn't have been too embarrassing, if I hadn't just watched him avoid two of the men. He settled his hand on my arm, just above my elbow. "What's your name then, luv?" he teased me in a patently false Cockney accent.
"Daniel Summers. Everyone calls me Danny."
"Danny. Folks call me Jean." As if to prove his point a small body came rushing up from one of the side alleys and wrapped itself around his leg yelling, "Jean! Jean! Save me!" The small body, which resolved itself into a five year old boy was followed by a hunched over old woman.
"Don' worry, honey-chile," the old black woman said. "Yahr mama ain't gonna sell ya." Jean stroked the boy's hair.
"Ah, petite. Whatcha worry'n on? Ole Mamie's right. Mama ain't gonna sell ya, Joe." The old woman grinned at me. "Cuz Ole Mamie's about t' rob dis po' boy blind." I raised a brow as his accent slid down towards the speech of the ex-slaves my unit had been "helping."
"Now, Jean, I wouldn' do that," the old woman replied. "Just a bit for bread and she'll be happy. Done gone and got herself pregnant again. Won't take any of the potions."
"Then she got t' find herself a man t' knock her 'round. Shouldn' be no problem." The woman laughed and Jean pulled a coin out of mid-air and handed it to the boy. Almost immediately his accent switched back to its normal drawl. "Good to see you, ma'am," he said touching the brim of a hat that wasn't there.
"Thank you kindly, Master Jean," she said with a twinkle in her eyes.
"Evil Mamie," he said with a sneer of distaste. The old woman shooed the boy in front of her. As we kept walking I began to wonder if we'd made a wrong turn. We were in that bizarre sort of half-world were the line between poor white and poor black is only noticeable in skin tone. The thing was that Jean didn't look to be either. He gave my arm a squeeze. "This is it," he announced. It was an older rowhouse. I've forgotten the number. He pulled me along after him as he bounded up the stairs and opened the front door. "I'm back!" he called.
"Where have you been?" asked the young man that stepped into the hall. "Tom's son is due any minute and you know how frightened he gets." He stopped when he saw me. "Hello," he said in surprise.
"He followed me home. Can I keep him?" Jean asked with a smile.
"I suppose that depends upon his willingness to stay and his qualifications."
"Ex-soldier, I expect," Jean said. "Helped me out of a fight. He's trainable. He ain't got a place to stay." I'd told him that much on the walk.
"Can you read?"
"We'll teach you. He'll need passable French and Latin as well," the man said. "Very well. Show him the room. I'll need you here to calm young Samuel when he arrives. Did the letters get posted?"
"And the man said what about the book?"
"That he'd have it rebound within a fortnight and not to worry my pretty little head over it."
"Which means he'll attempt to overcharge for shoddy work."
"I'll see him personally for delivery then." Jean nodded. Well, I don’t remember the exact terms Jean laid out, but it gave me a job and room and board. I know one of the rules was confidentiality.
Scott shook his head and set the journal back into its place. It was late, he decided regretfully. And he had a training exercise to create. He'd have to continue his reading another day. He smiled ruefully to himself. Maybe Remy was right to be protective of him. He shook off the feeling and went to the Danger Room.
//Goodnight honey,// Jean called after him.
Remy sobbed into his pillow. He could feel the echo-pain of injuries long healed. At least it wasn't Cassandra's memories. Talking to Doc seemed to have removed her hold over his dreams. No, this was his own mind. He remembered the preacher screaming at him and the blows hitting his body. He remembered the moment of terror as he woke "damned" in the church where he'd been murdered. If Doc hadn't been there, holding his hand, he would have gone insane. It had hurt worse than any whipping he'd taken. He'd been going to mass like a good boy should and still the man had turned on him. That would teach him. He'd never gone back to church except to find refuge on holy ground. The loss of that coursed through him.
Fury followed that shortly. "You bitch," he muttered. He tracked down the active part of her Quickening and dismantled the part her could catch. He burned away the aspects that were he consciousness. He collapsed into a deep sleep after that. Not even Scott coming into range woke him.
"Where the Hell is Gambit?" Scott snapped at Logan.
Logan shrugged. "Kid ain't my look-out."
"Fine. Let's get started. I'll be in the control room. You know the rules - don't kill the hostages." Scott left the room. He stalked up to the controls. "Computer, locate Gambit."
"Designate Gambit is in his room."
"Open intercom to Gambit's room."
"Gambit, where the fuck are you? You're fifteen minutes late already!"
There was no response.
Scott sighed. "Gambit!"
No reaction came back.
"Fuck," Scott muttered to himself. Xavier raised a brow. His lips were twitching in amusement. "Remy, I need you," he said quietly.
"Quoi? What's wrong, cher?"
"You're twenty minutes late." Scott kept his voice even.
"M' alarm ain't even gone off yet," Remy said. There was a little shuffling and quiet cursing. Then, Remy laughed almost bitterly. "I'll be there in a few. Oh, and I'll need a clcok."
"What happened?" Scott was curious now.
"Seems Remy done blasted it."
Scott's lips twitched. "Don't bother coming to the session. You'll get to work it off. I've got storerooms that need cleaning."
"Y're a bitch, Scotty."
"I learned from the best."
"And so's Charles."
"Check out the mirror too."
"Cyclops out." The computer closed the line.
Charles raised his brows. "You're being easy on him."
Scott shrugged. "He'll pay over time."
"Is his training of you impacting his ability to function on the team?"
"No. We've found that balance. He doesn't even blink in the field about following orders, which is actually a switch." Scott grinned. He shook his head. "Don't worry, professor, we've got it under control."
"You're worried about him."
"He's usually awake and ignoring me when he's late, sir. It's a test of wills. This time he genuinely slept late."
Xavier blinked. "You know this for a fact?"
"Yes. I kept security cameras on him a few times and he'll actually read the paper until his ten minutes after *and* check his watch." Scott snorted. "He was trying to shake up my routine. He thinks I'm too tied to my patterns. I think he's too easy going.