Out Of Control
By Lori McDonald
And you're rushing headlong"Are we there yet?"
You've got a new goal
And you're rushing headlong
Out of Control
And you think you're so strong
But you can't stop rocking
And there's nothing you can do about it.Queen - Headlong
Bobby Drake looked at the woman in the van's passenger seat sideways. "I can't believe you just said that."
Rogue grimaced and crossed her arms. "Oh, hush up!"
Jean chuckled from the back seat. "Behave, children."
"Ah still think this is stupid," Rogue groused as they pulled off the road into a secluded campground.
"Hey, you know what Beast said." Bobby parked the van and took on an exaggerated, lecturing tone. "We need to know what sort of sensations you and Gambit are capable of picking up from one another when you're separated, since you can't sense anything while you're together."
She smiled at him slyly. "Oh, trust me, hon. Ah pick up plenty from Remy when we're together."
Rogue laughed and got out of the van while he blushed wildly."Ah guess we better get this over with. What are y'all goin' ta do ta me?"
Jean followed her out of the van, smiling. "I have just the thing."
Delicately, Storm sat sipping from a glass of water and watching an extrememly bored Gambit. As well as an extremely bored Bishop, she noted, glancing at the big man standing behind Remy's chair.
These experiments were important, even if the wait was dull. They needed to know how far apart Remy and Rogue needed to be before they would start to 'feel' each other's pains and discomforts. As well as when they would begin to develop the madness that neither could control.
All of which made her think that Beast should be conducting these experiments himself, instead of just telling them to and then vanishing into his lab with the results. He was forming a hypothesis, she knew, but she had no idea what it was. All she did know was that it caused him to mutter darkly to himself whenever he emerged for food, then grab Remy or Rogue for more brain scans. Remy especially. The Cajun had started to complain that if he was examined one more time his hair would start to fall out.
Storm looked at Gambit again. He was slumped in his chair, twiddling his thumbs and ignoring them both. He had no idea why he was there and it was obvious her request for him to wait quietly was trying his patience. Bishop watched him calmly. When Gambit was separated from Rogue before, he took drugs to stop the delusions, even though they made his powers uncontrollable. He'd gone off them since Rogue returned, so part of the reason Bishop was there was to act as back up for her if Remy became irrational.
#Storm, are you ready?# Jean asked telepathically.
Of course, she thought in reply.
#Keep an eye on Gambit and let me know if he shows a response.#
Are you certain he will?
#Oh, trust me. If they're connected, he'll definately feel this.# She seemed to be laughing.
Storm nodded, but didn't say anything out loud. Warning Gambit would only taint the results.
"Well, sugah, ah'm waitin'. Do ya worst."
Jean grinned and reached out with her mind. "All right," she said.
Rogue's eyes widened.
Gambit sat impassively, staring at nothing. It'd been over a minute.
Perhaps they are not far enough away, Storm thought. "Are you all right, Remy?" she asked.
"I'm fine," he replied.
Storm nodded, then blinked as she realized his eyes were crossing. "Are you certain?"
"Oui," he answered, this time with a definate high pitched tone in his voice.
"Remy?" Bishop asked.
"The Cajun's lips quivered and he abruptly burst out laughing, rolling right off his chair onto the floor.
Jean? I believe we have a reaction.
#Really? That's great.#
Whatever are you doing?
#Not much, just tickling Rogue. You should hear her shriek.# It was thought with a laugh.
Storm smiled. I see. Perhaps you should stop now. Remy looks rather embarrassed.
#Fair enough. Give them a few minutes to recover and we can start your half of the experiment. Are you up to it?#
Storm nodded. For a friend, I will be.
Gambit gulped the water greedily, still amazed. From fifty miles away, he could feel Rogue being tickled.
Mon dieu. What I gonna do if she get an itch dat she can' scratch? Or menstrual cramps? He concealed a shudder. He'd gotten more than enough of that kind of pain when he'd been a resident in her body. Great. So I can' either feel it m'self, or keep her close 'nough t' take it out on me. What a choice.
Bishop watched him impassively and he grinned at him over the glass. The big man had been an immense help since this whole mess started, supporting him and generally just being there. Not mention saving his life a few times. Remy felt like he could confide just about anything in him. Just about.
Bishop had no idea Remy was still insane.
I tell him, an' he'll start sittin' on me an' shoving drugs down my throat again. Dat's a worse time dan Roguie wit' PMS.
"Are you ready, Remy?" Storm asked.
Gambit lowered the glass deliberately. "Don' you go t'inkin' dat I gonna let you tickle me, Stormy."
She smiled. "That is not quite what I had in mind. And do not call me Stormy."
She walked up to him, took the glass and led him over to the couch, pushing him down onto his stomach on it.
Bishop raised an eyebrow. "What are you doing?"
"We know that they can feel each other's pain and discomfort. Now we shall see if they share pleasure."
"Hey, I t'ink I gonna like dis!"
She ruffled his hair. " Please try to control yourself."
"Ain't makin' no promises."
Quietly, she began to massage his shoulders, loosening the muscles.
"Mmm..." Remy buried his face in the cushions. "Dis feels so good."
Bishop shook his head with a snort. "Somehow, I doubt my services are needed here." He left.
Ororo continued to massage Remy's shoulders and neck, then slowly worked her way down his back, rubbing each muscle until it was loose, working his arms until he couldn't move them, almost sending him to sleep by the time she reached his buttocks. That woke him up, sending a thrill of sexual pleasure through him until she went on to his legs.
"Aw, you stopped..."
"I said to behave yourself," she scolded, though he could hear the laughter in her voice.
Storm continued down Remy' legs, removed his shoes and worked on his feet. Once they were as relaxed as the rest of him, she rolled him over and started to make her way back up. Remy almost didn't let her, not wanting her to see the erection he had, then decided he didn't care.
"So," he mumbled. "You an' Jean flip a coin for dis honour?"
"Not exactly. We decided Jean would not be the appropriate one to do this."
"Scott have a heart attack if he catch her, neh?"
She smiled. "We decided not to find out."
He closed his eyes. "Good plan. I feel too lazy t' wanta fight nobody right now."
Storm laughed and continued on her way back up his body, through legs, abdomen, chest, arms, neck, and face. She avoided his genitals, though from the way he was responding, he knew she need not have bothered.
The Cajun just lay there with a smile on his face. Cherie, he thought to himself. I sure hope you feel dis. It's way better'n ticklin'.
"Oh, mah goodness," Rogue murmured. Hugging herself, she turned her head upwards and smiled.
Bobby walked up to her curiously. "Rogue, are you all right?"
"Ah'm fine, sugah. Jus' perfect." She shivered delicately.
Jean barely swallowed a laugh at the bemused look on Bobby's face, as well as the raptuous one on Rogue's.
"Come on, we better head back to the mansion."
Bobby turned to her. "What, so soon?"
She smiled. "I don't think we can get back soon enough."
"No kiddin', sugah."
"What is this?"
Bobby looked at his plate suspiciously, then finally relented and took a bite. "Hey, it's good. What's in it?"
"Sheep intestine," Ororo told him as she focused on her salad.
At the other end of the table, Rogue ignored the sounds of spitting, looking at Beast. "Have y'all figured out anything more about-" She hesitated. Hank knew about Remy still having mental problems, but he was the only one. She didn't want to think about how some of the other X-Men would react if they found out. "-About how Remy an' ah fit t'gether?" Remy glanced up at her upon hearing his name, then looked at Henry.
Beast smiled. He knew what she really meant, but was willing to respect their privacy, so long as Remy took his pills. Not that Rogue was entirely sure he was actually doing so. Short of sitting on him and shoving them down his throat, she couldn't think of any way to guarantee he did, and she didn't know of anyone who would actually do that.
"I have a more detailed theory than my original," Hank admitted. Around the table, conversation quieted down as X-Men ignored their dinner gratefully to listen.
"What I have determined with the help of the experiments you have all been conducting, and the Sh'iar medical equipment Empress Lilandra gave us, is quite complex."
Rogue batted her eyes at him. "Why don't ya give us th' reader's digest version, sugah?" Ah ain't listenin' t' no three hour speech in tech talk, mistah!
Beast nodded and pushed his glasses up his nose. "When you absorbed Gambit's psyche permenantly in Isreal, he became an integral part of your own mind, just like Carol Danvers did. However, while Carol resisted you constantly, Remy didn't. Carol remained seperate, but Gambit merged with you. You formed a gestalt on a subconscious level. While you were in the same body, you were one mind, though with two seperate personalities."
"Somewhat similar to two seperate plants which share the same root system?" Storm asked.
Trust the X-Man who gardened as a hobby to come up with a plant reference. Rogue smiled towards Remy, but he was watching Beast and didn't acknowledge her nudge.
Hank nodded at Ororo. "Exactly. They were one person, and for them this was normal. They adapted to it psychically."
He paused to take a big bite out of his haggis before he continued, his attention refocused on Rogue.
"Remy's regaining of a seperate body didn't change any of this. To continue with Ororo's example, it was as though one of those two plants had been transplanted, but still shared some of the same roots."
Cyclops frowned. "So they're one mind in two bodies. I've heard this before, but I don't understand it. How is it that this bond never becomes obvious until they're away from each other?"
"That is an interesting question." Beast steepled his fingers together. "The depths of this subject are very extensive, but I will attempt to simplify it for you. When Rogue and Gambit are together, the link is maintained, but when they seperate, it's threatened. It tries to strengthen itself and the bond, resulting in a side effect similar to empathy, where one feels the stronger sensations of the other, such as pain. The gestalt doesn't like to be apart. In essence, it's the opposite of the psychic link between Jean and Scott, since your bond becomes weaker over a distance."
Xavier shifted in his hoverchair at the head of the table and spoke for the first time. "So it's this seperation stress that leads to mental instability?"
Beast hesitated. "Uh-" Roughly, he stood and walked to the window, not looking at the older man. Rogue bit her lip, wishing she'd never brought the subject up. It'd be her fault if the others found out about Remy's continued delusions.
"I haven't done much research into that particular topic," Beast admitted at last without looking at anyone.
"Jeez, man, why not?" Bobby had pushed his plate far away. "It's not like we want Rogue or the Cajun to flip out on us or some-" He paused. "Gambit?"
Surprised, Rogue turned and looked. Remy was sitting beside her, fork halfway to his mouth, staring blankly at the seat Hank had been sitting in.
Oh, God! Not now! Not in front of ev'rybody!
Slowly, Bishop stood, his face ashen. "How...?
Cyclops shot to his feet. "What is going on here?" He demanded.
Then everyone was standing, all talking at once. Rogue put her arms around Gambit's frozen shoulders, feeling like a woman under seige as the X-Men converged on her.
"How could this happen...?"
"Goddess, protect him..."
"Is Rogue gonna go nuts too now...?"
"I thought this wasn't supposed to happen again..."
"He's empty telepathically. There's nothing there..."
"I knew it..."
The voices grew louder, came faster, and Rogue's temper snapped. "Get back!" She yelled. "Can't y'all see he's sick?" Give him a li'l room!"
A sullen silence fell and Rogue turned to Gambit, aware of every stare on her back as she gently took the fork out of his grip and set it on his plate. She cupped his cheek.
"Remy? Can ya hear me? Come back ta me, sugah." Now that her anger was gone, she felt like crying.
The Professor's hoverchair hummed in the silence. "Beast, did you know about this?"
With the exception of Remy, everyone looked at the blue-furred doctor. His shoulders hunched sheepishly. "Um, I did."
"And you chose not to share this information with the rest of us?" The second question was just as quiet as the first.
"They asked me to keep it private. As a doctor, I must maintain confidentiality."
Scott's face darkened. "So you decided not to let us know that a man who can cause explosions was mentally unbalanced?!"
"Scott, calm down," Jean soothed.
Storm stepped forward. "Beast did as he felt was right. Surely he had the situation under control."
Scott gestured at the frozen Cajun. "Does this look 'under control'?"
Her eyes narrowed. "The damage is done. Now we must find out what we are to do about this. Beast, you assured us this would not happen again. "What has gone wrong?"
Beast looked more embarrassed than Rogue had ever seen him. "I... made a mistake. I put forth a hypothesis as fact before I'd proven it. I really, truly apologize for that." He bowed his head. "I should have known better."
"Don't, Beast," Rogue whispered. "Remy an' ah have already forgiven ya."
He smiled at her gratefully. "Thank you."
Scott sighed. "Then why is this happening?"
"I don't know. I've done preliminary tests, but I need to do some more intensive studies." His face hardened with all of a scientist's determination. "I swear, I will determine what is causing Remy's mental imbalances, and I will cure it."
Xavier moved to the door. "Then please get to it. As for the rest of us, we should give Remy a little privacy. He most likely won't want us staring at him."
Most of the X-Men left, taking all the food but the haggis with them as Rogue stood. "Professor? Can't ya, ah don't know, use ya powers ta snap him outta this?"
Xavier shook his head regretfully. "I'd rather not, Rogue. Attempting to affect someone's mind can be dangerous at the best of times." He left.
The only X-Men to remain were Rogue, Storm and Bishop. The three looked at each other and sat, only occasionally making small talk as they waited six hours for Remy to wake.
For days, Beast had been in his lab, carefully examining two sets of brain scans over and over. One was relatively normal, as normal as a mutant's got, but the other...
Hank leaned back in his chair and pushed his glasses up so he could pinch the bridge of his nose.
Hank turned as Jean came into the lab, her beautiful red hair gleaming in the florescent lighing. "You've been in here a long time. Have you come to any conclusions?"
He sighed and handed her his report. "Yes, and I fear it's both better and worse than I thought when I came up with my original hypothesis."
Jean looked at the report, though he knew she wouldn't be able to understand more than half of it. "Is there anything we can do?"
"Yes, or rather, there's something you, Elizabeth and the Professor can do." She raised an eyebrow and he explained. As he did so, her face blanched, growing pale with horror at the very thought of his suggestion, even as he grew more excited.
"Hank, do you have any idea what this plan of yours entails?"
He took his glasses off and cleaned them. "Yes, but look at the alternative."
Jean hugged herself. "I don't like this. I really don't, but I guess it's his decision."
Hank put his glasses back on his nose and pushed them up with a finger. "I'm not sure it's one he can make anymore."
With a yawn he barely managed to contain, Remy LeBeau wandered into the kitchen past Bobby and Warren and pulled open the fridge. Sticking his head in, he searched out a can of coke and closed the door. Popping the tab off, he realized that the conversation which had been going on was now silent. Calmly, he turned to face the two men.
"Somet'ing de matter, hommes?"
"No, nothing's wrong." Neither one would look at him.
Remy's lip curled. He was getting sick of this, of the sly innuendos and sudden silences. People had been treating him like some kind of freak since the dinner. Rogue was looked at oddly too, but mostly it was him.
Bobby and Warren stood abruptly and backed towards the door. Bobby all but fled right away, but Warren hesitated, having the grace to at least look embarrassed.
"Um, I, uh-" He glanced at the Cajun's hand. "I gotta go." He hurried out.
Remy looked down at his hand. He'd crushed the coke can in his grip and dark liquid was pouring over his fingers onto the floor. He hadn't even felt it.
"Goddamnit!" Turning, he hurled the can at the wall. An arc of liquid sparkled in the sunlight while it fell as he put both hands on the edge of the sink and bent over it, eyes closed. He felt like he was going to be sick.
It was happening again. Everything would be fine, and then boom- he'd find himself doing something with no idea why. After the kiss in Isreal, his months in Rogue's body and eventual placement in a clone, he'd thought his troubles were over, but this was worse. Worse than anything Sinister had put him through. Enemies he could fight, but his own mind?
It'd been supposed to stop now that he was with Rogue again and their link reunited. For Rogue it had. In three weeks, she hadn't had a single episode. Remy had lost track of his. Pills could control them, but the side effect they brought of not being able to control his powers was worse than the disease. After a lot of internal debating, he'd finally decided not the take the pills, though he hid that fact as severely as he'd tried to hide the madness itself. He'd used his Charm powers to convince everyone that someone else was ensuring he took them. Not being aware of what he was doing was better than charging his own body to explode, knowing he was doing it, and not being able to stop it. Or at least that's what he kept telling himself.
Maybe I better take dose pills again for awhile. That was what the Witness, an older version of himself from the future did. Take the pills until he couldn't stand the side effects, then stop taking them until he could no longer resist the madness. Not too good a choice, neh? he thought. But what c'n I do?
The Cajun lifted his head to look at the beautiful, exotic looking black woman with long white hair who stood in the door to the kitchen. She was dressed in tight clothes that showed every curve of her body, but she was completely blase about her appearance. Storm could walk around totally naked without batting an eye.
Remy straightened up. "Stormy."
"I have told you not to call me that," she scolded as she came over to him, barely glancing at the puddle of coke on the floor. Storm was the only one to not have any doubts about him and to support him unconditionally, even now.
"Are you all right?" She asked.
In answer, Remy stepped forward and looped his arms around her neck, laying his head on her shoulder. Storm put her own arms around him and held him quietly. She'd gotten used to this in the past few weeks. Remy's way of dealing with his lapses was to find a woman he loved, either Rogue or Storm, and hold her for a few minutes. It was the quickest way he knew of to remind himself he was still human.
Finally, Remy squeezed her tightly and let go. Leaning back against the counter, he pretended nothing happened and, respecting his privacy, Storm did the same.
"Whatcha want, Ororo? Not like y' c'n tell me t' report t' monitor duty." He hadn't been on any sort of duty at all since he first became sick. It was the only benefit of his illness, or it would have if it didn't mean he had more time to brood about it.
"Beast has asked for both you and Rogue to join him in the Professor's office. He says that he has some new information on your condition."
Remy felt ice start to creep into his throat. "Did he say what de info was?"
"Not to me, I am afraid." She took his hand. "Come."
Remy let her lead him out of the kitchen and down the hall of the old mansion, past oak panelled walls and bookshelves, chairs and tiny tables with statues and vases on them. She took him across the stone floored main foyer and into the Professor's study. A huge oak desk took up most of the room, along with more bookshelves and a file cabinet. It was all too stuffy for Remy's tastes, especially with the number of people there.
As usual, the Professor was sitting in his hoverchair. Rogue was sitting on the couch, Jean standing behind her. Beast and Cyclops flanked Xavier. Gambit's hand tightened on Storm's for just an instant, not so anyone would notice, then went over to flop onto the couch beside Rogue. He grinned at her.
"Bonjour, chere," he said.
She smiled back at him, her hands folded in her lap. She looked nervous, which he could well understand. "Hah, sugah." She leaned over to kiss him and he smiled gently against her lips. So long as he had Rogue, he would still count himself lucky.
Xavier looked at the two of them sitting there, then nodded to Beast. "You asked us all here, Hank. What do you have to say?"
Beast walked to the front of the room, his face drawn and tired. Rogue reached out and took Remy's hand.
"Well, this is a complicated matter, but I will attempt to simplify it as much as I am able." He cleared his throat. "Where to begin? The beginning, I suppose. As I apologized for earlier, I was erroneous in revealing my earlier hypothesis that distance caused madness between Remy and Rogue. This only applies to Rogue."
Rogue lifted an eyebrow. "What do ya mean, sugah?"
"Rogue, when you were in the Savage Land, you experienced episodes of extreme paranoia and hostility."
"Ah guess so," she agreed, sounding sheepish. She considered that to be one of the more embarrassing moments of her life.
Beast looked at Remy. "At the same time, while you were at the mansion, you became delusional."
Why couldn't Beast come right out and just say something? "Yeah, I 'member dat." He crossed his arms. "Walk off one roof an' you're branded for life," he muttered. Rogue sniggered quickly, then swallowed it.
Hank didn't notice. "At the time, I thought that this was because of the mental link between you I described earlier, and that the strengthening of the gestalt led to a breakdown of the chemical balances in your brain. This is false."
"Then what is the problem?" Storm asked.
The blue-furred scientist walked over to Gambit and knelt down, putting a hand on his shoulder.
Uh oh, Remy thought. I saw dis comin'.
"Remy, when Sinister placed your consciousness in your new body, he didn't... do a thorough job."
Remy took a deep breath. "So all dis stuff I been doin' is my fault, neh?"
"Not intentionally, I assure you. You have a mental disorder I can't even begin to classify. It appears to be a cross between manic/depression, schitzophrenia and catatonia. Yet it has aspects of none. I really don't know what to call it." He pushed his glasses up his nose. "When Rogue was seperated from you, she began to pick up the mental disorder from you, but in her it manifested itself differently, probably due to the differences you still have in your bodies. But you are undeniably the source." He frowned thoughtfully, starting to enter his scientist mode.
"You must have been having delusional episodes ever since you were put into the clone. I believe the first major attack occured when you helped the Marauders invade the mansion."
There were definate murmurs at that and Remy felt an urge to run out of the room so he wouldn't have to bear their looks. Rogue gripped his leg, to comfort him, but he used it as an anchor to hold him there.
Sinister hadn't given Remy his new body out of the goodness of his heart. He'd done it so that Remy could get the Marauders into the mansion to destroy the X-Men. Remy had done it too. He'd gotten them inside and even helped them fight, injuring Wolverine at one point.
It had all seemed so reasonable at the time, the right thing to do. Realizing it wasn't, what he was actually doing, had been like a stab in his heart. He couldn't understand why he did it, what compelled him, and he hated himself for it.
Now I know. Mon dieu... Rogue's grip on his leg tightened until it hurt.
Beast went on the same way he had. "That was the first major attack we're aware of. The second was the incident on the roof." Gambit grimaced at the memory. "There may have been other major episodes, as well as minor ones, but I'm not sure. I'll have to interview everyone about their memories of those times to be positive." He paused to take a drink of water from a glass on the desk.
"As for Rogue, she became unbalanced in the Savage Land solely because she was picking up your mental distress. It affected her differently than you, of course, but it wasn't due to a problem inherent in her. I'm afraid that you're the one with the problem, unfair as that may sound."
Remy felt like his head was spinning. One thought did come through to him though. Rogue isn' insane. T'ank God for dat.
Scott shifted uncomfortably, arms crossed, face stern. He'd wanted to expel Gambit from the X-Men after what happened and been outvoted. Remy had no idea what Cyclops thought about this, that Remy may not have been responsible for what he did.
It wasn' my fault. I didn' mean t' do it. Horror filled him. I could do it again. Is he t'inking of dat? He looked at Scott's face again. From the tenseness of his jaw, Remy knew he was.
He started as Storm's hands came down on his shoulders, just resting there comfortingly so he'd know he wasn't alone. Rogue's squeezed his knee gently, to say she was there as well.
"Is there anything we can do?" Storm asked.
Beast, who'd been looking a little morose from the look on the Cajun's face, brightened considerably. Hopping over to the desk again, he grabbed a sheath of notes and started ruffling through them.
"Yes, there is." He looked happy and Remy caught himself before he sighed in relief. "With the aid of the Sh'iar medical devices, I've isolated the exact portion of Remy's brain where the problem lies. It seems to have something to do with how we perceive things around us. Earth technology couldn't even detect it. What I want to do is have Jean, the Professor or Betsy use their telepathy to take that section and wipe the damaged portion clean."
"Goddess..." Storm whispered.
"Will this correct the problem?" Scott asked with that same tenseness to his face.
"When can the procedure be done?"
"Oh, well, I haven't actually scheduled it yet, as I need to talk to Remy about that. Sooner would be better than later, though." He beamed at the Cajun. "This is exactly what I've been hoping for with your case. A definitive cure. You'll be under for 15 minutes at the most, the side effects will most likely be negligible, hardly worth mentioning since the probability is so remote. And afterwards you'll be able to return to a normal life, with complete reinstatement on the X-Men team."
Remy stared at him, barely hearing him for the roaring in his ears. He felt cold inside, frightened. Wipe my mind...?
He found himself remembering an asteroid, and another madman who'd also had telepathy used to cure him, to burn out what was wrong. He'd come out of it a vegetable.
Remy swallowed. "What if I don' wan' dis?"
Beast looked at him in surprise. "Remy?"
"What if I don' wan' part of my mind burned out?"
"Gambit, this is something you need. It will be absolutely painless, completely safe..."
The Cajun shook his head, his face flushed. "I don' want to."
Cyclops looked at him. "This isn't open for discussion, Gambit. You're having the procedure done."
"Non!" He exploded. "Pas de chance! Vous pourrez pas me commander! Il y'a aucun chance que des telepaths foux vont jouer dans ma tete, et peut-etre efaser le, comme le Prof avait faire au Magneto! L'insanite sera mieux!"
"Speak english, Gambit! We don't know french!"
Gambit almost swallowed his tongue, realizing what had happened. Another attack. A minor one, true, but to strike now, when he needed to be at his most sane...
Without another word, the Cajun ran out the door. "Remy!" Rogue hurried after him, followed by Storm.
Ororo paused in the doorway, looking back at them as regally as when she was worshipped as a goddess.
"We will discuss this later," she told them and walked away.
Beast sat down. "That didn't go nearly as well as I'd hoped."
Professor Xavier, silent though the entire confrontation, continued to watch quietly.
Gambit ran out of the Professors' office, across the foyer and up the stairs, passing Bishop on the way.
The big black man looked up at him in surprise. "Remy? What's wrong?"
Remy stopped, gripping the bannister in both hands. "I'm crazy! Forever!" He ran again. Looking at Biship was too much of a reminder that the man he was to become was also insane.
Gambit stormed into his room and slammed the door shut. Sitting on the bed, he wrung his hands, as if trying to wash them clean of something he couldn't identify. It was a habit he hadn't had until after he was put in the clone, and he hugged himself to stop it.
A soft knock came at the door.
"Go away!" He yelled.
"Remy, it's me, Rogue. Ah want ta come in."
He lifted his head. "Please, leave me alone."
"Ah will not! It's mah room too."
"Is not! You still keep y' own room, girl!"
"Is too! An' ah only keep mah own room 'cause there ain't enough space in here foh all mah stuff!"
"Is not your room!"
Remy took a breath for his next "Is not" and hesitated. No wonder I crazy. Dese kinda arg'ments drive anybody nuts.
"Come on in, chere, if it mean dat much t' you."
The door opened and Rogue walked in, followed by Storm and Bishop. "O' course it means somethin' ta me. Y'all mean a lot ta me, an' ah wanna be here foh ya. We all do."
"Agreed," Ororo echoed as she walked up to the couple.
"I still want to know what that outburst was about," Bishop muttered sourly.
Gambit looked at his to-be, now time-lost son sardonically. "Well, suffer, Pup!" He spread his arms wide. "Group hug!"
Rogue threw himself into his embrace, followed by an indulgantly smiling Storm. Bishop just stood back and watched as the Cajun hugged the two women, smelling their hair. His tensions eased away.
Not surprisingly, Storm pulled away first, neatly evading him as he tried to grab her again.
"Behave yourself, Remy," she admonished.
He grinned at her innocently. "Who, me?"
Storm looked at Rogue. "He is hopeless, is he not?"
"Don't ah know it."
"I still don't know why we are all in here," Bishop put in.
Remy let go of Rogue, leaned back against the headboard of his bed and airdrummed quietly as the two women looked at him uncertainly.
"May as well tell him," he said to them.
Rogue bowed her head, obviously not sure what to say, but Storm lifted hers proudly, lovingly.
"Beast has determined that Remy's difficulties are due to him being in a clone and are not linked to Rogue at all."
Bishop closed his eyes. Just that, no expression, but all three knew what he was feeling as clearly as if he'd shouted it to them. Storm reached out to comfort him, but his eyes snapped open and he stepped away.
"Has Beast any suggestions as to what we are to do?" He asked.
Gambit crossed his arms. "Yeah. Dey want t' use a telepath t' go into m' head an' burn out all de screwed up bits."
A slight widening of eyes. "Then you will be cured of this?"
"Maybe. I said no."
"No!" He exploded. "How could you say no?!"
"Dey gonna take 'way my madness, oui? What else dey take in de process? I not some roast for people t' go cuttin' up."
"But-" Bishop's face darkened. "This will cure you, Cajun. You'll be sane."
Gambit looked him straight in the eye. "You gonna hold me down for dis treatment too, Pup?"
Bishop's jaw tightened. The two men stared at each other, sharing equal expressions of stone, learned father to son. Rogue and Storm looked between them, but kept silent. This was between them.
Finally, Bishop shook his head. "I will not. I won't protect you from it, but I won't help anyone to do it either. This I promise you." WIth that, he turned and left.
Rogue shook her head. "That boy's as stiff as a man on his buryin' day. But at least he's honest."
"Indeed." Storm looked back at Remy. "I will go see what I can do to convince the others that this is your choice and we must respect it." She nodded at them both and followed Bishop.
"Do not call me that," echoed softly back to him.
Rogue chuckled. At least ya know who ya friends are."
"I sure do." He pulled her down onto the bed with him. "You 'specially." He kissed her.
Rogue responded to his kisses and hands with her own, but even as she aroused him, a tiny part of his mind couldn't help thinking and planning. Who would support him, who would oppose. What this operation would actually entail that he wasn't being told. He told it to shut up, but even as he made love to Rogue, it figured out exactly what he was going to do about it.
Storm walked quietly into the Professor's office to see that everyone was still there, Beast explaining to Jean how the procedure would be done, Cyclops listening in, the Professor staring out the window.
Scott looked over at her approach. "Has he come to his senses yet?"
Storm's eyes narrowed and she turned to Beast. "Why was this meeting held like this?" She demanded.
Beast blinked at her. "Excuse me?"
"You brought Remy into a room with a group of people to tell him of his diagnosis. Surely that should have been a private thing. It is no one else's business but his and potentially Rogue's."
Scott put a hand on her shoulder. "Calm down, Ororo, he was only thinking of the team's best interests."
She shrugged him off, her voice calm and contained, even as a strong wind picked up outside.
"Our interests are irrelevant. It is for Remy to be councilled on and for him to decide. We should not even know about it."
Scott's jaw retightened. "The Cajun is in no mental condition to be making this decision."
"Why? Because he did not agree with you? This means he is being irrational? If he had agreed, you would not say the decision cannot be his."
"He needs this, Ororo. It's already been decided."
At that point, Jean stepped up. Ororo's expression was contained, but Jean looked as though she could spit bullets. "This is not a subject for debate!"
Her husband looked stunned. "Jean?"
"I won't do it," she told him, crossing her arms. "I agree with Ororo. I agreed before this whole messed-up meeting took place."
She poked him in the chest with her finger. "I-will-not. Unless Remy expressly tells me he want this- without having been bullied into it by everyone else- I will not touch him."
Storm smiled. "Thank you, Jean."
Scott frowned at the two women. "Have you forgotten the damage Remy can do?"
"That is irrelevant. Anyone can pick up a gun, but they do not automatically have their choices taken away from them because of a mental problem."
"Unless they're declared incompetent."
Jean turned red. "Don't you dare, Scott!"
Beast had been watching this silently, looking back and forth among the three of them, clutching his book of notes tighter and tighter until the spine finally cracked with a sound like a gunshot. They all turned to him.
"Oh, my stars and garters," he whispered. "I have made a mess of things, haven't I?"
"No," Scott said. "You did the right thing by telling us."
Beast shook his head, his shoulders sagging. "Did I? I don't think so. I was so focused of the patient's cure that I forgot the patient. I think mayhaps I should go reread my hypocratic oath." He moved towards the door.
Scott took a step after him, hand outstretched. "Hank?!"
Beast looked back at them. "There will be no operation, not unless Remy agrees, without cohersion. It is his right, and I have much to atone to for forcing this on him." He went out, shutting the door behind him.
"Poor Hank," Jean whispered.
Scott whirled. "This is wrong. Remy is sick. He needs help whether he wants it or not."
"Scott." The Professor's calm voice interrupted him, speaking for the first time. "Do you remember Phoenix? The original one?" Scott's face went white. "She destroyed an entire planet and tried to kill us all. I've been thinking of her for the past half hour." He steepled his fingers on his desk. "She was insane. Completely. And Lilandra came with an end to her madness. You said no at the time, I believe."
"She wanted to kill her!"
"Death is a cure." Xavier shook his head. "Not a very pleasant one, but ultimately it means change of self. Perhaps that is what Remy fears. Being made into something other than himself. He doesn't know what is going to happen. Phoenix didn't either. Ultimately, Phoenix made the decision to take the cure. She was right. Remy should be allowed the same choice."
Scott looked down at his wife. She looked back at him out of sad green eyes. She'd never known the Phoenix, but she carried her memories. She understood what madness meant, and she nodded her head slowly.
"Let him make the decision for himself."
Scott took a deep breath and nodded reluctantly. "All right, all right. But I will still do everything I can to convince him."
Ororo smiled. "And knowing Remy, unless you make an argument he can agree with, he will ignore you with impunity."
"I just hope this isn't a decision we're all going to regret," Cyclops muttered.
Silently, Remy crept through the mansion. It was midnight, most if not all of the X-Men asleep, but still he moved with caution. With three telepaths in the house, along with Bishop's paranoia and Wolverine's nose, not to mention the security systems, he knew that this job would be the greatest challenge of his career.
Bypassing the identification alert on the elevators, he set the security cameras to loop over the same empty section of tape. Then he hacked his way into the computers to let him use the elevators to go below ground.
Damn, I'm good, he thought smugly as he was deposited onto the first sublevel. It was the first time he'd been down here without a chaperone to watch him since he entered the clone. The freedom of it was exhilerating. The same thrill of danger he'd always gotten from stealing. It was different that what he got from the X-Men. With them, he was part of a team, all working towards an intangible goal, where often it seemed no headway was being gained. When he stole, however, he had a tangible path to a tangible prize, one where he knew he'd been successful. That didn't even include the sheer pleasure of doing what was forbidden and getting away with it.
The sublevel was empty, Beast gone off to bed. Gambit had made sure of that before he began, and he knew no one was in the Danger Room, War Room or Ready Room either.
Bypassing security more complex than he'd ever seen before took an hour. That was just to the end of the hall. The sensor ridden corner was 45 minutes and the door to McCoy's lab a mere 10. Once inside, he hacked his way into the computer, getting lucky on his third attempt with the password polypeptide.
Henri, mon ami, you be gettin' predict'ble in y' old age.
With a grin, the Cajun cracked his knuckles, flexed his fingers and
called up his medical file.
|Name:||Remy Etienne LeBeau|
|Case History:||An adopted Cajun, has four moles, as noted on attached picture. Scar tissue also marked...|
Remy called up the picture and grinned at himself grinning in the buff. When he joined, Henry told him he wanted a picture of him as naked as he was willing to go for the medical files. The doctor had been quite surprised at just how nude he was willing. He skimmed over the case history.
-...childhood measels, no record of chickenpocks or mumps... Allergy to strawberries...-
How dey know dat? He wondered. Oh yeah. T'rew up Jean's classic strawberry cheescake.
-...smokes regularily. 2 packs per day... suspected history of cocaine use...-
Remy blinked. Whoops. Never told no one dat. He grimaced. Breaking that particular habit had been the hardest thing he'd ever done. He did not like that Hank knew about it and erased that bit from the file.
Finally, he got to the description of his mental problem. Most of it made no sense, being written in Beast's usual tech-talk, but it seemed to be the same as what he'd told them earlier, along with the cure, described in nauseating detail. Wary of the time, he skimmed over that as well and focused on what Beast hadn't detailed. Potential side effects.
The percentages were tiny, none over 1%, but Remy gasped at the list they shadowed.
Memory loss, personality change, blindness, retardation, epilepsy, coma, death...
"Oh, mon dieu," he whispered.
He felt like screaming. Instead, the intruder alarm went off for him.
Gambit almost hit the ceiling, he was scared and surprised so badly. He'd never heard an alarm go off when he was on a job before.
Swearing, he leapt up and bolted for the exit, but the blast doors came down before he could reach them.
"SHIT!" Frantically, he threw himself at the door, then tried to charge his way through it. It was too thick, though, and he knew he didn't have enough time. Beast was worried about delicate experiments being destroyed so he'd had the lab rigged to release a powerful sleeping gas.
I shoulda brought a gas mask, he thought sleepily as he stumbled away from the doors, inanely searching for a place to hide. But who ever t'ink I be caught?
He got away, of course, with the X-Men never the wiser and his illness miraculously cured.
Or he did, at least, in his dreams.
Furiously, Brood attacked New York, killing everyone that they didn't immediately take to their queen to be implanted with eggs. Their brown carapaces gleaming dully with a thick ichor, they flew in waves, organized patterns of combat against the only ones who resisted them.
Wolverine took the battle straight to them. Roaring as he leaped off a building, he landed on the backs of one of two brood, slashing through its wings with his claws. It fell, shrieking, as he launched himself at the second one. It hissed at him, turning, and he missed. Twisting in midair, he connected with the next door building with his feet, and launched off again. The brood he'd originally aimed for didn't move fast enough this time. Logan grinned, and looked for the next one, even as he crashlanded in a pile of garbage littering the alley.
"Save some of the fun for me, Logan," he heard and looked up to see Betsy race by, not bothering to stop for him. She was a telepath, she'd know if he were hurt. Dressed in a costume most women wouldn't wear to the beach, she raced around the corner and was gone. Only sounds of combat and brood dying drifted back in her wake.
"Ah, this is the life," Logan sighed. "Butt kickin' in th' mornin' and a brew for afterwards." He saw Cannonball rocket by outside the alley, chased by a dozen brood. The boy was grimly determined, not showing his fear, but there were far too many of them for him to fight alone. Logan ran out of the alley to help him, joined by Archangel, who scooped him up off the street and carried him through the sky after their teammate and his attackers.
Suddenly, there was a hiss behind them and Logan looked under his arm to see another squadron of Brood behind them, all gaining fast. This bunch were armed as well, and Warren dodged bullets as he flew. Logan felt his blood pound as the rage began to come over him. These brood were dead. They just didn't know it yet.
Suddenly, they were gone, along with the sky, the city and the entire world. Warren pulled up before he slammed both of them into the wall of the Danger Room and lowered them gently to the floor.
"Hey, what gives?" Sam demanded. "Ah was doin' real well."
"That's what I'd like t' know," Logan growled.
Betsy stood up from where she'd fallen when the car she'd been standing on disintegrated. "It's Bobby," she told them and looked towards the door.
It opened to let the young man in. He looked excited, but Wolverine scowled. He didn't like having Danger Room sessions interuppted just when he was getting into them.
"Did you hear?" He started, running right up to them.
"Hear what, Bobby?" Warren asked wearily. "You know you're not supposed to shut off the room like that."
"Yeah, well, you gotta hear this. You know the alert last night? The one Storm said was nothing? Well, it wasn't." He grinned. "Gambit broke into Hank's lab and got caught going through his computer."
Logan blinked. "He did?"
"Yeah. He was looking through his medical files. I heard Storm talking to Beast, and apparently, there's a cure for what Remy's got. But he's refusing to take it."
Psylocke raised an eyebrow. "Really? What kind of cure?"
"Some kind of telepathy. And not only is he refusing to do it, but Jean's refusing to do it to him."
"That's stupid," Warren muttered. "He's too damn dangerous the way he is."
Betsy nodded. "I'll do it in a flash."
Logan started growling, popping his claws and leaping at them. Iceman yelped and dodged out of the way, turning to ice as he did so. Warren and Sam both went airborne as Psylocke danced to one side, her hand glowing with her psychic blade.
In a flash, Wolverine changed directions, turning towards Bobby. Iceman put up his hands to create an ice shield between them, but the Canadian was too fast. He leaped at him and used the young man as a launching board to throw himself into the air at Sam. Bobby went down with a grunt, winded as Logan looped an arm around Sam's neck. Cannonball was invulnerable when he was blasting, but Logan used his momentum to twist him into the wall as he went around him and flew in the opposite direction, right into Warren. Archangel fell as well and Logan landed neatly on his feet almost where he started, right in front of Psylocke. He growled at her.
"I'm dangerous too, darlin'. You gonna fix me?"
"You're not insane," she told him cooly. She didn't release her knife, though, he noticed.
"I'm not, am I? Crazy's what other people call ya. We buy inta that shit an' we may as well hang up our X." Sam, Warren and Bobby began picking themselves off the floor, groaning. None were seriously hurt. "I won't call no one crazy 'til they prove it to me, and the Cajun ain't done that yet, any more than you did back in Madripoor."
She stiffened and he sheathed his claws, walked past her and out the Danger Room door.
Slowly, Bobby picked himself off the floor. "Ow..." He looked up to see Psylocke helping Warren stand. Sam was already on his feet.
"Why did he do that?" Bobby demanded.
Psylocke pursed her lips. "He appeared to think he was making a point."
"By using us all as punching bags?" He rubbed his jaw. "Maybe they should use that cure on him too."
"How can ya say that?" Sam asked quietly. "Th' man was right. We ain't got no right ta judge Remy's decision."
Bobby's jaw dropped open while Psylocke looked at the young man placidly, Warren curiously. This was the first time Sam had said anything against anyone since he joined the team.
"So he's sick. Mah momma always said a man's health was his own business. His an' kin."
"Well, we are his teammates."
Sam frowned. "So? We work with him. That's all. Ah ain't been on th' team long, so ah may be outta line, but ah don't think anyone here really likes Gambit. Ah know ah don't. He feels kinda sleezy ta me. But evah since he got sick, ah've felt kinda sorry for him, 'cause everyone's talkin' 'bout how sick he is an' how dangerous an' makin' jokes an' starin'. Ah was taught nevah ta stare either. We look at him like other people look at us fer bein' mutants." Bobby looked down. "How does that make Gambit feel? Now he gets told there's this cure, but he don't want it. And we judge him fer it. We don' know nothin' 'bout this treatment. Maybe it's really rough. Maybe he's got a reason ta say no. Or maybe we've all been so mean ta him he doesn't trust any o' us ta get close ta him an' help." He glared at the three silent mutants. "Wolverine shoulda called us a bunch a bigots, 'cause that's what we are."
Flushing as if emberassed by what he'd just said, the young mutant turned and headed out of the Danger Room.
A few minutes of silence passed. Then Warren spoke.
"So, is anyone going to say anything?"
Psylocke glanced at Bobby, sitting on the floor with his head bowed, and shrugged. "What is there to say, when you know your accuser is right?"
"I can't believe you did that. I truly can't."
"Hey, you're de one dat gave me a zero sec'rity ratin' so I guess dat mean it your fault."
Cyclops barely dignified him with a look. "I'm going to pretend I didn't hear that."
"Dat's okay. I gonna pretend I didn' say it."
Scott shook his head ruefully and continued pacing, just as he had been for the past ten minutes. Gambit was starting to get the urge to check the carpet for holes or nail him to the floor. He almost wished he was on the Gold team, so he could be hearing this from Storm. Then again, all she had to do was look at him to make him feel like dirt, so he was probably better off with Cyclops.
Cyclops didn't seem to agree. "You do realize I have a lot better things to do this morning than think up reprimands for X-Men. I'm supposed to be in Salem with Jean and you should be getting ready to be cured."
Gambit crossed his arms. "Yeah, right. Like dat not jus' make t'ings worse."
There was a long moment of silence, then Scott sighed. "Remy, I read the files you broke into and I know what you're thinking. But the chances of those sideffects actually occurring are infitesimal. Beast doesn't think they're a threat or he never would have suggested this. I agree with him. No one here wants to risk you."
Gambit glared at him. "I don' care. I am not doin' dis."
"Remy, you'll be asleep. You won't even feel it."
"Oh, really? You wan' t' go in m' mind an' chop bits out. Dat's about as subtle as a bris wit' a pile driver. I don' wan' t' wind up like Magneto. Got it?"
Again there was silence. Remy could guess what Scott was thinking. How to approach a delicate subject with a man who was difficult to convince of anything at the best of times. A man he didn't even like, but in no way wanted to see hurt. It was a dilemma for a leader that Gambit could understand, and he would have sympathized if he hadn't been planning to be as stubborn as possible.
"Remy, it won't be that harsh. Professor Xavier-"
"De same guy who made Magneto a vegetable? I don' t'ink so."
"Then perhaps Jean-"
"Non. He train her."
Scott must have thought he was relenting. "Betsy?"
"I don't trust her." Gambit was beginning to enjoy this.
"Gambit-" Scott sounded exasperated. "I will bring in any telepath you want. I'll even bring in Cable if I have to, but you have got to have this operation done."
"No, I don'." He smiled at him innocently.
Cyclops actually came over and knelt before him, one hand on his shoulder. Surprised, Gambit let him.
"Remy, I know you're having a hard time accepting this, but you're a very sick man. You have an illness that can't be controlled with willpower or drugs. You need to have this operation."
Gambit was torn. He detested being spoken to like a child, but there was such concern in Scott's voice.
He actually gives a damn 'bout a trouble-makin' ex-thief. Who'da thought it?
Scott was starting to make him feel guilty. He hated feeling guilty. It made him want to cave in, just so Scott wouldn't be so disappointed in him. Worse, it made him think that maybe Scott was right, that he should have the operation. But then the terror of allowing someone into his mind hit him again and he bowed his head, biting his lip.
I can' do dis! I can'!
Scott squeezed his shoulder. "It's for the best, Remy. It'll give you control of your own life back."
He stepped back as the Cajun stood. I control my life!
"Yeah, yeah, yeah," he muttered, not daring to look him in the eye. "But I wan' de White Queen t' do it."
Scott breathed a sigh of relief, not even questioning his choice. "You won't regret this, Gambit. I'll go talk to Beast and call Emma. Six hours and it'll all be over."
Seemingly impulsively, Remy pulled the older man into a hug. Uncomfortable with physical affection, Scott patted him awkwardly on the back, then pulled away and left.
Gambit watched him go, then dropped Scott's wallet out of his sleeve. He hummed to himself tunelessly as he opened it and began flipping through his credit cards.
Six hours, neh? Dat's long 'nough t' pack an book first class.
Grinnning, he went to find a pen to write a message to Rogue.
His dufflebag slung over his shoulder, Remy went up to the airline counter. Which one it was didn't matter to him. Just so long as it had a flight about to leave. This one had a plane going to San Diego in fifteen minutes.
Pushing his sunglasses up his nose, he smiled at the woman behind the counter.
"Good morning, miss. I'd like to buy a ticket to San Diego, first class."
She smiled back at him, perhaps a touch more than she needed to. "Round trip or one way?"
"One way. I'm starting a new job."
"Oh, congratulations!" She typed at her computer.
"Yeah," he laughed. "I just hope the company doesn't lose all my stuff shipping it to me."
She laughed too. "I certainly hope not. How will you be paying, Mr-" She fished for a name.
"Summers. Scott Summers. I'll be using my Visa." He handed her the card. She typed in the information, had him sign the slip, checked the signature against the card, then handed it back to him, along with the ticket.
"Thank you, Mr Summers. I'm afraid that you'll have to hurry. Your flight leaves in ten minutes at gate 43."
Gambit smiled. "Thank you." He hurried off, his bag over his shoulder, working his jaw.
I gotta cut back on de fake accents. Dey jus' kill me. Still, better dan an Irish brogue. Dat one's murder.
The crowds in the airport grew thicker as he moved, until the Cajun had to push his way through. He picked a few pockets as he did so, just to prove he still could. Getting caught in the lab was an emberassment to his professionalism that his guild training wouldn't let him ignore. Gonna have t' steal somethin' big t' make up for it. Den mail it back. You been havin' too much of an effect on me, X-men. Downright corruptin'. He hesitated, peering over peoples' heads. What's goin' on?
He came to the front of the crowd and stopped. Oh, you have got t' be kiddin'!
A man was standing before one of the gates, which he'd obviously just come through, smiling at the crowd, including several camera crews and photographers. He was speaking, too, words Gambit had heard too many times.
"...Hear me, brothers and sisters! I come before you on a mission from God, to save you from those demonspawn who walk among us! Those Mutants!"
I knew it.
The priest, if he really was one, which Remy doubted, raised his arms. "They are creatures of Satan, yet many of them look just like God's children. I have come to this city because it is filled with their evil!" He was growing more impassioned, exciting the crowd as the cameras broadcast his message. "But I have been blessed by God! I can save you, for I always know when I am before a mutant. They cannot hide from me!"
Oh, dey can't, can dey?
Dropping his bag, Gambit threw himself at the priest, falling to his knees before him with arms upraised.
"Father, I have seen de light!"
"Hallelujah, brother!" The priest cried, surprised, yet obviously not willing to let such an opportunity go by. The fact that Gambit was using his secondary mutant power, his ability to charm people with his voice also helped. He was enough of a gentleman to not like using it, but this was a special occasion. Cameras flashed.
"I see your glory, father," he yelled, loud enough for the entire crowd to hear. "For only one blessed by God's power could see all mutants. Do you see any now, holy one?" This was the kicker.
The priest was even better at working the crowds than he was. "No," he intoned. "This place is clean of their evil. Come my son, stand with me."
This was what Gambit had been hoping for. Grinning, he leaped up beside the priest and put an arm around his shoulder.
"Now," the priest called. "Take your pictures of me and the first of many followers. Together, we shall cleanse this world." Cameras were lifted.
Gambit took off his sunglasses.
Immediately, the crowd gasped and the priest turned to look at him, his jaw dropping open at the sight of his eyes.
"Bonjour!" The Cajun tightened his grip on his shoulders and noogied him vigorously. The crowd started to laugh.
"You-" The priest sputtered. "You tricked me!"
"Yup." Gambit let go of him. "It was easy. You're no savior. You're jus' anot'er bigot wit' a gimmick. You couldn' spot me 'cause I am as human as ev'ryone else!"
Gambit wasn't sure if it was his charm or what he said, but the crowd cheered.
An' I still got time t' catch my flight.
With a quick bow to the crowd, he grabbed his bag and got out of there before the reporters could corner him.
Lost in thought, Cyclops wandered into the television room of the mansion. He was pleased that Gambit had finally decided to have the treatment done, but he didn't know what it was that changed his mind. Or what made him decide on the White Queen. Probably because he didn't know her, or have to see her every day.
Still, it wasn't unusual that he didn't know the Cajun's motives. They all knew very little about Gambit, and the only things they did know was what Remy had told them himself. Security checks had revealed no record of his birth or schooling. No medical records, no criminal records. That last one had surprised Cyclops, since Gambit was a professional thief. He'd known the Cajun was good, but he had no idea he was that good. The only thing they'd been able to find at all was a bulletin from Interpol requesting that a man matching Gambit's description be brought in for questioning about a murder in Paris. Cyclops would have turned him in if he suspected he was responsible, but the description in the report made it obvious that it was Sabretooth who'd done the killing.
A private man himself, Cyclops could understand why the Cajun kept silent, but he still didn't like it. With Wolverine, he knew he kept his past secret partially because he felt no need to talk about it and partially because he couldn't remember it himself. But with Gambit, it seemed like he was hiding something. Cyclops didn't trust his motives, whatever they were, and sometimes wondered if he'd have stayed without Rogue around.
Absently, Scott looked up to see Wolverine slouching on the couch with his feet on the coffee table, drinking beer and watching the news.
"Logan, could you keep an eye out for Emma? Gambit finally agreed to have the operation."
Wolverine kept staring at the tv. "Doesn't look that way t' me, Slim."
Puzzled, Scott followed his gaze to the set.
"Okay, I'm into the passenger lists for the airport. Checking for Remy's flight now."
"Yeah, right. Like he'd be dumb enough to use his real name."
"He was dumb enough to go on live tv when he's trying to run away."
Storm looked at Xavier. "Why would he do such a thing if he is trying to escape us?"
The telepath sighed. "I'm not sure. He could be suffering from delusions, or he may subconsciously want us to find him."
"Hey, I got something!"
Cyclops leaned forward. "He did use his own name?"
"Nope. Used yours."
Cyclop's hand immediately went to his pocket. "He stole my wallet," he said tightly.
Wolverine chuckled. "At least now we know where he's gone."
"Not really. He bought tickets to about fourty different cities."
"Really regretting that $40,000 limit on your visa, huh, Scott?"
Jean hugged him. "Look at the bright side. The moment he uses that card again, we'll know where he is."
On the plane, Remy hummed tunelessly to himself as he used a small pair of scissors to cut Scott's card into a snowflake. His seatmate looked at him dubiously and he smiled at him.
"Never mind me, homme. I jus' an escaped mental patient wit' delusions 'bout reality."
The man turned away hurridly and Gambit rubbed his temples. Mon dieu! I can' believe I said dat! Maybe I shoulda put my pills in my bag, steada forgettin' dem in de bathroom.
He glanced at the newspaper in his neighbour's lap. "Hey, can I read dat?"
"Yes, yes, take it! Just don't hurt me!"
"Saints! Jus' relax, will you?" Gambit picked up the paper to read the story that'd attracted him. It was about a 7000 year old statue on loan to the San Diego museum.
Well, well, well. I guess I got somet'ing t' amuse m'self wit' until Rogue get here.
His neighbour abruptly got up and ran for the bathroom. Remy didn't notice and wouldn't have cared if he did. He had no way of knowing that it was his smile which frightened the man off.
Getting the equipment he needed was far too easy. An hour after he started to look, Gambit had everything he needed to break into the museum. Of course, years of stealing made it so he knew exactly where to look. The planning of the job was a little rushed, but he wanted this done before Rogue showed up, then he wanted them gone before the X-Men tracked them down. He was pretty sure they'd use Cerebro to find his bio-signature, but he hoped having to check fourty cities would slow them down. How he was going to avoid them in the long run, he didn't know. For the moment, all he could do was wish for them to give up.
Not dat dat be too likely. Still, no time t' worry 'bout it now.
Carefully, the Cajun bypassed the security on one of the museum windows and crept inside. It was good quality, but it wasn't as good as that in the mansion. He had no trouble working past it and the guards. Dressed all in black with black gloves and a mask, he knew better than to wear something so identifying as his colours. The place he'd broken into when he first met Storm had been an exception. The owner had turned his stomach so much he wanted him to know who was robbing him.
This job was different. He only wanted to get the statue to prove he could, that there was something in his life that he still had complete control over. The idea that he was being irrational never occured to him.
Maybe I sneak it back in, neh? He grinned at the audacity of it and moved into the gallery where the statue was kept. It was locked behind glass, but getting to it was almost simplistic.
Gambit lifted the glass cover over the statue. Made of stone, it was a representation of a woman, her arms raised and mouth open in song. It was beautiful.
Pretty l'il paperweight, aren't you? He was almost tempted to keep it.
Suddenly, without any warning, there was a flash of light and a small woman dressed in black with a wool cap on her head appeared before him. Under his mask, Gambit's jaw dropped open in surprise. He knew this woman. Right after he first met the X-Men, she'd appeared and taken them all halfway across the galaxy to help the Professor and the Empress of the Sh'iar Empire fight against shape-changing invaders. Her name was Lila Cheney. Apart from being a world famous rockstar, she was a galaxy-spanning teleporter and an incurable kleptomaniac, though only the first of the three was a well known fact.
"Lila?" He gasped.
She blinked. "Gambit?"
They both heard the sound of a guard running up to check out the light. Lila smiled. "Well, gotta go." She grabbed the statue, just as Gambit did.
The world vanished. Gambit barely had time to realize they'd teleported when they landed on a beach below a large bungalo.
"Let go!" Lila yelled.
They teleported again, to an icy wasteland, a pink toned world populated by black flowers, and someplace he couldn't even begin to describe, it looked so strange.
At each landing, Lila tried to get him to let go. She kicked, she struggled, she even tore his mask off, knocking him onto his back at one point, but he wouldn't release his grip. Cursing as loud as she, the Cajun clung to the statue as to a lifeline, even when she teleported them underwater or at least a mile up in some alien sky.
"CUT IT OUT!" He bellowed as they rolled down a slope of smooth green stones. Everything flickered and he recognized an ornate throne room, filled with people, including the Empress of the Sh'iar empire. They all stared at him as he skidded on his back on the slick floor, Lila sprawled on top of him. He barely had time to yell "It's not what it looks like!" Before they were off again.
If we don' stop soon, I gonna start pukin'!
They landed on the beach again, Lila gasping for breath. "Gimme!" She barked. "It's mine!"
Deep inside Gambit's mind, something shifted.
"Okay, chere," he relented, relaxing in the sand. "You win."
She looked at him suspiciously. "You're giving up?"
He shrugged and flashed her his most charming smile, his most charming voice. "Why not? It jus' a statue. You wan' it dat bad, I give it t' you."
She hesitated, then shook her head. "You are one of the strangest men I've ever met. Want to come in for a drink?"
She stood, the statue nestled in the crook of her arm, and led him towards the house.
Rogue had been sitting for five hours in the restaurant, sipping her drink and trying to act normal when Storm came in. Stepping through the door, she looked around until she saw the young woman. Quietly, she crossed over to her and sat down.
"What are ya doin' in San Diego, sugah?" Rogue asked quietly.
"Cerebro pinpointed your biosignature as being here. We assumed you might know where to find Remy ." Her gaze softened. "You have not been able to find him, have you?"
A tear trickled unnoticed down the young mutant's cheek. "He left me a note telling me not ta say where ah was goin' an' ta meet him in this restaurant three hours ago. He said he loved me."
Storm's hand closed over hers comfortingly. "I am sorry, Rogue."
Rogue didn't answer as the door opened and Wolverine strolled in, nonchalant, hands in his pockets. A short, nondescript man who lived his life taking no crap from anyone, he was possessed of a level of honour she could barely imagine. Gambit had admitted to her that he liked Logan, the only man among the X-Men that he did like other than Bishop, but being around him made him feel ashamed somehow. Even though Wolverine had never even hinted that he thought Remy had any reason to. Rogue suspected it was from the Cajun sensing Logan's honour, and wishing that he could have some for himself. She'd always secretly wondered what would happen if Wolverine decided to take Gambit under his wing, though Wolvie usually only focused on young teenagers for his more esoteric training.
The 5'4" man swaggered up and sat down, for all the world like this was an ordinary day and they met in this restaurant all the time.
"Mornin', darlin'." He ordered a beer.
Rogue took a sip of her water as Storm leaned back regally. "Are there any more a ya comin' ah should expect?" She asked cooly.
"Bishop's parkin' the rental and Jeannie'll hook us with us later." Wolverine studied her intently. "You been cryin', girl?"
"Yes!" She snapped. "Do ya mind?"
He shrugged. "Nope. If you wanta waste your time, that's fine with me. Cajun might not agree though."
Rogue bit her lip and ripped her napkin into tiny pieces.
"Rogue," Storm pointed out. "That is a cloth napkin."
Rogue looked at what she was doing and blushed hotly. Tossing the napkin down, she grabbed her water and started gulping it. The two X-Men watched her impassively, but she closed her eyes and kept swallowing, not noticing when a third X-Man entered and walked up to the table.
"I have something for you, Rogue."
Sputtering, Rogue looked up to see Biship towering over her, his gaze like stone. He was holding out a bottle of pills.
Bishop's expression didn't change. "You've been away from Gambit for two days. By now you must be subject to his madness. These pills will control that, and Dr McCoy has assured me that they will work without the side effects Gambit suffers."
"Thanks, sugah, but ah don't think so."
The big man didn't even blink at what he said next, though Rogue certainly did.
"Rogue, I will make this simple. If you don't take those pills, I will treat you just as I did my fa- just as I did Gambit. I will pin you to the floor and forcefeed them to you."
Rogue gaped at him for a moment, then put her chin on her hand, her elbow on the table and leaned towards him, smiling. "Sugah, ah don't think y'all are man enough."
Logan chuckled and almost absentmindedly extended his claws with a snikt. A waitress passing by almost dropped her tray. "Can you say the same about me?"
"Ah don't know. Let's find out."
"All of you, stop your bickering." Storm looked at them sternly. "We are X-Men. We pull together and support one another, not tear ourselves apart. Logan, Bishop, you will cease your threats, and Rogue, you will take those pills. Understood?"
"Very well, Storm."
"Sure thing, Darlin'."
Sheepishly, Rogue swallowed two of the pills. "Sorry, Storm."
Bishop shook his head. "That went much more smoothly than with Gambit."
Rogue smiled at him. "Did ya really pin Remy down?"
"Why am ah not suhprised? Still, that's mah Gambit. Boy always was a slow learner." Mention of the Cajun drained the enjoyment she'd gotten out of bantering with her friends and she leaned on her elbows, her voice softening.
"Y'all are here ta take Gambit back, right?"
Logan lit up a cigar. "Gumbo's runnin' wild, too outta control. When I went feral like that, it was the X-Men that brought me back from the edge. Cajun deserves the same."
"We are not here to force him to do anything against his will, Rogue," Storm said.
Rogue nodded, her stomach churning. "Ah know. Ah'm not as paranoid as Remy. Ah still know who mah friends are." She sighed. "So, how do we find him? Did Cerebro say where he is?"
Bishop frowned. "No. Cerebro can't pick up on his biosignature. We suspect it has something to do with his condition, but it's like he keeps blipping in and out."
"So how do we find him?"
Wolverine tapped his nose. "With this. Boy's a lot like me. Knows people wherever he goes. We just go to places he'd like until we find someone who's seen him. Then we follow the trail."
"But that could take weeks!"
"Then we better get to it, hadn't we?"
Rogue started to rise with the rest of them and her stomach did a savage flip-flop. "Uh, ah think ah need ta-" She bolted for the bathroom, barely getting there before she threw up.
Bishop didn't even blink. "I guess there were side effects after all," he said.
"Jesus! What have you been eating?" Lila asked, trying not to look as she held Gambit's long hair back from his face and he puked noisily into a toilet.
"Don' know," he gasped. "Nothin' t' do dis, I t'ought." He vomited again and Lila grimaced.
"You know, this is not the way I like to spend a first date with a new man."
Gambit spat and sat back on his heels. "Ugh. It goin' 'way now. What you say, chere? I not hear you."
"I said, this is no way to spend a date." She smiled. "You know, I really like it when you call me chere."
He rinsed his mouth out and grinned back at her. "I have t' do it more often den."
He is seriously gorgeous, Lila thought. Best of all, he'd shown no sign at all that he cared she was a rockstar. Most men couldn't get past that, and she decided right then not to bring it up herself. For once in her life, she was going to have a nice, normal relationship.
Providing we survive the first date, she mused. X-Men did have a reputation for bizarre things happening to them.
"Think you can handle going out tonight?"
"I should." He stood and took a towel she handed him. "Merci b'coup." He dried his face. "Dis is an incredible house y' got, chere."
Lila looked around at her home and smiled, pleased at the praise. "Yeah, it's my secret place. Where I go when I want to get away from it all."
"An you share dis secret wit' me. T'anks, chere." He kissed her cheek and walked past her out of the bathroom. "We better get goin'."
Trembling a little, Lila reached up to touch her cheek. "Lila, girl," she whispered. "You may just have a winner here." She hurried after him, determined to show them both the time of their lives.
With Phoenix now accompanying them, Rogue, Storm, Wolverine and Bishop searched San Diego, Logan somehow knowing how to find every hidden bar, fence and gambling establishment in the city. They hit a dozen the first night and again on the second and third.
Rogue began to despair as they searched without any success. She knew Remy was alive- she'd feel it if he were hurt or dead. But she had no idea where he was, or why he'd run without her. Why he hadn't met up like he promised.
Why is it ah always find maself chasin' after th' man? Why is he always runnin' when he's in trouble?
It was a reaction she could understand well, as one she'd used herself. She could face down Apocolypse in combat without blinking, but when anything became personal, her first instinct was to flee. Running away had been what first led her to join the X-Men. Remy had joined the same way, though he'd been running for years by the time he met up with Storm. He still hadn't fully dealt with the family that'd caused him to leave in the first place, so she guessed he was still running.
"Penny, darlin'." Logan stepped up to her, chewing on the end of his cigar. It was nearly 6 a.m. and they'd just come from yet another bar that, while it'd heard of the red eyed mutant named Gambit, hadn't seen him in a long time.
Rogue looked down at Wolverine, still amazed that such a short man could have such a powerful presence around him.
"Ah'm just worried about Remy, is all," she told him. A hint of teasing crept into her voice. "He seems ta like hangin' out in dives almost as bad as you do."
Distracted by a gang watching them from across the street, the Canadian shrugged. "Just as, darlin'. Took him t' th' Princess bar in Madripoor once t' try'n shock him. Place would give Cyke a heart attack. Turned out he'd not only been there before, but he knew all the hookers by name."
Rogue turned white. "What?" She whispered. He couldn't have, He couldn't!
Wolverine grimaced, realizing what he'd said. "Forget I said that, darlin'. Cajun told me later that he knows hookers everywhere. Best source o' information on some o' the seedier things that go down in a city."
"Then he wasn't... sleepin' with any o' them?"
He inhaled his cigar smoke. "Dunno. He didn't offer an' I didn't ask. Probably." Her face fell. "But I doubt he paid money. Boy's a scoundrel and a ladies man, but he's got too much respect for women t' treat 'em like objects that way."
Rogue nodded, strangely relieved. She hadn't liked hearing this and Wolverine wasn't one to sugarcoat, but he'd never lied to her either. She knew he wasn't now.
"So... maybe we should ask some hookers where Remy is."
He cocked his head to one side and frowned, considering. "Must be gettin' old. Never thought o' that. But we wait 'til tomorrow. We all need some sleep."
Rogue nodded reluctantly. There wasn't much point in arguing with Wolverine once his mind was made up. Quietly, she walked behind him to rejoin the other at the rental van. Besides, she was tired too.
Without a word, Storm regarded the women who waited on the sidewalk, calling out offers to the passing cars with their miniskirts and heels and skin. They were dressed much like her, actually, she mused, looking down at her own leathers and high heeled boots. Her white hair was cut short in back, but went down to her waist in front.
"Ah wonder why ah'm so nervous," Rogue said from behind her.
Storm heard Jean pat her on the arm. "Don't worry, they'll know where he is."
"Ah hope so. Ah do kinda wish that Logan an' Bish' were here."
"We are more likely to get information from these women if we do not intimidate them. Come."
Ororo walked towards the hookers, the two X-Men trailing behind. It saddened her to see women forced to sell their bodies this way. And men who would pay for the act. It took all the beauty out of it, leaving both participants empty.
Yet there was strength in them too, in the wrinkles they hid behind makeup and the experience they pretended was youth. As exiles on the edge of society, they had a lot in common with the X-Men.
Storm tapped one of the women on the shoulder. "Excuse me."
She turned and her jaw dropped open. "Wow! How do you get your hair to do that?" A few other prostitutes joined them as she spotted Rogue and Jean. "Man, you all have incredible hair. It's not fair."
"It's gotta be a wig," another put in, reaching towards Rogue's white stripe.
Rogue leaned away. "Don't touch me," she warned.
A third woman, older than the other two, looked at the southerner's red on black eyes, inherited from her first kiss with Gambit, and Storm's cat-like blue ones.
"You're mutants, aren't you? What do you want?"
Mutant, not Mutie. It was a small distinction, but an important one. Mutant meant a human born with an extra gene. Mutie was a derogatory term filled with hate.
#Ororo,# Jean thought towards her. #They're curious, but not angry. I don't think we're in any danger.#
Excellent. "We are," she answered in reply to the woman's question. "We need some information about a friend of ours."
The woman crossed her arms. "I see. And why should we want to help you?"
"Because there is a chance you may know him, and if so, he would be your friend as well."
She laughed. "He? I know a great deal of men, but I consider very few of them to be my friends." The other prostitutes who'd gathered around laughed as well.
"That's tellin' 'em, Satin," one chortled.
"Even a man named Remy LeBeau?"
Satin chuckled noncommitally, but her eyes flickered for an instant to Rogue's eyes.
#She knows him, Storm. She recognized the name.#
At last we are getting somewhere.
"So what do you want with this Remy LeBeau?" Satin asked.
"Merely to find him."
The other hookers watched them warily. One of the younger ones looked confused. "Are they talking about-" she started and was nudged into silence.
By this time, Storm was convinced that Satin knew where Remy was, though Jean hadn't confirmed it. The redhead had been trained not to read more than someone's surface thoughts without permission, so that wasn't surprising. Satin undoubtably had the location down deep. They just needed to convince her that they were friends.
Rogue, however, didn't seem willing to take that intermediate step. "Y'all better tell us where he is, sugah."
"Or you'll do what?"
"Or ah'll drop kick ya ta th' moon, is what ah'll do."
Not knowing that Rogue was fully capable of doing what she promised, Satin laughed. "I'd like to see you try."
Quickly, before things could get even more out of control, Storm stepped between them.
"Please, Satin, we mean no harm. My name is Ororo and these are Rogue and Jean. Remy is a dear friend of mine and he is very sick. We need to find him."
Satin hesitated at the sincerity in her voice. "How can I be sure you really know him?" Her eyes narrowed. "What's his middle name?"
"Etienne," Storm replied without hesitation.
"What's his handle?"
"Gambit." From Jean.
She smirked. "Where's his mole?"
Rogue turned red and slapped her left buttock. "Right here. How do you know where it is?"
Satin smiled indulgantly. "He came by with a bottle of scotch he'd nicked once. We had too much to drink and started daring each other. I had to enroll in six months of basketweaving courses at the community college. It was worse than hooking."
Jean grinned evilly. "And Remy?"
"Walked butt naked into a gay bar and ordered a beer. He was so drunk by the time he left he had to crawl, he had so many drinks bought for him."
All of the women laughed, the tensions of suspicion gone.
Storm shook her head. "Silly boy," was all she said.
"Have ya seen him?" Rogue asked, anxious again.
"Not recently. He doesn't exactly drop by that frequently."
"Too bad he doesn't show up more often," another groused.
"Why is that?" Storm asked.
Satin grinned. "He likes to beat up our pimp. Raoul turns green at the very mention of him."
They all laughed again.
"Do you know where he might be?"
"There are a couple of places I know he likes." She gave her a list. Most were seedy dives like they'd already checked, but there were a few very upscale establishments as well. "You said he's sick. What's wrong with him?"
"It is... difficult to explain. But nevertheless, he needs our help."
"Yeah, well," She glanced down the sidewalk. "Oh, shit." She stepped back. "Here comes Raoul. You better move. He gets violent if he sees women he thinks are moving in on his territory."
Storm looked over to see a seedy looky man in an expensive suit and gold chains striding towards them. The hookers fled back to the edge of the sidewalk and their soliciting.
Why is it men such as this always seem to wear chains?
Raoul walked right up to them, his face enraged. "This is my street, you painted up whores! Get your asses off it!"
"We are not whores."
Raoul pulled a switchblade. "That's it. You're just beggin' for this." No one looked in their direction.
A hurricane hit the street, right where Raoul was standing. Picking the terrified man up, it threw him at a flagpole jutting out of a neighbouring building, tangling him in the flag lines.
"Wasn't that just a bit of overkill, Storm?" Jean asked.
Ororo sniffed. "This man makes his money trampling on women's spirits. He is lucky I did not drop him." The hookers looked pleased, but none acknowledged them where Raoul could see. The rest of the street had been deserted.
"Hey, get me down from here, you bitch!" Raoul yelled.
Quickly, Rogue flew up to him. "Why don't ya mind ya manners. There are ladies present." She punched him and he sagged, unconscious. The hookers cheered.
Rogue laughed. "That man is filthy. Why don't we head back t' the hotel room f'r a while? Ah need a shower."
"Good idea," Jean agreed. "I'll contact Bishop and Logan and get them to start checking out the places we were told about."
"Good." They started walking down the sidewalk, Rogue linking her arms with the two of them.
"Ya know, I can see why Remy likes beatin' up on that guy. It's fun."
They all laughed.
"Well, they've heard o' a Remy LeBeau. That's a start."
"Yes, but did you notice they didn't try to frisk us until after we mentioned we were friends of his?"
Logan grinned. "Knew that boy was wild, but I didn't know you had it in you to start a bar fight."
Bishop's frown was thunderous. "I do not like being treated like a criminal."
"Would think you'd get used to that, bein' raised by th' Cajun and all."
Bishop glared at him. "It wasn't like that." He gestured expansively. "He wasn't like that." He sighed.
Logan shrugged. "I believe you. Y'know, when you said the Cajun was your father, I had a lot of trouble believin' it."
"Because he's a thief and I'm a cop?"
"I know. I sometimes have trouble with it too."
Logan pulled out a cigar and lit it as they walked back to their car. "Not the Cajun's fault. He was born on th' street an' taken in by the head of a criminal organization. He never learned any better. Joinin' th' X-Men's the first real break he's had and we're considered criminals by most. Those are a lotta mountains for a man t' climb."
Bishop nodded in agreement. "I want to help him do so, but I don't know how."
"Sounds like you want to stop being the son and start being the father."
"Maybe." Bishop looked away. "In my time, he was a noble man. He had mental problems, true, but he was a good man, who respected the law and people's rights and upheld them. Somewhere, he had to learn that."
Logan sucked at his cigar. "Who knows. Maybe you're the one who taught him."
Lila Cheney was falling in love.
She'd loved men before, enjoying their bodies and their company, but never for long and never like this. Less than a week after she met Remy LeBeau, Lila decided she wanted to spend the rest of her life with him.
Quietly, Lila stood in the doorway to the beach patio, leaning aginst the jamb, cradling a cup of tea and watching him. The Cajun was strolling along the beach in front of the house, smoking. She hadn't even needed to ask him not to smoke in the house. He'd just known.
I can't believe I've fallen in love with an X-Man. She sighed. He was so beautiful, with the moonlight filtering through his red-brown hair, highlighting the angular lines of his body.
He actually seemed to care for her, too, and not her star status. He listened to her talk like no man ever had, though she kept the conversation away from her work and onto safe, neutral topics. He didn't seem to mind, and even with her trying to keep her secrets, there was an incredible level of intimacy between them, as though he'd known her for years. She liked it.
She also liked that he let her move at her own pace. Usually, she threw herself into bed with a guy the first chance she got, but with Remy she'd decided to take it slow. She hadn't slept with him yet, and since the first night, he hadn't pushed it. Then, he'd tried to follow her into her bedroom as though it were the most natural thing in the world.
"Oh, no, you don't," she'd told him. "You behave until I decide to come to you."
"Okay, chere, if dat's de way you wanna play it," he'd grinned. He hadn't so much as touched her since then, with a twinkle in his eye that made her wonder if he thought the whole thing was a game. At least he was willing to wait.
Lila wasn't so sure she was. It'd been an effort to resist that gorgeous body and last night she'd dreamed of making love to him. When she woke, it'd been all she could do not to go running to his room and jump him.
Gambit was snuffing out the butt of his cigarette and heading back up to the house.
Well, I've had enough of playing hard to get. I'm going to make sure that boy knows exactly what I want from him.
She sniggered and went to get rid of her teacup, and her bra.
Gambit came into the house a few moments later. "Almos' gettin' cool out." He looked up. "Chere?"
Lila stood in the center of the room, almost nervously. Oh, God, I hope he doesn't laugh or something.
"I love you," she told him and slipped her blouse off over her tanned shoulders. It fell in a heap behind her feet. Then she waited, wondering if her heart was going to explode.
Gambit closed the door and walked towards her, killing the lights as he went.
"Chere," he whispered as his arms went around her. "Dans me yeux, vous etes la plus belle du monde. Depuis la premiere fois que j'avais te voir selon l'ile Muir... avec ta nez sale et tes vetements en ordure. Soit sans dout que je t'aime, Rogue."
Lila didn't know the words, but she understood the tone and smiled as he lifted her up and carried her to her bedroom.
Rogue was blowdrying her hair and Jean concentrating telepathically. Left with no one to talk to, Storm stared out the window at the lights of the city.
What are we to do with Remy once we find him? she mused. That is an issue which has yet to be resolved.
Jean lifted her head. "How is Scott?" Ororo asked.
Her friend smiled. "Good. He misses me."
"How are things at the mansion?"
"Not bad. They had a little trouble with the FOH, but nothing they couldn't handle. Creed is really pushing for the presidency."
Storm nodded. She knew as much from the news. "Are the arguments about what should be done with Gambit continuing?"
"Not really. Don't forget, everyone who is pro-Gambit headed out here. But everyone seems to think that once we catch him, I'm going to 'fix' him. Even Scott, to a small degree." She sighed.
Storm sighed as well. "It is not our decision to make." She felt like a broken record.
"I agree, and I won't touch his mind unless he lets me, but still- he's sick, Ororo. He needs help."
"I know, I know..."
The door opened and a clean Rogue, dressed in a terrycloth robe came out. She looked confused.
"Rogue? Are you all right?"
"Ah- ah'm not sure. Ah feel funny. Ah think ah'm feelin' Remy."
Jean stood. "Are you sure? Did you take your pill today?"
"Ah did. Plus the gravol ta keep it down."
"Is Remy in pain?" Ororo asked.
"No, it's somethin' else..." Rogue shook her head, moving over towards the couch. "Ah've never felt anything like this, but it's kinda familiar. It's gettin' stronger, it's like-" Her eyes widened. "No, no, no..." Rogue suddenly hugged herself, shivering as she paced back and forth in front of the couch.
"What's wrong, Rogue?" Jean asked. "What are you feeling?"
"Oh, ah can feel him! Ah can feel what he's doin'!" Her eyes wide, Rogue seemed to have forgotten about them, except for her horrible monologue. "Oh, he's so hard! That's what ah feel. It hurts, how can he stand it?" Her hands cupped herself between her legs and Storm and Phoenix exchanged glances. "He wants ta get rid o' th' ache. Oh, God, he's not alone!"
Jean and Storm shared another look of horror as Rogue turned in circles. "He can smell her, touch her, smell... Oh, God! Her hands are touching him, bare skin, taking his clothes..."
She started to cry, clinging to her robe as though that way she could hold onto his. Not knowing what to do, Storm stared at her. "He's kissing her, stroking, nuzzling. It feels so good, oh, God, it feel so right- NO! Stop it! Don't let her!" Gasping for breath, she tumbled backwards onto the couch.
"Remy, no, please don't do this!" Suddenly, she screamed, legs spread, back stiffening, muscles tensing, jaw gaping wide with pleasure and distress. Her robe was open from her movement and Storm saw enough of her to realize that her body was aroused, even if her mind wasn't.
"What is happening to her?" Ororo cried.
Jean concentrated. "I'm not sure, but I think Remy is having fellatio performed on him."
Storm shook her head as Rogue cried even harder, trying to deny the inevitable. Afraid to put her arms around her because of her strength, Ororo could only watch and sympathize. "I cannot believe Remy would do this to her. Is there nothing we can do?" Thank the Goddess Bishop and Logan are not here to see this.
"To stop it? No. But it may give us an advantage." Determined, she darted in, a telekinetic bubble protecting her as she knelt before the young woman. "Rogue, I'm sorry. If I can see where he is, maybe I can find him."
Feeling helpless, Storm could only watch, offering her silent support. Tears leaked down her cheeks as Jean established a mental link and Rogue thrashed, almost breaking the couch in her near convulsions. The horrible dialogue continued.
"No, no, no, no, stop, stop it! Stop it! Oh, mon dieu, yes!" She shuddered, crazed by the pleasure she resisted. It was a violation, like watching someone being raped, and Storm sank to her knees, for once hating Gambit.
"Ah can feel her. Her breasts, her thighs. Ah want her, ah need her... NOOO!!!! Get OUT of her! You're MINE!!" Her hips bucked, her fingers clawing at the air as her body unconsciously mimicked the far away Cajun.
"Easy, Rogue," Ororo heard Jean whisper, almost talking to herself. "I've nearly got him. Almost... I can see- two? How many women is he with? No, it's- Oh my God!"
Abruptly, Rogue climaxed, almost lifting herself off the couch as she stiffened. Then she crashed down again, fully herself once more as she opened her eyes. Curling into a ball, she began sobbing harder and Storm was at last able to go comfort her.
"Shh, it is all right. It is over."
Rogue clung to her. "Oh, God, he's betrayed me!" She cried.
Jean reached out to her, her own eyes stricken, though for a different reason.
"Rogue, oh, honey, he didn't- he's insane. Completely. I've never felt anything like it. But he didn't betray you. Oh, God, Rogue. He thinks he's WITH you!"
Remy woke slowly, to find himself stretched out in a luxurious, king-sized bed, a slim woman with short, straight dark hair lying with her head on his shoulder. Surprised, he blinked and recognized Rogue.
Mus' be de light in here, he thought, hugging her while he smelled her curly red hair. She'd been wearing a new perfume lately, more of a musk as opposed to her usual magnolias.
It felt good to lie next to her again. He didn't understand why she'd decided to play this waiting game, but it'd been worth it. Their lovemaking last night had been fresh and new, like they'd never been together before.
And this house! He'd had no idea she had anything like it. It didn't bother him that she'd never told him about it before though. Finding out such secrets slowly over time was much more fun.
"Mmm..." His lover stretched and opened her eyes to look at him sleepily. She smiled. "How many times did we make love last night?" She asked.
"'Bout seven, I t'ink."
"Mmmm." She rolled onto her back, pulling him over on top of her. "How about we make it an even eight?"
He grinned. "Sounds good t' me." Already hard, he let her guide him into her and urge him on with words, something that, until last night, he couldn't remember her doing before.
Rogue opened bloodshot eyes to stare at the ceiling of the room she shared with Storm and Jean.
They're at it again. Ah cain't believe they're at it again. Ah'm gonna ask her what her secret is b'fore ah kill her.
Careful not to wake the other two women, she rose and went out into the living room of the two bedroom suite they'd rented. It was empty exvept for Bishop, who was already dressed and buttering himself some toast.
He nodded. "I was just about to make a fresh pot of coffee. Would you like to have some?"
"No, thanks. Ah'll just have th' dregs."
Bishop watched impassively as she poured the last of the coffee from the previous night into a cup, then added the contents of the filter and swigged down half in one gulp.
"Good?" Bishop asked.
"Oh, yeah, nothin' like old grounds in th' mornin'," she lied hoarsely before taking a mouthful and swishing it over her tongue to get the full effect of the flavour. She swallowed and almost brought the whole thing back up again. "Have ya got mah pills?"
He handed her two and she chewed them, shuddering, as she put down the coffee, stepped onto the balcony and did a swan dive over the railing.
"Rogue!" Bishop yelled, running over to the edge of the balcony after her.
Twenty stories below, Rogue pulled her head out of the crater she'd made in the parking lot. She wasn't even bruised, but she could feel the start of a massive headache coming on.
Ah should have thought o' this hours ago, she thought with a smile.
Lila opened her eyes in surprise as Remy abruptly rolled off of her, clutching his head.
"Are you all right?" She gasped.
"No! My head! Shit, it hurts!"
Hesitantly, she sat up. "Uh- do you want some aspirin?"
Lila ran to the bathroom and started digging through the medicine cabinet.
"And could you bring me some tic-tacs?" Remy called. "I got dis horrible taste in my mouth too."
Her head throbbing, Rogue flew back up to the balcony. Bishop was standing there, checking the expiry date on the pills. Rogue walked past him into the living room, where Logan had appeared wearing a kimono.
"Mornin', darlin'. Y' know you got chunks a pavement in your hair?"
"No, ah didn't. Thank you." She fished them out as Logan picked up her mug, looked at the contents and put it down again.
"I think I'll pass." He looked at her again. "You take your pills, girl?"
"An' th' gravol to keep 'em down?"
"Nope." She smiled sweetly at him and bolted for the bathroom, her hand over her mouth.
Professor Charles Xavier sat at his computer in his office, typing, until a faint hum attracted his attention. It grew louder and a shimmering appeared in the centre of the room, becoming clearer until a hologram of a woman appeared before him.
She was dressed in silver armour and holding a spear, her feathery hair covered by a helmet that left only her face and her pupiless white eyes bare.
"Charles, my love," she said, and Xavier felt his heart soar. She was Lilandra, Empress of the Sh'iar Empire and his lover, during those brief times when they could be together. Seeing her as a hologram beamed across the galaxy was far more common.
"Good evening, Lilandra," he said to her. "Is this a social call or is there something you need help with?"
Lilandra frowned delicately. "Charles, are you, by any chance, missing an X-Man?"
"Lila Cheney?!" Four voices said at once.
Jean nodded. "That's what Charles said. Lilandra saw her and Remy teleport into her throne room a week ago. She'd only seen Remy once before, so it took her this long to remember who he was."
"That must be why Cerebro couldn't find Remy. She was teleporting him around."
"Why would he stay with Lila?" Wolverine wondered.
Rogue shot an anxious look at Phoenix and Storm. She'd begged them not to say that Remy was sleeping with another women that he thought was her. Storm nodded back at her minutely and spoke.
"That does not matter. What does is that we now know where to look. We will go to Lila Cheney's beach house."
"An' ah'll pop her head off," Rogue put in eagerly.
"You will do no such thing."
Logan chuckled as they headed for the elevator.
"What's so funny?" Bishop asked.
"Just imaginin' the cat fight when Rogue gets hold o' Lila for movin' in on her boyfriend."
"That- could get messy."
"Especially for the Cajun, since he's the one caught in the middle."
"Headache all gone, not gonna puke on my persian rug anymore?"
"Y'know, I'm real sorry 'bout dat. It came outta nowhere."
"That's okay. Wanna make it up to me?"
"Then let's go dancing!"
The beach house was well lit, but when Storm rang the doorbell, no one answered.
"She isn't here, Ororo," Jean told her. "No one is."
"Damn!" Rogue swore, irritably putting her fist through the nearest wall. An alarm began to howl. "What do we do now?"
Logan snorted. "First we run like hell before the rent-a-cops catch us. Then we follow my nose. I just got a real good whiff of the Cajun."
"Yes! Logan, ah could kiss ya!"
Logan chuckled. "Maybe later, darlin'. For now, let's move."
The dance club they went to was the most popular in town, with a massive screen above the door that showed what happened inside and a huge line waiting out front. Lila's limo, however, pulled right up to the front door.
"Come on, Remy," she said excitedly. "Let's go inside before I have to sign autographs."
Remy looked up from examining the contents of the limo's wet bar. "Didn' know you were so popular."
She laughed. "Hey, everybody loves me."
"Well, I certainly do."
Lila swallowed a sudden lump in her throat as the limo door opened and they both climbed out to chants of "Lila! Lila!" Flashbulbs were going off everywhere. Bouncers barely held the crowd back.
Lila started towards the club, waving at the cheering throngs, then glanced back to see Remy still standing beside the limo.
"What are you doing?" she called.
"Lookin' for Lila."
Lila gaped at him for a moment, then laughed. "You silly." Grabbing his arm, she dragged him into the club.
The club was packed wall to wall with people. They stood three deep at the bar and the multileveled dance floor was covered. Deafened by the music and half blind from the strobe lights, Gambit grinned, loving every minute of it.
At his side, Rogue yelled something he couldn't quite make out and he squeezed her hand, eyes casting for a table they could use.
It'd been a good week. He was with the woman he loved, there was no sign of the X-Men and their 'cure', and he hadn't had a single episode.
Beast an' Bishop an' dem were wrong. I got dis all under control.
Rogue said something again and he looked down at her. Her hair was short and dark, but he saw it as waist length, curly and red, with a thick white stripe along the top. Her features became Rogue's in his mind's eye, as her voice transformed to reach his ears with a southern accent. To him, she was Rogue. No question.
Lila herself only helped to reinforce his delusion. By not talking about herself, she let him make up whatever he wanted about her, without contradiction.
Suddenly, Rogue let go of his hand and moved away with a widely grinning man who looked like he was the manager.
"Where are you going?" Remy yelled.
He thought she said "I've been asked to sing," but that made no sense, so he assumed he'd heard her wrong.
"Never been no fragile flower,The crowd cheered madly, dancing along as she sang her latest, a song she'd reworked for the nineties. Lila exhulted in their enjoyment, for nothing had ever made her feel so alive as standing on a stage and singing from her heart. Nothing until Remy, that is.
I always got too much to say
Never had much luck with love and romance
I guess it's always been that way..."
"But I've been seriously thinkingLila peered through the throngs, looking for Remy. She finally spotted him standing where she'd left him, not dancing, just looking around.
'Bout slipping on a velvet glove
I know it's strange but my luck's about to change
'Cos what we got here is true love, yeah, yeah..." @
Lila was singing on the stage, her voice exciting the crowd. Remy didn't join in their dances, looking around for any sign of Rogue. Lila sang, but he didn't pay any attention to her. Rogue wasn't a singer, so he didn't put her up there and searched for her in the crowd instead.
What is he looking at? Lila wondered as she launched into a second song, this one also a remake.
"...Well it was no fantasy the passion burned
You touched me the evening turned to midnight
I can't forget the naked trust
One quenchless night of shaking lust and fire..." %
They could hear Lila singing from the street, even without the huge screen which showed her above the door.
"Well, looks like we found Cheney at least," Logan muttered, looking at the huge line-up waiting to get in.
"Is Remy in there?" Storm asked, peering at the dancers on the screen without success.
Jean shook her head. "I can't be sure. There are too many people in there."
"Messes with my nose too," Logan admitted.
"Then we'll just havta go in an' take a look," Rogue decided and started forward.
"Rogue! Be discrete!" Storm called. Squaring her shoulders, Rogue walked right up to the door, Bishop at her heels. Whistles followed her until the big man's eyes narrowed.
The bouncer stepped between her and the door. "Sorry, miss, you'll have to go to the back of the line."
Rogue looked at the line. It was at least two blocks long. "Suh, you have got ta be kiddin'."
"No, I'm not."
She turned back to him, spine stiffened arrogantly. She supposed being demure would get her farther, but she just wasn't in the mood. Besides, she didn't do demure.
"Ah need ta go in," she explained to him as calmly as she could. "If it bothers ya, ah won't be but a minute. Ah just want ta collect mah boyfriend and have a few words with the slimy tart- uh, young lady who's with him."
He crossed his arms. "Wait in line."
Bishop spoke from behind her. "Fine. We'll wait." The words were spat out. Taking Rogue's arm, he led her back to the others.
Rogue let him. "Why did ya say that, Bish? Ah was ready ta take that guy apart."
"Storm ordered us to be subte."
Rogue frowned. "Ah can be subtle. Ah'll be subtle as all get-out, right upside Lila Cheney's head."
The music ended with a crescendo and Lila bowed. "Thank you! Thank you!" Handing her microphone to the guitarist, she hopped down to the sound of cheers and made her way through the crowd, the bouncers helping clear her way.
"Lila!" A local reporter she knew hurried up. "That was a wonderful performance. Do you have anything to say to your fans?"
Lila smiled. "Nope. Just that I'm in love." She saw a tall, long haired man before her and her step quickened. "Remy!" He turned and looked at her without recognition.
Gambit was starting to worry. There was no sign of Rogue in the crowd and it wasn't like her to leave. Still, she was probably just in the washroom and he knew from personal experience what the line-ups were like in those places.
The Cajun turned to see a woman coming towards him through the crowds that clamoured for her attention. They seemed to idolize her, which was wrong. It couldn't be Rogue. Her hair was black and short. It wasn't her. Remy started to turn away.
"My man!" The woman called, her voice teasing. "My honey-pot, my sugar-pie."
Sugar. Shugah. The word clicked and Remy grinned at his lover.
"Welcome back, chere. I was startin' t' miss you."
The woman he thought was Rogue threw her arms around his neck and kissed him there before everyone.
"Oh no," Jean breathed, staring at the screen.
Rogue turned, and looked.
"Remy..." she whispered.
Remy couldn't figure out why the crowds were cheering them on. Nor did he care. He kissed Rogue and ignored them.
Finally, Rogue pulled away and laid her head on his shoulder. "Wow. You make a girl want to spend the rest of her life with you."
Remy looked down at her, his voice softening, even as his heart began to pound. "Is dat a proposal?"
Her eyes were like stars. "Do you want it to be?"
She was so warm, so loving, so right. "Yeah, I do."
A massive crash interrupted her next words. Surprised, Remy looked up to see the whole front wall of the club caved in. People ran screaming as the dust settled to show a woman dressed in green.
"Cheney! Ah am gonna bust ya head!"
"Rogue? What are you talking about?"
"That's mah boyfriend y'all are playin' kissey-face with!"
Remy barely heard them. His grip on Lila loosened and his arms fell to his sides. It was Rogue in the ruined doorway. Her hair, her voice, her anger. And it was her at his side. It had to be.
"You're lying!" The Rogue at his side screamed.
"Bitch!" The second woman flew at the first, tackling her and carrying her into the air past him.
As if he was moving in slow motion, Gambit turned to see the two women fighting, if it could be called that. One of them was holding the other in midair by the neck, screaming at her even as she choked the life from her body.
"Rogue! Do not kill her! It is not Lila's fault!" Storm flew past him, followed by Wolverine, Bishop and Phoenix. They ignored him, focused on trying to get the two women apart.
Remy watched them, his mind struggling with the image of two Rogues, one strong, one weak. One the woman he'd made love to the previous night, the other appearing out of nowhere.
"Rogue!" The X-Men were yelling. "You're killing her!" None of them were strong enough to move her though.
"...remy..." the Rogue held in mid-air gasped. "...please... it's lila... help..."
It's Lila... It's Lila... Lila... Cheney, ah am gonna bust ya head!... Rogue! It is not Lila's fault... not Lila's... not Rogue's... not Rogue...
Remy's delusion shattered.
"No, no, no, no, no..." Gambit backed up, wanting to run, not being able to order his legs to, until he felt a pillar against his back. Then his knees gave way and he slid down to sit on the floor.
"Damn!" He heard Logan yell. "Gumbo's losing it!"
Rogue- he now knew it was Rogue- dropped Lila and ran to him. Falling to her knees before him, she cupped his face with her hands.
"Remy? Are ya all right, sugah?"
He looked at her. "I am so sorry," he whispered.
Her eyes filled with tears. "Ah know, sugah. Ah know."
Except for Lila, the trip back to the mansion aboard the Blackbird was uneventful.
"What do you mean, he doesn't know who I am?!"
Jean reached out to comfort the distraught singer, but Lila pulled away. Jean swallowed a sigh.
"Lila, Remy is ill... mentally ill." Lila turned pale. "He has trouble sometimes in how he perceives things. I'm afraid he really thought you were Rogue."
Lila shook her head. "That's impossible. We were together for a week. How could he not have realized who I was?" Her voice grew faint and she sat down.
Jean knelt. "Did you talk about yourself with him?
"No, I... kept the conversation neutral." She looked away. "I was afraid I'd scare him off." Her lip trembled. "It's true, isn't it? Oh, God, Jean. I loved him!" She cried in her arms.
Quietly, Storm came out of the cockpit and past the two. She sympathized with Lila. She knew what it was like to love someone and than discover he loved someone else.
She walked to the back of the plane, and swallowed a sense of deja vu as she came upon Remy. He was sitting curled up in his seat, arms around his drawn up knees and his face hidden. It was the same way Rogue had been when they returned from Israel, with Remy in a coma from her kiss. Now she sat beside him sadly.
"He won't talk ta me," Rogue told her.
Storm squeezed her shoulder. "Give him time. He has a lot to work through."
"Ah did tell him ah forgave him."
"Yes, but now he needs to forgive himself. That is much more difficult to do."
Rogue stuck her head into her's and Gambit's room to see Remy lying back against the headboard, shuffling a deck of cards. He looked up at her.
She came all the way into the room, closing the door behind her. "Are we still friends?" she asked.
He put the cards down. "Sure we are."
"Then why won't ya talk ta me anymore?"
The Cajun looked away, wincing slightly as his hair caught in the bulky inhibitor collar he wore. Back on the pills to stop his madness, he was also back in the collar to control the powers they messed up. Rogue knew how much he'd resisted wearing it before, and what it meant now that he hadn't even tried to take it off.
He shrugged. "I was jus' afraid of what you gonna say t' me."
Rogue bit her lip. She knew it wasn't his fault, that he'd been confused, but part of her screamed How could he have been so stupid?! Part of her wanted to throw him out on his ass.
She ignored that part. "Remy, ah won't say ya didn't hurt me, but ah still love ya. As much as ah evah did." She walked over to the bed and drew him to his feet to face her. "Ah don't care what ya did with Lila."
What he did with Lila. Remy stood only a foot away, looking so sad. So unlike himself, his shirt moving slowly as he breathed. Lila had removed that shirt from him, or one like it.
Almost analytically, Rogue unbuttoned Remy's shirt. He let her, not saying a word as she pulled it half off, so that his arms were trapped. Rogue looked at his chest. Lila had touched him here, and here. She followed the woman's pattern, tracing the lines of Remy's muscles and scars, combing the air on his chest, teasing his nipples. She didn't speak, just worked her away around to his back, then down onto her knees.
Lila had almost torn Remy's pants off. Rogue removed them more slowly, then continued her examination of his body, touching everywhere that Lila had been with fingers and mouth and leaving her scent, her kisses. Making him hers again.
Finally, she took off his underwear to see him fully erect, though his expression hadn't grown any less sorrowful. Most of all, Lila had been here, and Rogue could think of only one way to remove her memory from it.
Remy's arms were still pinned at his side by his shirt, but that was all right. He didn't need arms for what she wanted.
Afterwards, Rogue lay on the bed with Remy, both of them lying on their sides facing one another. Rogue stroked his cheek.
"Y'all are mine," she whispered, testing the words.
Filled as she was with the joy of their lovemaking, Remy seemed to glow to her. "Oui."
"Ah am nevah goin' ta share you with another woman again."
"No, you won'. I swear it."
She smiled softly, still stroking his cheek. He needed to shave. "Y'all are mah best friend. Mah lover..."
Her hand froze. "Ah... thought ya were still married ta Belle."
He shrugged slightly. "In de guild, yes, but not by American law, I don' t'ink. I have t' check dat." He shook his head. "Will you marry me?"
"Yes," she whispered, a trembling smile on her face. "Ah will marry you."
For the first time since San Diego, he smiled back.
"That sounds like a rough week." Cyclops squeezed his wife's hand. "I should have been there for you."
Jean smiled gently. "That's all right. We would have needed you to be there for Remy more than me."
He looked down. "I suppose. Does anyone know what happens next?"
"That's up to Gambit."
Scott shook his head in disbelief. "Even after everything that happened, you still think it's his choice."
Jean's eyes narrowed in annoyance. "It's his life, Scott, and ultimately, he's the one he hurt the most."
"Not true, Jean." They both looked up to see Gambit enter the room. He looked tired, his face haggard and his eyes aged. "I hurt myself, I hurt Lila, an' most of all, I hurt Rogue. Can' forgive m'self for dat."
"What are you saying, Remy?"
He took a deep breath. "I'm saying, I want you t' do it."
"Okay, Remy. I want you to breathe normally and count backwards from ten."
"Ten, nine... e-eight... s-s-sev..."
Beast checked Gambit's pulse, waited a moment, then nodded in professional satisfaction. "All right, he's under. Jean, if you would do the honours?"
Rogue watched worridly as Jean stepped up to the table. She and Bishop were in the operating theatre of the mansion as moral support for Remy and because they both threatened to force their way in if they weren't invited. Jean was going to perform the operation, with Professor Xavier as backup. Meanwhile, Beast would monitor Remy with the theatre's extensive medical equipment. He wasn't taking any chances with the Cajun's health.
Jean stood at the head of the table Remy lay on and gently placed her palms on his temples. She closed her eyes and bowed her head, concentrating.
Nothing seemed to happen for several minutes, then Jean grimaced. "He's fighting me. I can't get by the mental barriers his subconscious has put up."
Bishop crossed his arms. "Can't you break them down?"
She shook her head. "I could. But the whole point of drugging him was to relax him enough that we could move around without meeting any resistance. If I start going about breaking things, I could damage something I'm not supposed to."
Xavier looked at Hank. "Can you increase the amount of drugs you're giving him?"
"I'd really rather not. Mutant physiology is so variable that sedating them properly is a chancy thing at best. He's already a lot deeper than I'd really like."
"Then let me try."
Rogue watched even more worridly as Xavier took Jean's place. She wanted Remy to have this operation. She'd wanted it ever since she learned of it, more since Lila. If the procedure couldn't be done, then she didn't know what they'd do. The thought of Remy wearing a Genoshan collar for the rest of his life made her want to shudder. Or worse- to use real surgery and physically cut out the part of Remy's brain that gave him his powers.
Yet, what was the alternative? To always look into Remy's eyes and see him wondering if he was making love to her or a stranger. To have to watch him every second. To bury him young because he thought he was safe when he wasn't.
Rogue blinked away tears and reached out to take Bishop's hand. He looked at her in surprise.
"Was Remy happy?" She asked him.
"In your time. Was he happy? Did he learn ta live with his condition?"
He shook his head. "He hated it. He was a bitter old man who lived a very long time. He was still alive when I left, but he was never really happy."
Rogue bowed her head. "A lifetime o' madness. All 'cause o' a busted body he never would have needed if it hadn't been for me. Ah owe him for that."
Xavier looked up. "I can't get in either. It doesn't matter whether he agreed or not. He does not want anyone in his mind." He stroked the sleeping Cajun's cheek. "I'm sorry, Gambit. I'm going to have to take the chance of breaking your barriers."
"No. Ah wanta try first."
Everyone looked at Rogue.
"You're not a telepath, Rogue," Xavier pointed out.
"So? With mah power, ah can be anythin'."
He shook his head. "No, the process is far too complex."
"Complex, mah ass!" She faced him angrily, fists on her hips. "Ah have done everythin' from takin' down Nimrod with a half dozen diff'rent X-Men's powers ta using sorcery ta open a door ta hell! Ah know complex. Now, Remy may not trust either one o' you, but ah'll bet anythin' he'll let me inta his mind. We are a Gestalt after all. That means ah belong in there."
Jean laughed. "She's got a point, Charles. And besides, it's better than our forcing our way in." She walked up to Rogue. "I'm willing to loan you my powers, if you want."
Xavier sighed. "I can't say as I approve of this, but if Jean is willing, I won't stop her. Don't forget, Rogue. I'll be monitoring you at every stage."
"Gotcha, Professor." Rogue followed Jean over to a second table, stripping off one of her gloves as she did so.
She had to admit that this terrified her. Her powers had always been her greatest curse. Every time she touched someone, she would be inundated, if not overwhelmed, by their memories. Keeping track of herself was always a fight, and she sometimes wondered if she was still the woman she had been when the effects wore off. The last time she used her powers, it'd been when she kissed Remy, and he never woke up. She'd sworn never to use them again. Then again, she'd also sworn to do anything to help Remy as well.
Jean lay down on the table and held her hand out. "I'm ready when you are." If she was afraid, she didn't show it.
Rogue swallowed and took her hand.
Immediately, she was aware of every mind in the mansion. Bishop, like a fortress, yet with concern leaking out everywhere. Beast's analytical mind going in a dozen different directions at once. Farther away, she could feel Logan's banked rage as he meditated in his room, trying to find his Chi. Storm tended her plants, talking to them, her mind a serene mountain, one Rogue couldn't see all the heights and depths too. Meanwhile, Iceman lusted silently after a grieving Lila.
This is neat, Rogue thought, no longer afraid. Kinda like when Remy an' ah shared mah body.
Almost instinctively, her mind reached out to her beloved Scott, and the psychic link they shared. Mah beloved...? Whoo, ah think that's Jean talkin'.
Suddenly, Scott was in her mind, and she could see through his eyes as he worked on the Blackbird.
#What th-?! Rogue? Where's Jean?#
#Right here. Ah borrowed her powers so ah could work on Remy.#
His mental voice sounded confused. #I thought Jean was going to do that.#
#Nah. Mah boy seems ta be real particular 'bout who he lets play with his gray matter.#
She felt another presence touch her mind. #Hurry up, Rogue,# Xavier warned. #We don't have much time.#
#Whoops! Clock's tickin'. Sorry, Scott. Ah only got a few minutes 'fore Jean wakes up.#
She moved back to her body and shook her head to reorient herself. Jean lay unconscious on the table, Beast checking her lifesigns. He didn't look worried, so she walked over to Remy.
With Jean's telepathy, she could see hom on two levels. Physically, he slept, unmoving. Astrally, he rocked back and forth, like a piece of driftwood caught in a gentle ocean tide.
Standing above Remy, Rogue leaned down to kiss his forehead, listening to him breathe. Then she delicately slipped into his mind, the Professor right behind her, giving advice she didn't need.
She ran into the block right away, a wall that surrounded his entire central psyche. With Jean's knowledge, she could see how to break it down, but she wasn't here for that. Gently, she knocked on the wall in his mind. It felt solid.
#Remy, it's me, sugah. Let me in.#
She pushed on the wall again, and this time it gave a little, like a tarp that'd been stretched tight.
Carefully, Rogue pushed her way into Gambit's mind. The block turned almost viscous around her, then snapped tight again behind her, locking the Professor out.
Rogue looked around Remy's mind. Drugged into a sleep too deep for dreams, there wasn't much coherence to his thoughts. Still, there was a part to him that was awake, that had put up the wall, and she felt it greet her.
Rogue smiled. #Hi, sugah.# The awareness was small, kind of a watchdog that everyone had running around in their minds unless dead or completely innocent, and it loved her. She could feel the love, filling her. It was nice.
Ah could stay here all day, she thought. But ah got work ta do.
Leaving the watchdog to prowl around the perimeter and keep the Professor from following her, she went deeper into Remy's mind.
She found the problem almost immediately. Near the center was an area that was broken, appearing astrally as a pit that turned everything in it into garbage. It was chaos, an open wound that'd become infected and couldn't heal. Close to his core psyche as it was, occasional perceptions would fall in and come out hopelessly distorted. All the pills did was create a temporary bridge over the hole. They did nothing to actually solve the problem.
Well, ah better get ta work. She started to clean out the pit, dredging it of the chaos with her telepathy and breaking down the skewed perceptions into harmless bits that would do nothing more than cause Remy to have a few odd dreams. Kinda like an astral root canal, she thought with a giggle.
When she was done, however, she looked down at the cleaned out pit uncertainly. What was to stop it from filling up again? She had no idea, which meant she was either losing her telepathy, or Jean herself didn't know.
Ah gotta fill it with somethin' else that ain't all nutso.
Impulsively, she reached into her own mind and copied something- she wasn't sure what; she was definately losing her telepathy now- and used it to patch the hole. She'd just sealed it all in when she felt Jean wake and was pulled back into her own body again.
Quietly, Rogue slipped out of the bedroom and shut the door. Remy was inside, sleeping off the last of the sedatives.
Smiling to herself at the thought of her upcoming wedding, Rogue turned to go, and her smile vanished.
"How's he doing?" Lila asked softly.
"Sleeping. What do you want?"
"I want to see him."
Lila's face hardened. "What are you afraid of? That I'll teleport him to Sh'iar?"
Rogue crossed her arms. "You could."
"And the instant he woke up, he'd come back to you." Lila jerked her head away, glaring at the wall as she swallowed heavily. "If you must know, I'm leaving. There certainly isn't any reason for me to stay. And I wanted to say goodbye." Her voice cracked on the last word.
Rogue looked down, a little ashamed. She was angry at Lila for sleeping with Remy, but in her heart she knew that if she blamed her, she'd have to blame him too, and that she couldn't do. Besides, she could guess what Lila was going through. She knew how she'd feel if the situation were reversed.
"Ahl right," she relented, then shook a finger at her. "But if ya wake him, ah'll send ya ta Sh'iar th' hard way!"
Lila nodded shortly and walked to the door as Rogue headed down the hall.
Rogue looked back. "Yeah?"
"You're a very lucky woman."
Rogue watched her go into the bedroom. "Don't ah know it, sugah."
Quietly, Lila padded across the darkened room, listening to the soft breathing of the sleeping Cajun. The window was open and with the cool breeze came music from one of the other rooms. Kneeling beside the bed, she waited for her eyes to adjust.
Once they did, she just knelt there and watched him sleep, wanting to lie in the bed beside him, knowing she never would again. It hurt, more than anything she ever thought could.
Oh, Remy, she thought. Why couldn't I have met you first?
The worst thing was, she had. When she took him and the other X-Men to Sh'iar, Rogue had been away from the team. Remy didn't even know she existed. But with all the chaos happening, she didn't even talk to him.
"Biggest mistake of my life," she whispered. "I'm sure paying for it now."
At the sound of her voice, Remy stirred and his eyes opened, looking up at her blearily.
Lila hesitated. She could say yes, and be the woman he wanted her to be, if only for a moment. The temptation was there, but she couldn't pretend. Not to him.
"No, it's Lila."
"Oh." Dizzily, he forced himself into a sitting position, putting a hand to his forehead. "I feel jus' wiped."
"I'm not surprised. I- I guess I better let you get some more sleep." Biting her lip at all the things she wanted to say, she stood to go. The music from the window was depressingly upbeat.
Clumsily, Remy grabbed her arm. "Lila, stay a while." She sank willingly down to sit on the side of the bed. Gambit sighed. "I owe you an apol'gy, chere."
Lila swallowed. "No, you don't. It wasn't your fault."
He shook his head, trying to clear the fog from his mind. "Dat's what ev'ryone say, but I respons'ble for m' own actions. I jus' never t'ought I could end up hurtin' others."
She restricted herself to patting his hand, since she was afraid if she held it, she'd never let go. "I forgive you."
He smiled and bit down a sudden yawn. "T'ank you. An' I am sorry from de bottom of m' heart." He sighed again. "I'd ask dat we be friends, but I guess dat ain't ver' realistic, neh?"
"I guess not," she choked, trying to surpress her sobs.
"Lila?" The Cajun's hand touched her shoulder. "Aw, chere, don't..." He pulled her into his arms.
Lila laid her head on his bare chest and cried softly while he rocked her back and forth. From outside, a new song was playing, one which was oddly appropriate.
Song, instead of a kiss
Baby this is a song instead of a kiss
For all of you who ache, who long
For nights like this.
Song, instead of a touch
Darlin' this is a song instead of a touch
To all of you who wait so long
And need so much.
It is for those who like to cling
It is for those, to those I sing
Here is a song instead of a clutch
Instead of a moon
Instead of a soothing touch
In the afternoon. **
@ "True Love" written by Pat Benetar.
% "I Want You" written by Melissa Etheridge.
** "Song instead of a touch" written by Alannah Myles. Personally, I always thought this one could be the Gambit/Rogue theme song. :)
(So I can't write my own songs. I tried, they stank. Sue me. :)