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Two days after Christmas, Jean judged that Remy and Scott had been given enough time to argue about what had happened (or not happened) if that was their inclination. Instead, a strange kind of camaraderie had been developed between the two men - Scott would tease Remy out of his room, and the Cajun would respond in kind in front of the other X-Men. No one except Rogue and Warren seemed to think that this was anything to be worried about; even Logan just watched the by-play with a slight smirk, as if waiting for the next development.

Unfortunately for Logan's curiosity, there wasn't going to be a next development, as near as Jean could figure out. Scott had taken her to one side late Christmas afternoon and confessed, very guiltily, to having kissed Remy while 'under the influence'. Jean, had, naturally, forgiven him, making her own confession of having kissed Logan under the mistletoe and enjoyed it a little too much. She, too, was forgiven.

So, in Scott's eyes, the matter was settled. He'd obviously established some kind of bond with Gambit - however tenuous and weak it may have been. As long as he could convince the Cajun to spend a little more time with the rest of the X-Men, it was enough for him.

It wasn't enough for Jean.

{{It's not like Remy to be that silent,}} she thought, watching him worriedly at breakfast. Most of the X-Men had turned up that morning, with the notable exception of Gambit. Scott's face had taken on that 'I will sort this out once and for all' look, and he'd marched upstairs. Ten minutes later, Gambit had followed sullenly, sniping at Scott and being harangued right back. The X-Men had continued to watch, open-mouthed, as the two men sat next to each other at the table and proceeded to bicker amicably over the orange juice. Scott Summers did not bicker. He commented in a morally correct tone of voice, or he pointed things out and frowned a lot. He didn't bicker.

An irritable Remy, of course, was enough to drive anyone to distraction. Scott had bickered. Remy had bickered. And it had been interesting few minutes for the rest of the X-Men.

Then Scott had finished, and gone for his morning run, while Remy still sat at the table. In the space of a few short minutes, his whole mood had changed, and he now slouched, silent and miserable, taking tiny bites out of a slice of toast.

{{Come on, honey, say something,}} Jean urged silently, her brow creasing into a frown. She couldn't even say it to him directly because of his mind shields, and Scott's had been unusually tight recently too. She could only suppose that both men still harboured some inappropriate thoughts about each other, and had no desire to let every telepath in the house know about them.

Still....

"Remy, would you like another glass of orange juice? Some toast?" {{Some roast beef and baked potatoes and three deserts?}} He still looked thin enough to snap in half, despite the heavy polo neck he wore.

"Non... I'm fine, chere." He smiled insincerely. "Really. I'm full." He patted his stomach to prove it.

Warren, who'd stopped over for breakfast and a quick chat with Bobby, looked at him with disgust. "Eat the food, LeBeau, you're wasting away."

Remy's eyes flashed. "Ah, wings, Remy didn' know you cared! I feel loved..." He smiled slyly.

Jean interposed before Warren could answer him. "Remy... Warren's right. Please eat something more."

"But - Gambit already eat! Twice! An' I have a large meal last night. C'est trop beaucoup!" He shook his head quickly, dark hair flying. "Non."

{{If you eat that much, why are you still so thin?}} He seemed to be getting thinner, too. He'd always had sharp cheekbones, but now Jean fancied she could see sharp hollows under them as well, without Remy even having to suck his cheeks in. The skin around his eyes was also stretched tight, a subtle sign of discomfort she'd noticed in him before. And if his wrist bones were anything to go by, the rest of him wasn't much fuller. "Well..... if you get hungry again, don't hesitate to get something, okay?"

Gambit smiled lopsidedly, then pushed his plate away. "Oui, mamma."

She rolled her eyes as he stood and took his plate and glass into the kitchen, then disappeared back up to his room. {{Would it kill you to spend a little time with us, Remy?}} She thought, as loudly as she could, at his retreating back. He made no answer.

{{Damn.}} Evidently, unless Scott went back up to his room and dragged him bodily out, the Cajun intended to spend most of his day up there.

"It's not healthy, him staying up there all on his own," Jubilee interposed.

Jean looked at her quickly and smiled, tired. "I know. But we can't make him stay down here....."

"Scott could," Jubilee answered, then picked up her plate too. "I'm done. Thanks Jean, that was great."

{{Yeah. Scott could. But I'm not Scott, am I?}}

*

{{Scott, honey....}} Jean smiled sweetly at her husband as she snatched his newspaper away and seated herself coyly in his lap.

He opened his legs obligingly to let her get settled against him and nipped at her ear. "What do you want, darling?"

{{Why do I have to want anything? Can't I show affection without an ulterior motive?}} She trailed a finger down his next, stopping at the zip of his thin jacket.

"Uhuh... what do you want? And, more importantly, how much will it cost?" He caught her hand and raised it to his lips.

Jean shook her head and laughed. {{I should be taking offence at this terrible stereotype...}}

"But..?" He prompted.

{{But....}} She sighed. {{I don't want anything bought. Honestly. I just....}}

{{What?}}

{{I'm worried about Remy.}}

Scott dropped her hand. {{Really?}} He managed to make his mindvoice sound quite disinterested, but Jean caught the undercurrent of worry that coloured his thoughts.

She stroked a hand across his cheek. {{Yes. He's been so withdrawn lately... and so thin! And he hardly ever spends time down in the living room with us....}}

Scott frowned and leaned back, shifting slightly under her. {{Can you blame him? Either Warren or Rogue are always there. It doesn't surprise me that he'd rather be in his room.}} His face was tight with distaste; Jean wasn't sure whether it was directed at Rogue, Warren, Remy's predicament or the world in general.

{{Okay. Granted. But... well, you seemed to talk well with him before. Can't you persuade him to spend a little more time with us?}}

Scott looked at her in surprise. "But - he is spending more time with us," he said aloud, clearly startled and troubled. {{D'you really think he's getting worse?}} He bit his lip. {{I'd thought that, well, after Christmas.... and, you know...}} He flushed slightly at the reference to his 'indiscretion'. {{I'd thought that he was making more of an effort to be sociable.}}

Jean shook her head again. "Only when you convince him to - and when you're there with him. After you leave, he disappears as well. It's not... healthy." She curled herself tighter around him, tangling a hand in his hair and tilting her head up for a kiss.

He responded absent-mindedly, still frowning over this new revelation. {{Dependency never is.}} The concept of Gambit, the loner, the one could always land on his feet, being dependant on anyone was repugnant to him. His face tightened in distaste.

*

"Remy...?" Scott knocked on the door and went in anyway. There was no answer, but the shower was running. Sitting down on the bed, he waited until it stopped and a figure wrapped in a thick white towel emerged. "Hey."

"Bon matin. Que faites-vous ici?" Not bothering to look at him, Remy grabbed another towel and got to work, blotting the worst of the wetness from his hair.

"That's not very friendly." And they were back to 'vous', instead of 'tu', again. Great.
Remy made no reply.

Scott sighed. "You weren't seen much this morning, Jean tells me."

"Et - que? Remy have thin's to do, homme." He tossed the towel over towards the wash basket, and hunted around for some clothes.

"You were washing your hair?" Sarcasm was thick in Scott's voice; he willed his arms to stay unfolded. "That's really old, Remy."

"You what dey say.... de old ones are still de oldest." He discovered a pair of washed-out jeans and threw them on the bed, pulling off the towel around his waist and starting to dry himself.

Scott averted his eyes deliberately. {{Gee, thanks ever so much. Wander around naked in front of me, why don't you.}} Remy seemed inclined to do just that; Scott had a feeling that if the Cajun wasn't still suffering from the cold, he'd be quite happy to hold this entire conversation in the nude. As it was, he still took his time in pulling his jeans on. Scott noted with a sinking feeling that Gambit obviously wasn't a believer in underwear. {{Great. Now I'll be thinking about that every time I look at him.... thank God we're not doing any training today!}} His uniform wasn't exactly designed for concealment; frankly, he was amazed that he'd managed to go this long without totally humiliating himself.

"You don' have to look away, Cyke, I'm not gonna jump you," Remy said sourly as he grabbed a brown leather thong from the night stand and tied it deftly around his neck.

Scott blinked at him. He hadn't realised that the Cajun wore any jewellery apart from his earring; that said, however, he had never really been that interested. Still.... the plain brown leather looked good against him, giving him the illusion of fuller neck muscles - something he obviously needed in his current state. "It wasn't you jumping me I was worried about," he answered truthfully, and had the gratification of seeing Remy redden a bit and quickly pull his jumper on. "You gonna be warm enough in that?"

"Can you stop interferin', Cyke? I t'ought we already had dis conversation....." He scowled and leaned back against the dresser.

"I wasn't being sarcastic. You were wearing more before." Scott refused to frown, curtailing his natural biting response with more strength of will than he was aware he possessed. "And why are you in such a bad mood?"

Remy ran a hand through his wet hair and stared tiredly at him. "Je suis desole, mon ami.... oui, it is a bad mood. It will pass." His face was lined with pain.

Making his way to the dresser, Scott reached out a hand cautiously, almost laying it against Remy's forearm. "What's wrong, Remy? What happened at breakfast? Jean said you weren't eating...."

"I did eat!" Gambit insisted hotly, moving away. "I ate, an' I ate, and I do not need to be monitored like some scared l'il chile, homme! I'm not your 'project'!" His face twisted with scorn at the last word.

Scott took an involuntary step back, his face tightening. {{Goddamn it.}} "I never thought you were. I thought we'd come to an understanding. That we wouldn't go back to the way we were before." His voice was very soft, very quiet, and very disappointed. "I guess I was wrong."

He stood and left without another word. Remy stared at the closed door with an unreadable expression on his face. "LeBeau, you're an idiot," he said to no one in particular.

*

{{How did it go?}} Jean asked from somewhere in the mansion.

Scott strained to locate her. Ah, yes. Their bedroom. Of course. {{Badly,}} he said. {{He doesn't want to talk to me, now, either.}}

{{Do you think that this is a delayed reaction to you two.... you know.}} It was as near was Jean was ever going to get to actually saying it.

Scott smiled wryly as he headed down the stairs. {{I doubt that it would bother Remy who he 'you know's with. I think he's angry at us butting into his life.}}

{{But he didn't object to you doing that before...}}

{{True. But we were both drunk at the time, and it was just me doing the butting in. Now, I think, he feels that the entire house is watching him. I don't blame him for being skittish - and he never was the type to be open about anything.}} He got himself a beer out of the fridge and headed back up to his room.

{{Are you going to try talking to him again?}}

{{If he really doesn't want to talk to me, I can't really do much. He thinks he's my 'project'.}} Even the mental word left a bad taste in his mouth.

{{'Project'?}} Jean sounded incredulous. {{As in, papier mache?}}

{{No, as in 'social reject charity case'. He thinks I'm taking pity on him and trying to integrate him into the X-Men out of my own twisted sense of honour, rather than because I like him enough to do it anyway.}} He snorted and took a gulp from his beer can.

{{Er....}} Jean sounded unsure.

{{What?}}

{{Um... don't take this the wrong way... but aren't you? Doing it because you think you ought, I mean?}} She sent a wave of rueful amusement along their link. {{That's the nicest feeling I can get out of you when it comes to Remy. Even if he wasn't empathic - and I think he has the potential to be, if not the strength - I don't doubt that he picks up on the 'vibes' you put out. I think that even those that are mind-blind would pick them up.}}

{{I put out bad vibes?}} He sent, sounding almost affronted. He opened the door and let himself inside.

Jean sat in front of the dresser, painting her nails a brilliant shade of blue. She turned and smiled a little sadly at him. {{You keep thinking 'stay away' thoughts.}}

{{Damnit.}} "No wonder he's confused." He dropped a kiss on her forehead, then let himself fall backwards on the bed. "Christ. I don't know what I think anymore."

"But is he right? Are you just doing this because you think it's the right thing to do?"

"Isn't it enough of a reason?" Should have been. Could have been. {{To anyone else....}}

She arched an eyebrow. "Not to Remy," she replied to his thought. "If you'd ordered him to a certain death, he wouldn't have held it against you as a black mark. Rogue not only did what she thought was right - she also did what she wanted to do, in a fit of fury and anger and betrayal. That is why he can't forgive her, and that is why she can't forgive him either. If he's carrying all those emotions around with him all the time, what makes you think you can reach him by doing what you think is your 'duty'?"

He groaned. "Jean..... I'm his Team Leader...."

"He gets guidance from 'Ro," she told him bluntly. "He also gets comfort. Why can't you offer the same?" She was tempted to send along an image of what she would have considered proper 'comforting', but wasn't entirely sure how Scott would react. Although not precisely seeming to regret what had happened over Christmas dinner, Scott had also made it clear that it would never happen again. If it was the only way to get close to Remy, however, why would Scott be so adverse to it?

"Because it feels strange, that's why!" He glared at her, exasperated. He'd caught the tail-end of her thought, and was trying not to flush with embarrassment and frustration. "He won't let me get close! Every time I do something - anything! - he questions my motives. It's..... infuriating. It's like, nothing I do is ever good enough." He stared at the ceiling.

Jean nodded simply. "Precisely. Now you know how he feels whenever you're around."

Scott looked at her sharply.

*
They'd talked that night, mind to mind, after they made love. Holding each other in the afterglow as they'd done so many times before, they talked about the team, and their hopes and frustrations. But, still, both of their minds came back to that one thought - Remy LeBeau was in trouble. Whatever was wrong with him psychologically would not simply 'fix' itself, and it was doubtful that ignoring it would make it all go away.

How does one go about helping a wild animal, though? Gambit was as dangerous as - if not more so than - a wild creature, injured and furious. He didn't entirely trust the X-Men anymore, if he had trusted them in the first place.

Further, the 'Christmas dinner incident', as Scott had inadvertently referred to it (much to the amusement of Jean, who had commented that it sounded a step away from Watergate), had probably not helped matters much. {{Did I scare him off?}}

{{No, dear,}} Jean had intoned solemnly. {{I think that perhaps leering at him while he was getting dressed might have scared him off. But I could talk to him.... tell him you didn't mean it and you just want to kiss and make up.}}

A suspicious look. {{If I didn't know any better, I'd say that you were playing matchmaker.... and I do know better, being married to you, so...}}

{{Scott.... I love you. I want you to be happy.}} She'd paused and ran a finger coyly down his bare chest. {{Love me back?}}

{{Always,}} he'd answered instantly, without a moment's hesitation.

It had been enough for Jean. {{Then, whatever happens, we have nothing to worry about.}} She'd leaned over and kissed Scott on the cheek.

It's little things like that, that make a man's palms begin to sweat in terror.

*

The next morning, Jean knocked on Remy's door. "Remy? It's Jean. Can I come in?"

"Sure, chere. De door's open." His voice sounded muffled.

Jean pushed open the door, and was immediately hit by a blast of cold air. "Remy! What are you doing?!"

He sat cross-legged on the floor, wearing heavy jeans, large boots, a thick jumper and a scarf. His hands were just about the only things not covered, and they were glowing around the pack of cards he held. Ice dripped from his fingertips.

Remy looked up at her and smiled eerily. "D'you like it, p'tite? I got tired o' making t'ings explode... figured dey could be real still, too."

She sat down opposite him gingerly, wincing as the cold seeped through her uniform. "Is that what you're doing? Stilling the molecules?"

"Oui. It drops the temperature.... I didn' t'ink I could do it. It didn' even occur to me." He sounded a little wistful.

No doubt, he was wondering if he would have been able to use this new-found power in Antarctica to protect himself a little better. Jean found herself wondering that too. This Gambit was... different from the man she'd known for so many years. Harder, leaner. Stronger, too, although she wasn't sure where the strength came from. Obviously, his powers had faltered, and obviously he wasn't back up to full physical strength yet. So where did this aura of complete self-confidence come from?

Gambit's eyes sparkled. "Tell Scott - t'anks for de help. Tell him... I feel better now. Much better."

{{Ah.}} Talk about stubborn! It looked like Remy was going to have to be dragged kicking and screaming into this as well... although perhaps in not quite the same manner as Scott had been. She blushed at the thought and instantly recomposed her face before Remy could see the slight reddening there. Come to think of it, Scott hadn't needed that much persuading....

But first things first. She reached out and closed her hands around the freezing deck of cards deliberately, wincing at the cold.

Gambit gave her a startled look and immediately warmed them up again. "What you do dat for, chere?"

"Because I need to talk to you, and I don't want you hiding behind cheap little tricks." She ignored the narrowing of his eyes. "I need to ask you some questions."

"So ask. I can' promise to answer, t'ough...." He pulled his hands away and folded his arms across his chest. It only served to make his face and frame look even thinner, swathed as it was in what must have been at least four layers of clothing.

She nodded. "Fair enough. I just need you to listen. First off, I want to know what happened between you and my husband over Christmas dinner."

His eyes grew wary. "Not'ing chere. Not'ing."

"Don't lie to me, Remy. What happened?"

He shrugged. "He didn' cheat on you, if dat's what y' worried 'bout. He's a good homme."

Jean shook her head impatiently. "Not that. I know about that, he told me. I meant about..." She hesitated. "Can I project? I promise not to go into your mind."

After an initial moment's hesitation, he nodded, and waited. Images, random thoughts, memories and shards of half-coherent ramblings filled his mind from outside - someone else's nonsensical thoughts. He patiently waited for her to shift through the garbage and send him a few selected thoughts - actually, a few selected feelings. Scott, over Christmas dinner, having a really good time. And now, Scott, up in their room, feeling confused and rather miserable. All because of him. Because, suddenly, Scott cared what Remy thought of him, and was upset that he was held that low in the Cajun's mind.

{{He's ashamed of the way he treated you before, Remy,}} Jean assured him. {{He can't say it aloud yet, but he thinks it loudly whenever I bring your name up. I feel this regret from him....}}

{{Not'ing to regret,}} Remy contributed after a moment. He felt Jean's surprise at his mental response, her thoughts turning a creamy gold in pleasure. {{He don' owe me not'ing. It's even de ot'er way 'round.}}

{{Scott doesn't think so. He's pretty upset that you don't believe his good intentions - that you don't trust him. I told him that it would do him good to be on the other side of the fence for a while.}}

Gambit smothered a mental chuckle. {{An' what did de homme say?}}

She shrugged. {{He said to ask you out for dinner. He doesn't much like waiting.}} She smiled. That was a complete fabrication, but... well, a little white lie could be told for a good cause, right? And Scott hadn't precisely objected....

Besides, it would do Remy some good to spend some time with friends. And eat a little more.

Gambit's face hardened. {{I don' need to be looked after, Jean. An' I don' need pity.}}

She frowned and got to her feet. "It's not pity. And we don't want to look after you - we have children of our own, you know. They may be grown up, but they still demand guidance." Actually, they didn't, but it sounded better that way. She only hoped that Nathan wouldn't somehow learn of this... "We," she emphasised it ever so slightly, "do not need to 'look after' anyone else." She shrugged. "We would, however, like to go out with a friend for dinner. We don't get to go out to dinner that often, much less with friends. And my husband assures me that we might have something in common."

Gambit continued to stare at her with his mouth hanging slightly open. "Dinner?" He asked faintly. "Common?"

"Yes. We can gossip about his kissing technique," Jean said, all innocence. Mentally, she added - and hoped that he'd hear - {{and we both like his ass. It's a good ass to like...}} "We'll pick you up at seven this evening, okay?" She finished perkily, not even waiting for his reply. She left him sputtering and quickly closed the door behind her, leaning against the corridor wall and laughing herself out.

{{Jean!}} She heard Scott groan through the mind link. {{That was not nice!}}

{{True, though,}} she called back cheerfully, and set off for the living room.

{{I didn't realise that you got all that from my 'confession'.}}

{{I have my sources,}} she assured him solemnly. {{Now he's going to want to come to dinner to find out what you've been saying to me about him...}}

{{Er... are you sure you're ready for that?}} There was the slightest hint of fear in Scott's voice. This wasn't exactly familiar ground when it came to either one of them. Despite their talk that night, they were both feeling their way. Loyalty was such a tricky subject for them both... and neither wanted to lose Remy as a friend over this.

Jean shrugged. {{I'm not mad, if that's what you mean. This isn't an elaborate revenge scheme. I want to know him better too.}} She could feel her husband flush. {{Scott....}}

{{What?}} He still sounded wary. Probably wondering just what she had meant by trying to bond with Remy over Scott's ass, of all things.

{{I'm not mad!}} She smiled slyly. {{So you find another guy attractive. You're married; I trust you. We'll work things out.}} And if they could have a little fun along the way, so much the better.

{{You make it sound like Remy and I have been having a torrid affair for the last three years,}} Scott said ruefully.

She laughed. {{I will kill you then. But this - this is just dinner.}} She grinned, a touch exasperated. {{Don't stress! It's not like it's a date or anything....}}

*
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