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And Back Again

Logan watched in amusement as Remy curled up in the middle of the bed next to Jean. You could never say that the boy ain't a cuddler, he thought. Jean smiled sleepily at the Canadian and wrapped her arms around their lover. Scott leaned against the doorframe. He jerked his head in a "come here" motion. Logan dutifully followed him down the stairs. He groaned when they reached the kitchen.

"Slave driver," he grumbled. He noted that the table was set up and the wallpaper was pre-cut. "Do we gotta do this now?"

"Yes. I'm sick and tired of looking at the wall. Hell, I've already filled in the cracks and shit. All we have to do is stick it up there and make sure the pattern matches. Simple."

"Then why don't ya do it yerself?"

"Because I can't tell if there's a color difference in those flowers. That means you get to take care of that."

"Wait 'til the Cajun wakes up."

"He has business to take care of in town."

Logan's eyes narrowed. "He ain't goin' to see the Kingpin?"

"No, just Belle. I don't know maybe he's going to make sure that Alice likes the place he's planning to set her up in for the moment. The police are crawling over Cherry's apartment."

"Oh?"

"Yeah. Some, and I'm using Alice's word's here, stalker-freak-asshole fucking killed a man in Cherry's place."

"Yer shittin' me? Never rains but it pours, I guess. Yer sure the kid ain't involved in anythin' we should be worryin' about?"

"No. Well, probably, but I don't think it's actually a problem we can keep him out of."

"Oh?"

"Rogue's coming back."

"Fuck."

"That was my reaction. But it does save time and energy that would have been used to track her down."

"You were gonna track her?"

"Yeah. Bobby said she was hearing voices. That means she's having trouble with Carol again."

"Maybe she's havin' trouble with the Cajun. Seems to me havin' him in yer head'd be about as troublesome as havin' him in yer room." Scott snorted.

"He's not that hard to handle, but I wouldn't want to have him in my head for any length of time. He has nightmares."

"So do you."

"Yeah, well." Scott shrugged. "Let's get the fucking paper up so Jean will get off my back about it."

"She been naggin' ya?"

"Of course. She doesn't even have to work very hard at it. Yesterday was a tiny bit of a set back in terms of my goals." Scott smirked.

"But fun. How'd we end up with two night owls?"

"They're cute."

"Yeah. They are. You cut this shit and you don't know if there's a difference in pattern?"

"Well, it said the repeat was every one and a half inches on the package, but I don't really trust that."

Logan shook his head.

*****

//Think we should go help them, sweetie?//

"Don' talk so loud in m' head, chere. It's mornin'."

"Okay, okay. Geeze. You'd think I was yelling. Or do you have a hangover?"

"Non. Just don' like mornin' me. This po' boy gets worn down in the dawn sun. Better after noon."

"Get up, sweetie. We have to help them or they'll hold it over our heads for the rest of the month."

"Non. Scotty knows Remy's goin' t' meet Belle. So he don't mind it. Well, not much."

"Are you screwing her?"

"She's m' wife."

"I didn't ask that."

"She's m' best friend, chere. It weren't never about the sex, though it was fun. This is business. We look after our own and Al's ours."

Jean blinked. "I didn't realize that she knew Belle."

"Alice is from Nawlins."

"She is? She doesn't sound anything like you."

"That's because Belle and me spent more time in the bayous than in the city. We're French Quarter when we are in the city. Ain't like Alice. She was born in Boston. Moved down wit' her family when we was all teenagers. Me, I met Belle and Alice b'fore I met Jean-Luc. They been my family f'ever. It was me and Belle that made it even possible f' our families t' come t' agreement on anythin'. And me and Belle have always looked after Alice. After her family got killt, it was Belle and me that got her safe out of town. Against the parents even. There ain't nothin' in this life like the family y' choose."

Jean nodded. "I think I understand. It's like what the professor and Scott have. Or what the five of us have. We would have done anything to protect each other when we were that age. Shit. We still would I think. Well, maybe not Warren. He's changed a lot since we were teenagers."

"Lost his wings," Remy murmured. "Bound t' make anyone upset. Remy don' like his powers. Gave up some of his power wit'out a care. But Warren, it was stolt. That makes the difference."

"It's more than that. He stopped trusting us. He pulled away."

"He was hurtin'. He's still hurtin'. That's why he lashes out at m'. Don' mind it much. He's right about some of it. I'm the outsider. He can hit m' and it don't matter."

"Except now it does, so he has to deal with it."

"I'm what he don't want t' be."

"What do you mean?"

Remy sighed. "He t'inks I'm poor. He hates that."

Jean's eyes snapped open. "He doesn't think that, does he?"

"And he hates that?"

"Oui. He don't like the idea of charity. He looks at me and sees what happens when y' take away privilege." Remy frowned. He sat up and scooted up to the headboard. "It's like dis, chere. Remy knows all the trappin's of wealth. He can talk the words, discuss the stock market, investment shit. He knows all the places. All the designers. All the schools. But he don't live by them, y' understand? I don't dress like anythin' but a bum and that's what Ange sees." Remy sighed. "He don't understand that the surface ain't what's underneath. He always been focused on what appears t' be there. Bobby, he knows Remy's got money. He's been beggin' t' see my accounts since I got here. But Warren, he ain't never had t' hide."

"But his wings. . . "

"Non, chere. Not his physical parts. Who and what he is. He ain't never had t' be anyone but Warren Worthington de fuckin' third. That's what he don't understand. He don't understand how Remy can know all the talk and the acts and not be that man. I don' like that man. Warren t'inks that's who I should be. But I ain't really. Shit. I can't explain this right wit'out givin' up secrets I ain't got a right t' be tellin' y'. I'm sorry, chere."

Jean looked at him for a long moment. "What would give you the right to share those secrets?"

Remy grimaced. "That ain't somethin' t' be talkin' about neither. Don't ask again."

Jean closed her eyes and summoned up patience. "I have to help you, Sweetie. You're bleeding on the inside and now I know about it. I can't let you keep going like this."

"This ain't y'r problem, Jeannie."

"It is my problem. You are my lover. That makes it my problem."

"Y' don't got t' share everyt'in' in my life, just because y'r fuckin' me."

"It's more than that."

Remy shook his head. "Stubborn woman."

"I'm an X-man. That means I have to be. Let out the demons. We know about Sinister. Not the full extent of it. But we know enough."

"Got a lot of demons. Devil's own, me." Remy sighed. "Better go check on Alice."

"Think she'll be up at this hour?"

"Non. But it'll get me outta the house. Chere, y' know where Roguie is?"

"No."

"T'ought y' kept track of all of us." Remy's eyes were wide. "Tell m' that Charles knows?"

"We haven't been tracking her. She left of her own free will. This isn't some kind of cult, Remy. If you want to leave, you're perfectly free to go."

"But, Jeannie, y' know that girl ain't stable. She ain't right in the head at all. Ain't never been right. An' she ain't the kind of crazy y' let run free in the world."

"She's not a prisoner. She's not a reclamation project."

"Tell that t' Charles," Remy snapped. "We all his personal pet projects. Wants all of us under his control. He fucked that girl's head up. We got t' find her. She's got me runnin' around in her head now and I ain't any better'n than havin' Sabretoot' up there."

"Remy." Jean frowned at him. "I won't listen to you putting yourself down."

"Just speakin' the Gods honest truth, femme. Merde. T'ought y' were lookin' out f' her. Now I gotta get someone t' find her."

Jean let him mutter to himself for a minute while she quickly thought things out with Scott. "She's coming home within a week," Jean stated. "She called Bobby. We didn't know how you'd react to that."

Remy rolled his eyes. "I love her, chere. I'm always gonna love her. So she broke up wit' m' again. She kissed me. She left me in a coma. She's been sufferin' ever since from that mistake. Bless her heart, she's worse than a mule sometimes, and me I ain't much better. Done a lot of thinkin'. Didn't have much else t' do in Henri's lab. Mais, I don' know. I figure I'll have t' deal wit' it. Don' mean I'm gonna be happy. Don' mean I ain't gonna get a little nuts about it, but I ain't gonna cause a fuss."

Jean hugged him close for a moment.

*****

Alice luxuriated in the large tub. Cherry looked down at her lover's serene smile for a moment, then upended the paper cupful of ice cold water onto her chest. Alice sat up with a yelp. "You fucking bitch!"

"Time to get up. The insurance people want to meet you at the site in twenty minutes."

"Yeah. Yeah. I'll be ready."

"I could've sent in Raven you know."

"Ray likes me."

"I noticed. You have some of the strangest friends on the planet."

"If it weren't for my strange friends, you wouldn't know what happened to your little teenage singer."

"And I wouldn't have met an assassin."

"That's what you think."

Cherry stared at Alice for a long moment. "What are you trying to tell me?"

"That a lot more goes on in my bar than you think, sweetheart."

"I've been getting that picture. And the man that was killed in my apartment. He wasn't someone I knew."

"Maybe it was just bad luck. Maybe he heard the fucker doing the dog. Or he went to see why the door was open. We'll never know for sure." Alice stood up and dried off. Cherry watched appreciatively.

"And Remy. Tell me about Remy."

"He's been to the bar plenty of times."

"Exactly my point. Why didn't you tell me what he is."

"What do you think he is?"

"An assassin."

"You're wrong. He's a thief. He's a businessman."

"And the Kingpin's my grandfather."

"Think about it, darling. Would I let Remy into the bar if I thought he was going to cause trouble?"

"No."

"Would I ever let someone hurt you?"

"No."

"Then don't worry. It'll all work out in the end."

"This discussion isn't actually over, Al. There's a lot more I want to know. Like what Scotty does for a living."

"Political terrorist if you ask the government. Mutant rights proponent if you ask him." Cherry stared.

"Bullshit."

"Nope. He goes by Cyclops. You know, the leader of the X-men."

"Well, fuck me."

"Anytime, sweetie." Cherry stuck her tongue out in response to that.

*****

Belle glared at the cell phone. She looked up at Remy. "I've got to take this."

"I know." He sighed and leaned back.

"What's wrong?" she asked. It was a very long tale. Remy played with the beads in her hair. "I'll be there." She turned off the phone. "I have to go, hon. I'll swing by and say goodbye to Alice. You call me every day until this thing is resolved. You hear me, boy?"

"Oui, chere. I'll call. I promise."

Belle stretched doing interesting things to Remy's anatomy. She patted his head and left him to his research. He slipped through the database as quietly as possible. He didn't need anyone to know what he was looking at. "Kitty, where are y' when I need y'?" he muttered. He wasn't happy. It seemed that Bastion's bullshit ran deeper than he'd originally believed. "Charles ain't gonna do what needs t' be done." He turned off the laptop and disconnected it. "Merde. Why does life got t' be this complex?" He looked up when he heard a shift by the door.

"Somethin' wrong, punk?"

"Somethin's very wrong, chat. And it's gonna concern y' too. Watch y'r back f' a deal called Operation Zero Tolerance."

Creed sneered. "Those fuckers. I been hearing rumors. They true?"

"Oui. I t'ink they are. If'n they the same ones I been hearin'."

"We're years away from that kinda tech, unless you been feedin' them somethin' from the doc?"

"Non." Remy punched the wall.

"Hey, don't ruin the plaster. Hit me if ya need to. Just keep it down. The girls are sleepin'. You know how Ray gets."

"I know. I'll get y'r plans t'morrow. We'll get some regular people in here. I don' t'ink she's in any danger. Seems t' me the bastard done what he wanted. Gonna have t' rebuild the place."

Creed considered for a long moment. "Don't worry about gettin' anyone else, Gumbo. I'll watch over her fer awhile."

"Don't reckon I like that idea." Remy gave the large man a crooked smile. "Ah. F' the best I guess. Don' hurt her."

"Ain't in the plan books. Besides, I'd rather have her on my side ya know?"

"Alice, she ain't on anyone's side except her own. She don't need her friends t' be friends, comprenz?"

"Yeah. I get ya. But she don't take to enemies well."

"She's a force of nature, Chat."

"Sorta like yer wife. Girl after my own heart."

"She's after it okay. T' put up on the wall wit' all the other ones she's collected." Creed absently pushed the Cajun's hair out of his face. "Like I said. I'll get y'r plans t'morrow. Anythin' else while I'm goin'?"

"Nope. Just watch yerself, Cajun. Yer playin' dangerous games. Don't nobody get to kill ya but me, remember that."

"I'll let y' fight it out wit' Belle. See y', Chat."

"Wait a second. Don't I get my kiss?"

Remy blinked at him. "Been a long time."

"Might be longer."

"Y' gettin' sentimental on me?"

"Maybe."

Remy smiled. He gave Creed a soft kiss on the tip of his nose. "F' luck." Creed punched Remy's shoulder.

"Get out of here, punk. Before I change my mind."

*****

"Charles, this is the perfect way to gather ground level support for the mandates you and Jean keep campaigning for. You can't expect to win a political fight if you refuse to follow the patterns that people are accustomed to," Scott argued. "If you want to get people to support you, you have to raise their awareness of the issue. Right now it's something for extremists. We are such a small minority that people don't notice us unless they're trying to stay away from us. It's like Stonewall for God's sake."

"Don't even begin with that discussion, Scott," Charles warned. "I will not see this dream turned into some popularity rally."

"It already is, Professor. Mutants follow us, or Magneto. There is no middle ground, unless you want to count Cable and, sir, I raised him as a child, which means he's loosely under our umbrella."

"You left out Sinister."

"Sinister has a hired team and several hidden laboratories. He does not count as a political force. As far as I can tell, there are two paths right now. Are we so wrong to consider trying a third one? Something that will give us equal rights? Something that will protect us in court? Shit, sir, something that will keep mutant children from being tossed away? Or murdered in their schoolyards?"

"That is what Jean and I are working on."

"Fine. But, sir, you don't control my actions. I'm not using your money. I'm not asking for your endorsement. All I'm asking is that you stop treating me like a brain-damaged child who doesn't know what he's doing."

"You are a brain-damaged child."

Scott's powers flared behind his shades. "And you're a cripple. There, that's out of the way. I know what I'm doing."

"I'll reserve judgement on that."

"Then let me try. If I fail, what's the worst that could happen?"

"People could join the FOH in droves."

"Then at least they'll be making a fucking choice instead of letting the issue pass them by. And if they're in the FOH at least we'll be able to identify them."

Xavier scowled at his son. "If I had known that taking Gambit to your bed would make you this insubordinate, I would have wiped the thought from your mind."

"Maybe I'm just remembering who I really am, Charles. Maybe Gambit has nothing to do with it. Maybe I'm just starting to act like an adult instead of a drone. I'm considering this discussion closed, since we've degraded to insults." Scott headed for the door. "By the way, sir, since I know of your relationship with Eric, I think maybe you ought to look at your own motivations a little more closely. With your focus so strongly on him, maybe you're overlooking what's right under your nose." Scott slammed the door behind himself.

Charles Xavier sat back. He steepled his fingers. He smiled.

*****

Logan was chopping wood. Jean was watching him. He had his shirt off, despite the coolness that announced that summer was over and fall had begun. His muscles flexed under the light sheen of sweat that had begun to form on his skin. The traces of coarse hair ran down his spine. He rolled his back and Jean's breath caught. She had fantasized about Logan for years before she and Scott got up the courage to ask him to join them. Even then, Scott had been reluctant. He'd had too many bad associations with men. Scott settled behind her on the porch. He kissed the side of her neck and slid his hands down the front of her pants. She leaned back into him. She felt the instant that his gaze was caught by Logan's movements. She smirked.

Logan could feel eyes on him. His nostrils flared as he identified the mixed scents of his lovers on the air. He hid his smile and continued to work. He'd corner them later, after he riled them up some more. Once the pile was split and stacked, he wiped off his face with his shirt. He leaned on the post of the wood shelter for a moment, staring into the woods. Then, he stalked off into the dappled shade of the trees. He heard Jean's breathing hitch and turned his head to the side. It was a silent invitation to keep watching and Scott and Jean didn't disappoint.

They followed Logan at a distance, maintaining the fantasy that he was alone in the trees. He settled down in his favorite clearing, the one he usually meditated in. Scott's hands tightened around Jean's waist as they stood in the shadows, watching. Instead of folding up into his usual lotus position, he settled down with his legs outstretched in front of him. He turned his face up towards the canopy of leaves. He took a deep breath and a smile spread across his face. He unbuttoned his fly and loosed his cock. He sighed deeply. He stroked the semi-hard member until it was hard.

Scott bit at Jean's shoulder to keep from saying a word. He didn't dare use the link to talk with her because Logan would hear his thoughts as well and he didn't want to disturb him. Scott's cheeks were flushed, he could feel the heat in them. Jean's hands were busy working down her button-fly to give him better access. He slid his hands down into her open pants. She reached up and wrapped her arms around his neck. If Logan had opened his eyes he would have seen her nipples displayed against the thin tee-shirt she was wearing.

Behind his eyes however he had a picture of Scott and Jean in the middle of a deep, slow lovemaking session. He could picture the flow of red up her body and the frown of concentration on Scott's face as he focused so completely on Jean that the rest of the world ceased to exist. He'd been on the receiving end of that attention and it was some of the best sex he'd ever had. He could hear Jean's pulse quicken and knew that she had left rational thought behind. He stroked himself firmly and quickly, just the way he always had.

Scott's teeth broke the skin of Jean's collar bone. He didn't notice anymore than she did, as his hands found her sweet center and she started to pant softly. She came, shuddering in his arms, just as Logan let loose with a short cry. Logan licked off his fingers and Scott squeezed his eyes shut. He didn't want to see that because it made his own cock scream behind its denim trap. He eased Jean down to a seated position and opened his own fly. Logan watched from under his lashes as Scott's hand wrapped around his cock. Scott's hand moved slowly, langerously exploring his length, until he couldn't take the stimulation any longer and his grip changed to a hard and quick motion. He came, biting his lip to stay silent. That was part of the game after all. He leaned against Jean as she recovered, eyes closed behind his shades. Logan watched them for a moment, then folded into his lotus position and shifted his focus away from the world.

*****

"Charles, this is dangerous," Remy argued.

"All I see are some very high numbers."

"You and me both know that that means," the thief insisted.

"Until I have more information, I will not act. There is no reason to send our people out when there is no clear and present danger."

"Y're blind, old man." Remy was the only person Charles allowed to call him "old man," simply because it wasn't derogatory on Remy's tongue. It was simply a statement of fact with a hint of frustrated affection to it. "Y' t'ink about t'ings, Charles."

Remy left the office without waiting for dismissal. Xavier had learned that he didn't control the thief as he did his other students. Remy could care less for his rules and regulations. The thief only listened to Scott's orders when it came down to it. And Xavier was sure that anything he asked the thief to get was passed through Scott for his approval first. But he couldn't prove it and Scott had never indicated that he knew what the thief was up to all of the time.

*****

Remy laid down on his bed. He briefly considered telling Scott that he was going out for the night. He pushed the thought out of his mind. If Scott couldn't deal with his comings and goings then fuck him, he told himself. I'm not changing my ways just because we share a bed sometimes. With that settled, he let himself fall into a light sleep.

Disoriented, he looked around at the burnt out theatre. He recognized the place easily. He assumed he'd see Rogue there and was mildly disappointed when she didn't show up. Instead the burning sensation he remembered so well, ran along his skin. He wanted to scream, but was caught in the dream paralysis that always seemed to undertake him in these sorts of visions.

His vision blurred and when it cleared again, he saw the Antiquary's face. It wore a gentle smile that he knew hid a maggot-filled mind. His body tensed as if to run, but again he didn't move. The old creep's eyes were magnetic and he couldn't look away. The face bent closer and paper thin hands cupped his jaw. He felt the pull against his mind and fought it. He forced his shields up and they were forced back down. "Give it up, child," the Antiquary told him. "I own you, Diablo." Remy felt the energy leaving his body. He collapsed to the soft, red carpet that cushioned the floor of the Velvet Ministry. "That's better, child." He lay there at the Antiquary's feet, praying for his strength to return. He felt like an empty shell. He didn't have the will to fight anymore. Maybe it would be better just to give it up.

He shook himself mentally. He'd gotten over that attitude, hadn't he? Why was it back now? One of the whores opened the door. She rushed to his side with a little cry. "What did you do to him?" she demanded. She had chestnut hair and soft blue eyes. He couldn't remember her name.

"Mama?" he croaked. He called all of them that, he remembered that much. She smiled at him.

"Come on, petite, I'll take you to your room." The old bastard just smiled at them.

"Sleep well, Diablo. Oh, and Janet? Never take that tone with me again."

"Yes, sir." She gathered the child body to her chest and carried him to his room to tuck him into his bed, one of the many in the first row of the children's room. "I'll get you out of here, petite. All of you. Even if he kills me." She kissed his nose. "For luck, petite. Go to sleep."

Remy woke with a start. He wrapped his arms around his knees and rocked. His breathing was rapid and shallow. Maybe he wouldn't go out without telling someone. He didn't know if he'd even be able to do it. But he'd told Creed that he'd get the plans and it would destroy his reputation if he broke his word. //Jean?// he tested the link hesitantly.

//Hi, sweetie. Didn't know you were back yet. I'm down in Scott's office. He's being a stick in the mud. Come rescue me.//

Remy summoned a smile. He didn't bother changing.

Warren stared at the thief. "Shit. When did you get reasonable clothes?"

"Fuck off, Ange." It was said without rancor and Warren finally understood that.

"You look good. I like it better than that sewer rat shit you usually wear."

"This ain't comfortable, Ange." Remy rolled his eyes. "Feel like I'm goin' out with someone I'm tryin' t' impress."

"If you wear it more often, it'll become more comfortable. It took Scott nearly two years to convince me to try jeans."

"Y' tried Jean? And he weren't jealous?" Remy teased.

Warren's jaw dropped. "Well, only the once. And he was jealous. He tried to knock me through a window. It was worth it."

"Ah, the t'ings I can tell t' Betsy now." Remy winked. He made his way to Scott's office, not noticing Warren's worried frown. Warren hurried to find Bobby. He was sure he'd seen tear marks on the Cajun's cheeks. Bobby was probably down with Hank so he made his way toward the lab.

*****

Remy curled up on the couch next to Jean. She pulled him close and stroked through his hair. Scott glanced up briefly and smiled in greeting at the thief. Remy closed his eyes. //Jeannie, I need to talk now.//

//You can tell me anything, sweetie.//

He let her see the dream-memory. She hugged him tightly. //It feels real to me, sweetie. Do you recognize it?//

//It's the Antiquary. I know that.//

//Is she your mother?//

//Non. Called all of his fillies 'mama', me.//

//He had more than one daughter? Wife?//

//Prostitute. The Velvet Ministry is a brothel, chere.//

//Is? You know where to find this bastard?//

//Mon pere ran him out of town. Don't know where he is now.// Remy shivered. Scott looked up, catching the movement in the corner of his eye. He didn't interrupt, but Remy could feel Scott's worry. It was comforting to sense it.

//Could these be the memories that are in the area of your mind you were having a problem with?//

//Mais. I don't know. Rogue went and knocked everything loose in my head.//

//Maybe if you'll let me help you clear out some of the cobwebs, you'll be able to sort things out more easily.//

//Mebbe.// Jean's fingers were gentle in his hair and Remy relaxed. He considered for a long moment and Jean let him. He couldn't be this muddle-headed if he wanted to make sure that things went right with the job tonight. //Okay, chere. But not a lot. Don't want people getting hurt.//

//Remy, sweetie, you're the only empath in the place. Those feelings aren't going to hurt anyone.//

The Cajun remained unconvinced, but let Jean into his mind. //Take me to the tunnels.//

//Non!//

//Fine, then take me to the theatre. That's one of the places you've taken me already.//

//Oui, chere.// He guided her through the landscape of his mind. Jean shivered seeing the dark patches and feeling the eyes on her. //Don't mind the rats. They don't hurt if you don't try to take their food.//

//What do they eat?//

He looked at her as if she were an idiot. //Garbage, chere. Same as me. They ain't around so much once we get into the newer sections of town.// She took his hand all the same. Her eyes tracked the rats scrabbling through the broken down warehouses.

//What is this place?//

//Near the docks. Where I used t' live. What's the problem?//

//You lived here?//

//Told you plenty, chere, my life ain't pretty.//

//I'll have to show you Scott's mind one of these days.//

//Don't need to be that close to him.//

She laughed. The sound echoed and died. He held her back for a moment. He looked around suspiciously. //Wonder why we're here. This ain't the right section for Seattle.//

//Maybe there's something here you need to release. What is this place?//

//This is where I met Belle. Maybe it's 'cause we were together today.//

//How did you meet Belle?//

//Killt the fucker who was going after her. Son of a bitch took a bottle through the throat.//

//Show me.// Jean followed Remy through twisting alleys until they came upon the scene.

//This is where it happened.// A memory-shade of Belle as a child was perched on some boxed.

//Hey, Rems.//

//Bonjour, chere.//

//This one of your femmes? Don't like her. She's too tall for you.//

He rolled his eyes at her. A red mist seeped up from the ground. Remy braced himself for the impact of the rage-cloud. Jean put a hand on his shoulder. //Make a hole and let it rise up into it.//

//It don't work that way.//

//Make a tesseract then. Like Sinister would.//

Remy scowled at her. Then, the rage was battering at him and he held his breath as he weathered the storm.

//Try it!// Jean ordered. Remy created a small hole in his shields. He pictured it with a grate on top so as not to let out anything else. The red mist swirled up and disappeared. He stared after it.

//Where'd it go?// The Belle-construct stared after the red. //That was cool.// she said.

//It's outside where it can dissipate. Take us out, sweetie.//

//After I close up that hole. Don't want nothing getting in.// He concentrated and his shields covered over the hole once more. //Au revior, petite.//

//Bye, Rems.// The construct waved at him. Then he and Jean were back in the present. Remy cautiously extended his charm to see if he could feel the rage.

//It's gone, sweetie. See? No harm done.//

"Dinner's in ten," Scott said. He stood up and went over to the couch. "Better?" he asked the thief.

"I guess." Remy rubbed at his temples. "I got work t' night. I'll see y'all in the mornin'."

"You'll come to the boathouse when you're done," Scott stated.

"Mebbe."

"You will. Or I'll send Logan to come and get you and bring you to it."

Remy flicked off the field leader. Scott raised a brow. Remy grinned at him.

"You might want to wash your face, sweetie." Jean traced a tear track.

*****

"I'm telling you he'd been crying," Warren stated.

"Since when do you care?" Bobby asked.

"Since I've decided to get my ass in gear and find out more about my teammates. He'd been crying. I think he was looking for someone to talk to, but I wondered if you knew what was up. Your room's the closest to his after all."

Bobby shrugged. "We don't talk that much, War. We talk about finances. And he's given me some good contacts to keep our assets out of the government's hands, but it's not a matter of us being friends. We just work together. That's it."

"Bobby, everyone gets along with you."

"It's more on my part than his. I was jealous of him and Rogue so I never pursued the friendship. He's okay though. The couple of times we have talked. Especially if I needed a crying shoulder for something. He hates seeing people hurting."

Warren snorted.

"If you don't believe he is a good person, why are you trying to be his friend," Hank asked. He liked the bothersome Cajun.

"Because I don't want to be a slave to misperceptions."

"The professor told you to make nice."

"Got it in one. I just have to figure out why I don't like him."

"You'll figure it out. At least try not to be so cold to him. He'll be nice to you if you're nice to him. By the way, his name is Remy."

"I know that."

"But you never use it. You call him Gambit."

"He calls me 'Angel'." Warren crossed his arms.

"You call him 'Gambit' and he's going to keep calling you 'Angel'. If you want to keep your relationship on a business level, there's no problem with that. Just don't ignore him. You nearly got us tagged in the Danger Room because you wouldn't listen to him. That's just stubborn pride, Warren."

"Are you still ticked about that?"

"We could have lost because of you. I don't take that too well. A mistake is one thing. Being stupid is another. The only person in this house who has ever beat Scott in chess is Remy. And it only happened once. That makes me think he might have an idea about tactics." Bobby shook his head. "Warren, I know you're dealing with a lot right now. I know you're trying to find a way to get out of your own traps, but don't force Remy to fight those traps too. Figure out your own head, then try to reach out." Bobby put a hand on Warren's wrist. "Talk it out with the professor some more. Now, I have a man to see about a horse. I'll see you for dinner." Bobby left the lab.

Hank looked at Warren. "It's solid advice despite the source," he said. "And I will tell you this, Remy has lost a lot of things in his life. He nearly died when his powers reached their full potential. He nearly lost the ability to walk. He understands what happened to you. He understands what happens when you trust someone and they betray that trust. But he does not believe in self-pity. Guilt, he'll shoulder without a word, but he has no patience for pity or sympathy."

"So what are you telling me, Hank. Just make it straight. I'm sick and tired of dealing with hints."

Hank sighed. "Bluntly, you have been so filled with self-pity and self-righteous indignation when it comes to the loss of your wings that no one wants to hear it anymore. You made a choice to join Apocalypse and we have forgiven you for that. You have to stop trying to assign blame to people and start taking responsibility for moving forward."

Warren's jaw dropped. "I should have just taken the hints."

*****

"Where's the brat?"

"Shopping," Scott said. His powers flared in his version of a wink. "Feel up to a workout?"

"Sure. You set up the program, I'll finish up my cigar."

"You're letting me choose? Good."

"Stop smirking, Slim. I'll have to knock it out of you."

"You'll try."

Jean finished drying the dishes. She shook her head at their posturing, their foreplay if she wanted to be completely honest. She yawned. //I'm heading to bed, boys. Have fun.//

//You getting sick on us, darling?// Logan asked.

//No, just tired. I'll see you later.//

//We'll try not to wake you,// Scott promised.

*****

Remy settled on his bike, plans copied safely onto a disc. He screeched around the corners, looking like nothing more than a kid out to enjoy the night before the weather got too cold to ride in. The cop in the cruiser looked at him wistfully. He wished he could be out doing the same thing. He shook his head and let the speeding go. Remy grinned under his helmet. The adrenaline rush hit him hard as he rode. He pulled up in front of the apartment building.

He jogged inside, waving at the security officer on duty. Creed met him at the door with a growl. Remy tossed him the disc. "There y' go, cher. As promised."

Creed pulled the thief closer. "Now, about my other payment."

"Non," Remy said flatly.

"That ain't the right answer, Gumbo." Creed pressed a harsh kiss to the young man's lips.

Remy charged a card. He held it under Sabretooth's throat. "Wanna see how well t'ings grow back, connard?"

Creed laughed. "Ya got spunk, kid. I'll give ya that. Go on, get out."

"Raven treatin' y' good?"

"Of course I am, LeBeau. Now, shoo. We have things to do here."

Remy turned and hurried back to Westchester. He dropped a copy of the plans into his stash under the floorboards. He looked at the correspondence on his desk. He chewed on his lip. Use the adrenaline for something useful, or blast himself out with sex. He sighed and settled down to get his letters done. Seems to me that leaving Nawlins should have lessened my responsibilities, he thought to himself.

*****

Logan found him an hour and a half later, head cradled in his arms, resting on the desk. "Come on, Gumbo. Time fer bed, Darlin'." Remy snarled at Logan and tried to put his head back down. Logan laughed at him. He pulled the thief to his feet. "Want me to carry ya?"

Remy rolled his eyes. "I'm comin'," he grumbled. Logan took Remy's hand as they walked. Remy blushed and looked anywhere but at Logan. The Canadian lifted Remy's hand and placed a kiss on the bare wrist. "Cher, I ain't gonna be good f' anyt'in' t'night."

"Don't matter. Jean's sleepin' and Scott's waitin' to make sure yer fine."

Remy sighed. "Y'all worry too much."

"Someone's gotta."

Remy pulled off his clothes, sleep pulling at his muscles. He crawled into the bed next to Logan and was immediately tucked close. Scott reached over Logan and patted Remy's arm as a goodnight greeting, then snuggled down into the pillow next to Jean. Remy's eyes dropped shut. Logan's hand was warm and gentle as it kneaded the back of his neck. Remy sighed and fell asleep.

FINIS