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Two of Hearts

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“Anotha’ good game,” Gambit remarked, shuffling a deck of cards, a smirk upturning his lips.

“I’ll say! You cleaned ‘em out like a bandit!” Ben Grimm twisted the knob and closed the door behind them. “You sure you aren’t cheatin’?”

“Homme!” Gambit’s hand flew to his chest in mock offense. “Ya wound me! Ah would nevah!” With a wink and a flourish, an ace appeared from his sleeve. He smoothly transferred it to the deck.

Ben snorted. “If we weren’t splittin’ the pot, I’d clobber you.”

Gambit pocketed the deck and shrugged, hands out. “Fair’s fair, non?”

“Long as it stays 50/50.” Ben narrowed his eyes at him.

Gambit held up his hands a little higher. “You, Ah’d nevah cheat. We’re friends, homme!” He gave Ben his most convincing reassuring smile.

“You were gonna split it 55/45 again and think I wouldn’t notice, weren’t’cha.”

Gambit sighed, lowering his hands. “Ya noticed dat, huh?”

“I noticed,” Ben confirmed. “And I was countin’ this time, so I know exactly what you owe me.”

“Saves me some math.” Gambit smiled.

Ben rolled his eyes again, fondly. He lifted his head. “Wow. It’s really coming down.”

“It’s beautiful, non?” Gambit held out a partially gloved hand to catch a snowflake. It melted on his palm.

“Yeah,” Ben grunted. “Really pretty to slog through.” He dragged his large rocky feet through the snow a bit, just to illustrate his point.

“Aw, don’ walk like tha’, mon ami. You’ll tire yoh’self out.” Gambit stepped as lightly as he could, but he did find himself having to pick up his feet a little extra with each step. The sidewalk was already a few inches deep.

“I’m shovelin’ a path for ya.” Ben dragged his feet on purpose, leaving two wide trails behind him.

Gambit had to admit, it was effective. He could walk normally now. “..Merci.”

“Welcome,” Ben grumbled.

They walked in companionable silence for a few blocks. The wind picked up. Remy hugged himself. Even shielded by Ben, he was accumulating snow on his jacket and in his hair. His teeth clattered against each other, no matter how much he tried to stop them.

“Is that your teeth I hear chatterin’ back there, or are you practicin’ percussion with your mouth?”

“It don’ get cold like dis on de Bayou.” Remy hugged himself tighter.

The temperature was dropping by the minute. Ben was unaffected by the cold; he wore clothes as a formality, and had foregone a coat.

Gambit, on the other hand… “Don’ suppose we could stop somewhere fo’ a cup a’ coffee?”

“Coffee place is closed.” The lights were out on nearly every business along the stretch—not surprising, considering it was late at night. A gust of wind pelted them with snowflakes like sand. Ben squinted against the wind. Snow was drifting against the sides of the buildings. The sidewalk ahead was at least six inches deep.

Ben glanced over his shoulder. “Don’t suppose you’d want to crash at my place?”

Gambit was huddled into himself, teeth chattering, eyes tired. “Ah’ll be fine. Jus’ need tu call mah ride.”

“You can use my phone.”

Gambit didn’t argue.

Ben continued slogging his way through the snow, digging out a path for Gambit by dragging his feet. Even his rocky skin was starting to feel the cold. Snow accumulated in the cracks.

Gambit bravely staggered on, coat whipping about his legs in every gust of wind. Snow collected in his hair.

“We’re almost there,” Ben grunted over his shoulder.

Gambit didn’t respond. He just kept walking. His legs were getting stiff.

Ben grumbled something about idiots wearing leggings in winter.

A few blocks later, Ben stopped in front of a doorway and knocked. Gambit shivered beside him.

The door opened to reveal a brightly lit interior, heavy on the silver. In the doorway stood Susan Storm. “Ben!” she greeted with surprise and relief. “Where have you been?”

“Out with the boys,” Ben replied easily, stepping inside. He did his best to shake off the snow. “Hate it when snow melts in the cracks,” he grumbled.

“Gambit?” Susan greeted with equal surprise.

“Oh. Right. Susan, Gambit. Gambit, Susan,” Ben introduced gruffly.

“We’ve met,” Susan said, holding the door open.

Gambit shuffled inside, still shivering and clinging tightly to his own arms.

“JOHNNY!” Susan bellowed.

A very energetic, way-too-awake-for-this-hour Johnny Storm bounded into the room, looking slightly scared. “What!”

“Warm this guy up.” She indicated the very shivering Gambit as she closed the door behind him.

“On it!” Johnny mock-saluted his sister and was at Gambit’s side in seconds. “Damn. You’re really cold!” he commented, steering ‘this guy’ towards the couch. “Who’s the hobo?” he asked over his shoulder at Ben and Susan.

“Ah’m not a hobo,” Gambit muttered, teeth chattering.

“Uh.” Johnny ticked off on his fingers. “Fingerless gloves, trench coat, long hair, stubble. –Who’s the hobo?” Johnny asked, louder, as he sat Gambit down on the couch and plopped down right next to him, gradually cranking up his body temperature.

“His name’s Gambit,” Ben grunted. “He’s a buddy of mine.”

“Since when do you make friends with hobos? –Whoa! Hey!” Johnny interjected, surprise blazing across his face as Gambit leaned into him. “Uhhh.” Gambit moaned and wrapped his arms around Johnny. Johnny awkwardly patted Gambit on the back.

“He’s not a hobo,” Ben grumbled.

Gambit was getting very snuggly with Johnny, and Johnny was equal parts awkward and surprised by just how physically close Gambit decided to get. He concentrated on maintaining this body temperature, since it seemed to be thawing this guy out pretty well, but he’d never been this physically close with a guy before. “Seems a pretty friendly type,” Johnny replied, voice strangled.

Gambit hummed against Johnny’s ribs in apparent agreement.

“’s why we’re friends,” Ben said as though that explained everything. “You seen Reed?”

“Reed’s caught in a meeting,” Susan explained, chagrined. “He phoned a little while ago and said he’ll have to stay in a hotel overnight. This storm’s pretty widespread.”

“Hm,” Ben grunted.

“Mah ride,” Gambit mumbled, face stiff. “Ah still have tu call mah ride.”

“I’ll call ‘em for you,” Ben offered. “Who d’you gotta call?”

“It’s all right.” Susan laid a hand on Ben’s arm. “I’ll call.”

Ben shrugged, masking his relief. Always hated phones. “’f you insist.”

“Anyone at de Xavier Institute,” Gambit said over Johnny’s shoulder. He buried his face against Johnny’s chest as though he couldn’t bear to leave it. He groaned with relief as soon as his face was warmly submerged once more.

“I’ll be right back,” Susan promised, exiting the room.

“…You want some hot cocoa or somethin’?” Ben offered awkwardly.

Gambit shot him a thumbs-up over the back of the couch, then buried his arms against Johnny once more.

Ben shuffled out of the room.

Johnny spent a few seconds staring at random objects in every corner of the room, focusing on maintaining his current temperature. It was definitely weird having another guy so close, especially some guy he didn’t know. His heart was beating too fast and he knew Gambit could hear it, so he talked over it in order to distract both of them from the awkward situation. “Uh. So, Gambit, huh? Musta’ had a weird mom to name you that.”

Gambit lifted his head a fraction. “She didn’.”

“Oh.” And wow, now that this guy didn’t look half-dead from impending frostbite, he was actually pretty—“So what did she name you?”

Gambit’s mouth upturned in a smirk. His red-and-black eyes smoldered. “Remy LeBeau,” he purred with a voice like velvet, “At your service.”

Johnny stared, spellbound. This guy had the handsomest cheekbones he’d ever fucking seen. And that stubble was only doing him favors. And that chin, god! “Johnny Storm,” he replied dumbly.

“Johnny,” the man repeated in that same low, smooth voice. “It’s a pleasuh tu meet you.”

“Th-the pleasure’s all mine!”

He leaned closer to the blushing blond. “You’re a little warm,” he purred.

Johnny’s Adam’s apple bobbed visibly as he swallowed, eyes darting over and over Remy’s face.

“Gambit,” Ben grumbled from the doorway. “Turn down the charm.”

Remy broke eye contact and pushed out his lower lip in a pout. “Aw. You nevah let me have any fun.”

Johnny stared at him, dazed. “Charm?”

“It’s one of his powers,” Ben explained as he set down two steaming mugs of hot cocoa on the coffee table.


Remy untangled himself from Johnny just enough to pick up his mug of hot cocoa. “Ah’m one o’ de X-Men,” Remy explained. He blew on the surface of his cocoa and tested a sip.

“Uh huh,” Ben agreed, crossing his arms. He sounded amused though. “And his powers include energy manipulation, control over kinetic energy, and the ability to charm people.”

Johnny watched Remy take a sip of hot cocoa. He was still sitting very close to Johnny, touching from shoulder to thigh, eyes mostly closed as he watched the liquid in his mug disappear. His throat moved with every swallow. “How long does it take to wear off?” Johnny wondered aloud.

“A few minutes,” Remy replied casually, sounding pretty sure.

“Oh.” Johnny tore his gaze away from the ridiculously attractive man next to him and groped for the remaining mug on the coffee table.

Just as he brought the mug to his lips, Susan re-entered the room, expression grim.

“No ride?” Gambit guessed.

Susan pressed her lips together. “Scott said they won’t be able to send anyone until the storm is over.”

“When’s it supposed ta end?” Ben asked.

“Tomorrow morning.” Susan sat on a nearby armchair.

“Well,” Remy said, stretching out comfortably next to Johnny, who still couldn’t stop staring at him, “Ah guess Ah’ll have tu spend the night.”

“We have a couch,” Ben grunted.

“If that’s all righ’?” Gambit sent a questioning glance at Susan.

“Of course.” She frowned. “Johnny, stop staring.”

Johnny looked away too fast, face reddening as both Ben and Remy turned their attention on him.

“Has it been a few minutes yet?” Ben wondered.

“Some brains are slower dan others,” Gambit allowed, unbothered.

Johnny frowned, not sure if he’d just been insulted. “Hey,” he objected before getting caught up in Remy’s eyes.

Gambit smirked.

“You charmed him?” Susan guessed.

Remy shrugged one shoulder. “He seemed tu feel awkward abou’ warming me up. Ah was tryin’ tu make it easier on ‘im.”

Susan arched an eyebrow. Her brother was once again staring at Remy like he was the most beautiful thing in the universe. She almost found it funny. “It’s not going to hurt his feelings, is it? When it wears off?”

“Aw, non, chère!” Gambit assured her. “’e’ll jus’ be a little confused.”

“So, no different from usual,” Ben grunted.

“Ben!” Susan objected.

Ben gave her a look which plainly said he wasn’t retracting that statement.

Gambit chuckled. “Little on the slow side, are you, cher?” he purred at Johnny.

Johnny stared dumbly at him, face hot.

“Gambit,” Susan reprimanded, “I told you turn off the charm!”

“Ah did.” He smirked. “It jus’ hasn’ worn off yet.”

“It’s kinda funny,” Ben supplied.

“Ben!” Susan objected.

“You gonna finish dat cocoa, cher?” Gambit asked, leaning close to Johnny and peering into his mug.

Johnny glanced at his mug like he’d forgotten he’d had it. “Uh. You can have it.” He held out his mug towards Gambit. Their fingers met.

Gambit’s expression flickered for a split second. Johnny took his hands back like he’d just been bitten and tried not to stare, but his eyes kept flickering back as though he couldn’t control them.

Gambit sipped from the mug, overlapping the part where Johnny’s mouth had been.

“So Reed’s at a conference?” Ben prompted.

“Yes,” Susan confirmed, frowning. “He needed to meet with a bunch of senators in order to discuss clean energy.”

“Oh,” Remy grumbled. “That conference.”

“You’ve heard about it?” Susan sat forward a bit.

“Heard Senator Kelly was dere. ‘e’s up tu no good.”

“Senator Kelly?” Ben raised a rocky brow ridge. “The mutant-hating senator?”

“Dat’s de one,” Remy confirmed, frowning.

“I’m sure Reed can handle him,” Susan said generously.

“Dat, Ah’m no’ worried about,” Gambit said, draining the last of his cocoa and setting the mug on the coffee table. “It’s wha’ he’s doin’ behin’ de scenes dat concerns me.”

“You think he’s got another anti-mutant plan up his ass?”

“Ben! Language!”

 “’e seems too happy lately,” Gambit answered. “Somethin’s up.”

“Whatever it is, I’m sure you and your X-Men can fix it,” Susan smoothed over soothingly. She had complete and utter faith in them.

“Maybe,” Gambit granted, “but Ah’m still worried.”

“I’ll try to see if Reed knows anything when he comes home tomorrow,” Susan promised.

“Merci, chère.”

“Hm,” Ben grunted. “He’s slower than I thought.” He was watching Johnny, who was still gazing starry-eyed at Gambit.

Gambit glanced over at Johnny, one handsome brow arched. “’e’ll be better in the morning.”

“He better be. This is gettin’ weird.”

“You don’t have a problem with homosexuality, do you, Ben?” Susan asked in her you’d-better-not-challenge-me voice.

“No!” Ben quickly answered, holding up his huge rocky hands in defense, “I don’t! But I ain’t never seen Johnny look twice at a bloke before, and now he won’t stop lookin’!”

“That is a little weird,” Susan granted. “I thought your power only worked on women?”

Remy shrugged. “Works on whoever Ah want it to.” He didn’t add that it’s usually easier when there’s mutual attraction.

Johnny was still watching Remy, seemingly oblivious to the conversation.

“I don’t know how much more of that I can take.” Ben stood, sending Johnny a narrow-eyed look somewhere in the neighborhood of disgust. “He’d better be all skirt-chasin’ in the morning. Till then, I’m out.” He lumbered off in the general direction of his sleeping quarters.

“Bonne nuit, Ben!” Remy called after him cheerfully.

“It will wear off in the morning, won’t it?” Susan half-fretted, half-warned.

“Mos’ likely,” Remy granted with a shrug. “It usually does.”

Susan stood with a sigh. “Come on, Johnny. You’ll see Remy again in the morning.”

Johnny resisted. “I’m not even tired!”

Susan tugged his arm. “No, but you will be!”

“It’s not like I got anywhere to go tomorrow! Everywhere’ll be closed!”

“Johnny,” Susan warned.

“What! You’re not my mom! I’m twenty-three, I can take care of myself!”

Susan glared protectively at her brother, I-know-best etched across her features.

“Let ‘im stay,” Gambit soothed.

Susan frowned. “Are you sure? He’s not going to… Bother you, is he?”

“He’s fine,” Gambit assured her. He sent Johnny a smoldery smile.

Johnny stared, spellbound.

Susan sighed deeply. “All right. But we do have cameras in this room, so don’t try anything funny.”

Gambit turned serious. “Ah would nevah.”

Susan considered this. “…All right.”

After she left, Gambit contemplated Johnny for a moment. “Well, if you’re not tired, and Ah’m not tired… Wha’ do you say to a game of cards?”

Johnny awoke the next morning feeling extremely comfortable and well-rested. His cheek was pressed against a firm, yet soft surface which steadily rose and fell in a familiar, soothing rhythm. His arms were wrapped around someone warm. And someone’s arms were draped easily around his back; someone’s chin rested on the top of his head.

Johnny sat up quickly, staring in panic at the man underneath him. Face like a marble statue, body like a marble statue, red-and-black eyes opening to gaze languidly up at him—“Holy shit!” Johnny scrambled backwards off the couch. “You’re--! You’re--! You’re--!”

Remy sat up slowly, hungry and in need of coffee. “Ah’m what, mon ami?”

Johnny stared, wide-eyed, for a moment without answering. “I’m going to the kitchen,” he announced abruptly. He turned around, ears red, and headed stiffly towards the kitchen.

Remy stretched. He figured the charm had probably worn off, and that Johnny felt awkward, realizing he’d spent the night cuddling up to a man he barely knew. He gave Johnny a couple minutes to gather his wits before joining him in the kitchen.

Johnny nearly spat out his orange juice when he looked up and saw Remy standing there.

Remy smiled. “Got anything good tu eat?”

Johnny turned red and side-stepped, indicating the fridge.

Remy opened the door and took note of its contents, musing over what he could make. “You like pancakes?” he said at last, looking to Johnny for an answer.

Johnny’s face lit up. “Boy, do I!”

Remy couldn’t help smiling back. “All right den!” He gathered the ingredients.

Johnny hung around near him and started offering to help. Figuring it couldn’t hurt, Remy obliged and told Johnny how he could assist him. Soon, they had the batter ready and the griddle warm.

“Want some toast?” Johnny offered with a grin.

Remy raised an eyebrow. “To go with pancakes?”

“Yeah!” At Remy’s skeptical look, he pouted and whined, “Aw, come on, man!”

Remy rolled his eyes, charmed despite himself. “All righ’,” he relented.

Johnny beamed and took out a slice of bread. “Check it out!” He held the bread between his hands. His hands glowed orange. He held the bread there for a couple minutes before extinguishing the glow. He brandished the golden-brown toasted bread in front of Remy’s face.

Remy grabbed the toast; Johnny gave it to him. “Please tell me ya washed your hands first.”

Johnny rolled his eyes dramatically.

Remy chuckled and spread butter on his toast. He took a bite and chewed thoughtfully. Johnny watched him with breathless anticipation. Remy swallowed. “It’s good!”

Johnny beamed. “Want some more?”

“Ah think,” Remy said, flipping two pancakes onto a tray and pouring two more on the griddle, “the pancakes will be enough.” He glanced up at Johnny. “But de toast is very good.”

Johnny practically glowed. “I knew you’d like it!”

Remy waited for the pancakes to be ready to flip. Conversationally, he said, “So dat’s your power, huh? You can get really warm?” He was partially teasing.

Johnny took the bait and scoffed. “Oh, I can do way more than that!” He proceeded an energetic ramble about all the things he could do with his powers, including create objects out of fire, exceed the temperature of a supernova, cancel out heat so he never got burned, and suck all the heat out of a room. Remy was intrigued by this last one, and Johnny explained eagerly, “Yeah! Turns out, I can do more than just catch on fire! I can control, like, temperature in general! It’s really cool! Or hot. Depending on how I want it.” He grinned proudly.

By this time, the tray was stacked pretty high with pancakes and the batter was running low. “Ah nevah woulda guessed.”

Johnny beamed again, puffing his chest out with pride. “-What about you?” he challenged, like there was no way anyone’s powers could possibly be as cool as his own. “What can you do?”

“Ah,” said Remy, flipping the last two pancakes onto the tray, “can make some pretty good pancakes.”

“Pancakes?” Susan asked sleepily as she walked in, still wearing her robe.

“Plenty to share,” Remy agreed smoothly, indicating the tray.

“Don’t mind if I do!” Johnny said with a grin, stacking several pancakes onto his plate and slathering them with butter and maple syrup.

The three of them gathered around the table and ate pancakes in companionable silence, with occasional interjections (mostly from Johnny) about how good the pancakes were. Ben shuffled in when the tray was about half-empty and ate the rest of them by himself.

The first four notes of the Kim Possible theme went off, then repeated.

Remy perked up and fished around in his pockets until he produced his cell phone. He swiped his thumb across the screen and the Kim Possible theme stopped. “Bonjour?”

Johnny was staring at Remy with rapt admiration again.

Ben and Susan half-listened to Remy’s conversation, both already pretty sure they knew who it was.

“Yep, Ah’m at de Fantastic Four hangout. …All righ’. Ah’ll see you in a bit.” He hung up. To the questioning glances, he answered, “It was Jubilee. But don’ worry—Kitty’s driving.”

“Picked up by two young girls,” Ben grunted. “Typical.”

 “Dey are like daughters tu me!” Remy insisted.

“Is that why you hang out with ‘em all the time,” Ben grumbled.

“Ah can hang ou’ wit’ family.” Remy crossed his arms across his chest.

Ben just grunted again.

“So you’re going?” Johnny asked, looking rather down-in-the-mouth.

“Yes, cher. Ah’m goin’,” Remy said gently.

Johnny rubbed the back of his neck, cheeks pink, gaze off to the side. “I don’t remember much of last night. But I think you showed me some card tricks…”

Remy’s mouth curled up on one side. “You wan’ one for de road?”

Johnny sent him a hopeful, pleading look.

Remy’s smile warmed. He took the deck out of his chest pocket and shuffled it. He fanned the cards out in an arc and held them out in front of him. “Pick a card.”

Johnny hesitated, then picked a card at random, a little to the left. It was the two of hearts. He regarded the card with surprise and just a bit of disgust; he hoped the low number value wasn’t going to be a problem. “Okay…”

Remy folded the deck. “Now give it back tu me.” He held out a hand.

A little relieved, Johnny handed the card back.

Remy performed a showy shuffling trick which was much more visually appealing than it was practical, pulling the cards out into a column between his hands, sending them down one arm, then down the other, shuffling them behind his head and over his shoulder, and then he did something complicated with his hands and pulled out the card. He held it out at arm’s length. “Is dis your card?”

Johnny stared at the two of hearts. “YES!” he exalted.

Remy smirked and handed the card to Johnny. “Keep it.”

Johnny took the card like he was being handed the Holy Grail.

“A souvenir,” Remy said warmly.

The Kim Possible theme went off.

Remy glanced at his phone and silenced the music. “That’s my ride.” He gave them a two-finger salute. “Ah’ll see ya ‘round.”

“Drive safe!” Susan urged.

Remy held up two fingers without looking as he walked away, a silent promise to tell the girls to drive safely.

Johnny stared after him until Remy was gone.

“I thought the charm was supposed to wear off by now,” Susan said in a low voice that Johnny wasn’t supposed to hear.

“It did.”

Reed arrived a little before noon, face sour. Susan greeted him at the door. “Did the meeting go well?”

Reed shed his coat; Susan took his coat and hung it up. “Oh, the meeting went well,” Reed said bitterly, “Right up until the point where we realized we were going to be snowed in, and we decided to take a little coffee break, and Senator Kelly pulled me aside to talk about politics.”

Susan frowned in alarm. “Senator Kelly? What did he say?”

Reed sighed. “Oh, the usual anti-mutant spiel. Asked if I wouldn’t be more comfortable, knowing they were off the streets, a neutralized threat. He doesn’t seem to consider us mutants, evidently.”

“Perhaps that’s a good thing.”

“Only if you like hearing some of your closest friends insulted, treated like rabid animals. I’m telling you, Sue, the man is dangerous.”

“I’m sure he means well…”

Reed slammed his boot against the wall. “Means well?!” he repeated. “Maybe to people whose heads are stuck so far—back in the dark ages, that they think anyone different than them ought to be imprisoned, or worse!” He sat down heavily in his arm chair.

Susan sat next to him, placing both of her hands over one of his. “It can’t be that bad…”

“Why are you defending him?!”

“I’m not!”

“Stop trying to see the good in people, Susan! It’s not there!” Reed glared darkly at the carpet, seemingly lost in thought.

“…What did he say?” Susan repeated quietly.

Reed rubbed his forehead. “Something about a satellite. The way he phrased it was so—“ Reed cut himself off suddenly, eyes widening. “I know what he means to do.”


“Get me a line to Charles Xavier!” Reed insisted suddenly, standing and pacing across the room.

The computer system, keyed to his voice, called Charles Xavier on the video phone. A glowing image appeared on the opposite wall. “Yes, what is it, Reed?” the professor asked.

“Professor! I’ve just been in a meeting with Senator Kelly. I have coordinates for a satellite which he created. He’s kept it under wraps and means to reveal it soon, at a press conference, under the guise of Public Protection,” he spat. “It’s an anti-mutant satellite. He said something about monitoring you, all of you, and finding all the mutants on earth. The public would be made aware of their identities and locations. But that’s not all. I think the satellite is equipped with weapons set to exterminate mutantkind.”

Charles blinked in alarm. “Reed, are you sure?”

“I know what I heard,” Reed confirmed grimly.

“I see…” Charles steepled his fingers. “What are those coordinates?”

Reed held up a piece of paper.

Charles examined the sheet and nodded. “Thank you. We will assemble a team and look into it. If this is truly as dangerous as you says it is… Then we are in your debt.”

“Honestly I’m more concerned with your safety.”

“Again, thank you.” Charles nodded. “We’ll be in touch.” The glowing image blipped out.

“That’s the satellite, up there!” Emma announced, pointing at the large metal structure.

“That good for nothin’ bastard!” Logan snarled, unsheathing his claws.

“Do you really think it’s as bad as Reed says?” Kurt wondered aloud, balancing upside-down on three fingers.

“I see no reason to doubt him,” Emma replied, grimly serious as their craft neared the satellite. “His team has been our allies so far.”

“But they don’t know what it’s really like,” Logan ground out, glaring at the satellite. “They got their powers from some cosmic storm! They weren’t born with ‘em!”

“You weren’t born with those claws,” Emma pointed out.

“Any friend of mah friend is a friend a’ mine,” Remy interjected in support of Reed. “Put on your space suits. It’s gonna be a bumpy ride.”

“Not like it hasn’t been already,” Logan griped.

Their craft slowed. They all put on their space gear and climbed into the air lock.

Outside the space ship, they made their way to the satellite. The bulky structure had many protuberances, one of which Kurt was examining. “Zese are not merely cameras for monitoring!” He floated to another one. “Zey look like weapons!”

“The elf is right,” Logan confirmed. “This thing is loaded.

“What do we do?” Kurt asked fearfully.

“We disable it,” Emma said with a voice like ice.

“And which of you technical nerds has the know-how to do that? Oh wait- none of you!”

“Hush, Logan! Let me concentrate.” Emma pressed her fingers to the sides of her bubble helmet, closing her eyes. Everyone fell silent as she concentrated.

After a long moment, she opened her eyes. “There.” She pointed. “That’s the control panel.”

“On it.” Remy reached out.

“What’re you gonna do, Cajun? Fry it?”

“Please.” Remy pulled it apart and disconnected wires systematically. “Give me some credit.”

“Vhere did you learn to do zat?” Kurt asked, impressed.

Remy shrugged a shoulder, smirking. “Ah’ve broken into more complicated security systems before.”

“Once a thief, always a thief,” Logan growled.

“Comes in handy,” Remy said, unbothered.

“We need to neutralize the weapons,” Emma interjected.

“That, I can do.” Logan punctured the metal with his claws, ripped off the dangerous-looking parts, and hurled them in the general direction of the sun.

The sun was blazing, arcs of heat rolling all over its surface. Flares erupted occasionally. Arcs of colored light surged towards them. One was so powerful, it rocked the satellite.

“Whoa! Did anyone else feel tha’?” Remy squinted in the direction of the sun.

“Don’t look right at it, ya moron, you’ll go blind,” Logan growled.

“I felt it,” said Emma, wary. “We should go back to the ship. I think our work here is done.”

“Agreed, fraulein.”

They headed back to the ship. More colored waves surged towards them, growing progressively stronger. They buffeted the ship as it approached the Earth’s atmosphere. “I think we can outrun it,” Emma said through gritted teeth, with a tight grip on the controls.

“Whatever ‘it’ is,” said Logan, his hackles raised.

“It could simply be some sort of cosmic radiation,” supplied Kurt, “From the sun.”

“Whatever it is, I don’t wanna be in it,” Logan growled, gaze fixed on their destination.

They sped towards the earth. About halfway down, Emma broke into a cold sweat. She was finding it hard to focus on driving the ship. “I’m going to put it in autopilot,” she said. They were seventy thousand feet above the surface and dropping.

“Good call,” said Kurt, who was holding his head with both hands. “Oh, my head!”

“Ah don’ feel so good,” Remy complained, pale and sweaty like the other two.

“Somethin’ fishy’s going on. I don’t like it.” Logan made sure Emma had switched correctly to autopilot before she slumped over, apparently unconscious. He thumbed over the communications board and brought up a video image of Jean Grey. “Jean,” he said, starting to feel weak. Kurt fainted behind him.

“What is it, Logan? Are you all right?”

“We got the satellite. But somethin’… Somethin’ ain’t right…” Logan wobbled on his feet. He heard Remy hit the floor. The floor seemed to be tilting.

“I’ll send Storm out to help you. Maybe she can slow you down. –Logan? Logan! Are you all right?”

Logan weaved, knees buckling. “I’m… fine…” He tripped and pulled himself up, covered in a cold sweat. It was only a few seconds before he blacked out.

“Logan? Logan!” Jean called out a few more times, attempting to rouse the other members of the team, but upon receiving no response, she ended the call. Her image blipped off the screen, revealing instead an image of the speedily approaching ground.