The silence stretched into what felt like an eternity for
Flanked by two of the people he loved best in the world,
he still sat, eyes closed, every muscle in his body tensed
for the outburst of hatred from them which he knew would come
-- it would be no more than his due ... a lot less, in fact.
In preparation, he had shut down his empathy as best as he
was able -- facing Storm and Rogue's wrath over his part in
the Morlock Massacre would be bad enough without his experiencing
every nuance of their emotions.
He had prepared himself to be an outcast yet again -- but
under no circumstances could he have foreseen what happened
One moment, he was hunched on the rocky outcropping, waiting
for either a lightning bolt or Rogue's fists to strike him
down. The next, he was enveloped in a two-sided embrace whose
strength nearly took his breath away.
Still, he kept his eyes closed, hardly daring to hope ...
especially when he heard the rumble of thunder in the distance.
That was not a good sign. Finally, he came to a decision.
* 'Kay ... dependin' on what happens next, dis is either
goin' better -- or worse -- than I ever dreamed it would ...
time t' find out which *
He opened his eyes.
Rogue's arms were tight around his ribs, her face buried
in his shoulder, while Storm's grip was strong enough to essentially
pinion his arms, almost cutting off the circulation. She was
half behind him, so that he couldn't see her face.
The thunder rumbled more loudly now, and it was starting
to rain. Remy's heart sank -- he had been afraid of this.
He had resigned himself to losing Rogue -- in a sense he had
already, in Seattle -- but he had lost his Stormy, too. They
were probably holding him for one reason -- to keep him from
bolting until they could mete out a fit punishment for what
he had done.
Rogue's voice, thick with tears, was first to break the silence.
" You goddamned fool of a man. "
" I cannot believe that you thought so little of us,
Ororo's regal voice was grave, and tinged with anger.
A lightning bolt struck on the far shore of the lake, the
thunder echoing ominously in the distance.
Gambit successfully fought off the tears that were again
threatening to fall from his eyes. Damn it, but he had known
it would end like this. Somehow, he managed to keep his composure
as he found his voice again.
" I know I ain' got a place 'mong de rest o' you ...
unless y' got some other sentence in mind, I'll be gone by
The words were barely out of his mouth before they were met
with an answer.
" What in tarnation are you jawin' about?! "
" What do you mean you have no place here? This is your
In his surprise, Remy was having trouble processing their
" But ... it was all m' fault ... all that death ...
after what I did, how c'n y' possibly think I ... "
Ororo released his arms, and moved in front of him, meeting
" I do not blame you, Remy. I blame only one man for
that horror, and that is Sinister. "
Her eyes flashed, and another lightning strike hit near the
" It is true that your ... information ... has angered
me -- but my anger is not for you, my friend. It is for him.
Sinister has always had a reason, no matter how twisted, for
all of his actions -- and he is not the sort to waste effort
on meaningless gestures. As you told us, he could have assembled
his Marauders himself -- yet he chose to use you for the task.
Why? Likewise, he did not truly require your assistance for
the Marauders to gain access to the tunnels -- why did he
not simply use a tesseract? I find myself wondering if there
is still more to be discovered about his purpose behind the
Massacre, after all these years. And his particular ... interest
in you. But at the moment ... that is of little consequence.
Her gaze softened.
" You forget that I know firsthand the life of a thief
-- one did not ask questions if one wanted to live. I understand
all too well how you were duped -- and it was not your
fault. Once you saw what was to happen, you did as any one
of us would do -- you tried to protect the innocent, even
at risk of your life. I am hurt that you did not trust me
enough to tell me earlier, Remy -- but I can understand the
fear which kept you from doing so. I do not pretend to know
the man you were before that night -- I cannot. But I know
the man who saved my life, and restored me to my friends --
and he sits before me now."
He had no success in keeping the tears back this time ...
one after another, slowly they fell, following the tracks
of their predecessors.
Rogue leaned back, one arm still wrapped around Gambit's
waist. She kissed the fingertips of her gloved free hand,
then slowly raised her fingers to his face, wiping away his
* Ah do believe they're right about confession bein' good
foh the soul, sugah -- but they also say turnabout is fair
play ... *
Looking deep into Remy's eyes, Rogue took one deep breath,
and started talking.
" You joined up after Ah did, sugah -- an' I don't rightly
know how much checkin' up on me ya did before you started
your flirtin'. Ah was a terrorist by profession, Remy. My
Momma may have brought me into it, but there wasn't anybody
holdin' a gun to mah head, forcin' me to stay. I stayed with
the Brotherhood all those years foh a reason -- Ah believed
in what Ah was doing with them. I liked what Ah was
doin' with them. An' it really wasn't until after Ah absorbed
Carol that I started havin' any real doubts. "
Rogue gave a short, humourless laugh.
" Ya know it's funny, in a sick kind o' way ... she
made me realize how wrong Ah was -- about mahself, 'bout the
Brotherhood, about Momma. But at the same time, the person
Ah was warped her mind into followin' the path I was on ...
hurtin' and killin' -- and I'll never forgive myself for that.
It's like Ah killed her twice -- body and soul. "1
" Chère ... "
Impatiently, she interrupted him.
" No, Remy -- you let me finish. All this time, you've
been settin' me up on some kind o' pedestal -- an' Ah'm just
as human, and just as flawed as anyone else ... includin'
you. What ya did, you did in ignorance -- but Ah always knew
exactly what I was doin' when I was with Mystique. Sure, Ah
didn't mean to drain Carol dry -- but Ah knew that it was
possible, that it could happen -- and knowin' that,
I still didn't let go. "
Rogue locked her gaze with his, as tears welled up in her
" Ah changed, Remy -- I ain't the same person
anymore. And neither are you. How could Ah hate you foh what
you did, when mah own past ain't any better than yours? "
Gambit wordlessly looked at one woman, then the other. He
didn't need his empathy to read their emotions now. Leaning
forward, he embraced them both.
As they wrapped their own arms around him in return, relief
and gratitude washed over him in equal measure, like the gentle
rain which fell over the lake.
For the first time in years, he allowed himself to entertain
one cherished thought, which he believed had been lost to
He was home.
It was well after eleven o' clock when Logan made his way
to the Danger Room. After his confrontation with Riposte,
he had managed to defuse what remained of his anger through
some Zen exercises which he had learned during one of his
many stays in Japan. However, while his mind was now calm,
his body still crackled with the lingering unspent energy
of his earlier resentment. He felt the need to work off the
excess tension his muscles yet experienced -- and the Danger
Room was the ideal place to do just that.
Wolverine often spent late nights in solo training, his desire
for action and negligible need for sleep working in tandem
to further hone his skills. Invariably, he was the only one
who ever began a session this late, so he was surprised to
find the room already occupied.
* Hmm -- Cyke's usually the early ta bed, early to rise type.
But who else could it be? *
Curious, he hit the necessary key on the door panel. When
Reine's name appeared on the display as the room's sole occupant,
Logan made his way to the observation area.
* Be interestin' to see how she handles herself in different
situations. Think I'll go an' enjoy the show before I get
down to business myself *
Once he arrived in front of the viewscreen, he immediately
saw that she had opted for a custom program. The setting was
a trendy-looking dance club, complete with blaring music,
flashing strobe lights, confused patrons -- and about thirty
members of the Friends of Humanity, who were clearly bent
on killing her.
Logan watched her performance with critical detachment. A
lifelong warrior with all the guts, temper and determination
of his namesake, Wolverine was a harsh -- but scrupulously
fair -- judge of fighting skills. By any reckoning, he was
not a man easily impressed.
At the moment, he was very impressed.
One after another, she took out her attackers with what could
only be described as brutal, polished efficiency. It didn't
matter if they came at her singly or in groups, the result
was always the same -- bodies either on the floor, or else
flying away from her as she turned to face another threat.
Yet for all her savagery, she never once forgot herself --
when it was an innocent bystander that stumbled into her,
not an enemy, that person was quickly shoved toward the nearest
position of safety.
But there was something wrong here ...
Logan watched idly as she finished yet another thug. Her
low side kick was rewarded by the wet snap of the man's knee
breaking, his scream of pain ending abruptly when his face
impacted with her driving kneecap. Smoothly, she slipped under
a high roundhouse kick thrown at her head by a fresh attacker.
Charging forward, she took her assailant to the ground when
she swept his support leg, then delivered a reverse punch,
powered by all her speed and weight, to his solar plexus.
As the man's lungs forgot to function, she spun to face another
Wolverine couldn't pinpoint what exactly was nagging at him
about the scene -- whatever it was, it had nothing to do with
her fighting ability. For all his matchless experience, he
still found her a treat to watch. This was martial art at
its best -- simple techniques, cleanly delivered, with stunning
* Ain't often ya see someone who can fight like that -- 'specially
someone so flamin' young. But still ... there's something
missing here ...*
Then realization dawned on him.
She had taken on the whole FOH mob without once using her
mutant power -- and prevailed. Not that she had gotten away
unscathed -- her black unitard was ripped in several places,
there was a small trail of blood from the right corner of
her mouth to her chin, and there was an interesting bruise
forming on her left cheek. All in all, a ridiculously small
price to pay for the odds she had faced.
Then he noticed one other detail -- this time about the program
settings -- which had previously escaped his notice.
The safeties were off.
There was a loud crack as her final opponent was thrown head-first
into the wall, but Logan wasn't staying around to watch. He
was already heading down to the Danger Room floor.
Something was going on with Riposte ... and he was going
to find out what.
After Remy had left me on the verandah, my feet began moving
in the direction of the Danger Room almost of their own accord. He
wanted to come clean with the people he cared about, and he
wanted to do it alone -- I respected that. However, I couldn't
stand the idea of just sitting about in the meantime, waiting
to see if one of his nightmares was about to be realized yet
again. I needed something to keep my mind occupied, and the
X-Men's private playground seemed like the best bet.
I randomly worked my way through some of the standard programs
in short order -- pretty boring stuff, for the most part.
Simple -- well, for me, anyway -- thefts, search-and-destroy
details, a couple of spying scenarios, nothing that I hadn't
done before, and done well, in the past. After a quick round
of target practice in the last training exercise that the
computer called up, I had had enough.
* Time to make life interesting ...*
I looked over the customization options, and began making
I grinned to myself.
Scott was never impressed when I had music on during my training
sessions -- but he would hardly be able to complain about
the music if it was an integral part of the setting, would
He claimed it was too distracting -- but he never realized
that was my point for having it there in the first place.
Ditto the strobe lights. How many times do battles take place
in a setting that happens to be dead quiet, and has uniform
lighting? I want to train my fighting in a setting with as
many distractions as possible -- it teaches you to concentrate
on the task at hand.
I can't really say why I chose the setup I did. In retrospect,
I guess it was the Jackie Chan movie marathon that Remy and
I had sat through a couple of nights earlier, combined with
the latest escapades of the Friends of Humanity in the news
that did it. The idiots were actually trying to put up a legitimate
front -- by having a fundraising ball, if you can believe
it. I mean, what's next? A Hitler Youth Dance-A-Thon?
Anyway, for whatever reason, my warped little brain decided
that it might be amusing to mesh the two.
The program actually worked out very well -- challenging,
and quite entertaining. Especially since I didn't have to
worry about injuring my opponents -- I could fully unleash
my techniques on my programmed assailants.
Contrary to popular belief, martial artists do not train
to fight by beating each other senseless -- we use control.
This doesn't mean that we pull our punches -- we don't. We
simply use our sense of timing and distancing to gauge how
far we can go without injuring one another -- and avoid using
the more dangerous moves. I had no such constraints here.
Finally, the last man hit the ground, and the holograms faded
away into nothingness. I had just started to think of another
possible scenario to program when I sensed someone entering
" Gettin' an early start on tomorrow, darlin'? "
" Just needed to unwind -- besides, a little extra practice
never hurts. "
" Maybe so -- but I'm thinkin' that this doesn't have
all that much to do with practice. "
My eyes narrowed as I looked at him.
" What exactly are you saying, Logan? "
" I watched you -- some show ya put on, even without
yer power. That's impressive. But d' you want to tell me why?
And why the safeties were off? "
I thought for a moment -- best to take this question on the
most literal level. Remy was the real reason I was here, of
course -- but that particular 'why' would have to wait.
" I don't want to rely on my power too much -- it's
a tool. If I use it exclusively, it becomes a crutch. If I
had needed it, I would have used it. As for the safeties ...
let me explain it this way: when I first sparred full-contact,
my sempai told the class to get their headgear. I didn't have
mine with me, so I told him so. You've trained for a long
time, Logan -- what do you think he told me? "2
He smiled, probably remembering his own training as a beginner.
" Probably, 'don't get hit in the head' ."
" Bingo. And I didn't -- though not for lack of effort
on the part of my classmates, I do assure you. Incentive is
a powerful thing. "
" True enough ... "
Had it not been for the emotional backlash from Remy that
swept over me just then, Logan probably would have said more.
As it was, Wolverine just managed to grab me before my knees
gave out. My brother and I had shielded from each other as
tightly as possible from the time he left, but he was letting
his empathy loose now -- and unprepared, my defenses were
nowhere near adequate to cope with his onslaught.
Definitely overwhelming -- but if these feelings were anything
to go by, Remy would have very good news when next I saw him
" You okay? "
Logan's concerned voice broke the silence.
I had to laugh.
" I've never been better, Logan -- I may take a rain
check on that bout tomorrow morning. I'm not sure how much
sleep I'll be getting tonight. "
From the look on his face, he was still trying to figure
out what had happened here, so I decided to add to the confusion.
Leaning forward, I kissed him full on the lips -- he was too
shocked to respond ... pity -- then stepped back, grinning.
" Goodnight, Logan, " I called, and walked out
to look for my brother.
We had some celebrating to do.
Continued in Chapter
1. This is my own interpretation of events. Judging from the
animated series, Carol Danvers' personality became driven
by one thought -- revenge against Rogue, preferably involving
her death -- after she absorbed Ms. Marvel.
2. Sempai is the term of address used for the Sensei's senior
Thanks to the incomparable Valerie Jones for giving me an
idea for some details in the first scene. It wasn't what you
envisioned, but I hope you think that it works -- I just had
to try to draw out the tension :-)
" All warfare is based on deception. "
-- Sun-Tzu, The Art of War
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