The Hours After
by JBMcDragon

"That way -- they went that way!" Iceman slid around the corner, racing after the Gunslingers as fast as he could. They'd made their way into the mansion, into the boathouse and Scott and Jean's ranch house on the other side of the lake. Ever since the babies had been born five years ago they'd been careful. Even more so than usual. No one had found their way to the mansion.

They'd even switched names the mansion was listed under, changed the school to a business and gone through all sorts of contortions to keep their families safe. Four years ago Bobby's child had been born, and they'd been even more careful. Codenames and masks were strictly observed, families never mentioned, no matter what, even mental blocks set into them by Jean and Emma whenever they went on missions, so that even if they wanted to tell people about the families they couldn't.

They had been lucky this time; only Jean and Scott's twins were there. Tommy, the Summers' adopted son, had taken all the others into the town.

Still, how the Gunslingers had found their way in, no one knew. But they had, and the children were in danger.

"Go! Bishop -- that way!"

"Close de door, shug," Raquel whispered, pulling the tiny girl away. "Y' mama don' need t' worry 'bout you right now."

Brigette sighed and fidgeted uncomfortably. "I know. But I want to help."

"You c'n 'elp. Watch over Cody f'r me."


Raquel watched as Jean's daughter headed to the back of the room, then stopped. She turned, looking at Raquel curiously. "Where is Cody?"

"CODY!" Raquel raced through the house, wishing that Scott hadn't built it so big. Sure, he now had four kids, but it made it quite hard to find small people in emergencies.

"Cody! Answer me!"

A faint call echoed back, and Raquel went running down the hall. "Cody?!"

A gunshot rang through the building, and Raquel slammed her body to the floor. Gunslinger.

A voice drifted to her from the master bedroom ahead. "What have we here? Hello little boy. You a mutie too?"

Raquel launched to her feet, pulling herself down the hall at a dead run. None of the X-Men were around -- she could hear the fighting up at the main house. Hopefully they'd be here fast. Really fast. She saw the man's back, hulking over tiny, sickly Cody.

"Prepare to die, genejoke."

Raquel jumped, flying through the air even as the man raised his gun to shoot. She hit his back as he pulled the trigger, and the shot went wide.

"Cody! Go!"

The boy, barely able to breathe in his panic, raced for the door. Raquel bit down on the chunk of muscle beneath her face, wishing -- not for the first time -- that she had some wonderful mutant power.

"You! Who the hell are you!?" The man reached around and grabbed her by her shirt, pulling her off over his head.

I should o' listened bet'er when Bobby was showin' me t' fight, Ray thought with a sigh as she hit the wall.

She looked up to see the sunshades the man wore light up with green, and knew he was scanning her to see if she was a mutant.

"If you're not one," he said with a snarl, aiming again, "then you're breeding them."

Raquel moved as the shot rang out, and she felt shrapnel fly into her back. She glanced down the hall, and saw the twins race down the stairs and, hopefully, out the door.

Okay, she thought, scrambling for cover, now I jus' get away.

Briefly her thoughts turned to the baby she carried. Seven weeks. She hadn't even told Bobby yet.

"Die, genespawn!"

"Can't you come up wit' bet'er names?" she shot back, diving behind the bed.

"I don't need better names for someone who's going to -- damn." He glanced down at his gun as it misfired, then shrugged and turned it around, butt end first. "We'll just have to do this the hard way."

Raquel took a deep breath and placed her feet against the side of the desk, waiting until the hulk-man came close before shoving as hard as she could, knocking the desk over onto the man's legs.

She ducked and rolled as he swore and tossed the table aside, coming after her.

"You bitch," he snarled, grabbing her by her ankle and hauling her back. "I am so going to kill you."

Raquel covered her head with her hands as the first of the blows fell down on her.


Cyclops looked up from where he stood, checking to be sure that the man beneath him was really unconscious and not faking it.

"It's Ray! She went after Cody and got caught!" As practiced, Brigette and Cody swerved and ran for the boathouse, getting out of the way of any fighting that might be unfinished.

"Get safe! We'll get Ray!" Cyclops glanced around, seeing that all but a few of the men were already rounded up.

"I've got her!" Iceman shouted, flying to the second story window of Scott's house.

He was through and down the hall, into the room in an instant. His heart pounded in his throat as he saw the man above his love, gun raised to come down sickeningly again on her still form. His arm lashed out, sending shards of ice flying. The man was out cold -- literally -- faster than one could blink an eye.

"Raquel? Ray, c'mon. Be okay." He held his breath as he raced to where she lay, bending onto one knee. "Ray, wake up. Please."

Bobby reached to touch her face, then quickly drew his hand back. She wasn't moving, though he could hear her breath rattling uncertainly in her chest. How she even managed that through the bloody mess that was once her face he didn't know.

"Miranda!" Bobby bellowed to the resident doctor, moving to the window. He raced back to his wife's body, kneeling again. "Ray, please." He reached down and touched her arm, grazing his fingertips over bruises and blood spattered across her small features and tiny body.

"MIRANDA!" His voice broke at the last, and he dashed away tears in irritation.

He touched her wavy brown, shoulder length hair, wanting to cradle her but afraid that he would only hurt her worse.

"Step back, Bobby," a female voice said, laying a hand on his shoulder. "Go get Rogue and Angel and tell them to bring the stretcher."

"Is she--"

"NOW, Iceman."

He reacted to the codename instantly, shooting out the window and down into the battlefield below. "Rogue! Angel! QUICK!"

It was with great difficulty that they managed to get her onto the stretcher without hurting her worse. Miranda, working with the X-Men for the past year, ordered Iceman to go get Henry McCoy, knowing that he could do a better job here than she. That, and it got Bobby out of the way.

Once Raquel was on the stretcher Angel and Rogue flew her down, landing softly in the medbay of the mansion. Miranda forced everyone to leave, and got to work.

It took Miranda and Hank, working together, all night before they were certain that she was stable. Not going to live, necessarily, but for the moment she wasn't dying.

Hank looked old and weary as he walked out, almost running into a distraught Robert Drake.

"How is she?" he asked, almost managing to force his way past the former Beast.

"Sit down, Bobby." Hank grabbed the shoulders of his best friend, forcing him back and into a chair. "If she lives through today, she might make it," he said slowly, taking his glasses off and cleaning them on his shirt. Every motion was filled with exhaustion. Slowly he put his spectacles back on, looking at Bobby. "We weren't able to save the baby, though."

Iceman's eyes almost fell out of his head, and only Beast's heavy hands on his shoulders kept him from jumping out of his seat. "Baby? There was a baby?"

Hank's head snapped up at Miranda, who shrugged. "She hadn't told you yet?"

Bobby shook his head mutely. "There was a baby, Hank?"

McCoy nodded.

Bobby looked sick as he watched the carpet between his feet. "I ... wow."

Beast smiled slightly, sadly. "I'm sorry."

"Can I see her? Ray?"

Beast shook his head. "In a few hours. Not right now."

Bobby nodded mutely, too used to following Hank's orders to argue. "But later?"


Scott found Bobby in the hospital room later, sitting quietly by the bed of the immobile woman.

Bobby's head tilted slightly when Cyclops entered, letting Scott see a corner of a clear blue eye and long blond lashes. "She was pregnant, Scott," Bobby said quietly.

Scott nodded, pulling up a chair and sitting.

There was silence for a long time. "Is it wrong of me to not care about the baby if she doesn't make it?"

Scott hesitated, then shook his head. "I don't think so. You didn't even know about the baby. But you know and love Raquel."

Bobby's head fell slightly, and he picked up his wife's limp hand. "But it was my child."

Scott sighed. "I know."

"And I don't even care right now."

"I know."

They slipped into silence once more, the only sounds those of the machinery in the room. "Hank says she may live. But he doesn't know if it'll be because the machines keep her body alive, or if it's because she'll actually live."

Scott pursed his lips silently. He couldn't even imagine what it would be like, to have your wife comatose.

The door opened slightly, and a small face framed in straight blue hair looked in. "Hi."

"Hi, Jess," Scott said quietly to the four year old girl.

Bobby looked up, smiling slightly and holding out one arm. The little girl bulleted across the room, a streak of blue and white, and almost collapsed into her father's lap. Scott left as silently as he had come in.

"How's mommy?" Dominique Jessica Drake asked, sticking two fingers back into her mouth as soon as the question was out.

"She's sleeping there," Bobby answered, taking the two fingers out of his daughter's mouth.

"Can she hear me?"

Bobby hesitated, running his hands through his daughter's feather soft blue hair. "I don't know. But I think she might like it if you talked to her."

Jessica turned her head to look up at her father, pupil-less ice blue eyes meeting dark, warm, brown ones. "You think she'd like to hear about the fight I won?"

Bobby smiled slightly. "Maybe."

Dominique Jessica looked back at her mother, then. Slowly she reached forward and touched Raquel's arm, then drew back. "I won a fight," she said, very loudly. "It was with Brigette. She was being mean, and I told her not to, and even Cody said stop, but she didn't so I yelled at her and she pushed me and so I pushed her and then she hit me so I hit her and then she fell in the mud and Cody ran inside and I hit her again but not until she got up. Then Jean came out. So we stopped."

Bobby carefully hid his half smile as Jess looked solemnly up at him. "Did she hear me?"

"Probably so," Bobby answered.

Jess nodded. "Okay. Call me when she does something." She slid down off his lap, running away to find Brigette.

Bobby watched her go, pain lancing through his heart. "Ray, you have to wake up," he pleaded quietly. "She needs a mother."

If only he had been there, his mind threw at him. If he had been faster, gotten rid of the Gunslingers quicker. Left the X-Men when she had asked so long ago. She had been so adamant about it. Afraid that he was going to get hurt, and that she would raise their child by herself.

It was an ongoing battle. It lasted more than two years. He had fallen in love so easily, so quickly, it seemed natural that they would get married. He'd asked, and she'd said not until he quit the X-Men. A year passed, she living in the X-Mansion, he asking her every morning over breakfast if she would marry him. Always it went the same.

"Good morning, Ray," he'd say casually. "Will you marry me?"

"Will you quit the X-Men?" she would counter, still eating.


"No." And they would move on with their lives. Even when Jessie was born, they had remained unmarried for the better part of a year. Finally it was Raquel who said that perhaps they should marry, as they sat watching their daughter play. But Raquel, even then, had asked him to quit. And he wouldn't. She'd been so furious, so afraid that he would be hurt.

And instead it was she who lay on the hospital bed, barely living.

"Ray, live," Bobby whispered, resting his head on the bedside. "You can't leave me. I'm so sorry. I'll leave the X-Men. We'll find something else to do. I'll be an accountant and buy a house in the country for God's sake, just don't die."

The beep of the heart monitor was loud in the room, and when it stopped it was as if a bomb had gone off just outside the door. For a long second the place fairly echoed with silence, and then a loud buzzer went off and Hank and Miranda came running in. They shoved Bobby away viciously, ignoring that he stumbled out of his chair and slammed into the wall.

Bobby crawled back up until he stood, plastered against the barrier in fear of getting in their way, and truly causing his wife's death. The two doctors shouted at each other while Bobby folded himself into the corner, his own heart leaping in his throat. Unsure of what else to do, he prayed.

She lived, but barely. For three days Jean, Rogue, Hank and Scott took turns bringing Bobby food and sitting with him. The food came back almost untouched, and the people came back with no more hope then they'd had before. The X-Men as a whole bound together, raising Jessie while Bobby stayed with Raquel. Some days the little girl stayed in there too, but she was only four years old and didn't understand completely what was going on. Remy was often in the infirmary, a quiet companion to the woman he'd known for so long in New Orleans.

Bobby prayed steadily, not even leaving the room when his parents arrived to help take care of him and his daughter. The machines beeped and clicked and hummed, giving an odd cadence to the words Robert whispered.

"Live Ray. Live. We'll leave. I'll do something else. I'll do whatever you want but you must live -- Lord, let her live you have to. Live, Ray. I'll quit the X-Men. I promise."

Beast came in not moments later, frantically checking the monitors, hearing something Bobby had missed. He smiled slightly after a moment, looking up at his best friend. "She's getting better," Hank whispered, a large blue paw on Bobby's shoulder.

Iceman looked up at the horrible face, seeing only hope and light where others saw only despair and terror. "She is?" he murmured, his throat closing on the words.

Beast nodded, watching the young man before him closely. Bobby looked lost for a moment, then smiled slightly and, burying his face in his hands, started to cry.

The next two days were spent getting Bobby to eat more, as Hank was fearful that he was getting painfully malnourished. Bobby was oblivious to their efforts, eating only when someone prodded him and otherwise intent upon the changes in his wife. Her skin seemed to be pinker, her breathing easier. Hank said neither of those were true, that it was only Bobby's imagination, but Bobby didn't mind.

On the third day Raquel opened her eyes, and was awake for bare moments. Jessie cried that she missed it, and Bobby cried that his wife lived.

It was another day before she was both awake and lucid, but all celebrated for she was going to live, and there was no more doubt.

"I love you, Raquel," Bobby whispered, brushing tender fingers along the unbruised section of her cheek.

Raquel smiled slightly, and it cracked the scabs on her lips. "I love you both," she answered, petting Jessie's hair while looking up at Bobby.

"Everything's going to be all right, son," Robert's father said to him later that night, taking Dominique Jessica out of the room and into her bed.

For the first time, Bobby truly believed it.

"Are you sure we have to do this?" Bobby groused three weeks later as he watched all his belongings disappear into boxes.

"You promised," Raquel answered, hobbling around on her crutches. "I heard you, Drake."

From the doorway, Remy chuckled. "You take care o' yourself, hear?" he said seriously to Raquel.

"Lord, you act like I be goin' far from here," Raquel snapped, glaring at the fellow Cajun. "We're jus' movin' t' de ot'er school."

Remy smiled, then bent and kissed her lightly on the mouth. He looked up, met Bobby's furiously protective gaze, and smiled. "Oui, well, I meant take care o' yourself against Bobby dere," he said with a grin.

"I'll kiss Rogue and we'll just see how funny you think it is," Bobby almost snarled.

"Down, boys," Raquel said easily. "Remy, take dis box. Bobby take dat one. Dese are de last ones, and we're off." She smiled happily, crutch-ing over to kiss Bobby's cheek. "T'ank you f'r leaving de X-Men," she whispered as Gambit left the room with his box.

Bobby sighed. "I promised. I did. Thank God Sean said we could go help teach the kids." He grimaced. "I couldn't imagine sitting around all day."

Raquel stopped from where she'd been moving away, turning to look back at him. It wasn't fair to him. To leave like this. The X-Men were his life.

Raquel hated it when her conscience made its presence known. "Bobby ..." her words were halting. "We don' have t' leave if y' don' wan' t'."

Bobby's blue eyes widened fractionally, and he almost ran forward. His bulky arms wrapped around her, lifting her off her feet and away from the crutches and carrying her back to their bed. "Listen," he said seriously, setting her down. "I know I'm complaining bitterly about this -- and I probably will continue to do so for at least another few days -- but there is no way I'm staying here. Not now. Not with you and Jessie. I never thought that either one of you -- or me -- would really get hurt, but if there's even the smallest chance that I might lose either of you, I don't want to keep you here. I couldn't live with that--knowing that because I felt like staying you or Jessie was ... well, anything. I don't want to be here. I don't want you to be here."

Raquel grinned, throwing her arms around her husband's neck. "I'm glad," she whispered.

Bobby laughed and drew back to kiss her, relieved that they were leaving. No, if any of his family was hurt he wouldn't be able to live with it. He was only sorry that it took his wife almost dying before he realized that.

"DAD!" came a young voice from the stairs. "The van's here!"

"Bobby, y' lef' m' crutches all the way over dere," Ray said, pulling away.

Slowly, Bobby got up and retrieved them. Raquel took them, standing up and crutch-ing her way out of the room. "We're comin', shug!"

Bobby hefted the last box, and followed Raquel out. At the doorway to the mansion he stopped and looked back. The other X-Men waited outside to see them off, two vans loaded with his belongings. Before him was the house he had lived in for so long. Lived, loved, lost. The memories swarmed, and he felt sad for a moment at leaving the people he had grown so close with, even though he knew he would see them often. Seventeen years ago, he had walked through that door and become the beginning of Xavier's dream taken form.

He had found a family, a home. Now he was leaving it all.

Bobby took a deep breath, turning and looking at the vans that awaited to take him to the Massachusetts Academy. Dominique Jessica Drake laughed riotously at something, and Raquel Drake hobbled toward the van, only to shriek when she was lifted unexpectedly and carried by Scott.

Bobby grinned. He was leaving a family behind, but he was leaving of his own choice, and with the people he loved.

They were his. They were together, whole, unharmed, and to keep that he would go to the ends of earth. Massachusetts was a lot closer.

Bobby trotted down the steps, almost throwing the box he held at Hank, and ran to where Scott was carrying his wife.

"Excuse me," Bobby said, planting himself in front of his ex-team leader. "You have your own wife." He grinned and took Raquel, spinning her around before depositing her in the passenger side of the van. "This was a great idea, honey," he said loudly enough to be heard over the laughter. "I don't have to listen to Ol' Fearless anymore!"

Thanks to Mica, for posting this, but mostly for beta-reading this entire series. I couldn't do this without her. (Also for putting up with my brainstorming -- twenty messages each with one line as I think of something else -- putting up with my whining about how I want this character to say that even though it's out of character, putting up with me writing nothing for weeks and then, suddenly, eighty gazillion quadrillion stories in two days, putting up with me being temperamental and acting like an "artiste," and for putting up with everything else I don't even realize I'm doing. Geez, it's a good thing she's here. Otherwise someone else would have to put up with this. Aren't you all thankful to Mica? )

Oh yeah, and FEEDBACK! Please? Do you *really* want me to resort to Kaylee-like threats?

This series can be found at Due West of Nowhere and at Fonts of Wisdom and various of the stories about the characters are all over. :) (Remember? These fics are all stand-alone one-shots!) and can be gotten by writing to me (though I may gripe since there are now so many of them!).


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