The second to last one. Thank goodness. And I know your all asking how the heck did this go from so depressing to so silly in just a few chapters? Ain't life just like that though?

Disclaimer: All the X-Men characters portrayed in this story are the sole property of Marvel Comics Group, Inc., and are used without their express written permission for entertainment purposes only. (The others, Madam D'Sier, Father Benjamin, Andre, Starbright, anyone I missed, belong to me.)

Warnings: This story contains some violence, harsh language, and sexual innuendo. Also references to rape and child abuse.

Continuity: This story diverges from X-Men continuity around Uncanny #341. The group never has to leave for the Shi'ar Empire and No Exit will never happen.

* * are thought parenthesis.


Growing Up

Faith

 

 

Where there is great love, there will always be miracles. - Villa Cather, 'Death Comes to the Archbishop'

 

Chapter 7: Bliss

 

"So, when we movin chere?"

"Goodness, ah don' know. Ah jus decided this last night. Soon as we find ah place ah guess."

"Maybe we should look for jobs first, neh?"

"Yoah goin tah get ah job too? This aught tah be interestin."

"Ya might be surprised. I got a few back up options."

She glanced at the smug look on his face. Why, the slimy devil. He already knew what he was going to do. Here she was making the biggest decision of her life, thinking how drastic a change this was going to be for the both of them, and the sneak had an ace up his sleeve. Well it darn well better be a legitimate job, or he was going to find out just how pushy this broad could get.

She wondered what he had in mind. Truthfully, he knew her better than to believe she'd accept him getting an illegal job for this part of their life. The whole point of this was to be somewhat normal; so she didn't really worry about that. And though she knew he sometimes walked the line and kept up with his shady contacts to gather and swap information to help the X-Men's cause, it was no more than Wolverine did. The X-Men and the humans and mutants Remy helped on the other side needed him. He was one of the few people they had that was respected in that seedy world hidden right below the surface of their own.

Rogue suddenly shivered. A few vague images she'd been able to tap into from Remy's early childhood flashed in her mind. Pain, hunger, survival. Before the kiss, she could never have imagined how cold and predatory his early years had been. It made her thankful for even her mother. For Mystique. At least she'd never been beaten or left alone so young. She admired him all the more for being able to keep a core of warmth and gentleness deep inside him despite it all. It was that strength she loved.

Remy felt her shiver and held her tighter.

"Ya cold p'tite?"

She leaned into his embrace.

"No. Ah've nevah been warmer than right heah in yoah embrace. Ah don' evah want tah leave it."

He smiled wishing he could hold her closer still but that type of warmth was denied them. The intimacy was in their hearts and though he might wish for better, this was more than enough for him.

She moved her head cradle it in his shoulder. He could smell the warm soft scent of magnolias that always permeated the air around her. She sighed contentedly.

"Remy, now that we've decided tah try again, theah's one othath thing ah've been thinkin about."

Remy cocked an eyebrow. "An dat is?"

Rogue insistently removed herself from his embrace since he seemed reluctant to let her go. Then went over to the chair she had been in and began fishing in her purse finally pulling out a black circular ring about six inches around. She walked back over to him and held it up.

"This."

Remy's eyes narrowed. It looked familiar.

"Dat looks a lot like a suppression collar chere."

"A modified version ah picked up at thah airport on mah first stop this mornin. Ah asked Kurt tah send it ovah from Excaliber. Ah thought.... well, that yah could fix thah lock so ah could wear it some of thah time."

He picked it up eyeing the mechanism and lock carefully.

"Since ya never mentioned it an' had never considered usin one before, I assumed ya didn't want ta be trapped by one. An' I don' really like dese t'ings, specially on you. Anyone o' us is more vulnerable wearin one. What if we got attacked an' ya didn't have time ta get it off?"

"Ah know. That's one ah the reasons ah nevah used one befoah. Ah might not have been able tah help someone, help thah team. But ... thah main reason was, ah was scared. Ah could always hide behind mah power tah keep me protected so ah couldn't be hurt emotionally. Nobody would really care foah me an' so ah couldn't be hurt or hurt them in return. But yah changed all that. Yah showed me mah power was as much ah crutch as ah curse. An' ah'm not gonna run anymore. Ah love yah Remy. Ah trust yah an' ah want tah be wit yah. Yah've risked so much foah me. It's about time ah met yah halfway. Cyclops uses his visor. Ah diabetic uses insulin. Theah are sideffects but it's bettah than usin nuthin at all. How's this any different foah improving mah life?

"I'm not goin ta lie an' say I don' want ta be wit you, but ya don' have ta do dis for me, chere. I love ya no matter what. Sides, I still don' be likin it much. It's dangerous p'tite.

"Then we'll have tah be real careful. But ah'm doin this foah me. Ah'm tired o' not tryin things. Ah'm not gonna let mah powers control life anymore. We'll find ah way around them until ah can control it. An' ah am goin tah learn tah control it. Ah am. Until then, we'll try this an' anythin else that might work. Joseph's worked on this Z'Noxx chamber o' thah professah's that may protect someone else from mah powers."

"Joseph?"

"Uh huh. He showed it to me at Christmas. I want Hank tah run some tests first though. I trust Joseph but somethin he said about how it worked set off bells in mah head. Something ah'm afraid he missed. Hank an' ah were gonna test it, but he's had his hands full wit thah Legacy Virus. Hopefully, we'll get ah chance in the next week or so. Right now, this will be fine, really."

"Ya sure?"

"Mmmhmm. Besides," she grinned "It's gonna save us money when we move intah thah new place."

"Money?"

Now she really smirked and placed a hand on his chest. "This way we'll only need tah buy one bed."

Remy grinned back. "I love a woman wit a head for finances."


It didn't take Gambit long to disengage the lock. He was one of the best after all. Then he stood up and handed it to her.

Rogue took it gingerly and snapped it open and closed a few times. She finally placed it around her neck. It's click echoing in the room. Rogue felt a brief tingle. Then the air seemed to go stagnant with the significance of moment as if the world was holding her breath for them.

Rogue held out her hand to him, and he bent his head to kiss the gloved digits. She blushed thinking it was like a fairytale as he then pulled her to him wrapping her in a strong embrace. She pushed against him to get a purchase of her own suddenly realizing with a bit of shock how little strength she normally had. But that didn't matter as his head lowered to hers, all she could see was the love shining in his eyes and no fear could live long in it's brightness.

Their lips touched, and the world changed forever.


Eternity.

Gasping, they broke from the kiss they didn't want to end.

"Mon amour." He breathed heavily. "I ... I need to tell you..."

"Remy,... no,... please." She panted clinging to him and staring into his eyes. "Ah have somethin first...."

He nodded.

"Mah name. ... Mah name is Solitaire."

Remy blinked. "Solitaire?"

*A single gem. Beautiful in its own right.* It fit her perfectly.

"Solitaire Rose McKenna." Rogue sighed. " Ah lonely game ah cards. . .. Mah mother said she named me that since because o' me, she was all alone. An that's all ah'd evah be too. I've hated it all mah life."

Remy hugged her tighter to him kissing her forehead.

"She was wrong. About everythin. She had you, only she couldn't see dat. An I love de name."

"Yah would."

"Non. It's beautiful. A single gem. Jus like you."

She looked surprised. Then smiled.

"Ah nevah thought ah it that way."

"I'm a t'ief chere. I know a valuable gem when I see one. Sides," he smirked. " as for de card implication. I love playing solitaire."

She gave him an impudent sidelong look. "Oh, ah jus knew yah were going tah say that. Jus mah luck tah fall in love wit a card sharp. I'll nevah live it down."

"It can be our secret den. Rose McKenna's a lovely name too."

"No. Ah might as well get it all out. Ah am going tah have tah have a normal name tah get ah job. An' Rose was mah mama's name. It nevah felt right tah me. ... But can' yah hear Logan though? ... Solitaire McKenna? That's it? It took you years to tell us that? What's thah big deal? Women."

Remy laughed at Rogue's impression. She even did a pretty good Wolverine snort at the end.

"Dis from a man wit only one name? If nuthin else dis place is always amusin."

They smiled together. Then Remy took a deep breath.

"Chere, there is somethin I need to confess too..."

She reached up and grabbed him to pull his head back down for another kiss. Their lips inches apart.

"Later... please. Right now this is all ah want to know. We'll both talk tah thah whole group ... later."


Downstairs in the war room some time thereafter...

"You mean Onslaught was continually messin wit our heads?" Wolverine growled unhappy with what he had been hearing.

"Unfortunately yes." Jean sighed. "He was trying to tear away at our greatest assets. Our cooperation, organization, concern for each other. Our confidence in ourselves and our trust in one another. The last psionic influencer I found was steadily telling each of us to only trust ourselves and pointing out each other's faults. He wanted us defeated mentally as well as physically so if some of us did escape, we'd never organize against him again."

Scott nodded. "But it didn't work. We're still together."

Jean looked sad. Just like Ororo and Hank, who seemed to understand better than her husband.

"Yes and no, my love. We were strong. Strong enough to stay together and stand up to him, but he suspected we might be. He still did it anyway because that doesn't mean we weren't affected, that he might not still plant a seed of slow destruction even if he failed to defeat us outright. The X-Men may have yet lost something. I guess you could consider it Onslaught's revenge."

"And that would be, Jeannie?" Looking around the room at the people there, Logan suddenly had an eerie feeling he knew what was coming.

"Our family." Jean said. "Onslaught hoped that no matter what, our distrust of one another would drive unreparable wedges between us. Either to aid him in his quest or to get his revenge on us later. ... Warren, why didn't you or Betsy come to any of us or each other about your changes? We're your friends. We cared once."

Archangel and Psylocke looked stunned as if they had never considered the idea.

"I didn't think... didn't know.. ."

"Don't worry Warren. That's what the subliminal messages were telling you. To distrust. Just a little. Like Wolverine suddenly living outside the mansion. We all tended to react with suspicion against everything, even the people we know and much more so against the ones we don't. And unfortunately there is no real way to know have much of what we felt was normal human nature and how much we were influenced by these suggestions. Most of our reactions were a combination of both. And since people naturally are more suspicious of the unknown I'm .... afraid not only have we not been there for one another as much as we should have but we may have driven off one of our own because of this."

Psylocke looked puzzled. "No one has left Jean. I don't see the problem."

"Betsy, when was the last time you saw Gambit? When was the last time any of us saw Gambit? It hadn't occur to me either, until I learned Onslaught's intentions, but Remy's been slowly withdrawing from the group since all this started. Remember how much of an upbeat charmer he use to be? What happened to that? Luckily, I scanned for him using Cerebro, which is the only way to vaguely track him, and he is hanging around the area, ... for the moment. The fights with Rogue, the underlying distrust we've been giving off. I just found out Gambit's a full blown empath. Empaths are very sensitive to the emotional energy around them even the emotions not directed solely at them. And if our general feelings of isolation weren't enough, whether intentionally or not, for months now, we've all been continually telling Gambit how untrustworthy he is. It's lucky he hasn't cracked and proved us right.

"I don't buy that," Scott addressed his wife, "Gambit's the one who hasn't been open with us not the other way around."

"But that's the point Scott. Why would he be open with a bunch of people who've mistrusted him without a reason? He's never let us down, and considering Wolverine's, Rogue's, Archangel's, and Joseph's pasts, why does it matter? We don't know everything about them. What's so different about Gambit? But based on our actions, what do you think he thinks we'll do if we have a reason to dislike him? The same as Rogue? She took off while he was in a coma. It doesn't bring up a whole lot of confidence in the rest of us when the person who says they love you can't stick by you at least until you're well. Trust me if _someone_ ever did that to me there'd be hell to pay. Gambit was damn forgiving if you ask me."

"You know that would never happen between us."

"Scott, if it could happen to Gambit, it could happen to the rest of us. It did on a smaller scale look at Archangel and Psylocke. They didn't trust us either. None of us is perfect. As for Remy, with the exception of Storm, who could he say for sure would be there to back him up? Where were we? I can't remember a time when one of us was injured as bad as Gambit, and we weren't trying everything we could. Weren't worried. You would have never know from the way we acted that we even had an injured member. Onslaught, the Professor, wanted Gambit out of commission. He considered him the most unpredictable of us because he'd been able to hide how powerful an empath he was. And we played right along."

"Oh god." Betsy suddenly sobbed. "How could I have done that?"

Warren looked at her sympathetically. "Don't worry Betts, we're all as guilty."

"No." she choked. "No you aren't. ... I ... I invaded Gambit's mind right after he woke up because something made me suspicious."

There was a small gasp in the room but Jean touched Betsy sympathetically.

"It was Onslaught, Betsy. I could have been the one to have done it as easily as you. Don't eat your self up."

Betsy nodded.

"Goddess. Remy must have felt totally abandoned."

Wolverine growled. "Wish there was a way to make Onslaught pay for this. You think some of Gambit's and Rogue's problems are partially his fault too, don' ya, Jeannie? That's why Rogue ain't here."

"Yes. She couldn't have been less affected than the rest of us, and she had strong feelings for him. She must have been utterly confused. No wonder she ran off."

Surprisingly, Joseph spoke. "There is no use feeling guilt now over some things you may not have been able to totally control. The question that needs to be answered is the damage irreparable? And if not, where to start. Rogue and I are... best of friends, and it is obvious from my talk with her this morning she still loves him. Besides, I am ... finding a bit of kinship with Gambit. I was not here for this. Perhaps I could talk to them."

"No. I don't think telling Gambit Onslaught used our distrust of him as a weapon would be best right yet. Remy may not see this clearly since it concerns him. It may only verify to him that none of us trust him at all. That may be all it takes."

Bishop nodded. "The fact is, even without Onslaught's manipulations, some of us don't fully trust Gambit. Suddenly acting like we do will not be believable to Gambit, especially if he is as powerful an empath as you say."

"True." Jean smiled. "I'm not asking anyone to fake it. Just give the man the same consideration you would someone else. We've been better to our enemies. It would be nice though if everyone could be a touch upbeat around him for awhile. If he doesn't come out of this depression, he may leave anyway. Then we'll never know if it was our fault or not."

"And Rogue, darlin?"

"I'll talk to her. They do have real obstacles to overcome. Every couple does, and them more than most, but Rogue needs to know she may need to reconsider her feelings. Think it through. Whatever she decides this time will less likely to be influenced by anyone but herself. She does need to stay away from Gambit though. I suspect the reason we've gotten harder and harder on him is that not only did Onslaught keep telling us to mistrust everyone, but as the emotional dislike built, Remy himself may have unconsciously been reflecting that back at us with his powers as he became more and more depressed with himself. It was a vicious cycle that's been continually building."

Storm smiled. "And if Gambit had been the Hellion's Empath he would have made us like him instead. That alone should prove he has not been trying to mislead us. And he could have easily just made Rogue love him, as well, could he not? But he let her walk away instead. Remy has always continually surprised me with his ability to be gracious at the times when he has every right to be hurt."

Jean smiled. "And now it's our chance to return the favor."


Remy hugged Rogue to him, happy. Truly happy for the first time in his life. This hadn't started out as something they had decided to do right his moment exactly. He thought they'd work up to it, but it ... well ... happened. It was almost like once they touched, once they breathed their souls into each other, they couldn't just stop there. All the pent-up desire and frustration boiled over and swept them away.

*Girl should have kept her hands to herself if she had wanted him to keep his cool.*

Rogue stretched and purred rubbing her hand over his chest. She loved his masculine scent and breathed it in hungrily . She had dreamed of this moment from the minute they first truly looked into each other's eyes, but none of her fantasies were as wonderful as this experience. Her first time jitters quickly dissipated with a gentle touch, and their lovemaking was even more exhilarating and breathtaking than anything in those wild dreams. The love surrounded and filled her. No one could ask for more. She'd never been happier.


Logan stomped up the stairs in his usual determined and heavy-footed way. Beers? Pool? Cards? Need to be something that sounded natural or he'd smell a pity party a mile off. No one had ever said Gumbo was easy to fool. He rounded the corner and stopped dead in his tracks. Slower and less loudly he walked up to Gambit's door.

"What is this? Let's hang out in front of his door day?"

The group looked a bit chagrined.

"After the recent divulgences, it seemed most proper and punctilious of us..."

"What Beast is tryin tah say is ah few us thought..."

Storm chuckled quietly glancing over the group. "I came to cheer Remy up. I would assume since the rest of you have all managed to arrive almost at the exact same time, there is a concerted effort to do the same?"

There were some embarrassed affirmatives while Bishop shrugged meekly. "He has been ... 'helpful' at times

Jean tried not to laugh holding to Scott who looked like he would rather be somewhere, anywhere, else. "So much for subtle, huh, Ororo?"

"Subtle?" Wolverine snorted as quietly as he could so as not to alert Gambit. He was surprised that the Cajun hadn't already yanked the door open. He usually picked up on these things. Kid must be more depressed than he thought. He wrinkled up his nose not wanting to pick up a scent of pain. He didn't want to know how much Gambit could be hurting because of this. "You ever think of hiring a band too?"

Storm smiled and reached for the door. "I hope he is in. Perhaps we should...."

"Oh please!" Wolverine snorted. "Quit pussy-footin around. We're here to eat crow, let's eat it."

"Hey Cajun!" Logan whammed on the door three times and then threw it open barging right in with the rest on his heals. 'Go way' was grumbled none too nicely at about the same time.

Of course, that was polite compared to the shriek that assaulted their ears seconds later.

"Oh my!" "Oops!" "Rogue?" "Oh my stars and garters!" "Pardon us." "Help." "Thank god Jubilee's not here."


Living together in such close quarters, it was bound to happen to someone sooner or later. Letting out a scream loud enough to wake the dead, and grabbing at every cover in sight, Rogue certainly wished it had been later ... and most definitely someone else. Why, why, why ? Why did it have to be her? Them? On this special occasion? She'd been a good little girl. Really she had, even if she hadn't wanted to. The odds of it being her had been absolutely nil up until a few hours ago. She turned beet red, embarrassed and angry, just knowing some fate-like deity was laughing their ass off.

"Ya pardon mes amis, which part o'... Go Away ... DIDN'T ya understand?"

Amused and trying not to look like it, Logan noticed that despite the totally embarrassing circumstances and the fact that Rogue had grabbed most of the sheets to cover herself, Gambit leaned back against the headboard and managed to look for the most part unperturbed and dignified. Certainly more so than most of the dumbstruck goldfish gaping X-Men staring at him. Logan would bet dollars to donuts this wasn't the first time the Cajun had been caught flagrante delicto as it were or in this case, right after the fact. Logan grinned. He had odds on a jealous boyfriend or husband. Having been there himself, he knew this was barely an annoyance in comparison

"HOW DARE YAH!!! DON' ANYBODY ROUND HERE KNOW HOW TAH KNOCK?!?"

Rogue had found her tongue and her temper. She threw a pillow at the lot of them. If she had her strength it could have been dangerous, pillow or no, but as it was, it whacked right into Bishop's face with a poof sound. She was on her knees clutching the sheets at her throat while Remy looked on vastly amused.

"GET OUT!!!"

The pillow pretty much woke everyone up, and they scrambled nearly over one another to get through the door. Wolverine was last and couldn't help himself.

"Carry on."

The pillow caught him in the back of the head with a fair amount of force. She had a heck of an arm on her, powers or no. He'd bet the Cajun had been giving her lessons hitting a moving target too.


Rogue jumped off the bed, sheets and all, grabbed the pillow at the door slamming it with force. She looked disheveled and wild. Her green eyes flashing. Remy thought she was beautiful.

He followed her across the room picking up the pillow on the floor and taking the one from her to throw them both back on the bed.

"Ah can't believe it." she sniffed. "Tahday o' all days. It was suppose tah be magic."

Remy smiled. "It was magic, Chere. Is magic. Dis jus makes even de quiet minutes completely unforgettable as well, non?"

She giggled slightly and leaned into him. "Ah suppose. But why is it this sorta stuff only happens tah us? Why don' it evah happen tah Scott an' Jean?"

"Dat's easy. If it ever be happenin ta Scott, he'd die o' embarrassment, an' we'd have no fearless leader no more."

Rogue relaxed and really started laughing. "Ain't that thah truth."

"Sides," he smirked, "it coulda been worse."

"How could it have possibly been worse?"

"Easy." He grabbed her up and carried her to the bed lying both of them down and burying his face in her neck.

"Dey could have come in while we were doing .... dis."


The group could hear the laughing half way down the hall.

"Nice to know they're taking it well." Logan stated still somewhat amused.

"Ah'll say. Ah wouldn't want Miss Rogue mad at me for very long."

Logan snorted. "Yeah, ya ain't kiddin. Rogue's got a wicked right hook. ... So Jeannie. ... Depressed huh? May leave the team any minute. Really beat up. I don' know, darlin. Seems ta me he's made a miraculous recovery." Wolverine grinned at her.

"Alright already." Jean sniffed. "I'm sorry. How embarrassing. But they're both so hard to read. How was I to know they'd made up?" She got a twinkle in her eye. "I mean _seriously_ made up?"

Everyone chuckled good-naturedly trying to hide their embarrassment too. It had been one of those days. Par for the course for the X-Men, it seemed.

"Thank the goddess things are starting to get back to normal around here."

"It's about time." Logan snorted. "How about we toast the happy couple with some beers at Harry's? Cyke's buyin."

Everyone broke into a run for the stairs as Cyclops screamed "No! Absolutely not! Logan, I'll get you for this!"


What lies behind us and what lies before us are small matters compared to what lies within us. - Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

Chapter 8: Epilogue, Part 1

 

Gambit watch the street movement through dark shades although the sun had set hours ago. Rumor had it in the thief underground that a new mutant assassin had moved into the New York area for a big score. Remy wanted to know who the assassin was, whom they worked for, and who the mark was. His business dealings with the different crime lords, street gangs and thieves guilds had turned up only general data. That meant out of town action, and probably a big target. He knew the Kingpin had beefed up his security concerned about a possible hostile takeover.

Luckily, when no one else knew anything, always ask the hookers. Tammy , a leggy peroxide blond on Lex had a friend who had a friend who had a friend that did a weapons dealer every other Wednesday night. Cardinal Rule: Never, never, talk business in bed. First, there are better things to do in bed, and second, it can get you in a whole lot of trouble. Discuss it with your girlfriend or wife before dinner, and it certainly ain't the reason you have a girl on the side in the first place. But some (no, many) guys don't know when to keep their mouths shut. (Lucky for him) The dealer had supplied a very special weapon to some out of town talent at this hotel yesterday, and the talent was still checked in.

Surveillance was usually long and boring. He discarded the old piece of gum for a new one. The craving for a cigarette dull but still there. Wolverine grumbled. He didn't have anyone to smoke with anymore proclaiming Remy throughly whipped already despite not having fully moved in with Solitaire yet.


Everyone had accepted the name fine. Sam loving it, while Bobby couldn't help but crack a joke or two. Rogue, which most everyone still called her, big surprise, even he had a hard time changing habits about it, finally took all she could take out by the lake a week ago and dumped him in the swampy mud along the west bank. Most of the ribbing finally stopped not long thereafter.

Telling the X-Men about his involvement in the Morlock Massacre was a bit trickier matter though. But with Rogue at his back, he managed to confess it to Ororo and then the rest. He felt he had let down Ororo the most, but she, Joseph, Jean, and Beast were the most supportive respecting him for finding the courage to face his mistakes. Sam, Logan, and surprisingly Bobby took it as a part of his past and said he'd earned the right to stay. Only Bishop, Psylocke, Archangel, and Scott still wanted to know about his involvement with Sinister to the last detail. Still, Bishop commented later that he guessed Gambit did have some value to the team. All in all, he was coming to terms with some of the mistakes of his past. It was a start.

And Jean wanted him to work on his empathic abilities. Remy was more doubtful about that. Maybe one day.

The actual big brew-ha-ha, though, occurred over them moving out. Everybody's favorite fearless leader had a snit about them not being right on hand to fight mutant oppression. Wolverine and Jean both noted that not everyone was standing by every second anyway. Each member had things they were responsible for, and Gambit was already out a lot of nights snooping for information like the professor had asked him to.

They all knew to a minor extent Gambit kept track of the shadowy mutant underworld they rarely saw. But only Wolverine and Rogue knew for sure just how deep he got into it while Remy was sure Jean and Bishop suspected more. If Joseph was Magneto, he'd probably have known better too.

Cyclops still didn't like it, but with them getting something between Westchester and New York, and Rogue's flying ability, they could be on hand in no time if they were available. But then that lead into them getting jobs and Scott didn't like that either. Rogue looked like she was going to blow a gasket, but Jean doused the fire. Rogue's public relations job with a major image and marketing firm was only going to get them contacts and information in the finance, business, and political scene while Remy's in a top security agency was bound to be a wealth of knowledge as well.

The security job was an old standing offer Remy'd had for a couple of years with an ex-Israeli intelligence officer that he'd bumped heads with back in his less upstanding days. Mordecai Knight was a crafty SOB that had almost caught Remy a couple of times in his early days. He knew Remy did it. He just couldn't prove it. When he retired, he invited Remy to join him in his security and bodyguard agency. Skills like his would be invaluable in the business. At the time, Remy wasn't exactly seeing himself on the serve and protect side of things, but Mordecai told him the offer was always on the table if he changed his mind. So he changed his mind. Besides, Armor Security was considered one of the best private firms in the business these days. They covered a number of the major players and businesses in the world. The intelligence information he'd have access to would be helpful to both himself and the X-Men. They also had a large corporate office in New York, and Mordecai knew better than to ask Remy to divulge his secrets and his friends. Remy was hired to show them the weak links in their systems and keep an ear to the ground for any news that might be important to their clients. It was perfect. He kept a lot of his own hours, and he was basically being paid to do exactly what he was already doing for the X-Men. Rogue was disgusted and said he cheated. She had to get a real job.

She got hired in an associate level position at Wright & Son Consulting, one of the top image firms in the world, headquartered in New York, Paris, and Hong Kong. Rogue had prepared days for the interview and made sure her degree from Xavier's had everything on it. She was so proud when she got the position. She'd earned it by creating a proposal for updating a company's outdated community assistance program. Remy was proud too, even if the one time he dropped by to see her cubicle and bring her flowers, & Son was nearly slobbering on her desk. Sonny-boy decided to leave when Rogue introduced him to Remy. It was right then Remy decided visiting Rogue at the 'office' was probably not a good thing to do too much. He got the distinct feeling he'd end up slugging & Son before long. He knew she could handle it, so he decided staying out of it was in his best interests. Rogue didn't say anything about the occasional interested lady he had to work with. And mostly, he tried to keep the subject undiscussed. No reason to go looking for a fight.

The nice thing about the job was that Rogue could spend a good deal of her time working out of their house office as she prepared her graphics and presentations. And he liked her direct boss, Catherine Taylor, the sharp business woman that had hired Rogue. Not to mention, to appeal to his lecherous side, Rogue looked great in her breezy pants suits, and she had taken to wearing this little French beret to hide her white streak. It was sort of sexy. He, on the other hand, had to wear some classic business suits every now and then, which she thought were so handsome. Damn ties.

All and all, things in his life were looking up, but that didn't mean it was all smooth sailing. Far from it actually. Being with Rogue was one of the most important things in his life. Already, he could hardly remember what it was like without her, but he couldn't imagine how Scott and Jean managed to keep their relationship on such an even keel. Though he admitted he suspected that to keep the peace, Jean tolerated Scott's heavy handedness knowing he wasn't going to change. Jean could be gracious that way, but Rogue wasn't about to let him run roughshod over her.

They definitely had their ups and downs. Her preparing for her interview had been very stressful, and he made the mistake of being too blaise about it since he had a job in the waiting. Not to worry, she'd find something sooner or later. It wasn't like she had to have a job, he'd said. Dumb. Dumb. Dumb. He didn't mean to sound unfeeling, but that got him in the doghouse for a good hour or so. Still, she forgave him being insensitive. He'd done it for her.

Dog .... House. Another two things they had to come to an agreement on. Remy had been thinking small townhouse or small homeowners association care sort of places. He was absolutely not cutting grass. He didn't like grass, and it didn't like him. He grew up on the streets in the French Quarter of New Orleans. You just hosed the sidewalks off every morning. Watered a potted plant. Lawn maintenance was some ethereal concept he ignored. Electrical work and home repairs, ok, but he had hired an older man to keep up the small yard at his house in the Garden District. And one of the things he liked most about moving out was Storm could no longer drag him out in the wee hours of the morning and make him help her in her garden. Why did all the women around this place see him as their personal errand boy? Jean was always dragging him around to carry stuff. It wasn't exactly like he was the strongest guy on the team. Storm liked a gardening partner, and Rogue liked for him to help her cook. Luckily, Betsy usually only wanted his opinion on her latest outfit. But now, he wasn't going to be on the hook for all that sort of thing.

Seemed reasonable, right? Next thing he knows, they're looking at cute little farm houses a bit off the beaten path. Not that he didn't have the money, but...

"Ah want ah little garden, an' lotsa flowers an' ah place foah thah dog tah run an...."

Needless to say, a few heated arguments ensued, including two nights in his own bed, and one day of 'fine, don' move in wit me', 'Good, I won't'. Sometimes she could be so pig-headed and demanding.

He was definitely going to miss the danger room as a place to work off some frustrations. He sighed. Actually, they'd be at the mansion plenty, but he was being negative at the time. Finally, they realized they were both being childish and began to compromise. This commitment thing was new to both of them. She could have her yard as long as he wasn't expected to spend much time in it.

"Ah'm not gonna force yah intah somethin yah don' want tah do even though ah want this. Ah'd do thah garden an' flowers but ah can't do it all, so ah guess we bettah look at ah smaller place."

No. If she was willing to give, so could he. He'd do some. And as for the rest, not to worry, he had a plan. "Sam, mon ami. Ya grew up on a farm, oui? How'd ya like ta... " Sam couldn't wait. He liked working outside and Xavier had Shi'ar technology that did the Mansion grounds. If Sam couldn't, he'd find someone else. Rogue agreed. No yard work unless he wanted to, but cooking.....

After that, he was content to let Rogue, Jean and Ororo drag him along on their house-hunting sprees. He usually slept in the back seat. And Rogue ignored that he really wasn't interested in wallpaper. They finally found a nice, but not huge, well built three bed room, three bath. It had 10 acres, partially wooded with a creek. Nearby, but not breathing down your neck, neighbors, and a section of the Morlock Tunnels underneath. It'd be easy to get to the mansion unnoticed, and he had to admit it was a lovely place.

And then there the dog incident.

Ok, he admitted it. This one was all his fault. It was just a dog, right? He was basically a cat person, but he liked dogs fine. They liked to be petted, fetched sticks, protected your home and generally adored you. So what's not to like? And she wanted a dog. Heck, it had taken some major cunning and smooth talking to Mystique to find out that's what Rogue had always wanted so he could buy her the stuffed one for Christmas. It was all a perception problem, really. His perception. His problem.

Rogue was giddy over getting the dog. She talked about it endlessly after she had finally got past the interview. She called people. You know, dog people. What do you feed them? What kind of shots do they have to have? Grooming? Etc. This should have been his clue. Don't mess with the dog. You're just the boyfriend. This is the furry baby. But no. He just had to stick his foot in his mouth.

The problem was he was thinking, well, dog. Big, lovable, licks your face, and runs around in the yard. German Shepard. Labrador. Those mutts you saw on the streets. He didn't know. Lassie something. Then came the big day, and she brought it home.

It probably wouldn't have been so bad if he hadn't done it with half of the X-Men hanging around. Wolverine and Bobby were no help at all either.

Rogue had been calling about dogs for a week. Late that afternoon, she had zipped off in her sports car to look at them. Considering the way she drives, Remy figured the poor little pup would be lucky if it wasn't car sick by the time she got it home.

He was playing a game of pool with Logan when she breezed back in all smiles and carrying a basket. Half of the X-Men were also hanging around the rec. room relaxing as well. He grinned at her.

"So, let's be seeing it p'tite."

Isn't she adorable, Remy." Rogue beamed holding out the basket for him.

He had looked down and blinked. He could have missed it if he hadn't been looking close. Two tiny black eyes looked up at him from a ball of brown and white hair not even as big as his fist. A fox like face with a bit of darker hair around it's eyes, he would have swore it was the teeniest, tiniest racoon he had ever seen. It was one of those small dogs like that lady had on the TV show "The Nanny".

At first he didn't know what to say. Rogue set the basket down and picked the little thing up around the tummy and held it out to him. Wow, it did have legs, sorta. It yipped at him. Rogue looked so proud.

"Gee chere. I thought ya said ya wanted a real dog." He chuckled a little confused.

Wolverine laughed out loud. "That ain't no dog. It's a rat wearing a fur coat."

Bobby joked. "Hey Rogue, I think somebody pulled one over on you." By then, all the guys were laughing a bit.

Her eyes misted up and her bottom lip started to quiver.

*Oh hell*

But there was no chance to take it back now. She choked back a sob, clutched the dog to her, and was gone in an instant.

"Rogue! Chere! Aw, I didn't mean it. It's cute. Really."

Unfortunately, it was late in the evening, and Rogue was so hurt she didn't want to talk to him. It wasn't the dog really. It was a combination of everything, job, house, X-Men, and then he'd made fun of her. She told him she wasn't mad, but to get some sleep. She needed to breath. Get a shower and sleep herself. They'd talk in the morning. He hardly slept at all.

He hoped he could make amends in the morning and got up early and made breakfast. Flower on the tray and everything, taking it up to her room.

"Chere?" he whispered. No answer. He unlocked the door and snuck in. What good was being a thief if you didn't use it sometimes?

She had at least changed into her nightshirt and was curled up on the bed with the puppy snoozing in the crook of her knees. This was to be an omen. The dog liked to sleep on the bed near Rogue.

"Rrrrrr. Yip, yip, yap."

"Good dog." He petted it, but it still grrr'd at him.

"Here. See. Peace offering." He held out the dog chew he bought the other day. Actually it was only part of one since the ones he'd bought seemed a bit too big. The little rat sniffed it, eyed him, and then wiggled a tiny tail taking the gift.

"Ah see yah charmed yah way intah another heart." Rogue yawned and stretched.

"I brought ya breakfast too."

"Oh Remy, that was so sweet. But yah didn't have tah. Ah know how yah hate tah get up early. An' ah should be the one apologizin. Ah over reacted. Ah know yah weren't really laughin at me. Ah guess ah was really tired."

Rogue reach over and put on the suppression collar and held out her arms to him.

He hugged her to him.

"Dat's ok. I'm sorry too. I knew how much dis meant to you an' I made fun o' it. She really is adorable. Like you."

"See Minx." She said to the puppy now trying to wiggle in between them. "Ah tol yah he wasn't such ah bad guy."

She cuddled the puppy for a minute while he petted it then she hopped up and put it in a big box she'd gotten.

"Theah yah go shugah. Here's yah home while ah house break yah. Yah probably want tah use yah paper and eat something."

Then she returned to him. The puppy didn't stay quiet the whole time, and her breakfast got cold but after all, make ups were almost worth the fights.

And the next day, she woke him up with breakfast in bed.

Besides, he was actually beginning to like the little furry terror. For something so small, Minx thought nothing was too big for her to take on. She pranced (the only way to describe it) around the house generally endearing herself to everyone but Bishop who she scared by dashing under his feet barking, (he pulled his gun on her), Scott, since she chewed his favorite gloves which he shouldn't have thrown on the foot stool, and Logan, since she stole the sandwich he'd placed on the TV tray down on the floor.

That had been a sight to see. Logan had been pushing her out of the way for days. Remy secretly suspected he didn't want to get attached to the animal. He acted that way around Jubilee's cat but couldn't help privately feeding and caring for it. He also suspected that's why Minx wasn't really afraid of Logan.

"It looks like a rat, smells of puppy chow, and wets on the newspapers before I read them."

"Leave mah puppy alone. If yah weren't such ah slob, always throwin thah papers on thah floor, they wouldn't get wet. She confuses them with her papers. She's ah good dog. She's doing what she's suppose tah do."

'Grumble'

Logan didn't even see the sandwich go although Remy watched Minx creep up on it for the better part of five minutes. She'd be a pretty good thief. It wasn't until she made the mistake of dragging it out into the middle of the room to eat it that Wolverine nearly had a cow.

"That's it! It's dead! I'm making teeny doggie kebabs!"

Remy pounced on the dog and sandwich, while everyone else was laughing hysterically..

"Come on mon ami. Ya put it in front o' her face. She's a dog. If ya didn't nearly eat off de floor, it wouldn't have happened."

Minx grrrrr'd at Wolverine wanting her sandwich. She'd stalked and killed it. Besides, possession is nine tenths of the law.

Logan instinctively rumbled back. That's when Rogue came in and found her baby in a growling match with Wolverine. Everyone else was practically rolling on the floor.

She grabbed Minx from Remy. "Logan. Ah tol yah. Yah leave mah puppy alone. And don't feed her this stuff." She waved the sandwich in front of him and then threw it in the trash can. "It's not good for growin puppies." Then left, puppy in hand.

Remy shrugged trying hard not to crack up. Logan looked at the trash can and grumbled. "That was my sandwich. ... All right. Everybody get it out of your systems. " Another burst of laughter exploded in the room. He was never going to live this down.

As a concession to his tastes and because she thought Minx needed a friend since she was beginning to think of Logan as another animal to play with, Solitaire got Remy a little black kitten from the Humane Society. Despite the whole cat and dog thing, Mischief and Minx seemed to hit it off, and things finally calmed down on that front.

And both he and Rogue were slowly learning what it meant to really compromise and learn to live with not just love one another.

But one of the real disappointments they'd had over the last few weeks was about Rogue's powers. Yes, the suppression collar worked, but they soon found that if she wore it for more than about four hours a day, it started delaying how long it took for her powers to return. It could be up to fifteen, twenty minutes before her body recovered from her powers being dampened. This scared the hell out of Remy. She would be way too vulnerable during an attack by super beings. She only wore it at times they chose together and checked the clock. So she was back to staying covered up most of the time, even at work, and he couldn't just breeze in and hug and kiss her.

As for the Z'Noxx chamber, Rogue had been right about that. Joseph was right that it did shield the mind but there was still some physical drain. Rogue's powers were touch sensitive and drained both mental and physical characteristics. The Z'Noxx chamber definitely prevented the mental and slowed down the physical, but soon whoever she was touching began to get weak, then dizzy. This scared Rogue who was afraid Remy could eventually be hurt, and he was very vulnerable after being with her before his strength returned. All in all, neither were ideal and had to be used with caution. So they tended to use both sparingly. The Z'Noxx chamber in their bedroom at night so they could sleep in the same bed. Rarely were they in contact the whole night, but at least they could cuddle some and Rogue didn't have to worry about accidentally touching him briefly. The collar for more strenuous pastimes. It wasn't ideal, but he wasn't complaining.

However, Rogue was making progress with her absorbing power finally . A week after they had gotten back together, he wanted her to go in his mind, to show her everything, no more secrets. And so they had touched bare hands opening to one another. But it didn't work. Rogue was stunned then elated. It had all been a matter of trust and her concern for him. She trusted him now, and if she knew it was him, and let herself be open to him, she could generally shut her absorbing power down for a few minutes. But the instinctive subconscious drives set up for her self-protection were strong. Normally, even asleep, her powers were naturally 'on'. But at least now she knew. They, Hank, and Jean worked as often as they could hoping someday that the reverse would be true. That her power would naturally be 'off' unless she wanted to use it. ... Someday.


What lies behind us and what lies before us are small matters compared to what lies within us. - Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

Chapter 8: Epilogue, Part 2

 

He removed the gum again. Another piece gone tasteless. They were moving into the new place tomorrow, pets and all, and he wanted to get this information hoping it was none of his business and maybe he could quit worrying about it and help her with getting the house together. They didn't have much yet but a bedroom suit and a couch.

He watched the hotel's door and the window of the room where the occupant should come in. He hoped something hadn't already happened, but usually a professional spent a little time casing the mark. Maybe luck was still with him.

An hour later, a shadow went through the hotel's door and then a light came on in the room. About time. Remy climbed down the outside of the building and set himself gracefully on the ledge. What he wanted was a good look as this guy and hanging around the hallway or front door for hours was not very inconspicuous. He'd broken into the room hours earlier and found nothing, just a few clothes and toiletries. The guy definitely was a pro. No info on the mark or anything else left lying around.

If he was real lucky, he'd recognize the guy. One of the benefits of once dating an assassin was you met and heard about other assassins. Not to mention, he'd run into his fair share of the best out for his head over the years. If he knew who the guy was, it might give him clues to the mark or at least allow him to use his contacts out of town to then see what they could find out. If this was a war between big crime bosses, he could anonymously contact the police, warn his street friends and do what he could get the guy caught, but in those cases, stopping one assassin usually only led to the next. He knew from experience that if two 'families' planned to go head to head with one another, they would, one way or the other. But if it had anything to do with mutants and humans, the X-Men would need to know too.

Remy leaned against the wall and peered in the window through ratty curtains at the shadow that moved there. As soon as he got a good glimpse of the guy, he knew he was in trouble. But by then it was too late. He heard the shot as the wall behind him felt hot then imploded. He fell crashing back into the room. Target aimed the destabilizer gun at him and fire. If Gambit had tried to stop his movement from the first blast, he would have been dead. That would have been a normal reaction, and he would have landed right where the bullet hit the wall behind him. But he never slowed down, using the momentum of the fall to keep rolling and then leap back through the bathroom door. The gun that the dealer had supplied the hitman with shot a bullet that sent out a small atomic charge disrupting the electron bonds in the object it hit for about twenty feet. Inanimate objects fell apart. Living beings had complete cellular breakdown. It was rumored to be a very painful death.

And Target had near perfect aim. That was his mutant gift, to be able to focus on an object with unerring accuracy. He could follow a person through a moving crowd with ease and could hit most any mark. The Greek was ruthless and relentless. Remy knew the man's targeting senses had detected him the minute he 'invaded' the hitman's space.

Gambit had no intention of letting Target get off a second shot. His aim was pretty good too and rolled out of the bathroom letting loose a barrage of cards that blew Target off his feet. The gun skidded out of his hands into a far corner. Remy was on him in a flash. A spinning kick sent the rising hitman crashing into the furniture. The Greek man was powerfully built and of average height moving with deliberate but smooth motion. He landed heavily but righted himself quickly jerking a wicked looking knife out of a hidden area. He leaped at Gambit slashing trying to make him fall back and leave an exposed area ripe for the kill. Remy moved with him instead taking a minor cut on the arm rather tah expose his gut, depending on the knife, his body armor might not stop it. He stepped with Target using the man's momentum to help whip him hard against the wall.

Remy heard a slick wet sound and a small gasp as Target slumped and then fell back the knife embedded almost to the hilt in his chest. Gambit checked the hit man but was pretty sure there was nothing left to be done. Right through the heart. Right through the hitman's protective vest. Nice knife.

He hadn't meant or wanted to kill him. He really didn't like killing. He had only wanted to knock the wind out of Target. And he needed the hitman to talk. A pro like him wasn't hired by just anyone. Damn.

The fight had of course brought attention to the area, and he could hear sirens in the distance. Probably called by the hotel manager. Knowing the patrons of a place like this hole would mind their own business, Remy quickly rifled through Target's jacket tossing aside change and money. He stuffed what little paper the man had on him in a pocket and took off. The police could handle the rest.

Soon far away from the scene, Gambit stopped his bike under a street light and examined the stuff in Target's pockets. The man was too good to keep much. No address or date book, electronic or other wise. Most of the paper turned out to be candy wrappers. Target had been watching someone too. But there was one thing. A picture of a young woman. A redhead, very attractive. She seemed vaguely familiar like he might have seen her face somewhere but nothing specific. It was just an snapshot folded and bent with the writing Erase, $1M scribbled on the back. Definitely a serious hit. And unfortunately, Target was strictly freelance. He kept no friends or contacts. Secret hits were his speciality.

Now who would want to hire an assassin to kill a beautiful creature like her? She didn't look the dangerous type. Someone at the wrong place at the wrong time? Or in with the wrong crowd? He sighed. No way to ever know now. He'd pass the picture around but doubted it would turn anything up. New York was a big city, and she didn't seem the type his people would know, and he knew most of the uptown paramours in the business already. She wasn't one of them. He'd just have to wait and listen for anything connected.

*Damn.* He wished the girl luck.

Remy started up his bike and headed to check with some of his contacts unfortunately expecting to be back at the X-Mansion empty handed before too early in the morning.


Around noon the next day, he and Rogue packed up their clothes and few belonging in the mansion van. Logan was going to drive it to the house while Rogue took her car and he took his bike. The stuff they had already bought was going to be delivered this afternoon. The pets got to ride with Rogue although Mischief thought pet carriers were grossly unfair since Minx just rode on the seat.

The rest of the X-Men scrambled into cars to go along and see the place. Lately, they had been unusually helpful around him even apologetic. Maybe they were sorry about breaking in on him and Rogue. He wasn't use to the attention. It was getting on his nerves. In a way , he had liked it better when they ignored him.

He still worried about the girl a bit but had learned he couldn't let that sort of thing eat him up. He'd be crazy by now if not. He'd keep his ears open and do what he could. His contacts knew what he was looking for.

Today, though, he was going to help Solitaire with the house. There were plenty of things to occupy his time.

They got to the place and everyone piled out heading quickly past him and Rogue as she let the pets loose. Brother, the team seemed a bit overenthusiastic. It was only a house.

Jean was already at the door opening it. Solitaire had given her a key just in case.

The whole group stood in front of them as they approached the place. Remy was getting a really bad feeling about his.

"Remy, ... Rogue." Jean smiled. "We all wanted you to know that you're family and well... We got you a few things for the house.

Rogue's eyes widened, and she stammered.

"We... don' know what to say. How sweet. Thank y'all."

Jean opened the door and lead them in. They stood there and stared. There was a piece of furniture or painting or something new in each room.

Then everybody started showing off what they'd gotten them. The furniture came and everyone stayed and helped for a few more hours more. The place really did feel like home now, and suddenly Remy realized at long last he'd been accepted.

As they were finally leaving, Rogue placed the collar around her neck and hugged him.

"Welcome home lovah." She smiled.

"Glad ta be here, mon amour. More dan anything. But ya t'ink dis means I have ta be giving up my 'bad boy' membership card now?"

"Hardly, you'll always be a 'bad boy'. Mah bad boy. Ah wouldn't have it any othah way."

They both laughed and then kissed.

"I love ya chere."

"Always shugah"

He swept her up in his arms and carried her through the door.


"Sinister, you might be interested in this."

Arclight dumped the paperwork on his desk unceremoniously and turned on her heel to stomp out. He could tell she was in a fowl mood. What had gotten under her skin?

He opened the folder and understood imediately. All this time and she was still carrying a torch for the boy. The photos of Rogue and Gambit nuzzling out by the X- Mansion lake were fuzzy because of the satelite resolution but clear enough that you could tell who they were, barely. Best he could do.

So they had made up? Sinister was beginning to wonder if he really understood Gambit afterall. He'd been convinced after Rogue left, Gambit would eventually return to him. Selling her out just to get her back. Looking out for himself, his wants and needs. It didn't happen. The cajun had waited hoping she'd return. Letting her go if she didn't. Selfless. That wasn't what he believed about LeBeau at all.

He stared at the photo and how close together the couple was. It appeared Rogue was going to surprise him as well. She had always been afraid to open herself up before. To risk being vulnerable to someone. The fact that she was willing to try to work for their relationship and do things she'd never done for anyone else was telling. True love. How romantic. How naive.

He didn't know whether to be disappointed or dance with joy. He had wanted LeBeau back working for him, but his plans for Gambit's genetic heritage were working out better than he could have possibly dreamed. He always knew Scott and Jean would end up together and hopefully give him even more progeny besides his creation, Nathan, but now Remy and Solitaire as well? Ah, would those genetic lines ever let him down? Well, there were the other two. Neither as impressive, and no perfect genetic matches for them unless there had been even more hanky panky than he thought. After all, he had been wrong before. Gambit was living proof.

And he'd never thought Solitaire would amount to anything. She was just an experiment to see if he could do it, and then she had no control over her gifts at all. A pity she didn't know what a wonder of science she was. The first in vitro fertilization; long before anyone else. His few years practicing as a fertility doctor in the rural South to test his theories paid off after all. Since most of his experiments died, he'd considered her a success just for being alive. All her stupid mother wanted was to be pregnant. So he made her pregnant, and had used the sperm of his choice deciding on a girl since there wasn't one of those. Surprisingly the genetic characteristics still bred fairly well. Although he did seem to always keep getting that unique hair abnormality every time he experimented with that particular genetic line. She did absorb energy and channel it just not the same energy or in the same way as the others. He shouldn't have been so surprised. Different maternal genes and the most obviously mutated DNA of the sperm samples he had obtained. He loved the military.

As for Gambit, his parentage had always brought up a bevy of interesting prospects. Perhaps it was time to put that information to use.


BRRING .... BRRING

"Hello?"

"Good afternoon Madame. Would your husband happen to be at home?"

"Can I telling him who's calling?"

"Confidential Insurance. I'm calling concerning a policy he has with us."

In the background, "Dear. It's an insurance agent. Something about a policy."

Even quieter still, "I think he's really trying to sell you some. But I hate to be rude."

"If he is, I'll get rid of him. I have plenty of insurance."

"Fine. I'll go finish dinner. The kids will be here soon."

Seconds later:

"Hello? Can I help you?"

"Indeed, you already have. So nice to actually be able to talk to you after all these years."

"Who is this?"

"A friend. A good friend. Who else would be so willing to help you hide your dirty little secrets?"

Slightly lower. "Se.. Secrets? You're not an insurance agent. What is this about? Explain yourself or be cut off."

"Oh you wouldn't want to do that. Then I might get desperate to get your attention. Talk to your wife instead. You wouldn't want that. And I most certainly sell insurance. The kind a man who cheats on his wife and family would find most essential. You do understand, don't you?"

Silence

"You do understand, don't you?"

Even more quietly than the lower tone of voice before. "I .. I don't know what you're talking about."

"No? It was twenty -seven years ago. Your wife and new born second child were back from the hospital only months before. What was it? Too many sleepless nights? Too many diapers? Trouble at work? You felt neglected for the children? ... All marriages have difficult periods. Believe me, I know. ... But then you met her. Young. ... They're always young aren't they? ... Charming, captivating, desirable, and .. that unique accent. She made you feel needed and desirable too, didn't she?

"It ... it wasn't like that. I love my wife. I was only trying to help that girl. It ... it just happened, just that once."

"Of course, of course. I understand."

"What... what do you want?"

"Nothing. ... much. Information. ... when I ask. So little to pay for adultery wouldn't you say?"

"You bastard. This is blackmail."

"Quite correct. And you'll pay it, or I'll deliver a little package to your wife with the blood tests and birth certificate of your son."

"Sss.... Son? No. That's...that's impossible. She got rid of the child. I gave her plenty of money. Put her in touch with the best doctors."

"Really? Since she left the state to have the procedure done, and you never heard from her again, how do you know that for sure?"

"A son? I... have a son? Is ... is he alright?"

"Why would you care? He meant nothing to you then."

"Look you. ... I did care, do care. I would have helped her with the child if I known. She was ... too young... and really messed up. I thought she would be better off without a child. I thought it was best for all of us. ... Please ... tell me if he's ok."

"He's alive if that's what you want."

"You ... Fine. .... Can I meet him? I want to meet him. We can work something out. You got the wrong guy if you think I can help you in any way. I don't have lots of money or access to any information that would be worth anything to anybody."

He could hear the amused malice in the voice even over the phone.

"Oh I think you do. I really think you do. As for the boy. Maybe someday. After you've proved your worth to me. But for now to prove to you I have all the data necessary to back up my threat, go look in your mailbox."

"But it's Sunday."

"Special delivery. And don't worry. I'll be in touch when I need you to find out some things for me. After all, what are friends for if not to pay debts to one another?"

"You son of a...."

Click.


His hand was shaking nervously. He felt cold and clammy. Why? Why now after all these years. And could it be? A son? The lump in his stomach grew with each second.

"Daddy? Daddy? We're here."

"John dear. Dinner's ready and the kids are here."

He came out of his thoughts and wiped his face. He'd check the mailbox later because he had no doubt what he'd find. Good god.

"Daddy? Oh, there you are."

"Huh? Sorry sweetheart. Just got off the phone. Bothersome salesmen."

"Are you alright? You look pale."

"Fine. Fine. I'm just fine." He reached out and hugged her.

"You know I love you don't you sweetheart?"

"Of course daddy how could you ever think I wouldn't know that. And I'll always love you. No matter what. ... Are you sure nothing's wrong?"

"Jean? Come on, we've got toys from the Aunt and Uncle to get. Oh, hello Mr. Grey. Is everything alright?"

"Yes. Yes, Scott, every thing is perfectly fine. Perfectly fine." He stated while leading them out of the study. "What could possibly be wrong?"


Sinister smiled as he rubbed his chin once again considering what information Mr. Gray could best supply him about the X-Men and then his mind turned to the possible implications that the crossing of different Grey and Summers genes could bring him. Maybe the babies of the families could even out-do their older siblings? Yes, this had distinct possibilities. Distinct possibilities indeed.


Hallelujah!

Hope you've had fun, or at least a chuckle, sniffle, or an 'Oh no. That's awful. What was she thinking'.

Aloha.


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