|Sat, 2 Sep 2000
The Morning After (X-Men)
Disclaimer: the X-Men and any associated characters and events are the property of Marvel. Although I'm using them without Marvel's permission, I'm also not making any money and so, hopefully, they'll overlook it. Please don't sue me! This is written partly in response to Alara Rogers' The Breakup Challenge, but also because I find angst and emotional upheaval more interesting than save-the-universe type battles, both to read and to write. Either way, any divergence from the official continuity is my fault and occurs only as a result of narrative imperative. That's my excuse, anyway, and I'm sticking to it :). Feedback, either praise or constructive criticism, is not only welcomed but craved, and should be sent to Latex1@tinyonline.co.uk Flames will be treated with the disdain they deserve. It's set, for those who care, shortly after UXM #380. Have fun.
The Morning After
The early morning sun streamed through the attic skylight, causing stray dust motes to gleam like airborne flecks of gold. The sunlight splashed over the plants in Ororo's room, making everything brighter, more vibrant and alive. Humming to herself, she created a small cloud and watched it shower the plants with raindrops, moving gently from place to place in the attic, giving each grouping of foliage just the right amount of attention, never too much or too little, before moving on to the next plant, ready to minister to its hydration needs. This was Ororo's favourite time of the day, a still and calm hour before many of the other inhabitants of Xavier's were up, and she savoured the peace it brought.
Recently, she had been especially appreciative of her mutant ability to manipulate weather, as losing it, albeit briefly, had reminded her quite forcefully of the sheer hell she'd gone through the first time she'd been stripped of her powers, and the transcendent joy she'd experienced on regaining them. Her bond with nature had been something she'd oftentimes taken for granted and, while she did appreciate her awareness of the natural and meteorological phenomena around her, it was only in their absence she truly realised how integral a part of her life her powers were.
All too often in the lives of the X-Men and the world they inhabited, the circles in which they moved, peace and calm were scarce and valuable commodities, all the more precious for their rarity. Ororo was determined to enjoy these moments to the full, fully to appreciate the tranquillity before the interruption which would inevitably come. While the range of potential disruptions to the early morning serenity was great, taking in attacks by world-devouring monsters, snowball fights in the summer courtesy of Bobby Drake (although no longer the youngest member of the team, arguably still the least mature or at least the most resistant to the inevitable maturation process) and all manner of things in between, it was one of the cornerstones of life in the X-Men that the interruption would come.
As if on cue, she heard a tapping at her doorframe and, turning her head, beheld Remy LeBeau leaning against the doorjamb and looking decidedly the worse for wear. Ororo smiled, remembering that a number of the team, at Logan's instigation, had taken a little trip into Salem Center the night before to let off some steam. Remy, she supposed, had attempted to match Logan drink for drink. It might have worked against anyone without a healing factor, and it seemed that Remy had been disabused of the notion that he could outdrink anyone on the team the hard way.
"Y'got a minute, Stormy?" he asked.
"Not if you are going to call me by that ridiculous nickname," she replied, although they both knew that he did it only to irritate her, a form of interaction, his way of expressing affection, akin to dipping the girls' pigtails in the inkwell. Remy flirted, therefore he was.
"Ororo," he said, "I need t'talk." Being so open, so plaintive, so early in the conversation was unlike Remy and Ororo immediately responded to the plea in his voice.
"Come in," she said, motioning him to enter her attic. He did so moving, despite whatever was on his mind, with a catlike elegance which, along with his almost-delicate good looks and burning red eyes, had earned him more than his share of admiring looks (and often more) from women over the years. He slumped into a chair and she sat opposite him, perfect posture in contrast to his slouch, yet both possessed of an enviable grace. "What is bothering you, my friend?" she asked without preamble, as he had already dispensed with small talk.
"I t'ink I screwed up, chere," he stated with a real air of concern.
"How, precisely?" Ororo asked, gently prompting him.
"Slept wit' someone dat maybe I shouldn't have."
"Someone who wasn't Rogue," Ororo clarified, no judgement or disapproval. He didn't need that, just a friend, and she would fulfil that role.
"Yeah. We were out last night, drinkin', an' I t'ink maybe I had a few too many. Tryin' t'drown my sorrows y'know? T'ing is, Rogue dumped me, told me it would never have worked, an' I don' know, maybe I was tryin' t'prove I didn't need her, or maybe I was just drunk an' horny, lookin' for solace where I could find it. Either way, dis mornin' I woke up some place I shouldn't've been in de first place, an' I don' know what I'm gonna do. I mean, I don' wanna lie t'her, but tellin' her ain't exactly gonna do me no favours in de reconciliation department, an' it'd just hurt her. I don' know if we still got a shot, if dere's still an 'us' t'fight for, but dis ain't gonna help my chances any." Ororo nodded her silent assent, eyebrows raised and lips pursed.
"Some woman you met last night?" she queried.
"Nope. Sleepin' wit' someone else ain't de whole story. Who I slept wit' just complicates matters."
"Marrow." The brightness of the sunlight, painting everything golden, was a strikingly ironic counterpoint to the abject misery on Remy's face.
"Goddess," sighed Ororo, closing her eyes. "When you said you'd 'screwed up', you were not wrong. Remy, she is just a child. What were you thinking?"
"T'inkin' didn't have much t'do wit' it," Remy responded, his head lowered, talking through the curtain of hair which fell to obscure his face. "It just happened, an' dere ain't a moment goes by I don' regret it."
"I'm sure Sarah would be touched to hear you say that." Ororo's sarcasm was evident, and Remy struggled to keep his tone penitent rather than defensive.
"Look, it ain't dat I don' care 'bout Sarah. Last night wasn't just 'bout gettin' laid, an' I don' wanna hurt her, but..... Ah, shit, y'know what de funny t'ing is? When we all just lost our powers, dat would've been de perfect time for Rogue an' me to 'consummate de relationship' as McCoy'd say, but t'ings were kinda strange between us right den, an' now I end up sleepin' wit' Sarah. Ain't life a bitch? T'ink I screwed de pooch on dis one, chere."
"I assume at least this means that Sarah doesn't hold your part in the formation of the Marauders against you?" Ororo hadn't really meant to say that, or at least not quite so bluntly, aware of how guilty Remy felt about the indirect consequences of his work for Mr. Sinister. Nevertheless, it had slipped out. A number of X-Men had been badly injured in the slaughter that had taken place in the Alley that day. Warren's wings had been amputated as a result, leading indirectly to him becoming Death, one of the four Horsemen of Apocalypse. And countless Morlocks, almost Sarah's entire familial community, had been massacred. The event had stood between Remy and the rest of the X-Men for a time, despite his regret and his attempts at the time to stop the Marauders but, as Logan had said to him shortly after his return to the team, Xavier's was a place for second chances.
"Don' t'ink she knows," Remy said shortly. "It never came up, an' for some reason I could never t'ink of a good time t'tell her. 'Hey, Sarah, y'know de Marauders, de ones who butchered most everyone you cared 'bout? Well, I was de one t'bring 'em together. Sorry 'bout dat. Seemed like a good idea at de time.' Can't see dat one playin' too well, somehow."
"She will find out eventually, Remy, and it would be better coming from you than from someone else."
"Maybe, but I don' t'ink now's de time. Do you?"
"Oh, Remy," Ororo said. "You never do anything by halves, do you?" Remy's silence was more eloquent than any verbal response could ever have been.
The extensive grounds around Xavier's were not traditionally a place where Sarah spent a great deal of time. She had spent her early years underground in the Alley, separated (as were all the Morlocks) from the world above by the physical nature of their mutation, and had grown up after that on a world ruled by the insane Mikhail Rasputin, conflict and battle a way of life. Even after her physical transformation in a Skrull medical device, a fact that rendered her uncontrollable bone growth less uncontrollable, and certainly less painful, it was difficult to overcome a lifetime of conditioning, where all her experiences pointed to the same conclusion: sunlight was a sign of danger, something to be fled rather than embraced. But her time with the X-Men, the things she'd experienced, had caused her to re-evaluate her perceptions.
She'd come to the team not entirely of her own will, bitter and angry at everyone and everything, cultivating her lack of social skills and determined not to fit in, rejecting them before they had a chance to reject her as the pretty-pretty upworlders had her whole life. But over time some of those barriers had been broken down. She'd forged bonds with Peter and Remy, even Ororo, ironic and unexpected in light of the fact that their first meeting had ended with Ororo tearing the heart from Sarah's chest in order to defuse the bomb linked to it.
Her entire life she'd thought of herself as ugly, forever set apart by her physical appearance, as had all the other Morlocks, but recently her self-image had been called into question. Peter, an artist as well as a not-unattractive man in his own right had described her as 'beautiful', and then during the period when they'd lost their powers there had been Brad, who'd taken an interest in her. And last night with Remy. She'd never dreamed of anything like it, had ruled out the possibility of any tenderness from her life. To be open was to be vulnerable and weak, she'd always been taught, and had never questioned that lesson as all her experiences had borne it out. Until now. Her worldview had been challenged, and she found herself wanting desperately to believe that the lessons she'd learned, hard and well, in her formative years had not painted a complete picture. That there was more to life than conflict and a struggle to survive, kill or be killed.
So it was that morning that she walked the grounds actually enjoying the warmth of the sunlight on her skin, learning to take pleasure from it, where before she'd only ever been taught to take cover. It was a beautiful morning, and a good day to be alive.
High above, Warren Worthington III plummeted toward the ground, tears flowing upward across his cheeks as he kept his head turned unflinchingly into the wind, looking straight down as the ground rushed up to meet him. The further he fell, the thicker the air became, details of the tableau beneath him resolving themselves. Breakstone Lake, Greymalkin Lane, the mansion.
His wings, folded behind him to minimise his profile and decrease wind resistance, snapped open and his trajectory changed in one graceful, swooping arc from vertical to horizontal, as he skimmed the top of the trees, detached leaves spinning and dancing in his wake before fluttering gently to the ground. His powerful, majestic wings beat once, twice and he soared heavenward once again, the early morning sun hot on his face, what few clouds there were pristine white against a sky of such pure blue that it was almost painful in its beauty. He was not a naturally early riser, but some mornings just forced him out of bed and into the sky, an almost physical and certainly irresistible imperative to take advantage of the freedom and serenity offered by the open sky.
Here, for this time, he was free, doing rather than thinking, flying on instinct and intuition with nothing so cerebral as thought to get in the way of so transcendently and physically poetic a moment. The sky was his, shared only with other winged creatures, and the liberating pleasure that flying brought was something which, he felt, could not be explained or articulated, only experienced.
He was so caught up in the exultation of flight that he failed to notice that he was being observed. His audience of one watched, enthralled by the beauty of the man and the grace of his performance, for performance it was, whether he knew it was for a spectator or not. When finally he landed, it was not applause from Sarah which drew his attention but rather her silent and appreciative awe. He looked at her, aware of her gaze and breathing a little harder than normal from his exertions.
"Wow," she managed. "That was incredible." He smiled, at once amused by her obvious adulation of him and uncomfortable because of it. Sarah's first sight of him in the Alley all that time ago had made a very strong impression on her, and in her eyes he still had the stature of a legend, both for his beauty and for his efforts against the Marauders when they had come to slaughter the Morlocks.
"Glad you liked it," he responded, keeping the tone light.
"I still feel out of place here, in the open," she confided. "Exposed. But you make it all look so natural, like you belong there."
"I do," Warren replied, spreading his wings for emphasis. "But I guess it's a far cry from the Alley, and all a little disconcerting for you." Immediately he'd said it, he realised how patronising it sounded, but it was too late to take it back and to say anything would just draw more attention to the fact.
"No shit," she muttered, suddenly self-conscious and very aware of both the vast expense of greenery and the paucity of potential cover. Warren attempted to change the topic.
"What brings you out here at this time?" he asked. It appeared to be the right question, as Sarah's expression changed from discomfort to shy pleasure.
"Woke up early and thought I'd check out the sunrise, see what everyone else seems to think is such a big deal."
"And was it?"
"Actually, yeah," she responded with a thoughtful and mildly surprised look on her face. "But if you tell anyone, especially the Wind Rider, I'll deny it!"
"It'll be our secret," Warren promised with a smile.
"Can I ask you somethin'?" she probed tentatively.
"You've known Gambit for a while, right? You know him better than I do."
"I used to think so," Warren responded darkly. Sarah's brow wrinkled.
"What do you mean?"
"He's a man with a lot of secrets in his past," Warren said cryptically, "and some of them aren't pretty. The kind that come back to haunt you."
"Such as?" she pressed.
"Well, the fact that he once did some work for Sinister came as something of a surprise to a lot of us," he answered with a vehemence and depth of feeling, not bothering to mask his bitterness. Then he saw the look on her face. "You didn't know?"
"No. What kind of work?"
"Look, Sarah, I shouldn't have said anything. Gambit's mistakes are in the past, and I'm sure he regrets them. He's moved on, changed. He's a different person now."
"What kind of work?" she repeated, her tone hard, all trace of adulation for Warren replaced by her need to know.
"I'm really not the person you should be talking to, Sarah."
"Tell me, goddamn it! What did he do?" Warren would later rationalise the decision to Betsy, citing Sarah's right to know, how she wouldn't be satisfied with anything less than the truth, but deep inside a part of him wanted her to know, wanted Remy held accountable for what he'd done. So he told her.
Girls, girls, girls! Long legs and burgundy lips. Girls, girls, girls, Dancin' down on Sunset strip.
Motley Crue's paean to strip joints played in Remy's ears, the sounds echoing throughout the garage as he methodically reconstructed his motorcycle from the parts lying around him, letting his fingers do the work while he tried desperately to think of a solution to the mess he'd created. None was immediately apparent. Vince Neil was just about to make reference to Crazy Horse, Paris, France when a bone dagger interrupted him permanently and terminally. Remy looked up to see Sarah backlit by the sun. He began to rise, to ask what the matter was, given the fact that her mood had been quite different the last time they'd seen one another.
"You motherfucker!" she screamed at him, meeting his jaw with her fist and sending him sprawling into the pool of disassembled bike components. He looked at her, dumbfounded.
"What?" he managed.
"You," she hissed. "Sinister. The Marauders. My family!" He rose to a crouch, began to stand, searching all the while for something to say. Sarah lunged toward him, driving her knee hard into his stomach. He sank to his knees, winded, and the back of her hand connected with his cheek, opening a cut and knocking him to the floor once again. He attempted once more to rise, but she stamped on his leg just above the knee; it gave way beneath him and he fell onto his back.
Almost immediately, she was astride him, fingers laced tight in his hair, pulling his head back, and dagger at his throat.
"Gonna kill you," she snarled, tears of rage and grief streaming down her face. "Bastard! How could you do that, not tell me? What, you thought you'd make it up to me by fuckin' me? Throw the poor little Morlock girl a *bone*?" The dagger pressed harder against his throat, breaking the skin, drawing blood. "What, no smartass remark? No excuse? Why? You son of a bitch! Why?!" Remy began to attempt a response, a justification, an apology, but she interrupted him. "Shut up! Shut up! Shut the fuck up!" The bone dagger rose into the air, reached the apex of its arc, and began its descent. Which was abruptly halted as a hand clamped around Sarah's wrist.
"Get off him, Marrow." Logan's tone brooked no dissent. Sarah rounded on him, releasing Remy in the process.
"Stay out of this, old man! He gathered the Marauders, he as good as murdered the Morlocks!"
"I know what he did." Sarah looked incredulously at Logan.
"You *knew*? You all knew, but you still took him back? You were fuckin' *there*! You, the Wind Rider, Colossus, Rogue, all of you. You know what they did. You saw what they did. An' it's his fault! How could you take him back?" They circled each other, Logan interposing himself between Remy and the nearly hysterical Sarah.
"He fucked up, no argument. But when he realised, he tried to put it right, to stop the slaughter. An' he almost died for it. How do you think you got out, girl? He found you, wounded as he was, an' carried you to safety."
"An' that makes everythin' okay? He saved me, so it's right that he led them there in the first place? What about all the ones he didn't save? Without him, the Marauders wouldn't even exist! Don't you get that?"
"So you want to kill him, punish him the way you can't punish the Marauders? Is that gonna hurt them, or bring their victims back?"
"It doesn't matter! I will make them pay, but right now he's here and they're not, and he's not gettin' off that easy." Logan looked her straight in the eyes.
"No," he said simply. "He made a mistake, but he ain't responsible for the Morlocks' deaths. Now LeBeau ain't always my favourite person, but he didn't kill the Morlocks an' you ain't killin' him now."
"What, you think he's gonna make it up to me, make amends for all the deaths? He can *never* make amends. An' last night, actin' like he cared. It's okay to fuck me but never to let me know the truth?" Logan's eyes narrowed as he assimilated this new information.
"I'm not sayin' what he did, then or last night, was right, but this ain't happenin', Sarah." She stood there, body vibrating with rage and indecision, and for a moment it seemed that she might try to kill them both. Then, she locked gazes with Logan, eyes blazing with anguish and fury and frustration and humiliation.
"Fuck you both," she spat. She turned on her heel and stalked away, speed increasing until she was running, sprinting away from the garage and the two men.
"T'anks, mon ami," Remy rasped as he began to push himself to his feet. Faster than Remy might have expected, Logan was crouched in front of him, palm flat on his chest, forcing him to stay down.
"I ain't your 'ami', asshole, an' I didn't say all that for your sake. I said it for hers. Sarah's been through hell in her life an', while me an' her have had our share of run-ins, she's startin' to overcome a lot of what it's fashionable to call her 'issues', an' to grow into someone worth knowin'. You don't deserve to die for your part in the massacre in the Alley, that much is true, but think about this, Gambit. She's just startin' to let go of a lifetime's worth of hatred an' suspicion, startin' to feel like maybe she has a home here an' that she can trust us, an' then you go an' fuck her 'cause you're drunk an' feelin' lonely. You treated her like a whore, Remy, whether you meant to or not. An' that's gonna fuck with her ability to trust anyone. Considerin' the damage you've done an' the trust you violated, was it worth it just to get laid? You think about that." With a disgusted snort, Logan rose and turned to go.
"Hey, Logan!" Remy called after him. "Any chance of you helpin' me into de house so's I can see Beast an' get him to look at dis leg?" Logan looked at him.
"I was you," he said, "I wouldn't be in such a hurry. You've still got Rogue to face." He left without another word. Remy sank back onto the floor with a groan. This was not turning out to be one of his better days.
The dense foliage might have made fairly decent camouflage if Sarah had been remotely interested in covering her tracks, or had been searched for by anyone but Logan. As it was he followed her without even trying. His approach to her was far stealthier than her flight from him had been, but she nevertheless detected him. Wordlessly, with anger still burning in her eyes, she spun and flung a bone dagger with startling accuracy at his throat. He slapped it away, opening a cut on his hand which he ignored as it healed almost instantly. She looked at him with almost unspeakable bitterness.
"Which part of 'fuck you' didn't you understand?" she said, turning her head away from him. She wouldn't let him see her cry. But he knew anyway. He squatted a little way from her, giving her space.
"You can't hide here forever."
"Who says I'm hidin'? Who says I gotta come back at all? Why should I? So you can all laugh at me? The ugly little Morlock girl, stupid enough to let the Cajun into her pants."
"It's not a crime to want to be loved," he pointed out, with a gentleness surprising considering the historically antagonistic nature of their relationship.
"It wasn't love," she replied with bitterness tinged with self-loathing. "Obviously. We just fucked. Anyway, what do you care? You're the last person I'd expect to do the whole heart-to-heart thing, especially with me. Thought you were more interested in repayin' me for shovin' a bone through your throat."
"Girl," he snapped, "you got in that shot because I let my guard down. That was my mistake. Yours was in uppin' the ante, because you pushed too hard an' I would've killed you there an' then if Guthrie hadn't saved you. But I'm not here to fight you."
"Then what do you want?"
"You ain't the same person who thought she could take me down an' almost died because she was wrong," Logan responded. "You've grown an', whether you realise it or not, you've got friends on the team."
"Like you?" she asked scornfully.
"Nope," he replied with a hard, predatory smile. "I ain't your friend. In fact, there're times I'd as soon kick your ass as look at you, but Peter cares, an' Ororo, an' I know you've been buildin' bridges with her recently. You've earned a place here, Sarah. Don't throw it away because of one night." She was silent for a time.
"I thought he cared," she said finally. "He went out of his way to save me with that Skrull machine, even if it was just out of guilt for hurtin' me in the first place. An', I guess, also for his part in what happened in the Alley. An' I can't forgive him for that. You understand? But I was really startin' to like him. I though last night meant somethin' to him."
"LeBeau's got a lot of shit to work through at the moment," Logan stated, "an' he was wrong to drag you into it. But last night wasn't just his mistake, Sarah. It was yours, too. Question is, how do you deal with it now? Do you run away, or do you stay an' learn from it? Your choice. You want to discuss this further, you know where to find me." With that, he left her, melting back into the trees and leaving her alone with her thoughts.
"Rogue, you busy?"
Rogue looked up from the television screen, where the video of True Romance was playing, to see Remy. Whatever flippant response she might have been inclined to make died in her throat as she saw the bruises and the way he was limping.
"What happened to you?" she asked with genuine concern.
"Dat's part of what I gotta talk t'you 'bout, chere," he answered. The gravity of his tone was causing Rogue some minor apprehension. She fished around for the remote control and cut Christopher Walken off halfway through his 'I am the Antichrist' speech.
"Have a seat, sugar," she said, indicating the couch beside her. "This sounds serious."
"It is. I got some t'ings t'tell you, an' you ain't gonna like hearin' 'em, but I gotta be honest wit' you." Trying her best to ignore the leaden feeling of dread growing in her stomach, Rogue indicated that he should go on. "Please, hear me out before sayin' anyt'in'," he continued.
"Remy," she said with a smile calculated to ease the tension, but which they both knew was false, "you're makin' me nervous. Just tell me. Ah mean, how bad can it be?" Remy took a deep breath.
"Rogue, y'know I love you. An' all dat's been goin' on recently, an' you sayin' it was over between us, I've had a hard time dealin' wit' it. Well, last night, a group of us went out an' I was tryin' t'drown my sorrows, an' I guess I tried a bit too hard. I did somet'in' really stupid, chere, an' I don' know how t'tell you dis, but it's better comin' from me dan from someone else."
"Remy," said Rogue impatiently, a hint of real fear in her eyes, "stop editorialisin' an' just tell me, damn it."
"I slept wit' Sarah," he said simply, shame coating every syllable, looking into her widening eyes and seeing her heart break even as he said the words. He held her gaze, searching desperately for some sign of potential forgiveness, but saw only the tears welling up and the look of disbelief and betrayal on her face. "I didn't mean t'do it," he continued in a pleading tone. "I didn't plan on it, it just happened, an' I am so, so sorry." He reached out to her, placing his hand tentatively on her arm.
"Don't you touch me," she whispered with vehemence. She made no sudden movement to move away from him; she didn't have to. Remy withdrew his hand from her arm.
"I'm so sorry, chere," he said plaintively. "Rogue, I love you."
"An' you thought you'd convince me of that by fuckin' Marrow?" She virtually spat the words at him. "Don't even try t'justify it, Remy. Ah'm sure Ah know how it goes: you're a man, you have needs. You were just a victim of your gender, of your hormones."
"It wasn't like dat," he began to protest, but was cut off by the fury in her eyes.
"Don't you dare try an' excuse what you did, Remy LeBeau! Bottom line, you got drunk an' slept with someone else. An' no matter what you thought about us an' whether the relationship had any future, what you did tells me all Ah need t'know about the depth of your feelin' for me an' about how committed you're *not*.
"So don't you touch me, don't even try t'talk t'me, 'cause right now Ah got nothin' t'say t'you an' no interest in anythin' you might have t'say t'me." She rose and began to move toward the door. Remy pushed himself up and began to follow her.
"Rogue," he began. She whirled around and hit him, palm flat, in the chest. The force with which Remy sat back down again tipped the couch over and left him lying on the floor, legs in the air, trying desperately to draw breath.
"Leave me alone, Remy," Rogue said in an even tone belied by the tears in her eyes, "because if you come near me again right now Ah'll make you wish you'd died in the Antarctic." With that she turned on her heel and stalked out of the room, leaving Remy gasping for breath and nursing what he suspected were several broken ribs. His struggle to respire was interrupted by the entry of Hank McCoy.
"Mr. LeBeau," he began as he bounced into the room, "I hear you had a little contretemps with our magenta-haired Morlock earlier and that you might be in need of minor medical attention." He spotted Remy lying on the floor, and squatted beside him. "Am I to infer from your somewhat ignominious pose and Rogue's not entirely jovial countenance as she exited that you have likewise incurred her wrath? Remy, my boy, what is this strange power you've developed over the female of the species?" Remy coughed and, with some assistance from Hank, manoeuvred himself to a sitting position.
"I don' know," he grimaced, "but I hope I lose it soon."
The fact that it was the smell of cigar smoke that first alerted Remy to Logan's presence, and the fact that he'd not heard the shorter man's approach, did nothing to improve Remy's mood. Dusk had fallen and the interior of the garage was illuminated only by a naked lightbulb hanging from the ceiling. He looked up from the complex interweaving of bag and bungee cord and met Logan's steady, challenging gaze. Logan spoke first.
"You leavin'?" he asked. The question was redundant, as the fact that Remy was securing a bag to the back of his Ducati was conclusive enough circumstantial evidence.
"Dat was de general idea. You come t'wish me adieu?"
"Depends on why you're goin'."
"Considerin' de fact dat you were dere when Sarah was beatin' de shit outta me, an' you heard what she said, I'm surprised you askin'. Would'a t'ought it was fairly obvious. Like you said yourself, I t'ink I done enough damage for de moment, an' me leavin' would mos' likely be best for everyone."
"Certainly for you," Logan commented. "Hell of a lot simpler an' easier to run away than stay an' deal with the mess you created. But I guess that's what separates the men from the boys, ain't it?" He raised an eyebrow, blew a cloud of smoke out through his nose. "You remember what I said to you when you came back?"
"Mem'ry serves, somet'in' 'bout Xavier's bein' a place for second chances. Dat an' t'reatened t'kick my ass if I broke Rogue's heart again. Dat what dis is? Prelude to an ass-kickin'?"
"Nope. Figure you got your ass kicked thoroughly enough already. An' you deserved it."
"I ain't in de mood for a lecture, old man," Remy said, eyes narrowing and a dangerous tone creeping into his voice.
"You fucked up, LeBeau," Logan continued as though Remy hadn't spoken, "an' that's a fact. Question is, are you gonna learn from the mistake or take the path of least resistance? Now, I don't doubt that it'd be easier to go, an' I'm not pretendin' that it'll be easy if you stay. But you go, an' you got no chance of repairin' the damage you've done, either to your relationship with Rogue, or Sarah, or to any respect anyone else might've had for you. Apology's liable to become a way of life for you for a while if you do stay: question you got to ask yourself is, do you think what you've got here's worth fightin' for? You stay, there'll be a price to be paid, but what would leavin' cost you? The decision's yours, Gambit." Before Remy could respond, while he was still formulating a reply, Logan turned and strode out into the night, leaving in his wake only the fading scent of cigar smoke and the memory of his words.
Remy stared after him long after he had faded into the darkness, his expression giving no sign what he was thinking. After what seemed like an eternity, he abruptly turned back to his bike and the bag tied to it. His long coat brushing the dusty floor, Remy again turned his attention to the bag on the back of his motorcycle. And untied it.
Flicking off the light, he emerged from the garage and, holding his bag in such a way as not to place undue strain on his ribs and intercostal muscles, regarded the mansion. He stood there, surrounded by the myriad sounds of the night, lent mystery and mystique by the darkness that simultaneously obscured them and made them seem more ethereal and otherworldly than they were, an illusion made possible only by the absence of the enforced acknowledgement of reality brought by daylight. He surveyed the lights burning in the windows, watching the silhouettes of his teammates, and squared his shoulders. Home was that place that, when you had to go there, they had to take you in.
It was time to see if Xavier's was still that place.