author: Alex L
rating/genre: (R) - Drama/Angst
warnings: Het, language, adult situations, attempted rape
summary: Not all homecomings are happy ones. R for language, disturbing imagery, and references to attempted rape. Featuring Iceman, Wolverine, Gambit, Jubilee, Rogue, and Storm, as well as other favorites.
comments/disclaimers: While I don't own any of the characters (Marvel), this story is mine, mine.
Chapter Nineteen: The Name of the Game
Hank McCoy was in the middle of placing some specimens in the laboratory freezer when he heard the elevator doors open down the hall. While he did not have Logan's sensitive nose, he was certain he smelled cigarette smoke. A smile crept over his lips when he realized who it was.
"My Cajun friend," he drawled, closing the door to the freezer and walking to the stainless steel sink next to it to wash his large hands. "While I don't mind your habit, but I insist that you keep your cigarettes out of the lab. It's not good hygiene, you know."
Merde, Remy groaned inwardly before tossing the cigarette on the concrete floor outside of the lab doors and promptly stamping it out. He briskly walked inside and commented, "There's nowhere dis homme can go for a smoke."
"Perhaps it is a sign that you should give up."
"Hah. Now, you sound like Storm. Took me four tries to light one up outside. Chère kept blowing out de matches wit' de wind. Gambit saw her flying over him wit' dis big smile."
Hank smiled, adjusting his glasses and seating himself at his workbench. "She's very caring like that, isn't she?"
"Call it what you want. Still annoyin'." Evidently, he was still somewhat bitter. "And she not de only one. Ever since de petite got back from Paris, she be on some crusade to get me to stop. You'd t'ink she'd be used to it 'cause everyone in de city smokes."
"Ah, I'm not sure that's even the reason. You see, my colleague and Annie were special speakers in one of the health classes. They brought in pictures of cancer victims and damaged lung tissues for the children to look at. Apparently, the message was particularly salient to our little firecracker." Hank reached for a steel box at the corner of the workbench.
Remy leaned against the edge of the desk, snorting. "Why she bother dis homme and not Wolverine?"
Hank pulled out a screwdriver and peered up at his friend. "You want to tell Logan he can't smoke anymore?" he asked, skeptical. "Really?"
Remy frowned, taking some time to consider the proposal he had made. Logan followed orders (sometimes), but to mess with one of his beloved vices seemed to be crossing the line. "Suppose you're right," he finally admitted, immediately feeling some embarrassment for his words. "I should know better."
Hank chuckled, turning his eyes to a large, metal ring. "Well, that reminds me," he said, bending over the object and carefully manipulating it with the screwdriver. "I need to stop by and talk to Scott about something later."
"Don't t'ink you can do dat. Petite say he and de wife plannin' some romantic evening. Dey gave her permission to stay here at de mansion for de night." He resisted the urge to make the same face he had made when Jubilee told him, which earned him a light slap on the shoulder from her.
Remy was quiet for a moment, his red-on-black eyes observing the larger man's effort with the mysterious metal object. "Beast?"
"What you got dere, homme?"
"Oh, this? Do you remember our last trip to Genosha?"
"Well, Kurt found this collar on one of the mutant slaves outside one of the caves. It always struck as strange as to how the humans on the island were able to maintain control over the mutants, given the special abilities and strengths." Hank then pulled a screw from the ring, which cause the ring to split into two sections. "Apparently, the humans exerted their authority through collars like this one."
Remy gave his friend a quizzical look. "And what's so special about de collar?" he asked, noting there was an undisturbed version of the collar next to Hank's toolbox.
"It suppresses mutant abilities," Hank answered, extracting several chips from the collar.
"And what you doin' wit' it now?"
"All I want to do is understand how the technology works. It's quite fascinating since it doesn't discriminate. The collar simply neutralizes the mutant's powers."
"Yes, it is. And very dangerous as well, my friend. The possibilities are quite frightening. Imagine if these collars were to fall into the hands of the Friends of Humanity, and other mutant-hating groups?"
"Den we have all de collars?"
"No, just the two you see here. I am hoping to prepare in the event that the collars do fall in the wrong hands. There has to be a way to disable them.." Hank held the chip far away from his face. "Fascinating."
"Why dat be, Beast?" Remy asked.
Hank pursed his lips. "Something so advanced could be used to oppress and destroy. That's what's so fascinating."
Remy shook his head, reddish-brown hair flopping over one brow. "Beast, you have strange tastes," he commented, smiling gently to take the edge off of his words. Then he decided to change the subject. "I came here 'cause I want to talk to you about your ami."
Hank's furry brows shot up. "Bobby? Oh, dear. What has he done now? If it was that silly impression of you, trust me, no one thinks it's accurate." He bit the inside of his cheek, choking back the urge to laugh. On the contrary, Bobby did a brilliant imitation of the Cajun thief. He had done it while they were coming home on the Blackbird, receiving a chorus of laughs from Hank, Jean, Kurt, Warren, and even Ororo.
"He does an impression of me?"
"Um, no.. I mean, you want to talk about Bobby?"
Remy narrowed his eyes. He could tell when people were being deceptive and Hank was a notoriously lousy liar. "Yes," he finally said, feeling his annoyance dissipate. "I see he be hangin' round de petite a lot."
"Well, they're friends. They have been since she first came here. That, and they have a lot in common." Their shared sense of humor was legendary around the mansion.
"It's different dan dat."
It was Hank's turn to look confused. "I'm not sure I know what you mean," he said, pausing in his dissection of the collar.
"Oh, come on, Beast. Dis ol' t'ief seen what's been goin' on." Remy leaned towards Hank, eyeing him. "Has Drake said anyt'in' to you?"
Hank shook his head, but appeared somewhat uncertain. He did recall an incident where he had run into Bobby the day after Scott and Jubilee left for Paris. He seemed edgy and distraught, but was close-mouthed as to why. That mood seemed to continue even after the two arrived back from their trip several weeks ago. "No. I'm sorry, Gambit, but what are you trying to get at?"
Remy set his mouth into a grim line. "I'm talkin' 'bout Monsieur Drake's interest in de petite," he said, stepping back from the workbench. "Gambit sees de way de homme goin' after her. Den dere's de present he got her--- nicest t'ing he got for anyone at de mansion."
"You sound like you might disapprove."
"Listen, Gambit don' have a problem wit' de homme personally. He just needs to stay away from de petite."
"Why? I mean the age difference isn't all that much. Bobby's about seven or eight years older, but if you take into account his maturity, you can cut the difference by six years."
"Dis is serious. Gambit loves de petite and do anyt'in' for her. He also knows about Monsieur Drake's dealings wit' de femmes."
Hank's blue eyes widened incredulously. "Gambit, I don't know what you know, but I can certainly tell you that Bobby's problems were not attributable to him. He's dated a lot, but then again, who hasn't? It doesn't mean he's a bad person."
Remy shrugged indifferently, noting that the usually calm Hank McCoy was surprisingly defensive all of a sudden. "It takes two to tango, mon ami." He had actually received a lot the information from Rogue while they were dating, but she framed her friend's issues with women a little more sympathetically.
Hank sighed wearily. Being Bobby's best friend, he witnessed the young man's many romantic troubles. It was sad really since Bobby tried so hard to make many of these relationships work. Despite the humorous front he put on for his friends and colleagues to see, there was still something that was lost to him only Hank could sense. Peering over at Gambit, he knew he was going to have a hard time convincing him of that.
"I don't think you have anything to worry about," he finally said, exhaling sharply.
"Even so.. Gambit still don' t'ink it's a good idea." Remy still looked skeptical. He should have known better than to confide in Drake's best friend.
"Well, if Bobby was interested in our little firecracker, I am sure he would be careful not to hurt her. He's not like that." Hank was still trying to get accustomed to the idea of Bobby being romantically interested in Jubilee. He simply did not see it. He always saw them as being more brother and sister than anything else.
The Cajun thief crossed his arms over his well-toned chest. "You may t'ink dat, but dis ol' t'ief be keepin' an eye on de petite," Remy informed him, as if administering a warning. "Better me dan Wolverine, non?"
Hank watched him stalk out of the lab quietly. Shaking his head, he turned his attentions to the collar he was dissecting. As he was placed one of the chips on a glass slide, he noticed that the other collar he had on the tabletop was now gone.
Red-on-black eyes glittered in the dimness of the elevator that led back to the main floors of the mansion. Remy stared down at the metal collar in his hand before slipping it in the pocket of his brown leather duster. Maybe there are other uses for this thing, he thought, a sly smile crossing his chiseled features. His mind began to race with the possibilities.
The elevator stopped on the first floor. Greeting him with an amused expression was Ororo, who was carrying several shopping bags from a recent trip to the shopping mall with Betsy. She studied his expression and shook her long, white hair out over her shoulders.
"You look like you swallowed the proverbial canary, my friend," she observed as the doors slid close. She pressed the button for the button to her floor. "Anything you'd like to share?"
"Hah. Gambit still upset about dis mornin', Stormy." His smile told another story. She was one of those rare people whom he could never stay upset with for very long. Though she had returned to her adult state, he still thought of her as the adolescent girl he rescued so long ago.
She nodded, pretending to ignore his jovial face. "Just trying to look out for you. It really is a filthy habit. And, you're not setting the best example for the children, I'm afraid. They see you around the mansion, smoking after they learn effects in health class. What are they supposed to think?"
Remy smirked. "Kids have parents and Cyclops as role models. Not Gambit."
"Ah, yes." She pulled her long, double-breasted camel coat tightly around her slim form. "I almost forgot about you like to play the black sheep."
"Someone has to. Ot'erwise, life dull around here, non? Besides, you like it, Stormy. Gambit makes t'ings more fun around here. Dat's why you asked me to come back." He leaned towards her, red eyes dancing with fire.
She frowned at him, looking at him as if he had grown a second head. "That was not the reason why."
"No, Gambit. This is your home. You should be here with your friends and teammates. It was not right that you were so far away, thinking that no one cared about you."
"I never t'ought dat, chère. Gambit just takin' a long break from savin' de world is all. You should try it sometime."
Ororo bit her lower lip, realizing this part of the conversation was going nowhere because her friend would not allow it to. She hated it every time he tried to shut down like that. He was very much like Logan in that respect, except Gambit was more charming when he was being evasive about things he didn't want to talk about. While this would easily placate most people, she knew better. She knew him for too long and too well.
She finally managed, "Perhaps I will take your advice."
He noticed the restrained expression across her exotic features. She had wanted to press him, but did not do it. Her knowledge regarding other people's limits was one of the qualities he liked about her. Good old Storm, he mused, gazing at the weather goddess fondly. "Glad to hear dat, Stormy."
She made a face at him. Of all the nicknames he could have thought of, that one irked her the most. "I told you to stop calling me that."
"Force of habit, chère. Dis ol' t'ief forgets sometime." His grin became broader, which would be all the more infuriating to a woman he did not know very well. However, this was Ororo, the woman who rarely took him seriously.
The elevator doors slid open. As she made her way out, she turned around and stared at him for a moment. Her face was drawn in concern, looking as if she wanted to say something to him. She was aware of the torment he was going through during the past few weeks. Since she was a friend with both him and Rogue, it was impossible to say or do anything without appearing to take sides. Like many, she simply chose to stay neutral in the whole affair and hoped the two could settle their differences privately and quickly. Yet, at that moment, she felt the urge to leave him with some comforting words. Despite his carefree front, she could tell he needed them.
Instead, she picked up her many shopping bags and flashed him a smile. "Stay out trouble, Gambit."
He watched her breeze down the hall through the closing doors. "You, too, chère," he said softly. "You, too."
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