saga/title/fandom: Homecomings

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 Twenty-Eight: Hurt

Paige Guthrie twirled a lock of straw-blonde hair around her finger, her eyes flicking to the security monitors in the lower level of the basement. It was her turn to watch the grounds of the mansion, a task that many of the senior team members often looked down on. Her brother used to call it "over glorified babysitting" when he used to visit her at the academy. But Paige didn't mind. After all, she was starting on the team and if this was the way she had to move up the ranks, then she was more than happy to do it.

"Hey, Guthrie," Jubilee greeted, entering the control room. She handed her two fashion magazines she borrowed from Jean. Then she seated herself next to her former roommate, tossing her long, black hair over one shoulder. "Inside are the latest fashions from Europe. Now, you can look a waify, heroin-addicted model, too."

Paige wrinkled her nose at her friend's attempt at sarcasm. "Well, as long as there's something in here I can afford, I'll be happy. I can't go to the wedding in something like this." She stared down at her black turtleneck, pink corduroy shirt, and gray trousers.

"Well, you'll have to bundle up in any case," Jubilee said, reminding her of the cold front that suddenly enveloped Westchester. Unfortunately, mild spring weather usually came late in the area, forcing residents to continue to wear sweaters (at least) until mid-April. Case in point, Jubilee wore a gray V-neck sweater over corduroy pants and black flip-flops.

The blonde sighed, flipping through ads for various designers. "Why is it that you have to be high or brain-dead to actually wear some of this stuff in public?" She showed Jubilee a picture of a 90-pound woman, posing in a bikini that appeared to be made of moss.

"Bleech," Jubilee said, echoing her friend's sentiment. "And people think mutants are weird."

Paige shook her blonde head, continuing to browse through the pages. Then she said, "By this time next year, you'll be finishing your first year of college, Jubes."

Jubilee turned to her friend, thoughtful. "Yeah," she replied finally, still surprised with the notion herself. Given her lack of interest in academics when she was younger, she never thought she would actually be putting herself through another four years of school. "It's weird, you know? I always thought it would be you going and not me. What happened, Hayseed?"

Paige checked the monitors again to make sure nothing was going on before responding to Jubilee. "I don't know," she said, shrugging. "I mean, I thought I would be going to school right after the academy. When I was in Europe with Sean, I realized that there were other things out there that were just as important. Maybe I'll go back someday, but not now. I want to focus my efforts on becoming a full-fledged member."

The younger girl gave her an amused smile. "There's the Guthrie I know--- the perpetual overachiever. Maybe by the time I finish my freshman year, you'll be running this place instead of Scott."

Paige blushed at her friend's comment. While it was secretly her aspiration to do so, she didn't think she was ready to do so at this point or anytime soon. She decided to focus the conversation on Jubilee. "So, what gives, Jubes? You're abandoning life as an X-Man to be a scholar?" Her tone was teasing to take the edge off her words.

Jubilee frowned thoughtfully, absorbing the questions in silence. Then she answered, "I don't think I was ever cut out to do the superhero thing. I mean, the whole idea appealed to me when I was a kid---fighting the baddies with our powers and saving the world for both humans and mutants. And for a while, when I was with you and the academy, it was right. But now, I know it was never for me. I mean, look at what happened. I nearly died. I almost took about a bunch people when I paffed that building that one time. Thank God, no one got hurt or.. Well, I'm giving a normal life a try and see how that works out. I just don't trust myself otherwise."

"What about additional training here? I mean, you could talk to Scott or Logan.."

"No, it's not only my powers. I have better control over them thanks to Danger Room sessions here. It's something inside of me. I don't know what it is exactly."

From the tone of voice Jubilee used, Paige could tell her friend was wary about going any further with the conversation. She nodded empathetically. "I think I get you now. Well, I hope you'll be happier. Do you know what you might study?"

"Well, the school I'm going to is known for their fine arts program and their psychology program. So, I'm interested both, but I don't have to decide on a major until the end of freshman year." Jubilee had finally decided on a small, well established, private university that was 30 minutes away. The school had also offered a generous scholarship as well, which made the decision easier to make.

Paige smiled. "Well, I guess I'll have to live vicariously through you then instead of the other way around."

"Yeah, the glamorous life of a frazzled college student." Jubilee laughed. When she and her friend stopped, she asked, "So, what's going on between you and Worthington?" Like others in the mansion, she was aware that the millionaire playboy had recently asked Paige to attend Joel's wedding with him, which appeared to be an indication of something serious. While some bemoaned the age difference between the two (his 33 years to her 19 years), Jubilee was secretly relieved that her friend had found someone after Jono. She liked both of them, but found that the Englishman's defense mechanism of constantly pushing Paige away took its toll.

"I don't know what it is yet," Paige answered quietly, twirling a lock of hair around her finger. "I'm crazy about him, Jubes. I babble about him all the time to anyone who would listen."

"Yeah, I know." Aside from the institute's nurse, Annie, Jubilee was the second recipient to most of the babbling.

Paige glossed over her friend's comment. "It's just that it's early, you know? I guess that's why I'm nervous about finding something to wear. I mean, most of his girlfriends were models or former models. How am I supposed to compete with that?"

"You shouldn't feel like you're competing at all," Jubilee told her, frowning thoughtfully. "If he really cares about you, then you could wear a burlap sack to the wedding and he wouldn't think twice about his decision asking you."

Paige nodded quickly, realizing her friend had a valid point. "You're right, but this is coming from me. This is my first relationship since Jono and I.. I just want to do my best to make sure I don't get hurt."

"Isn't that the risk anybody takes when they get involved with anyone else?" Jubilee countered.

Paige quirked a brow at the younger girl with an amused expression on her face. "Your psychology class with Jean?"

"No, watching Dr. Phil with Scott yesterday." Jubilee grinned.

Paige giggled at the image of Cyclops watching daytime television. It was almost too much. When she recovered, she inquired, "Well, what about you? Are you going to this wedding with Bobby?"

Jubilee's sapphire eyes widened in surprise. "No," she answered. "Why are you asking?"

The younger Guthrie shrugged, tossing one of the magazines on the table next to her. "Well, I've seen you two together a lot. I thought he would ask you before he left."

Raven hair with blue streaks spilled down the young girl's shoulders as she shook her head. "No, he didn't. He's probably wrapped up in helping his cousin get things together for the wedding."

At least that's what she had concluded since he had not conducted his usual nightly visit to her bedroom. She remembered waiting up for him so that she could say good-bye since he was going to be gone for a week. When he never appeared, she simply assumed that he became overwhelmed with last minute planning tasks. As she went to sleep that night, she could not help but feel somewhat disappointed about not being with him. His visits had become part of a ritual, something she often looked forward to.

Paige nodded in agreement. "I guess that's the burden of being the best man." She paused for a moment. "So, I take it that you and Bobby are not dating."

"Well, he says we're friends."

"He says you're friends?"

"Yeah. He says we're friends."

"Um, OK. So what do you say?"

"I say.. I say that one of the cameras is busted."

"Huh?" Paige's blonde head quickly snapped up to see static on one of the monitors. She groaned, rolling her eyes. "Great. I hope nothing happened."

Jubilee stood up and began to head to the door that led to the elevators to the main floor. "No big deal," she told her friend reassuringly. "That camera's on my way to the house. I'll check it out for you and see if I can fix it. If I can't, I'll give you a holler from the house, OK?"

"Thanks, Jubes," Paige said gratefully, watching her friend disappear through the steel doors of the security room. Moments later, she realized that Jubilee never addressed her question.

"See anythin' ya like?"

Remy LeBeau's lips formed a seductive smile, taking in the pert blonde bartender standing across from him at the bar, wearing a low-cut top. "We not talkin' 'bout de drinks, are we, chère?"

The bartender tittered helplessly. "No, I don't think we are."

Oh, for God's sake, Logan groaned inwardly, chewing on his Cohiba. He immediately regretted his decision to invite the Cajun out for drinks and pool at the local bar in town. Not that interactions like this with the female species were completely out of the ordinary. It was just that they tended to slow Logan's beer refill rate substantially. Logan kicked himself mentally for not being more mindful of this fact.

"I'll have another beer," he piped up, shoving his empty stein in front of the blonde.

The bartender's brown eyes flashed at him in a brief moment of anger and irritation. Then she sighed, picking up the stein and walked to the other side of the bar where the taps were located. Rolling her eyes, she began to refill Logan's beer.

Remy exhaled a cloud of cigarette smoke, looking rather entertained. "I t'ink you made her mad, mon ami."

"She's getting paid to serve drinks, not to make goo-goo eyes at you," Logan pointed out. He nodded his thanks to her when she returned, which was ignored since she was being called over by another customer. Wordlessly, he slapped some cash on the sticky, wood tabletop for her to pick up later on.

"Mebbe it's one of the perks, non?" Red-on-black eyes twinkled with mirth.

Logan snorted, his eyes drifting around the increasingly crowded bar. "Call it what you want. It's annoyin', Gumbo," he told him, taking a gulp of his pale ale. "You don't have to come on to anyone female. See, there's this thing called self control.."

Remy gave his friend a stunned look. "First, Storm and Cyclops tell Gambit he can't be a t'ief no more. Den you tell Gambit he can't flirt no more. Why doesn't Gambit just lay down and die?" He laughed as he watched Logan scowl.

Logan grunted at him, continuing to work on his drink. "Very funny, Cajun." It was bad enough he had beat him in three consecutive games of pool, but now he felt the need to show off what kind of comedian he was. Maybe a flash of adamantium would take care of that.. He decided against it.

"I t'ought so." Remy took another drag of his cigarette, smirking. Grating on Wolverine's nerves was almost as fun as stealing or picking up a beautiful femme.

Logan shrugged, pretending to watch someone stuff a quarter in the jukebox across the room. He then turned to the tall, lean Cajun thief. "So, Joseph split."

"You're tellin' Gambit like he don' know." It was Remy's turn to be irritated. He narrowed his eyes into razor-thin slits.

Logan resisted the urge to smile. "Well, I'd thought you would capitalize on your chance."

"Chance for what?"

"Cut the innocent act. I've known you for a long time and I'm not a moron. With him outta the way, you can go after Rogue."

"What makes you t'ink Gambit would do dat?"

"Listen, bub, I've been forced to watch this pathetic soap opera play out since you got back. Hasn't that been what you wanted for these last few months? Your competition's gone."

"Hah, Wolverine. You don' know what you're talking about."

"Really? I think I've pretty much summed up what's been goin' on."

"Hah. Just because dat homme is gone, don' mean dat Gambit is goin' to do anyt'ing."

"Oh no?"

"Dat's right. Gambit don' go where he's not wanted."

"She said that?"

"No, Gambit just knows."

Since Joseph's departure, Rogue had been keeping to herself. The day he saw in the recreation room was the first time he had seen in her in several days. As much as he had wanted to approach her, he wasn't sure how she would react. She could be irrational and decide to blame him for her lover leaving the country, blame him for the demise of her relationship with Joseph, blame him for being alone all over again. Gambit knew he did not want any of that.

So, instead, he decided to wait. He would wait for her to come to him. As long as it would take, he was determined to do it. He would not pursue her and force himself on her, as he knew others around the mansion had expected- --this was quite evident from what Bobby, and now, Logan said. No, that wasn't going to accomplish much of anything. Gambit was too old for that, too wise for that. He needed to know that he had at least a chance. Otherwise, his longing and whatever he would have done to "go after Rogue" would be worth absolutely nothing in the end.

There was also his uncertainty about how Rogue actually felt about Joseph. She could have actually been honest with him all those weeks ago when she said she was in love with him. There was the possibility that she did not really want him at all. In that case, Remy did not want to be her second choice, the old reliable lover she could then move on to since the one she had cherished left. No, there was no way he would have any part of that either.

Gambit put out his cigarette in the dirty ashtray in front of him. He placed a pile of bills next to his empty beer stein. "Come, Wolverine," he said to his old friend. "Let's go home. Dis ol' t'ief has had enough for one night."

The two rode on their respective motorcycles from the bar back to the mansion in silence. While this was fine with Logan, he was aware that this somewhat out of character for the Cajun, who would toss out unneeded comments during their rides. He realized that something was probably troubling the mysterious man from the Bayou, but thought against inquiring as to what it was. That was something Jean or Ororo would do, not the Wolverine.

He pulled out the remote control for the gates from his jacket pocket. Logan peered over at his friend next to him as the gates began to draw open. The Cajun flipped up the visor to his helmet and gave him a wink. Logan rolled his eyes and then raced ahead of him, towards the garage. As the two sped along the winding road that led to the garage, Logan's nostrils began to pick up on a familiar scent. Actually, it was a mixture of familiar scents. He quickly veered his motorcycle off the side of the road and onto the front lawn of the mansion. He parked it and hopped off, sniffing the night air.

Curious, Gambit followed his lead. He removed his helmet and surveyed damage the tires of their motorcycles had done to the manicured grass. "De Professor not goin' to be happy about dis," he joked, trying to figure out what was going on with his friend.

"Shut up, Cajun," Logan snapped, continuing to pick up the smells that wafted in the spring evening air. He began to briskly walk away from his friend, towards a grouping of trees on the other side of the grounds.

Gambit rolled his eyes, following him. The homme thinks he's a tracking dog or something, he mused, his own steps reluctant. He sighed, catching up with Logan and matching him stride for stride.

What they both found was chilling.

A few yards away was Logan's old nemesis, Victor Creed. The large, powerfully built mutant was on his knees; his face was blistered and covered with soot in some places. His usually thick mane of blond hair was now patchy on his mammoth head. The clothes he wore had massive burn holes in them, which left random scraps of fabric on his body. He was hovering a small body on the ground.

The small body belonged to Jubilee. She lay unconscious in front of the monster. Her palms, lying face up, were emitting wispy clouds of smoke.

"Ya little brat!" he snarled wildly. His jagged claws then tore her sweater into shreds. Surprisingly, he had been careful not to claw at her flesh underneath. His eyes lewdly grazed over the creamy, youthful skin and the soft curves of her exposed torso.

He bared his teeth, lowering his mouth just above her neck. "I'm gonna enjoy tastin' yer blood in my mouth, girlie. I bet ya taste real sweet."

Horrified, disgusted, and furious, Logan extended his adamantium claws and darted over. A primal, guttural scream burst from Logan's lips. His eyes were wide with anger and intensity as he stared at the monster over his Jubilee. If he does anything else, I'm going to kill him..

Gambit was by his side, his own mouth set in a grim line. As he gazed at the girl lying on the ground, fear and concerned washed over him like a tidal wave. "Hang on, petite," he whispered, "Gambit on de way." No one is going to touch the petite while Gambit is here..

Looking up, Creed sneered, which paralyzed both men in their tracks.

"Well, looks like I'm gonna get what I really wanted," he snickered, his hideously burned face glowering. "I guess the frail and the pretty boy sidekick of yours are bonuses. You two can watch me show the brat what a real man does and then we can dance." He leaned over, about to pick her up into his arms.

Suddenly, a bright flash of light hit him in the face as he was about to lower his face to Jubilee's slender neck. He screamed, howling in pain and stumbling backwards. This was followed by additional flashes of white- yellow light.

Gambit held up a deck of cards he pulled from the pocket of his brown leather duster. "De name is Gambit," he yelled, charging each one and tossing them at Creed to get him away from the girl. Pretty boy, indeed. "Remember it!"

Logan took the opportunity to rush at Creed while he was temporarily blinded. He slashed his claws at the hulking man's side, kicking him down to the ground. "Tryin' to use the girl to get to me?" he demanded, delivering a hefty blow to the man's face. "Real class act, Creed!"

Creed growled, wincing. Then he grabbed one of Logan's ankles and flipped him over. "Anythin' to get yer attention, runt." He scrambled to his feet, teetering slightly.

Meanwhile, Gambit reached Jubilee's side. "Petite?" he whispered, stroking her cheek gently with his calloused fingers. He noticed there was a small bruise beginning to form on the side of her forehead, turning a lavender color against her creamy skin. Yet, she did not stir even with the fighting around her.

He looked over his shoulder at Logan, who was already on his feet with his claws extended. The older man would take a couple of steps forward and then backward as he and Creed circled each other. Without taking his narrowing eyes off of Sabretooth, who appeared to be equally intent on doing some harm to Logan, he called out to Gambit, "Cajun, take the girl and go. Creed's all mine!"

Gambit nodded, stripping off his leather duster and wrapped it around the girl's half-naked form. Then he scooped her into his arms, holding her against his lean chest. "You safe now, petite," he told her softly, sprinting across the lawn and away from the two fighting men. "You wit' Gambit now. Gambit protect you."

His pace increased in speed when he noticed that she was not responding. He clutched her closer to him, cursing how far the med lab was at that moment. His muscles tightened with his fear as he finally reached the mansion. Kicking the foreboding oak door open, he dashed through the front hall to the elevator, ignoring the gaping stares of the students gathered in the nearby recreation rooms. Sweating, he punched the button for the basement floor, med-lab level.

He cradled the unconscious girl in his arms, waiting for what seemed like an eternity to reach his destination. Thank God he and Logan had arrived when they did. From what he knew of Creed, he was not above raping an unconscious Jubilee. Gambit just hoped that the girl had not been too badly hurt. He was becoming increasingly concerned about the fact that she still had not regained consciousness. She continued to lie limp in his arms, head resting against his chest. The bastard probably knocked her out, using his full strength behind the blow.

But not before you gave him a good fight, petite, Gambit mused silently to the girl in his arms. He remembered seeing how blistered and burnt the larger man was just before he and Logan attacked.

As soon as the elevator doors slid open, the Cajun thief's lean legs swiftly carried him and Jubilee down the hall. He had been so focused on getting her to the med-lab that he had not noticed anyone else in the area. Vaguely, he thought he could hear his name being called out. His head snapped in the direction of the voice.

"Remy?" Rogue drawled, stuffing her gloved hands into the pockets of her low-riding, olive cargo pants. Her green eyes widened in surprise when she saw Jubilee in Gambit's arms. "What in the world.."

Gambit cut her off before she could finish her question. "Is Beast here?" he asked abruptly, clutching the girl even closer to him.

"Sure, sugah. He and Cecilia are in the lab.." Quickly, she led him to the end of the hall, where the med-lab was located. She pushed the heavy, steel doors wide open and raced alongside him. "Hank? Cecilia?"

Gambit joined her in calling out the names of the two doctors. "Beast? Cecilia? We need you!" The volume of his voice did not hide the desperation underneath. Usually, he would care about looking so vulnerable, but in this situation, he pushed his insecurities aside.

Hank McCoy bounded out of his office, slipping on a pair of thick, black- framed spectacles. "What's going on?" he asked. It wasn't unusual to provide medical treatment at this hour. However, that only applied to individuals who went out on missions. The only team that was out (Scott, Jean, Storm, and Warren) was expected to arrive home sometime tomorrow. As a result, Hank thought he was going to be in for a night of free time for some research.

Then his eyes traveled to Jubilee in Gambit's arms. "Oh, my. What happened?"

"Wolverine and Gambit found Monsieur Sabretooth on de grounds of de mansion. He attacked de petite." Gambit explained breathlessly, watching Cecilia Reyes and Annie race out of their respective offices to bring over a gurney. "Petite's been knocked out. Beast, is she.."

Beast was already gathering the unconscious body of the girl and lowering her on the gurney. "We're going to have to do a scan to see if there's any head trauma or any other injuries from the blow. Did you see it happen?"

His large hand took her tiny wrist to take a pulse; careful to make sure she was still stabilized on the gurney. At this point, he wasn't sure if he was only dealing with a head injury or if there were any broken bones involved as well.

Gambit shook his head, watching Cecilia take out a penlight from her pocket and examining Jubilee's pupils carefully. "No, we got dere just after it happened," he replied, red-on-black eyes filled with concern and worry.

"So, you don't know how long she's been out?" Hank asked, relieved that her pulse was strong.

"Don' know. Mebbe ten minutes. Gambit not sure exactly." The tall, lean Cajun thief leaned over to take a look at Jubilee, only to be motioned out of the way by Annie. The dark haired nurse then stood over the girl, calling out her name and asking her if she could hear her. Annie shook her head when she received no response.

"Hank, her pupils are fine, but we really need to do a scan," Cecilia pointed out, motioning for Annie to assist her with moving the gurney to the other end of the laboratory.

Hank nodded quickly. "Agreed," he called over his shoulder. He was about to turn on his heel to join the rest of the medical personnel when he was stopped by Gambit.

"Beast, is de petite.. Is she goin' be all right?"

Hank looked almost taken aback. Never had he heard such fear and desperation in the other man's voice in all the years he had known him. These feelings were also reflected in his expression---furrowed brows, lips that were usually curled in a smile or smirk now formed an uncertain line. At this moment, Remy LeBeau, the man who prided himself on being the cool, smug loner was vulnerable.

He patted the wiry man's shoulder compassionately. Then he said quietly, "Jubilee is a strong girl. We will do our best to care for her."

As Hank McCoy's hulking form disappeared into another room, presumably where Cecilia and Annie were scanning Jubilee's body, Rogue stepped towards Gambit. She placed a sympathetic, gloved hand on his arm. "Remy, Beast is right," she said quietly, giving his arm a gentle, reassuring squeeze. "He's gonna take care of her."

"I know, chère." He gave her a weak smile, placing his hand over hers. He was relieved to have her with him at that moment.

She nodded, chewing on her lower lip. Then she remembered the account of what happened Remy had provided earlier. "Where's Logan?"

Meanwhile, outside of the mansion, by the far end of the grounds, Logan found himself being flipped over on his back by Creed. He landed with a thud on the soft grass. Quickly, he sprang to his feet and sneered at old enemy.

"Hey, bub," he said, panting slightly with his claws extended at his sides. Sweat began to bead at his forehead and around his thick sideburns. "I'm not done with you yet."

"Great," Creed responded, laughing sharply. "I'd hate to come all this way and be disappointed. Heard ya gone soft, Wolverine. Looks like that cue ball Xavier finally got to ya. Guess it was only gonna be a matter of time, runt."

"What the hell do you want, Creed?"

"Just want to talk, old pal. Heard ya were in town and I didn't get a phone call. I'm hurt, Wolverine. What's the matter? Not happy to see me?"

"I would be if I gouged my eyes out."

"Maybe I could take care of that for ya, if ya asked real nice."

Logan growled, charging at him. He shoved the burly man to the ground and pinned him down. Snarling, he raised his adamantium claws in the air. As he was about slash Creed's face, which was still blistered and swollen in some places, the trapped mutant managed to free one of his arms. Using his battered fist, he rammed Logan in the chest. This sent him a couple of yards away, near the mansion's rose garden.

Creed was somewhat wobbly as he struggled to rise to his feet. "Well, look at you," he spat, his voice rough like sandpaper and broken glass. He took a few steps toward the fallen Wolverine. "In the old days, I could have never gotten this far into your precious mansion. I guess ya X-morons are getting old and sloppy."

Logan grunted, pushing himself up with his weathered hands.

The larger man continued his taunting, the discolored burns on his face beginning to heal as he approached closer to where Logan was. "Ya know, it was real easy to get in here. Just had to take out a camera is all. Ya must have some brain-dead kid workin' security in that big house of yours."

Creed threw his head back and laughed. It was a raw, throaty sound that contained no joy, no other emotion that his pure hatred for the man on the ground. "Then I saw yer frail. She grew up since the last time I saw her at that other school. Not that skinny, little brat that used to follow ya around. Nah. When I saw her tonight, she looked real nice and smelled good, too. I could almost taste her where I was standing. But, I watched her for a while, walking in plain sight with no Wolverine to protect her. It was almost ya wanted me to take her." He licked his thick, chapped lips ferally, revealing a set of sharp canines.

Logan narrowed his eyes when he heard the singsong quality to Creed's voice. He could feel the cut on his forehead Creed had inflicted earlier begin to heal. The blood that had been dripping from the wound was still fresh on the grass under his body.

"Then I thought, 'Why can't I have some fun before I tear you apart?' So, I took my chance and grabbed the girl. Ya shoulda seen the look on her face. Ya know how I always like 'em scared. I could even smell it on her. Then she starts screaming for me to let her go. I tell her I'm gonna let her go when I'm done showin' her a good time. Then the little bitch zaps me in the face with her stupid fireworks. I was so mad I almost let her have it right there and then."

Logan managed a small, satisfied smile when he heard how Jubilee defended herself. From what he and Gambit had seen, the kid had inflicted quite a bit of damage to Creed. "What's the matter, pissed that the kid wasn't goin' down quietly?" he asked, gingerly regaining his footing.

Creed snorted when heard Logan taunt him. "Didn't take me long to show her who's boss," he responded, jeering. "She went down like a little rag doll. 'Course that might be what ya like about yer frails, huh, Wolverine? Who can blame ya? Little girls who need their hero to protect them. Hah. How pathetic. I guess that's what ya've come to."

Logan growled, hurling his sleek, muscular body at the other man. He attempted to stab a set of claws into Creed's massive midsection. At the last minute, Creed managed to move out of the way, darting to the side. Logan sprinted after him, determined to shut up that filthy hole Creed called a mouth.

However, Creed was feeling especially talkative that evening. This was unusual since he often resorted to slapping people around than working out things verbally. He spat on the ground, his small eyes gloating.

"Face it, Wolverine. As long as yer livin', I'm always gonna be around. Ya might've saved her sweet ass tonight, but I'll get her later.. The best part is ya never know when." He lowered himself on his haunches and launched himself in the air. Squaring his shoulders, Creed aimed himself for Logan below.

Logan's quick reflexes helped him to shift out of the way. He watched his old enemy land on the ground a few feet in front of him. "It's kinda hard to keep that promise, don't ya think?" he sneered, kicking him in the ribs and knelt over him. Then he grabbed a patch of his sparse hair.

He pulled the man's grotesque head from the grass, high enough to meet Logan's face. "I'm gonna cut up your ugly carcass into shreds," he hissed in his ear. To make his point, he took the tip of one of his claws and traced a circle under Creed's rough-hewn chin. His eyes almost lit up as he watched the blood trickle down.

Almost immediately, his sessions with Xavier started to flood his head. All that time, all that effort, and all that control he now had--- everything could all go away with one slash to the bastard's throat. He had spent the last couple of weeks, convincing himself that he was not an animal, that he was better than an animal, that he could be trusted to be around other people. The rage he had worked so hard to contain was now threatening to overwhelm him.

It would be too easy. No one was around. The sharp edge of his claw just under Creed's chin was so close to his jugular. A flick of the wrist and it would all be over. Logan knew. He had killed before and he could do it again.

But if he did kill Creed now, he would be proving Stryker right. He would be succumbing to that negative, inner voice that told him that he was no good. The same hands used to help Jubilee into his truck, would be tainted with the blood of the piece of trash before him.

Let it all go, Logan.

Gambit folded his hands together, his mouth forming a grim line as he sat in the room Annie had set up for Jubilee. He couldn't remember the last time he had felt this combination of fear, concern, and anxiety not for himself, but for someone else. All those years in the artic by himself and later in the tropics, taught him to be more selfish. It was easier that way. Now, he found himself nearly jumping out of his skin from concern over someone else beside himself.

The last two hours were a blur to him despite the fact that he had not left the med-lab. Fortunately, Hank and Cecilia found no skull fractures or any other injuries when they examined Jubilee. However, both told Gambit they would not be sure of the extent of her head injuries until she regained consciousness. Specifically, Hank said he was concerned about any memory loss that might have occurred as a result of the blow to the head. He and the others had been hoping that she would wake up, but were dismayed when she remained unconscious.

All the Cajun thief knew was that he wanted to stay with the child until she woke up. After what she had been through with that monster, she did not deserve to wake up alone. Besides, who knew when Logan was going to return from exacting his revenge? It slightly irked Gambit how his friend decided to go after Creed rather than accompany the girl he said he cared for. However, he also understood that was how the old man worked. Going after Creed was Logan's way of taking care of the child. Anything different would definitely be out of character for the man who prided himself on being the ultimate tough guy.

Jubilee lay across from him. Her body appeared quite small in the sterile, metal-framed bed. She was now wearing a pale blue hospital gown, her torn clothing discarded. The new nurse, Annie, had tucked Jubilee in after she had been scanned, using a crisp, white blanket covering the lower half of the young girl's slender body. She appeared at peace, unaware of the violence, fear, and concern that swirled around her.

Gambit's lean hand stroked her silky, black hair tenderly. Pauvre petite, he thought sadly, taking her small hand into his. You've been so much for your lifetime. Gambit knows what that's like..

"Just got off the horn with Scott and Jean," Rogue said, her Southern twang breaking into his thoughts. Quietly, she walked from the doorway of the room to where her former lover was sitting. Her green eyes traveled to his concerned, exhausted features.

"When dey be back, chère?" he asked wearily, not taking his eyes from the girl in the bed.

Rogue found a stainless steel chair in the corner in the room. "Scott hopes tomorrow morning," she said, drawing the chair to where Gambit sat and settled herself down. "Ah tried not to tell 'em how Sweet Pea hasn't woken up, but Ah think Jean already knows. It's hard to hide things from a telepath."

She then pulled nervously at her moss green, cable-knit sweater, her own face reflecting concern for Jubilee's condition. "Nothin'?"

The Cajun thief shook his head, a lock of auburn hair flopping over a furrowed brow. "It's like Sabretooth put her to sleep," he observed, eyes narrowing with contempt as he uttered the name of the monster who had hurt her.

Rogue nodded empathetically. Then she said, "Sweet Pea's a fighter. Ya said she got him before he hit her."

"Oui. Gambit hope de petite has some fight left." His voice sounded uncharacteristically somber.

"She does. Thanks to you and Logan, sugah. Two of ya got to her before he could do anythin' else." Rogue extended a gloved hand to give Remy's shoulder a reassuring squeeze.

He turned to her, his lips curled in a grateful smile. "Merci, chère," he whispered. "Where's Beast?"

"He's with Sweet Pea's friend, tryin' to calm her down. She's real upset 'cause she thinks it's her fault." Rogue shook her head, recalling Paige's hysterical fit of sobbing when she was told what had happened. The girl wanted to sit in the room with Jubilee, but Hank and the others were uncertain as to whether or not this was a good idea. The last Rogue knew of what was going on, she had overheard Annie asking Cecilia about sedating Paige for the night.

Rogue turned to Remy, frowning slightly. "Ah don't see why ya wouldn't let us go after Logan," she began, sharing his irritation over the noticeable absence of Wolverine.

Gambit's expression was a mixture of surprise and defensiveness. "You know Wolverine, chère. Homme like to dake care of his business alone. If you and the others go out dere, he tell you to leave."

"Ah know he would, but that guy's dangerous. Ah know Sabretooth ain't above attacking innocent kids for kicks."

"All de more reason why Wolverine t'inks he needs to take care of de homme alone. No sense in ot'er people gettin' hurt, chère."

"Well, he should be here with her, too. Also, we should be thinkin' about the students. What if something goes wrong and Logan can't handle him this time?"

"Wolverine's a big boy. He take care of Sabretooth before easy. Homme can do it again."

"Well, Ah don't like how he wants to handle everythin' alone."

Gambit's red-on-black eyes gazed into his former lover's face. There was a brief flash of pain in their depths. "Sometimes," he said in a low voice after a long silence, "it be better to handle t'ings alone."

Rogue bit her lower lip, moving her hand from his shoulder. "Remy.." She wasn't sure if they were talking about Logan or if he was referring to another situation. Either way, she was uncertain as to how to respond. She just knew she couldn't look at him anymore.

When he saw the way she reacted, he immediately regretted his words. Gambit drew back from Jubilee's bedside. He studied the Southern Belle's grave-looking profile. It was painfully obvious that she struggled to be the strong woman she wanted everyone to think she was. Tentatively, Gambit reached for her gloved hand. He gave it an apologetic squeeze.

"Sorry, chère."

"No, Gambit.."

"Chère, Gambit didn't mean it."

"Yes, ya did."

"Non, chère.. Gambit was talking about Wolverine."

"Ah.. It's OK, Remy. Ah understand. It's just that.. It's just that it's good to let someone in every once in a while. The right person, Ah mean. Sometimes, ya have to be strong and smart enough to know that." Rogue returned the squeeze, her solemn expression accentuating the poignancy of her statement.

At that moment, Jubilee began to stir. A soft moan escaped from between her lips. Startled, Gambit turned to the young girl, pulling away from Rogue and grabbing Jubilee's hand. He rose from his seat and began to push her long, black hair from her face lovingly.

"Sweet Pea?" Rogue leaned over the bed railing. When she saw Jubilee shift in the bed, she raced out of the room to find Hank and Cecilia.

The Cajun thief pressed his sculpted lips against her forehead. "You safe now, little one," he said huskily, relief suddenly washing over him. The tension he felt for the past few hours began to dissipate. He watched her eyes begin to flutter open.

Just before Jubilee opened her eyes, she whispered, "Bobby.."

home          prior chapter          next chapter          fiction gateway