[All X-Men characters are the property of Marvel Comics; all rights reserved. This is a work of fan-fiction. No permission was granted to use these characters. This story may not be reprinted or published without written permission of the author and may not be used for profit of any kind.]
"How you comin' along, Remy?" Tante Mattie asks, concern clouding her motherly Louisiana voice. "You and li'l Ororo doin' ok?"
I smirk, looking back at "little Ororo" as she munches from a bag of corn chips in the front seat of the car while I fill it with gas. "Havin' trouble to hear you on this ol' pay phone, Tantie," I apologize. "Oh...yeah...we doin' just fine, thank you. Ain' gonna be long now until we hit state line, then it'll be another hour or more until we get up to Westchester County. I'll call you tomorrow so as you can give Papa a number where to reach me. Thanks again for all you done for us, hear? I'm gonna miss your good ol' gumbo and beignets, yeah. Sure bet ain't gonna find neither of those up this way. Love you, Tantie. So long."
Tantie was so good to take me and my friend in when we was coming through back home. I'm sure going to miss her, even more than her cooking. But then, I'm an exile and I'm not supposed to be caught dead down Big Easy way...or else I WILL be caught...dead.
Making sure that my shades are in place before facing the gas station attendant, I peel off a few bills to pay for the gasoline and jump back in the car. The man gave me a dirty look as I handed him the money, but I'm figuring that wasn't on account of him knowing that I'm a mutant. Everyone looks at me funny: an "of age"...barely...Cajun boy traveling with a thirteen year old blue-eyed, platinum blonde black girl. I know it gives people dirty ideas, but two people couldn't be more like sister and brother if they tried...'cause no one squabbles worse than sisters and brothers when they've got a mind to.
"So...Stormy...you please to tell me about these...X-mutants folks, zhuh?" I ask her as I light a cigarette while once again piloting our small convertible up the turnpike. She only just recently regained her memory and decided we needed to look up some friends of hers from her old school in New York State.
"We are 'X-Men,' Remy," she lectures in that snippy tone of voice of hers, "named after our teacher and mentor, Professor Charles Xavier. It's his school where the X-Men are housed and that's where we'll find the others. And if I've told you once I've told you a thousand times: DON'T CALL ME 'STORMY!'" For emphasis, the nasty little thing grabs a hunk of meat out of my thigh and twists it hard. She was meaning to hurt me. Bad.
"Je deteste ceci!!!"* I shout, slapping her hand away. "Damn it, gal---like to make me have an accident like that, yeah!"
She smirks, "You should have taken care of that back at the gas station restroom, should you not?" making with the 'so what are you gonna do about it?' evil little sister type face. "And will you never learn to pronounce the word 'that' properly? It does have an 'h' in it, you know...and no 'd' at the beginning. Surprised?"
It's times like this when I wish that my ears had been clogged when Papa told me, 'Remy, you don' never hit the women folk, y'hear, boy?' If there was ever a 'woman folk' asking to get flattened, it was this one.
"You know I wasn't talkin' about THAT kind of accident, 'Ro," I chide her, more tempted than ever before to level her...and being sure to pronounce that 'th' she's always on about. "And there ain't no 'th' sound in French, so don't be 'xpecting me to go out of my way to find one just because my people was forced into speaking English."
"Hmm...if you call THAT English," she replies, then grins broadly at me as one look lets her know it's time to drop the subject.
Satisfied that she's riled me, 'Ro slides back comfortably into her seat, again munching away on her chips. What a brat. She's been working my one nerve ever since I ran into her back in Cairo, Illinois, when we found we was working the same house over on a robbery. I couldn't imagine how some slip of a girl could be so good at what she was doing. I've been trained to be a thief from the time I could walk and sure wouldn't have been trying what she was up to at her age. When I realized she was in mortal danger and unsure of her mutant ability to control the weather, ol' dumb Remy had to throw in with her to help save her. To her credit, she's held her own---even saved my life a couple of times in these last few weeks on the run. She's got guts, I'll say that for her, but if she hits or pinches me one more time, her guts are going to be road pizza all over this turnpike!
As the sun begins to set in the west, we finally hit Graymalkin Lane and roll through the gates of what the plaque outside says is: "The Xavier School For Gifted Children." Well, that lets me out because this ol' Cajun boy has always been as dumb as a post, though that's only what I let people think. It ain't good for my reputation to be caught savoring my beloved existentialist authors or the works of the great philosophers. I only do that in private, best with a latte and some fresh madeleine cakes. Got an image to maintain, me.
"Why you didn't tell ol' Remy that this is a school for the genius types, cherie?" I ask while tooling the car up the long, curved concrete drive. "You figure I wouldn't drive you back here if I knew they wouldn't take me in?"
"'Gifted' is a codeword for 'mutant,' Remy," Ororo says, needling me with a sideways glance. "You'd hardly expect the Professor to put a 'Welcome Mutants' sign outside, would you? We'd have those mutant-hating vigilantes, the Friends Of Humanity, on us with machine guns and flame-throwers faster than you can say...oh dear God..."
As her voice trails off, I look beyond the drive to see what's got her attention. Brick, mortar, piping, wood, rock, stucco and glass lay strewn all over the landscape as far as the eye can see. Where once must have stood a rather opulent mansion now exists utter destruction and rubble, with only four massive chimneys remaining erect around the property, looming over the remains like soot-smudged sentinels minding the horror of what's left.
"Sorry, 'Ro," I offer, "but looks like the 'Friends' already got here without the invitation, petite..."
Moments later, Ororo and I begin to wade through some of the debris, looking for signs of life...personal belonging...anything. "This...this didn't just happen, Stormy," I advise her grimly. "Looks like it happened days...maybe weeks ago. Somebody sure done made a mess of things. I'd figure that it's a bad idea givin' out an 'F' in a school where the student body has got more firepower than the US Army." Somehow, that doesn't seem as funny a line once I realize that 'Ro is crying. I go over to put my arm around her, but she violently knocks it away.
"It's not funny, Remy!" She tears into me, turning to slam her fist into my shoulder. "They were my friends---my family! They were people I admire---people who taught me to control my powers. Many of the students here were just children! It's not fair, it's not right and it's certainly...not...funny!"
With every word, she accents it with a punch or a slam of her palm against me. I'm getting a workout just blocking her shots. Finally worn out from the shock of the devastation, horror, anger and fear, she collapses into my arms and sobs her heart out. I can't protect her from what she's seen; all I can do is hold her and promise to help her right this wrong, if we can.
"Didn' mean no disrespect, cherie," is all I can come up with at first, the pain growing inside of me as I feel her chest heave against me. "My people--the Cajuns, we've always had to laugh through adversity to keep from goin' completely off the deep end...and Cajuns done had a lot of adversity in our time, yeah. Me, I ain' never been the best at sayin' what I feel, but I'm sorry I hurt you. I know you cared for these folks. Even when your memory was zapped and you was walkin' around not sure of who you were and where you belonged, you had pictures of your friends from here to get you through."
Pushing her backward just a bit, I cup her face in my hands, wipe her tears away with a sweep of my thumbs, and speak to her, my eyes to hers, trying to reach out to her soul. "I don't know where your friends are, but you still got me, 'Ro, and we'll find out who done this, I promise. You go on and cry, ma petite. Ain' too many reasons a pretty girl who can make the sky do her bidding got to have a good cry, you know?"
She slowly slips her arms around me and holds on with all of her might. This is the moment when I know for sure that she and I were meant to find each other, if only so that she'd still have someone to lend her some much needed support after viewing this nightmare.
"Who the hell are you and what are you doing here?"
I sure never expected to hear another voice around this desolation, so the gruff sound of it just about knocked me off of my feet...but not fast enough for me to miss fingering a couple of playing cards in my coat pocket. All the better to blow up whoever this is with my mutant power: explosive biokinetic energy.
"You're on private property! Get your hands up...NOW!"
I look out through the twilight to see a heavy-set, muscular man with snow-white hair like Stormy's, a weird black mark around one eye...and a big ol' laser canon pointed right at us. He had come up from what looked to be a manhole cover on the far end of the kitchen garden...or what was left of it.
"Cable?" Storm calls out, wincing into the gloom of the early evening to see our attacker. "Is that really you?!" She starts toward him, but the big guy ain't having any of it.
"Stay where you are!" he barks, causing 'Ro to stop in her tracks.
"Hey, mon vache!" I yell at him. "This little gal just tryin' to find her friends who lived here, homme. Wavin' a gun in her face ain' no way to treat a lady, y'hear?!"
Eying me with contempt, this fugitive from a commando movie aims the barrel of his weapon right at my head. "But YOU aren't a lady, sweetheart, though I could be wrong. One more word out of you, mush mouth, and you've had it. And don't ever call me a 'cow' again unless you want your hair parted with a laser blast."
From behind him, another voice sounds, one just as gruff and menacing. "Hey, Nate---hold up a sec!"
Before I know it, another guy pops up out of the manhole cover. Shorter than the first guy by well over a foot, he looks wiry and hairy...and he's carrying knives...lots of 'em. He sniffs the air in our direction, moving just a bit closer as he does. "Ororo...?" he questions, still carefully armed with his blades bared.
"LOGAN!!!!" screams Stormy, bolting from her stance and into his arms. I like to have a heart attack at the thought of her running into them blades he held, but they are gone just as fast as lightning the minute little 'Ro jumps for the squat man. He hugs her protectively, stroking her short, unevenly cut hair and soothingly pats her back. The other man begins to scratch his head and, thankfully, lowers his weapon. With a shrug, he descends into the hole in the Earth again. Stormy and this 'Logan' fellow follow him, leaving me to wonder if I should start back to the car. As Logan's head disappears into the light coming from the underground stairwell, I figure I've done what I said I was gonna do: I got Stormy home. No hard feelings. I can get back to what I was doing before I met her...whatever the heck that was.
"Remy, are you coming in or do you need a special invitation?" comes that snarky little voice with the Britain-meets-Africa twinkle to it.
"I prefer mine engraved with gold lettering, if you'd be so kind, Mademoiselle," I advise her as I head for the opening.
It's painful for me, going from darkness to light. I'm like something out of a vampire story: my blood-colored eyes have a macular area which is black. It helps me to see real good even in pitch black conditions. The down side is that the sudden shift to light is one which shoots daggers of pain into my head. I wince and try to shield my eyes from the piercing brightness, fumbling around for my sunglasses only to remember that they are on the dashboard of the car. Forget it. As I peer ahead through nearly shut eyelids, I can see Ororo up ahead of me being kissed, hugged and squeezed by the strangest manner of folks. Some are 'pretty mutants'---the ones who look like any average Jean et Marie---and the other kind, people like me who have features no one could mistake for normal. After a couple of minutes, Stormy remembers her manners and spies me trying to look inconspicuous by leaning against a wall.
"I'm sorry," she begins, walking back to stand next to me. "Everyone, this is my friend Remy. He's been using the code name 'Gambit.' Remy, this is Cable...or Nathan; you met him outside. This beautiful lady is my friend Jean; we were roommates before I left here. The blue fuzzy gentleman there is Kurt; he's known as 'Nightcrawler.' The tall, slim fellow there is Scott Summers. We call him 'Cyclops,' for reasons you'll learn of later. And this dear man is Logan; he's called 'Wolverine.'"
I nod in that slow Southern manner I've got and give them a polite bow, trying hard not to look phased by what I'm seeing in front of me. The lovely red-haired girl smiles at me and the German elf-like guy greets me with an overly friendly and seemingly out of place "Was gibts neues?"* * As usual, I really ain't got much to say to no one, and, since I'm not really a part of this soiree, I move back into the shadows and let them enjoy their reunion, taking the opportunity to light a cigarette with the tip of my finger. I can't say as I've ever met too many "Barbie And Ken" type mutants like most of these folks are. Most of the mutants I've ever thrown in with are like me, the kind who can't go out into the streets without precautions...or not at all, in some cases. There's a bunch of them called the Morlocks who live like this---underground---though they hide in the sewers instead of relatively comfortable-looking surroundings like these. I used to make my bed down there with the Morlocks too; they accepted me when my own people back in Louisiana turned me away. I can usually get away with roaming around up on the streets with little trouble if I wear my sunglasses, so I used to help the Morlocks scrounge up food, water and other stuff they needed. Looks like they ain't the only mutants around forced to hide now; that don't speak well for our future. Merde.***
Ororo does more talking in the next ten minutes than I think I've heard from her in the last ten weeks since we hooked up with each other. She laughs, tells stories, reminisces about being with people hereabouts and people they are all worried about not having heard from. I hear her being asked how she got "into that body"---how she's all of thirteen years old now---and the wheels in my head start to turn. She had shown me a picture of a black lady with white hair worn in a mohawk, no less, standing around with people who look like some of these folks. At the time, I figured it was her mother or a big sister or something because Stormy was suffering from amnesia and couldn't say for sure. After running into that weird, ranting robot thing called "Nanny" that had been chasing Stormy and then grabbed a hold of me and was gonna shoot me with some kind of ray to suppress my mutant powers, I finally put all the pieces together and understood that the little girl I'd helped to escape her enemies was not really a child at all. I always wondered why she talked so grown up and proper. But I still can't wrap my mind around my little Stormy really being a woman who once threw in with old men like some of these guys. I got to wonder where all this puts me in her life, now that she's back among them.
"So, what's YOUR story, bub?"
The question---and the one who asks it---startle me out of my thoughts. He's a cagey one, I guarantee---'cause he done snuck up on me without a sound...and that just don't happen to this boy, the prince of all of New Orleans' thieves.
Before I can say anything, the little man starts in on me. "Cajuns. Never liked the smell of 'em. Can't miss your people from a mile away with my sense of smell. Cayenne pepper and sassafras is under your skin...as well as a few other unsavory things. One more thing: Put out that goddamn cigarette, Gumbo. Fresh air's at a premium down here."
Can't help but to notice the stale end of a cigar clamped down at the corner of this one's mouth, but then he lives here and gets to defy the rules, I figure. That's the way it usually goes: one way for some, no way for Remy. Now, I've tried to be nice. I know these are 'Ro's friends and she was really in fear for their safety. But this insult I cannot take.
"Logan, is it not, mon ami?" I ask, knowing the answer, of course. "For your information, 'gumbo' is a stew, homme," I seek to educate the little man. "My name is LeBeau; my friends, had I any, would call me Remy. You, on the other hand, may call me 'Gambit.' Or 'Monsieur.' But don't be calling me out of my name like you done played marbles with me, y'hear? As for the cigarette, excuse moi, s'il vous plait..."
Holding up the offensive item, I use a soft biokinetic charge to spark what's left of the cigarette and turn it to ash, intentionally blowing the bits of dust in Mr. Logan's direction. Flashing my burning coal eyes as if they belonged to an innocent young baby, I bat my long lashes at his beady, animal-like orbs. "Je ne fume rien: I ain' smokin' anything. Now, you were saying, mon vieux?"
The low, guttural growling which began surprises even me and I've seen just about everything by now, I figure. Realizing I'd upset the little fellow, I offer an apology, just to get him out of my face, figuring it's worth it to try to smooth things over. "'Xpect you glad to have li'l 'Roro back with you, heh? Sure ain' been easy for her being apart from her friends. I've been seein' to her, though. You can rest assured she's had someone to look out for her." Somehow, he doesn't seem appreciative.
"You listen to me, you Cajun slime ball," Logan begins his harangue, name-calling never being a good sign of camaraderie. "You think I'm buying that you were looking out for a young girl with nothing else on your mind? More like you were chasing around the South with a kid who had lost her memory with no one to know the difference while you conveniently used her to help you get your thieving hands on everything you could. You gonna say that's a lie, 'Gator Bait?' Well you can try to fool the others, but I'm wise to you, Gumbo. I know your kind. There's a damn good reason that your lot ain't seen Canada for over 200 years now. Traitors, religious nuts and card cheats, the bunch of you. You'd sooner sell your own mother down the river if you thought it would get you somewhere. You listen to me: If I find out that you laid one finger on that girl, so help me I'll gut you and make that an-DOO-ie sausage you clowns like so much out of your entrails. Got it, Swamp Boy?" Barely more than a foot from me, his fist lets a full compliment of his claws fly dangerously from between his knuckles, aimed at my throat.
"You finished, old man?" is the first thing that comes to mind, so I say it. I ain't never had much sense when it comes to people who insult me, so I figure this is no time to change. "My people, they was farmers, fur-traders and fishermen---good honest tillers of the soil, just not willing to bow down to them British lord high foreign muckamucks sent to push them around. They just wanted to live in peace, teach and raise their children, tend their crops and be good neighbors. And for their trouble? The families, they were separated from each other, husbands and sons murdered, women and children herded onto boats and cast to the four winds and into slavery, left to watch everything they built and worked for burned to the ground, yeah. I should think you'd sympathize, seein' as how you now know firsthand what it feels like to see someone destroy all you've worked for, judgin' from what's layin' outside this bunker, neh?"
I'm so mad right about now that all it would take is a grab of his sweatshirt and I could blow his backside off the face of this earth. Then I think of how 'Ro hugged him and rejoiced at seeing him and I just can't do it. This bastard don't know how lucky he is.
He hasn't shifted his gaze, so I figure I can play through. "It's me who ain' fooled, you know, mon cher?" I goad him, playing my ace against his handful of spades. "If that snout of yours is as good as you reckon it to be, you'd smell my scent all over 'Roro and you wouldn't just be talking to me about it. I 'xpect you'd be cuttin' me up something bloody to back up them big, bad words of yours. See, in spite of what you said about me and my people, I'm gonna let it go because I can see that you love Stormy. You love her like I do and you want her to be safe...like I do. I didn't have it to do, no, taking care of her and gettin' her home. I did it because I care for her and want to see her happy. She's a lucky gal, havin' so many folks to worry for her. So why we don't just leave it at that, mon ami? We agree that we care about her welfare and both of us glad that she got back to y'all none the worse for her troubles. As for them claws..."
I put a fingertip to the pointy end of a very sharp claw pointed at me for emphasis, content to, as always, press my luck, once again keeping my patron saint in terror that I might show up on his heavenly doorstep at any moment. "If you don't want to find out if the power of the ten megaton bomb I contain within my body everyday can be infused into your kitty cat claws, don't you never point them things in my direction again. Understood, Monsieur Badger...errrr...Wolverine...whatever?"
I narrow my eyes to add a final note, sure that this foul-tempered fur ball is just aching to gut me something fierce. Since I don't never know when to shut up, I got to have the final word or die trying. With Cajun style and a killer smile, I warn him coldly, "Oh, and by the way, chien: If you EVER talk about my people like DAT again, you ain' gonna have t' worry 'bout my 'xplosive powers 'cause I'm gonna put a conja on you dat ain' NO amount of voodoo EVER gonna take off of you. An' you BEST remember dat."
Not pleased with the "call" status of this little card...errr...mind game of ours, the hairy one finally decides to lower his claws, but only because of Ororo's hand on his shoulder. "Logan," she tells him, "Jean wants you to move a cot into your bedroom so that Remy here can bunk down with you, just until we can sort out better room assignments. You don't mind sharing with him, do you? I knew you wouldn't. Oh, it's SO good to see you again! I'm so happy...!"
She punctuates her rapid fire chatter by jumping up and planting a sprightly kiss on his cheek. Her English school girl styled chirping distracts us from our testosterone-drenched pissing match, leaving us to ponder the next time we'll have such a face-off. A loud *shinkt* sound and the claws are safely sheathed again. The little man turns, shoulders arched and hands formed into tight fists hung at his side. "I'm going to find Jeannie," he announces flatly as he leaves us. "I. Am. NOT. Sharing. A room. With this...goddamn...CAJUN!"
I follow the vision of his body stomping through the compound in chase of that pretty little redheaded den-mama. "Forgot you wallet, mon cher!" I call after him, then give him the Queen Of England lightbulb wave as he shoots me the deadliest one-eyed stare I've ever seen. "Jus' kiddin', darlin'!" I advise, trying hard not to burst out with a 'made you look' remark. Like he could fit a wallet into the pocket of them painted on jeans anyway.
I then turn my gaze back to Ororo who's smiling up at me while wrapping both of her arms around one of mine. "Well...dat went well, don't you dink, Stormy?" I tease her in the sweetest, silliest tone I can muster up.
Rolling her eyes, Ororo presses her cheek into my shoulder and giggles. I've never heard her sound so thoroughly content before, except for when I took on that shopping spree at Voorhees and she bought all them new clothes. "Don't worry, Remy," she comforts me. "Logan will get used to you and you'll get used to him. He's a sweet, kind and decent man...as long as you don't get on his bad side. I promise, you'll learn to see the good in each other."
Now it's my turn to roll my eyes, but I let it go for the sake of her happiness. "Oh sure, petite," I sigh. "We are sure to become the very best o' friends, me and the nasty little fire plug."
Ororo laughs loud and long. "Well, at least promise me that you'll try."
I nod agreement while wondering how long I'll be able to stand sharing my friend with all of these ill-tempered, goody-two-shoes mutant heroes. So far, other than the nice redheaded lady and the friendly elf, I am not too impressed.
Looking at me thoughtfully, Ororo hips me to the world I've just entered. "You'll never know when you might have to rely on Logan or any of the others to cover your back, and they'll need to remember the same of you, my friend. Oh, and Remy?"
I already know what she's going to say, so I merely tense my muscles and brace for it, eyebrows and eyes raised to the sky. "Yes, petite, I know."
In unison, as close friends do, we say the words together: "Don't call me 'Stormy!'"
*"I hate that!"
** "What's new?"