"I'm back."

Gabby grinned up at him, the cold look dropping from her face like a mask. Before he knew what she was doing, she leapt up from her stool and was in his arms, clinging to him as if she would never let go. Without hesitation he wrapped his arms around her, holding her to him tightly. The two of them stood in that embrace for what felt like eternity. No questions, no words, just the simple need to be close. Finally, Gabby spoke.

"You came back," she murmured, her voice slightly muffled by his scarf.

"Yeah, well, it's kinda like a cat." He grinned. "Y'feed it once, it'll just keep showing up again."

"Thank God," she said with a breathy laugh. "I missed you, Todd. Don't leave again. Not like that," she mumbled, nuzzling his neck. "I get bored when you're not here. I need you around."

Mortimer didn't respond. Instead he picked her up, ignoring her protesting giggles, and sat them both down on her bed. Gabby rested her head on his shoulder. He took one more moment just to enjoy being with her like that, then took a deep breath.

"Look, Gabby. There's...there's some stuff I've got t'tell you. For real, this time." Gabby looked up at him, kind of confused.

"What kind of stuff?" He sighed, steeling himself.

"A lot of stuff. About me. About who I am." He shook his head. "Y'don't really know me, Gabby. No matter how much," he added, seeing her about to argue," you might think you do. And...well, I wasn't entirely, ah, honest, when we first met." Gabby raised an eyebrow and settled herself into a better position.

"I'm listening."

"Well, first of all..." He shrugged. This was the easy part. "M'name's not really Todd. It's Mortimer."

"Mortimer?"

"Yeah." He rolled his eyes and shut them in exasperation. Lord, he hated that name.

"So why--"

"When y'asked me, I was trying t'tell you my other name."

"Which is...?" He took another deep breath. Here is goes, he thought.

"Toad."

"Toad?"

"Yeah, like, as in the thing that's like a frog but not. It's my name. Was my name, I guess. It's what I've been called since I was fourteen."

"So, which is it, then?" He paused for a long moment, then looked her straight in the eye.

"Look," he began cautiously. "It's a long story, an' it's not a very nice one. I mean it. There's a lot of stuff you'd probably rather not know. D'you really want me to tell you." Gabby nodded, her face serious. "Right. Then, y'gotta promise me that no matter what I say--no matter what-- you won't say a word until I'm done. No matter what. Y'promise?" She bit her lip and thought for a moment, something he was grateful for. He'd rather if she actually thought about this than just diving head first without looking. At last she nodded.

"Yeah. Shoot." He nodded distractedly and ran a hand through his hair. It was gonna be a long night.

"Right, well... It's like this..."

He started talking. He didn't go into as much detail as he had when she had been unconscious, but even if he didn't go into every mission he'd been, he didn't glaze over what his job in them had been. It all came out, much more haltingly than before now that he had her earnest brown eyes staring at him, taking in everything he said. Though she had blanched when he first explained that he had been an assassin, she showed little reaction otherwise, patiently--or just plain stunned--waiting until he had spilled his life out before her. What seemed eons later, he finally finished up with his escape from the Brotherhood. He fell into silence, biting his lip and staring at the wall, unable to meet her gaze. After a long, long silence, he heard her draw a shaking breath.

"All right," she said, her voice faint. He felt the weight on he bed shift and glanced up to see her standing, her hand on the desk to support her. "Um...Can you...Can you give me a minute?" Her voice sounded small and far away. For a split second, Mortimer thought to stop her from leaving, then shrugged and nodded. If she did make a phone call to the police or the FBI or the MIB or whatever, it was only what he should expect. And anyway, he could get away before any authority figures showed up. Gabby nodded back distantly, and left the room, closing the door quietly behind her. Mortimer stared after her, then sighed and buried his face in his hands.

In the den, Gabby paced, her mind trying to file and sort everything she'd been told. Todd--no, Mortimer--was a murderer? An assassin? (Well, there's something of a difference between the two, part of her mind tried to rationalize.) Toad...she was pretty sure she'd heard that name before. The Brotherhood of Mutants almost everyone knew about now--at least, anyone involved with any mutant organizations. Magneto was still safely behind bars (or behind plastic, as the case were), but no further information had been publicly released about his minions. About Todd. (Mortimer!) A terrorist. Oh God, oh God, oh God...She fought down a sudden wave of panic. Oh God. He was a terrorist. He killed flatscans--people like her!--because it was his job.

But not anymore, right? He said he'd left. He couldn't do it anymore. Had he been telling the truth? She remembered the way his golden eyes blazed into hers and thought back to the man she'd known, if only for three days. No. There had been no lie. Only fear. Fear of her, of what she would do. He'd trusted her with his secrets. He trusted her. Could she honestly do any less? For another fifteen minutes or so she paced, still placing, rationalizing, thinking. At last, she came to a very simple, if somewhat alarming conclusion. It was too weird. It was nuts. It gave her every reason to question her sanity. But it was true. She loved him.

Finally, the door opened, startling Mortimer out of his own musings. He looked up, eyes darting, searching for some evidence of a terrified phone call to the authorities. Gabby sat back down beside him and grinned. It was a weak grin, but an honest one.

"So..." she said at last. "Mortimer huh?"

"Mm-hm." He nodded, confused, wondering were this was leading. Gabby's grin widened and she met his eyes. She reached out and laid her hand on top of his.

"So, can I call you Mort?"

End


Wow.
End.
Heh. Can't believe it. I can't believe I finally finished. Well, finished in a loose sense, since this one little thing that started out as a lark has turned into this huge multi-booked novel in my mind, and, being the fussy child it is, it probably won't let me rest until it's all out. End. Wow.
And, just because I have an overdeveloped sense of the dramatic, finished a year to the day that I first made an account to house the strange story that was the result of X-men just happening to be on one night. Crazy.

I really want to thank everyone who reviewed. I said it before, but it bears repeating: If not for you all, I probably would have lost stamina, declared this a waste of time, and never finished. You've all been incredibly encouraging, fun, and just all around wonderful (and you've all put up with my abysmal updating schedule). It's so nice to know that you're not alone with a Toad obsession. Leen713, Hoodoo, Guin, angelfish2, Shadow, CyborgSmeet, Lonely Shadow Knight, Shitaka, Victoria to Worthing, Kernl Toad Sandrz, LostMuse,whiskey lullabye, and everyone else... you all rock. You rock the socks of the whole world.

So, what are Gabby and Mort gonna get up to? There's the thing. I've got a "sequel" planned; I have since the week after I started writing this. My only problem with writing it is a lot of the angst seems gone (and angst drives a story). Oh, there's still plenty of angst, just different flavored. And I'm no to sure about having a sequel with a romantic O.C. But I have no shame, so it probably will go up eventually. So that's what you all get for encouraging me. Fear the monster that you have helped create.

No. Seriously. Thanks for making this a great year for writing. Peace Out.