Disclaimer: I do not own Gambit, the X-Men or any related references to said universe. Marvel owns them.
An ice blast ripped past his vision— thick as his arm and longer— cold radiating from it. Seconds from a painful impact Gambit threw his weight backwards, hitting the ground hard, and sliding under the newly made ice structure. A slide that, unfortunately, brought him to the feet of his opponent. One to make the best of a bad situation, Gambit scissored his legs bringing the man to the ground with him. A lightly charged card found its way to the man's midsection even before Gambit regained his feet. Temporarily taking his opponent out of commission the Cajun-bred mutant back tracked to the larger squadron of soldiers, eager to rejoin the fight.
It had been mostly hand to hand, a computer sequence designed to simulate battle weary conditions for its participants. Even before entering, Gambit had to sacrifice his Bo staff, and a significant portion of his cards, leaving barely half the deck. Personally Gambit thought relieving him of his Bo staff was ridiculous, in battle he seldom lost a staff nearly the same height of his own six foot frame and made of adamantium. However, the other choice had been to actually spend hours in the Danger Room until a bone set weariness entered all the players, hours Gambit was certain could be much better spent elsewhere.
Another opponent rushed in, a realistic and unpleasant scent of sweat wafting off of him. Gambit swung his staff with the usual force, but knew the speed behind it was gone. A fist coming out of nowhere smacked him on the back of the head before he could deflect it, and Gambit huffed more in frustration than pain.
The slowing of reflexes was an aftereffect of the devices all the X-Men currently in session had on their person. A personal gravity dampening device was tucked into all their clothing. Gambit didn't know, and didn't want to know, the inner workings of the device. He did not really trust the devices they were using, little bits of Shi'ar in them everywhere. All he'd been told was that they increased the gravity in a given area, like an invisible net around each player, making each and every move seconds slower than it would normally be.
Archangel, flying up above, was one of the more hampered of the team. He had announced early on that he would not be able to ferry any of his teammates, indeed he was having enough trouble keeping himself aloft. The birdman was pulling his own weight though, diving down from his perches, the momentum of his dives adding to his attacks.
Iceman and Gambit, the only two 'powers' in the room, had additional handi-caps attached to their performances. For safety reasons normal readouts such as heart rates and room temperatures were habitually recorded, and for this exercise, should Bobby's temperature interferences drop to a certain degree the entire exercise was forfeit. In layman's terms: no flash freezing any of their enemies. Gambit had professed his ability to monitor his own energy outputs, but his argument had fallen on deaf ears. A joule meter estimating the amount of energy he was releasing had been added to keep him honest, preventing him from using energy amounts he would normally only be able to use when fresh.
Gambit, a Cajun who had seen his share of do or die situations on and off the X-team, knew that these restrictions left out some of the most basic fighting elements. The exercise was to hone instincts when the team's resources were already depleted, but it failed to recognize the bursts of energy, determination, and power that came when your back was up against the wall.
A sharp glint of metal caught his eye and Remy focused on the fourth and final member of the group within the Danger Room who seemed the most unaffected by the dampeners. Wolverine was in his element with three attackers surrounding him. He merrily hacked away at them, seemingly unaffected by the realistic screams, shouts, and blood spurts of their enemies— a collusion of hologram and mechanical men.
Despite their realistic appearances Gambit felt a little freer with meeting out violence knowing they were at least partially android. Ducking another punch, still attempting to adjust to his stunted reflexes, Gambit threw a card at one of the men Iceman had imprisoned from the waist down. The light explosion knocked the struggling figure from the game, but unfortunately freed another of Bobby's captives. But as yet another ice pylon for Iceman's bridges erupted in front of him and he nearly fell face first into the frigid pillar, Gambit decided to count the newly freed man as Bobby's problem.
Fights like these were never silent and the air was full of grunts, groans and the eerie echo as the sounds of crackling ice and kinetic fire merged. Piles of defeated enemies grew ever larger, and Gambit quickly found himself fighting back to back with the always aggressive Wolverine, the all too real sounds of claws slashing flesh keeping him company. A red flash streaked by and Gambit spared a moment to track Warren's progress. That moment of inattention from his own battle partner was negatively rewarded, as it so often was, when the android had been joined by another contingent of a wearying line of opponents.
Tiring of penny-ante games Gambit launched into a vicious roundhouse kick cracking the hologram sheathed machine straight on the jaw throwing it to the ground. The not inconsiderable energy the leap required had to be counterbalanced and Gambit set his legs quickly for what he knew would be a difficult landing. It became even more difficult than he had imagined when his foot slipped on a thin sheet of ice that had not been there moments before. Saddled with the dampener Gambit did not have the time or the reflexes to save himself, and he fell backwards at the same moment Wolverine had a backwards swipe with his claws.
Three prongs of adamantium sliced with laughable ease through worn leather and muscle tissue, catching Gambit's upper left shoulder. They were pulled out just as quickly and Gambit let out a rough Cajun curse that was more in the neighborhood of a scream. The area was already saturated with the hologram induced smell of the mechanical men's blood, and Wolverine did not notice anything amiss, caught up within his own vicious battle.
Lying on the ground, his teeth set in a pain-filled snarl, Gambit grabbed a card with what he would be referring to for awhile as his good arm, and sent the crackling missile towards the tower of the ice-covered X-Man. The red hot glow of the card easily surged over the energy meter's parameters and the room shut down, Bobby giving a startled yelp as the card made its target and his ice-slide disintegrated. Archangel, going against his earlier advisement, swooped down in an attempt to grab his life long friend. But the dampeners, a separate device not part of their exercise controlled by the Danger Room, were still active, and the duo crashed to the floor.
The pair disentangled themselves with no small amount of grunts and shoving of elbows as they struggled to rise, accusations burning on their tongues.
"I hope you have a damn good explanation for that LeBeau, you could have killed him!" shouted Archangel his blue face flushed from exertion and anger.
"Really? I be de one dodging ice pylons all day, I t'ink I be de one deserve'n de explanation!" Gambit shot back.
"Lemme see the arm Gumbo," said Wolverine, but Gambit shook him off angrily too upset to let the throbbing injury be looked at.
"First, y' try t' skewer me wit' de damn ice pilings…Den," he continued stalking forward waving his uninjured arm dramatically, "y' sneak a patch of ice right where Gambit's gonna land, an' I end up gettin' a pair of claws ripped through my arm."
"For someone who is supposed to have such great acrobatic skills I fail to see how it was that great of a hardship to get out of the way. And if you're hell bent on blaming somebody, try the guy who owns the claws," shouted Archangel.
"An' dat wouldn'a happened unless I slipped. Odd how dat patch of ice appeared just in time eh Iceman?"
"I wouldn't do anything like that on purpose," replied Bobby, "with all these stupid parameters it's easy for some of my ice to slip away from me. But you did try to hurt me on purpose! You totally overreacted, but it's not like that's a rarity."
"If you were having problems with this exercise, you should have said something earlier," put in Warren.
Gambit who did not get along with the two at the best of times, felt an internal flush at the accusation that he had not been able to cut it with the more senior X-Men. Though, in his opinion, the only seniority they had over him was years on the team. He had them beat on life experience, whether he was battling Sentinels at seventeen or not. In either case, he had been holding his own quite well until he started to receive the little presents from the X-Mansion's walking, talking, Popsicle.
"Since I'm de one who be spend time gettin' de stitches, I'd say I be entitled t' a little overreactin'," he said sarcastically. "'Sides I t'ink Iceman be de one who be havin' problems wit' dis exercise, no surprise dere either," he mocked.
"What the hell is that supposed to mean?" spat out a flustered Bobby.
"Want me t' write it down for y?" asked Gambit mockingly, fishing the dampener out of his pocket, flicking it away with an impatient gesture, deciding not to explode it only at the last minute. Beast and Scott had spent enough time working on them that the fallout for destroying one was not worth the momentary satisfaction.
"Knock it off you two, before ya say something yer gonna regret," growled Wolverine finally, disgusted at having to play baby-sitter yet again.
"Mine as well let it drop Bobby, you're never going to get Gambit to admit he was wrong about anything. Thieves have no sense of right and wrong."
Bobby acquiesced to his friend grudgingly and stepped further back, a disgruntled look swirling in his blue eyes.
"Sure, we can always do dis later, eh Iceman? Gambit's got better t'ings to do den wait 'round here all day watching 'Angel trippin' over himself to coverin' for y'."
A muttered comment slipped past him compliments of Iceman and the only recognizable word, "Rogue," was enough to set off the already simmering Cajun. Gambit lunged, and a startled Iceman went forward to meet him, the other two X-Men scrambling after to get ahold. Neither Warren or Wolverine made it on time—Cyclops did though.
He burst in between the pair, shoving them apart with a hand each, built-up momentum from running to the argument put to good use. The near combatants eyed each other warily but made no further attempt to continue the physical portion of their confrontation.
"Jesus, can't you guys ever stay out of trouble? Do I even want to know what started the idiocy this time?" Scott asked.
"Gambit went psycho because he tripped and got snagged on Wolverine's claws," tattled Warren.
"Dat ain't de way it happened," argued Remy.
Cyclops looking oddly out of place in his khaki combo amongst the colorful costumes of his teammates, trained his ruby vision on the Cajun's injured arm, "I'm not in the mood to deal with you Gambit. Get down to the infirmary."
"Already on m' way dere Cyke. Not like y' ever believed a word dis Cajun said anyways."
"Like your word is worth anything," commented Warren, no love lost between the two.
Gambit replied with but a snarl, his long strides eating up the ground as he slammed his way out of the Danger Room, his duster slinking behind him.
"Warren, you get out too, I want Bobby's side of the story first."
"I'll back up anything Bobby says, you know Gambit is not exactly the most balanced member of the team," said Archangel.
"Later," Scott commented shortly and waited till the other mutant slipped out of his peripheral vision.
"You want to tell me what this was all about?"
"I'm so sick of this childishness, you know to never attack another member of this team. What you guys were even doing in here is—"
"Why are you jumping all over me?" questioned Bobby, "You should be giving this speech to Gambit, he came after me first. I was just defending myself."
"Go ahead and give me your version, and you better hope it matches everyone else's later. What set this off?"
"I've been trying to tell you, but you keep interrupting me. Gambit got shish-ka-bobbed in the arm by Wolverine and he's blaming me—"
"Where'd Wolverine go?" Cyclops said suddenly, interrupting once more.
"I don't know, you basically threw everybody out, he probably left with Warren. Did you want me to finish this story or…" Bobby asked, his anger cooling by degrees. Pranks aside, he tried not to really piss off people as a sign of good manners, even more so when the house one lived in had certain people with the equivalent of C-4 at their beck and call. Despite that fact, sharing the mansion with Remy had taught him something else: if you didn't stand up to Gambit immediately he had a way of taking you to the ground and making sure it hurt. Verbal or physical, it didn't seem to matter to him as long as the other person lost. Although with this particular encounter he wasn't sure who came out the winner.
"Don't go anywhere," Scott ordered, "we'll finish this up later. I have a feeling Logan's about to do something stupid, again."
Scott rushed out, only slightly slower than he entered; Wolverine was one of the team's best fighters, and at odd times the sagest philosopher. Logan could also have one of the sternest views on responsibility when he chose. He could slaughter a field of enemies without any appreciable remorse, but something like accidentally injuring a teammate would make him doubt himself. Make him high-tail it to greener country until he thought himself out.
The garage was ill-lighted as all garages tended to be, but the short Canadian he'd been prepared to halt in his tracks was nowhere near. Surprised, for once pleasantly so, Cyclops allowed that he could have misjudged Wolverine. Perhaps team responsibility was finally overcoming the personal for him.
Cyclops headed back to locate Warren, for once walking, a headache building between his eyes. One more fight to iron out and smooth over. No matter who he assigned blame to, both sides would be miffed for days for perceived lack, or excess of punishment, but at least they would be mad at him instead of each other, it was a start.
Gambit had made it to his room if not the infirmary doorstep as he had promised. Hissing, he gently probed the steadily bleeding wound, having already shucked his coat and spread it out on his comforter to keep any stray droplets of blood from dripping on it. It didn't look all that bad, but it always felt worse after you saw blood. He could almost feel the claws ripping back out of the meat of his shoulder, an experience he did not want the opportunity to repeat, ever. It hadn't reached the bone, but it had made a mess of his arm. All the time he spent sparring one-on-one with Wolverine, and he had never been tagged. Instead, he ends up at the wrong end of Logan's claws during a group exercise. He'll never hear the end of it, of course if it hadn't been for the ice…
Remy let his hand drop from his arm when, sans knocking, Wolverine opened let himself into the Cajun's room and nodded his greeting, "Sorry about the arm Gumbo." For once Logan refrained from leaning against the door, singe marks and a grimy combo of human and mechanical fluids from the torn apart 'bots still staining his uniform.
"No worries mon ami, jus' a flesh wound neh?" the Cajun replied with a thin smile walking around from his bed.
Wolverine snorted, used to but not fond of the Cajun's mercurial moods, and a flesh wound it was not, searing through the mass of muscles of Gambit's arm. "Ya made it sound like a big deal ta the 'Cube."
"Bobby t'inks he can get away wit' anyt'ing, 'm tired o' it. Y' had a slip up, an' I can' say dat I'm exactly real fond o' y' right now, but it was an accident. Iceman did it on purpose," he said having dug out a half-gone roll of gauze from his dresser drawer to roll around his arm.
"Maybe it's worse that way, an accident," Logan replied shaking his head, "I didn't even notice right off."
"Don' beat y'self up about it, ain' mad at y', Remy advised, "An' Gambit don' hold grudges."
"Somehow I don't believe that," Logan replied standing straighter but still nowhere near the Cajun's 6'1'' frame, "Make sure ya see Hank before ya go haring off."
"Sure Logan, no problem," Gambit replied with every intention of ignoring the advice, twice duplicated thus far. Of course when Storm made it back, he'd have it in triplicate, the thought scrawling a short-lived smirk across his features.
Logan, knowing the Cajun's ability to push off visits to the lab near indefinitely took a little more pro-active step. Already at the door, he pressed one of the numerous pre-sets on the intercom panel set flush to the wall. A low beep before Henry McCoy's jovial voice was heard through the speaker:
"What can I do for you my Cajun companion?"
"It's me Hank," spoke Wolverine gruffly.
"Logan?" Hank asked with some alarm, "What's wrong?"
"Down-shift Beast, no emergency, but Gambit ended up taking some claw through the arm. Ain't bleeding real bad, but it'll get infected pretty quick, just making sure ya knew about it."
"Of course, thank you Logan. When can I expect you Gambit?"
"Oh I'm already dere," Gambit replied with false dramaticism, sorting through a few trinkets on the top of his dresser.
"You know, the longer it takes for you to get here the more tests I can conceive."
"Is dat why I only had 'bout a pint o' blood left by de time I got outta dere de last time?"
"I'll see you in a few minutes," replied Beast the white noise of the speaker ceasing as the connection cut off.
"I'll get dere when I get dere," Remy growled rebelliously at the now silent intercom, shooting a look at the traitor.
"It's for your own good Gumbo," Wolverine remarked, "See ya 'round." Gambit lifted his head from readjusting his bandages but Wolverine had already gone.
Logan quickly made his way down the stairs and onto the bike he'd left beside the house from a drive earlier in the day, his mind ticking all the while. For their line of work Gambit's wound was minor, and Gumbo didn't even seem upset over Logan's role in his injury. But Logan knew it should never have happened. He should have had better control than that. The holograms had always been startlingly realistic, he'd been surrounded, and they were testing out a previously unused piece of technology. Valid excuses all, but to him, they were not enough together or alone. Sadly enough, it was normal working conditions for the X-Men. He was Wolverine; he had to have better control, he had to.
A/N: I'm trying a lot of new things with this story, (comparative to my others) one of which being the attempt to keep this PG-13, so if you noticed this was a little light on angst/injuries that'd be why.
Next chapter: Rogue and Gambit interaction, plus a little more Scott.