A/N: So I had to split this in two chapters 'cause it kept getting longer and longer, and more verbose. I know my characters talk a lot - sorry, there doesn't seem to be any better (or faster) way to write this story tho.
*** Third person POV ***
Capitol Hill, Washington DC
Five minutes to midnight, an ambulance chopper (at least that’s what the insignia on the sides led one to believe) hovered over the rooftop helipad of the Capitol Hill Hospital. A tall, lean man shot out, dropping ten feet and still landing on his feet gracefully. His sandy brown waves of hair blew in the artificial wind, his fists were clenched by his sides and his eyes squinted as he looked up at a mousy little man in the helicopter. He thought back to the last words the man spoke just before he’d jumped.
“Remember, thief. You screw this up and your dear old Poppa dies, *screaming*.”
Despite the darkness of the night, he found and held the despicable human’s eyes, his own flashing redder and angrier than ever. But he knew he was left with no choice. Least not yet.
“Remy gave you ‘is word, M’sieu Hodge. You jus’ keep yours, or else…”
The man scowled in response before the chopper lifted and disappeared into the darkness. The mutant left standing in the middle of the helipad pulled up the collar on his trench coat and turned towards the building. He planned to sneak into the hospital and out of it without alerting anyone inside, and make his way to his target destination – the Hart Senate building – venue for tomorrow’s final hearing before the Senate dispersed until next week. That would be when they’d announce their decision on the Mutant Registration Act.
Thief like him, the task really should be easy as pie. And even if it weren’t, he was prepared to do just about anything for his foster father’s life… even if it meant wrecking the lives of mutants all over the country, for good.
And then once he’d seen his Pops safe and back in New Orleans, Gambit would return to have his revenge.
Earlier that day, at the X-Mansion…
Jean rubbed her sweaty palms into the fabric of her skirt draped snugly around her thighs. She took deep breaths to calm herself down. The Professor could give Logan the tour for the estate for the next week and a half for all she cared, so long as he didn’t come back down here. And now that the big growling jerk was gone, she tried to push all her thoughts of him out of her mind. Too bad that was easier said than done, even for a telepath like her.
Seriously, the nerve! What gave that fucking stranger, that obnoxious, manner-less brute the fucking right to even be here?
Jean Grey sighed, and looked at the sedate features of her unconscious ex-fiancée. And it occurred to her then, rather painfully, that she’d kind of lost the right to be here herself. Still, hard to believe she’d been replaced by a fucking Neanderthal who hadn’t seen the inside of a shower stall in months.
What the hell happened up there?
Jean slowly approached Scott’s bed and bit her lip. A little peek couldn’t possibly hurt, could it? She held her hands on each side of Scott’s head without actually touching him. And she concentrated.
She hit a wall almost immediately. Whatever was keeping Scott asleep, whatever had drained him out, had almost completely shut his brain down and she would have to strain harder to get through. Jean debated with herself on whether doing so could be dangerous for Scott in any way. Damn it, why was it so important for her to know anyway? Scott would wake up and tell her anyway, wouldn’t he?
No. He probably wouldn’t. And Jean was reminded once more of everything she’d lost. Feeling more restless than before, Jean pulled her hands back and let them drop to her sides, sighing heavily.
She jumped, nearly giving herself a heart attack, and quickly turned towards the new voice in the room. “Marie? What are you still doing here?”
The teenager stood at the glass door with her hands buried in her pockets. She looked like she’d been standing there for awhile, but apparently, Jean had been too engrossed in her attempts to violate Scott’s fucking privacy.
“If you really wanna know…”
Jean frowned. How did she…?
“Why not just ask?”
Rogue stared right into her eyes and smirked. It struck Jean how very Scott-like that expression was.
“Logan, wait up!”
Warren had to run to catch up with the other man, who was striding down into level five with a quiet vengeance. It appeared to him that Wolverine halted his steps extremely grudgingly. Warren bit back his sly grin because really, could this man be any more obvious?
“Are you going down to see Scott before we leave for DC?”
Logan wouldn’t meet his eyes. “I won’t be long.”
Warren smirked. “Fine with me. I just wanted to give you something. Come on, it’s right here round the corner.”
He took a right to go into a neighboring chamber and Logan frowned, clearly still not trusting anyone or anything in this place yet. Warren allowed him his time and space while he punched in the security code to the room. The doors slid to either side, revealing another long and futuristic chamber with round walls. Only these walls were lined with glass cases and cabinets, and in these cabinets stood a small but impressive collection of small arms – automatics, knives, futuristic detection and camouflage equipment, other kinds of field gear, and uniforms.
“I know you’ve got those awesome claws and all, but feel free to borrow any of these just in case you decide to go with something less dramatic. Oh and please help yourself to a uniform.”
Logan hiked up an eyebrow, “Uniform?”
“It’s mission protocol.”
Warren waved both his hands briefly to gesture at his own attire – all that sexy and skintight black leather – Warren for one sure didn’t mind. And it didn’t hurt that he’d noticed Ororo checking out his butt on more than one occasion in these things.
Logan snorted and crossed his arms. “Give me one good reason.”
“Well, for one, it’s lined with Kevlar.”
“I don’t need Kevlar.”
“It’s discreet, makes for excellent camouflage in the dark.”
“I *invented* discreet, bub.”
Warren sighed. The man was incorrigible. What the hell did Scott see in him again? “It helps identify you as one of us.”
This time the retort was slower in coming than before but just as brutal, if not slightly more. “I’m not one of you.”
It was intended to shut Warren up, he supposed. But he was not about to back off just yet. “Yeah, well. You got that right.”
They glared at each other for a second, and then abruptly, Logan turned and started to walk out of the armory.
“Scott would want you to wear one.”
Logan stopped in his tracks. Warren could barely hide his victorious smirk when Logan turned to scowl at him again. He took out one of the uniforms on a hanger and held it up to show the older mutant.
“This one belongs to Cyclops.”
“And that was it,” Marie whispered in a soft, dead tone. “The truck went up in flames then exploded, if Logan hadn’t pulled him out in time…”
“Two minutes later, Angel and Storm found us.”
Jean turned her head away so Marie didn’t have to see it – reaching up to wipe away the single tear behind her spectacles. Sniveled once before she turned back to face Rogue. The young girl was sitting in a chair with her feet up. She was curled up so tight, almost like she didn’t wish to be seen. And she was staring at Scott’s face unblinkingly. Jean could sense the conflict between the two distinct personalities and thought trains in Marie’s head. It was so emphatic that, hell, it was giving Jean a headache just to be around it.
“Trust me, Marie. None of this is your fault.”
“I know, it’s not,” Marie said it like she couldn’t care less whether it was true or not. “But it doesn’t change anything, does it?”
Jean sighed. No it didn’t. She looked down into Scott’s face and stroked his strands of auburn hair back from his face. Took her time combing each and every one of them with her long elegant fingers, arranging them as neatly as she could on the bed’s metallic surface. And then another (selfish) thought occurred to her.
“I know he went through something terrible before he came to the mansion, but… he’s suppressing it so hard, I can’t seem to ever get to it no matter how hard I try…”
Why was she telling Marie all this? Perhaps in hopes that Marie, rather the part of Scott’s persona that was still in her, could maybe shed some light on Scott’s past without his usual inhibitions?
She looked at Marie, waited for the blank expression on her face to shift into something she could read. But it didn’t.
“It’s like a little black box, hidden in the deepest, darkest depths of his mind.”
Marie frowned after a while, and suddenly she started to shiver. “I-I can’t… I’m too s-scared to go near it.”
Jean Grey was up on her feet and across the room in a flash. She put a hand on the teenager’s shoulder and softly shushed her, coaxing her to relax. “It’s okay, Marie. You don’t have to. Let it go, sweetie. It’s okay.”
The guilt hit her full force, for disrupting (or at least trying to) Scott’s privacy, and for asking too much of a young girl who had enough to deal with on her own. Jean felt an intense urge to pull Marie into her arms, to hold her and maybe make some of her demons go away. But she couldn’t do that yet since Marie wasn’t really herself right now, and maybe the real Marie wouldn’t trust Jean enough to let herself be touched like that. Besides, who knew what would happen if Jean brushed up against Marie’s bare skin?
In any case, it wasn’t healthy for Marie to linger on here in the basement any longer. She needed to push Scott’s personality down and let her own surface and the sooner the better.
“Come on, kiddo. Let’s go get some fresh air.”
Marie got up, almost like a zombie, but she followed where Jean led her and that was enough for now. They couldn’t have chosen a better timing – from the corner of an eye, Jean noticed Logan walking into the ICU just as she and Marie exited the room through a different door.
Marie had just told her about their little Canadian adventure – every single detail from the moment Scott landed in Alberta three days ago to the moment he lost consciousness this afternoon. And Jean had reluctantly, and defeatedly, reached a decision.
Maybe the obnoxious manner-less brute had a… *tiny fraction* of a right to be here after all.
Logan couldn’t believe how lithe and soundless the thing was – this uniform for the freaks who called themselves the X-Men. One would think all that leather would squeak and snap and chafe with every step he took or something, but it didn’t. He figured it was because it’d already been worn and broken into, by the boy… his own boy. There was the faintest scent of Summers still clinging to the uniform, something only Wolverine’s razor sharp senses could have picked up, and he liked it. It’d act as a constant reminder to him of why he was doing what he was about to do tonight.
Logan entered the sickbay and from a distance heard Jean Grey ask Marie to accompany her upstairs for some fresh air. Good idea, he thought, and only wished the *nice* people here could help Rogue more than he’d been able to. He walked up to Scott’s bed, treading softly even though there was nothing he wanted more than for Summers to wake up.
“Hey kid,” he mumbled, studying the mild lines of exhaustion at the corners of Scott’s closed eyes. In the emptiness, his voice echoed and he ached even more.
Logan swallowed deliberately, and looked around to ensure there really was no one present to witness his… uh, tame side. He put a hesitant hand on the kid’s forehead, not liking the cold clamminess seeping through his skin. Pulled the navy blue blanket up over Scott’s bare shoulders, tucking it around his neck to keep him warm. And then he bent down and brought his mouth closer to the kid’s face.
“Just in case you wake up while I’m gone…”
Logan whispered, fingering a stray lock of hair on the kid’s temple.
“Don’t panic, okay? Know that I will be back. I ain’t goin’ nowhere kid, not until you kick me out.”
With that said, Logan straightened up, his spine ramrod straight once again. A couple seconds later, he turned and brusquely walked out. He had a plane to catch, and send someone named Cameron Hodge to meet his maker.
Charles Xavier sighed and lowered his gaze from the security videos dashboard in his back-office up on level one. Emma Frost stood beside him, one foot crossed over the other and her narrow waist pushed out to one side. She kept one hand flat on the back of Charles’ wheelchair and the other poised at her hip. They had both witnessed everything that just transpired – everything Logan had said and done in the medical unit down on sub-level five.
“Charles, what do you know about this mutant?”
The old man replied nonchalantly. “Everything that this mutant knows about *himself*, which by the way isn’t much at all.”
Emma narrowed her eyes. “I can’t seem to make up my mind about him.”
That was quite a confession, coming from a powerful psyionic such as her, and Xavier was well aware of that. “I haven’t had the chance to scan him completely yet. But I do know his intentions with regards to Scott are genuine.”
“And what about Scott’s intentions?”
Charles exhaled deeply at that. “Scott is so tired, and still so very troubled. But he seems to rest easier with Logan close by.”
Emma did not know how to contest that.
“For the moment he needs Logan. Perhaps as much as the X-Men need Wolverine. If not more.”
“And what do *you* want, Charles?”
The professor smiled up at the headmistress of Massachusetts Academy. “Only what every loving father wants, Miss Frost.”
Emma returned the smile though a little uncertainly, then lapsed back into silence and let the Professor continue to keep a tender vigil over his sleeping son.
A group of teenaged boys grappled for a football as they ran past Jean and Marie in the corridor on the second level. That was where all the dorm rooms for the students were. They created a ruckus loud enough for the walls to reverberate and despite it being well after school hours, Jean automatically switched to teacher mode.
“Boys… boys? BOYS!”
The chaos abruptly ended when the boys finally noticed the teacher’s presence among them and obeyed the order barked practically from inside their own heads.
“Doctor Grey! Sorry, we didn’t…”
Marie stood a little ways behind Jean, but she noticed the cute blond boy rushing to explain himself and his friends. He seemed to be the oldest of them all, or maybe he just felt responsible for them all. There was a kindness in his crystal blue eyes that she didn’t see in the others, the others were just *boys*… ordinary like boys usually were. But something about this one, he seemed far more mature for his age. Least his eyes did.
Jean cut the hassled excuse off with a wave of her hand. She also ignored the leering look she was getting from St. John, that brat sure didn’t know when to quit.
“Boys, I’d like you to meet someone. This is Marie, she’s new to the school. Bobby and John – she will most likely be starting in your grade pretty soon.”
Jean gave Marie a gentle nudge to come forward and the teenager did, though rather reluctantly. Fact she wouldn’t have bothered at all, except the cute blond was now looking right at her curiously, and he was smiling.
“Hi. I’m Bobby.”
He extended a hand out for her and for a moment Marie hesitated. But then she remembered the black gloves she still had on, and bravely stepped forward to shake the boy’s hand. It was warm and firm, and it seemed to her like he held her hand, as well as her eyes, a little longer than necessary.
It didn’t go unnoticed by anyone that the new girl had just offered up a call sign instead of her actual name, and for some reason it made the boys straighten up a little, as if she’d just thrown out the gauntlet or something. The introductions started soon enough – Iceman, Colossus, Pyro, Cannonball, Avalanche, Sunspot. Jean smiled softly to herself, hoping the kids would lose the formalities and get to their real names soon enough.
Bobby cleared his throat. “So… Rogue, would you like me to show you around the campus? It’s really cool.”
The other boys exchanged knowing looks and everyone including Jean turned to look at Marie expectantly.
Jean feared the Scott-personality might still be dominant in Marie and just like earlier when she’d refused the Professor’s offer, Marie might turn Bobby down as well. Instead, she noticed Marie smiling softly, the way a girl her age would when approached by a cute guy she liked. She even coyly tucked a strand of her hair behind one ear. “Okay. Sure.”
Jean smiled and watched them walk away, relieved that Marie might finally be getting a handle back on her real self.
Besides, the possibility of the *Scott* in her having the hots for Bobby Drake was simply too disturbing a possibility to think about.
Jean grinned, shook her head and headed back down so she could be by Scott’s side once again. Pretty, young and blond had never been his type anyway. Scott seemed more into the tall, dark and intelligent type. And of late the scruffy, uncivilized, rough around the edges type. Like Logan.
Jean made a gagging motion to herself and hoped no one on the crowded floor noticed.
The sky was colored in shades of orange and red by the time the X-Jet flew into the airspace of Maryland. Logan looked at the blueprints spread out in his lap one last time before handing them back to Angel. “So how sure are we that this is the hideout?”
Storm responded from her seat at the cockpit’s dashboard. “Positive. Emma is just as adept at tracking people down with the Cerebro as the Professor.”
She turned around to glance at him this time. “Sorry. I assumed the Professor must have given you the whole tour.”
“He obviously doesn’t completely trust old Claws yet,” Angel supplied, smirking.
Logan just shrugged. Fair enough, he wouldn’t have trusted him either.
“The Cerebro is a telepathic device the Professor invented, that connects him to every other being on this planet through brain waves, or something. That’s about all I understand. It’s how he found you.”
// Charles Xavier. Westchester, New York. //
// A powerful telepath…//
Logan’s frown deepened. Something weak but insistent nagged at the back of his brain, and he wished he could understand what it was, except he couldn’t quite get a grasp over it…
// Buildin’ a fuckin’ school as camouflage. Get me what’s inside. //
// He sensed you in… his mind… //
“Besides,” Angel interrupted him abruptly, and Logan lost track of the thread for good, “this location – an abandoned factory space – it’s Worthington property.”
Warren got a faraway look on his face. “Hodge was an employee in my dad’s company, our public relations manager to be more specific. Turns out he was diverting Worthington funds to this secret organization he founded ‘cause he fucking *hated* me and my kind so damn much.”
Logan looked out his window at the horizon darkening with every passing second. “Storm.”
“I need to know everything that happened. With Scott.”
The weather queen took a deep breath, put the plane in autopilot and swirled around to face Logan. She’d expected the questions to start sooner or later. This strange man in their midst was risking his life for a cause that wasn’t yet his. It had nothing to do with him, nothing. Except maybe revenge in the name of a man that wasn’t quite yet his either.
“Emanuel De Costa was an old friend of the Professor’s. After his death, his widow Nina and son Roberto were living in Rio De Janeiro, when Robby turned fourteen and came into his powers. Nina decided to bring him to the States to see the Professor when Robby was kidnapped. She called us for help and we responded.”
Logan remembered the earthquake incident Scott had told him about. Whatever this Robby kid’s powers were, they sure must be big enough to cause destruction and mayhem the size of San Andreas.
“The Professor tracked the kid down to New Jersey and Scott, Jean and I suited up. Cyclops is a stickler for planning and preparation but we had no way to know who was behind it at the time. We sure as hell didn’t know that Hodge was back, with deeper pockets to drain this time.”
Logan heard Warren huff in the background, "Summers should have remembered that's Hodge's typical MO - kidnapping innocent youngsters who don't even know what they're capable of yet..."
"And how's that different from every second psycho we run into every second day, Warren?"
Warren quickly shut up at that, and Logan was impressed by how passionately Ororo had defended Scott's abilities. Despite the fact he could smell her attraction for the blond from this distance.
Storm focused on Hodge once again. “He’s dressed his men in armored battle suits fitted with machine guns and explosive missiles on their shoulder pads. The suits give them enhanced strength, resistance to Cyclops’ blasts and oh, short-range flight ability. And we sure weren’t expecting fifty of them.”
“Guarding one little kid?” asked Logan. That didn’t make sense.
“It was a setup,” Warren supplied. “They knew Charles would send the X-Men to save his late friend’s son. Last time Hodge ran into us, we buried him and his organization so deep into the ground it took him a year to recover. And the moment he got his hands on new funds, he came after us for revenge.”
Logan’s temper flared and he struggled to clamp it down. Reminded himself that Summers chose this fight for himself, that he wasn’t some stupid kid caught in the middle of somebody else’s war.
Storm exhaled loudly and continued the story. “Jean managed to get through to the kid, they were keeping him sedated in the back. Took a bullet through her shoulder before they grabbed her though. I was caught up somewhere else and Cyclops was surrounded, getting more and more desperate to get through to save Jean…”
The woman’s voice slowly faded into the background as Logan’s own vivid imagination took over. It was almost exactly how he’d predicted it, back in the motel cottage in Alberta when nurse Gardener had pointed out the bullet holes on Scott’s body. The kid didn’t have a severe right side dependence, nor was he distracted by anything three ‘o clock. He deliberately chose to risk his life for the sake of the Doc and the Brazilian kid. Sure sounded like the Scott Summers he’d come to know in the past three days alright.
“While they held the kid and Jean on gunpoint, Summers managed to keep Hodge engaged in a conversation long enough for reinforcements to come in. AKA me.” Warren smirked proudly but no one paid him any attention.
“Yeah, but the moment he realized he’d been played, Hodge lost it. Shot Scott in the chest, point blank before making a run for it. Missed the heart by - ”
“Centimeters. I know,” Logan swallowed, hard. Not sure anymore why he’d asked the question in the first place.
He grabbed the blueprints back from Warren’s hands. Logan was done talking. He was done struggling to understand why he felt so strongly for a kid he hadn’t even known existed last week. He just did, and that was it.
“How long until Arlington?”
Good. Silence reigned for about half of them with all three mutants lost in their own private thoughts. Then Warren squinted and vocalized a question he’d been asking himself ever since they left the mansion.
“So what kinda mutant powers would you use to disrupt a senate hearing and make them vote in the registration act?”
Logan and Ororo took their time and thought about it.
“Something loud, and disruptive, high-profile. Something explosive, maybe?” Ororo offered.
Warren agreed, “Something to create a spectacle, and leave no doubts in the eyes of the media that it was the work of a mutant.”
Thirty minutes past midnight, and the thief was now safely sequestered inside the terrace dome on the Hart senate building. He’d used minimal powers to break in, so as not to alert the security. He sure could be a sneaky little bastard when he wanted to. The actual fireworks he’d have to wait until morning to unleash, once the entire hall was packed to capacity.
That’d be when Gambit would show everyone his *real* cards.
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