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A Damn Shame

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It's Sampson and Delilah over again. Jubilee's snapping her gum and humming to herself as handfuls of hair the color of dried cinnamon bark submit to her scissors and fall to the kitchen floor. Gumbo acknowledges me with a sour twist of his mouth.

“Don' need no mo' grief 'bout dis, homme.”

“Just grabbin' a brew. Don't intend to stop you girls playing beauty salon.”

“Ignore Mr. Grumpypants.” Jubes brushes the clumps of hair off Gumbo's shoulders and squints at his head, figuring out where to cut next. “It's going to look freakin' awesome.”

“Weren't nothin' wrong with it before.” I twist off the bottle cap and drain half, Gumbo's eyes flashing with annoyance under the bangs Jubes hasn't gotten around to chopping off yet. Then the red flare of his irises dulls as his line of sight settles back onto the floor in front of him.

“Yuh entitled to y' opinion. But dis is bidness, so Remy'd 'preciate it if y' kept it to y'self.”

His accent gets stronger when he's under attack. I snag the rest of the six-pack out the fridge, pushing the door shut with my shoulder. “Trust me, Gumbo, ain't none of my business what you choose to do with yourself.”

I leave them to it, Jubes' 'Don't mind him. I think he's pre-menstral' following me through the swing door.

~*~

I don't like it. It's all wrong. It's Gumbo's usual scent, heady spice mixed with stale smoke and a hint of cum, but it's not him.

“My brother, this is a surprising transformation.”

Looks like 'Ro's the first to recover, the rest of us sitting around catching flies as Gumbo stands in the doorway looking like somebody else. Then he speaks and his voice is different too, a perfect match for the clean cut, all-American good guy he's gussied up like, a generic drawl that places him at least a couple of states away from Louisiana.

“I don't believe we've had the pleasure, ma'am. Pleased to make your acquaintance.”

He kisses the back of 'Ro's hand as she laughs and hugs him. Can't believe she's as accepting of this whole mess as she looks, but she joins in with the rest on congratulating Gumbo, Jubes and Hank on their makeover like he's Cinderella and we're magicking him off in a pumpkin to a goddamn ball. The curtain of brown-red hair's been replaced with short spiked tufts of dark brown, coaxed into a style that's probably trendy as all hell, knowing Jubes. The leather and silk's gone, old blue jeans and a college football t-shirt in place over an open button-down. But the real kick in the nuts is his eyes, covered with the special lenses Hank figured out. It's not Gumbo without his eyes, these ones a human, non-descript blue, but my nose disagrees with me and I don't like it.

“This truly is above and beyond, Gambit.”

He shrugs as he moves to shake the Professor's hand. “Like y' say, better fo' all us he don' recognize ol' Gambit, neh?”

“It's not too late to change your mind.” Figures Dickless is the only one as uncomfortable with this as I am, the red lenses of his glasses too much like Gumbo's real eyes for me to keep looking at so I pick at my coffee mug, watching my thumbnail starting to wear a groove in a crack in the glaze. “We have other options.”

“No point in tryin' to talk him outta it, Cyke. Once Gumbo's made up his mind, it stays made.” Yeah, I guess Rogue's not dealing with this all that great, either. Her body language is dismissive, arms folded, low-level anger pouring off of her as he takes his seat a few chairs up from her.

“Y' know it, chere.”

“Thought we agreed you weren't calling me that no more?”

“Dis ain't the time, 'tee. Nothin' tuh do wit' you an' me.”

“Ah don't hafta like it, though. You told me you were done with all that years back.”

“We all here t'use de skills de Bonne Dieu give us.” He shrugs again, a coolness I can tell he's faking. “A few lives saved gotta be wuth it, and dis lil Cajun got what it takes.”

“Scott's asking if you're positive about this.” Jeannie, ah Jeannie, eyes liquid with compassion as she calms Rogue with a glance and reaches out to touch Gumbo's wrist. “You're right, this could save lives. But it could be nothing, and you shouldn't feel under any pressure to do something none of the rest of us would be comfortable with, just for the sake of saving time. We can't ask you to do anything we wouldn't do ourselves.”

“Hey, speak for yourself, Jean. Find me a blonde hottie with a killer rack, and I'll happily lay back and think of the cause.”

“Thanks, Bobby, but unless your taste runs to billionaire businessmen in Italian suits, I think we'll stick with our current plans. So long as Remy's a hundred percent sure.”

Icecube scrunches up his face like he's considering it. “How many billions does he have, again? The Nova's just about had it.”

Everyone laughs awkwardly, some of the tension easing out of Gumbo's shoulders. I shake my head in disgust and score my nail deeper into my mug.

“Logan? Do you have anything you wish to add?

“Nah, Prof. Nothin' I haven't already said.”

“Then it's decided. With Mr. LeBeau's approval, of course.”

He's playing with his favorite deck, a thumb fanning over the worn-soft corners, a sure sign he's uncomfortable. His too-human eyes flicker towards me before he smiles lazily at the group, sitting back in his chair in a slouch that looks wrong on him like this.

“Ain't no big t'ing. Laissez les bon temps rouler, neh pas?”

~*~

“Figured I'd find you up here.”

He looks at me as I close the access door behind me and walk over the tiles towards him. Gumbo's eyes are back to normal, for the time being at least, his leather trench wrapped tight around him against the wind up here on the roof. Apart from the hair he looks almost himself, thin, pale fingers bringing his cigarette up for a long draw that he hikes in on a breath before blowing it out his nose in two streams of smoke. Le Diable Blanc, less so now with none of that dark red silk whipping around his face.

“Y' come to bust Gambit's balls some mo', homme? Don' need dat. Tryin' to get m'head in de game.”

I light my cigar and hand him one of the cold brews I brought up, sitting down a couple of feet from where he's huddled in his coat. “Jeannie's worried about you.”

“She worries 'bout everyone.”

“Could be dangerous.”

He laughs at that, a short huff as he coughs out a lungful of smoke and flicks his ash off the roof's edge between his dangling legs. “Like ev'ry damn t'ing we do ain't dangerous? C'mon, y' gotta do better'n dat.”

“Just wanted to be sure you know what you're doin'.”

“Since when y' worry 'bout me?”

I shrug, drawing on my cigar, the wind blowing its smoke back into my face. “Don't like watchin' anyone doin' somethin' they don't have to when they're doin' it for the wrong reasons.”

“Don' need tuh hear 'bout what yuh t'ink my reasons are, cher. Prof says we need the info. Gambit can get it easier'n anyone else. Simple 'nough.”

“If you're trying to impress anyone, you're goin' about it wrong.” I don't get an answer, his eyes narrowing against the wind, a slit of red still visible. He smokes, and I smoke, and I finish my beer without him saying another word. I get up, looking down at his shoulders in his leather coat, his hair cut so short at his neck that a faint tanline's still visible from summer above its collar. “Never thought I'd admit this but that haircut's a damn shame.”

“Y' don' like it?” He looks up at me, brushing over his spikes with one hand, cigarette dangling from his lips. “T'ought it made me look kinda butch.”

I snort and turn back towards the roof access door, grinding the last of my cigar under the toe of one boot. “That'd take more than a short back and sides. When're you leavin'?”

“T'moro. Bobby's dropping me at de bus stop. Remy LeBeau, Master T'ief, on a bus. Dat ain't a good omen of nuthin', cher.”

“Well, good luck.” I push open the door, leaning against it for a second. “You check in every few days. Don't want Jeannie worryin' her head off for no reason.”

“T'anks. 'Preciate it.” He spits on the end of his cigarette butt and flicks it off towards the center of the roof. “But y' know well as Gambit dat un homme gotta make his own luck.”

~*~

Two weeks. Two goddamn weeks without a single word from him and the kid's got his head locked so tight that Wheels can't pick up a whisper of him, not even with Cerebro. It's like Gumbo's disappeared off the face of the earth. Dickless takes me aside after another Danger Room session where I've carved up the place and tells me that I've got to calm down, quit biting everyone's head off. It takes every last breath to not knock him across the locker room.

“Why are you so concerned about Gambit all of a sudden? I could understand if it were one of the kids, but he's a grown man. He volunteered for this.”

“After you asked him. It's not like he offered. You know how he's still tryin' to fit in, and he weren't about to tell you to cram it. Much like I'd have.”

Dickless' brows draw down close to his shades. “That was a confidential conversation and Gambit shouldn't have – ”

“Gumbo didn't tell me. If the conversation were so confidential, you might want to think about not holding it in the office next to my classroom.” You'd think a leader of a mutant team would be more up to speed on their talents. “You made it sound like selling his ass to the cause was the only option. Pointed out lives were at stake if he didn't. Pretty classless, if ya ask me.”

“If the information we caught is correct, lives are at stake. Karlstaad's technological holdings are involved with anti-mutant operations, we're sure of it, and his thing for younger guys was our only way in without months of preparation.” He places a placatory, condescending hand on my shoulder and I shake it off, toweling my hair dry then my ears. “Karlstaad's security is tight and we might have to go in to extract Gambit, so I'm going to need you to focus on getting it done. We're all worried about him but this is what he does – ”

“You don't get it, do ya? That whole 'master thief' thing has nothing to do with this, it's all a damn show. He's whorin' himself, for you and the Prof's approval. Nothin' right about that.”

I throw the towel into the hamper, tugging a hooded sweatshirt on, needing to get away from Dickless before I skewer him, but he steps up towards me, his lips pressed into a line. 'Least it looks like I've got him good and riled.

“If I need someone to lecture me on ethics, I'm not planning to come to you. Dial down the attitude.”

“That an order?”

“If it needs to be.”

“So who's next? ” I toss my bag in my locker, figuring I'll go for a run in the woods, maybe work out some of this tension on a few trees. “You plannin' on sending Jeannie out next time you figure we need to soften some enemy up by rollin' them in the sack?”

His cheeks flush red as his shades.

“Yeah. Thought not. You're an example to us all, boss.”

~*~

Another three days and I'm ready to go track him down myself, when Dickless calls a team meeting and we finally start preparing to bring the kid home, both teams involved due to the size of the operation. Nick Karlstaad's smug, self-satisfied face leers from his file over us all from the digital display board as 'Ro goes over the plan of action, handing out our roles. Seems I'm stuck outside dealing with Karlstaad's crew of heavies with the rest of Blue Team, Jeannie and 'Ro taking Icecube and the elf along with some of the kids deeper inside the citadel of his tower block to try to locate whatever bedroom that slime bug's got Gumbo locked inside. Wheels looks as worried as I've ever seen him, but I don't give a rat's ass. This is at his door, as much as it is at Scott's, even Jeannie's. They had no right. But everything's agreed, action tomorrow soon as Jeannie and Hank's return from some conference out west.

I sit bolt upright in bed, my heart hammering against my chest, claws drawn, teeth bared. Two twenty three am and something's wrong, I can feel it. Something out of place. There's no alarms, no noise of anything much, the wind outside my open window and little else. Even the Tssk! Tssk! of Jubes' headphones a floor down stopped over an hour back. I wait, wondering if Jeannie or Wheels are picking up on this too, but there's nothing from them, just me and an old, creaking house, the wind trying to lift the roof off. But there's something, I know it, I'm no telepath but my instincts guide me better than anything, and I know to trust them.

I get out of bed, sheathing my claws and tugging on my jeans without stopping for shorts first, grabbing a shirt on my way out. There's nobody else on this floor now Gumbo's away and whatever part of me's screaming that something's wrong isn't concerned with up here, anyhow. I pad down the stairs on bare feet, keying in my combination to access the lower levels so I can check the security feed down in the bowels of the building. But the hair raises up on the back of my neck before I go through the door, a growl rumbling up before I've thought about it. Whatever it is, is out here with me.

I take a sniff towards the heart of the mansion, then towards the door. Whatever it is, is actually out there, in the grounds somewhere. The wind's too strong tonight to pick up much of a scent but there's something alright. A flicker of movement draws my attention towards the small monitor on the intercom next to the front door. Someone's inputting an access code into the gate, which swings open the second I recognize the set of his shoulders, the lean length of those legs.

“. . . Rem.”

His walk's the same cocksure, fluid strut as ever. Can't have gotten himself into too much trouble. Five seconds later and I'm out here in the wind watching as he lifts a hand in a tired wave and continues walking down the drive towards me. I'm figuring out now exactly why his arrival woke me up and why I didn't realize what the threat was before. He's covered in the smell of Karlstaad, it's pouring off him and out of him, and the Alpha in me doesn't like it one little bit.

I can't stop scenting him, raising my head and sniffing the air as another growl escapes my chest, my claws slicing their way out of my fists before I realize what I'm doing. Gumbo's so covered in that fat fuck's stench that I can barely catch any of his own scent, a flare catching his face as he pauses to light a cigarette, his eyes squinted against the light. The familiar smoke calms me long enough to retract my claws and stop myself racing up the driveway to tackle him to the floor, the beast inside wanting to fuck every last atom of that smell off him, hold him down and splatter him with my own stink.

“Well, well, well, willya look at what the cat dragged in.”

“Dis ain't much of a welcoming committee.” He grins, that ugly-ass hair still spiked up although it's got less sticky crap in it than last time I saw him, his eyes back to normal and as unsettling as the first time I saw them. His cheekbones are drawn harsh in a pale, tired face, his shoulders drooping. “Y' miss me, Logan? Been waitin' at the door fuh my return?”

His accent's softened by the last of the drawl he must've been faking non-stop for the past three weeks.

“I'm about ten seconds from tearing yer damn head off for keepin' so quiet. Thought I told you to check in?”

“Din' get no chance, cher.”

“We were planning to storm the place in the morning.”

“Y' tear dis head off t'moro, Remy gotta lie down an' sleep befo' he fall ovah.”

I reach up to smack him on the back, fingers digging deeper than maybe they should as I push him through the front door and towards the stairs. “Bath first.”

“Gambit jus' walked twenty mile.” He stretches up, shoulders and vertebrae cracking as he works them out, a sliver of skin showing at his hip as his shirt hikes up. “Bat' gon' hafta wait.”

“Coulda called, I'd have come picked you up.” And probably gone nuts from that smell all the way back. That inch of bare skin's making me grind my teeth.

“No phone. 'Sides, no point wakin' people when I got legs, neh?”

“It's a bit late for that, I'm afraid.” Wheels appears from down the hallway, a silk gown over striped pajamas that probably cost more than my ride. “I'm relieved to see you've returned to us safely, Mr. LeBeau. Logan, wake Scott and Jean.”

Gumbo groans, closing his eyes, hanging his head and slumping like a snotty teen asked to do chores. “It two t'irty, Prof. Remy need his bed.”

“Bath, then bed. This can wait, Chaz.” I push Gumbo up a few more steps, baring my teeth at the stench coming off him and needing it gone. But Wheels clears his throat, and we both stop and sigh as his voice enters our heads in the way that can't be ignored.

'If Gambit's mission was successful, this can' t wait. Conference room, five minutes.'

“S'all here.” Gumbo turns and unclips the stamp-sized rainbow pin Hank came up with from his shoulder pack, tossing it to Wheels who catches it to look at. “Everyt'ing y' need. Any questions, y'can ask 'em t'moro.”

“Very well.” Wheels turns the pin it over in his fingers like he can get to the data files in it with his mind alone, obviously distracted. “Good work. Get some rest.”

That's it? 'Good work' and a cold shoulder as the Prof wheels himself back along the hallway without as much as a thank you? Sometimes the people in this place can't be believed. I start to push Gumbo up the stairs again, feeling him lean back into my hand and let me take some of his weight. Every step is tired, kid looks like he's ready to flop and I help him all the way up to our floor, neither or us saying a word. Then he turns to me at his door, dropping his pack at his feet and opening the door to push it inside with a foot.

“T'anks, cher. Not sure Remy'd make it all way up wit'out y' help.”

“You wanna thank me?” He nods, his smile kinda sweet. “Then take a damn bath. You're stinking up the joint and I need my beauty sleep. I could sniff ya out all the way to the road.”

The smile slips, his mouth twisting. “Fuhgot y'smell every damn t'ing. Guess a shower wouldn't be too bad.”

It seems wrong to send him off to bed after Wheels' warm welcome home and with me telling him he reeks, both of us knowing what of. I rub over my head, the silence settling around us as I try not to let Karlstaad's stench affect me more than it already has. “You do that. Guess it's good to have you back. Even if that hair's still a goddamn tragedy.”

“Y' liked Remy's hair befo', huh?” He ruffles through his spikes, his eyes glinting at me, reminding me I've missed the damn things while he's been away. He always was too easy to look at, full of loping grace and sharp angles, a niggle at the corner of my eye that's tough to ignore.

There's plenty of stuff I like about you. “Figure it's a little early in the morning for fishing. Get to bed after the wash, you look like shit. I'm turnin' in.”

A lopsided grin and it feels like his eyes are looking right through me. “Same ol' Logan. Y' missed Remy, in't no shame admittin' it.”

“Whatever gets ya through the night. Pleasant dreams, Gumbo.” I've heard his nightmares, screams that 'Ro comes running over, and I know he's heard mine.

“Dors bien, cher. Fais de beaux rêves.”

His door closes with a clunk behind me as I walk off towards my room. Once I'm inside I strip, climbing into bed and pulling the covers up just as I hear the water start in his shower a few doors down. He's singing quietly to himself as he washes Karlstaad's sweat and spunk from his skin, some old zydeco song about asking a girl to dance that I can't quite translate. I jack off like I always do when I hear his shower running, thinking about sucking the water off his neck, chest and washboard stomach, imagining those eyes blazing up at me as he drops to his knees and works his mouth over my dick, humming his song around me as I shoot down his throat.

~*~

I blink at the display screen, hardly able to believe my own eyes. I don't understand any of the tech involved, but the blueprints of an underground bunker we had no idea about are something else, the blocks labeled 'Alteration' and 'Clearing Zone' on a 'Medical Wing' sending a shudder through me that I feel all the way down to my bones. “They've been takin' kids here?”

'Ro nods, her face barely composed. “The professor's working through the files as I speak, but our first look certainly seemed to confirm that the reports of missing mutant children link into governmental activity.”

“Experiments? Is this in any way attached to what Stryker was involved in?”

“No, this is different. Karlstaad's providing cloning technology.”

“Clones? Why would they want to clone muties? I thought they wanted rid of us.”

“It's horrible. Creepy as hell.”

Even Icecube's unsettled, his usual obnoxious attitude unnaturally subdued as he chews a nail and looks up at the display. Jubes ain't looking, playing with her bracelets, the elf muttering to himself in German as he worries at the end of his tail with nervy fingers. Gumbo's the only one looking at it without concern, but I noticed he's not looked at anyone else in the eye since he got here, late as usual, sliding into his chair to swing back on its legs and giving Dickless a nod.

Speaking of One-eye, he's all officious and standing like he's got a stick up his ass, the idea that the Government's been experimenting on mutant kids something I guess he can't afford to let get to him like it does the rest of us.

“The unit's well-fortified but under-manned. They don't know we know about this, and they're not expecting us to. Thanks to Gambit keeping his head and waiting until Karlstaad, uh . . .” Dickless gets flustered for a moment, something I've not seen for awhile. I'd enjoy it a hell of a lot more under different circumstances. “Felt his services were no longer required, we're hopeful nobody's aware this information is out.”

“'Service' is about right.”

I know she's hurting, but Rogue's dumber than I realized if she thinks that wounded, bitchy tone's going to get any sympathy in this room. Betsy yawns. Icecube gapes at her, 'Ro raising an imperious eyebrow as I swallow a growl and limit it to a glare. “You might wanna apologize for that.”

“Pet'ie don' hafta say nothin' to nobody. No harm saying how it is.”

Gumbo's working his jaw, pissed at me, slender fingers spinning a pencil on the table top, its eraser glowing with a small charge. It's been clear for awhile that they're fighting more often than they're not, but he's protective of her, his lips tight as he stares at me across the table and dares me to say otherwise. Guess he hasn't known me long enough to know I never back down from a dare.

“You got the job done, and now we can go put a stop to whatever the hell those scuzz bags are doing to those kids. She should be thanking you.”

“Logan's right, Rogue. Even if you can't respect his methods, you should respect the results.”

Dickless is backing me up. I feel like looking out the window to see if there's any pigs flying around. I can smell the temper growing on Rogue, her cheeks coloring.

“So results are all that's important now? Don't matter how we get them?”

“S'only a lil boom-boom, 'tee. In't like Remy put nobody in a coma.”

Damn. I'd forgotten how cruel he can get when cornered, Rogue choking in a sob with a hand over her mouth and pushing her chair back so hard it buries itself in three inches of drywall. She shrugs off 'Ro's hand as she half-runs, half-flies out the room, and we all wince with how loud she slams the door after her, a crack appearing in the door jamb. I raise an eyebrow at Gumbo, who looks all obstinate back at me while Dickless puffs himself up for a reprimand.

“Was that entirely necessary?”

A chunk of Wheels' fancy plasterwork falls off the cracked wall around Rogue's chair. Gumbo smirks at it and leans back so far in his chair it seems like he's defying physics when he doesn't fall backwards and onto his ass.

“Gambit don' do nuthin' that ain't, homme.”

~*~

First thing I noticed about Gumbo is he's a loner. I guess like attracts like, the air of solitude he wraps around himself something I know people see in me. He's huddled in that coat again although the winds have died down, a bite in the air that he narrows his eyes against as he takes a draw on his smoke and looks out over the roof towards the lake.

“Yuh takin' a walk, homme? Gon' be a cold night.”

“You were pretty tough on Rogue back there.”

He sucks his teeth, flicking his ash away and looking at his fingernails. “Ain't in de mood fo' a spankin' if dat's all y' got'.”

I move to sit down next to him, closer than I usually would, and he inches over on the roof's edge to give me space. “There's no call for public brawlin'.”

Red spins in ink-black as he rolls his eyes and sighs, lifting his lighter to my cigar as I pat my pockets for my zippo. “She can' touch me, but nobody else should? Dat in't no way to live. Man got needs.”

“Shoulda thought of that before you started chasin' her around this place beggin' for her time.”

His low, rich chuckle warms me through, the deep tone of his voice always one of the things that draws me to him most. Icecube's always joking that Rem's pretty like a girl, but he's tall and strong, tougher than shit when called on, masculine in every way he needs to be. “Y' sound like mon pere. S'pose it' a personal failing, always did run after what I couldn' have. It's de t'ief in me.”

“I'm not yer dad, but I'm tellin' you to ease off. It's tough on her, too.”

“Y' gon' start writing an advice column or somethin'? 'De Wise Words of de Wolverine'. Can see it now. Yuh girl been cheatin' on y' wit' some creep? Track de mofo down and go feral on his ass!”

I snort, leaning back on my elbows to watch the sun start to dip under the far line of forest. “Ain't in no position to start handin' out relationship advice.”

“Damn right.” He looks over his shoulder at me, the perfect angle of his cheekbone and jaw highlighted in an orange sun that heats his hair to near its usual color. “What's y' deal, anyhow? Don' like a warm body in bed 'side y'?”

“Guess there ain't much call for old, busted-up mutants with a terminal case of bear head.”

“Don' know 'bout dat, cher.” Another drag on the stub of his smoke as he looks away. “Y' got yuh own t'ing.”

I grunt, not wanting him to realize the effect of his words on me, a spurt of hormonal heat that gets my nuts throbbing. Then we sit and watch the sun go down, not talking, Gumbo smoking his way through another cigarette as easy and comfortable with the silence as me. Soon as the first few stars appear high above the forest he yawns and pushes himself up to his feet in one fluid movement.

“Gon' go get a drink. Y' want t' take a ride?”

It feels like he's asking more and I look up at his face, his eyes, trying to figure out exactly what's on offer and whether or not I'll have the brass to take him up on it. There's always been these moments of discomfort between us, the air buzzing and thick with unspoken tension that I understand on my part but can't figure out on him.

“There's a game I wanted to watch, won't be on at Harry's.”

“Den we find somewhere else.”

“First round's on you.”

“Always, cher. Y' never heard of southern hospitality? I invite y', I pay.”

That's he's dropped the third person bullshit is invitation enough. I let him grab my hand and playact like he's helping me to my feet, even though I know he's got as much chance of lifting my hog one handed.

~*~

“Care t' make dis mo' interestin'?”

I curse at a bullshit decision by this moron linesman, slamming my beer down making it froth over my knuckles.

“Already getting too damn interesting. No way that was offside.” I glare over my shoulder as I shake my hand dry. “You gotta problem, bub?”

The guy giving me a worried look to my left shakes his head, his eyes wide, then grabs his bottle to shift a few stools down.

“C'mon. 'Cuz t' Flames are playin' so pitiful, I'll stack the odds in y' favor.”

“They're still warmin' up.”

“Y' keep tellin' y'self dat, cher.”

He's been easy company so far, immune to my sudden bursts of aggression and not afraid to argue out difficult calls. I usually want to be left alone but this is good, his thigh warm against my knee where his long legs can't quite fit under the bar. I nod to the barman for another brew after draining my last.

“What did you have in mind?”

“Don' need y' cash. Figure I don' know yuh. Don' know none of yuh, not yet. Every point de Canadiens score above five over your guys, y' answer a question. Personal stuff.”

I shrug, blowing the foam off my new glass. “Don't have any secrets I'd want to share with you.”

“No? Not one?” I drag my attention from the game soon as the ref calls end of the first period, and he's smiling down at me, his face more open than I remember seeing before, the red shine of his eyes just visible behind the shades he hasn't taken off since we've been in this place. “Never took y' fo' yellow, homme. Don' say much 'bout y' confidence in dese Flames here.”

“Ask what you want. I'll answer it, if I want.”

“Alright.” He squints at the Solitaire game he's got going on the bar in front of him, pulling three cards out his pack and placing two of them in different stacks. “Why yuh wit' de X-men?”

“Long story.”

“So give Remy t' short version.”

“Nowhere else I got to be right now.”

“Dat it?”

“You wanted the short version.”

He chuckles, discarding a five of hearts and pulling another three cards. “True. Who y' t'ink y' closest to? Blind man could see y' got a soft spot for de Lady Grey.”

I snort and look back at the TV to signal that subject's off limits. He plays silently for a minute, his soft intake of breath ringing in my ears when he's ready to try again.

“Y' didn' approve of me sleepin' wit' Nico for de information.”

It's a statement. Nico. That's cozy. I tongue over a canine, the animal starting to wake. “No. I didn't.”

He sighs, scooping up his game and shuffling the deck sloppily before starting to place them out again, column by column. “S'only sex.”

“I know. Some people like to keep that for special.”

A surprised Hah! and I feel the weight of his stare along the side of my face. “Merde, y' a closet romantic? Talk 'bout y' dark horses. Y' just a big ol' pussy cat under all dese whiskers, huh.”

He's reached up and is scratching through one of my sideburns, and I grab his hand, ready to tell him to keep his hands to himself. But the pulse in his wrist throbs against my thumb, speeding up, his scent getting stronger as he stares at me and I stare back, his fingers unmoving against my cheek. His pheromones are rising, my nose flaring as I draw them in and force myself to drop his hand, pushing it away. He frowns and clears his throat, rubbing over his leg.

“So, uh. De special someone y' save yuh bed fo'. Y' play bot' sides? Y' like to look at me, know dat much.”

I've turned back to the game, the smell of him making me dizzy, like I'm about to break a sweat, my heart hammering against my chest, my dick half-hard against my fly. Just one touch and I'm ready to pop my claws and shred every last stitch of clothing off him. “Game's startin' again.”

“Y' tellin' me.” His hand slides over my knee and I close my eyes, swallowing down a growl.

“This ain't that kinda bar, Gumbo.”

“Maybe we could go find dat kind of bar.”

“Maybe you'll take your paw off my leg before I chop if off so I can watch my damn game unmolested.”

A soft laugh and his fingers withdraw, though I can still feel the warmth of them lingering on my leg, an inch of skin I can't take my attention off. I miss a foul call without reacting. He snickers, picking up his pack to do some complicated shuffle.

“Feelin' distracted dere, homme?”

“Cram it, Cajun.”

~*~

He keeps looking over his shoulder at me with a sly smile all the way upstairs to our floor. He rode ahead of me all the way back, the trail of smoke, cologne, bourbon and sex something I could've followed with my eyes closed. I feel lit up, every sense alert like I'm out hunting, watching every move of his broad shoulders as he struts up the stairs knowing I can't look away. We get to my door first and he pauses then turns towards me slow.

“Dis g'nite den? Or are we goin' t' make dis somethin' special?”

One of his slim fingers picks at the collar of my shirt and I lean into him, lifting my head to sniff at his neck which he stretches it back. “You should know I don't do one-nighters. What's goin' on with you and Rogue?”

“T'ink we were done moment I said I'd take de Karlstaad job.” His Adam's apple bobs on a swallow as I nose over it, filling my lungs with his smell till I'm swimming in it. “Y' want me fo' mo' dan a quick fuck? Could get complicated.”

I stick out my tongue to taste his skin, dipping into the open neck of his shirt and his hand closes tight on the front of mine.

“Mean t' say, when t'moro come, y' want to act like nuthin' happened? How 'bout all de others?”

I snarl and grab his hips, pulling them towards mine so he can feel how hard I am, how much I'm aching to bury myself inside him.

“It's the animal in me. Once you're mine, then that's it. Don't give a fuck about the others.” He shivers against me when I say the word 'mine', his pheromones increasing as he gets more aroused. “You like that? Want me to hold you down and make you mine?”

Merde, cher, dunno 'bout dat. Was t'inking mo' 'bout a li'l fun.”

It's tough to step away from where I'm rubbing my face in his chest and neck, but I do it, reaching out for my door. “Then this is g'night.”

“Wait, Logan, don' . . .” Gumbo sighs heavy, his cheeks flushed, the red of his eyes burning low. “Gambit ain't no good. Too much shit up in here.”

He rubs over a temple with one fingertip, melancholy settling around him, his scent changing from sex to confusion as different emotions flicker across his face – desire, hope, despondency.

“Never figured you for yellow. I'm too old and too tired to mess around. You change your mind, you know where to find me.”

No shower for him tonight. I lie on top of my covers and reach down to rub over my dick in my jeans, listening to him slowly walk back to his room, throw his coat off then sit on the bed. Then there's silence, barely even a breath that I can pick up on. I stare up at the ceiling wondering if that was stupid, knowing just one night with him would be something I'd remember for however long this life turns out to be. But there's something about him that tells me he'd help the nightmares go. He gets me in a way none of the other guys ever will, the two of us people so burned and broken up that we don't let anyone in. It's been so many years since I last took the risk but I'm pulled towards him. I want to soothe as much as I want to mark that smooth skin so everyone can see he's mine. Been too long since I've wanted to care for anyone.

Coming up two hours later and I'm still lying there staring up, pissed at him for not wanting to take a risk and pissed at myself for ever figuring he was capable of more, when I hear him rise up from his bed, his footsteps as he walks to his door, opens it and begins to make his way along the hall towards my room. There's none of the strut in the tempo of his steps, a hesitancy to them, the smell of his uncertainty traveling along with air between us along with a hint of fear. And smoke, he's been puffing away in his room risking the ire of Wheels, his body wreathed in it as he pauses outside my door.

“It's open.”

There's another long pause after I speak, and I'm about to get up to go open it myself when the doorknob turns, the spikes of his hair the first thing to appear in the dark as he sticks his head around the door.

“Can' sleep.”

“So go take a run or something.”

“Y' can' sleep, neither.”

I watch as he comes through the door fully and closes it, leaning back against it to look at me with wary eyes. “That's nothin' new.”

He nods and looks down at his socked feet, still leaning against the door. I push myself up, leaning back on my elbows.

“I've not changed my mind, Rem. All or nothin'. It's the only way I operate.”

“I hear dat. Can I lie wit' yuh, just lie and do nothin'?”

The animal doesn't want him in my bed unless he's naked and writhing underneath me begging for my cum, but that's not all I am and I push it down, temporarily silencing the beast and shifting over away from him. “Whatever floats ya boat.”

His hesitancy remains as he slowly walks towards the bed, his eyes looking everywhere but into mine as he rubs over the back of his neck and looks down at the space on the bed I left for him.

“I ain't gonna bite. 'Least, not till you ask me to.”

He grins and sits down slow, swinging his long legs up and shifting down until his head's level with my chest, his feet hanging over the end of the bed. “Y' some kinda wet dream, y'know dat? Would make dis a lot easier if y' weren't.”

“I'll be on my best behaviour.”

“Heh. Dat in't saying much, cher.”

The bed shifts as he scoots over the few inches it takes to wrap himself around me, his shoulder in my armpit as he lies down over my chest, his hair sticking up my nose as I wrap an arm around him and nuzzle into it. I close my eyes, his arm going over me to hug into my ribs, one leg pushed between mine, his breath warm against my neck and his solid weight pressing into me as the scent of his skin settles around us both. Can't remember the last time I cuddled anyone and, as he Mmms against my chest to settle in closer, I'm groggy with it and how good it feels. Then he presses his lips to my neck in a small, dry kiss and it feels like my heart squeezes so tight it misses a few beats.

“T'anks, beb.”

“Don't call me 'babe'.”

“In't 'babe'. It' like bebette, un li'l bug.”

“That ain't much better.”

“If y' want me for a long t'ing, better get used to it. Y' is cute like a li'l bug.”

“Don't call me cute.”

“Sure t'ing. Y' a big bad Wolverine. Dat better?”

I grin against his hair. “Damn right.”

He's listening to my heart, his head shifting right over it as his hand strokes up to touch my neck. “Y' so hot.”

“That's normal for me. I run warm.”

“Ain't what I meant. Y' keep lookin' at me like y' want to eat me up. Can' keep my head off y', all dis muscle, all y' fur, makes me lose my mind. But everyone get tired of Remy, cuz he got too many secrets, too much hist'ry. Don' t'ink I could take it. Not from dis li'l bug here.”

His body moves against mine in a heavy sigh and I hug him into me tighter. “I'm not everybody.”

“I know. But y' want mo' dan sex? Don' know if I can do dat. Tried with Rogue, din' work out.”

“You need more time? I'm not going anywhere.”

“Time in't de issue.”

“Guess not.”

I let him lie there, his fingers stroking over my neck as he listens to my heart, letting him get used to the feel of me. Then he raises his head up and looks down at me, his eyes unblinking. So beautiful, otherworldy, a demon with the face of a fallen angel. I lay still as his head dips towards mine and he kisses me, every muscle in my arms tense with the effort it takes not to grab him and shove my tongue down his throat.

“I want dis. Want all of y'.”

It's muttered against my mouth as he shares breath with me. I fight to remain motionless as he's skittish as hell. “It's all yours.”

“Y' goin' be mine?”

“No. You're going to be mine.

“Mm. Like dat.”

He kisses me again and I open my mouth to the tongue trailing over my bottom lip. Soon as my tongue meets his it's on, the heat that's been simmering between us these last few months raging to flash point, Rem moving to lie on top of me and I grab his hips and thrust into his mouth deep. He kisses like he's trying to suck the enamel off my teeth, hungry and reckless, a touch of need that makes the animal stir and shake its head. I bite into his lip and grab his hips as I roll us both, instinct driving me to get on top and pin him to the bed under my weight. He groans in response, his legs falling open for me to lie between and I shove up against him hard, biting down on his neck.

“Damn, beb, y' makin' me crazy.”

“Turn over.”

Rem shudders at my growl, his irises flaring as he looks up at me, all that perfection rumpled and kiss-swollen.

“Quick t' get t' de main event, in't yuh?” He strokes down my chest, reaching between us to run over the swelling in my jeans, my cock twitching as he thumbs over the tip. “Cooh, cher, y' so big. Lemme taste y' first.”

“Time for that later. Turn over or I'll haul you over myself.”

A smirk and he complies, rolling onto his stomach beneath me, his hip rubbing against my groin as he does. “So pushy.”

“Shut yer yap. These ain't your fancy jeans, right?”

“Why y' askin' dat f– Fils de salop!” As I pop one claw under his belt and cut it in two, flicking it away. “A li'l warnin' next time? I like' dat belt.”

“Cry me a river. You might want to keep from wrigglin' around like that.”

He's holding his breath as I slice through the ragged ass of his jeans, shredding the waistband and down the back seam, not wanting to mark the skin underneath. Not yet. His asscheeks are quivering under the black silk boxers, a high, taut mound of flesh that makes my teeth itch to bury themselves into it, but that's got to wait, everything does, as I'm a hair off going feral if I don't appease the animal long enough. The silk gives way to my fingernails as I tear them apart, his ass a warm, smooth piece of heaven that makes another growl rumble up from my chest.

“Lube. Top drawer. Fast, if ya don't want me pushing in there dry.”

“Yuh in all kinds of hurry t'night.” He has to push himself out from under my arms and over to the nightstand as I don't want to let go, not for a second. “Y' ain't got no rubbers? No glove, no love, beb. Lemme back to my room, hope I got somethin' dat'll fit.”

I've already undone my fly and pulled my dick out to start humping along his buttcrack. “No need, healing factor. I ain't got nothin' and can't catch nothin' off you. Lube. Now.”

I catch his sly grin the moment before I grab the lube out of mid-air and a small charge fizzes into my face, the tiny explosion uncapping the lube for me. I grit my teeth and start to drizzle it down over his ass and my dick, my voice more snarl than words. “Now ain't the time for games, Gumbo.”

“Naw, li'l bug, all dis a game. Ooh, dat good.”

He can't spread his legs as far as he wants, his jeans restricting his movement, but he's thrusting back against the two fingers I've got in him, a third now already as the animal can't understand what I'm waiting for. I coat my dick fast and thick, lining up to rub over his twitching pucker. He grunts and pushes out to welcome me in. I push with my hips and thrust two inches inside him.

“Yow! Merde, y' too big, take it easy.”

I can't talk, breathing harsh and heavy through gritted teeth, can barely see through the red mist as his asshole clenches on me hard. I pull out halfway and push in harder, almost to the root and he twists underneath me, groaning as he tries to take it all.

“Logan, jus' a minute, I gotta – ” My hands are fists each side of his body, my weight on my knuckles, and he freezes as my claws shoot out into the mattress either side of him, something I can't control, not now. “Uh, 'kay, y' ain't plannin' on using dem t'ings on ol' Remy, non?”

“Sorry, Rem, I gotta . . .” My hips are rocking against his, an inch-deep fuck I can't stop, my whole body shaking as I fight for control. My eyes are closed, my jaw aching as I grind my teeth and try not to let loose, but it's like he understands without me having to say it, his fingertips sliding down over the knuckles of my left hand to stroke where my claws have split the skin.

“S'okay.” He lifts his hips and pushes back against me, his asshole spasming around me as it stretches. “Let it go.”

“Can't.”

“Y' can. Want dis.” His head rolls forward and he grunts as he fucks back onto me harder, forcing my dick seat itself in his wet heat fully. “Fuck me. Enculer moi, je t'en prie, Logan, need it.”

A warm, lithe body under mine begging for it as he squeezes tight around me, and I'm gone, the animal taking over as I snarl and thrust in hard, starting to pump my hips in a fast fuck that's not going to last. Five, six strokes and I'm ready to go, a shout that's almost a roar as I bury myself in his ass and shoot. I keep fucking through it, my hips only stilling as I start to go soft, the hot waves of a huge orgasm rolling around my body as I drop my head to his back and catch my breath.

“Dat was fast.”

“Shuddup. Gimme a sec.”

I can smell his amusement along with his heady arousal, and I rub my face in his sweat-soaked t-shirt, my dick already hardening again inside him. He makes a quizzical noise and hikes his hips experimentally, turning to frown back at me in surprise.

“Healin' factor. We're not done yet.”

His hole vibrates around me as he chuckles and I groan, starting to thrust into him, slower this time. “Y' at de head of de line when mutations got handed out, huh, homme.”

I sheath my claws, grinning as his body flinches. “Yeah, it's been a real peach of a life so far.”

“How many times y' go till y' had enough?”

“Depends.”

Rem sits up to rub back against me as I slip my hand into the gaping front of his jeans, a low hiss as I palm his dick and start to stroke in time with my thrusts. “On what?”

“Let's just say you'd better settle in for a long night.”

~*~

He's flopped over me, whippet-lean limbs, muscled like the gymnast I know he is, his third climax drying in my chest hair.

Fils putain, I' fucked out. Hope y' done cuz dis lil Cajun need to sleep. Not goin' be able t' sit t'moro. Hell, in't goin' be able t' walk.”

“Takin' down the bunker tomorrow, One-Eye's not going to be happy if you're not ready to fight.”

“Den I'll blame yuh and y' big ol' horse dick. Dat healin' factor some trouble on its own.”

He rolls off me with a groan, settling onto his back with one leg thrown over mine. I rub over it with my hand, feeling the fine hairs goosebump under my touch. “Karlstaad might be there. You ready to see him?”

“Heh. I ain't ready to see nobody, cher. Gimme two days till my ass quits screamin'.”

“There's somethin' I better warn you. Don't know how I'll react if I see that pig bastard and he says anythin' about fuckin' ya.”

The leg tightens on mine in a tired hug, the sharp bone of his kneecap fitting nicely into my hand. “Ain' no t'ing. Tell him to go fuck himself.”

“Yeah, but I could go nuts and slice his dick clean off. Just warnin' ya.”

His laugh wraps around me with his scent as Rem turns on the bed to rub over my cheek, his fingers sliding into my sideburn to rest against my skin, and he kisses my nose, then another laugh and a kiss against my mouth when I glare at him for the nose thing, his tongue sliding lazily against mine, a wet mutter at my lips.

“Den good luck to y', beb, cuz trut' be told, dere ain't much dere to aim fo'.”