Walking Wounded
By Rebop

Perfect little dream
The kind that hurts the most
Forgot how it feels
Well almost
No one to blame always the same
Open my eyes wake up in flames
It took you to make me realize
It took you to make me realize
It took you to make me realize
It took you to make me see the light
Smashed up my sanity
Smashed up integrity
Smashed up what I believed in
Smashed up what’s left of me
Smashed up my everything
Smashed all that was true
Gonna smash myself to pieces
I don’t know what else to do….* Note 1

  He had no idea how long he had been walking. Hours? Days? Weeks? Time really had no meaning to him anymore. He had long gaps of blackness, of no thought at all.

   He kept away from the towns, the busy roads, knowing how much his appearance could shock. He was vaguely aware that he was probably more hideous than usual; his clothing was filthy and caked with dirt.

  Every so often he would sit down, or curl up in some ditch or under a tree. He did not sleep, that now frightened him more than anything. He would just lapse into an exhausted trance, eyes closed, leg muscles twitching a little.

  He did not need to eat or drink, or even breathe; the bodily functions of normal humans were rendered null by his mutation. It made it easy to avoid people. It made it very difficult to die.

  Quite a while ago he discovered that slitting his wrists didn’t work, his blood flowed at such a peculiar, sluggish rate it was pretty pointless. Drowning and hanging only worked if you needed oxygen. Poison or a drug overdose was also futile; his body couldn’t absorb a foreign substance. Now, a bullet in the brain would probably be quite effective. But given the damage his ravaged face had already undergone, he just could not bring himself to do it.

  He had briefly considered standing in front of a train or truck. That would be quick and devastating. But he had an awful fear that the psionic energy contained inside him would cause a huge explosion. As much as he didn’t care about his own life, he could not bear the possibility of killing some innocent bloke driving a Peterbilt.

  So he was caught in a terrible conundrum. And until he could come up with a solution, he would keep aimlessly wandering.

   The odd memory floated up from time to time. The most constant image was of a picture he had on the wall of his childhood bedroom. He would stare at it for hours, especially when the room seemed too dark, or his parents were embroiled in some endless, raging fight downstairs.

   The picture was of two small children walking hand in hand across a bridge. The water below was a dangerous white torrent. Hovering unseen behind the boy and girl was a bewinged angel, arms outstretched in protection, concern creasing her perfect and sublime brow.

  Jonothan Starsmore wondered if his guardian angel was flying at his side right now. If she was, he hoped she would understand how he had come to this particular pass, and that she would find it in her seraphic heart to forgive him.

  The whole situation had started simply enough. They had gone to one of those new, chic places where you drink five-dollar espressos and all the waitresses wear nose rings. They selected a big table and Jubilee and Monet sniping at each other had distracted Jonothan. He sat down, and Paige plopped beside him. Then he looked up, and found himself staring directly into a large antique mirror hanging on the wall.

   Page Guthrie, sixteen years old and the first real blush of beauty, long, honey blond hair, her skin all pink and glowing. And next to her sat something out of the Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, a thin horror movie scarecrow bandaged up to his nose since the lower half of his face was long gone. He had avoided mirrors for so long, so the sight of his reflection was like a stake in his vampire heart.

   “Looks don’t really matter Jono.” Paige had once told him in her sweet Southern drawl. But they did, they really did. Especially when the sight of yourself makes your skin crawl.

   And that faint, silly dream he had of having some kind of relationship with Paige just died right there. How could such a lovely girl want to even touch him? There was no hope. There was no point.

   Jonothan had always been moody and prone to depression. But he had no idea what black pits of despair existed until after his accident. When he came out of his coma and the doctors explained what had happened in sterile, hushed tones, it was like being thrown into hell. He prayed to go mad. When that prayer wasn’t answered, he made his first suicide attempt. He remembered his enraged, telepathic laughter when he realized that he couldn’t really bleed anymore.

   Somehow he managed to put what was left of him together, like Frankenstein, mismatched parts all badly stitched. He ended up at the Massachusetts Academy, with a group of other young mutants, to be taught how to use their powers and make the world a better place.

   All the while, that terrible depression was lurking inside him, like an anaconda waiting for its prey in murky waters. He could feel the strong coils every so often, ready to smother him completely.

  And that night, after the café, the snake got loose.

  He had a godawful nightmare. He dreamt a heavy, claustrophobic weight was pressing down on his chest. He opened his eyes to see a woman sitting on top of him, white as bone, drawn to wire thinness, her smile an awful rictus. She looked like the Hammer version of his mother.

   “Give it up you mutant freak, “ she whispered, voice as cold as the North wind. “Why are you bothering? Why try? You’re nothing but the walking dead, Jono. Give up, give up, and give up…”

   After that he didn’t sleep much, even though sleep was one of the few normal things he could still do. One by one, all the other little pleasures he had also dropped by the wayside. He ceased to play the guitar, listen to music, read, or watch the telly. Everything suddenly took too much energy.

   He managed to drag himself through his daily routine, get to class, practice in the Biosphere. No one seemed to notice that he was quieter and more withdrawn than usual, they were used to his dark moods and silences. It was just Jono being Jono.

   Since he had pretty much stopped sleeping, time became very odd. Minutes seemed like hours, and whole hours just flew by. He found himself staring at just nothing, unsure of how much time had passed.

   His basement room, once a haven, now became too close and confining. In one of his three a.m. ramblings, he discovered an unused room, far away from the general Academy traffic. It was being used to store old furniture, as well as a jumble of odds and ends. This place became a haven of sorts. He would sit on a faded, claw- footed sofa, eyes on a wallpaper pattern, or focused on the waving autumn leaves outside the window.

   He was in there when it all fell completely apart. As much as he had tried to avoid it, he had drifted into a restless, twitching sleep. And his mum was waiting for him.

  She was standing over him as he slumped on the sofa, unable to move. She had no eyes this time, just two awful black holes in her ghastly face. They bore into him accusingly.

   “Why are you still here, you thing, you monster? You are such a pathetic, hopeless waste. Yer got no balls, son of mine, that’s what. Maybe they got blown off or something.”

   “So, get it over with, you half man. Give up, give up, give up, give up, give up….”

  “ Jonothan?”

  He was jerked awake with a wrenching start, trembling and disoriented. And now bending over him was Monet, one perfect eyebrow arched, beautiful mouth curled in slight disdain.

   “Really Jonothan, you are getting so tiresome. Hiding in the basement, now huddled in this dirty room. Took me almost an hour to find you, Mr. Cassidy is looking for you.”

  When he didn’t immediately answer, she made a “tsk” noise.

   “ What ever is the matter? Do you have any idea how boring this act of yours has become? You really have taken self-pity to a whole new level.”

   Monet’s callous words shook him to the core. She had casual contempt for most people, and he had usually shrugged it off, but now he found himself just hating her. He wanted to wipe that smug, superior smirk off her face. He wanted her lovely jaw ripped off, her chest split open, just like his. He wanted her bleeding, suffering, in agony. He wanted her fucking dead.

   And he let her know it. He flashed a series of telepathic images violent and brutal, loaded with pain, his pain. He got enormous, twisted satisfaction of seeing her eyes widen in fear, mouth go slack with shock. She took a step back, hands in front of her. Then she turned and ran, knocking over furniture and boxes in her terrified wake.

   As soon as she was gone, the murderous fury evaporated and he felt sick. He tried to stand, but his legs gave out, and he collapsed to the floor.

   He stared at the dust patterns on the hardwood floor for a moment. It had finally happened, he was getting what he had prayed for, he was losing his mind. And it wasn’t the escape he had longed for either. He had come frighteningly close to wanting to kill Monet. If he didn’t get out of there fast, someone was going to end up dead.

  It was relief to actually have a plan, no matter how tragic the circumstances. He got up, pried open a window and walked out on the roof. It was early evening, and the dark and the cool breeze were welcoming. He found a drainpipe and shimmied down from the third floor.

  He walked as silently as possible through the garden, stealing up to the kitchen door. He went inside, relieved to find the room empty. He started a moment, hearing the faint sound of Monet’s hysterical screams in the distance. He had to hurry as they were going to come looking for him soon. He was very lucky that Emma was not home, but tangled up in some Frost Enterprise business in New York. Her powerful telepathy could freeze him on the spot.

   He grabbed the key to the school SUV from a hook and headed out to the garage. His hands were shaking as he tried to fit the key into the locked door of the car. He managed to get in and start it without any trouble, easing the vehicle out of the garage as quietly as possible. As he rolled down the driveway, he gave the school one last backward glance. It was a beautiful place, and the closest thing he had ever had to a home. For a brief moment he considered going back. But then, knuckles white on the wheel, he left the Academy forever.

    On the road, he sped up, now curiously exhilarated. He almost felt like singing. This weird euphoria was stopped short when he saw a pair of headlights heading straight at him. My god, he was in America, the right side of the road you twit, the right!

   He jerked the car over as a Toyota sped past, angrily honking the horn. He almost drove the SUV into a ditch, but managed to pull on to the on the shoulder. He stopped the car, put his forehead on the wheel, and broke into silent, crazy laughter. For someone bent on dying, he was already doing a piss-poor job of it.

  Then, still laughing, he pulled the car back on the road.

 He had no idea where he was going and didn’t give a fuck. The SUV had an almost full tank of gas, which was fortunate, as he had no money on him. He kept off the freeways, and found himself winding through small towns, past barns and lone churches. Around one am he turned on the radio and listened to a Public station he had grown fond of. It was getting faint, and full of static, but he could still hear the late night blues program.

Standing down at the crossroads,
Tried to flag a ride,
Didn’t nobody seem to know me,
Everybody passed me by

Sun’s going down boys,
You’re not going to catch me there,
I haven’t got no sweet loving man,
Got no one to feel my care

Run, you can run,
Tell my friend boy, Willie Brown,
I’m standing at the crossroads,
I believe I’m sinking down…** Note 2

He listened until the signal faded out completely.

At dawn he ran out of gas. He was somewhere between Hoggsville and Clatskanie, not that it mattered. He got on the gravel shoulder and stared out at the fog, pearly in the early morning light. He suddenly felt bone tired, and was so tempted to lie down on the seat for a while. But the fear of the nightmare returned and pushed all exhaustion away.

 Then Emma Frost slammed into his mind.

 She was one of the world’s most powerful telepaths and she obviously had a very far reach. She was also psi-linked to all of her students, and her tie to Jonothan, another telepath, was very strong.

* Jonothan, * she began in her most reasonable, patient tone, * what are you doing? Where are you? *

* I’m leaving, Emma, I’m sorry…* he sent back. He could feel her whispering around in his head as he frantically tried to put his shields up.

* Don’t shut me out please; I’m begging you. You have us all very scared and worried. Please let me help you, Jonothan*

  He shut his eyes tight and made his shields stronger. * No one can help me Emma, it’s no one’s fault. I’m just so very tired, is all…please let me go. *

  Emma now became very stern. * Jonothan Evan Starsmore, you listen to me! You can’t give up; I won’t let you! *

And all of a sudden, Jono found himself being dragged into the Astral Plane, a place he seldom visited. Emma’s astral image floated before him, all crystal white and radiantly glowing. He wondered what his astral self looked like. He was sure it was just as repulsive as his physical self.

 Emma’s astral face was far more expressive than her real one, and for the first time Jono saw worry, fear and yes, love for him. The White Queen rarely expressed any emotions; she was doing so now.

  * Jono… *  and again Jonothan was startled; she never used his nickname. * I am so sorry, I had no idea things were so bad for you. * She extended her arms. * Please come back. I will help you all I can. *

* I know, Emma. But no matter what you do, I’m always gonna be a…monster. A freak among even the freaks. *

* Jono, that’s not tru-*

  * Of course it’s true! As much as everyone wants to deny it. And I’m sorry Emma, I am not as strong as you, and I just can’t fucking deal with it anymore. I’m…tired. *

Emma sighed, and suddenly began to radiate with power. Jono tried to pull away.

  * Jonothan, I really don’t want to do this, but I can force you back. I can get into your head, and march you right back to school. I can-*

* No.*

Emma almost smiled, despite the desperate nature of the situation. * Do you remember just whom you are dealing with? *

 * I know. And I love yer for trying. You, Sean, Angelo, Jubes, Ev, Paige…you’ve been more of a family to me than my real one and…* Jono’s voice broke, and he wondered if you could cry psychic tears on the Astral Plane. But he managed to retain his composure. * You’ve all been so good to me. So try and forgive me for this, please? *

  Jonothan got no feeling of triumph as he went full strength, amazing his teacher, and taking her completely by surprise. He hit her with a hard blast of psi energy, making her scream. He almost broke down weeping again. Then, with every ounce of energy he had, he severed the tie that bound them together. Emma howled in pain again.

* Jonothan! NO! STOP! *

  He pulled back into himself, shields now solid and impervious, Emma’s voice ringing faintly in his head. Then there was nothing but silence.

  He opened his eyes. The world spun crazily for a while; and if he had been physically capable of it, he would have become violently ill. His nose was bleeding; great black/red drops splashed the gray upholstery.

“Sorry, Em,” he whispered to himself. “Sorry everyone. Sorry me.”

He sat there for about an hour, not moving. Then he got out of the car and started walking.

 He walked until his boots started to split and his feet began to blister. This pleased him for some reason; it meant some slight normality. His jeans got torn in the underbrush, soaked with water and mud as he waded through ponds and streams. He walked through barren fields, through forests, down dusty gravel roads.

 One night found him in some forgotten cemetery, overgrown and wild. He lay on top of a cold tomb, staring at a sweet crumbling angel that stood nearby. He was beginning to hallucinate now, and he fancied he saw her weeping. In the hours just before dawn, he spotted a doe ambling amongst the graves, a tiny fawn in tow. They were both so innocent and lovely; they made hot tears run down his face.

He kept wandering. He saw the sun rise and set, watched the cold, distant movement of the stars and planets across the night sky. He sang to himself, talked to himself, a jumble of nonsense.

  Then one early evening, he came upon a very old road. It was hot and strangely muggy for September, there were thunderheads in the sky, the smell of ozone in the air. A storm, a big one, was brewing.

  A sign was up ahead, faded with time. ”Sutter’s Bridge” it read, “Three Miles.” The words gave him an odd, almost elated feeling. And as the first heavy raindrops fell, he finally knew where his journey was going to end.

  He had come a very long way to stare at this gate. He had parked his Harley across the road; and was now sitting and smoking a cigarette. Beyond the gate was the mansion, and in that vast, sprawling structure were the people he had started to think of as family. How they felt about him right now though, well, that was a matter of some debate.

  They were brave people, the X-men, devoting their lives to helping others. They taught him to look beyond his own narrow, selfish concerns. In joining them, he finally thought he could make amends for the terrible sin blacking his soul. The rest of his life would be one long act of contrition to wash himself clean. He knew he would always suffer from guilt, that was his due, but he prayed he would finally be able to sleep at night, to look at himself in the mirror.

  But it didn’t last. Nothing good in his life ever did. The X-men discovered his shameful secret, and like cancer, they cut him out. They left him to die on the frozen wasteland of Antarctica, a punishment; in some ways, he felt he deserved. He had never known such devastation, such utter, crushing aloneness as he watched that ship leave without him.

 However, Remy LeBeau had a stubborn streak, forged from his terrible childhood on the streets of New Orleans. He always had clung to life, despite it’s pain and heartache, and there was something inside him that wouldn’t accept this pathetic end, no matter how much he had it coming to him.

  So he dug through the ruins of the citadel and managed to scrounge up some protective clothing and rudimentary shelter. He also found a wrecked radio, and was able to put it back together to send out a weak SOS.

  For once, his luck was with him. A Russian science team answered his distress signal; they actually came through a blizzard to rescue him. It was a close call, they found him starving and nearly frozen to death. Remy smiled as he remembered their incredible kindness. It didn’t matter to them if he was a mutant, or even what he had done to get himself in that predicament. In that barren, cold place all life was precious.

  Mikhail, Sergai, Vladimir, Tanya, Sasha and dear Dr. Raisa, they somehow managed to bring him back from the dead, nurse him through pneumonia, save all his fingers and toes. His fluent Russian hugely delighted them; and as he recovered he taught them a little Cajun flavored English. As he was waiting for the supply plane to arrive, there were endless hours of poker and a lot of vodka induced singing.

  Remy hoped that the package he had sent to them as soon as he had hit Buenos Aires had finally reached his Russian friends. Among other things, it contained champagne, caviar, and some of the smuttiest pornography to be found in the Western Hemisphere. It cost him a small fortune, but it would never repay them for saving his sorry, worthless ass.

  He slowly worked his way back to the States, unsure of what to do. His health returned, although it was hampered by blanket thrashing, sweaty nightmares and a loss of appetite. He was as thin as he was when he was a child, and he felt just as hunted and haunted.

  And now he was back here at last, at the Westchester mansion, where all his dreams had started. Staring at that elaborate iron gate, he was more afraid than he had ever been. He had already been judged once, and had been found unworthy. Did he really want to be judged a second time?

  And so he sat, locked in a turmoil of indecision, angered by his cowardice, wanting to run away, but unable to do so. It had started to rain, the drops cold and penetrating, and he began to shiver under his heavy leather coat. He’d always hated icy weather before, and after Antarctica, it had turned into a phobia. He felt he would never be truly warm again.

  He lifted his handsome face to the sky and let the water run over it. It felt like the tears he could no longer shed but wished he could.

  All at once, he knew he could never go through that gate again. That he would never belong, or deserve to belong. He remembered a night like this, long ago, when he was a small child. He was spying on a family through a window, and they had all seemed so happy and safe. How he had longed to be a part of them. But he was always going to be alone, out in the dark.

Swallowing hard, he gunned the Harley and roared away. He didn’t look back, not once.

  He made it about a mile, and had to stop again, he was shaking so badly, the pain inside indescribable. He had no idea now where he would go, what to do. Going back to his old thieving ways was impossible, and he predicted a sorry, self-pitying future of drugs and alcohol.

  God, he did hate himself. He hated how he had managed to fuck up the one good thing in his life and ruin his chance at any kind of happiness. It would have been better if he had never been born.

 A grim smile came to his lips. It was a chickenshit way out, but he had already decided he was a gutless bastard anyway. Poor Dr.Raisa had tried so hard to save his life, she would be furious with him now. But she was a kind woman; she would also want to spare him years of agony.

 Gambit let out a wild laugh, and the Harley sprang to life again. He went full throttle, crazy and free, full of an insane joy. He was going to die, but it was going to be on his terms, his choice.

He came to the crossroads, and he turned the bike to Sutter’s Bridge.

  It was just perfect. Sutter’s Bridge was a narrow steel span, arching over a small river sixty feet below. Due to the rain, the water was high and fast, but Jono could make out a pattern of rocks. With any luck, he’d crack like an egg.

  The storm was getting even more furious, and there were big arcs of blue lightning raging in the sky, as well as gut rumbling thunder. Jono walked out to the middle of the bridge and slung his legs over the rail. It was a very long way down.

  He stared up at the sky. It was so beautiful, all the lightning and rain. If this was going to be his last view of the world, it was a fitting one. He decided to sit for a while and watch the show. He had a little time.

 He also thought about his angel, the one from the print. Did she lead him here, or was she following him, wringing her hands in despair? He didn’t really know. Perhaps he would soon find out.

  Remy felt like he was drunk. It was a mad drunk, and this euphoria was kicked up to another peak by the savage weather. The roads were pretty much deserted in the current torrent, his Harley roared along at breakneck speed, water arcing at each side of the wheels. His long duster whipped like a flag behind him, red mutant eyes sparked in the dark. A demon on a bike; with a fierce, terrible smile on his face.

  He saw a sign flash by, “Sutter’s Bridge, One Mile”, and his heart began to bang in his chest like a sledgehammer. Soon it would stop beating, and there would be no more pain. Just peace.

 Then he felt it. It hit him like a run-away train, almost made him lose control of the bike. It shocked him badly, so much that he had to stop and pull over to the side of the road, face white.

  The Cajun was an empath, a very sensitive one. He had learned long ago to protect himself from the rampant emotions of others, as it was a sure-fire way to be driven insane. But tonight he had let his barriers down, and he was wide open. The emotions he was sensing were incredibly strong; a boiling cauldron of despair, ecstasy, rage, and searing loneliness. They were so close to what he had been feeling himself that he almost thought he had actually lost his mind.

  But it was someone else that was broadcasting this agony, and they were very near. It awoke in Remy the compassion he pretended he didn’t have. He was also quite startled when he realized that this person was more than likely planning on doing what he himself was bent on, a jump from the bridge. The weird coincidence made the hair on the back of his neck stand up.

  Not really sure what he was doing, but doing it anyway, Remy revved the engine and went flat out towards the bridge. His empathy told him he didn’t have a lot of time.

 When he reached that forlorn structure, it was so dark, even his mutant night vision couldn’t really make anything out. But whoever was broadcasting those awful emotions was still here and close, pain crashed through him in a black flood.

  Then there was an enormous explosion of lightning and Remy saw him, a slender figure standing on top of a rail, one arm barely holding on to a side beam.

  Gambit could move like a greased panther when he wanted to, and he did so now. He shut off the bike and got off in one fluid motion, and was behind his partner in desperation in half a second. He was still almost too late. The man suddenly let go, making a swan dive into oblivion. The Acadian made a hero’s leap and snagged the jumper around his thin waist, one hand clinging tightly to the rail. The jumper’s forward momentum almost sent both of them over anyway. Remy lost his balance and went head first, left shoulder almost dislocated as he maintained a desperate grip on the railing.

Fortunately the jumper was as light as a feather and didn’t struggle, presumably now in shock. As they both hung there, sixty feet above certain death, Remy realized he didn’t want to end it after all. With the abyss staring him right in the face, he decided he still wanted his fucked up, torturous excuse of a life. However, if he didn’t take action quickly, this would be a moot point. Ignoring the pain in his shoulder, he managed to swing both legs back over the rail, thanking the saints for his mutant agility. With a jaw-clenching grimace, he managed to haul both the jumper and himself back on the bridge. They both sprawled on the wet concrete, Remy taking a moment to gasp for air. The jumper lay still, face down.

  Remy caught his breath, and when the worst of his shaking ceased, he crawled over to the body next to him. He rolled him over, and was utterly shocked, because he knew who it was.

  Chamber. Jonothan Starsmore. During his time with the Xmen, Gambit was vaguely aware of Xavier’s younger crop of mutants, dubbed Generation X. He had never really met Starsmore, they had passed each other at the mansion, never speaking. The boy’s eyes were closed, and Remy guessed he must have fainted, as he was getting no emotional reading from him whatsoever. Then there was a flash of lightning, and Jonothan Starsmore opened his eyes. They were blank for a moment, and then Remy saw the same amazement he was feeling.

* Gambit? *  A harsh, raven’s caw voice said inside his head.

  Before Remy could answer, Starsmore became just furious. It took Gambit’s breath away; it was like experiencing one of Wolverine’s berserker rages. Chamber tried to stagger to his feet, and Remy attempted to hold him down. The boy took clumsy swats at his arms, and then smacked him hard in the chest.

  * Just who the fuck do you think you are? Why the hell didn’t you let me die? *Chamber ranted. He jerked out of Remy’s grasp. * I ought to fuckin’ kill yer! *

  Jonothan then ripped the black bandages of his face to reveal a stream of raw, naked energy. It crackled and spat, a pulsing field of orange/yellow light that seemed both beautiful and deadly. Remy was startled, but he kept his wits about him. A good thing, as Starsmore sent a blast of energy right at his head. Remy’s amazing reflexes saved him, he managed to duck and roll just as the wave rushed over him. The blast hit the railing, creating a huge, twisted hole.

 Gambit sprang to his feet, and made a move that was now automatic, like breathing. He reached in his coat pocket and produced a hand full of playing cards. He charged them instantly and they glowed a bright crimson. He flung them at Chamber’s feet, and they exploded. The force of the blast blew Starsmore backwards, he skidded a few feet, arms and legs flying.

  Remy prayed he hadn’t hurt the kid; it wasn’t his intent. He knew Chamber wasn’t in his right mind, and he hoped he was knocked cold. He was incredibly dangerous in this state.

  Unfortunately, Starsmore was just stunned for a moment. He again tried to woozily get to his feet, and Gambit heard a vile torrent of telepathic cursing. He also felt the boy’s bleeding soul; his own ached in response.

 * All right you bloody son of a bitch! I am absolutely through fuckin’ around with yer! I’m gonna nail yer ass to the fuckin’ wall!! *

  Chamber was indeed a frightening sight. The psi energy lept and sparked, waves cascaded over his body in hissing fury. Jonothan’s large eyes were blank lamps of light, windows to insane rage.

“Gonna have to nail my ass ‘nother day, homme.” Remy said, mostly to himself. “Gambit got other ideas.”

  Before Chamber could mount another attack, Gambit made his move. He ran directly at him, Chamber was taken completely by surprise. With incredible, astonishing grace the Cajun vaulted over the boy’s head. Chamber didn’t get much time to react, Remy landed cat-like on his feet. He swung one long leg up and gave Starsmore a resounding crack on the skull. Chamber went down almost instantly in a shower of flames.

  Gambit felt terrible about hurting him, although he didn’t have much choice. He cautiously approached Chamber, and his eyebrows rose as the boy’s energy field shifted from an orange gold to deep indigo. It occurred to him that the psionic field must reflect Jonothan’s emotional state. He bent down and carefully pulled up the rubberized bandages that concealed what was once the lower half of the boy’s face. Then, with great gentleness, he picked Jonothan up. There was hardly anything to him; Remy felt like he was carrying a wounded bird. He carried the boy back to his bike, sat him down on the seat. He found a bungee cord in his pack, and after he got on the motorcycle himself, he lashed Chamber’s arms together around his waist, tying the cord tight.

  He kick started the Harley a little awkwardly, and sped off the bridge. Now that the big adrenaline rush was over, Remy realized he was both freezing and shaking like a leaf. He was going to have to find shelter for them very quickly.

 Their refuge turned out to be a motel called the Briarwood Inn. It had neither woods or briars as far as Remy could see, but he was not in the mood to be picky. It was an old-fashioned place, a little group of cabins, gray paint peeling. Remy checked in and only got a vaguely curious look from the pinch-faced woman behind the counter. She seemed a bit put out that he dripped water all over carpet.

  Gambit felt fortunate that the parking lot was virtually empty; he’d have a lot of explaining to do about the unconscious person he had lashed to his Harley. He walked both the bike and Starsmore over to cabin B7. He parked the Harley, got his saddlebags over one shoulder, then picked Chamber up under one arm.  He dragged him the short distance to the door, and there was some tricky business getting the key in the lock.

   The door swung open and he threw his bags on the floor with a soggy plop. He hit the lights, and hefted Chamber inside, closing the door with a backwards movement of his foot.

  The place was small and surprisingly clean; the old furniture carefully maintained. Remy frowned when he saw one king-sized bed; he had forgotten to ask for a double. Well, he wasn’t about to change rooms now. He walked towards the bathroom to his left, leaving a trail of water in his wake. He clicked on a light, and laid Starsmore out on the tiles.

  In the hard white light, Remy got his first real good look at Chamber. He was fairly tall, maybe 5’ 10”, and quite slender. Remy guessed he might be around 18 or 19; it was a bit hard to tell. He was dressed completely in black, and his clothing was in an incredibly filthy state, muddy and torn. And now, in an enclosed space, Remy noticed he didn’t smell so good either. A brownish puddle had started to form on the floor.

  Remy knelt beside him and felt his head. The boy’s long dark hair was also snarled and dirty, it was hard to tell what color it was. He found a big knot behind his ear, but there was no blood.

  Gambit then realized with a start that Chamber wasn’t breathing. He panicked for a moment, laid his ear to his chest to find a heartbeat. He heard an odd whooshing sound, but no familiar aortal throb. The Cajun chewed his lower lip, wishing he had paid more attention to what was what with the Generation X mutants. It could be that Starsmore was fine; his mutant physiology was just so different than the norm.

  Remy brushed some hair from Jonothan’s forehead, touched his skin. It was very warm, almost feverish to the touch. Gambit also noted that Chamber must have been a real good-looking kid before the accident. Over the bandages, Jonothan’s face was elegant and fine boned, with a long aristocratic nose and heavy, expressive brows. He had soft, feminine eyelashes and skin the color of old porcelain. A real heartbreaker.

   Remy sighed and decided he needed to get the kid out of his wet clothes quickly, whether Chamber was susceptible to hypothermia or not. He started with the boy’s boots, big clunky Doc Martins. They were a total mess, cracked and actually split on the bottom. Gambit wondered how long the poor kid had been wandering around in a suicidal haze. He felt a deep stab of anger towards both Emma Frost and Sean Cassidy, weren’t they supposed to be helping this boy cope?

 He finished with the boots, then yanked off a very sodden motorcycle jacket, amazed on just how wet leather could get. Next came a long-sleeved black t-shirt, riddled with holes. Remy was appalled to see that Jonothan was bandaged from his jaw to his lower ribs, he had no idea the damage was so extensive. He felt sick, and could not begin to imagine the horrific pain that Jonothan must have suffered when his power first manifested. He decided not to mess with the bandages.

 Feeling guilty because he was staring, Remy then pulled off his jeans, discovering just how hard it was to remove wet denim and underwear from a totally limp human.

  He got another surprise when Chamber lay more or less naked before him. He was somehow expecting a wasted skeleton, but the young man had a truly beautiful body. It certainly wasn’t up to the Xmen’s usual Olympic standards, but it was somewhat muscular, with long and very graceful proportions. Going back to his old art history lessons in the Guild, Remy found himself thinking of the slightly androgynous, languid youths so favored by the Victorian painters

  His admiration was short-lived when he noticed the scars on Chamber’s arms. Ugly gouges traveled from the inside of his wrists to his elbow. Very serious suicide attempt, no fooling around. Remy found himself swallowing very hard, heart hurting. He gave the young man’s cheek a very gentle caress. “ Sorry Jonothan, “ he whispered. He started to feel like a total shit for even slightly ogling this very helpless and vulnerable kid. What the hell was wrong with him? Maybe he was as big a sleaze as the Xmen thought he was.

  He tried to think about how exactly he was going to get Chamber cleaned up. A bath was not going to work, the kid was so covered in muck and grime he’d mess up the water instantly. A shower would be best. And even though it seemed like a porn movie scenario, he figured the best way to do it was get in the shower with Jonothan. Plus, although he had warmed up a little, he was still shivering with cold.

  He decided to tie Jonothan’s hands with the bungee cord again. If he came to in the shower, well, that would be a very volatile situation. Remy almost laughed, he couldn’t imagine how he could explain things to Chamber without him wanting to blow him through the tiles.

  He rapidly stripped, teeth chattering a bit as he did so. He turned the shower on, and was rewarded with a hot steamy blast. He also spotted a full sized bar of soap. Remy decided right then and there that he loved the Briarwood Inn. He picked Jonothan up, trying to hold him in as inoffensive way as possible. He got them both under the water, which felt so good; Remy actually closed his eyes and groaned. He held Chamber under the showerhead, the water turning black as it went down the drain.

  Gambit found a container of shampoo and managed to message it into Jonothan’s hair one-handed. It took two washings and rinsing to get it clean. He soaped him all over by propping him up in a corner. He tried to be as quick and thorough as possible, as this whole situation was starting to make him very uncomfortable. When Chamber was finally clean, he laid him down in the tub and turned the water off. He found plenty of big fluffy towels-Briarwood Inn; best Motel on the Eastern seaboard-and dried himself. It was wonderful to feel so warm. He then toweled Jonothan off, really working on his hair. He discovered it was a rich chestnut brown, and Remy worked the worst snags out with his fingers.

  Gambit then left the bathroom for a moment and got into his saddlebags. He pulled on some sweats, found a heavy sweatshirt and shorts for Starsmore.

   Getting unconscious people dressed was just as difficult as getting them undressed, as Remy soon discovered. When Chamber was decent, Gambit carried him to the bed. He laid him down and pulled the blankets over him, reluctantly deciding that he also needed to tie the boy to the bed, again to prevent him from blowing something up. Namely him. He knotted the bungee cord around the boy’s wrists and lashed him to the headboard. He hoped it wasn’t going to chafe or hurt him in any way.

  That finished, he found a crumpled pack of cigarettes, and sat down on the bed next to Jonothan. He lit up the smoke with an index finger, a neat trick he had been doing since he was a teenager. He took a reflective drag and gazed at Chamber for a while.

  “So mon ami, “ he said quietly, “what we gonna do now?” Remy did not know, and Jonothan did not answer. The enormity of what had just happened, and what he had almost done to himself, also hit him. Gambit put his face in his hands, rocked back and forth for few minutes. It was a very old habit, something he did because he had never been held as a baby or a young child. He hated doing it, it made him feel weak and vulnerable, but sometimes he just couldn’t help it.

   The young Cajun finished his cigarette with trembling hands, and slid under the blankets. A big wave of total exhaustion came over him; he was suddenly too tired to worry anymore. He gave Chamber one last concerned glance, then switched off the nightstand light. He was fast asleep in about a minute.

  Jonothan was dreaming. He was on a bridge in a wild thunderstorm, great silver streaks of lightning everywhere. The bridge was swaying in the howling wind, literally shaking itself apart. A hand clamped on his shoulder and he whirled around and was face to face with his mother. She was enraged and her grip was cold and incredibly strong.

  “You little fuck!” she hissed. “ You failure! You can’t even kill yerself proper. I knew you were an abomination the moment you were born. Should have drowned yer like a kitten in a rain barrel, you awful waste. That I birthed a thing like you makes me skin crawl.”

  Like a striking snake, she suddenly seized him by the throat. “Now I guess I’m gonna have to take matters into me own hands.”

“Mum! Please! Don’t!” His voice sounded thin and terrified.

“Shut up you little shit and take it like a man!”

  He struggled, but she just picked him up with ease. He started screaming, louder than the thunder. She paid no attention to his protests and walked him over to the rail. Far, far down below he saw a maelstrom of fire and blood.

“Mum! Please! Stop!”

  She just laughed, an awful broken glass sound. “ Goodbye, Jonothan Evan Starsmore. Good riddance to bad rubbish.” And with that, she pitched him towards the pit.

  The falling seemed to take forever, like Alice down the rabbit hole. He was too horrified to make any kind of sound, and all he could think of was that he didn’t want to drown in that ghastly ocean.

  And then, just before he was about to plunge into that awful sea, someone grabbed him with strong arms. He felt himself being lifted up, away from the flames and blood, high in the sky. He clung to his rescuer, and saw it was an angel. A most peculiar angel. He had magnificent black and red eagle wings, and was wearing a long, brown duster. And his face, oh, his face was like heaven itself. Sharp and angled, it was full of understanding and sorrow. The eyes were black and red like the wings, but the held only sadness, and Jono felt no fear.

  “It’s going to be alright now.” His angel whispered. “I’m with you.” Then the angel did a most incredible thing, he brought his lovely face down close to his and with infinite tenderness, kissed him. The wonderful part was that Jonothan had a mouth to kiss back with. This divine kiss went on and on, so sweet and so loving, his heart soared. Then the wings folded around him, and he knew he would never be alone again.

Then, with a start, Jonothan woke up.

  He was completely confused and soon terrified, he had no idea where he was. It was dark; he was lying in a bed, covers up to his chest. A rush of panic shot through him when he realized he was tied up somehow. His wrists had some kind of cord wrapped around them; his arms were over his head. He struggled for a moment, he was held fast.

  Fighting the fear, he tried to piece together what had happened to him. It was a jumbled blur, but he remembered Sutter’s Bridge. My god, he had jumped, but someone had…rescued him? He recalled being so angry, a battle, and a flash of crimson light. Then a big thwack on the back of his head, which still ached.

  Jono closed his eyes and wished with all his heart and soul that he had succeeded in his jump, and that he was back in his angel’s arms once more. But that had only been a dream, and he would never see that sad, beautiful face again.

  And then someone in the bed next to him moved, and sat up. Terror caused him to tremble as he tried to make out who it was. A light flicked on, and he forgot to be afraid. For there was his angel, in the flesh, living and breathing, although the wings were missing. He was staring down at him with the same sweet concern. And his angel’s name was Gambit- Remy LeBeau.

  Jono now recalled that it was Gambit that had stopped his leap. He also remembered that he had flown into a rage, had tried to kill him as well. Shame went through him, as well as his old friend, despair.

   “Jonothan…calm down now. It’s gonna be alright now.” Gambit had a low, smoky voice and Jono started a bit when it dawned on him that he had just repeated the angel’s words.

   Gambit started to very slowly stroke his arm with one long fingered hand. “ You don’ have to be scared now mon ami, Remy ain’t gonna hurt you none. I took you to a safe place, everyt’ing gonna be fine. I take care a’ you, so you can jus’ let it go…”

  That warm, whiskey voice was hypnotic, and with every gentle stroke of Gambit’s fingers, Jonothan felt all his panic and agonizing sadness start to fade. It was so strange; it all just evaporated. It was replaced by a feeling of peaceful calm, like being wrapped in a soft quilt. Chamber stopped shaking; all the muscle tension left his body.

 LeBeau continued to murmur in his slow as molasses drawl. Jonothan didn’t pay much attention to the words. The accent was very peculiar and now and then, Gambit spoke in French. Chamber marveled at his current feeling of well being, it was such a relief. He also stared openly at Gambit, who didn’t seem to mind.

  Gambit was a beautiful man, but not in the classic movie star sense. He was perhaps twenty-five or so. His features were intelligent and fox-like, all lines and angles, sketched with a sharp pen. He had an interesting nose that must have broken a few times, dangerous, angled eyebrows and a thin mouth that was somehow so sexy, a saint would be tempted to kiss it. His hair was wild and auburn colored, long strands fell every which way.

  Most arresting were his eyes, onyx and garnet, devil eyes. But they were so haunted, and Chamber began to wonder what made them so. Gambit was also a lot thinner then when he had last saw him, and his eyes were framed with dark circles. Then Jono recalled with a start that LeBeau was apparently no longer with the Xmen. What had caused this disgrace was not mentioned, although Sean and Emma were both tense and angry when it was briefly discussed. Jonothan hadn’t cared much at the time, but now he found himself caring a great deal. What had happened?

  Remy stopped stroking his arm, patted it instead. “You feel better now, homme?” Chamber nodded.” Like to untie you now, felt real bad about doin’ dat. But I also didn’t wan’ somet’ing happenin’ dat we both be regrettin’.”

  * I…attacked yer, didn’t I? * Jonothan asked as Gambit started to unknot the cord at his wrists. * I sure hope I didn’t hurt yer. I’m so sorry. *

“Don’ ‘poligize, mon ami, knew dat you were really upset. Hated to whack you in de head. You hurtin’?”

  * A little…I’ll be all right. * Remy released his hands, and started to rub both wrists. Jono didn’t have any blood circulation to speak of, but it felt good just the same.

  “Now, Remy gon’ tell you somet’ing, don’ wan’ you to get all pissed. But I wan’ be truthful wit’ you. I fucked wit’ your head jus’ now, to get you settled down. I’m an empath, and dat means I can feel other folks emotions and screw around wit’ dem too.”

  Jono slowly sat up, and his head throbbed. He supposed he should be angry about being manipulated, but he couldn’t find the energy to. He also loved this peaceful feeling, and if Remy was still working his empathy power, he hoped he’d continue.

  * I’m not mad at yer, Gambit. To tell yer the honest truth it’s a tremendous, fuckin’ relief to not be depressed. Can’t remember the last time I’ve felt this good, I’d totally forgotten what it was like. So thank you. And thank you for bein’ on that bridge and saving me life. I wasn’t particularly grateful at the time, and for that I am truly sorry. *

Remy picked up his hand again, and Jono was a bit surprised that he wanted him to.

“ Why did you wan’ to jump off dat bridge, Jonothan?” Gambit asked softly

  Chamber found himself staring at Remy’s graceful fingers. * I couldn’t stand it anymore. I hate me life, what I’ve become. It all seemed so fuckin’ pointless, ya know? Why was I bothering? I can’t talk, laugh, smile, eat, breath, sweat, dammit, I even miss taking a shit! Everyone keeps telling me to focus on all the positive things, but they don’t get sick when they look at themselves in the mirror. What the fuck do they know? They aren’t facing the aloneness, the idea that yer will never be able to kiss someone again, or hold them, or…* Jono felt unwanted tears spring to his eyes, and part of him wanted to halt this tirade. But then he got a sudden feeling of comfort from Remy. LeBeau’s face had an expression of compassion and complete understanding, and Jonothan thought of his angel again. It gave him the courage to go on.

  * I just feel like everything I ever cared about is gone, and I’m stuck in this never-ending nightmare. And I truly despise the fact that I’ve turned into this whining, boring, pile of self-pity. I used to be sort of moody, but this is so pathetic. Anyway, I guess I just finally lost it. I started not being able to sleep, and everything just became so hard. Then Monet said something snotty to me, and I dunno, I just snapped. I really was thinking about killing her, and it scared me so bad, I had to leave. I drove off in the school car, and when that ran out of gas, I just started walking. I think I’m finally losing me mind, ‘cuz I’ve been hallucinating and everything. I have no idea how long I’ve been wandering around. It also seems to be odd to be so rational all of a sudden. *

“ I took away your depression.” Remy said simply.

Jono’s eyebrows rose. * You can do that? *

Gambit nodded.” As long as you  wit’ me, I can keep it away. “ He squeezed his hand.

  Starsmore felt a surge of gratitude. He squeezed Remy’s hand back. Then he sighed. * Anyway, I dunno what to do now. If I go back to the Academy, they’ll lock me up and give me shock therapy again. And I swore I’d never see the inside of another hospital. *

Another hard squeeze. “Remy won’ let dat happen.”

Jonothan somehow knew he meant it and gave him a curious, warm feeling, which unfortunately didn’t last long enough.

  * Anyway, Gambit, I’m tired. I’m just tired of being an awful freak, a monster. It’s just too fuckin’ hard…* Jono let go of Remy’s hand and covered his eyes. He fought the urge to lie down and weep, for fear if he started, he’d never stop. Gambit very gently pulled his hands away and cupped his face. Remy was wearing a very odd, determined expression.

  “You ain’t a monster, Jonothan Starsmore. I know a lot of dem, up close and personal. If anybody in dis room is a monster, dat would be me. “ He gave a long, ragged sigh.” Wan’ to tell you somet’ing. Dis is so weird, it scares me shitless, but you gotta know. ‘ He bit his lip.” You know why I happened to be on dat bridge? Cuz I was plannin’ on jumping too. Ain’t  dat one for “Believe It Or Not?” Chamber’s large eyes grew even larger. “ But den, my empathy picked up on you, felt all dat you were goin’ through. Knew den dat I had couldn’t let you jump, and dat I couldn’t do it either. Can’t explain it, but dat’s what happened.”

  Jonothan couldn’t quite take it all in, he was almost angry.* But Remy, why? What possible reason would you have for committing -*

  “Suicide? Pretty good one, I t’ink. You know dat I ain’t with de Xmen no more. Dat’s because dey found out  ‘bout somet’ing I did a while back…somet’ing jus’…terrible.”

 Jono felt an icy stab of fear. * What did you do? *

There was a long, long, silence and Gambit looked at the far wall. Then, in a voice barely above a whisper, he began.

  “ Started when I was ‘round your age. You 18, 19, neh? “ Chamber nodded.” Got kicked out of my family. Dat too long a story to tell, but it hurt me real bad. I was angry, and I started to not give a fuck about anybody but me. I fell in wit’ some nasty folks, me t’inkin’ I wan’ be a big badass too.’

  “So I started workin’ for dis guy named Dr. Essex. He real interested in mutants, got dis big secret lab. He ax me to steal stuff for him, and I real good, cuz I was raised to be a thief by my family. Essex had me break into research labs mostly, gettin’ data for him. And I don’t give a rip what he be doin’ wit’ all dis info, ‘cuz I getting’ paid real good.”

  “ I wasn’t de only one workin’ for Essex. I put together a bunch of other lowlife mutants, we call ourselves de Marauders. We t’ink we de hottest game in town. Kick anybody’s ass. Didn’t realize at de time what kind of nutjobs my coworkers were, mostly ‘cuz I was too busy whorin’ around and gettin’ drunk.”

  “Den one day, Essex, he ax me to do a big important job for him. He hear of dese mutants called de Morlocks, dey live underground in New York, too deformed to go topside. Essex say he wan’ study some of dem, see what’s what. Wants de Marauders to find ‘em, kidnap a few.”

   “ Dis don’ sit right wit’ me. And to dis day, I don’ know why I didn’t jus’ quit. But Essex, he got my number, he flatter me, talk me into it. And I don’ get no reading off of him at all empathy wise, ‘cuz Essex, he jus’…blank.” Remy shuddered.” So I finally say, ok, I find dese Morlocks, but I ain’t gon’ catch any of ‘dem. Essex say dat alright.”

  “ So I find de Morlock tunnels, take me a long time, but I a clever sonavabitch. I take de Marauders dere, and I start feelin’ real sick about ‘dis whole t’ing. De Mauraders actin’ real weird too, and I pick up a lot of scary emotions from ‘em. Den I really freak when Creed shows up. He say he now workin’ for Essex. I knew Sabertooth from before, biggest psycho motherfucker dat ever walk de eart’. So I try to call de job off, but dey don’ listen to me. I get into a fight wit’ Scalphunter, he knocks me out. When I come to, I feel dis awful stuff comin’ out of de tunnels. I hear screamin’, cryin’ and  den I run to find out what’s happenin’. And I discover dat Essex didn’t send de Marauders down to kidnap de Morlocks, he wanted dem exterminated. It be genocide, men, women, kids, babies…dey don’ care. Marauders are havin’ a good time too, dey laughin’ like dis some big party. And de person responsible for dem bein’dere is me, Gambit.”

  “ I swear to you, I tried to stop dem. Fought dose fucks wit’ everyt’ing I had. Dere were jus’ too many of dem, and I only save one lil gal. And Creed finally gets ahold of me, rips me open good, leaves me to die. It’s too bad I don’t, dyin’ in a sewer would have been a good end for me. But like a cockroach, ol’ Remy go on. And I get hitched up wit’ de Xmen, only I don’ tell dem ‘bout my past. I figure I can try to make up a little for what I done, bein’ part of dem. Only my sin too big. Dey find out, and dey hate me for it. Too much to explain again, but dey leave me in Antarctica to die. Rogue, she find out first, she de one to decide. And I deserved it, Jonothan. But I still like dat roach, can’t quite give it up yet.”

Remy, Starsmore could see, was shaking now. He hugged himself tightly, and his voice cracked.

So you see Jonothan, you ain’t de monster. It be me.”

  Chamber was momentarily shocked to his core, his mind going a million directions at once. For a few seconds, he was appalled at what Remy had done, but he had also never known anyone so filled with guilt or regret. He could see that Remy LeBeau was one of the most repentant sinners on earth. And he was now just waiting for Jono to hate him too.

   But instead of hating him, Jono realized he had found someone that was actually suffering more than he was, and that he wouldn’t trade places with Gambit for anything. For once, Jono’s problems seemed small, and his heart filled with sorrow for Remy. If there ever was a person who deserved forgiveness, it was Remy LeBeau.

Jonothan collected his thoughts. * Remy…* he began. He could see Gambit was bracing himself for a furious tirade.

  * I have a cousin, Reg. He’s a big bloke, lots older than me. Not too bright, and was always getting into trouble. But good hearted in his way, always had a chocolate bar for me, would pay me Gran’s phone bill, buy yer a pint at the pub. Anyway, Reg fell in with this bad crowd, and they went to nick a grocers. Was to have supposed to have been simple, but they got surprised, and the shop owner ended up dead. Reg, the great gob, was the get-away driver. So they all end up getting caught and Reg goes to prison. My folks tell me he’s a bad lot, and he’s going to hell. But I can’t find it in me heart to hate ol’ Reg. He wrote me once, told me how awful he felt about what happened, and that he wished he could go back in time so that poor shop owner wouldn’t have been killed. And I knew Reg meant every word. That he was an idiot, but he wasn’t a murderer. That he had a good heart, but had just made an awful mistake. *

Gambit was now staring at him very hard, an expression of disbelief on his face.

 * Guess me point is Remy, that you are guity of being a selfish, shortsighted, stupid asshole, but yer far from being a monster. Can tell you’d give anything to undo what yer did, and yer really suffering for it. If you ask me, the real monsters are yer so- called friends, the bloody X-men!*

  Remy was totally dumfounded by this statement, his jaw actually dropped. And Jono, the more he thought about it, the angrier he got.

 * You said they left you in Antarctica to die? What the fuck is that?  It’s a bloody execution, that’s what. How many times have I heard how noble they all are, that they don’t kill, blah, blah, blah. As if their shit don’t stink. In Gen X, I get a load of their history, and they aint so pure. I guess they have Lord Magneto himself  hangin’ around the mansion now, big as life. * Remy looked amazed. * Didn’t know that, did yer? Guess he has amnesia or something, but does that mean it’s now ok that he once killed an entire submarine full of Russian sailors? And I’ve read all about Dark Phoenix. Guess it turned out she really wasn’t Jean Grey, but no one knew it at the time. Went to the moon to defend her after she blew up a whole fuckin’ PLANET for chrissakes! I also recall yer old pal Sabertooth, the serial killer, got room and board at Westchester for a while, also because of amnesia. Suppose the way to get absolved of yer crimes is just to forget about ‘em. And me own teacher was the White Queen of the Hellfire club. But she says she’s made a mistake, so now she gets a school full of kids to teach. And let us not forget yer girlfriend, mate.  Did it slip everyone’s tiny mind that she was once a bloody terrorist, and she sucked the life-force out of people? For God’s sake! Okay, what you did was bad, but you seem to be the only one that is actually SORRY! And they try to kill you! Well, FUCK the lot of ‘em, the great, bleedin’ hypocrites! Yer better off without ‘em, mate! And if you ever see them again, well, you should tell ‘em from me to kiss yer ass!*

  Jonothan was so carried away now that he did something he hadn’t done in a very long time, he reached out and pulled an astonished Remy into his slender arms, clumsily hugging him. Gambit stiffened for a moment, then wrapped his own arms around Jono, holding on to him like a drowning man.

 * Yer no monster, Remy. * Jono whispered fiercely. * No monster would have rescued me from that bridge. Yer my angel, Remy. *

    Chamber heard a sharp intake of breath from Remy. Then he he began to cry, great, heaving, painful sobs that shook his thin body. Chamber pulled him tighter into the embrace, rocked him and stroked his hair. Hearing that outpouring of grief, so close to his own, Jono’s eyes began to well up with tears. He buried his face in Remy’s bony shoulder, and all that pent up agony just came bursting out. He cried for Remy, he cried for himself. A great dam cracked wide open for both of them, and it seemed there would be no end to the tears.

   Remy just couldn’t believe it; it was almost too much to get his mind around. He had made his confession, told his absolute worst truth and been forgiven. Even more surprising, actually defended in an enraged, Cockney accented diatribe. It had been so hard to look at those very large and very beautiful dark brown eyes and tell his story, and see nothing in them but absolution. Even more surprising was Chamber taking him into his arms and hugging him. He was incredibly moved, for he sensed that touching people was very difficult for Jonothan. But the young man had not hesitated, and gave him the most wonderful hug. What really unhinged him was hearing that rough, guttural voice saying, “Yer my angel, Remy.” Gambit found himself sobbing like a child, and in truth, he really hadn’t cried since he was a boy. It was a cathartic, wonderful release. And Chamber had cried with him, tears soaking his sweatshirt.

  It hadn’t seemed possible for a while, but they finally exhausted themselves with weeping. Remy had not wanted to stop being held, neither had Jonothan. They somehow had ended up lying on the bed, arms still wrapped around each other. Jonothan had his head tucked under Gambit’s chin, and every so often, a soft, chestnut strand would tickle his face.

  Lord, it felt so incredibly good to hold someone, to be held back. Remy loved touching people and physical intimacy, he craved it like a drug. Since falling in love with Rogue though, a person who dreaded touch more than anything, he had gradually stopped. Now he remembered what he had been missing. He allowed himself to caress Chamber’s back, long, comforting strokes. He desperately wanted this feeling of closeness to continue, and was sorely tempted to make these touches more intimate. But he didn’t dare. He and Chamber had shared a very deep emotional moment, that was true, got a glimpse into each other’s souls. Remy found himself caring very much for the boy, and it usually took him a long time to warm up and trust someone. But Jonothan was recovering from a near total breakdown, and Remy didn’t know if he already had a lover, was straight, gay, or bi. He certainly didn’t need a sorry piece of baggage like him messing with him.

  Remy sighed, feeling a deep, profound regret that he was going to have to put an end to this. He stopped rubbing Chamber’s back.” So how you doin’ dere, Jonothan?”

   Chamber moved his head so he could look at Remy. His eyes were starting to turn the Cajun inside out. They were a clear golden brown, and incredibly expressive.

* I’m much better, mate. * Jonothan’s eyes crinkled a bit, and Remy realized that was his way of smiling. * How are you?*

  “ Better too. “ Gambit thought that this might be a mistake, but he very gently brushed some hair away from Chamber’s forehead. Jonothan didn’t flinch or pull away, but closed his eyes for a moment. “ Wanna t’ank you, Jonothan. Can’t tell you how much what you said to me meant. Dis old thief gonna owe you for de rest of his life.” Then Remy, with great caution, placed a very soft, very affectionate kiss on his forehead.

  Jonothan seemed startled for a second. Then those brown eyes grew bright with tears. One trickled down his face, on to the black bandages. Then it was Remy’s turn to be startled. Chamber reached out a long white hand and ran his fingers down the Cajun’s face. They stopped at his mouth, traced the outline of his lips.

* Wish I could kiss yer back, Remy. More than anything in the world. *

  A hot liquid rush went through Remy, he felt like a candy bar left on the sidewalk in summer. With all his varied sexual escapades, the naked longing Chamber had just expressed was somehow the most erotic and touching thing he’d ever experienced. Gambit was usually never at a loss for words, but he found his throat tight, speech gone. Heart suddenly hammering, he took Starsmore’s hand in his and kissed the palm. Chamber closed his eyes, looking swoony. Then Remy pulled the young man even closer, his whole body was trembling. The Cajun covered that bandaged face with sweet velvet kisses, touched his lips to his eyebrows, nose, and cheeks. He tasted the salt of his tears, the rubber of his bandages, the soft, fevered warmth of his skin.

   With exquisite caution, Jonothan’s strong hands began to explore Remy’s body. His first touches were feather light, gliding over his chest, down his back. Then he got a bit bolder, fingers whispered down Remy’s thigh, cupping his ass. Gambit almost purred, he nipped at Jonthan’s ear, licked it. He heard a deep, telepathic groan, which gave him a quivery thrill.

  Gambit now had a raging hard-on, and he was pretty sure Chamber had one too. He hadn’t had sex in so long, now his body was literally humming with lust and excitement. He felt so very alive, almost electric. He realized he needed to put the brakes on for a moment, so he wouldn’t hurt this wonderful creature in his arms. A creature whose hands were currently driving him crazy. He found Chamber’s ear again, nuzzled it.

“ Hey dere, sweet. I wanna ask ya, somet’in, jus’ so I know. Dis your first time wit’ a man, cher?’

Chamber looked mortified.* Aw, fuck-you can tell?! Did I do something wrong?*

  Remy smiled wide and kissed his nose. “ Ah non, cher, you be doin’ everyt’ing jus right. You got Remy all hot and bothered, dats for sure. I jus wan’ make sure I don’ spook you none, make it good for you.”

   A very, very relieved crinkle from Jonothan. * Guess you could say it’s my first time, sort of. Me and this bloke Vic got really drunk one time, started messing about. Then the stupid dickhead went and puked all over me. *

  Remy couldn’t help it, he burst out laughing. “ Oh, my poor baby! Well, Remy make sure dis time around be a lot more fun, promise.”

  Jonothan started laughing too, and it was a wonderful, rusty laugh that reminded Remy somehow of an old ratty muffler.  *Well, you wouldn’t have far to go to top that experience, mate. *“ Chamber laughed some more, then began to moan when Remy ran an expert hand up his bare leg. Remy grinned, and got busy finding other places Jonothan liked to be touched. He was very sensitive, and just about anywhere he put his fingers got a groan. Then he pulled the young man to a kneeling position and started to take off his sweatshirt. Jonothan got all stiff all of a sudden, and even with his empathic shields up, Remy could feel hesitation and fear. Remy immediately stopped what he was doing and ruffled the chestnut hair.

“What’s de matter, cher? I go too fast?”

Chamber wouldn’t look at him, and his ‘voice’ was the barest whisper. *  Are you sure you don’t think I’m…hideous?*

  Gambit took his damaged face in both hands. “ Cher, listen. Ain’t holdin’ no pity party, or a charity. I don’t do dat. You and me, we got somet’ing powerful between us. I ain’t no believer in destiny or karma, but dere was somet’ing dat brought us together on dat bridge. Can’t explain it, but I am so grateful. I really like you Jonothan Starsmore, dis Cajun wan’ you in de worst way. I’m t’inkin’ you don’t find me so bad either?”

    The tension seemed to leave Jonothan, and he cocked his head.*That’s a joke, right? You have to know that yer one of the most gorgeous things on two legs, yer great bloody bastard.*

   “Guess I take dat as a compliment.” Wicked Cajun smile. “ So no more worryin’?  Chamber gasped as Remy pulled him close and started to rub his small, very firm ass. “ Also should remind you dat I already seen ya. Cleaned you up. An’ I thought den, under all dat dirt and muck, you was one mighty pretty boy. Was hard to keep my thoughts pure.”

   Chamber’s wide brown eyes got even wider, but whatever he was going to say was forgotten as Remy slipped his hand past the elastic of his shorts and started playing with bare skin. He seemed a bit dizzy, and there was nary a peep when Gambit stripped off his shirt. There was a moment of shyness from Jonothan, and then he surprised Remy by tugging at his own clothing. Chamber pulled Remy’s sweatshirt off and Remy was pleased by the glow of admiration in the boy’s eyes, it soothed his damaged ego.

   Jonothan ran his fingers down Remy’s neck, his collarbone, brushing the soft hair on his chest. * God. *  Was all he could say.  Remy grinned and seized one of Jono’s hands, kissing the knuckles, then slowly sucking on each finger. Chamber’s eyes went into slits, and he shivered as Remy ran his tongue up his bare arm. Jonothan stared to sway, eyes closed, head thrown back. Remy caught him, and lowered him on to the bed.

  “ Now cher, you jus lie dere for awhile. Let Remy take you on a ride you won’t soon forget.” Gambit enjoyed the look in those brown eyes, peering through a tangle of chestnut. There was enormous trust there as well as fevered anticipation. It filled him with strange happiness to be able to give this to Jonothan, and he was going to make every effort not to disappoint.

  He started with butterfly kisses on his face, and then let his mouth and tongue play over every bit of skin not bandaged. That pale porcelain surface had a faint metallic tang to it, not unpleasant, just different. He was even warmer than before; it was like standing near a radiator in winter. His tongue found Chamber’s hard muscled, yet slender arms, then a flat, narrow stomach. He teased a cute little belly button, nibbled on exposed and jutting hipbones. With each lap of his tongue, he heard the erotic music of the boy’s moans and sighs, all which made him very hard. Jonothan was gripping the bedspread tightly, those gorgeous eyes half closed and entranced.

   Remy suddenly flipped him over. He stroked the knobs of his spine, then lowered his shorts to expose his ass. And what a beautiful one it was too, Remy wanted to eat it up, so small one of his hands could almost cover it. He licked that delicious dip just at the tailbone, then lightly bit each cheek, making Jonothan shiver. The Cajun heard a combined whimper and sigh in his head, he almost laughed. Then, with a smug chuckle, he slowly let one finger slide into Jonothan’s body. Chamber was startled, then buried his face in a pillow, clutching it tight.

   “Oh Jonothan, you so nice and tight dere, cher, so hot…” Indeed, Jonothan was unbelievably warm and moist, it made Remy’s cock just ache just thinking about being inside that sweet, languid body. But that would maybe be later. Right now he wanted his total attention on Chamber. He slid another finger inside and Jonothan just went wild, a telepathic cry ringing in his ears. The boy started to grind his hips in lovely frustration into the mattress, in time to each thrust of the Cajun’s fingers. Remy took pity on him and withdrew his hand, not wanting Jonothan to climax just yet.

   With a quick flourish, he completely stripped off the boy’s shorts and turned him over once more. He allowed himself one long glance at that ivory body. Combined with the dark bandages, he was like a strangely erotic black and white photograph. He was also incredibly aroused. A perfect cock, straining upward, moisture beading at the tip. Remy had to take a deep breath, to calm himself down, then began to mouth and suck on the balls drawn tight to the body, his fingers playing with a light brush of brown pubic hair. Remy opened his empathic shields slightly, and sensed Jonothan’s frenzied pleasure, he was delirious with it. A Cheshire Cat smile traveled across Remy’ face. Then, just like a big sensual cat, he began to lick that twitching shaft, throbbing and oh so hard. He tasted the slick jewel of pre cum decorating the tip, let his tongue probe the slit. Then he deep throated him, tongue torturing and beautifully cruel.

  Chamber had been rigid and silent while all this all this was going on, every muscle standing out in sharp relief. When Remy started to lave his cock with a slow rhythm, the young man let out an aching, telepathic sob. He began to writhe in ecstatic agony, small, exquisite hips bucking. Remy took in each thrust, clever tongue coaxing out shudders and cries. Jonothan’s hands flew around like loose birds for a moment, the rested on Remy’s head, winding his fingers in auburn hair.

  Remy was loving every second of this, happy that he could cause such crazed joy in someone else. He sensed that Jonothan wasn’t going to last much longer, so he pushed it to the limit. He slid two fingers back into Jonothan, plunging them in and out in concert with each mouthstroke of the cock.

* Ahhh god, Remy, god, god, god, god, oh please, I can’t take this any more, oh god, oh god, oh god, I’m dying, oh fuck oh dear GOD!*

  Chamber suddenly arched his back, a howl filling Remy’s head, steaming cum filling his mouth, so very hot it startled him. He sucked his penis dry, sending more hard spasms through Starsmore’s body. Then, with great reluctance, he released him. Jonothan was trembling like an aspen tree, hair sticking out in all directions. Remy felt a warm burst of affection for him and gathered his limp body in his arms, kissed his hair. Chamber clung to him like a barnacle.

   * Am I still alive?* Chamber asked in a wavery voice. Remy couldn’t help it, he grinned hugely, this kid was so cute. “Yeah, mon ami, you still here.” He touched his lips to that long nose, which he was starting to really like “ Dat felt good den, oui?”

  * Oh, oui, oui, oui, oui!* Jonothan’s whole body started to shake with laughter, and that wonderful old crow sound of his rang in Remy’s brain. Jonothan bumped his forehead with Gambit and the Cajun looked into those brown velvet eyes and felt a little lost. They crinkled up happily at him, so happy he couldn’t resist covering his face with kisses once more.

  He was really not convinced that he hadn’t died and gone to heaven. Because to be in Remy LeBeau’s arms was to truly be in paradise. And he must have been extra good, as this gorgeous angel with the demon eyes made his body burn with the most intimate of touches, gave him the most shattering orgasm of his life.

  And they were doing it all over again, hands roaming and teasing, and Remy was laughing, and he was laughing too. It really was like being brought back from the dead, and the body he had come to loathe was now pulsing with life. What was that poem they had just studied? “ I Sing the Body Electric…” He now understood what Mr. Whitman was getting at. They rolled around the bed, erotic wrestling, Remy with his full delicious weight on top of him pushing him into the mattress. Jono stroked his long, lithe body, feeling the muscles ripple under satin skin, dangerous and hard. It was like petting a leopard that had somehow transformed himself into a man. Even gaunt and thin, Gambit still radiated power, and Jono loved every graceful bone and sinew. He was being crushed, overwhelmed, and his cock was throbbing once more, much to his astonishment. Remy was also somehow completely naked now, and Chamber could feel his urgent erection pushing insistently against his thigh. He reached down, very brave, and it was suddenly hot in his hand, velvet covering steel. Remy let out a sweet moan right near his ear. Jono loved the sound, loved the expression on that handsome face. He continued to stroke, and Gambit panted and murmured and said affectionate things to him in soft French.

  Jonothan buried his face in Remy’s shoulder, smelled the intoxicating scent of his skin, all sweaty and warm. He ran another hand down that wonderful chest, slick and dense with muscle, fingers touching fine cinnamon hair, playing with and pinching his small nipples. Remy sighed and shuddered, then those red eyes gazed directly into his.

“Cher, you wan’ me inside? Remy promise he won’ hurt you none. “ Remy’s deep voice was hoarse with desire.

  Chamber felt himself shiver with anticipation. * Yes, love…yes.*  His answer seemed to unhinge Remy a bit, Jono could see a riot of emotions cross his face “ Ah, Jonothan, you so sweet.” Then he kissed him where his mouth once was, right on his bandages. Jono thought his whole body was going to dissolve into liquid.

   Remy got himself into a kneeling position, gently opened Chamber’s legs. For a second, Jono felt a thrill of fear, he was really going to do this, there was no turning back. Remy distracted him by stroking himself, trying to spread the moisture leaking from the head of his penis to the rest of his cock. It was a sight so amazing that Jonothan was surprised he didn’t faint.  Remy then smiled at him, so warmly, he got even dizzier. And then, all of a sudden, Remy was inside him.

   He shut his eyes tight, praying he wouldn’t reveal just how much it hurt. Remy wasn’t that big, but now he felt enormous. He dazedly started to wonder why women put up with it. But he wasn’t going to let on, he wanted to please Remy so much. Gambit started to move very slowly, and Jono wound his fingers into the bedspread.

“I’m not hurting you sweet, you ok?”

   Chamber nodded quickly, and concentrated on Remy’s face. Dear lord, he was so beautiful. Gambit started to move in and out, breath ragged, hands clutching Jonothan’s hips.

  Then all of a sudden the pain began to fade, replaced by a feeling of pleasure so hot and intense, Jono couldn’t even make a mental sound. His eyes got wide, and he wrapped his legs tightly around Remy’s waist. With each deep thrust of Remy’s cock, the pleasure mounted. He stopped thinking coherently, everything became a blur and he was vaguely aware of Gambit’s sighs and moans.

  “ Jonothan, you feel so good, my sweet, ah yeah, dis is so good, so good.”  Remy now began to play with Jonthan’s erection, and Chamber found his mind completely turned to mush. He stared at Remy, this wild angel now inside him ,and thought he was going to explode from the sheer joy of it.

   Remy’s voice penetrated the fog. “ Gonna take dis to the next level, cher…hold on tight.” Jonothan could not quite comprehend what he meant by ‘next level’. Then his mind was flooded with emotions, Gambit was using his empathy. He now was feeling what Remy was feeling, he experienced his desire, his heat and passion. He also now knew what it felt to be inside is own body, knew his own incredible tightness. He felt Remy was close to a climax, which caused Chamber to teeter on the edge. The waves excitement built and built, and they finally crashed and burned, almost at the same time. The release was divine, and the world tilted for a moment as he got to experience both his own orgasm and Remy’s. Remy wailed in triumph, and then collapsed in a sweatslick heap on top of him, panting and smiling. Jono found himself crying again, not tears of rage or sorrow, but tears of happiness. Remy held him tightly through the storm, rocked and petted him as he wept silently.

   When it was over, Remy brushed the hair from his face and wiped his eyes. “ So what’s all dis about, cher?” His face held an expression of deep concern. Jonothan smiled his smile at him.

   * Thank you, Remy. For making me feel human again. For making me whole.* And Chamber pulled Remy’s face to his, and pressed his bandages to that lovely mouth. Remy swallowed hard and kissed him back, tears now in those red and black eyes. Jonothan then cuddled close to his angel, peaceful and totally exhausted. The angel whispered in his low, smooth voice, Cajun nothings floated in his ears. And just before he drifted off to sleep, Jono was sure that a great red and black wing spread its feathers tenderly over his body.

  Remy was dreaming. He was walking through the snow, the endless snow, nothing but miles and miles of it. He was so very  cold, down to his bones. Soon they will crack and he will fall into the drifting white, and he will turn to ice. And no one is going to mourn his frozen body here at the end of the world.

  And then before he could collapse, two arms grabbed him from behind and pulled him into the air. He was suddenly warm again and he turned to see his rescuer. It was an angel, a most peculiar angel. He was all in black, wearing a motorcycle jacket and Doc Martin boots. He had crazy chestnut hair and the soft brown eyes of a Madonna, so loving and kind. And his wings were the most magnificent of all, they were made of fire and light, every color of the rainbow.

  The angel looked right into his soul and forgave everything, washed it clean. He gave him a sweet kiss that made his heart ache. And the angel whispered in a voice like a crow’s caw, “It’s gonna be alright now love, I’m with you”

   And then the wings made of glorious fire flashed around them both. Remy laughed and the angel laughed and they left the snow and the cold and the aloneness behind them forever.


  Jono woke up out of a relaxed, happy sleep, stretched and looked around, blinking in the late afternoon light. He was a bit disoriented for a moment, then distressed. Where was Remy? The bed was empty, so was the bathroom. No Gambit anywhere.

  He sat up and tried not to panic, but panicking anyway. He told himself he was being stupid, that Remy wouldn’t just leave, not after all that had passed between them. He had to trust Gambit and stop assuming the worst all the time.

And then he saw the note, folded on top of the nightstand. With trembling fingers, he opened it and read:

 ‘Cher-didn’t want to wake you, you were sleeping so peacefully. Paid for another night here, went to get something to eat.

Back in a bit-Remy’

  Jonothan clutched the note to his chest, relief flooding over him in a wave. He felt really stupid now, as well as guilty for doubting Remy. And he also experienced a big surge of unaccustomed, total happiness.

  He lay in the bed for a while, staring at the ceiling. How odd it seemed to have ended up here, not dead in some ravine. It seemed a lifetime ago. And he somehow knew he would never go back to that awful, dark place again, that were still so many things worth living for.

  He found the clothes he had been wearing before strewn on the floor, he put them on. He had a few delightful moments remembering exactly what had happened when they had come off. He briefly considered taking a shower, but decided he was too lazy to do so. He lay back down on the bed, smelling the sheets and the pillows. His eyes crinkled up as he detected the scent of sex and sweat and most definitely, deliciously, Gambit.

  As if on cue, the door suddenly clicked open and Remy strode in, looking very beautiful and slightly windblown. He gave Jono a warm, heartbreaking smile that made Chamber’s insides dissolve into jello.

  Remy was carrying a bunch of bags, he threw all but one to the floor, and then he bounced on the bed next to Starsmore. Jono was rewarded with a big, sloppy kiss on his nose, which made Chamber laugh.

“So, how you doin’, sleepyhead?” Another wondrous smile.

* I’m great-how are you, love? *  Jono gave an inward sigh as Remy threw an arm around his shoulders and drew him close.

“ Starvin’ cher, starvin’.” Remy reached into the bag he had on his lap, and pulled out a piece of cinnamon roll. It smelled fresh and hot. “ Gambit can’t seem to stop eating. Maybe because dis old Cajun worked up quite de appetite las’ night.” He gave Jono an affectionate leer, and Chamber snickered. “ So, dis ok den, we stay here ‘nother night? Know it’s not zactly de Ritz, but I’ve gotten mighty fond of dis place.”

Jono nodded, liking the term “we” a lot.

  Remy polished off the roll, and started licking frosting off his fingers. “ Gotcha some clothes. T’ink I got your size right. Not sure about de boots, though, hope dey fit. Dey ain’t your usual style, cher, but as much as I like you all nice and naked, can’t have you dat way all de time.” Gambit rewarded Chamber with both a leer and a wink, which made him all hot and fluttery.

* That was awful kind of yer, Remy. I’ll try and pay you back. *

Remy waved an elegant hand. “Pfftt. T’ink nothin’ of it.”

  Jonothan drew his knees up to his chin, suddenly worried. He hadn’t really had time to think about his future, and a lot of things suddenly hit him at once. Gambit, the empath, picked up on this mood shift immediately.

 “ What’s dat look for? What you frettin’over, cher? Remy reached over and started to stroke his hair. “ You t’inkin’ you some kind of burden or somet’ing?” Jono could only nod, now feeling even more miserable.

 “Well, put dat out of your head. Anyone as sweet as you could never be a burden.” Jono turned to stare wonderingly at Remy, his heart aching. The Cajun was gazing at him fiercely, his sharp, handsome face full of emotion.

  “ I care so much ‘bout you Jonothan Starsmore. Yeah, I pulled you off dat  bridge, but you save my life too. I do’ wan’ to hold you to nothin’, I can tell you got a lot of pride, and dat’s a good t’ing. But it would mean de world to me if we could stay together. I know I ain’t no bargain, probably more trouble den I’m worth, but I would do everyt’ing in my power to make you happy. You gave me back somet’ing dat I thought I lost a long time ago.” And Remy tapped his chest, right over his heart.

  Jonothan, to say the least, was thunderstruck. Time seemed to stand still, and for a few seconds, all he could do was blink at Remy in total wonder. Tears filled his eyes and he fell into Gambit, throwing his arms around his neck. His thin shoulders vibrated with sobs, and Gambit held him tightly, stroking his back. When the storm was finally over, Remy lifted Jono’s face to look into his eyes, softly smiling.

“ I take dat as a yes, den? We a team?”

Chamber wiped his eyes and nodded. * Yes, love. Although yer turning me into a complete, bloody nelly. *

“ Your manly reputation safe wit’ Gambit, cher.” Remy grinned widely at him.

 Jonothan rested his head on Remy’s shoulder. * I need to write everyone back at the Academy, let them know I’m alright, but that I’m not coming back. They must be pretty frantic by now…I feel terrible to have worried them all. Gonner miss that motley lot, but I don’t think I belong there anymore.*

 “ Dat’s a good idea cher, and dere’s no reason you shouldn’t see dem again…” Remy paused for a moment, choosing his words carefully. “ Wan’ ax you a big favor, an I realize dis make t’ings more complicated…but don’ mention me. Wan’ de Xmen to t’ink I’m still dead. Should really take your advice and tell ‘em to fuck off, but right now I jus’ don’ wan to deal with it.”

 Jonothan stroked his troubled face very gently. * Whatever you say, Remy. And when you’re ready to tell ‘em to piss off, I’ll be behind yer. I’d moon the bleedin’ mansion for yer. *

 Remy burst out laughing.” I do believe you would. Jonothan Starsmore, I suspect dat you a real wild child.”

* Yer definitely gonner find out…and by the way, it’s Jono. Only people that are irritated with me call me Jonothan. *

“Jono… I like dat.” Remy hugged him and kissed his cheek.

 Jonothan played with the buttons on Remy’s shirt and sighed. * Wish I could get a job, though. I hate not being able to hold up my end. But with this face, it ain’t likely.*

  Remy seemed both amused and exasperated. “ I love dat face. And would you please stop worryin’? You don’ know who you dealin’ wit’, do you, boy?” Jono raised his eyebrows. “ I am Remy Etienne LeBeau, Prince of De N’Awlins Thieves Guild! Before I got involved in t’ings X, I was damn good at what I did. And Remy even better at playin’ de stock market. Got more money den I know what to do wit’. Might as well get around to actually spending some of it.”

Chamber goggled a little at the exotic creature that was now his lover. * Crikey!*  was all he could think of to say.

  Remy chuckled.” Damn straight.” He pulled Starsmore even closer. “ So den Jono, what you think of the Bahamas? I t’ink we could both use a nice long vacation, don’ recall ever really having one. Wanna go someplace nice and warm…I had it wit’ dis cold fucking New England.”

* Anywhere would be paradise with you, Remy.*

“ You so cute.” Gambit said, laughing. “ Kinda corny, but cute.”

  Chamber looked embarrassed. * Shit, that was pretty maudlin, wasn’t it? It must be the bleedin’ nelly effect. I’m fuckin’ doomed. *

  Gambit laughed even harder and pinched Chamber’s nose. “ Dat’s ok Jono, Remy don’ mind… I like dat kind of hearts and flowers mushy stuff.” A groan from Jono. Remy suddenly tackled him and pinned him to the bed, holding his wrists. “ So, Mr. Starsmore…you got anyt’ing planned for dis afternoon?” He started to kiss him softly on the face.

Jono crinkled at him very hard. * I, er, think I’m free, love. *

“ Den pencil Gambit in.”

And Jono laughed and sighed and knew he was so very, very lucky to be alive.


Go to it's sequel: Truly, Madly, Deeply

*Note 1: Lyrics from “ Gave Up” by Nine inch Nails
**Note 2: Lyrics from “Crossroads” by Robert

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