Future Pluperfect: Chapter 31


Textual Poaching Alert: Marvel owns everyone but Mirrin, although Social Services would have stripped custody long ago...

The first thing Alex registered was the sand underneath his hands and knees. He was on his hands and knees? Fighting back nausea and dizziness, he forced open his eyes. He was definitely on his hands and knees. Staring down at sand, with Bobby's foot within his peripheral vision.

Alex tried to shake off his disorientation as he picked his head up. From the way he was positioned, he could tell that the telekinetic shield was still in place. Which should mean that both Mirrin and Nathan were still alive... Mirrin.

He pushed back onto his haunches and squinted in the sunlight he didn't remember being so bright. She was lying in the same spot where she had been... staked by Dawnsilk, except there was no longer any stake. The psimitar was gone. Dawnsilk, however, wasn't. She was lying face down across Mirrin's breast, the hilt of the ion knife glinting from where it was lodged in the back of her skull.

"Oh, Jesus," Bobby muttered next to him, obviously looking at the same thing.

A groan from behind them drew their attention away. The others were as they had been before they had been... ripped from the astral plane? Sam was holding Domino, and Jean and Scott were holding Nathan's head and hand respectively. Everyone was back to looking like they had been before Mirrin and Jean had pulled their telepathic maneuver. Alex realized that he and Bobby had been the only ones standing at the time, so they were the ones who had taken the worst of it. At least apart from the two people currently lying unconscious...

"Nathan?" Jean whispered hoarsely, hand delicately holding his cheek. "Nathan, are you awake?"

Domino slowly rose up from where she had been leaning into Sam's embrace and put her hand to her face, grimacing in some sort of pain. "Turn it down, Big Boy. I can hear you," she grumbled. "A telepath in fucking China can hear you."

To everyone's immediate relief, there was another groan and a twitch of a foot followed by a muttered syllable that must have meant something in some language because Jean started to laugh and cry at the same time, so hard that she started to cough and Scott dropped Nathan's hand in favor of trying to soothe his wife as she began to hiccup.

All of a sudden, Alex felt the telekinetic shield behind him give way and he jumped to his feet, wobbling slightly as he ran to Mirrin. Bobby was right behind him and they got to the two women and stared. No longer dressed in her flowing robes, Mirrin was back to her surcoat and body armor... neither of which looked as blood-soaked as they should considering... There was, however, a bad wound on her temple, a deep gash that sliced through her eyebrow and onto her cheekbone much as the now-disappeared Askani tattoo had.

As Alex stood unmoving, Bobby knelt down and pulled Dawnsilk off of Mirrin. The woman rolled heavily, like the dead do, and Bobby pulled her by the arms until she lay a few feet away.

"There's no war paint," Bobby reported, surprised. He looked up and Alex, who shrugged and knelt down to check on Mirrin. Undoing the utility belt that held the surcoat in place, Alex made quick work of the stomach plate of the body armor. When a shadow blocked out the sun, he looked up to find Scott standing over him.

"Do you have any idea why she doesn't have a huge hole in her middle right now?" Alex asked his brother as he pulled up the bottom of Mirrin's uniform shirt. The skin was not unmarred - Alex could see the souvenirs of at least two plasma gun charges as well as the start of a scar that ran farther up along her right ribs than he had pulled up her shirt - but none of the wounds looked recent.

"Not a clue," Scott replied simply. "She's lucky to be alive."

Alex shifted a little so that Bobby could put snow over Mirrin's still-freely-bleeding face wound. "Luck had absolutely nothing to do with it," he replied darkly.

Any response Scott had was lost as he was forced to jump back. The cold of the snow seemed to have brought Mirrin around and she came to life with a cough that quickly turned into pained retching as she curled onto her side away from Alex and the now-standing Bobby.

Alex watched her, unable to do anything more than brush escaped curls out of her face. She was gasping for air as if she still had the shaft of the psimitar driven into her belly, wracked by phantom wounds that her mind still thought real. When the retching had slowed to a stop, he ran his other hand down her arm. "You done?" he asked gently. Idly he noticed that Bobby and Scott had gone back to where Nathan was recovering.

Mirrin nodded, still not opening her eyes. Alex gently pulled her back a few feet - more to remove her from where she had just emptied the contents of her stomach than out of any need for contact - and she didn't protest, letting him guide her into a half-kneeling position with her back to his chest.

"You know, it's bad enough that we've got Cable running around doing stupid things he knows he shouldn't be doing," he growled into her ear. The frustration that had been building ever since he had realized what Mirrin had done by throwing up the telekinetic shield was finally boiling over. "But we didn't need you somehow inheriting his mutant ability to find the most self-destructive course of action for any given situation. We're supposed to work as a team. Just because you don't think you can die here doesn't mean you have to try as hard as you can to prove yourself wrong."

"It made the most sense," Mirrin protested weakly, a limp hand reaching up to wipe away the blood from her forehead that was dripping down into her eye. She hissed as she ended up rubbing sand particles into the wound and Alex pulled her wrist away from her face. "It was the safest for everyone."

"By what sort of screwed-up Askani logic?" he asked her with a disgusted snort as he used the hand he wasn't holding Mirrin's wrist with to shake the sand off of the edge of her surcoat and use it to first dab away the blood and then wipe the side of her mouth. "Not only were you risking your own life, but every else's as well - if you were wrong, we'd all be stranded here in this non-time."

"She would have killed anyone else," Mirrin explained softly. "More surely than anything I could have done by accident. With Nathan in her control, all she wanted to do was kill you and the others, then me, then release Nathan long enough for him to see what she had done before she killed him as well. It wouldn't have worked, but... she might have succeeded in part."

"She would have tried," Alex retorted, letting go of Mirrin's wrist as she gingerly re-arranged her legs so that they were no longer underneath her. His hand accidentally brushed against her still-exposed stomach and he felt her stiffen.

"Sorry," he murmured, letting the last of his anger drift away. The part of his brain that didn't shoot first and ask questions later reminded him that he was acting out of a much more personal reason than the safety of the team and that there were better times for this than right after an impaling that felt real enough.

"I just have to convince my body that my mind is playing tricks on it," she said, seemingly content to let his anger dissolve unchallenged. Alex realized belatedly that this was probably far from the first time someone had taken issue with Mirrin's methods of operating.

She leaned forward with a grunt to pull her shirt down and leaned back against him once it was fixed. It was a strange intimacy, Alex mused. One of those times when a near-death experience created a closeness... that just happened to be what he wanted. And then it was gone.

"Well, one trick it's not playing is that gusher around your eye," Bobby announced as he dropped down to the sand at their side. "I brought bandages and stuff to clean it out. I knew there'd be an advantage to dragging one of those kits through everything we've been through in the past few days... How many days has it been, anyway? Are we when we started?"

"When we started doesn't exist anymore," Mirrin mumbled, then sucked in her breath sharply as Bobby used some more snow to clean out the wound. Alex offered his hand and she squeezed it hard as Bobby moved with brisk efficiency.

"I'm not gonna want to think about this too hard, am I?" Bobby asked as he ripped open the medicated towelette and wiped out the wounds before picking up the Ziploc baggie of gauze and bandages. "Let's see if I can do this without taping your eye shut or taking off your eyebrow."

"Use the butterfly bandage and tape the gauze with the paper tape," Scott suggested from behind him.

"Shouldn't you be welcoming your son back instead of bossing me around?" Bobby asked with mock irritation as he dropped the waterproof tape back into the baggie and pulled out the paper tape.

"It's kind of an emotional moment and, well," Scott trailed off, trying not to sound hurt and failing. "Nathan and I can do our thing later. It's more important that Jean, Domino, and Sam are there now."

Bobby rolled his eyes but whether it was at Scott's words or at the strange relationship he had with his son, Alex wasn't sure.

"He's okay, then?" he asked instead.

"Groggy, in a lot of pain, and Jean had to yell at him to stop answering questions in whatever language he was using," Scott said with grim humor, waving his hand to indicate that this was par for the course with his son. Which it was. "But otherwise, yeah. It'll take him a little while to get back up to speed, but... compared to where he was a half-hour ago..."

"Speaking of getting up to speed," Bobby began as he handed the medical baggie to Scott. "Since I'm only going to make a mess of this, why don't Alex and I go deal with the Kurioon popsicles over there and you tape Mirrin back together?"

"I'll be fine," Mirrin offered, trying to use Alex for leverage to stand up.

"Let me just close up that gash over your eye," Scott said, gesturing for her to kneel back down. "Alex, go help Bobby. The sooner we get done here, the sooner we can get home."

Alex got up, groaning after having spent so long a time on his knees, and tottered awkwardly after Bobby. It was only as he started charging up his hands that he realized how much ready energy he had stored up, a sure sign of his not-quite-passed frustration with Mirrin.

"She's got you literally hot under the collar," Bobby remarked cheerfully as he started dissolving the ice casing surrounding the soldiers.

"Stuff a sock in it, Frostbite."

Back by the rocks, Jean stood up as Domino seemed content to take over the struggle of keeping Nathan stationary. Despite barely being coordinated enough to bring the ice cubes Bobby had left for him to his mouth without missing, Nathan had wanted to get up and walk around. Sam had tried cajoling, but Domino had been rather refreshingly straightforward and Nathan was now sitting truculently against the rocks, nominally watching Scott and Mirrin make their way slowly back to them. Nominally in that Jean wasn't sure Nathan could see much of anything. His one 'normal' eye had a dilated pupil and Jean had never been sure how clear the vision in the other eye was even under the best of circumstances.

Mirrin was holding on to Scott's arm, trying not to lean too heavily. Through her telepathic bond with Scott, Jean knew what had gone on while she had been occupied with keeping Nathan alive. She wasn't sure what to think of it. There had been such a strong element of calculation about it, yet while all of them - herself included - had knowingly thrown themselves in harm's way to save another... More and more, Jean realized that there was so very little of the happy girl she had known in the older version of Mirrin and she wondered if this was what Nathan had been like when he had first come back to this time - unable to put aside duty completely for any sort of duration, unwilling even. That Mirrin and Alex seemed to have reached some sort of understanding pleased Jean immensely in a weirdly maternal way. Although it didn't do much for her suspicion that her brother-in-law was completely incapable of starting a sane relationship.

"Oh, good," Scott said as they drew close. "You've managed to keep him off of his feet."

Jean smiled weakly. She felt terrible for Scott, although she was being careful about not letting any of that show in their bond. He and Nathan... It would have been nice if Scott could have simply hugged his son and expressed how unbelievably relieved he was that Nathan was alive and well again. It would have been equally nice if Nathan could have been generous enough to allow that to happen without turning the situation into something awkward. But they didn't, Nathan out of some persistent fear of emotional attachment to his father and Scott out of fear of being rejected. So they had grunted and nodded at each other, suitably manly gestures that were just so completely insufficient that even Domino had groaned.

"All right," Scott said, clearing his throat and almost visibly pushing himself back into Cyclops mode. "We're going to need to search this island to make sure there aren't any more soldiers hiding around anywhere."

"It won't matter," Mirrin said from where she had stationed herself next to Cable. She was standing up, literally unable to stomach sitting down, and was leaning against the rocks. "Without someone to control them, they're useless."

"Was Dawnsilk it?" Sam asked, standing up and dusting the sand off of his knees. He had never felt so awkward as when Domino and Jean had fussed over the newly conscious Cable. Cable's lover and his mother and Sam felt like he was intruding and had tried to back away until Domino had grabbed him by his utility belt and yanked him down, nearly tossing him on top of Cable (who was weak as a new-born colt and unable to fend him off) and telling him to tell Sam that he was all right. Which Cable had.

"Could there have been someone else?" Domino added, shifting so as to loom a little larger in Cable's peripheral vision. Sure, he was being docile now, but she didn't want him getting any ideas about participating now that they were talking strategy.

"Even if there is," Cyclops replied, "I still don't want any cyborgs wandering around here, even without a leash. This isn't even a populated island."

"There is no nest here," Mirrin replied, blinking rapidly to loosen the tape underneath her eye. "It was just a trap for us to fall into. I think we've encountered everything we're going to encounter."

"If you want, Ah can take a quick sweep around," Cannonball offered, gesturing up in the air. "Although Ah don't know that Ah've got such a great track record at spottin'... Bird Boy. We haven't found Bird Boy yet."

"Bird Boy?" Domino repeated, making a face.

"That kid that turned into a condor, the one Mirrin and Ah had a run-in with back before we came back to... you weren't here when that happened," Cannonball finished, awkwardly scratching at the back of his head.

"My best guess is that he is back in his human form and very confused," Mirrin replied, leaning down gingerly to take back her ion blade that somehow had ended up in Cable's clumsy hands and was being toying with by him. Cannonball had to swallow a laugh at Cable's disappointed reaction. "Dawnsilk was the only thing tying him to the Kurioon. Wherever he is, he'll be found by someone soon enough and it probably shouldn't be us. He is going to have very strange tales to tell."

"Well, keep an eye out for him just in case," Cyclops told Cannonball, who ran a few yards away before taking off so he didn't blow too much sand up in his wake.

"I'm going to help the boys go bury their parts," Jean said, standing up and gesturing towards where Havok and Iceman were melting each cyborg into a shiny lump.

"You have the energy for it?" Cyclops asked. "You've done a lot the last few days."

"It's all been delicate work," Jean replied, waving her hand vaguely. "I just want to smash something."

"Ooo-kay," Cyclops replied with a microscopic shrug as she passed him, patting his shoulder as she did.

"And then there were four," Domino said dryly as she eyed Cable, who had closed his eyes and was grimacing. "How's the headache, Nate?"

"If I opened my eyes," he said weakly, but more clearly than he had been speaking. "I'm sure I could see straight. But that's a sorely overrated skill."

Mirrin dropped herself slowly to her knees. "Let me in, Nat'an," she ordered, touching his forehead with her fingertips.

Cable grumbled something, but apparently did as he was told because a moment later, he sighed in great relief and said something that sounded like "Thank you" in one of the languages the two shared in common.

Domino tried not to smile outwardly at the sight of the two putting their foreheads together and Nathan clumsily embracing Mirrin.

"After we're done cleaning up," Mirrin was saying to Cyclops as Domino shook off her thoughts. "We can go back to real-time."

"Do you need to be anywhere to do it?" Cyclops asked. "Do you even have the strength to do it considering what..."

"What did happen?" Cable asked in a weaker version of that curious-but-demanding voice that Domino recognized. She swallowed a laugh. It was the one he used to use after one of the Pack would begin a report with 'Let me start off by saying that it worked out well in the end...' That brusque tone that was Nate being curious and not possessing enough diplomacy to be anything but forceful. You were in his inner circle when he stopped being concerned about how you might take things. And right now, considering all that had gone on in the last few days, Domino never thought she'd be so happy to hear so little tact.

She was already on her knees, so it was not much to crawl over to where Nathan was sitting and drop down next to him. While the move was mostly strategic - he couldn't get up if she was sitting so close as to almost be on top of him - any concern she might have had about displaying such open affection was wiped away when he put his arm around her shoulder and pulled her close so that her head was by his chest and she could feel his heart beat. He was definitely concussed.

"I took advantage of the restriction of the timestream," Mirrin said, talking to the others more than to Nathan. "The same arrogance that led to the Canaanites being able to master the construction of the Tinex led to their downfall. They can only go as far as the timestream will let them and no farther and until they learn to work within those parameters, they will never succeed."

"That's how the Askani work, isn't it?" Cyclops asked thoughtfully.

Mirrin nodded.

"How do we know Dawnsilk was the one in charge? What if she was just a higher level of flunky?" Domino asked, shifting to sit up a little more within Cable's embrace.

"Everyone's a flunky here," Cable explained, his voice weak but the thoughts behind it strong. "Everyone was disposable, even her."

"Earlier on, Nathan noticed some... uncanny coincidences with how the X-Men's strategies were being met - we were worried about telepathic spies," Mirrin reminded everyone. In the near distance, she could see the trio finishing up destroying the last of the soldiers. "While Dawnsilk was telepathic, her ability to so effectively counter our measures was due to her familiarity with Clan Chosen battle strategy. The Kurioon never fought like Canaanite soldiers. Dawnsilk was the only one making decisions."

A half-hour later, the group had re-assembled. Cannonball had reported back that he had seen nothing except a flock of very loud birds that seemed to resent his presence and Havok, Iceman, and Phoenix had adequately buried the remains of the Kurioon robots deep under the sand. Knowing when to call a fight over, Domino had allowed Cable to stumble to his feet and stagger a few yards back and forth.

"Ready when you are," Cyclops told Mirrin as the group joined hands.

"Let's go home," she replied. And the world shimmered.

***

Remy yawned loudly and stretched his arms over his head, checking the clock as he moved. Another hour before someone came to relieve him.

It seemed like an eternity ago that he had been chained to the monitor room chair while everyone else was off investigating the mysterious events that would eventually be identified as the Harvesters feeding. An eternity since he had wondered what sort of ominous task Mirrin - and he hadn't even known her name yet - could have had planned for him to repay her for plucking him out of Antarctica. An eternity since his greatest challenge was not showing any reaction any time Joseph and Rogue wandered through his path. Such concerns seemed so petty now.

He checked the clock again, as if staring at the second hand moving around over the picture of R2-D2 and C3PO (or wondering how the Star Wars clock had survived every home disaster the mansion had known) would either better acclimate him to local time or at least make the hour pass more quickly. He had dozed on the flight home, but because of all of the time zone changes, he was still unsure of how many days his body thought it had been awake without adequate rest.

Kitty, Piotr, and Kurt had flown back to Scotland with Meggan and Brian in the Midnight Runner and everyone else had crammed into the mini-jet and returned to Westchester, refusing Excalibur's offer to clean up, feed, and rest at Muir Island before continuing on. Any other time, a visit would have been welcome. But this time, everyone just wanted to go home.

The flight had been subdued, more so than might normally have been expected considering the worst of the casualties had been Nightcrawler's foot. More than could be explained by simple tiredness. Logan, Ororo, and Hank had split piloting duties (the latter two, actually, as Wolverine had run co-pilot for the entire trip) and the rest had either slept or sat quietly.

It was probably due to what they were coming home to, Remy thought to himself. An empty house. Betsy had checked the mini-jet's portable Cerebro unit, but there was no sign of the other team and that, more than anything else, had shut down the cheerful post-mission banter.

The silence had continued after they had landed and began the usual post-mission tasks - everything from checking the messages to taking out the garbage. Ororo had announced that she was going to attend to monitor room duties, but Remy had told her to get some rest and let those who had done nothing on the ride home earn their keep. And so after his shower he had picked up one of the sandwiches Warren was making for everyone - the leftovers from the roast beef that had been dinner the night before they had left was on its last legs and the resulting sandwiches were huge - and a bottle of raspberry seltzer and an apple and returned to the basement.

Five hours later, there was half a bottle of seltzer left and the minute hand was bisecting C3PO.

"Ah never could sleep well in the daytime," Rogue said as she walked into the small room and sat down in the other chair.

Remy started. He hadn't heard her approach - unthinkable considering his senses and her heavy gait - and wasn't sure whether he was more surprised by that or by her appearance at all.

"'S why I took first shift," Remy said almost-casually, not thinking for a moment that Rogue would buy it. "Best way t' get back on schedule is to go to bed at a normal hour."

Back in another lifetime, before Antarctica, before Seattle, before Israel, before everything, Rogue used to be a regular visitor when he had drawn overnight monitor duty. She'd give some lame excuse about insomnia - even though they both knew that Rogue could fall asleep at will - and they'd spend the rest of the shift together talking about nothing and enjoying the comfortable silences.

Remy always chose to look at those nights as quality time, Rogue staying up to be with him, rather than focusing on how they were safe times for her. There could be no expectations of her in a place neither built for comfort nor with any sense of privacy. Rogue could flirt and tease and never be expected to fulfill any of the offers she was making. There was no intimacy when you weren't sure whether your next interruption would come from someone barging in the door or the screen blinking on to show the face from someone at NORAD.

"Knew you were bein' more than selfless," Rogue replied, then looked momentarily abashed as she realized how that could have been interpreted.

Remy shrugged, the kind of casual shrug that meant that he took no offense. He suspected he's be doing that a lot for a while, at least with Rogue - brushing off accidental reminders and insults as nothing to be concerned about. Absolving Rogue of crimes both intentionally and unintentionally committed. That's how they worked. She was the one who was invulnerable and he was the one pretending not to get hurt. Because that's what he always did.

Remy honestly didn't think anyone else understood their dynamic. He wasn't sure if Rogue herself understood it, this strange mix of mismatched neuroses and half-satisfied desires.

Most of them thought it was a predator-prey setup, the thief of hearts toying with the untouchable woman. But Remy knew. He knew that Rogue needed to be coaxed out of her shell. He did it through teasing and innuendo, one part gentleman and one part scoundrel. Joseph tried to do it through terminal niceness, drawing upon Rogue's need to protect. And in the end, Remy was pretty sure which one of the two was going to be successful. It wasn't that he thought he'd win over Joseph, more that Joseph would eventually defeat himself.

What Remy was sure that Joseph really didn't get was that underneath the paralyzing fear that ruled Rogue's world was a passionate, free-spirited woman who didn't want nice - certainly not that limitless, benign geniality that Joseph offered. Rogue wanted to play with fire, even if she was so terrified of getting burned that she needed someone else to light the match. And Remy knew that he didn't have a single lock pick in his thieves' arsenal that could access that inner person, a woman who went by a name Rogue would never tell anyone and who Remy was sure could be the other half of his soul. If he could just get her to come out and play a little while.

"Ah...," Rogue began, then trailed off into a sigh. Her shoulders slumped and she looked heartbreakingly defeated. "Ah don't know why Ah did some of the things Ah did, Remy. And Ah sure as hell don't know how Ah could have said some of the things Ah said..."

In the pre-Israel life, while he had flirted and insinuated, parried, and cajoled, Remy knew all along that it was patience and a thick skin that was going to have to get him through. The former for surviving Rogue's tentative steps - she was so scared, so scarred - and the latter for dealing with her... lack of social grace. Getting emotionally involved with Rogue was like slow dancing with a hippo - you were gonna get your toes squashed a few times. You'd think with all of those personalities running around in her head that Rogue would have picked up a few pointers from them, but she hadn't. Rogue dealt with the voices she heard by ignoring them, throwing out the baby with the bathwater just so she'd be free.

That was probably the one thing about Rogue that still drove Remy up the wall in a not-good way: her refusal to look at her powers as anything other than a curse. Every other mutant he knew had found some sort of peace with their abilities - even Cyke. But Rogue wouldn't look for any bright side and thereby provided herself with her own damnation. He didn't necessarily wish that she'd be as in tune with her inner self as Storm was - now there was a woman Remy could fall for, if only he wasn't forever seeing in her the child he had first known - but until Rogue lost some of the self-loathing, she'd never win.

"'S'alright, chère," he offered, daring to reach over with his half-gloved fingertip and lift up her chin. "It's over now."

"Is it?"

"Ouai," he replied, nodding. Yes, he was lying to the both of them. But it was a lie for a good reason. Remy knew that this wasn't over, that it might never be over and might hang like a dark cloud over their relationship from now until forever, but he had to do this. Let Rogue off the hook one more time. Because of that never-ending self-loathing of hers.

Remy might hate himself for some of the things he had done in the past, but he knew there was more to himself than just a stupid kid who had gotten too far in over his head and then chosen the easy way out. Rogue, on the other hand, was convinced that there wasn't a part of herself that wasn't a weapon, that wasn't only capable of causing pain. So Remy had to hide his own just so she'd believe a little. A little lie for a little faith.

"Jus' don't expect me to not still love you, okay? Be from a distance, keep outta yours and Joseph's hair."

"How..." Rogue sputtered and pulled away from him, the chair wheels nearly screeching. "How can you say that after what Ah did to you? After how Ah treated you?"

"Tol' you it was over," Remy replied with a shrug, leaning over to hit the button on the 'don't fall asleep on monitor duty' buzzer. "Can't hold anyone responsible for what happened in Antarctica. Nobody was in their right mind. Not you, not me, not anyone."

And besides, deep in his heart of hearts, Remy wasn't sure he deserved the salvation that came along as a happy side effect of being Mirrin's entry into the X-Men. He sure as hell didn't think he deserved to freeze to death in Antarctica, but to be welcomed back - no matter how initially grudgingly - seemed too much somehow. As the beneficiary of unearned grace, he had an obligation to share it.

Rogue just stared at him in amazement. At least he thought it was amazement.

"Look, if you're feelin' that badly, jus' save up your guilt until the next time I do somethin' royally stupid, 'kay? 'S bound to happen."

She stood up, shaking her head slowly. "What did Ah do to end up with someone like you?"

"Make that sound like a good thing, chère," he chided lightly, keying in the numbers from the latest data scan.

"It is, Remy," Rogue breathed out as she touched his shoulder on the way out of the monitor room. "It is."

Forty-five minutes of thoughtful introspection later, a very groggy Psylocke poked her head through the monitor room doorway and said she'd be in to take over right after she got herself a cup of coffee.

Ten minutes later, freed from his duties, Remy changed into something more appropriate and rummaged through the fridge before picking up his motorcycle helmet. He was running on fumes - the first stop would be someplace to grab food more satisfying than the disturbing array of instant meals stacked in the freezer - but didn't want to sleep. He hadn't been lying when he told Rogue that he was planning on staying up until a respectable bedtime hour, even if it was going to be an unusually early hour for him.

Nearly tripped over Wolverine, who was sitting out on the front steps smoking a cigar.

"Goin' out for a ride," Remy explained as he put on his gloves. It was a warm evening, but still. "See some scenery other than desert 'nd eat some food that never saw a tin-foil wrapper."

Wolverine shrugged, as far as one could while leaning back on one's elbows. "You're a free man," he said with casual indifference, the kind that reminded Remy that he wasn't on a leash as far as Logan was concerned. "Stop by Harry's on your way back, 'f you want."

"Peut-être," Remy replied as he juggled his helmet and headed off to the garage.

He never got that far. He was closing in on Bridgeport, Connecticut when the light next to the speedometer that was the X-Men's emergency alarm started flashing. Remy hit the microphone switch and Psylocke's voice echoed in his helmet.

"We have communication with the Blackbird, Gambit. They're on their way home with everyone. ETA is eight hours."

***


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emergency alarm started flashing. Remy hit the microphone switch and Psylocke's voice echoed in his helmet.

"We have communication with the Blackbird, Gambit. They're on their way home with everyone. ETA is eight hours."

***


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