Split Souls: Chapter 1

by Puck

Summary: What do you do when the key to the possible downfall of all mutants doesn・t trust anyone? But there is one thing she always has trusted, something inside of her, something lonely and scared and something only few know about. This thing holds amazing power bound inside of a shattered mind. A mind that the world depends on.

Rating. R ・(for ongoing violence and ・adult・ situations)

Disclaimers: This is a story spawned from my own mind, and although that thought scares me more than I care to admit, it means that I own it. Helena and related characters also belong to me and you・re welcome to use them if you・d be kind enough to ask me beforehand. Thankyou. All other (or should I say all of the best) characters deservedly belong to marvel. I am a girl of few words, and even fewer notes in my bank account. Please don・t sue me.

This story exists in no timeline; it was just a heckova lotta fun and an excuse not to do any homework・ever. (Apologies to my teachers.) I am making no profit from this but I do hope that many of you enjoy it for what it is worth. Although I wrote this story for my own enjoyment, it would provide me with greater joy to hear your opinions or even comments that will improve further writing. Hell, if anyone・s got a storyline they・re not going to use, I・ll even have that! (I・m a little desperate on that front.) I will try my very best to reply・I promise.


The world is soon to end. It is soon to crumble from the inside out. All that hold it together will be corrupted. The very air will close in and crush all that it rests upon, the ground will turn on the oceans and the heat of the core will freeze.

It crumbles because of fear, because of hatred, of evil and selfishness. And because of love.

Yet there is hope. A hope that is scarred, a hope tired and fearful of life. And, as this story begins, a hope that is helpless.

Chapter One ・ Fire, take on flesh and bone.

He was slammed against the wooden wall. The vice grip tightening gradually, choking him. His mouth was open though it did him no good and only gargling escaped his throat as he struggled, he could feel the veins on his face rising up to pattern the skin.

・Don・understand English, monami?・ The man who held him, tall and incredibly strong, spoke in a heavy accent. ・Den maybe I try a differen・ approach, non?・

French? It sounded French and his eyes, though the room was a blur, were glowing red. The rest of his body was almost hidden in the dark of the room. Big, he was so big, yet had entered the room in such silence. His attacks were swift, though his body seemed as though it should be lumbering and clumsy. No, this man was professional.

Though he was hardly a man.

The grip on his neck was relentless. He couldn・t breathe, his eyes bulged and his mouth filled with the warm metallic tasted of blood.

The Frenchman exhaled a thick breath, the grip of his fingers tightened for a moment before they let go.

He plummeted to the floor, hearing the snap of his own arm as the bone shattered on impact. The searing pain came a few seconds later, he would have cried out, his mouth tore open, his voice desperately seeking escape. Yet it was quietened by the figure that now stood over him, eyes still blazing and huge fists clenched. He took time to breathe, clutching his broken arm. ・Who are you?・ He asked, anger boiled inside of him as he craned his neck, trying to be discreet in catching a glimpse of the third figure.

The scarlet glow of the Frenchman・s eyes faded and this time he spoke quieter, his accent not as strong. ・Name・s Gambit,・ he said, then his eyebrows lowered. ・I don・even wanna know yours.・

Slowly, the apparently named ・Gambit・ crouched down, his eyes now black though the red tint still remained. He was frowning in a way that would suck happiness from any man. It was clear ・he was in control. With movements as if he had all the time in the world, he slid his hand into the pocket of his trench coat, withdrawing it again with what looked like a plain card. An ace of diamonds, for want of detail, and as he held it between his thumb and forefinger, the card began to fizz, much like his eyes had, yet not half as intense.

The pink shimmer of the ace warmed his face as the Frenchman gently placed it on the sleeve near the broken arm; it smelt of burning matches.

・Don・move,・ he said. ・You do an dat little t・ing・s gonna fix your arm up d・hard way, compris?・

He couldn・t answer. He was so angry. So livid. ・Mutant scum,・ he seethed, his voice barely audible. ・Nothing but mutant scum.・

The mutant scum gave no acknowledgement to this insult, yet a small smile touched its lips. ・Sit tight.・ he winked, patting the broken arm harder than necessary.

Then he stood up, his top half devoured by shadow as he turned to the third figure.

She had watched it all from her corner, seen his strength, the strange glow of his eyes. And now he was facing her, her eyes were blurred with tears and she pressed her bare back harder against the wall, yet she could see him well.

Perhaps if she pushed hard enough the wall would collapse? She would escape; it was only wood after all. But she・d have to hide, she couldn・t run, her legs ached, her wrists were bound with thick rope and there was something・a collar? It was thick and tight over her neck. It had taken her only defence and was constantly flashing red, it lit up a small space in front of her with dingy light, moments later blinking out again and leaving the room almost pitch black.

She stole a look at him when the collar lit up. He was standing near to her, the murky light just accentuating his powerful silhouette. He was frightening, more so than the other man, the one who was propped up against the wall, a small glowing object on his arm. The limb looked broken.

The collar lit up again, he was nearer to her now, she could smell the mix of cigarettes and sweet aftershave as he shrugged the long coat from his shoulders, passing a cold rush of air over her naked frame as he tucked it around her. His demon eyes remained on her face. Sad, angry and sickened.

・S・get you outta here, eh?・ He said, his accent a mix.

Yet in response to this, there was a flurry of grunts and grumbles behind them as the man protested in the only way he could. ・You won・t・take・her,・ he spat, not daring to move and still holding the limb as if it would fall off if he let go. But despite his defeated position, his eyes were murderous, the left one twitching. ・She is mine.・

She felt a sudden hot boil inside of her, she wasn・t his, she belonged to no one, especially not him. Yet it was the mutant helping her that acted. His eyes had narrowed until they were nothing but glowing slits and his face seemed even older as he stood up with a dangerously carefree ease, curling around to face away from her. He reminded her of a cat, the way he moved, so calm and graceful, though his emotions were intense. Smothering her in a protective shadow, his stance was powerful. Just daring the other man to try anything, to speak again and therefore give a reason to be subjected to the pain he had dealt out this night.

Gambit was almost shaking, yet kept his cool and crouched in front of the injured man, whose features were tight with pain. His eyes, set close together, were hard and determined. He had, despite all things, very neat black hair yet a frown so deep it was as though lead weights were hanging from his cheeks.

・Can・t have her,・ he mumbled again, blood trickled from his lips. ・Little bitch is・is mine.・

Gambit・s eyes flared as he gave into his hostility. In a swift movement he swiped the card from his arm, tossing it aside so it made a small explosion on the floor. He hoisted the man up by the broken limb, smothering his anguished cries with a hand over his mouth. The light hanging from the ceiling shook dust from its dead bulb as Gambit slammed him against the wall.

He held him for a second of silence, milking with dignified delight the dread in the others face. ・T・ought I tol・you to shut up.・ He seethed, his eyes glowing with radioactive fury.

・None of your・business・mutant,・ the man wheezed, heavy breaths labouring his speech.

Gambit neared him until the warmth that oozed from his eyes smothered the other・s face; he still had a good grip on his broken arm. ・I jus・made it my business,・ he said calmly, collectedly, yet with a terrifying anger emanating from every line of his face.

The other man quietened, warm blood running over his chin as he quivered with pain. The shattered limb was finally released and the man quickly clutched it with his good arm, tears were gathering in his eyes and he slowly slid down the wall.

Gambit turned back, only to find that the girl looked more terrified than ever, and she was staring at him. Her eyes wide and unblinking and her hands clawing at the flashing collar. She looked to be in her twenties, yet the panic in her face and the way she now tore violently at the rope binding her wrists; she seemed like a child.

And Gambit felt more like a threat.

Easy does it・he took small steps forward, his hands were gently rising as if she was a cornered lion. She gave a sudden whimper and snapped her head up; one of her front teeth was bleeding where she had tried too hard to bite through the rope.

Tears fell from the outer corners of her eyes, creating smudgy patterns of the blood near her ears. She let her head fall forward again, her back arched as she inhaled, her breath broken as she exhaled again. She had given up.

Gambit took his chance and knelt in front of her, he was about half an arm・s reach away and could smell the unpleasant scent of sweat and blood mingled with the barest hint of her sweet perfume.

He threw a quick glance back at the other man who was still on the floor, mumbling to himself and prodding the broken limb like a child who didn・t understand why the arm wouldn・t move. Gambit saw it in the dim light of the man・s eyes: he was quite delirious.

He turned back to the girl who had her head resting against the wall, her eyes were closed in fatigue and Gambit・s stomach pulled in all directions as he took in her calm, and somehow beautiful pose.

He leaned forward a little, seeing her left eye open slightly. ・Chere?・ he began, his voice a whisper.

Her head turned, large, moist eyes flitting around the dark room as if hoping that it was all a dream. The disappointment showed in her face as she realised it was real once more, the pain gradually seeped through her body and she tensed, tasting the blood on her tongue, reeling from the stench of her own body.

Her head was tilted away from him, yet her eyes were strained to the side to be on his face, their surface impassive as she breathed slowly. Gambit drew in a silent, yet shaky breath.

・Ya wan・me t・help you?・ He asked prudently. ・I・ll get you outta here.・

Her face turned slowly towards him, the laggard movement was menacing despite her defeated appearance. As her cracked lips parted, her voice was dry, low, yet hiding a sweeter voice behind its rough sound.

・Try anything,・ she said, holding out her bounded wrists. ・And I・ll kill you.・

He moved at a gentle pace, trying hard not to inhale the vile smell, and pretending not to notice the way she quivered. She wanted to be in charge, and though there was no way she could over-power him in this state, he allowed her that power.

The rope tore easily and he slipped the small knife back into his boot, the girl began massaging the sore areas where the rope had chafed her skin. ・Better?・ Gambit asked, eyeing the collar around her neck as he spoke.

The girl nodded. But didn・t meet his eye. He was fierce looking up close, the loose strands of auburn hair that had escaped the band the rest was tied in, fell over his face, over the black of his eyes that were hinted with the slightest of scarlet rings. His arms were heavily muscled, his fingers keeping an easy grip on her arm. She dreaded what kinds of things he could do with that strength.

But he was talking softly, soothing her, his hands tenderly squeezing her shoulder where the worst slash was imbedded into her skin. He apologised as her arm gave a sudden spasm. But she didn・t wince, or make any noise, yet he found her wearily staring around the room, not paying the pain he knew she was feeling the slightest bit of attention.

・You a strong girl, chere,・ he said, feeling he had to say something positive towards her. ・I see dat already.・

She gave him a sudden hard glance, then clenched her jaw, the muscles flexed to match the hard appearance of her eyes. ・We・ll see,・ she said darkly, then wordlessly lifted her head to give Gambit a clear view of the collar on her neck. It was rather tight over her throat. ・You may wish to hurry up.・ She added calmly.

Holding up his hand to the collar, the tip of Gambit・s index finger fizzed a purple colour and girl exhaled sharply as the collar fell from her neck with a hollow thud on the floor.

・Little trick dis Cajun pick up on good ol・Genosha.・ He said, then got to his feet. ・Come on,・ he placed a gentle hand on her back and she grasped the other in a strangely strong grip. ・Let・s get you ・

Before he could finish, the girl pushed him backwards and the next thing he was aware of were the torturous screams of the other man as he was held against the wall, his chest smothered in a gradually tightening net of blazing fire.

Gambit looked to the girl, her eyes were round, flaming balls and even the cuts on her skin were oozing rich embers. Yet as she intensified the fiery hold of the victim, her face clearly showed her struggle, she was too weak and the collar had done its damage.

・I・ll kill you,・ she seethed, her voice inhuman, finally she let out a fatigued cry and the fiery net fell away, melting into black smoke as it hit the floor. The man collapsed, his body shaking as he gasped for breath, Gambit could see that one of his ribs was broken.

But then he noticed something else. In his good hand and with fingers clasped around the handle, the man on the floor held a long bladed knife. Remy stared for a moment, at the blade and the unconscious man. Realising with a jumble of emotions what had happened. This girl had just saved his life.

He looked up; she was on her feet now, hugging the wall as she shuffled out of the small, rundown place and out into the moonlit street. Gambit heaved himself to his feet and followed her as quickly as he could.

・Belle, stop!・ He called out.

・Leave me alone,・ she forced from a tight throat, her voice still too deep to be human.

With his coat wrapped firmly around her, she stumbled slowly along, grasping any available object to keep her failing balance. Gambit paused to briefly look around; there was no one to see her or, more importantly, no one to blame him for her current state.

He looked back at her, her determination to get as far away from anyone as possible was strong, yet her legs, weak and wobbly in their walk, were not happy with that idea and she fell from her feet, crying out as her bare knees hit the pavement. Gambit was quick to her side

・Don・t touch me!・ She shrieked, her words quickly diminishing into a fit of coughing. He took her wrist gently and helped her to hunch as she brought up what blood she had in her throat.

・Where you gonna go?・

・Home.・ She choked.

・You need ・ospital, chere.・

She jerked up suddenly and Gambit snatched back his hand from her now burning wrist. He looked up again to meet her stare and at once his stomach tightened. The sharpness of her discoloured eyes pierced him with a shivering feeling that he didn・t like at all. It felt as though something was holding his heart, as if threatening him with his own life.

・I told you,・ she seethed, in what was emerging as an English accent. ・I don・t need any help and definitely not a hospital, just・get away from me!・

Trying his best to ignore the feeling that grasped him, Gambit held her gaze for a moment, and then brought his eyebrows down sternly. ・No ・ospitals,・ he said, his hand returning to her cooled wrist. ・But I ain・t leavin・ you ・ere alone.・

She snatched her hand away and her eyes flashed. ・You really don・t give up, do you?・ she snapped irritably.

・I・m not leavin・ you ・ere,・ he replied sincerely. ・I・d never forgive m・self if anyt・ing ・appened.・

・I・m not a pathetic little girl,・ she scowled deeply. Aware of the fact that she was on the floor while speaking, she exhaled sharply.

・I didn・say dat,・ Gambit urged. ・I jus・wanna ・

・I don・t need you,・ she shouted finally, and forced herself to her feet. Almost immediently she fell again and cried out in frustration, thumping the pavement with her fist.

Gambit saw the blood oozing from her knuckles as she wept, her head bowed down. He had to admit he was unsure of what to do, and inhaled a shaky breath.

・Play it cool, Cajun,・ he told himself. ・She don・want t・be told what t・do・follow her lead.・

Silently, he lifted her chin and felt the tears that rolled off her cheeks hot and moist on his hand. They were silent for a moment. Gambit felt the threatening grip on his body shrink away and as he watched her trying so desperately not to break down into howling sobs. He dreaded the kind of feelings she was filled with.

His black eyes soft with pity, he brushed some stray hair from her face. She winced as he touched the bruise that darkened her cheek, but this time she didn・t pull away from his help.

・What ・as he done to you.・ He whispered, and a sob burst in the girl・s throat.

With no energy in her limbs and her head throbbing agonisingly, she hugged the stranger as tight as her weakened state would allow. Gambit knew that this was the only way she could say thank you. *** He found her apartment relatively easily about three minutes later. A swift charged card had attracted enough attention for the police to be rung by someone living nearby, and the man inside the small, derelict room wasn・t going anywhere fast. Gambit had decided to get out of the way after that. If this girl didn・t want to be seen in hospital, she didn・t want the police on her case. And he ・thief, assassin and mutant ・wasn・t in a place to question her why.

He looked up at the place she had briefly directed him to. The sleeping block of flats, half- dipped in shadow of the icy night, stood as silent as the Cajun was as he carried the now sleeping body of the girl up the gritty stone steps. He picked the lock to get inside, though he wouldn・t tell her that when she woke up.

Lying her lifeless body onto the bed, he carefully wiped the blood from her face, neck and arms with a damp cloth that was quickly stained crimson. The cuts and gashes, he noticed to his relief, had stopped bleeding. Perhaps some kind of a healing ability? He thought briefly, and threw the cloth in the bin, exhaling tightly at the sight of the suffering swollen onto her face.

He left her to sleep. Moving into the front room, he slid his back down the leathery chair that creaked beneath his movements. His head buzzed with emotion. Anger, disgust and an ever present sickness at the thought of her cries that had caught his attention in the street ・and saved her life.

He thought briefly about the man who had raped her, he hoped to forget that face, and the hope that he had died an ever painful death rose in the Cajun・s mind several times.

He lay his head back. Still waiting, he sighed, for a day in his life when the most interesting thing to happen was him choosing what underpants he was going to wear. A laugh rose in his throat, thin with lack of mirth. ・La vie est grande.・ He whispered to himself.

Gradually, he closed his eyes. *** The policeman scratched the back of his neck and looked at the lieutenant, whose hard demeanour demanded a thorough explanation. ・Fifteen minutes ago, sir. Gotta call from a local, says there was an explosion here and it looks like they were right.・

・Who・s the guy?・

・No name, sir, he can・t talk, broken jaw. Paramedic says it might take up to a week.・

・Injury report.・

・Clean break on the right elbow, burns to his thorax, damaged kidney, shattered rib and four major lacerations made from the same blunt object, all off them in need of stitches. He got beat up bad.・

・Victim or culprit?・

・Hard to say, he・s very much a victim, sir, but if he is the culprit then he did something major to piss off his attacker that much. He has bruises on each of his fists suggesting he got a few hits in himself, but whether or not it was an act of defence, I don・t know.・

・Anything else to report.・

The policeman looked back at the small building, smoke still seeped from the doorway. ・Two things, sir, clothing belonging to a woman, not sure who, she may have been involved somehow, possibly rape judging by the rips on the material. And a knife, unused, but with fingerprints. We・ll run some tests on the guy, see if he had anything to do with the weapon or the girl, whoever she was.・

・Good work, treat him and keep him in hold until he can talk. In the meantime put out a warning to everyone in the local, they need to know if someone capable of such damage is in the neighbourhood.・

・Consider it done, sir, though I imagine the person who inflicted this damage is long gone by now.・・ *** Gambit awoke sharply, his eyes fizzing and fists clenched to a point of pain.

He heard it again.

A wispy voice coming from no particular direction sent a shiver all the way down his spine. Yet when he swung around ・the room was empty. He stopped breathing. Listened. Ignoring his loose hair across his face that tickled his cheek. A large weight of fear rocked against his stomach as it spoke again.

-Leave- it hissed. It sounded female. ・ou are not ・needed ・here ・she is safe ・with me-

Gambit swallowed his fear. He didn・t believe in ghosts. That was bullshit Stormy was into ・after-life spirits and such. No, this was something else. He lifted his head.

・Who・re you?・ He asked, but the voice merely repeated the last senseless words again. Gambit grimaced in anger. Thinking of the girl. ・Y・did a real good job lookin・ after her t・night,・ he said spitefully, and in the strongest, quiet tone he could manage.

The voice growled a breath that was thick with pain.

-I was afraid ・ and I ・failed ・her ・it said weakly.

Gambit noticed a small plant by his side wither and die in the space of about three seconds. Feeling a strange twang of pity, his features softened. ・Seems like you did y・best, but I won・t leave her・・ He said back, as if he knew the voice well. ・She need my help.・

-No help ・of yours is ・needed ・please ・go ・we ・fear ・you・

Gambit held up his hands and glanced around the room continuously. ・You got not・ing t・fear・ he said to the air. ・I・m a friend.・

-Friend? ・

・Oui・a friend,・ He felt the voice shrink away. The hairs on his neck relaxed. ・Who are you?・ He asked again, he wouldn・t, couldn・t allow himself to sound afraid. The room suddenly heated up.

-I ・am ・her- It replied, eerie as before.

・And who・s she?・

-K-e-e-p-e-r- it drawled, and with a rush of power that caused Gambit to hug his arms hard around his chest.

・I・m here t・help,・ he insisted. The trembling of his body ceased and he exhaled as if he had just been released from a strong grip. The voice was quiet, was it thinking? Could it think? Soon its breaths filled the room again.

-Your worries ・ for her ・are strong ・hardly befitting ・for a thief ・

Gambit scowled, it had read his thoughts ・the one thing he really hated. He dug his hand into his pocket for the deck of cards he knew was there. The room heated. The voice exhaled a thick, threatening breath and he pocketed them again. What would he have done anyway? He couldn・t see what he was talking to, and whatever it was it probably didn・t play poker!

・I・s not d・same person I was back den,・ he said in surrender. ・An Gambit don・care what you gonna do・after what happened to her, I ain・t leavin・ dat girl ・lone.・

Suddenly a faint groaning caught his ears.

-Help・her- the voice asked desperately. Immediately, he didn・t care what the voice was and began moving towards the bedroom.

He pushed open the door then exhaled a choking cough. It was sweltering, like he had just walked through a wall into a bubble of humidity that smothered his skin in sticky heat. Now it hurt immensely just to keep his eyes open.

He looked to the girl; still asleep with her body wrapped in his coat, she trembled violently. Crying and twisting among the duvet that half lay on the floor. Gradually, he neared her, squinting his eyes to mere black slits, he outstretched a hand to her sweating face.

Before he knew it, she snapped awake and had a firm hold on his wrist, the burning grip causing him to cry out in pain. Her eyes were wide and pierced him with an almost feral look. But they softened just as quick.

・D-Daddy?・ She whispered, her grip loosened quickly and the heat withdrew from his skin. She was silent for a moment, drawing details from his face, her eyes wide and childlike, blinking repeatedly. Gambit shook his head.

・Ain・t y・poppa, chere. S・just me,・ he managed to say through clenched teeth, as he clutched his burnt wrist.

She let go fully at once. Throwing herself out of bed, she ran to the bathroom and promptly slumped her head over the toilet. Remy paused briefly to nurse the red, flaky marks now on his wrist, then followed her.

She jerked up as soon as he appeared at the doorway and shakily wiped the bile from the corner of her mouth. Remy stopped before her, holding up his hands in a cautious manner.

・You ・member me now?・ He asked daintily, and the girl, watching him as if he had a weapon in his hands, nodded tremulously. Then she looked down and tugged at the trench coat that smothered her body almost entirely, its end almost reaching the floor.

She was far from a beautiful sight to behold. Her sweat-drenched, gangly dark hair twisted around her bruised neck and her eyes, though large and prominent, were sunken, surrounded by shadows that paled the rest of her oval face. She kept her arms firmly around her body and he could see her cracked and brittle fingernails gently digging into the sleeves of his thick beige coat.

Noticing his watch of her, the girl looked towards the mirror at her side. Her reaction was obvious, and Gambit knew then that the reflection that stared, like a withered and sick old woman, was far from her usual look.

She looked away stubbornly and held the long fingers of one hand against her cheek. Gently, and using the bathtub for support, she lowered herself to sit down, trying her best to keep the tears from falling.

He knelt in front of her, a little too quick it seemed because as soon as he caught her fearful stare he was pushed back by something and a familiar feeling spread through him, threatening him not to harm her.

But this time the voice was joined with vivid pictures. Agonisingly, they flashed in his mind like slide show. Images of him crying in torture, blood roaring in his ears and flooding his throat. He hugged his stomach, pitiful coughs of anguish was all that emerged from his mouth as he felt the imaginary pain that something was mercilessly pumping into his mind.

Ripping back to reality, head thumping and sweat tickling his back, he saw that the girl was watching him, with eyes that he now noticed to be different colours. The right was a hard hazel while the left flashed a glamorous green. She stared for a while, her features drooped with sadness as she bit her bottom lip. ・I・m sorry,・ she said, her voice croaky yet incredibly soft. ・I know・you don・t mean・any harm・to me.・

Gambit pushed the images from his mind and was filled with relief at her words. Besides, if he did attack her, he・d be the one in trouble. Hell, he wouldn・t stand a chance. But the girl still held back, absently rubbing a hand over her grazed knee. Remy noticed she was shivering. ・Thankyou for saving my life,・ she continued in a staccato fashion.

・I had to, belle, couldn・t leave ya there ・lone. He was gonna-・

・-Kill me,・ she finished for him, her eyes squeezed shut as she shivered harder.

・Chere?・ Gambit enquired, and she gave a strangled breath.

・That・s what he wanted to do,・ she informed him, nodding her head. ・He said that he・d kill me because of what I am.・

・A mutant?・

She looked up slowly to meet the demon eyes, their ruby hints appeared darker in the bright light of the room. Eventually she nodded, then her eyes drifted closed. ・How can anyone be so disgusting? Why would he do this to me?・

Gambit hushed her, and she reluctantly accepted his comfort, lying her head on his shoulder. Lightly rocking against him and failing the fight against the tears that soon fell.

He brought her back to look at him, his eyes silenced her. ・I don・know why he would do dis t・you, chere, why anyone would,・ he said. ・But I t・ink d・fact dat he・s in jail and you・s alive proves dat you・re d・strongest ・o・ d・two.・

She took these words in and a rather forced smile met her dry lips. Remy helped her to her feet. ・You・s tired, chere,・ he said, not daring to wipe the tears from her cheeks. The girl inhaled a tight breath and nodded with small jerky movements.

・Yeah・tired,・ she whispered, childlike. Her eyes closed, releasing more tears. ・Cold, too・very・very cold.・

Gambit picked her up before she collapsed and carried her out of the bathroom. The bedroom was still blisteringly hot, but it was exactly what she needed. He・d manage, and he needed to stay near to her all night.

He lay her on the bed, tucking his coat tighter around her he sat rather uncomfortably on the floor; her hand clasped in his. He lay his head back against the wall, his body burning with heat but he didn・t care much, and from the strange yet glorious privilege that he felt at being this close to her, he saw that it was somehow a small price to pay.

Before he closed his eyes he heard something, a voice coming from no particular direction whispered in a tone that had soothed with contentment.

-Thankyou- it said, and Gambit felt a smile on his face as he looked at the sleeping features of the girl. Beneath the bruises, her skin was milky and her cheeks were patterned with a few delicate freckles.

He felt a gentle smile on his lips and closed his eyes. ・Y・welcome,・ he replied, half asleep as he did so.


The girl awoke slowly next morning and rolled lethargically out of bed. She felt sick, she could feel her arms purple with bruises and her leg muscles ached with internal agony. Her jaw still hurt, but her face was its normal size and she carried herself, with as much dignity as she could manage, to the bathroom.

She stayed in the shower for a good hour, most of the time just standing, letting the boiling water fall over her and drench her hair that twisted over her bare shoulders. She breathed slowly, the skin on her body red and bleeding in places where she had scrubbed so hard that the surface cracked, she let the water carry away the sickness she could feel all over her, in a pool of pink water.

The apartment was quiet and the strange mutant wasn・t there, she wasn・t disappointed. Though grateful for what he did, she really wanted to be alone.

Suddenly the door clicked open behind her, swinging around fearfully and with fire at her fingertips she backed into the back of a chair. Then paused at the familiar figure that stood at the entrance, he held up one hand as the other was carrying a brown paper bag.

・Don・shoot,・ he said, and the girl scowled.

・That・s not funny,・ she frowned, and Gambit was now certain of her English accent. With a hidden smile, he closed the door in a way that revealed the red burn on his wrist. The girl・s face twisted into a grimace. ・I did that, didn・t I?・ she said cautiously, Gambit followed her guilty eyes then shrugged one shoulder.

・Don・matter, petite,・ he replied, half a grin on his face. ・Dis ol・Cajun had worse.・

He swore he saw the thinnest of smiles pass her lips. Yet it was quite difficult to see much, considering the distance she had cleverly arranged between them. ・You hungry?・ She asked, hiding her want to be alone as best she could. But Gambit held up the brown paper bag in his hand and cocked his eyebrows. ・Way ・head of y・chere.・ He grinned, and she narrowed one eye.

・I do have food here, y・know?・ she said, taking a hand off the chair and pointing a thumb to her kitchen. Gambit laughed quietly.

・Yeah, I t・ink I saw some among de hoards o・chocolate in der.・ The girl surprised herself as she laughed out loud and she held a hand to her mouth, eyes playful for the first time.

・Gotcha somet・ing else, too,・ Gambit continued, his smile grew with her own. ・Help wit de pain.・

She pulled a smallish tube of antiseptic cream out of the bag and read the back. He eyed her for a moment and smiled slightly. From the beaten, quivering and very unbeautiful girl he had saved just the previous night had developed a witty and almost nice looking woman. She wasn・t tall, yet her figure was still enticingly long and curvy. And although her hard look demanded respect, her perfect shaped face, decorated with slender eyebrows, full lips and a freckles across her nose that he could only describe as ・cute,・ made it insanely difficult to say anything negative about her.

Not to mention her eyes, he found them intriguing; sometimes it was like they were different in ways other than colour. While one twinkled with thankfulness for the tube of medicine she was reading, the other remained hard and fearless. Gambit felt a sudden impatience to know what this woman looked like when in full health.

・Thankyou,・ she said eventually, her voice sweet.

・Just for the cuts y・got,・ he replied, trying hard not to remind her too much of the previous night. He discretely closed the distance between them then looked at her closely. ・How you feelin・ now?・

The girl suddenly coughed another unexpected laugh. ・Have you ever drunk so much that a mere light-bulb can provide hours of amusement?・ She asked, and Gambit gave a chuckle of his own.

・Oui,・ he replied, feeling greatly relaxed at her humour.

With an exhaled smile, she signalled for him to hold out his arm, he obeyed and she spread the thick cream over the burn on his wrist. ・Do you remember the morning after?・

Gambit sucked the air through his teeth, wincing. ・Unfortunately.・ He said, his voice tight, not so much at the pain, but at the shivery feeling her hand passed over the skin of his whole arm. He kept quiet and the cream soon numbed the wound into a cool tingle, he thanked her, wrinkling his nose at the sharp smell of the medicine.

・Better?・ She asked, the fakeness of her humour just beginning to show as her lips drooped slightly. She let go of his arm at the soonest moment, Gambit could see she didn・t like to be touched. Though he was hardly blaming her.

He rotated his shoulder once; his smile had diminished with her own. ・Y・gotta healers touch, belle.・ He said, though he probably shouldn・t have.

She looked up at him, and it seemed that she knew already what affect she had on people, especially men, when she touched them. She didn・t respond to his complement, but was quiet, any traces of the brief humour she seemed to have had gone and Gambit subconsciously rubbed his arm. ・Y・wanna talk ・bout it?・ He asked prudently.

She glanced at him, then shook her head as she busied herself washing her hands. Gambit pulled the sleeve of his black shirt over his arm and leant against the doorframe.

・I don・wanna pressure you, chere-・

・Then why are you?・

・Tryin・ ta help, is all.・

・Well, you・re not.・

・Y・know, it・s better t・talk ・

・I don・t・want to talk about it.・ She urged, the stress of her words adding a sharp tint to her accent. ・Look, I・m grateful for what you did last night. Hell, I owe you my life. If you hadn・t have come along then・・ she quietened. ・I mean・he・・ she couldn・t finish. Gambit understood and placed a comforting hand on her shoulder, ignoring her wince at his accidental strength.

・Lets jus・leave it at t・anks, eh?・

She managed a weak but positive smile and nodded, discretely slipping her shoulder from under his palm. ・Thanks.・

・Any time,・ Gambit said, noting the purple bruise on her cheek tighten as she clenched her jaw. ・You ok?・

・Cold,・ she replied plainly, then walked from the window.

・Mebbe I can help you?・

The girl looked back at him with a sceptical look. Shaking her head she exhaled. ・Don・t make promises, stranger・you don・t know half of what I・ve been through.・ Gambit quietened for a moment, watching as her graceful figure shifted uncomfortably. ・What are you staring at?・ She asked him with stern, yet Gambit could sense the shyness in her voice.

・Listen, chere, I・m not gonna pretend I know what you・s goin・ through, fact is I・m scared t・think how you・s dealin・. But y・seem t・be, an・ dat ain・t somet・ing most folks can do-・

・-Is this going anywhere?・ She put in sharply, yet Remy could see the effect that his words were having.

・You a beautiful girl, belle, inside an・ out. An・ no matter how much you try wit・ d・spiteful words and d・whole, ・I don・need nobody,・ t・ing・you can・t hide it.・

She looked away, but it was far from a flattered smile on her face as she pulled on a thick jumper. ・I・m not beautiful,・ she said, hiding her features from his eyes.

Gambit snorted. Pulling a photo frame off the shelf buy his side, he placed it in her hands. On the picture were two figures standing outside what looked like a mountain log cottage. The girl stood out most, her young face a mask of pretty features with a complexion that models would kill for. Her long hair was tied loosely in a French plait and her smile, combined with the colourful flash of her eyes, was the first thing to catch anyone・s eye.

Beside the girl, an elderly lady stood at least a head shorter than her. Her face was creased into a happy smile and her large glasses were white from the sun・s glare. She had a short arm wrapped around the waist of the girl who was returning the half-embrace as if she had never known unhappiness.

Gambit sniffed absently, placing a light finger over the picture of the girl before him, a smile met his lips. ・If dat ain・t beauty, chere,・ he said. ・Den dis Cajun scared ta find out what is.・

Her cheeks reddened, yet she pretended to ignore his comment and smiled indifferently. ・My grandmother,・ she said, tracing a finger over the picture with love in her eyes. ・She used to say that I was the most beautiful girl that she knew, too.・ She looked up at Gambit, her eyes holding him with a comfortable grip. ・But do you know what the difference between her and you is?・ Her face-hardened as she finished: ・She knew me,・ she pushed the photo frame into Remy・s chest and shook her head. ・You, on the other hand, don・t.・

She turned and approached the door, opening it stubbornly for him to leave. ・Gambit don・need to know you, belle.・ He said, and she closed the door again, a little harder than she intended.

・Gambit?・ She asked, her face twisted in puzzlement. ・Please tell me that isn・t your real name.・ He looked away, cursing himself for being so careless. The girl took another step forward and spoke threateningly. ・Who are you?・ He didn・t reply straight away, and she searched his face.

・Gambit not dis Cajun・s real name,・ he said quietly, as if she was considering that it was the name he had been christened. ・Friends call me・Remy Lebeau.・

・Ok, Remy,・ she said impassively. ・Where have you come from?・

Gambit sighed. ・Gambit tell you dis cos he trust you, kay?・

She didn・t say anything, she only nodded slightly and he told her everything about himself, wisely leaving out the name of the team and its members. The girl listened with interest, or disbelief, Gambit couldn・t tell. Yet she nodded occasionally to let him know that she was at least listening. ・・Dat・s bout all of it,・ Gambit concluded, and noted the surprise in the girls face.

・Okay,・ she drawled, her face looking as if he had just told her he was from another galaxy.

Gambit eyed her for a brief moment of thought. ・You don・t believe me?・

・I didn・t say that,・ she butted in. ・It・s just・・ she lifted her shoulders to her ears in a half-stretch, ・・not exactly what I was expecting you to say, that・s all.・

Gambit quietened as his mind became clouded in thought. ・Why don・tcha come wit Gambit now, eh?・ He said suddenly. ・De Professor・d like you...might be able t・help y・too.・

The girl seized up noticeably, her eyes brightened yet her mouth fell a little. ・Oh...I don・t・think that I・d be welcome in a place like ・

・-Oh, c・mon,・ Gambit hushed her in a pressing way that dampened her smile. ・We welcome all mutants there.・ He looked down at the street below. ・My guess is dat it ain・t gonna be much time b・fore everyone ・ere knows what you are. So what you got left?・ The girl looked around at her home, and frowned.

Looking back at him, she sighed though her nose. ・Alright, listen...・ she closed her eyes briefly and inhaled. ・I・ll think about it・but right now it・s just・・ she searched for the right words.

・Too soon?・ Gambit finished for her, and she looked at him with a sorry face.

・I・d like to be on my own for a while,・ she said, her voice soft again. ・After what happened, you know?・

Gambit nodded once, then approached her. ・Gambit never tell you what t・do, belle, you decide when you ready,・ he said. ・You・re d・only one who can.・ Taking her wrist in a gentle grip, he placed a stiff piece of paper in her hand and closed her fingers around it. ・Gambit・ll be der.・

She kept her fist clenched and eyes firmly closed, he released her hand and walked to the door, then stopped. The girl, still with eyes closed, sensed his desire to say more and so waited patiently for his words.

・You got power, girl,・ he said seriously. ・Power dat I feel soon as I walk through the door. Scared me at first, ・til you trusted me - an・ dat・s somet・ing I wanna keep, your trust. But you prob・ly wanna keep a low profile, don・wanna scare ya too much, but if some people found out ・bout whatever power it is you got・dey・ll want more dan just y・friendship.・

She turned to him and held his stare for a moment before nodding understandably. ・Thankyou,・ she said before he had chance to leave. ・For everything.・

He smiled, and nodded, then he left, leaving behind a strange silence around her.

The girl brought her eyebrows down and looked at her ghost-like reflection in the windowpane, his last words in her head as she hugged her stomach tight as she could. She did scare people. That was why she was alone. Confined and scared. Not pathetic, mind. She would never allow herself to be pathetic. Not again.

Silently she walked towards the glass. Watching the mutant that had saved her life, cigarette in hand and no doubt a smile on his face as he walked from her home, she gently unfurled the long fingers of her right hand. A playing card sprang up in her palm, the flat picture of a distorted queen of diamonds printed on the front.

Flipping it over she found that he had scrawled, in perfectly literate writing, the address of the place she had just been offered to call home. Chapter two ・A grave misunderstanding Four nights later and Jean Grey strained to keep her concentration, pulling cerebro clumsily from her head; she ripped away from the night air that she was searching. Thick curls of fiery hair fell over her face as she held a palm to her forehead. Scott held her arms to steady her out, his eyes glowing with fierce worry beneath the red shade of his glasses.

・Such・power,・ Jean was mumbling. ・Remy? But・who?・ eventually Scott had to shake her softly to make any sense of her. ・Heading this way...Scott, get the others!・


Jubilee crowed with delight as the small white ball disappeared into the goal of the table, Gambit sighed a laugh then dropped his head. ・Gambit train you a little too well, eh?・ He said, and Jubilee grinned at him.

・Jubilee・Gambit!・ Storm・s well-refined voice sounded over the communicator on the table at Gambit・s side and even by her standards, she sounded very tense.

・Both ・counted for,・ Gambit replied, tossing the ball back into play as if nothing urgent was going on.

・This is serious, Remy,・ her voice spat, and Remy was rather taken aback. ・Sector ・F・, we need your help. Now!・

The two mutants moved immediately.

It was quiet when they reached the specified sector and Jubilee raised her eyebrows. ・So・what・s goin・ on?・ she asked, prepared to give her ・you brought me down here for this?? ・face. Yet she barely managed to finish her sentence before a shudder overtook her whole body and she hugged herself. Gambit felt it too, and two words found themselves to his lips.

・Mon dieus,・ he whispered.

・We・ve lost her,・ Jean said worriedly, ・I don・t know how, she・she just・・ she grimaced. ・Evaporated.・

Scott did a sudden sweep of the room, his optic blasts tearing the bricks from the wall. ・She can・t have disappeared,・ he said sternly. ・And where・s Storm?・

Just as the words left his mouth, a painful cry echoed around the room. The wall behind them exploded outwards and Storm landed hard on the floor, her golden face tightened with pain and a long line of blood tracing down one side her cheek, she rolled over and supported herself with one arm while wiping the blood away with slow movements. Her eyes were murderous.

Jean rushed to her side, yet fell back as harsh winds came up, swirling around the goddess and whipping her hair. She was on her feet and her eyes, glowing blue with fury, watched the dark hole in the wall.

The others followed her stare, amongst the dust and blackness of the gaping hole, two fiercely glowing eyes were all that could be seen. Soon, each of the X-men was doubled over as a violent buzz ran through them.

It seemed only Storm was able to take it and from the winds that tore at the room, bright flashes of lightening ripped through the air. Yet as they came near to the hole where the red eyes remained, a light even brighter than the electric forces pushed outwards, engulfing the goddess・ attack then slinking back to where it came from.

Storm・s face dropped as a low pitched growling emerged from the darkness of the hole, followed moments later by a large mass of fire shaped as a lion. Its sleek body was shimmering with embers and its mane was wild and spitting flame. It paced forwards; and the others began to notice the occasionally fizz of electricity sparking on its fiery fur.

It stopped before Storm, whose face was slack, and slowly the creature crouched down, its lips dripping with flame and its embered claws sharp for the kill. Scott was the first to jump forward, an optic blast passing straight through the animal, as did Jubilee・s sparks, and Jean・s attempts to lift it with her mind were in vain.

The lion・s mouth ripped open, a loud and shuddering roar torte from its throat. Yet before it pounced, there came a plain, impassive female voice:

・Stop,・ it said, and the fiery animal did so, backing up it sat down and began licking its huge paws. ・I didn・t come here to fight any of you,・ the voice said. The lion looked suddenly to Gambit, its hazel eyes piercing and strong. ・Yet I do make the occasional exception.・

Gambit exhaled sharply, looking to the crumbled wall where the two red eyes remained still. If he squinted he could just make out a faint outline of her body, hanging back in the darkness.

He failed to get any words out as he felt a familiar grip take hold of his gut, while a hissing voice cried out in his mind, blocking every other sound him from his ears.

・Liar,・ It cried out, and he clutched his stomach as he fell to his knees. He couldn・t see; the darkness was pressing against him, his body was being jerked and mind torn open, thoughts being scooped up and tossed aside as if they were nothing but sand. He was dying, it would soon be over, he prayed it would be, the pain was overpowering, thousands, millions of pins, sharp, sleek pins were seeking past the surface of his skin. Over soon, he was thinking・soon.

Jean knelt beside him; her hands held his arms as she kept half an eye on the girl.

・Remy, what is it?・ His eyes were forced up into his head, and Jean couldn・t make out his words that he choked through a throat tightened with pain. She was shaking him gently, saying his name though it seemed he could not hear her voice. She closed her eyes, reaching out with her others, the eyes she kept inside her head to see past exteriors. These eyes pierced his unshielded mind, and she couldn・t help but scream.

She couldn・t distinguish him, his usually long, auburn hair was now severed and patchy and the scalp that could be seen was raw and blistered. He was chained by his broken limbs to the black surroundings with his head lolling uselessly against an open chest, blood pouring from his eyes and ears. His mouth, almost hidden beneath the bloody mass of his face was open to cry out yet only thick, black clots found their way from his throat.

Jean snatched herself back and fell, shivering all over and weeping silently. Gambit suddenly fell back too, breathing deeply with convulsive coughs; his hands raking his chest for the wounds he swore were there. He forced himself back from the darkness, his head pounding furiously and his heart beating so harshly he felt it might explode.

He could feel her nearby and looked to her whereabouts. His body was weak, yet no pain tore through him and he fell as silent as the room, watching.

The smoke lingering around the hole in the wall parted neatly and she finally stepped out from the shadow with the slow grace of a goddess, the fire in her hair made the strands flick out behind her as if she were running.

Gambit looked up, his eyes distantly roving over her face; he ignored the bile that rose in his throat.

She was watching him intently and he was not surprised to see that she was wearing his long, beige coat. Her face, now healed, was twisted in uttermost anger and fire licked hungrily at her hair, flaring at her fingers that were just visible beneath the long sleeves. The large Lion sat by her side and she idly scratched it behind the ear. Remy swore that it was smiling scornfully at him.

・Hello, Remy,・ she said, in a voice that seemed to come from everywhere at once. She dropped the coat from her shoulders and threw it onto his chest. Gambit could feel the quizzical glances from the other members of the team. ・Catch you at a bad time?・

・Salut, chere,・ he replied with difficulty, his strength only enough to allow him to sit up. ・Ca va?・

He fell back a little, catching a scowl on her face as he did so. With a casual flick of her wrist, the other mutants were tossed aside, landing like rag dolls on the floor. Storm was finally unconscious.

Gambit swallowed hard as she stepped towards him, her eyes had returned to normal and bathed him in murderous scrutiny. ・I・m a little confused, actually,・ she said, looking down at the fiery animal that was crooning at her touch. ・You save me, care for me, then invite me to a place where you say I can be helped and be helpful. But when I get here, you and your friends attack me.・ She grimaced, now crouched by the lion that lifted its head as she rubbed it under the chin.

Gambit had to speak. ・Chere, I ・

・-Quiet,・ she put in. Her voice was calm yet Gambit shut his mouth immediently. ・You hurt me, Remy, doesn・t that mean anything to you?・

・Don・say dat, femme, de last t・ing I ever wanna do is ・urt you. You know dat.・

She stood up to full height, her face unconvinced she looked away. ・I had a father once,・ she continued, her eyes now distant, thoughtful as she stared around. ・And when I was younger, he told me that I should always repay favours, and that・s what I・m going to do.・

・Belle ・

・You hurt me, I hurt you, doesn・t that sound fair? I didn・t want to do that to you earlier, Remy, cause you that pain even though it wasn・t real. But I don・t like being hurt, being used. You above all people should know that about me.・ Gambit stopped breathing for a second as he remembered. ・I came here because you invited me,・ she continued impassively. ・Because when you said I would be welcome here・I actually thought you were telling the truth.・

・-Der・s bin a mistake, Belle,・ he interrupted strongly, despite his fearful position. ・Dey t・ought you was a threat ・

・Shut up!・ She yelled, and Gambit felt himself tossed backwards until he landed heavily on the floor again. She was soon stood over him and grabbed his shirt with two firm hands. Her eyes brimming with tears that made the colours in them sparkle menacingly. ・I・m tired, Remy,・ she breathed ・・I・m tired of being lied to, I・m tired of being used・and I・m tired of putting my trust in people who stab me in the back first chance they get!・

He grabbed her hands as they held him, yet his skin blistered and he cried out. Tearing the flesh from his fingertips as he snatched them back, he felt the grip on his burning shirt tighten even more.

・What was in it for you, huh?・ She demanded, and he began to feel the heat on his collarbone. ・The satisfaction of making what・s left of my sorry life just that little bit more like hell?・ She dropped him to the floor and wiped the mascara stains from her eyes. ・Don・t you get it, Remy?・ She seethed finally. ・I actually trusted you!・

Gambit was silent. The images of her earlier attack still fresh in his mind and body, he glanced back at Jean whose hands were still shaking violently. He almost couldn・t believe his own calmness and he knew that Jean wouldn・t understand his attitude, but he now knew what the girl meant when she said that he didn・t know half of what she・d been through. He wasn・t sure he wanted to know any more. But how could he have possibly lost her trust that quickly, after it took him so long to gain it?

He looked up at her; she was stood completely still, her arms folded tightly as she watched every move the other X-men made. A threatening glow in each eye oozing with a calm vigour that was completely fearless to the chance of another attack. The lion, still by her side, matched her gaze and was staring at Remy, he had a feeling she could see through the animal・s eyes at the same time as her own.

・Please, chere,・ Gambit continued to plead, and as she turned her head slightly he caught the fiery glow of her eyes. ・You don・gotta do this・you lost your faith in me, I see dat now・but dese guys・re innocent an・ I promise dey won・t hurt you again・if ya wanna take a shot at someone, den take one at me・only me.・

She looked over her shoulder at him, her eyes softening as she remembered what he had done for her four nights ago, she subconsciously rubbed the remaining bruise on her arm. Her glance switched to the others, none of them would have a chance against her and neither would Gambit himself, yet he was telling her to take out her anger only on him ・not his friends ・he didn・t want them to suffer.

Her body flooded with jealousy and she turned to face him, guilt and remorse clouding her eyes.

・You would・die for them?・ She asked tremulously, and Gambit felt his stomach lurch with emotion, she had never known love like that and it showed clearly through her softened eyes as he nodded sternly at her question.

・Oui, chere,・ he replied quietly. ・A thousand times.・

・You・re lying.・

・Try me!・

She seemed rather taken aback with this sharp response and was silent for a moment, her face hard in thought and her fists clenching and unclenching repeatedly. It was disbelief that marred her face and Gambit waited in fearful anticipation for her response.

Slowly, the girl lifted her eyes, her lips parted, quailing as if words were trying to clamber from her mouth. ・I・・ she began, then quietened, her head lowered and as it did he fiery lion slowly melted into smoke. Gambit gradually smiled as, with small movements, the girl stepped towards him.

But as she gingerly held out her hand to help him up, Scott awoke. His mind full of the images Jean was still shaking over, no one could stop him before he attacked. Remy cried out but the girl jerked around and Scott was plummeted to the floor again with an agonising groan. Jean was quick to his side and the girl glanced confusedly at each of the mutants.

She turned to Gambit who was still on the floor, every feature of her face hardened. ・Who am I kidding, Remy?・ She spat disgustedly, slowly taking steps backwards. ・Who are you kidding? I could never be part of what you have. I can・t trust any of you.・

Suddenly she yelped in her own surprise and the sound of grating metal echoed around the desolate room. The Cajun forced himself to his knees to see the burly figure of Wolverine crouched over the girl who was still beneath his weight.

She looked up, firstly aware of two brilliantly blue eyes that returned her stare. Momentarily paralysed, warm breath seeped over her face as the man who held her spoke.

・Didn・think a pretty thing like you・d be the one making all this mess.・ He said, and she kept aware of the three metal claws that sprang unexpectedly from the back of his hand. They must have been around ten inches long, each of them clean and deadly sharp. The sleek metal caught the light, hurting her eyes while she felt the blood that they drew trickle warm over her cheek.

But she was completely silent, what was she doing? Gambit brought his eyebrows down; he knew what she could do to Wolverine if she wanted. Logan would have little chance, yet she wasn・t moving at all. He sensed Logan・s confusion, and forced himself up.

・Don・urt her, Wolverine!・ He shouted sternly. ・She・s not a threat!・

Logan loosened his grip on her arm and watched her cautiously; her eyes were looking away. ・No offence, darlin・, but after what I just saw you doin・ ・I ain・t gonna believe that very easily.・

Silently, and with a pitiful look on her face, she looked directly up at him. Immediently, Logan felt his whole body shiver, the pure emotion that bled from every gentle line on her face created a ripple down his spine and he lifted his weight slightly from her.

・Who are you?・ He asked seriously, in a whisper that he knew none of the others would hear. The girl turned her head to one side, pressing her cheek harder against his glinting claws.

・Nobody important,・ she replied impassively, her eyes were squeezed shut as more blood flowed down her face. He retracted the sharp ends immediently and the girl gave an angered growl. At once, she lurched forward and grabbed his wrist in a strong grip, her face was so close to his he could smell the moisturiser cream on her skin.

・You・re weak if you will not kill me, old man,・ she seethed challengingly; her face was no longer sad or innocent and their lips were practically touching when she spoke.

Logan growled at her words, she had played on his weakness and a single claw slid from his other hand. The girl quietened and tilted her head up to reveal the chalky skin of her throat; tears, not of water but of tiny embers, fell from the outer corners of her eyes as she prepared herself.

Logan quickly retracted the claw and looked at her sternly. She was being serious and now stared back in something close to disappointment at his unwillingness to end her life. She jerked forward to attack again and Logan held her arms to stop her.

・What are you waiting for?・ She cried out, trying in vain to move her arms against his strength. Soon she became heavy as she gave up her fight, reduced to breathless tears. Loosening his grip on her wrists, Logan remained quiet as she slumped, her head bowed down as she shivered gently. He could smell the salty tears that now fell from her eyes, but passing an even stronger shiver through his body was her words as she wept on his shoulder.

・I・m sorry,・ she whispered, her voice hoarse and thick. ・I・m so sorry.・

Logan was silent and his mind was jumbled with emotions as she leant into him. He glanced over at Jean who was already doing what he was about to suggest. Finally, the redhead slipped into the girl・s mind and put her to sleep.

Logan inhaled deep, holding her doll-like body in his arms; he left wordlessly for the infirmary.

Gambit thumped his fist into the floor and swore out loud. ・Why, Cyke?・ He scowled at Scott, who was crouched over Storm・s beaten body. ・She didn・do nuthin・!・

・And you know her, do you?・

・Yes・you don・know half o・what she bin through! She saved my life d・other night, dat・s why I invited her here・what kinda welcome d・ya t・ink dat was for her, huh?・

・Jean confirmed a highly powerful mutant on the premises, Gambit,・ Scott replied, quite calmly. ・We were taking precautions ・not half because she was wearing your coat ・she must of thought that we meant to attack her, so she fought back.・ Picking up Storm・s limp body, Scott walked past the Cajun, then stopped. ・I・m sorry.・ He said.

Gambit was silent. Chapter three ・Curiosity and dark clouds Logan leant against the infirmary wall, his arms folded as he watched Jean at the side of the girl・s bed, her hand hovering just above the sleeping figure・s forehead and her eyes closed in firm concentration. Gambit walked up behind him, his heavy boots giving him an obvious presence. His face was severe and a black T-shirt replaced the previous one he was wearing. Logan gave the slightest turn of his head to acknowledge the Cajun・s presence.

・She shouldn・t be doin・ that,・ Gambit said irritably, flicking the deck of cards that he held in one hand. ・Dat girl・s dangerous if she don・t trust you・skin dat・ll burn t・rough rock when she・s threatened.・

Logan knew this was true, that was the reason why Jean wasn・t touching the girl・s skin. She had learned not to do that the hard way.

He turned to the Cajun, the twist of his mouth suggesting a change in what he was about to say. ・She don・t trust you, does she?・

Gambit・s throat tightened, angry at this statement, but he looked to the girl and his mouth dropped at the corners, the trapped breath escaping from his nose in a reluctant sigh. ・Non, mes・ami・she don・t.・ He rubbed the skin on his collarbone that was itching irritatingly. ・But don・get Gambit wrong, Wolverine・when she ain・t tryin・ t・kill ya・dat girl somethin・ else.・ He finished plainly, allowing Logan to decide what kind of relationship the Cajun held with the girl.

Logan・s face gradually tightened with a question that Gambit had been expecting. ・You seem ta know the girl, Cajun・what・s she really bin through?・ His eyes didn・t move from the bed. ・You said ta Cyke that he doesn・t know half of it.・

Gambit sucked in his bottom lip. ・Gambit don・know d・half of it eid・er, monami, but dis Cajun sensin・ dat it ain・t good.・ Logan・s stern face demanded more than that, but Gambit inhaled sharply. ・Y・feel dat?・ He asked, with a glimpse of a smile. ・Dat・s true power f・sure.・

Logan growled deeply at the obvious change of subject, but didn・t press on it and nodded in response. He could feel it ・as he had felt it before. It was a strange shivery buzz; he couldn・t give a word for it, yet the feeling of true honour was constant. It was like he was meeting someone really famous and the thrill was never ending. This girl was special, he thought, very special.

Gambit watched him quietly. ・She had effect on you too, mon・frere?・ when he received no reply, the Cajun deepened his scrutiny. Glancing from Logan・s hard features to the sleeping girl not three feet away. Logan・s face was completely slack and his blue eyes were strangely bright. ・Logan?・ Remy asked carefully, and Logan turned his head to look at him, his expression remained the same. ・What・d she say to you back der?・

That she was worthless, that she wanted to die and whoever wouldn・t end her misery was weak. The suffering she had endured was embedded in her eyes and lingered on her smoky scent as he inhaled deeply, his throat tight as he turned back. ・Nuthin・,・ he said, in a way that told the Cajun not to press further, so he didn・t.

Gambit yawned subconsciously, looking at the girl who was still fast asleep. She was fully healed now and he tilted his head. She was incredibly beautiful, but wasn・t what he・d call glamorous. She was hard looking even in sleep and definitely someone to think twice about before attacking, even if the power she held wasn・t known.

She stirred slightly in her sleep, and Jean was quick in reflex to move her hand, reassuming her position as the girl came still again, with a soft exhale of warm breath.

Strangely, Logan did the same thing at the same time and Gambit stifled a smile, his eyes flitting around the room and his mind replaying what she had done to him, how she had caused him the worst pain he had felt in years.

・Least it was only in ya head,・ he thought weakly, had it been real he knew he wouldn・t have survived.

Yet what got to him was the fact that he was forgiving her for it, before he had joined the X-men he would have broken her neck, no questions asked ・that・s the way things were. But even then, he pondered, with this girl, strangely attractive and whose suffering, it seemed, he couldn・t try to imagine. Would it have been that simple?

He looked at Logan again, the liquid blue of his eyes showing clearly as they scanned the face of the girl, he looked as though he was about to break down and cry, and that thought almost brought a smile to the Cajun・s lips.

Suddenly, Jean whimpered and the Gambit took an inch step away from the wall. ・Jeannie ain・t gonna be able t・do nuthin・ here,・ he said seriously. ・Dat ain・t no every day girl.・

Logan agreed silently, watching as Jean・s face tightened even more, he took his weight off the wall as well. ・You wanna catch her, or should I?・ He said gruffly, and Gambit grunted a laugh. But as soon as the words left his lips, Jean cried out and clasped her hands to her head. It was the Cajun that caught her as she fell back.

・Gambit t・ink you outstayed you welcome in der, Jeannie,・ he said, steadying her out as she swayed side to side.

Jean gained her bearings and mumbled tiredly, ・What was that?・ her eyes opened and she stared dreamily at nothing. ・It was・beautiful.・

Gambit looked to Logan who shrugged in return. ・What was it, chere?・

Her eyes gradually focused on him and she seemed to snap back to reality. ・Oh I・I don・t know. It was human, well shaped like one anyway, it was kind of hollow, big wings, red skin,・ she shook out of her daze and inhaled tightly. ・It stopped me from entering her mind.・

・It・urt you?・

・No, it・it asked me to leave・politely,・ her eyes softened. ・Remy, it was so scared.・ She lowered her head again. ・Excuse me,・ she continued, her limbs shivering still. ・I just have to go lie down.・

And with that, she half stumbled away.

Logan looked to the bed where the girl lay, twisting in her sleep. ・I think we better wait ・til Charlie gets back before anyone tries anything more.・

Gambit nodded in agreement, chuckling to himself as he watched Jean try and walk away. ・T・ink Gambit better help Jean to a chair, I can walk in straighter lines than that when I・m drunk.・ As he walked away, he called back once. ・Stay wit・ her, Wolverine.・

Logan calmly took the chair where Jean had sat and exhaled through his nose. His eyes watching the calmed features of the girl while the last and first words that she had said to him filled his mind. She was strangely stunning, undeniably powerful and somehow irresistible. How could this girl ever possibly want to die? *** Professor Xavier watched the scenery outside the car window as it blurred by and held back a yawn. Trips to Muir Island always tired him, yet Moira never failed to enlighten his visits with her constant study and brilliant ideas. Her latest being suits that covered the mutant DNA so sentinel radars for mutants would be ineffective. So he was undeniably angry when Gambit insisted he return to the mansion as quickly as possible, and was sceptical of this new girl that the others seemed so excited and puzzled about, especially after hearing that she had close to killed his entire team.

It was eleven at night when cerebro announced his presence; the girl had been asleep for three hours and Gambit was already out on the mansion step, casually smoking a cigarette and inventing new card tricks to present to the others in times of boredom.

The gates rolled open and, on impulse, the Professor placed two fingers on his temple. Closing his eyes he mentally searched the mansion rooms for the new mutant. He found her mind very close to Logan・s that he found was strangely calm. The girl beside him was deeply asleep and so he tried to pull back.

Yet he couldn・t, and before he could try again a pair of slender-fingered, glass like hands grasped him and pulled him deeper, past a wall of swirling colours that made his head ache and to a place that was crawling with darkness. Humming with a voice that filled every inch of the Professor・s mind.

-Who dares? ・It hissed, and Charles struggled in its grip. ・n her mind ・my mind ・ you are not ・welcome-

・I mean you no harm,・ the Professor sent back, alarmed.

The voice stopped and the grip slackened, to be replaced by a nauseous tingle as it searched out every corner of his mind. Like a sniffing dog, it pawed through his head and Charles winced. Was this was what it was like for others when he read their thoughts?

・What・power is・this?・ He forced through clenched teeth, then the tingle stopped. He opened his eyes again, the surroundings were pitch black and he caught glimpse of something human shaped, yet far from human, shifting in amongst the darkness with what looked like huge, dragon-like wings casting a sharp shadow on the Professor・s face.

-Forgive us ・Charles Xavier ・It said in a doubled female voice. ・or hurting you ・and your family ・but fear ・makes me worry ・for her ・

・What is it you fear?・ Charles tried to walk forward, yet it was too much for his body to bear and he backed up again, his head throbbing.

-You may enter ・no further ・Charles Xavier ・you understand ・my responsibility ・

・No I don・t・what are you?・ He asked, his voice coated in intrigue.

He caught glimpse of its face; its eyes glowed with strange beauty radiated from their hazel surface. But it slunk away again and the sound of strong wings was all the Professor got in reply before he was pushed away from her mind and awoke, dazed and definitely confused with his head firmly in Gambit・s hands.


・I said welcome him home, Cajun, not kill him.・

・Shuddup, Wolverine・Gambit didn・do nuthin・.・

・Jeez, didn・ya tell him not ta sneak ・round in the gal・s head?・

・D・prof・s a big boy now, Logan・Gambit ain・t gonna tell him what ta do, now shut it・he・s awake.・

The Professor forced open his eyes and immediently held a hand to his head.

・Professor?・ Gambit said, worried. ・What happened t・you?・

Charles shook his head and groaned. ・I・touched・her mind,・ he winced. ・But something stopped me, something is protecting her.・

Logan helped the Professor into his chair and looked to the window where he knew the girl was asleep. ・Y・know・she ain・t a threat,・ he said seriously, and the Professor held up his hand.

・No, she is not, Logan・it seems she is a being of immense power・power that I think she is unaware of.・ He, too, looked to the window and sensed, without trying, the strange power that smothered the room and pressed against the glass. ・I wish to meet her,・ he said, with a glint in his right eye. ・Tomorrow morning in the danger room, I trust one of you can arrange that.・ He paused and a smile found his lips. ・This may prove to be very interesting indeed.・

Logan raised his eyebrows, as Charles left to go inside. ・Prof sounds pretty excited・even by his standards.・

Gambit grunted, then without a word he followed the Professor inside and stopped him in the immense hall. ・Professor, I・・ he paused, seeing Logan not too far behind his voice lowered. ・I know d・girl・better dan any o・de others.・

Charles turned to face the Cajun and narrowed one eye. ・Come with me,・ he said, and the Cajun followed him into the office where he placed himself casually on a chair. The Professor remained behind his desk and stared intently at Gambit who prayed, for the sake of the promise he had made to the girl, that Charles wouldn・t read his mind.

・There are probably things you do not wish me to know, Remy,・ the Professor said. ・So I will refrain from using my power and use the old fashioned method of asking.・ Gambit hid his relief and shifted in the chair. ・How do you know this girl?・

・Four nights ・go, Gambit found her after some guy put a power-drain collar on her and beat her up pretty bad. Got attacked m・self but she stopped him. I invited her here.・

・Do you know anything about her powers, Remy?・ The Professor urged, excitement dwelling in his blue eyes as he leaned forward.

・She a pyrokinetic, I know dat f・sure. Burnt d・guy inside out・woulda killed him if she kept it up. But der・s some・ting else, too. Middle of d・night when she was sleepin・, dere was dis voice, tol・me t・leave cos dey feared me, only when I convinced it dat I was a friend did it leave.・

The Professor nodded in fascination, linking Gambit・s explanation to his own earlier experience. ・Do you know what it was?・

Gambit・s face scrunched up and he hesitated to speak. ・It said dat it was her, an・ she was it・s keeper?・ He shook his head slowly to himself. ・Gambit don・know what dis t・ing is mes・ami・but it・s powerful・and it・s joined to her, whether she know it or not.・

Charles nodded again. ・We are lucky that she hasn・t fallen into the hands of other mutant groups,・ he said, and Gambit felt a sudden shiver at the thought of her being an enemy. ・I sense that she has great power・perhaps more than she has shown or even knows herself. We must ensure that her trust is kept.・

Logan, who had been listening by the door, quietly walked away with his head buzzing with questions. When he reached the infirmary the girl was still asleep; Storm was by the bedside, her golden face was dotted with cuts and her arm was bandaged. Her head was tilted slightly as she watched the girl and her lips were drooped in the corners, her eyes were greatly narrowed as if she were trying to read the girl・s mind.

Logan approached her quietly. ・You don・t trust her, do you?・

Storm didn・t move. ・No, I don・t,・ she replied in a bleak tone. ・I am unable to believe that she didn・t mean any harm to us this night, Logan. There is something・・ She paused and her dark eyebrows lowered.

・-Different about her?・ Logan finished, but Storm shook her head, silvery threads of hair brushing her skin.

・Not different, Wolverine, but incomplete・wrong, like she shouldn・t be,・ Logan raised one eyebrow, then looked at the girl who had begun shifting in her sleep. Storm stood up, and Logan saw her brief enjoyment of being able to look down on this girl, as if she were some kind of foul thing. ・I cannot explain, Logan,・ she said tightly, ・but that is what I sense.・ She rose from the chair and breathed in stiffly. ・I will be keeping close eyes on her.・

Without another word, the goddess left the room, and Logan watched after her. Through the injuries she had acquired he wasn・t surprised she didn・t like the girl, but it wasn・t like Ororo to be so blunt about someone she hadn・t at least tried to understand.

There was a sudden flurry of movement behind him, the room heated and a few things fell to the floor, creating loud noises on the hard marble surface. He spun around to find the bed empty, instead the girl was by the far wall, tearing the white gown from her body to reveal the jeans and black tank-top she was previously wearing. Logan stood calmly.

・It・s not like I care much for her, either.・ She said stubbornly, throwing the gown to the floor and glaring at him. ・That goes for the French guy, too.・


・What?・ She snapped.

・He・s Cajun,・ Logan said, quite calmly. ・You・d be surprised how pissed he gets when people call him French.・

The girl seemed rather taken aback at his calm attitude and found it suddenly difficult to speak. ・Well・it makes no difference,・ she replied bitterly. ・He・s a liar either way.・

・He・s kept a fair few secrets, a lot of us have. But you・・ Logan shook his head. ・He didn・t lie t・you.・

Holding the wall as if she were glued to it, the girl lowered her head, then looked up at him unsurely from under her lashes. ・He told me I・d be welcome here,・ she replied after a short, staring silence.

・You are・

・-You call that a welcome?・ She snapped; flaying her arm in the direction she guessed was the place she had been fighting.

・We didn・t mean to attack you earlier,・ Logan said, his voice finally holding some urgency. ・We were jus・bein・ careful,・ the girl・s features slackened in apology for her outburst. ・When ya live like us that・s something you always gotta be.・

Her eyes, still too tired for Logan to see their colour, lowered with guilt and she lightly banged the back of her head against the wall, hiding her face. It wasn・t them that had attacked her; it was just her unnecessarily violent response to their cautiousness. She could have hit herself and secretly clenched her fists until her nails dug painfully into her palms. When was she going to learn to trust people again?

She inhaled deeply and looked up again, Logan saw that she seemed to be talking to herself until about half a minute later she inhaled deeply, pushing the stray copper hair from her face and wincing when she brushed the three cuts on her cheek. Dammit, she thought, these better not scar.

・Those are some weapons you have,・ she changed the subject, her voice was softer, kinder, and she managed a rather forced smiled.

Logan looked down at his hands, visualising the horror that was encased within them. ・Long story,・ he replied absently. ・Sorry if I hurt you.・ He finished; the girl gave a breath of laughter, then shook her head.

・No, it・s・me who should apologise・I got confused・I didn・t know who to trust.・ She glanced at him, her lips just baring a lopsided smile. Logan merely shrugged one shoulder.

・I・m not blamin・ ya fer nuthin・,・ he said. ・I know trust・s a hard thing to come across・・specially for people like us.・

The girl・s smile finally took some truth to it. ・I・ve never considered myself like one of the X-Men,・ she said to him, her lips twitching.

Logan flinched. ・How d・ya know who we were?・

She hesitated for a second, then shrugged indifferently. ・I watch television.・ She said. ・You guys are pretty amazing.・ But the slight spark in her eyes dwindled and she frowned. ・Even though you now all hate me.・

Logan tensed the right side of his face, finding it rather hard to ignore the strange but constant hum running through his body due to her mere presence. ・The others,・ he said ・・they・re just wary.・

・Because of my power.・ It wasn・t a question, and she hugged herself.

・What about it?・

・No need for cover-ups,・ she replied wistfully. ・I・ve noticed the way everyone acts when I・m around. I don・t have to tell anyone I・m a freak, it pours off me in waves. Even now, when you just stand there, you feel it, don・t you?・

Logan clenched his fists; the comfortable tingle replenishing itself in his arms. ・Nuthin・ t・be ashamed of,・ he said, and caught a brief smile on the girl・s face.

・I never said I was ashamed to be a freak,・ she said, then frowned. ・I・m just a little uneasy sometimes.・ She caught his glance suddenly and tilted her head. ・What about you?・ she surprised him, the daring blue of his eyes held her comfortably. ・You said that the others are wary・aren・t you?・

Logan looked at the floor in thought, then finally shook his head and looked back. ・I don・know what ya did ta me when I had ya pinned back there・but yer face said more than I・ve ever known mouths to,・ he inhaled, as she watched him closely. ・I ain・t no telepath, darlin・,・ he said. ・But I know sufferin・ when I see it.・ The girl suddenly shifted uneasily and sucked in her bottom lip, she knew what was coming and began to think of a response. ・Did ya mean what ya said ta me?・

She swallowed hard. ・At the time, I guess,・ she said, and her eyes squeezed shut as if to prevent tears. ・My life・・ she hesitated. ・It took away what faith I had, ok? And I find it hard to trust people, to think that they・d actually trust me seems・stupid at best.・ She looked up at him again.

・But ya trust us?・ Logan asked hopefully, and she looked away.

An attractive smile twitched at her lips as she failed to keep it at bay. ・I kind of trust you,・ she replied, her voice like a shy child. ・Though I don・t really know why.・

Logan looked away in brief thought, he didn・t know why either, would she still trust him if she knew about his past? The suffering he・d endured; not to mention dealt out? He doubted it, and shrugged. ・Birds of a feather,・ he said plainly, pushing away the jumbled memories of his life that surfaced in his mind, he caught sight of her staring at him softly. She knew what he meant and gave a small, coy smile.

Determined to look away sometime, she glanced around at the room; it was dotted with various types of scientific equipment, lying on white surfaces that were scattered with endless rows of books. Cupboards with glass doors showed their contents of syringes and test tubes and wherever she looked there seemed to be X・s marked somewhere. A tall, green plant in the corner saw the only colour to the room besides silver and white and all this gave it that unmistakable look of a hospital ward.

・How long have I been asleep?・ She asked.

・・Bout three hours.・

・That redheads a strong one,・ she said to herself, then looked at the dark outside. ・Please tell me I don・t have stay here all night,・ she drawled, in a way that assembled a quick image of Jubilee in Logan・s mind. Wordlessly, he held out a hand to her.

・We・ve got close to a hundred rooms in this place, darlin・, I ain・t gonna let ya sleep here.・ She came away from the wall, forced to hold his arm as her feet became unsteady. Then she looked at him with light stern.

・My name is Helena.・ She said disdainfully. ・Which means it・s not darlin・, not sweetheart and not any of that endless French crap the Cajun comes up with.・ She stood on her own and lifted her head, as if the last sentence hadn・t existed she finished with a grin: ・Lead the way.・

She was quiet for the walk to her room, her eyes eagerly drinking every detail from the corridors and halls. She seemed almost childlike as she held onto his arm, too engrossed in the surroundings to walk straight without his help.

・Heckova nice place you got here,・ she said, still staring around. ・School, too?・

・Yup,・ he replied. ・I・ll give ya the tour tomorrow if ya like.・

They finally stopped outside one of the many identical doors, and she looked at him, her smile uneasy. ・I・d like that,・ she said, then opened the door.

She eyed the room with a broad smile on her face, she thought immediately of some improvements to make it more to her tastes, but she couldn・t deny it really was fantastic. On the floor beside the large bed, her two fat duffel bags, straining to hold their contents, sat like two overweight animals.

・I brought ya stuff in,・ Logan pointed out. Helena turned to him swiftly, her eyes worried.

・What about my-・

・-Yer bike? Put her in the garage. Damn well impressed me, darlin・, there ain・t no gals around here with a beauty like that on ・em・・ he grinned suddenly. ・・Cept Cyke.・ He said to himself.

・Who・s Cyke?・ She asked, but Logan shook his head at her quizzical glance so she continued. ・My bike・it・s safe, right?・ She breathed a sigh of relief when he nodded. Her only treasure in life was her bike and her heartbeat quickened at the fear of losing it. A slightly sad thing to admit, but what the hell. She made the thing!

Logan then took in a breath. ・Ya better get some sleep・for tomorrow.・ He said.

Her face slackened completely and she frowned. ・Why・what・s happening tomorrow?・

・Prof wants ta meet ya, an・ I・m gonna make sure ya give a good impression.・ He shrugged in an effortless way that seemed to ease her worry. ・Trust me, we・re not gonna hurt you.・

・Yeah, I know,・ she said, Then her eyes shifted to one side and he saw a tight smile on her face. ・Will・・ She hesitated, staring at him appraisingly she pressed her lips together. ・Will you be there?・ She asked, with a sense of hopefulness that she failed to hide from him.

He smiled, not egoistically or in ant kind of ridicule, but a smile that accepted her feelings with something akin to dignity. ・Right by yer side.・ He replied with a slow and slight nod.

・Thankyou,・ she replied in much the same manner.

・Fer what?・

She tilted her head to one side, towards her lifted shoulder in a half shrug. ・Being so nice, accepting me even after what I did,・ she paused then met his gaze. ・For not killing me.・

He gave a short, quiet laugh, the sharp colours in her eyes willed the answer from him. ・I couldn・t even if I wanted to, girl,・ he said, and she looked down shyly, so he could just see the smile on her face.

・Goodnight, Logan,・ she whispered, and he gave a curt nod in reply, that simple movement teasing her spine. She leant against the doorframe as he walked away.

Slinking back into her room, she kept a hand pressed flat on the closed door, her breath exhaled sharp. He was so easy, so casual and charming towards her it was both enticing and terrifying at the same time.

Her blood ran hot, anger it was, at herself. He was hardly the friendliest looking guy in the building. But it wasn・t his fault. She had seen his suffering. Felt it, too. Unintentionally, mind. But she knew. And she wasn・t going to tell him that. Or the others. These people had a lot to do to gain enough of her faith to tell them everything. She・d wait. Adapt and enjoy herself・a bit more.

She exhaled, a smile formed on her face.

・We・re going to like it here,・ she said, falling back onto the cushiony bed. ・This place isn・t half bad.・