"Jump or Fall"
RATING: NC-17. If m/m interaction bothers you, leave now.
SPOILERS: Allusions to the Trial of Gambit disaster and vague stuff for X-Man #50.
SUMMARY: Gambit and X-Man find something in common.
ARCHIVAL/DISTRIBUTION: Anywhere, as long as you ask me first.
FEEDBACK: can be sent to Viridian5@aol.com.
DISCLAIMERS: Marvel owns them and puts them through the Angst! wringer. I'm just borrowing to give them a night off. The song on the dance floor is "Blue Monday" as recently redone by Orgy. Remy's mirror remark about John Cusack and the handsome devil comment were inspired by Grosse Pointe Blank.
NOTES: Beta by the ever-wonderful Amanda.
"Jump or Fall"
"Tell me how does it feel
When your heart grows cold?"
-- "Blue Monday" by New Order
The world was agony and white, cold fire, featureless. The snowblindness scared and comforted him at once, scared him for the suggestion of damage to his sight and comforted him for taking away the empty landscape around him. Snow and snow and snow, with a horizon on all sides that looked so close but could never be reached no matter how far he'd walked. And he'd walked forever.
Even when he'd fallen to the ice--too exhausted to move, bare chest, arms, and face burning from a million tiny cold fires--he'd still expected a rescue. They were heroes, after all. They would come back once they'd felt he'd been punished enough. Even when they did kill, they did it swiftly and mercifully. Not like this.
Now--dying by slow, painful degrees--he knew better.
He'd wanted to die for what he'd done, but not like this. Nobody deserved to die like this....
Remy woke up, shaking, in a cold sweat. As tired as he felt, he knew he wouldn't be able to sleep again for hours.
//Don' need de X-Men to punish me. Remy doin' just fine all by 'imself. Stupid.//
It was only midnight. He'd worked out until he'd all but passed out from exhaustion, hoping for oblivion, but it had only gained him two hours of tormented sleep. Once, the thought of being in bed, alone, at 10 p.m. would have been hilarious. Now, he just wished he could sleep long enough to wake up feeling like himself again, the way he'd been before he'd developed a conscience //fucking useless for a t'ief//, however long ago that had been.
He couldn't help wondering if he'd ever feel warm again.....
He turned on the shower as hot as he could stand and stepped in. As he washed, he tried very hard not to think of anything at all beyond the feel of hot water kneading his skin with true heat instead of the burn of ice. The past was a minefield, and the future full of compromises and betrayals, so he tried to stay in the present.
Sometimes he even succeeded.
Remy wrestled down the urge to cheer himself up by going out on a pinch. He'd stopped stealing when he'd joined the X-Men, but it was like being an alcoholic. You never lost the urge; at your best you just stopped giving into it. Stealing again to fulfill his deal with the New Son had strengthened the cravings, reminded him of the feel, taste, and warm pleasure of a jaunt, the way it made his mind and heart pump, the rush that made him feel so alive....
He couldn't, shouldn't, do it for sport, not while he was with the X-Men. If he had to be dirty, at least let him be so with some principles intact.
No matter how much abstaining made him feel as if he'd cut away a piece of his soul.
He had to get the hell out of here, at least for a little while. If he went into the city, he could get drunk and picked up, which would help him forget his troubles for a little while. Make him feel someone wanted him around. The night was young....
A wave of homesickness washed over him. New York City, especially in the last few years, couldn't match the corruption and decadence of his home, which was as wild, riotous, and predatory as the swamp it had been carved out of.
Maybe that pain was what had made him come back to the X-Men, even if they'd let him stay on sufferance. Even if living here in the beach house was like only being allowed to sleep on their doorstep, at least it let him feel that he hadn't been exiled from everything he'd ever known.
//'Ow do I wear out my welcome everywhere I go? Maybe it's another mutant power....
//But I don' deserve dis. Some kind of punishment, oui, but not what I got. The cold shoulder.... Damn, dat was worse dan usual.//
Remy wiped steam off the mirror and looked into a face that only vaguely resembled his own. Misery had pared flesh from under his prominent cheekbones, and he looked too damned pale for a Louisiana swamp rat. Shadows underlined his red and black eyes. //A body'd 'ave to be into necrophilia to like dis. Between dat and my past, it's no wonder Rogue looks at me like I'm roadkill.
//Considering what She said She'd do to Rogue if we got back together, it's better dat way....
//Mon Dieu, suck it in, Remy. Feel like dere should be violins playing in de distance. All dis self-pity makes me wanna kick my own ass. Dere are people into dat look, and it's time to make myself look pretty for dem. 'Ell, focusing my depression just makes me more attractive.//
He dressed in tight black to appeal to the children of the night. New Orleans had a large Goth population thanks to those damned vampire books, so he'd known more than a few of them and what they were into. Too thin, wan, and dead looking appealed to them. They weren't the friendliest people, especially to strangers, but someone would be more than willing to pick him up if he looked and acted available enough. //Remy can do dat, easy.//
But he couldn't find the energy to put as much thought and effort into dressing as usual. Even his most mussed looks took more time and preparation than they appeared to, since a fine line divided "tousled and sexy" from "bum." Tonight, most of the dishevelment came from nature and indifference instead of his usual artful manipulation.
He walked to his motorcycle--kept two miles away from the school's grounds to keep the sound from disturbing any of the residents', especially Wolverine's, sleep--and kicked it to life. He put his helmet on and hit the road.
Partly surprised, Nate Grey found himself near New York City again. He'd taken to the air aimlessly, still restless, but his subconscious had brought him back here, to a place where he'd been too briefly happy before the inevitable fall.... Now that he gave it some thought, he realized that he'd followed a thread he'd felt but hadn't found the time to acknowledge during his and Generation X's battle with the Dark Beast's minions. A psi-thread.
No matter what Emma Frost had implied, his telepathy was gone. Gone. Having once had it just made him more perceptive. That sensitivity could explain the unsettled feeling he had now, which manifested as a faint sense not unlike pins-and-needles tingling. It didn't feel like a telepath contacting him, so it had to be someone with faint or unacknowledged psi unknowingly bleeding. It tasted like pain, cold, and alone....
Nate didn't want to wonder why it had reached him when so much else no longer did. Affinity with pain, cold, and alone, him? //I do not miss my telepathy.//
If Nate could sense it, so could most other psi-sensitives in the area, and not all of them had humanitarian leanings. If he could help or at least quiet it, he should, even if only for his own peace.
The feeling became stronger, as the noise became louder as the source moved closer. Since he could no longer focus and control that telepathic sense, it took him a while to identify the source as a motorcycle rider. He followed a bit but could gain no other clues about the rider, who wore a nearly opaque black helmet. Of course, an aerial view hardly helped.
Then the motorcycle took a sudden, unexpected turn, jumped the sidewalk, and flew off down an alleyway. Nate couldn't help the almost savage grin that moved his lips. //Knew I was there.// He descended to the ground at the mouth of the alley, amazed by how dark it was despite its presence in the heart of the well-lit city. The motorcycle had been shut off, giving no aural cue to where its rider stood.
Nate tried to think of the best way to settle this. He didn't want a fight. //I'm here to help you. I just stalked you for five blocks as part of it. Good job, Grey.//
When two arcs of red fire flew at him, he instantly created a telekinetic shield. They exploded hard on impact and would have staggered a lesser tk talent. //What the hell were those things?//
But at least he knew he could approach safely. He walked forward with the shield in place. "I'm just here to talk!"
Something flew at him and hit the ground directly in front of him but stayed dormant. In the dimness, Nate couldn't tell what it was. //A mistake or a gesture of contempt?// He quickly levitated over it, then touched back down a few feet away and continued forward.
When he heard the boom! behind him, he knew he'd made a mistake. Nate flew forward for a few moments but used his telekinesis to correct before he hit the ground. But his quarry grabbed hold of the tk shield and threw him against the wall. Brain scattered, unsure of where the threat was coming from, Nate couldn't defend himself well. //Like a damned amateur!//
The faintly sharp edge of something rested beneath his chin. Two red spots glowed before his eyes. "Don't t'ink you got de finesse to protect yourself from me blowing dis card under yer 'ead. Why you following me?" Then the spots briefly went out. "Shit. T'ought you were one of de good guys. Well, as good as de good guys can be."
Nate placed the accent with the display of ability he'd seen and made a match. "I am, Gambit. Like I said, I just came to talk." //And you're damned lucky for that. Otherwise, I would have torn you apart the moment my thoughts cleared.//
"You don't 'ave much to do with de X-Men usually. Any reason you picked me?" The question sounded more oddly significant than it should have.
"It's you. I don't think you realize that you need some help." Nate stored the memory of how the body pinning his tensed, then relaxed against him over the course of those sentences. "Do you realize you're putting out signals that //say you're in pain// are calling psi-sensitives from across the area?"
The laugh sounded warm and rich as it rolled through the darkness. "Shit. Figures. Dunno 'ow." The slightly sharp thing, which had to be a playing card, moved away from Nate's neck.
Nate rubbed at the skin. "I didn't know you could do a time delay on your explosions."
"T'ings change. So talk."
A movement and a wash of what felt like warm strands of silk near Nate's face distracted him. //He just took the helmet off, must have flipped the visor up earlier so he could see. If I remember right, he has a hell of a lot of hair to come free. That's what I felt. This would be easier if I could see. No, I do not miss my telepathy. Where did my brain go?//
"You need to stop broadcasting," Nate finally said.
Remy's laugh was low and rough sounding. "I meant, 'ow? Been with telepaths for a while wit' no complaints. Wait, dat's not quite true. Been told I'm resistant and my mind is like quicksilver, whatever de 'ell dat last one's supposed to mean. T'rew Psylocke out of my head once."
//Interesting. I do feel something else from him this close, like fire jumping from one pile of dry timber to the next. Wish it surprised me that Xavier didn't do anything with Gambit's latency.// "I can't help you. I don't do that anymore."
"Don' feel like going back yet. Tryin' to cheer myself up."
"That could help."
"Well, dat's a relief. Wait, you saying I'm depressing all de telepaths in de area?"
"Dat wouldn't be so bad. You depressed, Nate? You must be bored at least, if dis is what you're doing wit' your nights."
"Uh...." //Where is he going with this?//
"Wanna come along? I was 'eading to de Batcave. Lemme make it up to you for t'rowing you into a wall."
"It's a club. I can't promise you won't see any men in capes and cowls, but it's still not what you're t'inking."
//Am I seriously considering--// "Why me?"
//Hell, Maddy's mysteries and Ness' mysteries can keep a while. Maybe I should do something ordinary for once. Even if I don't understand Gambit's motives. But....// "I can't. I had a bit of a problem in New York City a while back. I sort of had to flee the city."
"It's a club. You t'ink anyone will really make a connection in de near-dark? Dey don' even notice my eyes, most times. 'Sides anyone gives us trouble, we blast 'em."
"I'm kidding, Nate."
//He doesn't feel so hurt anymore, somehow.// "Sure, Gambit."
"Call me 'Remy.' And 'sure, you're kidding' or 'sure, I'll come along'?"
"What if I say no?"
"I'll bug you till you get pissed off and fly away."
"All right, I'll go."
"Cool. We're only a few blocks away."
Nate heard Remy get his motorcycle and walk it back out to the street. //I have one last chance to get out of this and ditch him. Take straight to the sky. Worst he could do is try to bring me down with an exploding card.// But Nate just followed, shaking his head.
When Remy straddled his bike and turned back to see Nate, his hair flew for a moment before he put the helmet back on. "Why don' you get on? Dey're fun to ride."
//I'm not; I won't-- Oh, what the hell.// Nate got on behind him and held on, telling himself all the while it was the motorcycle's vibration that was giving him the sudden hard-on. //I don't even know Gambit, and holding onto his belt with his ass against my-- Not thinking this. Am I that hard up?//
Remy let out a wild yell as he popped a wheelie and drove them away.
"Right foot red!"
Nate watched the scene before him with a smile on his face. It had to be one of the most pleasant surreal sights he'd ever been treated to.
The club-goers--in their leather, vinyl, fishnet, chains, and thick makeup--had intimidated him at first. Then one had brought out a box that had reduced them all to giggling kids. They were now playing Twister, with four candles in glasses at the edges to give them some idea as to what color the circles actually were. The room's red lighting made the green and blue look exactly the same.
Remy had been one of the first volunteers, of course. He'd even taken off the leather jacket, though he had a turtleneck on. The sense of pain had lessened, but he still seemed to feel cold. His jeans were so tight Nate kept expecting them to split with each ever more stretched position, but they just clung to his leanly muscled legs. No doubt many of the spectators watched so avidly hoping to get a more intimate glimpse.
More than a few people wanted to be as close to him as his denim. A girl in chains, fishnet, and vinyl to Remy's right put her arm down almost against his leg. She grinned. "I want to get to know you better."
"Chere, you get any closer, and Remy ain't gonna 'ave any secrets left."
Nate knew she had to balance herself, but somehow he didn't think she needed to rub her arm against Remy's thigh quite so much to stay upright. The boy in T-shirt, jeans, knee-high boots, and a dog collar to Remy's left had been getting closer and closer as well. Yet, despite having other people all but fondling him, the Cajun could look up at Nate with those strange, dark eyes and somehow make him feel like it was all for him, that each touch only substituted for his own, each moment of ever-heightening lust was just for his eyes....
Nate shook his head and tried to settle back comfortably on the couch. Feeling too hot, he stripped off his leather jacket and tried not to think that the club's red light and black decor seemed to be a perfect frame for the Cajun.
//The hell he doesn't have a psi affinity. If not that, then the bastard gives off pheromones.//
No one had recognized Nate, to his relief. Only two people had even noticed Remy's eyes, and then only to compliment him on them.
"Y'sure you don' wanna get down 'ere, Nate?" Remy's gravelly purr of a voice flowed thick, rich, and slow as honey.
Nate tried not to let it affect him. "I don't think there's room."
"Dere's always room. 'Sides we're all close, personal friends now."
"Left hand green!"
The boy in the dog collar wavered, off-balance. "The green and the blue look exactly the same!"
"It's de row--" The boy's long-fingered hand drifted down Remy's back to land on a circle. The arm remained to rub at his spine. "Or you could put yer 'and right dere, dat's just fine."
As Nate bit his lip, Remy asked, "Y'sure you don' wanna get down? Patrick and Justine wouldn't mind, would you?"
Two sets of blinding smiles surrounded by dark lips accompanied Remy's. //They're all sluts. Every single--// "How did you find out their names?"
"Look at us, Nate."
//Just what I'm wishing I wasn't doing....//
With the heat of the club, the nearby candles, and the very close bodies of Remy's two guttersnipes, Remy should have felt warm, but Nate's flickers of nottelepathy still caught //coldcoldcold// from him. It made Nate wonder if he could fix that by adding his own body to the knot, by reaching his crippled mind out just a little and stroking....
He saw Remy take a deep breath out and the long body lose all remaining tension. He almost felt it himself, through that odd affinity they had. It felt so good and made him want to get closer.
Nate had never gotten a chance to play kids' games, not even kids' games that adults could use for their own reasons. Never let himself be frivolous. Yet the very man whose pain had drawn him here could unbend enough to play, so why couldn't he?
"Okay." The word came out easier than Nate had expected.
"You could come in now. Dis round is over."
"How do you decide?"
"'Cause Justine and Patrick are so knotted with me dat we can't move or fall down 'cept all at the same time."
"You say that like it's a bad thing," Justine said.
"Nope, but you're gonna cramp soon."
The woman calling the moves said, "The game's not over until only one person's left standing."
"What is dis, Thunderdome?"
"Right foot green!"
The three players tried to move, then made a tortured sound and hit the floor in a heap. Patrick was on the bottom and not looking too unhappy with Remy's head on his stomach and hands beneath him. Justine had fallen between Remy's legs and was struggling to get up in a way that suggested that standing wasn't her primary goal. They undulated together like some odd, mutated creature.
"Need help?" Nate asked, trying not to laugh or take too good a look at Justine's black lace panties, which were very visible with her short vinyl skirt above her waist.
"Non. We'll settle ourselves out some'ow." Remy gasped as one of Patrick's supposed attempts to stand up apparently did something interesting. "You dat happy t' see me, homme?"
"What do you think?"
Nate watched in fascination as the club kids each writhed against Remy in a different way as they struggled to get off the floor. Remy had stopped moving, and his eyes seemed to have rolled to the back of his head. //Slut,// Nate thought, but a surprising affection flavored it.
Since the way they were knotted together now would only frustrate them, he reached in to try to untangle them, but when he touched Remy's arm a wave of something hit him, something that felt good but rolled him under. He fell onto black cloth to the accompaniment of a squeak and a giggle.
He came to with Remy's eyes regarding him with heat and a great curiosity. "We're never getting off de floor, are we, homme?"
"We better," Patrick gasped. "You're all crushing me!"
"Now you want to move." Nate untangled them all.
But Justine and Patrick's eyes on him suddenly felt uncomfortable, and he couldn't help thinking that their gaze stripped him to the bone. He told himself that the possibility of being recognized was what bothered him; even in this crowd, his white-streaked brown hair was distinctive. //This is going to get me in trouble, I know it, but I don't know how to say no now....//
"'Ey, I know dis song. 'Ave to go and dance. C'mon, Nate." He brushed away Justine and Patrick's protests with, "Maybe I'll be back later." When Justine sighed and Patrick looked tragic, Remy laughed and said, "Maybe."
Nate let Remy drag him up and tow him out of the room before yanking free and asking, "What was that?"
Remy lit a cigarette and took a deep, satisfied pull. The smoke he blew out smelled like incense, like so many of the cigarettes the club's denizens used. "Mmmm. Been a while since I 'ad a clove. Don' know why, really."
"Well, I don't." The flare on the cigarette's end matched his eyes. "I do know dis song. In its original version it was a favorite of an old friend of mine. 'Sides, I was starting to t'ink you were afraid you'd 'ave to do all of us if we stayed in de game." Remy picked up an ashtray and stubbed out his clove. "Didn' want you uncomfortable."
//How did he know?// Having no intelligent answer for that, Nate let Remy lead him to the dance floor. While most of the crowd was male/female couples, there were enough same sex pairs to make Nate feel less conspicuous. He moved to the thrashing music as best he could and smiled as his effort made contentment rush from Remy to him across the affinity.
It almost frightened Nate to have some of his telepathy back, to be nearly aware of another mind in that way again, though even if he'd been a full psi again, he wouldn't have been able to touch Remy's rushing mind as easily as he could most people's. Radiating calm and warmth did seem to have an effect, slowly banishing the psychosomatic cold the Cajun had suffered from. Nate relaxed too as that quicksilver thought river smoothed out and the long body so close to his started to uncoil in relief at the club's heat.
With the mental chill gone, Remy finally stripped off the turtleneck and tied it around his waist, revealing a black T-shirt so tight that Nate could see that the Cajun's nipples were hard. As they danced, Nate couldn't resist stroking his hands down Remy's back, luxuriating in the feel of hot, damp cotton over bone and long, lean muscles. Despite being shadow thin, Remy felt strong under his hands.
Remy arched under the touch and ground against Nate for a moment before dancing away, teasing, so easily and lightly that he seemed to defy physical laws. The display of such casual grace should have left Nate feeling self-conscious in his own lack, but he couldn't somehow.
Remy grinned the whole while. The strobe flashing weirdly off the red in his eyes made him look demonic, while the swaying of his long hair cast writhing shadows across his face. As he gyrated to the music within the half-circle of Nate's arms, he looked snake-sinuous. It saddened and amused Nate to realize that he couldn't stop describing the man in terms that suggested a fall from grace, forbidden fruit. //What a burden to carry. But sin never looked so good.//
"Whatchu smilin' at, homme?" Remy asked with a small grin.
"I'm enjoying myself."
"Moi aussi. It's been a while."
Although it felt foreign to him, Nate decided to stop thinking and wondering in favor of enjoying the heat and sound pulsing through his body and the contented company he was keeping. His heart started to pound in time with the drums. Sometimes Remy moved in so close he could hear the man murmuring along to the lyrics with his Cajun accent, "Tell me 'ow do I feel / Tell me now 'ow do I feel..." Nate lost himself in movement and Remy's happiness, wallowing in sensuality.
One of Nate's hands drifted down to rest along Remy's spine while the other buried itself in the soft wealth of long, wild hair, occasionally brushing the tip of his ear or hoop of an earring. Remy abandoned himself to the touches, obviously starving for contact. The inevitable kiss was a long exchange of tongues and need. Nate tasted incense, sweetness, and the burn of alcohol.
For a small eternity, Nate lost himself in heat, movement, and touch. Just as the kiss started to freak Nate out, Remy anticipated it again by rushing away from him like smoke, tethered only by a grip on his wrist. Remy started to twirl and spin him in time to the beat, leaving him light-headed and laughing.
The music was so loud that Nate couldn't make out the words through the blast of atom-shaking bass, but Remy revealed them by murmuring along. "But if it wasn't for your misfortunes / I'd be a 'eavenly person today..."
Nate didn't know how long they'd danced. One song flowed into another, one movement into the next. Through it all, he'd slowly pulled Remy closer and closer as his self-consciousness faded. He couldn't seem to resist petting his partner; something about the Cajun seemed to demand it. When he finally realized that he was feeling and giving in to lust, aching with it, he still couldn't stop himself. //Maybe I don't want to.// Nate wanted to touch Remy everywhere, explore all his secrets, devour him whole....
Remy, whose breathing had been getting faster, suddenly made a sharp sound and bucked against Nate. Nate enjoyed it until he realized the cause. //Oh, shit, I was... in him... with my.... How depraved am I?// He pushed back from Remy and made sure his telekinesis was off. //I just lost control again, dammit! When will I learn?
//Yeah, but Feel him. He liked it.
//I don't-- Feeling him is where all the trouble started.//
"I'm sorry," Nate said.
Remy had to shake his head to get the hungry, almost mindless glaze out his eyes. "Non. 'Sokay. It was good. Real.... I'm gonna go get anot'er drink. Y'want one?""
"No, I'm fine."
As Remy wandered, seemingly dazed, to the bar, Nate put his back to the wall and gripped his arms. //Shit, I could have hurt him, and I just took. I'm too dangerous to let my control slip. Ever.//
"Red Devil," Remy said to the bartender as he lit another cigarette and leaned against the bar. He tried to let the smoke calm his heart, but it couldn't do anything for his painfully hard cock. //Be pretty declasse if I 'umped 'is leg like a dog. Besides, 'e might run screaming, and dat would be a crying shame. What 'e.... God, I didn't t'ink dey could.... And I told 'im 'e didn't 'ave finesse.
//Telekinesis.... Cyclops is an even luckier man dan I t'ought.//
Remy hadn't understood what had been touching him at first, though he'd certainly enjoyed the way it had felt. Neither hot nor cold nor textured, it had flowed in slow, sensuous strokes down his back like another skin before sliding under his jeans. Once he'd relaxed under the flow, it had thrust into him, hard and huge and perfect, immediately hitting the sweet spot. Only iron control had stopped Remy from coming in his jeans.
He'd done a lot of things in his time, but getting fucked with telekinesis was brand new ground. Terra incognita, and Remy dearly wanted to explore, maybe stake his claim....
The bartender put the drink down. Remy gave him the money with a gasped "merci beaucoup" before taking a big swallow.
Remy knew it could have easily gone very badly wrong, pulped him from the inside, but he knew Nate wouldn't let that happen. Even if Nate didn't trust himself that far. Hell, he didn't even know himself well enough to realize what his subconscious had already given itself a green light for.
Nate stood with his back to the wall, watching the crowd as surreptitiously as he could. Ready to fight or flee at a second. He had such a tight control of himself. Except when he didn't.
Then his power rolled off him in waves. No wonder he was scared of himself. Remy knew....
No wonder Nate had taken advantage of the chance to "lose" one of his powers. Remy spent his time surrounded by some of the most powerful telepaths on the planet, and none of them had been aware of what went on in his mind. Yet Nate no longer had telepathy and had still felt him from miles away?
Highly unlikely. As in, impossible.
Remy knew that anyone here would be more than happy to help him get off, but he couldn't do it. //Guess I'm enough of a traditional boy to leave de dance wit' de person who brought me.// Besides, Nate needed him somehow and felt his pain for a reason. //Maybe because 'e already 'as 'is own?//
Aside from being afraid that he wouldn't be able to walk soon if this kept up, Remy felt better than he had in a long time: warm, loose, and contented. He had Nate to thank for it. Only fair he return the favor.
//Besides, I want 'im.//
Remy tried to shout Nate over, but the music was too loud. Time to try less traditional methods. Remy shut his eyes and concentrated on tapping Nate's shoulder. Mentally, without physically touching Nate. He didn't even know if it would work. But it did. When Nate turned to see him, he waved a c'mere.
It didn't surprise Remy that he had some semi-telepathy thing going for him. He'd always been attentive to the mental states of the people around him and done his best to affect them to his favor. Sometimes the charm worked, sometimes it didn't. It had probably saved his presumptuous mutie ass the day he'd gotten caught picking Jean-Luc LeBeau's pocket and gotten him adopted into New Orleans' premier clan of thieves.
The next kid who'd tried it had been killed. The King of Thieves couldn't afford to show any weakness.
And the charm never worked on people he knew and who knew him well....
Remy shook the dark thoughts away as Nate walked up. "Y'wanna leave?"
"What?" Nate asked, but it was a "why?" what, not an "I can't hear you" what.
Nate's deep blue eyes appeared to be haunted with fear and self-doubt, but the control was back. He was a lock waiting for the right key or pick. Remy wanted to say a million things to slide him loose but decided to wait until he found the right one.
"I'm done 'ere." //And I can see you're not comfortable in large groups. You look tired too.//
"We can go?" The "We? Together? Still?" didn't need to be said.
"Sure. I'm ready for a little quiet." Remy just couldn't resist stroking Nate's bare wrist, skin to skin, which may not have been the message he'd intended to reveal with that statement, but it did succeed in stripping the self-recrimination from those blue eyes.
The fear remained.
//Can't let dat be.// Much as the thought of pouncing on Nate and showing him that he really wanted it too promised relief, Remy couldn't do that. It had to be free will all the way or nothing at all. //Damned conscience.//
Besides, Nate could rip him to shreds with one panicked thought.
Remy gave Nate the most comforting, non-threatening smile he could muster. "C'mon."
Nate looked torn, then rueful, before he agreed to follow Remy through the hot press of people crowding the dance floor. Some people rubbed against them by accident, others on purpose. Remy stroked back. He hadn't realized how much he'd missed all this. He'd gotten so lost in misery and guilty obligation that he'd lost touch.
//Lost touch in more ways dan one.//
After a seven-minute search, Remy found both their jackets under the couch cushions. They put them on as they walked through an obstacle course of people to get to the door.
The night air smelled crisp and cool. As much as Remy missed the Louisiana heat, the north had a few redeeming qualities. Now that he didn't feel cold anymore, he could appreciate them. Crimson had started to streak the purple-black sky, announcing the coming morning.
Despite the early-April chill, Remy felt warm, juiced, and wonderful, as if all the knots had been undone. He did a few backflips just for fun, grinning through the world rushing by and the feel of his body moving just as he wanted it to, before ending it in a deep bow.
Nate looked at him with a raised eyebrow. "How much have you had?"
"Trois." Remy smirked and held up four fingers.
"Jus' yanking yer chain. Alcohol don' affect me much."
Nate grinned back, as if he felt Remy's rush too. Maybe he did. //If you weren't so scared of yourself, Nate, maybe you'd admit you still 'ave dat telepathy, just buried.// Or maybe it was Nate's own euphoria. But under the grin he looked bone-weary and ready to crash as soon as the dancing adrenaline wore off.
Remy felt a surprising wave of protectiveness for Nate. //Been playing 'ero too long?// "I can't let you go 'ome like dis, so tired. You'll drop and go splat somewhere."
"I'm not going to Westchester." But something in his tone said he wouldn't mind going elsewhere with Remy....
"Never even t'ought of going back tonight." Should he say he'd intended to spend the night with someone? Nah. "I can check us into an 'otel."
"With your own money?"
"It is now," Remy said before he really thought about it. //I'm getting much too free wit' 'im too quickly.// But Nate just gave him a fond look, forcing Remy to beat down another wave of lust.
He covered it by fumbling with the chain on his bike. //T'ink of somet'ing to calm dat down. Freezing to deat' in Antarctica. De Brood. Wolverine after 'e just wakes up in de morning. Lian pulling my 'air as she tells me 'ow de Shadow King's gonna rip my mind out and turn me into a pet, but first, she's gonna torture me....// That one did it, but it had also made his balls creep up into his body for protection. //Aw, well, I'm a beggar, me.//
When Nate straddled the motorcycle behind him, Remy had to bite his lip. He drew blood when the hands clasping him around the waist settled a bit lower on his hips than they had to.
He could do this, sure. A hard, lean body molded to his back with what felt like an even harder cock pressing lower couldn't snare him. The feel of hands resting just above his own hard cock--and were they rubbing a bit too?--couldn't take him down. He was strong and noble.
Remy almost choked on the snort.
He had to get his mind off of Nate, so of course his thoughts strayed to Rogue. Then he yanked them away from thinking that way about Rogue, just in case She was listening.
Remy wondered if She wasn't objecting to Nate just for him being a man. Fear of what She might do if Remy found a pickup had stopped him from taking a night out for a long time. Then again, it could be that She didn't mind as long as it wasn't Rogue.
//Maybe She wants t' get laid too? Oh, God, no, get dat out of my 'ead.//
Her threat to Rogue had certainly been clear: tell her about me or about your love for her, and I kill her and everyone else you care about. Another deal with the devil that had come due in ways he hadn't expected. Remy felt Her sometimes, running through his veins like green, acid fire or swirling in his lungs. She called him "beloved" but saw no conflict in suffocating him to make a point.
He knew She could kill without qualm.
He loved Rogue deeply, but more and more he started to wonder if it might be better for them both if he broke them up for good. A swift, clean pain versus the slow torture of him shrugging her off for reasons he couldn't even tell her.
It wasn't like their relationship had been free of problems even before that. Their first kiss had put him into a coma. Their first and only time together, stolen during a night when her powers had been taken away, had been incredible but let them both know what they were missing, what they couldn't have. As frustrated as it left him, how much worse must it be for her? He saw her frustration and feelings of inadequacy eating away at her. Despite her own hidden, checkered past, she didn't trust him for his own dark secrets. Her flirtation with Joseph, who had briefly found a way to counteract her problem, hadn't been a mere whim.
//Do we stay toget'er out of love or stubbornness? Lord knows we each 'ave enough of de last.//
Never mind the hateful part of himself that said he only wanted her for being the ultimate unattainable woman, the eternal thrill of the chase....
Never mind that she could leave him to die and not look back until it would have been far too late.
Life had been simpler right after his exile from New Orleans. His fortunes had depended entirely on himself, and he'd been free of the tangled emotional ties he tended to make. //Dere a reason why I can't put toget'er a single, simple relationship?//
It had been damned lonely.
Nate's hands moved on Remy's waist, sending him off in a new mental direction. Being with Rogue had changed him in ways he hadn't immediately seen. All his life, he'd been impulsively demonstrative, the type to touch and hug people for any reason, the type to enjoy it in return. Besides, it made it easier to pick pockets.
It wasn't natural to him anymore. True, the prohibition with her had only been skin to skin, but she instinctively flinched away from being touched even through clothing. It scared her, and then she felt angry at herself for being scared. Seeing how it hurt her, he'd stopped being spontaneous about it and made sure to give her ample warning. Over time and especially after their kiss, he had stopped reaching out as much and started to flinch away himself. With everyone.
It wasn't her fault, not when his own fool stubbornness had gotten them here to begin with. He had nobody but himself to blame.
He hated that.
All the contact tonight had left him scared and exhilarated, with the fear adding to the exhilaration. And nothing duplicated the thrill, heat, and texture of bare skin to bare skin, especially in an improvised touch.
Deprivation had made him sensitive and greedy. His hips moved of their own will, dancing to get the full effect of those hands. Nate stilled for a moment, then tightened his grip. Torture.
//Sometimes it just don't pay to 'ave a dirty mind.//
When Remy chained up the motorcycle in front of the hotel and walked in, he squirmed under the considering looks Nate directed at his back. It made him wonder how much Nate had heard and felt during the ride. As usual, he struggled between a learned need to keep his secrets and a desperate desire to have someone know him completely. //C'mon, you know what you really want is for someone to see everyt'ing you are and not condemn you for it. Big difference, boy.//
Remy slipped shades on the moment they were inside and thanked God that some people were so terminally cool that they had to wear sunglasses at night. While the hotel was only mid-range by New York City standards, its desk clerks still tended to get upset at seeing a guest with devil eyes checking in.
Nate looked amused. "I think they call them sunglasses for a reason."
"Shut yer mouth. I'm so special de sun shines on me 24 hours a day."
Remy knew from experience that this hotel took you in no matter when you showed up as long as they had a vacancy and you had the extra cash. Still, the desk clerk looked at them like they'd crawled in out of the gutter. Remy didn't understand why people saw it as a sign of a high-class establishment if the help had such a nasty hauteur. If they had anything to be haughty about, they'd be staying at those places, not working in them. He always just chalked it up as part of the culture of a foreign tribe he had to work and have diplomatic relations with.
Disdainful or not, the clerk still took the extra cash without demur and gave them a room with two beds. The only problem they had was Remy struggling not to get cute with the names he signed them in under. Scott and Alex Summers flitted in and out of his mind, with the Gecko and Blues brothers soon following. He settled on Chris and Jim Claremont.
Nate was looking at him funny again, studying him, and Remy wished he knew why. Of course, he'd put them through as brothers; it attracted less attention.
Nate had been hanging back behind Remy, no doubt out of the worry of being recognized he'd mentioned early. Not that he had to worry. Nate seemed to fade and become anonymous under Remy's eyes. If he hadn't known what the young man looked like, he'd probably be even more in the dark. //Not a telepath anymore, my ass.// Remy felt a surge of lust that had nothing to do with sex. A thief's dream power on display would make any member of his profession greedy.
Nate seemed a little overwhelmed by the plush surroundings as they walked to the room, making Remy smile. You never did look at it the same way when you knew how easy it was to take.
Nate had another moment of hesitation before looking back at Remy and walking in. He seemed to be operating on sheer I'll-show-you stubbornness. //Like Remy don' know what dat's like. Dat be Gambit's whole life, non?//
For all the derision he directed at his stubbornness, Remy had to admit it had its uses. He never would have survived a childhood on the streets without it.
"I'll be cleaning myself up, Nate. You get first pick at de beds." Remy grinned at the look of surprise that greeted him. //What, you t'ought I'd jump you soon as we got in? Is dat disappointment I see?// He grinned all the way into the bathroom.
Remy took the sunglasses off and looked into his own eyes. //You're a 'andsome devil; what your name?// He snorted. //John Cusack didn't realize 'e 'ad it easy.//
Remy filled a glass with tap water and took a long gulp. A few calming breaths later, he still couldn't convince himself that he didn't want to just jump Nate. //'E wants it, if 'e could just admit it. You want it. What's de problem?//
The problem was that he didn't want to just take. He always took from a world that gave him nothing. He wanted to have it given to him.
//Shadow King. Lian. Becoming some obedient, mindless pup in de King's pack.//
Remy walked out into the bedroom to see that Nate had passed out, having only found enough strength to pull the covers over himself. //Dat decides de question pretty well.// Remy pulled Nate's boots off and tucked the covers back over.
The other bed looked cold.
Remy stripped down to just his T-shirt and jeans before lying down next to Nate, but on top of the covers. Nate looked almost childlike in his sleep. His hair had fallen into his face, forcing Remy to stroke it away. The silver streaks at the front felt softer and thicker than the rest.
Remy fell asleep with his hand on Nate's hair.
They were standing on the dance floor again. Remy, dressed in fishnet and tight laced-up leather, looked around in confusion and asked, "Merde! 'Ow did I get 'ere? I was 'aving one of my first good ones in a long time."
Nate, who couldn't help the leer his companion's outfit inspired no matter how hard he tried, answered, "Define 'here.'" //Hell, "good one" of what? Or should I ask, considering the outfit?// He didn't know how they'd gotten back on the dance floor, but he really didn't mind.
"Oh. One of dose dreams. Shall we dance?"
Nate decided that he was too confused to even formulate the right question to ask, so he just went with it. They clasped hands and began to spin and pogo to the music that pounded through them and the room. Remy started to grin in a way that Nate had to return. He was enjoying this too much--the heat, movement, contact.
"I've always liked falling," Remy said suddenly, still dancing.
It made no sense until Nate remembered Remy muttering about "one of those dreams." He'd never had one like this before, but that didn't mean anything. "Why?"
"Dere's the movement and adrenaline rush. De possibility of total disaster. Then you twist in just de right way to save your life."
"That's jumping, not falling."
"Nah. Every jump 'as de potential to be a fall, every fall to become a jump. It's all in what you do and what 'appens to you just before you crash. I mean, de roofing can crumble under your feet--"
"Well, now I see your frame of reference."
Smiling sweetly, Remy kicked Nate's shin. "Or you can realize dat you're falling and turn in time to land on your feet."
"Like a cat."
"Oui. But it's exhilarating either way. When you jump, it's in 'aving de skill to save yer ass. In falling, it's dat feeling of freedom from gravity before you smash, knowing well it'll 'urt eventually but not right now."
"What you're saying... means something else too, doesn't it?"
"'Ow should I know? Just making conversation. Never been no philosopher, Grasshopper."
"Sorry. Sometimes I forget yer not from around 'ere."
"I'm supposed to be taking words of wisdom from you?" //Shit. Tactless, much?// "Sorry, I'm an idiot."
Remy's lip twisted. "No argument there, so I'll try not t' be too offended, homme. You so wise you can afford t' ignore what gets offered you free?"
"You're right. What else do you have for me?"
Remy grinned. "Do my best.... You usually find out dat you don' really want what you t'ought you did only after you get it. Never kill yer brother-in-law in a duel even if 'e did challenge you 'imself. Never eat gumbo nowhere but New Orleans. Once in a while, you should do somet'ing dat scares you."
"You have any suggestions?"
"What do you t'ink?"
It was a dream kiss, not as satisfying as the real one had been. Nate wished he could feel the tight leather and fishnet Remy's dream outfit under his hands. But sensation started to trickle in until he was awake and very entangled and involved in kissing Remy into oblivion, which was intensely satisfying. He tried to move his arms to pull his bed partner in closer, but something stopped him.
Remy started to laugh madly, shaking with it. Nate realized that he may have been under the covers, but the Cajun had fallen asleep on top of them. //Gentlemanly of you. If this got out, it would ruin your rep.//
"After all de t'ings we've faced, no one would 'ave guessed dat dey just 'ad to t'row a blanket over you."
Nate ripped one hand free and stroked Remy's hair back. The dramatic and prominent bones of that face now revealed tempted his fingers too much to resist. He outlined the cheekbones through touch and shivered himself at the feel of Remy's shudders. Something had struck him about that face earlier, from when Remy had signed them in as brothers.... But it was lost under the lust. He was scared to death, but he didn't want to stop.
Remy took in a deeper breath. "Dream kisses don't 'ave to mean not'ing in de waking world." But while his words gave Nate a graceful way out, his body and darkly gleaming eyes pleaded for more. His emotions were warm and golden like spring sunshine after a long winter.
Nate wanted, needed, to bask in the heat. "I know. I want this."
Remy took one of Nate's roving fingers into his mouth and tongued it in swirls. He finally let it fall, dragging, from his lip before asking, "Y'sure?"
Nate couldn't trust himself to speak. He shoved the blankets away, but now they cocooned Remy, who started laughing again. Frustration gave Nate his voice back. "Could you give me some help here?"
"D'accord." Remy successfully pulled them away, then lay there, awaiting Nate's next move.
//It's all up to me? Of course it is; he thinks I'm scared of him.// As Nate draped himself over Remy, he found himself settling closer than he expected, due to the long legs that had parted to let him in. //And I'm not? I'm scared of him, of myself, of how much I seem to want this....//
//Just touch me, please,// one of them thought.
Kissing seemed like an unthreatening way to start, but Remy made that unbearably erotic too. The roughness of stubble near the raw silk of lips made Nate's own lips more sensitive than he could have imagined. As their tongues met, he could taste everywhere the Cajun had been. Remy's body undulated under him in a slow grind that teased his cock mercilessly, while long fingers pressed and stroked his back in endless patterns, with each digit seeming to have a slightly different pressure.
//With those fingers, he had to become either a musician or a thief.
//Or a sex toy?//
Nate felt like a musician himself as his explorations showed him what touch would get a purr, moan, sigh, or sob. Remy was one hell of a sensitive instrument. This was power, this knowledge that someone wanted him so badly.
He'd been a telepath once and knew what people did, but Nate still couldn't help feeling a little nervous. Remy had experience.... But Remy wouldn't let him go wrong, moving in ways that maximized each touch for them both. The affinity transferred echoes of what the Cajun felt, making Nate go insane himself from his touches on another man's body.
//This isn't right.... But it's so good....//
Nate had always seen his body as a vessel that carried his self around. Separate. But Remy's body was a large part of who he was. He knew it and its needs well. Being linked like this made Nate aware of his own flesh in ways he'd never been before.
"What do you want to do, Nate?" Remy gasped.
What didn't he want to do? Blinded by possibilities, he couldn't decide what to do next.
Remy raised an eyebrow, sighed, and sat up, bringing Nate with him.
Remy unzipped his jeans and placed Nate's hand on the bulge that strained the cotton beneath. "You did dis to me, Nate, and yer driving me insane. Do you want me to beg you to touch me?"
//Me? Mine?// "That might be nice." Nate started to stroke Remy's cock and smiled as it seemed to push back, catlike, against his hand, begging for more.
Remy's eyes closed, and his head lolled a bit. "Smartass. But dat's de stuff...."
More daring, Nate's other hand slid down Remy's firm ass along the jeans' seam, pressing it into the sensitive skin. Remy moaned and made little pleading sounds as it rubbed against his perineum. He returned the favor by rhythmically stoking Nate's cock with his knee.
Desperately needing to be free of his constricting jeans, Nate gathered together enough focus to telekinetically free himself from confinement. The denim stroking now bare skin drove him insane. He felt the pressure building at the base of his cock.
"You gotta get me loose, Nate," Remy panted.
Nate used his power to pull away Remy's jeans and underwear, then enjoyed the feel of the Cajun's cock and balls seething under his caressing fingertips. A long-fingered hand took hold of him and returned the favor. As they stroked one another, their mouths met again and again in passes that matched the bucking of their hips. Remy babbled in English and French, mostly nonsense interspersed with "please," "more," and "harder."
Nate almost felt like he could stroke Remy's mind and soul....
When he finally let go, Nate hadn't felt like he'd come so much as detonated in his pleasure and release as well as the deep tide of Remy's orgasm.
They collapsed back onto the bed, with Remy as a pliant, loose armful nuzzling his neck. "Dat was so good...." he murmured overand over between drowsy kisses.
Nate fell asleep to slow caresses and kisses and endearments whispered into his skin in two languages. He thought he heard Remy mutter, "Nice jump," but sated lassitude pulled him under before he could give it any thought.
Nate woke up a few hours later a sticky mess. //You were a sticky mess before you went to sleep too.// His body both sang and dragged at him, pulsing with endorphins and fatigue.
He'd just had the most incredible night of his life, and he knew it couldn't ever happen again.
Nate didn't regret it at all, but it had scared the hell out of him. Remy was just too close, and the affinity too disturbing. Nate wasn't a telepath anymore....
Remy murmured and curled in a little tighter, a long drape of warmth. Also sticky, with his clothing almost ripped away in places, he looked liked he'd been molested. The look of deep contentment on his face suggested it hadn't been against his will. He smelled like sex....
//Down, boy. You have to go, and that wouldn't make it any easier.//
He untangled himself with a minimum of self-indulgence, even if he couldn't resist stroking Remy's auburn hair. Nate would shower and try to telekinetically clean his clothing, then leave. He would not let himself feel that he was skipping out on Remy.
"'Morning," Remy said with a yawn. The full-body stretch that followed could only have been ignored by a corpse. "Whatchu doing up so early?"
Nate looked at the clock and smirked. "It's eleven o'clock in the morning."
"Early." Remy lay on the bed in a shameless, decadent sprawl, looking unselfconsciously debauched. "'Sokay, Nate. Whatever you want to do is fine."
Remy shrugged. "I don't believe in forevers."
//Of course he knew what you were thinking, idiot.// "But you want to."
Remy looked down. The gesture failed to look casual. "Your choice to leave or stay. Me, I'd like you to stay."
"I don't know what I want."
"'Owever you decide, I wanted you to know I 'ad a great time last night."
This time, when Remy kissed him, the frenzied heat of last night had been replaced by a glowing warmth. Affection. Nate felt it wash over him, and he drank it in greedily. He was sinking back down onto the bed without even being completely aware of what he was doing.
"I can... stay a little while longer. This isn't permanent...."
"I don' expect it to be."
Even as Nate felt the terror and exhilaration of utter freefall, he was starting to think that he might not eventually smash after all. Maybe, this time, he would land on his feet.
For the curious:
How does it feel
To treat me like you do
When you've laid your hands upon me
And told me who you are
I thought I was mistaken
I thought I heard your words
Tell me how do I feel
Tell me now how do I feel
Those who came before me
Lived through their vocations
From the past until completion
They will turn away no more
And I still find it so hard
To say what I need to say
But I'm quite sure that you'll tell me
Just how I should feel today
I see a ship in the harbor
I can and shall obey
But if it wasn't for your misfortunes
I'd be a heavenly person today
And I thought I was mistaken
And I thought I heard you speak
Tell me how do I feel
Tell me now how should I feel
Now I stand here waiting
I thought I told you to leave me
While I walked down to the beach
Tell me how does it feel
When your heart grows cold
(grows cold, grows cold, grows cold)
This story's sequel is "Real People."