Whispers

 
 
Chapter Five: Une Cible Facile

"An Easy Target"

- I mean, if de entire world didn't fear and hate us and want all mutants dead—we'd be having the time of our lives. -
- But they do. And we aren't. -
- Details. -

Gambit and Bishop, Uncanny X-Men #334

-
Remy gave Chere an impossibly mischievous grin and she thought he looked like a playful teenager as he skipped up the last flight of stairs to a dingy apartment door.

"What are you up to, Remy?" She stuck one hand on her hip.

He shrugged and fell straight as a board against the doorbell. He didn't seem to have any intention of letting up, instead adjusting his shades slightly.

Chere laughed at him. "You're impossible."

"If I was impossible, I wouldn't be here." He held his arms out dramatically. "And here I am!"

He didn't act like someone who was running for his life, and the good humor was infectious. Until a loud yelling broke the silence and the door was yanked open harshly, revealing a burly, unshaven man with a churlish demeanor, growling at them—at their waists.

Remy pulled away from the bell. "Ah, Puck. Did you miss me?"

"Gambit," Puck spat out.

"Les dames en premier, mademoiselle." Remy gestured her inside.

She had to brush past the little man to get through, but simply braced herself and slipped along by his heavy shirt and the smell of beer heavy on his breath.

She wrinkled her nose and kept going through the tiny little hallway into a tiny little living room with a giant, sagging sofa and the TV blaring ESPN. Despite the place being clearly low-income and well-worn, it was immaculate. The faint odor of antiseptic hung in the neat, bare kitchen.

Chere scooted up against a wall to make room for Remy. He was all business, striding over to the kitchen table and picking up a clipboard she hadn't even noticed.

"I see the good doctor is in," he said with a smirk.

Puck grunted and settled on the couch.

"Don't mind him," Remy told Chere. "He's just a two-bit thief."

"Two-bit my—"

"Shame, mon ami!"

Chere stifled a smile.

"Not in front of the lady."

The burly man turned around and eyed her up and down. She was surprised at how innocent the look was, but it was over quickly. He merely grunted again and turned back to the game.

She glanced at Remy. He was perusing the kitchen counter, reading labels on the little bottles and jars lined up against the walls.

"You're a thief?" she ventured.

He raised both eyebrows. "You have my memories and you didn't know that? Dieu!What do I think about?"

She laughed. "Can't you be serious for half a second?"

"Not that I can tell," a woman's voice said drily.

Chere turned and saw a beautiful brown-skinned woman with dreadlocks and a doctor's coat standing in the doorway to another room. The woman adjusted her glasses.

"Gambit."

"Reyes." He gestured toward the clipboard. "Have a minute?"

Reyes sighed. "I guess I have to."

Remy settled into a kitchen chair, indicating for Chere to join him. She complied, choosing to sit directly next to him and face the doctor.

"What do you want?" Her voice was somewhat harsh, and Chere would bet she didn't like interruptions as a rule.

"Cece, play nice," Remy admonished. "This is Chere. You took her samples."

Chere shot him a sharp look. "My what?"

"Samples," Reyes repeated. "Yes. They were inconclusive. Some sort of agent that binds to mutant genetic material and affects brain patterns. To get more information, I'd have to experiment on people. I'd rather not."

Remy frowned. "Could it cause amnesia?"

Reyes looked startled, then frowned in return, looking thoughtful. "It could. Is that what you're experiencing?" She aimed this at Chere.

Chere tilted her head and nodded. "I don't really remember anything, 'cept what they tell me."

"They?" Reyes looked even more surprised.

Remy pulled off his shades and turned his most focused stare at her. "Who's they, Chere?" he prodded.

She shook her head. "The personalities. The people. I don't know what to call them."

"Well..." Reyes glanced toward Puck. "You're a mutant."

"Yes."

"Do you know what your mutation is?"

Chere was beginning to like this conversation less and less. The doctor in front of her was harsh and clinical, Remy was abetting the interrogation, and a headache was beginning to form as several personalities started fighting her on it.

"I don't want to talk about it," she ground out thickly. Her accent was more pronounced and she started to feel lightheaded.

She closed her eyes and reached in. Remy's hand on hers made her open her eyes again. He turned her chin so she'd face him and she watched, fascinated, as the red in his eyes brightened and expanded, almost hiding the black.

"Easy now, Chere," he said softly.

Peace rippled through her mind.

"Better?" He tucked back a bit of her white hair that had come loose.

She nodded.

Reyes quietly cleared her throat. "Perhaps..."

They both looked at her.

"Perhaps if you could tell me what exactly is going on in your head," the doctor began, "then I could find a way to help you."

Chere smiled grimly. "It's like having a school room full of immature adult students, mostly male, privy to your entire life. Sometimes they're quiet. Sometimes they get mean."

Reyes blinked at that. "And they remember what you don't?"

Chere shrugged. "They're not that forthcoming."

"She gets them through touch," Remy added.

Chere glanced at him.

Reyes blew out a sigh. "Well, for memory issues, I'd contact Blindspot."

Remy stiffened. "Non. Not safe."

"Well, that's all I can recommend." Reyes stood. "I have patients, Gambit."

"Ouais, je sais." He waved her away. "C'mon, Chere."

"Who's Blindspot?" Chere asked as he herded them towards the door.

"Just someone I know."

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"I don't know. What kind of a name is Wolverine?"

She'd had a fire. From the first moment he met her, scared, lost, but uncowed and quick on her feet. She'd stood up to him. She'd stepped in for him. How could he not love her?

"I'm not your father, kid."

It had been both truth and lie, and both of them knew it. He was the closest thing she had to family. She was the closest thing to family for him.

"I'm Rogue."

Logan sighed and rubbed his face with a hand as he sat on the damp park bench. He missed her and her fire. He'd promised to take care of her, but she'd proven able to take care of herself.

"It's coming back, Logan."

He'd held her through the nightmares when her mutation returned. Most nights she woke up screaming.

"I'll take care of you. I promise."

Every job they ran, he made her touch him, absorb a little more of his healing power. It only lasted so long, and he refused to let her die.

"I kind of like it."

She'd grown from that scared, defiant girl he'd found in Alaska to a stunning, confident woman capable of doing anything. She could take him any day or tame him if she wanted to. She did neither. She stood beside him, arms bare to the world, and earned her own name.

"You don't have to shake hands, Rogue. Just be rude."

She'd laughed and learned and he was glad she had left the Institute. They were all about control.

"I can still feel him in my head. And it's the same with you."

She could never be controlled.

Logan dug his cell phone out of his pocket and glanced down at the number the French Canadian had given him. He dialed it. It rang three times.

"Bon matin. This is Mercy." The woman's voice was cheerful and professional. It was also very Cajun.

He settled in to talk. "Name's Logan. LeBeau told me to call."

A long pause. "Which LeBeau?"

"Just LeBeau."

He heard the shuffling of papers on the other end, a few keys tapped out on the computer. "I see," Mercy said, her voice still professional, but no longer cheerful. "You have a job for us?"

"I need to get in touch with—"

She cut him over. "I know who you want to talk to, but he is unavailable at this time. Do you have a job?"

Logan nearly growled. "He's the last person that was with my girl."

"Your girl?" Mercy sounded slightly confused. "Your girlfriend?"

"Daughter." Logan fudged the facts for simplicity's sake. "She's missing, and so is he."

"I see." More clacking. More shuffling. "We don't do missing persons too often, but we can at least look into this. Would you prefer to come to New Orleans or get in contact with the local branch?"

He froze. "Local branch? In Canada?"

She hummed appreciatively. "How close are you to Montreal?"

"Not at all."

"Then please find a way to New Orleans at this address." Mercy read it off slowly. "We'll see you as soon as you arrive." A brief pause. "And Godspeed."

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Xavier's School for the Gifted was a regular chaotic nightmarish hell once the news about Rogue had sunk in. Storm had tried to contain the growing...well, storm...but had accidentally told Kurt in and Hank apparently in the hearing of Jubilation Lee and that was all it took for everyone to know.

Which meant a general meeting of the students and staff.

Which meant another headache.

Kurt was nice enough to stay near while she prepared for it, and even nicer to try to help control things when the students uproared.

She managed to calm them and inform them that everything was being done to try to locate Rogue. Meeting dismissed.

Storm was proud of Rogue's graduating class. They were staff now and took everything in stride. Bobby looked furious beneath his calm demeanor, but he kept his cool in front of the kids.

The staff settled into the War Room for the real meeting: Hank, Moira, Storm, Bobby, Kitty, Jubilee, Kurt, Piotr, Warren, and Elizabeth. Storm didn't wait for everyone to find chairs to begin.

"Kitty has already been hunting down any Internet leads, tracking bank accounts, etc. Could you give us an update?" She leveled her gaze at the smaller mutant.

Kitty sat straighter. "Nothing. I've tried hunting down anything tied to a 'le diable blanc' but unless Logan comes up with a definitive lead soon on who uses that handle, I can't find a thing."

"What about tied to Rogue?" Bobby jumped in. The concern in his eyes was more open now that they were in more private quarters.

Kitty just shook her head. "Tried that first. It's like she's vanished. But I can always look again."

"Just keep looking," Storm said, "until you find something. Betsy?"

The purple-haired former assassin, Psylocke, turned in her seat and looked at Storm.

"We were hoping you and Jubilee could go up there and see if you pick up any traces." Storm raised her eyebrows questioningly.

"Why me?" Jubilee demanded.

"You're both Asian," Storm replied. "You look like you could be related and could poke around without raising as much suspicion."

Everybody stopped and stared at her.

She provided the rest of the details: helicopter, ground troops, explosion. Faces were pale by the time they all realized that Rogue had been in the middle of a possibly government operation.

Bobby spoke up at the end. "I knew her the best, possibly. Shouldn't I go?"

Elizabeth shook her head. "Not if what Logan reported is true."

"Besides," Jubilee added. "She dumped you."

"Let's not start that again," Kurt admonished before the mudslinging could start.

Everybody had missed Rogue and most had felt guilty or accusatory about it. Nobody but Logan, Rogue, and Bobby really knew though what had caused her to leave them like she had. She did not keep contact with anybody either, except through Logan. That was mostly to piggyback on Logan's Merry Christmas wishes.

Storm simply smiled gently at Bobby. "I actually need you here to help Kitty for exactly the reason you said. What would she do? Where would she go?"

That same sad smile met everyone around the table.

"We just simply don't know."

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Deadpool groaned as he waited for Zero to catch up to him. "You have to do that now?" he grumbled.

Zero merely glared.

"Yeah, fine, fine. I know that those who smoke simply have to have their cancer sticks." Deadpool shook his head. "Take it from an expert: don't go there."

They worked the locks and opened the front door to a very nice apartment.

"The cat's got bucks," Deadpool noted.

The place was clearly expensive and well taken care of. He glanced around the walls. Nothing personal though. It seemed as though the occupant had no life, only work.

Zero vanished in the direction of the bedroom. Deadpool walked up to the desk and popped the laptop lid.

So far nothing was out of place. The target had probably gone out for lunch and would come back to them.

A screensaver was running.

Deadpool tapped the mouse.

The screensaver vanished, replaced by a desktop background of the Canadian wilderness and a small dialogue box running some sort of virus scan.

Deadpool grunted. Not even a lock on the screensaver. And they said this guy was dangerous!

The scan was just finishing up.

"Zero? You sure this is the right place?"

The last second ticked off.

The laptop exploded in Deadpool's hands, throwing him against the far wall. Further rumbles told him there were more charges. He yelled and then everything went black.

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Chere woke in stiff sheets. She was disoriented for a moment. Remy's sheets were soft.

She sat up and looked around, then remembered. They were in a cheap little hotel room with two beds and Remy was out cold on the other.

She lay back down. "Sleep, girl," she whispered to herself, closing her eyes.

She drifted off.

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He waited in the back of her mind, waiting for her to return to REM. The part of him in here couldn't work too well when she was awake. Too many connections walled off and blocked. When she slept, doors flew open in the back of her mind. The psyches came out to play.

He went to work.

She was safely dreaming again and he floated invisibly toward the space the other "her" guarded. The other "her" was formidable and kept the enemy psyches out of her precious memories. Unfortunately, the other "her" couldn't even get at her memories right now. That left it up to him.

The Prince of Thieves.

Just like the big score, only this one was more important. She'd tried to save him and he would return the favor.

The other "her" shoved back another psyche. He stilled and took note of the failed intruder: Pyro.

That homme never did have what it took to be a thief. Upfront. In your face. Light a fire signal first.

He hunched down and waited for the other "her" to finish her scan, then slowly, ever so slowly moved forward again. He sunk deeper into her unconsciousness. The memory patterns yielded after much resistance.

He wondered if getting out would be harder than getting in.
 


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