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Stories by LadyLyte

"Hot Pursuit"
The X-Men scour New Orleans for a new mutant, while young man seeks an escape from his oppressors. Can the Xavier's Institute offer him the respite he is looking for? Or will his father continue to manipulate him?

"Running to Catch Up"
Gambit and Rogue leave town on a date ... on Wolverine's stolen Harley. In the city of New York, they encounter a gang of rather nasty mutants known as the Marauders.
(Sequel to "Hot Pursuit")

"Stolen Lives"
It seems that everyone has plans for the night of the high school prom ... including Mister Sinister. Gambit forges new relationships with the X-Men, despite his fears. Jean is forced to come to a decision, but it is not what you might think. Starring the entire cast of X-Men: Evolution, plus Polaris and Malice.
(Sequel to "Running to Catch Up")

"The Cast of Shadows"
The X-Men infiltrate Sinister’s base in order to uncover more information about the mutant virus. Meanwhile, Jean encounters a strange presence on the Astral Plane. Can it be that she is ... in love ... with Cerebro? Scott finds an attraction to another redheaded girl who bears some striking similarities to Jean. Gambit and Rogue deal with their mutant powers, and each other. (Unfinished)
(Sequel to "Stolen Lives")

"Tuna Fish or Nuthin or The Question"
When Rogue asks Gambit what he's thinking about, she sets off a Mars/Venus chain of events.


Web site: The House of the Rising Sun

Summary: The high school prom serves as a backdrop for the story. The students at Xavier’s come to learn more about their newest recruit, Gambit, who tries to stay carefully balanced between his life as an X-Man, and the life he had been following up until joining Xavier’s cause. Jean’s got an important decision to make, and it’s not what you might think. Can Lance forego being a jerk? Is Kitty ever going to shut up? How far can Scott throw an egg? All the answers to these questions and more in this two part Evolution event brought to you commercial free by Tide. High school was bad enough, but try taking finals with Sabretooth breathing down your neck.
Starring: Gambit, Jean, Avalanche, Cyclops and Rogue.
Also Appearing: Shadowcat, Nightcrawler, Storm, Spyke, Risty Wylde, Boom Boom, Toad and a smattering of New Mutants.
Guest Stars: Mister Sinister, Sabretooth, Malice, and Polaris

Rating: PG-15, for minor bad language and adult situations

Special Notes: If you haven’t read the first two stories in this series, I recommend you do so. The first is Hot Pursuit, the second: Running to Catch Up. You can find both on my webpage and at under my username LadyLyte.

You can find illustrations for this story here:

Special thanks to Alexis for beta-ing this for me.

Stolen Lives

Part One

"Welcome to the real world"
she said to me, condescendingly.
"Take a seat, take your life
plot it out in black and white."

Well I never lived the dreams of the prom kings,
and the drama queens.
I'd like to think the best of me
is still hiding up my sleeve.

They love to tell you "stay inside the lines,"
but something's better on the other side.

I want to run through the halls of my high school.
I want to scream at the top of my lungs.
I just found out there's no such thing as the real world,
just a lie you've got to rise above.

So the good boys and girls take the so-called right track.
Faded white hats grabbing credits, maybe transfers.
They read all the books but they can't find the answers.
All of our parents, they're getting older.
I wonder if they've wished for anything better.
While in their memories, tiny tragedies.

They love to tell you "stay inside the lines,"
but something's better on the other side.

I want to run through the halls of my high school.
I want to scream at the top of my lungs.
I just found out there's no such thing as the real world,
just a lie you've got to rise above.

I am invincible.
I am invincible.
I am invincible,
as long as I'm alive.

I want to run through the halls of my high school.
I want to scream at the top of my lungs.
I just found out there's no such thing as the real world,
just a lie you've got to rise above.

I just can't wait for my ten-year reunion.
I'm gonna bust down the double doors.
And when I stand on these tables before you,
you will know what all this time was for.

- "No Such Thing" by John Mayer

Evan Daniels was determined to make the life of his new roommate a waking nightmare. Why should he, whose own aunt was one of the instructors at Xavier's Institute, have to share a room with another student? And share with a newbie, no less. Evan lay on his bed, staring up at the ceiling. Sunlight splashed over his bed, cast from the nearby window. He glanced over at the second bed with contempt. It was on the opposite side of the room, cramped in the darkened corner. When Evan had moved in to Xavier's, he had made quick work of making the room his own. Posters of his favorite bands and skateboarders plastered the walls. Clothes scattered across the floor and spilled from the overstuffed closet. The top of the dresser was a menagerie of junk and knick-knacks Evan had amassed over the days, which turned into weeks, which turned into months of collected trash-treasures.

He leaned over to turn up the volume on his radio. He knew for a fact that none of the other students at Xavier's beside himself enjoyed the musical styling of the Festering Boils. He hoped that his new roommate would be no different. There came a soft knock from the door.

"S'a private party, man. Go away," he called, as he leafed through a skateboarding magazine.

The door opened in spite of Evan's greeting. Evan glowered at the trespasser over the top of his magazine. "‘Lo," the kid in the doorway said.

"Yah, what?" Evan said with hostility.

"Don' know if t'others tell you or not, but I'm guessin' we're going t'be roommates."

Evan sniffed in response and returned to his magazine. "So the bed's over there," he said, pointing absently in the bed's direction.

"I see. And properly aligned with the southwest-northeast axis. How Feng Shui."

Evan gave the other boy a hard look "What?" Evan said. "Is that anything like Kung Fu?"

Evan's new roommate surveyed the room stoically. His eyes were hidden behind dark sunglasses, making it difficult to discern any kind of expression. "Uh, no," he finally replied. "But I think I might have to explain it to you later." He picked up one of Evan's dirty jerseys, which had been carelessly flung over the unused bed.

Evan glowered at the other boy. The suitcase the other had been trailing continued to trundle forward under its own momentum. It came to a halt when it knocked softly against a bedside table.

"So what kind of name is ‘Remy' anyway?" Evan jibed.

"An unfortunate one," came the mumbled reply. "Y'can jus' call me Gambit if you'd like."

Evan sat up on his bed, surprised at Remy's lack of interest in Evan's attempt to bait him. "Is that all you brought with you?" he asked, eyeing the suitcase on the floor and duffel bag slung over Remy's shoulder.

"Ev'rythin' I need to survive," Remy replied, tossing his duffel bag onto the bed. He sat beside his duffel bag and tapped the suitcase with his foot. The suitcase fell over with a heavy thud. Evan watched with curiosity as his new roommate unzipped the case. Inside were three lidded oblong boxes. "Nate tole me I'd better get this stuff out of my old room," Remy said as he lifted one of the lids. "‘Less he burn the whole lot."

Inside the box, neatly ordered and packaged in polybags, were a series of slim multicolored booklets.

"Hey, you like comics?" Evan said with mild surprise.

"I'll admit to having a mild obsession," Remy said. "You?"

Evan stood up and walked over to his closet. Opening the door caused an avalanche of comics to cascade across the hardwood floor.

"Cool," Remy said, and he smiled.

Kitty was excited. In her usual animated way, this morning's breakfast held a captive audience for the details of her latest obsession: the high school Junior-Senior Prom. Despite being a freshman, she had volunteered for the board who would help make all the decisions for this year's promenade.

"Today is the day we get to nominate the prom king and queen!" she proclaimed. "And prince and princess, of course. I can't wait until we get to announce the possible themes this year. It's either going to be "Parisian Lights" or "Medieval Romance." I personally think that the Parisian idea is the best, but then, I helped brainstorm that idea."

"Listen, Kitty," Rogue broke in sardonically, "Ah hate to burst yer bubble, but not all of us are as excited about this stupid prom thing as you."

"Speak for yourself, Rogue," Kitty snapped. "But the prom is a big deal!"

"Well, yer not the one who has to sell these stupid fund-raiser candy bars for the upperclassmen's prom," Rogue grumbled, idly stirring her soggy cereal. She glared at the odious box of candy that sat on the floor beside her. "It's been a month and Ah've sold all of two of these things. Leave it to Principal Kelly to make us sell candy that don't even have a proper name." She held up a candy bar sheathed in white paper. "Candy Bar" was written on the side in bold black letters. Rogue made a sound of disgust, and let the candy fall from her fingers to land back in the box.

"The problem is, Rogue," interjected Nightcrawler, who clutched two boxes of the candy to his narrow chest, "you're not marketing the candy bars properly. It's all about salesmanship and location. I, myself, have staked out the weight room. You wouldn't believe how many of these things Duncan has put away!"

Rogue rolled her eyes. "Who cares anyway!" she said. "Me and you are sophomores, and Kitty's still a freshman. We ain't goin' to the prom, so: So what!"

"That's not true," Kitty said brightly. Ever the optimist, she added: "If an upperclassman asks one of us to be their date, then we can go!"

"And who's goin' t'ask you?" Rogue sniped. "Lance, maybe?"

"Well..." Kitty said, twirling her hair around her finger, "There's Scott ... and Remy is a senior, too."

Both Rogue and Kurt bristled at this.

"Why all the glum faces?" said Jean as she pushed aside the swinging door that led to the kitchen. "Does somebody have a case of the Mondays?"

Rogue thought to herself, "Ah hope ya strangle on your SugarBombs!" The thought came with such venom that Jean couldn't help but overhear her thought.

"We're just talking about the prom," said Kitty. "Did Duncan ask you yet?"

Jean carefully sidestepped Rogue. "Uhm, no," she replied. "Not yet."

"Well, what about Scott?" Nightcrawler asked, then cowered behind his boxes of candy when all three girls in the kitchen glowered at him. "Oh, I mean, uhm, Scott hasn't asked anyone yet, but I bet he'll probably ask Taryn," the stares continued. "...or not. Or maybe I should just ... uhm, leave. See you at school! Bye-bye!" With that said, Kurt, and his candy, vanished with a burst of brimstone.

"Bleah," Rogue said, waving her hand to disperse the signature smell of Kurt's departure. "Crack a window. Ah've totally lost my appetite."

Jean walked over to the kitchen counter and selected an orange from a bowl of fruit. She paused over the stack of mail lying beside the fruit bowl. Idly she pushed through the stack of bills and credit card pre-approvals. She was just beginning to feel relieved when she reached the bottom of the pile and found an envelope addressed to her. She quickly folded the envelope in two and put it into her back pocket. With a smile, she turned back to the other two girls sitting at the table.

"Well, I'm going to head off to school early. Choir practice," she added.

"Hey, I'll come with you," Kitty said. "I've got to set up for visual communications."

Rogue rolled her eyes. "Sounds like a blast," she mumbled. But she too stood up to make an early start of her school day. Unbeknownst to Jean and Kitty, she knew for a fact that Scott would be out on the school track for an early morning run.

Class that day featured a new assignment: persuasive speechmaking. As the teacher outlined the structure on how to make a persuasive speech, Remy LeBeau let his mind drift. Speech was boring, one of his least favorite classes, but he had chosen it as one of his electives. The reason he had chosen to take the class was seated adjacent to him, only two aisles away. He looked over at her now. Rogue had the glazed over look of a student who had reached her limit on retaining knowledge. Her cheek was resting on her gloved palm while her other hand tapped her pen against the desktop.

Remy leaned back in his seat and quietly tore a leaf of paper from his binder. Smiling, he wrote: "Do you like me?" followed by the words "Yes" and "No." At the bottom, he penciled in the instructions: "Circle One." He folded the note into a tight football shape, and placed it on his desk. Holding it against the desk with one forefinger, he flicked the mini-football with the other, and sent the projectile flying over the head of the student that separated Remy from Rogue. With pinpoint accuracy, the note landed on Rogue's desk, right in the middle of her open notebook. She blinked and looked down at the note. She put her hand over it and pulled it beneath her desk to open it in relative secrecy.

Once opened, she gave a snort of mirth, causing several students to glance in her direction. She leaned her mouth against a fist, to conceal a grin. Satisfied, Remy returned to staring off into space. A few moments later, however, the note landed back on his desk. He looked over at Rogue, who was staring at the teacher with false interest. Remy unfolded the note and read.

"What I'd like," Rogue had written, "is for you to get a life, and let me alone!"

Undeterred, Remy added to the note: "Will you be my steady?"

Rogue's shoulders shook with unreleased laughter when she opened the new letter. The kids seated nearby, whom had up until this point, been in a state of half-sleep, were now attentively watching Remy and Rogue's exchange. The paper football volleyed across the room several times more, until, while Rogue was carefully aiming the projectile, the class bell rang. Startled, the note flew off course and skidded across the floor to stop in front of the teacher's desk. The teacher looked at the note, then back up at the class full of students. Everyone was suddenly interested in packing up their books and hurrying out of the room.

Remy and Rogue pushed out of the door together and out into the busy hallway. Once outside, they both broke into laughter.

"You coulda got me in trouble," Rogue declared, punching Remy in the arm.

"You asked for it," Remy replied, as he followed her to her locker. "Did y'get the new assignment?"

"Yeah," she replied with disgust. "Persuasive speech. Oh, man. Ah couldn't persuade a skunk t'stink."

"Mebbe I could give you a brief tutorial," he replied, his voice laden with innuendoes. Rogue had seen him apparently mystify others with his careful wording and practiced body language. She was determined this trick wouldn't work on her.

"Hey, you got anymore of those candy bars left?" he asked.

Rogue made a noise of contempt. "Of course. But Ah ain't givin' you another one. You still haven't paid me for the last two."

"Oh, c'mon, chere. Y'know I'm good for it."

For some reason, Rogue found she couldn't resist his request. She reached into her locker and handed him a bar from the box. "What d'you even want these things for? Y'don't actually eat them, do you?"

He pulled his sunglasses down his nose and gave her a wink. As usual, he had neglected to use the image inducer Professor Xavier had given him. His eyes were surprisingly black with red pupils, betraying the fact that he was a mutant. "I'm conducting an experiment in physics class. I'm bound and determined to discover what is really in those things."

Rogue shook her head. "Are y'sure you wanna find out?"

"Hey, t'ink of it this way. You're one more candy bar closer to winning the grand prize for most candy bars sold. A free ticket to the prom!" he clapped his hands in mock delight and looked wistfully skyward. "Oh, I do hope Duncan will ask me t'go!"

"Will you get out of here," Rogue said, shoving him aside. "Ah'm going t'be late for class."

"Fine, dash my girlish hopes and dreams. I'll see you at lunch, and we can discuss the color of my ball gown," he called over his shoulder as he strode down the hall.

"Forget the gown, bring the money you owe me!"

Remy wandered in to class several minutes after the bell had sounded. The room he walked into was empty, save for the long worn tables and stools. In the room adjacent were various power tools and equipment. He could see his other classmates through the window between the two rooms. They were all working studiously under the careful eye of Mrs. Barone, the shop teacher. Remy tossed his book bag onto the sawdust-covered table and lay his head down on his arms. Normally, he saved his naptime for study hall, but he was in the mood to taunt Mrs. Barone today.

He could sense her heavyset presence filling the doorway between the classroom and the workshop.

"Mr. LeBeau," she began as her preamble. "I suppose you think you can come into my class and sleep, do you?" She glowered down at the back of Remy's head, which hadn't yet looked up.

"Madame Barone," he said, his voice muffled from under his arms. "As you can see, I've completed the latest assignment you've given with record time." He reached over and picked up a dowel rod that was lying on the table before him. "A useful instrument, good for poking things." Without lifting his head, he aimed a poke at the instructor. She snatched it from him and gave him a thwack with it.


"Yes, very useful, indeed. Now get out there and fix that hovel you called a birdhouse before I have it condemned."

"Hey, I thought my days of corporal punishment were done when I left the Catholic school," Remy grumbled. He shuffled into the workshop and looked around before finding who he was looking for. "Tolensky, heads up!" With that, he tossed the candy bar Rogue had given him into the air.

Todd Tolensky, otherwise known as Toad, deftly caught the candy with his dexterous tongue and swallowed the entire thing. He tapped his chest with a closed fist and burped. A foil wrapper sprung out of his mouth and landed soggily on his workbench.

"That's very charming," commented the blond girl who was sitting across from Todd. "What's up Rem?"

"Usual, Boom," he replied to her. "Lance."

Lance Alvers flipped up the safety goggles he was wearing and gave a short wave before coming over to the table with Toad. Shop was the only class the two of them seemed to attend regularly. Amazingly, Todd was a pro at handling the tools, and Mrs. Barone's favorite pupil. So much so, that Mrs. Barone had vouched for him and he was going to the career center next year despite his abysmal grades.

Todd didn't take the free candy bar for granted. "So your birdhouse'll be done before three," he said, never once looking up from the project he was working on.

"Tolensky, you're awesome," Remy replied, lacing his fingers behind his head and leaning back luxuriously.

"Don't make it perfect, Todd, or Mrs. Barone'll never believe Remy made it," Boom Boom said.

"I resent that," Remy replied.

"Are you going to Harry's after school?" Lance asked Remy.

"Nah, got some stuff t'do," Remy said and added: "Though I overheard Kitty say something about a study group there this afternoon."

Boom Boom made a kissing noise. "Oh, Kitty!"

Lance glowered at her and Remy smirked. "Play it cool, Lance. No one's asked her out yet."

Toad sniggered. "Even if you do get Kitty to go with you to the prom, where y'gonna come up with the money for the tickets?"

Lance opened and closed his mouth several times. It was unusual for Todd to one-up anyone, especially Lance. "Who says I want to go to the stupid prom anyway? It's totally lame!"

Boom Boom rolled her eyes.

"All right, break it up, kiddies," said Mrs. Barone as she strode over to them. She handed them each a slip of paper.

"Yo, waz this, teach?" Toad said, looking over the paper.

"Prom king, queen, and court nominations," she said. "Fill em out and put them in the box in the cafeteria."

"I know who I'm voting for!" announced Todd, before filling in all the blanks with Mrs. Barone's name.

The teacher rolled her eyes and quickly walked away. The blush in her cheeks betrayed her delight.

"You, dog, you," Remy said and sniffed, wiping an imaginary tear from his eye. "He's learning so fast. I'm so proud!"

Boom Boom made a gagging noise and Lance said: "God, you are such a suck-up!" before grabbing a misplaced dowel rod and giving Todd a sharp smack.

Todd rubbed his sore arm. "Y'all just jealous!"

Jean was finding it hard to share Kitty's enthusiasm. As they walked down the hall together, heading towards the lunchroom, Kitty bounded from one topic to the next. Jean found herself fading in and out of the conversation. The envelope she carried in her back pocket was weighing her down, as if it were made of lead and not paper.

"Earth to Jean!" Kitty suddenly exploded into Jean's thoughts. "Hey! Are you still with me?"

Jean shook her head. "I'm sorry Kitty. I got lost in thought. What were you saying?"

Kitty waved her hand in dismissal and shook her head. "I bet I know what you were thinking about!" she cried with a smile. "You don't have to tell me. It must be about Duncan!"

Jean laughed weakly. "Oh, ha. Right, Duncan and the whole prom thing. Oh, I just don't know what to do."

"Like he's going to ask anyone else, Jean," Kitty said, in what she must have thought of as a conspiratorial tone of voice. "Or were you thinking about Scott?"

"Oh, no," Jean said, waving the thought away. "He's like a brother...or something."

"Imagine! Your brother asking you out to the most romantic event of the year!" Kitty enthused. "So who did you vote for?" she continued, brandishing her voting slip. "You don't have to worry about telling me. I'll be doing the tally anyway, and I can recognize your handwriting."

Jean still held her blank slip in her damp hand. She looked at the crinkled and moistened paper and realized she'd been clenching it in her fist. "I hadn't thought about it yet," she said softly.

"I know I had to think for a long time, too," Kitty said understandingly. "It's an important decision."

"Yes, it is," Jean murmured. "Hey, Kitty, I'll catch up with you later. I'm just going to head in here for a moment." She paused by the door leading to the girls' restroom. "Save me a seat, okay?"

"Sure!" Kitty said, and trotted off after some of her other friends.

Jean waited until Kitty had rounded the corner, then turned around and walked back up the hall. She paused before the guidance councilor's office. She tapped on the door softly before opening it.

"Mr. Cassidy, are you in?" she said, peering into the room. She spotted him watering his plants by the window. He turned to the sound of her voice.

"C'mon in, lass," he said with his soft Irish-accented voice. "Have a seat. D'ye need t'talk about anything?"

Jean smiled at him warmly. "I do," she said. "And I needed someone with an...unbiased ear."

Remy clambered up the metal risers to where Rogue was sitting. She was staring out over the playing field below, half-involved in a conversation with the purple-haired girl beside her.

"‘Lo, Rogue," he said, as he approached. "Risty."

"Hi, Remy," Risty replied with a smile.

"Where's my money?" Rogue asked. "Y'stood me up at lunch."

Remy bent down on one knee and presented Rogue with three crisp one-dollar bills, head bowed. "My lady," he said, humbly.

"Bout frickin' time," she said, ignoring his theatrical presentation and snatching the bills from his proffered hands.

"I need to get going," Risty said. "Tons of homework ... Do you two need a lift?"

Rogue paused, still staring out at the field. "Uhm, no, thanks Risty. Ah think Ah'll hike it today."

Remy followed Rogue's gaze to the track below. Scott Summers was there, toweling his sweat-dampened hair and taking a swig from his water bottle. Remy's expression turned to one of contempt.

"I'm goin' into town," Remy said to Risty.

"Great, that's on my way," she replied. "Let's go. Bye, Rogue."

"See ya," she said distantly.

Remy followed Risty to her car, an old BMW that had seen better days, but still ran well. "Thanks for the lift," Remy said to her as he slid into the passenger seat.

"Anytime," she replied. She started the car and she paused to fiddle with the radio. "So where were you when it happened?" she asked.

Remy blinked and turned to her. "When what happened?"

Risty's mouth quirked into a grin. "When they announced the theme of this year's prom. I'll always remember the moment. I was in line in the cafeteria and Margaret was heaping a pile of mystery meat onto my tray."

Remy laughed. "A moment to treasure forever."

"Memories..." Risty sang.

"So what was it?" Remy asked.

"What was what?"

"The theme?"

"Oh, something about going medieval."

Remy laughed again. "And me without my battle ax."

"Are you planning on asking a special someone to the dance?" Risty asked.

He made a sound of contempt. "Right. Can you see me at the prom? With the corsage, and the suit, and slow dancin' to ‘Lady in Red'?"

"What about Rogue?"

"What about her?" Remy asked.

"It doesn't take a mind reader to tell you're sweet on her."

Remy paused, studying Risty's profile as she drove. "She's all right. But I'm just using her to get to you. You totally hot and tempting vixen, you."

Risty risked a swing in his direction, which he caught on the arm.

"What is it with people hitting me today?" he asked to no one in particular. "Here, this is my stop."

Risty pulled up to the curb. "Thanks again for the ride," he said, leaning down into the open passenger side window.

"No prob," she said. "What are you doing after work?"

"Most likely that physics assignment I've been putting off for the past week," he replied.

"I know how it is. I've got a paper in French that's been haunting me since last Tuesday."

"Hey, if you need any help with it, I'm your man. Give me a call later, and maybe we can get together."

Risty smiled. "That would be great."

Remy pushed open the swinging glass door and entered the dimly lit interior of the comic book shop. With a deep breath, he sucked in the wonderful smell of paper and the underlying odor of Taco Bell food.

"Hey, Ellis, I know you're here. I can smell the enchiladas."

Ellis appeared from the back room. He straightened his wire-rimmed glasses and gave Remy a grin.

"You're late," he said.

"Shouldn't you be watching the front of the shop? You never know what thieving miscreant could step through this door."

Ellis moved ponderously towards the register. He gesticulated wildly, encompassing the empty shop. "You're right. This place is just teeming with customers ... a criminal element could be hiding in their midst."

Remy tossed his backpack behind the counter. "Business not too good today, hunh?"

"The usual," Ellis said resignedly. "Maybe I should just pack it in."

"You say that every week, and then the new issue of Spy Vixen comes out, and we're open for another month."

Ellis took a contemplative slurp from his emptying cup. "I suppose you're right."

Remy took a seat behind the register counter and opened his book bag. Ellis was cool with him doing his homework on shift, so long as he was helping the customers and there was nothing else to do. Ellis paid him so little anyway, it really didn't matter. Despite the poor wage, Remy was passionately vain about his after school job. After all, uppity tight-assed jerks like Scott Summers didn't have jobs, and didn't work for what was just handed over to them. Professor Xavier had permitted him get a job, so long as he kept up with schoolwork, and didn't neglect his X-Men duties. It was a lot more freedom than his adoptive father, Nathan, had allowed.

The front door squeaked open, and Remy and Ellis blinked in the bright afternoon sunlight that spilled in. Remy recognized the form in the doorway.

"Hey, Lance."

"If you're not buying anything, then get out," said Ellis.

"Nice to see you, too, Ell," replied Lance.

Ellis gave a snort, and lumbered back into the stock room.

"Whadup?" Remy asked.

Lance gave a moan and leaned his head down on the glass counter, covering his head with his arms. "High school is pure, hellish torture," he groaned.

"Would you get your greasy head off the counter?" Remy said. "I've all ready had to mop fanboy drool off it this week."

"I'm glad you're so understanding," Lance said wryly.

"So Kitty turned you down, eh?"

"How did you---?" Lance began, then sighed. "She totally blew me off. They're all over at Harry's. It was hardly a ‘study group.' More like a nerd convention."

"I hope you didn't tell her that."

"They didn't seem to think it was as funny as I did."

Remy shook his head. "Didn't I tell you to be cool? Look, I've only lived over at Xavier's for a month or so, but I know Kitty. I can read her like ... like issue number three-seventeen of Mech-Destroyers."

"Is that the one where Maximus throws Diablacon into the sun?"


"That was cool."

"Like I was saying. Kitty's a girl."

"I know she's a girl, dumbass. I wouldn't be after her if she wasn't."

"No, I mean a girl with a capital ‘G.' Pink sweaters and giggling, teddy bears and stuff. And the difference between a Girl and a girl is that she wants to be treated like a Girl."

"I'm not following."

"You've got to romance the Girl. I'm talking teenage Sweet Valley High meets Sailor Moon."

"You know way too much about this stuff," Lance said, as he pretended to stand up to leave.

"Don't make me beat you over the head with my Physics book. Listen. Flowers, candy. Crappy stuff like that. Throwing a stink bomb at her isn't going to work. That's kindergarten stuff."

Lance groaned. "I don't know if I can live with myself. And if Todd or Dukes finds out...or Pietro with is big stupid fat mouth." Lance made a fist. "I'd just like to punch that guy just once," he said, mostly to himself.

Remy shook his head. "This may take a lot of work..."

Jean stared out of the car window, watching the scenic small town of Bayville whip by. She was seated in the passenger seat of a fast-moving Mustang; a car owned by the man to her left, Duncan. Jean was thinking about her earlier meeting with Mr. Cassidy, and what he had told her.

Jean had pulled the envelope from her back pocket, which was crushed and slightly curved to the contours of her backside. "I got this in the mail this morning," she had begun.

Mr. Cassidy took the envelope from her. It was addressed to Jean Grey at Xavier's Institute. It had come from Brown University, of Rhode Island. After Mr. Cassidy had read the letter, he smiled at Jean.

"Congratulations, Jean! What a wonderful opportunity. Brown is such a prestigious university, especially in medicine."

Jean nodded proudly. Acceptance to Brown was wonderful, but the scholarship they were offering was even better.

Mr. Cassidy continued: "But you didn't come here just to show me this, did you?"

"No," Jean replied. "My parents had driven me up to Brown over winter break ... to see the campus before I applied. It's a long drive, isn't it?"

"It's a few hours, aye. But it isn't as if it were on the other side of the country. Is that what's bothering you, lass? How far away the university seems?"

"Far away, yes. From my family, my friends, from ... everything. But you think I should go, don't you?"

"I think that it would be a mistake to pass this up. But I can't tell you what to do, Jean. That is nae my job here. You should do what is right for you."

Jean was still thinking about the meeting, hours later.

"Hey, Jeannie," Duncan's voice broke into her thoughts. "What's on your mind?"

Jean smiled as she looked over at him. "I had a meeting with Mr. Cassidy today," she said.

"Geez, whatever's wrong must've been really bad, if you had to go talk to that guy," Duncan said. "Hey, open up the glove box. I think what you'll find will cheer you up."

Jean complied and opened up the glove compartment. Two tickets fell out onto her lap. "Oh, tickets to the prom. That's ... that's really nice, Duncan."

"Yup," Duncan said, leaning back into his seat, obviously proud of his accomplishment. "Sorry I kept you hangin' for so long. Didn't know it would bug you so much."

She gave him a quizzical look. "What is that supposed to mean?" she demanded.

"Well, you've been so upset lately. Even Kitty noticed and---."

"You think I'm upset because you didn't ask me to the prom? That you left me ... hanging?"

"Well, yeah. What color is your dress, so I know what flowers to get you."

Jean tossed the tickets back inside the glove compartment and slammed it shut. "I don't have a dress. I didn't get one. Do you know why? Because I don't care. That's why. About the prom, or whether or not you were going to ask me, or whether my corsage matches the color of my dress."

"Geez, I didn't know you were going to take it so hard. Calm down, Jeannie."

"Is any of what I'm saying getting through to you? Pull over."

"Oh, c'mon Jean..."

"I said, pull over!"

Duncan shocked himself by braking forcefully. It was as if someone else had taken control of his body. "Jean!" he cried.

She got out of the car and slammed the door. "Is that what you think of me? That I'm so shallow, my whole life revolves around a stupid dance? I don't want to go to the prom, okay! Not with you, not with anybody. I just want to be left alone!" Jean began to stomp away.

"Hey!" Duncan shouted after her. "Those tickets were expensive!"

Jean gave a cry of exasperation. She was so upset, she rounded the corner as quickly as she could and walked into the first door she came to. She blinked as her eyes adjusted to the dimness of the store's interior. She was shocked to find herself staring at Lance Alvers, and behind the counter, Remy LeBeau. They too looked equally surprised.

After a long moment of silence, Remy was the first to speak. "Uhm, can I help you?"

Jean looked around the small shop. Comic books were neatly aligned in cascade-style shelves. Posters were plastered to the faux wood paneled walls. A table with several metal folding chairs stood in the center of the shop. A placard on the table announced the next Magic: The Gathering card game.

Jean's feet felt as if they were welded to the floor. If Lance and Remy hadn't been at the counter, she would have turned and fled. "Uh, no," she managed to reply. "What I'm looking for is right here." She grabbed the first comic she set eyes on and walked mechanically towards the counter. "I---I didn't know you worked here," she said lamely.

"Yeah, for a couple weeks now," Remy said, taking the comic book from her outstretched hand. "Mech-Destroyers?" Remy inquired. Lance had moved off into the back of the store, pretending to read a Sailor Moon comic, which he held upside-down.

"Yes," Jean replied. "They're my favorite."

Remy studied her. "An excellent selection," he said. "What's your favorite issue?"

Jean paused, her mind stretching for a number ... any number. "Three-seventeen...?" she said finally.

Remy and Lance shared a look, then nodded appraisingly. "That will be $3.12 with tax. Would you like paper, or poly?"

"Three dollars and twelve cents!" Jean exclaimed. "That's extortion!"

"Tell me about it," Remy said, understandingly. "Have a seat," he nodded toward the metal chair that Lance had been sitting in.

Jean reluctantly took the chair.

"So what's bothering you?" he asked.

"Hey, I thought we were talking about my problem," Lance interjected.

"Your five minutes are up, Lance," Remy replied.

"Don't let me interrupt you," Jean said, eager for a chance to escape.

"Not at all, not at all," Remy said, waving her back down into the chair. "How could I turn away a lady in distress?"

"Who says I'm distressed," Jean snapped. When Remy handed her a tissue, she suddenly realized she had been crying. "Duncan's such a jerk," she said finally.

"We already knew that," Lance said, coming over.

Jean sighed. "He asked me to go to the prom."

Remy and Lance looked at her questioningly. "And that's not a good thing?" Remy asked.

"What do you think of me ... as a person?" she asked.

They were both stupefied.

"I---I think you're pretty. Hot. Pretty hot," Lance managed to stammer.

Remy shook his head with a sigh. "Lance ... have I taught you nothing?"

Jean interrupted. "It's okay, Remy. I guess that answer is a good as any. You must think I'm really shallow. Cheerleader-type Girl. Girl with a capital 'G.'"

"Well, no," Remy began, even though it was what he had been thinking.

"Don't worry about it, I'm not offended. I've just been a little on edge lately. Here," she said, tossing the acceptance letter from Brown University down onto the counter.

Remy picked it up and read it, Lance craning over his shoulder to see. "Wow," he said finally. "Brown University. That's a big deal."

"Yeah, it is," Jean said. "Especially if I want to go into medicine, which I do. I think. Or art ... or music ... or social work, or ... I don't know what I want to do."

"Isn't that in Rhode Island?" Lance said. "That's like, four or five hours away, or something. What are you going to do about the X-Men...? Oh."

Jean laughed ruefully. "See, even you get it."

"Hey!" Lance said.

"Sorry," Jean murmured. "I guess we all carry around our own biases."

"So it's Brown or the X-Men. For me, the answer would be easy," Remy said. "Pack it up and move on. But I suppose you've got baggage here that don't fit into a suitcase."

"How could I abandon the X-Men?" Jean asked, desperation in her voice. "The professor is counting on us. After Scott, I was his second student. I knew the professor since I was twelve years old, and he helped me get out of a bad time," she paused. "He's helped me so much. Professor Xavier is like a second father to me. I wish I could find an answer as easy as you could, Remy. But I'm also sorry that you don't see a reason to stay."

"You'll feel guilty no matter what you decide," Remy said. "What do you want more out of life? A career? A chance at a normal life? Or a lifetime of running Danger Room sessions and fighting bad mutants?"

"The X-Men were created to help people, just like I would do if I were a doctor or a social worker," Jean said. "But I'm a mutant. I've been made different for a reason. Maybe I'm obligated to a higher cause."

"Maybe you've already made your decision," Remy said.

Jean nodded, her expression closed. "Thank you for listening," she said softly as she stood. "I guess I still have a lot to think about."

"Here," Remy said, "don't forget your comic." He pushed it across the counter towards her.

"I haven't paid for it, yet," she said.

"It's on me," Remy replied. Jean picked up the book and walked to the door. She gave both of the boys a wave before she left.

"Hey, Remy," Lance said after they had sat in silence for a few moments.


"If the X-Men and the Brotherhood ever, like, got into a fight or something, what would happen to ... or, I mean, what would we do? Me and you?"

"Lance, it wouldn't matter. 'Cause I would so kick your butt. It would be over before it even began."

"In your dreams," Lance rebutted.

"Gotta play the hand you're dealt, Lance. But if it ever came down to it, rest assured, I'd only kick your butt a little bit."

Scott tapped on the door leading to Evan's room. Usually, the door was shut tight to muffle the sound of blaring music. Today it gently opened when Scott knocked. He was astounded at what he saw inside.

"Evan?" he said, peering into the room. He took a step back and looked up and down the hallway, to make sure he had the right room. Sure enough, it was five doorways down from the stairs.

"Hi, Scott," Evan said brightly. Scott finally spotted him seated at his desk. The room before him was cleaner than he'd ever seen it before. The desk had been cleared, clothes put away, posters either taken down or neatly arranged. There was a carpet on the hardwood floor he hadn't realized was there before. Even the beds, which had matching red bedspreads, were made.

"What happened in here?" Scott asked in amazement.

"Feng Shui," Evan replied.

"What? Is that like Kung Fu?"

Evan shook his head. "No. Remy explained to me that a messy room was cluttering up my good vibes. I wasn't getting any positive chi."

Scott opened and closed his mouth several times. Surveying the room, he saw an octagonal mirror placed opposite to the window. There was a small bell hanging from the ceiling in one corner, whose red tassel swayed softly. A poster of Tony Hawk was neatly tacked to the closet door. Evan noticed Scott staring at it.

"That's the career corner," he said. "So I hung things there that would be related to what I want to be when I get out of school ... a professional skateboarder."

"Right," Scott said, running his hands through his hair. "Where is Evan and what have you done with him?"

Evan laughed. "So what have you come up here for, boss?"

"I came to tell you that--"

"Hey, Evan," interrupted a voice. "You'll never guess who--" Remy stopped short of the door when he saw Scott in the room. "Oh, hi Scott," he said, before walking past him and into the bathroom.

"Well, I'm glad you're both here," Scott said, just as Remy closed the bathroom door. "Cause Storm wants you both in the Danger Room at seven o'clock," he said loudly.

"We all ready knew," Evan said. "I wrote it down in my daily planner."

Scott blinked several times. Evan had never made it to a Danger Room session on time unless Scott reminded him on several occasions.

A singsong voice echoed from the bathroom: "I know something you don't know..."

Scott rounded on the door. "What?"

"I said, that I know something you don't know," Remy replied, poking his head out from behind the door.

"Is it about the pod people that abducted Evan?" Scott asked.

"No, dumbass. Come here and I'll tell you."

Scott suspiciously approached the doorway when Remy grabbed him by the collar and dragged him inside. He then slammed the door.

"Hey!" Evan cried and banged on the door. "I want to know, too."

Ignoring Evan, Scott folded his arms across his chest and asked: "Well, what is it?"

"Don't be so snippy, Ken Doll," Remy said as he examined himself in the bathroom mirror. "I know that a certain jar-head who stuffs his jockstrap asked a certain red-headed hottie to the prom."

Scott glowered at Remy. "You don't know anything," Scott snapped.

Remy turned to face Scott. "I know that he got turned down," he smiled.

Scott tried vainly to conceal his surprise. "He did...? Well, so? What does that have to do with me?"

Remy rolled his eyes. "Don't you want to know why jockstrap got kicked to the curb? Or do I have to force feed you the details?"

Scott scowled.

"Jean confided in me," Remy began. "She's really upset."

"About what?"

"If I told you, you wouldn't be able to ask her. And if you don't ask her, you won't seem like the sensitive guy that I know you to be. Unfortunately for Duncan, he was not a sensitive guy."

Understanding dawned on Scott. "And why are you telling me this?"

"Because it's up to you to take Barbie to the prom to fulfill her destiny," Remy said.

"You're a real jerk," Scott said. "But thanks, I guess."

Normally, Evan would have been annoyed that he had to share training time with his Aunt Ororo. But for Gambit, he made an exception. Storm had taken Remy under her tutelage after Wolverine had refused to. Evan wasn't sure if Logan would have trained Gambit before the incident with the Harley Davidson, but there was no question now on the subject. Today's training session featured a large, multi-floored complex, with guards that they were to avoid. It had involved a lot of running around, hiding, avoiding the computer's motion detectors and seeking out an escape route. By the time it was over (Evan having clipped a motion detector which had set off a blaring alarm), they were both sweating, and Evan was disappointed. As the simulation ended, the guards faded away, and they were left standing in an empty corridor.

"Auntie Ro," he said. "What gives? We didn't even get to use our mutant powers in that session. What was the point?"

But Ororo, also known as Storm, was barely paying attention to Evan's complaints. She was carefully scrutinizing Gambit. He was leaning against the far wall, staring back at Storm, his arms crossed in front of his chest. Offhandedly, Storm told Evan: "Someday, Evan, you might find yourself in a situation where using your mutant powers is out of the question. You simply cannot solve all of your problems by firing bones at them." Storm's arm suddenly shot out, and grasped Remy's forearm just as he began to dart backwards. Her grip was firm, and Gambit's eyes widened in surprise at her quickness. The pair of them stood rigid for several long moments, staring into each other's eyes, carefully appraising one another. Evan was rooted to the spot, watching the exchange with his mouth slightly agape.

Storm was the first to speak. "I know what you are now," she said quietly. "I thought I recognized something familiar in you, but I needed to make sure."

Remy stared back in silence; his eyes were cold, betraying nothing.

Storm continued in her soft voice. "The way you carry yourself, how you calculate your next move ... I know it, because I was once like you," she said. Then suddenly, she burst out in a loud commanding voice that echoed down the hall: "Tell me who trained you!"

Gambit suddenly jerked back, breaking free of Storm's grip. A look of fear flashed across his face. "I don't know what you're talking about."

Storm gave Evan a brief glance. "Evan, please leave the Danger Room."

But Evan didn't move. He kept looking from Storm, then to Gambit, then back to Storm again. He took take a step backwards when Gambit gave him a challenging glare, but held his ground. "What's going on?" he asked timidly.

Neither one gave him an answer. Instead, Storm questioned Gambit again. "Why are you here? Who sent you?"

Gambit finally turned away from Storm's powerful stare. "No one!" he shook his head. He started backing away from her. Storm continued to advance on him.

She said something too quiet for Evan to hear, and Remy continued to shake his head. Finally, he burst out in a voice that cracked: "I've never taken anyt'ing from you!"

"I know you have not," Storm said. "Because I would have known, if you did. You see, I was once a thief as well."

Evan was shocked. Auntie Ro was a thief! And Gambit, too. The revelation seemed to take a lot out of both of them. Gambit was sagging against the wall, and Storm stood back from him, her arms hanging at her sides. "I was just a young girl, then," she said, her voice returning to normal. "I was taken in by thieves on the streets of Cairo, and trained by a master thief." Her jaw jutted proudly. "I would not have seen it otherwise. You are far from a mere pickpocket."

Gambit looked resigned. "My father," he said to her softly. "My real father, Jean-Luc LeBeau. He taught me. Before he died. He would have taught me more! But I'm not a thief, not anymore."

Storm nodded. "Very well," she said.

Gambit took this as a dismissal and turned to leave. After he departed, Evan slowly approached Storm, who hadn't moved. "Auntie Ro?" he said. "Are you okay?"

Storm turned to Evan. "I will be fine. Please do not mention this incident to the others, Evan. I am counting on you."

"Whatever you say, Auntie Ro. I won't tell."

Storm put a hand on Evan's shoulder and smiled sadly. Then she too, turned and left the Danger Room.

Scott found Jean in the recreation room. She was seated on the couch, reading something that looked suspiciously like a comic book. Scott cleared his throat as he entered the room. Jean looked up and quickly hid her book behind a couch cushion.

"Oh, hi, Scott."

"Uhm, hi Jean. So I haven't seen you all day, what's up?"

She gave him an unconvincing smile. "Not much."

"Have you been thinking much about the prom?" he asked.

A shadow of anger passed over her features. "No. Not really," she said in a clipped voice.

Scott managed to continue on smoothly. "Yeah, me neither. There's been so much other stuff going on lately. I mean, between being an X-Man, and being a high school student, there isn't much room for anything else. Then there's track, and basketball ... filling out college applications, getting ready for graduation. Can you believe it's only, what? Three months away?"

Jean was nodding in agreement. "I know what you mean. Who has time to shopping for a gown?"

"Or reserving a limo ... or paying for a corsage in advance?" he sat down on the couch beside Jean.

"Where---?" Jean began. "Where were you planning on going to college?"

"Oh, I applied to Columbia and NYU. Someplace close, ya know. How about you?"

"I applied to Brown University. It's in Rhode Island."

"You did? Did you get accepted?"

"Yes. They've offered me a scholarship," Jean replied.

"Wow! An Ivy League school. Jean, that's awesome."

Jean smiled. "Thanks."

"I'll really miss having you around, though," Scott said softly. "I've known you for so long ... we practically grew up together. The Professor is going to miss you, too."

"I---I haven't decided if I am going to go yet. I haven't decided anything," she said firmly. "But it helps to talk about it."

"Whatever decision you make will be the right one," Scott said. "You can't go wrong."

Jean sighed. "You've always had more confidence in me than I have. Thanks, Scott. You're a good friend. Better than that, even."

"Like, a brother, right?" he asked, a twinge of sarcasm entered his voice that he couldn't hide.

"No, not like a brother," Jean replied. She then leaned forward to kiss him softly on the lips.

Remy and Risty had quickly abandoned the idea of studying soon after she had arrived at the Xavier Institute. Remy's mind was far away from homework, and Risty soon realized this.

"Would you like to take a walk?" she asked him. They were seated in one of many rarely used rooms in the mansion. Remy had passed up the rec room and the kitchen, and had avoided the room he shared with Evan entirely. They all seemed too public, too exposed, for him to be comfortable.

Remy almost sighed with relief at Risty's proposal. "That would be great," he said.

They both stood, and leaving the books open where they lay, exited the mansion. Night had fallen, and the air was still brisk, though spring was upon them.

"I needed some fresh air," Remy said, and then lit a cigarette.

"So do I," Risty said and with a laugh and snatched the offensive cigarette from Remy's mouth.

Remy smiled at her ruefully. They walked across the back lawn of the mansion, out of the circle of light cast by the halogen lanterns on the back porch.

"How was work?" Risty asked.

"It was ... interesting, to say the least," Remy said, then proceeded to explain Jean's entrance and his reaction.

"So you went and told Scott?" Risty said. "I thought you two avoided each other at all costs?"

This much was true, but what Remy hadn't told anyone was that he avoided Scott for reasons other than animosity. Today's exchange between Jean and Scott had been a first for him. He recalled how his heart had pounded loudly in his ears when Jean had appeared in the comic book shop. Being in close proximity to the pair reminded him painfully of his adoptive father, Nathan Essex, and his interest in them. It was more than an interest, though Remy refused to admit it to himself, it was borderline obsession. The less he knew about Scott and Jean, the better.

After the lapse in conversation Risty spoke again. "Ah, I've figured it out," she announced.

"Figured what out?"

"Why you told Scott," she said slyly. "If Scott and Jean hook up, permanently, where would that leave Rogue?"

Remy's expression remained neutral. "Why, Risty, I have no idea what you are talking about. What kind of twisted mind would come up with such an evil plot?"

She smiled a wicked grin, which she quickly hid. "Seriously, Remy, Rogue has carried a torch for Scott since I've known her."

"Yah, yah," Remy said, waving his hand in dismissal. Despite his blasé attitude, he was deeply disappointed. He didn't understand how someone like Rogue, who was so defiant and cynical, could like someone so straight-laced and wholesome. Rogue was to Scott what SugarBombs were to Shredded Wheat.

The pair soon found themselves at the lake on the edge of Xavier's property. The moon's reflection bounced up and down on the lake's surface. The peaceful setting did nothing to ease Remy's tension, which quivered nervously inside of him like a tightly coiled spring ready to rebound. Storm had seen him for what he was, and had put him on the spot. He had felt stripped down in her commanding gaze as she called him a thief. And she had done it in front of Evan. By now, the mansion's inhabitants would know. They'd never trust him with anything. And once Storm told Professor Xavier, he'd be shipped back home in disgrace. What would Nathan do to him then?

Risty took Remy's arm and he let himself be led along the shore of the lake. They approached a boathouse with a brightly shining security lamp poised at the peak of the roof. Insects flew in frantic circles around the bluish-green light cast from the lamp. They walked down the short pier, which stood at the foot of the boathouse. Risty let go of Remy's arm and pulled her shoes from her feet. Sitting down at the edge of the dock, she let her feet down into the water. Remy stood looking out over the lake, still craving the cigarette Risty had pulled from his lips. He turned to her then, looking down at the top of her head and at her pretty bare legs and small feet dangling in the water. She looked up at him and smiled. He too pulled off his boots and rolled up his pant-legs, then sat beside her. He felt nostalgic, sitting on the lake with his feet in the water. It was much colder here than in New Orleans, the water chilled him immediately. But it made him think again on earlier years, when he spent many quiet hours by the water with a different girl. One with blond hair, not purple.

"Do you miss England?" he asked her.

Her eyes were soft and distant. "Of course. But I've always dreamed of living in America since I was young. What about you? Do you miss New Orleans?"

"Some parts of it," he admitted. "Not the parts with my crazy lunatic father," he added bitterly, surprising himself by revealing his true feelings to the girl beside him. "I don't want to go back."

"Parents can be difficult, can't they?" Risty said. "But what they do might be for the best."

"I wish I could believe that," Remy replied, then changed the subject. "Sorry I wasn't much help with your homework."

Risty smiled, and gave a small shrug. "It's too nice out here to worry about schoolwork. Maybe we could get together some other night."

Remy slowly became aware of Risty's close proximity, how her shoulder touched his and the warmth she radiated. He was glad he'd brought the image inducer with him to change the color of his eyes, though he hated to hide his appearance. It was as if he were embarrassed of being a mutant, though he was not. Risty must have sensed him looking in her direction, because she turned her head towards him. Their faces were only inches apart.

"Could we?" she asked him softly.

"Could we, what?"

"Get together ... some other night?"

"I'd like that," he said. Let Rogue find out for herself how unpalatable Shredded Wheat was. She'd learn in time, but for now, here was a girl who preferred her cereal with a little more kick. Remy touched Risty's cheek and leaned toward her.

In the darkness of the woods beyond the lake, a solitary figure crouched, unseen. How fortunate it was that his target had wandered away from the mansion and its security cameras and sensors. The figure lifted his head to scent the breeze that blew off the lake. His eyes widened a bit in surprise when he realized that he recognized both scents from the couple below. He watched as the pair leaned forward and shared a long kiss. He laughed hoarsely.

"Mystique(1), you cradle robber," he whispered to himself. "He's barely older than your own son!"


Concluded in Chapter 2

Extra information on X-Men: Evolution acquired from Beyond Evolution and
(1) See Episode #17 "Fun & Games": Risty is revealed to be Mystique in disguise.


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