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After Gambit's Return

Stories by Indigo

"The Last Bug Hunt"
Tragedy befalls Nightcrawler and Rogue when they take a vacation to Hawaii together and run into the Brood.

Sinister and the Marauders try to atone for their past crimes -- through housecleaning.

"Recipe for a Really Bad Day"
Takes place sometime after the X-Men's battle with Alpha Flight in UXM 355. Scott takes the PMS-striken Rogue, Jean and Psylocke to the DMV to renew their drivers' licenses.

"A Rose by Any Other Name"
Rogue calls a team meeting to finally reveal her real name.

A number of poems written by the prolific fanficstress about the skunk-striped maiden.

elsewhere in Alykat's World:

The World is a Playground
When the Avengers get involved with the satellite launch of X-Men #80, something goes wrong, reverting all the X-Men back to childhood.
(at The Danger Playpen)

"The Race"
The Hellfire Club, Xavier's and the Massachusetts Academy all vie for the right to contact a mutant whose powers have just manifested, and Bobby and Emma, leaders of two of those contingents, explore some unresolved issues.
(at (un)frozen)


Web site:

DISCLAIMER: I'm in a really awful mood, so I figure to take it out by killing two challenges with one stone. Which two challenges will become clear as you read, I imagine. Telling you which will spoil the surprise, so you'll just have to wait. The characters all belong to Marvel and I doubt they'd appreciate what I did with 'em, but I made no profit off them, so oh well. There's some icky violence and one (1) curseword in the story that follows.
ARCHIVE: If you have Carte Blanche, go right ahead. If not, please ask.
FEEDBACK: Usual applies: no flames.

The Last Bug Hunt

Logan and Kit sat, side by side, waiting by the bed. Logan's breaths were almost timed with the mechanical rhythm of the respirator attached to the patient lying unconscious beside him.

The Canadian hadn't moved since Psylocke had returned to the house, charges in tow. She hadn't been able to explain much -- only that something had tugged at the corner of her Undercloak, summoning her into shadow -- and to the aid of a fellow X-Man. She had apologized profusely for being so late, blamed herself. She had been certain if she had only heard the call sooner she might have helped -- prevented the situation that had unfolded into this desolate waiting game.

Kit, out of loyalty -- and perhaps a tiny fragment of guilt from her childhood -- sat across the bed from her mentor. Logan meant everything to her; what hurt him, hurt her. And she too loved the man lying in the infirmary, his life now measured out by the electronic blip and hum of cardiac monitors and respirators.

Ororo appeared in the doorway, wraithlike and solemn. Her eyes told that she had gotten perhaps a little more sleep than Kit and Logan themselves. "I have brought you some soup," she breathed, setting the tray down on the table at the end of the bed.

Kit nodded gratefully without saying a word, and sipped at the mug. Logan left his untouched. At his sides, his hands opened and closed, clenching into fists of rage -- rage for which there was no direction. Helpless rage. Frustrated rage.

Ororo sighed, and shook her head. "Kitty, please, see if you can persuade Logan to eat something."

Kit nodded, hazel eyes shining with tears she had thus far been successful in fighting back. "I'll try," she said.

Satisfied, for the moment, the windrider turned and padded down the hall with one mug left in her hands.

All was silence in the room again for several moments, until the soft sussuration of rubber wheels on polished linoleum interrupted -- heralding the arrival of Charles Xavier.

"Professor," Kit whispered.

"Professor," Logan echoed, sparing the founder of the X-Men the briefest of glances. It was the clearest indicator yet of Logan's mental distress that there was no sarcastic murmur of "Chuck" or "Charley."

"Can you find out what happened?" Kit asked, scooting back in her chair so the wheelchair could approach.

"It is my intention to attempt just that, Katherine," Charles said softly, lifting his hands and closing his eyes. "Any enemy that could do this is one we must take care against."

"And rip apart," Logan added, almost inaudibly.

He placed his fingers to the sides of the patient's head. Blue-skinned eyelids twitched slightly, as if in silent recognition. There was a faint flicker-glow around the professor's head as his telepathy activated and gently, gently, sought ingress to the mind of the fallen X-man.

~Carefully, now,~ Charles told himself, armoring himself astrally against the shock and pain that buffeted against his mental shields from the moment of telepathic contact. ~I must be careful, to peel away the layers of shock and trauma, to get to the memory of the events beneath.~

When Kurt and Rogue had decided to take a vacation together -- to "catch up," as it were, on their brother-sister activities, the X-Men, in the main, had been thrilled. Scott, predictably, had encouraged it, though the doing so had been painful to him. He and his brother Alex had never had the chance to bury the hatchet and mend their tumultuous relationship before he had died.

Jean, too, had encouraged it -- since she and her sister had not been close since their Atlantean adventure.

Kurt, with his usual adventurous spirit, had promised his sister Rogue a glorious vacation, fraught with wine, men, and song. Rogue, ever the workaholic, had been reluctant to go. It had, of course, been Gambit who had convinced her, promising that absence makes the heart grow fonder, and that he would love and miss her all the more when she returned.

Kurt and Rogue had packed their bags, leaving their X-Men uniforms home. Kurt had scored them tickets for a week in Hawaii, after pulling a few favours of his erstwhile girlfriend, Amanda Sefton. They were flying standby, but neither one of them was willing to complain for a week of fun in the sun. Hawaii was also one of the most tolerant states in the USA - having the most relaxed laws against discrimination -- including that against mutants. It turned out that Remy had had a little vacation bungalow there, and that Logan knew several of the best restaurants from Oahu to Waikiki and back again.

Hank had volunteered to drive them to JFK Airport in New York. Kurt, with his image inducer set so he looked like a cross between Tom Cruise and Tom Hanks, was courtly and elegant as ever when he escorted Rogue aboard the plane.

~"First time in a while ah've flown in a plane," Rogue had confided in Kurt. She hid a nervous smile behind her Foster Grants.~

"You're stunning," Kurt had assured her with a rakish smile over the tops of his own RayBans. "Sit back, relax, enjoy the flight, and hope they're not showing Ishtar as the in-flight movie."

Rogue had laughed, something which she didn't do often. They'd buckled in with CD players, books, and pillows, and leaned back to enjoy their first class flight accommodations.

"Doin' this like regular folks was the best idea," Rogue conceded about halfway through the trip.

"But of course," Kurt agreed, wriggling in the chair slightly. The size 15 sneakers were still cramping his three-toed feet, and his tail was used to moving as it would, not being constrained down the leg of his Levi's.

Hours later, on debarking from the plane at Oahu, Kurt availed himself enthusiastically of the greetings by the Hawaiians. He soon found himself draped in leis and lipstick prints covering his face. Rogue, on the other hand, had to feign a cold, to avoid the kisses from the equally handsome young Hawaiian men.

There was no trouble for them hailing a cab, but they found their first crimp in their plans as they discovered the last hurricane to come through had washed Remy's little bungalow into the Pacific.

Kurt took Rogue aside, cheerfully making the old joke, "One thing about the X-Men, liebchen -- you can generally see where we've been."

Rogue had laughed in spite of herself.

Half an hour later, they were returning to the city proper, the way they had come -- and were checking into the Five Star Hilton Oahu hotel.

Xavier mopped at his brow briefly, and shook his head to Kit and Logan, indicating no, he had not found anything yet.

"Their vacation proceeded normally," Charles murmured, keeping his voice respectfully low. Then, taking another deep breath, he returned to Kurt Wagner's mind.

The Luau that evening was a festival that both of them had a good time in. Better still, there were the occasional obvious mutants on the island, so Kurt went native as well, discarding the image inducer and wriggling his toes in the white sandy beach.

By the end of the first night, Rogue had learned to hula, and Kurt had taken up juggling apples and flaming torches, to the delight of the other tourists.

They danced at the hotel's club until closing at 4 a.m, then reluctantly made their way back to their suite.

~What went wrong?~ Charles demanded to himself, gently pushing aside the curtains of filmy memories. He stepped in deeper, astral form glowing bluely, softly, as he moved deeper into Nightcrawler's memories.

Sleep came easily to them both, in their adjacent hotel rooms. Kurt curled around his pillow, hugging it like a teddy bear. Rogue, on the occasion Kurt checked on her; slept restlessly -- legs kicking free the covers -- but nonetheless when they woke for breakfast, they both were in high spirits.

Their relaxation was to be short lived. Charles had almost given up on finding anything, when Rogue sat bolt upright in their breakfast lounge. "Kurt -- somethin's gonna go wrong...!"

"Don't be silly," Kurt responded. "We're in paradise. What could possibly go wrong?"

"Dunno,"Rogue had answered, frowning. "But my seventh sense just went off, an' that's never a good sign, sugar."

Kurt shrugged, resigned to their idyllic little getaway being ruined -- and it happened.

The rumble started slow and small at first, rattling the glasses on their trays and the silver in their drawers. Kurt watched with fascination as his water glass sent the liquid rippling. The rumble grew louder, came closer, until Rogue and Nightcrawler could see the earth rippling before them through the picture windows.

"Down, liebchen, NOW!" Kurt snapped, diving across the table to knock Rogue to the ground. Rogue had only time for a protest of indignity before Kurt had the tablecloth around her to protect himself and lay atop her as the hotel shook from the first high-level earthquake the island had had in over a century.

Around them, less level-headed tourists panicked. Kurt gave not a second thought, leaping to teleport people out of harm's way as chandeliers and decorative concrete columns came crashing to the floor around him.

Rogue, not to be outdone, also scrambled from beneath the table, snatching people to safety and airlifting them out of the collapsing hotel.

They watched, with the wry amusement X-Men find in destruction -- as the hotel fell in on itself in a cloud of dust...and left a crater in its wake that led to a series of underground tunnels -- honeycombed like a giant beehive.

Kurt turned to Rogue, meeting her eyes. He could see it in her eyes -- she too recognized the uneven insectoid patterning of the subterranean tunnel network. The Brood. "Well, so much for our vacation," Kurt said flippantly, and dove into the crater. "We'd best make sure to get all the survivors out before the Queen gets them for snacks."

Rogue didn't need to be told twice. She followed Kurt without a second thought or a word.

There was no way for Kurt to be of much help until Rogue could clear a pathway through the rubble -- blind teleports were something Kurt did only in a dire emergency, and even then, he was loathe to do them.

"Just like old times, ja?" Kurt joked, nimbly clambering over the rubble, listening for the calls of the injured. Working together, the pair of them freed a handful of survivors from the wreckage, before moving deeper into the caves.

The tremors and rumbling motions of the earth did not surcease as the two of them made their way slowly through the dark, breathing, moist warmth of the tunnel. Rather, they got louder. And the tremors became worse, the deeper they dared into the caves.

"Zum teufel!" Kurt breathed, crossing himself. They were in the birthing creche chamber. Embryonic Brood-implanted humans were spread out like the eggs in Aliens. Napping in a state that indicated they were at least partially transformed into Brood were the creche guards -- two mercenary types Logan had called Bloodscream and Roughhouse.

Kurt chose Bloodscream, multi-porting him around the birthing room until he fell, exhausted and retching. For his own part, Kurt barely was able to stand -- blood streamed like sweat from his pores, and he had just teleported multiple times with an unwilling companion.

Rogue, on the other hand, had no problem wading in against Roughhouse. She cheerfully swung him by his feet, into the others of his kind, breaking backs, puncturing eyes, and snapping off deadly stingers with each pass.

The tremors continued unabated -- rhythmic. "Somebody's doing that intentionally," Rogue declared, and flew off down the tunnel, leaving a weakened Kurt to follow as best he could.

There was only darkness and swearing under his breath in Kurt's native German available to Charles for some moments, as he continued to wend his way carefully through the gossamer shreds of Nightcrawler's memories.

By the time Nightcrawler had caught up with Rogue, she was fully engaged in battle with the latest incarnation of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. Or, more accurately, alongside them.

The Blob and Avalanche stood back to back, pounding away at the floor of the tunnel, causing dirt and stone to fall from above, blocking the way into this chamber.

Pyro, faltering and weak in the throes of Legacy, still put up a good fight, incinerating the Brood whenever they came within range.

The Toad lay dead on the ground, his legs dissolved from where a mighty leap had cracked the skull of a Brood -- causing it to bleed caustic blood on him. He had apparently gone into shock and died. But his charred legs were still smoking.

The Mimic stood back to back with Post -- the former using his optic blasts and telekinesis to keep back the advancing Broodlings trying to attack from another chamber. The latter fired at the dozen or so actively in the chamber with them.

Kurt froze, availing his natural talent for fading into obscurity in the shadows. There was nothing he could do in this fight, sickened and weakened as he was from dealing with the Bloodscream Broodling. He could only watch as Rogue assisted the Brotherhood, throwing enormous boulders at the Broodlings, or kicking them with her hightops.

It was obvious to Kurt that this small band of them was soon to be overwhelmed. There were too many Broodlings, and the island itself was shaking worse and worse by the disruptions Blob and Avalanche were causing. Kurt could smell sulfur -- and not his own brimstone odor. The tunnels were opening up vents in the earth. ~And Hawaii is a volcanic Island!~ Fear souring in his mouth, adrenaline rushing to speed his heart, Kurt Wagner climbed the wall and made his way across the ceiling. "Rogue! Achtung! Rogue!"

"Ah'm a tad bit busy right this second, 'Crawler," Rogue replied, tossing boulders like baseballs.

"Ja, I see. But if we don't get out of here and get this stopped, right away, Diamond Head is going to erupt again. Look!" Blue fingers pointed toward the steaming fissures in the earth all around the chamber.

"Damn," Rogue swore, nodding her understanding.

It was, of course, too late.

Avalanche released one more shockwave, burying a phalanx of Brood drones -- and releasing the first oozing waves of lava. "Shit!"

Rogue wound her arm around Kurt's waist. "Hang on, sugar. We gotta jet too if we want out of here."

Kurt wound his arms around his foster sister's neck and clung for dear life, following Blob, Post and Mimic as they headed out the only remaining unobstructed tunnel.

Screams echoed back up the stone walls, indicating to the two X-Men that the Brotherhood had fallen to the last of the Broodlings in the tunnel sector.

"What're we gonna do?" Rogue demanded. "If ah punch us a way out here, ah could collapse the tunnel on us."

Kurt nodded, gravely. "I could ... try a teleport...but it would be dangerous," he whispered, swiping his forearm across his face. The sleeve of his Hawaiian shirt came away blood rusty-red, indicating he hadn't quite recovered from Bloodscream's touch. "Uncertain how ... far below ground ... we are now."

Rogue nodded her understanding, and hovered uncomfortably as the chittering in the tunnels indicated the Broodlings were trying to force their way in. The tunnel the Brotherhood had used to flee had already filled with roiling, white-orange lava. Broodlings screamed as the lava seeped beneath and through the rock, burning them alive.

"Don't see as how we have much choice, sugar," Rogue whispered gravely. "Let's do it."

Kurt brushed away the last traces of blood from over his eyes, nodded, and teleported with Rogue holding his hand.

Charles realized here was likely where Kurt's teleportation signalled somehow to Psylocke's -- perhaps some umbral relationship due to their shadowy abilities.

Rogue didn't even have time -- or the chance -- to scream. When the black brimstone-smoke disappeared from Kurt's teleport, she was revealed to him -- dead. He had warned of the inherent danger, and it had come to pass. Rogue had materialized with her head partly inside one of the broken, mirrored walls of the hotel lobby. She hung there, frozen, like a kid playing with her own reflection.

Kurt himself was no better. He let go of Rogue's hand, looking down to see what had caused the odd, cold sensation in his legs. To his horror, a broken piece of metal from one of the hotel's gaudy fountains had been where he had materialized. It had lodged at his spine and jutted through him, as though he had fallen on the sword of a giant. His backbone and ribs jutted out of a body that was already weakened from blood loss.

The shock set in almost instantaneously.

Charles Xavier's eyes swum with tears now that he had finally dived deep enough to discover what had transpired with Nightcrawler and Rogue.

"It was an accident."

Kurt's eyes fluttered open at the words spoken by the mansion's mentor. "Herr Professor..." Kurt croaked weakly.

"Shush, fuzzy elf," Kit murmured softly, putting a finger to his lips. "You need your rest."

"Nein," Kurt struggled to shake his head. "I ... must ..."

Logan squeezed his friend's hand. "When Betts brought you two back, she got Petey, Scotty, Bobby, Maggott an' Lockheed t' go finish makin' sure the nest was taken out. You did good."

"And...and Rogue? M-My sister?" Kurt rasped.

"She was already dead when you got here," Logan replied solemnly. "Doubt the girl felt a thing. Died instantly, near's I can tell."

Kurt closed his eyes and tears slipped from beneath the blue lids. His lips moved silently, mouthing a prayer. Then, after some effort, he opened his yellow eyes again. "How ... ...I?"

Logan, Kit, and the Professor exchanged an uneasy look between them. "There is no lying to you about this, Kurt," the Professor finally said with the gravest of expressions. "Your misfired teleport resulted in both lungs being punctured and your spine being severed. You will recover from the former, although you may contract traumatic asthma. However --"

"How...ever...?" Kurt echoed, gasping for breath from the tension in the room.

Charles looked away.

"You will never walk again."




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