Rogue, after a change of clothes, walks quickly into the
Observation Booth of the Danger Room and busies herself with
a clipboard of notes and medical charts. She is not quick
enough, however, to avoid Professor Xavier's piercing gaze.
He maneuvers to face her.
Self-conscious, Rogue's hand darts to her throat, and comes
away with a drop of crimson. She pales, remembering the hurtling,
charged metal Remy had aimed at her barely half an hour ago.
Then blushes as she recalls how poorly she handled the situation.
Yellin' at Remy when ya know what he's just been
through. Brilliant. Seems like maybe ah'm the one without
a lick o' sense today.
"Ain't nothin' really."
"How was your--examination?"
"Out o' the fryin' pan into the fire."
Her words are soft, not meant to be heard. Professor Xavier
doesn't need words to sense her distress. He takes her gloved
hand in his.
He catches the anger edging her voice, and reluctantly turns
away without further comment to observe the scene below. Holographic
images transform the Danger Room into a replica of the lakefront
in summer. The bright sun reflecting on the waters contrast
starkly to the reality of the ice-covered lake outside.
Besides the well-supplied picnic table, the room also contains
somewhat unusual, key elements for the first therapy session.
A modest obstacle course. Beach balls. Garish, silly squirt
guns. A well-padded exercise mat.
In accordance with Rogue's instructions, Storm, Eric and
Kurt all wear casual, non-threatening clothing free of symbols
and designs. Storm's lavendar kaftan flows softly around her
ankles as she arranges the vast supply of food. With mock
severity, she slaps away Kurt's hand as he snatches a piece
of cheese from her carefully arranged tray. He smiles disarmingly.
Rogue and Professior Xavier watch from above, undetected
through the holographs. She frowns, puzzled by something that
doesn't fit. Charles, sensing her unease, examines the Danger
Room more carefully, trying to find the cause of her concern.
In a moment, he uncovers a possible source.
"Eric should not be wearing white."
Rogue considers, then nods in agreement.
"Might remind them of the so-called doctors who did
Rogue steps closer to the glass, still thinking.
"Ah think blue, maybe. It's supposed to be a soothin'
Below, Eric stiffens momentarily as Charles sends their request
telepathically. He leaves, returning shortly clothed in a
deep, tranquil blue polo shirt and jeans. He barely walks
through the door when Remy and Tseidel join them.
Storm immediately notes Tseidel's improved color. She turns
to Gambit, welcoming him warmly into her waiting arms. He
grinds his teeth against a wave of discomfort, allowing her
the moment to offer her support. His unyielding reserve puzzles
her. Tseidel knocks Storm's arms away from Remy, then whispers
"You must not show affection."
Storm considers Tseidel's demeanor. She does not behave as
someone who is jealous of her attention to Remy. Instead,
she seems to stand protectively between Storm and Remy, preventing
anyone from seeing their proximity. Tseidel's eyes dart nervously
around the room. She takes note of Eric and Kurt, but makes
no move to acknowledge their previous contact.
Storm steps towards Tseidel. Tseidel takes a step back. Storm
turns to Eric, arms open. He steps in to her embrace and returns
her hug. Tseidel watches, confused.
Kurt, also, enthusiastically succumbs to Storm's embrace.
Storm returns to Remy's side, careful to allow Tseidel her
"You are safe here, Tseidel."
Storm again approaches. Tseidel's eyes widen in fear. She
shakes her head, rejecting the offer of welcome.
"Tseidel, we are your friends, nicht wahr?"
"They will not let you live!"
Eric feels the blood drain from his face at her words. He
glimpses a fragment of childhood memory. A flash of light.
Bitter smoke. A growing red stain against a crude Star of
David. He remembers that a moment earlier the Jew had offered
him a bit of crust. Remembers the thought as years passed
that perhaps it was an act of kindness that his would-be benefactor
had found release, even though it was through death.
He understands what Storm's trying to do. But six months
of seeing New Genoshans kill prisoners for the smallest display
of kindness isn't easily forgotten. Tseidel was their main
target. Because of her mutated blood, she was too valuable
to risk with the same physical punishments the others endured.
The Genoshan solution was to inflict torture on the other
prisoners while forcing Tseidel to watch. She didn't want
to submit to more tests? Fine. Squeeze of the trigger, another
prisoner was killed in cold blood. No thought. No mercy. She
had tried to protest with a hunger strike. The Genoshans responded
by starving everyone until she relented. The first time Remy
had tried to take her hand to comfort her, he was beaten senseless.
Tseidel's gray eyes look to his for guidance. In the camps,
she was his teacher, providing for him until he could learn
the ways of survival. In this matter, he must be her guide.
And the truth of the situation is, if he didn't particularly
care to have Storm touching him, how can he force Tseidel
to submit, regardless of good intentions?
"You don' wan' be touched, nobody touch you. Simple
"The human touch is vital to--"
Remy grabs Tseidel's arm and roughly jerks the sleeve of
her shirt back, again revealing the scars.
"She don' need more a your kind a touchin'!"
"Mein freund, this is not--"
"T'ink I didn't see Henri's eyes lightin' up at de chance
a puttin' her under a microscope? Ain't dat why Rogue came
to de camps? T'save Tseidel?"
Eric Lensherr is often a man of few words. When he does speak,
however, the richness of his voice compels the listener even
when speaking a single word. Remy turns to face him. The Cajun's
red, bleary eyes reveal his displeasure.
"You gon' force her?"
For a moment, Eric says nothing, sizing up the man before
him. Remy is deadly serious. In another time, as another man,
he might have accepted the obvious challenge as an opportunity
to force the Cajun to accept his wishes or be destroyed. He
sighs. Surely there must come a time when a man can offer
more than pain.
"I was going to suggest something to eat."
Immediately, the tension in Remy's shoulders eases. He glances
at the bowl of peaches Eric offers. Remy feels the blood drain
from his face. Peaches. Once upon a time, they were one of
his favorite foods.
But that was before--his fist strikes out, knocking the bowl
to the ground with enough force to shatter it. He hears Kurt's
gasp of surprise. Sees Storm's stunned expression. He's surrounded
by their ignorance, suffocating in a wave of experiences he
can never explain.
As Remy stumbles for the door, Rogue catches a glimpse of
the raw pain flooding his face. Her heart aches, sympathetic
to his torment, but unable to offer relief. She sees Tseidel
follow him out, and silently offers a prayer for his well-being.
Continued in Chapter
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