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FIC: With Six You Get Eggroll (2/4) [G/J L, R] PG

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  • Anita Lorenz
    (Disclaimers in Part One) ~~~~X~~~~ Remy approached Jubilee with his usual poised cat-like gait, hands in pockets, eyes locked on his target. Jubilee, knees
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 5, 2001
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      (Disclaimers in Part One)

      ~~~~X~~~~
      Remy approached Jubilee with his usual poised cat-like gait, hands in pockets,
      eyes locked on his target. Jubilee, knees brought up to her chest as she sat
      on the bench, scowled and looked away, shuffling down the bench as Remy drew
      near. He lowered himself down onto the bench, the scent of civilization, of a
      woman, lifting from her as a breeze whipped past. It was soap, and perfume (of
      the slightly fruity variety, with just a hint of vanilla, not that Remy could
      really tell as his knowledge of girl's perfume wasn't that extensive) and the
      residual catch of sweet smelling washing powder on her fluffy yellow jacket.
      It contrasted to the whiffs of animal manure and rotting peat that permeated
      through out the Zoo, of caged animals and decomposing leaves.

      "You bein' okay petite?"

      She didn't look at him.

      "Do I look okay?"

      "Non," he said evenly, "And dis concerns me."

      She glanced to him, tilting a brow down. "Pfft. Whad'you care?"

      Remy blinked, obviously hurt.

      "Jubilee, Ah care," he said, "Not only are we comrades, we be friends eh? I
      care much for you and I only wish you to be happy. I can see dat dis ting wi'd
      de snakes be upsettin' you."

      She shuddered at the mention of the word 'snake', the red of tears rimming her
      eyes. "It's not just the snakes..."

      "Eh?"

      She sighed, rolling her eyes, "The kids hate me. Kids never used to hate me.
      They used to love me, cause-"

      "Cause you be one of d'em eh?"

      She nodded. "I guess - I guess I feel a little lost. Cause I'm not a kid
      anymore and yet - the team-"

      Remy sighed, stretching an arm around her shoulder and squeezing her.

      "It be hard, gettin' past d'at age, ma chere," he said, "An' you got de kin' of
      soul d'at never grows old, eh? You be always doin' yo' thing, and suddenly yo
      thing ain't fittin' in anywhere. Ah, I understand."

      She frowned at him, wiping at a rogue tear, "What? You? Everyone thinks you're
      hot shit!"

      He slouched at the bench, relaxing into the half embrace, "Oui, but bein' a
      thief don' always get you friends."

      "Oh..."

      "'Xactly."

      She leant on his shoulder, sighing and nuzzling momentarily, "Thanks Remy."

      "Is nothin'," he said, "Look - de team will accept you eventually. D'ey know
      you be good at being a player, oui? You jus' need the opportunity to prove
      yourself."

      Jubilee scoffed, cradling her head in a hand, "Yeah well it won't be today."

      "Ah, maybe you might surprise yourself eh?"

      Jubilee smiled again, letting him plant a kiss on the top of her head, leaning
      into the caress.

      "You know, you're not such a bad guy when you forget about yourself," she said
      dryly.

      Remy grinned, a charming curl in his lips, "Sure, jus' don' be spreadin' de news
      eh? I be havin' even more girls all over me."

      "Oh GOD!" Jubilee thwacked him in the chest, "I gotta learn to keep my mouth
      shut!!" She quietened from her giggling when she saw a serious look fall on
      Remy's face.

      "Jubilee..."

      She swallowed, "Yeah?"

      "Come into de snake house wit' me. See dat dey cannot hurt you anymore."

      She shuddered, cradling her hands between her knees. "I- I can't."

      He slid a hand into hers, clutching it tightly, meeting her obsidian orbs with
      his own ruby ones.

      "You can," he said, "I believe dis of you."

      She sighed, hiding her face in her hands again. Her voice was tiny when she
      murmured.

      "Remy... I'm scared."

      The arms were around her once more, holding her tight, the velvet voice of deep
      masculine tones soothing her ears.

      "Ah'll be dere for you chere."

      She sighed, eyes falling shut. "Okay."

      He pulled her up to her feet, his arms cradling her gently. "You don' have to
      be scared, you big tough Jubilee, 'kay?"

      She nodded, breathing raggedly, "Big tough Jubilee."

      They grew close to the entrance of the snake-house, the musty smell of
      air-conditioners and old carpet and terrariums overwhelming her. She breathed
      tighter, whimpering.

      "OhmyGod-ohMyGod!" She buried her face into Remy's neck, shuddering all over.

      "Cooome on," Remy mumbled, "You can do it."

      "I'm scared," she whispered over and over, "I'm scared, I'm scared!"

      He stopped her, tilting her head up and meeting her eyes. "Non. You NOT
      scared, Jubilee. You don' feel scared at all."

      Her body shook under the stillness his hands brought to her face, and she let
      him turn her around, leading her in. The very smell of the terrariums looming
      around the corner reminded her of the smell of the leaf litter of the forest
      floor. The reptile aroma that was strange and musty like a ten foot mouse, with
      a disgusting tangy curl to the end of it. It was such a tiny whiff, but it was
      enough to get her stomach churning. Then, the black of the wall blocking the
      light from outside drew back, and the long row of branch and leaf-filled tanks
      faced her. She clutched the body in her arms, burying her face into the chest.

      "Oh God - I'm gonna puke..."

      "Shh-shh... it'll be okay, petite."

      "No, it's not," she said, shaking her head, "I can feel it Remy, I can FEEL it!"

      "Feel what?"

      She looked up to him, meeting the soft glint of his eyes in the diffuse light of
      the tanks, "The belly of the snake - under my foot."

      "Is all in your head, chere," he said, "Come on..."

      Cyclops lifted his head at the sound of Remy's voice, a smile spreading across
      his face.

      "Hey Jubes."

      She glared at Scott, shaking her head dourly, "Can't talk. Might puke."

      Remy sighed, rubbing the upper of her arms as he lead her to the python exhibit.

      "Oh God," she groaned, "It's so gross... it's revolting... slimy looking."

      "Is not slimy," said Remy, "Dry as a bone."

      She looked at him, "How'd'you know that?"

      "I knew a man in Orleans who kept one e' dese."

      Jubilee screwed her face up, "What kind of psycho keeps a fucking snake?"

      One of the children behind Jubilee gasped, and she clenched her eyes shut.

      "Ohh, he own aeh um - exotic pet store. Provided de dude I used to work for wit
      a few em," He lowered his voice, eyes darting about, "You know, a few slightly
      more dangerous species, for certain purposes but I say no more than dis."

      Jubilee narrowed her eyes at him, "Sure - like HE'S a good character witness for
      the snake species!"

      Remy shrugged, "Fine - that little story didn' work as well as I hoped."

      Jean strolled over, a cool smile on her features, "You know, they're going to
      bring the python out in a few minutes so the children can touch it. Perhaps-"

      Jubilee was already lurching towards the door, being sprung back over and over
      by Remy's hand at her collar. He shook his head, pouting with disapproval.

      "Tch tch," he tisked, "Come now, petite, dis bein' de perfect opportunity for
      you!"

      "No!" She shook her head, "No - I swear the python will NOT like my vomit all
      over him!"

      For the next few minutes Remy guided her along the row of tanks, soothing her
      with low tones, rubbing her back when she cowered into his chest. He'd seen
      this girl face off bad guys twice her size, and yet an encased snake had her
      shuddering all over like a autumn leaf. She gripped Remy's collar, gazing up at
      him with fear.

      "Remy..."

      He pulled his gaze away from the tiger snake exhibit, "Hmm?"

      "Don't make me do this! Please!"

      He sighed, "Look, I am not makin' you stay here, but you walk out that door an'
      you let this fear defeat you."

      She whimpered, moving to wriggle out of his arms, "Okay - I'm defeated!"

      The arms around her wouldn't budge and she found herself convincingly trapped.
      She glared up at Remy with something akin to betrayal.

      "Hey! I thought you said-"

      He shrugged, "I changed my mind. I'm not lettin' you wimp out on dis."

      She howled in his arms, the little kids around her looking up in fear.

      "Pleaaase don't!" she whimpered again, her hands running over his neck, his
      lips, her eyes begging him, "Please? Please?" She tiptoed, batting her eyes at
      him, "Please let me go please I swear I'll do anything - jus- Don't make me
      touch it!"

      Jean covered her mouth, looking away as her shoulders shook slightly with
      laughter, and Scott, with a smirk, nudged her.

      "Jean!"

      "I'm sorry," she breathed, "I couldn't help it! I just wouldn't want to be
      blind and listening to their conversation, is all."

      Scott shook his head with a smile.

      Remy stood firm, eyeing her, not moving, his arms wrapped around her tighter
      than the animal that would be brought out to meet the children in a few
      moments. She felt tears prick her eyes.

      "Are you doing this to torture me?! Humiliate me?!"

      He rolled his eyes, "Ah'm doin' dis to help you!"

      It was then the lights of the enclosure lifted, and a side door opened magically
      from the seemingly green felt covered walls. A man stepped out, middle-aged
      with scruffy black hair, solid hands and a tawny uniform touting the crest of
      the New York Zoo.

      "Hey everybody!"

      The children all cooed and cried out with glee, at which point Jubilee let out a
      sharp whine and buried herself in Remy's trench-coat, shaking violently.

      "No! I'm not coming out I'm not!"

      Remy lifted his eyes to the ceiling, sighing patiently as the zoo employee
      rubbed his hands at the children.

      "Who's ready to meet Tessa?"

      "Who's Tessa?" called out a little voice.

      "Tessa is New York Zoo's own six foot carpet python!"

      A cry of terror struck out from Remy's bulging trench-coat. The Cajun swallowed
      uncomfortably, shepherding the hiding girl forward towards the attendant talking
      to the children. He poked the lump that was Jubilee wearily.

      "Come on now, Jube, dis is ridiculous!"

      "I'm not coming out!"

      "Well you have to - you - bumping t'ings aroun' down dere."

      "I'd rather face your snake than that snake!" she cried.

      With a long suffering growl, Remy LeBeau grabbed the wriggling Jubilee, pulling
      her out from underneath his trench-coat and presenting her to the attendant,
      still shuddering and whimpering and sobbing. The attendant looked to Remy
      expectantly.

      "Hello Sir - is there a problem?"

      "Oui," Remy nodded, "She be terrified of snakes!"

      A long smile broke out on the attendant's face and he nodded, "Aaah!
      Ophidiophobia!"

      Jubilee gave a spasm as she scowled at the attendant with distaste. "Yeah -
      speekee englay?"

      "Oh, Ophidiophobia means fear of snakes - literally snake-phobia," the man
      smiled, who's name tag said 'Aaron'.

      "Yeah I got that," she said, "Therefore I want outsie!"

      "Ohhh," Aaron shook his head, "I promise you Tessa is not poisonous, she can't
      hurt you. I've been working with snakes all my life, so you're in good hands,
      okay?"

      Jubilee nodded, then shook her head, "Look buddy, I'm shitting myself here!"

      Aaron laughed good naturedly, "Sure. Tess is as sweet as candy, miss, she loves
      the children."

      "For dinner," mumbled Jubilee.

      He ducked inside the doorway, his shorts-clad behind sticking out for a few
      minutes. Children stretched their necks, anxious to see the star attraction,
      where-as Jubilee was clawing her way under Remy's trench-coat again.

      "Petite! Non!" he hissed, pulling closed his coat, "Stop dis!"

      Cyclops shook his head, leaning to Jean and whispering, "It's the first time
      I've ever seen Remy try to get a girl OUT from under his clothes before..."

      Jean tilted her head and tutted, "Will wonders ever cease?"

      "Apparently not," sniggered Scott.

      Remy pried the girl around to face the snake handler, her smaller body still
      half draped in his coat. He was stronger than she thought, and despite her
      writhing she found it impossible to escape his grip. Aaron turned about with
      the huge snake draped in his arms, striped and mottled a golden yellow and a
      deep ruddy brown.

      "The Carpet Python hails all the way from Australia-"

      "Oh DEAR GOD!"

      "And-"

      "It's REVOLTING!"

      Jubilee was twisting and blubbering, Remy's arms pressed about her, clamping her
      to his body.

      Aaron seemed totally at ease with Jubilee's outbursts, and he watched as Tessa
      slithered all over his arms, "Tessa doesn't eat people. The biggest thing
      she'll eat is a bird or a rat."

      "Does she bite?" asked one child.

      "No," said Aaron, "They have no poison. They kill their prey by wrapping about
      them very tightly so they can't move, and can't breath. Kind of like what this
      young man is doing to our ophidiophobic friend here."

      Jubilee whimpered, feeling the humiliation seep into her bones as the children
      laughed, as Jean giggled and tried to hide it, as Cyclops was smirking behind
      his visor. The only one NOT laughing was Remy, and that was because he was
      taking a fair battering in her struggles. Her hands grabbed at thighs behind
      them, fear gripping her tight.

      "I'm so scared, Remy!" she breathed, "Please don't make me do this!"

      "Shh, you can do dis."

      She gulped, the snake handler meeting her terrified gaze after throwing a few
      more bits of trivia about the snake in his arms to the children.

      "Would you like to pet Tess?"

      Jubilee tilted her head shakily, "No... but - I'm-" She clenched her eyes shut,
      "I'm going to..." She looked up to Remy behind her, "Hold my hand!"

      He nodded with a small smile, dipping his head to the nape of her neck and
      letting his hand slide down to hers. The other hand held her wrist as she
      lifted the shaking hand up, pale fingers quivering in the space between her and
      the snake entwined around Aaron's arm. She reached forward, breaths catching,
      tears welling in her eyes.

      "Oh God..." She squinted, licking her lips, "Remy I'm so scared..."

      "Is okay," he mumbled into her ear, "I believe you can do it."

      She clenched her teeth, "Oh GOD!"

      At that, she let her hands touch the cool body - it was a BODY! Muscles
      shifted and moved underneath her fingertips, and it was dry - he was right - it
      was dry. Tears spilled down her face as the head of the snake curled around,
      flicking it's tongue out at her skin. She looked to Aaron in alarm but he
      merely smiled.

      "She's smelling you," he said, "You're someone new. She likes being handled
      though, loves meeting new people."

      "How the hell does she know?" Jubilee said, fear wavering in her tones, "She's a
      snake."

      "She's a hunter," Aaron said proudly, "They need to be clever."

      She gulped, looking down to where her hand roamed over the shifting flesh
      encased in the tiles of hard horny scales. Those scales - they were huge.
      Tessa lifted her head, up from her fingertips, and for the first time Jubilee
      met the eyes of the animal under her touch. The cool regard in the round
      patterned orbs struck both fear and awe in her in a moment, the discordant
      combination slamming open her mind. The muzzle of the snake looked almost -
      dog-like, and the upturned top lip was constantly flickered at by dark-toned
      forked tongue. She swore... in that face was curiosity!

      "She's-" Jubilee pulled back a sob, "She's - cute!"

      A teary laugh fell through her, and Remy grinned, hugging her tightly.

      "Aaah!" he growled happily, "D'as MA CHERE!"

      Aaron smiled, "So you still scared of her?"

      Jubilee tilted her head, "Well - kinda..." She ran her hands over the long
      sliding body that moved to explore the reaching hands of the children, "I
      respect her... healthy respect. I don't want to do this again any time soon
      though..."

      Remy hugged her again, swinging her a little, "Ah'm ver' proud of you, Jubilee.
      Very very proud."

      She looked up at him, turning away from the snake, teary eyes batting, "I don't
      - I don't know what to say... I mean-"

      "Pssht!" He pressed a finger to her lips and stood straight, turning her
      around, "Friends - they do dis for each other non? Help out - help wit de
      fears. Is like a gift."

      Toeing the ground, Jubilee looked up to him under lash-hooded eyes, "Yeah
      well... what you did was still pretty amazing. I didn't know you could be like
      this."

      "Like what?"

      Jubilee gave a wry smirk and punched him playfully in the shoulder, "You know.
      Decent."

      "I knew you could be brave, chere. I'm glad you proved me right."

      "Me too," Jubilee smiled brightly.

      Remy re-adjusted his mussed up coat, glancing to the children cooing at the
      snake, "Come on den - we show dese kids more animals eh?"

      "Ooh!" Jubilee jumped up and down, "Yeah! Next we can go see the spiders!"

      Remy gulped, "Spiders?"

      ----------------------------

      Lunch time came very quickly, and as planned the groups met together at the
      small playground near the throng of food vendors, selling everything from
      chinese dishes, lebanese kebabs, to the ever popular mexican cuisine. The
      children lined up at the carts, the teachers lazing on the stretch of grass that
      was the main picnic area, which was centred with an elaborate playground in the
      theme of wild animals.

      Kitty, Jubilee and Rogue sat in a row on a bench next to the climbing equipment,
      Rogue with a fried chicken roll and fries, Kitty with a few interesting smelling
      kebabs and Jubes with a plate overloaded with a couple of small-sized burritos.

      "I swear," Jubilee muttered around a mouthful of cheese and bean paste, "The guy
      was a fucking hero. He marched me in there and MADE me touch that damned
      snake!"

      Kitty shook her head, "Wow. I didn't think Remy had it in him to be so-"

      "Charming?" sighed Rogue.

      "Devoted?" mused Jubilee.

      Kitty shook her head again, "Caring!"

      Jubes snorted and rolled her eyes, "He reminded me that's why he was doing it
      about a thousand damned times!"

      Rogue grinned, "OOooh... methinks the Cajun has a bit of a soft spot for ol'
      Jubie here non?"

      "Ohhh," the eurasian groaned, "Now you stop that, Rogue or I swear I'll kick
      your ass!"

      Rogue snickered, "Ya know Ah'd be the last one standing, girly!"

      Jubes narrowed her eyes, "Not MY fault I don't have superman whammy!"

      Rogue grinned and shrugged, "Ye get what ya get, baby."

      Kitty tilted her head, eyes set on the hulking shape of Logan sitting apart from
      the table of older X-Men, biting into a paper wrapped burrito. "He's pouty
      today."

      Rogue glanced up, snorting, "Yeah he's always pouty."

      "Yeah but he's - " Kitty tilted her head the other way and pursed her lips,
      "Extra pouty."

      Rogue looked up at the man again, staring at him for a longer moment. Yes, he
      had been quiet most of the morning, since their little talk in the chimpanzee
      enclosure. She pressed her lips together in deep thought.

      "He's worried about the older kid in our group - Max."

      "Yeah?"

      "Yeah," nodded Rogue, curiosity in her features, "It's weird... seeing him get
      all tetchy over a kid like this."

      "He got mucho tetchy over you, amiga," said Jubes, apparently affected by the
      burrito in her hands. Rogue just groaned at her.

      "Fer gawds sakes, I was a good 17 years old when he picked me up - I was hardly
      a youngin'!"

      "Youngin' enough," said Jubes.

      The southern girl sighed, giving up. She wasn't sure why she was denying the
      idea that Logan may have been hankering to get the young boy under his wing,
      just something about the scenario disturbed her. Kitty was watching the boy eat
      his lunch alone, a definite dejected air to his composure.

      "What's with the kid's gloves anyway?"

      Rogue tilted her head. "Maybe he can't touch people either."

      "God you'd hope not," said Jubes, "I mean - I'm sorry Rogue - but it'd suck."

      "Oh I'm with you," Rogue said, "And it does suck."

      Kitty nodded.

      With a press of her lips, Rogue gave a determinate jut of her bottom lip.

      "Ah'm goin' to talk to Logan."

      Jubilee glanced to her watch and tapped it, "She talked to us for an amazing ten
      minutes today before disappearing with Monkey-Man!"

      Kitty nodded, "Kay - you get the five bucks but dude - you owe me if they don't
      make out in the back of the bus by the end of the day."

      "Deal!" said the eurasian, slapping a hand into Kitty's.

      ----------------------

      She strolled over to him lazily, sending him a long smile as he glanced up
      guardedly. Only after seeing who approached him did he relax, stiff shoulders
      slacking a little, and with some aggression he bit into his perfectly innocent
      burrito. His eyes darted up as the girl sank down next to him, her shoulders
      nudging his with affection.

      "Hey shoog."

      "Hey."

      She pouted at his low dreary tone, and she nudged him again, leaning her head on
      his shoulder.

      "Wassa madder?"

      He glanced at her briefly before looking back to his burrito. "Nothin'."

      Rogue rolled her eyes.

      "Pffft. Logan, you're forgettin' who ya talkin' to."

      Glancing to her again, looking a little more annoyed this time, he huffed.

      "Guess so."

      He tried to ignore her tipping her head down and looking up at him, her body
      snug against his as she wrapped an arm around his shoulder.

      "Come ooon," she cooed, "Tell Rogie wha's wrong."

      Her pout and her affection and (bravely wandering) hands were all geared for one
      thing and he knew it very well. She was trying to get him to spill. Pressing
      his lips together determinately, he wondered why, when he knew what she was
      doing, she still got what she wanted out of him. He shrugged, talking around a
      mouthful of cheese and fried beans.

      "I was a smart-ass to that kid Max earlier," he said, "Feel like a real
      asshole."

      Rogue snorted, "You are a real asshole - why let it get to you now?"

      Logan's hazel eyes dashed up towards the boy sitting alone on a bench, munching
      half-heartedly on a hamburger.

      "I know that kid. Ya know?"

      "No."

      This surprised Logan, and he met her gaze.

      "That attitude, that bug up his ass - I've felt it before."

      "Ohh," Rogue nodded, "And you wanna help him?"

      "Pfft!" Logan flapped an arm, "I'm a selfish prick - when do I help people-"

      "Now you're just feeling sorry for yaself."

      Logan's brows dipped down, "I am not!"

      "Y'are," frowned Rogue back at him. "For Christ's sake, Logan - if you can help
      someone, if you think you know how - do it! It's not unmanly or whatever!
      Scott does it, Remy does it!"

      "Oh yeah," Logan droned, "I look up to them big time. Uhuh."

      "Logan," she groaned, "Grow up."

      His eyes darted to hers, and shame sprung inside of him.

      "Max obviously has some problems, and it's not some shameful thing to sit down
      with the kid and nut them out with him."

      Digging into the ground with a bare claw, Logan nodded, "Right."

      Rogue noticed his childlike destruction of the lawn underneath him, and tipping
      her head she groaned again.

      "Logan - don't do that - you'll give yourself tetanus."

      He shrugged, "I can't get sick - I heal too fast."

      Grabbing a napkin off of the table of X-Men behind them, she wiped at the claw
      before she let him put it back in. A frown grew on her face and she pointed at
      him firmly.

      "No more digging with your claws!" she tutted.

      Logan smirked, "Sorry Ma."

      "Ooh!" She thwapped him one.

      "Ow!"

      "Serves ya right!" she said, dusting off her behind as she stood up. Logan's
      grin fell as she began to walk off.

      "Hey!!"

      She looked back to him.

      "Where ya going?!"

      With a smile sliding on to her face, she said, "Lettin' you get on with helpin'
      Max."

      Logan nearly howled. Surely Professor Xavier was better equipped for a job
      like this. Finishing off his burrito in a final savage bite, he threw the paper
      scraps into the bin (for he was never one to be a litter-bug) and got to his
      feet.

      "Logan!"

      He turned at the sound of the Weather Goddess' voice behind him at the lunch
      table, the woman smiling brightly behind a rather fashionable looking pair of
      black horn-rimmed sunglasses.

      "You going to join us for a coffee or not?"

      A regretful noise rumbled in his throat and he shook his head.

      "Nah - gonna get to some business. Maybe later."

      Storm shrugged, "Okay."

      Her look was one of amusement as Logan strode off towards the playground, around
      it, to a bench with a lonesome long-haired boy on the other side.

      "Is it me or is he getting stranger the longer he stays with us?"

      Scott gave a wry grin and bit into a hamburger, "No I think we're all getting
      stranger, 'Ro."

      "Five years of Jubilee as a student is enough to make anyone strange," said
      Jean, eyeing her own burger.

      "Oh yes," Storm agreed, "Fantastic student, but a little to eager for the
      games. I didn't quite know how to answer her question of 'What did Napoleon
      put his hand in when he wasn't wearin' his coat?'."

      Scott's lips spread in a grin, "I remember that!"

      "Though I do believe she said it with a few more 'grody's and 'dude's."

      "I'd say so," nodded Jean. It was then Scott sighed most dramatically.

      "I miss having Jubilee as a student."

      Meeting each other's gazes, Storm and Jean nodded.

      "Me too," said the Weather Goddess.

      "She's far more dangerous as a team member," Jean said with a smirk, "The pranks
      do a lot more damage."

      The fearless leader nodded knowingly, "I still can't get the smell of fish oil
      out of my tracksuit pants."

      --------------------------------------

      Max barely twitched as the heavy weight of Logan plomped down on the bench next
      to him. He merely concentrated on the hamburger in his hands, and the terrible
      cheese that was put in it. The boring niggling itch that was Logan's eyes
      staring dead at him was by far too annoying to ignore, and Max scowled at him.

      "You some kind of kid-lovin' freak?"

      Logan snorted, "Some think so."

      Max's eyes widened a little and Logan shook his head.

      "Sorry Kid, in-joke you wouldn't get. Wanna talk?"

      Max looked back to the playing children on the climbing frame the bench was set
      in front of, loathing in his features.

      "Not particularly."

      Shrugging, Logan leaned into the bench and stretched out his legs, crossing them
      lazily.

      "Fine, then we'll sit."

      The child next to him practically bristled, the still gloved hands gripping the
      burger in them.

      "Don't you have a ridiculously under-aged girlfriend to go chase?"

      Logan lifted a brow. "First off, she's in college, second - she's not my
      girlfriend, third, I'm not chasing her, fourth, it's none of your God-damned
      business."

      "No fifth?" muttered Max.

      "Actually there is." Logan sat up, and as he leant over to Max, the young boy
      shrank away. He reached out for a glove, but Max recoiled, shifting down the
      bench.

      "Don't!" he said, trying to underplay the flinching he'd done, pulling the
      gloves on tighter, "Don't..."

      Logan leant back, giving the kid his room. "Somethin' under there you don't
      want anybody to see?"

      Max's eyes glinted with fear, anger. He pressed his lips together, swallowing
      shakily.

      "No, just - just fuck off all right? Lemme alone!"

      Grabbing his hamburger, the young boy jumped to his feet, striding off across
      the play-area.

      "Be at the parrot exhibit in half an hour, KID!" called Logan.

      Max promptly flipped him the bird.

      Logan let a long groan fall through him, and he leant back in the bench, sliding
      his hands over his face and giving a long sigh. Shit. He'd fucked up
      royally. With a capital R. God, why did he think he could communicate with the
      kid? It was a miracle he could make peace with *himself* half the time, why on
      earth anyone thought he'd be able to get through to the little shit storming
      across the playground was beyond him.

      It was at that moment that slender digits dug into his shoulder. Even as his
      face was covered by his hands, he could smell the beguiling curl of strawberries
      and musk, the slip of satin against his neck.

      "What the hell am I doing?" he groaned.

      "Doin' some good," came the honey-thick voice behind him, "What happened?"

      Pulling his hands away, he looked up at Marie behind him. As she looked down
      her mahogany and champaigne locks tumbled around her angelic features.

      "I fucked up," he said, leaning his head back against Marie's arms, "And he told
      me to fuck off."

      Rogue sucked in a hiss, wincing, and with a pat of his shoulders she curled
      around the bench and plopped down next to him.

      "Charmin'," she said.

      "Oh yeah," Logan agreed, "Didn't help that I was about as subtle as a road
      accident."

      "Well we both know that subtlety ain't your strong point," she said with a
      sympathetic smile. Her eyes looked over his chest, and with a pat of his arm
      she scooted up to him, "Come on... move up there."

      He lifted his arm with a muted smile, trying to forget that he was in an
      incredibly public place and that Rogue was acting like they did when they were
      just lounging around the school grounds. He gave an uncertain rumble.

      "Marie..."

      "What?" she asked, snuggled to his chest.

      "There're people around."

      She laughed, "Yeah so what?"

      He shrugged, figuring that the day was just perfect for Logan humiliation. He
      looked down to Marie. As he did, she glanced up to him, smiling, eyes that
      deep brown that had some part of him whimpering for his mommy.

      "There's a bet going..."

      He cocked a brow, "Yeah? What's that?"

      Rogue gave a cheeky grin, gazing out at the playing children. "Remy and Jubes
      at the back of the bus on the way home."

      "Hmm... Gumbo and Ms. Fourth of July eh?"

      Rogue just smirked.

      He shrugged, "What the heck - I'm in for five."

      "That's the spirit!" Rogue grinned, slapping his chest, "Really gettin' into the
      whole 'Excursion to the Zoo' experience!"

      "Yeaaah," he growled, "Right along with buying a bag of zoo-poo for Storm's herb
      garden and ducking the rotten vegetable being thrown at you by the orang-utans."

      "Well Jubilee threw a few back of her own."

      Logan shook his head, "I don't think 'Bessie' was expectin' Gumbo to lob her a
      fizzer."

      Laughter erupted from Rogue, the girl curling her legs up and clapping her
      hands.

      "I never thought I'd live to see an ape shit themselves!"

      Logan just smirked, "I got more fun out of watching Gambit get lectured by the
      zoo attendant."

      Rogue giggled, "Well he shouldn't have tried to feed 'em explosives!"

      Finally, a smile cracked on Logan's features. It was only a brief flash of one,
      as Logan looked out at the children it faded, guilt dragging it to a pout.

      "Somethin's up with that kid, Rogue," he said. "He wouldn't take off the
      gloves..." He shook his head, picking at the seam of his jeans, "He needs real
      help, Kid. More than he's gonna get from me."

      He felt the smaller but stronger arm of the woman next to him squeeze, her voice
      gentle as she spoke.

      "If you really think that he needs help, at the end of the day you should
      mention it to the Professor. Till then, I think you should keep tryin'. Show
      him you give a shit."

      Logan scoffed, "The kid knows I give a shit, I just don't think he cares."

      "If he knows, he cares," Rogue said, pulling his face around to meet her firm
      stare, "'Kay?"

      Her expression was bright, full of optimism, and he'd be damned if it wasn't
      catching.

      "Kay," he said, nodding, and she patted his shoulder.

      "Good man. We got fifteen minutes till we gotta take the kids to the parrot
      exhibit."

      Sucking in a long breath of air wafting of animal poo and dough-nuts, Logan
      nodded.

      "Wanna go for a walk?"

      Logan looked to Rogue, her frame curled up against his, and he shook his head.

      "Nah. I say we sit for a while. Plenty a' time for walkin' today."

      Rogue smiled and settled to his shoulder, watching the children play. A
      determination was bolstered within him at the eyes of the girl in his arms, and
      he knew that if the Max kid was in trouble, or needed help, he'd get it.
      Whether he wanted it or not.

      -----------------------------------

      The parrot enclosure was an expansive greenhouse with double sets of
      spring-loaded doors set in entrance enclosures to keep the birds from escaping,
      an oriental style wooden bridge path winding through the great thing and leading
      to a door to the other side. Logan had never really thought about parrots
      before. In his nearly twenty years of remembered time on the earth, parrots
      were just not something he encountered. They had no real place in backwater
      Canada, and as such the shrill brightly coloured creatures and he had never
      crossed paths.

      Oh, how he wished that he could still say the same.

      Marie herded the children into the first door. "Come on - hurry - no! No Ted
      don't open that door not yet! We gotta close this first door first!"

      Logan jumped forward to stop the kid, and turning to look back, he frowned.
      "Where's Max?"

      "Here."

      He turned, and Max leant against the mesh-covered wall with his ever present
      petulant scowl.

      "Glad you could make it," Logan droned, and once the last of the children were
      in and the door was closed behind them, "Get in there."

      Pushing himself off the wall with a roll of his shoulders, Max growled. Not
      just any general grunt of aggression - it was a fully guttural, tongue rattling
      growl that sent the few birds close enough to the entry cage into the air with a
      flutter of wings and screeches. It was the sort of thing that Logan often did
      without thinking, making Marie smile and usually any surrounding women
      shudder. The deep savage noise from the gawky young Max however earned a
      sweeping look from Rogue, confusion denting her brow, and a wide-eyed glare from
      each of the little children. Logan was impressed.

      Max, however, obviously wasn't. His face went a deep mottled red, and he
      barged his way past the children and Rogue, racing into the parrot enclosure
      before them.

      Marie sent a blank look to Logan.

      He spluttered, "What?!"

      "What did you do?"

      He shrugged with open hands, "I didn't do anything - I told him to get inside!"

      She rolled her eyes, pushing the children in, "Get in there an' find him you
      great monkey's ass."

      With a suffering moan, Logan pushed the heavy spring-loaded door open, little
      children racing in past him, Marie taking her time to stride through. Letting
      the door swing close, he sauntered onwards into the thick of the greenery. It
      was at this point that an explosion of feathers and claws decided to acquaint
      itself with Logan's head.

      >From the towering palms about them, green, red and blue bodies launched
      themselves down at him, frenzied screeches rattling Logan's nerves. He fought
      not to pop his claws and crouched instead, batting off wildly nipping birds.

      "What the fuck!?"

      Two hands grabbed his, and an english voice muttered at him.

      "You're scaring them, Mr. Logan."

      He looked up to see an unimpressed Geordie Carter dragging him towards the exit.

      "I didn't do anything!" Logan practically howled.

      "No, you didn't have to," Geordie said, pushing a very stunned Logan into the
      exit enclosure. Once the chaos of panicking birds was shut off behind them,
      Geordie sighed. "I'm very sorry about that. The birds get very frightened when
      in an enclosed space like that with a predator."

      Logan frowned with confusion, "I'm no damned predator."

      Geordie smiled patiently, "Er... it's complicated. It's your mutation you see."

      "Huh?"

      "Your mutation... it emulates the predatory functions and instincts of most
      hunting animals yes?"

      Logan felt a slow dawning on him and he sighed darkly, "Yeah..."

      "Yes well... the birds know that - they sense it Mr. Logan - as they just did
      with young Max here."

      Logan swung around. On a bench lining the exit enclosure, Max sat, large dark
      eyes fixed on him with a strange mixture of hatred and fear. Logan looked to
      Geordie.

      "Uh - sorry about scarin' yer birds."

      "That's quite allright," Geordie said with a stiff smile, "Just remember not to
      go into any enclosures like this one again will you? A few of the animals have
      very delicate constitutions..."

      Logan nodded, "Yeah. Sorry."

      With a final nod Geordie turned about, ducking back inside the enclosure. Yeah,
      it was what he thought. Max avoided Logan's stare, gloved hands fiddling.

      "Wanna go somewhere a little less crowded?"

      Max's eyes flashed at his, "Why?"

      Shoving his hands in his pockets, Logan rocked from toe to heel patiently.

      "To talk. Guy to guy."

      Max sighed, a heavy sigh that Logan understood too well.

      "Come on," Logan grunted, opening the door out, "We'll wait for the kids
      outside."

      Logan led him out in silence, the fight in Max seeming to be all gone, the heavy
      drag of depression in his movements. He poked the kid till he sat at a nearby
      bench, Max wringing his shoulder and glaring at him. Max shifted, fear all over
      him.

      "So you gonna tell people about me?"

      Logan shrugged, "Nope. Not my place."

      Max looked down to his hands. Around them it was quiet, the main thoroughfare
      diverted mostly towards the pandas around the other way. Parrots weren't
      apparently as popular as big fluffy teddy-bears. And for good reason, thought
      Logan darkly.

      "When did you know... that you were a mutant?"

      Max sounded suddenly small, and looking to him, Logan shrugged.

      "Wish I knew, Kid," he said. "Don't remember anything past twenty years ago."

      Max frowned, "You got amnesia or something?"

      Logan nodded, "Something like that."

      "Woah."

      "Yeah," Logan said. He pointed at the gloves suddenly, "Do your parents know
      about this?"

      "No," Max said, shaking his head, "They think it's a new fashion or some shit."

      Narrowing his eyes a little, Logan gave a lopsided wince, "Something real ugly
      under there?"

      Glancing to the older man defensively, Max hugged his hands to himself.

      "Can't be any worse than these--"

      With that, Logan let his claws spring from his arms, the eight inches of
      adamantium gleaming in the patched daylight that fell from between the tree
      canopy above them. Frowning, Max looked to his hands at his chest.

      Hope built in Logan as he watched the child regard his own hands, the young face
      drawn in a thoughtful pout.

      Clenching each other, the hands gripped the gloves, and with a wringing motion,
      Max pulled his hands from the woollen things.

      Mottled brown marks dappled the tops of the olive-toned skin like large
      freckles, the hair there a little wiry and darker than one would expect on a boy
      of this age. The mottled flesh ran up under the sleeves with the sparse but
      thickly shafted hair. This wasn't so shocking to Logan. What really surprised
      him were the fingernails. They were darker than human fingernails should be,
      instead looking a deeper grey, delicately sweeping to severe points. They were
      claws.

      "I file 'em down," Max said, voice rough, "They grow back."

      "D'you get hurt?"

      He could see Max immediately knew what he meant.

      "Yep," Max said, "I can fall over, cut myself. Break a bone - all that shit."

      "But you heal," said Logan, "Real fast."

      A small dent touched Max's young soft brow, and he nodded. "Yeah, exactly."
      Looking back to his clawed hands, the boy shook his head. "Wouldn't be so
      bad... but I get angry. Easy. And then the claws... they get bigger - like a
      cat's. Like they fold out or somethin'..." Looking ahead, Max gave a short
      sigh, and he pulled back the long dark hair around his ears. "For while, I wore
      a hat, to hide them. They're getting bigger... I won't be able to hide them
      anymore."

      Where the delicate curl of flesh that was the human ear should have been was a
      long slender stretch of skin that went to a point, thin yet stiff enough to sit
      on it's own. Logan couldn't help but feel a twist of shock in his stomach as
      the ear twitched about in it's place, changing direction. At the tip of the ear
      was a thin soft tuft of brown hair.

      "I can hear really good," Max said finally, letting the hair fall over the ear
      again.

      Logan patted the kid's shoulder. "Yeah... it's like that zoo guy said - our
      mutations emulate animals. You like cats?"

      Max nodded back at him, "Yeah... I got one at home."

      "Right," Logan grunted, "Our powers... they got somethin' to do with what's
      botherin' us when our mutation takes effect, and our upbringing. I know that
      sounds strange, it's just a theory. The Professor has a few of them."

      "The Professor?"

      "Yeah," Logan said with an affectionate narrow of his eyes, "Professor Xavier.
      He organized this."

      Max looked back to his hands, "Oh."

      "He can help you, you know. With that."

      "He can get rid of this?" he said, hope in his voice.

      Logan sighed, shaking his head. "Nah, nah kid. He'll help you control it
      though... accept it. Even like it."

      Max screwed his face up in incomprehension. "Hph! You - you like being like
      that?! Like a freak?"

      He smiled now, looking down to his clawed hands, "Yeah, yeah I do, sometimes.
      Sometimes it sucks but that's life kid. Sometimes it sucks, sometimes it
      doesn't."

      "I hate being like this," Max said, "I hate it. I have to wear these stupid
      gloves cause the claws scare my little sister. You know what it's like, having
      your little sister absolutely terrified of you?!"

      Logan just met the angry child's eyes calmly. "No. Then again, don't have a
      sister to start with - that I know of."

      This lowered Max's hackles a little, the boy sobering at the sad tone of Logan's
      voice.

      "Sorry."

      "S'okay," Logan said, "Don't remember any sisters - doesn't mean I don't have
      any family."

      A quiet moment fell between them, and Logan took it to think on what had
      happened. Shit - he was finally talking to the kid. He'd gotten the kid to
      show him what he was hiding, and in a big squishy icky lovey-dovey 'isn't the
      world so damned wonderful' way, he felt really good. Marie would be so
      proud. Logan threw his head back, groaning.

      "God, I'd kill for a beer."

      Max looked up at him, wincing through the bright sunlight. "There's a big diner
      near the Zoo entrance... got a roped off bit for parents to drink wine and
      stuff... yeh think they'd have any beer there?"

      Logan eyed Max. "Very possibly."

      Logan could feel himself twitching impatiently, his claws, though back in his
      arms, niggling to get out again. Flaring his nostrils he sighed. Fortune
      seemingly favoured the savage, however, as Rogue and the babbling little bodies
      that were their group of children burst from the parrot enclosure. Stephanie
      ran forward, grabbing Logan's knees and gazing at him in awe.

      "There's a parrot in there that TALKS to you!"

      Logan glared at the child like she was a growth on an old man's nose, "Yeah?
      What does it say?"

      A gloved hand wrapped around the girl's mouth and behind her, Rogue blushed.

      "Baby, you don't wanna know what that dirty little rat of a bird said..."

      "It's going to hell," Stephanie said dourly.

      "I'll bet."

      Rogue blew a stray lock of hair from her face, looking down at Logan in front of
      her.

      "You two okay? What the hell happened in there anyway?"

      Glancing to a worried looking Max, Logan shrugged, "The birds obviously had a
      bit of a misunderstanding about my intentions, so the Zoo-Guy says."

      "Oh," Rogue jutted her bottom lip with a rise of her brows, "I see. Okay well -
      shall we go to the next exhibit then - or do you guys need more male-bonding
      time?"

      Max snorted, giving a laugh and shaking his head. "Sure - we haven't affirmed
      our inner 'Tarzan's yet."

      Marie tipped her head, hands propped on hips, giving a gasp, "My my my, Max - is
      that humour I hear from your pretty little mouth?"

      Logan warmed at the open affection she showed the boy, and blushing wildly, Max
      hid his face behind a neatly gloved hand.

      "Just don't let it get around."

      Grinning, Logan thumped the kid's shoulder. "In fact - I was gonna take Max for
      a quick walk - tell him more about mutants."
      Logan met Rogue's questioning gaze, glancing to the boy's gloves deliberately.
      Nodding slowly, Rogue smiled.

      "Right, well, I can't sit around windbaggin' all day," Rogue announced, turning
      around to look at the children around her. With a bright smile she clapped her
      hands, "We got a zoo to take a look at, huh kids?"

      The children let out excited hoots, jumping up and down and clawing and hugging
      Rogue. Giving Logan a tired look, Rogue smiled, waving.

      "I'll meet you at the zebra exhibit in an hour?"

      Rolling his eyes about in thought, Logan nodded quickly.

      "Yup - should be plenty of time."

      "'Kay. Seeya round."

      Jumping to his feet, Logan pulled Max along with him, the look on the older
      man's hinting of desperation.

      "You gonna tell me about mutants?"

      Logan nodded, "Yup. First - I get beer."

      Max grinned.
      ~~~~X~~~~

      --
      Lifelong member of PETS:
      People for the Ethical Treatment of Scott!
      "Cause Poor Ol' One Eye deserves a BREAK DAMMIT!"
      --------------------
      "If Logan & Rogue were supposed to be a sibling-like,
      then Hugh and Anna didn't get the friggin' memo..."
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