(Disclaimers in Part One)
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..."
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
He slouched at the bench, relaxing into the half embrace, "Oui, but bein' a
thief don' always get you friends."
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
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
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
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
"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
"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!"
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
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
"No!" She shook her head, "No - I swear the python will NOT like my vomit all
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.
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
Jean covered her mouth, looking away as her shoulders shook slightly with
laughter, and Scott, with a smirk, nudged her.
"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.
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
"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!
Jubilee gave a spasm as she scowled at the attendant with distaste. "Yeah -
"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,
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
"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!"
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
"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
"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
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
Jubilee gave a wry smirk and punched him playfully in the shoulder, "You know.
"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
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
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
Rogue glanced up, snorting, "Yeah he's always pouty."
"Yeah but he's - " Kitty tilted her head the other way and pursed her lips,
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," 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
"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."
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.
She pouted at his low dreary tone, and she nudged him again, leaning her head on
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.
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
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?"
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
"No more digging with your claws!" she tutted.
Logan smirked, "Sorry Ma."
"Ooh!" She thwapped him one.
"Serves ya right!" she said, dusting off her behind as she stood up. Logan's
grin fell as she began to walk off.
She looked back to him.
"Where ya going?!"
With a smile sliding on to her face, she said, "Lettin' you get on with helpin'
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
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
"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.
Shrugging, Logan leaned into the bench and stretched out his legs, crossing them
"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
"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
"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
"No, just - just fuck off all right? Lemme alone!"
Grabbing his hamburger, the young boy jumped to his feet, striding off across
"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
"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.
"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
Laughter erupted from Rogue, the girl curling her legs up and clapping her
"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
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
Her expression was bright, full of optimism, and he'd be damned if it wasn't
"Kay," he said, nodding, and she patted his shoulder.
"Good man. We got fifteen minutes till we gotta take the kids to the parrot
Sucking in a long breath of air wafting of animal poo and dough-nuts, Logan
"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
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.
He turned, and Max leant against the mesh-covered wall with his ever present
"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
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."
"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
"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
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
"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
"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."
"Yeah," Logan said. He pointed at the gloves suddenly, "Do your parents know
"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
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
"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
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
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."
"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
"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
"S'okay," Logan said, "Don't remember any sisters - doesn't mean I don't have
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.
Rogue blew a stray lock of hair from her face, looking down at Logan in front of
"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
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."
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..."