Disclaimer: If they were ours, Marrow wouldn't have needed a
Spoilers: For What Gambit Did in the Morlock Tunnels, but
that's getting to be quite a while ago, and continuity isn't our
major concern here.
Ratings note: R? violence
Authors' notes: Yet another of the what-shall-we-do-with-
Acknowledgements: Te was thinking a lot about V's outrage
over Gambit's treatment by the X-Men while doing this... Jane
was undoubtedly chortling over the easy enslavement of her
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The thing is, she'd been getting to *like* the slippery Cajun
bastard. Something about the way he didn't flinch whenever she
walked in, just watched her with steady, slightly sad eyes.
Something about that time he'd picked the lock on Cyclops' liquor
cabinet and taught her how to drink properly. Whiskey, gin,
tequila, and by the end of the night she'd been past fucked up and
headed for unconscious, and he'd sort of pushed her to bed, not
much more sober than she was.
Not fair that it should be him. The one she's been hunting. All
him tied up in the Marauders and the rage that drives her awake at
night. All those old fantasies of using her bones to slowly shred
the tendons of the ones who did it until they really *understood*
what she'd lost.
Quiet, dark space in which she gets to inflict her revenge.
She'd screamed at the X-Men when they came back without him.
And louder when they told her why. Less because he was dead
than because they wouldn't let it be *her* doing the killing. Not
fair for it to be pretty, pretty Rogue, who'd always had him.
Raged and threw things and carved the sleeve of Rogue's suit away
with the bloody edge of her thighbone and *snarled* animal-furious
until they set Beast on her and pumped her full of something and
she woke up more than a day later in med-lab, curled up like a dog
on one of the beds.
And even now she can smell him. Something about the cologne
he's taken up since he's been back that crawls up her nerves. Too
obvious for a thief. She keeps wondering whether he's trying to
track himself, or if he's trying to attract hunters.
Maybe it's just right for the new him. This X-man the rest of them
don't want back. Either because they can't forgive him or because
the light of day is tough to face when you've got blood on your
If they were gonna do it, it should've been done *right*.
Something sick and cowardly about leaving a man to freeze to
death. Or starve. Perfect for a Marauder in its ruthlessness, but if
it'd been her, she'd've stayed to watch. Make sure.
But now he's back, and it takes a lot more spine than any of
these half-assed murderers have got to kill a man twice. No one
asks how he survived. No one gives two shits most likely. A nice
little heavenly reprieve for being bad.
Play nice, kiddies, and learn your lesson: The dead walk.
They talk in slow, half-cringing voices and scrape weakly at the
remains of their old life.
Not yours anymore, you freak!
She wants to yell it out loud. Not yours. Not theirs. Not hers,
either, because isn't she just as bad?
Why *is* he still alive, since he's right here and Marrow can find
him just by following her nose. Following that invisible slime trail
of guilt and penance no one's around to take.
'cept her. Yeah. Her.
So. If she forgives him -- screams and blood and faces all twisted
up with pain and the man running with her who won't let her go
back won't let her go until they're far away and it's sunny and hot
and *wrong* and the air isn't right and then gone. Bump of
ground, scratchy weave of a welcome mat and she'd watched long,
strong legs pump and pump away from her...
Marrow growls aloud, and the hall around her seems to still for it.
Whole house listening to see what she'll do, who she'll hurt, what
else she'll fuck up because she doesn't *know* better.
Whole house wired for sound with good ol' Professor X keeping a
close eye on all his charges.
Makes her neck itch.
Or maybe it's just a bone thinking about making her bleed. It's a
little maddening, just like it's a little maddening to find herself
outside Gambit's open door. Opened a crack, no light spilling out in
the dark hall. Cologne all soft upworlder-uncautious-man and her,
Just as Morlock as she needs to be.
She doesn't knock. He's in there, she knows. He's not breathing
softly as he would be if he were hiding. Just sitting. Near the
window, she thinks. Close to the cold, because it is cold out. She
tends to stay away from the great outdoors on principle, and the
miserable cold of semi-upstate New York is just one more good
reason. Ache in her from that chill and her bone-enforced
Slinks up and crouches just out of his reach. Aware of how fast he
can move and how fast she can, and not worried in any case because
he isn't going to attack her. Something in him cracked while he was
out on the ice. If he moved fast enough to take her off her guard
he'd shatter. She knows this.
He turns toward her, eventually. Arch and curve of the hollows
around his cheekbones that she does and doesn't pity. Wanting
this agony for him and knowing exactly how ugly it is to die
slowly. So that eventually she stands and grabs his wrist and pulls
him to his feet. He doesn't resist, but the eyes watch her like bright,
sharp lights, and he follows closely enough that there's no tension
on his arm. He could break free if he needed to.
Well, good. She'd hate to think that all the survival instinct that
pulled them both out of the blood of the tunnels, his arms around
her skinny, bone-dangerous child's body, smelling like fear and
horror and the ozone-smell that she's learned since is the smell of
his kinetic power at work... She's glad it isn't gone entirely.
Nothing of him left if it was.
Drags him downstairs, underground to her room in the basement.
They picked it for her originally, she thinks, because it was easy to
monitor. About one step up from a prison cell. She decided she
liked it, though... Underground inherently more *home* for her
than the upworld, and the half-light of the basement makes a
good approximation of what she's used to.
And no one comes around to bother her about the mess. She
knows that Bobby gets chewed for the wreckage he lives in, and
the pretty little ones in the school at Boston get lectures on living
neatly, but she's both grown-up and hidden, and she can live
however she wants.
Which is more or less how she would have lived if she'd always
been Morlock. Scavenging and building from what she finds, so
that her personal space is half ratnest and half collage. Clothes
she's torn too badly to wear again in a box by the door, to get used
for rags or whatever, clothes she's waiting to tear to uselessness
waiting on a chair.
A couple of books that she likes are in there, but they're out of
sight in the mess, hidden the way she knows is best. Bed in the
corner with a sleeping-bag and collection of old blankets, mostly
torn, thrown over it. Her bone-spiked doll leftover from
childhood stashed somewhere in the depths of covers.
He folds himself down onto the edge of the bed when she lets
him go -- strange and homeless-looking, like he could sink into
the rags and vanish.
Leave nothing but dry-rotting armor and that *smell*. Burned
in her senses now, carving an it-shaped hole out of the rest of
her perceptions. This man. Her *savior*. Sitting there and
waiting for the judgment no one else has the balls to give.
Not even him.
"I *liked* you."
Barely even catching his reply because that wasn't even *close* to
what she wanted to say. What had to *be* said. "Shut the fuck up."
He nods, and settles back into his slouch.
Time for more silence, way too big for her room, pressing into her
from all sides before even two minutes have passed, and pacing
through it is like wading through muck that stinks so bad it takes
a while to really understand that you're smelling it. Half-sealed
sewer pipes and rot.
Thick heat of that *other* world, and the day her first calluses
burst and "*Talk*."
No tease, no smile, just "what do you want me to say?"
Me, not Gambit. And it's a good fucking question. She's heard it
all. Rogue's rage and Storm's angry understanding and everything
Wolverine said with his own silences. And she can't even say she
just wants to hear it in his voice, because she *doesn't*.
Absolutely never wants to see those over-red lips shape
themselves to apologies and god-fucking-damned *regrets*. Doesn't
know why so much as has that... feeling. Of something finalized
and ugly, too soon out the oven, *something*.
"Do you know how many of us died?"
"Do you know their names?"
He lists them, one by one. More than she remembered. Lists the
way they died and where they lay. Lists what they were wearing
and she can see him, masked against the smell -- no. Not masked.
Walking and memorizing. Not crying, just... noting.
Awful things stuck to his boots and Marrow bites her cheek until
she tastes iron, wills bone to pierce her scalp in a dozen places
and watches his eyes. Fucking undead eyes fucking *killer* but no,
he just *ran*.
Fucking *coward* fucking killer fucking *Gambit*. Blood running
down her neck and back, sliding ticklishly to pool at the base of
her throat and spine. Stain and wet her down and she can't blink.
Breathing through the thinnest hole her body can make. Nails
digging into her palms. "Keep going."
And he never pauses. Not to nod, not to lick his dry lips, just
keeps talking in that low almost whisper until he comes to the
end, when he finally stares directly into her eyes.
Open plea for nothing like mercy and "I can't. Sometimes Gambit
can't feel it no more."
Backhands him before she knows what she's doing, fist
clenching in resistance only after it's already done and Gambit
lets the blood from his lip drip unhindered down his chin.
"It was not the only thing Gambit did."
Other cheek, more blood. Something curling and alive in her,
something hot and painful and right like medicine, like bone.
"Gambit never would have told."
His eye will blacken quickly.
"I still like you, chere."
And she's on him then, fingers clenched around his throat, knees
digging hard into the muscles of his thighs. Watching and being
watched, as the tip of his tongue shows between his swollen lips.
One moment, just like this, for everything.
It's not enough.
Marrow rips herself off him and punches him again and again,
biting her own lip and making sounds she couldn't have
identified as human, counterpoint to his grunts and aborted
moves to defend himself. Hits and hits as her eyes blur, as her
blows grow awkward and glancing and everything just *burns*
until she can't take it anymore. Until she bites off a scream and
cries, at last.
For someone, anyone who isn't like her, or him, or them, or
anyone Marrow thinks might actually exist.
And when Gambit wraps his arms around her and pulls her close,
she lets him.
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