Chapter 23
That Damned Bullseye



Adam found one other beef with his cell: it didn't have doors. Doors would have muffled sounds like, oh, say that user, GA-V-DRA7, who didn't think there was anything wrong with screwing someone to get what they wanted. Jesus, didn't the guy ever learn the word "please"? Adam would have been just as willing to volunteer his brothers' help without the blow jobs.

Okay, the blow jobs were nice but still...

"I do not understand your anger," said Gav. Props to him, he really did sound confused. Maybe growing up in a tank stripped him of logic. "There was no harm in our having sex; in fact, it was mutually beneficial. You did not find fault with the way that I su--"

Adam threw a purloined screw at the opening. The force field blasted it to smithereens. "Say it a little louder, Gav! I don't think they heard you in the Pits." Thank God Scalphunter was out of commission or just outside his cell.

"People know we have had sex. It is quite common to have sex here, as I've told you before."

"People know we were-- Which people? Since when?" Adam wind-milled his arms. "Okay, now you officially suck."

"I thought I was sucking although I am not certain how it became officiated."

"Now you're joking about it?"

"I am?"

"Fuck you."

"But you have expressed disinterest in fucking me."

He gave up. Adam smacked his head against the wall. It figured his first boyfriend would be a sociopath.

"I wish you were still interesting in fucking me," said Gav in a conversational tone. "I found our sex very enjoyable."

Ignore him, Adam told himself. Ignore him and maybe he'd stop and then he, Adam, could also stop with the eyes burning and the stomach clenching and the aching under his ribs that made it hard to breathe.

"What must I do in order to have sex with you again?" Gav asked.

Adam's lungs seized. "What?"

"What must I do in order to have sex with you again? As I said, I found it very enjoyable and would like to continue doing so for as long as we are mutually interested. You are unlike others that I have had sex with."

"I can't believe I'm having this-- what do you mean unlike the others?"

He heard Gav moving, maybe doing more push ups or sit ups or whatever other exercise that he seemed to be obsessed with. "I am not certain. You aren't the gentlest nor the roughest. Neither are you the first virgin I have had sex with. We do not have sex often and when we do, it does not stray from the typical homosexual experiences. We have not even penetrated each other with our penises; I am quite certain I would have introduced penetration soon if you were still interested."

Could people actually die embarrassment or was it just a side effect of trying to drill your head through the floor in an effort of disappear? Adam didn't know for sure but he wanted to try. "So if I'm not any of those, what am I?"

"Different," Gav said simply. "I do not know what it is. You are different and having sex with you is different. Is this why people in the outside get married?"

Adam sank his head between his arms. "You're psycho. You're certifiable and I think it's contagious."

"I'm afraid I do not understand."

"Join the club."

"But you do not have a club nor a place to hide it."

That made Adam crack a smile. "Gav, when we get out of here, I've got to introduce you to TV."

"I have heard of TV," Gav said, not sounding too interested. "I cannot see the attraction to passively viewing the world when hands-on experience would be much more worthy of note."

The confidence in his voice sent a throb of nerves in Adam's stomach. "You always sound so excited about the... y'know, the thing. With the meetings."

Gav made a sound that was as close to laughter as he could muster. "Indeed. I cannot wait for the day when we are no longer prisoners."

"You could get hurt."

"Compared to what happens here?" Gav's right brow rose. "I would suffer a hundred thousand more times if it means that I will have a chance at freedom."

And that was that.

"I can't do this," Adam said, giving up on chutzpah. "I'm going to mess up with flying colours and the plan's going to fail and we're all going to die."

"You will not," said Gav. "You cannot."

"How do you know?"

"I know." Gav sounded like Moses when he said things like that but Adam needed more convincing.

"How do you know? You barely know me compared to someone like Scalphunter and he's never been to any of the meetings." Then it struck him. "Oh yeah, my connections. We can't forget those."

Gav's exercise sounds stopped. "True, I only spoke with you initially because of your connections. I also admit that I initiated sex with you to reinforce your loyalty to us and our cause."

Not making him feel better, Adam thought snidely.

"But I have noted in you a growing quality that many do not have, even those who lead our cause."

"Gullibility?" Adam suggested.

"No." Gav's head scraped against the wall as he shook it. "I do not know the word for it but I see it in every opponent in the Pit that I know I will have difficulty defeating."

Warmth seeped back into Adam's bones even as he told himself not to believe in anything Gav said. "Bullshit. You always kick my ass in the Pits."

"When you first came, you entered the pits, rolled over and gave up," said Gav. "Now you face us fearlessly and never stop fighting even with the knowledge that because you are poorly trained, you are ultimately doomed. It is a most admirable trait."

Aw, hell. The warmth turned into full blown pride. Adam sat up straighter. His words almost made Adam want to forgive him.

"It makes me want to have more sex with you."

What it boiled down to, Alex surmised after hours of googling and phone calls from campus, was the complete lack of information on Genosha. It was like the place didn't really exist. A few articles popped up on the ejournals, the most recent published in the late eighties, but they all had the same descriptive phrases: unique ecology, organic vanilla beans, limestone formations, limited population. Genosha appeared to be independently ruled with few contacts to continental Africa. Outside of that, the articles stayed frustratingly non-specific.

Pressing his thumbs into his eyes, Alex decided to call it a day. He actually did have a lecture to go to and no matter how crappy the geology department at Pace, he had to finish off his degree. With a final gulp of coffee, he packed up his laptop and left the library.

He hadn't gone further than the courtyard when a buzzing hit the back of his neck, the buzz that screamed at him to duck behind a dumpster because someone was going to shoot him in the back Right Now. Alex hitched the jacket collar up instead. As he entered the lecture hall, he felt for the shoulder holster he'd started wearing when he agreed to move to Xavier's temporarily.

The buzz returned as soon as the class ended. Taking a deep breath, Alex walked on. He was just going home. He'd taken the train to and from school for two months now and nothing had happened. Just because it seemed like people were dodging away from his gaze every time he turned his head, it didn't mean that someone was going to launch a missile into the subway. The problem would be when he got outside and there was nothing to duck behind.

Alex hitched his backpack closer to his body.

The train eased to a stop to the tune of synthetic bells. At least fifteen other people exited at the Salem Center Station with Alex: three men in business suits, one woman in yuppie trendy, a grandmother and her little granddaughter and a whole slew of fellow students in jeans, jackets and backpacks. Alex trailed behind, watching everyone head for the stairs at various speeds. He wished he paid more attention to the stop before; he couldn't remember if he'd seen these people before.

The bus stop was three blocks up and two blocks to the right. Little cafes, laundromats, fast food joints and dollar stores lined the streets, knowing they'd have easy cash with the thousands of students milling to the mall every day. He jostled elbows with dozens of people who wouldn't make eye contact. That buzz wasn't going away.

"Alex, right?" A girl came up to him, vaguely familiar. "You're in Dharmaratna's seminar?"

"Yeah," said Alex, briefly scanning behind her.

"You usually sit at the front of the class."

"I was just... I was thinking of a project that I'm running late on. Roomates, y'know."

The girl rolled her eyes. "You've got annoying roommates, too? I swear, sometimes living on yoru own isn't worth the trouble. I've always managed to attract that crazies. Just last year, I was--"

Alex turned out her prattling, although he was painfully aware of how loud she talked. He might as well hook up a microphone and loudspeaker every time she said his name. The sea of jeans and hooded jackets trudged closer to the series of Victorian heritage building that the consciously cute city of Salem had annexed as a shopping strip.

"--so I finally said, that's it! I wasn't going to take it any more so I--"

A car zoomed by close enough to spray Alex's ankles with water. In dodging it, he bumped into someone else, garnering an irritated look.

"-- and what is that thing with futons now? I can't find any that fit with my furniture--"

A man in a dark blue jacket ploughed into his side. Alex spun around, mouth open to deliver a vulgarity-laden warning but the person blended along with the other dark-coloured jackets. Someone else slammed into his right, once again melting into the crowd.

"-- not like last night where I totally burned pasta and my roommate was like, who burns pasta? And I was like--"

Then there it was, a sound like an angry band member smacking a snare drum with all his strength. An icy jolt hit his bicep and quickly burst into a burning sensation down to his wrist and up to his neck. Gasping, Alex clutched at his arm. The person in front of him stumbled as well, knocking a few people to the side as he went down.

"Hey, watch it!" said the girl who had approached him. Her eyes grew wide as headlights. "Omigosh, you're bleeding!"

Before Alex could say anything, more shots rang out. The crowd, screaming, spread in a panicked mass, ducking behind any available shelter.

"Run!" he told the girl but she was way ahead of him, diving underneath a pick-up truck. Alex rolled behind her, grunting when his injured shoulder hit the concrete. Shrugging off his backpack, he moved to unbutton his jacket.

"You have a cell phone?" he asked the girl. She nodded, still babbling inanely. "Hey, shush… hey! Listen to me. Listen! Call 911. Tell them there's a shooter with a semi-automatic weapon firing at a crowd. Give them the intersection. Tell them that he looks like a professional and to come in prepared to use whatever force is necessary, got it?"


Alex peered over the top of the truck's cargo bed. A shot zinged over his head. Alex fell flat on the road, his heart jumping like water in a deep fryer. Holy shit! They really were after him!

The girl tugged on his arm. "The cops said they're coming. They want to talk to you."

"Not right now," said Alex. His brain was starting to kick into fight mode. That meant that he had to figure out what to do before the red bullrage swept over his eyes and he ran out from behind this pickup like Sylvester Stallone character.

Item one: The gunman knew where he was which meant that he'd been following him.

Item two: The gunman shot at Alex when he peeked which meant he must be somewhere on the other side of the truck. He'd been really lucky to choose this car.

Item three: The gunman must be pretty far off to miss him on the second shot. That meant he was on a rooftop or in building somewhere.

"Tell the cops it's a possible sniper," said Alex.

"They want to talk to you," she insisted.

Alex ignored her. The shoulder holster pressed against his ribs. He patted it. Shit, shit, shit, shit! His heart was beating faster than when he'd initially been shot.

Taking a deep breath, Alex squeezed his gun again. Then he ran out from behind the pickup. Vaguely, he heard the girl screaming at him but he was too focused on putting his left foot in front of his right. Left, right, left, right until he was standing in the middle of an empty sidewalk with his arms spread open.

"What the hell do you want?" he shouted. Spinning around, he screamed again. "I'm here, fuckers! What do you want, huh? You want to get at me and my brothers? Fine! Just take your goddamn shot and stop fucking around, you mother-fucking fuckmooks!"

Nothing happened.

Alex turned around again. "Come on!" He yelled loud enough to scratch his throat. "Come on! Come get me!"

He spun to face the opposite direction. "I'm right here, you fucking idiots! Shoot already! Assholes! Fuckers! You take pot shots at bystanders but you don't have the balls to shoot me! Shoot me already! Shoot me! Shoot--"

A bullet slammed into his left shoulder. Alex went down, his head cracking against the sidewalk.

The hanging halogen lamps cast dewy shadows in the kitchen, turning the usually cheery room into something vaguely Hitchcockian. Rogue sat on one of the bar stools, wrapped in a thick bedrobe, her hands curled around a large mug of tea. Remy smiled despite his weariness. She returned the smile, a little too cautiously, Remy realised.

"Hey," he said softly.

"Hey," she replied, her legs swinging, a nervous habit. She had adorable feet, splay-toed with perfect little oval nails painted dark green and, whoa, he was not going there.

"Shouldn't you be in bed?" he said instead, fighting valiantly to keep tamp down the image of her curled up in bed.

"I couldn't sleep," she said. Taking a deep breath, Rogue turned on the bar stool to face him fully. "Remy, are you still mad at me?"

Whatever it was he thought she was going to say, this wasn't it and so Remy responded accordingly. "Huh?"

She curled her shoulders around the mug, staring into its depths. "You've just been so... I don't know. Yesterday was our movie day and you had a date. And you had another one tonight. You never come up to visit my room or the study and when we practice it's..." She released a sigh. "Go-time's in a day and I'm not comfortable with us doing a job and being... I was just wondering if you were still mad at me and if I apologize, we can be friends again." Peeking out from between her white bangs, Rogue asked, "We are still friends, right?"

"Peaches." Helpless, Remy didn't know what to say. If he told the truth, she'd really know what a sick bastard he was. There was a difference, he knew, between joking about his carousel love-life and being part of it. Women were women and family was family and Rogue was... well, she was family, wasn't she?

"I had no right to get into your business like that," she continued. "Even if I had a point-- and I did-- I shouldn't've shouted at you like that and I'm sorry."

Remy blinked. "Okay."

She nodded curtly, looking at him in an expectant manner. He had no idea what she was waiting for.

"Well?" Rogue's feet began tapping out a staccato beat on the barstool.

"Whuh?" Damn, he was eloquent today. Remy made a mental note to ram his head into the nearest wall as soon as this was all over.

Not quite slamming her mug down, Rogue hopped off the bar stool, muttering, "Forget it. This was a lousy idea. I'm going to kill Pete--"

Unwilling to be at odds with her for the eighth day straight, Remy took three giant strides to her side and swept her up in a hug. After a second, she folded her arms around his back, too and gave a quick squeeze. There. That was what was right in the world.

"I thought you were really, really mad at me," Rogue mumbled into his shirt front.

"Would that have been so bad?"


Something in Remy's chest clutched. "I ain't mad at you, Sugarplum. I don't think I could ever stay mad at you for long."

Rogue tipped her chin up, her expression sardonic. "It's 'cause of my bright, bubbly personality, right?"

"Something like that."

"So, are you gonna tell me why you were so tetchy?"

He shrugged the question off. "Don't worry about it."

"I'm your partner right? Partners are closer than wives." She lowered her hand from his cheek only to wind her gloved fingers around his.

Remy sighed, rubbing the nape of his neck. How the hell was he going to handle this? Just go out and admit he was turning into a dirty old man? He squeezed her tight, just for a second, then let go. "Maybe... maybe I should've made a different test. Something involving breaking to Worthington's room instead. Or better yet, a little trip to the city to pinch a something from MOMA's storage rooms."

Rolling her eyes, Rogue said, "I guess that's Remy for 'It's all cool'."

What could he say to that? Nothing really, so Remy just tugged at her hair again. "This all made me think though: maybe you need to have time with your actual classmates. It' is a little weird, y'know, you hanging out with a geezer like me. People are starting to talk."

"You're hardly doddering," said Rogue. "And since when have you cared what other people think?"

"It's your fault," he teased. "You're my Jiminy Cricket. I should've consulted with you before going out on my date tonight."

"Uh-oh," she said, peering at him mischievously from under her white bangs. "You're right; you're home before morning. That's not a good sign."

"The date was... meh," said Remy, shrugging out of his suit jacket. He took the tea from her and sipped at it, grimacing a little at the tepid temperature.

"Definitely not a good sign." She climbed on the countertop, leaving the chair for him and swinging her legs on either side of his. He patted her knee. "At least a bad date is memorable. Something 'meh' means something boring which means you can't even remember her name, can you?"

Remy stroked his chin. "I'm pretty sure it was Rose. Or Lily. Gardenia? Something about a flower." He poured the remainder of the tea from the pot into the now-communal tea mug.

"You're awful," said Rogue. "I'd curse you on behalf of woman-kind but I have a feeling I'm going to have too much fun snarking. Tell me everything. Where did you meet her?"

"Not worth repeating, Stripes. I didn't get any and we talked about taxes."

"You say much sweeter things in my dreams," said Rogue casually.

Remy's brain stuttered. "You dream about me, Sugarplum?" he managed. "I'm flattered."

Although her cheeks flared pink, she didn't duck her head in as she would if she was really embarrassed. "What do you expect? We're around each other all the time. I'd have dreams about a... a... a toaster if I spent the same amount of time with it."

Remy put a hand to his heart. "You really know how to hurt a man, Stripes." Then, because the devil on his shoulder was screeching in his ear, he asked, "What kind of dream?"

Now she ducked her head down.

A grin broke out on his face. "Oh that kind of dream."

"Shut up."

"I really am flattered, Peaches."

"Going to kill you."


"Remy! Drop it!" she wailed. "I don't know why I always open my big fat mouth when I'm around you. You've got to have the mutant power of making people vomit information."

He shrugged, his chest lighter than it had been for weeks. "If it makes you feel better, I've dreamt about you, too."

Peeking at him from under her lashes, Rogue asked, "What kind of dream?"

"I'll tell you if you tell me," he countered. As she opened her mouth mutinously, he said, "I asked you first."

"I answered."

"No, you didn't. You reacted and I guessed."


"Partners share everything."

"Hate. You." Covering her face with her hands, Rogue finally burbled, "Weeramakinawt."

Remy pulled her sleeves down. "What was that again?"


"I'd understand you better if you weren't drinking at the same time."

Rogue punched his arm, hard. "We were making out, okay! I dreamed we were making out. Kill me." She smacked his sides few more times for good measure.

Grinning like an idiot, Remy tucked her head under his chin and stroked her back, his whole body shaking with the effort of holding back his laughter.

"Don't laugh at me."

"I'm not."

"Are too."

"Am not." He pulled away so he could see her eyes. "I'm not laughing at you; I'm laughing at me. My dream was real similar and for weeks, I thought I was turning into those losers who stalk high schools for an easy lay when all this time, it's just like you said: we're around each other so much, it's kinda natural that we dream things like that."

Understanding lit Rogue's face up. "Hence the constant dating."

"Spot on, Sugarplum."

Her grin matched his. "Was I good?"


"Yeah? On a scale of Joan Rivers to Angelie Jolie?"

"At least a Selma Hayek with a splash of Keira Knightly for cute," he said, crossing his heart. "What about me?"

"On a scale of Carrot Top to Brad Pitt?" At his nod, Rogue said, "At least a Travis Fimmel with a healthy dose of George Clooney smoothness."

Remy preened as she chuckled over his vanity. "With dreams like that, we should never make out just in case the reality can't hold a candle to the dream, huh?"

"I guess not."

Tucking a tangled loop of hair behind her ear, Remy started to make a flip rejoinder but Rogue turned her head into his hand just at that moment. Pins and needles sizzled up his arm. Remy jerked back reflexively.

"Sorry!" she cried out, slapping a hand to her hair. He could see that light dying out, the discomfort settling in again and he couldn't let that happen.

"It's okay. It didn't hurt." He touched her cheek again, for a full two counts this time. "See? You just got to concentrate. Tell your body to stop."

"It didn't," said Rogue flatly.

"But someday, it will." He couldn't find anything to say after that, at least nothing that wouldn't sound trite or forced. He just stood between her legs, hands on her knees, cautiously meeting her eyes. If he could will her to believe his words, he would have. This close up, he could see little green flecks in her eyes and the line where her lips went from pink to a deep rose.

"When it does," Rogue said, nervously licking those lips, "we can really tell if you're George Clooney or CarrotTop."

And with that, thankfully, the spell was broken. Remy covered his face with a hand, leaning against the counter with the other as he tried not to laugh too loud. He felt Rogue shaking beside him, her giggles interspersed with snorts.

"Bed!" Remy ordered, pointing to the door. "Shoo! Before I tell Munroe that you've been staying up past curfew."

"You would not!" She narrowed her eyes at him. "If you tell her that, I'll just say that it's your idea half the time."

"Don't test me, Peaches." A lazy grin worked its way back to his lips. "Munroe sleeps in the buff, y'know. I could enjoy waking her up."

Huffing, Rogue slipped off the countertop and put away her cup. "Just when I think I might start liking having you around, you go and mention teachers and nudity in the same sentence."

"Just doing my best to give psychologists jobs." He handed her his cup which she also drained and racked in the dishwasher but only after a brief argument about chores and laziness which Remy won again by virtue of his rank.

"See you at breakfast," Rogue said, finally comfortable enough again to tap Remy's arm.

"Only if breakfast's served at noon," Remy replied


"Go to bed, Stripes."

Muffling her laughter, Rogue tiptoed out of the room and up the stairs. Remy slowly followed her and was almost at the stairwell when the phone rang. The caller display flashed the name of a hospital on the emergency line. His stomach began churning as he picked up the receiver.

"Hello, Xavier's School for Gifted Children. How can I help you?"

"This is Detective Messer, Salem PD. An Alexander Summers gave us this number as an emergency contact."

Remy's knuckles went white. "I'm family. Alex is my brother. Is he okay?"

Up in the second stairwell, Rogue paused and looked down worriedly over the railing.

"He's just come out of surgery here at Clifton Trauma Center. Would you please come down so we can explain everythi-- hello? Sir? Hello?"

Remy was already out the door.

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