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All characters are the copyright of Marvel comics. This story is for non-profit purposes of private entertainment only.

The Starlight Saga, Chapter One

Mac O'Roni

    "What piteous beauty," Dr. Henry McCoy sighed. "What a horror this poor child's life, and yet what strength and divine patience on that little face! Such a provocative way to link the plight of the street children of New Orleans with the life of Jesus Christ! This artist's work is astonishingly sensitive. Reminiscent of Botticelli, only more starkly emotional."
     Remy LeBeau grunted. "Kid ain't strong or patient, jus' hurt and dead inside. An' de artist, he was a pervert who pay chile prostitutes to stan' butt nekkid for hours on en' while he paint dem, an' den he fuck `em when he was finished."
    The blue furry doctor was visibly ruffled. "Gambit, I hardly think that was called for—"
    "Take a closer look at dat kid, Hank," the Cajun said quietly, and then wandered off to look dispassionately at some poorly-executed piece of modern sculpture.
    McCoy followed his young friend with his eyes for a moment, and then turned back to the painting. He found himself seeing it less as a whole work and noticing the details for the first time. The bruises and wounds on the young boy's body nearly blinded him to the lean, sinewy form, the ephemeral light falling across the hair washed out the color until the cinnamon red appeared sandy brown. Eyes he had thought were merely large and dark…
    ...were in fact red over black.
    "Oh, dear Lord in Heaven," he breathed. He had known that Gambit had lived on the streets for a time in his youth…but a child prostitute? He thought the boy had lived picking pockets and stealing food from the open markets. He was not at all surprised to feel tears coursing down his furry cheeks.
    He didn't know what to do. He wanted to go to his friend, to say he was sorry, to apologize to him on behalf of the entire cruddy world. He did not think the Cajun would appreciate that. No longer feeling much in the mood for art, Henry McCoy went to look dispassionately at a poorly-executed piece of modern sculpture.

    Remy picked disconsolately at his supper that evening, to the consternation of the rest of the team. In spite of how much he complained about any food that wasn’t loaded with cayenne pepper, it was rare that the Cajun wouldn’t eat, and usually out-eat everyone at the table with the exception of Logan.
    “So, Hank,” Scott asked, attempting to break the unaccustomed silence, “how was the art show you and Gambit went to today?”
    McCoy, who hadn’t really touched his food either, dropped his fork with a clatter. “Oh. Ah. It was…good. Very good.”
    “Very good?” Logan growled, shoveling another forkful of mashed potatoes into his mouth. “What’s up, Hank? Usually you’d be talking our ears off about now.”
    “Well, you know…I’m not really that much of a fan of modern art. It wasn’t much to crow about.”
    “You’re being evasive, Henry,” Jean said, eyes on her water glass.
    “Some of de art was a bit disturbin’,” Gambit said, and he pushed his chair away from the table and got up. “Excusez-moi, je n'ai pas faim.” He left the dining room.
    “Whad’e say?” Logan grunted, cocking an eyebrow.
    “He said he’s not hungry,” McCoy said, delicately wiping his mouth on his napkin. “I…don’t know if I have any right to say, but if you intend to take Jean to the show tomorrow, Scott, I suppose you should be prepared. There are several works on display by a native New Orleans artist, naked portraits of young street children, mostly boys. One of them...probably the best of of Gambit.”
    Jaws and forks dropped simultaneously. Even Ororo looked stunned.
    “It gets worse.” McCoy’s voice had fallen into a near whisper. “He admitted to me that he was working at the time as a…as a prostitute. The artist paid to…to use him, and not just as a subject for a portrait.” It was amazing just how red his face could look under all that blue fur.
    "Holy cripes,” Logan said. “How old was he at the time?”
    McCoy shook his head. “I don’t know. He didn’t look any older than six or seven, frankly.”
    Logan put down his fork, an amazing thing considering there was still food on his plate. “What’s this artist’s name? Is he still alive? Where does he live?”
    “Why do you want to know, Wolverine?” Ororo asked.
    “Because I’m going to kill him if he ain’t dead already.”
    “Calm you’self, mon ami,” Remy said from the doorway. “C'est le passé: Il ne s'est jamais produit.”
     “Gambit,” McCoy said, blushing red under his fur again, “I didn’t know you were still in the vicinity. My apologies, my friend, if I have spoken out of line.”
    Gambit waved it off. “Like you say, if dey see de show, dey goan fin’ out anyways.”
    Logan growled. “Will you quit talkin’ that Frog around me? What the hell did you say to me?”
    “Dat part of my pas’ is behin’ me, Logan. It hurt sometime, but it jus’ another bad memory. Ain’ had to worry ‘bout dat kin’ t’ing for a long time now, an’ I ain’ never goan to again. I appreciate you wantin’ to avenge me,” he said, with a ghost of his usual cocky grin, “but it ain’ necessary.”
    “I think maybe it’s closer than you admit, Gumbo. That it hurts pretty damn bad, still.”
    “Mebbe so, but it’s my hurt, an’ I’ll live. I always have.” He walked out of the room again.
    In a totally unprecedented maneuver, Logan got up as well, leaving behind a plate still half-full. He followed close behind the Cajun, calling his name out in that gruff voice.
    “Well, isn’t this a day for surprises,” McCoy said to no one in particular, and returned to picking at his peas.
    Logan had to trot fast to catch up to the long-legged Acadian.
    “I’d rather be alone, Wolverine,” Gambit said.
    “Bullshit, Cajun. We gotta talk.”
    “Dey ain’t nothin’ to talk about.”
    Wolverine grabbed him by the collar and slammed the tall young man against the wall of the corridor. “I think there is. I want names, all of ‘em. Who…who used you?”
    Gambit smiled darkly. “Firs’ rule of sellin’ y’self: Don’ ask for names. Don’ look straight at ‘em, either.”
    To Remy’s shock, the fierce little Canadian seemed suddenly to be fighting back tears. “How…how could you do it? How could you survive that…that kind of life?”
    “You goin’ weak sister on me, Wolverine? What’chu care, anyway? You been t’rough some rough shit, and you don’ cry ‘bout it. Why you so damn worried ‘bout Gambit?”
    “I just…I don’t like the idea of kids bein’ used like that.” Logan let go of the Cajun’s shirt and Remy smoothed himself out, even passing a hand through his hair. He was rattled more by the Canadian’s reaction than he had initially been by the memories that rotten painting had brought back. He kept his face carefully, studiously neutral.
    “If you’ll es’cuse me, Logan,” he said, and walked away, more than half expecting to be grabbed again, maybe this time with claws out.
    But Logan let him go. He stood in the middle of the corridor and watched him walk away. He couldn’t explain his feelings even to himself, but something about the idea of someone forcing themselves on that kid, an even younger and more defenseless version, sickened, angered, and saddened him all at once. Even though he respected his teammate’s abilities as a fighter, he still felt that he was far too young to know so much about the dark underbelly of life, and to know that he had been taught in that school from so early an age pushed him dangerously close to going feral. He had to get his feelings under control.
    He turned down the corridor to the men’s quarters with the lingering scent of the Cajun in his nostrils, a warm, slightly spicy smell (although nothing at all, in spite of what he always claimed, like gumbo). Every time he smelled the kid’s scent it reminded him of sex, which was not what he wanted to think about right now. He closed the door to his room and locked it behind him.

On to Chapter Two!