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Save a Horse, Ride a Cajun; Episode One: "Catwalk"

Mac O'Roni

I want to cry like the rain, cry like the rain,
Shine like the sun on a beautiful morning,
Sing to the heavens like a churchbell ringing,
Fight with the devil and go down swinging.
Fly like a bird, roll like a stone,
Love like I ain't afraid to be alone,
Take everything that this world has to give.
I want to live.

    —“I Want to Live," Josh Gracin

     “Well, it seems your powers are back under control,” Beast observed. “That’s good. Now let’s check how those eyes are coming along.”
     He shone a penlight into the inky blackness of Gambit’s pupils. “It’s astonishing, really. Like your eyes have put shutters over your retinas so they can heal properly without straining them with light. Unfortunately it’s keeping you completely blind—you’d probably be able to see a little something by now if not for that. I can’t tell for certain because, well, I can’t see behind the shutters. Hyuck.”
     His attempt at humor fell a little flat. It was hardly one of his better jokes. Gambit’s only reaction was a shrug and a scowl.
     “So you don’ really know if Gambit’ll ever see again, hahn?” he asked.
     Beast’s big paw came down on his shoulder, warm and friendly like the doctor himself. “I’m sure you will, Remy. It’s just going to take time. You don’t have a healing factor, as such, but you’ve always had a remarkable recuperative capacity that’s probably borderline. I’m sure you’ll be back one hundred percent, eventually. And knowing you, it’ll happen all at once. One day you’ll just wake up, open your eyes, and everything will be like it used to be.”
     Gambit snorted quiet laughter out his nose. “Non, Beas’, it won’ be like it use’ t’be. T’ings never are.”
     “How are you doing, now that Rogue…” The big doctor trailed off, uncomfortably. Gambit shrugged again.
     “Actually it’ kin’ of a relief, doc. We been goin’ nowhere for a long time, an’ dey wadn’t much hope we’d ever get anywhere. Now she’s got what she need an’ I can start lookin’ aroun’ again f’what I need…so t’speak.” His laugh now had more sound and more humor, but was still a little rueful. Beast realized the Cajun was telling the truth when he said that losing Rogue was a relief. What was bothering him most wasn’t the loss of the relationship but the loss of someone who helped him cope with his blindness. He and the woman had decided it was best if they didn’t spend much time together right now, and Beast was pretty sure it had been Gambit’s suggestion.
     Gambit had told him a little bit about that confrontation, at Beast’s insistance. Rogue had met a man, quite by accident—a mutant who’s powers, fairly minor on their own, somehow made him immune to her touch. She’d spent some time talking with him, getting to know him, at first just fascinated and excited to meet someone who she didn’t have to worry about hurting accidentally, and one thing had led, as it sometimes does, to another. He was good-looking, “but not as good-looking as you,” she’d quickly added, and he was sweet and smart and funny, “though not as much as you.” Whether or not she really thought he wasn’t quite on par with Remy LeBeau was immaterial. The fact was that he could touch her, and Remy could not, and the only reason she was hesitant at all was because she felt guilty about leaving him right when he seemed to need her support most of all.
     He’d put his hand out, using his strong spatial sense to locate her shoulder without fumbling, and smiled at the air somewhere in front of her face. “Cher, de one t’ing I wan’ in dis worl’ be f’ you t’be happy. Soun’ t’me like dis guy can make you happy, so he’ what I wan’ f’you. Don’ you worry none ‘bout me.”
     “Aw, Sugah, Ah don’ wanna leave you like this,” she protested weakly. She took his gloved hand and held it against her cheek, careful not to touch his two bare fingers. “You mean so much to me, an’ you always will. Ah love you, Sugah.”
     “Gambit’ll be fine, cher,” he insisted. “You gon’ love dis guy way better dan you ever love dis rotten ol’ t’ief. An’ if he ever break you heart, jus’ let me know. I’ll have de dawg beat de shit out’n ‘im.” He grinned, but his joke backfired, served to remind her that she was leaving him while he was vulnerable.
     He felt her discomfort and grew serious. “Cher, don’ worry. Gambit doin’ jus’ fine now. Doc say I prob’ly won’ be dis way much longer, an’ I’m learnin’ t’get aroun’ on ma own. If it seem sometime like Gambit mebbe jus’ a little off ‘is game, I been usin’ ma empat’y t’ help me navigate, since ma spatial sense ain’ quite strong enough on it’s own. Meanin’ I got ma shields down, meanin’ I’m a li’l bit off kilter all de time, ‘motionally. Ma empat’y ain’ dat strong, not when we talkin’ de diff’rence ‘tween Alpha an’ Beta mutan’ powers, but it jus’ enough t’make t’ings a li’l oncomf’table.”
     “So you can feel how Ah feel for you right now?” she asked, kissing the back of his glove.
     His smile warmed. “Sure can, cher. An’ I feel de same way f’you. I’ always love you, cher, an’ I’ always be grateful t’you f’showin’ me what’s important in life. Now I know what I been missin’, an’ I know what to look for. An’ you taught me what needs to change in me before I can have dat.”
     He leaned forward and kissed her on the cheek before she could quite react. They both broke the kiss at once, almost before it began. She absorbed just enough of his consciousness to know his words were absolutely sincere, just as he’d intended her to. And then he asked her to leave him alone for awhile.
     For a long while.

     After that, the change was incredible. Leaves were turning and staying turned, and while no one quite understood what was going on they appreciated what was happening and helped as best they could. Gambit quit smoking, quit drinking, left off antagonizing his teammates and became considerably more amenable to suggestions and orders, though perhaps only because he couldn’t see. He even allowed Beast to perform the genetic profiling that he’d resisted for so many years.
     “Fascinating genetic structure,” the doctor observed once he had the results of the various genetic and physical tests assembled. “Probably the most complex gene structure I’ve ever studied. And did you realize, Mr. LeBeau, that you appear to be in the initial stages of a substantial mutogenic evolution?”
     “A what?”
     “A mutogenic evolution. As I experienced when my physical form became more leonine, and as the White Queen experienced when she developed the ability to turn her skin diamond-hard.”
     “No ‘fense, Doc, but I’m hopin’ neit’er t’ing happens.”
     McCoy fidgeted. “Actually, I do have some idea of what may be happening in your personal evolution, which tentative conclusion I reached through a combination of a study of your own peculiar genes and a number of the x-rays I took of you…”
     The doctor fidgeted some more. “I have to ask you…does your…um, I mean…do you…” He took a deep, steadying breath. He could be so ridiculously shy about matters that a doctor ought to take in stride, it was really very cute.
     “Are you experiencing any pain or discomfort in your…posterior?” he managed at last, choking a little at the end.
     Gambit couldn’t quite help laughing, not with his psionic shields down and the doctor’s embarrassment flooding his senses. He coughed politely and brought himself back under control. “Well, now dat ‘chu mention it, I have been noticin’ a little…discomfort. Why?”
     Another deep breath. “You appear to be growing a tail.”
     Gambit choked and started laughing again. He didn’t really think it was funny—he already knew the big blue beast was completely serious. His horror and dismay could find no other outlet than laughter. “A tail?” he asked, his voice strangled. “Like Nightcrawler?”
     Beast shrugged. “Possibly. However, I don’t think so, not quite. Your genes…well, they’d suggest something more…feline.”
     Another explosion of choked laughter. “So Gambit turnin’ into a pussycat?”
     “Maybe not quite so cute and cuddly. That particular aspect of your genetic structure resembles Sabretooth.”
     Gambit abruptly stopped laughing. Horror supplanted all other feeling. “Doc, you not sayin’…sayin’ Gambit…”
     Beast held up his hands. “Not that much resemblance, my friend. I don’t think you’re remotely related to Mr. Creed. However, your genes do bear a certain similarity, a similar mutation that appears to be evolving in great measure. You always had a certain feline quality—your agility, your speed, even some of your mannerisms. It would seem now that these characteristics come from a rather remarkable mutogenic evolution that seems to be copying the genetic characteristics of tigers, and considerably more accurately than my genes copied lion genes, or Sabretooth’s copied tiger genes.”
     “So I’m turnin’ into a tiger?” Gambit asked, only somewhat pacified. It was good to know he wasn’t any relation of Creed’s, but he didn’t relish the idea of becoming a big furry animal of any kind.
     “I doubt the transformation will be complete—that would be counter-evolutionary; mutant genes seem to possess a remarkable capacity to adapt characteristics to optimal advantage, and losing your human hands and brain and vocal cords would put you at a serious physical disadvantage in this world. There are always exceptions, but I doubt you will be one; your genes seem especially aggressive in the way of improving the human physical condition. I do believe, however, that there will be significant physical change. A tail and, most probably, fur. But believe me, fur isn’t so bad, once you get used to it!
     “However, there is one further complication.”
     “Dere always is,” Gambit sighed.
     “You also seem to have some…genetic characteristics that have evolved and continue to evolve to mimic certain avian qualities—your eyesight, when not impaired as currently, is copied almost directly from the genetic trait that gives eagles such fantastic vision, with modifications to give you powerful night vision, probably borrowed and improved upon from feline genes, and also to give you color vision extending far past either end of the spectrum visible to the average human being.”
     “An’ dis complicates t’ings how?” Gambit asked.
     “These genes seem to be evolving towards a more physical aspect as well.”
     The Cajun’s expression soured. “Don’ tell me ma beak’s turnin’ int’ a beak,” he said. He was already sensitive about his nose, which was rather pronouncedly aquiline as it was.
     Beast shrugged. “I don’t think so. But you may eventually have other avian characteristics. Possibly…wings.”
     “Oy vey,” he groaned, burying his face in his hands. “Jus’ great. Someday I’ get to look like de love chile a’ my two mos’ favoritest people in de worl’, Sabretoot’ an’ Archangel.”
     “I gave you the bad news. Now I’ll give you the good news,” Beast said.
     “Dere is good news?”
     “Sure is. You also seem to have an evolving genetic capacity for shapeshifting. Like Rahne, you know her? Wolfsbane? It may be that you won’t have to spend all day every day with these physical changes. Once they’re complete, you may well be able to shift from full human to full tiger and even full eagle, though those genes aren’t as fully developed as the tiger-imitating ones. The catch is that your body’s changing is more physical and less energy-transforming than Rahne’s, and considerably less energy-transforming than I’d expect of you, considering your primary power. So these changes will probably be hard to accomplish at first, and require considerable physical effort on your part. However, I believe that the energy-conversion factor will be more than strong enough to assimilate personal effects…by which I mean you should be able to keep your clothes on, and the energy within the matter will simply be absorbed and utilized in the transformation and then reconfigured in its natural state when you return to human form. Meaning that although you’ll surely be au natural in animal form, you won’t have to be seen in the altogether when you’re full human.” He grinned.
     “What kin’ a schedule we lookin’ at here, Beas’? I mean, how long dis all gonna take to work out?”
     “Left to your own devices, quite some time. And undoubtedly what is merely discomfort now will eventually become actual pain, and quite a bit of it. But, there is a way to speed the process safely through to conclusion, bypassing the pain of physical change and the awkwardness and inconvenience of a slow and just possibly partially debilitating transformation.”
     “What way is dat?”
     “A new medical procedure I’ve developed. Non-surgical and, while still experimental, so far completely without severe side effects from the procedure itself. About the worst that happens is a little disorientation, caused by the sudden change and the need for the body to adjust to it. It’s just an accelerator, no more than a single simple injection and minimal exposure to gamma radiation to kick start the formula, and within a few hours, under anesthesia, the completion of a physical process that otherwise might have taken months or even years.”
     “But Gambit don’ react well to anesthesia.”
     “That is a problem, but I believe a surmountable one. There is a new drug, not truly an anesthetic agent at all, that I think will prove a safe, reliable means of knocking you out for the duration of the process—the way you’ve reacted to similar drugs suggests that, with careful testing beforehand, we can find the way to use it safely. Of course, this testing may include you actually taking the drug so that I can observe its effects first-hand. There will be some risk involved in that, as there is a risk for anyone undergoing anesthesia. We will have to monitor your reactions extremely carefully and keep everything fully controlled, which will probably mean a stay in the medical wing during the testing. I know how much you hate that.”
     “Gambit’ll cope. You t’ink dis be de bes’ course for me?”
     “That really is for you to decide. If successful, the procedure can spare you months or, again, years of physical discomfort. If unsuccessful, there’s always the possibility that you’ll be left worse off than you were, just as there is that chance, however remote, with virtually any medical procedure. And there’s the possibility, with your unique metabolism and the way it reacts to certain drugs, that the procedure won’t do anything at all, or even that it might…might kill you.”
     “You t’ink dat las’ is likely?”
     “It’s a possibility, like I said. The formula is not related to the kind of drugs that have adverse effect on you, nor is it related to the ones that have little or no effect, like alcohol and opiates. It is of a sort of drug you’ve never been exposed to, to the best of my knowledge. A big unknown, in other words. If it works on you with no side effects, I think I’ll be able to say that it will work on damned near everybody safely, but that’s a pretty big risk to take with any life, and particularly that of a friend. I won’t lie to you; you’d be making an extreme gamble.”
     The Cajun turned it over in his mind for a moment. “Well, I reckon I got a name t’live up to, doc. Le’s try it.”

     The next few weeks passed at a snail’s tortuous pace for Gambit. He spent most of it confined to a bed in the hospital wing, as Beast had warned him he might, while the effects of various strengths of the new drug were recorded. He was almost grateful for the few times the dosage put him into a semi-comatose state. He never completely lost consciousness for more than a few hours at a time, but the lingering effects gave reality a marvelously surreal quality for a few days that helped relieve his ennui.
     When the doctor was satisfied that they had found the proper solution of the drug he began to prep his patient for the procedure. As the day approached, far more swiftly now that he was up and about, his empathy picked up on the signals as Beast grew simultaneously more excited and more anxious. Several times he asked Gambit to reconsider.
     “I din’ jus’ spen’ t’ree weeks a’ my life in an’ out a’ consciousness jus’ t’ give up now, Hank,” he said at one point. “We goin’ ahead wit’ dis. I signed all de forms—whatever goes wrong, it won’ be you fault.” He was vaguely aware that his own intrepid but somewhat fatalistic attitude was contributing strongly to the doctor’s concern.
     Worried as he might have been, when the moment came Henry McCoy radiated nothing but a strong professional competence. He explained what would be happening one final time, gave Gambit the injection, and then another doctor stepped in to administer the anesthesia, which in his unique case he simply had to drink. Within moments he was out.
     “Well, the cards are dealt,” Beast said. “Let’s see if it’s another winning hand for our Cajun friend.”
     I certainly hope it is, he sighed inwardly. Please, God, let this work.

     “Keep checking those vitals, Cecilia,” Beast cautioned needlessly. “Notify me the second anything changes.”
     “It all looks good, Hank,” Dr. Reyes said, exhibiting remarkable patience. “He’s in calm waters.”
     “Doesn’t look much like calm waters from where I’m standing,” Hank muttered. He was afraid that something had gone wrong, but so far there was no medical indication that anything had. It must simply be that he had underestimated the severity of the mutogenic evolution.
     And it was severe. The Cajun, still blissfully unconscious of the changes occurring with frightening rapidity, no longer wore the paper hospital gown he’d started out in—he’d exceeded the physical capacity of that flimsy garment a long time ago. And he no longer lay on the hospital bed, either. Instead he lay on the floor, stretched out on several sheets with a pillow under his head. Beast had co-opted the assistance of Wolverine, who was in the MediLab for a brief spell following a serious injury which had of course healed almost immediately, to help him move Gambit to this position. As little as Logan was given to gossip, news of the Cajun’s new physique was undoubtedly circulating through the mansion, and getting blown out of proportion in the manner of all rumor.
     Although Beast couldn’t imagine how the gossip mill could possibly distort reality enough to make this change look comparatively insignificant.
     He started. Dr. Reyes was looking at him quizzically. “Oh, ah…nothing, Cecilia. Nothing at all. I was just thinking…Gambit is going to have a hard time getting used to this.”

     He jumped up to full consciousness all at once, as was his usual way, physically launching his body into the air as though every instinct warned him of encroaching danger he must meet on his feet. Always an impressive sight, but somewhat more so now, even though he wobbled uncertainly on feet he had not yet grown accustomed to.
     For a split second the blackness confused and terrified him, until his mind cleared enough for him to remember that blackness was his usual view these days. Then he was able to turn his attention to the strange sensation of standing. He didn’t know why standing should feel so strange—he was well attuned to his body, but something was distinctly out of whack. He just couldn’t quite tell what. He passed his hands over his face and down his arms. Everything felt normal; he wasn’t even fuzzy, except for the usual stubble on his chin. He turned himself towards where he sensed people standing—his spatial sense seemed to be operating at a higher level than before. Perhaps that accounted for how strange his body felt.
     That was when his hindquarters crashed into the edge of the bed he had not been in when he woke up.
     “Shit!” he cried, as one might, but when the initial pain had eased he realized that it had come from awfully far behind him. He twisted around at the waist, the maneuver frighteningly easy, and reached out a tentative hand.
     He felt soft new feathers beneath his sensitive fingers. At the touch, muscles he’d never had before instinctively worked, drawing a pair of massive wings into the air over his back. They were still mostly folded, which was just as well since there wasn’t space enough in the room for their full span. With a growing sense of unease, Gambit reached out again and laid his hand down on what he now realized was a second set of shoulders just below and behind his waist. Long, silky fur slid through his fingers. He felt faint.
     “Doc…what happen t’me?” he asked. His voice sounded distant to his own ears. “What’s goin’ on?”
     “Apparently you weren’t just growing a tail,” Beast said, his voice bright and cheerful and bogus as a three dollar bill. “This is really a good look for you, you know. Very…very mythological. Something the Ancient Greeks would probably have appreciated more than modern Americans, excepting the fantasy fiction fans, of course.”
     The room was spinning, the light-headed feeling was made interesting by the fact that he couldn’t see the world wobbling, which was what he had always supposed produced that dizzy feeling. A hot flush suffused his face and his body turned to loose rubber. He sank weakly to his knees—both sets of them. His long furry legs stretched out on the slippery linoleum with a slight scraping of his powerful claws and his human torso fell forward onto the heels of his hands. He hung his head and breathed in deep, shaky breaths, trying to steady himself. This had never happened to him before—it was a dark, gray feeling and he wondered, if he’d been able to see, whether he could have watched the world turn gray along with all his innards. Not a faint, exactly, or not what he considered a faint, but not a feeling he was in any hurry to repeat.
     He felt Henry’s strong furry paws on his shoulders—the regular ones—steadying him and trying to be comforting. “It’s okay, Remy—like I said, you should be able to shift your physical shape to a fully human one, with practice. Although I think you may be somewhat taller, and larger all around, than you used to be. There was…considerable physical alteration, to say the least. Much more than I could have predicted. You may always find that this form is the easiest to achieve and maintain from now on, a comfortable halfway point between the three extremes of physicality.”
     “Extremes?!? How is dis not an extreme as it is, Hank? Hahn?!?”
     He felt the doctor flinch, and although he knew that none of this was Beast’s fault he was glad his sharp tone had struck a barb in the man. The severity of the shock he’d experienced made him happy to inflict something of his own feelings on the innocent.
     And then he felt bad about it, because Beast was such a nice person that he hated himself for hurting his feelings even a little. That was the way the old Remy LeBeau behaved, a pettish and conceited mask to hide his own hurt. He reminded himself that he was supposed to be more open now, more honest. “I jus’…I can’t…How’m I s’pose t’get by like dis, when I can’ even see not’in? Hard enough t’get aroun’ when I know where every part a’ me is. Dis is so weird I ain’ even sure if I can really move—everyt’ing jus’ feels like it’s got it’s own brains an’ I ain’ got no control over it at all,” he said plaintively.
     Beast drew him into a hug—the only man who could do that without it feeling awkward, in Gambit’s experience. And it seemed to him that the big man didn’t seem very big anymore. He remembered a time, not so long ago, when Beast had drawn him into an enthusiastic embrace—just after the events in Madripoor, and just before he confessed to the doctor that he’d lost his powers—and how that had felt. His athletic, six foot two inch body dwarfed and made almost childlike in the doctor’s bear-like arms. Now it seemed as though he could make Beast feel just as small, if he’d wanted to put his arms around him like that. He didn’t like that—Beast was a very big man, six foot six and just about as broad. How high were the ceilings in this room? He didn’t know, but he hadn’t hit his head on them or on any ceiling fixtures when he stood or when he’d jumped to his feet, so maybe he wasn’t as much as eight feet tall in this form. Perhaps he was still under seven feet, which would be a tremendous relief. Still, Beast’s solid presence was disconcertingly small beside him.
     “How about we stand up and go for a walk, eh? Just to test the waters, get our sea legs…or our tiger legs, if you prefer. Physically you’re in great shape; if you’re comfortable enough you can go back to your own room tonight, there’s no real reason to keep you here, as long as you let me keep tabs on you for the next couple of days, just to be sure.”
     With the doctor’s help he rose to his feet—paws—and stood there, wobbly but upright. His leg muscles felt like overextended springs and he wasn’t sure he would be able to take a step—he was afraid to try, really, a pervasive feeling in his mind that a single step in this form would be disastrous.
     “All right, Mr. LeBeau, let’s keep our momentum up. One foot after the other! But wait—is that how tigers walk? Do they alternate feet or do they alternate sides of the body?”
     And that was it—his muscles seized up in uncertain terror. How could he manage all those legs without getting tripped up? Thoroughly balked, his hindquarters sank stubbornly to the floor. He didn’t want to move—ever. He’d just stay right here.
     Beast saw that he’d made a mistake in showing uncertainty. He patted Gambit on the shoulder reassuringly. “Wait here, my friend. I’ll be right back.”
     He was gone a fairly long time. When he returned Gambit sensed that he was carrying a notebook computer, the screen up and the internal components humming a little. His spatial sense was undoubtedly stronger, and his hearing also seemed considerably more acute. He even became aware of how his olfactory sense had sharpened, though in the antiseptic and extremely familiar environment of the medical wing there was precious little out of the ordinary to trigger the awareness that he was smelling more of it than ever before.
     “I have here,” Beast announced grandly, “a little video of a Bengal tiger on the prowl. Isn’t the internet a wonderful thing? On your feet, Gambit, we’re going to lick this locomotive quandary for good and all.”
     With a good deal of coaxing and coaching Beast had him back on his feet and slowly, tentatively moving toward the door. When he reached it at long last, he encountered another problem. He was considerably bigger than the frame, both in height and breadth. His stomach lurched uncertainly—another interesting experience, since he felt it twice, once in each stomach, human and animal. Door frames were obviously never quite as high as ceilings, and even before all this the top of his head would have been close to the underside of the upper jamb—not close enough to pay attention to, and even Beast could walk through most doorways without ducking, but close enough that you didn’t have to be all that much taller before the clearance just wasn’t enough. But now…now the frame didn’t clear the top of his shoulders. His head was somewhere far above, face to face with the blank solid presence of wall. It required another concerted effort on his and the doctor’s parts to figure out the best way to squeeze through—a complicated weaving dance that would have been easy if he’d had full control over his body, but was almost impossibly tricky in his current discomfort. His wings gave him the biggest problem, attempting to unfurl themselves as he tried to squeeze them through the door and getting caught. Once he finally stood fully out and in the hall his heart sank to its lowest as he realized that he could not stand
anywhere near fully upright—the ceiling was too low. Just his luck—the room he’d been in must have had higher than average ceilings. He was better than eight feet tall. Quite a bit better, by the feel of things.
     His muscles slowly began to cooperate as the doctor led him through the hall to the main thoroughfares of the Xavier mansion, and by the time he was again called upon to squeeze through another ridiculously tiny doorway, feeling ever more like Alice in Wonderland after foolishly eating a cake labeled “Eat me,” he was able to manage it with minimal difficulty. He was glad of that, as he immediately felt the presence of many pairs of eyes. It seemed almost as though the entire mansion had turned out to see him. Balked again, Beast coaxed him onward.
     “Mebbe we should charge admission,” he grumped, his face feeling uncomfortably warm. He was humiliated to be seen like this, all the more because he really had no very clear picture of what he looked like himself. How
dare they look at him when he didn’t know how he looked? This was infinitely worse than a bad hair day.
     He steeled himself, squared his shoulders, and strode out into the mansion’s main foyer with considerably more physical confidence than he felt. He could stand upright here—the ceiling was vaulted, rising to three stories in front of the front doors. He wrapped himself in his dignity and ignored as best he could the hushed, awed whispers and pointing fingers that greeted his appearance. “How you feeling, Cajun?” Beast whispered to him. “Getting too tired, or can we take a turn or two outside?”
     “I’m fine,” he said forcefully, so that everyone could hear his assertion. In fact he was a little tired, but it wasn’t too bad. He could afford to push it a little. Undoubtedly he’d have to work a little harder from now on to keep his blood moving through all the many extra miles of veins; he’d have to expect himself to tire out easier until he got stronger and more used to this. But he wasn’t going to allow that weakness to show.
     With a little start he realized that his psionic shields were back in place, making him feel less vulnerable and at the same time making him more afraid of showing emotion or weakness. He was blocking his empathy again, and yet getting a much clearer picture of his surroundings than he had before. His spatial sense seemed to be growing stronger even as he walked, and his other senses, heightened by this extreme change, were taking up the slack nicely. He could almost see.
     The doctor walked him around the sculpture garden on the front lawns and then they went back in. Beast began walking him toward the stairs that would take him up to the third floor wing where he had his room, but Gambit stopped him. “I’d like to see if I can do it ma’self, mon ami,” he said.
     “Why, certainly,” Beast said, stepping away. He followed at a respectful distance, and Gambit didn’t need his empathy to tell him that the man was wary of how he’d handle the stairs. But that part was fairly easy. Gambit had an idea it would be harder to go back down, but he’d cross that bridge tomorrow. Right now he needed rest. He would have liked a shower, but he realized he couldn’t possibly fit in the stall. Tomorrow morning, he could head down to the men’s locker room off the Danger Room. The showers there would work fine, since it was a large open room with shower heads at regular intervals along the walls and no dividers. It galled him to go to bed dirty, though. Another one of his preexisting feline characteristics, he supposed.
     He made it to his room without difficulty, counting the doorways on the left hand side of the hallway until he came to his own, tracing the number on the door just to be absolutely sure, unwilling to walk in on any of his teammates by accident and more because it was a mistake, a visible weakness in himself, than from any consideration of their privacy. After all, he wouldn’t be able to see anything.
     Thinking of privacy brought him to the problem of bathroom breaks. Just exactly how was he going to use the toilet when he had to? He would have to learn, because he damned sure wasn’t going to be using a litter box. He was just as glad that he felt no need to use the facilities just now; he didn’t think he could have the mental wherewithal to figure it out at the moment.
     Even sleeping proved to be a difficulty. He was too big for his bed, and there was little room on the floor, either. Nor did he want anyone to catch him sleeping on the floor like a dog, his dignity wouldn’t stand for it. He finally discovered that he was quite as flexible straight through his tiger half and into his human half as a regular cat, able to curl up into a tight and surprisingly comfortable ball on top of the covers, his human torso pillowed on his tiger body and completely covered with one wing in lieu of a blanket. He was asleep almost at once. For a blessed wonder, he didn’t dream.

On to Episode Two!