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

The lyrics provided are from the song "Mutineer," by Warren Zevon.

The Starlight Saga, Chapter Three

Mac O'Roni

     Logan knew the moment he walked in that he was in the wrong place. It was the right room in the right museum, but it was the wrong place, nevertheless. In his jeans and cowboy boots, his denim jacket and his big silver belt buckle, a blue chambray shirt and a straw cowboy hat, he was definitely not the sort of patron this particular exhibit attracted. Everyone else in the room was dressed entirely in black, with little round rose-tinted glasses perched on their upturned noses, and he even saw a few black berets.
     He felt like turning around and leaving, but that would be pussy, wouldn’t it? So he strode boldly into the room, thumbs hooked into his belt loops. It wasn’t hard to find the right painting—there was a pretty big flock of black-bellied art warblers ogling it, chirping to each other in tones of the enlightened. He listened to some of their talk, and wondered what they’d be saying if they knew shit from Shinola about anything.
     “So you see, the child himself has undergone a metamorphosis from the earlier works he is featured in. He is no longer a creature of dark shadows and lurid poses. The artist has, at long last, drawn the child into the light of God and shown him the peace of faith—the cross he wears at his throat signifies this new covenant.”
     Logan couldn’t help it. He snorted out loud.
     “Problem, sir?” the speaker—obviously the cock-rooster of this particular flock—said. His face was all set to be disparaging, but he must have seen something he liked in the broad-shouldered Canadian, in spite of his gauche apparel. His demeanor became fawning and conciliatory at once.
     “Sorry, bub. Allergic to bullshit,” Logan said.
     Attracted or not, the cock-rooster was not used to having his artistic acumen mocked in this abrupt manner. “I beg your pardon, sir, but—”
     “This kid is in some of the other portraits too?”
     Somewhat mollified by Logan’s carefully respectful question, the cock-rooster pointed out three other paintings. “Most people don’t realize it. In fact, most people never even look at the other portraits this artist did at all. This one stands out so sharply in comparison, and the others are pretty poorly executed. You see, though, that the facial structure is roughly the same in all four paintings, and this particular subject is treated differently from the others. He always painted his eyes to look very demonic.”
     Wolverine said nothing. He was trying to look at the boy in the pictures, but he found he could not force his eyes to linger long. The poses were lurid, and in one of them Gambit was wearing a studded dog collar and a chain.
     “You see, though, how different the subject looks in these three as opposed to this last one. His expression is sullen, unrepentant, even lascivious in spite of his youth. The quintessential sinner. In this last painting the subject has changed. No longer does he attempt to seduce the onlooker with promises of immoral delights. He sits not in the shadow of sin but in the light of Heaven itself. His face is beatific, serene. The artist has drawn him off the path of darkness and shown him the love of God. Bit of a corny theme, but art doesn’t have to be existential.”
     “This one’s untitled,” Logan growled, inspecting the identification plate beside the painting. “The other ones are titled. What’s the difference with this one?”
     The cock-rooster was obviously tickled that Logan asked. “That’s an interesting story. You see, the artist died of a heart attack before the paint was even dry.”
     Logan turned abruptly. “What?”
     He giggled. “It’s true. And it gets better. According to local legend, he died after throwing a demon out his studio window. They say the creature landed on its feet, from four stories up, and looked back up at him and he just dropped dead.”
     Logan stepped closer to the painting, searching the boy’s painted eyes with his dark brown ones. What secrets lurked behind those unreadable orbs?
     “I love New Orleans. It’s just too quaint, the way everything has to be legendary,” the cock-rooster said, standing entirely too close. “If you’re really interested in the whole story, I could do a little research and get back to you…if you’ll give me your number.”
     Logan looked at him for a moment. “I don’t have one,” he said, and walked away.

     “I don’ know why you even try, hommes,” Gambit said, laying out his hand one card at a time. Ten of spades, Jack of spades, Queen of spades, King, Ace. Royal flush.
     Sam and Logan threw down their cards in disgust as the Cajun raked in the chips. “I don’t know why, either,” Cannonball groused. “Ah ain’t never beat you yet.”
     “I’m still workin’ on those calls,” Logan growled ominously. “Every man’s got ‘em. Even you, Gumbo. I think.”
     “Good luck wit' dat,” Remy responded, cheerily. “Who’s deal? Hank?”
     “Hey, Blue!” Logan said.
     Henry turned back to the table apologetically. “Sorry, I got interested in the movie. My deal?”
     McCoy’s heart wasn’t really in the game, but they had lured him in with Twinkies and Dr. Pepper to be their fourth hand. On the couch behind them, Ororo and Kurt were watching The Green Mile. “Should I be offended dat de Cajun in dis movie is a whinin’, cowardly little booger?” Remy asked.
     Nightcrawler laughed. “Keine angst, Gambit. Zer are no parallels between Herr Delacroix and yourself.”
     “No, my brother,” Storm said, managing to sound serious. “You are much more like John Coffey.”
     “’Like the drink, only not spelled the same,’” Remy said, his voice deepening into an eerily exact imitation of Michael Clark Duncan. “Merci beaucoup, padnat. I appreciate de comparison.”
     Beast broke up laughing. “Oh, dear, that was good. Really, that was.”
     Remy slammed the deck of cards down in front of him. “Will you jus’ shuffle already?” he demanded, amiably enough.
     “Vell, as entertaining as zis evening has been,” Kurt yawned, “I am for bed. Guten nacht, meine Freunde.”
     Remy snorted. “Some Nightcrawler. Capped out already.”
     “I, too, am too tired to concentrate anymore,” Storm said, standing up and flipping off the TV. “The movie will keep until tomorrow night,” she said, stopping the VCR. “Good night, everyone.”
     “Actually…if it’s all right with you fellows,” Beast said, eyeing the empty box of Twinkies, “I’d really rather turn in, myself.”
     “Into what?” Gambit demanded.
     “Well, it’s obvious Ah ain’t got any reason to be here, anyway,” Cannonball said, “so Ah think I’ll hit the sack, too.”
     “Everybody’s leavin’?” Gambit complained. “De night’s just gettin’ wa’amed up. Logan, you ain’t cuttin’ out on me, are’y?”
     “No, never,” he said. Remy did a quick double-take at the tone of the words. He mastered himself and his habitual poker face slid back into place before anyone could notice.
     “Y’wanna play another han’, or do somethin’ else?”
     Logan stood up. “I dunno, I’m feelin’ antsy. You up to a quick Danger Room session?”
     “Let’s go, then.”
     “Lead on, M’sieu Mustelid.”
     Gambit followed Wolverine into the Danger Room and stripped off his expensive silk shirt, kicking off his shoes as well. “Ain’t gonna let you tear up dat shirt, mon ami,” he said. “T’ing put a $800 charge on Warren’s Visa.”
     Logan grinned and attacked, trying to catch the Cajun off-guard.
     Gambit parried Wolverine’s flashing claws with the bo staff that had suddenly appeared in his hand, knocking them away before they could slash his bare chest. He charged a handful of cards and flung them at the Canadian as he somersaulted away.
     They fought steadily for a good thirty minutes, and neither man broke a sweat. In fact, neither man was really concentrating all that hard on the fight. Each blow and counterblow was just as deadly as if they were in actual combat, but this was so routine to them that they simply didn’t have to dedicate all their brain cells to defense and offense. Remy was actually singing under his breath.
     Logan, for his part, was unashamedly admiring his opponent more than anything. The Acadian turned lazy back-flips and spun his staff from hand to hand, looking almost bored. He was skinny, or at least what Wolverine considered skinny, but that lean body was well-muscled. He wasn’t built like a Mack truck, like most male mutants. Wolverine’s lips parted in a toothy grin as he made his second analogy in as many moments. The kid was a Ferrari in a garage full of Humvees.
     Gambit had apparently moved on to another song, and it seemed he liked this one better than whatever he’d been singing before, because he sang it much louder. “I’m very well acquainted wit’ de seven deadly sins. I keep a busy schedule tryin’ to fit dem in. I’m proud t’be a glutton, an’ I don’t have time for sloth. I’m greedy, an’ I’m angry, an’ I don’ care who I cross.
     “I’m Mr. Bad Example, intruder in de dirt. I like to have a good time, an’ I don’ care who gets hurt. I’m Mr. Bad Example; take a look at me. I’ll live to be a hundred, an’ go down in infamy.”
     He grinned wickedly as he sang the words. “What’s that yer singin’, Cajun?” Logan asked.
     “’Mr. Bad Example,’ by Warren Zevon,” he replied. “It Gambit’s t’eme song.”
     “I thought ‘Ace in the Hole,’ George Strait, was yer theme song, Gumbo.”
     Gambit shrugged as he charged another handful of cards. “Gambit have many t’eme songs, mon ami.”
     “Anyway, I like it. It’s very you.”
     “You ever listen to Zevon, Wolverine? One of Gambit’s favorites. Great music, if you don’t let the words drive y’outta yo’ min’.”
     “Nope, can’t say I have.”
     “I let you borrow my CD—you like it, jus’ don’ worry too much ‘bout de lyrics ‘cause dey can be pretty confusin’ sometime.”
     “I’ll keep that in mind,” Logan said.
     They fought awhile longer, and Logan found his eyes glued more and more powerfully to the flash of glowing eyes, the smooth fluidity of well-trained muscles, the easy grace and deceptive speed. At some point the rubber band tying up the Cajun’s long cinnamon hair broke and it all spilled out over his back and shoulders, almost down to his waist. It was then that he felt the first electric shock of desire spark somewhere deep inside himself.
     He was only a little surprised. He’d always known he had strong feelings for this young man. From the start, he respected his talents as a fighter and a thief, even if there were those among his teammates who found some of those talents somewhat undesirable. Over time, he’d come to develop a strong liking for the Cajun because of his fearless, balls-out style in battle, and there was no one he’d rather have at his back when the chips were down. And parties? They’d closed down a lot of bars in a lot of towns together, and he’d never known Gambit to lose his savoir faire no matter how stone-drunk he got.
     And he now knew what it was to feel protective of him. He’d never in all the time he’d known the Cajun believed he needed to be protected—he was a big boy, and more than capable of taking care of himself. But these last couple of days…finding out just how hurt his friend had been in his youth made him angry and sad. He wanted to take him in his arms and hold him tight, keep him safe from all the people who wanted to use him.
     Used to acting on his feelings, Logan stepped up to Gambit, seized him around the waist, and kissed him full on the lips.
     Gambit’s reaction was exactly what Logan would have expected to see if he had sunk his claws into his guts.
     Remy pulled away, for once in his life not caring that all his defenses were down, his face naked and terrified. “Gambit gettin’ tired out,” he said in a strangled voice. “G’night, Wolverine.”
     He turned tail and fled from the Danger Room. Logan could have kicked himself. Why had he done something so stupid? The kid was hardly prepared, and God knew he had ample reason not to like men in the first place. He hit the showers and tried to forget how foolishly he’d behaved.
     When the hot water ran out he returned, slowly, to his room. He’d just closed the door when someone knocked. He turned back and opened it to find Gambit standing just outside. He held out a CD case.
     “Dis dat Zevon I promised’y,” he said, thrusting it into Logan’s hand. Then he disappeared.
     Logan turned back into his room and closed the door behind him. He put the crystal case down on his nightstand and lay down in bed on top of the covers. He knew there was no chance of getting to sleep, not with so much on his mind, but it was awhile before he decided to take a look at the CD.
     The album cover didn’t make him feel any better. Piltdown Man’s skull smoking a Meerschaum pipe and wearing a tinted monocle in which the singer’s face was reflected. Still, he opened the case and popped the disk into his stereo.
     He kept the volume down low, in deference to the hour. His ears were keen enough that he didn’t need to play it loud, anyway. He was surprised to discover that he recognized the first song. “Poor Poor Pitiful Me,” which he’d known first from Linda Ronstadt and more recently from Terry Clarke. He checked the booklet and was surprised to see that the writer’s credit was given to Warren Zevon.
     The album wound away, twisting through songs about prostitutes and drugs and selfish celebrities. The songs were usually startling, and although he found he didn’t understand half of it as well as he would have like to, he enjoyed the thick, almost good-humored irony that ran like a bright copper skein through many of them.
     “Mr. Bad Example” was near the end, and he listened to it twice through, grinning wider and wider with each line. He could see why Gambit liked that one: not only was the song a celebration of the kind of hedonism that had characterized the Cajun’s life before (and likely, to some extent, since) joining the X-Men, it was performed with such jocose cupidity that you found yourself liking the guy in the song in spite of all the horrible things he was admitting. Reminded him of someone he knew, actually. He laughed out loud.
     He let the CD continue after the second time through the track. “Wake me up for meals,” he snorted, repeating the song’s abrupt final line. The next track was slow to start.
     It was a slow song all the way through. Although he thought at first that the lyrics were absurd, he quickly found himself lost in the quiet, prayer-like quality of the song. He realized about halfway through that it was a love song.
     When it was over, he played it again. And then again. And again.

Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum,
Hoist the mainsail—here I come.
Ain’t no room on board for the insincere.
You’re my witness, I’m your mutineer.

I was born to rock the boat.
Some may sink, but we will float.
Grab your coat—let’s get out of here.
You’re my witness, I’m your mutineer.

Long ago we laughed at shadows,
Lightning flashed and thunder followed us.
It could never find us here.
You’re my witness, I’m your mutineer.

Long ago we laughed at shadows,
Lightning flashed and thunder followed us.
It could never find us here.
You’re my witness, I’m your mutineer.

I was born to rock the boat.
Some may sink, but we will float.
Grab your coat—let’s get out of here.
You’re my witness, I’m your mutineer.

You’re my witness, I’m your mutineer.
I’m your mutineer.

     The song got him thinking about Gambit more than “Mr. Bad Example” did. Maybe it was the “grab your coat” line, or the reference to a witness. Or maybe it was just because he was completely in love with the Cajun, and everything was apt to remind him of the kid now. Whatever it was, he could picture the two of them slow-dancing to this song.He turned off the stereo without bothering to finish out the album and lay back down. He closed his eyes and let his imagination take him where it wanted to go.
     Arms around that slender waist, pressing the younger man’s lean, hard-muscled body against his own. He could actually feel the unnatural heat of him again—standing very near Gambit was a little like standing beside a blast furnace, particularly during a fight. He imagined himself reaching up to twine his fingers in all that thick cinnamon hair, and it seemed he could almost smell it, a clean, indefinable scent that would be uniquely Remy and incredibly sensual. He felt again his lips press against the Cajun’s, and in his mind Remy had just begun to kiss back when he fell asleep.

On to Chapter Four!