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Sinister Intent: Chapter Nine
Dr. Reyes kicked him out at eight o’clock. “Visiting hours are over, Cajun, hit the road,” she said. As he passed her in the doorway he noticed that her eyes suddenly glazed over in a look he recognized—the dreamy sleepwalking expression of overpowering desire. With a groan, he marshaled all his self-control and forced his newly realized charm power behind a thick mental wall. Jean was right—these psionic abilities did have their uses. He was conscious of the fact that Cecilia literally shook herself out of her daze behind him as he walked away down the bright, ammonia-smelling MediLab corridor.
The lights were too bright and stung his sensitive eyes. That was one of the things he really hated about living here at the Westchester Home for the Freakish—they all sniped at him when he wore shades indoors, and then sniped at him some more for squinting all the time when he didn’t wear them. He’d have thought they’d be a bit more understanding, seeing as how there wasn’t a one of them who wasn’t out of the ordinary in some way, and once upon a time he’d thought that Visor-Boy ought to have been something of a kindred spirit—but it hadn’t turned out that way at all. Not a one of them understood what it was like to have eyes like his. Eyes that were a blessing for his profession—thief—but a curse in nearly every other aspect of his life.
He could see perfectly well at night—no one, not even Logan with his hyper-senses, had better night vision. And no one else, not even Cyclops, could perceive the ultra-violet and infrared spectrum as Gambit could. That too was a tremendous boon to a thief, since many sophisticated security systems made use of infrared light beams for their triggering mechanisms that he could easily see and avoid even without the aid of special equipment. But bright light, even natural sunlight, was hellish—his pupils could not contract enough to fully adjust to what for most human beings was optimal visual conditions. Most days his pupils were irised down to mere pinpricks, nearly invisible in the brilliant crimson of his eyes, which had given rise to the mistaken supposition, on the behalf of a number of his teammates, that his pupils were indeed red, rather than his irises. And photosensitivity was hardly the only trouble his eyes had given him. All through his early childhood they had branded him an outcast, shunned and hated by all who glimpsed them. Many times in those days he had wished that he were normal, and many more times had he wished so in the days since, although he was rarely conscious of this insecurity.
He passed through the winding, labyrinthine corridors of the Xavier mansion on cruise control—the mental maps he carried of every city, town, and building he had ever explored were complete and infallible, and he’d passed through these halls enough times to navigate them easily without having to pay attention to where he was going. He was thinking that it might be interesting to see whether or not these new shape-shifting abilities could be used to give himself a pair of orthodox human eyes, complete with white sclera and normal-sized pupils. He wondered what color would look the most natural. Probably brown, he mused, but that was just a mite too close to red for his own personal comfort. Blue eyes were cool. Gray ones were even cooler.
So far had he gotten in his pondering when his spatial sense pinged off of someone coming toward him in the hallway. He ignored it, except to move slightly to one side to give this person room, as his well-developed instinct for self-preservation registered no personal threat from the newcomer. A lot of people who frequented the Xavier mansion had no especial liking for him, but there was no one who hated him enough to pick a fight with him right out in the open, and very few who were stupid enough to pick a fight with him anywhere. Wolverine was about the only one in the latter category, and of course such fights were never exactly ill-considered since the feral was more than a match for most mutants. The fact that Gambit frequently defeated Logan in these battles only seemed to make the man enjoy them more. Gambit strongly suspected, in fact, that these fights were more for the challenge they presented than any actual animosity, no matter how much Logan growled and insulted.
Safe in the comforting awareness of his own formidability, Gambit never spared a single thought for the man who came up on him now. In all his experience this particular mutant had never been quite dumb enough to pull anything with him, even though he knew that Warren Worthington III, known as the Archangel for his pale blue skin, curling blonde hair, and huge white wings, had a special hatred for him since he considered Gambit to be one of the Marauders who had ripped the original set of pretty feathered fops from his shoulders under the streets of New York a number of years ago. Gambit had not been among that party, having already defected from the Marauders, but Worthington, who bore a quite understandable grudge against all who might have called themselves by that name, could not be convinced of his good intentions. Consequently, he was always ready to lay the blame on Gambit whenever anything went wrong, particularly if it was especially horrible.
It was no small surprise when Archangel drew abreast of him and slammed him into the wall, pinning him there with one arm braced against his collarbone and the other hand in his face. “Listen to me, asshole, and listen good,” he said, grasping the Cajun’s unshaven chin hard in the one hand and giving him a little shake. “We’ve heard all about it from the Professor by now, how you aren’t to blame for what happened, how Sinister forced you to turn against us. Funny how whenever you get into trouble it’s never your fault. Somehow you’re always able to weasel out of it. Well I just want you to know that I don’t believe any of it. I think it’s just the same kind of bullshit you’ve been making everyone swallow since the first day you showed up here, but I’m not swallowing it, buddy. I’m not swallowing one damn little bit of it. And I’ll be watching you, Cajun. If you make so much as one little mistake I’m going to catch you, and I’m going to bring it all home to you. You’ll get what’s coming to you, you can bet your last damned stolen dollar on it. Honestly, I don’t know what Storm ever saw in you. Why would a lady like her ever associate with a filthy lowlife like you? Why don’t you do her and all the rest of us a big favor and crawl back into the gutter she pulled you out of?”
Under ordinary circumstances Gambit probably would not have allowed the man the satisfaction of knowing that he was angry. He could keep his temper in check most times, and his poker face was justifiably legend. But these last few days hardly qualified as “ordinary circumstances,” and he hated being touched by people he didn’t like, and before he knew it a sick crimson rage welled up inside him and spilled out in a sound not at all unlike the roar of a lion or tiger. He shoved Archangel to the floor, starling the man with his strength and fury. All of Worthington's experience had led him to believe the Cajun something of a coward, since he so rarely allowed himself to be drawn into a fight, particularly if he knew the odds were against him. But with the Acadian looming above him, eyes blazing and hands glowing with deadly explosive energy, he began to realize that perhaps the odds were more on the thief's side than he had originally calculated. After all, he'd never really expected to have to fight. He had come only with the intention of threatening.
Gambit grabbed him by the shoulders and hauled him back to his feet, his hands burning hot with energy. Warren was thankful that the man hadn't thought to throw anything at him. He wasn't sure how well he could stand against a full-on attack, and vivid images of his horribly wounded teammates occured to his frightened mind with sudden immediacy. And he couldn't quite believe it, but it was undeniable--the Cajun was growing. He had to be--already he was half a foot taller than Archangel, who had always stood an inch or two taller than the Cajun. But he was eye-to-eye with Gambit now, and his feet were dangling several inches from the floor, so there could be no other explanation.
"I want you to listen to me," Gambit said. He spoke slowly and clearly, his accent almost imperceptible even though his voice was thicker than usual. "If you ever lay a hand on me again, you gonna lose it. You gettin' me? Don't never touch me again, dipshit."
He gave the man a shake just as he might a disobedient puppy and tossed him aside with ridiculous ease. He swept away down the hall, a hulking, hackled goon vaguely resembling the formerly suave, self-composed Cajun the X-Men knew. He didn't even begin to calm down until he'd reached his room and thrown himself down on the bed.
On to Chapter Ten!