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Someone to Watch Over Me: Part Two
Logan paused outside Gambit’s door. For a moment he didn’t know what stopped him, and then he realized that the Cajun’s smell, weak and tired these days like a sun-faded chintz curtain, was on the floor inside, very close by. Alarmed, he tried the knob, found the door unlocked, and carefully pushed it open. It was hard work squeezing his massive bulk through without hitting the prone figure stretched out on the carpet.
He had a terrible moment when he actually believed Gambit was dead—it was an honest mistake, since most people do not sleep with their eyes open, and he had never before seen those eyes so black, blank, and empty. Then he realized that the smell was of a sleeping person, not a dead one, and his ears picked up the quiet, weak susurrus of the man’s respiration, the faint, slightly arrhythmic beat of his heart.
“What the hell are you doin’ on the floor, Gumbo?” he asked. He received no answer, which was what he’d expected, but he smelled the answer out all the same. Cyke had been here, not long ago—probably came to yell at the kid for keeping the heat up so high. Gambit must not have had the energy to make it back to bed. Scary thought. Once upon a time, he’d quite honestly suspected that the Cajun could never run out of gas.
“Dammit, kid, what’s wrong with you? Don’t you have any settings between ‘high’ and ‘off?’”
Exasperated, he reached down and grabbed up a double-handful of Gambit’s hooded Xavier Institute sweatshirt and heaved him into his arms. He came up with startling ease and Logan’s eyes widened in shock as he realized that the kid certainly didn’t weigh more than 110 pounds, probably less. A far cry from the already lean 175 he’d topped out at.
“Holy Christ, kid, we gotta get some food in you, pronto.” He laid the lanky young man down on the bed and set about trying to wake him up, shaking him roughly by the shoulders. He didn’t like to see the limp wobble of the Cajun’s head or the stringy, wasted stretch of muscle cords in his throat.
Black eyes finally blinked and a little touch of crimson reappeared in his irises. “L…Logan? Wha’daya doin’?”
“Keepin' you alive. Jesus, kid, when’s the last time you ate anything?”
“Las’ night,” Gambit said, defensively. “Henri sen’ my dinner up f’om d’kitchen.”
“Oh yeah? An’ just how much of it did you actually eat?”
Long lashes fluttered as Gambit’s head dipped back to the pillow. “Don’ remember. Fell asleep.”
“Well, you’re not gonna fall asleep now,” Logan said, shaking him awake again. “What’s the matter with you, Gumbo? You’ve always been moody, but this is ridiculous.”
The snarl, the flash of crimson light in his eyes was a welcome sight, a faint spark of life in a face too far gone down the path of death. “Gambit sick an’ tired of people accusin’ him of bein’ crazy,” he snapped.
“Well then, stop actin’ that way,” Logan snarled back, but he was relieved. If Gambit could snipe, Gambit could survive.
“I’m not crazy an’ I don’ need no shrink,” he shot back.
Logan drew back, momentarily confused by the apparent non sequitor, and then he realized that Cyclops had probably suggested the Cajun seek professional help.
"If you don’t eat, kid, you’re gonna die. You understand that? Die. As in dead. Permanent, non-refundable cessation of life. Capisce?”
“Oui, M’sieu Serval, Gambit un’nerstan’ de concept,” Remy replied. “But how’m I gonna eat when I can’ stay ‘wake?”
“I’ll help you with that. But you gotta promise me you’ll eat, eh? None of that self-obsessed anorexic bullshit, all right?”
“Do you t’ink Gambit want to die? You t’ink Gambit doin’ dis t’himself ‘cause he so los’ in guilt he can’ move ‘r t’ink straight? Mais, Logan, Gambit done lo’s a’ bad t’ings in his day, an’ I been livin’ wit’ guilt a long time. I know what I done an’ I know what I bound t’pay for, but I di’nt fight my way outta dat frozen hell-hole jus’ so’s I could die on d’X-Men’s doorstep!”
“Well then what’s the problem?” Logan roared. “If you don’t wanna die, then why don’t you get up off your ass an’ start livin’?”
The rim of unshed tears that welled up in those dark, exotic eyes was more frightening than his sallow skin or his deadly emaciation. “I can’, mon ami. I don’ know why, if Doc say dey ain’ not’in wrong wit’ me. But I can’. I jus’ too tired.”
Wild thoughts chased themselves through Logan’s brain. He knew severe depression could cause exhaustion, but he also knew severe exhaustion could cause depression. What if Beast had been wrong? What if he’d missed something? What if the kid was dying because they misdiagnosed his symptoms?
“Maybe Hank oughta take another look at you, kid,” he said. “If he’d seen you like this, he’d have you back on the stomach tube before you could say ‘bon jour.’”
Gambit grimaced. “No more doctors,” he said. “Sil t’plait. Don’ t’ink I can take ‘nother round a’ needles an’ tubes an’ machines beepin’ an’ buzzin’.”
“You gotta get help, Gumbo. You ain’t got any more weight t’lose.”
A hand, a dry bundle of twigs loosely wrapped in soft leather and cold as ice, reached up and grabbed Logan’s beefy shoulder. “Help me, mon ami,” Gambit said, eyes wide and voice quivering. “Help me stay ‘wake long ‘nuff t’eat—I swear I’ll do it. You know Gambit love t’eat.”
He attempted a grin, but managed only a disturbingly skeletal grimace.
"When I a li’l stronger, I go back t’Henri an’ let ‘im poke an’ prod til’ he blue in the—well, ‘til he happy.”
Logan considered the proposition. He knew it must have cost Gambit a lot to even ask for help, and it spoke a lot to the desperation of the situation.
From the outside looking in, the relationship between the two men would have seemed tenuous at best, mere toleration with occasional bursts of open hostility tempered against the even more occasional instance of camaraderie. Perhaps they weren’t exactly best buddies, but in truth there was a great deal of mutual respect between the two of them. Logan reflected on the apparent fact that life had taken two very different lumps of clay—one socially gregarious, the other solitary and morose—and shaped them through a series of triumphs and misfortunes into something that was not the same but extremely similar to one another. A middle ground between the two extremes that was in itself an extreme.
“All right,” he said, answering in the way he would want to be answered if it were himself in this position. “I’m gonna put five pounds on your skinny ass, an’ we’ll see how you feel then. Get some food in ya an’ you shouldn’t feel so tired anymore. Or so damned cold. If you don’t eat, I’m gonna kick your ass from here to the MedLab.”
Gambit smiled. A genuine smile, not one of his many and multi-function smirks and grins. “Merci, padna,” he said. Logan understood the thank-you both spoken and unspoken. Gambit was thanking him for helping him, and thanking him for threatening him. Sounded strange to put it in words like that, but it made plenty of sense to Logan. Gambit didn’t want to be coddled, to be treated like an invalid or like an expensive vase that would shatter at the slightest mistreatment. The real reason, perhaps, that he had forbidden Storm from visiting him. He knew she was still on his side—she had made it clear that she did not believe he’d had as much to do with the Morlock Massacre as Rogue had intimated—but her concern for him and his health after his return from Antarctica had run the gamut from anger that he had not notified her immediately that he was still alive to an almost simpering affection he simply couldn’t bear.
“I’m goin’ down to the kitchen an’ rustle you up somethin’,” Logan said. “I’ll be back in a little bit. Try an’ stay awake, okay? I’m not gonna be happy if I have to shake you fer five minutes while yer chicken noodle soup gets cold.”
Logan thought it very unlikely that the already nodding man would succeed, but he let it go and padded off downstairs to the kitchen.
On to Part Three!