The X-men and their world belong to Marvel, no profit or copy right infringement intended.

 

Cuckoo

This is a movieverse AU, addiction and abuse issues are present through the entire story

 

Chapter 4

"Ready to go Paul?" Jean was being determinedly cheerful as if that would somehow make him happier too.

"Sure." Paul pushed himself carefully out of the chair, cradling his braced and bandaged hand. Moving hurt. Breathing hurt. But his hand didn't hurt much at all. It was mostly numb and that scared him. Hank kept telling him it would get better and, after a week and a half, Paul was still waiting.

"How do the clothes fit?" She asked.

"Fine, I guess." He said, tugging on the ugly button down shirt. Shit brown wasn't his color. It wasn't new, neither were the jeans or the shoes but they were all newer than he was used to wearing and fit better than most things he'd worn. The pants weren't falling off anyway. Hank lumbered out of his office to say goodbye and hand over a couple of bottles of pills.

"This is for the nausea, take it every morning. These are your antibiotics, take those every night. Remember to come back tomorrow, young man, for your - other medicine."

"'Kay." Paul muttered. He had to come back tomorrow so he could get his carefully measured hit of methadone. Dr. McCoy had to order it special for him, Paul had overheard him complaining about the paperwork to Jean when he was supposed to be sleeping. He smiled brightly at Jean, seething. The big blue freak had finally decided Paul could leave his private little lab but had put him on a damn short leash. "I'm ready to go, I guess, Ms. Gray."

The woman didn't look much fooled. She usually didn't. She was a doctor, like Hank the Disney escapee but told him to call her Jean. Pretty, he figured, with all that red hair. Dressed like a porn star and moved like she could kick your ass without blinking. He followed her out the big metal doors.

The place was creepy. Half gleaming silver hallways and sliding doors like Star Trek and then, on the other side of the elevator, mahogany, dusty sunbeams and fancy carpets and a bunch of kids running in the halls. They slowed down when they saw Jean and eyed Paul curiously. Paul pushed his borrowed shades up on his nose and ignored the whispers he overheard. They were talking about him. Everyone kept telling him that he wasn't going to get hurt here and, yeah, some of the kids he saw were freaky looking but still. He'd heard those assurances before and didn't believe them now either.

"John is going to be your roommate, Paul." Dr. Gray - call me Jean - said, pushing open a door on the second floor. "We've got a bed set up and some more clothes - I think they'll fit. Let Scott know if they don't."

"Scott?" Paul said uneasily. This place looked like a converted house, like some rich do-gooder had taken an interest in the 'poor and oppressed'. The room was pretty big but kind of crowded with two beds, two desks, two chairs. He could tell which half was his. A neatly made bed and a pile of clothes. Clean desk, no pictures on the walls. The other half of the room

looked like a bomb had gone off. Dirty clothes and scattered textbooks, a bunch of drawings tacked to the walls. Paul wrinkled his nose. The room smelled like old socks and burnt paper. "I though you said I'm staying with some John."

He smiled at his own joke, then the smile faded when he realized Jean didn't get it. She just - didn't get it. He sighed and touched his shirt. Things were going to be real different here.

"Yes." Jean made this little ushering gesture, urging him past the threshold. She never touched him and Paul was grateful. It made it easier to ignore the peculiar way she felt. He stepped unwillingly inside and sat on the clean bed. "Scott's my husband. He teaches here - English, Basic Mechanics, some history. A little mathematics. We live on the third floor, you can always ask us - or any of the adults - for help, Paul. For anything."

"'Kay." Paul watched her fidget. She wasn't lying. Not entirely. But she wasn't telling the truth either. Husband Scott wasn't just a teacher. She wasn't just a doctor. He thought about that lab downstairs and all those tests they'd been running on him and knew this wasn't some *school. "So - who's the headmaster? Who runs the show?"

Jean smiled and Paul was able to feel the affection, even from her. Usually she was so hard to feel. Not like Remy, who *did* something to block Paul off but something about the way she was. She had feelings but it was hard to get a handle on them. So far, Paul hadn't been able to push her into doing anything she didn't want but he was working on that. "Professor Xavier. He started this school, Scott and I were his first students. He's been like a father to Scott - "

She broke off, looking for a reaction and Paul shrugged. "I ain't looking for a daddy. Had plenty of 'em."

"You look tired." She said quietly, when he didn’t say anything else. "You can rest until dinner, John can take you down."

"Alright."

As soon as she shut the door, Paul shoved one of John's stinky socks under it to 'accidentally' jam it shut and searched the other kid's side of the room. Clothes and books, comics, some girlie porn - Paul shrugged - no money. No dope, not even pot. A little stash of matches that suggested that there had to be something to smoke around here.

"Shit." Paul sat on his bed, tired already. Nothing. Not even condoms. Outside it was snowy and sunny and a blinding haze of rainbows and distorted spots. What he didn't see past the distant brick wall topped with old fashioned iron spikes were other buildings. Skyscrapers, warehouses. There was nothing like that. He was somewhere far, far away from the city. He pulled the shade down and lay back on the bed, kicking his new clothes onto the floor. This place was a fucking nightmare.

Shoving at the door woke him. Paul went over and pulled the sock out of the way.

"Hey!" A blond kid pushed his way inside. "What's with the door?"

"I dunno." Paul said, dropping the sock. "It's your crap. Guess it got stuck."

"You're Paul huh? I'm John. You're my new roomie?" And he gave Paul a blinding smile. Blonde and blue-eyed, maybe sixteen, he was a trick's wet dream.

"Guess so." Paul shrugged but couldn't help smiling back. The kid was so absolutely good natured, it rolled off him in waves. He sat carefully back down, it was almost as good as getting high. John threw some books on his desk and flopped onto his bed, stretched and Paul watched his sweater ride up his pale stomach. Nice body. He'd be Kristoff's new favorite real quick.

Paul scooted back and leaned against his headboard. He used to be Kristoff's favorite - until the bastard tried to kill him. Stared down at his useless left hand and tried to wiggle the fingers - failed - again. "So, what's fun around here?"

John glanced at him, gave him another of those pretty smiles, so innocent looking but Paul felt a wicked humor underneath. He bit his lip to hide his answering smirk. Maybe this too pretty kid was more interesting than he looked.

"Well - TV, school, basketball. I'll show you around, if you want. You can see for yourself."

Paul snorted. "Not talking about all that teacher approved, rubber stamped kinda fun. Y'know. Something real."

John sat up and peeled off his orange sweater. Paul tensed.

"Well -" John leaned over and dug the matches out from his mattress. He lit one and stared, hypnotized at the flame. Paul scrambled off his bed, opposite John and backed away. His blue eyes refocused, seeing Paul's worry. "Uh- you're not afraid of fire - I hope. God, that would suck."

"Nope. Just not into burning stuff up, especially me, okay?"

"Don't worry. Not going to burn you - going to burn me!" John grinned and set fire to himself.

"Fuck!" Paul yelled, jerking back, wrenching his half healed side. The fire just exploded over his chest. John was just smiling and smiling like a nut and - Paul blinked - there was no pain. None at all. If anything, John was flying. Paul felt his warm joy and watched the way the fire clung to his naked skin, gold and blue and orange and hypnotic. Fuck. John looked like a damn angel. The room started to get warm as the fire blazed like a crown over John's head. His eyes were still a clear blue. "Shit -!"

An alarm went off and John flinched, then the fire blinked out. He hurriedly pulled on his sweater, just as someone knocked - heavily - on the door. "John - no fires inside the house!"

"Yes, Mr. Summers!" John called through the door, rolling his eyes at Paul. Smoke was curling up from his shoulders. "It was an accident. I'm sorry."

The footsteps went away. John sat cross-legged on his bed and leaned towards Paul. "So, what can you do?"

"What?"

"Y'know. What kind of mutation do you have?"

"You mean, what kind of freak am I?"

"Hey - " John expression flickered, briefly sad with understanding. "You aren't a freak. None of us are freaks. Not here."

"Sure." Paul said rubbing at his still sore side. He was starting to hurt. "That's what they tell you, anyway.


Scott came back in shaking his head. He sat back down across from Jean and pulled her feet back into his lap. "We've got to find something for that boy to do."

Jean smiled. "He's just showing off. John's not as emotionally mature as Bobby."

Scott's head bent over her feet, rubbing just perfectly; easing the pain in her arches, thumbs rubbing patiently over the balls of her feet. The late winter sunlight reflected off his glasses. "If you didn't wear those heels, you're feet wouldn't hurt so bad, you know."

Jean stretched her toes, Scott tweaked one, smiling to himself. "I like my heels -"

She wiggled her foot between Scott's legs, toes squeezing his crotch. His breath hitched and his smile widened to include her. "- and I'm not the only one. And if my feet didn't hurt, would you still rub them?"

Scott wasn't exactly fighting her off, he wrapped one hand around her ankle. "I'd rub you anywhere - anytime -"

He slid his hands up her calves and he moved to kneel between her legs. One hand slid up her skirt, he massaged her labia through her panties as he kissed his way up her thigh. Jean sighed and let her head fall back, staring at the ceiling while she got wetter and wetter. And he'd hardly started. They'd been lovers since the day Scott turned eighteen and he still could set her off with nothing more than a smile and a touch.

"I'll keep that in mind the next time I have give a six hour lecture to Congress - ah."

Scott snickered against her thigh, tugging on her knees to bring her to the edge of the chair. "Couldn't get arrested, not in the chambers."

"Mmhmm - shut up, Scott."

He'd pushed all the way up and bit her gently through the thin cotton of her panties. Jean pushed up, clutching suddenly at him at the dull prick of his teeth through fabric. She felt him tugging them carefully off and moaned softly, muscles deep insider her vagina clenching eagerly.

"God - want you so much - ah, no - not now!" Jean complained at the abrupt touch of Charles' mind on hers. He withdrew like he'd been burned, leaving nothing but a request that she come to his study - now. Scott's fingers stilled and he lifted his head from her with a resigned curse. Evidently the professor had called Scott as well.

Jean pulled on new underwear while Scott cleaned up and they headed downstairs. Jean smoothed her husband's hair with a telekinetic pat at the last minute.

"Think he - um - knew?" Scott asked hopefully.

"Oh, yeah."

"Right. Well - into the breach then." He said, opening the door.

"I wish." Jean murmured and grinned as Scott went suddenly, brilliantly red.

Her humor faded at the sight of Logan and the thief, Remy. Logan was leaning against the windowsill as if he thought he might need to make a quick exit. He'd dusted off his old training and Jean couldn't read a thing. Remy was chain smoking, Jean watched him light another cigarette from the stub of his last one and smoke hung heavy in the little room. Remy's mind was it's usual quicksilver self, as impossible as Logan's in an entirely different way. Charles was - furious.

"Professor?" Scott said carefully. Telepath or not, he knew his foster father's moods. Xavier jerked his chin at some chairs.

"Sit, please. We have an - issue to resolve."

Logan rolled his eyes. "Christ, Wheels, just spit it out already. Don't want t'spend the rest of my life in here."

Remy had tucked himself into a chair was practicing being invisible. Something had happened, something bad enough that the two of them - the most independent of the X-men - had brought it to the Professor to handle. Charles glared harshly at Logan.

"What's going on?" She asked. "What's the problem, professor."

Charles pushed some paperwork around on his desk and closed his eyes, visibly gathering his temper. Jean glanced worriedly at Scott, it had been years since she'd seen him so angry. Scott's face was expressionless and tipped slightly towards Logan and Remy. Watching them, she realized. He knew where the trouble was.

"When we sent Logan and Remy to contact Paul they -" Charles stopped and took another deep breath, clearly having trouble going on.

"- things went wrong." Logan interrupted in something like mercy. His voice was flat, eyes expressionless, as if he was reading a report. As if he'd taken an emotional walk, leaving nothing but an echo behind. Jean frowned slightly, they'd all worked hard to get Logan past that trained repression and she didn't like seeing it now. "The kid was gonna bolt, we took him to a room t'talk. And, somthin' happened. Remy thinks the kid's got something like his empathy. Something set Remy's charm off - the kid figured we were hiring him for sex and - we fucked him."

There was a split second of agonizing silence.

"Fucked - " Scott stammered. "Sex? You had sex with Paul?"

Logan' s head jerked, a nod. Remy was staring fixedly at a corner of the professor's desk and hadn't said a word. Jean watched the tip of his cigarette tremble. Even now, stomach sinking into a sick dismay, she wondered what he was feeling from everyone around him. What it was like to share the emotions in this room now. She, like the professor, was a telepath - they read thoughts not emotions. Evidently unpleasant, as he tucked his arms around his stomach, mouth a thin, straight line.

"I can't believe it." She whispered, glancing at Charles. Maybe it wasn't what it sounded like - what else could it be? Charles had his damage control expression on.

"Both of you?" Scott said flatly. "You - we - wanted to rescue the boy - god! Paul's a kid! A child! For god's sake - Logan!"

The Canadian's Adam's apple bobbed suddenly. "Yeah. He's a kid, Scott. I molested a kid. Professor's been real clear on that."

Scott threw himself out of his chair and paced, staying well away from the other two. His voice rose until he was shouting. "Right. Wonderful. Now we know why Paul's so mistrustful. He has damn good reason! We're supposed to be the good guys!"

Jean could hear the agonized betrayal in his voice.

Remy closed his eyes, thin face going pale beneath the dark glasses he always wore. "Remy leave."

"What ?" Several voices chorused. Logan' s loudest.

"Remy leave here, he bring not'ing but trouble on you." He said in a small voice. "De fault's mine. De charm - made Logan do it."

Scott stared at the Cajun, fists clenched, practically trembling with fury.

"Well, it would be much easier to simply leave now, wouldn't it?" Charles said quietly. "And very much your style, I believe, my friend."

Remy's head snapped up. "Remy no friend of yours, homme! He no friend of anyone! Dat's obvious!"

"Knock it off, Remy." Logan snapped. "We ain't gonna get out that easy. Told ya that. And I ain't no puppet. I got fault here too."

Charles smiled briefly. "So, what will we do?"

Scott was still glaring at Logan. "Hell - "

He broke off and everyone sat in silence of a long moment. Jean closed her eyes and rubbed her temples, head aching. What were they going to do? They couldn't turn Logan and Remy over to the police - that was one thing they'd promised Charles years ago. A promise made in memory of the Eric who'd learned justice and mercy in Nazi concentration camps. They'd never turn a mutant over to human authority. There was no where else to send Paul, no other refuge for him but a place where two of the adults he was supposed to trust had picked him up off the street and molested him.

"I'm not interested in punishment, Scott." The professor said, glancing sharply at her husband.

"My god, we can't just let it slide!"

"No. We have to find a way to regain Paul's trust. That we truly mean to help him."

"He told Hank he was - almost - seventeen." Jean said, wondering if it meant anything. Half the things Paul said were lies. And even if it was true, did it matter?

"That doesn't matter, he was someone vulnerable - why? God, Logan - you - I'd never imagined you could - what were you thinking!" Scott broke off.

Logan shrugged. "Wasn't thinking, Slim. Was - hell - was practically a damn compulsion!"

"Remy - your charm. Could it have gotten so out of control - how would it cause you or Logan to respond that way?" Charles brought the conversation back to what he'd decided was important.

Jean curled her legs under herself and watched the thief. He'd never been willing to explain his powers to anyone. Now, things were going to change. The thief lit another cigarette.

"De charm - makes people hungry for Remy. Sex, usually but somet'imes other t'ings. Some good. Some bad. W'ant him, always."

Charles looked up sharply. "Always?"

Remy's chin dipped briefly. "Always. Since Remy remember, de charm was der. Not somet'ing he grew into, like de charge. De em'pathy and de charm always der."

"That must have been - very difficult."

Remy shrugged. "De boy - feel him, real strong. Den I touched him - de charm go off. Hit Remy like a brick. Needed - needed touch. Bad. Real bad. Paul - he need to, could feel it, couldn't say no. None of us. Don know why it go like dat. Don know why - but dat boy, he want so bad. Couldn't say no."

"We tried to talk to him - afterwards - " Logan finished. "Didn't go for it. Gave him a card - and he stole all the money we had."

"How much do you think Paul has in common with you, Remy?" Charles asked. "Could he have a similar - charm?"

Remy tipped his head. "Could be. But - you all be de one's to know. How much you want de boy, when you near him? How bad you w'ant to touch him, eh?"

Jean flushed. She'd felt - something - around Paul. She'd chalked it up to some spasm of maternal instinct - now she wasn't sure. Did it come from insider her, or inside Paul? "He has hollow bones. As I recall from the last time you broke your leg, Remy, so do you. Double joints, some other minor physical abnormalities. Your eyes. And - he's similarly difficult to read. But he's been drugged or unconscious most of the time he's been here."

Jean studied Remy, wondering. Could the two be related? No one knew much of Remy's past - he'd never volunteered a scrap of personal information. Whatever life he'd led before coming to Westchester, he'd completely abandoned it - or been driven from it.

"Your empathic gifts?" Charles wondered. "We may need to help Paul control his gifts - and we'll need your help to do so, Remy."

The thief stared hard at the professor.

"If you leave now, you'll be leaving Paul to struggle - alone - like you did with your gifts until you learned to control them." The professor's eyes were level and unyielding.

"You w'ant Remy to help wid Paul?" He sounded stunned. "After w'at he did? W'at kind of sense is dat?"

Charles frowned. "The kind of sense that puts actually solving the problem over lashing out in

anger. Yes, I want your help. I want you to speak with Hank about your gifts, permit him to do some investigating. Paul is ill, physically, aside from the psychological consequences of his life. Perhaps you can help Hank and Jean come up with some answers."

Remy bowed his head. "Remy don have answers, professor, but he try. He help - any way he can."

"Good." Charles nodded and looked rather pleased. His voice gentled. "That's all I ask. We must all help each other - there's no one else who will, after all."


Paul trailed John down to breakfast, though he didn't want to eat anything. If he was going to be stuck here, he'd better start figuring things out quick. The noise from the cafeteria made him nervous though. Too many people. No - too many freaks. Paul blinked, he'd never seen so many mutants. Purple hair and hot pink skin. Scales and tails, fur and somebody with shit brown feathers and nasty looking beak. His lip curled, he was in a fucking zoo.

"Bobby!" John called, hurrying over to a group of pretty freaks. He glanced back at Paul and gave him an uncertain smile. Chewing uneasily on his lip, Paul followed. It beat standing in the doorway while everyone stared at him. As he came close, the flow of curiosity and a dozen other emotions reminded him that he was days late on his dope. Methadone just didn't cut the rush the way real dope did, he felt like he was drowning. Paul glanced around, there had to be a way to score here. He just had to find it.

"Hey, Bobby this is Paul." John said, vastly relived to find his friends. "He's new here."

Bobby was the brown haired boy of the group and he gave Paul an awkward shit-eating grin. The kid knew him - but Paul didn't know from where. "Hey, Paul. Welcome to the madness."

"Yeah - sure." Paul muttered. Bobby held out a hand and he glared at him until the kid put it down, flushing.

"Ah - well. No touchy, no feely hun?" Bobby went on uncomfortably. He glanced over at the quiet girl with the streak in her hair and the goth clothes. "That's cool."

"Not unless you're gonna pay me." Paul muttered, but too softly for anyone to hear.

"This is Mar - ee and Jubil - ee and Kitt - ee." Bobby went on, bowing at each girl in turn, grinning. "The three rhyming mutants."

"Yeah and you and Johnny are the two moronic mutants." Jubilee said with a laugh. She was dressed in trendy yellow clothes and her dark eyes were measuring as she looked him over. Paul shifted, conscious again of the borrowed clothes he was wearing and the clunky brace on his hand. "So, whata you do?"

Paul frowned at the sharp challenge in her voice. "Nothing much."

Jubilee rolled her eyes and held up her hands. "I'll show you mine - if you'll show me yours."

The girl's fingers sparked, then small multi-color explosions crackled from her hands; blue and gold, pink and hot orange. They exploded with small 'paffs' of hot air. Her brow furrowed in concentration as the sparks got larger and louder then stopped abruptly leaving a faint, burned smell in the air. Paul blinked rapidly, eyes stinging even through the glasses. The air around Jubilee's hands still shimmered and danced even though the obvious signs of her power were gone.

"We have great fourth of July parties." Bobby said in a carrying sotto voice, leaning close to Paul as if he was sharing some big secret.

"So, whata you got?" Jubilee repeated with a smile and an edge of challenge. The others were looking at him too and he could feel their curiosity like a pressure against him. Unwillingly, he pulled his borrowed glasses off and squinted as the rush of color and disconcerting specks of light filled his vision. The morning light through the high windows combined with the lights and the remnants of Jubilee's power was bright enough to leave him practically blind.

"I don't do nothing." He lied, pushing the heavy shades he'd been given back up. "I just look funny."

"Hey - " Kitty piped up shyly from the background. "You've got eyes like Remy's - I mean Mr. LeBeau."

"Yeah!" Jubilee snapped her fingers with a pale blue spark. "Are you guys like brothers or something? That'd be cool."

"No - we're not like brothers or nothing." Paul snapped. "He's just some guy I - met."

"Hey. Knock it off." John whispered and nudged Paul with an elbow as Jubilee's eyes narrowed at his tone.

"Whatever." Jubilee said. "I'm getting me some breakfast before all that's left is the oatmeal."

Everyone else agreed, relived to have something to do besides try to talk to him. They turned away and Paul shifted realizing he was going to be left behind, then Bobby turned back with a sigh and a forced smile. "Hey, c'mon Paul."

Flushing, and very aware that they didn't really want him around, Paul trailed the little group. Maybe if he just kept his mouth shut things wouldn't get any worse.

 

Chapter 5

Cold. Paul hauled the blankets up and stared out at the rainbow glitter of falling snow, shivering. His stomach cramped again and he hissed through clenched teeth, curling around himself, waiting as long as he could before climbing out of bed and hurrying to the bathroom.

"Fuck - fuck - fuck." Paul locked the bathroom door, fingers shaking. He knew it wasn't that cold, it was just because the god dammed blue doctor had decided it was time to start stepping the methadone down again. He'd told Paul, hadn't bothered to ask if Paul even wanted to detox, and expected him to be fucking glad about it! Leaning over the toilet, heaving until tears streaked his face, Paul cursed Dr. 'my stars and garters'. The bastard wasn't the one on his knees tonight. The shaking got worse, along with the cramps, when the puking was done and it took Paul a while to make it back to bed. John was sitting up, waiting, when he came back.

"S-sorry." Paul muttered, climbing back into bed and pulling the covers up to his chin.

"Hey - it's okay." John rustled around and padded over to Paul. "Hey - shit - you look really sick. Lemme call Scott or Hank. Come on -."

"Fuck that!" Paul hissed, twitching. This wasn't the first night he'd woken his new roommate up because he was jonsing. "Fuck them. You think they care? You think they don't know? Shit - it's that blue fucker's fault that I'm sick."

"You're sick because you're going off dope." John dragged his blanket off his bed and spread it over Paul. "Hank's trying to help."

"Yeah. Help me my - my ass. Does it look like he's f-fucking help-ping me?" Paul closed his eyes as another bout of shaking hit him. "Just so damn cold -!"

"Let me get Scott." John bent over him, staring curiously at Paul's eyes. "He won't mind."

"No - no!" Paul managed to roll over, grabbing John's hand before he could leave. He didn't want to go back down to the lab. He didn’t think he could handle the lights and the cold and the doctor hovering over him, poking and prodding. "God, please - they can't do anything anyway! Please - I'm sorry I woke you up. Really, I'm okay. It's g-getting better."

John snorted and looked down at him, white moonlight bleaching his hair to silver. Paul hung on to his wrist, sharing his worry. He didn't even know this guy and the kid was worrying about him like - he cared. It felt good. Someone paying attention to him. Someone he could touch. He wanted that more than he wanted the dope he wasn't getting. All the dope had ever been was something to fill up the ache anyway.

"I'm j-just cold. John -" Paul murmured and tugged, very lightly on his wrist. He was trying to make John do what he wanted. "Thanks for your blanket but - you're going to get cold now. C'mon -"

The other boy blinked, looking sleepy and a little dazed. A little more dazed than he had a moment ago, before Paul started talking. "I - never get cold."

"I do. I get cold a lot. You're lucky, never getting cold." Paul was barely whispering now. John probably couldn’t even tell what he was saying but it wasn't important. He felt him relax. "You could get under the blankets too."

"Sure." John shrugged and yawned. Paul scooted eagerly aside and gave him room to climb in.

"You better not get any funky ideas, okay Paul?" John hesitated at the last minute, Paul brushed his fingertips over the back of his hand.

"Uh-uh." Paul muttered. "I'm just cold. What - you think I could get it up now?"

"Okay."

John lay uncomfortably next to him, then drifted off. When he was half asleep, Paul snuggled close and John rolled against his back, holding him. It felt so good. He could press his back to warm skin and feel someone else's heart beating. John was warm and alive and *liked* him. Paul's breath hitched and he blamed the tears on withdrawal. He didn't want friends. It would hurt more later if he made friends. But it felt so good.


Predictably, Paul was testing his authority by being late. Charles sipped his tea and watched the children playing outside in the fresh snow. It was nearly Christmas time, some lucky students were going home to their families. Far to many, like Paul, had nowhere else to go. No home besides his. So, there was a Christmas tree in the main living room and a menorah

on the mantle. Jean, Scott and Ororo had been sent on several trips to the city for a gift for every child. They couldn't give them a safe world, not yet, so they gave them what they could.

There was a knock at the door and the distinctive slippery mental signature that both Remy and the young man shared. Which answered some questions about the thief, as well as the boy. It was not some special training, like Logan's, that gave them protection against his telepathy. It was some natural characteristic of their minds and that was fascinating. It was a joy to watch evolution at work. Telepathy, in one form or another, was one of the more common mutations and it seemed that nature was creating a defense against that advantage.

"Come in, Paul." Charles folder he'd been studying away. Thick with Hank's notes, it went over the young man's body in detail but didn't give him much insight into their new student's mind. Hank was of the opinion that Paul hated him - likely due to some prior trauma. With all the medical needs that Paul had, his resistance to Hank's help was something that needed to be addressed. "Why don’t you pull the drapes for me."

"'Kay." Paul said, as if it didn't matter but Charles could see the sudden tension in the slender shoulders.

A small smile came and went. He tried to dip into the boy's mind and the quicksilver thought he caught - unpleasant demands hidden behind office doors and official appointments - left Charles wishing they'd found this boy much earlier. Of course he expected more of the same. No one had given him any reason to change his opinion. That was Charles' job.

Paul flopped down on the couch, pulling a knee up and stretching in such blatant invitation that Charles nearly laughed. And was, he realized, attracted. Was that due to some gift Paul had, a 'charm' or simply because he was beautiful; young and dark haired, tall and slender with lovely hands? The kind of young man he'd been attracted to when he was a young man. "I thought you might like to get rid of those glasses for a while. It this dim enough to be conformable?"

Paul flushed and gathered himself together abruptly when he realized the drawn curtains weren't to hide an illicit sex act. "Yeah, guess so."

He pulled off his glasses, startling eyes darting nervously around the study. They were heavily

shadowed, Paul looked exhausted, gaunt and his hands trembled slightly. Hank was very concerned about Paul's general health and was stepping down the methadone therapy as quickly as he dared. Methadone was relatively non-toxic but that didn't mean it was harmless and Charles had his doubts about making so many abrupt changes so quickly in Paul's life but he couldn't risk having his school shut down on drug charges. Methadone - whatever Paul thought of it - was legal.

"So, you're the headmaster here, huh?" Paul started to jiggle, flipping his glasses from hand to hand.

Charles rolled around his desk, impulsively deciding to remove some of the official distance between them. He could practically see the way Paul's teeth gritted at any hint of authority figures. "What do you think?"

Paul rolled his eyes. "Great, you're a shrink too. Figures."

"Well, I have a psychology degree, yes. The Academy is named after me, yes. What else?"

"Huh?"

"What else do you think I am?"

Paul looked hard at him and Charles tried to be as open, as aware as possible. He'd tried this yesterday with Remy and still he couldn't tell when the Cajun was using his so-called charm. He knew the feel of a mental attack, knew when someone was sneaking into his thoughts but how do you tell if someone is manipulating your emotions? Remy had gotten him to add the thief's name to the school's bank accounts before he'd ended his little exhibition.

"Bald." Paul said with a smirk. "I think you're bald."

Charles chuckled. "Rather bald, yes."

"And -" The young man's eyes narrowed. "I think you're a rich white man - a freak who can hide in the herd - and I think you see what it's like for - for people like me and you feel guilty. So you go scrape the shit out of the gutter so you can say you got your hands dirty."

It was like being stabbed. The worst, nastiest interpretation on the drive that had cost him his

family, his friends and his health. And not entirely untrue which only made it hurt more. He couldn't look at Paul, shame rising like nausea in his throat. He stared out at the brightly snowy yard and focused on the voices of the children - the future.

When he could look back at Paul, he was pressed as far back in the couch as he could get and his face was twisted with misery and fear. "Oh - um. I - I'm sorry. I didn't mean it - shit. "

"No?" He asked calmly. This child is also the future, he reminded himself. Charles realized that what he'd seen on Paul's face in that painful moment had been an echo of his own shame, his own pain. He let out a slow breath. It seemed that Paul did share Remy's talents, as well as his eyes.

"No. It's - it's the jones. Man - you're pet doctor is stepping me down too fast!" Paul complained. "I didn't even ask for it and he's got me on this crap - makes me sick as a dog."

"Methadone is supposed to prevent withdrawal symptoms."

Paul gave him a sour glance out of one red and black eye. "Sure."

Charles studied Paul, watching him fidget and flinch. Still so very thin, his arm still braced, so full of hostility. He wanted to somehow prove that Paul was safe here - and he wanted to touch him. Charles folded his hands firmly in his lap. "Have you spoken to Dr. McCoy about it?"

Paul snorted. "Like he cares about anything besides his damn schedule!"

"He can't help you with this if you don't tell him what is and is not working for you." Charles said mildly. Paul only shrugged again. The hostility in his voice and manner was troubling, verifying what Hank had discussed with him earlier.

"Hank McCoy does care, Paul." Charles said. "We all do."

"Sure."

"So - what are you, then?" He returned to the earlier subject. For all problems there was an appropriate time and this was only their first session. "If I'm a hypocrite, what are you."

"A whore." Paul said bluntly.

"Ah - what else?"

"A junkie. A freak." Paul glared at him, his voice climbing. "Some slut. A juvie. At risk youth. Worthless punk! Thieving brat! Mutie! Shit - leave me alone! What the hell do you want from me?"

"Hope."

"What?"

Charles leaned forward, staring hard at Paul. "I want hope from you. I want you to find the hope buried under all those words and all those ignorant people who spoke them. I want your hope. For the future."

Paul shook his head slowly, drawn for a moment out of his own misery. "No - no way. What good is the future for me? You think I got one? You think you're gonna save me? You think you're the first to try?"

"I can't save you." Charles said with a sigh. He could read a certain amount of adolescent pride in those words. For Paul, resisting the destructive labeling applied by others was a survival skill. "Only you can do that. I can only - try to get my hands a little dirty beside yours and perhaps we'll find the future together."

Paul chewed on his lip. "I'm sorry. I said I was sorry."

"There's nothing to be sorry for, except perhaps a lack of judgment." Charles shook his head and tried to believe is own words. "You're remarkably - perceptive. Do you know what empathy means?"

Paul shrugged but he stopped flipping his glasses and his eyes drifted warily away from the professor's. "Mean's you understand what other people are feeling, I guess."

"Mmm. That's sympathy. Empathy is sharing what others feel."

"'Kay." Paul had gone as blank faced as card shark. Charles was reminded, strongly, of Remy.

"Do you - feel - what I feel, Paul?" He asked softly, trying - and failing - to reach that suspicious mind with his own gifts. "Really feel it."

The youngster licked his lips, eyes darting away then back again. There was real terror in them. "H-how do you know?"

The professor leaned back in his wheelchair and tried to be reassuring. It was sad to see the boy so terribly frightened of his natural gifts. "Remy - also feels what others do. You and he seem to have more in common than your unique eyes."

Paul jerked his face aside. "I haven't seen Remy - or the other guy around. I saw him downstairs in the - lab though."

"We thought it might be better if you had some time to - adjust - without them around."

There was a pause then -

"Oh, shit!" Paul looked at him, wide eyed. "You know! You - know?"

"They told me."

"Shit!" Paul suddenly jerked upright. "You didn't kick them out, did you? I can't believe they fucking told you! But - honest - I mean, I knew they didn't want to - not really. It was just - just -"

"Just what?" Charles pressed. "They're both adults and knew better. I know Remy was very upset by what happened."

"Just - it was an accident." Paul mumbled. "Y'know. I mean - I thought - and I don't need no one saving me! That's all - I didn't want them coming by to save me like I was some little kid. Someone who couldn't take care of himself."

"Did you - influence - them to have sex with you?"

Paul tucked hands between his legs and stared at his shoes, shrugged. "Guess so."

"Surely you'd know."

"Doesn't - always work like that." Paul sighed and shrugged to himself. "I - dunno - sometimes things - just happen. When he touched me - Remy touched me - shit!"

Charles watched Paul fidget uncomfortably and gathered that the boy was finding the memory arousing. He turned his attention politely to the window until Paul collected himself.

"Anyway - " Paul hurried on. "I must've done something. They - sure as hell didn't want me. Not for real."

"Just because someone isn't sexually interested in you doesn't mean they don't want you - or like you. And you must know that sex doesn't mean someone does want you."

Paul snorted, shrugged and finally nodded. "Guess so."

"If you know what I'm feeling. Can sense it. Don't you feel that my desire to help you - everyone's wish to help you is real? That there isn't some hidden price tag? Paul - can't you sense that?"

"Works better if I can touch - " Paul said hesitantly. "Everything works better if I can touch."

Charles held out his hand.

Paul's fingers were long and graceful and trembling with tension as he wrapped a hand around the professor's. He watched those remarkable eyes fill suddenly with tears and nearly wept himself as Paul clutched his hand and cried.


They really were waiting on him. Remy slipped in behind Jean and found a seat between Ororo and Logan. Remy LeBeau in a teacher's conference - he was still waiting for the punch line to the joke.

"There's coffee and food if you like." Scott nodded stiffly at the pot on the table, next to a plate of muffins and fruit. Logan had a beer. Everyone, except Logan, had files and folders. Remy's space was blank and empty.

"'Ow long dese t'ings last, eh?" Remy asked, brows raised. "Have enough food der for an army, homme."

Smiles flashed around the room and Remy relaxed a bit, still feeling like he'd stumbled in by accident. Next time he'd bring a prop - even it was just an empty folder.

"Fucking forever." Logan grumbled, taking a pull at his beer and slouching down in the chair. Beneath the table, Remy felt the press of Logan's leg against his own and the spark of desire that flowed from the other man nearly made Remy smile. Now that he had him, Logan turned out to be a real horndog.

"They are scheduled for an hour and a half, but we never finish on time." Hank said with a toothy smile. Though the impression was predatory, the emotions behind those teeth were gentle and bored.

"Let's start then, shall we?" The professor said. Remy hastily poured a cup of coffee and settled back. It was bad coffee.

"I want to take that chandelier down." Logan started, surprisingly enough. "The flying kids need the practice space and Carol ran into the damn thing the other day."

"I am aware of that." Charles said dryly. "There were crystal drops all over the floor."

He sighed and drummed his fingers on the table-top for a moment. Remy felt the march of emotions, nostalgia, affection, frustration - all dulled by the fact that Charles was a teep and hard for him to read. "I had this foolish hope that my home would retain some of it's original charm but - yes, Logan you are correct. The children need the space and leaving fragile items out is, as we all know, unwise in a houseful of active children."

There was rueful laughter around the table and even Remy could join in on that one. In the time he'd been here there'd been three fires, several late night fears that tried to come alive and eat other students and one episode of ice burst pipes. Bobby swore it hadn't been him this time.

Logan grunted. "I'll get 'em to help me take it down, put 'em to use."

Remy listened as Logan had a few more things to say, mostly about his physical Ed and defense classes. He listened as everyone had their say. And listened, until his ass was numb and he was lost in names and numbers and wondering if they'd brought him in here just to hammer in that he really didn't belong. It was only those years of poker that kept him from zoning out completely.

"So - finally, Paul."

Remy perked up, glancing around as he felt the shift around him. Paul hadn't made any more friends among the teachers than he had with the other kids. Poor kid. Remy felt that swell of pity and sick recognition. He could have been that kid. Made him grateful all over again for his Pere.

It was Ororo who began, setting the apple she'd been nibbling back onto the plate. "I'm really at a loss, professor. I'd thought - with my own background - that we'd be able to connect. But he ignores me. It's truly maddening. When he does show up for classes, he abuses the other students. He managed to make Fred cry the other day."

"You would think that with his empathy he'd figure out that we really do want to help him." Jean said irritably. "But he acts like - "

"Any other street rat, eh?" Remy said. "Da empathy ain't gonna change dat."

"Indeed." The professor said, folding his hands under his chin and watching him curiously.

Remy looked around the table, wondering. "'Ow many street kids you taken in before Paul?"

Scott snorted. "Quite a few. Jubilee was living in a mall for months before we found her. Everett made his way here on his own."

"Dat not w'at Remy mean -" Remy sighed and rolled an apple in his palm. Twisted his hand and made it disappear. "Der's a whole world down in de gutter. It ain't like dis one but it still got rules."

He looked them all over. Good people, he knew, and smart ones. Stubborn - and sheltered. His eyes flicked to Logan briefly. Mostly anyway, but Remy knew the big man had his own problems. "And in dat place - Paul learned to make a life eh? And when you get dragged out of it - everyone is telling you're a victim. Feel sorry for you. Or dat you're an animal."

"No one here is doing that." Jean interrupted, the quick spark of her temper flaring. "We're all very aware of just how difficult life is for - people like us - whether we've lived on the street or not. It's because we don't pity Paul that his behavior is unacceptable."

"And if someone started doin' medical stuff wi't you without askin' - dey wouldn't be around long enough to sue eh?" Remy shot back. He snapped his fingers. "You'd mash them flat."

"Paul's program is quite different." Hank said, offended. Remy could feel something else too - the taste of guilt and anger. He stared at the blue mutant wondering. "The drugs he was taking - there's a reason they are illegal, besides social discomfort. It's dreadfully easy to overdose on heroin."

" We're not telling him he's a moral failure because of that. He's a survivor and a strong one." Scott broke in. "And giving him an opportunity to make some other choices."

Remy sighed, rolling the apple on his palm again. "You ain't giving him no opportunity. You'all shoving it down his throat. He ain't been a kid for years and he ain't gonna let anyone treat him like dat again 'cause it makes him dependent - and bein' dependent on de street gets you killed."

"Unless, of course, it's a street drug."

Remy's brow rose and he smirked. "Dat get you killed too but sometimes de price is worth it. And ain't de X-men gonna get us all killed, one day?"

"He dosen't have to pay that price, not any longer."

"And w'at he going to pay instead, eh? And w'at he got instead of dope now? He knows how to measure de cost on de street - but not here an he don't got a choice but playing de game you got."

"He has us." Ororo said.

"Ain't no one here dat like him much." Remy pointed out and no one answered him differently.

"Perhaps you are correct." Xavier said. "But he is here now and - yes we are uncomfortable but I believe that will pass, on all our sides. Paul is, after all, quite uncomfortable with us as well. What do you suggest we do to make it possible for him to take advantage of what we might offer him?"

"You gotta let him chose." Remy said bluntly. "Even if he make bad choices, dey gotta feel like his."

"Bad choices ain't limited to kids." Logan said with a snort, making Remy smile faintly.

"We're supposed to let him go back to the street?" Ororo asked incredulously. "And risk dying - again? That's - almost criminal."

"I will never force my life - or my choices - on anyone else." Xavier said firmly when Jean would have spoken again. "And Logan is correct, no one is immune to making bad choices. I will not make him a prisoner here. We cannot force him to make the right choice - if there is such a thing - and I will allow him to leave rather than coerce him."

Hank suddenly shifted uncomfortably. "That would - be a particularly bad choice."

The professor shot him a look even as Remy frowned.

"Methadone lowers physical tolerance before it affects the sense of satisfaction." Hank's ears drooped slightly. "If he returned to heroin use now it is extremely likely that he'd overdose."

Remy nodded, not surprised but clearly that wasn't the case with everyone else. The professor was suddenly angry.

"You explained to me previously that the methadone would not force Paul into any premature decisions." He said sharply.

"I said that methadone was the least invasive choice available and that I was not willing to supply Paul with anything else."

The professor's mouth thinned and Hank's long, blue ears went back.

"My oath -" Hank said, voice dropping to a warning rumble.

"And so we are all forced into unpalatable decisions for your ethics."

"Rather I should be forced to violate my ethics to satisfy yours?"

Everyone at the table shifted uncomfortably as the two men glared at each other. The wash of real anger made Remy's palms sweat and he rubbed them on his jeans. This was an old wound, these words, and one left to fester for too long.

"Instead you prefer to make everyone fit your sense of right and wrong - and how different is that from our enemies?" The professor's voice was as even as ever but his gray eyes burned with temper and Remy remembered Logan telling him that the old man had once been a red-head like the fiery Jean. "Medical ethics for humans aren't necessarily adequate for mutants."

Remy winced, Logan pushed back from the table and Hank slammed his hands down, gouging the wood and making the coffee cups jump.

"I - " Hank said, white fangs flashing as he breathed heavily, nostrils flaring to reveal the deep violet insides. His claws had drawn pale gouges in the wooden table and Remy could feel the iron grip the big doctor kept on his temper. "- am human. My mutation does not change that. Paul is also human - not some test of your post human ethics. I will not allow a patient of mine to suffer because they are too sick or too confused to make mature choices."

"And when - dare I ask - " The professor said coldly. "-will he be mature enough for you? Well enough? When he fits some socially programmed image of red blooded American youth?"

"When he's not an addict would be a good start!"

"I see." The professor's face was stiff. "So drug use defines maturity? What then of the huge percentage of people taking psychoactive medicine every day? Have they abrogated their privilege to make their own decisions as well?"

"Psychoactive drugs to assist the depressed or mentally ill is very different from shooting up in a back alley. It's killing him and I my oath and my ethics and our common humanity demand I help."

"There are many studies that indicate street users are self-medicating, sometimes quite successfully, for various mental illnesses. Paul's problems are not simply physical, all the medical care in the world will not change the underlying emotional needs and they cannot be addressed if he distrusts us.

"Yes, " Hank growled angrily. "Paul may have very good reason for his behavior but the situation has changed. We are all here to give people like Paul options."

Hank's fierce yellow gaze swept them all then returned to the professor. "Options. That is what Paul needs, not for us to simply accept an existing situation because we are afraid to intervene. Arguing dose not change that."

The professor's gray eyes flashed with anger at Hank's dig but he managed a nod. "I agree, we are here to expand the available choices."

Remy felt the swing of the professor's attention - the man's mind was so powerful it was like getting hit by a truck - and resisted the urge to sink down in his chair. "Quoi?"

"I think that of all of us, you have the best chance at reaching Paul before we lose him entirely."

 

Chapter 6

Paul was sitting on the stairs, hunched over his knees and waiting for the stomach ache to go away. Methadone made him sick. All the funky food that Simba was feeding him made him sick. It was easier to blame that and forget he'd been sick before he'd come to the school. He didn't want to wonder if there was something wrong for real. Besides Simba would've figured it out by now, with all the tests and crap. He rested his head against the banister, it was cold on his sweating forehead, and closed his eyes.

"You're supposed to be in class." Jubilee cracked her gum and Paul winced.

"Fuck you." He didn't open his eyes, figuring he might puke if he saw her yellow shirt one more time.

"You wish."

Jubilee stood over him until Paul glanced up wondering what the hell she was waiting for. She was scowling down at him, sorta, but not really. "What?"

"It's cool once you're off the junk."

It was weird, she was almost being nice and Paul squinted at her warily. In his eyes, Jubilee was always surrounded by a staticy halo - the power of her mutation surrounded her. "How the fuck would you know?"

She dropped down next to him, gum cracking and shrugged, glancing away from him. Paul watched her prod at her bookbag feeling the build of words behind her tongue. His stomach gave a sharp little grind and he squeezed his eyes shut and wished she would just go away.

"Like gag me - !" She laughed uncomfortably. "I could hear you - fuck - you sound like a toilet backing up."

"Whatever!" Paul mocked her valley speak and scrambled to his feet, flushing with embarrassment as his stomach rumbled audibly - and painfully - again. He squeezed his eyes shut behind his glasses and wished she'd go the hell away.

"Anyway, never mind that I'm being nice here," Jubilee, scowled at him but popped up too and fumbled up her sleeve to reveal the pinprick scars at the hollow of her elbow. "it's, y'know, cool here. Like I said."

"I used to do it too." Jubilee was whispering now, jaunty rhinestone earrings swinging as she leaned closer. "Get high. But I don't have to anymore. Things are good now and - they helped me here. You too, if you give 'em a chance. You can - y'know have a real life again. Be, like, normal. Forget all that street stuff."

Paul could feel her shame and it pissed him off. He wasn't ashamed. Fuck, he'd still be shooting up if he could get out of this place. Jubilee was being all earnest, like a 12-step commercial, and Paul's lip curled. He didn't need some pretty ice cream junkie trying to save him.

"You think you're gonna grow up and have a life, two kids and a dog maybe?" He leaned in and hissed. "Got a record?"

He could see from her flinch that she did.

"You think anyone's gonna give a junkie a chance out there?" Paul jerked a thumb out beyond the mahogany and expensive furniture, beyond the brick walls and the oak lined streets. Paul could feel the fear in her, behind the brittle hope, and he struck for it. He knew Jubilee was popular and pissing her off was stupid but he didn't care. He knew that Jubilee was Logan's pet - and that didn't mean sex here - and he still couldn't keep his mouth from going off. "You're going to be working some McJob till they drag all us freaks into the streets and shoot us like dogs. They're just lying to you, here, lying to everyone. There ain't nothing. We ain't nothing!"

"I'm not a junkie!" Jubilee snapped. The look on her face wasn't almost nice anymore but angry - and frightened. "Maybe you're trash but I'm not. I'm just telling you it's going to be okay - trying to be, like, fucking nice and all you've got to say is trash because you're too much of a loser to even try to get your shit together."

"Think so? You're too fucking stupid to know when they're shitting you. At least I ain't a dumb chica like you!"

"Yeah - well you just look around you. You're the one talking shit. You're the one too sick to even walk down the hallway. I might have been a user but I was never some whiny, puking, street punk like you. I'm going to have a real life and someday no one's gonna even remember I was ever on the streets!" Jubilee glared at him and Paul could feel the way the hurt and anger bled into hate. It was familiar, he tasted that hate every morning - hate he turned outside so he didn't have to drown in it. "We have a nice place here. So don't you go screwing up - or screwing - things around here."

Paul flushed with the sick realization that somehow she knew about Logan and Remy and him.

She headed down the steps and glanced over her shoulder at him where he leaned on the railing. "They should just, like, toss your sorry ass back on the street 'cause you sure don't belong here."

Paul leaned on the railing and hissed curses at her back, too sick to do anything else. He hated her then, because she was right.


" - going to do? Cut me off the crap you're giving me now?" Logan heard Paul's voice - sharp with challenge and hostility - ring through the door of Scott's cramped office. "Yeah. A couple of days cold turkey and I'll be begging to do your stupid schoolwork!"

"Paul - we'd never do that!" Scott said. Sounded like he was hanging onto his temper with both hands and Logan snorted in amusement. From what he'd been seeing, Paul had a real knack for pissing people off. "But you can't just *ignore* us. We're doing our best for you, you need to give a little to."

Logan exchanged a quick glance with Remy and shoved the groceries at him. Remy nodded and disappeared into the kitchen.

"I don't have to give anything to you!" Paul yelled. "You don't own me. You don't have anything I want. I don't have to stay here!"

"Yes you do!" Scott finally yelled back, Logan winced at the racket. "We're giving you care and shelter - and we have your custody. If we didn't, you'd be in some state run juvenile ward - would you prefer that?"

"What do you mean?" Paul sounded near panic. "What do you mean you have custody! I - didn't tell you anything. How -"

"Paul - Paul, I'm sorry. Don't be frightened. Listen - sit down -"

"No! You leave me the hell alone!"

Logan drew back into the shadows as Paul slammed out of the office ran down the hall, head down, breath catching as he fought back tears. Scott's door swung for a moment and Logan heard the faint, frustrated curse from inside. He went over and stuck his head in. Scott had his head in his hands and papers scattered all over the floor.

"Hey, Slim."

Scott jerked up, saw him and relaxed. Then turned his face aside with a frown. "Logan."

Logan gritted his teeth and came in anyway, shutting the door. Scott was still pissed at him. He on the desk. "Paul's bein' a hard case."

"He's *not* a hard case!" Scott snapped, wincing and fumbled in a drawer for his headache pills. "He's a kid and scared half to death."

"Scared don't mean he ain't bein' a pain." Logan leaned on the back of a chair, not sure if he wanted to sit, if he wanted to stay and deal with Scott's unrelenting anger over what he'd done. Yeah, he deserved it - and more - but that didn't mean he had to like it. He wished Scott would just beat him up or something but the man didn't work like that. So he had to suffer instead until Scott decided he'd hurt enough and forgave him. Paul's scent lingered, stirring memories he didn't like and wished he didn't have.

"He's so impossibly hostile!" Scott burst out, his glasses caught the winter sun and shone like cherry candy. "I don't think he's even picked up a pen since he came here. He's *sleeping* through class - when he shows up at all. I don't know what he did but he brought Frank to tears yesterday. He's not even trying to work with us!"

"Dunno." Logan sighed and took a seat. "Sounds like he's trying real hard to me. Trying to set you off. Trying to push yer buttons."

"We just can't get through to him." Scott pulled off his glasses to rub his face. "None of us. He hates Hank with a passion. Ignores Ororo. Me - I swear he wants me to strangle him."

Logan watched the snow melt off his boots onto the old carpet that had been in this room ever since he'd arrived. Kid had been a pill the first time they'd met, but not as bad as he sounded now. The kind of asshole behavior the kid was showing now would have gotten him killed on the streets. He wondered what was bugging him, and how to find out. "Look, he's only been out of bed for a month. An - shit, he's trying to kick a habit. Probably feels like shit and wants t'share, that's all."

"Share." Scott resettled his glasses and set his jaw.

"Ya ain't letting Remy talk to him, they got stuff in common. He might -"

"I think you and Remy have too much in common with Paul as it is." Scott interrupted coldly. His hands clenched on his desk like he was trying not to hit out at Logan. "He's got enough problems to deal with -"

"Look, Slim, get over it!" Logan snarled. "I can't undo what I screwed up, can only try t'make it right."

"Make it right!" Scott hissed. "You can't make it right. It's done, it's over and we all have to deal with it."

"An puttin' me and Remy in the doghouse fer the rest of our lives ain't solving anything! We ain't the ones -" Logan broke off abruptly. Scott's old trauma wasn't his problem but it wasn't Paul's either.

"What!" Scott said wildly.

"Nothin! Just y'been trying ta handle the kid like he's made of glass - but he's been out there longer than most and he ain't gonna trust us easy. Someone tried to knife him, my guess it was his pimp. He ain't gonna take up with us like some twelve-year old that was living with mommy and daddy before they got their powers."

"He's so miserable." Scott said and Logan could tell he was thinking of some other miserable boy. "I just look at him and can't stand it. There's got to be something we can do and I'm just so sick of trying to prove my good intentions and getting slapped in the face for it!"

Logan grunted and stood. "Yeah."

"What are you going to do?"

"Dunno. But I ain't gonna do this hands off shit no more."

Scott's mouth thinned but he didn't say anything. Logan shrugged and headed out. That was an

improvement anyway.

He followed the scent to the back library. Paul had found the darkest corner in the darkest room to huddle in. He was sniffing hard but done crying. Curled up small like that he looked to damn young.

"Paul." Logan said. The kid's head whipped around, expression shifting to real relief and startling need, before settling back into his usual wary blankness.

"Logan?"

"Yeah." He pulled up another chair and propped his feet on the edge of Paul's leather armchair.

Paul wrapped his arms around his shins and stared at him through those dark glasses but Logan had been staring Scott down for years and he was used to it. He was wearing three different shirts and still looked cold. That was where Logan's favorite flannel had gone, after all. He'd figured Marie had taken it to sleep in. He saw those thin fingers clench on a sleeve. The other hand was still in a brace.

The smell of him was accusingly familiar and hit him just below his belt. He shifted to ease the pressure then watched Paul lift his head and cursed the empathy that didn't allow him any secrets. Couldn't help but draw in another breath, reading the tears and the sickness along with the spice and salt that was the kid's true scent.

Thought they told you to stay away from me."

"Yep. They did. Fuck 'em." Logan pulled out a cigar and lit up, hoping to cut the smell that was setting his heart beating hard. "Ain't doin' anyone any good, is it?"

Paul shrugged. "I can't believe you told 'em."

Logan shrugged. "Better than you trying t'hold it over our heads."

Paul shrugged again but smiled wryly. "Not for me. Hey - you got any of Remy's cigarettes?"

"Nope."

Paul resettled himself and, dammit, couldn't help but watch him move. Long limbed and graceful and he wondered what it would be like to see him run. But there was no weight on him and he could smell sickness in him.

"Y'still puking all the time?"

Paul shook his head slowly. "Not so much."

"But ya ain't better."

"What the hell you expect?" He said bitterly.

"Well you ain't dead, which is practically the way you came here, that's somethin. Why the hell you pissing everyone off? Y'know they ain't gonna hurt ya and they ain't gonna kick you out - no matter who much of an asshole you are."

"Yeah - they're just waiting for me to start toeing the line for them!" Paul said contemptuously. "Why the hell should I?"

"'Cause they're giving you a chance most of us don't get." Logan said bluntly. "They ain't gonna turn ya into some preppy fucker - not unless ya want it. Ya think I'd be here if they did shit like that? This isn't someplace where they're gonna try t'make ya normal. Ya ain't normal. Ya know and so do we. This ain't the Salvation Army."

Paul yanked off his glasses and wiped at his tear streaked face, flushed with anger and embarrassment. His eyes caught a bit of light and shone like a cat's. "I hate it here! I'm not a baby, I don't need them running my life like this. I'm not grateful - okay, except for the knife thing - but I didn't want to kick my habit. I didn't want another chance. I'm fucking done with all that already. It's to - to fucking much. All of a sudden, I'm supposed to tie a knot in dick - play nice with the girls and boys 'cause they don't wanna deal with it! I'm supposed find myself a new daddy. Go back to school. Sober up."

"Ah - kid." Logan couldn't stand the bitterness in his voice and the hard set to his mouth. It was something he usually saw in the mirror, not in a seventeen year old kid. Paul had been kicked down so much he didn't even want to get up. And he was hungry for the kid, wanted to taste that anger. Find what was hurting in him and put his mouth on it. The urge was strong enough that he had to hang onto the chair to keep from going over there. "Christ, your're as bad as me."

Paul slid out of his chair and stalked over. He leaned on Logan's chair, all angles and crow's wing black hair and a mouth begging to be tasted. "I know you and Remy are fucking. Because of me. And I don't get shit - I get a handful of methadone and a bunch of lectures about being a good freak. But I don't get to feel good anymore. I don't get to - t-touch anyone anymore. 'Cause I'm just a kid right? You think I'm a kid? Do you?"

Paul straddled him, hands already tangled in Logan's hair - turning his face up - and he didn't move, didn't dare because if he did Logan knew he just take the kid now. His cock stiffened so fast it hurt. Paul shuddered on his lap and Logan's hands were on his hips, hauling him close, feeling that ass grinding against him. His boots hit the floor with a thump, Logan groaned under his breath. God, so good. Heat under his fingers, Paul panting in his hair. Making these little sounds - so sweet - god, nearly setting him off right there. Needy little moans.

Paul was telling him how much he wanted it. Needed it. Whispering in his ear, knees spread wide around the chair. Logan felt the hard cock pushing against his stomach as Paul rocked against him. He needed it to. It seemed like the right thing. The only thing and it didn't matter that they were dry humping in the library and Scott was just down the hall - trusting him.

Logan dipped his head, fastening his mouth over a racing pulse. Bit until he tasted blood, the kid was hanging onto his shoulders and whimpering. He tipped his head back making Logan growl with pleasure at the submission. Logan thought of Remy and how good he felt and the press of Paul on his lap reminded him of fucking Remy and the way it had felt to fuck Paul that one time. He wanted so bad to do it again. Couldn't think of anything else. Not with the kid whispering in his ear.

"Need to touch you - need to touch someone. Anyone. Feels so good. Need it so bad - I can't stand being alone. I c-can't stop - don't want to stop. This is what I am. This is all I am. I don't have any dope. I can't get high. I hurt so much - please - Logan - please." Paul went on and everything seemed to make sense.

Logan dragged that face down, Paul's mouth was greedy on his. He nipped that tongue, knowing he had to stop that voice. Kissing, open mouthed and hungry, and his hands down Paul's pants, feeling that smooth skin. Slipping fingertips down the his crack, Paul's good hand at the nape of his neck, stroking him. Logan was so hot for him - but without Paul's voice knocking is good sense out of his head he could dig up some self control.

"Shit - shit -" Logan growled. "Y'fucking using yer power on me. Dammit, kid!"

"I ain't a kid, asshole!" Paul hissed and ground his cock against Logan. "Feel that? Feel that? Am I a kid?"

"No - ah - shit!" Logan grabbed his wrist, pushed Paul roughly off and struggled to his feet.

"Logan!" Paul's face twisted with surprising desperation. "Damn you, you want me to beg?"

"Quit it, Paul. Quit jerking me around!" Logan let go and wiped his face. He stomped out the cigar that was burning a hole in the carpet. "I ain't gonna do ya."

"Jesus - please!" Paul was shaking and Logan had to let him go, had to push him away because he didn't dare touch him. Paul smelled right and felt right and the only thing between Logan and his instincts was a thin, unspoken promise to a friend.

"No!" Logan shouted, hurting because he wanted Paul so bad. He had to get him to stop screwing around with his head. His training didn't do shit against Paul's whispered promises. "Dammit, Paul it ain't all about fucking! If y'hurtin' we'll help ya but I ain't gonna fuck ya! An quit with the damn mind games. Ya think that's okay? Y'think that ain't coercion? Just cause you ain't holding a fucking gun to my head don't make it right. Ya think it ain't rape cause the force you use ain't physical?"

"No!" Paul yelled, his face bleached white with shock and horror. "Logan - it isn't the same thing. You want me! I know you do! I just - want to feel good! I can make you feel good too!"

"I don't want t'fuck ya, dammit!" Logan shouted and what had been lust was bleeding into red fury. "Y'got a fucking gift, Paul and it makes y'stronger than other people and yer abusing it - what the hell you think yer gonna be like it ten years? The guy who knifed you? Telling people what t'do, making them do things they don't want?"

"It's not rape! It's not rape!" Paul was screaming and tears of fury were streaming down his face. "It's not the same. I'm not - not hurting anyone! I never hurt *anyone*! People hurt me - hurt me all the time and I never hurt anyone! I'm not - not - hurting anyone!"

"No?" Logan snarled, fists clenching. The ache in his cock and the aching need to hit something felt like the same ache. So angry, he hadn't known he was so angry, sick of Scott's cold shoulder, sick of feeling everyone's eyes on his back. "My fucking best friend can't stand the sight of me because of what I did w'you. All the people that trusted me -"

Logan broke off, jerking away from Paul because he was going to hit him if he didn't.

And, he realized looking at Paul's frightened, desperate face that the kid didn't care. Didn't care of Logan hurt him or not. So long as Logan touched him. "No -!"

"Logan?" Paul was desperate and it hurt him to hear it but he didn't turn back. He stalked out of the room, slamming the door. He had to get away. Had to get away, from Paul, from his tears - tears he'd caused. From the kid's wicked voice and sweet mouth. He wanted Paul and was scared by how easy it would be to give the kid what he wanted, fists or fucking and how little it mattered to him which it was.

"Logan - please, I'm sorry. I swear it. I - I didn't mean to! Please - Logan!"


He couldn't stop crying. Paul rolled onto his side and clutched his pillow, sobbing so hard he was beginning to feel sick. He hated this, he knew he'd feel so much better if he could have a hit - knew all the aches and pains would go away and he'd stop crying. Everything would be farther away, couldn't hurt him. If he could have something. Something real, not the methadone that was all they were giving him. It wasn't fair.

John had gone home for Christmas and Paul was all alone. All he'd wanted was to feel good. To be with someone else, to feel them and make them feel good.

Then he could feel good too. All he wanted was a little distraction. He'd been a distraction for other people often enough. That was all he wanted. He didn't want to hurt anyone. He didn't want anyone to hate him. He didn't want Logan to hate him.

"Go away!" Paul yelled to the quiet knock on the door. But they ignored him, of course, and came in anyway. It was Remy, the feel of the other mutant just made Paul more aware of how much he hurt, how much he needed to feel someone else against him. He curled up tighter.

"Paul, cher." Remy said, standing at the foot of his bed in an old maroon sweater and a pair of flannel lined blue jeans. A cigarette dangled from the corner of his mouth, the smoke - spangled with luminous specks - blurring the Cajun's long face. "Crying a lot lately, cher. W'at wrong?"

Paul sniveled and closed his eyes. "What the hell you care? Why are you here, gonna tell me I raped you too?"

There was a long pause. "Who tol you dat?"

Remy's voice was low and dangerous and Paul eyed the other man. He thought about Logan and Remy and the two of them being together and him out in the cold. He could make Remy hate Logan. Could make them fight each other. He could make them miserable - as miserable as he was. But he didn't want to feel bad anymore. He wanted to feel good. Telling Remy what Logan had said wouldn't make anyone feel good. Paul started to cry again, not wanting too, flushing with anger and shame.

"Eh, cher." Remy put out his cigarette and sat down next to him. Paul felt long fingers lightly stroke his hair; the touch carried the complicated sense of the other man, his worry, fascination, tentative affection, abrupt anger and beneath it all - the subtle note of desire. Like Logan, Remy still wanted him.

Paul threw himself at the other man, wrapping his hands around Remy' waist and pressing his tear streaked face to his thigh. "Don't make me say! Don't wanna say!"

"Paul -"

"No!"

"D'accord - Remy not gon force you, cher. You can tell him w'at you want." Remy said, somewhat bewildered. He tugged on Paul's shoulders and Paul unwillingly let go of him - he wasn't going to try to force Remy like he had tried to do with Logan. There were enough people angry at him. He could feel it when he walked down the halls like a pressure, all the people watching him and angry. Only Remy was different.

Remy reached for him, cupped his face in his long fingered hands, gently wiping the tears away. "Dis face to fine to be crying all de time, Paul."

Paul pressed his palm to Remy's hand, turning into the touch. It felt so good. Just the touch of his hand felt so good. Remy blinked and his face shifted, softening with pleasure and wonder as he shared Paul's feelings.

"Uh - don't be mad at me. Could we - just be close. No sex. Really! Just that. Remy - please?" Paul flushed again, he felt so stupid. Junkie talk, stupid words, stupid behavior. He never let himself get like this. He'd always kept the monkey fed and happy and didn't do stupid stuff like begging someone for a hug.

"Remy not mad." The other man closed his red and black eyes and Paul was swept with a strange sense of sorrow and - recognition. "Notin' for you to be mad about, cher. Remy - understand w'at you feeling. He - understand."

Paul tugged on Remy's sweater and the Cajun lay down next to him, stretching with a long sigh. Paul closed his eyes, sharing in the physical sensation then snuggled shyly against the other man. Remy stroked his hair and the touch - and the sense of welcome made Paul bury his face against the bony shoulder, throat tightening again.

"I hate this!" Paul groaned, rubbing fiercely at his running nose. "I hate this - stupid crying shit all the time. And everything *h- hurts* and - and - I hate being a junkie! I didn't wanna come off it! Everything's to loud, to *bright*, can't get away from it and everyone hates me. Everyone knows - knows - I'm a whore -"

Paul knew he was running at the mouth but he couldn't stop. Couldn't hold still either as the aches in his muscles made him jerk and shift restlessly. He itched for a hit and methadone didn't feed that itch. Remy sighed and stroked his back patiently, letting him babble until the words and the tears ran down.

"No one hates you, cher." He said gently. "Dat's de junk talking. It's coming out of you dis way - all tears and yelling. It gets better cher. You gonna get better from dis and it won't hurt and de world won't be so mean."

"Just tired of feeling bad all the time." Paul whined. "Why'd you have to take me off it? I wasn't huring anyone."

"You hurting yourself and you can if you want but not 'ere." Remy said firmly. "De smack ain't legal and de Professor not wanting to get in trouble wid de law. You want de cops here - scaring everyone?"

Paul thought of Frank and Winnie the albino girl and Marie with her white hair and creepy power and then he thought of the police and what they'd do to a school full of mutants.

"No." He muttered sullenly. "But I didn't wanna come here."

"You called us, cher." Remy said. "You needed us and we asking you to pay us back by being a little patient eh? Not bringing more trouble on us all."

"Scott said he got custody of me - and I gotta stay." Paul muttered. Remy shifted to look down at him.

"Non." He said and Paul could feel his determination. "If you wan leave, Remy not let dem hold you. Dis ain't a jail. Dis ain't JD. We - want you here but not if you wan leave."

"I -" Paul broke off. He could tell Remy he wanted to leave and the man would help him. He knew it. He could feel it like he could feel the soothing rhythm of the man's breathing. He had a choice - which meant he had to choose. Paul didn't like choices, he hadn't gotten many before and he didn't like this one now. He closed his eyes and pressed his face to Remy's fuzzy sweater. It was winter. He had free food and housing here. He didn't have to chose until spring. "I dunno."

Remy sighed, running a hand down Paul's back. "Fine, cher. You don have to chose nothing right now. Wait and get off de junk and see how you feel."

"The smack don't do anything I don't want." Paul said sullenly.

"You like dis twitching and aching?" Remy snorted. "Don think so. Undignified, eh?"

Paul snorted and turned onto his other side, pulling at the taller man until Remy spooned around him, muttering something under his breath in Cajun. Maybe he could hold still if he was warm enough. "If I was still on it, I wouldn't be acting this way. I'm much nicer stoned that straight."

"Dat's alright." Remy muttered into Paul's hair, shifting uncomfortably. Paul could sense his rising desire and smirked to himself. He wasn't even doing anything - anything that anyone else couldn't anyway. Remy really did want him, it wasn't some power. "We used to obnoxious people here - Logan, Scott, Roberto. Me, eh?"

"Logan won't even - touch me." Paul said, struggling to sound casual. Stupid because he knew Remy could feel how much it hurt. Maybe if he pretended hard enough, it wouldn't hurt so much. "Said his best friend was mad at him because you guys fucked me."

Remy sighed, breath heavy with cigarettes and spices. "Oui. Scott and Logan been friends for a long time, cher. De - teacher - ain't taking it to well. Never much liked me in de first place, I guess, or don expect any better from me or something. Not bothering me 'bout it anyway."

The bitterness was sharp enough to make Paul restless again. And loneliness - like his own. Like Remy didn't feel like he belonged here either. Paul twisted around until they were face to face. This close, his vision was fine. He stared into Remy's red and black eyes and realized just how disconcerting they were. How weird. No wonder people were freaked by him all the time.

"But - it didn't mean anything! I'm almost seventeen - most kids are having sex by the time their thirteen - they say it in the news all the time! And I wanted

to. And - Jesus - its not like you guys were the first, or the first threesome even. Hell - I did a party where -"

Remy cut him off, touching Paul's lips with his fingers, his touch slid along Paul's cheek stroking

him. Felt real good. Made him want more. Made Remy want more too - he could feel it. "Remy not need to know dat. De years you got don bother me. You old enough, Remy t'ink. Not dat - "

The other man closed his eyes as if he couldn't look at Paul. Pain swept through him, awful guilt, shame, self- disgust. Paul blinked at the strength of it. He couldn't figure why it was such a big deal. "Remy - hey, it's not important. C'mon. Really. Remy -"

His confusion only seemed to make the older man feel worse. The man's face twisted with misery. "Remy swore never do dat! Promised - never use someone dat way. Never leave someone wid no choices. Never -"

"I knew what I was doing!" Paul flared angrily.

Remy shook his head. "You know, oui. You know you gotta eat. Gotta find a place to sleep. Gotta have some dope to make you're life bearable. Dat's not choices. Dat's doing w'at you got to so you live. You a survivor, Paul but dat don make it right - what we did."

Paul breathed hard, angry. He wasn't some kid. Not now. Not then. Not for a long time.

"I got choices now." He said, moving closer. Moving deliberately against Remy, just so - just right. There were ways to make the man feel better and Paul knew just what they were. The other man's excitement sharpened abruptly and he would have pulled away but Paul held on.

"You said." He whispered to Remy's closed face. "Look at me. You said I got choices now."

Those eyes flicked open, searching his face. The man's face was drawn with hunger, need, his feelings ringing through Paul's, making his own need almost unbearable.

"Din come here to have sex wid you, Paul."

Paul licked his lips, getting desperate and watched Remy's eyes follow his movements then darken as he felt Paul's need. "You know I want it. For real. Not so I can eat. Got all the damn food I want here. We - "

Paul flushed, god he was desperate. "- we don't have to fuck. We can just - do stuff. If I'm such a kid, we can do kid stuff right? I mean, if Scott caught me and Marie necking in the hallway would he get pissed?"

Remy snorted. "Dat man get pissed when de wind don blow the way he want."

"Don't give a shit about Scott." Paul touched Remy's face, stroking his lips, his cheek. Watched those familiar eyes in a strange face darken, the red iris disappearing as Remy's breathing quickened. He pushed his hand into the long reddish hair and pulled the other man close. Remy didn't resist, remaining passive as Paul kissed him. Paul nipped at his lower lip, guessing that if Remy liked Logan, he'd liked biting. He wasn't wrong. Remy moaned and Paul tongued him. Hands tightened on his hips. Remy began to answer his kisses with hungry ones of his own.

Paul moaned low in his throat, pressing closer, kissing deeper. Breathless, panting against Remy's mouth and loving the skilled response. The man knew how to kiss. And he was finally warm. Hot. Remy's warmth, the press and tease and stroke of his lips burning Paul up. He kissed his way along Remy's jaw, tasting stubble. Bit his ear and sucked hard at the soft place just below it. Remy groaned and writhed and stroked Paul, pushing his hand under his shirt and stroking his back.

Paul grinned and nipped lightly. Now that he knew he had Remy, he was willing to tease. And he knew he had him. "Ah-uh. Kid stuff, remember? No under the clothes."

Remy groaned and cursed him and pulled his hand out. He rocked forward, made more exited by the frustration. Nuzzled at Paul's ear, tonguing him, teasing him as he was trying to make Paul come just by kissing him. Pulse pounding, Paul was willing to try. The kissed back and forth, deep and open and hungry.

Remy groaned harshly and rolled on top of Paul, pining him under his weight. His hips thrust, grinding his hard cock against Paul's as they kissed desperately. The rhythm got urgent, pleasure feeding back and forth like the taste of each other's mouths. Paul had his good hand on Remy's ass, feeling the flex and surge of hard muscles, pulling Remy tight to him so he could thrust his cock against the other man.

"So good. Deiu, so good." Remy gasped. Paul could only moan in response.

The press of Remy, his weight, was just what Paul needed, every inch of him craving the touch. It was squeezing the itch out, the restlessness. Filling him with heat and good feelings and pleasure and lust - everything Remy was feeling and more. Paul hooked a shin against the back of Remy's thigh, shifting so the man could thrust between his legs. The two of them

dry humping like kids too stupid to take their clothes off. It felt to great to care.

Remy wasn't a kid and he was loving it too. So much that Paul knew they were gonna come soon, he could feel it building like static at the base of his spine, blurring his already crappy vision. Remy was so hard - aching to come. Paul wanted him to come, it would feel so great.

The other man stiffened suddenly, jerking and his lust shattered into abrupt worry. Paul gasped, looking at the door. That was the only thing he could think of that would stop Remy. But it was closed and Remy was pulling hurriedly away anyway.

"W-what?" Paul sat up, Remy was struggling to catch his breath and staggering to his feet. His attention was already elsewhere, shutting down the desire like he was flicking a switch. Paul couldn't figure out what he was doing. It hurt just to watch. The Cajun yanked a pager out of his pocket with a curse.

"Merde!" He gave Paul a wild glance. "Oh, cher, s'v plait. Remy got to go."

"But - Jesus, is the world ending or something? Do you gotta go now?"

"Dieu - !" Remy bent and kissed Paul swiftly, pulling back before he could get a hold of him and keep him here. "Got to, cher. 'de sole."

And he did. Paul stared at the closing door then flopped back onto the bed. He reached down and touched his aching cock. He'd never been able to jerk off when he was alone - he could do it if someone was watching him but not if he was by himself. He didn't bother trying now.

"Damn, you better be saving the world or something."


Almond milk. Remy curled his lip at the cardboard box but poured a glass. Hank had asked him to give it a try - for Paul's sake. He tossed it down, realizing only as he'd finished the glass that it didn't taste too bad. Sweet, a little cloying, but not bad. Now he only had to wait and see if it gave him the trotts like real milk did.

Logan came into the kitchen and Remy felt the roil of his emotions - Logan was usually in turmoil, but this was sharper, angrier than usual - before he came in the door. Remy watched the heavy expression lighten a bit then Logan came up and sniffed the back of his neck.

"Wat're ya doin?"

"Playing de guine pig for Henri." Remy tipped his head with a small smile as he felt Logan step closer and those big, warm hands slipped around his waist. He leaned back to rub against Logan's flannel and cotton, hearing that little grumble that always got him hard. Logan bucked, nipping the nape of his neck and pressing his cock against Remy. The anger was melting into lust, more or less, though the anger was still there, simmering below the surface. It was always there and nothing Remy could do made much difference.

"So hurry up, Gumbo." Logan muttered, rubbing his fingers along the hollow of Remy's hip and making him squirm towards the caress. "'Cause I got some playing of my own t'do."

"D'accord." Remy mumbled, lacing his fingers in Logan's and trying to get that hand to move just a few inches to the right. Logan only snickered softly and ignored his attempts. "Be der in a few, cher. Gotta talk to de boy, me."

Remy arched violently away from Logan even as the man snarled in his ear and stepped back. The shock of rage made Remy's vision go red and his teeth clench. Logan was glaring at him, fists clenching and teeth bared in a snarl.

"You're fucking with the boy." He growled, so deep and rough that Remy could barely understand him. "Ain't ya?"

This was the rage - following Logan around, shadowing him, watching him. Paul.

"Remy ain't fucking him." He said warily. Not quite a lie, not really the truth. His eyes darted to the doorway, hoping for once that the damn X-men luck wouldn't kick and they'd have some privacy.

"I smell him on ya!" Logan barked, jerking into movement, padding back and forth across the floor like a caged animal. Remy watched, seeing what he always saw - eight paces then turn and eight back. Always eight paces, no matter the size of the room Logan was really in - the cage in his mind was eight steps wide. "Fuck! I smell him fuckin' everywhere."

"Cher -" Remy murmured, sidling up, needing to settle Logan before he drove him crazy. Logan swung on him, fists lashing out to snag the collar of Remy's sweater and haul him close, snarling in his face. Remy went limp, no challenge, though his reflexes screamed at him to fight.

"On my fucking clothes, in my fucking room." Logan hissed, face flushed and the heat of lust was the same heat as rage, scorching - painful - and Remy winced away. "On you. Always fucking there, dammit!"

"Cher - get it together, cher." Remy panted, wrapping his hands around those deadly wrists. If Logan sprang his claws, he'd take Remy's head clean off.

Logan shook him like a rag doll and slammed Remy against the counter, the glass crashed to the floor. Logan pressed him hard, forcing Remy to strain and arch against him. He jerked his hips, grinding his hard-on into Remy. "Don't you fuck that boy, Gumbo. I don't wanna smell him on ya no more!"

Remy kissed that savage mouth, feeding the lust over the anger, winding his legs around Logan's thighs. He was hard, wanting the heat in the man, wanting to burn. Logan groaned, pushing him against the counter, hands moving to cup his ass, squeezing roughly. Remy groaned, he was going to get pounded into the mattress tonight.

"Remy not gonna fuck wid de boy, cher." He breathed. Glass crunched under Logan's boots and if anyone came in - Remy didn't care as long as they left again.

Pacing along the hallway, mouth quirked, Remy followed the drifts of irritation the way that Logan followed scent in the air. He figured if he trailed the annoyance in the air, he'd find Paul at the heart of it. He had a new glass of almond milk in his hand and the print of Logan's hands on his ass to remind him to behave.

Paul was fidgeting restlessly, bundled up in spare coats and sweaters, and watching Bobby play basketball on the slick frozen court. Remy shivered in the winter air, his own steaming breath reminding him of his cigarettes and crunched through the snow to lean on the table next to him.

"'Ere, Paul."

Paul glanced up at him, eyes hidden behind an old pair sunglasses. "Don't drink milk. Makes me puke."

"Ouai." Remy urged the glass on him. "Dis ain't milk eh? Made from nuts. Henri wants you to try it."

Paul made a face, drank it then made another face but Remy could sense the reality behind the dissembling. It wasn't too bad. Not for him, not for Paul either. He fished out a cigarette and lit up, sighing at the warmth of the smoke and feeling Paul watch him. Remy could feel the edgy tension in Paul - restless discomfort that made him hostile. More hostile. And fear, and loneliness and a whole mix of things that made Remy want to put his arms on the boy and do something to make it better. He took a deep drag, watching Bobby in shorts and a T-shirt in mid-winter, playing ball.

"So - eh, not liking de classes here?" He asked.

"I don't need no classes." Paul said sullenly, hunching up and glaring at the snow. "What fucking good is it gonna do me? What'cha think? I'm gonna be a desk jockey when I grow up."

Remy sighed smoke out of his nose. "Remy don' know what y'gonna be, cher. You get to chose - and you can chose t'live like a rat if dat's what you want."

Paul only scowled and rocked back and forth.

"You tell Henri dat the methadone ain't doin right for you?"

"I ain't told Simba shit!"

There was real dislike there. Henry had been right, Paul didn't like him. Remy wondered if it was because he was blue, or a doctor or simply big and frightening when you were used to a world of force. There was fear to - and desperation. Remy reached out and rubbed tentatively along Paul's shoulders. He'd wash his hands before going upstairs and Logan would just have to deal with the rest.

"Y'don't tell him nothing an' nothing is w'ats gonna happen, cher." Remy said coaxingly. "Already got a lot of nothing going on eh?"

Paul shuddered under his hands and leaned into him. Remy could see the edge of a familiar flannel peeking out from under his jacket. Logan's clothes - no wonder Logan was going berserk. Paul had to be leaving his scent all over everything.

"I just wanna get high." Paul whined.

"Ouai, Remy know dat." He sighed. He knew that. "But you go tell Henri dat, Ouai? He help you find something that works. Dat's his job, cher."

Paul finally nodded, head drooping tiredly. Remy offered him a cigarette and a light. Paul shot him a hard glance, then shrugged and took it. Remy didn't have any problem with a little bribery if it got Paul where he needed to be. Paul didn't have any problem if it got him something he wanted. So, Remy shrugged and Paul smiled briefly, they were both just fine. Cigarettes were a hell of a lot less trouble than smack.

"What'cha gon do if you don' do classes?" Remy asked after Paul caged another cigarette from him. Paul shrugged.

"Gets boring 'ere." Remy said idly.

"That's for fucking sure." Paul muttered, then glanced over at him and reached to rub a hand along Remy's thigh. "I can think of something."

Remy snorted and shifted away. "Remy ain't here for you to play with, cher."

Beside him, Paul stiffened and turned to glare from behind his glasses. Remy could feel his frustration, desire, anger - and guilt. "I ain't playing dammit!"

"You and Logan are fucking playing with me!" Paul hissed. "I know you want me. I know you don't think I'm a kid. Why the fuck do we have to play their game!"

Remy closed his eyes and held on through the storm of Paul's feelings as they battered at him. Raw need, fear, insecurity, desire, longing and loneliness. It was so hard to refuse him, so hard to think past them. So easy to just do what Paul wanted, believe what he said. Remy shivered wondering if this was what people felt about him.

"Not a game, cher." He finally managed, dragging hard at his smoke for calm. His fingers were shaking. "W'at the body say and w'at goin' on in here -" Remy tapped his fingers over his heart. "- not de same. And you gotta follow your heart, cher. Not your balls."

"Oh, bullshit." Paul snapped. "Love ain't got nothing to do with shit."

Remy rubbed his face and sighed tiredly, thinking of Logan upstairs waiting on him, wanting a fuck and not much else. "Ouai. It don' - but it can, cher, it can."

Paul leaned away from him, scowling. "He -"

"I know, cher." He said sharply. "Don' need to hear it from you, eh?"

"Whatever." Paul muttered.

"'Ere." Remy pulled out his wallet and handed over a five.

"What for?" He asked warily.

"Don' be bored." Remy said, pushing himself off the table. "Go to those classes, eh?"

He stubbed out his smoke and turned to frown at Paul. "And don't piss the teachers off too much."

"For this?" Paul scoffed, holding up the five.

You see any better offers, cher?"

"Ah - fuck you." But Paul tucked the five away and Remy felt the odd mix of disdain and comfortable satisfaction. Paul knew what to do with a bribe. Remy headed back inside, shaking his head. Someone needed to pay attention to that boy.

TBC