Lair of the Stealth Bunnies
History Chapter Four
His inner clock told him it was somewhere around seven when he woke up. Eve was sitting up next to him, yawning. “You don’t have to get up yet, darlin’,” he murmured. “Sleep y’rself out.”
“Not unless you want a mess,” she said. “Dog has to go out.”
“S’why I don’t have pets.”
“That dog was the only reason I felt safe enough to get any sleep on the road at all,” she said. “But you can stay put and rest your old bones if you want.”
“That’s kind of a wise-ass remark for someone who can’t run real fast right now.”
She surprised him by dropping a kiss on his forehead, tangling her fingers in his hair for a brief moment. He reached for her, but she was already gone. He waited for a while, rather hoping she would come back after letting the dog out. When the smell of coffee wafted in, he decided she wasn’t coming back.
She wasn’t in the kitchen/living area of the small cabin either. The coffee maker gurgled with its “I’m finished” sigh, and he filled two over-sized mug and stepped outdoors. He sniffed and caught her scent heading towards the stables, which was more or less what he had expected. If Eve had had an ounce more energy last night, she’d have been there then.
He smelled the thief before Gambit fell in step with him. “Coffee, mon ami? You shouldn’t have.”
“Ain’t for you, Cajun,” he growled.
Remy sighed tragically. “You would deny poor Remy one little bit o’ solace, after he been out all night --”
“--Drinking. ‘S y’r own fault.”
“Oui, but you aren’t de one to scold for a fine night out, are you?”
“Was she worth it?”
“Remy don’t kiss ‘n tell, mon ami.”
Remy laughed good naturedly, lighting a cigarette. “Heard about the chere comin’ home.”
“Now, if you be needin’ any one to he’p kick some ass, you jus’ let ol’ Remy know.” He grinned. “Remy always lookin’ for ways to impress de ladies.”
“Like you need an excuse.”
“Well, dis is true.” He took a long, satisfied drag on his cigarette. “well, I go be lookin’ for some sleep. You tell de chere hello for me, and I’ll see her when I’m more presentable.”
“I’ll tell her, but you can keep your charms and your hands to yourself, Gumbo.”
“Is dat a challenge?” Remy laughed and swerved off towards the mansion. Logan shook his head in amusement at the thief’s audacity.
The stables were quieter than they had been in previously years. Emptier. Most of the horses had been transported to Massachusetts when the school had shifted locations. A few were kept, because some of the X-men did like to ride, but where the stabled used to ring with the sounds of horses and voices of students, they now had a muffled, muted sound to them. Logan almost never came down here on his own, and the differences in the sound and feel of the place made a surprisingly heavy weight.
Usually he was too busy to notice the absence of students, other than a more-than-occasional pang for Jubilee’s presence and her steady stream of chatter. But in moments like these, the mansion suddenly seemed to echo with emptiness.
Then there would be another crisis, or a mission, or his wanderlust would take over, and he would be too busy to notice again.
“Back here,” Eve said.
He had already scented her, but she was around behind a row of stalls. She couldn’t possibly have seen him, and he knew he had been walking with his habitual stealth. “You got super senses you never told me about, kid?”
“Hardly,” she snorted. “The horses heard you.”
_Nothing better at sensing an animal than another animal._ “That’s prob’bly cheatin’.”
“Hey, whatever works.” she was sitting on a bench with one of the school’s rabbits in her lap. They had kept a few of the school pets, since they still had an occasional kid come through, and nothing seemed to open a traumatized child faster than a pet to take care of. Eve had the rabbit upside-down in her lap, gently pinning its head under her elbow as she examined one of its hind feet. “Who’s been taking care of these?”
“Don’t know. ‘S’not something I really pay attention to.”
“Well, apparently no one else has, either.” she glanced at his surprised expression and shook her head. “Oh, he’s fed well enough, but he’s got hock sores.” She showed him the bald and raw patches on the rabbit’s hind feet. “From the wire cage floor. He needs something to lay on. Could you check in the medicine cabinet in the tack room and see if there’s a square green tin of Bag Balm in there?”
He set the cups on the bench and found the tin for her. “Says it’s for cows.”
She grinned. “It’s for everything. It’s even been used as a lubricant for military equipment. She smeared a gob of the ointment on the rabbit’s root. It kicked out sharply. “I know. That hurts, doesn’t it?” she soothed. “And this is terribly undignified, isn’t it?” She held her hand over the rabbit’s eyes, her own eyes closed, and sat still for a moment. The animal quieted, and she medicated the other foot without any further struggles. She kissed the rabbit’s forehead, and touched her nose to its, then p ut it back in the cage.
It always fascinated Logan, the way animals reacted to her.
“I’ll have to talk to Charles,” she said, picking up one of the mugs. He grinned and brushed rabbit fur from her face. She shrugged sheepishly. “Figured you’d know where to find me.”
“Took a wild guess.”
She waved at the empty stalls. “What happened?”
“They went with the students.” HE explained about the school being relocated to Massachusetts. “I guess what we need is someone to take care of the animals that are still here,” he said casually, “since we don’t seem to have as much time.”
Eve shot him a sharp look. “Either that or send these to the school, too,” she said in a voice that said she had heard the hint.
“I smelled breakfast as I went by the mansion,” he said, changing the subject. “And I promised Jeannie you’d see Hank this morning.”
Eve made a face into her coffee mug.
“Ya promised me, too.”
She sighed. “Yeah, I know. He’s just always after me to do a genetics test. Lookin’ for that X-gene.”
It was a sore subject with her. Always had been, and Logan could never quite figure out why. She obviously didn’t have a mutant prejudice or fear, but she had never let Hank near her if he so much as hinted at tests. In fact, one time, she had gone into almost shrieking at him. Hank had felt tremendously guilty, and so had Eve, but the tests had gone undone. “Would it really hurt, knowin’?” he asked, wondering if time had eased whatever it was that upset her so badly.
Eve shrugged. “I know what I am, Logan. And I also know what I’m not.” She limped away from him, whistling for Terr, and efficiently ending the conversation.
The dining area was fairly empty, caught somewhere between the early risers and those who clung with desperation to their blankets and pillows until the last possible moment. Jubilee was normally one of the clingers, so Logan was surprised to see her sitting at one of the tables. She was scowling at her pancakes, but her face lit up when he tousled her hair. “Whatcha doin’ up this early, kiddo?”
“We have a date with the Danger Room, don’t we?” Her eyes went wide with the trepidation that he had forgotten.
“That’s not for a coupla hours yet.”
She shrugged. “Yeah, well...”
Eve had passed by, making a bee-line for food. Logan pulled a chair around and sat in it backwards, crossing his arms along the back and resting his chin on them. “Spit it out, darlin’. What’s botherin’ ya?”
Jubilee shrugged, torturing her pancakes with her fork. “Nuttin’, Wolvie.”
“Why don’t I believe that?”
She wrinkled her nose. “That’s not fair, y’know. I don’t have a chance against that nose of yours.”
“Hey, whatever works,” he said, deciding that Eve’s phrase was a good one. “And why would you suddenly want to lie to me?”
“I was afraid you’d forget. About the Danger Room.”
“Why would I do that, darlin’?”
She shrugged again. “’Cause something else more important mighta come up.”
“More important, huh?” He watched her continue to push her food around. “Would have to be something just short of the world comin’ to an end to make me forget something as important as you, Jubes.”
She shot a glance at him, the first time she had looked at him since he had sat down. She searched his eyes for a moment, then looked away again, this time to spear a forkful and eat it. “Well, the world endin’ ain’t all that unusual around us.”
“but me forgettin’ you would be. Just ain’t gonna happen, darlin’.”
“It better not,” she threatened with her normal playful attitude, waving her fork at him.
“Put that to better use, kid.” He grinned at her. “You’ll need the energy if you’re gonna keep up with me later.”
“Hey,” Jubilee called. “Eve, the Professor’s gonna wig out, if he sees your dog eatin’ from our dishes.”
Eve didn’t pause in putting a plate of food in front of the dog, who was dancing and chortling in delight. “He’s psychic, Jubilee. He probably already knows.”
“He does,” Jean said as she walked in. She handed two plastic bowls to Eve, who promptly whisked the plate out from under the dog’s intensely frantic nose, plopped the contents into one of the bowls and put it down again, all without breaking stride in mixing cream in yet another cup of coffee.
*Ya listenin’, Red?*
*I am.* Jean didn’t look in Logan’s direction or make any other indication, but he felt her mentally turning her full attention to him.
*Eve didn’t bring much with her. She’s gonna need some clothes ‘n stuff, and I’m not exactly the right person...*
*I’ll take care of it, Logan.* Her words were tinged with a warm smile, not of amusement, but affection. *It was sweet of you to think of it.*
*Sweet, nuthin’, darlin’. She’s already raidin’ my clothes, and I ain’t got much that’ll fit her.*
Jean choked off a laugh, then looked around a little self-consciously. No one had even glanced at her -- they were used to telepaths and their silent conversations. She glanced at Logan, her eyes dancing. Sunlight glinted off the emerald pendant nestled at her throat. He had found it on one of his travels. His bike had broken down, and while it was being repaired, he had wandered through a nearby craft fair. The sun had blazed off the emerald then, too, spitting green fire and blazing like Jean’s eyes when she was furious. He gave it to her on her next birthday, and she wore it so often, that had obviously been a worthwhile impulse.
They both knew the diamond on her finger was by far the more treasured of the two.
Eve sat across from them with two plates of food, and Jubilee’s eyes went wide. _She can’t still be that hungry, can she?_ Then Eve slid one of the plates over to Logan. Jubilee had a sudden relapse into jealousy again. _She even knows what he likes to eat,_ she thought miserably. But then Wolvie caught her eye and winked at her, and that helped ease her tight-throat feeling again. “So, Evie,” she chirped, deliberately using the woman’s nickname. “Whatcha do?”
Eve passed the test of letting her use the nickname, but cocked her head. “Do...?”
“Yeah.” Jubilee let sparks fly from one hand to the other. “See, I do these paffs. Wolvie has the claw things goin’. Aw, you know what I mean. You lived here, ‘n all.”
“Oh. That.” Eve took a bite of her scrambled eggs and chewed thoughtfully. She swallowed and took a drink of her coffee before answering, “I’m not a mutant.”
“Oh.” Jubilee sat back in surprise. “You’re not?”
Eve gave another one of those tired smiles that didn’t reach her eyes. “Nope. I do nothing special.”
Logan raised an eyebrow at her, and she stabbed angrily at her eggs, unconsciously echoing Jubilee’s mope earlier. “I have an knack with working with animals. It’s just a knack, nothing genetic.” She pushed away her full plate. “I’ll go see Hank about my ankle now.”
“You need to eat, too,” Logan said, but she walked away as if she didn’t hear him. Terr trotted happily at her heels.
“What was _that_ about?” Jubilee asked.
Logan shook his head. “I’ve never gotten an answer from her, Jubes. Something has her real touchy on the subject. Nearest I can figure is that after all these years of hidin’, she’s terrified of anything that will make her stand out.”
“But she’s safe here.”
He shrugged. “Safer than any place else, but this place does attract attention.”
“_Is_ she a mutant?”
“Dunno, kid. She won’t even let Hank near her with a needle. But I’ll tell you, I ain’t never seen anyone charm animals like she does.”
“Huh.” She drummed her nails on the table surface. “Musta been hard. I never had to really hide it, y’know. In SoCal, no one really even looked twice, much. Sure, there were some, but... I don’t know what it must have been like, if I was in love with someone who hated mutants, and scared to death that maybe I was a mutant too.”
Logan smiled a little. “Kid, sometimes, when you talk like that, you scare me a bit.”
“’Cause you have an awful lot of insight, for someone so young.”
Jubilee studied her empty plate, drawing designs in the puddles of syrup with the tines of her fork. “I don’t think I was ever young, Wolvie,” she said, almost in a whisper.
She wouldn’t have been surprised if he had laughed. Hurt, but not surprised. But instead, he rested an arm around her shoulders. “Sometimes, darlin’, I don’t think you were either.”