no such thing as down time
Whatever Scott expected on this mission, it wasn't Gambit giving him a lap dance. Granted, the man had some moves. The mesh was a bit over the top though. He'd have to tell Gambit that if they survived the night. Considering all the exits were blocked by granite boulders thinly disguised as humans and that the person they least wanted attention from was snarling at them from over her martini, Scott bet the chances of that were slim. He'd better tell Gambit about the mesh right now.
"'Hide in plain sight," he says," Scott muttered as Amber Jones' lackeys came lurching over. "'She’ll never see us if we’re right in front of her powdered nose,' he says. Remind me to schedule you for a four a.m. practice session."
"Hey, we got in as far as the VIP section, didn't we?" Remy gyrated sideways to catch the reflection of the bodyguards from Scott's beer mug. "No chance of this if we came in our blues."
Scott just took another gulp of his beer. "I'm frying every security tape in this building."
"Ah, Scotty, is that your way of tellin' me you won't respect me in the mornin'?"
"Therapy," said Scott. "Five years with Doc Sampson ought to do it. Or maybe I should just pour bleach into my brain."
"You ain't even seen what I got under this costume. It's got sequins all over my--"
"Oh, God, someone attack us already!"
"Excuse me, sir."
Masking his relief, Scott looked up. And up. And up some more. The bodyguard hadn't seen six feet since he was ten. He looked like he could bench-press Colossus when he felt like breaking into a slight sweat. His partner was a little shorter but even so, he topped Scott by a foot at least. He could probably only lift Colossus once before asking to be spotted.
"Is something the matter?" asked Scott. "I paid for the whole night." He reached out to grab Remy's thigh. Remy, the bastard, shimmied his butt against Scott's leg and simpered.
"The proprietor would like to have a word with you concerning your purchase," said the gigantor. He spoke with excellent New England diction, like an Englishman doing a Virginia drawl.
"As long as he doesn't mean to take my purchase away for the night, I guess that's okay." Scott stood, collecting his coat and drink.
"Please, sir, our wait staff can take care of this for you." The gigantor's silent partner snapped his fingers. Two scantily clad boys-- they couldn’t have been older than some of the kids at the school!-- took Scott's things then fell in line behind the bodyguards. Scott shrugged and slung his arm around Remy's shoulders.
Remy pouted; he was wearing lip gloss. Scott felt a hand slip into the back pocket of his jeans. He told himself he didn't feel his butt get pinched. When they got home, he was going to rip the Cajun a new one, so help him God.
"Relax a bit, will you?" Remy whispered as he pretended to nibble at Scott's ear. "Stop acting like this is the first time you've picked up a male prostitute."
"This is the first time I've picked up any prostitute," Scott said through clenched teeth.
"That's right, Emma's a courtesan, not a prostitute."
"You lay off Emma and I'll lay off that VCD I got from New Orleans."
"You know what VCD. I'm sure that Rogue would just love to see what you're up to on your days off."
Remy twisted his glare into what he hoped was an infatuated expression. "Just for that, I really will show you what I got under this costume."
Amber Jones leaned back as they approached. Seven martini glasses sat upended before her; she was working on her eighth. She didn't take her eyes off them. Scott didn't really feel like she was mentally undressing him so much as mentally calculating his net worth. Brown hair, too common, $100. Above six foot in height, might appeal to one sector, $400. Lips, thin but on the reddish side, another $100. Heavily muscled body, $1200 to $1500 depending on the client. Scott didn't know if he was flattered or creeped out.
Casually sipping her drink, "I'm afraid you'll have to give up your purchase, Mr...?"
"Suarez." Scott flicked away a non-existent speck of lint from his sleeve. "Samuel Suarez. But you know that, Ms. Jones, because you know everyone who passes through your hallowed doors to do business, do you not?"
She smiled. Scott hoped she paid Mystique's copyright on the creepiness of that smile. It was just so... unreal. "I do indeed, Mr. Suarez. Since you know that I know, it begs the question: why?"
"Why?" Scott repeated, nonplussed.
Jones leaned forward. "Why would you come into my club under false pretences?"
Under stressful conditions, most people experienced an increased heart rate and mental stutters as the body reverted to the primitive flight or fight mode. In contrast, Scott's mind sharpened and his heart slowed to the point where Jean swore he should have been comatose. "Ms. Jones, I don't know what you're talking about."
Remy jostled his arm. The monoliths closed in, forcing Remy nearer.
"Oh, don't you?" Her eyes flicked up to Remy's bowed had. "Samuel Suarez isn't a very good pseudonym, Scott Summers."
When Scott was caught in a corner, his blood turned into slush. "I'm sorry, you must have me mistaken for someone else," he said, his voice absolutely dripping ice.
Jones held a hand out. One of the guards placed a manila folder in her hand which she promptly threw in front of Scott. Remy caught his teammate's beer glass as the package threatened to tip it over then curled inwardly when Jones irritably acknowledged his existence. He was staying in character; good for him.
Nonchalantly, Scott opened the envelope and shook out the contents. There was a thick, stapled stack of profile pages and photocopied newspaper clippings. Underneath were a dozen glossy pictures of him in uniform and civilian clothing.
Damn. There was no way to bluff out of this one. Scott tapped the papers, allowing a slight frown to slip into his expression. "What are you intending to do with this?"
"What any concerned citizen would do when given incriminating information about the headmaster at a very... shall we say, exclusive private school." She sipped her drink. "I wouldn't want America's future to be exposed to such immoral influences."
Scott's eyes flashed behind his glasses. "Ms. Jones, are you threatening me?"
"I'd rather call it negotiating a business deal." She shrugged nonchalantly, letting a satin ribbon of a sleeve slip down to her elbow. "Your people turn a blind eye to my business and I'll turn a blind eye to yours. Rather simple, really."
Rubbing his chin thoughtfully, Scott said, "Ms. Jones, you don't really know how we operate, do you?"
Seventeen minutes later, Scott walked out of the club with a thick accordion in one hand, whistling badly, a bottle of beer hanging loosely from his free arm. Remy held the rest of the twelve pack under his arm, pleased that Jones let them leave with imported microbrew this expensive.
On the other hand, after Scott's little show, it wasn't that big a surprise.
"I'm glad y'got that out of your system," Remy said slowly. "But don’t y'think the bit with the olive skewers, the underpants, and the stuffed chihuahua was a bit much. Points for creativity, o'course, but y'know, just... pointing it out."
"I prefer thinking of it as working outside of the box," said Scott.
"Not too hard considering the box was blown into itty-bitty pieces." Remy slipped a bottle out of the case and flicked off the cap by imbuing it with a minute charge. "See, that's the difference between you 'n' me, Scotty. You like the big effect, carvin' a big, blazin' X on the door like some warnin' sign. Like the Bat-signal."
"Give me some credit. I don't have latex nipples on my uniform."
"Me, I prefer to do things quiet like. Slip in, slip out, grab what I need, pocket what I want an' blame someone else. Finesse, Scotty, I got to teach you some finesse."
"Three words," said Scott. "Fuchsia body armour."
"Says the man with the yellow underpants."
"You ever love someone so much, you'd wear the craptastic uniform she designed when she was sixteen?"
Swallowing a mouthful of the smoothest beer he'd ever had the honour of drinking, Remy sad, "Three words. Fuchsia body armour."
Five weeks ago, Sage informed the mansion about half a dozen hushed up cases of blackmail high up in the corporate circles. Bad is the media catching a married CEO with a prostitute. Worse is catching the married male CEO with a male prostitute. Hell is catching the married male CEO with a mutant male prostitute.
Mutant prostitution wasn't that prevalent in terms of known numbers. Scott thought this was because mutants fought back more effectively. Gambit thought this was because mutants were easier to silence without police interference.
On a commercial plan like a Boeing 747, a trip from New York City to San Diego takes five hours. The X-Men's two-seater jet whistled over the flat expanse of the plains provinces an hour after lift-off and cruised over foothills of the Rockies the in the time it took for Remy to nurse his second beer. Remy didn't like to drink quickly when he flew.
"So, about the mesh and sequins..."
"What's with you an' uniforms? So far we spent the whole flight talking about our uniforms. You're freakin' obsessed." Remy tucked the empty bottle under his seat much to Scott's disgust.
"You better clean that up when we get home," he said. "And it isn't the uniform, per se, it's the mesh. Honestly, LeBeau, mesh!"
"You lucky I didn't choose leather. Man, do I got a bone to pick with whoever came up with the leathers a while back. You got any idea how much noise new leather makes? Or how much air don't circulate?"
"Fuchsia body armour."
"Yeah, go on an' mock the body armour. All I gotta say is that you never had to shower beside Wolverine in those damned leathers. The man sweats ammonia. Don’t get me started on the chafing."
"I don't remember you ever wearing the leathers."
"Chafing," Remy repeated. "I do many things for Rogue, greasin' up an' stuffin' myself in badly designed fetish-wear ain't one of them." More to himself, he said, "Nicely designed fetish-wear, maybe."
Scott shook his head as he guided the plan over the cloud cover. "Says the man who lives in a trenchcoat that time forgot. Over fuchsia body armour."
"First the mesh, now the fuchsia body armour. Really, you got somethin' to 'fess up, Scotty? A nigglin' need to design Versace's fall line up, maybe? Openin' a li'l boutique in the East Village?" He quirked an eyebrow. "I heard tell that you made the big reveal of the return of the spandex. Trés chic."
"LeBeau, do you always speak this much every time we're on a mission and I just briefly, thankfully, forgot?"
"Mais sho'. I like to get it all outta my system at least half an hour before."
"Obviously." And just because he could, he added, "Fuchsia body armour."
"Gonna carve that on your gravestone, Summers."
"Big, fuckin' billboard-sized lights."
"Swirly script fuchsia."
"An' a row of Rockettes."
"Cross-dressers as Rockettes."
Scott rubbed his head. "I think the altitude's getting to me."
"Naw, just my charming personality."
Scott had always wondered about the unusually short reports that came back after someone went on a mission with Gambit. Before this mission, he thought it was because Gambit had exceptional planning skills. He'd studied the X-Men's while he convalesced and the few times (two exactly) Remy wrote reports, Scott didn't have to make any corrections or follow-up notations. Scott always made corrections and follow-up notations because, sadly, no matter how much Shi'ar and stolen technology they had, the intricacies of spellcheck and foot-noting were just too much for his fellow teammates.
No, field reports on missions involving Gambit were short because the writer was trying to forget as much of the mission as possible mainly because Gambit NEVER shut. The. Hell. Up.
Anywhere other than California, finding a landing strip/hiding place for a small jet required a planning meeting on its own. Below them, airpads-- make-shift and real-- frequently dotted the landscape, catering to the rich, famous, and pretending. They didn't need to fly any further; Remy suspected Scott was just lying back and enjoying the drive, so to speak.
"Okay, but what about the jaw-collar? You can't tell me that it has an actually function," he said as he banked the jet to the left.
"These?" Remy patted his covered cheeks. "They keep me warm."
"It's the middle of July."
"I ain't used t'not having someone to cuddle."
Silence from the cockpit. Then, "Remind me to schedule Rogue for a psychiatric evaluation."
"Because she's got to be completely ass-backwards nuts to keep going out with you."
"Oh, Scotty, you just jealous. Don't worry, you always be my favourite girl." Remy reached over to ruffle Scott's hair but the other man clamped his hand around his wrist.
"You touch me or my hair again and I call in a proctologist as soon as we get home."
"Kinky." Remy wiggled his fingers.
Scott closed his eyes, returning his hold to the pilot's wheel. "Remind me why I didn't choose someone else for this mission."
"No one can shake their booty good as me," said Remy. "Angel, he's fine in them posh ballrooms but Bobby? Homme has a terminal case of White Man Shuffle Syndrome. Your brother couldn't possibly scream 'middle America white bread do-gooder football athlete fighting crime in my spare time' any more than if he wore his letterman jacket outside over his uniform. Also, there's that incest thing. Hank can dance but he's got the slight fame problem same as Worthington. Don't know much about Colossus other than he got a steel bar upside his ass an' in this mission, that hole need to be available. Did I miss anyone?"
"Wolverine," Scott said, his lips twisting up at the corners.
Silence from the passenger seat.
"You a sick fuck." He grinned as he spoke. "Beginnin' to see what Jean saw in you."
"Why does everyone say that?" Scott asked, not really expecting an answer. The toothy peaks of the Rockies poked up from the clouds, giving him something to manoeuvre around, staving off his boredom.
"You had a good hard look at one of her pictures lately?" said Remy. "The woman was a stone fox. An' this comin' from someone who's datin' the best lookin' woman in the world."
"Good save. Still sending that VCD."
"Rich folks, modelled as a kid, makes coffee like it's goin' outta style. And she had this walk. This sorta... booty walk."
Scott smiled dreamily. "Yeah, she always said her butt was... hey, when were you looking at Jean's walk?"
"Rogue 'n' me, we gotten a bit philosophical 'bout our relationship. Ogling is highly encouraged."
"Obviously, you function on a higher plane than mere mortals," said Scott dryly.
"Mais sho'." Remy shrugged in a manner that only he could. Layers of meaning could be evoked from one of his shrugs. Hank was probably going to publish something in a literary magazine about it next month. "So, Jean; stone fox, oui? Naturellement, someone with less imagination is gonna go pick Angel as a match, forgettin' of course than good li'l girls like Jeannie ain't gonna go for people from her daddy's biggest, wettest dream."
"I wouldn't exactly call Jean a 'good little girl'," said Scott.
"Phoenix thing." Remy waved the topic away. "Just proves my point. She like the dark, like the danger, like things that ain't in the pink ruffled room that she grew up in."
"Actually, she grew up in--"
"I'm on a roll, here, Scotty. Gimme room."
"Eh, byen. So, then y'gotta think: she liked the rebel thing? Why not turncoat and go for a bad guy? Or heck, if she want her cake, grab the Wolverine. But no," Remy hurried to finish his train of thought before the dust of old hurts wafted up higher, "she came back to you, over an' over again. Heck, that she hooked up with you t'begin with is a bit of a mystery."
"Are you sure you want to be insulting your pilot like this?"
"Y'aren't smooth, filthy stinkin'' rich society darlin' like her daddy an' mama want but you ain't some hairy, tattooed, slash-metal lovin' freak show. You a librarian." He clicked his tongue and wagged his head. "It don't compute, homme."
"We're going to land in ten minutes," Scott said. "You want to conclude this before I beat the living shit out of you, Oprah?"
"It don't compute unless," and Remy held a finger up pedagogically, "unless you figure that you got more than a stick up your crack. Like maybe a damn sick sense of humour that you pull out when you're right in the middle of a bit'a boot-knockin'. Or rubber underwear. Y'know. Kinky."
"Remy, you are a piece of work."
"Mersi et t'aussi, mon capitain."
"You do realise that wasn't a compliment."
"Should always take insults like they're compliments, homme. Pisses off your enemies somethin' fierce."
The club in San Diego was more outré in the way that only West Coast night clubs could be. Free flowing drinks, swimming pools, more baked, oily flesh than the barbeque stalls in Chinatown. Remy, blended right in, taking inhuman joy in Scott's discomfort.
"C'mon, just admit I got a nice ass." Remy shook said ass in Scott's face. It was clad in a light blue horror that the students called "booty shorts."
"LeBeau, you have three seconds to get your ass out of my face before I use my optic beams to clean out your colon."
"Cad. Y'weren't like that when y'were tryin' t'get me to bed." Remy winked and pulled his jeans up, buttoning his fly as he sauntered away.
Scott stifled the intense need for another drink. A week of five o' clock training sessions for LeBeau. While he taught health class to the junior high kids. And then coffee duty when Nate visited next month.
One of the big men in the operations was supposed to be in attendance. One Gerard Samowicz also known as the porn king of LA. He made up new kinks once a week and then sold the film in every alleyway and gentleman's club in the continent. Mutie-porn sales rose significantly the past year. Mutie-snuff porn appeared on the shelves just last week.
"An' for my next trick, how 'bout a li'l sizzle in your swizzle, hein?" Remy spoke to the crowd gathered around him, male and female, attracted not only by his outfit but also the miniature fireworks display he'd created. Ashy remains of napkins, straws, and flowers dusted the over-sized slate tiles that made up the pool deck, faint clouds stirred up as more people drew closer to watch.
Remy licked his index finger then touched the cocktail straw of the Botox-enhanced woman in front of him. The straw crackled like a sparkler, drawing pleased gasps from his audience.
"Can you set any other parts of you body on fire?" asked the woman, licking her trout-like lips.
In reply, Remy stuck a piece of gum in his mouth and winked.
Scott rolled his eyes. The man was getting a little too carried away. He'd better intervene before he signed his life away on a contract for a B-movie.
"C'mon, Reggie," he said, tugging on Remy's arm. "Don't take up too much of these peoples' time."
"Hang on there, sonny." A man with an improbably white smile and a tan so deep it was orange held one hand out, even as the rest of the crowd melted away. "Your boy here's got a talent."
"I realise that," said Scott, shoving Remy behind him. "And it came at a high price."
"Of course, of course," said the man. "Gerard Samowicz. Maybe you heard of me?"
Scott nodded minutely. "I might have heard the name a time or two."
"Here's my card." Samowicz flipped his business card out of a backpocket with practiced ease. "Get a hold of me if you want to talk. There'll be a cut, of course, especially if you have access to other... talented artists." He chuckled, a gasping guffaw resulting from years of cigar smoking.
Scott accepted the card and passed it on to Remy. "I'll keep in touch."
A warehouse studio in San Bernardino belonging to Gerard Samowicz suffered massive damage the following week. Firefighters attributed it to faulty wiring in several key junctions. Unfortunately, Samowicz's alleged insurance claims went missing since his safety deposit box was broken into the day after.
Fortunately, Samowicz's other business, a larger set of studios, were untouched except for a few, tiny bugs and programs inserted into the main computer connecting that database to a computer on the east coast via seventeen bounce-points.
"I still got a bruise from when that insane dragon lady pinched my ass," growled Remy. "Next time, you be the whore, I be the pimp."
Scott barely tamped down his grin. "I thought you liked shaking your booty in front of an audience."
"Shakin' it is one thing. I don’t do heavy sado-masochism." Remy hissed as he shifted position. "Jesus, I don't think she cleaned under those nails. Think I should get a tetanus shot?"
"I think you should look into an anti-bacterial dip," said Scott. "I know I'm going to spritz down the seats when we get back home. Don't want the kids to catch any diseases that might have stuck to the leather."
"I can't freakin' sit down!" Unbuckling his seat belt, Remy twisted to half-lie on his side and, in the process, angle his abused posterior in Scott's direction.
"You've got three seconds to get your ass pointed the other direction before I cauterize your wound with an optic blast."
"You can't do that," said Remy. "Your blasts are force, not heat. Cauterizing, hmm... It'd make an interestin' scar." He studied the body part in question but shook his head, deciding against it.
"Have I mentioned in the past five minutes that you need psychological help?"
"Yeah, but no worries. I figured out long ago that every time you say that, you really mean 'I love you.'"
The corner of Scott's mouth curled up. "You're no Buttercup."
"You a perfect Wesley, tho'. Down to the sarcastic yet strangely philosophical quips."
"'You mean I put down my sword and you put down your rock--'"
"'--and we try to kill each other like civilized people?'" Remy joined in the last half of the quote. "Gotta admit, my favourite character was Vizzini."
"It would be," said Scott.
"Why, who was yours?"
"It's a toss-up between Fezzik and Miracle Max."
"That ain't no surprise," said Remy.
"Obviously, 'cause you've got eyes."
Puzzled at the response, Remy said, "You still drunk?"
"Just coming out of a funk."
"Oh. You rhymin'. Cute."
Scott said with all seriousness. "I've rendered you mute."
"You're Fezzik; I got it already."
"Your thinking's getting heady."
"Haha, very funny."
"Anyone want a bunny?"
The ring-partners in Dallas were rightfully reticent by the time the two X-Men dropped in three days later. Although the call for male prostitutes in this area weighed more towards female clients, the odd backroom in gentlemen's clubs still profited from the hushed up activity. Those male clients had more to fear should their secrets be revealed by mysterious bombings.
Strangely enough, the many female clients saw the whole idea as a joke.
"Big breasts, big cars an' bigger hair." Remy inhaled deeply. "I can smell home from here."
"Your home smelled like shellac?"
"Explains a lot." Scott said around a mouthful of prime rib.
"Wanna maybe chew before you swallow?"
"I bet you say that to all your johns."
Remy made a face. "Now you're just bein' mean."
"It's the red meat," admitted Scott, trying but failing to inject an apologetic tone into his words. "The cook at the school is a devout follower of the food pyramid. I can't remember the last time I had a steak this big and bloody."
Remy poked at his sauce-slathered ribs. "I prefer my meat dead, thanks."
"Is that why you drown it in Tabasco sauce?"
"Puts hair on your chest. An' kills germs."
"Not to mention taste buds," Scott said. "Of course, after years of smoking, it's not like you have any taste buds left."
"Dieu, y'sound like Anna." Remy proceeded to empty the bottle of Tabasco on his ribs. "She makes me chew gum before we kiss."
Scott grimaced. "Jean makes me shower," he said. "The woman's kind of obsessive about personal hygiene."
"Makes?" Remy raised a brow.
"Made," Scott amended. The steak, luscious as it was, stuck in the back of his mouth.
Remy developed an excessive fascination with his beans and corn.
The party was so flamboyantly Texan Scott suspected the host was being ironic. Dead animals stared glassily at the small gathering haloed by more mounted longhorns than a cattle drive. Cigar smoke blurred the high ceilings and darkened the heavy drapery that framed the large windows on either side of the room.
He pulled on his cigar, consciously contracting his throat muscles to keep the noxious smoke from entering his lungs. He didn't know how guys like Warren and Logan smoked these things. Might as well suck on a car exhaust.
"I feel kinda under-dressed," said Remy as he sidled up behind Scott. "Toldja we shoulda bought that turquoise belt thing."
"That thing was tackier than a bunch of drag queens in a glue factory," said Scott.
"I rest my case."
Cowboy hats bobbed as far as the eye could see in a dozen different colours and patterns along with huge silver and brass belt buckles, sparkling cowboy boots, and sleepy drawls. Here and there, a few of the wares strutted in various combinations of chaps, sequins, spangles, and leather fringes. Remy, in a one-color western cut shirt, spankin' new jeans and worn cowboy boots, stood out in his austerity. Even Scott fit in better; he wore his Stetson comfortably and his tooled cuffs seemed like a fashion statement, not something he dug up from a thriftstore.
"I can rip off your back pockets," offered Scott as a fine specimen of womanhood sashayed before them in buttless chaps.
"My ass still hasn't recovered from the dragon lady pinch."
"Nah, that's your job in this mission."
Remy discreetly flipped Scott the bird.
"How're y'all enjoying yourselves?" asked a brunette with an impressively glittering dress. Her face would have been equally impressive had she declined her lat three face-lifts. As it was, Remy was afraid her mole on her cheek was actually a nipple.
"The scene's fine," said Scott, dropping his chin minutely. "I was wondering who to talk to for the real rare vintages, y'know?"
"Rare vintages?" the woman parroted.
"Yeah. I was told my friend and I should look for a Chris Jackoby." He smiled. "Would you know if he's in attendance."
The brunette threw her head back, laughing heartily. "My, you talk pretty. Much too pretty to be from around here. I can tell y'all are quality compared to the roughnecks that usually visit my shindigs." She jerked her head to the party behind her.
"And for the record, Chris Jackoby's a 'her' not a 'him.'" She held her hand out, palm down as if expecting an old-fashioned kiss.
Scott obliged her. "My apologies." He straightened from his bow. "Steve Kilbourn."
"Pleased to meet you, Mr. Kilbourn." Twirling her pearls with her proffered hand she asked, "And who's your friend?"
"You like him?" Scott stepped aside, giving Jacokby an unobstructed view of Remy. "I'm showing him around, so to speak."
"Is that right," drawled Jackoby. "Well, well, well, I didn't know they grew 'em like this up north." She traced the indentation between Remy's pectorals, her nails making a soft skkrrrrt sound.
"I believe he's actually a transplant," said Scott. "You grow 'em, we train 'em."
"Is that right?" She circled, touching Remy here, poking there, her hands impassively feeling out his muscles. "Well, that's fine talk but what makes you think I'd be interested in him?"
"James, why don't you show the lady your particular skills?" Scott said.
"Yessir." Remy held a hand out for Jackoby's cigarette. She obliged and he pinched off the smouldering tip only to light it up again with a small charge.
"Oh, my." Their host took the cigarette and drew on it, blowing smoke out of her nose. Fitting. "That is impressive. How many more do you have?"
Scott shrugged indolently. "How many can you afford?"
"Kilbourn, huh?" Tapping the ash from her smoke, Jackoby said, "I haven't heard of you."
"Of course not," said Scott. "Things are different in California, more so since that trouble with Samowicz."
"Uh-huh." She took another thoughtful suck on her cigarette. "I think we can arrange a meeting, you and me."
"In California," said Scott quickly.
"In California," agreed Jackoby.
Scott placed a business card in her open palm. "I was told I'd have a good time here in Dallas."
Jackoby laughed, her head-thrown-back laugh straight out of a soap opera. "I can make it even better if you give me a trial run with your boy here."
Scott blinked. This wasn't normal. The higher-ups never tried the wares; it was considered too gauche from his understanding. "You want to try?"
"Sure," Jackoby said.
He noticed that Remy had gone unnaturally tense, like a guitar string pulled too tight. Scott stepped into his partner's line of sight, tugging on his shirt a certain way. Everything okay? the signal asked.
Remy smiled stiffly and rolled his shoulders. Fine.
"It's been a while and James here looks like he could be a nice kid to talk to." Jackoby nudged Remy's ribs. "You talk, James?"
"Yes'm," said Remy woodenly.
"That's highly irregular," Scott said, knowing, even though Remy gave an OK signal, that things were rapidly careening south.
"I'm a real irregular kinda gal." Jackoby glided behind Remy, looping one arm around his waist and petting his hip in a manner that made Scott's stomach roil. "Gimme one night with James here and I'll draw up a contract here and now that I'll take your best ten items." Her hand slid down to Remy's groin and clenched.
Remy's nostrils flared but he didn't move.
"I'm afraid there are no free trials," Scott began but Jackoby waved his protests off.
"Hon, I damn near control half the goins' on of this sort," she said. "My contracts are solid; ask anyone."
"James is actually trained for the other side of the team," Scott said in desperation.
Jackoby's grin glittered. "I can use a boy harder than any man in this country, Kilbourn, and a few others overseas."
Remy gritted his teeth so hard the muscles at his temples shivered. Taking a deep breath, he willed his body to soften back into Jackoby's.
"I can't wait, ma'am," he said softly.
He knew somehow that Scott's eyes were closed behind his glasses. "Call me as soon as you're done," he said. Lifting his glass, he asked, "Now where is that luscious blonde with the bourbon bottle?"
Christina Jackoby's colleagues were shocked to hear that the infamous madam had liquidated her assets and moved to Southern France. Gossips said that she left in embarrassment as her latest surgery got infected and destroyed half her face. Others said she finally succumbed to the ravages of her illicit lifestyle.
Few gave credence to the story that a thief had burned her face with torch. Things like that didn't happen in that area of town.
Scott paced. Remy was so calm that he felt he had to pace in the cajun's stead.
"You want anything to eat?" he asked for the umpteenth time.
Scott paced again.
"Would make a good addition to that VCD, hein?"
Throwing Remy a truly disgusted glare, Scott said, "Forget the VCD. I'll snap the damn things myself. And give you a week's leave."
"I don't need leave."
"Shut up. I'm field leader and I say you're going on leave."
"It was my lily-ass that almost got stretched an' I say I don't need leave!" Remy snapped back. "Christ, you so fuckin' snow-white. You think that's the first time somethin' like that's happened?"
"Sure was," Remy smirked. He gripped Scott's shoulder. To his amazement, the other man flinched. "Relax, home. It was part of the mission. I get it."
"It most definitely was not part of the mission," said Scott vehemently. "I would never have... Nothing in my plans ever took into account..." He pressed a thumb and forefinger to his temple. "That was not part of any contingency plan."
"If you'd'a said somethin' our cover woulda been blown clear outta the water." Remy shook his head. "Nothing happened, Cyclops. No penetration, anal or vaginal; no ejaculation; no oral. She just... roughed me up a bit."
"She tied you up," said Scott, his jaw tight. "Tied you up and hung you from a goddamned hook on the ceiling like a side of beef. Those weren't fucking paper cuts I had to sew up, you ass!"
Remy sighed, smoothing down the bandage on his leg. "Summers--" he began wearily, but Scott wasn't listening.
"I should have burned her goddamn house to the ground, that sick psycho," he muttered.
"Yeah, that woulda been real effective." Remy rolled his eyes. "Bad enough you punched her nose in. How we gonna finish this mission now with half our targets plastering our faces on their kill list?"
"Forget the mission!" Scott shouted. "The mission is aborted. Okay? How the hell do you think I'd be able to keep pimping you out when I can't get the image of you hanging over a pool of your own blood--"
"Jackby was a sadist," said Remy. "She gets off on makin' people scream. I scream to make it go faster, hein? I can take much more than she dishes out."
"I'm ecstatic that you can kid about this."
"I'm ecstatic you care so much about my virtue."
"Screw your virtue; do you know how long you're going to be on sick leave because of this?"
Remy smirked. "There's the hard-assed Cyclops we all know and love."
Scott flipped him the bird before slipping into the pilot's seat. "Buckle up, you giant donkey prick."
"Yessir." Remy saluted.
They were in Tennessee airspace by the time Scott spoke again. "I bet dragon lady's pinch seems good in comparison."
"Hell no. At least Jackoby's knives were clean."
Scott flexed his hands on the wheel. "Sinister used to keep a few of his prisoners like that. Hanging."
Remy looked out the window. "An' buckled 'em to the dissection table."
The jet engines whirred, echoing in the stifled silence of the cockpit.
"How about two weeks leave?" Remy said finally.
"You're dreaming, Mr. I Can Take More Than She Dished Out."
"Hogtied," said Remy solemnly. "My manhood irrevocably stripped."
"You gave up your manhood the second you went around in fuchsia body armour," retorted Scott. "I'm willing to bet you were taking pointers, too, you perverted fuck."
Remy waggled his eyebrows. "Again with the fuchsia body armour! Was that a signal, Summers? You wantin' to put the jet on autopilot for a couple minutes?"
"A couple minutes?" Scott shot his teammate a troubled glance. "If you can only perform for a couple minutes, no wonder you and Rogue fight so much."
"Low blow, Fearless Leader. Very low blow. But then again, you know all about blowin' low things, wouldn't you?" Remy gestured vaguely around his lap.
"Fuchsia body armour."
"Will you please shut up about the fuchsia body armour?"
A few months later, the FBI received a thick information package about a nationwide, mutant prostitution ring that was also tied to several hundred missing persons cases. Bank accounts, addresses, client lists, and several middlemen; it was as complete a report as Langley had ever gotten. Strangely, the package was bound in bright, reddish-purple wrapping paper.
"That's fuchsia," said one intern. "My sister's wedding theme is that colour."
Langley spent another few weeks tracking down the significance of such a colour. None was ever found.