A Fleeting Kinda Grace
Hey, this is my Very First Real Posted Fanfic. All characters are the property of Marvel, but I think since Kaylee loves these particular ones better she should at least get joint custody.
Thanks go to Indigo for the New York and canon details that sparked the idea, to ‘rith and Carmen for on-the-spot beta comments, and to the whole crew of KJCorner for patience, since I never actually intended to post this and never would’ve without their encouragement.
I wrote this for Kaylee’s birthday (which BTW explains why it’s in two parts - I only got the first one done in time for The Day) in the hopes that by creating a writing disaster I could hold off any greater ones she was assuring me the Birthday Fairy had in store for her. ;) Besides, no one who’s around Kaylee for long can avoid being sucked in by the Mooks, and the occasion gave me an excuse for my fall. Oh, and pay no mind to the suspicious redhead wearing Logan’s clothes. ;) Enjoy.
Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. If you're interested in archiving this, just ask. :)
Timeline - Three weeks before the first scene in Any Kinda Breath
Remy woke with a quiet grunt as nightmare fields of ice retreated from immediacy into memory. Present reality had crept across the boundary into dream, and a band of warmth insinuated itself around his chest - utterly at odds with the sensations that belonged to his time on the ice. Even held deeply in much needed sleep, the sureness of that touch had reached him, assured him it was only a dreamscape of snow-blasted wilderness that he was lost in, and allowed him to escape.
There'd been no arms for him when the chill his blood now remembered was the tingle of true trying-to-form ice. No support for even an instant through those torturously step by staggered-step covered miles. No comfort and no help and no one anywhere who would bother to offer either.
Without conscious volition long arms tightened around the source of the warmth that had saved him, at the least, from nightmare. The solidity of smooth skin and regular breaths sighing over his face grounded him before he ever opened his eyes.
Dark blue comforter tucked up almost to his chin. Weight of an arm just beneath it, wrapping around his chest. A darkened room that didn't belong to him alone anymore. The slight roughness of lightly haired skin and the gentle rise and fall of a deep chest beneath his cheek. The soft, steady thump of a heart that...
The quiet, sleep-muzzed voice drew Remy closer to the present. His bed, with his lover in it. Barely conscious, but soothing him with a word - away from memories of abandonment, or of the isolation that pervaded the long nights when he'd first returned to this house, this room. Another arm slid up and over his shoulders from behind, drawing him closer to Bobby's sturdy body, returning his briefly convulsive embrace.
The Cajun shivered, driving the last of dream sensation away, and a broad hand began rubbing absently up and down the bare skin of his back. Bobby shifted a little, still almost entirely asleep, and patted vaguely at the comforter, tugging it close around their bodies. He brushed a kiss across Remy's forehead, eyes never opening, nuzzling the top of the rumpled head with his cheek. His hand lifted to continue its slow stroking, from back to shoulder into dark red hair; a rhythmic, soothing motion that slowed and finally ended, with fingers tangled through the thick strands, as Bobby drifted back into his own dreams.
In the darkness of the early morning room, Remy let himself relax into the embrace, the touch. The arms and body that offered him support so readily it seemed more instinctual than conscious. And firmly switched off the calculating part of his brain that wanted to dissect and analyze that gift. Bobby's heart thumped comfortingly under his ear, and he stared into the darkness with no desire to go searching for sleep and the images it harbored.
Left to drift, his mind settled for translating the emphatic messages his body was sending: It'd been a long day. A long week if he thought about it, which he didn't want to. Too many crazy people out there. Too many things no one else would bother to prevent if the X-Men chose to just not show up one day. He might not be needed on the team, but the team was sure as hell needed out in the world.
Three times in one week he'd been positive lives would be lost despite their collective best efforts. And even if Logan and Rogue were still spoiling for more, and Scott and Jean were taking it completely in stride, he was one tired and body-sore Cajun. He'd fought to get himself fit again after coming back from Antarctica, to be able to keep up with his teammates in the tight spots like he did before. He'd succeeded, too. Even Logan had stopped treating him like a liability, finally. But in the last few weeks every new Situation seemed to be siphoning energy straight from his reserves, and there hadn't been much in the way of downtime to get any of it back. He'd gone to sleep waiting for the buzzer to sound again, exhausted and aching all the way to his bones. Probably that was what'd brought the dreams back.
And Bobby... It was hard to tell how Bobby was taking the heavy fighting. With a shrug and a joke and grumpy complaints most of the time, of course; the same way he took PT. Long and eventful months had taught Remy not to trust those superficial reactions, though. Bobby had patented methods of hiding the things he felt, the things he wasn't comfortable feeling. His own methods of obfuscation as effective in their own way as Cajun charm and a thief's wiles. It took quiet and time to draw him out, past silliness and jokes and carefully assumed pseudo-seriousness - and both had been in short supply for everyone at the mansion lately.
Storm's team was supposedly fielding all alerts for the next forty-eight hours. Cyclops' team was supposedly on-call for nothing short of disaster. Technically - or as technically as a free-form paramilitary unit's orders could be said to be - they were off duty.
Remy curled carefully in the circle of Bobby's arms, until red and black eyes came to rest on their broad window. With his vision, and so far from the New York city center, a clear sweep of stars could be seen glittering in the pitch black night. The moon had already set, and there were hours left 'til sunrise. Only the faintest wisps of wind-feathered clouds obscured the view, promising another cool, perfect, early autumn day. There had only just begun to be a chill again in the nights, and Remy wasn't thinking much about how little he'd welcome the winter snows.
Nice sunrise comin', though. Good day to take the bike out. Don't buy your trouble too far ahead a time, LeBeau.
He blinked tiredly, and tucked his face back under Bobby's chin, evoking a small, pleased murmur and a slight tightening of solid arms. X-Men were never off-call, but Scott couldn't draft people he couldn't find. Scattered details played through his mind, nudging him towards something suspiciously like a Good Idea. No duty. Good weather. Jean's leftover parmesan chicken in the fridge downstairs. Bike running beyond perfect and shocks still set for the weight of two men. Bobby showing a little wear underneath his carelessness, and himself...
He snuggled into warm flesh and thick fabric against the faint chill in the air, too comfortable to get up and turn on the heater. Another pleased sound mumbled into one of Bobby's almost-snores and Remy smiled in the darkness. Strange, how a starlit moment could make him feel like his life was filled with perfect things. A clear morning coming in its own good time. Plans that were waiting only for the dawn. A free day no one had any right to disrupt. A lover whose response to being squeezed awake after midnight was to wrap an unhappy Cajun tightly in his arms. A moment out of time in a situation he had never let himself hope for.
Perfect things. A steady heartbeat beneath his ear. The slide of stubbled skin against lips curving toward a smile. An exhausted, warm, comforted thief, slipping into a sleep without dreams.
"Bobby. Tell me you were out here messin' wit' m'bike."
"I was out here messing with your bike."
Sunglasses were slipped up to tame dark hair made unruly by a crisp breeze. The Cajun stood, feet planted wide, in the spot where he'd frozen on entering the garage. His gaze didn't waver from the gleaming Harley parked carefully in the corner. Something, too minute for even his trained thief's eye to note, had been changed.
"Bobby. Cher. Tell me why y' were out here messin' wit' m'bike."
The younger man shrugged into the leather jacket that'd been 'just a reward, cher, try it on' after his first non-petrified ride on the back of the bike, and offered Remy a patently innocent smile. "If I solemnly swear I did nothing to the bike you haven't seen me do before, can we just go? Jean's gonna figure out we made off with her leftovers before long and we'll be bouncing off a TK shield goin' down the driveway."
He grabbed their helmets and offered the black one to a motionless Remy. The red and black gaze shifted to his face without loss of intensity. "I've seen you accidentally change the tension on the clutch."
Too-wide blue eyes rolled. "Nothing you haven't seen and nothing dire you have seen, then, okay? Can we go already?"
Remy kept looking until Bobby gave a long-suffering sigh and scrubbed a hand through already tousled light brown hair, and Remy could hear the 'Don't you trust me?' coming. Then he accepted the helmet and carefully approached the bike.
"It's not gonna turn into a Sentinel, Remy."
Remy spared him a glance that said that wasn't anything he'd take for granted, and Bobby threw his hands up. "Fine. Don't trust me. Stand here staring at it until Scott sees us leaving and asks why we don't have a comlink. That's just..."
The Cajun immediately tuned him out and started his real inspection of the bike, settling the saddlebags and kicking down the back pegs. The possibility of Scott's hounding was a lot more ominous than threats of Jean's TK. Jean would eventually let them go, if possibly minus their lunch.
He had the bike rolled out in record time. Wasn't like he didn't already know everything was perfectly set. He shoved his helmet on and kicked a leg over, and a minute later the bike was purring and Bobby was behind him, a warm presence from the inside of his knees to the middle of his back, arms locked lightly around his waist. The sun was about halfway up the sky, making him sweat a little under his thick shirt and leather jacket, but he knew it'd feel perfect once they got in the wind. The breeze was cool on his cheeks, and looking down towards the lake he could make out the first touches of autumn color among the green. He took a deep breath, pulling almost bracing air deep into his lungs, then let it out in a slow chuckle of pure pleasure.
The humor caught in his throat, turning into a cough he worked to keep under his breath. It could almost be a perfect day, if the damn cold that'd been trying to get a hold on him for the last week would leave him alone. He cleared his throat roughly and shook his head, then covered Bobby's hand briefly with his own. He got the answering squeeze and eased down on the throttle. Time to move.
The sun lost its sting the second they were rolling. Remy pointed the bike for the narrowest, least traveled roads in New York State; the closest they'd get to a private drive this side of Canada. Within minutes they were turned off Greymalkin Lane, headed away from familiar territory. Remy felt tense muscles begin to relax, his own and those in the body snugged much closer than necessary against his back. This was definitely what they needed, and he had no guilt over going AWOL. The X-men had asked enough of the two of them for one week, damnit. No guilt at all.
After a few minutes the heavy rumble of the bike was resonating in his bones, and pointing her toward the open wilderness was suddenly less an idle thought than a surprisingly strong yearning. Not that he had much desire for that kind of solitude, not since Antarctica. But he could imagine stretches of open road with nothing but he and Bobby and the thrum of the engine between his legs, and no reason at all to think beyond those very right things. The way a man handled a bike spoke as much as any body language, and Bobby was learning to feel and understand those messages. Spend their days lost in the back of beyond, sharing body heat and the sweetness of that silent communion...
Not that any fantasy could really beat this particular moment - if he didn't consider everything the end of the day would bring them back to. Which he didn't, wasn't going to - he let his mind drift into sensation and a smile crept slowly over his lips, the kind he hadn't offered to much besides Bobby since he came back from the snow. He used to know how to let himself get lost... After a few more minutes he became aware of a noise growing gradually in his ears, infringing on his musings. A nice noise.... Wait... Zydeco??
He shook his head and turned enough that Bobby could see his sudden grin. The hand that'd slipped from his waist into Bobby's pocket moved, and the volume rose until Remy gave a sharp nod. Wireless speakers in the foam of the helmets, done carefully enough that Remy hadn't felt any difference. The man was a genius.
Bobby tucked back against him, arms squeezing tight for an instant, then rested his chin lightly on the Cajun's shoulder. Remy glanced at the open, smiling face and wished their helmets didn't make stealing a kiss such a risky maneuver. The fear that'd kept Bobby blind to a biker's pleasures in the early days was nowhere to be found as his bright gaze joined Remy's in scanning ahead. He was drinking in the woods around them now, the cloudless sky that was just the color of his eyes. Zydeco's Caribbean/French rhythm washed over them, eclectic mix of violin and blues guitar reminding Remy of hot nights in the southern city where both it and he were born. He dropped the throttle a bit and put his hips into swinging a turn. And felt the shake as Bobby laughed against him.
Scott's anger and 'Ro's lectures and an aching chest and a stressful week became irrelevant in the space of heartbeats. Road ahead, complications behind, music up, wind in his face, lover pulled tight...
Why'd be been thinking 'could be'? It was already a perfect day.
What had been an occasionally three hour ride for Remy stretched to over four with a passenger whose body wasn't quite as conditioned to the punishment a Harley offered. Not that he minded taking the miles at a leisurely pace - he'd decided before ever making his kitchen raid for picnic supplies that this would be a day for relaxing. The third time Bobby tapped his shoulder and they pulled off Remy didn't bother finding a service station. On a mostly empty stretch of road with fields rolling off to either side, he brought the bike to a careful halt on the very edge of the shoulder. Bobby was off before he had it up on the center stand, pacing and shrugging his shoulders and throwing Remy a completely embarrassed grin.
One long, practiced stretch had Remy ready to roll again. He sat sideways on the bike, one leg crooked up, and pulled a well packed box of Marlboros from his pocket while Bobby continued pacing and twitching, trying to rid himself of the pins and needles. The first stop he'd complained good-naturedly that it felt like he'd been riding a vibrator. Remy asked with a leer exactly how he'd know that, and then laughed as Bobby added a totally new shade of purple to his repertoire of blushes. The last stop he'd gotten gas while Bobby stomped around, and they'd split a Snickers bar - much to the delight of a car-full of teenage girls when Bobby unthinkingly put Remy's requested bite into his mouth for him, and Remy's lips had lingered.
With neither he nor the bike in need of fuel, there was nothing to do but draw on the cigarette the slightest use of his powers had set burning, and watch Bobby walk back and forth looking sheepish.
Not that this was a bad way to spend a few minutes, Remy decided, feeling that particular smile creeping back. Funny, how a man could miss something like smiling without even knowing it... Not that he wasn't completely familiar with every line of Bobby's frame by now, by touch as well as sight, but there were things sunlight did to a man like Bobby that the Cajun thought he liked very much. His own best setting was dim light or darkness, he'd learned long ago, but Bobby... those never-guarded blue eyes seemed to draw the whole of the wide sky into themselves, and offer it to Remy with every smile.
"I know I look like an idiot, okay? You don't have to keep staring."
Remy took a long drag and tilted his head. "Mebbe I don' have to. But y'ever t'ink I might like de view?"
Bobby stopped in front of him, not quite close enough to touch. The day had apparently been too nice for him to maintain even the laughing embarrassment that was too often his default mode. He offered Remy the completely open smile that brought the sky with it. "But I'm not wearing the mirrored glasses right now."
Remy chuckled and raised a hand that Bobby took after just a moment, letting himself be drawn close. Still that little hesitation when it came to touch, anywhere outside their bedroom door. It was more reflexive wariness than conscious choice, and Remy had already noticed it fading with time. He never pushed.
This time he didn't even have to fight the urge to. There was only pleasure, as Bobby wrapped his shoulders in a hug for a moment, fingers sliding up his arm and around his back. He rested his head on the solid chest, breathing leather and fresh cut hay and the perfect, subtle scent that was just Bobby, then laughed when a mischievous hand tugged lightly at his ponytail. The long strands had whipped Bobby's cheeks once too often and been sentenced to the wrap of a bandanna.
"So you weren't laughing at my epileptic routine over there?"
Remy tugged his glasses down so his lover could see his eyes. As purely content as he felt in the moment, some of it had to show. "Mebbe a l'il bit." The ponytail was tugged harder that time and he grinned. "But mostly I was just enjoyin' the sights." The curve of his lips over the innocent words had wind-flushed cheeks shading toward red again.
Bobby put his helmet back on with an emphatic shove. "Yeah, well, let's enjoy the sights on up the road, okay? I think my butt can handle it now."
The Cajun dropped his cocked boot to the asphalt on the far side of the bike and caught his own helmet by the strap. "Legs ain' crampin', are they?" He huffed the last half-inch of his cigarette and threw the butt in the road, letting the final breath of smoke out slowly.
"Nah, they're fine. Just my butt and my shoulders trying to - " he cut himself off when Remy brought a fist to his mouth and coughed, shoulders tightening against what obviously wasn't a reaction to the smoke. "Hey, I thought you were feeling better?"
Remy shook his head, then cleared his throat and coughed again before answering. "S'just a cold, cher. I nev' stopped feelin' fine." He had the bike started with one kick.
Bobby climbed back on and wrapped his arms around Remy's chest in what no passerby could've mistaken for a platonic grip. "You sure? When we get back -" He more felt than heard the Cajun laugh in response.
"No, I won' go see Henri. Not all of us are so comfy down in the lab, cher."
Rather than raising his voice, Bobby cut the music back on in acknowledgment. Remy tossed him a grin that had a touch of both apology and appreciation in it. Bobby wasn't a hypochondriac, but when your best friend was the doctor it got easy to think every little thing warranted a visit. And Remy had reasons for not wanting to end up on a med table if it was at all avoidable.
Bobby tightened his arms and rested his face on Remy's shoulder as they pulled back out on the road. Wordless understanding, the kind Remy had always appreciated most.
Only one lonely car was in the broad parking lot when they finally arrived at the State Park of Remy's midnight plans. A well-used gold four-door Corolla with out of state tags, packed to the roof with luggage, the driver's door wide open. It looked like the set-up for a murder mystery, sitting in the middle of absolutely nowhere, up to and including the pair of black-clad legs protruding from beneath the hood. Then the legs moved, and a moment later a tousled red head appeared. A short woman in a flannel shirt stood up and dusted herself off as well as she could with a thin, blown open notebook clutched in one hand.
With more of a swing than was absolutely necessary, making Bobby hold tighter, Remy brought the bike to rest next to the light post nearest the main trailhead. Which happened to be two spaces down from the girl pitching various items from front seat to back with reckless abandon. The Cajun gave her the once-over out of habit, and saw the word 'Mooks' scribbled across the notebook tossed carelessly to the roof of the car. Criminal justice student, maybe? She had a line of 'I gave money to the < name of law enforcement agency > don't pull me over' stickers across the back bumper, too. Alabama plates. Maybe the girl came to see if that 'crime' thing she'd been reading about existed somewhere outside her books.
She'd apparently cleared enough space in the jumble, visible to the top of the car windows, to plunk into the driver's seat as Remy put his feet down. She had black sunglasses pushed back on her head, keeping shoulder-brushing hair from her face; and gave him a surprisingly sharp look from molten brown eyes.
Anger touched him, swift and cold, and he stared back as he pulled off his helmet. Louisiana was right next to Alabama, and he knew what kind self-righteous bullshit they raised their kids on. Resentment was a short step behind, at the intrusiveness of those eyes and the corruption of the day's mellow pleasantness. Bobby'd finally relaxed enough to be blatantly cuddled into his back, and Remy'd be thoroughly damned before some misplaced redneck girl brought any measure of his lover’s too frequent and hated self-consciousness back. He let the direction of his gaze tell the kid to just keep right on leaving, if she wanted to avoid any problems up to and including death by angry Cajun. And was surprised when she gave him a half-smile and a barely visible shrug. The attentive eyes went to Bobby's arms, wrapped around him in what could only be called a hug, just as the younger man slid back and looked her way.
If she mouths off... He felt a tingle rise in his fingers, unasked for.
Bobby pulled off his helmet and put a hand on Remy's shoulder to steady himself as he stepped carefully off, obviously stiff again. Remy caught the hand and held it briefly against him, then tilted his chin to bestow an impulsive kiss. His eyes, behind the glasses, dared the kid to comment.
The response was - unexpected.
An absolutely shit-eating grin took over the young woman's face for a split instant, then the glasses came down and the lips drew into a considering smile. Remy was so startled he jerked a little, and Bobby squeezed his shoulder.
He couldn't look away suddenly, and a strange fascination had replaced his anger. Was she...
"Yeah, cher, fine." He saw a flash of teeth at the absent endearment. The wind picked up again, blowing across the miles of grassland with abandon. He stared harder. Something was... odd, suddenly. Off.
The wide sky and the wind's voice reached into him for a moment, serving to remind that he'd found the isolation he'd sought for himself and his lover. There was no murmur of traffic at the edge of his hearing, no subliminal sense of humanity beyond the warmth of his lover's lingering hand. Even the woman in front of them seemed for an instant to waver between the present and some barely sensed Other place. It was just he and Bobby, out on the edge of the world.
When the Cajun remained oddly still Bobby hesitantly followed his gaze, obviously dreading whatever reaction they'd evoked. The girl gave him a little nod and broke into a more controlled grin.
"Nice bike, guys. Enjoying the day?" She gave the motorcycle a slow once-over - not trying to hide that the two of them were scoped along the way - then chuckled, a sound surprisingly low and warm. "I haven't seen anybody out here all morning. Maybe you'll get the place to yourselves."
Bobby nodded a little, confused, but obviously relieved that their embrace hadn't provoked anything hostile. "Yeah, thanks." He offered her a smile, tentatively, and Remy saw the slight chin tilt as her eyes did a re-inspection of Bobby's snug jeans and...
"Yeah." His own reply was slightly louder than he’d intended. Her gaze came back to him and the strange feeling returned - a faint tickling somewhere behind his eyes. He nodded at her, trying to figure out what was making him want to laugh so suddenly - her attitude or how proprietary he felt over her checking Bobby out. He slung their saddlebags over his shoulder and watched as she cranked the car. "Thanks. Anybody out on the island?"
She shrugged, and the chin tilted again as Bobby leaned over to lock the helmets.
Remy didn't know whether to punch her face or burst out laughing, but settled for the latter when her gaze traced back over him next.
Bobby straightened, startled, and Remy was reminded all over again just how cute the man could look when he was clueless.
"Not that I saw. Place looked closed."
Remy couldn't say why, but he had the sudden sense that there was nothing in this place that could've escaped her notice. "They still got boats tied up at the pier?"
She tapped the steering wheel lightly. "There're a couple down there, but I don't know how far I'd trust the wood - I didn't walk out and check." She dropped a hand to shift the car into gear. "Well, you boys have fun, all right?"
Remy would've sworn there was a leer in that somewhere. He followed the car with his eyes until it was out of the lot, then turned to find Bobby giving him an odd look.
"Did you - know her or something?"
"Non." He shrugged, meeting the sky-touched eyes, then surrendered to whim and brushed a kiss over the tiny furrow between the light brows. "I nev' saw her before."
"That was - weird, then."
"Not'in' weird 'bout that, cher." Remy grinned and kissed him again, slow and soft and where Bobby could return it this time. He pulled back and brushed the smooth cheek with his lightly stubbled one. "Woman checkin' you out ain' not'in' real strange."
"Checking me -"
Remy chained the bike to the post while Bobby struggled to stop stuttering, then took his arm and kissed him again, bringing silence. "Come on. Lesse if we can't do what the lady suggested, neh?"
Bobby caught his wrist before he could move away. Pulled Remy back in for a longer, exploring kiss, gently pushing the sunglasses up. The odd tingle behind the Cajun’s eyes heightened, seemed to run between them, almost a chill, and Bobby's hands tightened. When he finally pulled back his eyes went to Remy's, searching for... Searching. Remy raised a slow hand and traced fingers along Bobby's face, just looking at him. Whatever question hadn't quite been asked, that seemed to be answer enough. The subliminal vertigo eased to simple gentleness.
Bobby shifted back and let Remy take his arm again. Then he licked his lips and managed eloquently, "What the lady suggested? Huh?"
Remy grinned and started walking. "Well, she told us t' be sure an' enjoy the day, cher. Mebbe she knows somet'in' we don', neh?"
The younger man stopped and turned a look full of that searching on him again. Definitely a strange wind blowing in this place today. Then a smile came up that did odd things to the depths of his eyes. "Yeah, maybe so." Almost idle fingers stroked loosened baby curls from the Cajun's face; an instant's caress. "So - what was this about an island?"
~ end part I ~
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