Punishment: Chapter Eleven

Gris suddenly sensed Jean's presence and looked over at her. She smiled sadly at him and he decided he might as well invite her to join him. He sent a brief throught her way, knowing she would pick up on it. "Y'may as well sit down, Jean."

Jean nodded and joined him on the grass in silence. They leaned against the mansion and Jean handed Gris a kleenex. Neither one of them said a word for a good five minutes, but then Gris broke the silence.

"He knew he was gon' die, didn' he..."

"I believe so, yes." Jean answered. "Emil knew. He felt it. That's why he didn't want to leave Questa's side. As much as it hurt him, he wanted to be there, just in case it happened before the rest of us got back down there. He wanted to make sure Questa wasn't alone."

Gris shook his head, his face contorted with pain and grief. "I'm such a..." He stood up suddenly and turned, slamming his fist into the wall of the mansion as hard as he could. Jean could hear the knuckles break, but said nothing.

"It's all relative, y'know dat, Jeannie?" Gris said, sitting back down. He ignored the pain in his hand.

"How do you mean?" Jean asked, even though she knew he'd tell her even if she didn't ask.

"I punished Lapin for bein' his normal obnoxious brat self by beatin' him worse'n I ever did b'fore. When he almost died, Questa punished me by shootin' me an' breakin' our creed of honor. Den, b'cause he was sorry for doin' dat an' figured we'd punish him anyway, Questa ran away an' ended up bein' punished by havin' de crap beat out of him by some strangers in a rainstorm. You an' Logan got him back, but he got real sick. Dr. McCoy couldn' make him better, so Emil asked me to try even t'ough he knew how angry I was. I tried an' I failed b'cause I'm not good enough yet...Tante Mattie wouldn' have failed. She woulda kept him alive, she woulda healed him. I couldn' do it, an' he died."

"Oh Gris..." Jean whispered, putting a hand on his arm. "Questa didn't die because he or anyone else wanted to punish you for being unable to help him. Studying Mattie's books is a wonderful thing you're doing, she was right to leave them to you. You're just new at it and don't have the experience she had. It's not your fault."

"I wish he'd tried harder to kill me..." Gris said quietly. "He didn' d'serve to die...an' for all I've done in my life...I do."

"Jovan don't you talk like that!" Jean reprimanded. "You don't mean it, I can tell. You are who you are but that doesn't mean you deserve to die. Sure, all of you, if you got arrested and put on trial, would probably get the death sentence for your actions over the decades, but that's not the point. This is a tough blow to the guild...almost as tough as when Mattie died last summer...but you got through that, and you'll get through this."

Gris sighed, something he didn't do often. "I feel like I let him down..."

"You didn't. I think he knew you did everything you could do. It was just his time to go. He was as strong as he could be all his life, through everything that happened to him, you know that better than I do. But it took a toll on him and he couldn't fight this time. He didn't have the strength in him this time. And you know what?"


"He wasn't alone in any aspect. All of us...the people who love him...were here with him, by his side, when he died. But that's not all. I could feel the spirits here too. I'll have to ask Emil if he felt them as well. Tante Mattie was here, and Celeste, Marius and Julien...they came and took his spirit with them. So he wasn't alone. And I promise you that he will watch over all of you the way they do." Jean said softly.

"I b'lieve dat." Gris commented.

"Why don't we go back inside and get Hank to look at those knuckles? Your hand has swollen to twice its normal size and it really should be treated." Jean said by way of changing the subject, seeing that Gris was on the verge of crying again.

Gris nodded and followed Jean back into the mansion. When they arrived in the MedLab, it was noticably more subdued than it had been before. Hank had placed a sheet over Questa's still body. The other assassins and some of the thieves were nowhere to be found. Theoren and Mercy were sitting, one on either side of Emil's bed, speaking quietly to him. Emil had stopped crying, but looked grief-stricken and devastated. Hank was in his office writing in Questa's file. He looked up when Jean knocked on his door.

"If you're wondering where everyone else went, the thieves are in the kitchen I believe, and the assassins have gone to Charles' office to speak with him. They're pretty upset." Hank said.

"Thank you, Hank, but actually, Gris needs to have his hand looked at." Jean said.

"Oh?" Hank got up and cleaned his glasses. He put them on again and went over to Gris, who sat on the bed he'd been in before. "What happened?"

"Hit de wall." Gris replied shortly. "Hard."

Hank chuckled. "Well yes, I can see that. Venting anguish and frustration on walls is a bit painful for the hand though. Perhaps next time you could use a punching bag or get someone to call up a foe for you to beat on in the Danger Room. If you are still here, that is."

Gris waited in patient silence as Hank bandaged up his broken hand and warned him not to do that again. When Hank was done, Gris got off the bed and looked at the three thieves still present in the MedLab.

"Can I talk to Lapin for a moment alone?" He asked.

Theoren and Mercy looked at each other and then at Hank and Jean, who both nodded. "Sure." Theoren agreed. He and Mercy joined Hank and Jean at the door of the MedLab and the four of them left to give Gris and Emil some privacy.

"Some t'ings can' be helped." Gris said thoughtfully, giving the young thief a strained smile. "But some t'ings can. I can' help bein' de way I am anymore'n you can, but if I hadn' reacted so badly, none of dis woulda happened..."

"I know." Emil replied, wincing slightly in pain. His lungs were still weak, but they were working and he felt they were getting stronger as he used them. He had requested that Hank not put him back on the respirator unless they started giving him a lot of trouble. "Sometimes I think trying to make you mad is like a game or somethin'. But I can try harder not to, instead of tryin' to see how far I can push you."

"An' if you do make me mad, I can try to find somethin' else to take it out on...instead of takin' it out on your hide." Gris said. "Dr. McCoy suggested a punchin' bag..."

"Hey maybe I can steal you one!" Emil's eyes lit up. "Tell you what, as soon as Dr. McCoy gives me de all-clear to go home...an' who knows when dat will be...I'll see what I can do 'bout gettin' you a punchin' bag."

"If you insist." Gris said. "An' by de way...t'ank you."

"For what?"

"For puttin' yourself in more physical pain to sit wit' him..." Gris looked away.

"Aw...it's okay. He was my friend. I knew I couldn' help, but at least I wanted someone to be holdin' his hand, y'know? I didn' know how quick you guys'd all get back down here..."

"Jean said he wasn' alone..."

"No, he wasn'." Emil confirmed. "It's nice dat people who cared 'bout him were here in person an' in spirit."

"I'm t'ankful for dat. I'd hate to t'ink he died an' no one was dere to help him or take care of him." Gris shuddered at the very idea. It was unthinkable, as well as impossible. He knew at the very least Tante Mattie an' Questa's mother would be there for him. It was nice that Marius and Julien were as well. He looked at Emil. "You should get some sleep, kid, if you ever wan' get outta dis MedLab..."

"Yeah, dat's prob'ly true." Emil yawned and found that yawning hurt more than nearly anything he'd done since taking off the respirator mask. "Oooh...dat was a bad t'ing. Yawns are evil!"

"So don' yawn." Gris joked, standing up and heading for the door.

Emil rolled his eyes. "Ha. Ha. Very funny, Mr. Sarcasm." He picked up on how down Gris seemed and sighed. "Hey Gris?"


"Remember what we had to do when Tante Mattie died? We had to live one day at a time an' lean on each other when we needed to or we'd drive ourselves crazy wit' grief an' misery." Emil said.

"Yeah, so?"

"Same rule applies to dis."

"Oui, I know. Good night, Lapin." Gris nodded and walked out the door into the waiting room. He walked through the waiting area and down the hallway to the elevator. Once there, he went up to the main floor of the mansion and walked down a few hallways until he got to Professor Xavier's office, where he knew Bella Donna, Fifolet and Singer were. He paused outside the door and took a deep breath before raising his left hand awkwardly and knocking on the door.