"I don't understand it."
Hank was puzzled. He scratched his furry blue chin with his equally furry blue hand and checked the monitors again. He could not see any real reason why Gris-Gris would still be unconscious. But yet, the big man continued to elude coming back to the waking world, and Hank had no idea why.
"You should be awake by now, my friend." Hank told him. "It baffles me why you aren't."
It was four days since Remy had brought the rest of the Guild up to Westchester. The day before, Hank had changed Emil's status to "serious but fairly stable" and the young thief had even woken up momentarily and complained of being sore. Gris-Gris remained unconscious across the room. Questa, who still wasn't being spoken to or acknowledged by the rest of the assassins divided his time between sitting in the MedLab apologizing to Gris' still, silent body and sitting in Professor Xavier's office while the older man attempted to teach him how to read.
Xavier was pleased to have been given the chance to work with Questa even though teaching the young man how to read was no easy task. It gave the psychologist the opportunity he'd wanted: to examine Questa's behavior and try to win his trust. After four days, Xavier had learned that teaching the skittish assassin how to read was much, much easier than earning his trust.
However, Xavier had picked up on a wish Questa had been expressing since he arrived in Westchester, and had placed the appropriate phone call to see about making that wish come true. If anything could make the young man finally relax surely it would be getting a very pleasant surprise in the middle of all the unpleasantness. While Hank was puzzling over the fact that Gris hadn't woken up yet, Questa was sitting obediently in Xavier's office, struggling to read the text Xavier had put in front of him aloud. Xavier, seeing and sensing Questa's frustration, was about to open his mouth to tell his student to take a break for a little while when there was a knock on the office door.
"That's enough for now, Questa. I can see you're getting frustrated." Xavier said before telling the person on the other side of the door, "Come in."
The mahogany door opened to reveal a young man with unruly blond hair and sharp blue eyes. Questa looked at him curiously. He had seen the boy around the halls of the mansion before, and knew his name was Bobby Drake, but beyond that, Questa avoided him the way he avoided all of them.
"Sorry to interrupt, Professor, but that surprise you called for has arrived. What should I do with them?"
"Dem?" Questa asked softly, wondering what on earth Bobby was talking about. Even more puzzling was the huge smile on the professor's face.
"Why don't you send them in, Bobby? I think our young Cajun friend here will really enjoy seeing them." Xavier suggested.
"Sure." Bobby replied and left the room. Moments later, Questa got the shock of his life and all he could do was stare and smile.
Scott Summers and Jean Grey-Summers were two of the first young mutants who ever came to live at the Institute. They, along with Hank McCoy, were part of the original team of X-Men when the team was founded. And in the two years just following the unification of the Guilds, Jean had spent many days and nights visiting New Orleans. She had become a trusted friend and confidant to all the Guild members, and in particular, to Emil and Questa, whom she thought of as brothers. A year-and-a-half ago, Scott and Jean, upon learning that Jean was pregnant with their daughter Rachel, decided to try and give their daughter the kind of life they never could before. They moved back to Scott's original home in Alaska and stopped using their mutant powers all together. And consequently, Jean stopped visiting the Guilds. To see Jean and Scott, along with Rachel, now a toddler, standing there as if they'd never left...Questa was speechless.
Jean laughed, her eyes dancing at the sight of him. "Well Questa aren't you going to say anything?" Jean knew more about Questa's problems than just about anyone, and had hoped he'd be better than he appeared to be by now.
"Jeannie...you really here...dis not my head playin' tricks on me...?"
"Yes I'm really here, silly! Charles called us and invited us to come down to visit while you and the others were here." Jean said. "He seemed to think you would get the most benefit out of it..."
Questa looked at Xavier. "T'ank you, sir..."
Xavier smiled. "You're quite welcome, Questa. I've got some things I'd like to discuss with Scott, so why don't you and Jean go for a walk? I'm sure you've got a lot of catching up to do."
The first five minutes of the walk were spent in silence. Finally, Jean spoke. She wanted to know what was going on. "Questa...? What happened?"
Questa sighed. "Where you want me to start?"
"Well the last time I was speaking with you, you were so happy and everything seemed to be going well for everyone, yourself included. Now..."
"Shelby left." Questa said quietly. "She got fed up wit' me bein' de way I am an' not bein' able to get past it. I still have nightmares an' stuff, but mos'ly it's other t'ings....so she left. Everythin' else was okay, until de other day..."
"When Gris broke his promise to me and beat up Emil." Jean stated.
"Oui. Beat him up real bad too...worse dan ever b'fore. Emil almost died...so many times...even now, Dr. McCoy's not fully sure he'll recover completely." Questa admitted. "An' when I found all dis out...I don' know what came over me, Jean, I really don'...I jus' lost every sense of everythin' I had. I jus' flipped out an'...I shot him."
Tears rolled down Questa's cheeks. "I ain' never regretted shootin' anyone...but de second I shot Gris, I regretted it...I was so sorry...I am so sorry...but I can' take it back...an' now dey're all mad at me..."
Jean stopped and wrapped her arms around her friend comfortingly. "Shhh...I know. You were upset with him for hurting Emil and for jeopardizing the unification, weren't you?"
"I think that's probably why you did it. Add that stuff to how upset I know you were and still are over Shelby leaving you, and it's like a time-bomb getting set to explode. It's not your fault, really." Jean assured him. "If you were anybody else, it wouldn't have happened. But you're you, and you can't help being the way you are. Why don't we go down to the MedLab and say hi to everyone? Maybe I can help Hank with Emil and Gris, you never know."
"Okay." Questa agreed, sniffling. He knew the assassins didn't want to see him, but the thieves hadn't been treating him any differently. Plus, it had been awhile since he was in the MedLab, and he wanted to know how Emil and Gris were doing.
When they got there, they found that Hank was in his office speaking with Remy and Bella Donna privately. Fifolet and Singer were sitting beside Gris' bed, while the thieves were in various positions near Emil. Jean laughed gently at them.
"Bonjour, my friends! Don't look so glum! They have the best doctor in the world and you know it!"
"JEAN!" Five thieves and two assassins exclaimed in unison. The seven surged around her, talking excitedly with her and asking all sorts of questions. Questa, feeling rather invisible and left out, shrank back against the corner he preferred and waited for the hussle to die down.
In the office Hank, Remy and Bella Donna looked out, hearing the noise. "Ah...it would seem Charles called Jean and Scott and asked them to visit." Hank commented. "And from here it looks like having Jean here will do wonders for the morale of your family. However, we still need to discuss our patients."
"Go on, Hank." Remy encouraged.
"Emil is improving a little each day, I can see it even if the rest of you cannot. He is still very weak, and I don't dare try having him breathe on his own just yet. We don't need any more close calls. His surface wounds are healing nicely, but the internal injuries will take quite a bit longer. I know you and the others are concerned about the fact that he hasn't woken up much, or for very long, but believe me, he is only sleeping and he needs all the rest he can get."
"So de rest is better for him dan bein' awake..." Bel said.
"Yes, that's right. If he keeps improving the way he has been, he'll be awake and driving everyone crazy again in a few days." Hank laughed. He had had Emil as a patient before and knew just how annoying the young redhead could be. "Now, as for Gris-Gris, I am perfectly and completely stumped. I have examined him and tested him and I cannot for the life of me figure out why he hasn't woken up yet. There is no reason for him to remain unconscious."
"Are you serious, Hank?" Remy asked.
"Yes! There is no medical reason that I can see why the assassins should not be getting ready to go home tomorrow. And yet, until he wakes up and I'm satisfied he is okay, he will be remaining here." I just don't know why he's not waking up."
"Perhaps..." Bel stopped herself before walking out of the room. She motioned for Fifolet and Singer to follow her, said they were going for a walk.
Remy looked at Hank and shrugged. "Maybe she t'inks privacy would help, since Jean's here an' all..in fact..." He raised his voice to the rest of the thieves. "I t'ink Bel's got a good idea...let's go get some fresh air, mes amis. Let Jean do her visitin' wit' Emil an' Gris."
Jean smiled at Remy's words and watched them leave. Before Remy followed them out, he paused and looked at Questa. "You wan' come, Questa? Some fresh air might do you some good too."
Questa looked alarmed at the idea and then caught the enouraging look on Jean's face and stood up again and headed for the door. "Okay..."
"It is good to have you here, my friend." Hank said, coming over to Jean as she sat beside Emil's bed. "And I believe he will think so as well."
Jean smiled at the young thief. "I've missed him." She said, reaching up and gently laying a soft hand on Emil's pale, bruised cheek. "He's like the little brother I never had. I've never seen him look this bad before."
"Our other patient over there did quite a number on him." Hank commented.
"Yes...Questa told me." Jean sighed. "Will he be okay?"
"With enough time, rest and love, I don't see why he can't make a full recovery. But I'll leave you be for a moment. He might wake up for you. He woke up for Remy earlier."
Jean closed her eyes and reached out her telepathy to Emil. "Emil? Little brother, it's Jean. Can you hear me?"
There was a twitch in Emil's subconscious. He heard her. "Jean? Dieu...it hurts so bad..."
"I know it does...don't talk if it hurts...I just wanted to tell you I'm here, sitting beside you in the MedLab. Scott and I took Rachel here for a little vacation. We'll be here for a week, so you focus on getting better and we'll talk later. I love you, kiddo."
"You're really here?" Emil's eyes fluttered open to see for himself. When he saw Jean sitting there, he tried to smile, but winced in pain instead. "I'm glad you're here, Jean...so tired...can I sleep now...?"
Jean gently took one of his hands in hers and squeezed softly. "Of course you can go back to sleep." She told him aloud. With a pained but content sigh, Emil closed his blue eyes again and drifted back off to sleep almost immediately.
Jean sat there for a moment and then looked over at Gris-Gris. It was very unusual to see the big man hurt in any way. Hank was adjusting one of the I.V. tubes and felt Jean watching. "He's got a thick skull." He commented.
Jean laughed quietly. "Yeah I know. In more ways than one. So...Questa shot him in the head?"
"Yes, but he was lucky in that the bullet didn't go deep. Didn't even penetrate badly. I don't think Questa was really trying to kill him, if he even knew what he was doing." Hank said. "I was able to remove the bullet without any problems. That was four days ago. I'm still trying to figure out why he hasn't woken up. By all means, he and the other assassins should be leaving for home in the morning."
"Perhaps I can help." Jean suggested. "Let me talk to him, if his subconscious is awake in there, and maybe I can convince him to wake up."
"Okay. Give it a try. It's better than anything else I can think of."
"Gris-Gris..." Jean opened her telepathy for the second time in five minutes, this time searching for the assassin.
"Go 'way." A stern voice commanded sharply. He didn't recognize her voice in his mind and Jean had to laugh.
"What are you doing in here, building a retirement home?"
Suddenly Gris appeared in view in his own mind. "Jean..." His eyes were wide.
"The one and only! So...tell me something. Do you remember what I said to you the last time you beat him up?" Jean asked him.
"You said you'd kill me..." Gris was quiet.
"And you know I can do it too. Well I'm not going to, because I think there's enough other people mad at you for it and I'd hate to kill you before they got hold of you, but Gris...why'd you do it?"
"You know what happens when I get mad...he pissed me off so badly...I couldn' stand it anymore...I can' stand him. He's a spoiled, obnoxious little brat an' I want him dead."
"Jovan Neville!" Jean exclaimed angrily. "You claim to care about tradition and honor and other such things that make you proud of your heritage, and yet you're willing to throw part of that away just because you don't like the thieves, and in particular, Emil?"
A shrug. "Maybe."
"And I suppose you're mad at Questa now, like the other three are."
"He shot me. You speak of honor an' tradition, Jean? Well, we have a creed in our Guild dat we all take. It states dat we do not, unless under dire circumstances, make any attempt to injure or kill one of our own. He broke dat creed. Hell yeah I'm mad at him. Why do you t'ink I ain' wakin' up? If I see him, I'll kill him. I'm surprised one of de others hasn' yet."
Jean was horrified. So much hatred...so much pain...not just from him but from the other assassins as well. And from Questa, so much fear, uncertainty and misery. "Gris, I think you should grow up and wake up so you guys can go home. And I swear to you if any of you lay a finger on either Emil or Questa from here on in, so help me, I will personally take you to the sun and drop you myself."
"Hank?" Jean asked. "I think our voodoo master will be waking up soon."
As if on cue, Gris' dark brown eyes opened and he promptly glared at Jean, who merely gave him her most charming smile and moved to give Hank some room. "I love you too, Gris."
Gris muttered something in French under his breath and allowed Hank to examine his vital signs. Jean decided to go see what the rest of the Guild members were up to, and in particular, warn Remy about the possible fall-out that might take place between the assassins.