Punishment: Chapter One

"Oh mon dieu..." Emil Lapin slowly regained consciousness. He had no idea how long he'd been sprawled on the floor of his bedroom. Looking around he thanked God he was alone. Every inch of his body ached like nothing he'd ever felt before. Gris-Gris never did anything half-way, especially beating up Emil. Emil sighed and winced in pain. He realized his chest hurt more than anything else. He was having a hard time breathing. It felt like his lungs were constricted and were refusing to operate correctly. All Emil knew was, it hurt. And he needed help.

He heart footsteps in the hall outside his room and prayed it wasn't Gris-Gris coming back to finish the job. Then he heard the familiar sound of his good friend Genard Alouette clearing his throat and nearly cried he was so relieved. But how to get the other thief's attention?

"Genard..." Emil gasped out, not managing much more than a whisper. The effort drained him and he nearly passed out. He hoped Genard had heard him, because he couldn't do it again. He didn't have the strength.

In the hallway, blond haired Genard paused. He shoved his glasses up on his nose and frowned, his brown eyes confused. He could have sworn he heard something, but no one else was in the upstairs hall. Was it coming from Emil's room? Curiosity gettign the better of him, Genard turned and gently pushed the half-open door open, allowing the light from the hall to flood into the room. His eyes widened in horror at what he saw when he looked inside.

"Emil!" He gasped. He moved to the younger man's side, concern radiating from him. Emil's body was covered in dark bruises and cuts that were still fresh enough to bleed if moved. Emil's eyes were closed, and his pulse was weak, Genard noted. "Emil, can you hear me?"

Emil opened his eyes. "Oui...can'...breathe...hurts..." He managed to whisper, wincing with every word and breath he tried to take.

"My God...you must have a collapsed lung...who did dis? Gris?" Genard asked, trying to figure out how he was going to move Emil.

"Oui..." Emil said and then passed out, a helpless ragdoll in Genard's arms.

Genard knew they had to get Emil to a doctor, preferrable Dr. McCoy up in Westchester, as soon as possible. But he didn't want to leave the other man's side. Not for a second. He tried to lift Emil twice, but failed. He wasn't strong enough. He nearly sobbed after his second failed attempt. "I wish Theo an' Claude were here..." He thought. But his friends were in the kitchen of the safehouse, which wasn't exactly within yelling distance of Emil's bedroom. Suddenly, a shadow appeared in the doorway, blocking part of the light into the room.

Genard looked up. "Oh t'ank God..."

Zoe Ishihara, the only member of the Unified Guild of Thieves and Assassins who wasn't from New Orleans, stared into the room in shock. "Genard...what happened?"

"From what he told me 'fore he passed out 'gain, Gris beat him up. Zoe I need you to go get Theo an' Claude...I can' move him on my own. Den, either you or Mercy need to call Remy in Westchester an' tell him to make sure Dr. McCoy's gon' be ready for an emergency..."

Zoe nodded and left. She raced down the stairs so fast she nearly tripped on them and flew down the hall into the kitchen at the back of the safehouse as fast as her feet would carry her. She stopped when she got there, out of breath, and looked at the other thieves.

Theoren Marceaux, Mercy LeBeau and Claude Potier were all quite a bit older than Genard, Emil and Zoe, but none of them looked it, thanks to the Elixir of Longevity. They were sitting at the table, chatting over coffee when Zoe ran in.

"Zoe, what's wrong?" Theoren demanded, alarm in his voice. Zoe never rushed for anything. Ever.

The young Japanese woman took a couple of deep breaths to calm herself and then answered Theoren's question. "Gris beat Emil up. Genard found him. They're in Emil's room. Emil's hurt real bad. Genard needs you an' Claude to go help him get Emil off the floor...."

Without waiting to see what else Zoe had to say, Theoren and Claude bolted out of the kitchen and raced up the stairs to the second floor. Once in Emil's room, Theoren looked at Genard.

"Any idea how bad he is?"

Genard sighed. "Tol' me he couldn' breathe b'cause it hurts. I'm guessin' collapsed lung. Don' know what other internal injuries dere is, but you can see de bruises an' cuts."

"Okay, well let's get him downstairs. We have to get him to Dr. McCoy." Theoren stated.

"Yeah...I told Zoe dat either she or Mercy should call Remy. He an' Dr. McCoy need to be ready for an emergency." Genard confirmed.

When the three men got Emil downstairs, they placed him on the couch in the living room near the front of the safehouse. Zoe was just getting off the phone.

"Remy's going to be here in about twenty minutes. Professor Xavier agreed to let him take the Blackbird once he found out we have a medical emergency here. Dr. McCoy will be waiting when we get there."

"Should some of us stay here, in case de Assassins return from de mansion?" Mercy asked, walking down the hallway to join them.

Theoren looked thoughtful. "Much as I hate to say it, yeah probably. I'll let Remy make de final call. He is de patriarch after all. But my own opinion is dat as few of us as possible should go." He reached down and lightly ran a finger along Emil's pale, bruised face.

Fifteen minutes later, Remy arrived in the Blackbird. He helped them get Emil into the ship and then looked at the rest of them. "I can' take you all wit' me...Hank wants as few distractions as possible, at least for de first day or so. Mercy, I'd like you to come, b'cause you're as good as I am at calmin' Red down. We're gon' need dat when he wakes up. An' Hank gave me strict instructions to take de person who found him..."

"Dat would be me." Genard said.

Remy nodded. "Okay. You two are comin' wit' me. De rest of you stay here, until Hank gives de okay for you to join us up dere. Theo, you're in charge, use your own judgement. I will say dis, however. I don' wan' any retaliation of any kind against Gris-Gris unless Red don' make it, compris?"

The three remaining thieves nodded in agreement.

Half an hour later, Mercy and Genard were helping Remy get Emil out of the Blackbird. Hank was waiting for them when they got there, with a stretcher. "My stars..." He murmured, shaking his head over the brutality of Emil's injuries. As they walked to the MedLab, Hank questioned Genard about what Emil had said, and what he had done in between finding the red-haired young man and when help arrived. He seemed satisfied with Genard's answers, while Remy's eyes glowed in anger when Gris-Gris' name was mentioned.

"I'm sorry, but I think it would be best if you waited out here for now." Hank told them once they reached the MedLab.

"Sure Hank. Jus' take good care of 'im, okay?" Remy asked.

"Of course, my friends. Of course." The door shut behind the furry blue doctor with a soft click.

Remy started pacing almost immediately. He hated waiting, especially when he knew his best friend's life was in danger and he couldn't do anything to help. Genard sat down on one of the chairs and absently flipped through a magazine. Mercy sighed and intercepted Remy mid-pace.

"Rem...he's in de best of care, you know dat better'n we do..."

"I know...I know..." Remy sighed. "I can' help it. I hate dat assassin more'n I've ever hated anybody in my life, an' if Emil don' make it..."

Mercy shook her head. "Emil's tougher dan dat. He'll be okay. We can' t'ink along de lines of him not bein' okay. Sure it's a possibility, but as far as I'm concerned, Genard found him in time an' we got him here in time. Imagine if we'd had to take a normal flight from New Orleans to here? We'd still be at de airport!"

"Yeah you're right. See dis is one of de reasons I wanted you here. You put everythin' into perspective. No wonder Henri loved you so much." Remy smiled.

They were soon joined by Professor Charles Xavier, founder of the Xavier Insititute for Higher Learning. The Institute was essentially a place where mutant youngsters could get a well-rounded education and learn to control their powers while living with other mutants. It was also the home base of the X-Men, a team of mutant outlaw superheros that Remy belonged to. Professor Xavier was quite possibly the most powerful telepath in the world, and had formed a quick alliance with the Guild members since first meeting them.

The bald man went over to the doors of the MedLab and looked in, sighing deeply at what he saw. Then he turned and looked at Remy, Mercy and Genard, who were all seated by this time.

"Whoever is responsible for inflicting such pain on that young man will come to learn it's in his best interest to leave well enough alone, I believe."

"What makes you say dat, Professor?" Genard questioned.

"Oh just a hunch I have, Genard. Just a hunch." Xavier said cryptically.