On a table of green felt, the casino dealer lays the “river” card, the final in the game of Texas Hold ‘Em. Joining the now visible card of a jack, a six, an eight and an ace is a second ace. The final card dealt, one of the game’s players pushes his entire prodigious stack of chips and declares “all in.”
On the other side of the table sits another player who looks on with an incredulous expression. After asking “really?” and receiving an affirmative, the second player tells the first that that wasn’t bright. Pressing, the second player asks the first if he’s hiding behind shades because he’s afraid that, if he looks in his eyes, he’ll be able to tell he’s bluffing. Stoic in his response, the first player, Darwin, tells the second player “not really, no.”
Undeterred, the second player leans back and presses. He thinks he could he tells Darwin. If he wants him to call him, he should let him see his eyes. When the dealer begins to try to diffuse the situation, referring to him as “Mr. Scarpetti,” the player tells him to shut up and redirects his attention to Darwin. Without a word of objection, Darwin removes his sunglasses and tells Scarpetti to call his bluff.
Looks of astonishment cross the faces of those who look upon Darwin’s eyes. As a player from another table curses aloud, Scarpetti leaps from his chair and pulls out a handgun. Everyone else in the casino dives to the floor as Scarpetti unloads three rounds into Darwin’s torso. Then, to all witnesses, Scarpetti proclaims that his target was death. Don’t they think he knows death when he sees it? Scarpetti’s continuing explanations begin to falter, however, as Darwin rises from the floor and regains his seat across the table. “Calling me or not?” he asks. After the man runs off screaming, Darwin guesses that he’s not and turns over his hole cards to reveal and ace and an eight and thus a Full House.
Continuing his heated departure, Scarpetti knocks down any in his way, yelling for them to move. However, he stops in his tracks when he finds that Darwin has somehow gotten ahead of him. Visibly unconcerned regarding his handgun, Darwin mocks Scarpetti’s previous words, asking if he thinks he doesn’t know what he is. The voices of Scarpetti’s victims scream in his head. They won’t stop… until he stops him. As he repeatedly yells “no, no,” Darwin grabs Scarpetti by the shirt and, with death itself reflected in his eyes, instructs him to go to the police. Confess. It’s good for what’s left of his soul. Otherwise, Darwin states as he lifts Scarpetti off of his feet and slams him onto a gaming table, I’ll take it myself!.
Before Darwin can continue his threats, which are clearly not finished, he’s pulled back by Madrox. Calling Darwin “Shaft,” Madrox suggests that they go. NOW. Company’s coming, he notes. With this, Madrox and two of his dupes escort Darwin outside the casino and onto the Strip.
The next day, Madrox sees in the papers of Scarpetti’s confession to half a dozen open murders and whimsically wonders if X-Factor should send the cops a bill. Meeting a waiting Darwin, Madrox asks him if he’s okay. Receiving a “peachy,” Madrox explains that they were kind of wondering, because they were set to leave town and they look around: no Darwin. After chuckling at the phrase “No Darwin,” Darwin asks how Madrox found him. Told about the GPS on his belt buckle, Darwin replies of course.
Returning to the situation, Madrox tells Darwin that, whatever’s going on with him, it’ll be better once they get one. Incredulous at this, Darwin removes his sunglasses and tells Madrox to look at his eyes. Can’t he see it? The eyes are the window to the soul. How’s his soul looking? In demonstration, Darwin opens his eyes wide so that Madrox could more easily peer within. However, after an uncomfortable moment of confusion as he examines Darwin’s normal, brown eyes, Madrox confesses that he’s not exactly sure what Darwin is looking for him to say.
Annoyed, Darwin reminds Madrox that it was his idea for him to square off against Hela, a death goddess for crying out loud! Mocking the word “plan,” Madrox rejoins that he came up with it on the fly while they were fighting for their lives. He figured whatever effects that might have would be temporary. He’d evolve and then shake it off, like always. Returning his sunglasses to his face, Darwin replies that Madrox figured wrong. ‘Cause in real life, evolution is a one-way street and some things you don’t shake off.
With this, Darwin removes his belt buckle and hands it back to Madrox. As he walks away, Darwin hears Madrox opine that sometimes it just takes longer to shake off. Maybe, Darwin replies back. But until he knows, he needs some time to himself. Undeterred, Madrox begins to protest, reminding Darwin that they’re his friends. They can help… However, he is interrupted by a side-glancing Darwin, who notes that he’d think a guy like Madrox, who has trouble making decisions, would realize when he’s not being given a choice. Adding that Madrox doesn’t want to be around him right now and requesting that he respect his wishes, Darwin walks off, leaving Madrox very much alone.
Later, back at their hotel room, Madrox finds himself being berated by Theresa, who repeatedly asks if he is kidding her about letting Darwin go. Defending himself, Madrox reminds her that they’re not a chain gang. People can come and go as they please. This isn’t like leaving a wounded soldier on the field. If Darwin wants out, they have to respect that and hope he comes back. When Theresa replies that Darwin is hurting inside, Layla chimes in, asking who isn’t. Reclining on a couch and munching on popcorn, she mocks that Theresa wouldn’t know about needing to be alone for a while, right? Her words dripping with ice, Theresa tells Layla that no one asked her.
When Madrox asks her what would she have said, Theresa replies that they’re Darwin’s friends and they want to help. He tried that, Madrox informs her. What else she got? Growing exasperated, Theresa replies that she doesn’t know. Rising to his feet, Madrox likewise grows frustrated and gesticulates wildly. Anybody else want to chime in? Remind him what a sucky job he’s doing, being in charge? Do they think he doesn’t know this is his fault? That he brought them out there? That his call screwed that kid up? In fact… why stop there? Dump it all on him! He deserves it! He was on the grassy knoll! He framed Roger Rabbit! He shot the sheriff! Bring it on! Bring it…!
Madrox’s trails as a bottle materializes before his face, held aloft by the diminutive Pip the Troll. Offering it to him, Pip notes that Madrox is more in need of a beer than any guy in the planet. Taken aback by his appearance, Madrox states Pip’s name inquisitively, for which Pip jestingly congratulates him on remembering. Chiming in, Longshot asks Pip if he didn’t disappear right after they got him out of Hela’s clutches. Not answering directly, Pip only replies that Longshot’s the smart one; he can tell.
Ignoring the oddity of his very presence, Guido instead asks Pip about his suit and where he got it. Using his free hand to adjust his tie, Pip quips that he mugged Peter Dinklage and notes that it looks good, doesn’t it? It… actually does, Guido admits. Still dour, Theresa notes to Pip that she thought they’d seen the last of him, to which Pip asks if she thinks he’s that much of an ingrate that he’d just take off? Is that what they all think of him? To this, Shatterstar, Guido, Longshot and Layla all replies in various manners in the affirmative.
Hearing this, Pip takes a moment to mock being hurt. He then adds that the fact of the matter is that he was royalty once and still ask some, whattaya call it, honor. Like it or not, he owes them. They got him outta a jam with tall, green and damned, and he’s gotta settle that score. Seeming to consider this, Madrox tells Pip to step out into the hallway and he’ll confer with his associates. Doing as told, Pip steps outside and waits on the other side of the door. However, a moment later, Pip finds himself recoiling as a blinding light shines through the outline of the door from within the room. In visible shock, Pip bursts through the door to find out what has happened within… and finds it empty, save for the luminescent remains of a teleportation portal.
On the roof of X-Factor HQ in New York City, a gigantic, luminous X appears, through which Madrox and the rest of X-Factor step. Glancing over to Shatterstar, who created the portal, Madrox asks if he realizes that the hotel is going to bill them for the damage to the room right? To this, Guido quips that it’s not to worry. When he checked in, he told ‘em they were the New Avengers. Good thinking, Madrox replies.
“Oh, you’re back,” a voice announces its presence. Clad in a skimpy bikini and reclining on a foldable lounge chair, Monet then questions how ever did they manage without them? Asked if she’s working on her tan, Monet wisecracks that she’s lecturing at MIT on string theory. Can’t he tell? Now lowering her sunglasses, Monet asks if they forgot someone. Where’s Armando? Darwin’s fine, Madrox replies. He just needed some time off. He’ll be back. Don’t worry. Replacing her sunglasses, Monet lies back onto her beach chair and tells Madrox not to confuse mild interest with worry.
Seemingly dismissed, Madrox begins to head for the roof door leading down downstairs. On the way, Madrox begins to apologize to Theresa but is told by her to forget it. He was right that they couldn’t force Darwin to stay. Plus, she hates to admit it but Layla had a point. If anyone should understand needing to go away, it’s her. Thanking Theresa, Madrox adds that it could have been worse. They could have come back with Pip. Can she imagine? What would he bring to the table?
Opening the roof door in Madrox’s face, Pip emerges onto the roof, answering that for starters he can teleport or at least he can when some crazy goddess ain’t keepin’ him chained up. Now staring down at the prone Madrox that he’s also good at findin’ people. Asked what people by Theresa, Pip replies any people. He’s got a knack fer it. Believe it or not, he used t’be kind’a cosmic. Some o’that stuff stays with ya.
Speaking of people, Shatterstar states, as he passes by to the steps, he needs to locate Rictor immediately. He has to know about Rahne. Longshot begins to question to Shatterstar’s prognostication of rain, but quickly finds himself in a headlock by Guido, who pulls him into the stairwell and declares him so freakin’ clueless sometimes that it’s embarrassing.
With fewer people on the roof, Pip has finally noticed the sunbathing, bikini-clad Monet and with a leering hellooooooo, nurse, introduces himself. At first, Monet tries her best to ignore him. However, when Pip presses, she warns him that one more word and she throws him off the roof.
Making his way downstairs, Shatterstar calls out to Rictor, telling him that they need to talk. Is he there? Answering rhetorically, Rictor replies back that, if he weren’t, how would he respond? Following the voice, Shatterstar finds Rictor reclined on the couch, surrounded by numerous emptied cans of beer. Asked how much have he had to drink, Rictor tells Shatterstar “not enough,” he can tell him that. Then asked what happened, Rictor explains that the doctor said the baby’s all “mystical.” Does he look mystical to him? Told that he looks wasted, Rictor notes the good call. A moment later, the two are joined by Madrox and Theresa, the latter of whom holds her nose and asks if a distillery blow up. Just breathing the air in there might count as falling off the wagon.
Kneeling before Rictor, Shatterstar asks Rictor where Rahne is. Replying he doesn’t know, he adds that she clamed up at the doctor’s office. Wouldn’t talk. They went out, he flagged a cab, he turned around, she was gone. Moving closer and taking Rictor’s hands into his own, Shatterstar bluntly tells Rictor that he’s off the hook. Rictor’s not the father of Rahne’s baby.
Rather than stunned, Rictor replies nonchalantly that he was kind of figurin’ that. A short distance away, Guido states that it’s some guy named Humminah Humminah, to which Longshot counters that he thought it was “Hairy Harry.” Calling them bozos, Theresa corrects that it’s Hrimhari. Hearing this, Rictor asks if he wasn’t, like, a wolf god of something. Right, Longshot states, so don’t feel bad she dumped him for a god. Gods are pretty brutal competition. He bets Shatterstar would dump him for a god. The way he was looking at Thor… Longshot’s words trail as he a piecing scowl from Rictor to Shatterstar results in an equally piercing scowl to Longshot. Asking if he said something wrong, Shatterstar replies “pick anything.”
Returning to the subject of Rahne, Rictor explains that the bottom line is… to hell with her. She lied. No, she didn’t, Layla corrects. He heard what he wanted to hear. Or maybe what she thought you needed to hear. Asked what that’s supposed to mean, Layla explains that it means he can’t leave it like this. Isn’t that right, Shatterstar? To Rictor’s surprise, Shatterstar confirms. Whatever else Rahne is… she’s scared. And she chose to come to them as a safe haven. They have to honor that, even if they don’t like her methods.
Taking this in as he finally rises to his feet, Rictor asks how would he even find her. A moment later, Rictor recoils as he spies Pip the Troll falling by the window, having been thrown off the roof above. Hearing the resulting thuddd, Madrox replies that they’ve got it covered.
A short while later, Rictor finds Rahne sitting on the edge of the Bethesda Fountain in Central Park. Astonished at being found, she yells his name, for which Rictor pleads her not to do. Asked if he’s hung over, he replies that he’s working on it. Standing, Rahne asks how did he find her, to which Rictor replies through a troll. Confused, she questions if he means some idiot on the internet. Rictor begins to explain what he meant… but quickly thinks better of it and tells her to never mind.
Lowering her head, Rahne looks way and tells Rictor that she made a mistake coming back. She admits it. So, just fergit that she ever… Interrupting her, Rictor tells her that he knows about Hrimhari. Upon hearing the name, Rahne’s eyes widen and she goes quiet, refusing to turn to face him. After a few moments, still refusing to look his way, Rahne guesses that he must think he’s a terrible person. Rictor replies that he doesn’t know what he thinks right now. He means… was she with him… at the same time that they were…?
No, she explains. Long after. But he’s part wolf and she’s part wolf and a wolf’s gestation period is about two months, not nine, so… So, Rictor continues, this is happening a lot faster than a normal human pregnancy. Just a touch, aye, Rahne admits. Now walking away, side by side, Rictor begins to ask if she decided then to make him think that he was… No, Rahne interrupts, she swears. She never planned that. It’s just… Pressed for an answer, she tells Rictor that she doesn’t want to believe that gay people go t’hell, she really doesn’t. But if it’s true… if there’s even a chance of it being true…then she didn’t want t’be responsible for him…
Much to her annoyance, Rictor begins to laugh uproariously at this idea. Told to stop laughing, as it’s not funny, Rictor smiles that she was worried… that her leaving him turned him gay. And so she figured she could bring him back to his team by putting herself and the baby between Star and him? Grimacing at Rictor’s words, Rahne admits that it sounds stupid when you put it that way…
Smiling, Rictor takes Rahne’s hands in his. He tells her that, when he was out on a ledge, she was the one yelling that if he jumped he’d wind up in hell. All this time and she’s still worrying about his soul. Finally smiling herself, Rahne replies that she figured hers is beyond redemption, so she might as well put her energies where they can do some good. Trying his best to explain, Rictor tells Rahne that, who and what he is, he kept it in way too long. It wasn’t fair to anyone. Not to her, not to Shatterstar… not to himself. And she’s got bigger things to worry about than his soul.
Putting his arm around her back, Rictor suggests to Rahne that they go home. When Rahne seems surprised, Rictor confirms, adding that all the guys can take turns being the father. Asked about the girls, Rictor states that they can be the weird aunts. “Weird Aunt Layla,” Rahne voices. She likes it. By the way… did she have a growth spurt or something? She looks give years older. Yeah, Rictor replies. That’s, uh… that’s kind a complicated.
Back at X-Factor HQ, Pip the Troll sits behind the receptionist desk and smiles as he answers the ringing phone. “Hello, X-Factor. Pip the Troll, galaxy’s greatest receptionist, at’cher service. How can I…?”
A chilling voice stops Pip’s own in its tracks, noting that he sounds awfully comfortable. When Pip begins to reply that he wasn’t expecting them to call, the voice on the other end instructs Pip not to forget why he’s really there, and to keep it to himself. Is that understood? When Pip rejoins that he won’t let them down, the voice orders him to see that he doesn’t and then hangs up. Hanging up the phone on his end as well, Pip takes a moment to close his eyes and silently ponder the conversation he just had.