Home | Forum | Mailing List | Repository | Links | Gallery
Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Chapter 7
Chapter 8
Chapter 9
Chapter 10
Chapter 11
Chapter 12
Chapter 13
Chapter 14
Chapter 15
Chapter 16
Chapter 17
Chapter 18
Chapter 19
Chapter 20
Chapter 21
Chapter 22
Chapter 23
Chapter 24

Between the Darkness and the Light - REVIEW THIS STORY

Written by Amanda Sichter
Last updated: 01/02/2007 02:01:11 AM

Chapter 19

The silence in the Mansion had rippled with the undercurrents of whispered conversations held behind closed doors, of sudden hushes, the mental susurrations of telepathic discussions abruptly halted, of heat and anger held in abeyance by grief and guilt.

It was after a week of this that Scott had called the meeting. He could only stand watching the X-Men tear themselves to pieces for so long before he was compelled to intervene.

He said as much when the meeting started. 'We need to talk,' he started, more abruptly than usual. 'About what happened last week. In the open, not behind closed doors. I'm not going to let the X-Men be torn apart by rumours and speculation.'

There was a soft murmur of protestation, a run of 'not me's' from nearly all assembled, but Scott's raised hand stopped them. 'It doesn't matter who's been saying what,' he said. 'There aren't supposed to be secrets among the X-Men,' he ignored Jean's telepathic snort, Logan's sudden harrumph, 'and it's time we discussed what happened.' He turned his gaze on Remy, sitting quietly at the point opposite him. 'Gambit?' he said quietly.

Remy's crimson eyes were dark, dull. 'Don' see what I have to discuss,' he said, somewhere between sullen and defiant. 'Dere's not'ing dat concern de X-Men. Only me and Azimuth and that bGtard Essex.'

'They do concern us,' said Scott, harshly. 'A child died here, Gambit. Azimuth nearly died. Sinister told us he made you. You think those things don't concern the X-Men? You're wrong.'

'Why?' said Gambit. 'I ain' an X-Man any more, Cyke, and Azimuth never was. Not'ing we did here betrayed your trust. Why should I be tellin' you anyt'ing, neh?'

'You came of your own free will,' said Hank quietly. 'You did not protest when you were asked to attend. You knew then that we would be asking these questions - you know that they are important to us. If nothing else so that we can determine whether Sinister's gaining of the werechild's corpse poses further danger to yourself and Azimuth. Or the human race.'

Remy's grin was wry. 'You always did have a way wit' words, Henri,' he said and his face suddenly softened. 'Yah,' he said. 'I knew what I was in for and I'll answer your questions - so long as none of you do dis to Azimuth, even when she's bien. She's hurtin' enough - she don' need de X-Men asking questions and makin' it worse.'

Scott nodded, slowly. 'I think we can get by with just your input, Gambit.' He took a deep breath, quelled emotions, began with the topic that disturbed him less. 'Why didn't you tell us that Sinister was your father?' he asked.

Remy's voice was flat, deadly level. 'Jean-Luc LeBeau is my father,' he said, no flicker of emotion on his face. 'Not Essex. Never Essex.' His words were all the more vehement for the lack of emphasis.

'He said that he made you,' pointed out Scott.

'He made me,' agreed Gambit. 'Dat doesn' make him my father.' He grimaced suddenly, rubbed his hand over his face. The unexpected display of emotion made him look vulnerable, as if the barriers he normally raised around the X-Men had dropped. 'I was an experiment,' he said, his voice low. 'A made t'ing. Sinister wanted a weapon an' he t'ought he could make one. Make a perfect mutant weapon to take over de world.' Bitterness laced Remy's words. 'What he made was me.'

'A flawed weapon.' Jean's soft voice cut through the room, drew Remy's anguished glance. 'You said you were flawed, Remy, and so did he. What were you supposed to be?'

Remy's voice was careful, as if he picked and chose each word. 'I'm supposed to be Omega-class,' he said. 'De powers you've seen are only a fraction of what dey were supposed to be. Gambit was supposed to be able to tear apart de whole world wit' a t'ought, hold de world to ransom so Sinister could take what he wanted, when he wanted. I didn' - turn out de way I was supposed to.' Remy shrugged suddenly, obviously uncomfortable. 'I was a flawed t'ing. Sinister turned me out - Jean-Luc found me, raised me, made me his son.' He raised burning eyes to Scott. 'Essex is not my father.'

Scott's eyes behind his visor were steady. 'I know what it's like to be brought up by Mr Sinister,' he said, unexpectedly. 'I don't blame you for disowning him.'

Something sharp, flittering, passed across Remy's face, disappeared quickly. He did not move his gaze from Scott's, but his eyes lost some of their fire. 'I didn' - remember dat,' he said, softly.

'I try not to,' replied Scott, equally softly. Remy nodded slowly and the sudden, shared understanding reduced his defensiveness considerably.

'So what does it mean?' asked Bobby. He leaned forward in his chair and it was a measure of his changed attitude and increased self-confidence that he didn't try to deflect attention from his forthrightness by making a joke. His look, instead, was thoughtful as he gazed at Gambit. 'Have you been lying about your powers? Should we trust you?'

A slow grin curled one corner of Remy's mouth. 'Trust me?' he asked. 'Never do dat, Bobby Drake. I'm a t'ief, remember?' But then the smile dropped from his mouth and he shook his head. 'Non,' he said. 'I haven' been lyin' about my powers. Dey weren' what dey were supposed to be - dat's part of why Essex put me out.'

'That's what I saw inside your head,' said Jean, unexpectedly. 'That you were a telepath. Were supposed to be a telepath,' she amended.

'That explains,' began Ororo and then stopped as Remy's gaze caught hers, as a sense of pleading washed over her. ~Why your powers have changed,~ she continued in the quiet spaces inside her mind but did not say out loud. Remy had not, she realised, used those changed powers in front of anyone but herself and Hank. For a moment she weighed up whether to keep Remy's confidence or not but the bright pleading in his eyes persuaded her. ~You are going to have to explain this one to me,~ she sent in his direction and was startled to see him nod. It took all of her self-control to stop that startlement from appearing on her face. A quick glance at Hank showed a faint speculative look on his face.

'You had something to say?' Scott was asking.

'If Remy is a latent telepath,' said Ororo, thinking quickly, 'it may explain the effect that Azimuth's power has upon him.'

'Maybe,' said Remy, but his tone was definitely non-committal. Ororo nearly shook her head in frustration. Every conversation with Gambit about his association with Sinister seemed to involve entendre and implication and no concrete answers.

'So he made you a telepath and a biokinetic. Or tried to,' Scott amended his sentence. 'It's a complicated combination. I can see why it didn't work.'

'So he made yah flawed,' said Rogue unexpectedly. 'How come yah nevah told me yah couldn't have children, Remy?'

He flashed a burning glance at her. 'You wouldn' even let me touch you,' he said. 'I didn' t'ink whether we was goin' to have children was an issue.' The words were meant to cut, reached their target. Tears sprang to Rogue's eyes, to be quickly blinked away and replaced by a sullen heat.

'I would have thought that the doctor would have ensured your procreative possibilities,' said Hank, thoughtfully, ignoring the emotional by-play. 'Extrapolating from first principles, which in Mr Sinister's case revolve around genetic domination and inheritance, it seems your ability to continue your line would have been one of his first considerations.'

Remy shrugged. 'I didn' t'ink to ask him,' he replied. 'It's pretty much what he said in de medi-lab. He messed up my DNA when he made me, had to change me too much to allow me to have children. He made me to be a weapon.' Something maimed twisted behind Remy's eyes. 'He didn' try dat hard to make me human.'

'Then he failed again, my friend,' said Ororo, softly and the smile she bestowed on Remy was dazzling. 'After all, you turned out to be a very good human.'

Remy returned her smile, a sudden glimpse of the deep affection the two friends felt in that shared moment.

'Then why did Sinister go to so much trouble to create the werechild?' puzzled Hank, pursuing his original point. 'If he felt no need to create you with the capacity to reproduce, why has he spent considerable time and resources on impregnating Azimuth with what was essentially your child?'

'You heard what he said,' put in Cecilia. 'The child had the ability to modify DNA with its touch. You've told me enough about that white-skinned devil and his ambitions that even I can work out what he wanted with it.'

'But why Gambit?' insisted Hank. 'And why Azimuth?'

'I can' see molecules,' said Remy, unexpectedly, his words slow as if he groped for each one. 'Visible light don' work dat way, can' let you see somet'ing dat small. But I can - track - dem, sense dem almos'. Dat's how my powers fit in together. And I can change dem, change what's happenin' inside dem. Dat's why I can blow dem up. I presume dat's de part of me dat Sinister gave de werechild - de power to change de way dat molecules fit together, dat DNA fits together. And Azimuth can see t'ings - *real* t'ings. De way people live inside dere own heads, what dey believe about demselves.' He looked up at Hank, his gaze calculating. 'Haven' you always said dat half of what makes a mutant is what dey believe about demselves? Dat de mind is as important as de body?' Beast nodded. 'Sinister always liked Azimuth's power - dat's why he kept her as long as he did, why he tried to change my head til I could do what she does. Maybe her power was what he needed to make de weapon he wanted. I t'ink dat it wasn' enough for de werechild to be able to change DNA. I t'ink it needed to be able to change how de person t'ought about demselves as well, give dem de mindset so dey could be de mutant.' Remy shrugged, suddenly uncomfortable with the startled looks he was getting. 'Dat's what I t'ink, anyway.'

'There was definitely a mental component,' said Jean. 'I felt it lash out at you, Remy. It was untrained but there was definitely an aspect of its power that was almost telepathic in nature.' Her gaze on him was thoughtful.

'Did it change you?' Psylocke's purple eyes were wary as she looked at Remy. 'When it touched you? I felt it try.'

He shook his head. 'It tried,' he agreed. 'It was too angry - it couldn' focus.' Remy grinned suddenly, but it was wry and humourless. 'Don' worry. I ain' goin' to start growing a tail tomorrow.'

'It felt like Sabretooth,' said Betsy, grimly. Involuntarily her hand rubbed at her stomach and Warren's wing curved outward in an almost unconscious gesture, to soothe at her arm. Betsy knew better than most what Sabretooth's mind felt like.

'Probably part of it was Sabretooth,' replied Remy. 'I t'ink Sinister wanted dat - rage. He probably put in memory implants.'

'In utero?' said Hank. His eyebrows quirked upwards in surprise. 'A fairly perilous and very advanced procedure. I'm surprised that even Mr Sinister is capable of undertaking such a delicate operation.'

'Wit' all de time in de world and Azimuth his prisoner?' Remy's words were very bitter. 'You'd be surprised what Essex is capable of.'

'Capable of creating the mutant children he wants,' said Scott and his face was very still, expressing nothing. 'We know that neither you nor Azimuth wanted the child, even if Sinister did. Is that why you let it die?'

The accusation in Scott's words, if not his tone, bit deep and Remy's eyes flared scarlet. 'Now you see why I didn' let Azimuth come to de meeting,' he said softly. 'Why don' you jus' go and visit her on her sickbed and call *her* a murderess to her face? Or is dat too self-righteous even for you?'

'Remy didn't let the werechild die,' said Jean, her words slicing through the tension, drawing Scott's attention away from Remy. Her expression was defiant as she looked at her husband. 'He asked me to drop my tk shield, but it was my choice to do it. I knew the child was going to die, Remy did not. If you want to accuse anyone of killing the child, then you have to blame me.' For an instant, the glow of the Phoenix surrounded her, but she dampened it with a conscious effort of will.

'No-one let it die,' added Psylocke, her gaze hard. 'The werechild was not capable of living, was not structured correctly inside. The only way to keep it alive was in Jean's shields - even in a humidicrib, it would have died. Would you have asked that of Jean?' Her every aspect was a challenge to Scott. 'And for what purpose? To allow the werechild to live? It was evil, Cyclops. It is better that it died.' Betsy's position had not changed since the day of the birth.

Remy's expression was faintly incredulous as he made swift adjustments to his way of thinking. It astonished him more than a little that the two telepaths, women he had considered almost as enemies, were his staunchest defenders.

Scott, too, was having to make his own adjustments. His face made it clear that he was not happy with the change, but gradually his expression smoothed. 'The werechild would have died?' he asked and grimaced at himself. No-one had used Azimuth's term for the child before its birth - that alone was enough to tell him the seachange that had occurred in the X-Men's feelings - if he admitted it, in his own feelings.

'Mr Sinister did not exactly offer me an opportunity to undertake an autopsy,' said Beast, 'but from all the information I have been able to glean, the answer can be nothing but an unequivocal affirmative.'

Scott closed his eyes, steeled himself. 'Then there was nothing anyone could do,' he half-whispered. 'I have to apologise,' he said to a startled Remy. 'I had no right to say what I did.' He could offer explanations, tell them about the feelings that burned inside of him about children and pain and manipulations, the shattering loss of his innocence with the supposed death of his parents, the horror with which he watched his own children, forlorn, torn from him by time and space and future wars that negated his own existence and theirs even as they lived. But Scott Summers did not offer explanations like that. The only thing he could offer Remy was his apology.

For an instant Remy thought about rejecting the proffered peace but his empathy told him about some of the complex tangle of feelings running through Scott. 'D'accord,' he sighed, suddenly weary of accusation and anger.

'So do you think Sinister getting the werechild's body will pose any kind of threat?' Bobby asked. 'To you, Gambit? To anyone?'

'I doubt it,' interjected Cecilia. 'From everything Remy's told us about Sinister, everything Azimuth said that the hijo de putas did while he had her, I don't think there's anything he could learn from the body that he didn't know already.'

'Maybe he took it to mourn,' said Jean, very softly, her eyes still defiantly upon her husband. She drew startled glances but no-one was willing to follow up what she said, willing to grant Essex human feelings.

'He will undoubtedly learn certain things from the body,' said Hank, pinching at the bridge of his nose. 'But it is indisputable that his techniques and experimental data-gathering whilst Azimuth was in his non-too-gentle hands would already have supplied him with the majority of findings necessary to overcome the shortcomings in the current process.' Hank's gaze was clearly troubled as he looked at Remy. 'Which leads to the question - is Azimuth safe? Are you? Or will Mr Sinister try to take you again, when his investigations are complete and he feels compelled to try again?'

'He won' take Azimuth.' Remy's distress was clear in the crimson flickerings that wreathed between his fingers, crept up his forearms. 'He'll never use her to create anyt'ing like de werechild again. Or use me. I won' let him.' He glanced down, noticed the eerie light of his hands and suddenly they were still and drained once again.

'Maybe it would have been better if the werechild had never lived,' said Hank, quietly. 'If I had agreed to Azimuth's request to terminate the pregnancy. If I had known then she would not have had to undergo such traumatic experiences.'

'It would have been wrong,' said Sam, very unexpectedly, his voice adamant. 'The choice is God's whether a child lives or dies, not ours.'

'Even when the child is a made thing?' said Cecilia, heatedly. 'A child of rape? Forced on a woman against her will? Is that God's choice, Sam?' The source of the tension that had occasionally simmered between herself and Hank became suddenly apparent to the assembled X-Men. Cecilia's acceptance of the X-Men's choices in regards to Azimuth's pregnancy had been tenuous at best.

Remy's hand slapped the table, caught their attention. 'It doesn' matter,' said the pragmatic thief. 'It's done now. Over. Arguing 'bout it won' change it. Jus' - leave it.' He turned to Scott. 'I t'ink Azimuth's been alone long enough,' he said.

Scott nodded, suddenly as tired as Remy of hearing the X-Men fight. They moved away from him, and he closed his eyes, supported himself against his hand as he listened to them walk out of the door, the acrimonious tones of an argument on the edge of his hearing.

Then a hand touched his and he opened his eyes to find Jean standing in front of him. 'Scott?' she asked, very quietly and he felt her gentle question on the link between them, her soft wondering at his feelings. He opened his mind to her, let pour the emotions that he never allowed anyone else to see and then her arms were wrapped tight around him, his face buried in the glory of her hair and everything, suddenly, was alright again.

'I thought you didn't smoke any more.' Hank's tone was mild, without reproof.

Remy looked down at the cigarette in his hand, glowing against the curling darkness of the gathering twilight and shrugged. 'Sometimes de old vices are best,' he said.

'Will Azimuth approve? I believed it was her attitude to your carcinogenic intake that made you cease and desist from killing yourself slowly in the first place.' Despite the words there was no hectoring note in Hank's voice, merely mild curiosity.

'She understands,' replied Remy. 'First chance she gets, she's going to get drunker dan de proverbial skunk. Sometimes you jus' need to - ,' he paused, groped for a word, defeated said, 'let it out. Let it go.' His hand made an indeterminate circling gesture, tried to convey the meaning he couldn't make with words, ended up at his mouth again, savouring the taste of old, bad habits. The smoke tasted of a time before care, before responsibility weighed so heavy, and Remy appreciated the rough tang of it.

'Has she stopped crying?' Hank asked, very quietly. He had wanted to check on Azimuth after the meeting, but had been stopped by the sight of her curled up and sobbing in Remy's arms, and the fierce shake of the head that Remy had given him.

'Oui,' said Remy, drew in a deep lungful of smoke.

'I didn't think . . . she would cry so much,' said Hank. 'I thought she would be glad the werechild was dead. She hated it so much.'

'Wantin' somet'ing dead and watchin' it die are two different t'ings, Beast,' said Remy. From his tone, Hank knew the Cajun was speaking from experience and, for a moment, he thought Remy would elaborate. Remy's attention, however, was firmly fixed on blowing an elaborate set of smoke rings, that drifted on the evening breeze and broke apart.

Hank sighed internally, tried a different subject. 'The meeting went well,' he said. 'I think the rest of the X-Men were impressed by your forthrightness.'

'Were dey?' Remy's tone was non-committal.

'I do not know if you have noticed it, my Cajun friend,' said Hank dryly, 'but the X-Men do not, on the whole, credit your veracity. I think they were surprised by your honesty.'

One corner of Remy's mouth quirked upwards, dropped again. 'Honest?' he asked. 'As far as it goes, I s'pose.'

'You were being honest, weren't you, Remy?' Hank asked, somewhat alarmed.

'As much as necessary,' replied Remy. He caught Hank's look, said, 'I tol' de X-Men what dey needed to hear.'

'But was it the truth?' asked Hank.

'What is truth, Beast? Haven' some of your favourite philosophers written volumes on de subject? Have dey ever come up wit' an answer?'

'Now you're just being deliberately exasperating,' said Hank, firmly.

'Doing a fine job of it, too,' grinned Remy, suddenly. He sobered rapidly. 'Maybe I jus' don' feel like talking, neh?'

'Well, I do,' replied Beast. 'You did tell us the truth at the meeting, didn't you, Remy?' Hank made the meaning beneath the words clear. ~I've come to trust you, Remy. Don't screw it up now or you've lost a friend,~ it ran.

'Call it edited highlights of my exciting past wit' Mr Sinister and his Merry Band of Marauders,' said Remy. 'It was de trut', Hank. As much as you're goin' to get of it, anyway.'

'What happened between you and Essex, Remy? Why didn't you tell us any of this before?' Hank was almost pleading.

The glance Remy slid towards him was almost amused. 'You see?' he said. 'You X-Men have never learned how to ask the right questions.' He drew heavily on his cigarette and his expression told Hank suddenly that the subject was now closed.

So Hank tried another tack. 'I see you and Rogue haven't resolved your differences.' He hadn't missed the emotional fencing between the two, simply ignored it.

Remy made some indeterminate noise, no comment. Hank ploughed on, his voice conversational. 'I used to think you were cruel,' he said. 'I watched you courting Rogue so assiduously when she couldn't touch you and sometimes I wondered if you were just being deliberately cruel to her. I have watched you now for months with Azimuth, the way you protect her, care for her, and my opinion of your conduct has changed.' He sighed. 'After today, I wonder whether it was not Rogue that was being cruel in her spurning of your touch.'

'We were bot' being cruel to each other, to ourselves,' said Remy, unexpectedly. 'It's all we had left at de end, neh? Jus' findin' new ways to hurt each other. I couldn' leave her alone, she couldn' let down de barriers. It's better dat it's ended.'

'It doesn't sound much like love,' said Hank softly. Since Cecilia had entered his life he felt he had some authority to speak on what love felt like.

'Rogue and I never loved each other,' said Remy, ignored Hank's surprised noise. 'We fell in love wit' who we t'ought we were, de image we had, not de person. She t'ought I was a Prince Charmin' in disguise, I t'ought she was de perfect prize, de woman I could coax into touchin', into lovin'. Neither of us could cope wit' de real person under de image, couldn' fit de flaws into de perfect pictures we had. I fell in love wit' de image, not de real Rogue. Merde, Hank, I don' t'ink I even know who de real Rogue is. And if dat's not de cruellest t'ing you can do, seeing all de flaws in de person you love, spendin' all your time comparin' dem to what dey *should* be, den I don' know what is.'

Remy's eloquence had flummoxed Hank, surprised him with the scathing depth of the self-insight. 'And Azimuth?' was as much as he could manage.

'Dat's love,' replied Remy, simply. 'She's my friend, Hank, as much as my lover. I like being wit' her, being at peace wit' her. Dat's somet'ing Rogue and I didn' have. We were too busy being star-crossed, tragic lovers. We didn' have time to do dat and be friends.' He flicked the glowing butt of his cigarette into the air, watched it disintegrate into sparkling nothi ngness.

Hank's eyes also traced the tiny firework glow of the cigarette, knew Remy would be going back inside soon, finally said what he had tracked down Remy to say to him. 'Will you apologise to Azimuth for me, Remy?' he asked, quietly. 'Let her know that . . . it . . . I . . . that I wish things had been different.'

Remy looked almost amused. 'Can' you tell her?' he asked.

'I have. Several times.' For once the normally loquacious Beast was nearly lost for words. 'But I just want to make sure she understands my sincerity. I feel that I have hurt her so much by my choices.'

'Don' blame yourself,' said Remy sharply. 'You didn' put de werechild in Azimuth. If you want to blame someone, blame Essex.'

'But I - I took away her choices,' said Hank, helplessly. His moral distress was obvious.

Remy shook his head. 'Sinister did dat,' he pointed out. 'One t'ing about Sinister - even when he givin' you what you want most in all de world, he makes sure de price you pay is more dan a body can afford. When he making you give him somet'ing he wants . . .' He trailed off. 'He wanted Azimuth to give birt' to de werechild. At least you kept her alive while you were doing it, Hank.'

'Do you think Azimuth might appreciate some therapy? I can organise it with Moira,' Hank offered. The Professor's extensive debriefings after traumatic events had become legend among the X-Men, but all had learned how effective those sessions were in making it possible to cope with their most peculiar lifestyle.

But Remy shrugged it off. 'What can a t'erapist tell Azimuth dat she wouldn' know about herself, just by lookin' in de mirror? She's sane right now, Hank, and so long as I'm around to help keep her dat way, den she'll get over what's happened to her.' He had no trouble interpreting Hank's pleading look. 'But I'll pass on your apology. I've got to go,' he said, lifting himself away from the railings of the front stairs. 'Got to go clean my teeth.'

'Pardon?' asked Hank, startled.

There was a flashed grin in the darkness as Remy stepped away. 'I forgot how much dose t'ings taste like shit,' he said and was gone.

There are small spaces in between breaths. He had lain beside her in the dark so often now, listening to those spaces, that moment when breath halts before easing in or out, that he knew the rhythm as intimately as he knew his own.

Remy listened to those spaces now and knew that Azimuth was awake in the dark beside him.

'Amant,' he said softly.

'Lover,' she replied, equally softly, not surprised that he, too, was awake.

He reached out for her where she lay curled beside him, his fingers stroking insistently over hers until she eased herself against him, wrapped her arm over his chest, her leg twined across his, her face nestled into his shoulder. His fingers trailed over her face, over the sharp jut of shoulder-blade and spine until he shuddered. 'You're jus' skin and bone,' he whispered and suddenly found himself clutching her tightly to him, his face buried in her hair, the emotions he had suppressed for so long overwhelming him. 'Mon dieux,' he half-groaned. 'I nearly lost you, so close, so close to losin' you.'

For a moment Azimuth gripped him nearly as hard and then whispered, 'Remy? Oxygen,' and he muttered a soft curse of apology and relaxed his grip. 'You're not losing me,' she said. 'I'm getting better now. I'm not going to die.'

He could see her looking up at him in the dark, her eyes unfocused, but knowing that he would see the reassuring smile that lit her face. 'Are you sure?' he asked, filled with the old fear of losing what he loved the most - a fear that had been fulfilled too many times for him to easily dismiss it.

'I'm putting on weight,' she replied. 'Lots of weight. You know that. I went for a walk to the bathroom this morning and felt fine. I'm getting healthier every day. Why are you so worried?'

'Because I want to know dat you're alright,' he said. 'Not jus' healt'y. Alright here.' Uncanny eyes meant he placed his hand unerringly over her heart.

He saw the look on her face, saw it close down, shuttered, locked away from him and then Azimuth curled her head down again until her expression was hidden from him, her head against his chest.

'Chere,' he whispered, sure that she would hear the sudden pounding of his heart. 'What's wrong?'

She didn't turn her face up, wouldn't look at him, but although her words were spoken in little more than a breath, he heard them clearly. 'I watched myself dying, Remy,' said Azimuth. 'Every day, in the mirror, I watched myself dying. Not just physically. There were pieces of me that were breaking away, things I believed in that just - dissolved. Like - I never thought much about babies before. I always thought there'd be time and I could make up my mind when the time came. Now - now I'd rather die than have children. And there were other things that changed, things that I thought I knew about myself, about the way I felt.' She stopped, drew a deep breath. 'The way I feel about you.'

His breath hissed in over his teeth, caught in his chest. 'What do you mean, chere?' he asked, his voice raw.

'I really thought,' said Azimuth, slowly, 'that I'd give up anything for you. Change for you, do whatever was necessary to make you happy. Now I know that I can't do that. There are some things . . . I can't be a member of a happy family, Remy. I know I can't have your child, but if you wanted to adopt, or whatever - I can't. Not any more.'

His voice was soft in the dark. 'I dreamed of having a family,' he said and felt her tense beneath his hand. 'I bought a house down home, dreamed 'bout having a wife and children, t'ought dat maybe one day I could stop bein' a t'ief and a mutant and jus' be a husband and pere, neh?' He stroked his hand down the length of her body, let his hand rest on her hip. 'Dreams of normality. What we all want, when it comes down to it.' He sighed suddenly. 'De dreams of a younger man. A nanve man. I knew a long time ago, chere, dat I wasn' goin' to have a family. Couldn' afford to have a family. I got new dreams now. Dreams of being wit' you, lovin' you, livin' life to de full. You're de only family I need, chere.'

He could feel the tension in her still, understood it when she said, 'So you're not - disappointed in me?' Her voice was very small.

'For what?' he asked. 'Getting kidnapped by Essex? Having dat mad fucker mess wit' your body and your head for fun? Endin' up pregnant t'rough no actions of your own? Havin' to give birt' to de bastard werechild? An' you t'ink Gambit should be disappointed because you don' wan' to have children no more?' Agitation was making his accent thicker. 'Azimuth, I'm jus' happy dat bot' of us are still sane. I t'ink you're entitled to a little trauma.'

She sighed, relaxed against him somewhat. 'I'm getting good at staying sane, Remy,' she whispered. 'I don't need much to do it. Just the small things. A little time safe, a little space to breathe, a little peace.' Her hand clasped his. 'And you, by my side, reminding me I'm real, that there's something worth holding on for. You will stay with me, won't you?'

'Til de end of de world.' Remy said. He lightened his tone deliberately, 'De only way I'm leavin' you is if you leave me first. And even den, I'd ask if you'd let me come along. Why would I walk away from de woman who fills my days?'

Azimuth gave a quick shudder beneath his hand, which he couldn't identify, until she said, 'I don't know. Maybe to run away with the brazen hussy who fills your nights?' and he realised that she was laughing, that a tension he had barely been aware of between them had been released and that she was giddy with it.

He responded to her laugh with his own, a smoky chuckle that relaxed the tenseness of his muscles. 'Ah, now *her*, chere. I don' know if you'd like *her*,' he whispered. 'She's blonde and she's got dese long legs and eyes dat smoulder and lips dat caress until I t'ink my blood is boiling in my veins because of what she can do to me. And in de middle of de night she runs her hand down de length of me and it's like fire and ice and magic and all I want to do is kiss her until my heart stops wit' de pleasure of it . .'

Azimuth was giggling fiercely by now and she lifted herself up until she could find his face and stop his words by planting her lips firmly on his.

'Stop it,' she said, when she lifted her mouth from him. 'You know you're tempting me outrageously, and you know I'm in no fit state for a bout of hot monkey love.' Her hand reached down cautiously through the dark until her fingers rested lightly on his mouth.

Remy kissed those fingers gently and said, 'You sure you're not up for it, chere? Been a while now.' He knew she would feel the grin that played at the corners of his mouth, not take him too seriously.

'Ah, Remy,' she sighed, making it sound as if she was burdened by his lackof insight, 'what would it do for your reputation as a hot monkey love machine if you had to explain to Hank that I'd passed out while you were making love to me?'

He pursed his lips, considering carefully. 'Maybe if I tol' Hank it was cause de pleasure was too much for you - you'd passed out from sheer ecstasy - do you t'ink dat'd work?'

'Fairly unlikely,' said Azimuth, dryly amused.

'Well, I s'pose dere's no hope, den,' said Remy, a long-suffering tone in his voice. Then he grinned, the widest, smirkiest leer he could manage. 'So I know you're not up to a bout of hot monkey love,' he said, his tone cheerily suggestive, 'but didn' Hank say you had to do a lot of eatin'? Maybe dere's somet'ing we could try . . .' He let the suggestion trail away into the air.

The response was swift. 'Remy LeBeau,' said Azimuth, sternly. 'You're a vile man trying to take advantage of a sick woman and make her commit lewd and lascivious acts upon your body. I can't imagine what made you say such a thing and I'm certainly not going to be doing what you suggested.' There was a long pause and then, just as Remy opened his mouth to answer, a single word drifted out of the dark. 'Yet.'

There was so much lechery invested in that one small word that Remy gave a shout of laughter and hugged Azimuth close to him. 'God, I love you,' he said and kissed her, a hungrily exuberant kiss.

She was panting by the time he let her go, but she could still whisper, 'And I love you, LeBeau. Like - like -' she groped for a word.

'Like t'underbolts and lightning?' supplied Remy.

'Just like,' she agreed and then snuggled in close under his arm.

They lay in silence for a few moments, enjoying the comfort of warm bodies in the dark, until Remy broke the silence reluctantly. 'Hank came to see me today.' He'd told Azimuth everything that'd happened at the meeting, but hadn't spoken about Beast before.

'What did he want?' Azimuth asked, curious.

'He wanted me to tell you how sorry he is,' replied Remy, softly.

'Again?' Azimuth's made an exasperated noise. 'How many times does he think he has to apologise to me? Honestly, Remy, it's starting to get ridiculous.'

'He t'inks he made de wrong choice, chere.' Remy's words were careful but he couldn't keep the sympathy from his voice. Remy knew all about wrong choices and the pain they caused. 'He t'inks maybe he should have agreed to gettin' rid of de werechild but he can' help t'inkin' dat would be wrong. He doesn' - he can' weigh up de choices - can' work out what would have been de right t'ing to do. An' he t'inks he should have kept de werechild out of Sinister's hands and dat he failed you because he was too - hurt - to try and stop Essex.' Remy shrugged in the dark. 'He's feelin' lost, chere. Dat's why he keeps saying sorry.'

'He did make the wrong choice.' Azimuth's words were brutal. 'He should have let me get rid of it. He should have trusted me more. He didn't and he was wrong.' She sighed again, her tone softened. 'But he's apologised and I've accepted and I've forgiven him,' she paused, added , 'mostly,' in a judicious tone of voice and continued. 'I can't do anything more than that, Remy. The choices are made, the werechild's dead, Sinister's gone. Hank's going to have to sort it out for himself.'

'I t'ink - I t'ink it worries him dat you cry so much,' replied Remy, his words carefully neutral. He loved Azimuth with every fibre of his being and understood the basis for her feelings, but Hank's distress had been obvious to him. 'It worries me, too,' he added.

'Well the two of you can stop worrying then,' said Azimuth. 'I'm tired of crying, Remy. Sick and tired of it. Today was the last time. No more tears for me - not about this.'

'Are you sure?' asked Remy, somewhat concerned. 'You not just doin' it to make me feel better?'

'No, I'm not.' Azimuth turned in his arms, moved in closer to him so her lips brushed against his ear. 'No more damage, LeBeau. No more hurting. I don't want to do it any more. The ordeal is over, I'm with the man I love, I'm young and wealthy and one day soon I'll be healthy. I can fall apart or I can be happy about the blessings I have. I choose to be happy.'

'Truly happy, chere?' Remy asked. 'I mean, is choosing to be happy de same t'ing as bein' happy? Are you actually happy or are you jus' sayin' dat you're happy? Can you really choose to be happy and make it happen or is dat jus' false happiness?'

Azimuth gave a somewhat unladylike snort. 'I think you're getting into the realms of sophistry now,' she said.

'I'm a t'ief and a Catholic,' pointed out Remy. 'Sophistry's de only way I can practise my profession.'

'I hadn't thought about it that way,' Azimuth responded and he could hear the smile in her voice. 'And to answer your questions - yes, you can choose to be happy and no, I'm not happy. Not yet, Remy. Too many bad things have happened. But I can let go of the anger and the hate and the guilt and that means the potential is there.' She sighed, wriggled closer into his embrace. 'I stopped crying today, let some of the pain go. Now all that's got to happen is that you keep telling me you love me and giving me chocolate and seduce me shamelessly in the near future and I might just manage to do the actually happy thing.' She bit his shoulder lightly, growled softly in her throat. 'So you get that, LeBeau? This whole happiness thing is down to you. Up to it?'

He smiled in the dark. 'Oh, I t'ink so. Jus' let me know when you want me to do dat seducing t'ing. Den you can see how up to it I really am.'

'Lecher,' reproved Azimuth fondly. She became serious again. 'What about you, LeBeau? Are you happy?' she asked, softly.

He was glad it was dark, that he wasn't caught in her too-perceptive gaze. 'Wit' you I am,' he responded. He didn't want to think about the times without her, when the fear of what was necessary gnawed at him, destroyed any joy he was feeling.

She lay still and silent for a long moment beside him, and he wondered if she realised that his response was no real answer at all. 'I make you happy?' she whispered at last, her voice filled with wonder.

'You do,' he responded, his tone compelling with honesty. Azimuth made him happy and at this moment that was the only truth that mattered.

'Good,' she said and kissed his ear, then gripped it until she could turn his head and kiss his mouth.

She drifted away into sleep soon after, a more relaxed and deeper sleep than she had slept for a long time.

Remy lay awake in the dark beside her and thought about their possible futures. After a while he began to make plans.


GambitGuild is neither an official fansite of nor affiliated with Marvel Enterprises, Inc.
Nonetheless, we do acknowledge our debt to them for creating such a wonderful character and would not dream of making any profit from him other than the enrichment of our imaginations.
X-Men and associated characters and Marvel images are © Marvel Enterprises, Inc.
The GambitGuild site itself is © 2006 - 2007; other elements may have copyrights held by their respective owners.