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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 4

To: storm@ xmen.com

Subject: {blank}

Where did I meet Azimuth?

Aaaah, chere, you'll never know how much I hoped that you would never ask that question. But as it seems that all my hopes are always to be dashed - in the end it does not surprise me that you ask.

This is where it comes down to trust, Ororo. Believe me, please believe me, when I say that - although what follows is the truth - it is only part of the truth - and it changes *nothing*. I am, always, your friend, your confidante, your colleague, your fellow X-Man, even if only in my heart.

I met Azimuth when I was with Sinister. Despite the impression that you gained from Rogue, from the trial, my time with Sinister was not short. I spent 18 months in his "employ". Azimuth, too, was one of Sinister's, a functionary not a Marauder. He was intrigued by her powers, though he held her in contempt for being only a beta mutant. He tried to duplicate her powers in others. Something that he did to me meant that I can feel when she uses her talent - an itch, a buzz in the centre of my brain. I felt it again, when she used it on the bodyguard, on Mackler. I am the only one who can tell when she uses her power, but even knowing what she does cannot stop it from affecting me.

Not that Azimuth has ever used her power on me for ill. She gave me faith in myself when I was lost, Storm, she believed in me when I did not believe in myself. She was the only sane person in all of Sinister's mad coterie and she was my only friend - and my lover when it didn't mean anything. She was there for a year, until she *had* to go and then she escaped and vanished from my life - until now.

All the dynamics have changed now - we are friends, not lovers - even more, we are master and apprentice. But once again, she gives me a place to stand in peace and safety when my world crumbles and she does not judge me - even when I judge myself.

Do not condemn Azimuth for her past, 'Ro, for she hates the works of men such as Sinister with a passion that would match your own. It was just that once she made a mistake, to trust a man who could not be trusted, the worst kind of mistake.

The kind that we can all make.

Have faith, 'Ro. Believe in us.


'Well, you've certainly stirred up the bandits.' Lynch's tone was somewhat self-satisfied. 'I haven't seen this level of excitement in years. Smith's blaming Mackler, who's blaming the Montessoris, who are blaming Smith. There's claims, counter-claims and accusations flying thick and fast. I think the bullets are going to start soon.'

Gambit shrugged. 'Dey don' know we involved, den I don' care.' Azimuth, standing at his shoulder, nodded her agreement.

Gambit had invited her to sit down, but she had silently refused, preferring to stand behind his chair. She took, he had noticed, an obscure pleasure in upholding the traditions of masters and apprentices, even though he had told her that, unaffiliated with a guild, he didn't care whether she did or not. It had to do with Lynch being there, he thought, for Azimuth had muttered something about what others saw as being appropriate when he asked her why she did it.

Lynch was looking down at his hands, clasped before him on the desk.

'I don't know,' he said, softly. 'If ever any of them stop and think, if they stop blaming each other long enough to think there may be another culprit,' he raised his eyes to meet Gambit's, 'they may think of you. You are too good, Gambit. There are thefts only you are capable of - and the Montessori heist was one of them. I think it may be time for you to take a job in another city.'

There was a long pause, Gambit studying Lynch's face in silence. Finally, he nodded. 'You're right,' Gambit said. 'I t'ink we need to get away from Chicago. If not'ing else, Azimuth is too well known here.'

Lynch smiled suddenly at Azimuth. 'Yes. I must admit it wasn't the career change I would expect of Kytek's sales manager, but it appears you have acquitted yourself well, apprentice.'

Azimuth bowed deeply, but kept her silence. Her sudden wave of shy delight touched the edge of Gambit's empathy, however, and drifted by.

Lynch nodded his appreciation of Azimuth's gesture and then turned to his computer. 'Anywhere you won't work?' he asked.

'Seattle.' The answer was instantaneous and simultaneous. Lynch's face was slightly startled but the adamant gaze of two sets of eyes quickly turned him back to his screen.

'I have something in Detroit you might like,' he said. 'Just a little housebreaking.' His grin was fleeting. 'Of course, the house is one of the best-guarded and most secure mansions around, but what do you expect if you only want to steal from the bad boys?'

Gambit decided to treat that question as rhetorical. 'Who? What? Why?' he asked.

'Sam Dolenz. A Mayan idol stolen from the Boston Museum. Because their director would very much like it back.'

'Sounds good,' Gambit replied. 'You can handle Detroit, chere?' He directed the question back over his shoulder.

'Wherever you choose to go, master.' Azimuth's voice was soft and surprisingly lacking in mockery.

Gambit turned suddenly amused eyes onto Lynch. 'You heard de girl, Lynch. Detroit it is. Would you care to fill me in on de details?'

'Gladly,' replied Lynch, and began to do precisely that.

'Why are we doing this, exactly?' Azimuth's voice was just a little plaintive, which, considering that it was 5am and rather chilly, Gambit was willing to admit was reasonable.

'You saw de plans, chere,' he replied. 'To get into Dolenz's we have to go over de wall. And I haven' seen you do any rope-climbing yet. So we got to do a little practice.'

Azimuth frowned slightly. 'That's fair enough, but why not practice at a gym or something. Why a building wall at dawn when it's pretty damn cold?'

'Cause we be going over Dolenz's fence in de middle of a cold spring night wit' de fear of getting caught eating at our nerves. Dat's what we practicing for - not just de climbing.'

Azimuth nodded, her frown clearing as she accepted his logic. 'Fair enough,' she said. 'But I haven't done this before, Remy. You sure you've shown me enough of the techniques?'

'Oui, chere,' replied Gambit. 'Remember, I'll go first, all you got to do is follow me. If you get into trouble, call out to me, I come back and help. OK?'

Azimuth's answering smile was just a little dubious, but Gambit decided she was ready. He had faith in her agility and her fitness. The rest should be easy.

He pulled a slim metal rod from his side-pocket and flowered it open into a grappling hook. Azimuth handed him the length of fine, dark line she had unwound from around her waist and he attached it to the hook. Whirling it rapidly around his head, he threw it with the strength and accuracy born of ten thousand practices. It whirred rapidly into the sky and then settled over the building's roof into the cornices. Tugging the rope rapidly backwards, Gambit felt the bite as the grappling hook dug into the brickwork. He leaned all his weight backwards into the rope until he felt sure it was secure.

'OK, Azimuth.' He turned back to face his apprentice. 'I'll go up and you follow me. Remember, call me if you have trouble.'

Azimuth nodded, her worried face pale above the darkness of her high collar. She had been wearing her colours so long, Gambit had almost forgotten what she looked like in civvies. But now they were, indeed, like a second skin to her.

He settled his hands around the fine rope, a secure, twisted grip that meant he would not slide. Then he lifted his right foot and planted it against the wall and then began to walk up the side of the building.

Gambit could feel the sudden tension in the rope as Azimuth secured her grip and then the taut spring as she settled her weight into the walk. Stopping, he looked down and found that she was making her way slowly, but steadily, up behind him. She looked up at him and nodded that she was alright, so Gambit turned and rapidly climbed the rest of the way up. He flipped himself quickly over the cornice and settled down to wait.

It was a few minutes before he began to be worried. Finally, aware of the continuing tension in the rope that meant Azimuth was there and yet knowing that she should have been at the top by now, he looked back down to see what was wrong. The sight that met his eyes made him gasp with a startled bark of near-laughter.

'How did you do dat, chere?' he asked, when his voice was back under control.

Azimuth lifted her head and glared angrily up at him. 'Just because I'm nearly as agile as you, LeBeau, does not mean I've done any rope-climbing courses lately, alright?'

'Why didn't you call me? Look like you could use some help.' Gambit's voice burbled with suppressed laughter.

'Because I was trying to get out of this situation with some dignity intact, that's why. I've never felt so ridiculous in my life.' Azimuth was nearly snarling.

'Hang on a minute, chere.' Gambit backed away from the cornice and grasped the rope. He had to use a great deal of strength, but finally he created a loop he could step into and stretch the rope around his waist. He backed away from the edge, drawing Azimuth higher until her yelp announced she had reached the cornice. Gambit worked his way, hand over hand, back down the rope, until he could reach over the edge and, grasping whatever bits of Azimuth he could, drag her onto the roof.

She lay and glared at him as he gathered his breath back. 'How you do dis, chere?' he asked as he looked her over. 'You like a trussed chicken.'

'I got my foot caught, alright, and then when I reached down to free it, I fell and then I got my hand caught, and the more I tried to untangle myself, the worse it got. Now just get me out of here.'

The sudden undertone of distress in Azimuth's voice made Gambit concentrate on freeing her from the tangled rope that wrapped her body so securely she could barely move. He couldn't believe the incredible tangle she had got herself into and just gave thanks that no-one had been walking down the street when she had done it.

Finally he began to get her loose. As he undid the last of the knots, Gambit, his voice studiously neutral, asked, 'You ever considered becoming a dominatrix, chere? You seem to have a natural talent for bondage.'

The glare Azimuth sent his way should have withered Gambit on the spot, but instead his lips twitched wildly as he tried to contain his laughter. Azimuth's glare increased in intensity, as did Gambit's attempts to contain himself, until suddenly Azimuth's face softened and she burst into laughter. That set Gambit off, and together the two of them laughed until they cried.

Finally, Azimuth managed to sober up long enough to wipe the tears from her cheeks. 'Next time, LeBeau,' she said, and giggled again, 'next time, we do this in a gym, OK?'

'What, tie each up?' Gambit grinned as Azimuth waved a fist at him. 'I t'ink a gym be a damn fine idea, chere. At least until you can climb a rope wit'out hurtin' y'self. Or anyone else. C'mon,' he extended a hand to lift Azimuth to her feet. 'Let's get out of here down de stairs.'

Azimuth had to admit that it sounded like a good plan as Gambit led her to the stairwell.

'Shall we try dis again?' Gambit smiled at Azimuth as he tugged on the rope that led over the warehouse wall.

The glare Azimuth sent him was mild. They had spent the weeks since the debacle of her first rope-climb in a variety of climbing gyms and her agility, combined with her ever-increasing fitness, meant she was now able to shimmy up a rope with an ease that matched Gambit's.

The move to Detroit had been made some weeks earlier, with Azimuth gaining the loan of Kytek's executive suite from her ever-grateful ex-boss. As she explained to Gambit, 'He wants me back, because I made him a fortune, so he's willing to do these little things for me. And I made sure he won't tell a soul we're here.' Gambit had accepted it as making things just a little easier.

Now they were on their second practice run, the last one before they would break into the extremely secure mansion of Sam Dolenz. It was a warehouse Gambit had used in the past for these kind of runs, mainly to keep his hand in when business was slow.

'It's fully secured, chere,' he said, turning back to the building. 'Full alarm system, infra-red, heat and motion detectors, de lot. You've got to take de satchel from de centre of de largest room - dat means you made a successful heist. You set something off, you get caught, I leave you to deal wit' de cops alone. Understand?'

'One question,' Azimuth's grey eyes narrowed as she gazed at him. Gambit tilted his head graciously in permission, and she continued. 'Any people in there? Security guards, workers, whatever?'

Normally, in this situation, Gambit would have said no, but made it clear he could be lying. He liked to keep apprentices on their toes. With Azimuth there was no point. Whatever he said, she would know the truth.

'No,' he replied, with a sigh. 'It's empty. It's owned by a broker - not Lynch. It's a practice run to see if you can get t'rough normal security, not a real warehouse.'

Azimuth nodded and then gestured for Gambit to precede her up the rope.

They had made it up the rope quickly enough and Azimuth had impressed Gambit with the quiet efficiency with which she had got them through the roof and into the air-conditioning ducts. He was ahead of her now, crawling down the duct which she had scanned as safe, while she put her tools back into their places in her armour. He heard her soft movements behind him as he arrived at the ventilation grate at the end of the duct.

'Azimuth,' he murmured. 'Your turn.'

'I have to wriggle past you,' she said and her voice was as soft as his. Gambit flattened himself against the side of the duct as he felt Azimuth begin to work her way alongside him. He grinned at her as her eyes reached his level gaze.

'Cosy,' he whispered and grinned harder as Azimuth wiggled her hips against his. 'Coquette,' he murmured.

Azimuth smiled and coyly batted her eyelashes at him. 'Don't tell me you don't enjoy it, LeBeau,' she said and then dropped her voice even lower. 'What do you call a man with no arms and no legs nailed to a wall?'

Gambit shook his head, mute with surprise.

'Art,' replied Azimuth, and by the time Gambit got his laughter thoroughly quelled she was opening the ventilation grate.

They stood together in front of the satchel, placed conspicuously in the centre of the floor. Gambit had quietly watched, giving no instruction, as Azimuth had found and disabled each of the security devices that barred their way in. Now he was waiting to see if she could find the last one.

He had trained her well, however, and Azimuth took the thin plate of perspex from her backpack. She reached out to the satchel with her right hand, even as her left hand made ready to slide the thin film over the pressure-sensitive plate in the floor.

'Gambit,' she said softly.

'Hmmm?' he replied.

'What do you call a man with no arms and no legs in a swimming pool?'

Gambit opened his mouth, but no sound came out he was so astonished.

'Bob,' said Azimuth, and even as Gambit struggled again to stop from laughing, she smoothly slid the film over the plate and lifted the satchel from the floor. She grinned a grin that matched Gambit's own as she hefted it onto her back and then they turned and dashed back to the grate.

The walk back to where Gambit had concealed the motorbike was several blocks and he could feel the tension draining from Azimuth as they got further from the warehouse and no wail of sirens split the air.

Finally they made it back to the small alley and quickly donned leathers and helmets for the ride. As they were about to swing onto the bike, Azimuth raised a hand and stopped him.

'Remy,' she said and her voice was deadly serious.

'Oui, chere?' The look Gambit turned on her was very patient.

'What do you call a man with no arms and no legs who swam the English Channel?'

Gambit's mouth dropped open again, but this time he managed to wheeze out a, 'What?'

'A clever dick.'

Any remaining tension Gambit felt was dissipated in a great shout of laughter, echoed by Azimuth. It was some time before they could commence the ride home.

By the time they got back to the apartment Gambit's mood had changed. When they had stripped their colours and were seated on the lounge suite he turned a serious, nearly angry face on Azimuth.

'Dat was ver' foolish, Azimuth,' he said, his voice quiet, but the chastisement in it stronger for it. 'You shouldn' try and make a homme laugh when you be breakin' into a building. What if dey got noise sensitive alarms, neh?'

'They didn't, Remy.' Azimuth's face wore a look of resigned patience, as if she had been expecting this chewing out and was willing to suffer through to the end. 'You know I'd used the sonic pulse to scramble any they had.'

'Den what about if dere be people dere? What about if another t'ief be tryin' what we do? Dey find us and fight us. You can' be trusting to your tools all de time. T'ieving be a serious business, chere.'

Azimuth leaned forward to him. 'There were no other people there, Remy. I know being a thief is serious, but it is fun, too. That run was as safe as we're ever going to be while we're stealing. If we can't feel a little joy while we're doing the heist, then what's the point?'

Gambit's eyes glowed, a sudden spark of serious annoyance. 'De point is dat you feel de joy after you finish de heist. When de spoils are resting in your hands a long way from anybody dat can fight you for dem, or turn you in or set off de alarms, dat's when you feel de joy. Before dat de job is serious. No jokes, no laughing, no fun - not until it's all over, understand.'

A flash of anger glinted behind Azimuth's lashes. 'God's sake, Remy,' she said and her voice was slightly strained. 'Lighten up a bit. I got us through all the security, I didn't set off any alarms, I got the satchel, I got us out and I taught you three new jokes. How much of this righteous crap do I have to take?'

Gambit's face drew down into suddenly harsh lines. 'You ver' good at defendin' you'self, chere,' he rasped, his accent thickened by anger.

'I've had a lot of practice,' shrugged Azimuth in response and then looked at him from below lowered lashes. 'Maybe you should try it some time.'

Gambit was suddenly still, like a deer in the harsh glare of a spotlight. 'You t'ink I got somet'ing I need be defensive about?' he said and his voice was deadly quiet.

An indefinable shadow, a whisper of loss and sorrow, drifted through Azimuth's eyes and her voice was as soft as his as she replied, 'Do you think I have something *I* need to defensive about?'

Gambit's face suddenly softened into lines that resembled distress. 'Never, chere,' he said. 'Gods no. You never did anyt'ing wrong dat you weren't coerced into. How could you need to defend you'self for what you done?'

'And that's how I feel about you, about what you did. You were never willing, Remy. Why do you keep punishing yourself?'

For a long moment, Gambit stared at her, until he whispered, 'You know what I am, Azimuth. Who I am, what I did, why I did it. How can you claim dat you should feel any guilt when I am who I am?'

Azimuth sighed and ran her fingers through her short-cropped hair. 'I bear twice the guilt you do, LeBeau. I was a willing victim - you were bereft of choices. Why won't you let it go?'

Gambit's eyes glowed with the distress he forced from his expression. Helplessly he clenched his fists. 'I can't... I need...'. He trailed off.

Azimuth leaned forward and grasped his hands, softening his fists until she could clutch his fingers tightly. 'I can't forgive you,' she said. 'You have to forgive yourself, Remy. I can't do it for you. You know that.'

'I forget sometimes,' Gambit replied, and his voice was suddenly wry, 'how you're willin' to rip out Gambit's heart to make sure he sees de truth.'

'Brutal honesty,' smiled Azimuth and then grew serious. 'Will you ever forgive yourself?' she asked.

Gambit looked at her but did not reply. He didn't need to. Azimuth sighed deeply. She knew, as well as anyone, that sometimes the things you couldn't forgive yourself for were those things that another didn't hold you responsible for. Gently she reached out to Remy and pulled him to her and held him for a very long time.

The heist had gone amazingly well, with an ease even Gambit hadn't expected. Now the little Mayan idol stood in the centre of the coffee table, casting a shadow under the dim lighting that brushed Azimuth's foot with darkness.

She was sprawled in her chair, one long leg stretched out onto the coffee table, the other tucked beneath her. Gambit was comfortably ensconced in a chair on the other side of the room. Both were drinking beer from long-necked bottles and relaxing after the strenuous night.

'You did good work tonight, chere,' said Gambit. 'You don' need a lot of teachin'. You be a natural-born t'ief, I t'ink.'

Azimuth snorted. 'Natural-born, Remy? Made, more like. The body anyway.'

'Well-made,' retorted Gambit. 'How *are* de implants going?'

'No problems I've noticed,' Azimuth replied. 'I still don't have any feeling in my left thigh, though. I've to remember to check it.' Absently Azimuth ran her hand down the back of her thigh.

Gambit grinned. 'Maybe I could do dat for you, chere.' His voice was filled with hopeful lechery.

'You stay on that side of the room, LeBeau,' replied Azimuth calmly. 'A girl wouldn't want to be tempted.'

Azimuth's reflexes had been enhanced considerably, but her sense were still normal, so she didn't even see Gambit cross the room. Suddenly he was just *there*, kneeling before her, his eyes looking earnestly into hers.

'Do you mean dat, chere?' he said, softly, and there was no humour in his voice now. 'If you don' want me as a lover, dat be fine. I just need to know. You are too important for me to risk driving you away. I need you to be in my life, Azimuth, in whatever context, friend, companion, fellow t'ief, lover. Whatever you want, I can be. Just know dat I need you, utterly need you, in my life.'

For several long moments, Azimuth looked down at him, her face expressionless. And then she leaned forward and took his face between her hands and kissed him like he was all her tomorrows.

They didn't even make it past the coffee table the first time. When they finally made it to Azimuth's bedroom, they found that they still knew each other better than words, and the night was spent in silent passion, broken only by the soft murmurs of re-discovery and the cried of sated desire.

A glance at the clock had shown Remy that it was 9am. ~Nothing like a good lie-in,~ he thought and smiled down at Azimuth, ~and this is what you call a damn good lie-in.~

He lay on his back on the bed, Azimuth wrapped loosely around him. Her head was nestled into the curve of his shoulder, her left arm over his chest, left leg draped across his hips. If not asleep, she was hovering on the edge, her soft breath warming a spot on Remy's shoulder. Remy reached down and stroked her left leg, running his hand down the back of it several times, softly and slowly.

'Azimuth,' he said softly.

'Mmmm,' her response was definitely from the edge of sleep.

'I t'ink your leg be fine,' replied Gambit.

Azimuth dissolved into laughter. Remy could feel her body shaking as she giggled helplessly into his shoulder. Finally, she got herself under control and propped up on one elbow smiled down into the face of her lover.

'I would have thought the acrobatics last night would have convinced you of that, LeBeau.'

Remy looked up into her face, remembering the last time they had been together like this. Her expression then had been nothing like the one she wore now. Instead it had been haggard and worn with fear and her eyes had been riven with doubt and terror. And that was before the worst things had been done to her. But now - now she wore an air of self-confident serenity and her eyes shone with happiness.

'How you do it, chere,' he asked, his voice tinged with awe. 'How you be so - joyous?'

Azimuth smiled down at him and swung her body over until she straddled him.

She lowered her face until it was only inches from Remy's. 'I'm happy because I can be,' she said. 'If I take on the fear, the pain, the hatred that was given to me, if I make it my burden, then they win. And I won't let them win.'

'Dem?' questioned Gambit. 'You mean Sinister?'

'Among others,' Azimuth smiled. 'I've had more bete noirs than you have, lover boy. You just found one who was the worst of all - and he held you in tighter chains than any others.' She dropped a soft kiss on the end of Remy's nose.

'Ah, chere,' he said, and wrapped his arms around her, so she lay cradled to his chest. 'I'm glad you're happy. I just wish you tell me the secret, neh?'

Azimuth murmured something into his shoulder.

'What's dat?' asked Remy.

Azimuth raised her head from his shoulder and Gambit was startled to see tears in her eyes.

'You're the secret,' she said, and her voice was proud. 'That last day, when you saved me and gave me back to myself, you gave me the courage to be free. You gave me the most precious thing of all, you gave me faith in myself, and I was *not* going to waste it.'

'And you gave me back my name,' said Remy, and his grin was only a wry twist of his mouth. 'It seems, perhaps, I waste your gift?'

'Never, LeBeau,' said Azimuth, firmly, and then her smile made her as glorious as sunrise. 'Now you're back in my clutches, I intend to make sure that you thoroughly enjoy life. Now matter what it takes.'

And as her mouth descended and Remy found his blood quickening once again, he realised that her resolution might be no bad thing at all.


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