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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
Chapter 25
Chapter 26
Chapter 27
Chapter 28
Chapter 29
Chapter 30
Chapter 31
Chapter 32
Chapter 33
Chapter 34
Chapter 35
Chapter 36
Chapter 37
Chapter 38
Chapter 39
Chapter 40
Chapter 41
Chapter 42
Chapter 43
Chapter 44
Chapter 45
Chapter 46
Chapter 47
Chapter 48
Chapter 49
Chapter 50
Chapter 51
Chapter 52
Chapter 53
Chapter 54
Chapter 55
Chapter 56
Chapter 57
Chapter 58
Chapter 59
Chapter 60
Chapter 61
Chapter 62
Chapter 63
Chapter 64


Written by Valerie Jones
Last updated: 05/10/2010 11:31:24 PM

Chapter 18

Bobby crept up the basement stairs, cautious of his feet. The warped wooden steps creaked at the slightest excuse and only his thief’s training allowed him to move up them in silence. Two steps below the top, he paused. A brief flicker in the light shining under the kitchen door indicated movement-- someone was awake. Bobby cursed his luck. It struck him as extremely ironic that Remy now came and went openly on his trips to the Guild complex while Bobby was forced to sneak in and out, but he was well aware of how little they could afford to let the X-Men learn the truth. Even Bobby wasn’t completely certain of Scott’s reaction. He wanted to believe that older man would understand, that he would agree with the necessity of protecting the Guild, that he would approve of the life Bobby had chosen... but Bobby doubted it. And that doubt was more than enough reason to keep the truth hidden.

Sighing silently, Bobby weighed his options. He could stay in the basement, waiting for whoever was in the kitchen at three a.m. to leave, or he could go on in and admit to having snuck out for the night. He could concoct an excuse easily enough. The scent of Diedre’s perfume clung to him, filling his thoughts with remembered passion. Too often he didn’t have time to stop to see her when he was working, but tonight he’d made time while Remy was embroiled in yet another Council session. As far as he knew, Remy was still there, arguing risks with the more conservative among the Guild leaders. Bobby doubted he’d accomplish anything.

He glanced up at the door. If I don’t get to bed, I’m not going to get another chance to sleep until the night after tomorrow. The very thought was painful, but the X-Men’s first mission against OZT was scheduled for tomorrow night, which meant that he would be on the go for at least another forty-eight hours if he didn’t get some sleep now.

Oh, for the good ol’ days, he thought with a smile. I had no idea how easy I had it. That was before he’d started training to be a thief and had his schedule rearranged permanently by a certain Cajun taskmaster who made Scott look like a slugabed.

Squaring his shoulders, Bobby took a deep breath in preparation, then carefully changed his posture to mimic the exaggerated furtiveness of a college kid sneaking back into the dorm. Thus prepared, he opened the door into the kitchen, crept through, turned and did a credible double take at the sight of the woman who sat at the kitchen table.

Rogue raised her eyebrows at his sudden appearance. “Bobby! Do ya know what time it is!?” She cocked her head, expression evaluating. “Where’d you come from, sugah?”

“Uh...” Bobby scuffled one foot, keeping his gaze on the floor. “Diedre’s.” He darted a glance at Rogue. “Just don’t tell Scott... Please?” He stared at her hopefully. The appeal was real enough. The last thing he needed was trouble with Scott.

For a moment, he thought she was going to scold him, but then she sighed and waved the request away, her expression reflecting pain and regret before disappearing altogether. “F’get it, sugah. Ya takin’ a pretty big risk, but ah guess ah can’t blame ya.” A sickly smile crossed her face. “We’re all idiots when it comes ta the heart.”

Sudden concern chased away Bobby’s desire to go find his bed. He walked over to the small kitchenette and took a seat beside Rogue. “Did something happen?” As far as he knew, she and Remy had pretty much been ignoring each other since the X-Men had moved into the house. He hadn’t had a chance to talk to Remy about it, but had gotten the impression it was just more of the same old argument.

Rogue shook her head and looked away. “Nah.” He saw the muscle in her jaw knot for a moment as she clenched her teeth. “Ah’m just sittin’ here in the middle o’ the night, wonderin’ where he is... wonderin’ if he’s all right.” Her gaze darted to him and then away again. “Wonderin’ when he’ll run out o’ reasons foh comin’ home.”

Bobby couldn’t quite suppress his snort. “Remy’d cut off his own fingers before he’d leave you, Rogue.”

She turned to look at him in surprise and he saw the hope flare in her eyes. “Ya think so?”

Bobby decided to take a chance. He reached over to grip her bare hand. “I know so.” After all, Remy had been willing to sacrifice his life for a love that wasn’t his own. How much more would he give up for the single greatest desire of his heart?

Rogue continued to stare at him for a moment, searching his face as if looking for reasons to believe, but then her expression hardened. She extracted her hand from his grip and leaned back in her chair. She crossed her arms, fingers drumming against her biceps as she stared at him.

“So what am ah supposed ta be lookin’ foh?” she asked abruptly. Bobby blinked at her mercurial shift in mood as she went on, “That night at dinner, ya told me ta watch Remy, watch everything he did, so ah could figure him out.” She shrugged, the motion painfully sharp. “He’s made it clear enough he ain’t gonna tell me anything, so--“ She pressed her lips together in a thin line, fighting emotions that Bobby couldn’t read, but could guess.

He sighed. That was a dangerous question to try to answer, as much as he wanted to. But maybe he could still help. “Well... why don’t we talk about dinner, then,” he suggested. It was a safe place to start, anyway. Rogue gave him an odd look, but he pressed on. “What did you see that night?”

Her expression grew thoughtful and she fiddled with the small bandage that still covered the burn on her palm. Eventually, she looked up at him. “Did ya know that meal cost about eight thousand dollars, sugah?”

Bobby nodded. The restaurant was one of Remy’s favorites.

She watched him for a moment longer before lowering her gaze to the tabletop. “Ah asked him if he’d stolen somethin’ ta pay foh dinner.”

Curious, Bobby arched an eyebrow. Remy hadn’t mentioned this particular conversation. “What did he say?”

A tiny smile lit her features. “He laughed.” She shook her head lightly. “Ah felt so stupid askin’...“

Bobby gave her a moment to indulge the memory. Then, “Do you know where the money came from?” he asked.

Her brow crinkled as she shrugged. “Ah guess it was Remy’s... from somethin’ he stole back before he joined the X-Men.”

Bobby smiled. “Pretty much. It all comes out of his investments now.”


“You know. Stocks, bonds, real estate...”

Real estate?” Her expression was almost comically puzzled.

Bobby chucked lightly and ticked them off on his fingers. “A penthouse here in New York, a house in New Orleans, a house in Paris, a couple of office towers in Hong Kong--“ He quit as Rogue’s eyes widened. “You had no idea, did you?”

She shook her head. “Ya ain’t pullin’ mah leg, are ya?”

“Nope.” His smile faded. “Here’s the real question, though: Why don’t you know anything about his investments?”

She shrugged uncomfortably. “He nevah told me.”

“Why didn’t you ask?”

Rogue’s brow dipped as she moistened her lips. “Ah didn’t realize there was anythin’ ta ask about. He doesn’t exactly live like a millionaire.”

Bobby gave her a skeptical smile. “He had a custom Ferrari shipped here from France.”

Rogue stared at him. Her normally green eyes had gone nearly gray in reflection of the troubled thoughts that were so obvious on her face. “Ah--“

Bobby waited quietly.

“Ah don’t know,” she finally admitted. “Ah just... nevah thought about it.”

“Why not? Weren’t you curious?” That alone was probably the biggest reason Bobby had learned so much of what he had.

Rogue’s eyes narrowed as she thought. “Ah guess.” She looked down at her hands. “But ah figured it was all... dishonest money... an’ ah didn’t want ta know the details.” She glanced briefly at Bobby before returning her gaze to her lap.

Bobby watched her as he sorted his thoughts. Instinct told him he’d stumbled on something important, though he couldn’t pinpoint why. He debated where to go next, without inspiration.

“So is that what ah’m supposed ta figure out?” Rogue asked after a while, her gaze once again fixed on him. “That he’s rich?”

Bobby smiled ruefully. “No. It’s a place to start though. Do you have any idea what he does with all that money?”

“Obviously, he’s been buyin’ office buildings with it,” she returned, her voice thick with sarcasm. Then she sat bolt upright, her gaze fastened on something distant. “But he said he was stealin’ because he needed the money ta help mutants.” The words came out as a protest.

“Huh?” Bobby was lost.

Rogue glanced at him, her expression hooded. “Ah caught Remy an’ another thief stealin’ from a buildin’ downtown. He said the money was ta help mutants.” Her lips thinned. “He implied it was a kind o’ mutant underground... but not the Professor’s.”

Rogue’s expression darkened with anger. “But if he’s got that kind o’ money, what in the world would he need ta be stealin’ anything foh?”

Uh oh, Bobby thought and raised a hand to ward her off. “Hang on, Rogue.”

“What?” she demanded.

He kept his voice mild with an effort of will. “Remy told you the truth. He can’t use his own money because there would be too much risk of a government agency tracking the... underground down through him.”

Rogue stared narrowly at him, but he could see her anger diminish by degrees. “Ya seem ta know an awful lot about it,” she commented after a bit.

Bobby scrambled for a response that wouldn’t give away any more than he already had. “Remy tells me things.”

Rogue’s expression soured. “A lot more than he tells me, sugah.”

Bobby pushed himself to his feet, his exhaustion returning. “Maybe it just depends on how you ask.”

Rogue looked up at him thoughtfully, but said nothing as Bobby left the room and headed for bed.

Scott paused in the doorway to the kitchen to gather his thoughts. He considered it a stroke of good fortune that he’d managed to find Gambit alone in the crowded house. He wanted a chance to talk to him before finalizing the mission plans. Mentally kicking himself into motion, Scott crossed the kitchen.

“Afternoon,” he told Remy with a brief nod, then busied himself rummaging through the cabinets for a glass.

The other man paused in the act of stirring his coffee and glanced over at him. “Is it?” Scott noted that his hair was wet from a recent shower. His demeanor gave Scott the impression he’d just gotten up.

“It’s about one thirty.” Scott found an unused glass on the top shelf of the cabinet and went to the freezer for ice. Behind him, Remy went through a painstakingly precise process to measure out a second spoonful of honey for his coffee. Scott shook his head. Gambit got picky about the strangest things. This was one of them, and he’d actually seen Remy forego his morning coffee rather than drink it with sugar instead of honey.

Scott watched the process with interest. Every motion was smooth, with not a single drop of the golden liquid spilled. Scott abandoned his own drink preparations as curiosity got the better of him.

“How do you manage to do that without spilling anything?” If his understanding of Gambit’s vision was correct, then he was unable to see either the honey or the spoon.

Gambit’s face lit with a grin as he dumped the perfect spoonful of honey into his cup and stirred it lazily. “Would y’ believe me if I said I was measurin’ de weight by feel?”

Scott frowned at the vaguely challenging note in the other’s voice. He thought about the process of measuring a liquid into something as small as a spoon, and the tremendous sensitivity that would be required to feel a change of what he estimated to be less than an ounce. He knew for a fact that he couldn’t do it and he had his suspicions that even Logan might not be able to. If Gambit was implying that he could...

“No, I wouldn’t.” Scott crossed his arms and leaned against the counter.

Gambit’s grin widened. “Good.”

Scott raised a skeptical eyebrow.

Gambit seemed to sense his reaction. His grin faded and his tone became matter-of-fact as he shrugged. “De coffee’s hot, so it glows. Makes a nice backdrop to see everyt’ing else against.” On the heels of his explanation, he flashed Scott an enigmatic smile, picked up his cup and turned away.

Scott stared after him, thoroughly startled. I don’t believe it. Was he teasing me? In his experience, Gambit irritated, angered and openly defied him whenever possible. The idea that he had just been on the receiving end of a gentle ribbing was hard to accept.

“Gambit, wait.” Scott shook off his bemusement with an effort.

The other man paused in the doorway and turned. Scott picked up his now ice-filled glass and waved toward the small table. “Have a seat. I wanted to talk to you.”

Warily, the other man complied. He settled at the table, lounging in the wooden chair with one elbow hooked over the back. All traces of his earlier behavior were suddenly gone, replaced by the prickling defiance Scott was used to. Scott took advantage of the time it took to pour himself some tea from the pitcher in the refrigerator to gain control of his reaction. It shocked him that he was disappointed by the change. For the last few days it had been, if not exactly pleasant, then at least... refreshing... to work with the Cajun. He was still incredibly irritating, but he’d been on the ball and had done exactly what Scott asked of him, without argument.

Even if its just an aberration in his behavior, Scott told himself, I shouldn’t get discouraged. At least now I have some vision for the future. He stifled a smile as he closed the refrigerator. Maybe this was what the Professor was always talking about. The Professor had never been anything but pleased with Gambit’s presence on the team, a fact that had continually mystified Scott. There’s obviously a lot of potential there, if I can just find some way of unlocking it.

Thoughts turning, Scott took a seat at the table and met Gambit’s flat gaze. He resisted the urge to shake his head in disgust. Not two minutes ago I would swear this man was at least making an attempt to be friendly. What caused the sudden attitude? He thought back through the conversation. What did I say last...? Just ‘I want to talk to you’. Sudden understanding struck and Scott felt dismay like a physical blow. Wonderful. He managed to internalize a long and frustrated sigh. He knew from experience that Gambit was now set to endure a lecture from his field leader, and that the carefully casual exterior would not waver one iota, nor would the hard, empty gaze change until they were finished. The only time Scott had ever managed to break through that shell was the rare occasion when he managed to make the other man so angry that the situation erupted into violence.

I don’t want to do that. For one, they couldn’t afford the chance that the neighbors would notice something strange and call the police on them, and two, he’d been hoping to gain Gambit’s cooperation. He knew the other wasn’t going to like it, but he had been hoping to settle the issue in some kind of calm, reasonable manner.

That’s going to be completely impossible with Gambit in this mood. Unfortunately, it was the only chance Scott was going to get before the team briefing. So what can I possibly do to break through that mask without making things worse?

Sighing softly, Scott leaned back in his chair. “I’m sorry, Remy. That didn’t come out like I intended.”

Both eyebrows arched sharply in surprise over the red eyes and Scott felt a stab of triumph. Gotcha. He took a sip of tea to cover his response.

“I do want to talk to you, though. About the mission.”

Gambit’s surprise turned skeptical. “What about it?”

Scott shrugged lightly. He wasn’t sure how to broach the topic except to plunge straight in. “As I’m sure you’re aware, we’ve had to pull several X-Men off the active list for various reasons. Jean, of course, because of the baby.” He fingered his glass. “And also Hank and Warren because of their mutations. They’re just too obvious to be risked.”

Gambit nodded. “An’ Rogue,” he added.

Scott paused for just a moment, but decided not to read anything at all into the statement. “Yes, and Rogue, though I’m planning to include her on tonight’s mission. Her hand is still a bit tender, but she’s been managing with it just fine during practices.” The basement had become their staging ground. Gambit had been in on some of those training sessions when he was around, proving that he could handle the weapons and the scenarios at least within the limited environment of their practice room.

Gambit didn’t react to the news except for a brief flicker that Scott couldn’t interpret. “An’ y’ point?” he asked after a moment.

Scott braced himself. “I intend to add you to that list as well.”

He watched warily as Gambit’s expression closed in on itself. He couldn’t tell if the mask hid anger, disappointment, fear, or something else entirely. Gambit didn’t move for several long moments, but then he picked up his coffee and took a sip, his solemn, eerie gaze meeting Scott’s over the rim of the mug.

“Guess I can’ argue wit’ dat,” he said softly. “Wit’ good blueprints an’ enough time t’ absorb dem, I c’n navigate easy enough, but y’ turn it into a combat situation...” He shrugged, his body language betraying a sense of regret. “It could get pretty dicey.”

Scott felt an unexpected pang of sympathy that was immediately drowned out by his relief at the other’s easy acceptance.

Gambit must have been able to sense his feelings because his expression quirked wryly. “Dat was easier dan y’ were expectin’, neh?”

“Uh... yes. I guess so.” Scott wasn’t sure why the question made him uncomfortable, except that it was so completely unlike Gambit. He’d been expecting several rounds of argument, at the very least, and to eventually be forced to pull rank just to gain the other man’s grudging cooperation.

His gaze narrowed at a sudden thought. It was a question that he had asked of several of the X-Men about Gambit, but had never felt he could ask the man himself. He cocked his head as he studied him. “Remy, do you deliberately contradict me just for the sake of argument, or do you really disagree with almost everything I do?”

Gambit laughed outright and looked away while he recovered his composure. Scott watched him with interest, tremendously curious to hear his response.

Eventually, Gambit looked back at him and Scott was surprised to realize that he was fighting a smile. “’Bout fifty-fifty,” he admitted.

Scott felt a flash of anger, mixed with consternation. “Why?”

The hidden smile escaped, familiar and smug. “’Cause half de time I t’ink y’ dead wrong.”

Scott stiffened defensively, despite the fact that he knew better. “And the other half?” he demanded.

Gambit’s humor faded. His expression turned cold, though Scott would swear he sensed regret in it as well. The Cajun pushed his coffee cup back, making the spoon rattle loudly in the tense silence. “It’s been nice talkin’ to y’, Scott.” He stood abruptly and walked out.

Scott stared at the place where he’d been for a long time as he tried to sort his thoughts. Eventually he gave up and forced himself to move. They had a mission to perform. Everything else would have to wait until after that. Then he would find some way to figure out what was really going on inside Remy LeBeau.

Remy sat a little ways to the side of the crowded table as the X-Men went through their briefing, idly shuffling a deck of cards. The repetitive motion helped to soothe his frayed nerves while he listened to the discussion. Since he couldn’t see any of the schematics laid out on the table and wasn’t going to be on the mission anyway, he stayed back, but that didn’t keep him from paying close attention to everything that happened.

The plan was simple enough and characteristic of Scott’s frontal assault methodology. The target was a small factory they believed was a manufacturing facility for several small Sentinels bio-components. They were hoping to gain some insight into the control and/or transformation technology that, so far, was only sketchily described in the technical briefs the Guild had managed to obtain. The facility was one of several that manufactured the same components, and was expected to have light defenses compared to OZT’s primary locations. Scott’s plan was to use the maintenance entrance during shift change and from there to make their way to the Director’s office, which was targeted as the most likely location for the information they wanted. The route would also give them an opportunity to see the manufacturing line.

Remy didn’t like it. He could think of about fourteen different locations inside the building where there was likely to be internal security. He had no idea what form that security might take, from heat sensors to retinal scanners to simple locks on the doors. But no matter what it was, he was certain that the X-Men, with their tactics adapted from long years of full-powers missions, would trip the alarms long before they could afford to.

“Logan.” He pitched his voice low and brushed the other man’s elbow. Logan turned his head fractionally in acknowledgement. “Y’ give any t’ought t’ de security inside?”

Logan shrugged. “We’re just gonna have ta manage. It’s a shame ya can’t come along.”

Scott paused in the middle of his description and looked over at them. Remy was struck by a sudden desire to see his face. He couldn’t begin to fathom what the X-Men’s field leader might be thinking about him at this point, which was disconcerting.

“Y’know, it’s ironic.” Sam’s country drawl distracted Remy from his thoughts. “The one time when we really need a thief on the team an’ ours ain’t available.”

Remy turned to look at the younger man in surprise. He liked Sam quite a bit, but it was downright strange to hear something like that from him. Most of the X-Men seemed to have developed a new comfort with the fact that Remy was a professional thief, if a retired one, as they believed. He was too used to being discussed in whispers. This new forthrightness was... unsettling. However, it could be useful as well.

Gathering himself, Remy nodded to Sam. “True, ‘nough,” he agreed easily. “But jus’ because I can’ be dere don’ mean y’ have t’ go wit’out an expert.”

“What do you mean?” Scott demanded.

Remy clamped down on his instinctive anger at the suspicion in the other man’s tone. If anything, their conversation that afternoon had only served to make a bad situation worse. “I know somebody dat could help.” Marcus Black would be ideal for the mission.

“A thief?” Logan asked.

Remy nodded. “Good one.”

“No,” Scott answered immediately. “We’re too exposed as it is. I’m not going to risk X-Men’s lives on an unknown like that.”

Unknown t’ you, Remy thought angrily, but didn’t say it.

“He’s got a point, though, Cyke,” Logan said. His scratchy voice managed to cut through the murmur of discussion that had enveloped the table. “We’re runnin’ a risk by not takin’ someone along.”

“I thought you were going to handle anything that came up.” Remy could hear the frustration in Cyclops’ voice.

Logan was unfazed. “I ain’t expectin’ ta find anything I can’t handle, but there’s always the chance. We haven’t tangled with these folks before.”

There was a pause before Scott replied, his voice stiff. “Between you and Ororo, I’m confident we can manage.”

Remy kept his reaction hidden by force of will. Logan was a skilled operative, but even Weapon X had hired breakers like Remy when they needed real expertise, and Ororo was only apprentice-level and badly out of practice. Between them, they didn’t have all that much of the kind of skill they would need. If all it took was ingenuity, Remy would have full confidence in them, but he doubted that would be the case.

“’Ro, what do ya think?” Logan turned to Ororo.

The X-Men’s co-leader cocked her head in contemplation. “I would have no problem working with a Guild thief if Remy vouched for him,” she nodded in Remy’s direction, “but I agree with Logan that we are unlikely to need the help.”

Remy arched an eyebrow, somewhat mollified by her vote of confidence, if dismayed by her opinion. She, like Logan, knew something of the Guilds even though her master in Cairo had been exiled from them long before she came into his care. Unfortunately, she had her own portion of conceit when it came to her thieving abilities, but that came from the fact that she had never been introduced to the more advanced types of security. Even Remy, when she had been his de facto apprentice, hadn’t taken those steps because of her age at the time, so within her limited experience she was indeed pretty good.

Remy could almost feel the change as Scott’s attention shifted from Ororo to himself. He seemed to be watching Remy, waiting to see what argument he would make and ready to counter it.

Frustrated, Remy swallowed his protests. “I can’ give y’ help y’ don’ want,” he said simply. That didn’t mean he wouldn’t do anything, but Scott didn’t need to see or know of the contingency plans he intended to put in place. He resisted the impulse to look over at Bobby. More than ever he was grateful for the events that had thrown the young man into his life.


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