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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 2

Bobby Drake evaded a beam of energy aimed at his head, sliding nimbly aside without losing his focus on the temperature shield he was creating. It was yet another new application of his power he’d discovered in the past few months, and one of his favorites.

The air along one side of the X-Men shimmered with millions of tiny ice particles, trapped in a narrow wall of intensely low temperatures. Bobby had learned that he had to fill the cold region with something visible to warn the X-Men of its presence. Objects that flew through the wall of cold were supercooled by their passage. Metals became brittle and other materials froze solid, both of which caused the object to shatter upon slamming into the warm air on the far side of the cold zone. It wasn’t a force field, but that was effectively how it behaved.

Unfortunately, the severe temperature inversions interfered with Storm’s ability to manipulate weather phenomena on a fine scale. Physics was physics after all, so Bobby made an effort to keep the shield well away from where Storm hovered. He was often amazed by the change in his perspective—and his fighting style. Where once it had been a matter of having enough power to keep up with the other X-Men, now Bobby spent much of his effort keeping his powers toned down to a level that would not put his teammates at risk.

Bobby spared a glance downward from his perch atop his ice slide. Gambit was still doing all right, though he was fighting defensively for the most part. Bobby suppressed a surge of irritation, fueled by guilt and worry. Remy had obviously spent the night working. Bobby knew his body language well enough now that he could see the exhaustion that the others would miss. And, unfortunately, he also understood why Remy would push himself past what was wise to stay for the training session.

Staying would most likely be interpreted as a guilt reaction. It implied a need to make up for what he’d been doing the night before—at least, that was how Scott would interpret it, and he was the important one. So, without saying a word and without any other supporting evidence, by staying in the session Remy was implying that he’d spent his night doing something Scott would disapprove of. It was a subtle form of manipulation, and an art that Bobby was still learning.

Nearby, Rogue was grappling with one of the energy-based beasties the X-Men had been combating the day before. The creature exploded into long streamers of glowing confetti as one of Gambit’s cards found it and Rogue turned to glare at him.

“Ah didn’ ask foh ya help, Cajun!” she snapped. On another day, the same sentence would have been a flirtatious challenge, but not today. Unfortunately, all of the work Gambit put in to giving Scott the impression that he’d spent the night out partying also worked on Rogue.

Bobby felt a surge of sympathy. Rogue’s anger and frustration were reasonable, given the lifestyle that Remy portrayed to her and the other X-Men. It was an ugly trap for Remy. Bobby had several times had to throttle the desire to take Rogue to the Club and show her the truth. But he understood the reasons to keep her ignorant of the Guild and the secret life that both he and Remy led. He wasn’t certain enough of how she’d react to take that risk, and he knew Remy wasn’t either.

Gambit was forced to move as several of the creatures converged on him. He launched himself over the back of one of them, somersaulting neatly as he threw a trio of charged cards. The thing snapped at him with a pincer and Remy twisted savagely midair to avoid it. Bobby saw the hard landing coming a moment before it happened and winced as Remy hit the ground feet first, then dropped to his knees with a cry of pain, his cards scattering.

Instinctively, Bobby changed his state to water and fell in a cascade, transforming back into his ice form as he touched the floor of the danger room. Without pausing, he created large hands of ice that picked up the glowing creatures and hurled them away from Gambit.

Gambit didn’t move. He was still on his knees, with one hand braced against the ground. Bobby felt the first stirrings of alarm at the same time that the holographic projections around him began to dissipate.

Bobby knelt beside him. “Remy?”

“Oui?” The single word dripped sarcasm. Bobby sucked in his breath. It had been a while since he’d had to stop and think to make sure the next thing he said wasn’t stupid.

He was saved from finding a response as Hank bounded across the Danger Room, coming to a stop beside Bobby. He studied Remy with poorly concealed concern, then reached over and touched his shoulder. “Can you stand?” he asked gently.

Remy glanced up, the tightness around his eyes betraying his pain. “Oh, sure, Hank. No problem. I jus’ t’ought I’d take a lil’ breather, non?”

With a stab of regret, Bobby recognized the biting sarcasm for what it was and held up a hand to forestall Hank from reaching out to help him. Hank met Bobby’s gaze, his lips pressed together in a thin line, but then nodded. They waited patiently as Remy climbed to his feet. It hurt Bobby to watch the painstaking process from a man who was normally so graceful he could make a cat jealous, but it was important to let him do it himself.

Remy straightened completely and turned to Hank, his gaze flat, but from somewhere he managed to summon a smile. “Don’ y’ dare say it,” he told Hank.

Hank appeared to take the small joke for the apology it was, and grinned in return. “Moi?” His tone was light. “My dear Gambit, whatever could possibly have made you think that I would stoop so low as to use the phrase ‘I told you so’ in your presence?”

Remy gave him a dirty look, which Hank blithely ignored. The other X-Men had gathered around them by that point. Rogue stood at a short distance, arms crossed, her expression a cross between relief and disgust. Scott wore a similar expression. Beside him, Jean’s face was deceptively mild and Bobby found himself wondering yet again just how much she’d seen in Remy’s mind that day. She was by far the most tolerant of the X-Men when it came to Remy’s comings and goings-- and his own.

“After you,” Hank gestured grandly for Remy to precede him to the door.

Remy rolled his eyes at the theatrics, but turned obediently and took a small, limping step in that direction. Behind them, Rogue growled something under her breath and then, shaking her head, moved forward. She flew to Remy side, landed neatly and wrapped one arm around his waist for support. It was the first time in a week or more that Bobby had seen the two of them together like that, and he suppressed a sigh. Unbidden, he glanced up at the control room windows, where he knew Diedre watched the practice session. Knowing what Remy had been willing to do to make their love possible made him wish he could, in some way, repay the debt.

Even a brief thought of his wife made Bobby smile, but the expression died as Scott approached. As much as he liked Scott, the fine line he walked as a thief made him always wary around the X-Men’s field leader. There were too many things he needed to keep hidden to ever be completely comfortable around him.

“Bobby, do you have any idea where Gambit was all night?” Scott’s brow was drawn in a pensive frown.

Bobby shook his head. “Not a clue.” He was curious what Remy had been up to as well.

Scott crossed his arms and stared at the floor, a sure sign that he was thinking something through.

Jean laid her hand on his arm. “Scott, honey, what is it?”

Scott shrugged and looked up at her. “I’m concerned about Remy’s behavior. I thought getting hurt would sober him up some, but he’s going right back to his old patterns. He stays out all night doing who knows what, and then can barely drag himself through a standard training exercise. He disappears without telling anyone where he’s going or when he’ll be back... “

“Remy has always been there when the X-Men needed him.” Ororo put one hand on her hip as she regarded Scott.

“In general, yes.” Scott made a sweeping gesture. “But I’m not sure he has the resources anymore to keep up that kind of life, and if he’s not careful it’s going to get him—or one of us—killed.”

Bobby let himself into Gambit’s room as quietly as he could, sparing a glance for the still-sleeping figure on the bed. He’d come through a couple of times in the last twelve hours, mostly to give Remy an excuse to wake up if he was ready to. He had the feeling there was a lot going on, and that the Master thief couldn’t afford to miss too much of it.

A soft rustle alerted him. Bobby shielded his eyes as Remy sat up and switched on the bedside lamp.

“How long’ve I been out?” Remy folded his legs Indian-style and laid his forehead in his hands.

“About eighteen hours.”

Remy rubbed his eyes savagely, as if trying to clear the last of his grogginess. “Get m’ laptop, would y’?” He waved in the direction of the desk.

Bobby did so while Remy climbed out of bed and fetched a pair of jeans. Bobby kept a covert eye on him, and was relieved to see that he was limping only a little, which appeared to be more stiffness than pain.

He had the laptop up and running by the time Remy sat down beside him and began sorting through a handful of CDs.

Bobby didn’t bother to ask the obvious. He simply waited for Remy to hand him one of the disks.

“Y’ remember Tom Scales?” Remy asked, his attention still focused on his search.

Bobby shrugged. “Sure.” Tom was a hacker, and probably the source of the disks.

Remy picked out one of the disks and considered it gravely. “He’s dead.” He glanced at Bobby. “An’ dis is probably de reason why.”

Silent, Bobby accepted the proffered disk and put it in the machine he held. Unsurprisingly, when he tried to access it, he came up with a password screen. He passed the laptop to Remy, who typed in a string without hesitation. The screen cleared, giving the two men a view of the contents of the disk, which consisted of about a dozen files with incomprehensible names.

Remy shrugged and opened the first one. It appeared to be a ledger of some kind, and had the Draxar corporate logo at the top. Bobby peered at it with interest. He recognized the software and knew that he was looking at some kind of expenditures tracking, but the file appeared to be encrypted. Either that or the accountant was fluent in Sanskrit.

Remy closed the file and opened the next. Bobby guessed that it was some kind of report, but what kind he couldn’t guess. The document was a good twenty pages and encrypted as well.

Remy shut down the laptop and handed Bobby the CD. “Dere’s a little computer parts shop down on 48th street called Computer Smart. Ask f’ Lee. He’ll deal wit’ y’ because y’ Guild, an’ he should be able t’ decrypt dis. Make sure y’ burn an extra copy.”

Bobby gave him a curious glance. “Why not have Torri do it?” Torri was a woman of the Clans, and one of the best computer talents the Guild had.

Remy shook his head. “I want t’ keep dis outside de Guild. It’s too dangerous. Lee works f’ de Martino family. Let dese Draxar folks sniff ‘round de Mafia if dey wan’, but I want t’ keep de Guild out o’ it.”

Bobby arched one eyebrow speculatively, but didn’t comment. Mafia had a strong influence in New York, and the Thieves Guild walked carefully around them most of the time. There was no direct conflict of interest since the crime families weren’t into high dollar theft, but the threat of trouble was always lurking. Bobby was a little surprised that Remy would take the risk of using the Mafia for his stalking horse, but perhaps he found that danger less than that of letting Draxar get too close to the Guild.

Remy stood and returned the laptop to its customary place inside the desk, then began to dress.

“Are you going into the city tonight?” Bobby asked him. It was only just past sunset, but he was liable to get himself even further onto Scott’s bad side if he took off for another night.

Remy shook his head. “Non. I’m gon’ get somet’ing t’ eat an’ den get out o’ here f’ a little bit t’ make some phone calls, but dat’s it.”

Bobby felt a small wave of relief. “Do you need me to do anything else while I’m out, then?”

“Don’ t’ink so. Take y’ wife wit’ y’ an’ have some fun tonight, neh? T’ings gon’ get pretty busy f’ a while an’ I’m gon’ need y’ help. Especially where de X-Men are concerned.”

Bobby frowned at the slightly ominous ring to his words. “Because of this Draxar thing?”

Remy shook his head again. “Non. Dat’s a different issue entirely.”

Bobby ran through a string of possibilities and came to a conclusion that made his gut tighten. “It’s about the new Guildmaster then.”

Remy flashed him a surprisingly caustic smile. “Oui.”

“So who did they pick?”

Remy dropped onto the bed with a sigh. He seemed suddenly older, tired. “Me, Bobby. Dey picked me.”

It took Bobby a moment to find his voice. “Wow. That’s good though, right?” He felt like his head was spinning from the implications.

Remy leaned forward and rested his elbows on his knees. “I hope so.”

The quiet uncertainty in the words startled Bobby out of his thoughts. One of Remy’s strengths was the ability to make solid decisions quickly and to carry them through with full confidence. It was rare for him to hesitate or second guess himself.


“Oui?” Remy didn’t look up.

“Are you all right?”

Remy paused long enough that Bobby knew he was lying. “Fine, Bobby. It’s jus’ a lot o’ responsibility, neh?”

“Yeah,” he agreed softly, feeling suddenly cold. The last time he’d heard that tone in Remy’s voice had been in Seattle, in the wreckage of an old theater where something terrible had once happened. Something Bobby still didn’t know anything about, and wasn’t sure he wanted to. He knew Remy kept a lot of secrets, and he trusted his reasons for doing so, but there was something about this one that scared Remy, and scared him badly.

Hoping that he was reading entirely too much into a simple comment, Bobby turned and left. It might just be understandable nervousness, after all. And no matter what Remy’s private fears were, Bobby couldn’t think of anyone who was more capable of leading the Guild.

Remy’s mutant kinesthetic sense picked up the approach of an airborne figure just a little too late. He cut off his conversation abruptly and dropped the cell phone back into an inner pocket, but not before Rogue had gotten too close to have missed noticing. She dropped lightly to the ground a few feet away from where he sat on his parked bike and wrapped her arms around herself.

The stance was a sure sign she was suspicious and Remy felt his anger blossom. He throttled it mercilessly, but couldn’t help the accompanying surge of bitterness. Saints, why couldn’ I fall f’ a t’ief woman?

If she would just give him one reason to believe that he could introduce her to the Guild without destroying everything he was trying to protect, he would have shown her the truth. It was tearing him apart to be caught in the middle, but he cared too much about her to quit trying. Unfortunately, right now trying was synonymous with failing, and all they were managing to do was make the rift between them wider.

“Who were you talking to?” Rogue asked without preamble. To her credit she sounded curious rather than accusing, and Remy did his best to convince himself that she was, in fact, just trying to make conversation.

Remy sighed. “Wasn’ not’ing important, chere.” In fact, it had been a fairly mundane discussion of some of the details of the upcoming Guild ceremony. So he wasn’t lying to her, which he adamantly refused to do. But simply refusing to answer wasn’t much better. It eased his conscience some, but did nothing to reassure Rogue. He clenched his jaw to keep from grinding his teeth in silent frustration.

Rogue’s eyes narrowed fractionally. “For somethin’ that ain’t important, ya sure got rid a whoever that was awful fast when ya saw me comin’.”

Ouch, Remy thought, but kept his expression still.

“Did y’ wan’ somet’ing, chere?” he asked quietly after a moment and saw the hurt anger flash to life behind her eyes.

“No,” she answered curtly. “Ah’m sorry ah bothered ya.” She bit her lip as the familiar shine of tears appeared in her eyes. But before Remy could find something to say, she launched herself straight up into the sky like a bullet until her form was a tiny dot lost against the darkness.

Filled with impotent fury, Remy grabbed the handlebars of his bike and started it with a savage motion. Dirt sprayed behind him in a heavy shower as he spun the tires and then squealed out onto the narrow road. He knew it was impossible to outrun the pain, but that didn’t mean he couldn’t lose it for a little while in the adrenaline rush as he pushed both the bike and himself beyond the limits of safety and sense, into that fine gray area on the edge of instability where one real mistake would probably cost him his life.

Diedre Drake paused at the entrance to the kitchen, debating whether to go in. Rogue sat at the little table tucked into the corner of the kitchen, her robe and disheveled hair indicating to Diedre that she had probably been there for a while. Dawn was only just beginning to lighten the edges of the sky.

Diedre was an early riser by nature and often surprised the X-Men by being up and about even before they were. She liked the stillness—the sense of patient expectation as the world waited those last minutes before the sun would return. Unfortunately, because of the schedule that Bobby kept, it sometimes meant that she was getting up just in time to meet him as he came home and headed for bed. Not that she was complaining. Even the hard parts of being married to Bobby and living with the X-Men were better than anything she’d had in the past.

With that in mind, she looked back at Rogue. The other woman was a few years younger than Diedre, with a chip on her shoulder for all the wrong life had done her and a volatile temper that made Diedre want to keep a careful distance lest she become the latest victim of Rogue’s razor-edged tongue. But for all of the hard exterior, Diedre could see glimpses of the hurt that was hidden underneath. Hurt she understood all too well.

She went to the counter to fetch a couple of oranges and a knife before taking a seat at the table. Rogue glanced up momentarily, but then went back to contemplating the dregs of her coffee. Diedre was content to sit quietly and peel her orange. She wasn’t very good at starting conversations, but perhaps she could give some silent sympathy.

When she’d finished peeling the orange, she separated the sections and offered one to Rogue. “Would you like some?”

Rogue glanced up again, but shook her head and then set her coffee mug down with a sigh. “Ah don’t mean ta be rude, shugah, but would ya mind goin’ someplace else with those? Ah’d really like ta be alone f’ a while.” Her eyes didn’t quite meet Diedre’s.

Diedre pressed her lips together at the rebuke and carefully set the pieces of her orange down in front of her. Her temptation was always to take the harsh words personally, and to believe that they were no more than she deserved. But she understood, in her head at least, that Rogue was being rude in the hopes that she could scare Diedre off and not have to deal with any personal questions. It was a defense mechanism she had seen Rogue use on all of the X-Men. That knowledge didn’t keep her gut from curling up into a tight little knot, but it did give her enough courage not to bolt from the room.

“The kitchen is going to get busy here pretty soon,” she offered, hoping that her voice sounded neutral. “If you want to be alone, you may want to find someplace else before the X-Men start looking for breakfast.”

Rogue’s eyes narrowed, but then she looked toward the window, where the sky had turned shades of pink and orange. “Maybe ah should,” she agreed, and pushed herself to her feet.

She froze at the sound of the front door opening and then closing. Even without her reaction, Diedre knew who that had to be. Only Bobby or Remy would be coming in through the front door at this hour, and Bobby was in their room, asleep. Footsteps echoed softly on the hardwood floors, coming closer.

Remy stopped in the kitchen doorway as his gaze locked with Rogue’s. Diedre had the sudden irrational urge to hide under the table as the tension level in the room skyrocketed. Having known him for several years through the Thieves Guild, Diedre was often surprised by Remy these days. She was used to his silk suits and perfect manners, not torn jeans and leather jackets, and his hair wild from a ride on the motorcycle. Until she’d come to live at the mansion, she’d never once seen the Master thief lose his temper. But Rogue possessed an uncanny ability to set him off, and Diedre had been truly terrified the first time she’d been caught in the midst of a full-blown fight between the two of them. Even now, the violence that sparked between them made her very uncomfortable. She understood that they were a little different than she was—Remy was a lethal hand-to-hand combatant and Rogue was physically invulnerable. But still, real love didn’t treat people that way. Real love was gentle. It had taken a lot of hurt and nearly dying for Diedre to come to understand that. It was a realization that had changed her life. She only wished that she could find a way to explain to these two before they broke something between them that couldn’t be fixed.

Swallowing convulsively, Diedre stood as well and gathered up the pile of orange peels on the table.

“Good morning, Remy,” she said as cheerfully as she could manage in that atmosphere, and then deliberately passed between them as she went to throw the peels into the trash.

Her action broke the eye contact between Remy and Rogue, and Remy returned her greeting with a strained smile. “Mornin’, Snowflake.”

Diedre couldn’t help a small grimace. It has started out as a joke. The X-Men called Bobby “Popsicle” on a regular basis, and they had dubbed her “Snowflake” in contrast. The name had stuck, sort of like an honorary codename, despite the fact that she was not and never would be an X-Man.

Remy’s momentary smile faded as he turned his attention to Rogue. “Y’ wan’ talk ‘bout dis?” he asked frankly. Diedre didn’t know specifically which “this” he was referring to, though she had a list of probable candidates. Whatever fight the two had had, she hadn’t been present, for which she was grateful.

“Are ya gonna tell me who ya were talkin’ to?” Rogue answered.

Remy’s gaze flickered to Diedre for the barest moment, and she knew in an instant that it had to involve thief business. “No, chere. It ain’ any of y’ concern.” Diedre could hear the echoes of regret in his voice.

Rogue’s lips thinned angrily. “Then ah don’t see as we have anything ta talk about, Cajun.”

Remy’s fingers twitched as if he were fighting the desire to ball them into fists. “Fine.” He turned smartly on his heel and left, his footsteps uncommonly loud in the stillness.

After a moment, Rogue let out her breath in a shaky sigh.

“Rogue?” Diedre wondered if she had any business getting involved. The Clans were her family. She understood the need to protect them, even from the X-Men. But she knew she couldn’t just stand by and do nothing.

“Leave me alone, sugah.” The words came out as a choked whisper.

“Does it really matter who he was talking to?”

Rogue glanced up at her for a bare moment, her eyes glimmering with unshed tears. Slowly she shook her head. “No, it doesn’t. But it matters that he won’t tell me.”

Diedre watched her sympathetically. “Why?”

“Because it means he still doesn’t trust me.” Sniffling slightly, Rogue tightened the sash of her robe and then wandered slowly out of the kitchen.

When she was gone, Diedre sank back into her seat and stretched her hands out on the table. Her wedding rings flashed in the first rays of sunlight and she contemplated them solemnly as the morning brought the mansion to life around her.


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