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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 21

The main tunnels leading into the Guild complex emerged into a monstrous natural cavern that had somehow become the center of the thieves’ underground community. Part of the area had been taken up by a kind of flea market, despite the fact that in the present situation the Guild provided for all of its members in a surprisingly effective socialist manner. Another portion of the cavern had been marked off into playing fields which were almost always in use. Bobby sometimes marveled at the organization of the Guild. They had soccer and volleyball leagues going to help keep the children active and entertained in the underground complex.

Right now, though, the cavern was simply full of people as the Guild and Clans came out to meet their returning members and the children they had risked so much to save. Bobby glanced over at Remy, secretly afraid of how he might react. There was a hardness in his eyes that hadn’t been there a few hours earlier and Bobby had the strangest feeling that something inside the Guildmaster had snapped when the second jet crashed.

From the expressions on the faces that surrounded him as the returning thieves made their way into the cavern, Bobby could tell they’d already heard what had happened and knew about those who were not returning with them. The noise level remained a murmur of voices interrupted by wails as the exhausted, terrified children were absorbed into the front rows of the crowd. All eyes remained on the Guildmaster.

Remy seemed oblivious to the attention. He held a boy of seven or eight in his arms, but looked past the child, his gaze distant. After a little bit, though, he came back to himself and looked around at the sea of expectant faces.

"Dese seventy-one children are all dat’s left o’ de Los Angeles Guild." He raised his voice to carry across the crowd, his long face somber. "Dere homes are gone-- dere families." He paused and Bobby could see him gathering himself. "So from today on, dis will be dere new home. We will be dere family." Nods and a murmur of agreement followed the Guildmaster’s statement.

Remy turned a full circle, looking out over the crowd in appeal. "If any o’ you have room in y’ home, in y’ family... in y’ heart... dese children need it."

Bobby glanced down in surprise at the girl in his arms. She couldn’t have been any more than two years old, a golden-haired, blue-eyed angel with streaks of soot covering her face and clothes. If he and Diedre were ever to have a daughter, he thought, she would probably look just like this one. Filled with sudden resolution, Bobby squeezed the little girl tightly. Diedre would be willing, he was certain.

He watched with a growing sense of pride as thieves and clansmen came forward, claiming a child or sometimes several as siblings were identified, then picking them up and carrying them away. Artur Valencia, with both of his teenage daughters beside him, took the boy from Remy’s arms. The two men talked quietly for a few minutes and Bobby took the opportunity to study his friend, his mentor, his Guildmaster. There was something wrong with Remy, he decided, though he couldn’t put his finger on what it might be. Nothing in his behavior seemed out of place, yet Bobby couldn’t dismiss his feelings of concern.

Pushing the thoughts away, he went in search of his wife. There was nothing he could do right now. Maybe later, when he could find an opportunity to talk to Remy privately without the strict hierarchy of Guild ranks.

He found Diedre after a few minutes and couldn’t help his smile as her eyes lit up on seeing him. She slipped up against him, gentle and beautiful as her snowflake nickname, her blue eyes full of questions as she took in the little girl he held.

"We have room--" he began, only to be silenced as she reached up to kiss him.

"Of course we do." Her smile glowed as she backed up a step to look into the girl’s face. "Hi, sweetie."

The girl only stared at her, her face empty. Bobby supposed that wasn’t too surprising. An adult would be overwhelmed by the things that had happened that day, let alone a tiny child. Diedre’s smile dimmed, but she held out her arms to the girl. After a moment’s hesitation, Bobby felt the body in his arms lean toward her. He let Diedre take her, oddly pleased as the girl curled up against her and laid her head on Diedre’s shoulder.

Diedre stroked her hair, then looked up at him. "Can you come home?" she asked softly.

Bobby turned to look for Remy, but didn’t see him. He shrugged. "For a little while, I guess." Then he would either have work to do making sure OZT didn’t find the Guild because of the stunt they’d just pulled, or he’d need to go back to the X-Men.

He put an arm around her shoulder and together they turned toward their quarters.

Remy sank into the leather chair behind the Guildmaster’s broad desk and held his hands out in front of him. They were shaking, blurring the edges of their faintly glowing outlines. He stared at them intently, concentrating, until the tremor disappeared. More than anything, he wanted to curl up in a fetal ball around the pain in his gut. His stomach heaved and twirled in a nauseating dance that left him swallowing hard against the bile that rose in his throat.

Not’ing I could do. Not’ing I could do. Not’ing I could do. He repeated the words over and over again to himself as if that might make them more believable. All he could see when he closed his eyes was the brilliant flash of the explosion followed by an expanding ball of glowing gasses and flame. And over that, he could hear the terrified cries of the children inside as they were cut down, torn apart by laser fire and flashing claws...

"Non!" Remy slammed both palms down on the surface of the desk as one image impinged on another. Sweat covered him, sliding down his back in cold rivulets as he fought to hold the past at bay. Dis ain’ like de Morlocks, he told himself. It ain’. Slowly, he pushed the crowding memories away until he could breathe again.

Later, he reached out and picked up the small phone that lay on the desk. The tech that answered him from the communications center quickly patched him into his secured line and put through the call to Chicago. Remy waited while the phone on the other end rang, his fingers flexing spasmodically on the handset. He wanted to break something, destroy something... anything to release the fury pent inside him. In some ways, having the Danger Room to let loose in had been an incredible benefit. Within the Guild he could never afford to lose control that way.

The line picked up with a click. "Hello, Remy." Guildmaster Lotho said without preamble. "I saw the news reports. How many survived?"

Remy hadn’t seen the TV, but he could guess what the news had been showing. Nausea clenched his stomach once again. "Seventy-one, plus de pilot." Miraculously, his voice sounded only a little strained.

"And the second plane was lost completely?"

Remy bit his lip and nodded. "Oui. We lost bot’ de gun crews, too. Eight men." Men Remy had assigned to their posts.

Lotho sighed tiredly. "A bitter victory... You did well, Guildmaster. No one could have done any more."

Remy wanted to tear the phone away from his ear. Lotho’s gratitude didn’t seem appropriate or deserved when there were thirty-three dead children in the wreckage of that second plane. Luckily, Lotho went on, sparing Remy from a response.

"I do have to question where you got a Blackbird, though." His voice had become businesslike. "Involving the military is a heavy risk, no matter where the individual pilot’s or commanding officer’s loyalties might lie. What precautions are you taking to make sure OZT can’t trace the Guild through that airplane?"

Remy dragged his thoughts into line as the meaning of the Guildmaster’s words sank in. "Ain’ a mil’tary bird," he answered, his thickening accent showing just how thin his emotional self-control had been stretched.

Lotho paused. "A private SR-71? Who has--?" He stopped abruptly and in the silence Remy could only shake his head. Just as he’d never intended to tell the X-Men about his real role in the Guild, he’d never intended to let the Guild know about his involvement with the X-Men. They might forbid it as a risk to the Guild’s anonymity. But giving that information away was preferable to lying outright to the leader of the American Guilds.

"Well, that explains a few things." Lotho sounded thoughtful when he finally spoke.

Remy almost asked what he meant, but then decided he didn’t really care. He waited in silence for Lotho to go on.

"How much do they know about the Guild?" Lotho asked after a moment. The question was serious, but tinged with curiosity.

Remy chewed on his answer, deciding that a judicious application of truth was in order. "A lil’. Not enough t’ be a threat." He didn’t mention Bobby. Lotho would have to figure that one out for himself. Remy had followed all of the Guild’s requirements in bringing Bobby in to the thieves’ world. No one had ever asked, so at worst he’d get his hand slapped for not telling them who the young man was.

"All right." Lotho sounded like he was shaking his head in consternation. "I suppose I’ll have to trust you to keep that under control. They saved Guild lives today-- I can’t argue too much."

Remy breathed a silent sigh of relief as Lotho hung up. He carefully set the phone down in its cradle, grimacing as his hands began to shake again.

Get busy, Remy, he told himself. That was the only way to hold off the pain. He had plenty to do. The battle with the Sentinels had most certainly alerted OZT to the fact that the L.A. mutants had friends in New York. They would come looking, and it was up to Remy to make sure there was nothing to be found that could lead the Sentinels to the Guild... or to the X-Men.

Taking a deep breath he began to organize his thoughts, and after a few minutes he picked up the phone again to call for Artur.

Rogue crept quietly into the bedroom Remy shared with Bobby and Bishop. Midafternoon sunlight fell against the drawn blinds making the plastic slats glow, but the light didn’t penetrate very far. In the musty gloom she could barely make out Remy’s lanky form. It was the first time he’d come home in the three days since the fight with the Sentinels.

Rogue stopped beside the bed, watching him critically as her eyes adjusted. To her surprise, he was still asleep. But then, he looked like he’d done nothing more than walk in and collapse across the bed. He was completely dressed, down to his boots, and was so thoroughly tangled in the blankets that she wondered if he’d be able to get out of bed without some help.

Nightmares, she thought succinctly. Remy lay mostly on his back, his eyelids twitching frantically with the motion of his eyes beneath them. His hair was matted and damp with the sweat that glistened on his forehead. Hopefully that means he won’t mind mah wakin’ him up.

She sat carefully on the edge of the bed and reached over to touch his shoulder. At her touch, Remy uncoiled like a striking cobra. In an instant, Rogue found herself staring directly into the snubbed nose of an automatic pistol. Over the gun she could see a pair of red eyes, wild and angry and empty of recognition as Remy stared at her through the sights.

Rogue’s breath froze in her chest. Don’t move, she instructed herself firmly. Whatevah ya do, don’t react. Her mother’s teachings came back in a flood as she forced herself to hold perfectly still. She could see his finger tighten on the trigger and knew that even a little flicker might get her shot. He isn’t seein’ me.

The moment stretched, scary and interminable, as they stared at each other. Then recognition flooded Remy’s face and his eyes widened in horror. The gun disappeared, returned to its holster with a single motion.

"Rogue! What are y’ doin’?! I could’ve killed y’!" Angrily he tried to throw off the covers but didn’t get very far. Rogue watched him struggle, finding it odd that a man as agile as Remy could be trapped by bedsheets. He gave up after a minute and glared at her, chest heaving, as if she were somehow personally responsible for his predicament.

Shaking with adrenaline, Rogue took a deep breath. "Ah was just comin’ ta see if ya wanted ta get up foh dinner." Somehow she managed to keep her voice normal.

His anger shattered. He looked away, lips pressed together in a thin line. She could literally see the tension running out of him as he reached up to scrub his face with his hands, running them through his unkempt hair.

Rogue looked down at her own hands which had retreated to her lap, searching desperately for something to say. "That musta been some doozy of a nightmare ya were havin’, sugah." He looked up at her comment, red eyes narrowed intently, as she pressed on. "Ya want ta tell me about it?" She tried to keep her voice light-- a simple question, not a demand.

To her dismay, his face closed up, sealing his thoughts behind an impenetrable wall. "Was not’ing." He began carefully unwinding the bedding from around his legs.

Rogue’s frustration with him exploded out of her like flash fire. "Nothin’! Ah don’t call comin’ within a hair o’ puttin’ a bullet through mah skull ’nothin’’, Remy!"

Hurt flashed behind his eyes, mixed with fear. Then he closed his eyes and tipped his head back as if fighting for control. Tryin’ not ta lash out at me. She knew it was a low blow, even if it was true. She was pretty sure he’d scared himself far more than he had her.

When he straightened and opened his eyes, they were full of conflict. "’M sorry, chere. Y’ know I’d never..."

She nodded as his words trailed off, her anger evaporating. "Ah know." She was confident Remy LeBeau would never intentionally harm a single hair on her head. She shrugged. "Comes with the territory, ah guess." She cut her gaze in his direction, meeting his eyes for an instant. "Ya real jumpy these days, though, sugah."

He nodded but didn’t say anything. After a moment, he retrieved the pistol from its holster and turned it over in his hands, absently thumbing the safety on. He stared blankly at the weapon as he spoke. "Dere was a time when I lived like dis." He didn’t look up at her. "It’s all comin’ back so fast."

Rogue studied him while she tried to decipher what he’d told her. The feeling he described was all too familiar. Every day Rogue felt herself becoming more and more the person she’d been before joining the X-Men. It was frightening how easily she fell back into the old routines, the old mindset. A part of her hated being forced to remember her training under Mystique. She’d done things for her mother she could never forget and never wash away.

But it’s also the trainin’ that’s keepin’ me alive now, an lettin’ me be useful ta the team. She stifled a sigh. Mah Momma taught me a lot about the business. Ah know what questions ta ask, if ah’m willin’ ta hear the answers.

Biting her lip, she cocked her head and gave him the calmest stare she could muster. "So, are we talkin’ general troubleshootin’ here? O’ black ops maybe? Espionage?... Assassination?" Even though the list made her stomach clench, she tried to hold onto her nonchalance.

Remy looked up at her in surprise and she silently congratulated herself. See? Ah’m not as intolerant as ya think ah am.

He watched her silently for several long minutes, until it was all Rogue could do to meet his gaze. She wanted to scream at him in frustration for not being open with her, never telling her even the tiniest details about his life, where he went and what he did. But instead she clenched her jaw and waited. He’s got ta say somethin’ eventually. Even if its just ta tell me he’s not gonna tell me.

"All o’ dose an’ more, chere." Remy’s voice startled her from her thoughts. His eyes on her were wary, tense.

Rogue fought to keep her face expressionless as a cold shiver worked its way down her spine. All of those... Maybe she should have known it already. Probably, in fact. But somehow she’d always managed to convince herself that he was more of a scoundrel than anything else. Certainly nothing so dark... so ugly.

Is that why ah want to know so much about his past? she wondered in a flash of insight. Because ah’m afraid there’s somebody inside him just like there is inside me? Somebody who’s done horrible things? Somebody ah’ll hate?

She shook her head sharply, trying to banish the thoughts. A moment later, Remy threw his legs over the side of the bed and sat up. They sat there side by side, not looking at each other.

"Dis probably an unfair question," Remy interrupted the silence after a few minutes. "But y’ve had some time now t’ t’ink." He turned his head, his expression evaluating. "Is dis where it ends, chere?" he asked plainly. His voice held a flat note of resignation that hurt Rogue even more deeply than the cold anger with which he’d asked the question the first time.

Tears burned her eyes and her heart seemed to fold in half as if made of nothing more than flimsy construction paper. She didn’t know what to say, or if she could force herself to say anything. If she answered yes, it would mean admitting that she couldn’t love him unconditionally, couldn’t move past the faults and the hurts... that she preferred to live the rest of her life without him. But if she said no, then she was committing herself to accepting his life and living it with him because there was no way she could stick around and not have all of his oh-so-familiar baggage dumped squarely into her lap. The thought alone was enough to terrify her.

Ah can’t say yes, ah’m too afraid ta say no, an’ there’s no way he’ll take maybe foh an answer. The absurdity of her dilemma finally overrode her other thoughts. She smiled deprecatingly as she brushed the moisture from her eyelashes. "Ya right, sugah, that’s an unfair question." She shrugged, feeling the first stirring of hysterical laughter rising in her gut. "Ah mean, a week ago ya were a two-bit thief an’ troublemaker, an’ now ya suddenly turned inta a Master Thief an’ professional hitman an’ a couple other things." She risked a glance in his direction. "Ya gotta give a girl time ta adjust."

Remy blinked owlishly at her, as if she’d taken him completely by surprise. His comically glazed expression snapped the last of Rogue’s self control. Giggles climbed her throat, emerging in staccato bursts until she collapsed backwards on the bed and let the pain and confusion inside her vent in uncontrolled laughter. Tears squeezed from the corners of her eyes and rolled down her cheeks in a steady stream.

After a while, the laughter faded, leaving her feeling limp and weak, but more relaxed than she’d felt in a long time. She opened her eyes to find Remy leaning over her on one hand, his expression still troubled, but with a smile tickling the corners of his lips. Rogue traced the outline of his face with her eyes-- high, angled cheekbones, arching brows, demon’s eyes that smoldered with a heat that could set fire to her very bones...

Her breath caught in her throat as he leaned down, all traces of his smile gone. The conversation had taken on such a sense of unreality that it didn’t occur to her to be afraid of touching him, and it seemed like entirely too much effort to try to stop him when she wasn’t certain she wanted to. Closing her eyes, she tilted her head back and felt his mouth cover hers, warm and incredibly sweet. She sank into his kiss, one arm wrapping tightly around his neck.

He withdrew after a while and Rogue regretfully opened her eyes. His face was only a few inches from hers, his gaze searching. She raised a hand to touch her tingling lips. "What was that foh?"

His expression remained solemn as he shrugged. "Guess I wanted t’ make sure y’ knew how dis Master T’ief feels about y’."

Rogue couldn’t help her smile as a ball of warmth formed in her stomach and spread outward. It seemed strange that she could suddenly feel so good, even though he’d just confirmed all of her worst suspicions about himself, his past, and given her a look at the real size of the obstacles standing between them.

Sighing, she shook her head. "Remy LeBeau, whatevah am ah goin’ ta do with ya?"

The devilish grin she loved so much lit his face for a moment. "Y’ wan’ a list, chere?" His tone was pure suggestion.

Rogue groaned and cuffed him affectionately on the shoulder. "No, ah do not." She did her best to affect unconcern as she sat up. He let her, backing up to give her a well-defined space, and Rogue suppressed a sigh. One kiss wasn’t going to heal the rift between them. But this is a step in the right direction, girl, she reminded herself. Ya asked a question an’ got a real answer. Maybe there’s a chance, after all.


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