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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 22

Bobby felt incredibly weary as he climbed the stairs to the X-Men’s kitchen. Little Clarissa was going to break his heart. He could understand her not taking immediately to Diedre and himself-- they were total strangers, after all-- but to watch her toddle around the room in a two-year-old’s equivalent of an exhaustive search, turning every so often to the two adults and asking "Mama? Mama?" was enough to make him want to cry. And worse yet, there was simply no way to make the little girl understand that her mother was never going to come back for her.

He walked into the kitchen and was greeted with a round of hellos from the X-Men, most of whom were squeezed into the kitchen in the hopes of getting the first pancakes to come off the griddles manned that morning by Sam and Ororo. The heavenly smell, combined with the familiar bustle of the X-Men at breakfast-time, lifted Bobby’s spirits. He managed a smile as he threaded his way through the packed room toward Remy.

By the time he arrived at the Cajun’s side, however, his smile had become utterly genuine. Remy noticed his gaze and grinned back. The thief held a premier seat in one of the dinette’s chairs, with Rogue perched on one knee and her bare fingers tightly twined with his. In the nearly three years of their relationship, Bobby couldn’t think of a single time he’d seen Rogue actually sitting in Remy’s lap. From the smirks the two were earning, he doubted anyone else had, either.

"Why does everything interesting around here seem to happen while I’m gone?" he asked as he slipped in beside Remy and Rogue.

"Y’all ’re just unlucky, sugah," Rogue answered with a smile.

Bobby looked between them, wiggling his eyebrows for effect. "So, do I get details?"

Shadows gathered in her eyes, and Bobby’s stomach sank. "Ah’d guess ya know more details than ah do, Popsicle," she answered softly.

Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Remy’s expression disappear. Rogue straightened her shoulders, glancing briefly at Remy before returning her gaze to Bobby. "But, one step at a time, right, sugah?"

Bobby wasn’t certain who the question was intended for, so he simply nodded at the same time Remy uttered a soft "Oui, chere."

Rogue turned to look at Remy who reached up to gently stroke her back, the gesture one of pure, simple affection. Rogue’s gaze softened and Bobby breathed a sigh of relief.

Remy tossed him a curious glance, which he answered in signs rather than aloud. I was afraid you two were permanently... broken. The hand language had a limited vocabulary, but Bobby decided the word expressed his meaning remarkably well.

Remy’s eyebrows quirked in an expression of pain that disappeared immediately, but he flicked Bobby a simple, Me, too in reply.

"So, what are you two whispering about?" Elizabeth leaned across the table, her conspiratorial gaze split between Bobby and Remy. At her words, Scott looked over at them, his expression narrowing.

"More secrets, Remy?"

An uncomfortable silence enveloped the room. Remy stiffened and turned slowly to look at Scott, unmistakable anger in his eyes. Even Betsy seemed taken aback by what she’d started. She sat back in her chair and looked between the two men.

"Was a private conversation." Remy’s gaze slid to Betsy, who shrugged apologetically, before returning his attention to Scott. "Y’ got a problem wit’ dat?"

Jean laid a forestalling hand on her husband’s arm, smiling wanly through the nausea obvious on her face. "Why, yes. I thought we telepaths were the only ones allowed to hold private conferences."

Scott looked over at her in surprise at the tart comment, which drew scattered chuckles from the X-Men.

"She’s got a point there, Fearless," Logan commented with a wink for Jean.

Scott shook his head sourly as the tension in the room dissipated.

"So, what’s our next target?" Logan asked Scott, apparently returning to an earlier topic.

Scott took a sip of his coffee and Bobby could see him settling into what he’d privately dubbed Scott’s "commander mode". It was a little odd, perhaps, how very similar that was to the state of concentration Remy had taught Bobby as a thief. Scott just had a different focus.

"We haven’t been able to pinpoint a useful weakness in the Sentinels’ biotechnology, so it doesn’t make sense to go after them or their manufacturing centers until we know how to effectively cripple them. And, we simply don’t have the raw power to take them down in a fight." Scott frowned. "So, the best choice right now is to try to interfere with their power supply."

"The refueling centers are heavily guarded." Bishop crossed his arms over his chest.

Scott nodded. "Yes, particularly against aerial assault and high-energy weapons. What they may not be able to counter so well is a small, lightly-armed force carrying enough explosives to send their fuel depot sky-high."

Bobby stared at Scott in surprise as Logan chuckled. "Yer talkin’ sabotage."

Looking somewhat uncomfortable, Scott nodded. "I don’t see that we have any other choice."

There was an expectant pause before Ororo spoke. "We will need a significant amount of explosives for such a mission."

Scott nodded again, his expression sardonic. "Luckily, we seem to have a supplier." He looked over at Gambit. The other X-Men followed suit.

Remy rolled his eyes. "I swear, I’m turnin’ into an arms dealer," he told Bobby in an undertone.

Bobby grinned. The Guild was still completing contracts despite OZT. Remy had just spent thirty-eight million dollars on weapons systems for the Guild. Marcus Black and his team had only gotten back the day before from Chechnya with the delivery.

Remy turned to Scott, his expression wary. "What do y’ need?"

The two men regarded each other for a moment in silence, interrupted only by Scott’s fingers tapping on the table. Finally, Scott’s expression firmed as if he’d made a decision. "Actually, I have a list."

Remy’s high brows arched in surprise as Scott fished a piece of paper out of his jeans pocket and passed it over. Rogue accepted the sheet of paper when it arrived and unfolded it, pursing her lips as she quickly scanned through the contents. "Quite a list, sugah." She glanced at Scott before returning her gaze to the paper. "Fifteen pounds o’ plastique with fuses and timers, a case o’ HK high-energy rifles with additional power paks, night vision equipment, synchronized GPS trackers with scrambled upload and military precision--"

"Gon’ have t’ steal dose," Remy commented.

"-- high-tensile wire grappling equipment, harnesses--" Rogue went on, "base jump chutes--" She began to chuckle. "This sounds like fun."

"It’s not a game, Rogue."

Rogue gave Scott an odd look. "’Course not, sugah." Schooling her expression, she finished reading off the list for Remy, then handed him the paper. Remy took it and turned toward Scott, watching him expectantly.

"Is there anything there you can’t get?" Scott asked him.

Remy shook his head. "Non. Have t’ steal de trackers, like I said. Military keeps a pretty tight lid on dose t’ings still." He shrugged. "When do y’ wan’ dem?"

"As soon as you can manage it without taking any unnecessary risks."

Remy cocked his head, studying Scott. "An’ y’ not gon’ have a problem wit’ whatever I have t’ do t’ get a hold o’ dis stuff?" His tone was faintly disbelieving.

The muscle in Scott’s jaw clenched for a moment, though his flat expression never wavered. "No."

Remy fingered the slip of paper thoughtfully. "How y’ plannin’ t’ pay f’ dis?"

The senior X-Man shrugged. "That’s up to you. If you can’t manage it, then put your head together with Logan and Warren and anyone else on this team who has private funds."

Bobby forced himself to hold a straight face. Who would’ve thought Scott would ever come around? Remy was looking a little startled as well, an expression he didn’t often see on the Cajun.

"Not ta rain on the parade or anythin’..." Rogue turned a severe look on Remy. "But ya ain’t gonna be breakin’ into any military installations ya’self. Can Bobby do it?" She cast a single glance in the X-Man’s direction.

Scott gave Bobby a questioning look. And as much as he would have liked to say yes, Bobby instead shook his head. "Not without help." He didn’t have enough experience yet for something like that.

Logan leaned back in his chair, tipping it onto two legs. "Is the Guild gonna be willing ta get involved?" he asked Remy.

"As I understand it, Logan," Scott didn’t look at the other man, but instead stared evenly at Gambit. "The Guild will give us anything we need." He paused significantly as all attention in the room focused on himself and Remy. The challenge in his gaze was unmistakable. "Isn’t that right... Guildmaster?"

Bobby sucked in his breath as Remy stared at the X-Men’s field leader. Scott knew. Somehow, he’d figured it out. Bobby resisted the temptation to shake his head. No one had ever accused Scott Summers of being stupid. Occasionally obtuse, maybe, but never stupid.

After a minute, a slow grin spread over Remy’s face. He gave Scott a wry nod of acknowledgement. "Oui."

Satisfaction flickered across Scott’s features. He took a deep breath. "Well, now that the cards are all out on the table, so to speak, do we have a deal?" To Bobby’s surprise, he held out his hand.

Nudging a stunned Rogue off his knee, Remy stood and accepted the handshake. "Deal," he answered.

"Guildmaster?" The word was a squeak of outrage from Rogue.

Scott watched with great interest as Remy’s face closed in on itself, becoming painfully wary. "I tol’ you it was complicated." He turned to look at Rogue. "Y’ already knew I had responsibilities in de Guild I couldn’ walk away from."

"That ain’t quite the same thing as bein’ Guildmaster, sugah." Her green eyes were filled with reproach.

Remy shrugged. "Details."

Scott saw the anger flash in her eyes and felt a completely unexpected stab of sympathy for the couple.

"Sorry, I didn’t mean to start a fight here," he injected before he could consider the words.

Remy’s gaze snapped to his, utterly bewildered, and Scott had to stifle a smile. He could remember any number of times when he would have given his right arm to be able to throw Gambit that far off balance. It felt good, he had to admit, as had seeing Gambit’s look of shock when he’d called him by his Guild title. He grinned to himself. It had taken him several days to come to terms with that particularly unpleasant bit of truth once he’d figured it out, but Gambit didn’t need to know that.

Gambit laughed raggedly, as if he couldn’t quite believe his ears. "Ain’ your fault, Cyke." He waved the apology away, and sank into his chair.

Anything Scott might have said was lost in the sound of a loud car engine gunning up the street, and then the piercing squeal of tires just outside the house. In an instant, every person in the room was on alert, weapons drawn if they carried them. Bishop ducked through the kitchen doorway, headed for the front windows. He was only halfway there when a figure burst through the front door, skidding to a stop with her hand still on the doorknob. She took in the rifle aimed directly at her midriff without reaction and turned to Scott.

Scott stared at her in surprise. "Mystique?"

"Mama?" Rogue stepped up beside Scott.

Mystique spared her daughter a short glance. Her unnatural blue skin was streaked with sweat, her red hair wild.

"The Sentinels are on their way here, right now." The words were clipped, terse with strain.

The bottom dropped out of Scott’s stomach. "How long?" He’d been afraid of something like this happening, ever since they’d used the Blackbird to help the thieves land that plane. And though he didn’t trust Mystique, he couldn’t think of any reason for her to risk herself out in the open unless the threat was real.

"Three, four minutes. They’re already in the air."

Scott nodded his understanding and grabbed hold of the fear that wanted to leap up and choke him. "All right. Then we go out through the tunnels--"

"No!" Mystique shook her head emphatically. "They’re expecting that. They’ve been specially armed with cluster bombs to collapse the sewers if you go underground."

"How do you know that?" Scott eyed her suspiciously.

Mystique gave him a scathing look. "I haven’t spent ten years at the Pentagon for nothing. Now move! Get your people out of here!"

For Scott, everything suddenly snapped into focus. Their only means of getting away from the house were the sewers, which led to the Blackbird, and the two very ordinary cars parked outside by the curb. The cars had never been intended as anything but basic transportation. They were too slow to outrun Sentinels and completely unarmed. The X-Men’s only protection was the fact that OZT hadn’t known where they were.

Scott didn’t hesitate. "Bishop, Cannonball, Storm, get the heavy weapons from downstairs. We’re going to have to cover our retreat. Wolverine, Psylock, outside. You’re lookouts. Gambit--" He turned to find the thief standing beside him, cell phone to his ear. "I need a miracle. Get us some kind of transportation out of here."

Gambit nodded. "Helicopters ’re on dere way. Eight minutes, give or take." The thief turned to Bobby. "Upstairs-- m’ laptop an’ de tools."

Bobby nodded once and was gone, sprinting up the stairs.

Scott didn’t spend any time wondering how or where Gambit could get helicopters on such short notice, despite the fact that he couldn’t have had them less than a week earlier or he, and by extension the Guild, wouldn’t have needed the Blackbird. A short ways away, Mystique threw the Cajun a sharp, inquisitive look.

Trained by years of combat, the X-Men took to the street, everything but survival forgotten. They formed a loose phalanx, the three tripod-mounted heavy cannon spread out to provide the maximum field of fire. The others filled in the gaps with lighter weapons, mainly laser rifles and rocket launchers. He let his gaze linger just for a moment on Jean, then forced himself to look way.

Angel grabbed one of the rocket launchers and nodded to Scott. "I’ll give you whatever air support I can, Cyclops."

Scott watched in surprise as he turned and started off down the road at an ungainly, lumbering run, his wings unfurling like streamers. When he’d built some speed, the huge white pinions snapped open. With a last lunge, Warren rose into the air with powerful strokes. Something inside Scott soared with him, buoyed by the indomitable will of the X-Men.

"What d’ y’ know? He can still fly." Standing beside him, Gambit seemed thoroughly bemused.

"Focus, Gambit," Scott snapped at him. "How long on those helicopters?"

Gambit threw him a sharp look. "Four minutes."

"Here they come!" someone shouted.

Scott spun to see four dark dots on the horizon that swelled rapidly to become Sentinels flying low over the houses. The three X-Men on the cannons opened up as soon as the Sentinels came in range, forcing them to peel off from their original attack vector. Each cannon tracked a Sentinel, with the remaining X-Men concentrating fire on the fourth. One of the Sentinels flew nearly over their heads, scattering laser beams.

Scott saw Jean go down as if it were a scene from a nightmare. Her shriek of pain drilled through him as she collapsed and lay still. One of the cannons swung around, hammering the Sentinel that had hit her with bursts of red fire as it flew past.

"Jean!" A hand grabbed Scott’s arm, holding him back as he tried to lunge toward her.

"Non!" Gambit kept a grim hold on him with one hand and maintained a steady stream of laser fire with the rifle in the other.

It took only that moment for the soldier in Scott to wrest control from the husband. He had to get his team out alive first. The familiar whomping sound of helicopter blades filled the air as four missiles streaked over their heads. Angel darted and dove between the white contrails, adding his own destruction. Scott turned to see three helicopters racing toward them. The two in the lead were narrow gunships, their angular, armor-plated noses flashing strobe-like with laser fire. The third was a Russian troop carrier, distinctive for its double-decker configuration.

"X-Men, fall back!" Scott bawled over the horrendous machine noise as the carrier descended toward the street behind him. He saw Beast scoop Jean up, bounding across the cratered street in huge leaps. Firing off a last rocket, Angel folded his wings and dove toward them, backwinging just outside the circle of the helicopter’s blades. He dropped heavily to the ground as the main group of retreating X-Men reached them. The three manning the cannons stayed in their places, providing support fire for the helicopters that darted around the Sentinels like angry bees.

Scott took stock of the team as they passed him. Sam was nearly unconscious, half-supported, half-carried by Bishop. A large red stain spread across his thigh. Storm bled freely from a deep cut across her forehead, covering her face in scarlet. The wound didn’t seem to be slowing her however. Mystique looked to be injured as well, though Scott didn’t get a good look. And Jean... Jean lay limp in Hank’s arms, her neck, shoulder and chest stained red. Scott could hear the scary, wet rasp of her breathing.

The three X-Men manning the cannons finally abandoned their positions, sprinting toward the carrier. One of the Sentinels evaded its pursuer and flew after them, tearing up chunks of blacktop as it rained its store of cluster bombs around them. Rogue went down in a cloud of cement dust and fire, but when the smoke cleared, she was rolling to her feet, coughing as she ran.

Scott jumped into the helicopter, grabbing the safety straps near the door. He leaned out to fire at the closest Sentinel. As the last of the X-Men climbed aboard, he could hear Gambit yelling at the pilot to take off. With a stomach-churning lurch, they began to rise, wheeling away as soon as they’d made enough altitude to clear the trees.

A short ways away, one of the Sentinels exploded midair. The other three turned to pursue them. Scott twisted to look for Gambit.

"Where are we going?" he yelled over the noise of the blades.

Gambit leaned toward him, a headset pressed to one ear. "De chopper’s gon’ drop y’ off near Wall Street," he yelled back. "Thieves’ll meet y’ dere. Split de team into small groups, an’ each group’ll be guided t’ a safe rendezvous point by a different route."

Scott nodded his understanding. "What about you?"

Gambit’s red gaze was steady. "I’m gon’ take Jean an’ Hank an’ go straight in t’ de med center, if we c’n buy a clear space from dese Sentinels. She’s de only one hurt bad." Scott looked involuntarily toward his wife as Gambit turned to Hank. "Beast, how far c’n y’ free jump wit’out hurtin’ y’self?"

Hank looked up from the large hand he held pressed against the wound in Jean’s chest. His blue eyes flicked from Gambit to Scott and back again. "Fifty, maybe sixty feet," he answered.

Gambit nodded. "I c’n do about sixty." He turned to speak into the headset. The helicopter abruptly changed courses, sending Scott’s stomach climbing into his throat. Nearby explosions rocked them as the Sentinels continued their barrage.

Then, suddenly, they were in the city, flying the steel and glass canyons between the buildings. The sound of the rotors echoed back to them from the skyscrapers, drowning out everything else. Scott leaned out the door, trying to look behind them as their transport rose sharply. For a moment he caught a glimpse of one of the gunships, but he didn’t see any Sentinels.

Their helicopter crested the top of one of the skyscrapers and hovered there, less than five feet from the roof. Gambit gestured to Beast and the two clambered to the open door.

"What happened to our sixty foot jump?" Hank asked as he cradled Jean against his chest.

In response, Gambit leaned out, firing his laser rifle across the roof below. The assault shredded a large steel cover directly beneath them, revealing a six foot by six foot shaft that fell away into darkness inside the building.

“Is de cover clear?” Gambit shouted to Hank.

Hank nodded. “Yes.”

"Den go! I’ll follow y’."

Hank nodded and leapt into that gaping maw, taking Scott’s heart with him. Remy stepped up to the edge of the doorway. Scott stopped him with one hand. "Take good care of her," he told Remy, the words half promise, half threat.

Remy simply nodded, and strangely enough, that was enough for Scott. Without a backward glance, the thief stepped out of the helicopter and dropped into the shaft, disappearing from view.

The helicopter swung around, diving for the narrow spaces between the buildings as soon as Gambit was gone. Scott leaned back against the cool metal wall of the cabin, feeling the vibration all the way into his bones. They weren’t out of the woods yet, but with every thump of the rotor blades, he thanked God for their lives... and for the Thieves Guild.


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