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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 26

Adrian Tyre paced a short track through the stone cubbyhole that passed for his living room. He ignored the trickle of moisture that darkened one wall and the fungal smell that accompanied it. So, too, he ignored the harsh glare from the utility lights bolted to the stone above him in place of a normal fixture. They were signs of how far the thieves had fallen and of the level of persecution they faced. Even he, as a member of the council, had nothing. Oh, his investments and off-shore accounts were secure. Just inaccessible.

Why in the world had the council voted LeBeau into the Guildmaster’s seat? Adrian wondered. The man’s golden tongue, no doubt. More so than when he was elected, the councilmembers were mesmerized by LeBeau’s pretty promises. LeBeau’s noble intentions had infected the Guild like a plague. They were thieves, not heroes. The goals were wealth, power and self-determination, not the betterment of mankind. LeBeau, for some reason, didn’t understand that.

The strange part was that Adrian agreed with the Guildmaster’s actions, though not his rationale. Michael would have done a better job, of course, but at least LeBeau was taking decisive action. The Guild should have solidified its position long before OZT came along to strip their mutant birthright away. Michael would have made certain of it. LeBeau, on the other hand, would empower the Guild only so long as it took to destroy OZT. Then they would slink back into the shadows of obscurity, never to realize the true wealth that could be theirs.

A knock interrupted Adrian’s bitter thoughts. He went to the door.

Carson McCall stood in the hallway, looking as tired as Adrian felt. Adrian summoned a smile for his longtime friend. No matter what Carson did or did not bring with him, he knew the other had been working hard in the attempt. He needed to show proper appreciation.

"Come in. Have a seat." Adrian waved to the couches that formed a tight group in his living room. "Can I get you a drink?"

"Thanks. The usual." Carson dropped into a seat and laid his head back.

Adrian went to a tiny wet bar in the corner. He fixed scotch and soda for Carson, straight gin for himself. Returning, he handed Carson’s drink to him then sat down on the opposite sofa.

Carson pulled a slim folder from inside his jacket, tossing it down on the coffee table. "This is everything I could find."

Adrian cocked his head. "Is that good or bad?"

He shrugged. "Some of both."

Adrian glanced at his friend. Physically, the two were opposites. Carson’s blond hair and olive complexion stood in marked contrast to Adrian’s raven-dark hair and pale skin. Their minds, however, seemed to operate on the same wavelength.

Adrian waved a hand. "Let’s hear it, then."

The other man shuffled the papers lying on the table before him, then began to speak. "O.k. Early history: We know Guildmaster LeBeau-- the senior one, that is--" He gave Adrian a wry smile. "Adopted him around the age of twelve. Before that he was on the street."

"Gutter rat." LeBeau’s childhood was the subject of much discussion in the Guild, an equal mix of disgust and sympathy. The city of New York had its own share of homeless children. The Guild knew their kind well enough.

"Pretty much."

Adrian stared at the ceiling. "Was he into drugs at all? Sex-trade?"

Carson shook his head. "Everything I managed to scratch up says he was clean when LeBeau took him in. Prostitution is a possibility, but I couldn’t come up with anything concrete."

Adrian digested the information, dismissed it as useless. "Nothing there. How about afterward?"

Carson looked down at his notes. "A troublemaker. Too smart for his own good." He met Adrian’s gaze. "We have to be careful around this man, Adrian. When New Orleans took him in, he couldn’t count past twenty-five and didn’t know how to read. Five years later he was one of the sharpest apprentices around. Math, sciences, computing, security layering-- you name it, he aced it."

Adrian felt a familiar twinge. There was no doubt LeBeau was intelligent. Dangerously so, in fact. Still, his education formed a thin patina over the survival-driven street urchin he’d once been. He had no concept of how much more there was to life. How much more there could be, Adrian corrected himself. LeBeau didn’t-- couldn’t-- comprehend the potential reach of the power he held in his hands. All he wants is safety and comfort. Understandable, considering his upbringing, but far too shortsighted a goal for Adrian.

The last thing Adrian wanted was for anyone to further over-evaluate the Guildmaster, though, so he uttered a carefully cultivated snort of derision. "He was stupid enough to get himself banished, wasn’t he?"

"For killing an Assassin who challenged him to a duel. His own brother-in-law, I think. Big embarrassment for both sides." Carson shrugged. "They let the Assassins torture him for a little while and then banished him to keep the peace."

Adrian said nothing, letting his silence convey his disgust. The New Orleans Guild was incredibly backwards. And why the American Guilds continued to tolerate the insolence of that nest of Assassins was beyond him.

"After he left New Orleans, he traveled up the East Coast," Carson continued. "A banished thief doesn’t find much in the way of work-- especially one that just got his mark-- so he made the jump to espionage. CIA to start with. He made some contacts in the Pentagon, too. Eventually branched out to other governments."

Adrian’s head snapped up at that. "Treason?" That was too much to hope for. They might be thieves first, but national loyalties remained important.

Carson shook his head. "Sorry. Nothing showed up. He did a fair amount with British SAS, the French, Japan, and the Saudis. But nothing that betrayed American interests." Carson spread out several sheets of paper, looking back and forth between them. "The interesting thing is that while he was doing all that, he was also finagling a lot of instruction from some very capable people."

"Like who?"

"Foreign Guilds. French, Japanese, Russian, even the Chinese."

"Sook Xu?" Xu, a Chinese national and Guildmaster of Hong Kong, was the first ranked Master Thief in the world-- the very best.

Carson nodded. "He pretty much lived and breathed the craft for almost four years, until he got his Master’s mark. Then he quit cold." Carson paused, one finger idly tapping the table. "You want to know what I think? I think LeBeau was pissed about being banished and set out to get his Master’s rank so he could walk back into New Orleans without a by-your-leave from anyone."

Adrian raised an eyebrow. "Not a bad supposition. I know I’d want some payback." He shook his head. It was one of the first things he’d found to like in the man. "Can’t hold it against him, though. What else?"

"Well, no one really knew what to do with a Guild-less Master. They couldn’t deny him the rank…"

"But?" Adrian prompted after a moment.

"But, he didn’t have a Guild. No Guild means no Guild contracts."

"He started freelancing?" Adrian felt a thrill. Thieving outside the boundaries of Guild control was tantamount to heresy.

"I don’t know. He was working, I know that. Some rumors say he answered to the Guildmasters in a roundabout way. He did tithe to New Orleans. No telling if it was the proper percentage." Carson shrugged.

Adrian took a sip of his gin, sucking it through his teeth. If the Guildmasters knew what LeBeau was doing, and if he was giving proper tithe to his home Guild, even banished, there was little there to work with. Frustrated, he rattled the ice in his glass.

"Go on."

"O.k. Here’s where it starts to get interesting. He did work as a thief, but he also went back to some of his espionage roots. Black bag stuff-- some so secret I couldn’t get to the records, though I could tell you who he was working for. And then he flat disappeared."

"Oh?" Adrian raised an eyebrow. Thieves made their living by getting to things other people thought well hidden. To "disappear", in thief jargon, meant something momentous if even they could find no trace.

"There’s a blank spot, about four months long, where he dropped off the face of the earth. There was some talk that he’d taken a private contract, but no one knows for what. He was doing some scouting, putting together a team for something, and then he just disappeared. Resurfaced four months later in Italy." Carson gave Adrian a significant look. "Whatever it was, it gave him screaming nightmares for months afterwards. He didn’t work at all for almost a year."

Adrian stared blankly at the tabletop, thinking. That empty gap in LeBeau’s history beckoned to him, thrilling his senses with the promise of victory. There had to be something there. "Do we know anything at all?"

"Only that he got those claw marks on his stomach sometime during the four months."

Adrian frowned at that. He’d seen the long parallel scars, as if LeBeau had been mauled by a bear or a lion. "Keep digging. I want to know what happened to him."

"I will." Carson stood and went to refresh his drink from Adrian’s tiny wet bar.

"What happened during the year he wasn’t working?"

From behind the bar, Carson answered, "He started getting tangled up in mutant stuff."

"The X-Men?"

"Eventually." Carson returned to his seat. "He just started showing up when the super-folk went at it. Crossed paths with a lot of people. Eventually ended up with the X-Men. I don’t think it was completely coincidence-- it was too much of a change from his old patterns-- but whether he was trying to get in with that particular group… I don’t know."

Well, that might be something else to investigate, Adrian thought. Maybe he could find a way to drive a wedge between LeBeau and the X-Men. That would be almost as valuable as turning the Guild against him.

"So that was when he came to New York." It wasn’t a question.

Carson nodded. "Yes. He didn’t make any overtures toward the New York Guild for some months, though. What little information I could get says the X-Men were out of the country for most of that time."

Something in his tone of voice gave Adrian pause. "Where?"

"Scotland. A few other places."

Adrian studied his friend. "You’re leaving something out."

Carson shrugged. "One rumor I heard suggests the X-Men were in another galaxy for part of the time."

"Another galaxy?" Adrian stared at his cohort.

Carson looked uncomfortable. "That’s what they said. I couldn’t confirm it, obviously, but I also couldn’t specifically put them in another location during that time period." He shrugged. "They bounce around the planet. Keeping track of where and when is difficult at best."

Adrian pushed the bizarre possibilities aside. If LeBeau had had alien friends to call on, he would have had them blow OZTs satellites out of the sky. He reached up to massage his temples. He was getting a headache. "Anything else?"

"Not really. You know the rest, pretty much."

Adrian paused, old anger welling up. "Yeah. He murdered my cousin, and the fools gave him the Guild instead of punishing him." He stared off into the distance, remembering.

"You know, Michael would have made this Guild the premier power in this city," he said, his tone wistful.

Carson gave him a skeptical look. "Maybe. He was under investigation by the FBI."

"LeBeau tipped them."

Carson’s eyes widened. "Can you prove that?"

"No." Adrian shook his head. How he wished he could. For a thief to turn another over to the authorities… Even the X-Men wouldn’t be able to protect him. Sighing, he forced his thoughts back to the present.

"What about his women? Anything there?" Unfortunately, LeBeau seemed to have abandoned his womanizing ways in the past few years. Blatant promiscuity would have drawn disapproval from the Clans.

Carson smiled. "Do you want the whole list?"

"You have one?" Adrian looked up with interest. Carson showed him a two-page list. There had to be several hundred names, many with dates attached. Adrian thought about it. Leaking that could cause some embarrassment. The Guild was, for the most part, a conservative organization. Family values and all that. They wouldn’t like a philanderer Guildmaster. He chewed his lip. If it wasn’t all past behavior…

He held out his hand. Carson handed the papers over and took a sip of his drink while Adrian scanned the list. Several names caught his attention, but none would cause the kind of scandal he needed.

"It gets pretty thin there at the end," Carson told him.

"The reason?"

Carson shrugged. "Nobody knows. Pretty much all of his medical treatment for the past few years has been through the X-Men, but I got their blue furry doc to give me a roundabout confirmation that there’s no… medical reason."

Pity, Adrian thought. If anyone deserved to have a venereal disease it was LeBeau.

"Maybe he’s gotten tired of the lifestyle," Carson suggested.

With the kind of women who throw themselves at his feet? Not likely.

Adrian emptied his glass. "Any chance he’s gotten serious with someone?"

Carson shrugged. "I haven’t seen anything."

Adrian sighed. "Oh well. Keep after it," he said. "There’s got to be something we can use."

Carson nodded and stood. "I’ll let you know if I find anything else."

"Ah can’t believe y’all are askin’ me ta do this!" Rogue combed the hair away from her face with one hand, frustrated by the wall of faces surrounding her. Mystique, Gambit, Cyclops, Logan, Bobby, Artur, Marcus, Adrian, and several of the thieves’ adjutants gathered around Gambit’s desk all stared back at her.

"Why me?"

Scott shrugged. "Mystique says you’re that good. I need Logan elsewhere, and your name is next on the list." His demeanor softened. "I don’t like it either, Rogue, if it’s any consolation."

Rogue looked from Cyclops to her mother and back. Mystique was pushing again, pushing her to give up on becoming something better than a trained killer. Pushing her back toward the fold. She glanced at Gambit, but his expression remained closed. She wouldn’t find any support there. She grimaced to herself. He might even want her to walk that path. After all, it wasn’t that big a step from assassination to thieving, and becoming a thief might very well make their relationship possible again.

Rogue bit her lip. The thought both angered and attracted her.

She uttered a grating sigh. "Ah got your word we wouldn’t shoot unless the team was compromised?" She kept her gaze on Scott, though the question was really meant for Mystique. But it was Cyclops’ mission plan, and her mother had promised to play nice.

Scott nodded. "Yes."

Across from Rogue, Mystique smiled. Rogue tensed. She knew that expression; it meant her mother was laughing at her.

Rogue sighed. She brushed the annoying lock of hair out of her eyes once more. "All right. What, exactly, do ya want me ta do?"

Scott turned the mission diagram so they could both view it right side up. "This would be your post." He pointed to a small ridge about forty yards from the compound fence. From photos Rogue knew the entire area was covered in a mixture of tall grass and brush-- perfect for hiding. Scott went on, describing the mission.

As he spoke, Mystique drained the last of her coffee. She leaned over to say something to Remy in an undertone then, at his nod, took his coffee cup and her own and headed toward the bar in the corner of the office. Distracted, Rogue kept an eye on her mother while trying to listen to Scott. Cyclops was going through the mission timing.

"Logan and Marcus will be most vulnerable here." Scott pointed. Logan and Marcus were the advance team, responsible for taking down the site’s security. "If there’s a roving patrol anywhere in this area--" he outlined a pie-shaped slice of ground on the diagram, "they’ll have to be taken out."

Rogue nodded. In her peripheral vision she watched her mother measure a second spoonful of honey into Remy’s mug. Mystique stirred it, then took an evaluatory sip. Apparently satisfied, she returned to the table, setting Remy’s cup down in front of him and cradling her own in her hands.

Wishing she could shake off her sense of unease, Rogue focused once again on Scott. Mystique didn’t help her efforts. She stood silently across the table, sipping her coffee and grinning at Rogue as if she were enjoying a truly remarkable joke.

"Y’ might be able t’ cut down dat vulnerable spot by puttin’ a second lookout on de southeast corner o’ Buildin’ 22." Each of the buildings in the complex was numbered. Their target was Building 6. Remy didn’t gesture or point. He couldn’t, of course, because he couldn’t see the diagram, though close to half of the people in the room didn’t know that. Still, he never had talked with his hands so it didn’t seem unusual. He picked up his coffee and sipped it absently.

Alarm bells began to ring in Rogue’s mind. Confused, she paused, mentally reviewing the last few moments. What had triggered it? Had Remy done something to give himself away? She considered the possibility and was forced to discard it. She hadn’t seen anything that might hint at his handicap.


Disturbed, Rogue looked up at Scott. "Yeah?"

"You still with me?"

She nodded. "Ah’m listenin’. Just tryin’ ta think somethin’ through."

He accepted that with a nod. "Do you see a problem?"

Beside Scott, Mystique’s smirk widened. Rogue stared at her mother as she answered Scott, "Don’ know just yet, sugah. Let me think a minute." She made a show of studying the drawings while her mind raced. Mystique had done something. That was what had set off her internal warnings. But what? No, that wasn’t right, Rogue corrected herself. Remy had triggered the warning bells. But what had he done? She thought back. Nothing but drink his coffee and suggest an additional lookout.

Rogue’s breath caught in her throat. Her stomach clamped into a cold knot. Nothing but drink his coffee…

The coffee her mother had made for him.

With two spoonfuls of honey instead of sugar.

Just the way he liked it.

Something Mystique had taught her, long long ago, about observing people came back in a rush. Outside the office, if you ever see a woman fixing a man’s coffee, she’s either his mother or his lover.

Rogue stood frozen. A tiny chuckle escaped Mystique, the sound nearly lost in the general babble of ongoing conversations.

Remy glanced at Rogue, then Mystique, a frown crinkling his brow. "Dat was cruel, Raven." The mild comment, delivered in an undertone, barely reached across the desk. Most of those gathered either didn’t hear or didn’t attach any significance. A thousand questions tumbled through Rogue’s mind, questions she didn’t dare voice. A mistake now might kill them all. Adrian stood not three feet away. She could not react.

Mystique grinned back at Gambit, unaffected by his disapproval. "Truth often is."

He winced at that, a miniscule flicker of reaction.

Nausea threatened to overwhelm Rogue. She bit the inside of her lip, fighting for calm.

"Rogue?" Scott watched her, his expression a mixture of impatience and interest. He showed no sign of having understood what had just transpired between herself, Mystique and Remy.

Rogue gathered her wits. "Sorry, sugah." She smoothed her hair with one hand. "This looks good ta me." She risked a glance at Remy, hoping her expression wouldn’t give anything away. "The second lookout is a good idea, too."

Remy gave her a nod and an empty smile. Rogue felt cold. A short ways away, Bobby watched her with sympathy in his blue eyes, which only made Rogue angrier. It was altogether possible Bobby had known and hadn’t said anything.

Scott continued with the mission briefing. Rogue listened as best she could and excused herself as soon as was possible without drawing suspicion. Remy, she noted, didn’t look up as she walked out.

It took some careful arranging, but Remy finally found an opportunity to talk to Rogue. She was in the gym, working out at one of the bags. He could see warm drops of sweat flying from her as she pummeled the bag with both hands and feet. Rogue was slimming down, he noticed absently. Her powers had kept her from needing to be in top physical form. Now she was trading some of her luscious curvature for lean, hard muscle.

Dressed for his own workout, Remy angled across the room toward Rogue. He came up behind the bag, bracing it before leaning around to look at the woman he loved.

Rogue stopped short when she saw him. The exercise had warmed her entire body, making it difficult to read any kind of emotion from her heat signature.

"Sugah, that’s a dangerous place foh ya ta stand." She hit the bag hard as if to demonstrate her meaning.

"Better t’ be behind de bag den in front of it, neh?"

Rogue shook her head and hit the bag again. "If ya were standin’ in front of it, ah couldn’t be held responsible fo’ mah actions." Though Remy couldn’t see her glare, he could feel it.

Remy lowered his voice. The gym was loud and there was no one close, but it was dangerous to have an honest discussion with her. Dangerous but worth the price, he hoped. "Are y’ mad because Raven an’ I were lovers once, or because I didn’ tell y’?"

Rogue’s taped fists made dull thumping sounds against the bag. "Both, sugah."

She paused, leaning on one hand. Her breath came in harsh gasps. "She’s mah mother, Remy!" Rogue, too, kept the volume down. The exclamation came out as an angry hiss.

After a moment, she went back to her workout. In between blows she asked, "So what happened?"

Remy ignored the jostling of the bag and stared at her. "Do y’ really want t’ know?"

Rogue stopped cold. Then she flung her arms wide. "Yes." She pointed a finger at his nose. "It’s the new you." The finger turned toward herself. "It’s the new me. Yes, ah want ta know."

Remy couldn’t help but smile. This was the woman he’d fallen for. How I wish we could have gotten to this point when there was still a chance to do something with it. But since it hadn’t, he could only admire her from a carefully maintained distance.

He nodded. "All right, chere. Truth is, I was sleepin’ wit’ Raven Darkholme-- de real one. Was fishin’ for a connection at de Pentagon t’ do some contract work." He shrugged. If she didn’t realize by this point that he’d often used sex as a means to reach other objectives, she was less willing to be honest than she seemed.

Rogue didn’t react, though, so he went on. "Den one day, Raven wasn’ Raven anymore."

Rogue paused thoughtfully. She leaned against the bag. "Mystique…?"

He nodded. "Killed her an’ replaced her. I only suspected, o’ course, but I figured I was dead if I let on. Was only eighteen at de time. She was out o’ my league back den." He smiled, remembering. "She tol’ me later dat de only reason she didn’ slit m’ throat was because she was convinced I didn’ know. We had a pretty good laugh about it." He paused. "’Course, dat was years later."

Rogue stared at him, her face a featureless mass of infrared colors. "Why didn’t ah ever see ya?" She asked after a moment. Her tone had lost its angry edge as if, perhaps, curiosity was winning out over outrage.

Remy could only shrug. "Y’ prob’ly did. I remember seein’ y’ a time or two. Couldn’ o’ been more dan t’irteen." He gave her an ingratiating smile. "Skinny lil’ t’ing."

Rogue stepped back, hands on hips. For a minute Remy was afraid he’d pushed too hard. But Rogue surprised him when all she said was, "Ah’m done." She gestured at the bag. "Trade?"

Normal as c’n be. Whatever she felt, she kept her reaction completely under control. He nodded and they traded places. Remy threw a few light punches, warming up. Chere, y’ probably never know how much I love seein’ y’ like dis. We would’ve made quite a team. The thought brought a pang of regret.

Remy picked up his pace. For a while, the only sound between them was the thumping of his hands and feet against the bag. Eventually he paused to adjust the tape on one hand.

"So, how many times has she used this ta blackmail ya?"

Startled, Remy grinned. "A few."

"Ah’ll bet." Rogue seemed to think for a moment before going on. "Ah wonder why she said somethin’ now. What’s she gettin’ from it?"

Remy snorted. "Probably de satisfaction o’ watchin’ y’ have t’ choke it down. Dat would be her style."

Rogue laughed, though the sound was strained. "Yeah, ah guess that’s so. Ah wonder what else, though. Momma nevah does things foh just one reason."

Remy agreed, though he didn’t say so. He needed some time to think that one through himself.

He watched her heat signature, which was beginning to return to normal. "Y’ still mad at me, chere?" he asked softly.

"What do ya think?"

Remy couldn’t pass up the opportunity. "Non, chere. I’m much too charmin’ t’ stay mad at." He flashed his infamous grin.

Rogue heaved a long-suffering sigh and chuckled. "The scary thing is, ya right."

Remy’s heart lightened as he went back to his workout. They might have lost the chance to ever be together, but no one ever said they couldn’t still be friends.

"Hey, Remy?"

"Oui, chere?" He kept his focus on the bag.

"Would ya ever have told me? Ah mean, if all this hadn’t happened--"

Remy pulled up. That was a tough question. He chewed on his lip. "Raven would’ve pushed de issue eventually." He hesitated, then forced himself to go on. Being honest with her wasn’t necessarily easy. "Ot’herwise, no, probably not."

Rogue was silent for several moments. When she did answer, her voice held an echo of hurt. "Fair ’nough. That wasn’t the answer ah was hopin’ for, but ah appreciate gettin’ the truth."

Remy’s conscience twinged. He could only hope she wouldn’t start asking questions about the memories she carried around in her head. There were some things he didn’t ever want her to know.


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