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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 29

Remy didn’t move for a long time after the council members left. Bobby watched his friend in concern. Remy stared at the floor, eyes unfocused, and his brow drawn in a deep, pained furrow. His fingers flexed rhythmically against his biceps. He looked as shaken as Bobby had ever seen him.

“What do you want me to do, boss?” Bobby finally asked. He honestly hadn’t considered just how bad the fallout would be if the Guild found out. There was a knot of fear in his stomach that had lodged there the moment he’d seen the picture of Remy and Rogue in the park.

Remy looked up, his red eyes forlorn and haunted. But the expression disappeared as soon as Bobby registered it, replaced by the familiar keen stare. “Wake Scott up an’ tell him de bad news. An’ den wake up Rogue an’ make sure she doesn’t get blindsided by this in de morning.”

Bobby bit his lip at the thought of how Rogue would likely react. He didn’t like being on the receiving end of her temper. But, he knew Remy couldn’t do it, so it fell to him. “What should I tell her to say when people ask?”

Remy’s shoulder’s sagged. Bobby watched in dismay as he leaned his head against the door jamb and closed his eyes. “It don’ matter, Bobby. Not’ing she says or doesn’t say is gon’ help.” His eyes opened and he speared Bobby with a single, unrevealing stare. “Jus’ tell her not t’ lie. Whatever she says, it has t’ be de truth.”

“Right.” Summoning a confident smile, he nodded. “I’m on it.” He turned to go.

“An’ Bobby?” Remy’s voice stopped him before he’d gone more than a couple of steps.

“Yeah, boss?”

“There’s a fair chance dis t’ing is gon’ end wit’ de X-Men being evicted from de guild complex.” Something in his voice sent a chill down Bobby’s spine. “Y’ need to make sure Scott understands dat.”

Bobby paused. There was a subtle warning in Remy’s tone that he couldn’t let pass. “So what’s the worst case here?” he asked.

Remy slowly straightened. “You know what de punishment is for exposing de Guild to outsiders.” Pushing himself away from the door jamb, he turned and walked back into his quarters. The whip scars across his back stood out in sharp relief, reminding Bobby forcibly of how much he had already paid for defying Guild law.

Bobby stood silently after the door had swung shut behind Remy. Artur’s words from that day echoed in his head. When no harm to the Guild was intended or incurred, the penalty was what Remy had endured. But when there was a perceived threat to the Guild, the only penalty was death.

Bobby turned on his heel and strode out of the Guildmaster’s office. He needed to warn the X-Men of the danger they were in.

Bobby looked up at the sound of the Black’s front door opening. The sound seemed inordinately loud in the tense atmosphere.

“Bad news,” Marcus announced grimly as he walked into his family’s quarters.

After Bobby had gotten Scott and Jean out of bed, he’d simply taken them with him to the Blacks’. Now he and Diedre, along with Scott, Jean, Rogue, Marcus and Andrea, all huddled in the Blacks’ small living room to discuss the X-Men’s options.

Marcus crossed the room and flopped down on the couch beside his wife. “The council has already given orders to the sentries not to let the X-Men out of the complex.”

Marcus reached over to stroke his son’s back, where the baby rested on his wife’s shoulder. All of the commotion in the middle of the night had awakened both infants. Bobby still needed someone to tell him which of the twins was which, but Andrea had one of the babies asleep on her shoulder, and the other lay on his stomach across Rogue’s knees, gurgling happily as she bounced him. Clarissa, too, had gone back to sleep in Diedre’s lap, the blue hand towel she’d appropriated as her special blanket clutched in one little hand.

Scott’s expression closed in on itself. “So the X-Men are effectively prisoners.”

Marcus nodded. “At least until this thing plays out.”

Bobby suppressed a shiver. “Did you get a sense of how the Guild is taking it?” he asked.

“We already knew about where the faction lines would fall.” Marcus shrugged. “Many of the thieves respect the X-Men and they like what we’ve managed to accomplish through the alliance. That’s not really the issue here.”

“Sugah, the issue is me.” Rogue looked up briefly, her green eyes flashing. Bobby didn’t know what to make of her reaction yet. He’d expected a tirade when he explained the scandal that now rocked the Guild, but what he’d gotten was prickly silence. It made him nervous.

Scott leaned forward, bracing his elbows on his knees. “I can’t say I really understand why this is such a big deal.” He made a vague gesture with one hand. “I realize it’s technically a violation of your rules, but Rogue is an X-Man, and the Guild has already accepted our presence here.”

“It has a lot more to do with the Guildmaster than it does Rogue,” Andrea said. She turned a sympathetic look on the red-haired X-woman before returning her attention to Scott. “You have to understand Guild history to understand why it matters so much.”

Carefully holding the baby, she adjusted one of the couch pillows behind her and then leaned back with a sigh. “The Guild has existed in one form or another for more than eight hundred years, and our political structure has changed very little in that time. The Guildmaster is, in effect, a king, with all the power and authority that entails.”

Bobby listened to Andrea’s explanation with great interest. He knew Guild history, at least the basic framework, but the way she spoke made it obvious she had a deep and richly detailed understanding of the subject. Which wasn’t too surprising, he decided, coming from a Guildmaster’s daughter.

“But, that much power always carries the risk of abuse,” Andrea continued. “And, unfortunately, the Guild has a long history of Guildmasters bringing disaster on the guilds for the sake of foreign women.”

The statement earned her a snort of bitter amusement from Rogue. “Is that what ah am?” Rogue asked at the other woman’s questioning look.

Andrea shrugged. “Let me give you an example. In the late 1400s, the king of Moldavia-- which is now part of Romania-- struck a deal with the king of the gypsies, offering his youngest daughter to be the gypsy king’s wife in return for the gypsies plying their trade against Moldavia’s enemies and sparing the country any more predation.”

“I assume these gypsies were really the Guild?” Scott asked.

Andrea nodded. “Yes, and their Guildmaster at the time was an incredibly talented thief, as well as being both aggressive and unconventional.” Her mouth twisted in a wry smile. “Much like Guildmaster LeBeau, actually.” She shook her head as if to dispel the thought. “Anyway, they were slowly stripping the kingdom down to the bone, which is why the king decided to sue for peace.”

“So what happened?”

Andrea raised her eyebrows in an evaluating expression. “The Guildmaster married the king’s daughter and took her into the thieves’ world. History says he was completely besotted with her and refused to listen to any of his advisors’ warnings.” She shrugged. “Less than a year later, she killed him in his sleep and betrayed the guild’s location to her father, the king, who sent soldiers to slaughter the gypsies. Only a handful of thieves survived.”

Andrea swept her gaze around the group. “That’s not the only example. I could name you several others. But the point here is that the Guild has good reason to be angry when their Guildmaster lies to them about an outside woman, regardless of the circumstances. In truth, if you asked them, I think a lot of the guildmembers and clan would agree that Rogue would make an excellent Mistress. It’s not about that.”

Rogue leaned forward and laid her head in her hand. Her thick hair tumbled down around her, obscuring her face. The baby in her lap grabbed a handful and shoved it in his mouth.

“This is all mah fault.” Absently, she began extracting her hair from the baby’s grip.

Bobby shook his head. “This is Guild politics, Rogue. You can’t blame yourself.”

She looked up at him, her expression fierce. “If ah hadn’t been so stupidly stubborn about insistin’ Remy give up his thievin’ ways, ah would’ve already known about the Guild, right? I’d ‘ve gotten a proper introduction a long time ago, an’ none of this would be happenin’.” She looked away, her voice trailing off into a despondant whisper. “Who knows, we might even have been married by now.”

Bobby couldn’t legitimately argue that one, and before he could think of something to say, Jean leaned over to lay a hand on Rogue’s shoulder.

“I didn’t know you two were talking marriage,” she said sympathetically.

Rogue’s head jerked up. “Oh yeah, didn’t ah tell ya? That was the gist of our little break-up talk.” The sarcasm in her voice was thick enough to cut. She sniffed mightily, as if trying to hold back tears. “’So sorry, Rogue. I was hopin’ t’ marry y’, but y’ wouldn’t stop bein’ an’ idiot an’ now it’s too late.’” She mimicked Remy’s Cajun accent with frightening accuracy.

Bobby could only stare at her, overwhelmed by the tragedy of it all. She’d finally come around-- finally been willing to see Remy for what he was rather than blaming him for what he wasn’t. But it was too late to matter.

“There has to be something we can do,” he found himself saying.

Marcus spread his hands, looking as helpless and Bobby felt. “The council will make its decision in the next couple of days. We just have to hope they decide to err on the side of caution. If they decide to remove the Guildmaster…” He trailed off with a shrug.

Scott gave Bobby a questioning look, and Bobby’s gut clenched. “They could decide to kill him, Scott,” he explained. “You don’t forcibly remove a Guildmaster from power any other way.”

Rogue’s sharp intake of breath punctuated his statement, but she didn’t say anything.

Scott and Jean exchanged alarmed looks before Scott turned back to the group. “If worst comes to worst, they’ll try to kill all of the X-Men, too, right? Because we’re outsiders?”

Bobby didn’t miss the emphasis on the word “try”. He knew neither Scott nor the other X-Men would give up without a fight, and the idea of the two groups—both of which Bobby considered family—in a battle to the death terrified him.

Marcus held up a forestalling hand. “Don’t panic yet. A lot of people believe in the alliance and the X-Men, regardless of what they think about the Guildmaster. Let Bobby and I talk to some people. No matter what happens, we can probably get the X-Men out safely as long as we keep our heads.”

Bobby nodded his agreement, a list of names already forming in his mind. They would have to be very careful to make sure Adrian’s faction didn’t catch wind of their plans, but it could be done.

He hoped.

Jubilee woke to the soft shine of overhead fluorescent lights and a familiar, though not immediately identifiable, beeping. To her surprise, she found herself lying on a soft surface-- a bed, she realized after a moment. A standard hospital bed. Tears pricked her eyes. How long had it been since she’d lain on anything besides the cold metal floor of her prison cell? A hospital gown covered her body, the faded cloth decorated in a cutesy duck motif.

Jubilee nearly laughed at that. After everything she’d been through, they’d put her in Pediatrics?

Turning her head, she took stock of her new surroundings. Her bed sat in a little alcove made entirely of rolling curtain racks. An IV stand stood to one side of the bed, and a squat machine that looked like the heart monitor thingies they always used on t.v. sat on the other. That was the source of the beeping. Jubilee watched the scrolling traces for a moment, oddly reassured. She was still alive. The heart monitor was attached to a clip that covered the tip of her right index finger, and the IV feed was taped to the inside of the opposite arm.

Everything seemed so normal. So why was it so quiet? And why did the room smell like mold as well as antiseptic?

Before she had time to do much more than form the uneasy questions, a woman dressed in hospital scrubs walked in. She looked to be in her early forties, with a few streaks of gray in her short brown hair and a striking air of professionalism.

She smiled when she saw Jubilee, but it seemed like more of a reflex than from any genuine emotion. “Hello, there. You’re awake.” She walked over to the bed and picked up Jubilee’s hand to take her pulse.

“Where am I?” Jubilee asked. The woman-- nurse, she supposed-- wore a set of ID badges on a lanyard around her neck, but Jubilee couldn’t quite catch the name of the hospital printed across the topmost.

The nurse didn’t look up from her watch as she counted. “Our Mother of Mercy hospital in New York.” She finished taking Jubilee’s pulse and laid her hand back down on the blanket. “My name’s Terry, by the way. I’m one of the nurses who will be taking care of you.”

Jubilee looked down at herself, her eyes drawn automatically to the outline of her legs beneath the blanket. She was in surprisingly little pain. Her chest and leg ached a little bit, but that was all.

“Am I going to be all right?”

Terry gave her another of those professional smiles. “You’re going to be fine. The nannites will see to that.” She gave a little shrug. “All we really have to do is keep you warm and hydrated. Your colony will take care of the rest.”

“Colony?" It came out as a frightened squeak, and the nurse’s expression softened.

“Yes, hon. The nannites. You do understand that you’re a pre-transformation prime sentinel, don’t you?”

She’d had her suspicions, of course, but the matter-of-fact way Terry said the words made it impossible for Jubilee to hide from the knowledge any longer. Slowly, she nodded, but inside she wanted to scream.

Terry patted her arm sympathetically. “I’m sorry.”

“What’s going to happen to me?” Jubilee couldn’t look the other woman in the face. Instead, she stared at her hands.

Terry let out her breath in a whoosh. “Well, now that you’re conscious we’ll start mapping the control network inside your brain and see how much of it we may be able to disconnect.”

Instinctively, Jubilee raised a hand to her head, the first stirrings of hope in her heart. “You can do that?”

Terry’s voice was studiously neutral. “We’ve had some successes, yes.”

For the moment, Jubilee didn’t care to ask any more. Other, more pressing, questions crowded to the forefront of her mind. “Is there… is there a phone I could use? I need to call my friends… let them know I’m still alive.” And more, she needed to know if they were still alive.

Terry shook her head. “I’m sorry, hon. The first thing we did when they brought you in here was to file a death certificate for you. We see enough dead sentinels these days that OZT doesn’t insist on verifying them any more.” She patted Jubilee’s arm once more. “It’s the only way to make sure OZT won’t come looking for you.”

For a long time after Scott, Jean, Bobby and Diedre left, Rogue sat curled up on one end of the Blacks’ sofa, lost in thought. She didn’t often wallow in self-recrimination, but her mind refused to quit turning through thoughts of the past, pinpointing so many, many different times she could have headed off their current crisis if she’d just been willing to listen to what Remy was trying to tell her.

And now there was a real possibility that the man she loved-- still loved, despite everything-- would be dead in a few days because it.

She sighed. Not that Remy was blameless. He had a nasty tendency to keep his own counsel without regard for who else might be affected, and to lie to the people who trusted him when he felt the situation warranted it. In some ways, he was just as arrogant as the gypsy king Andrea had described, and for a moment she imagined him in the role, complete with a period outfit appropriate to the front cover of a romance novel. The little fantasy brought a smile to her face, but the expression quickly died.

No, the crux of the problem was her. Infuriating as the man could be, he’d done the best he could with what he had, and if she was going to fault him for anything, it would be for not having had the sense to give up on them a long time ago. She was the one who had, although unknowingly, rejected the Guild time and time again.

Not that it did me any good. The irony didn’t escape her. All those years ah spent insistin’ ah would never go back to that life and here ah am, earnin’ mah keep as a sniper, and up to mah neck in Guild politics besides. Sighing, she ran a hand through her hair. Ah might as well just take the oaths and be done with it. It would get Remy out of trouble, and it’s not like ah would ever do anything to hurt these people, anyway. All it would cost her was her vision of the future-- a future free of all of the dark things people like her mother and Remy were wrapped in. But what kind of future were they facing if they couldn’t get rid of OZT?

Resolved, she stood and went looking for Andrea. She found her in the Blacks’ bedroom. She had both of the boys lying on a blanket in the middle of the bed, and was dangling toys for them to grab at. She looked tired, but then it was hardly the crack of dawn and she’d already been up several hours.

“Hey, sugah, ah’ve got a question,” Rogue said as she came over and took a seat on the opposite side of the bed. Andrea handed her one of the toys she’d been holding, which Rogue obligingly held out for the nearest baby. “Since you know so much about Guild law an’ all.”

Andrea looked up at her curiously. “Shoot,” she said.

“What if ah came in ta the Guild?” She deliberately used the same phrasing Remy had used with her during their conversation in his office. “Wouldn’t that fix everything?”

Andrea’s expression sharpened. She straightened, the babies momentarily forgotten as she stared at Rogue. “I assume you mean by marrying the Guildmaster.”

Rogue did her best to appear confident as she nodded. Andrea had no idea how utterly bizarre her relationship with Remy was, or the fact that she could count on one hand the number of times they’d kissed. For her, the idea of marriage was a bit like a beginning swimmer who, having just mastered the dog paddle, was now contemplating swimming the English Channel.

Andrea thought for several moments, her brown eyes dark and serious. “I don’t think the council would allow it,” she finally said.

“Why not?” Rogue swallowed hard, fighting to keep her stomach under control. Andrea’s words had sunk into her belly like bricks, and now her insides churned with equal parts relief and dismay.

“Because the Guildmaster lied. And as much as he claims it served the greater good, there’s too much self-interest there for people to be able to just let it go.” She looked away, lips pressed in a thin line.

Rogue stared at her in surprise. “You’re angry at him, too.” She bit her lip. “But, you knew…”

Andrea made an impatient gesture. “Yes, I knew.” She shook the rattle in her hand with extra force. “I don’t know how much you know about our last Guildmaster…” She glanced at Rogue, who shrugged.

“Diedre’s first husband.” The image of Remy the way he’d looked when she’d arrived at the mansion rose in her mind. He’d come so close to dying, and the remembered fear still made her breath catch. “Remy killed him.”

Andrea nodded. “Michael put his own self-interest above the good of the Guild. He nearly destroyed us. And we thought we’d found something different with Guildmaster LeBeau.” She shrugged, but her gaze was hard. “We should have realized then-- after the fight with Michael-- that it wasn’t going to be that way.”

Rogue jumped up, real anger rising in her gut. “Now wait just a darned minute! How can ya possibly claim he was bein’ selfish when he nearly got himself killed tryin’ ta protect Bobby and Diedre?”

Andrea’s expression didn’t change. “But he put the Guild at risk in the process, for the sake of something that was important to him.” She moistened her lips before continuing, “Look, Diedre is one of my best friends. I wouldn’t have wanted her to die. But what the Guildmaster did was still wrong. He took a huge risk with all of our lives then, and he’s doing it again now. And as much as I believe that OZT has got to be taken down, and that working with the X-Men may very well be the only way to make that happen, it doesn’t change the fact that he had an obligation to his Guild that he ignored because it would have gotten in the way of his personal ambitions. He’s a gambler, Rogue, heart and soul, and we--” she gestured broadly, “are the chips on the table. A lot of people chose him to be Guildmaster with the naïve belief that he could win every hand, but he just lost one, didn’t he, and people are waking up to the fact that it’s their lives on the line.”

Rogue shook her head at the image Andrea painted for her. “Well, Remy’s always been one ta burn the candle at both ends, an’ if he could, he’d set fire to the middle.” The corners of her mouth curled upward in a shadow of a smile. There was a part of her that loved his wild recklessness, even though the rest of her was terrified by it. “But y’all can’t possibly just overlook everythin’ he’s done ta protect ya… ta protect all of us-- both the Guild an’ the X-Men.”

Andrea sighed tiredly. “Of course not. But you can see why this is going to cause such a huge schism. There are plenty of people-- myself included-- who understand that this Guildmaster is still our best chance of survival, regardless of the risks. But there are just as many on the other side who are going to be crying out for blood, and for some kind of guarantee that this kind of thing will never happen again.”

Quietly, Rogue settled herself on the edge of the bed again and went back to entertaining Daniel while her thoughts turned.

“So, worst case, they’ll kill him, because that’s about as guaranteed as it gets,” she concluded. She had the sinking feeling that Remy would let them, too.

Andrea nodded. “Yes, though I honestly don’t think it will come to that. There’s no one to take his place, and the political chaos of losing a Guildmaster now would be disastrous in and of itself.”

“So, what, then? Some kind of public censure?”

Andrea gave her a half-hearted shrug. “There will have to be, but I’m sure the council is going to be wrestling with that one for a while. It’s got to be something that carries enough weight to reassure people that he’ll think twice before doing something like this again, but we’re talking about a man who shrugged off twenty lashes as the necessary cost of putting the alliance together.”

Rogue crossed her arms over her breasts, hugging herself as a sudden chill swept through her. “Sugah, if ya want ta truly hurt Remy-- enough ta scare him inta behavin’--” she couldn’t help the note of mockery in her voice, “ya do it through me.”

Andrea’s eyes widened in alarm, but almost immediately the expression morphed into a thoughtful frown. “Wait.” Her gaze jerked to Rogue’s, frightened but suddenly alive with unguessable possibilities. “Wait wait wait.” She looked away from Rogue, her eyes darting back and forth across her inner landscape as her thoughts raced.

Rogue’s throat went suddenly dry. “What are ya thinkin’?” she finally asked.

Andrea came back from wherever she’d been. “There’s a Guild ritual--” she began, her voice full of hesitation. “It’s old. I doubt it’s been used in two-hundred years, at least…”

“And?” Rogue prompted when it didn’t seem like she was going to continue. Her stomach felt like it had tied itself in a knot.

Andrea shook her head slowly. “It’s pretty barbaric, even by Guild standards, and it wasn’t exactly intended for this situation… but I think it would work.” Her words picked up speed as she continued, as if she were slowly warming to the idea. “It would formalize the alliance, Adrian and his faction would get their pound of flesh, the Guildmaster would be censured, and it would pretty well guarantee he would never risk the Guild again to be with you.” She arched both eyebrows. “He wouldn’t need to.”

Rogue’s brow dipped as she tried to process the seemingly contradictory list. The knot of fear in her stomach tightened until she could taste bile in the back of her throat.

“Rogue.” Andrea’s voice was utterly serious.

Rogue looked up at her.

“Do you love him?”

Rogue opened her mouth to answer, but Andrea cut her off.

“I mean it. Do you really love him?”

Taken aback by the intensity in the other woman’s gaze, she could only nod. “Why?” she croaked.

Andrea’s gaze speared her where she sat and left her breathless. “Because that pound of flesh I mentioned would have to be yours. You were exactly right when you said the way to get to him is through you. It’s so obvious everyone in the Guild will be able to see it.”

Rogue stared at her as her heart began to race. She was pretty sure Andrea had just told her there was a way to save Remy and the alliance if she was willing to pay the personal cost, whatever that turned out to be. And she had never been one to flinch from doing what had to be done.

Ah must be out of my mind, she thought as she gathered her composure.

Slowly, she straightened and raised her chin. “Ah think ya’d better start from the beginning, sugah,” she told the other woman in the calmest voice she could muster.


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