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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 32

Rogue tensed at the sound of someone entering her prison, her stomach twisting cruelly. If it was Adrian with more of his cocktail, she was afraid she might simply go mad. She wasn’t sure she had the strength left to go another round with him. But, as the sound of the footsteps resolved itself, she could tell it wasn’t Adrian. The steps were too light.

“Time’s up, dear.”

Rogue’s eyes flew open at Mystique’s voice. She rolled over with a groan to find her mother standing over her, a blanket folded over one arm. Artur and another thief stood near the doorway. For a moment she could only stare at Mystique, unable to interpret her presence.

“Mama?” The pain in her ribs flared. “What are ya… doin’ here?”

Mystique favored her with a smile. “I wasn’t able to convince the council to let me visit you earlier, but I did get them to agree to let me come get you now that the clock’s run down.” She gestured with her free arm. “So, up you go. Chop chop. We have a great deal to get done today.”

The meaning of the words penetrated Rogue’s brain, bringing everything into sharp focus in a burst of adrenaline. “It’s over?”

“That’s what I said, isn’t it?” Mystique’s tone was tinged with impatience.

Bracing herself, Rogue began the painful process of pulling herself upright. “Ya didn’t happen ta bring… the key, did ya?” She raised her bound wrists, making the chain jangle loudly.

Mystique grinned. “Of course.” She fished a small key on a ring out of her pocket and crouched down to unlock the manacles.

Rogue could hardly describe the feeling that swept through her as she pulled her arms free and let the cuffs fall to the ground beside her. With renewed determination, she climbed to her feet, using the wall to steady herself. Mystique didn’t offer to help.

When Rogue was upright, her mother shook out the blanket in her arms and draped it around Rogue’s shoulders. Rogue caught the edges and pulled it close, relishing the sudden warmth after so long in the underground chill.

Mystique turned and led the way out of the room, and Rogue followed. As she passed Artur, he inclined his head in respectful acknowledgment, and then he and the other thief fell in behind her. They wound their way through the halls, first climbing out of the sunken lower levels and then moving through the inhabited portion of the complex. The thieves had to help her climb the stairs, each with a strong, gentle hand under her elbow.

People stopped to watch her pass, most with expressions that ranged from neutral to sympathetic to downright friendly. Rogue didn’t sense much animosity at all from the Guild, which she found encouraging. She had the feeling Remy was going to need all the good publicity she could manage to give him, at least for a while.

She pushed further thoughts of Remy away. She wasn’t quite ready to deal with that, yet.

They eventually arrived at the Drakes’ door. Mystique didn’t bother to knock. She pushed the door open onto a scene that could have come from the pages of a wedding magazine. The first thing Rogue noticed was the dress, a stunning creation of ivory silk and lace draped across the couch. The rest of the room was filled with a vast array of boxes and ribbons, makeup and hair styling paraphernalia. Only then did Rogue take in the four women either sitting or standing around the room, their postures indicating they’d been waiting for a while.

Ororo, Jean, Diedre and Andrea all turned to look as the door opened.

Jean rose to her feet, one hand going to her mouth in an expression of dismay. “Oh, Rogue.” Rogue saw similar expression reflected on the others’ faces as well.

“Ah’m all right,” she hastened to reassure them. And she was, at least in relative terms. It was over and she’d survived. She summoned a smile. “Ah know ah must look a fright.” Blood and grime coated her skin and matted her hair.

Mystique snorted. “You look like something the cat coughed up, my dear.”

The other women all sent Mystique dirty looks at that, but Rogue found herself grinning. Barbed jokes were her mother’s way of showing affection.

Artur and the other thief left then, closing the door behind them.

Andrea came forward. “Here. This way, Rogue. Let’s get you into the shower first.” She and Ororo carefully herded her through the room, skirting the dress widely. Rogue was content to be led. She couldn’t help the euphoria that trickled through her, even though she knew she still faced the ritual that would forever make her a member of the Clans, not to mention her own wedding. Still, the hardest part was over. Soon she would get to see Remy. She sighed. And then she would find out how badly she’d hurt him in the process of protecting him.

One thing at a time, girl, she counseled herself.

Rogue let the blanket fall as Andrea got the shower going. She heard Ororo’s tiny gasp as the other woman got a look at the bruises and welts that tracked across her skin.

“I will get Dr. McCoy,” Ororo said.

Rogue shook her head. “Don’t bother, sugah.” She met Storm’s eyes and was gratified by the anger she saw there. “He ain’t gonna tell me anything ah don’t already know. But, if ya got some Tylenol on ya…” She trailed off as the effort to slip out of her ruined underthings robbed her of breath.

Ororo nodded. “Of course. But it would be best if you ate something first.”

Rogue’s stomach cramped painfully at the mention of food. She tried to ignore it as she stepped beneath the hot spray. As tempted as she was to go searching for something to eat, she suspected her friends weren’t going to let her out of the bathroom until she no longer posed a stain hazard to the beautiful accoutrements that filled the rest of the apartment.

Rogue showered methodically, scrubbing her skin as hard as she dared to get every last bit of dirt and washing her hair three times. She was exhausted by the time she emerged, but she felt a great deal more human. Ororo helped her to dry off, then handed her a robe to wear.

She padded out into the living room and sank gratefully into one of the empty chairs at the small dinette that stood off to one side. Jean brought her a bowl of oatmeal topped with a sprinkle of blueberries, and laid a handful of familiar red-and-white pills on the table beside it.

Rogue smiled. It was very much like Jean to have remembered her favorite comfort food. She swallowed the Tylenol dry then dug into the oatmeal with gusto as Diedre came over, brush in hand, to attack the tangled mess of her hair.

Jean disappeared for a moment then settled into the chair beside Rogue. She had brought a nail file, clippers and polish with her, which she set down with a small clatter. One hand absently rubbed her stomach with its barely visible swell. Then she took Rogue’s free hand in hers and began examining her torn nails. On the far side of the room, Andrea and Mystique were discussing which shoes would go better with the dress, with an occasional comment from Ororo. It was all so very… domestic, Rogue decided. But she liked it. And besides, wasn’t a girl supposed to be doted on by her friends on her wedding day?

Her stomach did a nauseating little twirl at the thought, which she ignored with determination. Her choices were made already. Instead, she managed to chat about inconsequential things with Jean and Diedre while they primped. Andrea brought over a well-stocked makeup case, which she wielded with professional acumen. Ororo finally joined them once the curling irons came out, helping Diedre to sweep all of Rogue’s hair up onto the top of her head, where it then fell in a cascade of curls.

Rogue stared as Diedre upended a small container of bobby pins onto the table top, each of which had a glittering diamond affixed near the bend.

“Are those real?” she asked in surprise. Mystique picked up one of the pins, holding it up to the light to inspect its gem.

Diedre laughed. “Of course. No Guildmistress would be caught dead in fake stones.” She picked up a bobby pin and proceeded to secure a portion of Rogue’s piled curls with it.

“Decent quality,” Mystique said and returned the pin she was examining to its place on the table.

Rogue shook her head, feeling a bit overwhelmed. “Ah can’t believe y’all are putting diamonds in mah hair.”

Jean chuckled. “Just wait ‘til you see the necklace.”


With an impish grin, Jean got up and went over to the coffee table. She fished a flat velvet case out of a bag and brought it back, setting it down in front of Rogue.

Hesitantly, Rogue reached out and flipped the case open. Her breath caught. The diamond necklace that lay in the black velvet interior was nothing short of astounding. The main body of the necklace was a simple chain of round stones, each perhaps two carats in size. In between each of those stones, a teardrop shaped diamond dangled from a short gold chain. The center teardrop was the largest-- Rogue didn’t dare guess how many carats it might be-- with the size diminishing as the stones retreated from the center.

Mystique pursed her lips in a silent whistle. “Now that is impressive,” she said.

Rogue looked up at Diedre and Andrea. “Did Remy…?” She trailed off, not sure if “buy” or “steal” was the word she wanted, or if it really mattered any more.

Andrea chuckled. “No. A jewelry purchase like this would be too conspicuous right now.” She gestured toward the case. “This is from my mother’s collection-- my father has never been able to bring himself to sell them. But you’re welcome to borrow whatever you need until you have the chance to put together a few pieces.”

Rogue absorbed the explanation with a sense of unreality that only increased as Jean carefully unlimbered the necklace from its case and fastened it around her throat. Diedre handed her a mirror, and Rogue stared at her reflection. She barely recognized the woman she saw. There were lines of hard experience around her green eyes, and a kind of calm determination-- a poise-- in her bearing that Rogue had never seen before. This woman wasn’t overshadowed by the fortune in diamonds around her neck, but rather flattered by them.

“Well,” Andrea said with a glance at her watch, “I think it’s time to get you dressed.”

Rogue fingered the necklace thoughtfully as Andrea and Jean ushered her over to where the dress lay. She vaguely remembered someone telling her the Guild used archaic styles for its ceremonial dress, and the gown seemed to bear that out. It looked like something out of the Renaissance, with a laced bodice and a split skirt that was obviously intended to have a second layer beneath.

As if on cue, Ororo brought a slender sheath of pale gold silk over to her. “Here, Rogue, this is the chemise. It goes on first.”

Careful of both her hair and her ribs, Rogue slipped out of her robe and into the the gown. It was a swoop-necked, long sleeved affair that clung to her without being tight. The hem fell to the floor, and she noted in surprise that the skirt was slit nearly up to her navel, along a line that ran up the front of her right leg.

“Y’all want to clue me in here?” she asked, torn between bemusement and shock.

Andrea flashed her a smile. “That’s so they can place the Guild mark on your hip. There should be a button to close that slit down to something reasonable until it’s needed.”

Rogue reflexively fingered her right hipbone. “Mah hip?” Butterflies started up in her stomach at the thought.

Andrea shrugged, amusement dancing in her eyes. “It was an interesting conversation, to say the least. I mean, where on a woman’s body can you put a mark where the bone is close enough to the skin and it won’t ever be openly visible?” She shook her head ruefully. “The last time this ritual was used, women didn’t show their ankles in public, let alone anything else.”

“It’s not a perfect solution,” Diedre added. “You’ll have to be careful about the bathing suits you wear. But it’s the best we could come up with.”

Rogue found the button Andrea had mention and fastened it with a little shiver. The Guild would mark her as its property, just as they did with the thieves. But since she wasn’t a thief, she couldn’t wear that mark on her skull the way they did.

There’s no goin’ back, is there? She looked over to where her mother stood a short ways away, arms crossed. Mystique noticed her gaze and nodded, a small smile curling her lips.

Sobered, Rogue turned away and let the women help her into the ivory gown.

“Don’t lace it too tight,” was all she said. Her ribs couldn’t take it. And the last thing she needed was to not be able to breathe on top of everything else.

After that, there was nothing left but to let them pin the token veil beneath her curls and let its length tumble down her back.

Rogue slipped her feet into the shoes her mother set out for her then carefully moved to where she could see her reflection in the large mirror that decorated the Drakes’ living room wall. Her friends drifted after her.

This is ya princess moment, girl, she told her reflection wryly. Even if ya Prince Charmin’ turned out ta be a king o’ thieves instead.

“Ready?” Jean asked in a deceptively gentle voice.

Rogue nodded.

Jean caught her hand and squeezed it. “Then I’ll take you to Scott.”

Rogue studied her reflection for a moment longer. Then, straightening her shoulders, she turned. “Lead the way, sugah,” she said.

Rogue leaned heavily on Scott’s arm as they started down the aisle marked out for them. To either side, pillared candles taller than a man burned, shedding dim, uneven light on the ancient wood of the Guild Hall floor. Outside the double row of candles, the thieves stood like shadows, motionless and utterly silent. The display of discipline was as impressive as it was eerie, and Rogue briefly wondered what Scott thought of it.

She glanced over at the senior X-Man. He walked with his gaze fixed straight ahead, his expression set in familiar, grim lines. He, too, was dressed in clothes from another century, and the black cloak that swirled about his heels was decorated with the X-Men’s red symbol.

The candlelit pathway led them to the front of the Hall, where the floor had been marked with a giant equilateral triangle. She and Scott stopped just outside that boundary, at the midpoint of the triangle’s base. Two men in gray robes stood at the corners of the triangle closest to them, each with a tall brazier standing at their feet. Their faces were hidden inside the folds of their hoods, and Rogue knew nothing of them except that they were supposed to be Master Thieves, for no one else was allowed to wield the irons with which the Guild marked its own.

Remy stood at the apex of the triangle. Rogue tightened her grip on Scott’s arm as her knees threatened to buckle. She forced herself to raise her eyes to his and was immediately burned away by the hungry intensity of his gaze.

Scott tugged lightly on her arm, and Rogue shook herself into motion. Together they stepped into the triangle and walked to its center. There, Scott bowed to the Guildmaster with military precision. Rogue held her breath as she matched him in a curtsy. If the motion hadn’t hurt so much, so would have enjoyed the courtliness of it, the graceful gentility that appealed so much to her Southern roots.

Straightening, Scott turned them to the right, to repeat the gesture before the robed Master Thief who stood there, and finally to the man at the third point of the triangle. Rogue was panting by the time they finished the circle and turned to face Remy once again.

Scott gave her a concerned look as they crossed the short space that separated them from the Guildmaster. Rogue answered him with a tiny shake of her head and leaned a little more heavily on him. She felt the muscles of his arm tighten in response.

By the time they reached Remy, she’d forgotten all about Scott, about the pain that riddled her and the constant ache of exhaustion dragging on her like a lead weight. For a moment the solemn, even severe guise Remy wore almost continuously in his role as Guildmaster cracked open and the man she loved smiled at her, his gaze gentle and intimate. Rogue’s heart skipped a beat.

Then the expression disappeared as he raised his head to address the assembled thieves. “Does de Guild hear?” he asked, his voice ringing in the stillness.

“We do,” the thieves answered in unison.

He returned his attention to Scott and Rogue. “Scott Summers, do y’ give this woman t’ seal de pact between de X-Men and de Guild?”

The two men stared at each other, and Rogue saw the muscle in Scott’s jaw clench. But then he drew himself up and nodded. “Yes.”

Remy’s gaze shifted from Scott to Rogue and his expression softened once again. He held out his hand to her.

For just a moment, Rogue turned to Scott, wishing she knew how to express her gratitude to him. For going along with all of this regardless of his personal objections, and for being such a steady presence for her. Not only today, but for all the years she’d been with the X-Men. To her surprise, he seemed to understand. With a flickering smile, he bent down and kissed her lightly on the cheek.

“Be happy, Rogue,” he murmured.

Then he let her go and stepped back.

Smiling softly, Rogue turned back to Remy and placed her hand in his. His grip tightened as he drew her towards him. His red gaze dove deep into her own. “Daughter of the X-Men, will you submit to the Guild?” he asked her. “Your blood mingled with ours, today and forever?”

Rogue’s smile fell away as the full weight of her choice descended on her. But it was far too late for second thoughts. A stab of pain lanced across her ribs as she drew a deep breath. “Ah will submit to the New York Guild,” she answered, her words as ritual as the question, but no less binding for that. She met Remy’s gaze with determination. “And to its master.”

A narrow dagger appeared in Remy’s hand as if by magic. She tensed as he turned her hand over, holding it palm up in a firm grip. Grimacing, she forced herself to hold still as he drew the blade across her palm, tracing a line of fiery pain on her skin. Blood welled from the cut to splatter on the floor. The wood, Rogue noted, had been stained black by the blood of those who had stood there before her. She did not miss the significance, or the powerful symbolism.

The dagger disappeared as mysteriously as it had appeared, replaced by a strip of cloth that Remy wound around her hand and tied off with gentle care. He then drew her close, and with a shiver of apprehension, Rogue went. Behind her, the two gray-robed thieves picked up their braziers and approached, setting them down with dual scrapes of metal on stone.

Remy turned her so as to put her back against his chest. One arm wrapped across her shoulders, pinning her against him, and the other encircled her waist. Of their own accord, Rogue’s hands curled around his forearm. She could feel the steady thump of his heart between her shoulder blades, and after a moment she turned her head away from the two Masters, squeezing her eyes shut and burying her face against Remy’s neck.

She flinched at the touch of a hand on her thigh, and felt Remy’s arms tighten around her.

“Steady, chere.” His voice rumbled in her ear. “Be over soon.”

“That’s easy for you ta say,” she muttered in return as her skirt was drawn back, baring her hip. She felt more than heard his soft chuckle.

“I know.” His lips brushed her hair. “I love you.”

The words sent a burst of warmth through her that was immediately drowned out by an immense stab of pain in her hip. Her vision turned red behind her closed eyelids as a tiny sob was torn from her throat. It was as bad as anything she’d ever experienced, including Adrian’s drug. And she was so very tired of hurting.

Tears squeezed out of the corners of her eyes, leaving cold trails across her skin. For the barest moment, she wanted to run—to tear herself free of this place and this man, and all the things she’d so blithely accepted when she’d set herself on this course.

She was mortified to hear herself whimpering, and clamped her lips to gether to make it stop. Just hold on, she told herself. Her fingers tightened instinctively around Remy’s arm, her nails digging into the flesh.

Every muscle in her body went rigid in agony as they applied the second half of the mark, but just as quickly it was over. Gentle fingers applied something cool against the fresh burns-- a salve, she guessed-- and then taped a bandage in place.

For her part, Rogue couldn’t do anything but lean against Remy and shake.

“Can y’ still stand?” Remy asked her after a minute, his voice thick with concern.

Rogue forced herself to nod. “Ah’ll manage.” His grip on her loosened.

She opened her eyes. The two Masters in their all-encompassing gray robes had returned to their places at the far corners of the triangle, and a man she vaguely recognized had come to stand in front of her and Remy. He wore a robe as well, and had an ecumenical sash draped across his shoulders.

Rogue managed not to stagger too badly as she moved to stand beside Remy. Her hip throbbed in time with her pulse, overshadowing her more constant aches. After a moment, he let go of her waist and took her hand instead.

She clung to that solid anchor as the world around her began to gray. She’d made it through. The priest was speaking, his voice rising and falling in a mellow cadence. She didn’t try to parse the words, but simply let them roll over her.

It wasn’t until Remy spoke that she came back to herself with a start.

“I do.”

Rogue blinked, trying to orient herself. The priest turned to her. “And do you take this man to be your lawful wedded husband…” he began, and she had to bite her lip to keep from snickering.

Ah’m missin’ mah own wedding! The effort of not laughing at the absurdity of it sent shooting pains through her ribs. She clapped her free hand to her side, trying to hold the pain in, and saw Remy’s brow crinkle in concern. She warned him off with a shake of her head. This was the good part. She wasn’t going to collapse before she’d gotten her little piece of fairytale.

“Ah do,” she gasped when it was her turn, grateful the traditional ceremony kept her speaking parts to a minimum.

After that, Remy produced rings from somewhere on his person, and Rogue couldn’t help her smile. How many times had she dreamed of this exact moment? She didn’t have much attention to spare to admire the gold bands, each flush cut with a line of emeralds that glittered and winked in the light. It was the act itself that held significance for her, and as the weight of the ring settled on her finger she found herself mesmerized by the feel of it.

She looked up to find Remy watching her, his expression serious and his eyes alive with unguarded emotion. The priest continued to speak, but Rogue no longer cared what he was saying. She caught the phrase “man and wife” and something about kissing the bride, which brought Remy’s devilish grin to life.

She grinned back, for once in her life unafraid as he bent toward her. She wrapped her arms around his neck and felt his fingers tangle in her hair as he captured her mouth in a passionate kiss. Everything else fell away from her awareness as she lost herself in the indescribable warmth that spread through her.

And for that moment, at least, she was utterly certain this future she had chosen for herself was worth everything she had paid.

Remy maneuvered his way through the crowd, a pleasant expression firmly plastered on his face. Every few steps, someone would stop him, wanting to offer their well wishes, and Remy was obliged to respond. He couldn’t tell them that each friendly comment felt like a hot needle in his heart-- a painful reminder that their forgiveness had been bought with Rogue’s suffering. The knowledge was something he did not yet know how he would reconcile, and the staggering relief he’d felt at seeing her approach on Scott’s arm had quickly mixed with fury for the pain he could see in her every movement.

He glanced toward the far side of the room, where he’d left his wife sitting with a small cluster of friends from both the Guild and the X-Men.

Wife. He shook his head subconsciously. That was going to take some getting used to. Though he’d technically been married for most of his adult life, he knew instinctively how different this was from his relationship with Belle. How different he wanted it to be.

“Remy. A moment, if you would.” Guildmaster Lotho’s voice stopped him in his tracks.

Bracing himself, Remy turned as the head of the American Guilds approached. He inclined his head respectfully. “Guildmaster.”

Lotho had been one of the Master Thieves who’d participated in the Guild ritual. Remy had decided to bite the bullet when he called Chicago, hoping that the senior Guildmaster’s involvement would guarantee that New York’s choices would be viewed as legitimate by the Guild at large. It hadn’t been a pleasant conversation. But, after expressing his displeasure with Remy in no uncertain terms, Lotho had agreed, which was as much as Remy figured he could possibly hope for.

The Guildmaster carried a drink in one hand, which he raised in silent toast. “Congratulations.”

Remy kept his reaction to himself. “T’ank you.”

Lotho made a show of looking around. The commons area had been taken over by dozens and dozens of tables along with enough food for an army. The decorations were sparse, but that hadn’t detracted from the festive air. The party served double duty-- both as a wedding reception and as an expression of the Guild’s relief now that the entire ordeal was over.

“I must say, Remy, I’m impressed with what you’ve managed to accomplish here.” He gestured, taking in the entirety of their surroundings with a sweep of his arm. “Someone told me you have both a fully-staffed med center and a school up and running.” He sipped his drink. “And the X-Men have become the number one threat to OZT.”

Remy blinked, taken aback by the unexpected praise. “I have a lot o’ good people t’ work wit’,” he finally said.

Lotho nodded. “I can see that. But these things don’t happen without good leadership, which is why I was particularly unhappy about this whole fiasco.”

Remy felt a familiar stab of bitterness. “Well, if y’ can tell me what, exactly, I could’ve done differently, I’d be obliged,” he said more sharply than he intended.

Lotho didn’t seem perturbed by his outburst. He shrugged. “Other than not getting involved with this woman in the first place… probably nothing.” His heat signature intensified. “However, a lot of people are looking to New York as the model for how to survive the present crisis. As unavoidable as all this probably was, it has still damaged the Guild as a whole and at a time when we can ill afford it.”

Remy looked away, out over the sea of people. “I never asked f’ any o’ dis,” he said softly. “Never wanted de power or de responsibility.”

“And yet you accepted both when they were offered.”

Remy shrugged, acknowledging his point. He’d wanted to help mutants, and both were a means to that end.

Lotho paused to take a drink. “Why don’t you introduce me to your wife, Guildmaster,” he said after a moment. “I want to meet the woman who is worth so much chaos.”

It wasn’t a request, so Remy simply nodded and led the way toward where Rogue was. She sat at the end of a long cafeteria-style table, her chin propped on her hands. The people surrounding her looked up at his approach, their conversation quieting. From the slow, steady pace of her breathing, he was afraid she might have fallen asleep sitting there, but she looked up when he touched her shoulder and her heart rate picked up.

“I’m sorry, cherie, but I need y’ t’ stand up f’ a little bit.”

She nodded and let him help her to her feet. She seemed small and fragile in his grip, and in the privacy of his own mind he viciously condemned Adrian Tyre to the deepest pit Hell could offer.

Rogue swayed against him as he brought her over to where Lotho stood-- trying not to limp, he guessed. He made the requisite introductions, most of his attention focused on reading Rogue’s signature and body language. She was too stubborn for her own good, and as important as it was for her to be there—to be seen—he wanted to make sure he would spot an imminent collapse in time to get her clear.

Rogue held out her hand to Lotho. “It’s a pleasure ta meet ya, suh,” she said, her voice thin but full of her ususal Southern charm.

The Guildmaster accepted the handshake, but kept hold of her hand rather than release her. He studied her intently, the shifting colors of his heat signature giving Remy little insight into his thoughts.

“How long has it been since you slept, Rogue?” Lotho finally asked, his voice gentle.

She tensed, a tiny flicker of reaction. “About three an’ a half days, suh, give o’ take.”

Remy caught hold of his rage before it could spiral out of his control. Even more than the last three days, this was his punishment. Every single moment in which Rogue gamely struggled to keep going despite pain and exhaustion, because of him—for him—was the blood price the Guild demanded for having dared to want this one thing for himself.

Lotho continued to study Rogue. “What’s your role with the X-Men?”

“Now, or when we still had our powers?” she asked.

Lotho cocked his head appraisingly. “Both.”

She nodded, and Remy could feel her gathering herself. “Now, ah can… lead an insertion team, if need be.” Remy heard the catch in her breath. “But ah’m primarily a sniper.”

“And before OZT?”

Rogue pressed her free hand against her ribs. “Mah job has always been ta… absorb as much damage as ah can.” Her tone hardened. “Ah’m pretty good at it.”

“So I gather.” The words were cool, but there was a note of respect in the Guildmaster’s voice that hadn’t been there a moment earlier.

“Malcolm Lotho, tell me ya ain’t needlin’ that girl on her weddin’ day.” A gruff voice, full of disapproval, intruded on their conversation. Logan stood a couple of paces behind Chicago’s Guildmaster, his arms crossed over his chest.

Lotho whirled, the spike of anger Remy saw in his signature almost immediately giving way to surprise. “Logan! You old dog! Is that you?”

Logan let his arms fall and stepped forward. “Hey, Mal. Been a long time.”

Remy watched in bemusement as the two men shook hands with the enthusiasm of old friends.

“I had no idea you were with the X-Men,” Lotho said.

Logan shrugged. “Somebody’s gotta show the kids how it’s done, an’ I ain’t got any place else ta be.”

Lotho chuckled. Logan turned to Rogue and took both of her hands in his. “Congratulations, darlin’.”

“Thanks, sugah.” Remy could hear the smile in her voice.

“So, do I get ta kiss the bride?” Logan’s voice was full of sly good humor. “I believe I’m entitled, seein’ as I was the first person ya ever told ya were in love with Gumbo here.”

Remy raised both eyebrows, immensely curious as to those circumstances, and he heard Rogue laugh lightly.

“Ah suppose ya… are, at that,” she said.

Remy found himself smiling as Logan leaned across to kiss Rogue lightly on the lips. He could see the blush that crept up her cheeks, and felt an unexpected stab of gratitude toward the other man. Other than himself, Logan was the only man he’d ever seen treat Rogue like she was something other than untouchable.

Logan turned to Guildmaster Lotho and clapped the taller man on the shoulder. “Let me buy ya a drink, Mal. You can tell me what ya’ve been up to fer the last thirty years.”

“An offer I can’t refuse,” Lotho agreed easily. He shifted his attention to Remy and Rogue. “Guildmaster.” He inclined his head. “Guildmistress.” Then he turned away, falling in step beside Logan.

“Small world,” Rogue said after a moment, and Remy had to laugh.

He planted a kiss on the top of her head. “Dat it is.” Gently, he turned her toward the door. “I t’ink it’s time f’ you t’ get some sleep.”


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