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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 36

Remy woke to the feather-light touch of fingers on his skin. He lay on his stomach, arms buried beneath his pillow and the Egyptian cotton pillowcase pressed against his cheek. He kept his breathing deep and even, his muscles relaxed. The response was instinctive—his trained reaction to being startled awake—and it served him well now. Keeping his eyes closed, he let his other senses inform him of his surroundings.

Rogue sat cross-legged on the bed beside him, lightly tracing the long scars that criss-crossed his back. Her fingers felt like a silk scarf trailing across his skin, and everywhere she touched she left him aching for those fingers to return. She shifted, leaning over him to follow the knotted line of a scar all the way up to its termination on his far shoulder. Her hair tumbled across him, soft and ticklish, enveloping him in the heady scent of her shampoo.

Rogue made a soft, curious noise. Her fingers drifted along his shoulder blade, coming to rest on a small, puckered circle of scar tissue.

“Bullet wound,” she murmured. “Small caliber.”

Remy had to search his memory for the source of that particular scar. He bit back a smirk. She’d been a Saudi princess, hadn’t she? And her brother had taken offense at Remy sneaking into the palace--

“Uh huh. Ah saw that smile.” Rogue’s voice was full of amusement. “How long have ya been playin’ possum?”

Caught, he cracked an eyelid and grinned up at her. “Not very long, cherie.” He snuggled back down into the pillow. “I didn’ want t’ interrupt y’.”

“Ah’ll bet.” There was a whimsical note to her voice, and to his surprise, she didn’t withdraw. Instead, her fingers continued their gentle exploration.

She traced the outline of a crescent-shaped scar just below his ribs. “What was this?”

Remy grimaced. “Assassins did dat.” The memories remained bitter despite the conversation he’d so recently had with his father. “De day they banished me from New Orleans.” He would never forget watching Marius approach with a glowing poker clenched in his hand.

Rogue made an indecipherable noise in the back of her throat and brushed her thumb across the scar before moving on. She crossed his lower back to the spidery clump of surgical scars that were all that remained of the wound Michael had given him. She laid her palm flat against his back, over the scars.

“Ah was so scared ya were going ta die,” she said softly.

Remy raised himself onto his elbows and turned his head to look at her. “Me, too.” He shrugged. “At least f’ a while there.” His memories of that time were spotty, filled with long blank spaces and small, disjointed moments. For the longest time he’d been certain she was a figment of his imagination, her presence at his bedside merely a product of his desperate desire to see her again before he died.

She sighed softly and he could picture her lopsided smile. “Ah can’t imagine where any of us’d be right now if ya had.” She slowly withdrew her hand. “Especially me.”

Remy watched her, wishing he could read her expression. He was afraid to reach for her, not knowing how she might react.

Rogue abruptly shook herself and made a circular motion with one hand. “Turn over.” She chuckled, her cheeks brightening at the surprise that must have shown on his face. “Go on.” Her tone was playful.

Not needing a second invitation, Remy complied. Grinning, he settled on his back and pillowed his head on one arm. The other fell rather naturally along the line of Rogue’s thigh and he only hesitated a moment before letting his fingers come to rest against her leg. He could feel the warmth of her through the thin material of her pajamas and reflexively tightened his grip.

Her breath hitched ever so slightly, but she didn’t freeze up or pull away. Instead, she leaned her weight on one hand while the other moved lightly across the skin of his chest. Remy forced himself to lie still under the exploratory touch, despite how much he wanted to drag her down onto the bed beside him and kiss her senseless. She would panic for sure, then.

Rogue located the long claw marks across his abdomen, and Remy tensed as she traced their length. “Sabretooth did this.” It was a comment rather than a question. She didn’t say anything else, though, and after a moment her wandering fingers moved on. Her touch gentle, she followed the uneven star of surgical scars that mirrored those on his back.

Remy slowly relaxed, marveling at how good she made him feel. If someone had asked him, even a few weeks ago, if a morning like this one would ever happen between them he would have pasted on a smile and said ‘o’ course’, and not believed a word of it. Hoped, maybe. But not believed.

Rogue finished cataloguing his scars and returned her attention to his chest. She combed her fingers through the dusting of russet-colored hair, her demeanor oddly distracted.

“Penny for y’ thoughts,” he said after a minute.

Rogue started, and her hand stilled. Remy let go of her thigh in order to cover that hand with his own. Her heat signature, which had been fairly steady, began to flicker and spike.

Remy felt the first stirrings of concern. “Chere? Y’ okay?”

“Ah… yeah, ah’m okay.” Her voice had a nervous lilt to it. “Just tryin’ ta make mahself spit out somethin’ ah’m too scared ta say.”

Remy raised an eyebrow as curiosity overcame his concern. “What’s dat?”

“Um…” She took a deep breath, held it, and then abruptly deflated. “Oh, this is stupid.” Remy could imagine her rolling her eyes like she did when she felt foolish. He held his tongue. Pushing now would only make her retreat into herself, or perhaps lash out.

Rogue’s hand twitched as if she were fighting not to pull away. Remy slid his arm from behind his head and took her hand in both of his, sandwiching it between his palms. He didn’t want to let go of her. Slowly he rubbed his palm in a circle against hers. The gentle friction sent shivers up his arm. Desire quickened his pulse and shortened his breath.

He could tell immediately that Rogue felt it, too. Her breath caught and her signature shifted, warming outward from her core. To Remy’s great surprise, she tucked her hair behind her ear and leaned forward. Bracing her free hand on the bed next to his head, she bent down to kiss him.

The kiss was timid, but heated. Remy twined his fingers with Rogue’s, needing to hold her in some way, but otherwise let her lead. One kiss led to a second and then more, and he was utterly delighted to realize she was experimenting. Even so, it took all of his self-control to remain still, responding only as she initiated.

She withdrew after a bit, and Remy reluctantly let her go. They were both panting. She returned to her original position seated beside him and tucked her hands in her lap. She seemed abashed, as if she’d been more forward than she intended and didn’t quite know what to do about it.

Once he’d managed to catch his breath, Remy laced his fingers across his stomach, affecting nonchalance. “So, y’ had somet’ing y’ wanted t’ tell me?” he asked casually.

Rogue laughed, the sound bright and nervous.

“Did ya know that ah’m now the envy of every available woman in the Clans?” she responded once her mirth subsided. Her heart rate, which was fairly high already, jumped. “Because ah get ta bed Remy LeBeau.”

That was by far the closest she’d ever come to using the word ‘sex’ in his presence. Remy hid his surprise behind a smug grin. “Do tell, chere.”

She punched him lightly in the shoulder. “Don’t let it go to ya head, now.”

“Who, me?”

She didn’t answer immediately. Instead, she seemed to sober and blew her breath out in a long sigh. “Yeah… so…” She twisted her hands in her lap. Her heat signature had taken on a crazed edge, colors spiking and collapsing too rapidly for him to follow. “Ah’d kinda like ta make that a reality.”

Remy arched both brows sharply in surprise. A rather loud voice in his head began whooping with glee, but he knew better than to let it show. Much.

“I t’ink we can make dat happen,” he said with a grin, and was rewarded by her laugh.

“Ah didn’t think ah’d have much trouble convincin’ ya.” Her signature began to settle, as if getting the invitation out there had been a major accomplishment. Which, he reflected, it probably had been.

Her laughter died off, and an awkward silence enveloped them. Eventually, Remy cleared his throat.

“So, did y’ have a time frame in mind…?”

Heat flared in her cheeks. “What’s ya schedule look like foh the next week or so, sugah?” she asked a bit too brightly. Remy suspected she wasn’t going to be able to stick with the conversation much longer. The mental image of them both breaking out dayplanners in an attempt to pencil in a date was a rather amusing one, though.

He wriggled his shoulders a little deeper into his pillow. “As it so happens, I’m free right now.” He kept his tone light.

She snorted. “No, ya not. Ya supposed ta be in a council meetin’ in exactly—” She turned to look toward the bedside table. “Thirty-two minutes.”

Remy glanced involuntarily toward the clock whose number he couldn’t read. “Is it dat late?” he asked in dismay.

“’Fraid so.” She managed to sound sympathetic, though he heard a healthy dose of relief in there, too. It hurt in a dull sort of way, even though he knew her terror had its root in things well beyond his presence in her heart and life. But that wasn’t something he could let Rogue see.

Groaning theatrically, he sat up. “An’ dis was turnin’ into such a nice morning, too.” He flashed her one of his most charming smiles then swung his legs over the side of the bed and stood.

When he emerged from the closet, he found Rogue waiting for him in the middle of the room. She shifted her weight nervously from foot to foot, her hands clasped together in front of her.

Remy closed the distance between them and caught her around the waist. Given that she’d more or less propositioned him this morning, he wasn’t going to worry quite so much about scaring her off. “What’s up, cherie?”

She slipped effortlessly into his arms but then fussed with his tie as if needing something to occupy her hands. “About… earlier.” She had begun to blush again. “Do ya think we could find an evenin’ ta do somethin’ nice?” She hitched her shoulders in a tiny shrug. “Ah know it ain’t safe ta actually go out or anything…”

“Y’ mean, like a date?” He liked the idea instantly. It was more than reasonable for her to want her first night to be marked as a special event.

She nodded, laying her hands flat against his chest. “Yeah. Ah’d kinda like ta have ya undivided attention, at least f’ a little bit.”

Remy put that together with her earlier comment about his schedule and came to the startling realization that they really hadn’t had any time to spend together, just to spend time together. There were far more demands on his time than he had hours to give, and her schedule as Guildmistress wasn’t much easier. Other than a few brief periods in the evenings before sleep claimed them or the rare morning like this one, he hadn’t spent any time in her company that wasn’t also devoted to some other purpose, if not several.

He raised a hand to stroke her cheek. “I t’ink dat sounds like an excellent idea. Let me see what I c’n do about takin’ an evenin’ off.”

She nodded, seeming pleased. Remy bent down and kissed her lightly. “I’ll see y’ later.”

“Good luck with the council.” She gave his tie a last pat and stepped back.

Grimacing good-naturedly, he tore himself away from her and headed out.

“Are you seriously asking the Guild to accept this, Guildmaster?” Chess LaSalle stared across the table at Remy, his infrared signature a mix of frustration and worry.

Remy bit back a sigh. He extended his long legs under the council table, trying to stretch without being too obvious about it. His leg had been aching recently, and the best explanation Beast could offer him was that it was probably a reaction to the changing weather.

“I’m not askin’ de Guild t’ accept anyt’ing,” he told Chess firmly. “I’m tellin’ y’ dat dis is what’s gon’ happen. The X-Men are goin’ after one of the sentinels final assembly plants an’ dey need me t’ get them in.”

“If I didn’t know better, I’d think you were putting the good of the X-Men above the good of the Guild,” Adrian said in the faintly smug tone Remy had come to loathe.

“We should all be grateful y’ do know better, den,” Remy snapped in response. Around the table, the other councilors’ signatures fluttered with muted signs of dismay, and Remy forced himself to rein in his temper.

He let his gaze roam the table. All of the council was present save Carson, who was still in Miami. “De X-Men have demonstrated dat they know how t’ hurt OZT,” he said. “An’ because of de support we’ve given them, they’ve become de rallying point for de entire resistance movement.” He paused to survey their reactions, debating once again how much to tell them. They very well might take the existence of Xavier’s underground as a threat. Choosing his words carefully, he went on. “Now, some pieces on the super-powered mutant side o’ t’ings are startin’ t’ fall into place. We have a really good chance t’ deal Bastion a major blow wit’ dis mission.”

Chess braced his elbows on the arms of his wheelchair and steepled his fingers in front of his face. “You sound like you still consider yourself a member of the X-Men, Guildmaster,” he said, a faint note of challenge in his voice.

Remy sucked in his breath as sudden understanding struck him. Here was the crux of the anger Chess nursed toward him, the root of his broken trust. For the ex-Guildmaster, Remy realized, the Guild was everything. He had devoted his entire life to New York’s well being. The idea that Remy might maintain allegiance to the X-Men, to him, could only mean that his loyalty to the Guild was not absolute. Remy wasn’t certain how to convince him otherwise, but he knew he had to try.

“I am an X-Man,” Remy answered quietly, “an’ will be ‘til de day I die. Dat red X is marked on me as indelibly as dis.” He touched the back of his neck, where his Guild mark formed an intricate circle of scars with the broader ring of his Master’s mark around it. “The X-Men were formed f’ the sole purpose o’ makin’ de world into a place where mutants can live their lives in peace, wit’ all the same rights an’ opportunities as anyone else. So they take it on themselves t’ protect mutants from those dat would hurt dem-- OZT bein’ only de latest an’ most dangerous example-- an’ also t’ protect people from mutants dat t’ink power gives them de right t’ rule.” He looked pointedly at Adrian, whose views on the subject weren’t exactly a secret, then returned his attention to Chess. “They’ve been safeguarding de Guild’s future-- even before they knew what it was-- at de cost of their own lives, if necessary.” Jubilee’s face rose in his mind. “So how, I ask, can y’ possibly t’ink my loyalty t’ dis Guild is in any way diminished because I call myself an X-Man?”

Silence enveloped the table. Remy watched the council members shifting signatures, hoping for some sign they understood… or were at least willing to accept.

“That may all be true, Guildmaster,” Artur finally said from his place, “but it doesn’t change the fact that this is an extremely dangerous enterprise. What happens to our future if the X-Men-- yourself included-- get themselves killed doing this?”

“Den OZT wins,” Remy answered flatly. He watched their heat signatures flare and could guess the shocked expressions on their faces. “Dis is what de X-Men do, gentlemen. They draw de line when no one else can, an’ they hold it. If they break--” He shrugged. “Den it’s over. De Guild will survive by goin’ dark an’ silent, but mutants won’ ever have much of a future.”

“And we should simply accept the risk based on your bleak prediction of the future?” Artur’s voice carried a wealth of resentment buried beneath its calm, reasoned tone. “The Guild looks after its own. Why should we sacrifice our safety for the sake of outsiders?”

Remy fought his mounting frustration. The narrow viewpoint made some sense, particularly given the Guild’s long history, but if he could just get them to look beyond the ends of their own noses to see the bigger picture…

“It’s not a prediction,” he finally told them. “It’s a fact.” He heard Artur draw a breath to speak and held up one hand to forestall him. “An’ here y’ gon’ have t’ simply accept dat some very strange t’ings happen around de X-Men.”

He had their undivided attention now, their signatures shifting with curiosity and interest.

Remy laid both palms flat against the table’s slick surface. “You’ve all met Bishop, correct?” He received a round of nods. “What y’ don’ know is dat Bishop is from de future-- ‘bout eighty years, as best we can figure.”

He wasn’t entirely surprised when Adrian burst out laughing. “The future! Please, Guildmaster, don’t insult our intelligence.”

Remy did not react except to arch one eyebrow. Around the table, the other councilors’ responses bounced from incredulity to disbelief and back. Their heads swiveled between himself and Adrian as they tried to decide who to believe.

“De X-Men were skeptical, too,” Remy said once the silence had stretched long enough, “but don’ forget de team has several high-level telepaths t’ verify these kinds o’ t’ings.” He let them absorb that for a moment, then went on. “Dat big ‘M’ tattooed on his face ain’t there as a fashion statement. It’s there because, in his time, mutant children are branded wit’ dat mark so everyone will know what they are. Most of his world is a wasteland from decades o’ war between mutants and humans.” Remy pointed to an imaginary spot on the table in front of him. “A war dat has its root right here, right now, wit’ us and OZT.”

He leaned back in his chair. “I know y’ t’ink I’m too aggressive-- dat I take terrible risks wit’ my own life an’ those of my Guild. An’ y’ right. Under any other circumstances I’d have told Cyclops he’s out o’ his mind about dis mission. But, knowing what we do about de future, if this is our one an’ only chance t’ stop de insanity before it really starts, there’s really no other choice but t’ push the risks jus’ as far as we can, in de hopes it’ll be enough.” And pray that it wasn’t the reckless risk-taking that led to Bishop’s future, a dark little voice murmured in the back of his mind.

Tom O’Shane sat forward, running both hands through his thick red hair. “What you’re talking about, Guildmaster… it’s almost too fantastic to believe. The fate of the world comes down to us? We’re thieves.”

“Us and a bunch of powerless mutant renegades.” Adrian’s voice was sharp. “It’s ludicrous to think we’re going to get anything for our troubles except dead. And I, for one, would prefer to avoid that.”

Chess slowly lowered his hands, his heat signature murky. “We are honor-bound to consider the needs of the Guild above all else, and though I can see how this plan of the X-Men’s could, indeed, result in great benefit for the Guild, it could also bring us disaster. I cannot in good conscience support something that has the potential to bring so much harm to the people I swore I would protect.”

Remy suppressed a resigned sigh.

Tom shook his head. “I disagree, Master LaSalle. The danger is so great, how can we afford not to take this risk?”

To Remy’s surprise both Ted Bales and Terrence Cooper were nodding in agreement.

Terrence noticed his gaze and shrugged. “It’ll be a lot worse for the clans than the Guild if what you’re saying is true, Guildmaster.”

Remy nodded and looked over at Artur. “I know y’ angry wit’ me for puttin’ us on dis course, but now do y’ understand why?” he asked the other man.

He shook his head, a sharp jerk that told Remy as much about his state of mind as the rapid flickering of his heat signature. “I’m not sure it’s possible to understand, Guildmaster. This is—” he paused, seeming to gather himself. “This is very nearly suicide.”

Remy wished he could meet the other man’s gaze. “I know it looks dat way, but it isn’t.”

“How can you be so sure?”

Sighing, Remy brushed an imaginary piece of lint from his sleeve and then returned his attention to the thief. “Two years ago, we went t’ Avalon t’ face down Magneto.” He saw the ripple of alarm his words generated. “If there was ever a suicide mission, dat was it. Takin’ him on in his own space station—an Omega mutant wit’ de power t’ control de very iron in y’ blood, an’ a whole store o’ nuclear missiles besides.” He gave them a caustic smile. “But dat’s what de X-Men do, so we went. An’ we stopped him.”

Magneto.” It was little more than a whisper from one of the men around the table, and spoke loudly of the awe and terror that name still conjured.

Remy made his tone light, flip. “Yeah, he’s a scary guy. An’ he don’ care much f’ me, dat’s f’ sure. I figured my chances of comin’ back from Avalon were slim.”

“Why is that, Guildmaster?” Artur asked after a moment, his voice full of reluctant curiosity.

Remy kept his face still. “Oh, he an’ Rogue were an item back when,” he said casually. “Mags figured dat gave him de right t’ disapprove of any man she chose t’ see.” Remy watched the councilors’ signatures swirl kaleidoscopically and he knew he had them. Even Adrian was impressed, and hating it no doubt. But there was something about the sheer impossibility of the things the X-Men routinely did that had the power to ignite people’s imaginations.

A very different kind of silence filled the room, and for the first time since his relationship with Rogue had become public, Remy didn’t feel the wordless sense of betrayal that had characterized his interactions with the council since then.

“Then you are committed to this course, Guildmaster?” Chess asked after a bit.

Remy nodded solemnly. “I am.”

Chess raised his hands in a gesture of surrender. “Then we are obliged to commit to it as well.”

Around the table, the other councilors nodded their agreement. All except Adrian, who leaned back in his chair and crossed his arms, but did not voice a protest.

Bobby studied the building plans laid out on the Guildmaster’s desk while he waited for Remy. Opposite him, Scott glanced up from his own perusal of a different set of documents. His gaze flicked across Bobby’s clothing-- the tight-fitting suit with its multitude of pockets and custom-designed reinforcement that worked with the climbing harness that was a normal part of a thief’s gear-- and Bobby could see him debating with himself.

Finally, Scott straightened. He crossed his arms and regarded Bobby steadily. “Can I ask you something?”

Trying to hide his sudden wariness, Bobby nodded. “Sure.”

“What was it about becoming a thief that was so different from being an X-Man?”

Bobby blinked, surprised by the odd edge to his voice. He heard disappointment, and something else. Something he had a hard time putting his finger on. It was almost a sense of… professional jealousy?

Bobby stifled a snort at the very idea, but forced himself to consider the question objectively. He’d trained with the X-Men for years and always lagged behind, wracked by self-doubt and fear. Remy had changed that, and he suspected Scott would be utterly appalled by some of the details the Cajun’s idea of training entailed.

But maybe that was why one had worked and the other hadn’t.

Bobby ran a hand through his hair, which, at his wife’s insistence, was now significantly shorter than it had been, though he would never again wear it as short as he had before joining the Guild. “The difference, I think, is that the X-Men always work as a team-- watch each other’s backs, that kind of thing.”

Scott’s brow dipped. “That’s a problem?”

“It was for me.” He shrugged. “I knew somebody else would always be there if I screwed up. Remy didn’t let me get away with that. He made me succeed or fail on my own abilities, my own choices.” Bobby paused then forced himself to go on. “He never made any effort to protect me from the consequences of failing, either.” That, maybe, was the one thing he could honestly hold against Scott and the others—even the Professor. And their attempts to shield him had only allowed him to continue hiding from himself and his fears.

Scott gave him a troubled look. “That sounds… harsh.”

Bobby shrugged. “The world’s a pretty harsh place.”

He watched Scott chew on his words, but Bobby lost the chance to hear whatever he might have said in response as the door to the Guildmaster’s suite opened and Remy emerged. He was dressed like Bobby, and had a knapsack of tools slung over one shoulder.

Remy nodded to Scott in greeting then turned to Bobby. “Y’ ready?”

Bobby glanced down at the drawings scattered across the desk. “Ready as I’m going to get, anyway.”

That earned him a sharp look. “Y’ got dose memorized or not?”

Bobby couldn’t help but give Scott an amused glance. See? “Yes, Guildmaster,” he answered dutifully.

Scott cleared his throat. “Where are you going, anyway?”

Bobby bent down to retrieve his own tools, which he’d set on the ground by his feet. “The Maze-- It’s the Guild’s equivalent of the Danger Room.” Bobby grinned. “It’s all Earth technology, of course, but it’s still pretty cool.” He’d never actually had the chance to use it since the Maze was primarily reserved for the higher-level thieves to use to plan the most complex and dangerous jobs.

“We can use it t’ recreate de physical path Bobby an’ I are gon’ have to take t’ neutralize the sentinels plant security. Gives us a chance t’ practice an’ work out de kinks in de plan,” Remy said.

Bobby managed to keep his expression neutral. He and Remy would be going into the plant hours ahead of the rest of the X-Men and if things went sideways for them, it was unlikely a rescue of any sort would be possible. Just the physical demands of making their way through the various vents, crawlspaces and substructures that would give them access to the areas they needed was daunting—yet another reason why they would be spending a lot of time in the Maze over the next few weeks.

Scott accepted the explanation without visible reaction. “Have you had a chance to look at getting into the Baxter building?” he asked Remy.

Remy shook his head. “No, not yet.”

“Okay.” Scott reached up to pinch the bridge of his nose as if trying to push back a headache. “Reed says he thinks he can have something for us in a week to ten days. Are you going to be able to come up with something by then?”

Remy gave Scott a flat stare and Bobby could read the exhaustion lurking in the depths of his red eyes, probably better than the X-Men’s leader. But, unfortunately, involving Guild thieves would only expose what kind of support the X-Men had, and none of them wanted to risk that when they had no idea how negative the reaction might be.

Finally, Remy shrugged. “Gon’ have to, I guess.” He adjusted the bag of tools on his shoulder and looked at Bobby. “Let’s go.”

Together he and Bobby set off through the winding tunnels of the Guild complex.

“So how’s married life treating you?” Bobby asked as they walked. He tried to make the question casual, though he didn’t think Remy was fooled. But if anyone understood just how complicated the situation was, it was him.

“Can’t complain,” Remy answered after a moment.

Bobby rolled his eyes toward the ceiling. The man was a master of the non-committal answer. “Sorry, try again,” he said dryly. “This is me, remember?”

Remy shot him a dirty look. But then he relented, and his expression softened. “We’re workin’ it out.”

Bobby nodded, relieved. Rogue seemed happy—happier than he’d ever seen her, in fact, but a little part of him had been afraid it was just an act for the Guild.

“Trouble in paradise, Guildmaster?” a smooth voice inquired from behind them.

Bobby started and swallowed a curse. Adrian had come up behind them so silently that the young thief hadn’t had the slightest inkling he was there.

Remy stopped and turned. If Adrian had startled him, he hid it well. He gave Adrian a pleasant smile. “Surprisingly little, actually.”

Adrian’s expression sharpened at the candid admission. “You and Rogue don’t get along, normally?”

Remy barked a laugh, drawing the attention of those nearby. No one stopped to watch openly, but Bobby knew how much interest there was whenever Remy and Adrian clashed.

Remy shook his head, still chuckling. “Fight like junkyard dogs most o’ de time. She’s a stubborn, willful woman, Rogue is.”

Adrian’s faintly superior air faltered for an instant. “So I’d noticed.” He quickly buried the lapse under a fresh smile, this one thin and cold. He lowered his voice. “But in the end, she still begged for mercy.”

Bobby’s blood seemed to freeze inside him. He saw Remy tense, and for an instant thought he was going to attack Adrian. But other than that little flicker, Remy didn’t move.

“I don’ believe you,” Remy finally said in a mild voice that was all the more chilling for its lack of emotion. “I know my wife, an’ y’ didn’t come anywhere close t’ breakin’ her spirit.” Unlike Adrian, he used a normal, conversational volume and from the expressions Bobby saw reflected around them, no one had any illusions about the substance of the conversation.

Adrian didn’t look very pleased at the attention they were receiving. “Ask her, then, if you doubt me.”

Remy’s eyes narrowed a fraction before the expression disappeared completely, replaced by a knowing smile. He cocked his head to the side. “Y’ know, you brought all dis on y’self.”

The other man smiled, but it was patently false. “How so?”

Remy’s smug expression fell away, leaving something hard in its wake. “De relationship was over, Adrian. An’ nothin’ short of what you did could have put it back together again.”

Adrian’s smile remained fixed in place, but Bobby could see the light of fury in his eyes. “Yes, well, I’m glad I could be of service.” He backed up a step, began to turn away.


The other man froze then slowly turned back toward Remy. “Guildmaster?”

“How is Carson doin’ in Miami?”

Adrian blinked at the sudden change of topic, but made the switch without further reaction. “He has one item still to get to fulfill the contract. He said it’s turned out to be more difficult than he expected.”

“Can he do it?” Remy asked. Bobby didn’t know the specifics, though rumor had the thief in Miami to steal something of great importance from a Colombian drug lord.

Adrian nodded, the motion stiff. “He says he can.”

“Den tell him t’ get his job done, fast, an’ get home. De cartel’s already sniffin’ down his trail, an’ I don’t know how much longer de Kingpin is gon’ be willing t’ put them off.”

Adrian nodded again. “I’ll let him know.” He turned on his heel and strode away, anger snapping from his heels.

Remy watched him go for a second, then he and Bobby continued on their way. Remy didn’t speak again until they’d reached the Maze. Bobby stopped just inside the doorway and stared upward, trying to take it all in. The Guild’s training room inhabited a massive natural cavern nearly twice the size of the Danger Room. It was filled, top to bottom, with a bewildering tangle of platforms, tubes and barriers.

It took a while, but eventually Bobby began to pick out a sense of order from the mess, and was able to match what he saw with the blueprints he’d spent so many hours staring at recently.

“Ugh. This is not going to be easy.”

Beside him, Remy chucked. “Jus’ like old times, neh?”

Bobby had to smile at the memories that comment evoked. If it weren’t for how horribly dangerous this mission was, he would have been excited to have the chance to be out working with Remy again. Sometimes he missed his apprentice days. Life had gotten awfully complicated since then.

Once they’d donned climbing harnesses and done a final check on all the equipment they were taking with them, Remy took the lead, shimmying up into the lowest levels of the Maze with the effortless ease of an acrobat. Bobby sighed and followed him.

At one point more than an hour later, they were hanging upside down next to a square aluminum shaft as they cut a hole to allow them access to the interior, a job that was made infinitely more difficult because of the array of lasers that filled the inside of the shaft.

“Bobby?” Remy asked, and the tone of his voice set Bobby’s internal warning bells to ringing.

“Yeah, boss?” He kept his attention on where he was cutting, however, rather than look toward his friend.

“I need y’ to do some’ting for me.”

Bobby finished the final cut and pulled the saw back as Remy carefully moved the aluminum plate out of the way with a pair of suction-cup handles. “What’s that?”

Remy didn’t answer immediately. Bobby pulled a tube of specially-formulated super glue out of one of his pockets and squeezed a liberal amount onto the back of the aluminum plate Remy held. Then, twisting his body into a thoroughly unnatural position, Remy pressed the plate against the side of the side of the shaft above where they’d cut their entrance. When he’d held it there long enough for the glue to set, he released the suction handles and tucked them back into his bag.

“I need y’ to keep an eye on Adrian for me,” Remy said. “Any time he sets foot outside de complex, I need t’ know where he goes an’ who he sees.”

Bobby digested that, his sense of alarm increasing. “What do you think he’s planning?”

“Don’ know dat he’s planning anyt’ing.” Remy’s gaze was keen. “But I’d be a fool t’ miss what kind of opportunity dis mission is f’ him.”

Bobby sucked in his breath at the implication. If something happened to the X-Men while they were trying to break into the Sentinels factory, Adrian might very well be able to take control of the Guild.

Bobby considered his options then nodded. “Okay, I can do that. I can’t watch him 24/7 though. I’ll have to enlist some help.”

Remy looked a little reluctant, but nodded. “Jus’ make sure y’ careful.”


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