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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 61

Remy couldn’t help but feel a little trepidation as he rapped his knuckles on the Drake’s door. Rogue squeezed his other hand encouragingly. Bobby and Diedre had invited them over for drinks, which Remy suspected was mostly an excuse to give the two men a chance to talk.

Remy wasn’t looking forward to it, despite the little voice inside him that whispered that if Rogue could accept, then surely Bobby would as well.

The door opened on a slice of Bobby’s face. Remy immediately noticed the telltale flicker of nervousness in the other’s signature and his stomach lurched.

"Hey Remy, Rogue. Come on in." Genuine warmth filled Bobby’s tone. He opened the door further and held out one hand, ushering them inside.

Remy had taken exactly two steps when he registered that the room behind Bobby was full of people-all of them X-Men-and froze. Bobby’s hand closed on his shoulder.

"It’s not an ambush, I promise," Bobby said in a low voice. He squeezed Remy’s shoulder tightly, propelling him into the room. On his other side, Rogue, too, urged him forward.

Remy looked uncertainly between them, his instincts warring with his desire to believe they would never intentionally hurt him. He moved a few steps into the room, but that was as far as he could force himself to go. The entire team had assembled. They stood or sat in a loose semi-circle facing him with Scott at the apex.

Scott had been sitting on one arm of the couch, but stood as Remy entered.

"This turned into a much bigger deal than I intended," Scott said apologetically, with a wave that encompassed the full room. "I told a couple of people what I wanted to do and asked if they wanted to be there, and suddenly it was the whole team." He shrugged. "But I guess it kind of makes my point for me."

Remy watched him warily. "What point is dat?"

Scott didn’t immediately answer. He dug into the pocket of his jeans and pulled out something small, which he held clamped between his thumb and forefinger as he studied it.

"I didn’t realize," he finally said, "until I started asking people, that all of us are still wearing these old pins. Without Cerebro, they’re useless." His tone was thoughtful. "But I think we keep them as reminders of this amazing thing we all belong to."

He looked up. "I’m not sure if the Professor understood what he was creating when he invited each of us to join the X-Men, but personally I’m beginning to think the man was a genius. We’re all such very different people. Few of us have much more in common than the level of our mutant powers." He looked down at the pin in his hand. "But when you start looking at the characters of the people in this room, their skills and backgrounds and the things they’ve been through to get to where they are today, you realize that not only is this a group bound by a single goal of making the world a place where mutants can live peacefully, but that together we have the depth and breadth of abilities outside of our mutant powers to just maybe make it happen."

Scott straightened. "One of those abilities is leadership." He crossed the short space separating him from Remy. "And at this point, when we talk about the leadership of the X-Men it means you just as much as it does me. I don’t think there’s anyone in this room who would hesitate even for a moment to follow an order you gave."

Remy’s mouth had gone dry. He could see heads nodding around the room, silently reinforcing Scott’s words.

Scott went on, his heat signature as steady as his words. "Regardless of your initial reasons, which I can understand even if I don’t like them very much, you volunteered for this gig just like the rest of us and your actions since then speak for themselves." Scott held up the pin in his hand. "Therefore, I am returning this to its proper place." His voice softened. "It’s yours, Remy. You earned it."

Remy watched, dumbfounded, as Scott pinned the X-Men’s symbol to his lapel.

Scott’s voice lit with humor. "And yes, if you ever take it off again, I will yell at you."

The dry comment drew scattered chuckles from the X-Men.

"See, I told you," Bobby murmured from behind Remy.

Remy glanced back at him, but his throat was too tight for him to speak.

Scott stepped back a pace and crossed his arms over his chest. "I know there are several people who want to talk to you about-" He paused, a flicker of discomfort running through his heat signature. "-well, some aspect or another of all this, and that you’re simply going to have to deal with. But from an official team standpoint, this is the end of the matter."

Remy managed a nod to show he’d heard, and pulled Rogue a little closer. He was terribly afraid that if he let go of her he might just fall over. His concept of the end of the matter involved rejection, disgust, bitterness and loss. Not Scott cracking jokes and effectively anointing him as one of the team’s leaders.

Remy shook his head. "I don’ know what t’ say." He was sure he looked just as off-balance as he felt.

A short ways behind Scott, Logan snorted in amusement. "That’ll be the day."

His comment elicited more laughter from the X-Men and broke the official air surrounding the group. Conversations sprang up, filling the apartment with a familiar, friendly babble.

Bobby clapped Remy on the shoulder. "C’mon, let me get you a drink."

Remy released Rogue with a squeeze and then let Bobby lead him through the maze of people and furnishings toward the far side of the apartment. The young thief splashed scotch into a glass without needing to ask his preference and handed it over.

Remy drained a fair portion of it in a single swallow and Bobby chuckled.

"You still look kind of shell-shocked," he commented.

Remy shrugged. "Yeah." He found himself unable to look directly at Bobby, and so focused his gaze beyond the other man’s shoulder. "Dis ain’... what I was expecting."

Bobby’s tone hardened. "Which was what? A mock trial and summary judgment?" He snorted derisively. "This is the X-Men. We don’t treat people that way-especially not our own."

Remy forced himself to look into the other man’s face. "Y’ honestly gon’ tell me y’ don’ have a problem wit’ what I did?"

The colors making up Bobby’s heat signature swirled kaleidoscopically. "Actually, yeah. I am." The challenge in his voice was unmistakable.

"Why not?"

Shaking his head, Bobby turned and poured himself a drink. He took a sip and then regarded Remy solemnly.

"You know I grew up in Maine," he said. "Nice, quiet place."

Uncertain where he was going, Remy nodded. "Y’ tol’ me at some point."

Bobby’s heat signature flickered, the colors darkening. "Someday you’ll have to meet my parents. They’re decent folks... pretty prejudiced against mutants, though."

"Okay." Remy watched his friend warily. He could see the anger now. It oozed out into Bobby’s signature, staining it with lurid hues.

Bobby took another drink. "The truth is that probably the worst thing that’s ever happened to me-in regards to how I grew up, anyway-is the fact that my parents refused to come to my wedding. Yeah, it sucks but it’s hardly a big deal."

He cocked his head to the side, his invisible gaze piercing. "And then there’s you, who I swear has been dealt more crap in his life than anyone could possibly cope with. And still you keep fighting to make something good and meaningful out of all of it because I don’t think you know how to give up, no matter how much it hurts to keep going. So no, I don’t have a problem with the choices you’ve made. I’m in no position to judge, and to be honest I hope it’s a right I never earn."

Taken aback, Remy could only stare at him. He had expected Bobby to be angry at him, not in his defense. It touched him at a level he wasn’t prepared for-a sweet, stinging pain deep in his heart. More than acceptance, more than forgiveness... Bobby understood. He understood and held nothing against him. It was enough to make Remy dizzy.

"Um... okay. Wow." Bobby’s face swam into view just a few inches from his own. He sounded abashed. "I think you’d better sit down."

The glass was removed from his grip and a strong hand guided him to a nearby chair. Remy sank into it obediently. He leaned forward, bracing his elbows on his knees, and covered his mouth with one hand. His pulse pounded in his ears, drowning out the overlapping conversations going on behind him and turning everything into a muted roar.

For a while he simply concentrated on breathing. He had thought he’d come to terms with the fact that he would have to pay a bitter price for every hard choice he made. He had resolved himself to doing whatever was necessary-enduring whatever cost he had to in order to accomplish the things he believed were important. But in the course of a few short sentences, Bobby had managed to yank that rug out from under him and he was both surprised and a little embarrassed at how much the unexpected compassion had staggered him.

After a minute, Bobby crouched down next to him and pressed the glass of scotch back into his hand. Remy sipped it and stared at the floor as he tried to put himself back together.

"Is he all right?" he heard Scott ask from somewhere behind him.

Bobby rose, laying a hand on Remy’s shoulder as he did so. "Yeah," the other man answered. "Just a little overwhelmed, I think."

"I’ll bet." Scott sounded amused. "Well, Storm’s still ticked if it helps any."

"Scott," Jean scolded, but her tone was mild.

Remy stomach curled into a small knot at the mention of Ororo. She had more right than anyone to be angry at him. He had seen her off toward the edge of the group, but he suspected that was more to show her solidarity with the X-Men than to express forgiveness.

Jean came and knelt next to Remy’s chair, her heat signature a rainbow of friendly hues, laced with uncertainty. Remy wasn’t sure how to feel about her. All things considered, he really had no right to be angry.

"So, do you forgive me for putting you through this?" she asked. Her tone was as frank as her words.

Remy didn’t look at her. "O’ course, chere." He cupped his glass in both palms. "Turns out y’ were right, anyway."

She reached out to grip his forearm, her touch warm. "And if our positions had been reversed, you’d have done the same thing."

Remy looked up in surprise, but then shrugged ruefully. She was probably right. Taking a deep breath, he pushed himself to his feet and was pleased to find himself more or less steady. Jean released him and stepped back beside her husband.

Remy resolutely straightened his shoulders. "Why didn’ y’ say anyt’ing two years ago, when y’ found out?" he asked her.

Scott’s heat signature spiked in response, making him think the other man wondered the same thing. In Remy’s experience, Jean was a straightforward, honest woman. She’d never been one to keep dangerous secrets.

Jean seemed to mull her answer for a moment, and when she spoke her tone was reflective. "At first, the only reason I didn’t was because I really didn’t think you were going to live." She shrugged uncomfortably. "I didn’t want to put the X-Men through that if it was all going to turn out to be moot."

She shook her head. "As the days passed and I had a chance to think through it-and work through my emotions-I realized I really had no right to be angry or blame you. So I decided that unless Sinister became an issue, I wouldn’t reveal what I knew."

Remy sighed and downed the last of his scotch. "Guess I can’ argue wit’ dat."

Jean’s heat signature softened. "I’m just glad it didn’t come out before this." She cocked her head, her stance contemplative. "I’m not sure the X-Men could have handled it."

Beside her, Scott’s signature flickered with sour agreement. But anything he might have said was forestalled by Logan, who joined their group with a friendly nod and a wave of the beer bottle he carried in one hand. Logan said nothing, only held out his other hand to Remy.

Remy accepted the handshake and found Logan’s grip firm but not crushing and his heat signature unmarred by disgust or fury.

"Cyke an’ I were talkin’ before you got here," Logan told Remy after a moment, "about how us usin’ Sinister’s tesseract changes the ground rules fer this op."

Remy pushed his personal thoughts aside and raised an eyebrow. "How’s dat?"

"As far as we know, there isn’t really a limit to how many people Sinister can move through the tesseract," Scott answered, "which means we should be considering bringing as many of the X-teams as we can."

Remy mentally berated himself. He’d been so wrapped up in his personal crisis that he hadn’t given any thought at all to how Sinister’s involvement might change their mission parameters.

"How long do ya figure it’d take ta get Excalibur over here?" Logan asked, his attention split between Scott and Remy. "Flyin’ could be risky."

"They still have our other Blackbird," Scott reminded him and Logan’s heat signature responded with a flash of chagrin.

The Canuck shook his head. "Forgot about that. Well, that solves that problem, then. And getting’ X-Force here ain’t a big deal if Mal’s willin’ ta help out."

Both men turned expectantly to Remy, who blinked a couple of times as he tried to catch up.

"I’ll give him a call," he finally agreed. He suspected Malcolm Lotho would be more than willing to aid them, but nothing was that simple in the world of the Guilds-particularly between two Guildmasters. There would have to be some kind of negotiation and a price paid for Chicago’s help.

"What about X-Factor?" Jean asked.

Scott’s signature swirled unhappily. "I don’t think we’ll get very far there. We don’t have any contacts on the West Coast and even if we did it would probably be too dangerous to try and pry them out of L.A. Too much chance we’d be exposed to Bastion." He tapped his chin thoughtfully. "Is there any chance we can get some kind of message to Emma Frost? I hate the thought of putting those kids at risk, but they are one of the teams."

To that Remy could only shrug. "We c’n certainly spread de word we’re lookin’, but beyond dat..."

"Emma’ll either answer or she won’t." Logan took a swig of his beer. "Probably won’t."

Scott pinched the bridge of his nose then let his hand fall. "All we can do is try. Even without them we’ll have a sizable force."

Logan made a sound that was half amusement, half derision. "Who’da thought Bastion would solve our manpower problem for us?" His tone turned serious. "It’ll still be dicey, though. Without powers, we’re still a little thin on bodies to hold the station-"

"And if we have our powers so will the prisoners," Scott finished for him. "I know. Anything could happen."

"Telepaths c’n handle crowd control," Remy injected. With the three teams involved they would have a significant percentage of the the alpha-class telepaths on the planet present. "Maybe have ’em knock everyone out first thing. Then we’d jus’ be dealin’ wit’ de prime sentinels... an’ Bastion I suppose."

"You don’t think he’s human?" Scott asked.

Remy’s lips twisted in a lopsided smile. "I don’ t’ink we’re dat lucky, mon ami."

Scott chuckled. "I guess that logic works."

Rogue nibbled the edge of one fingernail as she studied the table in front of her. She really needed an office but she didn’t have one, so she’d appropriated a corner of the school’s administrative area as her own. Her "desk" was a standard pressboard table like the ones she remembered from grade school, and the back of her rolling chair hung at an awkward angle.

Rogue didn’t mind. She didn’t care about the accommodations. In truth, she felt more comfortable here than she did amidst the gowns and finery, though she was slowly growing accustomed to those.

At least, she usually felt more comfortable here, she amended.

Right now, however, she found herself staring in consternation at the stack of gold bars that had appeared on her desk overnight. There were fifteen of them, stacked in a precise pyramid that gleamed dully in the fluorescent lighting. The bars had obviously been recast at some point because they bore no mint stamp or other indication of their origin. She had no idea how much the bullion was worth, but she knew it was a lot.

She lowered her hand, unconsciously rubbing the rough edge of her nail with one finger. This was what happened when she mentioned to her husband that the school and several other endeavors were headed into a severe shortage in operating assets.

She shook her head ruefully. The constant push back she got from the council had prompted her to learn as much as she could about how the Guild used its money. New York still possessed significant wealth, but much of what could easily be liquidated already had been, and what remained was either tied up in supporting the underground population and the X-Men’s operations, or was being used to maintain mortgages and the like for guildmembers who’d had to abandon their homes.

So she’d gone to Remy to see if there was any way to start siphoning private funds from any thieves willing to contribute them. It was, strictly speaking, against Guild rules. Fortunately, some assets-like the recast gold-had no providence and so were completely untraceable.

She wondered what Remy would say if she asked where he’d gotten it.

"Interesting centerpiece," said a dry female voice from the doorway and Rogue turned in surprise to find Marjorie Tyre watching her expressionlessly.

Her gut did a nervous little flip as she rose to her feet and tried to paste on a pleasant smile. "Mrs. Tyre."

Marjorie acknowledged her with a nod. "Mistress." Her gaze roamed the small confines of the room, taking in the industrious clutter of textbooks and invoices and the many children’s drawings and other bits of homemade art pinned haphazardly on the walls.

Marjorie returned her gaze to Rogue. "You enjoy working with children."

Rogue had no idea what to make of the statement. She couldn’t read anything from the other woman’s expression at all. "Yes ma’am," she agreed. "Ah love kids. Always have."

"It shows." Marjorie came forward into the room and Rogue had to squelch the instinct to back away from her. "I assume you plan to have some of your own?"

Rogue had to force herself to keep breathing normally. The Guild didn’t know about her powers, her curse.

"Ah hope to," she finally answered. In her head she knew it was possible-by artificial insemination if nothing else-and she tried to hold onto the image of a tiny baby tucked into her arms someday-hers and Remy’s-whenever the despair threatened to swamp her.

Marjorie gave her a swift, bitter smile. "Well, be careful. They can break your heart like nothing else."

Rogue felt an unexpected stab of compassion for the woman in front of her but had no idea how to express it. She doubted Marjorie Tyre would accept any kind of gesture from her.

She moistened her lips. "Is there somethin’ ah can do for you, ma’am?" she asked after a moment.

Marjorie cleared her throat. "I thought we should talk."

Rogue managed to contain her response to a mild lift of her eyebrows. "All right." She sat down in her chair and gestured for the other woman to help herself to the only other seat in the room, which was a bright yellow formed plastic chair with a large crack in the back.

Marjorie took the proffered seat with a prim, aristocratic grace. She crossed her legs and folded her hands in her lap, then regarded Rogue calmly across the space separating them.

"Where did the gold come from?" she asked.

Rogue kept her expression still. "Ah don’t honestly know." She might have her suspicions but she wasn’t about to express them to a woman whose voice commanded respect at the top levels of Remy’s opposition.

The corners of Marjorie’s eyes crinkled, her only reaction. "That’s wise of you."

Uncertain how to respond, Rogue held her tongue. She’d quickly learned that indiscriminately running her mouth was not something she could afford to do.

Marjorie shifted slightly in her seat. "I find myself in a difficult position."

Pressing her lips together, Rogue waited for her to go on.

Marjorie blew out her breath in a brusque sigh. "I blame my husband." She looked around the room, her eyes narrowing. "Ultimately, this is his fault. All of it."

"How so?" Rogue tried to keep her tone politely interested.

The other woman seemed to check herself, as if she’d displayed more emotion than she intended. She flexed one hand, toying with the heavy rings she wore.

"The men of my family have been thieves going back eight generations," Marjorie said. "Including two Masters. Ours is a well-respected bloodline." She shook her head. "My husband, unfortunately, never lived up to his potential. When Michael was still little, he fumbled a job and ended up sentenced to twenty years in a Lebanese prison."

Rogue squeezed her hands together in her lap, feeling distinctly uncomfortable. "Ah’m sorry." She paused, then went ahead and voiced the question that hovered on the tip of her tongue. "What happened ta him?"

Marjorie’s tone hardened. "He died in prison twelve years into his sentence."

Rogue couldn’t help her surprise. "The Guild didn’t go get him?" She didn’t think the Guild would leave one of its members in that situation, especially in a non-first world country without strong political ties to the U.S.

"The council refused. Because of the political situation at the time, the risk of exposing the Guild was too high."

In a flash of insight, Rogue began to understand where Michael’s power hunger might have come from. A Guild that couldn’t save his father would never have seemed strong enough in his eyes. She wondered if Remy knew the Tyre family’s history, or if knowing would only make living with Adrian’s and Michael’s deaths that much harder.

Rogue moistened her lips. "Ah’m not quite sure why ya tellin’ me this."

Marjorie lifted her chin a fraction. "Because, Mistress, I agreed with the council’s decision then and I agree with your husband’s choices now."

Rogue stared at her in shock, and Marjorie’s mouth quirked in a not-quite-friendly smile. "You see why I find my position a difficult one."

"Yes, ma’am," she agreed faintly.

Marjorie went on. "Keeping the Guild safe must always be our first priority. Right now, that means we must have one voice and one course of action." She straightened in her seat and uncrossed her legs as if she were preparing to stand. "Tell the Guildmaster that I will not support any activity by those closest to my son or nephew that would undermine the Guild’s solidarity."

She rose gracefully to her feet and Rogue hurried to copy her.

"Ah’ll let him know," she assured the other woman, careful not to let her emotions show. Marjorie’s support would cripple Remy’s opposition, a fact she was certain the other woman knew quite well.

Marjorie nodded, but her gaze remained sharp. "I don’t expect to always agree with his choices," she told Rogue, who tensed in expectation, "and when those situations arise I expect to be heard."

Rogue nodded. In exchange for her support, Marjorie wanted access. Unrestricted access to the Guildmaster, with all of the political clout that bestowed, would make her a force to be reckoned with. And it meant Remy would have to listen to her.

Rogue slowly extended her hand. "Ah’ve never known mah husband ta turn down good advice," she said. Remy wouldn’t be thrilled, but she knew he would agree. It was a relatively small price to pay and it would silence any critics who claimed he didn’t listen to opposing opinions.

Marjorie shook her hand briskly. "Well, then, I’ll let you get back to your business. I appreciate you seeing me, Guildmistress."

"Ya always welcome ta stop by, ma’am."

Marjorie nodded toward the pile of gold bars. "If you’d like, I can give you the name of someone who deals in larger quantities of bullion," she said. "He’d be able to put those on the market without raising suspicion."

Rogue blinked a couple of times, surprised. "Ah’d appreciate that."

With a thin smile, the other woman pulled a pen and a scrap of paper from her purse. She scribbled a name and handed the paper to Rogue.

Then, without waiting for a response she turned and walked out.

Rogue sat cross-legged on the bed, watching Remy as he changed out of his suit. They had a couple of hours before they were due at the Club and she was looking forward to sharing a real, sit-down dinner with her husband.

Remy was still in the process of unbuttoning his shirt when a knock sounded at the door. He disappeared into the closet while Rogue went to open it. Diedre stood on the far side, a tray piled high with covered dishes in her hands. A wine bottle perched precariously on the edge of the tray. The delectable smell of hot beef and other good things wafted up, making Rogue’s mouth water.

Rogue took the tray with a grateful smile. "Thanks, sugah. Ah can’t tell ya how much ah appreciate this."

Diedre grinned in return. "You’re welcome." She pulled silverware, napkins and a wine cork out of the pocket of her sweater, depositing them precariously on top of the dishes. "Have a nice dinner."

"We will." Shouldering the door open behind her, Rogue retreated into the apartment.

Remy emerged bare-chested from the closet as Rogue approached. He had a shirt slung over one arm while he buttoned his jeans.

"I’ll take dat, chere." He held out his hands and Rogue transferred her burden to him. She couldn’t help but notice how thin he had gotten. Beneath the silken play of muscle his ribs were clearly visible. His arms, too, bore testament to the slow erosion-the bones of his wrists, elbows, and knuckles all stood out in sharp relief.

Remy turned to lead her toward the sitting room. The scars on his back were beginning to fade, she noted. Eventually they’d be as pale as the rest of his collection, an indistinguishable part of the landscape of him.

He set the tray down on the table then pulled on his shirt while Rogue went about setting out the dishes and pouring wine. The long-sleeved, collarless shirt clung to his frame without being tight, disguising the signs of how great a toll the last few years had taken on him.

"So what’s de occasion?" Remy asked as he settled in his chair. His fingers drifted across the place setting in front of him, identifying utensils and the placement and shape of his wine glass.

Rogue clucked her tongue playfully, determined to keep the mood light. "Don’t tell me ya don’t know what today is?"

She watched expressions chase across his face as he tried to figure it out. She’d managed to talk herself out of being hurt that the date had completely escaped him. Given everything that had been going on, he could be forgiven for being distracted.

Eventually Remy shook his head. "Sorry, chere." He watched her curiously.

Rogue glanced involuntarily at her left hand and the emerald studded band she wore. "It’s our six month anniversary, sugah."

His eyebrows hiked upward. "Is it really?" He immediately turned apologetic. "I’m sorry, chere. I’ve been so busy-"

"It’s okay. Ah’m not mad."

He cocked a skeptical eyebrow. "Y’ sure?"

She nodded and picked up her fork. "Ah am." She pointed to his plate. "Eat, sugah. The food’s goin’ ta get cold."

With a lingering look, he did as she asked and for a little while they ate in silence.

"How is de school doin’?" Remy asked after a bit, his tone conversational.

Rogue had to smile. "Seein’ as I got a check today foh a little over four million dollars, ah’d say it’s doin’ pretty well." The broker whose name Marjorie had given her had completed the transaction within a couple of days and taken what she considered to be a very reasonable cut. She still felt odd about having personally marketed what had to be stolen goods, but she suspected she would get used to it.

Remy glanced up at her, amusement dancing in the depth of his red eyes. "Dat gon’ be enough, chere?" He didn’t pretend ignorance, for which she was grateful. Outside of the apartment he would disavow any knowledge, but that didn’t bother her so long as he played straight with her when they were alone.

"More than enough," she assured him. "Why, ya got more squirreled away in the walls or somethin’?"

He chuckled. "Non, chere."

Rogue sipped her wine, debating how much to ask. She still felt hesitant when asking for details, sometimes. There was something awkward about the process, as if they were both braced for an argument that no longer happened.

"Where did it come from, anyway?" she finally asked.

Remy shrugged. "I keep a safety deposit box wit’ Credit Suisse in Zurich." He laid his fork down and pushed his chair back from the table. "Speaking o’ which, there was somet’ing else in dat box I was savin’, so I had it couriered over wit’ de gold."

Laying his napkin down beside his plate, he turned and walked over to the desk. Rogue watched curiously as he dug a flat black case out of the bottom drawer and returned. Her stomach did a little dance when she realized it was a jewelry case in his hands.

He held the black velvet case out to her. "For you, cherie."

She took it with a smile, but made no effort to open it immediately. Instead she watched as he returned to his chair.

He nodded to the case. "I actually had dat made f’ y’ birthday a couple o’ years ago." He met her gaze briefly. "At de time I was expectin’ t’ explain all dis-" He waved one hand as if to indicate their surroundings, "in pretty short order. Figured it would be a way t’ start de conversation." He shrugged, his expression reflecting regret. "Didn’ work out dat way, so I stored it."

Setting the case on the table beside her plate, Rogue carefully levered it open. Based on the size and shape she expected to find a necklace inside and wasn’t disappointed, but the piece stopped her in her tracks and made her breath catch.

A dozen strands strung with gems of all kinds twisted together in a wild and beautiful profusion of color. Rogue identified emeralds and topaz, onyx and rubies, and a scattering of a clear, golden gem she thought was probably some unusual variety of diamond. The beads were of varying sizes and shapes, as if they’d been polished in whatever raw form they’d been taken from the ground.

Rogue fell in love with it on sight. Unlike the formal, regimented pieces Chess had kindly lent her, this was the kind of jewelry she would choose for herself.

"I always t’ought it was a lot like you," Remy said softly while she stared. "A whole bunch o’ different t’ings all tangled up together, an’ all o’ them amazin’."

Rogue opened her mouth to respond but found that no sound emerged. Instead she stood and went around the table. Insinuating herself into his lap, she wrapped her arms around his neck and kissed him.

"It’s beautiful, Remy. Thank you."

"Happy anniversary, I guess."

She laughed, a strange sense of wonder overtaking her. "Ya know, it really is." She pulled back far enough to look at him. "Did ya ever imagine we’d end up like this?"

He shook his head solemnly. "Didn’ dare."

The admission made her heart pinch. She reached up to stroke the line of his jaw with one hand, feeling the soft prickle of stubble beneath her finger tips. She understood being afraid to even imagine those impossible-seeming dreams.

"Ah want ta have a baby," she finally said, her voice barely rising above a whisper. "After Bastion’s gone." The team needed her until then.

He looked into her face, his gaze searching. "After?"

She nodded unevenly. "Ya promised me we’d find a way. Ah’m gonna hold ya to that."

A slow smile lit his face, chasing the shadows from his eyes. "Deal, chere."


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