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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


Written by Valerie Jones
Last updated: 03/23/2007 01:26:56 AM

Chapter 22

Remi leaned casually against the railing of his balcony perch, watching the street. He was on the first floor of a combination restaurant and club, a square building with balconies running completely around it on both floors. The lunch crowd had mostly thinned out, leaving Remi alone on his stretch of the balcony. He felt very small, standing there. For the first time in his life, Remi was invisible. He had never been anyplace where absolutely everyone ignored him. On Chandilar, and throughout the Empire, his face was known by all. And on Earth he rarely left the mansion grounds. If he did, it was in the company of his friends and perhaps some of the X-Men. People who knew him and would know if something happened to him. But here in New Orleans Remi could simply disappear. No one would ever come looking for him. No one would ever know that he was missing. It was a frightening feeling.

He scanned the street again. A regular stream of people flowed up and down La Rue de Fleur as they browsed the many shops and eateries. The crowd was primarily made of local traffic, residents of the French Quarter out doing their own business. These places did not cater to the touristsótheir faces were plain and even unmarked in some cases. Remi wasnít interested in the shopping. He had waited impatiently the two days until the rendezvous and his second chance at finding the Thieves Guild. Now he kept his telepathic senses thrown wide in search of the men heíd seen before.

Jean Grey sat up with a jolt. The astral presence she had been watching for was suddenly there again, a bright star on the landscape of her mind. "Scott! Iíve got him!"

Scott stuck his head through the door that joined her hotel room to the menís. "Where?" Beyond him she could see the other X-Men rising to their feet.

"Not more than a couple of miles." She pointed. "That way."

Without another word, Scott disappeared from her doorway. Jean could hear him giving orders to the other X-Men as she stood and hurried to join them.

Not that I really need to rush, she thought somewhat pettily. They need me to find this guy. But she hurried anyway.

Remi felt the touch of a familiar mind and turned, leaning out over the balcony to look up the street. At first, his roving gaze could find nothing familiar, but then he caught a glimpse of the thief Andre over the crowd. He felt a stab of triumph. The two days of waiting had paid off. Then he noticed the man who walked with Andre and froze. Tall and unremarkable, with long red hair tied behind him in a ponytail, the man had nothing particular to draw Remiís attention to him. Yet once Remi had seen him, he couldnít look away. He was filled with a sudden sadness, mingled with regret, and his throat tightened in response to the burst of emotion. He knew, though he had never seen the man before, that this was Jean Luc LeBeau.

Without thinking, Remi took the stairs to the street. Part of him was ecstatic that he had found the elusive leader of the Thieves Guild. It was unimaginable good luck that Remi was going to be able to encounter him on the street. Gambit, he knew, had been caught trying to pick Jean Lucís pocket, which was how heíd ended up a thief. Remi had decided his chances of doing the same were almost impossibly smallóyet here was his opportunity.

As he worked his way toward the two thieves, he tried to plan his approach. He knew precious little about picking pockets. Then he smiled. That ought to make it all that much easier for Jean Luc to catch me.

He cut across the last of the traffic that separated him from his quarry. He was coming towards Jean Luc from behind, and as he studied the man, he realized in horror that he didnít have the faintest idea where the manís wallet was. Feeling panicked, he hung back for a moment, trailing several yards behind the two men. Tentatively, he touched Jean Lucís mind and began sorting through his thoughts for the most recent memory of putting the wallet someplace. He watched the events of Jean Lucís day in reverse, and felt horrible doing so. He was going against everything heíd ever been taught to so casually sift through anotherís mind, but he didnít know what else to do.

He found the memory then, of Jean Luc dropping a small moneyclip into a pocket stitched into the lining of his jacket. Sighing in relief, Remi let go of the thiefís mind and picked up his pace. He closed on Jean Luc, intending to bump into him as he passed and go after the money then. He was immensely glad that the fate of the world didnít depend on whether he succeeded.

Just as he reached Jean Luc, he had the distinct impression that someone else was angling through the crowds to intercept them as well. He was too close to his quarry to give it much thought. His attention was focused on the man and his jacket. With one last prayer to the gods of his people, he drove his shoulder into Jean Luc. The thief staggered a step. Remi stayed with him, reaching for the pocket. His fingers caught the lip after a moment of scrabbling, but then a hand clamped painfully around his wrist and jerked it away.

"Aní jusí what do yí think yí doiní, boy?" Jean Luc stared angrily at him. One hand held Remiís wrist, the other was knotted in the collar of the grubby shirt Remi had found to cover his badly torn uniform. Remi stared back, almost giddy with relief.

After a moment, Jean Lucís angry expression faded, to be replaced by surprise. "Look at dis, Andre," he said to the other man. "Heís not afraid in de least."

Andreís gaze jerked away from his survey of the street to look at Jean Luc. He shrugged. "Stupid gutter rat. Probíly doní know better."

Jean Lucís brows dipped as Andre turned to scan the street once more. His expression, when he looked back at Remi, was one of consternation. "Whatís yí name, boy?" he asked more gently than Remi would have expected.

"R-Remi." All of a sudden, the enormity of where he was and what he was doing struck. Remi found himself unable to do anything but stare at Jean Luc in horrified anticipation. Until that moment, he had been able to push aside the realization that he was never going to see his home or family again. That to force history into the correct path, he would have to live a life that didnít belong to him. He would have to adopt a family that would end up exiling him, and even when he caught up to the X-Men, he would never be able to acknowledge the truth to the people he loved.

Remiís introspection shattered as his senses began to scream. His mutant power continually catalogued the motion of people moving all around them, but now something was wrong. The normal flow of people on the street was broken by someone whose pace had just gone from a casual walk to a darting lunge. Remi twisted in Jean Lucís grasp, desperately trying to turn to face the hurtling form. He managed to drag the startled thief around just far enough to see a flash of motion that resolved itself into a human figure. He felt a stab of recognition from Jean Luc, mixed with outrage and fear. Unfortunately, Jean Luc reacted in a direction other than the one Remi was already moving in. They tangled, going around like a pair of drunks, and Remi was forced to grab the otherís jacket to keep from falling down.

Remi gasped as a bright stab of pain turned his vision red. It was like someone had just stuck a hot poker between his ribs. Without warning, his legs gave out under him. He fell to his knees with a cry. A part of his mind continued to follow the motion of the person who was now running away. Andre had taken off after him, but Remi didnít think he held much chance of catching him. The gap was already widening.

"Easy, chile." Jean Lucís hands were supportive now instead of binding. Remi looked up to find him kneeling on the street beside him, concern written on his face. People gathered around them curiously.

Remi reached for the source of the agony in his side. His fingers touched something slick and wet.

"Get a doctor!" he heard Jean Luc commanding someone in the crowd. "De boyís been stabbed."

Remi brought his hand up where he could see it. Blood covered his fingers. Pieces of information coalesced in Remiís mind. He turned to Jean Luc, straightening so that he could look into the manís face. "He was trying to kill you." It was a startling revelation. As heir to the Shiíar throne, the threat of assassination was something Remi had grown up with. He had never considered that the head of the Thieves Guild might face the same thing.

Jean Lucís face grew hard. "Assassins goní pay for dis, doní you worry. Right now, yí should be worryiní Ďbout yíself. Doctoríll be here soon, so you jusí rest aní let me take a look at dis." He pulled Remiís shirt away from the wound.

Remi concentrated on the pain in his side. "How bad is it?"

Jean Luc surprised him with a smile. "Consideriní dat youíre still talkiní tí me, Iíd say it ainí too bad."

Remi found himself returning the smile ruefully. Jean Luc seemed to be chiding him for taking it all too seriously. He wasnít sure if that was a calculated gesture meant to reassure him, or if the wound really wasnít as bad as it felt.

Jean Luc seemed to read his uncertainty. "Itís jusí a scratch. Bleediní plenty, but datís all."

A concert of gasps and startled exclamations made Remi and Jean Luc look up. Many in the gathered crowd had turned suddenly and were looking up into the sky and pointing. Remi followed their fingers and stared in stunned amazement at the winged man who hovered thirty feet in the air. He was dressed in red and white, and his feathered wings beat idly as he held himself aloft. The crowd spread out as people vied for a better view and through the scattering bodies, Remi glimpsed several other people standing in formation beneath the winged man. A last person moved out of his line of sight and Remi nearly choked in surprise. He hadnít recognized Warren immediately, but now that he could see the four who stood on the street he had no doubts.

The X-Men had found him.

Jean Luc heard the boy in his arms murmur a horrified "Oh no," and glanced down at him in surprise. He was staring at the strange people on the street, an expression of utter dismay on his young face. Jean Luc was immediately curious. This street rat obviously knew the others, but he didnít seem afraid. No more so than when Jean Luc had snagged the hand reaching for his pocket. It was that lack of fear that piqued his curiosity so. Most kids surviving on the street were afraid of their own shadows, but not this one.

The boyóWhat was his name? Ah, Remy. That was it.óRemy struggled to his feet, hissing in pain. Jean Luc felt a stab of guilt as he caught the boyís arm. That knife had been meant for him. Had it not been for the boyís unintentional interference, it would most certainly be Jean Luc lying in the street, probably far more badly hurt than this one, if not dead.

He surprised himself by stepping protectively in front of the boy. But he did owe him a debt, and he had no idea what the five oddly dressed and obviously mutant people wanted with him. Of course, Remy was a mutant, too. Those eyes were a dead giveaway. But if he didnít want to tangle with the five, Jean Luc felt he owed him the chance to get away.

Marvel Girl stopped abruptly in the middle of the street and pointed toward a crowd of people gathered around something. "There!" she said triumphantly. "Heís in there."

Cyclops came up beside her. "In the crowd?" She nodded and he turned to Angel. "Get up there and take a look. Maybe we can draw him out."

"He may flee when he sees such a blatant display of mutant powers," Beast suggested as Angel rose into the air.

Cyclops shrugged. "If he runs, we can follow him. We are trying to make contact, after all." He kept hidden his silent fear that sending Warren into the air was a tremendously stupid mistake. His imagination could conjure a dozen scenarios in which the Angel was promptly blown out of the sky by their unknown mutant. But Marvel Girl had said that he was a telepath, so he held to the hope that Warren would not be attacked physically.

As expected, the crowd noticed Angel immediately and began to scatter. Not exactly terrified, they moved to gain a better look at the mutants and also to get out of possible harmís way. And revealed in the center of the crowd was a man on his knees, holding a teenage boy.

"But... heís just a kid," Marvel Girl said with a hint of disbelief.

"Do you mean to say it is the boy we are here for?" Beast asked in surprise. She nodded.

Cyclops stepped forward. They might as well go introduce themselves. But as he moved, the two on the street stood. The man placed himself between Cyclops and the kid, his protective stance unmistakable. Cyclops made a disparaging noise. Look who he was calling a kid. The boy was only a year or two younger than himself.

With Marvel Girl beside him and the remaining two X-Men trailing, Cyclops walked toward the man, who watched them warily. He stopped at what he hoped was a non-threatening distance and nodded to the two. But before he could say anything, the boy stepped out from behind the manóhis father, perhaps? Cyclops was startled by the sheer terror in his eyes. One hand was pressed to his side where Cyclops could see a dark stain he thought was fresh blood. The other hand was raised as if to throw, and Cyclops tensed at the sight of the lurid glow of power that surrounded his fist.

"Go away, X-Men!" he shouted, but it sounded like a plea. "Youíre going to ruin everything!"


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