Author's note: This is the sequel to 'The Way It's Dealt', the second in my Gambit-as-a-girl story line. A free Gambit makes her way to New York, and the X-men, but the Assassin's Guild isn't going to let her go without a fight, and the X-men know she's hiding something... (I created the X-team with the same license I took in the last story, so they aren't exactly what you'd expect! This story also contains a gratuitous Star Wars rip off. Bear with me!)
Disclaimer: I don't own Marvel, I don't own any of the X-men, blahdy blahdy blah, and I don't own the scene from 'The Empire Strikes Back' that I ripped. Now all you lawyers can relax and stop reading fan fiction on company time.
ONE MORE HAND
Remy LeBeau decided she officially hated New York City when a sweet-faced little kid stole her wallet while they were waiting to cross the street. "Hey!" yelped Remy as the little cherub took off through the crowd, winding expertly between legs, briefcases and pocketbooks. Remy, some five foot nine, was less graceful as she gave chase. The little kid looked back in shock. He had obviously never been pursued before. Remy remembered being chased plenty of times in her days as a preadolescent pickpocket, but she had one up on this kid. She'd never been caught. She lifted the little boy by the back of his shirt and held him so their faces were even.
"Lemme go!" he shouted. "I'll call the cops!" Remy gave him a skeptical look.
"An' tell them what, petite?" The kid bit his lip, thinking that over. Remy relieved him of her wallet.
"Hey!" said the kid. "That's mine!"
"Well, it mine now," said Remy with a smile. "A good lesson for you-possession is nine tenths of de law."
"I hate you," said the kid, adding almost immediately, "You talk funny." Remy set him back on his feet and crouched down so they were still eye-to-eye.
"Why are you out here stealin' things, petite? Shouldn't you be harassing your first grade teacher or somet'in?" The boy crossed his arms and stuck out a chubby lip in a pout.
"Granger doesn't make me go to school."
"Granger is your papa?" said Remy.
"Nope, he's my...um..." The boy struggled to remember a strange word. "My superior." Remy raised one eyebrow.
"Superior over a seven-year-old. I impressed."
"I'm eight," said the boy indignantly.
"Dis Granger," said Remy. "He steal things too?" The boy nodded.
"Yeah, big things. I can't talk about it." He looked at the ground.
"Can you take me to see him?" said Remy. Here, maybe, was an opportunity to get back to work, put down some roots and make some contacts in this huge, godforsaken city. You said you weren't stealin' anymore, LeBeau, reprimanded her inner voice.
Fine, we can both starve to death den, Remy retorted.
"I'm not supposed to," said the boy.
"Fine, den we can all talk to de police," said Remy cheerfully. The boy looked at her, gauging if she was serious.
"You won't do it." Remy flicked down her sunglasses, giving the boy a glimpse of her red-pupiled eyes.
"Try me, petite." The boy jerked his arm in her grip.
"You like...you're one of them!"
"Calm down, now," started Remy, but the boy tore his dirty shirt from her hand, took a few paces back and then the air around him shimmered and he was gone.
"I'll be damned as a sinner on Sunday," said Remy. The boy was a mutant; unusual in someone so young according to the medical journals Remy had read.
Invisible or not, the boy wasn't too hard to follow. His frantic race away from Remy's 'demon' eyes made his pounding steps easy to follow, and once he turned into an absolutely disgusting alley, he made footprints in the garbage and dirt that had collected there.
Soon Remy was looking up at a grimy, abandoned townhouse. She went up the crumbling steps and tried the front door, but it was locked and heavy, and breaking in wouldn't make a great impression. She moved around to the back of the house, which was also impregnable. The boy's footprints went to a bulkhead door and disappeared. Remy went to the door, which was held by a simple padlock, unlike the barred windows of the house. She was about to blast the lock off when she heard a small cough from within. "Hello?" she said, leaning her ear next to the door. There was a flurry of sound within, like she'd disturbed a troop of very large rats. Remy frowned. "Who's in dere?"
"Go away!" hissed a tiny voice. "Get out of here!" The voice was a child's, but not the boy's. Remy stepped back and placed her hand on the lock. It glowed, hummed, and then shattered. She pulled open the door and was confronted by ten grimy faces, and ten pairs of haunting eyes. The children pulled back from the light, their faces going terrified when they saw the young woman. Remy noticed one camouflaged himself against the wall, skin becoming like the dripping cement.
"Mon dieu," breathed Remy as she recognized the cellar for what it was-a crude holding cell for these child mutants. Granger, their master, had undoubtedly trained them as petty thieves and kept them here when they weren't needed. Remy's stomach roiled at the sigh of the filthy, emaciated children. Even her own stepmother, Jeanne Louise LeBeau, the Queen of Thieves, had never stooped so low. She was pretty sure Jeanne Louise would be just as horrified by the scene.
"You have to go!" said a girl with pale blond hair that almost reached her waist. "You can't be here!" The other children huddled behind her.
"It's alright, petite," said Remy, coming down the cellar steps. The girl backed quickly away from her, blue eyes flashing.
"Get away! He's coming!" A moment later Remy heard footfalls in the house above them, and a rough voice yelling.
"Who's out there? I got dogs in here!" The girl turned and shepherded the other children back into the shadows. "You no good brats don't want me to come out there!" the voice yelled. "Show yourself or it's doggie din-din time!" Remy yanked the bulkhead door shut and stood by it with her ears pricked. As soon as Granger concluded it was nothing, she'd sneak the children out.
"They're here," said the blond girl, obviously not talking about Granger. Remy turned to her.
"Who's here?" Before the girl could answer heaven and earth descended on Remy, a form crashing through the bulkhead and taking her down. Remy slammed into the concrete floor in a shower of rotten wood, with someone heavy on top of her.
"So, you like kidnappin' mutant kids, huh?" demanded a growling man's voice. Remy's eyes went wide as steel claws were thrust under her nose. The man on top of her, with his knobby knee in her midsection, had a face obscured by a mask and a black jumpsuit with silver trimmings. All these details were secondary to the fact that three blades protruding from the back of his hands were about to give Remy an al fresco nose job.
"She's not one of them," said the girl. "She was helping us." The man cast an eye at the girl, then glared at Remy again.
"I swear on a stack of anyt'ing you want, mon ami," said Remy shakily. The man got off her and yanked her up by the lapels of her wool trenchcoat.
"Then what are you doin' here?" His claws were still poised. Remy removed her coat from his grasp and pushed his hand back to his side. The shock was wearing off and now she was angry with the short man. "Like she said, mon ami. Tryin' to help dese kids." A woman with white hair and glowing dark skin appeared at the hole the man had made.
"Logan, the police have been dispatched. We can go." Logan nodded shortly and glared once more at Remy, who glared back. "Who is she?" inquired the white-haired woman. Logan shrugged.
"Don't ask me. The kid said she wasn't one of the scum upstairs." He stomped up the rickety stairs back to ground level and disappeared.
"Nice meetin' you too, chere," said Remy to his back. The woman bit back a smile.
"Logan has a tendency to be taciturn. You must forgive him, he thought you intended to harm the children." Remy brushed dust and wood splinters off her coat and smoothed her long-sleeved t-shirt and pants.
"Not your fault-what's your name?" The woman smiled slightly.
"You may call me Storm."
"Storm." Remy nodded. "I'm Remy." She turned back to the children. "You-all can come with me now. We're gonna go meet some people who can 'elp you." The blond girl looked at her.
"Policemen don't like us." Remy crouched down to her level.
"Don' you worry, petite. Dey won't punish any of you for what you did." She held out a hand. "I promise." The girl took her hand slowly, and Remy led her and the others out of the basement to the dismal yard, where an NYPD squad car had pulled up and officers were shoving a fat man who had to be Granger into the back. He was soaking wet, and he had three claw marks across the front of his stained shirt. Remy felt the little girl's hand tighten on hers. She herself fought down the instinctive anxiety she felt when officers of the law were present. Another car pulled up, and Remy was relived to see a female officer get out of it. "You go wit' the lady policeman, okay, petite?" said Remy. The girl bit her lip and then nodded.
"Okay." The officer collected the girl and the other children from Remy.
"Thank you, ma'am," said her partner. "Always good when someone is there to reassure them." Remy almost burst out laughing-a police officer calling her ma'am.
"Anytime, officer," was all she said. Storm came to her shoulder.
"You seem to have a way with children." Remy shrugged.
"I like 'em. Dey're easy to get along with."
"Once again, let me apologize for Logan," said Storm. "He often acts before he thinks." Remy rubbed the small of her back and smiled at the older woman.
"I live. He packs a punch for a small guy t'ough." Storm nodded. "Not t'mention the claws." They both chuckled.
"If it doesn't seem to forward," said Storm suddenly. "I couldn't help but notice your...unusual eyes. You are a mutant?" Remy placed her hands on her hips.
"Yeah. So what?" Storm held up a hand.
"Please, I am one also, as is Logan. We both work at a school upstate that helps unusual children develop their gifts."
"An' on the weekends you conduct raids on petty criminals?" said Remy skeptically. Storm's mouth quirked in a smile.
"You are a perceptive young woman. The school is also a base of operations for the mutant rights group the X-men." Remy raised an eyebrow.
"I heard of dem. You sayin' you're one of 'em?" Storm nodded.
"If you would like, you could return with us and speak with the head of the school, Charles Xavier."
"De famous doctor?" said Remy. Storm nodded again. Remy bit her lip. "Hmm. What's de catch?"
"No catch," said Storm. "Professor Xavier is always looking for new students and teachers. I simply believe you could be an asset." Remy was still skeptical. She had been raised too well to believe anything came with no strings attached. But dis could be your chance to break out of de t'ief rut, she said to herself.
Yeah, but what would you teach dose kids? Breaking an' Entering 101? "Alright," said Remy impulsively. "I come take a look." Storm smiled and bowed her head slightly.
"Splendid. You can travel in the transport with Logan."
"You're not comin'?" said Remy casually.
"Oh I am," said Storm. "I simply prefer an alternate means of transport." With that, Remy felt a breeze on her face and Storm lifted into the air, banking and flying towards the west. Remy's mouth opened slightly as she watched.
"Hey, babe, you gonna stand there until the Second Coming, or are we moving?" said Logan, coming back into the yard. Remy shot him a look.
"Well it ain't every day you see a flying woman, least not where I come from." Logan shrugged. He had removed his mask, and Remy took in his dark eyes and rugged face, which held the lines of a perpetual frown but was handsome despite the fact.
"You get used to it. Let's go." Remy followed him to the transport, which turned out to be an all-terrain jeep.
"So, is Logan a last name or a first name?" Logan gave her another one of his stormy looks.
"It's my name. You don't like it, call me Wolverine." Remy held out her hand.
"I'm Remy LeBeau."
"I heard you the first time," said Logan shortly as he started the jeep, which came to life with a roar.
"But you weren't even in the yard," protested Remy.
"I got good ears," said Logan. His voice was gravelly, but not in an unpleasant way. It made all his statements sound surly, but Remy got the feeling that was a front he was putting on for her. He abruptly jerked the wheel of the jeep and accelerated into the flow of traffic.
"So you and Storm are X-men?" Remy tried again. Logan turned one eye on her.
"Look, sweetheart, Storm may like everyone at first sight, but I still don't trust ya any further than I can throw this jeep. So just keep quiet and the ride will go a lot smoother."
"Fine by me, fuzzy," said Remy, casting a significant eye at his thick sideburns. Logan opened his mouth to retort, but then just clenched his jaw and looked back at the street. Remy settled back with a small smile. Say what you wanted; she always got the last word.
Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters was a massive brick mansion several hours northwest of New York. "Nice place," said Remy approvingly as Logan pulled into the circular drive. The foyer of the mansion was two stories high, furnished with English antiques. "I'll get the professor," growled Logan. "Wait here, and don't touch anything."
"Wouldn't dream of it, mon ami," said Remy with a sweet smile. Logan muttered something and stomped off down one of the hallways. Remy walked around the foyer with her hands in her pockets, looking at the Ming vase on one of the end tables, the Chippendale chair in the corner and the crystal chandelier overhead. "I could get used to dis," she said, looking at herself in one of the thin mirrors hung to either side of the door. "Yeah, I could definitely get use to dis." Suddenly there was a pop, like someone had opened a soda can, and there was a man standing in front of Remy. A blue man. A blue hairy man with a tail. "AH!" screeched Remy, at the same time the man shouted "Mein Gott!" A card appeared reflexively in Remy's hand, glowing, the blue man jumped backwards into a fighting stance.
"Who are you?!" cried Remy.
"I could ask you the same question, fraulein!" he returned.
"It's alright, Kurt," said a soothing female voice from the stairway. "Miss LeBeau is here to see us." Remy turned to see a woman with hair as red as her own, and a bald, aging man in a wheelchair on the landing. The woman smiled graciously and came down to Remy, holding out her hand. "How do you do? I am Jean Grey." Remy flicked the card away, and shook hands with the redhead cautiously. The man, who's wheelchair hovered, came down to her level as well.
"And I am Professor Xavier. I see you've met Kurt." The blue man rose from his fighting stance stiffly.
"My apologies, fraulein." Remy looked at the assembled company. Kurt was a mutant, the Grey woman she didn't know about, and the professor...Remy had the feeling his calm eyes saw and absorbed everything.
"If you please, we can adjourn to my study," he said. Remy nodded slowly.
"Tea?" asked Xavier once Remy and Jean were settled in cushy easy chairs opposite his desk. Jean accepted her cup with an aristocratic nod. Xavier frowned slightly over Remy's cup. "My mistake, Miss LeBeau-you prefer bourbon." He poured her a glass from a good bottle. Remy was amazed twice in one minute as Jean made a gesture and the glass floated to Remy's hand.
"So," said Jean, ignoring Remy's nonplussed look. "Storm tells us that you are interested in joining our little group?" Remy took a large sip of her drink and got a hold on herself. These mutants were friendly and completely at ease with their powers-she would have to stop reacting like some idiot baseliner.
"Oui." She nodded. "That is, maybe."
"Jean is in charge of the X-men nowadays," said the professor. "I mainly administer the school. But you are welcome to stay for as long as you like."
"And see if you fit in," said Jean with a pleasant smile. Remy looked at both of them with a raised eyebrow.
"I know dere's a catch in here somewhere." Xavier shook his head.
"No, Remy, no catch. If you decide the school is not the right place for you, you are free to go."
"But you'll always be welcomed back," added Jean. Remy had the feeling they'd done this duet many times. Nowhere else to go, femme, said her inner voice. You can at least give dem a try, even if dey do act like the Cleaver family. For once, Remy listened.
"Okay. I stay for a few days. See what it's like." Xavier and Jean both nodded and smiled like she was a child who had performed a marvelous trick. Xavier pressed a button on his desk.
"Bobby, we have a guest. Could you please come to my office and show her to her room?" Moments later a teenage blond boy burst in, smiling just as heartily as Jean and the professor.
"Hi! Welcome to the world's weirdest prep school!" he said. "I'm Bobby." Remy chuckled.
"How're you doin', Bobby?" She gulped the last of her drink and stood.
"Oh wow, a Southerner!" he said. "Cool! Come on, I'll be your tour guide." Remy followed the enthusiastic teenager out of the office. Once the door had shut behind her the professor sat back, no longer smiling.
"What did you think, Jean?" Jean sipped her tea.
"She certainly has the right spirit-perceptive, quick on her feet, compassionate from what Storm tells me."
"But?" said Xavier.
"But she's hiding something," said Jean. "Her mind isn't open or trusting. She doesn't think like an honest person. I'd be wary about letting her onto the team."
"What does Logan think of her?" asked Xavier.
"Logan doesn't trust her," said Jean. "You know, they found her in that awful place, even if she was just trying to help." Xavier looked out the window at the cold afternoon and sighed.
"Yes. And we know that's only one cell of this...slave operation. There are at least five other groups buying and selling young mutants in the New York area."
"We need an operative that can infiltrate them," said Jean. "But the only one who could possibly pull it off is Logan, and he's too well known around the seedy spots to be undercover." Xavier rubbed his chin.
"Hmm...perhaps..." He looked at her. "Perhaps if Miss LeBeau has a less than shining past, as you suspect, she might become our operative." Jean frowned.
"Do you think we could trust her with something like this? Children's lives are at stake."
"She has no love for mutant-haters, that much I gleaned," said Xavier. "If she stays...yes. I think she would be perfect."
Drake Bordreaux stepped off the plane at the JFK Airport, looking with disdain at the dirty tile floors, the people largely dressed in gray and black and the harsh, rainy November afternoon beyond the observation window. In New Orleans the sun was shining and it was a balmy sixty-five degrees. But oh no, he was here, chasing after that no-good, bitchy wife of his Renee LeBeau, who had had the impudence to file divorce papers from a Brooklyn law firm. Renee had damaged his pride, and his family's reputation as well as the integrity of the Assassin's Guild. His own father's men snickered behind his back-the heir to the Guild's fortune and influence couldn't even hold on to his bad-tempered Cajun wife. Drake shivered slightly as he recalled Remy's general insolence and disrespect towards him in the two months they had been married. If she wasn't so damn pretty and charming...Drake clench his teeth as he collected his two small black bags from the luggage carousel. They held a layer of clothing, and underneath, in a camouflaged and shielded compartment, the tools of Drake's trade. Drake smiled as he recalled the seven knives, two pistols and one sniper rifle neatly packed under his dress shirts and custom-tailored pants. The LeBeau witch would get what was coming to her, no question. "Mr. Bordreaux?" said a small, raspy voice from his elbow. Drake looked over and down to see a man with curly black hair that barely reached his shoulder.
"Oui, I am the mousier," he said in his imperious French accent.
"Your father sends his regards. The car is outside." Drake handed the man one of his bags, not noticing his irritated look, and started for the sliding doors.
"Bien. There is much work to be done in a short time, I must embark on a mission to Belgium in two days." The man hurried after him.
"Yeah, we got all the info you asked for. Is it true this chick is your wife, and she skipped out on ya?" Drake turned his evil eye on the man.
"The Madame is my ex wife, and for your information I turned her out. She was unsuitable." The man put Drake's bags in the trunk of a fat Cadillac El Dorado and opened the door for him.
"Wish I could do that to my wife. But if you threw her out, why are you up here to take her out?"
"Perhaps that is none of your business," said Drake coldly. The man shrugged.
"Hey, whatever you say, Mr. Bordreaux." He got in the front and started the car out into the crawl of airport traffic. "You got reservations at the Plaza, that alright?" Drake nodded shortly.
"Sufficient. I will only be staying one night. Tomorrow," he flicked his tongue over his lips, "I am going to Westchester."
"So the students sleep over in that hallway," Bobby was chattering. "Boys on one side and girls on the other, which sucks ifyaknowwhatImean, and then this is where the teachers sleep, Dr. Grey and Mr. Summers when he's here, they have the big room. Then Storm and Mr. Wagner, and you're next to Logan at the end."
"Tres magnifique," said Remy dryly. Bobby ended his breathless recital as he pushed open the door of the last room in the hallway.
"What's that mean?" he asked her as Remy walked into the room and automatically scanned it for exits and entrances other than the door, possible hidden cameras, all the little things a professional thief checked a room for.
"It's sarcasm, petite," said Remy, using the child name even though Bobby looked to be about sixteen, only three years younger than herself. He still had a breathless, fresh-faced quality that Remy had lost at age six, when her Cajun parents pushed their 'freak daughter' out of the house and left her to make her way through the swamps and bayous to New Orleans.
"Okay, well, just push that little button next to the voice box on the wall if you need anything," said Bobby. "And don't be freaked out if you hear announcements coming out of it all the time."
"I won't," Remy assured him. "I gonna do some explorin' right now, anyway."
"Okay, let me just warn you that doors marked 'Keep Out' are that way for a reason," said Bobby, as if he'd had an unpleasant experience disobeying the rule. Remy's interest was of course piqued.
"T'anks for the warnin', petite. See you around." Bobby took his dismissal and backed out of the room, leaving Remy to explore further. She ended up in front of the ornate mirror over the room's dresser, looking herself in her red and black eyes.
"What if dey find out what you are, mon ami?" she said to her reflection. "What den?" She bit her lip. "Den we move on. Don' need the X-men to live." Satisfied, she left to look at the rest of the school.
Remy took a quick look at the classrooms, the rec room, and the student's gym, but it was a silver elevator door marked 'STUDENTS KEEP OUT' that was calling to her. She pressed the call button, and rode downwards to what must be the basement level of the school. It was completely unlike the antique elegance of the mansion above. Here the walls were silver and sterile, airtight doors lined the corridor, and the lighting was plain fluorescent tubes. She heard someone humming and cautiously pushed the red 'OPEN' button to the right of the door the noise was coming from. "Oh my!" said the man within, looking at her owlishly over his glasses. "You mustn't sneak up on me, miss." Remy hesitated for a split second, simply because the man was huge, blue, and covered with shaggy fur. Then she got hold of herself and spread her hands apologetically.
"Sorry, mon ami. I heard your song."
"Bach's Minuet in G," agreed the furry man. "One of my favorite baroque pieces." He set down the clipboard he hand been making notations and came over to shake her hand politely. Remy noticed he walked with a pronounced limp. "I am Dr. Henry McCoy, known in common parlance as Hank or Beast." Remy shook the huge hand, which seemed capable of crushing rocks.
"Remy LeBeau. Everyone calls me Remy."
"Ah, New Orleans," said McCoy with a nod. "Although your patois suggest you were born outside the city." Remy raised her eyebrows in surprise.
"That's right, you some kind of language specialist or somet'in?" McCoy shook his head.
"Merely a scholar, one who must know many things if I am to fulfill my job capacity here." He rubbed his leg regretfully. "I am no longer an active member of the team, but the spare time has given me the chance to work on several ground-breaking studies. Such things are a blessing in disguise, I guess." He brightened. "But enough chattering about myself, what brought you here, Miss LeBeau?"
"Storm invited me," said Remy. "Although some sectors of de population ain't exactly made me feel welcome."
"It will pass," McCoy assured her. "Some of our team member's inherent natures make them distrustful-Darwin and Freud would have a veritable field day with this group." Remy chuckled.
"I here to see if I 'fit in', as dat Jean woman put it." McCoy nodded once again, his glasses tipping down his nose.
"Another team member is always appreciated. What might your abilities be, if I may ask?" Remy flicked a card out of her pocket, held it until it glowed golden-red. Beast raised his shaggy eyebrows.
"Kinetic energy. How useful." Remy extinguished the card under her foot.
"Oui, it can be." Two voices could be heard from outside, one a baritone growl, one a cultured German accent.
"I don't care if Jean thinks we can trust her, I still say there's somethin' she's not tellin' us! I don't like her, period."
"Yes, Logan, but remember you did not like me either when we first met." Logan made a frustrated noise.
"I fail to see how so," said the German voice.
"Dammit, Kurt, you always gotta be so logical?" said Logan in frustration. The two turned into the lab with Remy and Beast-Logan and the blue man she had encountered in the foyer. He at least had the grace to look embarrassed. Logan just glared more.
"Forgive us, fraulein," said the one named Kurt. "We would not have sprachen so if we knew you were here."
"Speak for yourself," grumbled Logan. "Why don't you take a hike, Cajun. We need to have a conference with the doc." Remy shot him her sweetest, most tempting, most playful smile, the one no man had ever resisted before.
"Anyt'ing for you, chere." Logan growled in the back of his throat when he failed to get a rise out of her. Remy fluttered her wrist in a graceful goodbye to Beast and Kurt, and swept from the room. Kurt hid a smile with his hand.
"I think she likes you, my friend." Hank chuckled.
"You have to admit she has a great deal of magnetism."
"If I want magnetism I'll go pick a fight with Magneto," said Logan in his most surly tone. "Just forget about the Cajun." His eyes narrowed. "She won't be stayin' long."
Remy was playing a hand of poker with Bobby, not cheating for once, when Jean stepped into the rec room. "Remy, the professor and I have a proposition for you. Would you come to the office?"
"Ooo, you're in trouble," said Bobby. Remy flashed him a smile, not too intense, didn't want the kid getting the wrong signals.
"Remy never met trouble yet she couldn't get out of, petite." Jean chuckled and led the way to the professor's sanctum. Once they were seating, Xavier steepled his fingers and looked at the both of them.
"First of all, Remy, how do you feel about staying on here at the school?" Remy shrugged.
"Nice place, most a de people are friendly. Oui. I'd stay." Xavier nodded.
"Good, because we are embarking on a mission that only you can carry out." Remy's eyebrows went up.
"Why moi? I not even an X-man." Xavier licked his lips.
"How shall I put this delicately? You have the right...look. This mission is undercover, and..."
"An' I the only one dat looks like a lowlife," Remy finished. Easy, LeBeau. Just so long dey don' find out you really are one.
"I mean no insult by it," said Xavier. Remy waved a hand.
"Don' worry, professor. What's de mission exactly?" Jean spoke up.
"In the past month or so a, for lack of a better word, slave ring has been operating in the area. They take exceptionally young mutants, like the ones we rescued earlier today, up to the younger mutant teenagers, and sell them."
"To anyone with the asking price," finished Xavier grimly.
"These children are being sold into bondage, to people who would use their powers for nefarious means. They have no hope of a normal life. Now, we know from Logan's poking around that the main operators, the leaders, are going to meet soon to broker a large deal with the Genoshan government."
"Genosha is the only nation that still allows mutant slaving," said Xavier. "And since traders have become scarce they're willing to pay top dollar for young mutants they can raise in servitude, unlikely to rebel." Remy's face hardened.
"What would I have t'do?"
"Take the place of the Genoshan client," said Jean. "Find out where they are keeping the children and notify us." Remy nodded.
"I'll do it."
"You know this will be dangerous..." started Xavier.
"No one should be kept against deir will," said Remy, her mind in the past. "No one should be forced into anyt'ing."
"Very well," said Xavier. "Jean, will you please brief Wolverine and the others about this operation, and have someone run Remy through a few training sessions? We have only two days until the Genoshan arrives." Jean nodded and rose.
"Come with me, Remy." Remy followed her back to the elevator and down to the underlevel of the school. "We have a holographic suite for training down here," said Jean. "I'll have one of the others run you through a few training ops."
"I can handle anyt'ing that comes up," said Remy. Jean looked over at her. Remy belatedly wondered if she had the same mind-reading powers as Xavier.
"Are you sure?" Remy swallowed. That had been too close.
"Ah, on second thought, y'better let me go a few rounds." Jean nodded, going back to her cheerful self.
"The suite is the second door down on the right, marked 'Danger Room'. I'll go find someone to monitor you." Remy walked down the hall to the door and Jean went into the med lab.
"She's gonna what?" said Logan a few minutes later.
"Remy is going to replace the Genoshan slave client and help us free those children," said Jean again. Logan's expression grew downright stormy.
"Don't tell me she snowed you too, Red." Jean sighed.
"While I agree there are certain sectors of her life she hasn't revealed, she is our only hope of finding these captives in time."
"I agree," said Beast. "You cannot judge someone by their past actions, Logan. You know that."
"Then what about judgin' 'em by your bad gut feeling?" said Logan with a caustic look at Beast.
"None of you are giving her a chance to prove herself," said Kurt. "You are all prejudging. Let the events unfold before you condemn her." Logan smacked a fist into his palm.
"Fine. I'll do that." He stomped out of the lab. Jean sighed.
"The professor, Kurt and I are meeting one of Scott's lobbyists in the city for dinner, Hank, could you run Remy through a few sims in the danger room?"
"Of course," said Beast. "Nothing too rough, just to get her acclimated." Jean nodded.
"I think she's had some combat experience, and I don't believe there will be any conflict on this mission. She simply has to find the children and call us in."
"I shall go get her started," said Beast, and left the lab.
"And I must dress for dinner," said Kurt.
"See you in a few minutes," said Jean. "I just have to do a quick check on some calculations for Beast." As Kurt left Jean couldn't shake the two, intertwined feelings that there was much more to the pretty young Cajun than she was letting on, and that Logan was up to something to flush her into the open. His emotional responses to Remy, however, were inconsistent with his attitude. Jean knew he must find her at least slightly attractive-Remy had a winning manner, a lovely oval face and that shining red hair, a darker, more coppery shade than Jean's. She sighed as she finished double-checking Beast's calculations. When Logan got in a mood like this it was best to just let him ride it out, and hope no one got bones broken and nothing was set on fire. She would deal with the aftermath when she returned from the city.
"This holographic suite can be anything you wish," said Beast from the loudspeaker over Remy's head.
"Y'mean like a beach in Tahiti?" said Remy. Beast chuckled.
"I have never programmed that scenario before, but it is technically possible. I think I'll let you take on the Basic Cityscape with Obstacles first, does that sound alright?"
"Whatever you say, mon ami," called Remy. She rubbed her hands together in preparation.
"Alright," said Beast. "And in 3...2..1..." The blank gray walls disappeared and were replaced with a blank, gray cityscape.
"Level One," said a disembodied female voice. "Challenge beginning." Remy heard a whir from behind her and was almost cooked by a low-powered laser blast from the robot sneaking up. She dodged it's next beams with a neat front flip, then flung a card, a diamond, dead center at the robot's head. It sparked and shut down. Three more materialized from an abandoned tenement house. Remy used a light pole as her starting point and proceeded to do a dazzling acrobatic display across ledges and rooftops, confusing the robots so much they fired on each other. "Challenge complete," said the room. Remy hopped from a two-story building back to the ground.
"Was dat all you got?" she called teasingly to the control room. Inside, Beast began to program in level two.
"Very impressive," he said into the speaker.
"Yeah," said a voice from behind him. Beast twisted to see Logan.
"She does have acrobatic grace, doesn't she?" Logan, who was chomping on an unlit cheroot, shifted it to one side of his mouth and frowned.
"It ain't a God-given ability, Hank. You gotta be trained to pull moves like that." Beast shrugged.
"Perhaps she was."
"My point exactly," said Logan. "I think one of those petri dishes you were foolin' with this morning in the lab is ready." Beast rose.
"Thank you for telling me, do you mind..." Logan grinned.
"Not at all." Beast nodded his thanks and hurried back towards the med lab. Logan took his cigar out of his mouth and locked the door after him. "Gotta work on that gullibility, Hank," he said softly.
"Hey, Beast, we doin' another round or what?" Remy called from below. Logan went over to the console and set the danger room to run automatically, a two-person vs. simulation, level six. The highest, one even Logan didn't routinely train at. He stepped into the elevator.
"Oh yeah, sweetheart. Another round is comin' right up."
Remy blinked as the danger room suddenly went dark, and then the lights came back on to reveal a ravaged future landscape, ruined buildings, torn-up streets, and a blood-red sky. "Now dis is more like it," she said with a grin. Suddenly a door to what appeared to be a concrete shack, but was actually an elevator, slid open and Logan stood framed in the light.
"I know there's somethin' strange about you, Cajun," he said as he stepped out and unsheathed his claws. Remy raised an eyebrow.
"An' just what does dat have t'do with the sim?"
"Two-person versus mode, level six," said the room. "Challenge beginning." Logan grinned.
"Just provin' it to the rest of the team." Remy's eyes narrowed to slits of demonic red and black.
"You got some sorta problem wit' me, mon ami?" she said, putting a sarcastic edge on the words.
"Me personally? No," said Logan. "But if you're here to hurt Jean, the professor or any of the others..." he snicked his claws together, causing a few blue sparks to appear. Remy realized the only way she could allay his suspicions was to make it through this challenge alive. A card appeared in her hand, glowing bright. She heard the danger room's defenses whir to life as they prepared to do battle against both mutants.
"You ready, Cajun?" said Logan with a taunting grin. Remy smiled back at him, only this time there was pure danger behind it.
"Bring it on, fuzzy."
The air was filled with laserblasts, powered at a level where they could actually hurt someone, the ground suddenly became unstable under Remy's feet and Logan leapt at her with a primal roar. Remy tossed her ready card at one of the automated guns, putting it out of commission for the moment, backflipped away from the unstable pavement, and caught Logan as he came for her, using his own force to send him flying into a wall. Instantly he was back up and coming at her again. Again Remy avoided him and knocked his feet away, sending him flat. They both jumped out of the way of a laserblast that cooked the ground, then Logan caught her ankle from where he lay and sent her sprawling, jumping on top with his claws poised. Remy heard a whoosh and saw a heavy, swinging steel ball coming for them both. She rolled away, she and Logan making a tangle of arms and legs, and the ball crashed into one of the holographic buildings. She felt Logan's breathing through his flannel shirt and her t-shirt and body armor, and realized, he's enjoying this. "So am I," said Remy aloud, grinning up at Logan and then shoving him off her with a well-placed kick to the midriff. She took out another automated gun, and Logan stabbed his claws into the working of the last. Adrenaline was coursing through Remy, and also the slight, panicky feeling of being not quite sure whether Logan would actually hurt her or not. She looked for him...he was gone. Remy cursed and tuned her ears above the hum and whir of the danger room, but it was too late. Logan leapt from behind her and took her down, lifting his arm to drive his claws into her back. There was a tremendous rumble, and a robot that could be the very large cousin to the ones in the first level appeared from the shadows, heading straight for the pair. Logan rolled them both out of the way, coming to a stop with Remy on her back and him above her, claws still poised. The robot changed direction, heading for them again. Logan was not about to let her escape.
"Off!" he shouted. "End sim!"
"Challenge canceled," said the room in its mellifluous voice. The ravaged city disappeared and the plain walls returned. Remy and Logan where both sweating and gasping from the exertion. Remy squirmed under him, then glared when he held her tight, letting her know he could have finished her. Their eyes met, and for an instant they both felt the charge.
"I hate you," said Remy.
"I know," said Logan. They were still kissing when Beast finally broke open the door to the control room.
"It doesn't matter whose fault it was, your action was totally irresponsible!" Jean Grey's face was pink with anger as she faced the two, sitting on the rec room couch like a pair of troublesome students. "Whatever came over you, Logan, I certainly hope it was worth it!" Logan looked sideways at Remy, caught her eye, and burst out laughing. Jean was taken aback, Logan laughing out loud was as rare as an act of God. Logan got a hold of himself and composed his face back into it's normal lines.
"We should just be thankful no one was injured," said Kurt, still in his dinner jacket and thin tie.
"Indeed," said Beast. He gave Logan an injured look. "And I don't believe you had to resort to trickery to carry out your little scheme." Logan shrugged.
"Sorry doesn't even begin to explain your actions," said Jean sharply.
"May I say somet'ing?" said Remy. "I...I asked Logan to turn up de danger room. I wanted a challenge, and he offered t'spar wit' me a little." Jean looked at her.
"Is that true?"
"Oui, completely," said Remy. She didn't know if her innocent look fooled Jean, but the red-haired woman simply shrugged.
"Neither of you ever do anything like that again without permission, or at least supervision," she said severely.
"Message received, commander," said Logan quickly. "We'll be more careful." Jean rubbed between her eyes.
"See that you are. I'm going to bed." She left the room. Kurt looked at Logan and Remy, at their body language, which had shifted since he had gone to dinner. He suppressed a smile. Jean was a good leader, but sometimes she couldn't see what was right in front of her.
"Goodnight, mein friends," he said, taking off his jacket and walking towards the dormitories.
"G'night, Kurt," Remy called in her velvety voice. Kurt smiled to himself again. Logan had indeed been lucky to meet her.
Remy sighed and leaned her head back. "Didn' know Jean could get so angry." Logan chuckled, his normal closed-mouth sound.
"Yeah, you know what they say about redheads." Remy smiled impishly and touched her own hair. "I still don't trust ya," said Logan with his former fierce look. Remy gave an accepting shrug.
"Your room or mine, chere?" Logan grinned and pulled her up.
"Anything you want, sweetheart."
Randall Nice of Genosha was enjoying a brandy in the back of his rented limousine when the driver slammed on the brakes and cursed. "What is it now?" wheezed Randall, who was a muscular, polished man except for his chronic asthma, which made his voice high and wheezy and sound slightly ridiculous coming from the handsome slaver. The driver leaned on the horn.
"Move, lady!" Randall pressed a button and the partition slid down to reveal a woman dressed completely in white hovering a few feet in front of the car. Randall was just about to give the order to run her down when there was a pop and a blue man appeared on the seat next to Randall.
"Guten aben, Herr Nice," he said, grinning to reveal pointed canines. Randall took one look at Nightcrawler and fainted dead away.
Nightcrawler teleported both himself and the slave trader back to where the rest X-men were waiting, and soon Logan returned carrying the unconscious body of the driver. "Good thing this guy is fat," he muttered as he stripped off the man's jacket, shirt and cap and donned them, with some slight ripping noises, over his thermal pullover and jeans. He looked to where Jean was giving Remy a last briefing. "Ready, sweetheart?" Remy grinned and came over to him and Kurt.
"How do I look, chere?" The two men looked over her conservative black business suit, borrowed from Jean, which failed to hide her excellent legs, and sensible black pumps.
"You look like you would buy and sell children for profit," said Kurt.
"T'anks, mon ami," said Remy. "I t'ink." Jean handed Remy a small communicator, which she tucked into her breast pocket.
"Remember, just get us a location, don't try to be a hero." Don' have to worry none about that, thought Remy. Heroics lead to being dead, that much was just common sense.
"Oui," she said aloud. "I be in and out." Just like workin' for de Guild.
"A minor point at this late date," said Kurt, "but won't her accent cause suspicion?"
"I don't see why it should, Mr. Wagner," said Remy in a perfectly audible and enunciated upper class British accent. Both men's eyebrows raised. Remy grinned. "Don' get used to it, meis amis." Storm came floating down in a light swirl of wind.
"The time for the meeting is approaching, Jean. We must go." Jean nodded.
"Remy, a code name in case of monitoring?" Remy smiled.
"Yeah, I been t'inkin' about dat...dis whole mission is a crazy gamble, but Remy like dat. Gambit." Jean inclined her head.
"Very appropriate. Communicator frequencies on four, everyone. Wolverine, Gambit..." she looked the younger woman in the eye. "Good luck."
It was late at night, and Drake had been sitting quietly in his car for hours, with patience he only acquired when closing in on a kill. No cars had come or left the mansion. There had been no sign of his wife. But she was there. Drake was simply waiting for the last light in the mansion to go out, the last light Remy LeBeau would ever see. Finally, around midnight, the mansion became completely dark, and Drake slipped from his car and over the wall. Keeping to the pruned trees, he snuck up on the back of the mansion. The ground floor windows were wired, so Drake used a drainpipe, a ledge and some ingenuity to climb to the second floor, which was free of any anti-burglary devices. Drake used a small glasscutter to open a random window-it didn't matter if someone was asleep in the room or not. Drake was the quietest assassin east of the Mississippi.
He slipped in, heard quiet breathing coming from the single bed and made for the door. According to his sources this place was a boarding school, he had no clue why Remy had ended up here.
Drake, however, did not bargain on the untidy habits of teenage boys. As he was within an inch of the door, and his goal, his foot came down on a rollerblade, flying out from under him and sending the best assassin in New Orleans to the floor with a resounding thud. The form in the bed jumped to a sitting position. "Who's there?!" Drake drew one of his throwing knives to silence the speaker, when a frigid blast hit him, and the next thing he knew his arm was encased in sparkling virgin ice. Bobby turned on his bedside lamp and took in Drake's sprawled form. "Whoa," he said. His door burst open, and Drake was confronted with another shock when an enormous, blue, hairy man appeared.
"Bobby, we registered..." he looked down at Drake. "An intruder. Good work." Bobby got out of bed.
"Is he Brotherhood?" he asked almost excitedly. Beast came around and squinted myopically at the Frenchman's face.
"I don't believe so, although he does look vaguely familiar." Drake snapped out of his shock, scrambled to his feet and made a run for the door, only to slam into a man in a wheelchair and pajamas. He fell over once again, and Bobby froze his feet to the floor. Drake send his worst glare at the three.
"Who are you, sir?" said the crippled man in a cultivated accent.
"I will tell you nothing," said Drake. The man touched his temple.
"His name is Drake Bordreaux. He's..." he looked at Beast and Bobby. "He's here for Remy."
A guard stopped Gambit and Wolverine at the chain-link fence of an old warehouse that fronted on the East River. "ID's." Wolverine handed over the driver's, keeping his face shaded with the cap. The guard checked it briefly and then walked back to the passenger window and knocked on it. It rolled down, and the guard took in the lovely young woman with pale creamy skin and deep red hair, in dark sunglasses even at the late hour. "I need your ID, ma'am." The woman gave him a derisive smile.
"I suppose all your other customers carry three forms of identification and their birth certificates, eh?" The guard opened his mouth to say something. "You are making us late," said the woman sharply. The guard stepped back.
"Go on in," he waved them by.
"Nice work," said Wolverine, looking at Gambit in the rearview mirror. "But it's freaky hearing that accent." Gambit looked out the tinted windows at the tall warehouse, which was being blanketed by a light fall of snow.
"Not much longer, chere."
When they pulled up in front of the entrance, Wolverine very properly opened the door for Gambit, and she stepped out, scanning her surroundings. It was dark, too dark for her to like. Too many places agents of the slave ring might hide. Wolverine got back in the car, he couldn't risk being recognized by a local thug. He would radio their location to Jean and the others. Remy was on her own. Dis is de big one, femme, said her inner voice. You screw dis up, you lose Logan and you back where you started. Gambit was not going to let that happen, not if she could help it. She fingered her breast pocket casually as she started for the door, hear the reassuring squeak of the communicator's feedback. She knocked.
"Enter," said a voice from within. It was a powerful voice, one that didn't sound like it should be tangled with. Remy took in a breath, let it out, opened the door.
"Rebecca Nice, of Genosha," she said in the Brit voice, willing it not to waver. The warehouse was huge and brightly lit. The compartments for storage containers had been converted into five-tier cells, almost all of them holding children and young teenagers in various degrees of starvation, filth, and mutation. Remy's resolve hardened at the sight. Dere, but for de grace of Jeanne Louise LeBeau, goes me, she thought as she met the eyes of one teenage girl in a lower cell.
"Really," said the speaker, drawing Remy's attention back to her mission. "I was led to believe you were male." He was a man, in a dark burgundy suit, with his back to her. His skin was preternaturally white, and his hair was short-cropped and black but when he turned...Remy was hard pressed not to gasp. Red eyes, a red diamond shape in the center of his forehead, and slightly pointed teeth leered at her. "What's the matter, Ms. Nice?" he mocked her. "Do I offend your Genoshan sensibilities?"
"You...you're a mutant," Remy breathed. The man nodded.
"Yes, you're quite observant for the type of person I deal with. Now, I believe you had requested fifty children to start with, between the ages of eight and twelve...unfortunately I was unable to accommodate that number at this time, but I can offer you thirty children and two thirteen year olds that show great promise. I'm reluctant to let them go." He talked about the children as if they were racehorses. Remy felt disgust welling in her.
"That sounds fine," she said, keeping her cool perfectly. "May I see the...merchandise?" The man nodded obligingly.
"Of course, may I first offer you an aperitif? It's unusual to meet a cultured young woman in this line of work." Remy accepted the claret he handed her.
"Aren't you a bit of a hypocrite, Mr...?"
"My name is unimportant," said the man quickly.
"I mean, selling your own...kind," said Remy.
"This is a means to an end," said the man, waving his glass at the cells. "Profitable but not stimulating. I am acquiring capital for another venture." Remy sipped her drink.
"I thought a man of your...culture didn't fit into this sort of business. This squalid warehouse, on that dirty river, it's not you."
"Indeed," said the man coolly.
"And in this neighborhood!" said Remy. "I tell you, my driver and myself feared for our lives. Who knows what sort of mutant scum drift around here?" What's taking dem so long...
"You know, I am finding you somewhat of a hypocrite also," said the man suddenly.
"Say what?" said Remy. In two swift strides the man came over and snatched her sunglasses from her face.
"Do you really think I would such a fool as to not know the name and sex of my contact? Did you really think I would not monitor any radio transmissions in the immediate area?" He lifted her up by the lapels of her suit, and quickly moved her into a chokehold as Wolverine slashed down the door. He stopped dead at the sight of the man.
"We meet again, Wolverine," said Sinister coolly. "And it appears, once again, I have one of your friends at my mercy." Wolverine brandished his claws.
"You let her go, maybe I don't turn you into sushi." Nightcrawler teleported into the room next to Logan, and Storm and Jean hovered through the doorway.
"You are a source of endless amusement, X-men," said Sinister. "But in this case I have the upper," his hold on Remy's throat tightened to the breaking point, "hand."
"He right, chere," said Remy. "Don' you worry about me. I handle it." She met Logan's eyes.
"Right," he said, backing down. Kurt and Storm had enough sense not to say anything, Jean sensed the track Remy's thoughts were taking. "You win this time, Sinister. But this ain't over."
"Well now, that was surprisingly easy," said Sinister in an almost cheerful tone.
Logan backed towards the door, then, fast as lightning, scooped up a piece of rotten wood lying on the floor and threw it at Remy. She caught it, charged it, and slammed the glowing fragment into Sinister's face. It exploded as she broke free, Sinister giving out an anguished howl. "An' I hope dat was surprisingly painful, mon ami," she said as Wolverine found her deck of cards in one of his pockets and tossed it to her. Sinister raked a hand across his eyes and struck out blindly. Jean lifted him in a force field and slammed him once, twice, three times into opposite walls of the warehouse.
"I am not a violent man," said Nightcrawler as he bounded up one wall and over the ceiling to unlock the highest cages, "but you deserve whatever pain is visited upon you." Sinister was already rising, rushing Gambit and Jean. Logan leapt on him and tackled him to the floor, thrusting his claws deep through Sinister's shoulder into the floor. Sinister spat a curse and heaved at Wolverine, who refused to budge. Jean waved both of her hands and all the cell doors sprang open.
"Run, children!" shouted Storm, floating overhead. "This way!" She led them out, keeping herself between them and the fight. Sinister booted Wolverine off him, sending the shorter man crashing into one of the walls, and rose, his snowy skin slowly regenerating, but the kinetic burns not healing. His red eyes were watering, but glowing bright with rage.
"Everyone retreat!" shouted Jean. "All the children are out!" She flew out the door.
"You will not escape me!" thundered Sinister, pointing at Gambit. Slowly the holes through his shoulder closed again.
"Mon ami, save de comic book dialogue for someone who cares," said Gambit as she took Kurt's proffered hand and teleported away.
All was not well in the mansion. "She's a what?" demanded Logan, smacking his fist into the ready-room table.
"According to Mr. Bordreaux, the heir-apparent to the New Orleans Assassin's Guild and Gambit's ex-husband-"
"Her what?" Another smack.
"Renee LeBeau, also known as Remy, is the only daughter and best thief of Jeanne Louise LeBeau of the Thieves Guild." Beast pushed his glasses up his nose with a worried gesture.
"I can't believe Remy's a crook," said Bobby, who was still in his pajamas.
"You shut up, kid," said Logan in a dangerous voice.
"I knew Remy was hiding something," said Jean slowly. "I had no idea it was a secret of this magnitude."
"Mr. Bordreaux seemed quiet eager to tell all," said Beast. "You may talk to him if you like."
"No thanks, I heard enough," said Logan. "I can't believe she was just a lyin' thief, all this time..." his voice trailed off as Remy appeared in the door, back in her usual dark outfit. She looked at Logan and instantly guessed what had happened.
"Well. I guess you-all know now." Jean stepped forward.
"Why did you hide this from us, Remy?"
"Why d'you think, Jeannie?" growled Logan, taking a more menacing step in Remy's direction. "What more could a thief brag about than ripping off the X-men?"
"Dat's all you t'ink of me, chere?" said Remy quietly.
"Don't start that 'chere' crap with me, LeBeau," he snapped. His eyes were hard. "You're a first. No one else has lied to me and lived to tell about it."
"Logan..." started Jean. Beast put a hand on her arm to quiet her.
"I don't ever," said Logan slowly and succinctly, "want to see your treacherous face around here again. If I do..." he unsheathed the claws on one hand. Remy's eyes filled with hurt, Jean felt a wave of pain come out of her mind.
"Logan, I didn't lie t'you," she said almost pleadingly. "You never asked about my past. I t'ought you cared about me."
"Well, sweetheart, you were wrong," said Logan. "Now get out." Jean saw the tears pool in the younger girl's eyes, but Remy fought them down.
"Logan, that was completely uncalled for," said Jean sharply. Logan merely gave her his most intense glare.
"No, mon ami. It's alright," said Remy with dignity. "Gambit don' need nobody but herself. An' it's obvious the X-men don' need her." She took a few steps and turned. "But you, Logan, you de most stupid, blind man I've ever met. Can't even tell the difference between a liar and a girl who loves you." Remy was startled the words had burst from her mouth so easily, after she'd vowed never to speak them again. "You hear dat, you fool? I love you!" She spun on her heel and ran away from the group, away from the hate and distaste she knew was hidden just under their calm facades.
"Nuts," said Logan, claws sliding back in.
"Man, I think you really hurt her feelings," said Bobby. Jean was glaring at Logan, not an 'oh Logan, what am I going to do with you?' glare but a 'I am truly angry' glare.
"What?!" he demanded. "I was right! Someone like her lies as soon as breaths! You know that!"
"She was right," said Jean icily. "You are blind." She also stormed from the room.
"In this case, I am inclined to agree with Jean," said Hank, in a cooler tone than was normal for him.
"You are really a jerk, Logan," said Bobby as he and Beast left.
"Nuts," said Logan again, sinking into a chair. He sat with his head buried in his hands until he heard a whir from behind him. "Go away, professor. I don't wanna talk to you."
"I must disagree," said Xavier. "This has been a most traumatic evening for you."
"We find out Sinister's alive, and the girl of my dreams turns out to be a crook," snapped Logan. "How would you feel?" He clenched his jaw when he realized he had spoken of Remy fondly.
"I remember an item I heard from the police commissioner about a month ago," said Xavier in his soothing tone. "The heir of the Thieves Guild had jilted her husband and headed north, apparently seeking to escape her family ties. Criminal agents all along the eastern seaboard had been looking for her, causing quite a nuisance." Logan lifted his head and looked at Xavier.
"You mean she was goin' straight?"
"And trying to bury her past," agreed Xavier. Logan blew out a defeated breath.
"I thought she used me, Chuck. It just seemed like the most obvious conclusion." Xavier looked up as wind whistled overhead.
"A downright blizzard seems to be brewing," he remarked. Logan jumped to his feet suddenly.
"I gotta go find her. I gotta make this right."
"You care about her," stated Xavier. Logan paused in the doorway.
"Yeah, professor. I do. A lot." Xavier nodded.
"Then go, Logan. Before it's too late."
"She went to the bus," said Bobby when Logan pounded on his door. "She had all her stuff and she said she was getting out of here and going someplace where 'people like her' could stay and not be chased out." Logan looked out the window at the snow, driven by the howling wind.
"It's miles to the bus stop! She's from Louisiana! She'll freeze!"
"Then you'd better hurry, hadn't you?" said Bobby, crossing his arms.
"Thanks, kid," said Logan, running for the front door.
The wind whipped Remy's hair, tucked back under a black band, and drove snow into her eyes so she could barely keep them open. She had never experienced a storm so furious, even the hurricanes that periodically pounded the Gulf coast weren't this bad. She only knew she was still walking the edge of Greymalkin Lane because of the white picket fence that ran the length, and that was being rapidly buried in the drifts. No way de bus runs in dis weather, said her logical side.
Den we walk, she replied. Anyt'ing to get away from here. Tears forced their way out against the wind and Remy's best efforts to stop them. She had vowed never to fall for anyone, ever again, but here she was, and here were the consequences. I can never have a normal life, a normal love, she thought. It gonna be like this wit' whoever I meet. But Logan...he was different, honest. Caring, in his own perverse way. He wasn't sentimental, and she doubted the word 'romantic' was even in his vocabulary, but he was willing to lay down his life for her, accept her no matter what she looked like or what unnatural abilities she possessed. Deep down she knew she'd never find someone else like him. She stumbled over a stone hidden under a drift and fell to her knees, feeling the incredible cold bite into her through her wool coat. "Dammit!" Remy swore aloud, for the fall and for the general state of things. "Goddammit!" She collapsed in the snow, partly from fatigue and partly because sobs were shaking her. The wetness soaked into her clothes, and Remy felt a gradual sense of peace come over her as the tears let themselves out. She was drifting... Over the screaming wind she barely heard the voice.
"Remy!" She raised her head, one cheek bright red from the snow. "Remy!" the voice bellowed again. A form appeared in the swirling flakes, stocky, with hair flying in wild directions from the wind.
"Chere?" said Remy weakly. She became aware that she was numb in her hands and most of her legs, and that she had been getting very sleepy. Strong arms were lifting her, a warm body pressed against hers.
"Remy!" Logan held her with all the strength he possessed. "Remy. Thank god."
"She'll make a complete recovery," said Hank. "She suffered only mild hypothermia, and a slight case of frostbite."
"Is she awake?" said Logan anxiously. He had not slept since he carried Remy back to the mansion. That had been last night, and now the blizzard had turned to a light sprinkle, blanketing the countryside in white powder.
"She is, Jean just brought her some breakfast," said Beast. Logan almost bowled him over rushing into Remy's room. She smiled at him from her bed.
"Mornin', chere. You look happy, for once." Logan wrapped his arms around her, after first checking to make sure Hank and Jean weren't watching.
"I...I ain't much good at apologies, or sentiments, sweetheart, but...can you forgive me?" Remy pulled back from him.
"I already did, chere. Question is, can you live with me, knowin' what you know?" Logan looked down.
"I never met anyone like you," he said gruffly. "By all rights I should hate your guts, Cajun, but..." He smiled down at her. "I can live with ya." Remy hugged him tight and leaned her head against his chest.
"Den I guess we stay in de game for another hand, chere." Logan ran one callused hand over her hair, awkward in the gesture, but Remy didn't seem to care.
"Yeah. One more hand."
**Hey! GambitGirl here letting y'all know this will be my last story until after the new year...aww, don't cry! Coming in 2001: A possible third part to this story if people ask for it, and 'Next X #2: X Plus One', the second book in my next-generation X-men comic series PLUS Chapter 2 of 'Center of Shadows', my (serialized) second novel over in the 'Star Wars' section! Thanks to everyone who gave me raves on 'The Way It's Delt' and my first Next X comic, special shouts to Addie Logan, Bandit, Trinity Day (for 'Price of a Jedi' and 'Center of Shadows: Chapter 1') The Bud, Meg the fierce lady and Jaded Red-I don't really know you guys, but thanks for your helpful and kind reviews! Happy Holidays!**