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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


Written by Flitz
Last updated: 08/24/2008 12:48:30 PM

Chapter 9

Jean leaned against the elevator wall peeling off her lab coat as it ascended, she’d had to stay behind for one of her students that was taking an exam, and was consequently running a few minutes late. While the students ate in the dining hall, the senior staff had a small room adjoining that exuded a feeling of family that they’d had in the beginning years of the Institute. There were far too many students to continue that type of environment, but the staff tried to hold on to the tradition.

Striding briskly through the halls Jean slowed as she entered the small dining room pulling up her chair returning smiles apologetically to Scott and Professor Xavier already seated. The table dropped in a teal tablecloth was for six, but most of the chairs were empty. Xavier as always sat at the head of the table, Scott just beside on his right, graciously pouring her a glass of tea as she settled in.

The plates were passed around as Cyclops spoke, “If either of you see Wolverine before I do ask him to come to my office he took one of the motorcycles without signing it out again,” groused Scott.

“Wolverine couldn’t have taken it out,” commented Jean picking up her fork, “He took some of the younger students on a survivalist expedition, no vehicles allowed.”

“That isn’t on the schedule,” frowned Cyclops having a meticulous memory for detail he was often stuck devising class schedules and trips.

“I know,” Jean smiled gently after swallowing a bite of salad, “but that trip has been postponed so many times, when the kids got around to asking him again he couldn’t say no.”

“So if Logan didn’t take it out, who did?” questioned Cyclops setting down his glass abruptly. The trio exchanged glances and a single thought passed through the group not requiring any assistance from the two telepaths present.

Xavier threw down his napkin more in exasperation than in anger, his first days as a guardian did not appear to be going well. He put a hand to his temple, “That child’s proving more difficult to keep track of than Wolverine,” the professor lamented tiredly.

“Jubilee was the last person you asked to speak with him. Perhaps he told her something, I’ll call her in,” Jean offered closing her eyes sending out her request.

“Ask Storm as well,” Xavier said stiffly, the wind rider presently overseeing the students in the dining hall. Jean gave a small nod of acknowledgement and a few moments later the contrasting pair entered the room, a petite Japanese girl with short dark hair, and a tall African woman with a lengthy mane of silver-white hair.

“You called professor?” spoke Ororo in a rich voice, speaking for herself and Jubilee.

“Yes, Jubilee,” said Xavier focusing his attention on the youth, “I wanted to inquire how your conversation with Remy went,” asked Xavier.

“Oh,” replied Jubilee stretching out the word, ensured that she herself wasn’t in trouble, “Yeah well actually I never got that done,” she shrugged. “He wasn’t in his room when I checked so I figured I’d let it go. Besides Kitty and Bobby pretty much bombed it anyway…”

Cyclops broke in, “That’s enough Jubilee, thank you.”

“Sure,” she replied with a wave jolting back out to join her peers.

“Storm,” began Xavier as he gestured for her to take a seat, “It is your responsibility to watch over the students in the dining hall this evening, would you care to explain why you didn’t inform anyone that Remy was missing?”

“He’s missing?” asked Ororo with surprise that did not sound entirely genuine.

“You’re saying you didn’t notice he wasn’t there?” asked Cyclops skeptically.

“There are a great many students as you well know Scott, and dinner has just begun. Furthermore I did not know if he had been summoned by one you or indeed if he decided to have dinner at all,” Ororo defended.

“We should bring him back here Professor,” spoke Scott concern overshadowing his instinctive disgust at the teen’s abrupt departures. “I’ll admit I don’t know Gambit well enough to be able to predict his moves, but he’s also a teenager. I’d bet anything that he went to New York. The city is dangerous,” he continued, “he shouldn’t be out there alone.”

“Haven’t we been discussing how dangerous and capable he is for the last few days?” interrupted Jean, “Shield plans to use him as an agent and he appears to be more than combat ready.”

Scott shook his head in disagreement, “From what Logan said, Guild members generally don’t stray far from home, there’s no reason to suspect that he’s made much travel outside of New Orleans other than for a job. In and out, he wouldn’t have much time to be in contact with much of the populace.”

“Do you believe he could be in danger?” questioned Storm her features pinching. Cyclops gave Storm a short look before continuing,

“As much as we’d like to be, the X-Men can’t be everywhere. Mutant hate groups have actually been increasing their activity, The FOH, Humans First, they’re mostly northern organizations and his eyes would draw them straight to him.”

Xavier sat silently for a few moments debating, “I would like to develop some kind of trust with Remy,” said the professor frustrated, “we are going to have to extend trust before he’ll even attempt to give it. However it will be impossible if we continue to chase after him, though his personal safety is foremost in my mind.”

“What do you intend to do?” questioned Jean quietly. The professor tilted his head as he responded,

“I will search for him telepathically, should he be in any danger I will send the team out.”

“I thought you couldn’t do that,” said Scott.

“Gambit’s shields do not make him invisible, not yet at any rate, only very difficult to track. I had assumed with the scant familiarity I had with Gambit that I would be able to find him. But his shields make that impossible, instead of looking for his thoughts, I will have to search until I register a blank spot if you will,” said the professor groping for terms.

Jean recognized what the professor was explaining and attempted a translation, “It’s like swinging a board in the dark knowing something’s there only because you’ve smacked into it.” Jean looked at the dismayed expressions of her fellow X-Men around the table, “It shouldn’t hurt, I think,” she answered their unspoken question.

Hidden by deft shadows of an alleyway the young Cajun melded through the evening light, invisible to the passerby. Should the onlooker’s eyes been able to pierce the gloom they would have noticed something off, not quite right about the figure. Tall and handsome clothed in a short leather jacket, he didn’t have the greasy unkempt look of local gangs. But bangs feathered in his eyes coupled with the careless hint of danger shrouding the teen told he wasn’t the typical adolescent either. If the observer stayed just a moment longer they might pin down what was jarring at the back of their brain. Not that the red headed teen was walking down twisting alleys during the midst of rush hour, but that he made absolutely no sound. Eerily silent, never wholly in darkness nor the light the lanky teen’s smooth steps landed noiselessly in the litter strewn alley.

Remy LeBeau paused momentarily scanning his surrounding behind a pair of dark wrap around designer shades he had liberated from one of the many boutiques that could be found in a city like New York. Pick-pocketing and petty theft a childhood practice he hadn’t forsaken despite his inclusion into the world of hi-tech theft. He confirmed the absence of spectators with his kinesthetic sense before opening the entranceway to an establishment he knew to be owned, operated, and exclusively frequented by the New York Thieves Guild.

The gruff man standing at the door made no move to halt him as he slipped inside. Gambit didn’t know the man, but there was something about Guild thieves that transcended physical appearance. They made a livelihood from laughing at the law, those who spent their time cracking safes, codes, and security systems had a certain quality that was undeniable. An almost electric force about them, no greater than in the rush of a pinch.

Guild business was fairly lucrative and the quiet decadence of the place showed it. Though the area wasn’t overly large, it used the space leisurely in a city where apartments were measured in inches. Lit in the light shadow that their careers served, a small unaffected bar stood against the left wall, the wood gleaming, a few scattered stools beside. The clacking of a pool cue called his attention to the few tables busy with activity, men circling for a better view. Low tables were dispersed irregularly, enough room was left for a dance floor though it was under populated in the early hours. Smoke swirled unconcerned throughout the posh space though heavier from one of the connecting rooms. The jangling of chips and good-natured laughter trickled out proving it to be the card room, gambling being a favored pastime of thieves. Their entire lives were based on chance, a gamble every job risking life, limb, freedom and reputation.

Terseness the young thief didn’t recall carrying oozed away as he breathed in the familiar atmosphere. Making it to the city undetected had relaxed him somewhat, but being in the presence of his fellow thieves was soothing. He didn’t necessarily need to speak with anyone, but here he wouldn’t be singled out or hounded for being a thief because they all were.

Realizing he had stopped just short of the entranceway Remy padded his way to the bar several people’s gazes darting upwards at his arrival. Dismissing him as a danger the chatter in the room quickly picked up its former pace and volume, if not louder than before. Remy eased himself onto a chair as a gray haired bartender approached unhurriedly.

“Bourbon, s’il vous plaît,” Gambit called as the man drew near. Obviously a former thief enjoying his retirement the man completed his task slowly paying no heed to the fact that he was obviously underage.

Gambit inhaled the scent briefly before downing the liquid burning a path down his throat. After busting into an unsecured liquor cabinet years earlier bourbon had become a favored drink. His father disliked that his son had picked up the habit so young, but he wasn’t exactly available to admonish his young son. The mutant thief believed that thought deserved another drink, and he signaled the bartender accepting his second glass pressing further into his chair. A few moments passed before the faint buzz he was used to started up and he was worriless for a short while.

Behind the shades red pupils dilated sharply making the lights seem brighter the wide mirror behind the bar collected the light unbearingly. The red tressed teen swiveled his chair away from it, placing his forehead in his hand trying not to draw anyone’s interest. He couldn’t remember bourbon ever hitting him so quickly before, it felt like a truck had slammed into his head. He raised his head blinking abruptly as a dark-haired man in gray slacks strode quickly out the door darting eye-contact with the New Orleans youth.

Gambit paused briefly more to ease the aching of his head than a desire to be inconspicuous. He knew the man that had departed so swiftly, Raymond Elloris. A thief based in New York Remy would have never met Ray if he hadn’t inadvertently shown him up on a job. Elloris had arrived back at his Guild with a dummy disk that Remy had planted over a week before Elloris’s planned break into the software designer’s lab. The resulting situation left Ray in embarrassment and gained Gambit another unfriendly face. Curious enough to follow, the teen placed a few large bills on the counter and strolled out sedately. Chasing after Elloris in a town not his own wasn’t a textbook decision, and one hand never strayed far from the teen’s jacket pocket where his cards had been relocated.

Remy glimpsed Ray briefly as he turned the corner and lengthened his stride to close the distance, joining with the hurried crowd. The next corner he turned was a menagerie of color, but barren of the visage he sought. Wishing now he had forgone the drinks, the red eyed teen gave up on the direct approach and ducked back into a convenient alley barring the images threatening to repaint the scene, expediently pulling himself up a fire escape. Buildings stifling close Remy was able to leap from one to another with ease landing in the easy crouch he had learned long ago. Making a quick estimation on the man’s next move Gambit made a wide circle, dropping down his flight.

The lithe teen waited contemptuously on the edge of a street corner arms folded casually as he waited for Elloris to appear. Moments later the man nearly knocked him over and Remy shot out an arm to anchor them both. A narrow smirk and a raised eyebrow met the figure, “Ray, what do I owe de honor?” he asked sarcastically.

Raymond straightened smoky green eyes catching their reflection on a set of shades, “I was sent to help you, but if you’d rather I leave?” he returned in a biting tone.

“Really, now why don’ Gambit believe y’?” the teen asked with a devilish grin.

“Look LeBeau, I have no problem with leaving you high and dry, but I was sent by your Tante Mattie. You want to hear what she has to say or not?” the man challenged black hair excessively gelled, apparently willing to walk away without delivering his message.

“An’ what assurances do I have dat de info comes from Mattie?” Remy questioned lifting his brows.

“You don’t but you know I’d never contact you unless I had to Gambit. All your friends seem to be in lockdown, any jobs they had in NYC were either cancelled or transferred to a less conflicted thief,” replied the dark haired man

“Contact m’,” the younger thief said incredulously, “I had t’ chase y’ down. If y’ wanted t’ talk why’d y’ leave de bar?”

“I don’t know if you noticed Gambit, but the crowd there wasn’t exactly friendly. I knew if I left you’d follow, your curiosity gets you every time. Follow,” the elder thief beckoned, “I know a place with a slightly more appropriate audience.” Gambit grabbed the man by the elbow before he could disappear,

“Before I go anywhere wit y’ I want t’ know why y’d do this, I got why Mattie chose y’, but why did y’ accept?”

Raymond’s eyes narrowed but Remy didn’t loosen his grip, “I was by New Orleans on a job, she asked me for a favor, I couldn’t refuse.” Elloris stated. “Every one seems to owe Mattie a favor, and I owed one of those people.”

Remy nodded grudgingly in understanding Ray stepping back immediately losing himself in the throng once more. Remy didn’t hesitate walking abreast the man this time. Even if a minimalist sense of honor didn’t bind Raymond the man wouldn’t be much of an issue. He was several years older, but Elloris wasn’t a master thief, and probably never would be. Gambit didn’t plan on believing everything he heard from Elloris, but should the situation go south he knew he could take out Raymond even with the headache rattling his skull.

Ray stopped after a few minutes of walking through the rush of bodies and turned into a small restaurant. Not exactly the casual wealth of the bar they’d just left, but it wasn’t beat down either the perfect place for the two thieves to blend. The waitress glanced at the pair as they entered and Pierre held up two fingers as he claimed a booth near the back of the establishment. The company was mixed so neither the leather jacket or Ray’s conservative street clothes drew any extra attention.

In an unconscious decision the two refrained from speaking until the waitress had left their drinks as to not be interrupted, and Remy noted with passing interest the aging blonde had given him a soft drink instead of the beer he’d ordered. “D’accord,” Remy began, “Let’s make dis quick, I want t’ visit de Guild House ‘fore I leave de city tonight.”

“Why didn’t you go directly to the Guild House if you were in town LeBeau?” Raymond questioned. “That is protocol for visiting thieves.” Ray received the impassive look of a professional, but could resist baiting him.

“Ain’t none of y’r business Ell’,” Remy returned breezily.

“Could it be because you’re worried you might not be welcome there?”

“I ain’t done nothin’ wrong t’ de New York Guild,” Gambit lauded.

“Guild Leader’s been murdered, and no one’s been brought to justice. Gives the New Orleans Guild a bad name, and your brother is making sure that any blame falls directly on your shoulders. Henri can only ban you from New Orleans, not Guild society, but he may as well have. You can enter, but that isn’t a guarantee that you’ll make it out,” Ray advised. “I’d stay out of the American Guilds if you can, Europe might be a tad more forgiving though I suppose you’ll be too busy running around for Shield,” Elloris taunted a knowing glint in his eye.

Remy’s gaze was unflinching refusing to be chastised by a lower thief, “Dey probably coulda caught y’ by now Ray, but if dey want sloppy work dey’ll just use one of deir own,” Gambit retorted.

Elloris’s expression closed down farther tightly knit eyebrows emphasizing a too sharp nose. “Let’s get this over with LeBeau.”

“I’ve been waitin’, what’s Tante’s message?”

“Basically that’s she’s on your side. Mattie’s been working on Henri, but he hasn’t budged from his original position. Shield isn’t too likely to terminate your contract any time soon either, so she’s working on the Xavier problem. It’s true that he adopted you?” Raymond asked.

Gambit gave a scant nod staring over Ray’s shoulder as he spoke, making sure no one had wandered into hearing range, “Oui.”

“Since you’re not legally an adult yet,” Raymond began his own smirk covering his face before he grew serious, “ you have to live with Xavier. If you filed for early emancipation, I think it’d end up a stalemate between the judges we bribe and the ones the government can pressure. So Mattie decided to go the long way around it. You staying at Xavier’s hinges on when you turn eighteen. Jean Luc just made up a date for your birthday, it can be changed easily enough, get you out a little sooner.”

“So dats de plan? Do y’ know how many copies of dat t’ing are probably lying around by now, dey’ll know if I switch it,” Remy argued.

“Mattie’s made a lot of friends over the years, I hope you appreciate the kind of trouble she’s going to. She’s got a crew of thieves working on this, not to mention hackers. She’ll take care of the majority of them, even the ones at Shield. The only copy you have to worry about is the one from the mansion you’re staying at.”

The red haired teen warmed to the idea, “An’ bout how long y’ t’ink dis is gonna take?”

“Don’t know, I’m not involved any past this point, just delivering the message, but it’d be less than the year you have now,” Ray commented giving Gambit an appraising stare before getting to his feet.

Remy watched the man leave in high spirits, not particularly liking the man, but enjoying what he had brought, hope. Mattie hadn’t abandoned him as he’d feared, she might not be readily available, but she was looking out for him. The red haired teen threw his arm over the back of the booth the first honest smile he’d had in days blooming. The flash of white teeth garnered the interest of several women in the room and the smile unconsciously grew brighter. He had to realize his former life was officially out of his reach, and he couldn’t afford to grieve for it’s existence any longer. He’d start anew, with or without the sanctioned support of the Guilds, once he dealt with the pesky issues of Shield and Xavier that is.


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