Disclaimer: I don't own the X-men, Shield, the Guilds or any and all related subjects, personas, characters etc. they belong to Marvel. I'm borrowing them with the hope that Marvel isn't petty enough to come after me.
"Professor?" Storm called out rapping lightly on the oaken door of Xavier's office, her head tilted toward the entryway.
"Enter," the professor returned distractedly barely discernable through the soundproofing.
"I apologize if I am disturbing you Professor. However the others were worried as none of us had seen you yet this morning."
"Yes, I suppose you might have noticed my absence as Gambit is out on assignment, not here to occupy your free time," Xavier joked mildly, leaning back in his wheelchair a sheaf of papers under his right palm.
Storm smiled slightly cheeks rising in appreciation before her gentle smile lost its tenure. "You disapprove of my spending extra time with Remy?" she questioned curiously.
"No, of course not Ororo," the Professor assured, "though I do wish you'd been slightly more successful in your attempts to win him over." A wry grin accompanied as he handed over a thick sheaf of material he'd been smoothing his hands over in thought.
The former goddess's bright blue eyes dropped from the Professor's to the thick coupling of papers, immediately seeking out the area Xavier had actually taken the time to highlight. "Professor?" she started, her shock somewhat muted.
"Gambit," the professor said slowly drawing out the name, "appears to have aged a quite a few years in his weeklong absence," referring to his copy of Remy LeBeau's birth certificate which was now attached to Xavier's voided adoption papers.
"It's been forged?" she said quietly her voice not quite a question, setting down the sheets crossing her slender arms across her chest.
"Apparently not," Xavier returned with a small sardonic smile a thumb tracing his own jaw line, "since it was brought to my attention every copy electronic or otherwise that I've accessed reads exactly the same."
"Did you know he was planning this?" asked Xavier steadily. While he was fairly sure in his assumption that whatever assistance Gambit had been rendered to pull off such a feat had not come from within the Institute, he yet wondered if he'd confided in Storm giving her prior knowledge. Storm was generally one of his most trusted students, firm and confident in her decisions. But she had been wavering since Gambit had burst onto the scene, it seemed almost any given day she might have a different view about the young thief's place in the Institute. Indecision from a former weather goddess was a strange occurrence indeed, though Gambit did appear to have a knack for throwing people off their game.
"No," Storm stated calmly a tinge of sadness and subtle frown upon her face, "he did not tell me."
Xavier locked gazes with Ororo both sets of blue eyes vying for dominance, "And if he had?"
Storm shook her head platinum tresses swaying, "I do not know whether I would have told you," she answered honestly.
Professor Xavier grimaced but nodded his assent, "I had much higher hopes for him, but…" he trailed off, his gaze directed toward his newly replaced window a physical reminder of the teen's explosive temper.
"He has his faults, I will not deny you that. But despite what he has shown us, I believe Remy is a good person at heart. He is obviously attempting to withdraw from the Institute, will you attempt to harness him into the Institute once more?"
"Storm," Xavier replied a dark eyebrow curving into forehead, "The last we spoke you were of the mind to help him adjust to living at here at the school. You've since changed your mind?"
Ororo Monroe tilted her head delicately giving a statuesque but graceful blink before speaking in the vibrant voice that was hers to call, "If you were to take a sparrow with a broken wing from the wild, and put it into a cage to heal…it would not. Instead it would dash itself to pieces against the bars."
Xavier leaned back in his chair, hands on the chair arms, "Where was this decorous knowledge when he first arrived?" Xavier asked a smile softening his query.
"I was unsure myself," Storm admitted almost wincing, "I wanted him to stay. I had spoken of him for so long with Jean Luc, I had almost felt him a brother though we had never met. I wanted, very much for this to work out. But it was not to be, my first instinct was right, I should have contradicted it," the wind rider concluded rousing from her introspection.
"You need to get a new contractor," Storm stated, harkening back to Xavier's earlier hint, easing out of the conversation and the office before questions of her own behavior were to spring up. Her eyes trailed to the newly placed slightly more elaborate set of window frames, "he is starting to get greedy."
The professor forced a dry chuckle as Scott sidled into his office barely returning a nod to Ororo as she passed, "Perhaps."
"Why aren't we doing anything about this?" demanded Scott not bothering with a greeting. The first person Xavier had told of his discovery had been Jean with the request that she keep it to herself. Unfortunately he'd forgotten he was dealing with one half of an engaged couple, one which between healthy senses of honesty and the beginnings of a psychic rapport had precious few secrets between them.
"There's nothing more to do Scott," Xavier said tiredly, a sudden melancholy dropping in on him. "Abiding here has not helped Remy in the slightest, I'd almost say he's worse," the professor commented drolly waving a hand in exasperation.
"Worse how?" asked Scott roughly, "at least he's speaking."
"Which he only did after being given permission from his brother, it was through none of our own efforts. And when he does speak he is disrespectful, rude and…" Xavier argued.
"Well wouldn't you be too?" stated Cyclops. "Give him a little leeway professor, being rude doesn't mean he's isn't worth saving, if that were true Wolverine would never be allowed past the front gate. I can see it the potential there professor, can't you?"
"I have given him as much space as humanely possible, much more than I would have for any other student. Especially considering he arrived at this school as a criminal," Xavier stressed. "You know the lengths I have gone to, I even adopted the boy in an attempt to keep him out of jail. But there has been nothing but disruption and chaos since he arrived."
"You're just going to write him off like that," Cyclops scoffed shaking his brown hair back a bit. "You can just adopt Remy and then totally disavow any kinship with him the moment he becomes trouble?"
"I do have a great deal of other students here Scott," stated the Professor a sterner tone entering his voice. "Entrusted to the school's custody by both their parents and the state, I will not do wrong by their trust and endanger their children. And as for the moment," Xavier said his voice winding up further, leaning forward in his wheelchair his fingertips splayed on his desk, "Indeed it has been quite longer than that. I put the betterment of this school, these children and mutant population in general before that of one individual that has always been my way."
"Where's he going to live? Will he be going back to jail?" Cyclops asked gripping a seat arm hanging on to his composure by a tender thread.
"I do not know Scott. I have just spoken with Storm, and I'm sure you'll agree she knows him much better than either of us. She was somewhat surprised, but did not seem overly concerned. I very much doubt Gambit would go to such lengths without having a plan of some sort. And if nothing else, Shield still has authority over him, I don't think they'll let him get into too much trouble."
"Professor…" Cyclops broke in again his stubborn nature not laid to rest.
"I was wrong alright Scott! I was wrong to allow Fury to bring him here in the first place," Xavier continued on in a more subdued voice, "As much as we were all waiting for him to change…he is not you Scott. Some people's lives are destined to lead down certain roads, painful roads. We can only hope that someday he'll realize his mistake and return of his own violation."
"And when do you see that being?" The visored mutant asked weary shoulders slumping. He didn't like the ease at which the others were accepting Gambit's alterations to his past, and that no one seemed to care about the effects it would have on his future. Far too easily they accepted Remy's silent decree to leave.
A puff of a sigh from Xavier, "Ten years short of never. Honestly Scott you cannot expect me to have
all the answers." Professor Xavier made
a swirling motion with his right hand almost as if physically trying to clear
the air between himself and his first student. "It is not my belief that we
should attempt any further interference in Remy's life. We can wish him luck but that is truly the
only thing we can do until he is ready to accept our help."
"You've always taught us to rally against what other's saw as fate, if we believed in something enough. And if we wait…if we leave him to Fury, to Shield, to whatever a seventeen year old mutant orphan thinks is best for himself…what if when he comes back it's already too late?"
"Then it would indeed be a tragedy."
Gambit pulled in great gulps of air as he raced up the steep steps of the Notre Dame. A note embedded in his hotel room door courtesy of a slim dagger had brought him to the basilica cathedral in a section of the city now considered to be old Paris.
But before that, it had been Shield. Recovery of the long sought L'Etoile du Tricherie, a priceless pendant that had been passing through thief families for generations, no one seeming to be able to hold the valued piece for long. He had been sent to regain it for the so-called proper authorities. More undercover work and acting than thieving skills had been involved this time. He thought it a shame such a treasure was to be returned to its original owner, or rather the heirs of the original owners. They never appreciated what they had because they had no conception of the amount of effort that went into attaining it.
The girl whom had current possession was Genevieve Darceneaux, an unknowing fence for her cousin. Golden strands of blonde hair curled at her shoulder, a matching set of sparkling blue eyes and a slender form derived more from heritage than exercise made up the Paris native. The woman, only one or two years his senior had done most of the work for him. Moving past her in a wayside café she called him over to her table happily enough intrigued by an exotic accent, a bewitching smile and a set of eyes that matched both descriptions.
It would have been mere child's play to lift the jewel that she foolishly wore prominently about her person. It would have been, had the thief not seen the liquid shadows that hid in and amongst the crowd tailing her, invisible to those outside of his chosen profession. Whether or not they were members of the Paris Thieves Guild he could not say having only met one or two representatives stateside, but he'd chanced not to try and lift it amongst their presence not wanting to be caught perpetrating a unlicensed theft in their turf.
As such the young mutant had to extend his trip, posing as her love struck beau till he could get closer to her lure it out of her manicured hands in a more private setting. Alone the sleight of hand would go unnoticed by the spying eyes of her entourage. Gambit did not intend to be caught at his trickery, not with the ever-increasing list of threats that Shield had begun to mete out.
Genevieve herself had more than merrily jumped into his arms, eating up the pretty lies he spun easier than a cat with cream. Empty heart, empty kisses, it was almost funny how she didn't seem to notice.
Remy felt towards her no love, but the edged blade between jealousy and scorn. She had a family that was distant to be sure, but one that she never spoke of in anything other than glowing terms. His elder by a year or better she had a sense of stability and safety. Of course how much of it was reality and how much illusion would soon be unearthed.
And then, the note. Job finished the mutant thief had gone back to the room his cover provided with the hopeful thought of netting a few hours sleep in a decent hotel before returning. Stepping out of a lengthy shower a sense of unease drifted with the steam alternatively growing instead of lessening as he approached his own outer door. The tension only expounded as he discovered a blade embedded in his door attaching a note that while simple still had the power to raise gorge in his throat and cause his stomach to turn.
Sabretooth had tracked him down to Paris, with him his brother Henri and Genevieve taking the latter two as hostages. The mutant thief had no way to certify the truth of the statement; his brother shouldn't have been away from the Guild so early in a transition but it was no guarantee. The brief encounter he'd had with the feral mutant had acquainted the youth with his ferocity. Remy couldn't afford to gamble, his brother's life meant something although he could not be pressed to say for why.
Gambit had tore out of the hotel faster than he'd thought possible redonning a pair of pale khaki's he'd slung over the chair. A dark gray cashmere sweater yet musky with the scent of his cologne was disjointedly pulled over his head. Speed was undoubtedly of the essence and his only concession to such haste was to restock his cache of weapons. Cards and small knives found their way into usually unprefered places of concealment as he fought the city streets en route to his destination. The Notre Dame Cathedral or the Amiens Cathedral by the locals.
Remy had wished to approach quietly as his life-long training had dictated, but as the young thief neared, a partial glimpse of Sabretooth atop the roof of the western tower's fascade quickened his steps. Approaching southeast of the great cathedral Gambit hustled across the footbridge of the Seine River scanse noticing his steps. Well past midnight the last service had been completed and though parts of the city yet thribed the tourists had long since abandoned the twelfth century relic. Whatever security had once been in place had been dispatched courtesy of Sabretooth no doubt. The slight worry over the welfare of the missing guards went unheeded as the young mutant raced through the heavy pillar marked hallways and arched moldings.
A fleeting figure seen but barely heard passed under the legendary crossings of the cathedral where the four great halls met. An architectural wonder disputed, disparaged, and exulted by men for generations. Of this the red haired thief saw nothing save the continually shifting patterns of tile as they blurred beneath his feet.
He ricocheted into the turret of stone steps that led up the northern tower nearly three hundred in all narrowing as he ascended the twisting passageway. Auburn hair partially dried by the wind of his hasty flight hung in his face as he faced down a beast from which he thought he'd earned his reprieve.
The undersized rooftop boasted a raised portion in the center and trifling black metal guard rail surrounding leaving precious little room for Sabretooth's bulk let alone his two hostages. Gambit stayed as he was near the entranceway, little maneuvering room and the partial twinge from nearly healed stitches in his leg reminding the thief of how badly he needed that non-existent room.
Golden eyes glinted as only a primal killer's could, but the feral's vicious claws were otherwise occupied holding two figures aloft a white synthetic rope binding their hands together. Henri LeBeau was clothed in the remnants of a black suit, pants dirtied, jacket helplessly tattered, and the white dress shirt torn open at the collar. Henri had obviously not come quietly but he held a deceptive calm, looking steadily at his brother the beginning of a black eye marring his face. Genevieve Darceneaux had not been found abed either when the feral mutant had seen fit to enter her life. A sleeveless turquoise v-neck with simple lace at sleeve edges and shirtfront the matching skirts ruffled flair hem falling a few inches above newly skinned knees comprised her outfit. The normally pleasing lines of her face were distorted, eyes puffy from crying, tears trailed down her flushed face freely.
"Svp! Quelqu'un m'aident! Dieu," she cried fitfully, hitches in her breathing. Sabretooth shook her roughly, her form tilting dangerously over the side and she quickly recaptured her silence.
Gambit's heart stuttered at the sight and he strove not hide any outward signs. It was too soon. Too soon to be responsible for another life, lives.
"Hey punk," the feral growled by way of greeting the sides of his mouth almost twitching upward in a smile, "nice of ya ta show."
"What de hell is dis Sabretooth? What d' y' want?" challenged Remy his own voice dangerously low, head cocked back in a superior manner. He stood with legs braced, bent slightly at the knee, arms relaxed at his side. Of his body only tight shoulders betrayed any of the terseness that was pinching his insides.
Gambit watched the behemoth mutant careful not to make eye contact with either Genevieve or Henri, the young thief wasn't sure he could hold any resemblance of concentration if he did. Any advancement of his own was countered by Sabretooth backing his hostages closer to the edge so Gambit relented to circling at a distance.
"Just thought it'd been awhile since we last met up, I even brought some buddies along for the ride," he chuckled not at all surprised that the young thief had figured out his identity considering whom he worked for. "Found out ya were gonna be here, and big brother was gonna be here…just couldn't resist. I'd a brought yer dad too but, whoops, looks like somebody done got ta 'em first. So I had ta substitute with Frenchie here," Sabretooth smirked lips pulling back to reveal fangs.
"Keep talkin' 'Tooth, y' jus' pissed dat a kid half y' size and a third y' age kicked y' ass," Remy smirked distracting the feral with his words while a trio of cards fell skillfully into his palm. At the right angle he could sever the ropes and deal a punishing blow to the half-crazed blonde feral.
"Careful Cajun, unless ya want 'em both ta go splat right now. Ya think I'm that flaming stupid? I tend ta learn from my mistakes, don't try that shit with yer powers, I can smell 'em."
Gambit gave the man a disdainful look but acquiesced dropping the de-charged cards unto the rooftop. There simply wasn't enough time, charging Sabretooth would only be helpful for two of them. He could save one of the hostages and still be able to fight, but not two, and the feral's grin suggested he knew it. Gene didn't mean much to him personally but she was human and her blue eyes plead for her life more eloquently than any of her whispered prayers.
"The jewel kid, I know ya got it. I figure this is only fair Swamps, ya stole something from me, so I get ta return the favor, course that interest is always a killer," he said in mock disappointment.
"Y' want it, we switch. Put dem down, an' y' get de stone," the mutant thief ordered.
"Ya know Gumbo, I just don't think ya really get what's going on here. I have the hostages, so ya do what I say. It ain't the other way around. I mean ya wouldn't want ta be responsible fer this pretty little things demise wouldja?" Sabretooth asked, his overly developed frame not seemingly bothered by the continued demand on his muscles.
The teen offered a compromise tossing out the pendant betwixt the two enemies, what made the pendant so valuable a sizable, flawless and epitomely rare blue diamond winking faintly amidst its gold fashionings.
"Dere, no risk t' either side. Take de Etoile an' go," Gambit said sounded disgusted.
"Nah, not quite yet."
The younger thief felt his anger boiling over his cautiousness, "Y' don' seem interested in a real fight an' y' can have de damn jewel. What else is dere? Y' jus' stickin' round t' torture me?"
"Yeah," he replied with a coarse laugh, "ya finally got it." Staring into slanted crimson and ebony eyes the feral mutant dropped the ropes shoving the pair over the railing, stepping away laughing cruelly at the disbelief in the face of the younger mutant. Sabretooth grabbed the abandoned pendant leaving his scurrying prey for another time.
Gambit did the only thing he could do, his lithe body lunging desperately across the remaining meters of the rooftop for the disappearing coils of rope. He had no where near the strength to pull them both up; at best he'd join them in their fall to the pavement below.
The ropes twisted fitfully in his grip, friction burning before slicing deeply into the tender flesh, unmerciful as he desperately tried to get any kind of a hold. His chest slammed into the guard rail, heart hammering in his ears as he was forced to look down upon the rapidly descending figures. Gambit knew he shouldn't be able to, but he swore he could see the desperation in Genevieve's eyes even from such a height. The teen could feel himself going over the side when a spike of horror shot through him seeing crimson energy drip down one length of rope. And again, he did the only thing he could, let go of the rope.
Gambit yanked his bleeding torn hand from its former grip, one coil of rope snaking downward twisting in the wind even as another pulled taunt.
Blonde hair whipped wildly as Genevieve fell past the stone visages of angels and apostles, though none broke their cement slumber to aid her that night. The gaunt figures of gargoyles did not so much as twitch as her screams rend the air, frozen eyes watched unblinking with their grim smiles as she blew past and was no more.
Breath still coming shallow and shaky, Gambit felt his left hand loosen its grip and he renewed it with vigor, adding the other to haul up quickly with a rapidly lessening store of strength the slender rope biting with ever handhold. The male figure was finally pulled over the edge and the youth collapsed trembling ever so slightly, trying not to remember the one who hadn't made it, the screams, and the crunch as she hit the ground so far below.
But he had to check, leaving his brother on the ground beside the teen stood legs wobbling slightly holding his weight. The mutant thief peered over the side, his ripped hands bleeding into the rock. There, blonde hair glimmering in the wane light. Her upper limbs tied kept her from contorting too far, but her stillness no less real.
A scraping sound behind him and Gambit swirled around bringing up bleeding fists with the last dredges of his adrenaline. Sabretooth and Henri had been forgotten at the sight of Gene, another body, another death on his hands.
Henri approached warily towards his skittish brother, away from the monster Sabretooth he had been able to free himself from his own restraints Remy standing frozen flush against the wall had been of no assistance. Henri eased beside noting when his presence finally penetrated into the mind of his brother as he joined him by the parapet. The younger LeBeau started again and whispered urgently with a hoarse voice eyes straining to the sight below, "I think I saw her move."
"Non," the Guild Master replied in a low but firm voice, "she couldn't have made it." The shattered expression on his adoptive brother's face told him he wasn't ready for logic, and the young Guild Master gently tugged Remy from the morbid sight as police sirens wailed in the distance.
"We have t' get out of here now Remy," the elder LeBeau ordered sternly dragging the numb visage of Gambit in his wake. They left the cathedral swiftly melting into shadows, an instinct introduced at a young age, requiring no conscious thought. "This way Remy," Henri urged not glancing back at his young charge still pulling him along, grabbing at wrists seeming not to fear the powers he had deemed so treacherous before. "I swear I won' forget what y' done dis day, or any otha," Henri muttered feverishly.
"Gambit y' listening t' me?" Henri finally snapped, reaching a comparable area of safety.
"Oui," the teen replied though the response was long delayed. Gene had been young, near his age only in chronology. He didn't have any feelings for Genevieve, he played her and been almost incised by her frivolous nature. She had been no innocent, but she knew not which game she played. He hadn't wanted her to die, he never wanted to see blood again. The crimson puddles that stained his hands was this time his own, but the guilt was hauntingly familiar.
Gloves, he should of worn gloves, the youth thought dazedly staring deeply into the twin lacerations on his palms. But there had been no explosion, and her body, the image seared in his mind told him she hadn't been burned, she'd been crushed. He had seen the rope turn red, that hadn't been his imagination. Had his powers retracted in time that he might have been able to save her? Or had it merely been a trick of the light the slickness of his own blood marking the rope that caused him to release her to her doom? Had his powers even activated at all? In the moment, he thought he knew, but now wasn't certain. He didn't even like Gene, so why couldn't he breathe?
"Gambit….Remy," Henri started again, grasping his younger brother's face in his hands tightly brushing back bangs, relieved when a spark in the red eyes revealed active consciousness once more.
"This… dis deal was a mistake Remy, nothing good has come of it. Shield got y' an' me into dis mess dey have lost deir worth in my eyes," he paused. "Gambit y'r absolved from any bindings t' Shield and de rest of dose morons. An' 'm sorry, mais y' know I can't lift a banishment once it's been given, y' can't return to New Orleans. Xavier…"
"Xavier isn't a problem anymore," Remy spoke quietly. Henri's eyes narrowed slightly but he kept his silence on the matter before broached another with a more somber air.
"Darceneaux, Remy she might have lived if not f'…"
"Sabretooth," Gambit said dully the same instant Henri replied,
"Y' powers." There was a dead drop of silence and the Guild Master watched Gambit shrink in upon himself but Henri refused to relinquish his hold watching the shades of horror washing across the youth's features.
"Dis isn't de first or de second time y'r powers have killed someone Remy. Y' need help before it's too late an' another innocent dies. Pere, merde he could have lived f' so long Remy…" Henri's voice fell off into the night. Withdrawing a crumpled business card that had managed to survive Henri curled it into his younger brother's lax hand, "Go get help, mon frère before it's too late," he cautioned.
The next sweep of a police helicopter broke up their conversation, each blending back into their surroundings. But when the copter disappeared from sight, Henri had disappeared with it. Feeling an unnatural chill the thief looked down at the delicate white card as red stains slowly ate up its surface. Sirens still fled by in the night, and a faint wind whispered by gently rousing tangled auburn strands. Scribed skillfully in small black print were the words Dr. Nathaniel Essex.
REVIEWERS: I am truly grateful for all the time, effort and encouragement you guys gave me and this story by reviewing. And having that said…Man am I glad it's over!! This took almost a year to write, and I for one, am glad it's dead…I mean finished… .
Extra special thanks to DarkElf3 you had a review way back when which was the eventual inspiration for this chapter [having said so, hopefully you like which you inspired.] : )
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