Remy welcomed the burning sensation in his throat as he tossed back another shot of bourbon. Around him, the party raged, his party, but he kept himself apart from it. Hunched over the bar, an ashtray full of bent cigarette butts near his hand, he did not look like a boy who had just crossed the threshold into manhood, a thief who had finally been accepted into the Thieves' Guild that his father led and his brother was a part of. His heart was heavy and he wanted nothing more than to be left alone to wallow in his thoughts…and guilt.
L'Etoile du Tricherie was safely hidden away in the numerous vaults guarded by the guild, obtained by them through Remy's own hand, but at an enormous cost. A woman, a woman that he seduced, was now dead and it was all because of him. Remy had done many things in his seventeen years, but this was by far the heaviest burden he'd ever had to bear because there was no doubt that he was responsible for the loss of life. He tried to dampen his pain with the alcohol that was now flowing freely through his system but it only made him even more miserable.
"Y'all right, bra?" Henri LeBeau asked, clapping his adoptive brother on the shoulder.
"Oui," Remy answered with a wobbly smile that fooled no one. "You tink it'd be a'right if I left? It don' look like y'all need me here t'have fun anyway."
Henri sighed. "It's part of de game, Remy. Das jus' somethin' you gotta learn t'live wid."
"I still got a lot o' learnin' t'do."
Henri helped Remy off the stool. "Go ahead den. Tell Belle I said hi."
Remy threw his adopted brother a look but Henri was already heading back to the group of rowdy men in the middle of the room. Without another look, he headed out the door. Bourbon Street was bustling as it always was and Remy received a few interested stares as wearing sunglasses at night was wont to catch attention, and he was always aware of the inquiring glances he received—he could only imagine what they would think of his red on black eyes. Tonight, the gazes he received grated on his nerves and he tucked his chin into his raised collar, avoiding them. He meant to go home but his feet didn't seem to agree with him as he found himself walking the familiar walk to the Boudreaux home.
Bella Donna hadn't come to the party, pleading exhaustion as her father had sent her out on a job just the day before and besides, they had both assumed he'd come home to her. They were, after all, going to be married within the year and Remy had been spending most of his nights with her. He couldn't say that he loved her but there was a lot of history and affection between them. He didn't know why he could never say those three important words to her though she always said them to him. He felt that he couldn't lie to her about that and she seemed to understand. Though the look in her eyes when he responded with a smile or a kiss worried him, she never turned him away or forced him to say what he really felt. She knew that he cared about her and for now, it seemed that was enough.
Suddenly, a shiver of warning went down Remy's spine. He did not raise his chin but his eyes narrowed imperceptibly. He was being watched and followed, probably had been for a while. He changed his destination, heading for the seedier sections of the French Quarter where the streetlamps couldn't quite light up the street enough. Ducking into an alleyway, he leaned against the wall and lit a cigarette.
"I was wondering how long it would take you," a deep silky voice said over his shoulder.
"Y'want somethin', ami?" Remy said, a cloud of smoke accompanying his words. "I got places t'be."
A tall well-built man stepped into his line of view and Remy arched an eyebrow at his attire. In red body armor and a rather ridiculous looking helmet covering most of his head, the man would have looked like a costumed freak if not for the formidable look in his steel gray eyes. What was even more remarkable was that he was floating a few inches from the sideway, his cape blowing behind him in the wind.
"Nice trick," Remy drawled, deliberately drawing out every syllable much slower than usual. "Ya comin' t'recruit me fo' de circus? If y'are, I'll tell y'now dat yo' wastin' yo' time."
"You could call it something of a circus," the man in red returned smoothly, one corner of his firm lips sliding upwards. "But I'd rather not talk about it out here."
"Oh yeah? Where you be wantin' t'talk den?"
The man waved his hand and the thick steel door next to Remy crumpled and fell inward. Remy's brow furrowed and he lowered the cigarette he was about to put to his lips.
"What de hell is goin' on?" he demanded.
Floating past Remy, the man entered the empty kitchen of a restaurant. Despite his more practical faculties, Remy followed, more curious than anything else. He'd met other mutants in the past but no one quite like this one. This man exuded power and confidence, qualities that Remy had learned never to ignore.
"My name is Eric Lehnscherr, but you can call me Magneto."
"Gee, I wonder why."
Magneto ignored the sarcasm. "I've come here looking for you. I've put together a team and I'd like you to be a part of it."
"I don't work well wid others," Remy said calmly. "You makin' some kind o' mutant football team?"
"Not quite. More like a team of mutants who will aid me usher in a new era for mutant-human relations."
And then Remy knew he would have done better by not following this man at all. "Dat ain't fo' me, homme," he said, waving a hand through the air. "I ain't no martyr."
Magneto gave that statement an arch look. "I am not looking for heroes. I'm looking for…"
"Henchmen?" Remy supplied, understanding.
"Not quite the word I was looking for but I suppose that will do."
"What kind o' era you lookin' to usher in?"
Magneto's eyes seemed to bore into Remy's head. His feet landed on the floor with a soft whisper and he walked towards the younger man, then circled him. Remy fought the urge to move away and he met Magneto's eyes whenever they came face to face.
"Aren't you tired of hiding, Gambit?" Magneto said. "Of wearing sunglasses or explaining why your eyes look the way they do when you take them off? Of explaining how you managed to blow a safe open with no visible explosives on your person? We shouldn't have to hide or lie about who we are. This country's history is full of stories of those who have broken through the status quo to proclaim themselves independent beings. Why should mutantkind be any different from them?"
Despite himself, Remy was intrigued. Thoughtfully, he took out the pack of cards he always carried with him and began to shuffle them. What Magneto was saying struck a chord in him that he didn't know was there. His mutant powers were a boon to his trade, but only a chosen few knew what he could do; his family and Bella Donna. Most of the others who didn't know liked to tell the story that he was the answer to some prophecy that saw the end of the strife between the Assassins' and Thieves' Guilds and so had powers that could be termed superhuman and supernatural—but all that was myth. No one believed it really and most people just chalked up his successes to an unbelievable amount of good luck and his natural agility.
"So what you wanna do? You gon' be bringin' down a whole lot on mutants if you go 'head wid dis plan o' yours."
"You of all people should know that nothing comes easily but if the humans choose to battle against us, they would do to remember who is the superior race."
"You confident." Remy grinned. "I like dat."
Magneto offered him a chilly smile. "So you'll join me."
The lure of adventure was too much for him. As much as he loved the Big Easy, all that had happened in the past year made leaving it less painful that he would have otherwise imagined. He remembered then that he and Bella Donna were supposed to be married…
Magneto smiled coolly. "I will be back for you at this time tomorrow."
"Don't be too generous wid time now, ami," Remy said. "I might get too bored."
Magneto did not bother responding. Lifting up, he floated out of the room and out of Remy's view. It was then did Remy notice that his cigarette was nearly burned to the filter and he could feel the heat against his fingers. Flicking it away, he walked slowly out of the kitchen and into the balmy Louisiana night. He continued on to Bella Donna's house and wasn't surprised to see her bedroom lights on. With sure movements, he climbed up the ancient willow tree outside her room and landed on soft feet onto the balcony. She was already at the French doors before he could raise a fist to tap on the glass. Dressed in a sheer negligee, she'd clearly been looking forward to seeing him and he took her into his arms as she moved to walk into them.
"Been waitin' fo' ya, Cher," she purred, her lips brushing against her ear.
"Y'know how de boys are," he said, as he tilted her face upward. "But I'll make up for it."
She started to smile but something on his face caught her attention. She reached up and took his sunglasses off, her blue eyes boring into his.
"What's wrong?" she demanded. "Y'been up t'somethin'. I can tell."
Remy smiled and he held her even closer to him. He dipped his head down so that they were nose-to-nose and he willed for her to fall under his spell.
"Nah, it ain't nothin', Belle," he said smoothly, tapping her chin lightly with his finger. "Come on, d'you really wanna talk right now?"
Bella Donna's eyes remained narrowed for a heartbeat then she smiled seductively, closing the space between them.
The sun was rising as Remy silently pulled his clothes on. His jaw worked as he took his time fastening his boots and he slid off the bed carefully so as to not upset Bella Donna. She slept like the dead which he'd been counting on considering the night they'd had. A corner of his mouth quirked upward as he remembered...
Remy left as quietly as he came, his feet moving swiftly over the dewy grass. He was vaulting over the gate and out of sight within seconds. If he'd looked back, he would have seen Bella Donna standing at the balcony, her lips a thin line on her beautiful face, her blue eyes ice. Her hands were balled into fists at her sides.
You better not be up t'somethin' stupid, Remy LeBeau.
There were few things Remy wanted to bring with him and they all fit into a duffel bag. He'd cleaned out his adopted father's vault and his own stash of money and in his pocket were the keys to Henri's brand new black Ducati motorcycle. Remy could only imagine their outrage at finding him gone and could not help feeling a bubble of amusement threaten to burst inside him.
The LeBeau house was quiet and no one was there to see Remy leave. He was sorry to not have seen his father and brother one last time, but they would understand. He'd spent the day wandering the streets of New Orleans, sure that he wouldn't be able to see it for a long time considering how he was leaving. One last beignet, one last shot at his favorite bar, and he was ready to go.
The Ducati's motor roared through the streets, but it was only one of the many sounds on the streets of the city that night. He passed through the crowds like a shadow, finding the alleyway and the kitchen, its door not boarded up. He couldn't see any sign of Magneto but he could sense him nearby. Remy turned the motorcycle off but did not get off, his feet flat on the ground as he reached for his cigarettes.
"No smoking," Magneto said, coming to float in front of him.
"In my line o' work, livin' long enough t'die from cancer would be a blessin'."
"How very true."
Magneto raised his hand and a silver ball came down from seemingly nowhere to rest in front of Remy. Remy eyed it with trepidation.
"Don' tink my bike's gon' fit in dere, ami."
"Don't bring it."
"Nah. How 'bout y'tell me where y'want me t'go and I'll just meet you."
Magneto looked as if he wanted to argue but then he smiled a smile that made chills go down Remy's smile. "You're sure about that?"
"Yeah…" But he didn't sound too sure of it.
"Upstate New York," Magneto said as the ball floated away. "Westchester. I'll see you there."
Remy stared after him as he floated away and he wasn't sure whether it was the wind in his ears, but he swore that the man was laughing.