Chapter 1

Chapter 1

Bishop crouched in the late night shadows, scanning the lakefront before him.  The boathouse was off to his left, windows darkened.  Scott and Jean had gone to bed some hours earlier.  The sound that had alerted him repeated itself, a soft burble that came from the lake.  It might be a fish or a frog, but the sound just didn't seem quite right.

He drew his weapon with silent ease as a figure climbed out of the water onto the dock.  His thumb touched the power setting, ready to slide the indicator from stun to full.  It was only habit now.  He had not used the full power setting in a very long time.  The figure stood on the dock for a moment, then raised its arms and stretched with sinuous grace.  Bishop recognized Psylocke and lowered his weapon.  He moved away as silently as he had approached, grateful that Elizabeth did not seem to have scanned him.  She probably would not appreciate having an audience to her late-night skinny dipping.

Bishop shook his head.  How easily he forgot his real purpose with the X-men!  But it was so easy to absorb the almost carefree culture around him.  Even the X-men did not seem to understand the seriousness of their situation.  For him, it was a constant struggle to remain alert and not get distracted.  Not even by an illicit view of the admittedly very attractive ninja telepath.  He pushed the thought away.  He had no business pursuing such things in this time, or this place.

Bishop emerged from the trees on the mansion's front lawn.  The house was dark, with only the decorative lamps on either side of the driveway lit.  Bishop stayed out of the circle of warmth they cast.

Always know where y' shadow is, boy.  The Witness' words came back to him as his gaze swept the ground, checking to make sure that he had cast none.  Bishop ground his teeth in frustration.  He had caught a glimpse of Gambit earlier that evening as he went over the south wall.  It galled to know that the Cajun had passed him unnoticed as he had gone through his nightly survey of the grounds.  That was part of the reason he was still at it.  Gambit had not returned yet, and not knowing the man's whereabouts made Bishop very uneasy.  That plus the fact that he had gone over the wall and not taken his bike made Bishop think he did not want anyone to know he was gone.

Bishop climbed the mansion's front stairs and settled on the top one.  The grounds were quiet, as always.  His stomach rumbled but he ignored it.  Hunger was a small thing, and this was just a protest from a body that had become used to eating whenever it wanted.  He had not known true hunger since his childhood.

A tiny sound, the scrape of a shoe on the cement behind him, made Bishop's blood freeze.  He leaped to his feet and turned, gun centering on the source of the sound, all in less than a second.  A small flame erupted in the darkness, highlighting Gambit's angular face.  He lit his cigarette, snuffed the match with a snap of his wrist.  The dual scents of tobacco and sulfur assaulted Bishop's nose.

"Relax, Bish.  It's jus' me."  Gambit has not moved.  Were it not for the glow from his cigarette, he would be invisible in the shadows.

"I rarely find that to be the least bit reassuring."  Bishop returned his gun to its holster.  "Any particular reason you were sneaking up on me?"

The corner of Gambit's mouth curled upward.  "Who said I was sneakin'?  You not payin' attention."  He moved out of the shadows to lean casually against one of the columns that decorated the porch front.

Time passed in silence.  Gambit extinguished the remains of his cigarette and the butt disappeared with a flicker of motion.  Bishop recognized the slight of hand for what it was, and also realized that it was completely unconscious.  Gambit was not paying him the least bit of attention.  He seemed wrapped in his own thoughts as he stared out into the darkness.  Eventually, he turned.

"'Night, Bishop." 


Gambit passed him and went into the house.  Bishop watched him go and wondered, as he always did, what the truth really was.  As he had learned from his experience in the alternate timeline of Apocalypse's domination, anything could happen.  Gambit had been loyal to the X-men in that timeline.  And even if he had betrayed and murdered the X-men in Bishop's own timeline, that was no guarantee that he would do so in the present one.  It was a frightening prospect, not knowing.  All he could do was continue to watch Gambit in the hopes that he would be able to protect the X-men if necessary.


Remy LeBeau ignored his reflection as he tossed items onto the bureau.  Watch, lighter, pocket change.  The metal winked in the lamplight, but dully.  It wasn't like a gemstone or the warm luster of gold.  Remy pushed the thoughts aside.  Thinking like that would only get him in trouble. 

The clock on the corner of the bureau showed a few minutes after four.  It whirred softly as the gears pushed the minute hand another notch forward.  It was an antique, though not particularly valuable.  Remy had bought it because of the intricate carving that framed the face.  Unfortunately, it didn't ever keep exact time.  His watch read four fifteen or so, but he kept the clock because Rogue had once mentioned how much she liked it.

You a fool, boy, he told the reflection in the mirror.  It only smirked back at him.  Rogue was down the hall a ways.  She had finally come back, to the X-men at least.  He had been right about that.  But there was nothing left of what they had had.  Whatever that had been. 

Remy turned away from the dresser, stripping off his shirt as he went.  Now all she would give him was the proverbial cold shoulder and an occasional icy stare.  They had survived the expected regiment of danger room sequences, proving to the Professor's satisfaction that they could still work together.  Other than that, they avoided each other as much as possible.

Hunger gnawed at him.  He'd been too busy to eat much dinner and that was hours ago.  He finished changing out of the casual suit he'd been wearing, switching to cutoffs.  Barefoot, he left his room and padded toward the kitchen.

The sound of the refrigerator opening alerted him.  Someone else was in the kitchen ahead of him.

Jus' my luck. Prob'ly be Bishop.  He paused, decided he was hungry enough to put up with the man's antagonism, and stepped into the kitchen.

Rogue stood in front of the open refrigerator door, hand on hip.  She was dressed only in a nightshirt-- the blue one that was her favorite.  The backlighting from the fridge outlined her figure neatly.  Remy bit back the comment that rose to his lips.  He was too tired for a full-blown fight.

"Midnight munchies, chere?"

"Remy!"  She whirled, and put her back against the open door.  "What do you want?"  She looked frazzled as if she hadn't slept much that night.

He advanced a couple of steps.  "Same t'ing you do, I expect."

She stared at him, anger flashing in her eyes.  "And what, exactly, is that supposed ta mean?"

Remy grinned.  This round was his.  "Food, girl.  Or were y' lookin' f' somet'ing else in dere?"

She flushed.  "Oh."  As Remy approached she sidled away from the refrigerator.  "Ah wasn't really hungry anyway," she said.  Then she was gone in a flash of long leg and red hair.

Remy sighed.  He got little satisfaction from winning these little scuffles.  It was just better than losing.  Rogue had always had a quick temper and sometimes her tongue cut deep.  Keeping her off balance protected him from that, at least.

Appetite gone, he built himself a sandwich and ate it.  It had been a bad day all around.  He was having no luck figuring out what Sinister's angle was, and information about the man was incredibly hard to come by.  He had thought he had a lead on something Sinister had been involved in several years earlier, but had turned up nothing.  He could still hope for a break, of course.  Every gambler got one once in a while.  But he had a bad, bad feeling that he was going to get blindsided by this one.

It was all just a matter of time.  He had already lost Rogue.  Eventually, his past was going to cost him the X-men as well.  All he could do was wait for the end, and maybe enjoy what he had for as long as it lasted.  Sitting there alone in the darkened kitchen, it didn't seem like that would be very long at all.