Disclaimer: Not associated with Marvel... feels redundant saying this on a fanfiction website...
This story assumes you've seen WatX in its entirety.
I'm taking bits and pieces from the Age of Apocalypse for that aspect of this story, but only the pieces which suit me. I couldn't be 100% faithful to that story even if I wanted to anyway, seeing as how the premise is an alternate timeline, not an alternate future.
The bar known as "The Dirty Glass" was named by LizzieTurbo.
Thanks to scribblemyname for your invaluable assistance with sorting out the timeline, and to JayCee's RedGold for proofreading. The Chase would have been a lesser story without you.
Chapters will be posted once every two days.
20 Years in the Future:
Professor Xavier walked along the beaten path through the trees alongside Rogue. After twenty years, Rogue had aged remarkably well; for someone in her early forties, she looked no older than twenty-five. Still, while her body didn't reflect her age, the hardened look in her eye suggested she had lived far longer.
A few days after waking up into this new timeline, Rogue appeared at the otherwise deserted Mansion. She had been thrilled to see him awake and hugged him tightly. Sadly, the pleasantries didn't last long, and they quickly got down to business. Rogue filled him in on everything that had happened in the past twenty years, and the Professor contacted the past to pass on the winning gambles that Rogue had kept.
"I am a little uncomfortable with gambling in this manner," he had told her. "I know we're trying to save their lives, but it still feels... dishonest."
"Money is a tool, Professor," Rogue replied with a shrug. "If we had it at the time, we might have been able to save Emma. Instead, Gambit sold her hand to Sinister, and Sinister laid a trap for us when we tried to take it from his base."
Even now the Professor was still coming to terms with that. According to Rogue, the only survivors of that trap had been herself, Logan, Storm and Scott. Hank and Forge had also survived, but only because they had still been at the Mansion, trying to put Emma back together. Emma was still at the Mansion, in pieces, with her left hand missing.
Scott had been captured later on and brainwashed by Sinister. Logan had been transformed into the current Horseman of Death when he killed the one before. Rogue didn't know what had happened to Warren, who had been the first Horseman of Death, only that he disappeared after killing Storm. Forge was part of the resistance, working with a theatre troupe which moved around regularly. Hank died a few years ago.
"We were so caught up in mourning our dead and trying to figure out our next move," Rogue told him, "we didn't realise that Worthington's Legacy Cure was a virus until it was too late. It had spread everywhere. Hank was working on a cure, but Sinister finished his first and offered it to all affected mutants on the proviso that they join and worship Apocalypse. Then Apocalypse sent out Pestilence with another virus: one that almost wiped out the human population."
Professor Xavier stopped at the top of the hill and then glanced back down towards the Xavier Estate. Rogue pulled on a branch off a nearby tree, revealing that the tree was fake, a computer console hidden behind it.
"That's right," the Professor spoke as Rogue pressed the appropriate buttons. "You said the resistance used the Mansion as an emergency refuge these days."
"It made sense," Rogue replied. "We knew you'd need Cerebro to communicate with the past. We could also keep yourself and Emma safe here. Forge built this hologram so that Apocalypse and his cronies would never know it was here."
A doorway suddenly appeared out of thin air, and Rogue and the Professor walked through. When the Professor looked back, the Mansion appeared to be in ruins. He caught his breath.
"That's one big hologram," he said.
Rogue smiled at the awe in his voice. "It sure is. Someone comes here regularly to check on supplies and power, and on you of course. Last few years it's been myself, just because me and my family live nearby."
"Your family?" the Professor asked, turning back to look at her.
"Yeah," she replied. "My husband and I are coming up to our fourteenth anniversary."
"Thank you," Rogue said, then gestured towards the dark city before them, full of skyscrapers and small pyramids. "We should get going."
"Of course," the Professor said, and continued following her along the trail, glancing at her gloves. "You have your powers under control then?"
"Huh? Oh... no," Rogue replied ruefully. "But I'm not completely deprived of human touch. You know that Z'noxx Chamber of yours?"
"Yes," the Professor said.
"Well, my husband built a modified version for our home," Rogue said, pushing past some more trees and finally arriving at a clearing in which a little red car was parked. "When I'm under it, I can touch."
"That's quite remarkable," he said. "The Z'noxx chamber was intended to be a psi-proof room. I had no idea it could be modified in such a way."
Rogue flashed the Professor a grin and opened up the car. "I'm sure glad it can, though."
The Professor chuckled softly. He got into the car and Rogue drove off. The road was somewhat to be desired, but they eventually reached a properly tarred road.
"Fourteen years," the Professor said thoughtfully. "Any children?"
The silence that followed was so long that at first the Professor wondered if he'd asked the wrong question. He was just a little bit tempted to read Rogue's mind and find out directly, but aside from ethical considerations, trying to make sense of Rogue's mind at the best of times was an effort.
"We have a son," Rogue said finally, sounding as though she was doing her best not to cry. "His name is Charlie."
"Charlie," the Professor breathed. He'd never dreamed anyone would name their child after him before.
"His powers manifested three months ago," Rogue went on, "and when the Marauders found out, they took him."
Professor Xavier looked at Rogue in horror, full of sympathy for the grieving mother.
"Sinister?" he asked finally.
"Indirectly," Rogue said, trying to sound matter-of-fact. "Sinister is the Head Steward in charge of this part of the world. Scott works for him as the leader of the Mutant Elite, whose primary task is to maintain order in the breeding pens."
"Sinister does love his little experiments," Rogue replied grimly. "The Horsemen are Apocalypse's elite. And the Marauders have significantly grown in number in the last twenty years. They serve as the 'police force' these days, although I personally think that's an insult to real police. Their recruitment methods are fairly direct: they see a prospective mutant they like, they take them. They prefer children, because they're easier to break and mould into ruthless, heartless killing machines."
"Rogue, I'm so sorry," the Professor said.
Rogue didn't reply, and they travelled for quite some time in silence. As they got closer to the city, the Professor started to notice statues of Apocalypse gleaming amongst the buildings, standing out in the shadows. Much of the darkness could be attributed to Apocalypse's citadel, floating above the centreof the city. The Professor eyed it apprehensively through the window.
"Apocalypse travels around a lot," Rogue said, noticing his attention. "He's in town for a special occasion."
"I'll tell you more about it later," she said, then pointed to an imposing stone fortress. "That's the local Marauder stronghold."
"Where they're keeping Charlie?"
"As far as I know," Rogue said, her grip tightening on the steering wheel. "And as much as it galls me to admit it, this is one of the safer districts. The Marauders here are lead by one of Sinister's favourites: Gambit."
"So that's what happened to him," the Professor said.
"Gambit gets a lot of criticism for being 'too soft'," Rogue went on, her tone quickly becoming menacing. "Which is ironic, because he's also one of the toughest Marauders around and there's very few of them who could actually beat him in a fight. I can't wait to get my hands on him."
"I assume he was the one who ordered Charlie's...recruitment, then?"
"He didn't just order it," Rogue said darkly. "He took Charlie personally. Mark my words, Professor, by the time I'm through with that bastard, he's going to learn first hand why you never get between a mother and her child."
Rogue looked at Emma where she lay on the table... in a manner of speaking. After Emma was shattered into pieces by the Phoenix force, the X-men had collected as many pieces of her diamond form as they could find. Their first thought was to give their fallen friend a proper burial; however, after they'd collected enough pieces, Jean discovered that she could still sense Emma within them.
"You're not seriously suggesting Emma could still be alive?" Logan had demanded of her.
"I'm suggesting more than that, Logan," Jean had replied. "If we can find all the pieces, we might even be able to save her."
For days the X-men worked non-stop trying to find all the pieces of Emma. Although most of the pieces had been in the immediate area of the explosion, there were many which had blown further afield, some even picked up by those who had come out of hiding after the Phoenix had dealt with the Sentinels. Jean just about lived in Cerebro, except when she was out gathering diamond dust that only she had any chance of picking up. Hank and Forge began the tedious task of matching the diamond shards together. The other X-men went wherever Jean sent them to pick up the larger pieces. Sometimes these places included homes and jewellers, and occasionally the sewers.
Time was of the essence; the longer it took them, the harder it would be to locate those final pieces. Still, five days into the search, Jean reached a point where she was no longer getting any readings from Cerebro. Hank and Forge were still trying to match pieces together, making it impossible to tell if they'd gotten them all.
In an effort to help Jean, Bobby and Kitty took it upon themselves to check online and news sources to see if they could locate anyone trying to buy or sell pieces of Emma. After all, Jean's grid search could be foiled by movement and by psi shielding.
Rogue watched as Hank meticulously scanned one of the diamond shards into the computer. She wanted to offer to help, but she didn't want to break his and Forge's concentration.
The medlab door opened and Logan came striding in. He frowned when all he saw of Emma Frost so far was a knee, most of one arm, a shoulder, and a bunch of pieces that fit together but in no discernible pattern. There were even more pieces all lined up on tables and benches with labels in front of them.
"What's taking so long?" he demanded.
Hank jumped, but his good reflexes kept him from dropping the shard of Emma on the floor (and shattering it into more pieces). He cleared his throat as Forge looked up from the computer.
"Logan," Hank said patiently. "As I have explained previously, we first need to scan each piece into the computer and allow it to match up the variations in each surface. Since diamond can chip other diamond, we have to be extremely careful when putting pieces together, else we risk breaking Emma into even smaller pieces."
Logan was about to respond to this when the medlab door opened again and Bobby bounded into the room.
"Logan! There you are!" he exclaimed excitedly.
"People are working," Logan said, causing Hank to sigh and Forge to shake his head in disgust.
"Oops. Right," Bobby said, his voice dropping down significantly in volume. "We found another piece of Emma! We think... It's a solid diamond in the shape of a hand. From all the videos and measurements it sure looks like it could be Emma's. It's going on auction in a couple of days."
In a flash, Logan was back through the door and into the hallway. Bobby had barely time to react before running after him. Rogue glanced at Hank and Forge, decided she would only be a hindrance rather than a help, and followed Logan and Bobby at a more sedate pace.
When Rogue arrived at the library she saw Kitty sitting at one of the computers with Bobby beside her at his own, Logan leaning over him. Rogue joined them and peered over Bobby's shoulder. She gave a low whistle at the minimum bid for Emma's hand.
"Can't be coincidence," she said as Bobby played a video showing off the diamond.
"That's what we thought," said Kitty. "They're having a viewing in a couple of days and the auction will be the same afternoon."
"I guess we'll be going to that viewing," said Logan.
"We need to register," Kitty pointed out.
"You need ID, so I need to know who's going."
Logan made an irritated sound. "I am. Jean too, she should verify that we're not wasting our time."
"So, why is it," Scott asked as Logan and Jean exited the X-van a few days later, "that you get to go to the auction with my girlfriend?"
"Because I damn well want to," Logan replied and shut the door in Scott's face.
Scott huffed as Logan and Jean headed inside. Glancing over at Rogue, Kitty, and Bobby, he was not at all impressed with being made the backup.
The viewing area was reasonably crowded, but going from Jean's telepathic scan of the room, most were only there to look. Logan was a little frustrated by the time they finally got through the throng, but as soon as he laid eyes on that diamond hand he knew it was Emma's, even without Jean's verification. It was a miracle it even stayed intact.
"That's definitely Emma's," said Jean. "It must have been psi shielded until today."
Jean was given no further chances for self-recriminations for she was approached by one of the staff who inquired if she was bidding or viewing. While Jean got the run down on how the auction worked, Logan eyed off the security guards hovering over the hand and scanned the room. He caught the scent of someone familiar and looked around for the source.
"Thanks very much," Jean said, finishing up the conversation, noticing the Wolverine's narrowed eyes. "Logan?"
His only reply was to take off towards the source of the familiar scent. Jean followed quickly, stopping when they came up behind a man in a trench coat.
"Gambit," Logan said, his voice almost a growl.
The man, Gambit, turned and offered Logan a smirk when he saw him.
"Why, Wolverine, I didn't expect to see you at my little auction," he said, then smiled at Jean, taking her hand with an incline of his head. "And pray tell, who is this stunning beauty you're with?"
Jean found herself grinning like an idiot as Gambit's lips softly brushed her knuckles.
"Jean," she answered.
"Your auction?" Logan demanded.
"Oui," Gambit said, never taking his eyes off Jean as he let go of her hand. "A lucky find. Jean Grey, right? One of the original X-men, yeah?"
"That's right," Jean confirmed. "Are you expecting to sell it for very much?"
"But of course," Gambit grinned. "A solid diamond, sculpted perfectly into a human hand. A female hand, if I'm not mistaken. It is an exquisite work of art."
"Which you stole," said Logan.
Gambit pressed his hand over his heart. "Stole? Moi? How could you say such a thing?"
"Two words:" Logan replied, "Thieves Guild."
"Don't know what you're talking about," Gambit smiled innocently, then noticed someone over Logan's shoulder. "Now, if you'll excuse me, I have potential buyers to greet."
Gambit sauntered past and they turned around to see him greet his 'potential buyers'. One was a blonde woman wearing a tight black shirt with a plunging neckline so low they could see her belly button. She had on a matching pair of black pants. With her was another familiar scent: the purple-haired Arclight, one of Mr Sinister's Marauders. Logan glowered at Gambit while he got chummy with the new arrivals, or more to the point, with the woman.
"Great, that's all we need," Jean said tersely. "We can't let Sinister get his hands on Emma."
"Agreed," Logan clenched his fists. "When does this thing start?"
"We still have another three hours."
By the time the auction started, Jean was wishing she'd come in with Scott. Logan just didn't seem to handle waiting very well. Still, the long wait hadn't been completely fruitless; they had identified Arclight's companion as a new Marauder, Lady Mastermind. Jean suspected Lady Mastermind had some psionic abilities, but couldn't identify exactly what. She also reported that Gambit had some sort of static around his mind which prevented her from being able to read him easily. Logan was not at all happy with that news.
The auctioneer went over the rules, terms, and conditions of the auction with the audience and then finally asked for an opening bid. Jean looked around; there was nothing but awkward silence in the room. Logan frowned and Jean lifted up her paddle. The Auctioneer called out her number and then started pressing the crowd for another bid. There were no more bids and after a lengthy, fidgety silence, the auction closed. The auctioneer announced that the reserve had not been met and then thanked everyone for coming.
"We won right?" Logan asked.
"No, Logan," said Jean. "The reserve hadn't been met."
Logan looked at her.
"Gambit wants more money," Jean explained. "He won't sell it for what we offered."
A nasty smile filled Logan's face. "Oh, I can make him a new offer."
"Yes, I know," Jean said. "At this point it's likely that people will start making Gambit private offers for the hand."
"Why not just make the offer during the auction?" Logan asked.
Jean shrugged. "Come on. We should find out what he wants."
When Logan and Jean caught up with Gambit he was already conversing with Lady Mastermind and Arclight. Or, more accurately, he and Lady Mastermind were flirting with each other while Arclight looked bored.
"Ahh, Jean, Wolverine," Gambit said upon noticing their approach. "I have to admit I was rather surprised you bid at all. I didn't think diamond hands were of any interest to the X-men."
Jean was distracted from replying when she noticed psychic activity on Lady Mastermind's part. Jean quickly unravelled the illusion she had attempted to create over them. Lady Mastermind glared at Jean when she realised what had happened, her arm firmly wrapping itself around Gambit.
"You'd be surprised what we're interested in," said Logan, oblivious to what just happened. "What do you want?"
Logan really hated the idea of negotiating with Gambit. The only thing stopping him from just taking Emma's hand was the simple fact that it was no longer on display and he had no idea where it was being kept.
"What he wants," said Lady Mastermind before Gambit could get a word in, "is to do the smart thing and sell it to Mr Sinister."
"Only if he's the highest bidder, chère," Gambit told her, then looked at Jean. "What about you, ma chérie? Care to up your bid?"
"Just how much are you after?" Jean asked, wishing she could read Gambit's mind.
"Whatever it is," Lady Mastermind ran her finger up Gambit's chest, "we'll double it."
Gambit chuckled and named his price. Jean and Logan both internally winced; neither of them liked the idea of spending that much of the Professor's money, especially considering more went out than came in these days. Nevertheless Jean upped her bid. Lady Mastermind increased hers without a second thought and took it upon herself to run her finger over Gambit's lips and draw him in for a kiss.
"Excuse me," Jean said, glaring at Lady Mastermind, all the while getting feedback from Arclight confirming that Gambit had a weakness for women. "We are attempting to negotiate here."
Gambit put his own finger on Lady Mastermind's lips.
"She is right, chère," he said. "We should save this for later, no?"
"Whatever happened to rule number three?" Logan asked dryly.
"What is this 'rule number three' of which you speak, Wolverine?" Gambit asked.
Logan growled and Gambit smirked. He knew that Logan was referring to the Thieves Guild law about not getting personally involved with clients. However, this was not an occasion he was inclined to acknowledge being a thief, even though all four people he was talking to knew he was.
"Ahem," said one of the staff, joining them and looking at Gambit. "If I may interrupt?"
"Of course," said Gambit. "If you'll excuse me."
Logan, Jean, Lady Mastermind and Arclight all glared at each other as Gambit departed to discuss offers from the various collectors that were also there.
"Back off," said Lady Mastermind, narrowing her eyes at Jean.
"Just what does Sinister want with that hand?" Logan demanded.
"That's none of your business Wolverine," Arclight replied. "Just know that Sinister will have it, by any means necessary."
"Would you stop that?" Jean said, glowering at Lady Mastermind after unravelling another of her attempted illusions.
"I told you to back off," Lady Mastermind said, jabbing her finger into Jean's chest.
There was a cough and the four turned to see another of the staff there. He coughed again, uncomfortably, and held out a couple of cards, one to each pair.
"The owner said to pass on his details," he said. "He would prefer it if you contacted him privately with your respective offers."
"Thank you," Jean said, accepting the card graciously.
The attendant nodded and took his leave.
"We spent all that time waiting," Scott said on the drive back home, "and you didn't even get Emma's hand?"
"Wherever the hand ended up after the auction, it was psi shielded," Jean replied tersely.
"Diamond doesn't leave much of a scent," Logan added irritably from the driver's seat.
"What I don't get... is why were the Marauders even trying to negotiate?" Bobby said. "I mean, they're the Marauders! Shouldn't they be taking?"
"I don't know," said Jean, "but Sinister wants it. He sent his new little illusionist to flirt with Gambit and to deter the other bidders. I did what I could to stop her from manipulating them, but ultimately, if she didn't get them there, she'll track them down later and take care of it."
"Gambit's more valuable to Sinister alive and co-operative," Rogue almost added as an afterthought.
"How do you figure that?" asked Scott.
"He robbed us and managed to sabotage Genosha," she pointed out. "Gambit's obviously a very good thief. I'm guessing Sinister wants to keep his skills available to him."
"Makes as much sense as anything else," Logan said.
"So, how much does he want for it?" asked Kitty.
Jean told them, a mix of horrified and shocked reactions followed.
"We have that much... right?" asked Bobby.
"Right now the X-men are living off the interest generated from Professor Xavier's investments," Scott said as he ran the numbers in his head. "We'd need to tap into the capital in order to pay for it, which will ultimately mean that we'll have less interest available to us in the future."
"So, why aren't we tracking Gambit down and taking it from him?" asked Kitty. "It's not his anyway."
"Tried that," said Logan. "Damn Cajun's slippery as an eel. We didn't see him leave and I lost his scent."
"So what do we do then?" asked Bobby.
"He gave us his number so we could put in a silent bid," said Jean. "I guess we string him along until we find out where he's keeping it."
"All I need to do is get him alone," said Logan direly. "I'll find out where he's keeping it."
There was a bamf as they got out of the X-van and everyone looked over as Kurt teleported into the garage.
"We were beginning to wonder if you'd ever get back!" he proclaimed, bit more over-excited than he usually was. "We've heard from the Professor."
"Damn, missed him," said Logan. "What's the news?"
"Actually, it's a little strange," Kurt said. "First, he gave us a chemical formula, saying it was the cure for the Legacy Virus."
"What's the Legacy Virus?" Jean asked.
Kurt shrugged. "He also gave us a list of lottery numbers, horse race winners and the name of the team that's going to win the Superbowl this season."
"The Professor gave you that?" Kitty's jaw gaped.
"His timing's impeccable," Rogue said dryly.
"How so?" asked Kurt.
"Come on," said Logan. "We'll fill everyone in at once."
As it happened, the entire core of the X-Men were able to gather together over dinner. Hank and Forge were glad for the break from their task.
"Well, then," said Storm after hearing everything they had to say. "Plainly, the Professor intends us to raise the necessary money by, ahem, gambling. And since, according to Jean, this Gambit has a weakness for women, then perhaps as both a woman and a former thief, I should conduct the negotiation."
"I should come with you," said Jean as she put down her glass. "You know, so that Lady Mastermind doesn't attempt to manipulate you in case they come after us."
"Wait a second—" Logan began.
"In the event of a physical meeting, that would be wise," said Storm. "Myself conducting the business side will also leave you free to concentrate on the psychic side and everyone else can be free to scout or stand on guard or as backup in the event of other Marauders."
"Yeah, I doubt they're just going to stand by and let us be the highest bidder," Rogue said dryly. "Plus we all know how much Sinister would love to get his hands on Jean again."
"Sinister already got what he wanted from us," said Scott, stabbing at his chicken irritably. "He ordered Archangel to kill us because Jean might be able to stop... whatever it is he's planning."
"Either way, he's still out to get Jean."
"And he's not going to get her," Logan said firmly in a voice that was almost a growl.
"Hmm," Kurt said thoughtfully. "Then perhaps we should think about, ahem, 'investing' in some of these things the Professor mentioned."
"Yeah, do that," said Logan. "I'd prefer it if we didn't pay him anything though."
"You'd think the Professor would have given us some good businesses to invest in," said Bobby. "Shares and stuff."
"Isn't that kind of thing more long term though?" asked Kitty, scooping up some vegetables on her fork. "We are trying to prevent the current future from happening, you know."
"Yeah, true," Bobby said. "I never thought I'd say the lottery was a more worthwhile investment than a company though."
"Alright," said Storm. "I will give Gambit a call after dinner."
"What if you call, give your bid, and he never calls back?" asked Rogue.
"A good point, Rogue, but I don't think that will be a problem," said Storm. "Aside from the fact that Gambit will likely want the best price he can get, and I doubt he would be beneath playing us against the Marauders, the Professor provided us with financial assistance."
1 Year in the Future:
Rogue walked into the bar known as The Dirty Glass, taking a moment at the door to look around. It was crowded and stuffy, but at least there were no signs of any Marauders. She headed towards the bar and bought a beer. It was only when she opened said beer that her eyes fell on the one Marauder she had missed: Gambit.
Rogue pursed her lips and pretended not to notice Sinister's favourite drinking something out of a glass. She did, however, discreetly move away. Hopefully with such a large crowd that time of day, Gambit wouldn't notice her presence.
After what felt like forever, Boom Boom swaggered in, the blonde dancing through the crowd before locating Rogue.
"You've got it?' Boom Boom asked, still dancing.
Rogue only nodded and pulled out a small bundle from her pocket. Boom Boom took the packet and replaced it with a folded sheet of paper.
"Good luck, hon," Boom Boom said. "You're gonna need it."