Chapter 3

But it doesn't mean you ain't been on my mind

America, Sister Golden Hair

Reconnaissance was his specialty.

Well, after pilfering and philandering.

Which, kind of went hand in hand along with it.

It gave him a chance to stay in practice, to finesse the impenetrable, slip between barriers, keep his touch tempered. And, then there was the pilfering...

He allowed himself a worn smile and scrubbed his hands over tired eyes.

The drive had been shorter than he had imagined, taking only about six hours. But six hours on a bike wasn't the same as six hours spent slumping against the plush leather of the Blackbird. He rolled his shoulders and pressed his lower back further into the mattress. He'd arrived in Washington D.C. an hour before and had promptly rented a room for the indefinite future.

Business trip, he'd told the girl at the front desk.

She'd smiled at him, a cute little brunette with twinkling blue eyes and dimpled cheeks, and all he could think about was how much he wanted to get away from the way she was looking at him. She couldn't have been much older than twenty and experience told him that with a soft slide of his fingers against her knuckles or the inside of her wrist, she'd melt into a puddle.

He'd considered it, of course; he was, after all, by no means attached. He was a young, handsome, hot-blooded, single handsome man. Yeah, so handsome, he mentioned it twice. Besides, his ego had taken some massive hits as of late, and he needed to talk himself up. But, despite the fact that he was all of those things—unattached, namely—he couldn't quell the guilt welling up within him that he'd even considered her.

For all intents and purposes, he was available, single, free. And yet, there was this invisible line tethering him to Rogue.

Of course the drive in itself, though a needed, if not welcomed, distancing agent had done very little to slacken that tether. His mind had spent most of its time on her. He obsessed about her reaction to his disappearance. He wondered if she'd just shrug her shoulders and chalk it up to his unreliable personality, or, worse, not even notice his absence.

When that pleasant little thought popped into his already-questionable frame of mind, it had taken all of his determination not to swerve in front of a speeding Mack truck and head back to the Institute.

Part of him was glad to be away, thrilled even. It was change. Fresh. He hadn't had that in quite some time.

No. He was still paying for the sins of his past.

Granted, they were mighty hefty sins.

But he was busted.

When he thought, convinced himself, that she would still be there, the penance was bearable. But as time slipped past, she remained distant—physically, emotionally—cowering behind some half-baked excuse that he made her lose control. She said she needed control, but that she was still with him, still focused on the endgame, on their destiny. And he believed her.

Because he needed to.

Because the reality was not bearable.

When he freed her from her lie and told her not to come to him until she was ready, it hurt.

And he knew that his penance had truly begun.

And he thought Antarctica had been hard.

He shook his head, allowed himself a humorless chuckle. "Too soon, Remy. Still too soon."

Kicking his feet to the floor, he groaned as his body protested. Nope, the blackbird would have been more comfortable. Rolling his shoulders and stretching his back, he padded over to the room's single table. He had dropped his backpack there in an unforgiving heap upon entering and making his way to the bed. Now, he flipped it to its front and unzipped the middle section. His cellphone clattered to the Formica. He stared at it like it was a snarling beast. His fingers reached for it before instinctively curling into his fist.

What if she hadn't called?

What if she had?

Was it normal, he wondered, for him to want and not want both of those scenarios?

He licked his lips, staring down the phone the way he might the latest villain of the week. He swept it into his palm, turned it on, and stared dumbly at the screen.

One missed call.

One text message.

Both Logan.

"Damn."

But he dialed anyway.

"Bonjour, mon ami. You called?"

"Yeah, I did. Where you at?"

"My hotel. Gatherin' my t'oughts."

"I ain't payin' ya to think."

Remy chuckled, "You couldn't afford me."

"You got some sort of plan?"

"Yeah. Not to get caught."

"Brilliant."

Remy grinned; he could practically see Logan roll his eyes. "I'm gon' take the tourist route first. See what I can see. Den, I got a call in for de prints."

"Blue prints?"

"Ouí."

"How're you-?"

Remy interrupted. "Sssshhh. No bread crumbs, 'member? You di'n't asked me t' help 'cause of my squeaky-clean record, right? I got dis."

There was a long pause. And for a moment, Remy was certain the Wolverine was second-guessing himself.

"Somet'in' wrong?" And the fear already bubbling beneath the facade of confidence began to fizz in between the cracks. "It ain't...Rogue?"

"No," it was rushed, and did little to make him feel better. "No, Gumbo, she's fine. Hardly noticed."

"Oh." The breath from that one syllable nearly cut off his oxygen. He swallowed and tried to refill his lungs. "Good."

"I just," Logan paused. "Just don't go gettin' sucked back into your old life."

"Don't worry. Indifferent ex-girlfriend trumps sociopathic ex-wife." It came out more bitter than he had planned.

Logan cleared his throat. "Just don't get caught. Find out about the mutants. How this whole thing is working and report back. Once we have the intel, we can decide what to do. This is big. And we gotta have good proof. If it's on the up and up, which I doubt, we'll turn the other way. If not, we'll need to plan it out as a team." He cleared his throat. "Can't believe I'm saying this."

"Don't apologize. Responsible role model looks good on you." He steadied his tone, but his stomach rolled with fear: she'd hardly noticed that he was gone. His mouth felt dry; he wondered if the minibar was stocked.

Logan made some noncommittal grunt and Remy took it that the conversation was over...at least until he had some sort of information. He tossed his phone onto the bed and stared at it, willing it to ring, willing her to miss him.

Deep within, an ugliness stirred. His hands fluttered to his gut, and he pressed them there as if trying to stop a slow leak. He breathed in and out, Lamaze style, and squeezed his eyes against the wretchedness growing inside him. He forced himself to think beyond the phone, beyond the need for her recognition...beyond her. It was not an easy thing. They had been intertwined for so long, one a part of the other, and now that they weren't, he found himself battling a myriad of identities.

He was still Remy LeBeau, sure, but who he was had split and splintered into a scattered disarray.

And without Rogue, he feared, he would lose the man he had been trying to become.

Instead of the noble X-Man, the man who worked to save his soul from the dark entrapment of a misinformed youth, Remy saw within himself the shadow of Death. He was a second-time Marauder, a disbanded thief, a traitor to the cause. The light that had grown within him, that had lifted him up and made him believe in goodness was once again dashed and broken and out of his reach.

Just like Rogue.

Just like the man he wished he was.

"Fuck it." It was forced, of course; he didn't truly feel that way. But he needed a dose of self-preservation or he wasn't going to be able to stop that thing moving within him. He stuck out his chin, swallowed, and let out a deep breath, "Fuck it." This time his voice sounded a little less forced and he felt the blackness within him begin to back down. He wasn't going to lose control of himself. Not ever again. Even if the light never came back, he would master the Apocalyptic problem buried within the confines of his soul.

The evil within dissipated for the time being and he sighed in relief. Slinging his backpack over his shoulder, he spared his phone a sideways glance before scooping it up and stuffing it into the front compartment. He needed to stay busy, to keep his mind focused on something other than the insecurities of his non-relationship. He had a job to do. He looked at his key card and allowed a tight smile at the message scribbled across the plastic in red permanent marker: I get off at 10. Becky.

Perhaps he needed to work in some extra-curricular activities as well.

X

Sipping his iced tea, Remy couldn't help the slant of his mouth as he watched his mark rise and drop a few crumpled bills on the sticky tabletop. The unmistakeable sway of inebriation seemed to do little to impair the overall respectability of the military uniform and, in fact, earned some half-hearted salutes despite the late hour. When the uniform stumbled out into the street, Remy took a quick slurp of his tea, grimaced at the decidedly lacking flavor—he hadn't had a decent iced tea since moving north, but he was forever optimistic—and moseyed out the door himself, his fingers splaying in a slight wave to a few waitresses who had been trying to catch his eye since he arrived.

He scooted into the night air. It was hot, humid, the kind of night that made him think of bruised lips and a bead of sweat crawling lazily down a pale neck. He bit his lip and cleared his throat. Shaking the image from his mind, he quickened his pace at the sight of his mark nearing a curb with hand held high.

The cab slid to a stop and Remy nearly sprinted to the driver's side. He jerked the door open and slid into the backseat in synchrony with his mark.

"Oh!"

Remy looked up, a startled mask covering his face. "Oh, je suis desole. (I am sorry.) Pardon, me, ma'am." He managed a tight smile of apology. "I didn't see you."

She wasn't entirely sloshed.

He chewed on his lip. Maybe tonight hadn't been as well thought out as he planned. He put a steadying hand on her shoulder and decided to improvise. "Ma'am?"

She licked her lips and shrugged him off before leaning back in the seat and closing her eyes. "Whatever. It's fine." She pressed fingertips into her temples before clearing her voice and barking her address at the cabby. She tipped her chin at him before instructing, "You'd better give him yours too. If you're closer, it makes sense for him to drop you off first."

Remy's lips quirked upward and he managed a little shrug. "I'm the other way."

"Story of my life," she snorted.

"Pardon?"

She leaned back in her seat, and studied him with big brown eyes. Now he noticed the dried pools of mascara under each eye. Her glassy-eyed expression made him regret the night almost immediately, but again, he decided to wing it.

"Is something wrong, chere?"

She snorted, and swept at the bleached fringe hanging on either side of her face. It was a pretty face, Remy noticed, and if they had met under different circumstances, he might very well have been interested. He waited for her to answer. She didn't. He licked his lips and leaned back himself.

"You're handsome," she slurred, her intoxication loosening her tongue; Remy was sure she'd never say that if she were sober.

He shrugged and allowed a patient smile to grace his lips. "Merci. You are pretty."

She snorted at that and shook her head. "Not hardly."

He raised an eyebrow. "No, you are. Whoever you're crying over is an idiot."

A tight smile. "Thanks."

"You're welcome." He turned to look forward, but his peripheral vision was working overtime. He watched her watch him. She turned, looked out the window, before whipping back to his direction and clearing her throat.

"I'm Charlotte...er, Charlie."

He turned to her, his hand reaching out to grip hers. "Remy." He pulled it up and brushed his lips over her wrist. He felt her stiffen and he smiled up at her. "Nice to meet you." He released her hand quickly, not wanting to spook her. "And de idiot?"

There was a humorless chuckle. He knew that sound. It had been escaping his lips more than he'd care to admit. He fixed her with a truly empathetic look.

"Tom." Her lips curved down at the name. She shook it off and managed a flat smile.

He nodded. "Anna." Her brow knitted and he smiled equally tight. "Dat's my ex's name."

She shook her head. "I don't believe you. Look at you. You're like a Greek god or something." Eyes widened and she clapped her palm over her face before melting into the back of the cab. "Oh, I must be drunker than I thought!" She peeked out from between her fingers and shook her head. "I can't believe I said that."

He laughed, true and hearty, and shook his head. "It doesn't always end well for de Greek gods. Look at Hades. He didn't really get Persephone. He kidnapped her and tricked her into eating pomegranate seeds." He shook his head sadly. "If dat were all it took..."

She smiled. He decided she really was pretty.

"Dinner might go over better than pomegranate seeds."

He nodded. "Interestin'. I'll make a note of dat."

Her eyes crinkled a bit around the edges. "Glad to help."

Remy allowed the quiet to settle for a few beats before he tipped his chin toward her and stated nonchalantly, "You're in the military."

She let out a breath and smoothed her hands down the sides of her uniform. "Yes."

He watched her with his dark eyes. "You don't like it?"

Blowing out an unsteady breath, she hesitated. "No, mostly I do. Just, and I can't believe I'm saying this to someone I just met in the back of a cab, I've worked so hard to be tough. You know, to be considered equal to a man. No complaining. No time for frills. Straight forward, no-nonsense, all business. Sometimes, I feel like—well, tonight, anyway—I feel like I've forfeited my femininity."

"An' dat was dis Tom's complaint?"

She licked her lips; he could see the threat of tears lingering in her lower lashes. "Not in so many words."

"You took charge of the relationship."

"Yes."

"Nothin' wrong wit' a strong woman, chere." He felt his mind drift for a moment. "Personally, I like strong ones best. It's de needy ones what scare me to death."

"Unfortunately, Tom isn't of the same mind...or dick."

He couldn't stop his brows' upshot, or for that matter, the wicked grin that twisted across his lips to match the one on hers. "Good girl," he laughed, "dat's de strength talkin'."

She shook her head, but the grin was still pasted across her pretty face. "No, that was the whisky." The grin faded and she blew out a nervous breath, "This probably is, too." And before he had time to react, she crossed the mid-section and pushed her lips on top of his.

The act surprised him only a little. He was not shocked by it. In fact, he had considered the possibility of it, but, to be honest, he had thought it would take a little longer. He was glad it hadn't. And in the back of his brain, he thanked Tom for being an unmitigated ass.

X

For the better part of a month, he'd surveyed his options.

Using the information available from Logan's "borrowed" S.H.E.I.L.D. file, he'd managed to put names together with email addresses. Using an intricate technology sent to him from the Unified Thieves and Assassins Guilds—he'd called in a favor—he was able to tap into numerous emails, among other things. The emails were all in code. It had taken several late nights to break it. As a celebratory gesture, he'd decided to fore-go the software approach in favor of some tried and true face time.

The fact that it had turned to face-sucking time was yet another reason he preferred people over machines.

Charlotte "Charlie" Sommerfield was an army major, who, for all intents and purposes, was involved in a Special Operations unit known as X-Company. As unimaginative as its name was, it was a brave new idea in the military world. For years, mutants were thought of as volatile powder-kegs that needed to be captured and contained for the good of the powerless human population. X-Company was an experiment in human-mutant co-existence and co-habitation. The mutants were fighting for their country. The military provided training to hone their skills and an outlet with which to funnel their powers for the good of all humankind. In return, the mutants were treated with all the respect and rights of their flat-scan counterparts.

Or so the emails and hard-drives would like him to believe.

Remy, an insatiable realist when it came to things that sounded too good to be true, found the whole thing a little hard to swallow.

But, he wasn't thinking about it at the moment.

At least, not actively.

Charlie's lips were soft against his own and he rubbed a thumb across her cheek. She pulled back, her brown eyes heavy with alcohol and lust. She licked her lips, before swallowing and tilting her head to rest on the door behind her. "So..." Her voice was thick with promise.

He loved the way it filled his ears and caused his body to shiver in response. "So..." he repeated, his eyes dark and focused on her own.

She took an unsteady breath and twisted the knob. The door opened into a dimly lit foyer. She backed in, her fingers gripping his. He followed, kicking the door closed behind him and pausing to lock it. Her tanned skin was flushed and he watched appreciatively as her chest heaved up and down with each anxious breath. He crossed to where she stood at the base of a staircase, his arms instinctively wrapping about her and his hands tangling her bleached bob as he set his lips against hers once more.

The trek up the staircase was a blur of discarded clothes and wet kisses. Then they were naked and laughing at the shock of cold sheets against their skin. Remy sucked at her neck while his hands teased her nipples into round little cherries each atop a delightful pile of vanilla. He ran his tongue along them before returning to those soft lips and enjoying the faint taste of whisky with each little nip.

As he sank into her, there was only a momentary flash of green eyes before he shuddered and tangled his tongue against hers.

X

"Do you work with her?"

His fingers stilled on her back. "Pardon?"

Charlie looked up at him from where she rested on his bare chest, her fingers playing with the hair there. "Your ex. Do you work with her?"

He looked at her, his dark eyes betraying nothing. Finally, he sighed, let his fingers continue their soft caress. "Yeah, I do."

"That's painful."

He allowed himself a breathy chuckle before admitting, "Yeah."

"What happened?"

He shook his head. "Rather not say."

She leaned up on her elbow and favored him with a disapproving look. "I told you about Tom."

"Yes, an' he's a rat bastard," Remy agreed. "It's...complicated...wit' Anna."

"Oh, so it's all your fault, then?"

He looked at her, and pursed his lips. "Partly, yeah."

"I can't believe you did anything that bad...You didn't sleep with her mother or anything trashy like that, did you?"

An eyebrow disappeared into the mop of brown across his forehead. "No. I di'n't." He cleared his throat and added, "Despite popular opinion."

"What was that?"

"Nut'in'."

"Uh-huh," she eyed him warily. "What did you do?"

"Let's just say I screwed up an' been tryin' t' make it up t' her ever since."

"It's not working?"

"No," he touched the tip of her nose with a finger before offering her a watery smile. "No, she's found someone else."

She nodded her understanding. "Another Greek god?"

He winked at her. "Dere's only so many of us to go 'round, chére."

"So, what then? How does he compare?"

"He's older."

She got a knowing glint in her eye. "Oh, sugar daddy, huh?"

He shook his head. "Nah, Anna...she's not like dat."

"Oh, then it's daddy-issues."

"More like gran'-daddy-issues." It was out before he could even think. She must have heard the bitterness creep into his voice because she wrinkled her brow in question. "The man's like eighty." His voice held the teeniest bit of frustration.

She smiled and kissed him on the mouth. "Well, no offense, but I don't think there's an eighty-year-old alive that can hold a candle to you."

A lopsided grin slid across his face and he pulled her down for another kiss.

X

Remy kissed Charlie at her door and promised to see her that night. She nipped at his lower lip before he squeezed her breast and parted from her quickly.

"Tonight!" he called over his shoulder and climbed into a cab.

He ran his fingers over his lips.

Undercover work was always difficult. It was a thin line between truth and deceit. Paper thin. One wrong move and the line could leave a pretty nasty cut. The real art was finding a way to keep the deceit from being detected. It was hard to keep track of lies. Eventually they buried those that told them. He knew that firsthand. The trick was to tell the truth whenever it was possible. The truth was always constant. One needn't worry about dotting i's and crossing t's. The truth did it for them. So, he had learned from his multitudes of mistakes. Honesty really was the best policy.

Or, at least some variant of it.

He tipped the cabby and moseyed into his hotel. Becky winked at him as he grabbed a complimentary bagel and cream cheese container. He winked back.

His room was in a disarray. If it hadn't looked like that when he'd left, he would have been sure he'd been ransacked.

Sliding into the chair at his little table, he peeled back the paper on his cream cheese and spread it heavily across his bagel. He stuffed a bite into his mouth and sighed against the taste. Taking his phone from his jacket pocket, he turned it on.

He'd been very honest with Charlie. About his feelings. About Rogue. The bitterness in his voice conceded his exasperation and self-blame for the dissolution of his relationship. He tapped at the key pad and pinched the bridge of his nose. He'd given her no true testimony of his actions, just the honest understanding that he knew he'd screwed up.

"Yeah?" Logan's gruff voice did little to dampen Remy's spirits.

And she'd bought into him hook-line-and-sinker.

He couldn't keep the grin from leaking into his voice.

"I'm in."


Thanks to all of you who reviewed. I'd love to read some more!

What?! Remy what?! I know. I'm just as shocked and horrifed.

Really, there are no words...except...

If every action has a reaction...the question then becomes...what will the reaction to this be?

...and who will be the one reacting?

Thanks for reading!