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Feather light touches were running along Scott's cheeks. Scott determined that they must have been Gambit's. He realized that wasn't what woke him though. What woke him was an intense need for the bathroom. He reached for his glasses and they weren't where he expected them to be. He felt Logan's fingers brush his as they were pressed into his hand. He opened his eyes and peered at the clock. He was surprised to see it was only about two in the morning. He glanced at the thief whose chin was settled on his chest. "You're awake?"

Remy grinned. "Told y'. I'm nocturnal." Scott shook his head and shifted carefully out of the bed and went to the bathroom.

Logan was sitting on the bed apparently engaged in a staring contest with Remy. The thief had his arms crossed and a petulant frown on his face. His bristles were showing, which ruined the effect. He couldn't completely pull off the little boy look without shaving. Logan reached forward and flicked the younger man's nose. "Ouch," Remy hissed, head snapping away from the "attack" and directly into the headboard. "Merde." He rubbed at the back of his skull.

Jean snickered. Remy rolled his eyes as she sat up. "So, now that we're all up," she said, "what's the plan?"

"Going back to sleep?" Scott suggested.

"We don't have a session in the mornin'," Logan stated. "There's no reason to get up later. No, I think our little thief is gonna tell us what's eatin' at him."

"Not'in'," Remy shrugged.

"Why are your shields glowing?" Scott asked settling on the bed and letting the thief lean back against his shoulder. Remy sighed miserably.

"Fine. Merde, y' people are sick. Y' know that right? Y' get too focused on knowin' everythin' about a body and y' lose the mystery in life." Jean's jaw dropped and Logan chuckled.

"Come on, Jeannie. Ya don't mean ya bought that bayou-boy act?" Logan questioned.

"I'm good, Logan. I don't break character," Remy grinned at the Canadian. "Especially not around spooks."

"Hey!" Jean protested. "I do not like the term 'spook'."

"And I don' like bein' called a whore, but that don't stop people. Deal with it, woman," Remy snapped. Jean stared at him. She sat up carefully.

"You're shields are glowing brighter."

Remy sighed. "Too much t' hope that you'd be diverted int' a discussion of names, non?"

"Definitely. What's going on, Remy?" Jean asked. She gently squeezed his hand.

"Part of m' shields is failin' and Sinister's keepin' 'em up f' moi," Remy answered quickly. He snapped his jaw shut. His shoulders curled in and Scott wrapped his arm around him, pulling him in closer.

"Let me help," Jean demanded. His shields flared at the probe that accompanied that. Gambit's jaw tensed. "Please," she softened the order. Remy wavered. He shut his eyes and reached past the shields to let his charm run over the Phoenix for a moment. Satisfied, he opened a tiny slit and let her in. Scott looked at Logan as Remy seemed to fall asleep. Logan's nose twitched.

"He don't smell like he's asleep. Jeannie, what?"

"He's letting me in," she answered. //Remy, would you prefer having someone else here too?// Scott heard the question clearly through his link with Jean and his eyes widened behind his glasses. She wasn't shielding against him.

//Mebbe,// Remy answered. //But de only one I can dink of lettin' in y' ain' gonna like.//

Jean's surprise was easy to see. Remy gave her a wry smile. She considered. She curled a mental lip. //Fine. I'll deal.//

//Oh, y' already draggin' in Scotty, why not have a party?// Remy asked her.

//I suppose this would be the time to announce my presence?// Sinister asked, leaning against the bookshelf in Remy's "parlor". Remy scowled over his shoulder at him.

//Always said y' never knew how t' make an entrance,// Remy sneered. He looked the man up and down. //That suit's de wrong color f' y'.//

//You would prefer silver?// Sinister asked, raising a brow.

//Anythin' but brown.// Sinister morphed into his more familiar shape.

//Better?//

//You'll do.//

Jean's eyes were very wide. She watched the interaction with avid interest. Almost as if she were a tennis spectator.

//Shall we get down to the reason why *that* woman has been allowed into your mind?// Sinister prompted. The thief sighed.

//Fine. How do we do dis den?// Jean was surprised that the question wasn't directed at her.

//It would be best to show her where the damage is. Unless you'd rather I fixed things?//

//Non, merci, M. Essex.// Remy rolled his eyes. //Y' take us dere, oui?// he asked the scientist. Jean felt a knot in her stomach. She didn't like the looks of this at all.

//Very well.// Sinister straightened and opened a portal. //You can do this yourself. If you would merely practice, you would be able to move around your mindscape with a minimal effort.//

//There's too many nasty dings in m' mindscape, merci.// Gambit glared at Sinister.

//You can not blame me for difficulties of your own creation, boy.//

//I most certainly can, ole man.// Jean was startled by Sinister's chuckle. Remy put out his hand for her and led her into the portal. //Don' worry 'bout him, chere, he's just a pussycat. Like Creed.//

//Very comforting,// Jean replied dryly. Remy winked at her. Sinister crossed his arms.

//We are here. Get on with it. I have things to be doing.//

//But not'in' as important as po' lil' Remy, non?// Remy fluttered his lashes.

//Don't test me, LeBeau.// Jean could keep herself from smiling.

//What is the trouble?//

//Yesterday, dis shield was near on t' bein' gone. Don' know what all dat woulda let out. I need t' do somethin' about containin' what's behind it.//

//And what is behind it?//

//I don' know.//

//You don't know?// Jean echoed. //Interesting.//

//Dere's only one layer of shieldin' here,// Remy explained. //An' whatever's behind it was eatin' t'rough it.//

//Then maybe we should face what's in there.//

//I don' dink dat's wise. I dink it's better t' just seal it up. Contain it.//

//This falls under my lecture on releasing the pain you absorb from other people,// Jean said sharply. //Can you let me in?//

The distress on Remy's face almost made Jean hesitate. He took a long moment to breathe. //Oui, chere. Jus' hurry.// A tiny sliver of dark appeared and Jean slipped inside.

Scott's scowl deepened. "What's going on, Slim?"

"She's going into repressed memories. I think Gambit's containment idea is better myself," Scott informed Logan. "But Sinister's there and he's what's getting to me."

"How?"

"His reaction to Gambit is so out of character, but it doesn't seem to be a con. I hate the bastard."

"I know."

"I want to rip his head off and piss down his throat."

"Ain't a bad idea."

"And he's treating Remy like a teenager."

"Huh?"

"They're fighting, but like I'd fight with Jubilee and it's making me nervous."

"Why?"

"Because Gambit doesn't hate him." Logan laid a comforting hand on Scott's leg.

A tear ran down Jean's cheek and Scott and Logan were immediately aware. Scott listened actively to the link.

Jean kept her back against the shield as the chaos roiled around her. Unlike most of Gambit's mind, there seemed to be no actual landscape here. There was no theatre, no graveyard, no house, just a bubbling cloud that ate at the shield with caustic force. Jean hardened her own shields as it started to lap at her. Dimly, she heard voices in the void. She concentrated, trying to find the source. Suddenly, the cloud was gone, replaced by an echoing chamber with glowing lichen on the wall. Gambit's hands caught he and dragged her out of the room.

//Dammit, Remy!// she snapped. //I was so close.//

//T' bein' caught in a trap!// Gambit was agitated. He ran a hand through his bangs. //Woman, y' in D-14, not C-2 where y' were.//

//Take us back, LeBeau,// Sinister ordered.

//I can't do dat.//

//You brought us here. You can do the reverse,// the man insisted. Gambit's hands fisted. He was practically vibrating in anger. //Don't question me.// And a heartbeat later, they were back at the weakened section. //Good.// Sinister rested his hand on the tousled bangs. //Now give her a way to stay here.//

Remy took Jean's hand and stepped through the shielding.

"Slim?" Logan prompted.

"Jean tightened her shields and Gambit lost track of her for a minute. That's why he panicked."

"And he wanted to shake her fer scarin' him?"

Scott nodded.

"Know the feelin'."

"Me too," Scott agreed. He didn't even realize that he'd started to stroke Remy's hair, trying to calm him.

//Jeannie, I can't do dis!// The black cloud surged towards them. Jean gripped Gambit's hand more firmly. She stepped into the cloud without strengthening her shields. He stayed outside of it.

//Come here. Who is this?// She showed him a face.

//De Antiquary,// Remy whispered, eyes dropping quickly. //Jeannie, just help m' t' seal dis place off.//

//No.//

//Why not? Y' don't know! It hurts, Jeannie. I'm burnin'.//

//Once you face the monsters, the pain will fade,// Jean insisted.

//What de fuck would y' know about m' monsters, Miss Suburbia?//

//I know that Scott could face his with help. You can too.// Jean stared into the cloud. //For the moment only, I want you to create a clear box around the memories, so we can look in but nothing can get out.//

//Gambit can do dat,// he agreed after a long moment. Some of the tension left his spine. He closed his eyes. It amused Jean that his astral projection did things the same way he did things in real life. A geodesic globe glowed magenta around the cloud, then faded to shiny glass. //Enough?// he asked softly.

//For now. We'll deal with this again when you're rested.//

//Oui, Jeannie.// They were outside the shields once more. Sinister studied the young man.

//Have you had your shots?// he asked Gambit. Jean blinked at the question.

//Oui, M. Get y' a docteur's note if y' want it,// Remy snapped.

//Not this time,// Sinister responded calmly. //Have you placed your calls?//

//Non, M.// Remy responded more meekly. Sinister glared at him. As his mouth opened, Remy raised a hand. //Remy just tell Scott t' give him de standard responsibility lecture an' we call it good?// Sinister chuckled.

//Very well, Old Son. Do not allow things to reach such a state again.//

//Oui, M.// Sinister left them there. //Enough?//

//For now,// Jean agreed. And with a thought she was awake. Remy's eyes opened after a few blinks.

"Was that lecture 49 or lecture 32?" Scott asked.

Remy considered the question seriously. "Forty-nine."

Scott nodded. "I don't ask that much. I give you one simple task and it doesn't get done. Team work relies upon the idea that all members of the team will complete their assigned tasks," Scott said sharply. His voice softened with humor a breath later. "This is where you tune out, I think."

"Non, I've heard de next line. Somethin' like 'when one part of the job doesn't get done, the entire team suffers as a result of the irresponsibility of one member.'"

"Glad to know you hear me at least. Next we'll work on *listening* to what I'm saying."

"Cyke, I ain't never let y' down when it was important." Remy rolled his eyes. "Ain't it past your bedtime?" he asked.

"Don't try to change the subject," Scott said with a grin.

Remy's hand settled on Cyke's crotch. "Why not?" the Cajun purred.

"Because it *is* past my bedtime," Scott yawned. He kissed Gambit's temple, then reached to give Jean a quick peck. Logan turned the goodnight kiss into a deep, possessive claiming. Scott was panting by the end of it. Yet, he snuggled down into the bed and closed his eyes behind his sleeping goggles.

Logan held his hands out to Jean and Remy. "Come here, kids." They curled up on either side of him. "Now, you two are gonna tell Uncle Logan what the *fuck* this is about. First, is the Cajun still glowin'?"

"No the red is gone."

"Good. Now spill it."

"Spill what, Logan?" Jean asked with a frown.

"What happened in there?"

"Didn't Scott tell you?"

"I wanna know what scared the Cajun and I know I ain't gonna get a straight answer from him, so spill it, Red."

"Just something from the past that he doesn't want to face," Jean said flatly. "Now, I think Scott's got the right idea. We can deal with this later, after we're rested." She touched Gambit's cheek gently. He closed his eyes and nodded, cheek brushing along Logan's shoulder, the short bristles just beginning to show. She kissed each of them gently and laid down next to Scott. Logan's arm tightened around Remy's shoulders.

"Don't expect yer gonna be sleepin' much tonight."

"Non," Remy said with a half-smile.

"Ya want some company?"

"Non, merci, Logan-cher. Dis is somet'in' I gotta be alone wit'." Logan nodded. Remy slipped out of the Canadian's grip and went to shower. By the time he slipped out of the room, all three of his lovers were asleep.

****

Scott found Gambit in the Danger Room at five a.m. when he got up. The Cajun was doing tumbling runs. "Hey," Scott called.

"Hey."

"You up for a spar? I'll even let you win." Scott winked - a brief flare of red against his visor.

Remy snickered. "Sure, Cyke. Bos okay?"

"Fine. I'll just stretch out."

"Tell m' when y're ready, cher." Scott had always appreciated Remy's gymnastic skills from a tactical standpoint. Now, he was willing to acknowledge the aesthetic appreciation too. Mid-air twists and flips showed off Remy's agility and grace. Handstands showed his strength in corded muscles.

"Ready whenever you are, Gumbo."

Remy back-flipped to where Scott was waiting, holding wooden practice staffs. "I'll go easy on y', Scotty."

"I'd prefer hard." Scott shrugged.

"Mon Dieu, Fearless made a joke."

"More of a pass, but whatever works."

"Let's rock then, cher."

Scott didn't hold to formal moves so his matches never took on a recognizable cadence. Remy adored fighting outside the lines.

About an hour later, Scott was on the floor for the third time. "Yield." He patted the mat next to him. "Come here." Snickering, Remy settled next to him. "So are you going to kill Jean or not?"

"Actually, I was t'inkin' of torturing' her."

"Always fun. Can I watch?"

"Depends on what I get in return."

"I'll have to think on it. What are you trying to work through, Babe?" With his eyes closed, Scott didn't see the double-take.

Remy sighed deeply. "Jeannie dug up some nasty memories."

"Childhood shit?"

"Oui. Jus' takes time t' bury it again. M' master weren't a nice man."

Scott's eyes popped open. "Master?"

"Oui. De Antiquary owned m'. Was plannin' t' keep m' too. Sold most of de Collection. Dought Remy was too pretty t' sell. Usually, dat's all I remember, but de memories be tryin' t' get out now. Dat an' Fagan's Mob." Remy shrugged. "I get it pushed down soon enough."

"Maybe you do need to talk about things. I know talking about Jack always hurts like Hell, but it did help some."

"Jack?"

"My foster father. Used to beat me." Scott's shoulders lifted.

"Foster father?"

"Yeah. Jack the Diamond. He was a thief. Nowhere near your class."

"Not many are." Remy tugged at Scott's arm. "Shower. Food. Bed."

"If you're nice, I'll even snuggle until you fall asleep," Scott teased.

The hot water felt good against sticky skin. Scott chuckled at Remy's almost shy approach. He put out his hand. The locker-room showers were large. "Why y' wearin' y'r glasses?"

"So I can watch you." Scott tugged the Cajun under the stream of water. He watched the water track down the soft skin. He followed one drop on its uneven path with a finger. Remy's eyes drooped. The rough stubble on his cheeks caught the water. The oddly subdued light of the room glinted off the drops.

Apropos of nothing, Remy commented, "I know femmes dat'd kill f' y' cheekbones." Scott's hand paused just above his lover's navel.

"Really?"

"Oui. Dey show up in dis light." Remy traced the edge of the visor. "I hate dis ding. Y' glasses are better."

"But not as useful."

"Don' need y' t' be useful." Remy rolled his eyes and pressed close to whisper in Scott's ear. "Keep y' locked up so no one ever hurts y' again, mebbe." He placed a small kiss just before the ear. "All t'ree of y'. Keep y' easily, me."

"A cage is a cage, Remy."

"Ain't done it yet."

Scott laughed lightly and kissed the thief. His tongue slid easily into the hot, spicy mouth. Remy wrapped his arms around Scott's neck. Scott buried one hand in Remy's hair. The other surrounded Remy's cock. The slender hips jerked in reaction. Remy moaned into the kiss. His eyes closed and his arms tightened their embrace. The hot water poured over them.

Scott swallowed the breathless moans that rumbled from his lover's chest. They broke the kiss, panting for air. Scott looked into lust dilated pupils and smiled. He recaptured Gambit's lips with fierce possessiveness. The Cajun whimpered. Scott loved the reckless abandon of Remy's thrusting hips. There was a brief pause for breath as his teeth tugged at Remy's lower lip. Then, Scott's mouth sealed over the younger man's again. Remy's thrusting was almost wild.

"Sil vous plait," Remy whispered barely moving from Scott's mouth. The hand in his hair held him firmly in place. "Dieu! Let m' come, cher. Tell m'."

"Come, Sweets. I want to feel you in my hand."

Remy came, wrapping his bliss around Scott's mind, not even noticing when he dragged his lover over the line. They clung to one another for a long moment.

"That could easily become addictive," Scott murmured. "Let's get cleaned up and I'll tuck you in."

"Y' stay wit' m'?"

"For awhile."

"Bein."

Scott smiled.

****

Logan was tracing Jean's nipples with one fingertip when she woke. She shivered under the gentle touch. One finger became two as he traced over her lips. She sucked at them, tasting salt and metal.

He ran his wet fingers down the center of her body. Her legs fell open for him and he continued the line that bisected her torso. He placed a wet kiss just above the soft, red curls of her pubis. Her tongue slipped out to wet her lips.

He licked his way up the inside of her right thigh, stopping before he got anywhere interesting and then repeated the process with the left. Her quiet groan of disappointment made him smile. He lingered at the join between leg and thigh, sucking and lapping at the skin there until he'd left his mark. One of Jean's fine fingered hands tangled in his short brown hair, urging him towards her center.

He inhaled deeply, enjoying the scent of her and the lingering scents of his other lovers on her skin. The subtle musk of her arousal made him hard. He nosed through the soft curls, exploring her slowly with the tip of his tongue. Her hand settled on his head. "Please," she whispered. He grinned and carefully outlined the edge of her slit with his tongue once more before nuzzling at her navel again. "Logan," she moaned. "Don't tease."

He laughed, the hot air of his breath tickling her sweaty skin. He went down on her then and licked her to a climax. His tongue was almost brutal in its single-minded attack. She sobbed as she came, "Logan."

****

Scott tucked the quilt more firmly around his sleeping lover. He smoothed the Cajun's hair feeling overwhelmingly protective. He shook his head and reminded himself that Gambit could fight. In fact, the young man had just kicked his ass in the Danger Room. He still couldn't help wanting to keep the world away from the thief. He wanted to keep him safe. Just like he wanted to keep Jean out of the line of fire. Especially now that she was pregnant. Maybe if they ganged up on her they could get her to stay out of battle. "Sleep well, Sweets," Scott whispered. He shut the door quietly behind himself.

****

Warren hummed under his breath as he jogged around the grounds. He saw Bobby near the lake and so avoided that area like the plague. Bobby and water wasn't good at the best of times. He moved back towards the house, then turned to look. Bobby was sitting on the rocks, just staring into the water. He looked pensive. "Shit." Warren walked over to him and settled down on the rock. "Deep thoughts?"

"Yeah."

"Want to share?"

"Not really."

"But you will?" Warren raised a brow in disbelief.

"I've got to talk to somebody. If I don't talk to you, Slim will probably badger me about it. Then, he'll sick Hank on me."

"That bad, huh?"

"I guess. I'm just sort of generally angsting about life."

"You're allowed. It comes with your age."

Bobby snorted. "Yeah. My age. I'm older than Gambit."

"So?"

"War, when was the last time you saw anyone on this team give me half the respect they give the Cajun? Even when people don't like him, they respect what he says or does. Except Scott, but that's just Scott being himself. At least they think he's competent. Me? I can't even use my powers effectively."

"Bobby," Warren sighed. "Are you really comparing yourself to a thief?"

"He's a very good thief," Bobby objected automatically.

Warren blinked. "And now you're defending him? I thought you didn't even like him."

"Well, not exactly." Bobby stared into the water. "I don't like his attitude. I don't like his profession. I think his clothes are a disgrace. I don't like the fact that he dated Rogue. I don't like that fucking trenchcoat, or the bullshit accent. But I know Remy a little better than I used to. You should have been there when Rogue dumped him, Warren. It was awful. He wasn't even close to the man we see in battle. And she broke his heart."

"I think he's doing pretty good on the rebound," Warren drawled.

Bobby snorted. "Right. Warren, sometimes you don't know shit. They're still thinking he's going to bolt. There's one of those three with him every minute of the day, unless he's with Storm or someone else on the team. They only leave him alone when they're sure he can't just bolt. Wolverine always paces when Gambit's out somewhere. He always has. I had to threaten to freeze his ass to a chair one night before I got any sleep. Rogue broke his heart. I saw it, Warren. I was there. It was the nastiest break-up I've ever had the misfortune to witness. And that includes Storm and Forge."

Warren winced. "Okay, so you feel sorry for the bastard. Why are you trying to measure yourself against him? The two of you have nothing in common."

"Yeah. He comes from a shit background and I had two stable homes. Damn it, Warren, I don't even *like* accounting all that much. I've never lived on my own. Well, never for long enough to count. I couldn't leave work fast enough to come back to be on the team. Shit, I've never fucked up as badly as the Cajun, but that's because I've *never* had the opportunity. What was the last big decision in my life, Warren?"

Warren didn't have an answer.

"There isn't one, Warren. That's the problem."

****

"Remy LeBeau, please."

"One moment," the professor replied. He put the woman on hold. "Gambit," he said into the intercom, "you have a phone call on the main line."

Gambit rolled over and rubbed his eyes. He peered at the clock and was surprised to see that it was nearly dinner time. He grabbed his extension. "Got it," he told the professor. "Hello?"

"Remy?"

"Belle?" He sat straight up. "Belle, chere, what's wrong?"

"Not'in', husband," she smirked into the phone. He sounded as if he'd just woken up. "Just wonderin' why I'm getting flowers from a married woman."

Remy's brain stalled. "Hehn?"

Belle laughed. She put her feet up on her desk and grinned at the floral arrangement. "I have flowers sittin' here from Jean Summers."

"Merde. Dat woman! She goin' t' drive m' crazy."

"Too late. I already did that," she teased lightly. "So y've finally dumped Mississippi? She weren't no good f' y' anyway."

"So everyone keeps tellin' m'. Y' okay wit' m' getting new lovers?"

Belladonna Boudreaux had her pride. "I'm jealous as Hell, cher, but y' deserve t' smile. I like de way y' eyes look when y' happy. Y' learned t' touch again?"

"M' powers got damped down awhile back."

"I remember. After y' got outta de hospital. Y' didn' sound too happy 'bout dat den."

"Weren't all dat happy. Dings happened dat I wish I could undo. I wish wit' all m' might, chere. But lessenin' m' powers be f' de best. Ain't gonna charge de bedroom when I'm makin' love, oui?"

"I wouldn't know. I'm neglected down here."

"All y' need t' do is call," he chided her, finally waking up.

"So, y're doin' Jean? Ain't her husband got somet'in' t' say about dat?"

"Why? I'm doin' him too. An' deir pup Wolverine."

"What!"

Remy laughed at her. "De Summers trio has decided dat dey want a Cajun in de mix. An' po' Remy's de one dey decided t' choose. Don' dink it be fair, chere, what wit Remy just wakin' up from his coma two weeks back."

"Oh, my po' abused T'ief. Y' just bring y'self right back here and Bella will kiss an' make it all better. Den, I'll beat de shit out of y' f' not bein' de one t' let m' in on dis when it happened."

"Belle, I. . ."

"Y' didn' dink it was gonna last."

"Oui."

"Remy, cher, y' be de biggest fool on de planet. Y' know dat right? A trio goes out of de way t' pull y' in and y' question it. Cher, even if it ain't f' keeps, y' know damn well dat y' been in love wit' half of dat team of y'rs since y' got dere. Y' can't lie t' me. I know y' too well, boy."

"Oui, Belle. Whatever y' say, Belle."

"Y' just be a good boy and send m' *interestin'* letters and I won't have t' come up dere and hurt y'."

"Oui, chere." Remy snickered. He sobered. "Y' sure y' okay wit' dis?"

"Remy, how long have I had a lover?"

"Since one year after de weddin'."

"Oui. Now, am I really gonna get mad at y'?"

"Y' used t'."

"Oui, but I've grown up. I've gotten over bein' jealous of y'. Well, mostly. I won't say it don't hurt, but, mon couer, I've always loved y'. Y' always gonna be m' best friend. I never t'ought I'd get y' back after y' fought Julien. I'm willin' t' take what I can get from y'."

"Ah, chere. Je t' aime, Bella."

"Je t' aime, Remy. Y' be safe, T'ief? Y' need m' t' watch over y'?"

"Non, chere. Not right now. Got t'ree overprotective lovers already. Don' need m'self a fourth."

"Call m' if'n dere's trouble. Y' know I love a good fight."

"Oui, chere. Remy'll call." They hung up without saying goodbye. They never did.

Gambit stared at the phone for a long time. His chin rested on his folded hands, which were folded on the desk. His bangs fell haphazardly into his eyes. He reached out for the receiver, then pulled back. "You're a fool boy," he whispered. "It ain't like Crow's gonna hurt you." He sighed, then picked up the phone and dialed before he lost his nerve.

"What?" the voice snapped.

"Crow?"

"Shit. Hang on. This is private. Leave me alone for a few," he informed the anonymous person or persons in the room with him. "Hey, punk. I'm back. How the fuck are you?"

"I'm doin'."

"Heard that woman of yours stole your eyes."

Remy winced. "She ain't my woman no more."

"What do you mean?"

"She dumped me, Crow. Found out I had a past and dumped me."

"Damn. Bad news."

Remy laughed sharply. "Non, could be worse. How's t'ings with you?"

"Boss is in a mood, which I'm blaming you for. The captives disappeared while we were on a mission. Flip's driving me crazy. I think the boss fucked her up last time she got cloned."

"Well, y' know that every copy's a lil' different. She still into body-buildin'?"

"Yeah. Still has nightmares too. My ribs ain't going to survive it."

Remy felt a smile creeping onto his face. "Anythin' special I should know about?"

"Nope. Just wanted to make sure you were still kicking."

"I'm still here. I'm even alive."

"Good, punk. Makes life a little more interesting. See ya around."

"Bye, Crow." Remy hung up. Then dialed a second number from memory.

"Yeah, whadda want?"

"Vic?"

"LeBeau," the voice spat. "Why the Hell are ya callin' me, Punk?"

Remy swallowed hard. "Need t' tell y' somet'in' b'fore I see y' next an' y' decide y' want t' rip m' lungs out."

"I can't help myself. Can't get used to ya without yer healin'."

"I know." Remy spun the little top and let the light play over his hand. "Seems that I'm screwin' Logan now."

"What!" Victor Creed roared. "Talk fast, kid, before I come do ya just fer the fun of it. God damned whore."

"Vic, just hear m' out fer a second, d'accord."

"That's all the time ya got, Brat."

"Rogue dumped m'."

"Good."

"Stop that. An' left m' in a coma f' t'ree weeks."

"Cunt."

"Watch y'r mout', asshole. Anyway, after I woke up, Logan an' de Summerses decided Remy should join them in bed." Remy shrugged. He tucked the phone between his shoulder and ear and opened his drawer to find the little sketchpad he kept there for doodling on. "So, now this boy's got himself three lovers t' balance."

"Yer shittin' me. It ain't even April."

"I ain't jokin', Chat. Dat's de way it stand now."

"So yer doin' the runt. That mean I ain't gettin' any?"

"Mebbe. Gonna have t' see, non?"

"Fine. Slut," Creed muttered. "I ain't surprised though."

Remy blinked and held the phone to his ear. "Je suis, I t'ought y' just said it ain't surprisin'. I sure as Hell was surprised."

Creed couldn't help it, he laughed. "Yer not that bright, are ya, kid? Logan's lusted after ya fer years. It's yer scent."

"M' scent."

"Yep."

"I don't t'ink I want t' know."

"No, ya don't. Summers and Grey, that's more surprisin', but they're doin' the runt. I didn't think Xavier's golden child had it in him."

Remy snorted. "That man's got more of a fucked up home life than m'."

"That's sayin' a lot. Considerin' the old man wants ya to scurry on home to his lab."

"Sh. Don't say t'ings like that. Y' give m' hives or somet'in'. Any good words out?"

"Fer yer style? Nope. Ain't heard about anyone needin' a thief. At least not one that ain't ready to go in guns blazin' and drop a coupla charges here and there."

"Too bad. Gettin' bored, me."

"What too much sex?"

"Not enough action."

"I'm near enough to drop by."

"Merde. Non, that's the last t'ing I need right now. Essex already been by. Crow talked t' Logan." Remy gave into the call of his bed and dragged the phone over to it. "I'm just in the right mood t' call Raven, y' know?"

"Yeah, kid. Careful though, yer girl's her daughter. She's gonna blame ya fer the break-up."

"Mais. Probably m' own fault anyway, non?"

"Probably. Ya never told her 'bout the doc did ya?"

"Non. Didn' never trust her dat much. She's Raven's daughter, even though she try not t' be."

"Yep. I'll talk to ya soon, punk. Watch fer my claws, boy."

"Right, Chatton. Remy's too fast fer y'."

Creed hung up the phone. Remy debated for a long moment, then dialed one last number.

"Hello?"

"Raven?"

"LeBeau?"

"Oui."

****

Scott shook his head at his lovers where they were arguing over wallpaper samples. "And here I thought you were smart enough to wait until *after* the dining room and kitchen were done to move down to the boathouse."

"I am. That don't mean I ain't gonna help make some choices. Leave it to Red here and we're gonna hate all of it. Plannin' to make Gumbo take the kitchen questions."

"Have fun. I'll be in my office."

Gambit looked up from the computer screen where Kitty's mock-ups were displayed. "Bonjour, Scotty."

"Hey, Gumbo. So what do you think?"

"I think we've got a good start. We need pros though."

Scott nodded. "I spoke with Warren the other day, and he gave me a list of some of the agencies that he thought would be willing to take this account. He also gave me the name of a research company."

Remy nodded. Scott leaned against the side of the chair.

"And Bobby read your personnel file."

"Hope it ain't all that interestin'."

"No, it isn't, but my journal is. I had Kitty up my encryption, but there's no knowing how much he knows about you know."

"Merde. Guess I'll have t' talk wit' the boy."

"That would be a good idea."

"Y' have any objections t' Bobby learnin' a few t'ings the ole man might not like?"

"Will it keep him from getting killed?"

"Non, but it'll make it easier t' hide assets from the bloodsucking vampires callin' themselves de IRS."

Scott laughed. "Sure, why not. It could come in handy."

"Sooner dan y' t'ink, cher." Remy tipped his head back and looked up at Scott. Cyclops frowned at him.

"What have you heard?"

"All sorts of t'ings. I talked t' Raven t'day."

"Mystique? She e-mailed you?"

"Non, I called her."

Scott's jaw dropped. "You called her? On the phone? Why didn't I ever think of that? And can I have her number?" His smile was downright evil.

"Non. Y' prank her, she gonna t'ink it's moi. I ain't gonna be y'r cover."

"Damn." Scott sighed deeply. "Guess I'll just have to go through your address book and get it myself."

****

//Jean, I want to talk to you about Gambit.//

//No, Professor, I won't tell you anything about our training.//

//Jean, this is important. I have a responsibility to protect all of the students within these walls.//

//He doesn't trust you. He has his reasons. That will have to suffice.//

//Have you considered what will happen when Rogue returns?//

//Yes, I will tell her to go fuck herself, if she can find something strong enough to do it.//

//Jean!//

//You have *no* idea, Professor. You have no idea what she did to him.//

//Then tell me what she did.//

//She tore out his heart, shredded his self-worth, and started a series of fractures in his shielding that could have sent him into a coma or insanity if he hadn't become aware of them.//

Xavier went cold. He hadn't even noticed that the thief had been losing his grip on his shields. //Tell me more about that.//

//I can't tell you more without breaking his confidence. And I won't do that.//

//Is Gambit's metal stability still threatened?// Xavier asked after a pause.

//No, he's stable for the moment and we'll deal with the problem.//

//Does he have *any* training at all?//

//Yes, he has more than a basic amount of training. He could keep out any of the telepaths I know and it isn't merely a matter of his internal biokinetics.//

//Jean, I know his shields are formidable. I understand your sudden urge to protect him, however, I want to make sure that your judgement isn't being impaired by your emotional attachments.//

//No more than my assessment of Scott or Logan's mental state it. No more than my "attachments" to Hank, Warren, and Bobby affect my performance,// Jean responded sharply. //You just want to get into his head because you can't. You two are far too alike. You want to get into his head. He wants to get into Fort Knox.//

//Jean!//

//Night, Professor.// She ended sweetly.

//Scott, honey, come to bed. Bring Remy.//

//We're in the middle of something here, sweetheart. We'll be out in a few.//

//What are you doing?// she asked suspiciously.

//None of your business.//

//You're plotting again aren't you?//

//Would I do that?//

//In a heartbeat. I'll see you soon.//

Scott's eyes focused on the screen again. "Ready?"

"Yes."

"Pause is off. Do y'r worst, cher."

****

"Logan, where have you been hiding?"

"Just been walkin' the perimeter. Had a funny feeling."

"And?"

"I could swear I smelled Mystique."

"But you didn't see her and the sensors didn't pick her up."

"Nope. But that don't mean anythin'." Scott kicked at the door. Logan opened it for him. "Thanks, Cyke. Fergot to bring this along."

"Don't thank me. Thank the pushy brat."

"Thanks, kiddo."

"Bien." Remy dropped the bags he was carrying just inside the door. "What the Hell y' put in dese t'ings, Logan?"

"My things."

Remy rolled his eyes. "Duh."

"My books."

"What are you worrying about, Jean?"

"Logan thinks he smelled Mystique."

"Where?" Remy snapped.

"By sensor 45."

"Merde. Logan, get t' dat box, now. An' don' let no one near it. Jeannie, scan de area. Scott, where's m' cell?"

"Left pocket of your coat."

"How'd it get there?"

"That's where I put it after looking at the addresses you have stored in it."

"That ain't her number."

"I know. But that *was* Creed's number wasn't it. And I'm betting at least one of those other numbers will let me hack Sinister."

"Don' please, cher. He's such a bitch when y' touch his systems from dose numbers."

Jean's brows rose.

"Rav, y' bitch. Y' were here an' y' didn' come t' see m'? I'm hurt. How's po' Remy t' share wit' y' when y' don' show up?" He hung up. "I'm goin' t' security. Talk t' le professeur, cher?"

"Sure, Sweets. I want an explanation."

"As soon as we sure she ain't on de campus."

Logan sat on the sturdy wooden chest and stretched his back. There was a knock on the door. "Logan?" He didn't answer. It sounded like Bobby and wore his hideous after-shave, but you never could tell. "Logan?" It was a little louder now.

"Come in, icicle." Logan settled into a lotus position.

"Hey, Wolvie. Can I talk to you?"

"Sure, kid. What's up?"

"I was thinking about well, everything and I just. . ."

"Spit it out, Drake," Logan growled.

"Well, I was wondering if you'd start teaching me stuff."

"Like?"

"Oh, Japanese. Fighting. That sort of thing."

Logan's frown softened. "Sure, kid. Tomorrow, if yer game."

"Cool. Thanks, Logan."

"Go on. Drag Hank outta the lab. Ain't it time fer his junk food break?"

"Yeah. Sorry to disturb your meditation."

"It's okay. I can always get back to it. Night, kid."

"Night. Oh, when you see Gambit, can you tell him I want to talk to him?"

"Why?"

"That's personal."

"Sure, I'll tell him." Logan shook his head as Iceman left.

"What's so damned important about a chest that Mystique would be coming after it?"

"I don't know. Gambit hasn't said." Scott shrugged. He was leaning against the window, watching the lawn. "And for all I know you're Mystique, so, we're just going to stay here until the situation resolves itself."

The professor frowned. //I am not Mystique, Scott.//

//I know, sir. But she's outside the window. She's looking surprisingly like Rogue. I think she missed a news flash or two.//

//It could be Rogue.//

//Bullshit, sir. Rogue would bust in, and throw her weight around. It's Raven. She's sneaking in because she doesn't want to tip Gambit off. But she's assuming he's at the boathouse right now.//

//And you would know this how?//

//Remy called her today. She's on the move. Can you tag her?//

//No, she's got a psi-shield on.//

//Damn. Okay. The old fashioned way then. Contact Logan and give him a warning that we've got incoming. Tell Jean to contact Remy and tell him she's pulling Rogue's face out.//

"Gotcha!" Remy muttered at the screen. He scowled. "You're a bitch, Raven. Always were."

"Talking to yourself is a bad habit, Gambit."

"Ange."

"What's up?"

"Mystique's here."

"Really? Looks like Rogue to me."

"Then why ain't she flyin'? Or walkin' in the front door?"

"Maybe she doesn't want anyone to know she's here."

"Bullshit. Even at that she know better'n t' set off the security on that window."

Angel raised a brow. "Oh?"

"Oui. She helped install it. Needed a couple mo' feet t' get t' it. And where y' t'ink y' goin', chere?" he purred at the picture. "Naughty, naughty. Gonna get y'self hurt, 'tite." Angel's eyes narrowed.

"Gambit," he said in a low tone. "Gambit, what are you thinking?"

"T'inkin' she needs a lesson in scarin'. She been t'reatenin' m' since I met her. Time t' repay the favor."

Warren grabbed Gambit's arm before he could leave. The Cajun glared at him with gleaming red eyes. "X-men don't kill. And don't think I've forgiven you yet, Marauder. You fuck up just once and I'll come down on you no matter *what* Scott says."

"I be waitin', homme. Remove your hand immediately." Surprised, Angel did as he was told. Gambit left. Angel looked at the screen. Mystique was climbing up the side of the building. It was Mystique, no question. Rogue would have just flown up to the second floor window, or the roof. Why was the terrorist here?

Mystique smirked as she let herself into Gambit's bedroom. She grinned at the characteristically neat room. She looked at the picture that was face down on the dresser. It would seem he was fighting with Rogue again. Considering that he was bedding the Summers trio now, that wasn't as unexpected as one might think. She shook her head. She stopped short when she saw him in the doorway. "Sugah, Ah. . ."

"Cut the bullshit, Rav."

"Fine," Mystique snorted. "You always were a brat. I think you've gotten worse with age. Shouldn't you be snuggled under the covers with your new toys?"

"Chere, y' wound me. Would I be that stupid?" He slid towards her with the feline grace that she'd always liked in him. "I shoulda known that y'd show up t'night. I did call y' after all." He traced the line of her jaw. "Never t'ought y'd stoop this low though. Y' never taken her face b'fore, chere. Y' a cruel one, Rav."

Mystique blinked innocently as Gambit's fingers worked their way back into her hair. She didn't even realize he was getting closer before his lips brushed against hers.

"Y' look like shit, Rav. I like y' better in y'r own skin. I don' want t' see Rogue here. Ever," he purred at her. She morphed back into her own form.

"Better?"

"Oui, chere. Much better." His hand traced down her side, resting on the belt of her dress. "Much better." He kissed her, drawing her close to press a leg between her thighs. She licked her lips as he released her.

"You are a bad boy, LeBeau. I should have you up on charges."

"Y' don't dare, chere. I've got evidence on y' too. Not t' mention breakin' and enterin'." He wrapped his arms around her waist. She settled her arms around his neck and toyed with his ponytail. "Now, y' just go on an' leave an' we pretend I ain't seen y' in a long time. Y' go find y'r daughter and ask her why she's a hypocritical bitch."

"She dumped you?" Mystique's eyes widened. "Well, well, I didn't think she had it in her."

"We been on and off so many times that I need a referee t' tell m' when I can touch her hand or not."

"Why did she break up with you this time?"

"Because she knows."

"Knows what?"

"M' past, chere. About *him.*"

Mystique clucked. "Foolish little girl. I'll go talk some sense into her."

"Don' bother, chere. Y' just add fuel t' the fire," he said. Acid dripped from his words. "She don' like the dark in m'. She don' like the dark in herself neither. She don' understand. She left m' in a coma Raven. I don' t'ink gettin' back wit' her be de best idea."

"She walked away?"

"Oui."

"I taught her better than that. She should have at least finished you off."

He laughed softly into her ear.

"Goodbye, Cajun. Watch your tail. And get a better lock for your window." She pulled back a bit, then leaned forward to kiss him deeply. She winked. "Someone had to teach Victor how to kiss after all." He laughed and let her leave. He felt Jean's presence against his shields.

//She's leavin', chere. Someone best follow her out.//

//Logan's following her. Scott's guarding Logan's room. You owe us an explanation.//

//Tomorrow, chere?// A bit of the rawness of his emotions crept into his thoughts and Jean softened.

//Tomorrow. Get your things and come back to the boathouse.//

Gambit turned Rogue's picture down once more and looked around the room. He sighed and rubbed his temples. He jumped when he felt a hand on his shoulder. "Sorry."

"Didn' hear y'. Ain't y' supposed t' be in Logan's room?"

"Jean sent me the all clear. You okay?"

"Non."

"Didn't think so." Scott closed the door. "Need to talk?"

"Non."

"Need some help packing?"

"Y' ain't gonna keep m', cher. Y' gonna figure it out soon enough. I ain't exactly the kind y' want in y'r house."

"I haven't kicked you out of the mansion. I'm not going to kick you out of the boathouse. I'm not going to let you run away either."

"Scott, leave m' be."

"No."

"Why not?"

"Because I care about you. Is that allowed?" Remy folded his arms over his chest and leaned against the dresser.

"Why? Why now? I don' understand. Y' ain't given a damn since I got here. An' now I'm jus' supposed t' accept that y' want m'."

"I always cared, Gambit. Always. Damn it, LeBeau, I kept a thief in my house and on my team against everyone else's first impressions. I did that because I saw what they *can't* see."

"Y' don' understand m', homme."

"Not for lack of trying," Scott snapped back. "Gambit, I'm probably the only other person besides Storm here who could understand you."

"Summers the fuckin' perfect." Remy's hands fisted.

"I'm far from perfect. This isn't a competition, Remy."

"Ain't it always?"

"No, it isn't." Scott stepped closer. "Do you want to hit me?"

"Non. Just got too much goin' on inside m' head. I need t' breath, cher. I need t' t'ink."

"If I let you think are you going to go brood on the roof?"

"Probably."

Scott nodded. Then, he stepped even closer. It was a challenge. Gambit straightened. Cyclops hemmed him in with his arms. "Don't do this to yourself, Cajun."

"What, t'ink? Hate t' break it t' y', cher, but that's what I tend t' do."

"And what does it usually get you?"

Remy brought his hands up to Scott's shoulders. He shook his head.

"What does it get you?"

"Don' know. Jus' leave m' alone."

"No."

"Scott."

"No, Remy. I'm not leaving you alone."

Gambit glared at the older man for a long moment. Then, he seemed to wilt. He laid his forehead on Scott's shoulder. His arms slid around Scott's throat. Cyclops arms came up around the younger man.

"I'm not leaving." He rocked gently, almost unconsciously.

"I loved her."

"I know."

"It hurts so bad. Even wit'. . ."

"I know. Let go, Sweets. It's okay to cry."

"Non."

"Someday I'll figure out why beauty and brains don't seem to fit together."

"Was dat a slam, cher?"

"Yep."

"Connard."

"Don't talk about my family like that." Remy snickered. "Better?"

"Oui."

"Then, I'll help you with your things."

"I jus' don' want t'. . ." Remy sighed. "I don' want t' give up m' space."

"You don't have to. I've still got a room here. Granted, it's with Jean, but it's still here. I'm not Logan. I don't expect things to change overnight."

Remy snorted.

"Okay, I don't expect everything to happen overnight."

****

"Ya been cryin', Darlin'." Logan frowned at Gambit. Scott shook his head in a warning which Logan ignored.

"Leave it, Logan," Remy said softly. Logan's eyes narrowed, but he let the topic drop.

"About that damned chest, boy."

"What about it?"

"Gonna tell me anythin'?"

"It's got information on it. Very important information. Dat's all I'm sayin' t'night."

//Problems?// Jean asked her husband.

//Averted the crisis for the moment.//

She stepped forward and took Remy's hand. "Tomorrow you'll tell us everything about it."

"Most of it, chere. What Remy's allowed t'."

"That will have to do for the moment," Scott stated calmly. He ran his hand up the thief's spine until it rested gently on the back of his neck. He glared at Logan. Gambit leaned his head back into the caress. Logan raised a brow. Cyke was protecting the kid from him; that was a switch.

Remy shrugged the bag off of his shoulder and onto the floor next to the dresser. He carefully put his watch onto the top of it. He heard Jean in the bathroom, doing whatever the fuck women did in there. Belle had tried to explain it to him once, but it was still a mystery. He was struck suddenly by a thought. "Cyke, what d' they do in there?"

"No way, Cajun. I am *not* going there. I refuse to eavesdrop on that particular set of activities. I'm certain it would scar my psyche."

"Merde. Guess I'll never know."

"Unless you're braver than I am."

"Non, cher. I'd know by now, oui?"

Logan snorted. "Yer lookin' rough, kid. Ya need t' talk?"

"Non."

"Yer sure?"

"Oui. Just want t' sleep f' a long time. Gonna catch a smoke." He left the room. Logan looked over at Scott.

"What's up?"

"He's getting stuck in his head. It's what happens to semi-normal people around here." Scott sighed and pulled his shoes on. He followed the younger man out to the dock. He sat down next to him. "Give."

Remy rolled his eyes and lit a second cigarette for his field leader. "Jeannie's gonna know."

"She always knows, but as long as I try to hide it she doesn't care. Of course, you're going to get the quitting lectures now. I've already been through it."

"Merci, cher. Y' know just how t' cheer m' up."

"Watch that, you're going to burn through the pier. Then, we'll both be cold and wet and I'll be in the mood to schedule some more four a.m. sessions."

Remy pulled in a lung-full of smoke. "Here's a t'ought. If I'm screwin' y', don' I get t' dictate some? Just 'cause I'm the new one at least?" Remy batted his lashes and looked up through his bangs.

Scott nearly choked on the cigarette. "Stop it. You aren't going to sway me with the aren't-I-a-cute-little-thief look."

Remy stuck out his lower lip in a mock pout, then winked. "Didn' t'ink so. Jean ain't a mornin' person neither an' y' torture her."

"So, what's going on in that skull of yours?"

"Ask y'r wife."

"I don't work that way."

"Not a whole lot I'm willin' t' talk about, cher."

"Then just give me a taste of it."

"What happens when y'all get tired of m'?"

"Somehow, I don't see that ever happening."

"Got issues, me. Been tol' that by every femme I've ever called a friend. Even Mystique."

"You call her a friend?"

"Not an enemy. She was nearly m' mot'er-in-law, cher." Remy grinned. "Best t' stay on her good side, non?"

Scott snickered. "Damn. I have *got* to find your address book."

"Good luck, cher."

"Can I convince you to come to bed?"

"Ain't in the mood."

"To sleep rather? There's an early practice tomorrow. Wouldn't look good if I was late, now would it?"

"Just t'ink of the gossip then."

"Just think of the duty rosters."

"Cyke, y' just one laugh after another."

With a little more cajoling and a lot more nicotine, Scott finally got Remy to bed, curled up with his head on Jean's stomach. "Jus' listenin' t' le bebes," he muttered softly at Jean's question. "Y' take good care of dem." Then, he was asleep.

FINIS