Who then devised the torment?
Love is the unfamiliar Name
Behind the hands that wove
The intolerable shirt of flame
Which human power cannot remove.
We only live, only suspire
Consumed by either fire or fire.
~ T.S. Eliot (Little Gidding IV, vs II)
5 June 1959
"A kiss for luck, cherie?" Jean-Luc leBeau smiled
at Raven Darkholme as they stood outside the Parisian Residence
of Michel Valois.
Opulent to the point of sybaritism, the double-storied villa
stood in one of the oldest districts of Paris -- a quartier
renowned for its low crime-rate and high rent. Despite the
deprivations of the Second World War and the resultant depression,
the pace of life continued unchanged here. It was like stepping
into a time-warp and going back to the fey days before the
Great War, where the entire world had waited, watched and
The quartier was sullied with a sense of unreality, of foreboding,
almost as if their anachronistic gaiety would be detected
by a universal auditor and corrected. Jean-Luc leBeau, always
sensitive to the underlying mood, had tried to alleviate the
pressure by cracking a joke.
Like good Queen Victoria, Raven was not amused. A serious
woman by nature, she believed that work and pleasure should
remain strictly separate. She had surprised him -- surprised
herself -- when she told him that she wanted to be more than
partners. Jean-Luc blamed her coldness on the oppressive air,
"Do you remember our plan, Jean?"
"Oui," he made a face, "Ya make sure dat Monsieur
Valois doesn't disturb me while I appropriate de diamonds."
As if I'd f'rget ya schemes, chere...
Raven nodded at him in approval, "Excellent."
They had been hired by a notorious dealer in stolen jewels
-- Claude Darceneaux -- to relieve Michel Valois of some ancestral
diamonds, commonly known as the Stars of Africa. The jewels
were said to be housed inside a safe hidden beneath the floor
in the Conservatory.
All went according to plan at first. Jean-Luc infiltrated
the house with ease -- old money relied too much on the honesty
of people -- and found the Conservatory. Moonlight streamed
through the large glass windows, illuminating the scene. In
one corner, a baby Grand stood, music spread on its mirror-like
surface. Droopy ferns decorated the room, contrasting strangely
with the rich oil portraits.
Jean-Luc dropped to his knees and knocked softly on the floorboards,
listening to the answering sound. Eventually, after many patient
attempts, one reverberated hollowly and he grinned.
Removing a slender knife from his tool-kit, he prized up
the yellow-wood panel, revealing a strongbox beneath it. Scornfully,
unable to believe his luck, he examined it. It was heavy,
square and made of iron, but its lock was a simple one. He
extracted a lockpick and inserted it delicately. One by one,
he felt the tumblers click into place and the lid opened.
"Yes!" he whispered as he removed the small, velvet
pouch. Grinning in triumph, he replaced the Stars of Africa
with fake gems of cut glass. If the switch was not effected,
the theft would be discovered and the gems would be worthless
-- too hot to sell with ease.
"Yes, indeed," Raven stepped through the door,
a strange expression on her vivid face, pointing a deadly-looking
pistol in his direction. Her ivory hand was poised on the
Jean-Luc looked at his lover. Her cinnamon-brown eyes were
triumphant beneath her mop of coppery hair and her lips were
curled in an unpleasant smirk.
Is dis a double-cross?
"Hand them over, Jean."
"Raven? What de hell are ya doin'?" he hissed,
"Claude Darceneaux'll kill us if we don' have his gems."
She laughed, and Jean-Luc stepped back in horror. Her face
writhed and twisted, becoming something completely different,
becoming Claude Darceneaux. She ... no, he placed his hands
on his hips. A ripple passed over her skin, and Raven once
more stood before him.
Blessed Mary, full of grace, savior of the human race...
"What are ya?"
"The woman who out conned you," she held out a
hand, not lowering the gun for a second, "Hand them over."
Dere was no job. She used m'love f'r her t'acquire
Reluctantly, he dropped the pouch into her palm, then stepped
back, horror written on each feature. Raven's leer grew wider
and she slipped the gems into her pocket, backing slowly away
from him. The street-lights and the moon leant her a silver
aura. Her copper hair glowed around her, shimmering in waves
of bronze and gold.
"Au revoir, cheri," she blew him a mocking kiss,
With that gesture, she was lost to the humid, Parisian night,
to the heavy moonlight. Jean-Luc waited until she had disappeared
from sight then removed the real gems from the pocket of his
trench-coat. They shone in the ghostly brightness, like the
tears on his cheeks.
6 January, 1987
French Quarter, New Orleans
The cold scythed through the layers of clothes which the
pedestrians wore, making red their noses and blue the tips
of the fingers. An icy rain fell on the city; hard, sharp
and merciless; promising to turn into a flurry. New Orleans
in winter was milder than its Northern counterparts in the
United States, but still frosty enough to keep most people
The young thief stamped his feet like a restless horse, trying
to keep warm. His hands, wrapped in woolen gloves, were shoved
deeply in the pockets of his trenchcoats. At seventeen, he
was impatient, yet cautious enough to curb his impulses.
'Parfait,' he whispered, as he saw a middle-aged woman rounding
the corner. Her 'Big Easy' sweatshirt and camera marked her
as one of the phalanx of tourists which descended on the city
from time to time.
Removing his Saints cap and running a hand through his russet
hair, he walked up to her and flashed her his most charming
"C'n I help ya, Mademoiselle?"
She smiled gratefully at him, "You're so kind! I knew
the natives were so friendly, but I never imagined ... This
city is wonderful! You're fortunate to live here! This town
really knows how to..."
She's gon' say Laissez les Bons Temps Rouler. Dey always
"Laissez les Bons Temps Rouler," she finished,
looking pink and flustered, "Anyway, I was wondering
whether you could direct me to a decent eatery."
"Mais oui," he nodded his head vigorously, putting
on his most ingenuous look, "Go down dis street an' take
de first alley on ya left, den de second one on ya right.
Be one o' N'Awlins best-kept secrets."
"Thank you," she gushed, "I must give you
something for your trouble."
Dieudedieudedieu. She can't be lookin' in her purse.
He doubled the voltage of his smile, "Helpin' ya be
reward enough f'r dis poor Cajun boy."
Dey always fall f'r de poor Cajun boy line.
"Thank you," she looked pathetically grateful and
the boy suppressed an urge to laugh, "I won't forget
Oui. I'm sure ya won', mademoiselle.
Waiting for her to disappear into the alleyway, the boy sprinted
into the dark lane that led between the two houses. In the
distance, he could hear the sound of the tourist calling for
the police. Evidently, the local fishmonger was not exactly
her idea of fine eating. Her wallet was thick in his hand
and he grinned with sheer pleasure. It was an almost perfect
pinch -- 'Vitemain' LeBeau, his pickpocketing tutor, would
have been proud of him.
He discarded the Saints cap and parka that he had been wearing,
throwing them into the backpack, that he had left in this
side street for just this purpose. Pulling a chartreuse sweater
over his head, he whistled his way to the Thieves' Guild.
As he was approaching the tall, elegant building in the heart
of the Vieux Carre, he heard the sounds of a struggle emanating
from the end of the road. Dropping his backpack and removing
a slender knife from the recesses of his shirt, he went to
Three burly men were forcibly escorting a woman into the
abandoned building at the corner of the road. He recognized
their leader as Antoine Lenoir; a swart, unpleasant youth
whose clan was loyal to the Assassins. The other two brutes,
while unfamiliar to him, were cut out of the same cloth as
any flunkey -- a species uniquely lacking in personality.
Must do somet'ing 'bout dis saloperie (mess).
He entered the house, knowing that he would regret his actions,
and called: "Hey, assassin-trash? I know ya'd prefer
t'ief blood t'de blood of de femme."
The three men turned on him with matching looks of disgust,
letting the girl drop to the floor. Their leader smirked as
he saw the young thief standing there, his knife blue-silver
in the light.
Gone an' done it now.
"If it isn't le Diable Blanc (the white devil),"
Antoine leered, encouraged by the snickers of his minions,
"I wonder if freaks bleed de same color as de
rest of us. Should we find out, mes braves? (guys)"
"Let's not," the girl said coolly, as she performed
a neat, roundhouse kick to the back of Lenoir's head. The
assassin fell to the floor with a muffled oath, clasping the
rear of his skull. Blood seeped out through his fingers, staining
"Get dat salope (shrew)," he hissed, pointing to
"Mon ami," the thief grinned as he decked one of
the flunkies with an uppercut, "Ya orders not be too
The second lackey, having profited by the example of the
first, required no encouragement to turn tail and flee. The
girl laughed; her eyes brilliant, her cheeks flushed; and
held out her hand. "Thanks."
"Je vous en prie," he shook hands, "Though
it didn' seem ya needed m'help."
"Hon," she lifted an eyebrow, "Ah always take
help where Ah can get it."
"What was deir beef wit' ya, chere?"
"Don' know," she shrugged, "Went up ta them
an' asked them where Ah could find Monsieur leBeau's house."
The boy laughed as they exited the building, "Dere was
ya fatal mistake, belle. Dose cap-caps (white trash) be Assassins,
sworn enemies of m'kin. Dey'd kill ya soon as look at ya."
"Gawd," the girl wrinkled her nose, "A family
feud. Thought those went outta style with the Middle Ages."
She was pretty in her own way -- a slip of a girl with solemn,
green eyes and unusual, white-streaked hair. Her athletic
figure was complemented by the spandex leggings and bulky
sweater that she wore.
"C'est vrai, chere," he explained apologetically,
"No-one knows how it got started, but it be commonly
believed dat it occurred when Marc Bordeaux stole Chantelle
Thibert's heart away -- she was t'be married t'Andrieu leBeau.
Dey claimed it was le coup de foudre (love at first sight)
but family honor had been wounded an' only blood would salve
it. Didn't help matters none that Marc Bordeaux was a telepath,
known f'r using his powers in less dan honest ways."
"Gawd," she repeated, "If'n people had ta
die, ya'd think it would be foh somethin' better'n love."
"Not much dat is better, chere," he said quietly.
Her eyes were instantly sympathetic, almost as if she sensed
his pain,"Did Ah step on a nerve, hon?"
"Naah," he waved it away with a hand, quickly changing
the subject, "Why are ya lookin' f'r de leBeaus?"
"Mah guardian, Ms Darkholme, asked Monsieur leBeau if
he could tutor me in . . . " she paused, her expression
as secretive as a budding rose, " Uh . . .certain areas.
Apparently they're close friends from way back when. Can ya
show me where they live?"
"Goin' dere m'self, belle," he grinned, "Ya
be welcome t'tag along."
"Thanks," she picked up her heavy duffel bag from
where it had fallen in the skirmish, hefting it over her shoulder
with little difficulty, "Let's go."
Hope dis isn't a honeytrap.
3 December 1986
Thieves' Guild Headquarters, New Orleans
Jean-Luc leBeau stared at the receiver, tapping his fingers
against the desk. The phone-call he had received was most
irregular. Most unexpected. Most audacious.
So Raven wants me t'teach her fifteen year-old protegee
de arts of t'ievery? Guess I can't refuse, even if it is jus'
f'r de sake o' what happened between us in Paris.
Moonlight picnics. Walks in the dark streets. Intimate tete-a-tetes
in cafes. The pinch and thrill of a lifetime. The sharpness
of love betrayed. He scowled and pushed the thought out of
his mind. The child should not suffer for the sins of her
guardian. Besides, he would be true to their broken-winged
love, even if Raven had not been.
Be company f'r Remy as well. Mebbe a fille will even have
a civilizing influence on him.
He thought with fondness of his seventeen year-old son. Remy
had come into his life six years ago -- an underfed, scruffy
urchin that the French would have called un gamin.
How things had changed! The sullenness had been replaced with
a salesman's charm and, although his son remained slender,
the gangliness had been sublimated by grace. The boy was still
impulsive though and his cousin, Lapin, a notorious firebrand,
was not helping matters by encouraging him in his feats of
daredevilry. Fortunately, Remy was blessed with preternatural
agility that had saved his life more than once. Nevertheless,
Jean-Luc's hair was considerably more gray than it had been
seven years ago. He grinned with wry humor, thinking, Oui,
a fille could be a very good t'ing indeed.
6 January 1987
Thieves' Guild HQ, New Orleans
The girl sat on the high-backed chair, nervously tapping
her heel against the floor. The opulence of the office surprised
her -- she would have thought that Jean-Luc leBeau's study
would have been dingier, darker. Thick, blue curtains were
drawn against the cold while a cosy log-fire burned in one
corner of the room. She picked up the gold paperweight from
the desk and tossed it from hand to another. The clock chimed
the hour, then the door opened. A small, wiry man with hair
the color of a fox smiled at her, as she stood to greet him.
His blue eyes were shrewd sapphires in his bronzed face and
his clothes were elegantly expensive without being ostentatious.
"Bonjour, mademoiselle. Je m'appelle Jean-Luc leBeau.
(Good day, Miss. My name is Jean-Luc leBeau. How are you?)
The girl cleared her throat, "Fine, sir. Ms Darkholme
"Raven's protegee. Good," he took a seat opposite
her at the desk, "What am I t'call ya, 'tite?"
"Rogue'll do, suh."
"Unique name," he commented, "Ya c'n call
me Jean-Luc though, belle."
"Fine," Rogue nodded her head, "When can we
"Patience, belle," he laughed, lighting a cigarette,
"Ya aren't even moved in yet. Find a room an' den we
c'n talk 'bout tutoring."
She paused, familiar with the stalling tactics of adults
but wondering whether to press the issue. Her straight-forwardness
won the contest. "Suh, can Ah at least meet mah tutors?"
"All in good time, ma chere enfante," he stood,
a grin on his face as he walked towards the door, "I'll
get m'son, Remy, t'show ya around, Rogue. He be conveniently
listenin' right outside de door."
Jean-Luc leBeau pulled the door open to reveal the same boy
as earlier. The young man looked highly embarrassed at being
discovered. His red-and-black eyes were effulgent in his handsome
face, while his lips essayed a cocky smile.
"Pere! Pardons-moi -- I t'ought I heard ya call me."
Quite a looker with th' charm ta match.
His father shook his head in mock disapproval, "Remy,
Rogue. Rogue, m'son, who is betrayin' his lack o' social graces."
"Ah'm glad foh that, suh," she said honestly, "Most
gentlemen wouldn't have come ta mah rescue foh fear o' ruinin'
Jean-Luc looked concerned, "Ya were attacked, belle?"
"Yeah," she confirmed, remembering the incident
of earlier, "Ah was lost an' Ah thought ta ask th' way
ta your house. Seems that Ah chose th' wrong people ta ask
directions from though, 'cause they began escorting me forcibly
inta th' nearest abandoned building. Ah went along with them,
because Ah didn't want ta cause a scene on the streets when
Ah took 'em down. Ah didn't want th' police asking uncomfortable
questions... Guess it's something Ah picked up from Raven."
The man turned to his son, "Who was it, Remy?"
"Antoine Lenoir an' his two assassin goons," the
boy replied, "Ya t'ink de feud has flared up again, pere?"
"Non, Remy. I'm sure of it," Jean-Luc's face grew
serious, "Dieu. Dis could be bad news f'r de Guilds.
I must consult de Council."
In a show of forced jollity, as transparent as glass, he
grinned at her, "Not'ing t'rouble yaself about, belle.
Jus' a few hotheaded fools who like t'shoot deir mouths off.
Remy'll show ya to ya room -- I'm sure ya be exhausted."
Rogue was not convinced, but followed the young man out of
the room, one urgent thought at the forefront of her mind.
Gawd. What have Ah walked inta this time?
8 January 1987
Thieves' Guild Training Hall
"Damn," Rogue swore vehemently as the lockpick
slid uselessly out of the safe's keyhole again, "Damndamndamn."
She paused to push back her unruly hair, staring at the tool
in her hand. Thin and hooked slightly at one end, it was difficult
to manipulate effectively and, more often than not, her best
efforts were unsuccessful.
"Rogue? You havin' problems?" the grizzled Canuck,
who was her lock-picking tutor, asked, "Concentrate,
girl -- this is an easy lock."
Where is Remy?
Atypically, he was late for their joint lesson; a fact which
Girard Renault had commented upon earlier. While he was irresponsible,
she had never known him to be tardy in the few days of their
Almost as if on cue, the door swung open and Remy entered,
touting his enormous backpack. His auburn hair was mussed
and a thin sheen of sweat covered his face.
"Sorry'm'late," he mumbled, "I was wit' Lapin
an' lost track of time."
Smilingly, Girard rebuked him in thick Canuckois -- "Jeune
cafard -- tu es en retard. Aides la fille. (Young cockroach
-- you are late! Help the girl!)"
Remy grinned at Rogue, coming to squat next to her. He smelt
of exotic, expensive perfume and she wondered with a twinge
of half-understood jealousy where he had been. He removed
his own finer tools from his pocket in preparation.
"Dis be a simple 'nough task," he told her, "Ya
jus' need t'click de tumblers int' position an' ya be sittin'
"Thanks foh th' lecture," she drawled sarcastically,
"Lahke Ah haven't been tryin' ta do that foh th' last
hour while ya an' your cousin were chasin' skirts."
What is she like? Is she as lovely and rare as her scent?
A tall, elegant lady who knows th' right things ta
say; who is charmin' an' refined; who cooks an' sews; who
isn't me. Ah'm a good soldier, a mercenary, a killer-cold-as-steel-and-hard-as-iron.
Love is for the weak an' feeble. Love is only useful as long
as it serves ya purpose. Raven taught me that, yet...
He laughed, removing a tool of similar design to her one
and some oil, "Jealous, chere?"
Yet there is a part o' me wishin' that it was mah perfume
that Ah smelt on ya.
"O' th' fact that ya missed half o' th' lesson ta have
some fun?" she said, deliberately misconstruing his words,
"Not at all."
He paused to oil the lock delicately, then inserted his lockpick.
"Come 'ere, belle," he told her, "An' I'll
show ya how t'crack dis sucker."
Rogue crawled closer to the lock, and he put her hand on
the slender tool. Shifting position so that he was more comfortable,
he placed his hand over hers, ensuring that the hollow of
his elbow fitted into the sharp angle of her one. His breath
was warm against the back of her neck, ruffling the strands
of her hair.
"Now," he continued, "Ya feel around until
ya find de tumblers et . . . ."
He's so close an' ... Stop it! Love is foh th' weak an'
ya are strong. Concentrate on th' lock.
Under his skilled guidance, the three clicks came in quick
succession. The door sprang open, revealing an empty interior.
"Ya'd t'ink after all dat work, dere'd be somet'ing
inside," he quipped, releasing her, "I remember
how disappointed I was de first time I opened it."
"How old were ya?" she asked, curiously aware of
where his hand had been. His touch surrounded her wrist, like
a bracelet of fire.
Love. Is. Foh. Th'. Weak.
"Eleven," he replied, "But I'd been t'ievin'
since I was about four..."
"That's enough for one day, enfants," Girard Renault,
the old Franco-American, interrupted, "I have a council
meetin' to attend so I'll see you two the same time tomorrow?
Be punctual this time, jeune leBeau."
Remy favored him with his most charming smile, "I will
be, monsieur Renault."
Man could charm a golden egg outta gander.
Once their tutor had left the room, he turned to Rogue, a
secretive look in his alien eyes. The open charm had disappeared
from his face, leaving a more subtle, attractive one in its
"D'ya want t'know where I was earlier?"
"No," she told him bluntly, folding her arms, "Ya
... ya conquests don't interest me."
Remy laughed, pulling his backpack to him, "I was shoppin'."
"Foh what? Blondes? Red-heads?"
"Non, f'r a brunette."
Remy unzipped one of the side compartments and began rummaging
within it. Eventually, he removed a small package. It was
wrapped in silver paper and decorated with brilliant, royal-blue
"F'r ya," he smiled as he handed it to her, "Dere
be an old tradition in our house dat every guest gets a gift.
Call it Southern hospitality."
A brunette. Me?
"Thanks, hon," she hugged him briefly and stiffly,
once more painfully aware of his touch and his arms encircling
her waist. The sweet scent of the perfume overwhelmed her
again, so she released him, knowing that he was someone else's
He must love her whoever she is. He's just bein' polite
ta th' new kid.
Rogue untied the ribbon carefully, then proceeded to slit
the paper with the knife that she constantly wore at her waist.
A slender, golden box remained and she stared at it in open
The bitter irony of her earlier thought came back to her.
In a sense, it was her perfume that she had smelt on him.
Having no better guinea-pig, he evidently had sprayed himself
with it. Remy must have taken her surprise for dislike, because
he instantly apologized.
"Ya don't like it," he grimaced, "I'll take
it back an' exchange it f'r somet'ing different. Mebbe a nice
set o' throwin' daggers or a decent set o' lockpicks?"
Yes. Ah'm a soldier -- all o' those things would be better
-- more useful -- than this...
A stubborn part of her rebelled against her teaching. Why
should she not have something beautiful? Something that served
no concrete purpose? Something as lovely and fleeting as the
sunrise? It was that part of her soul that replied.
"No. It's perfect ... just perfect."
10 January 1987
Rue d'Ursuline, New Orleans
The assassin pulled her cloak around herself, shivering in
the cold, morning air. The council had received word from
a mole in the Thieves' Guild to meet him there. He said that
he had important information. Marius Bordeaux, never a trusting
man at the best of times, had sent the one person upon whom
he knew he could depend -- his daughter, Belladonna.
Bon sang, where is dat idiote?
She heard a high-pitched whistle and she turned around like
a deer caught in the headlights of an oncoming car. Belladonna
felt the dagger before she saw it, then felt nothing more.
11 January 1987
Rogue waved at Remy as she saw him cross the street. He was
whistling to himself, a smug look in his demonic eyes, and
swinging his omnipresent rucksack. It looked heavier than
before -- the day had obviously been kind to him. His eyes
widened in surprise as he saw her.
"I t'ought ya'd be cloistered wit' ol' Poignard, chere."
"Yeah," she replied, as he sat down next to her
on the steps of the Guild Hall, "But he was called away
on an urgent council meeting an' he dismissed me early."
He looked at the floor, worry written on his handsome face.
"Dat can't be good news, belle. A full council meeting
always spells trouble f'r de clans."
"Ah know," she said simply, "It could be war
He turned to look at her and she searched his face for some
kind of reassurance. Any that she found was hollow. Eventually,
he said lamely: "It's never come to dat before..."
11 January 1987
Assassin's Council Chamber
"Dis means war!" Marius Bordeaux's face was purple;
the veins on his temple stood out in sharp relief. His red-rimmed
eyes betrayed his lack of sleep and his abundance of tears.
"Dose trashy t'ieves have gone too far."
His son, Julien, looked sympathetically at him and poured
him a glass of water. The leader of the Assassin's Guild took
it gratefully, draining it.
He was calmer when he spoke again:
"If we let dem get away wit' murdering our children,
dey won' stop. Our entire clan would be wiped out in a single
generation. We can't allow it to happen. Retaliation is our
only option. We attack in a week's time."
An' heaven help us all
12 January 1987
McDonald's, New Orleans
Lapin scooped up the last few fragments of ice-cream with
his plastic spoon and licked it. That task complete, he turned
his attention on his younger cousin. Remy was stirring his
Coca-Cola with his straw, absently watching the ice melt.
"I'm sorry t'hear about Belle," Lapin said after
a long pause.
"Hmmm?" Remy lifted a quizzical eyebrow, "Oui,
it be a pity. We used t'be close, but after de feud flared
up again, I didn' see her again."
"Say," he lowered his voice, "Ya don' t'ink
dat dat Rogue-femme has anyt'ing t'do wit' Belle's death?
It's suspicious dat it happened so soon after she arrived
His younger cousin's eyes flashed angrily, "Non. She'd
never do anyt'ing like dat."
"I'm not sure m'self," Lapin put on the air of
a skeptic, "Poignard's always on about how skilled she
is wit' daggers. Hits de bullseye nine times out of ten."
leBeau was disgusted, "Ya sound like a vielle dame (old
woman), Lap. Fammes ta guele. (shut up!)"
The older man grinned, "I t'ink ya have more dan a professional
interest in our Rogue. Love be blind when ya have t'see ya
paramour as a murderess..."
Remy silently stood, dropping two dollars onto the table
to cover his portion of the bill.
His voice was low and furious when he spoke: "Elle ne
l'a pas fait. (she did not do it)"
"Whatever ya say," Lapin shrugged, still smiling
stupidly, "May I finish ya Coke, padnat (buddy)?"
13 January 1987
Cimetaire des Assassins, New Orleans
"Ashes to ash, dust to dust."
Marius placed his arm around his teenage son and drew him
close, as he listened to the old priest intone the burial
rites. His eyes were dry and a steely resolve was reflected
in their depths. His tears had given way to a colder, more
"The Lord has given and the Lord has taken away. Blessed
be the name of the Lord."
The body was carried into the crypt by four, burly assassins
dressed in black velvet. At their head, Sarabeth O'Connor,
Marius's niece, sprinkled white rose petals, sniffling as
she did so. Marius looked compassionately at the girl -- she
had been Belladonna's confidant and was feeling the loss as
keenly as he was.
"Dose t'ieves will pay, pere," Julien whispered.
"Hush, Tijules," he said hurriedly, "Dis is
a place of peace."
Mebbe de last we'll know f'r weeks if fightin' breaks
His son stared ahead moodily, his eyebrows drawn together
in an angry line. Marius Bordeaux's heart broke within him
again and fresh tears spilled down his cheeks, because feared
-- and knew -- that he would lose more than one child before
this conflict was done.
13 January 1987
Training Hall, Thieves' Guild
The knife-blade shone blue-steel in the harsh, neon light.
Rogue weighed it with an expert hand, judging its balance.
Perfect. An Oriental piece by the feel of it. The target stood
a few feet away -- alternating black-and-white rings that
surrounded a red circle. Lips pursed in concentration, she
threw the dagger and it embedded itself in the heart of the
target. Poignard, the old weapon's-master at the Guild of
Thieves, came forward, clapping his hands.
"Tres bien, petite. Ya be more'n a match f'r any assassin
unfortunate enough t'cross ya way."
She sneaked a glance at Remy. He was scowling as he practised
with a quarter-staff, hitting a dummy repeatedly before dodging
as it swung back. He had the graceful fluidity of a natural
athlete -- his form with the weapon was impeccable.
"Here, chere," Poignard grinned, as he handed her
a quarterstaff of her own, "Give ya a valid reason t'watch
"Ah..." she stammered, a hot blush spreading up
"LeBeau, get ya tail here," he called, "Time
f'r some sparrin'."
Remy crossed the room, wiping the beads of sweat off his
forehead. He was dressed in a baggy shirt and trackpants.
He smiled wolfishly at the older man.
"Let's see how much ya two have learnt," he said,
"Un. Deux. Trois. (One, Two, Three.)"
The ferocity of Remy's attack surprised Rogue. She lifted
her staff just in time to avoid him connecting with her head.
Spinning around, she attempted a blow of her own, but he easily
blocked it and retaliated with a low swipe. She jumped his
staff, landing squarely on the floor and lashing out with
a swing of her own. He danced away and tagged her squarely
on the back.
"Ya left yaself open f'r dat one, fille!" Poignard
jeered, "Nice shot, Remy."
Ah'll wipe that smirk offa his face.
Their staffs clattered together. Sensing that he had left
himself open for an attack on the left, Rogue lunged in that
direction. leBeau dodged to the right and hit her in the ribs.
"Good gambit, Remy."
Ah'm gonna get him.
Suddenly, the door to the Training Hall opened and a slender
man walked into the room. Poignard raised his hand to stop
their match. Rogue recognized him as Pierre leBeau -- one
of Remy's innumerable cousins and a council member. "We
need ya, Poignard. De worst has happened."
14 January 1987
Vieux Carre, New Orleans
"It be war," Remy whispered to himself as he looked
at the streets.
To the casual tourist, the streets of the French Quarter
would have seemed unnaturally quiet, like the vibrant town
had taken a siesta. Remy, attuned to the subtle undercurrents,
knew that this was not the case. The atmosphere was thick
with tension. Awash with fear, expectancy and anger, the air
moved like a sluggish river, permeating the stones of the
buildings and the souls of the people.
"Maybe it won't come ta that," Rogue suggested,
"Maybe they'll find a peaceable way ta solve their problems."
She was curled up next to him on the window-seat, sharpening
a wicked-looking knife with a whetstone. The tip of her tongue
stuck out of her mouth in a tiny pink point as she concentrated
her attention on her task.
"I doubt it, chere."
"Yeah, so do Ah. Who was this Belladonna?"
Remy turned to look at her, suppressing the doubt that rose
up in his chest.
She be good wit' daggers ... Jus' like de one dat killed
Bella. Poignard even said it -- 'ya be more dan a match f'r
"De heir apparent t'de Assassin's Guild."
"Did ya know her, sugah?"
A girl with a sunny smile and golden hair. Her intriguing,
violet eyes as she looked at him., beckoned and ran into the
garden. Mon soleil, he had called her, my sunshine.
They had been twelve at the time. The peace between Assassin
and Thief seemed to be cemented, since their two councils
had met and exchanged gifts. Unfortunately, the promises made
in the First Convention of the Guilds had crumbled under the
rigors of ancient hatred. One could change the official policy,
without changing the status quo. Once the street-fighting
began again, the two children were forbidden to see each other.
They never thought to question their parents' ruling, or,
if they did, never acted upon their doubts. Mon soleil had
been eclipsed by the mightier force of tradition and hatred.
"We used t'be friends."
"Ah'm sorry," she replaced the dagger in its sheath,
putting it on the table beside her.
"Oui," Remy shrugged, moving instinctively closer
to her, "Hope I don' lose anymore o' m'nearest an' dearest."
She placed her hand in his, resting her head on his shoulder.
Tentatively, he encircled her with his free arm, feeling the
gentle curve where waist swelled to hip.
"Family means a lot ta y'all," she said at last,
"Ah mean, ta ya an' ya clan."
"As I said, chere, love be de only t'ing worth dyin'
for," his voice was low, "Be it romantic or filial."
The tension swelled, becoming unbearable, filling the spaces
in their conversation, straining the seams of politeness.
"Ah think Ah'm startin' ta understan' what ya mean,
hon," Rogue replied, expectancy coloring her features.
Maybe I'll regret dis t'morrow, but it be better dan certain
regret 'bout not doin' it.
Cupping her cheek with a hand, he leant over and kissed her
squarely on the mouth. She smelt of soap and flowers -- a
fresh fragrance that leant the moment innocence. Rogue started,
eyes wide with surprise, but placed her arms around his neck.
A loose strand of white hair tickled his cheek, bringing with
it the rich scent of apple shampoo.
She broke the contact, touching her lips with a nervous hand,
laughing uneasily. The moment hung between them in tenuous
perfection, needing nothing else to make it complete. Yet,
nature could not hold it and it became absurd.
"I'm sorry ... I shouldn't have done dat," Remy
muttered, fidgeting with his gloves.
But I'm not an' I should have.
Smiling mischievously, Rogue kissed him, and the moment regained
some of its symmetry.
"Now we're even, leBeau," she teased, challenging
him to make the next move.
"I t'ink dat..." he stopped, horrified, "Dieudedieudedieu..."
Remy released her, pressing both palms and nose to the glass
in order to see more clearly. On the streets, two figures
were dragging a third limp one into the Guild Hall. A smear
of red marked his painful passage, and he did not appear to
"What's wrong?" she reached for the dagger on the
table, and came to kneel next to him.
"C'est Denis (It's Denis)," Remy murmured, "Il
est mort (He is dead)."
14 January 1987
Cimetaire des Assassins, New Orleans
Sarabeth O'Connor reverently placed the knife in front of
the Bordeaux's crypt. Made of expensive creamy marble, the
family crest was carved into the heavy door. A well-tended
flowerbed, filled with roses, bordered the tomb on both sides.
On top of the crypt, a beautiful seraph stretched her six
wings to heaven, holding up her hands to the sun.
Dressed in green velvet, Sarabeth's pale-gray eyes were filled
with tears. Her curly, auburn hair shone like fire against
her ghost-pale skin. "I did it, Bella," she choked,
"I killed one of th' leBeaus f'r ye, lass."
As a tribute, the blade seemed incongruous among the wreaths
and bouquets that littered the tomb. Sniffling slightly, she
plucked some hardy flowers from the garden and arranged them
around the bundle, framing it. Lovingly, she stroked the icy
gold of the plaque that marked Belladonna's burial, reading
the words: 'Too soon was she taken from us. Too soon was our
15 January 1987
Street outside Vitemain leBeau's home, New Orleans
Rogue pulled her thick jacket tighter around herself as she
made her way along the street. Her breath misted in the cold
evening air and the icy rain of a few days ago had gone to
Almost there, sugah. she encouraged herself, feeling
in her pocket to check that the letter was still there.
Jean-Luc leBeau had given it to her to deliver to his brother,
Vitemain, telling her that it was a matter of vital importance.
He had thought that the assassins would not recognize her
and therefore perhaps let her pass unhindered.
She stopped before a graceful house, whose antebellum architecture
harked back to older, more glamorous days. The single lamp
burning by the door cast a pool of light over the doorstep.
Shivering, she knocked on the mahogany door.
Presently, it opened a fraction and a buxom brunette peered
out through the crack. Her dark eyes were frightened with
the abject terror of the ignorant.
"Si, senorita? (Yes, miss?)"
"Ah've got a message for Vitemain, from Jean-Luc."
Without a further word of explanation, the door slammed shut.
Through the thick wood, Rogue heard muffled voices, arguing
and pleading by turn.
"...Killed Belladonna. Her fault ... war ... assassins."
"Jean-Luc ... know..."
"...Be set-up ... chica ... working ... Eternal..."
"...If is ... be ... pleasure ... killing ... fille..."
Rogue leaned against the wall, breathing heavily. Her knees
wobbled beneath her and she was scared that they would fail
her. Horrified understanding blossomed in her chest.
They think Ah did it. They think Ah killed Belladonna.
The door swung open again and a wiry man exited. His thick,
red-hair extended onto his cheeks in two sideburns, framing
a hawk-like nose and wintery eyes. He smiled at her, thin
lips quirking upwards.
"Ya be Rogue. Jean-Luc has told me all about ya."
"Yeah," she nodded her head, "He sent me ta
give you this." She rummaged in her pocket for the letter,
noticing the wariness on his features. Vitemain LeBeau looked
like he wanted to bolt.
Does he think Ah'm gonna pull a gun on him?
Favoring him with an ingenuous smile, learnt from Remy, she
handed him the crumpled piece of paper. Not taking his left
eye off her for a second, leBeau scanned the paper with his
right one, before placing it in his pocket.
"Ya know what dis paper says, chere?" he said at
length, fixing her gaze with his, "It says dat anotha
t'ief die soon, 'less we do somet'ing 'bout it. De assassins
tell Jean-Luc dat if we don' turn Bella's murderer over t'dem
by t'morrow evening, dey kill another o' our children. One
f'r each day dat her killer remains on de streets."
Lawd, Ah don't like where this is leadin'...
His lips tightened, "I say, salope, why take de chance?
Why not hand her -- ya -- over now? Let justice be done..."
Rogue was suddenly aware of dark-clad figures surrounding
her in the narrow street. Appearing from every shadowed crevice
and corner, they carried a motley assortment of weapons --
staffs, bottles and baseball bats -- and wore a standard grim
Jean-Luc set me up.
15 January 1987
Jean-Luc leBeau's office,
"YA DID WHAT?" Remy's effulgent eyes flared
as he turned on his father. Jean-Luc regarded his youngest
son with tenderness. In some ways, he was so innocent, so
vulnerable to the changing tides of politics and relationships.
leBeau needed to set the matter before Remy, as it had been
set before him. After yawning inelegantly, the leader sipped
his double espresso and motioned for Remy to sit.
"Let me explain..."
"Explain what?" Remy interrupted as he angrily
pulled out the chair and sat in it, "Dat ya delivered
Rogue inta de hands o' de assassins? Dat ya signed her death-warrant?"
"Ya be actin' like a selfish marmot (brat)," his
voice rose slightly. He was exhausted and did not enjoy having
his decisions questioned. "She be de killer an' she deserves
everyt'ing she gets."
"She ain't a killer, pere."
Jean-Luc smiled wryly at him; at his sense of morality. His
son had grown up among thieves and urchins, but his outmoded,
misplaced honor had remained intact. How was that even possible?
Surely someone as intelligent as Remy would recognize the
necessity of Rogue's sacrifice, if it was explained correctly.
"Dat don' matter, son. Rogue is thought t'be de killer.
She be de only one dat de assassins will accept," he
placed a hand over his son's ones, "Sometimes truth be
what ya need it t'be."
Remy shook his father's hand away, as if it was detestable
to him, then stood, disgust written plainly on his face. Jean-Luc
leBeau looked at his son in horrible pity, understanding something
for the first time.
Il s'aime. He loves her.
In his confusion, he reached for an apt cliche that he knew
would mend nothing between them. Too tired, too afraid, to
broach the heart of the issue, he girded it with aphorism.
"De needs of de many must outweigh de needs of de few,
or one. De assassins said dat dey'd kill one of our children
f'r each day dat de murderer remained on de streets. It could
be ya ... George ... Charmaine ... Henri next. I had no other
Wearily, he repeated it, because he wanted so much to believe
it. "Je n'ai pas un choix."
Remy smiled at him; a smile that had gone to the edge of
hope and knew that nothing lay beyond.
"Nor do I, pere."
15 January 1987
Vitemain leBeau's home,
Rogue drew the thin dagger from a sheath at her waist, thanking
whatever suspicious instinct had caused her to wear it. The
shadows solidified into men, women, students with whom she
had trained and laughed.
There was no humor in their eyes now as they approached,
encircling her. Rogue fought the panic that rose in her chest,
remembering Mystique's advice and repeating the calming exercises
which her guardian had taught her. Breathe in and out and
in and out and in and...
A tall, gaunt boy was the first to strike, lashing out at
her with a stout iron bar. She easily dodged his clumsy attack
and elbowed him in the face, sending him careening into two
of his compeers. The next attacker, a brawny youth wielding
a baseball bat, was dispatched with a swift kick to his gut,
followed by a knee to his chin. Breathe in and out and in
and out and...
Numbing adrenalin -- the combatant's anaesthetic of choice
-- coursed through her veins, and a thin film of sweat covered
her face. There was no time to rest; to regroup; to recover.
Breathe in and out and in and out...
Grunting, Rogue clashed daggers with a petite brunette, causing
sparks to shower into the night. Off-balance, her opponent
was easy to upend with a single right-cross. Breathe in and
out and in...
Something crackled behind her and she spun to face her incautious
assailant. A broken bottle gleamed wickedly in his left hand,
matched by the smile in his swarthy face.
"Think again," she drove the dagger deep into his
shoulder, causing him to swear and drop the bottle. In one
fluid movement, she picked up the fallen weapon and swung
it into the face of the person behind her. Breathe in and
Ah can't keep this up fohever. Eventually, th' law o'
averages will prevail and then...
Rogue grinned, remembering something. Taking advantage of
a momentary lull in the battle, she stripped off her thick
gloves and stuffed them in her jacket pocket. She had not
used her mutant powers for many years, after Mystique had
taught her how to control them through psychological disciplines.
Breathe in and...
She struck, like a cobra, wrapping her hand around a fair-haired
youth's face. She vaguely recognized him -- one of Remy's
innumerable cousins. Rabbit? Lievre? Lapin?
Oui, je suis Lapin. (Yes, I am Lapin)
The power coursed through her veins; renewing her strength;
bringing with it strange memories as bitter as dark chocolate.
It was f'r de good o' de Guilds, Julien. De needs o' de
many outweigh de needs o' de few -- or one.
Rogue tamped them down -- she would deal with them later
-- and concentrated on the task at hand. There were ten assailants
remaining, and they seemed to be hanging back in the shadows,
waiting for her to make the next move. Breathe in...
As if any student o' Mystique's would fall foh that ol'
"Watch ya back, chere," a voice called from behind
her, and she heard the sickening thud of wood meeting flesh.
When she glanced over her shoulder, she saw Remy standing
over a prostrate body, quarterstaff in his hand. The part
of her mind that belonged to Lapin recognized him as Sanchez.
Second only to Remy in stealth, he was praised by 'Ombre'
deRheims as being more silent than a thought. Breathe...
"That's twice you've hauled mah butt outta th' coals,
leBeau. Ah owe ya."
"Dat was one o' de oldest t'ief tricks in de book, belle,"
he grinned crookedly at her, "Sanchez deserved it f'r
using somet'ing dat ... cliche. Maintenant, t'dispense wit'
de rest o' dis trash..."
Stooping down, he retrieved some loose pebbles from the street.
Eyes luminous in the dim light, he held them up to the sky.
To Rogue's surprise, they began to burn, glowing like coals
against his hand.
Ah knew he was a mutant, but...
Pas un demon... Lapin finished for her, and she could
feel his irrational, animal dread. Breathe in and out ...
Supress his mind, his urge to flee, to runrunrun until he
was far away from this place fichu (damned).
Her assailants cowered a little way down the road; crossing
themselves; touching forehead, heart and collarbones.
Je vous salue, Marie, (Hail Mary) full of grace, savior
of the human race...
Scowling, she pushed Lapin's mind out of her body. He was
becoming more hinderance than help, but, with the loss of
his energy, her exhaustion and burning muscles returned. Breathe...
"Un. Deux. Trois," Remy threw the pebbles into
the air, where they exploded. The night was lit for one brief
instant, and the streets filled with the red glow of a false
dawn. The boom of the explosion echoed through the Vieux Carre,
causing lights to come on in the windows of every house.
"Qu'est-que c'est?" Lapin murmured groggily, massaging
"I t'ink we should go, Rogue," leBeau said insistently,
"Dey'll send reinforcements soon enough."
If'n he's leadin' me inta a trap, Ah can always take him
She nodded her assent, hating herself for distrusting him.
"Stay close, belle."
Her legs protested the movement as she began to run, following
Remy into a shadowy alleyway. Left into a busy street, where
tourists congregated, experiencing their version of New Orleans.
Right into a small, sad lane where a beggar held out his cup
and whined for money.
"Where we goin', sugah?"
"A friend's house."
"Can he be trusted?"
"Oui, she can."
Remy stopped before a small, neat house, freshly whitewashed.
Petunias grew in a windowbox, serenading the night with their
rainbow-colored trumpets. Running a hand through his russet
hair, he grinned at Rogue.
"Here we are, cherie."
He knocked on the door and it was opened by a plump, short
African-American woman with skin the color of ebony. She was
ensconced in a large, purple dressing-gown and slippers.
"Remy?" she sounded concerned, "Come in."
"Tante Mattie," he said gratefully, "I'd like
ya t'meet m'friend, Rogue. Rogue, dis be m'aunt."
"Pleased ta meet ya, ma'am."
"Heavens above, chile, call me Tante Mattie." Tante
Mattie nodded at her. "Now come on in an' I'll fix ya
both some cocoa."
The door opened into a small, crowded living-room. Ornaments
and carvings of every description covered most of the table
surfaces in the room. Mobiles, strung from the ceiling, swayed
gently in the breeze, complemented by the gentle tinkling
of wind chimes. Rogue sat nervously on the edge of one of
the over-stuffed marroon chairs, while Remy sprawled on the
"Sugah," she started, "Ah ... Ah want ya t'know
how much... well, how much what ya did meant ta me. Ya went
against yo' family foh me, an' Ah know how hard that musta
been ta do."
He smiled at her from his perch, "Love be de only t'ing
worth dyin' for."
She continued, words tripping out of her mouth in an attempt
to cover her discomfort, "Ah didn't do it -- Kill Belladonna,
Ah mean -- or plot with ... with the External ta start a clan
He loves me?
"I know, chere," he said simply, "Wish I knew
Remy loves me. Can Ah tell him? It would mean revealin'
mah secret ... Oh, Ah don't care.
"Ah do," she replied, avoiding his glance, "It
was Lapin leBeau an' Julien Bordeaux."
"Those be some pretty strong accusations, chile,"
Tante Mattie commented as she reemerged holding two mugs of
steaming cocoa. She handed one to Rogue. It smelt of rich
chocolate and cinnamon, and she sipped it thankfully.
"I think someone else should hear this," the elderly
woman said thoughtfully, "Could ya come in here, Jean-Luc?"
The slender leader of the Thieves' Guild came into the room
from the kitchen. He wore an apologetic grimace, his eyes
darting nervously from her to Remy and back again.
"Bonsoir, mes enfants (Good evening, my children)."
"Pere," the young thief looked surprised, "How
did ya know dat we'd be here?"
"When Vitemain tol' me dat ya'd escaped his death squad,
I knew dat dere was only one place in de whole o' dis city
dat ya'd be safe," he gestured ineffectually with his
hands, trying to encompass the room, "Ici (here). Dat
don' matter though -- I owe ya an apology, mademoiselle."
He ordered me ta be killed ... but he had no choice. He
did it foh his clan. For his family. Foh Remy, Lapin an' Denis.
Love is th' only thing worth killin' foh...
Rogue held out a hand to him, understanding Jean-Luc leBeau
for the first time. He was weak, despite all the power he
wielded. At the mercy of public opinion, he lacked the moral
fortitude of his son; Remy's belief in absolute right and
Can Ah blame th' river foh flowing with th' current?
"It's fine, suh. Ah understand."
"Bien," he smiled at her, "D'ya have proof
of ya accusations, chere?"
She paused, instinctively seeking Remy's support, knowing
that he would understand her dilemma. The memory of Lapin's
fears were still fresh, despite his mind's absence.
Un demon. Hail Mary, full of grace, savior of the human
"Ah'm afraid that y'all only have mah word foh it."
"How did ya find out, cherie?" the young cajun
asked gently, coming to sit next to her.
"Ah'm a mutant, like Remy," she explained, head
bowed, "But mah particular gift is slightly different.
Ah guess ya could call me a thief o' sorts -- Ah steal people's
memories, powers ... Everything that makes them individual."
She stopped; tear-blinded; unable to continue; unable to
look up and see their faces. She was all too familiar with
the look of disgust and fear with which people regarded her
after learning her secret. She could not bear to see it on
the face of the youth who had been so kind to her.
Freak. Vampirefreak. Mutiefreak. Freakfreakfreak.
Remy's hand found her bare one and he squeezed it reassuringly.
It was a gesture of trust, placing himself at the mercy of
her powers, believing in her control of them. The action touched
her deeply and she smiled shyly at him, painfully aware of
her own burgeoning feelings.
He loves me? In spite of what Ah am?
"So dat's what happened t'Lapin," Jean-Luc hissed,
"Vitemain tol' me dat he was knocked out in de battle.
Serves de salaud (creep) right. I have t'tell dis to de council
-- I have a feelin' dat dey aren't goin' t'be too happy wit'
16 January 1987
Assassins' Guild Council Chambers,
"What we did, we did f'r de good o' de Guilds,"
Julien Bordeaux proclaimed, slamming his fist into the mahogany
table, "De peace between t'ief an' assassin was a sham
-- it woulda been broken at de first sign of trouble."
The councils of the Thieves' and Assassins' Guilds were collected
around the round table in Marius's conference room. The remainder
of the Guilds thronged around them, congregated in the hallways,
peered through the tall windows.
Jean-Luc leBeau looked at where the two boys, Julien and
Lapin, were sitting. Despite their heinous crimes, they were
little more than disillusioned adolescents, trying to find
a quick solution to an ancient problem.
"And how did ya t'ink dat killin' our ... our children
would help?" Marius boomed, his face purple with rage.
Notoriously mercurial, the leader of the Assassins' Guild
looked as if he would like nothing more than to rip them into
"People come t'gether in times o' war. We needed t'find
a common enemy -- in dis case, Candra," Lapin explained,
"We decided t'set someone up so it looked like dey were
workin' for de External. Stokin' de flames o' de feud so t'speak.
When Rogue arrived, we found our scapegoat. She was a stranger,
an' fortunately skilled wit' daggers."
Jean-Luc glanced at the slender girl, standing next to his
son. Her green eyes were filled with a strange pity as she
watched the proceedings. He saw her whisper something to Remy,
who nodded and made a face.
"If Rogue had not arrived?" He prompted, curious.
"Den we were goin' t'frame Sarabeth O'Connor,"
Julien answered, unashamedly, "Her ability wit' knives
is famous throughout our Guild."
"You sod!" a red-headed girl, who he took to be
Sarabeth, exclaimed angrily, "Bella was my best friend.
I would never ha' killed her."
"ORDER! ORDER!" Marius banged the table with his
"Why did you choose the External?" Pierre leBeau
asked, his thin face wrinkled in consternation, "She
has been nothing but good to us."
"Ya old fool," Lapin said, contemptuously, "She
demands exhorbitant tithes, an' den leaves us t'live like
paupers off the pennies which she throws our way. De feud
is her way o' keeping us weak; keeping us silent. If our Guilds
were ta unite, we could overthrow her, take what is rightfully
Marius Bordeaux stood, mopping his face with a large handkerchief.
He seemed calmer now, almost resolute. Sipping his glass of
water, he regarded his son and Lapin.
"I have heard enough. Julien Bordeaux and Lapin leBeau,
ya have been judged guilty of treason, murder and conspiracy
t'murder. For dis, ya must pay de ultimate price."
Jean-Luc saw terror flicker in the two boys' eyes, before
becoming despair. "For your crimes, ya are exiled from
de Guilds and stripped o' ya family name. We disown ya."
The council repeated his words solemnly, "We disown
As Jean-Luc watched them being escorted out by four burly
assassins, only one emotion remained at the forefront of his
mind. The same emotion as in the eyes of the slip of a girl
who they had attempted to frame. It was impossible, but he
Their misguided love for their clan had driven them to kill
their own, in the same way that it had driven him to sacrifice
an innocent. Fortunately, he reflected, Remy's love for Rogue
had redeemed them both. How different was child from mother!
Rogue's pure understanding had allowed his son to reclaim
part of his identity -- she was teaching him how to control
his mutant powers; teaching him how to embrace them by embracing
them herself. It was a love that built and repaired, while
Raven's love was tendentious. Jean-Luc smiled as he saw them
standing behind Pierre with arms wrapped around each other.
He turned to Henri and said: "De ol' Creole Proverb
is true -- tell me who ya love an' I'll tell ya who ya are."
1 February 1992
Jean-Luc smiled at Rogue as she entered the room. Five years
had filled out the boyishness of her figure and lent beauty
to her face. She was dressed in a thin, cashmere sweater and
denim jeans; her streaked hair taken back in a chignon. Even
in the dim firelight, Jean-Luc could see that she had been
"Ya called, Jean-Luc?"
She complied, seating herself in one of the high-backed chairs
-- a relic from a bygone age. Nervously, she played with the
gold paperweight on his desk, and he was reminded so much
of the girl she used to be.
"I know what t'day is, belle," he told her, "An'
I grieve wit' ya loss. I too loved Raven."
"Why'd she have ta go on that damned suicide mission
five years ago?" Rogue replaced the paperweight with
an angry thud, "Didn't she know that there was no way
in hell that she coulda succeeded?"
"She did it because she loved de cause," he said
"Love is th' only thing worth dyin' foh, Ah know,"
she interrupted, tears streaming freely down her face, "But
Ah loved her. Why didn't mah love protect her?"
Jean-Luc handed her a starched, white handkerchief and she
blew her nose noisily. She was calmer when she spoke again.
"Ah'm so scared, Jean-Luc, that th' same thing will
happen t'Remy. That Ah won't be able ta protect him neither,"
she toyed with the emerald ring on her right hand.
They had become engaged to be married a few weeks ago, and
he recognised the nervousness of a new wife in her words.
How could you protect your loved one when he or she insisted
on risking himself daily? Remy was commonly acknowledged as
the best thief in the world, but still was compelled to prove
it to himself. The nature of the missions he undertook was
always dangerous, and all it required was one mistake...
"I can't promise ya dat not'ing will happen t'him, but
I know dat he will do everyt'ing in his power t'return safely
t' ya each night. He loves ya more dan I will ever know."
She nodded, evidently accepting his cold comfort. He continued:
"Chere, de reason I called ya in here was dat I felt
it was time t'give ya somet'ing dat has always been rightfully
Jean-Luc opened the drawer of his desk and removed a long,
blue-velvet case, handing it to her. Rogue's green eyes filled
with awe as she undid the catch and the lid sprung open.
"They're beautiful...", she murmured, holding a
necklace of perfect, white diamonds up to the light of the
fire. They sparkled in her hand, like a galaxy of tiny stars,
as they had twenty-three years ago in his.
"Dey're called de Stars of Africa," he informed
her, "Raven an' I stole dem from a rich merchant in Paris.
I had dem made up int' a necklace when I heard dat ya were
Rogue ran them through her fingers, examining them thoughtfully.
Did she disapprove? Unlikely, she had been a practising thief
for a number of years, and, while not as skilled as his son,
a proficient one. She had recently turned in her lockpicks
to tutor the mutants in both Guilds in the use of their powers.
Suddenly, she turned to him, pleading: "Can ya tell
me 'bout what happened in Paris? How ya got these gems?"
Jean-Luc nodded, knowing that he had found the one person
to whom he could tell the story. Rogue would not judge Raven
and he could not stand to see her condemned. Any pain he experienced
would be reflected in the face of the other. He took a sip
of his coffee and began his story for the first time.
Most of the characters belong to dear
Marvel and are not used to make me a profit. Sarabeth O'Connor
and most of the leBeau relatives belong to me, so please only
use them with my permission. Comments, criticisms and cheers
as always, to RogueStar at email@example.com.
Down-Home Charm / Fan-Fiction /
Fan Artwork / History Books /
Photo Album / Songbank /
Miscellania / Links /
Legalese: Rogue, the X-Men, and the distinctive likenesses thereof
are Trademarks of Marvel Characters, Inc. and are used without permission. This is an
unofficial fansite, and is not sponsored, licensed or approved by