TITLE: A New Path Through Familiar Woods
FOLLOW-UP TO: Coming Home & Doubts and Worries.
SERIES: I've come up with a name for this story arc. ::grins:: I'm calling it the "Tragic Kingdom" arc. Coming Home is the first in this arc. Doubts and Worries is the second story. This one, A New Path Through Familiar Woods, is the third.
AUTHOR: Scorpio
ARCHIVE: Want. Take. Have.
CATEGORY: Darkfic, angst, AU
RATING: R (for adult subjects and violence)
WARNING: Violence
NOTE: This story takes place about one week from the ending of Coming Home. Bobby and Remy are still in Los Vegas.
DISCLAIMER: Marvel Comics and Stan Lee owns the X-Men and Raven Darkholme. Donny, Chrome and Louis DuLac belong to me.
SUMMARY: Old friends and acquaintances reveal themselves and offer new options and paths to walk even as Bobby and Remy struggle to come to terms with each other and their individual pasts.

A New Path through Familiar Woods
by Scorpio

Chapter Two

Pounding rock music vibrated the dim smokey air around Logan as he finished eating the last of his overly spicy buffalo wings. His piercing blue eyes shifted up to watch the generously endowed woman in the satin g-string as she swirled and wiggled her way around the metal pole up on the stage even as he grabbed up a few cheap paper napkins to wipe off his greasy fingers.

Though it might appear to anyone who happened to look his way that Logan's full attention was absorbed in the dancer, she was really only giving his eyes someplace pleasant to rest while his mind churned away at more important things. Namely, finding Gambit and Iceman in a large city filled with an equal number of criminals and tourists.

Logan had chosen this location to start his search from because it was the area he was most familiar with. He had been here before and this is the bar he had frequented and the cheap rat-motel around the corner was where he had stayed. It was only a few blocks back from The Strip itself, so it was close enough to include that area and yet far enough from the bright twinkling lights that the shadows concealed more than one would think possible.

He didn't think that his prey would stay this far from The Strip. They would have rented rooms on The Strip in some fancy tourist-trap hotel. He was sure that Gambit could afford it, especially if he spent any amount of time in the casino. However, he was also sure that if Gambit tried to contact any thieves in the city that they would be found away from The Strip. So, as far as finding Gambit, he could spend some time in the more popular casino's and clubs in the hopes of spotting him or a trace of his scent and he could spend time in the shadows looking for someone who might recognize him.

Drake on the other hand was an unknown. Years ago before he had been lost in that alternate universe, Logan would have said that Iceman would have been the easier of the two to find. Just head for any attraction that had a targeted audience of teenagers. Amusement parts, zoo's, rides and other places designed to give harried parents a place to lose their children for a few hours while they gambled away their hard earned vacation money. But now? Logan had no real idea what would hold Drake's attention.

He had a feeling that those childish attractions would give Drake a brief flash of bittersweet nostalgia, a sort of longing regret for the innocence he once had, but that was all. As for the high stakes gambling? Once again, he wasn't sure. The Iceman that he remembered from the past knew how to play poker, pool, blackjack and gin. Logan had taught the kid most of those games, so he was certain of the other man's skill up until the point where he had been sucked up into the parallel universe. Drake could have held his own in a friendly no-stakes game, but when it came to serious no-holds barred gambling complete with cheating and bluffing out your opponent, then Drake moved aside for the masters. When he himself sat down at a table with Gambit, Cable and Forge, then Iceman would have never even been considered for the game. The skill level just wasn't there.

But now? Logan sighed as he realized once again that he had no way of knowing. It's possible that Drake's skills had improved over the years to the point that he could now hold his own against world-class cheaters and gamblers. It was also possible that while Gambit was working his way through the gaming tables that Iceman was working his way through the prostitutes. Logan chuckled at that thought. Sin City, whores and poker. A lovely vision turned reality, and before Iceman's disappearance, one that Logan would never have pegged would grab hold of Drake's imagination. Then again, the kid had changed drastically and for all Logan knew he was making a name for himself as a generous john among the street hustlers. It did make a strange sort of sense to Logan. He'd tried to bury his own pain in other people's flesh a time or two in the past. It never worked, but it always seemed like a good idea at the time.

For now though, Logan figured that it was time to start looking. It was still early, so he figured that he would start with The Strip. He had his photos with him and he was certain that he'd find someone at the bigger casinos that recognized his friends. Gambit, at least. Once he'd canvassed The Strip, he'd try the murkier parts of town deeper in the shadows to see if he could find a contact to help his search.

Downing the last of his beer, Logan tossed a few crumpled bills on the table and stood up. No one took notice of him as he slowly made his way through the dim smokey air and out into the night.

"Hold still."

Raven twisted the last bit of shiny metallic hair and placed it tightly against the head of its owner. Reaching out with her free hand to the container of bobby-pins that Chrome held up, she snagged four of them. Slipping three in between her lips, Raven used the first to pin the twist of hair firmly in place. She grabbed the next one from her mouth and repeated the process. Then the next and then the last. Finally, all of Chrome's long metallic hair was pressed in tightly to her skull. It wasn't a pretty job, but then again, it wasn't meant to be. It held her hair back and up so that the fact that it was metal in nature would be completely hidden by the shoulder length dark brown wig that Raven had purchased for just this reason.

Stepping back, Raven motioned for Chrome to stand up for inspection. The young girl did as she was bid and Raven studied her critically. Lydia was wearing a nice pair of pressed black dress pants and a rose colored silk blouse that was still unbuttoned at the top. A pair of black boots were on her feet. Her silvery metallic hair was pinned tightly to her head and a confused look was etched on her shimmery face.

"R.Raven? Um ... I.I'm not s.sure that this w.will work. S.someone will f.figure it out."

Raven flashed her a grin and waved aside her concern even as she explained it once again to the nervous girl.

"Nonsense. I'm a master of disguise. It is my mutant gift, after all. The only thing that sets you as different is the color of your skin. It's metallic. You're not shaped oddly, nor do you have extra body parts to hide. This is a simple thing really. All we have to so is hide or camouflage your true skin tone. And lucky for us, the beauty and fashion industry has spent the last few decades designing the best ways to do this for us."

Raven gestured to the vanity against the far way. A dummy head held the long brown wig and the top of the vanity held numerous jars, bottles and pressed powders.

"Covering your body is easy. Clothing will hide the majority of your skin. As for your face and hair, makeup and a wig will do the same. Granted, we'll have to make the foundation a bit heavy to completely cover the metallic shine that your skin has, but that's okay. Once we have the foundation layer in place, we'll add some color to you with blush and eyeshadow. The wig over your head. Then, we add any finishing touches to your outfit. Topcoat, gloves, sunglasses and a scarf."

Raven watched as Lydia glanced over at the makeup and wig, a flicker of hope flashed across her pretty face followed by a wave of doubt. Sympathy welled up inside of Raven and she silently cursed the girl's dead parents.

"Lydia, the only reason that you're nervous about this is that you've never tried it before. You told me yourself that your parents refused to let you leave their house once your mutant powers manifested themselves. You weren't given any reason to try and blend in with society, nor were you given the skills to do so. And so you were completely unprepared for the world when your parents died. I, on the other hand, have made a career out of blending in. I couldn't walk down the streets in my true form any more than you can, but I know how to hide in a crowd. Trust me on this, people only see what they want to see."

Seeing Chrome sigh and give in to her wishes, Raven gently guided her over to the vanity and sat her down on the chair. Then, Raven picked up a bottle of liquid foundation and a triangle shaped wedge of rubber sponge. Tilting Lydia's chin up so that Raven had a perfect view of her face, she smiled down at the young and frightened girl.

"Once we are done here, we're going to head over to the airport. I have already purchased the tickets, so all we have to do is pick them up and wait for our plane. We'll go on board and suffer the airline's idea of a dinner and then before you know it, we'll be landing in Los Vegas. We'll pick up our luggage at the Baggage Claim area of the airport and then we'll take a cab ride to the hotel."

Raven had most of Chrome's face coated in foundation. A faint metallic sheen shone through it and she realized that it would take more than one coat. She figured that while it might be uncomfortable and probably itchy to wear it caked on so thickly, that it would work just as she had planned. She smiled.

"And if anyone makes any remark about a young girl wearing heavy makeup, just flash them your hurt little-girl lost look and turn away from them towards me. I'll give them a guilt trip from hell. I figure that a blast of self-righteousness mixed in with a sob story about a young girl and a house fire that left burn scars should have anyone but the most rabid of dogs backing down."

A small smile of relief and hope lit up Lydia's face as she was faced with a chance to have a semi-normal life and a real friend for the first time since she was a young child suddenly opened up before her. Reaching out with one metallic hand, she clasped onto Raven tightly.

"Y.you are a m.miracle t.to me. I c.can never th.thank you e.enough, Raven."

A warm feeling unfurled in Raven's chest and she blinked rapidly at the moisture that was collecting in her eyes. Smiling gently into Raven's eyes, she spoke what was in her heart.

"You're worth the effort, Lydia. You truly are, and I will defend you from anyone who thinks otherwise."

Looking in the mirror at himself, Remy smiled. He didn't get to dress up in nice clothing very often because of his lifestyle. For superpowered battles he preferred his kelvar armor. For breaking and entering high security compounds he preferred his Thieves Guild uniform which was black, skin tight and held lots of pockets for tools, equipment and stashes of gems, coins and such. For traveling cross-country on the back of a motorcycle he preferred his worn jeans, t-shirts and his battered old trenchcoat. However, none of those options was right for an evening on the town followed by an intense game at the Blackjack tables.

Tonight, however, that was exactly what Remy LeBeau was going to enjoy. The outlaw mutant and Master Thief "Gambit" was going to take a back-seat to the man behind the mask. Dressed in a dark crimson silk Armani suit over a black silk shirt and highly polished Italian black leather shoes and his long hair pulled back neatly in a low ponytail at the back of his neck, Remy LeBeau had to admit, if only to himself, that he was one fine looking specimen of a man.

He had replaced the normal plain silver hoops that he wore in his ears with diamond studs and he wore his Guild ring prominently on his right hand. The majority of the people out and about wouldn't recognize it's significance, but those that did would either avoid him or try to make his acquaintance because of it. Normally, he wouldn't bother to make such a bold statement, but he had a feeling that Bobby wanted to stay in Los Vegas for a while and as such, Remy needed to start making business contacts here. Not so much for the work, but as a professional curtesy to those who called this city home.

One last glance at his reflection to make sure that he was giving the impression of wealth, power and seductive charm that he was aiming for, and Remy turned away to head towards the door.


He paused for a moment and glanced back at the phone. For half an instant he was tempted to just ignore it and keep on walking out the door. He knew that the call would eventually be rerouted to the front desk where a message would be taken, however, a brief vision of Bobby trying to call the room flashed in his mind and Remy turned back to the side table where the phone sat.


Sighing, Remy picked up the phone and pressed it to his ear.


//Remy, mon fille? Dat y'?//

Caught between shock and pleasure, Remy felt a wide smile spread across his face.

"Oui, pere'. Dis is Remy. How did y' know where t' fin' me?"

An indignant snort traveled across the telephone line and Remy grinned as he pictured his father's frown and the way he would wave his hand through the air as if to dismiss such an absurd question.

//Don' be insultin' chile. Afta dat whole mess wit' dat bitch leavin' y' in Antarctica t' die, I been keepin' close track o' y' every move an' y' know it. Dere ain't no place on dis world dat I can' track y', so unless y' be plannin' t' head out int' space?//

Remy chuckled with genuine happiness. It was true. At first when he realized that his father was keeping such strict tabs on him he was uncertain whether to feel glad for his obvious display of love and affection or hurt that his father didn't think he could take care of himself. He had quickly come to dismiss that second and more paranoid idea though. Jean-Luc rarely interfered with Remy's life in any way. He merely contacted Remy to keep him up to date with the family and the Guild, and every now and then, he would give him a Guild job to complete.

"Non, pere'. Not plannin' t' go off int' space any time soon. De Shi'ar Empire be as stable as it get an' Lilandra be in firm control once again. Dat's one t'ing that de X-Men wouldn' keep from me. Dey know dat Gambit has loyalty t' de Majestrix."

Remy could hear his father sigh and he could envision his frustrated expression as easily as he could guess what was coming next.

//I still don' un'erstand de reason dat y' had t' get dat citizenship, Remy.//

A grin spread across Gambit's face. His father knew all of this and what's more, he understood it and approved, but it was an old familiar point of contention that they both danced around for form's sake. Personally, Jean-Luc was proud of the fact that Remy had friends and contacts across the stars. Professionally, as the head of the Thieves Guild, he had to condemn Remy's division of loyalty.

"Y' know w'y, pere'. When de Prof was offered de chance t' be Lilandra's Royal Concert, he had t' provide tangible proof o' his right t' her hand an' he had t' provide his own guards an' warriors t' protect de Royal Family o' which he would become a part o'. De Prof brought de X-Men an' we all swore loyalty t' protect de Royal Family. When in de Shi'ar Empire, den Gambit be Royal Guard. When on Eart', den Gambit be Thieves Guild. Y' know dat."

A chuckle rolled smoothly across the telephone lines and a wave of warm nostalgia washed over Remy at the sound familiar sound. His grin deepened.

//Well den, since y' be firmly on de Eart', den I got a job fo' y', Master T'ief LeBeau.//

A sizzle of anticipation and excitement at the thought of doing another job for the Guild warred with Remy's desire to get things straightened out with Bobby. He wavered in indecision for a brief second and then his training kicked in.

"Oui, pere'. Wha' y' need m' t' do?"

//Go t' de airport t'morrow an' pick up y' Uncle Louis. He be able t' give y' all de details o' de job.//

A small smile crept over Remy's face. He hadn't seen his Uncle Louis in quite a few years and it would be good to catch up with the older thief. Once he knew more about the job, then he could figure out what to do about Bobby.

"Wha' time is his plane arrivin'?"

//Ten o'clock in de mornin' at Gate number 14-C.//

"Oui pere'. I be dere t' pick Uncle Louis up. Dat's not a problem."

Another low chuckle.

//Good. I don' t'ink dat Louis would be t'rilled t' hafta hunt y' down b'fore he can talk wit' y'.//

Remy chuckled back at his father. He knew what the man was saying. Louis was normally a kind and patient man, but when he did lose his temper, it tended to be a memorable occasion. Unless, of course, Louis didn't want you to remember. If that was the case then you would spend the next month or so feeling as if you were forgetting something, but you could never figure out what. It was enough to drive a man loopy and make him slightly paranoid.

//Well, mon fills. I have t' get goin'. Dere's b'ness matters dat I need t' see to. I'll contact y' later an' we'll talk den.//

//Oui, pere'. I be lookin' forward t' it. Y' take care o' y'self, now."

//Y' too, Remy. Y' too.//

A lump formed in Remy's throat, but he forced his voice to speak passed it.

"Je t'aime, pere'."

//Je t'aime, Remy.//

Then the line was disconnected and the dial tone began to whine in Remy's ear. A sad smile gracing his face, he placed the receiver back on its cradle. Turning, he spared a last glance at the mirror and then left the room.

to be continued >>

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