Chapter Fifteen: Le Tissage d'une Toile

"A Weaving Web"

- Should I be on your side or his? -
- Th' prudent answer would be mine, of course! But th' truth is, when I'm involved, who can ever really tell? -

Nightcrawler and Gambit, Annual Gambit 2000
Remy's house was large and rambling, and Chere would have been in very real danger of becoming lost if it hadn't been for the Cajun voice whispering in her head to turn here, open that little door, and see that light on? She found him in the kitchen.

Kitchenette rather.

Remy moved about at ease in the small space, chopping vegetables on a wooden block by the single sink and adding them to the sizzling skillet on the rangetop beside it. Barely armlength behind him was the other granite countertop, a stainless steel refrigerator, two matching dishwashers, and a microwave. He didn't glance up at her entrance.

"Sure is small in here," she said, grinning, as she dropped her elbows to lean on the counter.

He glanced up, a small smile playing about his lips. He waved the knife vaguely at dark wood cabinets. "Staff kitchen, Chere. Don't need a lot of room."

An eyebrow came up. "Oh, so you're staff now?"

This time, Remy treated her to the full onslaught of his grin. "And how may I serve you, ma chérie?"

Chere giggled, then clambered up onto the countertop. The cabinet pushed her head forward, so she leaned it against Remy's shoulder. Naturally, he didn't complain.

"How 'bout you tell me what I'm doing in your bed?" she whispered.

His reply was a low chuckle. With one hand, he stirred the skillet's contents. "Hope you're hungry," he said lightly.

She snorted. "Ain't an answer, sugar."

"Je sais." He slid one gloved hand over hers and kissed the back of it.

Chere sighed, then crossed her arms. "Charmer," she muttered.

Remy chuckled at her again. "Shard is putting Sarah to bed. She said the petite was coming from upstairs." His sideways glance was appraising.

Chere lifted an eyebrow in return. "You mean you didn't expect her to come check out the competition?"

"You ain't competition," he replied tersely.

"Noted. But tell that to her, not me."

He groaned and pulled the skillet off the burner. "Let's eat."

"How about you tell me what's got everybody in arms over you first." She fixed him with an even gaze, but he merely glanced at her before pulling down two plates and serving out.

"You hungry or should I give this to Shard?"

She glared at him.

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Peter Wisdom walked into the headquarters of the most secretive intelligence organization in the country, Black Air, with a chip on his shoulder and a scowl for the few people brave enough to greet him as he traversed the long hallways, a set of stairs, and another hallways terminating in the glass door to a conference. Three people already sat at the table—Scicluna, Jardine, and Cassidy. Another man stood behind a good ways and earned the bulk of Wisdom's dark glare.

He threw down a folder on the conference table. It slid to a stop at Jardine's hand.

Wisdom jerked his head toward the other. "You bringing in Scratch?"

Michelle Scicluna, Director of Black Air and, unfortunately, his ex, drew her lips into a tight frown. "Sit down, Wisdom."

"When he does."

Jardine glanced up with piercing eyes. He ground out his cigarette in the ash tray. "What is this?" he asked, waving at the folder by his hand.

Tom Cassidy reached for the folder, but Jardine laid a heavy finger across it.

"This wouldn't be what I think it is?" he asked, grinning broadly.

Wisdom grunted an affirmative.

"Sit down, Pete," Scicluna said harshly. The use of his given name earned an annoyed glance and finally the action she desired. "We have important matters to discuss, and I don't care what's in that d—"

"You should," Jardine said casually, leaning back in his chair.

Scratch started to lean forward, then thought better of it. Wisdom noticed, but made no comment as he lifted his own cigarette to his mouth and lit up with a touch and a spark of light. Scicluna and Cassidy kept their eyes on Jardine.

Jardine, however, took no notice of them, or pretended not to. With a meaty hand, he drew the folder toward him, palmed it, flipped it open, gaze running down the page before a fierce grin lit up his features. "Gentlemen—and Director,"—this at Scicluna—"perhaps we get down to business. You all know the current acquisition Black Air has its eye on."

A few nods and a grunt of acknowledgement.

Jardine closed the folder. "What you might not know is that there's a spot opened up for promotion."

Wisdom watched Scratch's eyes gleam with interest.

"We're sending out three field agents," Scicluna added. "Of course, this promotion is based on merit."

The rest of that equation did not need to be spelled out.

"Dead or alive, boss?" Cassidy asked, eyeing both Jardine and Scicluna, unsure of just which one held the reins in this assignment.

Jardine answered. "Alive. And preferably incapacitated."

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Chere was ticked. She did a good job of hiding it under her friendly chatter with Shard about little girls and Sarah stories, but she did not say a single word to Remy. He wasn't sure whether to be amused or annoyed. But it wasn't until Shard looked between the two of them with an amused expression of her own and excused herself that he finally addressed it.

"Not a lot I can tell you, Chere."

She gave him a scathing glare in reply, then she rose and began to gather up the plates, studiously ignoring him. A white strand of hair fell over her eye. She brushed at it in annoyance.

Remy caught her by one arm and gently tucked the strand behind her ear.

She eyed him warily. "I am trying to save your hide, remember," she said softly.

He shrugged. His hand fell away. "Got the feeling this all be about something bigger than what we're thinking."

Chere frowned. "Wh—" She fell silent, chewing on her lower lip.

"Come on." He tugged at her gently and she followed him into the living room. He flipped up the cover on his laptop and tapped in his password.

Chere frowned deeper at the screen. "You're not an omega mutant," she said, casting him a puzzled glance.

"Non." He settled in on the couch.

She perched up on one arm. "What aren't you telling me?"

"At first, I thought this whole thing was tied into my last employer. Someone wanted me and she set me up for a capture. Simple enough to do." Remy watched Chere's face as he spoke, searching for that flicker of understanding. "Of course, the auction made me suspect there might be something more to all this. But all it usually means is that somebody really wants you dead and somebody that doesn't—or would rather do it themselves—decides to get in the mix."

"And then?"

"There weren't any suits." He kept watching her, waiting... "No military mercenaries, no feds, no free agents that take jobs from the on high..." There it was. That flicker of understanding dawning in Chere's green eyes.

She swiveled her head to look at him, mere inches away. "You mean the governments want you too."

He nodded.

"But..." Bewilderment flooded behind the understanding. "Why?"

"I'm not an omega now," he admitted quietly.

And there it was. The entire horror dawning. Somebody leaked out too much information in the right ears, and every mutant in the business knew that the strongest mutants were in the most danger.

"You were," Chere said softly. "Before."

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Silverfox opened the door without knocking. The sole occupant of the sparsely furnished bunker had no need or desire for privacy. A girl, about fifteen years old, sat on the bed, knees drawn up to her chest, back to the door. Silky black hair fell over the shoulders of her military-issue white undershirt. Silverfox did not issue a greeting. The girl was aware of her presence.

"The mission's live," Silverfox said softly.

Silence held for a long moment. One long breath. The girl slid off the bed and pulled on a darker, long-sleeved shirt.

"How long?" the girl asked.

"Objective based," Silverfox replied.

She noted with satisfaction that there was some life in the girl's eyes when she turned around. The girl had been raised with little affection or genuine care, but somehow, every time Silverfox looked into those eyes, she felt a sharp pang of familiarity, a longing to know and be known. She refused to call the girl by her designation, and since the girl guarded her given name more closely than even her memories, Silverfox generally called her nothing at all.

"Objective unchanged?" the girl asked. She raised one fist and slid out two sharp, adamantium claws. She absently inspected them.

Silverfox shook her head in mild amusement. "All is in working order, I presume?"

The girl glanced in irritation, but sheathed the claws. "Gambit."


"I'm ready."

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Hudson kept his head down going into the office after lunch. The last thing he needed to do was attract too much attention over poking his nose in other departments' business—like helicopters past the pike and hits on a mutant named 'Le Diable Blanc.' He muttered a soft swear to himself and closed himself into his office.

He'd disquised his own careful inquiries mostly under wanting to borrow Team X, only to discover they were already mission-committed for the acquisition of a coded 'loose cannon.' Hudson knew exactly what that meant, and he was under no disillusionment as to who the loose cannon was.

"Logan, you get yourself tangled up in the worst business," he muttered further to himself. If he had half a conscience less, he would quit trying to save all these innocent mutants he happened to know and let their troublesome superpowers save them.

He picked up the phone. "Operations Room Three," he barked.

Static, two rings...

"Hudson," his wife's voice came back at him.

He relaxed into his desk chair. "Heather, how's that girl doing in there?"

Silence for a moment. "Hang on a sec." He heard the coded beeping that indicated she was switching to a secure line, then a deep breath. "Not good. He's telepathically resistant and she's only got the vaguest headings for North America."

He swore profusely.

"What's wrong?" Heather demanded. "Who's up there?"

"All the manpower they can swing," he replied, then hung his head. "They're letting loose X-23, Heather. We don't have a lot of time."

Heather acknowledged grimly. "We'll find her, honey. Just hang in there."

He sighed, but found he was forced to agree. His back was to the wall. Logan's girl, Rogue, was sitting in between walking, talking mutant weapons and a bullseye. There was nothing more he could do.

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Nick Fury focused an angry glare at the IT Operations Expert. The man was already flinching before Fury had uttered a single word.

"You're telling me that the best trained technical personnel of SHIELD can't tell me who it was that successfully hacked our entire intelligence database?"

"No, sir."

Fury leaned both hands onto his desk to keep from applying them personally to the problem of this man before him. "You have forty-eight hours to find out who they are, what they were looking for, and what they got. You have two to make sure they can never get anything again. Is that clear?"

"Yes, sir." The worker quickly made good his escape.

"A little harsh on him," Danvers said from the corner of his office, still ostensibly admiring the wall plaques.

"They told me it was unbreakable."

The blonde woman grinned at him over her shoulder. "You want my advice?"

Fury growled. "Only if it means the security breach is solved."

"Call in that favor from Forge," she said. "If anyone could figure it out, he could."

"I was saving him for the neutralizer," he replied wearily.

Danvers shrugged and went back to looking at the plaques. "Just advice."

"And we all know what that's worth." He studied her back.

Carol Danvers was one of the leading members of the United States government's team of mutant superheroes. No reason they shouldn't harness all that power for themselves. A hypocritical idea, but Fury knew better than to comment on that. SHIELD's file stated that the woman was a powerhouse of superhuman strenth with invulnerable skin and the ability to fly. She also had some history with another loose cannon that used to be well-controlled by the Canadian government: Wolverine. He was reportedly now an X-Man, something Fury deemed necessary to look into. But first...

"You didn't come here to give me advice on a security breach, however."

"No, I did not." Danvers sighed and went to sink into one of the chairs in front of his desk. "I came for your help."

"As it so happens, I have a favor of my own to ask."

"Of me or my team?" Danvers shot back, blue eyes wary.

Fury shrugged. "You. Nothing serious, I can assure you."

She snorted in disbelief. "I wasn't born yesterday."

"Of course, not." He grinned. "How about you tell me what the Avengers want done?"

"A possible mutant threat has come to our attention," Danvers started in smoothly, "but it falls entirely outside of our scope. The mutant in question has shown no signs in the past of attempting villainy, though it appears that HYDRA has taken an interest in his powers."

Fury leaned back, appraising. HYDRA was a premier international terrorist organization and specialized in recruiting dangerous mutants into its ranks. The situation fell squarely under SHIELD's jurisdiction.

"And in exchange for this information...?"

"We merely request that you deal with it appropriately," Danvers said. "Now, as to your favor, Fury, this had better not involve any of those ridiculous outfits you constantly seem to load me up with as a 'disguise.'" Her distaste was evident.

Fury chuckled at the memory. "There's a mutant I've heard you know."

She rolled her eyes. "I am a mutant, Fury. I know a great many."


Danvers remained nonplussed. "Not ringing any bells."

"Claws come out of his fists."

She froze.

Fury leaned forward. "Information. That's all I'm asking."

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"You still want to do this, chère?" Remy's voice was gentle when he interrupted her furious swirl of thoughts.

She stared at him, then hardened her expression. "I ain't backing out, swamp rat."

He tilted his head, slight puzzlement in his eyes, then amusment. "Swamp rat, hein?"

Chere rolled her own eyes, then leaned in to take a better look at his computer screen. "So who all's out to get you? Everybody or just the mutant ones?"

Remy shrugged. "Enough."

True enough. She didn't press. Instead, she locked the computer and flipped it shut. "You're not sleeping in a guest room tonight," she told him, changing the subject entirely.

He chuckled at her. His hand came up to rub warm circles on the small of her back.

She raised an eyebrow at him.

"That an invitation to share?" he asked again, managing to pull off a shocking amount of innocence in his tone when his words were anything but.

She leaned in close. "Think you can handle it?"

Red flared brilliantly, and her stomach tittered with sudden nervousness.


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