Black Cats and Voodoun Dolls
Jean stopped short at the sight that gliding down the front stairs. It was Gambit. He'd obviously recently shaved. His hair was pulled back with a brown leather strap. He wore a black velvet waistcoat with black leather pants, and knee high black boots. A ruff adorned each cuff of the white shirt and a jabot of black silk held in place by an enameled stick pin of the ace of spades. Black silk gloves completed the look. He gave her a courtly bow and she curtsied. Then he was past her and on the way to Scott's office.
"Bonjour, greatest and most respected leader."
"How much is this going to cost?"
"Jubilee asked m' t' take her trick or treatin', so I dought mebbe.."
"That if you used the van, you could take the people who she convinced to go at the last minute too?"
"Oui." Remy smiled, exposing fangs that looked far too real. Scott held out his keys.
"Don't get arrested, shot, or staked, Drac."
"Non, non, non, Drac's so passe. Much more Armand." Remy shrugged at Scott's questioning look and took the keys. "Dere's a big community of vamps in Nawlins. Most of dem like m' eyes. Merci, Papa!" he called as he left the room. Scott shook his head and watched him go. He always forgot Gambit was so young.
Jubilee checked the mirror one last time. She adjusted the hat so that it framed her face with orange and black flowers properly. She stood straight and tied the laces of the bodice. The silver choker highlighted her throat. The low-cut black shirt made her collar bones stand out and emphasized her cleavage. Wolvie would hate it. The orange skirt went down to her ankles, but had a slit to just above her knee. The slit showed off the high button boots she'd loved, couldn't afford, and found sitting on her bed with a note not to tell Logan. She pulled on the black opera gloves and smiled. Perfect.
Emma Frost was eyeing Gambit appreciatively. He gave her a dazzling smile and she let his charm tug at her desires for a moment before shutting it out. "And is Cyclops aware that you're escorting her to a party?" she asked archly.
"Tol' him trick or treatin'. Brought de van in case she talked de ot'ers int' it."
"They're boycotting the holiday."
"Too bad. Hopin' y'd let m' see y' dressed up." He winked.
"I'd have you on your knees, Boy," she smirked back.
"Ain't much better'n dat." He watched Jubilee come down the stairs. "Mademoiselle," He bowed to her. "Might I have the honor of y're company t'night?"
"Yes, kind sir." He smiled at her and slipped on the wire-rim shades as he stood. Emma tossed him the keys to her Corvette.
"Scratch it and you will regret it." Gambit sketched her a salute and offered Jubilee his arm. She took it daintily.
The countryside slipped by quickly and Jubilee frowned. "This ain't the way towards the City, Bub."
"We ain't goin' t' de City, petite. Trust ole Gambit. Y' have a great time. Jus' don' drink de punch, oui? Have soda from de bar."
"Okay. Are we going to a private party?"
"Oui. I needed a date. Y' wanted t' do somet'in' and Wolvie ain't up f' anyt'in'." He shrugged.
"Why not take Rogue? You know, your *girlfriend*?"
"Because she ain't got de right instincts. Now, don' lie t' dese people. Dey can tell," he warned. He handed her a gold stickpin that matched his. "An' don' take dis off, D'Accord?"
"Are you claiming me or something?"
"Oui, chere. Markin' m' territory." She put it on. She looked up as they crested a hill and turned onto a tree lined drive. It led to a mansion much larger than Xavier's. Lanterns hung along the drive. Among the cars, there was an actual horse drawn carriage. "Anyone asks, y'r m' niece." She giggled.
"I think I've seen that movie." Remy laughed.
"I love the fangs."
"Merci. Nice boots," he said with a wink.
"Thanks, Gumbo." He came around to help her out of the car. The valet watched the slit that revealed one toned leg, then took the keys. The announcement as they entered the hall made her give Remy a sidelong glance.
"Prince LeBeau of New Orleans and Mistress Jubilee Boston," the crier announced. In a scene straight from the movies, the people on the dance floor turned to watch them enter. It was a sea of masks and period costumes. Large ball gowns mixed with togas and cocktail dresses and sometimes less than that. She held her head up confidently and stepped carefully down the stairs. A quick flurry of whispers ran through the crowd. She caught the words "exile," "apprentice," and "master." Remy seemed to have a destination in mind, so Jubilee simply followed him. He stopped at a stage on one side of the room. He bowed to the couple there.
The man smiled as Jubilee offered the traditional match-opening bow that Logan had thumped into her. He inclined his head. The woman stood. "Welcome, Prince," she said formally.
"A pleasure doubled by basking in your beauty, Guildmistress." She smiled.
"A flattering devil," she confided to Jubilee, "but impossible to catch out. Come, Miss Jubilee, let me introduce you to my daughter. Emmaline, this is Jubilee."
"A pleasure." Emmaline offered a firm handshake. She was about Remy's age with long black hair, pinned back into a sleek bun under a veil, and silver eyes.
"Likewise," Jubilee responded as she was drawn towards a smaller hall with a throbbing dancetrack that she felt more than heard. There was more variation in costume among the younger crowd.
"Don't worry. Remy will probably join us once he puts in a proper appearance with the old folds. That's the problem with rank. You have to be so formal." Emmaline rolled her eyes, then emitted a sharp whistle. "Hey, Pug, down the decibels!" The music lightened. "Attention, you thieves! This Prince Remy's guest, Jubilee. Say hello and make her welcome."
Suddenly, she was surrounded by a press of people ranging in age from 13 to their early twenties. "I don't guarantee to remember names," she warned them.
"That's okay," Emmaline assured her. "You can't go wrong by calling someone 'thief'."
Emmaline's mother, Guildmistress Victoria Malone, was busy showing off her pet celebrity, Master Thief LeBeau. She left him in the clutches of a group of women and went to greet the newest arrivals. "Regretfully, Ladies, I *am* married," he sighed. "The sorrow of missing your grace is like a dagger to the heart." He put a hand over his heart. The ladies tittered, completely charmed.
"And who is your companion?" the one in the cat mask asked.
"My niece." They were close enough that he considered her a little sister, but she was Logan's daughter. Logan accepted him as an equal. That made Jubilee his niece.
"Are you taking her on as your apprentice?" the "succubus" asked, fiddling with the heart shaped medal on the front of her necklace.
"Perhaps. That will all depend on her father, oui?" An arm slipped through his.
"Hello, Remy. Ladies," Calypso said, tossing her rainbow striped hair.
"Hello, Calypso. Would you care to dance?"
After and hour and a half of socializing, Remy escaped to the "kid's" room. He found Jubilee dancing with an apprentice thief. Emmaline greeted him with a kiss to each cheek. Out there, her mother was in charge, but in here she was mistress of the house. "Remy."
"Emma. How is she?"
"She's enjoying herself. She's comparing shoplifting techniques with Jo."
"Good. Her crowd is so…" he gestured at the air.
"Angst-ridden?" Emmaline offered. Remy laughed.
"Are you going to take her formally?"
"Maybe. I have to talk to her father. And ask her if she's interested. She's fifteen, Emma. I'm feeling old."
"Just because you were ranked and engaged…" she trailed off. "I had such a crush on you back then." She smiled up at him. They'd become good friends since then.
"Will you give me the pleasure of a dance, milady?"
"Thank you, milord. Hey, Pug! Give us a slow one." There were some giggles around the room. "And the crushes continue. You're so romantic." She put a wrist to her forehead in a mock swoon. She wore her ball gown of black velvet as if she were born to it. Her "spiderweb" veil obscured her silver eyes.
Guildmistress Malone noted the change of pace and decided to watch. The kids had scattered from the dancefloor and stood in giggling groups watching as the Prince and her daughter graced the floor. It was good to see them respect rank. She saw Jo standing with an arm around Jubilee's waist and smiled. What a charming addition to the family she'd make. She checked the time. It was less than an hour to midnight. It was time to make arrangements.
Remy took Jubilee's hand after greeting the familiar faces and meeting the new ones. He drew her off to a corner.
"Got t'ree dings t' ask, 'tite." She didn't even scowl at the "petite."
"Are y' havin' fun?"
"Y' aren't goin' t' tell anyone where y' met Jo, oui?"
"Sure thing, bub."
"Do y' want t' become m' apprentice?"
"As in learn to be a thief?"
"Hell yes. But Wolvie and Cyke aren't gonna like it."
"Remy'll work on Cyke. Y' work on Logan?"
"Deal." He kissed her forehead.
"Dere's a ceremony t'night. Remembrance of de dead. Y' want t' stay f' dat?" Jubilee considered. Unbidden, thought so her parents surfaced. She nodded. "D'Accord. Y' take a walk wit' m'?"
"Sure." He escorted her into the garden. It was full of odd shadows and corners. Jubilee smiled up at her escort. They didn't say anything, just took in the crisp fall air. A bell tolled and Remy froze, ears practically pricking forward. He led her quickly to the back porch. The Guildmistress nodded to him. The footman started handing out the candles. When everyone was assembled, the Guildmistress and her Viceroy led the group through the crunching fall leaves. It wasn't nearly as noisy as it should have been. To Jubilee, it was as if they were floating over the leaves instead of through them.
The corridor of apple trees gave way to oak and maple and then to a lake of flat, black water. The harvest moon glinted off of the surface. There was utter silence. The Guildmistress stepped onto a tree stump carefully. Her skirt and cape billowed around her as a slight breeze came up. "Here in this place we remember," she said, her voice ringing off of the trees and water. A chill ran over Jubilee as the tone vibrated through her. "We remember those who gave their lives to protect the Guild. We remember out teachers lost to the sands of time. We remember our families who were driven into the shadows of the world. We remember the old ways. We remember our enemies. We remember our friends. We remember our hopes. We remember our dream. We remember our slavery. We remember our freedom." She lit the candle she held in the palm of her hand. "We remember eternity." She set the candle carefully onto the surface of the lake.
Slowly around the group, others followed her example. Jubilee lit her candle from Emmaline's and set it on the water, tears in her eyes. "I love you," she whispered to the winds. She felt Gambit's arm around her shoulders, and turned her face into his side, willing her tears away. She looked out over the lake once more as the floating candle-flames bobbed along the surface of the water. Doubled by their reflections, they stretched out into infinity.
"Jubilee," Emmaline said softly, "as an apprentice, you are invited to join us on Sundays, if you'd like. We'll teach you the traditions and the history. Jo can come pick you up, if you need a ride. It's sort of like a youth group and Sunday school rolled into one."
"I don't know if Logan will agree to my becoming…"
"You already are one," Emmaline stated firmly. "You just haven't had the ceremony. It's not a job. It's a state of being. In your heart you're already one of us. You just need the formal training. Heck, you even walk like a thief already. Call me." She pressed a phone number into Jubilee's hand. "If nothing else, we'll set you up with Jo." She winked. She kissed each of Jubilee's cheeks, did the same with Remy and left them to watch the candles.
"Y' ready t' go home?" Remy asked gently. Jubilee nodded.
"Back to school, at least."
Emma frowned at the phone. It was past curfew. Not that she was surprised, this was Gambit after all. But she'd hoped for a phone call. She heard the front door and went to greet the pair. She was shocked to see tear streaks on Jubilee's face. The girl hugged Remy tightly. "Thank you."
"Y' welcome, 'tite. I'll email y'?"
"Yeah. That'd be good. I thought I was over this."
"Some dings ain't f' gettin' over, chere. Dey f' survivin'." She summoned up a smile for him.
"Night, Frosty," Jubilee said and dashed up the stairs. Frost pinned Gambit with a glare. He stared blandly back at her. His eyes were unreadable.
"Don' go hard on de petite. Weren't her fault Gambit stopped f' an all soul's ceremony. She been tellin' m' 'bout before Logan found her." He added, "De gas tank's full." He glanced at his watch. "Best be gettin' home before Cyke decides t' start chargin' f' de van. Bon nuit, Madam Frost."
Emma consciously forced herself not to just nod. "No," she said flatly. "Come into my office." He blinked at her. She drew herself up to her full height. "Now."
He followed her. He looked through his bangs at her. She didn't buy the little boy act. She turned the phone towards him. He stared at it. "Quoi?"
"Why Remy do somet'in' stupid like dat? Jus' leave de keys on his desk when I get back. He either be sleepin' or wit' Jeannie."
"Call or I will," she informed him. She picked up the riding crop on her desk. He watched her play with it for a moment, eyes speculative. Then, he dialed.
"Hey, Scotty. De Headmistress, she tell ole Remy t' call an' wake y' up. Non, de car's fine. Didn' get arrested, fined, shot or staked. Jus' ended up breakin' curfew. Non, no bar fights neither. Oui, on de way back now. I be fine, Cyke. Ain't past *my* bedtime." He snickered. "Oui, I make Stormy stop chantin' under your window. She just ticked dat y' left her off de last mission. G'night." He hung up. "Happy?" he asked, eyes flashing.
"Don't try to intimidate me, Little Boy." She flicked the crop in his direction. He yawned theatrically and stood.
"Bon nuit, Frosty."
"You can't charm me," she informed him. He leaned over her desk and ran a finger along her chin, using every ounce of charm he could and she tilted into his touch.
"Too bad," he purred and left.