DISCLAIMER: Characters not mine. Story mine. No money, no sue. Entertainment only, because to be frank (or even Steve) I got kinda silly at times.

CONTINUITY: We don't know who the New Son is. Not that it makes a big difference to the story.

WARNING: Bad language, sexual references, and a m/m relationship with not-really-explicit both m/f and m/m sex. Confused? Obviously not reading enough Gambit. Plus I wrote some of this while under the influence, but that's okay because so was Jake.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS AND THANKS: Saschaian, who I wrote this story for, Kael, who made it keep going, and Mel, who read all of it and administered much-needed kicks in the butt. All three of them also listened to me babble without killing me once. Plus Cosmic, because she was so cute and gave me feedback on it. :)


Faux Pas
By Diamonde


Hate wasn't a strong enough word anymore. Jake could hate Remy for getting him into his current predicament, he could certainly hate Sinister, and at that point he hated his own body. But there was something so deeply humiliating and sadistic about shopping for women's clothes that hate just didn't cut it anymore. He loathed it. His abhorrence could not be satisfactorily expressed by mere words.

Jake glared down at the rack of soft, pastel shirts. I detest you.

"Can I help you, miss?"

It took him a moment to realize that the saleswoman was talking to him. "Yes, actually. Do you have anything that looks less like the inside of a marshmallow with a neckline that starts somewhere above the navel?"

Her expression iced over. "I believe we do. What kind of top were you looking for?"

"Something businesslike. That isn't tight." On his own time Jake could and did happily wear his own male shirts, but even his dress shirts looked decidedly casual on a female frame. His employers were sympathetic, but he still had a job to do and he had to look the part. Actually he had to look several parts, and he didn't have the wardrobe for it anymore.

Without another word the assistant led him to the appropriate area of the shop and left him there. That suited Jake just fine, he was having a bad enough time without an audience. Jake had never understood female clothes shopping, it was even more nightmarish when he was trying to do it for himself. He didn't know what he was looking for, only what he wasn't looking for. Which included anything with lace, flowers or breast-display. Just because I look like a woman doesn't mean I have to look like one, he thought angrily, ignoring the illogic.

With some difficulty, he managed to find a few normal-looking shirts. Some semi-casual, a few working ones, and two suitable for emergency formal wear. All were simple and one colour, except for one which was made from blue silk with a strange silvery sheen that he wasn't prepared to admit that he rather liked the look of. They were added to the armful of pants and he stomped angrily towards the fitting rooms. For obvious reasons he hadn't even looked at anything with a skirt.

His first reaction to that important cubicle was 'eeew'. He looked at the mirror in disgust. "Okay, I know my skin doesn't look like that. You aren't fooling anyone, so give it up." There was a stifled laugh from the next cubicle, which he ignored.

Size had been another problem. He'd had to get a range of everything, since he couldn't have said with any certainty what size he was now even in the men's sizing system. Which, unhelpfully, they didn't provide. You'd think they'd at least make allowances for drag queens. Feeling particularly depressed, he tugged the first shirt off the hanger and slid into it quickly. He disliked being cold, and the air-conditioning was too high for his taste.

It was noticeable too small across the chest. "Damn breasts," he muttered and moved up a size. That time the white cloth met easily and was actually loose enough to be comfortable. Better. He looked in the mirror. And whimpered. Cold-hardened nipples were clearly visible thought the thin white cloth, and he had a horrifying revelation.

He was going to have to buy underwear.

Carrying several bags of new clothes, Jake sighed deeply and trudged inside a shop he'd have avoided like the plague before Remy LeBeau had screwed up his life. The display was daunting, suicidally lacy and almost always had bows or flowers on it. He wanted to sit down and cry. "My life," he told a rack of Elle McPherson underpants, "is hell."

And, to add injury to insult, the sizing was different again!

He was just about to scream as loudly as his new voicebox could manage when his mobile phone rang. "What?"

"You sound like you're havin' a bad day," Remy said cautiously.

"A VERY bad day. This day is bad in ways that you can't even imagine. And it's all your fault, you revolting bastard." Jake looked at the plain black bra in his hand.

"Anyt'ing I can help wit'?" He actually sounded a little guilty.

"Yes. What bra size am I? And don't pretend you haven't looked."

"Hold on." There was a rustling sound, then Remy's voice a little further away. "Hey, Jean. What's your bra size?"

"Excuse me?!"

"Friend of mine's having some problems wit' de American system. She's about your size, it'll give her somewhere to start." The lie was so smooth the woman actually answered.

"Thirty-two D."

"Did you hear dat, Jackie?"

"Sure did, arsehole." Jake looked, and it seemed about the right size. Whoever Jean was, she certainly had a nice set. Picking up a small selection of styles and sizes, he headed for another stint in the Cubicle Of Horror. These ones were even pink. "So, what do you want?"

"A billion dollars, peace on earth and Salma Hayek."

"Don't make me hang up on you, Remy." He wanted to hang up. He really, really wanted to hang up. Or possibly yell at Remy for several hours about why everything that had ever gone wrong with the world was his fault, up to and including whaling and the Crusades.

"Actually I was going to ask if you wanted a free dinner."

That didn't sound too bad. "Where and why?"

"Your choice." His voice dropped. "If I don' get away from dese people for a little while I'm going to go crazy. It's not really de easiest place to be right now."

"Then why ask me? Sek'd go."

"Dat'd be leading her on, Jake. I like her, so I don't want to upset her. Besides, I'm still trying to get you to stop bein' mad at me."

"It's going to take more than dinner, Remy."

"I know dat. Any preference for where?"

Jake thought about it for a moment as he examined the bra. "The Black Cat." He might as well make the bastard pay huge amounts of money, and the food was particularly good.

"Eight?"

"Make it seven. It gets too crowded later." And it was hard to try and not say anything that would sound incredibly strange to other people. A bit of privacy meant that Remy could call him 'Jake' without getting funny looks and they could actually talk.

"Fair enough. See you den."

"Bye." He hung up with a sigh and, with some difficulty, managed to get the flimsy piece of elastic and nylon on. They were much harder to do up behind your own back than to undo behind someone else's. Oh, for the love of God... He glared down at what were technically his breasts. Do you think that maybe if you tried you could look even MORE perky? I just love being stared at by men, really I do.

At least he knew what size he wanted, which made things move a bit faster. He certainly didn't take any longer than he had to.


Even more bags to make his fingers hurt and deep depression combined with hunger and sent Jake into the small cafe. With his purchases piled around his chair he stared at the menu. At least now he was a woman he didn't feel any compulsion to eat healthily. It might be a reversal of society's usual standards, but he didn't like being an attractive woman. When he'd been an attractive man he'd liked staying that way, now he couldn't think of any real reason why he should.

The words 'Mississippi mud cake' leapt up and grabbed him. It called, even from the printed page, speaking of thick, rich chocolatiness... He ordered it without any debate at all, then sat staring at the tabletop until cake and coffee were placed in front of him. Then he looked at them for a moment and burst into tears.

That was when he knew there was something really wrong. It wasn't a gender-thing, it was a Jake-thing. Spontaneously crying in public for no reason just wasn't something Jake did. He knew that, but still couldn't seem to stop.

"Honey, you okay?" The waitress looked down in woman-to-woman concern.

Jake sobbed and fumbled for a napkin. "Fine."

"You sure?"

"No." How could he be okay? He was crying in public because someone gave him cake!

The young woman sighed and sat down in the other chair, patting his hand comfortingly. "It's some guy, isn't it?"

Well, that was true. Jacob Gavin Jr., the guy he was supposed to be. And Remy LeBeau and Sinister and all the little Thieves Guild prats too, but mostly the problem was with himself. Not that he could explain that, so he just nodded half-heartedly.

"Bastards," she said helpfully. "Can't live without 'em, go to jail if you shoot 'em."

"I just miss him." He did, he missed himself a lot. The way he didn't need to wear wiring to keep himself respectably in place, the way he fitted his clothes, the way men actually talked to his face. The flirting. The sex. Being able to pee standing up. Not being suddenly scared by his own reflection because he didn't recognize himself through the early-morning haze. Being able to walk around topless.

"See? Bastards."

Jake thought of his current list of hated people, noting that it was getting quite long and included most males of his acquaintance. "Yeah." For some reason the thought comforted. It was no wonder he was upset with an employer like his and all those people pushing him around and making him do things he didn't want to and turning him into goo. If he went mad from estrogen poisoning and killed them all it would be their own fault, and probably less than they deserved.

He wiped his eyes, more successfully this time, and managed a shaky smile. "I'm okay. Really."

"As long as you're sure." She got up and went back to work, but she did keep an eye on him until he left. It was rather strange, really. Like he'd suddenly been accepted into a secret society by accident, and he was just waiting for one of them to ask him to take the hood off then kill him for hearing too many secrets. Like some of those conversations in the ladies room, those had to be restricted knowledge. He'd never realized how many different ways there were that a guy could get head... Not that it did him any good at all in his current form, of course.

Maybe they'd let him go on account of harmlessness.

* * *

"Nice shirt, Jake."

"Don't rub it in." He hadn't liked what he'd had to go through to get to a state where they'd let him in the door. A long sleeved shirt and pants had dealt with the need to shave anything, which was one of the few things about being male that he didn't really miss, but he still had to figure out which clothes he hated least and wash and brush and restrain his hair again. It took two hours to dry which meant that the bits against his neck and behind his ears were still damp, but at least that meant that it stayed out of his eyes.

"Seriously." Remy didn't mention that the silk clung in ways Jake probably didn't want to think about. Either he knew and wouldn't appreciate having it pointed out, or he didn't know and was better off remaining in ignorance. But it was a very nice colour.

Jake pulled over the menu and started going through it in a very businesslike way. "Shut up. I-"

"You hate me, I know."

Jake looked up in surprise. "Actually, I was going to say that I hate having to dress like this. But I hate you too, now that you mention it. Do you have a price limit? I'm starving."

"Whatever." He looked consideringly across the table. "Why was y' day so bad?"

"I don't want to talk about it."

"Did if have anything to do with the way you asked me what your bra size was?"

"I needed to know."

"Why?"

"You know what I think I'd like to order? A big plate of shut the fuck up with an order of mind your own goddamn business on the side."

"Do you t'ink we could possibly not argue for ten minutes?"

Jake glared nastily at the waiter until he ambled over. "No. So pick something better to argue about."

They ordered quickly, then were left in reasonable privacy while Remy tried to decide what to argue about. "Politics?"

"Shoot 'em all. Up the revolution."

"Pokemon?"

"I'm waiting for the game where you get to splatter their brightly-coloured guts all over the forest."

"Abortion?"

"Like that applies to me."

"True. Um..."

Jake continued. "For a start, I now have absolutely ZERO chance of knocking someone up. And I'm really not happy about that. And I certainly don't run any risk of getting pregnant, do I? Matters of taste and freakiness aside, I don't know HOW to have sex as a woman."

"You want to?"

"Hell no. But I'll have you know that women are lying, they get randomly horny just as often as men do."

Remy paused. "Mental image, Jake."

"Suffer. I can't even jerk off properly in this body, it's too weird and disturbing."

"Mental image again."

"Shut up."

"So, what else do you now know about women dat dey never let on?"

Jake thought for a moment, sifting though some of the things he'd picked up. "For a start, the reason why they all go to the bathroom together really is because they talk about guys and check the bits of each other they can't see for themselves. Stick them in a room with porcelain and they'll talk about anything."

"Like what?"

"Like that there really is no right answer to the 'does this make me look fat' one, but a romantic compliment will do if you have to come up with something. And their gaydar isn't as good as they make out, they just don't admit when they're wrong."

Remy nodded. "Well, I can say honestly dat de clothes you're wearing don't make you look fat."

"I know that, and I wouldn't care if they did. Now do you want to hear the pearls of wisdom I've picked up on the worst undercover infiltration ever or not?"

"Of course."

So he mentioned a few more, one of which had to be demonstrated visually with a breadstick. The way Jake ate it when he was done seemed to bother Remy for some reason. Jake didn't care, he was just hungry.

After the food arrived Remy seemed to get slightly distracted. He was still his usual charming self, but there was something bothering Jake that he couldn't quite put his finger on. Either he felt like Remy wasn't really paying attention to him or he was trying to follow a scene where nobody had given him the script.

But they weren't bickering as much as usual and Remy didn't seem to be going out of his way to tease him. In fact, he kept saying nice things. Shouldn't that make him feel better?

"Remy, how are you dealing with our mutual employer?"

"Carefully." He shrugged and smiled. "I'm not as confident or as important wit' him as you."

"No I'm not. I'm a glorified message-boy." Jake tapped the table lightly with the handle of his knife, thinking. "I'm not sure... he just seems to be watching me, like he's waiting for something."

"Smitten by de new you?"

"Be serious."

"I'm completely serious. Your beauty enraptures us all." Jake glared. Remy grinned and smoothly moved on. "Isn't dis nice? We should go out more often."

"We spend far too much time together already, and it usually involves people trying to kill me or your father trying to look down my clothes."

"Can't say dat I blame him, Jackie."

"Don't call me that." He hated that name.

"Sorry. Jake."

"Better." The man actually managed to look contrite, and Jake magnanimously decided not to have him castrated. Yet. He was eating. Frustrated and sulky and not sure why, Jake glared at a woman sitting at another table. "What the hell's she looking at? I don't think she likes me."

Remy glanced absently to one side and grinned. "Probably just jealous of de fact dat you look better wit'out all de makeup and tight dress."

Jake didn't know how to deal with either that thought or the way Remy had said it, so he went back to food. "Well, I'm jealous of that potato." He stretched out his fork to steal a bit from Remy's plate, glancing up out of the corner of his eye to make sure he wouldn't have to fight for it.

What he discovered was that Remy was sneaking a look at the large amount of cleavage he hadn't realized he was showing. And not in the exaggerated, teasing way he was familiar with. Instead he was wearing the expression that women like Sek took as indicating hidden depths. Jake didn't know whether Remy had hidden depths or not, but he did know that that expression was just a front. Something he used to attract people, which turned on automatically whenever he was giving the impression of charm while his mind was really wandering.

Jake's short temper snapped. "Oh no. You DON'T get to do that!"

A head or two turned, and Remy jumped. "Do what?"

"Act like I'm just another one of those stupid women who follow you around like really pathetic ducklings!" He glared across the table. "See? You didn't even notice you were doing it! Consider this an important lesson, LeBeau. There's at least one woman who doesn't give a shit how charming you think you are!" He stood up, quivering with rage. "I'm not cleavage, you self-satisfied bastard. Don't you EVER dismiss me or try to manipulate me that way again."

Leaving Gambit sitting in total shock, Jake marched out of the restaurant to what sounded suspiciously like a standing ovation. He was too angry to care. He'd ended up getting an automated response, a routine that was supposed to keep him placid and happy. Part of it, the acceptance and apparent enjoyment of his company, had almost worked. He might hate him, but he did respect and in a way admire Remy, and with his self-confidence at an all new low he wanted to be approved of. Except that tall, dark and handsome didn't really work that well on him, and he knew men like Remy to well to fall for 'hidden depths'. Hidden depths didn't mean dick unless you could actually see what they were.

And the fact that Remy had made an automatic assumption and dismissed his individuality without noticing, even though he knew better... hurt. He'd actually thought they were friends. So Remy teased him and he complained about everything, but not when it was important, right? I have to stop feeling sorry for myself. He shook himself mentally and physically and went home. If he was going to keep wallowing in self-pity, like he suspected that he would, it was probably best to do it somewhere where nobody could see him do it. It was silly enough at the best of times, but now he pouted.

He was still replaying the conversation over in his head when he was getting ready for bed, pinning down all the little words and gestures that had really irritated him. And all the compliments, ugh. Are there women actually stupid enough to fall for that? He glanced over at the mirror briefly, then wandered up for a frank look at it. I suppose if I actually was one I might too. I designed this form to look good, so I know it does and I don't need to be reassured. He looked over his workmanship critically. Thick, tumbled black hair, soft blue eyes, well-sculpted features... yeah, he'd done a good job. Hell, if I was't the one in it I could certainly go a body like this.

That didn't mean that Remy LeBeau got to treat him as if what he looked like mattered. They might irritate him, but he could forgive the strangers because they could hardly be expected to assume that he was really a man accidentally (and hopefully temporarily) trapped in the form of a woman. But people he actually knew had better remember it.

Firm in the righteousness of his indignation, Jake stomped off to bed. It took quite a while for him to get to sleep.


It was nearly nine the next morning when Jake was rudely woken up by yet another summons. He swore quietly to himself and wished they'd all just leave him alone. He felt tired and seedy and unhappy, and really didn't feel up to dealng with some condescending enigma telling him what he had to do. Come on, Jake. This is your job. You LIKE your job. He wrinkled his cute little nose and pushed the tangled hair out of his eyes. Well, mostly.

Still, at least it wasn't anything so urgent he had to skip showering. He wanted a nice, hot, relaxing shower to erase the lingering embarassed confusion of his dreams. It wasn't the way he'd been kissing Remy that had bothered him, it had been the way said jerk had disappeared and the fountain had told him that if he didn't have the castanets it was his own damn fault. Then it had eaten his shoe, and he'd almost been run over by a stampede of eight foot tall children dressed as numerals. Maybe it was a sign, he mused. A sign that it's always a bad idea to get between really big children and a sale, and you can never stay angry at anybody. Not even the chauvanist in thief's clothing.

He recited some Robert Frost as he got dressed, for no particular reason other than to see if he could still remember all of it, and had forgotten almost all of the rather long dream by the time he left the house. Oddly enough, it was the kissing part that lingered. He really thought the fountain with the shoe fetish had been weirder.

Especially the way it had sounded like Freddie Mercury.

* * *

After two days of guilt Remy had finally given in and slipped away from the other X-Men to visit Jake. He didn't want to, but the angrily hurt look Jake's adorable little face had lingered accusingly. Remy hated knowing that he was in the wrong.

Taking a deep breath, he knocked on the door and waited. There was no answer, so he tried again. "Jake?"

"Fuck off!" A groan followed the exclamation, and Remy started to worry.

"Jake? Are you okay?"

"No, now get lost."

Looking around for any unwanted observers, Remy shook a lockpick out of his sleeve. "I came all de way over here t' appologise, and I'm not going to do it from out here." It only took a moment to unlock the door, and as always Jake had neglected to put the chain on. Stepping inside cautiously, Remy spotted Jake immediately. He was curled into the fetal position on the couch and was swearing in Remy's general direction.

"Shit, is your english so bad that you don't understand 'fuck off'?" He trailed off into a series of politically incorrect insults, then moaned.

"What happened to you?"

"Nothing! Go away!" Jake pulled a cushion over his head, but not before Remy spotted the blush.

"Jake, you're worrying me here."

"Oh fine!" The dark head popped back out again and glared. "Since you want to be sooo helpful you can refill my hot waterbottle, then run down to the store and buy me the strongest painkillers you can find and whatever brand of whatsit that Jean woman uses BECAUSE I'M STUCK IN A FULLY FUNCTIONAL FEMALE BODY AND I'M REALLY STARTING TO UNDERSTAND WHAT THEY COMPLAIN ABOUT!" With another blush and a glare, the cushion came back over his head. "THEN you can appologise. And it better be good."

Remy blinked and thought for a moment. "Oooh. Umm... sure." Very, very carefully he reached for the hot water bottle. "I'll just take dat for you..."

Jake prised his finger off the now-lukewarm rubber and curled into a tighter ball. "So you should. All your fault."

Remy resisted the urge to argue and just returned the source of heat without saying a word. "I'll be back soon."

"And chocolate," was the only reply.

Once safely ambling down the street, Remy had a moment to think about the situation. Poor Jake. It did explain his bad temper over the last few days, though. He's lucky he's got me. Remy had lived through Jean with PMS, Psylocke with cramps, and The Great Tampon Drought Of '98. There was very little he wouldn't buy, duck or tolerate when it came to periods. It was a survival tactic now. Still, he felt bad that Jake had to put up with it from such a... personal persepective. There were some things that men just shouldn't have to deal with, in his opinion.

Which was why as soon as he was in the correct aisle he looked helpless for a calculated eleven seconds then charmingly inconvenienced a woman who looked appropriately maternal. Because he did know what brand Jean used because of the aforementioned Great Tampon Drought, but he was fairly sure that that wasn't what Jake wanted. So instead he happily lied about a younger sister who was temporarily staying with him, and looked incompetent. The woman was sympathetic, and carefully explained which was the right packet and why.

Five minutes later he'd collected chocolate as well and was sailing out of the store with a vague feeling of accomplishment. What would Jake do without a friend like him.... He ignored the quiet reminder that without a friend like him Jake would still be a man, and whistled to himself as he walked.

"I'm back. Still alive?"

Jake reached for the chocolate like a starving man. "Yes. I WANT to die, but it doesn't seem to be happening."

"It won't last forever."

"Remy, I had PMS." He munched for a moment, looking serious. "I didn't just yell at you. I called the New Son a self-obsessed jerk who treated his employees badly, was completely out of touch with the world and wouldn't know manners if they leapt up and bit him on the arse. In front of everybody. Then I burst into tears and locked myself in the ladies room for two hours until they all went away."

Remy bit his lip and held his breath. He pinched himself and tried to think of something sad. But the laughter welled up anyway, and eventually he fell over on the carpet as it held him helpless in its grip. "I'm sorry..."

"Sure. Laugh it up." Jack scowled. "Now I'm either fired or on the Bad list."

"Santa Claus isn't going to give you any presents?"

"No! Don't you kow anything? Our esteemed employer keeps a list in his head of all the people who've ticked him off, and gives them all the really dirty jobs. He never mentions it, but we all know it's there."

"How?"

"Do the words 'poison gas' ring any bells?"

"Oh."

"You're ALWAYS on the list, I think."

"Probably."

"You deserve to be."

"I know I do." Remy grinned. "Never was good at following orders. Plus I get distracted easy."

Jake snorted. "You know what you are?"

"A devilishly handsome pain in the arse?"

"That too, but I was thinking more like Peter Pan with a licence to drink. It's wrong. You should be ten."

Remy laughed, surprised but somehow pleased. "My father says the same t'ing sometimes. Maybe I just WANT to be ten, hmm?"

"If you were ten you couldn't run around having sex with every beautiful woman who throws herself at you, though."

"I don't now." Stretching idly, Gambit rolled onto his back and folded his arms underneath his head, gazing up at the ceiling. "After a while it doesn't work anymore."

"What do you mean, doesn't work? They have pills for that now..." Jake frowned down at the chest that was so enticingly stretched out below him. His hormones were definitely doing some odd things.

"Dat isn't what I meant, and you know it." Remy sighed. "Spend a few years bein' slutty and the reputation stays forever..."

"But you still try to hit on anything with ovaries."

"Do not. I'm a flirt, but I'm not a slut. Not anymore, anyway. Hell, I've been flirting wit' you ever since we met. 's fun, you blush." He grinned and continued, ignoring the repeat blush and nasty mutter from the sofa above him. "When I was young and stupid, I had my times... when I figured what dey were plannin' for me and Belle, den. Like I was trying to make sure I didn't miss out on anyt'ing before they tied me up in Guild business for de rest of my life. Den again, after dat all... got messed up. I was out all by myself, and I HATE dat. I'd got used to always having someone around, so I kept jus' finding new someones. Took a while for me to get used to being by myself again."

"And then you hooked up with the X-Men, and had a nice big cozy group again. And the really nasty-tempered woman." Remy could forgive Rogue for leaving him in Antarctica all he liked, that didn't mean Jake would. He knew far too well what condition it had left Remy in.

"Well, kinda. It was a big cozy group, but I kept myself on de edges of it. Knew dey'd find out and kick me out one day, so I just kept lurking and waitin' for de ot'er shoe to drop."

"And the nasty-tempered woman?"

"Don't go dere."

"Okay."

"Okay?" Remy turned to look at him, frowning slightly.

"Hey, you don't wanna talk about it it's none of my business." Jake nibbled on another piece of chocolate. "So, I believe you owed me an apology? A nice big one?"

"I'd forgotten about dat."

"I hadn't. So stop whining about your life and get cracking."

Remy took a deep breath and propped himself up on one elbow. "I'm very, very sorry for treating you like dat, I didn't mean to and I promise never to do it again."

"And?"

"And I'm sorry I spoiled a perfectly good dinner?" he guessed.

"And?"

"And I'm sorry for looking at your cleavage, even though it's cleavage so it's really hard not to?"

"And?"

"And what??"

"And 'I'm sorry for treating you like a bimbo'."

Remy flipped a hand negligently. "Don't worry 'bout it, I get dat all de time." As planned, the hand was in just the right position to catch the cushion before it hit him in the face.

"That is NOT what I meant!"

"I know, but I couldn't resist." He grinned his most charming grin, knowing it always worked on Jake.

"Hmmph."

"I really didn't mean to upset you."

"Good. Because I'm having enough physiological problems with this body without getting psychological."

Remy happily accepted forgiveness and slid back into the comfortable exchange of innuendo and insult. After a while with the X-Men Jake was relaxing to be around, even if he was too attractive for his own good now. Remy could ignore that, it was the fundamental openness that made Jake pleasant. He tried to be myserious and secretive, he really did, and he was good at his job. But outside of his job, things were different. He might not tell you the story of his life, but he still simply remained hiself and nothing more.

To an extent, Remy envied that. Jake knew exactly who he was, even if he wasn't always happy with it. And somehow between the joking flirtation and the bickering, he'd managed to do something that few people had. He'd made friends with Remy LeBeau.

And Remy wasn't even sure that Jake'd noticed.

* * *

Jake had recovered from his temporary indisposition and was back to only background level Remy-hating within a week and a half, which gave Remy enough time to come up with a casual approach.

"Hey, Jake... I still owe you a nice dinner, don't I?"

"Guess so." Jake took another swig of beer and burped delicately before swearing at the television. "Oh, for fuck's SAKE! What are you, blind?"

"Big fan?"

"Bet two hundred. You know, buddy, they're making turtles faster than you now!"

Remy nodded. Guy bonding felt good. "Anyway, dere's a big Guild do on Friday. Wanna go?"

Jake put the bottle down and gave him a stern look. "You inviting Jake or Jackie here, Rem?"

"Jake in Jackie's body, so dat certain people will leave me alone and I'll have someone who AIN'T one of de families to talk to."

Jake thought on that, moaned, threw a cushion at the screen and eventually answered. "Free drinks?"

"Open bar."

"I'm there." Jake suddenly cackled in delight and threw a handful of popcorn up in the air. "Hah! Suck that, you nasty little west-coast losers!"

"Gonna wear a dress?"

"No."

"Gonna NOT wear the Doc Martens? It's a formal t'ing."

"I'll buy some nice boots, just for you, but I fall over in heels. Well, I'll wear nice shoes if you give me the Doritos."

* * *

"So, this is your family." Jake grinned what was, on Jackie, a disturbingly mischevious grin and sipped his wine. "Heh."

"Heh? Heh what?"

"Heh which one's your ex wi-ife?"

"Blonde, nine-thirty."

Jake did a casual scan to his left and whistled softly. "Ooh. Nice legs. You sure you two aren't back together?"

"Sure."

Jake snorted. "Loser."

"Hey, who asked you?"

"You did, a week or so ago. You may have thought you were speaking figuratively, but I was listening."

"You're a real pain, Jake."

"And you're a jerk. It's why we like each other." Jake snagged a waiter and smiled brightly. "Can I have a refill, please?"

Remy laughed softly. "Point. Oh look, I think you're gonna meet her."

"Oh goody." What Remy considered the worrying part was that Jake actually sounded sincere.

"Remy." Belladonna smiled. It seemed a little uncertain to her husband, but Jake didn't appear to notice.

"Evenin', Belle. Dis is Jackie. Jackie, Belladonna."

"Pleasure to meet you." Jake shook hands politely. "I've heard a lot about you, but don't worry, I never believe anything Remy says." He added a little laugh at the end, enough to make it a joke.

Belladonna laughed too. "Sorry t' say I've never heard anyt'ing 'bout you."

"I'm not. Sorry, that is. All the stories he has about me are embarrassing." Jake took the new glass from the passing waiter with practiced skill. "Nice wine, she said, skillfully changing the subject."

"Drink too much of it and I'll kill you." Remy underlined the statement with a subtle poke in the arm.

From the depths of five foot ninehood Jake flipped a hand negligently. "Oh, I could do much worse things to your dignity than drink too much. Trust me."

"Oh? Any embarrassing stories about Remy to share?"

"Unfortunately, not ones that don't implicate me as well."

"Too bad." Belladonna looked thoughtful. "So you two are..."

"Friends," Remy said firmly.

Jake looked at her blankly for a moment, then burst out laughing. He laughed for at least half a minute before managing to gasp out any words. "Not laughing at you, sorry... laughing at Remy..."

"Oh, thanks," Remy replied drily.

"No problem..." Jake laughed a bit longer, starting to double up. After another minute he had to sit down, and eventually Belladonna made her grinning excuses.

With casual faux-mingling she made her way back to several other assassins, who were pretending that they weren't looking at their leader and his friend. Given the experience of the thieves in the room, Belle doubted that anyone was fooled.

"Well?"

"Defnitely not any excuse for people to take offence." Belle smiled and drank a little from her own glass. "When I asked if they were involved she laughed so much dat she gave herself hiccups. I t'ink Remy was a little offended."


"Remy, don't look now, but there's a guy who's all but tattooed 'dangerous' on his forehead glaring daggers at me from the table to your left." Jake nibbled on an hors d'ouvre. "Go get me another drink with a strawberry in it and then tell me who he is."

"Do you have any idea how much alcohol is in those?" Remy was watching Jake carefully for signs of drunkeness. He wasn't sure whether to be disturbed or relieved at the total lack of any, despite the number of cocktails and glasses of wine Jake had happily consumed.

"Yes, which is why I'm manipulating my own systems to keep from getting utterly plastered. I just like strawberries."

"Why should I get you a drink, anyway?"

"Because you're the guy." Jake sighed. "I'm starving, you'd better distract me before I cause a scene by eating one of your in-laws."

"Fair enough." Remy did the gentlemanly thing and went all the way past the glaring assassin to the kitchen, getting Jake a whole bowl of strawberries as well as the requested drink. It would look less supicious than Jake drinking seven of them and still being able to walk in a straight line, anyway.

"So who- ooooh, strawberries!" Jake deftly took the bowl out of Remy's hands and happily selected a juicy one.

"Gris Gris."

Jake paused mid-munch, blinked, and swallowed. "Cruel parents. So why's he giving me the death-look?"

"He's one of Belladonna's top people and utterly hates my guts."

"Ooh. I see." Jake looked over at the offending assassin, smiled and winked. "He thinks I'm screwing you stupid."

Caught mid-drink, Remy gulped and coughed and only just managed to avoid spraying wine all over the place. "You really have no shame, do you, Jake?"

"Me? Nope." Jake pulled the strawberry off the side of his glass, swirled it slowly in the drink and then sucked the thick pink liquid off the berry in as blatant an invitation to oral sex as Remy had seen in his entire colourful life.

It rather bothered him that Jake was looking past him as the act was performed, and he found that thought a little distressing as well. Shifting uncomfortably in his seat, he frowned and looked uncertainly at Jake. "That's... um, impressive."

"I have many skills." As usual, Jake's impersonation was flawless. Xena was one Remy had never heard before, and several of his fantasies became very confused. Then Jake grinned. "Yeah, he's still watching me... looks kind of weirded out, now. But really, really curious."

Remy winced. "Could you not do dat?"

"Sure." Jake popped another strawberry in his mouth. "Guard that bowl with your life, I'll be back in a few minutes."

"What are you- Jake, NO."

But Jake was already moving towards the besieged assassin with a sensual component to his walk that Remy had never seen 'Jackie' use. Remy watched in horrified enthrallment as what was suddenly a she slid up to Gris Gris, smiled, flirted a little, and somehow drew the now utterly bewildered man out to dance. Which was all the more strange given that Remy had never seen Gris Gris dance before.

Jackie was doing a very good job of convincing him though. If someone had been dancing with him like that.. well, Remy wouldn't have let that happen at an occasion where he couldn't skip the dinner part and go straight to bed.

Remy looked down and noticed with mild surprise that his hand was clenched on the edge of the table so hard that his knuckles where white. He was well-trained enough that he watched the dancers with an expression of mildly indulgent amusement, however.

The dark assassin seemed to have decided that Jackie was, in fact, offering to sleep with him and was warming to the idea when Jackie stopped dancing with a wicked smile and leaned up to whisper in his ear. Since he was watching like an overprotective hawk, Remy got to see the expression on Gris Gris' face freeze rather comically as Jackie kept whispering. Eyes that had watched many a person's death impassively were widened with shock and something else as Jake (because suddenly it was Jake again) patted him on the shoulder and wandered back towards Remy to retrieve his strawberries.

Remy remembered to blink. "What the hell did you just do?"

"Me?" Jake licked cocktail off another strawberry in a much less seductive and more cute fashion. "Nothing much. Just danced with that nice man over there, then told him that if he didn't stop trying to fuck with my best friend I'd destroy his family, impoverish his Guild and then force-feed him his own testicles." Jake grinned in self-satisfaction. "And I could, too."

Remy's liver melted and trickled down into his legs, spreading a warm, liquid feeling through his entire body. "I'm your best friend?"

Jake smiled and patted his hand comfortingly. "Well DUH. Man, what planet were you raised on?"

"Planet GUY." Remy was rather startled at the easy way Jake took that, then realised that Jake KNEW that Remy got catty when he was feeling insecure.

"Kiss my lily-white woman-butt. On second thoughts, don't, you'd enjoy it too much." Jake looked down at the bowl and sighed, then held it out. "Strawberry?"

With all due reverance for the level of Jake's sacrifice, Remy selected a strawberry and ate it.

It was absolutely delicious.

* * *

"You're drunk now, aren't you." Remy pushed his desert plate aside and looked at Jake firmly.

Jake shook his head. "Just pleasantly fuzzy, I think." He looked back at Remy and frowned. "No, wait, I'm drunk. You're starting to look good."

On Remy's other side, Belladonna laughed. "Scary when dat happens, isn't it?"

"Hey!"

"Sure is." Jake looked soulfully over at one of the deadliest women in the world. "You, on the other hand, have always looked gorgeous. So don't listen to the wine, you can do MUCH better than this loser."

Remy facepalmed. "Jack, you remember that talk we had about you not doing anything embarrassing?"

"No, I'm too drunk. And I never said I wouldn't flirt with your wife." Jake looked past Remy to Belladonna. "Don't take me too seriously, I know that it'd never work out between you and me. I'm a dog person."

"Yeah, a bitch."

"Aww, Remy, you say the sweetest things." Jake basked in more of Belladonna's rich laughter. He really liked that woman. He knew he had no chance at all, especially in his current incarnation as Remy's female friend, but that didn't stop him enjoying what attention he could get.

Belle put her hand on Remy's shoulder, still smiling, and switched to French. "Remy, why don't you take her up to one of the spare rooms? She's about to pass out. Dinner's over, we've done the social thing, and they're all waiting for us to leave so they can get down to the actual partying and fighting."

"I can speak French, you know. And I'm not." Jake looked offended. "I can get home just fine by myself, thank you VERY much."

"Jack, you live in DC. You're better off staying here and getting a flight home in de mornin'."

Jake sighed. He was feeling a little wobbly, but mostly just tired. "Depends. Which Guildhouse is this?"

"Assassins." Remy's brain began quickly trying to figure out arrangements acceptable to both Guilds that wouldn't offend Jake or Belle.

"Good. Because I don't trust your family. I'm not sure if I trust hers either, but I won't need to swallow all my jewelery before I go to sleep."

"And, since you're my guest, I can even guarantee dat you'll wake up." Belle smiled. "Rem, you take her up, I'll go make sure dat everybody understands."

"Oh?"

"Your friend made quite an impression on Gris Gris." She slid to her feet with a grace that made both men restrain sighs and went towards the slowly growing group of assassins sharing an after-dinner drink.

"Come on, Jack."

"Alright, alright, you win." Jake let himself be led upstairs, happily staring at Remy's rear up all three flights. He wasn't so drunk as to have lost control, he was just drunk enough to have escaped some of the more complicated problems in his life. So what if he was a woman. It was inconvenient, true, but it might have some advantages. For a start, he could threaten people and get away with it. And Remy liked women, and Jake wasn't so blind not to see jealousy when it glared at him across a dance floor. And he had liked that it had made Remy jealous. He had also wanted to say that it really wasn't necessary, because the only male in the room he had any interest in at all had been Remy himself...

Jake blinked at himself. I finally get comfortable with the best friend thing and now I'm going all 'interested'? I just never give myself a break. Then again, who wouldn't want him? He's so beautiful and all vulnerable... And Jake kept following, quite happy to go along with whatever option presented itself.

"In here." Remy flicked the light on and gently guided Jake inside with an automatic hand on the back, closing the door behind them. "Dere's probably everything you need in de dresser over dere, Guilds get guests fairly often."

"I doubt it has everything I need." Jake looked thoughtfully at the antique piece of furniture. "You can't put a mansion, good luck and a damn good kissing in a dresser."

Remy laughed as he walked across to turn on the bedside lamp as well. "You need a damn good kissing?"

"Doesn't everybody?"

He shrugged. "Know I do."

Jake looked up at Remy and took a deep breath. Part of being immune to chemical substances was knowing that they were there, and he could feel the pheremones that were trying to bundle him up and take him to bed. He could also see with normal old eyesight that Remy was breathing a little more heavily than was normal for him, and looked... uncertain.

Some people complained that the red-on-black eyes were impossible to read. Jake thought they made it even easier, because Remy didn't think he had to hide anything. And what they were saying right now was that they really wanted that kissing. From him.

Well, far be it from Jake to deny such lovely eyes.

"That presents a pretty obvious solution, doesn't it?" And before Remy had time to do more than look startled, Jake stood up on tiptoes and kissed him. Gently, he didn't want to scare Remy away, and how he would react to being kissed by a male friend who currently looked like a very attractive woman was something of a mystery.

Somewhat to Jake's surprise, Remy moaned softly and pulled him closer. Jake gave a mental sigh of utter satisfaction, slipping his arms around Remy's waist and wriggling one hip until he made his friend gasp. Of course, an open mouth was too good an invitation to pass up.

If Remy's reaction had surprised him, Jake's own shocked him. One kiss and he was pressing himself forwards with all the inhibition of a cat in heat, and even if he wasn't quite sure what to do with a woman's body the body certainly knew what it wanted done with it. And by who.

"Jack..." Remy managed to pull himself away from the kiss, ignoring Jake's unhappy moan. "No, we gotta stop dis..."

"Don't want to." Jake held on tighter and tried to get Remy's mouth back down to his own again.

"No, Jake."

"Why not?" Jake's stomach dropped, embarrassed disappointment completely failing to dampen the arousal.

Panting but suddenly determined, Remy unlocked Jake's arms from around him and pushed him back. "Because dis is de Assassins Guild. I can't, not here."

Jake took another step back, recoiling from the angry urgency. "Oh, of course. Gotcha." He couldn't believe how casual he sounded, how utterly unconcerned.

"Merci." Remy took a few deep breaths, performing those habitual actions of straightening with his eyes shut. "I just... it's weird."

"Tell me about it." Jake smiled and dug three nails so far into his right palm he could feel the warm stickiness of blood.

"I should, uh, go." Remy leaned forwards... and kissed Jake on the forehead. "G'night, Jack."

Jake watched him leave, eyes wide, before speaking to the closed door. "A kiss on the FOREHEAD? They're right about you, LeBeau, you DO deserve to burn in hell!" Spinning around, Jake grabbed one of the fluffy pillows and hurled it at the wall, furious and frustrated and hurt. "Not good enough for the Guilds to know about... God DAMN you!"

Hissing further curses, Jake stared angrily as his cut hand until it healed then stomped to the bathroom for a cold shower. It wasn't entirely successful, Jake tossed and turned with lust he had no way of relieving for several hours before finally getting to sleep.


Back in his own ill-fitting room in the Thief Guildhouse, Remy sat down in the corner of his bathroom and glared into the full-length mirror. "You utter..." He glared at himself. "Never thought I'd apply de words 'cock-tease' to myself, but dere it is. You're a complete bastard, LeBeau." He stood up and winced. "A FRUSTRATED bastard, but still a bastard. And talkin' to yourself..."

Shaking his head, Remy turned away from the mirror and started wrestling with buttons and cufflinks. Shouldn't have let dat happen... not dere, and certainly not while he was drunk. Shouldn't have started something I couldn't finish, shouldn't have let him kiss me, shouldn't have kissed him back... Without thinking, Remy brushed his lips with his fingers.

It hadn't been the first time Remy LeBeau had ever been kissed by a man. It hadn't even been the first time he'd returned one. But it had been the first time he'd really enjoyed it, and Jake was certainly the first man he'd ever wanted to make love to. It had been horribly hard to stop himself from doing just that, from pushing Jake back against the bedpost and showing him that being in a woman's body for a while wasn't necessarily a bad thing at all, making the new uncertainty in those beautiful blue eyes fade away and be replaced by something so much more fun... Remy groaned and struggled out of the last of his clothes and into the shower cubicle.

Merde... he tells me dat I'm his best friend and what do I do? Damn near jump him in my wife's house when he's too drunk to know better. Real classy, Gambit. Doesn't matter dat you've wanted him since three days after you met, if someone like Gris Gris caught us it'd all be over. Dat would be far too much of an insult, they'd throw me out for sure and not even Belle'd defend me. They could kill us both... Leaning back against the tiles, Remy closed his eyes and let the hot water wash over him as his hands wandered downwards of their own accord. While in New Orleans, they were all that was safe.

He wanted it to be some other fantasy. He'd have felt a lot more comfortable with himself if he'd been seeing Rogue or Winona Ryder or some other equally safe female.

But instead he saw Jake's laughing male face every time he closed his eyes.

* * *

"Jackie? Caught an early flight out, said she had work to do." Belladonna tucked the telephone against her shoulder looked down at her toenails. Maybe she'd paint them purple.

At the other end of the line, Remy sighed. "Damn."

"She was cute. And bringing a lesbian was fairly... diplomatic, for you."

Remy choked. "Where did you get the idea that she was a lesbian?" If there was anything he couldn't imagine Jake as, that would be it. And recently he'd been imagining Jake as a lot of things.

"Actually, dat was the assumption of the people sitting around us at dinner. I didn't mind at all, you know I like flirting." Belladonna frowned in concentration as she stuck a tiny dragonfly decal onto her left index finger. "Me, I don't really see it. But I liked her."

"She's a very likeable person." Too likeable, really.

"Remy?"

"Yeah?"

"Go apologize for whatever it is you said."

"I didn-"

Belle sighed. Why else did he think he was calling at eight in the morning? "Remy, just do it."

"Yes, Belle. Whatever you say, Belle." Remy snorted. "Stay out of my business, chere."

"We can't, dear. We're married." She blew on her nails. "Have a peachy day." With a carefull prod of one newly-decorated finger she hung up on him and looked over at her canary instead. "What a silly man. Isn't he, Delia?"

Delia blinked and sang a few notes. Belladonna smiled.

* * *

For the third time that afternoon and more than he wanted to count over the last four days, Remy hung up on Jake's answering machine before the cute message from 'Jake and Jackie, schitzophrenic twin consultants to the stars' was finished and stalked away from the telephone. Except then he had to think of something else to do...

Cable looked up as Remy paced past and looked at the fridge again. "Got somewhere you'd rather be, LeBeau?"

Remy glared down at him. "Yeah, as a matter of fact I do."

Cable blinked, looking a little surprised at the anger that was suddenly aimed at him. "Go away, then. It's not like you're doing anything important here aside from watching me eat and making me nervous."

"No. I said I'd be here, and I'm going t' be here."

With a sigh, Cable picked the newspaper up again and found a good page. "Gambit?"

"What?"

"Piss off." Nathan blew absently on his coffee without looking up from the article. "In the unlikely event that anyone wants you, we can always just hit redial."

Remy sucked in an irritated breath. "Sometimes I really hate you."

Cable smiled. "Sometimes I hate you more."

After sitting for another twenty seconds, just to prove that he wasn't doing anything because someone told him to, Remy got up and left without another word. Cable didn't seem to mind.

The plane to DC took far too long. It gave Remy too much time to try and think about why Jake wasn't talking to him.

He'd really thought that after the trip to the past and working for the New Son and everything else that Jake would have understood that leading the Guilds meant Remy couldn't afford to risk making them angry anymore. When he'd been an outcast he could annoy assassin and thief alike as much as he wanted to. Now he had power over them, and that meant they had power over him. And most of the assassins, as well as a few Thieves, were waiting for the even tiniest of excuses to tear him down.

Embarrassing Belladonna would certainly count, even if Belle herself wasn't actually that embarrassed. They both knew that the other was hardly faithful, but as long as they weren't confronted with evidence they didn't officially know and could therefore happily ignore it. Dont ask, don't tell, and don't bring it home with you.

Well, he hadn't meant to.

Aiming carefuly up the aisle, Remy flicked a peanut off the drop-down airline table. The nut glittered and shot off to hit a boy of about eleven. Startled, the child stopped mid-tantrum and Remy went back to thinking.

Well, that would explain Jake being rather annoyed at him the following morning. Fair enough, he could admit that he probably deserved that. But it didn't explain why Jake wasn't talking to him now. Remy had expected to have the opposite problem, and had been preparing himself for more humble apologies and charming penitence to make Jake shut up.

A nasty suspicion presented itself and refused to go away. Yes, Jake had kissed him first and been very reluctant to stop... but Jake had been drunk. When he'd sobered up, he might have been horrified at himself.. and disgusted.

So Remy had done a few things not really approved of in many parts of the deep south, he'd done it because his lifestyle had been rather... disreputable and he'd been living far too close to the edge. Even if Jake was openminded, that was shaky ground. Especially since he'd done it for reasons that most people, the greater proportion of the X-Men for example, would be revolted by.

Did Jake know about that?

Pessimistically, Remy decided that every sordid detail of his past was written on a large neon sign that everyone except him could see. It would explain a lot. Or perhaps he just had 'amoral slut' tattooed across his forehead, stranger things had happened.

Not to mention the way he'd so carefully manipulated Jake into liking him, as he always did. He'd needed Jake to like him, because that made him feel nice. Wanted. Worth something. And then Jake had got drunk and Remy had let him, then let him do something he now so obviously regretted... Remy really should have been happy with having a best friend.

Jake wasn't home.

Remy pressed his hands against the door in a spasm of anti-climactic self-reproach. It certainly explained why Jake hadn't answered his telephone, but didn't really help Remy's current situation.

With a sigh, Remy picked the lock again and let himself in to wait.

After a while, of course, curiousity took over and he began wandering. And looking, of course. Not that he opened anything or disturbed anything, that would be prying. He was just looking. At the clothes thrown on the bathroom floor, at the magazines on the coffee table, at the odd juxtaposition of a Star Wars poster next to a Georgia O'Keefe print. A nice O'Keefe print, though.

Running out of things to investigate in the living room, Remy moved onto the kitchen and realised his error. Jake kept all his interesting stuff in the kitchen. There were piles of papers on the benches, open books left next to the toaster and a large half-whiteboard-half-corkboard arrangement by the telephone.

Without even trying to resist, Remy wandered over for a look at it. The whiteboard had things like scribbled shopping lists for lightbulbs, eggs and paprika. It had Remy's own phone number slightly smudged in one corner. There was a column of numbers where Jake had added up his bills and little reminders like 'ring dad tuesday'. The corkboard was a treasure trove of Jakeness. It had a plane shedule and a flyer for a local production of 'The Wind in the Willows' on the same pin, an unpaid cable bill and a piece of paper with the telephone number of a woman who's name was apparently Sascha. Remy had a moment of embarrassed jealousy over that before moving on.

A Calvin and Hobbes comic strip was pinned up in a rather slapdash fashion by one corner, covering several other things. Giving in, Remy gently pushed it aside and looked at the concealed... photograph.

It was black and white, quite large but a little grainy. It had probably been taken from a security camera somewhere. Certainly neither he nor Jake had seemed to know that the picture was being taken at the time. Jake, adorably male and dressed in one of his Mulder-esque grey suit and trenchcoat combinations, had been caught in mid gesture as he turned back to talk to Remy. A smiling Remy, bo-staff in hand but resting casually against one shoulder. They looked, for them, remarkably happy.

There was also a small note pinned to the top right-hand corner. 'Discretion is the better part of valour, as well as real estate. At least for a while. Yours, Dad.' Remy's eyes flicked back to that one perfectly captured moment of Jake. The understated confidence in his posture, the good-humoured expression, the way a slight breeze had billowed the coat out behind him and flicked a strand or two of hair across his forhead.

"It's a nice picture of us, isn't it?"

Nobody had managed to sneak up on Gambit for a long time. Until a few seconds ago, that is. Jake had managed it, and was now standing in the kitchen doorway looking a little wary. He also looked a lot like the Jake in the picture, down to the light suit and air of sophisticated cabability. Remy looked at him almost hungrily. The tailored jacket traced the line of swimmer's shoulders and chest down to a narrow waist, leaving the long legs to make their own advertisments. Which they did.

"Yeah." Which was, tragically, about the only answer Remy could come up with on such short notice. I really have got it bad... "Not sure what de note means, but..."

Jake shrugged. "That's my dad's way of saying that I'm getting obvious, and if I'm not careful someone's going to use it against me. He's right."

"Getting obvious?"

Jake dropped his keys onto the bench with a tired sigh. "Why are you here, Remy?"

"You were ignoring me."

"I was working." Jake paused a moment, as if debating honesty. "AND I was ignoring you."

"I don't blame you." Remy looked down at the floor. Jake had a nice floor, tiled in a Mexican-feeling combination of pale terracotta and light blue.

"Me either. I blame you, it's getting to be a habit." Jake spread his hands, then let them drop to his sides. "But I'm talking to you now. So what did you want to say to me?"

"Actually, I wanted t' ask you somet'ing." Remy managed to make himself look up. He had to know. "WHY were you ignoring me?"

Jake blinked. "You don't KNOW?"

"Hey, dis is me. I can 'magine of a whole lot of reasons. I just need t' know which one's right."

"Oh, fine. You'll probably wish you hadn't asked, since I've had a REALLY frustrating day, but I'll tell you." Jake glared little blue daggers of hurt at him. "You decided that I wasn't good enough for your goddamn Guild, that's why."

Remy blinked and shook his head. "What?"

"It was fine when I was comic relief, but not as anything more than that. Dammit, Remy, you could have said that when I first started kissing you at least."

"It took me a minute to think clearly enough to remember why it was a fucking stupid place to do something like that! Jake, it had nothing to do with me not t'inking you were good enough, it was that if we got caught it might get us both killed. I love my family, I wanna make de unified Guild work, and I can't do dat if I get thrown out for committing adultery in my wife's house!" He tugged a frustrated hand thought his hair. "Belle wouldn't really mind, but it would be considered an embarrassment for de assassins, and you know most of 'em are looking for an excuse to torture me to death. Besides, you were drunk and didn't know what you were doing."

Jake frowned thoughtfully. "Okay, I can see some of the logic in that. But I wasn't that drunk and I knew EXACTLY what I was doing."

Remy looked at him suspiciously. "Are you sure?"

"Yes! Christ, it's not like you're the first person I ever kissed. I would have thought that would be obvious."

"It was." But it was best if he didn't think about that right now.

"You're not even the first man I've ever kissed, so don't flatter yourself too much. I admit it probably wasn't my smartest move ever, but for a while you didn't seem to care."

"I didn't." Remy critically examined the fingers on his left hand. "Y' weren't de first man I ever kissed either."

Jake looked surprised, then considering. "Suppose I should have guessed."

"Yeah." Remy managed to glance up again, briefly. "But it was de first time I liked it."

"Oh." Jake blinked and some of the angry stiffness in his posture eased. "I... I wish I'd known that."

Remy's resolve finally cracked, and he turned away. "Never mind."

It took a moment for Jake to figure out what Remy meant, by which time the Cajun was halfway to the door. Jake ran, grabbing firmly at the trenchcoat. "No, wait! I meant that if I'd known that I would have made more of an effort!"

Remy turned, frowning. "That was you not making an effort?"

"No, that was Jackie being a selfish, horny little cow." Jake took several steps backwards, still holding the coat and so dragging Remy awkwardly back with him. "I can do much better than that, really."

Utterly confused, Remy let himself be pushed towards the couch. "Dere ain't no difference between Jake and Jackie 'part from de obvious. Both blow hot and cold..."

"Do not. It just takes me a while to pull my head out of my arse. And pants." Jake rubbed his eyes with a sigh. "Look... can you just wait right there for five minutes? I'm gonna change and get into some more comfortable clothes, then we're going to talk about this. Right here. If you leave I'll fucking kill you."

"Whatever." Remy curled up in the corner of the couch like a large cat. He was starting to feel numb.

After hovering for a moment, Jake disappeared into the bedroom. Given how long it usually took him to change from one shape to another, Remy was surprised at the way he reappeared in an over-large Harvard t-shirt and sweatpants. The shape might have changed, but Remy still felt the same pull. Especially since Jake definitely wasn't wearing much in the way of underwear.

Sitting down sideways on the other half of the couch, Jake pulled his knees up to his chest and looked uncharacteristically serious. "We really managed to screw each other up, didn't we?"

"Guess we did." Remy usually thought the expression 'heartache' was rather tacky, but he was beggining to understand what it felt like. It didn't feel as romantic as some writers seemed to want you to think, though. Instead it felt uncomfortably like parts of him had in Antarctica, cold and numb but still painful while your guts clenched up and you just wanted to find a hole to crawl into.

"I'm sorry. You're right, I was too drunk to do something like that. I knew what I was doing, but I didn't stop to think about what it might have meant to you."

"You're not telepathic, Jack."

"No. But I did read the New Son's file on you."

Remy froze, lust and romantic complication pushed aside by something much more frightening. "Y' did?"

"Yes. It was only a few pages long and just general information about your origins and past affiliations or causes, but I should have filled in a few gaps. Especially after I met Sabretooth." Jake twisted his fingers in his hair, a new nervous habit. "Remy, don't look at me like that. I HAD to, it was my job. I hadn't even met you then. I've just known enough people with lives like yours that I should have known better that to make assumptions!" He shifted again, blushing. "Sorry. I shouldn't have brought it up."

"'s okay." And, oddly, it was. A bit uncomfortable perhaps, and he was going to have to get a good look at that file somehow, but Jake already knew so much more about him than anyone else, what did a bit more matter? "So what about you?"

"Me?" Jake shrugged. "Just always swung both ways, at least after I admitted it when I was about sixteen. They say most shapeshifters do, but I'm not sure if that has a lot to do with it."

"But if you can change to either se-"

Jake shook his head vehemently. "No. I might occasionally make myself look like a woman for business, but it's ONLY business. I only have sex in my body. Which is part of the reason why living like this is so weird. I keep wanting to jump you, but this body's all freaky."

"No it's not. I like it."

"Yeah, you and every other heterosexual guy..."

"Non. I've seen a lot of beautiful female bodies in my life, and slept with a lot of 'em. I like dis one because it's yours."

"It doesn't fit right. And the hips are all funny. I don't like it."

"Your eyes are still de same." Remy stayed looking at them firmly.

"That doesn't always help much." Jake looked away for a moment and nibbled at his lip, then turned back and almost timidly held out one hand. "I do kinda like the way you keep calling me 'Jack', though."

Remy reached out to meet the hand halfway, sighing softly as Jake interlaced their fingers tightly. "Seemed t' fit." He stroked the side of Jake's hand with his thumb and felt the coldness begin to melt. "So you never had sex as a woman?"

"Nope."

"Never got curious?" Remy was fairly sure that he would have.

"Not until now." Jake blushed a bit. The same blush that was half humour and half genuine embarrassment that he'd always got when Remy flirted with him. There was more to it now, though.

"See, you're in luck." Remy spoke quietly. "You might not have had sex as a woman before, but I've had sex wit' quite a few. And I'm damn good at it, if I do say so myself."

"Hmm." For some reason that seemed to restore some of Jake's usual vitality and he moved forwards, sitting on his knees and leaning in until their faces were a bare six inches apart. An then he stayed there, with the only parts of them touching being their hands while his eyes glittered with uncertain excitement. Another few seconds passed without movement before Jake smiled. "No, now it's your turn to kiss me..."

"And I'm going to." Remy grinned as the smile turned to an dangerous glare and reached up, tangling his fingers in that thick black hair and kissing oh-so-lightly. Teasing brushes at first, slowly getting firmer and then getting softer again.

Jake whimpered and scrambled forwards, settling his knees on either side of Remy's hips as he determinedly pressed in for a real kiss. And he was good at it, nibbling softly at all the sensitive spots until Remy gave in and pulled Jake tightly against him, deepening the kiss properly.

Without bothering to get rid of the ever-present trenchcoat, Jake headed straight for the buttons of Remy's shirt, opening them all quickly but without fumbling. Pushing the edges of the shirt back he slid his hands inside, resting them on Remy's chest and sighing against his mouth.

Of course, Jake's hands didn't stay still for very long. They roamed restlessly up to shoulders and then back down again, sliding down over suddenly-tense stomach muscles to begin tugging at Remy's belt.

"Don' be in such a hurry." He ignored the grumble followed by a startled squeak as he picked Jake up bodily and carried him into the bedroom. There were some things you just couldn't comfortably do on a couch.

"Put me down." As soon as Remy's arms were no longer occupied with holding him up, Jake pushed both shirt and jacket down then and let the discarded clothes fall in an untidy heap that soon included boots and socks. He ignored the clothes, instead concentrating on snuggling up to the muscular torso that had been under them with a satisfied growl. If he'd still had a male larynx it probably would have sounded less kittenish, but neither of them seemed to mind.

Within a minute or two Remy remembered to open his eyes and pried Jake's wandering hands and mouth off his chest, despite the inarticulate protests. "Shh. My turn." With firm concentration on taking his time, Remy lifted the loose shirt over Jake's head and dropped it onto the floor next to their feet. He stayed there for a moment, just looking as Jake shifted impatiently. Then he went on a tour of some sensitive spots Jake probably didn't realise he had. Two spots on either side of his neck that made him shudder, more down the back that made him arch forwards and whimper.

"For God's sake, Rem-" Jake's sentence was cut off by a hiss as Remy obediently raised his hands to gently cup both breasts, stroking their erect nipples with his thumbs.

"Better?" he whispered.

"Sweet Jesus..." Jake grabbed blindly for Remy's shoulders as his knees nearly buckled.

"I'll take that as a 'yes'." Remy grinned and guided Jake backwards until they ran into the bed, then unceremoniously picked the smaller man up and plopped him onto it. Jake just as unashamedly dragged Remy after him.

That was about the last coordinated move Jake made for a while. Remy wasn't above using the advantage of height, weight and strength to get Jake nicely situated on his back in the middle of the bed before casually pinning him down by straddling his hips. Jake groaned and wriggled, trying to press his pelvis up hard enough to relieve some of the pressure and failing miserably as Remy kissed his neck and his muscles turned to water.

"Please." Jake didn't quite know what he was begging for, just that he wanted it. He arched up and pulled downwards as well as he could, trying to get as close to Remy as possible. But Remy just gently pushed him back down again and kissed the fluttering pulse under his chin and the hollow at the base of his neck. Mouth followed spiralling paths that hands traced, both moving with the delicate dexterity of a lifetime thief. Jake's breath came in sobbing gasps, until the wondefully caressing mouth reached his left nipple. Then he cried out, and barely recognised his own voice.

Then he struggled with renewed strength and recovered enough vocabulary to swear. "You fucking bastard..."

"Maybe." Remy laughed softly and slid off, lying on his back and pulling Jake in to his side. "Okay?"

"Uh-huh... but not really." Jake rested his head on Remy's chest and pressed closer, automatically wrapping his leg possessively around Remy's hips. Without really noticing he caressed the place Remy's mouth had just left, eyes fluttering closed again as he responded to his own touch.

Remy smiled at the focussed expression on Jake's small, flushed face and reached across to trace the line of his hip, gently sliding his hand under the barrier of cloth before dipping his fingers down between Jakes legs. Jake bucked slightly, panting and pressing hiself hard against Remy's fingers. Again he whispered. "Please..."

Remy kissed Jake on the top of the head and slid his fingers into Jake's body. Jake sobbed, wriggling down instinctively. Holding Jake's shoulders tightly with his spare arm, Remy rubbed his thumb upwards, swirling the rough pad in circles until Jake screamed and collapsed, shaking and sweaty.

For a minute or two Jake just lay there, trying to get his breath back. His own breathing slowed much faster than Remy's did, and he could feel the tenseness in the muscles under his cheek and hand. "Rem?"

"Uh-huh?"

Jake smiled at the tone and wriggled out of his pants as he went back for the belt again. This time Remy did nothing to discourage it, instead he groaned and lifted his hips to help get rid of the horribly confining material. Jake tossed them vaguely over his shoulder, hearing something clatter and not caring a bit as he crawled back up to kiss Remy firmly. Remy sighed and reached for his hips, pulling him down. Then frowned.

"Dammit. I know dere's somet'ing I'm s'posed to remember here..."

Jake snorted. "Just because I look like a chick now doesn't mean my powers don't work. Trust me to mind my business, okay?"

"'Kay." Remy took a deep breath as Jake moved across to hover above him, concentrating what little attention he had left on guiding a slightly tentative Jake to the right spot. Then he waited, letting Jake set the pace. No matter how much he wanted to just roll the pair of them over and forget all about manners and consideration. Torturously slow, Jake lowered himself down. Remy closed his eyed and moaned a vague request for divine intervention. After that, however, it all seemed to come together. Warmth surrounding him, caressing him, leaning down to kiss him and a slow but firm rhythm that resulted rather quickly in an explosive inability to think a coherent thought.

It took quite some time for Remy to think of words again, by that time Jake was back to being cuddled up beside him.

"Jake? You awake?"

Jake yawned. "Rem... cliche as it is, I had a really long day. So I'm gonna go to sleep." He patted Remy on the chest. "Wake me up in a few hours 'n I'll show ya a thing or two you don't know."

Remy watched with fascinated amusement as Jake promptly passed out. He decided to take it as a compliment instead of an insult, though, because Jake was sprawled half across him and smiling a rather smug little smile in his sleep.

He watched that for maybe fifteen minutes before succumbing himself. Watching Jake sleep was rather like watching a cat sleep, you couldn't help wanting to curl up around him and join in.

* * *

It was hunger that woke Jake up. Hunger and having someone wrapped around him so tightly he could hardly move.

So I didn't just dream that. Jake grinned to himself in the darkness. Cool. Managing to get an arm free, Jake managed to fumble the bedside lamp on. There was a groan and a flurry of movement next to him, and Jake squinted down in surprise.

"WARN me next time!" Remy's voice was muffled by the pillow over his head. "M' poor eyes..."

"Didn't know you had them open, sorry."

Remy lifted the edge of the pillow a smidge, probably because he needed to breathe. "What's de time?"

"Um... just after midnight." Jake yawned and stretched. "And I never had dinner... you want anything?"

"Drink." Remy apparently still resented the vicious production of light.

"Okay." Jake prodded Remy lightly in the side as he got up, grinning at the resulting grumbles.

By the time Jake came back Remy's eyes had finally got used to the light and he'd come out from under the pillow, so he could see perfectly well. "You changed again."

"Yeah." Jake dropped a few books and a comic onto the floor to make room on the bedside table for the tray. "I think I wanted to make sure."

"Sure dat I wasn't lying before?"

"Yeah. Not that I don't trust you, it's just..." Jake shrugged. "I need to see for myself, so I know."

Remy nodded and held his arms out. "C'mere."

Jake smiled suddenly and crawled into the hug, sitting up against the headboard while Remy slid down to rest his head on the now-masculine stomach. "You really are a better person tht you give yourself credit for, you know." Jake stroked Remy's soft auburn hair with a warm feeling of wonder.

"No 'm not," Remy yawned. "I'm just making you t'ink dat because I want your bodies."

Jake laughed. "I'm flattered."

"I'm waking up." Remy walked his fingers across Jake's stomach.

"But I'm hungry, so you'll just have to wait." Jake poured strawberry puree over his piece of cake and began eating happily.

Remy laughed. "You call that a replacement for dinner?"

"No, I call it a good midnight snack. Want some?"

"It's chocolate and you poured strawberry sauce over it."

Jake bristled. "That makes it better!"

Remy grinned at the indignance in his lover's (he delighted in being able to use that word) expression. "You have some sort of perverted obsession wit' strawberries, don't you?"

"Yup." Jake put the cake down and then pounced, catching Remy by surprise. Before he could catch up, Jake sat on his stomach. "Want to see?"

"Do I want to?"

"Yes." Jake smirked and pressed Remy's wrists against the pillow above his head. "But you can't move."

"Do I want to?" Remy asked again, some deep mischief glittering in dark eyes that turned Jake's stomach into water.

"No." Jake leaned in and kissed him, the kind of kiss he hadn't really had the concentration for before, while his hands went exploring. They were both gasping when he pulled back. "Because if you do, I'll stop."

"And dat would be ter- Jack, what's de strawberry sauce for?"

Jake licked his lips automatically. "Dessert." And he upended the bottle over Remy's bare chest. Thick red sauce dribbled down in spirals, then flowed down the contours of muscle and bone to pool in Remy's navel.

"Dat's cold!" A moment after the breath of the words had passed his lips, Remy sucked it right back in again with a faint hiss. Jake's mouth, on the other hand, was quite hot as it licked and nibbled its way across his body, finding every crevice where strawberry goodness might be lingering.

Utterly forgetting the agreement, Remy started to reach for Jake and had his hands firmly pushed away again. "I told you not to move, or I'd stop."

Remy replaced his hands and concentrated on staying perfectly still. Jake chuckled quietly and went back to kissing the last trace of sauce out of the dip over Remy's sternum. Remy closed his eyes and just followed the sensation. He barely noticed when the blankets were dragged off him, but he did notice when the sauce was again employed and it hit several very sensitive spots. It was still very cold.

But, most uncooperatively, Jake didn't immediately start taking it back off again. Instead he very gently stroked his finger up the underside of Remy's erection and licked the sauce off that. Remy watched as Jake repeated the performance he'd used on Gris Gris with his fingers instead of a strawberry. "Tease."

"Um-hum." Jake swirled his fingers up the same path as before, smirking, then held out the red-stained hand. "Want to try some?"

Remy didn't need the offer of retaliatory teasing repeated. He sucked and nibbled at each and every finger, whether it had liquid strawberry on it or not. "Mmm. Dat is nice."

"See? Now you'll appreciate strawberries in future." Jake kissed his way back down Remy's stomach, then proceeded to very thoughoughly remove every last trace of stickiness, no matter where it tried to hide.

Remy remembered but completely disregarded his promise not to move, sliding his fingers into Jake's hair as he murmured incoherent encouragement. It just didn't matter, he was so close...

Jake pulled away. "Hey, I TOLD you I'd stop if you did that."

Remy whimpered angrily. "Come ON..."

"And spoil my fun? Oh no." Jake laughed softly. "That was just foreplay."

"Then can we move on already?"

"Pff. You're such a guy."

"So are you!"

"Yeah." Jake slid his way up Remy's body to hover with lips only a breath away. "A very horny guy."

"Den next time I'm doing dat to you." Remy grinned at the thought. "Wit' wine."

"Is that a promise?" Jake kissed him again, without so much careful finesse but with a lot more raw passion, and now tasting strongly of strawberry.

"Definitely." Remy groaned and pulled Jake tightly against him. "Now shut UP."

Jake just curled his legs up on either side of Remy's hips and kissed him hungrily for a long time.

"Merde, Jack... I'm about to explode, and not in de good way!"

Jake didn't smile that time, for Jake he'd become very serious. "Okay then." He reached off to the side somewhere, and the smell of strawberries got stronger again as a familiar sensation sent sparkling bursts of pleasure around Remy's body. He was about to say that that wasn't what he'd had in mind, then thought better of it.

But apparently Jake had the same thing in mind, because before Remy quite knew what was happening Jake had flipped them both over and curled his legs around Remy's back. He must have looked surprised, because Jake kissed him and explained forcefully.

"But we're doing this my way."

"Oui." Remy gulped, unaccountably nervous all of a sudden.

Jake kissed him again softly. "Rem? You sure you're okay with this?"

Remy looked down at Jake's face. The high cheekbones that his hand traced all by itself, the deep blue eyes that were looking up at him all worriedly. "T'ink so." He sighed. "You're beautiful, you know dat?"

"Do now." Jake pulled him closer, and Remy took the hint. Slowly.

Jake groaned softly and gave him an eloquent look, but managed not to say anything. His whole expression very ably communicated a message along the lines of 'look, I'm not saying anything! I'm dying here, but I'm not saying anything...'

Remy grinned and promptly forgot what he'd been worried about. That expression was enough to make him remember what it was about Jake that had always attracted him, and had always made him feel perfectly safe confiding in him. Jake was, fundamentally, one of the world's true Nice People. And adorable to boot. And incredibly sexy. Remy's body started moving all by itself and he let desire carry him along, let it take him wherever it wanted to go. Underneath him Jake was moaning, saying his name. He whispered back as he felt himself tense.

"Je t'aime..." It had come out of his mouth before he thought about it. And certainly before he remembered that even someone who didn't speak French was going to get that one. He didn't get to see Jake's reaction though, because his eyes were shut and in another second he really had other things on his mind.

Then again, so did Jake. As usual, however, as soon as he had enough breath he started talking.

"How can you do that, Remy? How can you just SAY that? Jesus Christ." He shook his head angrily. "How can you get knocked down every damn time and just keep coming back for more? Tell me that. Don't tell me that you love me or when or why, tell me HOW. Every person you've loved for years has lied to you or hurt you or abandoned you or all that and more, how can you say you love me?" Jake hugged the shocked thief fiercely. "What the hell did the world do to deserve you?"

"I didn't mean to, it just came out..." Remy didn't know whether to be afraid or hurt or incredibly touched.

"No disclaimers." Jake shifted again, moving up to the pillow before curling his arms posessively around Remy and pulling him in tightly.

Remy rested his head on Jake's warm, smooth chest and sighed at the intensity of the embrace. But the tenseness was still there as his stomach tied itself up tighter. Tell me you love me, Jake... make whatever speech you want, just tell me that you love me.

"You amaze me." Jake's voice was soft, just a breath that ruffled Remy's hair. "I wish I was half as stong as you are, because I don't know if I can just say it while you're watching me. I want to, and it'd be true, I just don't think I can."

"Then don't." He could live with that, could understand that sometimes the words were hard to say. It didn't mean that he didn't want to hear them, just that he could wait.

"I'll keep working on it." Jake made a contemplative sound. "You know, not to sound like I'm complaining or anything... but you're really sticky."

Remy laughed, surprised out of his introspection. "So are you."

"And not in such a nice way." Jake sat up, dragging Remy halfway up with him. "Come on, shower time."

Sighing, Remy let himself be towed despite the complaints of a body that had done too much on too little sleep. They were rather sticky. And sweaty. And being in a shower with Jake was a nice idea, even if he was too tired to do anything much with the situation.

Once in the shower he was tempted to give it a try anyway, but Jake laughed and shook a wet head. "No, won't work. We're both too tired, and my hot water only lasts eight and a half minutes. You can't do anything worth doing in here."

Remy contemplated eight and a half minutes. "Sure you can."

"Not when we already used up six minutes."

"Point." Remy closed his eyes and rested his cheek on the top of Jake's head. "Another time."

"Mmm. Definitely." Jake kissed Remy's chest firmly. "Like, oh, tomorrow morning?"

"Maybe." They stayed comfortably holding each other until the water went lukewarm in warning and then went back to bed without further comment, slipping easily back into their previous positions.

Remy lay quietly on Jake's chest, basking in the feelings that the position seemed to convey. It was nice to think of himself as the protectee instead of the protector, as the comforted instead of the comforter. He heard Jake whisper and smiled. The loved as well as the lover. "'m not quite asleep, y'know. Heard dat."

Jake sighed. "Don't think that means I don't hate you anymore. Love and hate are not mutually exclusive, and my hating you is the basis of our relationship. Now shut up and go to sleep before I switch channels and pick up on the 'I hate you' rant again."

Remy didn't dignify that with anything more than a yawn before stretching his one free arm across Jake's stomach and promptly falling asleep.



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