Chapter 1: Marriages and Shell Games

When in doubt, throw a party. That seemed to be the thinking in New Orleans the day after the registrations started. There was drinking, dancing, laughter, and fighting. The mutants who were being registered wanted to forget. The bigots that wanted them registered wanted to celebrate. The two groups managed to stay apart for the most part, but it was getting more and more difficult for the humans to ignore one tiny fact. In the Big Easy, they were out numbered.

Belladonna Boudreaux and Remy LeBeau's engagement had been arranged. The fact that they worked well together, had loads of chemistry, and a friendship that would survive no matter what meant nothing. The Guilds had been planning their wedding for years. But the best laid plans must bend to common sense. There was more than just the Guilds to consider now. Now the Guilds had a common enemy. For centuries the Guilds had been a hiding place for mutants and undesirables. The registration had illustrated the danger in that now.

"Father, Belle an' me want t' push de marriage up. We gone t' go t' de priest whet'er y' an' her papa approve or no'. Jus' want t' ask y' t' witness it."

"I'll call Marius. We'll push up de plans. Dere is politics involved in this."

"Exactly, Papa. De sooner Belle an' me get married, de less chance de gov'ment got of stoppin' us." Jean-Luc nearly blanched. He hadn't thought of that. It barely registered on his consciousness that his son was a mutant any longer, registrations not withstanding. It frightened him that two teens seemed to have a better idea of how the winds of government were blowing than he did. The set line of Remy's jaw decided him.

"We'll arrange de ceremony as quick as possible."


Scott Summers was nervous. He and Jean were sitting by the lake of Xavier's School for the Gifted. There were the remains of a picnic on the blanket beside them. He held her hand. He produced a small box from his pocket and looked at her. "Jean, I know this is probably the strangest time we've ever been in. But, from all we've been through together, the missions, the training, the learning, we've always been able to laugh together. We've traveled the country and sewn up costumes. We've taught classes and bandaged skinned knees. We've flirted and fought. We've never given up. You've seen me at my worst and my best. I have loved you since the first time I saw you. Jean Grey, will you marry me?" He presented the ring box.

She put a hand to her mouth as she gasped. A shimmer of tears glittered in her eyes. The small emerald surrounded by red-gold glittered in the late afternoon sun. She nodded. "Yes," she whispered. He slid the ring onto her finger. It was a perfect fit. Maybe something would actually go right for once.


Belladonna was pacing. Her brother watched her in amusement. He recognized that she wasn't nervous about the wedding as most people assumed. She was thinking about an assignment. The engagement ring was platinum with a single diamond, surrounded by sapphires. They matched her eyes. She tapped her front teeth with one blood-red fingernail as she thought. "Julien," she said, "I have the incredible urge to invest in real estate. Feel like helping me?" He blinked.

"Sure. But shouldn't you be asking your boyfriend?" he teased.

"He's a mutant. You aren't nearly as recognizable. Besides, you're eighteen. I'm not. I want to get my hands on the property before anything else goes haywire. I want a house in every major city in this country. It has to be non-descript, but big enough to house a family of six. Don't worry about money, we'll get it."

"I guess having a thief in the family is worth it for that sort of thing." He wasn't too pleased with the marriage. But he wasn't too keen on watching his future brother-in-law be killed because he had red eyes. There was something wrong with that. Killing him because he was a thief and a rival was one thing, but to kill because he looked different was a totally different situation. Besides, the boy had potential. He liked to blow things up. "Fine, I'll start looking for listings. I'm assuming you want them under different names?"

"No, I have a corporation I've set up. That's who will be purchasing these places. I'll be renting them out, you see." Her smile was predatory.

"You're setting up safe houses."

"I knew you had a brain in there somewhere. Can you do it? Make it your wedding present to me."

"Not a problem. Thief-boy setting up the capital?"

"Joint Swiss account. We set it up when they started this talk of marriage. It's going to come in handy. Money is no object, but make sure you get reasonable prices."

"Not a problem. Have you gotten your dress?"

"I've got my colors. Remy has his. That's what we're wearing. This is a symbolic pact tonight. We'll do the fairy-tale some other time. When the clouds aren't quite as dark."


"Storm, I need a dress!" Jean squealed. Ororo Munroe looked up at her with an amused smile.

"And would this dress need to be colored white?"

"Yes!" Jean presented her hand with a flourish to show off the ring. "This is so wonderful. There's so much to do. I have to call my parents. And we have to call the judge."

"You are not going to have a priest presiding?"

"Why would we? It's not like Scott believes in God, and I haven't practiced my religion for years. Maybe you could do the ceremony. It would mean something then."

"I would be honored to be included. Where shall we go for this dress?"

"The mall, of course." Jean stopped. It wasn't a forgone conclusion anymore, not with the riots and attacks on registered mutants. They'd been fighting every night to protect innocents from the Friends of Humanity who were roving the streets. The children were terrified and tense. Everyone seemed to be waiting for the other shoe to drop. Hank had left Kurt in charge of the med-lab and flown to Scotland after registering with the government. He was a famous figure, having been an Avenger. The newspapers wouldn't leave him alone. He just wanted some peace and quiet.

Jean looked at Ororo who was watching her with calm, cat-eyes.

"I think I'll make one." Ororo nodded.

"Shall we ask Jubilee to draw up a design?" Jean nodded. She leaned over to smell one of Ororo's flowers. "Shall I make a bouquet for you to carry?"

"Thank you, Storm. Scott has a good suit. The Professor made him get one when they started lobbying."

"You will need rings," Storm said. "Come, child, let's go find a dress design."


Remy ran a hand through his bangs as he waded through the pile of papers his lawyer had sent him. It was odd to have a lawyer at sixteen, but since he was already enrolled at the university, odd was nothing new. The lawyer was Guild connected, but had been working in DC for three years now. It was due to his suggestions he was contemplating this move. He and Belle had decided to both use hyphenated names. But this suggestion, this would take more trust than he was sure he had. As soon as they were married, he was going to transfer ownership of all his major purchases to her, and make all of his accounts joint accounts. That way, the government shouldn't be able to take them from him. That scared the hell out of him.

He chewed on the back of his pen. He noticed it was glowing pink and sighed. He concentrated, trying to pull back the energy. It was harder than charging things up. At least he didn't charge his bed anymore. That had not been fun. He and Belle needed more operating capital for the projects they'd started to plan on. And they needed to add housing costs to things as well. He forced himself to concentrate on the documents in front of him once more. The rest could be worried on after the wedding.


Scott paid for the simple gold bands with the professor's gold card and slid them, in their box, into his inside pocket. He was gaining rather more celebrity than he wanted. The picture of him from the registration had been plastered on the front page, right next to Jean's. The professor's pet reporter had decided that the wedding between he and Jean would be a wonderful "human relations" piece. He damned the government in his mind as he headed for his car. Oh, shit, Friends of Humanity rowdies were headed his way. He hurried to the car and climbed in. He sped out of the parking lot before they could corner him. He felt bad about not dealing with them, but that twinge of regret was drowned out by his survival instincts. He wasn't in costume. He didn't have his battle visor. He had no weapons. And, to top it all off, he had no back up. It didn't stop the little voice of guilt that asked him how many unprepared mutants would be attacked by the gang.


Belle and Remy stood in front of the priest. The church was packed, despite the tight security that had been kept on the plans. It had only been two weeks since the registration. The Guilds were well aware of impending danger. The registration had forced more than a few of them into the government's records, and it was only a matter of time before the government started to get wise to the fact that a certain sub-population didn't exactly have a normal means of income. The unification had been decided upon when the announcement of the registration occurred. This wedding, this union, would be only the outward affirmation of business deals that had started a month before.

There had been a decrease in inter-clan fighting already. Guild policies had been changed. The rumors had already started. And, in the underground, rumors were the easiest way of disseminating information. Assignments were already becoming more and more political. The government had no idea of what they had just unleashed among a people who already hated them.


Jean and Scott smiled for the cameras. Jubilee's dress design was tastefully conservative. The skirt swirled around Jean's feet as she moved. The delicate pearls on the bodice sparkled in the flash of cameras. The press had jumped on the story as a positive to offset the riots and anger the registration had encouraged.

Scott smiled on the outside as he fumed on the inside. He felt Jean squeeze his arm and knew she was just as upset. The school was in a shambles because of the invasion of the press corps. And there was no way to keep them away. This was the wedding of the year. The marriage of Xavier's mouthpiece mutants. It was just smacked so sickeningly of politics that Scott hated the thought of playing in to the expectations.

He swept Jean in to a dipped kiss. The cameras flashed and Jean giggled as she hugged him, the scent orchids and other tropicals of her bouquet filling Scott's nose. They waved to the press corps and retreated to the ballroom for the reception.

Jean decided that as soon as the press was gone, she was going to get completely sloshed. She didn't need to be a mind reader to know Scott felt the same way.