New Orleans, Tuesday

Belladonna Bourdeaux stood in an ornate study within the headquarters of the Guild of Thieves and Assassins. She stood silently, looking out a large bay window. A fine drizzling mist had blown up from the Mississippi and thoroughly drenched New Orleans. Belldonna was content though, she did not have to venture outside, and she was warm and safe, a roaring fire casting a soft glow throughout the room. She wore a tight fitting blue jumpsuit, with an emerald cloak draped over her shoulders. Her hands were clasped tightly at the small of her back. She strained her hearing, as she became aware of voices coming along the corridor towards her. A young male voice sounded.

“I mean, seriously, did you know the Guild had its own taxi service, imagine the city tour…on my right is the spot where we assassinated blah-blah-blah, on our left is a wonderful museum we steal stuff out of every couple of months…”

Belladonna sighed as she recognised the voice as Ben Reilly. Suddenly, a vaguely familiar female voice interrupted Ben’s ramblings.

“Ben, would you shut up? Please, let’s just see what she wants and get out of here…”

Belladonna smiled, at least someone is reluctant to be here, good, I can use that, she thought. There was a knock at the door behind her and she turned just as the door swung open. Ben Reilly entered the room first, accompanied by two young women, both of whom Belladonna recognised immediately.

Belladonna stepped forward, and stood before the three visitors. She looked directly at Jubilee and spoke.

“Jubilation Lee, it has been a while since that unfortunate business with the Brood several years ago, you have grown since then I see…” She let the comment linger and saw the instant surprise in Jubilee’s eyes, but after a moment, the young Chinese girl had recovered.

“Yeah well, alien invasions usually beat the Mardi Gras hands down, y’know.” Belladonna smiled, she had always admired Jubilee, since the young girl’s spirit and determination were qualities that Belladonna had always respected. She turned her attention to the other girl, Kitty Pryde.

“Katherine,” she said, with a nod of her head. Kitty folded her arms and stood defiantly, not responding at all to Belladonna’s greeting, so like Logan, she thought. Finally, she turned to Ben.

“I did not realise your companions were part of Xavier’s ilk, still, they can be of help to me.” Belladonna fought hard not to smile when Jubilee muttered “Gee, thanks,” under her breath in response to Belladonna’s last comment.

Ben held out his hands in a placating gesture. “We’re here, what’s the deal? I mean, not to be picky or anything but I wouldn’t mind doing some sight seeing, never been to New Orleans, although to be honest, not loving the weather at the moment.”

“Stop.” Belladonna said, holding her hand up for silence. “Hopefully, we can deal with this situation tonight, one of our…taxpayers has agreed to stage a tempting little target for our competition. We have circulated the rumour that certain items are held there, and that we protect their business interests. If something should happen, the Guild’s reputation would be severely damaged…”

Kitty spoke up, “I don’t like this, Ben, we shouldn’t be here, we should be shutting this place down, not helping them…”

Belladonna felt her anger swell momentarily, “May I remind you one of your team-mates was a member of this Guild.”

“Don’t remind me,” she grumbled. “Remy was never the best role model for any of us.”

Ben stepped between the two women, “Quit it, okay?” He met Kitty’s eyes. “And despite what Remy has done in the past, he is a good person.”

Kitty sighed but she backed down. Ben returned his attention to Belladonna. “Give me the details and I’ll be there, I’ll need to get kitted out with some equipment, nothing major, just have a few things in mind.”

“No problem, I’ll have someone take you down to our stores, you can take what you need.” Belladonna pressed a switch on her desk, which would summon someone to the room.

Ben turned to the two women who had accompanied him. “Look, go home, it’s obvious you two aren’t comfortable here, sorry I dragged you into this, I should have given you the choice.”

Kitty nodded. “C’mon Jubes, let’s go.” She turned and walked towards the door. She stopped and turned back, noticing that Jubilee hadn’t moved. “Jubes?” she asked.

Jubilee was investigating her feet in great detail, trying to avoid looking at either Ben or Kitty, “I’m in,” she said, “Like it or not Kitty, but where Ben goes, I’m there to back him.”

“Jubilee, how can you…I mean, do you know what these people are?” Kitty was surprised, she knew Jubilee well enough to worry that the young girl seemed determined to help an organisation that Kitty considered to be corrupt.

Jubilee raised her head and looked directly at Kitty. “Kit, what I see is a group of people who were sworn enemies now working together. What I see is an organisation that refuses to take contracts for killing anymore. These people are changing their very traditions, because of the actions of one of our own, a man who may be a bit of a screw up but at least he’s trying to improve.”

Jubilee very pointedly stood close to Ben, “Comes down to choices, Kate, and I’m seeing this little mission through.”

Kitty just stood silently. After a few moments, she spoke again, “See you both in a couple of days then.” She left the room then, leaving Ben and Jubilee alone with Belladonna.

Belladonna watched the whole scene unfold; she paid great attention to Ben’s reaction, and noticed the pained expression on the young man’s face. Belladonna knew that expression well; it was the look she had seen on her husband’s face the night he killed her brother in a duel. She knew in that moment why Remy trusted Ben so much, they were cut from the same cloth, both men hid their fears behind a veil of humour, both men trying too hard, risking so much in the name of responsibility. Remy fought to redeem himself from a multitude of sins, and it seemed Ben had something in his past, something he fought tirelessly to make up for.

The moment passed, and the conversation began again, as Belladonna related her plans, interrupted from time to time with comments and suggestions from Jubilee. Ben listened intently; his humour put on the back burner for the duration of the meeting. When they had the plan clear in their minds, Belladonna let Ben and Jubilee loose in the stores, much to the reluctance of the Quartermaster, who didn’t wanted strangers taking the equipment.

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