Jean-Luc LeBeau sighed as he walked towards the young man standing in the graveyard. He knew the teenager knew he was coming, so he didn't announce his arrival beside the red haired boy. Instead, he just stood there beside him, waiting and watching, his own sadness showing plainly on his face.
It had not been a good week for the New Orleans Thieves Guild, and especially for the Guild's head family, Clan LeBeau. Jean-Luc's nephew, Etienne Marceaux, had been killed during his tilling eight days prior, at the age of thirteen. And just days after they discovered that, Jean-Luc's brother-in-law, Francois Lapin, had been killed when two members of the Assassins Guild caught up to him while on a job. Francois had been married to Jean-Luc's baby sister Emily Therese, known as Terry in the Guild, and it was their son Jean-Luc was now standing with in the graveyard, hours after his father was buried. Various other members of the LeBeau family were also there, in the shadows, giving the grief-stricken teenager some privacy.
"At least dey're together 'gain..."
Emil Lapin, three weeks shy of his fifteenth birthday, was a member of both Clan Lapin and Clan LeBeau. He had never known his mother, who had died minutes after he was born, but he was very close to her family. Emil had been raised in Clan Lapin by his father and Aunt Felicity but other than them, he felt no real, true kinship to the members of the Lapin family, and spent all the time he could with his LeBeau cousins.
"Been a rough week on ya, huh, kid?" Jean-Luc commented. "How you holdin' up?"
Emil shrugged his shoulders and looked at his uncle. "I'm scared." He admitted frankly. Jean-Luc was one of the people Emil always felt he could be totally honest with, especially when it came to his feelings. The Guild's spiritual healer, Tante Mattie, was another.
Jean-Luc reached over and ruffled his nephew's red hair. "We won' let anythin' happen to you, Emil, you know dat."
A nod. "Oui, I know. Dat don' stop me from bein' scared t'ough. I can' explain it." He moved over to a nearby bench and sat down, waiting for Jean-Luc to follow. Once they were seated, the other thieves appeared around them, there if needed to help and comfort.
"I ain' been able to explain it yet, kid, don' get your hopes up." Claude Potier commented. Claude was a member of Clan Potier and a LeBeau cousin by birth and was a little older than Emil when his own family was brutally murdered in front of his very eyes in 1972, four years before Emil was even born.
"I know. I jus' got dis feelin' somethin's gon' happen..." Emil elaborated.
"Like what?" Jean-Luc's adopted son and Emil's best friend, Remy, asked. Remy had been with their cousin Etienne when the latter had died, and while it was deemed an accident, both Remy and Etienne's much-older brother Theoren blamed Remy for what had happened because Remy was older and should have known better. Emil and many other members of the Guild didn't see it that way, but neither Theoren or Remy would listen to reason. It was still too fresh for them.
"If I knew dat, Rem, maybe I could stop it, huh?" Emil replied bitterly.
"Let's not worry 'bout dat right now." Jean-Luc said. "What are you goin' to do tonight, Emil? Have you given dat any t'ought yet?"
Emil had been staying with Jean-Luc and the rest of Clan LeBeau since his father died. Tante Mattie had been there constantly as well, but Emil had not had much contact with Clan Lapin. They knew what had happened of course, but ironically only one of them had come to the funeral that afternoon: Emil's Aunt Felicity, who was Francois' twin sister. Emil sighed. "I'd like to stay wit' you guys, but Aunt Felicity wants me to go home an'...I dunno..."
"You should probably spend some time with her." Henri commented. Henri LeBeau was Jean-Luc's son and had, along with Theoren Marceaux, been one of Francois' best friends. "I know you don' really get along wit' de rest of dem much but I also know how close you an' she are. It would mean a lot to bot' of you, I t'ink."
"I know." Emil sighed again. "I can jus' see it endin' badly..."
"So we'll keep de tunnels open. If it gets to be too much stayin' dere, you know how to get to us." Jean-Luc said, giving his nephew a hug. The Guild clans lived like paupers beneath the streets of New Orleans, in old abandoned sewers they'd turned into homes that were comfortable enough for their existance. Each of the ten clans had a modest section of rooms, and each section was connected to the others by an intricate maze of tunnels. Clan LeBeau, being the head family of the Guild, had the largest section, which was located in the middle of the system.
"Okay." Emil agreed.
Twenty minutes later, Emil was feeling slightly uneasy as he entered his Clan Lapin home. His unease grew as he hear the angry voices of his family in the center room. They were arguing. Emil sighed and stopped walking, shamelessly eavesdropping on what was being said. It wasn't long before he wished he'd stayed with Jean-Luc for one more day.
"He spends way too much time wit dem!" That was Emil's uncle, Marcel. Marcel was the head of Clan Lapin, the older brother of Francois and Felicity. He was arrogant and crude most times and brutal when he wasn't. And Emil didn't like him one bit. Emil rolled his eyes. His father was dead less than two days...and buried less than four hours...and already his family was fighting about him. Wonderful. 'Yet dey wonder why I don' stick 'round here much...'
"Dey are as much a part of dat boy's fam'ly as we are, Marcel, an' you know it!" Good ol' Aunt Felicity. Leave it to her to see things the right way. Between her and Tante Mattie, Emil never felt much of a loss regarding his mother, because as far as he was concerned, he had two and he couldn't ask for better.
"Jean-Luc LeBeau shouldn' be in charge of dis Guild, Felicity. You know good an' well dat our fam'ly sided wit' his father in 1922 an' de others were blind to b'lieve Jean-Luc was better suited to be Patriarch." Marcel said quietly. "He shouldn' be Patriarch, an' I don' want him havin' any hand of raisin' a member of our fam'ly!"
Emil's eyes widened in shock. He hadn't realized Clan Lapin had disagreed with the 1922 vote of confidence led by Jean-Luc that resulted in Jacques LeBeau being kicked out of his position of Guild Patriarch. He started listening again when he heard the voice of his other uncle, Louis, adding to the discussion.
"I 'gree wit' you, Marcel, but I t'ink you'll have a hard time convincin' de kid of dat. You know as well as I do how close he is to dem. Dat mutant brat of Jean-Luc's don' help any, either."
'Gee, t'anks, Uncle Louis.' Emil thought, rolling his eyes again. 'Remy could prob'ly blow you guys up if he wanted to...'
"When it comes down to it, who do you t'ink will get final say in t'ings? Any of us, or Emil?" Felicity commented before she walked away from her brothers to light another candle. She had spotted Emil in his hiding place and hoped the two men would leave so she could talk to him.
Marcel and Louis took the hint and went off in another direction to talk in private. Felicity finished lighting the candle and looked in the direction of her nephew. "C'min an' have a seat, chil'. How you holdin' up?"
Emil joined his aunt and sat down on one of the crates nearby. The grief in his eyes when he looked at her said everything. "Is what Uncle Marcel said true?"
Felicity sighed and sat down across from Emil on another crate. "Oui. I'm afraid it is. Unfortunately, no one else felt de same way, an' deir vote wasn' enough to keep Jacques in his position. Your uncles have never liked Jean-Luc an' didn' approve of your father marryin' a woman from Clan LeBeau. Least of all, Jean-Luc's sister."
"But he did it anyway..." Emil commented.
"Dat he did. B'cause he loved her an' didn't care what dey t'ought of him." Felicity agreed. "He knew he'd never be head of our fam'ly, he had nothin' to lose. He wanted a fam'ly an' dat's what he got. It didn' matter to him if he got into fights wit' our brothers over his choice of a partner. What mattered to him was Terry an' you."
Emil looked away, tears in his blue eyes. "I miss him Aunt Felicity..." he said, his voice barely a whisper.
Felicity reached over and wrapped her loving arms around him, pulling him into her embrace and holding him tightly. "I know you do, baby, I know. I do too."
He sniffled. "Do I get a say in what happens to me?"
"I've seen your father's will, chil'. I don' t'ink you'll argue wit' his plans for you." Felicity smiled down into Emil's tearstained young face. "Your uncles will have a canary over it, but de will is legally bindin' an' dere's nothin' anyone can do 'bout it 'cept for you, if you disagree."
Emil thought about that and hugged his aunt tightly. "I love you." He said. "An' I'm glad dere's a will. It's gon' be bad 'nough when dey argue 'bout it, but it's better'n nothin'."
"I love you too, chil'. Now let's get some rest, neh? Jean-Luc's called a meetin' for first t'ing in de mornin' for de whole Guild. Dat's when de will's gon' be read."
The next morning, Emil joined the entire Thieves Guild in the library. He looked much like he had for the past few days: as if he hadn't slept for even a minute. And he hadn't, but he didn't tell anyone that. He just wanted this meeting to be over, so he could get on with grieving and trying to get his life back in some kind of order.
Jean-Luc read the will to the assembled thieves. It wasn't a long one; Francois Lapin didn't own many possessions worthy of dividing up among his family. Emil and Felicity got most of it. The little things they treasured didn't matter a lot to the members of Clan Lapin and Clan LeBeau. They were all far more interested in just who would be named Emil's legal guardian and who would be named to help that guardian finish raising him.
"Before we get to the issue of who's going to be taking care of you, Emil, there's one other thing that needs to be mentioned." Jean-Luc explained. "All any of us want is what's best for you, and what your father wrote in here...that's what he thought was best for you. But that doesn't necessarily make it true. I believe you have a right as a member of this Guild to help us do what's best for you if you don't feel we've done a suitable job. Looking at this, I think he did a good job, but I could be wrong. It's been known to happen before."
"Uncle Jean-Luc?" Emil said suddenly. Jean-Luc stopped and looked at him. "Could you maybe jus' read it an' get it over wit', please?"
"I'm sorry, Emil. Of course." Jean-Luc replied. He looked down at the will in his hands and read from it. "In regards to my son, Emil, I hereby name his godfather, Theoren Marceaux, to the position of legal guardian, to be assisted by Jean-Luc LeBeau and Felicity Lapin, as well as our Guild traiteur, Tante Mattie Baptiste."
"T'ank you Papa..." Emil whispered, feeling relief wash over his body in a wave. He had decided the only way he'd contest the will would be if Marcel or Louis had been named to the guardianship. His father was smart, it would seem, and knew how his son's mind worked.
"Dis is ridiculous!" Marcel exclaimed.
"Marcel, behave yourself." Felicity said quietly.
"Behave myself, she says. Oh dat's wonderful, Felicity, jus' wonderful. Why should I sit here an' accept it in silence when de only real contact he's gon' have wit' our fam'ly is wit' you?" Marcel demanded angrily. He whirled on Theoren, who was standing beside Jean-Luc. "An' I s'pose you're all happy an' can' wait to dig your claws into him even further!"
"Marcel Lapin you are makin' a scene, now hush!" Tante Mattie commanded.
"No I won' hush, Tante Mattie an' I ain' sorry for it either." Marcel bit each word off and spat it out indignantly. "De only people who should have any hand in raisin' Emil are members of his paternal fam'ly an' dat's final!"
"Oh c'mon, Marcel, you don' believe dat, do you?" Jean-Luc asked. "We have jus' as much right to raise him as you do."
"No. You. Don'." Louis spoke for the first time that morning. "Emil is a member of Clan Lapin an' he should be in de care of Clan Lapin. Marcel is right."
As the bickering between the two families continued, Emil sat there, getting more and more angry with his Lapin uncles. He was running out of patience very quickly, especially since a great deal of the arguments were hurtful towards the memory of both his parents.
"Excuse me." He said. They ignored him.
"Um...excuse me!" He said, louder this time. Everyone in the room who wasn't partaking in the arguement stopped watching the fight and looked at him. Those who were arguing continued to ignore him. He sighed and stood up.
"Would all of you just SHUT UP?!" He yelled. That got them. The room went silent and suddenly Emil was the center of attention. He moved to the middle of the circle of clan members and turned to face Marcel and Louis. "An' here I t'ought de Assassins Guild held grudges." He joked in his normal speaking voice.
"What on earth are you--" Marcel began, but Emil stopped him.
"Uh-uh. I talk. You shut up. 'Kay? Now, I listened to what you guys were sayin' to Aunt Felicity las' night an' I can' believe you're still holdin' a grudge left over from nineteen-twenty-two. Far as I'm concerned, dat's pretty darned petty of you. You don' like Clan LeBeau. I get dat. What you don' seem to get is dat I am jus' as much a member of Clan LeBeau as I am a member of Clan Lapin. My father put Theoren in charge of lookin' after me an' dat is exactly what I hope Theoren is gon' do. You don' like it? Tough. Newsflash guys. I don' like you. Deal wit' it. Oh, an' if I ever hear of either one of you badmouthin' my parents 'gain, you will regret it for de rest of your lives."
"Lemme get dis straight." Marcel said. "You're choosin' your mother's fam'ly over your father's fam'ly even t'ough paternal ties hold more weight within de Guild dan maternal ties."
Emil shrugged. "Yeah I guess I am. Papa did it, didn' he? All de fights he got into wit' you two over it never seemed to bother him any, why should it bother me? Fam'ly is fam'ly. Don' matter what side it is. Papa was more loyal to Clan LeBeau den he was to you an' you know it prob'ly better'n I do."
"Fine." Marcel snapped. "You can get your fam'ly to help you wit' your t'ings. Felicity you'll have to make arrangements or somethin' for de times when your assistance is needed b'cause he is no longer welcome in our area."
"Have a nice life, kid. Hope you can live wit' yourself." Louis commented as he and Marcel led the rest of Clan Lapin out of the library.
Emil sighed and shook his head miserably. "I knew no good was gon' come of dis..."
Later that day, while Theoren and Felicity were helping Emil get settled in, Emil looked at the two of them curiously. "Did I do de right t'ing?"
"What do you feel 'bout it?" Felicity asked.
"She means, how do you feel 'bout what you did. Do you t'ink yourself you did de right t'ing?" Theoren expanded, sitting down and motioning for Emil to join him.
Emil sat and thought. "Oui." He said after a few moments. "I jus' wish dey weren' so hurtful..."
"You'll be okay, kiddo. An' maybe someday dey'll learn not to be." Theoren put a comforting arm around his young charge and hugged him. "It sucks dat you had to choose, but I'm willin' to bet you knew a long time 'go you'd have to do it eventually."
"Yeah you're right. It's a hard t'ing to have to do when you ain' even fifteen yet t'ough..."
Felicity chuckled softly. "It's hard to do at any age, chil'. But don' you worry none 'bout it. Theo's right. You're gon' be jus' fine. I'm gon' go back over dere now,but I'll stop back tomorrow mornin' b'fore Tante Mattie an' I go for groceries. You be good an' don' stay up too late tonight, y'hear?"
"I won' Aunt Felicity. An' t'ank you."
"You're welcome, Emil."
Shortly after Felicity left, Emil, leaning against Theoren, fell sound asleep. Theo smiled and gently laid Emil down on the couch to let him get some rest. He walked over to the shelf where Emil had put a picture of his father and sighed.
"Francois, I know you did de right t'ing in your will, an' I'll do everythin' I can for him, but I'll be damned if I know how on earth I'm gon' do it..." He set his lips in a determined line. "Screw dat. I won' let you down. I promise."