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"Wild Cards"

Wild Cards

Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Chapter 7
Chapter 8
Chapter 9
Chapter 10
Chapter 11
Chapter 12
Chapter 13
Chapter 14
Chapter 15
Chapter 16
Chapter 17
Chapter 18
Chapter 19
Chapter 20
Chapter 21
Chapter 22
Chapter 23
Chapter 24
Chapter 25
Chapter 26

This story is unfinished.

This story features several characters which are the property of Marvel Comics and no money is being made from their unauthorized use here. The character of Reine, however, is my creation, and if you use her without my permission, regardless of whether or not cash is involved, I'll just have to hunt you down and kill you.

Wild Cards

Part 8

Cyclops watched the maelstrom of destruction in horror. He had just been about to shut down the simulation when he saw the twins were surrounded, but something had happened before he could do so. Slamming his hand down on the safety override, he vaulted from his chair and hit the direct alarm to the medlab as he ran for the Danger Room entrance. On his way, he urgently summoned Jean. There could be lingering gases from the explosion, so shielding could be necessary when they went in...

*Please God, let them be all right...*

All he could do was hope, he thought hollowly -- but he had seen that fireball, and neither Remy nor his sister had the luxury of a force field. If they were still alive, it would be nothing short of a miracle.

And there was still the question of just what had happened to cause the Sentinels to be blown away like so many fallen leaves in a windstorm...

Jean arrived at the door just as he did, and Hank was bounding toward them from further down the hall. Quickly, Scott checked the environmental levels while his wife scanned the room. When she opened her eyes, they were dark with foreboding.

"I'm only picking up one mental presence -- it feels familiar, but I don't recognize it," she reported in a tight voice.

They both knew what that likely meant -- one dead or unconscious, the other probably with severe brain damage.

"Atmosphere readings are normal, but be ready to shield -- let's go," Cyclops said as he pressed the entry panel.

The doors hissed open. The Danger Room walls were streaked with soot and pitted by shrapnel, and parts of the floor had been reduced to slag from the intensity of the blast.

"Oh my stars and garters..." Beast whispered incredulously.

In the middle of the room sat Gambit and Riposte, unscathed, oblivious to both the ruin around them and to the trio standing in the doorway.

"Remy! Reine! Are you all right?!"

As one, they slowly turned toward Cyclops' voice, their calm faces a study in detached interest.

Alarmed, Jean reached out to them with her mind, grasping first for the familiarity of Gambit's psionic presence, but all she found in her search was the single entity she had detected earlier. However, her probing was not without effect. Suddenly, there was a flash of recognition on Remy's face, and Phoenix felt the unknown mind in the room spiral out, separating itself. She 'saw' it split, and recognized the resulting two psi-signatures with relief, as brother and sister crumpled limply to the floor.

Hank and Scott hurried to where the two had fallen, picking their way across the damaged floor with care. Upon reaching them, Beast immediately fell to examining the pair.

"There doesn't appear to be any obvious physical trauma -- I'm going to have to run a full series of tests and keep them in for observation, at least until I can ascertain the cause of their unconsciousness. But as far as I can tell, they should be right as rain," he concluded.

"Now, if you'll be so kind as to assist me Slim, perhaps we can determine just what happened here..."

Gently, Beast scooped Gambit into his arms, Cyclops picked up Riposte, and they made their way to the medlab.

While Hank and Scott were taking the twins to the infirmary, Jean stayed behind in the Danger Room. Focusing her mind, she began her search for any astral traces which could help her determine the cause of the blast. Carefully, she worked her way through the lingering images of the training exercise, sensing Remy's and Reine's thoughts throughout the simulation. She saw Reine go down -- sensed Remy's worry -- and then ...

*Gambit?! Scanning her for sources of pain?*

Jean was flabbergasted -- she had never even suspected that he was an empath! She could tell from the astral remains of his probe, however: it was as if he had extended a mental antenna to receive any sign of pain from his sister. As for Reine...

#Quit worrying, I'm fine...#

The echo of her telepathic response resonated in the astral plane. Jean shook her head in chagrin.

*An empath and a telepath, and both too mistrustful to tell anyone else... * she thought with regret.

Shaking her head, Phoenix resumed her scan. She couldn't quite believe what had happened next, nor could she pinpoint the exact cause that triggered the event, but she could guess. From the astral record, it was clear that their two minds had somehow instinctively joined to form one consciousness ... which had in turn ...

Jean finished her probe, eyes wide in shock.

*I have to talk to Hank... *

Swiftly, Phoenix turned and began walking toward the infirmary.

Henry McCoy was puzzled. After running every test twice, he still couldn't isolate a concrete cause for the twins' condition. Not that they were in any danger -- Hank figured that they would both be up and about within the next two hours at most.

Physically, there was nothing wrong with either of them, apart from the slight dehydration any prolonged strenuous exercise was likely to cause -- and a Danger Room session certainly qualified as that! The only thing of note he had been able to find was a slightly higher than normal degree of brain activity, but it was not high enough to be truly unusual. Perhaps Jean had found something tangible...

And, regarding their condition, there was the interesting conundrum of just how the two of them had even managed to survive the explosion. Hank sighed.

*I can see that I shall have to spend time with a lot of archival footage from their previous sessions to see if I can identify a pattern of some kind ... mayhap Jean will be able to give me some idea of what I should look for ...*

As if summoned, Phoenix appeared at the door.

"How are they?" she asked quietly, glancing at the two occupied beds.

"Resting comfortably -- although I'm not sure what caused them to lose consciousness, let alone to survive the blast," he replied in a low voice.

"They should recover fully in short order."

"Could we talk? I found something interesting, and I think between the two of us, we might be able to sort out what happened."

Hank brightened.

"Certainly -- let's use the briefing room though. I don't want to disturb them."

Quietly, the two exited the infirmary, leaving the patients to rest.

Some minutes after their exit, Reine began to return to consciousness.

She winced.

*I haven't had a headache like this since the time I was stupid enough to enter that drinking contest in Dublin...*

She blinked to clear the cobwebs -- shaking her head to do so, she decided, would be a very, very bad idea. Taking in her surroundings, she realized that she was in the medlab, and saw Remy lying on the bed next to hers, still unconscious. He appeared to be all right, though, much to her relief. Slowly, she sat up, and began to piece together the last moments of the simulation.

Then she remembered...

... another life's worth of memories crashed down upon her... his life ... his memories ... good and bad ...

... all of them.

Reine held her head in her hands, tears streaming down her face like rain. She looked over at her brother, her eyes pained.

*Remy...mon Dieu, petit frère...mon Dieu...*

Gambit slowly came back to himself. His head was pounding like a marching band. He could tell without opening his eyes that he was in the medlab, so he didn't bother to do so.

* Best wait 'til dis migraine die down a little...* he grimaced.

The disinfectant, clinical smell of the place was always a giveaway -- and he hated it.

* Now how did I get 'ere...?*

Getting his thoughts together, he rebuilt in his mind the sequence of events in the Danger Room, and then ...

He knew.

Her secrets, her plans -- the jewel heist which had brought them together was just the tip of the iceberg -- and her past. Earlier, he had wondered how she came to be 'in the life'; now he had the truth.

The track of her history, her choices, ran clearly through his memory as he shared her past anguish.

*Least I knew what my hand was early -- didn' have t' wait until my powers showed for dat...* he mused sadly.

Then it dawned upon his pain-fogged mind ... if he knew these things about her, then ...

*Mon Dieu...non...*

Icy fear gripped his heart. His dread multiplied as he heard someone approach -- it had to be Reine.

And it was.

"Remy?" There were tears in her voice.

He didn't answer, already steeling himself for what was to come.

"Come on, I know you're awake..."

He turned his head away in his shame.

"Please...petit frère, regarde-moi..." 1 Reine pleaded.

She put her hand under his jaw, and turned his head to face her. His cheeks were wet with the tears that had seeped past his closed eyelids. This was it, he thought numbly. The string had played out at last.

*Not'ing more t' do but get it over with...*

Bracing himself as best he could, he opened his eyes, resigning himself to face the hatred he so richly deserved...

But it never came.

Instead, his empathic sense was swamped -- not by disgust nor by loathing -- but by pain she felt for him, for what he had endured in his disgrace; her anger and guilt because she had not been there to help him with his burden; and dwarfing all of these ... her love for him.

Remy choked back a sob as his sister pulled him up into a sitting position, and threw her arms around him. He clung to her as if he were drowning, and her tears soaked his chest.

"Je pensais que ... que tu m'aurais haï ..." 2 he choked out, his throat constricted by emotion.

"Oh Remy ... ne dis pas ça ... ne dis jamais ça ..."3 she said fiercely, holding him still tighter.

"Après ce que j'ai fait?"4 his self-loathing clear in his voice.

"It wasn't you, Remy."


Reluctantly, Reine broke their embrace, and reached up, holding his face between her hands. She looked into his eyes intently.

"The boy who did that doesn't exist anymore, brother. He died that night. You've grown up. You are not the same person."

"Mais ... no matter how I try ... I can' get away from de past ..."

"No more than I can -- or than anyone else can. The past is a part of you; but it is not who or what you are."

She released his face, and grasped his hands instead before she continued to speak, determined to get through to him.

"There's a Japanese word -- kage -- it means 'shadow', but it refers to personality... The idea is that it's the shadows -- the tragedies -- of a person's life that define the light -- the good -- and give it balance... I know what you did, and what you've done since. I'm telling you Remy, you've been so busy brooding over the shadows, you don't notice the light anymore... but it's there."

His eyes still held doubt, but there was something else -- hope. She sighed.

"Remy, if that nightmare hadn't happened, where would you be now?"

"I ... I don' know ..."

"I do. You would be lifting a Caravaggio from the Uffizi in Florence for fun and profit, being careful to never stick your neck out for anyone or anything -- unless you could get something out of it and the price was right -- and not giving a damn about who you hurt in the process. Tell me I'm wrong."

"Je ne peux pas ..."5 he admitted, his voice barely audible.

"That's my point -- as horrible as it was, some good came out of it. It made you who you are now. The person who saved Sarah ... and Storm ... and Belle ... was born that night."

A slight smile crossed his lips.

"Ain' no winnin' an argument wit' you, chère."

"About time you realized that," she said, as she leaned forward to hug him again.

Their exertions in the Danger Room had worn out the both of them physically. Now, the emotional overload which both of them had experienced had finished the job -- they were exhausted.

Reine yawned.

"I don't know about you, but morale-building makes me sleepy, and I don't feel like getting up. Mind if I bunk with you?"

"Non. but there's one t'ing..." Remy stretched out before settling himself under the covers, making room for her.

"Hmm?" she muttered sleepily, curling up next to him.

"Snore, an' you're on de floor."


Continued in Chapter 9.

1. ...little brother, look at me.
2. I thought that ... that you would hate me.
3. ...don't say that...don't ever say that.
4. After what I've done?
5. I can't.

"All warfare is based on deception." -- Sun-Tzu, The Art of War


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