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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.

Wild Cards

Part 11

Jean walked toward the home she shared with her husband, weary but elated. The long hours she and Betsy had spent with Gambit and his sister had paid off. Not only were he and Reine now fully competent with their own psi abilities, but the theories which had been formulated about the twins' mysterious joint power had been proven to be largely correct.

That first contact had been disconcerting, to say the least. While between them, Gambit and Riposte were part of a single psionic presence, Jean's query had been answered by two psionic voices -- in unison. The Professor, Phoenix thought with a pang, would have been fascinated ...

The twins' united mind remained fully aware of its components -- which was why it -- they? -- had separated upon her probing after the accident in the Danger Room. They -- it? -- had realized that she had wanted to contact Remy specifically, and there was no longer a threat to be dealt with.

That was an unexpected discovery -- the linking was apparently purely instinctive when the two of them were somehow threatened.

* Talk about a survival mechanism ... *

After their initial merging, Gambit and Reine had had no idea what happened, and were consequently too disoriented to realize there was no further threat -- which was why they had remained in a joined state until she had frantically scanned for them. Otherwise, as they had discovered during the course of the day, the linked state could only be maintained if both twins willed it so. If not, and if there was no danger to be faced, the single consciousness simply separated into its component parts. Unlike the aftermath of their initial merging and separation, the twins remained fully conscious, but complained of headaches afterward. As best as Hank could figure, Remy's and Riposte's loss of consciousness that day in the Danger Room had been due to the sheer physiological shock of the first use of their power. Beast was of the opinion that repeated use would eliminate even the headaches in due course.

Interestingly, their single mind was as just as aware of their physical presences -- their bodies -- as of their separate minds -- much like anyone might be aware of their left and right hands. More, the shared consciousness retained the twins' basic personality traits, in addition to their cumulative memories and life experiences ...

Not to mention a degree of psionic power the like of which Jean had never even imagined, let alone experienced. Thankfully, Psylocke's surmise about individual lessons in the control of their powers being reinforced in their united mental state had been correct. Under the circumstances, potential "accidents" were almost impossible, and everyone in the mansion would sleep more soundly for that knowledge.

It was too bad that Reine had no interest in joining the team, Jean mused to herself. As well as adding her own explosive firepower, her and Remy's combined ability would give them enough mutant energy "muscle" to handle just about anything. Then, of course, there was the mellowing effect Reine had on her brother. With any luck, maybe that would linger after she was gone ...

Powers aside, Remy and his sister had become very close over the course of her stay, and Jean suspected that it would be difficult for him once she left. Granted, the man had been without a family for most of his life -- but after finding Reine, letting her go, even temporarily, would be hard. At least Gambit would still have Ororo as a confidante -- she would be a help once Reine resumed her travels. And after all, it wasn't as if the twins would never see each other again.

Amazing how similar they were, considering their backgrounds were totally different (as far as she could gather). Hank had begun debating the nature versus nurture theory for comic relief whenever either Reine or Remy was in earshot. Jean was sure the story of how they had come to grow up separately was an interesting one, but neither twin was forthcoming with details of their lives.

Phoenix sighed as she climbed the porch steps.

* Maybe in time, they'll come to trust us ... *

She opened the door, and found Scott waiting for her. While Jean had spent the day with the twins, he had been in Washington, taking up the reins of the lobby movement for mutant rights.

"Long day again, sweetheart ... did it go well?" he asked.

She smiled as he hugged her.

"Did it ever ... is that mulled wine I smell?"

"I thought you might want to unwind ... after rubbing shoulders with greasy politicos all day, I know I do ... and I'll bet you forgot to eat dinner again, because you were too preoccupied with Gambit and Riposte's training session today."

Jean started, guilty.

"I really wasn't that hungry ..." she said lamely.

It was a lie of course -- Cyclops knew his wife. When her expertise was needed by others, she was likely to forget her own most basic needs. Jean was considerate almost to a fault, and that was one of the many reasons he loved her.

Scott sighed melodramatically.

"What would you ever manage to do without me? Have a seat, honey ... I'll bring you dinner, and you can bring me up to date on just what it is we're dealing with when it comes to the twins."

"Thank you, darling ... have I told you what a wonderful husband you are today?"

"Flatterer," he replied, kissing her forehead.

"Just don't expect me to do windows..."

It was a quiet night -- a good time for contemplation.

Rogue was lying in bed, thinking over the events of the past few weeks. Things had definitely changed since Reine had entered the mansion. After they had gotten over the shock of her mere existence, most of the others had done their best to make Gambit's sister feel welcome, including herself. Part of that urge was simple politeness, but another was thinly veiled curiosity. There was so much that they still didn't know about Remy -- Rogue smiled ruefully -- that not even she knew about Remy -- and they had hoped that observing his twin might give them some shred of information about their teammate.

And Rogue almost knew more about him than she wanted to ... she had had a shadowed glimpse of something horrible from his past, from their kiss in Israel. Even now, she could taste his shame and self-loathing from his memories like bitter poison.

* Nevah would have known a man that looks so sure of hisself all the time could hate himself so much ...*

Instinctively, she had turned away from him, realizing that if what he had done was so bad he couldn't handle it, it was unlikely that she could. At least that's what she had told herself ... but later she had come to realize she hadn't told herself at all -- Remy had.a

It was another part of her power that she couldn't control. After touching someone, she not only absorbed their powers and their memories, but part of their mentality as well ... and it was Remy's own psyche within her, sure that he didn't deserve her, that had driven her away in Seattle.

That should have warned her off for real, and for a time it had. Best to stay away from him, the man's got enough baggage to kill a string of mules -- and it's ugly baggage at that ...

Maddeningly, it didn't change her feelings. And frankly, Joseph wasn't helping matters any -- she was confused, to say the least.

She had thought that spending some time with Reine might alleviate that confusion. After all, Riposte was so much like her brother it wasn't to be believed ...

* Surely, Ah can find something to help me make up mah mind * she had thought.

No such luck ... until the eighth day of Reine's stay. Rogue had visited the twins while they were isolated (or incarcerated, as Reine had grumbled) in the medlab. At that point, she and the others had had only the vaguest notion of what had really happened in the Danger Room, and Rogue had noticed a difference in the two siblings.

Reine had always made joking references to the responsibilities of being the elder sister, down to the simple term of endearment she used with Gambit -- but it somehow seemed as if she wasn't really kidding anymore. Where she had always been quite friendly before, Reine was decidedly cool toward Rogue then, and Riposte seemed even more attentive -- no, protective -- toward Remy than usual. As for Gambit -- he seemed to carry himself a little straighter, like a heavy weight had come off his shoulders ...

* Or his soul ... *

Later, when it was discovered that there was some sort of psi power held between the twins, Rogue's curiosity had been piqued, wondering if Reine had had a glimpse of Remy's secret. After the shopping trip yesterday, Rogue didn't have to wonder any more.

After passing through every designer boutique in sight in leisurely detail, and making what had to be a serious dent in their credit limits, Rogue and Reine had stopped for coffee in a small, elegant café. They had been idly chatting about some of their purchases, which was why Rogue was completely unprepared for Reine's question.

"Rogue, do you love my brother?"

Startled, she had almost spilled her coffee.


"Do you?"

Reine was watching her intently. Behind the dark lenses of Riposte's sunglasses, her garnet eyes were boring into Rogue's.

"Ah believe that's between Remy and mahself ..." she had stiffly replied.

Reine grinned, but there was no humour behind it.

"Not quite ... I'm new at this family thing, but I'll tell you this much about it: it makes you do things you never would do otherwise," she paused, sipping her coffee contemplatively.

"Remy is the only family I have, and he means everything to me. If you love him, then do something about it. If not, let him go. And in any case, quit jerking his chain."

"Ah have not ..." she had started to reply, in a quiet, heated voice, but Reine interrupted her calmly.

"I'm not going to argue with you. I'm asking now because I do like you, Rogue. But in any conflict between the two of you, as far as I'm concerned, he wins every time. Do you understand me?"

"You know what happened, don't you?" Rogue asked harshly.

"Let's just say that Remy and I don't have many secrets from each other."

"Well, he has some that he's keepin' from me."

"Touché. Yes or no?"

"Ah ... Ah cain't say..." she stammered hesitantly.

Reine regarded her briefly, as if making some kind of evaluation, then nodded her head slightly in decision. When she spoke again, it was to mention a lovely emerald parure they had seen at Van Cleef and Arpels, and Reine didn't return to her original subject after that. Although she had been noticeably more friendly for the rest of the afternoon.

Rogue knew that she had been given a warning -- a friendly, almost apologetic one, but a warning nonetheless. The gist of it was clear enough, though -- mess with him, and you mess with me.

She continued to stare up at the ceiling, considering ...

It had been some time since there had been a decent rain in the area -- local farmers were starting to worry a little. Fortunately for them, their problem would be over this very night.

After an evening of cloud-walking, Ororo Munroe alighted in her room at the mansion with a small smile. Perhaps she no longer had a following as a goddess, but she still wasn't above granting favours from the heavens. As she willed, a fine rain had begun to fall as soon as she had entered her cozy attic.

* The crops will do well this year, I believe ...*

Readying herself for sleep, she couldn't help but hum contentedly as she gave her thoughts free rein. She always felt marvelous after communing with the Goddess this way -- renewed -- so pure, so free.

Freedom was a precious thing indeed ... her mind wandered back to the previous night.

Remy had taken her to a restaurant in the middle of Greenwich Village, which she had never even heard of, and Ororo had thought that she knew the area reasonably well.

"Dere's a reason you ain' heard of it, chère," he had grinned.

"One time a reviewer said de place had no décor, an' the owner was so mad about it, he forbid anybody t' mention his place by name -- in print that is -- ever again."b

"Surely you are joking, my friend ..."

"Not at all, Stormy -- you goin' t' love it, décor and all. Dat reviewer prob'ly couldn't find his ass wit' both hands. Great food, an' I ain' kidding when I say they got everyt'ing on the menu."

Her curiosity was whetted by that statement, and Remy was as good as his word. First of all, Storm was at a loss for words to describe the look of the place -- a cross between hippie coffee shop, old-fashioned hardware store, and biker bar -- except whimsically captivating. And the menu! It was practically a book, with countless different cuisines represented.

She had ordered a dish of vegetarian couscous, while Remy had Mexican chicken stew, and as he had promised, the food was delicious. They had lingered for a time over dessert, talking.

Ororo had always been an observant woman -- she had detected a change in her friend ever since the discovery of the power he shared with his sister. She had wondered about it -- especially since it was a psychic power. She, more than almost anyone else on the team, knew that Gambit harboured a past of which he was ashamed -- a past which he rejected, and vigilantly guarded from them all, especially telepaths. Although she had met him while she was a child, even then, she could detect the weight of shame hanging over him. A weight which seemed to have dissipated as of late ...

Remy was in excellent humour, telling her of some of the pranks he and Reine had devised during their time in the lab, hoping to annoy Hank into discharging them earlier (although to no avail). Once she had managed to stop laughing, she reached over the table, taking his hand in her own.

"I am happy for you my friend -- Reine has been very good for you."

"You ain' kiddin' ... sometimes, de way she makes me feel ... it's like I could fly, almost."

Ororo raised an eyebrow in surprise.

"How so?"

Remy thought for a moment, choosing his words carefully.

"Ev'ry time I been flying -- wit' you, with Rogue, wit' anyone -- I get a bit jealous. When you're able t' fly, you're just so free, like dere ain' nobody or not'ing in the world could drag you down ..."

He paused briefly before finishing in a quiet voice.

" ... Reine, she made me free."

Remy said nothing more on the subject, and she knew better than to press him. She simply squeezed his hand gently in reply and smiled.

Looking back, Storm was certain that whatever Remy was hiding, his sister knew about it -- and whatever it was, it had brought the siblings closer together, letting Remy move on with his own life, away from the history he despised. It was a journey he had just begun, and was not yet near completion, but it was a start.

* Perhaps one day soon, he will confide in us ... she has broken the chains of his memories for him. Goddess willing, we may help him to fully walk out into the light ... *


Continued in Chapter 12.

a. This is a thought that I shamelessly adopted (read: "stole") from Poisonhart's post-publication vent about UXM #350, and I think she has a lot of excellent ideas and opinions voiced there. Check it out on her "Ace of Spades -- Ragin' Cajun Network" ( -- I recommend it.
b. This story is quite true, and the restaurant does exist -- I read about it in an interview with Calvin Trillin about a year or two ago. I haven't been there, and I don't know where it is exactly (except in Greenwich Village) or what it's called. But descriptions of the menu and the funky décor are pretty much lifted from my memory of that article. If anyone does know about this place, let me know. I'm not likely to go to New York any time soon, but if I ever do, this is a place I want to check out :-)

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


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