The following story features 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, I'll just have to hunt you down and kill you.
After a long, dream-disturbed night which had given him little
rest, Joseph had awakened early and wandered down to the lake.
He had watched the sun rise, but there remained a weariness
within him that had nothing to do with insufficient sleep,
and not even the beauty of the dawn's fingers stretching across
the water could dispell it.
At least he hadn't remembered his dreams this morning,
he thought with a grim smile, appreciating the irony. Most
of the time he grasped at memory fragments like a drowning
man after a life preserver, desperate for even the smallest
anchor to help him understand the man he had been, or the
man he was now -- but the pictures that came to him in his
He shuddered at the fragmented images.
People herded like cattle ... children crying out in fear
for their parents ... disease and parasites among the frightened
masses ... tortured screams among gunshots, with the laughing
of the jailers in the background ... the empty eyes of those
who had given up, waiting for the end that would come either
from the muzzle of a rifle, or from a walk to the 'showers'
... and a single thought, fierce with determination ...
* Never again...*
The others had no idea what it was like. He knew enough of
his history to abhor the actions he had undertaken as Magneto,
but not enough to make a clean break from that past. Everyone
else simply seemed to think that he was starting from a blank
slate, or else was just having them on, waiting for an opportune
moment to strike.
* Wipe the slate clean and start afresh ... if only that
were true. Then I would be able to make a new beginning without
qualm. But how can I reject a past, if I do not know why
I started down the path I did in the first place? If I could
understand who I was, I could move on to who I am
... the status quo is intolerable to me, yet I can see
no way to change it. Not even Rogue understands. No one understands
" Don't bet on it. "
Startled, Joseph whirled toward the voice. Reine stood behind
him, a bemused smile on her lips. Clearly, she was expecting
to meet up with Logan -- she was barefoot and dressed in her
gi, her well-worn belt more white than black from years of
Joseph's eyes narrowed warningly.
" I would thank you to keep out of my mind, unless otherwise
invited," he said coldly.
" If you don't want a telepath to know your stray thoughts,
then don't broadcast so damn loudly," she replied without
"And for your information, like my brother, I never
go where I'm not invited. "
That said, Reine began stretching in preparation for her
workout. Joseph, however, was not about to let the matter
drop so easily. During her stay, he hadn't had much to do
with Riposte, as she was almost always in her brother's company.
Joseph was keenly aware of the Cajun's resentment of his friendship
with Rogue, and avoided Remy whenever possible, primarily
for the sake of his own blood pressure. Consequently, he was
only familiar with the qualities Reine shared with Gambit
-- unfortunately, one of them was the ability to push his
" I suppose the people whom the two of you have pilfered
from over the years supplied engraved invitations? And that
no one ever bothered to tell you it is rude to eavesdrop?
" he retorted sarcastically.
Riposte only grinned.
" First off, listening at all times, not just when it's
polite, has saved my butt on many an occasion. Every now and
then you might hear something that's hurtful to you or someone
else, but I prefer even a nasty case of hurt feelings to a
permanent case of dead," she replied with a grunt, as
" And as for the first accusation -- one: it depends
on your perspective; and two: prove it. "
She was pushing him, not even bothering to hide her enjoyment
at his annoyed reaction, as her grin grew broader and her
fiery eyes twinkled in amusement. At that moment, even as
irritated as he was, Joseph couldn't help but remark on her
beauty -- quite different than Rogue's. While the southern
belle had a sweet innocence about her that accentuated her
charms, Reine possessed a knowing sophistication that was
irresistible in itself ...
" You're impossible ... " he muttered darkly.
" Nope, just highly improbable."
" What? "
Reine laughed at his puzzled expression.
" Sherlock Holmes -- 'once you have eliminated the impossible,
whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth'.
I exist, therefore I am possible: that only leaves
option two. And given my background, I definitely qualify.
Despite himself, Joseph found himself smiling ... then stopped
A memory -- an older man reading from a leather-bound volume
-- A Study in Scarlet -- to a rapt young boy -- flash
ahead to that same boy crouching over the man's mutilated
body, a soldier beating him away with a rifle butt -- the
boy, now a man himself, killing those who threatened his family
-- never again --
Joseph came to himself. He was on his knees. Reine was beside
him, one arm curled around his waist, the other bracing his
own arm behind her neck, supporting him. Dimly, he was aware
of her voice.
" Joseph? Joseph -- are you all right? "
" I .. I think so ... "
Even to his own ears, his voice sounded shaky.
" Memories? "
He nodded mutely.
" The bad ones can do that. "
" All I want is to move on with my life, yet fragments
of my own past will not allow me to do so," he sighed.
" Damned if you don't have a hell of a lot in common
with Remy ... " Reine muttered under her breath.
" What? "
Riposte smiled sardonically.
" Never mind. Like I told you before, Joseph, if you
think there's nobody who understands, don't bet on it ...
some of us understand only too well. Are you going to be okay?
Slowly, he climbed to his feet -- he felt steady now.
" Yes. "
" Good -- I'll walk you to the lab so Hank can check
you out. "
Walking back toward the mansion, Joseph quietly regarded
his escort. He had noticed her preoccupied frown, and the
worry in her eyes, which were not directed at him.
* Gambit? Perhaps there is something there ... *
Warren Worthington III was busy in the kitchen of the X-Mansion.
He had been careful, and with patience and stealth developed
over countless missions, he had managed to creep out of bed
and leave his room without waking Betsy. Considering her telepathic
awareness of her surroundings and ninja reflexes, no easy
task -- but still easier than what he now faced.
As of late, Psylocke had been running herself ragged -- first,
her near-death at the hands of Sabertooth, then her ordeal
with the Crimson Dawn. It seemed as if it had been one crisis
after another, and just when he thought he could finagle her
into taking some down time, Gambit and his long-lost twin
required heavy-duty training in psi powers they had kept hidden
from everyone else.
* Typical ... *
Fortunately, it seemed as if that particular fire was under
control, and he and Betts would finally have some time for
themselves. After all she had been through, Warren had thought
familiar pleasures would be a comfort for her. Which was why
the high-flying Angel of the X-Men was in the kitchen, attempting
to make currant scones ...
Although Elizabeth Braddock's mind had been transferred to
the body of a ninja assassin, she retained staunchly British
tastes -- currant scones and strong Darjeeling tea being two
* At least the tea won't be a problem ... * he thought ruefully.
Apart from absolute basics like toast, eggs and most things
boiled, he was the first to admit he knew nothing about cooking.
As the only son of extremely wealthy parents, learning to
cook had never really been an item on his "to do"
list. Whenever it was his turn as cook in the mansion, he
invariably ordered pizza, chinese food, or had the meals catered.
Still, how hard could it be? Thankfully, there were a few
cookbooks lurking about -- a copy of Fanny Farmer supplied
the needed recipe. The next few minutes were spent in hunting
ingredients -- since he didn't spend a huge amount of time
in the kitchen as a rule, he was unsure where a number of
things were. However, he soon managed to find what he needed.
After about three-quarters of an hour of labour, he was nearly
finished preparing the batter when he was startled by a most
It was before eight-thirty in the morning, with no mandatory
training session scheduled, and no emergency klaxons blaring
-- and Remy LeBeau was up, dressed and wandering toward the
" Morning, Gambit -- are you feeling okay? " he
" Oui -- jus' couldn' sleep any more ... Dieu, homme
-- what you been up to? Dis place looks like a dust storm
hit it -- a white one. "
Angel coloured slightly in a mixture of embarrassment and
" Just making some scones for Betsy ... " he replied
Remy flashed the urchin's grin for which he was famous.
" You're cookin'? Dat's a first -- if it wasn'
obvious before, now we know y' love that femme, " he
answered, walking over to inspect the fruits of Warren's labour.
Gambit did very well to maintain a completely neutral expression
when he saw the lumpy, gluey batter.
* An' if Betts actually eats that, she loves him more than
we t'ink ... *
" Um, Warren -- how long did y' knead the dough? "
" I'm not sure ... why? "
By this time, Remy's carefully blank countenance was cracking
at the edges, but he did answer, barely managing to suppress
" 'Cause once dat stuff bakes, Logan's goin' to be wantin'
them t' replace his pucks during hockey season. "
" Is it really that bad? "
Gambit nodded sympathetically. Somehow, he fought down his
amusement to the point where he could trust his voice again.
" 'Fraid so, mon ami. "
Warren sighed in resignation.
" So much for that idea. Okay, desperate times
call for desperate measures -- how much do you want, Gambit?
" Quoi? "
It was Angel's turn to grin.
" You're a cook, I'm not -- so I'll just have to contract
out. Just don't tell Betts, deal? "
" F'get it Warren -- y' can't afford me. "
" Aw, come on -- please? "
" Non. You want t' make a treat f' Betsy, y'
make it wit' your own hands -- it's de principle o' the thing.
Gambit's smile broadened into a grin as he added another
" Jus' call me a romantic ... "
" Great -- a semi-reformed thief is preaching about
principles to me before nine in the morning. It's gonna be
a great day," Angel grumbled.
Remy's eyes hardened somewhat, but he maintained his cool
demeanour -- though there was an edge to his voice.
" Keep talkin' like that, mon ami, an' I ain' even goin'
t' help you out."
" But you said .. "
" I said I wouldn' do it for ya -- I never said
I wouldn' help you do it y'self. If y' want my help,
dat is ... "
" Would you? " Warren asked, unable to keep a hopeful
note out of his voice.
" Sure -- after all, how many times does a semi-reformed
t'ief get t' tell a billionaire playboy what t' do wit' himself?
" Remy replied, eyes sparkling wickedly.
" Now, if y' throw dat goop out, your first home ec
class at École LeBeau c'n begin ... "
Just over a half-hour later, Warren was on his way to Betsy,
with a laden tray of tea, Devon cream, strawberry jam -- and
perfect, hot, fresh scones -- which he had actually made himself,
under Gambit's direction.
Remy smiled to himself as Angel left the kitchen.
* Betts is goin' t' love it -- least I c'n help someone out
wit' their love life, even if I can' help my own ... or can
The smile left his face as he considered the possibility.
His thoughts flew back -- to Seattle. Seeing Rogue's pain
-- his pain -- coming back to haunt him through the
woman he loved. She didn't know more than a shadow of the
truth, but that fragmented shadow was hurting her almost as
deeply as his complete memories hurt him. That had been bad
enough -- how could he hurt her less: telling her, or keeping
quiet? That time, he couldn't bring himself to say anything
* You a real coward, Remy ... *
If only she had taken his hand, she would have known -- and
at least he would have been unconscious, unable to see the
betrayal in her eyes. But she had refused -- partially out
of fear, partially because she was determined to hear him
tell her himself. He could understand that. Anyway, he now
knew that his offer was really an ultimate act of cowardice
on his part.
* Great -- y' couldn' face your own memories, so you were
goin' to dump dem all on her, an' make her live wit'
the nightmares ... real considerate o' you. If anyone
else would have tried it, I would've killed them f' hurtin'
her like dat. Where was y' head at, pup? *
He knew he couldn't keep it a secret forever ...
* When y' goin' to stop runnin', Remy ... *
All through his life, he had been coolly efficient about
his decisions. He was never one to sit on the fence. If it
had turned out that he chose wrong, he simply shrugged it
off, and compensated as best he could under the circumstances.
That's how you live -- how you survive. But with his feelings
for Rogue, for Stormy -- hell, even most of the others --
he had suddenly become afraid to make a choice because it
might hurt them. Fear was debilitating ...
Reine had been right all along. He had been right
all along. This was no way to live. And if his fears were
realized, if his friends turned on him in disgust -- he still
had a place to go.
He was jolted out of his reverie by a hand rumpling his hair,
then a concerned face appeared in front of his own.
" Early morning, petit frère -- something you want to
talk to me about? "
He smiled gently.
" Non -- for dis, you an' me have done all our talkin'."
On impulse, he hugged his sister tight against him, and kissed
the top of her head. The warmth of her mental presence surrounded
him like a comforting blanket.
# Does this mean what I think it does? #
# Oui. Am I dat transparent? #
# Non, I just know you too well #
# Hope y' got a spare room, ma soeur -- I jus' might be needin'
# I'm not so sure of that Remy -- but I'll always have a
place for you. Just give me enough advance notice to chain
down my silverware before you arrive #
# Small potatoes -- if I go f' anyt'ing, it'll be your Matisse
# Good -- for a moment I thought it was going to be my Turner
# They were goin' to be next #
# Brat #
Their mental conversation over, they finally broke their
" If you need me ... " Reine offered.
" ... you'll be dere. I know. "
She smiled encouragement at him, then gave his arm a slight
squeeze before she left the kitchen and headed outside to
practice her kata.
He straightened his shoulders and prepared himself.
Gambit had had enough of fence-sitting.
He was going to talk to Rogue.
Continued in Chapter
"All warfare is based on deception."
-- Sun-Tzu, The Art of War
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