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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 characters owned by 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 15

" Still don' know how y' managed t' pull it off, ma soeur! "

Remy LeBeau grinned at his sister, the wind whipping through his long hair, then quickly turned his attention back to the road. There weren't any cops on this stretch of highway, and he and Reine had really opened the bikes up. Even through his jeans and leather jacket, he could feel the rush of air as they sped toward the city.

He hadn't felt like being confined to a car today -- not even her vintage Jaguar had held any appeal. Not when he wanted -- needed -- the extra freedom his Harley offered, the sting of the wind in his face, to make him feel alive.

When he had informed Reine that they could just take his bike instead, she had disagreed with a snort.

" What you mean is, you will take your bike ... I don't take a back seat to anybody. I'll use the other one in the garage."

Problem being, that other bike was Logan's -- and it was his baby. As far as Remy knew, nobody ever dared to do so much as touch it without Wolverine's say-so. He was even more possessive of that hog than Remy was of his own, and that was saying a lot. Needless to say, when Reine had strolled into the house and strolled back out -- with the keys in hand -- in less than five minutes, Gambit had been unable to completely conceal his surprise. She had just grinned at him as she straddled the bike -- and then they were off.

She too, had dressed suitably for the trip -- her worn black Levi's, black leather jacket, white shirt, and boots almost exactly duplicated his own attire. The only real difference was the cut of her designer clothes, but their overall 'look' was the same. Even her hair was secured the same way as his own -- by a scarf doing double-duty as a headband and a tie for her ponytail. Remy had silently thanked God that he had gone for his blue jeans, at least. They had been teased before about dressing similarly, even though it was unplanned -- they just had similar tastes. But one more crack from Bobby about them taking their twin relationship too far, and he was going to lose it ...

And now -- here they were, tearing down the highway, side by side, as she answered him.

" Simple -- I just took his keys and left a note! "

" You crazy?! Ol' Logan's killed f' less than that! "

" Not to worry! He owes me from our last bout! Besides, I left him the keys to the Jag as collateral! "

Remy had to laugh out loud -- he knew what that meant. Logan was never without his keys -- somehow she had managed to pick his pocket, substitute her keys for his, and replace them along with her note -- without him noticing. No easy task, with Wolverine's enhanced senses ...

" I see y' must have kept up on y' pickpocketing, even though y' hit de big time! "

She answered with a grin.

" I could lift your jock strap, and you'd never feel a thing! "

Their laughter echoed in the wind, as they gave the bikes one last push before slowing down to merge with the traffic well ahead of them.

It was working -- Remy was enjoying himself, much to his own surprise. This outing with Reine had actually managed to succeed in getting his mind off of the possible consequences of his pending confession.

Their first stops had been the Metropolitan Museum of Art and MoMA, where they spent some hours viewing the artworks and arguing over the merits of various artists. At least, that's what they were doing openly ...a

In their telepathic conversation, they were discussing which works they would most like to steal for their personal collections, and the details of the museums' respective security systems -- not to mention reminiscing about prior 'jobs' they had both carried out on the premises.

All in all, both found the time spent to be informative, as well as entertaining.

Walking out of the building, Remy offered her his arm, which she took with a smile.

" A crook and a gentleman, for a criminal and a lady -- how fitting ..." Reine chuckled.

As they walked toward the place where they had left the bikes, she turned to look at him pensively.

" Glad to see you're looking more like yourself, Remy -- I think this was a good idea."

" Oh? An' how did I look b'fore? "

" Like a prisoner facing the firing squad," came her blunt reply.

" An' now? "

Reine looked at him appraisingly.

" Like if anybody looks at you funny, you're going to spit in his eye and demand to know what his problem is."

She won a small smile from him for that remark.

" So I be Travis Bickle now, neh? " he queried, a gleam of humour in his eyes.b

Reine had to laugh, and she squeezed his arm.

" No -- he had better manners than you, not to mention being far better-looking," she teased.

" But let me tell you, petit frère -- it's a vast improvement."

They were quiet until they reached the bikes, but then Remy spoke in a voice only she could hear.

" It's good t' be back, Renée. "

As the day progressed, they worked their way through a number of ordinary activities -- window-shopping, people-watching, a stroll through Central Park. With their sunglasses on, they were almost able to pass as normal people. Their looks still set them apart, though -- they stood out like a pair of greyhounds amongst a group of terriers. At least with their eyes hidden, they didn't have to worry about bigots yelling genetic epithets at them. By comparison, the oglers who stared after them were merely a flattering nuisance, and easier by far to tolerate.

At any rate, for that afternoon, they were able to enjoy that peaceful feeling of belonging with the crowd, of being a part of common humanity.

The time in the park was just as enjoyable as that in the museums. They played a few games of speed chess with the regulars, then got involved in a raucous frisbee contest with a group of young children, whose parents watched in amusement from the sidelines.

As they walked to ward the park exit, Reine let her hair down, using the scarf that had secured it to wipe the perspiration from her face.

" Man, half an hour with those kids just about wiped me out! I wonder how their parents ever manage ... " she said, offering the scarf to Remy.

" Don' know, " he chuckled as he dabbed the cloth over his own features.

" Guess y' get used to it ..."

They decided to sit and catch their breath for a few minutes on a nearby bench. A group of young buskers had set up shop, and the twins enjoyed the music for a time. The quartet was actually quite good, and during a lull in the group's performance, they struck up a conversation.

Remy and Reine discovered that all four were full-time music students who busked primarily for extra practice, as well as cash. Usually, they did quite well, but their business had been slow this day. Their lead singer had laryngytis, and had decided to save his throat.

That gave Gambit an idea ...

He turned to his sister, and after a quick conference, they reached agreement.

The buskers were just getting ready to leave when Remy interrupted them.

" How 'bout one more song 'fore y' go? If y' take requests, we'll make it worth y' while, " he offered.

" Hell, why not? " the leader of the group replied.

" Just remember we don't have a vocalist at the moment ... what song? "

Reine answered with a smile.

" Actually, you've got two vocalists -- us. Do you know Riverboat Fantasy? "

" Are you kidding? I got drunk for the first time to that song ! We'll be ready when you are ... "

Remy noted with satisfaction that the quartet had chosen their spot well -- a high pedestrian traffic area, with a grouping of nearby benches -- a natural gathering place.

# Should work very well -- you ready? #

# Born ready, chère #

They exchanged grins as the music began, and Remy sang the first verse. His voice was like scotch and cigarettes -- warm, smooth and smoky -- and perfectly suited to the song.

Sittin' on a riverboat, havin' a party -- me and my Cajun queen

She's turnin' twenty-one on the Mississippi River -- headin' out of New Orleans

The year is eighteen-ninety-four -- oh, come on baby, and love me some more

Her dark eyes flash like a gambler's rings -- she shakes her pretty head and sings:

At the chorus, Reine joined her voice with his -- already, a few curious bystanders were drawn to watch.

Life for me is a riverboat fantasy -- watchin' the sun go down

A rock'n'roll band with a reefer in my hand -- now look at that wheel go 'round

Cocaine kisses and moonshine misses -- that's the life for me

I'm sailing away from my heartache -- on a riverboat fantasy

As Reine began the second verse, she couldn't help but notice with amusement that a number of the growing audience were among the oglers she and Remy had encountered earlier.

# Well, it's no secret that sex sells -- and it's all for a good cause ...#

Can't think, can't drink any more whiskey -- I could've drunk a river dry

Mmm this old boat, she's just sittin' in the moonlight, catching the gleam in his eye

Showers of rain come pourin' down -- the sky full of stars like a french lace gown

Shimmer, glimmer, I think I'm gonna fall -- catch me baby, that's all

# An' I guess it don' hurt dat their curiosity been telepat'ically helped along # Remy thought at her as they finished the chorus, and began to sing the final verse together.

Delta sun beats down like a hammer -- oh, it gives the low-down blues

I got a cotton gin, I weave and spin -- and shake the dust from my shoes

I made my money, I found me a honey -- to tickle me under my chin

When mornin' comes, I ride into town -- and worry 'bout the shape I'm in

# Or that you've charmed them into being charitably inclined # she replied, before they sang the final chorus.

Life for me is a riverboat fantasy -- watchin' the sun go down

A rock'n'roll band with a reefer in my hand -- now look at that wheel go 'round

Cocaine kisses and moonshine misses -- that's the life for me -- yes it is

I'm sailing away from my heartache -- on a riverboat fantasy...

By the time the song had ended, they had attracted a large audience, and the buskers' were looking at record returns for the day's performance. The group was insisting on splitting the money with them, but the twins finally managed to dissuade them with some difficulty. As they said their goodbyes, they each slipped an extra hundred dollar bill into the take without their new friends noticing, and disappeared into the crowd.

By the time they made their way back to where they had parked the bikes, it was well past dusk. Reine stopped briefly to re-tie her hair, and they both dispensed with their sunglasses. No need for them now on the ride back to the Institute, and their unique eyes would be able to make out the road better without them.

They mounted the bikes, but neither made a move to start their engines, reluctant to break the spell of the day.

" Dis was jus' what I needed, chère -- merci. "

" De rien, petit frère. "1

Several silent minutes passed, and still neither made a move. Remy sighed.

" Guess there's no puttin' it off anymore -- we got t' go back sometime. An' b'sides, I got an appointment t'night ..."

" Je le sais."2

" Den I guess there's not'ing more t' do ... " his voice trailed off.

Reine looked at him for a long moment, then spoke up hesitantly.

" Remy -- no matter what happens tonight and after, you're probably going to need a break. I don't think you have anything to worry about, but it's going to take time for everyone to adjust. If you want to get away -- I was going to be heading home for a while. You're welcome to join me, if you want. "

" Home ...? New Orleans, home? " he questioned.

She nodded.

" Chère, y' know I can' go back ... "

" Bull. You've done it before. "

" That was diff'rent ... "

" Look -- they've banished you from the Guild, not the city. As far as I know, you're not planning on doing any thieving in the area, so you're not poaching on their territory, " Reine grinned suddenly.

" That's my job -- and you never heard me say so, by the way. "

Remy shook his head, in both disbelief and disagreement.

" T'ieves ain' the only ones I got t' watch out for -- could be dangerous f' you ... "

" I know, and kindly let me be the judge of my own safety, please and thank you. Besides, how long has it been since you had some of Dooky Chase's fried chicken ... or K-Paul's sweet potato pecan pie ... or ... "c she teased.

Remy laughed, then turned somber.

" Goin' f' every man's weak spot, neh? Y' temptin' me, ma soeur, but both Guilds won' like me there -- an' I don't want t' bring any o' my troubles down on y' head . "

She smiled at him, but there was a cold, determined glint in her eyes, which was not directed at him.

" Let me tell you, Remy -- I don't have a problem with the Guilds, and if they're wise, they'll keep it that way. Since you are technically not a Guild member any longer, you're free to do as you wish. And nobody tells me whom I may or may not have as a guest in my own home. "

After a brief silence, Gambit answered her.

" Can' give you a definite answer now, chère -- but I'll t'ink about it. "

She nodded in acceptance.

" Good enough -- now we better get moving. I'm sure Logan's been suffering separation anxiety all day, " she grinned, and patted the gas tank of the bike beneath her.

Remy snickered as they started their engines, and their laughter echoed behind them once more.


Continued in Chapter 16.

1. It was nothing ...
2. I know it.

a. As a former Art History major, I take the acronym for granted, but MoMA is the Museum of Modern Art.
b. Travis Bickle, the psychotic taxi driver, belongs to whoever wrote the screenplay to the movie of the same name ... "You talking to me? Are you talking to me?!" -- and probably to Martin Scorcese and Robert De Niro ...
c. Dooky Chase and K-Paul's are two of the best known restaurants in New Orleans, owned by Leah Chase, and (of course) Paul Prud'homme.

Musical Note:
The song Riverboat Fantasy is written and performed by David Wilcox, and has struck me as a perfect tune for Gambit (and Reine) for quite some time.

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


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