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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 16

" Why didn't anybody tell me we were going to have lasagna for lunch? I would have juggled my schedule to be here -- I love Italian food, " Scott complained in an aggrieved voice.

Logan chuckled.

" Too bad ya missed it, Cyke -- Reine even made the noodles by hand. Then o' course, that's to say nothing 'bout the roast chicken with olives, fried eggplant, salad, an' zabaglione. Damn good eats -- girl pulled out all the stops. Even if she don't want to join the team, I'd consider keepin' her here for her cooking. "

He rubbed his belly in remembered contentment -- that had been one hell of a good meal -- then scowled, fingering unfamiliar keys and a well-read slip of paper in his jeans pocket.

" Even if she does have a habit o' goin' where she ain't necessarily wanted. "

The ride back to the mansion -- no matter the temptation, I never referred to it as 'home' ... too many possible complications -- was uneventful. Until we pulled in to the garage, that is. As Remy had predicted, Logan was lying in wait for me with a scowl on his face and murder in his eyes.

# I do so love the Welcome Wagon # I sighed mentally.

# Don' say I didn' warn ya # my brother returned with a mental chuckle.

# Jus' keep me out o' dis #

# Strange, I don't recall appealing for rescue, o gallant saviour -- I can manage on my own # I shot back.

# Oh good ... I wouldn' miss dis f' anyt'ing #

Smug bastard. I didn't even have to look at him to know there would be an anticipatory smile on his face, and a twinkle in his eye. Probably because it was a look I would have worn myself, had the circumstances been reversed.

" I think you've got some explainin' to do, darlin' ..." Logan rasped.

" Didn't you find my note, Logan? I thought I explained everything there ... " I asked innocently.

There was a muffled, strangled sound beside me, as my brother was doing his best to smother his amusement. Unfortunately, his best wasn't quite good enough to hide his muted laughter from Logan's enhanced senses, and Wolverine turned his baleful stare toward him.

" Somethin' funny, Gumbo? "

" Oui, Logan -- inside joke. Don' let me interrupt ya, " my brother answered, his voice serious at once.

Wolverine glared briefly at him, then turned his attention back to me.

" Cute answer, girl ... but you know what I mean. Ain't you ever heard o' askin' permission -- or is that not how it's done in the bayou? "

" Now, now, Logan -- not very politically correct, are we? Must be why I like you ... and in answer to your question, yes, I have. But let's face it ... asking isn't anywhere near as much fun, " I replied, smiling sweetly.

" Besides, it was a compliment. I would have thought you'd be flattered. "

" A compliment? Stealin' from yer friends is a compliment? " he repeated, with an edge to his voice.

Logan was rather red in the face -- he really should do something about his blood pressure, healing factor or no. I sighed.

" First -- I didn't steal your bike. If I had, you'd never see it again. I borrowed it. And absolutely, it was a compliment -- I never borrow from people I don't respect. Besides, with your senses, you presented an irresistible challenge to my skills -- and I did need the bike. I got some needed practice, and you got the use of my car for the day. I think that's fair ... "

He seemed slightly mollified by that, but he wasn't prepared to let it drop.

" I'll let ya off this time, girl -- but do it again, and I'll show you fair, " he growled, popping a claw at me.

" Understood. Put your toy away, Logan, and if you're that upset -- I'll even spot you one fall tomorrow when we spar, " I smiled.

" Full-contact? " he smiled wolfishly.

" Full-contact, " I conceded.

With my agreement, Wolverine stalked back into the mansion, appeased. And no wonder -- even if I won the bout tomorrow, I would be the only one showing the bruises for it, courtesy of his healing factor. No doubt he was already planning on making sure my post-workout soak in the tub would have to be in pure liniment, rather than water.

" Judgin' from dat smile o' his -- y' goin' t' be real sore tomorrow, ma soeur. "

" Probably ... but then, suffering builds character. Why else do you think I hang around with you? " I asked impudently.

" Social climbin' , " he shot back.

I just had to laugh -- it felt that good to simply hear him give as good as he got. Not that it kept me from tagging him with a light side kick to his midriff by way of revenge. When it connected, I was rewarded with an oomph from my victim, and I couldn't hold back a giggle.


That started a rough-housing battle all the way to the verandah. We made our way up the path trading blocks and counters that were no less ferociously contested for all that the contact was light. What would normally be a two minute trip from garage to house turned into a quarter-hour play fight. By the time we made the steps, we were both breathless -- and whether that condition was from our impromptu sparring session or the accompanying case of the giggles we had developed, we couldn't say. At last, we simply collapsed onto the stairs, and sat there grinning at each other like fools, until we finally got our breath back.

" Haven' had dat much fun since that last time Henri an' me spent Mardi Gras t'gether, " Remy smiled wistfully.

" Wish he could've met ya, Reine. "

I slid over, so that we were sitting side by side, and leaned into his shoulder.

" Me too, " I said quietly.

A peaceful silence descended for a time, and we just sat there, watching the sky.

" Did I thank you, Remy? "

He turned toward me, curiosity in his eyes.

" F' what? "

" For the day. For your time. For being who you are ... I meant to. "

" Y' tryin' to flatter me, ma soeur? " he asked with mock severity.

" No, and I've never been more serious in my life. You know, when I was growing up, I always dreamed of having a brother. Especially after ... " my voice trailed off briefly, and I felt his arm wrap around my shoulders, comfortingly.

Even after all this time, it was almost too painful to discuss openly. But he knew exactly what I was referring to -- our power had seen to that -- and he knew a thing or two about rejection. I sighed, and then continued speaking.

" Knowing that there was someone who really understood what I was going through ... that there might still be someone who could accept me ... care about me ... it didn't happen then. I never thought it would happen at all. And you know, I actually made myself believe that I didn't care. I didn't need anyone ... "

I paused briefly, as I put my arm around his waist.

" I have never been so happy to be so wrong. "

He squeezed my shoulder, and chuckled softly.

" Lemme get a notary -- I want documented proof o' what y' just said, 'cause I don' t'ink you're ever going to admit t' being wrong again. "

I smiled.

" You've got that right, gator-bait ... "

After a few minutes, Remy looked at his watch and sighed.

" Almos' time ... I better head on out t' the lake. Don' want t' be late f' my own hanging. "

" Don't you start again ... "

" It was jus' a joke, Reine ... you will stay out o' dis, d'accord? This is somet'ing I got t' do on my own. Compris? "

" I can't say I like it -- but yes, I do understand ... and I'll be waiting. We missed over twenty years, Remy. I don't want to miss any more ... "

" An' y' not going to ... I'm not going to. We've had too much taken away from us, ma soeur. Anybody try t' take any more, dey goin' t' have to fight for it, oui? "

" Oui -- and they'll lose. "

Remy gave my shoulders one last squeeze, and stood up.

" It's time f' me to get goin' ... wish me luck. "

" Done. Just remember ... you're good people, Remy Étienne LeBeau. And bias aside, I'm in the best position to know. Don't ever let anyone tell you different. "

He smiled at that.

" Not t' worry, ma soeur -- since when have I ever let anybody tell me what t' do? "

Then he stooped down and kissed my cheek before he turned off into the night, heading for the lake.

And pending judgement.

Much as I hated to let him face it alone, I knew that was how he wanted it. That knowledge didn't make it any easier to let him go, though. I watched him leave, until even my eyes could no longer detect the outline of his form against the darkness.

I slowly got up, and moved into the house, doing my best to shield my feelings as tightly as possible. My brother and I may only test at beta level in psi talent, but our powers seem to be much stronger when we use them to probe ourselves -- probably because of our joint ability. Our shields don't really register to each other that well. It's like my telepathy and his empathy operate on two different levels: high for us, and middling for everyone else. It's funny -- keeping Jean or Betsy out of our respective grey matter is as easy as sneezing, but if one of us wants in to the other's head ... it's all the other can do to stop it. Of course, we've sort of neglected to mention this to anyone else. Possible weaknesses are best kept to yourself ...

And he was going to be essentially shouting his from the rooftops within the hour.

God ... did he even realize how brave that was?

* Probably not *

All that time when I was growing up, I wanted a brother to look up to, and never had one. Who would've known I would get my childhood's wish once I was a grown woman ...

At any rate, the last thing Remy needed tonight was to be distracted by my emotions, so I clamped down on them. Hard. As I walked into the house, I made a resolution.

* We've got a lot of time to make up for, little brother. And as God is my witness, you'll never go through anything like this alone again *

Remy LeBeau sat on the edge of the rocky outcropping overlooking the lake. The view from this vantage point was breathtaking, the water stretching out into the distance, starlight reflecting from its surface.

Beautiful, and serene -- it seemed somehow fitting to divulge the horrors of his past in such a place.

Nature had always had a calming effect on him -- especially bodies of water.

* Must be de swamp-rat in me * he thought with a pained smile.

* Next best t'ing t' bein' home on the bayou *

He reached into his jacket pocket, and withdrew a cigarette. Lighting it with his fingertip, he turned to the water to wait. He didn't have to wait long -- he hadn't even finished his smoke before Storm's voice broke the silence.

" Remy? "

Gambit took a deep breath before he replied.

* Zero hour, pup -- get it t'gether *

" Over here, 'Ro, " he called out.

Following his voice, Ororo Munroe made her way to his rocky perch, and settled down on a spot to Remy's left.

" You have something you wish to tell me? " she asked tenderly.

Gambit felt his heart swell at the look of gentle concern on his friend's face, then sternly called his emotions to heel. If he was going to manage to tell the whole story, he could at least do it without breaking down before he even got started.

" Oui -- but not jus' yet, chère. Bear wit' me for a spell. We goin' to have company. "

Storm raised an eyebrow in curiosity, but nodded acceptance.

They sat in silence as Remy finished smoking his cigarette, then he drew out another just as Rogue glided down in front of them.

" Ah got your note Remy, an' ... 'Ro? What are you doing here? " she asked in surprise.

" I asked her t' be here, Rogue, 'cause what I got t' say concerns her as well as you. "

Rogue couldn't quite hide her surprise, either at that piece of information, or at how tired and worn Remy's usually smooth voice sounded.

* Maybe this has ta do with somethin' from their thievin' days ... but Ah could swear that the memory feels older 'n that *

She alighted on Remy's right side, making herself comfortable, as he lit his cigarette.

" Well, sugah -- you asked for us, an' here we are. Shoot. "

He took a deep draw from his smoke, and exhaled slowly as he gathered his thoughts.

" First ... I jus' want y' both to know I never meant t' hurt anybody, an' dere hasn't been a single day or night when I didn' wish that I could go back in time an' make t'ings right. But I t'ink we all know life don' work that way. "

Gambit paused briefly, taking another drag of his cigarette.

" Funny thing is, every step made sense at de time. Every day, I go through de choices I made that led up to the biggest mistake o' my life, tryin' to see if there was anyt'ing I could've done diff'rent, if there was anything I didn' notice at the time dat could've tipped me off, an' changed my path -- but I can' find anyt'ing but my own stupidity. Stupidity, an' goddamned arrogance. "

Both Rogue and Storm flinched at the degree of self-hatred in his tone.

"An' that makes it worse. 'Cause I ain' got not'ing and nobody t' blame but m'self for what happened. An' if I had half de smarts I thought I had, I should've seen it comin', an' found a way to stop it."

He shifted position, so that both women could see his face clearly.

" I'm not even sure how t' start tellin' you this, 'cause I ain' even sure where the whole thing started. So I'm goin' to go right to the beginnin'. What I say at first won' even be related t' what I have to confess, but trust me -- I'll get to it. "

Another pause as he finished his smoke, and lit another.

* Chain-smoking? * Ororo thought with dismay.

Remy was a moderate smoker, but like most people with the habit, his consumption increased under stress. Storm had seen her friend in countless tense situations -- but his nerves had never been this bad.

Gambit inhaled deeply before he spoke again.

" One thing I got t' ask you both -- jus' hear me out, wit' no interruptions. 'Cause if I have t' stop at some point, I ain' sure I could find de nerve to keep going. "

Ororo and Rogue looked at each other briefly, and nodded.

" It is a reasonable request, my friend. We will honour it. "

" Foh as long as ya got somethin' ta say, Remy -- we'll listen. 'Til morning, if that's what it takes. "

" Merci. "

His whispered thanks were almost inaudible. After another drag on his cigarette, he began to talk.

At first, both women were surprised, as he began by telling them what he could remember of his childhood, from his earliest memories, to his life as a street kid and eventual adoption by Jean-Luc LeBeau -- clearly far off the matter he really wanted to discuss. However, they kept silent as per their promise, simply listening to him. Several times they were shocked or sickened by his words as he described his early life, but he took no notice of their reactions, pausing only to take a drag from a cigarette, or to light another.

He told them what it was like for a foundling growing up within the Clan, of the constant war the Thieves and Assassins had known, of his acceptance into the Guild following his rite of passage, of his banishment, of Belladonna's death ... and his subsequent dealing with the devil.

They listened white-faced as he told them about his work for Sinister -- assembling the Marauders at his command. And though he didn't know it at the time -- finding the way into the Morlock tunnels for the group of killers to stage a slaughter of the innocents.

He told them of watching the Morlock Massacre unfold before his horrified eyes, knowing that ultimately he was the one responsible for all the death and bloodshed that night -- of his wounding by Sabertooth when he tried to stop the killing. After that, he told them of how he managed to run, carrying one little girl to safety, before he was overcome by shock and blood loss.

At last, he ran out of words. He had told them everything, sparing nothing -- least of all his pride -- in the telling.

He crushed out his cigarette, eyes closed, face streaked from the silent tears he had shed, and waited for judgement.


Continued in Chapter 17.

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


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