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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 21

After reading the notice posted in the War Room, written in Gambit's characteristic script, Cyclops was both surprised, and more than a little intrigued.

* Curiouser and curiouser ... but then it might mean that my little mystery is one step closer to being solved * he mused silently.

" Hello Scott -- what is it that has captured your interest so? " asked Ororo Munroe as she entered the room.

The co-leader of the X-Men had just finished her daily constitutional with a round of cloudwalking, and had decided to take in a quick update of the world's news, and research any likely hotspots for anti-mutant action.

" It seems that Gambit has seen fit to call a full team meeting for this afternoon, agenda 'to be announced', " he replied.

" Do you know anything about this, Storm? "

" Perhaps, " she said, reading the notice herself.

* So he has chosen to lay his demons to rest at last. It took much courage simply to confess his deed to myself and to Rogue, even though the Massacre was not ultimately his doing. And whatever else Remy has been, he has never been a coward ... *

" But if his agenda is what I believe it to be, I shall allow Remy to disclose it himself at the meeting ... "

Humming along to a recording of Mozart's fortieth symphony, Beast busily continued his examination of Joseph's bloodwork. He had been unable to detect anything obviously wrong with the mysteriously de-aged Magneto after the fainting spell he had suffered, and wanted to be sure that all was well.

* His collapse was accompanied by flashbacks -- that would seem to go against a simply physical cause. Though I suppose an ordinary case of exhaustion could be behind it -- or perhaps some buried post-traumatic stress ... *

While Hank was mulling over the possibilities, his thoughts were interrupted by an infrequent visitor to the medlab.

" Mornin' Hank -- or rather, afternoon, " Rogue corrected herself.

" Do ya have a few minutes? Ah was wonderin' if I could talk to you foh a bit ... "

" For you, my dear, I have as many minutes as you like. To what do I owe the pleasure -- you're feeling well, I hope? " he questioned in a concerned voice.

Rogue laughed, and gave him a smile that outshone the sun.

" Oh, I'm fine -- nevah better, actually. "

* Rogue seems ... different, somehow. 'Radiant' is one word that's coming to mind ... and 'bubbly' is another. I wonder what's going on?  * Hank thought curiously.

" So what is it that I can do for you, Rogue? "

" Ah know ya gave me a complete physical last month, Hank, but there's a few more things Ah'd like you to check out foh me -- 'specially anythin' an' everything ya know or may have managed ta figure out 'bout mah power. "

Beast's interest was piqued.

" Certainly -- may I ask why? "

" You may, " Rogue replied with a giggle.

* Lord, Ah'm enjoyin' this. It ain't often I get ta string Hank along ... *

Having realized that Rogue wasn't going to give him an answer unless he humoured her, Beast asked the question.

" All right -- why? "

" Well, last night me an' Remy found out that that 'low-grade potential difference' doohickey he an' Reine have 'cause of their chargin' power, kinda shorts out mah absorption power. "

" What?!"

" Ya heard me, sugah -- an' what Ah want ta know is just how it happens. An' then, " she said with a resolute air, " I want ta talk with you and Jean to work out some things Ah can do ta practise mah control. It's high time and past it that Ah started workin' on that again. "

Hank's amazement had rapidly given way to a whirlwind of scientific speculation in his mind as he considered Rogue's news.

* Yes ... it makes sense, of a sort -- after all, the sense of touch relies on electrochemical reactions within receptors in the skin. And it's not a very strong reaction at all ... quite weak, actually. So slight as that potential difference may be, it could conceivably be enough to prevent absorption. And that might explain how Gambit was even able to survive Israel -- the ambient force field was weaker then, but still managed to partially shield him. I had conducted a study of the structure of the receptors within Rogue's skin, but perhaps it is the reaction itself which is the key ... *

" I'll have to do some experiments, " Hank mused slowly, not noticing her smile at the word, " but I think this might finally be the clue we need to really help you, Rogue. I assume that you've ... um  ... tested this already? " he finished awkwardly.

Rogue's grin was all the answer he needed, but she replied to the question verbally as well.

" Ah have, at that -- an' I appreciate yoh help. But the reason Ah want Jean in on this is that I want ta help mahself. Ah want to control my power, not jus' contain it. But if it turns out that for whatevah reason Ah cain't do the first, I'll settle foh the second, " she said, determined.

" It's a fine thing bein' able ta touch one person -- or in this case, probably two -- but it ain't the same as being able to hug whoevah Ah want without havin' to worry 'bout hurtin' them. An' that's what Ah want, Hank. With all mah heart. "

" Well, sheer strength of purpose often plays a part in treating any condition, " Hank smiled, " and in your case, that's one thing we clearly shan't have to worry about. But in light of your news, as your physician I do have one, ah, other concern. "

" An' that is? "

Rogue hadn't thought it was possible to blush through blue fur, but somehow, Beast managed it.

" You said that you tested the hypothesis with Gambit last night -- is there ... er ... any other treatment you might require from me? " he queried delicately.

Rogue looked at him for a moment, puzzled -- then she realized what Hank was trying to ask her.

" We did not sleep together, " she said indignantly, then flushed, amending her statement, " well, we did sleep together, but sleepin' is all we did. An' even if we did do more than that, Hank -- you're forgettin' who raised me, " she continued dryly.

* Ah can still hear her voice: 'Just because you can't control your ability now doesn't make this irrelevant. One day you will control it, and no daughter of mine is going to be stupidly irresponsible if have anything to say about it'. An' I wasn't -- though Ah guess Momma would think I came mighty close this mornin' *

" Ya'll can say what ya want about Mystique as a mother, but you cain't say that she wasn't anythin' other than thorough when it came to talking 'bout the facts o' life. If Ah needed any medical help or advice in that way, Hank -- I'd tell ya. "

" Good, good ... in light of the information you've just given me Rogue, I'll re-examine your results. I think I already have a couple of ideas on how to approach the problem, which may prove fruitful ... "

" Thanks, sugah. "

Rogue then noticed the time.

" Oops -- Ah gotta run. I have a few things ta take care of before the meetin' this afternoon. 'Bye Hank, an' thanks again, " she said over her shoulder.

" You're welcome, " he called after her.

* Hmm ... I wonder if this discovery is what's on Gambit's agenda for the meeting ? *

Wolverine stalked into the War Room, the last to arrive. Out of long habit, he immediately headed for his preferred spot -- the far corner facing the door -- and stood with his back to the wall.

Gambit was seated at the large table, flanked by Rogue and Storm, with his sister standing behind him. Most of the other X-Men were seated, but Warren, Bishop and Sam also remained on their feet, while Beast hung from the ceiling.

" Well, now that we're all here, Gambit -- why are we all here? " Scott asked.

Remy took a deep breath to steady himself, then began speaking. He kept to the basics of what had happened -- how he had found himself working for Sinister so long ago, and what it was that he had done -- but he was interrupted as soon as he got to the part about leading the Marauders into the tunnels.

" You, " Angel hissed, and would have attacked the other man, had Scott not intervened.

" Warren ! Settle down and let Gambit finish ! " Cyclops barked.

" After what he did, you're just going to let ... "

Scott interrupted in a voice that was cold steel.

" That was an order, Angel. "

Worthington glared at his old friend in disbelief, but Cyclops stared him down. Warren closed his mouth with an almost audible snap, his face flushed with rage, but he remained quiet as Gambit resumed his tale.

Once Remy had finally finished speaking, there was an almost unbearable silence -- which was broken by the winged X-Man.

" So it looks as if Bishop was right all along -- traitor, " he snarled.

" Warren ... " Scott began, attempting to reason with him.

" Don't you start on me, Scott ! I nearly died because of him, and you expect me to ... "

The words he would have said next were drowned out by an earshattering clap of thunder. Immediately, all eyes in the room turned to Ororo, whose eyes blazed with barely controlled anger -- yet when she spoke, her voice was eerily calm.

" No, my friend -- you nearly died because of Sinister. Remy had no knowledge of the bloodshed that was planned that night. "

" Oh? And is ignorance supposed to excuse what he did? Anyone who worked for Sinister willingly is just as much of a monster as he is ! "

Remy remained quiet, looking down at the table as Warren raged, and Reine had just angrily opened her mouth to defend her brother when Rogue beat her to it.

" Ah think ya want ta take it easy, Warren, " she said coldly.

" We could say the same thing foh anyone who worked for Apocalypse. "

Angel whirled toward her, his face contorted with fury.

" Defending him is no more than what I'd expect from you, Rogue, " he sneered, " but what the Hell's gotten into you, Storm? Don't you remem..."


Worthington's tirade was cut short as he found his face framed by two of Wolverine's claws.

" I think we're all thinkin' the same question 'bout you, bub. The kid's less of a traitor than you were -- he didn't know us from Adam when he worked for Big Pale an' Ugly, " he said flatly, then sheathed his claws, " so take a good, deep breath -- an' relax. "

Psylocke strode forward, taking Logan's place, and took Angel's arm.

# They're right, love -- what you want to do is listen, and think through what you say. Any points you make will be all the stronger for that, and you know it. You're not going to convince anyone by having a row, so calm down #

While Elizabeth dealt with Warren, Scott turned to Gambit.

" Remy, " he said, noticing the younger man's start of surprise at the use of his given name, " why didn't you tell us before? Why now? "

Remy sighed.

" I never meant t' tell any o' ya in de first place. It was my past, an' nobody's business but mine. I'd been spendin' ev'ry day since tryin' t' make up for it however I could. When the Prof offered me a place here ... was too good t' be true. It gave me a chance t' make a difference t' the people I'd hurt most. An' if I got killed doin' it, " he shrugged, " so be it. "

" So what changed, Remy? " Jean asked gently.

" After Israel, " he replied, his eyes softening as they briefly lighted on Rogue, " my past wasn' just my own anymore. "

" Rogue -- you knew about this? "

She shook her head.

" Not really, Scott -- Ah could see bits an' pieces -- flashes, like -- but I couldn't make out the whole thing, and Ah couldn't place what was happenin'. Ah jus' saw enough ta know how bad it was, " she replied, her hand gently squeezing Remy's under the table.

" An' it scared me, " she finished quietly.

Gambit nodded somberly.

" An' after Seattle -- I knew it'd only be a matter o' time b'fore the shit hit de fan. I couldn' decide what to do -- so I pretended dat if I ignored the problem, it'd jus' disappear. "

* Jus' like Ah did -- sometimes I think we're almost too alike foh our own good, sugah * Rogue thought to herself.

" And then? " Scott prompted.

Remy shrugged again as he glanced toward Reine with a ghost of a smile.

" Sometimes ya need someone to kick y' ass an' remind you that there ain' no escape from y'self, no matter how far or how fast y' c'n run."

He paused briefly.

" I was tired o' runnin'. "

Gambit shook himself.

" So now all o' ya know de truth. What happens next is up t' you, " he finished quietly.

Cyclops took a moment, gathering his thoughts together, choosing his words carefully, as everyone in the room turned toward him expectantly.

" I think that in light of what you've just told us, Remy -- it's fair to say that some of us have confidence issues with you, " he said slowly, " and as you know, what's made us a success over the years has been teamwork -- our confidence in and reliance on one another. I believe the only fair way to decide your future with this team is for us to vote on the issue. Agreed?"

A murmur of assent rumbled through the War Room.

" Motion carried, " Beast observed, " but I would like one proviso to be made. "

" Hank? " Scott said inquiringly.

" It has come to my attention that an aspect of Gambit's -- and Riposte's -- power is able to circumvent that of Rogue. If the vote is for dismissal, I would move that either or both of them be permitted to visit, on invitation only, for the purpose of studying the phenomenon, and hopefully aiding in the resolution of Rogue's  problem. "

" Agreed, " Scott replied, amid the buzz of surprise in the room.

" Bien -- den let's get this over with. "

" You want us to vote right now? " Jean asked with surprise.

" Why not? You've got a quorum, Phoenix, " Reine said, her expression unreadable, " so why draw it out? I think Remy just wants this finished, one way or the other -- and frankly, so do I. I have some business to attend to, and I'd like to know if there are changes to be made in my arrangements. "

" I understand that, but we need some time to come to grips with what Remy just told us, " Scott pointed out, " otherwise we can't ensure a fair vote. "

" How much of a fair chance did the Morlocks get? " Warren muttered.

Cyclops ignored the comment.

" I suggest, " he began, " that we meet to decide whether or not Gambit remains a part of this team one week from today. Are we agreed? "

Before any response registered to Scott's question, alerts began to sound from the War Room computers.


Continued in Chapter 22.

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


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