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After Gambit's Return >


Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5

This story is in progress.

Disclaimer: All characters belong to Marvel. This story does not seek to supersede any copyrights nor to make any profit for the author. As this is my own original fiction, I would appreciate if nothing was altered and I was credited. Please feel free to archive and distribute at will. Apart from that, feel free to send comments about how boring this disclaimer is to me! Comments about the story would also be delightful -- I promise to respond to all of them lucidly if not intelligently. RogueStar (

For Bobbi Gorden, whose story this really is. I only made it a reality.


Part One
The Game of Cards

A pile of pebbles on a quiet beach,
A heart etched in splintered wood,
The ghost of a rose caught in a diary,
The lingering scent of cedar-smoke.
So this is how a memorial is made?
Not of marble, iron or ivory,
to be worn away by the passage of time,
to be admired by the ignorant, the blithe.
But out of the cornerstones of the heart,
out of the steel of remembrance and
the polished ivory of the deeply personal.
Thus, I make my memorial to you.
~ Cenotaph, by Piotr Rasputin

The waves lapped against the pier as it jutted out into the lake. Stakes still stood where boats had once been tethered -- the rotten remains of ropes clinging to the chipped paint. A small building was situated near to the waterside, windows dark and empty since its occupants had left it for the cold of Alaska. The young woman ambled down to the wharf, picking her way past the stones and twigs which littered the path. Dressed in a white maillot with a tropical sarong wrapped around her waist, she sat on the splintered wood, feet dangling into the water. Absently, she picked up a handful of smooth pebbles from the pile next to her. A pile which her friend, Bobby, had made one summer long ago and maintained ever since.

"It was an old tradition," he had laughed, "One my father started. He always used to say that if you had to search for pebbles when you needed them, the reason you wanted to throw them would disappear while you did. Unfortunately, my dad usually wanted to lob them at the nearest mutant."

Plop. The pebble sank into the dark water without a trace, leaving only ripples behind it to show that it had disturbed the tranquility of the surface. Now Bobby had gone away to care for his father who had had a relapse and had needed a heart bypass. The ripples of his presence remained though in small ways such as this -- a pile of stones, a monument to his father who had hated and loved him. The young woman smiled wryly. It was strange how people could cast off like ships sailing into the ocean and still be there. Could leave behind something of themselves on departing. Her slender fingers traced a small heart carved into the wood with the initials SS and JG in the center. This too was a monument -- a reminder of the very first students to come to this institute, to fall in love, to argue and fight, to finally marry. Something as human as they were, despite the opinion of the rest of the world.

"Time ta say mah goodbyes, sugah," she pulled the small card out of her pocket, looking at it carefully, examining every line of the painted face of the Queen of Hearts. Her lips touched it briefly.

:::Remember me in th' times we aren't together, although Ah hope they are few.:::

Tears blurring her vision, she flung the card away from her, watching it make lazy spirals before it landed on the water.

:::Ah thought, honey, this snake-charmer is as close as you're goin' ta get to Prince Charmin'.:::

It floated, bobbing whitely on the water, refusing to sink.

:::I love you, Rogue.:::

"An' Ah love you too, sugah."

Rogue buried her face in her hands, letting the tears come freely now, hiding her eyes so she would not see how the Queen of Hearts slowly sunk beneath the waves. This was her personal memorial service, her own cenotaph.


Gawd, no. Not Kurt, not now.

She attempted to dry her eyes, choking back the sobs, rearranging her tousled hair. In a voice that was almost normal, she said: "Yeah, sugah?"

"I guess us Darkholmes' are creatures of the night, nein?" he came and sat next to her, sighing slightly.

She recognized his presence with a nod. "Ah thought neither o' us was much inta acknowledging our momma?" she asked, painfully self-conscious of her swollen eyes.

"Das ist wahr," he replied seriously, "Nor our pain, by the looks of things."
[That is true.]

"Don't preach ta me, Elf," she held up a hand to forestall him, "Ah can't take it tanight."

"What happened that was so bad, liebchen?" his voice was concerned and fresh tears spilled up in Rogue's eyes. It had been so long since someone cared for her, had not looked at her with hatred or confusion in their eyes.

Ah just condemned th' man Ah loved ta die foh doin' th' same thing that Ah did.

Nightcrawler put a gentle arm around her waist, asking no further questions of her, comforting her as she wept. Eventually, when her tears had calmed to hiccuping sobs, she leant her head against his shoulder and they watched the sun rise together.

So dis is how it begins again, Remy, when ya t'ought it had all ended? I'd turned in de hero-business f'r de one trade which never let me down -- t'ieving. After a few minor pinches -- de pearls off de fat neck o' a wealthy heiress, a priceless artwork for an unscrupulous collector -- I t'ought I'd struck it big. Heard tell of de Gem of Cyttorak - worth more dan de Hope Diamond an' de Crown Jewels together -- available f'r a skilled t'ief who wasn't afraid t'get his hands dirty. De contact was a Black Tom Cassidy, but he woulda wanted t'share in de spoils an' I wasn' about t'do another assignment f'r another rich, bored lordling. Naturally, I tailed him an' discovered dat he'd hired a Miss Monroe t'take care of de pinch. Couldn't help but wonder if it was m'Stormy. Guess I hoped it was in a way.

I'm not sure if it was de need f'r closure, or de desire t'return, but when I found out dat it was her -- I shadowed dem. Good t'ing too, b'cause dey got inta a world trouble wit' a cult who needed de gem f'r deir own Apocalyptic machinations. After returnin' de Crimson Gem to de Juggernaut, against m'better judgement, Storm asked if I'd come back t'de mansion wit' dem.

T'ink it was guilt on her part f'r not findin' me sooner, but mebbe concern f'r my soul. Dieu. Dis isn't gonna be easy, Remy. What if ... batiscan ... why does de sound of her name still sting?

What if ... Rogue was right? What if I don' have a home wit' her or de X-Men? Den I'll leave, move on, take more petty jobs dat do not'ing t'tax m'skill or give me any pride in de man I am. C'est bizarre. Sounds almost as if I hope t'return -- not t'Rogue - but to de person I became, to de X-Man.

Piotr Rasputin stood at the water's edge, letting the morning sun warm his face. He turned his eyes up to the sky, watching the clouds drift slowly past, forming and reforming shapes.

"They are like me," he thought, "Always moving from one dream to another, trying to find the right one. I could pretend that Illyana's death drove me to try Magneto's path but that would be dishonest. I followed Magnus, because I believed that Avalon was the best means to the end. Now ... now that Avalon has fallen from the sky and I have been pulled forcibly from the clouds, can I make Xavier's dream work for me? Was the fault in me and not in the dream?"

His eyes dropped to where Nightcrawler was sitting, his arms around Rogue. To the casual observer, they would have seemed like any young couple, yet to Piotr's artist-trained eyes, they were not. The hopeless slump of Rogue's shoulders; the tender, almost brotherly way, Nightcrawler stroked her hair -- it spoke to him of a bond that was far more familial than romantic. A bond that reminded him of himself and little Illyana. Yet, that was impossible, was it not? Rogue and Nightcrawler were no more brother and sister than he was Monet's younger, more talented sibling. He sighed, looking up at the heavens again, wondering if he would catch a glimpse of the debris of Avalon. However, only the clouds glided across the sky, like the sails of ships heading down the river to the sea, broken suddenly by the black silhouette of a jet-plane. Colossus turned around, running up the bank to the Mansion's hangar. Storm had returned.

"So did Black Tom pay?" Shadowcat asked skeptically, looking at the brown envelope which Storm was holding.

"With interest," Storm said exuberantly, opening the flap to show Kitty the wad of notes contained within. They were of mixed origin -- some American Dollars, some British pounds, even some Chinese Yuan, and other notes which Kitty could not identify.

"Guess havin' a master t'ief such as m'self in ya little clique persuaded him dat ya weren't a rank amateur, Storm?" Gambit teased.

Ororo raised an eyebrow in mock horror, "On the contrary, a thief of your low caliber almost persuaded him to cancel our contract and hire Deadpool instead."

"Ya wound me, chere," he fished in his pocket for a cigarette and extracted one, lighting it with his finger, "Where be de welcome wagon?"

"I did not tell them that I was going to South Korea," Storm explained, "I thought that they might have some ... moral objections to my dealings with Black Tom Cassidy."

Remy laughed, "Dieu, chere. Black Tom Cassidy, ya say? F'r dat, dey'll probably leave ya in Utah."

Ororo smiled slightly, but it faded off her face as she realized the implications of his words. Her eyes were concerned as she turned to him and quietly said: "Remy -- we need to talk about what happened in Antarctica."

"Talk, chere. I'm sure Rogue's already given ya de important details 'bout what happened t'me, so dere ain't much I c'n contribute to dis dialog," his tone was bitter, the cigarette between his index and middle finger flared.

"I was worried about you. She ... Rogue said that you were dead. I was not sure whether to take her literally or figuratively, then ... Goddess ... You have to understand, Remy -- life in the mansion has not been settled lately. Marrow -- the girl who I killed -- is no longer dead and, on the behest of Callisto, I ... I had no other choice than to welcome her to the team."

"Stormy," he touched her arm gently, "Ça..."

"Let me finish, please," tears came to her eyes at his use of his familiar name for her as well as his warmth "You deserve a proper explanation. As a result of Operation: Zero Tolerance, we no longer had the facilities to conduct a proper search for you. Truth be told, we still do not. I am so grateful that we were able to find you. To bring you home where you belong."

"Chere," Remy smiled tenderly, "I was goin' t'say dat it's fine. Ça ne fait rien. I forgive ya."

"Praise be to the Bright Lady," she hugged him, "I never doubted that you would."

I do not remember the moment of my birth. Do not know who my mother and my father were, if I had any at all. Do not know my own true name or heritage, if I have one at all. There is only the Creator. The one who gave me life. He calls me Coquette -- a name which I accept from him as I accepted existence. The Creator says that he has a mission for me to perform -- one of extreme urgency, one on which the future of his project rests. A mission and project about which he will tell me nothing. Sometimes, when he thinks that I am not there, when he believes me gone to bed, when I'm standing at the doorway listening, I hear him talking to himself. "Soon it will be time for you to repay me, child, for my gift to you." I wonder -- is he talking about me? Or about the attractive, sad mutant whose face was on his monitor, evidently either the project or the mission? Or both?


Continued in Chapter Two

Despite the purported authorship of the poem, I wrote it. Please do not use it without my permission.

References:br> 'Antarctica' -- UXM #350
'Rogue said that you were dead' -- XM #70
'the girl who I killed' -- UXM #325
'got into a world of trouble...' -- UXM #361
'welcomed her to the team' -- XM #79
'us Darkholmes...' -- XM Unlimited #4
'Illyana's death' -- UXM #304 (?)
'Occupants had left...' -- XM #71 (?)
'I followed Magnus' - (????)

'I thought, honey, this snake charmer...' -- quoted from XM #45
'Remember me in the times that we...' -- quoted from UXM #350


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