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 (email@example.com)
For Bobbi Gorden, whose
story this really is. I only made it a reality.
The Game of Cards
A pile of pebbles on a quiet
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
"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:
"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'
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?"
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
Despite the purported authorship of the poem, I wrote it.
Please do not use it without my permission.
-- 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
'Remember me in the times that we...' -- quoted from UXM #350
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