" 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.
" 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
# 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
" 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
" 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. "
" 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
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
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
" 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
" 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
* Maybe this has ta do with somethin' from their thievin'
days ... but Ah could swear that the memory feels older 'n
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.
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
" 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
" 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
"All warfare is based on deception."
-- Sun-Tzu, The Art of War
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