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Part 2: Suspended Judgement
Remember: Lucifer in Heaven
in the Lord's eyes before he was cast down.
-Arthur Miller, The Crucible
I did not know doubt until I came to this place.
At home, my fate had been sealed at birth: I was to be a
fighter, period. My parents had been warriors. My grandparents
had been warriors. Tracing our family tree long enough reveled
a history of soldiers, heroes and Myrmidons, dedicated to
one cause or another. My grandmother insisted that my first
word had been 'trigger.' "You pointed at one with a chubby
little finger and said, 'diggah!' as loud as you could,"
she'd told me once, proudly.
Our home was run like a military camp. I obeyed orders without
question, as did my sister. That was how the two of us survived
-- we did as told, no questions, no childish foolery. A slip
might have meant death. When our mother died, we carried on
with our military lives; when our father passed away, we kept
marching. When our grandmother, in desperation, fell to accepting
the help of the Witness, we did as the old man said. He was
our new commander then, and whether we liked him or not --
and I certainly did not, though my sister became fond of him
-- we obeyed him. There were no questions. Therefore, there
was no doubt.
We became XSE officers. When we had been given our own troops
we had also been given a specific goal and the means to reach
it; we went out, did our job efficiently, returned, ate, slept,
went out, did our job. No questions involved. It was a cycle,
a loop, and there was no need to go out of it. If I did what
I was supposed to do -- hunt down and destroy the mutant perpetrators
of violent crime -- I made the world that much safer. If I
didn't, somebody died. It wasn't something that made you think
twice. It was a game of shoot-to-kill. Questions were not
asked after the criminal's termination; they were never asked
It may seem blind and unjust to the people of the age I have
stumbled into -- but justice is blind. No one can possibly
understand the horrors I knew. There is nothing to compare
them with. Such blood-stained ways were necessary to allow
a future generation to survive, and I cannot be caused to
doubt our methods. I believe that they were suited to the
time. I do not do the same now for the Professor, and for
Storm, as they have asked; as LeBeau does not kill for their
sake, as Wolverine contains his brutality for them, as the
Phoenix curbs her baneful power, Psylocke her Kwannon-inspired
sexuality, Warren his deep-seated hatred for all those who
have hurt him -- as all these legends do, I hold back my nature,
my training. For the good of the others. For the Dream. Unquestionably.
But things have changed now. I had nearly given up on the
Traitor, the one behind the Great Betrayal which brought about
my world. I allowed myself to think that my presence, or some
other changed factor in the time stream, had taken that threat
away. I became, in my own way, friends with Ororo, with LeBeau
-- and how awkward that is! I became less the "crazed
psychopath," less paranoid. I became too open. I began
And now that Beast has been killed, I truly begin to doubt.
I see no killer in LeBeau -- not one who would destroy a
teammate. Not one who would take life without reason. I do
not believe Storm, or Cyclops, or Rogue, or Psylocke, or anyone
else would hurt Hank -- they would die for him. But there
has been no intrusion here -- I have looked, I have searched
for hours upon hours, I have watched and waited, and the clue
I have been looking for has not been found. All logic points
to the residents of this mansion. I doubt my team; but more,
I doubt my cause.
Should my former paranoia be restored? Should my shields
be rebuilt, my heart re-hardened? It should be something unquestionable
-- I should be the leader of this investigation, I should
be the one bullying the truth from the others. But I am not.
I am too doubtful, too unsure. My father would frown on me,
the Witness would laugh at me. So what am I going to do?
What am I going to do?
Hank's funeral was given in the yard of the mansion, a Salem
Center priest presiding. It was nice: the sermon was well
worded, the flowers, hundreds of them, beautiful. But no funeral
can ever be described beyond "nice." One does not
look back on the burial of a friend and say, "Oh yes,
we had quite a good time, and the refreshments were delicious!"
or "It was dreadful -- the woman behind me wailed all
through it." Rather, one will not want to remember the
occasion at all: the black veils, the dried tears, the unseen
The sky was choked with stormclouds, and umbrellas were held
at the ready. Garlands of white lilies were hung from the
trees above Beast's grave, intertwined with ribbons of white
satin, broken by dark shades of green. The coffin, which was
set on an ornate carved-oak catafalque, had been covered with
a cloth like a soldier's flag -- not the Stars and Stripes,
but a black cloth adorned with a gold X. Looking at it was
like looking at the death of the Dream -- or looking at the
triumph of it beyond that Last Darkness. It depended entirely
on who looked at it.
Rogue could not see the triumph, only the death.
The absence of meaning to Beast's demise bothered her. She
had experienced the death of comrades on the battlefield.
She knew what it was like to take a life. In a way, the consciousnesses
which she had absorbed over the years were ghosts, and her
mind was a living graveyard.
But this? There wasn't any reason to it at all. There had
been no fight. There had been no obvious motive. The why and
wherefore remained unresolved, and the lack of clues seemed
to whisper that there were no answers. Hank McCoy was gone.
One who had tried -- failed, but truly tried -- to help Rogue
gain control over her powers, one who had always given her
a friendly word of encouragement, one who had stood at her
back and watched out for her was taken away in a snap, without
She'd been swimming when he'd been murdered, working off
some steam over some prank Bobby had pulled. If she had been
in the labs, she might have prevented it. If she could have
curbed her temper and gone to drop in on Hank, bring him some
coffee or something, maybe she could have seen the murderer
and stopped it. She felt as much the traitor as the killer,
and though she knew that such thinking was stupid -- that
she shouldn't feel the guilt, she wasn't the one who did the
damage -- she couldn't help it. It was how she felt, clear
to her soul.
But who had really done it?
She suspected anyone, she suspected everyone, but most and
least of all, she suspected Remy. Not because of Bishop's
claims, not because he was the blackest sheep of the flock,
but because she felt that, somehow, he was connected. It was
that seventh sense again, appearing when she least wanted
it, telling her things she didn't want to hear, confusing
her all the more. He'd done it. It told her that. But
she knew he hadn't, because she knew him, and he wouldn't
do that. It wasn't in his nature. That's not who Gambit was.
Remy stood beside her through the service, dressed in black.
He'd cut his hair short. That had surprised her: an ancient
mark of mourning which didn't seem to fit him. He wore is
glasses, though he didn't need them, and a black suit she
would have thought looked awfully handsome on him, if she'd
been in the mood to think that anything was handsome. He had
said nothing to her or anyone else before the funeral, made
no noise or movement during it, and walked away at the end,
expression and stance saying nothing. He knew most everyone
suspected him, if only in the deepest corners of their minds.
Bishop's long-past mudslinging had stuck, and would never
wash off. That alone made her begin to cry again.
Soon after Remy had disappeared, so had Bishop. The others
broke up and walked to the house, alone or in pairs. Rogue
decided she had best go and find Gambit, and hurried in the
direction that he had taken, but didn't see him. She gave
up after a while, resolved that she would have a heart-to-heart
with him later, and wandered back to the dining hall, where
everyone was supposed to go as a reception. Guests had been
invited: the elite of the medical community who had been Hank's
friends and fans; a handful of Avengers who had been teammates
with the Beast; others from the community who would miss his
She didn't want to go to the reception. She really
didn't want to go to the reception. But she forced herself
through the doors and made herself shake gloved hands, keeping
an eye out for Remy.
He decided that he needed a drink. Badly.
He went to the kitchen as softly as though he were breaking
into it, avoiding anyone walking in the halls. When he was
sure that there was no one nearby, he opened the door and
searched through bottles of beer and wine which had been stashed
into the refrigerator, and then thought better of it. He grabbed
a glass and filled it with water from the tap, drank it, and
then poured himself some more, leaning up against the counter
and staring out into the yard, where it was beginning to rain.
Stormy had been able to hold it in until everyone was inside,
at least. The cloudburst was entirely a manifestation of her
emotions, played out through her intricate association with
He sighed and rolled his head back when he heard the footsteps
of the two men approaching, considering making a quick exit,
but deciding to stay because, simply, he didn't want to bother
moving. Warren and Bobby threw open the door, the first thundering
in and the second shambling. Both stopped dead in their tracks
when they saw Remy, Worthington's eyes narrowing.
"We'd thought you'd gone away," he spat.
"Don't have the nerve to show up to Hank's reception,
"Been a hard day."
"You couldn't know," Warren told him, but didn't
pause before going on: "I don't trust you as far as I
can throw you, Gambit. I didn't like you from the start."
"Gee, and you've been so charmin' about it, Ange."
"I'm drop dead serious." He came so near to Remy
that their faces almost touched, Worthington red as a beet.
"If you had anything -- ANYTHING -- to do with
Hank's murder, and I find out about it, I'm going to cut you
up with a flachette into so many pieces, it would take Forge
a year to figure out which ones were those damned eyes of
yours," he said.
"Would dat be before or after I blew your head off?"
Warren punched him, with all the force his hollow bones could
muster. It wasn't much, but it was enough to bring Remy to
the floor. He hadn't felt it coming, he thought, he'd actually
let his guard down that much. But why?
He rolled out of the way before Warren could punch him again,
but the move wasn't necessary. Archangel's arms were held
behind his back by an angry Bishop.
"If I let you go," the big man said, "You'll
walk into the reception and act like a man."
"You should be standing behind me to back me,
not restrain me," Warren yelled. "You know he's
the one. It's your job to take him out."
"Let me correct myself. When I let you go, you will
"I ... "
Bishop released him, and then stepped aside as Warren spun
around, swore at him furiously, and left. As he did he grabbed
Bobby, who had watched all of it with dull, red eyes and had
"Almost look like you care," Remy said when they
had gone, swatting the hand Bishop offered him away.
"You are a teammate."
"I'm de Traitor, though, right?" He let out an
exhausted sigh which was half an unamused laugh. "I'm
Bishop's brow knitted, and then he reached down to pull Gambit
up like a stray kitten by the collar. "No," he said,
"I don't think you are. I trust you as much as anyone
else. Maybe more."
Remy pulled back indignantly, rubbing his jaw. "Why?"
"And because of that," Bishop continued, slowly,
"I suspect you just as much as anyone else."
Again, Remy said: "Why?"
"I don't know." He meant it.
They regarded each other for a moment.
"Stormy'll get mad if I don't show up at de reception,"
"No, she won't."
"That was my excuse to high-tail it outta an unusual
He straightened his tie and went. Bishop did not follow.
The guests came and went for hours on end, and by the time
they had left, everyone was too exhausted to do much but sit
and stare at half-empty wine glasses. Most of them lounged
like that for some time, lost in their own thoughts, until
the Professor came out of his own reverie and spoke.
"Perhaps now that everything has calmed down,"
he said, "I should speak on the matters at hand."
There was a consensual quiet, and several glasses were put
aside, shoulders leaned forward. Xavier's speeches were nothing
uncommon to them.
"We have had deaths before in this team. Illanya, James,
Jean to a certain extent ... " He smiled awkwardly. "We
have had our share of trials and tribulations. But I think
that none have ever amounted quite to this. There was no battle
or disease here. There was no preparation for death, or a
hint of it. It came and it went, and there was nothing we
could have done about it. There was nothing. You cannot blame
yourselves for not being there for Hank, or not being able
to find the murderer yet. The simple fact is that a hint was
not left to us. We would have found it by now." There
were a few disgruntled sighs, which he added to with his own.
"As frustrating as it may be, there is nothing to be
found; we have looked for hours each day for half a week.
We would have found it by now.
"But with the frustration comes discord, mistrust. In
some of you it is regrettably more blatant. In most it has
been even more regrettably hidden away to fester in dark corners
of hearts. I urge you not to set your feelings aside, not
to fight them, but to deal with them rationally. I believe
... " he paused, "that we may possibly have a traitor
in our midst, yes, but it doesn't seem to me that we should
shut ourselves away from our teammates. We will get no further
if we do that. We must have faith in each other ... "
"Chuck," Logan interrupted, snuffing out his cigar,
"what you're sayin' is all good and well, but we've got
another problem at hand."
The Professor looked surprised. "Which is?"
Continued in Chapter
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