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"Smoke and Mirrors"

Smoke and Mirrors

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

Does anybody actually read the disclaimers?
This is my own original work, and all the characters you recognise belong to Marvel - those you don't might. Zodiac is mine. I am not making any cash off this, so don't even think about doing so!
The title belongs to Marvel as well. But if'n'when you archive for any bizarre reason, please don't change anything or attempt to pass it off as your own work. I read a lot of FanFic and may just come across it. Comments to RogueStar at Don't flame me, they'll be treated with the respect they deserve (i.e. none whatsoever) Apart from that there's no profanity or anything of a less-than-decent nature. It's all clean - read it to your brother or sister.

Part 4

Ororo Munroe gazed over the green estate, although she could control the weather, she sometimes simply enjoyed letting it surprise her. Like today. The weathermen had predicted rain, as sure a sign as any of a sunny day. Her expectations had not been disappointed. The sun shone on the earth with a brilliant gold warmth, dappling the ground with shadows where it fell on the trees.

She took a deep breath of the fresh air, enjoying the sensation of the sun on her bronzed skin.

"It is times like this when I am glad to be alive, despite all the troubles of this world."

Sitting down upon the steps, she basked in the glow, absorbing the warmth before the chill of fall returned as it inevitably would.

"Ah've been lookin' for ya,  Ro." Quiet footsteps behind her betrayed the other's presence.

"Rogue? Come sit, child."

"Beautiful weather, isn't it?" The Mississippian sat next to her.

"Lovely. I was just appreciating how lucky we are."

"Yeah, lucky." Rogue echoed the words as if she didn't mean them.

"Now, why did you seek me out?"

"Just guess Ah wanted t'talk."

"About what?"


Storm looked at the younger woman sitting beside her. Her green eyes had a secretive smile in them that Ororo hadn't seen for years; a smile that spoke of equal parts pleasure and pain.

"You could be more specific."

"Not really - Ah just felt like some female company."

"Oh," Storm smiled. "I would be more than happy to provide that company."

"Men are all right to be with but sometimes a body wants to talk to someone of her own gender."

Rogue explained, fiddling with her nails. Like her they were pragmatic; useful but not decorative.

"I fully understand the feeling. I find that I too am more comfortable around men than women."

"Ah hoped you'd understand." Rogue sighed, "Ah don't seem t'get on with any of the gals."

"Jean ?"

"Thinks Ah'm out to sabotage the mansion - thanks to her boyfriend."

"Psylocke ?"

"Please. . . ." Rogue sounded disgusted at the implication.

Storm laughed, "Me ?"

"You're about th' only one."

The wind-rider sobered up as she heard the bitter loneliness in Rogue's voice. A loneliness that she too had experienced at one time . . . .

"Still, you and Bobby seem to be friends."

"We are. It's just that . . . ."

"You want to be more to him ?" Storm asked gently.

"No." Rogue's denial was unequivocal. "Ah don't feel that way about him. We're friends and Ah'm happy with that remainin' as it is."

"Good. You do realise that your power does make it difficult to have any manner of intimate relationship - it is perhaps best that you feel how you do."

"Ah know." She clenched her fist, "Ah sometimes think it might have been better not t'have been born at all, than to be what Ah am."

"Don't say that !" Storm clasped Rogue's arm. "It is true that you do have a . . . difficult power to deal with - but, despite that, you are a vital part of this team, and I think that many of our lives would be less bright had you not been born."

"Ah'm a leech, Storm, Ah suck everythin' out of the person - killin' them. Ah thought that Ah could give somethin' back to this world by joinin' the X-Men. Now, Ah'm not so sure."

Rogue stood up, shaking her hand off roughly.

"What is really behind this outburst, Rogue ?" Storm asked, her blue eyes filled with compassion.

"Nothin' - just leave me alone."

Before Storm could follow her, or even think to pursue, she had flown away into the white clouds which slowly were beginning to gather. It looked like the weatherman had been right after all.

"What do you think you're doing here, Mutie ?" The man leered at the slight figure of the woman who was standing cornered in the alleyway.

"Going home, sir." Her voice trembled with fear.

"Don't you know this zone is patrolled by the Friends of Humanity ? No mutants allowed."

"If you'll l. . .let me get past, I'll never come here again."

"Really ? But your brother will, and your friend, and your cousin. They'll think they can get away with anything, and the FOH will be soft on them. No, mutie, we'll have to make an example of you."

"But . . . sir . . . my children . . . my husband."

He grinned viciously, "Don't you mean your orphans, your widower ?"

"Sir ? SIR ?" Her voice rose to a shriek.

He came nearer, cradling the bottle in his hand. A smile passed over the face of the woman.

"Ohmigod." were the last words ever to pass the lips of the man, as he saw his worst nightmare come to life.

"Did it work?"

"Yes." She lit the candle in the head-quarters. It flickered; its eerie light casting macaber shadows on the wall. "One less human to worry about."

A laugh then. "Next one's mine."

Rogue wiped the tears from her eyes as she landed on the grass in the graveyard.

A simple stone marked the final resting place of her mother. She wished she'd brought flowers, they would have been appropriate. Her mother was the epitome of the ideal Southern Belle - beautiful; quiet; a wife and mother; marrying beneath her for love; hiding her intelligence and sharp, keen wit. She had only deviated from the paradigm in one way, she had suffered the abuse of her husband for too long and had finally run away. Rogue remembered receiving a letter from her once; the only letter she ever received. It was short and written in a neat cursive.

My dearest daughter,

I am sorry for what I had to do - I wish I could have taken you with but the circumstances prevented me. If ever you feel you have to leave your father, as did I - you must come to this address. Remember that I always will love you.

Your loving mother,


Rogue had replied to that address, one year later when she had forgiven her mother and understood why she had done what she did. Her reply was from an old couple with whom her mother had been staying. Her mother had died in a car accident a month ago. She'd gotten on the train and gone all the way across the country to Rhode Island, where her mother had been buried. When she had returned, her father had been furious, beating her more severely than usual. Rogue had born it with fortitude, she did not regret doing what she had done; had she the option, she would have done it again. Now in her time of need she had returned. She pushed the bad memories out of her mind, as she regarded the unmarked stone.

"Momma - Ah know Ah haven't visited you as much as Ah would have liked." Her voice sounded hollow to herself. "But today, Ah need a momma's advice."


"Ah thought that Ah was immune to it; that everyone else was at risk except me. Then Ah felt it, a feeling as alien to me as any possible - an' yet so natural."


"Momma, did you love daddy? Did he love you? Did you ever feel what it was like to have a connection to a complete stranger?"


"Ah hope not -  cause Ah don't want love to be like what you and daddy had; the fights, the angry words, the hate in your eyes, the betrayal."


"At least you could touch daddy; at least you had a chance. Why couldn't Ah have had your chance? Ah would have made it work."


"Ah . . .we have no chance of anythin'. That much is obvious to me. Least Ah wish it was,  cause Ah tired o' hopin' t'hope that one day Ah may actually control mah  gift' - that one day Ah can feel what it's like to be loved as well as love."

Silence, broken by tears, as a young woman clung to gravestone of her mother as she wept.

Her silver eyes glowed as she felt into the time-stream. She rose out of her body like smoke and drifted into the astral plane, her etheric double bright. Words formed on frozen lips as she saw past the present, into the future. "A time of darkness is at hand. Light shall be extinguished and only the sparks of hope can relight the flame. Unfortunately, few shall hope, or have cause to hope. For the darkness draws near. A man shall rise to fall, and in that falling, raise another. Men of metal patrolling the streets. A great man, great in his apparent weakness, shall lead. And a thief shall be stolen from. Hate-love. War-peace"

A sudden jolt as she pulled herself back into reality, escaping from above and higher. She was young and weak - but soon, she would be more, and then she could make a difference.

Morosely, Gambit flicked his cards down on the table.

"A pair an' a pair royal. Beat dat."  'Like dat's hard', he thought.  'De pair is only twos and de pair royal t'rees.'

"Indubitably, I must claim the victory." Beast smiled, "For I am possessed of three lovely ladies, and two distinguished gentlemen."

"I beg to differ, Henry." Storm said triumphantly, putting her cards on the table. "A royal flush in diamonds."

"The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune' are against me !" Henry McCoy grimaced, "The queen I do not get, she needs!"

"Count yourself lucky." Iceman said, dropping his cards down, "I have two fours. Period."

"Looks like de pot's yours, Stormy." Gambit groaned, "Again."

"Thank you, although I am not sure why you insist on calling me that name." She took the pile of chips.

"Another hand ?" Iceman grinned hopefully. "Perhaps I can win my money back."

"Sure. If you really feel that you need to lose more money, Bobby." She returned his smile.

"Deal, Beast." He handed the neat deck to him.

"One, two, three, four, five. Gentlemen, and lady, take your cards."

Gambit looked around the table, examining their expressions for some clue as to their hands.

Iceman's face was spilt by a huge grin, obviously a good hand, probably two pairs. Storm's eyebrows were arched in concentration; okay hand if she needed to think. Beast was bluffing; no hand could be so bad as to cause the look of dejection on his face.

The cajun then looked at his own cards, and had to try hard not to smile.

"Ante up."

The trick was not to bet too much and give away the quality of your hand. He pushed a $ 5,00 chip into the middle. Storm and Beast did likewise. Drake added a $ 20,00 chip to the pile.

"Switch cards if you wish."

Beast switched two, Storm and Iceman, one. Gambit held onto his hand.

The betting went on, he raised his bet to $10,00.

"Show your hands."

Beast put his down first: a five, two jacks and two queens - a good hand, but he could beat it.

Storm was holding three nines and two sevens. Mediocre, he could better her.

With a flourish, Iceman deposited his hand on the table. Two aces and three sixes. Fair.

"Looks like I win dis round, mon amis."

Gambit spread his cards out. 10 of Hearts, Jack of Hearts, Queen of Hearts, King of Hearts, Ace of Hearts.

"A royal flush ?" Beast asked.

"Two rounds in a row ?" Storm's eyebrows raised in surprise, "Was that deck shuffled?"

"Perhaps it's a sign, chere? You be rich and I be married."

"Unlikely. I do not believe in the ability to tell the future using cards." Her smile contradicted the tone of her words.

"Perhaps you are right. I t'ink dat ol' lady Destiny got our flushes muddled up." He picked up the pile of chips, "It looks like Gambit be the rich one."

"Another round ?" Iceman asked hopefully.

"Non, dere's an old sayin' dat goes - quit while you're ahead." Gambit stood up and pushed his chair in.


"Oui, but a *RICH* coward."

The game ended in laughter and mock accusations being flung around the room.

And, for one of them at least, a feeling that he finally had found a place he belonged.

Milbury was the name whispered among mutants as they went about their daily lives. Milbury was reputed to be a wealthy philanthropist who provided work for those no-one else would employ.

The work was hard, but it was the only work many could find. Construction of a bulding with the capability to store genetic samples, and equipped for genetic engineering. Design and development of a computer powerful enough to store millions of files in a database of immense size. A research team. Geneticists. Construction workers. Programmers. Architects. Janitors. All from different social strata, different backgrounds, bound together by the common attribute of possessing the X-factor gene, and in turn being possessed by Milbury.

"Ah'm back. . . ." Rogue called as she stepped into the entrance hall of the mansion, "Not that any noticed Ah wasn't here, mind you."

"I did." Wolverine said from behind her.

"L. . . Logan?"

"Yeah, darlin'." He smirked. "I have no idea where you went or what you did - but it had better not have been to the detriment of the team,  cause I'll find you out."

"It was personal." Rogue turned on her heel and started upstairs. "Now if y'all don't mind, Ah'm going to have a bath."

"Was hurting Carol . . . personal?" Wolverine asked softly.

"Wh . . . what?" She spun around to face him, her green eyes wild.

"I asked if hurting Carol was personal too."

"No . . . it wasn't. If'n Ah could go back, Ah wouldn't do it again."

"That doesn't help her now."

"Don't y'all think Ah've tortured mahself enough over what Ah did t'her? That Ah hated mahself from that day onwards?" Anger made her accent sharp. "Why are you bringin' it up again; openin' all mah wounds?"

"Because Carol was a friend of mine, and I don't like to see my friends get hurt."

"Ah'm sorry, Logan." Her voice softened, "Ah had no idea."

"Perhaps, next time before you *kill* someone, lady, you should think." Bitterness.

"She's not dead."

"She might as well be!"

"And what about you, Wolverine? What about all th' people you killed? Didn't y'all think that they might be someone's friends or children?"

"I had no flamin' choice." He shouted.

"What makes you think Ah did?" Quiet resignation to a fact that was undeniable.

Wolverine bowed his head, and there was an uncomfortable moment before he spoke.

"I'm sorry, Rogue. I shouldn't take it out on you. I just feel I should have been there for her; protected her somehow."

"Ya couldn't have. No more than Ah could have done somethin' different."

"You're right, but . . . ."

"No buts, Logan."

Wolverine smiled, "Perhaps we could even be friends?"

Rogue returned his grin, "Ah'd like that a lot."

A handshake then, bridging the gap which divided them and bringing them together, in memory of a friend to one and a part of the other.

The night was dark and the sky was covered with a smoky layer of clouds through which no stars shone. A single light in the one of the windows of the mansion betrayed the fact that one of the inhabitants was awake.

"At dis hour, I'd be on de streets, lookin' for a place t'steal from." He said, "Guess I still can't sleep; thinkin' of de pinch; wantin' t'do what comes natural t'me."

It was the perfect night for it. No moon to give light and a shroud of darkness to hide in.

The young mutant fought the urge which surged through his blood; compelling him to run and to steal. He wanted the adrenalin which came after a close encounter; he wanted to feel alive.

Regretfully he turned away from the window.

"But I can't do dat anymore. I am an X-Man now, and X-Men don' steal." The words felt unfamiliar on his lips, like he was not speaking them.

"Seems like I always will be two people from now on - Remy leBeau, t'ief and Gambit, de X-Man. . . .Also seems like I prefer de latter."

"Mes amis anciens would ask me why I joined; why I'd give up a life of freedom; a life of excitement." He paused, "Guess I got my reasons.  Cause de fact is, it's only freedom while you ain't caught; an' jail ain't on de list of ways I want t'spend my life. Dere's also excitement here; a diff'rent kind, a good kind, a kind a man could get used to and needn't be ashamed of."

"I see." Storm's voice was sympathetic, "I felt much the same way when I left my life on the streets, and became exalted as a goddess. I also used to question how they could worship someone who had committed sins which went against the precepts of their religion."

"People create gods, chere. Dey make dem into what dey want, or need. Sometimes dey just believe for de sake for havin' somet'ing to believe in. Used to believe Candra was a god, until I worked out dat she didn' have our best interests at heart."

"You are presuming she had a heart."

"I know. But I wonder why she kept up de feud, it surely didn' serve her purposes?"

"It did, Remy." Storm smiled, "It kept the guilds too weak to rise up against her and overthrow her."

"All dat death, so a tyrant could keep her throne. . . ." He whispered.

"She was evil and power-hungry. She enjoyed wielding her authority over the guilds."

"Jus' t'ink of what I could have done if I'd stayed an' played de game by deir rules. My guild coulda been free from dat witch."

"But you would have been a slave to something for which you never cared."

"True -  stead of tryin' to please you, I could be what Belle wanted me to be."


"My wife. She died."

"I am sorry to hear that."

"Don' be. Our marriage was arranged."

"You didn't love her then?"

"I did. In a way. Dat's de strange part, I should feel more grief dan I do."

"Perhaps you are still numb?"

"Non. I cried for her at her funeral. To me, she's dead."

"So you are going on with your life? That is admirable."

"Dere weren't much else I could do, chere. I might have loved her more given time, but I didn'."

Silence, as Storm groped desparately for a question to ask and break the silence.

"So, is there anyone new in your life?" Trite but effective, a grin spread over Gambit's face.

"Oui. She jus' doesn't know it yet."

"I see. May I ask her name?"

"You could, but I couldn't answer you."


"'Cause, chere, I'm not sure if de femme knows it herself."

He meant Rogue. Conflicting emotions went through Storm, the urge to protect him from making a mistake, that could hurt both of them, and the knowledge that he would learn from his mistake.

As usual with her, her heart held dominion over her brain.

"I would advise against this relationship. It is futile and will prove ultimately destructive for you as well as Rogue."

"Let's let Rogue an' me make our own minds up about dis, henh?" Gambit looked stubborn and Storm knew that further coercion would be fruitless. It was getting late and she was too tired to formulate any other reason than that it seemed wrong to her.

She sighed and stood up, "I must go to sleep. See you in the morning."

"See ya, Stormy."

A thump as a pillow hit Gambit.

"Don't call me that ridiculous name!"

Henry Gyrich stroked the metal curves of his creation. Soon it would be time to implement his plan; time to make the streets safe for humanity; time to give human-kind some defense against the monsters which walked among them . . . .

Ah think Ah lay awake all night just wonderin' about mah conversation with Logan, despite mah words t'him Ah still wasn't sure if Ah was convinced of mah own lack of choice. Sure Ah could have run and left Danvers alone, could have ignored Mystique, could  have disobeyed the woman who gave me the first affection Ah'd ever known . . . could have but didn't. Perhaps Ah was meant to touch her - it was what sent me to the X-Men after Ah went crazy. But then again, Ah've never believed in fate. It always seemed t'me that ya had a choice between what was right an' wrong - predestination takes away that choice. Ah think if'n ya believe in fate, you're a coward an' refuse ta take responsibility for your actions. You blame it on a higher power, and dismiss it by sayin' 'que sera, sera'. But the funny thing is: Ah think that Ah'd like to be able to say that too. . . .

"It is our destiny to rule this world on which we were placed. We were created superior for that very reason, blessed with unimaginable powers. Yet are we governing? Have we taken our rightful position? No, we have been subjugated by the ignorant humans who are unaware of their own inferiority."


"For too long we have kowtowed to their attitude of arrogance and condescension, now it is time to show them that we will not be oppressed any more."


"We are the army of tomorrow, mobilised for war against a way of thought; a way of thought which has made us slaves. Emancipation lies before us; we need only reach, grasp it and make it ours."


"My comrades, more than that, my friends. It is time for us to grasp that emancipation so tightly that no human can ever pry it away again."


"Now is the time for our freedom. . . ."

Applause, as so many people were swept away by the vision of a lunatic, hatred radiating from his cold blue eyes.

Brilliant green searing through his conciousness. Unable to move, he looked around.

Emptiness. An abyss of darkness stretching off to every side. Silence. Not even the sound of a bird singing. Where was he? Falling. A silent scream parted his lips as he fell deeper into the chasm.

He was beyond help here. No friendly hand reaching to hold him. Just the black loneliness of his mind. Then a voice:

"You thought you had escaped me; you thought that you finally were free. Let this be a lesson to you, Remy leBeau, the gifts I give exact a price. The time will come soon to pay this price. You will pay with everything you possess. . . ."

The young thief yelled then, the name which he had come to hate. A voiceless cry of defiance against a force of which he had hoped he had become free.

"Dere comes a time where every woman must stand up for what is rightfully hers. By de law an' by de heart." The woman played with the ring on her finger, "But I can wait. Least for a little while longer. I t'ink dat perhaps I give him a few more months to savor his freedom, den I remind him of his responsibilities." She laughed. "It keep him more loyal dat way. Let him have his flings, once dey all said an' done, I still be waitin' for him. An' he be ready to come back to de only woman he ever really loved . . . his wife."


Continued in Chapter 5.

1. Before everyone argues and says that Wolverine and Carol Danvers never knew each other, I would like to remind you of the Wolverine: Shadow Society one-shot published in 1995.
Wolverine and Danvers worked together in it - I do not know if they were friends, but they certainly knew each other.
2. Mes amis anciens - not my ancient friends' but my ex-friends.

Coming up in part V . . .
A little action and less introspection, the beginnings of something new and special (How I hate that word!), State Nicknames, German exclamations (phantastich! - Chris Claremont), More obscure references, continuation of the smoke and mirrors metaphor, fun for the whole family ! C-ya there!


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