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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

Ssssssssssmokin'! Part 6 already! All these characters belong to Marvel and are not used to make me a profit. So, therefore, don't use my story to make you a profit. Else I'll find you and make you watch endless reruns of   Superted'. If you want to archive, by all means do, but keep the story in its original form and don't change one word! I'd also appreciate an e-mail. Apart from that send any comments or contributions to RogueStar ( Flames will be extinguished, spam eaten - don't send me either. This part of the story is, per usual, clean enough to wash your clothes with. It is also *gulp* divergent from Marvel's version. Enjoy!
P.S. [anythingyoulike] indicates a translation from another language.

Part 6

Rogue's eyes blinked open and she looked around the sunny room. Next to her bed was a vase of flowers, roses combined with carnations and gypsophila. Lethargically, she picked them up and glanced at the card: "Get well soon. Momma."

"What th' . . . ." She whispered, "Mah momma's dead. Who coulda . . . ."

The truth dawned on her. Picking up the crystal vase, she threw it against the opposite wall angrily.

It smashed into thousands of shards, leaving a pool of water and crushed flowers below.

"By the bright lady!" Storm rushed into the room, "Rogue, it is wonderful that you are awake again. But the vase - why did you break it ?"

"She sent them." Rogue sat up, pulling the sheets off herself. "An' Ah'm gonna find her an' make sure she never does it again."

"Calm down. Who is  she'?"

"Mystique. Mah  momma'." Her lips twisted in a bitter mockery of a smile.

"Oh." Understanding dawned on Storm's face. "I'll get a brush and pan."

"Ah'll do it."

"You'll do no such thing. I am under strict orders to keep you in bed for another day, minimum."

"Hmmp. Not sure if'n Ah like that." Rogue settled back down  against her pillow, "How's Remy?"

Storm looked away. "Worse than you are, I'm afraid."

"What's wrong with him?" Her eyes were filled with fear.

"We are not sure. At least, he's sleeping comfortably now."

Rogue bit her lip, suppressing the tears that threatened to overflow.


"He's awake and demanding intellectual pursuit."

"Good." Rogue nodded, "Ah'm glad Ah was able to save one person."

"Gambit is not dead yet. He stands a high chance of making a complete recovery."

"Ah know. It's just that. . .well. . . Ah feel so guilty."

"Why?" Storm sat on the edge of her bed.

"Think it's because Ah'm . . . responsible."

"How can you blame yourself for the events of the evening?"

"Easily. Ah was meant t'protect him, an' Ah failed."

"Rogue." Storm grasped her hand, "You flew into an inferno to save them, you risked your own life for theirs. You succeeded."

"Then why don't it feel that way?" Rogue sighed. "Y'see, Ah shoulda been in there with them; shoulda been there next t'him, where Ah belonged.  Stead Ah ran, like a coward."

"You aren't talking about the factory, are you?"

 "Ah don't know what Ah'm talking about any more." She couldn't hold back her tears any longer.

"Hush." Storm hugged her, letting the younger woman release her pain. "I understand. But the best thing you can do right now is be strong."

Rogue wiped the tears from her eyes.

"Can Ah go see him?"

"I would advise against it from a medical viewpoint, but as your friend, I cannot refuse."

"Thanks." Rogue climbed out of bed, "Foh everythin'."

"10 minutes, maximum."

The younger woman nodded her agreement, and exited the room. Hoping beyond hope that Gambit was all right.

He drifted in and out of consciousness, caught between the nightmarish world of unreality and cold, hard fact. There was no time where he was, no anxious moments in which to worry and cry.

No moments to reflect on whether his actions had been right or wrong. No moments to wish he had done otherwise. Only his dreams, spiralling out of control as his mind became more tethered to the fantastic and the impossible, served as any indication of his mind's functioning. Reality blurred. He felt that he was drifting away from his body into the mindscape.. A cold, hard jerk.

Aches all over his body. Painful lungs. A battle to breathe. Intense green. He was awake. The green, the green of a beautiful pair of eyes looking into his own. The eyes of an angel.

"You're awake? You're alive?" Her voice epitomized relief, "Thank th' Lawd."

"More o' one dan de other, chere!" The syllables battled past dry lips. "Both of dem t'anks t'you."

She blushed. "Ah'm so relieved . . . Ah thought . . . Ah mean . . . ."

Eyes that said what words could not express.

"You were worried about me, henh?"

"Now Ah'm *sure* y'all are fine - you're readin' things inta mah words Ah never put there."

She smiled. An ambiguous smile. A smile that could give a man reason to live when he had none left. A smile that could make a man believe in miracles.

"Anyway, you must sleep an' Ah've gotta get back t'bed before Ororo comes after me."

He nodded. "I know from personal experience dat you don' wan' Stormy coming after you."

"Y'all get better now, hear? Ah don't want t'have risked mah life foh nothin."

"I'll try t'oblige you."

Silence as she turned to go.

"Oh . . . an' . . . chere. In case I didn' mention it b'fore - T'anks."

"Foh what?"

"For giving me back my life - in more ways dan one."

A look in her eyes, as if she was deciding whether to say what she felt or what she felt she should say. A squeeze of his hand. Friendly, no more. But enough. Enough to give the man without hope, hope. And more than enough to begin with . . . .

The woman regarded her reflection in the mirror as she combed her hair. Curling in ringlets, it formed a golden halo around her heart-shaped face. Remy had always said she looked like an angel. Mon ange [My angel], he had called her all those years ago. Before he left her for dead. Before he went away.  Before he discovered that he didn't love her. A look of  anger passed through her violet eyes as she remembered their wedding day; the beautiful vows they had made. The lies they had both spoken to satisfy custom and their parents.

'Je te prends comme ma femme; pour le meilleur et le pire, pour plus riche et plus pauvre;
[I take you as my wife; for better and worse\in sickness and in health; for richer and poorer,]
a la vie, a la mort.'
[Until death us do part]

Vows which he had broken. He had believed her dead, true enough, but he had stopped searching for her; never had searched for her. Just accepted her death, never thought it might not be true.

Were those the actions of a man who loved his wife more than himself? She laughed bitterly, she was a fool to think that Remy could ever love anyone more than himself. He never had, and never would. If he did, if he could, it would not be her. Then why did she cling on to the vague hope that he might still love her?

'Parce-que, tu es une idiote, Belle.' She thought angrily,  Tu es dans l'amour avec un salaud qui te n'aime pas.'
[Because, you are a fool, Belle. You are in love with a jerk who doesn't love you.]

She pulled her hair-brush angrily through her hair.

'Pourtant . . . je dois . . . je se dois voir un dernier fois. Je dois savoir si. . . .'
[Yet . . .I must . . . I must see him one last time. I must know if . . . .]

If what? If the old magic was still there? If he still might and could love her? The answer to both of those questions was probably not. But, despite all of that, he was still legally hers. And she would have him. By any means necessary. . . .

The raven soared soundlessly over the mansion. Her beak parted in a hoarse cry that echoed over the hills. A song of mourning. A threnode for the loss of a daughter. Not by death. But by circumstance. By the fact that her daughter had realised who she really was, what she really wanted. She landed silently on the windowsill and cocked an inquistive head, looking into the room. It was large and breezy with white-painted walls and curtains flapping like so many wings.

By one wall was a bed on which her daughter lay asleep. Her green eyes were shut and she was smiling. Obviously having a dream.  Of what?' The raven wondered.  What -- or who -- had made her daughter happy?' She wished that she could find out. She missed the intimacy of mother and daughter; of hearing secrets and dreams; of laughing and crying; of sharing in someone else's life.

There had been so many children, so many lives - all of whom had left her when they found out what she was. Kurt. Graydon. And now, Rogue. Her beautiful daughter. Her secret weapon.

The raven took one last, lingering look, then spread black wings and flew away. Her yellow eyes bright with tears.

The Mastermold he had called it. It was a combined factory and blueprint, designed for genocide.

Sentient; capable of reasoning thought; capable of self-replication in an army of drones. Drones called Sentinels which would defend the world in the dark days to come. Days foretold by his son.

His shame. A shame he wanted to prevent the rest of the world from having.

Henry Gyrich turned away from his creation. His ugly-beautiful work. Soon it would be time to show it to the whole world.

"Doctor, I'm sure I saw him move . . . ." The pretty young nurse re-entered the room, accompanied by the doctor.

"Cynthia, that's impossible. David Haller is in a coma. Has been for 5 years."

"I *know* what I saw, Doctor. He moved."

"His ECG shows the same amount of activity it always did. None."

"Doctor . . . ."

"Cynthia, please."

"If he comes out of his coma . . . ."

"He won't."

"If he does?"

"If he does, and he won't, then may heaven help us all."

"Stormy, if he has t'stay in bed one more day, dis cajun boy is gonna go crazy." Gambit complained, as he tossed cards into a basket nearby.

"The injuries you sustained were serious. It is in your interests that you recuperate fully."

She explained, a patient look on her face. She had had this conversation with him for the last week.

"Chere, I t'ink I was recuperated a month ago. Now, I'm jus' plain bored."

"Bored or not. You will stay in bed until Beast gives you a clean bill of health."

"Hmmp. Where is de boy genius?"

"In his laboratory."

"Me an' Beast were in de same situation, how come he is in his lab, an' I'm trapped in dis sacree chambre?"

"His mutant abilities aided his recovery."

"Great. Why couldn' I have been born big, blue and furry?"

"Bad luck?" Storm suggested, smiling.

"Guess I'll jus' have t'look on de bright side. De King Kong t'ing is way outta fashion wit' de girls. . . ."

"Which no doubt is why Beast has a girlfriend, and you do not?" She teased gently.

"Not for lack o' offers, chere."

"Offers which you did not accept? Is this the Remy leBeau with whom I experienced New Orleans? The Remy leBeau who could have had ten dates in one night and attended all of them?"

"People change, Stormy."

"In such a short space of time? What could have wrought this transfomation?"

"Felt it wasn't fair to de team t'let on to outsiders who an' what I really was."

"Noble. But as you said a few days ago, you are not."

"Picked dat up from you, chere." He grinned, deflecting the question neatly.

Storm looked at her wristwatch.

"By the Goddess! I must go, I have a prior engagement at five o'clock."

"As in a date?"

"Yes. If you must know."

"T'ought you looked prettier dan usual."

"I am hoping Forge will feel the same way as you do."

"De man's blind if he doesn't."

Storm smiled, and began to walk out the door.

"Goodbye, Remy. I hope you will be released tomorrow."

"So do I, chere. So do I."

The young man closed his eyes, and fell asleep, as if dreaming about tomorrow could make it today. . . .

Zodiac lifted her silver eyes skywards, watching the stars from which she had taken her name.

They were unchanging. The one constant in a transient world. Beacons of light as old as time itself.

Even time was no longer the barrier it was purported to be. Pierced by her powers, it had become a tapestry on which the lives of men and women were woven. A tapestry which she could examine with ease. Silver strands of laughter. Golden joy. Red love. Black hate. Blue peace. An infinite kaleidoscope in which the world turned, shifting and changing colors with each rotation. She grasped the railing on the side of the balcony, hoping for strength and support. What she had seen, what she knew must happen, was woven in black on the tapestry of time. And she prayed with all her soul that the few strands of gold and red she had seen would be enough to give the whole world hope.

I needed a little R&R after my near-death experience. Had plenty of time to t'ink  bout life, de universe an' everyt'ing. Especially bout de ol' saying dat goes: heroes die young. Wasn't about t'let me be one o' dose young an' dead heroes. After all, dere ain't no beautiful woman when one's dead.  Cept angels. Got me one of dose already. A flesh-an'-blood one. When I saw her come t'rough de smoke, guess I fell in love. Also guess I pick bad moments t'do it. Hoped she felt de same way. T'ought she did. But sometimes when you've been wearing a mask for too long you start to t'ink everyone else is as well. So we carried on looping circles around each other. She was afraid o' trusting me and getting hurt. Me? I t'ought I was a few cards short of a deck if I was falling in love wit' a woman I could never touch, never hold, and certainly  never kiss. As Stormy might say: de Goddess works in mysterious ways. Moi, I'd prefer to jus' say dat if love was in de cards for us, I hoped dat de hand would be dealt sooner rather dan later. Dat's how I've always lived, play de hand dat's dealt you as best you can. An' always have an ace in de hole . . . .

Rogue flung the curtains of her room open, letting the golden sunlight flood the room and warm the bare skin of her arms. It was another beautiful day in Salem Center, Westchester.

"Lawd, how Ah love a day like this." She said out loud, a sudden burst of exhilaration running through her. "It's the sorta day on which a lady should be outside in th' sun, not all cooped up inside."

Quickly getting dressed in a pair of worn shorts and T-Shirt, she checked the time on her wristwatch: 5:30 AM. Way too early to consider waking the others up. She would have to sneak out and hope they knew where she was. Climbing through the window, she flew off into the cloudless sky, feeling the perfect release that flying gave her. . . . From up high she could pretend that she had no problems; that life was simple. She climbed higher; seeing the vista diminish below her; daring her lungs to be incapable of breathing; watching her breath mist into smoke on the cold air. Adrenalin flowed through her, mingling with pure happiness. It was a feeling she always got when she flew, transcending her problems and her pain. A feeling she wished could last forever.

But, as always, she had to descend; to confront reality once more. With a slight feeling of regret, she dove back to earth and landed in the small park, the carpet of  leaves crackling beneath her feet. It was almost silent there, with only a few joggers disturbing the morning quiet . . . only a few joggers and the hoarse croak of a raven.

The raven lifted her yellow eyes. Her surveillance had finally paid off . . . now she had a chance to confront her daughter - alone - without any of Xavier's dream-keepers to interfere and take her away again. A chance to get her back. . . . A smile crossed the beak of the raven; black wings became slender arms; hooked talons, shapely hands; the body extended, inflated; the head became a face; black feathers, auburn hair; the yellow eyes still gleamed but from the face of a woman.

Raven Darkholme dusted off her long white dress and walked out from behind the tree.

"Rogue?" She called, excited and afraid. "Darling?"

The young woman spun around, a look of disbelief on her face.

"Ah don't believe it . . . after all this time . . . what in Sam Hill do *you* want, Mystique?"

She said the name as if it was a swear-word.

"I want to talk."

"Ah don't wanna listen. What you did t'me goes way beyond talkin'. . . beyond understandin'. Ah can't listen ta you without wantin' ta hurt you. Wanting to make you feel what Ah felt."

"I know that what I did was wrong. I'm sorry for it."

"You're sorry? Cold comfort." Hate filled the younger woman's green eyes, "You never lived through what Ah lived. You never had any reason to hate yourself."

"I did. I hurt you. I used you as a weapon. That was reason enough for me to hate myself, because I loved you, Rogue. I really did."

"Then why didja make me touch Carol? Why, momma?"

"I . . . felt it was for the best. That the cause I was fighting for was worth the cost. I never dreamed it would have this effect on you."

"Ah was your daughter."

"I know. You can still be my daughter . . . ." Mystique paused, "Come back with me. I know that you aren't an X-Man at heart, that you only joined because you wished to control your powers."

"Then y'all don't know me very well. Ah believe in what Ah fight foh. And foh perhaps the first time in mah life, Ah'm happy. Ah'm makin' a new life foh mahself, a better one and a brighter one.

And maybe, just maybe, Ah've found someone to do it with."

"You could be happy with me. You were."

"Until when? Until you use me again? Until you betray me? Forget it, Mystique. Ah'm never comin' back to you."

"Rogue. . . ."

"This conversation is over, Raven."

"If ever you change your mind, my offer still stands."

"As does mah answer."

"Please. . . ."

But the young woman had already flown away into the sky, leaving her mother and her old life behind her. . . .

After all she had done t'me, Ah couldn't believe that Mystique thought Ah'd go back t'her;  be her daughter again. It was as if th' past didn't matter to her; as if she thought Ah could forget an' forgive. Couldn't do either; never could. Th' only thing Ah hate worse than betrayal is lyin'.

Mystique did both t'me. But y'know what's really strange? The thing that hurts th' most is the fact that she did love me in her own, twisted way and did think that it was foh th' greater good. Makes it harder t'accept what she did. It hurt me, still does, ta think that at one time th' cause was greater than her love foh her daughter. Makes me wonder about love an' whether it ain't entirely selfish.

All take an' no give. All th' love in mah life has been like that, daddy,  Mystique, even mah birth-momma, all loved me if'n'when it was convenient foh them. Ah've never felt what it might be like to give as well as take. Never felt what Scott and Jean have. Heck, Ah may even convince mahself that Gambit truly does have feelin's foh me without an underlyin' motive.  Cept Ah'm sure that he too has reasons all his own. Just sometimes Ah wish that Ah could trust him an' tell him how Ah really feel about him. . . maybe one day Ah will.  Cause it's about time Ah took a long look in th' mirror, at what's really hidden beneath all the layers of doubt and caution, an' learn ta trust others as well as mahself. Then maybe Ah can rid mahself of mah final inheritance from Mystique - the gift of distrust . . . .

"You have called me here, Ivan? Why?"

"It is time to unveil our living weapon. With his assistance we can gather the petty independent states back into the bosom of Mother Russia where they belong."

"Boszhe moi! You are surely not suggesting that we . . . ."

"Da. There can be no other way, Vladimir."

"But . . . but he is repugnant . . . worse, untested. We are not sure of the degree of control we have over him."

"There can be no other way."

"You are a madman, Ivan."

"Perhaps, but I shall be known as the madman who restored Russia to her former glory."

"I will not allow this. He shall be released over my dead body!"

"Preference noted."

A shot.

"I am sorry, Vladmir, old friend.  But even a fool like you must know that I have no choice. For

Russia's sake and my sake I must release Omega Red."


Continued in Chapter 7.

1. In French, 'pour le meilleur et le pire' means both 'for better and worse' and 'in sickness and in health'
2. Sacr‚(e) means darn. Chambre means room.

In part 7 of Smoke and Mirrors. . . .
Omega Red - Russia - Spandex-does-not-retain-heat - All your favourite X-Men - Southern Grammar 101 - Be there! Soyez la-bas!


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