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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

Disclaimer: All Characters in this FanFic, except Zodiac, Bob Jones and Jim Smith belong to Marvel. They are not used to make me a profit and you should not use them to make you a profit.
Archive and distribute freely, but don't change a word and credit me. I would also love an e-mail. Even if you don't archive, I'd love an e-mail, telling me how good\bad\terrible it was.
The story is all-ages, family entertainment. It would pass any Comics Code Authority test (although they might chuck it out for being too decent)
Apart from that ... in the immortal words of Roger Wilco, see you on the chronostream, time-jockey !
P.S. Thanks to everyone whose sent me comments, criticism and queries so far. Especial thanks to Roy Ho_Ten_Seong who has made me see that I haven't resolved the Omega Red plotline completely yet. It is resolved in this chapter!

Part 10

"Where. Is. She?"

"I. Don't. Know."

The two men faced each other. Red eyes looked into brown. The air between them crackled with electrical tension. Neither wanted to turn away and concede defeat.

"She left me dis note. Here, read it."

Gambit handed the crumpled piece of paper to Iceman, who scanned it quickly.

Dear Remy,

I'm sorry that I can't tell you this myself, but I knew you'd insist on coming with me and I have to do this on my own. Something from my past has returned and I have to confront it now, or I'll never be able to look myself in the mirror again. Don't worry about me, I'll be fine and home real soon.

Love always,

"Oui, like I can help worryin' about de femme." He replaced the paper in his pocket.

"She says she'll be back soon. Maybe, she's just gone for the day." Iceman shrugged.

"Know first hand dat it takes longer'n'dat t'get rid o' de skeletons in y'closet. Also know, y'shouldn' have t'do it alone."

"She obviously feels she does."

"Mon Dieu. If anyt'ing happens to her..."

"Chill, LeBeau. The woman's well-nigh invulnerable. It'd take a tank to even bruise her." Iceman laughed.

"Ain't her physical state I'm worried about."

"What do you mean."

"I mean she pretends t'be tough an' all, both inside an' out; pretends never to need no-one. But when y'get beneath de mask - de smoke an' mirrors - she's vulnerable. Helluva vulnerable. I'd hate t'see her get hurt again."

"You actually do seem to care about her." Iceman had a strange expression on his face. "I misjudged you."


"I thought you were out to use her; that you didn't really care about her; that it was all just a game to you." He looked away. "I tried to warn her against you."

"De funny t'ing is, Drake, a few weeks ago y'woulda been right. It did start dat way ... she was de greatest challenge I'd ever had - a woman I was unable t'touch - couldn't resist trying my luck with her." Gambit laughed. "Den somewhere along de line it all changed. I ended up wantin' her - needin' her - as much as she did me. Even more, p'rhaps."

"I know we aren't buds or anything." Iceman laughed, "Hell, I don't even like you very much."

"De feelin's mutual, Bobby."

"But I think that you're actually good for Rogue ... well ... that you aren't particularily bad for her."

"Merci, I'm glad she's got a friend like ya t'watch out f'r her."

"Gee, I'm touched. In a macho kind of way."

Gambit laughed, "Almost had a moment dere, Drake."

"Better watch out that we don't." Iceman echoed his laughter, "I might end up liking you."

The phone rang.

"I'll get it." Iceman yelled, running in the direction of the sound. As he skidded across the floor he picked up the receiver from its hook.

"Hello, Xavier School for Gifted Children? How may I help you?"

"Bobby?" Her accent was unmistakable.

"One of the first and still the cutest X-Man. Where are you, Rogue?"


"Caldecott, Mississippi, Caldecott?"

"Ain't too many towns with that name, sugah."

"Why are you in your old hometown?"

"Nevah mind. Ah just wanted t'phone t'let y'all know Ah'm fine and Ah'll be back in a week odd.

Don't let anyone follow me. Please."

"Okay ... uh ... Rogue?"

"Bye, Bobby."



"Who was dat?" Gambit walked into the room.


"Mon Dieu. Did she tell ya where she is?"

"Kind of ... but she didn't want me to tell anybody."

"Jus' call me nobody." Gambit smiled, "Hate t'do dis t'ya, Drake, but dere somet'ings dat a man got no choice about."

He looked the younger man directly in the eyes, using a power which he barely understood and even less used to control his mind. Iceman had the horrible sensation of falling and flying; of feeling his willpower diminish; of knowing that he had no control of his actions.

"She's in Caldecott." His voice sounded hollow to his own ears.

"Merci. Ya'll be fine in a few minutes an' won't remember a t'ing."

Gambit pushed open the door to the hallway and ran towards the hangar where the mini-jet was waiting.

"Huh? What the heck just happened?" Iceman shook his head, trying to remove the cobwebs from his mind. "And where did that darn cajun go?"

Giving up on finding answers to any of the questions, Iceman settled back into the sofa and flicked the television on.

"In further news on the Kyrgyzstan front, the metallic monster known as Omega Red is still at large. Citizens are advised to report any further disturbances to their local police station, and not to confront him by themselves..."

"That will be unneccesary..." Piotr Rasputin walked into the police station, "I have your Omega Red right here."

"Thank you, Tomarvisch." The policeman wiped his forehead, "But we would have appreciated it if he was ... uh ... intact for questioning."

"Nyet. The monster has gotten the punishment he deserved, meted out by me." Colossus slammed the table at which the policman sat, splintering it.

"D ... da. Thank you, once more."

The policeman swept the metal bits into a plastic bag and, sealing it, placed it in a cupboard.

"Who's she, momma? Huh ... huh? Who's th' funny lookin lady? Huh, momma, huh?"

"Hush, darlin'. It ain't polite t'stare at people ... even if'n they are freaks."

From where she was standing, she could hear every word they said. Throughout her life she had been called many things - daughter; freak; X-Man. Now, she had taken a name indicative of her singular personality. Rogue. She continued down the street, hugging her overcoat to her. It was as much for protection against the stares of people as it was against the icy wind. None.

"Don't remember seein' her around before."

"Steer clear o' her, sugah. She looks kinda *weird*, if'n y'know what Ah mean."

"Don't y'all worry about that, darlin'."

"Lawd. Ah hope she don't stick around."

"She won't. We'll make sure o' that."

"Thank th' Almighty for th' Friends o' Humanity." His laughter cut her to the bone. She had never realised before how bigoted her townsfolk were; trapped in a pre-Civil War mindset; bent on the elimination of anything different to themselves. Although she was more than capable of disposing with a vigilante group, she was tired of having to fight simply to survive from day to day; tired of being so concerned with survival that she couldn't enjoy being alive. The hospital lay ahead of her. Its simple white walls, decorated with a red cross, were a reminder of why she was here. Of her own guilt which she was here to expiate.

"No time like the present." She thought resolutely and pushed open the plate-glass doors. The small waiting was warm, compared to the outside air. Its bench-lined walls and vinyl floors could have belonged to any hospital in the world, as could the scent of antiseptic that cloyed the air.

"May Ah help y'all, miss?" The tone of the secretary's voice made a simple question seem like interrogation.

"Ah'm here t'see ... t'see Cody Robbins."

"Let me see where he is." She tapped away at a keyboard in front of her. "Room 17. Go straight in."

She walked down the hallway, her footsteps seeming impossibly loud in the quiet of the hospital, tapping a staccato beat in time with her heart.

"When will they be ready?"

"Soon, Senator. I'm working as fast as I can." Bolivar Trask's voice was tinged with annoyance.

"If I had more funding . . . ."

"The government can't afford to donate any more without it becoming public knowledge." Robert Kelly replied. "It would be detrimental to our next campaign to be associated directly with you."

"Perhaps it's time we revealed our plans to the public then."

"Perhaps. Here are the plans for Project: D-Day, as we have codenamed it."

"How apt." Trask took the folder from the Senator. "Do you not feel some remorse for what we are doing? That it may actually be wrong?"

"None whatsoever. Mutants took my wife from me. I promised on that day that it would never again happen to another man or woman. That I would rid the world of mutantkind forever."

"My sympathies. I lost my daughter to mutants as well."

"Was that what drove you to create these ... Sentinels?"

"That and more. Much, much more."

Kelly nodded, unwilling to ask further. "Excellent, Trask. I will leave the folder with you to peruse at your leisure."

"Thank you. Goodbye, Senator."

"Goodbye, Bolivar. Hopefully, when next we meet, it will be time to begin the end..."

"Mr Robbins? There's someone here to see you." The false cheeriness of the nurse's voice cut through the stillness of the room.

"Thank you, Nurse Humphries. Send him in." Cody lay back in bed, preparing for another long visit with Doctor Lee. He liked the Asian man, but was getting tired of seeing him and only him day after day. To his surprise, the door slowly opened, revealing a beautiful woman. She looked nervous, like a deer caught in the headlights with no way of escaping.

"Cody. This is Sabrina." The nurse's voice was gentle, "I'll leave you two kids alone now."

She shut the door behind her as she left the room. Cody felt the words he had planned to say stick in his throat, as he looked at her. She was an angel; the most lovely woman he had ever seen.

"Lawd ... y'all got even more beautiful as you got older."

"Still th' same old Cody, evah a sweet word for a lady." Her accent was slightly different, less Southern than he remembered.

"Please sit. You're makin' me even more nervous than Ah am already." He gestured to a seat next to his bed. She sat on the edge, as if she was prepared to run at any moment.

"We've got a lot of catchin' up t'do." He said. "It's been eight years, or so Ah've been told."

"It has been." Sabrina sighed. "Eight long years."

"It seems like just yesterday that we were on the banks of the Mississippi at th' end of our first date, young an' in love. Amazin' how time flies when you're in a coma." He laughed.

She smiled slightly. "Nevah had th' experience."

"It's scary. Ah guess it's like bein' adrift in a boat in a river without any oars. You can see th' shore but you just can't reach it. Like ... you're asleep an' awake all at th' same time." Cody shivered.

"Kinda like bein' blind. Like knowin' that there's something there - but you just can't see it."

"Exactly. You always did understand me." He paused, smiling, "I said you were the smartest woman I ever knew."

"An' Ah said that y'all couldn't o' known many women, if that was what you thought of me."

"An' Ah replied that Ah didn't want to know any other woman if I had you."

Her eyes were sad, as if she was remembering something which she'd rather have forgotten.

"You always were a smooth talker."

"You always were attracted to smooth talkers."

"Guess Ah was." She laughed, "Guess Ah still am."

He grinned, suddenly hopeful.

"The king o' th' silver tongue at your service, miss Sabrina."

"What did you call me?"

"Miss Sabrina?"

"Ain't been called that foh a long time." She sighed. "Not since Ah left Caldecott."

"That's the one thing Ah don't understand ... why'd you leave?"

"Ah couldn't stay. Not after th' townfolks blamed me foh what happened to you."

"You had nothing to do with it. It was a freak accident, that's all."

"They said it was an accident caused by a freak."

"A freak? You? That's impossible."

Her face was filled with sadness. "Ah've since learnt that nothin's impossible, darlin'."

"Sabrina. Tell me what happened on that night. What really happened."

She stood up and walked to the window, looking out at the horizon. The town of Caldecott had settled into its midday siesta, and barely anyone was on the streets. A gentle wind blew through the trees, scattering the golden leaves, like confetti on a wedding day.

"Ah'm a mutant, Cody."

"Wha--?" He sat upright, disbelieving his ears.

"That night, when we kissed, Ah didn't know ... about mah gift."


" More o' a curse. When Ah touch someone, Ah take everythin' from them - their lives, their memories, their dreams and hopes. Everythin'. Leavin' them a hollow shell of what they used t'be."

"Mah Lawd. That's what happened to me."

Sabrina nodded. "If'n Ah'd known..."

"That don't matter."

"It don't?" Her voice was surprised and hopeful.

"What matters is that Ah loved you. Ah still do..."

She turned around to face him, "Even after...?"

"Yeah ... But you're a mutie, Sabrina, an' Ah'm human. That ain't right."

"What do you mean?"

"How can Ah be in love with someone who ain't even mah own species?"

"But ... but..."

"Ain't no buts about it. It's over. Forever."

"Y'all are breakin' up with me simply because Ah'm a mutant?"

"Nope. Because Ah can't spend mah life knowin' that th' woman Ah love is less than human."

"Foh eight long years Ah loved you and mourned foh you. Ah wouldn't allow mahself t'move on because o' you - because o' what you meant t'me. An' now, Ah realise that Ah was in love with a bigot th' whole time." She shook her head disbelievingly. "A bigot."

"How would you feel if th' woman you love turns out t'be a mutie?" Cody replied, angrily.

"Same as if th' man you love turns out t'be everythin' you most hate."

"Lawd, Sabrina. Since Ah could walk, Ah was told that muties were evil; impure freaks tryin' t'corrupt th' human species. Ah can't change th' way Ah feel overnight. Not even foh you."

"Ah was brought up th' same way. Brought up t'hate mahself, mah species." She laughed bitterly, "Ah changed. Why can't you?"

"You were always much stronger than me, Sabrina. If'n Ah love a mutie, Ah'll be an outcast. No-one'll talk to me, treat me decent - Ah'll just be ‘that mutie-lover' to them."

"But you'll have me ... we can move away, somewhere better, somewhere where they don't hate mutants." Desperation saturated her voice .

"No. Caldecott is mah home. Ah can't leave it. Lawd, Sabrina, Ah love this town. Ah was born here, mah parents are buried here, Ah'm gonna be buried here with them one day."

"So. Ah guess there's nothing more t'say."

"No. Ah'm sorry, Sabrina. Sorry that it couldn't have been different."

"No, you ain't." She pushed the door open, letting it close behind her before she broke down in tears.

Ah think on that day, at that moment, Sabrina died forever. Th' part of me that had always carried a flame for Cody Robbins died, taking with it the little girl from Caldecott who believed in magic.

From then on, Ah knew that Ah couldn't never go back to mah previous life; that Ah had t'look ta th' future an' everythin' it held. Ah never called mahself Sabrina again. Ah was Rogue, an' everythin' that she brought with her - good an' bad. It was kinda sad in a way, because Ah often used t'pretend that Ah could close mah eyes, be back in Mississippi, an' nothin' would o' changed.

Naive, Ah guess, but comfortin'. In another way, it was perhaps th' best thing that evah happened to me...

"Dis where she came from." Gambit wrinkled his nose in distaste, "So much for de psychologist's theories 'bout bein' de product of y'surroundings."

Caldecott was not a beautiful town. It was little more than a series of wooden houses propped up against each other and packaged in picket fencing. A small general store seemed to be the center of the town, in front of which was a park where children were playing tag.

"Boom. Boom. Ah got you, you mutie scum." One shrieked.

"Unfair. Why do Ah always have t'be th' freak? It's mah turn t'be the FOH."

"No way. You were the FOH yesterday."

"Ah'm not playing nomore." The little girl walked off.

"Spoilsport." Her friend called after her.

Gambit sighed. He'd never had much of childhood; his games being those of survival and thievery. It was almost pleasant to watch children playing, and thinking of what his life might have been like had he a mother and a father.

"Ah'm warnin' you, mutie. Get away from our kids." A woman's angry voice yelled, "Don't need freaks like you messing with them."

He turned, thinking she was speaking to him.

"Pardon ... Mon Dieu."

The woman's hostility was directed at a child, little more than 10 or 12, who had come to play with the other two girls. She was uniquely beautiful with long blue hair and dark spots on her pale skin.

"Ah'm sorry, Miss Taylor. Ah never thought that..."

"Time you did, mutie. We don't like your kind playin' with our children."

"Ah'm sorry..."

"Dis be disgusting." Gambit strode over to where the woman was standing. She was plump and middle-aged with curled hair.

"Pardonnez-moi, Madame ... couldn't help noticin' what was goin' on. Would it hurt for de fille jus' t'play wit' your kids?"

She spun around, her eyes furious. "Who are you, some kind of mutie-lover?"

"Non, Madame. Jus' a concerned citizen."

"You're a mutie. Look at your eyes." She was horrified and disgusted all at once.

"Most women tell me dey're attractive." He smiled, attempting to use his charm on her. She flicked her head away, before he could reel her in.

"Ah'm gonna call mah husband. He's a member of th' FOH - he'll sort you out. Freak." She spat the last word out as she walked off into the distance.

"Such friendly people in dis town." Gambit commented, "So much for Southern Hospitality."

The crack of a shot rang out over the quiet city. The children scattered to the nearest building where they stood peeping through the thick glass panes.

"I hear we've got a mutie here, Jeb."

"Correction. Had a mutie here."

The two men approached the young thief, leering.

"So, mutie. Do we give you a sporting chance, or do we just shoot you like the dog you are?"

"Gambit always enjoys a game. Here, let me deal."

Reflexes took over, controlling the flick of the cards. The guns exploded in a mass of shrapnel.

"Mutie dog. You'll pay for that."

"Mon ami, didn' your poppa ever teach you it's a bad idea t'threaten a man whose in a better position than you?"

"No, guess your daddy forget to teach you to watch your back." Triumph was on the man's face.

"That's why Ah'm here." A woman's voice from behind him made Gambit smile.

"What would I do wit'out you, chere?"

Rogue voice was angry, "Be dead foh a start."

She threw a man down on the floor. "This fine, upstandin' citizen had a gun trained on your back."

"Den it's twice I owe ya."

"Y'also owe me an explanation. Why in Sam Hill are y'here, Remy, after Ah asked you not ta come?"

"Later, chere." Gambit spun round, releasing a card, "Looks like more friends were invited to dis party."

"Excuses. Excuses." She uppercutted a tall man, sending him into the top branches of a tree.

"Get 'er."

"Get him."

"Get both of them!"

"Chere, looks like dese people don't know how t'spell quit." Gambit grinned, "Jus' what I like - a bigot wit' spirit."

"Then it's time t'give them an English lesson."

He couldn't help but admire the fluidity and grace of her movements as she dispatched the FOH.

She was a force of nature, a hurricane, powerful and merciless, destroying everything standing in her path.

"Ah'd watch mahself 'stead of the lady." Rogue cautioned him as she swooped down on another hapless Friend. With a smile, Gambit threw a card, knocking down the man who had her in the sights of his weapon.

"Good t'ing I *was* watchin' you, petite."

Weaponless, outmatched and battered, the Friends of Humanity looked around nervously.



"Next time you won't be so lucky, freaks."

They melted into the shadows as quickly as they had come, leaving the two young mutants alone in a scene of destruction. The grass of the park was scorched and the flowers blackened. Of the tree, only a few splintered pieces of wood remained. The few townsfolk came out of hiding and stared accusingly - and nervously - at them.

"Ah think we should be goin', Gambit."

"Not gonna disagree wit' you dere, chere."

"Hold on tight." She scooped him up in her arms and lifted off the ground.

"A romantic midday flight, Rogue? Y'shouldn' have."

"Let's see how romantic it gets when we're dodgin' bullets." She grimaced. "Th' Friends are back, an' they got more guns."

Beneath them, a crowd was gathered. The light glinted off the iron muzzles of shotguns and the click of bullets being loaded into chambers was clearly audible.

"Relax an' leave everyt'ing up t'me." Gambit grinned, extracting a pack of cards from his pocket, "One diversion comin' up."

The sky rained cards which exploded where they landed. The crowd quickly dispersed.

"Remy! That was reckless ... innocent bystanders coulda been injured."

"Better den dat de woman I love is? I t'ink not."

Rogue's mouth twisted, trying to look disapproving in spite of herself. "Still ... it was wrong."

"Is dat de Cyclops look? De one dat says I'm both irresponsible and reckless, an' dat I'll get both of us killed one day?"

She landed in a meadow nearby.

"Have Ah got it down that well?"

"Petite, if you an' Cyclops were in a room, couldn't tell de difference at dis moment."

"Y'all are way too cocky foh your own good." She sniffed.

"But y'love me for it."

Rogue laughed. "Yes. Still, don't mean that Ah approve of everythin' you do." She paused, her expression becoming serious, "Like followin' me here ... why'd'ya do it? Ah'm assumin' it weren't to sample th' local cuisine?"

Gambit grinned, "I was worried about you, Rogue."

Her eyes looked confused, "Ah asked you not ta - if you loved me, you would have listened ta me. Known that Ah had to do this by mahself."

"Strange. My love f'r you is de very same reason I'm here." He stopped, "Chere ... what did you come t'do here?"

Tears spilled down her cheeks as the emotions of the day overwhelmed her, hitting her with sledgehammer force.

"Ah'll tell you later. But foh now, Remy, hold me ... just hold me..."


Continued in Chapter 11.

1. Pourquoi means why. Every time I use the word I think of the Animaniacs episode where Mindy was in France!
2. I hated the XTAS Episode where Cody 'came back to life'. This is my take on the situation, and not at all related to anything Marvel has approved. (I thought Cody sounded like Goofy that episode ... Hyuk, hyuk, Possum!)

* Is a 'beautiful' future in store for Gambit?
* D-Day approaches!
* How is Sinister connected to everything?
* How much wood could a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?
To the answers to these questions and more, join me for Smoke and Mirrors 11!


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