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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

Welcome to yet another exciting installment of this on-going saga! If you've read the rest, you know the drill in the disclaimer part. If you haven't, go back and read the other ten parts.
And now...
<Your disclaimer here>
Enjoy it and if you have feedback - good\bad\ugly - I want to hear from you and know what I am doing right or wrong. E-mail me. I promise to respond to every single letter (flames and spam not included) even if just to thank you.
So, soyez bienvenus et heureux!

Part 11

"Y'promised t'tell me bout what happened in Caldecott."

"Ah will. When Ah'm ready."

"Why not now?"

"The pain's still too fresh. Not sure if'n Ah could take relivin' it just yet."

"All de more reason t'tell me. Not like I'd tell anyone else, petite."

The night air was crisp and cool on the bare skin of Rogue's arms as she walked down one of the many paths in Central Park. A moon hung high in the sky, its tenebrous light turning the world to silver and shadows. She glanced at her companion. Remy too was shrouded in shadows, their darkness lending him a foreboding look. . . something almost sinister.

A man o' mystery.' Rogue thought suddenly, It's been months an' Ah know so little about him.'

She fingered her gold-filigree necklace nervously, Too little ta really trust him.'

"Why don't you tell me bout yourself, sugah?"

"Evading what happened back down South, chere?" His tone was teasing, "Or you just interested in me?"

"Both." She laughed. "You ain't told me much about yourself, Remy."

"Because dere ain't much t'tell." His laughter sounded false.

"Or is it because you're evadin' what happened ta you as well?"

"Non." His tone was icy. "Got not'ing t'hide."

Rogue was startled by his abrupt change of mood. What was Remy hiding from her - from himself?


He laughed uneasily, breaking the sudden tension.

"Sorry, chere. I don't like t'be interrogated on a first date."

"Sure." She squeezed his hand gently. "Ah ain't overly fond o' it myself."

"Guess I started it." Gambit grinned, "Just . . . if y't'ink y'need t'talk about what happened, I'm here."

"Anyone evah tell you you're pushy?"

"All de time. T'ink it's one o' my best qualities, chere."

Rogue sighed, "Ah guess now's a good a time as any. Ain't gonna get easier if'n Ah put it off."

She proceeded to tell him everything about that painful day. Her hurt; Cody's betrayal; the disgust in his eyes; the moment when she had known that he was a bigot; the way the doctor had looked at her with sympathy when she had left and whispered a hasty apology; the look of distaste on the nurse's face. Gambit listened quietly, letting her express her grief in her own time, his eyes reflecting something of Doctor Lee's sympathy.

"I see why y'didn' want t'tell me, chere. Dat must hurt pretty bad."

She laughed sadly, looking at the floor. "Ah have a confession ta make, Remy. . . .Ah ain't at all proud o' it . . . an Ah'm sorry."

"What is it, chere?"

"When Ah said Ah loved y'all, Ah was still in love with Cody."


"Not all o' me - just th' part that wouldn't - couldn't - let go o' th' past."

He paused in mid-stride, "Dat be natural. T'you he was always young an' handsome - he never disappointed you or let you down. *An'* y'felt terrible bout what ya did to him. Guess you felt dat lovin' him somehow made everyt'ing right."

"Ah'm sorry, Remy."

"Don' apologise, petite. We all make mistakes."

"What? Is th' great Remy leBeau admittin' up ta bein' less'n'perfect?" She punched him gently in the arm.

"I've made my share o' mistakes, petite. More'n'most, in fact." His eyes were preoccupied.

"D'Oh. Includin' not askin' if'n th' lady would like anything ta eat."

"Pardonnez-moi. Rogue . . . would y'like t'go somewhere for dinner?"

"Ah thought you'd nevah ask." She grinned. "An'. . . no, Ah don't want hot-dogs."

He made a face, "Hate t'tell dis to ya, chere, but dose hot-dogs stank."

"You ate yours?" She laughed, "Mah Lawd, you are in love."

"Not wit' his cookin'."

"Hmmp. Let's see if'n you can improve on it."

"Like *dat's* hard." Gambit smiled, "Back in N'Awlins, where I come from, dey actually know what food tastes like."

"Pity some o' that didn't rub off on you then." Rogue teased.

"Wait an' see." He nodded smugly. "Ya'll eat dose words."

"Might taste better than th' food."

"Ha ha ha."

She smiled, "Just kiddin', darlin'. Ah'm sure that wherevah you choose will be just perfect."

Gambit cocked an eyebrow, "Only de best for you, chere."

Rogue paused, choking back her rejoinder. It seemed inappropriate. Her words when spoken were from her heart.

"This is . . . nice, ain't it?"


"Ah mean us. Lawd, Remy, Ah never thought that Ah could simply walk in th' park with th' man Ah love an' talk. Yet, it's such an ordinary thing ta want."

He shook his head, "Ordinary, but it's not just anyone who has it."

"When Ah was a little girl, Ah always used t'dream about a happy endin'. About Prince Charmin' comin' into mah life on a white horse an' sweepin me off to his castle. Somewhere between then an' now, reality intervened." She smiled, "An' Ah learnt you had to make your own happy endin's."

"Y'know what I learnt?"


"Dat de princess always wears a crown." He touched the white stripe in her hair.

Rogue laughed, "Th' Queen o' Hearts an' th' Ace o' Spades. A strange couple if'n you think about it."

"Strange, but den again, who ever wanted t'be normal?" He leaned closer to her, a question in his eyes. Taking one of her hands in his, he turned her face up to the harvest moon. Rogue's eyes went wide, confusion melting into sadness. Still holding his hand, she turned away, looking at the stars as they shone in the sky, refusing his touch.

"On a night like this, Ah almost think that Ah could make a wish and it would come true."

"My wish already has."


He nodded, "I have you, don' I?"

"An' here Ah thought you wished for peace on earth an' goodwill ta all men."

"Maybe I should've." He mused.

"Y'all can make mah wish come true." Rogue grinned teasingly.

"How, chere?"

"By takin' me somewhere ta eat. Ah'm starved."

Gambit laughed as they walked off into the cool darkness together, oblivious to the cloaked woman who was watching them, hatred gleaming in her violet eyes.

A hospital in Israel . . . . An ordinary building in an ordinary part of town, housing an extraordinary person.

"Doctor . . . s...something's wrong." The door to his office was slammed open. Nurse Cynthia Pryor stood there, trembling from exertion and fear.

"Cynthia. What is it?"

"It's him."

"David Haller? Legion?"

She nodded mutely.

"What about him?"

"He moved."

"Cynthia. You said that a few weeks back. It was unsubstantiated, unproven." He wiped his forehead in relief, "I think you should take the rest of the day off. Go home, relax. You've been working 14 hour shifts all week."

"I know what I saw . . . I'm not crazy."

"I never said you were, only tired."

"No, Doctor. He moved. He said something."

"Said something?"



"He said . . . father."

It was night. The clock on the wall ticked out the seconds, breaking an indefinite time into tangible minutes and seconds. The curtains billowed out, white wings hovering over Gambit's bed. A rustle in a corner. The lightest of footsteps. Enough to betray another's presence to him. A lifetime of training took over. A card slipped into his hand and began to glow. The Queen of Spades.

The sickly red light cast shadows throughout the room, revealing hidden nooks and crannies. A cloaked figure.

"Step out. I c'n see you."

The figure disengaged itself from the penumbral mass, forming into a woman. She pulled the cloak back . Blonde hair curled down her shoulders. Violet eyes were lambent in a beautiful face. A face that had given her her name. Beautiful Woman. Deadly Nightshade.

Belladonna. His eyes betrayed his feelings. Shocked. Scared. Confused.

"Who are you?" His voice, however, was firm and steady. "An' what do you want?"

"I am Belle an' I want my husband back."

"Liar." The card whizzed by her ear and lay glowing softly in the corner.

"Dere's another 51 where dat came from. I'd suggest telling me de truth."

"I tell you de truth, mon mari. I *am* Belle."

"Non. I was dere when she was buried; t'rew dirt on her grave; sang de hymns and said de prayers. Belladonna is dead."

"You were lied to, Remy. De casket was empty. Dey knew you wouldn' go if y't'ought dey killed me."

"What proof do ya have of dese . . . deceptions?"

"Am I not proof enough?" She opened her arms wide, the cape flapping behind her like bat-wings.

"Dere be many shape-shifters."

"Would dey know what was engraved on your wedding ring?"

He shook his head. "What?"

"Jusqu'a quand le monde ne tourne pas. Je t'aimerai."
[Until the world does not turn. I will love you.]

" . . . Je t'aimerai." He finished with her, remembering the delicate engravings on the gold band.

"Does dat prove it?"

His face was doubting; horrified. Caught in a situation from which he thought he had escaped.

"Oui. But den, chere, why did you come back after all dese years?"

"Because I decided it was time dat we remarried, dat we united de guilds, dat we stopped dis senseless bloodshed."

"Noble, but it ain't true. Wouldn't work even if it was . . . I'm de exile, member?" He laughed bitterly, "What's y'real motive, Belle'?"

"I want you."

"Non. You never wanted *me*. You wanted de power I brought you over de guilds. You never wanted Remy leBeau; you wanted de prince of t'ieves. I could never be dat again."

"Have y'changed so much? Don' you desire power an' riches?"

"I've grown-up since den. I know dat neither of dose t'ings mean not'ing if you ain't happy."

"I could make you happy." The desperation in her voice made him feel almost guilty.

"Non, chere. You couldn'."

"An' that southern floozy can?" Hostility flooded her voice. She was angry. Furious.

His tone changed. Became cautious. Became suspicious.

"How d'you know about Rogue?"

"Dat her name?" Belle spat, "De Elixir granted me more dan eternal life . . . it gifted me wit' powers t'see wit' more dan jus' my eyes. I watched you."

"You spied on me?"

"Don' give me dat supercilious tone o' voice! At one time y'would o' done it too."

"Oui. At one time. Not anymore."

She shook her head disbelievingly.

"You've changed, Remy, an' I'm not sure if I like it."

"We all change, Belle. It's jus' a pity you haven'."

"I don' need your pity."

"Den you don' need me. Cause dat's all I feel for you right now . . . pity."

"Au contraire, I need you very much." She smiled slightly, slyly. She knew what to do.


"De Elixir, cher, is killin' me."

"Pardonnez-moi? I t'ought it was meant to give you eternal life?"

"Oui, or kill you in de process."

"Why ain't you dead den?" The apparent callousness of his words was contradicted by the curiosity and concern in his tone.

"I've been stavin' off de effects wit' my powers, fighting gainst de constant cellular disintergration dat is goin' on inside me. I don' know how much longer I can hol' it off."

"What can I do?" His eyes were worried.

'Noble fool.' Belle thought.

"Dere be a draught dat can purge de elixir from you. Completely. Candra has it."


"I need you t'steal it f'r me."


"Don' play dumb. You were de best t'ief in de whole guild. Who else would I ask?"

The conflict was visible on his handsome face. To save her would mean giving up his perfect life for a little while . . . maybe forever, while if he didn't he'd have her death on his conscience for the rest of his life.

Slowly, he nodded.

"I'll try, chere."

"Merci beaucoup."

Belle kissed him on the lips, evoking lingering memories of the woman who he did not love but could touch; and the image of the woman of whom quite the opposite was true. He pushed his wife away.

"Let's keep dis professional, henh?"

"I'll try." She brushed his arm gently before disappearing out of the window and into the night, like so much smoke before an evening breeze. Gambit sighed and closed it behind her, praying to a god, which he had long since given up on, that this would not be the end of his new-found, delicate happiness.

T'dis day, I still remember de moment she stepped out of de shadows and into de light. An angel of death in her black cloak. I'm not sure if I believed her story bout de l'elixir de longue vie killin' her. But on de off chance dat it could be true, I had t'go along wit' her. I had failed her once b'fore, an' I wouldn' . . . couldn' . . . do it again. I guess I still felt guilty bout leavin' N'Awlins; bout leavin' my recently dead wife; bout leavin' my family for a principle. For pride. I hated bowin' an' scrapin' before Candra; before someone I felt was no better or worse dan I was. I hated her for holdin' de secret o' eternal life an' keepin' it for de riche and de faithful. Givin' it t'dose dat needed it de least. Sides I knew dat de Elixir had a price, dat, if it didn' kill you, it would blind you to de truth; to who Candra really was an' what she really wanted. Is eternal life worth de price of your soul? I made my choice, an' now I must live - an' die - wit' it. When Belle brushed against me, she left me a note scribbled on de back of a card.

De Ace of Hearts. It was a time, de time when she would come. 10:30 tomorrow. De time of our weddin' on what woulda been our anniversary day. Too ironic. Dat on dat day I would be called t'give de ultimate gift - dat of life - to de woman dat I'd given up for dead. . . .

"Tanya." Bolivar Trask touched the faded photograph with a calloused fingertip. "My daughter..."

He flung it away from him into a dark corner. The glass shattered, glinting in the pale lamplight.

"Her smile was so trusting, so innocent. She always believed I could do anything. Always said that I was her hero."

Long-forgotten tears dripped down his cheeks.

"And I failed her . . . ."

He rubbed his eyes angrily with a white handkerchief.

"No more. I will not fail your memory, Tanya. I will make sure that what happened to you and your brother will never happen again. Ever. By any means necessary."

The morning air was cold and her breath misted into smoke. Rogue shivered slightly in her thin wrap. She was standing on the porch overlooking the lawns of the mansion which had been turned into a carpet of gold by fallen leaves. The soft footsteps of another. Warily she watched as a shadow fell across the grass, shrinking as it approached.

"Darlin'? What're you doin' up so early?" Wolverine's gruff greeting made her smile out of relief and pleasure.

"Came ta see th' sunrise, Logan."

"Yeah. It's beautiful, ain't it? Somethin' so calm about it. So natural."

"Logan, I never knew that you were capable of such poetic flights. Methinks you would put Keats to shame." Beast came jogging across the lawn, his blue fur contrasting strongly with the brown and gold surroundings.

"Thanks, Hank." Wolverine snorted, "I think."

"My pleasure." Henry McCoy came to a standstill on the steps. "You're looking peachy today, my dear Mississippi Mudcake, for someone who was home in the wee sma's."

Wolverine smirked, "Have a good time, Rogue?"

"Shut up."

"Tut tut tut. Now is that anyway to address Wolverine? As your leader it is my duty to inform you that the polite syntax is: *PLEASE* shut up."

"How about . . . shut up b'fore Ah wipe that smirk off o' your face?"

"Crude but effective. It gets my approval." Beast laughed.

She smiled, "Thanks."

"Yeah." Wolverine clapped a hand on her shoulder. "Still, kid, be careful. There's something not quite kosher about that cajun. I've seen him before. . . wish I could remember where . . . ."

He trailed off, searching through a maze of memories for a face he knew he had seen before, long before Gambit had become an X-Man.

"Ah'm 22, Logan. Ah think Ah'm capable of takin' care o' mahself." Her voice was angry.

"Just watchin' out for you." He nodded brusquely, "He's your first, isn't he?"

"Mah first?"

"Don't play coy, girl. It doesn't suit you."

Rogue turned away from Wolverine, "Yeah, he is. So what?"

"You're innocent. He's not. He knows exactly what effect his smile will have on you. Every action is carefully calculated to break down more of your defenses. Be careful, or he'll hurt you. Hard."

"Such cynicism, my atavistic colleague." Beast smiled, "Perhaps age has removed your rosy-tinted spectacles."

"Never had any, Beast."

"Pity. We all need to have optimism some time."

"Optimism? I've seen too much to be optimistic." His eyes were bitter.

"I've done too much."

"Then, my friend, you need optimism more than any of us do."

"Save yer optimism for Juliet over there. She needs it."

The words cut into Rogue like a knife, laying open old scars. She reacted instantly; rashly.

"You're a bitter, ol' man, Wolverine." She was irate, "Worse, a bitter, *jealous*, ol' man. Lawd, can't you just be happy foh me . . . foh us? This all b'cause you lost Jean ta Scott, ain't it?"

"Shut up, darlin'." Wolverine growled, unsheathing his claws.

"You hide b'hind those claws; behind th' mask of an animal; because you can't stand ta face that you're as vulnerable as the rest o' us, that just maybe you might have feelin's."

"You're a fine one to talk, Rogue." He sneered, "Falling in love with a smile and a few nice words. Knowin' that that's all you'll ever have. Knowin' that nobody'll really care for you because they can't touch you. That the instant Gambit finds someone better, he'll be out of your life as quickly as he came into it. That it's all a game to him."

"Liar." She flew at him. He avoided her, rolling to the side. Unsheathed claws sparked silver in the pale sunlight.

"You wanna tangle, Rogue? Here I am."

Flicking her hair back, she connected his jaw with a right cross.

Wolverine reeled backwards, spitting out blood.

"Cease this show of pugilistic pugnacity." Beast yelled, grabbing Rogue's arm. She pushed him off with a sweep of her forearm, knocking him onto the floor, dizzy.

"Too late, Hank." Logan growled. "The lady's gone too far this time."

His claws ripped through the thin, silken fabric of her wrap and across her skin. She smiled, before letting loose with a crisp roundhouse kick. Wolverine felt his teeth rattle in his jaw.

"Ah'm invulnerable. Can you say th' same?"

"No. But even invulnerability ain't proof against adamantium."

He took another lunge, his claws sinking into her bicep. Wincing as blood poured over her arm, she pulled a strip off her robe and wrapped it around the wound. It quickly was soaked with red liquid. Beast stood up, shaking his head to clear it of cobwebs.

"Stop it! You are teammates, friends, save the aggression for Magneto - and bad New York cab-drivers."

Wolverine stared at his reddened claws; at their dingy silver shine, then at Rogue. The young woman from Mississippi was blood-stained and bedraggled; the once elegant cream nightdress filthy and ripped. Her green eyes were in pain.

"Ah'm sorry, Logan. Shouldn't o' said what Ah said."

"Ferget it. I was also in the wrong."

"Group hug." Beast threw two large blue forearms around Wolverine and Rogue and pulled them to him. "Don't we all feel better?"

"Mmmp . . . ." Rogue said through a mouthful of fur, "Peachy."


"Good. Now let's take a look at your respective injuries."

"I'll be fine, Doc." He smiled, "The healing factor's already starting to kick in."

"Ah could do with some of that right now." Rogue winced, peeling off the soaked cloth.

"Sorry, darlin'. One coma in a lifetime is enough for me."

Beast examined the wound. "You're lucky, his claws appear to have missed the major muscle groupings. It'll be painful for a good while yet, but should have no permanent effects."


"I'll need to bandage this properly." Beast bounded into the house, "Allow me to fetch my Big Blue Doctor Kit (TM)."

Rogue sunk into one of the deckchairs on the patio, hugging her arm to herself. Her face was hidden behind a brown and white curtain of hair.

"Kid. I'm sorry."

Her green eyes had tears in them.

"Are you, Logan?" She laughed bitterly, "Just maybe you were right an' Ah am just a distraction till the next woman comes along."

She slammed an angry fist into the slasto, splintering it.

"Go easy on the patio, darlin'." Wolverine said, taking her hand in his gloved one. "And for the record, I was wrong."


"You two have somthing special. Somethin' I ain't seen - or had - for a long time. Not since Mariko died."


"My wife." The words were painful to say.

"Ah'm sorry, Logan."

"Yeah. So'm I." He smiled, "What I wanted to say was that you can't let love pass you by because you are afraid. You also can't wait til everything is perfect - chances are it never will be."

"That's what Ah thought." She grinned shyly, "Ah told him Ah loved him."

"Good, kid." He nodded his approval. "An' tell the cajun that if he has any intentions of tyin' the knot, I'll even buy a monkey-suit for the occasion."

Rogue laughed, "Y'all probably . . . ."

"Shhh." His whisper was urgent.

"What?" Her eyes were wide, confused.

"Someone's comin'."

The crunch of leaves. They turned around, muscles tensed for confrontation. A woman.The sun glinted off her full-body armor and golden hair. An arrogant smile curled across her face, contorting her features into ugliness. Her violet eyes glowed with suppressed malice.

"Bonjour, Rogue. I be Belladonna Bordeaux - Remy's wife..."


Continued in Chapter 12.

1. For those not of the biological inclination, another name for Deadly Nightshade is Belladonna.
2. Mon mari - my husband.
3. The answer to the chipmunk question asked in part 10 is thus:
Just as much wood as a woodchuck would chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood.
4. Logan refers to Rogue having touched him before. This has not happened in this fanfiction but I am trying to use the Marvel Continuity as a background. Rogue touched Logan during the X-Men\Mephisto crossover.

* It's a beautiful' life down in New Orleans!
* A Sinister' View
* The Brotherhood of Evil Mutants
* Lobdell vs Holocaust


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