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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

Achem ... I, RogueStar, do solemnly swear not to use any of these characters belonging to Marvel to make me a profit. I solemnly swear not to let anyone else do so, but I do promise to let everyone archive freely provided that they do not change a word and I am credited. I also swear to reply to every single letter I get regarding this story, but will cheerily ignore flames and spam. I also promise that every single word of this story could be read by your aged grand-mother\baby sister. I vow to keep on enjoying writing it and to finish the story soon. Keep reading it!

Part 13

...And the tide of memories washed over her. Rogue drifted in a mind that was not hers; that had had experiences which she couldn't vocalise; could have never imagined. The taste of cold ice cream on a warm summer's day; the kiss of her father as he tucked her into bed; the day of her initiation into the Guild of Assassins; the half-sad smile of her husband on their wedding day; New Orleans at night as no tourists had ever seen.

Her first kill. She remembered the fright in the man's eyes, the way he had begged and grovelled, the way she had shown no mercy. Tears streamed down her face in a pain that was not a result of her actions; a past that was not her own. Rogue wept for a women she had just met and yet knew so well. Indistinct voices came through a haze of jumbled sounds and words; of sights and smells.

Her senses were alive with the experiences of a lifetime crammed into five minutes.

"Chere, are y'alright?"

Remy, her husband, the man who had left her for dead. Rogue turned, mouth twisted in a bitter smile.

"So, cher. At last, you decide to do your duties as a husband."


Rogue. The name of the witch who had stolen Remy from her, who had touched him in a way she never could.

"Why are y'calling me dat?" She spat, "I am Belladonna Bordeaux. Don' y'even recognise your own wife? "

"Chere. Snap outta dis."

"Fine words, mon amant." Rogue shook her head, "Maybe soon you start believin' dem."

"Rogue." He held her hands, "Come on . . . you not be Belle. You not be my wife."

"Was I ever?" Her laugh was high and bitter, "Or was I jus' a trophy on y'wall, showin' de whole world how much o' a man y'were?"

"Non. I loved you . . . I did." He looked away guiltily, "But, mon Dieu, I was jus' a pup. I wasn' ready t'settle down . . . wasn' ready t'commit t'one woman. Least not one I couldn' choose. . . not you."

Her green eyes were wild as she looked into his face.

"So everyt'ing dat you said on de day of our wedding was a lie? All dose words we spoke o' love and honor, lies?"

He nodded slowly.

"Chere, we went t'rough dis. We both knew dat dere was no love between us; dat all o' it was a desperate attempt t'get two warring guilds t'gether. Dat we were de ones who hadda pay de price for de sins of our fathers."

"Oui." Tears collected in her eyes, "But,  gainst my better judgment, I fell for you."

"Belle." His voice was gentle, "I be sorry for de pain I've caused you . . . you deserved someone better dan me. Someone who loved you like you needed."

Her scream ripped through the building, the cry of a desperate woman who had lost all hope.

Rogue fell to her knees, sweat streaming down her body.

"Remy . . . mah lawd . . . sugah . . . cher . . . ."


"Yeah?" Her voice was fragile but unmistakably hers.

"Mon Dieu. I'm glad you're back." He hugged her. "Don' ever go absorbin' Belladonna's memories again."

She looked up. Gambit involuntarily gasped, horrified at the change that had overtaken the woman he loved.

"Darlin'? What's wrong?" Her voice reflected the fear in his red-on-black eyes. "Speak ta me."

His only answer was to hand her a shard of mirror that had broken during his confrontation with Candra. Rogue looked into it curiously, recoiling as she saw the face within it. It was the face of an old woman, wrinkled with time and pain; green eyes sunken within fleshy pouches of skin; lips withered; skin blotched with burst chromoplasts. She flung it from her in disgust.

"What's happened ta me?"

"Ya seem t'have aged a bit."

"A bit? Ah could be your grandmomma, Remy." Confusion clouded her face, "How did this happen?"

"De Elixir." His voice was ashamed. "It has dis effect on people."

"Wh . . . what?"

"If y'don' get eternal life, it kills you. Bit by bit. Day by day. Eating you away from inside." He laughed, "An' de only t'ing dat can make y'feel even a tiny bit better is more Elixir. It's a vicious circle, chere."

She looked down at her hands, loose in their gloves.

"An' this was what was happenin' ta Belladonna."


"Any cure, sugah?" She sounded desperate.

"None I know of." He sighed, "But if dere be one person dat can cure you, it be Tante Mattie."

"Tante Mattie? Th' healer?"

He nodded, vaguely surprised at her knowledge, "Tante will be glad dat she is so famous."

"It's odd." Rogue hugged herself, "Ah know these things an' Ah can't remember ever learnin' them."

"Y'can explain dat t'me on de way." Gambit extended a hand to help her up.

Grateful, Rogue took it, not used to the fraility of old-age.

"On th' way ta where, sugah?"

"De one place dat I t'ought I left behind f'r good. De Guild Hall."

Tante Mattie bent over the dried herbs, inhaling their sweet fragrance. It tickled in her nose, causing her to sneeze. With a smile, she ground them up and pushed them into a pouch that lay at her right hand. It was another quiet day, she thought happily; for, with a constant feud between the two guilds, they were rare commodities. A knock on her door. The old healer felt her stomach sink.

Who was injured now, and to what would it lead?

"Come on in. It's not locked."

The door swung open, revealing the one man whose arrival Mattie could not have predicted.

"Remy? Honey child?"

"Tante!" He hugged her. "I've missed you!"

"Which is not why you are here, henh?" Her eyebrows puckered together in a look of  bemusement, "Now are you going to introduce me to Madame here, or have you forgotten all your manners?"

The old woman who had accompanied Remy laughed, a dry, crackling sound like leaves underfoot.

"Sorry. Tante, dis be Rogue. Rogue, meet Tante Mattie."

"Remy! Such respect to an older woman." Tante Mattie blushed, "I am sorry, Madame. He has resisted all my attempts at cultivating any manners in him."

"It's fine." The woman smiled, wrinkled cheeks folding even more, "Remy don't have ta be polite ta me."

"Why? Be you family t'him?"

"In time, mebbe." Gambit laughed, "Rogue be my girl-friend."

The healer looked disapprovingly at the thief, "From your letters to me, I gathered that your lover was quite a lot younger."

The woman sighed, "Ah'm 22 actually."

"Honey, they do say that you are only as young as you feel . . . but I know you be older than 22.."

"I c'n vouch for her. Rogue is younger dan me." He interjected, "It be de Elixir."

"The Elixir? How?" Tante Mattie was confused, "She is not of our guild. How could she taste it?"

"Ah absorbed it from Belladonna in an attempt ta rid her of it." Rogue held up her hands, "Obviously, it backfired."

"That foolish, foolish girl." She said in annoyance, "Belle always was fond of doing her own thing when Tante could have helped her."

"You have a cure?" Hope sprang into Rogue's eyes.

The healer smiled reassuringly, "Yes. I do."

She turned to Remy, "But you, child, will have to leave the room."


"You sound just like that child who wanted to finish the candy, even though he knew it would give him a stomach-ache." Tante laughed, "Ain't it enough that I tell you you should leave."

"D'accord." He nodded reluctantly, "But I'll be right outside."

Leaving the door a fraction open, Gambit walked into the hallway.

"Shut the door, honey." Tante's face wore a look of amusement, "He's been pulling that stunt since he was eight."

"Why does he have ta go?" Rogue asked as she closed the heavy oak door completely.

"Do you really want your man to know everything about you?"

The X-Man paused, "No."

"Then he has to go."

"Why? What are you going ta do ta me?" Fear filled the eyes of the older woman.

"Rest easy, little one. I be a healer, not a killer." She turned to the bottles on her desk, unstoppering some and pouring their contents into a glass vial. The light refracted off the oily liquid, bathing Tante Mattie's face in a golden glow.

"Now . . . ." She handed it to Rogue, "Drink this."

"What will it do?"

"Don't go all suspicious on me now." The healer looked disapprovingly at her, "Like Belle, you have to be reborn. Have to relive your life. This here drink is the only way I know how to do that."


"Child. It brings back memories since the very time you were born, that have been buried.

Forgotten. By reliving your memories, your pain and pleasure, you will in effect have relived your life." Tante paused, "That's how the Elixir works. It attacks your mind, makes you sick from within."

Rogue nodded, trusting this short, plump woman with her braids and floral dress.

"Ah'll drink it."

She sipped the bitter liquid, grimacing as she did so. It slid down her throat, burning her internal organs, shooting fire through every vein of her body. Rogue screamed as the anguish of her life tore through her body, as the raw wounds of unuttered sins reopened, no less painful for their long dormancy. Tante gently touched the woman's forehead, opening her mind. Like a miasma of solidifying smoke, memories slid out of Rogue's mind, becoming tangible on the crisp New Orleans air. Mattie examined them, letting them drift through her fingertips.

"She's not had an easy life. Poor thing."

Impulsively, Tante Mattie thought of erasing the pain from the woman's mind; healing her shattered psyche. Her hands reached for the small jar which contained a white, flaky substance, then dropped to her sides as she realised that she had no right to attempt to do anything about Rogue's pain.

Time to begin phase two before I do anything I might regret.' The healer thought as she uncorked a small crystal bottle which held a pink vapor.

"Breathe this." She held it beneath Rogue's nose. The old woman inhaled it, jerking her head away at the bitter astringency of the scent. The X-Man collapsed, a formless shadow disengaging itself from her.

"Got you." Tante Mattie laughed in satisfaction as she captured the psyche-eroding mist of the Elixir in a lead casket. Placing it on her shelf, she turned to her patient.

"The child's asleep. No surprise." She brushed a few strands of hair from Rogue's face. The young woman had tears clinging to her dark eyelashes and her face was unlined and peaceful.

"Come on, let's get you into bed."

The healer grunted as she lifted the X-Man up and placed her between the white sheets of a bed which stood next to the wall.

"Now. . ." She tucked a pillow beneath Rogue's head, "To tell Remy that you are alright."

Gambit took a last draw from his cigarette before grinding it into ashes beneath his feet.

"Feels like I'm goin' t'be a daddy any second." He thought irrelevantly, "Truth be told, I couldn' be more nervous even if I was."

The door opened slowly and Tante Mattie stepped out, wiping her hands on her voluminous apron.

"She'll be fine."

"Remercie le ciel. C'n I go see her?"
[Thank heavens!]

"Rogue's sleeping now." The healer looked at him, "The treatment tired her out and the child needs her rest. Don't disturb her."

"Fine. I won'."

"Promise?" She smiled, "And don't go crossing your fingers behind your back."

"Promise, Tante." He held his hands out in front of him.

"I see you don't wear Belle's ring any more." Her voice was thoughtful.

"Oui. I took it off when she  died' and haven' put it back on since."

"That's good, child. Keep your finger free for this one's ring." She pointed to the room in which Rogue was sleeping, "She's far better for you than Belle ever was."

"Tante?" He asked, "Is dere any way dat we might touch? Physically, I mean."

"There may be at that." The healer looked pensive, "Remy, chile. Remember that charm you were always using on people?"

"Yes. Got me outta more scrapes dan I care t'remember. Why?"

"I have long thought that it was lot more than a nice smile. That it was empathic in nature."

"So? I'm an empath? How does dat help me and Rogue?"

"Rogue and I." Mattie corrected gently, "When purging the Elixir from the child's body, I was able to see her memories an' get a fairly good idea of how her powers work. I believe that they are psionic in nature; that she absorbs people's minds and uses that knowledge to control powers sleeping within her."

"Y'sayin' dat I should use my empathic powers t'shield my mind so dat she can't get at it?"


"Tante, it be a good idea." He grinned, "But I can't control dem properly."

"Honey." She shook her head, "From the little I hear from you, I know that you live with one of the leading telepaths in the world, Charles Xavier. Why don't you ask him for help?"

Gambit swept her up in his arms and swung her around.

"You're a genius, Tante. Merci. Merci. Merci."

He planted a kiss on her cheek. The healer blushed slightly, straightening her skirts.

"You can thank me by invitin' me to the wedding, Remy."

"I'm gonna tell her right now."

"No. Don't." Tante Mattie grabbed his arm, "I could be wrong. It wouldn't be fair to get the girl's hopes up only to drop them right down again."

"You're right. Besides . . . ." He grinned, "It'll be more o' a surprise for her when I touch her."

"You also musn't go getting your hopes up."

"What is life wit'out hope, Tante?"

"Nothing." She sighed, "Remy. You should be going now. It isn't safe here - for either of you."

"I know." He said, "When can I move her?"

"Once she's awake."

"Which will be?"

"Soon I hope." Her brown eyes were preoccupied. "Your father will be coming home soon. He will not be pleased to see you around these parts again."

A knock on the front door, loud as any executioner's drum-roll, rang through the building.

"Look like it's too late to worry  bout dat, hehn?"

Tante Mattie motioned him to be quiet.

"I'll deal with him, Remy. You just go be with your woman."

Gambit nodded, slipping in through the ajar door, hoping that his father would once more receive his prodigal son.

I was worried, oui, more  bout Rogue dan my father. Tante was a woman of her word and even if she couldn't stop him, I was always able t'handle him; defuse his anger wit' a few words. But de question which was really preyin' on my mind was whether Roguey was okay or not. Maybe dat was why I could barely bear t'look at her face hidden beneath its curtain of brown and white.

What if . . . what if what, Remy, if she really weren't cured? If Belle had cost you - me - de woman I loved? Belle! De t'ought struck me - we'd left her at Candra's place, unconscious, vulnerable.

I'd betrayed her once more. First for pride; now, love. I brushed de guilt outta my mind as I turned back  t'de immediate problem. Belle was safe in dat fortress Candra called home. She'd wake up soon, a little groggy p'rhaps but fine enough; Rogue on de other hand, might not. Not dat I didn' trust Tante's healing skills, mind you, it was just I didn' like playing roulette wit' Roguey's life.

So dere I was stallin', tryin' t'put off what had t'be done until I could no longer...

I pushed de hair outta her face an' almost laughed outta pure relief. She was exactly as she had been de day I had fallen in love wit' her: young, beautiful, almost vulnerable as she slept. De sheets had been kicked off an' I picked dem up an' covered her wit' dem, smoothin' dem around her. Her eyes opened, revealin' a brighter green dan any emerald I'd ever pinched. Dan l'Etoile de Tricherie.

"Remy?" Her voice was slurred and half-asleep, "That you?"

"Oui, petite." I replied, "You rest now. I make sure not'ing disturbs you."

"Can't rest . . . somethin' . . . somethin' Ah wanna tell ya."


"Mah name, it ain't really Rogue . . . it's . . . it's. . . ."

I placed my finger on her lips, was wearin' gloves, of course.

"Dat can wait  til morning, chere. You need your rest more dan I need t'know your name."

Don' know if she even heard my last words, she'd slipped back into sleep - her breathing calm and rhythmic. I leant over her and kissed her lightly on de single streak o' white dat crowned her head, sayin' a silent prayer for dis, de queen of my heart.

The door flew open, slamming as it did so, revealing a middle-aged man. He was well-dressed in the ceremonial velvets and furs of the thieves' guild, complete with the traditional scabbard at his side. His face was handsome, lean and chiselled, and his moustache lent him an austere and slightly stern look. Gleaming cold fire, Jean-Luc leBeau's eyes narrowed as he regarded his prodigal son.

"Bonjour, mon pere."
[Hello Father]

"Remy. Pourquoi es-tu ici?"
[Remy. Why are you here?]

"Tu ne salues pas ton fils favori? Je suis blesse!"
[You don't greet your favorite son? I'm hurt.]

"Je me repeterai . . . pourquoi es-tu ici?"
[I will repeat myself . . . why are you here?]

"Je suis venu parce-que j'ai eu besoin d'une guerisseuse . . . Tante Mattie."
[I came became because I needed a healer . . . Tante Mattie.]

"Pourquoi? Es-tu blesse?" The man was worried.
[Why? Are you hurt?]

"Non. Mon amant a essaie d'aider Belladonna mais elle est tombee mal."
[No. My lover\girlfriend tried to help Belladonna but she fell ill.]

Remy stood aside to reveal the sleeping form of a woman. Jean-Luc leBeau looked at her, at the elegant lines of her form and face, at the streaked hair which cascaded over her pillow, at the sweet smile that curved her lips. A sense of pity overtook him and he nodded.

"D'accord . . . vous pouvez rester ici jusqu'a elle va bien, mais puis tu dois aller et ne rentres jamais en New Orleans et ta famille."
[Fine . . . you may stay here until she is well, but then you must go and never return to New Orleans and your family.]

"Je comprends." Remy nodded his head.
[I understand.]

Jean-Luc could stay no longer and look at the boy for whom he once had such high hopes; the most skilled thief and heir apparent to the throne of the Guild of Thieves.

"Adieu." He said, holding back bitter tears.

"A la prochaine."

Jean-Luc leBeau walked out of the room, his footsteps sharp against the wooden floor. Gambit watched his progress down the hallway with the knowledge that his father took with him a part of himself which he could never hope to reclaim.

Night passed in dreams for both the thief and the young woman, whom he loved, and soon the sun streamed in through the open window; creating long, shadows across the wooden floor. The air was scented with smoky herbs and speckled with dust. Rogue yawned, stretching her stiff and tired muscles. Lethargy gripped her and she felt that there was nothing better she would have liked to do than sink back into bed and fall asleep once more. She yielded to the impulse and crawled back beneath the covers. Her head was pounding from the treatment which Tante Mattie had administered to her and she was exhausted - physically and mentally - from yesterday's exertions.

Yesterday . . . love was such an easy game to play . . . the words from an old song came back to her, touching her where it stung the most, pouring salt into open wounds. Remy was married. She had not been the only woman in his life, she knew that, but she had felt that she had been the only one whom he truly loved. Now? Now, she wasn't so certain. Maybe she was one in a long progression of women, who had danced beside him for a few seconds, then whirled away into memory. Maybe. The knock on the door disturbed her thoughts, something for which she was not ungrateful.

"Come on in."

It swung open. Gambit stepped into the room, preoccupation written all over his handsome features.

"Rogue? Are y'ready t'go yet?"

"Halfway there, sugah. Why are y'all in such a rush?"

"Dere be somet'ing goin' on. I c'n feel it."

"Remy, you've been hangin' around Logan too much lately." She laughed.

"Chere. I'm serious. When you've lived in de Big Easy all your life in de middle of a constant war between t'ieves and assassins, y'develop certain instincts f'r trouble."

"Ah understand." She climbed out of bed. "Give me five seconds ta get changed and Ah'll be right there."

"D'accord." He folded his arms.

"Five seconds with you outta th' room?" She teased.

Gambit laughed and walked out, closing the door behind him as he left.

Rogue quickly got dressed in the clean pair of clothes that she had found lying on a table, and exited the room.

"Finally, chere." Gambit said, extinguishing his cigarette on the floor beneath his feet.

"Ready?" She looked disapprovingly at the ashes.

" Course . . . it'll be nice t'go back home again."

"Home? Ain't this your home?" She asked.

"Was. Ain't anymore. I'm an X-Man now . . . ." He grinned, "Besides, Rogue, anywhere you are has t'be home t'me too."

She laughed, "Ah'll remind you o' that particular statement when Ah'm neck-high in muck."

"Maybe one day we'll see  bout makin' it a real home." He took her hand, ignoring her flippant response.

Rogue was silent. "That ain't gonna happen in a hurry, sugah. Ain't a man alive or dead who'd want a wife he couldn't touch."

"Dere . . . ." Gambit cut himself off in midsentence.

"There . . .?" Her green eyes were curious.

"Not'ing. We should be going anyhow."

"Yeah. Y'all is right . . . Cyke is probably climbin' walls by now."

"Didn' miss him." Gambit muttered.

She laughed, "Scott's okay. In a paranoid, leader kinda way."

They walked down the hallway, taking their first steps towards the place which to both of them had become home, unaware that in a few short days everything would change...

The telepathic caccoon was warm around David Haller's astral self. He buried deeper into it, clutching at the shattered fragments of his mind. Here he healed, rejuvenated, became whole once more. Memories,  as insubstantial as smoke, passed through his mind as simple words and pictures. Father. Daniel. Israel on a balmy day. Mother. Aleph, Beth, Gimel, Daleth...Magneto.

The last thought caused a ripple of irritation across his mind. Magneto. The man who had cost his father a dream. David couldn't bear this enforced rest any longer. Pushing with all his might against the shields which surrounded his psyche, Legion broke free. His eyes blinked open. Hands curled into fists. Ears heard once more - gasps, fear. One thought passed through his waking mind - he would no longer disappoint his father; he would acheive his dream by removing the only obstacle to it...the man known as Magneto...

Zodiac woke up, cold sweat pouring down her back. She had seen something which she could never have expected . . . something which was terrifying in its reality . . . ragnarok . . . armageddon . . . the end of the world...


Continued in Chapter 14

1. Gambit has been reputed to have a fairly high-level empathic\telepathic power. I have probably made it a little more powerful than it actually is but not terribly much. If he was able to hide his mind from Psylocke and detect her presense in it, he must have some empathy. In one of the comics, someone talks about  Gambit being notoriously hard to psi-scan ... even Xavier had trouble.' To me this is indicative of a level 3 (if not 2 or 1) empath\telepath. You may feel differently.
2. My explanation of Rogue's powers is, just that, my explanation. Imagine if every mutant had the potential for every power and couldn't tap into it; that by absorbing people's minds, Rogue knew how to tap into it and did. HUGE HYPOTHESIS!
3.The word amant is a little out of place there but the alternative is too horrible to contemplate. Petite-amie (meaning little friend) will I not use!
4. Uhhh ... another French matter ... adieu means  Until God' and is more final than a la prochaine which simply means 'until later.'
5. I don't know the artist or origin of 'Yesterday' - no-prize to whoever can tell me!
6. Aleph, Beth, Gimel, Daleth are the first four letters of the hebrew alphabet (or would that be alephbet?)
8. Long footnotes are cool, n'est-ce pas?

In Smoke and Mirrors 14:
* Legion's Quest (My version)
* A kiss is still a kiss'
* Ragnarok! The End of the World! Armageddon!
* The Multiple Clones of Howard Mackie Society (MCHMS - Join today!) vs The Multiple Clones of Klaus Janson Club (MCKJC - Uncle Klaus wants you!) Who'll win? Who'll lose? D'Oh. The answer to the latter is the reader!!!!


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