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(Chapter 2: Miracles)
The sunlight through the open window refracts off the dust-motes
in rays of red and green. A wind blows the curtains'
- two sheets nailed to the wall - out over the sleeping couple
like two great bird's wings. Rogue murmurs into her damp pillow,
clasped in her arms for comfort. Nearby, in another pile of
bedding on the wooden floor, her lover is lying asleep, snoring
inelegantly every few seconds in time with the rise and fall
of his chest. Far from being disturbing, the sound soothes
her - it is so normal. If Rogue ever though about it, this
is the reason that she fell in love with Remy leBeau. His
own extraordinariness aside, he has always treated her like
every other woman. And, while not the stuff that plays like
Romeo and Juliet are written about, it is something that this
woman appreciates. She has always been her powers to everyone
else - to herself. Rogue awakes, squinting against the light
which floods in through the chink in the curtains'.
She stretches, painfully self-conscious of mussed hair and
torn uniform. Fortunately, for her sartorial confidence, Gambit
is still asleep, a worried furrow in his forehead. Rogue stands,
wincing as the stiff muscles in her stomach and leg stretch
to their full length. The loose bandage, that Gambit tied
on her last night, is stiff and black with blood.
"Gawd. This is nasty." She whispers, untying it
and praying that the wound has healed enough to not bleed
again. She had said similar prayers in her childhood when
drink had made her father cruel. When she had hoped desperately
for the bruises and cuts to fade before Monday, before any
embarrassing questions were asked. They usually did, or, if
they had not, she would feign sickness to be kept home from
"Time ta rise an' shine." She tells herself in
a desperate attempt to inject levity into her somber mood.
She picks up Gambit's comb from the floor where it lies scattered
among cards and clothes. Slowly, methodically, she runs it
through her hair, smoothing out the kinks and wilder curls
that formed in the night. Tiny sparks fly out as she braids
it, tying it back with an elastic band. Rogue walks over to
the small mirror in the corner of the room, almost hidden
by the rest of the clutter, almost as if the owner does not
wish to see his own reflection. Her eyes are puffy and red-rimmed
but she smiles at herself.
"Remy'd say y'all look gorgeous even if'n th' Bride
o' Frankenstein would beat you at Miss America." She
laughs, "In fact, even Ah'd say you're quite pretty,
Walking to the door, Rogue opens it.
"D'ya make a habit o' leavin' b'fore I wake up?"
Remy asks teasingly from his bed, "Dis be de second time
"Ah didn't want ta wake y'all," She explains, "Bad
enough that Ah did it last night."
"Don' worry," He throws the covers off of himself,
"I be awake now. Ya want t'get breakfast? I'll cook."
"What? Granola au Coco Krispies?"
"Better dan Boysenberry Pie."
She laughs then sobers, "Actually, Ah think Ah'd like
ta go out today. Might be easier foh you."
Gambit looks at her carefully, at the nervous anticipation
written over her features. She needs him to say yes, but for
"Ah'll pay?" She adds, smiling apprehensively.
"Well when ya put it dat way . . . where d'ya want t'go?"
"Don't mind."Rogue shrugs, "Actually . . .
anywhere as long as it isn't that Cajun place or even mentions
gumbo in th' menu."
"Bien," he grins, "Ya pay. Ya choose."
"Ummm . . . when in doubt, go ta Harry's?"
"Give me a few minutes t'get dressed."
"Don't worry - I need some time as well."
"More dan some time, cherie," he teases.
"Ha! Y'all ain't exactly Prince Charmin' at seven o'clock
in th' mornin'," Rogue opens the door and exits. A few
minutes later, Gambit follows suite, dressed in some of the
few clothes that he could afford to buy with the remainder
of his money. They are clothes - a Saints' Jersey and black
jeans - which hark back to a past before he met Sinister.
A past which he cannot fully forget. Or if he could, would
not be allowed to.
"A gift, traitor." Marrow's voice rasps from where
she is perched on the windowsill, like a bird of prey or a
vulture. She drops something on the floor where it lies in
harsh relief to the wood.
It is a tattered Tarot Card - the Queen of Swords, but it
has been sliced in half and combined with another card - the
Queen of Cups - in horrible synergy. On it is scrawled in
thick black print - We all have two faces.'
Marrow laughs and is gone.
We all have two faces. Joseph knows this more than
most - once the greatest enemy of humankind, amnesia is a
blessing to him. It has allowed him to live his life, unencumbered
by his past sins, free without atonement. This may be why
Gambit hates him so much - that it stems from something much
deeper than the petty jealousy that arose over Rogue. Joseph
was given his chance for free, Gambit paid for it with the
trust and love of Rogue. And, while everything turned out
for the best, Gambit resents all for which Joseph stands.
The hypocrisy of his team-mates. The ability to be given another
chance by simply forgetting.
Joseph sighs, his mind confused. Had Remy told him the truth
or were his words those of a bitter man designed to wound
and hurt? Designed to pour salt into raw wounds?
Joseph is not sure. If he was such a megalomanic and despot,
why would Rogue take pity on him? Why would she try and help
him? Perhaps she is the only one who really knows the truth.
The young man with the white hair walks to the door with
new purpose. He must confront Rogue, must find out the truth,
for good or evil.
The air is crisp ribbon of blue over the green valley. In
the distance, the perfect sky is torn by the New York skyline,
by a gathering storm approaching over the horizon. Storm soars
in this blue wasteland, a white speck of ash blown by the
wind. She can feel the rain in the air, its presence soaks
into her bones.
"There will be a storm soon," she says, "Of
what nature is still doubtful."
The tension had been mounting in the mansion ever since Gambit's
return. Marrow had slunk away into the shadows after her initial
outburst, as had Warren. Joseph had been walking around like
a man before an execution who had been denied his last cigar.
Rogue's whole manner had been too manic and too brittle, almost
as if she was scared of standing still and thinking. Gambit
seemed not to have noticed. Or had he?
Storm rises in the air, letting the gentle upper currents
tickle her face. She, like the sky, is torn between vastly
differing emotions. Remy had always been like a brother to
her. Now the brother had betrayed her, had turned out to be
everything which she had always detested. How could she reconcile
such vastly differing emotions? She does not know the answer,
but she will try. . . .
Storm plunges from the heavens to earth.
Harry's Hideaway has witnessed several turning points in
the lives of the X-Men - some more important than others,
some more dramatic than others. And, always, there has been
Harry - a sturdy, New Yorker with the accent to prove it.
A wise, grizzled man who has watched the lives of his patrons
unfold. Sometimes Harry is witness to triumph - the birth
of a child, a wedding anniversary, a birthday. Sometimes he
is witness to sorrow - lover's quarrels, funerals, divorces.
Always he has carried on with his life, wiping the counter
clean and serving drinks with a smile and a few words. Harry
is a philosopher. But unlike Plato or Socrates, Harry's forum
is his bar.
"Go serve the two over there." He whispers in the
ear of a peroxided waitress.
She is young and no philosopher. Her guru is the editor of
Vogue. Today, however, she will witness a miracle. She will
not recognize it and will carry on with her life unchanged.
Her drawl is bored as she asks the young couple what they
would like for breakfast, tapping her pad with her stubby
"So?" Tap tap tap. "What's it going
The man regards her through dark sunglasses and a shiver
passes up her spine. There is something different about him
- something more than the exterior to him.
"Ya choose, cherie." he says to his companion,
a gorgeous woman with eyes like twin emeralds and a white
streak in her dark hair.
"Gawd. You're the culinary expert in our relationship,
"F'rgot ya came from somewhere where fried' is
a food group," he grins, "C'n we have a menu, mademoiselle?"
The waitress hands two from beneath her arm, other hand resting
on her ample hip.
"So . . . are you two new in town?"
"It's the accent, isn't it?" the woman laughs,
"No, sugah. Been here a while now. Ah'm from Mississippi.
Remy here is from Louisiana."
"De Big Easy in N'Awlins."
"Wow. Whereabout in Mississippi do you come from? I
have family there."
"Y'all'll not have heard o' it. It's a small town .
. . ."
The woman laughs, "Fine. It's bout th' size o'
a suburb really."
"Maybe I've heard of it anyway."
"You're kidding! That's where my family comes from as
"Dieu. She'll go on f'r hours now. It be some sort of
inbred Southern trait."
The woman went pale, "As in Cody Robbins?"
"Poor guy. Some heartless mutie witch killed him."
The waitress sniffs, "He was my cousin. Did you know
The man called Remy tightens his hand protectively over his
companion's one. Slowly, she nods.
"Maybe it wasn't her fault. Maybe she didn't know what
she was doing."
"Schyeah, right. Tell that to someone who didn't visit
him every day while he was lying in a coma."
Tears gather in the beautiful woman's eyes.
"Don't y'all think she feels bad enough already? That
she has ta live with the consequences of her actions every
"No. She didn't go through the hell that I went through,
wondering if Cody would live or die. She never even came to
Remy regards her with dislike on his handsome features.
"Mebbe she did, but didn' want t'be seen by people like
ya who'd judge her."
"Whatever." The waitress flippantly raises a shoulder,
"Anyway, can I take your order?"
"Pancakes wit' maple syrup."
"Ah'll have th' same."
"Café latté. An' f'r ya, belle?"
"OJ. Ah need th' vitamin C," her voice is falsely
"Sure. Hold on and I'll bring your order in a few minutes."
The waitress sashays off into the kitchen, notepad in hand.
Remy looks sympathetically at the woman sitting in front
of him. She is trying to keep a smile on her face, despite
the fact that her bottom lip is trembling with repressed emotion.
"I'm sorry, Roguey."
"It ain't your fault." She looks down at the wooden
floor, "Ah sometimes think that someone up there must
really hate me. I thought Ah left mah past behind me when
Ah left Mississippi, but ta meet Cody's cousin here . . .
"Ya know as well as I do dat dere's no escapin' our
pasts. We have t'live wit' dem. Have t'accept dem."
"Ah'd like ta think that Ah can," Rogue sighs,
"But Ah know Ah'm just foolin' mahself."
"Ya need t'talk?"
"You know how you asked me in Antarctica ta trust you
just foh a little while?"
"Can you do th' same foh me?"
"Ya know I will. I always have trusted ya."
"An' Ah've always betrayed that trust."
"Chere - ya said dat self-pity doesn't really suit me
back dere in Mag's citadel. It suits ya even worse."
"Ah said a lot of things then. Didn't mean all of them."
"I know." He leans over the table and rests a hand
on her shoulder, "Said a lot of t'ings I didn't mean
"Maybe we should put it behind us. Forget about it."
"Non, can't do dat."
"Chere. We've tried doin' dat before an' it jus' tore
us apart again. We have t'deal wit' it."
"Y'all said it didn't matter a few night ago."
"It didn' then - it does now."
"I wasn' sure if we had a chance then - I know we do
now. Dis means t'much t'me jus' t'sabotage it again before
it even really gets started."
"You're right. We do need ta talk." She looks somber,
"Put our cards on th' table so ta speak."
"I'll start wit' mine," he delves into his pocket
and pulls out the Ace of Spades, hitting it onto the table.
"Th' card o' death?"
"Or hope. Depends which way it is."
"So . . . ."
And thus, without any fireworks or grand parades, the miracle
begins . . . .
He walks through the tunnels, oppressed as much by memories
as by the slimy, close walls. His feet squelch through the
combination of water and mud. His mind maps out the pathway
- taking left and right turns almost as if he is hyponotized.
In a sense, he is. At last, he bends to pass through a particularly
low tunnel, cursing as his wings scrape the stone. There before
him is an altar to a dark god. A self-created deity who believed
that he had the right to decide who could live and die. The
rack where he lost his wings. The rope, though rotten, remains
on the hooks - stiff and black with dried blood. Fear still
permeates the humid air. But something is different . . .
something changed from when he last came. A box has been set
up before the rack with scattered implements and items on
top of it. A bone knife. A pack of Tarot cards. A small, wax
candle. A doll of an angel. A tattered photograph of a young
girl. He walks closer, seeing a glimmer of metal from the
muddy floor. He bends and picks it up, shaking off the encrusted
mud. He drops it almost as soon as he sees what it is: a metal
flechette from his old wings. . . .
Continued in Chapter
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