Disclaimer: All characters belong
to Marvel. Don't sue me. Please. I don't have anything to
give you, save my collection of L.M.Montgomery books. I have
been reading Fannie Flagg - talk about inspiration. Do you
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(Chapter 4: Forget-me-not)
For Keri - who helped me
sort out a nasty continuity glitch in such a nice way!
Gambit sits, cross-legged, on the floor of his empty room.
His attention is focused on a single card - a strange, sick
combination of the Queen of Swords and the Queen of Cups.
In black, forcible scrawl, the words We all have two
faces' are written across the woman. Who could have left this
here to remind him of Rogue's betrayal? The anger rises up
in his chest at the memory and he suppresses it. Her mocking
words still have a subtle, undefinable sting that hurts him
every time he remembers them. A poison designed to wound and
kill, because it was distilled from his own fears and shame.
Gambit hates himself for these feelings - for using her as
a tool to deliver and carry out the sentence that he felt
he deserved. Death. He remembers the words of the old Catholic
priest from childhood: An eye for an eye, a tooth for a
tooth. Death for death. Murder for murder. He remembers
the look on the face of an unknown Morlock - the anguish and
terror. She had caught at his legs and had begged him for
mercy. For her child's sake. Sabretooth had known no mercy
when he cut her throat while she was on her knees. The child
had lain in her dead mother's arms, howling like a little,
forgotten animal. He'd had no choice. He'd snatched her up
and ran - ran until the blood and screams seemed to be a fever-dream.
Ran until his legs gave out and had fallen, whispering over
and over again how sorry he was. That it may have meant nothing
to her then, but he hoped she could forgive him in time. Tears,
as warm and sticky as blood, flow freely down his cheeks at
the shame of the memory. For the first time in ten years,
Gambit cries for the man he once was.
Rogue opens the door to her room. Weeks have passed since
her return from space and she has got it into some semblance
of order. Her bed is piled with stuffed toys - teddy bears
and clowns, dolls and angels. A white coverlet is spread over
it with a matching pillow trimmed with lace. Next to her bed,
photographs stand. Fortunately, she had saved the negatives
- hidden them under a floorboard where Bastion's Sentinels
had not searched - and had had them redeveloped. A desk by
the large window admits plenty of light and it is covered
with piles of papers and books. Essays by various experts
in the field of mutancy and mutant powers. She has been sitting
up late at night, reading them. On top of this pile is a small
bouquet of blue flowers and she smiles. Gambit must have left
them for her. She picks them up and holds them to her nose
- their soft scent is as sweet and fresh as childhood. Cody
gave her flowers similar to these . . . . Rogue freezes instantly
- these are forget-me-nots. A small card falls out from where
it has been concealed by the blooms and Rogue stoops and reads
it. In forcible, black copperplate, the words We cannot
forget our pasts are written on its cream surface. Her
past . . . . her private hell of abuse by her step-father
. . . . daddy . . . . traitor . . . . Rogue throws the flowers
away from her, crushing them with a heel as if she would destroy
her history. Angrily, she picks up a doll with blonde hair
and a vacuous expression and tears it limb from limb. Stuffing
falls out onto the floor, white and puffy as clouds. Not blood
like that which seeped from her cuts so long ago. The smug
smile is still on the doll's face - holding an unknown and
searched for secret to happiness. Next to be dismembered is
a pale yellow teddy-bear, then a stuffed puppy, then another
doll . . . . The floor is white with stuffing like the snows
of Antarctica. Rogue sinks to her knees, utterly spent. Tears
spill down her cheeks like they have too often these past
few weeks. She wishes that she could escape - could fly so
high or run so fast that she could leave who she is behind.
Bury it in the cold, wasteland of her heart under Antarctic
snows. However, the card states the truth of her whole life:
We cannot forget our pasts.
Marrow smiles to herself as she fingers the delicate blooms
of the forget-me-nots. They were a nice touch, she decides.
The coup de grace. The straw that broke the camel's back.
She tosses the flowers onto the soapbox altar and picks up
some other implements. She whistles to herself as she whittles
the wax of the candle into a shape - a woman with long, wavy
hair. Nearby, a man stands in front of an aged photograph
- he is also made of wax. Expertly carved by the hands of
an angry child whose hate has translated itself into art.
The girl in the photograph has such a longing look as she
stares blankly forward into space. A tall, severe man in a
priest's collar has his hand on her shoulder, tightening in
a grip around it. The other figure, a woman, has a nervous
smile and eyes that seem to be constantly searching for happiness
and never finding it.
"Oh, Angela . . . ." Marrow sighs, "Soon I
will be free of my past. Soon their blood will buy me my peace."
The girl's eyes stare back at her with fear and, if she could
speak, it looks almost as if she would say: We cannot
escape our pasts.'
Warren Worthington sits on the rooftops, staring into the
stormy horizon. Clouds gather there as they have been gathering
for a number of days, threatening, watching, waiting. This
fallen angel is undergoing a crisis of conscience - deciding
between what he knows is right and what is his right. An eye
for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, his grand-mother always said.
He clenches his hand into a fist, squeezing tight as if the
act will provide him strength. Perhaps it does, because he
knows what he will do.
Gambit hides the combined tarot card beneath one of the floorboards
in the room. He does not want to worry Rogue with its implications
- the meaning which he behind the smiles of the half-Queens
on the card. The knock on the door is gentle, calm. He quickly
replaces the floor-board and wipes his eyes against the sleeve
of his shirt.
"Entrez-vous," his voice, when he speaks, is as
steady and cocky as always. The door opens and Storm slips
into his denuded room. Her blue eyes are nervous as she looks
"Good afternoon," she greets after a long pause.
"Salut, Stormy. What brings ya t'my corner of de mansion?"
"Shopping?" he sounds skeptical, "Chere, de
only t'ing ya could pick up from m'room is splinters right
"That is precisely why I propose an expedition into
town. To acquire some furniture and clothes - perhaps some
paint as well."
"Hate t'break it t'ya, Stormy. I'm broke."
"Don't call me that," she chides automatically,
"And as for you being broke', I sincerely doubt
that a thief of your caliber is without resources."
He laughs, "Ya know me too well, chere."
Lifting up the same floor board, he removes a wallet filled
with sundry credit cards.
"Who is goin' t'pay f'r us t'day?"
"Remy . . . you have stolen credit cards?"
"Non. Simply nough liases t'last a lifetime,"
he grins, "Should I be Monsieur Alain duPrix? Or jus'
plain, ol' James Jones?"
"Is Remy leBeau too poor to pay for his own accouterments?"
"Non," he removes an American Express Platinum
card, "Never wanted t'use dis money - got it from pinches.
From a couple o' rich men."
"Desperate times call for desperate measures,"
Storm answers, "And I would classify these times as desperate."
"Oui, but dere are some t'ings dat money won't buy back,"
he frowns slightly, "Photos. De garter I caught at Jean
and Scott's wedding. Letters. Bastion took more dan our t'ings
- he took ev'ryt'ing dat marked us as people."
"That is true, but he could not take the one thing that
makes us who we are - that truly makes us human - memories,
"Mais oui," he shrugs, "We going now?"
"Certainly," she opens the door for him, "We
can take my car . . . ."
Joseph stands on the threshold of the mansion, watching the
clouds drift by the cerulean sky. It is a beautiful day -
the air is crisp with the promise of rain and storms. He sees
the car pull out from the driveway, watches as the two X-Men
leave the premises and knows that if he is to confront Rogue,
this would be the perfect time. He also feels the need to
protect her and so he wonders if he should not rather leave
her be for the moment. Desire and love conflict in this man's
heart, tearing him in two. Yet . . . this is his life, the
truth of who he is, and how long can he postpone that? Until
Rogue's affairs are in order? Is that fair to himself? Or
her? How can he love a woman - give his heart to her - if
he doesn't know to whom the heart belongs? Joseph watches
the sky and hopes for an answer.
Gambit groans as Storm drags him to yet another furniture
store. They have spent an hour walking from store to store,
looking at beds, chairs and desks - all of which have begun
to look the same to him.
"Oh, Remy - is this not the most beautiful bed you have
ever seen?" Storm stops rapt before a four-poster bed
complete with veils and curtains.
"Frankly, chere - way I'm feelin', any bed would be
beautiful long as I could sleep in it," he answers,
"But, non, dat bed be more f'r Sleepin' Beauty dan me."
"Then this one?" she points to a simple bed with
a wooden base and headboard.
"Let us buy it then!" Storm claps her hands together
like a child on her birthday, "Assistant!"
An obsequious looking man arrives on the scene, clutching
a notepad. His hair is greased back in such a way as to make
John Travolta proud and he rubs his bony hands together.
"I'd like t'buy dis bed."
"An excellent choice - are you sure you would not prefer
a double model?"
"Us?" Storm looks horrified, "No, we are simply
friends. I came shopping with him because his girlfriend
"Charge or cash? We have an excellent credit plan if
you wish to pay in installments."
"Non - charge it," Gambit hands him his credit
card, "Ya need me t'sign anyt'ing?"
"Simply this slip," he gives the cajun a print-out
and he signs it, "Would you like it delivered?"
"S'il vous plait. To 1407 Graymalkin Lane in Westchester."
"Thank you, sir. You will not regret it."
"Let's hope not," Storm replies, "Thank you
"Merci," Gambit takes his credit card back from
the man, "Where to now, mon amie?"
"Dieu me sauve," he whispers as they walk in the
direction of an upmarket men's outfitter.
[God save me]
Tears have given way to sleep in one room at 1407 Graymalkin
Lane. In the middle of the snowy field of batting, Rogue dreams.
Her mother was wearing a white dress. Her tawny hair, her
one beauty, had been swept up upon her hair and fixed with
a silver clip. She had looked like an angel, the child had
thought as she had watched her with huge, green eyes. And
her soon-to-be father was both charming and handsome, a Baptist
minister, to boot, with an adoring congregation. People came
from as far as Natchez to hear him speak. He stood at his
podium, night after night, and expounded their sins to them,
revealed God to their empty hearts, led them in worship to
the Most High. (The child would only realise much later that
his favorite verse of scripture was spare the rod and
spoil the child'.)
The congregation was elated at the match between the beautiful
Gloria Butler and the handsome William Parker. There was,
of course, the resurrection of the old, old rumor of Gloria's
indiscretion as evidenced by the little girl, but most people
forgot that in the joy of the ceremony. The first few weeks
were something out of Cinderella - the poor girl marrying
a handsome prince and living happily ever after. Ever after
lasted a month. The cracks started showing in their marriage
- the holy Reverend Parker had a taste for stronger alcohol
than the communion wine and turned their home into a hell
of abuse when he was drunk, purged their sin through beatings.
The child bore the brunt of his anger because she served
as a constant reminder of his wife's indiscretion. He prayed
as he hit her - begged God to forgive her father's sins -
told her that this was the only way to heaven for an illegitimate
child such as herself. The girl cried and begged and pleaded,
but he never showed mercy. Often, her slender body was so
bruised that she couldn't lie or sit but had to stand. . .
Rogue whimpers softly, as the belt comes down hard once more,
lost in her nightmare past.
"Remy . . . I wish to talk to you," Storm says
as she helps him load the parcels into the car.
"I'm not stoppin' ya," Gambit answers, his eyes
probing her with nervous anticipation in their burning depths.
"I do not know if you have noticed, but Rogue is acting
"Oui, I've noticed," he replies curtly.
"What is the cause of her distress?"
"It's private - she wouldn' want me t'tell."
"I am her best friend," she reminds him.
"Bien - but I didn' tell ya dis," he removes a
cigarette from his pocket and lights it, ignoring Storm's
disapproving looks, "It be about Cody."
"She hasn' told ya, has she? Cody was de name of de
boy she kissed an' put into a coma - de boy dat Candra killed."
"And why has the memory of this Cody suddenly returned
to haunt her?"
"Ya know de time we went t'breakfast de other day at
Harry's? She saw Cody's cousin dere - she brought back all
de old feelings o' guilt an' remorse. Found Rogue in the Danger
Room, letting herself get beat up by a man."
"Non - older. Probably her père."
"Why her father?"
"Mon dieu - f'r someone who claims t'be her best-friend,
she hasn' told ya a lot."
"You know how close-lipped Rogue can be," Storm
defers, "But please elucidate me."
"Her father was abusive - used t'beat her up."
Anger flares in Gambit's eyes as he speaks.
"Could explain why she was so scared of havin' a relationship.
Between Cody and Daddy, her experiences wit' men haven't been
"Goddess - the poor child . . . ."
"Ya c'n say that again," Gambit crushes the stub
of his cigarette out beneath his feet where it smoulders and
slams the trunk of the car shut, "My childhood wasn'
easy, but at least I had a family who cared about me."
"He loved me, Stormy. An' I let him down."
"I doubt that, Remy. You took the Elixir to save Belle's
life because it was the only choice. Jean-Luc sent you away
for the same reason."
"Still don't make it easier t'accept," he smiles
wryly, "C'n ya wait while I pick one last t'ing up?"
"Certainly," Storm leans against the car and watches
Gambit walks a few feet away to where a woman is selling
flowers on the pavement. Her body is thin with hunger and
her hollow eyes look at him hopefully. She is wearing a tattered,
print dress that once must have had daffodils on it and her
hair is long and matted.
"Would you like some flowers, sir?"
"What d'ya have?" he asks, looking at the pitiful
selection of daisies and violets. Forget-me-nots and roses.
"Everything that you see, sir."
He selects the least withered of the withered roses. They
once must have been deep red, the color of heart blood.
"Dese'll do jus' fine," he takes them, "How
much do I owe ya?"
Gambit removes his wallet and takes out a ten dollar bill
and hands it to the woman.
"Keep de change," he stands and turns away, replacing
his wallet in his pocket.
"Wait . . . ." the flower-seller calls him back,
"I mean . . . give the roses back to me."
"Quoi?" he hands them to her, perplexed.
A smile touches the weathered face of the woman and she caresses
the petals of the flowers. Beneath her hands, they unfurl,
rejuvenate, become whole again. Crinkled, dried blooms become
velvety and smooth. The color deepens, becoming a rich, deep
burgundy. Etiolated leaves are green once more.
"Consider this your own personal, post-Christmas miracle."
"Ya be a mutant?"
"A wife and a mother as well. Until my family was killed
in a car accident and my husband's clan took everything he
had," her eyes are lonely, "We cannot change our
pasts. . . ."
"Madame - je suis très . . . ."
"Shhh . . . ." an impish, infectious smile crosses
her face, "But we can take control of our futures."
"Oui . . . we can," he takes the roses from her
again, "Merci . . . Madame?"
"Sunset Grace," she stands, "I hope these
bring a smile to the face of your love, Charley-child."
"How d'ya know bout . . . ."
"There are more miracles in this world than people care
to believe," she answers, "Accept this as one of
them. A gift from Marie."
She touches his arm gently, with compassion in her faded
blue eyes, and disappears. Gambit stands there for a long
time, roses in his hands, and wonders.
Continued in Chapter
1. Caldecott County is fictional, however, we do know that
is below Natchez (as Rogue speaks about seeing the riverboats
and Natchez is the most inland port the riverboats reach)
and that is on the Mississippi (same reason). I'm assuming,
for convenience's sake, that it is fairly close to Natchez.
2. Sunset Grace is from X-Men #35.
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