Story #10
Wordcount approx 10180
2001 C.E.
Comic Fantasy (Incomplete story)

Some of you who've read my earlier Gambit script will recognize the first scene. This was an attempt to rewrite it and apply it to a more solid story structure. Unfortunately, this story fails on several levels. Despite being better written than previous works, it is still lacking in style, substance, and proper word usage. It becomes almost a "see Jane run" type of thing. The story was meant to explore the relationship between Gambit and Sinister and how that effects his standing with the X-Men. Regardless, It shows a maturing growth in my writing and helps set the stage for when I would start publishing to fanstory. This is divided into four parts and had one time been submitted to a Gambit website known as the Lebeau Library. However, it never got posted. May have something to do with how it's written. Don't know for sure and I was never told either way. I stopped using the sight after a slight disagreement with certain other members.

GAMBIT & ROGUE: ILLUSIONS
I

Black clouds plow their way through the midnight sky. No stars or light of moon do these clouds allow to pass through. And it is as in fury that these clouds let loose the wrath and power of lightning and the bellowing roar of rolling thunder. Howling winds bend and sway the standing bayou trees far below the nightmare chaos. As well, too, the river swells and beats the nearby shore. Yet, only with the burning lightning could one make out these events as they transpire amidst the eternal dark of this treacherous night.

And what fool would dare brave such a thing as nature's fury? For even the renowned bayou 'gators have taken shelter from the increasing storm. Yet, even so, two lost souls have found their way to the bayou's center. Lost, mind you, in life and soul. For this country, both know well.

Two boys, not much older than ten, scurry along the bayou bath barely visible. They have come here through this storm for a reason...though only one of the boys knows why for sure. The first boy, the eldest, is taller than the second by only a few inches and as blonde headed as blonde heads can be. This makes it easier for the second boy to track his movements.

Following the first boy, comes the second, dark, brownish red hair and piercing blue eyes. This boy searches the darkness in vain hoping to catch some glimpse of what the elder boy had brought him here for.

The boys pass through several large and olden bayou trees as they make their way to the river's edge not too far away now. The younger boy makes nary a sound, though who could hear for the thunder? Even so, the younger boy can himself still hear his elder's footsteps as the blonde boy tramples hard upon mud and branches and rocks and other of nature's refuse.

"Cousin...we almost dere?"

With slight impatience and eagerness, the younger boy inquires of his elder this time-honored query. The blonde boy responds not as they continue towards the undisclosed destination. The younger boy feels the chill running up his spine as they delve deeper through the giant trees. This chill he can't quite figure out...even in spite of the fiercely blowing wind.

"Look dere! We almost dere!"

Excitement resonates in the eldest boy's voice. His finger points the way. And the younger boy looks. Barely visible can he make out what seems to be a boat dock. And again the elder boy speaks.

"Go ahead. Take a peek! You got betta eyes den me. It's jus' like I said."

"I still don' unnerstand, cousin. Why dey try to get a ship into dese parts?"

Honest eyes from the younger boy seek out an answer from his elder. The elder merely shrugs with a dubious response.

"Don' know...maybe dey's be runnin' coco out 'ere. I heard once dat dey was. But, I'm tellin' ya, de ship be right dere."

"Can't believe dey run a ship ashore like dat."

"Believe it! I right behind you to de edge, cuz."

And so, the younger of the two takes the lead as they head out unto the old, worn dock. The boy doesn't take notice of his elder having his hand behind his back. And as they creep out unto the dock even further, the younger boy doesn't see his elder take from behind his back a long and silver dagger.

"I still don' see..."

Turning around, the younger boy is cut off in mid sentence as he finds his cousin bearing down on him with the long blade. In a swift movement, the elder pushes the blade down from above his head towards the younger boy's face. However, the younger one grabs hold of the silver blade between the palms of his hands. A terrified expression of disbelief crosses the young boy's visage. His blue eyes seek out and find the hatred emanating from his cousin's deep green eyes.

"Why, cousin!? What's dis all 'bout!?"

The elder boy gazes down towards his inferior. In his mind, the younger boy is nothing more than genetic garbage and he doesn't mind telling him so.

"Don' call me 'Cousin'! You ain't notin' ta me! Jus' cuz Jean-Luc felt pity fer ya, don' mean a t'ing to any o'us! As for why..."

A look of evil delight plays across the elder boy's face and he takes great pleasure in informing his 'cousin' of his ill intent.

"I gonna be joinin' de assassin's guild! Dey take me! I'm tired of dese weak an' cowardly t'ieves! But afore I can be one o'dem...I gotta kill 'family'...an', well, ain' noone gonna miss YOU!"

With all his might, the elder boy pushes against the strain of the struggling younger boy. It is a frantic standoff. One that can only end in death. The younger boy, only wants the boy he considered 'family', to go away. It has been years since the younger boy has felt this kind of terror. Not since the streets and the gangs he used to run with. Back before the days he pick-pocketed Jean-Luc Lebeau, patriarch of the Thieves Guild of New Orleans.

And now here he was, struggling to stay alive yet again in his already seemingly long, yet short, life. This thought, this feeling of survival, stuck in his head as he felt something deep within....give. And it was then, that he noticed the glow.

A strange, glowing radiation crept from the boy's hand and into the blade grasped firmly between his palms. The elder boy took notice of this and began to widen his eyes...but still, the elder pushed harder against the younger boy. As if in dramatic fashion, lightning splayed across the bayou river illuminating the two boy's forms. For a split instance, their struggling shadows were cast upon the shore of the opposite coast. While on their side, their forms were illuminated by the glowing form of the younger boy.

The glowing radiation leapt from the young boy's eyes then forcing some sort of objects away from his face, from his eyes, in a disintegrating spray. The remnants of which passed by the older boy's eyes and he watched the individual particles dance away into the fierce wind and he began to feel the jolt. The jolt of energy building up in the young boy splurged forward and through the silver blade and through the elder boy's hands and through the elder boy's arms and into his body...and from there the energy split and pulsated into his pelvis and into his legs and into his feet while the other split entered his neck and into his head and rattled his brain.

Alarmed and afraid, the younger boy could only stare at his panicking and yet still attacking cousin. The younger boy's glowing red eyes pierced the darkness surrounding his face and the elder only stared right back. The elder felt as if his whole body were being bore into by those red, glowing eyes as if Satan himself were looking right into his soul. and then he tried to scream.

Nothing.

Energy spent and released while the younger boy looked onto his cousin attempting to scream. That scream never came as the elder's entire body, molecule by molecule, expanded and released and dissipated into the air in much the same way as the younger boy's contacts had done only moments before. Contacts given him by Jean-Luc, to hide his alarming red eyes. And then it was, that the red-eyed boy stood alone with his hands and arms still grasping a blade that was no longer there and attached to an elder boy who was no longer there. Nothing were these things now but dust in an increasing wind.

And panic arose in the younger boy. He slowly inched back from where his cousin had stood. Or at least, the boy he had considered a cousin, now vanished and gone. He turned and ran with words on his lips...

"Cou...cou...COUSIN!"

And off he ran into the dark and into the forest. Further and further, back the way they had come. When it was he was several hundred feet away and then several hundred meters...he smashed into an object, solid and sturdy yet somehow he had not been injured. The young boy looked up to see what tree he had smacked and saw not a tree but a man.

"Mi...Mister?"

And the man smiled a sinister grin and stared down at the small young boy. While upon the man's forehead, there glowed a bright and red triangular object. The boy remembered no more.

*****

Red eyes awaken in the dark and immediately a form sets up and gasps for air. Covers are tossed back from the horrid dream the dreamer had dreamt and upon two feet the dreamer gets.

Quel l'enfer? I haven't had that nightmare since I was a small boy. Oh...God my head. The form stretches and flexes and works the kinks out of dormant muscles and sighs a breath of relief that the nightmare is ended. Thinking and considering, the person wonders whether to just go back to sleep or slip out into the night again. For night is obviously still full force outside the partially opened window. A cool breeze comes in through its cracked sliver. Where was I last night? I can't remember.

A hand props against a chin upon a silhouetted figure against the moonlit curtains covering the window. Gently that curtain flows by the cracked window's sliver, the gust of wind suddenly picking up outside.

Hmmm...de last t'ing I remember was de...trial? Non! An anxious feeling crosses the person's mind and body and Gambit turns towards his dresser near the window in the spacious room. I remember leading de X-Men! Yes. That is my last recollection. But wait? How did I get back from Antartica? Rogue said she searched...He stops short of the mirrored dresser and stares through the dark trying to make out his form. Hesitant suddenly of the lamp on the dresser's corner.

But did she really? A fly by was more like it! NON! It WAS a search! Really? Den why are you arguin' wit' yerself? I...? Gambit stops short in thought and flips on the lamp. Glowing red eyes stare back from the mirror. But Gambit is not there. Rogue stares back at herself in the mirror and tries to cope with the sudden loss. No!! Dis...this...where? OH god! Her bare hands go to her face and Rogue slowly backs away from the mirror and sits upon a chair close by.

Pulling her hands from her eyes, Rogue looks around her room. One of the largest of rooms in the mansion. She lucked out on getting it when Warren finally left. And now, she's wondering when she herself shall finally return.

Slow...I thought...but I was Remy! Uh... Rogue performs a quick inspection of her body to assure herself that not all transformations has she acquired. She finds that she is still a 'she' and then her mind wanders to just how exactly her mutant capabilities allow her to take on 'physical' manifestations of certain other mutant's physical assets. Then just as quickly, her mind drifts back into one query...

"Remy...where are you?"

II

I remember dis place...

A riverfront mansion...
Cairo, Illinois...
Sometime ago...

The art deco was something that the mutant thief calling himself 'Gambit' could quite get into. Looking around and about his position, he could see that the entire interior of this mansion was laden with precious art from around the world. Gambit only wished that he had the time required to pilfer this mansion for all its worth, and then some. However, there was business at hand, and his employer was not a happy man. Of course, neither Gambit. He'd been all over this mansion only to find it already inhabited. This was a dangerous environment for a thief and he was hardly ever eager to 'work' around potential witnesses.

Gambit didn't imagine that there were many of them here, but more than enough. And obviously well into the finer art of 'S&M', if the black and red leather suits with spikes upon them and spiked collars as well were any indication. Though he wished too to spy the action, there was still a minor difficulty...

Par le diabolique un se! Where is she!? He said she'd be here! Eh? Wha's dis? Gambit hides himself behind a pillar and bears witness to a young, white haired girl leaping from the third floor balcony in the spacious, open main hall. At its bottom, there was a pool and the only thing to break the impending and sudden stop at the end of her fall. Gambit looked to where the girl had just jumped from and saw a glowing energy pattern flailing out after her. It was in the form of a massive hand and this unnerved Gambit to no extent.

Mon Dieu! I know that energy signature! And if he's here, den small chere in trouble! With that thought in mind, the Gambit makes his way over to the rippling pool that the young girl feel into. Could she be? A thought enters his head as he considers his mission. Too much is riding on this. Non...she is too young. But... the ethnicity...of African heritage if not a few or more degrees lighter in tone. And she looked as if she tried to fly...

Gambit doesn't finish his line of thought as he draws near to the girl now crawling out of the water. She drags herself onto the pool's edge and notices him with panicked eyes. He says nothing as he extends his hand to help her out of the pool. The girl is afraid, there is no doubt. And Gambit has every reason to understand the girl's fear.

Still he does not speak as he escorts the drenched girl off to another room. She tries to speak but he silences her with his index finger to his lips and she closes her mouth back shut and goes with the stranger to a room on the west side of the mansion.

Dat's how it was, wasn't it? Yes...

Admiring eyes take in the work of art before them. Quickly, the mind behind the eyes assesses the piece as an early Picasso. Quick cash for a quick thief. However, this one's mind is not on thievery but o the course of action at hand.

The room had very little light, with what light there was illuminating from one small lamp in the corner of the large, Grecian designed room. As well, moonlight splayed into the room through the large, oaken braced windows. On the couch, sat the small girl watching the thief with careful eyes. She had been watching him, afraid, for the last fifteen minutes...or rather, ever since he brought her to this room and told her quietly to sit and be patient while he weighed his options. She had not known about the vault, and wondered why a vault had windows. Obviously, the original owner hadn't a care of potential criminals like the one before her and she herself. Now, his back was to her and his attention elsewhere, she assumed on the art and figured him for what he was, a thief.

Interesting predicament, non, Gambit? Hmph, now what? A thief with no name protecting a girl whom could be...but she isn't. But if she isn't, then where? I wish he hadn't made me come 'ere. He could 'ave sent anyone to retrieve this woman...or is it girl? He didn't make that clear! C'mon, Remy, when does he ever make it clear? Gambit senses movement behind him. Yet, he doesn't turn. He already knows. The girl...she gonna bolt. I should stop her, but she ain't my responsibility! So let her bolt. As the girl stands and creeps to the door, Gambit remains motionless. Until he senses something else...behind the door. Uh-oh!

"Attendez, Chere! Watch the door!!"

The young girl turned and looked at the man too late as she turned the knob. From behind which one of the spike-leather clad people burst through. The girl fell backwards with the strange man leering at her. However, to her, he looked far more feral than any human she'd remembered seeing.

Gambit moved quickly before the man-beast could do any harm to the young girl. He spoke as he whipped out a throwing spike and charged it with his natural mutant ability. The spike glowed with the kinetic energy.

"Do us both a favor, hey, pup-pup? Scoot away from de girl...Other ideas, eh? Gonna carry the kidling back to your boss, claim a pat on la tete and an extra ration of yummies? Figured as much. Can't let you do dat."

In one swift underhand toss, the charged spike leaves Gambit's hand and flies towards the man-beast. The spike makes contact with a wall behind the thing and explodes. The force sends the creature sprawling across the floor and into unconsciousness. The creature known as a "Hound" had absorbed nearly all the blast's pressure. Yet, still enough pressure sent the young girl flying into the arms of Gambit, whom couldn't resist the quick quip.

"Hasn't been your night, eh, Chere? Or maybe it has– considering how often I'm here to rescue you."

The girl looked into the strangers eyes and was taken aback. They glowed bright red and before she knew it, she was spouting out her own comment with a bit more irritation in her words than she intended.

"I am called STORM! An I don' need you! Do fine enough on my own!"

"Yeah, right, tell me another. I'm Gambit, Stormy, an I don' believe a word. Some great choice you leave me...A fortune in classical art...or you. Paintings'll keep. Us t'ieves...we have to stick together. 'Sides, I'm intrigued. If you're who I think you are...I'd like to find out how you got so good so young."

Yeah, you found dat out all right. And the mission...? Cairo, Illinois...
A riverfront mansion...
Now...

Remy Lebeau, aka GAMBIT, mutant thief–or is that 'ex-thief'?, extraordinaire stands beside what used to be the main hall's pool. Now, it lies dried up and the mansion desolate. Broken down and in ruins was now this place's legacy. No more fresh greenery as several years before. And the air, stale as the air trapped in a sunken ship.

It has been a long time since the Shadow King has roosted here. Now...only memories remain. Memories of distant missions long forgotten. And ones that Gambit had hope to forget and never complete. Yet, here he was at his beckoning.

Gambit takes in the sight of the poolside edge where Ororo Munroe, Storm—or "Stormy" by Gambit's accord, transformed into a young girl, had once been pulled to safety by a tall and dark, handsome stranger. A stranger on less than a nice mission. Sure, he and she, they had fun times together...but overall, he was to get her to accept him. And then to get her to allow him entrance to the mutant team known as the X-Men. How fortunate for him then, that Storm had desired and bade him entrance unto the team. And Gambit was well accepted. At least at first. Of course, that was long before the trial. And the mission?

Gambit crossed his arms and stared with an icy stare towards the unknown darkness as if waiting for it to move. And when it did, he was not at all frightened or nervous or in want. The shadow moved and spoke to him.

"I am...please...that you could come, Remy."

The tall and fearsome figure approached Gambit from the opposite side of the pool and stopped. He saw that his influence over the mutant had been tainted...maybe even eliminated. The tall man's figure stood tall and unwavering, though his great smile, faded just a touch. But not enough to allow Gambit to notice. However, Gambit noticed and didn't care. His icy gaze stayed fixed.

"Stow it, Sinister. We ain' her to walk down memory lane...what do you want?"

Yes, definitely fading...but we will soon remedy that. Sinister knew that his tenous hold on the thief was almost gone but he also knew he had a few trump cards left to play.

"I'm hurt, Gambit...tell me again why you chose such a...intuitive name?"

Blazing red eyes bright like fired coals glare into the once renowned geneticist. And for a second, a cold sweat nearly broke out in the madman. But merely a fraction of a second in response to the 'nothing' this man Gambit spoke.

"The mission I assigned you...what seems like ages ago...I need you to finish it."

"I thought you dropped that business?"

"Let's just say...it...reemerged."

Sinister smiles broadly in almost a sneer intended for the Cajun. And with that he begins to walk closer to Gambit. Gambit in turn holds up his hand to stop Sinister from coming any closer. Where is my hold? Sinister stops seven feet away and still maintains his grin. Gambit doesn't budge. Instead, he stands taller with his trench coat blanketing his body. Only the Cajun's steeled boots show from beneath the coat. Something...has definitely changed. Hmm, I wonder?

Gambit stays silent for only moments and then speaks to Sinister with increasing threat in his voice. This enrages Sinister whom remains composed. However, all his carefully laid out plans are falling apart at the seams and it seems to him that now Gambit is the master weaver.

"I am under no obligation to do anything for you anymore..."

Sinister opens his mouth to speak but is cut off...

"I ain' finished! As I was sayin....However, dis I t'ink mus' be done. 'Sides, I owe dis one...a little bit o' Cajun payback."

The tall geneticist watches Gambit turn and walk away. His smile widens and he feels in control again...that soon his way will be done and complete. It is at this junction, that Gambit turns...

"By the way, don' go t'inkin you won. You ain'. Right now, I'm holdin' all de cards an' I'll use 'em, if I have to. Believe me."

Mister Sinister, arch-nemesis of the X-Men...incredulous figure in history responsible for the most despicable of creations, hate-crimes, and sacrilege...can only stare smiling at first. Until that smile fades...gradually at first. Then, suddenly, it disappears all together in sudden realization in what Gambit is referring to. He stares then, coldly. No teeth bared...only a look of pure evil and hatred for this once X-Man, once thief, now once ex-thief. And that thief turns, knowing that his message was delivered and received all the same and complete and understood. Without another look back, Gambit enters the shadowy depth of the main hall beyond. Sinister doesn't move even until well after the gentle 'clang' of the front door. And Sinister wishes suddenly that he'd never made an attempt at this young and dangerous mutant. I should have left you in the cradle...

III

"Now people say Ah'm jinxed...Ah got some kinda voodoo hex. Life is so complex. There's no telling what can happen next. Life on the edge, fuels the sickness in mah head. It imbeds the type of thoughts that got a lotta brothers dead. The smarter brother knows ta keep his foes close. And Ah'm the type of brother– Sister!! Hehe!– that's smarter than most. A cold hearted overdose of lyrical antidotes! The cure to make sure mah karma can't take me down. Up ta the same ol' tricks. Bet he is...Ah wonder if Ah'll stick around. Is a penny really lucky if ya find it on the ground? What's the problem wit'-With-this town? Ah can't figure it out. Mah karma's crashin' down...tell me 'bout it...In the form of a Black Cloud...*whistles and hums loudly and sings*

"Ah've got a little black cloud that follows me. Everywhere Ah go, it takes over me. Oh yeah, baby!! Ah'm sick. Ah've got a real ill disposition. Mah intentions are pure but there's a cure for mah condition. Mah decisions!! ...put me in the wrong positions. Chasing pipe dreams– still chasing!– of fame and recognition. The Epic. Not only a name, a definition!

"Mah game remains no matter the pain. Ah stay the charmer. The Don of Karma. Ah navigate it like the Dalai Lama!! *Pounds steering wheel with enthusiasm to the beat.* Ah ain't a saint. But Ah've got joie de vie– Ahh! The joy of life!...Ah wish...And Ah'm the one to blame if the cloud rains on me! Ah can't complain about it or even let regret provoke the energy it takes for me ta get upset. A bad boy– *ppppht!* GIRL! since birth so Ah can't forget what goes around comes around and it ain't got me yet! Probably won't take too long t'ough...ugh, THOUGH!

"Ah've gotten wise in mag age and tamed the threat of mah rage. Ah've got a lot ta learn and Ah've got money to spend and more than ya think! Ta pretend is reaping more than sewing ever could mend. *singing chorus yet again* Trade mah torches for a dime the pressure's fading away now Black Cloud's lifted for the light the pressure's fading away now keep fading.

"A thousand cigarettes could use a smoke—WHAT am Ah saying!? Won't change the way we feel Nope The pressure's fading now can ya bare the thought of knowin' truth? *Stares off into space with a vacant expression* ... ...*short silence* Knowin' truth. Ah was rappin' in the rain, hopin' that mah luck would change. And if there's any truth ta all those old sayings. Cuz if Ah killed a spider, would mah house catch on fire? If Ah walked under a ladder would it matter? Ah tend ta laugh when black cats cross mah path. Break mirrors in half *frowns* yes...Ah have...just ta test the aftermath now here comes the rain. Ah project mah pain. Tryin' ta make sense of these crazy things! Ah'm a diamond in the rough. Could Ah suffer enough? *Tears begin to roll*

"Ah'm getting high for a living, not givin' a – *coughs*– These hard times got me stuck...Stuck in a jam. Ah'm the monkey on ya back and the crack in the dam. Disastrous took time ta master this! And the past is just a map ta capture this. In the darkness. Ah'm forced ta adapt ta this. Ah would change the past if Ah could have one wish...*Sings the chorus over again and goes silent, deep in thought*

Ah can't stop the tears...and ah'm afraid of de truth...
What am ah doin' out here?

Within the state of Illinois...
Just after Noon...

Pushing the speed limit and faster, of or at or maybe even above seventy miles per the hour, Rogue sits behind the steering wheel of an incredibly well kept-up convertible, Dodge Viper...black...top down. And the fresh air pushes through her hair, forcing it to flow backwards, making her enjoy the car even more. She had borrowed it from the X-mansion's garage. Rogue was positive that Scott Summer's wouldn't mind. Sure he's got more pressing matters...what after the battle with Apocalypse and everyone assumin' 'e was dead an all...

The entire trip into Illinois, Rogue had been listening to her new CD...one featuring Crazytown, and watching the world around her zip by without a care. And she was happy for the most part listening to the music. And one of her favorite songs on the CD was Black Cloud...yet, it brought to her not just joy, but also a painful reminder of Remy Lebeau. Several of the lines within the song reminded her of her on-again, off-again lover...also known as 'Gambit'.

Now, here was Rogue driving as quickly as possible into Illinois...and the exact destination on her list was in Cairo. She hadn't the faintest clue as to why the thought of heading into Cairo would have even occurred to her, let alone slipped by her carefully construed defenses. Despite having kissed and absorbed her lover's powers so long ago, she still had no idea how he managed to remain 'hidden' to telepaths and their mental probes. Not even the Professor had been successful in breaching his mind. Even so, here she was...subject to every crazy thought to have pushed through his skull at any given moment in his life and still having next to no idea of how his mind worked.

Last night's nightmare had left her exhausted and flustered. Where was Remy? And why, for the love of God, did she think she was him? Rogue could have sworn...but there was something on the edge of her awareness then. Something summoning her to Cairo. And here she was. Responding to God knows what, if anything.

Thirty miles...almost there. The road sign was a godsend on her long drive. And Rogue's tush was on the verge of ripping out her tailbone. Something that, despite being invulnerable, was eating at her flesh from the inside. Rogue desperately needed to get out and take a walk. Yet...she was so close. So she continued the last bit of the way. It was then that the thought occurred to her...I should have just flown. Oh yeah! That would be brilliant! Something that leading the X-Men has taught me, an dat's to keep hidden an expose yerself only when the urgency necessitates. And after that flying thought occurred to her, she knew it would have been wrong. It wasn't but fifteen minutes later, when she entered the town of Cairo.

It stood still...still and as silent and as dead as a tomb and had remained the such for the last four years. Since before he had joined the team. The green and oxygen hungry vines spread and poised themselves within most and all of the cracks and crevices of this old mansion. The design itself hidden by the savage vegetation. Though, if one looked hard enough, the cliff side residence would gleam its Euro-American architecture. Once, this place had been the sole property of one man– Jacob Reisz, an investigator. Once, they would have a said a 'good one'...course, that was before the 'crime spree' that took the small riverfront town by storm those many years ago. That was me...wait! No!!

Agony and grief play across the face of the dreamer stuck yet again in one of many of visions...and still being driven, urged, to respond to some irresistible force. And her hands flail to her head and to her face and cover her eyes. She resists the building want to scream and scream loud. Then, Rogue regains her composure. Her white eyes, surging with dissipating energy trails, fade back into their rightful and bright green color of before and take in the mansion sight yet again. Ah DIDN'T raid dis...this town. That was 'Ro. But...why? Why's all this still happenin' to me? Ah took care o'dis matter matter months ago!! And here we go agin!

Rogue cautiously approaches the darkened mansion and enters its massive front doors. A slight creak emanates and sends an echo out and into the equally massive interior. A stray thought forms and sticks into Rogue's mind...one she hadn't even thought to consider. In four years? How did this mansion get so grown over with all that vinery? Face it, girl, dis place...!...Mon Dieu! Le Roi d'Ombre!...The Shadow King!! 'E is...non...was...non...that, that was long ago! God, fille, pull it together! Ya ain' Remy!

She shakes her head from side to side trying to shake the other persona out and away from her. Rogue is tired of playing. Gambit had rescued Stormy from this place! Oh, wait, Ororo hates the term 'Stormy'..hmmm, hafta keep dat in mind next time she annoys me. This is worse den the whole 'Wolverine' debacle Ah put mahself through before Ah got it tagetha. Tagetha...right.

Darkness starts to ever so slightly give way to some light shining from an unknown source. And she enters into the light. Before her, lies what used to be a pool and suddenly, Rogue feels mournful of a past she never lived...The pool no longer contained water, but a layer of black soot and dirt. Around her, pottery lay broken and discarded, as if destroyed by some cataclysmic force. Fixating her gaze everywhere and nowhere at once, she took it all in with her peripheral vision and 'felt' out with her seventh sense...and there returned a tremor. Not large...almost undetectable.

Rogue's eyes refocused on the cracks lining the emptied pool and allowed herself a slight absorption into the light glinting down from the darkened ceiling where large holes permeated its depth. It was then that she discerned it...and it was unwelcome. Her eyes sharpened to slits and her vision forged into the dark beyond as if staring at an invisible creature. Then, she verbalized her rage.

"Ain' no sense hidin'! Ah know yer dere."

"Ahh...perfect. There it is. As I required." responded the darkness.

And Rogue stared...stared hard to try to see. She knew him...knew his evil well enough that it had become her own. That evil surged through her body as she stared through the impeding darkness. And then she felt...nothing. The pain and discomfort and confusion and dissolution...gone. Just like that...All the hurt and all the pain that he had given her, suddenly just vanished. And her heart, her lonely, lonely heart that that thief had stolen...shoved right back into place. SNAP. Just like that. It was like he was never there.

"Don't you have...a mission to complete?"

The invisible voice purred to her mind in delight and she couldn't resist its gentle pull. How?

"How? The 'how' is as inconsequential as the 'where'...or, mayhaps, my darling Rogue, 'when.'"

Rogue could sense the deepening and evil grin from where she stood. She needn't even look upon the evil one's visage. She already knew it too well. Ah hate you! Ah hate ever't'ing 'bout you! Hate you fer remindin' me, how much Ah hate d'taste of who Ah was! Who Ah am! Hate you...cause...worst o'all, of WHO Ah will be...

These words, Rogue finds very familiar, despite a bit of vary and word placement. For, they had been relatively spoken before...about her and about him. And, as Rogue turns to exit the building, random thoughs of her own generate within...Ah wish Ah'd never kissed Remy that night...wish Ah'd never heard the gentle whisper of his name! Ah wish...god help me...that he'd never been born! One lone tear runs gingerly down her left cheek as she walks slowly away and out the mansion's front doors with a straight back and rigid stride. Then it is, his voice again, this time, in her head...

"Such ill-mannered thoughts! It matters naught...even if Remy had never been born, I would have come. And as it were...Remy has been the ONLY obstacle in my way! So, Rogue...or shall I...dare I say... 'GAMBIT'?...I shall leave to you that particular loose thread...in your, capable, and reliable hands!"

Rogue feels a rush of blood behind her cheeks and a feintness in her heart. She would love nothing more right now than to awaken from this atrocious nightmare...She had never considered, never thought....Oh no....Never had a clue, until the panic set in and she strode to her car and turned the ignition and looked in the mirror upon the windshield and saw the face that haunted her past...and his. Hers.

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Somewhere in Northwest Montana...

Only three days had passed since Gambit's encounter with Sinister at the old mansion. At first, it was an eager trip down memory lane...however, the business of Sinister's summons had brought the Gambit, Remy Lebeau's mind, back to reality. He hated the dark being with a passion not even surpassed by his love for Rogue. Love for Rogue? Hmph...With a quick snort, Remy grabs his glass of red wine from the table in front of him. Dat how you do loved ones? Love 'em...leave 'em....pack it up an' screw 'em? Good t'ing Minnie didn't care for relationships. She do t'ings Rogue ain' got no idea 'bout t'oh. Like I know! Dat night in Antartica...Red eyes grow cold for but the briefest of moments. No mistake. Wouldn't know it f'r hav'in lived it t'oh.

Not far ahead on this speeding train's tracks, lay in wait the Canadian wilderness. It was unusual for Gambit to take the back route into a country he was hardly eager to see again. Let alone, try and attempt to tolerate the terrain in Canada that went on endlessly. Not too much unlike the forever country of Montana or *gasp*, Milwaukee Wisconsin!

As much as the Cajun liked to joke around in his own mind, he knew the train wouldn't go into the borders of Canada. So, once at the station-which would be just a few miles south of the border-, Gambit would discreetly make the trek by foot into the surrounding forest. It wasn't that he couldn't make it through the rather 'blande' customs...it was just in case someone recognized the wanted poster of him plastered up on every wall in all of creation. He was a hunted man. Hunted by S.H.I.E.L.D. And they wanted him dead, or alive...Gambit assumed 'dead' would be more to their liking. It was a desire he had no intention of fulfilling.

Hunted. Now, I'm de hunter? Gonna 'ave to do dis quick... 'fore de 'good guys' show up. Good t'ing I know de back way in. Know it? Yes, and like the back of his hand, he would show every trick that a proper thief brought up could show you. And then some.

A single, tingling sensation grips his mind. Sacre...Gambit stares out the window, away from the direction of the station, of Canada...and stares out the window opposite him, leering out towards the unknown. He sets his wine down...and pulls off the shades he many times wore. And impetously ignored every side-longed, shocked glance of the half dozen 'guests' sitting in the dining room car.

Gambit rose to his feet and swiftly crossed the short distance across the aisle to the table on the opposite side of the train. He leans over the table and braces his body weight with his left arm. And in his right hand grasp remained the sunglasses. With his 'evil' eyes he spied...all there was to see, the expansive prairies. And that sense...he knew it was there and coming closer. Venir et jouer, mon Papillon...for indeed, we 'ave a long day a'ead of us.

The mutant thief sees no one...and the train pushes towards its destination mere miles away.

IV

Several months ago...

Westchester County, New York...
A lone mansion upon Greymalkin Lane...

Professor Charles Francis Xavier pushes his wheelchair into his darkened study. Upon the chair's wheels, the spokes align themselves in an 'X' formation. This design was a little something Forge found amusing and had decided to put together. Charles found this wheelchair far more comfortable than others he had ridden in. Though, he still missed his hoverchair. He found it...neat.

Upon entering, Charles cast his glance towards his large windows overlooking the expansive lawn of his estate. It is a window he has taken the view in from since his childhood. Always in his need, he found comfort in the view. And now, he found, as he knew and expected, the form of Scott Summers leaning against his left arm upon a wooden sill. Scott was troubled. And no telepath was needed to figure that out.

He didn't speak a word as he rolled in and took a place near Scott and proceeded to look out into the lawn and into the forest beyond. It had grown dark out and moonlight was just starting to filter into the dark room. Charles found it comforting despite the recent torments that had ripped into his students. And he knew that Scott blamed himself. Charles felt it wasted words to even try to talk Scott out of such an assumption. He realized that the best way for Scott to deal with this, was to let him figure it out on his own. And to also be there for his moral support.

Many minutes passed between the two men as they gazed out the window. Patiently, Charles awaited the X-Men's first and foremost to speak. And he was not disappointed. He knew his students too well.

"You're right. I'm not going to berate myself over this."

Scott slowly spoke his words without so much looking at his teacher and the man he considered the closest thing to a father on this planet. Though he knew where his real father was...and always so far out of reach.

Charles sat still and listened. The full details of the story were already known to him. And he was greatly displeased. The rest of his students...who were no more really students he supposed...were well into the wrong into this particular venture. Sorrow was there in Charles. But he wouldn't let it show.

"I suppose it was coming though..." continued Scott after a moment of time slipped past. "But, who would have guessed that...damn it."

"Scott, the rest of the X-Men must learn to respect one another before the rest of the world will respect them. This is sad...However, unfortunately...not unexpected."

"Do you think he'll come back?"

Charles thought over this particular query for several minutes. He sighed upon his revelation. It wasn't an easy answer.

"No. He won't. Too much damage has been done...Even so, he will forever remain an X-Man."

Scott looked upon Charles for the first time upon his entry into the study. His mouth twisted into a grimace. And he was perplexed at his mentor's response.

"I'm not sure I follow you, Professor."

"Oh?"

Charles cast his glance upon Scott. Both men paid careful attention to the other's emotions. After several seconds Charles continued.

"Have you forgotten Bishop's claim already, Scott?" Scott watched Charles turn his head and stare back out the massive window. "Though the future is undetermined, it is a certainty that this particular story is far from over. What concerns me most is what ramifications will this have over the X-Men?"

Scott looked out the window as well. Both men remained there in silence. It was not to be broken for nearly five minutes when Scott issued forth his thought on said matter.

"This can not be known for certain...but I pray and hope it isn't to the effect I fear."

Charles nodded his head in agreement fearing the potential and gravity of the situation. Both his hands come before his face and his fingers tap unto each other as if her were preparing to pray. However, Charles holds his fingers in that position up to the bridge of his nose and he loses himself into thought. Suddenly, a silhouette from the doorway behind the men quietly and stealthily departs the area. Charles casts a quick glance in that direction but doesn't follow. He had known that she had heard. She was going to talk to him. But Charles didn't feel that this conversation should take place just yet.

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A dark and deliberate form steadily crept from the study's entry frame. Her arms were folded across her breasts as she moved forward deep in thought. Not even a month had passed since the fateful incident of the team. That had been a gruesome day indeed.

The ivory walls slide by as she proceeds down the hall and enters a well-lit portion of the mansion. She passes several dark and unoccupied rooms. The other X-Men were already asleep in their beds. But one room bothers her most. And she stops by that dark room and leans unto the doorframe marking its entrance. She stares hard into its confines. Barely visible to her, is a made-up bed. And further, near the curtained over window, she sees the dresser. He hadn't stayed here much, and she saw him even less. However, since his departure to destinations unknown, she had felt...lost. This she could not explain.

Certainly, they were friends. To this, let there be no doubt. Uncertain, was the unnamed doubts that crept evermore into her mind. Once could call those doubts remorse. Remorse over lost times? She knew not. Though, still, the memories of better days were there. And where was he to be found now? What if she should wish and desire his company for an evening? Company that she oft times enjoyed upon his favorite perch up above the rooms just past her loft, out on the roof. A place she many times called his 'brooding spot'. Now, this room is empty. With him he took everything. Only left were the things already there before.

Goddess...what now? Ororo Munroe left the room, shutting the door behind her. Towards the stairs and up to her room she went. Thoughts pressed deeper in her mind sparking the growing curiosity of why she felt the way she felt. And she disappeared into her loft and shut the door.

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Somewhere deep within the Canadian Rocky Mountain Range...
Presently...

Deep within the woods leading up towards the summit of one of the many peaks of the Rockies, a lone and silent structure stands. It was built into the side of the mountain high up above the treetops of ground level. In fact, this hidden wooden palace is nearly three-quarters of the way up the mountainside. Long ago was it built. From that time, none remember for it was before the long raging war between Indian and the American military. Still, its shadows tell a foreboding tale.

From the outside, the structure is like unto a wooden cabin. Though with two stories and but two small and covered windows on the second story. Three quarters of the cabin can be seen though wild growth grips the cabin from the sides. Hidden now are the recesses that connect cabin to stone. While within, the atmosphere lies gloomy and undisturbed. Within there is a wide and expansive room veiled in darkness save for one trail of sunlight entering from a crevice above. Centered in that light stands a man.

He stands five-feet and nearly a half. His dark hair poised into a backwards split as if the strands tried to label him 'demon'. But it is but wayward 'part' of the hair. Though the cut is short, still it draws long at the points the hair jets out and back away from the sensitive ears. And upon the man's face, are there fiercer hairs. Not such a demonic form nor long or bushy. Unshaven to be sure. But not stubble either.

'Demon' was once applied to this short man once upon a time. Though he has been called worse. Certainly he has been called better. Even 'savior.' Even so, there have been many times he has doubted himself. Those days before memory oft times scare him the most. Yet, here, in this hidden manor, he feels...at home. However, he doesn't remember this place. Least, not yet. And everyday more of his memory returns.

He came appropriately dressed so as to draw as little attention to himself as necessary. In blue jeans. The basic kind. And a plaid, red shirt. Long. Jacket? Full suede. Brown and comfortable. Why is he waiting? Why'm I waitin'? This is not the first or last time he has or ever will ask this question.

A dim and dreary wind plays across his neck. And a shiver runs up his spine. Still, he stands and listens and smells and waits. His ears perk as he listens to the sounds about him...in the woods. Those sounds have gone silent. And a shift in the wind alerts him and he turns his head quickly to his right.

Wood splinters inward from outside as a great force drives through. He hadn't heard a vehicle. Thusly, he figures that mutant powers are at play and the smell of this newcomer disturbs him. The humanoid shape flies past his face nearly smacking his jaw. It misses and disappears briefly into the darkness beyond. Barely missing the blow, he had turned to the left and dove to the ground. He looks now and doesn't have time to make a formal complaint. Red eyes glow in the dark and pierce his soul. He doesn't let that frighten him. This man has seen worse and lived to tell about it. A 'snikt' emanates in the room, echoing through all the corners and secret recesses. Adamantium claws appear from beneath flesh and between knuckles and even before he snarls his dissaprovement of this unprovoked attack, a new threat emerges.

Five glowing red objects zoom nto the room and past him. They meet their target into the dark split seconds before the form leaps towards the prey. Kinetic energy disperses and explodes. Woodchips and old machinery fly outward towards the man. He growls and picks himself back off the floor. A quick glance tells him his other attacker in the dark is buried. Glancing back towards his new doorway proves his second-guess as correct as his first. Another has shown up. And glowing red eyes greet the man again. This time, from the true owner.

"What the flamin' hell is goin' on here!?"

The newest arrival steps forward slightly crouched and issues forth his own warning as he whips out another stash of his arsenal.

"Wolverine! Get out of here! NOW!"

Woverine stands shaking off the debris and starts for his addressor. However, before he can make his own thoughts known, the other arises from the debris on the far side of the cabin. This time, the attacker makes no mistakes and immediately braces her arms and hands against a large beam in the center of the room and pushes. Forward jets the mutant Gambit and issues a shorter command as he unleashes his fury upon the attacker.

"Go!"

Wolverine doesn't stand around waiting for anymore motivation. He makes for the freshly made entrance and jets out just as the kinetically charged playing cards splay out into the dark illuminating the large room. And simultaneously, the wooden pillar in the center of the room breaks and collapses. A tremendous explosion results sending old dust and burnt and broken wood and machinery parts out into the daylight sky and out over the top of the fast retreating Wolverine. The cabin collapses.

Wolverine coughs and shakes the debris off himself as he stands up to take in the sudden view. The cabin that stood is no more save for a small buckling bulge at the center of the wooden and metal heap. I gotta keep better tabs on the romantic entanglements of my teammates! Rogue and Gambit goin' at it...He shakes his head in doubt. But, what does this got to do with me? And here of all places?

Without warning, the center bulge of the cabin explodes upward and out forcing more wooden debris to land on top of Wolverine. He covers his face then risks a peek between the falling debris. High into the air, Rogue flies with Gambit in her grasps. Time ta split. No tellin' what she wants with me after she gets through with him! And I'd prefer to find out on more stable ground! Wolverine rushes off being careful not to leave an obvious trail. He wants to put as much distance between her and him before they come to blows. His mood has grown foul and uncomfortable. And it is well too obvious that Rogue's powers are on the brink again.

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Wind rushes through Remy's hair as he finds himself climbing higher and higher with Rogue the pilot. He isn't frightened, though he believes that if he had half a brain that he would be. Rogue stares long and hard at Remy. And he sees the kinetic energy in her eyes fad some but not by much. Remy stares back with a stern and cold expression equalling hers.

"Since ya wanna go at it now, guess Ah should take care of ya now!"

She looks to her right and closes her eyes. Rogue tries to force back the rage and the pain brewing within her. Her grip lessens to the point where Gambit's coat is on her finger tips.

"Don' guess a little winin' and dinin' could be in order first, non?" Remy puts in trying to sound as cavalier as possible.

He looks about him realizing the extent of the current predicament. Near a mile up by his guess. This might hurt a little.

Rogue now looks to Remy and stares at him, wrestling with the demon within. It's a losing battle for her. A fire red energy illuminates her face and a sneer crosses her lips. Brows purse and prepare for the task at hand. Gambit sees this turmoil and feels deep regret. He brings his hands forward and grabs at Rogue's biker jacket, a green one as seems her preference. The Gambit sees an opening for salvation...Remy hates the choice. A charging energy starts to flow into Rogue's jacket.

"Thought so, chere...my apologies."

Rogue looks down in surprise and sees her jacket glowing as if on fire. She releases Gambait and tries to take the jacket off. Remy would have fallen if not for still hanging onto the jacket. He pulls himself forward and close to her preventing her from taking off the charged item. With a shift in weight and many curses from Rogue, the battle turns, as do these two. Gambit soon has Rogue with her back heading downwards. The kinetic energy disperses outward. Gambit directs it towards Rogue's face and the energy shoots out unto her forehead. The resulting 'blast', as it were, renders Rogue unconscious and they both fall.

Oh yeah, dis gonna hurt. At that moment, Remy views Rogue's jacket. It is practically burnt to a crisp. But sturdy enough it is to support his weight trailing just above Rogue. Remy tightens his grip. If the fall doesn't kill me, Rogue will!

With the force and speed of an out of control train, the two plummet back towards the Earth and the collapsed rubble far below them. With a resounding 'thoom', they plow back into what used to be a cabin in the woods. A great plume of dusty smoke trails up from their ended descent. Remy's motionless body falls from Rogue. Debris covers them both. Then silence.

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A great expanse of time passes and Remy awakens from unconsciousness. He shoves aside the large piece of wooden debris covering him. From head to toe, he finds himself an unsightly shade of dirty grey. His only wish was that he could push the pounding in his head away so easily. A quick glance around tells him everything he needs to know. Rogue is gone and the hunt starts anew. The Gambit makes his way out of the debris and looks into the sky. Dark has fallen. A glance at his watch reveals that it is broken fromt he fall. Least I'm still in one piece...miraculously. What time is it? Mon Dieu!

Remy takes off his short, tight fitting jacket. It's ripped straight down the back and he blames that on the fall. He hadn't intended on taking a ride in the skies or he would not have worn it. It was only worn for protection from the elements. However, Remy doubted that it would be of much use now so he discards it upon the rest of the rubble. Moments pass as he stands viewing the last of the cabin. He remembered when he had first seen it. When he found out what was so important about it. Wolverine would doubtless not think much about it save for the unusual meeting between the three. Unfortunately, the matter of Wolverine would have to wait. A more pressing matter lie in wait. And that matter now had a new face. Rogue. He felt the change when on the train coming to the border of Canada. He wasn't sure how, but Gambit knew that Sinister's foul hand was at play here.

And after dis matter, Monsieur Sinsiter, trust dat dere shall come a reckoning! He turned from the rubble and made his way back through the forest. It was a leisurely pace now. Soon, he would be back to the jeep he had 'borrowed' from one of the locals. Half an hour had passed and he arrived at where he left the jeep. He was ready for some rest because tracking Rogue now was going to be a great task. Even with his natural senses and the 'thing' that Rogue now contained. Some whim that had been implanted in him some years ago, a moment of weakness to be sure, when he went upon Sinister and begged of him to remove that which he couldn't control. Ever since then, he had become Sinister's unwilling pawn and a plaything for him to do as he wished.

As he strolled, Gambit had time to contemplate that 'first' meeting. He knew that it wasn't just chance that brought him to Sinister. There were a great deal many other powers at play. Powers with names and no names at the same time. And Remy knew that his 'father' was deeply involved in the whole sordid mess. When he had picked Jean-Luc's pockets so long ago, he hadn't expected to become involved so deeply with a secret game that played over centuries. And he was the key player. Most of the details he found out by accident. A good deal many more, he stole, cheated, and bluffed out of far worthier adversaries than any he might find upon the X-Men.

De Antiquary, Jean-Luc, de Summers, Wolverine...Now Rogue got it roamin' her 'ead. De man wants me ta do de job, den makes it impossible ta cross de stream! What next? ... Remy stops short of where he parked the jeep and looks at the space it used to occupy. ...Teach me ta ask a stupid question. Look like someone 'borrowed' de jeep I borrowed first. Oh, wait, dere it is... Having looked all about the area without stepping forward further, Remy cast his eyes up into the trees and saw the mangled remains of what used to be a jeep. Now it was no more than a hunk of metal. Gee, Rogue, what? Did ya think I'd be able to hotwire de t'ing and drive off into de sunset wit' it havin' crushed axles? I'm flattered you 'ave so much confidence in my abilities...However, overkill is more like it.

He looks around and finds himself staring westward. A feeling of dread overcomes the man. West it is. You shouldn't 'ave stood around for so long. Now I feel you as if you were in my arms. Shouldn't be but a week for I get dere. Try not to trash de place for I do. A lighter ignites in the darkness as Gambit puts its flame to his cigarette. He starts the long walk towards the west. He knows that about twenty miles lay between him and the next town...a small one at that. His right hand goes into the pocket where the lighter was drawn from and it remains so as he walks. Dey say a good cancerous cigarette shall end your days faster den lightning can strike. Mayhaps. I am more inclined to say Love burns a man harder and faster den any flame or smoke...

Email: kaipur@aol.com