Home | Forum | Mailing List | Repository | Links | Gallery
Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4


Written by Ephiginia
Last updated: 01/02/2007 02:01:11 AM

Chapter 3

Remember: Lucifer in Heaven seemed lovely

in the Lord's eyes before he was cast down.

-Arthur Miller, The Crucible

I did not know doubt until I came to this place.

At home, my fate had been sealed at birth: I was to be a fighter, period. My parents had been warriors. My grandparents had been warriors. Tracing our family tree long enough reveled a history of soldiers, heroes and Myrmidons, dedicated to one cause or another. My grandmother insisted that my first word had been 'trigger.' "You pointed at one with a chubby little finger and said, 'diggah!' as loud as you could," she'd told me once, proudly.

Our home was run like a military camp. I obeyed orders without question, as did my sister. That was how the two of us survived -- we did as told, no questions, no childish foolery. A slip might have meant death. When our mother died, we carried on with our military lives; when our father passed away, we kept marching. When our grandmother, in desperation, fell to accepting the help of the Witness, we did as the old man said. He was our new commander then, and whether we liked him or not -- and I certainly did not, though my sister became fond of him -- we obeyed him. There were no questions. Therefore, there was no doubt.

We became XSE officers. When we had been given our own troops we had also been given a specific goal and the means to reach it; we went out, did our job efficiently, returned, ate, slept, went out, did our job. No questions involved. It was a cycle, a loop, and there was no need to go out of it. If I did what I was supposed to do -- hunt down and destroy the mutant perpetrators of violent crime -- I made the world that much safer. If I didn't, somebody died. It wasn't something that made you think twice. It was a game of shoot-to-kill. Questions were not asked after the criminal's termination; they were never asked at all.

It may seem blind and unjust to the people of the age I have stumbled into -- but justice is blind. No one can possibly understand the horrors I knew. There is nothing to compare them with. Such blood-stained ways were necessary to allow a future generation to survive, and I cannot be caused to doubt our methods. I believe that they were suited to the time. I do not do the same now for the Professor, and for Storm, as they have asked; as LeBeau does not kill for their sake, as Wolverine contains his brutality for them, as the Phoenix curbs her baneful power, Psylocke her Kwannon-inspired sexuality, Warren his deep-seated hatred for all those who have hurt him -- as all these legends do, I hold back my nature, my training. For the good of the others. For the Dream. Unquestionably.

But things have changed now. I had nearly given up on the Traitor, the one behind the Great Betrayal which brought about my world. I allowed myself to think that my presence, or some other changed factor in the time stream, had taken that threat away. I became, in my own way, friends with Ororo, with LeBeau -- and how awkward that is! I became less the "crazed psychopath," less paranoid. I became too open. I began to trust.

And now that Beast has been killed, I truly begin to doubt.

I see no killer in LeBeau -- not one who would destroy a teammate. Not one who would take life without reason. I do not believe Storm, or Cyclops, or Rogue, or Psylocke, or anyone else would hurt Hank -- they would die for him. But there has been no intrusion here -- I have looked, I have searched for hours upon hours, I have watched and waited, and the clue I have been looking for has not been found. All logic points to the residents of this mansion. I doubt my team; but more, I doubt my cause.

Should my former paranoia be restored? Should my shields be rebuilt, my heart re-hardened? It should be something unquestionable -- I should be the leader of this investigation, I should be the one bullying the truth from the others. But I am not. I am too doubtful, too unsure. My father would frown on me, the Witness would laugh at me. So what am I going to do?

What am I going to do?

Hank's funeral was given in the yard of the mansion, a Salem Center priest presiding. It was nice: the sermon was well worded, the flowers, hundreds of them, beautiful. But no funeral can ever be described beyond "nice." One does not look back on the burial of a friend and say, "Oh yes, we had quite a good time, and the refreshments were delicious!" or "It was dreadful -- the woman behind me wailed all through it." Rather, one will not want to remember the occasion at all: the black veils, the dried tears, the unseen bleeding.

The sky was choked with stormclouds, and umbrellas were held at the ready. Garlands of white lilies were hung from the trees above Beast's grave, intertwined with ribbons of white satin, broken by dark shades of green. The coffin, which was set on an ornate carved-oak catafalque, had been covered with a cloth like a soldier's flag -- not the Stars and Stripes, but a black cloth adorned with a gold X. Looking at it was like looking at the death of the Dream -- or looking at the triumph of it beyond that Last Darkness. It depended entirely on who looked at it.

Rogue could not see the triumph, only the death.

The absence of meaning to Beast's demise bothered her. She had experienced the death of comrades on the battlefield. She knew what it was like to take a life. In a way, the consciousnesses which she had absorbed over the years were ghosts, and her mind was a living graveyard.

But this? There wasn't any reason to it at all. There had been no fight. There had been no obvious motive. The why and wherefore remained unresolved, and the lack of clues seemed to whisper that there were no answers. Hank McCoy was gone. One who had tried -- failed, but truly tried -- to help Rogue gain control over her powers, one who had always given her a friendly word of encouragement, one who had stood at her back and watched out for her was taken away in a snap, without reason.

She'd been swimming when he'd been murdered, working off some steam over some prank Bobby had pulled. If she had been in the labs, she might have prevented it. If she could have curbed her temper and gone to drop in on Hank, bring him some coffee or something, maybe she could have seen the murderer and stopped it. She felt as much the traitor as the killer, and though she knew that such thinking was stupid -- that she shouldn't feel the guilt, she wasn't the one who did the damage -- she couldn't help it. It was how she felt, clear to her soul.

But who had really done it?

She suspected anyone, she suspected everyone, but most and least of all, she suspected Remy. Not because of Bishop's claims, not because he was the blackest sheep of the flock, but because she felt that, somehow, he was connected. It was that seventh sense again, appearing when she least wanted it, telling her things she didn't want to hear, confusing her all the more. He'd done it. It told her that. But she knew he hadn't, because she knew him, and he wouldn't do that. It wasn't in his nature. That's not who Gambit was.

Remy stood beside her through the service, dressed in black. He'd cut his hair short. That had surprised her: an ancient mark of mourning which didn't seem to fit him. He wore his glasses, though he didn't need them, and a black suit she would have thought looked awfully handsome on him, if she'd been in the mood to think that anything was handsome. He had said nothing to her or anyone else before the funeral, made no noise or movement during it, and walked away at the end, expression and stance saying nothing. He knew most everyone suspected him, if only in the deepest corners of their minds. Bishop's long-past mudslinging had stuck, and would never wash off. That alone made her begin to cry again.

Soon after Remy had disappeared, so had Bishop. The others broke up and walked to the house, alone or in pairs. Rogue decided she had best go and find Gambit, and hurried in the direction that he had taken, but didn't see him. She gave up after a while, resolved that she would have a heart-to-heart with him later, and wandered back to the dining hall, where everyone was supposed to go as a reception. Guests had been invited: the elite of the medical community who had been Hank's friends and fans; a handful of Avengers who had been teammates with the Beast; others from the community who would miss his presence.

She didn't want to go to the reception. She really didn't want to go to the reception. But she forced herself through the doors and made herself shake gloved hands, keeping an eye out for Remy.

He decided that he needed a drink. Badly.

He went to the kitchen as softly as though he were breaking into it, avoiding anyone walking in the halls. When he was sure that there was no one nearby, he opened the door and searched through bottles of beer and wine which had been stashed into the refrigerator, and then thought better of it. He grabbed a glass and filled it with water from the tap, drank it, and then poured himself some more, leaning up against the counter and staring out into the yard, where it was beginning to rain. Stormy had been able to hold it in until everyone was inside, at least. The cloudburst was entirely a manifestation of her emotions, played out through her intricate association with nature.

He sighed and rolled his head back when he heard the footsteps of the two men approaching, considering making a quick exit, but deciding to stay because, simply, he didn't want to bother moving. Warren and Bobby threw open the door, the first thundering in and the second shambling. Both stopped dead in their tracks when they saw Remy, Worthington's eyes narrowing.

"We'd thought you'd gone away," he spat.


"Don't have the nerve to show up to Hank's reception, LeBeau?"

"Been a hard day."

"You couldn't know," Warren told him, but didn't pause before going on: "I don't trust you as far as I can throw you, Gambit. I didn't like you from the start."

"Gee, and you've been so charmin' about it, Ange."

"I'm drop dead serious." He came so near to Remy that their faces almost touched, Worthington red as a beet. "If you had anything -- ANYTHING -- to do with Hank's murder, and I find out about it, I'm going to cut you up with a flachette into so many pieces, it would take Forge a year to figure out which ones were those damned eyes of yours," he said.

"Would dat be before or after I blew your head off?"

Warren punched him, with all the force his hollow bones could muster. It wasn't much, but it was enough to bring Remy to the floor. He hadn't felt it coming, he thought, he'd actually let his guard down that much. But why?

He rolled out of the way before Warren could punch him again, but the move wasn't necessary. Archangel's arms were held behind his back by an angry Bishop.

"If I let you go," the big man said, "You'll walk into the reception and act like a man."

"You should be standing behind me to back me, not restrain me," Warren yelled. "You know he's the one. It's your job to take him out."

"Let me correct myself. When I let you go, you will leave."

"I ... "

Bishop released him, and then stepped aside as Warren spun around, swore at him furiously, and left. As he did he grabbed Bobby, who had watched all of it with dull, red eyes and had said nothing.

"Almost look like you care," Remy said when they had gone, swatting the hand Bishop offered him away.

"You are a teammate."

"I'm de Traitor, though, right?" He let out an exhausted sigh which was half an unamused laugh. "I'm de Judas."

Bishop's brow knitted, and then he reached down to pull Gambit up like a stray kitten by the collar. "No," he said, "I don't think you are. I trust you as much as anyone else. Maybe more."

Remy pulled back indignantly, rubbing his jaw. "Why?"

"And because of that," Bishop continued, slowly, "I suspect you just as much as anyone else."

Again, Remy said: "Why?"

"I don't know." He meant it.

They regarded each other for a moment.

"Stormy'll get mad if I don't show up at de reception," Remy said.

"No, she won't."

"That was my excuse to high-tail it outta an unusual situation."

"Then go."

He straightened his tie and went. Bishop did not follow.

The guests came and went for hours on end, and by the time they had left, everyone was too exhausted to do much but sit and stare at half-empty wine glasses. Most of them lounged like that for some time, lost in their own thoughts, until the Professor came out of his own reverie and spoke.

"Perhaps now that everything has calmed down," he said, "I should speak on the matters at hand."

There was a consensual quiet, and several glasses were put aside, shoulders leaned forward. Xavier's speeches were nothing uncommon to them.

"We have had deaths before in this team. Illanya, James, Jean to a certain extent ... " He smiled awkwardly. "We have had our share of trials and tribulations. But I think that none have ever amounted quite to this. There was no battle or disease here. There was no preparation for death, or a hint of it. It came and it went, and there was nothing we could have done about it. There was nothing. You cannot blame yourselves for not being there for Hank, or not being able to find the murderer yet. The simple fact is that a hint was not left to us. We would have found it by now." There were a few disgruntled sighs, which he added to with his own. "As frustrating as it may be, there is nothing to be found; we have looked for hours each day for half a week. We would have found it by now.

"But with the frustration comes discord, mistrust. In some of you it is regrettably more blatant. In most it has been even more regrettably hidden away to fester in dark corners of hearts. I urge you not to set your feelings aside, not to fight them, but to deal with them rationally. I believe ... " he paused, "that we may possibly have a traitor in our midst, yes, but it doesn't seem to me that we should shut ourselves away from our teammates. We will get no further if we do that. We must have faith in each other ... "

"Chuck," Logan interrupted, snuffing out his cigar, "what you're sayin' is all good and well, but we've got another problem at hand."

The Professor looked surprised. "Which is?"

"Where's Psylocke?"


GambitGuild is neither an official fansite of nor affiliated with Marvel Enterprises, Inc.
Nonetheless, we do acknowledge our debt to them for creating such a wonderful character and would not dream of making any profit from him other than the enrichment of our imaginations.
X-Men and associated characters and Marvel images are © Marvel Enterprises, Inc.
The GambitGuild site itself is © 2006 - 2007; other elements may have copyrights held by their respective owners.