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Chapter 1

An All Hallows Dreary - REVIEW THIS STORY

Written by Lucia de’Medici
Last updated: 04/25/2007 12:31:35 AM

Chapter 1

An All Hallows Dreary

Autumn 2004

Bayville, New York

Orange innards, like some sort of science experiment gone wrong, were strewn about the island countertop in the kitchen of the Xavier Institute. It was a macabre display of stringy squash fruit, squelchy and unpleasant, and in fact, Rogue was covered to the elbows in the brightly coloured gore.

She grinned, a fiendish, devious smirk directed at Kurt who was seated opposite. “Not dressin’ up this year?”

He shrugged, waggling a three-fingered blue hand. “I dress up all the time, mein schwester. It seems a little redundant,” he returned flatly. “Besides, it’s more interesting watching you work.”

Rogue inclined her head, using her bare fingernails to scratch at the inside of the pumpkin, pulling with her the soft underbelly only to slap the meat down on the spread newspapers to her left.

“Most people would run screamin’ just as soon as Ah start brandishing a knife,” she muttered.

“Ja, but no one else notices the way you look without your gloves on,” he returned, matter-of-factly. He managed a knowing smirk, nodding solemnly before teleporting out of the way from a projectile lump of pumpkin scrapings.

They hit the far wall with a sickening plop, dragging a vertical yellow line down the wallpaper to rest on the floor.

Rogue s*ed, craning her neck around to glance at her brother, now positioned atop the fridge. “Ah am not cleanin’ that up,” she declared, returning to the task of carving.

“You threw it!”

“Ya provoked me!” she shot back, giving him a half-hearted warning glare over her shoulder.

Kurt scowled. “Fine. Just know that if you didn’t look so rapturous with that thing, I wouldn’t be doing this.”

“Tell it to someone who cares, fuzzball,” she s*ed.

“What about you?” he asked, porting to the wall, paper towel and spray cleaner already in hand. “Why aren’t you going out with the rest of them?”

“Didn’t feel like it,” she replied, swallowing down the nervous admission that by staying home and slicing and dicing the jack-o-lantern, not only did she get the chance to get her hands dirty, but she was afforded the opportunity to peel of her damnable gloves for a bit while everyone else was out.

Besides, she liked the feel of pumpkin meat when it squished between her fingers.

“Ah don’t mind,” she said, ducking her head, fixing her usual scowl to her face and responding with as much disdain as she could muster, “Apparently, Ah’m scary enough as is. Every day’s Halloween for me.”

“So says Keety,” he said pointedly.

Rogue frowned, but continued to relish the feel of the large Jack-o-lantern beneath her bare hands, plucking out the seeds so Ororo could replant them later.

“Ya been listening ta the girl who dressed up like a fairy princess this year, Kurt. Ah can’t take that seriously even on a good day.”

“Is that what she was supposed to be?” Kurt asked, astonished. “I thought she was a ballerina.”

“Whatever it was, it was cotton candy pink and ruffled. Ruffled!” Rogue chortled.

“I thought it was cute,” he responded, earning a snort from his sister. “Fine. It figures out of everyone you’d be the least likely to want to get in the spirit of the season.”

“Ah’m elbow deep in the spirit,” she deadpanned. “What?” Rogue asked, noticing Kurt’s incredulous look. “A pumpkin autopsy isn’t festive enough for ya?”

“Well, since you put it like that…”

Rogue shrugged, turning back to the task of gouging out a set of triangle-shaped eyes and a jagged mouth. “Ah’m already a vampire. Ah can’t see reason ta celebrate that.”

Kurt sighed, deciding the conversation was getting him nowhere.

“I just…” he struggled. “I just thought that maybe you’d want some company tonight.”

Rogue shook her head, concentrating as hard as she could on the lines before her, running the pads of her fingers across the slick surface and wiping away some of the residual goop. “Halloween ain’t no different than the rest of the year,” she muttered.

“In Germany,” he began carefully, “it’s a day to remember.”

Rogue peered over the orange mound, narrowing her eyes at him. “Remember what?”

“All Saints…” he said slowly, gradually becoming increasingly nervous beneath her direct scrutiny. Suddenly, Rogue didn’t like where this was going. “All Saints is when we reflect on the dead… and what we’ve learned by knowing them.”

Rogue scoffed. “Kill anyone lately?” she asked dryly, masking her unease with a thin coating of sarcasm.

Kurt shook his head, turning away with a defeated look. “Sometimes it’s more symbolic than literal.”

Rogue stilled, her sticky fingers slackening on the handle of the knife at her side. Suddenly, she didn’t want to be holding it... Not if Kurt was trying to talk about their dear, estranged mother, Mystique.

To them, she was dead after all – figuratively at least.

“Forget it,” he muttered. “Maybe some things are better left buried.”

A quiet, desultory voice rose in the back of Rogue’s mind, a whisper of a psyche – barely more than a revenant. Fading as it was, it made Rogue shiver at the hollow silence left in its wake. The echo dimmed into nothingness, muffled beneath the velvet black of memory.

“I’ll see you later,” Kurt mumbled, teleporting in a cloud of sulphuric smoke a moment later, leaving Rogue alone in the kitchen with skin that prickled uncomfortably.

She set down the knife, her fingers trembling only slightly.

Beneath her nails, thick crescents of fibrous orange made crescents to match the sickle moon, pouring its half-hearted light into the kitchen from the picture window to her right.

It was a blood moon, too large and too obscenely tinted with light pollution hung over the lawns – the city lights making it appear a garish shade of washed-out crimson. Yet, it was familiar, comforting in its own way that she could look to it and know that the one celestial body that shone dimly over her, reflected its impartial light over everyone.

Rogue let go of the counter entirely, pushing backwards and walking around the island to stand before the window.

She smiled half-heartedly, dirty fingers digging into her back pocket for comfort, straining to hold onto the one thing that was constant, the one thing that made her feel less like the creature she was, and more like a queen.

Rogue tipped her head back, giving the night sky a small, sad smile as her pumpkin-stained fingers touched the edge of the playing card crammed into her jeans.

Tonight, Rogue did her own special sort of remembering.


A Masquerade, Jester’s Court

The Same Time, Elsewhere

New Orleans, Louisiana


Negligently dangling his flute of champagne over the wrought iron rail of the balcony overlooking Bourbon Street, Remy LeBeau fixed his gaze on a woman across the packed ballroom.

The entire upper story of the flat had been crammed to the gills, teeming with men and women, robed resplendently in all forms of disguise. The one requirement, which suited him perfectly, was the absolutely non-negotiable accessory: a mask.

Ironic, really. He didn’t think it necessary given his track record, the false name he’d provided to Questa upon entering the swanky hall, and the utter audacity it took for him to crash a Guild party unbeknownst to the hosts.

The Assassins had yet to make the connection between the mysterious Robert Lord, presumably a client, and the masked young man who stood on the small overhanging balcony just outside the revel with the slivered sickle moon backdropped against the night sky behind him. If anyone had bothered to look closely enough, they’d have noticed the striking resemblance of the hue painting the blood moon sickly crimson and the color of his eyes.

As it were, he slipped through their midst, little more than a ghost of himself, and it was driving him absolutely, utterly, irrevocably bats*** insane.

The Vieux Carre used to be much more interesting than this, he thought idly. Maybe that had been Belle’s doing, but seeing as how he was presently dead to her, it didn’t seem to make much difference.

He wasn’t mooning, he decided. He was inviting trouble; skittering nearer the edge of that vast abyss that proclaimed immeasurable doom for those who got too near, and not giving a damn what that meant for the families in the process.

Not more than a ghost among the living, he thought – behaving under these circumstances, with Marius and his daughter conspiring flamboyantly with their compatriots, fixed him with a dismal sort of self-congratulating sullenness.

Across the room, his target turned, baring a line of pale, iridescent flesh – a shoulder, hugged gingerly by a long, black opera glove. A flash of white set into chestnut hair, styled artfully in high curls that swept off her shoulders drew him from his maudlin preoccupations.

Impossible, he thought, straightening in one fluid, discreet motion.

Here, in the midst of his swarming enemies – a distinctive white stripe of hair.

Thoughts of Belladonna and her father forgotten, Remy moved, his heartbeat setting his rhythm as he flowed through the crowd – his eye fixed on the woman across the room.

How long had it been since he’d seen her last, Remy thought. Six months? Eight?

Time had the nasty tendency to blur when one was exiled, dallying under the very noses of the people who’d cast him out of their fold. Survival typically took precedence, but the thought that Rogue had returned to the city was a glittering jewel of promise packed into the coal-like pastiche of banishment.

She wore a white dress, cinched tightly and flattering a small waist; a body slim enough to slide his fingers around, thumb to index, and probably have them touching across her stomach. The dress gleamed as did the pale bow of her shoulders, a small scoop of bared flesh that revealed a delicate neckline and a poisonous, pale jaw.

The mask was held gracefully by a long, carved dowel between gloved fingers, he noted, while moving steadily closer and collecting a second glass of champagne.

Dieu, Remy thought, a smug smile tugging his mouth up at the corner, perhaps the night wouldn’t be a total loss after all.

Bonsoir, chérie,” he breathed, bearing down on her petite form, his breath brushing over her collar from where he stood indecently close to her back.

Startled, she turned, the mask slipping a fraction as she faced him.

Remy’s breath caught, but not for the reason he discovered he’d been hoping for.

Brown eyes met his, smiling with the coquettish, curious fashion of the well-bred.

Nose too button-like, cheeks too round – a rosaceous blush blotted out with careful, white makeup that made the girl’s skin gleam unnaturally. At a distance, he had thought…

Bonsoir,” she murmured, her voice like glass being ground. “To what do I owe this pleasure, monsieur?”

Merde. Remy smiled indulgently, plying the girl with the glass of champagne he’d gotten for someone else.

“De Bride of Frankenstein,” he hummed, appraising her lazily, his eyes downcast though it only took a moment to take in the dyed white streak in her hair.

“Unique, isn’t it?” she asked lightly. “I have yet to see anyone else costumed similarly.”

He inclined his head, thinking to himself that the original hadn’t the need for such glamour.

It was a bitter thought, one that surprised him so thoroughly that for a moment, Remy couldn’t respond to the strange impostor before him.

Staunching his reaction with a polite sip from his glass, he proffered the girl his arm.

The champagne and the woman blotted out the quickly rising pang of disappointment.

She might not have been Rogue, but she would do for the time being.

Remy smiled; a bare, forced curve of his mouth as he whispered, “Nor have I, petite.”

- fin -

Post Script:

- The Rippers: This is post-unification of the Assassins Guild, once subdived as the Rippers. Let us assume that Julien’s already dead as a doornail, and Marius Boudreaux has reassumed control of his clan. That would put Belladonna second in command.

- Questa: One of Bella’s cronies, last seen in “The Ante” alongside Gris Gris and Fifolet when Tante Mattie spied a particular conversation with you-know-who at the Assassins Guild house.

- A one-shot, I know! Obviously, since this predates “The Ante” by several months, you can always take on that monstrosity to find out how the rest goes down. (Plug, anyone? Yeah.)


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