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Chapter 1

Nutcracking: A Christmas Carol - REVIEW THIS STORY

Written by Lucia de’Medici
Last updated: 04/25/2007 12:32:16 AM

Chapter 1


New Orleans, Louisiana

Julien was dead, to begin with. There was no doubt whatsoever about that. The register of his burial was probably signed by the clergyman, the clerk, the undertaker, and the chief mourner to boot. Remy hadn’t signed it. Granted, he wasn’t family, but he’d seen the crypt at Lafayette with its newly carved name nestled in between the weather-beaten ancestral monikers. Julien Boudreaux was as dead as a doornail.

Not to infer that Remy Lebeau meant to say, of his own knowledge, what there was particularly dead about a doornail. He might have been inclined, himself, to regard a coffin nail as the deadest piece of ironmongery in the trade. But the wisdom of the ancestors is in the simile; and his unhallowed hands would not disturb it, or the Gumbo’s done for. You would therefore permit him to repeat, emphatically, that Julien was as dead as a doornail.

He’d put him there, after all.

And such ends any similarity to such a gruelling and harrowed tale of a Christmas Eve spent in the solitary sanctity of a New Orleans nocturne. They only ghost that haunted him in this the eleventh hour was buried subtly beneath the dingy shades of memory, collected in the corners of the mind with the clots of dust and the stringy, cobwebbed reminders that although time passes, a man is never truly free of the people he’s known and the things he’s done.

It serves to speak of, then, for our purposes, that memory has the unseemly tendency to sometimes become more real in the moments where we think we have truly found absolute solitude.

Remy, or Gambit, as he fashioned himself, was never truly alone – not by will or want, but the unlikely situation that on this particular evening, he found himself haunted by something rather more tangible than the grim shades of his past.

Something, as such, that sat primly as the focal point in the middle of an abandoned room amidst the billowing, linen-covered furniture with dust caked so thickly to the surfaces that it appeared the apartment had seen an unusual, grey snowfall.

The thing in question was wrapped in garish green foil paper, with a silver silk ribbon.

He scrubbed at his jaw, for want of anything better to do. Least of the things he desired at that particular moment would be to touch the godforsaken box.

Like Pandora’s glory, the gift had all the sublime subtlety of a sledgehammer wrapped with bubble padding.

(None, in other words.)

A pity, truly, since Gambit rather preferred to work on the sly. With that thought, he unhunched his shoulders, fingers untwining with his own relaxed rhythm, and stood with the whispered brush of a leather duster hitting the floor. A light breeze coasted against his chest where six poorly mended tears lanced through the coat – the remains of an altercation some months before when she had been here last.

The walls hugged him on either side, physical reminders of the cornered, closeted, cloistered grip of his town. Yet, in the dismal surrounds of the battered and disused Guild safe house, a layer of grime so thick on the floors that his footprints would be dead giveaways that he’d been squatting despite Jean Luc’s warnings, Remy was cold.

Unmindful, he stared at the neatly wrapped package, contemplating what had possessed him to “acquire” such a trinket, and for whom it was intended, and then pondered fleetingly the possibility that he needn’t send the thing in the first place.

It was the thought that counted.

The thought, however, hadn’t mattered before, and it shouldn’t have mattered now, and yet, there he was – thinking about it and about her in a place where he should have been thinking of anything but.

Hands itching irritably, Gambit flicked dirty digits in the direction of his nearest pack of cigarettes, and abandoned the idea. His index and middle fingers, bared by frayed gloves, were already stained sickly nicotine yellow.

If he hadn’t intended to send it, he considered, he wouldn’t have procured it to begin with.

Not that the acquisition had been more than a trifle. Gambit raised an eyebrow, and hmphed to himself. It wasn’t good enough. That was plain.

He sniffed, abandoning the needling craving for another smoke, and dropped back to a crouch. Linking his hands together before him yet again, the balls of his feet planted firmly to the place they’d been otherwise glued for the better part of an hour, Gambit narrowed his eyes at the small gift box with its tacky, glittering wrapping, and wished for a moment that he could charge the damned thing just by looking at it.

He wouldn’t have to touch it, were that the case.

He’d be rid of it, rid of the niggling, irritating curiosity that had been sparked around Halloween and had persisted in trailing him like a set of rusty manacles. Like he was wearing chains, clattering around behind him with each step.

Were that the case, he ruminated to himself.

Standing, his nerves finally claiming the better part of his desire to keep as far from the box as possible, Remy dug into his pockets – determined to have and find a suitable distraction. Like most familiar things, a teddy bear or a cherished blanket for children, his nails grazed across his lifeline. Fifty-two in number; the deck of cards was wedged so deeply in the tatty remains of his treasured trench coat, that it took some effort to prise it loose from the tangle of flayed thread at the bottom of his pocket.

Remy exhaled, yanking out the cards and coaxing them into a steady shuffle – counting soundlessly in a rhythm that matched his settling heart rate. Unconsciously, his eyes flicked downwards, searching for the red lady, a little luck, a better turn.

Abandoning the gift, he skirted around it, hugging close to the wall and light on his feet – his attention never wavering far from Rogue’s intended Christmas present with it’s careless, loopy message scrawled across a matching silver tag.

Remy paused mid-step, peering at the cards speculatively a moment.

He stopped shuffling, and frowned.


That wasn’t right.

Recounting, he swore under his breath. A small, sardonic smile hitched up the corner of his mouth as he fanned the deck out before him, and recognition lifted the nervous mantle from his shoulders.

Suddenly, the gift didn’t seem so daunting as he snapped the deck with its missing Queen closed, extracting a solitary card that he flipped lightly over his knuckles. The rest he tucked safely into a breast pocket nearest his heart.

He patted the deck reassuringly, nodding to the card with mock solemnity.

“S’ ok, mon homme. I see what de problem is.”

With that, Remy strode forwards, clamping the gift’s tag between his thumb and index finger, watching his hasty writing disintegrate with the crackle of hissing paper as the molecules excited.

Nimbly, he picked it up, forcing the strongest charge he could into the gift, and kicked open the doors to the front balcony where he launched the small burden into the night air.

It exploded with a keening whine, much like the sound of a fourth of July screamer, and not nearly suiting the fireworks that followed.

He smiled easier, his breath quickening as he turned back to the King of Hearts.

This year, he decided, a bauble wouldn’t do it.

Not that Rogue would have appreciated it anyway, but Remy Lebeau never did anything by half.

Maybe something big, he thought to himself, his fingers wrapping around the cold wrought iron balcony as Remy leaned forwards to smile into the Louisiana winter air. It was crisp, fresh almost – the smell of garbage and stale beer dampened with the chill.

Maybe something that’d make her chuckle at the sappiness, he thought.

Maybe a puppy.

Maybe jewels.

Or maybe just himself wearing a large red bow and nothing else.

Remy smirked, closing his eyes and letting the thought warm him.

He could see Rogue’s perpetual scowl already.

- fin -


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