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Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Chapter 7
Chapter 8
Chapter 9
Chapter 10
Chapter 11
Chapter 12
Chapter 13
Chapter 14
Chapter 15
Chapter 16
Chapter 17
Chapter 18
Chapter 19
Chapter 20
Chapter 21
Chapter 22
Chapter 23
Chapter 24
Chapter 25
Chapter 26
Chapter 27
Chapter 28
Chapter 29
Chapter 30


Written by Valerie Jones
Last updated: 03/23/2007 01:26:56 AM

Chapter 4

Renee stared at the empty field, scarred by the geometric lines of metal and cement that marked the edges of the mansion’s foundation. Nowhere did the ruin rise more than two feet above the ground, except for the piled bricks that marked the living room fireplace, and a partial skeleton of metal I-beams where her grandfather’s study had been. It was as if some giant hand and simply pulled the house up by its roots. There was almost nothing left.

Even though Renee hadn’t lived in the mansion since her mother’s election, it was still the place that her heart called home. To find it so suddenly destroyed was disturbing—frightening. Everything was so different here. The house was gone. Storm had been trying to kill them. That scared her more that anything else.

Cody stepped up beside her, and she grabbed his hand, desperate for some kind of reassurance. His fingers closed tightly on hers, as if he needed the same from her. Remi stood a few feet away, staring at the ruin. Rachel mimicked him, and Renee had a fleeting image of how they must have looked to the X-Men—the four of them all standing in a row, jaws agape.

"So just who exactly are you?"

Renee started at the voice beside her. She’d been too engrossed to hear Bishop approach. She opened her mouth to give him a stammering reply, but realized at the last moment that he was looking at Remi.

Remi dragged his gaze away from the house and turned to face Bishop. He didn’t say anything immediately. Bishop’s normally grim expression deepened into a scowl. Behind him, Jean knelt beside the man that Logan had laid carefully in the grass. Jubilee was there as well, and Renee guessed that the man was injured. She found her attention torn between Bishop’s rising anger and the hurt man beside him. She couldn’t see his face, and wondered who he was. Her instincts told her to go help him, but fear and shock held her firmly rooted in her place. The other X-Men formed a loose ring around the four, but Renee was, for once, un-reassured by their presence.

Finally, Remi found his voice. "We—we’re from the future. At least, I think we are." He paused, and Renee could see the confusion on his face. "What year is it?"

Bishop’s eyes narrowed as he considered. Beside him, Iceman’s expression was openly disbelieving.

"It’s 2007," Bishop finally answered.

Renee traded glances with Cody. They were only ten years in the past. But that didn’t make any sense. She knew nothing like the battle they’d just lived through had happened during their lives. But maybe something strange had happened when Cody and Remi’s portals were used together. Maybe this was some other world or dimension or something.

Her eyes were drawn to her left, to where Angelo stood with his arms crossed. His gray skin was wrinkled and sagging. He had never been a handsome man, but he had loved her and Cody and the other children like the were his own as much as their parents. But he had died. Renee remembered the funeral vividly. Remembered thinking that he didn’t look any different dead than alive. And remembered being surprised that she could hurt as much to lose him as she had her father.

A sudden hope flared in her. If Angelo could still be alive... She turned around to look at Rogue, who stood behind them.

"Where’s Dad?" she asked, already half-convinced. "Is he here? Is he alive?"

Rogue’s eyebrows drew together in confusion. "Who’s ya daddy, sugah?" she replied.

Renee paused as a sneaking fear began to crowd the back of her mind. But she forged ahead. "Dad—Gambit. Remy LeBeau."

Rogue’s expression didn’t change. She shrugged. "Sorry. Nevah met him."

Renee felt as if she’d been punched. Rogue’s flat, uncaring stare bored into her. She was used to seeing her mother’s expression melt, occasionally into tears but more often into a soft, sad smile, at the mention of her father’s name. And it had always made Renee feel secure to know that her mother still loved him. This...coldness wasn’t right. It just wasn’t.

"He was your husband! How can you say you’ve never met him?" Renee felt the burn of tears in her eyes, but she didn’t care how silly she looked. It didn’t matter to her what world this was or what time-- the fact that her parents had loved each other was, to her, an unquestionable constant.

Rogue’s eyes narrowed angrily. "Ah don’t know who ya think ah am, but ah certainly don’t have a husband." Her voice was brittle with suppressed emotion.

Cody’s hand closed on Renee’s shoulder, squeezing comfortingly. "She doesn’t know," he said softly.

Renee jerked out of his grasp. "She has to!" In a small corner of her mind, Renee knew she was being irrational, but the world had become too big and too violent and too frightening all of a sudden. To have even her parents torn away from her was more than she could take. "She has to," she repeated softly and then began to cry in earnest. She felt Cody’s arms wrap around her as she buried her face against his hair.

Rogue stared at Renee, her frown deepening. "What’s wrong with the girl?" she finally asked, her tone filled with disgust.

"Rogue, please, she’s just a child." Jean looked up from her place next to the injured man. Her voice was placating. Remi looked between with a sinking feeling in his gut. He had begun to form a suspicion about where they were, and it was going to break Renee’s heart. He watched her cry sympathetically, but didn’t dare try to approach her. Despite how much they cared for each other, she would always resent him for living when her father died. For living because her father died.

Remi gathered his courage. Rogue made him uncomfortable. She always had and probably always would. Especially as he’d gotten older, he had been acutely aware of her gaze tracking him whenever he came to the mansion. He couldn’t blame her, of course. It was just... weird.

He turned to Rogue. "In our world, you were married," he began, and that sharp, green stare skewered him. He was tempted to quit there, but something made him go on. "Cody and Renee are your children." He nodded toward the twins.

Rogue’s gaze flicked from him to them and back again. "That’s impossible." If anything, her voice had grown flatter.

"No it isn’t."

The green eyes flicked between them again, and then the first hint of warmth lit Rogue’s features-- a mixture of curiosity and long buried yearning. Her voice, however, remained cold. "How?"

Remi felt the blood rising in his cheeks, but he held on to her gaze with determination. Being the only child ever born acceptably outside of wedlock on his home planet had given him a lot of practice carrying himself through difficult conversations.

"Modified Genoshan collar, I think," he managed to say through a suddenly dry throat.

Rogue simply stared at him, her expression both suspicious and antagonistic. Then, with one last glance at Cody and Renee, she turned on her heel and strode away. Remi breathed a sigh of relief, and was startled by a gravelly chuckle at his elbow.

"Ya got gall, boy, I’ll give ya that." Logan glanced up at him from beneath bushy eyebrows. But before Remi could answer, he turned to Bishop. "Forge’ll be o.k., looks like. Needs some rest before we go anywhere, though."

Bishop nodded at the report, and his gaze shifted back to Remi. "You haven’t answered my question."

Remi repressed another sigh. He was tired of questions already. Tired of having his family suddenly turned into strangers. Tired of feeling lost. He wanted to go home. But he was almost certain that that was impossible.

"We’re from... a future," he said. "But not your future." Rachel and Cody both turned to stare at him, and even Renee raised her head.

"What do you mean?" Rachel demanded.

"Well..." Remi had to take a moment to organize his thoughts. The low ridge of cement that marked one edge of the mansion’s foundation was right next to him, and he stepped up on it, watching his feet as he considered.

"I’m not sure what caused the timeline we’re in, or how we got here, for that matter." Remi walked several paces along the crumbled wall. "But we know that this isn’t our past." He looked up at Rachel, who nodded.

"The Shadow King," she said.

"Uh huh." Remi came to the edge of a missing section in the wall and balanced neatly at the edge, one foot raised before him. He turned a slow pirouette while keeping the raised foot fixed in space. It was a dancing move that Renee had shown him.

"We know he died years before this, in our time. Before we were born."

"How was he killed?" Bishop’s gaze had grown intensely interested.

Remi glanced at him in surprise. "Huh? Oh. Dad destroyed him on the astral plane. On Muir Island."

Remi suddenly found himself the sole focus of the X-Men’s attention. His balance wobbled, forcing him to hold his arms out for a moment to steady himself. He felt like he’d just been surrounded by wild Krel. The silence was deafening.

"We survived Muir Island," Logan finally said. He glanced at Jean. "Most o’ us. But the Queen kept us from gettin’ ta the focus-- ta Lorna."

Remi searched his memories. He’d read all of the logs, at one time or another, and his memory was supposedly perfect, but he still had to do some digging to remember what had happened to the X-Men in his timeline. "The X-Men freed Lorna in our time."

He came back several steps along the wall. "And who’s this Queen? I don’t think she was there."

There was an uncomfortable silence as the X-Men exchanged glances. Finally, Jubilee snorted in disgust. "Bunch a superstitious-- " She looked at Remi. "Storm is the Shadow Queen."

Remi knew he was staring at her. He couldn’t help it. But that explained so much. Like why she had attacked them. And yet, his soul refused to believe that calm, gentle Ororo could possibly become a servant of the Shadow King.

"How?" The strangled question was from Cody. She was his godmother.

Jean stood stiffly. "We thought she’d been killed in a plane crash in Australia." She moved to stand beside Bishop, and Remi was surprised to see her slide her hand into his. Rachel bit off a surprised exclamation, and then crossed her arms, eyes narrowing.

"The next time we saw her," Jean continued," she was with the Shadow King. Somehow, she had become a child, but they were lovers anyway." The disgust was clear in her face.

Remi’s mind was in a whirl. Storm as a child. Storm with the Shadow King. The connection eluded him for a moment, but then he remembered, and his heart sank.

"Gambit rescued Storm from the Shadow King."

The three children stared at him in dawning understanding, while the X-Men simply looked puzzled.

"Then... he doesn’t exist here, right?" Cody’s grip on his sister tightened.

Remi nodded. "This must be the timeline where the paradox collapsed completely. Everything Gambit did has been... undone."

Rachel was tapping her foot as she thought. After a moment, she put her hands on her hips. Remi had long ago identified that pose as the one she took when she was going to contradict him. "That can’t be right."

"Why not?"

"Well, for a couple of reasons." She began to tick them off on the fingers of one hand while the X-Men looked on in bemusement.

"One, if this is the timeline where Gambit never existed, then Cody and Renee would have disappeared the moment we got here. We’re here after they should have been born, so they should have been paradoxed out of existence, too." She paused, frowning.

"You know, they still ought to be gone. There’s only one timeline, remember?"

Remi glanced at the twins as he realized where Rachel was going. He found himself nodding unconsciously. "Since Rogue doesn’t know him, whether he exists here or not. Right."

Renee straightened and stepped away from Cody. She dabbed at her nose with the cuff of her uniform. "We’re supposed to be dead?"

Rachel shrugged. "I don’t know, honey. None of this makes much sense." She turned back to Remi. "And then there’s Bishop." She waved in his general direction, and he looked startled by his sudden inclusion into the bizarre discussion. "If Gambit doesn’t exist, how in the world did he get here?"

That was the point that had been bothering Remi. He just hadn’t put it all together yet. He turned to Bishop. "How did you get here? To this time, I mean."

Bishop stared at him in silence for a moment, as if debating whether to answer. "I followed an escaped criminal named Fitzroy through his time portal," he said stiffly.

"Fitzroy?" Remi hopped off of the crumbled wall. "Well, that’s the same, at least". He walked toward Bishop. "Then who raised you? Was it the Witness?"

Bishop’s eyebrows drew together in a sharp "V", distorting the tattoo across his eye. "No. I grew up on the streets until I was taken into the X.S.E."

"But you’ve never heard of someone called the Witness?"


The four exchanged glances, and Remi shrugged. "See? I don’t think Gambit exists here." Before Rachel could open her mouth, he added, "I know it doesn’t make sense."

Cody was watching him intently. "If that’s true, then why didn’t the Witness see this possibility?" He seemed to be voicing his thoughts as he worked through them. "He told us that the paradox would collapse completely. That’s what he believed, and we’ve always thought that we just got lucky since it didn’t. But wouldn’t he have said something if he thought the paradox would mean that Ororo would go to the Shadow King? Wouldn’t he have done something about it?"

Remi didn’t know how to answer that. "Maybe he thought that Storm would get out on her own," he offered, unconvinced. "Maybe he just didn’t think about it. I don’t know."

Into the following silence, Bobby Drake inserted, "So, are any of you kids ever going to explain just what in the heck you’re talking about?"

Remi looked at him and sighed. "It’s a really long story." When Bobby’s expectant look didn’t change, he surrendered to the inevitable and continued, "You see, the X-Men were betrayed and killed by one of their own--"

"We were?"

"In another timeline, yes. All except one. The Gamemaster saved him--"

"The Gamemaster?" Bishop was agitated. "What do you know about the Gamemaster? Did he send you here?"

Surprised by the sudden intensity, Remi stammered, "Y-yes."

Bishop’s expression relaxed into something Remi would have labeled a smile on anyone else. It was as if he’d had a revelation. "Then we need to get you kids to San Fransico."

"San Fransico? What’s there?" Rachel demanded.

Bishop’s smile faded as he looked at her. "A helicopter. To take you to President Xavier."


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