Nine of Hearts:
Remy stared at the bountiful feast. Tante Mattie had to reassure him the plate was really for him. The clothes he now wore were his to keep. This seat at the table was really his.
Jean-Luc smiled down at him and his son Henri called him frère.
Remy's wishes had come true.
Queen of Clubs:
Tante Mattie was the mother Remy had never had. Mother of the Guilds; healer of all manner of injuries, be they hearts, bodies, or families at war.
"Y' de answer to our hopes, chile," she told Remy.
She knew who he was prophesied to become, and she knew who he really was.
Five of Hearts:
He used to think meeting Tante Mattie was just pure, blind luck. She disabused him of that quickly.
Between ducking rolling pins when sneaking cookies and failing to duck her bighearted hugs, he heard her words over and over, "You're my Remy. De good Lord sent y'. You're better dan y' t'ink."
King of Clubs:
Jean-Luc LeBeau held a strange sort of fascination for Remy. He was the man that took him in, that was his father, but he was also a powerful man, a dangerous man, and a Master of his profession.
"Come in, Remy."
He had noticed Remy shadowing him.
"Would y' like t' learn?"
Four of Diamonds:
Jean-Luc was a hard teacher to please, not because he was overly harsh, but because he brooked no failure. He made Remy notice the tiniest things: the sound of a breath, the tilt of a picture that once was straight.
"A T'ief notices everyt'ing, Remy. Y' eyes are y' life."
Nine of Spades:
First job for the famille. Should've been easy. Earn a girl's love. Break the girl's heart.
Too d— easy.
And then Creed dangled her and his brother from the parapets of Notre Dame in his nightmare of Paris. "I'll let you save one, Thief."
He hates himself: he let her go.
Eight of Spades:
No turning back. One thing, just one thing wanted by the heart of a devil child of the streets: un famille. He stayed.
He could've cursed his own self, never facing the truth of why. Guild law, Guild consequences, leaving was certain death. He told himself he had no choice.
Ace of Spades:
Etienne was a kid. It wasn't his job to see that the Guild's tip had been wrong, and it was Remy's job to save him.
One deciding moment.
A loose deck of cards and a weapon was born. Card after exploding card mauled their enemies. Remy hauled his cousin away.
Three of Clubs:
He'd always been a Thief.
Belladonna, daughter of the King of Assassins, now there was a prize. He stole her heart without regard for the consequences, going to steal a peace between rival Guilds.
"Y' tryin' t' get away wit' too much," Tante Mattie warned.
Thief to the core, he didn't believe.
Seven of Hearts:
How many times had Julien complained about Remy's attentions to his sister? How many times had Belladonna cursed her brother down? Remy should have been glad to bring the cycle to an end.
But not like this, never like this.
A duel and Julien's blood cursed a marriage that could never be.
Five of Spades:
Belladonna was Remy's heart. He loved her from the time they were children, laughing and fighting, Thief and Assassin. Just too easy to hold on when he should've let her go.
He hadn't wanted to, hadn't wanted to admit things could change, that they weren't still children able to change the world.
Queen of Spades:
She'd always been a strategist. Belladonna, intelligence personified, found the one solution that allowed Remy to live.
He wished she hadn't.
His Queen of Spades, his independent Queen of Assassins, his exile. She'd been going to be his Queen of Thieves.
"Y'll live, Remy."
And somehow he always ended up with nothing.
Four of Hearts:
He ran a long road after New Orleans. That's how he thought of it. New Orleans, not wedding, duel, divorce, torture, exile. He drowned it out in an endless round of drink, women, and thieving, but such a life did not remain satisfying.
Empty life blurred by. Restless, he needed something more.
Four of Spades:
He had to get away and the Morlocks welcomed him for the scarred look in his eyes, even if wariness remained behind theirs. Callisto demanded his loyalty and he gave it. Her people were as far from New Orleans as he could get.
He gave them his services; they gave him peace.
Two of Diamonds:
He started caring for a little girl. Bones grew through her skin, and she bore the flinching certainty that she was a monster.
Just a little thing, a waif, a stray, much like he had been.
Callisto was glad to see him lending a hand and taking responsibility. Marrow learned to smile.
Four of Clubs:
After the Exile, he did not lose his membership, but without a Guild, he might as well have.
Remy hadn't scraped together his own survival on the streets for nothing.
He played strategically, made alliances, clawed his way up in the underground.
Jean-Luc made him a Thief; Remy made himself a Master.
Three of Diamonds:
He studied in fourteen countries with any Guild Master that would take him. He paid his tithes and kept his oaths, and one day the coveted prize was his.
He could walk into any city now, without a Guild—even the city of New Orleans.
It was good to go home.
Ten of Clubs:
"How y' feeling?" Henri asked, clapping Remy on the shoulder. "Y' a T'ief forever now."
The brand hurt like diable. Remy cursed, but then ran one hand over the back of his neck. The mark of a Master Thief of the Guild burned and stung under his touch.
It felt absolutely wonderful.
Eight of Diamonds:
Remy found quickly he could live without airports. With all the traveling required for his work, crowded, smelly airports were getting old very, very quickly.
Next high-stakes poker game he entered, he asked if anyone was betting some wings. They laughed at him.
"I've got a plane I could throw in."
Ten of Spades:
Stryker had his ear to the ground for high-profile mutants, and le diable blanc was a prize rich as they come. Remy never knew who sold him out.
One moment, he successfully wrapped a job; the next, he woke imprisoned, unable to use his powers.
He heard Creed's dark chuckle and cursed.
Ace of Clubs:
Only one way off of that hellhole island, and Remy, lying, traitorous Thief that he was took it.
A few calls and an Assassin's ambush—ex-wives came in handy—and they promised to let him go. Belladonna was his insurance.
He gave them Emma, thus Silverfox, thus Wolverine, on a silver platter.
Five of Clubs:
By the time he reached New York, Remy had become Gambit, cold, heartless, ruthless—he played the Cajun charmer to perfection.
You want a job done, you get le diable. He won't stop for nothing or no one.
Except one scrawny street urchin with bright blue eyes. In her, he saw himself.
Two of Hearts:
He found her in New York, a scrawny, blue-eyed urchin fresh from Africa that drew rainclouds to match her teary face the way honey drew bees.
"Y' just feel like drownin' New York?" Remy asked, blasé.
She whirled on him, startled.
"Well, Stormy," he asked, grinning, "y' got a place t' go?"
Ace of Diamonds:
The Professor asked to speak with him before he left Stormy at the school.
Remy evaluated the man's study with a Thief's eye. Plenty ripe for the taking.
Xavier let him. "You know," he finally said, "you can stay."
Remy stared at him. "Moi?"
Xavier smiled. "I'm sure Ororo would like that."
King of Hearts:
Xavier was a calm in the storm. Remy never was one to open his heart to others, but Xavier made the Institute a home—like Remy's own.
Remy never went out of his way to talk to the man—too familiar, too painful—but he liked to be around him—and remember.
Three of Hearts:
One thing Remy could say about the X-Men: they knew how to have fun.
He dove under another lightning bolt, then flung a card through the gale. Ororo shrieked and dodged, but Jean chased her with it until it exploded.
"Cheating!" Scott called.
Remy just laughed as glowing cardboard rained on Hank.
Jack of Clubs:
"I don't get it," Scott informed Remy the one day he'd actually got him drunk. "What do the girls see in you?"
Remy laughed. "Want a date? Y' just got t' make dem feel like de center of de world." He shook his head. "But you, homme, are de kind dey marry."
Jack of Spades:
"So when y' goin' t' ask her out?" Remy prodded lightly.
Scott glared through those ever-fixed shades. "How do you—" He cut himself off at Remy's smug smirk. "And what about you?" the other boy demanded.
"Moi?" Remy raised one eyebrow. "Stormy's like my soeur."
No one ever guessed the truth.
Six of Spades:
"Remy." Ororo floated on a light breeze before him. He sighed and flicked off the cigarette ash.
"Y' could let a homme have some peace."
She ignored his words and sat beside him. "You're unhappy." She frowned. "You have to let her go."
"Belle?" he breathed softly, the word a knife.
King of Spades:
Stormy was the reason he came. Xavier was the reason he stayed. Lehnsherr was the reason he left.
Assassins killed Thieves. Thieves killed Assassins. Humans killed mutants. Mutants killed humans. A bloody cycle without end, he was sick of it.
"Y' a dictator in your own perfect world, neh?"
Lehnsherr was tyranny.
Eight of Hearts:
He had something good with Stormy. She loved him with a completeness he hadn't experienced since Belladonna, overlooked his faults and sins.
But beyond the X-Men, this new home, new horizons beckoned. Job offers had been coming in for weeks. His fingers itched for the thrill of the pinch. It was time.
Six of Hearts:
They struck a compromise. Stormy wouldn't kill him with a lightning bolt, and Remy would write her a letter every single week.
"I'll worry sick," she grumbled.
Remy hugged her close. "If you ever don't get a letter, then you can worry, d'accord?"
It was perhaps the only promise he would keep.
Seven of Spades:
He didn't leave on good terms.
Scott glared at Remy like he'd betrayed their trust. Jean gave him that heartbroken glance. How could he forget they were both too powerful? He was supposed to keep her grounded. Hank didn't even bother to show.
"We'll miss you," Xavier told him.
"Ouias. I know."
Nine of Diamonds:
Remy studied his brown eyes in the mirror. He held up a playing card, charged it, and watched the flare of red in the irises.
Today. Two o'clock.
He took a deep breath and uncharged the card.
Essex had promised he could fix it.
Remy finished getting ready. He had an appointment.
Six of Diamonds:
"What's de price?" he should have asked. The price for his soul, for the dreams of being the mutant he was before Stryker's hell. But he hadn't asked.
Essex offered him back his natural powers, his red and black devil eyes, the self-respect robbed by exile from the Guild.
Remy took it.
Seven of Diamonds:
Too many to save—from his own hand.
He hadn't seen it coming, but when the mercenaries he had led into those sewers began butchering Morlocks, he snatched at a single child, frightened bright blue eyes like Ororo's, and somehow escaped through the smoke, fire, and blood.
He could only save one.
Six of Clubs:
One more black night to drown away in women and drink, but this time, even Remy was tired of the same old round.
Instead, he threw himself into work, pulling jobs that should have taken three or four Thieves—and succeeding.
He had never been richer; it had never come so easy.
Two of Spades:
"They only speak of war." Ororo frowned, hugging her knees to her chest.
Remy came back for her. He'd been glad of it when he saw the look in her eyes.
"Mr. Lehnsherr says there will be war," she said. "The Professor says we can make peace."
Remy shrugged. "Dey're both right."
Three of Spades:
He avoided mirrors. Remy may have been handsome but, underneath, he knew lay the heart of a monster. How often had he proved he had a devil's heart behind those devil eyes?
Genevieve. Emma. Julien. Callisto. Betrayal after betrayal.
Etienne. Belladonna. Himself. Failure after failure.
Guild. Morlocks. X-Men. Every famille. Every time.
Two of Clubs:
He kept putting it off.
He heard about Magneto and Liberty Island. He knew about the mansion nearly getting blown to smithereens while he was on that job down in Tokyo. Remy always knew, even if months later, everything that happened to the X-Men and his precious Stormy.
But he never called.
Queen of Diamonds:
Emma Frost was the last person he expected to get along with, but she was brilliant at high finance.
"Business is poker polished for respectability," she quipped.
He shrugged. "Y' got a job?"
A quick nod. "Make sure the Cure fails."
He took the job, never knowing he would ever regret it.
Seven of Clubs:
Alcatraz. Jeannie. Jean Grey.
The burning image of her Phoenix wings seared Remy through the television. How many times had he laughed with her, talked with her, helped her prod Scott into action, commiserated over uncontrollable powers? Now she was dead and the mutant world gone to hell.
Jean Grey. Jeannie. Alcatraz.
Jack of Hearts:
He made a good Thief and a good Thief made good money, so when Ororo gave him an engraved invitation to her wedding, he went all out on her gift.
"You're impossible!" she protested, aghast when he told her. "It's too big! And expensive!"
Remy laughed at her. "Just take de house."
King of Diamonds:
"Y' stubborn, y' are," Remy muttered.
His Stormy sounded highly amused. "Did you think I wouldn't call in my favor?"
"Y' know I don't belong dere." Remy waited, hoping.
No such luck.
"You owe me, Remy," Storm replied firmly. "Come home."
All those years he'd managed to avoid Xavier's... He cursed.
Ace of Hearts:
He'd been in and out of the Institute since he'd first left Stormy there to stay, but sometime between his last visit and this one, someone had happened and he'd missed it.
One look at flashing eyes, cocked hip, and streaks of white hair framing that face and he didn't leave again.
Eight of Clubs:
The first time he really talked to Rogue, she scoffed at him for flirting with almost anybody. Logan hauled him against the wall later. Stormy looked concerned.
Always had loved the challenge.
It was the last time he flirted without a reason. It was the last time he didn't flirt with her.
Nine of Clubs:
She led him a merry chase, Rogue did, and left Remy frustrated more than once. Their first date was a disaster: he got too close; she shied away.
But day after day, he wore her down. Her gazes and smiles lingered. She fought him over hows, not ifs. She said his name.
Queen of Hearts:
"Y' really believe dat?" Remy asked.
Rogue was sitting beside him on the roof. "That y'all are a good person in spite of everything you've done?"
Rogue nodded back.
Rogue's covered his bare hand with her gloved one. "Because if you aren't a good person, than neither am Ah."
Five of Diamonds:
He tried to steal Rogue's heart, and somehow, she ended up stealing his. He found he could keep nothing from her: he'd give her the world if she asked for it.
"Y'all are crazy," she grumbled. "I nevah wanted the world."
She ran one finger along his mouth.
She gave him her.
Jack of Diamonds:
Katherine "Kitty" Pryde, also known as Shadowcat, or—to him—Chaton, always knew exactly what she wanted.
Which is why even Remy LeBeau quaked in his boots when she deliberately plunked down beside him.
"I know you got this whole I-don't-deserve-Rogue-thing going, and I-don't deserve-anything-good-but-I'm-taking-it-anyway and all that, but dude. Marry her."
Ten of Hearts:
Remy and Rogue both liked to sit on the roof and talk together under the stars. Rogue told him once her most cherished dream: children of her own. He told her what he'd never told anyone, he'd only wanted a family.
"We could do it," she blurted, then blushed.
"Oui. We could."
Ten of Diamonds:
He wasn't supposed to have it all. But here he was, on his wedding day, his beautiful bride walking toward him. His father, Jean-Luc LeBeau, was best man. Henri, Mercy, Stormy, and Tante Mattie were in the front row.
"I mus' be dreamin'," he whispered.
His father chuckled kindly. "Dis be real."