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The Death Card: Chapter Two

Mac O'Roni

This is the way the world ends...
This is the way the world ends...
This is the way the world ends...
Not with a bang, but a whimper.

-T.S. Eliot, "The Hollow Men"

     ?Any sign of him?? Jean asked as Wolverine slinked through the mansion?s front door.
     ?Yeah, some. And someone else, too.?
     ?Really? Who??
     Jean gasped and sat down. ?You?re kidding. Did he?did he kidnap Gambit??
     The feral shook his head. ?No sign of a fight. You know the Cajun woulda fought back. There was eight cigarette butts on the ground out there, Gumbo?s brand. He smokes fast when he?s nervous.?
     ?So?what? You think?you think Gambit went with Sinister? Voluntarily??
     ?Looks like.?
     ?But why would he do that??
     Logan shrugged. ?I dunno. You?re the psychic.?
     ?It?s at times like this I wish I could read Gambit?s mind. I mean, why on earth would he even be meeting with Sinister? It just doesn?t make any sense at all.?
     ?It does if you look at it from a more cynical perspective.?
     The new voice belonged to Scott Summers. The team leader entered from the recreation room just off the front hall. ?Scott, what are you saying?? Jean asked.
     ?I?m saying I think Gambit isn?t going to come back. Not through the front door, at any rate.?
     ?Scott, you can?t mean that you really think Gambit has?has gone over to the Dark Side.?
     ?He?s not a Jedi, Jeannie,? Logan snorted.
     ?Too right,? Scott affirmed. ?Come on, Jean, you can?t really be surprised. He?s been on the other side before, he?s always walked that line. Look at his track record.?
     ?I have, Scott. How many times has he fought by your side? How many times has he saved your life? My life? Logan?s??
     ?Gumbo never saved my life,? Wolverine growled. ?Well, he maybe saved my ass a few times, but not my life.?
     ?Whatever. The point is, he?s one of us. He?he?d never join up with Sinister. Not again. He?he didn?t even know what he was getting into the first time. He was just a kid.?
     ?He was old enough to know better. The fact is he just doesn?t care. Hey, maybe he was really and truly one hundred percent on our side. But look what?s happened to him lately: he loses his powers, and when he finally gets them back he loses his eyesight. When he can see again, he loses his girlfriend. A man can be pushed to make bad decisions. Gambit never exhibited good judgement,? Scott argued.
     The lift doors wheezed open and the mutant inventor Forge limped out, looking exhausted. ?Hey, all. What?s up?? he greeted perfunctorily.
     ?Cyclops is accusing Gambit of turning traitor,? Jean answered, tears in her pretty gray-green eyes.
     Forge paused on his trek towards the kitchen, hesitated, and shook his head. ?I never know what?s going on,? he muttered. ?Could somebody fill me in? But quickly; I haven?t eaten in two days and I can?t remember the last time I slept.?
     ?Cajun?s gone missin?, been a couple days now. I scouted around an? smelled him out in the woods. Sinister was there, too. There wasn?t a fight so we figure Gambit went with Sinister,? Logan supplied.
     ?Hmm, doesn?t sound good. But it doesn?t have to mean Gambit?s gone bad.?
     ?You have another explanation?? Jean asked hopefully.
     ?No. But there could be one. How should I know? Now if you?ll excuse me, there?s a leftover pot roast and a cold beer calling my name.? And the inventor left them where they stood without another word spoken.
     "That was helpful," Cyclops said sarcastically.
     "Give the guy a break, Slim, he doesn't have to fix everything that breaks down around here. Especially if it isn't a mechanical problem," Wolverine said.
    After a brief, reflective pause, he continued. "You know what bugs me? Them cigarette butts. I know Gumbo's tells pretty damn good by now, and I just don't understand it."
     "Why not? If he was really meeting Sinister...on purpose...wouldn't you expect him to be nervous?" Jean asked.
     "Well, yeah, it's just...I wouldn't expect him to show it."
     "Meaning...?" Cyclops asked.
     Logan snorted. "Oh, come on, Cyke, you know better than to ask. Probably there's only person in this mansion who knows the Cajun's tells better than I do, and that's Gambit. So they're useless. If he doesn't want somebody to know how he's feeling, they don't know how he's feeling, no matter how damn well they know him."
     "Yes, but what's bothering you? He probably just didn't care. There was no one else out there with them, after all."
     "Gumbo would care. He'd know I'd sniff him out later, if not right away. So why did he smoke all them butts? You know what I think? I think, for some reason, that damned Cajun wanted me to be sure and sniff him out. I don't know what he's playing--could be he just wanted to be damned good and sure we knew he'd turned coat. But I wouldn't count on that being all there is. That kid's always got cards he ain't showing."