Gazing from afar at the many ribbons tied around the enormous oak tree, Remy let out a small sigh. It was going to take ages to remove all of them. No matter, he was certain that each and every ribbon would be worth the effort.

At the base of the tree, Remy found a thick ribbon firmly bound around its trunk, around the level of his waist. Bending near to read the words written in neat cursive black ink upon it, he saw, "You wanted to see a yellow ribbon around the old oak _tree_, not its _branches_." A smile made its way up Remy's lips, knowing that only the Professor would notice a minute detail like this and kindly tease him about it. He carefully undid the ribbon, straightening its creases out several times with his fingers before he was satisfied.

Tie a ribbon 'round the old oak tree

Ribbon in hand, he proceded to untie the second ribbon, curved into the shape of a heart, undoubtedly Rogue's work. "Merci, ma cherie. Je t'aime aussi." Rogue's ribbon fell into his left hand as smoothly as the Professor's had.

Tie a ribbon 'round the old oak tree

Remy had untied six more ribbons when he came across one that lacked the beautifully cut edges of the previous few, but instead appeared as though it had been gnawed at and accidentally scorched. Remy's chin jerked in surprise as he carefully analysed the singed edges. Indeed, a mouse had probably tried to chomp on it, only to be hurriedly chased away by a weapon that had the accuracy and power optic beam? A second glance cemented the fragile thought. "But what was Sc-" Confused, Remy pushed the question to the back of his mind as he ascended to remove another ribbon.

Tie a ribbon 'round the old oak tree

Unsure who had tied this ribbon, Remy gazed at it, looking out for any tell-tale signs, but as far as he could observe, it might as well have been tied by the King of Thieves himself. Shaking his head in disappointment, he nimbly untied three more ribbons before coming face-to-face with the most complicated Chinese knot that he had ever seen.

Remy let out a whistle of surprise at the complexity of the knot. Doubtless, this was a feat that could only have been achieved by an Asian student, one whose name matched exactly his feelings when he had seen the enormous, ribbon-covered tree. Deftly, Remy slid the ribbon through the branch, taking care not to destroy the beautiful knot. "If all Jubilee's ribbons are like dat, it's gonna save me some trouble identifyin' dem!"

Tie a ribbon 'round the old oak tree

Making his way through one of Rogue's heart-shaped ribbons and five more unidentifiable ones, Remy spied one that looked suspiciously as though it had not been properly tied and was held on by an object. Placing his hand on the knot, a shiver ran up his fingers - the pores in the knot had been filled with solid ice. "An' t' think dat he wouldn' speak t' me!" Remy thought with a degree of chagrin. Making a mental note to speak to its creator about the value of patience, Remy gently charged the ice until the water molecules had gained enough kinetic energy for the ice to melt. Soon, a drenched ribbon was added to his collection.

Tie a ribbon 'round the old oak tree

Sure enough, another Chinese knot came Remy's way, as did two other singed ribbons and a heart-shaped one. Remy found himself staring at a perfectly-tied ribbon that had been carefully balanced and trimmed, its edges having the exact curl. It had a peculiar fragrance of...disinfectant?? "Bobby, y' should learn from Hank." Remy thought, amazed at the precision that Hank placed into all his work. He pondered leaving the ribbon on the tree, not bearing to remove Hank's masterpiece, but decided that it had served its purpose on the tree and now had another.

Tie a ribbon 'round the old oak tree

Remy was sure that his day had been made. To have Scott and Bobby lend a hand in ribbon-tying was something totally out of the blue. A warm smile lit his face as he climbed up to undo yet another ribbon with pointed edges...and a scratch down its right side, one that he had shuddered at the thought of receiving in the Danger Room. Unmistakably - and incomprehensibly - Logan. It was no wonder that Rogue and Hank had been appalled at Logan's callous attitude upon his return, if he had bothered to help out earlier on.

Tie a ribbon 'round the old oak tree

Remy was at a loss for either words or ideas. Dazed, he climed further up the tree mechanically, stretching out his right arm for a ribbon, not paying any attention to the fact that it was balancing - was it, actually? - or rather, defying gravity on a thin stalk. he yanked at the ribbon, but it refused to move. Another tug, and Jean's voice rang out in his mind, #Oops, sorry 'bout that, Remy#, as the ribbon fell naturally into his hand.

Tie a ribbon 'round the old oak tree

Only three ribbons remained tightly fastened at the top of the tree. One glance made Remy certain that he would be unable to climb further up without risking breaking a leg should the tender branches be unable to carry his load. The conclusion was simply that whoever had tied the ribbons had cheated - indeed, the leaves and brances appeared choppy, as though they had been ruffled by extremely large feathers.

Remy stole a glance down at Warren. "I swear he was peekin' at me, an' now he looks as t'ough he's innocently patrollin'! Non, won' bother you t' take down your ribbons, mon ami."

Withdrawing three plastic playing cards, Remy hurled them up at the branches, which snapped upon contact with the cards. Having descended from the tree gracefully, Remy picked the branches up from the ground, undid the ribbons around them, thus completing his collection. Tears began to fill his eyes as he gazed at them - such simple objects, yet with the ability to bring him such joy.

Stepping into the driveway, Remy sighed, seeing his Ferrari there. He would have to drive it back to the garage. All of a sudden, he stiffened at the thought that no X-Man had the keys to his car. The only one who could drive a car without keys was...


Remy slapped his forehead at this realisation. Logan had never been one for apologies, always feeling too awkward to phrase them properly. "He was welcomin' me back wit' dat tonguelashin' I received! An' here I was all dis while, havin' de jitters 'bout what t' do if I saw 'im again!" He shook his head at himself, wondering how he could have let himself be taken in by Logan's act.

Having driven the Ferrari back into the garage, Remy stepped noiselessly into his bedroom. it comforted him to see that the X-Men had left the room in the exact same condition as it had been prior to his departure. He opened his cupboard, then lifted up the panel covering the secret compartment at the bottom.

"Shouldn' be doin' dis t' de X-Men," he thought. "Be removin' dis part as soon as I can."

Dexterously, he withdrew a black lacquered box. Its contents produced a shiny clang as he placed it before him, opening it to reveal a solitary jewel - l'√Čtoile de la Tricherie - the gem which had made all the difference between Remy the boy and Gambit the man. The tithe box was intended to store only prized treasures, and in the past years, the Cheating Star had jangled within, alone, as he devoted his life to the X-Men.

No longer, not with the padding that a hundred yellow ribbons would provide.