((Author's Notes: Alright, so I've been less than happy with Gambit's treatment in the X-comics over the past few years, and while I thought this Horseman idea had potential to be very interesting, I feel the execution was quite poor. So here's my take on how to wrap this whole thing up and soothe my poor, wounded, 'shippery heart. ;)
The first part is during the inevitable battle, and the following parts deal with the aftermath. Each part shifts POVs. Written after reading X-Men #184, so spoilers up until then, but no further))
His powers came from his eyes, so they had been the first things to go. He had the ability to nullify the mutant powers of anyone he chose with just a "pulse" of his eyes. A formidable opponent, for sure, but being untrained and a self proclaimed coward, the entire plan had been riddled with mistakes. He had underestimated his foe, gone against his nature, and these mistakes would cost him his life.
All around him he could hear the sounds of battle. Shouting, explosions, his own cries of anguish...
Blindly, he tried to crawl away from his opponent. He could feel the hot trails of blood running down his face, the gravel cutting into his knees, but none of this was as terrifying as when he reached forward only to grasp the toe of a large boot. Crying out in fear, he tried to scramble back, but was stopped by the sudden tight grip on the front of his uniform. He tried to plead, even as he was lifted bodily from the ground, but feeling the hot breath of his enemy across his face and hearing the malicious laughter so close made his words come out as only indecipherable sobs. Even without his eyes, he swore he could see two piercing red orbs burning before him.
Why was nobody helping him? Where were these X-Men that were supposed to save people? Where was Mystique? The battle cries continued around him, but none were growing closer. They had left him to face Death alone. Literally.
Again, he tried to speak, but the words died on his tongue as a strange sensation began to creep over him. It was like his very skin was burning. No, not just his skin. His clothing, his organs, even his bones felt like they were heating up. Then, the grip on his shirt was gone and he was flying backwards. Hitting the ground hard, he tried to breathe, but could barely make his lungs work. The heat was intensifying as he lay there, and there was nothing he could do about it. It was at this moment that he realized it was over. This was the end.
He had let Mystique get to him. He had let her get under his skin, let her seduce him. He had followed her to the Xavier Institute, had gone along with her stupid plan to break up her daughter and that... that monster. He had done everything she wanted, and this was his reward. And just where was she now? He had done everything she asked of him, and where was she when he needed her? She had tried to make him out to be the hero, something he wasn't; something she'd never be. He would die a hero, not because he deserved the title, but because he had been forced to bear it.
And he would die. Even now he heard the heavy booted feet backing away. Soon the sounds of battle began to fade, replaced by a high pitched whine and a sickening sizzle.
All around him, all he could hear was silence. The wounded had been taken away to be cared for, their cries no longer piercing the air. Apocalypse had been defeated, his horsemen transformed back. The X-Men had prevailed. Again.
...but Gambit was no longer an X-Man.
He no longer knew how long he'd been kneeling there. Could have been minutes, could have been hours. The battle had ended, the victors were leaving, but still he didn't move. He simply stayed on the ground, head bowed, staring at his hands. Blood. So much blood. His hands were covered in it and he knew it would never wash off.
In one hand, he held a single playing card: The Ace of Spades. The Death Card. His calling card. Apocalypse had dubbed him Death, and he had lived up to the name. He could still hear their screams, their pleas of mercy and the sickening, indescribable sound when he had ignored them. Now, the memory of those moments made him nauseous, but at the time it had been gratifying. He had reveled in their pain, their death, their blood. The blood wasn't just on his hands, it was everywhere, and it wasn't just blood. Blood, flesh, bone... it clung to his clothes, his skin, his hair. He could feel the bile rising in his throat, but he forced it down. Not while they were still there.
Raising his eyes from his hands, he could see their shadows surrounding him; hear their murmurs of disgust, anger, betrayal. He couldn't look up; couldn't bear to see the hate painted on their faces. On her face. It no longer mattered what his intentions had been. The bottom line was that he had failed, and in doing so he had betrayed them. He had become the murderer he'd been running from for so long.
One by one, they turned away. He saw their shadows retreating until only one remained. He didn't need to look up to know who it was, and when she finally turned away as well, he closed his eyes. It was over.
It was over. The battle was won and all that was left was the aftermath.
And the memories.
When she closed her eyes, all she could see was his sadistic smile, the abnormal white hair streaked with red, and eyes she had once found so beautiful now burning with hate. In the silence, all she could hear was his malicious laughter. He had killed people. He had murdered them in the most brutal way she had ever witnessed and she had been powerless to stop him.
She hadn't been able to fight him. She had taken on the other Horsemen, taken on Apocalypse himself, but she couldn't fight him. But it wasn't him. The way he had acted, the horrible things he had done... it couldn't have been him. But deep down, somewhere behind the distorted visage, she hadn't been able to shake the feeling that he was still in there. So no matter what he did, how many people he killed, she wasn't able to bring herself to hurt him.
Now it was over. The others had done the deed for her. All that was left for her to do was walk away. Walk away and leave him behind.
She could hear the whispers of the others; see the looks of disdain, betrayal and disgust in their eyes as they looked at him. And Gambit himself... she couldn't get a read on him. He was crouched on the ground, his head hung low. Did his hand just shake? His breath catch?
One by one they turned away until only she remained. She could feel their eyes on her, waiting for her to follow them. Still he didn't move. She tried to speak, but there were no words, so eventually she did the only thing she could.
She turned away.
It was easy. She had done it before. She had left him behind in the frozen tundra of Antarctica, left him behind to fend for himself or die. Although he had told her later that it had been his own self loathing that had made her do this, she'd never been entirely convinced. Part of her had wanted to leave him. Part of her had wanted to hurt him as he had hurt her. That was what they did. They hurt each other. Would it ever stop? It could. Right now. All she had to do was keep walking.
She had regretted it. After leaving him in the snow, when the full weight of her decision struck her and his stolen feelings had subsided, she'd tried to go back. Many a day she had spent searching for him, missing him, hating him, loving him, hating herself. Every day, she regretted it, even after he had walked back into her life.
Now, it was happening all over again. Would she regret this decision too? Suddenly, she stopped walking. She had found her answer:
Looking up at her retreating teammates, she met the ice blue eyes of Bobby Drake. His expression was somewhere between concern and confusion as he looked back at her. Breaking the eye contact, she threw a glance back over her shoulder to where Gambit still knelt. He looked so defeated, so lost. Last time she had left him just when he needed her, and now he needed her more than ever. She couldn't just leave him to deal with this alone.
She was no stranger to fighting on the "wrong side", nor to being an enemy to the X-Men. There was a time when she had fought them and enjoyed every moment of it, but when she had got in over her head by permanently absorbing Ms. Marvel, they had taken her in when she had desperately sought their help. It had taken time to earn their trust, but she had succeeded. They had given her a second chance. Isn't that what everyone deserved? A second chance? They were willing to grant Mystique a place on their team, and she had proven this a good decision by doing her part in the battle with Apocalypse. Did Remy not deserve this same chance?
No, it was still too fresh. How could they forgive him and put it behind them when he was still bathed in the blood of those he had murdered? No, it would be asking too much.
Meeting Bobby's eyes once more, her face was awash with sadness, indecision and immeasurable hurt. Silently, she tried to plead with him; tried to explain. Slowly, his expression changed. Although he couldn't hide his disappointment, the weak smile and faint nod of his head was all the confirmation she needed. He understood. He would explain to the others. Her gratitude radiating off her in waves, she watched him turn away before doing the same; before turning back to the lone figure that remained behind. Slowly she approached him, stopping only a few feet away. Still, he didn't look up.
How had she been so blind? How had she, how had all of them, missed all the signs that led up to his decision? These questions had plagued her from the moment Apocalypse had revealed his new creation, and she was no closer to an answer now than she had been then.
Hesitantly, she knelt before him, but still he wouldn't raise his head. She wanted to see his eyes. She thought if she could just look into them now, all her doubts would be banished. If she could look into his soul she could excuse his actions. But he wouldn't look at her.
In the dead silence between them, she heard him take a deep, shuddering breath and felt another piece of her heart break, only this time for him, not herself. Soon, there would be nothing left of it to break. That one breath, though, spoke volumes. It was all she needed to strengthen her resolve. Without wavering this time, she reached out and placed her hand in his.
She wouldn't leave him.
She had left him. They had all left him. He had expected it; what else could he expect after what he had done? But that didn't make it hurt any less. The pain Apocalypse had put him through during his transformation was nothing compared to what he was feeling now. Physical pain he could handle, but the excruciating feeling that was tearing at his heart, his soul, his very essence was unbearable. It wasn't supposed to be like this. He had done it for them, and this was his reward.
He deserved it. He had mercilessly killed people, and though he may not have been considered in his right mind while it was happening, the memories were all his. The choice had been his. It was like dealing with Sinister all over again.
No, this time was worse. That time he had been young, his powers out of control. He'd needed help, and Sinister had made an offer he couldn't refuse. Not only that, but he hadn't known what he was in for. As soon as he had learned about the Massacre, he had tried to stop it, but it was too late. None of the lives that had been taken that night had been by him, but the blood of every one of them was on his hands. He still blamed himself for it. Always would.
And now he'd done it all over again, only this time there was no excuse. A bad judgment call was not good enough to excuse his actions, no matter if he was in control or not. He deserved the hate of his former teammates. He deserved their hate, their disgust, but never their forgiveness. And he would never forgive himself.
Why couldn't they have just killed him? But even death was too good for him. He had to live; live with the memories of what he had done; memories that would eat him up inside until there was nothing left. As far as he was concerned, he had already died, and there was no life after death.
No sooner had that thought crossed his mind than did a shadow slowly creep into view. Holding his breath, his lifeless eyes watched as it stopped. Had one of them come back to finish him? No, X-Men didn't kill. Maybe they had decided he was too dangerous to let run free. If they tried to capture him, he wouldn't fight them. He deserved whatever punishment they deemed fit. But no, this was something else. When the figure knelt in front of him, the knees of a very familiar uniform came into his view causing his breath to catch in his throat. All thoughts fled his mind, and he couldn't even begin to wonder why she had come back and what she was intending to do. Forcing himself to breathe, he could feel his body shuddering with emotion, but when she reached out and took his hand, he could no longer hold back. Just that one touch was enough to break the already thin thread he was hanging on. Choking out a sob, he embraced her tightly, burying his face in the soft leather of her coat.
She hadn't left him.
He didn't know why she had come back, and at this point he didn't care. All that mattered was that she was there, and she was returning the embrace, pulling him tighter to her as he cried. Grasping the back of her coat tightly in his fist, he inhaled the scent of her, assuring himself this wasn't a dream. Although tainted by the smells of blood and sweat, he could still catch the faint hint of magnolias that was distinctly Rogue. His belle Anna.
He didn't deserve her, and had no idea where they were supposed to go from here, but in that moment, it didn't matter. Nothing mattered. She was the lifeline he needed to pull himself back from the brink; that one small sliver of hope that maybe even the smallest bit of redemption was not just a fantasy. There was no doubt that he was a broken man. His faith shattered; his life destroyed; his sense of purpose lost. Everything he had fought so hard to become, to overcome, was distorted; set back to square one. But one thing remained. He may hate himself, but he still had the capacity to love.
And he still loved her. Maybe, maybe, that would be enough to save him.
She still loved him.
After everything he'd done, everything she'd witnessed, he still held the broken pieces of her heart in his hands. As he cried openly on her shoulder the silent tears rolled down her cheeks, but she had to be the strong one. Pulling him closer, holding him tighter, she had to let him know that he didn't have to go through this alone. God help her, she would be there for him.
She tried not to think of the blood he was getting on her coat, blood of the people he murdered. She closed her eyes as she smoothed down his matted hair with one gloved hand, not willing to think about bits of flesh that clung to it. He had survived Antarctica, but she knew in her heart that had she left with the others, he wouldn't have survived this alone. He needed her, and she couldn't turn her back on him. She may hate what he had done, but she could never hate him, and had she left him, she knew she would've hated herself for it.
It would take a long time, a long time for each of them to deal with these events, and a longer time for them to deal with what it meant for them, but perhaps it would be easier if they dealt with it together. She had decided long ago that Remy LeBeau, the Cajun charmer, was the man she wanted to spend the rest of her life with. This wasn't at all how she pictured it happening, but she wasn't about to back out now. They would never get the picket fence or the two point five kids, she was coming to terms with that, but she still wanted a lifetime with him. He had always been there for her. Whenever she needed him, he was there, and now she was ready to return the favour.
She felt his sobs slowly decreasing as she rubbed her hand soothingly up and down his back, whispering words of comfort. When he was ready, they would leave this place. She was prepared to leave the X-Men, to go wherever he wanted, needed, to go. They had both done horrible things in the past, been horrible with each other. At some point, they had stopped talking to each other. The still talked, but never said anything. They rarely spoke of the issues that were slowly pushing them further apart. They had a chance now to fix things. It was time for a fresh start.
It was time for a new life.
((This idea inspired a quick little sketch first, then branched out into a story. If y'all wanna see the drawin', lemme know, and I'll be sure to share. I'm not sure if I can post a link here, so I better behave and hold back.
Remember, feedback is like food to the starving writer. spooky ))