Sorry, all. This has no connection to you-know-which story. Enjoy anyway.

DISCLAIMER: Any recognizable character belongs to Marvel. Any recognizable coffee bar chain belongs to some funny bank in some funny place with someone's funny name attached to the account. Any recognizable film refernces belong to the movie's distributor. And so on.

Between the Cards and the Ten O'Clock News



A droplet of water fell on the king's face. The pregnant swell of moisture erupted on his cheek, fanning into tiny streams that distorted his two dimensional features and the tip of his sceptre. A trail of water slid past the red heart, and for a fleeting moment it seemed to pulsate with a rush of blood. Then, in a heartbeat, it was gone.

Gambit sighed. He wiped the card on the thigh of his green sweats. He wished his hair wouldn't take so long to dry. Regarding the suit and tie ensemble that hung neatly from his closet door, Remy reached for the TV remote. Impatiently he channel surfed past milk commercials and music videos, looking for something that would distract his attention until he could get dressed and head out for the evening. He settled on the ten o'clock news, and dealt himself a fresh hand of solitaire to occupy his hands. Humidity from the shower had wrinkled the tips of his fingers and left sweat running down his arms and back. Gambit liked the feeling of moisture evaporating from his bare skin in the crisp autumnal breeze. It made him feel sexy.

He stretched once, a catty movement that ended in a satisfying shudder, and turned his attention to the news anchor. She was an unremarkable woman, with the sort of face that always suggested someone else's. Right now, she reminded Remy of a girl he remembered from childhood, though the name printed across the bottom of the screen told him it wasn't the same person. Behind her was a blurry photograph superimposed with the headline "Hot Cocoa and a Bullet, Please." He flipped over three cards as he listened to the story unravel itself from the woman's mouth. Today a man walked into a Starbucks on East Fordham Road in the Bronx, asked for a hot chocolate and pulled out a gun.

Remy shuffled and flipped over three more cards. Cascades of alternating suites were already forming in tentative rows at his feet. Eight of spades. Seven of hearts. Six of spades. Five of diamonds. And so on.

Gambit didn't blame the man for pulling out a gun; the prices at Starbucks were exorbitant. He shuffled again, his actions mirroring the woman's on TV as she shuffled through the pages of her script, playing solitaire with a list of crimes committed by the desparate kings and queens of the city. Maybe this man in the coffee bar was the one-eyed Jack, using a gun because his sword was stolen on the D train. Remy flipped three cards over. His hair was almost dry.

The image on the screen changed, dissolving into the lo-fi quality of a cheap security camera. The man took his mug of hot cocoa and rested his gun on the counter. A clerk's fingers danced over the register as he groped for the cash drawer. The man leaned back, sipping his cocoa.

Remy shifted his attention back to his cards. it occured to him that the game, half over, had already been lost. Shrugging, he lifted the face down cards until he found the ten of clubs, reclaiming the game once again. The news anchor in the background paid no attention to his cheating, watching instead as the store manager disregarded the rules of he game. The cards were stacked in his favour, she said, as the image behind her changed again. Through the static black and white, the owner shoved the clerk aside and pulled out his own Smith and Wesson. Politely, he aimed at the mug as the man blew steam from his drink. Angry words were exchanged, and the cup exploded. Droplets of cocoa fell to the floor. The pregnant swell of the hot liquid erupted on the man's cheek, fanning into triny streams that mingled with his blood and distorted the tip of his gun. Remy flipped his cards. Ace of spades, two of spades, three of spades. And so on.

The anonymous face of the anchor filled the screen again. She explained apologetically to Remy that the Starbuck's manager was a member of the Friends of Humanity. The man with the gun and cocoa was a known mutant on parole from a previous crime, and was now quite dead. Gambit gathered his cards together, He didn't feel like playing solitaire any more.

Remy's hair was dry now, and the moisture gone from his naked back. He changed the channel quickly. Henry Fonda's craggy face replaced the anchor's. Remy decided that the man with the gun was not the one-eyed Jack after all. He was Nobody.

Gambit stepped into his suit and grabbed his sunglasses from the night stand. His hands glowed defiantly as he admired his reflection in the mirror. He felt a sharp hatred towards that manager in the Bronx, who tonight would be washing hot cocoa and the blood of a mutant from his hands. Silently, he stepped into the hallway and closed the door behind him. Life in the Starbucks, and Remy's evening, would play on. He hated the news.

For the first time in ages, it's nice out. And I'm inside, chained to my computer and writing fanfiction. I think this is an indication of some much deeper problem. Someone write back and tell me if this was worth it, please.

-O'Shaugnessy (who is changing his name to Moonchild so that Fantstica can live on)