Confusing The Issue
"We both knew what we wanted,
and we took it believing it free..."
-- Sarah MacLachlan
"'Allo, Joseph," Gambit said quietly into the darkness
surrounding the small grove of trees. He sat perched on one
of the railings of the gazebo. He had been staring quietly
up at the stars when he first sensed the approach of the other
mutant, his rival for the hand of the woman he loved. Or thought
"Gambit," Joseph acknowledged curtly. "I apologize
for intruding. I did not realize that you were already here."
He had turned to go when Remy spoke. "Dat's all right.
You're not intruding."
White eyebrows raised. "I think that I am."
"Non. Remy come out here to share de night wit' de stars.
No reason not to share it wit' you, too. 'Sides," he
added shrewdly, "Remy t'ink dat you got your own reasons
for coming out here, no? Maybe some darkness inside
you like de darkness inside me."
"Under the circumstances, I don't think that you and
I are appropriate confidantes for each other."
"Neh. We de perfect pair. Nobody want to talk to us,
an' we both got too much inside t'tell anyone about. Too much
t'not talk about, but den, dere's not'ing we can do about
dat, is there, mon ami?"
Joseph had paused, and now stood next to the gazebo, outside
it, looking at the stars instead of Gambit. "And what
about Rogue?" he asked, in a voice that was both wary
and fierce. "Are you going to attack me again?"
Gambit shrugged eloquently, a gesture that would have garnered
full marks from any panel of gymnastics judges. "Not
going t'attack you. Roguie's made her choice and dis Cajun
know better now dan to try t'change her mind. But Remy t'ink
dat mebbe he not de only one with' lady problems."
Joseph looked up sharply at that remark, but Gambit seemed
fully occupied with lighting a cigarette. "What do you
know? -- or think you know?"
"Gambit don't know not'ing," the other man said
in a voice too carefully neutral of pain and bitterness. "Not'ing
at all. Just t'ought it be strange dat you wandering out here
alone on a beautiful night when you could be inside wit' a
beautiful lady. Don't need to tell me anyt'ing 'bout
dat. Gambit mind his own business. And you and Rogue not it."
"Fine." Joseph leaned back against the white painted
wood. Long silence passed, as the pair observed the slow,
careful movements of the stars. Joseph made no move to speak,
and Remy smoked one cigarette after another, snuffing out
the butts and stowing them away in one of the many pockets
in his jacket. Gambit stretched and stood, balancing on the
railing, then leaped lightly down. The darkness and silence
had enclosed them in an almost companionable bubble. "Tell
you dis, t'ough -- I know what it's like to be on de outside
just de same as you do. An' Gambit don't like it neit'er.
I respect you for trying t'stay here and be on de inside even
when nobody wants you."
"How much effort could that be?" Joseph asked sardonically.
"You've done the same."
"'Xactly. An' it's hard, non?"
Joseph regarded his long-time rival, then nodded. "Yes,
Gambit held out his hand. "Remy sorry dat he harass
you before. I know better dan dat. Been harassed myself. An'
you and Roguie -- de better man won, and Gambit just gonna
have t'accept dat, dat's all. Don't know dat you and me can
be friends, but at least we don't need t'be enemies, non?"
Joseph regarded the outstretched hand with caution, but as
it was empty, he took it and shook it. Nothing untoward happened
-- Gambit met him with a solid clasp and let his hand go.
"Thank you, Gambit."
Joseph felt a sudden surge of feeling for the former thief.
His main reason for not liking Gambit was the man's own animosity
for him. That the animosity came from Gambit's feelings about
Rogue had not mitigated Joseph's feelings, as it was Gambit's
actions and attitude that disturbed him. He could understand
the other man's jealousy; he did not understand his possessive
And yet, they shared some things in common. They were indeed
both outsiders amongst the X-Men -- men with checkered pasts
who were on the side of evil as often as the side of good.
Joseph, in fact, if his identity as Magneto were true, had
more to atone for than LeBeau ever could. A weight of past
evil that hung over their souls and shadowed them even in
the brightest light. Even in the sun of Rogue's love.
A sun that, he had learned that night, did not shine for
"She loves you, you know."
He steeled himself and repeated his words. "Rogue loves
Gambit shrugged. "So de chere has some feelings still.
Dat's nice of her, dat she hasn't forgotten me completely."
"No," Joseph said. "She loves
you. Not me. You."
Gambit's body shifted into a tense, guarded posture, but
his tone remained light. "You had a quarrel den? Not
a problem. In de morning, t'ings all seem better. Just remember
t'apologize when you get back -- 'specially if you were right."
"Is this some attempt at being noble?"
"Your refusal to hear what I'm telling you." He
met Gambit's eyes until those red eyes dropped to the ground.
"Non. Gambit just know dat men and women fight, and
den dey make up and t'ings get better. Rogue not gonna stop
loving you just because you got angry wit' each ot'er, whatever
she said t'you."
Joseph hesitated, the urge within him to stay silent and
keep his feelings -- an odd thing for a former supervillain
to have at all -- to himself quite strong. But he felt an
equal need to have someone, anyone, understand what was going
on. And damn it, if he were going to beat Gambit up for this,
the man deserved to at least know why first. "It wasn't
one fight. The situation's been like this since we started
A small explosion resounded, and Joseph saw two halves of
a burnt card floating to the ground. "What the--?"
"Gambit only a man, Joseph," a dark voice said.
"An' some t'ings too painful t'hear. Comprenez-vous?"
He nodded. "Yes. I apologize. I meant that the problem
is a long-standing one."
"Do I need t'hear dis?" Gambit asked, shuffling
and reshuffling his cards. His voice was still under his control,
but his rapidly moving hands betrayed his strain.
"I think I need to tell you."
"Fine den. Whatever." He leaned back against the
gazebo, his posture mirroring Joseph's, as if consciously
forcing himself to relax.
"Our relationship -- my relationship with Rogue -- isn't
working out. I... I care for her, but I think the only reason
she wants me at all is because she can touch me safely. My
magnetic powers allow her to touch someone without her needing
to be as vulnerable as other methods of negating her absorption
powers would make her. Her interest in me is, I believe, purely
Gambit tensed, and Joseph went on, "She loves you. I'd
say that she was merely satisfying herself with me because
she can, if it weren't that she seems so starved for any kind
of physical contact. It's special to her, and I can't
help caring about her even if...," his voice trailed
off, and then returned, strengthened, as he turned and clenched
his hands around the railing, "if what she's really doing
is simply using me as a safe alternative to the man she really
"Rogue's not a user," Gambit observed in a dispassionate
voice. "De girl sensitive to dat -- her powers make her
a user and she don't like dat."
"That's what I thought. It only makes the situation
more difficult for me."
"Gambit can see dat." He shuffled the cards again
and replaced them in their box. "What do you want Gambit
t'do about it?"
"Is there anything that any of us can do? Besides hurt
because the one we love isn't the one who wants to or can
be with us?"
"Gambit don't know."
"I don't either."
They stood there a while longer before Gambit extinguished
his cigarette. "I t'ink I know where t'find some brandy
if you're willing t'drink it. It's traditional t'drown your
sorrows in liquor, non?"
Joseph considered. He didn't care to drink, because being
drunk was to lose control, but on the other hand, neither
did he wish to risk the fragile understanding between himself
and Gambit that had been formed this evening. "I think
Gambit sat in the windowseat, windows open to let in the
cool night breeze, a half-full glass in his hand. Joseph sat
on Gambit's bed, another glass in his. Gambit was halfway
to being under the influence, and Joseph was halfway to needing
to be carried back to his room.
Except that he didn't seem to want to go back to his room,
for the reason that Rogue was already sleeping there.
"Mon ami, why not?"
Joseph shrugged. "I left because I couldn't stay, and
now I can't go back."
"Dat really makes sense," Gambit said, meaning
it sarcastically, but without any edge to his voice.
"Right," Joseph agreed with the perfect equanimity
of the no longer sober. "I knew you'd understand."
"Why can't you go back?"
"Because I've been drinking. She'd know and ask what
I was doing."
"If you don't go back, she's going t'wake up alone,
and den she'll know dat you were doing somet'ing."
Gambit laughed, a low rich laugh that rumbled warmly through
him. Somehow everything seemed more understandable now, with
some brandy in him, and with this newfound agreement with
Joseph. "Not dat different. Where you gonna sleep?"
Joseph considered him for a long moment, then laid back on
the bed, the glass tilting with him. "Here."
"And just where is Gambit supposed t'sleep?" Remy
"Here?" came the ingenuous suggestion.
Remy laughed again at the display of drunken logic. "You've
had too much t'drink, mon ami. Dat's enough for you."
He got down from the window seat and bent over Joseph to extricate
the glass from his hand. "Give dat to Remy."
"I'm fine. I'll be fine."
"Mebbe. Mebbe not." Remy looked at Joseph, stubbornly
holding onto the glass and sighed. No, the other man wasn't
going to give in easily. And he was in no mood for a fight.
Smiling deliberately, he pulled on his charm powers. "Just
give Remy de glass and let him take care of it for you. Okay?"
"All right." The glass slid easily away from now-loosened
fingers, and Remy set it out of reach.
A hand caught at his leg as Gambit stood. "What?"
he asked, turning back to Joseph's reclining figure.
"Dis is Gambit's room. Where do you expect him to go?"
Gambit asked reasonably, coming back to Joseph and sipping
on his brandy.
He sat down on the side of the bed, feeling his legs sigh
in relief as they relaxed. Maybe I should stop drinking
Joseph sat up, and Gambit drew back, expecting a mad dash
to the bathroom to throw up or perhaps an attempt at reacquiring
the glass of brandy. What he did not expect was Joseph leaning
forward to capture his mouth in a kiss.
If there were truth to any of the rumors surrounding Gambit,
the rumor about him being a consummate flirt was the truest.
He could no more resist an invitation to dalliance than he
could a game of cards. At least, not with his defenses down
and his heart as lonely and cold as a barren Antarctic afternoon.
He returned the kiss with passion, imagining for a moment
that he was cared for, that he was being kissed with love,
with true wanting, and for a moment losing himself in that
Then he drew back. "Not dat Gambit's complaining,"
he said mildly, watching Joseph's face for some sign that
the man realized what he'd just done, "but he don't t'ink
dat Gambit's really de person you wanted to kiss. Mebbe we
get you back t'your own bed now?"
Rogue was not going to be happy if she woke up and caught
him assisting Joseph into bed -- she would most likely assume
the worst, that he had gotten Joseph drunk for some nefarious
purpose, such as humiliating the other man. Gambit could live
with that. He'd lived with a lot of misunderstanding
of his intentions.
"I kissed you because I want you," Joseph said.
For a moment, Gambit almost believed that. But the person
saying it was simply too impossible. The more likely explanation
came to his mind. "You're reacting t'de charm powers,
homme. Not what you really want. C'mon, I'll help you get
"No," Joseph said stubbornly, "I want you."
Gambit shook his head. "Dey always say dat. An' den
in de morning, dey say 'how could you?' and dat I take advantage
of dem. Non, Gambit not going t'let you do dat to yourself."
Joseph attempted to stare him down, failed, and then nodded
sadly. "I don't believe you." He extended a hand.
"But if you could help me up, I'll leave."
His tone conveyed the infinite pain of rejection, and Gambit
sighed as he helped the other man to his feet. "Aww,
don't do dat, mon ami. Dere's not'ing wrong wit' you. Dis
just what's going t'be the best t'ing in de morning. You'll
see. You won't even be able t'look at Gambit t'morrow."
"And if you're wrong?"
"Gambit not wrong. Trust me."
He wrapped Joseph's arm around his shoulder, and successfully
walked him down the hall to his own room. Contrary to Joseph's
prediction, Rogue was not in the bed, for which Gambit was
grateful. He pulled the blankets further back and helped Joseph
lie down. Joseph's eyes were closing even as Gambit released
him. Sighing again, Remy slipped off Joseph's shoes and then
pulled the blankets up over him.
Instead of leaving immediately, he stood in the shadows of
the dark room, watching Joseph sleep. Dis only complicates
matters, he thought. Don't know what any of us are
going to do now.
Continued in Part
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