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"Confusing the Issue"

Confusing the Issue

Warning: Adult material, explicit sexual content.

Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3

Confusing The Issue

Part One

"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 he loved.

"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, it's hard."

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."

"You're welcome."

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 anger.

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 him.

"She loves you, you know."

"Excuse moi?"

He steeled himself and repeated his words. "Rogue loves you."

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 making love."

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 sexual."

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 wants."

"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 it is."

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."

"That's different."

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 asked, amused.

"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.

"Don't go."

"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 too.


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 illusion.

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 up."

"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 Two.


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