It had been a long two weeks.
Though it was still early, Rogue rose from her bunk, stretching
out like a cat. Yawning, she rubbed the sleep out of her eyes
as she headed toward the galley. She had always been a morning
person (or "one of them", as Remy had often
described with a mocking shudder), but even she was feeling
the wear of the eighteen-plus hour days which all of them
had been enduring to finish the repairs to their damaged vessel.
On reaching the ship's compact kitchen, Rogue began to putter
about, getting some breakfast. Stifling another yawn, she
was attempting to get the dispensers to discharge something
approximating a cup of tea and a buttermilk biscuit. The result,
while less than successful, was still palatable, and she sat
down at the table to eat. As she did, she noticed the empty
plates on the counter -- two others has already been and gone.
Rogue was unsurprised -- that was normal.
* Since she joined up with us, Nomi's been spendin' just
about every wakin' moment trainin' Remy, even while they're
doin' repairs. Ah wonder how they're managin' on so little
sleep ... 'specially him *
She couldn't hold back a grin at that thought -- under normal
circumstances, for Gambit to even be conscious, let alone
out of bed any earlier than noon was unusual. The last time
anyone had tried to wake him earlier than that for any reason
other than a full-blown global crisis, that person had been
digging eiderdown out of his fur for a week.
* Ah wonder what they're doin' this mornin' *
The thought was wistful, as well as curious. What with the
amount of time everyone was spending on repairs, and Remy's
training, she barely had the chance to exchange two words
with him in the course of a day. She missed his presence,
and like it or not, she had to admit to a certain degree of
jealousy toward Nomi, who had a monopoly on his time.
Cup of ersatz tea in hand, Rogue wandered down the hallway
to the observation area of the holodeck -- amazingly, that
was the one part of the ship left almost unscathed from their
near-collision with the unknown vessel. Taking a seat, she
Nomi and Gambit stood facing each other, separated by a few
feet, their lightsabers ignited. After making some kind of
salute with their light-blades, they proceeded to execute
set patterns of attack and defense, much like what Logan would
call ippon kumite -- one-point sparring.
Rogue watched with interest as they went back and forth,
building up their speed until their blades were no more than
emerald and amethyst coloured blurs. After a few minutes of
this exercise, they stopped.
" Good, Remy, " the Jedi's voice crackled over
" You're coming along well ... and I think it's time
to move to the next level. You're almost ready to free spar,
so we'll do the closest thing to it. For the next three minutes,
you will attack. I will only defend, not counter. Then we'll
switch roles -- understood ? "
" Ready when you are, chère, " he grinned.
" Remember -- calm ... feel the Force around you ...
reach out to it ... direct it ... let it flow ... "
Rogue watched as Gambit closed his eyes briefly in concentration,
and almost visibly relaxed.
At that moment, he began his attack.
Rogue couldn't believe it. She had trained with Remy, worked
with Remy, for years -- she knew exactly what his capabilities
were in combat -- but she had never seen him move like this
before. What was even more astounding was the apparent ease
with which his teacher deflected the blows from his inhumanly
* If'n they were goin' any faster, Ah doubt Quicksilver could
keep up * she thought wonderingly.
* That shouldn't even be possible ! *
Impossible or not, the bout continued, Gambit delivering
flurries of attacks that the Jedi blocked, or simply avoided.
Suddenly, Gambit drew back, raising his 'saber in acknowledgement
that his turn was ended. Nomi returned the gesture, then pressed
her own attack.
Rogue was again dumbfounded. If Remy's effort had been inhuman,
she had no idea what to call this in comparison. The grace
and efficiency, speed and skill that the Jedi displayed was
beyond belief. On the defensive end, Gambit was holding his
own against the onslaught at first, but soon his sweaty brow
and rapid breathing were proof of the fact that he was overmatched.
Seeing this, Rogue couldn't help but worry for his safety
-- she knew exactly how lethal a lightsaber could be, thanks
to Nomi's memories, and after all, accidents happen ...
* Stop it * she lectured herself.
* You know damn well that Nomi knows what she's doin' --
and that she wouldn' evah do anything that might hurt him,
or anyone else. So relax, gal *
After the three minutes had passed, as quickly as it had
begun, the fight was over. Gambit was breathing hard, his
chest heaving with the effort of supplying the extra air his
lungs craved, while Nomi looked relaxed, as if she had just
returned from a brief stroll. She smiled broadly at her student.
" Excellent, especially for a beginner. You've come
along amazingly. But you started to lose your concentration
about halfway through, and when you did, I made you pay for
it ... "
" How d' ya do it, chère ? " Remy panted, discouraged.
" How c'n you jus' ... keep calm an' focused in ...
de middle o' all that ? "
" A little self-confidence, " she replied, "
and a lot of practice. It's like being a baby again,
taking your first steps. Nobody is born knowing how to walk
-- you learn, and at first, you fall down a lot. Later, you
don't fall so much, but your movements are awkward, even clumsy.
But if you keep it up, you master it. Believe me -- from what
you just showed me, I don't think you have a lot to worry
about. The fine control will come with time, and you're already
well on your way. By the time we return to your world, you'll
be ready for almost anything. "
" Y' t'ink so ? " he asked hopefully.
Nomi grinned wickedly.
" You will be if I have anything to say about it ...
so up and at 'em ! Time for the training run ! "
Rogue sniggered as she heard Gambit's groan of protest over
the commlink. She and the others had seen this exercise before,
and it resembled an obstacle course more than a run -- but
one where the participants carried more than twice their own
body mass in weights. As both teacher and student loped into
the swampy setting the holodeck created for them, Rogue slowly
rose and wandered back to the galley, sipping her now tepid
* Remy's ... changed a lot since he started this Jedi trainin'
* she thought to herself.
* It's like he's more relaxed -- like the weight he's been
carryin' on his shoulders is finally liftin' some ... an'
he's actually been perfectly civil ta Joseph all week ...
And a lot more had changed than the balance of his personality
... his new powers took getting used to, that was for sure.
It wasn't so much the fact of their existence that made them
a little unnerving -- heck, the X-Men were always coming across
people with strange new abilities -- it was that Remy had
always given the impression of knowing more than he let on,
and some of his newer talents had accentuated that aspect
of his persona.
It was kind of spooky.
She thought back a few days ... she had gone up to the bridge
to ask Hank a question about her repair job schedule, but
had found Gambit instead. His back was toward her, his upper
body half-hidden under the command panel he was in the process
" Bonjour, chèrie, " his muffled voice called out
cheerfully from underneath the console.
" Sorry t' disappoint ya, Rogue, but Beast's checkin'
out de hull again. "
She had stood there open-mouthed for a second before she
managed to contain her surprise. Then she heard him chuckle
as he extricated himself from the confined space, and turned
to face her.
" Thanks, sugah -- Ah'll see ya later, " she had
replied with a small smile, being careful to keep the tone
of her voice as neutral as possible.
Walking toward the door, she shook her head in disbelief.
* Remy, ya show-off * she thought affectionately, tempered
with a hint of annoyance.
" Y' welcome, chèrie -- but how am I s'posed to know
if dis stuff works 'less I try it out, hehn ? " he answered
plaintively, but she could hear the laughter in his voice.
How long had it been since his voice had sounded like that
? Since Israel, maybe ...
And when she spun toward him, she could see those eyes of
his still glittering with mischief, like a child who has been
caught with his hand in the cookie jar and tries to charm
his way out of trouble.
" REMY ! "
The insufferable man grinned from ear to ear at her exasperation.
" Guess dat's two f' two. Wanna try for three ? "
" Why you little ... " she stammered in anger,
glaring at him.
How dare he enter her mind without even asking her ! And
why hadn't her psi shields even felt his intrusion ?
He raised his hands placatingly.
" Okay, chère, okay -- I give. But I didn' read y' mind
just then, an' I'm not doin' it now. Hank's jus' comin' now
if ya need t' talk to him. "
Rogue considered for a moment -- it was true that when Nomi
herself had probed them with the Force, none of them had felt
anything. And the Jedi had also stated that she wasn't reading
their minds at the time. Remy had always been able to read
her moods. Perhaps the Force simply elevated Remy's natural
empathy, somehow, to the point where he could just tell what
she was thinking. Maybe that empathy had always been due to
the Force, and was just better trained, and thus more evident
now. Rogue decided to let the incident pass.
" Ah'm sorry I snapped at you, Remy , " she said
" Ya just startled me, is all. An' thanks foh your help
again, sugah. "
She hadn't even begun to turn toward the door when he answered
her -- mind to mind.
# Anytime, Rogue ... #
" Ya just cain't leave well enough alone, can you ?
" she remarked, shaking her head in disbelief.
" Never could, chèrie -- never could. 'Sides -- jus'
had to go for lucky three, " he smiled.
Rogue broke out of her reverie, still holding the memory.
She had always found Remy's smiles precious, not least beacuse
they were so rare. True, he had a grin for every occasion,
but he often used it as a mask to hide his true feelings.
His smiles, on the other hand, were always genuine -- and
he didn't simply smile with his mouth, but with his eyes as
well, lighting up his entire face.
Whatever else Nomi's teaching had done for Gambit, it hadn't
changed his basic persona. He was still the same audacious,
charming flirt he ever was -- the same man she had fallen
in love with ...
The same man whose buried secrets still caused her to wake
in a cold sweat many a night.
* But then it ain't like I was sleepin' all that well before
Ah absorbed Remy's memories either * she thought dryly.
She had her own crimes on her conscience. What the X-Men
knew of her past was only what they had found out -- it was
by no means the limit of what she had done in her days with
the Brotherhood. In a way, her own history was what made her
sympathize with Joseph as easily as she did ... she knew what
it was to experience distrust.
It was strange -- Gambit had been among them for far longer
than Joseph. Yet in some ways, the others trusted Joseph more
than they did Remy.
She had stood by the man once known as Magneto, helping him
overcome his past.
Could she do any less for Gambit?
These thoughts heavy on her mind, Rogue silently left the
galley and went to her prescribed tasks for the day.
Continued in Chapter
" To win one hundred victories of one
hundred battles is not the acme of skill; to subdue the enemy
without fighting is the acme of skill. " -- Sun-Tzu,
The Art of War
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