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Bruised pride aside, his temper had cooled quickly in the
winter night. Now, he stood indecisively in front of Rogue's
unlocked door. Her room was empty. Remy chewed on his lip
studying the tarnished doorknob. Downstairs, in an isolated
portion of the mansion, he located her signature. There was
little motion from it. Glowering at shadows again, her
favorite past-time. Should leave her alone. She didn't
need sleep, not in the way most did, not physically. More
than once, he had crept through the door after a long night
only to discover her lost in memory. He reached for the handle.
Rarely was he given invitation, but it was almost dawn. She
should be back by now. If not, she would be. Her absence
was disconcerting and worrying. Swiftly, before he could change
his mind, he pulled the door open.
The blinds were drawn throwing narrow bands of light on the
floor and fautelle outlining in black the discarded parka..
His conscience scolded him for being curious, but he smiled.
The room was an interesting combination of Spartan and hedonistic:
Few bric-a-bracs, a couple of bland posters to cover the white
space of the walls, a work desk that appeared to have been
struck by a typhoon, the incessantly humming stereo system,
a clutter of books over her collection of stuffed animals,
and a carved four poster bed complete with red satin sheets
and velvet drapery. Materials pleasing to the touch were neatly
tucked, excluding the edge marred by a congregation of wrinkles.
Seen beds like that in other places.
She going to stay downstairs all night? Scanning the
room once more for clues, he spied the closet. Shouldn't
go peeking. Already gone this far. The door was slightly
ajar at the end of a carpet trail. Inside were secrets of
a sort. He crammed his hands in his pockets. Shuffled cards.
Re-pocketed them. Waiting was driving him crazy. This is
nuts, I'm getting all worked up because I want to reveal horrible
secrets and Rogue isn't here. He searched for a cigarette
but his hand merely bumped an empty shirt pocket. Then he
opened the closet door.
The cured scent of leather enveloped him. Pieces of it, jackets,
pants, boots, hats in myriad dark colors. Don't recall
seeing her wear those. Or the suits. Pushing aside the
facade, he found the back of the wardrobe. Or the kevlar
body armor with night vision goggles and ammunition belt.
He crouched down with a nervous glance over his shoulder feeling
like a kid pilfering cookies. Be just my rotten luck for
her to walk in now. Behind the shoe menagerie light glimmered
from the edges and folded handle of a pebbled carrying case.
It was an unpretentious blue-black, scarred across the plastic
sides, well used. There was no label identifying it as a gun
case, no reason to think it. The Prof really have her do
stuff like that? A minuscule movement and the legging
from the armor above tapped against the case. After the initial
tinge of dismay, he sighed. Enough Remy, you're here to
apologize not get an eyeful. It would probably be best
to let her bring this up on her own.
After a final thoughtful look at the closet, he launched
himself onto the bed with a satisfying bounce. He drummed
his fingers together while examining the intricate patterns
of the half-canopy. Maybe I should just come back tomorrow.
Tell her about him and we see if she keeps her end of the
bargain. Then I'll strangle her. An image of the Z'Noxx
chamber came to mind offering a solution to one of their problems.
He'd asked Joseph about it. Protect my mind but not my
body. He grinned at his own double entendre. She looked
awful jumpy around that thing, didn't like it. The light
on the wall was changing from gray to lavender to pink. Clasping
and unclasping his hands, he put them under his head, scanning
the room yet again. The trusted teddy bear beckoned to him.
It was the ugliest thing he'd ever seen, in a loved sort of
way. It was also somewhat heavy for a cloth and polyester
toy, but that was Rogue's own business. Okay, it's been
This section of the mansion was directly beneath the women's'
dorms and fairly undamaged. There was no one about, most of
the lights were off and only a weak glow emanated from unshaded
windows. She was here, moving jerkily, in the small study
crammed between two other storage rooms. He'd never entered
it, for somehow, this room was more sacrosanct than her own.
There was a series of bumps and thumps as Rogue fussed with
the study door, then with an especially loud thump, kicked
it. Remy opened it before it broke.
"Hey, y'open the door? Ah di'n'. Didja?"
"Yup. How y'doin'?" She looks rough. Her
eyes were bloodshot, shoulders slumped, mouth slack and skin
flushed as she swayed precariously staring at him in bewilderment.
He grabbed her elbow to aid locomotion while trying to pry
a bottle out of her hand. She positively reeked of alcohol.
Look hard enough and maybe I can see the fumes rising.
Her grip tightened stubbornly. "Wuzzat?" The simple
words took all the air from her lungs. A clumsy hand pushed
hair out of her face on to have it flop back down again.
"I said, how ya doin'?" Locating his gloves in
a pocket, he pulled them on and tucked her hair back. There
was only one reason he could think of for this. He'd never
found her well and truly drunk, he'd never given her cause
to, nor ever meant to. Apparently, their...discussion that
evening had upset her more than she let on. Typical, always
trying to be aloof, trying not to get hurt. Looks like you
fooled yourself, girl. So she hadn't meant to drive him
off with the charade earlier tonight. It hurt to realize she'd
gone to such petty lengths to discover the truth.
"Oh, oh, neve' bette', jus' fine, uh huh." She
shook his grip off and elbowed him in the stomach. The same
hand came up to grab his arm. "Lea' me 'lone, don' need
"Ya sure, c'mon, dis way." She might not want his
help, never did, but that did little to alleviate his concern.
This wasn't good. He'd found her hung over twice, once for
certain, the second time a possibility. According to her file,
she was resistant to most toxins but it didn't say whether
or not that was a conscious ability. Highly susceptible
to opiates, enough tranqs put her to sleep, but alcohol? How
much she need to chug? His immediate worry was that in
her carelessness, she might hurt him. Then again, she'd
not flying or pushing me around either. Regardless, the
intently vacant expression on her face confirmed it. She's
"Ah don' wan' go that way. Y'coul' be a shape shifter
like back in N'o'leans, y'know, Belle's awful dumb but Ah
di'n' kill 'er 'cause y'like 'er an' Ah di'n' really min'
'cept she tried t'kill me, or... Where we goin'?"
"We're goin' to ya room, dis way."
"Oh, 'at's good. Y'comin' wi' me?" She veered in
the direction of the Rec room and he steered her back towards
She was going to kill Belle?! No wonder she didn't want
me to follow. He couldn't see it, not Rogue. She's
always the one who goes on and on about holding back, being
better than your enemy. The gun case in her closet popped
to mind and just as quickly, exited. It had been covered by
a fine film of dust. Nor could he recall her carrying any
weapons with her when she traveled down south. No warning,
she didn't have time to prepare. Furthermore, she would
have been able to pick up any one of the knives Belle threw.
The Professor had asked about that, if she had tried to
kill, but he'd been unable to give an honest answer. Was
in the other room, didn't see. Xavier had also asked him
not to mention it again in front of Rogue, he'd cited emotional
insecurity and psychological instability. Maybe I should've
just asked, chewed it out with her.
Taking her by the shoulders, he leaned closer to look her
in the eye. She gave a loopy smile. "Now, I'm goin' t'talk
real slow so dat y'can un'erstan' me, okay?"
"Uh huh, 'kay."
"I'm takin' ya to y'room. Den I'm puttin' ya t'bed.
Got dat so far?"
"Uh huh. Y'goin' t'bed with me?" She sidled up
to him with a sinuous stretch and ran her hands up his chest.
It was very tempting. Any other time and he would've followed
her without qualm. Tonight, she wasn't in possession of her
faculties. He held still but that resulted in her touch being
more exploratory. Not to mention she'll kill me in the
morning and that's after breaking a few bones and gouging
my eyes out with a spoon. This was just the alcohol talking
but his body wasn't paying mind to the healthy common sense.
"No, I'm not."
She was groping him. Either that or she can't keep her
balance. Nor could he decide whether it was the alcohol
on her breath or, possibly, the hand she was working under
his waistband that disturbed him more. He tried to remove
her hands discreetly, to no avail. She slapped his hands away.
"You're very confused right now and you don' really wan'
do dat." Not that I really mind. "You don'
know what you wan'." Her hands darted back towards his
shirt and he grabbed them. Got'em.
She shook her hands with a flop attempting to break his grip.
"Uh huh. Ah do too." Taking a deep, preparatory
breath, she segued into a raucous rendition of Closer.
Immediately following comprehension, he felt pain. I love
her, I really do, but I hope she never does this in public.
Also hope no one else but me awake right now. She started
tottering and he held her up. "Chere." No response.
"Wha'?" The idiotic smile was still glued to her
face. The white of her hair picked up the gray and blue light
meandering lazily through the hall. Underneath the blur, her
eyes were revealing shadows.
There was no point. Even if she was sincere, this was not
the time or place. What if she is? If she was and this
wasn't just the alcohol, his judgment had been misguided.
From the time their relationship had become more serious,
he had assumed, based on her shy or angry attitude, that sexual
attention wasn't appreciated. She's the honorable sort,
would've felt pressured to give me what I asked for in return
for the attention. He pushed her onwards until they were
almost at the end of the hallway. "Dere's no need t'be
crude 'bout it. I t'ink, dat mebbe tomorrow mornin' we should
have ourselves a nice long discussion 'bout-"
She wasn't paying attention. "Stairs." Her face
mashed up ferociously at the unexpected obstacle. "There's
He sighed in comic relief. "Yes, dose are stairs."
"But they' stairs."
"Yes, I know. C'mon, hol' on t'me an' I carry
you." An elevator would be real useful right about
now. The instant he picked her up, she wrapped her arms
around his neck in a hold that threatened to suffocate him.
She stroked his jaw with the palm of one hand.
"Ah can't feel it." Disappointed, she tucked her
chin against his collar bone. "Stupid gloves, hate 'em,
hate'em, hate'em.... They hot an' make my han's sweaty an'
Ah can't feel nothin' an' Ah hate'em."
He couldn't think of anything to say if he'd been able to
say anything. It occurred to him that she rarely attempted
to touch him, even with gloves or through cloth. Maybe
that habit ought to be broken. "Well, um, uh-"
"Y'got awful pretty eyes."
"Um, t'anks." Pretty? Dangerous, seductive,
frightening, but pretty? Surmounting the stairs, he paused
to take deep breaths. Heavy. He took a left and headed
past closed doors to her room. No sound or movement came from
behind the sheets of wood. Jean lived with Scott, Elizabeth
was with Warren, and Storm resided in the attic which left
Rogue as the sole occupant of this wing. .
There was another problem; her bedroom door was closed. I
put her down, she falls. I hold her, she'll probably fall
asleep. So she falls or she falls. He put her down but
she only collapsed halfway retaining a loose hold on his jeans.
He opened the door, and pulled her back up. "Walk."
"Hush. Follow me, no, no, dis way, to de bed."
"Hush y'self! Remy?" She tugged on his sleeve pointing
to an empty space in the room. "Bed's ove' the', see,
ain'...." Puzzled, she rubbed her forehead with the tenaciously
held bottle. "It moved."
"Yup. Dey do dat sometimes. C'mon."
Taking her by the shoulder, he pushed her towards the bed
and turned her to face him. She sat when the backs of her
knees hit the mattress. "Now, y'gonna go t'bed, by
y'self, an' take a long-"
"Whoa!" Leaping back, he snatched her free hand
away from his fly. "I jus' told you, dat's not what I
came here for." Very good aim for someone who can't
see straight. Nevertheless, this bore thought and serious
consideration. She always shied away when he touched too much,
too long. He's assumed it s reminded her of her powers. His
earlier thoughts returned. She might be jumpy, but with a
power like her's, she was informed. Look like maybe I was
mistaken, maybe I've been neglecting her.
"Why not?" she asked in an exceedingly disappointed
"'Cause ya drunk as a fish." Shaking his head in
bemusement, he re-zipped his pants.
He rambled to distract her. "So, no. I rode out for
a while but when m'fingers and toes froze I came back. Speakin'
of fingers an' toes, I got t'take y'boots off if y'be
kin' 'nough t'hold still." He knelt with one shoulder
between her knees and untied her shoe. "Was gon' tell
you somet'in' important, nice long story, but y'don' seem
up to it right now so I figure dat maybe ya jus' gi'me de
bottle y'holdin' and I put ya t'bed." The boot was untied,
but her foot was firmly planted on the floor. Trying to pick
it up was like moving a tree with one hand, in short, impossible.
What is this? Selective use of powers just to make things
Watching him struggle with her leg, she giggled, making no
effort to be helpful. "A secret? What kin' secret?"
She played with his hair, running it through her fingers and
dropping it in his face. "Ah bet Ah can guess! Ah know
lotsa secrets. It is a surprise?"
"T'ought it was, I bet not anymore. I tell y'about tomorrow,
okay?" Her foot was not moving. He sat back on one foot,
one finger curled against his lip, ignoring the tangles she
was creating in his hair. "Rogue, please pick up y'foot
so I can take off y'boots."
He tickled the back of her knee and she doubled over with
a shriek. The bottle flew dangerously by his ear to collide
with a solid thunk against the side of the bed. He grabbed
her arm while getting his knee under hers. Now that her entire
right side was immobilized, he took her shoe off. Seeing that
the other leg was laying half bent, he removed the other one
as well, then blinked. She had a hand up his shirt. The seams
of her gloves scraped lightly over his abdomen and chest.
Judging it to be fairly harmless, he let it remain, while
standing and still trying to pry the Vodka out of her hand.
"Me or de happy poison?"
A fierce scowl developed on her face. "Mine."
Saying this obviously required all her concentration because
her hand went lax.
"Hey, I don' have a problem wit' dat." Triumphantly,
he swiped the bottle waving it out of her reach. "Hah!"
"Heeeey, gi' it back!" She lunged up lethargically
grappling onto his waistband for support heedless of his balance
or good intention.
He planted his feet twisting backwards. She wrapped a leg
behind his knee and pulled harder until they both fell unceremoniously
on the bed while the bottle landed on the floor with a solid
thunk. She laughed, nuzzling him, while he tried to disentangle
himself. Damn octopus. "NO. What did I tell you?"
A goofy smile answered him when he gripped her wrists. "No?"
"Dat's right. Very good, you remembered." His cheeks
felt hot as he leapt back to sit on the edge of the mattress.
She have you fooled or what? This is embarrassing.
This was too elaborately insane to have been planned but it
stank of improvisation. Don't get it. She's so cozy with
Joseph and ignores me. True, but he'd never seen her allow
him touch beyond a shoulder or arm. Always telling me not
to touch. "You did dat on purpose di'n' you?"
"Nuh-u-uh," she drawled in denial. Her arms snaked
under his to wrap around him from behind.
"Y'know, if you were any other woman I -- OW! Don' bite!"
A barely audible murmur was his response. An angry murmur.
He looked over his shoulder and lightening quick, she kissed
"Dieu! What y'doin'?!" He bolted up as if burned.
"Ya-" With a bit of effort, the stale words were
choked back. Butthead. Wonder how many times she's heard
that? Her dark mutters had subsided and she lay curled
on one side watching him curiously. Enough times to believe
it. He rubbed his neck slowly. This was unprecedented
as far as he knew. There had been a slight tingle, but he
was definitely conscious. "Let's try dis 'gain'."
"No, no, no." Her eyes crossed when he shook
his finger scoldingly. "For all de complainin' y'do,
ya sure have a one track mind. Guess dis is somet'in' else
we have to discuss, eh?" Batting aside the hand roaming
up his leg, he hauled her into the center of the bed. "Stay."
"Whe' y'goin'?!" Leaning unsteadily on an elbow,
she entreated, "Y'a'ready wen' out 'night an', an' it's
'mornin', y's'pose t'be sleepin' an'...." Her voice trailed
off with a sigh and she lay back down in slow, painful movements.
Wincing, he sat again beside her. She was crying in a frighteningly
dispassionate way, not seeing him. Assuming the worst,
eh? Real open-minded of you. Then again, not like I tell her
what I'm about. "I'm not goin' anywhere if you don'
wan' me to. Y'listenin'?" Her eyes flickered and he sat
back yet again.
She was tugging on his shirt. "You want me t'stay here
"All right. But don' you go scoldin' me for it later."
He shucked his boots.
As soon as he lay down, she hooked an arm and leg over him
using his shoulder as a pillow. Shifted fractionally, she
pressed an ear to his arm for a minute then relaxed. He kept
an eye on her hand as it hovered in the air before falling
with fair accuracy over his heart. Main artery going down
the arm, heard my pulse. Taking a firm grip in his hair,
she relaxed the ghost scowl along with her hold on consciousness.
Guess I'm not going anywhere.
"Disgustin' piece of shit! Git the hell outta my sight!"
The frightening impact of glass crashing on a heavy carved
door punctuated the slurred shout.
She skidded into the stairwell in her haste to escape. Whining
rather than crying lest her mother seek her out, the girl
nursed fresh bruises. Usually, Mother drank in the side room
by the kitchen in back. So, she'd used the front door. This
time, Mother had been in the living room which was the only
way through the front. It was awful bad luck. But she was
safe now for a little while. Mother got in a bad way every
day. In the morning, she was just real quiet like and pretended
not to hear folks talking to her. But soon, she'd get loud
and mean. She wasn't mean on purpose.
The front door opened with a muffled rattle that Mother hated,
then slammed. It rooted her to the spot. The little hand of
the grandfather clock was on six. Two voices emerged through
the walls and down the hall. One rising and falling eventually
becoming unintelligible. That voice was angry, scared, saying
things like, "No, I didn't, No, I'm not, She deserved
it, Useless." It kept making noises until there was a
big thud from the chair. It had fallen over again. The second
voice, which had been quiet and steady before, got loud. It
got really loud, and then really quiet. It made agreeing noises,
soothing, gentle like a lullaby. But it was scary. It said
stuff like, "Yes, I perfectly agree, You're right, You
can't ignore her, Patient teaching, Firm hand to improve behavior...."
And it talked, and talked, and talked until the first voice
didn't talk anymore.
There were footsteps, click of loafer heels, approaching
the hallway door. The girl cringed, daring a look up the stairs.
He would follow her up to her room. Or outside, or downstairs
in the leaky cellar where all the bottles came from, or anywhere
and Mr. Marcus and Miss Goat, which wasn't her real name,
would help him. Miss's Goat's real name was long and sounded
funny. Uncle Lucien said "Goat-am-iy-er". Uncle
Lucien was behind the hall door. Half-sobbing, she crumpled
on the bottom step to wait. She'd done bad.
The hall door opened washing her in dim light. She could
see all the dust in the air. It moved around making everything
look kind of gray. Pretending not to see Uncle Lucien, she
stared at the hairline break in the wall. It started over
the trim and wandered up a few inches before disappearing.
The wood trim below had two small dents in it. That's where
the nails were.
"Well? Stand up properly, I'm talking to you."
She stood, trying not to fidget or crumple her dress. Uncle
Lucien was a gentleman. He wore fancy suits, Mother called
them fancy duds, but they didn't look fancy to her. They were
brown, and black and gray and some had stripes. Mother called
him handsome too. He had kind of yellow hair, called blond,
and a mustache, and really green eyes and- "Ow!"
She pulled her shoulders up gingerly.
"Pay attention." He loomed over her. "That's
exactly the problem with you. You never listen. Young ladies
do as they're told."
He was pacing back and forth in front of the stairs with
his arms crossed wrinkling up his jacket sleeves. "I
don't understand this. Are you just stupid or don't you remember
what I told you about obeying your mother? She counts on you
to help her, to be obedient when she's not well. Do the other
children act so irresponsible? I can't believe you were gone
all day. Look at you, you're filthy! Filthy!"
She wasn't supposed to answer those questions. He always
got mad at her if she did. Every time he looked at her his
eyes got squinty and his lip twisted up like a caterpillar.
He was very mad. She'd gone to play with Cody and his friends
on account that all the girls had a secret clubhouse and she
wasn't in it because.... She didn't know why. Anyway, they'd
gone frog chasing over by the loch where it turned into a
"Look at me when I'm talking to you!"
She jerked her head up from the brown leather of his shoes
and backed up a step.
He moved in a rush, grabbing her shoulder and dragging her
back. "Did I give you permission to go anywhere?"
"No." She looked straight ahead at the corner of
his lapel. She had to be real careful not to look right at
him or he'd tell her not to "look at him like that"
whatever that meant. Her hands felt awful cold and her stomach
felt funny like she was going to throw up. She tried to swallow
except it didn't work.
Gently patting the bruise on her shoulder, he smiled. It
was one of those fake smiles that people at stores always
gave her when saying stupid things because they were grown-ups.
"Good girl." The pressure increased, crushing her
to the spot as his smile went away. "Now, honey, what
you did today was very unladylike. In fact, I would go so
far as to call it unhealthy. We both love you very much and
the least you could do is act maturely. As her daughter, it's
your duty to take care of her when she's unwell and until
you act more responsible...."
Her knees buckled and her shoulder dropped under the force
of his grip. Her mouth felt dry and sticky. All his talk was
running together into a big muddy mess and none of the words
made sense. They weren't mean words, and he was smart so he
knew what he was talking about but it made her feel bad. Mother
had gotten mad for no good reason, like always, and started
hitting and yelling and there had been nowhere to go. It made
her feel so angry she wanted to hit him, but if she did, he'd
hit her back and he hit very hard.
"How can I take you in public when you exhibit such
atrocious behavior? Where did you learn such foul language?
Where did you learn that such violence is acceptable? Where?"
All the colors ran together and she blinked. He hated when
she cried. He said she did it on purpose to get sym-pa-thy.
The real, honest-to-goodness answer was "From you"
but if she told him that he'd get madder and if she didn't
say nothing he'd be even madder than that. "From school?"
He nodded slowly. "From school." Then, brushing
her cheek with the back of his knuckle, "You aren't lying
She hunched away. It was worse than hitting. "N-no."
"Young ladies don't lie. Then don't use vulgar language.
They don't raise they're hands against their parents."
His eyes looked funny. They had the scary look. And he wasn't
her father. Her father was gone somewhere. She didn't miss
him or anything because she'd never met him. "And they
obey their parents. You don't want to make me angry, do you?"
"No." She tried to lean away from his hand the
"I'm going to ask you nicely one more time. Where did
you learn that?"
The words got stuck in her throat with all the air to say
them with. She was going to start crying again. It wasn't
fair. "I...uh...um...." Her whole body was shaking.
It hurt to stand still. Uncle Lucien got real close so she
could see the different colors in his eyes and all the lines
on his nose and forehead. It was hot and cold at the same
time. The light hurt her eyes so nothing was real anymore.
"I don't know."
"You lying bitch. You just never learn do you?"
The last thing she saw before squeezing her eyes shut under
braced arms was his saccharine smile.
Continued in Chapter
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