"Ah'm sure they'll be here in a sec," Rogue reassured the cab-driver, "They know we're leaving at nine."
Shaking her head, she climbed the hotel steps to where Remy was leaning against a column and smoking. She plucked the cigarette from his mouth and ground it underfoot. He made a face at her, but only said, "How much am I gonna have t'pay him t'make up for dem being so late?"
"Didn't even ask, sugah," she sighed, "An' Ah'm sure you don't want to ask why they're so late either."
Remy shuddered, a disapproving expression on his face. Rogue laughed, slipping an arm around his waist and giving him a squeeze. She had never seen this side of Remy before Mercy came to visit them: the side that was a worse prude than Cyclops. She could have never imagined it. The man was sex personified. If sex had been anthropomorphised, it would have been 6'2 with red-on-black eyes and auburn hair. It would have even spoken in a Cajun accent, and have had a taste in clothes that tended to trenchcoats.
She was just about to tease him about it, when she was cut off by a throaty laugh coming from within the lobby. She recognised it as Mercy. No-one else could make laughter seem like a come-on in quite the same way as she could. Raising her eyebrows significantly at Remy, she turned to greet her and Bobby, but stopped dead in her tracks.
Mercy was not with Bobby. Mercy had her arm on a young, handsome porter's shoulder and was smiling radiantly at him. Mercy was laughing and tossing back her head in response to something he said. Mercy was stroking his back with a finger, her blue eyes as brilliant as a hunting cat's.
"Ah don't bloody believe it," Rogue said angrily, "She's with Bobby, but she's flirtin' with that loser."
"Mercy ain't a one-man woman," Remy sounded tired, "I knew dis would happen. Dat's why I tried t'warn Drake off of her."
Rogue forgot her anger, and stared at him incredulously. Her boyfriend was amazing. He had spent the last, few days complaining to her about how Mercy and Bobby should not be together. And every complaint had gone the same way. He could say de wrong t'ing to de wrong person at de picnic. He could start a war, because ya jus' know dat de assassins won't be unarmed and dat de t'ieves will be expectin' dat. Jus' one of his stupid comments, an' dey could be moppin' up de blood f'r weeks. Even before that, he had made no secret about how much he disliked Bobby, and Bobby had made it quite clear that he returned his feelings. As usual with boys, it had all come down to jealousy. They had forever been getting in each other's face, forever making snide comments about each other to her. No, she wasn't going to let him play Remy the Noble with her now that it was all over between the two of them.
"Bull. Last night, you said it was because you were worried about Guild security."
Remy arched an eloquent eyebrow, "Because Drake be such a threat t'Guild security, chere?"
"But you don't like Bobby!"
"Oui, but he's family," he shrugged, "All ya X-Men are. Doesn't mean I like dat I'm tryin' to protect him. Spent days convincin' myself dat it was f'r de good o' my Guilds. But ... he's de irritatin' kid brother I didn'have. De one ya spend half ya time wantin' t'smack, an' de other half wantin' t' keep from hurtin' himself."
Rogue let out her breath. She knew Remy well enough to know when he was being sincere, and he had meant every word of what he had said. He had said that the X-Men were his family often before, but she had not known how truly he had meant it until now. He cared for all of them with the same unconditional love that kept him coming back to his family in New Orleans time and time again. One day, there'll come a time when that man doesn't surprise me, she thought, But it won't be soon.
"So, what are we goin' ta do?" she said eventually.
"Get t'rough dis picnic, den pick up de pieces afterwards," he suggested with a tight smile, then added, "I see Drake comin' down de steps. We better go an' say 'hi'."
Nodding, Rogue followed him inside the hotel. She wondered if Bobby had seen Mercy flirting with the porter, and, when she got closer to them, she knew that he had. He was trying to do his best to hide it, but she knew he was hurting. His amber eyes were dark with pain, and his mouth was a proud, tight line, as if he were trying to keep it from trembling. Mercy either had not noticed how she had wounded him, or she simply did not care.
"Bonjour, Mers, Drake." Remy said pleasantly, "We need t'get moving, if we're goin' t'make our picnic."
"Oui. I'll show Girard where de cab is parked," Mercy said with an unashamed smile for the porter. Without a second glance for Bobby, she set off towards the entrance, her stillettos clickety-clacking against the floor. Girard followed her, wheeling his trolley of suitcases. Rogue shot a furious glance after her, before turning back to her friend. He was standing there, his arms hanging limp at his sides, looking as if he had been shot.
"Bobby? Are you okay?" she touched his arm, but he shook her hand off impatiently.
"I'm fine, Rogue. Let's have a nice day," he smiled at her, and there was something incredibly young and vulnerable about it, "Let's just have a nice day."
To be concluded!
* Puttanesca = prostitute in Italian. The pasta sauce was traditionally made and eaten by prostitutes, apparently.
** Croque-monsieur = the snootier cousin of the grilled, cheese sandwich
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