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Warnings: Mature themes throughout the story, dealing with rape, torture and the psychological traumas of imprisonment in a concentration camp. Sexually explicit scene in Chapter 23.

Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Chapter 7
Chapter 8
Chapter 9
Chapter 10
Chapter 11
Chapter 12
Chapter 13
Chapter 14
Chapter 15
Chapter 16
Chapter 17
Chapter 18
Chapter 19
Chapter 20
Chapter 21
Chapter 22
Chapter 23
Chapter 24
Chapter 25
Chapter 26
Chapter 27
Chapter 28
Chapter 29
Chapter 30
Chapter 31
Chapter 32
Chapter 33
Chapter 34
Chapter 35
Chapter 36
Chapter 37
Chapter 38
Chapter 39
Chapter 40
Author's Notes



The aromas of cinnamon and yeast mix with the sounds of a well-honed knife against a cutting board. The kitchen comes alive with a Cajun flair of color and texture. Tseidel quickly finishes braiding a German pastry then tops it with a mixture of cinnamon, raisins and butter. She glances over at Remy, puzzled by the self-satisfied smile playing across his lips.

He looks up, and his smile broadens into a grin. He flips the knife mid-air, causing Tseidel to gasp. He snatches it handle first a second before it strikes the floor. Remy winks at Tseidel, a trace of his former cockiness glimmers in his eyes. He returns to cutting an assortment of onions and bell peppers for omelets.

He's surprised that such a little thing could affect him so. Still, it was good to know that he hadn't lost his touch. There hadn't been much for him to work with but, in the early hours of the morning, he had the handwriting nailed. He wasn't as certain about the wording.

He had to rely on what he knew of Rogue's speech to muddle through. All in all, he was confident that it would work. Partly due to his expertise, partly due to the fact that Rogue's emotions would make her blind to any flaws she might ordinarily notice. After all, what were a few minor glitches when she would be reading a much-anticipated letter from her father?

He smirked. Even though he was quickly feeling the aches from taking his bike to the post office, it was a good kind of hurting. A sense that his body was coming back to him. Even taking a spill hadn't deterred him. If anything, it had strengthened his resolve.

Remy winced. He was going to have let Hank check him out, especially the hands. His fingers didn't have the flexibility he needed to handle his cards. He quickly discovered that when trying to steer. Again, the grin. With any luck, Jean wouldn't notice one of her prized rose bushes was now on the other side of the driveway. And about ten yards further south.

Tseidel didn't know what to make of him. He seemed--eager for the day to begin. He had already washed and dressed by the time she awoke. He had even set out fresh towels and, to her surprised delight, bubble bath for her use. Had fought back enough of his fear of the shower to draw her a bath. Tseidel had been deeply touched.

Remy was full of surprises this morning. After Tseidel had seen to her needs, he requested a shave and haircut. A dab of gel before smoothly pulling his hair back. A quick splash of aftershave. Gold earring. Well-oiled leather boots. Tight jeans and a crisp cotton shirt left the Cajun looking more pulled together than Tseidel had ever seen him. He was still thin, haggard even. But steel had replaced the hollow shadows in his eyes.

Bleary-eyed, Rogue stumbles downstairs, intent on a cup of coffee. She finishes pulling a flannel robe over her sleep shirt as she pads barefoot through the house. She walks into the dining room, thinking only to pass through on her way to the kitchen. She stops, stunned. Professor Xavier's finest china, silverware and crystal gleam against the snow-white tablecloth.

In one corner, Kurt amuses Jean with an outrageous bit from Errol Flynn's memoirs while Scott adds his own disparaging comments to the story. At the other end, Eric listens intently to Hank's theory for eliminating the Legacy virus. Ororo moves a vase of flowers from the window to the center of the table, adding a final, elegant touch.

She smiles warmly at Rogue, and motions for her to join them. Rogue slides into the end seat between Eric and Hank. Hank pauses in his dialogue, noting Rogue's pallor. He turns her face to his, tilting it towards the light. Rogue squints at the glare.

"You have not had much sleep, my dear."

"Sleep was fine, sugah. It was the wakin' up at all hours that was the problem. What's the occassion?"

Ororo slips into a chair next to Eric.

"Gambit insisted on preparing breakfast for everyone."

The twinkle of hope in Storm's eye is unmistakable.

"It is good to see him smiling again."

"Ya don't think it's a bit sudden?"

"If you ask me, it's about time."


"No, Jean, we need to talk about this. We've tried Rogue's way and to be honest, I can't see that's it been of much help. Where's the 'breakthrough'? Have we seen any indication that what we've done has been effective? It's time we considered our alternatives."

"Soup on!"

With a flourish, Remy enters, followed by Tseidel. In moments, the table is covered with trays of omelets, yeast breads and pitchers of juice. Deftly, Remy serves everyone--except Rogue. Tseidel settles in next to Hank while Remy disappears into the kitchen. He quickly reappears at Rogue's side.

In one swift move, he replaces her plate with another and fills her glass with grapefruit juice. Rogue doesn't comment. She's well aware that Remy knows she hates grapefruit juice. The others exclaim over Remy's efforts, complimenting him on his culinary skills. Rogue turns back to her own plate. As soon as her fork cuts the omelet, a trickle of undercooked yolk oozes out.

Across the table, Remy smiles disarmingly at her, his gaze intense, waiting for her response. Rogue meets his gaze defiantly as she takes the first bite. She barely manages to stifle a gag at the taste of sauerkraut and vinegar. She holds the food in her mouth as her mind races through her options. A quick drink to wash the stuff down. Grapefruit juice? Rogue fights back a wave of nausea. She quickly sips the juice and swallows.

Remy's lips twitch in amusement--until he feels someone's foot hard against his ankle. His eyes darken when he meets Tseidel's stormy look. She is the only to notice the little duel between him and Rogue. She moves quickly to Rogue's side, softly apologizing for the inconvenience and oversight as she removes the food.

"May I bring you something else?"

"Ah've got a sudden craving for peaches."

Remy's fork clatters to his plate. All small talk immediately quiets. Crimson eyes gleam coldly, considering the request. Eric studies the two, fascinated by Rogue's demeanor and technique, understanding that her apparently antagonistic comment belies a much deeper understanding of learned traumatic responses. Remy's hand tightens on crystal. Flash of light. The glass hurtles across Rogue's right shoulder, crashing against the wall and leaving her covered in orange juice. She temples her hands beneath her chin, leaning forward.

"That was pathetic!"

Remy's eyes dart to a nearby pitcher. Rogue knocks her chair back and strides past the others to Remy's side. She leans down close, causing him to flinch.

"Ya think the Genoshans gonna give ya a second chance?"

His fingers tighten into a fist. He turns to her, a black scowl darkens his face. Rogue forces his fingers around the handle of the pitcher.

"Go for it, hotshot."

Remy flashes to his feet, energy crackling from his fingertips to the crystal.

"Maybe this close ya won't miss!"

"Count on it!"

A shower of orange liquid drenches Rogue from head to toe. Remy slaps the pitcher back onto the table then storms out, leaving the others to sort through mixed feelings. Rogue wipes a chunk of pulp from her eyes, then turns to Scott.

"There's your 'breakthrough', sugah. If the boy didn't hate me before, he certainly does now. Which gives the rest o' ya the opportunity to step in and work on him like we discussed. Heads up, people. Time for us to take things to the next level."


Continued in Chapter 18.


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