Rogue stirs restlessly, her fingers twisting the sheets in
agitation. She swallows against the painful dryness in her
throat. Fights back the sudden surge of nausea that threatens.
In the still darkness of early morning, she feels familiar
hands slip beneath her shoulders and neck, helping her to
sit up. A moment later, something cold and wet presses against
"Jus' de t'ing, eh?"
She nods, still disoriented. Remy feels the tension in her
body, as he as so many times before, when he has been near.
Without being told to, he moves away from her side. Rogue
feels another pair of hands place a stethoscope over her chest
and back, then slip to her wrist to check her pulse.
"Liebling, turn your head this way, please."
Kurt's nimble fingers tilt Rogue's chin up.
His hand rests lightly on her forehead as he quickly, expertly,
checks her pupils with a small pen light. He flashes her a
reassuring grin. Over his shoulder, Rogue sees Ororo's concerned
face along with Mystique's dark scowl. Kurt checks the i.v.
and nods, satisfied.
"I can remove the i.v. now if you like."
"If ya don't, sugah, ah will."
She hears the quiet chuckle rumble through Remy's chest.
Ororo steps to her side, quickly applying cotton and a small
bandage as Kurt smoothly withdraws the needle. Ororo studies
Rogue's pale face.
"Are you certain you are up to your plans for today,
Rogue? If you wish to postpone--"
Immediately, Rogue's green eyes brighten in anticipation
as she remembers what this day promises.
"Ah have to be ready."
She squeezes Ororo's hand, reinforcing her plea.
"Whatever it takes."
Remy shares Mystique's frown at Rogue's mysteriousness.
"Ah thought you an' Storm were goin' shoppin', sugah.
Best get a move on."
Taking the cue, Storm pointedly grabs Remy's arm and steers
him towards the door. Once inside the corridor, she quickly
silences his protests by flashing Rogue's ring.
"There is still this matter to be addressed, thief."
Remy smiles disarmingly.
"Like dey girl say, padnat, I goin' shoppin' to replace
de stone. N'est-ce pas?"
"If that was not your true intention before,
then most assuredly it will be now."
Surprisingly, Remy finds himself relaxing in Ororo's company.
He's amused by the attention she unknowingly draws from several
men as she strides by, drawn by this window display or that
objet d'art. Their overt stares strikes a playful chord in
the recovering Cajun, drawing his mind away from a flurry
As he lounges against a wall, patiently waiting for Ororo
to complete a purchase, one of her bolder admirers approaches.
Remy takes his time sizing him up with a long, slow scan from
head to toe.
"You with the lady?"
"What you t'ink,homme?"
"No, I mean, are you with the lady?"
He winks. Remy grins, playing along.
"Ain't my type."
The man's oily smirk broadens into a grin. He takes a step
towards Ororo, Remy intercepts, placing his body between the
man and his goal.
"But you might be."
Remy returns the wink. The man blanches, then hurriedly backs
away. Remy's voice follows.
"Y'breakin' my heart, mon ami!"
"Did I not tell you to behave yourself, Remy?"
Remy turns to greet Storm, the humor in her eyes belays her
tone of voice.
"Jus' mingling wit' de locals, chere."
Remy whirls at the name, his pulse quickening.
"You're a rogue! You little scamp--!"
He locates the voice--a young mother chasing down her daughter,
without much success. The young girl darts across the mall
and into the children's area. Her auburn hair putting him
in mind of another Rogue. His somber mood returns. He watches
the child for a long moment with mixed feelings, until he
feels Ororo's arm slip into his.
"The best medicine for Rogue will be for you to concentrate
on healing yourself. Come. It should be all right for us to
Remy throws her a quizzical look, but Ororo merely smiles.
When they return to the mansion, Ororo again makes a point
of steering Remy. This time, she directs him away from the
main entrance and into the kitchen. As soon as he enters,
he's greeted by the lingering aroma of southern cooking at
its best. Fried chicken. Hominy and grits. Greens. Peach cobbler.
Ororo touches her fingers to a pot and frowns. The food has
"Dis Rogue's surprise?"
He feels a warm glow spread through his body at the obvious
effort that went into this special dinner. He steps into the
dining room, and stops, taking in the sight. The table is
set for two. Candles. Fine china. A tablecloth he recognizes
from her hope chest. He senses Ororo joining him.
"Now dis is more like de welcome I was expectin'!"
"This was not for you, Remy."
Ororo sympathizes with his disappointment.
"Rogue received a letter from her father. In it he expressed
his desire for reconciliation--and asked her forgiveness."
Storm gestures gracefully to the abandoned dining room.
"All of this was to welcome her father. Rogue requested
that we leave, so that she might have a quiet reunion. As
I feared, her efforts have been in vain."
Ororo's eyes narrow, suspicious of her companion's sudden
pallor. Observant of his averted gaze. Her hand grips his
"Tell me you are not involved in this."
His bleak eyes meet hers.
"Seemed like a good idea at de time."
The air around him crackles with the threat of unreleased
energy. He can sense the storm brewing as Ororo's displeasure
mounts. A gust of wind fans her hair wildly, before the room
again falls into stillness. Without another word, she strides
over to the table and quietly begins clearing the china. Remy
starts to join her, but one icy glance convinces him otherwise.
"You have greatly disappointed me."
He turns to leave, his steps leaden, shoulders slumped as
he slowly climbs the stairs and heads for Rogue's room.
For a moment, he says nothing. His throat tightens when he
recognizes the dress Rogue wears. It's the one he gave her
for her birthday. The one she never felt comfortable wearing
because it left her arms and shoulders bare. She had promised
him to wear it one day, on a day as special to her as the
man who had given her the dress. Her words.
She reclines on an antique fainting couch, face turned towards
the setting sun, rose-colored silk trailing onto the carpet.
He notes the ribbon in her carefully curled hair. Definitely
out of character for Rogue. But perhaps exactly the extra
touch a father might appreciate seeing in his daughter. He
glimpses her face in the mirror. When she lifts her eyes to
his, he can see she's been crying.
"Ah really thought he'd come this time."
She speaks more to herself than to him, her mind still turning
over the past several hours she has spent waiting, anticipating
the moment she could once again step into her father's embrace.
"Dat's what you s'posed to think."
Confusion gives way to clarity as the true nature of the
situation burns into Rogue's soul.
"Ya set me up?"
Her words are hollow, without anger, without any indication
of how deeply his betrayal affects her. And in that instant,
Remy LeBeau understands. He has finally hurt her deeply enough
that she, too, must keep a tight reign on her emotions or
risk losing herself to the pain. Finally, they come to each
other from equal positions.
"Ya knew what this would mean to me!"
Her fury erupts like a sudden thunderstorm as she snatches
a crystal atomizer from the bureau and hurls it. Remy's own
mood quickly deteriorates to match hers. A flick of his wrist,
and he deftly catches the perfume bottle before it strikes
In a surprising blur of movement, he slams and locks the
door with one hand then turns and smoothly sends the crystal
crashing into the newly installed mirror behind Rogue. Obvious
displeasure brightens her eyes as she glances first at the
silver confetti raining across the bureau, then back to Remy.
"Ev't'ing ain't 'bout you, Rogue!"
"Y'stop an' t'ink why I fake de letter? No, de
only t'ing on y'mind is dat you got hurt. De only t'ing y'see,
de only t'ing y'ever see is how ev'body hurt you. You so wrapped
in y'self, you don' see what you doin' to ev'ryone else."
Her voice hardens.
"And just what is it that ah'm doin', Cajun?"
Maybe it's the tilt of her chin, or the tap of her fingernails
against the table, but for a moment he sees Mystique's influence
in Rogue's demeanor--and he hates it.
"Leavin' y'loved ones in death camps."
The blood drains from her face and Rogue's grip tightens
on the arms of the chaise. It only takes a second for her
to straighten her back and meet his eyes squarely. He admires
her for that.
"Ah expect ya got more to say on that matter, Cajun.
Don't stop on mah account."
"Maybe if enough time passes, I can understan' dat you
was doin' what you thought was necessary, but still don' explain
why you not willin' to offer me any comfort since I been back.
Y'pushin' me away when I need you."
"Seems to me ah wasn't pushin' ya away the other night."
"It ain't about sex! Any homme could take you for a
tumble in de sheets."
He runs a tired hand through his hair, sweeping the long
strands from his eyes.
"Y'know what I mean."
For long moment, he says nothing, merely watches the woman
he loves, the woman he spent so many nights in hell dreaming
about. The woman standing only a few feet away. Finally, close
enough to touch, to hold. He has a fleeting thought of how
much it would mean to him to have her make the first move
for once. To have her willingly reach out and wrap him in
the comfort of her arms.
To see himself reflected in her eyes as someone who brought
depth and meaning to her life.
He walks slowly over to the vanity, letting his eyes and
fingers trace all of the little knick knacks as if memorizing
them. Her lipstick. Her perfume. Her gloves. With a heavy
sigh, he settles onto the vanity chair, straddling it as he
faces her. His foot brushes hers. She reacts by curling her
feet beneath her. His voice is soft, raw with emotion.
"I wan' to hold you, feel you relaxin' against me. Wan'
to see your eyes light up when I come in de room, wit'out
bein' darkened wit' de fear dat I come too close. De comfort
a your hand slippin' into mine. Don' matter t'me if y'got
a hundred gloves on, mignonne, long as y'not flinchin' away
like y'can' stand to be near me."
He reaches out.
She reacts instinctively, thoughtlessly, as she has dozens
of times before. She flinches from his touch. She lifts her
eyes to their fractured images reflected in the bureau, and
for the first time realizes that she has left her own scars
on this man.
"I'm tired a de games 'tween us. Dis is it, Rogue. Y'got
one shot at bein' wit' me."
He rises smoothly from the chair and takes the final step
to stand before her. Again he offers his hand. And waits.
"Y'ain't de one to decide what I do wit' my life, p'tite.
I can live wit' de risks--been doin' it all my life. De important
t'ing is, I wan' be wit' you, Rogue. Simple as dat."
"Ya askin' more from me than ah can give."
"I'm askin' you t'be dere for me when I'm hurtin'--like
I was dere for you."
"Ah'm sorry, Remy."
With that, he's gone, leaving Rogue in a room as suddenly
cold and empty as her heart.
Continued in Chapter
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