Just when I seemed about to
Where is the thread now? Off again!
The old trick! Only I discern --
Infinite passion, and the pain
Of finite hearts that yearn.
~ from "Two in the Campagna" ~
by Robert Browning
A crisp summer breeze wafted into Rogue's room through her
open window, gently waking her. Enjoying the moment, she basked
in the warm morning sunlight that spilled over her comforter
onto her face and body.
On a whim, she swung her legs off her bed and walked to a
corner of the room to her new stereo, a gift from Mystique.
The metamorph had become surprisingly maternal towards her
foster daughter since learning of Rogue's pregnancy, subsequent
depression and possession by the Shadow King, and Mystique
seemed to want nothing better than to ensure Rogue's happiness
-- and perhaps make a somewhat belated attempt at helping
her daughter heal her fractured psyche. After so many years
on her own, Rogue found it almost amusing that now, she found
it difficult to hold off her foster mother's attempts to buy
her anything and everything she might possibly need.
It used ta be, "Call me if you need me. Otherwise,
it's your life; you're on your own." Now, Ah can't get
her ta leave me alone! she mused. Ah think the notion
of bein' a gramma is scarin' her.
Rogue flipped a switch on the stereo, and the brassy sounds
of Big Bad Voodoo Daddy filtered through the speakers. Almost
involuntarily, she began dancing lightly to the music, tapping
out remembered dance steps and giggling as she tripped or
fell off-balance or messed up a step.
Her back was to the door, so she did not hear Iceman's knock
nor notice his entrance.
Bobby Drake had meant just to come up to tell her that breakfast
was ready, but seeing her laughing and dancing to the music,
he didn't have the heart to interrupt her. I haven't seen
her laugh like this in a long time...
Rogue, now six months into her pregnancy, was dressed only
in underwear and her old oversized nightshirt, which, because
of her swollen belly, only reached midway up her thighs in
front and almost all the way down to her knees in back. The
combination of nightshirt and dancing made for quite the revealing
sight -- and Bobby knew Rogue would die of embarrassment if
she knew someone was watching her.
But at the same time, he couldn't pull himself away. Seized
by sudden inspiration, he called out to her. "Hey, Rogue
She froze for a split second, and then quickly turned off
the stereo. Suddenly self-conscious, Rogue turned toward her
visitor, at the same time tugging on her nightshirt to keep
it from flying up too much.
Bobby, for his part, was both amused by the sight and overcome
with an almost overwhelming desire to pound his head against
the wooden doorframe. Stupid, stupid, stupid, Bobby!
he yelled inwardly at himself, with "stupid" coinciding
with each imaginary thump of his head on the wall.
"Uh...sorry about that -- um...the interrupting you,
I mean. I just wanted to say you that...uh...Beast sent me
to...um...tell you that lunch -- oops -- Breakfast is ready."
Bobby finally managed to stammer out. Smooth, Bobby. Real
"Okay." She stared at him for a moment, as if expecting
him to say something more. "Anything else?"
"That was about it."
"Well, could ya leave so Ah can get dressed?"
"Oh. Yeah. Sorry. Consider me gone." With as much
dignity as he could muster, he stepped out of the room, closing
the door behind him.
Lightly banging his head on the doorframe across the hall,
Bobby found a curious feeling of comfort in the dull, repetitive
thuds. Stupid. Stupid. Stupid. Stupid...
In her room, changing into a sundress, Rogue had gotten over
her momentary embarrassment. She giggled, remembering Bobby's
If Ah didn't know better... She shook her head. Nah...There's
Opening the door, she stepped out into the empty hallway,
where the rich aromas of pancakes, maple syrup and scrambled
eggs were already making her stomach grumble in anticipation.
It had actually been Cecilia's turn to clean the breakfast
dishes, but she had begged Rogue to trade dish duty with her
so she could go with Beast to a medical conference in the
city (although Rogue suspected that something more was afoot
between the team's two resident doctors). The others, not
wanting to get roped into trading themselves, had quickly
disappeared after breakfast, leaving Rogue alone with the
dirty dishes and a lot of flimsy excuses.
"The pool needs ta be cleaned,' indeed! We don't
even have a pool anymore!" she muttered
darkly to herself as she cleared off the table. "The
nerve a' them, leavin' a poor pregnant woman like me ta clean
up after all a' them."
Scraping the leftover food off the plates into the trash,
she paused and had to laugh. "Poor pregnant woman'
Ah am certainly not. Ah get annoyed when they don't baby me,
when Ah know Ah'd be annoyed as hell if they ever did
try to baby me."
Returning to her sudsy dishes in the sink, she smiled. "Yup.
Things're definitely going back to normal..."
Wincing as she walked out of the kitchen, dishes finally
done, Rogue put her hands on her hips to help support her
aching back, which despite her vaunted super-strength and
invulnerability was feeling strained. Gotta be a hormonal
"Rogue?" Bobby's voice sounded behind her, more
confident than earlier that morning in her room. I'm
going to get this right for once...'
"Yeah?" Rogue answered, massaging the small of
her back as she turned to look at him.
"Here -- Let me get that for you." He motioned
for Rogue to turn around and began to gently massage her lower
back for her.
"Mmmmm....," Rogue closed her eyes and enjoyed
the release of tension in her back. " An' what am Ah
supposed ta do ta repay you for this bit o' kindness, Mr.
"Nothing at all," Bobby answered quickly, now working
on her shoulders. "...well, actually..."
"Uh, huh...," Rogue smirked, cocking an eyebrow
as she craned her neck to look at him.
"Careful!" Bobby exclaimed, quickly removing his
hands from her shoulders to avoid skin-to-skin contact.
A faint look of hurt passed quickly over Rogue's face and
just as quickly disappeared, but Bobby caught the expression
and kicked himself inwardly for it. Stupid. Stupid. Stupid...
he muttered in his head, repeating what was becoming his
own personal mantra. "Sorry -- I just -- "
"It's okay -- Ah understand, Bobby. Relax." Rogue
smiled at him and tried to keep her voice light. She leaned
back against the wall, trying to both ease the tension in
her spine and appear laid-back at the same time. "So
what was it you were sayin'?"
Bobby glanced down at his shoes. Why am I having so much
trouble with this? I'm a college grad and an X-Man, for cryin'
out loud, but I feel like I'm back in junior high.
He looked back up at Rogue, still trying to avoid eye contact.
"Well, I was thinking...um...You looked like you were
having so much fun with the music this morning..." Rogue
blushed slightly. "...and I was wondering if -- the next
time you decided you wanted to dance, I mean -- if you would
mind having a partner."
He looked back down at his shoes, tensing for the possible
rejection but still hoping she'd accept.
Suddenly her arms were around him in a fierce hug, and Bobby,
relief flooding through him, felt powerless to do anything
but return it. "Ah think that's the sweetest thing ya
ever coulda done for me," she told him, burying her head
in his shoulder.
Rogue lifted her head but did not move to let go of him just
yet. "So when do ya wanna go?"
"I don't know...What's good for you?"
"Well, there's a good swing band playing in town tonight,
actually. Ah was thinking of going. Interested?"
"Sounds great. When do we go?"
"Concert starts at 8. So we leave around 7?"
"How about 6 -- I'll buy dinner."
"Who am Ah to argue with an offer like that?" Rogue
smiled at him.
Bobby paused for a moment to clear his throat. "Um...Rogue?
I've got a question. How do you swing dance?"
"Offerin' ta take me dancin' and ya don't know how ta
dance yourself? You're brave!" Rogue's laughter caught
in her throat as her eyes met Bobby's. "Ah....Ah'll show
ya how when we get there..."
They stood there for a few moments, eyes locked together
and faces mere inches apart, The sound of Wolverine's footsteps
at the far end of the hall ended the moment abruptly, as Rogue
broke away and started moving quickly toward the stairs to
the women's rooms. "Ah'll meet ya at 6 by the front doors.
Don't be late," he heard her say as she disappeared through
Bobby let out a sigh as he leaned back against the wall,
again feeling the strange desire to knock his head against
the doorjamb. She said yes! But, my god...she must think
I'm some big geek by now. He groaned. Who am I kidding
-- I am a big geek. Real smooth, Bob. Real smooth.
Thinking of the night ahead, though, he grinned. "She
said yes!" he said aloud.
"Yes ta what?" Logan's gruff voice broke his reverie.
"You takin' Rogue out tonight, then?"
"How did you -- "
"You know no secrets last long around here...'Sides,
I heard you all the way down the hall."
"Oh...I was going to take her dancing tonight. There's
some band she wants to hear, and I'm buying dinner."
"Sounds like fun. Enjoy," Logan walked past Bobby
into the kitchen, indicating the conversation was over.
Bobby sighed inwardly with relief and darted off to his room
to look for something to wear -- and to figure out what he
wanted to do for tonight.
He didn't notice that Logan watched him leave from the kitchen
doorway, a faint note of worry marking his face. When Bobby
disappeared from sight, Logan re-entered the kitchen to snatch
a couple pancakes off the platter on the kitchen counter and
sat down at the table, munching thoughtfully on the leftover
Rogue stood in front of the full-length mirror on the back
of her bedroom door, looking at herself appraisingly. Who
do you think you're foolin', girl? Look at yourself -- You're
six months pregnant. You're just getting yourself back together.
You need romance right now like ya need a hole in the head...Who
knows -- the hole in the head might be a better choice...
She smoothed the folds of her dress, trying to create a more
pleasing silhouette in the mirror. She had managed to keep
most of her figure intact despite the weight the pregnancy
had added on, but she still felt puffy and unattractive. Why
would he want me, anyway? she told her reflection. Baby
on the way...waaay too many loose ends...Why would someone
as sweet as him want someone like me? Rogue sighed. What
am Ah gonna do? Sweet as he is, Ah can't fall for Bobby --
or at least, Ah can't be encouragin' him. Ah don't deserve
him -- or anybody right now...
<<You deserve every happiness, Rogue. There's no need
to beat yourself down for it.>>
<<Sorry to intrude. It's just you were projecting your
thoughts so plainly...I'm right outside your door, with Ororo.
Would you mind if we came in?>>
"Sure. Come join the party." Rogue stepped back
and opened the door for the two women.
"Look...If you're coming here to lecture me about Bobby..."
"No, no...We just wanted to see how you were doing,"
"Checkin' up on me, huh?" Rogue sat down wearily
on her bed. "So what's up?"
"Logan told us that you and Bobby were going to go out
tonight," Storm said, taking a seat next to Rogue's desk.
"Seeing as how this has been your first evening out in...such
a long time, we were wondering if you needed any help preparing
for the evening."
Rogue noted the unspoken reference to Gambit but chose to
ignore it, wanting to keep the mood light. "Do Ah look
like Ah need help from the likes a y'all?" she
asked playfully, gesturing towards her wrinkled sundress and
pulled-back hair. "Sure -- Ah'm all yours. Direct away."
It was actually something of an event in the mansion when
one of their own went out on a date, especially if both parties
resided in the mansion and the "romance" was fresh.
In such an enclosed community as the mansion (and considering
the abilities of some of the residents), secrets and hidden
romances were few and far between.
And news of Bobby and Rogue's impending outing spread like
wildfire among the X-Men, some of them smirking as they collected
on bets placed months ago.
"Knew it was going to happen." "Saw it a mile
away." "Told ya so. Now pay up."
Some, feeling a need to dispense advice that they themselves
had never had success following, knocked on both Rogue and
"Who is it now?"
"Sam. Ah just wanted ta recommend a restaurant. How
about -- "
"Sam? I don't mean to be rude, but I think I've heard
the names of every restaurant in Salem now -- and maybe half
the City as well -- from people banging on my door all day.
Don't you people have anything better to do than worry about
my love life?"
With all the people fussing over them, it was a wonder that
Bobby and Rogue made it out the door on time. With the help
of their combined closets, Cyclops and Logan had helped Bobby
pick out a nice-but-not-too-nice suit, and Jean
and Ororo had dressed Rogue in a tunic sweater and long skirt
and had done her hair and makeup for her.
Rogue hated being babied but enjoyed the occasional pampering
-- and the option to veto a few of the hair and outfit combinations
Jean and Storm had chosen for her.
And Scott had tried to teach Bobby a few dance steps -- but
had stopped when Logan had nearly choked on his cigar from
laughing at the spectacle. Logan stopped laughing when Scott
suggested that he try to give the dancing lessons,
sending Bobby into (wisely muted) waves of snickering.
While they appreciated their friends' interest, Rogue and
Bobby both breathed quiet sighs of relief when they finally
stepped out the door to Bobby's new Saturn.
"Nice car," Rogue commented.
"Yeah -- A lot of the people in town I helped with their
taxes back in April finally paid off their accounts. So the
X-Men get some new stuff for the mansion, and I get a car
He opened the passenger door for her. "Your chariot
"My, my...A nice car and he's a gentleman
-- So hard to come by these days," Rogue said, smiling
as she sat down and adjusted her seat.
"Yeah, yeah...Well..." Trying hard not to blush,
Bobby found himself unable to come up with a witty rejoinder
and just enjoyed the feeling of Rogue's warm gaze upon him
as he closed her door and got in on his side of the car.
Dinner went well for the couple, with Bobby taking them to
a small, out-of-the-way Italian restaurant for their meal.
Business was heavy and the restaurant short-staffed, so the
two were late for the concert, but neither particularly minded.
They were so busy talking and reminiscing and exchanging stories
that they didn't notice the quick passage of time.
By the time they arrived at the small club for the concert,
it was already nearly 9, and the swing band had only an hour
left to play because another band had been booked for that
night as well. Hearing the jaunty jazz beats from the parking
lot, Rogue felt invigorated, and once Bobby had parked the
car, she took his hand and half-dragged him into the club.
Teaching Bobby how to follow the complicated dance steps
was an interesting experience for them both, to say the least.
Rogue, familiar with the steps but still kind of rusty, tried
to simultaneously recall the correct sequence of dance moves
and teach Bobby those same steps, which resulted in both mutants
becoming hopelessly confused and, in some cases, earning odd
looks from other dancers.
Eventually, the two found their own rhythm once Bobby had
a basic understanding of a few dance steps and Rogue stopped
insisting that he perform each step perfectly. The result
was something that was not always pretty, but that both participants
enjoyed immensely, sometimes breaking off mid-twirl to laugh
at themselves and their pathetic combined dancing abilities.
"And that's it for us tonight, folks! Have a nice night,
and thanks for comin'!" The lead singer said his good-byes
as band's last tunes began to fade out. Rogue fell back, laughing
breathlessly, into Bobby's arms at the end of a spin, and
the two walked hand-in-hand to the bar for a drink as they
waited for the next band to set up. The night had been wonderful
so far, and neither wanted to go home just yet -- Maybe enjoy
a few songs from the next band and go out for a moonlit stroll.
Anything to keep the night from ending too soon.
Rogue sipped her virgin strawberry daiquiri and Bobby, his
ginger ale, and the two laughed and smiled as they critiqued
the band and their own less-than-notable dancing abilities
(although Bobby suspected that Rogue was actually a much better
dancer and had just toned it down to keep him from feeling
stupid, while Rogue was congratulating herself for not getting
too frustrated with Bobby's inexperience and just enjoying
When the two heard the band begin to warm up, Bobby took
Rogue's hand and led her out onto the dance floor to await
the start of the next set.
"Back from the Bayou, New Orleans' own classic
Cajun group. Let's hear it for Cajun Conja!"**
Rogue froze at the announcer's words, the blood draining
from her face. She moved to dart away, but Bobby's grip on
her hand kept her from straying too far.
"Rogue? -- Rogue?! You look like you've seen a ghost!
Are you okay?" Bobby put his hands on her shoulders,
trying to get her to look at him. When she finally did, he
noticed the tears in her eyes. Pulling a handkerchief out
of his pocket, he reached to wipe away the tears that were
spilling. "You want to go?"
Her eyes wide in almost panic, she could only nod her head
in assent, not trusting herself to speak. "Okay. Let's
go." Taking her hand again, he led her off the dance
floor into the parking lot and to the car.
At Bobby's car, Rogue sat in the passenger seat but left
the door open and her legs hanging out as she slouched and
put her head in her hands, massaging her temples. Bobby crouched
in front of her, his hand awkwardly on her shoulder. "Rogue?
Is there anything I can do to help? Do you want to talk about
He heard Rogue take in a deep breath, and then she lifted
her head, with eyes slightly red, to face him. "Ah can't
escape him -- can't get away from it," she said wearily,
her voice becoming increasingly edgy. "Ever'where Ah
go, there's a reminder. Ah try to ignore it, just move on
an' pretend it never happened, but..." She bit her lip
to hold back more tears, and looked away to collect herself.
After a moment, she looked back up at Bobby. "Can you
take me back home now? Ah don't think Ah'm really fit company
f'r anyone t'night."
Bobby patted her shoulder reassuringly and stood. "Whatever
you say," he said, holding the car door open for a moment
to let Rogue get fully inside.
Settling into the driver's seat, he started the car, and
the two rode home in silence.
Still in his suit, Bobby lay on his back on his bed, unable
to sleep but not quite willing to admit to his insomnia. Despite
his efforts to keep it in check, his anger was bubbling beneath
the surface and threatening to burst through.
He'd had a wonderful time that night, and the way Rogue's
eyes had glinted and sparkled like they hadn't in nearly a
year made him feel even warmer inside.
It had all been so perfect.
But then it had to end.
It wasn't the fact of the night's ending that gnawed at Bobby,
but rather the way it ended. Not that he blamed her for it.
No. For Bobby, all the blame belonged to him.
And Bobby hated him for it.
Six months! Six months and he's still hurting her -- doesn't
even have to be here to do it, either. Six months and the
littlest reminder of him puts her in tears. How much is it
going to take for her to get over him? I hadn't seen her so
happy in months. But the minute they announced that damn band,
the twinkle in her eyes just went poof.
We were connecting tonight, I know it. If he showed up
tomorrow, I don't know that she wouldn't just go right back
to him, and he'd make her unhappy all over again. Hasn't he
done more than enough already?
To be continued.
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