July 1997
Faith, ffbarnett@prodigy.net
Growing Up:

Disclaimer: All the X-Men characters portrayed in this story are the sole property of Marvel Comics Group, Inc., and are used without their express written permission for entertainment purposes only. (The others, Madam D'Sier, Father Benjamin, Andre, Starbright, anyone I missed, belong to me.)

Warnings: This story contains some violence, harsh language, and sexual innuendo. Also references to rape and child abuse.

Continuity: This story diverges from X-Men continuity around Uncanny #341. The group never has to leave for the Shi'ar Empire and No Exit will never happen.

* * are thought parenthesis.


Growing Up

Faith

 

 

'In the confrontation between the stream and the rock, the stream always wins - not through strength but by perseverance' - H. Jackson Brown

Chapter 4: Fear

 

*Coward!!*

She smashed her fist into the mirror and watched it splinter into pieces which rained down on the top of her dresser and the floor beneath. Droplets of mascara stained tears splattered the broken shards. She wiped angrily at her eyes, and flopped on her bed bouncing more stuffed animals out of the way. She'd been crying since last evening. The tears had started not long after Ororo left from dropping by to talk, and she couldn't seem to stop them. Now her eyes were puffy, and her clothes wrinkled. The bed was disheveled although she had not slept in it. And it did not look like she was going get any sleep again tonight.

One of the stuffed animals hit the floor and let out a yip. She looked at it through red rimmed eyes and reached down picking it up. It was a little wiener dog with a big pink ribbon around it's neck and a tag attached saying 'I belong to Rogue'. When you squeezed it, it yipped happily at you.

When she was a little girl, she had wanted a dog more than anything in the world. A neighbor was even going to give her a puppy, but her mother wouldn't let her keep it saying they were too much trouble. She had enough trouble in her life.

After Rogue ended up with Mystique, she begged again swearing she'd take care of it. Mystique had said no. They were too busy for a dog. Besides, she was allergic. Rogue cried all night that first time. She was so lonely. She only wanted something warm and loving to touch, and her absorbing ability didn't have any affect on animals.

(Beast would later hypothesized that they were not close enough genetically to merge with her DNA. Just like creatures couldn't mate between species. That was fine with Rogue since the alternative would be her buzzing every time a fly landed on her accidentally.)

Still, any time Rogue brought it up, Raven was adamant. No dog.

After awhile, Rogue gave up on her wish, and she didn't dare ask Xavier when she moved into the Mansion. He barely had time for her as it was. She was afraid of loosing her place here by asking for too much.

However, last week at Christmas, this showed up on her bed. She knew who it was from. From the moment they'd met, he was always trying so very hard to make her smile. And even if she didn't always show it on the outside, he always managed to make her giggle on the inside.

She sniffled sadly and squeezed the puppy again wondering how he found out. Tears welled up once more, and she wondered what he was doing.

>From the first time her eyes looked into his, it seemed like he occupied her thoughts morning, noon, and night. Why couldn't she tell him how she felt? With the other evening's revelations about her and Magneto in that alternate reality, she realized all the more just how much she loved him. How much she needed him. Wanted desperately to be with him.

But she was so scared. Afraid to get too close and be hurt. Truly afraid of being rejected this time. If she could only make herself believe she had a chance at happiness. If she was only stronger. But she seemed unable to do anything but hide here in her room. Why was she always running away from everything? Or just following along waiting for someone else to make her life complete? She closed her eyes and tried to remember a time when she felt like she could do anything right. Had any say so or control over her destiny.

"Damn it, SSSoll...ggirl! What'ssss takin ssso long?! Brin me tha drink!"

"Ah'm coming mama. Here it is. Ah tried real hard. Made it jus like yah said."

Her mother took a sip and curled her lip. Without hesitation, she tossed the liquid in the glass back into her six year old's face.

"Too mush water! Ah tol yah! Not more than ah fourth ah glasssss!"

"Ah'm sorry mama. Ah'll ....ah'll fix it. Ah'll ...."

The woman lurched up and pushed her daughter out of the way and onto the floor.

"Yah can't..." She wobbled unsteadily. "Can't do nuthin right! All. .. all yah ever done is ruin my life!"

As her mother stumbled into the kitchen, Rogue picked herself up and wiped her face trying not to cry. She ran into the kitchen to help her mother and grab a towel to clean up the mess.

"Ah didn't mean tah mama. Ah can do bettah. Ah...."

"DON' TOUCH ME!! I don' evah want yah touchin me! I don' need or want you. Yah can't do... do anythin yahself. If yah didn't have me....me tah take care o' yah , yahs wouldn't be able tah get dresssssed in thah mornin. Yah thah stupidest kid."

"Yes mama." she said grabbing a towel and going to clean the spilled liquor. Once done she ran away to her room and cried.

Rogue looked in the mirror and brushed her hair. Her white streaked hair. She stared at the image of her ten year old self and wondered if she had any other of her father's characteristics. Her mama always told her that no white striped hair ran in her family so it must be her father's.

*Must be*

She would have liked to have known what it was like to have a daddy, but he ran off when he found out she was coming. He didn't want to be a daddy. Didn't want her. And her mother never let her forget that she was the reason he left.

"I done everythin for him. Yah don' know thah pain ah went through cause ah thought he wanted a child. You was always more trouble than yah were worth. Then ah find out he didn't want no child, especially no girl baby. They knew you was gonna been a good for nuthin girl."

"He up an' left me foah some othah woman. Didn't even bothah tah marry me. Left me all alone tah care for yah. Ah'm always gonna be alone cause o' you. No man don't want some woman can't give him everythin he needs, an' ah gotta take care o' you. Cause yah nevah gonna take care o' yahself."

"Ah'm sorry, mama. Ah'll try. Ah can..."

Her mother pushed her away.

"Yah can' do nuthin. An' Ah tol' yah, don' touch me. Ah don' evah want yah touchin me. Ah don' wanna touch you."

Yah so worthless. Ain' nobody gonna want you, girl , less'n yah give 'em what they need. Yah bettah make sure yah do that girl or ya always gonna be alone. Dumb girl like you. Yesss sir. Yah bettah always do what yah tol'. Nobody gonna want you less they need yah for somethin. So you gonna end up like me, girl, all alone. Nobody gonna want you an' you gonna be all alone.

Rogue ran as fast as she could. She knew they were after her. She didn't mean to. She didn't mean to.

"Ah knew somethin was wrong wit you! Ah knew it! Ah mutie! Mah daughter's ah mutie! No wonder yah so dumb. Can't do nuthin right. How dare yah com crawlin back here aftah what yah done to that boy! Yah thinks ah'm gonna let yah stay an' shame me more?

"But mama...., Please. Ah'm so scared. Ah didn't mean it. He was inside mah head. It hurt mama, please.

"Don' touch me! Don' evah touch me again! Evah! Yah done nuthin but ruin mah life. Well no more. Ah'm not gonna let yah do tah me what yah did tah that boy. Yah already drained half mah life away. Good fur nuthin. Can' do anythin right. Well yah can jus fend for yah self. See if yah can make it without me. Get out! Get out an' don' evah come back!"

She ran. Ran into the woods with her grandpa's old shotgun and a few clothes. She didn't know what else to do.

"Ah don' unnerstand mama. Why we breakin intah this place? Ain't that wrong?"

"Listen up, Rogue. We're mutants, and no one's going to help us but each other. Now, you want to help your mama like I helped you, don't you? I need this, Rogue. You can do this for me, can't you dear? Can't you?"

"O'course, mama. Ah'll do it. You'll be so proud mama. Ah promise. Ah'll be what yah need."

"Don' worry professah. Yah can count on me."

*What yah need .... Count on me.*

"Well, what about what ah need?!? Who's evah been thah for me when ah wasn't givin them everythin they needed in return?"

Rogue stared at the dog, and the tears started welling up even harder. She threw the stuffed animal, and it yipped as it hit the floor once more. She swiped at the tears and stood up looking in the mirror once again. It was as if she was seeing herself through someone else's eyes.

*Yah are a fool girl. Waitin on someone else tah fix yah life. Somebody believes in yah, an' yah been too blind tah see it. It's time yah believed in yahself instead ah always running away.*

Her face got a determined look.

*Well, ah'm tired o' running away. Ah'm tired o' bein scared. Ah'm tired o' bein ashamed. Ah'm tired o' bein used, an' ah'm tired o' bein lied tah. Mah real mama, Mystique, thah Professah, Magneto, Remy, Bobby, Joseph. They've all taught me something. Something about love, friendship, an' self-worth. Both thah good an' thah bad. It's high time ah learned from that an' took control o' mah life. Go aftah what ah want. Be who ah want tah be, should be, can be. Quit waitin on things tah get bettah cause theah not if'n ah don' try. Ah'll jus be stuck indebted an' desperately grateful tah someone else.*

Grabbing a towel to go clean up, she smiled for the first time in a very long time.

After showering and getting dressed, she picked up the small stuffed dog and petted it.

*Seems tah me, thah most important thing ah need tah do is talk to someone special. Don' yah think so shugah?*

She squeezed it, and it yipped.

*That's what ah thought. But first things first. Theah are ah few othah things ah need to do as well. Ah few things ah need tah get.*

After looking out into the dark from her window, she took her rain coat out of the closet since the relentless flood continued to come down. It was now early morning, but the sunrise was still a few hours away.

*Boy, Storm. Dry would be nice for a change.*

Before leaving, she sat down at her computer and typed in a message.

'Dear Joseph.

I really need to speak to you. It's very important. About you and me.

Please meet me at the gazebo near the pool this morning around 9:00 am.

Please wait if I'm late. I have some things to do.

Love,

Rogue'

The rain poured down, and he twisted restlessly still clutching his coat. The dim daylight was a blessing at least. It didn't bother his photosensitive eyes as much as bright sunlight. The hours had passed, and he guessed it was about mid-morning. Damn internal clock. He wished he could forget the world for awhile. He was so tired. So cold. He couldn't keep this up or he was going to end up falling off the roof. That'd look good on his tombstone. 'Dufus fell off roof while sleeping.' No heroic end. No fanfare. Oh yeah, right. Like there was going to be some anyway.

"I'm so sorry."

He stared down at the empty yard and pool beneath him. Brief movement suddenly caught his eye. He focused recognizing the familiar walk, the proud bearing. Mag.... Joseph.

*Grow up. He is Joseph. He's a totally different personality. No ambition. Half the ego. Still blissfully brilliant. Incredibly educated. Ten times more flexible. All around superpowerful nice guy. *

He envied him. He envied everything about him.

Joseph flew out to the Gazebo. The rain deflected by his magnetic shield. He seemed to be waiting on something. No, Remy mused. Someone. Sarcastically, he wondered who.

He had to wait longer than he expected for his fatalistic assumption to come true, but after awhile, she flew in low across the ground wearing a huge raincoat and hood. She'd been out it seemed. She pulled back the hood and the coat hung open slightly.

*Nice dress.*

He admired the view. Tight, short, low cut, very clingy. Not usually her style except on special occasions. Too much skin. Guess this was a special occasion. His stomach twisted.

*Get over it.*

Rogue deserved the right to express herself a bit. She had a great body, but rarely got the chance to really show it off. Of course, now that she and Joseph knew he could use his power to touch her, she was free to be more expressive with him.

*Lucky guy.*

He needed a cigarette bad. What a lousy time to be trying to quit.

*Feel happy for her Remy. She deserves de best an' dat's what she be gettin.*

"Sorry ah'm late."

"It's alright Rogue. One can certainly give such a good friend a few extra minutes. ..... You,... You look lovely."

She blushed, and Joseph smiled..

"Thanks. Ah jus bought it. Ah wanted somethin special."

"It's ... definitely special.

At Rogue's second blush, that was all Gambit could take. He climbed down off the roof and started walking toward the lake leaving Rogue to her rendevouz.

*If I saw dem kiss, I'd want ta die.*

"Ah need tah talk tah yah, shugah."

"I guessed as much. This concerns what Bishop told us about you and Magneto the other evening, doesn't it?"

She fidgeted nervously.

"Yes. ... Ah've spent ah real long time thinkin who ah was there, who ah am here, an' who ah want tah be. After thah other night, Ah thought we needed tah talk. Bout me an' Magneto. Me an' you. Ah hope yah already know ah care foah yah very much, but aftah that, ah realized ah needed foah yah tah know exactly how ah feel about you an' our relationship foah thah future."

"We have a future?"

"Ah certainly hope so."

Remy kicked the stone in front of him watching it skip along the wet ground. He couldn't take this. Maybe he deserved it, but did that mean he had to sit by graciously and be eat up inside?

*Dis be no way tah live. Counterproductive as M'Sieu Bete would say. Why did I open myself up for dis? It hurts, an' I don' know what I'm suppose ta do now.*

He tapped on the window four times like she had told him to. It always worked. The window slid slowly open as if someone was there, but of course, no one ever was. He wanted to ask how she did that, but never had the nerve. Sometimes she spooked him.

Not that he thought she'd hurt him. She'd saved his life. With out her help, he'd never made it on the streets these last few years. Nine now, he'd never have seen six if she hadn't pulled him out of the river after barely escaping those gang boys.

*Smart move sticking your nose in where it didn't belong.*

Then he nearly died again. This time of shock when he realized who had saved him. He recognized her of course. He'd been watching her place for months. The music, the laughter, the smell of liquor and perfume. The place fascinated him. He'd watched the men come and go. Seen the women. It was so different from what he knew with his mother. The desperation wasn't there.

"You've been watchin me, chile."

He only stared as she pulled a handkerchief out of a bag she'd thrown on the ground and washed his face. She'd ruined the most elegant dress he'd ever seen diving in after him. Years in the future, he still wondered why she was out that particular evening not safe in her warm house. At the time, he swore she was the most beautiful woman on earth. In many ways, he still did, but not because of the way she looked on the outside.

"I be watchin you too. Maybe we can be helpin each other, oui?"

He didn't know what to say. Trust came hard to him, but he had to take the chance. Something about her smile, closed mouth, seductive, convinced him they were kindred spirts.

He didn't realize it then, but it had been charity pure and simple. Her offer to 'convert' any goods he stole to useable cash saved his life. He'd been getting desperate. He wasn't that good then except grabbing and running, and you could only do so much in a day. Usually food and wallets. And most wallets or purses didn't normally have very much cash. The rest was useless to him. He was considering some of the other offers yelled at him even though he knew how risky that was. His mother had taught him that at least. But desperate times... .

Madam fixed all that for him. She became his fence, taking jewelry, credit cards, IDs. At least he could get by then. Now, he doubted she even did anything with them. Not that it mattered what she did. She knew too many people's secrets, and the police knew when to leave well enough alone. She made no trouble, took care of her own, and they ignored her.

She taught him things. Things one would learn in school and some things one didn't. Including how to fight with style. Too tall and sort of ample, Marilyn Monroe- ish, she didn't seem like she could be graceful. But with a bo in her hand, she was devastatingly fast and sneaky.

"One learns what one needs to survive, Remy. Dead is still dead, no matter how noble. On de whole, I be preferrin ta be alive, chile. So don't ever be learnin anythin half way. Knowledge is power. An' ya never know what jus may save ya life."

But best of all to him as a child was she taught him how to really play cards.

"Use ta be a dealer in Vegas for awhile. Dose were fun times."

"Why'd ya leave?"

"Dere was ... trouble. Sometimes it be smart ta move on."

*Move on*

Tonight that seemed to be on his mind. He put his small bag of booty on the desk and admired the room again. Elegant, classic and functional all at the same time. Her office reflected her.

"Remy, mon p'tite. Ya come for a game of chance or jus coin o' de realm tonight?"

He jumped. She was the quietest person he knew. He wanted her to teach him that.

"Chere." He grinned his most wicked grin. "Ya should know dat bein in de presence o' de most beautiful lady in N'awlins is de real reason I be comin here."

She smiled back. That familiar Mona Lisa smile.

"Mon dieu, I do so love a lyin cajun charmer. Ya gonna break hearts when ya grow up Remy. I knew ya had de talent."

She tilted her head, and winked a beautiful dark eye at him.

"Feelin lucky tonight chere?"

Remy's eyes lit up.

"I always be lucky, chere."

She laughed at him. This was as much a part of the game as playing the cards.

What we play tonight?"

"Poker!"

"Mon p'tite. Dere are many different games in life. One should learn to play dem all well. Perhaps a game of Gin?"

He loved to watch her deal. Her long fingers moving swiftly, gracefully, nails clicking. He eyed the inch long mostly blood red nails and still marveled at how she could do anything with those things besides pinch the holy living hell out of you. Still, the cards moved as if they were part of a dance.

Fascinated as usual, he stared into her eyes, so dark that they were almost black to match the thick long waves of her hair. She kept it back with two heavy jeweled braids down the side of her face. He thought it gave her an exotic Cleopatra look. Her skin was too pale, near white, but made up to give her color. The only things overdone were the nails and her lips. Too wide already, the blood red lipstick made them impossible to ignore.

He picked up his cards watching her tap her pinky nail, the black one with a red rose painted on it, in time with a blues rhythm playing downstairs.

"What do you plan to do, cherie?" she questioned as he started the game.

"Do? What ya mean Madam?"

"De t'ieves. Do you plan to accept Jean-Luc's offer ta join his house?"

"How did....How did ya know bout dat?"

"Chile, a lady's got ta have her secrets. Sides ya should know dat very little be goin down in dis town wit out me hearin bout it. Jus cause I don' get involved don' mean I don' know."

"It jus be happenin last evenin. I ... I tried ta pinch his wallet. Didn't know he'd was de Jean-Luc LeBeau head o' de T'ieves Guild. Stupid. But... he ... he seemed ta like me. Wanted me ta be joinin him in de guild. I ... I tol him I'd t'ink bout it. See him tomorrow night at de docks if I be wantin to."

"An do ya be wantin to?"

He stared at the floor knowing he'd never been able to lie to those eyes.

"I.... I don't know. It's de Guild. Dey de best. I wanna be good like dat one day. Sides, dey ... dey my family. But what if dey decide later dey don' want me after all? Dat I ain't good nuff? Dat I'm different? What if..."

"An' ya scared."

"I am not scared. I'm ..." but the near tears in his eyes gave him away.

"Remy, ain't no shame in bein scared. Everybody is at one time or de other. Fear's healthy. Keeps ya alive and safe. Ya show me someone dats never scared an' I'll show ya an idiot or a liar. Most likely both. Bein brave is bout facing ya fears an' taking de risks for somethin ya believe in. Not jumpin in cause ya can't loose, can't get hurt or too stupid to know de difference. What's brave bout dat?"

She reached over to cup his chin to look at her.

"Lot's o' people will tell ya dat de saddest words in de English Language are loss an' regret. But dat ain't so. De saddest words are 'If only'. De first two imply ya tried an' lost, made a mistake. De last two mean ya never tried at all. If ya only 'member one t'ing I ever tell ya, remember dis. Don' ever let ya life be filled wit 'If onlies' Remy."

"But... what if I'm wrong? I don' want ta be hurt no more."

"Chile. Who does? Dat's what makes it a risk. Jus like wit cards. Is what ya got or what ya stand ta gain worth de risk? Ya gonna loose some o' de time. Everybody does, but the most important t'ings in life never come easy. An' if dey do, ya don' appreciate dem for what dey are. Ya bound ta loose dem anyway. So ya see, sometimes ya learn an' gain more from de loosin dan de winnin. Jus member, some risks are worth de taking. Some t'ings are more important dan money. Some t'ings are even more important dan being safe. An' dere may be somet'ings more important dan ya life. All ya got to decide is what dose are an' be willing ta take de risk. An' no matter how you decide, face ya fears, Remy. Dat's bravery."

He nodded.

"I'll try."

"Dat's all anyone can ask."

"Madam.... "

"Oui."

"If I take de risk an' I'm wrong? What'll I do den? What if ... what if it's my heart?"

"Dere's an old sayin, 'Better ta have loved an' lost dan ta have never loved at all'."

"Bet de guy who said dat never lost."

She smiled.

"Probably not."

But then she looked serious again.

"Dere's no shame in losing either Remy. Everyone makes mistakes. De difference in a smart man an' a fool is de smart man realizes his mistakes an' tries ta correct them. If ya give ya heart away, and ya both try but it don' work? Den leave her a part of ya heart an' move on. Yah've still been blessed. But if ya give ya heart away ta someone who don' preciate it; treats ya like they'd never want ta be treated? Den dey didn't deserve it in de first place. Ya love was de special t'ing den not de person ya gave it to. It may be de toughest t'ing you'll ever do, but I suggest ya damn well take it back an' put it in a special place for you, den move on. If not, it'll keep ya from real love all ya life. An dat kind o' love even filled with it's own missteps and moments of terrible pain, is somet'ing worth risking de pot for. Believe in ya self mon p'tite. Winning an' loosing, accomplishments an' mistakes are all part o' de game. All part o' growin up. It's what one learns and' does de next time 'round dat shows de measure o' de person"

He'd made up his mind.

"T'ank you, Madam."

"You're most welcome, chile. .....Remy, ya know I'll always be here for you. Me an' Tante Mattie. Remember dat."

He smiled.

"Good."

She smiled back.

"By de way...." She laid down her cards. "Gin."

He still thought she cheated, but her memory reminded him that someone still believed in him. If only because she didn't know what he'd done either.

He looked at the sky, felt the dampness all through him.

*I'm no good tah anyone dis way. Not Stormy, not de team, not even Rogue. I'm scared o' loosing it all. I can't go on like dis. An' I can' risk hurtin anyone cause o' de way I feel.*

The decision seemed inevitable now.

*Maybe I'd best leave. .... Ain't like dey gonna miss me or somethin. Cept maybe Stormy.*

Finally made, the acceptance of leaving seemed to lift a weight off of him. It was some measure of freedom after all. Being alone he understood, was comfortable with. At least it gave him some small piece of control over his life again.


Tell me whom you love, and I'll tell you who you are. - Creole Proverb

 

Chapter 5a: Shame

 

It was well into the evening hours by the time he'd made his decision and returned to the mansion. He climbed in a window on the second story hoping to avoid everyone. He wasn't in the mood yet to talk to anyone. He'd clean up, get some sleep, pack, and leave in the morning. He'd tell Stormy, and she could tell the others. Except Rogue. He had to look her in the eye and say bonjour for good so he could get on with his life. At least he could say he'd faced her and not run off to leave her wondering if it meant nothing like she'd done to him.

*Face your fears, Remy. Just don' let 'er beg ya ta stay 'cause de X- Men need ya'. Dey don' an' you can' take de pain anymore.*

Sneaking in unnoticed however wasn't as easy as it should have been. Coming out of the rain for the first time in two days, his tennis shoes squished with each step. He had to stop and take them and his socks off. And then he barely made it past the hallway to the ladies' side without Betsy noticing him from the other end. He just wanted to sleep.

He slid into his room quietly not even bothering to turn on the lights. With his excellent night vision, he really didn't need them anyway.

Instantly, he knew someone was in the room before he got completely inside. If he hadn't been so tired, he'd known as soon as he opened the door. He started turning toward them and quickly adjusted his senses to find out who it was.

"WHERE THAH HELL HAVE YAH BEEN?!? AH WAS WORRIED SICK!! AH WAS FIXIN TAH HAVE THAH WHOLE TEAM OUT HUNTIN YAH DOWN!!"

*Rogue?*

Of course it was her. He'd know that shape, that soft empathic signature, and most certainly that exasperated motherly 'you've been a bad little boy' tone of voice anywhere. It made his heart twist wistful for happier times.

Besides it had to be her. It was his kind of luck. Don't wait until tomorrow to have a gut-wrenching heart-stomping confrontation that you can have today.

*What she be doin here? ... What it matter? I can' be takin dis right now.*

He hit the light switch and focused on her.

"Chere, ... please not...."

She looked as if she was going to finish berating him, but her eyes widened and she seemed speechless for a minute. It suddenly dawned on him what a mess he must be.

"Mah gawd! ... Remy!"

She ran over to where he was and nearly pounced on him tugging forcefully at his trench coat.

"What happened?! Are yah alright?! What have yah been doin?! Was it trouble?! Were yah attacked?! Who was it?! Yah sure yah ain't hurt?!"

Caught off guard, he barely helped her with the coat, watching as she threw it on the floor and reached for his shirt.

"Non. S' nuthin. .... I'm ok. .... Jus got caught in de rain is s'all."

She grabbed his shirt but then suddenly recoiled at the realization that she was undressing him. In another place and time, he'd have never let her get away with that. But this was the here and now, leaving only an awkward silence between them. He flinched away from the rejection.

She hugged herself retreating from the chill.

"Yah... yah need tah change. Yah gonna catch a cold."

"Yeh." he mumbled grabbing the coat and retreating into the bathroom.

He caught his breath and looked at his weary heavily-bearded face in the mirror. His heart was racing. It was strange to have her act like she gave a damn for him even for a second. It seemed like it was ages ago that she had acted like she thought she cared.

*It's just concern for a teammate Remy. Get a grip.*

He leaned against the door for a minute and heard the door to his room quietly close. She'd left. After seeing what a mess he was, she probably guessed what she was wanting to tell him could wait. At least it gave him a chance to get himself together first before saying what he needed to.

He turned on the shower and let it heat up as he stripped out of the wet clothes. He had his favorite pair of old baggy sweats and a T-shirt hanging on the bathroom door. It was where he always put them after they were washed so he could find them with no hassle. They were a comforting sight right now.

He leaned back in the shower as the warm needles hit him, but his mind wouldn't let him relax.

*What had she been doing here? ...... She finally had dat long talk wit Joseph, stupid. She come ta say goodbye.*

He quickly finished and toweled off shaking his wet hair. Despite the moist warm air, he shivered. After running the electric razor over his face hastily, he climbed in to his sweats. He'd never felt this beat. He wanted to curl up in the bed and die. Still shoeless, he padded back into his room.

He stopped dead in his tracks.

She was back sitting in the chair she'd been in earlier and was nibbling on her thumbnail. A sure sign she had something unpleasant to say.

*Non. Not now. I can' take dis now. I've hurt too much for one day. *

She stood up awkwardly in front of him, the distance between them seeming like miles. She half- smiled.

"Well at least yah only look neah dead now. Yah shoulda stopped somewhere an' called tah say yah'd be late."

"I'll do dat next time."

*Please leave.*

She twisted a strand of her hair, and took a deep breath looking at her feet.

*Non, course not.*

He braced himself gathering his strength. Fine. Maybe this was for the best. He could tell Stormy and leave right away then. Staying only meant he'd have one more near sleepless night anyway. He didn't have much to pack, and no matter how tired, he wouldn't be able to stay here once the words 'I'm sorry, I love someone else' had past those lips.

"Ah came.... ah .. needed tah talk tah yah."

He shifted nervously.

"Don' I get a blindfold an' last request." He barely breathed.

She looked up with those devastating emerald eyes.

"What did yah say?"

"Nuthin..... It was nuthin. ... So, what yah need tah be tellin me neh?"

He grinned trying to hide his discomfort, and nodded at the tight short dress.

"Yah came tah tell me yah tryin ta change yah image wit a new wardrobe?"

Since she'd stood up, she continually had one of her hands at the bottom of it tugging it down unconsciously.

She looked down and blushed.

"Ah thought ah'd like tah wear something ah usually don'. Try tah be less influenced by mah powers. Jus keep on this l'il matchin jacket an' gloves. But thah darn thing is as uncomfortable as all get out. Ah don' know how Betsy wears this stuff. It keeps ridin up mah butt."

She sort of shyly smiled, but then frowned at a brief light in his eyes and a faint smirk. It was the first smirk she'd seen on him in a long time. She gave him a hot chastising look.

"An' don' yah dare say it's cause ah got a big butt!"

His eyes twinkled briefly as he put up his hands mia culpa.

"Do I be lookin like I be havin a death wish, chere?"

For the thousandth time he reminded himself that on judgement day right before they threw him in the pit to remember to ask God to please explain to him why all women thought their backsides, no matter how perfect, were too big.

Suddenly an image of her in Joseph's embrace, his hands sliding down her back filled his mind. His smiled faded, and he sighed turning to walk and sit down heavily on his bed. He looked up at her. An unreadable expression now on his face.

"You got somethin ta say ta me chere?"

She walked over and sat down beside him placing a gloved hand on his bicep.

"Yes, .... ah...."

She looked into his eyes and tears welled up in hers.

"Ah'm so sorry, Remy."


"Ah'm so sorry, Remy."

Gambit braced himself.

*Don' cry.*

"Can yah evah forgive me?"

"O'course chere. T'ain't your fault. I understand."

*Course you do Remy. You understand you ain't good enough.*

Her tears really started flowing now. She was shaking, and he could feel her relief although he was blocking her emotions with all he had.

"Ah really am sorry." She sobbed. "Ah don' know what ah was thinkin. "

She suddenly threw her arms around his waist and cried into his chest.

"Hol me, Remy. Please jus hold me. Ah need tah know ah'm forgiven an (sniffle) that yah still might be able tah love me again."

*Love?*

She looked up through red rimmed eyes.

"Oh Remy, please tell me that theah's still somethin theah. That we can start ovah, try again. ... Ah know it's all mah fault. That ah was weak an childish, but if yah give me anothah chance....."

This was a dream. That was it. He'd fallen asleep in the shower, and he was dreaming. He'd played this scene over and over in his head a thousand times, and it never turned out this way. This was too surreal.

"Chere... wait.... Ya ... I... Ya mean ya really want me back?"

She blinked and wiped at her eyes.

"Of course ah want yah. Ah love yah. Ah've always loved yah. What did yah think ah came here foah dressed like this?"

He stared. His mind numb, still unable to believe what he'd heard.

*But I thought you bought it for.... *


Downstairs in the kitchen, Joseph sat staring at his coffee cup. He didn't know how he felt. Having no emotional memories to fall back on was a very big pain sometimes.

"Contemplating the universe, Joseph?"

Logan drifted in and started making a sandwich. There was an uneasy tension between them, but Wolverine was distantly polite. Joseph suspected that was the best he could hope for.

"Considering that I have no reference point for this, that would be a good comparison."

Logan turned and stared at him munching on the sandwich rather noisily. Joseph took this as a willingness to at least listen. Despite everything and every reason they shouldn't be, the X-Men had been very accepting of him.

"I believe I have just been dumped as it were without having really been involved."

Logan registered surprised at first but then sort of smirked.

"I take it ya talkin bout Rogue?"

"Very astute. It seems I have just received the proverbial 'I just want us to be friends' speech."

Wolverine looked as if he wanted to break out laughing but only finished chewing his sandwich. Between bites, he commented.

"Women are like that. Just when you think you've got them figured out, they'll surprise you. You don' seem that broken up though."

"Well, since I am not in love with her there is hardly a reason to be too upset. She is a very good friend. Without her I would still be wandering lost, but truthfully, we have very little in common. Our interests rarely concern the same things minusing helping people and sometimes she can be rather wild and free-spirited. She should listen more."

"To you, you mean?"

"Well, yes. She could be a bit more disciplined. I enjoyed her company more when we first met."

"When she was spending all her time ignoring everybody else but you and telling you how great you are?"

Joseph stared at the rather smug look on Logan's face.

"Touche. I guess I now understand what Magneto saw in the Acolytes. Perhaps what he saw in Rogue in that other universe as well. I must admit, though I know I am not in love with her and wish her all the best, I did think that she might, well, be somewhat attracted to me. Finding out her feelings are only a truly strong loving friendship is rather ego deflating, isn't it?"

"Welcome to the real world, Joseph."


Before either could think of anything else to say, Jean interrupted their thoughts as she walked into the kitchen. It was obvious she was a lady on a mission.

"Well thank goodness. Logan, I've been looking all over for you since last night. Where have you been? We need to have a meeting."

"I needed time ta think. I was around. Why didn't ya just mentally call me?"

"I didn't want to risk it being picked up by someone else. I've been talking with all the other X-Men about what has been going on the last few months, and we all need to get together. You're the only one besides Bobby and Rogue I haven't spoken to. Bobby's with his father of course, and Rogue... Rogue's going to be difficult."

"You sound upset Jeannie."

"I am upset Logan. We're suppose to be a family around here, but we haven't been that for awhile now, and I didn't notice. I'll gather everyone else. Meet me in the war room in thirty minutes."

"Sure thing."

"Jean?"

"I'm sorry Joseph. I didn't mean to leave you out of the conversation. Most of this really happened before you came here, but you are, of course, most welcome to sit in."

"Thank you Jean."


Tell me whom you love, and I'll tell you who you are. - Creole Proverb

 

Chapter 5b: Shame

 

He wanted to believe this was happening. That she loved him as much as he loved her, but the pain had been too real.

"Rogue, I'm sorry. I... I don' know what ta say. It's jus dat .... well... ya've been avoidin me, ... spendin all ya time wit Joseph." He stiffened. "You an' he can touch. It was him ya loved in that other reality." The "not me" left unspoken.

Tears stinging her now dark misty eyes, she felt ashamed and reached up to touch his face.

"Yah thought ah came tah say goodbye."

She choked. "An yah were still willin tah forgive me."

"Dere's nuthin to forgive. After what ya saw in my mind. His power an idealism. He can give ya everythin I can't chere."

Rogue looked at him with that warm expression he loved. It made his heart melt.

"Yoah wrong, shugah. It's thah othah way around. Yah can give me everythin he can't."

"Nobody cept Storm has evah had so much faith in me as you Remy. Not thah Professah, who did his best. But given his othah responsibilities, how could he be expected tah spend time on me when ah wouldn't spend it on mahself? Ah wasn' thah threat that Magneto, Sabertooth, or even Jean was once. Ah was jus ah mixed-up kid. Ah wasn't that driven."

"An' Magnus. He nevah hardly noticed me til that time in thah Savage Land. Ah was an X-Man he'd worked with. He barely knew Ms Marvel, that's all. An he killed her. Even when ah wouldn't. But he saved mah life and' ah was grateful. Ah didn' have mah powers. Ah was scared an' vulnerable, an' he was nice tah me. An' so powerful. Ah felt safe, protected, infatuated. An' ah'm sure it was nice foah him tah have someone tah care about him. He was ah very lonely man. But that's all it was. Ah've realized that now. That minute ah didn't completely agree wit his side o' that argument, he left. Didn't have anymore time foah me. It was that same on Asteroid M. As long as ah agreed wit him, even if he had tampered wit mah mind, then ah could stay."

"Nor even Mystique. Ah do believe she loves me in her own way. A little version of herself she could love an' treat bettah than she was treated. But it's ah selfish love Remy. In thah end, her needs were more important than mine. Theah was no give an' take. No meetin half way. She wanted me tah always be theah for her, no matter what witout being willing tah do that same for me. Realizin that an' leavin her while ah was still young was probably thah best thing that evah happened tah me. If'n ah stayed wit her, I'd have ended up bein thah self-absorbed child ah was in that othah reality."

".... But, ... ya seemed happy dere. Ya had everythin ya evah wanted, didn't ya?"

"Did ah? Ah probably thought ah did. Ah once thought ah was happy wit Mystique too. But lookin ovah from this side ah see it different. Ah really need tah thank Bishop proper foah opening mah eyes tah what ah've been doin. Ignorin everyone else an' bein selfish. Ah only really cared about mahself theah, Remy. Do yah think that this Jean... or that one, wouldn't have been torn jus a bit ovah havin tah choose between her love an' anyone else? What if it'd been a kid? Would ah have hesitated jus a second an' been sorry tah have tah possibly leave him tah die? That only thing that mattered was Magneto. He was thah dream, not carin bout people. Ah don' even know if ah knew what that really was."

"Jean left Logan cause she had tah do what she thought was right. Ah thought what Magneto told me. Ah nevah was a real partner tah him. Jus told him he was wonnerful and followed along."

"If'n we were really fightin ah war foah peace between humans an' mutants then where were thah humans? Bet theah were lots o' humans wantin tah fight. Why were we jus this li'l group o' mutants running round tryin tah kill Apocalypse? Occasionally helpin humans escape but not fight? Foah all his good intentions, Magneto still thought he was bettah than othath people. That he could save them instead o' showin them we could work tahgether."

"We still considered ourselves Homo Superior. Ah hate that name. Who says were superior? Ah wouldn't wish mah power on anyone. An if yah goin by Darwin's theory, mah power isn't exactly helpin me perpetuate mah genes. We thought we were bettah an' we weren't. So ya see, we were doomed tah failure from thah start."

"If we had killed Apocalypse before Bishop showed up tah save us, what woulda happened? One o' his generals woulda replaced him? Magneto woulda some how convinced Apocalypse's whole government tah follow him? Ah suppose he coulda been a more "benevolent" leader tellin everyone what tah do? That's still ah mutant dictatorship jus a nicer one. We weren't workin wit thah humans, you an' Logan were. Theah were no human/mutant coalitions tah lead if we did somehow 'win'."

She sighed, and he hugged her. He loved her passsion, her idealism.

"So sure, Magneto an' ah were great tahgether. We nevah disagreed. Ah'd ignore anythin, anyone foah him. And what did he do foah me in return? Let me lead cause ah did what he tol me? Let me have his kid? Ah couldn' been more than nineteen when ah did. Don' seem tah me Magneto done so much foah me as he did foah himself. Seems tah me he had time tah figure out how his power let me touch him but nevah had thah time tah even find a way foah me tah touch mah own child. Mah own child, Remy! Well ain't that swell. An' what if'n ah hadn't wanted tah be wit him? Was it him or nuthin?"

"An sadly, jus like here, jus like Mystique, ah'm sure he did care foah me in his own way. But everythin always comes down tah him an' his cause. Thah end justifies thah means. It don' matter who gets trampled along thah way. Even people that care bout him. Even you. Yah'd think thah man coulda treated yah nicer since yah stood by him despite what happened between yah. Bein thah leader ain't an excuse foah bein rude."

"Didn't matter. ... He probably be knowin me better dan ya t'ink."

"Yes it did matter. Ah said Magneto was lonely, an' he was. But he was cause he let himself be. Yah can't be ah friend if yah t'ink y'all are bettah than othath people. He let his ego, hatred, an' fear keep him from seeing other people as human beings instead o' someone wit him or against him. Tah have friends yah have tah be one. An' what makes me really mad is, ovah theah, ah wasn't any bettah."

"Chere." She pushed back a bit.

"No. Ah wasn't. That's what Storm an' ah was discussin that othah evening. We both were ashamed o' how self absorbed we were theah. She said she was still stuck in that frame o' mind o' bein ah goddess an' bettah than othah people. She nevah grew. An' that thah X-Men were as bad as their enemies. Not cause we killed, but cause we didn't care that we did. Didn't care who we hurt or who got in our way. She once tol Bishop that 'if we are going to suceed, it cannot be by employing the same techniques we deplore. We must be better than our enemies, or we have lost before we've begun.' That's what happen tah us ovah theah. What happened tah me. All cause ah thought Magneto was ah god instead o' ah man an' mah husband. An that's all we had between us, Remy. It ain't nuthin like what ah got wit you. Ah thank thah stars, ah realize that now. That mah life hasn't been so protected that ah don' know thah important things in life rarely come easy. That it ain't about feelin dependant, but feelin loved. That it's sharin, growin, and gettin through thah tough things tahgether. Ah owe thah X-Men foah that, an' ah owe you, Remy. Most ah all, you."


"Den ya forgive me?"

Tears welled up in her eyes again.

"Forgive yah? Oh Remy, yah can be so pig-headed. Haven't yah been listenin? Theah's nuthin tah forgive. Ah nevah meant tah hurt you this way. Ah nevah realized. Ah thought yah understood why ah left. It wasn't you shugah. It was nevah you."

She stroked his face.

"Ah didn't leave because ah what yah did. Yah think that matters tah me? We've all made mistakes. Me most of all. Look at all ah did before joinin thah X- Men. Ah'd be thah biggest kinda hypocrite tah stand in judgement ovah you."

"But..."

"But nuthin. Ah love yah. Get it through yah head swamp rat. Yah've enriched mah life in ways y'all will nevah know. Yah believed in me an' helped me believe in mahself. "

"Yah've stood by me when no sane person would have. Ah know yah'd do anythin ta help me. Yah've risk yah very life jus tah love me. What girl wouldn't be swept away by that? Yah've nevah asked that ah do anythin but be mahself an' try. Ah love ya foah that. Foah being theah, no questions asked. An foah bein so stupid yah let yahself get hurt when yah shoulda given up ah long time ago."

His eyes widened but he smirked.

"Fool for love at ya service."

She sniffled, giggled, and wiped her eyes.

"That yah sure are. An' that's why ah ran, Remy. Do yah know what thah most important thing ah remember from our kiss?"

"We only be gettin half way through it fore I passed out?"

"Silly. .... No shugah. Ah remember thah love. It was overwhelmin. Ah didn't know til then how beautiful yah think ah am. Seein mahself through yoah eyes was thah most humblin experience o' mah life. That's when ah realized ah didn't deserve tah have someone love me as much as you do."

She placed her gloved fingers on his lips so he couldn't respond.

"Ah didn't deserve yah cause all ah could bring yah was pain in return. That's why ah left. Aftah that first week, ah couldn't take it anymore. Ah screamed, an' cried, an' cursed that first week. Ah withdrew intah ya love an' refused tah talk tah anyone. But then ah jus couldn't sit theah an' watch yah die. Ah was so sure yah were dead, in that coma foahever, an ah'd killed yah. Ah had tah get away. Ah knew it was weak, selfish but ah was in so much pain. Ah thought ah'd killed thah one true love o' mah life. If Bobby hadn't chased aftah me, ah don' know what ah'd have done."

"Then tah be wit yah, ah became yah. Tried tah experience yah life so ah'd have some piece ah yah tah remember, but that's when ah tapped intah yoah guilt an pain. Yah love foah me had protected me before. Yah see, ah do absorb all o' ah person's psyche an' powers but ah'm thah dominant personality so ah don' actually become that person. Ah have theah memories an' feel what they felt when ah absorbed them, but ah normally don't tap intah all o'their othtah memories unless ah want to, an' then everythin goes back when it wears off. That only t'ing that stays is what ah've shared wit that othah person. Any memory ah pulled up an' theah residual feelins when ah absorbed them. That's thah reason thah only t'ings ah remember from Belle were bout you an her."

Rogue blushed. Remy smiled softly.

"An wit you it is thah love an' brief memories an' feelins from yah past. Yoah mind jus ain't very good at sharin, shugah."

Now it was his turn to feel embarrassed, but she smiled this time.

"It's alright. Ah know now yah'll share things when yah can. Jus like ah will. But at that moment in time, ah thought ah'd lost you an' ah wanted those memories, any memories, so bad. Ah tried tah track them back tah find out what happened. Ah jus wanted some part ah ya tah keep, good or bad. Tah understand yah."

"But when I came out o' de coma, why'd you keep goin? I'd done anythin ta make you happy. Why'd you leave if it wasn't me? Why'd you keep ...?"

She looked away and gave a small cry. He clutched her shoulders in support.

"Runnin? ... Cause ah was afraid. An' all ah've evah done befoah when ah was scared was run. Didn't know any othah way. Ah was ah fool. Ah know that now. When ah knew yah had awakened, when yah powers left me, ah was terrified. Ah jus knew yah hated me then."

She let out a sob again, and he brushed at her tears with part of the sheet.

"I could never hate you."

"Ah know that now, but ah was so scared. Ah jus knew yah had to. Foah what ah'd done tah yah an' foah not bein theah foah yah when yah woke up. Ah was afraid tah come back an face yah, so ah kept goin. Ah knew yah hated me an' ah wanted ah reason, any reason, tah hate yah in return. Then ah'd be safe. Ah know ah'm ah coward, Remy, but ah couldn't let mahself be hurt. Ah've been lonely so long. Ah didn't want tah be thah one rejected. Ah had tah reject you first."

"But.."

"But yah didn't reject me? Ah realized that in Seattle. When yah first showed up, ah yelled an' fought tah protect mahself. Ah was so sure it was ovah. But when yah told me yah still loved me, still wanted me, showed me yah'd risk it all ovah again, ah thought ah'd die o' shame. All ah'd thought of was mahself, mah feelings. That's when ah realized ah was thah worst thing that could have evah happened tah yah. Ah thought yah were bettah off wit out me. Ah was tryin tah set yah free. An ah wanted tah leave who ah was behind cause ah hated mahself so much. So ah ran again. Ah felt so useless."

"P'tite. Ya can't be runnin away forever. Ya gotta move toward somethin. Believe me, I've learned dat de hard way."

"Uh huh. An ah owe Joseph foah givin me somethin tah start wit. A reason tah come back here. Tah you an' mah home."

She looked at him with bright eyes.

"Remy, he's everythin Magnus could be if he'd put his hatred an fear behind him. He's got ah new start an' ah want tah help him. Ah do care about him. Ah've always admired who he could be. Magneto could have done so much if he had moved beyond that pain and self-righteousness."

"But in someways ah've been selfish an' protectin him an' me too much. Ah've been fallin all ovah Joseph tah make mahself feel bettah. Stop what happened before. But jus like me, jus like you, theah are some things he's got tah do for himself. He needs tah know who he was tah remind him what he could be. You an' ah can't hide from what we did or we'll have forgotten why we don' ever want tah be like that again."

"An' ah had been hiding behind him ignoring, everythin else, an' pretend tah tryin. Bishop made me realize ah couldn't expect someone else tah fix mah life. Ah have tah do that mahself. Ah have tah decide mah own life, mah friends, mah dreams an' who ah love. "

" Now ah realize ah jus hurt us both even more by leavin. Ah wish ah coulda seen sooner what yah were trying tah tell me. Tah try. Tahday is ah new day."

She giggled an' sniffled .

"Funny, it's seems like 'Gone Wit Thah Wind' don't it? Ah suddenly realized ah didn't want tah hear thah words 'Frankly mah dear, ah don' give ah damn.' comin from you."

He chuckled.

"Dat ain't never gonna be happenin, Scarlet"

Her eyes glistened, and she hugged him. He'd never felt anything better in his life.

In one moment, his world had come full circle. Back to the warm giddy silliness they'd once had. A love that was reflected by a small stuffed dog sitting happily in the middle of his bed where she'd placed it.

"Ah love yah Remy. Ah always have."

"I love you too, Rogue. An' I always will."


** Among those whom I like or admire, I can find no common denominator, but among those whom I love, I can. All of them make me laugh. - W.H. Auden

 

Chapter 6: Love

 

"Ah love yah so much (sniffle)."

Wrapped in the warmth of his arms, Rogue had been sobbing tears of sorrow and happiness into his chest for well over an hour, ever since they'd started this discussion. Sometimes she finally seemed to be all cried out but would suddenly began bawling and clutching him again for what appeared to him to be no good reason.

It was one of the happiest moments of his life. He wished it would never end.

"SNORT"

*Note: Oh an' while I'm askin dumb male-type questions, God, why is it dat women can cry at de drop o' a hat but never carry handkerchiefs?*

"Uh, (sniffle), yah gonna need tah wash this shirt, shugah."

She hiccuped. He laughed.

"What? Wash dis shirt? It be a memento o' one of de happiest moments o' my life. May be I could be havin it bronzed?"

She laughed too.

"As Jubilee would say 'That's gross'."

"Love is blind."

"It ain't that blind. If yah don' wash it, ah most certainly will."

"Well, what evah ya want p'tite. Ya wish is my command."

She giggled happily clutching him tighter as he chuckled.

"Darn well bettah be shugah. Yah jus bettah be rememberin who's man yah are. Ah got an image tah protect."

"Ya mean dat image o' you wit ya skirt halfway up ya cute li'l rear?"

Looking down, Rogue pulled back and blushed. Sitting on the bed, absorbed in more important things, the bottom of the dress had worked it's way toward her waist. You could most certainly see the edge of her panties. She jumped up and started tugging the dress down.

"Ah hate this dress."

Remy, on the other hand, was beginning to have great affection for the particular dress in question.

She smoothed it out and wiped at her eyes as he stood up and pulled off the damp t-shirt to change it.

She blushed again an' leered at him.

"Hey, no peakin at de merchandise, chere. I be seein dogs look at pork chops wit less slobber."

She stuck out her tongue at him and struck an indignant pose.

"Y'all wish. Sides, if yah can ogle mah butt, ah can ogle yah body. "

He pulled on another shirt and grinned wickedly at her.

"Trust me, chere. I have a list o' much better t'ings for ya ta do wit my body sides ogle it. ... Perhaps ya'd like ta schedule some time ta try a few? I might be able ta .. slide ya in"

He smirked as he gracefully pulled on a pair of leather gloves.

Rogue turned two shades of red, but sniffed.

"Don' ya evah give up?"

"Don' know de meanin o' de words."

He slid up to her and wrapped her in his arms.

"Ah'm glad." she smiled.


He hugged her and she moved in his embrace to look out the window.

"Looks like thah rain is mellowin out, shugah. Thah thunder an' lightning have moved on. Now it's jus ah cleansing rain. Maybe we'll have sunshine soon."

"I already do."

"Flatterer."

"It's sincere, p'tite. Ya bring ah brightness to my world."

"An you, mine. Ah don' know how ah thought ah could evah be happy witout you. Ah owe Bishop one. He helped me see what ah really wanted. Yah think he'd get all embarrassed if ah hug him?"

"Probably. O'course I could be takin his place tah save him de embarrassment."

"Letch." She turned to look at him shaking her head.

He got that 'I am not (most of the time),' innocent look on his face, and she smiled.

"An ah love that letch."

He grinned but looked nervous.

"I've missed you so much chere."

She heard the faraway pain there and pulled him even closer.

"So Bobby tol me."

"Bobby?"

"Mmmm. Along wit all mah othah travelin this mornin, ah flew out tah see him an' his daddy. Ah shoulda been theah at thah hospital. He's mah friend too an' ah ignored him cause ah was too wrapped up in mah self an' mah problems. Thank goodness his daddy's doin much bettah. He even apologized tah me bout what he said last time we met. Ah think he an' Bobby are startin' tah come tahgether."

"Dat's nice."

"Yeah, it is. Only now he's startin tah match make foah Bobby. Ah had tah tell him yah were mah guy tah get him tah let up. He said 'well seein it was you'.... Ah think Mr. Drake likes you. .... Speakin o' which, Bobby said tah say 'thank you'."

"Thank you? For what?"

"Foah bein theah. He said he tol Storm, but in thah crisis, he forgot tah tell you. Ah think yah winnin him ovah too. He told me he was sorry foah some o' the things he's said bout you. That you were theah when he really needed ah friend."

Remy shrugged feeling uncomfortable.

"Jus bein a teammate."

Rogue lifted tear filled eyes at him tightening her grip on his shirt. .

"Shugah, don' put yahself down. I know bettah than anybody how much yah doubt yahself, but you listen tah me. Yah are ah good person. Yah've made mistakes. We all have. Storm, Wolverine, me.... Especially me. Ah truly didn't want tah hurt Ms. Marvel but ah did. Ah nevah wanted tah kill Dazzler like ah said. Ah was doin what momma wanted, protectin mah family, an' tryin ta beat an' scare thah othath side so much they'd quit. Ah know ah acted tough, smart mouth an' all, but ah was scared tah death. I mainly absorbed powers tah protect mahself. Ah use tah throw up aftah each skirmish."

"Even Scott ain't thah saint everybody acts like he is. He didn't have the gumption tah break it off clean an' right wit Madelyn. Look at all thah pain that's caused. Yah did bettah by Belladonna."

"So ah don' believe yah meant tah cause whatever hurt yah did. Cause if yah meant to, why are yah so guilty bout it? Magneto didn't care who he hurt when he blacked out thah world. Babies in incubators died cause they didn't have power an' that was jus too bad. Thah cause was more important. That was thah price they had tah pay foah bein in his way. He knew what he was doin an' didn't care."

"So maybe yah were wrong, maybe yah were selfish or foolish foah a moment or protectin yah own, but ah don' believe yah didn't truly care."

"Ah also know not meanin to don' make someone less responsible, but yah owe yah apologies an' penance to tah people yah've hurt, not me. Yah've nevah not been theah for me. Y'all are the best thing that evah happen to this southern gal."

"Ah can't forgive yah sins Remy. It's not mah right. Nuthin can bring back someone lost. But maybe you'll, we'll get thah chance tah help, or pay back in some small way thah people we've hurt. All we can do is try an' remember...., but ah can let yah know that yah aren't thah monster yah think yah are. From thah moment we met, if ah jus needed ah shoulder tah cry on, someone tah scream at, ah person tah laugh wit, yah've been theah. Yah were theah for Storm. Yah've gone tah help yah family ovah an' ovah when they've shown they wouldn't do thah same foah you. Yah were theah for Bobby, foah Bishop, even foah Joseph when he was hurtin durin Onslaught. Remy, yah are ah darn good friend."

It didn't seem enough to him.

"Don' mean much when ya can't help or fix things."

She smiled but a tear rolled down her face. She took his hands in hers and squeezed them.

"Yah are wrong, lovah. It means a lot. Bein ah good friend ain't about blowin in an' simply fixin somethin cause yah can. If someone runs out an' pushes a kid out o' thah way o' a speedin car, he's a hero, right? He risked his life foah someone else. Not everybody would do that. But what if he failed? They both got killed or somethin? Was he any less heroic? An what about when yah know yah can't change what is at all? Do you desert yah friends ta be alone wit theah pain? It takes a lot o' guts tah stand by and be supportive when someone else is hurtin an' theah ain't nuthin yah can do tah change that."

"Marriage vows say bettah or worse. Well, that's what true friendship is too. If yah only ah friend durin thah good times. If yah only theah when it's easy, yah really ain't ah friend. Friendship is abut bein theah whether yah can fix it or not. It takes ah lot more strength of character tah be by someone's side when things ain't going right than it does tah be theah cause yah know yah can make it bettah. Yah've done that more times than ah can count foah me. It'd didn't matter how tough it got, an' ah know ah've hurt you, but yah didn't give up on me. Yah are the best friend ah've evah had."

"True love is built on friendship not jus attraction, on commitment not lust. Ah forgot that. Ah want tah be theah foah you too, Remy. Ah want us tah try. Ah've found that true love of mah life, an' what we have is bettah than anythin someone could jus grace me wit. We'll deal wit thah rest an' find a way tah make it work, tahgether. Yah don' have tah carry thah whole load anymore. We're partners. ... Ah mean, if yah want tah be."

He smiled at her innocent dimples, and kissed her gloved hand.

"Very much, chere. I be searchin all my life for a place ta fit in. Some one ta be wit. Ya everythin I ever wanted chere. Intelligent, passionate, caring. I want more dan anythin ta be wit you. Sides," he smirked. "Pushy broads turn me on."

That got the right reaction.

"Pushy broads? ....... Ah ... am ... not ... ah .... pushy broad. .. .............. Am ah?"

His eyes only sparkled in response. She tried to snarl but only managed a giggle.

"Well, um, yah can't tell anyone else though. Ah don' like thah initials. Bobby'll be callin me ah 'perfect bitch' in no time."

"Not through a fat lip he won'."

"Oooo. Mah hero."

They laughed holding each other as much as they dared to. Her power still a stone between them but now they carried it together.


"Remy, ah tol yah ah'd been thinkin a lot bout what ah want in mah life. Where an' who ah want tah be. Most of all, ah wanted tah try tah work things out between us, tah start ovah. But besides coming heah tell yah how ah felt, theah was somethin else ah came tah tell yah. .... Ah'm movin out."

His body went numb. He knew this was too good to be true.

"Ya ... leavin de X-Men?... But...."

"Shhh. Please listen first. Ah'm not leavin you, or even thah X-Men ...completely. But ah am leavin thah mansion. Ah realized while ah was away, ah don' have any normal friends. Ah dream of ah normal life but don' know what that is. Y'all have friends outside thah mansion, but ah've nevah had any."

"I wouldn' be callin most o' my friends de normal upstandin citizen kind."

"No, ah don' suppose so, but yah've still had ah life outside ah heah. Remy, if ah asked yah who yah are, what would yah say?"

"Dunno. ... Remy LeBeau, son o' Jean-Luc, t'ief, gambler, mutant, X- Man,... de man who's hopelessly in love wit Rogue."

He smirked.

"Gawd, y'all are awful. But see, bein ah mutant doesn't totally define yah. If ah asked Hank thah same thing, he'd say Doctor, etc. like you, but Cyclops would jus say mutant, leader ah thah X-Men. Ah don' want that. How can ah espouse cooperation between humans and mutants when ah don' even really have any human friends. Thah Professah worked wit humans. Hank has lots ah science buddies. Wolverine has othah friends. You do too. Ah need that as well. Ah don' want thah t'ink ah mahself as jus ah mutant anymore but as ah human being who jus happens tah be ah mutant too. It's one ah my big gripes about this place. We've got tah be accepted as people, friends an' neighbors."

"Ah got mah degree in humanities, human relations, an' history. Maybe ah could be ah teacher, or public relations person or somethin."

"So ya leavin."

"Not leavin really, jus not livin heah. Ah still plan tah work wit thah X-Men. Wolverine's goin tah do thah same. He tol me thah othah day. Get ah place near heah an' ah job. Have ah life."

"An us?"

She gave him a shy smile.

"Well... Seein as we were talkin bout ah commitment tah us ah few minutes ah-go, ah kinda thought... maybe ... well,.. yah might wanna come live wit me. Yah can still work full time wit thah X-Men if yah want o'course."

Remy's eyes sparkled, and he got that smirk she loved so.

"Let me get dis straight p'tite. Are ya askin me ta move in wit ya? "

His face switched to the most innocent of expressions.

"I don' know chere. I mean, what would my pere t'ink? Me living wit a women like a common Lothario. What about my reputation?"

She looked at his sparkling eyes and started laughing. She pushed his shoulder enough to make him sway.

"Yoah reputation? Get outta heah! Yah daddy'll probably think yah finally came to yah senses, yah big swamp rat. An' ah'm thah one who needs tah worry bout mah reputation, livin wit ah man like yah"

He really smirked now.

"Still chere. All alone under one roof? No Cyke tah chaperone us? Ya could be takin advantage o' poor li'l me. Do all kinda o' naughty things ta me I ain't never dreamed of ....."

She rolled her eyes and smirked at him with an "oh please" look. Then they both started laughing.

"Ok. Who'm I kiddin. Dere ain't no things like dat I have dreamed of. But seriously sweet, ya really want ta do dis?"

"Yes ah do. Ah need tah do this. Do yah... want tah come?"

"Never should be any doubt, chere. I'd go to de ends o' de earth wit ya. Down de road a ways hardly seems like a lot ta ask. Sides we said we were startin over, committin ta each other. Might as well go all de way an' jump in head first. I love you, Rogue. I want my life ta be wit you."

"An ah want tah be wit you, shugah."

She cuddled in his arms.

........

"Remy?"

"Oui, chere?"

"Ah want ah real dog."


PARTS7-8

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