|Wed, 19 Jan 2000
"Bruce Family" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
The Happiest Night . . . - 1/1 - G
Disclaimer: Consider this a fictive parry to a mainstream thrust. Having heard something of the nature of the Gambit #16 prologue - mysterious smile - I penned this in response to a certain aspect of it with which Marvel seems not to be dealing or considering. So, if you see the validity of my view of Marvel's characters in this non-profit piece or have just enjoyed the piece, do write to me at email@example.com
The Happiest Night
A hundred strokes. That was how Raven had taught her to brush her hair, running it through the heavy silk until it shone with reflected light. It was a habit as old as restraint; a discipline which Rogue instinctively clung to in times of uncertainty and fear; the hairdresser's tai chi. White. Brown. White. Brown. White. Brown. The repetitive motion usually lulled her until she could accept what lay ahead of her, but that night it was failing miserably. In irritation, she replaced the silver comb on the dressing-table and examined herself critically in the mirror.
Devoid of the make-up that had given her cheeks their blush and lips their red that day, her face was unnaturally pale. Large, green eyes looked back at her with an expression akin to that of snared animal - terror and resignation to an inevitable fate. She forced herself to smile, hoping that the dark would hide her trepidation. Tonight was meant to be the happiest of her life - Jean had assured her of that much with the confident stupidity of a married woman as she had pressed a bouquet on her, while Mystique had raised an eyebrow and smirked. Even Ororo's lips had held a secret smile as they had flipped through flimsy silks and chiffons in search of the perfect trousseau.
Biting her lip, she concentrated on the hissing of the shower, the broken snatches of obscure Cajun folksongs that emerged from the bathroom. Remy did not share her fear, she knew, was not aware of it. Throughout their relationship and engagement, she had avoided situations that could lead to that level of intimacy - first through her powers, then fabricated, transparent reasons. Although she realised it had hurt him on occasion, had confirmed his worst suspicions of his own unworthiness to be loved, she was scared that, if she capitulated, the hitherto voiceless child inside of her would begin to scream and never stop.
Rogue shivered, despite the warmth of the Mediterranean air, pulling a linen robe over the thin, cream slip that she was wearing. All she needed was some air, she berated herself, because the hotel room was stuffy and that had always made her feel morbid. Besides, she thought in a desperate attempt at distraction, the scenery was beautiful. The sea a pool of stars in the distance while a galaxy of city-lights stretched into the horizon. Leaning on the balcony rail, caught between universes, she fought the urge to fly into the night. It would be so easy to do, so simple to slip into the darkness and vanish. The damage that would do would be irreperable, though; the crime unforgivable; her marriage unsalvagable.
The white noise of the water stopped suddenly and only the music remained. Remy had graduated to a rousing chorus of 'Cottoneye Joe'. (1) She found herself humming a few bars to herself. Where do you come from? Where do you go? Her perpetual dilemma. The questions which she could not hope to answer, because it would mean accepting a part of herself that she had long since rejected. The broken, scarred child from Caldecott who had been unable to defend herself against harm. Who had been so wounded that she still could not speak of what had occured, but mutely watched and feared and knew from within Rogue's green eyes.
"Ah can't do this," she said softly to herself, "Gawd, Ah love him, but Ah can't go in there an' . . . ."
The door squeaked open from bathroom into the bedroom. She surreptitiously glanced over her shoulder, hoping that he would forget about her. That if she were still and quiet enough, she'd melt into the background and he wouldn't see her. It was not a strategy that had worked as a child, and it was even less successful now. Ensconced in a crimson towel, Remy grinned at her. In the manner of all old lovers, darkness favoured him, tracing the lines of face and body with affection. She suddenly realised she was still humming 'Cottoneye Joe'.
"Didn' know ya were a fan," the comment was off-hand.
She laughed nervously, "Backstreet Boys eat yo' hearts out, 'cause y'all ain 't got nothin' on Remy leBeau."
Teasingly, "Where are de legions o' screamin' female fans den?"
"Don't know," she replied lamely, knowing where the badinage was leading, pulling the robe tighter around her so the thin silk of her undergarment was completely hidden. The silent child cringed within her in preparation for the inevitable.
"I'm terribly disappointed, Rogue. Dat was ya cue t'say: 'Who needs masses o ' scantily clad women when ya have me'," his eyebrows drew together and his lips curved in mock disapproval. Bending over a suitcase, he packed away the charcoal suit he had worn for the reception and folded the wine-colored silk-shirt on top of it so that it did not crease. It was a simple, domestic touch, but it frightened her beyond belief. He must have seen some of the distress on her face, because he said more gently: "I was kiddin'."
"Ah can't do this," she repeated as every muscle in her body seemed to shake, her legs threatened to stop supporting her and she grabbed desperately for the railing, "Ah'm sorry."
"Can' do what? Be a groupie?" he paused in the middle of turning the bed down to reveal crisp, white sheets. She looked away to the spangled sea in an attempt to calm herself, then back to her husband. His expression was confused, concerned - he truly had no idea, she marvelled, nor could she enlighten him. The child would not allow it.
"This," she gestured vaguely to the offending piece of furniture.
He ran a hand through his hair, still seemingly perplexed, "Ya powers are back?"
As she shook her head, she saw his look shift to one of pain and stiff pride. The only reasonable explanation gone, he believed her reticence had something to do with him. That, despite their marriage, she didn't love him enough to commit herself entirely to him. That he wasn't worth more than words.
"It ain't you either," she corrected quickly, "It's just . . . . Gawd, Rem, Ah'm frightened."
He sat on the edge of their bed, evidently perturbed. Knowing that the time was right to tell, that she would face the girl's screaming with impunity rather than hurt the man she loved, she joined him on the forest-green duvet, acutely aware of the distance between them.
"It's natural, cherie, t'be scared."
"Not fo' mah reasons," her voice broke, "Which is what Ah've been meanin' ta tell you foh a long time...."
Haltingly, she began her story, stopping when it became unbearable. He listened intently, not speaking even when she was silent, not attempting to bridge the gap between them with a hand. His facial expression was eloquent, however, shifting between pity, outrage and anger. Finally, when she had finished, she looked to him for judgment or absolution. He stood, walking to the balcony and leaning on the railing. It was the former that made him unable to speak, she feared, that made him leave her. He was disgusted by her, a heavy, sour dread nagged in the pit of her stomach, would not want to touch someone so filthy. Nervously, she ran her fingers through her hair, attempting to steady herself in preparation for the inevitable. "Ah'll go then."
Remy shook his head, the bar flared into incandescence under his hands.
"S'il te plait . . . . " lapsing into Cajun in the distress telegraphed so clearly by the roughness of his normally silken accent, "Reste-y , cherie, though I won' blame ya if ya decide t'leave. What was done t'ya was . . . . Dieu de dieu de dieu de . . . ."
He was crying, she thought with something akin to tenderness and consternation. He never cried, had told that tears accomplished nothing and that it was better to act to solve the pain or problem. Even she had not done so when telling him of what had happened in Caldecott, although she had come close to it. Her sorrow went beyond tears. She needed to comfort him and, by doing so, comfort herself. Moving closer to him, she slipped her arms around his waist, holding him until the fear went and the silent child was able to laugh once more.
1) *I* call it Cottoneye Joe. I'm not sure what the real name is. It's delightfully repetitive whatever it is. The version I've heard which is more techno than zydeco goes: 'Where do you come from? Where do you go? Where do you come from, Cottoneye Joe?' with guitar riffs in between ad nauseum.