Always in Mah Mind

Part 2 - Beauty and the Thief

The next morning, Gambit threw on a t-shirt and jeans as soon as he woke up. He slept well and had constructed a plan in the meantime. He knew exactly what he had to be said and done to right his wrongs. But when he knocked on Rogue's door, there was no answer. He took a quick peek to make sure that she wasn't sleeping (or trying to avoid him). Once he was satisfied that she wasn't there, he began a mansion-wide search for her, one that ended where it should have begun.

He found Logan at the front door, fixing the mess that had been left behind...or more accurately, taking a break from fixing it. "Did it ever occur to you that you should help fix things you had a hand in breaking?" he asked as a means of hello.

"When I blow somet'in' up, I'll be de first in line wit' a hammer...but dis was not my doin'."

"Point taken."

"You seen Rogue dis mornin'? I've looked everywhere for her."

"She's out buyin' a few things for the door. Some parts were destroyed and others went AWOL," he explained. "So what happened last night? She's awful quiet this mornin'...didn't you two have a heart-to-heart last night?"

"Not quite." He was disappointed that she wasn't around, he wanted to get some things off his chest. Then again, her absence gave him another idea. "But I make it up to her tonight." He turned around and went back up the stairs, pausing at the top. "Wolverine...I may need your help on dis one. You in?"

Logan knew Gambit loved Rogue, and couldn't figure out why the lady's man had so much trouble expressing himself to this particular lady. He also knew how rare and precious true love could be...he didn't want them to screw this up. "Sure, LeBeau, you need all the help you can get."

Forty-five minutes later, Rogue arrived with a bag full of goodies. "Sorry, ah had to run all over the place searchin' for all these parts."

"That's because this ain't no ordinary door you had to go rip off its hinges."

"So what's next, boss?" she asked, kneeling beside him on the floor. He was surprised to find her already awake and trying to repair the door own her own when he came downstairs. Even though he told her it wasn't necessary, she insisted on helping him fix the part of the security system she had demolished along with the door.

"Gambit was down here lookin' for you a little while ago."

"An' was he...happy? Or sad?" she asked nervously. Since their brief encounter last night, she had been secretly worrying that he might want to give up on them.

"He was in a good mood," Logan assured her.

"Good. Now what's next?"

"I can finish up here, why don't you..."

"Ah made the mess, least ah could do is help clean it up," she said unfalteringly. She may have been relieved that Gambit wasn't mad at her, but it would keep. Right now she had an obligation to fulfill.

Rogue worked with Logan for another hour before he dismissed her. Things weren't exactly back to normal, but he persuaded her that he had to do the rest of the work on his own. Once she was convinced that her usefulness had run out, it was her turn to search the grounds for Gambit. She needed look no further than his room, where an envelope bearing her name was taped to his door. She ripped it open and unfolded the note card within. Written in eloquent calligraphy was:

Remy LeBeau
Cordially invites you
To a night of romance
And intrigue
Tonight
7pm

She could hardly believe it. For a brief moment she wondered what kind of trick he had up his sleeve, but dismissed the thought as quickly as it popped in her head. He may be a scoundrel, but Remy was always serious when it came to romance.

Returning to her room and rummaging through her things, Rogue realized that Gambit had seen it all before. Not only that, but there was nothing worthy of "a night of romance and intrigue." She'd have to do some shopping.

~

Jean Grey sat in her bed reading a book. It was getting late, but she didn't feel like getting up just yet. Besides, Scott looked so cute sleeping next to her with his mouth open. She cherished days like this, when she could relax and spend some time with her husband and friends, there had been so few of them in her life. She was glad the professor had insisted on this break for a select few of his X-Men. Although he insisted that this was a reward for those individuals who had worked the hardest and been most loyal, she felt that the choices he made were based on who needed a break. Some of them were so dedicated - and stubborn - that they won't rest unless an executive order is issued. So that's exactly what Xavier did. And as one of those dedicated, stubborn people, Jean was grateful. It was also nice to see old friends, as a number of them left the mansion a while back to pursue missions in remote locations. Meanwhile, the professor had left shortly before the others had arrived, and she didn't expect him back until long after they were gone. She had grown increasingly worried about him these past few months. He had been showing signs of strain and, though she was reluctant to admit it even to herself, mental instability.

Her thoughts were interrupted by a knock at the door. Rather than waking Scott up, she jumped into the mind on the other side of the door, just enough so they could have a conversation. "Yes?"

"Oh...hi Jean. Ah hope ah didn't wake you."

"Not at all. But Scott's still asleep, so I though I'd keep this as quiet as possible. What can I do for you?"

Rogue hesitated. "Ah don't know if you already have plans, but ah was wondering if maybe you'd like to go shopping."

Jean was mildly surprised...it had been a long time since Rogue wanted to spend any time with her. Then again, when had any of them had the time lately..."Absolutely. Just you and me?"

"Well, ah was thinkin' of invitin' Storm..."

"Sounds good to me. Are we looking for anything in particular?"

She hesitated again. "A dress."

Now Jean's interest was piqued. "For...?"

"Ah'm not quite sure, but Remy has somethin' planned for tonight and..."

"Enough said. You go find Ororo, and I'll get dressed."

Twenty minutes later Jubilation Lee's concentration was broken by the three women's voices coming down the hall. She had once been a member of the X-Men, until the prof had moved her to the younger group of mutants called Generation-X. But for some unknown reason, she had been instructed to return to the mansion for a brief vacation. She didn't get it, but she wasn't going to argue with a vacation. Once again she was the only kid surrounded by a group of adults. It wasn't so bad, though. They were all going out of their way to make her feel welcome...Wolverine promised to hang out with her tonight, and Beast told her that he was cooking up something fun to do too. Considering that most of them had arrived just yesterday, she thought she was doing pretty good as far as her social calendar went.

Right now she was reading a romance novel one of her friends had lent her. Though she had initially scoffed at the idea, she was immediately sucked into the world of melodramatic women in negligées and men with long, sandy-blonde hair and rippling muscles. But the buxom heroine, Bunny St. Clare, could not hold Jubilee's attention when real life drama was making its way towards her room.

"Well it's about time," one voice said.

"I've been hoping he'd do something like this," another jumped in. "I know he has it in him...I don't know why he's waited so long."

"Maybe it's because he's serious about her," the first voice teased.

"Ah don't know why ah asked y'all to come along," a third, distinctly southern voice said. "You're gonna do this all day, ain't ya?"

"Go where?" Jubilee asked, poking her head out the door.

"Rogue's got a big date tonight," Storm smirked. "And she's asked us to be her fashion consultants."

"With Gambit?" she asked excitedly. As long as Jubilee had been a part of the X-Men she'd been watching Gambit chase Rogue...and Rogue chase Gambit. She even followed them on what was supposed to be their first date. But it seemed like every time they were about to get close, one of them pushed the other away. Or some major catastrophe would occur just when things were getting good. Of course, Jubilee had also enjoyed the playful banter they frequently exchanged whenever they were together, whether they were in the height of battle or just hanging out. But she secretly wondered if they were ever going to really get together.

"Who else?" Jean said.

"It's not a big deal," Rogue insisted.

"Then why do you need us to help us shop?" Jean asked.

"Shopping? Can I come?"

Jubilee watched the three women exchange glances, and decided that she needed to come up with a reason why they should let her tag along, and fast.

"So...you lookin' for a dress?" Rogue nodded, and Jubilee continued. "Well, I could help you pick it out...let's see, something pretty, somethin' feminine, somethin' we don't usually see you in..."

Rather than being annoyed, Rogue was amused by the girl's words. "Oh, somethin' pretty, huh? That'd be a change."

"Oh...no, that's not what I meant. I mean, you always look amazing, but you're always wearin' these sleek, sexy outfits...if you want somethin' different, maybe you should go for somethin' softer...with ruffles."

The three looked at her without speaking.

"Well...maybe not ruffles. Maybe somethin' puffy...or with lace."

"Girl, Ah could use that kind a radical thinkin'. You're in."

"Yes!" Jubilee shouted. "Girl's day out."

It was a long time since these women had a day like this - a normal day full of trying on clothes and gossiping about men - and though no one said so out loud, deep down they knew that this might be one of the only "normal" days they'd have for a long time to come.

~

The music was so loud that it practically shook the room. Rogue wasn't sure if she was trying to forget her nervousness or drown out the voices, but either way it was working. She still wasn't sure if she liked the dress...it was very different than the type of thing she usually wore. But that was the point, wasn't it? She had tried on lace and ruffles and frills and flowers...it was exhausting to think about the number of stores they went to and the piles of dresses she had tried on. It had literally taken hours to find the one she was now slipping into.

It was green...she loved the color green, and bought clothes in as many shades as she could find. Green was so often a part of her life that she almost hadn't given the dress a second look, with her trying to go for something different and all. But her shopping companions informed her that green was definitely her color, and convinced here that there was no harm in just trying it on. When she came out of the dressing room, all three women agreed that this was the one. Ironically, it came with matching elbow length gloves.

She was wondering how she was going to zip her dress up when she heard a loud pounding sound. She turned off the music and reached for the Austrian crystal earrings and necklace she'd borrowed from Jean. "Ah'm not quite ready...ah need a few more minutes."

"Well, are you decent?" the gravely voice called through the door. "Can I come in?"

"Sure, Logan, I thought you were Remy." She heard the door open and close behind her. Once she had secured her jewelry, she backed up towards him. "Do me a favor and zip me up?"

She lifted her left arm so he could reach the zipper that lay in a place too awkward for her to reach, below the back of her left armpit. Once he did as she'd asked, she had another request. "An' can you tie me up too, sugah?" The dress laced up from her waist to just about the bottom of her shoulder blades, and though the ties were in place, they needed to be tightened and tied.

Logan readily did as he was told. "How's that?"

"Ah'd like to be able to breathe," she gasped. He hastily loosened the ties. "Right there, stop," she instructed. "That's perfect." She turned around to face him. "Well?"

While the back was somewhat elaborate, the front was plain, fitted to the waist where it puffed out to the floor...altogether an alluring dress. The material looked like it was made of emeralds ground into a fine powder scattered onto fabric. It sparkled with every move she made, even ones as subtle as taking a breath.

"You look stunning, Rogue."

She grabbed the gloves from the dresser and put them on one at a time. Although they were the same shade of green as the dress, they were not made out of the same material...a touch Rogue appreciated. Too much glitter would ruin the look.

It was only after her outfit was complete that she realized she wasn't the only one all dressed up. Logan was in a tux. "I'm your escort," he explained, picking up a small box he had placed on her bed. "And these are for you." He took the corsage of miniature white roses out and put it on your wrist. "From you know who."

"He spared no expense, did he?" she asked, fingering the flowers.

"You have no idea..." Logan began, but refused to elaborate. He offered his arm and led her downstairs, where she was surprised to find everyone in the house, minus Gambit and Jean, waiting for her.

"Y'all come to gawk, or do ya just wanna wish me luck?"

"A little bit of both," Beast admitted. "You look lovely, my dear. Knock him dead."

"Don't give her any ideas," Scott warned with a smirk. "She might do just that...sorry, I couldn't resist. You look great, though. Jean was right."

"Where is Jean?" Rogue asked. "She have better things to do than see a girl off?"

"You're not goin' on a cruise for a month, you're goin' out for the night," Jubilee piped in. "And anyway, she went to get her camera."

"That's not all I got," Jean said, coming down the stairs. "You still need something, a finishing touch. And this is it." She handed Rogue a box. Rogue pulled out a crystal tiara and eyed it skeptically. "Ah've been many things in mah life, but a princess is one thing ah ain't." Nonetheless, she allowed Jean to fix it securely on her head.

"Rogue, when you are going to meet with the self-proclaimed prince of thieves, is there a better way than as a princess?" Ororo asked.

"Ah guess not..." she said reluctantly. "As long as ah don't look like a fool."

"You look perfect," Jean assured her. "Now smile."

As Rogue and Logan posed for the picture, she couldn't help feeling like she was a teenager on the way to the prom...not that she had any idea what that felt like. She didn't go to hers.

"Now I have to blindfold you," Logan told her as he started to put a handkerchief around her head.

But Rogue wasn't having it. She grabbed the piece of cloth from his hands. "You have to do what now?"

"Gambit asked me to blindfold you."

"Why?"

"He wants to see the look on your face when you see what he's done."

"Like hell. Why does he get to see the look on mah face...what about me? Ah won't do it." She crossed her arms in front of her chest and plastered her feet to the floor. "One of y'all is goin' to wherever that man is an' tell him so."

Logan threw Jean a look, and she got the message loud and clear. "Calm down and give me a second." She closed her eyes and had her own private conversation with Gambit. After a couple of minutes she opened them back up. "Ok, I think we've come up with a solution. Rogue, you agree to be blindfolded, and Gambit agrees to close his eyes until Logan gives him the word. Sound fair?"

Rogue considered the proposition, but only for a moment. "Ah still won't be blindfolded, it'll mess up mah makeup. But ah'll keep mah eyes shut if he does. Ah want him to promise that he'll wait 'til Logan tells him to open them."

"Done," Jean said after a few seconds. "I told him exactly what you said, and he swore he'd abide by your terms."

Rogue took Logan's arm and closed her eyes. "Let's go, then. Bye y'all, don't wait up."

~

Although she found the anticipation delicious, Rogue was rapidly getting bored. "If ah had known we were goin' hiking, ah would've worn boots...or shoes at the very least."

Logan stopped. "You're not wearing shoes?"

Keeping her eyes shut, she picked up her dress and stuck out her foot. "Couldn't find anythin' ah liked, an' you can't tell in this getup, so ah thought, what the hell." She dropped the fabric and they continued walking. "Besides, ain't nothin' out here that's gonna hurt me...but lack a' good traction is startin' to get on my nerves."

"Almost there," Logan said as they moved forward. "You gonna curb your famous temper and play nice tonight?"

"Mah famous temper? Isn't that a bit a' the pot callin' the kettle black?" She smiled despite herself. "But ah promise that ah won't start anythin' if he doesn't."

"That's my girl." He stopped walking again. "OK, we're here. You ready?"

"He's not lookin' at me, is he?" she whispered.

"Don' trust me, chere? My word is my bond."

"Interesting thing for a thief to say," she shot back.

"Kids, do I have to end this already or are you two goin' to stop actin' like a couple of kanuckleheads?" Logan asked, a little annoyed.

"I'll be on my best behavior from now on," Gambit said. "A perfect gentleman."

"Ah respond to the manners of whoever ah'm with, so if he sticks to the plan, so will ah."

"Then I wash my hands of this, you two are on your own." Logan started to walk back to the mansion, stopping only when he was out of sight to say, "Open your eyes."

There was so much for Rogue to take in that she didn't know where to begin. She recognized the garden as one of the many on the estate, but it looked so different now, illuminated by the silver light of the moon. The edge of the clearing in which they stood was littered with candles flickering in white bags. To her left was a table, two chairs, and two elaborate place settings, complete with two long white candlesticks in silver holders on each side. Just past the table was a string quartet that had begun playing as soon as she caught sight of her surprise.

And right in front of her stood the man of her dreams, looking like he had stepped out of some fairy tale and into her life. His hair was neatly combed, though not tied back, his face was clean shaven, and his tuxedo was a perfect fit.

Gambit had watched her look around in awe, and knew he would never forget the look of delight on her face. Meanwhile, he was equally surprised and pleased with her appearance. He had never seen her look so beautiful. It was more than the dress though...it was the glow coming from the girl inside the dress that shimmered in the moonlight.

"Ma cherie, you are a vision," he finally said, kissing her gloved hand.

"Remy, this is so...sweet. Ah'm speechless."

"Den let's not talk...dinner won't be out for a while yet. Allons dance."

He lead her away from the table and into the center of the clearing before placing one hand on her waist and taking her hand in his other. They glided around their dance floor, unable to take their eyes off each other. It took all the strength Remy possessed to not seize the opportunity and give the woman in his arms a kiss. But some things were just not meant to be, so he pushed such thoughts out of his head. For now, he'd have to be content with this. This was as close as they could get. And for a short while, nothing else existed but them.

Beast was reluctant to interrupt, but he had put a lot of effort into cooking their meal, and he didn't want it getting cold. "Dinner is served," he announced, startling the young lovers. Gambit lead Rogue back to the table once they collected their wits, and pulled out the chair for her before taking is own seat.

"Champagne?" Beast offered, popping the cork and pouring it. He served them as quickly as possible and got out of there. He hadn't gone too far when he noticed a flash of bright yellow out of the corner of his eye. When he climbed up a tree to investigate, he found Jubilee sitting on a branch munching on popcorn.

"Uh...want some?" she asked, holding out the bag.

"Jubilee," he scolded quietly, "you shouldn't be spying like this."

"But this is so much better than anything on TV," she protested. "Besides, someone needs to keep an eye on Gambit to make sure he treats her right."

"That's why I'm here half-pint," a gruff voice said above her. Beast and Jubilee looked up to see Wolverine, tux and all, crouching on his own branch a few feet above theirs.

"I don't like this," Beast said, settling down next to Jubilee. "They deserve their privacy."

"Come on, Beast, they can't exactly do anything."

"Intimacy is not solely physical, Jubilee...it has many different forms. And with one form all but impossible for Rogue to explore, she must find other ways to express it, as must Gambit. I hesitate to intrude on whatever means these two are able to articulate their feelings for each other. This is hard on both of them."

"I don't like it much either, blue," Logan admitted, "but I have my own reasons for acting as chaperone. You'll just have to trust me on this one. When it looks like things are getting...intimate, and I'm satisfied that everything's all clear, I'm leavin'."

"At that point we'll all leave," Beast agreed, giving the girl next to him a look she knew all too well.

"Fine," she said grumpily, "but I'm not sharing my popcorn with you."

Down below, the dinner conversation was little more than meaningless chatter. Gambit, the expert wordsmith and charmer, took the reigns, and Rogue gratefully went with the flow. There was so much that she wanted to tell him, and words were an inadequate means to do so. But words were all she had.

As he poured them the last of the champagne, she finally began to relax a little. "Tryin' to get me drunk so you can take advantage of me?"

"Didn' t'ink dat was possible...though dat don' mean I won't try."

"Ah could kick your ass even if ah was drunk as a skunk."

"Care to put a wager on dat chere?" he asked, producing a new bottle of the bubbly.

"Good Lord, you are tryin' to get me drunk!" she laughed. "Have you been smokin' somethin' other then cigarettes, or are you just plain crazy?"

"Crazy like a fox," he grinned.

"Crazy as a loon," she retorted.

"Crazy for you...don' you know dat yet?"

She looked down at her hands. "Of course ah know." She paused and looked back at him. "Gambit..."

"Not yet, chere. De music's still playin'. Let's go for another spin 'round de floor." The both got up and began to dance. "Dese guys won' be here much longer...dey have other places to go tonight. Do you know how hard it is to get live music last minute?" he grinned again before getting serious. "I have some t'ings to say too, but dey're not meant for other's ears. So we wait 'til we're alone, ok?"

~

A short time later, they were alone. The musicians had just left, and, unbeknownst to the couple, Wolverine, Beast, and a very reluctant Jubilee were making their way back to the mansion.

"I've been t'inkin'," Gambit began as they both sat down, "Maybe I need to explain some t'ings so you can understand where I'm comin' from." He hesitated before continuing. "See, me an' Belle..."

"Remy, you don't have to..."

"Hush, chere, ain't your turn yet. Me an' Belle, we met we were jus' pups. She was in trouble, and, for the first time in my life, I decided to play hero..."

"You never met a woman who wasn't worth savin', have you? You know, not all of us need protection."

"A lesson I learned that very day...but stop interruptin'."

"Sorry."

"Anyway, we became friends, an' as we grew, so did our feelin's...you know de rest, my father arranged our marriage in an attempt to bring peace to de t'ieves an' assassins.

"But dat ain't de point...it was all a lie. I didn' happen to come across Belle, dat day, I was set up. How could a young, good-for-not'in' t'ief resist de charms of a little blonde angel? 'Specially one as tough as Bella Donna. Not many girls would attack their savior, neh?

"At de time, didn' t'ink much of it. Only now can I see how it was planned. De king of de t'ieves guild arranged to have his adopted son's heart stolen. An' it worked like a charm. But it wasn't natural.

"Sometimes I wonder what kind a' life we coulda had...an' I don' know if we would've lasted. Don' get me wrong, part of me still loves Belle, an' part of me always will, but it was all too easy. De kind of girl I'm likely to fall for jus' happens to fall into my lap, an' she jus' happens to be the daughter of the head of de assassins guild. An' because we met early enough, even fallin' in love was easy...it required little effort on either of our parts.

"What I've learned is dat easy doesn't necessarily mean good. I know you hate when I say dis, but lovin' you is a challenge. It ain't somethin' that is, it's somethin' that needs constant attention. I have to work hard for it...an' we both know dat you gotta work for all de really good t'ings in life."

He paused a moment to search her face for some kind of response, but he couldn't tell how she was taking all he had said. Since she wasn't jumping over the table to take a swing at him, he figured that things were going his way.

"Courtin' you is harder den you t'ink it is, chere. At least for me. I don' t'ink you realize how much I hold back...I go against my very nature for you. I don' try to charm you...well, maybe sometimes, a little...but usually in jest. An' it's hard to keep myself from stealin' your heart, but I won't." He shook his head. "De heart ain't for stealin', it should be earned."

Across the table, Rogue stared at him in disbelief. She never heard him talk like this before. The chances of Gambit being serious were less than the chances of her winning the lottery...and she didn't buy lottery tickets. "Wow, Remy, that was deep."

"An' here you t'ought I was jus' anot'er pretty face."

"But you're leavin' out a very important piece of information. It's all nice and good that you can hold back your charm, and that there are some things that even you won't steal, but ah can't make the same claims..."

Gambit leaned forward and took one of her hands in both of his. "We're both t'ieves. Me by trade, you by birth...if anyone's goin' to understand, it's me. So what if you can't control your power? You control who you use it on, you take responsibility for it, no one could ask for anythin' more. An' with a few exceptions, what you take is recovered - powers and memories return in time. As for de exceptions...dey were mistakes, no more your fault den it was Jean's when Phoenix went on a killin' spree."

Rogue took her hand back and crossed her arms. "Deep down ah know that...but it changes nothing. Do you have any idea what it's like to deprived of such a basic human instinct. To look and not touch? Sometimes the urge consumes me..to touch anyone, just to feel the warmth of a living, breathing being against mah skin." She closed her eyes. "But the price to be paid is too high." She opened here eyes and glared at him. "An' you don't exactly help matters."

"What'd I do?"

"'C'mon, chere, on little kiss, dat so much to ask? Maybe it's worth it, neh?'" she imitated.

"Most of de time, I'm jus' kiddin," he protested.

"Gambit, when ah have dozens of voices in mah head telling me to do it, an' you pressuring me to do it, it takes all my strength to find mah voice in the crowd tellin' me not to. Ah don't want to hurt you...last time we kissed, you were in a coma for three weeks. Next time could be much worse."

"Yeah, but dat was some kiss..." he said with a smile. "Definitely worth de three weeks I lost." She started to yell at him, but he held up his hands in defense. "Seriously, I'm not makin' a joke here. It was all worth it. No regrets."

"You're missing the point..."

"I got de point. No more teasin'."

"No," she sighed. "Ah don't want that. Ah like your teasin' me...it's part of what we are. As nice as all this is," she continued, gesturing to the candles and the table, "it's not us. Our relationship is built upon the foundation of wise-ass remarks."

"Dat's all? We're more den dat. We may not be all candlelight dinners an' fancy clothes, but we're not jus' a couple of kid's exchangin' barbs neither. Maybe I'm not prince charming, but dat don' mean I can't be romantic, an' maybe you're not the typical princess, but dat don' mean you ain't one classy lady. Dis ain't a change, chere, it's a step forward...it's about time I get serious about you."

"In all mah life, ah'd never have guessed you could be so serious about anythin'. The only time we ever talk like this either the world is endin' or one of us thinks we're dyin'."

"Maybe it's time to change dat."

She eyed him suspiciously. "You're not exactly a one woman man."

"You know I have been since I met you."

"Or the settlin' down type."

"We ain't buyin' a house an' startin' a family...not yet anyway. We're jus' makin' what everybody already knows official."

"We still can't..."

"I know. An' you're right relationships like ours have a physical aspect to dem. It's not easy not to have that, 'specially with you lookin' like you do. But you've still managed to reach some place most people haven't." He tapped his chest. "You've touched here, an' that's most important. De rest we'll jus' have to play by ear."

~

She inspected the front door before opening it and stepping outside. "Nice job," she commented, retying her silk robe before sitting next to Logan on the front steps.

"Thanks," he replied after taking a few good puffs from his cigar.

"They're not back yet?"

"Nope."

"And you're sitting out here waiting for them?" she smiled.

"I'm just havin' a smoke and enjoyin' the night."

This time she made it a statement. "You're waiting for them."

"More like protectin' the door from further damage."

She tucked a strand of red hair behind her ear. "Why? I hear everything was going fine...according to Jubilee it was quite romantic."

"Yeah," he said quietly. Logan wished he could do something like that for her, but like Rogue, Jean's heart was spoken for.

Not that Jean wasn't attracted to him, he had a dangerous air about him that she found hard to resist, but as much as she cared about him, she was married to Scott. "It's such a nice night...perfect for them, really. I'm glad they had a chance to spend some time alone together." Logan said nothing, so she kept going. "A candlelight dinner, music, dancing..." She got up and danced a little by herself on the driveway. "The kind of thing that marks the beginning of a relationship."

Logan put out the remains of his cigar and stood. "You wanna dance? Then let's dance."

She reluctantly allowed herself to be twirled around the driveway. "Just for a minute." She didn't want Scott to see this, she was sure he wouldn't like it. But Logan kept her in his arms for over 5 minutes, and she couldn't help but enjoy it.

It was rare he and Jean had opportunities like this, but Logan was careful not to overstep his bounds. He realized, as he finished their dance with a series of dips, that this is what it must be like for Gambit or Rogue...to want someone so bad and not be able to act on your feelings. They were all trapped by the cruel twists life had thrown at them. He wouldn't wish this on anyone.

"That was fun," she laughed as he brought her up form her final dip. "For a tough guy you're pretty smooth."

He didn't want to, but he let her go. "I'm full of surprises."

Just then, Scott's head poked out the door. It wasn't unusual for Jean to go missing at bedtime, she was more of a night owl than he was, but he liked to at least know where she was. He wasn't entirely pleased that she was out here with Logan, knowing full well of their attraction to each other, but he tried to keep his personal feelings out of it. He had no right to tell her who her friends could be. "You coming to bed?"

"I'll be right there," she replied, silently thanking God that Scott hadn't caught them dancing. Not that she felt she had done anything wrong, but she knew how Scott felt about her and Logan.

"No rush...I was just wondering. G'night, Logan."

"'Night," Logan said. He couldn't tell if Scott was giving him a dirty look from behind his ruby lenses or not, but the guy seemed pretty calm, so he figured he and Jean were in the clear.

Scott left and Jean began to follow him. "Thanks for the dance," she said as she walked past him.

She was almost to the door when he called after her. "Hey, Red."

"What?"

He stopped to consider if he should say anything, and decided that it would probably be a good idea. "Has Rogue said anything to you?"

"About...?"

"Last night she told me that the personalities she's absorbed through the years have been making a fuss."

Now he had her complete attention. "Oh? How so?"

"I'm not exactly sure," he confessed. "I think what she was trying to say is that she's in a constant battle with other personalties for control. Apparently this used to happen once in a while, but now it occurs on a daily basis."

"Interesting," she said thoughtfully. "I'll look into it."

"Thanks."

~

"Ah guess this is goodnight."

"De night's not over yet, chere. Why don' you change out of dose clothes an' come to my room?"

Twenty minutes later, after she had carefully hung up her dress, removed her jewelry, washed off her makeup, and opened the mysterious box on her bed, she stood in Gambit's doorway. She was wearing most of what she had found in the box - a white tank top, white pajama bottoms with drawings of playing cards scattered all over them and a soft hooded red top tied around her waist.

"Ah know what these are," she said, holding up a pair of long, red gloves, "but ah'll be damned if ah know what these are."

"Don' you have imagination? Dose're socks."

She examined the fuzzy pair of things in her right hand. "Socks...with spaces for each toe? That's just plain weird."

"I t'ought dey would look cute on your pretty little feet."

She sat on his bed and put the socks on. They did look cute on her feet. She turned to face him, lying on his back in an old t-shirt and boxers. "Ok, ah'm here, what's next."

"Stay with me," he said softly, averting his eyes.

"Excuse me?"

"Stay the night, Rogue."

She sprang off the bed. "Are you learning impaired? Ah can't stay here!"

Gambit sat up. "Dese excuses will only work for so long...you can't hide behind your powers forever. I went out and put together pajamas dat cover every inch of your skin. If not now, when?"

"What if the sleeve goes up my arm a little, or a pant leg...what then? Ah don't have to be awake to absorb you, an' if ah did touch you in mah sleep, ah'm not sure it would be enough to wake me up so ah could stop."

Gambit shook his head...his patience was finally wearing thin. "Dat's why de gloves go all de way to your elbows and de socks go up to your knees, dere's enough overlap to prevent contact." He paused and took a deep breath. "Look, you don' want to try an' make dis work, fine, but you have to tell me now, 'cause it ain't fair to play with my affections."

Rogue turned away and said nothing. Gambit wondered if he was pushing her too far too fast, and hoped that his word weren't too harsh. He slipped on his gloves, got up, and put his hands on her upper arms. "I know you're scared...but I don' t'ink dis is about us. C'mon, talk to me."

"Mah head," she complained, touching her temple, "it's so crowded lately. Ah can't hear mahself think anymore. Ah'm afraid that ah'm not strong enough to stop them...that one or more of them will take over, and they won't be the friendly ones." She turned around to face him. "Ah don't trust mahself. Neither should you."

"But I do, chere."

She sat back down on his bed and he followed her lead. "Promise me somethin'."

"Anyt'in'."

"If they do take control, you have to stop 'em. Of all the X-Men, you know me best...an' you got great instincts. Even if no one else can tell, you'll know. You have to stop them before they hurt someone."

That was a big responsibility for him to take on, and a duty he wouldn't want to perform. Then again, he was the one telling her he wanted a serious relationship. "But dat might mean..."

"Ah know what it might mean, and ah'm willing t' let you be the judge. Do whatever it takes." Her voice was resolute. She took his hand in her own. "Ah know it's a lot to ask...ah didn't want it to come to this, but every day the personalities are a little stronger. Ah want to be sure that no mater what happens, someone will be willing to do what needs to be done. Ah trust you, Remy, so much that ah'm putting mah life in your hands. Now promise me."

He swallowed. "I promise."

"No matter what might happen, ah'll stand behind whatever decisions you make. Ah want you to know that."

"I'll fight for you."

"We'll fight together...but if the battle's lost, you know what to do."

He reached up with his free hand and stroked her cheek. "Stay with me tonight. You won't hurt me."

In that moment, their thoughts were the same, and each saw it in the other's eyes. If things were as bad as she feared, they may only have tonight.

She put on the gloves and top, placing the hood over her head and climbed into the bed. Gambit pulled her close and she put her head on his chest. She fell asleep to his rhythmic breathing, but he lay awake for a long time, afraid for their future.

~

Gambit awoke to voices. Instead of jumping up and confronting the intruders, he feigned sleep and tried to assess the situation. It didn't take long for him to figure out that Rogue was talking in her sleep. He opened his eyes and rolled over. The voice was hers and it wasn't...the accents and intonation jumped all over the place in a fierce argument. He couldn't make out what she - or they - were saying, but he thought that he could distinguish several of the voices, including Cyclops, Mystique, Beast, and maybe even himself.

"Rogue," he said, shaking her. "Rogue, wake up."

"What? She asked, bolting upright.

"Shhh...you were ..." he hesitated. "You were having a bad dream. Go back to sleep."

"Ok."

Several hours later when the sun was already up, Gambit was the first to wake up. He was content to lie there and watch Rogue sleep, though it wasn't long before her eyelashes began to flutter.

"Hi," she said softly.

"Mornin' Roguie. Sleep well?"

She crawled over and put her head back on his chest, draping her arm across his abdomen. "Great. Ah feel great. And you?"

He ran his still gloved hand through her hair. "Jus' fine," he lied. If she didn't remember the night before, maybe it would be better to keep it that way. "See, I told you nothin' bad would happen."

A knock at the door prevented her from commenting on his observation. "Room service?" she asked.

"Not unless your ordered it," he responded. "Come in."

The girl started talking before the door was open. "You said you'd teach me a couple of tricks and I thought..." her voice trailed off when she saw the couple. "Oh my God, I'm so sorry." She immediately averted her eyes and began to leave. "I'll come back later..."

Rogue sat up and shook the hood off her head. "Jubilee, if we didn't want you to come in, we wouldn't have told you to. Ah was just leavin' anyway. Can't spend all day lyin' around doin' nothin'."

She got up and made her way to the door. "Ah'll see you two later."

"Hey, Rogue, maybe we make a habit of dis..." Gambit called after her.

"Maybe."

 

Part 3