So Impossible

Part 10 - Disease

Gambit had once told Rogue that the other women in his life hadn't meant much to him, and that was true...to a point. There was one relationship that had begun as something strictly physical, but grew into something more. Shortly before he left New Orleans to make it on his own, Remy foolishly dove head first into the seduction to end all seductions...a final fling in a familiar setting. He took it upon himself to approach the only daughter of his father's worst enemy and woo her.

Bella Donna Boudreaux was two years younger than he, but already an expert assassin. She was also beautiful - with long blonde hair, blue eyes, and a figure many girls would be willing to starve themselves for. They were no strangers; they'd actually been friends as children, but drifted apart as they got older. As a teen, Belle had many suitors, and Gambit had a long list of girls he wanted to "get to know better," so their paths didn't frequently cross...but as he made plans to leave his father, the Thieves Guild, and New Orleans, Gambit discovered that he didn't want to go out with a whisper. He wanted to leave on a high note, with a major explosion, with a prize...and thus his eye happened on Belle, who was walking past Jean Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop just as he was trying to figure out what to do.

He called to her from his table, and invited her in for a drink. She accepted, and though she was grossly underage, her physical appearance - her face, her clothes, the way she carried herself - often made her seem older than she was. Gambit bought her a voodoo daiquiri, and started to make small talk. In the course of the conversation, he learned that she had just broken up with her latest boyfriend, and was looking for someone to fill his shoes. Her hint did not go unnoticed, though he waited a few weeks before asking her on a date.

Aside from the undeniable attraction they felt for one another, both yearned for a way to rebel against their parents, and were excited at the prospect of tasting forbidden fruit. What happened between them wasn't meant to be anything more than a fling; it was solely an outlet for their frustrations and passions. Remy knew it wasn't a seduction in the truest sense, but Belle was more than happy to play the role of the pure, innocent schoolgirl opposite his smooth-talking charmer, and the fact that she was a willing participant somehow made it even more stimulating. In the process of what was supposed to be a game, the two players began to care for each other.

While neither Gambit's nor Belle's fathers were initially pleased with the idea that their children were a couple, this union sparked an idea in both guild masters' minds. The possibility of an interguild marriage, and a joining of the two guilds, brought Jean-Luc LeBeau and Marius Boudreaux to the bargaining table. The feud between the Thieves and Rippers had been long and drawn out...both sides grew weary of the war. If they merged, the guilds would become much more powerful, their reaches would far exceed what they were now. And so, without the knowledge or consent of either child, a marriage between a thief and a ripper was arranged.

When Remy learned of the plan, he was furious. It was bad enough that Jean-Luc often used him for his powers in the past...but to thrust this responsibility on him, to use him to mend a wound he himself had played no part in creating, to dictate his future to him...it was too much. It was the final straw. He would no longer be his father's puppet. That night, when he met Belle, he told her everything. She was heartbroken...as daddy's little princess, she had never before experienced the sour taste of manipulation...or, at least, had never been aware of it.

Once she was sufficiently consoled, he announced that he was leaving...possibly forever. He didn't ask her to come with him, and she made no indication that she wanted to. So he packed a few things, said good-bye to Belle, and drove off in search of a life of his own.

And now, years later, he returned to the Big Easy hoping that his childhood home would soothe his nerves and help him forget what he'd left behind. He didn't announce his arrival to kith and kin...there was no point. They'd find out soon enough, and until then, he'd rather be alone with his heartache. After hiding his possessions in an old, abandoned building that once served as a hideout for the Thieves Guild, he wandered down Bourbon Street in search of a drink. The rowdy, drunken tourists, who had been a source of much amusement in the past disgusted him. Still, he stopped in several different bars along the street, waiting for the alcohol to kick in so he could laugh at the fools around him. But each drink only served to increase his revulsion towards them.

Gambit abandoned one plan for another, and headed for a dark, quiet place where no one would bother him. Alone with his misery, he sat at a corner table in Lafitte's tiny, two room bar and tried not to think. But the more he drank, the less able he was to ignore the thoughts of her that were threatening to completely overwhelm him.

He sighed into his beer in defeat, ready to succumb to the torments of his memory, when a group of women walked by. He didn't notice of them at first, but one of them stopped in her tracks and stared at him.

"Remy...?"

He looked up at the woman his little blonde angel had become. She hadn't changed much since she was 16, save the hardness in her eyes. She was as beautiful, as deadly, as tempting as she ever was. "Hello, Belle..."

~

"Ah'm gonna get goin'."

She had spoken these words before, and it had come to nothing. "See ya."

"Ah mean it."

Pyro turned around to face Rogue. "Tired of hangin'around with me?"

"It's time to take responsibility for mah actions...ah've been hidin' from them for too long. Ah gotta step up an' accept whatever consequences come with 'em."

He turned back to the large screen on the control panel. "Suit yourself."

Rogue was stunned. She didn't expect him to get all emotional on her, but she also didn't think he'd be so blasé about the whole thing. "Bye..."

She walked out of the room then, and was almost out the front door before he caught up to her. "Hey, wait a minute."

She turned around and waited for him to speak. "Y'know...it's been kinda nice havin' ya around...an' I thought I should maybe tell you somethin' before ya go..."

"A confession from the great John Allerdyce?" she asked in mock surprise.

"Yeah," he said sheepishly, rubbing the back of his neck with his hand. "With ya talkin' about takin' responsibility for your actions, I thought maybe I'd do that too."

"Ah already know what you're gonna say."

"No ya don't."

"You touched me in that warehouse, right before ah sliced Remy's arm."

"Crikey you're good," he sputtered, backing away a few steps. "Ya gonna do anythin' about it?"

"Ah've been thinkin' about it the past few days, an' the way ah see it, you didn't make me do anythin' ah wasn't already thinkin' about doin'. You didn't make this mess, ah did."

"I'm glad ya see it that way..."

"But," she continued, "you also didn't do much to help clean it up either."

"Yeah."

"Y'know, you might think about joinin' The Brotherhood now that you're without a team...they need all the help they can get."

"What about the X-Men, mate?"

Rogue couldn't resist the smile she felt spreading across the face. "You wanna join the X-Men?"

He grinned at her reaction. "Nah...they're a bit too high maitenence for me."

"An' not fun enough."

They stood there for a minute before Pyro spoke again. "Well...off with ya. I'm sure he's waitin'."

She nodded, then made her way to the door. "Thanks for lettin' me crash here..."

"That sheila's all right," he said to himself as he watched her walk away into the afternoon sun. "She doesn't have enough of a spark ta her for my tastes, but she's all right."

~

"Rise an' shine."

Gambit groaned and rolled over, pulling the blankets over his head. Last night had been a long one, and he wasn't looking forward to another one like it...though he knew tonight would be no different.

"C'mon, Gambit, get your lazy butt up."

For a moment his ears deceived him, and he practically jumped out of bed, but he sank back down when he saw a shapely blonde standing where an auburn haired beauty should have been. She glanced over her shoulder and smiled at him before heading to the bathroom. While she was gone, he took in his surroundings. Judging by the size of her bedroom, it was a modest apartment, but if it was in the Quarter, it probably cost her father a pretty penny.

When he saw his pants on the floor, he got up and put them on before sitting back down and replaying the previous evening's events. He had been pretty far gone when Belle had come across him, but that hadn't prevented him from having several more drinks, mostly shots, before she convinced him to go back to her place. He should've known what she had in mind, but a combination of alcohol and mourning blinded him to her intentions. Lucky for her, he had long ago reached a point where he convinced himself that he didn't care, so when she threw herself at him as soon as they reached her apartment, he had no qualms about taking her. She had once told him that he was the best lover she ever had, and now that he was conscious and sober, he wondered if that was still true.

"Who the hell cares?" he thought to himself angrily. The night had come to nothing. Deep down, he had secretly prayed the alcohol would induce visions of the one he loved, so he could pretend he was making love to her, and not the ripper before him...but either his conscience wouldn't allow him to do something that heinous to Belle, or he hadn't consumed enough hard liquor. Whatever the case, he had come to the apartment with nothing...and whether Belle's actions were inspired by sincere feelings, which he doubted, or the same lust that had begun their relationship years ago, he brought nothing to the bed they shared. And he realized that when you began with nothing, you made nothing...and you ended up feeling even worse.

Right now, Gambit felt sick to his stomach. He had gotten himself in deep. He was back for one night, and he somehow managed to not only betray his girlfriend, but thrust himself into the middle of the guilds he had spent so much time trying to separate from. This was one girl he couldn't just walk away from, no matter what his feelings may be. If he angered Belle, he angered her father, and whatever state the guilds were currently in, it would only get worse.

"Hey, chere, you look like your cat jus' died," Belle said cheerfully as she pranced into the room in a towel.

"Not feelin' too well this mornin'." At least he wasn't lying to her.

She walked up to him and kissed him on the forehead. "Mornin'? It's almost t'ree o'cock in de afternoon. Not used t'makin' de rounds on Bourbon Street anymore?"

"Somet'in' like that."

"Well, you jus' take a couple aspirin an' lay back down for a little while."

He didn't accept the pills, but he did lie down.

"D'ya mind if I put on some music real soft?" she asked quietly. "Or is your head...?"

"My head's fine," he interrupted, rolling over so he wouldn't have to face her. "Music won't bother me."

She switched on the radio, but kept the volume low despite his protests. He listened to her get dressed before walking back and forth between her room and the bathroom, probably doing her hair and makeup. When she was done, she stood over him for a minute, trying to determine if he was awake or not...but since he didn't stir, she scribbled a note on a piece of paper and left him to sleep it off.

But he was far from sleep...a fly who willingly flew into the spider's web, Gambit was trying to figure out a way to escape. He'd have to go to his father, as much as he loathed the idea. They may have been on better terms, but he knew that Jean-Luc never did anything for anyone without expecting something in return, and he didn't particularly want to be indebted to him. Still, he'd rather owe his father than have to mislead Belle, which was not only dishonest and ungentlemanly, but dangerous.

Sometime that night he'd have to track down Jean-Luc, which shouldn't prove difficult...Remy was sure members of the guild had already spotted him in town and informed their leader of his presence there. It had to be tonight, though. The longer this charade with Belle lasted, the worse it would be for everyone connected to it.

But did Belle really, truly believe it was love at first sight last night? She was playing the part of a woman whose long lost boyfriend finally returned home, welcoming him with open arms and an open heart...but Gambit knew her well enough to know that she was no fool. She knew that he helped his father escape from the Ripper's grasp last year, and that he did so with the help of a mutant girl...and there was no doubt in his mind that Julien told her about his failed assassination attempt, and the mutant girl who got mixed up in it. So it was possible that Belle was using her superior acting skills to suck him in just so she could get back at him...but it was also possible that she never stopped caring about him, and was genuinely glad to have him back. Could she be deluding herself that after all this time, he came back to the Quarter for her?

He had too many questions...to many doubts...he needed someone to talk things over with, an objective third party who could help him sort out his own thoughts and feelings. And that someone was not Jean-Luc. He knew who he needed to confide in, it was just a question of finding him...but like his father, this man shouldn't be difficult to locate.

Now that he had the framework of a plan, he relaxed and tried to let the music lull him to sleep. But every word of every song reminded him of her...and as he drifted off into an uneasy slumber, he caught a fragment of one final tune that spoke of the recent madness she had brought into his life...

"...Feels like you're making a mess.
You're hell on wheels in a black dress.
You drove me to the fire,
And left me there to burn.

"Every little thing you do is tragic,
All my life, oh was magic.
Beautiful girl,
I can't breathe.

"I got a disease
Deep inside me
Makes me feel uneasy, baby,
I can't live without you
Tell me what I am supposed to do about it?
Keep your distance from it,
Don't pay no attention to me,
I got a disease.

"I think that I'm sick
But leave me be while my world is coming down on me,
You taste like honey, honey,
Tell me can I be your honey?
Be, be strong,
Keep telling myself it that won't take long till
I'm free of my disease... ¹ "

~

"I'm lockin' up."

Rogue looked up at Jimmy with a start, almost spilling what was left of her coffee in the process. "What?"

"It's midnight, I'm closin'."

"Oh," she replied, looking around at the empty room. "Ah'm sorry...ah'm keepin' you?"

"Not from anything that can't wait," he said, sliding into the empty seat across from her. "Wanna talk about it?"

"Not especially." She had been wasting time...putting off going back to the Institute. She missed her home and her friends terribly, but she was afraid they wouldn't welcome her back after all she'd done. Especially the two people she cared about the most. And she didn't know what she'd do if they rejected her...go to the Brotherhood's Boarding House, she supposed. Wanda could probably convince the others to let her hang around for a few days. But she really didn't want it to come to that.

"Well, I gotta do a few things around here before I leave...how about I give you a ride home when I'm done?"

"That'd be nice."

Jimmy dropped her off at the front gate at exactly 12:37 a.m. "Thanks for the lift."

"Anything for my best customer," he replied with a grin.

Rogue managed to give him a fairly convincing smile before he drove off and left her to ponder her next move. Aside from wanting to delay the inevitable, she had returned in the dead of night so as to avoid a crowd of onlookers...and now that she was here, she was unsure of how to proceed. Breaking in would prove difficult, especially since she was alone, and burdened with a decent-sized duffel bag. But what else was there for her to do? She could ring the bell, but that would create a spectacle, and that was the last thing she wanted right now. Maybe it would've been better for her to do this during the day, while most of the X-Men were going to or coming from school, so she could slip in unnoticed.

She stood before the gate cold, lost, hurt...unable to think of a feasible solution...until one presented itself - without warning, the gate opened. Hesitantly, Rogue picked up her bag and started to walk up the driveway towards the mansion as the gate magically shut behind her. When she reached the front door, she took a deep breath and cautiously opened it. In the shadows of the entranceway, a figure silently stood waiting for her.

With the knowledge that there was no turning back, she entered the darkness, moving towards the faceless form, ready to face whatever retribution it had in store for her. She hoped it was Gambit. She feared it was Gambit. But her hopes and fears were vanquished by the reality of the man standing in front of her. She froze when she recognized him.

"Hey kid."

Her voice was barely a whisper when she finally found it. "Hello, Logan."

"You comin' back?"

She paused...what would he do if she said yes? His strange way of greeting her certainly didn't ring with joy at her return. "Ah don't know if ah can," she answered carefully.

"What's stoppin' you?"

"After all ah've done...am ah still...welcome here?"

It was his turn to pause, and Rogue's heart broke with the realization that she was no longer welcome, that her friends, her family, could never forgive or forget the monster she had briefly become. She turned to go, but his voice stopped her. "That's a question ya gotta answer yourself."

Dropping the bag, she walked towards her mentor, who opened his arms at her approach. As she fell into the embrace, wrapping her arms around him, she suddenly understood the lack of light...it was protection, a mask to hide the strong emotions both were experiencing. And though he knew he couldn't possibly express his feelings with words, Logan managed to make a simple comment that somehow said it all. "It's good to have you home, Rogue."

~

Once they recovered from their deeply moving reconciliation, Rogue and Logan had a long awaited talk about recent events - Rogue admitted to being frightened of his devotion to her, as exhibited by his willingness to sacrifice his life for her, and Logan, albeit reluctantly, acknowledged that she was special to him. Unnecessary apologies were exchanged and accepted in the course of the conversation, and their already strong bond was further cemented through words neither thought they'd ever have the nerve to say...sentiments brought upon by death's near fatal kiss. The sun was rising by the time they got around to the other man in Rogue's life.

"Where's Gambit?"

Gambit had spent another uneventful night on Bourbon Street, this time with Belle on his arm. Because she'd insisted on going out with him, he'd decided to put off seeking counsel for a day, since provoking her was not the best move. And so they made the rounds, Belle showing off her ruggedly handsome beau, Gambit hoping to induce a deep enough alcoholic haze to free him of her, if only for a while. But drink after drink had little effect on his memory...he stumbled, he slurred his words, and he found himself immensely turned on by his former girlfriend, but her face was still there in the distance, close enough to torment, too far away to touch.

So he took out his frustrations on Bell, covering her with the burning kisses of a man who feels he has nothing left to lose. Taking the not so subtle hint, she paid the tab and led him out of the noisy bar into the street. As they walked, his hand wandered from her shoulder, down her back, until it rested on her butt.

"Remy," she giggled, "what's gotten into you?"

"If you only knew," he thought to himself, before adding, "Wish I knew." He glanced down Toulouse Street as they crossed it, and stopped.

"What?"

He nodded towards the hatchet-shaped sign hanging a few feet down the block. "The Dungeon...I've never been. You?"

"No." Belle shifted next to him, stiffening a little.

"Maybe we check it out tomorrow?"

When she didn't answer him, he stepped in front of her and tilted her face up to his. He kissed her again, long and deep, his cravings for another woman fueling his enthusiasm.

Belle broke away from him playfully. "Keep dat up an' you'll have me convinced."

"So be it," he thought dejectedly. "Let's go back to your place...I like to do my convincin' in private..."

 

1 - Excerpt from Disease, by Matchbox 20

 

Part 11