So Impossible

Part 2 - Harder to Breathe

"She's late."

Gambit glanced up at The Dungeon's clock and shrugged. "Didn' give her much notice...'sides, she's only 10 minutes late."

James Wallington suppressed a grin as he slowly set the tables. He was the owner and proprietor of The Dungeon, which was closed to the public at the moment. But he was friendly with Gambit, and even friendlier with Rogue, so when the Cajun asked for a favor - namely to allow the couple to meet there during off hours - he was more than happy to oblige. Especially since he thought he was encouraging a budding romance between the two. "She'll be here," he assured his young customer.

But Gambit wasn't afraid that she wouldn't show, nor was he plagued by the nervousness that usually accompanies the anticipation of seeing someone you had strong feelings for. No, under his seemingly cool exterior, he was secretly worried that she'd be too late, that they'd get to him first.

Just then the door opened, and Rogue stepped in. Both men stared in surprise at her ballet-necked, dusty pink top with length sleeves and black wrap skirt with tiny flowers scattered across it. This wasn't exactly typical Rogue attire. It was...well...pretty. Soft. Feminine. But this new look wasn't without some trademark Rogue accouterments, like the tank top peaking out from under her shirt, silver studded choker, gloves, and classic purple makeup.

"Oh mah God," she said, dropping her backpack on the floor. "Jimmy, turn it up, ah love this song."

Although Gambit had long ago tuned out the radio playing in the background, now that Rogue mentioned it, he heard it once again. The owner of The Dungeon did as he was told, and she immediately began to move in time with the music, closing her eyes and swaying her hips. As her right hand slowly made its way down the side of her body, she reached down and dragged her left across her partially exposed abdomen in a surprisingly seductive move - black leather caressing pale smooth flesh. Gambit's worries temporarily melted away, captivated by the emergence of a side of Rogue he'd never seen before - a confident, sexy Rogue, who felt comfortable enough in her surroundings to let loose.

"Hey, Jimmy, dance with me?" She called across the room.

"No thanks," he called back. "I've got too much stuff to do before I open."

Rogue turned her attention to Gambit and slinked towards him, still in time with the music. "Dance with me, Remy?" She purred when she reached him.

"I'm not much of a dancer..."

But she wasn't taking no for an answer. "The song's almost over, come on," she urged, grabbing his hand.

Gambit allowed himself to be pulled up and let her lead him to a clearing on the floor. Rogue stopped and turned her back to him, placing his hands on her hips, still swaying back and forth. He looked down at her and watched her lips move soundlessly, mouthing the song's lyrics. His eyes traced from her lips to her chin, from her chin down her long, lovely neck that he was aching to kiss...

She suddenly broke away, turned around, and threw her arms around his neck. He instinctively grabbed her waist, and for a few seconds, they moved together as one. Rogue's eyelids fluttered, and she suddenly gazed into his eyes with a deadly serious expression as she softly sang the last lines of the song.

"...and like a little girl cries in the face of a monster that lives in her dreams...is there anyone out there, 'cause it's gettin' harder and harder to breathe..." ¹

She repeated the last line twice, and the song ended. Her face was inches from his as she searched his features for an answer to her wordless plea. Whatever lightheartedness she had entered the diner with was gone, replaced by a desperate, haunting hunger he saw in her eyes. He pulled her against him, pressing their bodies together, and leaned forward, closing his eyes and parting his lips slightly.

As delicious as the anticipation of her first kiss was, Rogue somehow managed to respond to the faint warning bells going off in the deepest corners of her mind. She tried to pull away, but as gentle as his hold was, it was also firm and unyielding. She released his neck and put a hand to his lips. "Don't."

Gambit opened his eyes and looked at her curiously. "Cherie, Gambit's got energy to spare..."

"No," she said, her voice getting stronger. She put both hands on his chest, but didn't struggle against his embrace. Despite the mix of hormones and adrenaline rushing through her body, Rogue suddenly felt like things were happening way too fast...like she had jumped off a cliff without a parachute, and realized only now that she was going to be splattered all over the ground if she didn't find a way to stop her fall. And so, in spite of the brick wall they had almost just hit, that would inevitably become an issue further down the road every time one reached out to simply touch the other, the idea of absorbing him was not what frightened her. But she was afraid nonetheless. "No...ah'm not ready."

Gambit had courted many a girl, and this was not the first time these words had been directed at him. But before they had always been a source of annoyance and frustration...now they inspired the special kind of patience that she had so recently brought out in him. "Then we wait."

The uncharacteristic cheerfulness she had entered with returned, and they sat down.

"So, what's the problem?"

He'd almost forgotten about his troubles...and even when he was reminded of them, they seemed distant and unimportant at present. "I'm havin' some problems with a couple 'a guys, but that can wait...what's with you?"

"What's that supposed to mean?"

"It means that you're not your usual brooding self...what gives?"

"Ah'm not allowed to have a good day every now and then?" she asked, scowling.

He sighed. It was always extremes with this girl - either he said something that totally pissed her off, or his words made her blush with delight. There were no in-betweens in this relationship. "An' what has happened today that has had such a positive effect on my lady?"

Teasing Rogue was always a gamble, he never knew how'd she respond - with a smile or a smack - but he couldn't help himself. It was in his nature to good-naturedly rib the ones he loved.

In this case, his words were received in the manner in which they were intended. "You're lookin' at a lady who not only survived one a' Logan's infamous training sessions without a scratch, but one whose team successfully completed our objective in the allotted time."

"Ok..."

"Ok? Let me tell you somethin', Logan's training sessions aren't exactly a walk in the park...they're like hikin' down to hell an' back barefoot in the middle a' July. And," she paused for effect, "ah was the leader of mah team, an' even though we worked together, ah'd like to think that mah leadership skills played an important part in our team becomin' the first one ever to accomplish one of Logan's impossible tasks."

"Congrats, cherie."

She was glowing with pride. "Thanks."

"So that's why you were late, you were busy leadin' your friends to victory?"

"No, ah was late because you don' give a girl any notice. In fact, you're lucky ah'm here at all...ah was on mah way out when ah had to run back to mah room to grab somethin', an' ah happened to find your note...by the way, the next time you go sneakin' around mah room, close the window on the way out, please."

"Sorry...I had other things on my mind."

"An' they are...?"

"Remember that rival gang we came across in New Orleans?"

"The Rippers?"

"Yeah...they're after me again, an' I could really use your help."

"Well," she pretended to consider his request for a few seconds, "ah suppose so, especially with you askin' so nice an' all."

"Thanks," he said, standing. "I appreciate it."

She stood as well. "An' this time, ah'm prepared. First of all, ah had a chance to give Logan a heads up...ah practically had to chain the man to the gate to keep him from comin' along...but ah figured you wanted to keep the troops small." He nodded and she continued. "So ah promised ah'd call him regularly with updates, and he promised not to interfere."

An idea popped into his head - Rogue and Logan? Nah...he was being silly. Still, as he replayed past events in his mind - tracking her down with him and Sabertooth when she was under Mesmero's spell, being nearly mauled by his hand when he'd finally caught up to them in the bayou - the signs were there. "He really looks after you, huh?"

"Ah guess." She only saw his unspoken implication when she looked into his eyes. "Me an' Logan? Are you on somethin'? He's way too old for me."

"You know the sayin' - love knows no age."

"Maybe not for you. Besides...me an' him ain't like that....we're more, ah don't know, more like..."

"Brother and sister?" he suggested.

"God no...ah already have one a' those...he's not a brother, he's not a father...ah can't describe it."

Gambit breathed a sigh of relief. "What's in the bag?" he asked as she retrieved her backpack.

"You think ah'm goin' on some wild adventure in this?" She gestured to her clothes. "Puh-lease. Kitty would kill me if ah wrecked her skirt. Ah got mah uniform an' a couple a' changes of clothes in here, 'cause ah figured with you, anythin's possible."

He reached in front of her and held open the door. "So, you know me that well already?"

"Ah'm a fast learner."

They had made their way into the alley, and were walking towards the street when a voice said, "Not fast enough, cherie."

Before either could react, both were grabbed by several pairs of hands. Gambit's hands were forced into what looked like oven mitts before his wrists were tied in front of him, while Rogue's backpack was flung to the ground and her wrists were tied behind her back.

"Well, well, well," the leader mocked as his goons finished their work and forced their captives to face him. "If it isn't Remy LeBeau an' his girl de jour. Fancy meeting you here."

"Bonjour, Julien, nice weather we're havin'..."

"Yeah...too nice, if you ask me. I'd rather your last day on Earth be miserable. But I'll have to settle for dis." He turned his attention to the men holding a still struggling Rogue. "Blindfold her an' throw her in de trunk."

Rough hands tied a rag around her eyes and pushed her along the alley. These were definitely the same guys they'd met in New Orleans - they must've clued in about her powers, because they were all wearing gloves despite the warm weather. Suddenly, she was lifted and placed into what she assumed was the trunk of a car. The lid slammed shut a moment later. Shortly thereafter, the doors of the vehicle opened and shut, the engine started, and they were on their way.

Rogue struggled to free herself, but it soon became obvious that her efforts were pointless. Her wrists were expertly secured, there was no way of slipping out of her bindings. She attempted to look for a weapon by feeling around the trunk, but her search was unsuccessful. So she decided to try to listen to the conversation going on between the other occupants of the car, and was frustrated to discover that the tools stored beneath the rug that lined the trunk rattled too often for her to be able to hear anything but a word here and there.

Without knowing where they were going, what the Rippers planned on doing to her and Gambit, and with the additional handicap of not being able to see, there was little else she could do. Rogue's thoughts wandered...she should've let Logan come along...she should've changed and given Kitty her stupid skirt back before she left to meet Remy...Remy. "What have you gotten yourself into?" She asked him in her mind. "What have you gotten me into?" What's more, what was she going to do about him, provided that they somehow got out of this mess? First off, they were going to have to sit down and have a long talk about his involvement with the Thieves Guild, and their rivalry with the Rippers. He seemed hesitant to share details about his past with her, and she didn't want to pry, but if his past was going affect her, he had an obligation to disclose pertinent information. And if their relationship continued in the same direction it was heading, his past would most likely play a part in her future.

Their relationship. If you could call it that. Getting together once a month to share a few intense hours together wasn't exactly a sign of a healthy relationship. But could it ever be healthy? Or normal? She saw him hesitate when he reached up to stroke her cheek last month...and she stopped him from kissing her only an hour ago. Look, don't touch. But that's not how the world worked. Everyone touched...you saw, you touched. It was natural. Instinct. You can't fight nature. It was her nature to be isolated, alone. No matter how close people tried to get, she was untouchable. A rose. Be careful. The thorns hurt.

And what was she thinking this afternoon? God, dancing around like that in front of him? She blushed in the dark. Was she that desperate for affection that she'd open her heart and soul to a near-stranger? No...she didn't think so. There was something about him, they way he looked at her, the way he talked, the way he moved...the way he spoke to her, with his quiet, patient eyes and soft accepting voice...he knew her in a way no one else did. She and Logan were kindred spirits, but Remy was her soul mate. The idea startled her. Soul mates? She barely knew him. But the thought rang true...and that's why she had jumped off the cliff without a parachute. She saw the edge and laughed at it. She not only laughed, she took a running leap off it. Her laughter echoed along the cliffs as she fell, confident that no harm would come to her. The jagged rocks speeding towards her were nothing. He would catch her. That's what she was counting on.

But what if he didn't?

The car stopped, and it was only a matter of seconds before she heard the click of the trunk opening. She was helped out onto her feet. "Ya know, if you're so mad at Gambit, maybe you should'a put him in the trunk."

Chuckles surrounded her, and the leader, Julien, spoke. "You're a feisty one. LeBeau did well with you."

"Ah wish ah could say the same..." she moved her head around, unable to locate Gambit from under her blindfold. "This your idea of a fun date?"

His voice was much closer than she expected; it made her jump. "Isn't it yours?"

"Are you ok?" she asked, lowering her voice.

"Jus' fine...I have good news, an' bad news."

The two were pushed along, side by side, with someone holding Rogue's arm, guiding her.

"Ah guess the bad news first."

"Can't use my powers.

"Wonderful. An' the good news."

He leaned close and whispered so the others couldn't hear. "They don't know you absorb people."

She smiled, though she didn't completely understand...if they didn't know she absorbed people with her touch, why were these guys wearing gloves?

"Don' let dat good-for-nothin' t'ief charm you, cherie," Julien cautioned, mistaking Gambit's words for sweet nothings. "You're not de first t' fall under his spell."

"Julien..." Gambit's voice warned.

"So you haven't told her? Dis is gonna be more fun den I thought," Julien laughed. He waited until his captives were safely aboard the boat he had rented before he began his games. "Remy is famous for more den jus' his thievin' skills down in our neck of the woods."

"What the heck does that mean?"

"You're not stupid, cherie, you know exactly what it means. De man of your dreams has kissed many girls..."

"Julien..." Gambit's voice spoke up again. "Leave it alone."

"You see, Rogue," Julien continued, sitting next to her, "what we have here is a guy who has a different woman by his side every week or so. He charms 'em, uses 'em, an' throws 'em t' de wolves when he no longer has use for 'em."

"Like ah'm gonna believe a guy who ties me up an' kidnaps me."

"Jus' like Remy did in March?"

"That's different..."

"Is it?"

"Yes." Her voice was strong, but her inner resolve wavered.

"He didn' tell you why we're after him, did he?"

"You didn' give me the chance," Gambit said dejectedly. "But I was gonna tell her."

"Do you believe dat? 'Cause I don'," Julien said, dropping his voice and putting an arm around Rogue. "You see, Remy once had his eye on my little sister - a beautiful blonde little t'ing - but it was more dan her looks dat attracted him. He could use her t' get t' me, to infiltrate de Rippers...so he seduced her. And when she couldn't give him what he wanted, he jus' got up an' left. She was only 16..."

"Love knows no age..." she repeated his earlier words with disgust.

"Wait a minute," Gambit jumped in. "Julien sees only what he chooses to see...first of all, dis happened years ago, when I was 18...and Bella Donna was no naive little virgin when I met her."

"Lies!" Julien hissed in her ear.

"She knew exactly what she was doin'," Gambit insisted. "Hell, she taught me a thing or two..."

"What about de others, LeBeau? What about Jacqueline? What about Veronique? What about Antoinette...and Simone....and Anna Marie....and...."

"That's enough."

"Do you have anythin' to say for yourself?"

"I'm not that man anymore."

"What do you t'ink, cherie? Has Remy changed?" Julien asked.

She hung her head. "Ah don't know," she said quietly. She always knew that he had a past...but she thought it would be crammed with acts committed against the law, not the heart.

"So you do fancy de lyin', cheatin', good-for-nothin' t'ief," he sighed. "More's de pity."

There was a few seconds pause, and Rogue's hurt feelings were replaced by fear. Since she couldn't see what was going on, the constant chatter had been somewhat of a comfort. The silence worried her.

"You know," Julien started up again, this time addressing Gambit. "If I didn' know you better, I'd say dat you were fallin' for de girl." Rogue couldn't see him, but she swore she heard a touch of regret in his voice when he continued. "Dat changes t'ings...maybe we'll let you live..."

He gently grasped Rogue's arm and whispered in her ear, "Under dif'rent circumstances, I'd a' taken you out for a good time...better den whatever LeBeau could offer. But dis is business, you understand." He raised his voice, "Remy here know why we're called de Rippers, but he's never had de pleasure of watchin' us in action."

"This girl ain't done nothin' to you...leave her alone," Gambit cried, and Rogue heard the sounds of a scuffle nearby.

"Ow." Rogue suddenly felt a sharp pain in her arm. "You people are messed up, you know that? What're you punishin' me for?"

"With regrets, I've decided de best way to make dis swamp rat suffer is to let him live with your blood on his hands."

"Nothin' like sacrificin' an innocent girl to get your revenge, huh?" she muttered.

"Strong t' de end...I respect dat."

"So you gonna let me go?"

"No...but I'll make it quick."

Her voice dripped with sarcasm. "Thanks."

There was another scuffle in front of her, but this time Gambit freed himself of his guards long enough to take a few steps forward and kiss Rogue. Her first kiss...her last. Too bad it was in the midst of this madness. Before his body hit the deck, she knew his plan as if it were hers. Two short statements echoed in her mind over and over. "Take it. Use it. Take it. Use it." He must've been repeating it in his own mind as he kissed her in the hopes that the idea would take root in hers. Of course, Rogue would've figured it out on her own, if given the opportunity, but this was no time to nitpick.

"You may have knocked him out to save him de pain of watchin' you die," Julien said, moving away from her, "but you've only prolonged your suffering. We'll wait 'til he regains consciousness before we continue."

Gambit was right - the Rippers didn't know the extent of her powers...they thought she could bring unconsciousness to her victims, nothing more. Rogue stepped over his body and crouched down. She had already used his powers to charge the ropes around her bare wrists. Although she had successfully freed her hands, because she wasn't used to his powers, she had put too much energy into charging the bindings, and had burned herself. She bit her lip to prevent from crying out, and decided to take off her blindfold the old fashioned way when the time was right. Along with his insistence to take and use his powers, Rogue also learned where Gambit kept his deck of cards and staff.

The Rippers had begun to argue amongst themselves, and Rogue took advantage of the situation to blindly rifle through his coat behind her back, and easily found both objects. Once she had them in her left hand, she stood, and things moved quickly.

She ripped off the blindfold with her right hand, and tucking the staff under her arm, expertly fanned out the deck of cards in her left hand. Plucking several from the deck, she charged them and threw them at the group of Rippers.

One of the Rippers saw what was coming, but it was too late. The cards exploded at their feet, sending members of the New Orleans gang in all directions. Rogue slipped the unused cards into the waistband of her skirt, and expanded the staff. She moved swiftly, incapacitating each man with a good smack to the head. She wasn't quite quick enough, however, and before she reached Julien, he had thrown Remy overboard.

"You're gonna pay for that," she said, using the staff to knock him onto the ground. She pulled off a glove and touched his face. He was out cold in a matter of seconds. Rogue knew that she had to work fast, but she wasn't about to dive in after Gambit with these fools loose...she grabbed a measure of rope that was lying on deck, and did her best to tie the Rippers together in the shortest time possible. It would have to do for now.

"You've gotta be kidding me," she mumbled to herself before diving in the lake. It was cold, which brought relief to her throbbing wrists...but the particles of sand suspended in the water reduced her visibility to next to nothing. She swam straight down, reasoning that Gambit would sink right to the bottom. After twenty seconds she began to panic...she didn't see him yet, and was going to have to go back to the surface to take a breath soon. But she pressed forward, assuming that he had yet to regain consciousness and was inadvertently breathing in water.

Lady Luck must've been one of the few women Gambit had made a good impression on, because after another few seconds had passed, she could make out the outline of his body. She grabbed him by the armpits and furiously kicked towards the surface. With ten feet left to go, Gambit came to. His back was to Rogue, so he struggled against her at first, but by the time their heads emerged, he realized who his savior was. As Gambit coughed up water, she charged the ropes binding his wrists, and he removed the strange mitts the Rippers had thrust over his hands.

"An' here I thought you were mad at me," he gasped.

"Ah only saved you so ah can kill you later," she replied after catching her breath. "Come on, ah didn't do such a good job tyin' those guys up."

They swam over to the boat and climbed aboard. Rogue was right, her knot-tying skills left much to be desired...but her fighting abilities more than made up for it - only one of the four men was awake, and his brain's higher functions weren't working yet. While Gambit searched the Rippers for hidden weapons and tied them up properly, Rogue steered the boat back to the dock. They loaded the car with the men in silence...saving the place of honor - the trunk - for Julien himself.

On the way back to Bayville, no more than two words were spoken. Not even their captives uttered a sound. Gambit drove them to the train station, loading the men onto a nearly empty boxcar. When he was finished, he walked over to Rogue, who was leaning against the wall of the station with her arms crossed.

"I'm gonna take them back to New Orleans," he told her. "An' maybe I'll settle this once an' for all."

"Do what you like, ah just stayed to make sure you got them on the train..."

"Rogue, I..."

"Don't," she said, backing away from his outstretched hand.

"I'll come back."

"Ah don't care what you do...ah'm goin' home."

She turned around and started walking away.

"I'll be back..." he called after her. "An' we'll talk about it."

She stopped walking, but didn't turn around. "Stay away from me. Ah don't wanna have anythin' to do with you."

Gambit sighed and shook his head. He didn't have time to argue with her now, the train was about to leave. Maybe that was a good thing...it would give her a chance to cool off before he tried to explain himself. He jumped into the car and pulled out a deck of cards. As he began a game of solitaire, Julien spoke for the first time since the tables had turned.

"You've lost her forever, LeBeau."

"You don' know nothin' Julien."

"She'll never forgive you for dis..."

It was going to be a long ride.

 

Epilogue

Rogue called Logan and asked him to pick her up.

He didn't say anything...not about her torn sleeve with the blood on it, not about the fact that she was only wearing one sandal, not about the her still damp hair and clothes. When he saw the look on her face, he decided to leave things alone. She asked him to stop by The Dungeon so she could recover her backpack, and thanked him for coming to get her when they arrived at the mansion, but that was all.

When they got home, she calmly walked up to her room, and locked the door behind her. Her anger grew with each passing second. She didn't know what to do with herself...her rage was rapidly dissolving any rational thought she had left...she walked over to her dresser and with one swoop of her hand, knocked everything off it before pounding her fists into it several times.

That bastard, dragging her along on one of his misadventures just so she could save him from his ex-girlfriend's angry brother. Her new shirt was ruined, sliced and stained where Julien had cut her...Kitty's "dry-clean only" skirt was probably beyond hope now that she went swimming in it...she lost one of her sandals in the lake...she wasted a whole day, most of which she spent bound and blindfolded...and worst of all, she had absorbed Julien's thoughts.

Rogue had already been disturbed by what had been revealed on the boat...but when she got a taste of Julien's hatred for Remy, it was a miracle she didn't let the Cajun rot in his watery grave. And the more time that passed, the angrier she got, until she couldn't separate Julien's feelings from her own. In a kind of insane fury, she reached up, ripped her treasured Queen of Heart's card from its place on her mirror, and tore it into tiny shreds that she threw into the air. She heard herself laugh as the snow that had once been a cherished gift fluttered jerkily to the floor.

She picked up some of the larger objects she had knocked off her dresser and began to throw them at her mirror.

"Jacqueline....Veronique...Antoinette..."

She had started quietly, but with each name Rogue's voice rose. She continued throwing things at the mirror.

"Simone...Anna Marie..."

By now she was yelling. She had run out of ammunition. "Bella Donna!!!!!!!!" she screamed, running over to the mirror and putting her fist to the already cracked glass. By some miracle, most of the mirror remained in its mount, but it was irrevocably damaged. Rogue looked up at her reflection, broken and distorted in the shards of glass. Hot, indignant tears she had been holding back began to spill down her cheeks...

But she refused to yield. She took a deep breath; he would not get the better of her. She wouldn't let him. Even as the tears continued to fall, she rebuilt the walls around her heart. "Never again," she promised herself.

 

1 - Excerpt from Harder to Breathe, by Maroon 5

 

Part 3