So Impossible

Part 3 - Someday

Nothing's wrong
Just as long as you know that someday I will -
Someday, somehow,
Im gonna make it alright, but not right now
I know youre wondering when...
¹

* * * * *

Remy LeBeau, known only as Gambit to many, returned to Bayville exactly 11 days after the fall of Apocalypse. There were things he had to deal with back home before he could finally leave his past behind him and start fresh. Now that everything was settled, or, at least, as settled as it could be, he had come back to the place where the change in him began, hoping beyond hope that the young woman who inspired his sudden moral and ethical growth would be ready to give him another chance.

Gambit spent his first day back trying to find out what Rogue's present state of mind was, and in the process, learned the details of the battle with Apocalypse, and the last, desperate attempt to stop him led by his girl. "My girl?" he scolded himself. "Homme, dat girl belongs t' no man."

His pride was a little wounded by the fact that no one had sought him out to lend a hand...even if Rogue was mad at him, someone should've thought of asking him. His only comfort came from the idea that someone must have considered him, but he was so deep in the backwaters of the bayou that they had been unable to locate him in time. Still...they had managed to track down Colossus somewhere in the far reaches of Russia...

He shook such thoughts out of his head. There was no point in worrying about it now. His time would be better spent finding Rogue and learning where he stood with her. That night, he snuck onto the Institute's grounds, avoiding each and every motion sensor, security camera, and all other defensive measures with little effort. The security system was more intricate than typical home systems, specially designed by the professor and Logan, but Gambit was trained to find the weaknesses in all systems, and after he had studied the grounds in detail over the course of several weeks, he was able to come and go as he pleased without being noticed.

He made his way across the lawn to the tree nearest Rogue's bedroom window, which wasn't all that close to the mansion at all. Closer trees had been obliterated a year ago when Mystique had blown up the original building. After climbing the tree and making himself comfortable on a sturdy limb, Gambit reached into coat and pulled out the pair of binoculars he had lifted from an annoying tourist down south. Yes, even on this warm June night, he was not without his trusty trench coat.

He brought the binoculars to his eyes and frowned. The lights were out in her room - nobody's home. Placing the strap over his head, he let the binoculars hang around his neck while he reached into another pocket for a pack of cigarettes. It was a nasty habit, he knew, one that he purposely avoided when he was around Rogue. He was actually on the road to quitting, but a combination of boredom and anxiety prompted him to seek solace in the mentholated nicotine.

He was halfway through his second cigarette before someone turned on the light in the room in question. He extinguished what was left of it and flicked its remains to the ground before peering through the binoculars. There she was, pale as a ghost, pacing around the room in her pajamas. She looked troubled, but that wasn't exactly unusual for a girl who absorbed the memories of others with a simple touch. When she suddenly disappeared from view, Gambit assumed that she had thrown herself onto her bed in frustration...but something about the act troubled him, so he decided to move in and get a closer look.

He jumped down from the tree, ran across the lawn, extended his staff, and used it to catapult himself into the air. Catching her windowsill with his right hand, he collapsed his staff with his left and stuck it back in his pocket. Using both hands, he pulled himself up and peered in. Something was very wrong here. He pushed up the window - "She still doesn't lock it," he thought with a smile - then the screen, and slipped in.

Only Rogue's head and arm rested on the bed. The rest of her was awkwardly sprawled on the floor. She hadn't done this herself...she had collapsed. Gambit picked her up and gently laid her on the bed. She was breathing ok, but the fact that she didn't stir when he moved her was a source of concern. He put the palm of his hand on her forehead, and his uneasiness grew. Even through his gloves he could tell that she was burning up.

"Rogue...?" he said, shaking her.

No response.

This was not good...she needed help, fast. His mind sprung into action, switching to attack mode - the one he used during complicated break-ins and difficult confrontations. Running out into the hall from her room would do more harm than good...the disturbance it would cause amongst the X-Men and the questions he would be subjected to would devour precious seconds.

A different course of action was called for, and in a matter of seconds, he had exited the room through the window, and was ringing the bell at the front door.

"Coming," a sweet, female voice called as footsteps and muffled conversation approached. The woman had begun to laugh at something her companion said as she opened the door. She assumed the person on the other side would be one of her teammates' friends who had been buzzed in at the gate, but what she found was an Acolyte standing on her doorstep.

Jean Grey's smile faded quickly. She instinctively stopped the door where it was, keeping it partially between them. "Can I help you?"

"Who is it?" a man asked, opening the door wider. When he saw Gambit, his had flew to his glasses, preparing to raise them. "What do you want?"

Gambit would have been amused by Scott's response if he didn't have more pressing matters on his mind. "Somethin's wrong with Rogue, you gotta help her."

His words were directed at Jean, who took them seriously, but Scott put an arm protectively around his girlfriend and answered Gambit before she could get a word out. "And how would you know..."

"Look," he began, ignoring Scott, "you need t' jump in my head an' read my t'oughts, fine, but make it quick."

Jean closed her eyes for several seconds. When she opened them again, whatever suspicion had been in them was gone. "Come with me," she said, stepping aside to let him in.

"Jean, what...?"

"Professor's orders," she replied, cutting him off and breaking away from his embrace. "Let's go."

Gambit followed her up the stairs and down the hall, with Scott close behind, complaining under his breath all the while. "Are you kidding me? This guy works for Magneto...he could be using this as a ruse to learn the layout of the mansion..."

"Enough, Scott," she scolded, stopping in front of Rogue's door. She once again turned to Gambit. "Beast and the professor are in there now...they'll be out in a few minutes."

Gambit leaned against the opposite wall impatiently, Jean stood next to Rogue's door with a touch of concern on her beautiful face, and Scott did his best to make it clear that this house, and this woman, were his. But he could care less about Scott's posturing...there was no need for him to mark his territory, Gambit knew he didn't belong there. And as for Jean, as powerful and lovely as she may be, she had no je ne sais quoi...she couldn't hold a candle to the rogue.

Several years passed in that hallway, waiting for the two men to appear from behind door number one. When Beast and Professor X finally emerged from Rogue's room, their expressions told Gambit all he needed to know. "She's in trouble, ain't she?"

"It appears that she's in the final stages of Strep Throat...she's on the brink of Scarlet Fever. Her temperature is dangerously high and she's dehydrated," the professor explained calmly.

"We took a throat culture," Beast continued, opening his hand to reveal a closed petrii dish, "and we should have the results in 10 minutes, but it's just a formality. It's definitely Strep. We can give her something to bring the fever down, but we don't have the necessary antibiotics on the premises."

"Gambit..." the professor began, but the Cajun didn't wait for him to finish.

"I'm on it..."

"No." He grabbed Gambit's arm before he could run off. "Listen to what I have to say." Surprised at the older man's strength, he relaxed and looked at him expectantly. "Here is what you need to get - I've written down the kind of antibiotic, the dosage, the number of pills, and included an alternate drug in the event the drug store doesn't have the first. I'm also giving you some money." He handed over a piece of paper and a small wad of money. "When you take the antibiotic, please leave the money with a description of what you've taken."

Gambit almost laughed at the money, and had to remind himself that the X-Men were an altogether different breed than he was used to dealing with. "Dat all?"

The professor nodded. Before anyone could stop him, he opened Rogue's door, flew through her room, dove out her still-open window, and disappeared into the night. Scott ran after him, and shook his head in annoyance. "Showoff," he thought, closing the window before rejoining the others in the hall.

Beast was gone, and Jean and the professor were taking quietly. "Was that really necessary?"

"Think about it for a minute - can we take Rogue to a doctor?" Jean asked. "He'd wear gloves, of course, but if his unexposed wrist brushed against her skin, he'd be out like a light." She paused and inadvertently shivered. "And with all the mutant haters out there, if we tried explaining her powers to them, most doctors would probably refuse to see her."

"Probably? Is 'probably' a good enough reason to steal?"

"I understand your concern, Scott, but under the circumstances, I think this is the best course of action," the professor replied. "Time is critical at the moment, we don't have the luxury of leisurely searching for a doctor who is sympathetic to mutants. As soon as her condition is stable, I'll have to look into a doctor for all of you. Quite frankly, this has been an oversight on my part...injuries have been our only concern so far, and those can be easily attended to by Logan, Ororo, Hank, or myself. No one has suffered from a serious illness, and it only occurs to me now that it's necessary to secure a doctor who wouldn't object to treating those whose mutations are not so easily concealed."

Scott opened his mouth to speak, but the professor raised a hand to stop him. "To tell you the truth, I'd rather ask Logan if he'd let Rogue absorb his powers - his healing factor should be able to stop the infection - but he's off on an assignment and I haven't been able to reach him." He paused, tenting his hands. "Besides, Gambit's feelings for Rogue, and his intentions in regards to her, appear to be honorable. I don't think we could find anyone more devoted to her cause."

Scott wouldn't allow himself to believe such a thing was possible...Kitty and Lance was one thing - the Brotherhood was nothing more than a bunch of low lifes dedicated to causing trouble. They never did anything particularly bad, they were just annoying. But one of the X-Men having a relationship with an Acolyte, even worse, Magneto's right hand man, was something entirely different. Aside from Piotr, who was a gentle giant blackmailed into joining, the Acolytes were a bunch of violent, dangerous, out-and-out villains.

He stormed away, leaving Jean and the professor to discuss what arrangements should be made.

~

Hours later, Scott shifted in the chair next to Rogue's bed. In the end, they had decided not to move her to the infirmary, though they did attach an IV to her arm to help replace fluids and bring her fever down. Scott figured it was working since they were able to wake her up and get her to swallow one of the pills Gambit brought back.

He was determined to sit with Rogue throughout the night, despite Jean's insistence that he go to bed. Rogue had done so much for both him and Jean that he thought it was the least he could to do keep her company when she was sick. Especially with Logan off on an assignment, and Kurt visiting his parents. Especially with the thief in the room.

Gambit sat in the darkest corner, his head back against the wall in silent contemplation of sleeping beauty and her guardian thug. This Scott guy really had to lighten up. Couldn't he see that there was no hidden agenda in his desire to help Rogue?

In the dim light of her bedside lamp, Rogue's face was peaceful to the point of resembling a corpse. He had been brushing up on his Edgar Allen Poe recently - he noticed her collection of his works on a previous visit - and was reminded of the story "The Fall of the House of Usher." Rogue was playing the role of Madeline, who suffered from an illness that made her appear dead...so her brother accidentally buries her alive. But despite the absence of the steady beeps of a heart monitor, Gambit wasn't overly concerned. Even from his distance, if he looked hard enough, he could detect the soft rise and fall of the covers that coincided with her every breath. Besides, he did not smell death in the room tonight. He closed his eyes against unwanted memories that smell brought with it. Yes...he knew it well. But it was not here.

While her friends guarded her against nonexistent threats, Rogue, though she appeared tranquil, was tormented by twisted dreams. Her temperature had decreased significantly since Gambit had initially found her, but the images inspired by her fevered mind continued to haunt her dreams. She had momentarily awoke when Gambit ran through her room on the way to get her medicine, and in a delirium, saw only the glowing red eyes of a demon that fed on the blood of innocents, complete with a long black cape flapping behind him as he flew past her and out the window.

Since then she found herself in a fantastic tale worthy of Charlotte Brontë...full of gothic romance and intrigue. She was still Rogue, but now she was a lonely heiress who rarely ventured beyond the walls of her extravagant mansion, afraid that she'd accidentally brush into someone, and expose her terrible secret. But when a mysterious stranger asked for shelter on a dark and stormy night, she was unable to turn him away. The storm raged on for days, and was followed by the appearance of a thick opaque mist that prevented him from leaving still.

It was only a matter of days before his charms tore down the barriers she spent her life building up...but as the seduction progressed, Rogue found herself pulling away despite her feelings for him. When he finally convinced her to tell him why, he shared his own secret with her - he was a vampire. He'd been watching her for a long time, and had decided to make her his mate. Because he was already dead, she couldn't absorb him...and what's more, if she becomes a vampire too, she would gain control over her powers.

She was reluctant to enter into any kind of arrangement with him, but her growing affections for him and her desperation to rid herself of her self-imposed solitude, overruled her good judgment. By the light of the moon, he made her his forever.

But her decision was hasty. She had given way to her emotions, and now she had to pay the price. Her companion had neglected to mention several important consequences of her transition - namely that she could never again venture out in sunlight, and would constantly be plagued by a thirst for blood that could never be quenched. And so she found herself isolated still, trapped in the shadows of her home until nightfall, at which point she would lurk in those same shadows as she searched for victims. She never killed her prey, though, and preferred to drink from those who she deemed cruel and unkind...stalking people for several nights and observing their actions before she'd strike, using her powers to knock them out before she sampled the metallic sweetness running through their veins.

Her companion, however, had his own hunting methods. Her heart ached every time his craving for blood tore him from her arms...he would seduce beautiful young women and drink their blood once they passed out from the special kind of exhaustion that followed passionate bedroom recreation. Rogue asked him time and again to change his ways, but old habits die hard. This was the way he'd always done it, and he stubbornly refused to change. Besides, these girls meant nothing to him. She was the one he'd chosen to be his bride, she was the only one he loved...she was the only person he'd ever made a vampire.

But Rogue's suspicions could not be dispelled...and although her companion should have made an effort to try another technique, his devotion to her was so obvious that even the most casual observer would've been able to see it. With each passing day she became more and more desperate to secure his love...until she finally decided that if she could not have him in life, she would have him in death.

She waited until the full moon had climbed high in the sky to hike up the mountain facing the sea. The wind clawed at her hair and skirts, imploring her to change her mind, but she ignored them. She didn't even pause to reconsider when she reached the top, she simply threw herself over the edge and prayed that the jagged rocks below would do more than just break her body...she wanted one to pierce her heart. If not, she would patiently wait for the sun to rise and turn her to dust.

The fall lasted much longer than she'd expected...it almost felt like she was flying...

Rogue woke up before she reached the bottom. She laid in her bed for several minutes, slowly collecting her thoughts. The first thing that struck her was the fact that her throat was killing her, followed shortly thereafter by the details of her dream. When she had finished considering its implications, she looked around and noticed Scott dozing in what looked like a very uncomfortable position in a chair next to her bed.

She tried to call out to him, but her voice came out like a dying frog's last croak. "Scott..."

He immediately woke up and looked down at his patient. "So, you've decided come back to us...but even with all the trouble you've caused, 'you are like an angel, Kate'.²"

She smiled with pleasure at the memory...it was the first time they had ever worked together on a school assignment, though not by choice, back before she had joined the X-Men...it seemed like such a long time ago. If she still had a crush on him, Rogue would've read a lot into the fact that he still remembered his lines from the play they'd been studying. But things were different now...she saw him as a friend and nothing more. "What happened?"

"You're too stubborn for your own good, that's what happened. Next time you don't feel well, do us all a favor and tell someone. The longer you wait, the longer it'll take you to get better."

She nodded, and a few seconds passed before she spoke again. "Thank you."

"For what?"

"Stayin' with me."

"Well," he began hesitantly, "I'm not the only one..."

She followed his gaze across the room, but couldn't see anyone in the pre-dawn darkness. Still, she had an idea who it was. "Gambit?"

Scott nodded in confirmation.

"Remy..." she called as loud as she could. A dark lump in the corner moved and walked over into the small circle of light surrounding her bed. Scott stood and stretched before walking over to the window. It was his way of giving the couple - he didn't want to use this particular world to describe Rogue and Gambit, but he knew it applied - some privacy without leaving her solely in his hands.

Rogue pushed herself up into a sitting position as Gambit approached. "How ya doin'?" He asked softly, gently.

She moved to speak, but no words made it past her lips. She motioned for him to come closer, and he leaned forward.

What happened next would become a source of amusement to the X-Men when the story was told and retold at future parties and reunions...as a matter of fact, Gambit became the butt of many jokes for a long time after Rogue recovered. But here and now, as the events unfolded, there was only anger, hurt feelings, and surprise.

Rogue punched Gambit square in the jaw.

She was actually aiming for his nose, but her reflexes were off...in the end, she got her desired result. Even in her weakened condition, she managed to make Gambit stumble backwards - though it had more to do with the unexpectedness of the blow and their brief skin-to-skin contact than the strength of the attack.

Gambit tripped over his own feet and fell. With the last of her strength, Rogue flung herself out of bed and crawled over to where he was sitting, still stunned over what had happened in the past few seconds. Even with her head crammed with cotton and the world spinning, she knew exactly what she wanted to say.

"How dare you show your face here," she hissed, "after all you've done."

He didn't move. He didn't breathe. He just watched her still green eyes glow with the fury of his powers...she was beautiful when she was angry. But then he noticed the plastic tube leading from her arm to the IV, and the IV itself, begin to glow as well. Without realizing it, she had accidentally charged something that she didn't know was attached to her body.

Scott was still standing by the window, ready to step in if he was needed, but willing to wait for that time to come. Rogue was doing just fine without him. Gambit grabbed the charged tube and ripped it from her arm. He tried to remove the charge, but apparently only the one who charged it could take it away.

"Cyclops, window," he instructed, and Scott responded immediately. Gambit threw the entire apparatus out the window, and a small explosion followed shortly thereafter.

Gambit moved to help Rogue back into bed, but she swung at him again. This time he was ready for a violent reaction and avoided the blow easily.

"Don't touch me," she warned, struggling to stand on her own. With as much dignity as she could muster, and with careful steps, she made her way back to her bed and laid down.

Scott watched in confusion as Gambit kept his distance, but held his hand out behind her back, ready to catch her if she fell. This was not something he'd expect from a hardened criminal.

"Get out," she muttered, closing her eyes. "Now."

"I think you better leave," Scott said, though his voice was not as hard as it had been before.

"Jus' wanted t' make sure you were all right," he said nonchalantly, as if nothing out of the ordinary had happened, and walked out.

She was infuriated with him. He didn't get mad...he didn't storm out...hell, he wasn't even embarrassed by his momentary loss of grace. Nothing bothered this guy. More than anything, she wanted to make him feel the way he made her feel - angry, lost, alone, confused - and here he was, more confident than ever. She covered her head with her blankets and prayed for the blissful ignorance of sleep to sweep her away.

~

Several hours later, she awoke. Rogue had been blessed with a dreamless sleep, so she didn't have to analyze the smoke and mirrors of the inner depths of her mind upon waking. Instead she could focus on the very real problems surrounding her.

She glanced around her room. The chair beside her bed had long been empty, though a fresh jug of ice water and a glass stood on her night stand. They must have been placed there recently, as beads of water were only just beginning to condense on the outside of the pitcher. So she was alone, but not forgotten.

As much as she appreciated Scott's devotion, she was glad he was gone so she could ponder her situation in solitude. Her situation...her problems...it was all just a nice way of saying that her life was messed up, seemingly perpetually so. Rogue's life had never been easy before her mutation had manifested itself...but afterwards, it became even harder. And since she met Gambit, she sometimes thought that things were getting worse.

But deep down she knew that none of that was true. Her life was hard, but whose wasn't? Being a mutant made her more of an outcast than she had been, but it also put her in contact with a group of people who had become like family to her. That was good. And with the professor's guidance, she was learning to make a difference in the world, something that she never would've considered before. So for all the bad, there was definitely some good.

The same could be said for Gambit. He watched out for her, and seemed to care about her...the problem was he didn't trust her. It was this lack of trust that hurt most of all. Once Julien's memories had faded, Rogue was forced to deal with her own anger over Remy's convenient omissions about his past. But she soon realized that his reluctance to trust her was not much different than her own indisposition to trust others.

Still a little hurt, still a little angry, she waited for Gambit to return. Even with Apocalypse's near-successful rise to power, the Cajun was never far from Rogue's mind. A month passed and he didn't come. Then another week. Then a couple days. She began to worry that he wouldn't come back to her. But even as her mind tried to convince her to give up, her heart whispered thoughts of hope and reconciliation. She knew he wouldn't give up on her so easily. He would make his way back to her...it was just a matter of when.

And when he did, what was her response? She slugged him. Not that she regretted it. But thinking back to the night before, she thought that there may have been a better way of dealing with him. She tried to blame her dream about the red-eyed vampire that was as charming and treacherous as she feared Remy was, but this claim was false, and she knew it. She was still angry with him, and would stay angry until they sat down and talked about it. She couldn't forgive him until she heard the whole story.

The slow turning of her doorknob brought her back to reality. The door opened and Jean peeked in. "Hey...how are you feeling?"

Rogue waved her in; Jean left the door ajar behind her, walking across the room to the chair next to Rogue's bed and sitting down.

"Ah'm all right, ah guess." Her voice was still a little scratchy, but it was much clearer than last night. "Mah throat doesn't hurt so much, but that ain't sayin' a lot."

"Would you like something to drink?" Rogue nodded, and Jean continued talking as she poured her friend a glass of ice water and handed it over. "I finally chased Scott out of here a few hours ago...I didn't think you'd mind."

Rogue accepted the glass gratefully and took a long deep drink before responding. "Nah. Ah'm glad he was here when ah woke up the first time, but he wasn't doin' much good sittin' there watchin' me sleep."

Jean smiled. "That's what I tried to tell him...but you know how stubborn he can be."

"Yeah."

"But I promised him that I'd look in on you every so often while he got some sleep, so here I am."

"Thanks."

"Do you need anything? Are you hungry?"

"No...ah think tryin' to eat somethin' would just make mah throat hurt more...ah want to wait a few more hours before ah try swallowin' anythin' solid."

"Are you feeling well enough for visitors?"

Jean's expression changed slightly as she asked the question. She looked at Rogue with a mixture of understanding and amusement. "Depends on who."

Jean turned her hand palm up to show Rogue what she had been hiding from her - a King of Hearts card. Rogue grabbed the card, crumpled it, and threw it on the ground.

"Rogue..."

"Don't 'Rogue' me...ah don't wanna see him."

"You know, Gambit's not the only man who's ever done something stupid...in fact, guys always seem to know exactly how to get under a girl's skin. It must be genetic." Rogue went to speak, but Jean stopped her. "I know everyone thinks that Scott and I are the perfect couple," she leaned forward and lowered her voice, "but between you and me, he drives me crazy sometimes."

"Ah guarantee that Scott's never done anythin' like Remy has."

"Ok, I'll give you that...but isn't that part of why you like him?"

Damn. Jean was good at this. "Ah guess you got me there," Rogue said, pouting a little.

"Besides...hasn't he had enough punishment? From what I hear, you socked him pretty good..."

This time it was Rogue's turn to smile. "Scott told you about that?"

"Even half-asleep he insisted on telling me all the details. When he gets up later, there's no doubt in my mind that tales of your sickbed valor will be told to anyone who will listen...Gambit will have a hard time living it down."

"Ah don't know..."

"If it's any help, I can always..."

"No." Rogue interrupted Jean before she could make the offer, but knew where the redhead was going. She had played around with asking Jean to take a peek into Remy's mind earlier, but ultimately decided against it. She didn't think it was right to have her friend sneak around his head without his permission. "If ah'm gonna learn to deal with him, it's gonna be without powers."

"Well, if you change your mind..." Jean said, a little hurt that Rogue once again pushed her away when all she wanted to do was help. But she knew where Rogue was coming from, so she let it be. "Should I call him in?"

Rogue nodded.

"Gambit..."

There was a pause, and then footsteps. When he got to her door, he stuck his head in. "Is it safe?"

"For the moment," Rogue grumbled.

"An' who could resist assurances like dat?" he asked Jean with a wink, opening the door and coming in.

"I'll be just down the hall if you need me," she said to Rogue. "And that goes for you too," she added, glancing at Gambit with twinkling eyes before leaving the room and closing the door behind her.

They stared at each other for several seconds before Rogue finally spoke. "Well...?" she asked, propping up her pillows so she could sit up.

"What do you want me t' say?"

She considered his question as she looked him over. He looked different. His hair was a little longer...and he was in civilian clothes for once - a black t-shirt with the sleeves rolled up a little, jeans, and black boots. Without his ever-present headgear, she could see more of his face...it was a handsome face, full of warmth, understanding, and mischief. "Ah don't know," she admitted. "Is there anythin' you want to say to me?"

There was so much to say that he wasn't sure where to begin. "How's de throat?"

Well...that was a start. "Ah swear, it feels like ah got razor blades in the back of my throat every time ah swallow."

"Maybe dis will help," he said, walking over to her bed and handing her a brown paper bag.

"What is it?"

"A peace offering."

Rogue opened the bag and pulled out a large cup and a straw. The coolness seeping through the paper felt good against her still slightly fevered skin. She popped open the flimsy plastic cover to inspect the cup's contents. "A milkshake?"

"I knew your throat must hurt somethin' fierce ...I t'ought somethin' cold might help. Hope you like chocolate..."

"Ah do," she replied, ripping the paper off the straw and sliding it into the frosty liquid delight. She took a long drink, savoring the ability to swallow without feeling like Freddy Krueger was ripping her throat apart. She couldn't suppress the satisfied sigh that escaped when her lips left the straw. "Thanks..."

"I bought a couple diff'rent flavors of ice cream an' brought 'em over...if you want any later, dey're in de freezer."

Ignoring the chair still beside her bed, Rogue scooted over to make room for him. "Sit."

He sat on the foot of her bed, with his elbows on his legs, bowed over so his head could rest in his hands. "Rogue, I don' know where t' even begin..."

"You could start with why you're talkin' with that ridiculous accent."

He raised his head and looked at her. "I didn' realize...dat's jus' a side effect of bein' back home for a while. It'll wear off soon enough."

"So, you've been in New Orleans all this time?"

He looked away. "I had t'ings t' do down dere."

"Still keepin' secrets," she sighed, shaking her head.

Gambit stood and walked over to her window. "Dose secrets are mine t' keep," he replied, looking at the Institute's grounds. "Dere's many t'ings I've done in my life dat I ain't proud of...but I'm tryin' t' change all dat. What can be amended, I'll do everyt'ing in my power t' make right...an'what can't be fixed will either be forgiven or not. But dere are some t'ings dat are inexcusable, dat will haunt me for de rest of my life."

"Ah don't believe that."

He looked at her and lowered his voice. "Believe it, cherie. Bein' a no good t'ief is de least of my worries."

She noticed his change of tone and backed off a little. "Even if ah believed what you just said, ah still have reason to complain. You don't tell me anything. If we're goin' to be..." she stopped herself and thought a moment. She would have to choose her words carefully. "If you an' ah are gonna do this - whatever this is - you gotta give a little."

"If I give, den you'll leave."

"Ah won't."

"Eventually, it'll be too much for you t' take, an' you'll leave."

"Remy..." she started, tapping the mattress next to her. He left the window and returned to his previous position at the foot of her bed, so close, yet so far. "You don't know that. An' you'll never know if you don't try. An' if you don't try, then we're finished before we've begun."

He couldn't look at her...she was not naive by any stretch of the imagination, but compared to him she was as innocent as a newborn. She thought his deceptions had limits...and maybe they did now. But there was a time when there was no low he wouldn't stoop to. "Den maybe it's better not t' begin."

Rogue didn't know how to respond to that, so she sat in silence, drinking her milkshake. Gambit studied his reflection in the recently replaced mirror. His typically easy, carefree expression had left him for parts unknown...now he looked tired, defeated...older than his 22 years...but then something in the frame of the mirror caught his eye. He got up and walked over to her dresser to examine it more closely. Rogue watched him take the beat up, heavily taped Queen of Hearts card from its place; he stared at it for several seconds before lifting his eyes to meet hers.

"Ah tore it up," she admitted sheepishly as a means of explanation. "Ah was angry. Ah don't know why ah didn't throw the pieces away...." She paused out of embarrassment. "Actually, ah sat on the floor and carefully separated the shreds of paper from the shards of glass...ah didn't put it back together for a few days...but when ah was calmer, ah took 'em out and put 'em together best ah could." She held out her hand, and he walked over and placed the card in it. "Then ah used a ton of Scotch tape, and voilla, good as new."

"Shards of glass?"

"Oh...ah broke the mirror too."

He glanced at the mirror, and then back at her. "Remind me not t' get you mad again." He reached into his back pocket and pulled out a deck of cards. "Here," he said, handing her a pristine Queen of Hearts.

"No."

"What?"

"Ah mean, thanks, but no. Ah want this one. To remind me that things can be fixed."

He took the taped card from her hand and went back to her dresser. He put his deck next to her hairbrush, and placed both Queen of Hearts on the side of her mirror, one just above the other. "Keep both...one for de good times, an' one for de bad."

"That mean we're gonna give this a try?"

"Whatever dis is..." he replied, sitting next to her.

"So you gonna fess up an' tell me what you've done."

"Not today," he said quietly. "Someday, maybe. But dis ain't de right time."

"Ah guess that'll have to do....for now." Rogue didn't want to pry any further, not now anyway, so she decided to let it drop. Almost. "How about the things ah already know? Care to explain what Julien was kind enough to share?"

"Ah've known many girls, cherie. Most didn' mean much t' me...Julien was right, I used dem. I have no excuse."

"Why didn't you tell me?"

"It's not exactly de kind of t'ing you begin a relationship with...'oh, by de way, I'm quite de ladies man, in fact, I've had more women than you can imagine. I didn' care about any of dem, though. I care about you.' Somehow I don' t'ink you'd take dat well."

"Ah've had more women than you can imagine," she thought to herself. "Ah'm still not takin' it well." She locked eyes with him before she continued. "Are you usin' me? Am ah nothin' but the sum of mah powers?"

"De truth?"

She nodded.

"Maybe at first," he admitted, wounding her slightly. "But from de start, dere was somethin' about you dat pulled me in. Even when I was gonna try t' talk you into joining Magneto, dere was somethin' diff'rent 'bout de way I t'ought about you. Dere were...boundaries....dere were t'ings I knew I wouldn't do. Not t' you."

"An' now?"

"Now de only time I'm concerned with your powers is when I want t' kiss you."

For the first time in what seemed like ages, Rogue felt a steady stream of warmth move across her cheeks, and she turned away. Gambit smiled and gave her a moment to recover before making the obligatory obnoxious remark. "Don' fret, chere, at least now you don' look like you're dyin'..."

Realization struck just as her normal color was beginning to return, resulting in a fresh splash of pink. "Oh, God, ah'm not wearin' any makeup, am ah?"

"Hate t' break it t' you, but you're sick...sick girls don' wear makeup."

"Ah want to die," she muttered, laying down and pulling the covers over her head.

"C'mon, dere's nothin' t' be ashamed of..."

"For a guy who's 'had' so many girls, you sure don't know anythin' about them..."

Gambit gently lifted the covers and peered under them at her. "You're not enterin' de Miss America contest, Rogue, you're gettin' over bein' sick and restin' in your pajamas. No big deal."

"Ah must look awful," she complained, covering her face with her hands.

"T' be honest, you've look better," he admitted, "but I wouldn't say you look awful. Now why don' you come out from under dere an' join Gambit in de real world?"

"How could a girl resist a ringing endorsement like that?" she asked, pulling the blankets down.

"No more den a guy could resist the charms of a sick, grumpy rogue."

"So are we...?"

"Do you need t' ask?"

Rogue's heart skipped a beat at his confirmation, though she wasn't quite sure what to do next. "So, what now?"

"In addition t' ice cream, I rented some movies 'cause I didn' t'ink you'd be in de condition t' do much else."

"Aren't we the clever one?"

"Clever and thoughtful."

"Modest too."

"De perfect gentleman..." He smiled, brushing a lock of hair out of her face. "Would you care t' accompany me t' de living room where we can consume large bowls of ice cream an' take in a movie or two?"

"Ah'd be delighted," she laughed.

~

Three hours later found them on the couch in front of the TV, their empty bowls stacked neatly on the coffee table. Wrapped in a blanket, Rogue was lying across the couch asleep, her head resting in Gambit's lap. Oblivious to the fact that the movie was long over, Remy gently stroked her hair while she slept, memorizing the lines of her face.

He heard footsteps approach, but ignored them until the figure spoke. "How's the kid doin'?"

"Better," Gambit replied without looking up.

Logan entered the room and sat on the chair adjacent to the couch. When he had finally received the professor's messages, he came right back. On the way, he managed to talk to Charles, and found out that Rogue was already recovering...nonetheless, he wanted to survey the situation himself. He wasn't exactly thrilled to find Gambit there, as he was still unsure of the Cajun's intentions towards the X-Men in general, and Rogue in particular. Particularly after Rogue's still unexplained temper tantrum had resulted in a broken mirror. But watching Gambit watch Rogue made his heart warm up to him. A little. "I heard you played a big part in gettin' her that way."

"It was nothin'."

Logan watched his fingers weave through her hair. "Shouldn't you be wearin' gloves?"

Gambit looked up, surprised at the question. "I'm bein' careful." He stared at Logan for a few seconds before his gaze returned to Rogue's face. "'Sides...it's worth de risk, no?"

Just then Rogue flinched, moaned, and turned her head to the side, narrowly missing Gambit's bare hand. Her dreams had made a turn for the worse, and she began to fight against an unseen foe, becoming more frantic as she got tangled in her blanket.

Logan came over and knelt beside her. He shook her gently. "Rogue...wake up."

Her eyes opened to reveal a cornered animal, and she raised an arm, ready to strike. Logan grabbed it with his gloved hand, and put her arm back down by her side. "It was a dream."

"An' a violent one at dat...wanna share with de class?"

She closed her eyes and tried to concentrate. Most of the dream was a blur that escaped as soon as she awoke...but she remembered a short conversation between a man and a woman...

"I don' think I like this idea."

"You got anythin' better up your sleeve?"

"Can't say that I do..."

"...trust me...."

"I can't remember," she said, opening her eyes again.

"Well, it's only a dream," Logan replied.

Rogue nodded, and began to ask Logan about his mission. Now that she was safe and surrounded by friends, she tried to brush the dream aside. But somewhere, in the furthest corners of her mind, that partially remembered conversation nagged at her...

 

1 - Excerpt from Someday, by Nickelback

2 - Excerpt from Henry V, by William Shakespeare, as quoted in "Mutant Crush"

 

Part 4