Whispers

 
 

Day One: Friday
Sans Pitié

Day One, 1st Hour, 10th Minute

Remy had never for a moment thought that he would lose. And now for the next thirty-one days (or 744 hours or—best not to think of minutes), he was entirely at Rogue's mercy.

Remy knew from personal experience, Rogue had no mercy.

He growled in frustration and paced his bedroom while holding his head in his hands and trying vainly to find some way he could have played it differently. Won.

They knew what their big blind was from the beginning. The slavery. But for fun, they opted to work terms as bets.

Round One: Start time. Rogue had yawned and called for start time of 5:00 am following the game. He'd raised her, went for midnight. She grinned lazily. He won that round, two out of three.

Slavery began at midnight directly following the game. His win. Wake up calls were a viable labor available (no way that Rogue would be wanting to get up the next morning; Remy, of course, said he'd be fine). Her win. Duration would be the length of the longest month, namely thirty-one days. His win.

His grim smile at that.

Round Two: Acceptable labors. Rogue seriously won this two out of three hands. One of his first clues, something was afoot. (Who taught that femme to play!)

He'd gone for physicality (or at least trying; he may not have known her well, but he did know she had killer skin). She'd slapped that down with a full house on top of his flush of hearts (yes, he'd been making a point).

Rogue bet any physical labor, including but not limited to errands, chores, bodyguarding, and general non-contact manual labor. He'd been dealt a made hand, four of a kind. Unless she had something real special going on (and she had a fabulous poker face!), then he had her. He called without raising. They drew. He won. She smiled slightly, having learned he bluffed.

Remy decided to bet the house: any kind of labor whatsoever, providing it neither broke rules (at Logan's forceful suggestion) or dignity (disregarding earlier clauses regarding manual labor), was eligible. Rogue raised to drop the dignity clause. Lousy sucker, he went for it. And lost. The femmehad a straight flush to his full house. Of course, this was after he re-raised for required company being dubbed "labor."

Round Three: Punishment for misbehavior. He won the hands solid. In summary, punishment of the slave could be anything the imagination of the winner devised, provided it was acceptable by Xavier's house and, if applicable, school rules.

Never should have gone there.

Remy groaned, still pacing, and glanced at the clock by his bed. 2:30 a.m. A slave and already dreading it, though his mistress was sound asleep.

He sat down.

They went six more rounds. The slave's schedule belonged to Storm first, but afterwards to the winner. The winner had to provide any funds if required for slave to accomplish duties and assignments. The slave had to be available to help with classwork if required (Remy had liked that one especially, as he was a much worse teacher than he was a thief). Thievery was not allowed by the slave in the completion of his assignments (this was after she let on that she was playing like a poker master). No arbitration was available for the slave. Clothing and general appearance of the slave could be determined by the winner.

Finally, they played to take the pot.

Round Ten: This time, it was only one hand and Remy's was anything but a made one. The Ten of Spades, the Ten of Diamonds, the Ten of Clubs. The Jack of Diamonds and the Queen of Diamonds. He could draw for four of a kind (easier to achieve perhaps) or for a straight flush in Diamonds (more valuable).

Rogue made an infinitesimal frown at her cards before blanking her face like a stone. Emma Frost smirked.

He'd bet money she had a drawing hand too. Of course, not his money.

Remy called. Rogue called.

They drew.

He traded in his Club and Spade and got back the Nine and Eight of Diamonds. It had been a risk, but unless the femme went royal, the hand was his.

Remy had never thought for a moment he would lose.

Until she lay down a Ten of Hearts (good thing he hadn't gone for four of a kind!), a Jack of Hearts (this wasn't looking good), a Queen of Hearts (this was impossible!), a King of Hearts (he was speechless), and the Ace.

No mercy. He knew from personal experience that Rogue had no mercy at all.

Day One, 4th Hour, 1st Minute

Emma Frost paced back and forth in her study, glancing every so often at the clock on the corner of her desk. They had precisely one half hour to do this, and Rogue was late.

Emma sighed, rubbing her temples, and sat down behind the desk. Working with Rogue on the psychic end of her powers was perhaps the most difficult, dangerous thing Emma ever had to do. Whoever thought that the girl would be practically homicidal if you dared to mess with her biggest problems, namely the psyches? Emma frowned thoughtfully. Actually Rogue could turn violent any time she was feeling scared or vulnerable and someone tried to help her.

That had to be some kind of a complex.

The minute hand hit the 02.

The frown deepened. Rogue was late.

Finally, the study door opened and a smiling, humming brunette with white locks tracing the front of her hair stepped into the lair of the White Queen.

"About time you showed up," Emma rebuked regally. She indicated the chair in front of her desk. "Sit."

Rogue sat, looking rather regal herself. And happy.

"Having fun with Gambit?" Emma asked, raising a brow.

Rogue grinned. "Not yet, but I will."

"I'm sure." With a sigh, Emma got down to business. "Back into the strange land of your mind."

"It's not strange."

"Yes, dear. It is." Rogue had no idea just how unique of an experience this had been for Emma.

Emma had, in fact, been hired by Storm specifically to help the young mutant in front of her. It was through these sessions that the two had become friends, in spite of the drastic age difference, seeing as Rogue was barely into her twenties and Emma was from the same graduating class as Ororo and Jean. And Scott.

And these sessions were technically the reason that Emma had allowed herself to start this whole plan with get-the-girl-a-boyfriend. Her conditioning needed to be undone as quickly as Emma could find a way through it and she had the distinct feeling that Remy would be just the thing.

Prescription: One Remy to be taken daily for thirty-one days.

If only he knew.

Emma raised her hands to her head, shut her eyes, and reached out to Rogue's mind. "I hope you've redecorated to something more organized," she said at the last moment.

Rogue's mindscape expressed differently on every visit. So far, small, cozy, and poorly decorated seemed to be Rogue's forte. A combination Emma hated.

Emma instantly found herself in a lush, overgrown, jumbled garden, the air rich and humid, not a psyche in sight.

She groaned. This was definitely worse.

Day One, 4th Hour, 28th Minute

The Prince of Thieves had finally fallen into some kind of a fitful sleep when his cell phone began a violent assault on his dream world. He stumbled out of the bed and opened it.

"Gambit." His voice betrayed nothing but the perfect thief for hire.

"Hey, sugar," Rogue's sexy voice said breezily. "I just finished a session with Emma and I need a wake-up call in exactly one hour. 5:30 sharp, ya hear?"

He sank back onto his covers. 5:30 a.m.? Didn't she know he needed sleep too? But as he toyed with it, ideas came to mind. Not unpleasant ones. Thoughts and images of her sleeping flitted through his consciousness. "Certainly, chère. I'll wake you up."

Something in his tone must have tipped her off. "Just call, Swamp Rat," she snapped.

From sugar to rat in a matter of seconds.

"You wound me, chère."

"The only thing wounded is your pride. Here's Kitty's cell number." She drawled out her roommate's phone number.

"Kitty's? What about yours?" Remy grinned. "You need the wake-up call, non?"

He heard some shuffling of papers and something, then a thump and Rogue's voice again. "If you'd ever heard the obnoxious ringtone she has for when you call, you'd know it's more than sufficient to wake you after one of your drunken binges—"

He sat straight up at that. "Chère!"

"—from here!" Rogue huffed. "So call Kitty. Five thirty. And you don't have to wait for her to answer."

She hung up.

Remy swore softly at his cell phone in French. He'd wake her up. He set his own alarm for another forty-five minutes.

Day One, 5th Hour, 29th Minute

Jubilee and Rahne were both curled up asleep in their warm covers. It was very early in the morning. They didn't have to be up. Ever since Logan took over training sessions in the Danger Room, instead of Scott, they weren't dragged from their beds at unholy hours to go fight.

Kitty snuggled deep into her pillow in the adjoining room. Rogue was invisible beneath the covers. Next door on the other side, Siryn and Dazzler (did those girls ever use their actual names?) were dreaming of ice cream and boys and...well, on Dazzler's part at least, some strange things regarding said ice cream and boys. Across the hall, Laura a.k.a. X-23 slept sprawled across her own bed in the room she didn't share, blissfully unaware of the danger lurking and getting ready to spring.

The clock turned its hands to 5:30. One second passed. Two seconds passed.

Kitty's phone rang.

A blaring, jarring, thoroughly waking rendition of "Rehab" sang outward through the walls of Rogue and Kitty's room, waking Jubilee and Rahne (Rahne fell out of the bed), slashing through Dazzler's decidedly strange (if interesting) dream and through Siryn's decidedly less strange dream, and rousing a growling, snarling Laura from her bed. X-23 raised her arms and released her claws, fully intent on wreaking real damage on the offensive, disgusting, blaring ringtone.

Rogue threw a book at Kitty's head.

"Ow!" The phaser woke, grabbed the phone from Rogue's threatening clasp, and answered breathily. "Hello?" She managed to infuse an incredible amount of irritation into her sleepy voice.

Day One, 5th Hour, 30th Minute

At 5:30 a.m. sharp, Remy picked up the phone and tapped out Kitty's number.

Almost instantly, she picked up. A groggy voice demanded, "Hello?"

"Morning, petite," Remy replied smoothly. "This is your wake up call."

"My what?" Kitty squealed.

He winced.

"Wake up—" Kitty's loud voice stopped abruptly. "Oh. Her wake up call."

"Oui. Time she be up."

In the hallway, a growling Rahne had joined a prowling Laura. Jubilee had acquired a hefty textbook in lieu of better missiles. Dazzler came out swinging a pillow.

"We on?"

"Yes," Siryn behind her hissed out high-pitch between her teeth. She looked ready to scream at their resident bubbly Kitten, and probably, that's exactly what she intended to do.

The girls converged upon the door.

Kitty broke out into giggles. "You should see her, Gambit. She's running around this room looking for the rest of her clothes."

He could hear angry shouting in the background, but his curiosity was piqued. "And what is the Rogue wearing?"

"Remy!"

Remy grinned. He had apparently shocked her enough to get his proper name. "Well, what is she?" He had all sorts of ideas of what Rogue wore to bed. More interesting the idea that she might be getting dressed.

"You're evil!" Kitty choked out between giggles. "I can't tell you that. Rogue!"

"Non. Merci." Remy withdrew hurriedly. "Rogue not be needing to know I asked."

Kitty snickered.

No arbitration was available for the slave.

"He wanted to know what you were wearing." A slight pause. "Or weren't."

Remy cringed and a shriek in the background assured him that Rogue would exact revenge. He hung up the phone and stared at it.

Remy knew from personal experience, Kitty had no mercy.

Day One, 5th Hour, 35th Minute

An ear-splitting shriek came from Rogue and sailed out through the closed door. They all stopped, looking around in confusion. Rogue? Had she really just...shrieked?

Laura recovered first, narrowing her eyes at invisible Kitty. She raised her claws again and started toward the door.

The door flung open, knocking Dazzler clear into Siryn and sent them tumbling in a heap, almost hitting Laura, who quickly retracted her claws.

Rogue stood in the doorway, drawn up like a queen, her green eyes flashing fire, and her leather outfit lending a dangerous air to her person. Her hair had flown about briefly with the force of her exit and it only added to the angry effect.

She looked around at the girls, stepped haughtily forward with vengeance gleaming in her eye, then tossed back over her shoulder, "She's all yours."

Siryn rubbed her arm. "Ow."

Laura returned her gaze to the nervous-looking Kitty on her bed.

"Uh." Kitty glanced uncertainly between all the threatening, dangerous glares coming her way. "Hi, guys."

SNICK.

Day One, 5th Hour, 38th Minute

Rogue passed through the boy's dorm on her way to the Danger Room—if "passed" isn't too polite of a word for her stormy progress. She startled quite a few of the high-school age boys, having caught a few without shirts on, and worked up quite a temper and a small audience by the time she banged on the Cajun's door.

Remy opened it, looking the part of perfect gentleman. "Oui, ma chère? How may I be of assistance?"

She narrowed her eyes at his easy nonchalance and slid her hands to her hips. "I'll be done with Logan in an hour. When I get back, there better be a very good Cajun breakfast waiting for me."

"A pleasure to serve, chèrie," he replied smoothly with a bow.

She had forgotten just how charming he could be when he wanted to, but with her current mood was rather unimpressed.

"Or weren't?" she asked dangerously.

Remy sighed and ran a hand through tousled auburn hair. "And have you decided the punishment?"

"It involves torture." She sized him up once again and decided his gift for defusing tense situations was just that and not an indicator of how he felt about them. "One hour," she warned. "And shave?"

Some of the boys behind her gave a snicker, but she ignored them, instead continuing her royal progress and heading for the Danger Room. Rogue decided that Logan would be feeling it today.

Day One, 5th Hour, 40th Minute

Kitty fell through the floor, through the room below her and its obviously sleeping occupant, through their floor, and into the kitchen on top of Remy LeBeau.

"Maudit, Chaton!"

She tumbled off of him and endured his blazing glare, red eyes afire with a luminous glow. "Uh...sorry." She heard something and looked up to see the firing squad coming down the stairs. She squeaked and jumped behind Remy, grabbing hold of his shirt. "Save me!"

His stare turned incredulous and he muttered something darkly in what was probably shocking French.

Laura stalked forward, leading the pack, with her claws raised.

Remy shook his head and held up a hand for the girls to stop. Miraculously, they did.

"You are now in dans court du roi," he stated calmly. "Why do you want to slaughter the chaton?"

"Her ringtone," Siryn replied with narrow eyes.

"Waking us up, dude." Jubilee swung her pillow menacingly. "Totally uncool."

Dazzler crossed her arms. "Ignoring our previous warnings."

Laura didn't bother to reply, choosing instead to glare at the target in question.

Remy's hand snaked back, wrapped around Kitty's elbow, and to her surprise, yanked her out from behind him. His crimson eyes were calmer now, but still glowed dangerously. "How do you plead? Innocent or guilty?"

"Uh..." She stared at him. "All those charges?"

"Oui."

She lifted her chin a little. He didn't have to be so...Remy about this. Hmph! "It was your fault. You called me."

Laura narrowed her eyes at Remy.

He smirked at Kitty. "Change your ringtone."

"But I like--" The glares returned to her, and Kitty bit off the rest of her words. "Yeah, sure, no problem."

Remy shook his head at her. "Case dismissed," he said with a wave of his hand and gently shoved Kitty out of the kitchen. "I've work to do."

Kitty huffed and headed for the stairs. The nerve!

Her reluctantly not-firing squad trooped behind her.

Day One, 5th Hour, 45th Minute

Rogue enjoyed taking Logan down way too much and this kind of Danger Room session, the kind where she was supposed to practice skin-on-skin contact made it just too much fun.

While they engaged in a bare-handed wrestling match, for all intents and purposes, him stopping on occasion to gasp for air, Rogue sent a thought loudly in the direction of the female staff dorms.

Emma?

An extremely grumpy, sleepy voice finally entered her head on the third try. You rang?

I'd like to schedule a shopping trip with the girls. No lingerie. Rogue dodged Logan's attack. It's supposed to be torture for Remy.

What did he do this time, the little rat? Emma sounded delightedly appreciative and much more awake.

Rogue giggled, swinging out with a left upper cut, then landing a punch in Logan's gut. Yeah, he is a swamp rat, isn't he? she thought wickedly. He asked what I wasn't wearing while I was getting dressed.

A moment of silence. Hold, please.

Hold? Rogue giggled again and Logan glared at her.

"You think this is funny?"

"Hilarious," she agreed, leaping out with a series of kicks, then rolling under his block to land a touch on his arm again.

He staggered back and yanked his arm away. But he was beginning to weaken.

Okay, I'm back. Emma sounded slightly ruffled. They know. I've lined up Jubilee who has a new credit card.

Rogue snickered at that to Logan's incredulous gaze.

He landed a blow on her. She returned the favor.

Kitty says she needs a new wardrobe and her parents are paying. Of course, I'm coming to supervise.

We don't need a chaperone, Ems, Rogue replied with mental chagrin.

Logan successfully tackled her to the ground. They grappled for a moment.

Of course, you do, Emma answered dismissively. It's a guy.

They rolled apart and Logan launched at her. Rogue swung out of the way.

Besides I told all the girls to go anywhere they wanted in the mall, to buy a minimum of five bags each, and if they ran out, I'll cover the cost. And we have Kitty's surprise birthday party to shop for, don't we?

Rogue could feel Emma's wicked grin. She launched into a furious counterattack.

At the momentary silence, the White Queen slipped into her mind, no doubt to check out what was going on. Emma sniffed in disdain. Oh, and please tell that knuckleheaded, badly in need of fashion assistance mentor of yours that we'll meet after ten to go over your training notes.

I don't know, Ems. He's got that bad boy thing going for him. I kind of like the look.

He had regained his distance and an almost equal footing. He'd hold out longer if she'd stop touching him, or at least, start trying not to drain him like she was supposed to be trying.

A mental growl. No doubt, came out with all the clipped iciness of the original real voice of the White Queen.

Rogue snickered at oblivious Logan's expense.

I think... She launched into a final flip and tuck and grab him around the wrist as he was reaching for her. I win.

Of course, you do, Emma replied. We women always do.

Rogue stared at Logan passed out beneath her.

Perhaps. But what do I do with the body?

Day One, 6th Hour, 43rd Minute

Bell pepper, onion, celery, cayenne, bay leaf…

Rogue sniffed appreciatively as she entered the kitchen and settled in a chair to watch the Cajun cook.

He was a master, and he moved with an easy grace in the kitchen. Some would look at his creations and find them a little plain and brown, but it was the real authentic deal and tasted heavenly to Rogue's south-deprived taste buds.

For the last thirteen months since Remy had arrived at the mansion, looking for Storm and catching the bad end of a bet she had won from him, Rogue had most appreciated his southernness. Of course, he had to ruin that by immediately hitting on her, then every other available girl in the mansion, before unwisely winning away her dignity in poker. Then of course, like most men, he didn't even realize she was fuming about it until she won away his last night.

She smirked again remembering.

"Morning, chère." He didn't even glance her way, just slid her a very full plate and handed her a glass.

"Merci." She could be a little polite when it suited her.

This time he did look up. Smoldering red on black eyes a girl could drown in met hers. The man was handsome. And charming. And interested in anything female with legs on that didn't have a man already. Well, Emma and Logan kept him from acting on interest in a girl that had a guy already.

"So what's the punishment?" he asked, leaning casually against the counter. His devil-may-care attitude was yet another reason she'd loved beating him at cards. "Chinese water?"

"No." Rogue set down her glass. "American shopping."

His shoulders relaxed slightly, and she frowned. She hadn't even noticed he'd been tense.

"I happen to be a very good judge of female attire," he said with his usual charm.

"I know." She smiled sweetly. "And Jubilee, Kitty, Emma, and I will want your opinion on everything."

Remy blanched. "Firecracker?"

Rogue turned her voice saccharine sweet. "You know Jubilee will just be delighted to have a man that is a very good judge of female attire to help us out and carry the bags."

"Merde!"

"No cussing in the kitchen, Gumbo." Logan came in, claws out, looking like he just came out of a particularly rough Danger Room session, and pulled down a mug to get coffee. "A kid comes in here, and you'd be hearing it everywhere."

"You cuss too!" Remy objected.

"Don't bother Logan," Rogue tossed off and dug into breakfast, effectively silencing the conversation.

Remy's red eyes glowed hypnotically as he stared at her. He was miffed. She caught it in the line of his body. He wasn't used to being ordered around like that. Or maybe he just didn't like it.

"We leave right after school's out," she informed him a few minutes later. She handed him her empty plate.

Logan watched with interest.

"Careful, homme," Remy threw at him. "Next time, she might get you."

"Nah." The Wolverine downed the dregs of his coffee. He grinned wolfishly. "I taught her how to play. I'll never bet the house on her."

Remy's jaw dropped. "You taught the femme?"

Logan and Rogue both laughed as they joined each other on their way out, leaving Remy with the dishes.

Day One, 10th Hour, 1st Minute

Logan had fully recovered by the end of his breakfast with the shamelessly grinning and unrepentant Rogue. Then she was off to go teach a bunch of thirteen year olds how to speak their own language (a lost cause if you asked Logan) and he was off to talk to Emma Frost, a person he'd rather not talk to most days.

He didn't bother knocking on her office door, just opened it and went in.

Emma was holding a pencil, pressing the end against the corner of her mouth, narrowing her eyes thoughtfully at the piece of paper in her hand. "Looking well," she said drily.

"Very funny," Logan said as he stomped over to a chair and sat down. "She didn't even try today."

Emma sniffed. "I noticed."

He eyed her up. "And how would you notice?"

She rolled her eyes. "I can go telepathically check on you whenever I feel like." She set down the paper and the pencil and settled back. "Anything important happen?"

Logan pulled out a cigar and settled back himself. "Not unless you count me getting drained and passing out."

The White Queen's eyebrows shot up nearly to her hairline. "She really didn't try, did she?" No use giving away everything, she figured, even if she already knew about that. Especially with Logan feeling borderline homicidal.

He merely grunted and blew out some smoke. "You?"

"Oh, she tried all right." She grimaced. "I made the mistake of saying something that must have hurt a little psyche's poor feelings and was promptly and painfully evicted without warning." She rubbed her temples. "Still have a headache from that."

Logan watched Emma shake her head at the memory. "Meaning?"

"It has to be a complex. She overreacts any time I dare to interfere with the psyches." She leaned back and stared solemnly at Logan. "She probably needs to get laid."

Logan's claws came out, accompanied by a low growl.

"Seriously, Logan." The White Queen deigned to explain. "She needs to touch. And not just you. As long as she sees her skin as a weapon, that is exactly what it will remain."

"Don't know what else you could call it, Queenie," he replied flatly.

"Skin!"

"Don't know what this has to do with the psyches."

Emma frowned. "I'm not sure I do either."

"Nice." Logan stood. "Look. You figure out her head. I'll figure out her touch. Got it?"

"Unfortunately for you, Logan," Emma said with a glare, "The two are related. Got it?"

"I'll believe it when I see it."

"I think this bet will be good for her," she went on.

Logan threw back his head and laughed. "Of course, it will. But not for the reasons you're thinking."

Anything to see Gumbo bending over and actually putting in an effort to things. Rogue was perfect for the job, just the right combination of mean and sweet. He was going to enjoy this.

"But it doesn't have anything to do with her gaining control."

"How do you know, Logan?" Emma replied enigmatically. "It just might."

Day One, 15th Hour, 39th Minute

"They're late," Rogue snapped as she slid into the passenger seat of Remy's car.

"Ah, chère. They'll be here soon." He couldn't resist grinning at her despite her irritation. But nine minutes after classes let out wasn't that much after school.

She gave him the emerald death glare.

Remy grinned like a Cheshire cat. The first rule he'd learned about bluffing the opposition was never lose your cool. He'd already lost it more than once in this crazy bet, but he didn't intend on doing it again.

Rogue suddenly turned toward him and, narrowing her eyes, looked him over carefully. Then she sighed. "You'll do."

He raised both eyebrow. "Excusez-moi?"

Just then, the girls decided to appear. Emma would not do if he guessed Rogue's standards even somewhat correctly. Her top could hardly be called one. Jubilee was swinging a HUGE purse excitedly and chattering nonstop to Kitty who had a sizable amount of shopping bags.

"The stores give you bags here, non?" he asked, indicating Kitty.

Rogue laughed. "She's on a green thing. Reusable canvas."

"And she'll do, chère?" He pointed at Emma as the White Queen entered the back seat.

"I will always do," Emma said with a royal wave.

Rogue smiled lazily. "I wouldn't push it with her, Swamp Rat. Oh, and no stealing?"

It was worded as a question but it certainly wasn't one. He cranked up the stereo. Rogue cringed at the blast of rockiness that came blaring out.

She killed it. "No music today." Then glared at him. "And no smoking."

He clenched his jaw, popped on his shades, and answered, "No problem."

Day One, 16th Hour, 3rd Minute

Living this close to the mall with Jubilee had to be a health hazard. First of all, he thought he was good at getting through a crowd? He had nothing on Firecracker in her determined march through the masses into the mall entrance to Macy's. He kept up only by grabbing hold of a female, since the shoppers seemed to decide that only females belonged, which meant getting continually slapped by Emma and Rogue (and she slapped hard!) since Kitty would just phase away.

"So grabby today," Emma said inside the store as she coolly evaluated a skimpy camisole top. "I thought you liked shopping."

"He likes thieving," Rogue corrected.

Jubilee didn't bother to comment or ask. She merely decided that better things were in another section, "See you girls!" and yanked Remy by his duster in the appropriate direction.

Remy struggled to maintain his balance as she continued her Juggernaut-style march into the Women's night clothes section.

"Petite, are you sure I'm the best companion for this part?"

Firecracker turned and gave him the chocolate death glare. "I need help picking some PJs that don't advertise sex, but do look cute," she replied with a miffed, turned up nose.

"I don't know, petite," he answered smoothly. "I rather like those teddy bear pants you've got going."

His whole body tingled and felt incredibly weird as Kitty phased through him to reach Jubilee. "Nonsense," the phaser said breezily. "That's not the kind of cute we're going for."

Girls and their definitions of cute. They must have had a million. He groaned internally, but made himself lounge comfortably in the chair next to the dressing room. He sized Jubilee up.

"No sex, hein?"

Emma breezed by. "Of course not! She's far too young!"

Jubilee's chin came up.

"But this..." Emma fingered a white negligee. She started flipping for her size.

"Where's Rogue?" Remy glanced around for her.

"Whoa! Remy!" Firecracker waved her hand in front of his face. "You're supposed to be helping me!"

He turned back. "Oui." He glided out of his chair, pulling on the charm, and fished up a silky black tank top and matching long pants in her size. "Try these."

She stared at them, eyes wide. "They don't say sex?"

Emma glanced over. "Definitely not."

Kitty grinned. "They come close though," she squealed. "Try them on."

"This was not what I had in mind," Rogue said harshly.

Remy turned to her and saw she had her arms crossed and her eyes sparkled more than usual. If he wasn't mistaken, she was about five minutes away from tears.

"Perhaps there was something else you needed, non?" He slipped his arm around her waist and she blinked in surprise as he led her away from the lingerie. "I'm having too much fun; not enough punishment," he said as excuse.

She narrowed her eyes at him. "Oh?"

Anything for a femme, right?

"I'm sure you'll fix that," he added reassuringly.

"I'm sure I will, Swamp Rat." She shoved his hands away and led on.

But he grinned. She had been grateful somewhere deep in that femme heart. Then he winced. She'd probably make him pay for that too.

Day One, 16th Hour, 29th Minute

Sam Guthrie, Bobby Drake, Piotr Rasputin, and Sean Cassidy carefully gathered their ranks, swallowed their pride, and prepared to darken the entrance to an entire floor at Nordstrom's dedicated to the female shopper.

Sam shifted a little nervously. "Isn't there a better way to shop for Kitty's party?"

"This is my girlfriend," Piotr reminded him. "And what she wants is up here."

Bobby nodded sagely, having had a girlfriend before and in process of gaining another one, namely Lorna Dane.

Sean stepped forward. "Let's just do this."

And so the four courageous males braved a purely female section of the mighty store. And stopped gaping at the women's clothes.

Gambit (Oh, how the mighty have fallen!) was in the middle of the section, being run ragged by three girls and their teacher, Emma Frost.

Rogue was carefully flipping through shirts on a rack, holding one up now and then to get an opinion. Remy would nod or shake his head and then get yanked over this way by Jubilee and another clothing item would be added to the teetering mound on his left arm. Then Kitty would shout something and Remy would go trucking around, fish something off another rack, and take it back to hand to her. Emma kept grabbing clothes from his other arm, whisking them away to the dressing room, then coming back for more.

All four boys stared in appalled horror.

Sam shook his head sadly. "I'm never getting a girlfriend."

Bobby started rethinking his Lorna infatuation.

Piotr eyed Kitty up with a little bit of worry as she blissfully hauled Gambit around and allowed him to pick her clothes and sizes.

Sean grimaced. "I wonder how he got to be there."

Bobby shook his head. "I don't think we want to know."

In unspoken agreement, the four males called retreat and walked back to Sean's waiting car.

Piotr spoke for them all. "I think they sell those things online."

"Yeah!" the other three chorused.

Day One, 16th Hour, 52nd Minute

"Makeup!" cried Jubilee with an unwavering excitement that had Remy groaning.

This was their third store and he was already loaded down with about eighteen bags. Emma hung her handbag on his arm and began to appraise the models cynically. Make that nineteen.

He decided to count to a hundred in French to help himself get through this. He never carried this much at a go.

Rogue merely grinned at him as she fingered an expensive perfume. A gleam came into her eye.

Mon Dieu. What would she think of next?

"Remy, come over here," she drawled.

He obeyed grudgingly.

"I need to pick out a perfume for the party next week."

"Party?"

She put a gloved finger to her lips. "Kitty's birthday."

The surprise party. He'd forgotten in all the fuss of the bet.

"Oui. And how can I help you, chèrie?"

She picked up two testers. "Temptation or Erotica?"

He raised both eyebrows. "You, ma chère, are both."

Her startled flush warmed him, but then she narrowed her eyes again. "But I have to pick one." She sighed and slid her gloves off carefully.

Remy swallowed but maintained a calm expression. He'd never seen Rogue without her gloves on and it was, well, erotic.

She spritzed the first tester on one wrist and held it out with a raised eyebrow. He sniffed appreciatively.

"The other." He handed her the second bottle.

She used it on her other wrist and held that out.

He tilted his head appraisingly. "Erotica."

"Did you just pick her perfume?" Jubilee asked excitedly.

He groaned inwardly.

Rogue smiled wickedly. "I'm sure he'd be more than happy to help you two as well."

"Really?" Kitty manufactured the widest smile he'd ever seen on a fille's face.

Day One, 18th Hour, 17th Minute

At 6:17 p.m., he stumbled out of the mall drenched in the smell of twelve different perfumes and carrying about fifty bags from different stores. He managed to get them into the trunk just barely.

Rogue smiled at him as she slid gracefully into the passenger seat. "We should do this again."

"Oh, totally!" Jubilee enthused as Kitty nodded vigorously.

"I rather enjoyed it," Emma condescended to say.

Remy desperately needed a smoke.

Day One, 18th Hour, 22nd Minute

Rogue smiled into the breeze as Remy drove his convertible back toward the mansion. She had enjoyed herself and had about eight or nine of her own bags to prove it. She kicked back the seat, let down her hair, and pulled off her gloves to take advantage of the cool wind on a summer afternoon and listened idly to the girl talk behind her in the back seat.

Suddenly, she became aware of another murmur of sound. She glanced over at Remy and saw him flipping cards in one hand and driving with the other lazily guiding the wheel.

"Remy LeBeau!" she screeched. "Are you trying to get us killed?"

If he hadn't been driving, Rogue would have lunged for the cards. As it was, Remy merely gave her an annoyed look.

"It's that or a cigarette, chère, 'less you want me charging this here wheel."

She swiped the cards out of his hand, opened the glove department viciously, and exchanged the deck for a pack.

"Here, Swamp Rat. One."

"Merci, ma chèrie."

"I'm not your darling nothing," she snapped back.

He smirked and lit up with a touch of a finger. Emma, Kitty, and Jubilee immediately protested loudly.

"Not in the car!" Jubilee whined.

Rogue shushed them with a hand. "Oh, he's been so nice today, I had to let him." She had no intention of telling them that he had successfully threatened her.

Remy rolled his eyes.

Payback. She flipped the radio station to her favorite station and cranked it up.

Remy cringed. "Mes tourmentés. Pop music torture now?"

She laughed at him and his genuine horror. Kitty and Jubilee were singing loudly to the chorus. Emma tapped her hand to the beat.

"I like it," Rogue said with a smile.

Remy set his face grimly and locked his eyes on the road.

Day One, 23rd Hour, 40th Minute

A lovely afternoon went sour soon after Kitty went to bed. It was a Friday night, which meant late night ice cream, girl chats with any female that dared to enter, and modeling the clothes they bought. Which meant Rogue got an earful about romantic touchy-feely relationships and saw Jubilee and Kitty's new night clothes with all their wonderful, painful potential.

It was tough being the one girl who couldn't have it all. She couldn't have anything.

So after the ice cream and bubbly effusiveness of her roommate wore off, Rogue tried unsuccessfully to sleep. Lost cause. She kept thinking, kept remembering, kept wanting.

Rogue huffed and slipped out of her bed, glided softly toward her closet, and pulled down a soft, clingy lace negligee, the only sexy nightclothes she had. She ran a bare hand over the maroon fabric and sighed wistfully. Suddenly, she flung the slip onto her dresser and threw herself on the bed.

She would not cry.

A sheet of paper on the nightstand by the phone caught her eye. Emma had given both Remy and her a copy of the terms they'd agreed to at the end of their poker match.

Day One, 23rd Hour, 48th Minute

Emma woke from a sound sleep to some interesting mental activity. Starting with Rogue. The girl was projecting again. The White Queen sighed and accepted that interference might be necessary and popped into Rogue' head.

Clothes.

She felt a small shock of surprise. She hadn't expected that, but Rogue was handling a certain lacy negligee and thinking about what would never be.

A small choke of fury crept up in Emma's stomach. That everyone here had allowed this friend of Emma's to feel she would never have what the other girls took for granted...Why, it was indecent!

She did a quick scour for an open mind or two and started scrounging up ideas.

When Rogue noticed the terms of the bet, Emma was positively delighted. Excellent idea. She nudged the girl in the right direction. Call Remy. She did it subtlely. Didn't want Rogue to know what she was up to.

Then she sat and listened in.

Day One, 23rd Hour, 49th Minute

Rogue reached for the phone and hesitated only a moment before dialing Remy's room. It rang twice.

"Gambit." His voice was matter-of-fact as always, but this time, it held a hint of real irritation.

Emma felt like clobbering him, but realized that she'd have little opportunity to do so, so settled for planning an extra special field trip for him to take the younger kids on.

"Remy?"

As if Rogue didn't know who she called. Emma had forgotten why she stopped eavesdropping growing up, but it was all starting to come back.

A long silence ensued. Just when she thought he wasn't going to speak at all, he did.

"Chère. You're cute and all, but phone sex at midnight isn't exactly what I had in mind."

"Gambit!" She sat up straight in bed. This time he had really gone too far! The nerve of him!

Emma laughed. He was perfect. Break her right out of that funk.

"What do you want?" he demanded with enough growl in his voice to compete with Logan.

Emma instantly evicted Rogue's thought. Logan was definitely in his own category of difficult.

It startled Rogue a little to realize he used sex as a cover for anger. She let go of her anger and sighed deeply. "Could you sleep?" It was always the polite way to start into the I couldn't sleep conversation.

"Could I sleep?" Remy repeated in absolute incredulity.

"Could he sleep?" Emma repeated to herself in absolute incredulity. What kind of a line was that? Of course, he could sleep! Emma herself had a hand in running him around that day!

"That is what I asked," she said with some annoyance.

"Let me get this straight, chère." His voice made it clear that he couldn't believe she was asking him. "We stay up 'til almost midnight on a school night playing poker, you wake me at a ridiculous hour this morning, haul me out of bed to make your breakfast, drag me along to fifteen different stores, have me lug enough bags to make up Logan's weight again, send me to the store at 10:00 at night to pick up ice cream, then wake me up from my well-deserved rest at nearly midnight again, and you're wondering if I could sleep?"

Rogue stared wide-eyed at her mirror when he let loose his tirade. "Yes," she whispered.

He gave a strangled groan. "Est-ce que je pourrais dormir?" he muttered darkly to himself.

Emma decided to skip out on the rest of the conversation until something interesting happened. If she could just get in Gambit's head...

Rogue pulled herself up sharply. "Seeing as I won the bet, I'm perfectly allowed to call you whenever I want."

"Oui. But I'm not required to be nice about it." Apparently, the charm was worn out for the evening.

She narrowed her eyes, even though he couldn't see her. "Required company was deemed labor, Swamp Rat." Her voice softened. "I just want to talk. You don't have to listen if you don't want to."

Remy gave a long-suffering sigh and settled down. "Proceed."

She could practically see his magnanimous gesture accompanying the word.

Now that he was calm, she didn't know what to say. She'd had so much to say when she first dialed his number. She took a deep breath.

"Sometimes I just wish I could touch people."

She stopped there. There was silence on the other end. She sighed again.

"Just seeing Kitty and Jubilee today..."

"Not Emma?"

"No! She's different," Rogue concluded quickly. Then realized he'd sounded genuinely interested. "I just sometimes wonder why me? Why was I the one life decided couldn't have anything?" She almost forgot who she was talking to as the feelings overtook her. "Why can't I keep a boyfriend or have sex or children? Why?" Her voice broke.

"Whoa, chère." Remy panicked. "You can talk, but don't start crying on me."

Suddenly, she was laughing in the middle of her tears. The sobs were less painful now. "Oh, Remy. What is it with guys and tears. You'd think you'd melt or something."

"Feeling better, chère?" His voice was tentative. Maybe he was afraid she'd cry again.

"No," she said. Then she thought about it. "A little."

"It's Bobby as was the fool. Not you."

She choked on that.

"You're not crying again, are you?" The panic was back.

"Goodnight, Remy," she said softly and hung up the phone. Then she curled up under her covers and went to sleep.
 


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