Whispers

 
 

Day Two: Saturday
Des Supers Plans

Day Two, 3rd Hour, 1st Minute

Remy LeBeau had never met a fille as good as this one at killing sleep. He'd tossed and turned after midnight when Rogue called him, wishing there was something he could do for her. Well, without being her shoulder to cry on.

The clock mockingly blinked 1:00 AM at him, then 2:00 AM, and now 3:01 AM.

Life was simply cruel.

He groaned and launched out of bed to get dressed. He might as well give in and realize that now, he couldn't sleep.

"Est-ce que je pourrais dormir?" he grumbled to himself as he pulled on a t-shirt over his jeans.

And what did someone do to cheer up an untouchable romantic that preferred to pound all comforters into the dust rather than admit she might be feeling bad? Considering his recent rounds of sleepless hours due to the tasks she had set him and her rather uncanny knack for figuring out how to get under his skin, he figured it was entirely likely that if he tried to comfort her when she hadn't asked, she'd kill him. Or at least try.

Day Two, 3rd Hour, 3rd Minute

Emma finally managed to start hearing good snippets at a ridiculous hour, but Remy was still up and in fact was now plotting himself. Apparently, he was also aware of Rogue's homicidal tendencies regarding interference and was trying to figure out a way around them.

Emma could have cheered. It was perfect. She started a little tapping in Kitty's mind to get her up and pushing Remy to go downstairs for coffee.

He didn't hear her.

So like a man.

Remy lit up and sat on the corner of his desk pondering his dilemma. The first thing he had done when receiving this room was disable his smoke detectors. Safety and liability and all that. So he aimed neatly toward it in an unconscious test of his handiwork as he smoked.

He was a thief. He could certainly use those skills to help him now.

Who could he frame?

Day Two, 3rd Hour, 9th Minute

Emma frowned in frustration at his imperviousness to her attempts. His thoughts stayed stubbornly on his plan and then the words, Who could I frame?

Frame?

Oh no! Emma narrowed her eyes in his general direction. Oh, no you don't, you little rascal of a swamp rat!

She put Kitty soundly back to sleep and woke up Jubilee, the only girl she could be positive would eventually spill if Remy didn't. This was a matchmaking scheme, not a therapy session. There was no way Emma Frost, the White Queen, Chess Master, was going to allow someone else to take credit for all of her own and Remy's hard work. She was matchmaking him, not some unknown framed wanna be.

Not if she had something to say about it.

Jubilee sent groggy agitated thoughts at the ceiling.

Get up!

Day Two, 3rd Hour, 31st Minute

Remy had always prided himself on his photographic and kinesthetic memory. Unfortunately, he discovered nearly 36 hours of not sleeping meant that didn't seem to apply to making sense out of his convoluted plan to cheer up Rogue. He was having difficulty concentrating. So he decided to write down notes. He could always charge them to destroy the evidence.

The Prince of Thieves wandered his fingers through a drawer, drew out a pad of paper, and started to scribble down his thoughts.

The words swam in front of his eyes, and finally, he gave up in disgust.

"Café!"

He slipped off of his perch on his desk, hid the pad in a location nobody would ever think of, and left the room en route to the kitchen. Naturally, the halls were empty, and he made no sound in his passage.

Remy was almost to the kitchen when he heard it and froze. Somebody was humming--in the kitchen! He slid his body up against the corner and peered around.

Firecracker.

The little Asian mall rat was humming the theme to Mission Impossible, dancing around the kitchen in her new silky black nightwear (he was glad to note it didn't advertise sex, seeing as Logan would kill him if it did), and waving around an ice-cream scooper while sipping on steaming hot coffee that smelled like...chocolate?

He blinked, rubbed his eyes, and looked again. The firecracker didn't vanish and he was forced to realize this was not an insomnia-induced nightmare. Well, no help for it.

Bracing himself, he entered the kitchen.

"Oh! Hi, Remy!"

He winced at the high-volume squeal and shushed her with his hands. "Keep it down, petite. It's 3:30 in the morning."

Jubilee furrowed her brows, then shrugged. "Couldn't sleep." She turned back to the other counter, opened up what was left of the gallon of rocky road ice cream he'd bought the girls last night, and counted out three scoops into her sickeningly chocolatey coffee. "How do you take it?" She gestured toward the nearly full pot.

"Noir." He sank gratefully into a seat at the counter. "Black."

She handed him a mug of black coffee. He downed it in a gulp. Then took to staring at her concoction.

"Jubilee."

The girl startled, turned, and stared at him. "Did you...did you like, really...Whoa, man! You called me by my name!"

"Keep it down!" Remy glanced both ways, but no one seemed to have heard. "It's 3:30 in the morning," he whispered fiercely.

"So what does the master want, that he would actually call me by my actual name?" Jubilee grinned, still swinging her coffee.

Remy winced, at her choice of words, and at what he was about to say. He pointed at the atrocity in her right hand.

"One of those."

Day Two, 4th Hour, 10th Minute

After finally convincing the girl that he was neither crazy nor high, and then finally being forced to fill her in on his plan with the hopes that he could impress her with the urgent need for secrecy, and most of all enduring all the high-pitched squeaks and squeals that were necessary per dealing with Firecracker, Remy finally felt comfortably that he could leave it all in her capable hands.

So, weary with a job well done, he trudged up to bed and collapsed across the covers.

Maybe every girl liked chocolate, but he shuddered at the thought of what he'd had to go through because of it. But he smiled. It was worth it if it would cheer up the fille. He'd plotted on coffee, chocolate, ice cream, and a good Cajun breakfast to follow up for a start. There was more but those were secret things, and secrets were his treasure.

Finally, finally, he began to feel his eyelids grow heavy. His thoughts stilled. Sleep, so close.

The phone rang.

"Merde!"

He viciously yanked open the cell phone cover and held the thing to his ear. "Gambit!"

Rogue's sexy voice flitted breezily over the phone. "Got out with Emma early. Wake me up at 5:30 sharp."

Remy counted to a hundred in French in his head. She needed comfort? Cheering up? 5:30!

"Oui, chère," he said sarcastically. "A pleasure to serve."

A pause.

"Good. Bye." The call ended with a sharp click.

He grumbled to himself, set the alarm, and on a whim, got a piece of chocolate out the drawer of his nightstand and chewed on it before falling asleep.

Day Two, 4th Hour, 10th Minute

Emma rubbed her temples from yet another headache.

Rogue had issues.

That was the only explanation Emma could come up with as to why every time she attempted talking to a psyche, she was promptly, painfully, and thoroughly evicted. Emma's consciousness would come slamming back into her own body and she'd find herself staring at Rogue's tightly tensed body, hunched shoulders, and eyelids squeezed shut. The girl knew she was resisting Emma, but seemed oblivious to what she actually did to Emma.

She suddenly sat up in bed and frowned, concentrating on the thought stream that had interrupted her.

Mission Impossible?

She collapsed back on her bed with a groan.

Day Two, 5th Hour, 30th Minute

Rogue woke to a pair of glowing ruby eyes staring at her from the foot of her bed. She screamed and nearly fell off.

"Easy, chere." His rich voice, smooth as honey, reached out to envelop her, calming her.

She narrowed her eyes at Remy Lebeau perched like a cat on her footboard. "What are you doing here?" she snapped.

A slow, easy grin spread across his face beneath those devil eyes. "Ah, chère, I figured if I was going to get tortured for wondering, I really should get a peek at your night clothes."

Rogue stared at him. He had to be kidding, right? But no. His eyes devoured her, wandering down the light T-shirt and sweatpants she wore to bed.

He clucked his tongue disapprovingly. "I'm thinking you're too uptight."

"I'm too uptight?" Rogue was beginning to feel dangerous.

Remy seemed to not notice. Kind of like Logan when he went off.

"What am I supposed to do?" she had asked the gruff loner a lifetime ago.

"Don't know."

"You don't know or you don't care?"

Logan hadn't even spared her a glance. "Pick one."

She crossed her arms at the present-day menace. "Maybe I don't like changing to grab a midnight snack," she snapped.

Remy raised both eyebrows. "Or maybe you're scared and they're all fools." There was a tight edge to his tone that hadn't been there a second ago.

She tried hard not to notice, not to analyze. "Out of my room, Swamp Rat!" She glanced at the clock. "I've got training."

Remy merely grinned again and a coffee cup materialized in his hands from seeming nowhere. "Firecracker asked me to give you this. It smells awful."

It smelled heavenly and Rogue snatched the chocolate cream coffee concoction she had designed alongside the other girls and held it close to her hands, grinning. Chocolate was truly the way to a girl's heart. And chocolatey coffee with Rocky Road ice cream was the way to Rogue's.

"Thank you. Now"—she waved a royal hand—"you may go."

Day Two, 5th Hour, 42nd Minute

"You're late." Logan crossed his arms at Rogue's hurried entrance into the Danger Room.

"Sorry. Small rat infestation." She limbered up quickly, before Logan's less merciful colors decided to show. "Had to take care of it."

He merely looked at her in disgust. "In your room?"

"Hey!" Rogue straightened indignantly. "It's not like I invited him in!"

Apparently satisfied, Logan nodded then tossed her a wooden staff. "How's Emma doing?"

Rogue froze. "Well..." She tucked some errant white strands behind her ear and fiddled with the tip of her braid. "Not so well. The Professor was so sure it was psychological, but Emma's having a hard time finding it."

"Really." He looked thoughtful. "She find the psyches?"

"Alive and well," came the dry response.

"Good." Conversation over. Logan swung his staff into her without warning and the session was on.

Day Two, 6th Hour, 45th Minute

Friday morning had definitely been Rogue's morning to take on Logan. Saturday morning had lost its charm. Rogue groaned as she settled her already aching body into a seat at the counter.

"Did you have to go so hard?"

Logan snorted as he poured himself a cup of java. "Payback, girl. 'Sides. You can take it and we both know it."

And that was supposed to be reassuring. Rogue shook her head at him. Then stared at the stove. "Is that...?"

She slipped down off the stool—wincing—and sidled over, leaning an arm on Logan. A covered skillet bore her name in some fancy script that looked like calligraphy and removing the top revealed fried catfish and johnny cakes. She squealed with glee—even if catfish didn't seem like a breakfast item.

"What is that, kid?" Logan eyed the food like it was going to wake up and start attacking them.

"It's real food," Rogue answered in bliss as she dished up onto a plate and poured the waiting berries over the corn pancakes.

Logan grunted, unconvinced.

She ignored him and savored her meal. She hadn't even asked Remy for breakfast, and she was fairly certain this was his handiwork.

"Of course, doll, you do know he left you the dishes." Logan smiled at her, thoroughly amused.

Rogue rolled her eyes. "Yeah. But he worked hard yesterday. And I don't regret it, but I can still be nice and let him sleep today." Especially after his description of why he hadn't gotten to sleep until late last night. She might be cold when necessary, but she wasn't cruel.

"Come on, Logan." She changed the topic. "Try a bite of catfish."

He shuddered. "I'll pass."

Rogue giggled. "Your loss." And then she dug into breakfast and polished off every last bite.

Day Two, 7th Hour, 12th Minute

Jubilee was in place. More specifically, she was in the door of the pet shop a mere five minutes after it had opened, though she did wonder a bit about the 7:07 start time. Really, was it so hard for a store to open on the hour instead of at these weird times like four after or six before?

She shook her head to clear it and made a beeline for the cats. Remy had suggested a kitten, due to Jubilee remembering Rogue preferred cats to dogs, and a kitten she would have.

There were about five of them chasing a ball of yarn, two curled up in little sleepy balls of fluff, one of them grooming herself, and another two chowing on breakfast.

Jubilee looked them over.

"Would you like to hold them?" a tall, lanky girl popping chewing gum asked around the strawberry smelling wad in her mouth. 'Regina' was scribbled across her name tag. "Get a feel for which one you like?"

"Sure."

The girl carefully rolled up her sleeves and pulled on huge rubber gloves. Jubilee eyed her askance. Regina opened the window into their little area and reached in.

Kittens went screeching and howling away from the invading arm. Jubilee watched aghast as Regina merely continued with a determined look of concentration on her face, chasing each ball of fluff until she managed to swipe up one of the breakfast eaters.

She withdrew it, closed the window, and dropped the yowling, clawing, squiggling kitten into Jubilee's waiting arms.

Jubilee opened her mouth then snapped it shut and focused on calming down the disgruntled kitten. "You're okay," she said and scratched behind its ears.

It settled for giving a final hiss in Regina's direction and received a crack of bubble gum popping in return.

"Next?" Regina asked.

Jubilee nodded.

Jubilee handled each kitten one at a time until she settled on the quiet little grey one that had been napping on her approach. She got him everything she might need while she was there and then whisked him away to her car. Well, more like a rattle trap on wheels, but it got from point A to point B, so she wasn't complaining.

That was when she discovered her quiet little ball of fluff had a flaw.

"Ow!"

She stared at the long, red mark up her arm and then the tangled snag on her sweater, then finally gave a narrow-eyed glare at the stretching paws with tiny little white claws unsheathed.

"You naughty—"

Her lecture was cut short by soft mewing and him burrowing his face into her sweater. She softened. He was a cute little thing. She sighed, counting her shirt as a loss and deciding Rogue could handle the problem on her own.

A little forewarning might be in order though.

She whisked the little fellow back into the mall and into the pet store.

"Back so soon?" Regina eyed the purring furball. "Um...We don't usually do returns."

"No need," Jubilee said royally. "I just need a different tag."

"Oh, sure thing." The girl got right on it, snapping her gum with a pop. "What'll it be?"

"Scratch."

Day Two, 7th Hour, 32nd Minute

Storm was moving briskly through the girls' dormitory, having had a nice chat with one of the new students who was settling in nicely. She paused when she turned the corner and saw Jubilee closing the door to Rogue's room very quietly and tiptoeing away.

If she hadn't been ten minutes late for a meeting already, Storm would have investigated immediately. As it was, she made a note to self and continued onward.

Day Two, 7th Hour, 40th Minute

More surprises came for Rogue later. She was startled to find a soft, tiny kitten cuddled up on her pillow, sound asleep and purring, when she returned to her room. The kitten's fur was a soft grey and striped with a slightly darker color. Rogue cuddled the sleeping cat close.

"What are you doing here?" she asked.

He sat up, opened his eyes, and let out a mewling yawn, showing tiny white teeth in a red mouth.

She nestled the soft fur against the skin of her cheek. Rogue had learned last year that fur seemed to protect animals and Hank from her powers. But who had thought to leave this cat here? Storm would probably have a fit.

She petted the kitten, then noticing a collar, read his name off the tag. "Scratch? Oh, boy. You're going to be a handful, little guy."

Scratch yawned again and started licking her gloves.

"You're kind of cute, you know that?" Rogue snuggled the kitten next to her chest and started in on homework.

Day Two, 8th Hour, 1st Minute

Rogue was just walking up to Remy's door when she heard loud shouting, small explosions, and something glass shattering. She paused startled. Emma was standing outside the door, arms crossed and grinning. Jubilee was also near (Rogue didn't stop to wonder why), aiming wide eyes in the direction of Remy's room.

Emma glanced at Rogue. "Logan wanted to stop and pick up Gambit for our Danger Room session."

The door suddenly burst open and Logan came stumbling out followed by a sizzling marble that exploded in a pink flash.

Rogue stared in amazement. Jubilee gaped. Emma giggled.

Logan's clothes had been damaged by more than a few explosions and his arm was just now finishing healing. His claws were out. His expression was murder.

He pointed at Rogue. "You tell that Cajun he's dead at 2:00. Meet me in the Danger Room."

Instantly indignant, Rogue drew herself up. "You can't kill him! He's my slave! For another thirty days! I've got owner's rights!"

"Storm's schedule first," Logan replied.

"This isn't X-Man," Rogue protested. "This is your personal thing."

"C'mon, Logan," Emma insinuated with a small smile. "We both helped her for twelve months for this. You can't hurt that now."

"Why were you fighting?" Jubilee asked, drawing everyone's attention.

Logan glared at the tiny, unfazed mall rat. "He was supposed to get up."

"Guess he didn't want to," Emma taunted.

"It's a Saturday." Rogue crossed her arms and glared back at Logan. "He's mine. You can't hurt him."

"Fine. Thirty days. Then he's dead."

Emma smirked. "He might survive. He's like a cockroach."

"He might try." Logan's look was dark.

Jubilee stared back and forth from Logan to Emma to Rogue, who was smugly content with Remy's current chances of life.

"I can't believe you're talking about this!" Jubilee began. "You're not seriously going to kill him, are you?"

Logan growled and stormed off.

Emma laughed. "Like killing a cockroach."

Rogue just shook her head and knocked on Remy's door.

It flung open again and she drew back startled from the Cajun's somewhat disheveled half-asleep appearance. He wore jeans. Nothing else. Just jeans.

She blinked.

"Chere?"

She leaned forward, peeking into his room. Looked like half a deck of cards had gone off in there.

"Umm. I just wanted to thank you for breakfast, and..." Rogue glanced around the room.

Remy gave her an amused smile. "And discuss further details on convenient timing for my demise?"

"No! I..." She stared at him, then broke out laughing. "I was going to ask you to take me somewhere tomorrow, then give you the day off."

He glanced at Jubilee then gave a long look at Emma. "Sure thing, chere. Call me when you're ready. Now—" His gaze narrowed in focus to include just Rogue. "Good night."

He closed the door. The girls exchanged looks, then broke out into giggles. Jubilee sat on the floor and let the laughter overtake her, shaking her entire frame.

"Did you see the look on Logan's face!" And she collapsed into giggles again.

Day Two, 15th Hour, 17th Minute

"Do you remember when we played chess with Mr. Lensherr," Storm began, "and he couldn't figure out how I won?"

"You?" Emma arched an eyebrow. "Queen of the Winds and never the chess board?"

They giggled together as Emma moved another piece. Storm was an awful chess player as a teenager, completely baffled by the game. As it turned out, Emma had taught Storm enough to make her quite the master to beat by the time they graduated. Now, they played comfortably together, sprawled across a blanket on the floor of Storm's bedroom with the chess board, chips, and a couple of bottles of tequila. It was their time to be friends again, hang out, be comfortable in their own skins without all the cares of running Xavier's School for the Gifted.

In short, girl time.

Storm shook her head. "He never thought you'd use telepathy to help me." Then she snickered. "Remember when we spiked Scott's coffee?"

Emma snickered back.

The two laughed and chatted over shared memories of friends, classes, and a history that wouldn't quite go away despite Emma's temporary defection to the Hellfire Club.

Emma won the first game but downed almost twice as much tequila. Storm had the advantage going in to rematch.

"Why did Jean always get the guys?" Emma demanded, absently moving into a King's Indian defense. "I mean, she got Scott, Logan..."

"Logan and her weren't together," Storm replied and responded with a Four Pawns Attack. "She preferred Scott."

"But Scott preferred her!" Emma protested. "What was it she had? I don't understand it." She shook her head at the board. She took another swig. "Remember when we turned on the ceiling fan with Hank still on it?"

Storm rolled at that memory. Emma broke out into giggles. No one had ever seen that much blue fur go flying—or such an expression on his and the Professor's face. Jean had been in on it and between two telepaths protecting the student body's thoughts, Professor Xavier was unable to determine the exact culprit, only that a telepath was involved.

"See," Storm panted out. "Jean wasn't that bad."

Emma shrugged, still laughing. "Of course, we were all cleaning out the gutters for a week!"

Finally, the two women caught their breath.

Just then, a low, whining sound broke the silence.

Storm perked up. "What was that?"

Emma shrugged casually, even though her senses went on full alert and she started desperately thinking of a cover. Rogue really needed to learn to control that kitten's bad timing and Remy seriously needed to get a handle on what was and was not a good way to cheer the girl up. Pets were out. Why was she always responsible for making the other side's plans pan out? She sighed.

Emma opted for distraction.

She moved a bishop into position. "Check."

"What?" Storm stared wildly at the board.

Success.

Day Two, 17th Hour, 45th Minute

Remy woke well past noon. In fact, he slept most of the afternoon away too. It was the first time in ages that his body came alive due to his internal biological clock he'd set for himself in Guild training instead of due to an inhumanely set alarm clock he'd used to meet the team standards and schedule.

Did he mention they had a lousy schedule?

He was in a good mood as he leisurely pulled on a shirt over his jeans. He had to fish it out from some of the newly upended junk in his room, but a small price to pay to get rid of Logan killing any chance he had of catching up on his sleep.

Remy considered whether he should go to bed at a reasonable hour. Rogue's wake up call would probably become a regular gig, meaning he shouldn't stay up all night. He was still undecided when his stomach grumbled and he ambled over to his bedroom door, opened it, and nearly tripped over Jubilee.

The mall rat had settled in, stretching her legs across the doorway and looked up at him with a cheeky grin. "Hi!"

He cursed, grabbed her by the shirt sleeve, and yanked her into his room, then closed the door quietly behind him.

"Firecracker, you want to keep this thing going a secret," he started in, "then you can't show up outside my door like that! Anyone could've seen you! You call that secret?"

She popped her bubble gum and glanced around. "Nice room."

Remy narrowed his eyes at her. "Jubilee..."

"Chill, dude." Jubilee held out one hand. "Cough up the dough."

He stared at her. Unbelievable. She was positively unbelievable.

"C'mon," she said coaxingly. "Those shots and registration weren't cheap."

He growled in frustration and opened a drawer, digging through it for a moment. He withdrew a small amount of cash, counted the bills, and handed it over.

She took the money, held up a hand for silence, and solemnly counted the bills herself. Her eyes widened. "Geez, Remy! Is this your petty cash drawer?"

"I have other jobs for you," he replied diplomatically.

She snorted inelegantly. "I bet you do! This is over a G." She raised her brows at him, as if he might not get it. "You know, a big one. A thousand dollars."

"Oui," he answered calmly.

"And you keep this in a drawer?" She was going to lecture him on money etiquette?

Remy laughed. "Take the money, 'cracker. You'll need it." Then he handed her a list and pushed her out the door.

She squawked before he could close it. "Long stem? You've got to be kidding me!"

He slapped a hand over her mouth and chocolate colored eyes focused on him, still wide and disbelieving.

He narrowed his eyes and hissed out softly. "Silence."

Then he closed the door.

The kitchen wasn't a safe bet, so he'd go ahead and start cleaning up his room. He picked up the King of Hearts and grinned. It was fun.

Day Two, 17th Hour, 56th Minute

Storm was miffed. And whenever she got miffed...

Emma stared at the board. "Mate? You mated me?"

Storm grinned smugly.

Emma grumbled under her breath as they reset the board. If she hadn't been distracted by a certain cat yowling for its meal, she would have won this game. She was certain of it. She decided that after whatever field trip she put Remy in charge of, she would also enlist his assistance in...other matters.

Day Two, 18th Hour, 2nd Minute

About ten minutes later, Remy had his room into decent array and he ventured out into the land of the living, whistling a little when he came into the kitchen.

Bobby waved at him from the counter and received a scowl in return.

From the first time the two had met, they did not get along. That had only intensified when Remy found out that he'd dumped Rogue because he couldn't touch her. It didn't help that she'd turned down the Cure and any chance to be normal along with it. And Remy pretty much held this boy accountable for the Friday night call with its attendant tears. Rogue was so strong naturally, it must have taken an incredible jerk to bring her to that state.

Remy drew himself up short. He went back over his thoughts.

He was starting to get protective.

Non. That couldn't be right.

He went back over the previous paragraph again. He was starting to get protective.

Non. He was simply noticing what any decent male would, that Rogue was desirable and beautiful in spite of and partly because of her mutation. It was just a lovely quirk of what was her.

And he had all sorts of ideas on how to get around it.

"Going to get food this century, Gumbo?"

Remy sent up an injured prayer to whatever god might be listening. Really. Did Logan have to turn up everywhere that Remy did?

"Sure, mon ami," he replied easily.

He slipped in past the Canadian and swiped some milk from the fridge, cereal from the pantry, and opening a lower cupboard...

"What do you think you're doing, bub?" Logan's claws magically appeared at the back of Remy's neck.

With a long-suffering sigh, the Cajun withdrew from Logan's stash, hands in the air. "I didn't get any."

"Only 'cause I caught you."

Remy conceded with a shrug. "What can I say, homme? You have the best taste in beer."

Bobby nearly spit out his cereal. "You can't drink in here!"

Remy raised an eyebrow. "Non?"

It was a dangerous question when asked in the presence of either Logan or Remy. Good thing that Logan stopped the popsicle from putting his foot further into it by "helping" him so he wouldn't choke. Good thing for the popsicle that is.

Logan grinned as he stopped lambasting Bobby on the back. "Shouldn't talk while you eat."

Remy chuckled.

Bobby aimed a glare in Remy's direction.

He grinned back like a Cheshire cat and winked. "Wouldn't want you to choke, now would we, garçon de glace?"

Bobby frowned. "What does that mean?"

"Ice boy." Remy dug into his cereal.

"Hey!"

Remy paused for only a moment. "Shouldn't talk while I'm eating." He even pulled off the angelic innocent expression usually reserved for his Tante Mattie.

Things were definitely looking up.

Day Two, 19th Hour, 21st Minute

Rogue glanced at the clock on her way in after dinner, noticing it was after seven. She sighed and flopped out across her bed. She wanted to scream. The image had played over and over in her mind like an annoying song from the radio.

The image of Remy in only jeans.

She groaned. She was not interested in the Cajun. He was arrogant, self-centered, chauvinistic, entirely too irresponsible...

The image played before her mind again.

And entirely too hot.

Rogue sat up suddenly. "Scratch? Where are you, sugar?" She leaned over the edge of her bed and peeked beneath it. The kitten had curled up in one of her shoes and fallen sound asleep.

She scooped him up with one hand. Her gaze landed on the leg of Kitty's chair.

"Oh no," she groaned. "Scratch, you little rascal."

A nice set of kitten scratches marred the wood. She'd have to sneak in some of the wood putty before anyone noticed. Except Kitty that is. Kitty was in on the whole somebody-got-me-this-sweet-kitten-that-I'm-not-giving-up-just-because-pets-are-against-the-rules.

Rogue took to stroking the tiny purring ball of fluff. She was glad he seemed to sleep so much. But she had to make sure she brought up food and beverage for the guy on time. Earlier that day, he had twice opened his mouth to let out some sort of screechy cat yowl of injured hunger. She had been required to clamp down with her gloves over the mouth and set him in sight of his meal, then been further obliged to make sure no one that mattered had heard. So far, she'd lucked out.

Kitty phased into the room, singing at the top of her lungs with a chipper smile filling half her face and an armload of papers to grade.

Rogue stared at her roommate.

Kitty was singing the theme from the Aristocats.

Rogue lunged for Kitty.

"Whoa!"

Kitty didn't phase in time, and she let out an indignant squeak as Rogue's nonkitteny hand made contact with Kitty's mouth, and the papers erupted in a cloud of floating white and redness.

"You've already graded them?" Rogue asked, scrunching up her nose, from her perch on Kitty's stomach.

Kitty glared at her, shoved her hand down, and spat out some cat hairs. "Scratch had better be clean," she warned.

Rogue kept staring at the papers falling to the ground like so much snow. "What teacher brings graded papers home to work on?"

"The kind who...Oh!" Kitty must have decided Rogue was a lost cause and stood up through her, brushing herself off. "Why did you do that, Rogue? I was just hitting the break!"

Rogue narrowed her eyes. "We've got enough on our hands keeping this secret without you singing that. Besides, no one else will wonder why I shut you up. They might wonder why I didn't."

"Really..." Kitty narrowed her eyes in return. "Hmph." She gathered the papers. "Actually these are reports, and they still need comments."

"Oh." Rogue grinned wickedly. "Actually I hadn't washed Scratch yet."

"Ew!" Kitty dropped her papers in another snowstorm, to Rogue's giggling amusement, and vanished through the wall in the direction of the bathroom.

Day Two, 19th Hour, 30th Minute

Logan carefully evaluated the stats from the morning's Danger Room session with Rogue. He had the computer set to constantly monitor his own health levels and had managed to teach it how to gauge her absorption. She'd been absorbing at a ridiculous rate all morning. The slightest touch created that tug on him. If he could just hook up a monitor for the psychic aspect. Hmmm...

The simplest and most complicated problem when dealing with Rogue's mutation was knowing how much was physical and how much mental. What exactly was she absorbing?

The sound of giggling girls broke into his concentration. He ignored it.

Sometimes, with only a small contact, he felt like his body would start to drain. Other times, when she pulled harder or touched longer, he found himself feeling like his whole soul was being pulled from his body. There had to be something to that.

"Flowers!"

"Roses..."

The girlish sighs intruded annoyingly again.

He slammed down the papers on his desk and stepped out into the hall where Siryn was pointing out how to get to the girls dormitory to a neatly pressed flower boy carrying a dozen long-stem roses in a vase. Logan crossed his arms and pinned the nearest female with a glare, namely Rahne.

"Who are they for?" he demanded.

She turned dreamy eyes on him. "Rogue."

Rogue! Logan dropped his arms to the side and immediately stalked after the boy with the flowers. He glimpsed Kitty rushing toward the bathroom, pause, wheel around, and rush back toward her bedroom, phasing into the wall. Let her warn Rogue. He didn't care.

He had eyes only for the roses.

Day Two, 19th Hour, 31st Minute

Scratch woke up and started his cry for milk.

Rogue clapped a glove over his mouth and cursed.

Just then someone knocked on the door.

Kitty suddenly appeared from the closet, head first, and tumbled into the room.

Rogue gave a startled squeak.

"Hide him!" Kitty whispered. "It's a flowers guy and Logan's coming up the stairs!"

"Oh..." Rogue cursed again and looked around for something to tie his mouth. Getting a better idea, she grabbed Kitty, yanked her over, shoved Scratch into her hands, making sure his mouth didn't come uncovered, despite his scratching protests, and ordered the girl to phase him. "Take him anywhere. I don't care."

She dumped some clothes in front of Kitty's chair legs and a small bit of wall that had apparently served well and the foot of her own bed.

Kitty narrowed her eyes at her chair.

"Go, for Pete's sake!" Rogue shoved Kitty back into the closet.

Thankfully, she phased in time.

The 'someone' knocked again, and she smoothed her hair before walking over and opening the door. "Hello?"

Logan was indeed coming up behind the innocent stranger handing her a vase of a dozen long-stemmed red roses. Rogue gaped.

"For me? But who...?" She didn't continue, just grabbed the roses before Logan did. "Thank you."

"No problem." The delivery guy grinned. "Someone thinks you're real special."

She hoped whoever thought the delivery guy was real special wouldn't notice the red marks later where Logan had shoved him away with a tiny bit of claw unsheathed.

"You've delivered your package, bub. Now out!"

Thankfully for her, Logan decided to escort him out personally. She watched as they rounded the last bend.

Rogue whirled into her room, setting the roses down carefully, and hurried out, locking the door. She had to get deodorizer, cleaner, and the vacuum cleaner before Logan got back up. And she had to shower.

She knew without a doubt that roses would bring him into her room. And she also knew he'd smell the cat.

Day Two, 19th Hour, 33rd Minute

For the second time in as many days, Kitty fell through the floor, the room beneath her, and into the kitchen. Only this time a kitten was scratching her. She was tempted to try out some of the French words she heard Reamy mutter when he was frustrated.

"Scratch! Quit that," she whispered fiercely at the cat while checking herself for injuries.

Besides a sore rear end, she figured she'd be okay.

Just then Warren walked into the kitchen.

Kitty phased her hand right through herself in her haste to get the wriggling kitten behind her back and winced as it managed to scratch her yet again. His mouth was so far safely clamped shut in her unyielding grip.

She pasted on a smile. "Hi, Warren!"

"Kitty." He opened the refrigerator and got out the milk carton.

Kitty blanched. Anything but that.

Scratch's movements became more violent as he apparently caught a whiff of the now opened milk. Kitty started inching for the exit.

Hank walked in.

This time she did try out one of Remy's words.

Hank stared at her, his mouth opening and closing once or twice. "Kitty, my dear. I hope you do not know what that means," he said slowly.

"Uh..." She clamped down harder on the cat. "Son of thunder?"

Warren chuckled. "Not exactly. Hey, when'd you learn French?"

"It is a decidely distasteful word," Hank explained, "unsuited for proper company. When applying new vocabulary from other languages, perhaps it would be best to carefully consider the possible contextual meaning, especially when uncertain of the..."

Kitty felt her eyes glaze over as she was unable to absorb another word. "Uh...Dr. McCoy."

He paused in his speech. "Yes?"

"I gotta go." She phased out of the kitchen through the cabinets and took off running for the boys dorm. Her free pass into Piotr's room would be just the thing.

Day Two, 19th Hour, 39th Minute

Rogue turned off the vacuum cleaner and leaned it against the wall, then finished dressing in her new clothes. Logan had been waiting outside for a few minutes now, because she had the brilliant idea of being "not decent" when he demanded entrance. And then kept right on cleaning.

She heard him muttering under his breath when she let him in. "What?" Rogue asked innocently.

He gave her a look. He wasn't buying it.

She grinned and gestured at the roses. "Aren't they beautiful?"

Logan grunted. "All right. Who are they from?"

"I don't know." She picked up the card again. "It says, 'To a beautiful girl, the light of my life.' I don't think I'm the light of anyone's life." Except for maybe Scratch.

Logan eyed the flowers distrustfully. "Poetic."

She grinned wickedly. "Isn't it? I thought so."

He glanced at Rogue. "Don't go falling for some secret admirer, kid. Not until you know who he is. Even John could wax poetic."

"Pyro's gone," she replied flatly. "And I'll go falling for whoever I want to."

"I'm just saying..."

"What happened to the whole I'm-not-your-father speech? Hmm?" Rogue demanded, bracing her hands on her hips.

He sighed. "I'm just saying."

"Well, I like them. And the card. And what it says."

He stood up, hands raised. "Fine. I'll see you in the Danger Room tomorrow morning."

She blinked at that. "Umm, Logan..."

"What?"

"I was wondering if I could maybe skip that? I've got somewhere to be."

He repeated her words incredulously. "You're not skipping out on Emma are you?"

Rogue shot him a look. "There is no where to be at four in the morning."

Siryn suddenly poked her head through the door. "Guys, come quick! The flower guy got stuck in the security system on the lawn!"

Rogue narrowed her eyes at Logan.

"What?" Logan threw up his hands and stomped out. "Girls!"

Men!

Day Two, 20th Hour, 22nd Minute

She told him off.

Rogue had told Logan off, informing him bluntly that if he didn't claim fatherhood in any form or fashion then he could just bud out of her love life.

Needless to say, he was hammering out some poor virtual bad guys in the Danger Room and Emma was left trying to create the appropriate mental blocks to his projections while still allowing in the traces she got off of Rogue.

Storm started winning.

"Ugh!" Emma eyed the chess board with distaste. "He's projecting again!"

Storm giggled. She didn't often do such things with her enormous dignity to uphold, but the tequila certainly helped. "Logan?"

"Who else?" Emma groaned and moved a pawn.

Storm shrugged. "Oh, hang on a sec!" She clambered to her feet. "You have got to see these shoes I found for Kitty's birthday!"

Emma gladly gave up the game and turned her attention on the mounds of footware being relocated from the bottom of Storm's closet until she finally reappeared triumphantly with a bag from Saks. Storm held up a pair of strappy gold sandals that perfectly matched Kitty's latest and greatest new look in short, strappy dresses and Emma nearly shrieked.

"I got her those shoes!"

Storm visibly deflated. "And here I thought I was being original," she muttered.

Emma got to her feet, grabbed the shoes, and looked them over again. "We have to go back out. She can't get two pairs for her birthday." She groaned. "I'll have to get someone to drive us."

"Logan," Storm suggested, her eyes dancing with mischief.

Emma narrowed her eyes in return. "Hardly." She sniffed.

"Oh, come on." Storm dragged her friend out the door, into the hallway, and caught a hold of Dazzler. "We need to go make an exchange. Emma already got Kitty these shoes." She held up the sandals. "Do you know where Logan is?"

Dazzler shrieked. "You didn't!"

Great. Could this get any worse?

Rahne's eyes widened. "So did I," she whispered.

"That's it!" Emma threw up her hands. "I'm going to get Logan."

She marched down to the Danger Room, viciously ended the program, and stormed in on the bewildered shirtless Logan (what was it with guys and their shirts anyway?) with a dignity to rival Storm's.

"Emma?"

"Remy's got the day off and I need a ride to Saks with the girls. We all got Kitty the same pair of shoes." She stated her need bluntly, figuring that was the only way he'd understand the enormity of the situation. "A girl cannot have four identical gifts on her birthday."

Logan stared at her in exasperation and annoyance. "Now?"

Emma tapped her foot impatiently. "No. Wednesday. The day of the party. Of course, now!"

And that was how he found himself at the mall at 9:00, then 9:30, then 9:45, then 9:55 on a Saturday night, praying for perhaps the first time in his life for an escape route from a battle he didn't know how to fight, wishing the clerks knew how to disband the Amazons involved before somebody got hurt.

The fight in which seven females of varying ages decided who got to give Kitty the shoes.
 


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