Day Three: Sunday
Le Voyage de la Miséricorde
Day Three, 3rd Hour, 27th Minute
There was very little that could wake Kitty as thoroughly or jarringly as her roommate cussing a blue streak before six o'clock in the morning.
She cautiously poked her head out from under her pillow. "Aah!" She ducked and a shirt landed on top of her. She popped back out again, eyes wide as she took in the strange sight.
Rogue, untouchable, tough girl Rogue, was pulling down literally everything in her closet and dumping it across the bed, throwing any item that was apparently not at all good enough onto the nearest thing that caught her attention. Kitty decided to keep very quiet, lest she drown in dresses, skirts, sweaters, scarves, and gloves like Rogue's still beeping alarm clock was.
Finally, Rogue dropped to her chair, her unbrushed hair falling about her face, and stared at the floor, one hand propping her chin.
Kitty gingerly removed the shirt and two pairs of pants that had landed on her and placed them over the back of a chair. She approached with utmost caution and leaned over to turn off Rogue's alarm.
Rogue's emerald death glare came out. "I have absolutely nothing to wear," she spat.
Kitty decided not to point out both that 3:30 in the morning was a strange time to come to this conclusion and that the girl clearly possessed some clothes. As if on cue, a scarf fell off the lamp shade and landed in Rogue's lap.
Rogue sighed deeply and stared out the window.
She was quiet. Good.
Kitty threw caution to the wind.
"Oh, bother." She rolled her eyes and marched forward, taking charge. "You, stand up." Kitty applied her small body's rather sizable strength to a startled Rogue's shoulders and dragged her out of the chair. "Here," she said, patting the seat. "Stand right there."
"What in the—"
"I don't want to hear it." Kitty lifted her hand imperiously for silence and heard the satisfying click of Rogue's teeth coming together sharply.
Rogue eyed Kitty warily with the expression generally reserved for those who acquired new appendages or blue fur overnight, but she allowed her roommate to stand her up on the chair and begin to critically appraise different clothing combinations while pumping her for details.
"So where are you going? And who are you going with?" Kitty asked, all business, but with an appreciative gleam in her eye.
Rogue spat out a mouthful of silk scarf. "Church." Another one landed in her mouth and she brushed it away. "Remy."
"Quit moving!" Kitty commanded. "Or I'll tape your arms down."
"You would not!" Rogue protested hotly.
But Kitty had finally registered the answers. "Remy?" She squealed. "You're going with Remy?" She frowned for a moment and attacked with the gloves.
"Ouch, Kit." Rogue started to brush her off, but then groaned and refrained. "Of course, Remy. He's my slave and I needed a ride."
"Nonsense. Out of the PJs." Kitty ignored the flurry of protests and got the night clothes off her friend. "He's eligible, male, and single."
"No, he isn't." Rogue's voice underwent a muffled moment while Kitty pushed a dress on over her head. When she could speak clearly again, she added, "He's with a different girl every night."
"Week," Kitty corrected. "He's got classes to teach, you know."
"Oh, I feel so much better." Rogue rolled her eyes.
Kitty stood back to review her work. "Opera gloves? Short gloves?" She shook her head, muttering to herself. "Choices, choices..."
Rogue, in the meantime, was regarding the work as well. "I don't remember this dress," she said, frowning.
Kitty brushed it off. "You need some sexier stuff anyway. An aunt got that for me, and it just simply doesn't fit." And then she dove in with accessories before Rogue could protest.
She protested anyway. "It's just church!"
"With a hot guy. Now, hold still." Kitty reached for the masking tape.
Rogue held still, still bemoaning her fate. "How did I end up with you for a roommate?"
"Cosmic intervention?" Kitty suggested. "Some higher power that knew you'd eventually need fashion assistance?"
"You're not helping."
Day Three, 3rd Hour, 59th Minute
Remy stirred groggily from his sleep, wondering what had awakened him. Then he stiffened. There it was again. A tapping on his door.
He rolled over and stared at the clock. Somebody had to be kidding him.
He swore profusely in French as he clambered out of the twisted covers and yanked open the door. He stared, stunned.
Rogue stood, fiddling nervously with the pale green shawl that wrapped around her bare arms. A hunter green sheath dress hugged her curves with spaghetti straps doing little to hide her sleek, smooth shoulders—or anything else. Her hair had been done up in a chignon with the white strands out and curling around her face.
"Hey," she said, offering a tiny, nervous smile, her gaze focused intently on his face.
He could just catch the whiff of Erotica, the perfume he had chosen for her. He opened the door a little wider.
"And how may I help you, ma chèrie?" His eyes drank her in from head to toe, ignoring every bit of discomfort the look elicited.
"That ride?" She breathed out a sigh. "We need to leave around 4:30. I forgot to tell you that last night."
4:30? As in, the morning? He stared at her, the expression significantly changed.
"Out of sheer curiosity," Remy finally managed to bring out, "when do you sleep?"
Rogue glanced down his bare chest quickly, drawing a wicked grin and another devouring gaze, before turning away and fiddling with the edge of her shawl again. "Dress nice, Cajun. We're going to church."
"Wait un moment, chère." Once again, he was forced to backtrack and get his mind off of her clothes—and all that tantalizing skin beneath. He released the door and gestured as he spoke. "You want moi to go into a Protestant church?"
She rolled her eyes. "Catholic, huh?" She managed to look at him highly amused.
He growled. "Oui."
"Imagine that," she drawled. "Shave." With that, she whirled around in the heeled strappy sandals he just now noticed and left with a royal progress.
What would she think of next?
Day Three, 4th Hour, 32nd Minute
Emma waited a reasonable time after Rogue had left her office and before she was scheduled to leave the mansion altogether before reaching out to dip into her young friend's mind.
A steady stream of insecure, I-am-so-not-ready-for-this, nervous thoughts fluttered across Rogue's consciousness. Concern about her dress, her family, Remy and how good he looked without his shirt on—Emma snickered at that—, her old boyfriend all jumbled up together in an almost unreadable mess.
Emma shook her head, wishing she could calm it down a bit.
Rogue. You'll do fine.
A startled pause. Emma Frost! Are you eavesdropping again? Rogue's mental voice was highly put out.
Emma projected a laugh. You're projecting, she fudged.
Such language. A disapproving cluck burst across the link.
Static followed immediately, and Emma knew that Rogue had made contact with Remy. She waited for a moment of clarity and then deployed her parting reassurance.
You have Remy. He'll make sure they have no idea.
A wave of doubt, exasperation, and worry washed towards Emma, but the static drowned it out before any more words could be exchanged.
Day Three, 4th Hour, 33rd Minute
"You're insane," Remy informed Rogue bluntly as she slipped into the passenger seat of his car.
"Well, thanks," she replied sarcastically. "Always one for compliments."
He sighed. "Some reason we're leaving this early for church?"
Rogue paused and looked him over, apparently unable to suppress the expression of interest that blossomed over her face. He wore a dark blue dress shirt and slacks, but had skipped the tie and slicked back hair. He raised one eyebrow at her and she blushed.
"Seem to like what you see this morning." He leaned toward her.
She looked out the window. "Just drive." She passed him a slip of paper.
He read off the directions. "This isn't in Westchester."
"This is almost twelve hours away!" Remy sent her an incredulous look.
"I believe so." A tiny smile quirked at her lips. She still didn't look at him.
"What are we doing, chère?" he demanded. "It's a little late for church."
She fastened laughing green eyes on him. "There's an evening service. And I said, 'Just drive.'"
He muttered under his breath, fastened his seat belt, and started the car. Drive. He had experienced a lot of obligations in his life, but this slavery thing was perhaps the most demeaning. He had never been entirely under the command of another female before in his life. And he was beginning to discover just how aggravating it could be if that female was as coy as Rogue.
He just drove.
The road flew by in a neutral silence that held neither comfort nor discomfort. He flicked on the radio. His favorite sounds blared out and Rogue cringed. He couldn't help the chuckle that followed.
"You seem to like your music..." He searched for the right word. "More controlled." He let it roll off his tongue as the guitar and drums beat into his blood. He tapped the wheel with one hand and stole a glance at Rogue.
She glared at him. "More enjoyable."
He laughed openly at that.
Rogue reached over and viciously spun the dial to the same pop music channel as before.
"No need for that, chèrie," he said smoothly. "You're number 7 on the buttons."
She frowned and looked at the panel. "You programmed my station in?"
"Why are we going to church?" he lobbed back.
She sighed in disgust, crossing her arms. He really couldn't help but sneak a peek at that. He almost lost her next words.
"To meet my family."
The car slowed slightly and he gripped the wheel tighter. "Votre famille."
"Is that a question or a statement, Swamp Rat?" she drawled out lazily, then shrugged. "We're meeting in the middle. It's another eight hours or so to home, so this way we can both get home at night."
"So why do you need me?"
She caught her breath and looked away. "They think I'm Cured."
His knuckles began to turn white. Remy forced himself to loosen his grip.
He just drove.
The road flew by in uncomfortable silence. Finally, he broke it.
Rogue twisted in her seat. "So? That's all you're going to say?"
Remy shook his head forcefully. "So what am I supposed to do?" He didn't look at her, not sure he really wanted to know what was running through her head.
She didn't answer right away. She took a deep breath.
"Rogue..." It was a warning, a questioning, a demand.
"I'm no good at lying," she said abruptly.
He wanted to laugh. She had just made the understatement of the century.
"Least not to them." He caught a movement at the corner of his eyes, like a shrug he guessed. "And you are."
"And I am? That's it?" He glanced toward her.
She bit her lip and stared straight ahead. "I didn't really want to do this alone."
Remy gave up trying to multitask in this strange conversation with a girl who never had been easy to understand. He pulled over onto the side of the road, despite her instant protests. He pulled the key out of the ignition and turned to her.
She crossed her arms again and glared at him.
"Start from the top," he commanded.
"No." The response was blunt. And defensive.
He reached out and ran his fingers along one white lovelock. She dropped her mouth open slightly. Her anger intensified. He turned the charm full on and she leaned back, slapping at his hand.
"Don't touch me!"
He laughed shortly. "You do know the usual reason a girl brings a guy along?" He let his eyes dance as she slowly absorbed what he was saying.
He wouldn't allow her to react fully, but kept the charm going. Kept her calm. Kept her interested.
"Remy. Stop that." She didn't manage the full emerald death glare of the Rogue, but she was certainly holding out better than most young women of his acquaintance.
He leaned forward, mere inches from her face, and let the scent of her perfume wash over him. "No." The response was blunt. Eye for eye.
She put up both hands and shoved him back by the shoulders. He leaned over on the door and laughed again.
"Roguey, you're no good at lying 'cause you're no good at planning." He tilted his head and smirked at her, waiting for her reaction.
This time he got the full emerald death glare of the Rogue. "Do not call me that," she commanded imperiously.
Remy's smirk widened. "Roguey? Ma chérie. Ma belle fille." He leaned closer again. "Mon amour. Which would you prefer?"
"None of them," she replied helplessly, clearly this close to throwing up her hands at him. "I'm not your anything."
He laughed then, a real laugh, and she kept glaring at him while he kept laughing.
He finally gave her a sideways look. "I'm thinking you're too uptight, chère. Gotta relax. One more reason you're no good at lying." He slipped one arm possessively around her shoulders.
She immediately stiffened and tried to shove him away, this time in vain.
"We'll be the perfect couple," he said, smirking at her wide-eyed expression. "Unless you had some other plan." He managed to pack the last line with insinuation.
She finally managed to shove him off. "Shut up, you swamp rat! And keep your hands off of me."
"Just saying." Remy shrugged and restarted the car. "You want me to be of assistance, chère,"—he sent a calculating glance her way—"then you might want to come up with a real plan. And tell me what it is."
Rogue crossed her arms and pouted as he pulled out onto the road.
"I hate you," she said.
He shrugged. "You won't."
She didn't respond.
Day Three, 8th Hour, 1st Minute
Logan stalked into Emma's office, threw the door shut behind him, and dropped into a slouch in the chair across from her desk.
She raised an eyebrow, appraising him critically. "May I help you?" He looked like he'd been up all night—which of course, he had, but she wasn't much one for caring about his sleeping habits even when they were affected by her own shopping expeditions with or without company—and smelled like he'd come from an intense Danger Room session before meeting with her.
"So have you come up with anything useful yet?" he asked brusquely, as if he had a right to sit in judgment.
The other eyebrow came up. "As far as your plot for revenge or some other thing of which I am unaware?"
Logan looked at her strangely. "Revenge?"
"Remy," she said dryly. "Or had you already forgotten?"
The menacing growl that followed seemed to indicate he had not.
Emma drummed her manicured fingernails on her desk calendar. "I hope we can get to the point quickly."
"Some guy sent her flowers," he muttered darkly.
He looked up sharply.
The White Queen snorted her disgust. "Logan. She needs to feel normal as opposed as you seem to the idea."
"I came in here to ask whether you've come up with anything on her psyches." It was a change of subject, but Emma went with it.
"As a matter of fact, yes," she answered. She smiled at him, remaining silent while he stewed.
Finally, he broke. "Well?"
"Actually, it's very interesting," Emma said, leaning forward a bit. "From what I can tell, she never retains complete control of her mindscape. Rather, she seems to cede some to the other psyches on a fairly strict rotational basis." It had taken a bit before she began to realize the decor changed in an actual pattern. After that, it was simply a matter of avoiding said psyches long enough to look around.
She hesitated to tell Logan the truth, that she'd been snooping while Rogue was asleep in order to capture a broader spectrum of time. No matter.
She continued. "Seeing as our Rogue has a rather distinctive personality and hasn't been sporting any new powers from time to time, I think it's safe to say the other psyches are operating on the subconscious level, where her power's triggering mechanism also lies."
Logan frowned, thinking on that.
Emma wasn't much known for her restraint and she dipped in, skimming along the surface. Something startled her. "You think she's a touch telepath?"
"Stay out of my head, Queenie," he growled instantly in response. Never was one to like telepathic activity.
But the thought was alarming enough for her to ignore that. "It couldn't be," the White Queen said. "Mental shields provide no protection against her."
"Listen here. You can't just go reading people's thoughts like that, Queenie." He managed to pulll a patient expression. "It's rude and I don't like it."
You offered Jean, was the sharp telepathic comeback spoken simultaneously with her words. "If she was using telepathy, then telepathic blocks would be effective against her power."
"Not if her mind registerd them as hers," he pointed out. "It's just a theory anyway." He rubbed his face wearily.
Emma was almost surprised at how well he had thought this through. "I'm going to skim. I need to know what you're thinking on this, Logan."
It was the first time she had ever politely requested entrance and after a second's hesitation, he granted it.
Logan wondered if instead of going into another's mind, Rogue simply pulled their mind into hers, able to control it as easily as Xavier had controlled those he entered, able to utilize their abilities as her own, thus bypassing the issue of blocks.
"But that would mean she could let them go," Emma pointed out. "These psyches remain with her forever, as far as we can tell."
Logan shrugged. "It's just a theory."
But it was a good one. It surprised her. He surprised her.
She studied him thoughtfully before admitting, "I think we should investigate."
"Fine." He moved along curtly. "Now tell me about these psyches."
Day Three, 8th Hour, 26th Minute
Rogue was fuming. She stared out over her car door, nails tapping evenly on the top. She could practically feel the smirk aimed at her back.
"Something the matter, chère?"
She whirled on him. "Oh, don't you give me that!" Rogue narrowed her eyes dangerously.
Remy merely returned a smug smile, one hand lazily guiding the wheel. He reached out with one finger and flicked the radio back on.
She cringed at the blare of rock music blasting out from the speakers. "You're a jerk. You know that?" She hit the button for Program 7 and lowered the volume.
"Backstreet Boys?" He glanced at her pityingly. "Tu sais, you have no taste in music, chèrie."
"You're the one that's tone deaf." Rogue slouched down in the seat, crossing her arms. She noticed him stealing a look. "Eyes on the road, swamp rat!"
He reached out and changed the station back to his but left the volume low. "Got a plan?" he asked. The fingers of his left hand flexed, and she figured he was craving a cigarette. "'Cause there's at least one thing they're bound to notice."
She looked at him warily. "Oh?"
His red eyes burned brighter for a moment as he shot her a pointed look. "My eyes, chère. I ain't wearing shades in the church."
Rogue leaned over, changed the station back to hers, and cranked the volume, watching as he winced. "Don't then."
His jaw suddenly tightened and set. He kept his gaze steady on the road ahead.
Something twinged inside her as she studied him and she found she couldn't look away, instead wandering her gaze over the hard planes of his face, the fixed intentness with which he drove, the gleaming, ember-like quality of the liquid red glow of his irises. They were sharp and burning against the black. She looked lower at the tenseness in his broad shoulders, the way his shirt fell against his muscled chest, the alertness, the guardedness.
Her eyes flicked upward again. "You got a problem with that?" She felt pleased at how strong her voice sounded. She thought for a moment it would fail her.
He jerked one shoulder in a shrug. She had the distinct feeling he was angry at something.
"I don't care what they think," she said.
Remy laughed. It was a short, sharp sound, but his cocky smirk was back as he glanced over at her. "If you didn't care, you wouldn't be bringing me along."
"Oh?" She raised a brow.
"Oui." He switched the station.
Rogue cringed beneath the onslaught of a heavy bass drum. "Remy!" She lowered the volume and switched it back to hers.
"Plan," he repeated patiently.
She huffed at him and crossed her arms again. "I do have a plan," she stated icily.
He hummed appreciatively and moved one hand in a "go on" gesture.
Rogue said nothing.
Remy glanced at her, then gave her a wolfish grin, eyes brightening. "Do tell, ma maîtresse." It was a challenge, a dare, a gauntlet thrown in the most seductive, flirtatious voice he had used with her to date. He winked at her and a slight flush burned her cheeks.
If he didn't have such a good point, she wouldn't, just for spite. But he did. If she didn't convince him to play nice, then the whole thing would go down the drain. She sighed heavily.
He changed the station.
"You blasted swamp rat!"
She reached for the radio, but he was in her way, holding one hand over the controls while driving with the other and looking straight ahead. She batted at his hand, but it remained. She growled. He chuckled.
"Glad you find this so amusing," she bit out sarcastically.
His hand moved quickly, winding around hers in an unexpected gesture and holding it between them.
Rogue stared at him, speechless. Finally, she pulled together a shred of composure. "What are you doing?"
"Calming you down," he said. "You're always so tense. Just relax."
She regained her head and squirmed her fingers in his. His thumb traced a soothing circle on the back of her hand, but his grip was firm and did not let her go.
"Let go of me, Remy."
She sighed in exasperation. "You're impossible." With her free hand, she reached out and hit the button for her station.
His chuckle rumbled out again, and she despairingly realized she actually enjoyed the sound.
"Remy..." She tugged on her captured hand again.
"Plan," he tossed back. "I need to know, chèrie."
She subsided, gradually giving in to the realization that he wasn't going to let go and this warm feeling and every spike of discomfort his rubbing her hand incited wasn't going to go away.
He killed the radio. "Well?"
Rogue huffed and outlined the basic details of her campaign, not the least of which involved careful avoidance of skin on skin contact and conversation safe from unpleasant topics. She was about to tell him what she wanted him to do when he suddenly released her hand in surprise.
"That's a plan?" Remy gave her a horrified look, which promptly settled into stubborn disapproval. "Mine was better."
"It's a good plan!" she protested and crossed her arms again, now that she could.
He snorted disbelief.
"You know, swamp rat, you're not the only one that can come up with a plan." Rogue fixed him with an unhappy, narrow-eyed gaze.
He shook his head, undrawn. Then a gleam came into his eye. "How about this?"
She listened, horrified at the colorful description of his imagined visit with her family.
She sputtered. "Absolutely not! They'd think... I can't believe you!"
"Ah, chère." He was grinning like a little kid at Christmas. "That's a plan. They wouldn't even be concerned about your mutation."
"No! They'd be too worried about my innocence, you idiot!" Her usually extensive collection of disparaging names for him had dried up and given way to less ambiguous standbys. Her volume went up as she got more and more upset. "I will never let you put your hands anywhere near there, you good-for-nothing, skirt-chasing—"
Remy slid one finger across her lips and winked at her. "We all know how you really feel."
Her eyes narrowed at him and her mouth tightened into a frown. "Remind me to kill you sometime," she said.
"Désolé, chèrie. I'm all booked." His appreciative grin said otherwise.
She turned the radio back on but conceded to lowering the volume—slightly. Keeping her eyes averted made it easier to drop her next line. "And if I said to remind me to sleep with you sometime?"
"I'm sure I could reschedule a few things." Remy gave her a once-over that put a light burn in her cheeks.
Was she really flirting with the most infamous player in the mansion?
No. She wasn't. She was still angry at him, she decided, and lifted her chin. She delivered her words with haughty condenscension. "I'm sure."
But she was smiling as she turned away.
So was he.
Day Three, 9th Hour, 8th Minute
"Okay." Kitty ran her finger down the page as she read. "How does this work?"
Blissfully unaware, Scratch had curled up in a tiny ball and purringly slept beside where Kitty had sprawled up out on her bed in preparation for her great plan for the day: potty train the cat. The library had all sorts of books on how to train pets, but this one would be a most necessary lifesaver if they were going to keep a forbidden animal.
"The things I do for friendship," she muttered darkly.
She read over the instructions skeptically again.
"Rogue better thank me when this is over." Kitty snapped the book shut, scooped up the kitten—who yowled his surprise (or tried to—Kitty's gloved hand muted that quite effectively), and marched toward the most isolated bathroom in the area: the one in the boathouse at the corner of the property.
Day Three, 16th Hour, 18th Minute
Rogue and Remy arrived in a small, unassuming town in South Carolina by about 4:15 in the afternoon. Remy parked the car where Rogue directed outside of a moderate-sized church, pulled the key out of the ignition, then studied Rogue. She was fidgeting with the fringe of her shawl and chewing on her lower lip, ruining the light lipstick she had worn.
He shook his head and sighed. "Chère," he said with mock despair. "You'd make a terrible poker player if you wore that face to the game."
"Excuse me?" Rogue rounded on him, green eyes flashing anger. "I beat you out, swamp rat."
He grinned at her.
She narrowed her eyes.
Remy leaned in close, still grinning. "My point precisely."
That took a moment to sink in, then she glared at him before yanking open the car door and stepping outside.
He laughed at her.
"Oh get out," Rogue huffed. "We'll be late for the service."
"I thought we were meeting them here, not worshipping." He cast her a sideways glance as he got out and fixed his shades.
Rogue shrugged. "Family's Southern Baptist. Missing the service ain't much of an option."
Southern Baptist. Go figure. He never seemed to catch a break with this femme. "De rien," he said dismissively and slipped into step beside her, wrapping one arm around her waist.
She tried to bat his hands away and failed. "Remy," she protested. "We're doing this my way—not yours."
He nodded. "Of course, of course." But he didn't let go of her, no matter how terribly she squirmed. "We do nothing that draws attention to that lovely skin of yours, keep the chitchat surface level, and focus on your good grades and such, n'est ce pas?"
She eyed him warily. "That sounds like what I said." Her look said she didn't see all the loopholes he'd found in that.
Remy grinned at her wolfishly and opened the door to the church. "After you."
Day Three, 16th Hour, 37th Minute
Jubilee wrung her hands in the back corner of the little off area with shelves that the mansion called its mailroom. She really didn't know how she got into these kinds of situations. There she was, minding her own business—actually Gambit's business, but nobody was supposed to know that—and who should walk in but Emma Frost and Logan, the Wolverine, yelling bloody murder at each other over everything under the sun. Okay, just shoes and shopping and skin and the Danger Room and lingerie and poker and that was really an image she didn't want to get into her head and she really didn't want to know what they were talking about and tried hard as she could to tune them out without letting either of them know she was in there listening in the first place.
Seriously. How did she get involved in this?
Jubilee sent up an injured prayer for deliverance. Have mercy! Then she cursed internally. She just threw out a thought with a telepath in the room, for crying out loud!
How did she get involved in this? She was just minding her own business—well, close enough for government work anyway...
Just keep telling yourself that, the White Queen's voice broke into her thoughts.
Jubilee nearly let out a squeak and let Logan know too that she was in the room. I'm sorry, Miss Frost. I did not mean to be listening in and—did he just say 'naked?'
Not me, Jubilee! Emma huffed loudly. "Logan, let's just go over the Danger Room stats. In the Control Room."
"I need those papers—or haven't you been listening?" Heavy footsteps coming dangerously close.
Emma! Save me!
"Oh, bother! We can do that part later." You owe me big time, Firecracker, came the ominous response.
Anything! Jubilee should never have thought anything like that to anyone like Emma Frost, the White Queen, but she was in a bit of a predicament and her fate was already in the lady's hands.
"Fine." Logan's boots moved back away, toward the door, through it.
Jubilee started breathing again.
"Remember you said that. I will collect." Then Emma too swept out of the little room.
Day Three, 17th Hour, 7th Minute
Remy was bored long before the end of the sermon. The pastor went on and on...and on. He had already looked around three times for Rogue's family, but he had yet to see anyone fitting her description.
He leaned over and whispered to Rogue, "I like service better in Latin."
Her elbow met his ribs. Hard.
"I'd rather not know what they're saying," he protested, rubbing his ribs and earning a glare. He gave her a pleading look. "Since we do know what the guy is saying, and I'm not that interested in sitting through another hour or two of him waxing eloquent against my chosen profession, can't we split already?"
"We're here to meet my family," Rogue retorted in a sharp whisper. "Not satisfy your ego!"
"I haven't seen them yet," Remy protested and looked around yet again. But when he looked back at Rogue, she seemed a little bit uncomfortable. "Rogue?"
"They'll be here," she said. He wasn't sure which one she was reassuring. "They asked to meet me," she continued. "Not the other way around."
He sighed and turned back to watching the parishioners. "Oui."
He tried shifting to a more comfortable position on the hard pew, but Rogue's hand shot out and held him still.
"You're acting like a child," she said reproachfully.
Remy crossed his arms and stayed still. "No child." He grimaced. "Mais, a hard pew for sure."
He glanced over at Rogue. She was trying very hard to keep a straight face.
"Don't laugh," he said, lowering his voice directly by her ear and grinning at her.
She gave him the emerald death glare. "Shut up," she whispered fiercely.
"Non," he whispered back.
She shook her head and stared straight ahead at the pastor, whose finger was pointing repeatedly to some passage in the Bible. "This is juvenile," she muttered.
"You seem drawn to that argument," Remy noted. "Perhaps someone should show you what juvenile actually is." He made his offer with a serious look and an innocent tone.
She turned to him in horror. "I don't want to know what you consider juvenile."
He barely kept from a real laugh, the kind that would get them both in trouble.
"You're supposed to be listening to the sermon," she protested weakly.
He suddenly sobered, drawing on all his Thief skills to keep from laughing out loud. "Tu sais, when we were little, my cousins and moi, we would get bored in the Mass pretty quick. But we always sat behind this nice family, three or four children—"
Rogue dug her fingers into his arm, and he winced. "Not in the church!" she whispered. "If you make me laugh, I swear to—"
He cut her off with one gloved finger gently laid on her mouth. He smirked. "Not in the church, chèrie."
If looks could kill, he was certain he'd be dead.
She reached up and plucked his hand away from her face. "If you tell me anything that you or your cousins did in the church, I will kill you."
"Oh?" Remy clucked disapprovingly in her ear. "That's one of the Ten Commandments you'd be breaking."
"Really?" She coolly lifted a brow.
He grinned broadly at her. "Mon frère used to let a mouse loose in the soprano choir," he said quickly, before she could stop him. "He'd wait until the most boring part, then skip out to the men's room and make the fat lady sing."
"Remy Etienne LeBeau." Her voice held barely restrained fury and laughter.
He grinned wider. "Well, chèrie, you didn't say anything about my brother."
She made a small, strangled sound in the back of her throat while still looking forward.
"And my church never did preach against thieving," he added for good measure.
Rogue's hand came up to cover her mouth and a red flush burned her cheeks. "Remy..." she whispered. The threat was still there, but well buried under the laughter.
He glanced back toward the back of the church yet again. Something had changed. He glanced over the ranks. "They're here."
Rogue sobered instantly, a shudder running through her body. "How many?"
"Three," she muttered to herself. Her grip on her shawl tightened, and the knuckles were starting to turn white.
"Men's room," he whispered and stood to go out.
"Remy," she protested, but she was too late to stop him.
He kept his eyes well away from her family's direction and tried to determine the best way to circle back around. He shook his head. She really needed to pay him better!
Day Three, 17th Hour, 20th Minute
"Ew! This is so gross!" Kitty quickly unwrapped the toilet seat and flushed the offensive materials.
Scratch played innocently with a ball of yarn on the carpet.
This whole thing was a huge disaster if you asked Kitty. Of course, no one did. But seriously! The book made it sound so easy, failing to mention who would have to clean up everything while convincing said cat to hightail it for the bathroom when it wanted to do its business.
"Oh, Rogue, you so owe me."
Scratch sat back on his small haunches and caterwauled.
"Don't you start!" Kitty came phasing out of the bathroom and scooped up the grey ball of fluff, shushing him on the way to the kitchen. She passed scratched walls, a knocked-over lamp, the clawed curtains hanging down pitifully from one window, books scattered all over the floor, and the remnants of what used to be Kitty's sweater. Flushed with embarrassment even with no one to see her, she dropped Scratch on the counter, commanded him to stay put, marched to the refrigerator, and yanked out the milk carton. "I can't believe this is so hard," she muttered.
With a slip and a crash, Scratch splashed into the sink of dishwater (Kitty had to eat too after all). Then he really started yowling.
"Oh no!" She pulled him out, getting scratched for her pains. "Youch! Oh, bother, you!" She dumped him onto a stack of paper towels and started rubbing the struggling animal. "Hold still!"
Day Three, 17th Hour, 21st Minute
"Absolutely not," Emma said emphatically, then shot Logan a glare. "We are not going to hook her up to machines while she practices with you."
Logan worked his jaw. She always knew so perfectly well everything what was and was not a good idea to help Rogue, and yet she had yet to give them much of anything solid to work with. "Queenie—"
"Don't call me that," she snapped, blue eyes flashing fire. She turned back to his printouts. "She'll feel like a lab rat."
"Since you hadn't noticed," he replied with exaggerated patience, "she kind of is."
"At least, she has fun in the Danger Room."
Logan snorted. "And the more fun she has, the less work she does. We need progress, Frost."
Emma gave him her iciest glare. "I'll consent to monitor while you two train together. No more."
He growled and took two threatening steps closer. "You know, you're not her only trainer."
"Neither are you!" Emma retorted. "And I'm the only qualified telepath here!"
"Like that means anything. You see how much good Xavier did her!"
They were in each other's faces now, and he could smell her anger coming off her in waves. He was practically seeing red himself.
He took a step back, took a calming breath. "You don't seem to care about what's really going to make a difference."
Emma raised one eyebrow and said coldly, "Like you said, Logan. It's just a theory." She smiled frostily and neatly sidestepped him out of the room.
He felt like punching something.
Day Three, 17th Hour, 22nd Minute
By the time, Remy walked up to the foyer from down the outer hall, Rogue was just approaching her family. He slipped up beside her and settled an arm around her waist. She looked up sharply, a hint of a blush under her pale skin.
He leaned over and whispered in her ear, "Had to fix my shades."
Understanding flickered in her eyes, but by then, they had reached the people she had once called family. Rogue pasted on a smile and greeted them politely.
"Y'all, this is Remy," she introduced neatly. "He agreed to drive me down here today." He was pretty sure she deliberately omitted any reason for his very comfortable arm around her. "Remy, this is my papa, Owen, and mama, Priscilla. And this is Aunt Carrie." He caught the slight heightening of tension on the last.
He shook hands with Owen and kissed the ladies'. "Pleasure's all mine," he said with his most winning smile. He tightened his grip around Rogue's hips, much to her discomfort and stroked small circles with his thumb. "Your daughter is enchanting."
Rogue's smile became that much more strained.
"Well, I've never heard her talk about you," Owen said, narrowing his eyes.
Priscilla elbowed him inconspicuously, and Remy figured out where Rogue had gotten the tendency. "Owen, she's a girl. She only writes about girl things to girls," she said with a small huff. Then she smiled at Remy. "Charmed, I'm sure."
Remy gave Rogue a sidelong glance. Her cheeks were flaming. Gotcha.
She had written home about him. Very, very interesting.
Her aunt was saying something. "We could stop by that little place we saw on the way in. Nice restaurant." Didn't sound like a request.
"Sounds like an excellent idea," Priscilla seconded.
It seemed to be the women driving this meeting. Owen kept frowning at him, but put up no protest to Carrie's no-nonsense manner or his wife's submissive agreement. Remy reflexively pulled Rogue a little closer.
"Sure," Rogue said, her strained smile just about to give out.
Day Three, 17th Hour, 33rd Minute
Storm popped her head up from the bush she'd just been tending. That sounded awfully like an injured animal. A cat?
She rose gracefully to her feet (little could stop that woman's grace) and made her way in the direction of the noise. It seemed to be coming from near the boathouse.
Emma had been keeping close tabs on the emanations of distress coming from both Kitty and the kitten out in the boathouse and finally gave up trying to talk sense into Laura in favor of rescuing Gambit's misguided gift once more from discovery.
Might as well get her own good out of it. She hated reasoning with the girl.
Storm! Emma's telepathic voice suddenly burst in on her. I need your help with X-23!
Storm stopped cold in her tracks and flew in the direction of the mansion instead. Laura had been part of a military project before the X-Men had rescued her and if she had been exposed to anything that set her off, she could turn homicidal quickly. She ran once she made it inside and stopped in the kitchen at the strangest sight in front of her.
X-23 stood, claws out, growling at Bobby, who was slowly backing away from a milk carton on the counter.
"You can have it," he said. "Totally yours."
Laura lowered her claws.
Emma Frost gave Storm that look that said, I-don't-know-how-you-put-up-with-these-kids. "Storm, would you please get it through Laura's head that we do not threaten people with dismemberment to lay claim to communal milk."
Storm blinked. "I see."
X-23 raised one eyebrow. "It is efficient," she said flatly.
You are cruel, Storm thought in Emma's direction. This was going to be one whale of an argument.
Day Three, 17th Hour, 42nd Minute
"Someone just dig a hole and bury me now," Rogue muttered beneath her breath.
Going to a restaurant after church sounded like a good idea, but at the rate her day was going, Rogue felt she'd be glad to make it out alive. Stopping to eat was just inviting trouble.
Remy leaned in closer and whispered against her ear, "Non, ma chérie. I like you better up here with me."
He smirked at her and she smiled sweetly up at him for her parents' benefit. But when he offered his arm, she gripped it tight enough to hurt.
They went in separate cars and parked next to each other. Rogue spent the short trip over telling Remy all the things he was absolutely not to do while he smirked at her silently. She eyed him warily, fairly certain he'd do whatever he pleased.
"You're supposed to be helping me," she reminded him.
"Oui, ma chère." The smirk in his voice assured her that his definition of helping her would not be at all similar to hers. He pulled the key from the ignition. "Shall we?"
She let him open the door for her, help her out of the car under her mother's watchful gaze, and managed to give him another jab with her elbow while she was at. "Behave yourself!" she hissed under her breath.
He was too close, too touchy feely. He'd managed to wrap his arm around her again as he walked her in.
"Relax, chère. I got this."
Her father frowned at her when they got in the door. "Haven't seen you in ages and I haven't even got a hug."
Rogue stiffened slightly, but she tugged at Remy's arms to do so. Remy seemed reluctant to let her go. She gave him an annoyed glance, but Remy had his gaze fixed on Owen, and even through the shades, she could see he didn't like her father's request.
Priscilla shooed them forward to settle in at a table, temporarily avoiding the topic.
"Now, let's see!" she said cheerily. "Carrie, what looks good on the menu?"
Aunt Carrie obligingly looked.
Rogue gave Remy a puzzled look as he snugged her in between him and the window opposite her parents. He picked up a menu and flipped it open.
"So you two are friends?" her father demanded in his booming voice.
Rogue nodded. She could feel herself blushing though as Remy looked toward her with a slight frown. She cursed mentally. How did he manage to make everything seem as if they were more? They weren't. Not even close. As far as that went, they weren't even friends!
Her mother fixed her with a knowing look, but mercifully changed the subject. "Let's get ourselves some roasted vegetables and have a chat, shall we?"
Owen grudgingly left off his staring contest with Remy and engaged on getting himself a more manly dinner—like steak and potatoes. It had been a constant when she lived with her parents before a rocky time in their relationship—ostensibly not related to Rogue, but she knew better—when Aunt Carrie came to live with them. Aunt Carrie frowned deeply at her father's order.
"You shouldn't travel across the country with only a man," her father continued, ignoring his wife's sister and using his reasonable tone of voice. He gave Rogue a disapproving look. "It doesn't give a good impression. People might think things."
Remy draped his arm easily across Rogue's shoulders before she had a chance to respond. "Oh? What kinds of things?" he asked with a wicked grin.
"Remy!" Rogue whispered fiercely.
But Owen and Aunt Carrie were already scowling, but Priscilla was laughing and it brought a tentative smile to Rogue's face.
"She's a grown girl," Priscilla said. "She can take care of herself. Besides..." She winked at Rogue and the smile puttered out. "It must be nice to have a boyfriend again."
Rogue's cheeks must have been flaming scarlet. She felt like she was on fire and Remy's smug smirk did nothing to help.
"He's not my boyfriend," she protested weakly.
She went unheard. Her family were already arguing back and forth about the issue.
"I'm just glad you came to your senses and got the Cure," Aunt Carrie said, changing the subject with finality. She took a bite of pancake.
Remy's grip on Rogue's shoulder tightened noticeably. She tried not to wince—at either of them.
"If they'd had it sooner—" Rogue started.
"I'm sure you would've taken it," her mother interjected, always the peacemaker. "It just takes medicine so long to fix anything nowadays. They're still working on cancer."
Owen nodded grudgingly but still casting a wary eye on Remy's encircling arm.
Rogue looked back and forth at the people around her, people that should've supported her when she found out just how terrible her mutation was and hadn't, people that—. She stopped that train of thought and glanced at Remy instead. He was unreadable and silent behind his shades. She didn't know whether to be angry or relieved.
She took a sip of her iced tea. "Yeah."
Day Three, 18th Hour, 18th Minute
Rogue dismissed herself from the table a little bit later and went into the ladies room, ostensibly to clean up, always a safe excuse. She leaned her back against a stall door and covered her face with her hands.
Even Remy couldn't seem to keep them off that topic. All her life, she'd grown up in a bit of a minefield between her parents and her aunt and uncle, but after she'd gotten her mutation, everything just went on a greased slide towards impossible. So she ran away. Her mother seemed to be all right getting letters, seemed to think this was some sort of disease that Rogue would hunt the whole wide world for a cure for before coming home the same way she was before.
And she nearly had. She nearly had.
Rogue brushed the tears off her cheeks and hurried out to the sink to wash her face. She could do this. She was Rogue. She could make it through this visit.
She looked up into the mirror and nearly screamed.
She whirled around and slammed Remy in the chest with her fist. "This is a girl's bathroom, you swamp rat! What do you think you're doing in here?" She would have yelled at him, but she definitely didn't want her family knowing he was in here—or anybody else for that matter.
Remy just chuckled at her, smirking, red eyes glowing. He'd pulled off his shades. "Ain't the first time I've been in one of these," he said. "'Course, I'm usually doing something much more...interesting." His eyes ran indecently over her figure.
She reached up to slap him hard, but he caught her wrist in one hand. He looked down at her, suddenly serious.
"You okay, Rogue?"
Rogue stared at him. "You came in here to ask if I'm okay? I can't believe you!" she raged.
He sighed. "Come on."
She struggled to free her arm, but he held her fast as he headed toward the door.
"We're going to talk about school, only school. You got that?" He glanced at her sharply. "They want you to go back to Mississippi with them."
She stopped cold in her tracks. "What?"
Remy shrugged and fingered his sunglasses out of a pocket and slipped them on. "Unless you want to tell them you're still a mutant, I suggest you follow my lead." He led her back toward the table.
Rogue glared at his back. Like he knew her family better than she did!
He waited for her to slide in before him.
She'd follow his lead, all right. She smiled up at him sweetly, and for the first time since they'd met up with her family, he hesitated before smiling back.
Day Three, 18th Hour, 23rd Minute
Remy was justifiably suspicious of Rogue's angelic agreement with him. Unfortunately, so was Owen.
"So how did she meet you anyway?" Owen asked, eyes narrowed at him like he was some offensive insect that had dared to get too close to his daughter.
"Poker game," Remy replied smoothly.
She lied badly but truth was, that was the reason he couldn't lie about anything they'd cross-examine her on. And judging from the looks coming from both women, they would cross-examine her.
"Dear," Priscilla began sweetly—she was the sweetest of the bunch, "however did you get talked into that?" She furrowed her brow as if it was an innocent question.
Remy had to refrain from rolling his eyes. Not that they would see it with his sunglasses on.
Rogue glared at Remy. "Girlfriends talked me into it." Her voice hitched only slightly.
He was both grateful she'd taken his advice about remembering she had a poker face and intrigued at the realization that playing poker with him the first time had been her own idea. Especially since at the time, she was a lousy player.
He shrugged. "She's a upstanding citizen, just a little dare, n'est ce pas?" And that was where his ability to bluff coolly came in so handy. Stretching the facts as he knew them without pushing them beyond her bounds to play along.
Rogue just nodded, an embarrassed flush to her cheeks.
"I'm not sure I would approve of these friends," Carrie said, frowning.
Owen frowned with her.
Rogue shrugged. "They're good students. We just wanted to blow off some steam, harmless. We were at home."
Not too bad herself at the stretching.
"Never turn down a pretty fille." Remy grinned at her, earning another glare from both Rogue and Owen.
Carrie finished up her last bite of food and set down her napkin on her plate. Everything about the gesture just breathed trouble, and Remy racked his brains for a quick distraction.
"One of the upsides about living at a school is there's always someone around to keep us in line," he said easily.
Priscilla nodded in seeming agreement, and Rogue's shoulders relaxed slightly under his grip.
Carrie managed to bomb them anyway. "As well as that may be, I think it's time you came home, sugar," she said in anything but a sweet tone, directing her words solely at Rogue and ignoring him completely. "We are your family and now that things have been taken care of"—he wanted so badly to respond to that—"you should return."
Rogue took in a deep breath that seemed to take more out of her than it brought in, then said slowly, firmly, "No."
Silence dropped like lead. Remy tightened his arm around her, ready to whisk her away at the first sign of trouble.
Finally, Owen leaned forward. "Don't you think this has gone on long enough, Marie? We want you home."
"Very much, darling," Priscilla put in with pleading eyes.
But Rogue repeated firmly, "No. I'm happy where I am and I'm still finishing up my schooling."
"Which we have been paying for," Carrie said matter-of-factly.
Remy looked up sharply at that.
"You sent us that first letter and we have taken care of our responsibilities since then," she went on. "As such, you are still legally a student and our dependent."
"Carrie—" Priscilla began, but her husband cut her off.
"She's right and no denying it. And we want you home." He aimed this last with crossed arms at his recalcitrant daughter."
Rogue's eyes were flashing fire and her sharp nails digging into his arm were the only thing keeping Remy from putting them in their place. But he had a feeling this little wildcat beside him would much rather handle it herself. He just hadn't expected what she did next.
"Your dependent?" she demanded, tone livid. "Well, as of right this moment I don't need your money. I don't need you." She turned to Remy. "I think I'm going to just elope and make sure you can't come back and bite me on it either."
"Quoi?" Remy stared at her in dumbfounded shock, but her eyes said, don't even think about refusing. He shut his mouth. "Oui." She was nuts. Utterly nuts. This was not what he meant by play along.
"You can't do that!" Owen sputtered.
"I can too." Rogue stood up on her chair and announced to the entire restauraunt. "I hereby declare myself married to this young man next to me under the common laws of South Carolina. Remy?"
When had this situation gotten so out of control? He said something that might have been an affirmative—must have been because everybody started clapping and drowned out any protests he may have voiced and all the caterwauling her own family was putting up.
Then she got back off the chair, smoothing her dress, and dragged him out to the car. "Get in. Fast. Before they follow."
He slid into the drivers seat and tore out of the parking lot as Rogue promptly put her face in her lap.
"I cannot believe I just did that," she said once they had gotten out of the state and probably halfway through the next.
"Neither can I! Dieu, what will you think of next, fille?" He alternated between staring at her and staring at the road. "Do you have any idea what you just did?"
Then he stopped in real horror. "Are we married?"
Rogue pulled her face out of her lap and gave him a miserable look. "Not exactly." She hesitated. "We have to 'assume the relationship' afterward and...um...get a place in South Carolina for it to hold up in court." She turned away, cheeks flaming with embarrassment. "But if we did all that, then yeah, we would be."
Remy took a deep breath.
They would be actually, legitimately married.
"How in the world did you know about that?"
"School report. Last year." She wasn't looking at him, looking anywhere but him. Then suddenly she did. The glimmerings of a smile appeared about her mouth. "It worked."
"It worked?" He cast a glance at her. "That's all you have to say for yourself and that huge scene in there. It worked?"
"Well, it did!" she protested.
He leaned over and kissed her soundly on the lips. It was only an instant and she practically punched him getting him off, but it was so worth it.
"I think I just fell in love with you, chère."
"You're crazy, you swamp rat!" she shrieked at him. "You want to get us both killed? You're driving, for crying out loud!"
And he felt more exhausted than he'd ever felt in his life, but he could drive on it.
Remy gave her a smug grin. "It was worth it."
"Pull over!" Rogue demanded.
"Why?" He cast her a puzzled glance.
"You're not going to drive under the influence. Pull the car over." She glared at him. "I'm driving."
"Oh, non, chérie." He tightened his grip on the wheel. "I may be yours but the car is not and no one drives her but me."
"You're half out of it!"
The dashboard lit up with a magenta glow.
"And you oughta know, hein?" He grinned and reabsorbed the charge. "You driving with my power and no control is definitely a recipe for disaster."
"Wouldn't want to get us killed, n'est ce pas?"
"Oh, I'm going to get you killed, all right," she muttered darkly.
He laughed. "Just ride, chère. I got this."
She fell into a sullen silence as he multi-tasked between driving and decharging all the things she was lighting up. He clucked disapprovingly.
Day Three, 23rd Hour, 17th Minute
"It's almost midnight," Logan growled at Storm and Emma, both sitting at the kitchen counter. "Where are they?" He was pacing in the kitchen proper.
Storm shrugged. "They're fine, I'm sure. She'll keep him out of trouble."
Emma agreed. "I'm sure they didn't do anything rash."
Just don't look in the boathouse, she thought but did not say.