The Bargain

Neither of them can handle what he does to her. They are both defined by touch, the caress of empty air.

It's like a breath taken away when he suppresses her powers, the shuddering repulsion of skin upon her skin--not his—the frightening burden of the earth beneath her feet--I want to fly.

They hate him.

Beast knows this. He does not mention these things when they test and train and he is watching outside the Danger Room, hands pressed to the glass as another man tries to get a touch in on a girl that won't be touched.

Only him.

I want to fly.

Carol loves the open air. She wishes it away. Anything to have that skin, not waking in the night, heart pounding, remembering that breath taken away.

I want to touch.

I want to fly.

Mantras shudder, sliding towards a harmony. But nothing they can do can bring her back. And nothing they do can take these nightmares away.

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He wishes he could reach her. He wakes to watch her breathe shallowly against the pillow, silken strands of white and chestnut rippling over the pillow, bathing his skin with the only touch of hers he'll have. Her eyelashes tremble as though the lids will open and he'll see the emerald shining underneath, but they never do. Her eyes are shut, and he hears the moaning whimpers of her dreams.

"I love y', chère." He brushes his fingers over her hair, breathes the words against her mouth, knowing she will not wake, not wanting to know who would wake if he roused her from her sleep.

He knows when she wakes, she'll turn away and he will not see her eyes.

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He wishes he could reach her. He wakes to watch her breathe shallowly against the pillow, silken strands of white and chestnut rippling over the pillow, bathing his skin with the only touch of hers he'll have. Her eyelashes tremble as though the lids will open and he'll see the emerald shining underneath, but they never do. Her eyes are shut, and he hears the moaning whimpers of her dreams.

"I love y', chère." He brushes his fingers over her hair, breathes the words against her mouth, knowing she will not wake, not wanting to know who would wake if he roused her from her sleep.

He knows when she wakes, she'll turn away and he will not see her eyes.

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Neither of them can handle what he does to her. Even Carol is affected by the nightmares, the morbid fascination of a guilty mind with the pain of such potential. She could kill him, the one person she promised to love unconditionally.

It's only a matter of time before the chasm between becomes too great, and she feigns sleep when he wakes and touches her hair--don't shudder, don't touch, please—before rising and leaving her for the Danger Room.

He knows how to play with danger.

But she doesn't. She doesn't.

She wants to scream and rail and just wants this unbearable tension to end, all this fighting against the very thing she wants.

I can give you flight and strength, just let me out. I want to live!

You cannot give me anything I want.

There is only one thing she wants, and both of them know who it is.

She sees a flash of blue eyes, golden hair whipped by the winds in a battle with the Brotherhood. Her skin remembers, too well, the instant, too long, too late, of contact with that uncovered skin. She remembers the promise of a frightened mind without a home: I'll do anything you want. I'll keep him safe.

She cannot have what she wants.


Minds meld into one, ideas exchanged, separate again.

They cry.



The Funeral

Silken strands of white blow against the chestnut in the light wind. He wants to reach out and capture them, but she is fragile, emerald eyes breaking when they cannot soften.

"We are gathered here today..." 'Crawler opens with traditional, familiar phrases for those gathered around.

Carol's teammates, family, friends, the X-Men, the students who wish to support her, the students who just wish blessings on the recently departed. He has eyes only for her.

She hunches her shoulders. Her face is a study of confusion and tears. "Remy..."

He hears her soft whisper, permission, and finally draws her gently, tenderly into his embrace. She is so fragile.

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She clings to him, one hand gripping the front of his suit jacket, the other holding to the arm he has wrapped around her stomach. She leans against his strength at her back as she—no, not she, Carol—is lowered into the earth.

No... A horrified whisper uncurls from the back of her mind. No. It can't be. I can't be.

I'm alive, her own mind whispers. I'm Rogue. I'm...

Her minds struggle within her and it is her face in that casket. She struggles, holds to him holding her.

I can't be dead.

"I'm alive," she whispers low, so low he should not hear it, but he does.

He holds her closer, breathes warmth against her ear. "Rogue," he whispers.

She hears her name. She is Rogue. She takes comfort in this firm reminder of who she is and who she is not. He is someone that belongs wholly to her, for Carol cannot touch it and Pulse can never give her anything she desires. For a moment, she is entirely herself, lost within his touch, his scent, the gentle murmur of his voice reminding. Her strength is not that strength. She does not feel the urge to fly.

It never lasts. The dark cover is over the casket, and Carol's voice is pleading.

It can't be. Please! I can't be dead.

Frantic as the earth is spread over her—not hers, but Carol's—casket. She closes her eyes, but she cannot fight the voice. It washes over her, becomes her.

I'm alive! I'm right here! I'm not in there. I'm here! I can fly.

Carol cannot accept, and so neither can she.

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Emerald eyes break into silent tears. He wishes so badly he could do more than hold her, touch her, keep her anchored. Somehow, she's slipping out of his grasp, and he does not know how to help her.

And somehow this wind of Storm's—or at least, that she is allowing—seems right as it tosses about the silky strands of white, blowing against the chestnut. This is her moment. They're here for her, doing this for her. She's opening her eyes and desperately holding him tighter.

She is so fragile.

He gently, tenderly reaches for those silken strands of white and captures them.

The Mind

She wasn't prepared. When she finally emerges from the bathroom, he reaches for her, comforting touch at her shoulder.

She flinches away from him.

His hands fall to his sides.

Storm clouds brew in his dark red eyes. How long has it been since she ever recoiled from him?

She turns away and pulls on her clothes. She doesn't to think about it, to see the way she hurts him. But her body feels foreign to her as she slides into the fitted leather, heavy with the weight of the two consciousnesses inhabiting it. How can she let him touch her?

She can glimpse the red in her dresser mirror when she runs her brush through snarled hair. He is not reaching across the bridge of space that has grown between them with those half-clenched hands.

"I'm supposed to go see Hank," she says. She fixes her eyes on the hair, the brush, her fingers as she pulls it back.

His voice is his voice, not the frustrated growl it has become, when he answers, "I'll come with you."

She meets his gaze openly then, and he flinches back, as if knowing.

But he cannot know.

"He said I should come alone."

His jaw tightens, but he does not speak or ask the questions settling between their unreaching hands. The storm clouds rage in a dark red sea, but she studies his hands as he reaches for the handle of the door and walks away.

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"Hank." She gives the other a mere nod of acknowledgment before gliding sinuously into the medical bay and settling herself on one of the beds, one leg crossed over the other.

This is not the Rogue he knows, and he frowns within his blue, furred face. The newcomer knows no better and casts his smile toward her to be met with a stony glare.

"What are we doing?" she asks, deliberately excluding the unknown from her question.

"We are taking a foray into your mental landscape," Hank says. "Due to the absence of any qualified telepath at our school and due to the delicate nature of the undertaking, we have determined that intermittent periods of suppression of your newly acquired capabilities may be in order." He hazards a glance at the unknown.

She raises an eyebrow. "Meaning?"

"It's not that precise, Hank," he mutters.

But Hank is already waving aside both of their words. "Let us measure your tensile strength, shall we? I must request that you entirely focus on the new psyche within your consciousness."

She bristles, but submits, closing her eyes and turning inward.

Her mind opens up. She moves through it quickly, not looking at all the small mindscapes of the other residents that make up the greater picture of her own. Finally, she reaches the very back and the golden-haired woman by the river.

Carol jumps up.

I'll give you whatever you want. Her voice is frantic, blue eyes pleading, hands reaching out. Just let me fly. Let me out. I'll... Her eyes search about in the mind around them. I'll find a way to keep him safe.

It is the wrong thing to say. The reply is snarled. You can't. And the words are a wound. If she can't, neither can this intruder in her mind.

I'll give you anything, if you'll just let me out.

You can't give! You can only take.

Skin brushes against hers, and she recoils, eyes flung open in shock. Her hands have plastered against her head to stop the pain. But touch...

She screams.

"It's all right," this newcomer says. "I've turned off your power. I can touch you."

She gapes at him in horror.

He's turned off her power.

He can touch you, a voice whispers equal horror.

He can touch me, her own confirms.


Horror coils into hatred. Her jaw clamps shut into an angry line. She reaches for her gloves and jerks them on.

He can touch her and Remy can't.

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Something is wrong.

He doesn't even see le Bête or the other person in the room when he bursts through the door, only the flash of white and mahogany, her head turning toward him, emerald eyes, hard as jewels, in fragile, porcelain skin.

He stops at those eyes, uncertain. "I heard you scream." He sees le Bête then, frowning in his furry face.

But her eyes soften for the first time in so many days, and she slides off the bed and comes toward him, arms open to take him in.

He relishes the feel of her against him, but she's strong. Too strong. The words are right, but the accent is wrong.

"It's all right, sugar," she murmurs in his ear. "I'm all right."

Something is wrong.

The Dream

She dreams of touch.

His skin is warm beneath the curve of her cheek, and she lifts her fingers in dreamy sleep, perplexed. She brushes against his stubble. It's him. His skin. Beneath her.

With a sharp shove and spike of terror, she pushes off him, hovers over, wide awake—caught in a nightmare.

"Remy!" she screams.

He doesn't answer her. He does not stir.

She screams.

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Her thrashing wakes him. He catches his arms around the slender limbs, the arms, the legs, so much stronger than they've ever been before. Her hair spills against him like water. She almost slips away from his grasp with her turning. He pulls her against him, captures her in his embrace.

"Rogue." He calls her name softly, but there is no response.

The heated, feverish trembling of her body against his, the whispered moans of terror.

His tone sharpens. He brushes back the silken curtain of brown and white to see her face, shakes her in the circle of his arms to waken her. "Chère. Wake up, mon amour. You're dreaming. It's a dream. Jus' a dream," he breathes this last near her mouth. It's their gesture of intimacy, almost a kiss.

Her hands clench tightly against his biceps, and he bites back a curse at the blinding pain.

Too strong. And it's a warning to him that she is not alone within her dream, beneath her skin. Too strong to hold.

"Remy." Her breathless, frightened voice caresses him. "Remy?"

The grip on his arms lessens. He stares down into emerald pools of terror shining in her fragile porcelain doll skin.

This girl is her. His Rogue.

"Rogue," he whispers her name, soothing, reaching out to cradle her in his voice.

He draws her closer, but she stiffens, sharply, and tugs against him, pulling away. Somehow, she slips through his grasp like water. He tries to catch her with his fingers, but she is already standing on the side of the bed.

"I need a shower," she says abruptly.

He knows that isn't what she needs. He knows the sound of her fear.


But she is gone.

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She pours her tears out silently beneath the running stream of water. Her fingers splay against the shower wall.

She cannot do that to him, let him hear her tears.

Bare skin remembers the feel of his heat beneath her cheek, the stubble, the warmth of his breath. Then...

Wake up, she commands herself, trying to be strong.

But another voice with far more strength than her own whispers back, I can't wake up.

It rolls over her with quiet terror and desperation. She sees a flash of blue eyes, golden hair whipped by the winds in a battle with the Brotherhood. Her skin remembers, too well, the instant, too long, too late, of contact with that uncovered skin.

I can't wake up. The words haunt her.

She shivers, dreaming of touch.

The Embrace

He holds her close, and she nestles her head against his shoulder. Her warm body presses into his. Her soft, sweet scent wafts over him.

He has missed this, the way she embraces him like she wants to protect, him, comfort him, like she doesn't want to hurt him, like she needs him desperately, clinging to him with all her might, like he's her entire world. He's missed the way she fits so perfectly in his arms, how their bodies mold together into a single whole greater than either of them could ever be.

She shifts in his arms and he tightens his grip. It feels like a dream to have her again at last, to watch the way she drifts off to sleep snuggled up against his chest. He doesn't want to give in to sleep, doesn't want it to end, but at last, he does.

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An errant sunbeam slides in through the lacy white curtains falling over the balcony doors and flits across her face in the morning. She blinks a few times, then realizes. She holds her breath, afraid to move, for fear this will all melt away into nothingness.

Strong arms hold her. Warm breath ruffles the hair at her temple. She can smell the scent of cigarettes and spices and something distinctly masculine, distinctly Remy, and it smells like something she's been missing and wanting for so long that she's imagined it into her dreams and the air around her when nothing is actually there.

If she was weaker than she is, she would cry. Instead she carefully leans her arms against his chest and studies the way the light plays across his face. His is a strong face, a beautiful and intelligent one. She hesitates to touch him, but finally lifts up her gloved fingers to brush against the sharp planes, the shadow of stubble, the contours she used to know so well. A sharp pain aches at the pit of her stomach. She wants to touch him, really touch him, but she is relegated to these halfway brushes, achingly close to touch, but never touch.

Her gaze moves upward to the messy strands of auburn falling across his eyes, and she feels startled to realize he's awake. Dark eyes, burning with the red, study her with quiet intentness.

"Morning, sugar," she says softly, then draws her hand away.

She's trembling suddenly. All of this, the dance, their hearts whispered quietly in the darkness, it all feels unreal, like the dawn will show it up for a fleeting dream, and she turns her face away toward the light, considers sliding out from the tousled sheets.


The word stops her. She catches her breath. His hand is sliding up her arm, caressing her gently. He sits up, never quite letting go.

"Come here."

She's never been able to resist him and she cannot now as he draws her up and over to the balcony doors.

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He holds her close before the open doors, the sunrise spilling over them with tender sweetness. She has stiffened in his arms, so uncertain—always uncertain—until finally, she begins to relax against him and nestles her head against his shoulder. Her soft, sweet scent wafts over him and he drops a gentle kiss against her hair.

She sighs.

He holds her tighter. He won't let her go. Not now. Not again.

"Je t'aime, mon amour," he breathes against her ear.

He catches the flutter of her lashes as her eyelids close. She leans her weight fully against him, her hands pressing tightly against his encircling arms.

She answers him, her voice as soft as the whispered promise of the morning sun, "I love you, too."

The Quiet

She curls up into his arms, into his touch, and allows him to cradle her against him. She's not quite sure what gives her the strength, the weakness, to do it when she's been pushing him away so long.

"Rogue," he whispers, but she cuts him off with the faintest brush across his lips.

She hears him sigh, feels him shift into a more comfortable position, lying next to her on the bed. Eventually, one of them will break the silence between. It's the way of them. Any quiet, tentative peace they find is eventually shattered in the need to speak.

She closes her eyes and presses closer. His grip tightens obligingly.

"I'm sorry," she whispers.

His breath catches and she feels his muscles tense. "Chère?" His voice is soft, almost hesitant.

And she cannot stop the tears from falling down.

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He slides one hand against her neck and leans her head back so he can look into her eyes. But they are shut and leaking silent tears from beneath the lids.


Her eyes flutter open and he sees the emerald greens, bright with pain, dim with sorrow. "Désolé," she whispers, taking on his native French.

And he cannot help but wonder what she means. So many times they've walked this road, and he told, promised himself he would not walk it again. He takes the first hesitant step.

"Let me come back, chère," he asks, brushing back her hair from falling into her eyes, caressing her gently.

He isn't prepared for the breaking of the dam as all the pain she's been holding in, trying desperately, perhaps vainly, to forego this conversation, unleashes in a torrent of violent sobs. She clutches his shirt and buries her face in his chest. He holds her, allows her to cling to him, as he murmurs soft words against her hair.

Finally, the tears ebb and she leans back and fixes her gaze on the ceiling. Her breath still falls in gasps, but quieter now, until her exhalations are even and he watches the gentle rise and fall of her breasts. A few tentative fingers remain twined with his. He waits for her to speak.

"I hurt you," she says.

He leans back his own head on the pillow, fingering her hand where he touches her, but otherwise avoiding contact now that silence has been breached.

"Oui, you did."

Quiet settles across them and they simply breathe together. This peace, this tentative peace, never lasts long.

He sighs. "I didn't want to leave."

"No," she says calmly. "You didn't."

If anyone could hear the way they dance with words, never saying the truth, never saying the lies, he wonders if they would tell him to just let go. But he can't. He's tried.


He feels her head nestle onto his shoulder, her warmth against his side, and her fingers tightening in his.

"Do you remember Carol?" she asks.

He looks at her then, peering beneath the silken hair falling over her shoulders. Does she honestly think he could forget?

Her hand grows more tentative, almost retreating, but held there as if by the force of her will.

"I had nightmares," she says.

Her voice drops so he can hardly hear her and he finds himself holding in his breath to make the silence soft enough. Her words cover him like the blanket of night as they talk in the darkness.

"Every night, I dreamed it was you instead of Carol. I dreamed I'd touch you while I slept..." She fights to say the words. "And when I woke, you'd be..." She cannot say the words. She presses against him and her hand bites painfully into his flesh.

He does not speak for a long while. He allows her to release the fear and the pain and waits for her grip to ease and the blood flow to return. He waits for the quiet, tentative peace to return between them and the silence to stretch and grow.

She breaks it first.

"I thought if I pushed you away, then it couldn't happen." The words are delivered flatly. Something dead and empty lies on the tongue.

He slides a strand of her hair through his fingers, letting the white glide out like a stream of water. "You still have 'em," he says.

She does not deny it.

"Who was he?" he asks, drawing blood for the first time this night.

Her body tightens and he strokes her back gently, soothingly.

"Just a friend," she says bitterly.

Bitterness makes a hard bedfellow. He knows.

"Friends, hein?" He slides out from under her and props himself up on one arm.

She pulls away warily, tensed for the attack.

"Friends date?" He narrows his eyes at her, feeling the dangerous glow of charge beginning to boil.

She looks away, twisting her fingers in the blanket where his hand used to be. "Friends have sex?"

He hisses inward, drawing in the pain. "You wanted me to wait?" he demands harshly, flinging the words against her.

He feels her flinch, but he cannot see it. She's better at hiding her emotions than she ever was before. He wonders if that's the Carol in her or the bitterness.

She continues to trace her fingers against the fabric of the bed covers, finding it more interesting to look at than him. He wants to force her to look at him, to yank her head up to face him, to hear the words that will allow him to walk away and forget her.

He waits in this silence. It is anything but peaceful.

Finally, she speaks.

"His name is Gus," she says. "He's my training partner and asked if I wanted to get out. I told him plainly that is all it would be." Her green eyes drift upward and he feels the heat of her pointed gaze, the intensity of that emerald fire.

His anger burns yet brighter.

"It's nice sometimes. To forget." Her gaze wanders over him slowly. "The first one was Warren," she continues even though he wishes she would stop. But he started this. He can hardly stop her now. "I'm sure you remember him."

He does.

"Might like to know that he's with Betsy now." Her voice hardens as she speaks. "Neither of us wanted a relationship, just a night out on the town."

The words are almost enough, enough to let him return, enough to let him leave.

She doesn't let it lie though. She adds, "To forget."

Suddenly, he reaches out and closes her mouth with one finger. She watches him warily out of eyes that are dimming before him and end up dull, as if coated with dust.

There is so much to say. Nothing to say. Darkness and moonlight play across her features and he studies her. What can they say?

"I might like to know if you want me back," he says and something in him knows that this is the breaking point, the last time he'll allow himself to walk this road.

She's staring at him as if those are the last words she expected him to say. Her body trembles slightly, though he can tell she tries to hide it. She takes a breath and looks at the ceiling.

"I hurt you," she says, a whisper, a plead.

He sighs and wonders vaguely if he'll regret the night, the dance, the kiss.

"I forgive you."

She closes her eyes and the silence overtakes them.

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Words burn and ache and wound. She is left reeling from this blow, the ultimate realization of how much better he deserves. Her fingers reach out and find his and she almost cries to feel him clinging back.

"I love you," she whispers, knowing it isn't the words he wants to hear, but that the truth is too much to say. She has always wanted him, never stopped, never really let him go.

He rubs one finger across the back of her hand. "Rogue." Only the tiniest hint of impatience colors his voice, but it is there. She hears it.

Her heart cannot contain the word any longer. She cannot deny the only hope she's ever had, the only love strong enough to survive the fires she's poured upon it.

She leans close to him and breathes him in, breathes herself out against his skin.


The Question

She wakes, wondering at the rustling at her back and then realizes her husband is pulling away and getting up. She can hear him tugging on his jeans and sliding into a shirt.


"Gonna see how the kids are," he says. She knows who he means. "'Bout time she let him back in."

She settles back into the covers, twisting a strand of white hair around her fingers, remembering Carol. She isn't so sure.

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Hazily, she opens her eyes and glimpses him settling into the chair by the open balcony doors. His blood-colored eyes close halfway, still studying her, guarding her, guarding against her. She closes her eyes and forces herself to drift away into slumber and memories.

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His body was so impossibly warm when he wrapped his arms around her stomach and nestled her head beneath his chin. She could feel his warm breath ruffling her hair and a spreading heat from where his hands rested against her front. His fingers lightly brushed upwards and she caught her breath, leaning back her head to put some air between her and him. Instead he moved closer, taking the opportunity to nuzzle her neck, using her hair as a barrier.

She shivered. Not from cold.

"Remy," she murmured, not certain if she was protesting or encouraging him.

He took it as encouragement.

His hands slid further down her body, caressing her hips, as he buried his face along her shoulder, kissing her through the fabric of her shirt, careful to avoid her bare skin. She shifted, reaching for him, feeling him as he was feeling her. Between the gasps and the moans and the friction of bodies, she found herself pulling closer, wanting more.

That was when she panicked.

She shoved him off and pulled away on shaking legs.

"Rogue?" His voice was thick and she could feel the traces of his fingers brushing her back as he reached.

But she didn't look at him. She managed to get to her feet and stumble away from the bed and into the bathroom, shutting the door behind her and sliding to the floor. What was she doing? What had she done? Her shoulders shook and then her body shook and she couldn't stop the tears from falling and her breath from catching and falling in gasps against the bathroom floor.

She could hear him approaching and she leaned hard against the door, knowing he would not shove it open into her. He called her name outside the bathroom, and she heard the growl of frustration that was all him and only him.

What was she doing?

She berated herself as the sobs shook her.

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He was quiet when she finally emerged hours later, watching her with glowing eyes as he crouched as close as he could without blocking her exit. She didn't want to look at him, merely stealing one glance before she padded over to the closet and pulled down her clothes for the day.

She still felt shaky, but she tried not to let it show.

How could she do this to him constantly? She pulled him close, encouraged him, asked for it, then pushed him away when he gave it. She brushed back her tangled hair with one hand and glanced over at him again.

He was quiet, watching. He always seemed to know when coming near would only push her farther and farther away.

She sighed and tossed the hangers on the bed.

Sometimes, she wished he would.

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Carol was the final straw.

They'd both been close to breaking for weeks, as she continued to avoid the closeness she wanted so much to have with him. But somehow, he was slipping through her defenses yet again and she knew it was only a matter of time before he managed to bridge the distance she had built up between them, yet again.

Fighting alongside another team, working to bring down a raid by the Brotherhood. It only took a few minutes, three short minutes, to change her life, to break her and remake her. Just a little too long, a little too late.

She never meant to do it.

A new gravestone behind the mansion. A new set of powers for her.


Something broke.

And nothing he could do could fix it.

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He hears her tossing in her sleep before he even reaches the door. He can still smell him and soon he's hearing him too. Soft murmured French with scattered English words here and there. Love. Rogue. Sleep.

He stops outside the door to listen as he calms her and her whimpers and groans slowly fade away.

He's good for her. Always has been.

Assured that he won't be leaving anytime soon, he turns around and stalks down the hallway back to his room and his worried wife who will doubtless be wanting to know the two are okay.

He doesn't think they're okay. But at least they're together.

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She wakes to his gentle touch as he rubs her shoulder, still whispering calming words in French. She closes her eyes.

What is she doing?

And she cannot stop the tears from falling down.

The Touch

He shoos away Kitty and Jubilee and Rahne and Emma and every other girl that likes to talk to the closest person he has to a daughter after she's been on a date. The last to come is her, white hair swirling against her chocolate skin. She looks at him inquisitively, not asking in words why he is stalking the halls of the staff dorms like a guard dog on the loose.

"He's back."

Her eyebrows shoot upward in surprise.

"They're dancing."

He can still hear the faint strains of music, the whisper of fabric and footsteps and wind.

She seems bewildered by the words. "But he left."

"She kicked him out," he corrects before putting an arm around his wife's shoulders to lead her away. "C'mon, 'Ro. They're dancing."

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When the music finally stops, she pulls away gently. His arms tighten then let her go. She slips back into the bedroom through the balcony doors and goes to change the music in the player.

An arm stretches across her and stops the motion.

She glances up in surprise at the burning scarlet eyes, then catches her breath at the expression she finds there. A heady mixture of longing and frustration, love and sorrow, tenderness and pain smolders and darkens and brightens in his eyes. The air is thick, charged with tension as only he can create.

He reaches to stroke the hair from her face. She closes her eyes, breathing in the scent of him and letting the warmth of that simple touch overtake her.

She shouldn't be allowing this.

She shouldn't.

Her eyes shutter open and he's tipping her head back to look at them, reading her before deciding his next move. She wonders hazily what he sees.

Hesitation flits across his features, then is gone. He smooths his hands over her shoulders, kisses her hair as she shudders, her skin remembering what comes next. Warmth floods her, but she is powerless to stop him. His eyes have captured her in that mesmerizing gaze, the blending of the crimson darkness, and she allows him closer.

His knowledgeable fingers find their way to the back of her dress, locate the fastenings, and loosen them. He tugs the dress downward. The fabric whispers on her skin and she feels it burn. Never one to hurry, he slowly traces along her curves and removes the other clothes one by one from slip to stockings.

He leaves her then. She leans against the bed to breathe. He slides open the dresser drawers to find what he wants and then stops. She reads the tension in his shoulders, the stiffness in his body, watches as he pulls out one of his shirts from where she has left them.

He looks at her.

She turns away.

She stares at her dress on the floor. Wasn't it all for him? She wants to cry but does not allow herself.

She feels his touch again but keeps her eyes averted. He slides the shirt around her, pulls on the sleeves, buttons the front. For all the times they wanted more, he only allowed himself this, to dress her for bed before drawing her into his arms under the sheets.

He pulls back the bedspread and she lets him tuck her in on her side of the bed rather than the middle. He smooths back her hair, kisses it once again. She closes her eyes and lets the warmth of the simple touch overtake her.

Would it ever be as simple as that?

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He studies her eyes as they drift shut toward sleep. The light has returned to brighten the emeralds, letting them sparkle in the darkness as he remembers.

Perhaps it was the tears.

He brings her pain but she pains him too.

He considers this beautiful woman before him and wonders himself where it all went wrong. White hair swirls against the chestnut tresses strewn out on her pillow. He touches her gently with gloved fingers and lets the warmth of it overtake him.

The Dance

She doesn't let him kiss her.

That is the first thing he notices from his position at the end of the hall.

The Wolverine had barely given him a sniff when he showed up at the mansion, merely shrugged and said same room as before.

The same room.

He wanted to hurt something.

Instead, he finds himself standing here at the end of the hall, witnessing the end of her date as she smiles, says her goodbyes, and steps quietly into th- her room.

His fist clenches. He won't do this. He won't.

He walks away, past the Wolverine again, who barely gives him a sniff.

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Warm air nearly suffocates her when she finally slides her tired body into the room she used to share with him. The moon is high and shining in through the balcony. The bed is queen-sized, a mockery.

She sinks to the floor as soon as she is in the door. She has said goodnight to her dancing partner and said goodbye to her pitiful attempts to move on. Her hair falls into her face, across her eyes, in a mishmash of color and lines, obscuring her view of the room.

A cool breeze blows in through the window left open by the balcony doors. The feel of wind against her hot skin beckons to her.

How many nights did she spend wrapped up in a lover's arms, no touch, no kisses on her poison skin, dancing on the balcony outside her window?

She stands. Her hand grips tighter the frame of the door and she looks out upon the night.

She sways softly toward the bedside and slips a CD out of its jacket and into the player. She keeps the volume low, the lights off, and moves toward the balcony doors.

He sees her. A dancing figure gently swaying on the balcony before the open doors as what once was his favorite song glides out into the warmth of this starry night.

His almost blind, angry walk slows to nothing and his eyes run over her hurriedly, urgently. He tries to sear the vision into his memory.

Eyes closed, head tilted softly back as she hums to the music and hugs herself, the gloves removed, her porcelain skin gleaming in the moonlight. The impossibly dark strands of hair embrace her face, the white ones fall away.

He is frozen by the sight of her dancing.

Not for long.

His eyes narrow. His mouth tightens. He hesitates only a moment before deciding what he will do.

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She hadn't expected him to come, but when her eyes drift open for a moment, they stay that way. Her dancing slows, arrests. She steps back and reaches out a hand to catch the door, considering retreat.

Red eyes burn in the darkness at the edge of the balcony, studying her, staring at her. He is here. He is all too real, all too close. She can almost feel the heat from his body, see the tension dancing in the muscles of his shoulders beneath the Armani suit.

"Remy," she breathes.

Pain flickers in his eyes at that and suddenly, he steps away from the edge and with one hand catches her and pulls her to him. Her body comes tight against his. His arms wrap around her and he slides one white-gloved hand into her hair, tilting her head back and meeting her eyes with his.

So close. Her heart beats erratically. He is hard and strong. She could not escape if she wanted to.

Does she want to?

His eyes glitter, brighten about the crimson iris. The color of pain, she thought once. The color of fire. The color of jewels gleaming out of darkness. The color of blood.

"Rogue," he whispers and lowers his head to hers.

"Remy," she protests, pushing at his shoulders.

But there is no give. He kisses her, softly, and she cannot help but kiss him back. He pulls away almost before he has begun, and she stares at him, eyes impossibly wide and breathing hard.

Why does he risk so much?

"Dance with me."

Is it a question? she wonders.

He cocks his head in that way he has always had, his smirk small, but inviting. She knows she could never resist. She nestles her head against his chest, feeling the warmth of his hand touch the small of her back. Her hand finds his other one. His breath ruffles her hair.

They dance.

Like nothing ever went wrong. Like she had never left to keep him safe. Like he had never looked at her with those eyes of blood, betrayed by the only one who had claimed to love him unconditionally. They dance.

And for now, it is enough.

The Date

Soft strands of dark hair glide across her face, white falling about the edges, blending across the porcelain skin.

His grip tightens on the frame of the door. He stands at the edge of the room, lingering in the doorway, poised to go in. He is frozen by the sight of her dancing.

Her head tilts back. Her cheeks are faintly flushed as she smiles and her soft laugh tinkles upward toward the man she dances with, but her eyes remain dull, like emerald stones coated in dust.

He studies the sweep of her gown as it falls away in a trail of green chiffon, leaving her creamy shoulders bare. He wants to reach and touch her, touch the line of her collar bone, feel the silk of her skin. Opera gloves ride up her arms, covering her, hiding her.

His eyes narrow in pain. He watches her dance with another man, who knows the name, it hardly matters. His grip tightens on the frame of the door.

He is frozen by the sight of her dancing.

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She does not catch the words as she excuses herself from his arms and swishes into the ladies dressing room. He said something to her, murmured compliments all the night. What does it matter?

Green and softness, the exposure of skin, all of it melds into lost beauty in the mirror as she catches a sob and stares at her impossibly wide emerald eyes, glittering with tears she is trying desperately not to shed.

She thought it was over. She thought she could walk away. Stop feeling.

He was there.

The first glimpse of red, burning against the darkness of his eyes, and she knew that she had lost. He was standing in the doorway, eyes on her, only for her, smoldering with the intensity that had only ever come from him.

She pushes back the brown hair, the white hair, the hair she left loose tonight as he had always loved it. Falling into darkness, drowning in the black and red, the burning, the ache, the desire. Can she never walk away?

She cleans herself up, washing away the traces of tears and reapplying the blurred makeup. Her eyes are dull with a sheen of the further tears she will not shed.

Green and softness, a beautiful dress, the exposure of skin, the hair, wasn't it all for him? It melds into lost beauty in the mirror.

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He cannot pretend he is unaffected as she reemerges from the dressing room, a soft, sweet smile on her face. She tilts her head back and laughs softly as another man takes her arm and leads her to the side of the room, concern flitting across his features.

He cannot pretend and so he walks away.

And in his mind, soft strands of dark hair glide across her face, white falling about the edges, blending across the porcelain skin.