Whispers

 
 

Worn to a Frazzle

Day Four, 18th Hour, 7th Minute

The rest of the day went by in a blur for Rogue. Hanging decorations, twisting streamers across bowers of princess-style white and little pink rosebuds, filling vases with the silk flowers, clearing out all the usual chairs in favor of some of the nicest from the formal dining room (a room the students rarely saw the inside of—at least some of the mansion's beauty should be preserved), until finally she collapsed in a heap on the divan in one corner. Jubilee was already sprawled across the floor in front, and Storm was leaning heavily against the back of one of those chairs. Emma alone remained standing in the very center of the room, looking every bit the unruffled queen she claimed to be, and surveyed the scene with a critical eye.

"It looks nice," she finally conceded, a tad ungraciously.

Rogue managed to look smug. "I like it."

Emma's look soured, but Storm smiled broadly in weary satisfaction. "And now I suppose we can get a bite of supper before gift-wrapping."

Jubilee leaned back her head and whimpered.

"It's not that bad," Emma told the girl unsympathetically. "We've put in only a few hours work and come out with something we're mostly satisfied with that Kitty will like."

Rogue squinted up at Emma. "What about the divan?"

"The what?" Emma cast her a curious glance.

Storm blanched.

Jubilee gasped. "Wait a second! There's no way we can get it out now!"

"Get it out?" Emma's eyes finally fell to the culprit Rogue was sitting on.

The divan, a fat, monstrous, ugly blue thing tolerated primarily because there wasn't a more comfortable piece of furniture in the entire house—barring perhaps Remy's bed, as he'd traded out the one his room came with for one more suited to his King-sized, Egyptian cotton taste. Despite this point in its favor, the divan was truly ugly and would ruin the look of all their hard work. Worse, no one had thought of it before they packed in chairs and vases and decorations so that barely a person could squeeze through to the backmost corner, and the divan could certainly not be squeezed out of it.

"Kitty could phase it," Jubilee suggested, eyeing the furniture dubiously.

"Certainly not." Emma glared imperiously. "It's her party."

Storm looked regretful but nodded her agreement. "It would spoil the surprise of the room."

Rogue groaned and curled up on the couch. As if they hadn't already put in enough work. "Throw a sheet over it."

"Rogue!" Storm sounded shocked. "No. We must find a way to get rid of it."

"Have Remy blow it up!"

Jubilee screeched. "Not the divan!" She wrapped her arms protectively about a bit of its cushioned back. "It's the most comfortable seat in the house!"

Long sighs filled the room.

Emma, being of a practical bent, finally said what they all knew. "We must move all the chairs back out. And the table to the side."

Four weary females viewed the task with some chagrin.

Rogue grumbled but pried herself up. "Let's get on it then."

Day Four, 18th Hour, 42nd Minute

For the first time in her life, Rogue cussed a solid blue streak, including quite a few ephithets against their resident telekinetic for having the nerve to die on them before Kitty's it-must-be-perfect eighteenth birthday.

Jubilee stared at her in horror. No one else batted an eye, still groaning under the various corners and edges of their burden.

So maybe it wasn't the first time Rogue had ever cussed like that (thank Logan, seriously), but it was certainly the first time she'd broken that cardinal rule of etiquette: Thou shalt not speak ill of the dead.

"Come off it, Jubes," she snapped. "It's not like your mouth's always pure." Rogue stretched a little further, trying to gain some purchase on the back corner of the divan from hell.

Jubilee closed her mouth with an audible clack.

Storm sighed and leaned heavily on the furniture. "This is rather—"

Rogue shrieked as the added weight threw the precariously balanced divan into a dangerous wobble.

"Oh no!" Emma tried to catch it, but it was too late.

It flipped up and fell—on top of Rogue.

She couldn't figure out who to kill first: Jubilee for the distraction, Storm for leaning on the divan, or Emma for failing to catch it.

"Oh dear," was Storm's brilliant addition to the conversation.

Rogue closed her eyes, gritted her teeth, and started counting down from a thousand.

"This is ridiculous!" Emma declared. "I'm calling Remy."

Naturally, this meant an all-out assault on every brain in a fifty-yard radius under her mental shout:

Remy!

Rogue quit counting and glared. "I hate telepaths!"

Day Four, 19th Hour, 53rd Minute

It took both Remy and Piotr to lift the doomed piece of furniture off of Rogue.

"Move it outside while you're at it," Storm ordered, less imperious than usual and much more miffed.

Jubilee, Emma, Rogue, and Storm joined in giving it dark glares.

"We ought to burn it," Rogue decided.

Remy raised an eyebrow. "Should we now?"

Jubilee bit her lip. "But it's so comfor—"

"I wouldn't finish that sentence if I were you," Emma said.

The younger girl fell silent and backed away warily, eyes wide.

Rogue collapsed in a weary heap in the nearest chair and waved her hand imperiously. "On your way, Remy, can you pick up my library holds?"

He stared at her as if he could not believe his ears.

"They're just sitting in my box in the library here, for goodness' sake!" She crossed her arms and glared at him. "Are you or are you not my slave?"

It was Piotr's turn to look startled.

Remy's jaw tightened. "Oui."

"Thank you."

The other girls just looked blank-faced and innocent until the boys had exited. Emma broke the silence first, giggling like a young schoolgirl, and then it was over. Every last one of them collapsed in peals of laughter until they could barely breathe from the scattered chairs at Kitty's birthday table.

Day Four, 23rd Hour, 16th Minute

Rogue stayed up late working on Kitty's presents, being one of the very few that hadn't begun by buying the exact same pair of shoes everyone else thought of. Being Kitty's roommate could have posed a problem, but she solved it handily by wrapping in the back corner of the library, a place Kitty had sworn off forever after three ranting diatribes about the computer section's inadequate resources for anything.

Her eyelids kept shutting on her, and she had to slap her cheeks to keep herself awake. Only the fact that she was hiding from Kitty kept her quiet through a dozen misapplied pieces of tape, two ruined sheets of wrapping paper, and the tissue paper she had to rescue from Scratch by swatting at his paws.

"You promised to behave!" she hissed.

He mewed and curled up in a ball on her lap to pur throatily.

And there she was, helpless mush again. "Oh all right. You can stay." She cuddled him with one hand and launched her third assault on a pink and white gift bag. Who would have thought it could be so hard to just bag something?

But her eyes continued to droop and her head began to nod, and eventually both girl and kitten lay sleeping on the library floor.

 
 

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.

"Rogue?"

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?"

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."

"Hold still!"

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.

Church!

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.

Projecting, my--

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."

"You noticed."

"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?"

"Oui."

"Why?"

"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.

"So."

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.

Men!

"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.

"Good."

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."

"Non."

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.

Jubilee groaned.

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?"

"Trois."

"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.

MEOW!

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.

Rogue gasped.

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.

"Rogue?"

"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."

"Remy!"

"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.

"Shut up."

He did.

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.
 
 

Day Two: Saturday
Des Supers Plans

Day Two, 3rd Hour, 1st Minute

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

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

Life was simply cruel.

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

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

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

Day Two, 3rd Hour, 3rd Minute

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

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

He didn't hear her.

So like a man.

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

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

Who could he frame?

Day Two, 3rd Hour, 9th Minute

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

Frame?

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

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

Not if she had something to say about it.

Jubilee sent groggy agitated thoughts at the ceiling.

Get up!

Day Two, 3rd Hour, 31st Minute

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

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

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

"Café!"

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

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

Firecracker.

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

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

Bracing himself, he entered the kitchen.

"Oh! Hi, Remy!"

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

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

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

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

"Jubilee."

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

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

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

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

"One of those."

Day Two, 4th Hour, 10th Minute

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

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

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

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

The phone rang.

"Merde!"

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

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

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

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

A pause.

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

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

Day Two, 4th Hour, 10th Minute

Emma rubbed her temples from yet another headache.

Rogue had issues.

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

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

Mission Impossible?

She collapsed back on her bed with a groan.

Day Two, 5th Hour, 30th Minute

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Don't know."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Day Two, 5th Hour, 42nd Minute

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Alive and well," came the dry response.

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

Day Two, 6th Hour, 45th Minute

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

"Did you have to go so hard?"

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

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

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

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

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

Logan grunted, unconvinced.

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

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

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

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

He shuddered. "I'll pass."

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

Day Two, 7th Hour, 12th Minute

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

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

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

Jubilee looked them over.

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

"Sure."

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

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

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

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

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

"Next?" Regina asked.

Jubilee nodded.

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

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

"Ow!"

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

"You naughty—"

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

A little forewarning might be in order though.

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

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

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

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

"Scratch."

Day Two, 7th Hour, 32nd Minute

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

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

Day Two, 7th Hour, 40th Minute

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

"What are you doing here?" she asked.

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

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

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

Scratch yawned again and started licking her gloves.

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

Day Two, 8th Hour, 1st Minute

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

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

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

Rogue stared in amazement. Jubilee gaped. Emma giggled.

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

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

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

"Storm's schedule first," Logan replied.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Logan growled and stormed off.

Emma laughed. "Like killing a cockroach."

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

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

She blinked.

"Chere?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Day Two, 15th Hour, 17th Minute

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

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

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

In short, girl time.

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

Emma snickered back.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Finally, the two women caught their breath.

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

Storm perked up. "What was that?"

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

Emma opted for distraction.

She moved a bishop into position. "Check."

"What?" Storm stared wildly at the board.

Success.

Day Two, 17th Hour, 45th Minute

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

Did he mention they had a lousy schedule?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Oui," he answered calmly.

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

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

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

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

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

Then he closed the door.

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

Day Two, 17th Hour, 56th Minute

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

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

Storm grinned smugly.

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

Day Two, 18th Hour, 2nd Minute

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

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

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

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

He was starting to get protective.

Non. That couldn't be right.

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

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

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

"Going to get food this century, Gumbo?"

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

"Sure, mon ami," he replied easily.

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

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

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

"Only 'cause I caught you."

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

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

Remy raised an eyebrow. "Non?"

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

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

Remy chuckled.

Bobby aimed a glare in Remy's direction.

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

Bobby frowned. "What does that mean?"

"Ice boy." Remy dug into his cereal.

"Hey!"

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

Things were definitely looking up.

Day Two, 19th Hour, 21st Minute

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

The image of Remy in only jeans.

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

The image played before her mind again.

And entirely too hot.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rogue stared at her roommate.

Kitty was singing the theme from the Aristocats.

Rogue lunged for Kitty.

"Whoa!"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Day Two, 19th Hour, 30th Minute

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

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

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

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

"Flowers!"

"Roses..."

The girlish sighs intruded annoyingly again.

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

"Who are they for?" he demanded.

She turned dreamy eyes on him. "Rogue."

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

He had eyes only for the roses.

Day Two, 19th Hour, 31st Minute

Scratch woke up and started his cry for milk.

Rogue clapped a glove over his mouth and cursed.

Just then someone knocked on the door.

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

Rogue gave a startled squeak.

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

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

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

Kitty narrowed her eyes at her chair.

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

Thankfully, she phased in time.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Day Two, 19th Hour, 33rd Minute

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

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

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

Just then Warren walked into the kitchen.

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

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

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

Kitty blanched. Anything but that.

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

Hank walked in.

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

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

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

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

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

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

He paused in his speech. "Yes?"

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

Day Two, 19th Hour, 39th Minute

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

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

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

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

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

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

Logan eyed the flowers distrustfully. "Poetic."

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

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

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

"I'm just saying..."

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

He sighed. "I'm just saying."

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

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

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

"What?"

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

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

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

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

Rogue narrowed her eyes at Logan.

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

Men!

Day Two, 20th Hour, 22nd Minute

She told him off.

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

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

Storm started winning.

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

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

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

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

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

"I got her those shoes!"

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

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

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

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

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

Dazzler shrieked. "You didn't!"

Great. Could this get any worse?

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

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

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

"Emma?"

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

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

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

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

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

Day One: Friday
Sans Pitié

Day One, 1st Hour, 10th Minute

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

Remy knew from personal experience, Rogue had no mercy.

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

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

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

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

His grim smile at that.

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

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

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

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

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

Never should have gone there.

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

He sat down.

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

Finally, they played to take the pot.

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

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

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

Remy called. Rogue called.

They drew.

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

Remy had never thought for a moment he would lose.

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

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

Day One, 4th Hour, 1st Minute

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

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

That had to be some kind of a complex.

The minute hand hit the 02.

The frown deepened. Rogue was late.

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

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

Rogue sat, looking rather regal herself. And happy.

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

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

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

"It's not strange."

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

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

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

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

If only he knew.

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

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

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

She groaned. This was definitely worse.

Day One, 4th Hour, 28th Minute

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

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

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

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

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

From sugar to rat in a matter of seconds.

"You wound me, chère."

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

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

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

He sat straight up at that. "Chère!"

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

She hung up.

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

Day One, 5th Hour, 29th Minute

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

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

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

Kitty's phone rang.

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

Rogue threw a book at Kitty's head.

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

Day One, 5th Hour, 30th Minute

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

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

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

"My what?" Kitty squealed.

He winced.

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

"Oui. Time she be up."

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

"We on?"

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

The girls converged upon the door.

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

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

"Remy!"

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

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

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

Kitty snickered.

No arbitration was available for the slave.

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

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

Remy knew from personal experience, Kitty had no mercy.

Day One, 5th Hour, 35th Minute

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

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

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

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

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

Siryn rubbed her arm. "Ow."

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

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

SNICK.

Day One, 5th Hour, 38th Minute

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

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

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

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

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

"Or weren't?" she asked dangerously.

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

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

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

Day One, 5th Hour, 40th Minute

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

"Maudit, Chaton!"

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

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

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

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

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

"Her ringtone," Siryn replied with narrow eyes.

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

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

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

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

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

"Oui."

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

Laura narrowed her eyes at Remy.

He smirked at Kitty. "Change your ringtone."

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

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

Kitty huffed and headed for the stairs. The nerve!

Her reluctantly not-firing squad trooped behind her.

Day One, 5th Hour, 45th Minute

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

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

Emma?

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

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

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

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

A moment of silence. Hold, please.

Hold? Rogue giggled again and Logan glared at her.

"You think this is funny?"

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

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

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

Rogue snickered at that to Logan's incredulous gaze.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rogue snickered at oblivious Logan's expense.

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

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

Rogue stared at Logan passed out beneath her.

Perhaps. But what do I do with the body?

Day One, 6th Hour, 43rd Minute

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

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

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

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

She smirked again remembering.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Remy blanched. "Firecracker?"

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

"Merde!"

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

"You cuss too!" Remy objected.

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

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

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

Logan watched with interest.

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

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

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

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

Day One, 10th Hour, 1st Minute

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

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

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

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

Emma sniffed. "I noticed."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Skin!"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Day One, 15th Hour, 39th Minute

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

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

She gave him the emerald death glare.

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

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

He raised both eyebrow. "Excusez-moi?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Day One, 16th Hour, 3rd Minute

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

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

"He likes thieving," Rogue corrected.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"No sex, hein?"

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

Jubilee's chin came up.

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

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

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

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

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

Emma glanced over. "Definitely not."

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

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

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

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

She narrowed her eyes at him. "Oh?"

Anything for a femme, right?

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

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

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

Day One, 16th Hour, 29th Minute

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

All four boys stared in appalled horror.

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

Bobby started rethinking his Lorna infatuation.

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

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

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

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

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

"Yeah!" the other three chorused.

Day One, 16th Hour, 52nd Minute

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

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

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

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

Mon Dieu. What would she think of next?

"Remy, come over here," she drawled.

He obeyed grudgingly.

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

"Party?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He tilted his head appraisingly. "Erotica."

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

He groaned inwardly.

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

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

Day One, 18th Hour, 17th Minute

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

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

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

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

Remy desperately needed a smoke.

Day One, 18th Hour, 22nd Minute

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Here, Swamp Rat. One."

"Merci, ma chèrie."

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

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

"Not in the car!" Jubilee whined.

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

Remy rolled his eyes.

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

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

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

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

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

Day One, 23rd Hour, 40th Minute

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

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

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

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

She would not cry.

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

Day One, 23rd Hour, 48th Minute

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

Clothes.

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

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

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

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

Then she sat and listened in.

Day One, 23rd Hour, 49th Minute

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

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

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

"Remy?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

She could practically see his magnanimous gesture accompanying the word.

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

"Sometimes I just wish I could touch people."

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

"Just seeing Kitty and Jubilee today..."

"Not Emma?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

She choked on that.

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

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

Day Zero: Thursday
The Match

Emma Frost frowned at Logan's nonchalant reaction as he sat at the kitchen table, smoking a cigar and playing solitaire late at night. She had just brought up his intolerable behavior toward Rogue, and he had, in effect, brushed her off.

"Logan," she tried again. "You do know she's fuming."

"Good," he mumbled around the cigar.

She waved off some of the smoke. "At YOU, Logan! Not Gambit!"

Logan eyed her while still looking over his cards. "He deserved it."

"She made the bet!" Emma pointed out yet again. "She's the one who put that on the table."

"Like I'm supposed to let him see her like that."

"It was her night clothes, Logan. Not her underwear." Emma crossed her arms. "Though the way you're going on about it, you'd have thought it was going to be naked."

That finally got his attention. He growled at her, matching it with a deadly glare.

She tapped her foot impatiently. "She decided to play poker with him because she had a crush on him. It's the first time she's shown interest in anyone since Bobby. And about time, too."

"If you expect me to agree with you, doll, you might as well give up now."

"Oh, come on!" She sat down across from him, sacrificing a tiny bit in dignity to put them on equal footing. "He's also the only one creative enough to get around her mutation."

"Just keep talking." Logan played down another card. "Give me another reason to skewer him."

Emma grinned. He'd played right into her gambit. "I've got a better idea."

He grunted, indicating she should continue.

"Imagine this." She trailed one finger across the table while imagining it herself. "Gambit completely at Rogue's mercy for a month. She is fuming, remember."

Logan narrowed his eyes. "And how do you intend to pull this off?"

"Rematch."

Logan's eyebrows shot up. "You were there, right? You saw her get stomped into the dust on the poker table."

Rogue was a decent poker player, even a good one, but she had been no match for the Prince of Thieves. He'd wiped the table with the three opponents before Rogue, and took in quite a pot. Rogue had figured she'd lose, so she made sure she bet something that might get his attention anyway: a look at her nightclothes.

Emma, Jubilee, Kitty, and even Ororo pitched in to help her find the perfect set that wouldn't get Logan's claws out and that would attract Remy's interest. They'd found a lovely burgundy lace negligee that hinted instead of displayed.

Logan had Remy up by the claws when he found out.

So Rogue had lost the game and the opportunity. And in the way of illogical teenage girls, she blamed Gambit.

If Emma could get the two together for that long and appease Logan's ideas of revenge, then she would be way ahead of the game in matching up the charming Gambit with the elusive Rogue.

"We'll train her," she insisted to Logan's skeptical expression. "You've been playing for a century, more or less, and can teach her the game and strategy. And I'll teach her all I know about people reading, tells, and bluffs. Give us a year and no one'll be able to beat her."

Logan scratched his chin thoughtfully. "Rematch, huh?"

Emma smirked. "A month of slavery for the Ragin' Cajun. What do you say?"

"I think..." A slow, wicked grin spread across Logan's face. "I like it."

: : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : :

Logan had no problem meeting Emma's challenge.

He corralled the angry Rogue, who had taken to beating the mess out of his punching bag in her off hours, and fed her a few lies about not knowing that she had put in that bet, figuring Gambit was up to his usual stuff. She didn't believe him, but she wasn't supposed to. She was just supposed to calm down enough to listen to the plan.

She did.

She blinked. Her green eyes widened and her mouth formed a small 'o.'

"You think it'll work?" she asked him, all innocence and beauty.

Did Emma really think he'd ever leave his girl to a guy like Gambit?

"Yeah, kid. We'll have you playing like a pro."

Rogue was in.

: : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : :

Rogue had no problem sacrificing her Social Life to poker training for twelve months. Which meant the Social Life entered poker training—seeing they were a little less thrilled with the thought of losing her.

Jubilee was a natural. No one could determine anything around that crackling bubble of gum Logan kept telling her to remove.

Kitty was always too serious, but Emma liked to leave scorekeeping to the otherwise untalented (in poker, that is) phaser.

Siryn tended to squeal too much, but she could pull off some marvelous bluffs, even getting the other players to fold when she carried a total mismatched set that would've been high card at best. (Her high card was a ten).

Dazzler was exceptional with her technical skill, but the quieter she got the better her hand. Her real poker face only kicked in at Full House or better.

Rhane would've been a nice partner, except she ate all the refreshments. So they made her bring her own.

All in all, Emma had a nice crew to work with and soon Rogue could read the expression off a stone. Logan taught them the skills, and Rogue was a natural. Eventually, it would be Jubilee and Rogue playing their final chips with Emma and Logan.

It wasn't until all parties had lost out consistently to Rogue that they deemed her ready.

In all that time, they kept Gambit unaware by feeding him the female attention of aforementioned social life. Dazzler even got his name out of him (Emma did not want to know under what circumstances): Remy LeBeau. Emma felt a bit aggrieved at this development, seeing as this whole thing was a matchmaking plot for her, but it was worth the gambit.

She threw Rogue to the wolves.

Well, Gambit.

: : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : :

Gambit took the bait. Rogue. A slave. For a month.

His red eyes had practically glowed with barely disguised delight.

Logan felt like skewering him on the spot, especially remembering Emma's comments about the romantic potential of this, but he was assuaged by the dangerous gleam in Rogue's eye.

This was about revenge.

So he contentedly played ref alongside the White Queen, who made no bones about reading their minds to ensure no cheating. Of course, she herself wasn't allowed to help either side.

Logan was surprised Remy agreed to the terms. Normally, the Cajun vehemently blocked out any telepathic activity, but he lowered his shields and said, "Aide vous-même, Queenie," earning a glare from Emma over the nickname.

"Mon dieu! You're killing me, chère."

Rogue merely smirked. She had been preparing for this moment for months, training with Logan, reading books, and honing her instincts. She worked her way up slowly, beating out the lesser ranks, eventually defeating Logan himself.

Finally, she had challenged the resident thief, poker master, and ladies man to a duel, winner get a month of slavery from the other. His eyes had glowed redder at the thought. Clearly, having her as a slave for a month appealed.

So they had sat down without powers, alcohol, or cheating, with Logan and Emma—brawn and brain—for referees, and the match began.

Early on, Remy appeared to be winning. She made him work for it. Both appeared smooth, blasé, leaning back in their seats and sipping on water and soda. About halfway through and even on wins and losses, his red and black eyes met her green ones. She saw the recognition in his own. That she was holding back. That she wasn't the same Rogue he whipped at cards a year ago. She smiled then, a soft smile that told him nothing.

"Having fun, Swamp Rat?"

"Just wondering what you're up to, chère."

She laughed wickedly. "I'm out to win."

The game continued in earnest. Both hunkered down and plied their skills, effortlessly dealing, counting, and playing cards. Her eyes glittered greenly. His glowed red. The flirtatious banter continued (he was probably incapable of stopping that), but otherwise, all was now much more serious.

Then, her final coup, winning as she had threatened him twelve months ago she would.

Rogue merely smirked at his helpless expression. He eyed her warily.

"A month?"

"A month, slave."

Emma laughed and Logan slapped his back.

The White Queen twirled a strand of blonde hair around her finger. "She didn't cheat. Not once."

Remy measured Rogue again. "A month?"

Rogue merely smirked.

: : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : :

Logan noticed the instant everything changed.

Remy narrowed his eyes at his cards, the chips, Rogue. "Just wondering what you're up to, chère."

Rogue laughed wickedly. "I'm out to win."

And win she did, much to both Logan and Remy's shock. Logan was positively delighted, even if he hadn't realized she was that good.

This was about revenge. And Remy LeBeau, the Prince of Thieves, the Gambit, the King of Hearts was about to pay up.

: : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : :

Both parties played their gambits. White took Remy's and he lost his free status for thirty-one days.

Emma Frost was counting on her chess skills, where both of the men were thinking in terms of poker. If she played this right, Logan would think that their own side was winning, but Remy's gambit would pay off anyway.

After all, countergambit was an excellent Black defense.
 
 

Raz de Marée au thé Dans la Cuisine

Day Four, 13th Hour, 1st Minute

There were five reasons that the entire day reeked with awfulness in Remy's mind.

Item One: He felt as hung over as if he'd gone out last night on a drinking binge/competition with Logan where neither hauled their sorry carcasses out of the bar until the bartender kicked them out personally. The light hurt his eyes. His head pounded. He'd only recently stopped seeing double.

Item Two: Trying to catch Jubilee at any point when the little firecracker was wired for sound, squealing (making him wince—oh, the pain!), and plotting gifts he was pretty sure Kitty wouldn't even want was a nightmare. Project: Secret Admirer was still in effect and all he wanted to do was get a hold of the framed admirers and let them know once and for all that Rogue was now effectively taken.

No man in his right mind would let a girl like Rogue get away from him after she'd proposed and been accepted.

Item Three: Emma was playing taskmaster.

Item Four: Kitty was playing taskmaster.

Item Five: Laura I-can-kill-you-with-a-look X-23 was playing taskmaster!

And not a single one of those three (sometimes) estimable females knew anything about cooking.

"Non!" Remy rushed to wave Kitty away from the pots on the stove. "What are you trying to do?" he demanded.

Kitty crossed both arms and glared at him. "I thought I smelled meat."

"There is no meat in this pot. Now, shoo." He stood in between her and the stove while she merely rolled her eyes, unimpressed.

I think a nice light salad should go well with our menu as well, Emma interjected mentally, as usual, oblivious to the fact that he was otherwise occupied rescuing said menu.

This ain't the meal for a 'light' salad, chère, Remy retorted mentally while tossing out verbally, "Back away from the cooking, Chaton."

She sniffed disdainfully, then suddenly popped both eyes opened wide and fled through the wall.

Remy turned and groaned at the sight of Laura entering the kitchen with two more grocery bags.

"We need more protein," she stated and began pulling out some definitely nonvegetarian items.

"Dieu, grant me patience." He rolled his eyes upward. "This is Kitty's birthday party, X,"—a dangerously raised eyebrow from Laura—"and she's vegetarian."

Laura sniffed disdainfully.

Were you proposing a heavy salad? Emma thought disdainfully. Because— What in the world is that? Her mental voice suddenly went dead and he figured she was dealing with an in-person catastrophe.

Remy counted to three.

One.

Two.

Thr--

Laura opened his pot lid.

Remy exploded. "Are you crazy?"

Remy. What's going on down there? Emma's voice came in sharply.

He was too busy to listen.

Remy?

Day Four, 13th Hour, 28th Minute

It wasn't supposed to get violent. It wasn't. All he had to do was keep Laura out of the pots of jambalaya and gumbo and away from the cutting board full of vegetables and out of the kitchen, but no. The former military experiment had other ideas and implemented them with full military assault.

Lucky for Remy, he knew how to deal with military assault.

When Laura employed claws to get him out of the way, he charged those claws and sent her flying. She didn't even bat an eye, but went hard for the pot. Needless to say, it went way downhill from there.

Naturally with the crashes and the thuds and the sound of at least one cabinet door being sliced clean off its hinges, it was only a matter of time before people were pouring into the area in a jumble of noise and motion. Remy registered it as he did all moving targets, but his focus remained on staying alive as Laura took another swipe with her claw.

He shoved his gumbo out of her line of fire—noting quickly that the lid was still on it and nothing could've "fallen" in—then promptly found himself suspended by the front of his shirt against a higher cupboard.

He blinked. "Logan?"

Logan grunted in acknowledgement. Remy realized suddenly that Laura was growling furiously from behind Logan's other fist.

"Now, you two want to explain what you're doing?" Logan asked, barely restrained impatience in his voice.

"She started it!"

"He cannot cook!" she retorted heatedly. "The nutrient content is insufficient!"

"It's a birthday dinner, pour le Christ!"

"Stop! Both of you!" Ororo's forceful, authoritative tones silenced them.

Remy managed to look slightly sheepish, but Laura simply glared back at Logan.

Remy glanced around. The kitchen was trashed. If it wasn't food, it wasn't spared. And right now, Kitty, the guest of honor herself and supposedly unaware that all this food was for her, was staring wide-eyed at the wreckage.

Logan set them both down. "Gumbo, how about you clean this up?"

He stared at Logan. "Me? It was her fault!"

"But you could have stopped it." Logan pointed at Laura. "You, come with me. Now."

He stalked away toward the elevator and Laura muttered and growled after him. None of the students had any doubt whether the Danger Room would be well occupied for the next so long.

Remy muttered in the middle of his kitchen.

Rogue wrinkled her nose. "Is something burning?"

Day Four, 14th Hour, 5th Minute

He cursed and muttered, but really there was one definite reason his day was now looking up. Remy might have been stuck cleaning up a kitchen and repairing a cabinet door that Laura had trashed while his ruined jambalaya smoked from the sink, but he was doing so in the shy, friendly company of Rogue—who was never shy and friendly.

Today, she stared mostly at the plate of veggies he had set in front of her and offered sympathies to the broccoli instead of to him. It was almost...cute.

"Why did she do that?" she asked, then took a bite, still staring at the vegetables.

Remy chuckled a little to himself and started sweeping. "Think she preferred her menu to mine."

"Imagine that," Rogue drawled and he glanced up at the normal way it sounded.

But she still wasn't looking at him.

"I swear, that food ain't a work of art."

Her head popped up, surprise in the green eyes.

"Didn't take even a moment to make it look pretty." He grinned at her.

Her eyes wandered below his chin and his grin grew wider.

"Toss me that shirt, chère."

Her eyes dropped to the plate again. Her cheeks flushed brightly. "What shirt?"

"The one in the seat next to you." Remy watched her with growing amusement and began plotting the sabotage of the plan he had assigned to Jubilee.

Rogue looked over and tossed the shirt—without looking. It went sailing right over his head and toward the stove.

"Not in the gumbo!"

Perhaps we should do spaghetti instead, Emma offered.

Rogue grimaced. "Oops."
 
 

Feminine Secrets

Day Four, 11th Hour, 13th Minute

Rogue slammed her back into her bedroom door, breathing hard after her mad dash from Remy's room. He had just pulled off his shirt in front of her without so much as batting an eye, revealing way too appealing lean, hard muscles and...

Stop thinking about it, she told herself firmly and then blushed again. He had gone for his pants—his pants!—while she was in the room.

She did not like Remy. Not at all. Not even a little bit. No, she most certainly did not.

Someone tingled through her and Rogue shrieked as she scrambled away from the door.

Kitty looked at her oddly. "You okay?"

"Yeah," Rogue replied. Too quickly. She plopped down onto her bed. "I'm fine." Her breath was normalizing. She was definitely not thinking about any hot guys that she had almost married. A hot flush worked its way up her cheeks. Then, she frowned. Her hand felt the pillow carefully.

"Sure." Kitty looked thoroughly amused. Then she thrust a squirming cloth bag with several holes in it into Rogue's hands, catching her entire attention again. "Take the cat, please."

"Scratch!" Rogue glared at Kitty and let the grey kitten roll out onto her bedspread to sprawl with all four paws up in the air, mewing helplessly. "It's all right. I'm here." She cuddled her pet with gloved hands.

Kitty cast an irritated glance in their direction. "If you knew the things I went through for that cat," she muttered darkly. "Well, anyway. On a brighter note, Scratch is potty-trained."

Rogue's head popped up from the kitten. "Excuse me?" She did continue tickling Scratch's tummy while he batted at her fingers.

Kitty grinned with positive triumph. "I trained him to use the toilet."

Rogue blinked. She sat up. Scratch meowed plaintively at the abandonment, but she ignored him. "You what?"

"I trained him to use the toilet so he'd be less conspicuous," Kitty said as she gathered up some things from the closet. Gloves. Broom. Bucket.

"What are you doing?"

Kitty glared at Scratch again. "I'm going to clean up the boathouse." She sniffed disdainfully. "That cat is a threat to decent society."

"He's mine." Rogue reached for him defiantly.

"I know, I know." Kitty waved her off absently, then vanished through the floor with her supplies.

"You're mine," Rogue whispered to the purring kitten in her hand. Curiously, her gaze fell to her pillow. With her free hand, she lifted it cautiously and set it aside, then stared at the heart-shaped box of chocolate caramels.

Her brain refused to compute.

Chocolate.

Caramel.

Her favorite indulgence.

She stared at Scratch. "Well, would you look at that?"

Scratch meowed plaintively, unimpressed. That is, until he was dumped unceremoniously back on the spread, paws flailing, while his mistress opened the box of treats, searching furiously for any sign of who the gift was from. After a few minutes, Rogue gave up. There was no tag or label, just twenty-four luxurious sweets.

Her gaze wandered over to the long-stemmed, red roses blushing on her dresser, then back to Scratch, who was grooming himself with an injured expression, then back to the chocolate caramels again. If she didn't know any better...

No. It couldn't be.

Day Four, 11th Hour, 33rd Minute

Rogue forgot what a nightmare preparing for Kitty's birthday party was going to be. She was the designated party room decorator, and Storm, Emma, and Jubilee had all locked themselves in an out of the way conference room to transform it into the perfect concoction for Wednesday night's celebration.

"I think pink is the perfect color," Emma said, laying out roll after roll of disgustingly pink streamers.

Rogue poked doubtfully at the decorations as Emma started on laying out balloons. "I think we need a little variety."

"Pish posh. This is Kitty's party," Emma said.

Storm interjected, "But we put Rogue in charge as best friend and roommate."

"Variety is the spice of life!" Jubilee grinned in perfect agreement as she dumped bag after bag of blindingly bright balloons in a zillion colors on top of the pink streamers and reached into yet another shopping bag for ribbon and streamers of her own.

"What are those?" Rogue demanded.

"I think we'll be permanently blinded," Emma remarked dryly.

Storm shot her a quick glare, then said gently to Jubilee, "Those are just a little...bright."

"Disgusting!" Rogue corrected her. "No. None of this will do," she continued emphatically and started toward the door. "I'll just be a minute."

Don't you dare go get Remy to run any errands for you, Emma's mental voice sounded off in Rogue's head, stopping her cold. You lent him to me, remember?

Rogue crossed her arms and glared. This is an atrocity! I need more materials.

"I think I might have some things in storage," Storm said doubtfully. "If you want them, that is." An aplogetic smile at Rogue.

Jubilee muttered something about taste and no one appreciating her sense of style.

Rogue sighed. "Lead on."

Day Four, 12th Hour, 47th Minute

It took over an hour for Storm and Rogue to go through the heaps and piles of decorative materials the school kept on hand for various celebrations. Rogue snorted in some surprise at the retro colors that Storm blushingly admitted were from her own school days.

"Didn't even know these were still down here." The weather goddess shook her head at the mess and stuffed crepe paper back into boxes. She pulled forward another and opened the top. "Ah. Here's something."

Rogue peered between the flaps. "Now, that just might work."

The women shared a grin.

They carried their prize between them through the kitchen, only to run smack dab into a highly irritated Cajun wearing little more than jeans and an apron.

"You mind, chère?" he demanded harshly, carrying a pot that looked very heavy.

"Uh, no." Rogue scooted backward a step, flustered.

Storm gave her a funny look.

Remy merely poured off the excess water from his noodles into the colander in the sink.

Storm glanced appreciatively over Remy's impeccable upper body. Rogue tried desperately to ignore it.

"Let's get these back to the conference room."

"Certainly," Storm agreed.
 
 

Les Règles des Fiançailles

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.

Rogue gasped.

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.

"Rogue?"

"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."

"Remy!"

"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.

"Shut up."

He did.

Day Four, 11th Hour, 5th Minute

Remy woke up with a pounding headache. Hangover. Had to be a hangover. The light was too bright. Had he gotten drunk? He couldn't remember. He couldn't think. "Dieu!" he muttered to himself.

"Delayed reaction?" an angelic voice asked.

"Quoi?" It wasn't smooth like he would have wanted but at least it was words coming out of his mouth.

The angel giggled.

He squinted in her direction, but too bright! "Close the window, sil vous plait." He waved in the direction of the offensively open blinds.

"You'd think you'd been in a car accident, not stolen yourself a little kiss." But the blinds were shut and he sighed blissfully.

Remy opened his eyes and looked over to see Rogue leaning onto his bed. Concern flitted across her face and she reached out one gloved hand to brush the hair back from his eyes. It shocked him to silence.

"Did I hurt you that bad?"

That was his cue. He pasted on an easy grin. "Ain't nothing I can't handle, chérie."

She whopped his shoulder. "That's for making me worry." Then she glared at him.

He rubbed at the injured appendage. "Beginning to think you aren't the angel I thought you were."

"You're just now figuring that out?" Rogue sighed in exasperation. "Up. Up. Emma wants to borrow you for the rest of the day."

"It's a holiday!" he protested.

"You said you only need four hours of sleep and I gave you four and a half." She grinned at him before plunking her elbows down on his chest. "Look on the bright side. Logan wanted to borrow you and I said no."

Remy grumbled as he clambered up out of the bed. "You're a cruel, cruel woman."

She just laughed angelically and glided toward the door. "Nonsense. I saved you, didn't I?"

"Says the married woman," he muttered darkly, reaching for a shirt.

Rogue jerked her head toward him, clearly startled. "Don't you dare mention that to anyone."

"But we're supposed to 'assume' the relationship, isn't that what you said?" He shucked the shirt from yesterday.

Rogue sputtered. "I wasn't being serious. I was making a getaway. Just keep your trap shut." She glared at him. "That's an order."

"Oui, ma maitresse," he replied with a wicked grin. He reached for a pair of pants.

Rogue blanched and squeaked.

He raised an eyebrow, but she was already rushing past him toward the door.

"Shave," she called over her shoulder and slammed it shut behind her.

"What's with this shaving fetish?" he muttered, exasperated. But then he thought of her face and chuckled. He could use that ammunition for a very long time.
 
 

Battle Lines

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, 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.
 
 

Prêcher un Converti

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.

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?"

"Trois."

"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, 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.