Rouge's green eyes were filled with tears that shimmered like sunshine on the river. She sat curled up on herself with her arms wrapped around her jean-clad legs. Her silver bracelet dangled a new charm – a hand of cards with a small red stone. It glittered in the dancing firelight of the parlor's fireplace.
Remy sat perfectly still on the purple velvet loveseat. He watched her cry, knowing that if he reached out to touch her, she'd snap at him like the feral cat he'd tamed as a child. "Chere," he began.
"No. No, Remy. Don't. I don't want to hear anymore lies."
"Well, y' don't want t' hear the truth neither."
"Ah can't trust your truth!" Her head snapped up. Her eyes were ringed with dripping mascra. She was still beautiful. Remy didn't move. He'd learned patience early. He could hear Betsy in his head. //She doesn't love you.//
//I know, woman. Back off.//
There was no response from the telepath. Remy kept his face neutral, the way his father taught him. He cocked his head to the side and studied his girlfriend, not as a lover, but as an opponent. Her eyes were tear-filled, but they moved over his face with the quick calculating gaze her adoptive mother used.
Her body was tense muscles coiled under he skin-tight opera gloves. She shifted, her eyes still raking over his form, to open her stance.
"What y' want from m', Rogue?"
She frowned. He'd gone off-script and she didn't like it. There were deepening wrinkles forming at the corners of her mouth and they weren't like Jean's smile lines. It was a reminder that she was heading swiftly toward thirty, for all she still acted like a teenager with moodiness and tantrums.
"Ah want the truth."
Her frown deepened. "Do you love me?"
"Will y' trust my answer?"
"Just answer the question."
He shrugged. "I'm always goin' t' love y', Rogue. That don't mean we got t' be lovers." He settled his hands on his thighs. He should have chosen the chair for this. It would be easier to maintain his facade if he could touch the solidity of the mahogany wood and feel its satin smoothness. "So tell me what y' want."
"I want to be your one and only." Her eyes narrowed. He nodded. He'd expected that.
"I want y' t' start workin' wit' Charles on controllin' your powers."
//Hit her with it.//
"Mah powers can't be controlled." Tears started leaking down her cheeks once more. "You know that, sugah."
//She didn't want that endearment to slip out.//
//Been connin' femmes since I was just a pup, 'Lizabetta.//
"Y' want t' be m' one and only. Just as impossible."
"Whore," she spat.
"I'm married, chere. An' I know what y' done t' m' wife."
Rogue went stiff at that. Her eyes widened. "Ah was goin' to tell yah. It was an accident."
Remy sighed. "Marius got video of y'. Weren't no accident."
"So you're still married? And yah kept chasin' after me? Sure. Ah'm gonna trust yah now." She sat back against the smooth panelling. Her head was wreathed with light from the sconce above her.
"Y' been lyin' t' me 'bout Belle."
"Ah couldn't. She forgot and you were so ready to believe it was that potion. Ah couldn't hurt ya." Her voice was choked. Her face showed it was tears, but the grip on her upper arms where she'd crossed them screamed anger. Or perhaps it was fear. The seams on the fingertips of her right hand glove were white from stress.
"What about Cody?" She blinked. The mascara was clumped in her lashes.
"He woke up. T'ought Charles told y'. He reports t'ings a bit different. Says it weren't a kiss that done him in."
Even in the firelight he could see her face go ashen. "Ah didn't force him to do anythin'."
"What happened then, Chere?"
"We were heavy pettin'." She blushed prettily. "And kissin'. And we laid down and mah powers activated. I started screamin' as his memories came to me. That's the truth."
"Funny. He says y' were there askin' questions 'bout his papa an' when he didn' answer y' touched him."
"That little son-of-a-bitch." Her voice was hard. She narrowed her eyes at the pattern of the rug. "Why'd they have you tell me?"
Remy shrugged, making sure his face was impassive. "Mebbe they was stupid enough t' t'ink y'd tell m' the truth." He shifted his focus to the fireplace for a moment. "When I was thirteen I'd've done anyt'in' f' Jean-Luc. Expect it was the same f' you and Raven."
Her eyes fixed on him. "Ah met Mama after Cody."
"Not accordin' t' her. She told m' you been wit' her since y' were nine."
Rogue frowned. "When'd yah talk to Mama?"
He shrugged. "After word got t' her we was datin'. I t'ink Destiny done told her."
The young woman snorted. "That woman." She shook her head and the firelight shimmered over it like sunlight on a pond. "Who's listen' in on us, Swamp Rat?"
Well, he was no longer in trouble it seemed. "Y' know the 'paths complain about m' powers interferin'. Don't know who's been listenin' in on you."
"Mah shields are good enough. Mama had me gatherin' intel when I was young. But ah never meant to hurt Cody. It was the first time mah powers ever hurt someone." She pressed her forehead to her knees. "He never stayed though. Not like Carol."
"Did y' know what'd happen wit' her? I knew t'rowin' down wit' Creed'd likely kill me, but that didn't stop me."
"Yeah. Carol was an assassination. Didn't know she'd end up full in mah head."
"Y' still talkin' t' Raven oui?"
"Why wouldn't I? She's still mah mama, even if ah don't agree with her."
Remy laughed. It was a sharp sound that was swiftly muffled by the heavy velvet drapes and thick Afghani rugs. "Less'n that been known t' sunder family relations." Remy plucked at the hole over his right knee. Her gaze was fixed on the motion. She frowned.
"What's the question yah ain't been askin'?"
"Does she ask y' 'bout plans? 'bout security? 'bout all that stuff that pros like m' and Papa an' y' mama be interested in?"
Her face softened somehow. It was a relaxation of tension in her jaw. She smiled. "Sugah, it's normal for your papa to ask 'bout security, just like Mama asks me 'bout tactics. They don't mean any harm."
"So y' discuss tactics wit' Raven?" He leaned forward and raised his brows as he looked through his bangs at her.
"Of course Ah do." Rogue pushed herself to her feet and crossed the few feet to sit next to him. He could feel the heat from her body. There was a careful eight inches between them. "No one's gonna be mad if yah talk to Jean-Luc about our security. That's what family does."
//It's enough.// Betsy's voice felt like tiny butterflies on his skin. The parlor door opened and revealed a black-suited man with a neat red striped tie and a briefcase.
"Hello, Ace." The man's voice was flat and pleasant like the recording on a voice-mail system.
"Mr. Sing." Remy nodded to the government official.
"Clear out, kiddo. Let me talk to Ms. Rogue alone."
Remy pushed himself up. He looked at his ex-mistress for a long moment. "Listen t' him first, chere."
Betsy was leaning against the wall when he came out. She handed him a stiff bourbon. He took a deep gulp. It burned down his throat and killed the lump that had settled there. It ran through his chest, warming him, easing the tension. He moved past the telepath and toward the back porch. He needed a smoke more than he needed to eavesdrop on Mr. Sing.
The back porch was pale blue and starting to peel. He hitched himself up onto the railing. He lit a cigarette with a thought. He picked idly at the peeling paint. Betsy settled herself on the swing. "How long did they have you?"
"Y' seem t' be implyin' that they don't still own m' ass."
She huffed out a laugh. "Sounds like the government to me."
"What he got on y'?"
"Y' still Miss Britian, non?"
Her smile was watercolor pale. She inclined her head. "And so I'm considered a foreign agent. MI5 pretends that they don't mind if I work for someone else."
"Wouldn't mind so much if'n they didn't call as often. Merde. They gonna start sendin' us out t'gether."
"He's very persausive isn't he?"
Remy rolled his eyes. He leaned back and took in a breath of smoke. "I was young and stupid. What's her excuse?"
"She's mad at you."
He leaned his head back against the wooden post. The night smelled of freshly cut grass and rain. "Oui. Dat was the idea."
Betsy sneezed. "God, the pollen is going to kill me."
"If Langley don't do it first. She goin' with him?"
"I'll let her tell you that."
Remy sipped at his drink. "If'n she goes f' m', I expect y' t' keep po' Remy from a broken jaw."
Betsy laughed, then coughed. Remy handed her his glass. She took a mouthful and handed it back. "I thought you were faster than that."
He shrugged. It was a careless gesture that worked better when he was wearing his coat. He waved a hand at the house. "Sentiment."
"Will get you dead. Cyclops know?"
"You? Me? Her?"
"Her? Oui. Me? More'n likely. You? I expect so, since I tol' him."
"And what does Scott have on you?"
"Phone number t' mon pere?"
She raised one perfectly made up brow. "Bull."
"Oui. Just made a promise. I ain't here because of Xavier."
She folded her arms over her stomach. They stared out over the lawn as the sun started its downward movement behind the trees. The air was chilled. There were goosebumps on Betsy's arms. "They're in her room. We can probably get to the den or the basement without them running across us on the way out. If you're that worried about her reaction."
"Non. I'll face her. Ain't like Sing t' not use her against me if'n he t'inks he can."
Betsy nodded. "I'm going to make myself a drink. Coming?"
Remy looked into his empty glass. The indirect light created a kalidescope of color on his jeans. "Oui."
FIN XM Library