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"Growing Up"

Growing Up

Chaper One: Despair
Chapter Two: Regret
Chapter Three: Guilt
Chapter Four: Fear
Chapter Five: Shame
Chapter Six: Love
Chapter Seven: Bliss

Growing Up

Chapter 4: Fear


She smashed her fist into the mirror and watched it splinter into pieces which rained down on the top of her dresser and the floor beneath. Droplets of mascara stained tears splattered the broken shards. She wiped angrily at her eyes, and flopped on her bed bouncing more stuffed animals out of the way. She'd been crying since last evening. The tears had started not long after Ororo left from dropping by to talk, and she couldn't seem to stop them. Now her eyes were puffy, and her clothes wrinkled. The bed was disheveled although she had not slept in it. And it did not look like she was going get any sleep again tonight.

One of the stuffed animals hit the floor and let out a yip. She looked at it through red rimmed eyes and reached down picking it up. It was a little wiener dog with a big pink ribbon around it's neck and a tag attached saying 'I belong to Rogue'. When you squeezed it, it yipped happily at you.

When she was a little girl, she had wanted a dog more than anything in the world. A neighbor was even going to give her a puppy, but her mother wouldn't let her keep it saying they were too much trouble. She had enough trouble in her life.

After Rogue ended up with Mystique, she begged again swearing she'd take care of it. Mystique had said no. They were too busy for a dog. Besides, she was allergic. Rogue cried all night that first time. She was so lonely. She only wanted something warm and loving to touch, and her absorbing ability didn't have any affect on animals.

(Beast would later hypothesized that they were not close enough genetically to merge with her DNA. Just like creatures couldn't mate between species. That was fine with Rogue since the alternative would be her buzzing every time a fly landed on her accidentally.)

Still, any time Rogue brought it up, Raven was adamant. No dog.

After awhile, Rogue gave up on her wish, and she didn't dare ask Xavier when she moved into the Mansion. He barely had time for her as it was. She was afraid of loosing her place here by asking for too much.

However, last week at Christmas, this showed up on her bed. She knew who it was from. From the moment they'd met, he was always trying so very hard to make her smile. And even if she didn't always show it on the outside, he always managed to make her giggle on the inside.

She sniffled sadly and squeezed the puppy again wondering how he found out. Tears welled up once more, and she wondered what he was doing.

From the first time her eyes looked into his, it seemed like he occupied her thoughts morning, noon, and night. Why couldn't she tell him how she felt? With the other evening's revelations about her and Magneto in that alternate reality, she realized all the more just how much she loved him. How much she needed him. Wanted desperately to be with him.

But she was so scared. Afraid to get too close and be hurt. Truly afraid of being rejected this time. If she could only make herself believe she had a chance at happiness. If she was only stronger. But she seemed unable to do anything but hide here in her room. Why was she always running away from everything? Or just following along waiting for someone else to make her life complete? She closed her eyes and tried to remember a time when she felt like she could do anything right. Had any say so or control over her destiny.

"Damn it, SSSoll...ggirl! What'ssss takin ssso long?! Brin me tha drink!"

"Ah'm coming mama. Here it is. Ah tried real hard. Made it jus like yah said."

Her mother took a sip and curled her lip. Without hesitation, she tossed the liquid in the glass back into her six year old's face.

"Too mush water! Ah tol yah! Not more than ah fourth ah glasssss!"

"Ah'm sorry mama. Ah'll ...ah'll fix it. Ah'll ..."

The woman lurched up and pushed her daughter out of the way and onto the floor.

"Yah can't..." She wobbled unsteadily. "Can't do nuthin right! All. .. all yah ever done is ruin my life!"

As her mother stumbled into the kitchen, Rogue picked herself up and wiped her face trying not to cry. She ran into the kitchen to help her mother and grab a towel to clean up the mess.

"Ah didn't mean tah mama. Ah can do bettah. Ah ..."

"DON' TOUCH ME!! I don' evah want yah touchin me! I don' need or want you. Yah can't do... do anythin yahself. If yah didn't have me tah take care o' yah , yahs wouldn't be able tah get dresssssed in thah mornin. Yah thah stupidest kid."

"Yes mama." she said grabbing a towel and going to clean the spilled liquor. Once done she ran away to her room and cried.

Rogue looked in the mirror and brushed her hair. Her white streaked hair. She stared at the image of her ten-year-old self and wondered if she had any other of her father's characteristics. Her mama always told her that no white striped hair ran in her family so it must be her father's.

Must be

She would have liked to have known what it was like to have a daddy, but he ran off when he found out she was coming. He didn't want to be a daddy. Didn't want her. And her mother never let her forget that she was the reason he left.

"I done everythin for him. Yah don' know thah pain ah went through cause ah thought he wanted a child. You was always more trouble than yah were worth. Then ah find out he didn't want no child, especially no girl baby. They knew you was gonna been a good for nuthin girl."

"He up an' left me foah some othah woman. Didn't even bothah tah marry me. Left me all alone tah care for yah. Ah'm always gonna be alone cause o' you. No man don't want some woman can't give him everythin he needs, an' ah gotta take care o' you. Cause yah nevah gonna take care o' yahself."

"Ah'm sorry, mama. Ah'll try. Ah can..."

Her mother pushed her away.

"Yah can' do nuthin. An' Ah tol' yah, don' touch me. Ah don' evah want yah touchin me. Ah don' wanna touch you."

Yah so worthless. Ain' nobody gonna want you, girl , less'n yah give 'em what they need. Yah bettah make sure yah do that girl or ya always gonna be alone. Dumb girl like you. Yesss sir. Yah bettah always do what yah tol'. Nobody gonna want you less they need yah for somethin. So you gonna end up like me, girl, all alone. Nobody gonna want you an' you gonna be all alone.

Rogue ran as fast as she could. She knew they were after her. She didn't mean to. She didn't mean to.

"Ah knew somethin was wrong wit you! Ah knew it! Ah mutie! Mah daughter's ah mutie! No wonder yah so dumb. Can't do nuthin right. How dare yah com crawlin back here aftah what yah done to that boy! Yah thinks ah'm gonna let yah stay an' shame me more?

"But mama ..., Please. Ah'm so scared. Ah didn't mean it. He was inside mah head. It hurt mama, please.

"Don' touch me! Don' evah touch me again! Evah! Yah done nuthin but ruin mah life. Well no more. Ah'm not gonna let yah do tah me what yah did tah that boy. Yah already drained half mah life away. Good fur nuthin. Can' do anythin right. Well yah can jus fend for yah self. See if yah can make it without me. Get out! Get out an' don' evah come back!"

She ran. Ran into the woods with her grandpa's old shotgun and a few clothes. She didn't know what else to do.

"Ah don' unnerstand mama. Why we breakin intah this place? Ain't that wrong?"

"Listen up, Rogue. We're mutants, and no one's going to help us but each other. Now, you want to help your mama like I helped you, don't you? I need this, Rogue. You can do this for me, can't you dear? Can't you?"

"O'course, mama. Ah'll do it. You'll be so proud mama. Ah promise. Ah'll be what yah need."

"Don' worry professah. Yah can count on me."

What yah need ... Count on me.

"Well, what about what ah need?!? Who's evah been thah for me when ah wasn't givin them everythin they needed in return?"

Rogue stared at the dog, and the tears started welling up even harder. She threw the stuffed animal, and it yipped as it hit the floor once more. She swiped at the tears and stood up looking in the mirror once again. It was as if she was seeing herself through someone else's eyes.

Yah are a fool girl. Waitin on someone else tah fix yah life. Somebody believes in yah, an' yah been too blind tah see it. It's time yah believed in yahself instead ah always running away.

Her face got a determined look.

Well, ah'm tired o' running away. Ah'm tired o' bein scared. Ah'm tired o' bein ashamed. Ah'm tired o' bein used, an' ah'm tired o' bein lied tah. Mah real mama, Mystique, thah Professah, Magneto, Remy, Bobby, Joseph. They've all taught me something. Something about love, friendship, an' self-worth. Both thah good an' thah bad. It's high time ah learned from that an' took control o' mah life. Go aftah what ah want. Be who ah want tah be, should be, can be. Quit waitin on things tah get bettah cause theah not if'n ah don' try. Ah'll jus be stuck indebted an' desperately grateful tah someone else.

Grabbing a towel to go clean up, she smiled for the first time in a very long time.

After showering and getting dressed, she picked up the small stuffed dog and petted it.

Seems tah me, thah most important thing ah need tah do is talk to someone special. Don' yah think so shugah?

She squeezed it, and it yipped.

That's what ah thought. But first things first. Theah are ah few othah things ah need to do as well. Ah few things ah need tah get.

After looking out into the dark from her window, she took her rain coat out of the closet since the relentless flood continued to come down. It was now early morning, but the sunrise was still a few hours away.

Boy, Storm. Dry would be nice for a change.

Before leaving, she sat down at her computer and typed in a message.

Dear Joseph.

I really need to speak to you. It's very important. About you
and me.

Please meet me at the gazebo near the pool this morning around
9:00 am.

Please wait if I'm late. I have some things to do.



The rain poured down, and he twisted restlessly still clutching his coat. The dim daylight was a blessing at least. It didn't bother his photosensitive eyes as much as bright sunlight. The hours had passed, and he guessed it was about mid-morning. Damn internal clock. He wished he could forget the world for awhile. He was so tired. So cold. He couldn't keep this up or he was going to end up falling off the roof. That'd look good on his tombstone. Dufus fell off roof while sleeping. No heroic end. No fanfare. Oh yeah, right. Like there was going to be some anyway.

"I'm so sorry."

He stared down at the empty yard and pool beneath him. Brief movement suddenly caught his eye. He focused recognizing the familiar walk, the proud bearing. Mag ... Joseph.

Grow up. He is Joseph. He's a totally different personality. No ambition. Half the ego. Still blissfully brilliant. Incredibly educated. Ten times more flexible. All around superpowerful nice guy.

He envied him. He envied everything about him.

Joseph flew out to the Gazebo. The rain deflected by his magnetic shield. He seemed to be waiting on something. No, Remy mused. Someone. Sarcastically, he wondered who.

He had to wait longer than he expected for his fatalistic assumption to come true, but after awhile, she flew in low across the ground wearing a huge raincoat and hood. She'd been out it seemed. She pulled back the hood and the coat hung open slightly.

Nice dress.

He admired the view. Tight, short, low cut, very clingy. Not usually her style except on special occasions. Too much skin. Guess this was a special occasion. His stomach twisted.

Get over it.

Rogue deserved the right to express herself a bit. She had a great body, but rarely got the chance to really show it off. Of course, now that she and Joseph knew he could use his power to touch her, she was free to be more expressive with him.

Lucky guy.

He needed a cigarette bad. What a lousy time to be trying to quit.

Feel happy for her Remy. She deserves de best an' dat's what she be gettin.

"Sorry ah'm late."

"It's alright Rogue. One can certainly give such a good friend a few extra minutes ..... You,... You look lovely."

She blushed, and Joseph smiled..

"Thanks. Ah jus bought it. Ah wanted somethin special."

"It's ... definitely special.

At Rogue's second blush, that was all Gambit could take. He climbed down off the roof and started walking toward the lake leaving Rogue to her rendevouz.

If I saw dem kiss, I'd want ta die.

"Ah need tah talk tah yah, shugah."

"I guessed as much. This concerns what Bishop told us about you and Magneto the other evening, doesn't it?"

She fidgeted nervously.

"Yes ... Ah've spent ah real long time thinkin who ah was there, who ah am here, an' who ah want tah be. After thah other night, Ah thought we needed tah talk. Bout me an' Magneto. Me an' you. Ah hope yah already know ah care foah yah very much, but aftah that, ah realized ah needed foah yah tah know exactly how ah feel about you an' our relationship foah thah future."

"We have a future?"

"Ah certainly hope so."

Remy kicked the stone in front of him watching it skip along the wet ground. He couldn't take this. Maybe he deserved it, but did that mean he had to sit by graciously and be eat up inside?

Dis be no way tah live. Counterproductive as M'Sieu Bete would say. Why did I open myself up for dis? It hurts, an' I don' know what I'm suppose ta do now.

He tapped on the window four times like she had told him to. It always worked. The window slid slowly open as if someone was there, but of course, no one ever was. He wanted to ask how she did that, but never had the nerve. Sometimes she spooked him.

Not that he thought she'd hurt him. She'd saved his life. With out her help, he'd never made it on the streets these last few years. Nine now, he'd never have seen six if she hadn't pulled him out of the river after barely escaping those gang boys.

Smart move sticking your nose in where it didn't belong.

Then he nearly died again. This time of shock when he realized who had saved him. He recognized her of course. He'd been watching her place for months. The music, the laughter, the smell of liquor and perfume. The place fascinated him. He'd watched the men come and go. Seen the women. It was so different from what he knew with his mother. The desperation wasn't there.

"You've been watchin me, chile."

He only stared as she pulled a handkerchief out of a bag she'd thrown on the ground and washed his face. She'd ruined the most elegant dress he'd ever seen diving in after him. Years in the future, he still wondered why she was out that particular evening not safe in her warm house. At the time, he swore she was the most beautiful woman on earth. In many ways, he still did, but not because of the way she looked on the outside.

"I be watchin you too. Maybe we can be helpin each other, oui?"

He didn't know what to say. Trust came hard to him, but he had to take the chance. Something about her smile, closed mouth, seductive, convinced him they were kindred spirts.

He didn't realize it then, but it had been charity pure and simple. Her offer to 'convert' any goods he stole to useable cash saved his life. He'd been getting desperate. He wasn't that good then except grabbing and running, and you could only do so much in a day. Usually food and wallets. And most wallets or purses didn't normally have very much cash. The rest was useless to him. He was considering some of the other offers yelled at him even though he knew how risky that was. His mother had taught him that at least. But desperate times...

Madam fixed all that for him. She became his fence, taking jewelry, credit cards, IDs. At least he could get by then. Now, he doubted she even did anything with them. Not that it mattered what she did. She knew too many people's secrets, and the police knew when to leave well enough alone. She made no trouble, took care of her own, and they ignored her.

She taught him things. Things one would learn in school and some things one didn't. Including how to fight with style. Too tall and sort of ample, Marilyn Monroe- ish, she didn't seem like she could be graceful. But with a bo in her hand, she was devastatingly fast and sneaky.

"One learns what one needs to survive, Remy. Dead is still dead, no matter how noble. On de whole, I be preferrin ta be alive, chile. So don't ever be learnin anythin half way. Knowledge is power. An' ya never know what jus may save ya life."

But best of all to him as a child was she taught him how to really play cards.

"Use ta be a dealer in Vegas for awhile. Dose were fun times."

"Why'd ya leave?"

"Dere was ... trouble. Sometimes it be smart ta move on."

Move on

Tonight that seemed to be on his mind. He put his small bag of booty on the desk and admired the room again. Elegant, classic and functional all at the same time. Her office reflected her.

"Remy, mon p'tite. Ya come for a game of chance or jus coin o' de realm tonight?"

He jumped. She was the quietest person he knew. He wanted her to teach him that.

"Chere." He grinned his most wicked grin. "Ya should know dat bein in de presence o' de most beautiful lady in N'awlins is de real reason I be comin here."

She smiled back. That familiar Mona Lisa smile.

"Mon dieu, I do so love a lyin cajun charmer. Ya gonna break hearts when ya grow up Remy. I knew ya had de talent."

She tilted her head, and winked a beautiful dark eye at him.

"Feelin lucky tonight chere?"

Remy's eyes lit up.

"I always be lucky, chere."

She laughed at him. This was as much a part of the game as playing the cards.

What we play tonight?"


"Mon p'tite. Dere are many different games in life. One should learn to play dem all well. Perhaps a game of Gin?"

He loved to watch her deal. Her long fingers moving swiftly, gracefully, nails clicking. He eyed the inch long mostly blood red nails and still marveled at how she could do anything with those things besides pinch the holy living hell out of you. Still, the cards moved as if they were part of a dance.

Fascinated as usual, he stared into her eyes, so dark that they were almost black to match the thick long waves of her hair. She kept it back with two heavy jeweled braids down the side of her face. He thought it gave her an exotic Cleopatra look. Her skin was too pale, near white, but made up to give her color. The only things overdone were the nails and her lips. Too wide already, the blood red lipstick made them impossible to ignore.

He picked up his cards watching her tap her pinky nail, the black one with a red rose painted on it, in time with a blues rhythm playing downstairs.

"What do you plan to do, cherie?" she questioned as he started the game.

"Do? What ya mean Madam?"

"De t'ieves. Do you plan to accept Jean-Luc's offer ta join his house?"

"How did ...How did ya know bout dat?"

"Chile, a lady's got ta have her secrets. Sides ya should know dat very little be goin down in dis town wit out me hearin bout it. Jus cause I don' get involved don' mean I don' know."

"It jus be happenin last evenin. I ... I tried ta pinch his wallet. Didn't know he'd was de Jean-Luc LeBeau head o' de T'ieves Guild. Stupid. But... he ... he seemed ta like me. Wanted me ta be joinin him in de guild. I ... I tol him I'd t'ink bout it. See him tomorrow night at de docks if I be wantin to."

"An do ya be wantin to?"

He stared at the floor knowing he'd never been able to lie to those eyes.

"I ... I don't know. It's de Guild. Dey de best. I wanna be good like dat one day. Sides, dey ... dey my family. But what if dey decide later dey don' want me after all? Dat I ain't good nuff? Dat I'm different? What if..."

"An' ya scared."

"I am not scared. I'm ..." but the near tears in his eyes gave him away.

"Remy, ain't no shame in bein scared. Everybody is at one time or de other. Fear's healthy. Keeps ya alive and safe. Ya show me someone dats never scared an' I'll show ya an idiot or a liar. Most likely both. Bein brave is bout facing ya fears an' taking de risks for somethin ya believe in. Not jumpin in cause ya can't loose, can't get hurt or too stupid to know de difference. What's brave bout dat?"

She reached over to cup his chin to look at her.

"Lot's o' people will tell ya dat de saddest words in de English Language are loss an' regret. But dat ain't so. De saddest words are 'If only'. De first two imply ya tried an' lost, made a mistake. De last two mean ya never tried at all. If ya only 'member one t'ing I ever tell ya, remember dis. Don' ever let ya life be filled wit 'If onlies' Remy."

"But... what if I'm wrong? I don' want ta be hurt no more."

"Chile. Who does? Dat's what makes it a risk. Jus like wit cards. Is what ya got or what ya stand ta gain worth de risk? Ya gonna loose some o' de time. Everybody does, but the most important t'ings in life never come easy. An' if dey do, ya don' appreciate dem for what dey are. Ya bound ta loose dem anyway. So ya see, sometimes ya learn an' gain more from de loosin dan de winnin. Jus member, some risks are worth de taking. Some t'ings are more important dan money. Some t'ings are even more important dan being safe. An' dere may be somet'ings more important dan ya life. All ya got to decide is what dose are an' be willing ta take de risk. An' no matter how you decide, face ya fears, Remy. Dat's bravery."

He nodded.

"I'll try."

"Dat's all anyone can ask."

"Madam ... "


"If I take de risk an' I'm wrong? What'll I do den? What if ... what if it's my heart?"

"Dere's an old sayin, 'Better ta have loved an' lost dan ta have never loved at all'."

"Bet de guy who said dat never lost."

She smiled.

"Probably not."

But then she looked serious again.

"Dere's no shame in losing either Remy. Everyone makes mistakes. De difference in a smart man an' a fool is de smart man realizes his mistakes an' tries ta correct them. If ya give ya heart away, and ya both try but it don' work? Den leave her a part of ya heart an' move on. Yah've still been blessed. But if ya give ya heart away ta someone who don' preciate it; treats ya like they'd never want ta be treated? Den dey didn't deserve it in de first place. Ya love was de special t'ing den not de person ya gave it to. It may be de toughest t'ing you'll ever do, but I suggest ya damn well take it back an' put it in a special place for you, den move on. If not, it'll keep ya from real love all ya life. An dat kind o' love even filled with it's own missteps and moments of terrible pain, is somet'ing worth risking de pot for. Believe in ya self mon p'tite. Winning an' loosing, accomplishments an' mistakes are all part o' de game. All part o' growin up. It's what one learns and' does de next time 'round dat shows de measure o' de person"

He'd made up his mind.

"T'ank you, Madam."

"You're most welcome, chile .....Remy, ya know I'll always be here for you. Me an' Tante Mattie. Remember dat."

He smiled.


She smiled back.

"By de way ..." She laid down her cards. "Gin."

He still thought she cheated, but her memory reminded him that someone still believed in him. If only because she didn't know what he'd done either.

He looked at the sky, felt the dampness all through him.

I'm no good tah anyone dis way. Not Stormy, not de team, not even Rogue. I'm scared o' loosing it all. I can't go on like dis. An' I can' risk hurtin anyone cause o' de way I feel.

The decision seemed inevitable now.

Maybe I'd best leave .... Ain't like dey gonna miss me or somethin. Cept maybe Stormy.

Finally made, the acceptance of leaving seemed to lift a weight off of him. It was some measure of freedom after all. Being alone he understood, was comfortable with. At least it gave him some small piece of control over his life again.


Continued in Chapter Five.


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