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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 7: Bliss

Where there is great love, there will always be miracles.
- Willa Cather, 'Death Comes to the Archbishop'

"So, when we movin chere?"

"Goodness, ah don' know. Ah jus decided this last night. Soon as we find ah place ah guess."

"Maybe we should look for jobs first, neh?"

"Yoah goin tah get ah job too? This aught tah be interestin."

"Ya might be surprised. I got a few back up options."

She glanced at the smug look on his face. Why, the slimy devil. He already knew what he was going to do. Here she was making the biggest decision of her life, thinking how drastic a change this was going to be for the both of them, and the sneak had an ace up his sleeve. Well it darn well better be a legitimate job, or he was going to find out just how pushy this broad could get.

She wondered what he had in mind. Truthfully, he knew her better than to believe she'd accept him getting an illegal job for this part of their life. The whole point of this was to be somewhat normal; so she didn't really worry about that. And though she knew he sometimes walked the line and kept up with his shady contacts to gather and swap information to help the X-Men's cause, it was no more than Wolverine did. The X-Men and the humans and mutants Remy helped on the other side needed him. He was one of the few people they had that was respected in that seedy world hidden right below the surface of their own.

Rogue suddenly shivered. A few vague images she'd been able to tap into from Remy's early childhood flashed in her mind. Pain, hunger, survival. Before the kiss, she could never have imagined how cold and predatory his early years had been. It made her thankful for even her mother. For Mystique. At least she'd never been beaten or left alone so young. She admired him all the more for being able to keep a core of warmth and gentleness deep inside him despite it all. It was that strength she loved.

Remy felt her shiver and held her tighter.

"Ya cold p'tite?"

She leaned into his embrace.

"No. Ah've nevah been warmer than right heah in yoah embrace. Ah don' evah want tah leave it."

He smiled wishing he could hold her closer still but that type of warmth was denied them. The intimacy was in their hearts and though he might wish for better, this was more than enough for him.

She moved her head cradle it in his shoulder. He could smell the warm soft scent of magnolias that always permeated the air around her. She sighed contentedly.

"Remy, now that we've decided tah try again, theah's one othath thing ah've been thinkin about."

Remy cocked an eyebrow. "An dat is?"

Rogue insistently removed herself from his embrace since he seemed reluctant to let her go. Then went over to the chair she had been in and began fishing in her purse finally pulling out a black circular ring about six inches around. She walked back over to him and held it up.


Remy's eyes narrowed. It looked familiar.

"Dat looks a lot like a suppression collar chere."

"A modified version ah picked up at thah airport on mah first stop this mornin. Ah asked Kurt tah send it ovah from Excalibur. Ah thought ... well, that yah could fix thah lock so ah could wear it some of thah time."

He picked it up eyeing the mechanism and lock carefully.

"Since ya never mentioned it an' had never considered usin one before, I assumed ya didn't want ta be trapped by one. An' I don' really like dese t'ings, specially on you. Anyone o' us is more vulnerable wearin one. What if we got attacked an' ya didn't have time ta get it off?"

"Ah know. That's one ah the reasons ah nevah used one befoah. Ah might not have been able tah help someone, help thah team. But ... thah main reason was, ah was scared. Ah could always hide behind mah power tah keep me protected so ah couldn't be hurt emotionally. Nobody would really care foah me an' so ah couldn't be hurt or hurt them in return. But yah changed all that. Yah showed me mah power was as much ah crutch as ah curse. An' ah'm not gonna run anymore. Ah love yah Remy. Ah trust yah an' ah want tah be wit yah. Yah've risked so much foah me. It's about time ah met yah halfway. Cyclops uses his visor. Ah diabetic uses insulin. Theah are sideffects but it's bettah than usin nuthin at all. How's this any different foah improving mah life?"

"I'm not goin ta lie an' say I don' want ta be wit you, but ya don' have ta do dis for me, chere. I love ya no matter what. Sides, I still don' be likin it much. It's dangerous p'tite.

"Then we'll have tah be real careful. But ah'm doin this foah me. Ah'm tired o' not tryin things. Ah'm not gonna let mah powers control life anymore. We'll find ah way around them until ah can control it. An' ah am goin tah learn tah control it. Ah am. Until then, we'll try this an' anythin else that might work. Joseph's worked on this Z'Noxx chamber o' thah professah's that may protect someone else from mah powers."


"Uh huh. He showed it to me at Christmas. I want Hank tah run some tests first though. I trust Joseph but somethin he said about how it worked set off bells in mah head. Something ah'm afraid he missed. Hank an' ah were gonna test it, but he's had his hands full wit thah Legacy Virus. Hopefully, we'll get ah chance in the next week or so. Right now, this will be fine, really."

"Ya sure?"

"Mmmhmm. Besides," she grinned "It's gonna save us money when we move intah thah new place."


Now she really smirked and placed a hand on his chest. "This way we'll only need tah buy one bed."

Remy grinned back. "I love a woman wit a head for finances."

It didn't take Gambit long to disengage the lock. He was one of the best after all. Then he stood up and handed it to her.

Rogue took it gingerly and snapped it open and closed a few times. She finally placed it around her neck. It's click echoing in the room. Rogue felt a brief tingle. Then the air seemed to go stagnant with the significance of moment as if the world was holding her breath for them.

Rogue held out her hand to him, and he bent his head to kiss the gloved digits. She blushed thinking it was like a fairytale as he then pulled her to him wrapping her in a strong embrace. She pushed against him to get a purchase of her own suddenly realizing with a bit of shock how little strength she normally had. But that didn't matter as his head lowered to hers, all she could see was the love shining in his eyes and no fear could live long in it's brightness.

Their lips touched, and the world changed forever.


Gasping, they broke from the kiss they didn't want to end.

"Mon amour." He breathed heavily. "I ... I need to tell you..."

"Remy,... no,... please." She panted clinging to him and staring into his eyes. "Ah have somethin first ..."

He nodded.

"Mah name ... Mah name is Solitaire."

Remy blinked. "Solitaire?"

A single gem. Beautiful in its own right. It fit her perfectly.

"Solitaire Rose McKenna." Rogue sighed. "Ah lonely game ah cards ... Mah mother said she named me that since because o' me, she was all alone. An that's all ah'd evah be too. I've hated it all mah life."

Remy hugged her tighter to him kissing her forehead.

"She was wrong. About everythin. She had you, only she couldn't see dat. An I love de name."

"Yah would."

"Non. It's beautiful. A single gem. Jus like you."

She looked surprised. Then smiled.

"Ah nevah thought ah it that way."

"I'm a t'ief chere. I know a valuable gem when I see one. Sides," he smirked. "as for de card implication. I love playing solitaire."

She gave him an impudent sidelong look. "Oh, ah jus knew yah were going tah say that. Jus mah luck tah fall in love wit a card sharp. I'll nevah live it down."

"It can be our secret den. Rose McKenna's a lovely name too."

"No. Ah might as well get it all out. Ah am going tah have tah have a normal name tah get ah job. An' Rose was mah mama's name. It nevah felt right tah me ... But can' yah hear Logan though? ... Solitaire McKenna? That's it? It took you years to tell us that? What's thah big deal? Women."

Remy laughed at Rogue's impression. She even did a pretty good Wolverine snort at the end.

"Dis from a man wit only one name? If nuthin else dis place is always amusin."

They smiled together. Then Remy took a deep breath.

"Chere, there is somethin I need to confess too..."

She reached up and grabbed him to pull his head back down for another kiss. Their lips inches apart.

"Later... please. Right now this is all ah want to know. We'll both talk tah thah whole group ... later."

Downstairs in the war room some time thereafter...

"You mean Onslaught was continually messin wit our heads?" Wolverine growled unhappy with what he had been hearing.

"Unfortunately yes." Jean sighed. "He was trying to tear away at our greatest assets. Our cooperation, organization, concern for each other. Our confidence in ourselves and our trust in one another. The last psionic influencer I found was steadily telling each of us to only trust ourselves and pointing out each other's faults. He wanted us defeated mentally as well as physically so if some of us did escape, we'd never organize against him again."

Scott nodded. "But it didn't work. We're still together."

Jean looked sad. Just like Ororo and Hank, who seemed to understand better than her husband.

"Yes and no, my love. We were strong. Strong enough to stay together and stand up to him, but he suspected we might be. He still did it anyway because that doesn't mean we weren't affected, that he might not still plant a seed of slow destruction even if he failed to defeat us outright. The X-Men may have yet lost something. I guess you could consider it Onslaught's revenge."

"And that would be, Jeannie?" Looking around the room at the people there, Logan suddenly had an eerie feeling he knew what was coming.

"Our family." Jean said. "Onslaught hoped that no matter what, our distrust of one another would drive unreparable wedges between us. Either to aid him in his quest or to get his revenge on us later ... Warren, why didn't you or Betsy come to any of us or each other about your changes? We're your friends. We cared once."

Archangel and Psylocke looked stunned as if they had never considered the idea.

"I didn't think... didn't know.. ."

"Don't worry Warren. That's what the subliminal messages were telling you. To distrust. Just a little. Like Wolverine suddenly living outside the mansion. We all tended to react with suspicion against everything, even the people we know and much more so against the ones we don't. And unfortunately there is no real way to know have much of what we felt was normal human nature and how much we were influenced by these suggestions. Most of our reactions were a combination of both. And since people naturally are more suspicious of the unknown I'm ... afraid not only have we not been there for one another as much as we should have but we may have driven off one of our own because of this."

Psylocke looked puzzled. "No one has left Jean. I don't see the problem."

"Betsy, when was the last time you saw Gambit? When was the last time any of us saw Gambit? It hadn't occured to me either, until I learned Onslaught's intentions, but Remy's been slowly withdrawing from the group since all this started. Remember how much of an upbeat charmer he use to be? What happened to that? Luckily, I scanned for him using Cerebro, which is the only way to vaguely track him, and he is hanging around the area, ... for the moment. The fights with Rogue, the underlying distrust we've been giving off. I just found out Gambit's a full blown empath. Empaths are very sensitive to the emotional energy around them, even the emotions not directed solely at them. And if our general feelings of isolation weren't enough, whether intentionally or not, for months now, we've all been continually telling Gambit how untrustworthy he is. It's lucky he hasn't cracked and proved us right.

"I don't buy that," Scott addressed his wife, "Gambit's the one who hasn't been open with us not the other way around."

"But that's the point Scott. Why would he be open with a bunch of people who've mistrusted him without a reason? He's never let us down, and considering Wolverine's, Rogue's, Archangel's, and Joseph's pasts, why does it matter? We don't know everything about them. What's so different about Gambit? But based on our actions, what do you think he thinks we'll do if we have a reason to dislike him? The same as Rogue? She took off while he was in a coma. It doesn't bring up a whole lot of confidence in the rest of us when the person who says they love you can't stick by you at least until you're well. Trust me if someone ever did that to me there'd be hell to pay. Gambit was damn forgiving if you ask me."

"You know that would never happen between us."

"Scott, if it could happen to Gambit, it could happen to the rest of us. It did on a smaller scale look at Archangel and Psylocke. They didn't trust us either. None of us is perfect. As for Remy, with the exception of Storm, who could he say for sure would be there to back him up? Where were we? I can't remember a time when one of us was injured as bad as Gambit, and we weren't trying everything we could. Weren't worried. You would have never know from the way we acted that we even had an injured member. Onslaught, the Professor, wanted Gambit out of commission. He considered him the most unpredictable of us because he'd been able to hide how powerful an empath he was. And we played right along."

"Oh god." Betsy suddenly sobbed. "How could I have done that?"

Warren looked at her sympathetically. "Don't worry Betts, we're all as guilty."

"No." she choked. "No you aren't ... I ... I invaded Gambit's mind right after he woke up because something made me suspicious."

There was a small gasp in the room but Jean touched Betsy sympathetically.

"It was Onslaught, Betsy. I could have been the one to have done it as easily as you. Don't eat yourself up."

Betsy nodded.

"Goddess. Remy must have felt totally abandoned."

Wolverine growled. "Wish there was a way to make Onslaught pay for this. You think some of Gambit's and Rogue's problems are partially his fault too, don' ya, Jeannie? That's why Rogue ain't here."

"Yes. She couldn't have been less affected than the rest of us, and she had strong feelings for him. She must have been utterly confused. No wonder she ran off."

Surprisingly, Joseph spoke. "There is no use feeling guilt now over some things you may not have been able to totally control. The question that needs to be answered is the damage irreparable? And if not, where to start. Rogue and I are... best of friends, and it is obvious from my talk with her this morning she still loves him. Besides, I am ... finding a bit of kinship with Gambit. I was not here for this. Perhaps I could talk to them."

"No. I don't think telling Gambit Onslaught used our distrust of him as a weapon would be best right yet. Remy may not see this clearly since it concerns him. It may only verify to him that none of us trust him at all. That may be all it takes."

Bishop nodded. "The fact is, even without Onslaught's manipulations, some of us don't fully trust Gambit. Suddenly acting like we do will not be believable to Gambit, especially if he is as powerful an empath as you say."

"True." Jean smiled. "I'm not asking anyone to fake it. Just give the man the same consideration you would someone else.We've been better to our enemies. It would be nice though if everyone could be a touch upbeat around him for awhile. If he doesn't come out of this depression, he may leave anyway. Then we'll never know if it was our fault or not."

"And Rogue, darlin?"

"I'll talk to her. They do have real obstacles to overcome. Every couple does, and them more than most, but Rogue needs to know she may need to reconsider her feelings. Think it through. Whatever she decides this time will less likely to be influenced by anyone but herself. She does need to stay away from Gambit though. I suspect the reason we've gotten harder and harder on him is that not only did Onslaught keep telling us to mistrust everyone, but as the emotional dislike built, Remy himself may have unconsciously been reflecting that back at us with his powers as he became more and more depressed with himself. It was a vicious cycle that's been continually building."

Storm smiled. "And if Gambit had been the Hellion's Empath he would have made us like him instead. That alone should prove he has not been trying to mislead us. And he could have easily just made Rogue love him, as well, could he not? But he let her walk away instead. Remy has always continually surprised me with his ability to be gracious at the times when he has every right to be hurt."

Jean smiled. "And now it's our chance to return the favor."

Remy hugged Rogue to him, happy. Truly happy for the first time in his life. This hadn't started out as something they had decided to do right his moment exactly. He thought they'd work up to it, but it ... well ... happened. It was almost like once they touched, once they breathed their souls into each other, they couldn't just stop there. All the pent-up desire and frustration boiled over and swept them away.

Girl should have kept her hands to herself if she had wanted him to keep his cool.

Rogue stretched and purred rubbing her hand over his chest. She loved his masculine scent and breathed it in hungrily . She had dreamed of this moment from the minute they first truly looked into each other's eyes, but none of her fantasies were as wonderful as this experience. Her first time jitters quickly dissipated with a gentle touch, and their lovemaking was even more exhilarating and breathtaking than anything in those wild dreams. The love surrounded and filled her. No one could ask for more. She'd never been happier.

Logan stomped up the stairs in his usual determined and heavy-footed way. Beers? Pool? Cards? Need to be something that sounded natural or he'd smell a pity party a mile off. No one had ever said Gumbo was easy to fool. He rounded the corner and stopped dead in his tracks. Slower and less loudly he walked up to Gambit's door.

"What is this? Let's hang out in front of his door day?"

The group looked a bit chagrined.

"After the recent divulgences, it seemed most proper and punctilious of us..."

"What Beast is tryin tah say is ah few us thought..."

Storm chuckled quietly glancing over the group. "I came to cheer Remy up. I would assume since the rest of you have all managed to arrive almost at the exact same time, there is a concerted effort to do the same?"

There were some embarrassed affirmatives while Bishop shrugged meekly. "He has been ... 'helpful' at times."

Jean tried not to laugh holding to Scott who looked like he would rather be somewhere, anywhere, else. "So much for subtle, huh, Ororo?"

"Subtle?" Wolverine snorted as quietly as he could so as not to alert Gambit. He was surprised that the Cajun hadn't already yanked the door open. He usually picked up on these things. Kid must be more depressed than he thought. He wrinkled up his nose, not wanting to pick up a scent of pain. He didn't want to know how much Gambit could be hurting because of this. "You ever think of hiring a band too?"

Storm smiled and reached for the door. "I hope he is in. Perhaps we should ..."

"Oh please!" Wolverine snorted. "Quit pussy-footin around. We're here to eat crow, let's eat it."

"Hey Cajun!" Logan whammed on the door three times and then threw it open barging right in with the rest on his heels. 'Go way' was grumbled none too nicely at about the same time.

Of course, that was polite compared to the shriek that assaulted their ears seconds later.

"Oh my!" "Oops!" "Rogue?" "Oh my stars and garters!" "Pardon us." "Help." "Thank god Jubilee's not here."

Living together in such close quarters, it was bound to happen to someone sooner or later. Letting out a scream loud enough to wake the dead, and grabbing at every cover in sight, Rogue certainly wished it had been later ... and most definitely someone else. Why, why, why? Why did it have to be her? Them? On this special occasion? She'd been a good little girl. Really she had, even if she hadn't wanted to. The odds of it being her had been absolutely nil up until a few hours ago. She turned beet red, embarrassed and angry, just knowing some fate-like deity was laughing their ass off.

"Ya pardon mes amis, which part o'... Go Away ... DIDN'T ya understand?"

Amused and trying not to look like it, Logan noticed that despite the totally embarrassing circumstances and the fact that Rogue had grabbed most of the sheets to cover herself, Gambit leaned back against the headboard and managed to look for the most part unperturbed and dignified. Certainly more so than most of the dumbstruck goldfish gaping X-Men staring at him. Logan would bet dollars to donuts this wasn't the first time the Cajun had been caught flagrante delicto as it were or in this case, right after the fact. Logan grinned. He had odds on a jealous boyfriend or husband. Having been there himself, he knew this was barely an annoyance in comparison.


Rogue had found her tongue and her temper. She threw a pillow at the lot of them. If she had her strength it could have been dangerous, pillow or no, but as it was, it whacked right into Bishop's face with a poof sound. She was on her knees clutching the sheets at her throat while Remy looked on vastly amused.

"GET OUT!!!"

The pillow pretty much woke everyone up, and they scrambled nearly over one another to get through the door. Wolverine was last and couldn't help himself.

"Carry on."

The pillow caught him in the back of the head with a fair amount of force. She had a heck of an arm on her, powers or no. He'd bet the Cajun had been giving her lessons hitting a moving target too.

Rogue jumped off the bed, sheets and all, grabbed the pillow at the door, slamming it with force. She looked disheveled and wild. Her green eyes flashing. Remy thought she was beautiful.

He followed her across the room picking up the pillow on the floor and taking the one from her to throw them both back on the bed.

"Ah can't believe it." she sniffed. "Tahday o' all days. It was suppose tah be magic."

Remy smiled. "It was magic, Chere. Is magic. Dis jus makes even de quiet minutes completely unforgettable as well, non?"

She giggled slightly and leaned into him. "Ah suppose. But why is it this sorta stuff only happens tah us? Why don' it evah happen tah Scott an' Jean?"

"Dat's easy. If it ever be happenin ta Scott, he'd die o' embarrassment, an' we'd have no fearless leader no more."

Rogue relaxed and really started laughing. "Ain't that thah truth."

"Sides," he smirked, "it coulda been worse."

"How could it have possibly been worse?"

"Easy." He grabbed her up and carried her to the bed lying both of them down and burying his face in her neck.

"Dey could have come in while we were doing ... dis."

The group could hear the laughing half way down the hall.

"Nice to know they're taking it well." Logan stated still somewhat amused.

"Ah'll say. Ah wouldn't want Miss Rogue mad at me for very long."

Logan snorted. "Yeah, ya ain't kiddin. Rogue's got a wicked right hook ... So Jeannie ... Depressed huh? May leave the team any minute. Really beat up. I don' know, darlin. Seems ta me he's made a miraculous recovery." Wolverine grinned at her.

"Alright already." Jean sniffed. "I'm sorry. How embarrassing. But they're both so hard to read. How was I to know they'd made up?" She got a twinkle in her eye. "I mean seriously made up?"

Everyone chuckled good-naturedly trying to hide their embarrassment too. It had been one of those days. Par for the course for the X-Men, it seemed.

"Thank the goddess things are starting to get back to normal around here."

"It's about time." Logan snorted. "How about we toast the happy couple with some beers at Harry's? Cyke's buyin."

Everyone broke into a run for the stairs as Cyclops screamed, "No! Absolutely not! Logan, I'll get you for this!"


The rate at which a person can mature is
directly proportional to the embarrassment he can tolerate.
- Doug Englebart


Concluded in the Epilogue.


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