Midnight was fast approaching. The woman lying in her bed could hear the ticking of the clock in the hallway. In approximately 420 ticks, the chiming would start. Midnight meant a new day, but to Rogue...well...midnight was just another hour of missed sleep. She hadn't slept well in 7 and a half weeks. Not since a certain Cajun man had exited her life just as quickly as he had entered it. And when he returned to the mansion...if he ever returned...she was gonna give him hell. Running a frustrated hand through her curly hair, she rolled over and buried a face in her pillow. A pillow that still smelled like him.

Rogue sat up and threw the pillow against the far wall. Damn him. Damn him to hell. How dare he show up in her life after so many years, with his brilliant smile and his gorgeous eyes. How dare he weasel his way into her heart and her bed, calling her his chere, and making her forget her own name. She had been in high school last time they had crossed paths...her gothic phase not deterring him from kidnapping her for a quick trip south. And then...10 years later, he comes back to his "queen of hearts". Rogue snorted, and hugged her second pillow to her chest. 297 days, 6 hours, and 45 minutes. That's how long he had stayed this time. In Rogue's sleep deprived and heart broken opinion, that was 297 days, 6 hours, and 44 minutes too long.

A quiet knock on the door interrupted her thoughts. The door opened and a tall, curvy woman entered. Her black hair was pulled up in a messy ponytail, and she was dressed in shorts and a tank top. Her tired eyes surveyed Rogue. "I heard a thunk against my wall. Figured you were cookin' up ways to kill Gambit. Figured we could both be awake and miserable together." Aurora Winter was a fellow X-Man, new to the team in the last year. She was also a fellow southerner, and the two had become close friends.

Rogue scooched over in her bed and the other woman collapsed next to her. "Can't sleep either, huh?" The ebony haired woman shook her head. Rogue sighed and retrieved her pillow from the floor and returned to bed. Her friend had been captured and tortured for a week by some extremist group of anti-mutant thugs. Since her return over a month ago, rescued by Gambit and Wolverine, Aurora had not had a decent night's sleep. The nightmares were getting better, but they still plagued her. Professor X had been working with her every day, and Aurora was healing, but she still turned to Rogue for comfort. They lay in silence for a few minutes before Rogue turned to face the other. "Aurora-how long does the hurt last?"

The ebony head lifted and brilliant cobalt eyes stared back at Rogue. She knew her friend had absorbed enough of her memories to know that Aurora had experienced true love...and loss. "Forever, Rogue. Forever. But you learn to live with it and you hide the pain away and you build a wall around it. And eventually, you find something to replace the empty spot." She frowned. "Are you even sure he's gone for good?"

Rogue shrugged. "No note, no goodbye. Just gone in the night. That sounds a lot like gone for good to me." Aurora looked thoughtful, and then sat up, stretching her long legs until she was out of bed.

"You know what? Us gals need a game plan for recovery. You got your heart broken, and I got my body broken. Obviously, sitting around thinking about our problems aint gonna solve them...let's sweat them out. Get dressed and meet me in the gym in 10 minutes." She winked at Rogue and slipped out to her room. Rogue grinned, jumped up, and dressed in her black uniform. She was quick to make it to the gym, beating Aurora by only a second. Aurora grinned at her friend and pulled her black hair up into a higher ponytail.

The women let themselves into the quiet gym and headed to the training room. It was a large room, about the size of a basketball court, and it had indestructible walls for the X-Men to bounce off of. Rogue flew up into the air and stretched. Aurora was right...working up a good sweat might be therapeutic. Even if it was after midnight. And since Aurora was a good sparring partner, seeing as how she too could fly, Rogue figured by the end of this training session, they'd both be sore and bruised.

Aurora flew up into the air, her movements graceful. "You ready to keep working on that touch of yours?" Rogue nodded and removed her glove. Aurora gently touched her bare fingertip to hers. "Remember, only take what you need. Concentrate."

Rogue felt Aurora's power surge through her hand. She focused on taking just the power, and blocking the memories that came with it. Aurora's story was sad-and Rogue wanted to respect her right to privacy. Once her mental wall was built, Rogue pulled away and let out a breath. "Anyone ever tell you that absorbing your power is like getting hit with icy water?"

Aurora shook her head and flew backward. "Nope. But good job. I don't feel drained at all. Last time we did this I fainted." Her eyes blackened. "Now let's see if you can use what you took." Aurora's codename was Blackout. She controlled shadows and darkness. And fighting her was downright terrifying. Rogue let the power roll over her and lunged for her friend. The room turned black as night as the women sparred. Rogue couldn't match Aurora's power, but she was faster and stronger. Much stronger. Aurora was hiding in the shadows, but Rogue tackled her and the two fell to the floor, shaking the room with their combined forces.

Laughing Rogue let Aurora up and the two circled. "Blackout is a good name for you. I was flying blind in that cloud you created. Creepy."

Aurora grinned, her eyes still black. "I find it to be a good parlor trick. You have my power, which means you should be able to see in the dark. Use it by looking at something light and allowing it to focus your vision." She once again blackened out a corner of the room, and Rogue looked briefly at the lit part and back to the darkness. She found that she could see outlines. Fuzzy, and not quite clear...but the unmistakable shape of a woman in the corner was all Rogue needed.

The two women again clashed, sparring in mid air. They went back and forth for over 2 hours. Each gaining the upper hand and each losing ground as they grew fatigued. Finally Aurora threw a punch and Rogue caught it, only to be flipped down to the floor. She hit the ground with a loud thud and laughed. Aurora gracefully landed, her eyes returning to their dark blue, and helped her friend up. They grinned at each other and Rogue felt her friend's power draining from her.

"It's been nice to be able to touch again." Aurora nodded.

"I can imagine. You're doing so much better. Professor X is a good teacher. He's really figured out why you absorb willy-nilly and had done a great job in helping you control it. Not to bring up a sore subject, but Gambit really did help with the skin-to-skin. I can only do so much. He allowed you to practice on a more intimate scale."

Rogue nodded. "Oh, Aurora. I miss him. Why'd he leave?"

Aurora sighed and sat down on the floor. "He had to have a good reason. You could tell he loved you. Wolverine left around the same time, maybe they're on a top secret mission." Aurora had been sleeping with Wolverine casually since her arrival at the mansion. Rogue couldn't tell if the feelings were just lust, or if Aurora had finally found a replacement for her emptiness.

Nodding again, Rogue joined her friend on the floor. "You really think so?" Her friend didn't answer. Rather, the two women stayed quiet for a time, too tired to talk or move.

Aurora finally stood up and extended a hand to Rogue. "It's 3am. Let's try to get some rest. We have the brats in the am." Rogue groaned, forgetting that they had promised to take the young fliers out for a lesson in stealth in the skies. The five young mutants who had the ability to fly had been looking forward to this lesson all week, as they considered Rogue and Blackout to be favorites among the teaching staff.

As the two women walked back to their rooms, they heard voices in the hallway at the base of the stairs. Three men were talking. Aurora pulled Rogue into the shadows and used her power to hide them. Putting a finger to her lips, she motioned for Rogue to stay quiet so they could listen. Cyclops was facing two men who had just come in through the front door.

"Did you retrieve it?"

The second man snorted. "Gave us the slip for three weeks, but yes, we finally managed to get it. Thanks to the Cajun here. We probably would have been chasing it for longer had he not thought of the genius idea to call out the owner in a poker game." The much taller third man chuckled.

"Dis Cajun can't lose in a game of poker. Not when he's got the fate of mutants riding on him." Rogue stiffened, and Aurora poked her.

Cyclops picked up the box. "I doubt it's the fate of our kind...but it must be pretty important for Professor X to send you two on a wild chase across country. Jean is going to kill me when she finds out I knew where you two were. You guys put your women in quite a tizzy. Rogue has barely slept, and Logan-I know you and Aurora aren't 'exclusive' but she needs you, even if she won't admit it. Jean said her nightmares are still coming. You left only a week after she had come back...her routine hasn't been the same."

Gambit ran a hand through his long red hair. "Dat is not what I wanted to hear. She mad at me?" He was answered only by a snort as Cyclops walked away. Wolverine swore.

"Figured you'd be in the doghouse. Didn't think I'd be in it too. Best get to grovelling now...but I doubt Marie will talk to you anytime soon. Be prepared for some major southern wrath."

"I can take it. I owe her that much."

Wolverine started to head back up the stairs. "Boy...I hope you're right. See you in the morning."

Rogue and Aurora barely made it back to their rooms before Gambit and Wolverine had finished the walk up the stairs. Rogue had to pretend to be asleep...and barely managed to get settled in her bed. She heard her door click open and soft footsteps enter and then the door close. Forcing her eyes to stay closed, she listened to the man in her room. His familiar scent waved over her, and her heart skipped a beat. She heard his boots get kicked off, and his jacket drop to the floor. The following rustle were his t-shirt, jeans and socks being removed. Rogue knew he was only wearing his boxers. Black ones that hung low on his hips showing off rock hard abs, glorious skin, and the most intricate of scars that snaked across his abdomen. Rogue had kissed that scar enough to know its every twist and turn. She felt the bed dip from his weight next to her and his hand rest on her hip. She opened her eyes and stared at his handsome face, willing herself not to show any emotion.

"Gambit." Her voice was rough with emotion. Damn voice.

His eyes crinkled at the corner, and he stroked her white lock of curly hair away from her face. "Rogue."

That was it. All that need to be said. At least for the time being. Rogue let him kiss her. Let his warm lips find hers in the darkness while one finger hooked around the elastic of her panties, pulling them down past her knees. She didn't argue as his hand made its way up her side, sliding her t-shirt up over her head. And she didn't resist as Gambit rolled her underneath him, propping himself up with an elbow as their bodies met. His free hand cupped her face, and he kissed her again. He tasted like cinnamon. They pulled apart only for a moment, his crimson pupils glowed in the moonlight as he searched for permission.

Rogue lifted her hips to meet his, and he buried himself inside of her. Time had made her tight and tense. Time had made him sensitive and hasty. But as long lost lovers do-they found their rhythm. Two bodies, reunited after nearly two months apart became one. Rogue listened to his breathing against her neck, felt him respond to her movements, felt the wave of pleasure rush over her body in a much-needed release. He responded to her relaxing muscles with his own release and collapsed against her.

They lay in silence for a while, each contemplating the next words they would speak. Gambit spoke first-his voice soft. "Apologies aren't going to cut it, chere. I will never be able to make it up to you. But I, Remy LeBeau promise to die trying." Rogue didn't answer right away. She was too exhausted; relieved that he was safe, happy that it hadn't been her.

"Where were you?"

Remy pulled her close so that her head was resting on his chest, his arm around her. "Ah...Remy has seen the ends of the earth these past few months. Sacramento, Detroit, Buffalo, Boston...there ain't a place it seems where I haven't been." He put a hand over her mouth. "And before you ask...I can't tell you why. That's for the Professor to do."

Rogue made a face against his hand and he pulled away. She kissed him. "I missed you. But I accept your apology on a few grounds."


"Yes. I accept your apology on the grounds that you will never do that again...leave without a note at least. And you'll always bring me back roses. Or chocolate." She took a deep breath.

Remy laughed into her hair. "Now that, Remy can do. I did bring you back something. It ain't chocolate or a rose though." He reached down to the floor and fished something out of his jacket pocket, and then snuggled in next to Rogue, and handed her a small velvet blue box. Rogue opened the box and gasped and the beautiful sapphire glittering up at her, surrounded by 6 tiny diamonds, 3 on each side.

He took the ring out of the box. "Anna Marie...will you do me the honor of being my wife, my secret keeper, my best friend?"

Aurora was up too damn early. At the gym until 3, with Logan until 6...and now it was eight a.m. and she had to get up and teach a flying class to teenagers. Grumbling to herself, she got out of bed and threw a robe over her naked shoulders. Logan was snoring softly in her bed. She wanted to punch him in the stomach...but after last night, she wasn't so sure messing with him was a good idea. There had been a simmering anger at him the entire night. And she had lashed out at him-daring him to rise to the occasion. Which he had. Feelings had been hurt, words had been said, and they had fallen asleep after having rough and wild sex. No love here. Not right now.

The bathroom she shared with Jean and Rogue's rooms was free so she went in and locked the other doors. Turning on the steaming water she stepped into the shower and let the water run down her back while she thought. Hopefully Rogue's night had gone better than hers. She certainly hadn't heard the two screaming at each other. Small victories, right? She showered quickly and dressed in jeans and a tank top. Slipping on her sneakers, she snuck out of the room, leaving Logan to slumber in peace in her bed. She didn't see him open his eyes as she passed, watching her stalk out of the room. Rogue was already in the kitchen drinking a large cup of coffee, and Aurora blearily poured herself a cup and grabbed a bagel. The two women sat in silence for a moment.

Rogue spoke first. "So Gambit proposed to me last night."

Aurora spilled her coffee down her chin as she coughed in surprise. "Come again?"

Rogue rolled her eyes. "He proposed."

Her friend examined Rogue's empty ring finger. "And you said…?"

"I didn't answer."

"Well why not?"

"Would you say yes to a man who left you with no word for 7 weeks?"

Aurora thought for a moment and took another sip of her coffee. "That depends. How's the sex?" She barely dodged the bagel thrown at her. "Hey! I'm serious. Good sex trumps all. Trust me on that. Don't throw this away, Rogue. Don't do what I did."

Rogue knew what Aurora was referring to and chose not to talk about it. Instead, she stuffed the rest of the bagel in her mouth and stood up. "Ready to teach babies how to fly?"