Watching, Waiting and Worrying
Disclaimer: Characters and Premise are borrowed from the Marvel, I'm not making any money.
Many thanks to Faith for her advice on this story.
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It started as just an itch in the back of the skull. The feeling that something in her world was askew, despite the general air of peace and relaxation that held sway in the mansion. The last of Bastion's indignities had been wiped away. The usual troublemakers were quiet. Life was back to the more pleasant end of normal. Or was it?
The nebulous feeling made Rogue restless. The well-worn book in her lap couldn't hold her attention. The cheerful, crackling fire burning in the hearth didn't make the room feel homey. Every voice or footstep drifting in from the hall caught her ear. Every glimpse of movement out of the corner of her eye brought her head up.
After half an hour had passed and only four pages had been turned Rogue sighed and set aside the book to seek out the source of her disquiet.
An agitated clatter of dishes drew her steps toward the kitchen. She opened the door to find the most reluctant of the X-Men's newer recruits, Dr. Cecilia Reyes, standing in the center of the room, fists planted squarely on her hips, dressed in the scrubs she still favored as working clothes, glaring at Bobby who was standing at the sink up to his elbows in soap suds, washing dishes with an excessive amount of banging and clattering going on.
"Y'all doing okay in here?" Rogue asked a faint smile tugging at her mouth.
Cecilia snorted, Bobby turned from the sink with a bright, pleading, practiced smile on his face. "Rogue, my bestest bud, survivor of numerous lame attempts at humor, would you please explain to the Doctor that I always clean up after my pranks? I don't need her standing over me like a disapproving parent and I don't need to do this right now!"
"What, ya got a hot date?" Rogue asked lightly.
"Wouldn't you like to know," Bobby replied arching his eyebrows.
"I don't care if you have an appointment with the president," Cecilia stated, her face drawn into a scowl. "You put that sludge in the coffee, you can clean the pot and all the cups you contaminated."
Bobby turned his best innocent, sincere expression on her; blue eyes wide, face open and trustworthy, arms spread beseechingly... soapsuds dripping on to the floor. "And I will," he promised. "Just not right now."
"Now," Cecilia said. "Before it has a chance to set and you could mop the floor too."
"Rogue make her be nice to me," Bobby pled.
"She followed ya home sugah, I'm not getting involved," Rogue said shaking her head and backing out of the room. " 'Sides, you remember who put ice down mah back the other night?"
"Come on, you wanted an excuse to leave anyway," Bobby argued.
"Now why in heaven's name would ya think that Icecube?" Rogue asked frowning.
"Well, Gambit was there," Bobby said with a shrug.
"And ya though I needed savin'? How long's it been since the last time ya been hit in the head Bobby? We were just watching TV."
"You were making up," Bobby said.
"And what's bad about that?" Rogue demanded.
"I'm tired of seeing you hurt when it doesn't work out."
"Cecilia, don't ya think the floor in here needs waxin' after Bobby gets done moppin' it?" Rogue asked as she turned to leave the room.
Her next stop was the garage, as she approached her nose wrinkled at the smell of fresh oil. Automatically her eyes scanned toward the spot where Remy normally parked his motorcycle. A measure of tension went out of her frame upon seeing it there, chrome gleaming brightly in the winter sun.
"Checking up on Gumbo, darling?" Logan asked, scooting out from under his jeep.
"Ah am not," Rogue insisted guiltily. "Just been feelin' a little off today, thought maybe it'd go away if Ah could pin it down."
"And Gambit's bike was the first thing you thought to check?" Logan inferred. "Keeping tabs on him won't make him stay, you know."
"What do ya suggest; handcuffs?" Rogue asked sarcastically. "Remy'd have them unlocked in a heartbeat."
Logan laughed. "Who knows he might like that, if you were the one to put 'em on him. Seriously, darling, ya worry too much. He always comes back, you must have some sort of hold on him."
"What if he doesn't?" Rogue asked.
Logan took a long look at her. "You afraid of him leaving or getting hurt?"
"Rogue, Gambit did come back to you and he's better than most at getting himself out scrapes."
"Only because he's got so much practice at it," Rogue said. "But even Gambit can't beat the odds all the time."
"You can't stop him from trying," Logan said sliding back under the jeep. "Getting yourself worked up like this won't change him."
Rogue turned and strode determinedly back toward the house and her book. "If I'd wanted your opinions I would have asked," she muttered under her breath.
In the sitting room she flounced on the couch, intent on ignoring all further unsettled feelings. After a few minutes she found herself glaring irritably at the clock on the mantle, wondering who, in their ever-loving mind, would want a clock which ticked that loudly. Who wanted to be reminded of the passing of time each and every second?
She gave up the book as a lost cause and headed up stairs, deciding to collect her laundry and get something done. Once the machine was loaded she started a work out program in the danger room. The feeling that she might miss something important while she was sequestered away in there kept her from settling into her routine.
She pushed her way through regardless, her movements short and abrupt, bring squeals and groans of complaint as the equipment struggled to cope with her abuse.
When she was done she frowned at the clock, she had time for a quick shower before dinner, but she wasn't happy about seeing the end to this wholly unsatisfying day approaching.
Rogue pulled up a chair between Scott and Storm at the mostly empty dining room table fifteen minutes later. Storm was frowning a little and glancing repeatedly at the door.
"So Hank's got Cecilia eating in the lab now too?" Rogue commented.
"They're not eating," Jean replied. "Hank thinks he might be on to something, we've got orders not to disturb them unless the world's ending."
"And since we already had one of those emergencies last week we're probably good for awhile," Bobby said, shrugging as if to say our lives are strange, but hey what do you expect?
"Remy should not skip meals," Storm said pushing her chair away from the table.
Warren and Betsy walked in, dressed to the nines, several minutes later.
"I thought you guys has a date?" Jean said.
"We did," Betsy replied. "The restaurant was closed, a hepatitis out break. I lost my desire to eat out.
Warren nodded his agreement. "If they could have issues with health code violation there I hate to think what the rest of the city's restaurants are like."
Storm returned alone. "Rogue, have you and Remy broken up again?"
"We haven't even had a chance to get back together to break-up!" Rogue exclaimed angrily.
"If there is something wrong perhaps I could speak with him about it," Storm offered.
"I ain't the only reason he takes off all the time!" Rogue snapped.
"Too bad he keeps coming back," Warren murmured to Betsy under his breath.
Storm ignored him. "Rogue, I wish to help. I dislike seeing the two of you struggling like this. Having a neutral party might help."
"We don't always fight," Rogue insisted.
Looks of amusement and pity were passed around the table. "Of course you don't," Betsy said patronizingly. "Sometimes you're not on speaking terms. Or maybe I've got it all wrong, maybe he's just off setting up another..."
Thunder crashed outside the window.
"Shut up now if ya plan on walking out of this room!" Rogue hissed, her green eyes flashing.
"It's too bad you're first impulse didn't work out, then we wouldn't have to be worrying about what he's up to now," Warren said.
Rogue's chair clattered to floor, for a moment she seemed about to fly across the table and attack Warren. Then she turned and stalked out of the room. She paused in the hall leaning back against the wall pulling her frayed temper back together.
Storm's voice, cold and imperial, drifted out of the dining room. "It was my understanding that the X-Men were about second chances, not passing out judgment and playing executioner. You of all people should remember that, Archangel"
In the hall Rogue bit her lip, then slipped upstairs to her room.
Rogue's sleep was restless, the covers slipped from her body and she shivered in the cool night air.
In her dreams it was much colder, a degree of cold she'd never felt and probably never would feel with a body adapted to fly at near-sonic velocities. In her dreams the bitter freezing cold crept into her limbs, leeching away warmth and life as the bleak landscape of unbroken white leeched away hope. No one to hear if she called for help, no one to care if they did.
Slow silent tears of regret trickled down her cheeks as she slept.
As the following day wore on the itch in the back of her skull sank to the pit of her stomach and began collecting lead.
Determined not to worry about something that was probably nothing, Rogue decided to go flying. The icy air was no deterrent to her. The high, thin stratosphere she loved to frequent was always cold, clean and crisp.
Flying made her feel alive, feel free. The currents of air wrapped around her, tugging playfully at her clothing. The brisk, wild wind parted around her and swept her problems and frustrations away. It ran through her hair like gentle fingers and the distant sun caressed her face, untroubled by her by her powers, uncomplicated.
She laughed, spread her arms and dove, cutting through the air like a knife, pulling up mere inches from the ground to soar to new heights.
Her good mood lasted until she noticed the darkened windows at the boathouse. The lead ball in her stomach reappeared and doubled in size in the time it took her to land at the front door.
The instant she stepped inside she knew Gambit was still gone. It was a simple deduction; the heat was turned down. Sometimes Rogue though the main reason he'd chosen to live at the boathouse was he'd gotten tired of listening to complaints about how he turned up the thermostat in every room he might want to spend time in. Given the option he'd have converted the whole mansion to a sauna.
Rogue bit her lip. "He's from New Orleans," She told herself. "He's always hated the cold." A traitorous voice in her head piped up to remind her that while it might technically be the truth, he'd only started acting obsessive about it since he'd come back.
Just like she didn't used to keep a subconscious tally of how many times she could miss seeing Remy when she expected to before the sick, heavy feelings of guilt and grief started creeping back into her soul.
For months she'd thought he was dead, she'd believed it was her fault. Sometimes, when he was gone it felt like a dream that he'd returned, that he was alive. When he left on his mysterious errands she wanted, needed to know where he was going, when he was coming back and that he'd be safe while he was gone.
She wanted to hold him close and convince her heart that he was real and that he'd forgiven her, but he held her at arms length and even if the former was true she had to wonder about the later.
With a sigh she headed up to his room to see if she could guess how long he'd planned on being gone by what was missing.
His thieving gear was the first thing she checked for and the first thing she found missing.
The mansion's security room was a cold, sterile place. Rows of monitors and sensor banks that seemed to demand cool, analytical observation, Rogue ignored the suggestion.
She paced the room before the frozen image of two men, one a charmer with red-on-black eyes, the other slender, using arrogance to cover nerves, Gambit and Courier, leaving the mansion grounds together.
Rogue drew back a fist to strike the monitor, only to have her rage deflected by a telekinetic shield. "Scott would have a fit if you broke that after all the trouble he had getting the systems back together again after Bastion," Jean commented leaning in the doorway.
"Fine! Ah'll take it out on the real thing," Rogue snapped.
"You know," Jean said. "Some people might consider it an invasion of privacy to use the security system to check up on their boyfriend."
"And some people have boyfriends who tell them where they're going! And who don't consort with lowlifes like that!" Rogue retorted, her finger jabbing accusingly at Courier's image.
Rogue flashed back to the last time Gambit had left with Courier, well the last time she'd know of it anyway, flashed back to pulling him out the middle of an explosion.
"Ah don't want to act suspicious of him," Rogue said. "Ah'm sick and tired of all the fighting. Ah just want to know..."
"Where he is every minute of every day?" Jean suggested. "Rogue, he's not going to change, and this whole thing just makes both of you miserable. Have you ever thought about breaking the cycle? Walking away and meaning it?"
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