Touch of Destiny

Disclaimer: I don't own anyone in this story. Marvel does. John Michael Montgomery performs the song "I Can Love You Like That," and the excerpt from "Absolutely Sweet Marie" was written and performed by Bob Dylan. I also don't own those. I'm making no money, so don't sue me. Pretty much all I have to my name is a cat and a computer, and you take either of those, and I'll have to retaliate, court order or no. :)

Summary: Okay, basically this takes place in an alternate reality where Rogue still lives with Mystique and hasn't ever absorbed Ms. Marvel. Nightcrawler is also there, as Mystique never gave him up. The Brotherhood has recently begun a partnership with Sinister, resulting in the meeting of Gambit and the mutant known in the regular reality as Rogue. Anything else, would basically be telling you the whole plot, and then what would be the point of this story that I've wasted many valuable hours on when I should've been doing classwork/homework.

Author's Note: Accredit any discrepancies to the fact that it's an alternate reality and not to author ignorance, and I'll be very flattered…and grateful. And please, drop me line when you're threw reading it and let me know what you think. ( Enjoy!

Touch of Destiny

By: Addie Logan (

The tall, lanky young man with the red, glowing eyes followed closely behind the man with the silver skin. The sliver-skinned man sat down at the oversized metal table and the young man with the red eyes, codenamed Gambit, remained standing behind him. Across from them sat a woman with blue skin, yellow eyes, and red hair. To her left crouched a demonic-looking man with blue fur and the same yellow, pupil-less eyes of the redhead. To her right stood a strikingly beautiful young woman with long reddish-brown hair accented by a streak of pure white that fell on either side of her face. Something was different about her, something Gambit had not seen since he was still a small child. He finally realized what it was—her eyes. They held hope. Gambit had forgotten what hope looked like until right then. He wanted to talk to that woman, to hear what her voice would sound like, even if it was just for a moment.

"Mister Sinister, I'm pleased you could make it," the blue-skinned woman said with a smile that Gambit found to be obviously fake.

"The pleasure is all mine, Mystique," Sinister replied with an equally false grin.

Gambit knew he should've been paying attention to the ensuing conversation between Mystique and Sinister, but he couldn't keep his eyes off the girl with the white streaks in her hair. He found her fascinating. Gambit noticed her look up at him. He smiled, and she blushed, then looked away.

Gambit shook his head, trying to clear his mind of everything but the present. Sinister was going to ask him for his opinion later, and Gambit figured he better have some sort of insight. "Your Marauders sound quite impressive," he heard Mystique say. "They could be most helpful in the mission of my Brotherhood."

"You have spoken of your 'Brotherhood' as a collective entity many times, Mystique," Sinister said, "yet you have not once informed me of the names of its individuals. Who would I be agreeing to let work along side my Marauders?"

"My team consists at the moment of Avalanche, the Blob, Toad, myself, and my two children, Nightcrawler and," she paused for a brief second as she looked to her right, "Marie."

Sinister raised a dark eyebrow. "I am familiar with all the names you have mentioned except one. What type of powers does your daughter, Marie possess?"

Mystique narrowed her eyes, annoyed at the thought that anyone would mock her child. "Marie has the ability to absorb anyone's consciousness—and in the case of other mutants, their powers—all through skin to skin contact."

Gambit never heard Sinister's response, as he suddenly directed his attention back to Marie. He noticed that her only skin that was showing was that of her face, and how she grimaced when Mystique explained the nature of her mutation. He realized that she must not have control of her powers, and therefore be unable to touch anyone. Gambit frowned as he thought of what a terribly lonely life she must lead. He began to think of someway that he could help her, and by the time the meeting was over, Gambit had formed a plan.

*** *** ***

Mystique led her children back upstairs to the simple house that sat atop the underground lair of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. Mystique found it easiest to keep her darker sides hidden by maintaining a pretense of normality on the surface. She figured it was her powers that had led her to develop that philosophy.

Mystique turned around to glance at Marie. "You do need to come up with a codename, Child," she scolded. "It's embarrassing to have to call you just 'Marie.'"

"I'll try, Mama," Marie said, although she wasn't really in much of a rush. Marie thought codenames were a little on the silly side.

"And I noticed you making eyes at that boy with Sinister," Mystique added. "Gambit, I think was his name."

Marie forced herself not to blush. "I…I wasn't, Mama, I swear!"

"Whether you were or not, it makes no difference. Just stay away from him. Stay away from anyone working for Mister Sinister. If he'd employ the likes of Victor Creed, then he apparently does not surround himself with the sort of people I want associating with my daughter," Mystique said.

"Who's Victor Creed?" asked Marie.

Mystique waved her hand in a dismissive gesture. "Someone I once knew. Sabretooth—he's a Marauder now. Besides, it is a very real possibility that Sinister could betray us and the last thing I need is you taking his side because you've fallen for some boy that's only going to hurt you anyway. Just keep away from Sinister's people."

"If they're so awful, why are we workin' with them, Mama?" Marie asked.

"All sacrifices are justified for the cause, My Daughter."

"Doesn't matter if I stay away from them or not, they'll sure stay away from me," Marie thought. "Who would want a woman with a power like mine?" "I understand, Mama. I'll stay away from them."

They reached the door to the house, and Mystique unlocked it, letting her children go in ahead of her. Marie felt a wave of calmness wash over her as they entered the kitchen and Mystique once again became Raven Darkholme. Life seemed so normal, with only Marie's brother Kurt maintaining an odd appearance, something that seemed to be a staple in the levels under their house. Marie welcomed and embraced the normality, wishing it was more than a mere façade.

Kurt didn't say a single word as they entered the house. He gave a nod of goodnight to both Marie and Raven and then teleported away to his room. Marie felt guilty as she thought of how while she craved the normality that the house provided her, it only served to remind Kurt of how he'd never fit in.

"I'm going to bed," Marie said after a moment.

"Aren't you going to eat anything for dinner first?" Raven asked.

Marie had a sudden desire to laugh at the absurdity of her mother asking her to eat dinner after they'd just had a conference with a man with silver skin, razor-sharp teeth, and a red diamond in the center of his head, but frowned instead. Wasn't the pretense of being a normal family what she wanted? Why was it suddenly funny? Did she really not want to be normal, or was it just that it seemed so fake? The confusion comforted her. She'd heard that it was quite normal for girls her age to feel confused.

"I'm not hungry, Mama," she said.

"Are you sure, because…"

"I'm sure, really," Marie cut her off. "I'm tired and I just want to go to bed."

"Goodnight then, Child," Raven said.

"Goodnight, Mama." Marie walked down the hall, disappearing into its darkness.

*** *** ***

"I haven't foreseen this union between you and Mister Sinister going well on any pathway, Raven," Irene Adler said as she felt her way into the kitchen. Irene reached out until she found a chair, and then sat down, gripping the table for support.

Raven looked up. "I don't think I need your powers to tell me that this time," she said. "I have a pretty good grasp on the fact that I've made a deal with the devil—not that I have not done that many times before."

"That isn't what I mean," Irene said. "I do not think Sinister will betray you in any way that you won't be prepared for. I'm more concerned for Marie."

"Marie?" Raven asked. "Why are you worried about her?"

"In every possible future I've seen, we lose her."

"Lose her? Does she die?"

"It's too far in the future for me to really tell. All I know is, she's gone. I'll know more when the time approaches," Irene said.

"Well, we'll just have to watch her then, and make damn sure nothing happens to her," Raven said.

Irene said nothing. She wasn't sure keeping Marie was going to be a real possibility.

*** *** ***

Gambit walked into Sinister's laboratory, doing the best he could to mask his nervousness. "Monsieur Sinister?"

Sinister turned around, smiling with his mouth full of sharp, pointed teeth. "Yes, Gambit?"

Gambit had to suppress a shudder at the sight of the other man. "You have a device dat negates mutant powers, non?" he asked.

"I have a few," Sinister replied. "What do you need it for?"

"So in case I was attacked by a mutant wit' powers stronger den my own, I'd be able ta turn his off," Gambit said, hoping that Sinister would accept the excuse he had created.

"But your powers would be negated as well," Sinister pointed out.

"I know, but den it would be a fair fight—and I know dat dere's no one who could take Gambit in a fair fight," Gambit said.

Sinister smiled at the young mutant's apparent arrogance. "Well then, I do believe I have just the thing for you. Right this way…"

Gambit followed Sinister, hoping that things would continue to go his way.

*** *** ***

It was late at night, and Marie was sitting on her back porch, watching the stars long after everyone else had gone off to bed. It was dark, except for the celestial light tumbling down from the sky to bathe the solitary girl in pale moonlight. She hugged her knees to her chest, wishing with all her mite that she really did have a normal life, that the people she called her mother, brother, and aunt were really just that, that she lived in a real house, not just a cover for a secret base, and that she wore gloves simply because her hands were cold.

Marie remembered how when she was a small child back in Mississippi she'd wish on the stars, believing those wishes really would come true. She didn't believe on wishes placed on stars anymore. As she looked up at the stars now, their lights seemed almost blinding, as if they were searching for her flaws and judging her right along with the rest if the world.

Suddenly, Marie felt something long since buried well up deep in the pit of her stomach. She tried to ignore it, tried to push it back down into the abyss, but it would not go away. Tears spilled down Marie's cheeks, chilled by the cool night air.

She was still crying when a dark figured approached the house, hidden by the shadows.

*** *** ***

Gambit had not expected Marie to be awake when he got there, never mind sitting on the back porch. His first instinct was to turn and run, but he decided it would be better if he stayed and gave it to her in person. At least he could explain to her what it was that way.

Gambit reached his hand into the pocket of his brown duster and checked to make sure it was still there, reassured by the feel of the compact, cubic device under the palm of his hand. He hoped Marie wouldn't take him giving it to her the wrong way, think it was some sort of come-on or, worse yet, get mad at him for thinking that she needed something to help her control her powers in the first place.

A cloud that had momentarily blocking the moon moved away, causing Marie to again be made clearly visible by its light. Gambit's heart sank as the light hit her face and he saw that she was crying. He was suddenly even more nervous about approaching her than he had been before. What if he just made her hurt more?

Gambit chided himself for being so nervous. He was a thief and had broken into places with security that made the Pentagon look lightly guarded. Now here he was, afraid to approach a crying girl. Slowly, Gambit came out of the shadows and walked up to Marie.

"G'evenin,' Petite," he said. "What's de matter?"

Marie jumped up, fear apparent on her face. "Who are y…" she paused as realization set in. "Wait a second…you're that guy who was with Sinister today—Gambit. My mama told me to stay away from you."

Gambit grinned. "Probably good advice, dere, but I ain't gonna hurt ya, Chére."

Marie slowly sat down, but still kept her distance from Gambit. "Why are you here?" she asked.

"I came here t'give you somet'ing," he replied.

"Give me somethin'? What do you mean?"

"Don' take dis de wrong way, Petite—Gambit jus' t'ought ya might be able t'use dis," Gambit said as he reached into the pocket of his duster and pulled out the little black box. He handed it to her. "Here. It's supposed ta negate mutant powers."

Marie took the box and held it in her trembling, gloved hands. "Why…why would you give this to me?" she asked.

"'Cause I heard about your powers and I didn't t'ink it was right for a person t'have ta go t'rough life not bein' able to touch anyone else," Gambit said.

Marie stared at the box in her hands. "Does it really work?"

"Oui. I tried it out myself 'fore I brought it t'you."

"You push this button here?"


Marie slowly ran her finger over the button. She couldn't believe that such a small device was going to help her with the problem that had plagued her throughout her adolescent life. She pressed down on the button.

Marie felt strange at first. She was lightheaded, and the world seemed to be spinning too quickly. She looked up at Gambit and noticed that he seemed a little dizzy as well. Luckily, the sensation soon passed.

She immediately wanted to test it, to see if her powers really were suppressed. She met Gambit's eyes. "Would you mind if I touched you?" Marie asked. "Just to make sure it works on me."

"Non," Gambit replied. "Go right ahead."

Marie removed one of her long black gloves. Gambit watched intently as the sheer material slid off her delicate fingers and down her arms. Her skin looked so soft, so beautiful in the pale moonlight, and Gambit thought it was a shame that something so beautiful should always be covered.

Marie reached up with her bare hand and touched Gambit on his lightly-stubbled chin. He resisted the urge to nuzzle against her, afraid that the action would frighten her away. Instead, he sat totally still while she explored the right side of his face with awe.

Suddenly realizing how long her hand had lingered on his face, Marie jerked her hand away. "Sorry," she murmured.

"'S'okay," Gambit said, wishing she hadn't pulled away so soon.

Marie looked down at the black box that now set between them. "Thank you—I…I can't tell ya how much this means to me," Marie said. One last moonlit tear rolled down her cheek.

Gambit reached up and wiped the tear away. "Doin' somet'ing t'make you happy is enough, Chére."

Marie blushed. "I…I, um…"

Gambit leaned over and kissed her on the forehead, then stood up. "I should go. I'll see ya around, Marie."

Marie felt herself swoon at the way her name sounded, wrapped in his thick Cajun accent. She wanted to say something to get him not to go, but she was afraid of what might happen if he stayed there any longer. She looked up at him and saw him smiling down at her. "Bye, Gambit," she said. "And again, thank ya."

"You're more den welcome, Chére," he said. "And call me Remy."

"Alright. Bye, Remy."

Remy leaned down and kissed her forehead one more time before disappearing into the night.

Marie looked up at the bright, beautiful stars and smiled.

*** *** ***

Gambit couldn't help but grin as he walked back into Sinister's lair. "What are you so damn happy about?" Sabretooth asked as Gambit walked by.

"Probably been with some girl," Harpoon said. "He looks about as happy as a guy that just got laid."

Gambit just gave them a nod and kept on walking. He wasn't in the mood to deal with any of the Marauders right then, especially those two. He was feeling too good.

Gambit went into his room and fell back onto his bed. He went to sleep quickly, and his night was filled with dreams of Marie.

*** *** ***

The next morning, Marie felt as if she was walking on air. Everything seemed brighter and happier, and she couldn't help but hum as she flitted around the house.

"What has you in such a good mood Mein Schwester?" Kurt asked when Marie came into the living room.

Marie continued to wear a huge smile. "It's just such a beautiful day today," she said.

Kurt glanced outside the window at the pouring rain. "If you say so…"

Marie twirled a few strands of white hair around her index finger. "Well I do. It's a wonderfully beautiful day today."

"Mother wants us to accompany her to Sinister's base today so we can get a better feel for who we are working with," Kurt said.

Marie did her best to mask the thrill she felt at hearing she might have a chance to see Remy. "Do you think it'll be safe there?" she asked.

"Ja," Kurt replied. "Irene says she sees it as being fine."

"Well then, I guess we're going to Sinister's," Marie said. She kissed Kurt on the top of his hair and skipped out of the room.

Kurt looked puzzled as he watched his sister go down the hallway.

*** *** ***

Marie could hardly contain her excitement as they approached Sinister's base. When her mother asked what it was, Marie claimed wrote it off as nervousness, and was grateful that no more questions followed.

As soon as the walked onto the base, Marie began to look for Remy. She felt a pang of disappointment when Mister Sinister walked out to greet them with an extremely tall and hairy blonde man instead of Gambit.

"Mystique, I am so glad you could make it," Sinister said, again wearing his false grin. "And your children, too, I see."

"Of course," Mystique said. "I had to come to see just who—and what—I'd agreed to work with." Her smiled in a way that managed to be both sweet and malicious.

The blonde man accompanying Sinister looked down at them. "Hello there, Raven," he said to Mystique, showing off his fangs.

"Victor," Mystique replied with a curt nod. A look of pure hatred much stronger than any other Marie had ever seen her mother wear was written across Mystique's face.

"Come inside," Sinister said, ignoring Mystique's glare and Sabretooth's sneer. "I will show you what you need to see."

Kurt moved closer to Marie who was lagging behind the others. "I know Irene said we would not have any trouble, but still keep your eyes open. I don't trust these people," he said.

"I will," Marie said, leaving out exactly who she'd be keeping her eyes open for.

Kurt nodded and then teleported a few feet in order to walk beside Mystique. Marie stayed a little bit behind the group, watching Sinister as he showed Mystique what he wanted her to see, carefully avoiding questions and places that would let her know too much. Marie heard only bits and pieces of their conversation as she continued her search for Remy. With an internal sigh of disappointment, she decided he must not be there.

Suddenly, she felt someone grab her by the arm and pull her through a dark doorway. She started to scream, but a gloved hand went over her mouth before she had a chance.

Marie tried to break loose, but the arms that were wrapped around her wouldn't let go. "Chére…calm down. It's jus' me—Remy."

Remy relaxed his grip when he felt Marie stop struggling. She wiggled free of him and then turned around to glare at him. "Ya scared the hell outta me, Swamp Rat!"

Remy raised an eyebrow. "Swamp Rat?" He chuckled. "Sorry, jus' wanted a second alone wit' ya.'

Marie noticed his light laugh. "What's so darn funny?"

"You." Remy laughed again.

"Me! How am I funny?" Marie was exasperated.

"Anyone ever tell ya you're cute when you're mad."

Marie turned red and looked down at her feet. "They're gonna notice I'm gone, Remy."

Remy ran his fingers through her hair and gently stroked her face with his thumb. "Den I promise ta only keep ya a minute." He thought she looked so beautiful, angelically illuminated by the dim light.

"Somehow I feel like a minute won't be quite enough," Marie said, her own words making her blush harder.

"Den stay longer, Chére," he said, his voice deep and husky.

"I can't." She found the courage to look him in the eye. "But I do want to see you again."

"Can I come back by tonight?" Remy asked.

Marie debated with herself for a moment. She knew she was probably running head on into trouble with Gambit, especially if Mystique found out, but despite the voice of reason screaming at her inside of her head, Marie just couldn't turn down a chance to spend more time with this Cajun charmer. "Yeah. My room's the one closest to the backyard. I'll leave a light on in the window. Come by and knock on it, and I'll let you in."

Remy kissed the tip of his gloved finger and then placed it to Marie's mouth, letting his finger rest on her lips for a brief moment. "Until tonight den."

Marie smiled as Remy drew his hand away. "Until tonight," she repeated. She slipped out of the room and ran off to rejoin her family.

*** *** ***

Marie hadn't even realized she'd dozed off until she was awakened by a soft rapping at her window. She sat up in bed with a start, but calmed down when she remembered Remy. She got up and went over to let him in.

"I was startin' to wonder if ya'd changed your mind, Chére," Remy said once he was safe in her room.

"Sorry," Marie said. "I fell asleep."

"Dat's okay. Remy's jus' glad you woke up." He pushed a piece of hair out of her bright green eyes. "You still got dat t'ing I gave ya?"

"You better believe it," Marie said, going over to her bedside table to turn on the black box. She welcomed the following dizziness this time, knowing that it meant that she'd be able to touch Remy.

Gambit moved slowly to her and took her soft face into his hands. He tilted her face up to him and leaned into kiss her.

Marie decided that the dizzying sensation that followed the activation of the box was nothing compared to the feel of Remy kissing her. It was as if she was spinning, flying, and falling all at the same time. One of Remy's hands tangled in her hair while the other one traveled up her nightshirt to caress her bare back. She marveled at how cool his skin felt on hers, and the intensity of her first true intimate skin-to-skin contact made her feel almost drunk.

Remy moved away from her, and Marie repressed the urge to cry out. Why was he stopping? That was the last thing she wanted!

"Chére…" he said breathlessly, "We don' have t'continue if ya don' want to."

Marie knew that logically she should tell him to leave her room, but she just couldn't bring herself to let this end. She needed to be touched—to feel what she'd always been denied. She moved back into his arms and whispered in his ear, "Please, Remy, hold me—touch me—just don't go."

Remy smiled then captured her mouth again, pulling her down with him onto the bed.

*** *** ***

Marie woke up to find herself resting next to something very firm and warm. In sudden moment of panic, she realized that it was skin she was touching, and tried to get away before she did any damage. However, a strong arm held her down on the bed.

"Hey, Chére," she heard Remy's voice rumble just above her. "It's jus' me."

Marie relaxed back against Remy's chest as she remembered the black box and just what it had made possible. "Mornin'," she said groggily.

Remy kissed her on the top of the head. "Mornin'."

"You know you shouldn't be here," Marie said.

"I know," Remy replied. "I'll leave in a minute."

Marie nestled even closer to you. "Thank you again," she said, "For everything."

Remy kissed her. "It was my pleasure," he said as he pulled away.

Marie opened her mouth to say something when a small, fuzzy blue man appeared in front of her bed with a BAMF!

Kurt took one look at the scene in front of him and exclaimed, "Mein Gott!"

"Kurt, hush!" Marie said, pulling the sheet tighter around her. "Mama will hear ya!"

"What in the world are you thinking?" Kurt asked in a voice that was somehow a cross between a yell and a whisper. He jabbed a thick finger at Gambit. "He's one of Sinister's men!"

"Don't ya think I know that?" Marie snapped back. "I obviously don't care."

"Mother's going to be furious when she finds out!" Kurt said.

"She's not going to find out," Marie said.

Kurt gave her a confused look. "Why not?"

"Because you're not going to tell her."

Kurt's yellow eyes grew wide. "Oh no, Marie. I love you, but not that much. I cannot possibly keep this from Mother!"

Marie sat up, still clinging to the sheet. "You have to!" she said, her tone thick with desperation. "Mama just can't find out! She'll make me stay away from Remy!"

"As well she should!" Kurt declared. "No good can come of this!"

"Nightcrawler," Remy said, sitting up. "Please, I mean no harm t'your sister. I care about her."

Kurt looked taken aback at the fact that Remy had said something, his train of thought suddenly stopped. "How are you two touching?"

"Remy gave me a something that makes it possible," Marie explained.

Kurt sighed. He didn't like this guy, and didn't like the idea of his sister with him, but knew how much Marie craved human touch. He just couldn't cause her the sort of pain telling Mystique would cause, although he was sure Marie would just end up hurt in the long run. "Fine, Schwester. Your secret's safe with me."

*** *** ***

After Kurt had left, Remy wrapped his arms around Marie, pulling her close to him. "I don't wanna lose you, Chére," he said, planting little kisses on the top of her head.

Marie sunk into Remy's embrace, reveling in the feel of skin against skin. "I don't want to lose you either," she said, wishing she could ignore the tight, sick feeling in the pit of her stomach that told her they were attempting the impossible.

"I should go now," Remy said. "If Mystique came in here…"

"I know," Marie said, pulling away from him with sadness in her eyes. Then she looked up at him with that same hope that had made Remy first fall for her. "Will ya come back tonight?" she asked.

"Do you t'ink it'll be safe for me after what happened dis mornin'?"

"Yeah. We're just gonna have to be a little more careful. You probably shouldn't stay this late into the morning."

Remy kissed her. "Den I'll see you tonight, Chére."

Marie threw her arms around Remy, clinging to him with all her strength. Remy held her, stroking her hair and whispering soothing words until she pulled away. Marie looked down, embarrassed at her sudden display of desperation. "Sorry. I don't know what came over me," she mumbled.

"It's okay, Marie," he said, taking her chin in his hand and tilting her face up to look at him. "I'm here for whatever you need."

Marie wanted to cry, but she knew if he pulled her back into the shelter of his arms that she'd never be able to let him go. Instead, she forced herself to smile. "Get outta here, ya Swamp Rat," she said, playfully slapping him on the arm.

Remy kissed her one last time before climbing out of bed, getting dressed, and sneaking out the window, managing to stay hidden, even in the light of day.

Once he was gone, Marie let the tears come.

*** *** ***

Once the tear-caused redness had faded away from her cheeks, Marie put on a T-shirt and jeans and wandered into the living room. She hoped that Kurt had kept his promise and that her mama hadn't found out about Remy by some other means. Marie felt a wave of panic when she remembered Irene's powers and wondered if she knew about Remy, and if she did, if she'd tell Raven.

Marie took a few deep, calming breaths when she saw Raven seated on the couch, reading the newspaper. "Good mornin', Mama," she said, doing her best to appear calm, nonchalant.

"Good morning, Marie," Raven said, refolding the paper and setting it on the arm of the couch. "You must've been tired—you slept much later than you usually do."

"I had a hard time sleeping last night," Marie said. After all, it wasn't really a lie.

"I have an assignment for you," Raven said.

"An assignment? For the Brotherhood?" Marie asked.

"Yes. I need you to help me gather new recruits"

"What kind?" Marie asked, surprised that her mother was asking her to do something for the Brotherhood other that didn't include training or following Mystique and Kurt around as an observer. She never thought she'd be considered old enough for a real mission.

"I need you to attend classes at a local college, befriend possible mutants, and if they do turn out to be one of us, convince them to join our cause," Raven explained.

Marie's jaw dropped. "School?" she thought. "That isn't a real mission!" "Mama! I don't want to do that! For cryin' out loud, I'm capable of doing so much more! My mutant powers are as strong—if not stronger—than anyone else here! If you're gonna insist on me bein' a part of the Brotherhood, then the least you can do is treat me like an actual member of the group!"

"I'm not being condescending towards you, Marie" Raven said. "This is important. The Brotherhood is low in numbers. Young people tend to be more eager to listen to our message. You are the only one here young enough to be a student. I need you to do this."

Marie still didn't like the idea, but she knew Mystique well enough to know that the woman did not take "no" for an answer. "When do I start?" she asked.

"You're already enrolled and the new semester starts tomorrow," Raven said.

Marie gave a heavy sigh. "Fine, Mama. I'm gonna go find some breakfast."

"Don't be upset, My Child. This is something that has to be done," Raven said.

"I know, Mama," Marie said as she walked into the kitchen, "I know.

*** *** ***

That night, Marie sat on her bed next to Remy, her head resting on his shoulder and his arm wrapped casually around her waist. "I have to go to school tomorrow," she said.

Remy looked down at her and raised an eyebrow. "School? I t'ought you were almost twenty, shouldn't you have graduated by now or somet'ing?"

Marie blew a strand of hair out of her face. "It's college. Besides, I'm only goin' because Mama wants me to recruit more mutants for the Brotherhood."

"So does dat mean I should let ya get some sleep, seein' as it is a school night, an' all?" Remy teased.

Marie grabbed a pillow from behind her and hit him.

"You really are cute when you're angry," he said between smacks.

"That ain't gonna work this time, Cajun," Marie growled.

"Den how 'bout dis?" Remy asked, grabbing her arms, stealing her pillow, and kissing her with passionate intensity.

"That could work," Marie said with a sly smile. "Kiss me again and I'll tell ya for sure."

Remy was happy to oblige.

*** *** ***

It had only been one day, and Marie already hated school. She hadn't had to go to class since junior high back in Mississippi, with all her schooling since her mutant powers manifested being administered by Raven. Now here she was, being forced to socialize with people her own age.

She was on the way to her car when she caught the sight of a familiar figure out of the corner of her eye. She spun around to face him. "Remy!" she exclaimed. "What are you doin' here?"

Remy pulled Marie in to give her a quick hug. "What? You not happy t'see ol' Remy, Chére?"

"It ain't that, it's just, well, I'll be late getting' home."

"Forget goin' home. Come wit' me instead. I wanna take you out," Remy said.

"Out? Like on a date?" Marie asked.

"Yeah. Dat okay wit' you?"

Marie felt torn. She wanted nothing more than to go with Remy, but she knew she couldn't just come home late. "Mama will kill me if I don't get back."

"Call her an' tell her dat you met some possible mutants an' your gonna spend some time wit' dem, see if you can gain deir trust."

Marie smiled. "You're good Remy—maybe a little too good."

"Does dat mean you're comin' wit me?" Remy asked.

Marie linked her arm with his. "I think there's a payphone inside here."

*** *** ***

Marie and Remy walked through the downtown streets, hand in hand. Anyone who saw them would think they were just a normal couple, and Marie couldn't remember ever being happier in her life. Remy didn't act nervous around her, didn't avoid being close to her because he was afraid of her powers. Instead, he stayed as close to her as he possible could, finding ways to show his affection for her without touching her skin. Marie was surprised to discover that she didn't even really miss the black box—although she knew she'd never willing give it up for good.

Remy had taken her to a little café he knew for some coffee first, and they'd talked for hours. Marie felt completely comfortable and at home with Remy, and she'd realized just how alike they were. She thought that might have something to do with the fact that they'd had fairly similar childhoods really, each of them growing up beside the Mississippi River. After the café, they'd gone for a stroll around the town, looking in shops, talking, laughing, and simply relishing the fact that they were together.

However, it was getting late now, and Marie knew she had to get home. Mystique wouldn't like it if she stayed out too incredibly late. "I need to be heading back soon, Remy," she said.

Remy gave her hand a squeeze. "I know, Chére. I'm parked jus' a little ways up here."

"Can we do this again?" Marie asked.

"Of course," Remy replied. "Want me t'meet ya after school again tomorrow?"


They walked in silence until they reached his motorcycle. "Bring me back to the school, alright?," Marie said. "My car's parked there." She climbed on the back of the Harley and wrapped her arms around Remy.

"Okay. You still want me ta come over tonight?" Remy asked.

Marie nuzzled her face against his shoulder. "You better, Swamp Rat."

Remy took hold the tiny, black-leather clad hands that enfolded his waist. "I love you, Marie," he said, looking out at the sunset.

Marie hesitated for a moment. She wasn't sure when the last time anyone had said those words to her was—if anyone had ever even said them to her at all. Her silence made Remy tense, afraid he's said too much too fast. But he felt himself begin to breathe again when Marie leaned in so close to his ear that he could feel the heat coming off her lips, which were all but touching his skin. "I love you, too."

Remy grinned as he started the motorcycle and rode off, Marie clinging tightly to him from behind.

*** *** ***

Kurt was waiting at the door when Marie got home. "So did you have an enjoyable time with those 'possible mutants' you met at school?" he asked.

"Um, yeah. Where's Mama?"

"She's down at the base with Irene," Kurt replied. He moved a little closer to Marie. "You weren't with anybody you met today. You were with that guy—Gambit, weren't you? Admit it, Marie."

"I guess there's no point in denying it, since you know about me an' Remy anyway," Marie said. "So yes, I was with him."

"You can't keep doing this," Kurt said.

"Keep doing what? Keep spending time with the man I love?" Marie asked as she balled her hands into fists and planted them on her hips.

"No. Sneaking around with someone that's no good for you. And what do you mean you love him? You barely even know him!"

Kurt's last comment made Marie furious. "I do love Remy!" she yelled. "How dare you say I don't! You don't know a thing about us!" Marie ran to her bedroom, tears streaming down her cheeks.

Kurt felt immediately bad for what he had said. Marie was right—how could he know what she felt for this Gambit character? Maybe he wasn't as bad as Kurt had assumed if he could make Marie so happy. He walked down the hall and knocked on Marie's door. "Can I come in?" he asked.

"No!" Marie called from behind the door. "Go away!"

"Please? I'm sorry for what I said. I didn't mean it. I'm just worried about you, Marie. Let me in, okay?" Kurt said

Marie opened the door. "You really didn't mean it?" she asked with a sniffle.

Kurt gave her a hug. "Of course not. But I did mean what I said about you needing to quit running off with him. I know you're in love, and it's wonderful for you to be touched, but this cannot possibly have a good outcome. You're going to get yourself hurt."

"You don't understand, Kurt," Marie said. "Remy's the only man who's ever shown any real interest in me, and I happen to share his feelings. I can't walk away from this. I'm untouchable, Kurt—most men wouldn't want me."

Kurt stared down at his blue, three-fingered hands. "You think I don't understand? Look at me! Do you honestly think any woman would ever look at me with anything but fear and disgust? I'd do almost anything for what you say you have with Remy, but I wouldn't risk loosing everything I've ever known."

"Yes you would, Kurt," Marie said, the tears threatening to come again, "For true love, I know you would."

*** *** ***

Marie opened one eye and glared at the alarm clock as it blared some country song. She hit the snooze button with a groan.

"Don' dat mean it's time for you to get up, Chére?" Remy asked from behind her, his voice made husky by sleep.

"I don't wanna," she said with an audible pout.

Remy wrapped his arms around her. "Alright, den let's jus' stay right here," he said with a crooked grin.

Marie rolled around to face him and smiled at the sight of his tousled hair and bleary red eyes. "Maybe I will stay just a little while longer…"

Remy moved closer, but before their lips could make contact there was a knock at the door. "Marie, you're going to be late!"

"Dammit," Marie muttered, then louder so the woman outside the door could hear her she said, "Coming, Irene!"

"Gotta go, I guess, Chére," Remy said.

Marie reached up and gently pushed away a lock of reddish-brown hair that had fallen in front of his face. "Yeah, I really should. You sure make it difficult to get outta bed, though."

Remy kissed her with a slow, gentle passion before letting her go. "Get on up. You don' wanna be late for class."

Marie rolled her eyes as she sat up. "Oh, right, because that's so not a waste of my time."

Remy moved to hold her again, but noticed her switching off the little black box on the bedside table and decided against it. He didn't feel much in the mood for a coma that morning. "I'll go den," he said.

Marie got out of bed and started getting herself ready for school. "Yeah, I don't want Mama or Irene coming in here and findin' ya. Mama's already wary enough about this whole deal with Sinister without finding out you've seduced her daughter. She learns that, and odds are the deal'll be off an' I'll never see ya again," she said.

Remy kissed her on the top of the head, careful to avoid touching her skin. "Dat's not gonna happen," he promised. "Not'in's gonna keep me away from you, Chére."

Marie looked up at him, and Remy was glad he still saw a flicker of hope in her eyes. "I love you," she said.

Remy placed his lips to her hair. "And I love you." He left through the window, using the pre-dawn darkness to easily cover his escape.

*** *** ***

Marie put the black box into her bedside table drawer and grabbed her bookbag, slinging it over one shoulder. She ran out the door, but stopped short as Kurt suddenly appeared in front of her. "Guten Morgen, Schwester," he said.

Marie let out a little help and held out her hand to steady herself. "Kurt! How many times do I have to tell ya not to sneak up on a gal like that?!"

"Sorry," Kurt said. He regarded her for a moment with one eyebrow raised. "You've been with him again, haven't you?"

"I…I…I don't know what you're talkin' about!" Marie stammered.

Kurt crossed his arms in front of him. "Am I supposed to believe that?"

"You're still not gonna tell Mama, right?" she said with a sigh.

"I cannot continue to cover for you like this," Kurt said.

"Kurt, you have to! I couldn't take it if I lost Remy!" Her big green eyes pleaded with her brother.

Kurt blew out. "Fine, I will. Nevertheless, be careful! Mother's probably going to find out sooner or later—especially with Irene around."

Marie ignored the last part of his statement, and gave Kurt a quick hug. "Thanks. You're the best." She ran out of the house and to her car in order to make it in time for her early-morning class.

Kurt crossed his arms over his chest and furrowed his brow as he watched Marie go. He knew it was only a matter of time before everything came crashing down around her, and Kurt wondered if she'd ever be able to pick up the pieces.

*** *** ***

The mutant known as Destiny stared out into the black nothingness, seeing images of a world she'd never been able to gaze on with her own eyes. Recently, her visions had been almost all focused on Marie, the girl whom Destiny had grown to consider her niece, and a boy with strange eyes. Destiny believed his name was Gambit, and that he was one of Sinister's recruits. Destiny knew she should tell Mystique about these new pathways she was seeing, and hated keeping such a secret from her oldest and dearest friend, but nothing was clear yet. It was all too far into the future, and Destiny did not want to alarm Mystique because of a few distant shadows. Besides, if it was true, Destiny was not sure that she could do something that would cause Marie to hurt the way should would if Mystique knew what was happening. So Destiny continued to sit, searching for the glimmer of a future where Marie simply left the red-eyed boy on her own accord.

*** *** ***

Marie gathered her books and left the classroom. A couple of girls were walking behind her and she could hear them whispering.

"Why do you think she wears gloves all the time?" one girl asked.

"Because she's weird," said the other girl. "She probably has some sort of freaky skin condition."

"Maybe she's a leper," the first girl said. They giggled as the walked past Marie.

A young blonde woman approached Marie. She'd heard what the other two girls had said, and she felt bad for Marie. The blonde knew what it was like to be considered different from everyone else, what with her years in the circus and now being a sorceress-in-training.

The woman tapped Marie on the shoulder. Marie stopped walking and turned to face her. "Yeah?" she asked.

"Um, I just wanted to say that I heard what those women said, and I just wanted to see if you were all right," the blonde said with a German accent that immediately reminded Marie of her brother, Kurt.

"Don't worry about it," Marie said. "I didn't take anything they said to heart."

"Good," the blonde woman said, "Because they're idiots."

"My sentiments exactly."

Suddenly realizing that she hadn't introduced herself, the blonde held out her hand. "Amanda Sefton," she said.

Marie shook Amanda's outstretched hand. "Marie Darkholme."

"Darkholme? Is that not German?" Amanda asked.

"Yeah, it is," Marie said. "Both my foster mother and brother are German."

"Do you speak German?" Amanda asked. "I've only recently moved here from Germany, and it seems as if no one speaks my language."

"A little," Marie said. "Just the few word and phrases I've picked up from Mama and Kurt."

Amanda's eyes lit up. "I'm glad to have met you, Marie," she said.

Marie smiled. "I'm glad I met you, too." She knew she'd found a friend and—possibly—even a new recruit.

*** *** ***

"So tell me about your brother," Amanda said as she and Marie sat down at a table in the college's dining hall to eat lunch. "He's German, right?"

Marie swallowed a bite of her sandwich. "Yeah. He lived there for a while with Mama until they moved here and picked me up."

"I'd like to meet him," Amanda said. "I haven't spoken with anyone from Germany since I came to the States."

Marie wondered what Amanda would think if she saw Kurt's blue fur, yellow eyes, pointy ears, three-fingered hands, and long prehensile tail. "Um, maybe. Kurt's sorta, well, shy."

"Oh. Tell him you met me, at least," Amanda said. She chewed on her bottom lip for a moment, thinking. "Maybe I could write him a letter and he could write me back. That would almost be like having a conversation."

"I'll talk to him about it," Marie said.

Across the room, an extremely tall man hit his head on the door leading out of the service line and into the main eating area. "Hey Freak!" some guy called from a table full of jocks. "Better be careful there going through a door made for normal people!"

Amanda and Marie turned around in unison to watch a tall, muscular young man with shoulder-length black hair and blue eyes walk straight past the guy who had mocked him and sit down by himself at a table. Marie was amazed at how he just walked right past the tormentor, although she was sure he probably could've taken him and all his buddies. He was one of the biggest people Marie had ever seen.

"Man, that guy's a colossus," Marie muttered.

"He is awfully large," Amanda said. "And alone."

"Wanna go sit with him?" Marie asked.

Amanda had already picked up her tray. "Let's go."

*** *** ***

Piotr Rasputin picked at the food on his plate. He hated going to college, hated living in America, and most of all hated the people who called him "Freak." He wished he could just go back to Russia where he felt like he belonged, but his parents had sent him to America hoping he'd have a better life, a better chance at an education. That wasn't what was happening though. Piotr hung his head in shame. Apparently all he was good for was farm work.

Piotr looked up and had to fight to keep his jaw from dropping. Two absolutely stunning women were walking towards him. He figured it had to be some sort of joke. Either that, or they were going to just walk right past him. They didn't. When they reached his table, the two women stopped.

"May we sit here?" asked the blonde girl with a German accent.

Piotr's eyes grew wide as he struggled to remember how to talk. "Um, of course."

"Thank you," she said as she and her friend sat down. "I'm Amanda Sefton, and this is Marie Darkholme."

"Hey," Marie said, pushing a lock of white hair behind her ear. Piotr noticed that she had the most beautiful green eyes he had ever seen.

"I am Piotr Rasputin."

"Where are you from?" Amanda asked. "I noticed your accent."

"Russia," Piotr said. "Are you both German?"

Amanda shook her head. "I am, but Marie's from Mississippi. She has German people in her family, though."

Piotr was instantly charmed by the energetic blonde, but something kept his attention drifting back to the much quiet brunette. He thought she must be the most beautiful woman he'd ever seen.

"How long have you been in this country?" Amanda asked.

"About one month. Just long enough to get settled in before classes started," Piotr said.

"Do you like it here?" Amanda asked.

Piotr shrugged. "I guess I do. I miss my home in Russia terribly. I have no friends here."

"We'll be your friends," Marie said.

Piotr smiled at the statement, not sure if he was happier that he had friends, or that one of those friends was Marie Darkholme.

Marie smiled back. Although she was not certain about whether or not Amanda was a mutant, she was all but positive about Piotr. Either way, that made two possible recruits in one day. Mama would be happy.

*** *** ***

Marie looked around the parking lot, trying to find Amanda. She gone to her car, but apparently she's parked where someone had spilled some nails, and she now had three flat tires. She knew if she got home that she could have her mother bring her back up here with spares. She wished more than anything that Remy was there like he normally was, but he'd had something to do for Mister Sinister, and she wouldn't be able to see him until that night.

"Marie!" Piotr called from behind her.

Marie stopped, forced herself to smile, and turned around. "Hey, Petey, What's up?"

Piotr smiled at the nickname. "Are you on your way home?" he asked.

"I was," Marie replied, "until I discovered I only have one functional tire. I'm trying to find Amanda, see if maybe she can give me a ride."

"Would you like me to take you home?" Piotr asked.

Marie immediately thought of Remy. Would he like her riding home with this guy? Probably not with the way Piotr was looking at her right then. "Um, I really should try to find Amanda," she said.


Marie suddenly remembered the real point to her being in college in the first place—to earn the trust of possible mutants and recruit them for the Brotherhood. Well, Piotr was a possible mutant, and therefore, shouldn't she be eager to spend as much time with his as she could? Remy would understand, wouldn't he? Marie could do with Piotr what she'd been claiming to do with imaginary mutants since she'd first started sneaking around with Remy. But what if Piotr made a move on her? How would she handle that?

"Thanks for the offer, though," she said.

"You're welcome. I guess I will see you tomorrow," Piotr said.

The look of disappointment on his face affected Marie more than she would've expected. She could feel herself softening at the sight of his small pout and sad eyes. "Oh what's the harm in one ride home, especially in a situation like this?" she asked herself.

"Piotr, wait!" she called out as he started to walk away. "I changed my mind."

Piotr smiled again and the two of them walked to his car.

*** *** **

Raven was in the kitchen when Marie got home. She watched her sitting in the car with a large young man that Raven knew had to be a mutant. Raven figured he must've been the person that Marie had gone off with everyday after school. She'd wondered if her daughter had been seeing someone, the way she'd been acting recently. And if Marie could convince this guy to join the Brotherhood… Well, Raven could just imagine the sort of power a man his size could posses.

Marie came into the house and her companion drove away. "Who was that?" Raven asked from the kitchen.

"Piotr Rasputin," Marie called back. "He just moved here from Russia."

"Is he a mutant?"

"I'm still not sure, but I think so."

"Come into the kitchen and talk to me."

Marie put her bookbag down by the door and went in to see her mother. "Yes, Mama?"

"Is he who you've been with everyday after school?"

Marie almost said "no," but then realized that it would be a good alibi. "Yes."

"Have you gained his trust yet?" Raven asked.

"I'm tryin'," Marie said. "These things take time. You can't exactly just go up to somebody an' say 'Hey, I'm a mutant, are you?' Well, unless you're a big fan of lynch mobs."

"Find out as soon as you can. We do not have time to waste," Raven said.

"I know, Mama. I have an assignment I gotta read by tomorrow mornin', so I'm goin' to my room," Marie said.

"I'll call you at dinner."

Marie nodded. "Yeah, Mama."

*** *** ***

Kurt sat at the desk in his room, reading the note his sister had given him from a German girl named Amanda Sefton. Marie told Kurt that Amanda had been eager to talk to someone from her own country, so she'd decided to write him. Kurt read Amanda's note for what felt like the hundredth time. Her handwriting was soft and flowing, and Kurt thought she seemed like the kindest person in the world.

He wanted to write he back, but he was unsure of what to say. He looked down at his strange hands and wondered what Amanda would say if she could see him. Would she think he was a monster, or just some freak that belonged in a sideshow? The few people, aside from his family, who had ever seen him had recoiled in fear and branded him a demon. Why should she be any different?

Still, Kurt craved human companionship, something he'd had very little of in his life. Marie was his only true friend, and she was his sister. He decided writing Amanda a letter couldn't possibly be that bad. After all, you couldn't tell what a person really looked like just from reading a letter. Amanda did seem very kind, and she wanted to make contact with someone from her own country so badly. Kurt couldn't let her down.

He picked up a pen and began to write.

*** *** ***

Marie waited anxiously for Remy's nightly visit. She felt a little guilty for accepting the ride from Piotr, although she wasn't sure why. She had only been doing her job after all. Still, she could tell Piotr liked her, and she hadn't really let on that she was interested in someone else. But again, she was simply doing her job. She couldn't exactly do something to drive Piotr off before she even had a chance to discover if he truly was a mutant.

Remy tapped on the window and Marie let him in. He smiled down at her. "I missed you so much today, Chére," Remy said.

Marie pushed back the gnawing feeling of guilt. "I missed you, too."

Remy never ceased to be amazed by Marie's flawless beauty. "Is it on?" he asked.

Marie nodded, and Remy pulled her into his arms, giving her a deep, passionate kiss. To Marie's surprise, he then pulled away.

Marie felt suddenly cold with Remy standing away from her, and a wave of panic crashed over her. "He knows!" said the voice of irrationality in the back of her head. "Somehow he knows I was talking to Piotr and he's mad!" "What's wrong?" she asked.

"Not'ing, Chére," Remy replied. "I jus' t'ought dat maybe since we didn't get to dis afternoon dat we could go out t'night."

"Sounds good," Marie said, just relieved to hear that he wasn't upset. "Where to?"

"I know a place."

Marie looked down at her oversized nightshirt and bare legs. "Okay, just let me get dressed."

*** *** ***

Remy took Marie to a little Cajun restaurant on the outskirts of town. It was small, dark, and smoky, but with Remy there Marie thought it felt cozy—and it had some of the best food she'd ever eaten.

Remy took Marie's hand and started to help her out of the booth. "C'mon, I wan' you t'meet de owner. He's a friend of mine."

"Is it okay for someone to see us together?" Marie asked.

"Dis'll be fine," Remy said. "Jacques don' know 'bout Sinister."

Remy led Marie back to the kitchen and over to a short yet large balding man with a bushy red mustache. "Remy LeBeau!" Jacques exclaimed. "I t'ought you might be out dere when one of my waitresses came in here talkin' 'bout a handsome young man wit' red eyes!" He gave Remy a backslapping hug.

"Bonjour Jacques," Remy said with a wide grin. "I wan' you t'meet Marie."

"Well ain't you a fine little t'ing," Jacques said. "You Remy's woman of de hour?"

Remy put his arm around Marie's shoulder. "She's my woman of every hour."

Jacques laughed, making his belly shake. "Well, nice ta meet ya, Marie." He took her hand and placed a gentle kiss on the back of her glove. Remy took Marie's hand away and gave Jacques a mock-threatening look.

Jacques laughed again. "You keepin' LeBeau in line, Marie?" he asked.

"Doin' my best," Marie said, speaking up for the first time since they'd entered the kitchen.

Jacques gave yet another belly-shaking laugh. "Southern gal, I hear. I t'ink you done real good for yourself wit' dis one, LeBeau."

Remy smiled at Marie with a look that was a mix of adoration and pride. "Yeah, I know I'm lucky."

Remy's attitude towards Marie in front of Jacques made her feel almost giddy inside. He was showing her off, obviously proud to be with her. She knew that some women would infer that that meant he saw her as a possession, but Marie knew that wasn't true in this case. Remy just wanted his friends to meet the woman he was in love with, and personally, Marie was happy to be shown off. She tried to ignore the whole "woman of the hour" comment.

"Well, I gotta get back ta my work now," Jacques said. "It was good talkin' t'ya, LeBeau. And again, nice meetin' you, Marie."

"Nice meetin' you, too," Marie said.

Jacques gave Remy another backslapping hug. "You two kids go have fun. Keep him in line, Marie," Jacques said.

"Don' worry 'bout payin' Dis one's on the house," Jacques called as Marie and Remy began to walk away.

Remy stopped and turned around. "You don' have to do dat," he said.

"How you plan ta stop me?"

"Guess you got a point dere, Homme, dis bein' your place an' all," Remy said with a laugh.

"I mean it, Remy."

Remy gave Jacques a roguish smile as he left the kitchen, hand in hand with Marie.

*** *** ***

Marie began to think back over the conversation with Jacques once they got back to their table. "Why was Jacques so insistent that I keep you in line?" she asked. "And why did he call me your 'woman of the hour?""

"Don' know," Remy said with an uncomfortable shrug.

Marie narrowed her eyes. "Don't you lie ta me, Sugah. You know exactly what he meant. Is that all I am? Your woman of the hour?"

"No!" Remy said with such force that it startled Marie. He calmed down quickly and took her hands. "Chére, you are not jus' a fling. Yes, dere have been quite a few girls in my past, but none of dem have meant anywhere near as much t'me as you do."

Marie stared down at their intertwined hands. "How can you be sure?" she asked.

"Because I've never told a woman I love her an' it not be true."

"How can you be so sure it's true with me?" Marie asked. "Was it true when you told other girls?"

Remy let go of one of Marie's hands to take hold of her face and tilt it up so their eyes met. "I never told anot'er girl I love her, Marie. Jus' you. You're de only woman Remy ever loved."

Marie didn't know what to say. He was looking at her with such intensity that her stomach was doing flip-flops. So she said the first thing that came to mind. "I wish I could kiss you now."

Remy smiled at her, put one of his gloved fingers first to his lips and then to hers. Marie blushed. "I love ya, Swamp Rat," she said

"Wanna dance?" Remy asked.

Marie was a little taken aback by the unexpected question. "There's no music," she said.

"Dat's easy to fix," Remy said. "C'mon, Chére, let's go."

Remy led her to the jukebox and went through the selections, carefully deciding what to play. After a moment he put in his money and chose a song. He turned around and pulled Marie to him as the music started. He held her close, slowly swaying back and forth to the rhythm of the song. Marie smiled as she heard the lyrics, wondering if they reminded Remy of her.

They read you Cinderella
You hoped it would come true
That one day your Prince Charming
Would come rescue you
You like romantic movies
You never will forget
The way you felt when Romeo kissed Juliet
All this time that you've been waiting
You don't have to wait no more

I can love you like that
I would make you my world
Move Heaven and Earth if you were my girl
I will give you my heart
Be all that you need
Show you you're everything that's precious to me
If you give me a chance
I can love you like that

I never make a promise I don't intend to keep
So when I say forever, forever's what I mean
I'm no Casanova but I swear this much is true
I'll be holdin' nothin' back when it comes to you
You dream of love that's everlasting
Well baby open up your eyes

I can love you like that
I would make you my world
Move Heaven and Earth if you were my girl
I will give you my heart
Be all that you need
Show you you're everything that's precious to me
If you give me a chance
I can love you like that

You want tenderness-I got tenderness
And I see through to the heart of you
If you want a man who understands
You don't have to look very far

I can love you
I can
I can love you like that
I would make you my world
Move Heaven and Earth if you were my girl
I will give you my heart
Be all that you need
Show you you're everything that's precious to me
I can love you like that
I would make you my world
Move Heaven and Earth if you were my girl
I will give you my heart
Be all that you need
Show you you're everything that's precious to me
I can love you like that
I would make you my world
Move Heaven and Earth if you were my girl

The music stopped, and Remy kept holding Marie, not wanting to let go. "Don' ever doubt my love for you, Chére," he said softly.

"I won't, Remy," Marie promised.

"You ready t'go home?" Remy asked.

"Are you gonna stay with me?"


"Then let's go."

*** *** ***

"Hey Amanda!" Marie called down the hall to her friend.

Amanda stopped and turned around. "Hello, Marie."

"I brought you a letter from Kurt," Marie said.

Amanda looked very excited at that. "He actually wrote me!" She frowned. "It doesn't say anything like 'leave me alone, weirdo,' does it?"

Marie laughed and handed Amanda the letter. "Well, I don't know how to say 'leave me alone, weirdo' in German, so I can't read over it for you and check, but knowin' Kurt I'm pretty sure it doesn't."

Amanda unfolded the note and began to read. After a moment, she giggled. "You brother has a quite a wit," she said.

"Just one of his many charming qualities," Marie replied.

"How are you two lovely ladies doing this morning?" Piotr asked as he joined them.

"Good," Marie said.

"Fine," Amanda replied between giggles.

"What is she laughing at?" Piotr asked.

"A letter from my brother. Apparently he's witty."

"Oh." Piotr looked down, and Marie could've sworn she saw him blushing. "Um, Marie?" he asked, "Would you like to go out somewhere with me after class?"

"I can't," Marie said, quickly reminding herself that she'd promised to meet Remy by the lake that afternoon. "I have plans."

"Maybe tomorrow then?" Piotr asked hopefully.

Again Marie was torn between her love for Remy and her loyalty to both the Brotherhood and her mother. She'd been meeting Remy almost everyday after her classes—how would he feel if he knew she'd chosen to go off with someone other than him one day? Then again, she'd promised Mystique that she'd win Piotr's trust as soon as possible, and this would be a good way to do just that. Remy wouldn't mind if she was just doing her job…

"I'm free tomorrow."

*** *** ***

Marie found herself enjoying her time with Piotr despite the fact that she had promised herself that she wouldn't. Piotr was a nice guy and it was relaxing to spend a day without being afraid of being caught. A few times during the day she even entertained the thought of what it would be like to be with Piotr for more than just one date, but she always remembered Remy then, and pushed those thoughts from her mind. Being with Piotr was business, not cheating. She wasn't going to do anything to change that particular fact.

Still, he was handsome, kind, and easy to talk to. Marie suddenly felt almost sick. What if she didn't love Remy? What if the feelings she felt for him were simply a combination of gratitude for the fact he'd given her a chance to touch and the just the fact that he was there. Marie was confused again, and she'd long since grown tired of confusion.

Marie brought Piotr back to her house so Raven could give him the once-over, secretly deciding whether or not he had what she wanted in a member of her Brotherhood. Now she and Piotr were sitting on the back porch, talking under the stars. Marie couldn't help but be reminded of when she first met Remy, and the thought of possibly not really being in love with him made her want to cry.

"What's on your mind, Little One?" Piotr asked.

Marie pulled herself back into the present. "Nothing really, just lookin' at the sky," she lied.

"I cannot get over how beautiful you are," Piotr told her.

Marie blushed. "Thanks."

Piotr went to touch her face with his bare hand and Marie jumped back. Piotr gave her a confused look. "Is there something wrong?" he asked.

"No. Well, yes. It's just that…" Every excuse that Marie had ever given to explain why she avoided human contact flooded her mind, but she decided that this time she should just tell the truth. If Piotr was what she thought he was, she might finally be able to win his trust. "I'm a mutant," she told him. "If my skin touches another person's, I 'borrow' their personality and memories, and, if they also happen to be a mutant, their powers."

"Oh," Piotr said softly. A long silence followed before he finally told her, "I am a mutant, as well"

"I thought you might be," Marie said. "What are your powers?"

"I am unusually strong," Piotr began, "and I can make my skin turn into this sort of organic metal that makes me impervious to harm."

Marie sorted out her thoughts, doing her best to make what she was about to say sound conversational and not like the rehearsed speech that it was. "Do you ever get tired of normal humans?" she asked. "Do you ever wish you could show them that you're not what they think—that you're really better than them?"

Piotr sighed. "Since I moved to America, all the time."

"There is a group, the Brotherhood of Mutants, that fights for mutants, helping them—us—to rise above the oppression of the human race."

Piotr looked up, the gleam in his eyes conveying obvious interest. "There is?"

"Yes. I'm a part of it," Marie told him. "My whole family is."

"You are serious, Marie?"

"Yep. And you're welcome to join, if ya'd like."

"Perhaps I shall," Piotr said. "Can I go home and think about it and give you my answer tomorrow?"


Piotr got up to leave, and Marie stood with him. "You are beautiful, Little One," he said.

"Even though I can't touch?" Marie asked.

Piotr laughed. "Of course, Marie." He looked thoughtful for a moment. "May I try something?" he asked.

Marie shrugged. "Sure."

Piotr's skin changed from normal to biometallic…

*** *** ***

Gambit knew he shouldn't have come over that early into the night, but he just had to see Marie. He'd gone to her bedroom, found it empty, and then made his way around to the backyard to see if maybe she was on the porch again.

He found her out there, sitting beside a man Gambit had never seen before. Gambit stayed back from them, close enough that he could see them, but not actually hear them. He convinced himself that this meant he was not spying on her, but simply observing.

Gambit watched them stand, and the man gaze down at Marie adoringly, and Gambit didn't like the look in that man's eyes. He was about to go over there and ask that guy what he was doing there with his woman, when he saw something that made him stop short. The man with Marie suddenly grew even taller and his skin turned into what appeared to be metal. He touched Marie's face and then leaned in, kissing her lightly at first, but then with growing passion.

Gambit stared at them for a moment and watched as Marie began to respond to the kiss, wrapping her arms around the metal man. Gambit couldn't fully comprehend what he was seeing. That was Marie—his Marie!—with someone else. "Non," Gambit whispered, "dis can't be real."

But Gambit knew it was true. He was there, watching it with his own two eyes He scolded himself for ever believing that it could work with Marie in the first place. He'd been happy, and if there was one thing that Gambit knew he'd never be allowed, it was true happiness. Now he'd lost Marie. A darker thought crept into his mind—maybe he'd never really had her in the first place.

Gambit turned, unable to watch any longer. Lighting a cigarette with the tip of his finger, he walked away.

*** *** ***

The initial shock that Marie felt when Piotr kissed her was wearing off. Her first thought was to pull away, but then she changed her mind, deciding that if she kissed Piotr back then she could see if the feelings she felt for him were anything like the ones she had for Remy. She waited for that warm, tingly, weak-in-the-knees feeling that she got whenever she as much as held Remy's hand, but I never came. For all Marie the emotions Piotr's touch stirred within her, she might as well have been kissing a wall.

She wanted to burst out in to song, do cartwheels across the backyard, shout from the top of a tall building—anything to express the sheer joy she felt over realizing that she did love Remy. However, she knew that such exuberance over not enjoying the kiss would hurt Piotr, and she didn't want that. She pulled away from him and said, "I can't."

"Why not?" Piotr asked.

"Because there's someone else."


A long pause followed until Marie said. "I'm sorry, Petey. I do like you, it's just that…"

Piotr cut her off. "It is all right, Little One. You do not need to explain your feelings to me."

"I do still want us to be friends," Marie said. She realized after she said it that she really did want to be friends with him, and probably would even if he hadn't been a possible recruit. She did like him—he just wasn't Remy.

Piotr smiled, but Marie could see the pain in his eyes. "But of course. I could not turn away from you simply because of what you feel inside your heart."

"Thank you," Marie said.

Piotr gave her a quick hug. "Do Svidaniya, Douchka," he whispered in her ear before walking away.

*** *** ***

Gambit ignored everyone as he entered Sinister's base, kept himself from even as much as glaring at the Marauders as they taunted him about being back before the morning for once and asking if he'd actually found a girl who could resist him. He'd fought back the urge to attack them, fight each and every one of them with all he was worth, pretend he was face to face with the guy who had been all over his Marie. However, Gambit knew that while it might seem like a good idea at the moment, later he'd seriously regret getting into a fight with someone like Sabretooth—if there would be a later after that.

Gambit went into his room and slammed the door. He swept his hands across the table, knocking everything to the ground, breaking a couple of glasses and a dirty ashtray. He did the same thing to his desk, then knocked over his furniture and pulled all the sheets off his bed.

Gambit stood still and near-breathless, surveying the damage he'd done to his room. He looked down at the floor and saw a picture of Marie staring up at him. The glass was shattered, marring most of her face except the area around her eyes. He picked up the picture and fought back the hot tears that were forming in his eyes. "Mon Dieu…" he said to himself. "Her eyes. How I love her eyes…"

Gambit dropped the picture and turned on his radio, hoping maybe some music would calm him down. He discovered he'd have no such luck, as the sounds of Bob Dylan filled the room.

With all these promises you left me
But where are you tonight, Sweet Marie?
Well, I waited for you when I was half sick
Yes, I waited for you when you hated me
Well, I waited for you inside of the frozen traffic
When you knew I had some other place to be
Now, where are you tonight, Sweet Marie?

Gambit touched the radio and watched as it first began to glow a deep red and then exploded, silencing the music throughout his room, but not inside of his mind. He looked back down at the picture, those deep green eyes staring up at him.

"But where are you tonight, Sweet Marie?"

*** *** ***

Marie sat alone in the college's library after school. Remy hadn't come to her the night before, nor had he met her after class. She guessed that he could've had something to do for Sinister, but would he go off without telling her? "Maybe he left and didn't have the chance to say anything to me," Marie thought.

Marie kept trying to push away the more darker thoughts invading her brain, but they just did not seem to want to leave. She wondered if maybe he'd grown tired of her and was blowing her off. That was the last thing she wanted to believe. Marie remembered everything he'd said to her at Jacques's, how he'd told her to never doubt his love for her. But she also remembered what Jacques had said. Did Remy really go through women that quickly? The way he'd held her, kissed her, made love to her with such tenderness and passion, it had all seemed so sincere, so pure. But what if that was just the way he was with all women?

Marie felt like she was going to cry. She wished Remy was there to assure her that she was indeed the woman he loved. She wanted to tell him what had happened with Piotr, and have Remy tell her that it was okay and that he understood, finally ridding her of her guilt and setting everything right between them. She wanted him there so she could just look at him, listen to him, feel loved. She couldn't believe she'd ever doubted her feelings for him. She may have fallen for him quickly, but Marie knew her love was genuine.

Amanda came into the library and sat across from Marie. "Marie, are you feeling all right?" Amanda asked as soon as she got a good look at her friend's face.

"Why? Do I look that bad?" Marie asked.

Amanda nodded. "You look a little pale—like maybe you don't feel so well. Are you sick?"

Marie shrugged. "You could say that."

"Want to talk about it?"


Amanda dropped the subject and the sound of Marie's brisk tone. She reached into her pocket and pulled out a folded piece of paper. "Here's a note for Kurt," she said, handing the paper to Marie.

Marie put the note into the front pouch of her bookbag. "Y'all sure have seemed to hit it off," she said. "Was that you he was talkin' on the phone with for so long the other day?"

Amanda giggled. "Yes."

"You like him, don't you?"

Amanda blushed. "Well, he's nice and funny, and well, I don't know…" He cheeks turned an even darker shade of red and she found herself at a loss for words.

"Don't get too attached," Marie warned Amanda. "Kurt's not like other guys. He's, um, painfully shy. He's never allowed himself to fall for a woman."

Amanda averted Marie's eyes. "I know. He told me pretty much the same thing. I just keep hoping maybe I could change that."

Marie patted Amanda's hand. "Hey, anything's possible. Maybe Kurt'll finally get the guts to love someone, and you'll be the lucky gal."

"Maybe." Amanda glanced up, looking out the window at the sky. She wondered what could possibly keep Kurt so shut off from the rest of humanity. He seemed like the most wonderful person you'd ever want to meet. Amanda just wished he'd trust her enough to really let her in.

*** *** ***

Kurt finished reading Amanda's latest note. He wanted to see her, to memorize every inch of her face, to see what her mouth looked like when it formed the words she wrote so freely. He wanted her to gaze longingly at him, accepting him for whoever—or whatever—he was. But Kurt knew that was too much to ask for. She was a smart attractive woman and he was a freak. One look at him, and she'd take back everything she'd ever told him.

He remembered their recent phone conversation. They'd talked for hours, and she'd come right out and told him that she thought she could possibly be falling in love with him. However, he knew that even if she was actually falling for him, one look at his hideous features would quickly dispel any and all romantic feelings she may be developing for him. He caught his reflection in the glass of his window and wondered why God would create him in the image of such a monster.

Kurt read the letter again, and the urge to see Amanda was almost overwhelming. He remembered copying her address down once after seeing it written on a piece of paper that Marie had had, and thought about how easy it would be for him to go over there now, while Amanda was most likely fast asleep. All he'd have to do was teleport into her room for just a moment—just long enough for him to gaze at the face that he'd never be able to see during the daylight hours.

Kurt made up his mind that that was what he was going to do. He had to see Amanda, and although he knew what he was doing was crazy, he felt that now that he'd developed his plan, there was no way he could stop himself. He put down the note and left the room.

*** *** ***

It was three o'clock in the morning. Although Marie had long since given up on waiting for Remy, she still hadn't been able to fall asleep, not with all that she had on her mind. Remy had apparently cut himself out of her life for reasons that were still unknown to Marie, and she wasn't even able to talk to him and find out what, if anything, had happened. Then, as if simply to complicate things further, Piotr had agreed to join the Brotherhood—something she'd thought she'd wanted until she discovered that he'd be bunking on the base with the others. That meant he was right below Marie almost all the time. And with Mystique convinced that Piotr would be perfect for her daughter, the Russian was spending a lot more time with Marie and her family than Marie felt was necessary.

Marie wondered what it was that kept her from just giving into her mother's wishes and going with Piotr. It was obvious that Remy no longer wanted her. Nevertheless, Marie just couldn't muster up the feelings needed to constitute love whenever she was around Piotr. Sure he was handsome, kind, strong, and obviously crazy for her, but for Marie there was no spark. Not the way there had been with Remy. Remy… Marie just couldn't get the Cajun charmer off her mind. She'd known since the beginning that she'd been playing with fire, but now that he'd disappeared from her life, she still could not accept the fact that he'd left her and move on. She loved him too much.

Marie looked up from her bed and out the window, remembering how many times Remy had climbed through it to reach her, to show her that her skin was useful for something other than a weapon. If nothing else, she had to at least thank him for that. He may have used her, but she didn't mind completely. He'd given her back a piece of her humanity that she'd lost when her powers first manifested.

She hugged her blanket around her and wished with desperation that it was Remy who was keeping her warm. She knew she should feel foolish for loving someone who was so obviously trouble—any man with a smile like that couldn't possibly be safe—but she didn't. If anything, she was still a fool, sitting there wishing he'd show up, even if it was just to hurt her all over again. She'd gladly have Remy LeBeau break her heart a thousand times if it meant she got to feel his touch only once.

Marie lay her head down on the pillow Remy used to use and ran her hand over it, wondering if maybe the scent of his cologne still lingered. She realized in dismay that it was as gone as he was. Marie buried her head in the pillow and cried herself to sleep.

*** *** ***

"Mein Gott I'm looking at the face of an angel," Kurt thought as he gazed down at Amanda Sefton's sleeping form. Her pink, full lips were slightly parted and her long, golden hair fell all around her, framing her perfect face. Kurt felt like maybe he should advert his eyes, that a creature as demonic in appearance as he was should not be allowed to look upon such beauty.

He wished for a moment that her eyes were not closed so he could look into them and see straight thorough to her soul, but he knew that could never be possible. If her eyes were seeing him, then Kurt knew he would see nothing but fear and disgust reflected back, and that was something he could not handle. No, he'd much rather her eyes stay closed if it meant he could watch her with impunity.

Unable to hold himself back any longer, Kurt reached out and lightly stroked her cheek. Amanda's skin was the softest that he had ever felt. He wanted to kiss her, but would not dare, for fear that he might wake her up. He took his hand off he face and watched her some more, as her lips curled in a smile. Kurt wondered what she was dreaming about and wished he could be the one to make her smile like that.

Suddenly, Amanda's eyes opened and Kurt froze with fear. She blinked and then noticed him, a puzzled look on her face. Kurt quickly teleported from the room, hoping maybe she'd quickly fall back asleep and forget she'd ever seen him.

Whatever had been watching her was gone, but Amanda could've sworn she smelt something almost sulfur-like. She sat up and looked around, but nothing was there. Shrugging and deciding that it must have been merely and overly vivid dream, Amanda lay down and fell back asleep.

*** *** ***

"Amanda?" Marie said, calling across the cafeteria table to her friend. "Amanda, are ya in there?"

Amanda snapped to attention. "Sorry," she said, shaking her head as if trying to clear the cobwebs.

"What's up with you today, Girl?" Marie asked. "You seem even more lost in the clouds than usual."

Amanda gave Marie a dirty look. "I wasn't always lost in the clouds before I met your brother—or what I guess you could call 'meeting.' Sad, isn't it when you get this way over someone you've never even seen."

Marie patted Amanda's hand. "That ain't sad, Sugah. I could tell ya stories of stuff much sadder than that." Marie smiled. "So what's got you all mixed up today?"

Amanda sighed. "This dream I had—or I guess it was a dream. It seemed so real. Like I could've really touched it…" She wrinkled her nose. "Smelled it."

Marie's eyes got a little wide at Amanda's last comment.. "What was the dream about?" she asked warily.

"I'm not entirely sure," Amanda said. "All I know is I woke up—or at least I thought I did—and I saw this strange, blue figure standing over me. I started to say something, but before I could there was a puff of smoke and it disappeared."

Strange blue figure? Marie groaned inwardly at her brother's impetuousness. "Did it look, um, sort of like a demon?" she asked.

Amanda shook her head. "No. It was looking at me too kindly to be any sort of demon. More like a…" She paused a moment, searching for the right words. "A fuzzy elf."

Marie raised an eyebrow. "A fuzzy elf, huh? So you didn't find the creature…repulsive or anything like that?" she asked, trying to should as nonchalant as possible, not wanting to let on that she knew that it wasn't a dream.

"No, not repulsive at all," Amanda said. "Actually, he was kinda cute."

Marie smiled at that. And after Kurt spending all this time thinking no woman could ever find him even the slightest bit attractive. She'd have to tell him what Amanda had said. "Well, who knows," she said, "Maybe your fuzzy elf-charming will show up again someday."

Amanda gave Marie a funny look and started eating her lunch.

*** *** ***

"I don't believe you," Kurt said after Marie told him of her earlier conversation with Amanda.

"Kurt, why would I lie to you about somethin' like this?" Marie asked.

"I don't know. Maybe she really said I was horrible looking and you just didn't want to hurt my feelings," Kurt offered,

"Now that would be down right ridiculous," Marie said. "If she'd said that, then I wouldn't have mentioned talkin' to her about it at all, and I especially wouldn't have encouraged you to meet with her face to face if I knew she'd freak out at the sight of ya!"

"I…I just can't believe it," Kurt said. "Amanda is perfect. I'm, well, look at me!"

Marie gently lay her gloved hand to her brother's face. "I am lookin' at ya, Kurt. I look at ya all the time, and I'm never afraid. All I see is a wonderful young man who I hold very dear to my heart. Can't you just accept that maybe some people don't view you the way you view yourself?"

Kurt looked up at her, uncertainty radiating from his eyes. "You do not see me as a freak, either? Not even a little bit?"

"Of course not!" Marie said. "Look, I know this may sound a little trite, but it is what's inside that counts. In all my years as a mutant, I've seen a lot of people that don't fit into what most people would call 'normal.' Heck, look at Mama when she's in her natural form! But that doesn't matter to me, Kurt. You've got a beautiful soul, and that's all I see shinin' through. Amanda's an open, good person, too. I think it's time that you trusted her enough to give her a chance to prove that to you."

"Do you really think she won't push me away?" Kurt asked.

"I can't say for sure, but I think there's a more than pretty good chance that she won't," Marie replied.

Kurt held Marie's gaze. "Then I want to meet her."

*** *** ***

Amanda stood beside Marie, waiting for her to unlock the door to her house. Amanda was finally going to get her chance to meet Kurt and she couldn't contain the mixture of nervousness and excitement she was feeling. "So what made him finally want to see me?" Amanda asked as Marie opened the door and led her inside.

"Well, he's always wanted to see you," Marie said, "He just needed to work up the courage."

"What made him so afraid?" Amanda asked. She looked up and got her answer.

Kurt approached her timidly. "Guten Tag, Liebchen," he said.

Amanda looked stunned for a moment. "You…it was you who came into my room the other night," she said.

Kurt hung his head, looking ashamed. "Ja."

"So it was not a dream. Why did you leave without saying anything?" Amanda asked.

Kurt looked up. "I was afraid if you knew what I looked like, you'd hate me."

"I'm not that shallow, Kurt," Amanda said. "I could not possibly hate you for your outward appearance."

Kurt tried to ignore the "I told you so" look on his sister's face. "You still care for me?" Kurt asked.

"Of course I do!" Amanda said. Then, to emphasize her point, she kissed him on the top of his head. "I've never been able to talk to anyone the way I can talk to you. I'm crazy about you, Kurt Wagner. Nothing will ever change that."

Kurt's mouth turned up into the biggest grin that Marie had ever seen him wear. "Would you like to stick around for a little while?"

Amanda took hold of Kurt's hand. "I could not possibly think of a better way to spend my evening."

*** *** ***

Kurt sat on the back porch with Amanda cuddled up next to him trying to force himself to believe that this was honestly happening. He'd never cared for anyone the way he cared for Amanda, and the thought that she cared for him this much, too, well, it was almost more than he could possibly comprehend. "Liebchen, do you mind if I ask you something?" Kurt asked,

"Of course not," Amanda replied. "Go right ahead."

"Are you a mutant?"

Amanda shook her head. "No. But I am a sorceress. Well, I'm in training to be one at least."

"Sorceress?" Kurt questioned.

"Yes. I do magic."

"Real magic?"


"Can you show me something?" Kurt asked.

Amanda smiled, happy to be able to show her talent off to someone finally. "Sure." She took a deep breath, closed her eyes, and began to recite words in what Kurt decided must be Latin. A small red light appeared in front of them. It began to glow deeper, grow larger, and suddenly it began to take on the shape of a heart. Kurt felt a sort of warmth radiating off both Amanda and the image, and he knew he'd been foolish to ever think that she'd be unable to care for him.

Amanda's eyes opened, and the image dissipated. "What did you see?" Amanda asked.

Kurt intertwined his fingers with Amanda and drew her closer to him. "Your love for me," Kurt said as his lips met hers for their first kiss.

*** *** ***

Gambit didn't want to go to the Brotherhood's base with Sinister, but he knew he had no choice. He couldn't exactly tell Sinister that he wanted to stay behind because he'd fallen in love with Mystique's daughter and then she'd broken his heart. Gambit told himself that it wouldn't be so bad, that they'd be in the base, not the house, and that Marie rarely went down there. Odds were, he wouldn't even have to see her.

However, as soon as they entered the base, Gambit discovered that the odds were definitely no longer in his favor. Not only was Marie there, but she was sitting with him. He loved her so much, and seeing her with another man was just too much. Gambit wanted to turn and run, never looking back, but his pride kept him locked firmly in place.

Sinister left him to speak privately with Mystique, and now Gambit was alone, watching Marie talk to the other man. She was sitting close to him, and she seemed so interested in what he was saying. Gambit was surprised to find that the scene caused him physical pain, more so even than the first time he'd seen them together. He'd hoped maybe he could become numb to her, but he realized that would never be possible.

Gambit knew he couldn't just stand there watching them. It made him feel weak since he couldn't even gather the courage to approach Marie and ask her why she'd gone off with the other guy when she'd told Remy he was the one she loved. Gambit frowned and forced himself to stand tall. It was time he got some answers.

He looked around to see that Sinister and Mystique had gone off into some other room, and the only remaining people in the room weren't paying him any attention. He strode as confidently as he could over to where Marie sat with the other guy.

"Hey, Chére." Marie was surprised to hear Remy's voice, and was even more surprised to hear that his normally warm tone was edged with anger.

Marie turned around to man who she had until recently considered her lover. "Remy? What are you doing here?"

"Same could be asked of you, Chére," Gambit said bitterly.

"Me? I live here!" Marie exclaimed.

"Does he live here, too?" Gambit asked, waving his hand to indicate Piotr.

"He's a member of the Brotherhood, so yes," Marie said, still not fully comprehending what was going on.

"Must be nice t'have a guy 'round dat you can touch whenever you want," Gambit said.

"Remy, what on earth has gotten into ya?" Marie asked. "You just wander outta my life and then come back talkin' 'bout stuff that makes no sense!"

"So I don' make sense, now?" Gambit said, throwing his hands up in the air. "You t'ink Gambit's clueless, dat he didn' see you kissin' dis guy de ot'er night?"

Marie turned almost as pale as the front of her hair as realization sat in. That's what had happened! She felt so dumb for not figuring it out sooner when, after all, Remy had disappeared the same night she'd kissed Piotr. "Remy, it ain't what ya think!" she said.

"Save it, Marie," he snapped. "I know what I saw. Hope you two have a real nice life toget'er." He turned around and walked away from her, deciding it would be better if he waited for Sinister outside that particular room.

Marie buried her head in her hands and began to cry.

*** *** ***

Piotr wanted to comfort Marie, but he wasn't sure how. He assumed the man who'd just left was the person Marie had told him before that she was in love with. Now he'd walked out on Marie, and Piotr couldn't help but feel guilty, knowing that he had played a part in that. He wanted Marie more than anything else in the world, but he couldn't stand to see her in pain. "She obviously loves that red-eyed boy very much," Piotr thought, "More than I think she could ever love me."

Piotr put his hand on Marie's shoulder. She looked up, and the pain he saw in her eyes went straight to Piotr's heart. "Marie, perhaps you should go after him, make him talk to you and understand."

"Do you think he'd actually listen to me?" Marie asked with a sniffle.

"He'd be crazy not to. I cannot imagine having you and then just throwing you away without even giving you a chance at an explanation," Piotr said.

Marie stood up, wiping the tears from her eyes. "I hope he didn't go too far," she said. "Hey, if Mama comes out wonderin' where I am, can ya cover for me?"

Piotr gave her a funny look. "Cover for you? Why?"

Marie looked away. "I'm, well, not really supposed to be with Remy, it's just that, I well…love him so much."

"It is okay, Little One. I won't tell Mystique."

"Thanks, Petey," Marie said, giving him a quick hug. "You're a great friend."

"Yeah," Piotr whispered as Marie ran after Gambit. "A great friend."

*** *** ***

"Remy?" Marie said as she approached him, her voice timid.

Gambit took a drag off his cigarette. "Oui?" he said casually without even turning around to look at her.

"I wanna tell ya what happened."

"No need to explain yourself, Chére. I'm sure it's much easier for you t'be wit' someone from de Brot'erhood."

"Remy, would you stop this!" Marie yelled, startling Gambit. He finally turned around to look at her. "Okay, now that I have your attention, I'm going to talk, and you're going to listen."

Gambit nodded, the look in her eyes letting him know that not listening at this point could quite possible be suicide.

"Listen, I'm not gonna stand here and deny that I kissed Piotr, because we both know I did. But it really isn't what you think." Gambit started to say something, but she quickly cut him off. "Dammit, Remy just let me talk! I'm not sure what exactly possessed me to respond when he kissed me, but it's not somethin' I'm proud of, nor somethin' I'd do again. It was a mistake, that's all, and I'd hate to think that you'd throw away everythin' we have over this. I'm sorry I hurt you. That's the last thing I meant to do. But I do think you could be mature enough about this whole thing to at least make an attempt to work things out with me."

"I'm not sure I can trust you anymore, Marie," Gambit said, flicking his cigarette.

"Fine, Remy," Marie said, trying to keep the jumble of emotions she was feeling from leaking into her voice. "I guess you really didn't mean it when you said you loved me, because if you did you'd never push me away like this. Mama was right. I should've stayed away from anyone connected to Sinister!" She stormed away from Gambit without even as much as a single glance back.

Gambit faced forward again and returned to his cigarette.

*** *** ***

Marie knew it was late and she should go to sleep, but she couldn't stop crying long enough to get any rest. She loved Remy so much, and now he was gone, all because she'd done something stupid. She wished she could somehow go into the past and stop herself from making the worst mistake of her young life.

Marie jumped up at the sound of tapping at her window. "Remy?" she said, barely making a sound. It was just too good to be true…

She opened her window to find that it was indeed what she had hoped for. "Remy!" she exclaimed as he climbed into her room and grabbed her in a fierce embrace.

"Chére…" he said, his voice cracking with emotion. "Is it true…do ya still love me?"

Marie felt whole being in his arms again. "Of course I do, Swamp Rat!" she said, her tears transforming from those of sadness into those of joy. "How could I ever stop?"

Without even considering Marie's powers, Remy leaned in and kissed her. Marie immediately kissed back, enjoying the feeling of having his warm lips against hers once more. After a moment, he pulled away, breathless, and Marie looked up at him, grinning. "Mon Dieu, you are incredible," Remy murmured, running his fingers through her hair.

Marie nuzzled her face against Remy's hand. "I love you so much," she said.

Remy started kissing her again, and Marie suddenly pulled away, a look of shock on her face.

"Chére, what is it?" Remy asked.

"The box isn't on, Remy," she said.

"But we're touching. Are ya sure…"

"Positive," Marie said. "I haven't as much as looked at it since ya went away."

"Does dat mean…" Remy's voice trailed off.

"I'm not sure what's happening," Marie said.

"Are your powers gone?"

Marie shook her head. "No, I can still feel them inside me. It's just like they're…held back."

"Held back? How?" Remy asked.

"I'm not sure," Marie replied. "It's like I don't want to absorb you, so I'm not. Remy, I think I have control over my powers!"

Remy hugged her again. "I'm proud of you, Chére."

"I don't think I could've done it without you," Marie said.

"Why you t'ink dat?" Remy asked.

"Because before I met ya I was always afraid to touch. It was almost as if my powers were like a comfort zone—as long as I had them, I'd never have to get too close to anyone. But you came along and changed everything. I didn't want to keep you at a distance. I wanted to touch you, to know you in every way I could. I'm not afraid anymore, Remy."

Remy pulled her close again, letting her cry tears of both relief and joy on to his shoulder. He vowed to never let her go again, no matter what.

*** *** ***

Marie knew she should wake up Remy and send him away before it got much later, but she just couldn't stop looking at him. She remembered how he'd the night before after he'd come back to her. He'd seemed so desperate to hold her. It had been like he had to assure himself that she was there and that she was his, and Marie realized he must've been afraid when he'd thought he'd lost her.

Marie ran her fingers across Remy's bare chest, amazed at the fact that she could touch him without anything between them. Even the box had been a barrier now that she thought about it, with them always having to worry about whether or not it would stay on or just shut off without any sort of warning, and with the fact that they couldn't touch unless they had it with them. Now Marie could touch Remy whenever she wished, and that thought made her giddy.

Remy reached up and grabbed Marie's hand, causing her to let out a startled yelp. "Shh, ya don' wanna wake anyone, Chére." Remy said.

"Ya startled me, Swamp Rat," Marie said with a hiss-like whisper.

Remy brought her hand to his lips and kissed each of her fingers. "Sorry, Chére," he said with a roguish grin that let Marie know he was really feeling anything but apologetic.

"You know, you probably should go," Marie said, slipping her hand away from Remy. "If Mama came in here…" She'd just got Remy back, and Marie couldn't stand the idea of loosing him again.

"I t'ink we got a little time left," Remy said. "De sun's not even up all de way yet."

Marie lay down, resting her head on his shoulder. "I wish it didn't have to be like this," she said. "I wish I could just be with you without having to worry about always having to be so secretive. I just want to have a life with you, Remy."

Remy leaned over and kissed Marie's forehead. "You wanna get away from here?" he asked.

Marie had a far away look in her eyes. "Yeah, sometimes I think I do."

Remy pulled her closer to him. "I know some people. Dey can get us outta here if ya really want."

Marie looked up at him as if she'd been startled. "Are you serious?" she asked.

"Oui, Chére. I'd do anyt'ing for you."

Marie thought for a moment then asked, "But what about my family?"

"Well, I don' exactly see your mot'er goin' 'long wit' us," Remy said.

"If we left, could I ask Kurt to come with us?" Marie asked.

"You don' t'ink he'd tell anyone if you did?"

"I don't think so. I don't like the idea of just leaving my brother."

"Okay den, you talk ta Kurt, an' I'll find a way to get us outta here," Remy said.

"So you really are serious about this?" Marie asked.

"Yeah, Chére. I've been wantin' t'get away from Sinister for a while now, an' dis seems like it could be the time."

Marie wrapped her arms around Remy's waist, holding him as tightly to her as she could. "I love you," she said, "I love you so much."

"Me, too, Marie," Remy said as he pulled her into a kiss, resolving to stay just a little while longer.

*** *** ***

"Kurt, can I talk to you?" Marie asked sitting next to her brother on the couch.

"What is it, Mein Schwester?" Kurt asked.

Marie looked around, checking to make sure they were alone. "Mama went into town with Irene, right?"

"Ja. Marie, what's wrong with you?"

"Remy and I are runnin' off together," Marie said.

Kurt's mouth fell wide open. "Marie…you can't do that!"

"I can and I will!" Marie declared with a sudden flash of anger. Realizing there was no reason to be defensive, so forced herself to calm down. "Kurt, I want you to come with us."

The words hung thick in the air, and for the longest time, Marie and Kurt just stared at each other. "Mare, I cannot," Kurt said, breaking the uncomfortable silence. "I just found Amanda…to walk out on her now…"

"She could come with us," Marie said.

"Mother…how could I leave Mother?" Kurt asked, his tone slow, thoughtful.

"What has Mama ever done for us—besides use us in her attempts at power?" Marie asked.

Marie's vehement bitterness took Kurt by surprise. He'd known that Marie had been building up some animosity towards Raven recently, especially in light of his sister's affair with Remy LeBeau, but Kurt didn't realize she was quite so angry. "How can you say that?" Kurt asked her. "She gave me life and saved yours!"

"Life!?" Marie exclaimed. "You call this life? Always havin' to remain on the outside of reality, cuttin' ourselves off from any chance of happiness—that's life?! We're always hidin' somethin' from someone, Kurt, and I just can't take it anymore."

"Do you honestly think running off with Remy will make things any different for you?" Kurt asked. "Mother will not let you go without a fight, and Sinister is sure to pursue Gambit. You will still always be hiding, Marie."

Marie crossed her arms in front of her chest. "At least I'll have Remy."

"This won't end well," Kurt said, slowly shaking his head. "Didn't you ever read Romeo and Juliet?"

"Yeah, but Remy and I ain't a couple of lovesick fourteen-year-olds," Marie said. "This is real life, and Remy and I love each other enough to get through whatever get thrown our way." She looked up into her brother's eyes. "I just wish you'd come with us. I can't imagine what'll be like not having you around"

The tension level in the room suddenly lowered as Kurt began to understand why this was what his sister had to do. "I am going to miss you more than I could ever express, but Mother, Amanda, Irene…I cannot leave them."

"I understand," Marie said, "but I do wish you'd change your mind."

Unable to say anything else, Kurt hugged Marie.

*** *** ***

"I started getting' some t'ings worked out today while you were in class," Remy said, reaching across the café's table to hold Marie's ungloved hand. "I talked to Jacques. He knows a place where we could lay low for a little while at least."

"We're really gonna do this, aren't we?" Marie asked, still not fully able to accept the fact that soon she'd be finally free of the Brotherhood and her foster mother.

"You not havin' second t'oughts, are ya, Chére?" Remy asked.

Marie shook her head. "No, I want to be with you, I just can't believe all this is happening," she said.

"But somet'ing's still bot'ering you. I know. I can see it in your eyes."

"It's nothin', really."

"Marie, you can tell me."

"It's Kurt," she admitted. "He says he won't come, and I know I'm gonna miss him so much."

"It'll be okay. Maybe he'll change his mind an' come after all." Remy wished he could do more to comfort Marie. He knew what it was like to have to leave your whole family. He reached into his pocket and took out a folded piece of tissue paper. He carefully unwrapped it and pulled out a silver necklace, which he place in the palm of Marie's hand.

Marie examined the necklace for a moment, seeing that it was a long chain with a charm shaped like a playing card—the two of hearts. On the back what the tiny inscription: Je t'aime, ma Chére. She looked up at him with tears forming in her eyes.

"It's so you'll always be reminded of our love," Remy told her. "An' dat we're gonna get t'rough dis as long as we're toget'er."

"Oh Remy, I think this is the sweetest thing anyone's ever given me." She leaned across the table and gave him a quick hug.

When she released him, Remy got up and walked behind her. He took the necklace and put it on her, working the small clasp with his powerful yet nimble fingers. He moved back around to sit down in front of her again. "Looks even more beautiful on you that I t'ought it would." Remy said.

Marie leaned across and kissed his cheek as silent tears rolled down her cheeks.

*** *** ***

Amanda sat and Kurt sat curled up on the couch watching television. Never in his wildest dreams had Kurt ever imagined that he could be so happy watching soap operas. He loved listening to Amanda as she desperately tried to explain to him who loved who and who was part of what secret plot to take over the city. Still, he couldn't help but wince inwardly when he realized how almost half the story lines in one way or another reminded him of his sister. He hoped she knew what she was getting into.

Kurt turned his attention back to the beauty beside him and for the first time found himself able to accept the fact that she loved him without questioning why she would love such a hideous monster. Amanda had made it blatantly obvious that she found him attractive both inside and out. He snaked his tail up his leg, bracing himself for the slap that would follow Amanda's realization of what he was doing.

"Sorry, Liebchen, but he was a mind of its own," Kurt said with a leer.

"Yeah, well see if you can reason with him and get him to behave—at least until the show's over," Amanda said.

"Ah, but who can succumb to reason in the face of such beauty?" Kurt teased.

"Kurt Wagner, why didn't you warn me you were such a terrible flirt?" Amanda asked with a giggle.

Kurt pretended to be emotionally wounded. "Why, Amanda, to think that I would be merely flirting and not speaking only the honest truth!"

Kurt teleported out of the way of a barrage of pillows. Amanda was turning red she was laughing so hard.

That was when the alarms began to sound.

*** *** ***

"It's the X-Men!" Mystique declared as soon as the alarms began. "They've come for the prisoner!"

"I am not finished with my plans yet! Stall them, Mystique!" Sinister bellowed over the terrible din. "Use the Marauders to strengthen your forces!"

Mystique began to bark orders. "Marie, go upstairs and get your brother! He'll be needed."

Marie nodded and ran towards the stairs that led up to her home. She came to a halt and screamed when she found herself face to face with a short, hairy man with what appeared to be metal claws coming out of the backs of his hands. "Where's Jeannie?" the man growled at her.

"I don't know!" Marie yelled, frightened out of her mind. "I have no idea what you're talkin' about!"

"I don't believe you, Darlin'. She's a redheaded woman, 'bout your height. Mystique and Sinister kidnapped her to run some sorta tests on her. Ringin' any bells?"

"I don't know anything about any redheads or any tests!" Marie yelled. "Please, just let me go! I have to find my brother."

The hairy man snarled, but before anything else could happen, he was hit in the face by a kinetically-charged playing card. He howled in pain and surprise as Remy grabbed Marie's hand and pulled her away.

"We're leavin' now, Chére, so get whatever it is you need and den meet me out back," Remy said.


"Dey ain't gonna notice we're gone for a while, non?"

Marie nodded as Remy let go of her. She ran inside as quickly as she could.

In the distance, Piotr Rasputin, now known as Colossus, watched them leave.

*** *** ***

"Kurt, what is going on?" Amanda asked as alarms blared throughout the living room.

Kurt sighed heavily. "Figures something like this would happen with Amanda here," he thought. "How do I explain this. Might as well tell the truth" "Amanda, I'm part of a terrorist organization known as the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants whose main goal is to lead mutants to being the dominate species on the planet."

Amanda stared at him with a blank look on her face for a moment before saying, "You're a terrorist?"

"Yes…no…well, sort of. See, my mother is, but I…well…" Kurt tried to explain himself, but discovered that even he was not entirely sure of the answer to Amanda's question.

"Why are you part of something you're so unsure of?" Amanda asked.

"Because of my mother, I suppose," Kurt said. "She never gave me much of a choice."

"Kurt, you deserve a choice," Amanda said, looking deeply into his eyes.

Marie came running into the room, breathless. "Kurt…Amanda…hey y'all."

"Marie, what's going on?" Kurt asked.

"Mama's downstairs with Sinister fightin' some strange lookin' people…one has claws and another keeps shootin' stuff outta his eyes, and I didn't get a good look at any of the others. I have no idea who they are, but they're apparently mad 'cause Mama and Sinister kidnapped some redhead named Jeannie. Anyway, Remy and I figured it was about time we hightailed it outta hear, while everyone's distracted," Marie explained. "I gotta grab my stuff and then we're gone."

"I am going to miss you so much," Kurt said.

"And I'm gonna miss you, too," Marie said, hugging Kurt. "I wish you would reconsider not coming with me."

"Kurt, why are you not going with your sister to where ever it is she's going?" Amanda asked.

"Because I cannot leave Mother…or you…" Kurt said.

"This is your chance at a choice," Amanda said. "If you do not wish to do your mother's bidding, then you should leave now. And you don't have to worry about me—I'll be beside you, whatever you choose to do."

Kurt made up his mind in the instant he heard Amanda speak those words, and he knew it was the right choice. "Stay close beside Marie, Liebchen. I will meet up with you momentarily." With a puff of smoke he was gone.

*** *** ***

Amanda, Marie, and Remy waited for Kurt in a vehicle that Remy had commandeered from Sinister. "I figure they'll look for us in dis, so we'll ditch it a few miles up de road and get hol' of somet'ing a little more inconspicuous," Remy said.

Marie leaned forward from the seat behind him and squeezed Remy's shoulders. "You got this all worked out, don't ya, Swamp Rat."

"Let's hope I do, Chére," Remy said. "What's takin' your brot'er so long?"

Kurt teleported into the seat beside Remy. "Ready to go?"

Remy gave a quick nod to the newest passenger, then took his foot off the brake, sending them speeding forward.

As Marie rode away from what had been her home for so many years, she heard Mystique's voice come on over the vehicle's radio:

"Be on the lookout for three fugitive mutants. Codenames: Nightcrawler, Gambit, and one unnamed rogue."
Unnamed rogue. The sound of her mother's voice continued to ring in Marie's ears as she realized that now, as she fled from her own life, that that was all she was—a Rogue.

The End?

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AIM: RavenMarieLeBeau.