. IX .
Anna lay by the roadside, shivering. The rain had soaked through her skin and the white of her clothing, so that, but for the crimson blood on her bare leg and arm, she seemed to glow with an inner translucence. Gently Remy lifted her head into his lap. There was blood, too, on her lips and running down her chin, but he wiped it away with the sleeve of his coat, and she smiled up at him with wearied gratitude.
"Don't think bad o' meh, Remy," she stammered faintly. "He was goin' t' hurt meh again. Ah couldn't let him, ah just couldn't."
He was silent a moment, regarding her, this time-traveller who could go both ways, past and present. Then he leaned forwards quietly and prised the gun from between her suddenly limp fingers.
"It's okay," he said at last. "I understand, Anna. I understand."
She smiled again, her pupils dilating. He knew then that she was not shivering from the cold. Reaching out he pulled her into his arms, held her close to what warmth he had left in him.
"Non, non, mon amour, don't sleep now, you sleep now you might not wake up again." He held her face between his frozen hands, willing her to keep her eyes open, and she looked up at him, mouth open, wanting to say something. Behind them, dappled light fell onto the road, refracted on the raindrops, and burst into a momentary shower of rainbow.
Only then did Anna close her eyes and quietly slip away.
Eileen stood on the edge of the road, calm as the storm about her was not.
"Looks like we came just in time," she remarked. Even now, a sense of irony could not help but enter her voice.
Remy stood slowly as the ambulance crew loaded Rogue onto a stretcher. From now on she was in good hands. She would survive. Rogue was a born scrapper. And Anna? Whether dead, or gone, or even if she had never existed at all – Anna was a fighter too. He would go with her, to the local hospital, while the cops cordoned off the area, while the CSI's worked the crime scene, while the rain soaked into Chase.
"I'll say," he snapped bluntly. He was tired and anxious for Rogue, but nevertheless he could not hide his irritation at her impregnable composure. Eileen smiled.
"You should be going with her," she said.
He nodded, silent. Then he reached into his pocket and put the gun into her outstretched hand. She stared at it, questioning.
"You killed him?" she asked incredulously.
"Mais oui," he answered, and there was the hint of the old scoundrel in that voice. "I am s'pposed to be Death after all."
When Rogue awoke, it was to find a typically exhausted but conscious Remy beside her, and her arm and leg infuriatingly incapacitated. Otherwise she would have hugged him with every limb she possessed.
"Ah thought ah dreamt ah saw my…" she began, out of the blue, before realising that she had forgotten what she had thought she had dreamt she had seen. He stared at her.
"You still delirious, chere," he said, but he was smiling.
"Ah didn't know ah was s'possed t' be in the first place," she grumbled, looking around. Hospital. Ugh.
"You been talkin' outta your cute butt the past day or so," he replied comically, but his hand squeezed hers with all the relief and tenderness in the world. "Still, I guess dat stands t' reason since dey been pumpin' you full o' morphine."
"Oh. Ah see."
She squeezed his hand back. They laughed.
"Oh," she groaned, once they'd sobered. "It sure hurts t' laugh."
"Didn't t'ink you'd have much t' laugh 'bout," he replied softly, his face full of concern. "Not after what happened wit' dat lunatic Chase an' all…"
"Ah got a scare," she admitted sombrely. "But it takes a lot t' bring this Mississippi River rat down t' her knees – you know that. Besides, ah can't remember much o' what happened after that maniac tried t' force himself on me."
Remy's expression was one of surprise.
"You can't remember?"
"Nope, not a shred. Must be the morphine." She lay back, feeling suddenly sluggish. She could barely even keep her eyes open. "Remy?" she began drowsily, closing her eyes.
"Oui, mon coeur?"
"Did Chase…did he hurt me?"
Remy smiled, smoothed back the hair from her forehead.
"Non. He didn't. I wouldn' have let dat happen t' you, chere."
"Good. Ah wouldn't want anythin' like that t' come b'tween us."
"Not while there's a breath left in my body, p'tit."
She felt him press a kiss to her forehead.
Two weeks later, Rogue was up and about and taking great pains to hide her hobbling. Summer had gone off the boil – autumn was beckoning, if not round the corner, then certainly round the block. Rogue was outside, dumping their luggage onto the bike and attempting to tie the whole thing securely, cursing every now and then when her lack of a working left arm prevented her from doing so.
Remy snuck up from behind, eyeing that pert little leather-clad ass with a small grin on his face. He had the odd sense of having come full-circle, but had no idea why. Taking full opportunity of the fact that she was preoccupied with her helpless task, he stole up behind her and pinched her behind intimately. The elastic cord did a somersault into the air with a resounding twang, and landed some distance away on the tarmac.
"Remy!" Rogue exclaimed, turning on him in frustration.
"D'you know how sexy you are, even wit' your arm in a sling and a crutch for your leg?" he crooned seductively, slipping an arm round her waist.
"Ah do not have crutch!" she protested hotly, nevertheless making no move to extricate herself from his clutches.
"Which makes you even sexier," he murmured, pre-empting any wisecrack remark she would have made by kissing her passionately on the mouth, knowing that once he did so she'd forget to be indignant. Of course, once they were locked in the clinch she was as enthusiastic about the kiss as he was.
At the sound they broke apart quickly, Rogue blushing perfunctorily, to see Eileen standing innocently nearby.
"Geez, Eileen, why do you always have to pop up at de most inopportune moments?" Remy grumbled.
"I wouldn't be a good CSI if I didn't," she grinned, stepping forwards now that it was safe and eyeing the bike. "So I take it you're leaving?"
"If we stay here another minute I might as well go shoot myself," he half-scowled, picking up the neglected cord and securing the baggage.
"Hey – no more shooting," Eileen prodded him affectionately. "You've done enough for one so-called sabbatical."
"Believe me, chere, dis is one o' de least action-packed vacations dis Cajun's ever had," he joked sarcastically. "So why you here, Eileen?" he asked. "Shouldn't you be at work?"
"I'm on sabbatical," she explained wryly. "And besides, I thought I'd come and say goodbye."
Rogue was standing nearby, smiling inscrutably. Remy saw the familiar look. Her eyes would darken, her cheeks would dimple, and, almost imperceptibly, he would catch shades of 'Anna'.
"You called her, didn't you," he stated wryly.
Rogue shrugged. "We owe her."
"Actually, Anna did invite me down," Eileen conceded. "She said you had a present for me."
"We do," Rogue grinned. She reached into one of her bags and brought out a book, handing it to the blonde woman. "Ah figured you might want some lighter readin' for a change."
Puzzled, Eileen looked at the cover; then her face softened.
"It's one of St. John's," she said, her voice suddenly very quiet.
"We signed it," Rogue continued warmly. "Just so's you can remember, not all X-Men are as bad as you think they are."
Eileen's eyes were moist as she opened up the book.
"'Anna Raven'," she quoted with a smile. "So you're keeping that name?"
"Ah guess," Rogue answered shortly. "Anna's a part o' me now. Don't seem wrong t' keep her around."
Remy, turning away, said nothing.
Later, after Eileen had left, it was time for them, too, to go. Remy mounted the bike, itching absently at Vargas' scar. Recently it had been healing over again, and it hadn't bled since the day of Annie Walters' death. He suddenly wished he had asked Eileen about the connection he and Rogue shared because, over the past couple of days, he hadn't been able to feel it at all.
"Hey, no fair!" Rogue exclaimed from behind. "It's mah turn t' ride!"
"No way!" he pouted childishly at her. "You wanna kill us? You couldn't ride a tricycle in dat state!"
"Ah so can, an' you know it," she shot back.
"Oh, I know ma chere can ride jus' fine," he returned smoothly, raising an eyebrow with more than just a hint of suggestion. "But right now, far as I'm concerned, you can bec mon chu."
She smirked, climbing up to straddle his lap and folding her arms round his shoulders.
"Ah can think of a lot better places t' kiss, swamp rat," she purred. He grinned, placing his hands on her hips and capturing her lips with a soft familiarity. He couldn't remember the last time they'd bantered so many innuendoes back and forth in one exchange. Yup – everything was pretty much getting back to normal again.
"Hmm." He pulled away from her and pretended to think about it. "You can do whatever you want wit' dis Cajun's body, just on one condition."
She stared at him, green eyes smouldering.
"You promise t' grow your hair back again. Gambit misses playin' wit' your lovely long locks."
"Sounds like a deal."
"Good. Now I'm drivin'."
She sighed, conceded, and scrambled onto the back behind him.
"So where we goin'?" she asked, resting her chin on his shoulder.
"I dunno. Figured we could head west, just like de pioneers."
"Oh, ah see. California: sun, sea, sand and…"
"Trust me, chere," he grinned, revving up the motor. "We won't need sun or sea or sand for dat."
He sped off suddenly without warning and she wrapped her arms round his waist, clinging onto him, crying out with exasperation and delight.
By the time they had reached Valle Soleada, their scars had healed without trace.
- END -
 'Kiss my ass'.
Endnotes & Thanks…
First off I'd like to plug the two fics that inspired this story – An' Everythin' Nice by Letanica, and Seether by Randirogue. They're in my fave stories list, and if you haven't read them, I really recommend you go read 'em now! ^-^
Patchverse-SheCat: Can't say enough thanks for the reading so much of my work and, more importantly, for your honest and helpful comments. It means more than I can say. *hugs* :)
Randirogue: In short, for inspiring me. What more can I say??
Letanica: Heh, well I hope I did you proud in the end, mon ami ;). Thanks for tagging along, and leaving your lovely reviews! And I can't wait to read more of your shorts when you post them, dear! ^^
Seven Sunningdale: I can honestly say that I've never had such fun reading comments before! And I still can't believe you picked out so many of the little symbolic things I threw in there! You have to be just about one of the most perceptive readers I've met. Thankees very much for sharing your thoughts! :D
ChaosCat: Well, how is it, how is it?? I'm still dying to know what you thought of the final 'twist', and whether I fell flat on my face… But anyhow, thanks for your wonderfully insightful comments, I've enjoyed your reviews no end. I hope to be reading more from you soon *hint hint* ;) *hugs*
Vicki Lew: I still can't believe you've been reading this. You're like…a RoGambit fanfic legend, to me anyway, who's been reading your stuff for ages. I hope I didn't disappoint you too much in making the murderer Chase. I guess I made the pointers that it was going to be him a little too obvious *sigh*. But thanks anyway, for leaving your comments, I feel honoured.
Jean1: Thanks for the reviews you left me. It was nice to read something that was balanced and straight to the point. You've really helped me see where I can use some brushing up, so thanks for that. :)
Ishandahalf: Gal, you make me giggle when I read your comments. And you have no idea how much that brightens up my day ^^.
Jukebox: Wow! Thanks for sticking throughout so many of my stories! You're a gem! *hugs*
T. : Yeah, Remy was being an ass back there… I hope he made up for it though. ;)
Millie: I'm so happy that you've liked this fic, and thank you so much for the wonderful comments that you left. They meant a hell of a lot to me.
Shawn Reed: Well, I have to mention you, if only for the fact that you've read practically (well, nearly. Okay, not even near, but what the hell) every single original story I've ever written, and yet you read my crappy fangirlish fanfics. Now that deserves a medal and more. ;)
And thanks to everyone else who left their comments on this fic and helped to make it what it was. Your reviews were greatly appreciated and really inspired me to carry on with my writing. Thanks y'all, an' a big ol' bunch o' hugs to everyone…:D