Chapter 22:

Cajun in the Kitchen Part II

Gambit spun around, not quick enough for the shadow that engulfed him.

"Dallas!" He yelled, "Are you crazy?"

But she was too consumed in herself to think. She couldn't let these two get back to Xavier. She needed to fix this. She needed time to figure things out. Keep them here, keep them quiet. That's what she needed to do.

She failed to realize that Remy had successfully freed Rogue's hands. The x-woman struggled to reach the cord attached to the blinds above her head. With a frustrated grunt she pushed her weight upward, making contact with the twine; she pulled it; blinds shielded the window – and the room was full of darkness. The Southerner could only hear the gasp of relief when the shadow had no choice but to free the Cajun from its grasp.

"Rogue," he coughed.

And she ripped at the bindings around her feet.

"Fuck," Dallas spat, struggling to get to the light switch. Rogue scampered forward, grabbing for where she thought she heard sound. She got a foot, hearing the older girl crash before her. "Let go!" She squealed, and the goth pounced.

Dallas shrieked, sensing the pull from skin-on-skin contact with Rogue; the Southerner had wrapped her arms around the new recruit's shoulders.

Even when the door flung open, she couldn't seem to stop.

"Rogue!" She heard Wolverine yell, Remy only groaned a few feet away. "Let go!" He roared, but she couldn't. His voice seemed so far away. Logan rushed to her, his gruff arms around her waist… and flung her off.

The room was spinning; surroundings unclear. Through the oblique environment she hardly made out the figure of Dallas lying motionless on the floor.

"Is she alive?" Rogue heard somebody ask, but she was too frenzied by the voices, memories, energy, and life-force that were blazing through her brain and body - so much anger; so much fear; such a lack of control.

"Rogue," Remy's voice seemed so distant. And through the detailed flashes of recollections belonging to Dallas, she saw his face. Like a flicker of interference in the channel that belonged to DeShaduw's mind. "Rogue," he said again, and she thought she felt his hands grip her shoulders. But suddenly, there was only blackness.

"You know what it looked like though," was that? It was. It was Scott Summers' voice.

"That doesn't mean anything," Logan said.

"Exactly," That was Remy LeBeau.

Rogue's head was pounding; she didn't want to open her eyes. She was sure that any light would enhance the throbbing behind her brow. What's happening? She asked herself, trying to recall where she was and if she had been dreaming.

"It just," Scott sounded worried, "looked like she wasn't going to stop."

"You don't know that!" Gambit snapped.

"Remy?" The girl finally breathed, and she heard footsteps move toward her. "Where—"

"You're in the sickbay," she opened her eyes in time to see him place a cool wet cloth on her forehead; "you had a bit of an overdose, Chere."

"Dallas," her voice felt raspy. "Is she…"

He hushed her. Sitting beside her on the tabletop. She watched as he gingerly brushed a white lock from her cheek, behind her ear. There was so much worry trapped in the Cajun's eyes; Rogue wasn't quite sure why she'd found this so irregular. She'd seen inside Gambit's head before – as a rule, he wouldn't be bothered with much of anything.

Her green eyes glanced over at the hand that didn't leave her cheek, and then she looked up, realizing he'd caught her staring at it. The corner of his mouth turned upward; a tiny smirk.

"Logan," she called, cheeks blushing pink; Remy couldn't help but smile at this.

He was the perfect distraction, "Stripes," she turned her head to him, "what's going on?"

"Gambit told us about breaking into that company… the profiles, Dallas, the murder…" her eyes darted to the thief, "…finding you in her room…"

"Where is she?" The Southerner queried.

"Why didn't you tell me when I asked you if you needed help?" Wolverine asked pointedly, there was a trace of hurt in his voice. "You know I would have helped you Rogue.."

"How are you going to help me from people who have doubts?" She sat up on her elbows, glaring over at Scott.

"What are you—" but she wouldn't allow Logan to finish.

"Ah heard him," she nodded in Cyclops' direction, "you didn't think Ah was going to let go of Dallas, did you?" She felt hurt.

"What? I.. I.."

"Ah heard you," she shook her head; saddened by her teammate's doubt. She wasn't close to Scott Summers, but still. This just solidified her concern that people in the mansion would always wonder if she really did play a role in Bud Thomas' murder. "Nobody knows me well enough here to believe 100% that Ah would never do something like that," she insisted.

"You don't know that," Logan assured her.

"Rogue," Remy interjected, "you came to me for help. So you must've known dat I would never believe y' were capable of something like that."

She scoffed, swinging her legs around the table now to sit eye level with the group, "you had your doubts swamp-rat. Maybe not about my involvement… but you didn't believe what Ah said about Dallas at first…"

He couldn't argue with that. He opened his mouth, but nothing came out.

"Where is she?" The goth questioned; focused. She caught Cyclops' glance over her shoulder. And she looked. Behind her, was an unconscious DeShaduw; a noiseless Beast checking her vitals - a respiration tube channeling down her throat. The younger girl blinked, stunned.

She's in a coma, and that was why Scott had mentioned that Rogue 'didn't look like she was going to stop' … they were considering the possibility she'd done this to DeShaduw on purpose?!

"Ah didn't mean to!" She contended, shooting a wide-eyed look to the three standing before her.

They stood wordless, exchanging glances for a moment or so.

"Nobody said you—"

"Scott," she started again, "Ah heard him say that it didn't look like Ah was going to stop—"

"Well," Logan cut in, "I had to tear you off of her Rogue… and you seemed pretty focused…" He thought back to the scene he'd stumbled on; hearing the commotion and stumbled upon a baffling sight. Rogue intently sucking dry the new recruit's life-force – Gambit a few feet away rubbing soreness out of his head.

"No," she shook her head, but was very caught off guard when her own shadow shoved Wolverine. He shared her disbelief. "Ah didn't do that on purpose!" She hopped off the table, covering her mouth. Memories of Dallas confessing her inability to control her shadow flooded her mind. "Ah don't… her powers must still be working in me."

"Calm down petite," Remy put his hands up, nodding to her gently. "Nobody is accusing you of anyting, okay?"

She breathed, nodding, worried.

Two large doors opened with a steel hiss; Professor Xavier and Jean Grey entered.

"Professor," Remy began, "that drive I gave you, Dallas, she changed it. I should've known better—"

"It's alright Remy," his voice was tranquil; "I had a feeling that might be the case after reviewing the information." His chair approached the group, Rogue wobbly sat back down on the steel sickbay table. He looked in the Southerner's direction, "Rogue," his gaze was gentle, she suddenly felt guilty for her kept secrets, "Dallas is not in her right mind."

"You got that right," the Cajun snorted. Nobody seemed amused.

He revealed the tiny disc drive Remy had given him in the early morning, "It seems that you and Remy have unearthed a momentous impasse. This is a very delicate situation, and I wish the both of you came to me before you decided to look into it yourself," he laced his fingers in his lap, "however," he glanced from Remy to Rogue, "I also understand your concern of speculation."

"Ah just wanted to have proof before telling you what was going on. Ah wasn't even sure," she rubbed at her arm, worried.

"I would like to look into your thoughts Rogue," Charles Xavier nodded at her, "I would like to gain a sense of what actually happened that night."

"Okay," she said, slightly unsure, "Yes," her voice now more firm.

The assemblage of X-men waited in silence as Professor X broke the barrier of Rogue's thoughts. After a few minutes, he spoke, "That's very strange," he seemed somewhat perplexed. "It appears that DeShaduw's natural mental barrier has carried over to you."

"Ah can tell you what happened," her heart began to palpitate. She feared for her friends doubting her innocence.

"Yes," he nodded, "but it would be beneficial to get a glimpse of what has been going on in her mind, also," his gaze set on the comatose Dallas Shadii. "Take the night to rest," he smiled softly. But Rogue couldn't help the unsettled sensation in her stomach.

She only bobbed her head shyly. Jean, Scott, Beast, and Xavier exited the room with one another, Logan giving Rogue's shoulder a gentle squeeze before following his teammates. Her eyes darted to the floor.

"Scott's a fucking idiot," Gambit insisted; she was surprised at his intuition. She was scared of the ambiguity her 'friends' were feeling toward her concerning the murder, concerning Dallas. Had she been honest in the first place, maybe it would have been different. Maybe not.

"She did it," tears welled in the Southerner's eyes, "she did, Remy. Ah had no idea what was happening that night. Ah just thought Ah could help… Ah should've been candid with Logan, with the Professor—"

"Ain't no amount of shoulda, coulda, woulda, gon' change things now, Chere," he sat beside her again, "I know you're telling the truth."

She wondered if she tried hard enough, if she could stare a hole in the floor.

"Does that mean anything?" He queried, curious.

"What?" she sniffed, some tears escaping the corners of her eyes.

"Does it mean anything," he repeated, "that I believe you?"

Her green eyes met with his. For the first time, she felt deep concern from the normally arrogant and sarcastic flirt. She was unsure of what to say. What did that even mean? Is this what he does? Gets inside of a girl's head at their most vulnerable moment? Stop thinking like that, she mentally scolded herself, he's been nothin' but …. Great, the past few days. And that was the truth. If anybody did support her, it was very much to her surprise, Remy LeBeau.

She turned her head to the side, eyes meeting once again with the steel floor.

"Was that a nod?" He whispered softly, "did Remy actually get some verification from you?" Always teasing.

"Fair enough," she said.

He laughed delicately, "fair enough," he repeated – speculating as to what the vague comment truly meant. She peeked over her shoulder, curious if any part of DeShaduw was playing possum or not.

She couldn't keep calm with that ventilator if she was, she assured herself, studying her new enemy.

"Let's go upstairs," Gambit insisted, and she nodded. He put out his hand, but she nervously rejected it, fluffing off her clothes and striding ahead of him. The thief's mouth parted into a smirk, he was growing a little surer by the day, that she really didn't hate him. He sauntered off after her, sparing Dallas' unconscious body a passing glance of his own as they exited the sickbay.

Rogue stared off at herself in the mirror. It was remarkable how quick her nose had healed up from the little bit of Logan's powers he'd allowed her to absorb. Perhaps, she was most thankful to not have to walk around the mansion with two puffy black eyes and an inflamed snout.

She pressed a finger delicately between her eyes, pleased that there was no more pain.

"You seem nervous," Shadowcat called from their bedroom.

At first, the goth considered ignoring her. With a sigh, she decided against it, "you didn't see the way that Scott and Jean looked at me…"

"You might just like, be a little paranoid, Rogue," the valley girl sat in front of her own mirror, wiping away at the eyeshadow that remained on her eyelids. "You know how overly analytical Scott can be, and Jean," she paused, "Jean hasn't breathed a word of it."

"Ah didn't intend to put her in a coma," her tone was filled with frustration; "she had me tied up in her bedroom for Christ's sake. Hasn't anybody considered that?!"

"Of course!"

"And yet," Rogue fisted some of her hair, "people doubt me. Besides, why would it matter if I did do it on purpose," Kitty seemed somewhat caught off guard by this declaration, "she's trying to pin a murder on me, she sneaks up on me, punches me, essentially abducts me and stashes me in her bedroom, chokes me, and Ah'm the bad guy?"

"Nobody has called you the bad guy, Rogue."

"It's implied."

"I haven't heard that," something in her voice sounded unconvinced.

"Just because people don't outright say it," Rogue peered out at her, "doesn't mean they're not thinking it."

"You have to realize too, that Dallas was always pleasant with like, everyone," the younger girl was hopeful that the Southerner might understand. Rogue did, but did it matter? She had been there for months, they were all teammates… but there were still doubts. It made her question if she belonged in the X-men in the first place. "Where are you going?" Kitty watched her roommate march to the door in her PJs.

"Ah need some air."

When did the mansion suddenly become so suffocating? Rogue drew her hair back into a poinytail, a husky huff of frustration escaping from her makeup free lips. She ambled silently down the dim-lit hallways, crossing her fingers that no others would cross her path. She wasn't in the mood to question if they considered her a potential murderer or not.

She poked her head into the seemingly vacant kitchen, her bare feet cool against the tiled floor. She slide over to the fridge, it's light casting brightly into the darkness. She scanned the shelves for something, anything, that might fill her empty belly. Her appetite was still absent. She closed the door.

It was then she'd gotten a glimpse of the silent figure looming at the kitchen table. The goth practically jumped a foot, startled at it, "Remy," she spat.

"Sorry," she could envision the half-smile on his face, "I didn't mean to spoke ya, chere." She sighed, flicking a nearby light switch.

"What are you doing?"

"Same as you, I suppose," he nodded toward the fridge. Between his hands was a cup of black coffee. "Sort of changed my mind when I realized there was nothing good in there, though."

She scratched absent-mindedly at her arm. The x-man gestured toward a table chair, "Have a seat?"

Why not, she thought. And she was acutely aware that had it been but a week ago, she'd have told him to eat shit and walked out. The younger girl glided into the place beside him, watching as he looked down into his coffee.

"Thank you," she started, and he brought his eyes to meet hers, "for finding me, Ah mean."

He snickered, "Had Wolverine found you first, I thought sure you'd be in more trouble than you were wit Dally." She couldn't help the smile that spread across her own face.

"She needs some serious help," Rogue snorted.

"Shame she was such a nut," he shook his head, the Southerner glanced at him curiously, "although often, they are the best in the sack," immediately, he regretted the statement.

Rogue's cheeks were hot, embarrassed; she shifted uncomfortably.

"I was joking," he shrugged it off with a brash smile; he wasn't. "Sorry…"

"Ah don't care," she rolled her eyes, reaching for an apple in the fruit bowl that sat central to the table. He couldn't help but smirk – reminded of her innocence.

"What are you worried about, huh?"

"What?" She grunted again.

"I can tell you're nervous…"

She shook her head, "No, "lying to herself, also.

"Chere," he put a hand on her shoulder, un-phased when she flinched instinctually, "everything will work out. Okay?" He briefly thought back to the first night she'd been at the institute. He saw her here, sitting with Logan. He'd put his hand on her shoulder then, and she shrugged it off carelessly; annoyed merely at the sound of his Cajun drawl. At this point, months later - they both sat, together, alone; his hand on top of the thin night shirt that separated him from her toxic touch.

His eyes traveled her body, his brain breezing through memories of their short encounters with closeness. Her drunken sleep in his bed; her shivers under the desk when she had felt his breath on the nape of her neck. He had grown so emotionally attracted to her – which was unusual – he could hardly believe it took him so long to see her without makeup. She was beautiful (mind you, he felt she was very pretty with it also…)

Rogue shifted in her seat again, somewhat uncomfortable that his hand lingered so long on her shoulder. This brought the x-man back to reality. He withdrew his hand, scratching at his rough chin. He rose, standing behind her now, "do you mind?" He asked thoughtfully, placing both hands in the middle of her back.

"Mind what?" She raised an apprehensive eyebrow.

He beamed down at her, a smug but sugary smile plastered on his face, "if I help you relax?"

"Ah don't need to—"the pressing of his thumbs and kneading of his hands against her spine brought her breath to hitch. It felt wonderful; stress just melting from her.

"Need to?" he urged her to continue – knowing all too well through his experience, the effect his touch had.

"That actually," she bit her lip, his fingers thawing the normally icy façade she gave him, away "feels pretty good."

"Mmmhmm," he purred. He continued his work, quiet falling around them both. He listened to her breath, wondering if she'd ever shared closeness like this with anyone else. He was sure she hadn't - especially by her reaction. It took all he had not to just lean down and kiss the back of her neck—

The Southerner's inhale deepened; she tilted back - further into him than she had meant to. "I'm sorry," she breathed, suddenly feeling awkward for pressing the back of her head against his belly. She pulled away, but was shocked when he firmly gripped her shoulders, pulling her back to him again.

"Rogue," he said softly, "I know you've had your opinion about me," she felt her stomach knot, where was he going with this? "But, I need to tell you," she was pressed against his chiseled stomach, "I really…"

Come on Gambit, tell her!

"I…" he paused again, she said nothing, "I, really, really, like spending time with you.."

Coward, he felt somewhat childish; worried if she would take him seriously or not. Since when did he worry about rejection? He sighed inwardly.

The goth swallowed, relieved, but not quite sure why, "yeah," she scoffed, "you're not all that bad, swamp-rat." She crossed her arms; hopeful he wouldn't catch on to her awkwardness.

"Hmph," he shook his head, "would you like me to continue?" he ran his hand down to the small of her back.

"No," she stood up. Yes, her mind whimpered. "Ah'm tired," she lied. She remained for a few moments, watching him watch her back – wordlessly. He knows what he's doing, she thought, gulping down the urge to sit back in the chair. He didn't breathe a word, just gazed down at her – that ridiculous smirk spread across his stupidly adorable face. "Goodnight…" she finally whispered, and his eyes glistened. He nodded at her, unwavering. Rogue turned away, retreating to her room.

You are not going to do this to yourself Rogue, you are not going to be like every other girl. Get a hold of yourself! The goth chewed at her fingernails nervously as she strode toward her room. When did he suddenly become less revolting and more… endearing? She closed her bedroom door, falling back against it. Sleep, that's what she needed.

A/N: Thank you again for all the feedback. I hope to have the next chapter up asap. Cheers :)