Note: This story takes place in an AU alterniverse where none of the characters are mutants or have mutant powers. They are powerless humans! But Gambit gets to keep his red eyes. Because we say so.
Mix 'n' Match
(1) Tempting Fate
I've finally come to a conclusion.
Life is spontaneous. It's full of twists, turns, shocks and surprises. They say life can't be lived by a rulebook since most of the time, life isn't predictable – at least, it's not meant to be anyway. There are those who go for this definition of life. They take things as they come – no matter how obvious it is to avoid the many miscellaneous mishaps of life.
I, however, do not believe in the phrase, 'go by the flow'. Okay, it's not so much that I'm prudent or uptight, but really, there are simple sensible procedures that people just shouldn't ignore. For example, if Aunt Flow (get the hint?) comes to visit this month, a woman should have the sense not to wear any light colours that week if it can be helped. Another example is that no matter how cool it may seem, dark blue eye shadow and bright red lipstick should never be used on the same face at the same time for any event. It's never okay.
See, if people can just keep in mind all these simple little rules, then life should run smoothly and dare I say it, actually be perfect. But this will never be the case, for as much as women like to believe that we know all there is to know about every little crook and cranny in this world (Heck, we prove this by analyzing basically every meticulous thing in life!), we still choose to ignore the unspoken, unwritten rule book of life when it comes to love.
Lame, you say?
Definitely, but nothing can take away all commonsense from a woman faster than love... or a half-naked, hot sweating muscular man with those dark Johnny Depp locks, Brad Pitt's strong jaw, Keanu's oh-so sexy mysterious eyes... you see what I mean? All commonsense just thrown out the window there.
Ahem, let me continue. Where was I? Oh yes, rulebook.
Yes, women should definitely write out this rulebook of life. We spend half the time coming up with a standard for everything, yet, we never seem to remember it when we need it the most. So, I propose the first rule that a woman must remember is:
Never cook a meal for a party when you've never tasted your own concoction first.
Today is a brand new spanking day. The sun is shining. Those lovely little birdies are singing. I'm wearing my new Prada shoes and dressed in my new Gucci power suit. I feel gorgeous. I feel smart. I feel free.
Yes, that cheap ass pathetic excuse of a man dumped me last night.
But it doesn't matter because I was going to end the relationship if he hadn't beaten me to the punch. I mean, he had all these little annoying habits such as; he always had to sleep on the right side of the bed. Did he ever think for once that perhaps, I'm the one who likes to sleep on the right side considering I have this weird phobia where if I sleep on the left side too much, the world might actually invert itself... hey, I was an only child growing up. I didn't have any older siblings to tell me lies to scare me to death, had to make them up myself. But that's beside the point, we're talking about what a loser my boy...I mean, ex-boyfriend is. Okay, so not only is he selfish (remember the whole bed sleeping thing?), he is also the worst cheapskate. Trust me when I say that I've never heard the excuse 'I forgot my wallet' more times in those two months together than my entire life. And to think, he was my boss and actually made twice as much as I did, yet he made me pay for everything. Please note the emphasis on the 'was'. That's right; when the bastard broke up with me, I quit. I full out flat fledged quit. No two weeks notice. No warning. No resignation letter. I just looked him in those gorgeous deep blue eyes of his... and he had that cute spiky platinum hairstyle and my favorite suit on... the pin-striped dark suit that just... NO! It's over.
Anyway, so, I tell him, 'Joe, Ah'm sorry. Ah just can't work for you any longer. Frankly, Ah'd rather work for madman who's trying to take over the world than your sorry-pathetic-minute dick-of an ass!" I ended it with a 'HMPH', and stormed out of there.
So here I am. In the middle of the street, dressed in an outfit I can't afford but bought in order to cheer myself up. As shallow as it seems, it does cheer me up. So, I've lost a wretched boyfriend. So, I've lost my job. But I've lost many things in life, and heck, it only makes me a stronger person.
Grabbing the cell phone out of my purse, I flip it open and dial Emma's number.
"Good afternoon, Frost Industries. Jubilee speaking. How can I help you today?" the peppy secretary asks
"Hey sugah, Emma in?" I ask.
"Hey Anna, yeah, she is. Just give me a sec, I'll send you through," the girl informs me and does just that. Moments later, the familiar icy voice of Emma jumps straight in with her question. "Hey, did you finally dump that prick?"
"Does it count if Ah quit my job, even though he technically said the words, 'Ah don't think this is gonna work'?" I question.
"I have to say no, but I do like the touch with you quitting your job. So what do you want from me? Words of sympathy? Words of comfort? Banter about what a jerk he was? I'm good with the last one, you'll have to find Jean for the first two." Emma tells me bluntly.
"Actually, Ah was thinking... since Ah'm a free woman now, we gotta celebrate. How about dinner at my house at eight tonight? Ah'll cook." I offer happily.
"You cooking?" Emma's apprehensive query came over the line.
"Yes, Ah'll cook. Is there something wrong with me cooking?" I ask, slightly offended.
"No, no. Just makin' sure." She replies, though it makes absolutely no sense to me.
"Alright. Well, be there at eight, get ready to get wasted as well." I warn her.
"I always am. But, gotta go now. Have an important client to see in half an hour, and this bustier just isn't propping my boobs high up enough," she informs me.
Rolling my eyes at her tactful business skills, I mumble a quick 'see ya later', and start dialing up the next number.
"Good afternoon, Dr. Grey's office. How may I help you?" a monotonous voice answers.
"Hi, Ah was wondering if she was in at the moment?" I ask politely, not feeling too comfortable talking to Jean's secretary. Why she hired a seventy year-old former schoolteacher back in the days when they used to perform physical discipline on the students, I will never know.
"Yes, she is. I am going to transfer the call through. Please, hold on," she answers, her voice frequency doesn't change at all.
"Hello, Dr. Grey speaking." Jean's cheery voice comes through.
"Hey Jeanie. It's me. Whatcha doin' tonight?" I ask.
"Hey Rogue. Actually, no plans yet. You proposing anything?" she questions in return.
"Yups. Dinner at my place at eight. Can ya make it?"
"Definitely. Do I need to bring anything?"
"No, Ah've got everything under control. Just bring your oh-so-pretty self. That's all, sugah. See ya then."
"See ya then." She hangs up and I dial the last number.
"Hello?" the British accented voice answers.
"Betsy? Ya answering your own phone now?" I query, completely surprised by this revelation.
"Yes, I don't believe that I should exploit someone into working for me especially when there are millions of..." And on she goes, but I don't hear any of it since I'm drowning her out. She has been acting up like this for a few months now, and it has been getting on my nerves for just as long. Sometimes, I just want to ram a ball up that pretty, perfectly symmetrical...
"Rogue? You there, luv?" she interrupts my thoughts.
"Oh yeah. Anyway, dinner at my place at eight." I inform her.
"Who's cookin'?" she asks.
"Ah am." I tell her proudly.
"And what is that supposed to mean?"
"Nothing. Just good t'know you're cookin'... that's all. I'll see you at eight then," she says and hangs up before I can even say a proper 'good-bye'. That girl gets weirder and weirder every day since she quit the high fashion fast supermodel life.
Glancing down at my watch, I realize that I have four hours to pull a dinner together with no ingredients at home whatsoever. And so I set off for the market.
Entering Super-Low-Val-U Mart, I pick up a grocery basket and head to the produce section. Vegetables, I need vegetables. The problem is, I'm not quite sure what vegetables I need. Picking up a strange looking ball of green things that looks as if it is made of layers, I read the sign. 'Artichokes', it reads and I remember watching that cute Naked Chef using one of these in one of those pasta veal things he cooked up. At least, I think he did. Grabbing about six artichokes, I drop them in my basket and walk up to the lettuce section. Green. Romaine. Iceberg. Red. Butterhead. All the different choices are giving me a headache. I decide on grabbing one of each. If worse comes to worse, I'm sure I can just throw it in the pot and it won't even make a difference. Taking a few tomatoes, potatoes, cabbages, eggplants and some Chinese greens called 'Bak choy', I walk over to the meat department.
Assessing the various types of poultry, I finally decide on chicken. Everyone loves chicken and when it's not chicken, everyone thinks it tastes like chicken anyway. So, chicken it is. I reach for the package of half a dozen chicken breasts when a hand reaches out for the same package at the very same time. He brushes my hand and we both pull back immediately. Smiling at the stranger, he apologizes, "I'm sorry."
"Nah, it's my fault too, sugah. Should have seen a hand reaching for it." I apologize as well and gaze into the icy blue eyes of this fine brunette.
"Heh heh, guess we both should have been looking. But take it, it's fine." He says and offers me the package. I smile politely at him and respond, "No. It's alright. You can take it, sugah. Ain't like there's not enough chicken for all of us."
Laughing at my lame reply, he beams, as he checks me out not so subtly. I take this as an opportunity to check him out as well, and notice that he's dressed in a pair of khaki shorts, a white t-shirt that frames his lean muscular frame so well, and open-toed sandals.
"Ain't ya cold?" I ask without even thinking.
He chuckles at my blunt question, then answers, "Nah. I like the cold. Body just prefers it ever since I was a kid."
"Wow... but it's below ten degrees Celsius outside, not to mention, it's almost winter." I point out.
"Trust me, it feels like summer to me," he replies and grins this goofy grin. It's right there and then that I decide he's a complete weirdo. Not wanting to talk to this apparently cold-blooded man anymore, I reach for the chicken, and say, "Well, thanks for the...uhh... chicken. Best be going now." With that, I hastily run off to the checkout stand.
In a matter of minutes, I'm standing outside the store with my bag of groceries in hand, ready to forge ahead to the next chapter of my life. All my baggage is gone, no man to hold me back now – I'm going to concentrate on my career and make a name for myself.
Keep in mind that this is the speech I give myself after every break-up.
Chopping mercilessly at the lettuce while trying to keep the water from overflowing the pot, I grumble peevishly as I look at the mess before me. The Baked Jerusalem Artichokes with breadcrumbs, thyme and lemon look nothing like what Jamie Oliver made. Sure, I alter the recipe a bit by substituting the breadcrumbs with pieces of crackers, the lemon with grapefruit (they are in the same family after all), and the thyme with rosemary, but it shouldn't be so far off from the picture should it? The pasta I'm trying to cook is all soggy since I left it in the boiling pot too long while forgetting to check on it when my favorite soap opera was on an hour ago. The chicken breasts don't fare any better considering all of them are burnt on one side.
Oh shit, it's eight o'clock already and I have nothing that is the least bit edible. Walking grudgingly to the door, I open it and find Betsy looking in on my apartment uneasily. Holding a big brown paper bag, she says, "Hi luv, how's the cookin'?"
"It's almost ready..." I lie through my teeth and usher her in. As I'm about to close the door, someone yells, 'wait up." My other two guests have arrived as well, each holding a big brown paper bag of their own. We all say our 'hellos' and walk back into my mess of an apartment.
"Have a seat, gals, Ah'm almost done." I tell them, but instead of obliging to my request, they all walk to the kitchen with me. One glance at my mess, they gaze at each other and simultaneously begin to laugh at my poor attempt at cooking a meal. At first, I pretend to be furious with their ungratefulness, but soon find that my culinary skills are definitely pretty ludicrous.
When the laughter finally subsides, the girls pull me out of the kitchen and back into the dining room.
"So, what'd ya bring, Jean?" Betsy asks.
"Chinese. What did you bring?" Jean asks in return.
"Italian." She answers.
"You guys brought food when ya knew Ah was gonna cook?" I ask half-indignantly, half-surprised.
"Rogue, that was the cue to know to bring food." Betsy replies.
"Hmph." I huff, but then quickly drop the act when I realize that Emma hasn't revealed what she brought. "So, what did ya bring?" I ask her.
"No food... just loads and loads of liquor. You did say we are going to get wasted, right?" She says and starts taking out bottles of all different types of alcohol.
"Okay, so we have Chinese, Italian, and lots of booze," I say, laying everything out on the coffee table. "Is it just me or does this sound like a guy thang?"
"Hey," Jean prods me affectionately, "don't go jinxing us before we get started. Just add the prerequisite tub of Hagen-Daaz for dessert and we'll be fine."
Lucky for me we passed out before we could finish the king-size tub of pralines and cream left over from last week's bitching session.
"So," Betsy cuts in, liberally filling up a glass with some Archers and lemonade, "I hear you finally ended it with Joe, right?"
"Well, in a manner of speakin'..." I begin hesitantly. I don't exactly want to elaborate on how close I came to making a mess out of that little affair.
"He got in before her," Emma explains to the others, a wicked grin on her face. "So guess what our Southern friend goes and does? She quits her job. Right there and then, on the spot, in his face. Now isn't that just positively wicked?"
"Oh Rogue, you didn't!" Jean gasps, aghast. I shrug evasively.
"Are you kidding, Jean?" Emma interrupts smoothly. "I say we toast the girl. How else is a woman supposed to keep her dignity?" She pauses, musing over her wineglass. "Although I must confess, there's nothing like taking one's nail file to a guy's brand new spanking sports car..."
You can probably guess right about now that Emma has a rather sadistic taste for revenge on her numerous ex-boyfriends.
"Well, I have to admit, I never liked the guy," Betsy interjects, going for the noodles. "You remember the day he came over to take you out to that charity gala, Rogue? The day the heel on your Jimmy Choo shoes broke? Do you know what he told me while we were waiting for you to come down?" She leans in towards us, eyes narrowed. "The guy doesn't recycle! And the gasoline he uses isn't even unleaded! I mean, what kind of an example is that to his employees? Trust me, luv, you're better off without the sod."
Jean, Emma and I pass weird looks between ourselves. It hasn't escaped our notice that recently Betsy's been talking weird. We suspect it has something to do with the tree-hugger guy she's seeing. Neal, or something like that. Looks like I'd have to ask her about it later. At the moment the only thing anyone's interested in is my impromptu resignation from work, plus my current boyfriend-less state. Nice to know that someone appreciates my misfortune.
"She's right about that," Emma agrees, ignoring Betsy's rather strange statements. "I mean, Joe may have been a veritable tiger in bed, but I could never trust a guy who's so self-obsessed that he has to bleach his hair! Trust me, Rogue, any man who bleaches his hair is the kind of guy who's had trouble getting past a mountain of teenage inadequacies."
"He did not bleach his hair!" I counter irately. I can't believe Emma's bringing up the whole bleach thing again. I down the rest of my can of beer in an attempt to steel myself for what I can tell is going to be a very long night.
"You're telling me that hair was real?" Emma raises a scornful eyebrow.
"You're tellin' me your's is real?" I scowl back at her.
"Oh, stop it you two," Jean scolds us before Emma can make her usual scathing comeback. "The fact is, it's over between you and Joe and we all agree you're better off. Now is the perfect time to make a clean break and start over."
"Like Ah'm evah gonna find a guy who's as wonderful as Scott," I grumble. Somehow I'd rather not hear advice from Jean, who just happens to have the perfect career and a diamond ring from a perfect fiancé on her finger.
"What you need is a change," she suggests anyway, while handing over another beer can, which I foolishly accept. "Someone new, exciting... refreshing. Have you noticed something, Rogue? All the guys you date are blonde, blue-eyed workaholics who care more about their careers than they care about you."
"They do not!" I try to defend myself.
"Oh come on!" Betsy cries. "What about that Erik guy? He was like, the king of corporate America! Anyone would think he'd want to take over the world or something! And might I add he was almost twice your age!"
"But that lasted, what – a week?" I retort, not wanting to be reminded of that particular disaster.
"And what about that other guy, the one who's on TV and dates that pop star, Dazzler?" Emma adds, grinning slyly at me and nudging me in the arm. "What's his stage name – Longshot?"
"Oh my God..." I groan, hiding my face behind a hand as I remember Longshot, who now battles it out every Saturday in the Gladiators arena.
"Anna, the guy had a mullet, for God's sake!" Emma persists in torturing me. "Now if that isn't a warning sign that there's something funny about a guy, I don't know what is. A girl'd have to be blind, deaf and dumb to fall for someone like that."
"Okay, okay!" I interrupt before they inevitably end up mentioning the name of a certain man I'd really rather forget, a man whose name I've been avoiding the past couple of years. "Ah get the picture! And yes, he was a mistake. And so was Erik. But you can't tell me you ain't made mistakes, Ms. Ah-Whipped-Mah-Boyfriend-into-ER."
Emma nearly chokes on her chow mein at that one. Oops. Emma can be highly sensitive about her –uh– recreational activities. She scowls and the party's suddenly in serious danger of turning into a free-for-all. Luckily our sweet and temperate Jean plays her peacemaker role to perfection.
"Girls, I think we all know better than to fight with each other over guys. Especially guys we all ditched long ago." She turns to me and passes me an overdone smile. "Anna, dear – all I'm suggesting is that you break the mould. Maybe those types of guys don't work for you because they're not you're type. Why not go out, meet someone different for a change? How about... tall, dark and handsome?"
"Yeah, someone with an accent – accents are so damn sexy!" Betsy enthuses.
"And someone with big, gorgeous, hypnotic eyes, the kind that make you go weak at the knees," Emma coos mockingly. Sometimes I think the girl lacks all sense of romance, and that's why she goes through men at the rate she buys handbags. I decide that this is not going to get out of hand. For once, I am resolved to take control of my life, and it is not going to involve some lame-ass excuse for a man. At least, not until I've gotten my life back on track.
"No, no, no!" I put up my hands. "Today, Ah have made a resolution! Ah am officially done with men! Ah am fed up with waitin' round a phone every night, puttin' the toilet seat down, and bein' barred access to the right side of the bed!" I ignore the strange looks the girls pass me for that remark. "Yes – this is it! Ah've had it with men, and until Ah find some nice, kind, respectable and carin' guy who loves me for who Ah am..." I falter off, not sure how exactly I'm supposed to end this declaration. "...Ah am goin' to concentrate on gettin' mah life right back where Ah want it to be! An' Ah'm gonna do it all without some stupid, small-dick guy!"
"You should write that down and put it on your fridge, then you might just stick to it," Emma jibes skeptically, arms crossed.
"You don't believe me?" I huff at her, half standing up and almost spilling my beer. I think I must be a little tipsy at this point, but I have just made myself jobless after all, so I think I deserve it. However much it's going to hurt tomorrow morning. "Then mark my words, Emma Frost," I begin jabbing a chopstick in her direction, "because this gal is not never gonna give herself to a sleazebag guy again. No! Not even a tall, dark, handsome guy, with an accent or gorgeous eyes! Period!"
From the looks on the girls' faces, they don't believe a word I'm saying. All right, I think. I'll show them, just for the satisfaction of proving them wrong. This time, Anna Raven, the self-professed Rogue, is gonna play things straight.
Once the gals have all gone home, it finally hits me. I'm jobless, I'm broke, I'm alone. I'm pathetic. My life has just been ruined, and I have only one person left to blame. Me.
But the evening has left me full of resolutions. I may not have a high-flying career like Emma. I may not be a spoiled rich girl like Betts. I may not have an oh-so-perfect fiancé like Jean. But I'm a fighter, and from now on, I'm going to get my life organized. I take out a notepad and pen and begin the one thing I'm good at doing but terrible at following. I write a list. Anna Raven's List of Priorities.
1) Find a job.
2) Tidy the apartment. (I'm undecided as to whether that should be top of the list.)
3) Fix plumbing.
4) Budget until job is found.
5) Get a pet. Dog?
I pause, bite the tip of my pen, then cross the last line out and write:-
5) Find a man that actually gives a damn about me.
I look up at the calendar and decide I'll give myself a month to get the entire list crossed off.
Optimistic? Probably. But right now, my drink addled brain is telling me one thing – anything is possible. So I take Emma's advice, stick the list on my fridge, and go to bed finally feeling I've achieved something – something – worthwhile for today.
Little do I know just how much I'm tempting fate to bring disaster my way.
To be continued...