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A/N: So this is it folks. The end. Or is it? Whatever the case, we want to thank you for sticking with this uber long story over the past few months (it's much longer than we ever intended it to be!), and for sharing your thoughts and reviews with us! We never thought we'd finish this, but it turns out you're the ones who kept us going! Y'all are great and you totally rock our socks off! So thanks again for keeping this story alive and we hope you enjoy this last little epilogue! Muah!
- angyxoxo and Ludi xx
Mix 'n' Match
(24) All's Well That Ends WellSix months later…
The alarm goes off shrilly, waking me up from a delicious dream involving myself and a certain Cajun swamp rat. I groan and reach out a hand, punching the 'snooze' button with my fist and almost destroying the clock in the process. It's too early in the morning to be getting up. I figure I could still do with at least another couple of hours of sleep. I hadn't had nearly enough rest the night before.
The reason for that is lying next to me, still out for the count. Sometimes I swear that Cajun could sleep through a tornado, let alone my temperamental alarm clock.
I decide I can afford to spend the extra few minutes in bed, so I lie down again and watch him sleep. When he isn't awake and consciously putting on his cocky, devil-may-care act, he almost looks adorable.
I search under the covers with my foot and find his leg. I've been practicing this move for a while now. It always seems to sort out the times when he's really asleep from the times he's only faking. I slowly run my big toe up his calf to his knee and back down again. Then I tease him by rubbing my thigh against his until I know I'm driving him positively crazy. I lean in and watch for any signs of life. First his mouth twitches. Then his brow creases. And finally he opens an eye and stares straight at me.
"Okay, okay," he grumbles out loud. "You win. I'm 'wake."
I smile slyly at him. "Ah'm beginnin' t' think you do this on purpose just so's you can get me up close an' personal in the mornin's."
"Quoi?" He puts on a theatrically injured look. "More like you need a new alarm clock, petit, it just doesn't do de job it's s'pposed to."
"Whereas Ah do?" I drawl at him. He slides up the pillow, puts his arms behind his head and looks at me appreciatively.
"Y' sure do, chere," he says seductively. I frown at him, refusing to let his charms work on me again.
"Much as Ah enjoy being yah personal alarm clock," I begin, pulling the covers aside to get out of bed, "Ah'm afraid Ah just don't have the time this mornin'." I sit on the edge of the bed and bend down to pick my clothes up off the floor.
"Yes, y' do," he says, reaching out to draw an intricate pattern on my back and sending delicious shivers up my spine. "Look – it's seven in de mornin' and it's a Saturday. We got hours…"
"I'd be at it the whole day if you had your way," I mumble acidly, slipping a T-shirt over my head.
"Now ain't dat a fact," he drawls sexily. His hand is still on my back beneath the shirt, stroking me lightly. "Aw, c'mon, Rogue, chere, just one kiss…"
"Remy," I sigh in exasperation, "there was a reason Ah set the alarm for seven. It's Betsy's big day today, in case you forgot."
"I don't know 'bout any 'big day'," he mutters belligerently, his hand snaking round my waist and tickling my belly. For some reason, I let him do so.
"Remy!" I exclaim, irritated. "We can't miss such an important occasion! Betsy will kill us!"
"I'm already in heaven, chere, don't matter much t' me." Before I know it, his arm is around me and he's pulling me down on top of him. I shriek, half with indignation and half with pleasant surprise as he clasps me against his naked body and our impassioned gazes finally meet. "Now how 'bout dat kiss, chere?" he rumbles tantalizingly.
"Remy LeBeau, just what am Ah goin' t' do with you…?" I say helplessly.
"I don't know," he replies, his lips inching closer to mine. "Surprise me. You usually do."
Normally when it gets to this stage there's no point in holding out anymore. So I give in and we kiss hungrily, and while I'm taken off guard by that succulent mouth of his he rolls us over so that I'm trapped underneath him once more.
I pull my lips away from his and try to make one final, half-hearted plea.
"Remy, we're goin' t' be late…"
"Den we make dis quick, neh?" he purrs, kissing me again. Between kisses he somehow manages to slide the T-shirt up over my head and the next moment he's running his tongue down my neck, between my collarbone, and slowly over the crest of my breast. On the bedside table the alarm goes off again.
But by that time, of course, I've given up all pretence of resistance.
Betsy was standing outside the building, dressed in a sexy, shimmery purple dress suit. It was hardly the kind of dress one would've thought she'd wear for such a momentous occasion, but then again, Betsy had never been one to follow tradition.
"Just where are those two?" she huffed, tapping her foot inside it's delicate mauve sandal and looking down at her silver watch. "They promised they wouldn't be late!"
Around her, the two couples consisting of Jean and Logan, and Emma and a now suitably dressed Bobby, passed knowing looks to one another. Logan slung his arm round Jean's waist and passed the purple-haired beauty a sly grin. "If I know anythin' about the World's Most Loved-Up Couple," he quipped, "they're probably still at it."
"Well, I wish they wouldn't," Betsy huffed. "Not only is it disgusting, it's also downright rude."
"They'll be along soon, don't worry, Betts," Jean assured her with a placid smile. Beside her, Emma checked her snowy white nail polish was in order. "I'm sure they'll get bored soon enough," she remarked. "After all, we all know what happens to relationships based on sex."
"Yeah…" Bobby sighed, wistful looks crossing both his and Logan's faces, looks that the girls immediately understood.
"They fizzle out before you know it," Emma finished, frowning down at the unfortunate Bobby with her eyes dangerously narrowed.
"Uh… They do?" Bobby asked, looking the very picture of innocence.
"Yes, they do," Emma replied firmly, but couldn't help a small smile begin to play on her face. Over the past few months she'd insisted that nothing had changed, and much as she liked to pretend this was so, everyone knew she'd secretly mellowed out a lot, thanks to her light-hearted young paramour. (Although they secretly wished he'd curb his adoration of her just a bit, because it did tend to inflate her ego to almost intolerable levels these days.)
"To be frank," Betsy cut in irritably, "I don't care what they get up to in bed, just as long as they turn up at the proper time today, like I asked them to. I mean look!" She spread her arms to the multitude of people gathered around her, chatting and laughing and sipping on champagne. "All the guests have arrived already! Daddy, Brian, Meggan and even my mother managed to make it here all the way from England! So why can't they?"
"Speakin' of the devil," Logan remarked as a red sports car drew up nearby, and out popped a very flustered Rogue and her beau. Remy, it had to be admitted, looked very pleased with himself indeed.
"Ah'm so sorry, Betts!" Rogue exclaimed, running up to her model friend and throwing her arms round her. "Remy an' Ah… we, uh, overslept."
"I'll just bet," Emma quipped, earning a snigger from Bobby beside her.
"Hey," Remy leveled warningly at Bobby, "I don' know what you're laughin' at, homme. Not after all de trouble you got me into over Valentine's."
"Hey!" Bobby cried accusingly. "That was your fault as much as mine!"
"Now, now boys," Rogue tossed at them from over her shoulder, "do behave! This ain't kindergarten, y'know!" She turned back to Betsy, taking a more serious tone. "Betts, Ah really am sorry…"
"Oh, stop apologizing," Betsy caved in, and pulled away, smiling broadly at her Southern friend. "You're here at the very least, and that's all that matters."
"You know Ah wouldn't miss your special day for the world," Rogue beamed, giving Betsy an extra squeeze for good measure.
"Well, isn't this grand," Jean stated, looking round at the happy group of seven. "Kinda different from what I figured we'd all be a year ago, but we're all happy, and that's what counts."
"And you, Jeannie?" Rogue asked slyly. "Yah happy with bushel-britches there?"
"Watch it, Green Eyes," Logan grumbled with a sparkle in his eye. "I'll have you know Red and I are doin' just fine."
"We're taking things slowly," Jean admitted, "but yes, you'll be pleased to know we're doing just fine." She beamed and placed an affectionate kiss on an embarrassed Logan's cheek.
"Siiiiick!" Bobby exclaimed, but before he could take it back Emma had pounced on him.
"You'd better be careful what you say, Robert Drake," she reprimanded him severely. "Otherwise you'll be earning yourself one too."
"Not t' mention an extra round of punishment in bed t'night, I'm willin' t' bet," Remy added laughingly.
"You don't know the half of it," Bobby wailed dramatically. "She only calls me Robert Drake when she's really mad. That usually calls for hours of finely executed torture!"
Emma gasped in indignation. "You, Mister Robert Drake, are asking for a downright whipping!" she exclaimed.
"Alright, Ms. Frost," Bobby grinned cheekily, knowing he'd win this round whatever he said. Remy and Logan looked at one another as if to say, wish I was in his shoes tonight, a fact which led to Logan receiving a heated glare from Jean, and Remy receiving a playful slap on the bicep from Rogue.
"You guys are just about all a girl can stand," Betsy stated, rolling her eyes. "You're all so…couply."
"Speaking of," Jean began, linking her arm with Logan's protectively, "where's Warren?"
"He's been commandeered by my mother," Betsy replied woefully. "I haven't seen him for the past half hour!"
Everyone looked at one another wondering who was going to pluck up the courage to save Warren first.
"C'mon, guys!" Rogue finally broke out. "Somebody must be willin' t' rescue the poor guy!"
"I wouldn't worry, Anna," a male voice said from behind, "I already have."
They turned to see Betsy's brother Brian escorting a very relieved Warren back to the group, an attractive, blonde-haired, elfin-faced and very pregnant girl clutching his arm.
"Betsy," Warren began, "Your mother… is something else."
"Now I bet you know where Betts gets her stubbornness from, eh?" Brian joked.
"Hey!" Betsy elbowed him in the ribs. "Speak for yourself, darling brother. And by the way, you haven't introduced Meggan yet, you dolt!"
"Forgive me," he said tragically but with a smile still lighting his face. "Everyone, this is my beautiful wife, Meggan. Nearly seven months pregnant, I might add," he stated proudly.
"Ah think this is a cause for a double celebration," Rogue announced loudly. "Betts, y'all are gonna be an auntie!"
After all the introductions and pleasantries had gone round, the ceremony was ready to get underway.
"I think," Warren whispered to Emma as Betsy walked up to the entrance of the building, scissors in hand, "that we should call it a truce, just for today. Don't you?"
"You wish, Worthington," Emma seethed between her teeth. "I still haven't forgotten how you set that despicable bimbo Jennifer Walters on me back last winter."
"Okay, okay. I apologize for that. But you were asking for it. Look Emma, can't we just agree to be civil to one another, at least for Betsy's sake?"
"Only if we can have equal shares in her new company," she whispered back, not missing a beat. "Deal?"
"As long as you stop inviting us round to dinner and getting your maid to cook that god-awful gazpacho you know I hate. Deal?"
"Fine. It's a deal."
Everyone began to crowd round as Betsy stepped up to unveil her new boutique. Brandishing her shears in one hand and a mic in the other, she began to make an Oscar-length speech about how honored she was to be opening this new fashion boutique in the great city of New York, and how great it was to see so many relatives, friends, colleagues and acquaintances gathered together on her special day. It was all so touching even her hard-hearted battleaxe of a mother began to weep.
"Finally," she continued, five minutes later, "I'd like to thank an old friend of mine for teaching me that fashion doesn't have to be wasteful, and that clothes and the environment don't have to be incompatible. His name's Neal Sharra, and I have no idea where he is today… But it's thanks to him that I realized where my true calling lay and how much I really cared for this planet."
She paused and her eyes fell on Warren at the front of the crowd.
"And last but not least," she carried on, smiling warmly, "I'd also like to say thanks to a great guy, a special guy who's in this crowd today and knows exactly who he is. Without his help, his support and his love, I wouldn't have been able to rediscover the faith I have in myself and re-launch my new fashion career. Thanks, Warren luv, you're a one in a million."
Everyone began to whoop and cheer and Warren flushed and beamed, and looked embarrassed when Emma nudged him slyly in the side.
"And now!" Betsy finally announced, turning to the posh entrance to her new boutique. "I now declare New York's first eco-friendly fashion store, the Braddock Boutique, officially open!"
More applause as Betsy finally cut the purple ribbon and guests and customers alike began to flood in.
Just over two hours later, it appeared that most of the shop had been bought out and Betsy was standing in the doorway saying goodbye to the last of the guests looking very happy indeed. The rest of the group had gathered to one side, most of the girls carrying bulky shopping bags and parcels with them. Emma's of course, were all in the arms of her devoted boyfriend.
"Looks like you ladies have bought enough to start up your own shops," Warren remarked, very happy that he wasn't in the position of having to carry around his girlfriend's ill-gotten gains.
"But Warren, everything here just happens to be top-knotch quality goods, handmade by Betsy's team of tailors and not in some cheap Chinese sweatshop!" Emma exclaimed. "We're just helping a good cause, aren't we girls?"
"We most certainly are," Jean nodded seriously. "I mean, look at this." She held up a revealing gold silk dress up to her that made the guy's eyes pop out. "Beautiful, fashionable, reasonably priced and made with fair trade in mind. There's absolutely nothing to feel guilty about! How can I not buy it?"
"Touché," Remy murmured, and Rogue passed him a narrow-eyed glance, which he returned with a dazzling smile.
"Well guys," Betsy stated, coming up to the group now that all the guests had gone, "I think we can all safely call this a success."
"I'm happy for you, darling," Warren smiled, putting his arms round her waist and nuzzling against her hair. "I knew you could do it."
"I couldn't have done it without you, luv," she murmured, slipping her hands into his hair and pulling him down for a passionate kiss.
"Well, now that that's all over," Logan said, once he'd cleared his throat to get the attention of the two lovebirds, "what does everyone say to a round of free drinks back at the Hideaway?"
"Geez," Bobby exclaimed from behind the pile of parcels in his arms, "I thought you'd never ask!"
We end up spending pretty much the rest of the day at the Hideaway, drinking, chatting and laughing. Bobby ends up trying to perform some sort of one-man act and somehow ends up sprawled all over the floor. In the ensuing chaos I take the opportunity to slip outside unseen.
The night is calm and moonlit, the sky a dark canopy sprinkled over with a light gathering of stars. There was a time I used to look up at the night sky and think that maybe Cody was one of those stars, the brightest and the best of them. I search the sky and finally find it. It's so big it feels as if I could reach out and touch it. I know that if Cody were still alive and here with me now, I'd be happy. But I also know that with the way things are, right here, right now… I'm still happy, and even if this isn't where I expected to be, I wouldn't change things for the world. I feel as if I've been given a second chance at both love and life.
"Thanks, Cody," I whisper to that big, bright star. I blow him a kiss. "Goodbye."
A hand touches my back from behind, an arm wraps around my shoulder. It's Remy.
"You okay?" he asks softly, pulling me into his embrace.
"Ah'm fine," I reply, returning the hug. "Just sayin' goodbye, is all."
"Happy now?" he murmurs, brushing his lips gently against my own.
"Since Ah've been with you, Remy LeBeau, Ah've been happy every minute of every day," I answer, opening my mouth and kissing him slowly. We remain like that for a long time, rocking softly to the tune of the music flowing from inside the club. Then he breaks away and gives me a saucy grin, one that I know usually spells trouble.
"I got a present for you," he says, reaching inside his breast pocket and bringing out a very small bag with Betsy's logo on it. He hands it to me and I feel something soft and gaudy inside.
"So that's what you were doin'," I remark wryly. "Ah was wonderin' where you disappeared to this afternoon."
"Ain'tcha gonna open it, mon amour?" he asks expectantly.
I twist my lips and peek inside the bag, expecting a suitably kinky surprise. I'm not disappointed.
"My oh my," I exclaim sarcastically and whistle softly. "Remy LeBeau, Ah do declare!" I take out a practically non-existent lacy red teddy and matching pair of French knickers.
"It's our sixth month anniversary," he grins. "Thought we'd celebrate in true Parisian style."
"Don't we 'celebrate' practically every night of the week, sugah?" I ask him seductively, dropping the underwear back into the bag and bringing my arms up around his neck.
"Sure we do," he replies, "but I got a little somet'ing dat was extra special. Look in de bag again, sweet."
Seeing he really is in earnest, and now beside myself with curiosity, I look inside the bag again, only to find a piece of pink tissue paper hidden within the downy fabric of the underwear. I unfold it, and out falls into the palm of my hand…a ring. A simple but elegant diamond ring. I stare at it in disbelief.
"Remy…" I begin to say, but can't get the words out.
"Rogue," he preempts me, "I know dis may not be a good moment… an' dat you still need time t' get over Cody… But if I wait it ain't never gon' be de right time, an' well… before you get carried away and t'ink it's somet'ing dat it ain't, it has been six months an' I thought I'd get you somet'ing special…"
He stops when he sees I'm still staring at it, dumbfounded.
"Rogue," he begins again, this time slower, "I know de two of us have only really just started t' get t' know each other. And I know t'ings might never work out b'tween us. We need time t' learn t' trust again and I know it's best t' take t'ings slowly. But I really want t' show you dat I care, and dat I aim t' make you de happiest femme alive."
I look up at him, tears pricking my eyelids, a smile wavering on my lips. He still thinks Ah'm gonna reject him, that he's only second-best t' me. He's afraid that if he comes out an' says it Ah'll just laugh and say 'no'.
"Remy," I ask him outright, "what on earth are yah tryin' t' say?"
He sighs, runs his hand through his hair in that adorable way of his and says: "I'm tryin' to say… dat dis can mean whatever you want it to mean." He sees the confused frown begin to touch my face and then adds quickly: "And dat I love you."
"Remy…" I look him seriously, almost severely, in the eyes and he stares right back at me apprehensively. No turnin' back now, Rogue. Yah know this is right. There's only you and him now, one big future we can have together if we want it. I steel myself and take a deep breath. "Yes," I say.
Before he can even think of putting the ring on my finger, he lifts me up in a bear hug of utter relief, then puts me down and says almost suspiciously: "Really?"
And I say: "Really."
We don't say another word. He slips the ring on my finger, quickly, quietly, and kisses my hand as if for extra good luck. Then we turn back towards the Hideaway as if nothing's happened at all.
"Y' know what dose guys in dere t'ink?" he asks me, throwing his arm casually round my shoulder.
"Dey t'ink we ain't gon' last a minute."
I look up and pass him an impish smile as I playfully pinch his butt.
"Then we'll just haveta prove them wrong, won't we, sugah?"