Expiation: The Goddess Awakens by paxnirvana Format for use with submitting fanfic. Expiation: The Goddess Awakens by paxnirvana

Rating: PG-13

Author's Note: A little post-Antarctica AU wandering after Gambit runs into Storm and Shadowcat in Southeast Asia. Staying the night in Hong Kong rather than returning right away might have changed things. 4/5/01

Disclaimer: Marvel's. Though I have to say the whole 'Trial of Gambit' was one of the stupider stunts they've pulled, and I'd be happy to take Remy off their hands if they still feel the need to get rid of him so badly. No money made.

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Every night I burn 
Every night I call your name
Every night I burn
Every night I fall again
The Cure - "Burn"

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She had been afraid, at first, that the dark mutterings about him had been right. He'd taunted her, angered her, wounded her with his reckless uncaring - and his determination to thwart her mission. But in the end he'd returned the prize, despite the blow to his reputation, once more the bright charmer who had saved her life as a child those few short years ago. Busy years. Years that had been far kinder to her than to him.

For he'd found the love of his life and lost her.

Rogue hated him now - driven to near-madness by her inability to reconcile what she wanted him to be with the evidence from his own mind that made the reality of him so far from her perfect longings. So, weak girl that she was, she'd left him to die in Antarctica. Spurning him completely and finally, leaving him alone and ostensibly friendless, concealing the truth until it was too late for anyone else to save him.

She'd despised the sad child for that.

And he'd perished in Antarctica. Or so they'd thought. Then - miracle of miracles - persistant rumor placed him in Europe somewhere, engaged once again in his former career. Alive beyond all possibility.

Kitty had sensed the tension between them when they met at last, their competitor revealed; Gambit cool and remote, she formal and brittle with hidden guilt. The underlying menace and confusion and anger had escaped her and the young woman hadn't truly understood. She had only seen the charmer, despite the stories told of his great betrayal. A betrayal no less than Jean's, but more immediate. Were hundreds of deaths nearby somehow more important than billions across the galaxy? Or was it that he betrayed his own kind while the Phoenix simply slaughtered aliens? Were they so caught up in prejudices of their own after all?

He had saved the child Sarah, once he realized the Marauder's true purpose, nearly at the cost of his own life. As he'd saved her from the Shadow King. Yet the guilt would follow him his entire life.

She'd known he carried darkness within. They all did. Strength did not come without suffering. A sword was tempered in fire. He was skilled and easily the most deadly among them save for Wolverine. His life had been even harder than her own - since he had never found a way to escape the world, as she had in her goddesshood, a refuge from temptations. The world had ensnared him. Yet despite it all, he cared. How could he have known that his own heart's desire would choose to kill him?

For the bright core of his soul, the hidden caring in his heart, she would always love him. Deep in her heart, where no one, least of all he, could ever know. But she was the Goddess. The remote one. Inviolate. She did not love so mundanely, or so all believed. Still, underneath, she was just a woman.

She leaned on the ornate railing that edged the balcony of her suite at the top of the hotel clad only in a thin silk robe printed with ancient dragons, symbols of heaven, staring out at the cluttered skyline of Hong Kong. At the looming hills, the hectically busy harbor, the tight mass of humanity on the narrow streets below, all painted with a brilliant red-gold light as the sun neared the horizon. Her long white hair flowed freely around her shoulders. She wished, suddenly, that they had left that afternoon as they had originally planned, rather than choosing to remain here another night. Something like fate shimmered in the heat of the evening. A pivot-point that would forever after alter her life and the lives of everyone she knew.

The wind picked up around her, responding to her disturbed thoughts, but the sky remained clear as the sun slowly sank into the west. She watched the approaching night in silence.

"Guess dis as good a time as any fo' dat talk, neh padnat?" His voice came from behind her. She didn't bother to protest his entry into her suite. Locks were useless against him.

"If you insist, my friend," she said, her hands winding together before her. She stared down at their slender lengths, her gaze unfocused as she concentrated on his approach, the knowledge that he was truly there, all thoughts of destiny altered lost. He made a strange sound, something between a snort of disbelief and a cry of pain.

"I still your frien' den, Ororo?" he asked quietly. She lifted her chin, her back stiffening as she turned to face him. He stood in the open French doors, his hands shoved deep into the pockets of black jeans, a dull red shirt matching the muted embers in his eyes. He wore no sunglasses and his long red-brown hair blew gently in the breeze, the last rays of the sun turning it to fire. His feet were bare. He'd come from his room across the hall straight to hers, silent as a thief in the night. She had no heart to laugh at her own analogy.

"I would not say so if it were otherwise, Remy," she said stiffly, her heart thudding painfully in her chest. His gaze met hers, hopeful yet still guarded and she was reminded again how young he was in body, yet how weary his eyes seemed. Too much witnessed. Too much regret. Too much pain. She took a step toward him and it was as if her motion had broken his control. He swept her up in his arms, burying his face against her neck, under her flowing hair, his arms hard and shaking.

"Needed you, mon amie," he muttered against her skin, his voice broken. "Where were you?"

Her arms closed fiercely around him in return, realizing for the first time that they were nearly of a height, he only slightly taller than she was. It felt good to hold his lean frame against hers - to feel his heat and warmth and the blood pounding wildly in his veins. To know he was alive. She hadn't realized until that instant how much she'd missed him, realizing only then how she'd prevented herself from thinking of him, grieving for him. One of her hands somehow found its way into his silky hair, pressing his head closer to her, stroking the cool strands tenderly.

"Goddess, Remy, if I had only known I would have torn the ice apart until I found you," she said, her own voice hoarse with pain and regret. "I believed you were with her." His arms clenched around her, then relaxed slightly.

"Non, not wit' her any more, mon amie," he gasped as if the words were torn from him, his warm breath puffing against her. She felt the heat of his tears on her skin, but they swiftly faded.

They stood there in silence for a time, simply finding comfort in each other's embrace. Her hand continued to stroke his hair gently, soothingly. He trembled from time to time, as if remembering the frigid cold of Antarctica despite the heat of the night around them. She knew it was a chill of the soul, a deep wound to his caring heart. And she mentally cursed the girl-child who had wronged him so. Finally she could stand it no longer.

"Come, dear one," she said softly. He lifted his head, weary red-on-black eyes watching her with uncharacteristic apathy. The brief tears he had shed had seemed to harden him somehow rather than free him. Her heart stuttered and fell. Without another thought, she led him into her room, straight to the bed. She shed her robe while he watched her, his eyes still blank and empty. Then she pulled him down onto the bed with her, cradling him in her arms.

He allowed it with a sigh, his red-brown hair spilling over her chest, his eyes closing as he pillowed his head on her bare breast. His clever hands settled around her waist, drawing her tightly to him. There was nothing sexual in it, simply the need for unconditional human contact. She dropped her hands to the buttons of his shirt, undoing them swiftly and tugging the red silk free with some cooperation. He settled back against her again with a deep sigh of contentment, skin on skin, feeling her pulse, her breath, her life under his cheek. He closed his eyes and savored the gift she gave him.

"T'ank you, chere," he whispered as he drifted into healing sleep.

She held him then, the whole night. Skin to skin. Heart to heart. Tears slipping slowly down her face. And it was hours later when she finally answered him, her voice less than a whisper or a breeze.

"You are welcome, my love."

- - fin - -