The interesting thing about my job is that despite being paid rather handsomely, they never seem to have much for me to do. The result is a lot of mindless busywork that gives my mind plenty of opportunity to wander like WHOA. The result of my mind's most recent wanderings is this.

About this story: I've come across a handful of fics lately that use a Romeo and Juliet motif with regards to Rogue and Remy. I think the idea's a little trite myself, but I find myself growing ever more obsessed with taking what seems cliché and playing it out in a way that sort of works. Seriously, I have a folder on my computer filled with half-finished experiments that I play with on a regular basis. Thusly, I present my take on a Romeo and Juliet motif in the Romy fandom . . . though it's not quite like you've seen before. I hope.

--

Two households, both alike in dignity,

In fair Verona, where we lay our scene,

From ancient grudge break to new mutiny,

Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean…

-Romeo and Juliet, William Shakespeare Act 1, Prologue

xXx

"You got people watching over you."

That's what he said to her that night on Bloodmoon Bayou before they parted ways. He could just as easily have said "I'll be watching over you", and it would have been nearer to the truth. After their 'experience' in New Orleans (and especially after the whole Apocalypse incident), the two had settled in to a rather comfortable routine. He would follow her around, always remaining close enough that she would know he was there, but far enough away that he didn't infringe upon her life at all. She, in return, would pretend she didn't notice him as she went about her daily business. This pantomime of stalker and stalkee that they enacted was a poor lie to begin with, considering they both knew that both knew exactly what was going on. They stayed in character anyway, playing the roles of shadowy voyeur and unsuspecting target. It was, after all, a comfortable routine.

Late autumn had come to Bayville, and with it the settling in to the academic routine for the younger citizens. Among them was Rogue, who found herself at the public library as part of a much needed escape from the mansion. As much as she loved the place, Xavier's was not the ideal environment for focus and study. Hence her presence at the library. She was pouring over a slim volume of Shakespeare in a desperate attempt to absorb the material for an upcoming test. Even in the relative peace of the library, the whole process was thus far a failure. A heavy breath was exhaled as she finished reading a passage for what she guessed to be about the fifth time. She closed the book and took the opportunity to look out the window in to the perfect fall afternoon outside. He was there, as expected, reclining lazily in the branches of a maple tree across the way.

Remy's posture was infuriatingly casual. He was liquid personified, all but melting over the bough he was seated on. The only sign of tension was in his hands as they busied themselves shuffling his ever-present deck of cards. She had scarcely started to watch him when he noticed her eyes on him. He gave a small salute in greeting, smirk plastered across taut skin. She saluted back for some reason, and was a little taken aback to note that once she completed the acknowledgment, she was gesturing for him to come and join her. He shot her a look that asked are you sure?, and for a moment she considered. End the play here? Give up their roles and play new ones-those of two friends engaged in polite conversation? To nod would be to break the oh-so-comfortable routine they had both been adhering (or was it clutching?) to for some time now. To shake her head would be to dismiss the potential for anything more than a stalker and stalkee. In all honesty, she wasn't sure which she preferred. She found herself nodding anyway, giving him the okay. He nodded too as he tucked his cards away. With the acrobatic grace she'd come to expect from him, he swung out of the tree and landed firmly on the ground before sauntering towards the library. That's how he moved-he never walked or ran. He would saunter, glide, grace you with his presence. Never anything so common as walking.

He disappeared form view for a moment, presumably to enter the hallowed hall of bibliophilia. Before long, he was treading across the room to the table that she and all her things occupied. She wouldn't have noticed him coming towards her had she not been expecting him. He never made a sound. Even his breathing hardly registered. She often found herself questioning if he breathed at all. She had her doubts.

He approached the table, all confidence and smiles. Despite this coolness that he exhibited, despite the surety with which she had broken their unspoken contract, an awkwardness settled over them like the threat of lightning. They were much more comfortable as silent guardian and unwitting target. Could they actually talk like normal people? Heaven (and hell, for that matter) knew that she wanted to be able to. Ever since that night in New Orleans as they chatted amicably over jambalaya, she knew that some sort of a connection had been forged between them. They were cut from the same sort of cloth, or as he had put it, they had "had been down the same road". Why then, exactly, did they keep up their carefully crafted charade?

A stupid question to which she knew the answer. Should either of them been caught together, their respective teams would be far from pleased. Xavier was a kind man, but not infinitely understanding. Neither he nor any of the X-Men would approve of her hanging out with an Acolyte. Magneto would be worse, and she could only imagine what might be in store for the boy with the careless grin that was taking a seat next to her should they be found 'fraternizing'. The distance they had maintained was safer for both of them. And yet, here they both were, together, in broad daylight for all the world to see. His eyes strayed to the book in her hand, and the silence was broken.

"Romeo and Juliet?" He asked skeptically, a laugh barely stifled. "For some reason, I never pinned you for the type."

As he finished his sentence, she placed the offending book down on the table and shoved it as far away as her arm would let her.

"It's required reading. I'm more of a Hamlet girl myself."

"Death, ghosts, murder and betrayal." He nodded. "Yeah. That suits you better." She gave him a small smile of surprise. Remy knew Shakespeare? Surprising indeed.

"A well-read swamp rat. Who would have guessed." She mused aloud. He merely shrugged, no real meaning to be read behind the gesture. It simply was.

"I dated an English major for a while. You either pick up on that sort of thing, or you move on."

"Let me guess-you picked up on it."

A dangerous grin, predatory in nature, flashed across his face for a split-second as he replied.

"Got it in one."

"Figures." She said airily, forcing herself not to realize the implications of that statement, of that smile. It was a useless effort. Ever the observant stalker, he picked up on her discomfort.

"Is that jealousy I sense?"

"Do I have anything to be jealous of?" She shot back, her voice a little more defensive than she would have liked.

"Not yet." He replied, a trace of that predator in his words. She chose to remain silent, having no retort at hand that would stand up to those eyes and that tone. He said nothing either, looking out the window towards the tree he had been resting in just a few moments before. She was suddenly struck by the image of a lion in a cage-a powerful creature kept locked in a space far too small. As quickly as the image had come, it was gone, and he was looking at her once more.

"So Romeo and Juliet..." He said, the lame attempt at changing the subject somehow sounding like exactly the right thing to say.

"Never really understood it." She said, thankful for the tact he was exhibiting. He looked intrigued.

"Don't understand it? What's to understand? Boy meets girl, they off themselves. Sounds pretty simple to me."

She shook her head, already warming to the subject.

"It's supposed to be the epitome of romance. It's the story every single girl is expected to want for her very own. The perfect romance, the perfect end."

"Star-crossed lovers and suicide." He murmured, as though the idea were something vaguely familiar.

"Exactly." The strains of victory coloured her words. "That's exactly what I don't want."

This appeared to interest him even further.

"You mean to tell me that you don't want any of that tragedy stuff? That you don't want your man to be so hopelessly in love with you that he'd take his own life if he thought you were dead?"

She met his eyes head on, a challenge and a taunt hidden behind green irises.

"That's what I'm saying."

"Then what do you want?"

The five words that came so easily from his mouth stopped her in her tracks. The defiance that had taken up residence in her eyes disappeared, and those green irises shifted their attention to her lap. Then what do you want? The question echoed through her head, somehow maintaining the almost exasperated inflection that Remy had used. This was her secret, the one deepest hidden and most greedily held. Actually saying it aloud was forced and painful, and why she was doing it, she didn't know. She spoke it anyway, and it amazed her as much as it did Remy. Her response came after a few quiet moments, so soft that she barely heard it herself.

"If he's not afraid to hold my hand, that's more than enough."

A warm hand came down on her shoulder, and another lifted her face so she was looking directly at her companion.

"Hey . . ." His voice was just as soft as her own had been. "You of all people should have higher standards than that."

They sat there, his hands on her and her eyes on him, and the world about them froze like a perfect movie cliché. Then just as quickly, the tender Hollywood moment dissolved in to mundane reality and uncomfortable silence. He removed his hands from her while clearing his throat, and she straightened out a stray lock of hair as she set to staring intently at something outside. They sat there in their own little words for what felt like years, but was really only thirty seconds at the most. With a deep breath (so he did breathe!), he reached out and picked up the battered paperback that she'd been studying before his arrival. He turned it over in his hands a couple times, seeming unsure of what to make of it. Hands far too old for the body they were attached to cracked open the cover as he began to read aloud.

"Two households, both alike in dignity..." His voice was impassive, but it was his face that betrayed him. A rare slip. Rogue watched him as he regarded the words with . . . regret? She said nothing. It seemed wise to her not to push, at least not now. Another deep breath preceded his next words.

"Tried the whole 'two households' thing once." He closed the book and put it back upon the table. "Didn't pan out like I hoped."

She allowed him a moment with his memories before asking the question both knew would inevitably follow.

"What was she like?"

"Sarcastic. Bitter. Violent at best, homicidal at worst. You would have liked her."

This coaxed smiles from both of them.

"She sounds absolutely charming." She said, a touch of sarcasm weaving its way through the pronouncement.

"Don't get me wrong. She was a bitch at times, yeah, but her heart was in the right place." If she didn't know better, she might have said that his eyes took on an almost dewy, far-off look. "She had the most amazing laugh."

"Had?"

It took him a second to respond.

"She's dead."

Before she knew what she was doing, she'd reached out her hand for his. The movement was instinctual, as was the natural progression from taking his hand to rubbing his knuckles reassuringly with her thumb.

"What happened?"

He let out a bitter chuckle.

"Her brother was a bit of a psychopath."

Rogue bit her lip as a familiar sensation wracked her mind. She could feel two psyches rising to the forefront of her consciousness, patchy bits of memories harvested in New Orleans from both Remy and Julian knitting themselves together in to a cohesive whole . . .

A shining sword glints in the half-light of dawn, borne by a lanky brunette who usually displays a preference for larger, more destructive sorts of weaponry.

"Stay away from her, Lebeau." A harsh, sibilant voice.

"You're insane, Julian." Spits a cinnamon haired boy - Remy, not three years ago. A pretty blonde thing stands at his side, their arms intertwined. Belladonna, a voice in the back of Rogue's head whispers. It sounds suspiciously like Remy.

"Julian, this is nuts. Just leave us be." Bella (for that's what both men call her) orders. This command has no effect. Before another breath can be drawn by any of them, Julian charges.

"NO!" Screams the blonde. She throws herself in front of Remy. There's a loud SHUNK noise as she's impaled, and she collapses in to Remy's arms. Red blossoms around the weapon now lodged in her chest like a rose in summertime, and after a few ragged breaths and attempts to speak, she looks up towards Remy before closing her eyes for the last time . . .

Rogue let out a gasp as she returned to normal consciousness, still feeling both Remy's pain and Julian's rage. Her grip on his hand tightened as she placed her free hand on her chest, the spot she knew Bella had received her brother's sword, and where she now knew Remy still ached whenever he woke from nightmares of cold, glinting steel and hot red blood.

"I'm sorry . . . " She whispered, the tears Remy had shed at Belladonna's death welling up in her eyes.

"Don't be." The two syllables were as firm as his grip now. "You didn't have any part in it. It's in the past. I'm done with it."

Neither of them was going to admit they could both taste the lie. Rogue was then struck by a sudden bout of shyness. She had just seen what might very well have been Remy's darkest hour, and she grew ashamed of herself on his behalf. She tried to pull her hand away, to reclaim the appendage so she might avoid any awkwardness . . . if that were even possible. She tugged gently. Nothing. She pulled a little harder. He wouldn't release her hand.

Realization struck.

"You're still holding my-" In her incredulity she couldn't even finish her sentence. He was holding her hand! He was holding her hand, and wasn't letting her go! Remy looked down at their entwined fingers, and seemed to find it rather entertaining.

"So I am." He said, the ghost of a smirk tugging at the corner of his mouth. Rogue's brain was not computing this. It was too busy trying to fathom the fact that a guy was holding her hand and refusing to let it go. He squeezed her hand. She squeezed back.

"Would you ever do it again?" Rogue asked bluntly, the question coming right out of left field.

"Do what?"

"The whole 'two households' thing."

The insinuation was clear.

Two households, both alike in dignity,

In fair Bayville, where we lay our scene…

Magneto. Xavier. Acolytes. X-Men. Remy. Rogue.

He didn't answer right away, choosing to purse his lips as he regarded her with what might have been either amusement or curiosity. Head tilted slightly to the left, his gaze settled upon their hands and swept up along her arm, her torso, her neck, her face. He finished his inspection by holding her eyes with his own as a smile stretched across his face.

"Not sure yet," He said, voice imbued with promise and possibility. "But you'll be the first to know."

-Fin-