Disclaimer: I don't own the X-men…No point in suing, since you'll only get credit card debit!
A/N: In this chapter, I mention the Remi tribe. This was a real tribe noted by Roman historians that lived in northern Gaul.
Amor Omnia Vincit
Chapter 6: Caged Hearts
Rogue stood before her father, the paterfamilias, with her head lowered in respect and obedience.
"It's too late, Anna. The negotiations have been completed." Her father looked at her sharply.
"No, Anna. I won't stand for any arguments from you." He stood and moved towards her. "I am the paterfamilias and you will do as I say. General Creed is a wealthy man with a good name. He'll make you a fine husband, and you should be happy that I was able to arrange for such a match. He's far more than your mother and I had hoped for you, considering your…gift."
Rogue stood her ground. "But Ah don't love him…Ah don't even like him!"
Her father laughed. "Since when did love matter in marriage? Love is only a foolish emotion that weakens us and makes us vulnerable. We would all do well if love never entered in upon our lives. More people are wounded by Venus than by Mars, child."
He gave a sign of dismissal and Rogue reluctantly left the room. Her father had made his decision and nothing could change his mind now short of an omen.
Rogue went to her room and talked to Kitty about her situation. She refused to resign herself to a marriage to Victor Creed. The man was older than anyone she knew and he always made her feel uncomfortable. Even as a child, he had reminded her of a viper waiting to strike, and yesterday she had witnessed some of his explosive temperament when he attacked Remy.
Early in the afternoon, a visitor was announced. Logan had been close friends with Rogue's grandfather, and they had fought side by side in the Punic Wars. He had respected her grandfather, but found her father to be rather useless. Nevertheless, Logan visited the family villa frequently and had taken a liking to Rogue and Kurt.
Logan was considered to be the most physically powerful of the Alti and was the oldest. In fact, no one knew exactly how long he had been alive, only that he had survived fatal wounds with little difficulty. Recently, Logan and the weather goddess, Ororo, had formed a relationship.
Rogue's father greeted Logan in the main hall. "Master Logan, to what do I owe the honor of your visit?"
Logan was never one for formality. "Listen, bub, I'm here to see Stripes. She here?"
"Yes, I'll have someone fetch her." He turned to the entrance and motioned for Piotr to bring Rogue.
Logan narrowed his gaze on her father before he spoke again. "Creed's been spreading' a rumor. I hope for your sake it's another one of his lies. Did you promise Anna to that monster?"
In a sign of respect, her father lowered his head and nodded. "He made an offer and her mother and I found it acceptable."
"I don't like it and I'm lettin' you know now I don't approve. He won't make her happy"
Rogue came down from her room and saw Logan standing in the hall. "Logan?"
"Hey, Stripes. Come down here. We need to talk." Logan looked over to her father and waved him away. "I want to talk to her alone."
Her father nodded and quietly left.
"Sit down." He pulled a chair over for her. "I know about the arrangements. Creed's been runnin' his mouth."
Rogue cupped her face in her hands and sighed. "Ah don't want this, Logan."
"I know, Stripes. You just say the word and I'll take him out."
That brought a smile to her face. "Thanks, Logan. Ah needed that, but Ah'll handle it somehow."
Logan cupped her chin and lifted her eyes to his. "Keep your chin up. I'll be around if you need me or change your mind." He winked.
"Logan, can Ah ask you a question?"
He nodded. "Sure…what is it?"
Rogue stood and looked to see if her father was listening. "Do you know anything about the battle General Creed fought in the north a few years ago?"
Logan looked surprised. "You mean when he captured the Remi tribe?"
"Was that about three years ago…when he won the triumph?"
"Yeah," Logan answered. "Why do you want to know about that battle? You're not actually interested in him, are you?"
"No! Ah…Ah just was curious." Rogue said but her voice faltered.
"I don't know much. I try not to get too involved with Creed." Logan sat down on a stone bench and thought about the stories. "Creed was awarded the triumph 'cause he captured the chieftain called 'Thunderer'. I hear the boy gave him a good fight."
Logan retold the stories that he had heard, but there were little details. Rogue couldn't help but wonder whether Remy was the chieftain that Logan described. He seemed to fit the description, but could Remy really have led an entire tribe. He seemed so young. Creed certainly didn't care for him. And what about the title 'Thunderer'?
Logan left shortly after their discussion, but promised to stop by soon enough. Rogue walked over to the window and caught sight of Remy working diligently in the back garden. When she had first seen him, she thought he was handsome. The more she learned about him, the more she was drawn to him. Rogue realized that she became foolishly happy on days when he graced her with a rare smile; and strangely empty on days when she didn't see him.
Remy was repairing the pebbled walk in the garden when he felt someone approach. When he turned around, he saw Rogue walking from the house in his direction. She took a seat on the stone bench beside him.
"Hello, Remy." She said as she straightened her tunica.
Remy continued working, but smiled. "'Ello, chere. What are y' doin' out here?"
Rogue smiled back. "Ah was talkin' with Logan, and he told meh some of the stories about your people. Can Ah ask you some questions?"
Remy lowered his head in assent. "Anythin' y' want t' know, jus' ask."
Rogue tilted her head to the side and studied Remy for a moment. "Have you ever heard of the 'Thunderer'?"
He froze and dropped a large stone on his fingers. "Ow!"
A warm chuckle floated over him.
"Y' find dis funny?" Remy asked, shaking his hand.
"Sorry," she whispered.
He straightened his spine and sighed. "Why do y' want t' know 'bout him?"
"Ah want to know more about where you came from, Remy. Some of the memories Ah received confuse meh."
Remy answered steadily, as if the memory didn't pain him. "He was a chieftain of our people…young and foolish. He thought he could protect them, but he couldn't."
She watched him and saw the pain behind his words. She knew that she had been right. Remy was that man. "What does the title mean?"
"He could make anyt'ing explode with a huge force or simply heat it with a touch. Dat's where de title came from, chere." Remy fingered the collar around his neck.
Rogue reached out and touched his shoulder, turning him towards her. "Remy…"
He saw the flame of recognition in her eyes and knew she knew the truth. "It's alright, chere. Remy has accepted his fate. It brought him here t' y'."
She just sat there and stared into his exotic eyes for a while. She wanted to comfort him, but knew that he wouldn't welcome that, especially from a Roman and his master's daughter. All the same, she wanted to hold him. "Do your people have stories of gods and heroes?"
"Oui…do y' want t' hear one?"
Rogue nodded and leaned back.
"What kind of story do y' want, chere…long, or short? Happy, or sad?"
She thought that over for a moment, and said, "A longer story. You choose whether it's happy or sad."
Remy began recounting one of the great love stories of his people. It was the story of a great, handsome warrior named Fraoch and his attempts to win the heart of the beautiful daughter of Mebd, Findbhair. The warrior loved her from the start, but her mother forbade the union. She was determined to destroy the young man before he could steal Findbhair away from the other suitors, so she sent him on impossible tasks. Finally, Fraoch was asked to fetch a branch from the river, but it was guarded by a powerful monster. While he swam, Findbhair admired his strength and beauty. When the monster attacked, Findbhair lept into the river with a sword and aided her warrior suitor, but he was gravely wounded. He survived thanks to the power of his mother, a goddess, and the two were wed. The story didn't end well, though. Shortly thereafter, Findbhair's mother tried to seduce her daughter's husband but he rejected her advances. For this injury, he was killed. Remy's story took an hour and when he finished with the death of the lovers, he was silent.
Rogue was also silent for a time, and looked at him with an intenseness that pierced him.
"Perhaps love is never easy, even in different worlds."
Piotr entered the villa behind the master of the house. After Logan had departed, the pair had gone into town to visit the local slave market. Rogue's father wanted to obtain a more experienced maid for his daughter now that she was promised to such a high family from Rome. Kitty would begin working in the kitchen with Wanda, while this new addition to the household took over her duties.
Iris was a beautiful woman and slightly older than the others, but still young. She had raven black hair and olive skin that glowed.
Piotr led her to her chambers and introduced her to the other servants of the house. Kitty noticed the way Iris' gaze lingered on Piotr and it made her feel uncomfortable. She wasn't the jealous type, but she was cautious.
When Piotr was told to take Iris to Rogue's chamber, she made her interest known.
She cornered him in the room and pressed herself against his chest.
Piotr calmly forced her back and reiterated the general rule forbidding relations amongst the slaves. She looked disappointed, but nodded. When he left, however, she followed.
Piotr met Kitty in their secret corner of the villa.
"I don't like her, Piotr." Kitty said with her back to him.
He walked up behind her and wrapped her in his arms, rocking her side to side in a soothing motion. "Don't let her worry you. You'll do fine in the kitchen and I'll be able to see you more often now, Katja."
When he placed a gentle kiss on her cheek, Iris moved away from the wall and slipped from the room quietly.
Rogue wasn't happy with her father's decision to buy Iris and send Kitty to work in the kitchen. They had been close friends for as long as she could remember, and now she was attended by a stranger. Rogue could sense that Iris was scared of her and her gift…few weren't.
When Iris pulled another tangle too roughly, Rogue waved her away and she hurried from the room. She sighed and sat along the window seat, looking out over the countryside. Kurt waved up to her from below, and then rode off on his horse.
Rogue left her room and walked out to the stables. John and Remy were caring for the horses, brushing and rubbing them down. She seemed startled to see them at first, but continued inside.
"Good evening, Anna. How are you tonight?" John asked as he finished with one of the mares. "You just missed your brother."
"Ah know," she said and caught Remy's eye. John noticed and stepped aside to continue working on another horse across the way. "Hi, Remy."
Rogue petted the white mare Remy was working with and silently wished she could do so without her gloves. A tear formed in her eyes and Remy reached to wipe it away. When she flinched back, he nodded.
"Remy understands, chere."
"Do you?" She looked into his eyes intently. Did he really understand how she felt?
"Sometimes a master's not much more free dan a slave, oui?"
"You do understand. Ah feel like a bird in a cage sometimes." Rogue tugged on her gloves meaningfully. "Ah just want to…feel. Ah want to feel the freedom Kurt has, feel the sun and wind on mah face. Ah want to touch."
Remy looked thoughtful. He cast a quick glance to John and the expression on his face changed. He jumped upon the horse and held a hand out to her. "Come here," he said tilting his head to one side.
Rogue reluctantly stepped forward. He leaned over, reached down, and lifted her off her feet, so easily she was astonished. Remy set her down sideways before him.
"Put your arms around my waist, and hold on, chere." With that, they were off. Rogue seldom had the chance to ride horseback, and it startled her to see how high it seemed and how precarious. She seized hold of his belt, almost too late, and hung on tightly.
Remy seemed amused. For Rogue, it was a terrifying yet exhilarating experience. She hadn't been so close to him since that night she fell from the rafters. She could feel the warmth of his body, and breathe in the scent of the oils that he used in bathing. He let the horse have its head, pounding down the hillsides, at a speed that seemed dizzying.
She knew Remy was taking a serious risk, riding from the villa with her on horseback, but she couldn't help but feel thankful.
Remy reined the horse in as the crested a hill.
There are moments in life that become frozen in memory like a painting: a vivid image of everything just as it was. This was such a moment for Rogue. She looked down the slope that spread out before her; the valley was a sea of beige grasses under a multicolored sky with the sun sinking behind the horizon. "It's so beautiful."
"Oui…" Remy whispered and ran a hand through her hair.
When Rogue turned to look at him, she saw that he wasn't speaking of the countryside. She saw herself reflected in his eyes. She watched the fleeting rays of sunlight cut across his face. He really was a good-looking man. But it wasn't just that that she found appealing. There was something more to him. Something that was in pain and at the same time feral. It made her want to soothe him, like he did for her even without knowing. He had more strength and courage than anyone she'd ever met.
Rogue reached up and brushed his hair back from his handsome face. His eyes were still breathtaking and disturbing and they melted a foreign part of her. She wanted to kiss him, and it pained her to know that she never could.
Remy looked down to where Rogue still clung to his belt. "Y' can let go now, chere."
Blushing slightly, Rogue let go, but remembered something. "You never told meh what that meant…chere."
They sat there for a while in silence, enjoying the comfort given. Remy's voice deepened, little twinkles lit the darkness of his ruby eyes, and a smile formed on his lips. "Do y' have dreams?"
"Oui, dreams." Lifting her hand, Remy placed it on his lips and enunciated clearly, as if to communicate through touch as well as sound. "Dreams are de forms in your mind where y' dance t' de tune of what may be."
"Dreams are a waste of time," she said, sadly.
"Non, chere. Dreams give us hope t' change our fate." He watched her with something that looked like pity.
If she had ever dreamed a man and hoped to have him, the man she dreamed would be Remy. It was as if he had somehow ascertained everything she admired in a man and distilled it within himself.
Remy looked at her hand at rest in his. "We can always change our stars." Somehow he managed to gain possession of her other hand. Looking into her eyes, he said, "Remy's never seen a femme so in need of love."
Remy encouraged her to think beyond her earliest teachings, and Roman tradition. When he leaned forward, she took a deep breath.
"Don't be afraid." His lips brushed her forehead, and his hands enclosed her arms. "Remy won't hurt y'."
She ached, she couldn't catch her breath, and all he did was pull her close, wrapping his arms around her. One of his hands massaged her neck through her hair; the other rubbed small circles on her back, comforting her. The massage made her want to turn her head and close her eyes, and with a sigh, she did.
Her hands itched to wrap around his waist. His touch set off a shudder that rattled her spine.
"Y're cold," he whispered.
"No," she whispered.
Remy pulled away and smiled. She immediately felt the absence of his heat. "We should get back before y're missed, chere."
She nodded, and knew he was right. He would be severely punished if they were caught, and that realization sobered her.
The ride back to the villa was in silence.
Fortunately, only John was privy to their departure. By the time they returned, Sol had given its reign of the sky over to Luna.
"G'night, chere. Sweet dreams." Remy lowered his head and kissed her palm, before walking back to the slave quarters with John.
Rogue stood in the night air for some time, looking at her hand with a whimsical smile on her face. Maybe tonight she would have sweet dreams after all.
A/N: Thanks again to everyone who reviewed! In the next chapter, we'll have an interesting Roman celebration where slaves become masters for a day and some preludes to a major disaster (I think y'all know what I'm referring to).