A/N: So much for in order. :shakes head at self: At least they're updates, right?
rogueyroo (I'll try to update more quickly next time. Promise.), Hawaiichick (I think about Lizzieturbo's Normal where she describes how cooking in Liousiana is very much "a guy thing." I just had to write that in.), fluid degree (I'll do me level best. :grins: ), Angie-san (I'm glad you're enjoying it!), Rogueslove22 (I think her announcement of their marriage was one of my favorite scenes ever to write. :giggles: I'm thinking on a sequel to this story that it inspired. But no commitments until All's Fair is done. I'd never heard about toilet training a cat until I read one of the Starlight Rescue books where Catman suggests it. I'm having fun. This story has so many inspirations and it's just...fun. I can do whatever in it.), sharky237 (Yes, I totally get pleasure from his suffering. :snickers: He's a little shocked and displeased to hear this, but hey, I'm the author. There is no escape. :cackles: Well, anyway, I'm glad you're enjoying this story. And I must admit, I make a point of exploring different aspects of Rogue and Remy's dynamics in every fic. If I didn't shake things up, there would be no point in writing that other fic. I like variations on a theme, but not more of the same. Make sense?), scott has a pole... (Here! I've updated! I'll try not to take so long next time either.),
Indigo-Night-Wisp (If I haven't said it yet: I love you! And of course, I mean that in an entirely platonic, but I must absolutely have a dose of you every so often, kind of way. :grins: ), PhoenixCrystal (I really had it out for the cooking. Now, just look out for that divan! :rubs hands together in anticipatory glee: I smell a bonfire, boys and girls!), Lucida Lownes (I'm trying to pick on both of them as absolutely much as possible. :grins: ), CurrentlyIncognito (I got hooked on Laura in Asylum [I think; I constantly mix that up with I Get By: one of them anyway]. She was written so well that I went and found out who she was and then she just popped up here. I'm glad you like her.), RogueOnFire (We'll see the birthday party on Wednesday. [It's Tuesday.] And I've got lots and lots in store for Love and War. :grins: ), cuzimaw3som317 (The cat is here to stay! Promise. :grins: And hope to bring more chaos to a chapter near you.), Chellerbelle (Well, I'm glad I could cheer you up! Hope everything's good on the other front. I had fun with Remy's checklist. This is my story for checklists. And always glad to bring you giggles. [secret: I study your humor fics for techniques. never used to write humor, don't you know? :winks:]), XSuicuneX (Yeah, his secret admirer plan is now about to backfire. :cackles gleefully: Scratch is happy dandy!), PyrusAngel (What is soon? Yeah. I'm beginning to think I'm incapable of updating soon. :snorts: But anyway, I'm glad you liked it and i'm glad the boys liked the chapter too. I had waaaaaaaay too much fun with that poor gumbo. And I solemnly promise to stay (mostly) away from breakable items. 'kay?)
Chapter Seventeen: Worn to a Frazzle
All's fair in love and war.
Day Four, 18th Hour, 7th Minute
The rest of the day went by in a blur for Rogue. Hanging decorations, twisting streamers across bowers of princess-style white and little pink rosebuds, filling vases with the silk flowers, clearing out all the usual chairs in favor of some of the nicest from the formal dining room (a room the students rarely saw the inside of—at least some of the mansion's beauty should be preserved), until finally she collapsed in a heap on the divan in one corner. Jubilee was already sprawled across the floor in front, and Storm was leaning heavily against the back of one of those chairs. Emma alone remained standing in the very center of the room, looking every bit the unruffled queen she claimed to be, and surveyed the scene with a critical eye.
"It looks nice," she finally conceded, a tad ungraciously.
Rogue managed to look smug. "I like it."
Emma's look soured, but Storm smiled broadly in weary satisfaction. "And now I suppose we can get a bite of supper before gift-wrapping."
Jubilee leaned back her head and whimpered.
"It's not that bad," Emma told the girl unsympathetically. "We've put in only a few hours work and come out with something we're mostly satisfied with that Kitty will like."
Rogue squinted up at Emma. "What about the divan?"
"The what?" Emma cast her a curious glance.
Jubilee gasped. "Wait a second! There's no way we can get it out now!"
"Get it out?" Emma's eyes finally fell to the culprit Rogue was sitting on.
The divan, a fat, monstrous, ugly blue thing tolerated primarily because there wasn't a more comfortable piece of furniture in the entire house—barring perhaps Remy's bed, as he'd traded out the one his room came with for one more suited to his King-sized, Egyptian cotton taste. Despite this point in its favor, the divan was truly ugly and would ruin the look of all their hard work. Worse, no one had thought of it before they packed in chairs and vases and decorations so that barely a person could squeeze through to the backmost corner, and the divan could certainly not be squeezed out of it.
"Kitty could phase it," Jubilee suggested, eyeing the furniture dubiously.
"Certainly not." Emma glared imperiously. "It's her party."
Storm looked regretful but nodded her agreement. "It would spoil the surprise of the room."
Rogue groaned and curled up on the couch. As if they hadn't already put in enough work. "Throw a sheet over it."
"Rogue!" Storm sounded shocked. "No. We must find a way to get rid of it."
"Have Remy blow it up!"
Jubilee screeched. "Not the divan!" She wrapped her arms protectively about a bit of its cushioned back. "It's the most comfortable seat in the house!"
Long sighs filled the room.
Emma, being of a practical bent, finally said what they all knew. "We must move all the chairs back out. And the table to the side."
Four weary females viewed the task with some chagrin.
Rogue grumbled but pried herself up. "Let's get on it then."
Day Four, 18th Hour, 42nd Minute
For the first time in her life, Rogue cussed a solid blue streak, including quite a few ephithets against their resident telekinetic for having the nerve to die on them before Kitty's it-must-be-perfect eighteenth birthday.
Jubilee stared at her in horror. No one else batted an eye, still groaning under the various corners and edges of their burden.
So maybe it wasn't the first time Rogue had ever cussed like that (thank Logan, seriously), but it was certainly the first time she'd broken that cardinal rule of etiquette: Thou shalt not speak ill of the dead.
"Come off it, Jubes," she snapped. "It's not like your mouth's always pure." Rogue stretched a little further, trying to gain some purchase on the back corner of the divan from hell.
Jubilee closed her mouth with an audible clack.
Storm sighed and leaned heavily on the furniture. "This is rather—"
Rogue shrieked as the added weight threw the precariously balanced divan into a dangerous wobble.
"Oh no!" Emma tried to catch it, but it was too late.
It flipped up and fell—on top of Rogue.
She couldn't figure out who to kill first: Jubilee for the distraction, Storm for leaning on the divan, or Emma for failing to catch it.
"Oh dear," was Storm's brilliant addition to the conversation.
Rogue closed her eyes, gritted her teeth, and started counting down from a thousand.
"This is ridiculous!" Emma declared. "I'm calling Remy."
Naturally, this meant an all-out assault on every brain in a fifty-yard radius under her mental shout:
Rogue quit counting and glared. "I hate telepaths!"
Day Four, 19th Hour, 53rd Minute
It took both Remy and Piotr to lift the doomed piece of furniture off of Rogue.
"Move it outside while you're at it," Storm ordered, less imperious than usual and much more miffed.
Jubilee, Emma, Rogue, and Storm joined in giving it dark glares.
"We ought to burn it," Rogue decided.
Remy raised an eyebrow. "Should we now?"
Jubilee bit her lip. "But it's so comfor—"
"I wouldn't finish that sentence if I were you," Emma said.
The younger girl fell silent and backed away warily, eyes wide.
Rogue collapsed in a weary heap in the nearest chair and waved her hand imperiously. "On your way, Remy, can you pick up my library holds?"
He stared at her as if he could not believe his ears.
"They're just sitting in my box in the library here, for goodness' sake!" She crossed her arms and glared at him. "Are you or are you not my slave?"
It was Piotr's turn to look startled.
Remy's jaw tightened. "Oui."
The other girls just looked blank-faced and innocent until the boys had exited. Emma broke the silence first, giggling like a young schoolgirl, and then it was over. Every last one of them collapsed in peals of laughter until they could barely breathe from the scattered chairs at Kitty's birthday table.
Day Four, 23rd Hour, 16th Minute
Rogue stayed up late working on Kitty's presents, being one of the very few that hadn't begun by buying the exact same pair of shoes everyone else thought of. Being Kitty's roommate could have posed a problem, but she solved it handily by wrapping in the back corner of the library, a place Kitty had sworn off forever after three ranting diatribes about the computer section's inadequate resources for anything.
Her eyelids kept shutting on her, and she had to slap her cheeks to keep herself awake. Only the fact that she was hiding from Kitty kept her quiet through a dozen misapplied pieces of tape, two ruined sheets of wrapping paper, and the tissue paper she had to rescue from Scratch by swatting at his paws.
"You promised to behave!" she hissed.
He mewed and curled up in a ball on her lap to pur throatily.
And there she was, helpless mush again. "Oh all right. You can stay." She cuddled him with one hand and launched her third assault on a pink and white gift bag. Who would have thought it could be so hard to just bag something?
But her eyes continued to droop and her head began to nod, and eventually both girl and kitten lay sleeping on the library floor.