There was nothing more refreshing than an early morning flight for Rogue. With the wind whisking through her hair, everything and everybody miles away, and her psyches pacified, she could pretend she was normal.

On this particular morning, she took her time, gliding across the sky instead of streaking by at her usual supersonic speed. It didn't happen often but at the moment, she was at peace and intended to stay that way for as long as possible. After her time with Magneto in the Savage Land and then being mind-controlled by the Shadow King at Muir Island, she was glad for the respite. The X-Men were reunited and ready to take on the world again, but she was determined to enjoy some down time before she had to play superhero again.

She grimaced slightly as she thought of Magneto. She thought she saw something in him during their time together, a part of him that seemed to genuinely care for her, but any tenderness on Rogue's part was squashed by his ruthlessness in Zaladane's death. As much as she wanted to be more upset by his actions, she couldn't. Romance - with anybody - just wasn't in the cards for her. With her powers temporarily negated in Australia, as much as she enjoyed the contact with Erik, she knew it was temporary. Getting close to anybody would eventually end in heartbreak. It was best she got out of that relationship before it had even begun.

Rogue had already come to terms with the fact she'd probably never have a relationship with anyone. Her poisonous touch posed a problem for anyone angling to get close. It didn't matter anyway. That normalcy she craved so intensely that it made her chest hurt didn't matter as long as she was an X-Man. What member of the X-Men was so-called normal or even lived normally? Not a one. She smiled at the thought, feeling comforted. And with that, she decided it was time to get her feet back on the ground again.

By the time she returned to the mansion, she was feeling refreshed and due for her morning caffeine fix.

She always enjoyed the hours of dawn when the mansion was devoid of its inhabitants' activities, which is why her early morning flights were followed by her early morning coffee musings. Considering the near-constant inner ramblings of her psyches, she took enjoyed the solace when she could get it. With the sun peeking up over the horizon and dimly illuminating the large newly rebuilt kitchen, she didn't bother turning on a light. The steps to the coffee machine were nearly ingrained in her brain.

She went to work on preparing the pot, measuring the amount of grinds and adding the water when a foreign voice pierced the silence.

"Don' usually enjoy bein' up dis early, but if it means seeing a femme as beautifulas y', I might star' t' make it a habit."


Dieu, but Remy LeBeau hated mornings. Normally he slept well into the daylight hours, if not later, his body forever tuned to being a night owl. The nightmare that jolted him out of his sleep had been a particularly bad one. He relived the final moments of his duel with Julien, the sword sliding into the Assassin's body before falling to the ground and his lifeless eyes staring up at Gambit, accusingly. Before he could react, Julien's body morphed into Genevieve, the crimson blood pooling around her contorted body as Mr. Sinister strolled up to Gambit's side offering to fix him, fix his powers, in exchange for killing the Morlocks.

Not too many things stirred the Cajun, but his life's biggest sins paraded in front of him were a hard pill to swallow.

With so much darkness in him, he wasn't sure he was cut for this hero stuff. Hell, he didn't even really believe in Professor Xavier's fundamental dream of peace between humans and mutants. He didn't think about those things at all so long as they didn't benefit him in some way. The ends had to justify the means and he wasn't quite sure how to play the hand he had been dealt with his joining of the X-Men.

He had followed Storm to New York to make sure she was okay with this family of hers and before he knew it he was agreeing to go to Genosha, battling Wolverine in a Danger Room jaunt and then going up against the Shadow King after a field trip to the Shi'ar galaxy. Really, it was all in a day's work for the X-Men and it wasn't as if he'd had anything better to do. Before meeting up with Storm, he'd been wondering aimlessly around the globe, picking up thieving jobs and earning his master's mark. It wasn't as if he had a home to back to or even a family, for that matter. Kill or be killed, or so the old adage went. What did it matter anyway? Killing Julien to save himself sealed his fate, at least in the guild's eyes. After he landed the fatal blow, he sought out Belle, and the image of her devastated, wild eyes was one that would never leave his brain.

But as long as he was with the X-Men, it meant he wouldn't have to contemplate his dubious past and the things he so desperately wanted to atone for. Even if it there weren't enough good deeds to wipe his slate clean.

Gambit halted his ruminations from the table he sat at in the darkened breakfast nook when he heard footsteps, steady but light, coming closer. His breath caught when he saw her slim but voluptuous in all the right places, her skintight yellow and green uniform hiding nothing. Wavy auburn hair spilled down her back, highlighted with two distinctive white streaks framing either side of her face. Her cheeks tinged rosy like she had just come in from the morning chill. Gambit assumed he had met every female in the house, but apparently the best had been saved for last. Whoever she was, she was beautiful.

She walked to the coffee machine, unaware of Gambit's concealed presence. He watched as she started to prepare the morning brew, enjoying his unabashed appraisal of her. Her hands were steady, almost nimble, obviously accustomed to the coffee-making routine. It was strange, though, she never removed her gloves...

He decided he'd had enough of playing the silent observer. It was time he introduced himself.

"Don' usually enjoy bein' up dis early, but if it means seeing a femme as beautifulas y', I might star' t' make it a habit."


Startled, Rogue paused momentarily and then continued to pour the water into the top of the machine before slowly bringing the pot back to the counter, assessing the disembodied voice that called out from across the spacious kitchen. The voice, smooth with a slight lilt, reminded her of marshy bayous, sticky summers and Mardi Gras. The voice, while it had a Southern edge to it that reminded her of home, was distinctively Cajun. Though she had yet to meet him, tales of his shameless flirting with the mansion's female population were downright legendary and he'd only been around for a couple of weeks. This man hiding in the shadows of the kitchen was obviously Storm's new recruit known only as Gambit.

Her mouth quirked as she turned around to attach the voice with a face. "Ah sure do hope ya talkin' ta me, sugah," she drawled.

Her eyes scanned the large kitchen before settling on a darkened figure sitting at the small table in the alcove. She couldn't really make out features per se, but it didn't matter once her gaze fell on his unusual eyes. His irises glowed red in the dusky darkness. However, they didn't scare her as much as they intrigued her. She wondered what they looked like up close.

From his obscured position, it seemed as though he was enjoying the morning's solitude as well. Sympathetic, Rogue felt bad for disturbing him, but now he had her curious.

"Y' de only femme in de room, chére," he replied, pleasantly surprised to hear Southern diction spill from her lips. Mississippi, if he wasn't mistaken.

She laughed. "Ya never know. Some people like talkin' ta themselves. Ah should know."

"Y' talk t' y'rself often, chére?" His rich voice filled the room, sending a slight shiver down her spine.

"More often than Ah'd like," she admitted with a winsome grin. "Then again, Ah suppose in my case it's not really talkin' ta mahself."

"Now y' talkin' in circles, ma belle." A hint of cool curiosity laced the statement. Though she couldn't see him, she feel his smile.

"And you're hidin' in the shadows."

He chuckled lowly, the sound not quite leaving his throat. He gracefully pushed his chair back so the wooden legs barely grazed the hard linoleum.

As her mysterious new teammate materialized from obscurity, Rogue studied his appearance. Now she knew what Jubilee meant when she confided to Rogue that the newest X-Man was a "major babe." His body, all muscles and confidence, filled out his tall, sinewy frame. His grown-out auburn hair framed his handsome, angular face that was covered in stubble. His fashion sense left a little to be desired. Covering a fitted black T-shirt and destroyed denim jeans was a beat-up brown duster that looked like it had seen better days. As he approached, she caught a whiff of stale tobacco.

"Dat better? I know m' view cert'nly is," he offered lightly, his eyes raking over her body.

She ignored his remark. "You're Storm's friend."

"Dere a bulletin?"

"No. Ah'd say your reputation precedes ya," she said lightheartedly, her emerald eyes sparkling.

"Haven't seen y' around, p'tite. Got a name?"

She paused, sizing him up. "Rogue."

"Sounds dangerous. I like dat in a girl," he said with a smirk.

An eyebrow lifted suspiciously. "What dontcha like in a girl?"

Actually, he could think of a few things off the bat, some of which his estranged wife Bella Donna possessed, but it wouldn't do him well to get into that just yet. Besides, Belle - for once - was not at the forefront of his consciousness.

"Why don' I take y' out and we can discuss it?" he offered.

"Sorry, Ah usually don't go out with strange men Ah just met."

"Strange, chérie? Ouch. Here I t'ought I was bein' charming," he said, taking a step closer.

"Ya bein' something, swamp rat," she tossed back, edging into the counter.

"And now insults. Y' usually insult people y' jus' met?"

Lifting her chin defiantly, she replied, "Only the ones that get fresh."

"Y' got sass, girl, I'll give y' dat," he returned, his eyes appraising her once more. "That's okay, chére, give Gambit a lil' bit o' time and he'll win y' over."

"You get on me for talkin' ta mahself and here you are talkin' in third person," she said with a laugh.

"What c'n I say, chére? Part of m' charm," he purred, his honeyed voice seemingly pouring over her.

"Sure it ain't part of ya ego? How do ya stay upright with that oversized head of yours?" Rogue said, pushing away from the counter and placing a hand on her hip.

Holding his ground, Remy simply grinned, his crimson eyes staring into hers, twinkling. Suddenly, Rogue found she was mesmerized. He took a half-step closer to the woman in front of him so that they stood only inches away from each other. He was too close for Rogue's comfort, yet the thought barely registered in her now-hazy thoughts. He towered over her, forcing Rogue to tip her head up to keep his molten gaze.

She could have sworn his head moved a centimeter closer to hers. Her heart was beating erratically and she could feel small tremors coursing through her from head to toe. And then he did it - he touched her. She could feel his hand grazing her hip just below where her own gloved hand was planted.

The gossamer sensation was enough to break her reverie. What is wrong you, girl?! her mind screamed. Was she really about to let him - a stranger, no less - kiss her?

She spun around abruptly, blindly reaching for a mug in the cabinet above, fumbling a little. Steadying her hands, she poured the black substance. There would be no doctoring the bitter brew today. No, it was definitely a black coffee day.

"A little jumpy t'day, chérie?" he asked smugly. "Y' know, I c'n help wit' dat."

"Sugah," she said, laughing unsteadily, turning back around to meet his eyes. "Ah'd like ta see ya try." With that, she picked up her mug and strolled toward the doorway. When she reached the threshold, she paused.

"See ya around, Cajun," she called over her shoulder before disappearing from his sight.

And life at the X-Mansion just got a little more interesting, Gambit decided. It wouldn't hurt to stick around, at least to see how his hand turned out. And right now, Remy LeBeau was feeling very lucky.