An Ever Fixed Mark – by Darlin

Chapter Four – The Red String of Fate

A/N – Okay, by way of apology this is a double header, the final chapter plus the epilogue combined so this is going to be very long. I don't know why but I usually never get around to posting the epilogues, maybe it's just that I get sick to death of the story but I really enjoyed this one to the point that the epilogue had my emotions on a roller coaster but an enjoyable ride it was. Since I went over the two chapters at work today I found a lot of mistakes in the epilogue and am sure there are a lot more through out the entire chapter that I didn't catch so if you see any know that I tried to rush this out and just drop me a line and I'll try to fix them later. I just felt bad because it took me forever to get this up and though it's not the first time it's taken me forever to finish a story, due to illness I just wasn't up to it. But thankfully the worse is over and I'm feeling a lot better, as many of the X-Men have been wont to say, and quite often I might add, I got better. ;-D

I want to thank kendrat199 for the help with the French in the last chapter, corrections will be made, and thanks to everyone else who has been patient and especially those who've taken the time to review. I usually respond to every review but being ill I just didn't have the energy so thank you, thank you! Truly all the reviews really helped me since this is the first time I've written an OreO. I didn't know if I had it in me to make a somewhat believable relationship between Ororo and Remy so the positive feeback was necessary. This has been quite a challenge for me but fun too, especially these final chapters. I hope it's enjoyable for you too.

-xox-

One would not have expected Scott to be thinking about Dr. Seuss as he stalked down the hall towards Remy's room but there it was, stark and vivid in his mind, one of the few enjoyable memories he'd experienced as an orphan, a story he'd only heard once, read long ago by a kindergarten teacher he could barely recall. It was the story of the South-Going Zax and a North-Going Zax who seemed determined to butt heads on the prairie of Prax. Appropriate really. He wasn't looking forward to butting heads with Remy but when his people started getting banged up so badly that they were almost put out of commission he felt it was his duty to ascertain the reason.

It was almost as if the memory had triggered and transferred the extraordinary capabilities of his mind reading wife to Scott for Remy's door opened and the man himself strode out into the corridor. He headed directly towards Scott, fringed leather saddle bags slung over one shoulder and concentrating on the cell phone in his hand. And so, very much like the South-Going Zax and the North-Going Zax who seemed so very determined to butt heads on the prairie of Prax, the South-Going Cyclops and North-Going Gambit met in the middle of the hallway. It was the last place Scott wanted to be. He didn't like getting involved in the personal lives of his team but as leader he felt he had little choice particularly in this instance. Ororo was gone with no explanation and Remy wasn't much use without her, even Scott had seen that.

Remy hadn't once looked up, his attention solely on his phone as his fingers busily keyed in a text message. Scott sighed. Remy looked up, saw Scott standing in his way then continued with his text. After he sent the message he pushed a few numbers and pressed the cell phone to his ear. They both waited impatiently, Remy drumming his fingers on the phone as he held it and looking everywhere but at Scott.

"Remy, I need to talk to you," Scott blurted out.

"Voice mail," Remy replied after a moment. He shook his head. "Even if she talkin' ta someone else she always clicks over if she gets another call. You wouldn't happen ta know where Stormy went would you?"

"She didn't say a word to me."

"Right, she gave Jean de note not our fearless leader. Kinda keepin' you out of de loop don't you t'ink? So, does Jean know?"

"What? Now wait a minute, Remy even if she did I wouldn't break her confidence."

"Stormy's or Jeanie's?"

"Either of them!"

"De t'ing wid you homme is you too weak when it comes to women. Men need ta stick together."

"Jean doesn't . . ."

"Merde! You're henpecked homme just admit it. An' now dat Remy open yo' eyes for you, you wanna move outta my way?"

"Move out or your way? Look, we need to talk!"

Remy sighed. He pocketed his cell phone then drew out his keys. "I've got somewhere I need to be," he said.

Scott tried not to sigh but couldn't contain his exasperation. "Look, Remy I really don't want to do this and I know it isn't any of my business but it's obvious something's wrong. You were beat up pretty bad there, Hank said you were lucky your jaw wasn't broken but I'm not going to ask who did it or why, that's your business but don't think I don't have an idea about what's going on. The gist of the matter is that you're a useless mess all of a sudden and that hurts the team which is my main concern. You need to get it together and soon."

"Well," said Remy, "You right 'bout one t'ing homme, it ain't none of yo' business." His accent was thicker now, his tone harsh.

"Look," replied Scott through another sigh, "As leader of the X-Men I feel . . ."

"Save de sermon for someone who needs it, Cyclops, your problem's already solved; I'm leaving, gonna find Stormy. Don't know when I'll be back so you're gonna have ta hold down de fort without me."

"Find . . . find Storm?" Scott stammered.

Remy looked at Scott and shook his head. "Thought you said you knew what was goin' on? If you did den you'd know she's not answerin' her cell, won't text or talk ta me – what else did you expect me to do?"

"Well, not that," Scott said and then, "What about Rogue?"

"Dat's a good question," Remy said, not troubling to elaborate. He stepped to the side and walked on down the hall.

Scott turned and watched him go. "This can't be good," he murmured to himself and wondered just when Jean would tell him what exactly was going on.

-xox-

"Why is it that the more you contemplate doing something wrong the easier the idea becomes?" Ororo whispered into her cell phone. "I don't miss little things with him, the stray kisses, not even being in his arms. It isn't sexual but it is enormously physical this pull I feel. When I think of him or see him or when I hear him that deep lyrical voice of his just lulls me and there's this big something that takes hold of me, something unnamable. I don't need the physical aspects of a relationship I just need him. I want to see him every day and I want to laugh with him, I want to make him happy when he's feeling down, I want to hear his voice and hear his laughter. I know it sounds foolish, I know but . . .

"Oh, Logan I don't want to feel this way. I am very aware that I have to purge these feelings and let him go. You were right; it's all I can really do. I just don't want to. I have to force myself to stop feeling this way. I'm trying. Really. You know, I wasn't happy being there with him but I'm not happy now, without him. I think I'd rather be there and watch him suffer and try to help him than be here without him. But I want him to be happy and if it means I need to stay away so he and Rogue can work things out then that is what I have to do. Only . . . Logan, I . . . I'm in love with him. I know how wrong it is you don't have to tell me again. I'm just trying to accept that I may always love him. So the answer to your question is I don't know when I'll be coming back."

Hearing Ororo's desperate confession caused Logan 's eyes to bulge and he looked at his cell phone as if it were a foreign object.

"What did she say? What did she say?" Rogue asked while tugging on Logan 's shirt.

Logan smacked her hand away before putting the phone back to his ear. Only he found he couldn't speak. He tried to swallow but his mouth was too dry. He took a deep breath then released it. His eyes closed. He could see Ororo as plainly as if she were there. He saw her in a long flowing gown styled with a hint of her ethnicity, the type she often favored, the type that clung to every curve. He saw her with her hair up, her smile wide, her arms open. But he saw clearly that her embrace wasn't for him. He shook his head slowly and opened his eyes. He looked out over the wide lawn and for the first time since he and Rogue had met on the front steps that morning he noticed the flowers Ororo had lovingly planted and tended. Rows and rows of different types and colors surrounded the front steps like a beacon, a constant reminder to all that this woman was giving and caring and full of love. A reluctant smile started to creep over his craggy face.

" Logan ? Logan ? Are you there? Can you hear me?" Ororo called out loud enough that Rogue could hear her voice was etched with worry.

"Answer her!" Rogue hissed and gave him a little shove.

Logan put an arm out to ward Rogue off before replying to Ororo, "All I want is for you to be happy, darlin'."

"What?" Rogue squeaked out but Logan was walking down the steps and out onto the lawn.

"Maybe you should come back – being with friends, maybe seeing someone else might help," Logan said.

"Is she coming back?" Rogue demanded as she followed him.

Logan shook his head already knowing Ororo's answer.

"Rogue can rest easy, I may never return, Logan . As long as he is there I think it best that I am not," Ororo said.

The noise of a well tuned motorcycle suddenly drew the two conspirator's attention towards the multi car garage. One of the overhead doors was raising and they saw Remy, legs straddling a Harley, feet planted on the ground, his saddle bags strapped to the bike. He raised an arm in salutation when he saw the pair watching him. Rogue glared back at him. There would be no giving in for either of them they saw. Remy's arm lowered and then without another look or gesture of farewell he sped down the driveway.

"Are you going somewhere, Logan?" Ororo inquired.

"Hmm? Oh . . . yeah, might take Rogue with me," he replied.

"Are she and Remy all right?"

"Remy's the same, nothing's changed."

"Tell him . . . no, never mind, don't tell him anything not even that you heard from me."

"I won't."

"You're all right aren't you? But you're always all right."

"Yup. You know me."

"Take care old friend."

"You too, darlin' . . . you too."

"What, that's it? Did she tell you where she was, when she's comin' back?" Rogue bellowed when Logan flipped his phone shut then stuffed it in his back pocket.

Logan glanced at Rogue then looked towards the driveway. "What does it matter now the Cajun's gone?"

Rogue followed his gaze and Reny had stopped at the gate. They both watched as the gate slowly slid open.

"It ain't gonna work out . . . those two, if he even finds her," Rogue muttered.

Logan glanced at her before looking back at Remy.

"It ain't, is it?" she said when he didn't answer.

"I don't know," he murmured.

"Huh?"

"Never mind," he said and forced a grin. He wrapped an arm around her waist and she instinctively leaned against him. "Don't matter if it does or don't I guess," he said, "just that she's happy."

"Well, ah ain't going to no wedding no matter how much ah like Ororo," she declared.

"Me either, darlin'," Logan chuckled. "How 'bout we go into town, get a drink?"

"It's early," Rogue said, hesitating.

"You know what time it is in Japan ?"

"Really late ah reckon. Well okay, but ah want a lot of drinks."

He shrugged. "Sounds like a good plan, darlin'."

"All right then sugah let's get outta here! Screw that swamp rat!"

They turned back to the house, Logan 's arm still around her and hers around him. Neither of them saw Remy watching them as the gate closed behind him. His throat was as tight as his stomach felt as he watched them till they went up the steps and into the school. Though he knew there was nothing between Logan and Rogue and he was sure if anyone could help Rogue get past his desertion it was Logan , a part of him still resented another man touching the woman he knew he would always love. But he didn't mean to come back and so he knew he had to let her go. His shoulders slumped then he took a deep breath and looked out at the road before him. He didn't see endless asphalt or the towering oaks trees lining the road he only saw Ororo, forlorn and lost without him to take care of her. The image cleared his mind and renewed his resolve and despite his deep regret he sped off.

-xox-

"You didn't tell Logan I said hi."

"I didn't tell him a lot of things, Yukio," Ororo replied as she looked at the small flip phone in her hand. "I should have told him I was sorry."

"It's not your fault he has a crush on you besides Logan 's not the type to let something like this bother him for long. Give him a few six packs of beer and a woman or two on a pole and he'd be hard pressed to remember your name."

Ororo didn't seem to hear. Looking at her phone she saw she had several more messages and missed calls. Remy. The urge to call him back was too strong.

"He call again?" Yukio asked.

Ororo nodded.

"Oh, here, give it to me," Yukio said, taking Ororo's phone. "I like this it's slim and tiny, easy to stash in my bra," she said and did just that.

Ororo laughed now though she shook her head at Yukio, one of her closest and dearest friends.

"Don't get me wrong I love the little fella," Yukio continued right off where she'd left off, "and he's as steady and loyal as you can get but . . . well, he's Logan an' let me tell you, Mariko was a fluke – he just doesn't do long term, can't help how he's wired."

Ororo caught Yukio's hand in hers and squeezed it briefly before letting go. "I'm glad you're here, we see each other so seldom."

"You needed a friend, where else would I be? Although you aren't going to like what I have to say."

"If it's that I need to let it go you're wrong. I know I do."

"Nope, wrong, Wind-Rider. What you need to do is tell Remy how you feel, you need to latch onto that hunk of a man and not ever let go. I'm fine with moving on when it's time, there couldn't have ever been anything between Logan and me or with me and Remy even but life's too damn short, Ororo and you've gotta learn how to grab it by it's great ol' big balls and ride it for all it's worth."

"So easy to say but not so easy to always do, surely not even for you, Yukio."

"It's how I live my life and you know that. I'm a realist, Ororo and I thought you were too. It was easy for me to see how much Remy cared for you when he met up with us after that Antarctica mess and he's a hard one to read, all gallant and flippant and sexy . . . and eatable," Yuko finished in a breathy sigh as she thought about the man in question.

"Yukio," Ororo said, waving a hand in front of her friend's face.

"Huh? Oh, right where was I? Do you think he uses that charm whammy thing of his on everyone or just on the women he likes? I mean, do you think – um . . . oh, what am I thinking? Remy was never interested in me like that. Damn, but he's a devil. It's not hard for me to see why you're in love with him."

"If I didn't know better I'd think you'd fallen in love with him too some time in the past."

"Well, he's a – oh no you don't! I see what you're trying to do but this isn't about me and what might've happened between Remy and me. There isn't a man on earth that can tame me much less make me run away from everything I love like you did, not even that snake charmer Remy."

"You're not helping, Yukio."

"Uh, sorry," Yukio said, clearing her throat. "Okay, well where were we? Let's see, what do we know? Remy the charmer loves Rogue but has the hots for you, you're more than hot for him but you bowed out so you wouldn't hurt Rogue only she and the smoldering sex pot can never work out their problems. Is that about right?"

"Yukio . . . !"

"Well it's true so what're you going to do? Is this it? Just hide out here in the Big Easy sulking and feeling sorry for yourself while you waste away with the pain of unrequited love?"

"It's not like that at all besides it was your idea to meet here. I'd rather be anywhere else except here, there're too many memories."

"Continue lying to yourself if that's what you think makes you happy but what I want to know is are you actually going to let Rogue win? I thought you were a fighter, Ororo!"

"Yukio, it's not as if Remy's a prize to be fought over."

"You know, I wish I could say you're right but it's Remy we're talking about and if we're being honest then oh yes that man is a prize! There are all kinds of handsome men on this earth but those eyes, and that voice of his, like rich sake, so smooth going down but so strong, so addictive . . ."

"I don't care for sake and I'm not so sure I like the way you're talking about Remy."

"Oh, Ororo you're not helping at all either. You love him he adores you. Go back and fight."

"I cannot bring myself to do that to Rogue."

"But you will. You better."

Ororo didn't say a word instead she bit her lip slightly and looked away. Every instinct in her told her that Yukio was right. It didn't matter that her reasoning, that her very heart told her it would be wrong, that it would hurt Rogue and wreck the peaceful dynamic of the team, she would go back and she would do what Yukio said because if she didn't tell him how she felt, even if he turned her down or laughed at her she would always wonder and never be able to let these feelings go.

"Now that's the Ororo I know and love!" Yukio exclaimed when she saw the look of resignation Ororo finally gave her.

But a week later they were still in New Orleans . Though they had agreed that Ororo would go back to the X-Men and Yukio would go with her Yukio had insisted that they paint New Orleans red. One week of fun before they headed north, time enough for Ororo to have bolstered her courage and time enough for Yukio to enjoy all her favorite haunts.

Every night they partied. They drank so much that Ororo found herself dancing till a club closed then moving on to the next one. And she flirted and laughed all while dismissing constant doubts and niggling questions. Would he reject her? Would he tell her once more that Rogue owned his heart, that there was no room in it for her? She hid her fear as well as her hopes and laughed and lived for the moment because Yukio always brought that side of her out. And she didn't care who saw her or what they thought of her though she might have been exceedingly perturbed had she known demon eyes hidden by impenetrable sunglasses even in the dark club were watching her every move on this their last night out.

Remy lowered his sunglasses slightly, holding them in place as he watched her. Having finally found her he wasn't sure he liked this new Ororo. She was in high spirits, too much so and flirty, even wild. It didn't fit. But she was with the Wild One – Yukio, he was sure she had something to do with the change in Ororo. He didn't like Yukio's influence on her. He didn't like how easy Ororo gave into it either. She'd be sporting a Mohawk by tomorrow if this kept up. He didn't like Mohawks on a beautiful woman though some of the pictures he'd seen of hers were fetching. He didn't like the way the men were staring at Ororo in anticipation as if waiting for their chance. He didn't like how she laughed. It was too loud, too inviting. He didn't like the way she moved, hips swinging sensuously, hands beckoning even when the music died. He didn't like the way she crossed her long legs in a too short dress – too brightly red – when she and Yukio sat down. He didn't like the way the man at the next table got up and went to her as if she'd called him. He didn't like the way the man leaned down, his sooty black hair mingling with her pristine white locks, his lips close to her ear, smile as slimy as Remy knew his thoughts had to be. He didn't like the way the man took her hand, helped her up then pulled her to him – too close. He didn't like the way she laughed as if no one had ever treated her like that before. Her laughter was too high pitched even unnatural almost as if she was mocking Remy – knew he was there.

Another song was playing. A slow song. Too slow. She was in this man's arms – too close – not resisting but seeming to cling to him. Remy dropped his hand and the sunglasses slid back into place. The palms of his hands were damp with perspiration, his head was throbbing and his breathing was hard and fast, too fast, just like his heart, racing too fast. He took a long drink of his beer but it tasted bitter in his mouth. He wiped a hand across his lips, pushed back from the table, stood. His fists clenched, nails digging into his palms as he watched the stranger paw Ororo, the man's hands moving lower – so close . . . and then Remy was shoving through the throng, eyes glued on the man who was too close, too eager, too sure. Within moments he was wrenching Ororo by the arm pulling her to him.

"Remy!" Ororo cried.

Though Remy had hold of her he kept his eyes on the interloper eager to punish the guy for thinking he could touch Ororo. And then in one swift move Remy thrust her from him and swerved out of reach of the man's clumsy punch. Less experienced, the man didn't stand a chance. Remy drilled his fists into the man's gut and finished with a right hook to the jaw. The guy, clutching his stomach and knees buckling under him, spun around when his jaw connected with Remy's fist and he fell to the floor out cold. The crowd of dancers had parted leaving Remy, Ororo and her erstwhile dance partner in the middle of a small circle but when the man didn't get up the crowd, feeling deprived, fell back into the beat of the music and Remy and Ororo were surrounded by swaying bodies once more.

"Remy, what do you think you're doing?" Ororo shrieked over the music.

"We're getting' outta of dis place," Remy said. He took her hand, pulled her closer, caught her by the waist and deftly steered her through the mass of people.

The thick, hot, humid air settled over them like a suffocating blanket as they stepped outside. Remy coughed, tried to catch his breath.

"Remy!" Ororo cried as she shook his arm off.

"Don't Remy me, Ororo," Remy shouted and pulled her back to him so that she nearly bounced off his chest but he held her fast. And then they both laughed.

"You thought you could get away from Remy," he said, "But you belong to me, you always will."

"Remy . . ."

"You know you do, don't tell me you don't," he said, voice strong and fluid like running water and smooth like velvet.

For just an instant Ororo thought to deny the truth but she simply couldn't. He removed his sunglasses, let them fall to the ground then cupped her chin in one hand. He peered at her with an intensity that made Ororo catch her breath.

"What about . . . what about Rogue?" she stammered.

"Dat's finished."

Ororo gasped, her stomach lurching.

"You said you'd tell me if you were going to leave," Remy said, his look of determination turning to resentment now.

"I . . . I couldn't. I wouldn't have had the strength to go," she whispered.

"Ororo, you should've talked to me, told me what was going on," he said and shook his head.

"I couldn't . . . I didn't want to come between – I – I just didn't know what to do except leave."

Remy hugged her saying, "Sssh, it's all right now. Remy's here an' I'm not mad at you any more but you ever pull somet'ing like dat again I'm gonna put you over my knee an' give you de spankin' you deserve."

She laughed. He grinned and pulled her closer. She felt his breath on her hair, on her face, felt the warmth from his lips as they pressed against her forehead and then her cheek. His breath glazed her lips and her arms pulled him closer still. But he didn't kiss her.

"There're some t'ings we gotta work out now, chère," he said. "We're not gonna fight dis any more. You love me, I love you – you need me an' I've got to make sure you're all right. Look what trouble you got yourself in wid out me!"

She laughed again and pulled his face close to hers. "The only trouble I get in is when you're around," she said.

"Yeah, maybe dat's true but you love it don't you, chère?"

"I know that I love you," she replied, her smile fading. "Are you going to regret this?" she asked.

He rubbed his nose against hers. She smelled his aftershave, her favorite, and the stale cigarette smoke that always accompanied him, not as strong but still there, always there. And she loved it. Oh how good it was to hold him, to be held, to see him! Even if he still loved Rogue these past few moments would make it bearable forever after.

"Look like someone missed this Cajun," he said, smiling as he squeezed her tight. He pressed his lips to hers so that they were just barely touching. "Never gonna regret being wid you mon chère. Dis exactly where I need to be, exactly what I need to be doin' – takin' care of you."

Neither had expected bells much less applause yet the sound of someone clapping grew closer and closer. When they finally turned to see what was going on Yukio squealed and danced up to her friends. She knew this wasn't the proper time to interrupt but Yukio being Yukio, well she couldn't resist.

"Wanna give us a little privacy here?" Remy asked, his melodious voice was full of exasperation.

"I can't, I'm too happy for you!" Yukio said as she clasped her hands in front of her holding them to her chest. She tilted her head slightly to one side and then the other studying them so that Ororo tried to squirm out of Remy's arms but he held on to her fast.

"Yukio . . ."

"Ororo, I can actually see it!" Yukio exclaimed, beaming.

"See what?" Remy demanded, his patience running thin.

"The Red String of Fate," she sighed.

"And that is?" Ororo asked, still trying to pull away from Remy but he refused to let her go.

"It's an ancient belief in Asia , a myth of sorts, that there's this invisible red thread that connects a couple who're destined for each other, to be lovers, regardless of time or place or any circumstances. They say the thread may stretch, might even get tangled but it will never ever break. You'll always find each other because you belong with each other that it's destined although it took you long enough to find us, Remy." Yukio finished and the dreamy look that had been on her face as she'd waxed poetic changed quickly to one of mirth.

"Would've been here sooner if Stormy had jus' answered her damn phone an' told me where she was. You know how hard it was tryin' ta find you, chère?"

"I left a wide trail for you, Remy, you're losing your touch," Yukio said.

"Yukio!" Ororo exclaimed.

"Well, if he hadn't come he wouldn't be the man I thought he was. I just thought I'd help him out a little that's all. So I think this is where I say, 'exit stage right' or is that stage left? Your American sayings always confuse me."

"Time for us ta go too, Stormy," Remy said, letting her go but taking her hand in his.

"But I can't just leave Yukio here."

"Go on, Wind-Rider, we'll meet up again – after the honeymoon when you're sick to death of this guy," Yukio said with a laugh.

"Love you too, Yukio," Remy said.

"I know you do," Yukio quipped, already headed back into the club.

-xox-

Epilogue

Lying under a tall canopy bed hung with airy, billowy curtains while fully clothed except for her lower half Ororo tried to push Remy off her. He wasn't budging.

"Our guest will be here any minute, Remy!" she groused.

"Dey know us, don't expect nothin' fancy or anythin' but us bein' ourselves, no point in makin' a big deal out of it," Remy chided.

"They won't expect to find us in bed, besides that would be disrespectful."

"Remy can't help dat you're irresistible. You shouldn't have put on dat short skirt."

"I just wanted to look nice for you and you knew good and well we didn't have time to be . . ." Ororo's justification was broken off by the chiming of the doorbell. They looked at each other, all playfulness gone. Ororo shoved him and he fell away without complaint, letting her get up. He watched her retrieve her now wrinkled skirt from the floor and wiggle into it hurriedly.

"I'm going to look awful! Look at this! Oh, Remy see what you've done! I'm going to be so mortified!" she cried as she tried to smooth out the wrinkles while looking around the room for her underwear.

Remy got up, yanked his pants up and zipped them. From out of the corner of his eye the cute little red undies caught his attention on the floor on his side of the bed. He swooped down and captured them as if they were a trophy and proudly waved them at Ororo.

"Oh, you! You need to grow up," Ororo groaned in frustration. She bounded onto the bed and then bounced to the other side. Remy caught her with one arm, steadied her but kept the panties out of reach behind his back. She smacked him on the top of his head and only then did he let her go.

"Dat hurt," he said, rubbing his skull.

"It was meant to! I can't go out there without – well, dressed like this!"

"Should've done laundry," he teased, holding the panties over his head now.

"Oh you . . . you . . . you infuriating, infuriating man!" she laughed. She didn't resist when he helped her off the bed, laughing with her. "Goodness, Remy what if they heard you going on like that as if I can't even do laundry!"

"So what?" he demanded and kissed her.

"I don't want your kisses just my panties," she said and headed towards her dresser in order to select another pair.

"But you know dese my favorites, chère," he said, hugging her from behind as she opened a drawer and rummaged through it. He nibbled on her ear a little. "An you know you said you'd wear dese for me today, besides you don't want me to be t'inkin' all night 'bout you wearin' nothin' under dat skirt. You don't wear dese den you're not wearing anyt'ing, you know de rule. You don't want dat do you?"

She turned to him trying hard not to laugh. She'd agreed to a lot of his crazy ideas, what he called rules for a good marriage but what she called quirks for a kinky man, and for the most part she didn't mind but sometimes, like now, she just wanted to strangle him and his rules. He held the red danties out to her and she snatched them quickly. He was rewarded with the sight of her sliding those long legs of hers into the delectable lingerie he loved. He thought about making their guest wait a little longer but as if she knew his thoughts he received a sound thump on the head again.

"Ow! What was dat for?"

"For everything you're going to do today that you shouldn't," Ororo said and skipped out of their room.

It was almost one year to the day that Remy had found Ororo on the night before she and Yukio had planned to go and find him. The newlyweds weren't quite newlyweds any more, not everything was as rosy as they'd thought it would be. Remy's rules for instance were sometimes a bit much and Ororo still hated his smoking and had come to loathe the constant stench of smoke in his clothes. He was still trying to give it up insisting that she was too prim and proper and needed to lighten up which she would always deny and probably always would. And he still thought her gardening took time away from him but for the most part they'd been able to work out their problems as those in love and willing to compromise often strive to do. But this would be their final obstacle, their final test. They hadn't spoken of it as such but they were both aware that entertaining their old teammates could very well do them in.

They had settled in New Orleans , a place Ororo loved despite having to deal with the Thieves Guild now that Remy had been obligated to get involved with them again. She didn't approve but neither would she ever try to stop him from being who he was and sometimes he was even able to tempt her to go on an assignment with him though those times were rare now. But the excitement never wore thin and she always understood that side of him. Now she wondered had Rogue ever understood, would she have put up with all the little things that could drive a sane woman crazy? Did she still love him?

The doorbell rang a third time drawing her from her reverie. She slid into a pair of flats she kept near the door, took a calming breath dreading the confrontation. Would her friends hate her? But after Jean's embrace her fear dissipated. Scott was next, hugging her harder than he'd ever hugged her and then Kitty, and Peter and Kurt and Hank. Jean kissed Remy on the cheek and the men shook hands as they filed into the living room.

Logan and Rogue were the last to enter. Ororo's stomach sank. She'd thought her fear had dissolved but as she stood face to face with Rogue she realized its shadow might always linger. Rogue looked as pretty as she always did, slimmer and curvier if such a thing was possible. She wasn't covered from head to toe because she'd gained some control over her power but she still wore gloves.

Perhaps some of the X-Men were remembering when Rogue had first joined the X-Men. They'd gone to Japan very much like a family but she'd felt and acted like the outsider she was, a criminal trying to redeem herself. But Logan had been there for her as he was now, willing to give her a chance just as he was given, as many of them were given, as Ororo hoped she would be given today. Things had changed so much but Rogue had become family just as much as Logan or Kurt and Kitty and Peter were to Ororo. The second team of X-Men. She loved Hank too but there was a bond between each group of X-Men for the times that they had shared were unique to them alone. In all that time the good had far outweighed the bad and as those memories came back to her Ororo couldn't stop the smile that crept over her face. She held her arms out to Rogue and closed her eyes when Rogue accepted the embrace.

"Oh, Rogue I am so very glad you came," Ororo whispered.

Rogue didn't miss the note of genuine pleasure mixed possibly with a hint of relief. She looked at Ororo curiously. "Wasn't so sure you'd want me," she admitted.

"How could I not? You're family," Ororo replied.

"Gonna say hi to me darlin'?" Logan said, interrupting the women.

Ororo's smile grew wider and she readily fell into her old friends outstretched arms. "You haven't changed but you never do," she said. "It's so good to see you, old friend," she said.

"Better than good to see you, darlin'," Logan said but he held her at arms length looking at her with wonder, eyebrows raised.

Rogue found a seat by the door and didn't look at Remy who in return didn't look at her. He was joking with Scott who wasn't quite appreciative of the Cajun's humor.

"So you were able ta hold de team together wid out me I see," Remy laughed.

"It was difficult, Remy, extremely difficult," Hank said, coming to Scott's aid, "but somehow we survived."

"I think we were the better for it!" Kurt howled which brought a smile to Scott's face.

"You got somethin' ya wanna tell us, 'Ro darlin'?" Logan asked.

"Hey, don't hog her!" Jean said, taking Ororo by the hand and sitting her down in an oversize armchair that was near the fireplace. Remy immediately sat down on the edge of the same chair and as the conversation continued his hand began to idly running up and down Ororo's arm.

Neither Logan nor Rogue missed these small things. Rogue had expected to feel resentment, pain, anger even and she did feel all those things as she watched the simple caress but when Ororo smiled at Remy and he touched her cheek, such a simple gesture, she found the emotions were becoming less virulent. Yet when Ororo got up to get drinks and Rogue was able to get a better view of her friend and rival she saw Ororo had gained some weight and a little thrill of joy spread through Rogue's being. She was even able to sit back in her chair and relax a little.

"Well if they have ta be tagether at least she's gettin' fat," Rogue muttered to herself.

"It looks good on her," Logan, who was sitting close to, her remarked.

"Well, you would say that, nothin' that woman does is wrong in your eyes."

"Well, Ororo never does much wrong at least not without serious regret," he said.

"She'll regret getting fat, Remy ain't inta fat women."

"We talkin' about the same LeBeau? The Remy I knew would sleep with every last one of Mojo's wives an' concubines even if they looked as ugly as Mojo's long as he could charm 'em," Logan replied with a derisive snort.

Rogue laughed. "Ah never thought of Mojo bein' married. Do ya think he really has concubines? Ah mean who would want that bloated nut case?"

"What's so funny?" Remy asked as he stopped in front of them on his way to answer the door.

"We were talking about Mojo and how you'd sleep with his wife if he had one," Rogue said with a smirk.

"Ah, Remy sees my vaunted reputation lives on. Well, you know I just might've, possibly, maybe, um, about ninety percent positively probable I t'ink," he joked. "But if Remy recalls right you never held dat against me, chère," he added, his voice softer now and quieter like silk flowing over skin.

Rogue looked at him and laughed. "You ain't tryin' ta flirt with me are ya Swamp Rat?"

Remy grinned. "Don't t'ink a tiger like me can change his stripes?"

"Tiger, please! But you dang well better change!" Rogue retorted. "Ah don't like you messin' around even a little bit especially behind Ororo's back."

Remy saw that she was serious and he had to smile. "Ororo never minds if I flirt wid friends," he said.

"So, we're friends then?" Rogue said.

"Always, chère."

They had no time to say anything more. The doorbell rang again and Ororo was shouting for Remy to hurry up and answer it.

"Someone's a little henpecked," Scott said loud enough that Remy threw him a guilty look. He hadn't forgotten his last conversation with Scott.

"Doing what you can to please the one you love is not the same as being henpecked," Peter said.

"How many times have ah told you ta keep this one, Kitty?" Rogue said.

"Nothing could make me leave his side," Kitty said and she slipped her hand into Peters.

"But a woman should not boss a man around all the time, only if she has dinner on the stove and has cleaned the house first," Peter laughed.

"Peter, now you'll make them say 'All men are the same'!" Kurt complained.

"Well you are!" exclaimed Yukio who was standing in the doorway and grinning wide.

"I didn't know Yukio was coming," Kitty whispered to Peter who only shrugged.

"Bonjour, Yukio. Well you know everyone an' everyone here knows Yukio, non? My favorite little annoying someone," Remy said, adding, "Late as always."

"Have you ever considered maybe I'm the one who's always on time and everyone else is early, besides I got in this morning but you know this city never sleeps, I'm just getting back from a party," Yukio said and she slapped him lightly on the cheek a few times before joining everyone. "Where's the Wind-Rider? What's this big news? Oh, hey, Logan ; didn't know if you'd show."

"Might not have if I'd known you were gonna be here," Logan snorted.

"Oh you devil, you know you're delighted I'm in your midst!" Yukio said and immediately plopped down onto his lap.

"Yukio!" Jean said when she and Ororo came out of the kitchen carrying trays of sweet tea, lemonade and beer. "Hi, how nice to see you we were just talking about you! I was just telling Ororo how much I love the house, she told me you had a hand in helping them pick it out."

"I just knew a guy who knew a guy," Yukio admitted.

"Don't you always," Kurt said.

"Why thank you, Kurt. My you look particularly dashing today."

"It's a little small though," Jean said.

"Me?" Kurt asked in surprise.

"Of course not you, Kurt, I meant the house! But surely you don't plan on staying here forever, Ororo. Yukio, you have to agree, New York would be so much better, being back with family. Remy, when are you going to bring Ororo back where she belongs? You can come back too of course." The comment was said partly in jest but also in all sincerity only Jean hadn't considered that it might be too soon to broach that particular topic with Rogue in the room. Only the sudden silence in the room made her realize she'd said too much.

"Well that's certainly addressing the lime green, polka dot elephant in the room," Hank said, the first to finally speak.

There were some uneasy titters and most of the guest tried not to look in Rogue's direction. She remained silent though she glanced at Remy on the sly. He was helping Ororo distribute beverages and watching her carefully, a worried look on his handsome face. Rogue thought Ororo was trying to look as if nothing was out of the ordinary but wasn't succeeding at all and she was glad to see that guilt was a part of their lives. But the concern on Remy's face was such that Rogue couldn't help seeing that the only thing that mattered to him was Ororo. And when Ororo looked up at her husband Rogue could see immediate peace wash over her face as she smiled at him.

Even in an uncomfortable situation Rogue saw they still made each other happy, supporting each other without having to say a word. He was making her sit down again, perching beside her on the arm of the chair as if that was his habit when they had guest. It hurt to see him so concerned and utterly attentive of Ororo though she'd long come to see he'd always been that way. Still Rogue couldn't look away. He was giving Ororo a reassuring smile, rubbing her arm again, this time with more force it seemed. He looked up as if he were going to say something and caught Rogue staring at them. Their eyes held for a brief moment. Instead of the goose bumps Rogue had often experienced whenever he looked at her she felt vaguely ill. He looked worried, she thought, before he looked away. Worried for her or Ororo? She didn't want to cause either of them pain, that wasn't why she'd come though now that she was there she had to admit some little part within her had hoped they weren't happy or that perhaps she could still make Remy's heart flutter, that her presence could make Ororo jealous.

"Can't do dat, Jeanie, my wife isn't in combat shape any more," Remy said, breaking the silence as he patted Ororo's stomach.

"Don't tell me you let her get out of shape?" Logan said but he was grinning as if he already knew.

"You look fine to me, Ororo," Scott said.

"Maybe you got a little paunch but nothin' a little exercise can't fix," Rogue said, not adverse to admitting the truth. "But you do look good sugah."

"A paunch!" Remy roared. "Dat little paunch is Remy Junior," he said. "We're gonna have a baby!"

"We wanted to tell you in person," Ororo said as she looked around the room at the people she loved most in the world.

"Oh my stars and garters!" Hank gasped which made Ororo laugh.

"I'm going to be an Auntie?" Yukio squealed and leaped up to hug Ororo.

"Vas? Oh, Ororo! Congratulations to you both!" Kurt exclaimed, smiling at the pair as he waited his turn to hug Ororo.

"Oh, ah am so sorry!" Rogue said and she really was. "That would explain why you look so . . . so happy."

"It's the glow all pregnant women get," Kurt said, nodding in agreement.

"Now, that's not necessarily true," Hank started but he was shouted down, no one wanting a lecture just then no matter how informative it might be.

Everyone was up and talking excitedly, crowding around Ororo and Remy offering their congratulations. Only Jean and Scott paid any attention to Rogue after sharing a concerned look. Jean had long ago told Scott why Remy had left.

"And of course as Jean will be de godmother we want you to be de goddaddy, Scott, dat is if you t'ink you're up to it," Remy said.

"Up to it? Well of course! A godfather, wow!" Scott enthused, pleased to be included as he was so often not.

Ororo spoke quietly now, "And, Rogue we'd very much like you to be the god aunt that is if . . . if . . ."

"If you don't mind, if it's not an imposition," Remy said, finishing his wife's sentence for her.

"A god aunt? Ah don't know what ta say ta that, ain't never heard of a god aunt before but, well hell ah guess ah'd be honored being y'all's baby's god auntie. Ah can't believe you'd even consider me! When is it due? How far along are you? Is it a girl or a boy? Am ah gonna have a nephew or a niece?" Rogue's words tumbled out with the first real spirit of goodwill since she'd arrived.

"Are you sure?" Remy asked but Rogue was up lightning quick and she threw her arms around him, hugged him tight, and then she was hugging Ororo, the tears in her eyes giving proof to either happiness or pain but they all chose to believe she was happy.

There was much laughter and teasing as the evening wore into night. It was so close to what it had been like before Ororo and Remy had left – Hank's silly jokes, Kurt's lightheartedness, he wanted to be a god uncle if his foster sister was to be a god aunt though he'd never heard of such a thing either and Kitty decided they should all be god relatives.

"Since you're like a mother to me, Ororo and Peter's like a brother to you I'll be the god sister and Peter will be a God uncle," Kitty decided for her and Peter.

"That sounds so wrong," Rogue teased and ducked when Peter threw a pillow at her.

"No rough housing," Scott reprimanded.

"What's wrong with just being a plain ol' auntie? Aunties are loved more than godmothers," Yukio said.

"We would've asked you but you're not so easy to locate, we didn't even know if you were coming since you came so late," Remy said.

"You can say that again," Logan chimed in.

"Well, I'm here for the whole week, Logan that means we can have some fun, that is if you're not too old to keep up with me."

"You don't say?" Logan said and looked as if he were seriously considering spending the week with her.

It was well past midnight when they began to leave. They were staying for a week, the visit both vacation and reunion and would be coming back tomorrow. Remy was planning to give them a special tour of the city if the women didn't want to go shopping in the morning. After the news they'd gone on and on about baby clothes and all the things they'd have to buy before they left.

"Rogue, thank you for accepting . . . for understanding. I never meant to . . ." Ororo faltered, not sure how to express her appreciation and regret but Rogue smiled and hugged her.

"Ah love you, Ororo an' always will just as much as ah love that husband of yours. Ah know why you left, that you didn't want ta cause problems for me an' – well . . . well things worked out the way they were meant to ah guess. Y'all are happy, he's happy an' that's all ah ever wanted."

"Rogue, thank you."

She nodded, waved and started for her car. Unlike the others who shared a van she'd rented a car for just herself in case she felt the need to leave early. Now she was glad she'd stayed.

"You should say goodnight to her," Ororo told Remy who was just coming outside.

"I don't want to," Remy said.

"You need to though, I need you to," Ororo replied.

Jean who had come outside with Scott thought the way Ororo and Remy were looking at each other was as if they were pitted in a silent battle. Finally Remy sighed. He stooped slightly and kissed Ororo warmly on the neck then started down the walk.

"He really loves you," Jean said.

"I believe he does," Ororo replied though her eyes followed her husband.

"I always thought he did."

"He might not have come if you hadn't spoken to him, Jean. Thank you for that."

"Oh, hon what's a best friend for if we can't play match maker!" Jean chuckled.

Yukio cleared her throat as she came up to them, hands on her hips and said, "Best friend? Are you talking about me?"

"A girl's allowed to have two best friends, I'm not that greedy," Jean said.

"Well, just as long as you don't forget I was the one who left all the clues for him to find her," Yukio said.

"That was really smart," Jean concurred.

"Yes, Yukio I owe everything to my two best meddling friends," Ororo said without looking at either of them. Jean and Yukio saw she was watching Remy who had caught up with Rogue.

They were walking side by side. The night was cooler than usual, less humid and rich with fragrant odors from Ororo's flower garden which nearly covered every inch of the front yard. And it was full of night sounds that reminded Rogue of her own home in Mississippi, crickets and cicada's chirping and buzzing. It was music to her ears.

"Are you sure it's okay we asked you to – I mean if it isn't of course we understand," Remy said and she could see that for once the unflappable Remy LeBeau was truly uneasy.

Rogue stopped and suddenly threw her arms around his neck. She clung to him and moaned, "Hold me hard, Remy, just for a minute."

Remy held her. He closed his eyes and thought of all the things he'd missed with her, of all the things that could have been. He had to fight back a sudden thickness that clogged his throat.

"I still love you, chère," he whispered.

"Ah know. Don't think love, real love, ever dies," she said, moving away from him.

"But I love Ororo too, what we have is different, it's bigger dan you an' me an' everything else. She's – Rogue, I love her. I'm sorry if I hurt you." His voice was just as seductive, just as smooth, just as tempting but it was tinged with pain and genuine sorrow.

Rogue sighed heavily. "We would've been hurt worse if you'd stayed. Ah can manage ta control mah power now, sometimes but not always. Who knows what might've happened between us. Maybe ah might've lost control and left you in a coma just like ah did . . ."

Remy put a finger to her lips, held it there for just seconds. "Sssh," he whispered.

Rogue's lips parted when his finger fell away. Her eyes grew wide as his memories flooded her mind. She couldn't stop them. They fairly leaped out at her – so vibrant, so good and so full of contentment and love. She couldn't close her mouth she was so taken aback. He was loved and he loved Ororo so deeply.

Not until Remy wiped a tear from her cheek with his handkerchief did she realize she was crying. She tried to laugh but it came out more like a muddled cough. She forced herself to breathe in deeply and found herself smiling at him through her tears. This gift he'd given her, the trust he'd put in her made it hard for her to stop crying. She finally turned from him and reached for the car door. But she didn't get in. She stood there trying to regroup. She could barely see she was shaking, her shoulders rising and falling with her silent sobs.

They were quiet for a long time. He stared up at the sky noting the constellations, stars like bright sequins in a sea of dark velvet. The sky always reminded him of Ororo. She grounded him, made him better. She was everything to him. And now they were having a child, a boy he was positive. With this thought he glanced back at the house. Ororo was standing out front with Logan but as if she sensed his gaze upon her she looked up and smiled at him over the short distance.

Rogue was still emotionally wrought but she saw him looking back at the house, looking back at Ororo and for a second she greedily hoped Ororo was suffering but the feeling passed like water through a sieve and she knew it would never return. They were so happy together and that was all she'd wanted for Remy, for both of them.

"She's gonna be all right, 'Ro," Logan said.

"Do you really think so?"

"Yup, I do. Maybe at first I wasn't sure but after you told us you were pregnant I could tell, an' that hug between her and Rem, don't let it . . ."

"I'm not worried about a hug, Logan."

"Truth be told I didn't think it would work out like it has for you, was even kind of jealous there for a while but I'm glad for you."

"Thank you, Logan. I think I wasn't very considerate of your feelings when I was going through everything with Remy."

"More my fault than yours, I just assumed no woman would pick the Cajun over me," Logan said but then he laughed. "Well, I don't have that mutant charm he's got but take that away from the kid an' we're on even ground, 'cept for my experience an' darlin' I've got a lot of experience."

Ororo laughed. "I know you do, no man kisses like you, my friend."

"Then what happened?"

"I guess it was that mutant charm, even I am susceptible to that," Ororo teased.

"I can accept that, guess he'll keep you happy then."

"He will."

They heard a sharp whistle and saw Yukio sitting astride a model of the latest Kawasaki motorcycle. She put two fingers in her mouth and whistled again then waved at them, or more exactly Logan. Ororo and Logan both chuckled.

"This is gonna be fun," Logan said. "See ya tomorrow, darlin'." He took her in his arms and kissed her, a short but passionate kiss because Logan didn't know how to kiss without passion and then he walked over to Yukio.

Ororo didn't see Yukio and Logan drive off, she was too focused on Rogue and Remy. She was glad Remy hadn't seen Logan kiss her though it meant nothing more than any of the other kisses Logan had given her over the years. She knew Remy would understand one simple kiss although there was nothing simple about it. Remy wasn't a jealous man, he had no reason to be. And though her heart was in her throat as she watched Rogue and Remy she wasn't quite jealous either. She knew Remy was as dedicated to her as she was to him she just didn't want him to be consumed with more guilt than he already was. Somehow with Rogue's enthusiasm for the baby Ororo's own guilt had melted away. But would he ever be free from his guilt?

"Are you going to be okay?" Remy asked Rogue.

"Yeah. Yeah, Remy ah am. Thank you for trusting me like that. It means a lot. Ah think everything ah ever wanted for you has happened an' ah'm so happy for you, for both of you," Rogue said.

He smiled but she could see his eyes darting back to the house, his and Ororo's little house, their home. She saw that she had no place in his life now, that she was just a faded memory, a good memory though a little worn and tattered around the edges and then with sudden clarity she realized that he also was nothing more than a faded memory, good and precious but only to be stored away to sometimes bring out and recall for a moment but nothing more. She loved him but she was no longer in love with him. And for the second time that night she was genuinely okay. Peace settled over her. It had been so long since she'd had peace she barely knew what to do. She wanted to hug him, thank him, wish him well but seeing him so anxious to get back to Ororo and the child she was carrying Rogue knew all she could do was let him go. This was meant to be and for once she believed that everything would work out, that one day perhaps she too would be in Ororo's shoes with a husband who would die for her and a bun in the oven.

"Go on, git! She's probably dyin' with jealousy!" she said.

Remy turned to go but he stopped and turned back and grabbed her by the waist then lifted her high above his head and spun in a dizzying circle, one last link of the past, of what they'd once had, once meant to each other, and then he set her down and threw up an arm in farewell as he raced away.

As Rogue watched him she remembered he'd given her the same salute the day he'd left to find Ororo only she'd given no acknowledgment then. Now she lifted her own arm and held it high. He didn't see her, wasn't going to look back she thought as her hand fell slightly so that it was still raised but bent at the elbow, her fingers slowly curling into her palm like a wilted flower. He was wrapping his arms around his wife, holding her from behind, his hands on her tummy. But then he looked up and seeing Rogue, her hand frozen in place he again threw his arm high for a moment and then, together, as if in an accord they'd seldom been able to achieve in their relationship their arms fell slowly. Then he lifted Ororo into his arms and carried her over the threshold as if they were newlyweds and the door closed behind them blotting them from view. Even in farewell they were out of synch but they always were she thought as she got into her car. She didn't want a man she was constantly out of synch with. She never had or maybe she'd just discovered that she didn't. It was another revelation, another weight lifted. And as she drove to her hotel she found herself looking forward to tomorrow with new hope and welcomed peace.

"Is she all right?" Ororo asked when Remy laid her down on their bed.

"I t'ink she is," he said and she could hear the sorrow in his deep, tranquil voice. He laid down with her pulling her to him and held her so tight it took her by surprise.

"She still loves you," Ororo whispered.

"We'll always love each other, you knew dat from de get go."

"I did."

"An' you know you're de only woman for me don't you?"

"I do."

"Don't ever forget that chère, never forget."

And though unseen the red string of fate, the invisible bond of love that binds soul mates wound tighter and tighter around Ororo and Remy.