A/N: Set after everyone was depowered by the High Evolutionary and the team had disbanded and scattered to the four winds. Before the depowering, Gambit dumped Rogue thinking they just couldn't make it work. Please let me know if this is a bit too rushed. It was initially meant to be a very short scene in something entirely different...somehow took on a bizarre life of its own after I read Legacy 224 followed by too much X Factor in one sitting. Everything is all Stan Lee's & Marvel's & whatnot. Rated T for some mild cursing only.
She tries to ignore the lovebites on his neck, the lipstick on his collar in two different shades of red.
He only comes to find her when he has lipstick on his collar, lovebites on his neck. As if to say, just because we can touch now doesn't mean I want you, doesn't mean I need you.
Then proceeds to watch her with eyes that say but I do, chere, I do.
Funny how those eyes are no less intense now that they're a murky brown: still the same fire, still the same burn. Contrary to all her expectations she doesn't lose herself in them any less often. Just one more way she's been wrong when it comes to him.
She's used to it by now.
She was wrong initially about this bar, too. On the outside the place is falling apart, but he had insisted on coming in and she hadn't cared enough to argue. They try a new bar every time he's in New York, hoping it might finally be the right one. Home away from home. Happily ever after. She doesn't think this place is it, but the scruffy wooden furniture and antique brass lamps make it her kinda place nonetheless: lots of character and very little polish. The free potato chips help too.
He catches the waitress' eye and asks for more chips and a double espresso. The girl walks away wearing a goofy smile that she can't seem to wipe off her face.
"Coffee at midnight, sugah?"
"Bien sur, ma cherie. Had a busy day, me.'"
"Lotsa business, huh?"
Her gaze takes a momentary journey down to his collar, his neck and back up again. Eyebrows raise fractionally, angled somewhere between cool detachment and bitter cynicism but too ambiguous to be definitively classified as either.
"Keepin' busy." A very Gallic shrug, the one that never fails to piss Scott off. "Dere's always work if y' good, chere."
A flash of gleaming white in the smoky darkness, the cocky grin that shouldn't still make certain parts of her tighten pleasurably but does so all the same.
She makes a face -- the one she knows he's expecting and loves -- and scoffs inelegantly. Tries to hide the flash of pain that she knows he's expecting too. No arguing, not tonight: she's too tired from fighting the rest of the world to fight him too, and thus she literally bites her lip.
(Still, one of these days she's going to show up with kiss-bruised lips and clothes smelling of another man's cologne. One of these days.)
"So disbelievin, Roguie. Y' still got no faith in dis 'ere Cajun? Dat hurts, y'know.'" Another razor-sharp grin, but this time less cocky, more teasing. Playful, dancing brown eyes ask forgive me?
She makes no reply save the coy hint of a smile -- as good as a yeah, but next time I'm kicking your butt -- and they lapse again into silence. She watches the barman deftly mix something very pink and cherry-filled for a leggy blonde. He leans back lazily and slips a little lower in his chair, elbows resting on the rickety armrests, fingertips lightly tapping an unlit cigarette on the worn wooden tabletop. Stretches out his long, lean legs until his feet straddle hers beneath the table, almost touching, always almost touching but never quite getting there.
As they sit this way she lets him look his fill of her while she examines the rest of the bar. Revels in the brown-eyed gaze tracing over her features, warm like sunlight. What he called watching his world contemplate the world, once upon a time. She wonders if that's still true. She's too afraid to ask.
"Mebbe one o' these days 'm gonna have to show y' how good I really am"
Her jaw stiffens for just a second. He lights up the cigarette with a battered brass lighter and takes a slow and deliberate drag. She picks up her bottle and takes a swig of smooth icy lager, feigning nonchalance before turning back towards him very, very slowly, eyebrows delicately arched once more. Her feint is no good and she knows it, but she plays out the charade anyway. Both because this is how these scenes always unfold and because it buys her time to settle the maelstrom of emotions his statement has aroused: terror; outrage (and he calls her a damned tease?); affection; amusement; deep and perverse longing. The first of the night is always the hardest.
As their eyes meet again there's a pause pregnant with possibility, with challenge, with expectation. They both wait for the other to say "Howzabout tonight?"
Instead, she opens her mouth and says "Ya just settin' meh up for disappointment, Cajun," with a mocking little smile and the moment passes, like all their moments.
(Sometimes she wonders if one day their time will run out before they can get it right.)
After three more bottles apiece, two heated arguments, and too many suggestive remarks to count she's ready to go to bed but not yet ready to call it a night.
She never is with him.
Maybe if they actually talked during these little get-togethers she would be, but neither of them say a word, not really. Instead they toss casual banter back and forth, banter that doesn't mean a thing yet somehow means everything, or they fling vindictive barbs across the table, leaving them both bruised and bleeding by night's end. She wonders where the two recklessly brave and outspoken people known as Remy and Rogue have gone. Wonders why their cheap replacements who can finally touch can never seem to speak, never seem to seize the moment.
This moment. The one that can't possibly last, where he's just a man and she's just a woman and they're just in love. No powers, no complications.
(...No complications except being in love, which is somehow scarier than her powers ever were or could be.)
In the end, as always, it's the waitress who calls it a night for them when she comes round with last call. They both order one last beer that buys them one half-hour longer of possibility.
The neon lights outside are painfully bright as they emerge back into reality. For a moment she's blind and lost and shivering in the cold night air.
He steps close without a word and she reaches for him in the same moment that he reaches for her, her dazzled eyes finally finding focus. Lingering notes of cheap perfume remind her of where he's been -- and who he's been with -- tonight. She fights through the brambles, letting them have their pint of blood. Focuses only on the smell of him as she closes her eyes and rests her head in the crook where his neck and shoulder come together, all tobacco and leather and spice. In this safe little haven she lets herself be tired -- tired and sad and lost and lonely -- knowing he'll catch her if she falls.
She's tired of the whole Mystique fiasco. Tired of feeling lost. Tired of missing him.
She's also hyperconscious of her lips and her right cheek making contact with his skin as they stand nestled together in his trenchcoat. There's maybe 9 square inches of skin-to-skin contact at most, an area the size of a Post-it note, but this is the most intimate she's been with anyone since...since the last time they did this.
"You okay, Roguie?"
Her lips curve against his skin, content.
His lips curve against her hair; she hears it in the way he whispers "Bon."
She stays like this for a long time, arms wrapped around him drawing comfort, drawing strength. When she finally opens her eyes and lifts her head from his shoulder, the world still feels just as heavy but she feels less alone. He leans down and rests his forehead against her own, looks her in the eye while his fingers nimbly wind through her hair, comforting and possessive both.
"You gon' be fine, petite. We all gon' be fine, even y' maman. We been t'rough worse, n'est-ce pas?"
She closes her eyes and holds on just a little tighter as they dance together along the limits of plausible deniability.
Still broken up, still just friends.
If either one of them chooses to make just a little more of that last remark -- if he inclines his head just a little farther downwards or she inclines her head just a little farther upwards -- they'll cross that very fine and tenuous line and there'll be no going back. She's too scared of what lies on the other side: of tripping over her own two feet and taking him down with her; of the music suddenly stopping; of him launching into steps that she doesn't know and can't keep up with.
She's never been much good at dancing.
So they remain standing still on the sidewalk, closed off to everything but each other while traffic and people pass them by.
As the temptation of wondering if he'll taste like beer or coffee or some wickedly heady combination of both becomes too much, she reluctantly unwinds her arms from about his neck.
It hurts that the lingering kiss he leaves in her hair as he lets her go seems so easy and so right, yet the words "I love you" are too damn hard for him to say even though the two actions amount to the same damn thing. Even "Je t'aime", easier to slur together and exhale on a breath -- fewer syllables, less enunciation -- is still seemingly too much to ask. "Jetaime. Jetaime. Jetaimeencoremabelle."
(Friends can still say that to each other, can't they?)
And she isn't picky; either would have done.
Neither are said.
Then again, she can't say them either. In either language.
And so she regrets pulling away almost as soon as she's begun, tries desperately to salvage the moment because it's still not quite right. Slides her hands along muscular shoulders and down corded biceps and forearms before finally interlacing her fingers with his and squeezing tight. Says "Thanks, sugah" and means it wholeheartedly even though all she wants right now is to kiss him on the mouth and say nothing at all.
"Ce n'est rien, ma cherie. Any time f' a beautiful lady"
He winks; she laughs.
Another moment passes.
She lets go one last time. He's gallant to the end: hails her a cab, opens the door with a flourish, and pays the cabbie more than enough to take her home.
She ponders what to say as she rolls down the piece of glass between them and places a hand on the windowframe. Aches to have him grab that hand and hear him murmur "Stay t'night. Don't go." But she knows he won't. She knows too that what won't happen tonight is her fault for being such a damned coward: if she asked "Come home with me?" he wouldn't say no. But every time she's about to open her mouth to ask some twisted, perverse little voice whispers what if he says "Ain't a good idea, chere" or "Too much water under de bridge, chere." Or worst of all: "Desole, chere. Wish I could but I already got plans."
She's never been strong enough to tell that hideous little voice to fuck off and just let her live.
The taxi starts to pull away.
"So Ah'll see ya when I see ya, Remy?"
"Oui, ma belle. I'll see y' soon."