Disclaimer: I do not own the X-men franchise, nor do I own any rights to the films "It's A Wonderful Life" or "A Christmas Carol". I am not making any money off anything, least of all this. Shocker.

Note from the Author: This is Christmas one-shot, inspired totally by the song "Baby It's Cold Outside" as recorded by none other than the fantabulous Dean Martin. I recommend everyone listens to it this season from the Romy perspective, because it's hilarious. Thank you all for reading, I hope it lives up to your expectations and lifts your Christmas spirits. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays everyone! Sorry for the double post, needed to correct the last of the sp/gr mistakes.

Marie sighed heavily. The back of the taxi smelled faintly of stale smoke and booze, with the seasonal bonus pine scent, probably courtesy of the little tree hanging from the rearview mirror. She wasn't crazy about taxis on the best of days, but after having sat motionless in this one for nearly two hours she found herself particularly disdainful.

Usually she could focus on the changing scenery outside her window, but they were just idling in the same residential area of town. She'd practically memorized each penthouse a dozen times. She'd watched the falling snow collect in increments on the sidewalks, sills, and rooftops until even that seemed monotonous. There was absolutely nothing new to see.

The driver had the radio turned to the traffic report, in a fruitless attempt to learn something helpful. The roads were slick from the snow, traffic was heavy with holiday travelers, and there was a three car pile up on the highway that had three of four west bound lanes blocked. Cars were backed up for miles, including hers.

She mentally cursed Ororo, with all her good holiday intentions. It was the week before Christmas, and 'Ro had sent Marie out for some last minute holiday errands: picking up a few more gifts for the children at the school, sending out some gifts to friends outside the mansion, and of course it was also a chance for Marie to do a little personal shopping. Christmas was on overkill at the mansion: every surface of the inside and out seemed to be coated thickly in lights, pine boughs, bows and ornaments. They had enough food stocked up for the Christmas feast to feed a small army, and Christmas tunes drifted ceaselessly, sickeningly through the halls.

It had seemed like a great idea to get out of the house before Santa himself showed up to push the jolly-meter through the roof. The Christmas spirit was a little overwhelming, and she'd feared that if she didn't get a little air she was going to start sneezing candy canes. Still, no one complained about Ro's enthusiasm. How could they? Everyone at the school was still recovering from some hard knocks. They were all trying not to notice the empty places at the table, trying not to think about how those of them left could never do things as well as the Professor, Scott and Jean would have. Everyone needed this holiday to be as wonderful and magical as it could possibly be: it was reassurance that everything was ok, and would one day be good again.

Magneto's war had changed everything. The world was a different place. He had created a self-fulfilling prophecy: humans would never cooperate with mutants because they feared them too much. Magneto consistently gave them reasons to be afraid, and so they refused to cooperate. The X-men were trying to follow Xavier's dream, but it was hard to face an increasingly hostile public with all their leaders gone.

Ororo, Logan, and Hank had stepped up to the plate in place of Xavier, Scott, and Jean. They were doing the best they could, but whether anyone said it out loud or not they could feel that things were still off-kilter.

Marie was no exception. She'd taken "the cure" in an effort to pursue a normal life. She didn't want to admit how much Bobby had been a part of that equation. He wasn't the whole reason: her mutation had once had an extreme effect on her life, and she had wanted nothing more than to find a way to have the things forbidden to her.

Unfortunately, the cure had been a total misnomer. Not only had her powers returned, but it hadn't fixed her relationship either. It was easiest to believe that Kitty had caused the distance between Marie and her teammate/boyfriend Bobby Drake, but the truth was that Kitty was only a symptom of the real problem: they weren't right for each other. There was a sweet affection that still lingered and sometimes tempted, but that real chemistry, that draw that formed serious attachments and true passion had never really surfaced. As desperate as she had been to touch another person, the few intimate moments with Bobby were awkward, and maybe even a little forced. They had both wanted to have that other something together, but neither of them had been able to make it happen.

The silver lining was that the cure had led to Marie gaining control of her little curse. Even while the cure was in effect, she had still felt her power coiled under her skin like a low current of electricity. It sought to get out, but could find no way through the barrier of her skin. At first it had been terribly uncomfortable, but eventually the feeling became familiar and faded to the back of her consciousness. Her powers had gradually drifted back to the surface, and she had been able to familiarize herself with each new level of potency. Once they came back fully, it had seemed only too simple to recall the process of burying them in reverse.

Unfortunately, with everyone so painfully aware of just how formidable her mutation could be most were still uncomfortable with physical proximity. After all, if her control slipped for even a second the consequences could be disastrous. She'd had barely any slips and the times she did she wasn't in contact with anyone, but still she walked around in her own personal bubble like she was trapped inside an impenetrable fortress. Bobby was happily pursuing a more fulfilling relationship with Kitty Pryde: Marie was back to her isolation tank, with no one brave enough to try breaking in.

As if that wasn't enough joy for the Christmas season, there were plenty of people at the mansion holding a grudge against her for taking the cure in the first place. They felt like all mutants had it pretty hard, and wouldn't give her any special consideration just because of the nature of her particular gifts. She was a traitor, an outsider, someone who deep down preferred humanity to mutant-kind. No one called her Rogue anymore outside the danger room as a peculiar kind of punishment. She wasn't worthy of her mutant name anymore. She was no better than a bigoted human: she could stick with her human name.

Marie sighed. The radio announcer had switched from traffic to weather, predicting heavy snow fall throughout the late-afternoon and through the night. Probably 6-8 inches by the morning. Fantastic. She closed her eyes and tried hard to remember a Mississippi summer: the warm, sticky heat, the heavy sweetness of the air, the feeling of the sunshine on her skin.

Once she had thought she'd love to head north into the cold, live in a world of snow and ice, like some kind of alien planet. After a trip to Canada and a few winters in New York, the cold season had lost its charm. She'd grown tired of constantly bundling up and running around looking like a marshmallow, tired of the slight chill that lingered in her fingers and toes, and seemed to suddenly wax poetica about the heavy heat and humidity of her former life.

Marie reached into her purse, pulling out the list Storm had given her to make doubly sure she had run every errand. It was at least the fourth time she'd done so, and knew full well the list would just reaffirm the fact that all she had left to do was go to the post office. She had decided to do that on the way back, hoping the one nearest the mansion would be less populated than the one in the city. Plus, by the time she got there the worst of the traffic would be behind her. Still, she poured over the list again because there was nothing else to do, hopelessly bored with probably hours to go yet.

Logan had offered to come pick her up when she called to say she'd be late, but she'd quickly declined. One, though his bike was more maneuverable, she had quite a few bags to carry. Two, though she would never admit it, Logan's bike driving scared the bejeezus out of her. Now she was starting to regret wussing out.

Once again, the list was predictable. In a last ditch effort, she looked over the list of addresses Storm had listed for the post office trip. Anything to keep from just sitting.

Moira MacTaggart

2940 Dunblane Road

Muir Island, Scotland

Kurt Wagner

Dortmund Abbey

883 Koblenz Strabe

Manheim, Germany

Remy Lebeau – ask if there's a listing for him in New Orleans, because I don't know if he'll still be at this address. I doubt they'll have one, and when they don't, just send it to this address and hope for the best.

Remy Lebeau

1959 W. 64th Street

New York, NY

That Lebeau. Even Storm wasn't sure of him, and he was her friend. He was one big mystery in a very nice wrapper. Marie had met him on one of the few occasions he'd been to the mansion. No denying that the man was gorgeous, but he was almost so gorgeous he was a put off. No man looked like that without being utterly vain and boorish. He'd been completely flirtatious, with a confident swagger that further substantiated her theory that he was a total waste of time with an attitude problem.

Still, Storm had hugged him ferociously, without even a hint of romance. She wasn't the easily attached type, and that had perplexed Marie. To everyone's surprise, Logan and Remy had recognized each other. After the shock had worn off, Logan had even shaken the man's hand. That was a huge deal coming from Logan, and had made Marie all the more intrigued.

As much as she would have liked to figure out something about the mysterious stranger that everyone seemed to know but her, it had been impossible to catch him alone. There was a consistent entourage around him, and he kept them all entertained with a quick and clever tongue that just oozed charisma. He just had a natural magnetism that Marie almost envied: everyone found him interesting, everyone gravitated toward his presence for one reason or another, herself included.

She had spoken to the mutant who referred to himself as Gambit a few times in a casual group setting, trying to get more information about his time with Logan, but each time she'd gotten bland answers and for the life of her couldn't get a clear read on him. Eventually she'd abandoned the whole quest as hopeless, and he'd made no real effort to seek her out.

A sudden realization hit: this address was just a few blocks east of here. Just as quickly, Marie talked herself out of the idea. She barely knew Gambit: she certainly wasn't going to show up at his house unannounced.

Twenty agonizingly slow minutes later, desperation won out. After all, the taxi would probably still be in this exact spot when she got back, and it would be nice to stretch her legs. Moreover, Storm said this address might not even be any good. Chances were there'd be no answer, and then she'd just walk right back and be able to tell Storm he was MIA later this evening.

Resolved, Marie told her plan to the taxi driver and paid him for his time thus far. He made no promises to wait for her, and she didn't care. Hell, she could probably walk home faster than he could take her.

Armed with her bags and an address, she made her way out into the snow.


"Gosh, I am so sorry Remy. I mean really, unbelievably sorry. But with my parents coming in tomorrow and the snow, I just can't afford to get snowed in, you know? Maybe we could reschedule sometime?"

"No worries petite, luck can' always be on my side. You enjoy yo' time wit' de family, and we'll talk after de holidays, non? After all, we got plenty to talk about."

The woman on the line giggled shrilly, like the tinkle of a rusty bell. She sounded just as silly as she looked last time he saw her. Hers was the type that never had trouble getting a date, had never been to school dance alone, with rich parents somewhere in the background paying for her to waste as much time as possible in selfish, trivial pursuits. She was the type that lived for gossip and drama, with a plastic attractiveness that wouldn't age well at all. She would never outgrow her need for constant attention, but would quickly become unworthy of it: someday she'd be shriveled, desperate, and bitter, unable to get the joke. Remy was just a classic bad boy to her, a great story to one-up her college friends. For him she was just the Friday night distraction, and had failed to live up to her end of the bargain.

Though vaguely irritated that he would be spending the evening alone, there was a bittersweet relief knowing this was the last time he'd ever speak to this particular piece of work.

She tried to swing a seductive edge into her voice, instead just sounding less intelligent than she already was. "You're just too good to be true, hot stuff. I'm going to have to try awfully hard to impress a man like you. You'll be patient with me, won't you?"

He shuddered involuntarily, deciding that there was a quaint charm about a night alone with the tv. "I got all de time in de world when it comes to you, belle femme."

She giggled that grating sound again before they hung up. Once that was done, he quickly put in his code and set up a block for her number. He was doubly irritated: he'd even cooked.

Oh well, he'd have lunch tomorrow. He stood by the corner fireplace for a moment or two, deciding how to proceed now that his plans had changed and enjoying the heat of the open flames. Finally, he plopped down on the couch and grabbed the remote, determined to distract himself one way or the other. Unfortunately the tv called up a black and white image of a morose looking Jimmy Stewart standing on a bridge. How perfectly dreadful, most stations were playing holiday classics, pulling up picture perfect images of the very thing he was trying to distract himself from.

He was about to turn the stupid thing off again when a soft rapping came at his door. He looked over, curious because he wasn't expecting anyone. For a moment, his stomach lurched: maybe this was the bar ho's idea of a cute surprise? Just when he'd gotten comfortable with the idea of her absence…oh well, might as well take advantage of whatever opportunity presented itself.

He put on his most charming face: he was still wearing only a pair of red silk pajama bottoms, hoping it would minimize conversation when the girl arrived. He'd thought if he could keep her mouth shut for the duration, he might have been able to pretend he liked her.

The rapping came again, this time a little more confident. He walked over to the door unhurried, his concentration devoted to his upcoming performance: dashing, daring, gentile…

When he opened the door, he was surprised, though he wasn't altogether sure if the surprise was a good or a bad one. It took him a moment to place the somewhat familiar face blushing up at him furiously in his doorway: Marie. Yeah, Marie from the X-men.

What was she doing here, looking at him all red-faced? Did she have a message from Logan, a summons from Storm? That didn't explain her obvious embarrassment. He'd barely even spoken to the cute southern brunette, and she seemed to barely notice him when he was around.

He smiled welcomingly. It was always the quiet ones who turned out to be the real wild cards.

"Well well well, ma chere Marie, to what do I owe dis unexpected pleasure?"

Her eyes bored into his face as though she was trying to cement them there, all the while her face growing redder and redder.

"Um…Ah-uh…see ah've caught you at a bad time. Sorry, ah'll just…"

Aha. She was caught a little offguard at his immodesty; this was what caused her to blush, not her intentions. Pity. It'd been a while since he'd been around the blushing type. He found it adorably amusing, and so pretended he didn't have any clue.

"No no, s' de perfect time. I was jus' having a quiet evening alone. S' a pleasure to have some unexpected company. Won' you come in?"

She abruptly held up a neatly wrapped box, her movements so quick he half expected she was drawing a weapon. She certainly was tense. How interesting.

"That's...very nice of ya to offer, but no thanks. Ah was just stopping by to drop this off."

"What's dis?" He asked innocently, though it was obvious from the snowflakes on the wrapping paper and the big blue bow.

"It's a Christmas present from Storm."

He let his face light up with child-like delight. "Fo' me? Why, I jus' don' know what to say!"

"Um, it's no big deal. It is the holidays after all."

He made the gesture seem completely natural, as though he were just the type who behaved that way as he pulled her into an enthusiastic hug with a matching, "T'ank you! You even came all dis way to deliver it personally!"

She froze almost dramatically in his arms. Ah, he'd felt that before. Boyfriend. It dampened his fun just a little, but didn't ruin it entirely. He released her, still smiling his innocent, excited, Christmas-like smile.

Marie took a deep breath, trying very hard to get ahold of herself. He was clearly very relaxed with himself. He seemed to take no special notice of the fact that he was shirtless: in fact he'd hugged her as though nothing was amiss. There was no need for her to make this unnecessarily awkward. If he was comfortable, she should be too. None of these circumstances meant anything to him. He looked genuinely happy to receive a gift. The innocent excitement was sweet; almost endearing, and once again she felt a flare of frustration at not being able to read his personality better.

She forced her shoulders back down into a more natural position and smiled at him in a friendly, disarming way. "No problem. Actually, mah taxi got caught in traffic a few blocks away and ah thought it might be a good opportunity to save on postage, but ah'm glad it made such an impression. Have a Merry Christmas, ok?"

She had started to turn away, but he spoke again. "Yeah, I been watching it from my window. Doesn' look like it's gon' let up fo' a while. Almos' makes me glad I'm not traveling fo' de holidays. How long were you stuck?"

His face seemed totally passive, like he wasn't aware she was trying to leave. Marie had a weird sensation that she was getting sucked into something she hadn't quite agreed to. It was only a small clue in the back of her head, like that moment in chess when you just begin to suspect you might lose.

"Oh, a couple hours. No big deal foah New York. Good thing yoah not traveling, ah don't think you'd get far."

He frowned. "I wouldn' mind de traffic if it meant I could go home fo' de holidays. I had planned to, but it didn' work out. Hard to get in de Christmas spirit when yo' spending dem alone, but hey, dere's always next year."

His smile returned too quickly. It was clear he was worried he'd said something a little too personal and was trying to maintain a light, polite atmosphere to cover it. Poor guy, all alone for Christmas.

"Well hey, you know we'd love to have you foah Christmas dinner. Storm's bought enough food to feed half of New York."

A silky laugh poured out of him at her little joke, and Marie resisted the urge to shiver. He really was obnoxiously attractive, down to his voice. It almost seemed like it had a flavor, it was so distinctive. She cast her eyes to the side a little, trying to hide her guilty appreciation. No harm in looking.

"Sounds like her. She's got dat overly maternal side. T'anks fo' de offer, but I'd hate to intrude. Besides, I don' know many people dere. Sometimes s' nicer to be honestly melancholy than falsely chipper, non?"

Marie smiled and shrugged. "If you change yoah mind, the offer stands. We can use all the help we can get pretending to like Jubilee's cookies."

Just as she'd hoped, that rich laugh poured out again. She shuddered just a little, sure he didn't notice. "Ah'll just be on my way then. Enjoy the gift, whatever it is."

His eyebrows knit together. "You sho' you won' come in? I got fresh coffee, you could at least come in and warm up jus' a minute. Doesn' look like de traffic is going anywhere, and dat weather looks miserable."

Remy had to really focus to keep his concerned face on. She'd fallen straight into his trap. The "lonely holiday" story had plucked at just the right heart string, he could tell by her immediate invitation. He'd invalidated her excuse to leave, and given her a perfectly reasonable one to stay. No way she could walk away.

Marie kept her friendly smile, but she blinked a little faster as uncertainty set in. She had no business being alone with a shirtless Remy during a snowstorm. But in the end, this was no big deal. He was just being friendly, and really she couldn't go anywhere but back to the dreadful taxi. Also, he seemed a little down about being alone for Christmas, and genuinely pleased at her appearance. Maybe it wouldn't hurt anything to stay just long enough for a cup of coffee: maybe it'd even cheer him up a little. It was stupid for her to care whether he was feeling cheery or not, but she supposed it was just the spirit of the season rubbing off.

She smiled a little wider. "Ah don't want to intrude or anything…"

It was clearly acquiescence. They both knew it. "Not at all, please, come on in and make yo'self at home."

Marie followed him through the door, allowing her curiosity to scour the inside of his apartment. It was hard not to be curious about Remy, and she was only further intrigued by her surroundings. The downstairs of the apartment, the only part visible, was a wide open space. If she continued walking a straight line from the door, she'd pass a beautifully gleaming cherrywood bar, long and waist high before she hit the stairs up to the loft. The entry way they stood in was to the extreme right of the room.

On her immediate left was the kitchenette. All the black cabinetry was against the wall above the white marble utility counter complete with sink, stove, oven, microwave, and dishwasher. There was a narrow walkway between this counter and the marble island separating the kitchen from the rest of the room. There were four stools on the other side of the island, making it a casual eating space. Judging from the newspaper lying open with the cell phone on top, Marie guessed that he ate here more often than the small two-seater table by the windows.

Speaking of, the far left wall was almost entirely covered in windows, washing the space in natural light. The glass ended just before reaching the far wall to make space for small stone fireplace in the corner. This faced out into the room warmly, a fire crackling cozily within.

A modest but large flat screen tv was hung centered on the far wall next to the stairs. One beige overstuffed couch sat directly across from it, making a disjointed "L" shape with its twin. The corner space between the couches was occupied by a glass top end table that matched the coffee table in the center of the living area between the couches and tv. The coffee table sat atop a large, round medallion rug, deep burgundy with a gold pattern woven throughout. It was the only part of the hardwood floor that was covered.

It was beautiful: clean and bright and well decorated. He had excellent taste, and apparently had a decent amount of cash at his disposal. She would have suspected that he'd hired a decorator except that for some reason the whole scene matched him so well. He moved through the space like he belonged there perfectly. So what, she could pick out furniture he would like but nothing about his personality? How utterly useless.

The most disarming and endearing quality to the place was how he had it dressed it out for Christmas. A green garland wrapped in Christmas lights hung in evenly spaced dips across the windows, held in place by large, red, satin bows. The surface of the bar was covered in a gold embroidered table runner littered with small red candles, unlit. The island had three large poinsettia arrangements, their color striking against the black and white kitchen. A small Christmas tree, real pine, stood near the far wall in the blank space between the tv and the stairs, it's lights twinkling off the glass ornaments in a cheerful and inviting way. The television mutely displayed a black and white film, and Marie quickly recognized "It's A Wonderful Life". Remy was sitting alone watching this old movie about why one shouldn't commit suicide? He must be having a harder Christmas than she thought.

Remy went to the kitchen to pour some coffee, and Marie gave into her desire to get closer to the fire. She sat on the little stone outcropping in front of the fireplace, pulling her coat, scarf, and gloves off and putting her fingers near the heat. The rugged warmth made her fingers tingle deliciously, and she sighed.

"Not much fo' de cold, non?"

Remy's red eyes stayed on Marie while poured the black liquid into two ceramic mugs.

She shrugged. "All this snow and ice gets a little overrated."

"You been away from home fo' a while, huh?"

She straightened a little. "Long enough to get sick of the cold at least."

"How do you take yo' coffee?" He changed the subject, smiling disarmingly.

Marie smiled shyly. "Would it be a horrible cliché if ah like it with loads of cream and sugar?"

"Yes."

"Then ah guess you can give it me black, but ah won't drink it."

"Lucky fo' you I can' bring myself to waste good coffee. No judgement here, chere."

He added the necessary ingredients, and then came to sit on the couch, placing her cup on the coffee table. It left Marie no choice but to come and sit beside him. She hesitated only a moment, but not wanting to seem rude joined him.

The heat of the drink made her realize just how cold she had managed to get outside. She wanted to purr like a contented cat, but managed to only smile her thanks. He smiled, pleased with himself, and it made a crease in his cheek and twinkle in his eye that almost gave him a predatory look.


Marie wasn't bad company. Her voice wasn't shrill and grating: it was gentle and sweet, but not timid or weak. It was like honey. Remy wondered why they hadn't hit it off before. He tried to remember everything he had been told about her, fishing through the trivial for something that might lure her into a feeling of familiarity.

When he'd met her at the mansion, it was clear she was some kind of favorite to Logan. That had immediately put him off. Logan and he were both dominant species, best they move in different circles to avoid a conflict of interest. Maybe he had paid less attention to her from the start for this reason, but he had noticed one interesting singularity about her: he couldn't manipulate her emotions.

Remy's ability to release kinetic energy in inanimate objects was his primary mutation and the one he relied on most heavily, but his X-gene was tricky, manifesting in other ways as well. He was an empath, able to lock onto what other people were feeling, though not their reasons. Marie was not immune to this ability: he had felt her curiosity towards him before, but usually it was more heavily laced with suspicion and a touch of disdain. Something about him had put her off right from the start, further encouraging him to avoid her if he could.

Remy also had a slightly hypnotic effect. He had the most trouble controlling this one, because he was naturally very persuasive and had trouble differentiating between fair play and unfair advantage. It wasn't anything that would work against an extremely strong-willed person, and not strong enough to make someone go around clucking like a chicken, but he had an uncanny ability to bring about his desired outcomes. A woman would make eyes at him in a crowded room, and began approaching him the moment he hoped she would. He hoped a poker opponent would buy his bluff, and somehow they overlooked doubtful signs.

Marie was immune to this particular ability. Not that he had been trying to get her to do anything specific, just something about her felt different when they met. He had shuffled through for an answer and realized the cause of the discomfort was her resistance to him. He could sense her emotions, but he couldn't latch on and manipulate: it was like trying to grab air.

Remy had privately mentioned the oddity to Storm, who had thoroughly enjoyed the little joke. She figured he would be put out, but the truth was he was merely curious. Storm had revealed to him a little about this Marie. Her mutant name was….ah yes, Rogue. He never heard anyone call her that, so it was hard to remember, but singular enough that he'd managed to hold onto it someplace. She was the one with the poison skin. It was a one-of-a-kind mutation. He had been wildly curious about the specifics for a brief moment before Storm explained that it was excruciatingly painful to have her use it on you. Shame. That could have been a lot of fun.

Unfortunately the background information Remy had on Marie was spotty and personal, nothing to pull from. He'd have to uncover something useful on his own.

"So, what kinds o' t'ings you like outside dat school, chere?"

"Ah hardly remember. Ah stay so busy there ah don't get out much. Jubilee gets on me about it all the time. She says ah'm turning into a boring old maid, regardless of the fact that ah'm just barely out of mah teens."

Remy saw an opening and pounced. "Dat's a real shame, chere. Dere's lots o' fun to be had in dis city, if you know where to look. You seem like an assertive girl, make yo' boyfriend take you out to see de sights."

"Ha! Right, loads of guys lined up to take the tactile vampire out. Most guys mah age have some sense of self-preservation."

He grinned that predatory grin again and his opportunity became more clear. "Mos' guys yo' age have no sense o' adventure. You should give some o' us older guys a try every once in a while. Some o' us know how femmes like to be treated."

Marie felt her blood pressure rise. That was stupid. They were joking around, and he was clearly just trying to make her feel better about not having a boyfriend. But something about that smile was dangerous…

Oh hell, Marie, he can't help the way he looks. So he's incredible looking. He knows, so get over it.

She tried to maintain the joking atmosphere and mask any silliness on her part, jumping at the first sign of a flirt. Even if Remy was flirting, it didn't necessarily mean anything. He probably didn't know any other way to speak.

"Just you keep holdin' yoah breath, sugah, maybe ah will." She winked for effect, and placed her empty cup on the table. "Thanks foah the coffee, ah think I'll get goin' befoah ah steal yoah whole evening."

And befoah ah do somethin' stupid, she added mentally.

"You drank dat fast."

'When it comes to caffeine, ah don't mess around."

"Um, Marie…I t'ink maybe you might wanna stay put fo' a little longer, non?" he gestured to the window. Marie turned, her face immediately twisting into dread.

Remy felt her apprehension as she saw the snow, which had earlier been lazily drifting to the ground, plummeting violently with the single minded purpose of coating everything. Marie really hated the cold, he realized. That could work to his benefit.

"Actually, ah should probably leave all the sooner to make sure ah don't get snowed in."

"Aw, come on chere. I jus' hate to t'ink o' my favorite southern sympathizer out in dat frozen mess. Yo' much prettier wit' a little heat in yo' cheeks."

Marie bit her lip in an effort to keep the compliment from sinking in too deep. Geez, was she so hard up for attention that a little praise from a silky voice had her all a-twitter? Sad.

"It's nice of you to offer, but ah really do have to get back. Everyone's expecting me."

Remy was confused to feel a small wave of frustration from Marie. He backed up just a touch. "De traffic is still bad, and now you got to find an empty taxi. We got movies, crackling fire, good company…won't you stay jus' a few more minutes to see if it'll let up?"

He smiled his Christmas smile at her again, child-like enthusiasm and hopefulness.

Marie felt her already feeble objections crumble. How did he do that? He could go from prowling lion to innocent sweetheart in no time flat, with hardly any clothes on to boot. A moment ago she'd felt all flustered and apprehensive, now she wanted to give him a cookie, do something to make that smile stay.

How did she even end up here? Would it have been so hard for her to stay in the taxi?

"Ah guess ah'm already hopelessly late. Ah figure a few more minutes won't hurt anything. You sure Jimmy over there isn't getting a little jealous?" She pointed to the muted tv screen.

"You like classic movies?"

"Ah've been known to sit through them from time to time."

"Tres bon. I'll jus' get us some refreshments."

He unmuted the movie as George and Mary met at the Christmas party, him surprised to see her all-grown up into an alluring woman. Remy went back to the kitchen and Marie slumped into the couch, which was undeniably comfortable, especially after a full day on her feet shopping and more than one slip in the snow.

Remy came back a few minutes later with two glasses and a bottle of red wine from the bar. Without asking, he poured two glasses, taking his with him as he went back to the kitchen to retrieve what could only be popcorn judging by the noise.

Marie eyed the glass of wine like it was a snake, though she mentally chided herself for it. She had watched him pour the wine, and he had taken a sip of his own before he slipped back out of sight. Besides, she was quite sure Remy didn't need to rely on something so shady as spiked drinks to get a woman. Besides, why would he have any interest in pursuing little miss untouchable when he could have whoever he wanted?

Still, there was a part of her that felt like the glass was a sort of symbol, though she didn't really recognize what kind. She quickly concluded that this kind of thinking was melodramatic. He was being polite, and one drink wasn't going to count for anything in the grand scheme of things. Besides, she was kind of enjoying herself…just a little. Was that so wrong? Have a glass of wine with a gorgeous guy when he's the one that offered in the first place?

It was Christmas, after all. Marie picked up the glass and took a defiant swig, determined not to let her overly analytical mind cheat her out of every simple pleasure. It was good. Probably expensive.

Remy came back with the popcorn in a bowl for them to share as Mary and George started dancing on the screen.

"You like dancing, petite?"

"Not really."

He turned a skeptical eye on her. "You got to be kidding, nice southern girl like you doesn' like dancing?"

"Nope. If everybody danced like that maybe it'd be a different story, but all the dances ah've ever been to are boring: you either sway in a tight little circle or you get in a group of girls and try to look as shameful as you can as quickly as you can. Not mah thing."

"If dat's really de only dance you've been to, den you've never really been dancing. Some people still know how to do it properly."

"You sure are confident in your skills, Mr. Lebeau. First you know what women like, and now yoah a good dancer to boot."

"De one is really an extension o' de uddah, but if you'll recall I never applied either statement to me personally. I jus' said 'some people'. Yo' de one who assumed, maybe yo' de one who's so confident in my…skills."

Remy smiled at Marie like cornered prey again and threw her a wink. She swallowed hard and took another swig from her glass to keep from talking.

They reached for the popcorn bowl at the same time. Marie froze as usual under the unexpected contact, but he didn't seem to notice that his bare hand brushed hers. He simply popped the kernels into his mouth, licking the excess butter off his fingers in a way that seemed indecent. The act mesmerized her for a moment. Fortunately, he also didn't seem to notice her staring. She took another swig from the glass before putting it back on the table and forcing her eyes back to the screen.

Ok…so…he was cruelly handsome…and nice…and funny…and flirtatious. Chances were this whole thing seemed perfectly casual to him. Everyone must respond to him this way. The chemistry she was feeling was absolutely ridiculous, but it was…nice. It was kind of fun to pretend that there was some possibility to this chance moment. Usually Marie got locked up tight in some little box pretty quick: people were quick to decide how they felt about her and it was only rarely complimentary. What was the harm in letting herself enjoy the little fantasy that he was paying attention to her?

She was so caught up in her inner dialogue that she hardly noticed Remy top off her glass. He might have seemed like he didn't notice her staring, but in reality he had. He had felt the little jolt of nervousness from her when their hands brushed. He deliberately refused to respond. There was nervousness, but also excitement. She was clearly out of the habit of being touched: it was something she wanted, but was afraid to have.

If a simple brush of hands produced such a spark, he wondered what a more personal touch would do.

George and Mary danced their way into the pool with a splash.

Marie decided after a few more swigs of wine had made her feel warm and tingly to make the most of her evening of imaginary recklessness.

She watched him closely in her peripheral vision, every so often timing her movements so that they would conveniently and unobtrusively touch. His skin was deliciously warm, that soft, inviting heat like maybe he just came out of the dryer. She giggled a little at the thought.

He smirked up at her with one cocked eyebrow. "What's funny, petite?"

Remy could already feel wavy energy around her emotions that let him know the wine was having an effect. Apparently Marie wasn't much of a drinker. For now, he kept her in good supply as discreetly as he could manage. He wasn't trying to get her overwhelmed by the sensation, just keep her at that carefree, bubbly stage that would make her a more honest version of herself.

Marie was embarrassed that she had actually giggled out loud. Better go easy on the wine here. "Nothing."

"Uh-huh." He said disbelievingly.

"Really, it's nothing. But if ya want ah can tell ya a joke."

"De chere is a comedian, non? Go ahead."

"It's a Christmas joke." She warned.

"I t'ink I can handle it."

"It's a really bad Christmas joke."

He turned, pulling one leg up under him on the couch as he leaned back on the arm, facing her fully. The firelight made interesting shapes on his exposed chest as he reclined. It just wasn't fair. Even the way he moved had a sinuous, alluring quality to it.

Marie planted her wine glass on the coffee table, determined to abandon it. She was tingly enough.

"What do they call Santa's helpers?"

Remy just raised his eyebrows, waiting. She was trying to distract him, and he was going to let her only because he was curious as to her methods.

She smiled apologetically. "Subordinate clauses."

He clutched his stomach and doubled over, groaning.

"Ah warned you."

"You said it was bad, not horrible. You better not quit yo' day job."

"Couldn't you just humor me and laugh?"

"You wan' to make me laugh, you gon' have to do better dan dat. Dat was pathetic."

Marie felt her bottom lip jutting out, pouting. "What do you call Santa Clause after he's fallen into a lit fireplace?"

"A casualty?"

"No, Krisp Kringle."

"Really? Dat's de best you got? A man needs a harder drink to listen to dis."

Marie's pout turned into an adorably weak little glare. "What do you get when you cross an archer with a gift wrapper?"

"A dead gift wrapper?"

Her glare turned more hearty. "NO. Ribbonhood."

Remy smacked one hand to his forehead in an obviously display of disdain.

"Well let's hear you try one, then!"

"Fine, but try not to get yo' pride hurt." He cleared his throat. "Three men die in a car accident Christmas Eve. Dey all find themselves at de pearly gates waiting to enter Heaven. On entering dey must present something "Christmassy". De first man searches his pocket and finds some Mistletoe, so he is allowed in. De second man presents a cookie, so he is also allowed in. De third man pulls out a pair o' panties. Confused at dis last gesture, St. Peter asks, "How do dese represent Christmas?" De third man answered 'Dey're Carol's.'"

Marie felt her jaw drop at Remy's crass humor. He took one look at her face, and then let that silky laugh pour out again. The sound was so addictive that it had become contagious, and Marie laughed with him, at the joke and her naïve reaction, and the joy of hearing him laugh.

Once the laughter died down, she quickly decided that Remy was far too dangerous for her to contend with. She really needed to get out of here, so she grabbed her half full glass of wine and dumped it down her throat in preparation for taking her leave, seriously this time.

Just then, a dinging sound came from the kitchen. Remy clapped his hands together.

"Perfect! Dinner's ready! You will stay fo' dinner wit' me, won' you, Rogue? I made one o' my special recipes, and food's always better when s' shared!"

He went to the kitchen to get the food out of the oven without waiting for her reply, refilling her empty glass on the way. He had used her mutant name specifically because she hadn't told him it. Now she would be wondering where he'd heard it, and how he came across such information. The mystery would keep her distracted from leaving as she thought of a way to ask him without seeming rude. Also, it made him seem attentive, which would make her warm up to him. It was predictable. That's why the feelings he felt from her were confusing.

The name had a different impact on Marie. It had been so long since she heard it conversationally that it caught her off guard. She had been a different person last time people had used that name for her. She'd been a mutant without control, without friends, forced to be self-reliant, forced to talk herself out of the all the joy in life.

She had taken the cure, changed everything about who she was in a last desperate attempt to get that joy back. Ultimately, she had failed. Bobby was gone, her friends had for the most part abandoned her in outrage, and she was just as lonely as she'd ever been, if she really told the truth.

Before, her isolation was mandatory for the safety of herself and everyone around her. Now, it was merely a precaution. A precaution that 98% of the time was totally unnecessary. She missed out on 98% of the good things in life for no reason. Remy didn't seem to have any problem with her touch. He was unlike everyone else in that way. When else would she get such an easy opportunity to be a little greedy?

What was it about this particular mutant that had her going crazy?! She pressed her cold fingers to her cheeks, and felt that her face almost uncomfortably warm. The wine had been a really bad idea, and it was clearly clouding her normal judgment. She had to get out of here before she made any serious mistake. A single slip and she could really hurt him: it was just irresponsible to be stealing little touches and tiny thrills like a silly school girl.

She stood up and made her way to the door. When Remy looked up, he seemed surprised.

"Thanks but ah don't think ah can join you foah dinner tonight, Mr. Lebeau. You've already been plenty hospitable and ah got people waiting on me."

His face fell. "But Marie, I got everyt'ing! Turkey and andouille gumbo on a bed o' authentic Cajun dirty rice, crawfish pirogues, carr-,"

"Ah'm sure everything's wonderful, but I really do have to go. Maybe another time?" She smiled apologetically, and Remy's good spirits plummeted.

Marie would never come back, not to just spent time with him. They were two totally difference creatures with very little common ground. She hadn't exactly come here to visit in the first place. The circumstances were too specific: even if she did come back it would never be like this, such a simple matter to get close.

He supposed it didn't really matter. He had planned on having an evening alone before she unexpectedly showed up; that evening was apparently still on.

Still, Marie had an easy and disarming way about her. Moreover, she was a curiosity to him: she didn't fit any of the cookie cutter types, and trying to figure her out had provided him with something he hadn't been totally successful in garnering from countless nights of cheap passion with plastic liaisons and heavy drinking.

He hadn't thought of home. He hadn't thought of how he could never go back there. Not since she walked in the door.

Once she left he'd be here alone with his hollow Christmas lights, and try as he might he wouldn't be able to shut out the pain. He'd end up alone in his bed with his eyes shut tight and his stereo blaring, trying to just mercifully forget.

This was beyond inexcusable behavior. He was Remy Lebeau, he didn't pin all his hopes for happiness on pretty faces, much less pretty faces he'd only really known for a few hours. It wasn't Marie's job to keep the demons at bay: he was the one that earned them. How quaint of him to carry on like he had some adolescent crush.

Marie was absolutely shocked at how quickly his face had sunk into such pitiful dejection. She'd never felt so bad for doing anything to anyone. He looked almost like she'd just heartlessly dumped him.

Here he had been, all alone, trying to make the best of things, trying not to think about all the things he wished he'd been doing with his holidays. He'd decorated the apartment in an attempt to get as much joy out of Christmas as he could, not so unlike what everyone was doing at the mansion. He'd made himself a four star meal of his favorite foods and curled up with some Christmas classics, knowing full well that he was only pretending to have a good time, when she had shown up at his door in a simple act of a stranger's kindness. None of this was about her, Remy was just so happy to have the company. And now she was running out on him, not because she really needed to but because she was selfishly concerned about her own trivial urges.

He recovered quickly, smiling a hard little smile. "Oh well. I'll have lunch tomorrow. Some uddah time. Tell Storm I said t'anks fo' de gift."

Marie paused at the door, knowing full well that she wouldn't sleep at all tonight if she left like this. "You know, on second thought, it's kinda nice to be away from the holiday hullabaloo. Ah could stay."

"Non chere, I kept you long enough. I don' wan' you to get in trouble on my account."

"Oh, ah'm sure it'll be fine. What's a little dinner?"

His ears perked up. "You don' mean dat. You got places to be, and I'm boring you here wit' de small talk. Go on now, some uddah time."

"Really, ah'd…love to stay. It smells wonderful. Ah didn't realize until the smell hit me: ah'm starvin'. Please, can't ah stay?"

Remy grinned ear to ear, and Marie suddenly wondered if he wasn't deliberately pulling her strings. "I guess I could stand to have a dinner guest, if you really want to."

"Ah really do."

"Can't have you wandering out into dat storm in de dark, anyway. Dere's probably four inches out dere."

"Exactly, Ah'd freeze."

"But if I let you stay," he had trouble keeping a straight face, "you got to do somet'ing fo' me."

Marie's eyebrows lowered suspiciously. She hadn't even wanted to come in here in the first place, and now he was doing her a favor by letting her stay? Moreover, he wanted something in return? What kind of something?

"You got to stop calling me 'Mr. Lebeau'. Mr. Lebeau is my papa. My name is Remy."

Surprised by his innocent request, Marie laughed. The genuine merriment in her voice was contagious, and his silky laughed rushed out to join it. Her laughter wasn't forced, she wasn't trying to be flirtatious or put him on. She laughed when she thought something was actually funny. He wasn't used to honest responses.

"Very well, Remy. Ah think ah can handle that."

He flashed his full grin at her. "So what do I call you? Do you prefer Marie, or Rogue? Somet'ing else perhaps?"

"Does it matter? You've tried about five different things so far, and neither of those most often."

He chuckled at her forthright teasing. "Sorry, chere, I got my habits. I got to try dem all on you to see which one fits de best."

Marie smiled. "Let me know what you come up with. You gonna feed me or not?"

Remy gestured grandly to the little window table as he began preparing two plates. She went and sat, crossing her legs and looking down at the street below. It was becoming harder and harder to see where the sidewalk ended and the road began as the white blanket grew thicker and thicker. The snow was still falling heavily, glinting in the glare from the streetlights it passed on its descent.

"Sure is beautiful from here, but it sure is miserable being out in it."

"What are you doing up here wit' dat sunny disposition?"

"Hoping to eat some food, slow poke."

"For being southern, you got some poor table manners. Tout suite, mademoiselle!"

He swept grandly towards the table, putting her portion before her along with her abandoned glass of wine. She looked at the presentation wide-eyed, and then back up at him suspiciously.

"Did you really cook this yoahself?"

Remy clutched at his chest with one hand. "You break my heart wit' dese wild accusations. Remy cooks fo' you, serves you, entertains you, and yet somehow you find a way to impune his honor!"

She ignored his dramatics, looking back down at her plate sadly. "It's just not fair."

He cocked his head to one side, "What's not?"

"You seem to be able to do all the things ah can't. Not just do them but completely excel. Not only is this beautiful, but ah know ah'm gonna bite into it and it'll be culinarily perfect."

Remy smirked, "I suppose dat's some kind o' compliment. T'anks. But don' count yo' chickens befo' dey're hatched: you haven' eaten it yet."

He sat down across from Marie as she lifted her fork. She heaped it full of rice and gumbo before bringing it tentatively to her lips. Her eyes met his sadly as she sighed and leaned back in her chair, relishing the flavor.

"What did ah tell you? Culinary perfection."

Remy laughed at her mixed review. "You flatter me. S' not dat hard. What makes you t'ink you can' cook?"

"Experience."

"Come on now, what's dat ol' saying? When at first you don' succeed?"

"Oh please no. Jean chanted that at me every time I came into the kitchen. 'When at first you don't succeed, try, try again.' Ah tried making a chocolate soufflé three times befoah ah finally lost it. Jean's our resident chef, a really great cook. She makes the best…"

Marie trailed off. No one talked about Jean. The Professor was mentioned all the time, and even Scott was remembered in honest moments. Jean was off limits. Sweet little Jean who loved to cook had turned into a walking death, the Phoenix. Her power blazing beyond her control, she was responsible for the deaths of Scott and the Professor. She was nearly responsible for much worse before she had been taken down. Rogue's friend and teacher had become a taboo, an unpleasant reminder of what they might all become. There had been no way to save the sweet little chef from her violent counterpart.

Remy was nearly floored as the flood of emotion came in a torrent from Marie. Pain, loss, hopelessness hit him so hard he thought it might leave bruises.

"What's wrong?! What's de matter?!"

Marie looked up at him curiously. Despite the onslaught of her sudden feelings, her face was perfectly composed. Her eyes were maybe slightly darker, but she was obviously someone who knew how to keep her head in the game.

"What do you mean?"

He composed himself, irritated that he had responded to her feelings rather than her words. "You jus'…trailed off."

"Yoah an empath, huh?"

Remy was startled by her sudden and accurate conclusion. She was perceptive, very much so. He wondered if he should try to deny it, and if she was upset. As though to answer his question, she casually took another bite of food.

He smiled at her tentatively. "How'd you guess?"

"Other than yoah blatant response to mah thoughts? Jean was like that, responding to things you never said out loud."

"Jean was an empath?"

Marie shook her head. "Telepath."

"Then why didn' you guess dat I was telepathic?"

She shrugged. "Elementary, my dear Watson. You asked me what was wrong. You only knew that ah was unhappy, not what ah was unhappy about."

Remy raised his eyebrows. "I got to say, I'm impressed."

Marie took another heaping bite as she winked at him.

"Yo' not mad dat I didn' tell you?"

"No. Everyone plays some things close to the chest, us muties especially. Powers aren't always pleasant topics, ah of all people understand that. Hope ah didn't intrude."

"Non, s' fine."

Remy was surprised. Most girls would be royally ticked if some guy was secretly sampling their most personal emotions: it was even worse than reading a diary. Marie made things interesting, no doubt about it. He wanted her to keep talking, though she seemed happy enough to keep her mouth full of gumbo.

Normally he like girls with a little more refinement, but something about her unabashed exuberance was both flattering and charming at the same time. Most girls would only act refined in an attempt to be attractive to him, and the sloppy girls were either drunk or deliberately sloppy to let him know they weren't interested. Marie was just being herself, eating with gusto because it tasted good and she was hungry. It seemed almost sensual in that context.

"Dere's more where dat came from, if yo' still famished after dis conquest."

She stopped and smiled at him gleefully. "Ah guess ah better slow down befoah ah pop like a balloon. Sorry, but it's really good."

"Glad yo' enjoying it. Don' stop on my account."

"No, really. Ah'd like to walk out of here with mah dignity, rather than having you roll me out like the blueberry girl from 'Charlie and the Chocolate Factory'."

He chuckled. "All right. Green's more yo' color anyway."

She leaned back in her chair, stretching her stomach. "Well, thanks foah that plate full of fabulosity."

"Fabulosity? Is dat a word?"

"Ah just used it, didn't ah?"

Remy grinned, thoroughly enjoying himself. "I suppose you did. Well don' get so excited yet, you haven' even tried dessert."

Her eyes popped. "Yoah really trying to kill me, aren't ya?"

Silk. His laugh really did wrap around you like a smooth silk sheet. "Why don' we give you a chance to digest den? Jimmy Stewart has taken his leave fo' de evening, but Scrooge over dere is jus' about to meet de ghost o' Christmas past. We'll have dessert during de ghost o' Christmas future, to help take off de edge, non?"

Remy stood, offering Marie his hand. She took another swig from her wine glass, hoping it would quiet her nerves enough that he wouldn't hear them before she took it.

She thought he was just helping her out of her chair, and so her heart thudded when he kept her hand as led back over to the couch. His skin was so divinely warm.

Remy wasn't stupid. Once the shock of Marie's emotional stampede had died down, he remembered the name. Jean was the Phoenix, the one that had lost control, betrayed everybody, and was now dead. Storm had talked to him briefly about her when he had first come to visit.

Remy and Ororo had always gotten along, but he had been surprised by the intensity of her pleasure at seeing him when he came to the mansion that first time, particularly since there was enigmatically no romantic inclinations between them on either part. When he asked her about it, she had given him an abbreviated version of the effect Magneto's war had had on the school, and on her. Remy didn't need her to fill in a lot of details to guess that it was indescribably painful, and that things were still hard for all involved. 'Ro was happy to see him because he was whole. He was untouched by the whole incident, normal, and he didn't need anything from her. She didn't have to put on her strong front.

Giving his friend that small, selfless, intangible respite had been gratifying to Remy. It had intensified their friendship. He slowly comprehended that Marie had potentially been as affected by Magneto's war as Storm had, but she didn't know him well enough to let down her act. She was here, tying him to the moment away from his troubles against her wishes, maybe he could return the favor. He saw no reason why the night couldn't be mutually beneficial.

Even now, he felt her silent thrill at his touch, her near bewildered pleasure at something she would never ask for. Her poison skin kept lesser men at bay, but so far in his experience it had failed to live up to its reputation. Why shouldn't he push its boundaries, if it would make her happy?

They sat on the couch, and Remy looked down at Marie's hands, concerned.

"Yo' hands are practically frozen, chere."

"Sorry. Ah'm starting to suspect that its mah extra mutant ability. Mah hands and feet just won't heat up. The rest of me will have been warm foah hours, and they'll still be icy."

He smiled that predator smile at her. "Why didn' you say so?"

Marie stopped breathing as Remy took both her hands in both of his, bringing them up to his lips before blowing on them and rubbing them together. Tingles a thousand times stronger than what came from the wine danced from her fingertips, up her arms and down her spine.

She slowly pulled her hands away. "Um, you might not wanna do that."

He smiled confidently. "And why not?"

"Ah thought Storm told you…about me."

"She told me you had it under control."

"Most of the time, but ah can really hurt ya."

"You've been exceptionally well behaved dis evening. I have no reason not to trust you."

He took her hands back and continued warming them. She prayed he couldn't hear her heart thunder.

After a few minutes, Remy seemed satisfied with his progress.

"Now I don' wan' all my fine work to go to waste. You better come over here. Like I said befo', yo' much prettier wit' a little heat in dose cheeks."

He pulled Marie under his arm, pressing her close against the exposed flesh at his side.

She was completely rigid. "What are you doin, Remy?"

He smiled, leaned forward, and handed her her wine. "Keeping you warm."

Marie had no idea what to say. Her heart was pounding so fast it felt like it was humming, and it took a great deal of self-control not to pant. She sucked in quick little breaths through her nose, wondering what had happened to this day that she ended up here, pressed against a half naked man who sent tremors through her body with simple glances and sounds. He was muscular, but his body wasn't hard or unyielding like some magazine weight lifter who looked like they might pop if you poked them hard enough. His body was lithe, his movements carefully controlled and yet somehow sinuous, graceful. His heady scent was intoxicating as it drifted idly around her like a captivating cloud. She was worried about what exactly he was trying to do, this relative stranger who was holding her. Moreover, she was incredibly worried about what his empathic intuition was telling him right now.

Remy felt Marie panicking. It made it very difficult for him not to laugh. They were just sitting close, nothing terribly serious. Still, to her it was a big deal, not something she experienced often. She was incredibly nervous, uncertain and worried, but all that was flavored with subtle hints of excitement and pleasure.

The first two acts of "A Christmas Carol" went by with neither of them seeing much of it. Marie was too busy trying to make sense out of Remy, his intentions, and her responses to him. Remy found Marie's emotional climate easily more interesting than a movie.

Just before the Ghost of Christmas Future made his foreboding debut on the screen, Remy released her and stood, heading to the kitchen. Marie was able to take her first full breath in a half hour, but didn't know whether she was more relieved or disappointed at the break in his sudden closeness. Every inch of her skin was warm now; perhaps he was just being….incredibly friendly, and now he was done with his good deed.

Remy came back with two small glass dishes filled with a white cream. Marie almost laughed. She had completely forgotten dessert.

"So what have you made this time, Julia Childs?"

He grinned. "White chocolate mousse. Heavy dinners are best complimented by somet'ing light."

She nodded weakly as he lifted his spoon, delicately scooping out a portion of the white fluff. The mousse laden utensil disappeared into his mouth, and his lips pressed down ever so slightly as he drew the spoon back out clean. A small ribbon of cream remained, and his tongue darted out to draw it back into the fold.

Trouble was brewing, Marie could feel it. She had never experienced this kind of trouble before, at least not on this insane level, but she knew it was there nevertheless.

She tried to keep the tone light. "You seem to enjoy this more than anything else we've eaten tonight."

That predator smile was becoming unbearable. Marie was getting warmer every second, even with him not touching her. "I've always had a bit of a sweet tooth. What about you, Marie? What do you think?"

Marie realized that she had yet to touch hers: she'd just sat staring at him as he ate. Embarrassed, she quickly dipped her spoon into the mousse and stuffed it into her mouth, swallowing almost instantly.

"Hmmmmmmmm," he drew out the pondering note, sounding like the purr of a very dangerous animal. "You clearly have very little experience wit' exquisite desserts. You don' know how to experience it properly."

Marie gulped, held captive suddenly under his sensuous spell. He took his spoon and dipped it in her cup, lifting a modest mouthful. He held it to her lips. "Here, try again."

"Remy-,"

"You did say you wanted me to feed you. Far be it fo' me to be a poor host."

Marie pled with herself desperately, trying to talk herself out of the insanity spinning around her head. She was blowing this way out of proportion. She was just too sensitive to being touched. Remy was a touchy person. Technically, nothing overly romantic had happened. He'd warmed her up, and now he wanted her to fully appreciate a dish he had worked hard to prepare. There was no reason all these events should seem so intense or important. There was no foundation for her sense of foreboding.

Hesitantly, she leaned forward and wrapped her mouth around the offered spoon, forcing herself to slowly enjoy the dessert. It's not like it wasn't incredibly good, but her mind was running amuck with distractions. Maybe Remy was trying very hard not to be empathic. If he could sense her unrest, he gave no sign of it. That would be awfully considerate of him and unbelievably lucky for her.

He kept his eyes on her, the crease in his cheek deepening as his provocative smile spread. "Dat's better, isn' it?"

Marie nodded woodenly. They finished their desserts quietly, him watching her, and her forcing her eyes to stay on the television screen. How long had she even been here? It felt like an incredibly long time. It was dark outside.

Once he finished with the mousse, he reached his arm around her, drawing her back into his side.

Marie felt her grasp on herself growing increasingly more tenuous. "Ah'm plenty warm now, Remy. Thanks."

He pulled more insistently. "So?"

Baffled and rapidly losing the ability to form coherent though, Marie leaned back against him. Apparently Remy was super extremely maximum to the power of ten friendly.

His hands seemed to disagree with her. The arm he had wrapped around her suddenly refused to be stationary. His searing fingertips traced light patterns up her arm and gently caressed her throat, leaving a trail of goosebumps in their wake. She was coming undone at the seams.

Remy was getting carried away. It was impossible to ignore, impossible for him not to press. Marie was so damned responsive. The lightest touch, the lightest caress and he felt her pleasure and fear simultaneously careen. It was strange to admit, but he had never been around a woman who was more aware of him, who was so appreciative. In teasing her, he was inadvertently teasing himself. He wanted to try other types of touches…less gentle, more desperate, more intimate. The thought of her echoing replies in those scenarios was quickly becoming difficult to ignore.

Remy was getting carried away, and he was beginning to hope she'd let him. In fact, he was beginning to suspect she might. There was a more urgent note winding up through her emotional state, one that he thought he recognized.

The movie ended, and the channel went to commercial break. Remy absently hit the remote, turning it off. The silence descended.

It would be easy. All she had to do was turn to him just a little. All the tension and unspoken desire would be tested against reality. There would be no going back. Remy felt it. Marie felt it. She was trying to talk herself out of it but something in her gut, some long idle instinct was roaring for the release it sensed just around the corner.

It took more self-discipline than Marie ever though she could muster to keep staring straight ahead. It would take even more to make her mouth work. If she could walk it would be a miracle.

What the hell are you thinking? You don't know this guy. You aren't this girl. You have things to do today, people are waiting on ya. Yoah not even supposed to be here. Pull it together. This is not happening. Nope. Not happening.

Even the voice in her head sounded unsure of itself.

After an indeterminate amount of time, she managed to speak.

"Ah should go now."

"Should you?"

"Yes…ah should definitely go now."

"It's cold outside, bebe. S' warm in here."

"Ah know. Ah'm gonna go."

"What's yo' hurry? You know you don' have to."

"Yes. Ah do."

Marie summoned every shred of pride she had left to stand. She numbly put one foot in front of the other as she re-donned her coat, scarf, and gloves. Her inner voice cheered her on in her progress; her body and the new creature she'd discovered inside of it wailed in agony.

Remy stood with her and walked her to the door, saying not a word. He would not force her to stay where she didn't want to. He would never go where he wasn't invited. And he would certainly not beg, though the prospect seemed tempting. He had no personal fear; even with her leaving he knew he was safe from dark thoughts for the night. There was no way he could think of anything but her, though that might present its own form of frustration.

He opened the door and she passed through, but the uncertainty swirling around her made it impossible for him to resist.

"You sho about dis?"

Marie felt like the air was slowly being sucked out of the world as she turned around to face his smoldering eyes. Last hurtle.

She met his eyes all a-tremble, and managed to nod once stiffly.

That was the moment logic snapped.

The ravenous hunger inside her, the one she'd sold her mutation to discover, was completely unleashed in an improbable instant.

She threw her arms around him and forced her lips to his violently.

Remy moaned against her as he joined her kiss with equal desperation. He grabbed her by the back of her thighs, lifting her legs so that they wrapped around his waist before he dragged her back inside the apartment and kicked the door shut, his lips locked feverishly on hers.

Marie was euphoric, he could feel it. She wanted him to touch her more than anyone had ever wanted anything, and in turn, he wanted to touch her more than she could probably imagine.

It was hard to focus on his direction with his attention so entirely engulfed by her, but he managed to make it to the stairs, hitting the walls a few times on the way. They made it up into the loft by a miracle it seemed, and into his bed. Her hands were frenzied, trying to touch as much of his skin as she could, and being unable to touch all of it at once. Her acute need was driving him crazy.

Remy's hands were not gentle as he pawed at her clothes, pulling her jacket off and ripping the first two buttons of her shirt in the process. Marie resisted his efforts, unwilling to keep her hands from him even long enough to get her clothes off. Her only contribution to the cause was kicking her shoes off and across the room someplace. Something broke on impact, but if either of them noticed, neither one cared.

His lips left hers with some convincing, and made a blazing trail from the edge of her jaw down her delicate throat, into the nape of her neck, and across her exposed collar. Her emotions thrilled with delighted surprise. Marie was surprised this was happening, surprised that she was capable of feeling so gratified. It seemed her capacity for physical pleasure had no bounds.

Her touches were growing ever more urgent, ever less gentle, and Remy surrendered completely to the violent bliss.

Marie was not patient. She grabbed at the drawstring of his pajama pants, pulling it loose in an instant and trying to tug the waistband down. She managed to expose the rise of his hip bones but the fabric was caught between their bodies. Remy pushed up onto his arms to let her succeed when an unfamiliar sound pierced through the spell.

The digital melody was coming from somewhere on the floor, near the bed. In the delirium, both of them froze trying to identify the sound. They seemed to reach the same conclusion at exactly the same time.

"Don' answer it."

Marie looked up at Remy, pained, and then back toward the floor, deliberating.

He kissed a short line up her throat, drawing her earlobe between his teeth.

"Ignore it, Marie."

She shuddered appreciatively as his breath created little bursts of heat against her unbearably sensitive skin. The melody died away. She nudged his cheek with her own, bringing his mouth back to hers. He parted her lips, kissing her more deeply. The sound that she made was almost a wimper, her pleasure very nearly painful.

The melody erupted again. They groaned together as Marie wriggled out from underneath him, fishing around on the floor for her cell phone. She faced away from Remy, and he pressed himself to her back, wrapping his arms around her.

The number on the phone was the one she expected: the mansion. It sent a little jolt of ice water into a system that was on fire. It was uncomfortable, but it had no hopes of quenching the flames. She flipped it open.

"Hello?"

"Why didn't you pick up the first time, Marie?" Logan voice was agitated.

She was almost too out of sorts to come up with a decent lie, so she twisted the truth.

"Ah…uh…it took me a second to get to the phone…it got buried in mah purse. Sorry Logan. What's up?"

"What's up? You think I called to chat? Where the hell are ya? The weather's getting bad and I want you off the road."

Logan's voice made the little piece of ice in her system grow incrementally colder. Remy buried his face against her neck again, reaching around her to undo her shirt buttons with deft fingers.

"Hang up." He whispered in his silkiest voice.

"Marie? You there?" Logan was impatient.

"Oh…yeah…ah'm not on the roads. The weather is really bad."

The silence on the other end of the line marked the exact moment that Logan determined something was up.

"What the hell is going on? Are you ok, kid? Where are you? I'm gonna come get you right now."

Remy nipped her ear again, this time more forcefully, and her entire body broke out in goosebumps. "Hang up de phone."

"No, ah'm fine Logan. Ah'll be back in a little while."

"Yo' not going anywhere tonight," Remy's silky voice purred in her ear.

"Is there someone with you?!"

Marie's pulse skyrocketed. She wondered just how this whole thing would pan out if she had a massive heart attack at this exact moment.

"No. Ah mean, yeah. The traffic stopped and the weather got bad so ah walked to a friend's house. Ah think ah'm just gonna hunker down here foah the night. Ah'm safe and ah'll give ya a call in the mornin', ok?"

"Don't you hang up. What are you not telling me, Marie?"

Remy's hands finally finished undoing her buttons and slid slowly, suggestively up her stomach.

"Come back to me, Rogue."

She giggled. "Sorry, Logan, but its cold out tonight. Ah'm staying here where it's warm. Talk to you tomorrow."

Logan started growling something else into the phone, but Remy grabbed it and snapped it shut.

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