A/N: Sorry for the eons-long wait. Uh... yeah.

Diable Blonde-Existentialist (Thank you! The style is more poetic than prose at times, but I've got to a bit of both here. This chapter should help to make things clearer.), CaptMacKenzie (I'm always excited when you like a piece. You have such good taste. And well, Jean is around, just not as Jean. It gets nasty and nastier. Empathy was a fandom extrapolation of "charm." Gambit actually has a lot of canon spottily but emphatically supporting that his charm is part of his mutation.),

Lucky's Girl (Thank you! History was indeed in order, and there's a whole more to come.), freakinaforest (I'm glad it's working because, while the fic is a departure for me, it's really different because I'm getting the drip-feed from a certain snake charmer storyteller.), Merr2 ("I love that she cannot escape or hide from him like she can from the others." That's my favorite element of this, stripping down the characters to what they do to each other and their imperviousness to anyone else.), Indigo-Night-Wisp (Hopefully this chapter answers any remaining questions about their general history together. As for original fiction, I point you to my pen name Liana Mir [available from Amazon] or for posted not yet published to lianamir dot com. Click on the Bibliography menu.)

Hope y'all like.

- 4 -


A Time to Keep Silence

Gambit wakes to the shaking and trembling of the entire facility. He wakes as he always does when he senses trouble, alert, still, and with a lightning fast inventory taken of all available weapons. They've been holed up here in their southernmost location for the last ten days—Gambit, Phoenix, Sabretooth, and Scalphunter—working on something Essex refuses to define for the team leader of the Marauders. But that doesn't mean no one knows what it is.

Certain now that the threat isn't in his private quarters, Gambit moves swiftly, out of the bed, throwing said inventory of weapons into useful locations on his person as he lets his kinesthetic and empathic senses sweep out through the facility and stops cold.


Cursing fluently in five different languages, he goes into action, out of his quarters, and heading straight for his former lover and right hand. His sweep isn't bringing him any other signatures and it lights into him like a fury that she's come here alone. He's been expecting someone—Mystique weren't the kind of mutant to leave well enough alone, and he's done his own research into the latest project—but he wasn't expecting her. He knows Rogue and both of them know he has her number. He never asked why they haven't fought in the eighteen months since her defection, haven't even seen each other, but now he knows he's been taking it for granted.

And there she is, putting a lock on Phoenix that would be downright impossible if the Rogue didn't have every dead and living telepath known to man burning inside her own genes and mind, but she does and only Gambit has ever been able to stop her.

He swings out his bo staff, pretends this security breach is just an exercise, a practice run between two people who are deadly in battle and would never dream of killing each other.

She senses him before he reaches her, throws out a telekinetic wave to send him flying, but he was ready for that and throws himself under the arc to swing up and hit her with the staff. She sees him, green eyes darkening and widening in that perfect face of de ange.

His blood runs that much colder. She didn't do her legwork. She's surprised to see him.

Essex turned from his work surface to the devil in shadow at the back of his lab. "And?"

Phoenix glanced up with mild interest, aware that Rogue was once a Marauder and had been in this very lab under the boss's medical perusal, but clearly unaware that she had anything to worry about.

"She's restin'," the diable replied. His gaze did not wander over the beakers and test subjects, or even stray to his lover's face. He had never had time for distraction.

Essex made an impatient gesture. "Did she work any damage to the facilities?"

The diable's burning red and black stare met Essex'. He shrugged. "Not'in' dat can't be fixed." It was a lie or a half-truth at best. The ange was trying to escape. That meant her job was done.

She thinks she owns him, this firebird, this goddess. She thinks he is ravished by her beauty, held captive by her power. She does not know the shackles that bind his soul.

"If you could choose how to go," she begins soft, in word if in nothing else, "how would you choose?" It is evening, nearly night—her room, not his; he doesn't want her in there, and she is wise enough to heed him in that.

The diable runs his fingers through her cloud of red hair, studies the way the remainder of light filtering through her bedroom window makes it glow to his heightened vision.

"I'd take de whole world wit' me." He drops her hair and turns away from her to lean on one arm for sleep.

He has satisfied her.

Phoenix. Goddess of life and death, birth and rebirth. Everyone knew exactly what she was. No one, not even Essex, was quite certain of Gambit.


Gambit tells her once, while he still is still gentle with her and her fragile, shattered self-identity (that lasts all of six months), about the one thing he hates and has become.

She reaches up and traces his face with her hand. "Y'all aren't a devil," she whispers, fingers brushing delicately against his face. The ange was unlike anyone he had ever known.

His burning eyes meet hers for the first time without charming, completely intent upon her. The diable takes in her soft fierce words, the stubborn will in the set of her jaw, that unflickering resolve within her eyes. He reaches to tangle one hand through the silken strands of her hair and stare into the roaring chimera of her mind, determine whether her own brand of insanity has spurred such words.

"Chère." He wants to laugh in her face, blunt and harsh, but the ange shakes her head.

"Not to me."

She means it, his ange, his. That's the first time they make love.

The diable did not care what the ange had done. He served his debt in Essex' service. What bound Gambit to Essex was unrelated to what bound him to Rogue.

Nevertheless, he took the time to shove Creed out of his sickbay bed and tell the feral to get his healing act together and get on watch. He suggested Scalphunter to stop repairing the damage Rogue had wrought in her maelstrom and earth shaking and keep an eye out for a rescue team. The man wisely took it as the order it was. Then he went to figure out exactly what his chère had been up to.

What he has taken for granted was never an accident. She didn't want to fight him. She's been making sure he isn't there.

But they're fighting now, and it isn't practice. They fling themselves at each other, grapple flesh to flesh and mind to mind, empathy to that flickering chaotic schizophrenic chimera she calls her power. She can decide when she touches whether to touch or not, but her decision holds no weight. His body generates a biokinetic field her skin can never cross. This is battle and claiming every advantage he has ever built up against her. They're fighting for blood.

She knows what this facility is about, why Essex has spent the last two decades gaining control of every mutant and government he can get his hands on. He knows and she knows all the things that Essex never told them. Then again, the ange's aunt is destiny.

He is inexorable. This is something Essex won't forgive if he fails, so he doesn't fail. Hammering at that chimera with all the subtlety he can muster. That devil charm he calls his empathy has limitations. He can only make her do what she already wants to, but dieu, he already knows the ange wants him. Quiet. Shhh... The hush of a snake charmer, the sibilant whisper of the serpent himself. He is winning, she is losing, and she can't afford to do that.

Pinned beneath his body, she swears and calls him, "Diable."

His charm is slammed outside her mental walls, and he's thrown back to square one with the harshness of that word. He knocks her out with a hot, dark fury and lets Creed throw her in a cell.