Over the past few months, I've gotten slightly addicted to XMen stories, Romy in particular, so I thought I'd try my hand at it and see how I do. Warning: I am English, and have enough trouble differentiating between accents from my own country, so I didn't even try to write in their accents. This isn't particularly romantic, because they're only young, and it is currently a one-shot. I do have plans for other XMen stories though, so if you like this, let me know and I'll post some of the other things I've done. Hope you enjoy it!
Disclaimer: I own nothing.
The boy raced for the cover of an empty children's playground, abandoned because of the torrential rain. He jumped over the swings, rocking slightly in the wind, and headed for the small wooden house just a few feet behind. Once inside, he collapsed against a wall, gasping for air and pushing his unruly wet hair off his face. Then, finally getting his breath back from his mad dash to cover, he pulled his prize from the inside pocket of his threadbare coat, where it had stayed dry and hidden. A wallet, complete with cards, driving licence and more money than the kid had seen in a long time. Praising his luck, he took the notes from the wallet, discarding the rest as unusable, and counted it. Almost three hundred dollars greeted him. He closed his eyes and thanked whoever was looking out for him that day. Yes, he was soaked to the skin, but he'd gotten at least a month's worth of food and shelter out of one stolen wallet, and nobody had come racing after him, or even noticed his existence in their own rush to get out of the rain.
He opened his eyes again, contemplating what to buy first – hot food sounded really good right about then – and jumped. Curled up in the corner, watching him with huge green eyes, was a girl. She was about his age, maybe a year or two younger, with brown hair that had an odd white section at the front. She looked just as startled as he felt; he hadn't noticed her there. Slipping the notes back into his pocket, he narrowed his eyes at her and made ready for a quick getaway if needed. She swallowed at the sudden attention and moved her legs from her chest so she was kneeling instead of foetal.
"That's a lot of money," she said in a thick drawl. The boy glared at her.
"It's none of your business," he snarled back. Instead of shrinking away, like most people did when he stared at them, she glared back. He faltered; nobody met his gaze with impunity. His red on black eyes scared everyone off. Hell, they even scared him. He avoided his reflection as much as possible, knowing with every glance that he was different, strange, wrong. So why was this girl not scared? He shrank back onto his heels, looking her up and down. She crossed her arms angrily.
"What you looking at me like that for?" she snapped, obviously less than happy with him. He met her gaze deliberately, searching for the spark that he always saw, that told him he was a freak, he didn't belong. It wasn't there. He swallowed hard.
"Why aren't you scared of me?" he asked, disconcerted. She blinked at him, confused.
"What? Why should I be scared of you? You're just a kid."
"Everyone's scared of moi. They don't like my eyes," he said, his voice growing quieter. She heard him, and her arms dropped from their angry pose. She regarded him with something akin to pity in her eyes.
"Well, I'm not. What's wrong with your eyes?"
"They belong to le diable!" he shouted suddenly, temper flaring as he quoted the hated nickname that followed him around town. All the local pickpockets knew le Diable Blanc.
The girl frowned at him and shuffled forward to peer into his face. He tried to hide his eyes from her, ducking his head and letting his long hair hide them, but she touched his chin and guided his gaze back up to hers.
"Then le diable has very pretty eyes," she said softly. He blinked at her, unsure whether the damp on his cheeks was due to rainwater dripping from his hair or from tears at her unusual acceptance of him.
"You don't mean that."
"Sure I do. There's nothing wrong with them, just like there's nothing wrong with my hair. It's just that colour."
He let his gaze drift to the platinum locks that were beginning to fall into her face.
"It's like that normally? I thought you'd dyed it or something."
She snorted and let her hand drop from his face. He tried not to let the disappointment show on his face. She had warm, soft hands.
"It doesn't dye. My Daddy tried enough times."
There was a lot of spite in her tone, and a lot of sadness. The boy cocked his head at her.
"Where is your père? Why you in here alone?"
Fear jumped into her face for a second before she forced her features neutral again.
"I ran away. Don't want him to find me, so I crawled in here. Then it started raining, so I stayed. Anyway, I'm not alone. You're in here too."
Silence fell, and both children looked out at the rain, which if anything had gotten heavier since the boy dived into the hut. It looked almost like a waterfall.
"My name's Anna," the girl offered, looking back at the boy. "What's yours?"
"Never really had one." No way he was going to tell her to call him Diable Blanc. Her eyes went very wide.
"Didn't your Momma and Daddy give you one?"
"Don't got a mère or père. Just me," he explained casually. He was far too used to the idea to be upset about his orphan status.
"Oh," she said, uncertainty tainting her features. Her nose crinkled up as she thought.
"Well, I can't just call you 'boy'. That's rude. What do you want your name to be?"
He blinked at her. "Quoi?"
"Quoi? That's a funny name."
He shook his head. "Non, 'quoi' is French. It means 'what'."
"It's okay. Just, no one's ever asked me that before."
She looked confused.
"Why? Everyone has a name. You get to pick yours. Wish I could have picked mine. Don't like Anna."
"I think Anna's a pretty name," he mumbled. She didn't smile, like he was expecting; instead a frown crossed her face. She shook her head and ignored his statement.
"So, what you want your name to be?"
"I don't know."
"That's okay. You haven't had a lot of time. Momma always said it took months to pick my name."
There was another brief silence, this time broken by the boy.
"Why you run away, Anna?"
The girl looked at him sharply and moved away from him, placing her back against a wall. Her knees curled up against her chest protectively.
"None of your business," she said sadly. He moved to her side and put one arm around her comfortingly.
"Sorry. I won't ask again."
She nodded and leaned into him, shivering. Actually, he was too. It was cold in the little hut. An idea struck him.
"Anna, do you want to go someplace warmer?"
She looked up at him.
"There's a place not too far from here. I was on my way when it started raining, so I came in here. Glad I did now," he grinned at her. A small smile greeted him.
"Bon. Follow me."
Taking her hand, he pulled her to her feet and led her out of the house. It was still raining, and the wind had picked up, whipping both of their hair across their eyes.
"This way!" he shouted, tugging her towards the edge of the playground. He broke into a run, and she panted and nearly lost her footing but managed to keep up with him. They pelted along the street, passing nobody, until he pulled her into an alley and ducked into a doorway, dropping her hand. She gasped for breath and pushed her soaking wet hair out of her eyes. He did the same, leaning against a wall with his eyes closed while his heart rate slowed. Anna spoke first.
"Is this it?"
"Non, not yet. Wanted to get food first."
He rapped against the door, and it opened to show a kind-faced elderly lady. She peered down at them with a small smile.
"DB, that you?"
"Oui, Tante Mattie," he said, grinning. "This is my ami, Anna."
Anna waved shyly. The woman's smile grew broader.
"Got yourself a girlfriend, DB? Another petit rogue. She's pretty too. Bonjour Anna."
The boy blushed, muttering under his breath.
"She's not my girlfriend."
Tante Mattie chuckled.
"You two look hungry. Wait a minute, Tante will fix you up."
The woman shuffled back out if sight into a moderately busy cafeteria kitchen. Anna turned to the boy.
He turned his head away and wouldn't look at her.
"It's short for Diable Blanc. Don't like it though. Mattie's ok, 'cus she's always really nice, but other people..."
Anna was silent for a moment, then gave a small laugh.
"See, this is why you need a name."
Mattie returned before he could think of a reply, two plastic takeout cartons in her hands. She handed the children one each.
"There you go, petites. You get that inside you."
"Thank you, Mattie," Anna said, taking the dish and wrapping her fingers around it to savour the warmth. The woman smiled at her.
"You're very welcome, chère."
The boy was fishing some money from the inside of his jacket. He handed thirty dollars to Mattie.
"Merci, Tante Mattie. This is for helping moi so many times. And Anna," he added as an afterthought. Tante stared him down.
"Tantes not taking money off you, DB, nor your pretty friend. You just pay Tante a visit sometime, tell her what you've been up to. That'll do quite nicely."
Slowly, the boy nodded and returned the money to his jacket. "Merci, Tante."
"Stop thanking Tante and get someplace warm before you both catch a chill. You get ill, DB, who's going to talk to Tante? Eh? Go now, Tante has to get back to work. See you soon."
The woman retreated into her kitchen, closing the door carefully behind her. Anna turned to her companion.
"Where now then?"
The boy was glad Anna hadn't asked why they weren't staying with Tante Mattie. She was the cook at the little cafe they'd snuck around the back of, and had over time developed a kind of friendship with the boy. She was the only person, aside from Anna, who took his eyes in stride, and it had taken the old woman a while to grow accustomed to the demon-eyed little boy begging food at the doorway. Nobody else even acknowledged him, and he'd been kicked out of the cafe by the owner too many times for him to even think about stepping foot inside any more.
Anna poked him, bringing him out of his reverie.
"Oh, right. This way, chérie."
Another five minutes running through the rain led them to a ramshackle house on the corner of a small street. The boy ducked under the wire fence, ignoring the 'private property – keep out' sign, and wove his way across the yard, dodging the weeds. A shove of his shoulder, and the front door gave, wobbling worryingly on its hinges. He beckoned to Anna, who was still trying to manoeuvre her way through the fence without dropping the food parcel. Finally she managed it and ran into the house, leaving the boy to force the warped door shut behind them.
"In the room at the back," he gestured, letting Anna lead the way. She nodded and did as he said, pushing the door open. This one swung much easier than the front door, and led into a much homier room than the hallway. Originally, it had been the living room, and there were still two large, slightly rotting sofas against the walls. Blankets were piled on one; obviously, a makeshift bed for the young thief. A pile of earth and ashes in the middle of the room spoke of past fires, and small objects littered the space in between. It looked like a magpie's nest; pieces of jewellery lay next to discarded wallets and old food parcels. Clothes were in a small pile in the corner of the room.
The boy hesitated in the doorway behind her, dragging one foot along the floor self-consciously.
"It's not much, but..."
"I like it," Anna decided, sounding more like she was trying to convince herself than him. She knelt on a clear bit of floor and peeled the lid off her food parcel. He copied her, and was greeted by a large chunk of chicken, a few chips and a slice of bread. Blessing Tante Mattie, he dug in hungrily. Anna looked at him.
"You got a fork?"
He shook his head, mouth too full of chicken to answer verbally. Looking dubious, she imitated his technique; tearing sections of meat off with her fingers. Her first attempt failed, because she pulled back at the feel of the chicken, but tried again when he couldn't stop himself laughing at her squeamishness.
Within five minutes, all the food was gone. Feeling pleasantly full, the boy reached around the back of one of the sofas and pulled out some old newspapers and a few sticks that he'd gathered before it began to rain. Making sure the earth covered a large enough area that he wouldn't accidentally set the floor alight, he began to build a little fire, producing a cigarette lighter to get it started. Anna huddled close to the flickering warmth before it had properly gotten going, shivering once again.
"You should put something dry on," he offered, pointing at the clothes in a pile in the corner. She nodded and shuffled over, trying not to drip on anything, and picked some of the less grubby items off the pile, looking over her shoulder to make sure he wasn't looking before changing. He chuckled but turned his back.
"You can turn around again now," she said a minute later. He did, and took in what she'd chosen. A dark green shirt swamped her petite frame, accompanied by an old pair of his favourite blue jeans that actually fit her quite well. She'd found a piece of rag somewhere, and was using it to tie her hair up so it wouldn't get the back of the top wet.
"You look good in green, chère," he said, making his way over to the pile himself and pulling dry clothes into his arms. "You mind?"
She blinked at him, then sat down in front of the fire with her back to him and didn't move. He sniggered and changed his clothes, throwing his wet things next to hers on the other side of the fire. Hopefully, they'd dry by morning.
Taking a seat next to her, he spent a moment basking in the warmth of the flames before plucking a deck of cards from one of his piles of stolen goods. Mostly, he took wallets; money was always useful for surviving, but over his twelve years he'd learned how to retrieve other valuables, such as loose-fitting bracelets and watches, which he could pawn when times got desperate. The deck of cards was lifted by accident, but he'd found them very useful in staving off boredom. Tante had taught him to play solitaire once, and he'd gotten very good at it. He waved the box under Anna's nose.
"Know any good games?"
She nodded, smiling a little.
"A few. I know snap and old maid. And my Momma taught me a card trick once, but I haven't done it in a really long time."
The boy was intrigued.
She took the deck off him and sorted the picture cards and the four aces from the rest.
"I haven't done it in a long time, I don't know if I can do it right," she warned him. He nodded.
"I promise not to laugh at you if it goes wrong."
"Okay then. It's like a story too. See, there were four kings, four queens, four jacks and four peasants who decided to rob a bank."
She placed the relevant cards in front of him as she spoke, the ace cards representing peasants. He interrupted her almost at once.
"Why would kings and queens want to rob a bank? That's just silly."
She narrowed her eyes at him.
"Shut up or I won't do it."
He mimed zipping his mouth shut. She glared at him for a second, then smiled and continued.
"Anyway, the police found them as they were trying to escape, so they ran away to hide in an empty house."
She piled the cards up into one stack and placed it face down.
"The police followed them, so they decided to split up to get away."
She cut the deck, placing the two sections side by side.
"They met up again in a different house, but the police were still chasing them, so they split up again."
She placed the pile from the bottom of the cut on the top of the other and pushed the cards towards him.
"You cut them now. Anywhere you want to, just once."
He looked at her and split the deck three quarters of the way down, wondering when she'd get to the trick part of her strange little tale. She leaned over and placed the smaller pile from the bottom of his cut onto the other cards, making one pile again.
"They met up again, and this time they lost the police, so they split up the money from the bank between the four houses and went their separate ways."
She picked up the deck and dealt it out into four different piles, face up. First, the king of clubs, then the king of diamonds, then the jack of hearts and the ace of spades. The other cards followed, placed in the same order onto the four piles; top right, top left, bottom right, bottom left. The suits came out perfectly. The order of the cards was mixed up, but all four spades were in one pile, the hearts in another, and the same for diamonds and clubs. He inspected the cards, then squinted up at her.
"How'd you do that?"
She grinned at him, proud that her trick had worked.
"It's a secret."
He pouted at her, but decided to drop it.
"How'd you play some of those games you were talking about? I only know solitaire; can't play that with two people."
She picked up the whole deck this time and started to shuffle, explaining the rules of snap. They played three games, all of which Anna lost. She pouted at him.
"I thought you said you didn't know how to play."
"Didn't," he grinned at her, sticking his tongue out. "You're just slower than moi."
Sulking a little, Anna pushed the cards towards him and folded her arms over her knees. He smirked at her and picked up the deck, shuffling it in complicated patterns. Her eyes went wide as she watched the cards flick from hand to hand.
"How'd you do that?" she demanded. He laughed.
"It's a secret."
Tante had taught him some of the flashy tricks, and the rest he'd worked out for himself during long hours alone. The practice showed as he continued to talk, not even looking at his hands as the cards continued to amaze Anna. She stuck her tongue out at him and called him a show-off.
Suddenly, her eyes lit up.
"Oh, I know! We never thought of a name for you."
He sighed and pushed the cards back into their box.
"Do we have to, Anna? I'm fine as I am. Lived this long without one."
Anna wasn't listening to him.
"There's a boy in my class at school called Liam. No, he's got yellow hair, yours is dark. Hmm. Brandon has dark hair, but I don't like Brandon. Ooh, I know! Remington!"
He raised one eyebrow at her.
"You serious Anna? Remington?"
"Hey, don't be mean. Remington's really nice. Got dark hair like you too."
"No way. I'd rather not have a name than be called Remington. Besides, I bet he doesn't have eyes like mine."
"No, he doesn't," Anna concluded with a sigh. "His are brown and boring, not pretty like yours."
He felt his ego swell a little with the praise. Anna sighed again.
"It's a shame. Remy suits you, I think."
"It's what he calls himself. He doesn't like Remington either."
The boy frowned at her.
"Then why'd you say...?"
She laughed at him. He huffed.
"You're mean, chère, winding moi up like that."
"It was funny," she sniggered, unrepentant. He shook his head, thinking it over. Remy.
"Do you like it?" she asked when she got over her giggle fit. He nodded slowly.
"Oui, I think I do."
"Good. Then you can be Remy."
"And what about you?"
She looked at him, nonplussed. He shrugged one shoulder and elaborated.
"In the park, you said you didn't like Anna. So, pick a different one."
She giggled a little and sat cross-legged facing him, nose crinkling up as she thought.
"Okay then. How about... umm..."
She fell silent, pondering. He thought, too. He didn't know many girls names, only Mattie really. And Anna was nothing like Mattie. He sighed, then something occurred to him.
She blinked at him.
"Rogue. It's what Tante Mattie called you earlier."
"Rogue," she said, trying it out. He nodded.
"It suits you too. You ran away from your père, you're hanging round with moi; you are a rogue."
She stuck her tongue out at him, but smiled.
"I like it."
"Okay, so from now on you're Rogue."
"And you're Remy," she agreed, nodding firmly. They grinned at one another.
"So, Remy, what we going to do now?"
He shrugged and pushed himself to his feet.
"Don't know about you, Rogue, but I'm going to sleep. I'm tired."
He pulled half the blankets from the little pile and handed them to her before curling up on his usual sofa. She climbed onto the other one and carefully covered herself over, eying the fire warily.
"Is it okay to keep that burning?"
He nodded, eyes shut as he turned his back to the flickering glow.
"It's too small now to do anything; it'll go out in a few minutes," he predicted. She didn't argue, but he could tell she wasn't certain. He sighed and rolled over to meet her gaze.
"I promise, Rogue. It'll be okay."
"Alright. Goodnight, Remy."
"Night, Rogue," he said, smiling. She lay down and closed her eyes, her breathing slowing quickly to sleep. He lay on his back looking at her until his eyes drifted shut of their own accord. He had a friend and a name. He fell asleep with a happy smile on his face.