T for violence.

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H is for Hero

Gambit was well aware that he was an extremely selfish man. He stole for a living, taking from others, to enhance his own life. He'd had sex with sex with a bunch of women because he wanted to. Even his relationship with Rogue, the most meaningful thing in his life, was based on his selfish desire not to have to live without her. Causing her joy made him happy, so even that was selfish on his part. Not that he was heartbroken over it, it was just who he was. Everyone was selfish to a degree, Gambit was just more aware of it than most.

Rogue tried to argue this point when she found out about Sarah. A few weeks after Rogue, Gambit, Storm, and Jubilee had rescued a kidnapped mutant from the sewers, Gambit had calmed down from the scare of almost losing Rogue. No matter how many times she told him it wasn't that close, he wouldn't relent until finally, he released to tight grip on her he'd had since they'd returned. It was then that Rogue chose to tentatively broach the subject he'd studiously tried to keep her from noticing.

Rogue had gone to Gambit's room to ask why he'd missed their sparring session only to see him sprawled on the floor next to Sarah, helping her with homework for her science class. She smiled, leaning against the doorway and listening to their conversation.

"Only a few more to label," Gambit said, nodding to the diagram of the human body in front of them. Hank was teaching science with Kitty as an assistant so she could sub in if he suddenly had some diplomatic event he had to attend. It was Kitty's idea to make the diagram homework a coloring assignment too, insisting that if she had been able to color the body, she'd have paid a lot more attention. So far Sarah had all the major organs completed and most of the muscle groups.

"So the biggest things left are the arteries and veins," Sarah said. She frowned, holding the red and blue colored pencils. "I can never remember which go to the heart and which go away…I'm supposed to color code them."

"Want to know the trick I used to remember them?" Gambit asked. Rogue cocked her head. Whenever Gambit mentioned his schooling, it was usually about the things he learned about thieving. She knew the guild educated, she never really thought biology was high on the list though.

"Yeah," Sarah said, eyes rapt.

"Well arteries take blood away from the heart," Gambit said. "Artery and away both start with the letter 'a'."

"Arteries away," Sarah repeated like a mantra. "So arteries are red, right? Because they got their oxygen from the heart?"

"Oui!" Gambit said. "Good job, petite."

"Thanks, I think I can get the rest," Sarah said, gathering her things. She looked up, seeing Rogue in the doorway. "Hey Ms. Rogue!"

"Hi Sarah," Rogue said with a smile. "Gambit being helpful?"

"Yeah," she said. She was always very nice to Rogue, she just didn't talk nearly as much to anyone as she did to Gambit. She turned to him. "I'll see you later, bye." And with that she left, piles of schoolwork under her arms.

"Hello there, chère," Gambit said, walking over to Rogue and kissing her on the nose. "What have you been up to tonight?"

"Well I was going to kick my boyfriend's ass," she said, holding up her gym bag. Comprehension dawned on Gambit's face. "But he was too busy being wrapped around a certain little mutant's finger." Rogue was smiling.

"Désolé, I completely forgot," Gambit said.

"It's okay, you were too busy being completely adorable, I understand," Rogue teased.

"I'm always adorable."

"Always," Rogue agreed. She closed the door behind her and walked father into the room, taking a seat on Gambit's bed. "I need to ask you something."

Gambit sat next to her, legs up on the bed. "Of course. What's on your mind?"

"I wanted to ask you about Sarah."

Gambit instantly slipped into his poker face. Unfortunately, now that Rogue knew his poker face, all that did was prove he was uncomfortable. "What about her?"

"I wasn't sure if I should ask since Sarah's gotten so much better since you've been here," she said delicately. "But, how do you know her?"

Gambit's careful face didn't slip. "What makes you think I know her from anywhere but the school?"

"Remy," Rogue said, slightly exasperated. "Because I know you."

"You don't know what you're talking about," Gambit said coldly. He stood and walked to the door.

"Whoa, wait a hot second," Rogue said, standing. "I'm just trying to talk, why are you being such an ass? Remy, you can tell me anything."

"What, you want my whole story life now? Didn't get enough all the times you sucked my memories out of me?" Gambit snapped.

Rogue jerked back like he'd slapped her, mouth opening. Gambit just had time to register the shock and hurt of her face before slamming the door, leaving Rogue alone in his room. She stood for a moment, completely confused. She'd thought they were just talking, she had no idea how things changed so quickly. Gambit had never yelled at her like that, never. It was always her losing her cool and screaming. And what he'd said, using almost the exact words she'd used when she'd told him her most horrifying fear regarding her mutation. That she was a leech. A parasite.

She forced her face into a mask of indifference on the way to her room. It wouldn't do for anything to see her cry. She slammed the door behind her, locking it. It was a few hours early, but Rogue went about getting ready for bed, stripping into the tank top and panties she'd taken to wearing to bed once she got control of her skin. Crawling beneath to sheets, she willed herself to be tired. When Gambit wanted to grow up, he knew where she'd be.

The next day was a Saturday. She didn't know where he was, but Rogue didn't see Gambit all day. She spent the day helping with minor repairs on the blackbird. By the time everyone was eating dinner, she was swinging between being irritated and worrying if he was okay. Then she'd shake herself, knowing Gambit was more than capable of taking care of himself. But what if something happened…then she started worrying and the cycle started all over again. Rogue groaned and left without finishing all her food.

She was walking down the teachers' hallway when she crashed into Sarah. She grabbed Sarah quickly to keep the smaller girl from falling. "Whoa there, you okay?"

"Yeah," Sarah said, nodding. "I was just looking for Remy, but he's not here."

"Ah," Rogue said awkwardly.

Sarah didn't seem to notice. "He wasn't in his room though, do you know where he is?"

"Uh, no," Rogue said. "I haven't seen him today."

"Oh," Sarah said. She fidgeted for a minute before asking, "Uh, are you two mad at each other?"

"Why would you think that?" Rogue asked, too surprised to deny it.

"I saw him leave last night and he looked upset," Sarah said with a shrug. "I don't know what else matters to him enough to make him upset."

"I see," Rogue said. There was just a little too much knowledge in that little girl's eyes, especially for her age. Like many kids at Xavier's, she'd had to grow up too soon. "We just had a little argument."

"Oh," Sarah said. She shuffled her feet a little. Rogue didn't pressure her, she knew if Sarah wanted to get something out, the easiest way was to wait rather than push. "Remy's not bad, he's actually really nice. He…he saved me, did you know?"

"No," Rogue said. She squatted down until she was closer to eye level with the young girl. "Do you want to tell me about it?"

Sarah didn't look at Rogue as she spoke, instead staring at a stain on the carpet. "I was living with a bunch of people who were mutants like me."

"What do you mean?" Rogue asked. "We're all mutants like you."

"No you're not," Sarah said. "People aren't scared the second they look at you. You aren't afraid to walk outside because someone might try to throw rocks at you, or punch you, or hit you with their car." Rogue frowned, unsure what to say to that. Sarah misread her silence as anger and started talking really fast. "I didn't mean it like you don't have a hard time, too! I just mean, I meant, I-"

"It's okay Sarah," Rogue said gently, placing a hand on the girl's shoulder. "I know what you meant, sweetheart."

"Oh," Sarah said. "We just lived together because it was safer. Remy saved me when the bad ones came."

"The bad ones?" Rogue asked gently.

Sarah nodded. "They killed us."

Rogue's heart was breaking for the girl. Sarah's attitude made so much more sense now. Sarah had been here for years but never opened up as the other kids had, she made friends but never solidly put down roots. She always acted as if any second, she'd need to leave. "I'm so sorry, Sarah."

"Remy saved my life. So if you're mad at him, maybe remember he does do nice things, too?" Sarah suggested meekly.

Rogue smiled, eyes watering. She slowly, as Sarah didn't like sudden movements, pulled the girl into a hug. Sarah didn't stiffen, but she didn't really react either, as if she wasn't exactly sure what to do. "He's a very nice man, you're right," Rogue said. "Don't you worry, I know he is." She let Sarah go.

"Okay," Sarah said. "Well uh, I have homework, so, bye." With that, she walked very quickly down the hall and out of sight.

Rogue returned to her room and sighed, sitting down. She felt horrible for Sarah, but still didn't understand Gambit's reaction to her question the previous day. She could see how he'd want to keep Sarah's past a secret, especially if it was painful to her, but the harsh and livid reaction he'd had? That still confused her.

Rogue crawled into bed that night and decided to try to talk to Gambit again tomorrow. Not pushing for an answer, though she was curious, but at least speak to him. Fighting like this wasn't like them, usually it was a few hours of anger, tops, then they'd laugh at their stupidity and get over it. Over a day of not speaking was beyond bizarre. She fell asleep uneasily, finally drifting off just as it started to rain.

A few hours later, Rogue groggily woke up, cursing that giant glass of water she'd had with dinner. She stumbled into the bathroom and out again with barely opened eyes. She sat on her bed with a groan before even seeing the outline of a man sitting in a chair on the other side of her room. She jumped back, grabbing the lamp from her bedside table before realizing it was just Gambit.

"Shit," she hissed, dropping the lamp back down to the nightstand. "Remy, what the hell?" She focused on calming herself and felt the adrenaline started to subside.

"Désolé," he said softly, not making a move to leave the chair. Rogue slumped onto her bed and rubbed the remainder of sleep from her eyes. She didn't speak, instead waiting for him to make the first move. He'd come here, she'd be damned if she was going to do all the talking. Finally, Gambit sighed and leaned forward, elbows resting on his knees. "I shouldn't have said what I did. About your mutation. I don't really believe that."

"I know," Rogue said. He wasn't sure which statement she was agreeing with, but both were correct so he didn't fight it.

"It's…not something in my life that I've discussed. Ever," Gambit said. In the darkness, Rogue could only see his outline enough to know he was staring at the ground. Rogue didn't say anything, just let him speak. "I told you about Sinister, yes?"

"A little," Rogue said quietly. "You said he did something to help you get control."

Gambit snorted roughly. "Helped is too nice a term. Try mad scientist brain surgery."

"What?" Rogue asked, unable to hold back her horror.

"In exchange for his sadistic surgery, I owed him. He cashed in," Gambit said. Once he started talking, it was hard to stop, as if he'd built this dam to hide everything behind and now it had burst. "There was a group in the sewers that he wanted to find, something about recruiting them and he asked me to find them. I swear to god, I didn't know chère, I didn't know what they planned."

It took Rogue a few seconds to realize that Gambit was shaking from physically trying to stop the sobs that were threatening to wrack his body. She slid off the bed and slowly made her way over. Kneeling between his knees, she took his hands in hers.

"I just led them," Gambit said. "Then they just started killing them all. I don't even know why, just killing them. I found Sarah hiding but she was hurt. She was the only one I got out, by the time I got back, everyone was dead."

"Remy…"

"I don't deserve your sympathy," Gambit said, trying to jerk his hands free of hers, but she held fast.

"Remy, it wasn't your fault!"

"I got involved with him, I sought him out! That is on me!"

"Stop it!" Rogue said. Gambit's anger deflated and he sagged forward into her arms.

"It's on me."

"You're her hero," Rogue whispered, running her hands through his hair. She just then noticed he was dripping wet. He'd probably been out in the storm.

Gambit made a disgusted noise. "Been called a lot of things, never that."

"Remy," Rogue said, forcing him to face her. "You waded into a bloody war zone to get that girl out. Why? If you were such a terrible person, you wouldn't care if some kid got killed, your debt would be paid and you'd be on your way. That fact that it kills you shows just how good you are. If you were evil, you wouldn't care even a little bit." Gambit shrugged. Rogue stood with a sigh and pulled him up. "Go take a hot shower, you're freezing."

It scared Rogue that he didn't even make a comment about her joining him. Ten minutes later he emerged from her bathroom and crawled into bed with her. Rogue wrapped her arms around him and pulled him close, refusing to have even an inch of space between them. When he started to drift off, he mumbled, "I don't deserve you."

Gambit recovered himself well the next day. He was back to his usual charm and exuberance, but Rogue was watching him a bit more. The self loathing was frightening to her, as she had a lot of experience in that area. She knew exactly how much it could consume you. To all the world, he seemed fine, but his intensity on missions now made much more sense. His goal was atonement.

Weeks later, Gambit and Rogue were enjoying the rare day off, walking through a small park when the screams started. Without even needing to look at each other, they took off toward to shouts. In the center of the park was a play area for kids, complete with jungle gyms. A mother was hysterically crying, clutching her son to her while another woman was screaming and chasing someone across the grass. Whoever was running had a huge head start.

Rogue went to the crying mother while Gambit chased after the running woman. When he finally got close to her, he could hear her screaming, "Stop! Give me my daughter! Jessica!" Gambit's eyes narrowed and he surged past her, towards what he could now see was a man running with a small child in his arms. Now he could hear the little girl screaming and see her flailing in the man's arms.

"Hey!" Gambit yelled when he was right behind him. The man spun in surprise and the girl, who couldn't have been more than eight, bit the hand over her mouth as hard as she could. Her kidnapper jerked back in pain and Gambit made his move. He leapt forehead, latching his arms around the girl and spinning her away from the man and his now bleeding hand. Rogue appeared over shoulder, sending a kick to the kidnapper's temple. He crumpled to the ground, unconscious. The girl's mother ran up, tears running down her face, and pulled her daughter to her.

"Thank you, thank you!" she sobbed, hugging her daughter.

"It's no problem at all," Rogue said. A crowd gathered around the woman and sirens started wailing in the distance. Rogue and Gambit retreated away from everyone, letting the police deal with the would-be kidnapper. They jogged back to their car and started driving to the café where they'd planned lunch, though the mood wasn't quite as relaxed as before.

"Remy," she said when he'd parked the car.

"Hm?" he said, taking off his seatbelt.

"You just did a great thing. You saved her life."

"It was nothing," Gambit said with a shrug,

"Remy…"

"It's nothing, especially with what I've done."

"Remy!" Rogue said sternly, pulling his hands to her. "How many times must the scoundrel prove himself a hero before he believes it?"

Gambit looked down at their interlocked hands and was silent for a moment before kissing her and getting out of the car. Rogue followed him into the café. Maybe he wasn't completely accepting of who he was now, but at least she had faith now that he was getting there.

"How many times must the scoundrel…" quote was from the nineties cartoon X-Men series, Xavier said it to Gambit.

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