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Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Chapter 7
Chapter 8
Chapter 9
Chapter 10
Chapter 11
Chapter 12
Chapter 13
Chapter 14
Chapter 15
Chapter 16
Chapter 17
Chapter 18
Chapter 19
Chapter 20
Chapter 21
Chapter 22
Chapter 23
Chapter 24

Between the Darkness and the Light - REVIEW THIS STORY

Written by Amanda Sichter
Last updated: 01/02/2007 02:01:11 AM

Chapter 20

It was a perfect morning, one where it seemed the world had been created anew overnight, fresh and bright and unsullied. It was mornings like these that made Storm truly appreciate the glory that was flying.

It was, she decided, even better when she could share these mornings with a friend.

'I don' t'ink I ever noticed how beautiful all dis was,' said Remy, softly, as he stood on the rooftop watching the sky shade through exquisite variations on a theme of blue and the light sparkle on the waters of the lake. He grinned slyly at Ororo, hovering beside him. 'Seems like broodin' takes all de beauty away, neh?'

'Who can brood on a morning like this?' she asked simply and then whirled a delicate air-borne pirouette. 'The Goddess smiles this morning, nature sings, the world remembers how beautiful it is.' Her smile was dazzling. 'This is a morning for joy, Remy.'

'For joy,' he whispered, tasting the words, as if he'd almost forgotten the emotion. Then his smile broadened. 'For joy,' he repeated and this time sounded like he meant it. 'Oui, 'Ro. Dis is a morning for bein' happy.' His grin quirked into something mischievous. 'I almos' feel like shouting but de rest of de X-Men already t'ink I do enough strange t'ings on rooftops.

Don' know what dey'd t'ink if I started shouting firs' t'ing in de morning.'

'It is no stranger than some of the things Logan does,' replied Ororo. 'Some of his callisthenics involve extraordinary noises.' Her grin was impish. 'I think sometimes that he is homesick for the sound of moose.'

Remy couldn't help it this time and his laugh drifted out into the air. 'Ah chere,' he said. 'Dis be a perfect morning, neh? Jus' wish Azimuth was here to see it.'

'How is she?' asked 'Ro.

'A few more days and she'll be out here dancin' on de rooftops as well. Out of danger, gettin' better, according to de fabulous bouncing Beast.' His smile broadened again. 'According to her. You wouldn' believe some of de t'ings she been suggestin' we do when she's jus' a little bit better.'

'Why, Remy,' said Ororo, solemnly. 'I do believe you're blushing.'

Her words had their desired effect and the slight flush that had stained Remy's cheeks spread until he was blushing bright pink. 'Azimuth's feeling *much* better,' he mumbled and shrugged. 'It's been a while.'

'For all of us,' said 'Ro.

Gambit raised an enquiring eyebrow. 'Not gettin' any, chere?' he asked.

'Not lately, no,' she replied, somewhat primly. 'Not that it is any of your business.'

'You brought it up, Stormy,' Remy pointed out. He shrugged at her sharp glance. 'Well, you did.'

'Yes I did,' said Ororo. 'And now I am going to change the topic completely. Why does Jean-Luc know that you are here, Remy? I thought that you were exiled.'

'Dat *is* a change of topic,' Remy said.

'Does that mean you're thinking of not answering my question?' asked 'Ro and playfully raised one hand. Crackles of static electricity raised all of the hair on Remy's arms as Storm played casually with the threat of lightning.

'Okay, okay, Gambit'll talk,' laughed Remy, holding up his hands in exaggerated surrender. 'Of course Jean-Luc knows where I am. I've been exiled, chere, not disinherited. I'm still de Prince of T'ieves and my exile ends when Jean-Luc abdicates or dies. De Guild has to know where I am so dey can call me back if it becomes - necessary - dat I rule.'

'So you might become the King of Thieves at any moment,' said Ororo thoughtfully.

'It's not like I have to start investin' in New Orleans real estate,' said Remy. 'Jean-Luc is somet'ing like immortal and I can' see him choosin' to abdicate any time soon. I was banished so t'ings would have time to cool off between de Guilds before I had to go back. Give it a hundred years or so and de Assassins have maybe forgotten 'bout Julien.'

'A hundred years,' gasped Storm. 'I had not realised the Elixir extended your life to that extent.'

Remy grinned suddenly, his demon-chylde eyes flaring red. 'Freaky, non?' he asked and laughed as Ororo slapped his arm lightly. 'Jus' don' t'ink about it, chere. Easier dat way. 'Sides, a hundred years ain' near long enough to steal all de t'ings a good t'ief wants to steal.'

'But a hundred years, Remy!' 'Ro was still shaking her head.

'And how many X-Men have been dead and come back to life?' Remy pointed out. 'It's all relative, neh?'

'And what about Azimuth, Remy? How does she cope with knowing that her paramour will live a hundred years and more?' Ororo asked quietly.

'We got enough troubles, Stormy. No need to go borrowin' more,' was Remy's carefree response.

Or was it careless? Ororo frowned. 'There is not some problem between you and Azimuth? You know that I'm more than happy to help . . .'

She was cut off by Remy's laugh. 'Not dose kind of troubles. Mon Dieu, haven' you X-Men ever seen a happy relationship before? We got troubles, *we* sort dem out. Non, I mean de "Sinister wants to use our genetic material to make super-babies dat can end de world and won' stop huntin' us until he gets what he wants" kind of troubles. Dey're enough.'

'You seem very cheerful about it,' observed 'Ro.

'So do you,' rejoindered Remy. 'You got "fighting for a world dat hates and fears you" trouble. You don' let it ruin your whole life, do you?' He gave a devilish grin. ''Cept maybe your love-life.'

'Very amusing,' said Storm dryly and then spoiled it by laughing. 'The Goddess won't let me be - miffed - on a day like today.'

'Miffed?' Remy raised an eyebrow.

'Miffed,' she grinned.

'Never t'ought of you as de miffed type,' said Remy, thoughtfully. 'Now Jean, dere's a woman who can do miffed. Or Betsy, if you don' watch her derriere often enough.'

'I believe Azimuth does miffed rather well,' said Ororo, slyly.

'You have no idea,' he said, rolling his eyes. 'My chere can have a tantrum, sans pareil. T'ankfully she don' normally aim dem at me.'

'Does she aim them at me?' asked Ororo, soberly.

Remy gave her a dubious look. 'For what?' he asked.

Ororo shrugged. 'For the werechild. Because if Hank and I - if we hadn't insisted - if we had listened more carefully - if I had thought *more* - '

'She doesn' hold it against you,' said Remy softly and his gaze caught

'Ro's, held it. 'I don' hold it against you. De decision was made - it's done and over.'

'But I . . .' Storm looked down, shame-faced. 'I say that I worship Nature and the Goddess, Remy, and yet, when the time came and the choice have to be made, did I listen to Nature? Did I hear what the Goddess said to me? I cannot believe that She would approve of the werechild or Azimuth's suffering, but I was so convinced that a child should not be lost, so

concerned for Henry that I do not think I listened to what She was saying.'

Remy pushed a strand of hair back from her cheek, caught her chin with his hand and lifted her face until she looked him in the eye. 'Maybe dis is what She wanted, chere, dat you listen harder for what de Goddess says to you, dat you learn from dis. I don' know - I haven' met enough gods to know why dey do what dey do. But Azimuth and I don' hold it against you or Hank.

What's done is done. Time to move on, I t'ink.'

'Maybe you are right.' Storm's smile was a little tremulous. 'So how come you do not want me to tell the other X-Men about the change in your powers?'

Remy threw up his hands. 'What is dis?' he asked. 'Interrogate Remy Day?'

'Well you *are* answering my questions,' said Ororo, archly. 'That doesn't happen all that often. You do have a talent for evasion, Remy.'

He smiled. 'I always answer de right questions, chere. Sometimes I even tell de trut'.' He laughed at Storm's expression. 'Why don' I want you to tell de X-Men?' He shrugged. 'Dere's too much - potential - wit' my powers, non? Too many chances to do harm.' He had sobered, all of his humour drained away. 'What Jean gave me, de instructions, dey opened a box in my

head and all sorts of t'ings have been let out. Dere's been so much happenin' dat I haven' had a chance to t'ink about what de changes might mean. Until I work dat out I don' want de X-Men t'inking about what I could do, t'inkin' maybe I can save de world, dat I'm too important to let walk away. Gambit don' need dat kind of pressure.'

'Ro noted the drop into third person, something she knew tended to indicate that Remy was either distressed or attempting to distance himself from deep emotions. She had a sudden feeling that in this case it might be both. 'You do not like your changed powers,' she observed quietly.

'Non,' said Remy, staring at his hands and his mouth twisted. 'Dey scare me,' he admitted.

'Because you don't know what you can do?' asked Ororo.

'Non,' said Remy again. 'Because I do know what I can do.' He looked up at Ororo again and he smiled, a slightly forced smile. 'Anyway, dis ain' de time to be worryin' 'bout what I can and can' do. Jus' - give me a little time, chere. 'Fore you tell de X-Men. Don' want Scott to start t'inking dat maybe I be too useful to de team to get a leave-pass.'

'Of course, Remy,' was 'Ro's immediate response and he smiled in appreciation of the trust she extended him.

'I t'ink it might be time to go in,' he said.

'What for?' she asked, somewhat piqued at the thought of going inside on such a glorious day.

'For breakfast, mon ami,' said Remy, and laughed as 'Ro's stomach, suddenly reminded, gave a startlingly loud grumble. 'I t'ink dat was a vote for my breakfast plan.'

'I think so,' replied 'Ro, staring down in some chagrin at the stomach that had so unexpectedly betrayed her. Then she lifted her head and her smile was definitely sly. 'Race you,' she said.

'Where?' asked Remy.

'To the ground, of course,' she replied and spun in mid-air. Remy whooped with laughter and ran down the roof. Ro's glittering dive through the air

was spectacular but he matched it with a triple somersault as he fell. They were laughing so hard and were so evenly matched that, by the time they hit the ground, neither of them could tell who had won. And, to be perfectly honest, neither of them cared at all.

When he had first returned from Alaska, Scott had tried using the Professor's study to meet with the other X-Men, but he had found it impossible to cope with the bitter-sweet memories the room evoked. So, when Nightcrawler asked to speak to him alone, he had led the blue-furred mutant to the War Room.

'What's wrong?' he asked Kurt, who was positively radiating concern.

Kurt prowled around behind the table for a few moments more, then sat, although his tail continued to lash behind him. 'It is Rogue,' he said abruptly.

'What's wrong with her?' said Scott mildly.

'She is - unwell,' replied Kurt.

Scott's eyebrows arched in surprise. 'Rogue?' he asked. 'She doesn't get sick.' He'd never known Rogue to even catch a cold - he suspected it was something to do with her part-Kree DNA.

'Not physically,' said Kurt. 'There is something wrong in her mind, Cyclops.'

'Her mind?' This conversation was startling Scott more with every moment. 'Do you mean her powers or do you mean . . .'

'I mean her sanity,' said Kurt bluntly. 'I am concerned that she may be suffering from some form of mental illness.'

Scott frowned. 'Jean would normally be able to sense if someone is undergoing mental trauma . . .'

'Except that Rogue is notoriously resistant to telepathic probes,' continued Kurt. He couldn't contain himself any longer and, jumping up, began pacing again. 'Neither Jean nor Betsy would be able to sense any telepathic indications of her instability.'

'Even so,' replied Scott, 'both of them are more than adequate at judging a person's mental state without telepathy. Are you sure about what you're saying, Kurt?'

'Very sure,' replied Kurt, kindly (he considered) refraining from mentioning Onslaught and pointing out that neither Jean nor Betsy had picked up the Professor's deteriorating mental state. 'Rogue is very careful of how she appears in front of the other X-Men. She does not wish to appear zerbrechlich - fragile. But mein Schwester has said things to me that have caused me concern.'

'I'd gathered that,' said Scott dryly.

'It appears that she is starting to lose control of the memories she has absorbed,' said Kurt. 'She first started speaking of it when I returned to the X-Men. I hoped it would improve over time, but she has continued to talk about her - lack of control. She talks about the people in her head, that they are speaking to her, trying to drive her to do things.'

Scott frowned suddenly. 'That isn't the way her power works,' he pointed out. 'Except for Carol Danvers. Anyone else she's absorbed has been - lost - in a few days.'

'I know,' replied Kurt. 'There's never been any indication that Rogue has retained the personality, the - the *voice* - of someone for more than a week. And yet she is saying to me that there are people in her head, that they are speaking to her and that they hate her.'

Scott's blood ran cold suddenly. 'That doesn't sound like her power. That sounds more like schizophrenia.' The thought of Rogue, so powerful Rogue, with schizophrenia terrified him.

'Or multiple personality disorder,' said Kurt, pleased that Scott had finally caught up with him.

'MPD?' Scott was dubious. 'Voices in the head aren't exactly the symptoms of that. You haven't noticed her switching between personalities, have you?'

'No.' Kurt shrugged. 'And yet it is late in life for the onset of schizophrenia. Rogue does not fit the exact symptoms of any mental illness. But I had thought it may be MPD because it is a disorder that is normally brought on by sexual abuse in early childhood.'

Scott stared at Kurt, appalled. 'Do you really think Mystique would do such a thing?' he breathed, disbelieving.

'Nein.' Kurt waved his hand impatiently. 'I do not agree with all of Mystique's child-raising techniques,' the demon-faced mutant grimaced as he thought of his own rather unceremonious dumping, 'but how much do we know of Rogue's life before she was with Mystique?'

'Not a lot,' agreed Scott.

'She ran away from home, she never speaks of her parents, she is incapable of letting anyone touch her and now she speaks of the voices in her head. I think there may be some clues there.' Kurt's voice was very dry but his tail lashed furiously.

'Do you think she might be dangerous?' asked Scott, his mind working rapidly.

'I do not know,' said Kurt. 'She is more quiet than violent or disturbed. As if she is withdrawing inside herself. And she seems able to control herself and "the voices". I do not think she is dangerous at the moment. There is only . . .' he stopped.

'What is there?' asked Scott evenly, knowing that Nightcrawler would try and protect his foster sister.

The words were reluctant as Kurt finally said, 'She is obsessed with Gambit.' He turned back to Scott, sat down again. 'Gambit and Azimuth. There are things that she says - she loves him still, almost obsessively so. I think some of her problems relate to her actions in Antarctica, her feeling that her actions there were beyond her control. Gambit's continued presence here is causing her considerable distress and I fear that it is not helping her. And she - there is Azimuth and they are here and Rogue is not coping well with that. If she was to become dangerous I would be afraid for them.'

'But not right now?'

'No,' Kurt answered, sighing. 'I think she needs help, Scott. I think someone needs to speak to her, to counsel her. If the Professor was here . .' he let the sentiment trail off.

'But he isn't,' replied Scott. 'And I don't think we can drag Moira over here right now.' He came to a decision. 'I need to speak to Jean. She's had a lot of experience in counselling people and Rogue trusts her. Maybe we can persuade Rogue to open up to her. If we can get her talking I'm sure there's something we can do.'

'You won't tell her that I said this?' Kurt said worriedly.

'Of course not. But you will let me know if you think Rogue's condition is worsening. Or improving,' Scott added.

'Ja,' said Kurt and stood to leave. He turned back, his hand on the door. 'You will be careful?' he asked. 'I do not want my sister hurt.'

'We'll do our best, Kurt,' said Scott simply. It was, he knew, the only promise he could afford to make.

The rec room, in fact most of the mansion, was deserted. Most of the X-Men had gone out to Harry's, celebrating Nightcrawler's birthday, leaving only Marrow, sulking in the basement, Remy and Azimuth.

Moonlight flooded the rec room, gentle silver shimmering across it in such quantities that Remy didn't bother to turn on the lights. He had left Azimuth sleeping in their room and, after a certain unfulfilling period of aimlessly roaming through the mansion, he had ended up in the rec room. There was a restless moodiness gripping him and he flipped through his CDs

seeking something that captured that mood. He had only just found it, slipping the CD into the player when the door opened, a rectangle of artificial light silhouetting Azimuth.

'Chere,' whispered Remy. 'I didn' expect to see you up. You feelin' alright?'

'I'm fine, Remy,' she responded. 'Feeling restless, that's all. Like it's time to get moving again.'

He grinned, a white flash of teeth. 'Me too,' he confessed. He walked to her, inspecting her. She was wearing a simple slip dress that might have been blue or black, and nothing else. Her short blonde hair was silver in the moonlight, her eyes a dark mystery. Remy reached forward, ran his fingers gently along the jut of her collarbone. 'So fragile,' he whispered.

Her hand slipped over his, held it against her sternum. 'Enough, Remy,' she said. 'I'm getting better. Fattening up. Stop worrying.' It was a command.

He bowed, suddenly courtly. 'As my chere commands,' he smiled.

'I do command,' Azimuth responded and was suddenly waving her finger at him. 'And don't you *dare* treat me like an invalid.'

He caught that waggling finger, kissed the back of her hand. 'I promise,' he said and then whisked her into his arms, bending her backwards and kissing her outrageously. She shrieked with laughter beneath him, her arms snaking around his neck and stopping her from falling. 'See?' he said when he took his lips from hers.

'See,' she agreed, and giggled into his broad chest as he lifted her upright. She settled as he closed the door and then the soft flush of moonlight drew her to the window. 'Beautiful,' she whispered, as silver slipped over her, limned her in gentle light.

'Beautiful,' said Remy, but his eyes were on her. 'Moonlight suits you,' he said. She turned to him, raised a questioning eyebrow. 'You're so pale - sunlight's too harsh,' he explained. 'But de moon - it likes you.'

'You think?' she said, softly.

'I t'ink,' he replied, walking to her. 'You're made of moonlight, chere. Moonlight and ice and smoke.' His hand drifted over the pale curve of her cheek, beneath the sheen of her eyes. 'Dance?' he asked.

'I think - it might be necessary,' she replied. Her bare feet made no noise as she padded to the centre of the room, waited for him to play the CD. The first notes drifted out, and she frowned at Remy, obviously not recognising the song. He responded without words, taking her into his arms and holding her tight, making her almost forget the music.

It was barely a dance, their bodies moving minimally against each other, her head resting against his shoulder. It was only when the song began again, looped on repeat, that Azimuth raised eyes almost drugged with joy. 'There's no aphrodisiac like loneliness?' she questioned, echoing the chorus.

'Truth, beauty and a picture of you,' responded Remy, with the next line. His kiss on her forehead was gentle. 'It's true, amant. When you were gone - ah, my skin was crying, non? Like fire, all t'rough my veins and you not dere. I burned for you.' He caught a line of the song and it made him crush her against his chest, bury his face in her hair. 'You shouldn't leave me

alone,' he repeated.

'Never,' she said. 'Not again. Not *ever* again,' and her grip was just as tight on him. For long moments they held each other until finally they eased apart, shuddering back from the intensity of feeling. Her laugh was shaky as she asked, 'Are we going to do that thing with the finger and the fine wine? It sounds kind of interesting.'

He smiled, a smile that was definitely, nearly, almost a smirk. 'Guess dat depends on whether I got any fine wine.' She slapped his chest lightly, then dropped her head back down, swayed back into the beat of the music.

'It's like a dream,' she said softly, eventually.

'Mmmm?' asked Remy, only half-interested. He was re-discovering the silken pleasure of running sensitive fingers over the flawless skin of her back and was more than a little distracted.

'All of it. The last however-many months. It's like I can hardly remember what Sinister did to me, like it's - distant from me.' She lifted fearful eyes, looked into his. 'I should be traumatised, Remy, but it's all so far away from me. Like it never happened.'

She didn't add the last sentence, but he knew what it was. ~Like I'm not real~. He gripped her shoulders tightly. 'Don' start wit' dis, Azimuth,' he warned. 'Don' slip away again.'

'With you around to save me?' said Azimuth, raising a sardonic eyebrow. She sobered again. 'It worries me, Remy. I think about all the things that were done to me, the fact Sinister still wants me, all of those things, and I can't help feeling that I should be . . . *feeling* more. That I should be waking up in screaming nightmares, terrified of intimacy, neurotically

looking for Essex in dark corners. Instead it's all slipping away from me. It's like a dream almost.' She frowned, concern darkening her eyes to the metallic grey of storm clouds. 'I worry that I'm doing it to myself. Turning my powers on myself and twisting everything away. That I'm - re-making myself without even realising it.'

'Maybe you are,' said Remy, and half-smiled at her petulant frown. 'I know dat may not be what you want to hear, but . . . Look at de X-Men. All of dem have had bad t'ings happen, some of dem far worse dan what we've - you've - been t'rough. But dey're all still sane,' he paused, thought, 'well, most of dem,' another pause, 'most of de time, anyway. Henri tol' me

once dat he t'inks you might have to t'ink a certain way to be a mutant, dat dere's somet'ing about havin' to integrate your powers into your body dat means you need to have a strong mind, a sense of self dat's hard to shake.' He stroked her cheek softly. 'Mon Dieu, chere, all de t'ings dat have happened to us we should bot' be insane. So everyt'ing is turnin' into

a dream. Isn' dat better dan losin' your mind?'

'You have such a way with words, LeBeau,' Azimuth responded softly, and then sighed, rested her head against his chest. 'It's just - it's almost like Essex is getting away with it. Like I forget, I heal and he doesn't have to pay for the things he's done to me.' She looked up into Remy's eyes again. 'You know my scar's nearly gone?' He nodded. 'He even takes away the scars. How am I supposed to remember that it was real - that I'm real - when he doesn't even leave me any scars?'

He caught her chin in his hand, held her eyes with his own. His voice was almost fierce as he said, 'You want to know dat you're real? Den look at me. Does wantin' you prove dat you're real? Den all you have to do is look at me and you can see how much I want you. All de time, chere, in every way. I want every part of you, want to wake up beside you in de morning,

fall asleep listening to your heart beat, want your skin against my skin. I want to know what you're t'inking, every minute of de day, want de sound of your voice, de taste of your tears. I want your happiness and I want your scars, your joy and pain, sorrow and delight. I want to possess you and I want to set you free. Can you see dat?' She nodded, transfixed by his gaze.

'You are de *most real* t'ing in my life and I won't let you slip away from me again.'

His mouth covered hers before she could reply and he kissed her fiercely, trying to convey everything he felt about her. It didn't surprise him that, when he lifted his mouth, both of them were shaking. Remy remembered again that he hadn't made love to her in a long time now and he nearly pulled her to him again, nearly finished what he had started, but the small rational

part of his mind held him back. It would be fierce and quick and savage and he knew that, right now, Azimuth needed gentleness. So he nestled her into the curve of his arms again, tight against him and wondered whether mentally reciting the draft choices of the 1998 New Orleans Saints would quell the rather obvious manifestation of his desire.

It didn't seem to worry Azimuth unduly as she snuggled herself into him, swayed against him in a way that actually made him groan. He caught the sly curve of her mouth and said, 'You're not playing fair.'

'Neither are you,' she replied and pouted up at him. 'I was just settling in for a really good bout of self-pity and then you have to make a speech like that. How's a girl supposed to feel sorry for herself when you do things like that.' Her hand drifted down, touched him in a way that made his breath hiss in over his teeth. 'Or things like this,' she grinned.

'If you don' stop doin' dat dere's goin' to be trouble,' warned Remy.

'Promise?' she said and then took her hand away. 'You're right,' she said, almost sighing. 'I think some more dancing might be in order. For now.'

He obeyed, holding her gently, sliding back into the beat. Songs drifted past them, swirled briefly and disappeared, replaced by another, but neither of them was listening to the words any more. Finally, after some time, Remy lifted his head, leaned back so he could look into Azimuth's eyes. 'Is dere any particular reason you're feeling my derriere?' he asked, frowning slightly.

'I'm testing it,' she replied seriously, not removing her hands, which were busily kneading.

'For what?'

'Bounce,' she responded.

'Bounce?' He raised his eyebrow at her, questioning.

'Bounce,' she repeated. 'I need to make sure you're still sufficiently firm and - bouncy. In fact, I might have to take you for a test drive. So to speak.' The corners of her mouth twitched suddenly, were quickly suppressed.

He looked down at her almost-serious face and wondered why his mouth was suddenly dry. 'Is dat a proposition, chere?' he asked, mildly.

'You know, LeBeau, I think it might well be,' she responded and then arched her body inwards, rubbed against him. She no longer bothered to suppress her wicked smile as she whispered, 'You certainly seem eager to take me up on it.'

'I'm not de one doin' de propositioning,' he pointed out.

Azimuth shrugged, unrepentant. 'It's been a while,' she said.

'Eleven months, fourteen days,' he glanced at his watch, 'six hours and about t'irty-six minutes. But who's counting?'

'Time flies, doesn't it?' whispered Azimuth and then leaned into his mouth, a soft kiss that deepened, held. He drew her to him, ran his hands down the length of her spine, whimpered as her hands drifted under his t-shirt and ran over the flat, hard muscles of his stomach. She broke the kiss eventually. 'Remy' she whispered. 'Not here.'

'No, not here,' he agreed, but then they were kissing again and the room spun around him and he wondered if he could get her back to their room before the necessity of removing all of her clothes became too great.

The decision was made for him. He had just slipped his hands under her dress, started to slide it upwards, tried to work out how he could do this when her hands were wrestling with his belt and the buttons of his jeans, when the door opened. Both of them froze in shock, utterly startled, as Marrow stalked into the room.

~How the hell am I going to get out of this one?~ thought Remy, his hands frozen on Azimuth's hips. She had leaned into him, leaning her cheek against his chest, holding her breath. With considerable astonishment Remy watched as Marrow walked straight past the pair of them, scowled as she switched off the CD player and proceeded to put "Bambi" on the video. With eyes like saucers Remy saw the tough-faced girl with bones poking out of her skin settle in to watch a Disney movie. He was only startled out of his contemplation of Sarah when he felt Azimuth helplessly giggling against his chest.

'Chere, what's she doin'?' he asked in a whisper.

'She's watching *Bambi*,' said Azimuth in a normal tone of voice and ignored his hushing motions. 'It's all right, lover, she can't hear us. I almost forgot about that.'

'What do you mean she can' hear us?' asked Remy, almost frantically.

'Actually, she can hear us,' replied Azimuth. 'She just doesn't notice us. We're kind of a blind spot. I twisted her, remember.'

'Dat was a long time ago,' said Remy.

'They don't break,' said Azimuth. 'Her mind isn't that strong anyway, but I made sure it was a good solid twist. She won't notice us until I remove it.' She rolled her eyes at Remy's expression. 'Don't give me that look. Hank's already given me that look. I'll take it off her before we leave.' She looked at Marrow and laughed again. 'Sarah's secret shame. She's watching *Bambi*.'

'I didn' expect dat either,' confessed Remy. 'Maybe Wolverine's stash of Bruce Lee movies or somet'ing else wit' a lot of screamin' and fightin'. I didn' expect Bambi.'

'Ah well,' said Azimuth and turned her gaze back to his. 'Maybe it's time we went to the bedroom,' she said, softly.

'I t'ink you might be right,' he responded and lifted her into his arms and carried her to their room.

It only took him moments to remove her dress and the wispy thing she had been wearing underneath. It only took a few more before he, too, was naked. He caught her up in his arms again, lay her back upon the bed, leaned back to watch the moonlight run its fingers over the still-too-lean curves of her body in a way he was planning to emulate in the not-at-all-distant

future. She looked up at him, her eyes bewildered with desire. 'LeBeau,' she whispered. 'Be gentle.'

He nodded, kissed her mouth, gently, so gently, dropped feather-light kisses over her face, her neck, heard her soft gasps as he trailed down over her breasts, felt the muscles in her stomach quiver in anticipation under his questing fingers. Down further he drifted, heard the sharp intake of her breath as he finally tasted her again. The smell of her, the taste of her, denied to him for so long, filled his senses and when he whispered her name it was almost a prayer.

In the end he was almost too gentle. He had used expert mouth and skilled thief fingers to make her arch beneath him twice, to call out his name in spasms of delight. He had started again, wrapped up in the pleasure of creating her pleasure, when her hand caught his and he looked up into her eyes. 'Come here, LeBeau,' she said and drew him up, into her arms, inside of her. He moved slowly, hoping to make it last, to savour every moment, but she twisted supple legs around his hips, thrust herself against him, and he was lost, calling out her name as stars exploded behind his eyes.

He slumped sideways, caught and carried her with him, so they ended tangled beside each other, her head on his chest. 'Ah, chere, ma amant, mon coeur, je suis désolé, non? I didn' expect dat to happen.'

'I did,' she said and her voice was warm with happiness. 'It's been eleven months, fourteen days . . .' She looked at him.

'Seven hours and, oh, forty-two minutes,' he supplied, looking at the clock.

She laughed throatily, ran her fingers across his face, savouring the feel of him. 'Don't be sorry, my love, my heart. I thought you were wonderful. And if *you* didn't, we've got all night,' she said. 'If we keep trying I'm sure we can both get it right.'

He laughed, gathered her into his arms and kissed her, felt desire begin to course through his veins again.

They had all night and before it was done, they had got it exactly right.

I always forget the notes, so I'm trying here. Je suis désolé means I'm sorry in French. The song Remy & Azimuth first listen to is "No Aphrodisiac" by Sydney band, The Whitlams and the line about fingers and fine wine goes "She pay him suck his finger with some fine wine". It is one of the best songs about love and loneliness ever and while you poor unfortunate non-Aussies have probably never heard of it, I'm crediting Gambit with both exceptionally good musical taste and a taste for eclectic

Internet shopping on Australian music store sites <g>. I think that's all that needs to be explained.


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