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Chapter 1

Return to the Rooftop - REVIEW THIS STORY

Written by Karen Bruce
Last updated: 01/02/2007 02:01:11 AM

Chapter 1

As Rogue stepped onto the rooftop, a small, treacherous piece of her wished that she had bothered to change into the slinky, little, black dress that was the sartorial equivalent of a stuck-out tongue. The rest of her was stubbornly glad that she had remained in the green and white that was her uniform, that she had not even taken the time to brush her hair after the Danger Room session from which she had just come. She was leader of the X-Men's Gold Team after all and this was simply a strategy meeting with her Blue counterpart. A counterpart who much to her surprise and discomfort was also her former lover, Gambit.

She felt a slight, sick disappointment when she saw him. Like her, he seemed to have simply come from whatever activity with which he had been busy. In a loose, Saints sweatshirt and black jeans that appeared to have been painted onto him, he was hardly dressed for an evening of romance. Not that she objected to the latter piece of clothing on him, she smirked, then checked herself. She had no right or reason to expect their rendez-vous on the rooftop to lead anywhere more interesting than a discussion of the sociopolitical climate, she reminded herself. Their relationship had been over for some months and, if the Iceman-carried rumor was to be believed, he was currently dating the archaeological engineer that she had met a while ago in the Folding City, Sekhmet Anubar Conoway.

Rogue paused, refusing to think about his new relationship or their somewhat acrimonious break-up, steeling herself instead for the two hours of forced politeness that lay ahead of her. Their talks in the War Room were decidedly uncomfortable for both of them, she suspected. She went into each strategy session with the intent of reconciling with him for the good of the team, but ended up talking at him across an expanse of steel as if he were a complete stranger. Rather than someone in whose arms she had been sleeping one or two months ago, she thought with a half-smile at the memory. If there were any night to patch things up between them, to be friends again at the very least, then it would be this one.

Tone neutral, but not unfriendly, "Remy?"

He glanced back at her, a decidedly mischievous grin on his face, "Rogue. Wondered how long ya were gon' stan' dere an' admire de view."

Thief-trained as he was, she should have known that her slightest breath, her lightest footstep, would have alerted him to her presence. Nonetheless, she had foolishly hoped that her private moment of voyeurism would have gone unnoticed, although the blatant innuendo in his greeting caused her to flush. Was it because he was genuinely interested in restarting their relationship, or merely part of a brilliant, witty facade designed to hide his discomfiture at being forced to work with his ex? She had seen the latter enough to know it was probably motivated out of insecurity, rather than any more amorous emotions.

Deliberately obtusely, to cover her confusion, "Yeah. Night sky is gorgeous this time of year."

He raised an eyebrow, "Dat it is, cherie. Grab a plate an' some chicken, den we c'n admire it together."

"Fried chicken?" she asked teasingly as she settled down next to him and took the plate offered to her, "Ah didn't think you could cook anythin' that used less dan half th' contents o' th' spice-rack."

"Ya know me," he shrugged, "Can't resist buyin' into de Southern racial stereotypes."

Biting into the wonderfully tender and golden drumstick, "Well, Ah'm glad you did. This is by far th' best chicken Ah've evah had."

"From a girl from Backwater, Mississippi, dat be high praise indeed."

"It's Caldecott," she laughed, "An' don't let yo' head swell up too much yet, LeBeau. Reenie did all the cookin' chez Darkholme. Ah grew up on sauerkraut an' strudel."

He made a disgusted face, producing two flutes and bottle of champagne from some recess of the basket. She did not need to see the label to know that it was expensive - the man had always had impeccable taste in clothes and wine. She would have added women, but some lingering animosity towards Sek made her omit it.

"Den ya'll need dis t'blot out de memories o' German . . . cuisine, although even dat looks edible when compared wit' Russian food," he popped the cork of the bottle with suitable panache, charging it before he did, so that it exploded in a shower of sparks against the night-sky. Inclining his head in the parody of a bow, he poured equal quantities of the fizzy liquid into each flute.

"Oooh, fireworks an' champagne. If y'tryin' t'get me inebriated, M'sieu LeBeau, Ah have ta warn you that it won't work," she drawled, "Thanks t'mah Kree genes, Ah can drink a gallon o' th' stuff an' still walk a straight line."

With a mock-sigh, "Dem tetotallin' Kree, non? Ya can't blame a boy f'r tryin ', though."

"Could if'n Ah tried really hard," she grinned at him, as she sipped delicately, "But Ah'll see what other goodies you have in yo' basket instead."

Stretching across him, she picked up the picnic basket and rifled through the clean white linen that lined it. To her surprise, instead of the unpronouncable, frothy dessert that tended to be his forte, there was a platter of apfelstrudel. The pastry golden-brown and lightly-sugared, the filling plump and juicy, it put Irene's somewhat soggy efforts to shame. Evidently, she thought, Destiny had not been capable of foreseeing flops in cookery.

"Kurt told you it was mah favorite dessert, didn't he?" she fixed Remy with a decidedly approving look.

"Dat an' de fact dat ya ordered it at every date we went on," he shrugged nonchalantly, feigning interest in his champagne, but there was a suspiciously amused glint in his eyes, "Even at de Cajun restaurants."

"Ah thought that Chef Pierre was gonna toss me out on mah butt when the waitress told him what Ah wanted," she chuckled, then mimicked the outraged tones of the person in question, "Mademoiselle, I be most sorry but we don' serve . . . *strudel* here. Made it sound like Ah'd suggested killin' his first-born."

He joined his laughter to hers, one of the infrequent, genuine shouts of it that he allowed to escape on occasion, "Ya know I still can't go back dere wit'out bein' told what a philistine ya are?"

Suddenly, the memory lost any humorous quality it might have had. He had returned to that particular restaurant then, presumably with some woman on his arm. You really thought that he would have gone alone, she mocked herself, that he would have stayed at home pining over you? The idea was ridiculous. Of course, Remy would never have lacked for dates, nor would have turned down the offer of any halfway beautiful woman while single. Still, the knowledge that she could be - had been - so easily replaced stung.

"Hmm. Suppose Sekhmet wouldn't have embarrassed you like that," she commented distractedly, old habit of speaking her mind coming to the fore.

"Ya didn' embarrass me," he told her honestly, his red-on-black eyes more unreadable than usual, "An' Sek an' I are history, which is probably ironic considerin' what she does f'r a livin'."

"Ditto fo' me and Piotr," she replied levelly, "Wasn't mah type, after all."

His earlier quip about Russian cuisine had not gone unnoticed, although she had not commented on it at the time. There had been a subtle hint of jealousy in Remy's voice, despite his light tone, that a woman who knew him less well would not have noticed. Not that he had any real cause, she mused wryly, the first kiss between them had only happened because of Remy's letter in which he had echoed her sentiments that it would never have worked. Their brief relationship had only existed because she had been too proud to admit that she still cared about the Cajun, because she had been - she wrinkled her nose in distaste at the ugly word - on rebound.

"An' here I t'ought I'd have t'take up finger-paintin' t'get ya t'look at me," he shook his head in feigned disbelief, grinning at her, "Never was much good at art too. Mind ya, havin' seen some of Piotr's work, I suppose skill ain't a criterion."

"'Least Ah didn't like Tomb Raider so much that Ah decided ta go out with a real, live one," Rogue commented ironically with a puckish smile to show that she was only teasing him. However, the flipness, she admitted, was a facade. Internally, a deliciously sweet and impossible hope caused her stomach to feel like it was doing the tango, aided and abetted by her other major, internal organs. Why would he mention that he'd recently broken up with his archaeologist-friend, unless he meant to . . . .

Mock-seriously, "What c'n I say? I found de view as Lara Croft climbed up ladders inspirational."

Punching him lightly, she replied: "Huh. You're lucky you make darn good strudel, else Ah'd be forced ta kill you fo' that comment."

"Nice t'know ya still care enough t'be homicidal," she saw him suppress a decidedly smug and triumphant grin, favoring the dessert with a smirk. She doubted he was that fond of pastry, and her visceral dance-troupe essayed a flamenco. Still, she told herself, she had best not allow her personal romantic fantasies to prorogue the beginning of what promised to be a wonderful friendship.

"Ah'll always be yo' friend, you know that," she told him seriously, then chuckled: "After all, who else would feed me like you do?"

"Certainly not Jean," he said emphatically, evidently remembering Phoenix's skill at making even haute cuisine bland, then held out his hand to her, "Friends, den?"

She took it in her own bare, cool one, feeling a familiar flame kindle in the pit of her stomach at his touch. She loved him, she admitted to herself, had not stopped despite months of telling herself that she did not. She could see the same understanding growing in his eyes, as she intertwined her fingers more tightly with his. Like her, he had deluded himself into believing that their relationship was over, that he cared for Sekhmet as more than a friend.

"Friends kiss, don't they?" she murmured, flushing slightly at her own forwardness. She had never been a blushing wall-flower, had thrown herself at Longshot with a bloody-mindedness that would have put Psylocke to shame, but there had been no hope of it being reciprocated then. She doubted that the alien had even noticed her efforts most of the time.

"Oui," his loose hand moved of its own volition to cup her chin and cheek, "Dey do at dat, cherie."

His lips brushed hers, then, wrapping his arms around her waist, he kissed her soundly. All the worn-out metaphors about fireworks, volcanoes and soaring through clouds seemed inadequate to describe it, Rogue mused much later that evening, when the capacity for logical thought had returned to her. It was more like falling to earth, then swooping up at the very moment that death seemed sure. A sensation that left her stomach somewhere around her knees, where it launched into the finale of the organ-dance that had been happening all evening. At the time, however, all she could do was laugh and say: "Ah suspect that wasn't a very platonic kiss, Rem."

Wickedly, "Want t'practise until we get it right, Rogue?"

"Ah think we owe it to our friendship, don't you?"

Although they never discovered the art of the friendly kiss that night, despite practising as much as was humanly possible, that particular failure did not seem at all important to either of them. After all, as Remy told her, they were many weeks ahead of them in which to perfect it.


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