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Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6


Written by Paxnirvana
Last updated: 01/02/2007 02:01:11 AM

Chapter 3

Every night I burn

Waiting for my only friend

Every night I burn

Waiting for the world to end

~ The Cure - "Burn"

Ororo Munroe hummed softly to herself as she knelt in the neglected flower beds on the north side of the mansion. It was the side of the mansion closest to the trees, away from the lake and the basketball courts. Scarcely anyone came here except for her - and Wolverine of course, on his endless prowls. The day was mild and the sky clear, without her intervention, the early spring air still carrying a nip in the shade. She wore no uniform or other battle garb, but only worn pants and a tattered black T-shirt scavenged from . . . one of the men. Her mind shied away from thinking about which man. The shirt was soft and thin with age, faded with endless washings to more of a dark gray than black. It was her favorite to garden in. The thin cotton clung to her sweat-dampened body like a caress, bringing her a measure of contentment that she refused to examine.

She had braided her long white hair on top of her head like a crown to keep it out of her way while she worked. It had been a long time since she'd had much time to spare for the mansion grounds. Long months and weeks of winter and anguish and battle. But spring, and a respite, had finally come.

So, for hours she had been simply weeding and turning the ground. Reveling in the feel of the rich loamy soil on her hands, under her fingernails, streaking her skin. It was a hard, sweaty task that she set for herself. The earth was life and renewal and endless riches - if tended and cared for properly - and she felt her connection to it most keenly when she worked it like this. It was a satisfaction she craved. A simple, innocent one that served, never more than now, as a balm when her heart was troubled. And she had been troubled for so long, since the disaster of Antarctica.

She sat up, crouched still on her knees, shaking the last thought away with determination. Her back was aching slightly from her long labor. She stretched up luxuriously toward the sky for a moment before resting her dirty hands on her thighs. Early pansies, delicate crocus and swaying daffodils thrust their bright faces toward the sun, risen high enough over the mansion now to infuse the beds with thin spring sunshine. The flowers didn't do as well on this side, but she so loved the cheerful, homey blooms that she'd planted them all about the grounds to brighten them in the spring, anxious for color and fragrance after the long New York winter.

She gave a contented sigh as she viewed her work, summoning a microshower to water the freshly-turned beds and give the flowers a head start on the weeds. Holding her hands out to the small shower, she scrubbed the bulk of the dirt from them, letting it fall back onto the ground, returning it from whence it came. Water flew in a sparkling fall from her hands as she shook them before wiping them carefully on her pants to dry them.

Then the faintest trace of cigarette smoke had her body stiffening, her heart stumbling as she turned her head to seek the source.

"For shame, Remy," she said, raising an elegant brow in carefully controlled amusement when she found him lounging at the foot of a tree in the sun behind her. Soaking the early sunshine up like a great panther; a dark and dangerous creature of the night who had somehow been drawn into the day. Watching her in silence. "If I had known you were there, I would have enlisted your aid."

"Why y' t'ink Remy not light up 'til now, mon amie?" he said with a wry smile, his night-dweller's eyes concealed behind sunglasses to protect them from the light. She could see the arch of one raised eyebrow above the dark frames as he waved a languid hand toward the flower beds. "Den he saw y' were finally done."

"Well, there are always more beds to weed. . ." she trailed off with a mock frown. He gave a short bark of laughter - the only kind he ever indulged in anymore - and crushed out his barely-lit cigarette. With a graceful roll, he rose to his feet. Dressed similarly to her, in torn jeans and a dark T-shirt that hugged his chest like a second skin, he moved toward her with the slow prowling gait of the cat she'd mentally likened him to earlier. Her heart stuttered in her chest, then redoubled its beat.

Memory of the morning in Hong Kong - though truthfully it was never far from her thoughts - came back to her in a rush; her blood throbbing in her ears, her throat, her wrists. It had been a week since their return to Westchester. A week of awkward, shamed silences and stilted conversation with the rest of the team. He had not moved back into the mansion, but chose instead to take up residence in the empty boathouse. The distance that placed between them simultaneously concerned and relieved her. But any consideration of the others, the situation faded away as he approached.

He stopped beside her, standing closer than anyone else would, well within her personal space. Only he dared. Thief. Teammate. Friend. His proximity sent prickles of awareness over her skin The sunglasses hid his eyes from her, frustrating her. In silence, he reached down extending a hand. Her gaze fastened on it, seeing the long clever fingers, the strong wrists, the light dusting of red-brown hair on his arms. She swallowed hard, thinking about the delicate skill it took to pick locks, the extraordinary dexterity involved in fanning and handling cards that were then charged by a touch, the ferocious ease with which he wielded his bo staff. All with that hand.

Her hesitation became obvious; heart pounding, blood throbbing urgently in her veins. "Mon amie?" His husky voice broke her reverie. It was an offer to help her stand up, that was all, she told herself firmly. She took his hand, feeling the burn of his skin against hers, and rose to her feet beside him. But she'd been on her knees too long, cutting off proper circulation. Her legs did not obey her. She stumbled, falling against him with a gasp of dismay. His arms closed securely around her, pressing her to his lean chest, steadying her with a hand to her waist, her back. Her own hands settled on his shoulders.

"Easy, chère," he murmured automatically, his voice deep and soothing. Her face slowly lifted to his, her eyes freezing when they came level with his lips. Merciful Goddess, she could not make her gaze lift any further, she thought wildly, staring helplessly at his lush, clever mouth. The ironic twist that graced it slowly faded as she watched. She could feel the blood rising in her cheeks, the heat shaming her as she forced herself to look away, to look up and meet his gaze. He was watching her intently from behind dark lenses, his face curiously still.

"Thank you, my friend," she said, forcing a pale shadow of her normal smile.

A warm hand slid up her back and forward, settling on the tender curve where neck met shoulder, the thumb slipping easily into the hollow of her throat. Her breath caught on a gasp. His thumb moved back and forth gently, circling the delicate hollow, covering the throbbing pulse beneath the tender skin. She could feel his gaze on her through the glasses, expectation heavy in the air like the potential for lightning.

"Why now, chère?" he asked softly, not asking about her apology, she knew. He had probably long-since sensed her mental confusion, the overwhelming physical response she struggled so hard to conceal. He was an accomplished charmer, a practiced seducer, so he would know. But he was also her dearest savior and friend. Goddess save her from her own folly if he could not return her feelings.

She took a sharp breath. Being unable to see his eyes was maddening. Without another thought, she reached up and slipped his sunglasses off. Red-on-black eyes watched her warily, anguish and foreboding in their depths. Unable to stop herself, she laid her hand on his face, cupping his cheek. His demon's eyes fluttered briefly closed at her touch, blazing brighter when they opened again.

"Because I did not realize the truth until I believed you gone," she said quietly, unable to prevaricate further in the face of his weary resignation. The hostility of the week endured had worn them both down. "That you were more to me than brother."

He flinched at her words, his thumb stilling on her throat, but he did not pull away. "I'm not da right one for you, chère," he said softly, pausing to swallow hard before continuing. "Dere's been too many lies, too many truths."

Anger boiled up inside her at the resignation in his tone. As if the hasty judgement of others had damaged something within him, something precious and vital. Her eyes flashed dangerously white. "That may be so, but do not presume to tell me my heart, Remy," she said ominously. A breeze began, ruffling his dark-red hair. "Reject me for your own reasons, not out of any misplaced sense of nobility. Do you not care for me?"

Fear and regret and something perilously close to hope were mirrored in his eyes. Her hand trembled against his face as she waited for him to speak. Long moments passed. "Y' know I cherish you, 'Roro. But I can' risk it," he said, his expression falling, his eyes closing. "Y' nearly da last friend I've got."

"Friend? And is that alone enough for you?" The words were said on a hissed breath through clenched teeth. The breeze strengthened around them, tugging at the braids on her head as if coaxing her bound hair to fly.

"Oui." Anguish filled his simple reply.

"Damn you, Remy. I never realized you were a coward," she said, her voice shaken. His eyes flashed open. His hand tightened involuntarily on her throat, his hard arm drew her closer as he glared down at her. A tremor passed through her and before he could retort, she leaned up and pressed her mouth to his. No hesitation. He responded instantly to the flash-heat of desire that blossomed between them. His lips parted for hers; his mouth just as hot and eager and alive as her own. He moaned deep in his throat, the sound more felt than heard, and his lean body shuddered. She slid her arms tightly around his neck, rejoicing in the heat and strength of him pressed to her length.

Right, he felt so right in her arms. How had she failed to see this for so long? She shook the thoughts away, savoring the feel of him, the taste of him. Now was not the time to doubt. Now was the time to enjoy. And there was much to enjoy. Remy LeBeau could kiss like no other.

After an eternity, he lifted his head, breathing heavily, his arms trembling about her. A disappointed sound escaped her. As her blue eyes fluttered slowly open, they met his haunted red-on-black.

"Can' do dis, not t' mon amie," he said quietly. Then he pulled away. She let him go, her heart thundering, shattering. He would not meet her eyes again, his gaze lowered in something close to shame. "Dis t'ief's heart breakin' here wit' dese people, 'Roro. 'Xpected it. But I can' drag y' down too. It f'r da best. Da team . . .dey neva understand."

"I do not care what the team thinks, Remy," she said, her voice tight with anger and loss. "I am a woman grown as well as a leader. I know my own heart. I do not require their approval of the man I love."

He gasped at her words, the preternaturally agile thief stumbling in place. As if struck an unexpected blow.

"Love?" he repeated, his gaze tortured. Hope and longing and guilt mixing into a dark pall. "Ororo, I a mess. Dere's t'ings I gotta figure out, amends t' make. I can'. . . " She took a quick step forward, reaching out and placing cool fingers over his lips, silencing him. The touch of them, touching him, sent shocks through her. How many times had she run her hand through his hair, slept curled in his arms when de-aged, set her hand on his shoulder without the slightest dismay? Yet this simple touch rocked her world. Now. After Antarctica.

"Love is not a burden, Remy, but a gift," she said gently, her gaze softening. Her heart ached with agony; she would die before showing him. He had been devastated enough. She made a small, reassuring smile curve her lips. "I know all this, Remy. I know it is far too soon. But I had to speak my heart. You have been so lost lately . . . "

Taking the half-step back towards her, he pulled her roughly into his arms, burying his face at the side of her neck. She held him close, giving all of her heart, her self through the contact much as she had the night in Hong Kong.

"Ah, mon amie, neva been a frien' better t' dis ol' t'ief," he groaned, his arms holding her tightly, as if he hoped to somehow disguise the trembling in them. "Time, chère. We need time."

"And time is what I will give you, my friend," she said, sighing deeply, content, for now, to hold her beloved thief at least a little while in her arms.


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