"Separation Anxiety"

Chapter 1

           "What's wrong wit' Rogue?"
           Before Beast could answer Gambit's frightened question, angry shouts suddenly echoed down the long tunnel. A moment later, several bright beams of light erratically danced down the length of the sloping passage. The loud click of safety catches rang in sharp counterpoint to the thudding of a dozen heavy boots.
           Wolverine staggered to his feet, warily sniffing at the air. "Guns!" he yelled. "The guards--they're onto us!"
           Beast spun around, swallowing hard.
           "Oh, dear!" he anxiously murmured. "It appears that we have attracted some unwanted attention!"
           Wolverine glared around the chamber as rifle shots filled the air. A bullet careened by only inches from Storm's shoulder. "Crazy fools!" she raged, ducking to one side and raising her hands over her head again. "They will destroy the sacred treasure!"
           "You gotta worry about somethin', darlin', worry 'bout us!" Wolverine snapped, glaring at her. "We're trapped in here! Like rats in a cage!" His long claws glittered and clashed together as brilliant lightning spilled from her fingertips.
           Gambit lowered Rogue to the floor, then pulled a handful of cards from his inner pocket and grimly scrambled to his feet. "Not for long, mon ami," he vowed. Reddish light enveloped him as he swiftly charged the entire handful and hurled them at the tunnel mouth. Dirt and rock instantly cascaded down as they exploded, half-burying the entrance.
           Another glowing pack seemed to spring into his fingers as he whirled toward the darkened portal, his eyes narrowed. For one brief moment, Xavier feared that he might destroy the priceless Egyptian artifact. Then he hurled the shimmering deck at the high ceiling and threw himself across Rogue's limp body, protecting her from the massive eruption that promptly rocked the big stone-walled chamber.
           The thick granite slab disintegrated, bringing down several feet of heavy sand and dust. Xavier quickly threw up a powerful psychic screen, shielding his students from danger.
           Storm lurched to her feet and imperiously spread her arms wide. "Whirlwinds, arise! Take us from this place!" she commanded, her powerful voice ringing above the alarmed cries outside the chamber. Thick, choking sand instantly enveloped them as a whirling tornado dipped down through the ragged opening and caught them in its forceful grip.
           Coughing, Gambit scooped Rogue into his arms and held her tight against his chest as the floor disappeared from beneath his feet.

• • • • •

           The Sphinx enclosure was in a pandemonium. Startled by the unexpected uproar, Henré staggered from his cot and hesitated just outside his tent, wide-eyed. Everywhere he looked, archaeologists and solders were yelling, running, firing pistols into the air. Several guards were stumbling out of the chamber tunnel, coughing. Billowing dust drifted through the air as they staggered and fell to their knees.
           A cave-in? But what could have prompted them to enter the chamber at all, unless...
           A sudden chill ran down his spine. Ororo and her friends! They were in danger!
           Before he could move, the ground suddenly exploded outward, several meters beyond the darkened tunnel. Brilliant spotlights rapidly crisscrossed the ground, searching for the cause of the eruption. Then Henré caught his breath in startled wonder as a majestic white-robed figure rose from the flying sand, her slender arms spread wide.
           His beautiful princess...Ororo, child of his heart...
           She was gone again so quickly, hidden behind a thick curtain of whirling dust, that he almost doubted his own sanity.
           But no, he could still just barely see her as she hesitated for an instant, her face turned in his direction. Then fierce winds swept through the large enclosure, whipping sand everywhere, half-blinding the frightened natives and stunned archaeologists.
           Henré caught a quick glimpse of the condemning glower on Hassan's wrinkled face as he spun away, shielding his own eyes. His tent buckled and fell as the shrieking tempest spun past him. Then it was gone, and an uneasy silence reigned in its place for several long minutes.
           Only he dared to move again...the terrified diggers were still face-down in the sand, whimpering frantic prayers to Allah. Nearby, he could hear Hassan's cracked voice muttering dire, angry curses as he turned and stared out past the huge pyramids.
           They were gone. Only a distant flicker of lightning remained to mark their passage as the Blackbird rumbled to life and disappeared--black against black--into the darkness.

• • • • •

           She was still unconscious...and not even Wolverine's magical healing abilities had helped this time!
           His beautiful Rogue...what had those weird, piercing beams of light done to her? Gambit anxiously stroked her soft hair again, automatically tracing the white curls that fell over her pale forehead.
           If only there was something he could do to help, to reach her somehow! He'd never felt so damned helpless before, not even when his old enemy Sabertooth had ruthlessly murdered his one-time lover, Genevieve Darceneaux, before his very eyes!
           He'd nearly lost Rogue before, at Muir Island, but at least then he'd known what was wrong with her! She hadn't lost her mutant powers this time--she wasn't lying broken and bleeding in his arms. She was just asleep...
           But he couldn't wake her!
           Instinctively he glanced over at Professor Xavier, hoping that by now the brilliant psychic had figured out what was wrong with her. But Xavier was still deep in telepathic rapport with Jean, who was anxiously waiting for them back at the mansion.
           And Wolverine and Storm were no help...they were sympathetically watching him, but they didn't have any miraculous answers! Neither did Beast, for all that he was sure the blue-furred scientist knew what was wrong!
           Frustrated, he bitterly glared over at Xavier again. What was taking so long? Why was he still just sitting there, chatting with Jean, when he should be doing something to help?

• • • • •

           Despite his intense concentration, Xavier could still sense Gambit's anxiety; it flowed over him like an icy bucket of water, chilling him to the core. He stubbornly thrust it into a corner of his mind, lest Jean catch a hint of it. Her emotions were already chaotic enough, overflowing with the last residual traces of panic and concern for his safety.
           ...and then the readings went right off the scale, Professor! she was anxiously explaining, sending him a vivid mental image of the wildly fluctuating monitors. I tried to reach you, but something was interfering!
           Then she apologetically softened her voice, damping her urgency beneath a tremulous half-smile. I thought we had lost you!
           A grim frown darkened Xavier's angular features as he took a deep, steadying breath. The memory of that incredible psychic probe was still too fresh, too powerful...
           You might have, if not for Rogue's intervention, he ruefully conceded.
           Then he forced the memories further away. Jean, he briskly continued,  I want you to access Cerebro for any available information on Rogue. Every psychic scan, every post-mission briefing, every recorded memory from any of us, no matter how trivial, which includes her.
           Jean's eyes snapped open. "But that could take hours, Professor!" she protested, startled.
           She'd spoken aloud without realizing it. Scott worriedly glanced over at her, then set his fork down and squeezed her hand. She barely even noticed his comforting gesture. Why would Professor Xavier need such an elaborate array of information, unless something awful had happened?
           I know, Jean, but it is imperative that you find everything possible! he was urgently insisting. Also include any recorded tapes of Rogue's training sessions, if they are still available.
           Something had happened, she just knew it! Her throat tight, Jean slowly nodded. "Of course, Professor. I'll get on it right away." Then she hesitated, her eyes anxiously meeting Scott's. "Professor--is Rogue all right? What's happened?"
           For several moments there was no answer, and she realized that she was clutching Scott's hand with frightened strength. She contritely loosened her grip.
           Finally Xavier's familiar voice echoed in her mind one last time. She could almost see him flinch as a heavy sigh escaped him. Her worst nightmare! he murmured, his voice grim with foreboding.
           Then he was gone.
           The War Room swam back into reality as Jean slowly pulled Cerebro's headset off and set it on the large conference table. Oblivious to her cooling dinner, she hurried across the room. Cerebro's interface array promptly lit up, flashing as she programmed in several complex commands.
           Behind her, Jubilee and Carly exchanged uneasy glances. Finally Jubilee swallowed hard. "Jean...what did he say?" she ventured. "About Rogue, I mean? Is she okay?"
           Jean's expression was bleak with fear when she turned around and met the teenager's anxious gaze. She slowly shook her head. "I don't know," she soberly murmured.

• • • • •

           Xavier quickly broke the psychic connection before Jean could search deeper into his troubled thoughts. 'Is Rogue all right?'   Her worried question echoed through his mind like a haunting litany as he opened his eyes again.
           Rogue was still stretched across the long couch, her head resting in Gambit's lap as he bent over her, stroking her cheek.
           No change...
           Bracing himself for the worst, he slowly glided over to Gambit's side.
           "Why ain't she wakin' up, P'fessor?" The Cajun's face was pale with barely-suppressed fear as he anxiously met Xavier's sober gaze. "Wolverine's healin' powers shoulda fixed whatever was wrong, but it ain't helpin'! An' Beast say dere ain't nothin' wrong wit' her, but..."
           Nearly twenty minutes had passed since they had escaped from the Sphinx's chamber, and still there was no change...
           And Gambit deserved to know the truth.
           Xavier took a deep, steadying breath. Yet before he could speak, a soft sound caught their attention. Groaning as every muscle in her aching body protested, Rogue finally stirred.

• • • • •

           For several long moments, the room seemed to spin in a crazy, whirling blur. Somewhere overhead, an unfamiliar voice was urgently talking...
           ...to her?
           Wincing as bright light dazzled her eyes, she tried to concentrate on the man's face, on his rich, deeply-accented voice. Everything was hazy, echoing, as if she was in a long dark tunnel.
           "It's 'bout time, chér!" he was gratefully exclaiming as he bent closer to hug her. "You scare Gambit half t' death!"
           Gambit...scared?   Bewildered, she dizzily blinked, trying to shake the cobwebs from her mind.
           "How do you feel, Rogue?" Another voice was talking to her now, only this one sounded crisp and sharp. A pair of intense blue eyes hovered over her, seeming to see right into her very soul. Transfixed, she stared up in dazed wonder. "How do you feel?" he was soberly repeating.
           His voice seemed to echo deep inside her mind.
           Soothing...that was it, he was soothing her, keeping her from feeling afraid.
           But afraid of what?
           The rest of the room was slowly swimming into focus now. Bewildered, she stared up at the stranger with the clear blue eyes. Why was he so worried about her?
           Someone was lightly caressing her cheek. Startled, she painfully tilted her head, trying to see who was crazy enough to touch her.
           Another unfamiliar face...yet she had the uncanny feeling that she ought to recognize him! Who was this stranger with the thick russet hair and glowing reddish eyes?
           "You gonna be okay now, chér?" he was urging.
           She'd never seen him before, she was certain of it! So why was his husky voice sending shivers up her spine?
           Her head was starting to throb. Wincing, she struggled to sit up. "Who are you?" she demanded, nervously glancing between the two men in frightened confusion. "D' I know you?"
           Now the blue-eyed stranger was closing his eyes as if he was suddenly in pain, and the younger one--the one with the incredibly sexy voice--was looking confused. Beyond them, she suddenly caught sight of two other people staring at her in blank shock.
           Why were they so surprised by her question? She was the one who was feeling lost and scared!
           "Come on, chér, dat ain't funny!" the younger one exclaimed, frowning. "Don' mess around wit' Gambit dat way!"
           He caught her hands in a tight grip as she instinctively backed away, wide-eyed. The other man--he was in some kind of wheelchair, she suddenly realized--rapidly shook his head, obviously sending him some kind of silent warning. Yet Gambit stubbornly refused to back down. For several seconds they glared at each other, fiercely arguing on some level she couldn't understand.
           Surprisingly, it was the other man--the powerful man in the floating chair--who conceded the struggle first. She could feel the tension slowly ebb as he met her wary gaze with a soothing smile.
           "My name is Professor Charles Xavier," he quietly explained, touching her arm as the fear returned to her slanting green eyes. Cool serenity seemed to wash over her, and she felt her taut nerves relax again. "Do not worry, Rogue--you are safe here with us," he added. "We are all your friends."
           He sounded so sincere that she wanted to believe him!
           Yet...
           'Rogue '? Why on earth did he keep calling her that? Confused, she pulled her hands free. Icy fear instantly began to spiral through her again. "But I don't remember you--any o' you!" she insisted, glancing beyond him at the strange man and woman who were avidly staring at her.
           Xavier solemnly nodded, as if her frightened protest only confirmed what he had already suspected. "Do you remember who you are?" he gently countered.
           Of course she knew her own name! It was...
           It was...
           It was gone!
           Hot tears flooded her green eyes as she stared at Xavier, her fingers tightly clasped together. She didn't know...anything! Or anyone!
           "Y-you called me 'Rogue'," she finally ventured, swallowing hard. "Is that who I am?"
           Xavier's eyes briefly met Gambit's, and the tension flared again as something seemed to pass between them. "That is the name you have always preferred us to call you," he carefully nodded. "Relax now, child. We will be home soon, and I will be able to answer all your questions there.
           "In the meantime," he added, waving toward the nearby man and woman, "perhaps you would like to get reacquainted with your teammates."
           Teammates?  Was that why they were all dressed so strangely? The beautiful dark-skinned woman's flowing robes were as white as her long, rippling hair.  Elegant, that was the word that described her.  But who was she, and why did she look so disturbed?
           "This is Ororo Monroe," Xavier explained as the woman smoothly rose and moved to his side. "And that is Logan," he added as the angry-looking older man reluctantly joined her. "They call themselves 'Storm' and 'Wolverine'."
           Smiling, Storm impulsively bent down and squeezed Rogue's cold hands. "Do not concern yourself, Rogue," she urged. "Your memories will return soon. In the meantime, perhaps you will allow me to reaffirm our friendship. You have always been my closest confidante," she promised.
           She had? If only she could remember!
           Wolverine hunched down beside Storm, an uneasy frown on his rugged face. Jeez, he looked as nervous as she felt!
           "I reckon I ain't never been good with words like Storm," he cautiously admitted, forcing a weak smile, "but I'd say we've gotten t' be pretty good friends over the years. Saved each other's lives a few times, that's for sure."
           His gruff words seemed to strike a vague chord deep inside. Rogue swallowed hard as she took a closer look at his garish black and yellow uniform, then hesitantly glanced down at her own clothes. She was wearing a bright yellow and green jumpsuit, and heavy gloves--so she wouldn't accidentally hurt anyone, she knew that. Only she couldn't remember why it was so important that no one touched her!
           Yet why had the other man, Gambit, been able to touch her face when she instinctively knew that no one else could?
           "Are we...in the military?" Rogue ventured, her voice shaky with growing fear. "Why do they call you Wolverine?"
           A sudden wry grin curved the man's lips as he reached over his shoulders and pulled on a dangerous-looking face mask. Startled, she drew back slightly, her eyes widening. "Whatsa matter? Don'tcha think it fits me?" he sardonically demanded.
           "And he has a temper to match his fierce appearance!" Storm gently chided, smiling as she laid an affectionate hand on his wide shoulder. Shrugging, he tugged the hood back off and let it drape down his back again. "Do not be afraid of Logan, Rogue," she earnestly continued. "Among his friends, his bark is much worse than his bite."
           Despite his concerns, Xavier could not quite hide an amused smile as Wolverine snorted in disgust. Then he sobered again as he warily glanced at Gambit. This was the most difficult moment of all. He might disagree with Gambit's insistence on telling Rogue the entire truth immediately, yet he was not blind to his reasons. He could only pray that the distraught Cajun would not frighten her even more.
           "And this is Remy LeBeau, or Gambit," he soberly continued, "your husband."
           Shocked, Rogue stared up at Gambit in stunned disbelief. "Husband?" she stammered, her eyes widening again. "But..."
           Gambit's smile was strained as he gently tugged her gloves off, then carelessly tossed his own aside. When his ex-wife, Belladonna, had recovered from a near-fatal coma without any memories of their previous life, he'd stood aside and let her leave. He was not going to lose Rogue the same way, not if he had to travel to the ends of the earth and beyond!
           Matching gold wedding bands glittered in the light as he deliberately curled his fingers around hers. Gulping, she fearfully stared down at their tightly linked hands. "Ain't been married long, just a few weeks," he wryly shrugged.
           Then a teasing grin curved his lips as he bent closer, intimately whispering in her ear. "Don' worry, chér, it come back t' you soon. Gambit make sure o' dat!"
           A hot flush of color stained Rogue's pale cheeks as his long fingers caressed hers.  Husband!  It seemed so impossible--she didn't even know him! Not that she didn't apparently have good taste, but still...
           Hoping to distract her, Xavier gestured toward the front of the plane. "We should arrive back at the Manor within a few hours, Rogue," he quietly assured her. "Until then, perhaps you should try to..."
           A monster!  A big blue hairy monster!
           And it was flying the airplane?
           Yelping, Rogue lurched back against Gambit, her heart wildly pounding. Who in the world were these people?
           The monster turned around to look at her then, and she caught a terrifying glimpse of its long claws and white fangs.
           But...it was talking to her? And smiling?
           "My name is Dr. Henry McCoy, Rogue," it was introducing itself, politely bowing in her direction. "And I am very pleased to see you awake and feeling better! Now if you will please excuse me..."
           Rogue stared, wide-eyed with disbelief, as it turned back toward the glowing console. Its fingers seemed to dance over the controls as it deftly programmed several new commands into the navigational computer.
           But how could a monster do all that?
           Xavier ruefully smiled as he touched her arm again. "My apologies, Rogue," he murmured. "I should have warned you about Beast's appearance. Like the rest of us, he is different from the rest of humanity. In his case, however, the change is more visible. I did not mean for you to be frightened."
           Beast? Well, the name certainly suited it...him, she quickly corrected herself. But what other shocks and surprises did these strange people have waiting for her?
           She became aware of Gambit's warm embrace just as Xavier stared deep into her eyes. He was soothing her again...she could feel the waves of peaceful calm radiating from his fingers, and spreading through her entire body. How was he doing that?
           "Rest now, child," he murmured, his voice echoing from a tremendous distance. "We will wake you when we return to the mansion."
           And she was getting so sleepy...so sleepy...
           Gambit uncertainly stared at Xavier as she sagged in his arms, her head resting against his wide shoulder. "What we gonna do now, P'fessor?" he demanded in a low voice. "Dere's gotta be a way t' help Rogue git her memories back!"
           Xavier soberly met his frightened gaze. "We will do everything possible, Gambit," he vowed. "I can promise you that."



Chapter 2

           "What's takin' so long, Beast?"
           Gambit restlessly paced back and forth across the small observation room, flipping a card back and forth through his long fingers. "Dey be in dere for hours now!"
           His reddish-brown eyes seemed to burn with urgency as he spun around and stared through the thick protective glass yet again.  Nothing had changed...Rogue was still laying on the table, with one of Cerebro's headsets half-covering her head. Xavier was hovering nearby, wearing another of the metallic helmets.
           It hadn't seemed to take very long when Xavier had scanned his memories, just a few hours ago. So why was it taking forever to implant those memories back into Rogue's mind?
           Scowling, he stalked away from the window again, his fists clenched. "How're you so sure dis gonna work, anyway?" he demanded.
           His own heart aching, Beast watched the lanky Cajun pace back and forth for several moments. Finally he laid a calming hand on Gambit's shoulder. "Patience, my friend!" he urged. "Jean and the Professor have gathered every psychic recording and scrap of information available which involves Rogue. Now they are taking turns, telepathically implanting it in her mind."
           Gambit whirled around and glared down at the muscular scientist in helpless frustration. "But it's takin' so long!" he protested again. "Why ain't dey done yet? Maybe somethin' gone wrong, nón?"
           How well he understood Gambit's fears...yet he could offer so little comfort! "I do sympathize with your concerns, Gambit," he soberly assured his restless friend. "You must realize, however, that it will take Rogue time to sort through this huge influx of data! She is essentially relearning an entire lifetime in only a few hours!"
           He reassuringly gripped Gambit's shoulder again. "Professor Xavier is helping her fit everything into place."
           Gambit heaved an anxious sigh as he turned away, morosely staring at the floor. "Gambit jus' wish he could help, dat's all," he muttered under his breath.
           Beast lifted his shoulders in a reluctant shrug. "You have shared every memory you have with Professor Xavier, Gambit. You have done everything that you can!" he insisted. "Sitting with her and holding her hand will not hasten the process!"
           The card in Gambit's long fingers suddenly vanished in a brief flash of light and a puff of gray smoke. "Dis ain't gonna bring back all her memories, only dose since she join da X-Men," he frowned. "An' dey're mostly through our eyes, not hers. Dere's gotta be more, Beast! Somehow dere's gotta be more I can do!"
           Beast could hardly remember when he had felt so helpless before! Even when Carly had been kidnaped by the Friends of Humanity over a year ago, he had been able to take some definitive action! Could a similar pursuit help distract and comfort his apprehensive friend?
           Straightening, he gestured toward the door. "Perhaps the solution lies in determining the nature of the alien artifact which caused her the injury!" he eagerly suggested. "A translation of those ancient symbols might..."
           His enthusiasm abruptly faded away as he realized that Gambit hadn't heard a single word he'd said. Anguished, the tall Cajun was blindly staring through the window again, his fists tightly clenched.
           Beast soberly touched Gambit's arm, his blue eyes filled with sympathy. "If there is a way, my friend, I am sure that you will find it," he softly promised.

• • • • •

           Gambit moodily stared down into his empty glass of lemonade. What he really needed right now was a good stiff drink! But Jean hadn't allowed that, of course, not with Jubilee and Carly around. Maybe later he could slip away and head down to Harry's Bar for a while. It'd be even nicer if he could bring Rogue with him, but...
           A heavy sigh escaped him as he swirled the melting ice around, listening to it make soft clinking sounds. Rogue wasn't going anywhere for a while. Not if Professor Xavier couldn't find some way of helping her remember who she was...and who he was!
           Dammit, wasn't it enough that he'd lost Belladonna this way? Not Rogue, too...he couldn't let it happen!
           "Gambit?" Jubilee's soft, sympathetic voice gradually penetrated his gloomy thoughts. "I said, do you want some more lemonade?"
           He forced himself to meet her anxious face. She was trying so hard to cheer him up...they all were. How often, after all, did the entire team gather on the wide patio to watch the sunset?
           "No thanks, petít," he murmured, shaking his head. "Gambit ain't thirsty t'night."
           It wasn't that he didn't appreciate their efforts...he'd have done the same if one of them was hurting so much. Hell, hadn't he stood vigil with Cyclops and Wolverine when they thought that Jean had been destroyed by the Phoenix? Only he'd never understood before why they'd wanted to be alone.
           Now he did...he just wanted to turn and run, and keep on going until he was too tired to go any further! Didn't matter where he ended up, as long as he was alone...
           "Hey, look at the pretty sunset!" Jubilee was stubbornly trying again, hunching down beside him and pointing out over the gardens at the dimming sky.
           "Get lost, kid," Wolverine grumbled, half-extending his claws as he angrily shooed her away. "Can'tcha see the man wants t' be left alone?"
           "Oh, yeah?" Indignant, the spunky teenager jammed both fists on her hips and glared at him. "So why're you hanging around?"
           Wolverine sardonically grinned at her, a dangerous light in his black eyes. "I've got enough sense t' keep my mouth shut!" he retorted. "Don't see me goin' on about any dumb ol' sunsets!"
           "Logan!" Storm chided, from the other side of the patio. "The child is right--it is a beautiful sunset! The least you could do is try to appreciate it...for our sakes!"
           Normally their lighthearted banter would have amused Gambit. But not tonight. Not when he felt like he was being torn apart inside. Not when Rogue's chair was empty...like her memories of him and everything they'd ever shared...
           Beast was sitting over by Jean and Scott, trying to explain what he'd learned about the ancient inscriptions on that cursed artifact. Gambit tried to listen, but Beast's big words kept sliding by him like a leaf in the cool breeze. What difference did it make, anyway? Only the Professor was really book-smart enough to understand him, even if the others were listening in fascination.
           Suddenly Beast hesitated, his large furry head whipping around. Startled, Gambit quickly looked up.
           "Rogue!" He was on his feet before he knew it, and practically jumping over Jubilee to reach the door. "How you feelin', chér?"
           Rogue accepted his warm hug with a faint, uneasy smile, but he could feel the way her heart was racing. And she looked exhausted...they both did, he grudgingly conceded as Xavier glided out of the shadows and moved to her side. His heart sinking, he reluctantly eased away again and leaned against the doorframe, trying to look casual.
           Rogue lamely shrugged as she avoided his shrewd gaze. "I don't rightly know, Gambit!" she confessed. "Better, I reckon."
           She didn't look any better, though--she still looked pale and confused, as if her thoughts were a million miles away. Well, Beast had said it'd take some time for her to sort everything out. He had to keep remembering that.
           She was looking at Beast now as he stepped up and gently clasped her hands. "At least now you remember who we are, and that we are your friends," he smiled.
           A hot flush promptly stained her cheeks. "I'm sorry, Beast!" she insisted, embarrassed by her panicked reaction back in the Blackbird. "I din't mean t'..."
           Before she could continue, Beast quickly shook his head. "There is no need to apologize, Rogue," he assured her. "I was not offended, I assure you. It was a perfectly normal reaction."
           Suddenly it seemed like everyone was crowding around, trying to welcome her back. Jean and Scott...she remembered them now. And little Jubilee, eagerly jumping up and down as she tried to push past Wolverine. Storm was warmly smiling at her from behind Carly, and she briefly envied her friend's placid serenity. How she wished she was that calm right now, when all this attention was a little overwhelming!
           And Gambit...always Gambit...
           Suddenly she became aware of his warm fingers curled around hers, comforting and secure. For a moment her heart faltered...
           But she couldn't hurt him, she was still wearing her yellow gloves.
           No, that wasn't right, either. Gambit could touch her now, couldn't he? She was sure she'd seen that, somewhere in Xavier's bewildering flood of memories. He was her husband now.
           Husband!  It still didn't seem possible!
           Oh, she remembered liking him...liking him a lot! But loving him? Enough to marry him?
           And what about him? The Gambit that she remembered loved playing the field too much to ever settle down with one woman!
           And yet...
           Somewhere in all those implanted memories, she'd felt something from him, seen something through his eyes, that she'd never expected to find. Maybe...maybe he really did care about her?
           As if aware of her misgivings, Xavier raised his hand. "This has been a very tiring day," he reminded everyone, "and Rogue needs to rest. There will be time for all of you to visit with her tomorrow."
           Jubilee's heartfelt groan seemed to speak for them all as they reluctantly backed away. Then she brightened, her black eyes sparkling with inspiration. "Hey, maybe tomorrow afternoon we can have a big picnic!" she exclaimed.
           "That is an excellent idea, Jubilee," Storm agreed. "You and Carly can help Jean and me with the cooking."
           "We can whip up some hot dogs and hamburgers," Jean offered, throwing a teasing grin at Wolverine. "And Logan can roast all the marshmallows!"
           Wolverine grumbled something unrepeatable under his breath as Xavier turned away. Amused, Gambit rolled his eyes. He could imagine the irritable Canadian mutant's opinion of that suggestion! Then he hurried to catch up with Rogue as she meekly followed Xavier into the main foyer.
           The telepath threw him another warning glance as they hesitated by the curving staircase. Then he smiled up at Rogue. "Try to get some sleep tonight, Rogue," he advised. "We will continue our therapy session tomorrow."
           Rogue's slender shoulders drooped as she nodded. She was tired enough to sleep for a week! If she could just keep from dreaming...
           Then Gambit kissed her cheek, and she barely managed to keep from pulling away. He could touch her now--it wasn't going to hurt him anymore. It was okay...
           "You go on, chér," he urged, smiling. "Gambit be along soon."
           Oh, sweet merciful heavens, how could she have forgotten? They were married...they must be sharing a room now! She hadn't even dared to dwell on those memories yet, there'd been so much else to see and learn! A shiver ran through her at the very thought.
           Swallowing, she anxiously nodded and hurried up the wide, curving staircase. Both men watched her disappear into the long upper hallway. Then Gambit frowned as he spun back around.
           "You be wantin' to talk to me, P'fessor?" he demanded, gesturing toward the privacy of the small, comfortable den.
           Xavier hesitated, then sighed and reluctantly nodded. Nothing would be solved by prolonging the inevitable, and Gambit had a right to know exactly where things stood. The door swung open as they neared it and then, at Xavier's mental command, swung closed behind them again.
           A cheerful fire was crackling in the fireplace, but Gambit ignored it. His eyes seemed to glow red in the muted light as he warily leaned against the edge of a cozy loveseat, his long legs stretched out in front of him.
           Xavier stared at the dancing flames for several moments, then took a deep breath and pensively met Gambit's anxious gaze. "I am sure you are already aware that today's efforts were not entirely successful, Gambit," he hedged. "It will take Rogue some time to fully integrate everything she re-learned today.
           "I am hoping that by stimulating the pathways in her brain, she may be able to recover the rest of her memories independently," he slowly added. "But I am not confident that it is possible."
           Gambit's eyes narrowed. "Meanin' what, exactly?" he insisted. "In plain talk, dis time!"
           Xavier sighed and spread his hands wide. "Rogue's memories are incomplete," he soberly explained. "She remembers virtually nothing about her childhood, and little more about her years with Mystique and the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants."
           His piercing eyes seemed guarded as he uneasily avoided Gambit's shrewd gaze. "I touched very lightly on her involvement with them," he continued, "as it was not a happy time for her. Nor did we dwell on the events that led her to joining our team."
           Gambit straightened as a cold chill ran down his spine. Something was definitely wrong...
           "What ain't you tellin' Gambit, P'fessor?" he persisted. "Somethin' else is goin' on, ain't it?"
           Xavier reflexively winced. Gambit's innate empathy was not as well developed as Carly's, but it was useless trying to evade the truth. "Carol Danvers is gone, Gambit," he slowly conceded, sighing. "I cannot find the slightest trace of her presence in Rogue's mind."
           "But dat oughta be good news, P'fessor!" Gambit exclaimed, relieved. "Dat woman been hauntin' her too long!"
           Xavier soberly shook his head. "I am afraid it is not that simple, Gambit," he cautioned. "When Rogue intercepted those beams, I was certain that I saw Carol Danvers' spirit separate from her body and disappear into the center of the alien artifact. For better or worse, it appears that she has gone...somewhere else."
           A golden harvest moon was slowly rising over the trees. Xavier pensively glided over to the window and stared out at the darkening sky, as if trying to glimpse something that no mortal eyes could possibly see. "Based on Beast's research and what I saw," he continued, "I am certain that the artifact functioned as some sort of portal...a doorway between our world and some other place."
           Then he turned around and reluctantly met Gambit's wary gaze again. "I do not know what caused Rogue's memories to be removed with Carol Danvers' spirit," he continued, "but I do have a theory."
           His clear blue eyes began to glow with barely-muted excitement as he struggled to find the right words. "When those beams touched me, Gambit, I felt something!" he finally explained. "A sense of purpose, of direction! If Rogue had not intercepted them, I might have been able to..."
           Then he sighed, his wide shoulders sagging as he shook his head. "Well, it cannot be helped.   Still," he added, brightening slightly as he allowed the vivid memories to wash over him again, "I am certain that I sensed an alien intelligence. It seemed to be asking if I wished to travel through the portal!"
           He hesitated one last time, then conceded, "I believe that Carol Danvers' spirit may have responded to that request."
           An alien intelligence?   From an eighteen-thousand year old buried Egyptian artifact? Gambit tilted his head to one side, thoughtfully studying the powerful telepath. Even if it was true...
           "Dat don't explain what happen to Rogue's memories, though," he finally countered. "You think she wanta fergit her past so bad dat she manage to send her memories along wit' Carol Danvers?"
           Xavier wearily sighed. "It is a distinct possibility," he allowed. "You know how hard she has worked to block out her most disturbing memories."
           "But...?" Gambit prompted, as Xavier paused again.
           It was useless trying to hide anything from the Cajun, at least where Rogue was concerned. Could her disability have sharpened his innate empathy somehow?
           "Rogue's memories do not appear to have been blocked off," he confessed. "They have been completely erased! And they may be gone for good, unless we can find some other way to restore them," he soberly concluded.
           A heavy silence settled over the room for several long moments as the two men stared at each other. Finally Gambit straightened and grimly headed for the door. "Gambit don' care what it takes!" he insisted, glancing back at the telepath. "I ain't gonna lose Rogue da way I lost Belle. We gonna find a way, no matter what!"
           The door silently closed behind him as he headed up the long, curving staircase to the second floor.


Chapter 3

           Rogue's heart began to pound as the door quietly slid open.
           Gambit...her husband...
           Husband!  Cold shivers chased down her spine, and she suddenly realized that she was twisting her gold wedding band back and forth. Swallowing hard, she gripped the edge of the sturdy mattress, instead.
           Gambit hesitated in the doorway for several moments, steadily watching her. She was sitting on the edge of the bed, her legs curled up beneath her. The long tee shirt and shorts that she'd pulled on made her look like a little girl. A scared little girl, he silently amended as she turned to stare him with wide, frightened eyes. She hadn't been this nervous on their wedding night!
           Well, to be perfectly honest, neither had he.
           In one short day, everything had changed between them. It was like stepping into the past...only she was there and he was still here!
           She hadn't done any full counseling with Professor Xavier since that last time when Carol Danvers had tried to take over her mind. And that was a long time before she'd finally admitted that she loved him, when they'd been trapped in Sinister's fortress in the Savage Lands!
           If Xavier hadn't been able to restore any of her recent memories, she wouldn't remember loving him. It wouldn't matter that everyone else had known they were in love--she wouldn't be able to feel it, herself.
           She'd have to learn to love him all over again! And until that happened...
           Gambit forced a noncommittal smile and let the door slide closed behind him. Rogue's eyes widened again as he slowly moved past her, staring out the open window at the golden harvest moon.
           A light breeze ruffled her hair as she nervously watched him shrug out of his long coat and drape it over the back of a nearby chair. They were alone now. She should've been happy about that--but somehow all she felt was cold fear!
           She'd waited so very long to be able to touch another person! And deep inside, she'd always wanted it to be Gambit. So why was she scared, now that she finally had her chance?
           Because she couldn't remember loving him...couldn't remember being able to touch him?
           He was moving slowly, as if he was afraid of scaring her even more. Well, he always had known what she was feeling--and she appreciated how hard he was trying to relax her. But she still couldn't keep her heart from racing when he sat down beside her.
           There were so many things she wanted to say, but she just didn't know where to start!
           Fortunately, he seemed to understand that, too. "How you really feelin', chér?" he quietly asked.
           The tension slowly left her body as his simple, undemanding question calmed her. She even stopped twisting her wedding ring back and forth as she shyly glanced up at him. "I don't reckon I've ever been so confused in my life!" she ruefully confessed. "Ain't it crazy, Gambit? Seems like I've spent most o' my life tryin' to fergit who I am an' what I've done...an' now that it's all gone, I cain't stop wantin' it back!"
           Hot tears stung her green eyes as she looked away again and miserably stared down at the floor. "I cain't even remember my real name!" she confessed.
           His heart aching, Gambit compassionately slid his arm around her shoulders and pulled her close. "I don' reckon dat's so important, chér...you never liked it enough to wanta use it, anyway," he countered.
           "That ain't the point, an' you know it!" Suddenly irate, Rogue jerked away from his comforting embrace and faced him, her fists on her hips. "What's your name, swamp rat?"
           Despite himself, a note of pride crept into Gambit's husky voice. "Remy LeBeau!"
           Rogue bitterly glared at him as her arms swung wide in an impatient gesture. "Y'see?" she demanded. "You still know your own name, even if'n ya don't wanta use it! I ain't even got that anymore!"
           A heavy sigh escaped Gambit as he coaxingly pulled her close again. "I know, chér," he whispered, "I know. But we gonna find a way, I swear it! We do it t'gether, nón?"
           He always had known just how to sweet-talk her! And oh, how she wanted to believe him! Could it really be true--was there really some way that they could restore her lost memories? It was so confusing, seeing everything she'd ever done out of someone else's eyes! No reasons why, no clue of what she'd been thinking or feeling...it was like watching a movie that didn't quite make sense because the soundtrack was missing!
           Before she could pull away, Gambit lightly kissed her cheek. "You gotta get some sleep now," he urged, patting her pillow. "You want me to stay here wit' ya for a while?"
           His generous offer surprised her. Could he really care that much about her? Shyly smiling, Rogue risked a slight nod.
           "Rest easy, chér," he gently added as he tucked her under the warm covers. "Gambit be nearby if you need him."
           She should have found his presence unnerving--no one had ever sat with her, watching over her, while she slept! To her surprise, Rogue found herself oddly comforted as Gambit leaned back against the headboard and lightly stroked her hair. Soothing...
           Sighing with contentment, she closed her eyes and wearily snuggled deeper under the blanket.
           Safe...

• • • • •

           So much had changed so quickly!
           Dammit, he ought to be used to rapid changes by now! How many friends and enemies had he seen killed in the blink of an eye? How many battles had been turned, literally from one instant to the next, allowing him and his teammates to escape alive and unharmed?
           But not this time.
           Not for Rogue.
           Gambit understood what she was going through--his early years were a blank, too, up until that fateful day when he'd tried to pick Jean-Luc LeBeau's pocket on a crowded street corner. He couldn't remember his real parents, or even the name they'd given him. Jean-Luc had taken a liking to him--maybe admiring his youthful bravado--and had taken him in. His new name, Remy, was the only one that he could remember.
           He sometimes wondered if he had brothers or sisters--real ones, not merely his adopted brothers in the infamous Thieves' Guild. Then he wryly smiled. He wouldn't recognize his own kin if they walked into the room right now and introduced themselves!
           And anyway, he'd always been a loner at heart.
           Until a chance reunion with Storm in Paris had led him to visiting Xavier's mansion, that is. Unlike Jubilee and Carly, he'd never officially been welcomed to the team--he'd just sort of drifted into belonging. And he might have eventually drifted on again...except that he'd met Rogue, and been so intrigued that he'd stayed a little longer...and a little longer...
           She was the only woman he'd ever met who hadn't instantly fallen for his charms. In fact, for a long time, he hadn't even been sure if she liked him at all! That was because she'd been afraid of getting hurt, he knew that now. And he'd still been hurting from leaving his ex-wife, Belladonna, back in New Orleans.
           So he'd made a game out of flirting with Rogue, trying to make her fall in love with him.
           And in the end, he'd fallen headlong into his own trap.
           Not that he regretted a minute of it--he'd never felt so alive since he'd turned his back on the past and let Rogue into his heart! Only now...they were right back where they'd started from! Could he make her fall in love with him all over again?
           A pensive smile curved his lips as he glanced down at her. Cool moonlight, spilling through the open window, streaked her hair with silver and bronze. He reached down to brush back a wayward curl, then hesitated. She looked so peaceful, sleeping beside him like that! And anyway, it was late, and he didn't want to wake her.
           What he needed was some strong, hot coffee! He could rest anytime...right now, Rogue needed him more than he needed sleep!
           The glowing clock only confirmed what the rising moon had already told him. It was well past midnight. Coffee, then, black and strong enough to melt one of Wolverine's claws, if he was gonna make it through the night.
           He cautiously rose, wincing as the bed frame creaked. Rogue stirred, then settled back down with a contented sigh. He hesitated a moment longer, just watching her sleep, then silently retrieved his long coat and moved across the room.
           The door slid open with a soft whispering sound. He glanced back one last time, afraid that he might have woken her. But she was still fast sleep, a gentle smile brightening her beautiful face.
           Reassured, Gambit slipped out into the long hallway, and the door slid closed behind him again.

• • • • •

           Three o'clock.
           The ringing of a distant church bell slowly drew Rogue from a deep, peaceful sleep. The blanket was tangled up around her legs. She drowsily pulled it back up, blocking out the cool breeze drifting through the open window.
           "Remy?" For one brief moment, she thought she could feel him stretched out beside her...but no, it was only her pillow. Yawning, she forced her eyes open and blearily stared around the darkened room. "Gambit?"
           He was gone...why had he left her alone?
           Moonlight cascaded over her as she sat there, her knees drawn up to her chest, for several minutes. The memories were starting to fall into place now...it was getting easier to separate her own experiences from her teammates' vivid images. But there were still so many big gaps...
           And the open window seemed to beckon to her. She hadn't dared to test her mutant powers yet, but instinct provided the impetus. Still half-asleep, she slipped out of bed and let the light breeze enfold her...

• • • • •

           Just one more cup, and then he'd head back in. Yawning, Gambit wearily rubbed his eyes. How many hours had he sat out here, watching the moon drift across the sky?
           Steam rose from his mug as he briefly charged it with kinetic energy, reheating his coffee. A heavy sigh escaped him as he took another long sip.
           He should go back inside...he wasn't doing Rogue any good by sitting out here on the patio, staring up at her open window. Yet some instinct had prompted him to leave her alone, to give her some space to figure things out on her own, if she happened to wake up.
           Just a few more minutes...
           Yawning again, he propped his feet up on the table and leaned back in his chair. Overhead, the stars glittered like bright diamonds against the black velvety sky. Like the big diamonds he'd recklessly stolen from that grand old mansion down in N'Orleans, back when he'd just joined the Thieves' Guild. How Bobby and Pierre had cheered when he'd proudly spilled them across the gaming table that wild, crazy night!
           And Henré...he'd stared like he'd seen a ghost! With luck, he'd never know that part of the money for his last several excavations had come from that shimmering pile of jewels! But Remy LeBeau took care of his own, always had and always would. He had enough money tucked away in a few safe places to last him and his kin a lifetime...
           A soft sound roused him from his reminiscent thoughts. The moon was edging down toward the horizon now, throwing silvery light across the wide patio. His senses sharpening, he warily glanced around.
           Up there...the curtains were moving. He sat up straighter as a dark shape moved into view and hesitated, staring out at the distant ocean. He got a quick glimpse of Rogue's face as she soared into the air and drifted across the wide yard. The setting moon silhouetted her slender body as she hesitated, then slowly turned west.
           A moment later, she was gone.
           Well, he'd expected it...and he'd bet his last dollar that he knew exactly where she'd headed.
           Rising to his feet, he silently set his coffee mug on the table and hurried back into the mansion.


Chapter 4

           Caldecott County, Mississippi.
           How many years had passed since she'd last been here? Rogue couldn't quite remember. It had been a long time, she knew that much. She'd been about thirteen when she'd run away from home, swearing never to return.
           Well, she'd finally come back. And nothing much had changed. Somehow she'd figured that nothing would...down here, nothing ever did.
           The sun was just peeking over the horizon now, lighting up the rolling hills. She could feel the warmth of it on her face as she languidly uncurled and sat up. From way up here in her old treehouse, she could see the entire river valley. That was why it had always been one of her favorite haunts--even back then, when she'd been a little kid, she'd loved to climb up high into the sky and try to touch the clouds.
           Cody had carved steps into the thick bark so that they could clamber up here and play together. She'd even kept her secret treasures tucked in that little niche in the trunk. Some pretty stones, a faded scrap of paper, a few crumbling flowers--they must have meant something special to her once. She gently picked them up and stared at them, trying to remember...but nothing came to her. Nothing but a sudden gust of wind that scattered the fragile petals and blew them from her open palm.
           Tears flooded her eyes as she watched the scrap of paper--an old note from Cody, maybe--flutter to the ground. Whatever was on it had long since faded away...and now it was gone, too. Like her past, like her memories.
           Sighing, she tucked the little stones into her pocket. Those, at least, she could keep, no matter what else happened.
           The leaves around her rustled as she rose to her feet and affectionately patted the old tree which had guarded her treasures for so long. Even a scrap of her old sleeping blanket had survived the long years...or had it been Cody's? A leftover from the nights when they'd crept out and stared up at the star-studded skies, whispering so her daddy wouldn't overhear them?
           Well, there was nothing more that she could learn up here, and it was getting brighter out in the valley. Taking a deep breath to dampen her growing fears, Rogue slowly walked out along the sturdy branch and peered through the thick canopy of leaves. The early sunlight made her blink and rub her eyes.
           There it was...a little white house almost hidden beyond the next set of rolling hills. Her old home, in a different lifetime. Until she'd discovered that she was a mutant, and she'd run away in the middle of the night...
           She swallowed hard. Would her daddy still hate her for what she'd become? Could she ever make him understand that she wasn't some kind of evil monster?
           Bracing herself, she floated up into the air, then reluctantly let the wind carry her down to the ground.

• • • • •

           The house seemed entirely too quiet. No smoke drifting from the chimney, no old hound dogs or cats roaming around the big yard. Frightened, Rogue anxiously landed in the tall grass and hurried toward the wide front porch. A million crickets fell silent as she passed, then hesitantly started chirping again behind her.
           The house was deserted. It had to be--the paint was peeling off the sturdy walls, and a jungle of weeds had taken over her little vegetable garden. Clinging vines had crept up over the porch railing and window sills, and one of the dirty windows was broken.
           Her throat tight, Rogue nervously stepped up onto the front porch. The weathered boards creaked beneath her weight as she cautiously peered through the shattered glass. Only a few pieces of worn, sagging furniture were left, half-covered by faded gray sheets. All the pictures and nic-nacs that she'd loved were gone.
           "Daddy?" Even as she uncertainly opened the front door and stepped inside, she knew it was useless. He might not have been the neatest man on earth, but he never would've allowed dirt and crumbling leaves to coat the living room floor!
           Gulping, she slowly backed out of the room and let the door slam behind her. The clearing was empty...even the deep ruts in the driveway were filling in with dirt. No truck had driven over that dusty road in years!
           "Daddy?" she whispered again, blindly staring around the big yard.
           Over there, that was the big tree where he'd once hung a huge black tire for Cody and her to swing on. How they'd screamed with laughter as he'd pushed them higher and higher, until they were nearly touching the golden-green leaves!
           And over there, that was where she'd played with Princess's last litter of puppies, before he'd sold them to the hunters over in the next county.
           If only she could forget the most vivid memory of all...the raging fury in his eyes after Cody had been hurt! How he'd yelled at her...as if anger and hatred could change what had happened...
           "I'm ashamed t' be seen with ya! Ya ain't my daughter--not anymore!"
           She could still hear his deep voice, distorted with fury, and her own helpless pleas as she'd begged him for forgiveness, for understanding...
           "Daddy, I'm sorry...I din't mean to...please, Daddy..."
           So long ago, but it still hurt so much! Rogue dashed hot tears from her eyes as she angrily launched herself into the air. She must've been crazy to come back here! This wasn't her home anymore! She didn't belong here...
           Her own tearful voice still ringing in her ears, she soared over the softly-rustling trees. Why, of all the memories Professor Xavier had restored, couldn't he have left that one out?
           Then she scanned the thick forest, indecisively biting her bottom lip. This wasn't helping any, and Gambit was gonna worry when he found out that she was gone. She really ought to head back to the mansion...
           Yet there was still one last place she needed to visit before she could leave, one last memory she had to face. Sighing, she reluctantly headed further west, toward a long, winding break in the trees.
           The wide, slow-moving river hadn't changed, either. Obscurely comforted, she wiped the tears from her cheeks and settled to the soft, spongy grass, curiously glancing around.
           There was the fallen tree where she had Cody had fished for those huge granddaddy catfish. And further down the riverbank, that was the muddy old swimming hole where they'd splashed and dunked each other, hysterically laughing.
           "You ever been kissed before, girl?"  She could almost feel the warmth of his hand again as his young voice echoed through her mind.
           "I'm beginnin' to think I never will!"  How innocent she had been, how oblivious to the horrible danger lurking inside her...
           And then it had happened, so fast that she hadn't been able to stop it! All his thoughts, his emotions, his life energy had poured into her, stunning her with almost painful intensity! And Cody had fallen to the ground, unconscious...nearly dead...
           "Cody!"   Her terrified scream had rung through the trees as she'd fallen to her knees beside him, sobbing. "Cody..."
           The thick, mossy grass was still just as soft under her hands and bare knees. And she was crying again, reaching for a young boy who no longer existed, as the trees blurred around her...
           She looked so lost, so alone, that Gambit couldn't take anymore. He'd been waiting here since dawn, sure that she'd come back to the place where it had all started. He hadn't meant to let her know that he'd followed her...but he couldn't leave her alone like this! His throat tight with suppressed emotion, he pushed himself away from the shaggy old trees and silently moved out of the dark, concealing shadows.
           Rogue sensed his presence before she heard him softly approaching. Gulping back the last of her tears, she scrambled to her feet and slowly turned around. Somehow she'd known that he'd follow her, that he'd understand what had called her back to the hills and valleys of her birthplace. She managed a tremulous smile as she slipped her arms around his waist and let him hold her close.
           "Dis is where it all happened, ain't it?" Gambit murmured, his deep voice husky with compassion and understanding. "Where you first foun' out you were a mutant."
           The painful memories made Rogue flinch. Then she reluctantly nodded as she glanced up and met his sympathetic gaze. "Cody's gone, too, ain't he?" she hoarsely whispered. "There's no one left here anymore!"
           Gambit gently wiped the fresh tears from her cheeks. "Gambit still here, chér," he assured her. "An' he ain't goin' nowhere!" He held her close a moment longer, offering her what comfort he could, then soberly looked down at her again. "You hear me an' da P'fessor talkin' last night, nón?"
           Rogue flushed and glanced away. "I had t' listen, Gambit!" she protested. "There's so many big holes in my head, it's drivin' me crazy!" Then she lamely gestured around the clearing. "I figured comin' back here might help me remember a little more."
           He could feel her despair as if it was his own. If only there was more he could do...but Beast was right. He'd done all he could. Only Xavier could hope to find a cure now.
           And right now, Xavier was probably worried sick, wondering where they'd both gone.
           The rising sun cast bright shafts of light across Rogue's tear-streaked face as it slanted through the thick foliage overhead. Well, it might just be creeping over the hills here, but dawn had touched the ocean a good two or three hours ago. It was time to go back...for whatever good that might do.
           His arm still curled around Rogue's shoulders, Gambit slowly headed downstream. Rogue automatically fell into step beside him as he forced a rueful smile. "You think it helped any?" he urged.
           If only it had!
           Rogue saighed and bitterly shook her head. "No...ain't nothin' on this planet gonna help," she muttered.
           Suddenly she stopped and spun around, urgently staring up at him. "Professor Xavier's right, Remy! Whatever pulled Carol Danvers outa me musta sucked out my memories, too!" she insisted. "Only way I'm gonna get 'em back is if I follow her through that portal!"
           Gambit hesitated, startled by her conclusion. "We don' know what's on de other side, chér," he warned, a pensive frown darkening his handsome features. "How many thousands o' years was dat portal buried? Dey might all be dead by now! Could be you get dere an' find nothin' at all!"
           Rogue impatiently shook her head. "Professor Xavier said he felt somethin' tryin' to talk to him!" she protested, gripping his hands. "That means there's gotta be someone there! Please, Remy! I gotta try!"
           Gambit hesitated a moment longer, staring over her tousled hair at the slow-moving river. "What if you get dere, an' dey cain't help you?" he finally asked, troubled. "What you gonna do den, Rogue?"
           A shiver ran through her at the grim thought. Then she resolutely straightened her shoulders and met his narrowed eyes. "Then at least I'll know for sure!" she contended.
           In all the years he'd known her, he'd never seen such intense determination in her pretty green eyes. It was useless trying to argue with her...and for all he knew, she might be right.
           A resigned sigh escaped him as he slowly nodded and slipped his arm back around her slender waist. "Okay, chér, we give it a try," he relented. "C'mon, let's go tell P'fessor Xavier."
           He'd hidden his mini-jet nearby, behind a thick clump of bushes and low trees. Rogue raised an appreciative eyebrow as he led her through the maze of underbrush, then nimbly climbed up the narrow ladder. He'd brought the two-seater...in hopes of finding her?
           The cockpit slowly swung open. Smiling, she floated up and settled herself beside him in the passenger's seat. Fire erupted from the lower engines as the clear, heavy glass dropped back down over them. Despite her mutant invulnerability, she prudently strapped herself in.
           Gambit programmed their course into the navi-computer as they smoothly rose into the air, and the dense trees fell away below them. Then he glanced over at Rogue and earnestly offered her his hand.
           Rogue briefly hesitated, staring down at the golden ring sparkling on her finger. She must have loved him once...and maybe she would again, if she could only remember!
           But whether those elusive memories ever returned or not, one thing was certain. No matter what else happened, Remy LeBeau was still the best friend she could ever hope to have. Whatever had happened between them in the past, and whatever might happen in the future, she would always have that.
           A warm glow lit Gambit's eyes as she tentatively curled her fingers around his. "Whatever happens, ma chér," he promised, "we do it t'gether."
           Rogue solemnly nodded. No matter where their path led, no matter what hurdles faced them, they would go there together. And maybe someday...
           The wide, lazy river disappeared in the distance behind them as the plane tilted back and quickly rose into the air. Then it soared forward, toward the rising sun, and vanished beyond the rolling hills.



Click here to read Episode III of
"The Sphinx Saga" -
"The Nexus"

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