Ten of Hearts

DISCLAIMER: No ownership. No money. No nothing.

DEDICATION: For the Angst Grrls, who led me down this path, but especially for Nacey, who loves them more than I ever could.

NOTES: My Gambit is probably out of character. I only know him from role-play, and I've tried to stay true to that. I just got tired of seeing petulant, selfish Gambits in fan fic, so I decided to make mine different.

There's a comprehensive poker glossary at http://www.kimberg.com/poker/dictionary.html for those who haven't heard some of the terms used in this fic.

Dear Diary,

I dreamt of the Statue again last night, which I suppose isn't all that surprising. Yes, it was two years ago now, but something like that remains impressed in your subconscious. The light, the pain, Magneto... Logan.

That's something that really stays with you. Subconscious or conscious. Logan huddled over me, holding me. I can almost imagine his lips on mine, if I think about it hard enough. If a miracle occurred. He'd be hard and soft, I know it. Demanding and tender. And it would be heavenly-

The door crashed open and Rogue jumped, slamming shut the small, black, leather-bound book. The pen skittered across the desk and fell to the floor. "Jesus, Jubes. Don't you know how to knock?" She bent to pick up the pen, letting her hair fall forward to hide the blush rising on her cheeks. One hand on the book at all times. Don't let *that* fall into the wrong hands. "What's up?"

As she sat up, her other glove - the one she'd taken off to write - landed in her lap. "Come on," Jubilee said, high-spirited as ever, sitting with a bounce on the end of the bed. "Get your gear on and get your ass downstairs. You don't want to miss this."

"Logan's back?" Rogue guessed, as she pulled the glove on. A high note of hope crept into her voice but she didn't notice.

Jubilee gave her a look so pointed that Rogue blushed again, looking down to make sure the fingers of the glove weren't twisted. The other girl rolled her eyes. "Yes. Logan's back. With the rest of them. The team, remember them? And they've brought that new guy with them." She reached over, grabbed Rogue by her now-safe wrist. "Come on. They're all in the Professor's office now, but if we camp out in the library we'll see 'em when they come out."

Rogue paused long enough to shove the diary into a drawer, before letting Jubilee drag her gleefully downstairs. Just in time too, because no sooner was Rogue settled on the couch between Jubilee and Kitty, a hardcover copy of 'Remains of the Day' in her hands, than the Professor's door opened.

Rogue peered over the top of her book in unison with her two friends. Cyclops, Doctor Jean Grey - damn, that dream really had left her feeling Magneto today, hadn't it? - and Storm. And someone else, someone new. Taller than Ororo, thin, his hair falling rakishly into his eyes. Truly devillish eyes, a burning red as he turned them towards the three girls as Jean gestured in their direction.

Three books snapped upwards.

Rogue heard feet coming closer on the wooden floors - two sets, and exchanged a sideways glance with Kitty. With a sigh, they lowered the books again.

Jean smiled and held out a hand towards them. "Remy, allow me to introduce Jubilee, Rogue and Kitty, three of our more senior students here. Girls, this is Remy LeBeau, also known as Gambit."

He bowed - actually bowed - a little to each of them, with a small smile. "Remy is delighted to meet you, chères filles."

Rogue felt Jubilee stifle a giggle beside her, and she smiled herself, at his use of the third person for himself and at the grand compliment. But then her attention was entirely caught by the Professor's door opening again. Only one person came out this time, a figure she'd know instantly from two hundred yards on a dark night.

"Remy will be joining us here at the school," Jean was saying, but Rogue wasn't paying any attention. If Logan had been talking to the Professor, and now he looked like that, then that meant only one thing.

He glanced briefly into the library, and then stalked off down the corridor. Barely thinking, Rogue jumped to her feet, dropping her book onto the seat she'd just vacated. Jean blinked as Rogue pushed past her.

"Sorry, Jean. Nice to meet you, Remy," she tossed over her shoulder, and then she was out the door and jogging down the corridor. Damn, Logan sure could cover the ground when he wanted to.

She caught up with him at the top of the stairs. "Hey," she called, and he stopped, turned, let her come up the last few steps. "Are you leavin' again?" She'd long since stopped calling it 'running'. It just... wasn't, anymore.

"Yeah," he answered shortly. He looked tired, face and eyes and stance. "It's time to get out and feel the world again, ya know?"

Stay. Take me with you. So many responses. In the end, she said: "When?"

He shrugged. "Tomorrow morning's good as any time."

"'Spose so," she answered, shrugging a little herself, and sticking her hands in the back pockets of her jeans to stop her doing something inappropriate. Like reaching for him. Silence for a moment. "Hey, you'd better go get cleaned up before dinner."

"Yeah." He walked away, but she didn't move until she heard the door to his room close.

Not much conversation, but then there never was. Garrulous he wasn't. Now... Go to her room and finish writing in her diary? Or back downstairs to try to apologise properly to Jean for running out like that? The decision was quickly taken out of her hands as Kitty and Jubilee came running up the stairs.

They paused a step below her, and Kitty let out an explosive breath. "Wow."

"I'll say," Jubilee agreed eagerly, grinning. "Rogue, why did you run off? He's so hot."

"Hotter than hot." Kitty took one of her arms, and Jubilee the other, and they propelled her down the corridor, towards the room the two other girls shared. Once there, Jubilee threw herself dramatically on the bed as Kitty closed the door.

"That smile," Kitty gushed, leaning back against the door.

"That accent," Jubilee sighed.

"Those eyes..."

"That body."

"Oh God, yeah."

Rogue sighed and sat at the desk. "Sorry I missed it," she said lightly.

Jubilee rolled onto her stomach and raised herself up on her elbows to look pointedly at Rogue. "No you're not, missy. You ran off to talk to Wolvie, didn't you."

A faint hint of a blush - good grief, she might as well just paint her cheeks that colour and be done with it. "No," she said ineffectually.

Kitty laughed. "Yeah sure. And Sabretooth's an intellectual."

"Forget him," Jubilee said blithely. "This Gambit is the goods, hon. He is romantic like Wolvie doesn't even know exists. I mean, the guy practically kissed our hands when he met us."

Rogue sighed again, closing her eyes briefly. "Jubes..." But how could she give voice to what she knew to be true; that Logan was sweet, and tender, and as romantic as any man alive, and she knew he would be if she could just get him to see her.

"And he asked all about you after you ran off," Kitty added. She winked at Jubilee, and added. "In fact, that was a cunning idea. Appear all mysterious and aloof. Guys love a challenge."

Rogue shook her head, and stood up. "Let's just go to dinner, OK guys?"

Jubilee bounced off the bed with a big grin. "Hey yeah. And after, can we play poker again? I think I'm getting the hang of it."

That drew a laugh out of Rogue as nothing else had. Ever since they'd found out that Rogue had learned to play poker from Logan, Kitty and Jubilee had pestered her to teach them. Jubilee had even found a transparent plastic visor from somewhere that made her look like a reject from an 80s sitcom. It had started as just the three of them, sitting down every few nights and having a small game, no stakes, but it had grown.

They cleared a table in the rec room after dinner, pulling chairs around it. Rogue looked around the table as Kitty passed out the chips. The three girls, of course, and Bobby and St John, they were regulars now. They'd brought the new guy - Remy - along with them, who-

Rogue looked down. Who was looking right at her. Looking into her lap, she was going by hearing alone. Remy saying, "Merci" as Kitty handed him his chips. Then a new voice, cutting through the other chatter and laughter to say: "Can anyone join the game?"

Her gaze jerked up as Jubilee drawled: "Sure thing, Wolvie. Five bucks to buy in."

He pulled up a chair across the table, between Bobby and Jubilee, who continued to explain the rules as Kitty slid some chips over to Logan, taking his money. "It's five card draw. Ten cent ante and minimum bet, no maximum. Play and deal passes left." She shuffled the deck of cards in her hand once more - the fancy way she'd been practicing for weeks in her room - and grinned around the table. "So, who's in?"

Everyone tossed a chip into the centre, and Jubilee dealt, five cards face down to each person. Rogue took a deep breath and picked up her cards, forcing herself to concentrate on them. The first round betting was cautious, as always, and then the card round, as everyone discarded the cards they didn't want, and got new ones. Rogue looked at her hand - two aces and some rubbish. She kept the aces, and got three new cards. More rubbish. Damn, but if she'd only kept that other seven, now she'd have two pair...

She'd almost forgotten Logan's presence again when he spoke up, opening the bidding. It was fast, but still cautious. Ever since Bobby had gone bust inside two hands one time, the opening few hands had always been a little slower. Kitty and St John bowed out in the first round, Remy in the second, and when Logan raised the bet thirty cents in the third round, Rogue folded. Jubilee, after agonising, called him, and Logan presented a pair of Queens, beating Jubilee's paltry pair of eights.

"You bastard!" Rogue blurted, unable to hold it back. "I could have beaten that!"

Logan laughed, leaning back in his chair and pulling out a cigar. "You're too timid, kid."

He lit it, and Jubilee laughed. "Now this is a real poker game. Your deal, Wolvie."

Too timid, huh? Rogue sniffed, then smiled a little at the thrill of a challenge. That was definitely a Wolverine reaction, and she welcomed it.

It was a small game mostly, pairs and high cards and one three of a kind that made the pot run to four dollars before being taken out by Remy. Bobby, betting hard on a pair of kings and an ace, looked very upset by that, and Rogue found herself laughing along with everyone else, grinning at Remy, who smiled back.

Hmm... Kitty had been right, he did have a wonderful smile.

And then, after an hour and more of playing, Rogue picked up the most beautiful hand she had ever seen. Queen, Jack, ten, nine. And a three. The run wasn't in the same suit, but it was a potential straight anyway, and they hadn't so much as glimpsed a five-card hand all night. She kept it low in the first round of bidding, not wanting to risk everything on a card that might not come.

But it did come, the eight of clubs, and she was looking at a straight. Breathe, Rogue. Right, don't raise the bet too much. Don't want to scare everyone into folding before they put their money on the table. Bobby, still hurting from the fleecing Remy had given him, folded in the first round. Another round of conservative raises, and Kitty folded too, shortly followed by Remy. Logan upped it thirty cents in the third round, and Jubilee bowed out. Rogue took a deep breath, and tossed some chips into the centre. Three to see Logan's bet. Five to raise it. She'd hooked him, now how far could she string him?

St John folded, but that was expected. It was Logan that Rogue was staring at, her eyes bright. He made some show of considering his hand, and she held her breath.

And then he threw his cards down.

Rogue blinked, not believing it. "You folded?" He nodded, and almost smirked. "You... Aaah!" Unable to articulate it, she threw her cards down with force; they slid across the table until stopped by the pile of chips in the centre of the table.

"I think that's a good place to finish," Kitty said, laughing. "Rogue, take your money and let's cash out."

Rogue had come out fifty cents up. Not bad, all in all, but still... She stalked out of the room, finding Logan waiting outside.

"Why'd you go and fold on that last hand?" she snapped.

He laughed, and she grit her teeth. But inside, she was laughing too. Not amusement, delight, at sharing this with him. It seemed so special, and she knew she'd replay the memories a hundred times during his absence.

"You have to learn to keep a poker face, kid," he said, falling into step beside her as they headed upstairs. "You so obviously had the best hand of the night clutched in your fist. I wasn't going down that much just to make you happy. What did you have anyway?"

"A Queen-high straight," she grumbled. They'd made it to her room, and she stopped. "What about you?"

"Two pair," he answered, turning to face her a few paces away. "Jacks over fours. A good hand, otherwise, but there's more to poker than the cards, kid. That's the lesson here."

Always the patient instructor, after teaching her to fight, and drive, and a dozen other things. He never stopped. "Yeah, yeah." Rogue shifted a little. "Well, take care wherever you end up this time, OK sugar?" It was part of his leaving tradition. She said it every time he disappeared on one of his jaunts.

He nodded. "Look out for the new kid, hey? He looks like he could be trouble." More tradition then, as he said: "Keep the tags safe, yeah?"

"I will." She stepped forward and hugged him then. Not part of the tradition, not something she'd ever done before, and she felt him hesitate a moment before his arms came up around her. Just briefly, then he released her, stepped back, and she did the same. "G'night Logan," she said quickly, opening her door.

"G'night kid," he returned, and she stepped inside, closing the door behind her.

Flicking on her bedside lamp filled the room with a low, warm light. Rogue went over to the dressing table and pulled forward a small box. Carved wood, dark and rich and delicately grained through the thick varnish. She pulled her glove off and ran bare fingers across the smooth surface before opening it.

A jewelry box, for a young woman, not a girl, without a dancing ballerina but with compartments. Rings and necklaces and bracelets filled the open compartments. The closed compartment held only one thing.

The dog tags. Of course.

As she held them, Rogue remembered, as she always did, what he'd said when he'd given them to her. Really given them to her, after he came back that first time, from Alkali Lake. She'd asked him if he wanted them back, and she hadn't had to hide anything in her voice because it really didn't matter if he wanted them back, since she had him back now and he was better than any little bits of metal.

"No," he'd said after a long moment's silence. "If I take them back, they become a symbol of something dark and horrible and vicious. If you keep them, they're a symbol of something good. Something light and worth remembering. I need to know that's there."

It was one small instant. Just a glimpse of a deeper, more heartfelt Logan than was readily apparent.

That was the man she loved. That was the man she knew would come for her. One day.

She put the tags back and closed the box. Her evening routine could be completed on autopilot now, as she found her mind caught up with all sorts of thoughts. Remy's smile. Logan's arms around her for that instant. The fact that it had been a year and a half now.

She turned off the light and got into bed, staring at the ceiling in the darkness.

He would come for her. Wouldn't he?

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