Rouge didn’t know where she was going, only knew that she had to find Remy before something terrible happened to him. She drove all night and into the early morning, Maryland, the Carolinas and Georgia passing her by. In a little town in the western part of the latter she was nearly run off the road by an antique fire truck, followed closely by three state police cars, all four with their sirens going full blast. Rogue braked sharply and guided her little car to the shoulder, waiting for the convoy to rocket by. In the distance, over the mossy trees a plume of smoke was rising against the pink sky, their target. Out of protective instinct, and the knowledge that something on fire might put her on the trail of Remy, Rogue accelerated again and drove after the state troopers.
It was about two miles to the small roadhouse, or what was left of it. Part of the east wall had collapsed in on itself, and the kitchen side was smoldering and black. Broken glass, beer cans, burnt shards of wood and unidentifiable trash was scattered over the parking lot, and Rogue stopped her car short of it to protect the tires. There were two overturned and burnt pickup trucks in the lot as well, and the firemen from the speeding engine were training a hose on the still-sparking building. The state troopers had fanned their cars out behind the fire truck. The actual policemen were helping a cluster of burnt and battered patrons out of the collapsed section. Rogue had a terrible feeling about the mess, and she started walking, getting close enough to hear the moaned comments of the survivors. "Came in here and just busted up the place…" said one man, then collapsed to the pavement. A trooper helped him over to the hood of his cruiser and sat him down.
"Tell me ‘bout it, Vern."
"Never seen anything like ‘im," said the man, his skin almost black with soot. He also had a bleeding gash oozing above one eyebrow. "Just all of a sudden started bustin’ up the barroom, Zeke and Henry over there tried to throw ‘im out, but he whalloped ‘em like I’ve never seen. Busted Hank’s nose, sent poor Zeke right out the door."
"Was he local?" said the state trooper, applying a compress to Vern’s wound. Rogue quickly stepped behind a tree as one of the others came back to his car to call for an ambulance.
"Hell no," said Vern. "Never seen ‘im before. Sounded like he was from way down there, Mobile or N’awlins."
"Why’d he go off on your and th’ boys?" asked the trooper. Vern rubbed his head regretfully.
"Don’t rightly know, Dave. He had a real weird look about ‘im…sunglasses at night, one o’ them long coats like from the films, and he just sat there, smilin’ at us. Real unfriendly-like."
"He attack you?" said Dave the trooper. Behind her tree, Rogue’s fingernails were leaving half-moons in the bark. Say he had a reason to attack you, you dumb redneck bastard—give him a reason!
"No…not me myself," said Vern. "But he sure did put the moves on Dora, you know that cute little cocktail waitress? She was all over ‘im. Then Zeke said somethin’ to her about how she was actin’, teasin' like…" Dave nodded encouragingly. "No one but a crazy man would make anythin’ out of it," said Vern earnestly. "But this bastard—man oh man. He jumps up and whips out this karate staff, and smashes the bottle on Zeke’s table—Jack Daniels, nothin’ cheap!" Vern’s face was getting red from his indignation. "So Zeke and Hank ask him polite-like to leave, and he lays into ‘em." Vern swallowed.
"Then what?" said Dave.
"Then…" said Vern. "Then he goes an’ does a number on the backbar and anythin’ else that gets in his way. An’ as he goes to leave he turns around and just LOOKS at the kitchen door…call me a goddamn liar if the thing didn’t blow isself off the hinges, set fire to the whole damn back o’ the building."
"Wow," said Dave.
"Damn right," said Vern. "I think he was a…you know. Mutant." With his twang, it came out mue-tant, but Rogue didn’t even need to hear the verbal confirmation. No. Not true. No no no! She turned to run, to go back to the car and forget the little roadhouse, but movement in the woods beyond the burned structure caught her eye. A figure, moving through the trees and undergrowth…turning…smiling.
"Son of a bitch," breathed Rogue. She rocketed straight up, banking high over the roadhouse and coming down in the woods twenty yards beyond. "Who’s here?" she demanded in her most strident voice. He spoke at her elbow, so close she almost jumped back into him.
"Miss me, chere?"
"Remy!" Rogue shouted. He clapped one hand over her mouth as she spun, and she was momentarily frozen by what she saw. Remy’s eyes were almost purely black, only the thinnest ring of red remained. His skin was pale and had taken one a blue tinge, and there were dark hollows in his cheeks that hadn’t been there when he left. He looked gaunt and…frightening. The second thing to penetrate Rogue’s mind was that his bare pinkie and index fingers were clapped in close contact with her cheek—but there was no jolt, no rush of his foreign thoughts, no horrible, suffocating feeling of taking a life not her own. "Mmph!" said Rogue. Remy put the finger of his other hand to his lips, then took the offending one off her mouth. "Remy," breathed Rogue, feeling the blood leave her head and go south. "You touched me." He looked down at his hand and smiled in an almost embarrassed manner.
"Oh. Yah. Guess I got my shield back, neh?" His grin returned, but it wasn’t the carefree, knowing smile that he usually wore around here. This one was edged with malice, and somehow far more intimate, as if Remy knew her darkest secrets and relished them as his own.
"I…" said Rogue, feeling a thousand words jam up behind her tongue. "You…" He pressed another uncovered index finger to her lips.
"Shhh, Marie." His head dipped and he was kissing her, his hair mingling with hers, lips warm and insistent. Marie sank into the feeling for an instant, then her instincts kicked in and she shoved him back.
"Stop, Remy!" He glared at her. The glare, like the grin, was far from his normal expression. This look said he would hurt her, deep and painful.
"Can’t be you have someone else, mon chere." A mocking grin now.
"Just…hold on," said Rogue, holding up her hands and taking a breath to bring back her composure. "How the hell did you get your shielding ability back?" Remy shrugged.
"You really care?" He moved in to kiss her again. Rogue’s shove was harder this time.
"Stop!" Remy stepped away from her and crossed his arms.
"What, Marie? You scared? Or could it be dat you such an ice princess by now you get off on de fact no one can touch you?" Rogue felt her mouth drop open, but she snapped it shut and returned Remy’s evil stare.
"I don’t know what’s happened to you, Remy, an’ I don’t know that I want to. You need to come home. You’re in trouble."
"Rogue," said Remy, shaking his head with amusement. "Rogue, Rogue, Rogue. I know I in trouble. You honestly t’ink I care?" He took and swift step towards her and pinned her to a tree. "I’m having de time of my life." His lips brushed her neck, ear, cheekbone. The kinetic shield tingled against the skin. Despite her fear and anxiety, Rogue felt herself responding to him. "Come with me," Remy whispered.
"No…" said Rogue, her voice lowering to match his unconsciously. "I can’t…I won’t…" Teeth nipped her earlobe, and Remy’s warm lips traced down towards hers.
"Who’s stoppin’ you?" Remy breathed. Rogue put a hand on his chest.
"I love you, Rogue." His mouth fluttered against hers as he spoke. "I made a mistake. Come with me."
"Remy." His tongue brushed just inside her lips, an-almost kiss.
"Come with me." Rogue was slipping. The husky voice was an opiate, pulling her under. "You need me."
"NO!" Rogue shouted explosively. She grabbed Remy’s shirt and sent him spinning away. "This is wrong! Don’t you see? We can’t do this now!" Peripherally she heard the state troopers starting to move towards the noises in the woods. She turned back to Remy. "We have to go." He shook his head, patronizing.
"Non, chere. You had your chance. Now we do it Remy’s way." He grabbed her arm, yanking her deeper into the undergrowth. He was a strong man, and Rogue was off-balance after the onrush of hormones. She followed him, stumbling over a low root and thumping into his back. He jabbed her hard in the ribs with an elbow. "Watch it! You wanna get us both caught?!"
"Sorry!" whispered Rogue. "But this isn’t exactly my fault!" Remy turned on her, grabbed her by both arms, and hissed into her face.
"You listen and you listen good, Roguie. You’re in dis game now, an’ we’re playin’ it wit’ my rules. So don’ get smart or you’ll find yourself on a fast rocket to de moon. Understand, chere?" Rogue knew here eyes were wide. She was too shocked even to be angry.
"Remy…what’s wrong with you?" He smiled and let her go.
"Not’in’, chere. I’m just peachy." He turned into the thicket again, pushing the foliage aside until they came to a back road, and Remy’s car. He opened the door and patted the seat next to him. "Room for one more." Rogue swallowed and walked forward, feeling cold even in the Georgia air.
"I’m coming." Remy smiled at her as she got in and shut the door numbly.
"Relax, cherie. You in very good hands." Rogue gave a small, false smile.
"That’s what I’m afraid of."
Go on to Chapter 6