Title: Confusing the Issue

Author: Mercutio (Email)


Rating: NC-17

Pairing/main characters: Gambit/Joseph/Rogue

Series/Sequel: no

Summary: Slash. Both Gambit and Joseph are used to having problems that keep them from finding true intimacy with Rogue. But what happens when the two men decide to collaborate?

Disclaimer: Marvel's...

Archive/distribution: Please. As often as possible, and wherever you like.

Warning: Adult material, explicit sexual content

Notes: Credit for pushing me into writing this goes to Jane of Shadows ([email protected]). If her fascination goes further, there may be a sequel or sequels to this story. Please feel free to bug her over it. ;)



Confusing the Issue

By Mercutio


"We both knew what we wanted,
and we took it believing it free..."
-- Sarah MacLachlan


"'Allo, Joseph," Gambit said quietly into the darkness surrounding the small grove of trees. He sat perched on one of the railings of the gazebo. He had been staring quietly up at the stars when he first sensed the approach of the other mutant, his rival for the hand of the woman he loved. Or thought he loved.
"Gambit," Joseph acknowledged curtly. "I apologize for intruding. I did not realize that you were already here."
He had turned to go when Remy spoke. "Dat's all right. You're not intruding."
White eyebrows raised. "I think that I am."
"Non. Remy come out here to share de night wit' de stars. No reason not to share it wit' you, too. 'Sides," he added shrewdly, "Remy t'ink dat you got your own reasons for coming out here, no? Maybe some darkness inside you like de darkness inside me."
"Under the circumstances, I don't think that you and I are appropriate confidantes for each other."
"Neh. We de perfect pair. Nobody want to talk to us, an' we both got too much inside t'tell anyone about. Too much t'not talk about, but den, dere's not'ing we can do about dat, is there, mon ami?"
Joseph had paused, and now stood next to the gazebo, outside it, looking at the stars instead of Gambit. "And what about Rogue?" he asked, in a voice that was both wary and fierce. "Are you going to attack me again?"
Gambit shrugged eloquently, a gesture that would have garnered full marks from any panel of gymnastics judges. "Not going t'attack you. Roguie's made her choice and dis Cajun know better now dan to try t'change her mind. But Remy t'ink dat mebbe he not de only one with' lady problems."
Joseph looked up sharply at that remark, but Gambit seemed fully occupied with lighting a cigarette. "What do you know? -- or think you know?"
"Gambit don't know not'ing," the other man said in a voice too carefully neutral of pain and bitterness. "Not'ing at all. Just t'ought it be strange dat you wandering out here alone on a beautiful night when you could be inside wit' a beautiful lady. Don't need to tell me anyt'ing 'bout dat. Gambit mind his own business. And you and Rogue not it."
"Fine." Joseph leaned back against the white painted wood.
Long silence passed, as the pair observed the slow, careful movements of the stars. Joseph made no move to speak, and Remy smoked one cigarette after another, snuffing out the butts and stowing them away in one of the many pockets in his jacket.
Gambit stretched and stood, balancing on the railing, then leaped lightly down. The darkness and silence had enclosed them in an almost companionable bubble. "Tell you dis, t'ough -- I know what it's like to be on de outside just de same as you do. An' Gambit don't like it neit'er. I respect you for trying t'stay here and be on de inside even when nobody wants you."
"How much effort could that be?" Joseph asked sardonically. "You've done the same."
"'Xactly. An' it's hard, non?"
Joseph regarded his long-time rival, then nodded. "Yes, it's hard."
Gambit held out his hand. "Remy sorry dat he harass you before. I know better dan dat. Been harassed myself. An' you and Roguie -- de better man won, and Gambit just gonna have t'accept dat, dat's all. Don't know dat you and me can be friends, but at least we don't need t'be enemies, non?"
Joseph regarded the outstretched hand with caution, but as it was empty, he took it and shook it. Nothing untoward happened--Gambit met him with a solid clasp and let his hand go. "Thank you, Gambit."
"You're welcome."
Joseph felt a sudden surge of feeling for the former thief. His main reason for not liking Gambit was the man's own animosity for him. That the animosity came from Gambit's feelings about Rogue had not mitigated Joseph's feelings, as it was Gambit's actions and attitude that disturbed him. He could understand the other man's jealousy; he did not understand his possessive anger. And yet, they shared some things in common. They were indeed both outsiders amongst the X-Men -- men with checkered pasts who were on the side of evil as often as the side of good. Joseph, in fact, if his identity as Magneto were true, had more to atone for than LeBeau ever could. A weight of past evil that hung over their souls and shadowed them even in the brightest light. Even in the sun of Rogue's love.
A sun that, he had learned that night, did not shine for him. "She loves you, you know."
"Excuse moi?"
He steeled himself and repeated his words. "Rogue loves you."
Gambit shrugged. "So de chere has some feelings still. Dat's nice of her, dat she hasn't forgotten me completely."
"No," Joseph said. "She *loves* you. Not me. You."
Gambit's body shifted into a tense, guarded posture, but his tone remained light. "You had a quarrel den? Not a problem. In de morning, t'ings all seem better. Just remember t'apologize when you get back -- 'specially if you were right."
"Is this some attempt at being noble?"
"Your refusal to hear what I'm telling you." He met Gambit's eyes until those red eyes dropped to the ground.
"Non. Gambit just know dat men and women fight, and den dey make up and t'ings get better. Rogue not gonna stop loving you just because you got angry wit' each ot'er, whatever she said t'you."
Joseph hesitated, the urge within him to stay silent and keep his feelings -- an odd thing for a former supervillain to have at all -- to himself quite strong. But he felt an equal need to have someone, anyone, understand what was going on. And damn it, if he were going to beat Gambit up for this, the man deserved to at least know why first. "It wasn't one fight. The situation's been like this since we started making love."
A small explosion resounded, and Joseph saw two halves of a burnt card floating to the ground. "What the--?"
"Gambit only a man, Joseph," a dark voice said. "An' some t'ings too painful t'hear. Comprenez-vous?"
He nodded. "Yes. I apologize. I meant that the problem is a long-standing one."
"Do I need t'hear dis?" Gambit asked, shuffling and reshuffling his cards. His voice was still under his control, but his rapidly moving hands betrayed his strain.
"I think I need to tell you."
"Fine den. Whatever." He leaned back against the gazebo, his posture mirroring Joseph's, as if consciously forcing himself to relax.
"Our relationship -- my relationship with Rogue -- isn't working out. I... I care for her, but I think the only reason she wants me at all is because she can touch me safely. My magnetic powers allow her to touch someone without her needing to be as vulnerable as other methods of negating her absorption powers would make her. Her interest in me is, I believe, purely sexual." Gambit tensed, and Joseph went on, "She loves you. I'd say that she was merely satisfying herself with me because she can, if it weren't that she seems so starved for any kind of physical contact.
It's special to her, and I can't help caring about her even if," his voice trailed off, and then returned, strengthened, as he turned and clenched his hands around the railing, "if what she's really doing is simply using me as a safe alternative to the man she really wants."
"Rogue's not a user," Gambit observed in a dispassionate voice. "De girl sensitive to dat -- her powers make her a user and she don't like dat."
"That's what I thought. It only makes the situation more difficult for me."
"Gambit can see dat." He shuffled the cards again and replaced them in their box. "What do you want Gambit t'do about it?"
"Is there anything that any of us can do? Besides hurt because the one we love isn't the one who wants to or can be with us?"
"Gambit don't know."
"I don't either."
They stood there a while longer before Gambit extinguished his cigarette. "I t'ink I know where t'find some brandy if you're willing t'drink it. It's traditional t'drown your sorrows in liquor, non?"
Joseph considered. He didn't care to drink, because being drunk was to lose control, but on the other hand, neither did he wish to risk the fragile understanding between himself and Gambit that had been formed this evening. "I think it is."
Gambit sat in the window seat, windows open to let in the cool night breeze, a half-full glass in his hand. Joseph sat on Gambit's bed, another glass in his. Gambit was halfway to being under the influence, and Joseph was halfway to needing to be carried back to his room.
Except that he didn't seem to want to go back to his room, for the reason that Rogue was already sleeping there.
"Mon ami, why not?"
Joseph shrugged. "I left because I couldn't stay, and now I can't go back."
"Dat really makes sense," Gambit said, meaning it sarcastically, but without any edge to his voice.
"Right," Joseph agreed with the perfect equanimity of the no longer sober. "I knew you'd understand."
"Why can't you go back?"
"Because I've been drinking. She'd know and ask what I was doing."
"If you don't go back, she's going t'wake up alone, and den she'll know dat you were doing somet'ing."
"That's different."
Gambit laughed, a low rich laugh that rumbled warmly through him. Somehow everything seemed more understandable now, with some brandy in him, and with this newfound agreement with Joseph. "Not dat different. Where you gonna sleep?"
Joseph considered him for a long moment, then laid back on the bed, the glass tilting with him. "Here."
"And just where is Gambit supposed t'sleep?" Remy asked, amused.
"Here?" came the ingenuous suggestion.
Remy laughed again at the display of drunken logic. "You've had too much t'drink, mon ami. Dat's enough for you." He got down from the window seat and bent over Joseph to extricate the glass from his hand. "Give dat to Remy."
"I'm fine. I'll be fine."
"Mebbe. Mebbe not." Remy looked at Joseph, stubbornly holding onto the glass and sighed. No, the other man wasn't going to give in easily. And he was in no mood for a fight. Smiling deliberately, he pulled on his charm powers. "Just give Remy de glass and let him take care of it for you. Okay?"
"All right." The glass slid easily away from now-loosened fingers, and Remy set it out of reach.
A hand caught at his leg as Gambit stood. "What?" he asked, turning back to Joseph's reclining figure.
"Don't go."
"Dis is Gambit's room. Where do you expect him to go?" Gambit asked reasonably, coming back to Joseph and sipping on his brandy. He sat down on the side of the bed, feeling his legs sigh in relief as they relaxed. *Maybe I should stop drinking too.*
Joseph sat up, and Gambit drew back, expecting a mad dash to the bathroom to throw up or perhaps an attempt at reacquiring the glass of brandy. What he did not expect was Joseph leaning forward to capture his mouth in a kiss.
If there were truth to any of the rumors surrounding Gambit, the rumor about him being a consummate flirt was the truest. He could no more resist an invitation to dalliance than he could a game of cards. At least, not with his defenses down and his heart as lonely and cold as a barren Antarctic afternoon. He returned the kiss with passion, imagining for a moment that he was cared for, that he was being kissed with love, with true wanting, and for a moment losing himself in that illusion.
Then he drew back. "Not dat Gambit's complaining," he said mildly, watching Joseph's face for some sign that the man realized what he'd just done, "but he don't t'ink dat Gambit's really de person you wanted to kiss. Mebbe we get you back t'your own bed now?"
Rogue was not going to be happy if she woke up and caught him assisting Joseph into bed -- she would most likely assume the worst, that he had gotten Joseph drunk for some nefarious purpose, such as humiliating the other man. Gambit could live with that. He'd lived with a lot of misunderstanding of his intentions.
"I kissed you because I want you," Joseph said.
For a moment, Gambit almost believed that. But the person saying it was simply too impossible. The more likely explanation came to his mind. "You're reacting t'de charm powers, homme. Not what you really want. C'mon, I'll help you get up."
"No," Joseph said stubbornly, "I want you."
Gambit shook his head. "Dey always say dat. An' den in de morning, dey say 'how could you?' and dat I take advantage of dem. Non, Gambit not going t'let you do dat to yourself."
Joseph attempted to stare him down, failed, and then nodded sadly. "I don't believe you." He extended a hand. "But if you could help me up, I'll leave."
His tone conveyed the infinite pain of rejection, and Gambit sighed as he helped the other man to his feet. "Aww, don't do dat, mon ami. Dere's not'ing wrong wit' you. Dis just what's going t'be the best t'ing in de morning. You'll see. You won't even be able t'look at Gambit t'morrow."
"And if you're wrong?"
"Gambit not wrong. Trust me."
He wrapped Joseph's arm around his shoulder, and successfully walked him down the hall to his own room. Contrary to Joseph's prediction, Rogue was not in the bed, for which Gambit was grateful. He pulled the blankets further back and helped Joseph lie down. Joseph's eyes were closing even as Gambit released him.
Sighing again, Remy slipped off Joseph's shoes and then pulled the blankets up over him.
Instead of leaving immediately, he stood in the shadows of the dark room, watching Joseph sleep. *Dis only complicates matters,* he thought. *Don't know what any of us are going to do now.*
By the dint of rising unnaturally early and using his thiefly skills, Gambit managed to avoid both Rogue and Joseph the next morning. He could not, however, avoid himself.
Seated in the curve of a tree, he stared up at the unnaturally bright sky -- fortunately dimmed by his sunglasses -- and wondered yet again what exactly it was that life had against him. Life wasn't fair -- he understood that. But sometime the luck had to break his way. Didn't it? The percentage was on the side of the house, but there was such a thing as luck, wasn't there?
A stupid question to ask yourself when you knew that the only way to guarantee winning was to cheat. When you'd spent much of your life learning how to cheat and how to get away with it.
He dreaded facing Rogue and Joseph again. Not because he knew what would happen. But because every possible situation he could imagine was bad. Maybe Joseph had told Rogue about last night, and now Rogue had yet one more thing to hold against him. She wouldn't appreciate Joseph telling Gambit that she loved him, especially if it were true, and she wouldn't appreciate anything else that had happened last night earlier, like Joseph getting drunk or the kiss.
And then there was Joseph. Gambit decided that, if a punch was forthcoming, he would take it. Getting hit might trigger some survival instinct that he was obviously currently lacking.
The real issue was how to handle things. Did he slink back into the house at dinner and hope the whole thing had blown over? Pull a Logan and disappear for a month? Pretend that nothing had happened? Ridicule Joseph if the matter were broached? Sit in the tree 'til he starved?
Gambit shuffled his cards, wishing he hadn't run out of cigarettes. The half-empty pack he'd brought with him hadn't lasted long enough, and now he was faced with going back to the mansion if he wanted more.
Was nicotine worth braving the dangers of the mansion?
He reshuffled the cards.
He didn't know what he felt anymore. Exhaustion, betrayal, an ever-present darkness of spirit... these were the things coloring his personality now, and they weren't feelings. His feelings were buried too deeply to trust, hidden away because feeling hurt too much and gave him too little.
Gambit swung himself down from the tree. Time to return to the mansion. He couldn't face these thoughts without nicotine, and would have preferred to put them aside entirely for some more physical form of expression. But the Danger Room was not available, no crisis seemed imminent, and there was no one he felt able to tolerate enough to battle. Not this morning.
Avoiding the inside of the mansion, Remy easily scaled the side of the house and slipped into his room. He grabbed a new pack of cigarettes and threw out the old one, cleaning his pocket of butts as he did so.
Hiding in the woods no longer seemed appealing, and if one of the people he'd been avoiding found him, well, the resulting confrontation would only be what he deserved. Gambit slipped out onto the roof, curling his legs under himself and lighting one of the cigarettes.
Rogue found him there, flying up to hover across from him. "Remy, Ah want to talk to you."
"Den talk, chere."
"It's about Joseph."
Gambit kept himself from stiffening from long practice at not showing his reactions outwardly, although he knew that this would be the conversation he had been dreading. She knew what had happened last night, and would scold him for encouraging Joseph to drink, tallying up yet another reason why he was no good for her. "An'?"
She sat down beside him on the roof. "He's been acting strange lately. Ah don't know what to do about him. Last night, he left our room after he thought Ah was asleep -- Ah'm not sure he wants me anymore."
That wasn't quite what he'd expected to hear. "Mebbe you should talk t'him about dis, p'tite."
"Ah've *tried*," she said, frustrated. "Don't you think Ah wouldn't try? He just says it's not mah fault and there's nothing wrong. And Ah know that there is. Ah'm not dumb."
Gambit sighed. So she was only guessing that something was going on. For a moment, he felt tempted to tell Rogue the truth, and then went with a safe answer. "What do you t'ink is wrong?"
She glanced at him sideways before looking out at the same landscape he was currently surveying. "Ah don't think he really wants me. As a woman, you know."
He swallowed hard. If this were anyone else, he'd be gone, away from her, no longer listening to the discussion. He was a person, damnit, a man who loved this woman, and the last thing he wanted to do was to take part in this conversation, to do the right thing and cement the relationship between her and his rival. But he wanted her happiness most of all, and that was the important thing. Wasn't it? "You're sleeping t'gether -- don't you know dat he wants you?"
She shook her head, and then insinuated her gloved hand into his. "That's just it, sugah. He can't want me -- he can only keep up the shield when he's concentratin', so Ah never get to do anything for him. Ah don't know if he wants me at all -- he nevah gets turned on or anythin'."
Gambit's mouth quirked into a wry smile. "Chere, when a man give up sex for a woman, he love her. Trust Remy 'bout dis."
"But Ah want to touch him. Ah want to make a man go crazy over me."
He felt his fingers stroking hers as her hand rested in his, and he forced himself to let her hand drop. "Lots of men'd go crazy over you."
"Yeah, but Ah only want one." She pulled away from him, floating up from the roof. "Guess Ah just can't make a relationship work with anybody."
She was gone before he could reply, and Gambit closed his eyes. He didn't feel tears in his eyes. There was nothing in this whole unfunny paradoxical triangle to make anyone laugh, and he certainly would not be crying. Not him. Not Gambit.
Remy wanted Rogue, but she wouldn't have him because she couldn't touch him without absorbing his personality and self along with her touch. Rogue wanted to be touched, and so had acquired Joseph, who could touch her -- but apparently that was not enough because she could not touch him in return, not the way that she wanted to. And Joseph wanted Rogue and thought that he couldn't have her because she loved Remy.
Dear God. It was enough to drive a sane man to drink.
Gambit didn't move from his position on the roof. An idea struck him, and a tiny grin enlivened his face. There could be a solution to their problems. If everyone in this little triangle were sufficiently flexible and open-minded, everything could be fixed -- he could have Rogue, Rogue could have Joseph, and Joseph could have Rogue as well. Of course, he'd have to share Rogue with Joseph, and he didn't think the other man was up for the threesome thing, even if he, Gambit, had the experience to appreciate such a thing. But wouldn't that be a tidy little way to solve things?
He firmly stepped on the idea, and his smile disappeared. Things didn't happen that way. No, their dance of pain would continue until someone was mortally injured, in the heart where it would hurt the worst.
"Remy?" a voice called from the window.
Gambit recognized it as belonging to Joseph and stubbed out his cigarette. Time to face his doom like a man. He dropped down to the window, perching on the sill. "Dis be Remy."
Joseph stood in front of the window seat, expression unhappy. "I wish I didn't have to say this--"
*Here it comes,* Gambit thought, expecting anything from an accusation to an attack.
"Rogue's left me. I'm not the better man, after all. You've got another chance with her now. After last night -- after our conversation last night -- I don't think I'll stand in your way. She loves you and you love her--"
Taken off-guard by yet another unexpected turn of conversation, Gambit chose to respect Joseph's desire to confide in him, and observed quietly, "You love her, too, mon ami."
"I know. That only makes it more painful." Joseph's expression twisted. "I want her to be happy. And she wants you. She didn't say that, but I know that it's true nonetheless. I love her, and I have to let her go. Remy, if I thought it would make her happy I'd stand by the side of her bed and cast a field around her while she had sex with *you*, that's how much I want her happiness over my own. I want her to have what she wants -- you."
Gambit's expression was as pained as Joseph's. "Dat be de best of both worlds if Gambit could have Rogue an' hold her too. But dat's not fair to you, homme, even if you were serious 'bout de offer. 'Preciate de t'ought though. Gambit don't know dat de lady is t'inking what you t'ink she's t'inking eit'er. Not going t'kiss and tell, but Gambit t'ink you could still work t'ings out wit' her."
Joseph shook his head sadly. "No. As strange as this may sound considering our history, I-- I thought you and I connected last night. And I have few enough friends to risk even one for any reason. I'm not going to try to work this out with Rogue. I'm going to let her follow her heart."
"Rogue didn't want me before, homme. What makes you t'ink dat she want me now? She only want Gambit if she can touch him, and she can't. We both be losing if you don't fight for her, and Rogue too, 'cause den she not have anybody t'love her."
"Then let me help."
"What you have in mind?" Gambit looked at Joseph curiously, then raised his hands. "Oh, no. Not dat. You not going t'use your powers t'make it possible for dis t'ief t'get Rogue. Dat not fair t'you."
"It's fair if I say it's fair."
"Dis gonna get real complicated real fast," Remy warned Joseph, wondering why he was talking as though this crazy idea were actually a possibility. "It's hard enough t'manage a relationship wit' two people in it -- t'ree people is even more difficult, not easier."
"Three people? I was only talking about helping you and Rogue to..."
"I know what you said. But Gambit t'ink he know somet'ing you don't about de problems you been having, and dat he could help you if he wanted. An' he couldn't let you help him and not help you too."
Joseph began to look vaguely horrified, as though a new and fascinating world had been opened to him, and one that he wasn't sure he liked very much. "Perhaps this isn't the best idea..."
"Dat's what Gambit's been trying t'tell you. Now, shoo. Go find Roguie and 'pologize."
"I didn't do anything."
"Wit' women, dat only makes it worse. Shoo."
Joseph shook his head. "There's still something else we need to discuss."
*Shoulda known that this wouldn't be so easy.* "Gambit's listening."
"About last night -- I'm sorry."
"You're what?"
"I'm sorry. I rarely drink, and what happened must embarrass you as much as it does me. I-- I can only say that..." he looked uncomfortable, "it's, uh, been a while for me, and you and I seemed to have just made some kind of emotional connection, and then I did something unwarranted. And I am truly sorry for it."
"Den you're not--" Gambit cut himself off as he realized where that sentence was going.
"Not what?" Joseph asked curiously.
Gambit threw up his mental hands and gave up on caution for the day. His love life couldn't get any worse than it was already.
"You really are attracted to me, den?"
"I'd prefer to forget about last night."
"'Cause if you are, den you ought t'know dat de only reason Gambit stopped last night was dat you were drinking an' I t'ought you wouldn't know what you were doing."
Joseph drew himself back a bit. "You love Rogue."
"Sure I do. But dat doesn't mean I've given up on loving ot'er people too. Rogue doesn't seem t'want me, y'know."
"She does."
Gambit shrugged. "Not going t'argue dat wit' you, homme. But if you serious 'bout last night, den mebbe you don't have t'leave."
"Why not? I'm glad that we established some sort of connection yesterday, but that's barely enough to base a friendship on, let alone what you're suggesting." Joseph's words spoke of revulsion and rejection -- but he did not leave the room, and his expression was guarded, as though there was something deeper here, something that he wanted but was afraid to take.
Gambit came in the window, stepped down from the windowseat and stood, stretching languorously, a move that he knew showed off many of the best points about his body. "Mebbe dat's so. Not going t'argue dat eit'er. But Gambit t'ink dat dere's one t'ing dat neit'er of us is getting and dat both of us want."
"What's that?" Joseph asked warily.
His eyes had dilated as Gambit stretched; something that Remy had not missed. So, Joseph *was* interested? Gambit stepped closer to him, smiling blatantly now, one of his most heartstopping smiles.
"Sex, mon ami. Sex."
Joseph turned a dull red. "I-- how do you know about that?" He turned a deeper red. "Rogue told you, didn't she?"
"Oui," he said, nodding. "Don't hold it against her -- de chere needed t'talk t'someone, and Gambit won't tell."
"You just told *me*."
"Gambit t'ink dat it relevant t'you an' me. An' you already know all about it." He reached out a hand to Joseph, fingers touching the cleft of his chin, then running down his neck, caressing his chest and feeling down to his solid thigh. "Don't you?"
"Um, yes."
"So what do you want t'do?" Gambit asked, feeling his answer in the way that Joseph pressed his body against Gambit's hand,seeking more of that elusive touch.
"This." And Joseph took hold of Gambit's head, fastened his lips over the other man's and kissed him fiercely.
Gambit thought that Joseph was more taken off-guard by his sudden action than Remy was himself. Gambit, at least, had been taunting Joseph with the idea and was mentally prepared for the sudden influx of warmth and intimacy -- and need -- running between their bodies.
Joseph broke the kiss, startled to find his body intimately entwined with the Cajun's, one of Gambit's legs thrust through his, bodies chest to chest, and desperate wanting hardness up against a hardness resonant with its own. Gasping, he looked at Gambit, desire muddling his vision.
Remy seemed less affected, his hand on Joseph's cheek, stroking it while he smiled knowledgeably. "Gambit got no problem wit' dis."
"I should," Joseph said, fighting to find some semblance of control inside himself, and instead finding lust rampaging through him -- his body demanding that he pull Gambit down on the bed, pull him down and cover himself with the other man. "I'm certain I should have a problem."
Gambit's smile grew warmer. Almost crooning, he said to Joseph, "Dat's not what your body's telling me."
"It's not what it's telling me either," Joseph admitted frankly. If he were as honest with himself as his body was being with Gambit, he wanted this too much. Not because he was specifically attracted to Gambit -- although the man did give off signals like a peacock flashing his feathers -- but because it had been too long since he'd allowed himself to feel any sort of desire. He couldn't risk it, not with Rogue. The magnetic shield he could put up to protect him from her powers only worked when he was concentrating. And he could not concentrate properly when he was at the mercy of his hormones. To protect them both, he had consciously forced himself not to feel anything sexual while around Rogue. To selflessly harness his desire for her in order to give her the touching and physical contact that she so wanted. But here, with Gambit, it was safe to feel, and he felt, if anything, too much.
Remy kissed him, long fingers still cradling his face, and Joseph began pulling at the other man's shirt, hands reaching under it to feel the skin underneath. To feel it for his own pleasure, rather than because his touch gave pleasure to someone else. It was a relief, and freeing, to be able to feel without consequence, and he put his hands on Remy's shoulders, pulling the duster off, and then rapidly moving to open Gambit's shirt further so that he could enjoy the skin below.
"Mon ami, dere's no need to rush," Gambit rebuked him softly, breaking off their kiss. "Dere's plenty of time."
Joseph met his eyes with some of the desperate need he felt, wondering if Remy could read him better than he could read those red pupils.
"Or mebbe dere's not." Gambit pulled his hands away from Joseph and willingly stripped off his shirt, leaving his chest bare for Joseph's further exploration. "Dat better?"
Joseph looked at the masculine chest before him, and wondered for the first time, what his sexual orientation had been before he had lost his memories. He himself had no idea, but as he felt no swell of revulsion looking at the swirl of hair over taut muscles that he was currently seeing, he had obviously had nothing against homosexuality. Instead, he felt the desire he had not allowed himself to feel with Rogue.
He reached out to Gambit, letting his hands roam over the other man's body, closing his eyes to better experience the sensations running back to him through his palms and fingers. Warm skin that shivered under his touch. Muscles that flexed in interesting ways as his hands tightened on them. The sensitive spot he found at Gambit's navel that caused the Cajun to twitch and yelp before grabbing Joseph's hand.
"No more o'dat." Gambit said firmly, then with a mischievous grin, "Your turn."
Joseph felt confused for a moment, then Gambit's hands went to his own shirt, helping him to remove it. Regular work-outs and basic genetics gave Joseph a body even more impressive than Gambit's -- his frame ran to muscular upper-body strength, while Remy was more wiry and less bulky. Gambit showed every sign of appreciating Joseph's body just as much as Joseph had appreciated his, and Joseph felt compelled to ask, "You, then, are... bisexual?"
The question could have been awkward, and Joseph regretted asking it as soon as it was out of his mouth.
Gambit looked up quickly from his visual exploration of Joseph's exposed skin and flashed white teeth. "Gambit don't make de distinction 'tween male an' female when it come t'sex. Suppose you call that being bisexual. Gambit prefer de term ambisexual, t'ough."
Joseph thought that might have been a joke, intended to make him laugh. If so, he missed the point. "I was only curious."
"Not'ing wrong wit' dat." Gambit smiled again, and then said in a velvety, seductive voice. "Dere's somet'ing dat Gambit's curious about as well."
"What's that?"
"Dis." With one fluid motion, Remy knelt before Joseph, undoing the fastening of his trousers and reaching inside to free Joseph's erection.
Joseph found himself unable to do anything except breathe heavily and try not to shove himself into Remy's sensitive hands. "My God."
"Non -- but dat's a good guess."
Josepph froze, eyes closing as Gambit began first licking at his erection, and then took it inside his mouth. "I don't think--" his hands reached down to find Remy's head and stroke the other man's hair with impatient, needy fingers, "I don't think I can take very much of this."
Remy's hands fastened on his buttocks, and squeezed, encouraging Joseph. He knew he could only stop himself from doing this by jumping away right that moment. In a few more seconds, it would be too late to stop. And he didn't want to. No, he didn't.
He surged heavily into Remy's mouth, coming in a sharp burst of something almost like pain. He felt the other man taking it, sucking at his penis, encouraging little aftershocks to run though him until Joseph sagged over onto Remy, hands dropping to Gambit's shoulders to support himself. "My God, Remy."
"Dere you go again," Gambit said with good humor, maneuvering Joseph onto the bed, where he fell down gratefully. "Gambit tell you -- he no god."
Joseph watched him as Gambit came to sprawl on the bed, form haloed by the light from the open window and looking deliciously dissolute. "A fallen angel, then."
"Oh, sugah, Remy's definitely not that."
The voice caught Joseph off-guard and he jerked upright, staring at Rogue, who was hovering in the space left by the open window.
Gambit did not seem surprised. "'Allo, Roguie. Did you see what you wanted t'see?"
"Ah think Ah saw more than Ah ever wanted to." Rogue's tone was filled with a resigned kind of jealousy, even though her posture screamed of anger. "Ah know why now neither of you ever really wanted me. No wonder Ah couldn't turn Joseph on."
Joseph felt mortified. Only his overwhelming orgasm seconds before kept him from hiding under the sheets and perhaps hoping for a cataclysm to occur so that he could somehow sneak away. As it was, his body could not react, and he laid back, stunned, letting Gambit respond for the both of them.
"You could've stopped us if you wanted, chere. Gambit know you were watching."
"Why should Ah?" she asked tensely. "It's obvious to me now that neither of you ever truly loved me. How could Ah be so stupid?"
"You not being stupid, p'tite. Gambit t'ink dat dis de best demonstration of how we both want you." He swept his hand over the bed, gesturing to himself and Joseph. "Gambit can't touch you so he's feelin' frustrated. An' Joseph even worse off 'cause he can touch you but he can't do anyt'ing about what he's seeing and touching."
"What are you talkin' about?"
Gambit regarded her quizzically. "You know what I mean, femme. De magnetic shield dat Joseph be using to let you touch him -- he can't use it if he be aroused."
"If he really wanted me..."
"Den he be in as much of a world of hurt as Gambit."
Remy turned his head to look at Joseph for his opinion, and surprised, Joseph could almost believe for a moment that what he saw on the other man's face was tenderness. "You want to add anyt'ing, mon ami?"
Joseph shook his head. "No. You've got it right."
"So dat's de way it is," Gambit said, returning his attention to Rogue. "Doesn't have anyt'ing t'do wit' not loving you, chere. Only t'do wit' not being able t'have you."
Rogue collapsed into a sitting position on the windowseat. Her hands went to her face, and she dropped her head. "Ah'm never gonna have anybody ta love me."
"Chere, didn't you listen to Remy? Both of us love you. Too much, mebbe, an' not in de way you want, but we do."
"But I can't have either of you!" she wailed, tears falling.
"Aw, chere, don't cry." Gambit sat on the bed, helpless to go to her. He knew what she was feeling right now -- he had many and varied romantic experiences, and had a very good idea of what someone might be expected to feel even in a situation as unusual as this one. What she needed right now was to be physically reassured that one or both of them did want her -- to be taken to bed and thoroughly loved. But it was the one thing neither man could give her, not the way she wanted.
Joseph watched the two of them and made his own decision. His experience was less, but he came to the same conclusion that Gambit had -- Rogue needed something that he couldn't give her, something that Gambit could, if Joseph were willing to make the sacrifice that would allow it. He caught Gambit's shoulder so that the Cajun turned to look at him. "She needs you. I'll make it right. Just... do something. I... I can't stand seeing her cry either. At least this way, she'll have someone."
Gambit regarded him seriously, and then nodded. He didn't ruin Joseph's moment of altruism by protesting against it. "T'ank you, mon ami."
Joseph stood slowly, watching Gambit go to Rogue and coax her to the bed, then redressed himself and settled into the windowseat, careful to look outside rather than in. He only wanted Rogue to be happy -- and he felt grateful to Gambit -- and so he could and would do this. But he couldn't watch. So instead he concentrated on holding up the magnetic shield that separated Rogue from Gambit by the barest of margins, and tried not to listen to the soft sounds of lovemaking going on behind him.
Those sounds accentuated his loneliness. Whatever changes had occurred to his relationship with Gambit over the past day, he knew that Rogue was the most important person to the other man. And Rogue loved Gambit as she did not love Joseph. Rogue didn't love him and would not want him if she could touch Gambit. And if they could have each other, then there was no place for him. He'd been working for some time on a device that would neutralize Rogue's absorption ability without removing her other powers; it had been his hope that she would use it with him, but it would work equally well, once it was complete, to allow Rogue and Gambit to be together without the unwelcome interference of a third party such as himself. It could be his gift to the couple -- to Rogue, for the relationship he had almost had with her and the caring she had mistakenly given him, and to Gambit, for the comradeship that the Cajun had had no reason to extend, but had anyway.
That he would be left out and left alone was painful, but inevitable. He would lose Rogue, and Gambit as well, and there would be no one for him. Perhaps, if he were very lucky, they would remain friendly toward him, giving him some bastion of support amid the mostly hostile X-Men, but he knew it was more likely that Rogue and Gambit would turn against him, shutting out the intruder who could only threaten their newly acquired closeness.
He could deal with that. He would deal with that.
Joseph closed his eyes against tears, but felt them prickling at his eyes nonetheless. He let them fall, trying to keep his mind on the shield rather than on the aching pain of loss that he felt inside.
Focused in on himself, he was taken off-guard when a hand touched his chin, holding it so that his face could be inspected.
"Mon ami," came Gambit's sensuous, caressing voice. "What's wrong?"
Startled, Joseph looked up, the shield dropping. Gambit bent over him, unselfconsciously nude, still touching him. Joseph glanced behind him; Rogue rested on the bed, also nude, curled up and looking very satisfied. "Nothing. I'm fine."
"Gambit t'ink dat you're not fine."
Careful fingers brushed his face, taking the tears away. Joseph bit down on another wave of tears, the casual gesture of affection almost undoing him. "It's nothing you can do anything about."
"Why don't you let Gambit be de judge of dat?"
"I'm very happy for you and Rogue," Joseph said tightly, trying to keep his emotions leashed long enough to say what he needed to say and get out of there. "I think that I can construct some sort of device so that the two of you can be together without needing me." His voice started to crack, and he forced himself to cut what he was saying short, his words running together as he spoke faster to get them all out before he broke down. "You belong together. I know you'll be happy." He stood, making for the door.
Gambit caught him by the arm, pulling him back. Joseph held still as Gambit put his hands on Joseph's arms, forcing him to look into the other man's eyes. "What you t'ink? Dat Gambit going t'steal Roguie from you? Non. I wouldn't do dat to you, homme. Gambit promised."
"Then what," Joseph choked out, trying not to hope too hard, "are you doing?"
"Gambit going t'show you how much it means to him dat you give him dis chance wit' Rogue." Red eyes regarded him seriously. "Your problem wit' Rogue is easy t'fix -- Gambit show you how t'get 'round it so dat you and Roguie can be toget'er."
Joseph didn't understand what the Cajun was proposing. "It's all right. I've given up. I know now that you love Rogue and she loves you, and that I'm only in the way."
"You're really upset, aren't you?"
Joseph nodded miserably.
Before he could object, Gambit was steering him toward the bed, and sitting him down on the edge of it. The other man pulled a sheet up over Rogue, covering her bare skin, then sat as well, back against the wall. Gambit opened his arms to Joseph. "C'mere."
In a daze of non-comprehension, Joseph followed the instruction, letting Remy hold him close. A hand stroked his hair, and Joseph wondered what bizarre alternate reality he had stumbled into.
Rogue looked up at them, expression glazed, as though reality was a long distance from where she was now. "Is there a problem, sugah?"
"Non," Gambit replied. "Everyt'ing be all right."
She seemed to accept that, and moved closer, settling into them until the three of them were jumbled together, Joseph sprawled half-over Gambit, leaning against him, while Rogue curled up alongside them, face pressed into the pillow Remy had thoughtfully placed between her head and his hip.
Joseph didn't know what he felt, lying there cradled in the other man's arms. Confusion, security, perhaps even affection. It felt good to close his eyes and rest there, breathing in the scent of Gambit's skin.
They laid there in a comfortable silence, until Rogue started to come back and began to notice her surroundings more thoroughly. She wrinkled her nose in perplexment. "Not that Ah have a problem with it, but just what are we all doing here together?"
"Gambit t'ought dat it a good idea if he show de two of you dat not being able to touch doesn't mean dat you can't arouse a man."
Rogue's eyebrows went up. "And why do you want to do that?"
"'Cause you tol' me dat de reason you be unhappy wit' Joseph is dat you don't know dat he wants you. Gambit t'ink dat you're wrong, an' he t'ink dat he can prove it."
"How?" Rogue challenged him.
"Gambit show you if you want."
She looked at Joseph, who nodded shakily. The world was a terrible and confusing place, but if Rogue wanted this, and if anything could get him closer to Rogue, then he was all for it. For a moment, his mind wondered about Gambit, and whether Joseph had made the right choices to begin with, but he skittered away from that thought and back to the now desperate hope that this situation might somehow be put right.
Gambit pushed on Joseph's shoulders, guiding him to lie down on the bed next to Rogue, as he himself slipped out of the bed. "Just a moment." He got up, pulled on a robe, then left the room.
Joseph laid there, alone with Rogue, looking at her. He brought up the magnetic shield so that he could reach out and brush her hair back from her face. She was so beautiful, and at the moment, she looked happy, something he'd always wanted her to be. He'd thought he'd brought her a certain sort of peace in his arms before, and perhaps that was true, but she had never found this kind of incandescent happiness with him. He resolved to accept whatever Gambit was offering, and then leave. For Rogue's sake. For his own. He tried not to think about Gambit.
Remy returned with a pair of Rogue's gloves, and then went through his own clothing, emerging with a white silk scarf. "Perfect."
He approached the bed, and handed the gloves to Rogue, who put them on. "These are silk, Remy."
"You noticed!" The Cajun pretended to pout. "And dis is another piece of silk."
"What am Ah supposed ta do with this?" she asked dubiously. "Ah've been able to touch people using gloves for years, and Ah already know that's not what Ah want. How is this gonna be any different?"
"Trust Gambit, p'tite."
"Hah! That's a joke." She smiled at him, taking the sting from her words.
He bowed his head in acknowledgement of the hit, then knelt back. "Joseph, you just lie dere and enjoy yourself. You don't need t'do not'ing." He looked at Rogue. "An' you, chere, are going t'touch him. All over. An' see dat you really do have an effect on him."
"But Ah can't -- we can't have sex," she protested.
"Don't worry 'bout dat. Gambit don't t'ink dat'll be a problem. But if it is, he promise dat he'll take care of it."
"Ah hope you know what you're doing, sugah." She sat up, sheet spilling over her, and looked down at Joseph.
"You really don't have to do this," Joseph said, nervous and uncomfortable. He had the sickening feeling that Rogue felt obligated to him in some way because he'd given her time with her lover. The alternate explanation, that he was being used as some sort of lesson in how to arouse a man did not appeal to him either.
"But Ah want to."
Joseph stared at her helplessly, then gave in. He couldn't refuse Rogue. "As you will."
She giggled, and he felt a smile forming on his own face. Perhaps this would be all right.
Twenty minutes later, naked, and arching from her touch, he felt as though he would die at any moment. Rogue had touched him everywhere, as if memorializing his body, leaving no patch of skin neglected. The silk gloves made her hands even softer than they were naturally, a sensation that only added to his torment. He had hardened only a short time after she had begun touching him -- only a subconscious response that this was Rogue and that he should not react to her had held him at bay, and once he was able to struggle past that, all of the old desire he had felt for Rogue from the first came surging back.
If she had done this earlier, if he had not already achieved orgasm earlier with Remy, he would have already ejaculated, unable to take the sensual teasing on top of the toll his weeks of forced restraint had imposed upon him.
But he had already had one orgasm, and his body seemed capable of stretching this out an infinite amount of time, as long as he remained deprived of direct contact with the part of him that wanted it the most.
The scarf floated down over his face, and he focused on Rogue's lips and hair as she bent down to kiss him through the thin, sheer silk. He wanted to take her head in his hands and hold her, but did not dare. He could hardly concentrate on his own thoughts for more than a moment at a time, much less the magnetic shield that he would need to protect himself against Rogue's powers.
"So," a drawling voice asked from the other end of the bed, "do you b'lieve now dat de man wants you?"
Rogue pulled away from Joseph, and he moaned a little at being deprived of contact with her.
"Ah *think* so."
Remy's laugh was as rich and rippling as it had been the night before, and Joseph felt as much caressed by it as he did by Rogue's hands. "C'mere, chere, and look at dis."
Unlike Rogue, Gambit had no restraints on how he could touch Joseph. Now, he leaned his hip and part of his torso against Joseph's thigh, winking at the other man before returning to grinning at Rogue.
Joseph drew in his breath sharply at that warm contact. Gambit's body was touching his, and even through the other man's robe, he could feel heat spreading from the Cajun to him. A heat that was missing from Rogue's teasing touch. She was cautious about how she touched him, even with the sheet between their bodies -- and that was the best thing for all of them -- but it left him exposed and without much in the way of physical reassurance. The kind of physical reassurance that Gambit was now giving him unthinkingly, casually. *I must have some twistedness buried in my psyche that the first woman I fall in love with is someone whom I can't fully touch. When I can touch her, I have to be emotionally closed off to do it. When she touches me, we're separated by a different kind of barrier. Of space as much as silk. What does this say about me, or about the man I really am, but can't remember?*
Silk trailed over his erection, a whisper soft caress that could only have come from the scrap of silk. Joseph raised his head to see Gambit demonstrating on him to what effect that item could be used.
Rogue giggled, and took the scarf, imitating Gambit's actions and giggling more when Joseph's penis bobbed in response to that tantalizing touch.
She hardly seemed to realize that he was there at all. Joseph wondered how much more he could take of being a sexual experiment. Then the silk wrapped around his erection, and his head fell back onto the bed, as he forgot about thought and concentrated on sensation, thrusting into that elusive caress.
His hands clutched at the bed, and one of them was taken in a strong grip and held. Flesh against flesh. Gambit.
His need for physical contact met, Joseph relaxed into the tension then, letting it build as it would. The silk slipped against his skin, tantalizing him without giving him enough contact to give him any hope of actually finding any release this way.
Conversation went on around him, and he took no notice of it.
"Now what do Ah do, Remy?"
"'Pends on what you want t'do, chere. T'ink dat Joseph appreciate just about whatever you want t'do."
"Like what?"
A laugh. "Like dis." A hand stroked his penis, touching him lightly, yet more firmly than the scrap of silk fabric ever could, sliding along his hot, stretched skin.
A silk-clad hand joined it, and his hips rocked with the motion of the two hands touching him. They explored him, tested his textures and his reactions, seeing what kind of groans they could draw from him.
But there was no rhythm. No steady pressure, and he found himself opening his mouth to beg, "Please... finish it. Please..."
He didn't hear the reply, if there were a reply. All Joseph knew was that the touch stopped entirely, and he cried out, in frustration and pain. "No! -- Please... you have to... let me..."t;
"Now do you b'lieve dat he wants you?" Gambit's dark voice asked.
"Ah think Ah do," came Rogue's wondering voice.
"D' you want t'give de man what he wants, chere? 'Cause he does want it, b'lieve me, he does."
"Ah don't think Ah could," she said, glancing doubtfully at Joseph's erection. "Ah mean, Ah thought I could when we started this. But Ah've never... well..."
"Know what you mean -- but you sure? Gambit t'ink dat the man appreciate your attention."
"Please, Remy--" she said, anxiety in her voice. "This is just all too much for me. Ah--" she blushed, "--just barely lost my virginity and this is..."
Joseph registered the anguish in Rogue's voice, in the voice of the woman who had just brought him to this state of need. Desire to finish this encounter in any way possible warred with the need to comfort her. "Rogue! It's all... right," he interrupted, panting. He sat up, trying to reach out to her. "I... I'll be fine. You don't have to do anything. I don't mind."
Rogue's expression became more pained as she recoiled from him.
Gambit intervened. "Non, Joseph. You don't have t'do dat. Gambit take care of you. An'--" he addressed himself to Rogue, "de man so desperate dat he offering to forget dat you got him all riled up. Take dat as a compliment, chere, 'cause it is."
Joseph looked between them both, mind still too overwhelmed by his body's needs to be able to follow Gambit's thought-process. His expression was full of fear and attenuated desire. "Please... I'll be okay--"
"Yes, you will," Gambit said, gently pushing him back down onto the bed. "You be just fine. Let Gambit help you out."
And then that marvelous mouth was once again on his penis, and Joseph forgot about Rogue. Forgot about his offer to stop wanting. Forgot about everything but the fulfillment that was rushing through him.
He cradled Gambit's head in his hands, hardly aware of doing so, fingers combing through the mop of red-brown hair. He did not grab or demand -- this was a gift, and he knew it, if he could know anything at all at that moment.
There was no build-up in tension, no warning. One moment, the unbearable agony of wanting held him -- the next, his world was a sharp vastness of release, the sensation like pain, but the kind of pain that he needed now. Joseph held his breath as the feeling lasted longer than he thought it could possibly last, then exhaled in panting gasps as it passed through him. He shivered, trembling with his reaction to that climax as Gambit continued his attentions until Joseph had become nothing more than a boneless, unresisting puddle of flesh on the bed.
Remy moved up, grinning. "Trust me, chere, he wanted dat bad." He made as if to lie down on Rogue's other side so that the woman would be between the two men, but Joseph roused himself enough to protest, grabbing Remy's arm to tug him down.
Gambit raised his eyebrows. "What you want, cher?"
Joseph couldn't speak yet, couldn't articulate his thoughts. But he knew what he needed. He tugged again, and Gambit acquiesced, coming to lie between a sheet-clad Rogue and Joseph. Joseph found the strength to curl up against Gambit, then collapsed, tugging at the robe Gambit had donned earlier until he felt the reassuring warmth of bare skin against his, and knowing that this was where he wanted to be.
Not with Rogue.
The thought should have bothered him, but at the moment, nothing could bother him.
"Thank you," Joseph said, slipping into sleep.
Gambit regarded him with a tender smile. "You're welcome, mon ami."
Rogue was wide-eyed. "Wow. Ah didn't know that was possible." She blushed. "Ah mean, Ah know it's possible, but Ah didn't know Ah could do that to someone."
Remy's smile turned to Rogue, becoming broader, a caricature of a leer. "You can do lots of things, p'tite. Remind me to show you all of dem."
"Today?" she squeaked.
He grinned. "Gambit hadn't planned on dat, but seein' as how he's in bed wit' an apparent nymphomaniac, guess he doesn't have a lot of choice."
"Why, Ah ought to..."
His grin grew wider. "No need t'use force on me, chere. Unless you like dat kind of t'ing."
She glared at him and nestled under his arm, protected from contact with his skin both by the sheet and his robe. "Just shut your mouth, Cajun. Before Ah forget that Ah like you."
Gambit was about to drift off as well when Rogue asked sleepily, "So why is Joseph sleeping next to you and not me?"
Discretion was the better part of valor, wasn't it? Remy pretended to be asleep, and in a few short breaths, the pretense was the truth as he, too, fell into an exhausted, sated slumber.




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