A/N This is going to be little more than a one shot, not sure how much more, we will see. Reviews are appreciated.
He'd seen every possible type of vulnerability out there, and he was slightly ashamed (though he'd never admit it) to say that he'd used that knowledge more than once. He'd seen every type of pain, longing and desire. He had a knack for seeing the vulnerability in the women that passed through the seedy bar that he spent so much time at, a knack that'd he'd honed into a finely tuned skill through time and practice.
As soon as a woman sauntered in, he could tell what she was running from. He knew victims of unfaithful lovers from the girls with daddy issues, from though with an addiction to sex, drugs, or "love". He had separate approaches for each case. He knew every story by heart. "I'm not pretty enough," or "I thought he loved me". He didn't even have to try anymore. Sure, there was the occasional snappy one with illusions of moral outrage, but with some softly muttered French and reassurances that everything she felt meant she was a strong and capable woman, they bent to his will.
In reality, the lifestyle was getting fairly monotonous for him. It wasn't boring, he still had a hell of a time, drinking, cards, and women, "boring" wasn't applicable. Certain nights though, the Cajun felt restless.
It was a Friday night like any other. Gambit sat in his dark corner of the bar, observing the night's patrons. The blonde woman at the end of the bar in a too-tight red dress was a few years past her prime, but defiantly refusing to accept that the bar scene wasn't where she belonged. He slid his eyes to the next seat occupied by a female. Redhead, slutty school girl/babysitter look. Daddy issues. Next. Mid thirties, fruity drink and wandering eyes, cheated on, revenge hunting. A few seats down was the typical, bar-hopping, scantily clad "woman", just looking for a fun night. And already surrounded by no less than six patrons. Boring, no challenge.
He sighed, absentmindedly shuffling his cards. His friend came to sit opposite him and with a grin, Gambit began to deal.
Throughout the next hour or so, a few other women drifted in an hour, making the choices they would regret the next day. Normally, he didn't care if he was that bad choice. If not him, they'd find someone else, so it might as well be him. They wanted an answer to their stress, who was he to argue? But tonight, the routine of it had lost its appeal. The classic, easy to read stories. The same personality stamped on every woman over and over. That's why, when he caught sight over his opponent's shoulder of her walking in, he was instantly intrigued.
It wasn't just that she was beautiful, though of course that helped. Her thick brown hair was effortlessly pulled back with wisps of silver white streaks free around her face. She motioned to the bartender and seconds later, a shot of whiskey appeared in front of her. She downed it, quickly followed by a second, then a third.
He cocked his head to the side, puzzled. He couldn't get a read on her, and that alone drew him to her. She didn't send off any of the desperate vibes most women in the bar tended to exude. In fact, she stared straight ahead, playing with a bottle cap between her fingers, not trying to display herself for any man in the bar to claim. Yet claim her they tried.
Her curves were encased in simple jeans and a black jacket which in addition to her natural beauty were more than enough to draw attention. After shooting down the eighth guy, the other men got the idea and the stool next to her remained empty.
So, she wasn't one of the desperate women, looking for anything with a pulse, the Cajun noted. She could be one of those who simply came in looking to drown her sorrows, but he definitely wasn't picking that up either. This was a woman with pride, this one wasn't succeeding in degrading herself in a last ditch effort to feel special.
That left her as running. Though she wasn't running out of fear, he didn't think, though that was all he could tell for sure. The fact that he couldn't pick anything up off of the mysterious vixen fueled him like nothing else in recent memory had. He excused himself from his corner table and crossed the bar, settling himself on the stool next to her.
She didn't look around at the sudden presence beside her, just continued to mindlessly play with the bottle cap. This close, he could see he had been wrong, this creature was gorgeous. He drank next to her in silence for a few minutes, feeling the tension come off her in waves, despite her strong exterior.
"Y' shouldn't be here," he finally said. She glanced over, surprised.
"Excuse me?" she asked. The side of his mouth quirked in pleasure at hearing her slight southern drawl. Now that she turned, he could see the bright green of her eyes.
"Y' shouldn't be here," Gambit repeated.
"And why's that?" she asked, raised a doubtful and slightly amused eyebrow at him.
"Y' don't belong." The eyebrow just rose higher. "Y' see," he said, turning to face her, "the lady behind me, low shirt, big earrings? Hooker. T' my right? Addict. Far corner, looking for some meaningless one night sex. Y' don't belong. Y're like an apple in a bucket o' Brussels sprouts."
She snorted at this, glancing at all the women he'd mentioned. She shrugged. "Maybe I'm just new to the bar scene."
"Nope," Gambit said, facing the bar again. "Y' turned all those men down with a practiced hand, and y' know how to drink. Y' ain't new."
She just shrugged again. "Looks like ya just got all the answers."
"Not all," he disagreed.
"Well we can't always get everything we want, can we?" she said, and he barely registered the sadness in her voice.
"Never can," he agreed. They sat in silence for awhile longer before he spoke again. "Your problems aren't as petty as the people's here."
Her eyes dropped to the bar and he was pleased to see he was getting somewhere. Where exactly, he wasn't sure since he wasn't positive where he wanted to ultimately end up with her. He didn't know what was driving him, but he knew he needed to know more of this enigma next to him.
"What're y' runnin' from?" he asked. She flinched and something in his chest hurt to see it, almost making him wish he could take it back.
"Not really from," she said, cautiously. Her accent was getting slightly more pronounced the longer he talked to her.
"Nothing. Runnin' nowhere from nothin'," she said. She gave a harsh laugh. "I actually have no idea what I'm doing."
Gambit frowned, wondering what could possibly make the obviously strong woman next to him unsure of anything. Her tension rose, he didn't know why but he had to touch her. He moved a hand to touch her gloved one, and she jerked in response, nearly uprooting herself from her seat.
"What, chère?" the Cajun asked, alarmed at this response.
"I'm sorry," she muttered quickly, looking back down at the bottle cap in her hands. "People…people don't like to touch me."
"Why?" he frowned, and realized he was genuinely curious. He suddenly had a hunch, though he wasn't prepared to ask her.
"I hurt them…" she accidently muttered. "I don't mean to, it just…happens." He leaned forward at that. Another mutant?
"Is it y'r..abilities causing y' troubles?" he tried. Her mouth dropped open and he had to lunge to catch the shot glass she dropped before it shattered on the floor.
"How'd ya know?"
"Takes on t' know one," he said, dipping his sunglasses to give her a view of his red on black eyes. She stared, transfixed until he slipped the shades back on. With a start, he realized he hasn't done that with any of the typical women he ended up with at night.
"They're beautiful," he heard her breathe. Then she straightened up, flustered. "Sorry. I know guys tend to get cranky when you call 'em beautiful." He laughed fully, for the first time in a long time, managing to elicit a small laugh from her. The sound drew a smile from him.
"I took the cure," she said suddenly, before she knew it. "I wanted – needed – to be able to touch people without them being terrified I'd zap the life from them."
Gambit nodded, slowly. He could easily identify with the desire for normalcy and fearlessness from others. His one night stands never saw his face without the glasses, and that was exactly why…"It's understandable. When the cure turned out t' be phony?"
"Then I forced myself to figure out control. It took so much time, but I did it." He couldn't understand why she didn't say this with joy.
"That's good, right? It's what y' wanted?"
"Yeah," she said, spinning the bottle cap. "Except they're all still too scared to touch me." He stared. He didn't understand, out of all the women in the bar, this one next to him had the biggest night to anger and desperation, but under the pain and undeniable danger she possessed was so much…life.
"Chère," he said, quietly. She spun the bottle cap more. He took her gloved hand gently in his. "Chère," he said again. She stilled at the contact. "I don't know," he said slowly, tugging at her glove, "what kinds of people y' hang around with," the glove slid off her hand, "but I don't have the faintest idea," he ran his fingers over her hand and up her arm in a slow repetitive pattern, "why none of them would ache to touch y'."
He was pleased to see her shudder under his touch, though not in a bad way. Her eyes were closed, lips half parted, as if memorizing the sensation of his hands, like it would never happen again. He used this time to study her tempting face before moving his free hand up to her cheek. Her emerald eyes flew open in shock as he ran his thumb along her cheekbone, making its way down her jaw line before brushing over her lips and travelling down her neck. He leaned closer, until the tip of his nose brushed hers. She shivered.
"Chère," he whispered against her lips. "Y' don't belong here." He pressed his mouth against hers. At first, she didn't respond and he feared he'd pressed his luck too far, but her hand wrapped more securely around his, and she kissed him back, feverishly. They released for air and she gasped.
"Then where do you think I belong?" she managed to get out a few seconds later. He was amazed that it had been so long since someone had simply touched this girl's hand, simply kissed her.
"This, this is the storm drain, filled with the city's run off and trash," he said. "Y' need to be somewhere else."
"That an offer, Cajun?" she asked, raising a doubtful eyebrow. He played lightly with her fingers before raising them and kissing the back of her hand.
"Come with me, chère."
She didn't know why, but she knew she had to go with him. There was some undeniable draw the Cajun has, and ignoring everything she'd ever known, and everything Logan had told her, she took his offered hand and followed.