Belle’s voice was strained and tinny as the voicemail rang through the reception hall. Frustration ran through her words.
“Remy, chere, I’m sorry. I can’t do this anymore. We both know this ain’t what we want.”
Bobby sighed heavily, his breath catching in the microphone. His words sound tired and resigned, as if this is a conversation he's been putting off for too long.
“Rogue, we need to talk. We both know we don’t want this. This isn’t good for either of us.”
Remy raised his hand and the bartender nodded. As early as it was, the bar near the terminal was the busiest spot in the airport. It was a comfort to know he wasn’t the only one trying to get drunk between flights, though he was probably the only one at the bar who’d been left before he’d ever made it to the alter.
After a twenty minutes wait, the bartender set a full glass in front of him. Remy held up his hand for another knowing this drink wouldn't make it another fifteen minutes.
“Shot’a Maker’s,” a voice said from his right, catching both men’s attention. “Please,” the woman added as she took a seat.
If he listened enough he could almost hear the hint of Ol’ Man River in her voice. That wasn’t striking in this part of the world, but her white bangs certainly were.
The fifty laid out on the counter in front of her made the shot appear out of thin air and she downed the amber liquid just as quick. In the time it took for Remy’s next drink to arrive the woman was already on her second Scarlett O’Hara.
“Might wan’ slow down there. They won’t let you get on the plane if you’re too drunk,” Remy said as he sipped at his own bourbon.
“Fuck off, cajun,” she snarled. She downed the rest of her drink and stalked away before he could say anything else.
He watched with amusement as she melted into the ever growing crowd of travelers. For a few moments he wondered what had put her into such a bad mood until his fingers itched for another cigarette. He’d kicked the habit as an early wedding present, but now with the slow crawl of bourbon through his blood and no reason to quiet the urge had come back with a vengeance.
Remy scrubbed his fingertips along his jeans, the woman forgotten as quickly as she’d appeared.
“Whadday mean you can’t refund the ticket?” Rogue asked the woman at the counter. “It ain’t gonna be used either way, and we both know ya’ve got a standby list. You’ve been calling for it ever since I sat down.”
The woman behind the counter frowned and typed something on her computer. “I’m sorry, ma'am, but we have a seven day cancellation policy. Perhaps if Mr. Drake had called last week -”
“Last week my piece of shit ex was still planning on comin’ with me until he decided to break up over a voicemail,” Rogue hissed. The ticket crumpled in her hand, it's sharp edges bringing things back into focus. She sighed and ran a hand down her face. Seven a.m. anywhere was too much to deal with this, let alone in an airport. “I’m sorry. That was out of line. It’s been a long week for me and that’s no reason to take it out on you. Is there anything you can do?”
The woman gave her a pitying look and shook her head. “If I could I would, baby. They won’t even let us cancel for family emergencies. Normally I could offer you an upgrade, but that gentleman over there took the last spot in first class.”
“I understand. Thanks anyway,” Rogue said with a forced smile. She picked up her carry on and made her way through the people milling about the gate.
Remy fought back a yawn as he waited in the boarding queue. The line shuffled forward and he scratched his cheek, rough with a week’s worth of stubble. Maybe when they landed he’d finally get back to his normal grooming habits. Or maybe he’d decide to give it all up and go full Hemingway, living on the beach and soaking his sorrows away in whiskey and women. It wasn’t as if he had much of a reason to go back now. For now he wasn’t planning on spending more than a few moments sober for the next two weeks, and with a little luck, he wouldn’t be spending it alone.
“Thank you for flying Southern Express. We welcome you aboard,” the stewardess said with a smile.
He handed her his ticket with a grin. “And thank you for bein’ so welcoming.”
She beamed back and he chuckled. Still had it after a half decade being stuck with Belle. As he walked through the door he was hit with harsh sunlight and he raised his hand to block the light. He must have had more whiskey than he'd realized; his eyes hadn't been this sensitive since he'd taken that cure. Old habits died hard, and for that he was grateful as he slipped an old pair of shades. He shuffled down the jetway after an older couple until he came to his seat. Opening the overhead compartment he found it already full.
“There’s room in the back if you’d like to store that,” a stewardess said behind him.
“For such a belle feme, don’t think I’d mind where you put it.” The woman flushed and Remy winked despite his dark sunglasses. “Just so long as you give it back when we get there.”
The stewardess gave him a coy grin as she took his bag. “Only if you promise to ask nicely.”
“Now where’s the fun in that?”
“I can think of a lot of fun we could have with that,” she told him as she sashayed towards an open overhead bin.
He chuckled and took his seat. A moment of residual guilt ran his thumb over his bare ring finger. He was a free man, no longer chained to Belle’s jealous looks and controlling manner what did it matter anymore? Whiskey at 10 a.m. was no longer frowned upon, nor was shamelessly flirting to get a seat upgrade. It was turning out to be a lot more fun traveling alone than it would have been with Belle. For one he didn’t have to cart around her three suitcases on top of his small one. And there was no one there to keep him in line.
Speaking of. Remy dug into his pocket and pulled out the figurine of the bride he’d stolen at the abruptly cancelled rehearsal dinner. (The groom had been attached to fireworks the day of the wedding, though Henri and Theo would later deny that it was pointed in the direction of Belle’s apartment.) Next to her in his pocket was a small bottle of tequila. He set both on his tray table.
The man across the aisle looked between the figurine and Remy and shook his head. "Whiskey's better for heartbreak."
Remy raised the bottle in a salut before shooting it. "Who said I was heartbroken?"
"Can I get you anything before we take off? Or something for your 'companion'?" the stewardess asked when she came by again, her eyebrow arched in amusment.
"What's the strongest you got?"
With a groan, Rogue pushed against her temples hoping to quell some of this headache. Logan was acting up, again, demanding a cigarette and beer. It was all she could do to keep from cussing aloud at him. To make matters worse the plane hadn’t been in the air more than twenty minutes before a loud cheer came out of first class, the noise echoing around her skull like hammers.
A loud electronic bell came over the intercom as the chirpy hostess said, “A big thank you to Mr. Beau Charmant who has graciously offered a glass of champagne to all our passengers who are of age. We’ll be coming around to serve you shortly.”
The man squeezed in next to Rogue nudged her. “Won’t say no to that, eh?”
“Don’t touch me,” she muttered. She pulled on her headphones and drew the hood of her sweatshirt to block the rest of the plane out.
Just because she was going on this trip didn’t mean she had to be friendly to anyone. After all, this was her vacation away from the forced positivity of the Institute and all the sidelong pitying looks of the other staff. This far south she could blend into the background to become as invisible as she'd always thought she was.
Or at least she would if people could stop annoying her.
“She left you the night before the wedding? By voicemail?” The stewardess clicked her tongue and handed Remy his Jack and coke. “You poor thing.”
“And no matter how hard Remy tried, he couldn’t get his money back for any of it. The rehearsal dinner, the photos, the honeymoon,” he said with a pout.
She reached over to rub his shoulder, nails grazing the back of his shirt. “And you couldn’t find anyone else with you to go to the Keys?”
He shook his head and sighed, relishing the attention. “Non. My brother and his wife refused to go. Said something about needin’ some time to figure things out and take care of myself.”
Even though Henri had been the one to needle him about giving up the vacation - something about the necessity of an early Valentine’s gift after the Christmas debacle - Remy had refused. Agreeing to marry Belle and, worst of all, go through the ordeal of a six year long engagement with her had been altruistic enough. With a honeymoon almost entirely paid for by the Assassin's Guild he'd be a fool to give it up and let Belladonna and her new beau take the trip instead.
This was for Remy and Remy alone, couples trip or not.
“If you get too lonely, I’ll be in Miami for a few days. Everyone says I’m an excellent tour guide,” she said with a wink.
“Thanks, chere. I’ll keep that in mind. He lifted his glass of champagne and sipped it, enjoying the view as she walked away.
The ground beneath her jumped and Rogue was startled awake. She fumbled against the darkness around her eyes only to find the illuminated cabin around her. And if all the people standing up was any indication, they were about to deboard. At least she’d been able to ignore the buzzed chatter for the rest of the plane ride.
While everyone stood to wait on the door to open, Rogue pulled out her phone and waited impatiently as it switched on. Her phone came to life with two new messages and she held her breath only to let it out in a disappointed rush. It was only Logan asking where the hell she was and another from Jubilee asking to borrow her brown boots. It irritated her that she’d hoped that Bobby had called, or texted, or something, while she was in the air.
With a frown Rogue shut off her phone and stood to retrieve her bag.
“Sorry, chere, but I think that’s my bag,” a man said.
Rogue turned to the man from the Atlanta bar. She could spot a bad pick up line a mile away, and this was one of the worse ones.
“And I think you can stick it up -”
Her words were cut off as he reached around her and pulled out two identical bags.
“You were sayin’?”
“Eat me, Swamp Thing,” she snarled.
“With this many people watchin’? Not much of an exhibitionist, but if you’re up for it -”
Rogue yanked her bag from his hands and stalked out of the plane only to get caught behind an older couple inching their way up to the gate. She glanced behind her, ready for a fight, but found the man on the phone speaking in Cajun French. He was distracted enough to have forgotten about her entirely. It wasn’t until she reached the terminal that Rogue was able to get around the older couple, eager to get to baggage claim and get this damned trip over with.
Remy couldn’t help but laugh at the odds of meeting such a grumpy woman twice in one day. Whoever had pissed her off had a storm coming. But if anything could cure a bad mood, it was sunshine and Florida was more than full of that. Or at least, it normally was. He leaned over to look out the window at the grey, wet tarmac.
The dreary landscape didn’t do much to burst the bubble of alcohol-induced happiness. If anything it reminded him that Belle would have complained the whole time. Speaking of…
He downed what was left of the bottle of champagne as he walked off the airplane. He set the empty bottle on a waiting custodial cart and pulled out his phone. No message from her, but then again he hadn’t expected one. When Belle wanted to hit a man in the heart, she never missed. It was once something he’d morbidly admired; now it just left with bitterness and anger about losing so much time playing her game.
Before he could rethink it, he’d punched in her phone number and listened as it rang through. When it went to voicemail, he’d said what he’d wanted to say for over a decade.
“Ah, Belle. Just landed in Florida and it’s even better than you’d said it would be. Bright sunshine, pretty women, and good whisky. I’ll make sure to get one of those lime pies you like so much. Oh, and one more thing. Sas e tu y Bras mon cheu,” he said cheerfully as he reached the atrium.
He stood at the gate, trying to figure out which way was baggage claim, only for a familiar magenta flash to envelope the phone. Remy stared at it, inspecting it from all angles. It still worked and there was no damage to the casing, and especially telling was a lack of interest from the rest of the airport. Nothing to indicate a return of his mutation. So why had he seen one?
Remy rubbed his eyes and made for a nearby coffee shop. It had to be mixing tequila and whiskey; why else would he be seeing things. Too much whiskey, he thought. Why else would he be seeing things?
Latte in hand, Remy couldn't help but grin as he came to the escalator that lead down to the baggage claim. Today had almost been good enough to make up for the past month. If nothing else he still had a nice buzz to remind him he was here for a good time, not for a pity vacation. He whistled softly as he made his way down the escalator.
To his joy the girl from the bar was making her way down the stairs just to his right, the scowl still etched on her face. He had to admit he was impressed with her ability to hang onto that bad mood like an expired coupon. He was so entertained watching her that he stumbled his way off the escalators and into the baggage claim area, spilling what little was left of his coffee.
A giggle came from behind him and he turned to find an eight year old boy smiling at him. Remy smiled back and pulled a pack of well-worn cards from his pocket. While waiting he shuffled the cards and his movements became flashier the longer he waited. A bell signaled the first of the baggage and he started despite himself. The cards spilled onto the floor and he found himself looking at an impromptu game of 52 Card Pickup.
Along with the boy's laughter came a snort of amusement behind him. He turned and found the woman leaning against the post behind him. Remy stood far too quickly for his booze-addled brain to compensate for and he found himself tumbling into the baggage claim. This time the girl laughed. Her eyes brightened at the sight of him moving along the conveyor along with the rest of the baggage and he almost thought he was looking at a new woman.
“This is a car rental place, right?” the woman from the bar asked, more than a little peeved. “So how can you be outta cars?”
The sales clerk barely flinched at her sharp tone. “All of our cars have been reserved. Perhaps you should try one of the other companies.
“I did, and they’re all sold out,” she told him. “How else am I supposed to get down to Key West?”
The clerk shrugged, unmoved by her frustration.
Remy felt a twinge of pity for both of them - one for seemingly having bad luck follow them around, and the other for working in the service industry in an airport. He stepped up to the counter and handed over his reservation information.
“I need to pick up my rental car,” he said, “but I’m afraid I might have drank a little too much. Is there anyway my friend can drive for me?” He gestured towards the woman who stepped back away from him.
“Certainly. We’ll just need a copy of her ID and several signatures from you. There’s an up charge of thirty dollars a day,” the agent said. He continued to rattle off information as he pulled out a new stack of papers and handed them to Remy.
“Bon. Do you take MasterCard?” he asked as he pulled out the woman’s wallet and handed over her card and her ID along with his own.
“Now wait a just’a minute -” she began to protest.
He turned to her and leaned against the counter. His elbow just missed it and he stumbled to catch himself. The clerk tapped his pen on the papers in front of him.
“There’s a line.”
Remy nodded towards the side and, thankfully, to woman followed him. “You want a ride, don’t you?”
“Thanks but no thanks,” she said. She walked towards the exit, her suitcase rolling after her. “Stranger danger, ‘member?”
“Suit yourself, chere,” he said as he dropped onto the nearest bench. “But Remy got the last card and he still needs a driver. And you won’t get far without your wallet.”
The woman stopped to pat her pockets down. She spun around and stalked back towards him.
“Ya’ ga'damn gater bait, where the hell’s my wallet?”
He tsked and wagged a finger at her. “Language. There’s children about. And you wouldn’t want to corrupt such innocent minds.”
She snatched her wallet from his hand and turned back towards her suitcase. “Innocent my ass,” she muttered.
Well that didn’t go according to plan. He glanced around, looking for another mark, but only found families and old couples gathered about. They were both stuck, and he knew it.
“Wait, chere,” he said loudly as he stood to chase after her.
To his relief she stopped just outside the exit. He held out her ID and the credit card he’d slipped out of the wallet. She eyed him and pulled out her wallet to make sure nothing else was missing.
“I’d say thanks, but I’m pretty sure you stole it in the first place.” She slipped the cards into her wallet and crossed her arms, likely waiting for an apology.
“Look. We’re both in a bad spot here,” he started. She raised an eyebrow in disbelief. “I don’t want to wait four hours to sober up, and you don’t have a way to get down to Key West, unless you want to pay more for a taxi than you did for the plane ticket.”
She bit her lip and looked away.
“You drive me down there, no strings attached. Then we go our separate ways.”
The woman looked him up and down in a way that made him feel as if she was wondering how hard it would be to take him out.
After a while she nodded. “Only as long as you let me send all your information to a friend of mine. And no more funny business.”
Remy clapped his hands together. “D'accord. Now, how about we find out if they’ve still got that sports car available,” he said as he handed her an I.D. with a name that did most definitely did not belong him.