No Longer Cold

By Jessie

Summary: Bobby proves his love. Rogue remembers what it was like not to be alone. Rogue/Bobby, with some Rogue/Wolverine bonding for good measure.

Rating: R (for adult situations and death, just to be safe)

Disclaimer: X-Men, it's characters and situations do not belong to me. No profit is being made by this story; no harm is intended.

Archiving: Please ask first, otherwise this story can be found at www.fanfiction.net and at www.angelfire.com/home/ideano8.

Author's Note: First off- a warning. This piece deals with character death, so if that's not your cup of tea I suggest you turn back now. Secondly, this is my first X-Men fanfic and also the first fanfic that I've written for a movie. Which means that I'm not entirely sure what I'm doing, or really why I wrote this, other than I love the X-Men, I love the movies, and Shawn Ashmore is freaking adorable. And all of this is just my long-winded way of saying please enjoy and go easy on me since I'm new to these parts.

Feedback, by the way, would be wonderful. (And might just encourage me to write something a little happier next time) Please let me know what you think.

***

He was dead.

That's how her story always began. Whenever one of the children pestered her to come and play, or the other adults told her to try smiling a little more, she'd ask them if they'd like to hear a story. Most of the time they'd just nod their heads and she would take in a small breath before beginning, holding it in her lungs for as long as possible. Holding it in her like it might hold her together. Or like it was that one thing that was constant in her life- the air she breathed- and that was worth holding onto.

He was dead, she'd say. And sometimes they'd swallow and sit down next to her to hear the rest. Sometimes they'd just nod their heads again, already aware of what she was about to tell them, and apologize for bothering her. They'd leave her alone and she'd smile sadly. Always alone. More alone than any of them could comprehend. Even after all this time, she was still trying to convince herself that she preferred it that way.

But she was young yet. Only twenty-three now. She had time to work on the lie. It was one of only two things she did anymore. She tried to lie to herself about how the world really worked- hoping this time the fantasy about enjoying the solitude would take- and she told her story. If no one was around to hear it, and more and more often this had become the case, she'd tell it to herself. She'd pretend that there was some one else in the room, a habit she picked up a long time ago, and she'd go over everything up until that point.

He was dead. And she couldn't move. Not at first, anyway. Not for a while. For the first few moments she couldn't even open her eyes. She just clung to him, pressed her skin against his in contact that had been all too uncommon when he was alive. The most unfair part of the entire thing, she thought right then, was that she could only touch him freely in death. Her next thought- the more powerful of the two so far- was no. No, this was not happening. No, this had not happened. No, she was not letting go.

"Please, Sweetie. We have to leave."

The voice came as if from a distance and she ignored it. She couldn't move even if she wanted to. She was frozen in place. Every muscle, every nerve ending, every atom she laid claim to, was as cold and stiff as he was. Like ice.

There was movement around her. She could sense it more than feel or hear it. She couldn't feel or hear much through the cold. She didn't want to anyway. She only wanted to feel the cold. His cold. She wanted to stay frozen.

"Come on, Kid." The new voice was gruff but hesitant. Its bearer swallowed and put a hand out to rest on her shoulder. It was the first thing she really felt, and it sparked the heat that melted away whatever had kept her eyes shut.

She opened them slowly. Painfully.

"Rogue." The voice said again, but this time she could see, though it was somewhat blurry, who was speaking. "It's time to go."

Her vision cleared and she stared at Logan for a long while. Perhaps hours. Perhaps days. His hand gripped her shoulder tighter and she felt a little more of the cold seep from her body and from the body she held.

"I..." She tried to talk but her words caught in her throat. At the sound of her voice, however, Logan leaned in closer and Ororo came up from behind him to listen. "I can't."

It was true. Her body had absorbed too much of Iceman's power before he'd died. She hadn't been able to control it, and hadn't wanted to. She really was frozen, she realized without emotion. It wasn't anything like ice that kept her and the body she held stiff and immobile, it was actual ice.

Wolverine stood up and stepped back, looking over the pair surprised. Storm's own shock was apparent in her features. Neither knew what to do. But Wolverine, as he so often did, acted before thinking it through much further. He bent down again to Rogue and touched her exposed flesh with his own. Instantly his heartbeat raced with the pain and the girl's pale skin warmed. Melted.

Still, she held fast to the boy in her arms.

"Rogue." Wolverine pulled his hand away, only slightly out of breath from the contact. Rogue moved her head, ever so slowly, to look up at him. The cold was gone. She wanted to cry. To scream. The cold was gone. The cold was gone.

The body she held was still cool to the touch, though. She clung to it for a few more moments, her own body heat warming wherever she touched. She hated that warmth. Cursed it silently. Cursed everything and every one silently, including the man and woman in front of her who were urging her to come with them. Including the lifeless body she held. Including herself.

And then, not knowing she could, she let go.

Three years later she sat in the study and remembered that last time she had held him. She stared at the tree branches outside the window and remembered, too, the last time he had held her in return. The last time he had kissed her. The last time she'd felt actual companionship.

"I'm not going anywhere." He'd said. She didn't usually tell this part of the story. Instead, she let the memories sit around her, once in awhile sharing them with that imaginary figure sitting beside her. The one she'd been making up for years now in a half-hearted attempt at ridding herself of the loneliness. Sometimes, she'd imagine that they would touch. It was never as good as the real thing.

"I'm not going anywhere." He said the words in that cool, strong voice that gave her chills no matter whether he was actually using his powers or not. Rogue dipped her head, trying to hide how this statement affected her. Most of her was overjoyed that he would say this, but somewhere inside her there was a part of her that knew better. They'd never be able to touch like they wanted to. They'd never be able to be as close as they wanted. She couldn't let him waste his youth on her.

"Bobby," she said- pleaded- and looked up as she did. "You know this won't ever be what you want it to. You deserve..."

"Better?" He asked. She looked him in the eyes seriously and didn't need to nod or speak to communicate that yes, that's exactly what she'd been about to say. The young man looked back at her just as seriously. "Don't you know?" He said. "I couldn't do better than you."

He leaned in slowly then, not needing to go far as they were already standing so close, and Rogue moved back a little. He stopped. She looked up at him again with pain in her eyes and told him what she always told him. What she'd been telling him for an entire year now. "I don't want to hurt you."

His line was just as well rehearsed. He was supposed to say "you won't," and then lean in and steal a quick kiss despite her inhibitions. Just a quick one. This was the dialogue they had whenever they tried to be close. But this time, he changed the rules. This time he didn't say the standard line. He just held her gaze firmly and said, for the first time, "I don't care."

He kissed her passionately then. And he held her in his arms, letting skin touch skin, consequences be damned. Even as the pain took hold of him, even as he felt his powers and his life and that ice cold center of himself drain away into her, he held on and just kissed her all the more passionately. As if that passion might stop the pain.

It didn't, though. Nothing really could, he knew, except for pulling away. But that was the last thing he wanted to do. After an eternity of holding her, kissing her, touching her, he finally fell to the floor. Rogue's eyes widened and she dropped to her knees beside him, frantically trying to wake him up. She felt cold all over, but it was a good kind of a cold. A comforting cold. An icy chill that started from the inside out instead of the other way around. When she breathed, she breathed air so cold she could see it hang in the air. When she put her hand on the floor to steady herself, a circle of frost developed even through the gloves she was wearing.

Bobby didn't wake up until the next day. A little weaker, but otherwise okay. Rogue was furious with him, but whenever she tried to bring up the fact he just told her it didn't matter.

"You could have died." She told him.

He gave her a cocky, half-smile. "It was worth it."

A week later he did it again. And, again, Marie couldn't help but get caught up in the kiss. In the absorption of his powers, his thoughts, and feelings. He loved her too much, and every time he touched her she could feel it just as strongly as he did, and that feeling was intoxicating.

Again, he fell unconscious to the floor after holding on for far too long. A tear raced down her cheek as she yelled for help. It turned to ice before it fell to the floor.

Bobby woke up the next day. He was given a stern talking to by Ororo before he was allowed to leave the clinic that time. And then another one from Dr. Xavier, who pulled him out of class a few hours later. And yet another one from Logan that night in the kitchen over sodas. They all consisted of the same thing, he told Rogue later on, when she asked: Don't press your luck. Some things aren't meant to be. You have to look out for your own well-being as well as Rogue's. There are other ways to get your kicks.

That last bit of advice was from Logan.

Rogue gave him her own version of a "talking to" the next night. She hadn't been sure whether to be angry with him or more in love. How could she let the relationship continue if he was going to keep doing this, most likely until she'd killed him? She asked him as much as they stood facing each other in the moonlight that poured through the bay window in the library.

"I love you." He said. She swallowed soundlessly.

"You know that I... I love you too. That's why..."

"That's why you don't want me to stop. I know you don't. And you know that whatever I do- I'm responsible for what happens to me. It will never be your fault."

"Yes it will."

"No." He took a step forward and put his hand on her bare arm. She jumped and was about to pull away from him before realizing that he'd put a thin layer of ice between them. She relaxed into his touch immediately. Into the shock of ice against her bare skin, and the oddness of how comforting that feeling was. "It will never be your fault. I make my own decisions. I'm responsible for my own actions."

And because she loved him, and because he loved her, that bit of logic in her head that told her to end everything there and then was ignored.

He did it again a couple of days later. And again a couple of days after that. Again and again. Ororo became too fed up with him to bother lecturing him anymore. Each time he woke up from his temporary comas now she just shook her head and told him to hurry up to class in a voice that conveyed both frustration and bemusement. Xavier's speeches, too, grew shorter, until all he could say to the boy was "be careful" as his students filed out of class. And Logan seemed to have given up all together on saving any one from that train wreck of a relationship. He didn't mention Bobby's frequent trips to the infirmary anymore, but, after each one, raised an eyebrow at the boy when passing him in the hall.

Rogue cried a little more often. But was also happier a little more often too. These passionate embraces were staying with her longer and longer, and Bobby's recovery time was becoming shorter. It was as if he was slowly becoming immune. Building up a resistance. Though every time he still came dangerously close to death.

She had trouble saying no, though. She would have been afraid to go near him, but felt it was impossible. There was no way, now, that she could end anything. She'd absorbed too much of him to let him go. He'd been inside her head, and she in his, too often. It was as though there was a permanent piece of him in her. A permanent piece of cool, solid Bobby. Her Iceman. Strong and calm and mischievous.

Over the months he kept at it. His studies suffered for it, but he claimed not to care. This was more important, he said.

And then, one day, he kissed her and didn't fall to the floor.

He pulled her into him like he always did. Kissed her with all the passion in him, hands trailing over her, under her shirt, along the inside of the seem of her pants. Because he always figured that if he was going to sacrifice so much just to touch her, he was going to really touch her. He held her and kissed her, she kissing him back and holding him just as tightly, for that usual amount of time, and then he pulled back, gasping for air but otherwise unharmed.

Rogue stared at him in shock. He tried to catch his breath, grinning and laughing a little. The pain had still been there. She'd still taken his power from him, but not nearly as much of his life force as she had in the past. Perhaps his power had become stronger- strong enough to act as a buffer so that there was too much of it for her to take and she didn't have time to get to the life force beneath it. Perhaps he really was building up an immunity. Neither knew. Or really cared.

He kissed her again, but then had to sit down and rest.

Years later she would remember this moment as one of the highlights. But weren't all the memories highlights now? Didn't each one of them mean just as much to her as the last?

She stood up in the present and walked to the window, watching the children play outside. She imagined that invisible friend of hers coming up to stand next to her and hold her hand. It was easy to remember all that time before his death. She'd felt most alive in those couple of years. And when he'd finally broken through her barrier it had been the happiest moment in her life so far.

She'd been high on that feeling for weeks. Which was more than enough time for Bobby to rebuild his strength and then come to her in the dark library one night ready to have that strength taken away. As long as she was the one to do it.

And they kissed and caressed and clung to each other on the couch in the dark, doing their very best to make up for lost time. He touched her cheek with his hand and she shuddered at the contact. Actual, intimate contact. Just that one touch was enough to make her heart pound and her eyes widen in wonder and joy. And that was just the beginning. When they finally pulled away that night, both gasping for breath, both barely clothed, her entire body radiated the same crystal cool that his did, and she could do nothing to contain it. Not with her emotions raging like they were after what the two of them had just done. Everything she touched adopted a layer of frost. The couch and floor around them were white and blue. Her hair and his were tipped with icicles.

Now, in the daylight, staring out the window in that same school she came to years ago, she tried to chase the memories away. It was her own fault for dredging them back up. She didn't want to remember anymore. She didn't want to remember those next few months of continued struggle against her own powers, and near-constant happiness, companionship and love. And she didn't want to remember the day it all ended. The day he died. Because that was when her story- the one she told any one willing to listen- really began. And she'd grown to hate her story.

He was dead. And she hadn't been able to move. Not at first. She was frozen to him, that comforting cold wrapped all around her and in her. She loved that cold. Cherished it.

Afterwards, even a cold drink could stir up his memory in her. Whenever she felt lonely she'd stand in front of the freezer and close her eyes. Imagine that the cold air on her face was his breath. She'd eat rocky road ice cream, the kind that he always ate, and it was almost as if she was kissing him again. Because that's how he tasted: like rocky road ice cream and something distinctly Bobby that she couldn't define.

He'd died in the crossfire. The mutant war still raged- would probably always rage- and Magneto and his own army were still hell bent on winning at any cost. Storm, Wolverine, Iceman and Rogue had gone into battle that day. Only three of them came out.

The loneliness was indescribable. Even while he was alive, she'd felt it. She'd felt that stinging sensation that was the knowledge that beyond him she had no one else. No one she could be close to. Now that he was gone it was magnified beyond anything she could remember feeling. She had no one.

"That's not true."

She wanted to believe him. After all, who knew more about being alone than the man who'd been doing it his whole life? Who knew more about it than the man in front of her?

"I still feel him inside me. His power. If I concentrate hard enough I can still see my breath." She looked up at Wolverine from where she sat on the couch. He stood in the doorway, stiff and uncomfortable at the conversation, but not going anywhere. "So, maybe, in some sense, you're right. I'm not completely alone." Even as she said the words she knew it wasn't true. Feeling Bobby inside of her didn't do anything to quell the loneliness, but, rather, enhanced it, constantly reminding her of what she could never again have.

"That's not what I meant." His voice was gruff but soft. It was the voice he'd only ever used with her.

Rogue breathed in, then slowly out. The breath hung white in the air and she pursed her lips sadly. "I know. But you're wrong."

And she'd looked so sad then, so completely alone and in such total anguish, as if she'd given up on everything, that he moved towards her almost out of fear. Act first, think later. He was still as good at that strategy as any. He walked over to her in two quick steps, knelt down, and put his bare hand to her bare cheek.

She started at the contact, but Logan didn't pull away. And he didn't cringe in pain either. His regenerative powers prevented her from effecting him too much too quickly. He stared into her eyes and his gaze was hard. His gaze left no room for doubt. "You're not alone. Neither of us are. Do you feel this?"

She swallowed quietly and nodded her head.

"You don't ever forget this. This is me, and you can feel me just as well as any one else can. You got me, Kid. Whatever happens, you got me."

He meant it. She knew he meant it. But he went and proved it to her over the next two years anyway. Like clockwork- a small miracle in and of itself, since when had Wolverine been anything like clockwork?- every day he'd find her and remind her that she wasn't alone. Usually he'd sneak up on her, come up from behind and scare the hell out of her when he put his hand on her bare arm, neck, or cheek.

The contact, she firmly believed, was what kept her going in battle and through the more difficult days. Maybe she was absorbing just enough of his healing capabilities to heal her own wounded heart. Or enough of his stubborn, over-confident personality to refuse to let things like death affect her. Or maybe just the act of being close to some one was enough, all on its own.

There were days when she didn't handle the world as well as she needed to, though. Days when it was all too much and she was certain she'd never fall in love again. And, even worse, she was certain no one would ever love her enough- love her like Bobby had- to break past the barriers that he'd broken through.

Wolverine did his damnedest to convince her otherwise. He'd lost loved ones to this war of theirs too, and knew he'd lose more, but he kept on going. Went where he was needed, did what was needed of him. Rogue ranked first on his current list of priorities. And so, during those days she when was at her lowest, he'd sneak up on her like he always did, but then pull her into him in a full, though sometimes awkward, embrace.

She'd take in a quick breath, startled by him, and then let him hold her to him. She'd rest her head on his chest behind her and allow him to remove her gloves for her. And then, however bad he claimed to be at this sort of thing, he'd abandon his ego for a little while and entwine his fingers with hers. After a few months of this, he began to do more. To do whatever he could to keep her from slipping. It was all about the contact. It was all about making sure she understood that she wasn't alone. He'd kiss her neck while standing behind her. He'd run his hands up and down her sides, through her hair, along her jaw line. But never more than that. He had to draw a line somewhere, despite everything in him that didn't give a damn. Wanted this. Wanted her.

Rogue knew it. Could feel it in him whenever they touched. They loved each other, really. Underneath it all. But they didn't love each other the way they needed to love. So they had to fake that part of it. She had to pretend that she loved him like she had Bobby, even if he felt more like an older brother. And he had to pretend that he loved her like he'd loved Jean, even if she felt more like a younger sister. It was still love, however it got twisted around, and they both needed this, so they could pretend a while longer.

Then, one day, as always eventually happened, the bad guys won a round. And Wolverine paid the price.

And Rogue had to start all over again with that lonely feeling she'd been getting so good at ignoring. Even with Wolverine it hadn't been the same, and knowing that there was no one else made that ball of despair in her gut grow a little more each day. But now that he was gone too, it was almost overwhelming. Yet she went on regardless. She did like Wolverine had done and like she was positive Bobby would have wanted her to do: she went where she was needed. Did what was needed of her. Even though....

Even though he was still dead. Even though she was still far more lonely than any one could comprehend. And everything she touched still died, one way or another.

That's how her story always ended. At the present moment, and however sad or strong she felt that day. She continued watching the children play outside, captivated by their movements and interaction. She missed that. Being a kid. Being able to interact with others like they did.

Instead, she tried again to convince herself that she enjoyed the solitude. That this was the way she'd always wanted it. And when that didn't work, as was almost always the case, she imagined that she wasn't alone, but that there was another person in the room with her. Standing beside her. Holding her hand. Whispering about how it was all going to be okay and how he wouldn't ever leave her.

She imagined a draft in the room. She pretended to feel that combination of pain and pleasure that came from the sting of ice on her skin. There were still pieces of both of them in her. Wolverine's stubborn aggression that got her through each fight, and Iceman's strong calm that got her through each day.

And if she concentrated hard enough- harder than most days permitted- she could still see her breath in the air. Maybe she'd been right that day, talking to Logan. Maybe, in some sense, she wasn't as alone as she thought.

She hugged herself tightly and struggled to feel that imaginary cold.

The End