Hmm. I re-read this, and don't actually remember writing most of this… Let's hear it for amnesiatic writing! Well, here's the conclusion. Let's hope my subconscious knew what it was doing when it apparently wrote this! Enjoy, and thanks for hanging in on this ride.
If anyone notices any gaping plot holes or leftover threads, let me know… I could always come up with an epilogue, if forced : )
36: And drunk the milk of Paradise.
The men in the other SUV stared for a second in horror at the flaming ruin of their boss's car, then tried to make a getaway, only to find a grim telekinetic—Professor X—holding their SUV an inch off the ground. He also kept all the doors closed, ignoring the men's panicked pounding on the glass.
Jean-Luc, shocked, staggered against his car as he watched his son and daughter-in-law vanish behind a bloom of flame. Belladonna punched her car hard enough to leave a dent; Mercy and Kitty collapsed in tears. The woman they'd rescued, Mrs. Myers, cried out once and fainted dead away; little Katie began sobbing in confusion.
Only Tante Mattie and Kurt stood soberly, staring intently at the gusting flames. After a second or two, some of the others did, too, wondering what they were looking at.
There was movement. Then, like a mirage, two figures staggered out of the inferno: Remy and Roisin, unscarred by the searing heat.
Jean-Luc looked like he might have a heart attack as they neared, then leapt forward to catch them as they both collapsed, coughing.
The wail of sirens drifted toward them. "Cops!" Belladonna snapped, and suddenly any superfluous Thieves and Assassins were melting away into hiding, making the crowd much less crowd-y and much more like innocent bystanders at the scene of a terrible accident.
Well, as innocent as things got when you had a supermutant holding a bullet-ridden car off the ground, filled with thugs who'd helped kidnap one of the several unconscious people on the ground, who'd somehow managed to survive the exploding SUV which the ringleader was conveniently inside when it blew.
Jean-Luc grinned. He'd take wrangling with the police and lawyers over burying his son and daughter any day. Any day at all.
Several hours later, the entire mixed group staggered back in the Guild seat doors, Remy and Roisin amongst them. The hospital had let them go when all the tests showed that they were merely suffering from smoke inhalation and severe exhaustion, despite the ER doctor's insistence that they both ought to be piles of ash, by all rights. Roisin thought sardonically that he almost seemed offended to see that they weren't, because his universe simply didn't work that way. She didn't care; the doctor had let both her and Remy leave eventually. It was enough. She and Remy sat close together in Jean-Luc's towncar. The other former passengers had been deposited in other vehicles, except for Henri, who was in the front seat.
She squeezed Remy's hand. He looked over. "What is it, chere?"
She smiled, and kissed him briefly. "Just glad t' be alive, and here, and with you."
"I understand completely," he sighed, and draped an arm over her shoulders. "But really, Roisin," he chided, "can't y' even go get flour wit'out creatin' a huge incident out of it?"
She mock-punched him, and he caught her fist in his hand, then threaded his fingers through hers. She leaned her head against his shoulder.
"Je t'amie," he murmured into her hair.
She smiled. "I love you too, Remy."
There was a muffled gagging sound from the front seat, where Henri was sitting. Remy made a rude gesture at him with his free hand, but maintained his grip on Roisin's.
When they arrived at the house, the tired group, who'd spent the afternoon and evening explaining things to the police, the National Guard, and some antiterrorism people, were pleasantly surprised to see a pile of sandwiches and several pitchers of iced tea and water sitting on the table.
Jean-Luc blinked. "A t'ousand dollars to whoever organized that," he said gratefully, and moved toward the table, waving the X-men to join in.
"For real, m'sieur LeBeau?" An excited, young voice rang out. "A thousand dollars?" The owner of the voice, Henry Walker, came careening around the corner, and stopped dead when he saw Roisin and Remy, comfortably crammed into an oversized easy chair. "You're back!" he crowed, and raced toward the pair. He skidded to a stop a few feet away, though, looking abashed. "Oh. Sorry. I forgot. Tante Mattie says I'm s'posed to not go running at members of de famille."
Roisin grinned, reached out, and pulled Henry into a one-armed hug. "Don't worry about it. How did you know we'd need food?"
He rolled his eyes. "Duh. You guys are all over the news! I remember from when I was living in Ohio that if the police ever talked to anyone they always took forever. So I thought you might be hungry. Did that jerk guy really blow up?"
"Were you really in his car when it did?"
"Well, right beside it," Remy answered.
"Whoa. So, what's it like to get blown up?"
They exchanged glances. Why had they sent this kid to the Guild, again? "Um…"
"Chil', come away from dere. Y' can pester dose two after dey've had somet'in' t' eat an' a good night's sleep," Tante Mattie chided Henry, rescuing Roisin and Remy.
"Which means y' can ask dem y' questions tomorrow," she said firmly, and steered Henry away.
The pair chuckled, but sobered when Jean-Luc came over to them. He offered them some sandwiches, which they accepted gratefully, then snagged a chair and sat down nearby. "Now," he said, as they ate, "I heard dat cockamamie story y' fed d' police 'bout ducking under de blast. Now tell me: what really happened? How'd you escape? Not dat I'm complaining."
"Sure, Pere, lull us into a sense of security with food, then question us," Roisin grumbled jokingly.
Jean-Luc only smiled. Roisin opened her mouth to answer, glanced at Jean-Luc, then closed it. "Should we take this into a conference room?" she asked dryly, eyeing the crowd of X-men, Thieves, and a couple of Assassins who'd heard Jean-Luc's question and 'just happened' to have drifted over.
Jean-Luc glanced behind him. "What? Oh. Might be a good idea. Dat way you'll only have to tell it a hundred times, not a t'ousand."
A few minutes later, Roisin and Remy were collapsed on a couch in one of the conference rooms—the same room, Roisin was amused to notice, in which they'd told the Guild council about their year living on the lam.
Thieves, Assassins, and X-men ringed the room. They all seemed to have found whatever place gave each person the best view of the couch, without paying attention to who he or she was sitting next to. Kurt ended up sitting by Henri, who had Belladonna on his other side; on Kurt's other side sat Tante Mattie, and then Wolverine, then one of the Italian Assassins, and so on.
"So," Jean-Luc drawled, from where he slumped in a chair, "tell us 'bout yo' afternoon, Roisin Dubh."
"Well," she began, "I was walking back from the store…" She recounted the events steadily; her voice didn't even waver when she mentioned seeing Myers leaning over her, though she did grip Remy's hand at that point.
"So, because you-all are here right now" she nodded at the X-men "I'd been thinking about the Institute, and it occurred to me that Magma's powers might be able to stop the SUV without killing everyone inside."
"But that had to be ten minutes before we caught up with you!" Wolverine broke in. "What took so long?"
Roisin closed her eyes a second, willing patience to herself. "If I haven't used a power much, or in a long time, it usually takes a while to... 'find' it in mah head. I can't even remember Magma's real name; I only met her once, an' only got a touch o' her powers, an' that was somethin' like two, two an' a half years ago!" Her voice had risen slightly, and she ended up not-quite-glaring at Wolverine. "Satisfied? Good." She didn't wait for a response, but continued on with her story for a while. "…and then I looked out an' saw all 'f you outside the car, and I thought that Myers' wife and kid might still get killed accidentally. So I…contacted… Professor X" she tapped her head and nodded in his direction, "and figured that whoever needed to know, well, he'd let 'em know."
"But ze explosion!" Kurt burst out. "How did you survive zhat?"
"Well, I saw you and Wolverine get the two innocents out, and half a second later Remy got to me, punched Myers—good job, by the way, mon coeur—and he charged up the tape around my feet so I could get up. We heard the car start to go, and all I could think of was that I didn't want Remy hurt. I guess he was thinking the same about me—"
"—and he'd already charged the air around us, like a sort of electrical shield. I'd been thinking about Wolverine's invulnerability, and it sorta, I dunno, mixed with Remy's power for just long enough that the fireball rolled past us. It was hard to keep up," she admitted, "and as soon as we were out of the actual fire, I couldn't keep it up. That's when we must've got the smoke inhalation. And then the cops showed up, and, well, that's it."
There was a brief silence after this matter-of-fact explanation, then the listeners exploded in a flurry of questions. Professor X wanted to know if they'd practiced sharing powers; Jean-Luc wanted to know if Remy could make his powers into a shield for anyone besides Roisin; Kitty and Kurt wanted to know if they could please hug their friend now.
The tumult completely covered the sound of heels clicking rapidly down the hallway, so the crowd was startled when the doors were suddenly flung open by a leggy redhead, who was trailed by several woozy-looking Guild guards and two FBI agents.
Jean Grey paused in the doorway for a moment, fixated on Scott, and flung herself in his direction. "Scott! Ohmigosh, you're okay! That explosion was on the news, and you were in the background, but they didn't say if anyone was hurt or alive or what!"
The guards went to explain themselves to Jean-Luc; Remy and Roisin moved to intercept the FBI agents. It was the odd pair they'd met in the mall.
The man was eyeing Jean bemusedly, and he made some comment about redheads getting in anywhere; his shorter, redheaded companion unobtrusively elbowed him in the side as she explained their presence.
"The whole mess you were in today made the news, of course, which meant that the Witness Protection people had a new bead on your location." Roisin and Remy sighed in unison. "However," the redhead continued, and they perked up, "we managed to convince them that you died in the blast, and that the ER doctor had you two confused with someone else. After all, you'd have to be superhuman to survive that blast, right? In any case, with Myers dead now, too, there wouldn't have been a huge amount of reason to keep you in the program anymore. So we were just dropping by to let you know."
They smiled, turned, and slipped out the door, leaving Roisin and Remy to embrace gratefully: at least one problem had been solved by the day's events.
Remy was just kissing Roisin when a gasped, "Rogue?" came from behind them. Most of the crowd sighed, and muttered, It's Roisin. Jean Grey walked towards her as if in a trance. Roisin braced herself for some clueless comment, but was startled to see tears in Jean's eyes as she drew closer.
"Oh, my, God, you're alive, and you—you look so pretty, and happy and…" words apparently failed her; she instead hugged the startled Roisin tightly. Several jaws dropped, including Roisin's. After a long moment, Jean sniffed and drew back, gripping Roisin's hands in hers. "I am so, so, sorry, Rogue," she said softly. "If I ever made you feel—"
Roisin shook her head. "Water under the bridge," she assured Jean, "and it's Roisin, now." And surprisingly, looking at Jean, who'd obviously been under a lot of strain, the strongest emotion she could come up with was a mild sort of pity. There was no anger or resentment; just this mild sadness and pity. Huh. Perhaps she had grown up some since she last saw the X-men.
That pity quickly turned to surprise as Jean's expression turned to a scowl, which she aimed squarely at Scott. "Oh, my God." She sounded annoyed. She stomped over to him and slugged him in the arm.
"Ow! What was th—"
"Scott Summers, how long have we been dating?" Jean demanded.
Scott blinked at the non-sequitur. "Uh…"
"We have been dating for five years, Scott Summers, and" she flung her hand out to encompass Roisin and Remy "here is Rogue, gone for only a little more than two years, and she's married. When are we getting engaged, Scott?"
"Married?" erupted from four throats at once.
"Well, sure," Jean-Luc said, raising his eyebrow at them. "You didn't t'ink I was encouragin' my son an' a woman to go off home together wit'out dem bein' married, did you? Just 'cos I'm a T'ief doesn't make me immoral."
"Uh, yeah, guys, that is what the double ring usually means, you know?" Roisin waved her left hand at them. She looked at Remy. "Hmm. Dey didn't notice it. Maybe my diamond isn't big eno—" She cut off in a shriek as Remy grinned, grabbed her, and fell back onto the couch, leaving Roisin to sprawl on top of him.
She moved to sit up, but he tugged her back down. "Secret's out, chere, might 's well enjoy it," and he kissed her briefly. She kissed him back, and sat up anyway.
Scott, Kitty, Professor X, and Wolverine goggled, like they'd never seen someone kiss another person before.
"Hey…" Kitty poked Kurt. "How come you aren't surprised they're married?"
"I saw ze rings, also."
"Why aren't you upset? I thought you would be."
"Vat else could I ask for, for her?" he shrugged. "Zey are happy, and haf a loving family here, and a house, and love." He eyed the pair wistfully. "She is alive, and she is happy. Zat is all I haf ever vanted for her."
"Kurt…" Roisin stood, and crossed to him. "I've missed you, too. I can't come back, though, you know…"
"No. You've got a family now."
"And you've got a good man there, Stripes." This came unexpectedly from Logan. At her look he shrugged. "He literally ran through fire for you. There's not much else I can ask of someone. Not for you. And I've finally realized I don't have the right to ask anything of anyone, when it comes to you. You're grown up."
She smiled slightly. "If I grew up well, a lot of it was due to my years with the X-men, you know. Especially you, Logan."
At this, he hugged her tightly. "Been wantin' to do that for seven years," he said gruffly. "Feels nice."
She smiled more widely.
"You know, you can come to New York, Roisin," Professor X said. "As a guest? Please. Consider it?"
She stiffened, but was cut off by Kitty's excited, "Like, even if it's just for a couple of days, Roisin, please. I miss my friend. And I'd like to get to know her—her husband better, too."
Roisin glanced searchingly at Remy, and replied, "Well, maybe sometime, if work permits it…"
"How about Thanksgiving?" Kitty burst in irrepressibly. "Or the Fourth of July. Or Halloween. Or, I dunno, Arbor Day. Something. Please. You've got to have some holidays off, right?"
Remy and Roisin, amused, looked at Jean-Luc. "What, d' I look like yo' boss o' somet'in?" and he grinned. "How 'bout you plan t' head t' New York state fo' T'anksgiving?" Kitty's squeal nearly drowned out his next words. "If it don't work out, we'll work somet'in' out in de meantime."
"That would be wonderful." Professor X agreed.
Roisin smiled and nodded; Kitty squealed excitedly again. "I—" she stopped abruptly as all of the X-men's communicators went off. She sighed. "I guess, like, duty calls. Professor X?"
The Professor had been staring off into the middle distance. He blinked, and focused on the room around him again. "Yes, I am afraid that, as Kitty says, duty calls, in Oklahoma, it seems…." He trailed off, uncharacteristically awkward.
Roisin smiled, understanding his hesitation. "Go. Save the world some more. We'll be in touch." His slightly troubled expression cleared at that, he nodded, and wheeled out of the room.
The rest of the X-men quickly collected hugs and goodbyes, and followed.
The room seemed oddly emptier with them gone, despite the Thieves and Assassins still crowding the space.
Roisin sighed a little, smiling, then jumped as Jean-Luc cleared his throat behind her. "Roisin Dubh? Telephone."
"I wonder who that could be? I didn't even hear the phone ring." She accepted the phone. "Hello?" She listened intently for a moment or two, nodded several times, said "Uh-huh" once, and hung up.
She smiled wickedly at Remy, who raised his eyebrows at her.
"Apparently the world's greatest diamonds—the Koh-i-noor, the Hope, the Blue—are going to be on display at some international gemologists' conference in Madrid next month. Are you up for a challenge?"
"I married you, didn't I?" he asked mock innocently, ducked the punch she threw, and kissed her deeply. "Y' know I love y." he said.
"I do. I love you, too."
They stood together for a moment, then Remy straightened abruptly and asked, "So. Let's go plan a heist."
"Thought you'd never ask."