Disclaimer: Once more, for old time's sake – I don't own the X-Men!
A/N: May we have a drum roll please? Here it is, folks – now, let's just pause for dramatic effect – the final chapter of Symbiotic!
Chapter 33 – Disbelief
Slowly but steadily she was waking up, yet for some reason found it very hard to open her eyes. She felt exhausted, but managed to shift around a bit… Finally her eyelids fluttered before opening to provide her with a bleary view of the med bay. For a brief moment she was confused, then quickly remembered what she was doing there. She groaned quietly, fed up with waking up to that sterile environment, from the harsh fluorescent lights to the nauseating smell of disinfectants.
Then there was another constant – slowly sitting up and swinging her legs off the bed, she watched as Remy leapt out of the chair beside her. She had to stop herself from laughing out loud at how stunned he appeared.
"Y'… Y're really back?"
She hopped down to the floor and leisurely began to stretch. Oh, it felt good to get those kinks out, especially after being shackled for so long… While she accustomed herself to her body once more, she exasperatedly exclaimed, "Do we have to go through this again?" Sighing in vexation, she decided she was fed up with trying to explain herself to him after what had to have been a million times. "Whatever… All I can say is that you better get used to it, hon, because I'm here to stay."
Carol watched the anger on his face morph into wariness and knew that he didn't fully believe her – or more specifically, that he didn't want to believe her. "Y' can't be serious," he said flatly.
Oh, she would enjoy this… "It's time to face facts, Remy," she told him haughtily, leaning in towards him with a cruel smile gracing her features. "Rogue's locked away up here –" She tapped her temple. "– and I don't plan on letting her out, ever! It's finally quiet – no shouting, no yelling… I warned her that if she fought me she'd lose, and gee, guess what? She did."
Now the Cajun's handsome face was completely crestfallen. She'd come to enjoy that look over the past few weeks… And he deserved it, after all the crap he'd put her through!
Then she gasped, shocked as he suddenly darted forward and seized her firmly by the shoulders. "Y're lyin'!" he insisted, his demonic eyes burning with an intensity she'd never seen before. "Dat's not possible! Bring her back, now."
Quickly recovering, her lips twisted into a superior smirk and she couldn't help the smug tone that seeped into her voice. "Rogue's gone – for good." Oh, that was so very satisfying to say…
But Gambit still didn't seem to accept it. Now shaking her, he cried, "Non! She wouldn't just give up like dis!"
"Well, she did," Carol shot back, throwing his hands away from her. "You obviously shouldn't have fallen for somebody with such a martyr complex!"
Remy didn't back off, shouting, "How can y' treat her like dis? She was willin' t' give up part of her life so y' could live, an' y' go an' steal it all away from her!"
"A thief, lecturing me about stealing? Oh, that's rich," she scoffed, folding her arms over her chest.
He was really beginning to bother her… Not only was he a hypocrite, but his single-minded focus on Rogue was annoying. Why couldn't he have been so passionate about her? No, instead it was all about the goth girl. No matter what she did, no matter where she went, it was always Rogue, Rogue, Rogue! Well, no more. Everybody would simply have to get used to the fact that Rogue was gone and Carol was here to stay. She was certain they'd become accustomed to it sooner or later, and eventually even forget the other girl's name…
And that was that. She didn't want to listen to any more of the boy's whining and complaining – it was finally time to get out of the horrid med bay and start living her new life! So shoving past Remy, she exited the room to make her way upstairs. The first thing she had to do was get out of the hideous hospital gown she was in – that shade of light blue did nothing for her complexion.
But she should have known that Gambit would keep following her. Honestly, did he ever give up? He should have taken a page from Rogue's book and learned to finally surrender when beaten... Before she could rush off and leave him behind, he scrambled over and blocked her path. "Stop," he ordered resolutely. "I'm not lettin' y' do dis!"
Carol only laughed. "Not letting me? Hon, it's already done!"
And with that, she grabbed the collar of that hideous coat of his (really, was he ever without it?) and lifted the Cajun easily, tossing him away and sending him skidding down the corridor. Then with a self-satisfied grin she flounced off, feeling quite chipper. Revenge was sweet… She hoped he felt as awful as she had when he'd broken up with her. It was funny how things managed to come around full circle, the girl mused – first Rogue had taken him away from her, and now she had taken Rogue away from him. Perhaps there was justice in the universe after all!
Carol's grin only grew wider as she moved through the rest of the mansion, passing a few other students on her way. They all stared at her in confusion and shock, but none had the guts to actually approach her. The best reaction was Kitty's, whose jaw dropped and eyes glistened with tears before she turned and ran off, that silly ponytail of hers swinging erratically behind her. It was a bit of a relief, actually – she'd been expecting some sort of long-winded speech from the brat about how what she was doing was wrong, how Rogue was such a saint, and so on and so forth. No doubt she'd have to suffer through it eventually, and probably more from all the teachers, but they would be easy enough to ignore.
She wasn't naive enough to think everybody wouldn't be angry with her, but they'd get over it soon enough. They wouldn't have much choice in the matter, would they? She sure as hell wasn't going anywhere. Or maybe she would! Why bother even staying at the Institute? Rogue wasn't tethering her there anymore, neither was Remy. She could leave and do whatever she wanted!
Tempting thoughts of ditching all the rules and disapproving glares and unsavory company flooded her mind, but when Carol reached her bedroom she glanced around and a new spur-of-the-moment idea then took precedence: redecorating. There would be no complaining or arguing about conflicting styles now that her roommate was finally dealt with… But there wouldn't be much point if she would be leaving Xavier's. Hell, maybe she'd do it anyway – just to be able to get rid of all Rogue's things, symbolically purging the room of her possessions like she had purged the girl from her life…
In fact, she wanted to eradicate every possible memory of her that she could. Maybe she would start by dyeing her hair blonde? She missed her old locks, and anything would be better than that stupid skunk streak…
Carol couldn't stop herself from giggling elatedly. She no longer had to worry about upsetting Rogue, or waking up in another month to find that whatever she'd done had been reversed… She was free! It was childish, but she felt like standing on her balcony and screaming it out to the world. She probably would have, but a brief glance out the windows told her it was extremely foggy outside, so much so that she couldn't see a thing. Well fine, that could wait. She had other things she could do, and couldn't even decide where to begin.
She actually enjoyed that feeling. The world was laid out at her feet, her problems were over at last! No more sharing, no more fighting… She had gotten what she wanted, what she deserved, and the freedom felt absolutely wonderful.
- X -
He had no idea why he was still sitting there, immovable, waiting for her to awaken. After all, Carol taking control was the absolute last thing he wanted to bear witness to…
At first, he supposed it could have been blamed on Rogue's powers. Once regaining consciousness following her absorption, he physically hadn't been able to move very far at all – his limbs felt like jelly, his vision swam, his heart ached… Well, perhaps that last one hadn't been due to her powers at all. But following that he'd been simply too shocked to move, too tangled in disbelief over what Rogue had done, and his legs had refused to work properly and march him away. He could only remain sitting stunned in his chair as the Professor had delved into her mind one last time, working on whatever final preparations needed to be made.
The man had attempted to offer his sincerest condolences, but Remy hadn't heard a word – he merely sat and stared. Thankfully Xavier had taken the hint, and after what had seemed like ages of him rearranging Rogue's mind, he had then left him alone to deal with his despair.
Needless to say, that hadn't gone well. He hadn't dealt with anything, really – he hadn't shed a single tear, he hadn't erupted in an inconsolable rage, all he could do was distraughtly hope against hope that everything that had just come to pass hadn't actually happened at all. He sat in desperate denial for what could have been hours, yet he didn't notice them passing. Time was irrelevant. He supposed it was all some sort of morbid fascination, not being able to leave until he saw Rogue's eyes open, with Carol staring back out from them… He just had to be sure.
And so he waited, numb.
It was about an hour later when finally, finally, she moved. It started out with her body shifting around a bit as sleep began to leave her. Next her eyelids fluttered and opened. A confused expression passed over her face before she groaned quietly, then slowly sat up and swung her legs off the bed.
Remy's heart began pumping rapidly, knowing that this was the fateful moment. The rest of him remained inert, as he was unable to summon up even an iota of motivation to move. What was the point? There was nothing more that could be done – and that resignation was eating him up inside.
However, he managed to dredge up the courage to lift his gaze slightly and glance at her, if only to confirm what deep down he already knew.
…But he saw green eyes.
It was like a million things happened at once. His heart leapt into his throat, his jaw dropped, his eyes widened… He had to have overloaded, because for a moment he was frozen, unable to so much as think. Instinct must have then taken over, because the very next instant the Cajun launched himself at the girl, gathering her up in his arms and squeezing her as hard as he could.
Sensations came flooding back as his mind reconnected with his body. He felt her warm form pressed against his, he smelt the aroma of magnolias that always wafted around her, he heard the soft sounds of her hitched breathing as she inhaled next to his ear… And yet he still couldn't bring himself to believe that she was truly there.
"Chère? Is it really y'?" he whispered tentatively, afraid to open his eyes and pull away from where his face was nestled in her hair, lest he find out his mind had played the cruellest of tricks on him.
It was only the next second, when he listened to her sweet drawl say, "Yeah, it's really me, swamp rat" did he finally let relief course through his body.
That was all he needed to hear. At those words all the worries and anxieties, all the events of the past few weeks fled from his mind, because suddenly all that mattered was that Rogue was back, and she was in his arms. Even better, she wasn't leaving them. Remy couldn't bring himself to move a muscle, because at that moment everything was perfect.
Things hardly tended to stay so perfect, however. Eventually something began to nag at him, and he reluctantly pulled back a few inches so that he could see her face. "How?" he had to ask, voice full of bewilderment.
She smiled crookedly, although it didn't quite reach her eyes. "It's sort of hard to explain…" she began, before hesitating and bowing her head. "Ah guess Ah should start by apologizin' fo' absorbin' yah like that – but Ah had to!"
"But why?" he pressed. He wasn't concerned one whit about her having used her powers on him, especially if they had brought about such a wonderful resolution – instead he was dying to know how exactly said resolution had come about!
"Yah know when th' Prof talked to me in private? He was tryin' to convince me that lockin' Carol up in my mind was th' best thing to do."
"O' course it was!" Remy encouraged, sensing she needed reassurance regarding her decision. It was baffling that she could still feel guilty despite what the other girl had done to her… Tilting his head to the side, he remembered the conversation Rogue was referring to – he honestly hadn't thought Xavier would have been able to get through to her, and until now he'd certainly been under the impression that the man had indeed failed.
"Ah really didn't like that plan, an' honestly Ah still don't, but… Ah can see why it had to come down to that," she went on, eyes downcast, clearly not too comfortable with the topic of conversation. He gave her hand a comforting squeeze and she continued. "Ah hated her fo' what she put me through, yah know – but Ah just couldn't bring myself to take away th' only life she had left as revenge – wouldn't that make me as bad as her? She was gettin' back at me fo' what Ah did to her, an' Ah didn't want to be th' same way."
"Y're not de same as her!" Gambit declared passionately, sliding a gloved finger under her chin and tilting it up so she would meet his gaze. "Y' gave her a chance – hell, y' gave her tons o' chances – an' she wouldn't have done de same f'r y', would she? I admire y' tryin' t' do de right thing, chère, but sometimes y' have t' do somethin' f'r y'rself."
Her lips quirked a little at that. "Funny, th' Professor said sorta th' same thing."
He smirked. "Well, great minds think alike, henh?"
The girl rolled her eyes, and even though it was a trivial gesture, Remy swelled with happiness when he finally saw her do so again. It heralded back to weeks before, prior to all their drama with blondes and body-snatchers, when they would banter good-naturedly. Maybe they could recapture that feeling of how things used to be, with their comfort and camaraderie? Judging by the way Rogue playfully ignored him and continued on with her tale, that was a very real possibility.
"Anyway, Ah finally gave in. Didn't feel Ah had much of a choice, frankly – but Ah could at least make sure Carol would be somewhat comfortable when we locked her away."
When he heard that, the thief was surprised. Was that what they'd been discussing? Why couldn't they have told him? It would have saved him from all his agony! He pointed that out, rather petulantly.
"We couldn't tell yah," Rogue continued regretfully. "We tricked her into thinkin' she took control, but instead th' Prof stuck her in my mental representation of th' Institute, with th' psyches roleplayin' as real people. Ah had to absorb yah so yah'd be in there too, an' we couldn't let yah know what was goin' on so when yo' psyche interacts with her, he'll be furious!"
Remy blinked, trying to take that information in. "So… Y're sayin' dat Carol's trapped in yo' mental mansion, but she thinks she's taken over yo' body?"
She nodded solemnly.
"I almost wish I could see de look on her face when she figures out it's not real!" he laughed heartily, but his amusement was quickly quelled when he considered that statement. "But what'll happen when she does? It's bound t' happen eventually, non? Like if she tries t' leave de buildin'?" Dread slowly began to grow in his system. He wasn't sure he wanted to hear the answer to his question – not if it would mean more bad news.
"Don't worry," the Mississippian reassured him, pulling him down on the bed to sit beside her. "Th' Professor already took care o' that. He stuck up some strong shields around her, an' he'll keep reinforcin' 'em – so even if she does realize where she is, she an' the psyches ain't goin' anywhere."
Remy let out a breath he hadn't even known he'd been holding. "So dat's it? It's really over?" It was almost too good to be true, to have all of their obstacles behind them now…
"Ah guess so," she nodded, smiling slightly.
She was doing her best to appear pleased, but the thief could tell something was still troubling her – but what? Shouldn't she have been ecstatic that her life was her own again? He decided to come straight out and ask.
"It's nothin'," she attempted to assure him, but he still didn't buy it.
Maybe seeing her friends would cheer her up? "Should we go find de others an' tell dem de good news? Kitty an' Kurt have been worried sick, an' Wolverine's been… Well, let's just say de Danger Room needs some renovations."
"Ah'll see 'em in a bit," she decided, biting her lip while contemplating something.
What had her so distracted? The Carol situation had been dealt with, seeing her friends wasn't what she wanted… What was left?
Oh – him, Remy realized with dread.
Was he the one making her question things? Similarly to the night before Carol had usurped control, doubts began to plague him. Rogue had only just come out of a harrowing ordeal, one that would be enough to throw even the strongest of people – who was to say she hadn't changed her mind about him in the meantime? Who was to say that she hadn't weighed everything she had been put through because of him, and decided that he wasn't worth it?
The rollercoaster ride of emotions the Cajun had experienced during the past few minutes was exhausting, and it wasn't over yet. At least now, with his misgivings at the forefront of his mind, things could only improve… Right? And indeed they did, as Rogue ducked her head and began to apologize, rather than reject him. "Ah kinda wanted to make up fo' what Ah did first. Ah can't understand how yah ain't mad at me fo' makin' yah believe I was leavin', an' fo' absorbin' yah like Ah did…"
Remy sat in stunned silence for a moment before coming to his senses. "Rogue, y' have nothin' t' make up f'r! Most o' dis mess was my fault in de first place," he told her in a sober tone. He saw she was still going to protest, so before she had the chance he reached over and cupped the side of her face with a gloved hand, playfully smirking, "B'sides, how could I be mad? I got a kiss out o' de deal! I'd do it again in a heartbeat."
She gave him a hopeful, but cautious, look. "Would yah?"
He nodded firmly. "Absolutely."
He had to admit, the way she was staring at him was slightly unnerving, as if she was delving deep inside of him and contemplating his very being. She must have seen something that helped her make a decision – because before Remy could begin to process what was happening, Rogue leaned over and pressed her lips to his.
He had to force himself not to jump backwards in shock. It wasn't because he was afraid of her – he hadn't lied when saying he'd risk her powers to touch her – but because it was absolutely the last thing he had expected. She never initiated physical contact, and after the guilt she was expressing over having kissed him when it had been an absolutely necessity, the thief wouldn't have thought she'd be wiling to go through with it again, especially so quickly.
But that just meant this was something to take advantage of, so Remy quickly shut his thoughts off and focused entirely on the physical. His mouth responded to hers, caressing it fiercely while he ran his hands through her sleek hair, tangling his fingers in the strands and trying to push her even closer towards him. He wanted to experience as much as he could before the pain began, and he braced himself for it…
But it never came.
He was so caught up in making the most of the kiss, in feeling every last sensation, that he completely lost track of how much time had passed, not realizing that he should have been knocked unconscious long ago. It was finally the lack of air that threatened to do so, so they unwillingly pulled apart from each other. It was only then that Remy noticed he was still very much awake – even though what just occurred had to have been a dream.
He gaped at Rogue, totally speechless. She took the hint and shyly explained, "Th' Professor was right. Now that Carol's stuck in my mind, th' psyches are trapped with her – they aren't wanderin' around anymore, so they don't make me absorb anyone."
He almost couldn't accept what she was saying, because everything working out so perfectly like this had to be impossible. "So… So y' can touch?" he rasped out, still somewhat disbelieving.
In response, she brought a bare hand up to stroke his stubbly cheek. "Yeah, Ah can touch," she whispered, beaming while tears formed in her eyes.
Remy decided he hadn't really needed the confirmation at all. Barely hearing it, he instead swooped in for another kiss, pulling Rogue's body flush up against his while he ran a hand up and down her back. He was nearly undone when she was the one to deepen it, and he let loose a low, guttural moan when she began idly toying with the hairs at the base of his neck.
He managed to tear himself away from her long enough to playfully suggest, "Y' know, we should pro'ly should test y'r control some more – after all, it may be a fluke…"
"Oh, absolutely," she sighed in rapture as his mouth trailed over her jaw line and down her throat. "That would be… th' smart… thing to do…"
He simply couldn't get enough of her, of how she tasted… Apparently she couldn't either, because she yanked him away from a particularly ticklish spot he'd discovered beneath her ear and impatiently redirected him back to her lips.
Grinning against her, Remy eased his hands down to her hips and gently pulled her onto his lap. She tensed for a moment, prompting him to curse at himself for moving too quickly – this was still relatively new to her, after all, so he reluctantly broke their contact and queried, "Y' okay? Dis isn't too much?"
"This is what Ah've wanted fo' a while," she admitted, bashful and barely able to meet his gaze.
Her words made the corners of his lips twitch up. "Oh really?" he crowed, unable to keep from sounding smug.
"Yes, really," she grudgingly confirmed, before her tone lowered. "An' now that Ah can finally touch, Ah don't wanna waste th' chance. Ah still feel guilty about how this had to come about, but Ah guess Ah can't let my guilt run my life – yah were right about that."
He grinned. "What was dat? Sorry, I missed de last bit…"
"Ah said yah were right…" she repeated, rolling her eyes.
"Oh, I really like hearin' dat. Say it again?"
Rogue scowled. "Oh, shut up!"
"Make me," he challenged.
To his pleasant surprise, she did – by quickly making herself more comfortable and capturing his mouth once more. They quickly continued on from where they had left off, losing themselves in each other completely.
The Cajun was just thinking that he could stay like that forever when the sound of a throat being cleared broke through their daze. Stopping abruptly, the pair broke apart and glanced towards the door.
Xavier was waiting there, wearing a rather amused expression. "I must confess, when I told Rogue that I would give you two some privacy for her to explain things, this was not what I had in mind," he informed them, raising a curious brow.
Rogue blushed furiously, her face flushing bright pink. "Er, Professor! We… Ah mean, Ah…"
"No need to say anything, my dear – clearly you two have yet to finish your… discussion," he said calmly, but a sparkle could be seen in his eyes before he wheeled around and made to leave. "Pardon me for interrupting. But may I just say that it's wonderful to have you back, Rogue – now I believe I will go inform the rest of the students that you have graced us with your presence again. Excuse me…"
They stared blankly as he exited the room, and then Rogue groaned in embarrassment before burying her head in Remy's shoulder. "Oh my Gawd, could that have been any more humiliatin'?"
"It could've been worse…"
"Oh yeah? How?" she challenged.
"Dat could've been Logan walkin' in on us," he pointed out, and shuddered for emphasis. "Don't think he would've let us go on wit' our 'discussion', henh? He would've gutted dis poor Cajun! Which he'll pro'ly do in a few minutes anyway."
"Well, then Ah guess we should finish this up, huh?" Rogue cooed, sending him a wink.
At that moment, Remy was certain that he could never get tired of that coy grin or that sultry voice. He had to know, right then and there, where they stood... Bracing himself, he masked his apprehension with mischievousness and asked, "Oh, so y' wouldn't have minded if y'r boyfriend got made int' shish kabobs?"
Thankfully, she picked up on what he was trying to get at right away. "My boyfriend?" she echoed.
No more hiding, no more games – it was time to be forthright. "Oui… At least, dat's what I was hopin' I'd be," he admitted, and then waited.
The next few seconds were somehow even worse than what he'd been through when Carol and Rogue were battling for control. For the life of him he wasn't able to guess what she was thinking, and that unnerved him to no end – but then she adopted a thoughtful air and tapped her chin. "Yah know, Ah think yah have to make things up to me first – after all, yah gave me a lot o' grief…"
He smirked, recognizing the teasing gleam in her eyes. "Oh yeah? Den name y'r price, chère – what can I do f'r y'?"
"Well, I was thinkin' a few more kisses might do th' trick…"
He whistled (which he found was quite hard to do while attempting to suppress a grin) and shook his head in mock-disappointment. "Merde, y' drive a hard bargain!"
"Is that too much to ask, swamp rat?" she wondered flirtatiously.
"No, I t'ink I can handle it – especially since I was goin' t' say dat if you felt y' still had to make things up t' me, y' could do it de same way…"
"Well, nice to know that we're on th' same page," the Southern girl laughed, freer than he had ever heard her do before, as she leaned in to capture his lips once again.
Yes, at last they were on the same page… And with Rogue finally in his arms, Remy couldn't help but think that all the trials and tribulations they had endured on the way had been well worth it.
– Fin –
Chapters? 33. Words? 217,000+. Months? 19. Reviews? 965 and counting. The feeling of finishing this huge piece of work? Priceless.
Well folks, there you have it. Gosh, my most epic undertaking yet, and it's finally over. Wow. I can't believe this turned out to be as long as it is… Whoever stuck around for the whole thing, or even if you only began to read it after it was completed, I've got to say I'm impressed! And of course, I hope you're all pleased with the conclusion. How's that for a happy ending? And for all those of you who thought I would leave Carol in control… Oh, ye of little faith! A few of you were actually spot-on with your guesses, but if I managed to fool others, then that pleases me greatly. Because I like to be sneaky like that… ;)
Anyhoo. I want to give a huge thank-you to all my reviewers, whether you faithfully commented on every single chapter or will just leave me a few words after finishing the whole story – either way, your comments always make my day! It means a lot to me that you liked my fic enough to take the time to type me a message.
Now, for all of you wondering what's next, well… A bit of a break, I think. Then there are a few plot bunnies bopping about my brain, so I'll try to churn out some shorter pieces. After all that, another long fic! Red Wings and I have been painstakingly developing the plot of a Guild-related fic, tentatively tiled Oblique. Don't know when I'll begin writing, but keep an eye out for that eventually!
So! That's that. I really hope I managed to weave an enjoyable yarn for you all – but let me know! Leave me a review, help me break the one thousand mark, and tell me how you liked the fic! Thanks in advance, loyal ishandahalfarianites – don't know where I'd be without you. :)
– ish –