Shades of Red: Ruby by paxnirvana Format for use with submitting fanfic. Shades of Red: Ruby by paxnirvana
Rating: R 
Pairing: Jean/Scott, Rogue/Remy, ensemble X-Men [mostly Hank]
Archive: Ask first.

Author's Note: Some ideas just spring out and take you hostage until they get written. Go figure. Accidents will happen. But for superpowered mutants, the consequences are worse. 5/18/01

Disclaimer: The X-Men belong to Marvel. I belong to myself. My brain wrote this. However, I'm not making any money, just losing sleep.

* * * * *

The two women sat on opposite sides of the medical bay, careful not to look at each other. But one could sense the other glance over from time to time when she thought she was unobserved, glowing red eyes watching the unfolding tableau with agonizing concern.

I can't even hold his hand, Jean Grey-Summers thought raggedly. She stared into the Shi'ar healing tank at the battered body of her husband, her mind numb, her heart pounding sickeningly in her chest. All the while holding the mental link, the precious rapport with him stubbornly closed. She didn't dare touch it, not now when emotions were so raw. Mind to mind communication was no guarantee of efficiency or clarity, only of privacy. She didn't know what to say to the woman who had destroyed her life, her heart, her very soul.

"Jean, my dear." A huge, blue-furred hand settled delicately on her shoulder. She turned then, looking up into the fanged and worried face of her old friend Hank McCoy.

"How long?" she asked shortly. He glanced across the room then down into the tank.

"Truthfully? I have little idea," he said, his tone defeated. "The machines can heal his body, but not his. . . well, not his mind."

Jean could feel the approach of the other, sense the link strengthening with proximity. She struggled to hold back a shout of rage, of pain. Hank's hand tightened reassuringly on her shoulder, but she shrugged it off, whirling suddenly to face the interloper.

"Jean, it was an accident," the other woman said, her tones clear and sharp. "Don't blame her, please." No trace of the lazy Southern drawl remained - instead the flat tones of a Midwesterner had taken its place.

"Rogue, don't," Jean snapped, glaring at the other woman. "Just don't."

"Honey, listen, please. . ." The other woman held out her gloved hand, the red eyes so out of place in that feminine, heart-shaped face, under that white-streaked hair. Eyes blazing ruby red with restrained concussive energy. But it was the endearment that snapped her thin restraint. She violently slapped the offered hand away, making her own hand sting at the sharp contact with the nearly invulnerable woman.

"Don't try that on me, Rogue! You are not Scott!" she screamed, her long hair flying wildly around as she spun back to face the motionless body of her husband, leaning desperately over the clear case, staring down at his slack face.

"But I am, sweetheart. I'm here too. Just open the link again, Jean. . ."

"No!" Jean shrieked, her hands rising to press against her ears, blocking out the voice that was so wrong, saying words that were so familiar, so right. Feeling the truth of him, his love beating at the other side of the link. In the wrong body. She cried out, dropping to her knees beside the case, her hands spread wide over the shield keeping her from his chest, his face. Then she heard Hank speak to the other woman quietly and earnestly, escorting her out of the medical bay. Away from her. Away from his body. And away from the other unconscious member of the team, Gambit.

Jean could only laugh wildly, knowing she was at the edge of hysteria and not caring, but feeling in that moment, a sudden sharp compassion for the ex-thief. When he woke up, he was in for one hell of a shock.

* * * * *

The medical bay again, merde, was his first thought upon awakening. Bete hovered over him anxiously. It was only Henry's reassuring presence that kept him from leaping off the bed and sprinting away from the lab. Henry and the strange sense that they weren't alone. He saw a long fall of hair in the blessedly dim light of the lab, the slender shape of a woman silhouetted against the blinking lights of the complex machines that ringed the room. He could hear the gentle beeps and whirring noises of medical machinery in use and tensed slightly. Old fear. Old pain. Old habit.

"Rogue? Chère?" he called softly, his voice scratchy from lack of use. He'd been out for a while then, but still, he didn't feel too bad. Stiff, sore, but whole. He tried to rise up on the bed, but Beast put a huge paw in the middle of his chest to keep him in place, a distracted frown aimed across the room. Who was there?

"No, Gambit, not her," came the strangely acid tones of Jean Grey-Summers. "Strange, it took this . . . accident to make me actually sympathize with you."

"Now, Jean . . ." McCoy began, his low rumbling tone attempting futilely to soothe her.

"We have a mutual problem, LeBeau," Jean spat, stalking over to his bedside, her arms crossed over her chest, her green eyes blazing. "Your vampire girlfriend has sucked the life, the very soul right out of my husband."

"Dieu! She has Cyclops in her head?! Merde!" His mind reeled at the very concept.

"Yes, shit indeed, my Cajun friend," Henry said, looking anxiously at Jean. "Jean, it is my considered opinion that you should allow your psychic link to operate again. Perhaps reassuring yourself that he's intact in there - indeed, that his psyche is safe and whole as Rogue has assured us - will help yo . . ."

"No!" Jean shouted, her hands clenching and an ominous telekinetic glow beginning around them. "Not him, them! She absorbed him, all of him! Our link even went to her, Hank! There isn't even enough left of Scott to keep his heart beating, his lungs moving. The machines have to do it all! She took him from me." She began to cry then, great tearing sobs that near to broke Remy's heart despite his own pain.

Henry turned toward his distraught friend, his strong, furry arms closing tenderly around her. Jean buried her face against the white lab coat that covered Henry's blue chest, her shoulders heaving with the force of her sobs. Gambit took the opportunity to slip off the bed on the other side, limping stiffly over to the humming machinery. Inside a clear box eerily reminiscent of a coffin lay the body of Scott Summers. Wounded, but not grievously, yet lying with unnatural stillness inside the alien healing machines. Breathing only because of those machines. A mindless shell.

Jean's sobs echoed throughout the room, grating on Remy's raw nerves like fingernails on a blackboard. He glanced back at Henry, catching the doctor's eye over the red head buried against his chest. The weary, defeated look in Henry's eyes made Remy's heart lurch, his eyes sting. Hope sank, drowning in the tears of the sobbing Jean.

His Rogue. With Scott Summers locked inside her mind. Perhaps forever.

He placed a hand on the box before him, over the heart of the man lying within. "Get y' back home, homme, t' y' wife, Remy swears it," he said softly. Then he turned and left the medical bay, Jean's sobs still echoing painfully in his head.

* * * * *

He found her - them - on the mansion roof, sitting in his favorite spot. She had her knees drawn up, her arms wrapped around them and her cheek resting on top of her knees. An inward, defensive position. It didn't bode well. She watched his approach with calm resignation. He paused for a moment when he saw her eyes. Glowing red, almost like his own, but with a white sclera. They glowed brighter than his own ever did, no matter how dark the night. For they were glowing with the stolen strength of Cyclops's mutant power which was restrained without the aid of ruby quartz by a brain that had suffered no damage as a child.

The sight shook him to the depths of his tattered soul. The magnitude of it. The reality of it. "Chère?" he called gently. She closed her eyes briefly, lifting her head to look at him warily. He stepped closer, settling himself down carefully beside her, his body still aching with the aftermath of battle.

"Not really, Gambit," she said quietly, her normally lilting voice sounding strangely flat to his ear. "Rogue's not . . . well, she's hiding is the only way I can describe it. She doesn't want to deal with this right now."

"So she left Mr. Summers in charge, hehn?"

"Yes," she said, looking at him with curiosity. "You know, I have a great deal more respect for her strength of character. I had no idea there were so many people still lurking around in her mind. It's amazing she's sane at all."

"Dat's my girl - tough as nails," he said dryly.

"Really, Gambit," she said reprovingly, her face stiff with disapproval. And so reminiscent of their fearless leader that he nearly gaped in astonishment, stopping himself just in time from making a complete fool of himself. "She wouldn't care for that comment at all."

"Maybe, mon ami," he said with a shrug, recovering his aplomb. "And maybe not. Rogue and Remy, we understand each other some ways."

"Yes," Scott/Rogue said, eyeing him thoughtfully for a moment before continuing with quiet import. "You're in here too you know, Gambit."

"Yeah, figured dat."

The soul that examined him so closely from those fiery red eyes wasn't the soul that he loved - instead it was the soul of the one man in all the team that he had the least in common with. He felt a shiver run up his spine.

"Well, den," he said, challenge clear in his tone, his body tensing. More secrets to spill? Recriminations to parry? Or a battle to fight?

"Well nothing," Scott/Rogue said calmly, to Gambit's intense surprise. "That piece of you? Well, it watches out for her in here - you're taking care of her now."

"Nice t' know somet'ing good came out of dat mess."

They sat in silence for a few minutes, each studying the other warily. Then Rogue sighed deeply. Remy wanted to put his arm around her, but refrained, knowing Scott wouldn't appreciate the gesture. The words finally came, reluctantly.

"How is Jean?"

"Truth?" The white-striped head nodded slowly. "Not good, mon ami."

"She's shut down our link, blocked it from her end." The pain in Rogue's flattened voice was thick, but ruthlessly controlled as only Cyclops could be. "And she won't talk to me - to Rogue."

"She's hurting, mon ami. Afraid. Give her a little time yet."

Rogue fell silent again, staring out into the night, at the stars, expression grim. Remy lit a cigarette, smoking it in patient silence. Each waiting for the other one to speak again. Finally, Rogue turned and looked at him again. "How is it you don't seem to have trouble talking to me? To Scott, I mean."

Gambit took the dangling cigarette out of his mouth, staring down at the glowing ember on the end, his mouth pursed thoughtfully.

"Drives me wild, mon ami, knowing you in her head, in her heart," he said, his tone even, but his eyes blazing as he looked up at her. "But I know ma chèrie, an' I ain't talking t' her now. You be careful in dere, Cyclops. Respectful. Remy's ready t' do just about anyt'ing t' get y' out of her soul."

Rogue's eerily altered eyes met his. She nodded shortly once.

"Fair enough," Scott replied.

* * * * *

Okay, enough sulkin', girl. Time ta get back ta work, Rogue thought reluctantly somewhere in the depths of her mind. Behind her the lush banks of the Mississippi River faded into the shifting green-gold endless plain of her mental landscape. The shade of Remy watched her from under a huge willow beside the river, fading, but not disappearing entirely. He had agreed to stay behind, this time. And she knew he'd stay - unless there was more trouble. In here, often as not depending on her mood, he wore a demon's horns and prodded her endlessly with his sins. But this time, when she needed him most, he was just himself; red-brown hair falling in his eyes, quirky smile on his lips, a clever retort always ready. She didn't think too closely on that, grateful only that he was there for her. Her secret. Her support. She gave him one last lingering look over her shoulder before turning firmly away.

She moved slowly through the rippling waves of grass-like stuff, not concerned with defining it, just passing through it. It never impeded her unless she looked too closely at it, then it snarled and tangled about her - doubts and fears and nightmares given grasping form. She looked firmly beyond, not surprised to come suddenly across a tall slender man with brown hair. His uncovered eyes were brown as well. The weeds faded away, not daring to come close to him. A glowing golden cord stretched from his chest, his heart out into the distance, disappearing into the blackness beyond the boundaries of her mind.

This wasn't Remy.

This was Scott Summers.

He was solid and real, mentally dressed here in his original X-Men uniform, the chunky visor lowered around his neck. His form pulsed with resolve and hope and longing. His sum psyche. His soul. She flinched away from him at that though. The only other person she'd ever encountered in her mental landscape with this much solidity had been Carol Danvers. Until the Siege Perilous had finally taken her away. But Scott was even more clearly defined. Her power had taken everything from him. Caused by fickle fate; torn uniforms, a fall into darkness, the stunning energy bolts of a foe knocking her out just too long. The fact that it had happened while they were both unconscious and injured didn't change her guilt.

She'd killed him.

Hank had said that the only thing keeping Scott Summers' body alive was the Shi'ar machine. And it could only do that for a few weeks at most before the lack of a mind, a spirit, a motivating force caused the body to wither and die.

He didn't have a lot of time. They didn't. There was certainly no time left anymore to hide from the harsh facts.

"Scott?" she called to him. He turned and smiled at her, welcoming her calmly back to the core of her mind. She'd left him in the lurch, retreating like that, but she'd needed the chance to escape him, to tamp down her guilt and regret until she could function again. Mind-Remy was always good for that. He helped take those feelings away from her as if it were his sole reason for existence. And maybe it was.

"Are you feeling better now, Rogue?" Scott asked gently. No blame, no recriminations, just gentle concern.

"Yeah, Ah am. Thanks for the breather, Scott," she said. He looked at her and smiled, his brown eyes crinkling warmly. It transformed his whole face to be able to see his eyes. He was nearly as handsome as Remy, but without the flash, the danger, the edge. Instead he radiated warm strength, patient confidence and fortitude. All very attractive traits too. She felt the jealous brush of Remy's shade against her back and sternly warned it away. It faded obediently, returning to the riverside, but not without a lingering caress. She shivered. Scott frowned past her, sensing something in the dimness beyond her.

"Ah guess it's time to face the music, sugah," she said, unwilling to delay further now that she'd found the strength to go on. Scott smiled encouragingly.

"I'm right behind you, . . . Rogue," he said. They traded looks. A petty secret, but hers. And he'd respect that, she knew. He was a man of honor.

Then with a deep mental breath, she looked out through her own eyes at a world turned the color of blood.

* * * * *

Beside him, Rogue shivered. Gambit glanced at her with concern.

"Okay, mon ami?" he asked quietly. Rogue turned to him, her eyes sad, her hands clutching each other until the knuckles were white.

"Hi, Remy," she said hesitantly. His heart stuttered in his chest.

"Back 'gain, chère?" he asked, smiling gently at her. "Better now?"

"No, not until we find some way ta get Scott back where he belongs," she said softly. Tears welled in her glowing eyes. He almost expected them to boil away, her eyes looked so hot, but they trickled down her cheeks without a sound. He raised a gloved hand and lifted a tear from her cheek, as he had once before in what seemed like another life, another place and time, pressing it to his lips. He sipped it into his mouth, tasting the salt, the sorrow. She met his gaze, hope and fear and guilt lurking in their flaming depths. He smiled tenderly at her.

"We will, chère, Remy swears it," he promised, his gaze holding hers for a long moment before they settled back, together, to watch the stars.

* * * * *

Rogue went to bed in her own room, feeling the uncomfortable sense of unease that came from Scott's psyche, so closely enmeshed with her own. It was unnerving going through her nightly routine feeling the occasional odd impulse to close her eyes in front of the mirror after her shower. She scolded him gently in her thoughts.

"Ah know ya can't help it, sugah," she said to the watcher inside. He didn't reply directly, instead sending her a confused sense of curiosity / reluctant male interest / shame / betrayal wrapped up in an image of Jean, his wife. She closed her eyes then, just to spare him, as she hastily dressed in a nightgown and turned off the lights.

"Tomorrow," she promised him, fighting back tears. "Tomorrow, we'll talk ta Jean, come hell or high water, sugah."

- - on to *Fire* - -