Shades of Red: Blood by paxnirvana Format for use with submitting fanfic. Shades of Red: Blood
by paxnirvana
Rating: R [for mature content, language and mild sexual situations]
Pairing: Jean/Scott, Rogue/Remy, ensemble X-Men [mostly Hank]
Archive: Ask me first, please.

Author's Note: Some ideas just spring out and take you hostage until they get written. Go figure.

Warning: Life sometimes reminds you just how shitty it can be. Should have finished this story before it got around to me. This didn't end up quite how I'd originally intended. 6/12/01 [Goodbye, Mary. We promise to take care of your mom for you.]

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.

* * * * *

Rogue stood in the center of the Danger Room, clad once again in an enveloping blue bodysuit, seething with frustration. Eight hours had passed and she was back in control of her own body, Scott reduced once again to merely a mental passenger. Hank's full analysis and findings had had to wait.

"It is dangerous to bring you along, Rogue, Scott," Storm had said as the rest of the team hastily prepared to depart for a mission. An alarm had come in - another of the strange new Sentinel-like robots that had caused their current predicament was harassing a subway train in New York City. There were numerous civilians and undoubtedly a few mutants at risk. "If Rogue were to absorb someone hostile," - there Storm's gaze had flickered briefly to Gambit - "it could endanger both of you beyond any hope of recovery."

They understood the need to stay behind, but it galled both of them. Rogue was a fighter. Scott a leader. And this was the same foe who had defeated them before. They were both itching for a rematch. Jean had elected to remain behind with them, as Hank had been reluctant to leave Scott's body without someone to monitor it despite the sophistication of the Shi'ar machines that kept his body alive. Jean had willingly agreed to take on the chore. Gambit had trailed gloved fingers lightly over Rogue's cheek again, a devilish smile on his face as he glanced between Jean and Rogue.

"Play nice, y' two," he'd said, eyes twinkling mischievously. Jean had rolled her eyes at him in exasperation. "We'll be back soon's we settle wit' dis trifle."

"These Sentinels are hardly 'trifles', Remy," Rogue had said sternly, both she and Scott united in the scolding reply. "Be careful, ya swamp rat."

"Mais oui, chère," he'd said with a careless wave as he followed Storm and the others to the hanger, her heart following him. He didn't know of course. The transfer was one-way. He had no idea what he'd said to her in her mind. Not the exact words, anyway. But the thoughts, the feelings, the emotions of that encounter had all come from him. She shivered in place; fear, frustration and longing tearing at her heart.

"Computer," she snapped. "Run Alpha-level simulation Rogue-5."

"Warning: monitoring required for Alpha-level simulations."

"Override safety interlocks: gamma-three-epsilon-one-delta!" she snarled, her hands fisting impatiently at her sides. She wanted to break something. "Engage program!"

"Safety override code acknowledged. Simulation begins."
The room darkened and shimmered, the complex Shi'ar systems creating a nightmarish world of flickering light, ominous technology and the stench of death around her seemingly out of nothingness. A world Remy was intimately familiar with. These were images that still haunted him. She shivered involuntarily.

"Greetings, my dear," a chillingly familiar voice said out of the darkness. "Shall we begin?" Inside her, the psyche of Scott Summers blanched in shock.

"Rogue, alone against Sinister? At Alpha level? He could kill you - kill us!" he said to her, struggling against her control. She let a feral smile curl her lips, her mental grasp firm on her body's responses. She had something to prove here. To herself.

"Ah don't think so, Cyke," she said grimly in her own mind. "Ah've got a secret weapon. You." Then, with a thought, lethal beams of red force shot from her eyes, spearing across the room to strike the ominous shape standing in the shadows. The Sinister simulation roared in rage and pain, then teleported elsewhere in the room. She smiled in cold satisfaction, leaping into the air. The hunt was on.

"Rogue!" Scott yelled in her mind as she launched them at Sinister. "Don't fly straight at him, he's expecting that. He'll just blast you." As if on cue, the Sinister sim raised his hand toward them, unleashing a devastating blast of bio-energy, a sneer on his cold face.

"Ah got news for ya, sugah - Ah'm practically invulnerable," she replied dryly, flying defiantly into the teeth of the blast.

"I am aware of that," Scott said, wincing at the strength of the explosion that blew their combined body across the room. It was unnerving - intellectually, he knew the force of that blast would have killed him, but in Rogue's body it felt like being caught in a brief sandstorm; harsh, abrasive, but not overly painful. Much like the blunt force of the explosion acting on them to propel them across the room into a concrete pillar; more of an irritation than true pain. "But he also expects that - and uses it to delay you and prepare his own offenses in the time it takes you to recover."

"So, what do ya recommend, Scott?" she asked, considering his words even as she climbed out of the pile of rubble, fists and teeth clenched as she prepared to launch herself at the Sinister sim again.

"Distract him as well," he said, looking toward the other pillars holding up what appeared to be one of Sinister's typical subterranean cavern complexes. She grinned.

"Not bad, sugah," she said, easily hefting a chunk of concrete nearly as large as she was. She heaved it toward the sim, first distraction, then flew at lightning speed around the room, plowing through three more support pillars in rapid succession. The roof above began to groan and crumble. Second distraction. The sim of Sinister cast a startled gaze above himself, and they took the opportunity to spear him with an optic blast, splashing the villain's malleable form open. Rogue laughed out loud, a harsh sound, and flew toward the staggered sim, arms extended, fists clenched, to give the coup de grace. But her gloves had been torn by breaking concrete, and on impact - as it was an Alpha-level simulation - a flood of psychic bio-feedback, designed by the Danger Room to simulate her mutant power, staggered them both. Rogue screamed, unprepared for the assault on her mind. Scott threw up their arms automatically, though it was a mental rather than a physical attack. They burst through the sim, dissipating it temporarily.

"Computer! Cancel program!" Scott shouted out loud to the Room, reeling from the turmoil in their shared mind. Random energy and psychic manifestations swirled within them - he looked inward at the normally tranquil plane of Rogue's mind, seeing the upheaval as towering pillars of black rock piercing the grassy plain. Rogue's manifestation was crumpled near the base of one, as if it had erupted beneath her, stunning her. He glared at the spikey tower - and for the first time his own mutant power manifested in this place. Red beams lashed out and he blasted the tower to rubble without hesitation. To his shock, the remaining pillars instantly subsided, returning her mental plane to it's usual placid, grassy state. Except for the crumpled form of Rogue. He moved quickly to her side, crouching beside her.

"Rogue! Are you okay?" he called, concerned by her stillness. She had warned him about touching her in this place, but he nearly reached for her anyway. She moaned, finally, rolling over and bracing herself on her hands, head hanging between her shoulders. He leaned back, keeping close, but giving her space.

"A truck? Asteroid M? The Hulk? What was that?" she mumbled blearily.

"Just the Danger Room, I'm afraid," Scott said with relief. She seemed okay. "Alpha-sims have psi-feedback."

"Sorry, Scott. Seems Ah forgot 'bout that. An' it got the drop on me," she said with a disgusted hiss as she looked up at him ruefully through her tumbled white-and-brown hair. Puzzlement transformed her expression. "Now why are ya wearin' your visor 'gain, sugah?"

"I am?" he asked, reaching for his own face curiously. Feeling the familiar shape over his eyes, though it didn't interfere with his vision as he was used to. "Well, so I am." He shrugged. "I used my optic beams to settle things down in here."

Rogue stared at him in surprise for a moment, then rolled over to sit down, arms wrapped around her knees. The stunned look had swiftly faded. She looked fit and fine, now.

"Well, Ah doubt that, sugah," she said thoughtfully. "But ya certainly did somethin' to stop that mess."

He watched her with equal thoughtfullness.

"Symbolically, the visor is control," he said quietly. "But you don't have any problem controlling my optic blasts - so it's not a natural function of my mutant power. It should turn off when I want it to, but it's stuck on due to physical damage sustained when I was a kid. However, I've had years to work with my power, to refine it. What if my control can extend to your mutant power? It most likely comes from the same portion of the brain . . . . damn it, where's Hank when we need him?"

Rogue was obviously taken aback, her mental manifestation staring at him with wide eyes and frightened face. She surged to her feet, hands fisting at her sides. He rose to his own feet, stepping back a cautious pace. She just stared at him, the field of grass rippling away uneasily behind her, like the ocean before a storm.

"Whoa, now, Cyke. Are ya sayin' ya think Ah can control mah powers with your help?"

"Yes," he said simply. "I think I can teach you how to switch it on and off."

"Well, hell, sugah," she breathed. "Let's get started."

* * * * *

Jean knew it was Rogue's time in charge - Scott had explained the rotation to her earlier. And the amalgam had been in the Danger Room ever since the team departed for the city several hours earlier. The link was subdued between them. Scott was concentrating heavily, thereby blocking much of it.

She had been dividing her time between the monitor room and the medical bay, keeping watch on her husband's body as well as the progress of her teammates and friends.

Hank had called briefly to tell her that they'd discovered a lead about the new robot threat and were going to follow it up. The team would be gone longer than they'd first thought, but hopefully not too much longer. And could she run just a few more tests for him in the lab. . .

* * * * *

Jean stood inside the doorway, pausing uncertainly. She had been drawn away from Henry's experiments by a quiet mind call from her husband. Rogue was standing at the window of her bedroom, dressed in a long silk robe, staring down through the open curtains at the night-shrouded grounds outside. Her gloved hands were folded behind her back in a pose so reminiscent of Scott that she did a brief double-take. It was eerie how the young Southern woman seemed to almost physically resemble her tall, lean husband when his psyche had charge of their shared body. Or perhaps it was simply her own wishful thinking, imbuing the other woman's form with the psychic print of her husband to make the ordeal more bearable. A daunting thought. It was almost as if Rogue was ceasing to exist for her; there was only Scott.

"Scott?" she called softly. Rogue turned around, a tender smile on her face.

"Jean," he said, holding out a hand to her, his love and welcome pulsing warmly along the psi-link. For an instant she seemed to feel a strange echo on the link, but disregarded it as she returned his smile.

"What's the matter, honey? I shouldn't leave the medical bay for too long," she asked, with concern, crossing Rogue's darkened bedroom to take his hand. "And isn't this part of Rogue's time in charge?" He nodded once as he squeezed her hand with exquisite care, conscious of Rogue's enhanced strength. Details. Scott was a master of details.

"Nothing's the matter, Redd," he said, raising his other hand to cup her cheek. The red eyes staring into hers were alive with love and mischief. She found herself smiling back with silly abandon. He was so seldom whimsical and it was so refreshing to be able to see the emotion in his eyes and not just feel it in his mind. "I wanted to spend some time with you, is all. It's been hard to relax during this whole mess. Rogue agreed." His hand trailed lightly down her chin, a slender, gloved thumb brushing across her lips as red eyes stared at them.

"I can't tell you how much I want to kiss you, honey," he said, his tone tight with regret. She felt his frustration and desire rage like fire along their link and moaned in response, her heart pounding in her chest. They belonged together. It wasn't fair that they'd been forced apart like this after all they'd endured.

"I think you just did," she said with a soft moan. "But we don't dare. Rogue's powers aren't under control, and -," her voice caught as the knowing thumb slowly outlined her lips sending tingles of desire through her body, " - it's not fair to Rogue."

He smiled tightly, the mischief returning. "What if I told you she's given us her blessing?" he said softly. Jean's eyes widened in surprise as she felt the truth of his words through their link.

"I - I don't know," she gasped as he leaned closer, his breath now warm on her cheek.

"We've been working together, on each other's powers," he continued quietly, the red eyes flaming. "There's something I'd like to try, sweetheart, if you'll agree."

"Scott. . ." she moaned, her green gaze searching his. She was so used to either the visor or ruby quartz glasses concealing his eyes and his expressions from her that she relied heavily on their psi-link to read his intent. And he was sending her such reassurance, such love, such desire over that same link that she nodded almost helplessly. This was Scott, her husband, her soul-mate. The form didn't matter.

The red eyes gleamed with gratitude, the face around them showing relief. The hand tormenting her lips fell away. He drew her closer, slipping an arm around her and pressing their bodies together. Jean stared into the eyes on the same level with her own, entranced. Then he leaned toward her, watching her the while. She couldn't look away, fascinated by his eyes. The eyes she'd never truly seen before. His eyes in Rogue's face.

"Trust me," he breathed. She nodded.

Soft lips brushed hers, easy at first, then firming. Shaping her mouth, demanding her surrender. She moaned in her throat, lips parting to allow a knowing, clever tongue inside. The kiss was oddly disturbing; familiar in form, but wrong in taste and texture. Scott's knowledge and skill, combined with Rogue's mouth. She stiffened, shock and dismay racing through her. Rogue's mouth!

She tore herself away with a gasp, staring with wide, startled eyes into the red eyes so close to hers. "Nothing happened!" she cried, astonished. "How? What did you do?"

He smiled gently at her, pleased. "Alpha level sims have bio-feedback," he said. "Rogue ran a custom sim with Sinister." Jean's eyes widened in alarm. That was a highly dangerous simulation to run - it had been known to put the full team on the defensive. "And she touched him."

"She touched the Sinister sim?" Jean gaped.

"It was an accident, actually," he said with a sheepishly pleased smile. "One I was able to control. And after Gambit, I had a good feeling for how her power works. It gave me some ideas, but we needed to test on something other than a sim. Apparently, it worked."

"That was risky," she said with an astonished smile, simultaneously torn between exasperation and wonder. He smiled back at her, drawing her close again. She snuggled into his arms, laying her head on his shoulder. She felt gentle lips at her cheek, a soft whisper in her mind and in her ear, "Some things are just worth the risk, my love."

* * * * *

The feelings were overwhelming. Love. Desire. Need. Comfort. Scott's link with Jean tormented her. Not because they were emotions she hadn't experienced before, but because they were fulfilled. Jean and Scott shared the certainty of their love, able to do so both through their bond and their bodies. The lure of it was so tantalizingly clear and strong, the link so seductive, that she'd subtly pushed them together, fanning their desire until it overcame their sensibilities and reservations.

Then he kissed Jean. Used her body to kiss Jean. His idea had worked. Her power was controlled. And her heart shuddered. It felt so good, so normal, so right to finally be able to kiss another without fear. And their desire spiraled out to include her.

It fanned her own feelings, bringing insight and understanding. She loved Remy just as much as Scott loved Jean. There was no clearer yardstick to use. But under it all, she could see now through the filter of Scott's perceptions, she was still afraid. Afraid of love. Afraid of herself. Afraid of failure.

When she'd touched Remy earlier, for Hank's experiment, he'd confronted her directly, leaving Scott far behind.

"Let me in, chère," he'd said, driving her back to the illusory safety of her mental riverbank. But there was no safe, comfortingly familiar Mind-Remy waiting for her there. Instead, he had changed and become the one pursuing her. Filled with a fresh infusion of Remy LeBeau's surprisingly iron will; no longer the compliant, guilt-ridden, memory-bound companion of her daydreams but a vengeful, demanding force.

"Let me in, chère," he'd repeated, finally cornering her and pinning her against the gnarled trunk of the willow. "If you don't we both regret it forever." Insects whined around her, biting painfully at her psychic flesh, fears and doubts made manifest. Inside she wasn't invulnerable. Far from it. And he'd been relentless.

"Not both of us - ya'll never know!" she had snapped back, defensive and frightened, but his red-on-black gaze had bored into hers, fierce and demanding. "This don't work both ways!"

"T'ink so?" he'd said and her heart had sunk. "No use running, mon coeur," he'd added, his harsh expression softening. "Y' can't get rid of me 'til I wake up - an' dats a few minutes away. I got time enough for dis."

Then he'd leaned down and kissed her, and with that symbolic contact, his self merged with hers.

Raw emotion had flooded her, his emotions fresh from his heart; frustration, love, jealousy, underlain by longing, fear, pain. Frustration: he had ideas for loving her, for touching her, ways to work around her power. But she rebuffed his every attempt - terrified of the possibility of failure. Love: his love for her filled her, pure and piercing, like the link between Jean and Scott. Jealousy: Scott Summers had access to the heart and soul of his lady-love, leaving him out in the cold. Longing: he had wanted her for so long, needed her to love him as he loved her. Fear: what if Scott could never be separated from her again? Pain: she was suffering and there was nothing, nothing he could do to stop it.

His shade had finally pulled away, leaving her mental self reeling. "Y' want what dey have, chère," he'd said. "But y' afraid of it at da same time. Y' gotta take da risk, chère. I love you. You love me. Jus' like dey do. Give us a chance, chère."

Then he'd awakened there on the Danger Room floor and the fierce determination had faded from his shade. She'd banished it, no longer able to take comfort in that mental presence. It had been a crutch, she now realized, a pale shadow of the reality of Remy that had grown familiar and safe. No longer.

She'd sat by her mental riverbank, huddled under the willow and contemplated herself. She wasn't used to thinking of herself as a coward. A force of destruction, a danger to others, maybe, but not a coward. The idea had galled her, made her angry. But there was no focus for the anger other than herself. She was a coward.

In Seattle, she'd turned away from Remy when he'd offered this, offered himself, too afraid to even consider what it might cost him, a man recently awakened from a three-week coma that she had put him into with her impulsive desire. A kiss before dying. He'd been willing to take the risk again, despite the fear she'd seen deep in his eyes. At the time she'd thought him only afraid of the truth being revealed, and that had been part of it, but his deepest fear had been that she'd turn away, that she'd reject him without ever giving him another chance. And that she had done, for a while, shattering him. But he'd endured. Survived. And was stronger for it.

The true miracle of it all was that he still loved her. Despite everything. The way Scott loved Jean.

"Remy," she moaned inside, lost in her memories, lost in sensation, lost in desire.

* * * * *

"Remy," Rogue whispered against her lips. Jean stiffened and pulled away, her eyes flashing open, the mood disrupted.

"Scott?" she asked tentatively. The red eyes opened and looked lazily into hers, she felt his presence strong and loving through the link, no sign of Rogue.

"Jean, honey," he said huskily, a hand brushing her cheek, her hair. She sighed, relaxing back against him, not even feeling the shape of the other woman against her, feeling only her memory of Scott's strong body, his arms enfolding her. He leaned toward her again, lips skimming over hers in a teasing caress, breath mingling. She smiled, melting against him again.

"Love you," he said against her mouth. She wrapped her arms around him, tangling her hands in long hair obliviously, stroking it away from his face, staring into those red, red eyes. She felt his hands working at her shirt, slipping the buttons, baring her to his touch. His mouth feathered over the side of her breast as his hands unerringly found the hook of her bra in front, freeing her to his exploration. She sighed in pleasure as his mouth captured a nipple, drawing it deep into his mouth and sending pulses of need through her.

"I love you, too, Scott," she breathed as he rolled her under him on the bed, hearts beating as one, minds linked. Together again.

* * * * *

"Fils de la putain!" The harsh French words broke them apart, Jean gasping, Rogue rearing up in surprise to look over at the opened door. There was a blur of motion, then Gambit's gloved hand caught Rogue's silk-covered shoulder and wrenched her away from the other woman. He was half out of uniform, having shed his duster, breastplate and cowl, but was still wearing the dark tunic, leggings and boots. The team had obviously returned from their mission.

"Connard!" he yelled, drawing back his fist and plowing it into Rogue's face. She yelped, falling backwards onto the floor, her hair flying wildly, blood flashing in the dim lamplight. Gambit stood over her crumpled form, his red-on-black eyes blazing down at her. "C'est vous, Cyclops! Rogue, she never forgive dis! Jamais!"

Rogue looked up at him in sick horror, her eyes blazing with power. But no red beams emerged. A trembling, astonished hand wiped the thin trickle of blood away from her mouth. Gambit glared down at her, vengeful and unafraid, teeth gritted, hands fisted.

"Summers, if y' ever get back in y'r own body," he growled savagely. "I'll kill you - bastard!"

"Remy, it's not his fault!" Rogue gasped, looking up at him with shimmering red eyes. "Ah know it's hard ta understand, sugah, but Ah did this."

"Pour quoi?"

"For them, sugah," she sobbed, staring at him with pleading gaze. "They love each other so much, Remy. So very much. And Ah wanted ta feel it too, just once. Oh, Gawd! What did Ah do ta them? Ah'm a monster! It's not fair. . ." She buried her face in her own hands, her shoulders shaking with sobs. Jean sat stiffly on the bed beyond them, holding her unbuttoned shirt closed over her chest, her face pale with shock, blinking as if waking from a dream. Remy glanced at her briefly, his furious glare now tinged with his own shock and confusion.

"I'm sorry, Remy," Jean said softly, her breath hitching in her throat, her green eyes swimming with concern and shame. "The link. . . things just . . . got out of hand."

"Sapriste!" he snapped, anger flaring again at her words. "Out of hand? Whose idea was dis anyway?"

"Mine, Remy," Rogue sniffled. "All mine. Ah wanted ta let them have some time together again." Remy stared down at her in amazement, then realized that she was practically bare, the silken robe having fallen free of her shoulders when she fell. He gaped at her, but not simply because of her nudity - stunning as it was - but because she'd been mostly naked and pressed against Jean. Skin to skin.

"Chère," he said carefully, feeling as if he was walking a thin edge over a deep abyss, his fragile heart in his hands. "Y' ain' wearing a collar. How're y' touching her?"

"That part was my doing, I'm afraid, Gambit," Rogue said, her voice calming into Scott's controlled tones. Remy's glare intensified. Rogue climbed slowly to her feet, ignoring her dishabille and him. She took the few steps back to the bed and took Jean's bare hand in her own, sinking down beside her. Jean smiled tremulously at her. Scott/Rogue favored Gambit with a narrow stare, an ironic smile on her full lips. "Actually, we worked it out together in the Danger Room - I just showed her how to find the right switch."

Gambit's eyes widened comically. He blinked several times in rapid succession, then glanced at Jean. She nodded, confirming what her husband had said. Then Remy LeBeau collapsed where he stood, sinking to his knees in stunned disbelief.

"Dis true, chère?" he asked hoarsely, his red-on-black gaze locked with Rogue's red-on-white. Her head nodded solemnly. He shook his head sharply once. "Say it, mon coeur, so I know it's you."

"Yes, it's true, Remy," Rogue said with breathless intensity. "Scott helped me control mah powers."

"Dieu." His voice was little more than a weak croak. Then he lunged forward, catching Rogue in his arms and kissing her with all his heart, all his soul. For an instant, she was rigid in his grasp, struggling with both the other personality in her head and with the fear that only Scott could maintain control. But then, as no transfer occurred, her arms went around him too, returning his embrace with all the longing and love in her own heart. Jean gasped, feeling the echo of Rogue's relief, her passion, her cautious joy down the link she shared with her husband. She shifted nervously beside them, breaking Remy's attention away briefly.

"Pardonnez nous, Jeanne," he whispered huskily, a charming smile on his face. "Prior claim, mon amie." Jean smiled at him weakly, faintly embarrassed, and moved back further across Rogue's bed to give them more room. Remy obligingly used it, pressing Rogue back on the bed, draping his lanky form over her trembling body.

"Damn it, Gambit!" Rogue said sharply, stiffening in his arms, her head turning to watch Jean's retreat. He held on to her tightly, catching her chin to turn her face back toward him. Remy smiled at her, a sharp, feral smile. "Go 'way, Scott. Dis is 'tween me an' ma chèrie. I thank y' later, mon ami."

Then he leaned down and kissed her again. Long and breathlessly. Attempting to redeem years of frustration and denial, pain and love with the eager pressure of mouth on mouth. Her arms wrapped around him, holding him desperately close. He pulled back finally, to let them both breathe, and frowned to see tears streaming down her face.

"'S'matter, chère?" he asked gently, even though he had a good idea what had caused her tears, framing her face with his hands and tenderly wiping the tears away with his thumbs. She smiled weakly up at him, her hands rising to touch his face with wonder.

"It's just like Ah always dreamed," she said softly, her red eyes sparkling. Red that should be green. A constant reminder.

"Not quite, chère," he said with a small, rueful smile. "We didn' count on guests." Her gaze flicked to the side where Jean was lying quiet, trying not to disturb them, her face pale, her eyes closed. Shielding her thoughts, blocking them out for privacy. Remy never looked away from Rogue's face.

"They both gonna stay for now," he said softly and without hesitation. Jean's eyes snapped open at his words and she felt Scott's answering disbelief down the link. Rogue gave a short laugh of real amusement at her alarmed expression, at Scott's automatic outrage. She shook her head and rolled her eyes.

"Naht like that, sugah," she said reassuringly, blushing slightly as she reached out to Jean and took the other woman's hand. "Just ta be together, here, all in a pile or somethin'. Jus' bein'. Remy an' me can wait."

"Rogue, I'm sorry . . ." Jean began, but Rogue just shook her head, squeezing her hand lightly, tugging her closer. Jean slid over reluctantly, shooting Gambit an apoligetic and slightly wary look. He just smiled and made room for her beside them, slipping easily over to Rogue's other side, his gaze seldom straying from Rogue's face. Jean sat beside her, looking down at the other woman with a nearly maternal look on her face; sad, resigned and wise.

"Now don't worry, Jean," Rogue continued softly. "This is an odd situation Ah've gotten us all inta here, but now Ah just can't regret it. Yer husband helped me get mah heart's desire." She turned and gave Remy a blinding smile before meeting Jean's gaze earnestly again. "Ah owe ya both so much Ah can neva repay ya. The least Ah can do is let ya sorta be together."

"Thank you," Jean said solemnly as she squeezed Rogue's hand in return, feeling Scott's humble shame and weary sympathy through their link. "This should really be your time right now. You've both waited so long."

"We're good at that part, sugah," Rogue said with another blinding smile for Remy. "We can wait a little longer."

"Vraiment," Remy said gently, meeting Jean's gaze with patient understanding. "'Til ever'one get safely t' where dey belong."

With a last reach for Scott, and his added reassurance, Jean settled down on Rogue's shoulder, her hand curled over the other woman's bare stomach. Across from her, Remy did the same. And no one protested when Remy tugged off his gloves and laid his hand over Jean's linking all of them together by simple touch.

* * * * *

They had wanted to do this alone. Despite the concern and worry of their friends and loved ones, both had felt the need for solitude. In the dark and alone, as the accident itself had occurred. It seemed fitting.

Slipping away from Remy and Jean had been the hard part. Leaving the bedroom without waking a master thief or a telepath was a difficult proposition. Somehow, together, they managed it. Over the last few days, Scott had been amazingly patient with her fears, her worries, but she could sense his growing impatience and need to return to his own body before it was too late. Especially since yesterday and their fifth successful run on Alpha sims in the Danger Room. Hank had been cautiously optimistic, but whether that success actually meant what they believed it meant was another matter entirely. He'd scheduled them for more sessions the next day, promising full analysis of the days results as well, asking them to wait a little longer despite his deep concerns over Scott's suddenly failing body.

Neither of them had felt it necessary to wait. They knew what to do.

Rogue stood now in the medical bay, her heart pounding in her chest, staring down at the life support machines. At Scott. To open the case would set off alarms; alarms that would bring Hank - and Jean and Remy - on the run. Opening the case would also distrupt the life support field. But to touch him, she'd have to open the case. All of it could cause his weakening body to go into shock - even die - if the transferrence didn't work as they'd figured. And maybe even if it did work.

"Are ya sure about this, Scott?" she said in her own head, biting her lip as she set her hand on the latch. Her hands were already free of gloves. She hadn't worn them in the three days since they'd first perfected her control. She felt strangely incomplete without them, almost wicked. Freedom with only the lingering remnants of habit to dull it. But Scott had shown her the way. It was like a switch. She now had total control over her absorption power. On and off. Able to touch and kiss Remy now at will, something that still embarassed Scott to no end. She let a brief smile cross her lips. Almost as much as it embarassed her, now, when she let him kiss Jean. They had settled into an uneasy alliance of sharing, the four of them.

It was the other part of Scott's work on her powers that she was still a little uncertain about. An aspect of her mutant ability neither she nor anyone else had ever considered even as a fantastic possibility before the accident had happened. But Scott and Hank now thought it possible to reverse the effect. To put back what she had stolen, however inadvertantly. For a moment she felt a pang, knowing that soon she'd be alone in her mind again. One way or another. She shielded the grim thought from him desperately.

"In theory," he said dryly, then responding to her question with a boyish, encouraging smile. "Actually, yes. I'm quite sure."

She shook her head ruefully, hiding her concern over his bravado. The truth was they were out of time. His body was dying. "Shouldn't tease right now, sugah," she said. "Ah'm the one in control here."

"Sorry," he said, letting his smile fade, but not the strength and trust behind it. "I'll be good. Ready?"

"Ah'm ready as Ah'll ever be," she said with a shiver, staring at him through strange dual perceptions; at his still, pale form inside the Shi'ar machine and his tall, straight figure on the psychic plane. He smiled at her encouragingly, his brown eyes conveying warmth, trust and confidence. She smiled weakly back. Hoping against hope that they weren't making a horrible mistake.

"Point 'o no return, sugah," she said, taking a deep breath and using her strength to jerk open the case against the sealing controls. Immediately alarms shrilled, echoing through the room, lights shifting to a warning red, a puff of highly oxygenated air in her face making her briefly giddy as it escaped from the case. Then she leaned over and placed both her hands on his cool, slack face.

"Go!" she cried out loud and in her mind, activating her mutant power and pushing out, pushing Scott out, with all her will. He had turned away, eagerly, lifting his visor to cover his eyes again, looking out to face the darkness at the edge of her mind. Then receeding from her inner view, disappearing into the black that was nothingness beyond the edge of her mind. He went gladly, trusting her, and trusting the work they had done together. Her heart thundered with fear. She couldn't let him down. Her power was no longer her enemy, and now his only salvation.

She held the path open, letting him go, hopefully, back where he belonged. Sending him strength to keep his body alive, his mind sustained until he could settle himself, become himself again, learn to live again. She would give him everything, if it would only erase this terrible error. Keep another life from being destroyed by her. Under her hands, his skin warmed. But he did not move or speak. And he was gone from her mind.

She staggered, feeling strangely drained and empty, like something vital was missing. Her vision swam; first the alarms and now familiar voices raised in shouts were ringing oddly in her ears. She felt herself falling, falling away and back into someone's arms, heard a cry of dispair, then nothing, nothing but blackness rushing in to overtake her on the empty, grassy plane of her mind.

* * * * *

A beloved voice, hoarse with strain, was calling her, talking to her. But something was dragging her down, holding her back. She struggled against the blackness, striving to reach that voice, to reassure. There was something she had to say, to do, to know. She fought long and hard, but she was just so tired. She fought on anyway, beyond exhaustion and darkness. There was water, somewhere, she could hear. A river? Not yet. Finally she felt hands tight around one of hers, the weight of something leaning against her shoulder, as if someone, weary beyond belief or crushed by grief had leaned their head against her, desperate for contact.




"Gawd, don't call me that!" she said.

"Chère? Henri! She's tryin t' talk!" The weight moved away, her hand was lifted. Lips caressed her knuckles. She tried to squeeze back reassuringly, but felt too weak, too weary, too diminished.

"Easy, my excitable Cajun friend, yes, I see the changes," a deep, soothing voice said. "Now let me see. Yes. Hmmm."

"Don't let that swamp rat get away with anythin', Hank," she whispered, her mouth dry, her throat stiff with disuse. At least that's what she tried to say. About all that came out was a croak that sounded vaguely like "Hank."

"Welcome back to the land of consciousness, m'lady Rogue," Henry McCoy said gently, his voice thick with emotion.

Then there were warm hands on her face, breath against her skin, the faint scent of cedar and cigarettes and salt. She tried to open her eyes, failed. Still too tired.

"Mon amour, y' dere? Rogue?" Remy. Remy with his hands on her skin. Remy with hot tears dripping on her cheeks and a suspicious hitch in his voice.

"Remy, mah love," she croaked. "Did it work?"

"Ah, chère, we was so worried."

"Remy, did it work? Is Scott. . . ." Remy was crying. Fearing the worst, she felt tears leak from her eyes, mingling with his. Why was Remy crying?

"Oui, chère, it worked," he soothed, stroking the hair back from her face, the slow tears from her cheeks. His touch felt like heaven. No gloves or barriers between them. Just his skin on hers. She still had her control. "Cyke's fine. He's . . . more dan fine. Jeanne fine. Now . . . you gonna be fine."

She felt a smile tug at her mouth. She'd done it. She'd saved him.

"Love ya, Remy," she breathed, feeling the darkness rising up around her again.

"Non, chère, don' go," he begged her, his voice harsh again, his hands clutching her face. She felt his mouth on hers, his breath mingling with hers. But it was dark, and now cold, and she was so very, very tired. In the darkness she saw a flare of light, like a distant flame, shaped like a bird. It's voice echoed in the swallowing darkness faintly, barely reaching her.



//Thank you, Rogue, for my husband's life. But you gave too much, honey.
 You gave him . . . everything you had.//

	//Didn't want ta ruin any more lives. He was dying. Ah had ta
	 help him, since Ah hurt him in the first place. An' he helped
	 me so much - let me kiss Remy at last without hurtin' him.
	 Ah'm just glad everythin' turned out fine. Ah'm just so tired
	 now - can Ah go?//

//Rogue, Remy loves you. He's crying for you. Can't you come back for him?//

	//Just to sleep, Ah promise. Ah'm so tired. . . an' Ah gotta find the
	 river. . . Remy's waiting for me by the river. . . gotta tell him
	 how much Ah love him. . . //

//No, he's not, Rogue. He's out here with me. Tell him out here. Fight
 longer, honey! Hank's trying to save you. . .//

	//Tell him, by the river. . . // 

* * * * *

He sat for hours, holding her body close, his tears tracking across her cold skin. When he finally set her down, he turned to find himself nearly alone, with only Jean and Scott still sitting behind him, hands clasped tightly together, heads bowed in grief. The new white streak in Scott's hair was jarring, as was the lack of glasses covering his red, glowing eyes.

"Dat girl had da biggest heart in da world - her biggest dream was t' be a momma an' have little ones of her own - she neva wanted t' be a soldier in dis war of ours. She loved so big, she even taught dis ol' t'ief how ta love. Do right by her, mon ami," Gambit said, his voice hoarse with grief and loss. "Make her proud."

"Ah will, Remy," Scott vowed.

- - fin - -