Rogue sat cross-legged in the bed, covers drawn up around her. She watched as Remy dressed in his colors. The sculpted armor was showing signs of wear. It would need to be replaced soon, she thought absently, adding that to her mental list. Then she stopped herself. That was a foolish thought. She wrapped the comforter more tightly around her waist, bundling it up in front of her breasts. Remy picked up his long coat from the chair where he invariably tossed it and slid into it with the barest rustle. Just like the man, it, too, was a little tattered around the edges yet so familiar Rogue couldn't imagine him without it.
He turned to look at her, his expression solemn. "I'll get de kids," he said.
She nodded and watched him leave. Only then could she force herself out of the warm blankets. Dawn had just begun to lighten the edge of the sky and she stood in the middle of the bedroom floor, staring at the thin line of rose. With everything in her, she tried to will it back down. But it was futile she knew.
Quietly, she went to the closet, to the new uniform tucked in the back behind her winter coat and that dress she had sworn she'd never wear again. She dressed slowly. Every sensation seemed exaggerated. The black lycra felt like burlap on her skin, the boots stiff and hard. The green leather jacket seemed too heavy to wear, but she put it on anyway, adjusting the collar with a practiced flip. Her wedding ring flashed in the light and she paused to study it. So much of her life was packed into that little symbol. So many years. So much hope and pain, love and regret. Everything that was most important to her.
A sound from behind startled her and she turned to find Remy standing in the doorway, a child in either arm. He was looking her over intently, his expression slightly alarmed. Rogue raised her chin.
"Don't ya dare try ta tell me not ta wear it." From today on, her colors would be black. Black and green.
Before he could say anything, the girl in his arm held out her hand towards Rogue. "Mama," she said sleepily.
Rogue crossed the room and took the girl in her arms. "It's all right, Renee, honey," she whispered to her, stroking her hair. Then she looked up at her husband. Their eyes met and locked, but there simply weren't any words left to be said between them. Remy shifted Cody to a more comfortable position on his shoulder, then took Rogue's hand. They had said everything last night, first in desperate passion, and later in quiet words and an almost chaste kiss that still somehow reached into the depths of their souls. The last few hours, they had lain in silence, simply holding each other.
Remy drew her close, pain in his eyes because he knew how much she hurt. Rogue swayed towards him, but straightened rather than surrendering to his embrace. She would come apart completely if she did that. Remy seemed to understand. He shifted away from her, but retained his grip on her hand.
Together they carried the children downstairs. Cody leaned his head on his father's shoulder, but his eyes were wide open. The children could sense the significance of the day, even if they could not understand it. There was fear in their eyes that no spoken reassurances could erase.
They walked into the living room and Remy froze. The room was full of people, who turned to look at them in silence. Those who had been sitting, stood. They were mutants all, the core of a force that was slowly forging acceptance between mutants and humans. Rogue, too, was surprised to see so many people. And she was touched that they had all come, from their homes across the world. The X-teams did not assemble often, but they were here, each dressed in his or her colors. It was a gesture of respect that she knew Remy had not missed. His fingers were closed almost painfully tight around hers.
At the front of the assemblage was Professor Xavier. He sat in his hoverchair, hands folded before him. Lilandra stood beside him, their son in her arms. Both looked tired and sad. The little boy was as groggy as any child awakened before dawn, but he smiled at Cody and Renee as the four approached.
The gathered mutants closed in around them like an embrace. The X-men were closest, each with a gentle word, a handshake, a hug, a kiss. Ororo was last. She wrapped her arms around Remy and held him tightly, unashamed of her tears. Remy kissed her on the cheek and let her take Cody from him for a few moments. Then he turned to his parents.
Lilandra stepped toward him, brushed the hair away from his face with a gentle smile. Remy caught her hand and then hugged her.
"Aman," he said softly and Rogue saw Lilandra bite her lip against tears. Then he turned his attention to the little boy.
"Have a good life, mon frere," he said with a smile.
The boy only watched him. He did not understand.
Charles held out his hand and Remy turned toward him, taking it without hesitation. Charles shook his head slowly.
"You will never know how proud I am of you, Remy." His grip tightened. Rogue's heart skipped a sympathetic beat. She could see how much that meant to Remy. It had cost him more than she would ever really understand to find his family. She could see his eyes shining as he nodded.
The house was so still, Rogue thought suddenly. Even with so many people there. It was almost as if the world were holding its breath. Remy must have felt it, too. He looked up suddenly, eyes turning toward something she was sure no one else could see. His face changed, drew into itself as he braced himself. Rogue's heart froze in her chest. It couldn't be. Not yet! But the sun was well over the horizon, and the world outside golden.
With quick steps, Remy returned to her side and took Cody into his arms once again. This time she willingly slipped into his embrace and tucked her head against his chest. She could feel his heart, beating out the count of their last moments. The children clung to them, frightened of something they could not see or hear. Rogue held desperately tight to the three people she loved most in the world, and felt Remy's arms like warm bands around her. She had held to faith and to love for ten years, and could never regret her choices. She looked up at him for only an instant, but knew in that moment that he knew it, too.
Then paradox struck, time lurched, and the world changed.
Bishop woke with a strangled shout, sitting bolt upright in bed. His gun was in his hand, barrel pointed at the ceiling as he searched the room for the cause of his alarm. But his mind already knew what his instincts did not-- it was only a dream. A persistent nightmare that wouldn't leave him be.
Jean sat up beside him. "Are you all right?" Her green eyes were luminous.
Bishop nodded. "A dream." He looked at the clock. Seven forty three. The sun was well up, and it was time for him to get out of bed. He wouldn't have been able to sleep more if he had tried. He set the gun back on the bedside table and pushed the blankets aside. It was good to sleep in a bed again, if only for this one night. The X-men couldn't afford to stay here any longer than that.
As if on cue, an explosion rocked the early morning peace. Bishop and Jean leapt out of bed. Words were unnecessary. Outside the window, figures rose from their hiding places around the small inn. Bishop flattened himself against the wall by the window, gun in hand once more, and readied himself for another fight. The hunters had found them yet again.