Heav'n has no Rage, like Love to Hatred turn'd,
Nor Hell a Fury, like a Woman scorn'd.
~ William Congrave, The Mourning Bride ~

Chapter Three : : The Queen's Game

"Turn it on."


"Rogue," his girlfriend snapped back from across the room on his bed.

"Fine! There! You happy?"

Rogue leaned forward and frowned intently as she stared for nearly a full minute. "Now, turn it off."

"Rogue. You can't just go around asking people to—"

"Stop it!" she hissed out, and he did. Rogue's eyes had sparkled into a green flame that looked ready to consume him.

They stared at each other, one in hurt and confusion, the other in anger.

"Just turn it off, Bobby."

The temperature went up in the room a several degrees, and Bobby shook the hoarfrost off of him. He was sitting on his desk and watching Rogue warily.

"Are you all right?" he asked.

She seemed amused by the question, the faintest hint of a smile lifting her mouth. "Perfectly."

Somehow that was the least reassuring thing she could have said.

"Oh, Bobby. Stop worrying about me." Rogue rose from the bed and trailed over to him with a slow walk that made him burn. "You're not earning brownie points, you know."

Brownie points? He was having a hard time understanding her, when she stepped up close and drew one bare finger sharply across his jaw and smiled up at him with that strange new look in her eyes.

"Stop," she asked softly.

"Stop what?" He was pretty sure the room got colder.

She raised her eyebrows. "Worrying."

He stared at her. "Can I?"

"You should," she returned firmly.

"Uh…I'm not sure I control it that well." He finally snapped to it and figured out what she was talking about. "It's an emotion, you know? 'Cause I care."

Rogue sighed. "All right, Bobby. I'll see you around."

And she slipped out of the room. Elusive. Independent. Alone.

Tante Mattie Baptiste tightened her lips into a thin line but said nothing with her mouth. Her dark, reproachful eyes followed Remy into the house—his family's house, and she reached with wide open arms he recognized all too well to take in the limp, exhausted form of the girl he carried.

Sarah flinched back hard.

"It's okay, petite," he whispered. "This be Tante Mattie." The woman who raised him.

Quiet Thieves gathered in the entry behind him until Sarah allowed herself to be embraced by the dark-skinned, motherly soul that had raised half of all Thief and Assassin children.

"Come here, child. Let's get you warm."

Sarah leaned on Tante Mattie's shoulder as they walked toward the guest wing of the house, craning her head to see Remy standing behind her, watching her, but not following.

Those piercing blue eyes. It had to be her.

A heavy hand settled on Remy's shoulder, and he tensed, glanced at his brother, Henri, standing beside him. "Père wants to talk to you."

Remy gave Henri a measuring look until he flushed to the top of his bald pate.

"You're under safe passage, frère," Henri said. "Let the bad blood lie."

Remy snorted. Harsh bitterness colored his words. "You and I both know the only reason I'm here is 'cause Jean-Luc bartered for whatever information Sarah has."

Henri hesitated in the ensuing silence in the hall. "You mean more than that."

Remy banked his smoldering anger under the thin veneer of professionalism he had mastered as a Thief, but he looked at his brother coldly. "I'll see him."

Henri shook his head, but said nothing as he led the way to their Patriarch's office.

Dr. Moira McTaggert was all Storm had expected of her.

And then some.

The doctor was an old acquaintance of Professor Xavier's and had been publishing in medical journals about mutant ethics and the use of telepathy in medicine to stirring debate. However, the Professor had left her name among his most trusted contacts, so when she contacted Storm, statedly about a matter of some delicacy, Storm had accepted the call.

"I think I have someone of interest to you," the doctor had begun.

"Yes," Storm answered cautiously.

Hello, Ororo.

She very nearly dropped the phone.

That was almost a week ago, and now, Dr. McTaggert was here, in the flesh. Storm smiled at her as they greeted each other.

"I have been looking forward to meeting you."

Moira smiled. She had aged well for being so close in age to Professor Xavier. Her hair was still red, her voice still full of life and good humor; in fact, she seemed a woman closer to middle age than older.

"It's good of you to come out and help us like this."

"Oh, I remember Hank quite well," Moira replied. "He was always so intelligent. I imagine he's finding it hard to split his time."

"Indeed," Storm agreed.

Shadowcat crouched within a bed in the medical bay. Every so often, she would poke her face out slightly to see Hank McCoy moving his furry, blue form around the area. She sighed internally. Why Rogue didn't just come out and ask for the records was beyond her. But anything for a friend, right?

"You know, you could just ask him," Shadowcat told her in exasperation.

Rogue was back in full force, and somehow her bare arms only made her look more dangerous. "I waited three years for the Professor to help me," she snapped. "And now what? He's dead."

Shadowcat flinched at the raw statement.

"I'm tired of waiting on someone else. You said to fight. To find out how."

So here she was.

Now, if only Hank would stop humming and get out of the medical bay!

Storm showed Moira into the medical lab. "Thank you again for taking over for Hank while he's covering the White House."

Moira shook her head. "Really, it's no trouble." She looked around, surprised at how little everything had changed. "I can manage to rotate schedules with him for a while. My daughter,"—Storm turned back to her in interest—"she's been complaining that my constant presence hampers her creativity."

Both women laughed at that.

"Teenagers," Moira added ruefully.

A flash of brown caught the corner of her eye and she turned sharply toward the back wall behind some equipment. Was that a...ponytail?

"So Hank will be leaving for Washington in the morning," Storm carried on, apparently having seen nothing. "I asked him to clear you out a few filing cabinets and bring in this old desk..."

Moira listened with one ear and, with the rest of her attention, considered what she had seen.

Logan cursed at the fifth ring of the doorbell. "Is there nobody besides me in this house?" he demanded of his frying eggs. He turned off the heat, pulled them off the burner, and headed to answer the stubborn visitor.

He yanked open the door and demanded, "What?"

An impeccably dressed blonde woman in a white business suit, carrying a small white briefcase, raised one perfect blonde eyebrow at his greeting. "Emma Frost," she said coolly. "Parole officer for St. John Allerdyce."

Logan ground his teeth and stepped aside for her to enter.

She stepped inside as coolly as she had spoken and motioned the sullen young man behind her to follow. "Is Miss Munroe in?" Frost asked politely.

"I'll go get her." Logan gave Pyro a warning look, then headed into the mansion. As he passed the rec room, he jerked a thumb at Piotr. "Go keep an eye on him 'til Storm gets there."

Pyro arrived around second period. He squinted at the clock in the entryway as his "probation officer" exchanged meaningless pleasantries with Storm. If anything convinced him that his lawyer was hired by Magneto, it was the fact that she morphed so easily into another role and the X-Men didn't recognize her.

He looked up at a small gasp from the hallway—and froze.

His Kitten had grown up. She was stunning. Dark, loose curls tumbled over her shoulders, framing skin like porcelain. Somehow, her slender petiteness had matured and become more feminine and curved beneath her small blue shirt and snug jeans. She clutched some file folders to her chest and stared at him with wide brown eyes.

He caught himself back. She was an X-Man, see-the-good-in-everyone Katherine Pryde, a clawless kitten. He hardened his face and sneered. "Sprite."

Her own face transformed into something significantly fiercer. She stepped forward. He almost stepped back, but managed to hold still and smirk at her. She stood on tiptoes and slapped him hard on his right cheek. He was startled and did step back, but she swung back again for the other side. He grabbed for her wrist and it fell through him. She slapped him again.

She bit out in tightly controlled fury, "The name is Shadowcat."

Then, she phased right through him and through the wall.

He stared, slack-jawed, after her.

She'd slipped into his life unbidden, this tiny slip of a girl, eventually claiming his heart. He was never a good boyfriend or anything, and no one knew about their quasi-friendship, except for Bobby and Rogue.

It had started at the trees and always ended up there again.

She curled up in the juncture of three branches in her tree, a nook designed for someone so small. He usually sprawled on his back on the other tree's largest branch. They chatted, fought, played pranks. Often. He hated it when she phased him.

"Why do you call yourself Sprite?" he demanded one day, interrupting her favorite novel. "It's a baby's name."

"Is not!" she protested hotly.

"Is too."

She dropped the book unceremoniously from the tree and lunged across the gap.

He swore and made to move, but was too late. She landed in him and scared a few choice expletives out of him.

Kitty giggled, then surprised him by staying in his arms, warm and solid and real.

John breathed softly on her neck then slipped his arms around her tightly and pulled her up until they were eye to eye and mouth to mouth, mere centimeters apart. She stared at him with wide eyes.

"Shadowcat," he whispered.

Then he kissed her, tasting the sweetness of the apple she ate for lunch, the slight cherry tang of her lip gloss, and the soft, warmth that was all her own. She pulled away a minute later, gasping for air. She scrambled back on the branch.

He merely smirked and leaned back on one arm, flicking his lighter with the other hand. "Now, that's a good codename."

"Want to tell me what that was about?" Emma Frost snapped at him.

"Get off, Frost," he snapped back.

Storm glanced back and forth between the two. "Perhaps…"

"You're supposed to behave," Emma replied dangerously, crossing her arms. "Or you'll end up back at your own prison cell, cured."

"I wouldn't do that," Pyro said softly.

She startled at that and looked at him. Something dangerous, slightly feral gleamed in his eye. She narrowed her icy blue eyes at him.

"You're a rook, Pyro," she said. "But the queens rule the board."

"Perhaps, I should show you your rooms?" Storm finally managed to regain their attention. They looked at her, began to follow.

Pyro glanced uncertainly toward the wall Kitty had disappeared through. Why had she called herself by his name for her? It was a threat, a punishment, a warning.

The queens rule the board.

When Bobby entered the library, it took him a few minutes scouting to find who he was looking for. Rogue and Kitty were in the back corner of the library at a round table, heads together, whispering and pointing at the papers in their hands. Every so often, Kitty would suddenly sit up and gesture excitedly with her hands.

Bobby steeled himself and approached. It was so much easier to talk to just one of them, but finding Rogue alone today had been increasingly difficult.

He knocked on the table and both girls looked up.


"Hey," Rogue answered, tucking a strand of white hair behind her ear.

Kitty retreated to bending over the papers studiously.

He suddenly felt nervous. "Maybe you'd like to go to that play that's we saw? You know the one about the princess." He tried to read Rogue's eyes, but that had been getting harder and harder to do.

Rogue glanced at Kitty, held the look for a significant moment, then turned back to Bobby. "I don't think so."

He sat down then. He knew exactly what she meant in that glance, what she was saying. "We're over?" He was surprised at the amount of panic that knowledge could engender in him. "I'm sorry, Rogue. I never meant to hurt anyone." Bobby had never been known to plead, but Rogue was different. She always had been.

She sighed and looked at him without malice. "We all make mistakes, Bobby."

He felt the glimmerings of hope. She leaned forward and touched his arm—not his skin.

"But find a girl you can touch."

His mouth opened, but then he shut it sharply and looked at Kitty. She was phased. A clear meaning in the gesture.

"Yeah. Fine. Whatever." He hid the pain behind simple words and made almost blindly for the library door. Forgiveness perhaps, but with nothing left.

Rogue stared after Bobby's exit until he'd disappeared. Then she looked at her friend. Shadowcat had never once looked up.

She was waiting for him. When Pyro entered the darkened room, he froze, as if sensing her. He flicked on a light.

"Kitty!" He swore. "You scared the mess out of me!"

Shadowcat sat Indian-style on his bed. A dark blue tank top hung loosely on her petite frame. She studied him while swinging a lighter in her left hand.

Pyro's dark eyes fell on the lighter.

Back and forth. Back and forth. In some sort of hypnotic pendulum action, Shadowcat had captured his interest, even as she tried to read him.

His face was like a stone, hard and often blank or sneering. He was different, leaner, harder, more dangerous. But his eyes, those were like a flickering flame, dark and frightening in their feral quality. He was hardly interested in soft sweet words or poetry anymore, she would guess. His eyes were those of a lost soul, lost to the sweetness of battle and war. Lost to shadow.

She suddenly gripped the Zippo lighter tightly in her fist. His gaze met hers. Slowly, she phased it through her hand and it fell onto his bed.

His eyes stayed on hers. He didn't watch it fall.

But she couldn't read them. They were dark, impenetrable. She hated his new eyes because they took him away from her and he wasn't John anymore. He was Pyro.

She was Shadowcat.

"You forgot this," she said.

A flame lit in his eyes. His jaw muscles shifted and she could see clearly that he was angry. He hadn't forgotten and they both knew it. He had left it.

For her.

Was she really this pathetic? She forced herself to her feet and began to phase through him on her way out the door, when he grabbed her forcefully by the shoulder at the right moment to phase with her.

She stared at him, cocked a questioning brow.

"Kitty," he started.

"Shadowcat," she spat back, knowing full well she was testing his anger.

His hand reached up to her face and she fought the swell of emotion that responded to his action. He hushed her. "That was John's lighter," he whispered close to her mouth. Mere centimeters away.

She backed up. Unphasing him and phasing herself.

"Then John better come back and claim it," she retorted and slipped out of the room.

She made him feel weak. Katherine "Kitty" Pryde, girl-next-door brainiac that should have been shy and wasn't, was the first person to make fire look like a paltry plaything.

It was St. John and Kitty's first round in the Danger Room ever, and she was winning.

He hated the feeling blossoming inside him, even if her eyes were kind. Or maybe that is what he hated most.

She stood, one hand in his gut, her whole body in the middle of his living flames. He could bend the fire to his will, but he could not make it burn her.

A/N: So hope y'all like this. It should've been done ages ago, but it wasn't. Many regrets. Thank you to everyone who has reviewed, read, alerted, or favorited this story. Y'all keep me going.

Time and Fate (Sorry the update was not soon, but I'm glad you liked it!), FireFox ShadowWolf (Thank you!), Jessica (I understand how you feel about Emma. What can I say? Somebody's got to play the villain. I'm looking forward to getting Remy in here too. A little more to go though.), justalittle l o o n y (Thank you! I love both of these pairings. And I do try to keep everyone in character. I admit, I do not like OOC at all.), The-Black-Devil (More is here! Sorry to keep you waiting.), Indecisively Yours (I'm glad you're enjoying the re-write. I plotted all the joy out of version one and had to reboot just to want to keep going, and I did want to keep going. Thus, reborn. And better written, if I do say so myself. I love messing with these pairings and bringing them together, but yeah, the biggest bit was dealing with the Bobby situation, figuring out how a best friend who wasn't just an unfeeling jerk could do that to someone, and then how could they get over it. This is probably one of my most friendshipcentric fics.),

CurrentlyIncognito (I'm so glad you're enjoying the Logan. He is one of my favorite characters. In fact, before I dug back into fandom, he was my number one favorite with Rogue as a close second. And more updates coming soon. Promise.), AngelwithDirtyThoughts (Emma is a fun one. Yeah, she's a villianous, cold-hearted, mean-spirited manipulator, but she's fun nonetheless, and I got big plans for her in this story. I just hope I don't run this baby too close toward epic. Ah, well. Kitty always struck me as a blanket hog. I don't know: something about that tiny body and big confidence just made me think it fit. Lots of plot-hopping to come on all of them. And Marrow, you'll have to wait to get many answers there. :grins: ) Chellerbelle (Wrapping up that mess between Rogue and Kitty and Bobby was tough, but it was one of the first things I hit when I returned to fandom. I just had to bring something good out of the mess. And believe me, this is a fic big on power control. It's my scientific mind gone crazy on how mutations really work. Thanks for enjoying and reviewing! Hope I live up to all your expectations.)