Rogue woke up when a cold, wet, gasoline-scented thing tried to climb into her bed with her.
"Gaaah!" Her yelp wasn't quite loud enough to make it through the walls, but was plenty enough to startle Remy into jumping backwards. "What the hell? You're freezing!"
"Ouais!" he hissed. "I'm freezin'! Move over!"
"You're gonna wake up Ki . . ." Rogue trailed off, sitting up and looking around. "Where is Kitty?"
"In de rec room. Wid Piotr." Remy made another effort to yank back the blankets, but Rogue held on like grim death.
"Not until you dry your hair off." She pulled the blankets over her head and nestled under them. She heard him sigh, cross the room to her laundry basket, and fish out something to scrub against his rain-soaked head. Then he knelt next to her and presented his hair for her approval. When she'd peeked out and run a hand through it—still damp, but warmer—she finally scooted towards the wall to make room for him to climb in.
He was well-covered in dry pajamas and socks, so Rogue could nestle up against him without triggering absorption. He gratefully gathered her against his chest as he rolled onto his back, and she could feel the chill of his fingers through her shirt against the skin of her shoulder blade.
"Have to swim home, did ya?" she asked, not unsympathetically.
"More or less, but it stopped about ten miles outside`a Bayville." He sighed again, this time in satisfaction, and Rogue giggled a little as the sigh raised her up and then dropped her down with the movement of his chest.
"And comin' in, you just happened to notice that Kitty and Peter were were down in the rec room. In the basement."
"And did ya happen to see what they were doin' in the rec room?"
"Talkin'," said Remy with some contempt. He hated losing bets. Rogue, however, grinned. That sounded just about right. And besides, Remy had no call to be getting superior when he and his girlfriend were doing the exact same thing two floors up, though their arrangement was probably cosier.
Instead of calling him out on his hypocrisy, she turned her head to rest her chin on his chest and asked, "So are we goin' to jail in the mornin', then, or did you manage to get out of the Smithsonian without gettin' your face on a camera?"
"Quel manque de foi."
Rogue leaned across him to the nightstand. "Here. Ah gotcha a present."
Remy took the object and held it in the faint red light of his eyes. It was a heavy metal pen with the White House logo engraved on the side.
He laughed aloud. "Sneaky minx. Where was you keepin' dis?"
"Down my bra. Where does anybody keep anythin' when they're dressed up without a handbag?"
Remy raised an eyebrow. "Sacré, you got some space down dere."
"Any extra? Only sometimes I ain't got a good place t'put my keys—"
"You don't even carry keys, you liar!" Rogue protested, laughing, as Remy's playful hands teased at her shirt.
"I could start."
Rogue retaliated by grabbing the front of his shirt and rolling with him, pulling him on top of her so the warm, dense weight of him pressed her down into the mattress. His damp hair, still cool, brushed her cheek as the light of his eyes bathed her face and reflected back onto his. She stopped for a moment—the teasing, the wrestling, everything—and let herself feel it all. Remy—his warmth, his scent. She felt so unbelievably safe here, tucked underneath him in her warm bed in her own house surrounded by her own sleeping team.
"What you t'inkin'?" Remy asked. The red light of his eyes bathed her face; she could see the shadows waver as he studied her expression.
Instead of answering, Rogue lifted her chin and let her nose touch his, breathing deep to hold back her own absorption so he could taste her without distraction. He stayed immobile for a moment, feeling her energy trickle into him, reading her thoughts and emotions more completely than any telepath could. Then he seemed to decide that distraction was just fine, because he dove in to kiss her with the kind of intensity that made her forget that breathing was a thing.
It was probably the absence of breathing that made her lose track of time as much as she did. In her defense, it was so blessedly peaceful to not be in a hurry for once. To have all night just to touch and be touched, to bring herself back into sync with this maddening, frustrating, addicting criminal who'd become the axis of her life.
When she pulled back, it was only to make a joke, because jokes didn't transmit very well via absorption. "Boy, I hope Kitty and Piotr are havin' a long conversation, 'cause Ah am gonna die if she walks in on this."
Remy's chuckle vibrated through her body. "Well, if she stumbles in here, we kin just wave yo' passport at her an' tell her it's her own fault fo' not knockin' on a married woman's bedroom door."
Rogue tried, unsuccessfully, to stifle a bark of laughter. "That was your idea of a joke, was it?"
"Didn' you like it?"
"Well, that depends."
"On if there's a marriage license with my forged signature on it in some county courthouse upstate."
Remy grinned. "Wouldn' you like t'know."
Rogue rolled her eyes. "Great. Now Ah gotta call that Royal guy an' file for divorce. There goes mah allowance for a year."
"I'm de one who's gonna get slammed wid alimony. Quit whining."
In compliance with his instructions, she nestled her face in the curve of his neck and got back to the engrossing business of kissing him.
Remy craned his head back in pleasure, then they both froze together as he saw, and she absorbed his seeing of, an irregularity. A warm figure was moving along the hallway, visible to his heat-sensitive vision. This wasn't that unusual—people did get up and use the bathroom during the night—but there was no corresponding sound of feet against the carpet.
C'est qui, ca? Remy thought, his awareness echoing inside Rogue's head. Curiosity warred with annoyance in both of them as Remy sat up and Rogue twisted around under him to see with her own eyes what she was seeing through his.
Rogue—as the touch broke off and her own thoughts started filtering more clearly into her own brain—felt a cold shiver of adrenalin run under her skin. Someone was sneaking. In her house. Fear, fury, and a sense that she was probably overreacting and didn't care all flared up in her at once, and she shot out of bed as Remy was trying to remember how gravity worked. If anyone was invading the sanctity of her house, she was going to kill them with her bare hands.
By the time she reached the hall, it was already empty. The person couldn't have gone into any of the rooms; they'd have heard the door creak. So Rogue zipped down the stairs, Remy following on silent stockinged feet behind her.
She shot like a bullet at the figure headed for the front door, then squawked in muffled alarm as the figure turned and caught her like a basketball, one hand across her mouth and the other around the back of her head. "No. Noise," Logan hissed in her ear.
She dropped her feet to the floor, the lack of struggle communicating to him that she would indeed be quiet. Logan let her go.
He was wearing his motorcycle jacket, and the familiar, beat-up bag he always took with him on his wanderings was hung over his shoulder. When he was certain that neither Rogue nor Remy was going to make a noise, he eased open the front door and let all three of them outside onto the front step.
"You're going out?" Rogue whispered when Remy had nestled the door back into its frame without a sound. Her breath misted faintly in the cool, wet, post-rainstorm air, and glowed silver in the moonlight that was breaking through the clouds.
"What, right now? Tonight? Yeh couldn't wait a week, until . . . Ah dunno . . . people are back at school? We got the wifi workin'?"
"Until Nick Fury shows up at the door with a warrant for Laura?" Logan turned to glance over his shoulder, and Rogue followed his gaze. Across the lawn, where the thick shadows of the woods began, a small, dark form shifted into visibility. Laura, with a backpack on her shoulders, glared impatiently at them across the grass.
Rogue looked from the distant form of Laura to Logan standing in front of her. "That's why you weren't fussed about the photo. You've been planning this all day."
Logan scoffed. "A little bit longer than 'all day.' She can't stay here, not while she's still waking up screamin' and stabbin' every night and SHIELD's breathing down her neck. So we're going."
"You're going. You're packin' up and going. You picked a crap time for going, with Magneto movin' into our house and Jean so sick!"
"Jean's dead, Stripes." He said it without emotion, his voice flat and almost cruel. "She bled out before we even got to Avalon. Her body's walkin' around, but she's dead. I'm just the only one in the house who'll admit it."
"She's sick! She's just sick, and she needs you!"
"No, she needs Scott. And Scott's happy as a clam to have the damsel in distress he's always wanted hanging on his arm."
Rogue, already starting to hiss something else, caught herself. Because that statement, harsh thought it might be, was uncomfortably true. Jean, stripped of her memories and experience and skill, had been relying on Scott for everything. And everyone, including Scott, had treated this as though it were perfectly normal and acceptable—as though they'd all forgotten that Jean had never in her life let Scott do for her anything she could do for herself.
The monotone of Logan's voice was setting off some kind of alarm inside Rogue's head. She'd never heard him like that, deadened and disengaged. And some instinct in her brain stem began to make her understand.
"Oh, mah God," she muttered. She felt Remy's hand on her arm, either to steady her or to keep her from doing something stupid, and was glad of it either way. "You ain't just going, are you? Ah mean, you're . . . going."
Logan didn't answer her directly. Instead, he said, "If Sabertooth ever finds out he didn't finish the job, he'll be back here, and what's left of Jean's life won't be worth the paper it's printed on. By myself, I can't take him down, but with the Kid . . . well, it's worth a shot."
"And after that?" Rogue demanded.
"Don't ask me to make promises I can't keep, babe."
"But . . . but why wouldn't you keep it? You've always come back. Always."
Logan didn't answer her.
Rogue swallowed nervously, then opened her mouth, voicing a suspicion that had just exploded in her mind that she would never, under ordinary circumstances, voice to his face. "Somethin' changed, didn't it?" she demanded. "Out there. You haul Jean outta Avalon by her ear, and the pair of you are gone for weeks and weeks, nobody hears anything, not even Prof, not even Scott. Somethin' changed."
Logan nodded. "Somethin' changed," he admitted. "And it ain't changin' back. But it don't matter now. She's gone, and I'm going. Should have taken off years ago. Should have done it right after Biloxi."
Rogue knew what had happened in Biloxi. So did Gambit; he'd seen it through her skin, just as she'd seen it through Logan's. But he was good at keeping secrets, and said nothing.
"People would be dead if you'd left after Biloxi," she insisted. "Scott would be dead, Remy would be dead, Carol would still be in a coma . . . you cain't leave. We need you."
Logan gave her a half-smile. "No, ya don't. Not anymore." He reached out and tweaked the white streak hanging loose over Rogue's forehead, an affectionate, inappropriately playful gesture. "Take care of yourself, Stripes. And the whole circus. You're the big guns now. You keep 'em safe."
"Ah don't wanna be the big guns. Ah ain't ready to be the big guns!"
"The hell you're not."
"You'll manage, kiddo. I don't train idiots. You hear me?"
Rogue nodded, and the movement let her feel the choking lump growing in her throat. Impulsively, she threw herself forward into Logan's arms and hugged him, hard, harder than she'd have dared embrace anyone with breakable bones. So many times over these last weeks she'd felt tears stinging menacingly in her eyes, but until now her pride had been enough to hold them in check. Pride seemed suddenly a very flimsy barrier, when Logan, her mentor, her protector, her emotional anchor, would not be in her household when the sun rose.
Over her head, she heard Logan speak to Remy. "You're gonna look out for her?" he asked, as his hand applied steadying pressure to her back to ease the jerky, irregular expansion and contraction of her lungs.
Remy, another who was scrupulous about not making promises he couldn't keep, replied without hesitation. "Swear on my mother's soul."
She felt Logan nod. "And when you see the Russian, tell him he's in charge of the Harley. I figure if I'm trusting him with the Half Pint, might as well."
Remy snorted with muted laughter. "I got reason to know he's a mite protective an' has a hell of a right hook. Dey'll be well an' good, girl an' bike both."
Logan loosed his embrace and pushed Rogue gently away from him. Rogue groped blindly behind herself, and Remy obligingly put both arms around her, holding her together, keeping her back. She let her fingers dig into his forearm, careless of the bruises she knew she was probably leaving.
Logan looked at them both, standing in their pajamas on the wet porch, and gave a reluctant sigh. "Jean . . ." he started, his voice uncertain.
Rogue didn't make him finish it. "She'll be safe. We promise."
He nodded, conveying wordless gratitude. Then he turned and walked away.
Rogue didn't blink as he crossed the lawn, his form just barely outlined in the dark gray light of very early morning. Laura moved as she saw him coming, straightening from where she'd been leaning against the first of the trees. Then he'd reached her, and without a sound or a backward glance, the pair of them had disappeared into the shadows.
Rogue realized that she hadn't been breathing, and gasped in a stuttering lungful of air. "Why tonight?" she demanded, probably of the universe itself since she didn't expect Remy to be able to answer. "Why when we were gonna have one normal morning with everybody home and everybody safe? Why did he have tuh . . ."
"Cause dat would be a happy ending," Remy told her. His arms were tight and solid around her, and she could feel his breath against her ear, real and immediate. "An' happy endings is just for stories. All we really get's another mornin' an' another mess. An' that'll just have to do."
Rogue breathed again, and her chest reluctantly stopped seizing. "Another mornin' an' another mess," she repeated. Then she let her head rest against Remy's cheek, and sighed, and waited for morning.
Quel manque de foi: Roughly, "O ye of little faith."
My Dear Readers,
With this, the Flight series is concluded, after many long years of pleasure and challenge. Thank you for joining me and all the friends in my head through this adventure.
You may be anxious to know what happens next: do Logan and Laura find Sabertooth? Does Jean ever recover her memories? Will Carol ever fly again? How's Magneto going to adjust to civilian life? And what's the next mess for Rogue and Remy? The answer, in brief, is: I don't know. Maybe you do, though. And if you do, write it up and publish it and send me the link. I'm just as curious as any of you.
Be well, my friends.