AN: It has been... far, far too long since I last wrote anything for X-Men! The muse seemed to have flown away, but this little idea hit me a few hours ago, and I had to flesh it out. No word yet on what will come out next, or when, but I'll hopefully be able to harness this spark for at least one more tidbit. Oh, and I purposely took the title and the first line from Kafka; it just fit too well not to borrow it.

Warning: Character death ahead. I'm killing off someone very important here, and they're not coming back. If you can't handle that, don't read it.

Disclaimer: I'm not Marvel. I don't own these toys, and I can't make money off of them, so I crash them into each other until they're dead.


As Jean Grey awoke one morning from uneasy dreams, she found herself staring up into painfully bright fluorescent lighting. It seemed sometimes that the Xavier Institute's infirmary was equipped with lights that shone just a little bit brighter than any other hospital Jean had ever visited. Needless to say, this room was among her least favorite places to awaken.

A throbbing headache began to pound at Jean's temples, and she barely stifled a groan as every heartbeat brought another hammer blow to each side of her head. A myriad of voices flowed into her head, increasing rapidly in volume; they whispered softly at first, but soon grew nearly deafening, each seemingly yelling to be heard over the others. And try as she did to bring up her telepathic walls and block the voices, they would not be forced out. She had to get help; had to find the Professor, and quickly.

Sitting up in a herculean effort, Jean almost cried with relief when her eyes fell upon Professor Xavier, sitting in his wheelchair by her bedside, smiling and holding his hands folded as always.

"Welcome back," he said, then hesitated for a moment as if weighing his next words. "I was afraid you might not be able to... find your way."

"Oh, Professor, I'm so glad you're here!" Her voice sounded odd in her own ears; probably a side effect of all the feedback. "My telepathy is going haywire and I can't shut out anyone's thoughts." Jean reached for the Professor's hand, only to watch in shock as he quickly moved his wheelchair out of reach. "Professor?"

The face of Jean's mentor clouded over. "Jean," he said, suddenly wary of her.

Jean was taken aback. "Of course it's me, Professor. What's wrong?"

"I need to you filter through the voices in your mind, Jean. I need you to tell me if you can hear Rogue."

"But, Professor..."

"Quickly, Jean!" The Professor's voice was strained and bordering on desperate. "There may be little time left. You must find Rogue immediately. I will do what I can to help, but you must find her!"

Closing her eyes, Jean began sifting through the cacaphony in her head. The first voice to be distinguished among the multitudes was Scott, but there were no words in his mind; only overwhelming, soul-crushing grief. "Scott," she whispered, opening her eyes and attempting to stand.

"No, Jean! You cannot help him. Not now. Concentrate on Rogue!"

Shutting out Scott's wails of anguish, Jean delved further through the throng.

...this have happened? We all, like, get hurt sometimes but never..., hell, Red, why wasn't I...

...Reich komme; dein Wille geschehe... dein Wille... ach! What's the point? I haven't prayed since...

Pushing past these, Jean came to a pair of voices that made her blood run cold. the Runt's just beside himself right now...

...such a shame, really; she had so much more potential than...

Jean's eyes snapped open. "Professor! It's Magneto and Sabertooth... they're here! I can hear their thoughts!"

The Professor held up a hand to silence her. "No, Jean! There's no time for me to explain. Now please, find Rogue!"

Sifting through voice after voice, scattered thought after scattered thought, Jean finally came across one last psyche, broken and weeping. It was Rogue.

I did it... can't take this back. I can't bring her back. I can't... oh god, why?

"I found her, Professor!"

Professor Xavier gazed intently at Jean, eyes boring into her with an uncomfortable intensity. "Good, Jean. Now you need to bring her back. You need to give her control."

Jean stared in confusion, tears welling up in her eyes from the immensity of the grief she had felt from her teammates, her family. "What do you mean, Professor? Bring her back how?"

"There was..." The Professor looked down for a moment, and when he brought his head back up his eyes were glistening. "There was an accident... in the Danger Room. You and Rogue were running a simulation, and one of the robotic arms grabbed both of you at once. Rogue... absorbed you."

Jean nodded slowly. "That explains the headache... but what do you mean, I need to give Rogue control? Where is she?"

Tears began falling from the Professor's face. It was the first time Jean had ever seen him cry. "Jean... Rogue absorbed you completely. By the time we could terminate the simulation... you were gone."

Shaking her head, Jean brought her legs to the side of her hospital bed and stood up. The infirmary seemed different, as though she was seeing it from a new point of view. It was as though she had shrunk. A sudden bout of dizziness hit her, and she reached out to brace herself against the bed. Her fingernails had been cut short and painted black.

"Professor, what's going on here? I don't understand! Why am I—"

"Jean... you now live only in Rogue's mind. The voices in your head are not your telepathy; they are the minds of the people she has absorbed. Your friends are grieving for you, both here in the real world and in Rogue's mind. But you have been unable to accept that you are... no longer alive." He swallowed hard and continued. "You've taken control of Rogue's body, but if you don't give it back to her, I fear we may lose her permanently as well." The Professor took a deep, shuddering breath. "You have to let go, Jean. You have to bring Rogue back. This body is not yours."

Reaching out her hand, Jean pulled the mirror loose from the wall and brought it towards herself with her telekinesis. Rogue's reflection stared back at her, hand outstretched in a perfect imitation of her own. They dropped to their knees together, and the mirror fell backwards onto the floor.

Jean Grey screamed.

Rogue wept.