It was the Nightcrawler's company Marie found herself
craving once she had gotten done with Rafe the Non-Wonder
Boy. Kurt had set up his home in the robing room behind the
chapel, since he had taken the role of priest upon himself
and no one seemed to mind. In fact, everyone from the
littlest child to the Professor himself ended up in that
chapel at one time or another, seeking a confessor or just
quiet sympathy. No one could have predicted the quiet
sympathy part, but there it was.
The best thing about Nightcrawler was that once he stopped
introducing himself every ten seconds, he turned out to be a
very good listener. When people got him to drop the circus
act, when they drew Kurt out from beneath the veneer, he was
as wise and gentle as Hank, only without the six million
Kurt was singing something in German while arranging candles
in neat rows, when Marie slipped into the chapel. She
noticed that his tail swung back and forth in time with the
music. "That's pretty," she said quietly, so as to keep from
startling him. "What is it?"
"Ein Deutshces Requiem," he said in his heavy accent. "A
German Requiem. Johannes Brahms, you haf heard of him, yes?"
Her mouth twitched. "My mama used to play the lullaby to me
when I was a little girl. On the piano."
"Very nice. Do you play?" he asked, indicating the baby
grand with its dust cover partially pulled back.
"No. Scott does, and a couple of the kids. I never learned."
She shrugged. "Too busy planning my little adventures. Do
Immediately, Kurt drew his three-fingered hands under the
baggy sleeves of his jacket.
"Oh, I'm so sorry, I can't believe..." She hung her head,
then slipped her hand into his sleeve and took the blue
flesh firmly in her grasp. "I apologize."
"No need. Sometimes it is good when someone forgets, for a
while, what I am." He patted her head and ushered her to a
seat in the first pew. He sat beside her, his tail mildly
moving back and forth like a cat's. "There is something you
"Just a little peace and quiet. It's nice here. You don't
have to sit with me, you can do whatever you were doing."
She smiled at him. "Especially if you sing some more."
His grin was delightful, once you got past the scars and the
pointy teeth. And the blue thing. "You flatter me, madchen,
but I will finish if that is your pleasure." Again his voice
rose, reflected back in the marble and the wood, ending so
softly that Marie could scarcely hear him.
"It's beautiful. What does it mean?"
"It's the thirty-ninth Psalm: 'Lord, make me to know the
measure of my days on earth, to consider my frailty, that I
Marie shivered even though the chapel was not cold.
"That's...food for thought."
"It is a reminder to every day live as if it is the most
important one of your life."
"Or the last," Marie whispered.
"Not for many, many years," Kurt insisted. "It is not a time
for gloom, it is for the rejoicing. We thought Jean was lost
to us, but she returned and, Gott willing, her mind will be
restored as it once was." He looked down and away. "Of
course, the jealousy is bad when it is of the dead, and
worse when it is of the dead come back like Lazarus from the
She couldn't help blurting out, "Do you think Scott and I
Kurt took a few seconds before responding. "Ve are all
sinners in one way or another. But if you ask me, Kurt, is
my love for dese two men a sin, or theirs for you and Jean,
then I say no."
"How do you--"
"The Nightcrawler knows all," Kurt said with a grand wave
that made Marie giggle in spite of herself. "I haf eyes and
ears, and also a brain. It takes no genius to see that you
are all unsure."
Sighing, Marie hunched her shoulders and looked at the
floor. "I wish there was a clear right and wrong, you know?"
"But then there would be no free will to choose the best
path." He patted her on the shoulder. "I cannot choose for
you. But I will be here when the choice is made. No more can
"No more can I want," Marie said sincerely. She glanced at
her watch. "The Professor should be back by now."
"If there is anything I can do..." Kurt said eagerly.
"Thanks. Thank you very much." Marie left the chapel and
headed back to the main house. The Professor's study was
empty, as were the classrooms, making Marie even more
anxious to locate him. Something prickled in her mind. I'm
here. She bolted up the stairs to her room, almost knocking
Kitty off her crutches, and found the Professor looking at
the mystery novels she had on her shelf.
She was too winded to speak, so the Professor did it for
her. "I have just had a very illuminating session with Dark
Phoenix. I believe I have a solution to our problem."
"That's wonderful," Marie breathed.
"It's taken me far too long to piece together the clues. I
am not half so clever as your Chief Inspector Wexford."
Marie chuckled. The first Ruth Rendell book had been a gift
from Ororo when Marie was recovering from the Liberty Island
incident, and she had been hooked ever since.
Xavier continued. "In any event, my first theory was that
the Dark Phoenix takes Jean's energy and subverts it. Then
Jean - or the Phoenix herself - theorized that it was
proximity to you that caused the problems, since you're so
attuned to both Scott and Logan."
"What do you think now?"
He took a deep breath. "I believe that it wasn't Jean's will
to live that brought her back from Alkali Lake. I couldn't
tell you how it happened, but from everything I've been able
to discern, the link is between the Phoenix and Scott."
Marie turned this over in her mind. "You mean, Scott brought
her back? The bond, the psi-bond or whatever they called it,
that's what saved her?"
"Think about it." The Professor sounded almost jubilant,
like Hank with a new cure for something. "It took Jean
almost four days to rejoin us, without contacting anyone.
But she did contact someone. Scott. He was pulling her in:
I'm convinced that was the source of the nightmares. On a
subconscious level he was doing what he only wished for when
he was awake."
"Calling Jean back to him." It hurt, far more than she had
anticipated, and she had to take a few slow breaths to calm
herself. "So it's not the Scott in my head that's setting
her off. It's Scott himself."
"I believe that to be the case. Once faced with the flesh
and blood image of the man who had called her back, the
psychotic break began and Dark Phoenix emerged to...how
shall I put this...?"
"To explore the wilder side of Jean?"
"Exactly. The source of Dark Phoenix's energy is actually
Scott's self-loathing, the guilt he feels over her death and
his subsequent actions." Marie's face must have shown her
horror, because Xavier immediately added, "This has nothing
to do with you, Marie, you must understand that. The
emergence of Phoenix had already occurred long before you
and Scott began your...arrangement."
Marie wanted to deflect the subject. "Did Jean tell you
"No." He was firm. "She did not. I doubt that even the
Phoenix herself understands how Jean was saved from the
waters. After all, how can pure hatred understand pure
It sounded so simple when the Professor said it. Marie
studied her fingernails carefully. "So, what do we do now?"
"I believe it will be possible to sever the psychic link
Jean has with Scott, without doing any damage to either of
them. I have an idea about how that can be done, but it will
require your cooperation."
Her mouth was dry. "What's your plan?"
"Dark Phoenix believes that you are the catalyst and that
you are actually blocking her from finishing her takeover of
Jean's personality. I intend to lure her into Cerebro,
ostensibly to remove the bond between the two of you - but,
in actuality, to sever the bond between Phoenix and
Marie picked up a heavy bookend and turned it over and over
in her hands. It was marble, and its smooth, cool surface
reminded her of Bobby. She grimaced and set the bookend down
with a dull thump. "Who knows about this?"
"No one except Jean. Or the Phoenix. Her telepathic powers
are remarkable now, Marie, and I do not want to divulge any
more information than is absolutely necessary. I will ask
Scott and Logan to be there and I'll tell them the truth at
that time - Phoenix will find nothing odd about their
"Logan?" Marie asked. "I understand that you need Scott for
the actual event and me for a decoy, but why Logan?"
The Professor's eyes were dark and troubled. "When I said
that the procedure would probably cause little damage to
Scott or Jean, I was telling the truth. What I left out is
that you also have a link with Scott, and it may cause
you...it may be difficult for you. That is why I want Logan
present, so that if anything goes wrong, he can 'lend' you
some of his healing energy."
"Oh." What else could she possibly say?
"If you agree, then we shall begin shortly. Only the four of
us will know the truth about what is going on. I will shield
my thoughts, and I will help you shield yours. I promise to
protect you to the best of my ability."
She knew that, of course. But it was nice to hear the words,
to have it spelled out so clearly for her. She gave him a
grim little smile and nodded. "When do you want me there?"
"Give me half an hour. Jean is coming then, and by that time
I will have contacted Scott and Logan." As he wheeled past
her, he looked up at her with admiration. "You are an
extraordinary young woman, Marie."
"Just you remember that," she replied with false
Marie wondered if she should fill her half hour with another
trip to the chapel. To be shriven, perhaps, in the
inevitable event something went wrong. Then she remembered
that the Professor wasn't even going to talk to Ororo. This
really was just a family thing. A great big dysfunctional
She put on long gloves and brushed her hair so hard it
crackled with static electricity. She looked in the mirror,
looking at her own face as if were that of a stranger.
Older. Sadder. Probably not wiser, just older and sadder,
because, hell, a wise woman would not be headed for Cerebro
and almost certain disaster.
It started simply enough, with the Professor, Scott, Logan,
and Jean waiting near her as the door opened.
It ended with Jean grabbing Marie and Scott and dragging
them inside, then sealing the door so that not even Cyclops'
blasts could open it.
"I know that the Professor isn't telling the truth about
needing to sever the bond between us," Jean said to Marie.
Phoenix's voice was strong, resonating through the parabolic
chamber. "He has something else in mind."
Damn, so much for shielding their thoughts.
"Don't hurt her." Scott, speaking with the soft, reasonable
tones of someone speaking with the insane. "She just wants
to help. If you need something, if you need powers, take
mine, not hers."
Jean - or the Phoenix, Marie wasn't sure how to think of
this strange amalgam of the two - gave Scott a sickening,
evil smile. "I wouldn't dream of hurting Marie," she said
mildly. She's going to be my new home."
"What?" Scott and Marie cried together.
"The only bond I need severed is the one here." She touched
her temple. "I need to be free of the body of Jean Grey. So,
my sweet girl, you will touch her until you take all her
power. Until she dies. And at that moment, I'll enter your
mind. And there I will stay, right there with the source of
all my power."
"I won't do it!" Marie cried. "I won't touch you, I
She didn't get to finish the sentence. Phoenix raised her
hand and Marie was unable to move. She was immobile, like
rock, except that she could feel and hear everything. The
pounding of her heart. The shrill laughter of the Phoenix.
Logan on the other side of the door, adamantium claws
shrieking against adamantium doors.
Scott's words, gentle and sad. "You know I won't let you do
this. Whatever it takes, I'll stop you, even if I have to
Phoenix's arms lowered and her eyes turned from copper to
soft brown. Confused. Pleading. "Scott, no, don't do it."
Marie could not close her eyes, so she had to watch as Scott
put a hand on his visor and shot Jean with a thin pulse of
red light. She grunted and fell backwards, nearly sliding
over the edge of the catwalk.
"Is she dead?" Marie tried to whisper, but her mouth
wouldn't move. So Phoenix-Jean wasn't dead, was still
clinging to enough consciousness to keep Marie frozen.
Scott's steps faltered as he reached for the control of his
visor once more and pointed his face toward Jean's limp
body. "I have to break the link," he murmured in a voice
choked with tears. "She can't be linked to me anymore, she's
too dangerous." He leaned over and stroked Jean's face.
"Jean. God, forgive me."
Oh, God, he was going to kill her to break the link...
Only he didn't. He sank to his knees, sobbing helplessly. He
pulled Jean's body close to his and held it just as he had
held Marie's. That morning. Only that morning.
She was still processing this when she saw Scott stand up
and walk over to her. "And I need you to forgive me, too,
Marie. My darling, beautiful Marie, forgive me."
He shed his gloves and put his hands on her bare face. She
struggled against the invisible force holding her in place,
but to no avail, and she felt the first surges behind her
eyelids. Scott pulled back one hand and removed his visor,
placing it on Marie's face with fingers almost too weak to
perform even that simple task. His eyes were closed, but
lightly, as he continued to cup her face, and just as
Marie's vision swam crimson, he slid to the ground.
Jean's own voice overpowered the fading Phoenix, thin and
frightened. "Scott! Scott!" She turned to Marie as if seeing
her for the first time, and Marie collapsed, convulsing with
the full force of Scott's powers.
"He's not trying...to come back," Marie croaked. "Get the
Jean turned toward the door, screaming for help, trying to
pry it open by sheer force of will even though the Phoenix
power that had sealed it was far greater than her own. The
Phoenix took hold of her mind again, sending her sprawling,
her hands scrabbling toward Scott's. "Let me go!" she cried.
"Let me go!"
"Jean," Scott said softly. "Look at me."
She turned to him, tears streaming down her face. Scott
opened his eyes then, those beautiful, tormented blue eyes.
"I love you, Jean," he whispered.
Then his face went slack, and Marie could no longer sense
his presence in her mind.
The Phoenix's laugh turned into Jean's scream as that link
was severed. Marie focused her waning strength on Jean.
"Door! Logan! He can save Scott!"
Jean hauled herself to her feet, her body shaking with sobs.
She held her arms open wide, and the doors slid open. Logan
ran up to her, his face nearly as pale as hers as he looked
over her shoulder and saw Marie lying on the floor.
And Scott's dead body.
"Marie," he gasped, racing to her and putting his hand on
her forehead. "Marie, is he...?"
"He's dead," Marie answered, hardly believing that she was
saying the words. "I want him back, Logan, I want him back!"
He wasted no time peeling off his gloves and putting his
hands on her, one on her forehead and the other at her
carotid artery. He shuddered, the veins in his face and
hands standing out, but he kept contact until Marie pulled
away from him.
She couldn't rise, couldn't move her legs. She began to
crawl to where Scott's body lay, then Logan lifted her in
his strong arms and carried her to Scott's side. Marie put
her hands on his flesh. Nothing.
"It took a while with you," Logan murmured. "Don't give up,
Jean knelt on the other side of Scott. Her hair was
plastered to her face and she was crying and praying all at
once. "Please, please..."
"Reach out with your mind, Marie," Xavier said from his
vantage point behind Logan. "Find him and bring him back."
She tried. Oh, God, she tried so hard, but he wasn't there,
he was too far away to find. "He wanted to go," she sobbed.
"That's the difference, he wanted to go, and he's too far, I
can't find him, oh, my God, I can't find him!"
"Hold on!" Jean and Xavier cried out in unison, and hold on
she did until Logan's power was spent and she could do
nothing more than weep for him along with the others.
Four days passed, and the children were silent yet again.
Marie stood by the window in Scott's room, feeling the
afternoon sun on her face, breathing in the last remnants of
his scent. With her eyes closed, she could almost feel him
Jean was in the room as well, sitting on the bed she had
never shared with him. She was talking softly, almost to
herself, saying the same things Scott had said a few months
"It's my fault. I should have been stronger. I should have
"There was nothing you could have done." Marie had used
those words before, too, and they were no less poisonous to
her soul. "Jean, you didn't ask for the Dark Phoenix power.
And you can't bring Scott back by starving yourself to
death." She reached out to Jean and took her gaunt, fragile
"I don't deserve to live," Jean said without a trace of
self-pity. When Marie squeezed her hand a little tighter,
she added, "I won't kill myself, Marie."
Marie relaxed her hold and exhaled.
As Jean rose, she let go of Marie's hand and whispered, "I
don't deserve that kind of peace."
"Are you coming down?" Jean interrupted. "Kurt said he was
going to begin the service at three o'clock."
Marie shook her head. "I've already seen him dead. I can't
do it again."
"I understand." Jean started for the door, then turned
around. Her heel squeaked against the wood floor. "Marie,
you're not going to go away, are you?"
"No," she replied, softly but firmly. "The Professor told me
that he couldn't imagine this place without me any more than
he could imagine it without Scott. He's lost Scott. I can't
leave him now."
"I'm glad," Jean said. "I'll put a flower in the coffin from
you. A red rose. He liked them, he could see the color so
"Thanks." Marie turned her face back to the window.
She would not look at Scott's waxen face in the coffin, nor
at her own reflection in the mirror. She did open her eyes
at last, after she had put on Scott's visor to cut back on
the lingering effects of his mutation. Hank had assured her
that it would fade in time. He had meant it kindly. But once
the mutation was gone, Scott would be gone.
Marie looked out of Scott's window, through Scott's glasses,
and saw Logan getting on Scott's motorcycle. He looked up at
her, once, his eyes full of anguish. Marie was not leaving,
but Logan was, never to return.
She put her hand over her lips, then pressed her fingertips
to the windowpane as Logan started the engine.
Yes, there was a character death. No, I didn't warn anyone
beforehand (including the beta readers). There were two
warnings about "disturbing subject matter." A word to the
wise is sufficient, and surely we are all wise.
Hank's backstory was something I invented to reconcile the
blue, furry character from the comics with the human-looking
interviewee in XM2.
This story was written in response to "Fan the Vote," an LJ
community where authors volunteer to write stories for
readers willing to contribute to the Kerry campaign or other
good causes in exchange for stories of the donor's choosing.
Macha "bespoke" my services, and her request was fic in
which Jean returns and chooses Logan over Scott, with tragic
consequences ensuing. In other words: if this story
disturbed you, blame her. :)
Actually, don't blame her TOO much - she had to beta-read
her own story, for which I thank her profusely. Also, many
thanks to Emily Meredith, crack...uh, movie dealer
extraordinaire for introducing me to these characters and
demanding...uh, inspiring my participation in the fandom,
and for beta reading a story that squicked her pretty badly.
Ruth Rendell, especially Ruth Rendell writing as Barbara
Feedback is always wonderful: marguerite@...
"You don't want to tempt the wrath of whatever from high atop the thing!"--Toby Ziegler, "Election Night"