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FIC: Jus Ad Bellum Part IV: MA: 9/9: Rogue, all

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  • Jenn
    9/9 * * * * * When Logan said he had a team meeting, I was resigning myself to some time in the library or on the computers again--so it was something of a
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 9, 2001
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      * * * * *

      When Logan said he had a team meeting, I was resigning myself to some time
      in the library or on the computers again--so it was something of a shock
      when Logan told me I'd have to be there.


      Logan sighed a little, slowing us down from his usual happy ninety-eight
      mile an hour speed to something approaching quasi-legal. Of course, for
      all I knew, old President Mystique had declared all speed limits unfriendly
      to mutants, so really, who was I to judge? And God knew, I hadn't seen a
      police officer since I arrived.

      That said something, though I wasn't sure what, about how justice was
      delivered these days.

      "You agreed to beta team membership. Welcome to the fun of conferences."

      Logan must have seen my horror--if there was one single thing I didn't miss
      about the other world, it was Scott's "State of the X-Men" speeches. Not
      that they were bad or anything--Scott, like his wife, was a gifted orator,
      capable of inspiring through passionate rhetoric. The thing was, they
      happened once a week. Logan, Remy, Jubilee, and I had bets going on how
      often Scott used the term "humanity" and "peace" in the same sentence.

      With the money, Logan and I'd had a very nice vacation in India.

      "You're kidding."

      Logan shook his head.

      "Does he do speeches?"

      Logan gave me a look.

      "Same over there?"

      I sighed.

      "Same in the other world, yeah." Frowning, I stared out the windshield.
      "Isn't he--you know--suspicious of me?" Suddenly hopeful. "Can you tell
      him I've been playing in the ghetto again?"

      Logan laughed softly.

      "Good try, baby, but no. He's called in all the teams--'Ro's too. Must be
      something that's bothering him."

      I frowned, turning to look at him.

      "Alpha team Scott leads, beta team Bobby and St. John lead. Ororo was with
      the X-Men on the last--"

      "Ororo's a different branch." I was still frowning, so Logan thought for a
      second. "Look at it like this--the X-Men handle domestic. Ororo, you
      might say, is international. She lives at Westchester to keep up with
      developments that we know before Mystique, but her team is in DC. Scott's
      got all of them under his command, but he really doesn't interfere with 'Ro
      too often. She comes with us when there's something to do with
      international support of anti-mutant groups."

      "The thing with the FoH cell that attacked the school?" I shivered a
      little to remember it.

      Logan's hands tightened on the steering wheel.

      "Yeah, that's a biggie. That it came in time with another attack that
      Scott, 'Ro, and I were on. There have been too many, and there's a pattern
      to it. Scott's been studying it when he's not trying to single handedly
      run the school and everyone in it, so I'm guessing he found something."


      "He thinks Hank being here has something to do with it."

      I twisted in my seat.


      Logan shifted uncomfortably as we took the turn that led to the driveway of
      the Mansion.

      "Hank arrived in town before that group attacked the school. Kitty ran
      blood samples through our DNA records. All of them were FoH--clean DNA,
      but no birth records, nothing. Granted, the war destroyed a lot of
      information, but I doubt it serendipitously managed to destroy the records
      of all seven."

      Yeah, that'd be a big damn coincidence. I mulled that, pulling on my

      "You said Hank's against the mutant regime--"

      "Not just against it--he's an active proponent of reintegration and
      reparation of surviving humans."

      "Reparations?" That brought me straight up in shock. "Mutants were
      disenfranchised first! What the hell do they want, an apology for us
      escaping the experimental centers?"


      I flushed, feeling inner Logan's grim amusement.

      --Mutants. I am a mutant, even if I didn't go through this.--

      Inner Logan's snort was soft.

      --So you are. Interesting how you're identifying with them.--

      Shutting Logan out, I turned my full attention to real life Logan. It was
      getting easier to block out the inner voices--I supposed desperation was
      definitely the mother of invention.

      "Hank--Hank didn't like the reconstruction period much." Logan shrugged.

      "Enough that he'd work actively to undermine the current government?" I
      thought about it carefully. "Why were the bodies immolated?"

      Logan paused, then brought the car to a stop, putting it in park.


      I cut him off with a gesture.

      "Nothing. Why immolate the corpses after? Were you worried they'd carry
      something?" I processed Kitty's memories rapidly. "Like Legacy?"

      "They were suiciding, Marie. You don't attack the Mansion with seven
      people and almost no firepower. They were there to do something or release
      something. Allerdyce's fires burn hot enough and fast enough to kill all
      bacteria. It's been standard procedure since we got out of the
      experimentation labs. We don't know what all they developed in their labs
      and aren't too keen to find out first hand."

      I took a breath, letting it out slowly.

      "Hank wouldn't ally himself with the FoH, Logan. And they certainly

      "Alliances based on common need. Hank thinks that if mutantkind shifts
      over and allows humanity back in the game, all will be forgiven and
      forgotten. He's a believer, Marie--and there's nothing more dangerous,
      nothing, than a true believer. So yes, if he thought it would bring about
      his dream, he'd ally himself to anyone and anything." Logan snorted.
      "He's destroyed labs before we could get the information out of them, had
      St. John burn them down to pure ash. To keep more bitterness from
      festering, he said that we didn't need to know some of the horrors that
      were recorded there." Logan sighed, leaning back into his seat. "After
      the war, he and Scott battled it out for months before Scott cut his losses
      and kicked Hank out of the New York zone. He's not forbidden access to DC,
      so he's based out of there. And Ororo knows he's been in contact with at
      least three of the FoH cells in Canada."

      Dazed, I sat back against the seat and, after a few minutes, Logan put the
      car back in drive.

      "I can't believe he'd sell out his own people."

      Logan snorted.

      "He thinks he's saving us from ourselves, baby. Good intentions, which
      will lead us straight to hell faster than anything else. He's believed for
      seven years, through the war and through the people Scott and I brought to
      him from the camps, from watching what they did to us, what they would have
      done to us. He still believes. There's little I don't think Hank would do
      to bring about his idea of postwar society, baby."

      I bit my lip and knew, for absolute fact, that I'd been right not to tell
      Logan about Johnny and vice versus. Picking at my seatbelt, I watched the
      countryside go by and wondered what I'd do.


      "Are you ready?"

      You know, I had no idea. I thought so, but I couldn't be sure on that
      score. Checking the mirror again, I studied myself in the X-Men uniform.
      Just the same as home--actually, the fit was even better. Different
      collar, slightly lower and didn't scrape on my upper throat. The cuffs
      ended perfectly so I could wear short gloves, not long ones, and the boots
      had a thicker heel. In all honesty, with the short blonde hair and the
      wide green eyes, I looked good. Dangerous.

      Little Rogue at home, no matter how hard she tried, had never looked
      dangerous. She'd always looked like she needed someone to take care of her
      on the field, in the training sims, when she went on a date.

      --Having fun?--

      --This should be interesting.-- I told Carol, changing the subject. *Now*
      she decided to show up.

      --I'd love to figure out why you're doing this.-- I shivered a little; to
      be honest, I didn't really know myself. --You want to please him this
      much, go out and kill some humans to prove your--what? Loyalty? Love?--

      --I'm not going to kill anyone.-- I answered and turned away from the
      mirror. --I'm going because I don't want them to suspect I'm an
      infiltrator and get my ass locked up or found out before Hank gets to
      finish his calculations on the machine. He said--

      --He doesn't know any more than you do now.-- Acid-Carolness. I bit my
      lip, wishing I could run out on her but getting away from my own head was
      almost impossible. I'd tried.

      Growling, I turned around and saw Logan leaning against the door, eyebrows
      slightly arched. The uniform had always done good things for him. I
      looked forward to peeling it off of him one piece at a time tonight. Maybe
      in the shower. Licking my lips, I smiled.

      "Inner convo there?" he asked, and I frowned a little.

      "Carol's being a bitch."

      He smiled slightly, before his eyes traveled down my body appreciatively,
      and I felt myself begin to flush as his eyes met mine again, knowing. So
      damn knowing. The heat spread as he took a few steps, crossing the small
      space between us, hands closing over my waist and pushing me up against the

      "Logan!" I gasped, as he ran his hands down my sides, settling back on my
      hips. A wicked smile curved his mouth and he leaned close until his lips
      almost touched mine, breath warm on my skin. "You can't touch me--"

      "Don't worry." A breath against my ear, before his hand touched my face
      and I realized he was gloved. Deliberately, he ground up against me,
      drawing a gasp from between my lips, and I locked my thighs around him,
      wondering when it became standard operating procedure before missions, even
      minor ones, to fool around a little.

      Not that I was against this. In fact, as far as I was concerned, it should
      be in the X-Manual of pre-mission behavior.

      I ground back down, drawing my hands over his shoulders and chest,
      breathing out at the hand covering my breast and caressing the nipple
      beneath hard. I leaned forward, biting lightly through the leather into
      his shoulder and he slid flat against me, nuzzling me through my hair.

      "You look really good, baby," he breathed against my ear, catching a fold
      of skin between his teeth and bearing down slightly. Invulnerable skin
      didn't usually bruise, but the pain-pleasure was equal in all other ways.
      I growled into his uniform and felt his answer in the rumble of his chest
      against mine.


      Shit. I craned my neck, pulling myself up to look over Logan's shoulder,
      and saw Jean's amused smirk. Logan half turned, hands under my thighs
      holding me against him, and Jean looked like she was about to burst out
      laughing. I groaned and buried my head against his shoulder.

      "If you two are finished--" she murmured, barely controlling herself, and
      Logan sighed, letting me slide slowly down his body. Slowly. So I could
      be very much aware of what he'd much rather be doing. I'm with you there,

      "Not yet, but duty and all that crap." His hand rested on the back of my
      neck and then he grabbed my duffle bag from the floor. "Scooter got the
      jet powered?"

      Jean's eyebrows arched.

      "I certainly wouldn't interrupt you for anything less." Another slight
      smirk. "You're piloting, so get to it. I think I can get Marie safely in
      the Blackbird."


      She rolled her eyes and Logan gave me a smile before the quickest rub of
      his fingers against the back of my neck and he went on ahead, my bag slung
      over his shoulder as he grabbed his own from the doorway. Still smiling,
      Jean waited until I joined her. I could barely look her in the face.

      "You look a little red, Marie. Too much sun?"

      Jean Grey in an innuendo mood was *not* something I was used to, and I
      flushed all the harder. She slapped me lightly on the shoulder.

      "I know the mission briefing in the conference room was pretty thorough, so
      I won't go over it again. We didn't think we'd need you, but Bobby and
      Johnny are needed here for security with Kitty away." I nodded, thinking
      of Kitty still in her room with Bobby and Johnny to watch over her, and
      kept my eyes fixed on the oh-so-interesting toes of my boots. "This is a
      pretty routine mission, and after some thought, Scott and Ororo thought it
      would be a good break-in for you."

      "Just information gathering?"

      Jean nodded.

      "A recently discovered lab. It's been in use in the last six months, but
      not recently. We clear the computers, check the records, and store
      everything for Kitty to decrypt."

      I frowned a little in thought.

      "Why send alpha team, then?"

      Jean shrugged.

      "It does seem like a beta mission, but this was an Alpha-class-containment
      lab. Possibly a top-level experimental facility at that. That's always
      priority--we found Legacy in a lab like this." A slight pause. "There's
      also the chance of this being a trap--we've run into several, so we need
      Bobby and Piotr on campus, in case something happens again on the grounds."
      She gave me a knowing look. I knew exactly what she was talking about.

      Made sense. I nodded slowly, then dared to glance up at her.

      "Don't look like that. It's nice to see people happy." There was
      something in her eyes that told me that it was more the 'Logan being happy'
      than anything else. Not that I was surprised by that. "Marie--" a pause,
      before Jean's hand on my arm stopped me in my tracks. Curious, I turned to
      face her and met the serious brown eyes. "It's--has anyone talked to you
      about--has he talked to you about the war?"

      I frowned, trying to--oh, right, Jubilee. Forcing down my instinctive
      jealousy, I nodded shortly--this was *not* something I felt like

      Maybe Jean read in on my face, because she turned to the door to the
      hangar, hand on the palm-lock, before another hesitation.

      "You--it's been hard for him, Marie. If he ever seems--distant--don't take
      it personally." Then a rush of words. "He's gone through a lot.
      But--I've never seen him like this, not ever. Not since she died." An
      amazing smile lighted her face then--beautiful and sweet, and the wide dark
      eyes were focused on me.

      Because I helped Logan over Jubilee's death. Because I made him happy.
      Because--I stopped, taking a breath, schooling myself to acceptance, to a
      smile and a nod, not letting her see any more than I wanted her to see.

      Jean pressed the release and I saw the jet waiting for my first mission.

      Deliberately, I dismissed Jubilee from my memory and turned my full
      attention to the mission at hand.


      Scott and Logan argued all the way to the site--it was familiar on one
      hand, utterly astonishing on the other. It was exactly the same--but there
      wasn't a single moment of true hostility between them, nothing at all but
      the most comfortable friendship, so startling that it kept me quiet just to
      hear it. No matter how many times I dismissed it, it yet again brought up
      the specter of the dead girl I was seriously trying to forget.

      --Sometimes, I wonder about you.-- Carol's voice was amused. --Now at
      least you know what Logan's lovers were always up against when you hated
      them. I suppose you could call this a learning experience.--

      I snorted softly, then looked around to make sure no one noticed. Nope,
      the two person entertainment brigade up front was keeping 'Ro, Remy, and
      Jean nicely occupied.

      --I have no idea on earth what you mean by that.--

      --Sure you do.-- Faintly acid. Carol could make her voice drip with
      t. --Midnight phone calls because Bobby broke up with you and brought him
      home quick-quick to take care of poor little Roguey, leaving Elektra to
      fume. When you and Remy broke it off, six hour phone calls and a trip to
      Hong Kong because you were depressed and needed a change of scenery,
      leaving--what was her name?--alone in Argentina for endless months. Rogue
      upset? Logan comes running. Now you know.--

      Dear God, was I that annoying?

      --When you absorbed me, where was he?--

      I had to think about that. There was a lot of time I deliberately
      repressed, including that unfortunate incident with Logan and a woman--and
      *what* had her name been anyway? Shit.


      --With that chick you never think about, the one he nearly married. You
      know the one. And what happened? He's two weeks from his wedding and then
      he's gone back home to because Rogue's in the middle of crisis and the
      words Crisis and Rogue in the same sentence always connect with his violent
      need to get directly to you, in person. It was four months before you were
      stable again, and you ever wonder why he didn't bother to go back to her?--

      Shit. I shifted uncomfortably, pulling at the edges of my gloves. No, I
      actually hadn't. It had been enough that he never, ever mentioned her,
      enough that he was in the training ring with me and he slept beside me so
      he could wake me from my dreams and held me when Carol and I fought out the
      epilogue of the battle for my body.

      --She broke it off?--

      --Yeah. You're a quick one, honey.--

      Inner Logan was utterly silent and I turned inside curiously.


      It was damn difficult to get Inner Logan to speak when he wasn't interested
      in doing so, and it was doubly difficult when we were hitting personal

      --Loooo-gan.-- Rich with Carol-pleasure. --You never told her?--

      There was the approximation of a growl that reverberated through my head
      and chest, enough to make me start a little in surprise, wondering if I'd
      vocalized and someone had heard it. A quick glance around said no.

      --Not talking 'bout this.--

      A confirmation if I ever heard one. Turning the unique thoughts over and
      over in my mind, I tried to figure out what this could mean.


      I blinked, felt Logan's utter relief, and silently promised a return to
      this subject later before focusing on Ororo. As she gave me the rundown of
      my duties in this mission--stay close to Logan or another team member,
      watch, listen, learn, all that--I considered what we would find. My first
      actual lab--in my world, I'd never seen one other than the vague, unformed
      shapes of Logan's dreams, and in this world, all I had was Kitty's

      Quickly, I blocked the thoughts away and focused on the issue at hand. Be
      a good little junior X-Man. Be a good little human-hater. I could do it.


      "Fuck." Whispered, because I needed to say something--I'd instinctively
      disliked silences since I'd first absorbed Cody. The voices in my head had
      too much space to fill and play with--the outer world grounded me harder
      against being overtaken by the inner.

      It said something about my inner world, of course, that Carol and Logan's
      presence I could easily feel--but curiously, they kept silent, even when I
      reached within with a half-hope of getting a response. Schizophrenia was
      never around when I wanted it. Damn them. Right now, I could have used
      the company.

      This was what could be called an ambush--all the earmarks of being tempted
      out and then attacked. Which, given, the team had been prepared for, more
      or less. From my place crouched in the hallway, I glanced at Logan leaning
      against the opposite wall.

      "What are we doing?" I whispered, and Logan waved me to silence, tapping
      the comm in his ear, eyes fixed on the length of hallway to my left and the
      corner beside us. This wasn't a good place to be, no question.

      "Waiting." A pause, then he shook his head, dropping into a predator's
      easy crouch and turning his full attention on me. "Jeannie and Scott are
      handling it."

      Handling *what* though? I knew enough to be still, watching Logan scan the
      area with all his senses. I wished I had them too. God, I wished, beyond

      A beam of something dark red and lethal hit the wall inches from Logan's
      head--no warning yell, nothing but that red that was *not* Scott's visor,
      and Logan spun out of the way as if pushed, landing as neatly as a cat four
      feet down. I darted after him, finding the reassuring weight of the Glock
      at my hip, breathing out as his hand rested briefly on my thigh, getting my

      "What the hell *is* that thing?" I'd forgotten to ask what the standard
      anti-mutant weaponry was these days and Logan probably thought I'd done my
      research. God, I could be stupid. Hadn't I been hit by one of those
      suckers already?

      "Similar to Genoshan collar but little more crude. Attacks the nervous
      system, temporary paralysis, shut down of powers." He was breathing
      lightly, quickly, forcing a higher adrenaline rush. "Scott shoulda taken
      them out."

      I didn't say what was obvious--that Scott was out of action now.

      "How many?"

      "No fucking clue." He growled, low in his throat--and I echoed it all
      unmeaning, trying to think through the possibilities. Something was
      *really* wrong with this picture.

      "This is more than an ambush, isn't it?" I whispered. Logan nodded and
      tapped the comm at his ear, keeping me silent as he listened. Scott had
      called radio silence, with an open line between Logan and Scott at all
      times, so he wasn't listening for orders.

      He was trying to see if Scott was still breathing.


      I nodded shakily and got my hand on my gun. I didn't like guns--until this
      moment. Suddenly, it was the one thing that seemed safe.

      "We gotta get outta here." This was screaming bad things--they *hadn't*
      killed Scott, and killing the leader of the X-Men should be, by all logic,
      of paramount importance. They wanted him for something, and for that
      reason alone, they should *not* have him. I glanced at Logan, then took a
      deep breath.

      I remembered how that red had ground into my spine, rushed through my body.
      How many shots had I taken that day? One or two or three? I tried to
      remember, but all my memories had solidified around the dead, bloody body
      at my feet. At least two, before I'd lost air and hit the ground, but
      Carol had dragged both of us through that fire, so the invulnerability had
      held in place longer.

      "I can take two shots," I told Logan, and he turned to look at me. For a
      second, he hesitated, then a short nod, squeezing my leg again.

      "I can take three," he murmured. "Get to the plane and call for back-up.
      I'll find Cyke."

      I turned a twisted smile on him.

      "Cyclops? That's the codename still?" I shook my head and braced a hand
      on the floor, ready for my leap. "What's Jean's, anyway?"

      I got a tight smile and hot hazel eyes when he answered. He was ready for
      the hunt.

      "She came back from the dead, baby. They call her Phoenix."

      * * * * *

      It wasn't like the attack outside the Mansion. I was ready this time.
      More than that, I was Rogue straight through.

      I'd trained with another Logan completely, granted--but memory isn't just
      stored in the brain. It's stored in the body, the spinal cord to be exact.
      I could type at 100 wpm without looking, though I had to think if you took
      my fingers off the keys and asked me where 'v' was located on the keyboard.
      Some things are all physical. And though we were a timeline apart in life,
      the training he'd given my body was the same he'd given himself. It knew
      what he'd do even if I didn't, and it knew him in ways I couldn't.

      I came from the air and he attacked from the ground. I got a splash of
      bright-red on my knee when I passed the first body he took down and slammed
      the second body myself into the ceiling with an easy swoop. They only sent
      in two. That was stupid.

      Logan got hit once and I avoided a hit at all. Out of the hall, we emerged
      into the small reception room where they'd apparently kept their secretary
      or whatever FoH used for administrative purposes and broke through the
      front door, spilling outside into an lovely warm summer evening.

      We both saw Scott at the same time, sprawled on the pavement of the parking
      lot, surrounded by five different masked, black-clad FoH members who were
      ready for us. Three shots in rapid succession took Logan out and I took
      off into the sky, feeling my body shake at the change in air pressure. I
      hadn't practiced enough--I needed Carol for this.

      --Give me some help here.-- Her experience--she'd exploited her mutation
      from the second of manifestation. Carol mumbled something, and it was
      easier to bypass and run through her memories of flight, dragging out the
      experience and correcting my angle as I watched the ground *way* too far
      below, crowded with more people than I was comfortable with. Please God,
      don't let me develop a phobia about heights now.

      Logan was nowhere in evidence and I got a glance at the door and guessed
      he'd gone undercover until the shots worked themselves out of his system.
      Superhealers just had too many damn advantages in battle. And they'd know
      that as well as I did.

      Ducking behind the roof, I got a foot on the tile and staggered--my
      landings had never been good and I didn't have time to utilize Carol to get
      it better. Not important anyway. Scott was visible, visor gone, and
      looking pretty unconscious. Jean beside him.

      God, Jean. She didn't look too good.

      'Ro--I took a breath. 'Ro and Remy were no where in sight. They might
      have made it back to the Blackbird, or they might be in that building with
      the computers. They might know what was going on and they might not.
      Hell, they might be captured or dead, and shit if I knew.

      I did know, however, that the FoH had targeted Scott specifically. It
      would have taken several people and some serious planning and surprise to
      get Scott anywhere.

      Resting my other foot on the tile, I flattened myself down, trying to think
      of something to do. If they made a move to take Scott, I'd act, no
      question. Watching them, weird guns out and ready, circling him in a
      parameter sweep that looked a little too efficient, I tried to decide what
      to do. Three more emerged from the far side of the building, crossing the
      pavement, saying something that I couldn't quite hear. I was alone, there
      were at least ten people down there that were the enemy, and I wasn't
      placing bets on how many had gone inside.

      Lifting my head carefully, I watched them scanning the area--somehow they'd
      either missed my advent or thought I was well gone. I was guessing the
      former--I'd come out high *after* Logan, and human instinct doesn't tell
      them to look to the sky for much in the way of escapable threats.

      Stupid, that. I wanted to know who the hell had given us the info on this
      damn little mission, because there was *nothing* about this that felt

      The wind was wrong to hear voices, so I couldn't tell what was going on
      when they gathered in a tight knot, armed and looking quite comfortable
      with those damn guns. I could take two--maybe three of those beams. I'd
      shook that second one off fast enough that day at the Mansion, after all.
      Maybe four. But I didn't have combative powers--and a Glock, though pretty
      and useful, wouldn't be fast enough to take enough of them before they took
      me down. Narrowing my eyes, I watched three get closer to Scott and Jean,
      kicking Jean out of the way and leaning over him holding electrical tape.
      I winced--God, Scott should never have let her come on this mission, never.
      She could--she could lose her baby. Crap.

      Watching them truss up Scott and Jean with practiced skill, I knew my
      options were gone. They were taking him. I had to get down there. I
      tapped the comm in my ear, but it wouldn't activate unless Scott
      reactivated it himself. Shit. Had to talk to him about that.

      The building as a whole was roughly seventy feet across--I was thirty feet
      away from being horizontal with Scott's position on the ground. If I got
      over there without detection, I could make it down and get Scott and maybe
      Jean too, up and onto the roof. They could *try* to follow, but the slopes
      of the roof would make it damn hazardous. The best I could do was play for
      time--in open air, I couldn't avoid those shots and two at least would
      bring me out of the sky like a duck during hunting season.

      I could take some pot shots with my gun from up here and take a few out
      that way, but I had a good idea that they might be wearing something under
      those black issues clothes that did more than merely deflect fire.

      The most obvious option I was shying away from--namely, land by Scott and
      touch. One point five seconds to turn on, another second to absorb enough
      for my body to mimic his mutation, hopefully absorb enough trig to make
      good shots. I'd watched Scott Summers train for years--I knew exactly what
      those beams could do.

      Logan had told me Scott would kick ass as an assassin. I was going to find
      out if he kicked ass as a sniper too.

      Levitating an inch from the roof's surface, I moved slightly toward the
      center and floated my way along, hoping no one was checking out the roof
      for interested spectators, hoping Remy and 'Ro came out soon. They had to
      still be inside--Logan and I had split to cover the first computer bank,
      and they'd gone downstairs for the second. If they'd found something that
      was important, they'd break silence, but I hadn't heard anything yet.
      Touching the comm, I dropped carefully to the roof and made my steady way
      toward the edge, hoping to God I'd measured this right. I couldn't look
      over now--the second I came into view, I needed to be moving and fast.

      Bracing my hands on the rough tiles, I got my legs under me and crouched
      for just the briefest second.

      "Who the hell--"

      Crap. Thank you Murphy's law, couldn't you just stay the HELL outta my
      life for just one mission?

      I leaped, trusting my instincts that told me Scott was in range. I landed
      inches away, rolling to absorb the landing and rolling onto the balls of my
      feet, tearing my glove off with my teeth as the first beam knocked against
      my chest, throwing me back five feet. Yeah, right. The tingle was
      familiar, as it tried to work it's way through skin that was as good as a
      physical shield. A bullet grazed my temple, but I refused to let myself
      panic--after all, I'd stood still and let Jean fire shots at me when we
      were testing my skin's ability to deflect. My bare hand was inches away
      from his face, and that's when my instincts said NO.

      I said yes and planted it over the perfect golden cheek.

      It was...

      Logan had taken me from the Mansion when Carol was subdued, away from
      everything else and lost us both in Hong Kong for a few weeks that went by
      way too fast. Drunk and exhausted, we'd collapsed in an alley outside the
      harbor, blood sprinkling out clothes from a bar fight and he'd asked
      me--he'd asked me if I liked it, when I absorbed someone.

      He'd been too drunk to think what he was asking. I'd been too drunk to

      I liked it *a lot*.

      Power was power--someone else's rushing through me, the new presence in my
      head annoying and deadly, but that wasn't the addiction. When I got their
      life, their being--it was a high I couldn't even describe. When I touched
      a powerful mutant--Magneto, Logan, Carol Danvers, now Scott Summers--it was
      liquid, like tossing a speedball through my system. It was like playing

      Shit, it was like *being* God, because I had everything of them, more than
      if I'd put a knife to their heart and pushed it in, more than if I'd held a
      gun to their head and pulled the trigger. It was the kill for the
      psychological kick and a rush of sheer power for the emotional one. It was
      better than being drunk, better than being high, better than adrenaline. I
      got the personality to give me hell, but I got all that sheer power and
      life-force and it was--

      ....it was *good*.

      I trusted Logan and Carol to take care of Scott's personality. Lifting my
      hand from his skin, I braced it on the ground and opened my eyes, seeing
      through the soft haze of uncontrolled red the men surrounding me.

      It was shooting ducks in the carnival, because they didn't expect it, and I
      knocked out seven in wide-beam before the other three realized what the
      hell I was doing. Three more shots in quick succession and the tingling
      ran down my body, but I had to laugh because it wasn't kicking in, it might
      slow me down, but they didn't understand. Norms never really did.

      I didn't have the power to hover, the red was already fading from the
      blasts that were inhibiting my mutations, but I had the physical skills
      still until they could get off enough shots to break through my skin. I
      threw myself forward, bare hand against a vulnerable throat, seeing through
      misty-red and a fading grey world, felt that skin under mine. My mutation
      was almost off, I knew it, and felt the tingling numbness spreading up my
      body. Only a few seconds, and I'd be out, out for good. Sluggish remains
      of him crawled weakly into my thoughts, leaving slimy, blackened trails of
      hate and fear, the images of the things he wanted to do to me, the things
      he'd done to other mutants, the white walls of the labs he wanted us to be
      in, just to hear us scream....

      Norm *bastard*.

      Gripping my fingers in, I ripped out his throat and collapsed to let the
      grey take over completely. Blood and tissues were thick on my skin, and I
      heard the gurgle before my eyes forced themselves closed. I'd taken my
      third life.

      And the high was as good as it'd ever been.

      * * * * *

      I woke up and jerked instantly, hovering inches above the med bed. Jean
      retreated instantly, and I saw her hands were encased in latex.

      Oh, this so wasn't a good sign.

      "Rogue," she said softly. And I knew she knew--my mind felt strangely
      clear, and I could feel her fingerprints all through it, light and strong.
      The other personalities, Scott's personality, were held at bay, behind an
      opaque whiteness that gave my mind the feel of a medical lab. I wondered
      if this was what her personal shields looked like from the inside. Made

      Xavier had never been able to do that for me. He'd never been able to
      block them all off, and I almost wanted to thank her, just for that.

      Hovering on a moving plane wasn't the easiest thing in the world, but I
      could manage it. I looked around wildly, noting my hand was cleaned of
      blood, though I spotted it ground under my nails. Good enough.

      "Come down, baby." Logan was standing beside Jean--he must have been close
      to the bed. "It's okay."


      "Trust me." He reached up with a gloved hand, brushing through my hair,
      and I let myself sink back down. Jean didn't move forward, respecting my
      space, but Logan did, instantly pulling me into a close embrace, exactly
      what I needed. I ignored my bare hand, wrapping both arms around him and
      burying my head against his chest.

      "You okay?" I whispered.

      "Fine, baby. Look at me." I couldn't manage it yet--too much, it was far
      too much. My mind was clear, they knew who I was, but so far, everything
      seemed okay.

      "Scott okay?"

      "Unconscious, but fine." Jean now, in doctor mode. Barely, I could see
      Scott stretched on the cot behind the back curtain, the visor picking up
      light from the med bay. "He'll be out for a few hours and a little drained
      when he wakes up, but he'll be fine. You didn't hurt him."

      Oh, that was good. Logan's hand braced below my chin and pulled it up--and
      I realized in shock that my hand was on his bare neck, just below his hair.
      I jerked back, hand at my throat.

      No collar.

      "What--I can't---" I felt more, then looked through my mind. My power was
      still there. But--

      "You were channeling too many personalities when you first woke up," Jean
      said. "I erected temporary shields to hold you mind." She shrugged a
      little, peeling her gloves off and casually laying a hand on my shoulder,
      finger brushing my neck. I jumped from the touch. "It went off too." She
      paused, brows knitting together. "I don't quite understand why you have
      such good shielding and cannot control your mutation."

      I blinked, then looked at Logan, who shot her a look I couldn't interpret.

      "Not now, Jean."

      Jean smiled a little, tilting her head.

      "Logan said you would explain what happened--after I identified you from
      the records." Crap. "He also asked that we keep the Blackbird out of the
      New York zone until you awakened." Another pause, and she exchanged
      another glance with Logan, this time a little challenging.

      "I won't get back in that machine," I said slowly. I could still fly, my
      invulnerability I could feel around me, and I didn't feel weak. Just touch
      was off. I shivered a little--it felt so normal.

      It didn't *feel* any different, and I had to wonder why that was. I felt
      different when the Genoshan collar was on. But this--Logan's hand covered
      mine, pulling it off my throat.

      "No, she won't." Logan's gaze was fixed on Jean. "Jeannie--"

      Jean shook her head.

      "That was Erik's project, Logan. Polaris is willing. I'm certainly not--"

      "You don't think Erik's gonna snap her up the second he finds out what she
      is? Especially after all the damn reports Hank sent to him telling him how
      impossible it'd be for that piece of crap to work with Polaris in it?"

      Jean paused, and I could see the machinations trekking across her eyes, as
      she tried to decide how Magneto would react.

      "You're right," she answered slowly, and leaned against the bed. Her eyes
      were on me again. "You're Rogue--the original?"

      "Not your original," I snapped, then bit my lip. Damn. Be nice, Marie.
      "I'm--the one that lived." God, did I have to tell this story again? I
      took a breath and then felt her hand lightly against my temple.

      "Let me."

      With her shields in my mind, I really didn't have much of a choice if she
      decided to force the issue.

      "I won't read you without permission, Marie." A pause, and I felt the
      press of her fingers on my face, the lightest brush of her mind, utterly
      nonthreatening. Right. But the choice of explaining the unlikely story
      again and Jean fishing for it herself was easy. I swallowed, gripping
      Logan's hand tightly, and nodded.

      It was so brief that I barely felt anything at all. Jean leaned back,
      nodding to herself, and then pushed a strand of my hair behind my ear.

      "I didn't know the machine could do that," she said slowly. A little smile
      curled up the corners of her mouth. "Then again--" she looked at Logan.
      "Hank confirmed?"

      "Yeah. I got his opinion when I found out."

      "How long have you known?" Now she was turning toward him, and I sensed
      the beginnings of hostility, flickering like heat on the surface of her
      skin. It was beautiful and scary as all hell.

      Logan seemed less than impressed.

      "Cool it, Jeannie. I wasn't turning her over to Lensherr for more fun and

      "You can't keep this secret forever, Logan." She paused, eyes narrowing.
      "Brazil? Genosha? India?" Her lips tightened. "We need you here."

      "She needed me first."

      There was *a lot* going on in here that I suddenly sensed was peripheral to


      "Not now. Who else did you tell, Jeannie?"

      Jean frowned, crossing her arms over her chest.

      "Scott will know the second he awakens--I can't keep secrets from the link,
      you know that. 'Ro and Remy didn't see anything and the shots drained her
      mutation." She waited for a moment. "I won't tell Erik, and you know
      Scott better than to think he would." A faint flicker of long fingers.
      "You should know me better too."

      There was the briefest pause, before I felt the tension drain out of Logan.


      "When we get to New York and Scott wakes up, we'll discuss it." Her voice
      brooked no argument, and Logan didn't protest. "Erik's in Washington and
      his flunkies aren't allowed inside the lower levels. It'll just be us.
      All right?"

      Logan hesitated, then glanced down at me. What, I should have an opinion?
      I looked at Jean, trying to make the decision. They knew. My options were
      limited already. And I didn't like the tension between them--I didn't like
      it because I sensed they weren't used to it, that they *didn't* argue like
      they did in my world. Mouth dry, I nodded shortly and closed my eyes,
      letting Logan draw me back into his arms.

      "You feel okay?"

      "Yeah," I murmured, and decided not to think at all.

      End Part IV

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