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FIC: Causa Anima [3/18] [PG-13]

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  • tosh
    E-mail: tosh@opera.iinet.net.au Rating: PG-13. Some violent, disturbing themes. Archive: XMMFF, WRFA. All else, all ya gotta do is ask. Classification:
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 9, 2001
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      E-mail: tosh@...
      Rating: PG-13. Some violent, disturbing themes.
      Archive: XMMFF, WRFA. All else, all ya gotta do is ask.
      Classification: General, Character Death, slight L/R UST, S/J
      Series: Manus Mortiferum
      Spoilers: The Movie.
      Synopsis: Continues on after the movie. The Mutant Situation is
      worsening and Erik Lenscherr escapes from prison. Rogue suffers
      a terrible mishap during the mission to stop him that shakes the
      foundations of her psyche and changes her life completely.
      Disclaimer: All characters copyright Marvel and Fox.
      Feedback: Enjoyed, responded to, adored and worshiped. Respond
      to the email above :)
      Author's Note: This is beta read, but not to the fullest extent
      that it can be. Some comma and semi-colon confusion occurs. Does
      that really bother you? I figure it's only fan-fic, and I have a
      comic to ink so I don't have the energy to break my back over
      this thing. But I did get rid of the spelling mistakes and the
      grammar mistakes. Most of them anyways :) Very big thank you
      to my Betas - JennyEdu, Jennifer Hallmark, Shaz Nolan, and I
      swear there must be someone else. I can't remember right now.
      E-mail me, smack me up the side of the head and I'll rectify it
      in the next chapter posting. Love ya's alls mates! Oh - and I
      know I said I'm releasing it a chapter a day, but I'll forget to
      do that I think, so I'm just doing it bunch by bunch :)
      Dedication: To the WRGrrls. You've been around for over a year,

      and the fandom is still going. That's majorly cool. Without
      your support, your enthusiasm and love, I'd be nowhere. This
      tenacity and companionship has helped me improve the crafts that
      I want to take into a career. For that, I thank you and love you
      always. Thank you girls.

      Chapter Three
      For Darkness, Freedom.

      The scene was a tempest of flames, the screams of men and women
      mingling with the roar of weapons echoing against the battered
      buildings that made up the military complex. The complex sat in
      the centre of towering razor-wired walls, which they'd landed
      inside of, and the lawn quad was now the stage of a rather fierce
      battle. The X-Men filed out of the distanced craft, Cyclops
      striding ahead with a determined set in his lips.

      "We're going in. Rogue - stay by Wolverine. Storm, you keep an
      eye on them in case Magneto shows up. We should stop the
      intruders before it gets that far."

      The group ran on towards the battleground, and Rogue felt a
      clashing of emotions inside of her. Her lips trembled as
      Wolverine gripped her hand and dragged her along. He was
      stronger than he realised, but the hold was warming.

      "Stay close," he growled, "I may have to fight some people off."

      "Ah got these," she said darkly, lifting her bare hands. He
      lifted a brow and grit his teeth.

      "I don't want you using it unless you have to, Rogue. The last
      thing you need is more jerks in your head!"

      "Ah dunno," she shrugged, "I kinda like you rattlin' round in

      She saw the older man shake his head, striding headlong. Cyclops
      fiddled with the side of his visor, sending out blasts towards
      figures floating in the air, radiating bands of energy. Rogue
      felt the blast of hot air as more flames shot up from the
      building, her heart thumping wildly.

      "This is a God-damn war zone!" Wolverine barked out to Cyclops.

      Cyclops hadn't the opportunity to respond as he blasted at
      offending mutant bodies. A strange feeling settled on Rogue as
      she watched her comrades plunge themselves into battle. Humans
      ran back and forth, shooting weaponry, other figures flipping,
      contorting, grasping and bending nature to their will,
      overpowering with a thought. It seemed to only serve as a
      massacre, a great destruction of human lives for the joy of it
      alone. It would make sense, for what the X-Men treasured, they
      would fight for. And there were plenty of mutants around to
      kill people, and few around to stop them. Fear was the thing
      that tickled the young girl's stomach, and she trailed after
      Logan, her eyes fixed on him always. A sudden cool breeze
      brushed her cheek, and she glanced upwards, heart frozen in
      caution - someone was coming. A dark lilting shape moved through
      the flickering smoke-dappled air above them, and Rogue crouched,
      her muscles tight and prepared.

      "Logan," she cried over the noise, "Look out!"

      Wolverine glanced up, hunching, claws extending with a metallic
      clink. The curved form of a woman floated down swiftly, heeled
      boots lashing. A metal-tipped toe clipped Logan in the jaw, and
      he staggered, crouching over and nursing a bruised jaw only
      momentarily before sweeping back up with a springing leap and
      smashing the woman in the face with an unclawed fist. She hated
      being useless, watching her friend do all the fighting. Oddly,
      it was like one of those bad westerns where the guys were
      punching each other silly and the woman stood by with a whiskey
      bottle, ready to smash it over the villain's head if she had the

      The woman, body sleek in tight pleather (probably to aid her
      flight) leapt and kicked. Wolverine ducked with a grunt,
      grabbing the leg whilst it was over him and throwing the woman
      over his head. She landed on the ground with an 'ooph', but her
      other leg clamped against him from the other side, sandwiching
      him between her limbs. With a flip of her body she sent him over
      on his head, his body crumpling to the ground only a moment. The
      woman rolled to her feet, her soft blonde hair tumbling around
      her shoulders, her large dark eyes twinkling in the devastation
      around her. Logan was still on the ground, his movements slow.
      He pulled himself to his feet groggily, the gnashing leer of
      effort on his haggard features.


      "I'm okay!" he shouted, ducking as the woman sent another
      smashing punch towards him, "This bitch is strong."

      "Thank you," the woman said before sending a firm smack into
      Wolverine's face. His body flew backwards untold metres into a
      discarded burning tank nearby, slumping onto the ground.

      She tilted her head as she stalked before him, a fascinated smile
      on her features, "You must be Wolverine. Magneto told me you
      would be a difficult adversary."

      Wolverine slowly propped himself up from the ground, gritting his
      teeth as his body worked at healing itself, "I'd hate to

      "Oh, no fear," cooed the woman, crouching before him and gearing
      for his next assault. With a grunt of impatience she sent a
      punch to his gut, which he deflected, but in blocking her arm he
      created an opening. She sent her fist slamming into his stomach,
      and as he bent over she grabbed at his neck, lifting him up in
      the air and pinning him against the wall of an abandoned tank.

      His hand shot out, catching hers, gripping her as she gripped
      him, the man's eyes bulging as the woman squeezed tighter. He
      kicked at her, and she laughed, pressing her body down over his,
      somehow smothering him, his hands pinned against his chest and
      crushed in her iron grip.

      Rogue could see he was stuck. She could see this woman was
      stronger than he was, and something in her broke as a look of
      pure desperation flitted across Logan's face.

      Marie sprang over a discarded body, her feet pounding at the
      earth of the instillation's once well-kept gardens, the slowly
      crumpling figure of her closest companion losing the battle
      against the steely woman in front of him. Her hands trembled as
      she leapt upon the woman, grabbing her face. The woman's neck
      snapped back, her eyes flinging open as the poison touch began to
      drain her. Flesh. It was so odd to feel it. So soft, supple.
      It was the sleek perfect skin of a woman, and it only took a tiny
      moment before it began to ripple with the straining of veins that
      fought to keep the essence of life within them.

      "No," Wolverine struggled, trying to get up, "NO! Marie!"

      She could see the hand of the woman still clenched around
      Wolverine's throat, holding on with a deadly determination.

      "Let GO OF HIM!" she growled, her eyes spilling with tortured

      The woman leered, looking back to Rogue, her eyes fluttering
      weakly, "I shall kill him, as you kill me," she said, "The longer
      you hold onto me, the sooner he dies."

      Wolverine grunted, his fingers scraping franticly at the hand
      that clamped onto his throat, his eyes glazing over, the only
      action he could play a slow but desperate shake of his head as he
      gazed at Rogue through dying eyes. Tears welled in the young
      woman's eyelids, an angry sob leaving her, her hands grabbing at
      the woman's face and yanking with all her might. Her hands
      slipped at the woman's iron strength, and Marie tumbled
      backwards, the hard earth pounding her body as she rolled. The
      super-strength endowed woman staggered back at the suddenly
      strong tug, her teeth gritting at the blood that lined her cheeks
      from Rogue's angry fingernails.

      Logan's unconscious body slipped onto its side, slow heavy
      breaths moving the leather-clad ribcage.

      Rogue hadn't time to watch him for long as the long legged
      villainess took weak steps towards her, her dark eyes flashing
      with a deathly rage.

      "Trying to steal my soul, little girl?" the woman said, "How
      interesting. You must be the one he talks about all the time.
      The one that haunts him."

      Rogue grit her teeth, clutching her head as she felt the cold
      painful claws of the woman's mind seep into hers, dank, distorted
      thoughts haunting her own. A wracking sob broke from her as she
      shook her head at the woman.

      "You're talkin' about him - about Erik?"

      Her adversary tilted her head and smiled, "Aah, you speak of him
      as if you were familiar with him." The woman paced gracefully,
      her strength slowly seeping back into her movements.

      "Familiar is one word for it," Rogue said shortly, "When they're
      in your head."

      The woman didn't look like she belonged here. She looked like
      she belonged on a cigarette packet from the nineteen-fifties, or
      more suitably selling cigarette packets from that era. It was
      then that she attempted to pace past Rogue, to Logan. Rogue
      shot a hand out, her eyes sharp and burning into the woman in
      front of her.

      "No Carol," Rogue breathed darkly, "He ain't for you. I think
      you should go home. Home to your Momma."

      'Carol' gnashed her teeth, her eyes flying open wide at the words
      from the girl, her gloved hands knotting into fists.

      "You got that from my head? Hmm? Soaked it up like a sponge?"
      Carol stepped forward, perilously close to Rogue, her nose nearly
      tipping the younger girl she towered over by a few inches, "Well,
      little girl. As fascinating as this has been, I have a job to
      do. So you can move, and let me finish off the beast-man, or you
      can join him in death."

      Rogue narrowed her eyes, her hands balling to fists, "If you
      think you're goin' anywhere NEAR Logan, you're fairly mistaken."

      Carol tipped her head, "So be it."

      Without any ceremony Carol surged forward, pummeling into Rogue,
      toppling her over and over on the ground, her hands pounding the
      little body underneath her. Great swaths of agony swept over
      the girl, her eyes blurring with fresh tears as strength untold
      tenderized her insides. She turned her head only slightly
      before having it slapped back in the other direction, catching a
      glimpse of a very unconscious Wolverine on the ground. Oh God,
      may he be okay.

      She felt the cold hand that gripped her cheek, shrouded in
      pleather, safe from her, bruises sinking into her porcelain

      She was going to die if she didn't move; she could feel it, in
      the mash of her muscles and skin that bled from the woman's
      blows. And if she died, Logan would be alone. Her heart
      thumped hard in her chest, the slow crawl of it's breaking
      sending a wrack of pain throughout her. A hand, bare, crept up
      so slowly to her face, so stealthily that the woman didn't see.
      Not until it was too late.


      Rogue winced, tears streaming down her features, her hands
      grabbing the woman's face tight. The energy streamed into her,
      bursting through her veins. She felt the thoughts; fears, agony
      and hate spill into her mind as her skin soaked the woman up into
      her. She heard a gasp behind her, low, masculine, and she turned
      her head long enough to see Wolverine had come round. He
      couldn't move though... his legs lay useless, though he crawled
      forward slowly.

      "No - stop!"

      "Oh too late," grinned the woman, her voice barely a rasp, her
      body curled underneath Rogue's hands, "Isn't it little girl..."
      She still struggled with Rogue, her plastic-clad fingers wrapping
      around the soft delicate neck, "We'll see who wins the
      struggle... what survives... my strength or your poison..."

      Rogue's mouth dropped open, her efforts to breath little more
      that guttural rasps. She looked to Logan helplessly.

      "Fight her Kid!" he yelled, "KILL HER!"

      Carol tilted her brows up, her lips curving in a tearful smile,
      "Such savage words spoken so - UNGH! TEnd-er-ly," she struggled
      with Marie's wriggling hands, both of them twisting uneasily in
      their death-lock, "You are his weakness. I think you will
      destroy him."

      Anger flitted within her, and with a growl the girl crushed the
      face under her hands, tears running hot from her eyes, something
      within her snapping - she willed it. Oh she willed every single
      sap of energy from the bitch of a woman. Almost in tandem the
      silver slivers of Wolverine's claws burst through the top of
      Carol's chest, the hot sting of the woman's lifeblood splashing
      against Rogue's face. She felt the constant barrage of energy
      jolt finally within her, and fear grasped her.

      Oh God. She'd ... she'd killed her.

      Rogue sobbed, trying franticly to scramble away from the dead
      body that lay on top of her, pinning down her suddenly helpless
      body. She was trapped by death. Oh God...

      "Get her away!" she cried, her voice wavering, "Get her away from

      Rogue shook violently at the heavy weight of the dead woman in
      her arms, and finally she kicked, crawling backwards, the limp
      weight rolling off her. She kicked away again, and glancing back
      caught the cold eyes of her deceased attacker.

      All she could do was stare. It was wrong - so very very
      wrong. No - this woman, this gorgeous intoxicating woman had
      been FLYING and beating the SHIT out of her and now she was... oh
      God she was nothing now - something and now nothing, moving and
      now gone, forever.

      Strangely, something sentimental in her cried out for losing
      something so dear to her.

      Two strong hands gripped the shoulders of Carol, lifting her up
      into a pair of arms... Wolverine. The loping figure of her
      companion dragged the wrongly familial body off and dropkicked
      the now lifeless corpse onto a pile of bodies with a savage

      All Rogue could see was her life. Her body buzzed uncomfortably,
      and she clutched her head, frantic whimpers coming from
      somewhere... it took her a minute to realise it was her. When
      she'd been looking at that body... she'd been Carolyn Danvers.

      Fear broke within her, a mad scramble crashing through her
      brain. She rolled over, clawing up to her feet and glancing
      around herself madly.

      "LOGAN!" A sob rose within her, wild fear rising, "LOGAN! Oh GOD
      where are ya?"

      Large hands clutched her sides, deep hazel eyes connecting with
      hers as he swept her around from where he'd come from. OH GOD
      yes... sanity... calm there had to be some calm in there...

      "I'm here - I was just -" He stopped, a chill ripping through
      him as he saw Marie's eyes. They were wide with fear, and
      worse, devastation. Complete and utter. He could feel her
      little body shaking, see her lips purse and shudder, her eyes
      lined with the red of tears. He wiped his gloves on his sides,
      ridding them of the blood before cradling her jaw, looking back
      into her eyes. "Hey, kid, talk to me - you okay?"

      Another whimper lifted from her, hands clutching her skull, her
      heart crushed under the new weight that bombarded her,
      "L-Logan... Hohhh GOD...." She shook her head, pushing herself
      away from Logan and in the process falling to the ground. Her
      fingers dug at her skull, helplessness and torment wracking her.
      "Oh, GOD! Get her out of mah HEAD!"

      Logan dragged her to her feet, hugging her tightly, "Shh shh
      shh... It's okay Marie... baby listen to me... Marie..."

      She couldn't listen. His words bounced off her and she just - oh
      damn that agony, so much of it. She buried her head in Logan's
      chest, just praying damn it that the crashing panic in her head
      would just STOP. She knew it couldn't though, no no never could
      cause the second she DID she would be at peace and NEVER could
      she be at peace with the new animal in there - the beast the
      killer - oh GOD.

      "Marie?" he asked.

      "She - God no," She squinted, sobbing.


      "No," Marie clenched her teeth in determination, "Cah- Carol.
      Binary. Her code-name was Binary, and I killed her."

      "Bullshit," He tilted her face up, staring directly into her
      eyes, so close she could feel his breath on her face, "I killed
      her. My claws through her chest."

      An empty smile flitted on Rogue's face. "I was gone long before
      that, Wolverine."


      Rogue's expression wrinkled to fear and she cowered against him,
      hanging in his hold once more.

      He shuddered, and clutching the limp body to him, he turned to
      survey the scene they'd somehow been knocked out of. He could
      see the black fluttering shape of Storm soaring high, her eyes
      flashing in the newly formed clouds around her. Cyclops blasted
      away near the entrance of the complex, Beast only now racing
      towards the power-box. Wolverine looked down to Rogue who hung
      in his arms, her eyes far off.

      "Ya can't go in there like this," he said, "I'll take you back to
      the Blackbird."

      "No!" Something burst through the chaos in Rogue's mind, and
      gripping the leather, she glared at him with everything. "No,
      Logan, I gotta go in there, help you guys, I'm the only one that
      can! You said!"

      "Are you sure?"

      "Yes!" she said, "Come on - Cyclops needs us!"

      He nodded, grabbing her hand, pulling her forwards to the front
      entrance to the installation. As he ran, he could keenly hear
      her feet pounding the decimated lawn, her soft breaths rasping
      into the late afternoon air, and he held onto her hand, making
      sure she was behind him. He would occasionally give her a tight
      squeeze, to encourage her to fasten her pace, and he nearly let
      out a girly 'ow' at the grip she gave him back. For a moment he
      thought someone had knocked her away and taken her place, but
      glancing back, surely enough - it was her. He frowned at her
      only a moment, figuring she must have put all her weight on his
      hand by accidentally tripping or some such. He could hear
      Cyclops' voice calling out over the tumult now, and he skidded to
      a halt next to the fearless leader.


      He knew that if he had the chance, Cyclops would have glared at

      "Where they HELL where you? Ororo and I are doing all the damned

      "I was saving her ass!" Wolverine growled, thumbing towards a
      lost looking Rogue.

      "I told you not to bring her," he said.

      Wolverine felt a rage prickling under his skin and he grit his
      teeth, "She was by my side you jerk, *I* was the one attacked!
      She saved my Goddamned LIFE!"

      Cyclops jumped forward, a blast bursting from his visor, "Fine.
      Go do your job before you get in the damned way!"

      He grit his teeth at the younger man, grabbing Rogue's hand and
      pulling her forward, "Thanks, Bub!"

      He crouched in the war zone, weaving between wrecked tanks and
      over-turned police cars, his eyes on the small shed that served
      as the installation power-box. Inside was the large black and
      blue shape of Hank McCoy, The Beast, his long fingers twiddling
      with various wires. He'd been instructed to take out the power
      and thusly automatically seal the doors. He grunted at him,
      poking the man in the shoulder.

      "You not done yet?"

      "This is a vastly superior security system developed by the
      government's leading scientists," said the young man, glancing at
      him only briefly. "Relieving it of its power without the proper
      clearance is a delicate operation."

      "Ugh," grunted Wolverine again, "Right... yeah." With a 'chink'
      he unsheathed his claws, and gave a fierce swipe to the wires
      leading out of the generator Beast was gutting piece by piece.
      Sparks burst into the air, Wolverine letting out a yelp as a bolt
      of electricity sent him falling backwards onto his rear.

      "That wasn't particularly wise," said Beast, a soft frown on his
      blue-grey face.

      "No shit," growled Wolverine, "Power down!"

      "Doors not necessarily automatically sealed," replied Beast.

      Wolverine's lips tensed, his hands clutching the ground, his ears
      practically pricking. "Do you hear that?"

      Rogue looked around herself, "Hear what?"

      His eyes sparkled in caution, "Rumbling..."

      "I don't hear-"

      Sound stopped for the briefest of moments, eardrums almost
      bursting as a deafening wall of sound slammed Rogue back,
      Wolverine and Beast tumbling over near her.

      She narrowed her eyes into the explosion as grit and rubble burst
      from the doorway to the complex, Cyclops taking a tumble at the
      blast. Rogue ran forward from the power-box, eyes out for Jean
      and Storm. In the sky the fluttering black and silver spectre
      of her friend swooped down to meet the white-clad figure standing
      untouched in the huge bite taken out of the building. Silver
      hair and tired old eyes looked back at the X-Men as they
      staggered to their feet, Cyclops rubbing his head gingerly.
      Rogue felt her feet moving fast, her heart thumping wildly. Rage
      was suddenly engulfing her at the sight of this man. She'd never
      examined her feelings towards the destructive twisted old soul
      that stood not twenty metres from her, she was always too
      angered, too pained. Tonight, Wolverine nearly slipped away from
      her again, and it was THIS man's fault. Around him hovered a
      few young Mutants, the dead Binary slumped over the shoulder of
      one of them. His eyes barely flickered at the sight of the dead
      Mutant, and he cast a steely gaze to the X-Men, looking more
      annoyed than anything.

      "Rogue! Get BACK here!"

      She glared at the old broken man, venom in her stance, her jaw
      clenching slowly. The world suddenly swept up around her as
      strong arms grabbed her, pulling her back and away, the spicy
      scent of the unfashionable cologne and the way those arms felt
      around her letting her know exactly who it was without even
      having to look.

      Cyclops stepped forward, hands planted firmly on hips, standing
      between the gaping bite out of the building that used to be the
      front entrance, and the rest of the world. His lips were set
      hard, his voice level.

      "What do you think you're doing, Magneto?"

      Magneto gazed at him with a dour frown, the light sniggers of his
      surviving mutant comrades backing him.

      "What does it look like I'm doing?" he asked, "I'm leaving."

      "We can't let you do that," Cyclops said. Storm angled down from
      the low-lying clouds, her cape fluttering around her as she
      approached Magneto with a menacing glow of her eyes. The wind
      whipped up at the rising of the woman's arms, her elegant gait
      threatening like the steady lope of a hungry wild cat. Jean-Grey
      wasn't far behind.

      Magneto tipped his head as Storm drew close, a fascination in his

      "Do you know what makes up much of the underground structure of
      this holding facility, Ms. Monroe?"

      Storm glared at him, her face not moving an inch.

      Magneto rose, the odd sight of an old man in white pyjama-like
      clothes floating into the air losing all comedic value at the
      shuddering energy that seemed to seize everything around them.
      Storm staggered back, the ground shaking, and she lifted her
      hands, forcing a gale at the man who didn't seem to budge an
      inch. She felt herself buckle, and looking to Cyclops she looked

      "Jean! Give me a hand here!"

      Jean ran forward, hands outstretched, her eyes fixed to
      Magneto. She fought to counteract his powers, her lips tense,
      hands quivering at the energy. Absurdly, Magneto flicked a hand,
      flinging the woman back against the ground. She could barely
      stand for the quaking, her eyes growing wide.

      "Scott," she cried, "He's ripping up the installation from the
      inside out - we have to get out of here!"

      He clenched his teeth, "Rogue can still-"

      "LOOK at her Scott," she shouted, "Rogue can't do a thing!"

      He glanced to the young girl hanging limply against Wolverine's
      frame, her eyes empty.

      "We have to retreat!"

      He gave an impatient sigh, meeting Ororo's frantic gaze.
      "RETREAT! Let's get to the Blackbird... fight this baby with
      some technology!"

      Magneto still rose up into the air, now some way from the ground,
      his companions floating with him. There only seemed to be flying
      mutants on this mission. Perhaps the earth-bound ones had
      already escaped.

      Rogue felt herself being bustled into the Blackbird, Wolverine's
      gloved hands always near hers. She barely registered the
      contact, or even where she was. The X-Men filed into the
      Blackbird, barking commands and suggestions to each other. All
      she could do was sit with a blank expression on her face,
      Wolverine strapping her into her seat with a paternal force that
      disturbed her somewhat. She felt those gloved hands on her face
      again, directing her lost gaze down.

      "Marie, Marie, look at me."

      She dragged her eyes down to meet his, his face twisted in worry
      and fear. It amused her somehow. This man... he was her
      saviour, her invincible saviour, and he was afraid.

      "You feeling alright? You're not hurting anywhere?"

      A curl of a distant smile curved her cupid-bow lips, "I'm fine."
      He saw her glance behind him.

      "You know what happens when you don't wear your seatbelt,

      Cyclops glanced back from the front seat, "Wolverine - sit your
      ass down!"

      Wolverine grit his teeth, glaring at Rogue, "Did that pussy-boy
      just swear at me?"

      "I'd say so."

      He sighed, and kissed the top of her head briefly before
      retreating to his seat, strapping himself in hastily as the
      Blackbird shook at the sudden developing G-force. He leant back
      in his chair, always glancing back to Marie, heart wrenching at
      the hollow gaze she cast at the wall next to her.

      The ship around him bucked, shuddered, and Wolverine clutching
      onto the edge of his chair.

      "Cyclops - what the hell is going on?"

      The trim man in black shrugged, "I have no idea. I can see
      Magneto ahead - there's a lot of atmospheric disturbance around
      him. Storm, can you calm it down out there?"

      "No problem," she purred, her eyes turning a luminescent white.

      The haze at the window folded back, the dark figures a small
      distance away from the nose of the plane.

      "Here's an energy blast to go home with," mumbled Cyclops,
      fingers dancing over switches and buttons at the control
      panel. From the nose of the craft burst a red bolt of light
      that sizzled and careened through the darkening sky. A chill
      struck Wolverine when the bolt split and curved, sliding around
      the old man like plasma inside of those glass spheres that he'd
      seen in tourist shops a thousand times.

      "One-Eye, we better get the hell out of here and fast," he said
      gritting his teeth. "My bones are achin'."

      Cyclops glanced back at Wolverine only a moment, his mouth edged
      open in alarm. His hands slammed the controls, his head shaking
      darkly. "This guy has to be fallible somehow..."

      "He's not."

      Silence fell in the craft, all eyes turning to a deathly serene
      Rogue. She shifted her eyes to Cyclops, lips quivering only

      "He's not fallible. Not like this, with powers. The only way to
      get at him is here," She tapped the side of her head.

      Cyclops didn't have to ask twice how she knew, even once wasn't
      necessary. The man struggled with the craft's controls, the
      figures floating in the air coming suddenly closer.

      "Cyclops, move our asses, man!" Logan growled, "Those guys are
      getting closer, and you remember what Helmet-Head did with the
      back end of that train!"

      "I'm trying," grunted Cyclops, pulling hard on the joystick,
      "Something's keeping us fixed here..."

      "Magneto," Jean murmured.

      Wolverine snorted, "No shit."

      "That's not constructive," Cyclops muttered.

      "Scott, just try and get us out of here," said Jean.

      The visor-clad man nodded, pulling hard on the joystick, the ship
      shuddering violently. The sole man clad in white not so far
      from the ship grimaced, his hand lifted and curling. With a
      final shake of effort, he fisted his hand tightly.

      The ship groaned slowly, rivets popping from their holes in the
      craft and pinging off the ground in musical tings.


      Jean glanced to Scott, "I'm trying to hold the ship together the
      best I can!"

      "UGHN! I nearly got it!"

      Pain ripped through Logan, his bones crumpling inside of him.
      He felt an almost tangible heat at the side of his head, and
      turning it stiffly he saw Rogue, her eyes wide and stuck on him.
      Wolverine looked to the front windows. The white clad man turned
      in the now deep blue sky, his posse of floating bodies following
      him like lazy dark birds soaring to the south. He let out a hot
      breath, clenching his seat.

      "I think - I think he's pissing off now," he grunted, "About time

      Cyclops nodded, "Yeah, the jet is swerving now - come on

      A great lurch went through his stomach as the jet swerved away,
      the scenery out the window swirling past in a flash of dulled
      dusky colours. A soft voice spoke to him.

      "Are you okay?"

      He looked behind him to the girl in her chair, clutching at the
      buckles on her seatbelt, eyes soft in caution. For the first
      time in an hour, she looked as innocent and vulnerable as when he
      spotted her in the bar. He nodded haggardly.

      "I'm fine, kid."

      He could almost taste the relief that exuded from the young
      woman, her body slackening in the chair. She looked exhausted.
      Her eyelids drooped and her body slumped. He just wanted to curl
      her up in his arms and put her to bed. That's exactly what he'd
      do when they got back to the mansion, too.

      Jean glanced back to Rogue, her eyes sharp.

      "What happened to her?"

      Wolverine looked to her, swallowing, "One of Magneto's goons
      tried to kill her. She made short work of her."

      Alarm lifted in the telekinetic's brown eyes. "She what?"

      "She just meant to get her off me," said Logan, "But when she
      knocked her off, I was unconscious. Next thing I knowI see the
      crazy bitch pinning Rogue to the ground and strangling her.
      Rogue was clever enough to touch her."

      "We're nearly home," said Cyclops suddenly. "The Professor isn't
      going to be happy about this."

      Jean sighed, shaking her head, "I don't think there was much else
      we could do. We were out-numbered and out-forced."

      "Sometimes you gotta know when to back off," Wolverine said, "And
      come back when you're fighting fit and have the advantage."

      "Let's just hope the Professor sees it that way," said Cyclops,
      tone low.

      Wolverine could see the guy was bummed. It was no surprise to
      him seeing Scotty-boy hated to lose. In the mere month or so
      that he'd been back with the X-Men, no fewer than 8 disturbances
      broke out, and Wolverine had been with the team every time to
      settle it. They hadn't lost a one, and he knew they hadn't lost
      many, if at all, before this either. Jean would lick his
      wounds, (lucky damned son-of-a-bitch) and Scott would be right
      back into it the next time, he knew. Casting his gaze back to
      his young companion, an icky warmness spread in his chest. He
      wasn't so sure how little Rogue would be. Little. She wasn't
      looking so little in the black leather, but damn could he see it
      in her sweet brown eyes. Sweet brown eyes? he snorted to
      himself, You're sounding like a damned romance novel. And
      romance and the Kid don't go together!

      Somehow, as time rolled on, he kept losing those reasons why this
      was so, just forgetting them or failing to see the sense in them
      anymore, and little things would pop up where he'd feel
      thoroughly disturbed at himself. Well, maybe not so little. He
      clamped his eyes shut and berated himself again. This was
      ridiculous, and the way home from a mission was not the place to
      be having inner battles with one's hormones.

      The only thing he concerned himself with was wrapping Rogue up
      safe and sound in a blanket and taking her to the infirmary
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