"For the last time, Hank -- I'm fine."
Reine did her best to glare at Beast, but the full effect
was lost as he was busily checking her pupils.
"Indeed? You were unconscious for the better part of a day,
are currently suffering from bouts of severe pain due to undetermined
causes, and you are 'fine'. It therefore appears that there
must be some obscure definition of the word with which I have
heretofore been unacquainted. Kindly enlighten me."
"Look -- we've been over this before, when Jean and Elizabeth
decided to do their version of the Spanish Inquisition on
the Astral Plane, " she replied, exasperated.
"I am fine. It's just that this leftover link, fragment,
or whatever the hell you want to call it, is causing some
weird overlap in our powers. I know what he feels, he knows
what I think... and by the way," she grimaced, "I'm
thinking it's time for his next shot of painkillers."
Hank checked his watch.
"Quite -- pardon me..."
Beast proceeded to fill a syringe with medication, and turning
to Remy's bed, injected it into his IV port.
The Cajun was resting now. After finally rousing from his
coma some hours previously, he had fallen into a natural,
healing sleep. He would likely wake again soon, and though
a conscious Gambit made for a cantankerous patient, Beast
was looking forward to the event.
Of course, once he's able to stay awake for more than
about ten minutes at a time, I'll likely wish that I had simply
elected to keep him under sedation until he's fully regained
Reine chuckled, picking up on his thoughts.
"Don't think so loud, Hank -- laughing hurts. And just to
warn you, I think you'll be paying for that when he wakes
"And so I shall -- as I had just privately observed," Hank
replied with a grin.
Reine bit back a laugh, drawing her arms across her body
"I thought I just told you not to do that..."
"In point of fact, you didn't -- verbal repartee was not
"True -- but then, it has been observed that laughter is
potent medicine. I thought it might do you good," Henry replied
"Next you'll be telling me it will build character," she
grumbled, "Trust me, it's too late."
"I'll take that under advisement," Beast said with a smile,
then his expression turned serious.
He wasn't quite sure how to raise the subject he wanted to
discuss -- especially given how much Gambit disliked the idea
of medical tests on general principles -- but he felt it needed
to be said. What had happened -- and was still happening --
with the twins' power was, to his knowledge, unique. The scientist
within him was unable to resist the opportunity for discovery
-- especially since there was no way of knowing how long the
phenomenon would last.
"I find it fascinating that the two of you are able to communicate
in this way, however rudimentary it may be -- especially since
conventional telepathy requires some level of consciousness,"
he said carefully, "Elizabeth's hypothesis of the link acting
as some kind of mental conduit between you is most intriguing..."
"That's one word for it," Reine sighed, "though not the one
I'd choose -- or the one Remy would choose, for that matter..."
"So which word would you choose?"
Not to mention inconvenient...
She felt her brother's grim agreement at her thought, and
responded to it.
Don't worry about me, Remy -- just concentrate on yourself
Noting her detachment and preoccupied expression, Hank guessed
what was happening. No stranger to the signs of telepathic
conversation, he realized the two of them had some kind of
exchange going on. He waited until he determined it was over
before asking his next question.
"Do you have any level of control over what is passed between
you?" he asked.
"I think so. I've been trying to filter out some of his feelings
-- namely, pain -- and it seems to be having an effect..."
Reine cocked her head for a moment, as if listening, then
relayed her brother's response.
"As far as I can tell, he thinks he does -- or at least he
thought he did when he was awake that time..."
"So most likely there is a dependency on the current state
of consciousness, which is logical. The subconscious mind
may be able to perceive what is necessary, but is not the
seat of control... the phenomenon will require closer study."
Seeing his chance, Henry took advantage of it, proceeding
"I would hope to persuade you both to undergo additional
tests later to... "
Reine raised one hand in the air, halting Hank, and brought
the other to her temple, massaging away some of the vehemence
of Remy's reaction, as his anger and dismay stabbed at her
Would you relax, please ? You don't have to give me a
migraine to make your point, she thought, annoyed.
Remy's thoughts were apologetic now, but no less upset, and
she could almost make out words coalescing from his feelings,
just like the last time. If she figured right, he was about
to wake up again. She debated about whether or not to let
Hank know, then decided against it -- she and Remy would make
that decision together...
"I understand, Hank -- we both do -- but one thing at a time.
Right now, let's just concentrate on getting him better."
"Of course," Hank agreed, "But as you know, the opportunities
for study that this phenonemon presents are considerable.
I only ask that you might consider permitting it."
"I can't make any promises, Hank -- but we'll think about
Just then, there was a faint groan from the bed, and both
Reine and Hank turned to see a pair of half-open red eyes
regarding them groggily, but warily.
"Ah, Monsieur LeBeau -- good of you to join us, " he said,
as he proceeded to give the injured thief a thorough examination.
After completing the exam, Beast straightened.
"Well, you'll be pleased to know everything is looking good.
Neurological checks are normal, and there are currently no
signs of infection. I shall be checking at regular intervals
throughout the day, to monitor your progress. Do try and get
as much sleep as possible -- it will aid the healing considerably,
as well as my patience in dealing with your impatience," Hank
"Now if you'll excuse me, I have to do some preparatory work
for some experiments with Rogue this afternoon. Once she was
assured that you were both going to be fine, she was quite
adamant about commencing a serious investigation of her powers
as soon as possible -- and I don't wish to keep her waiting
more than necessary. I've noticed it tends to make her rather
testy -- something which should serve as an incentive in your
recovery, my friend," he continued, addressing Gambit's prone
"Not to worry, Hank -- her temper's enough to put the fear
of God in anyone," Reine grinned, "and by the way, he wants
to know 'when the hell he can be rid of these damned tubes'."
Hank rolled his eyes -- some things never changed.
"It depends. If he means the ventilator, in twenty-four hours
or even today, depending on how his lungs have recovered;
if he means the central line for the dialysis, about a day
after that, if his condition continues to improve; if he means
the IVs, once we've chased his fluids up sufficiently and
administered all necessary antibiotics; if he means the Foley,
that will have to wait until he's both weaned off the dialysis
and is physically able to use more traditional methods of
expelling his waste."
"Well, that answers that question," Reine said dryly, wincing
as her brother mentally began a symphonic display of cursing.
It was a good thing it wasn't audible -- the floors would
"I'll be off now -- if you need me, I'll just be in the next
room," Beast said.
Once the blue-furred scientist left the room, Reine turned
to her brother.
"Sounds like you're going to be laid up for a while, Remy
-- we'll just have to make the best of it."
#We can't -- you got somewhere else you need to
be# he thought firmly.
#I can't leave now -- not with you like this#
#An' you can't jus' wait aroun' for me -- dere's too much
riding on you...#
#I know my responsibilities -- I can spare a few days.
That should leave plenty of time, and I can still work with
an amended timetable#
#But not as safely...#
#No, not as safely -- but I can manage. Besides -- I can't
tackle the job if I'm not up to it physically. And as far
as we know, until you're at least partially recovered, I won't
be. It'll just have to wait...#
After bidding Jean good-bye, Rogue began to make her way
back to the Medlab. She had an appointment with Beast, and
if she hurried, she might have time for a quick visit with
Relieved as she had been yesterday when Reine had awakened
and confirmed that he was mentally all right, it hadn't been
enough. Rogue had stubbornly refused to leave his side until
he opened his eyes. After he had, it was only his insistence
(relayed through his sister) that she get some rest herself
-- and the knowledge that Storm would take her place -- which
had prompted her to go.
When she did, however, it wasn't to go to sleep -- the roller
coaster of emotions she had been on had left her too keyed
up for that -- but to make arrangements. Arrangements with
Henry to study her power -- and with Jean, to study herself,
in hopes of finding some way of controlling that power...
or at least discover what was stopping her from controlling
Rogue had wanted to get started immediately, but Jean made
it clear that their investigation would have to be gradual.
To that end, their first session or two would be very basic,
essentially letting the telepath orient herself and become
familiar with Rogue's core mind, before they actually attempted
to begin work on her problem. The southerner had been nervous
about opening herself up this way -- but if there was anyone
she would trust in this, it was Jean.
Ah'm almost glad that Charles ain' around foh this, or
else he'd probably insist on doin' it himself. Ah know he
tried, but I jus' never felt ... comfortable ... with him
in mah mind. Heck, maybe that was part o' the problem...
Before they had begun, Jean had taken the time to thoroughly
discuss with her exactly what what would and could be done
in this first session, encouraging Rogue to set many of the
boundaries herself. After their talk, Rogue's nerves had eased
considerably, which made the whole experience easier for both
In fact, everything had gone quite smoothly, though Phoenix
had seemed a little concerned afterward. When Rogue called
her on it, Jean allowed that she was a little surprised at
the amount of psychic debris within Rogue's mind.
"But I suppose I should have expected it," Jean had admitted,
"Given what we know about the nature of your power, there
should be quite an amount of psychic scarring. And there is
-- but there are some rather extensive blocks as well. My
concern is where those came from. It's likely that a good
portion are remnants from your -- problem -- with Carol, and
I can see some of the areas the Professor had been working
on. But because I'm more or less picking up where he left
off, the problem is I don't know exactly what he did
-- or why. If you'll allow it, I'd like to see if I can access
some of his records on the work he did with you. That should
give me a better idea of exactly what's already been done,
and how best to proceed."
Rogue had nodded hesitantly.
"All right, " she had conceded, "but just so ya know ...
there's ... things ... in mah past that Ah told Charles, but
that he promised me he didn' make any records of. An' I can
tell ya some of the stuff you are gonna see there might
... well... "
"Shock me?" Jean had asked with a wan smile.
"Rogue, I might not know much about your history -- but I
do know a thing or two about Mystique and the Brotherhood.
If there wasn't anything that might be considered shocking
or upsetting from your past that I don't already know about,
I'd be surprised. You proved yourself a long time ago -- as
far as I'm concerned, your history isn't an issue, except
insofar as it might be related to your problem."
"Well, excuse me foh havin' doubts," Rogue had said shortly,
"but given the whole situation with Remy, Ah was under the
impression that history must be an issue -- if not
with you, then with some o' the others. An' since it is, I
jus' wanted ta warn ya about what you're probably gonna find."
"We're not discussing Gambit right now," Jean had replied
"We're talking about you, Rogue. For lack of any better
term, you and I now have a doctor-patient relationship. Anything
I discover about you while we're working together is confidential.
Unless it affects our progress, what I do or do not feel about
your background is irrelevant. What others may or may not
feel about your background matters even less."
"What about Scott?" Rogue had challenged.
"What about him?"
"Ah trust ya not to tell anyone on purpose, like -- but with
the link ya have with Scott, how can Ah be sure that he won't
"Rogue, I have a mental rapport with him -- that does not
mean that we're in constant mental communication. Our link
is very channeled. He doesn't have full access to my mind
any more than I have full access to his. Could he stumble
across confidential information in my mind? Yes, he could
-- but not without me knowing about it. So it really comes
down to a simple question -- Rogue, will you trust me?"
She had taken her time to reply, but when she had, there
was no mistaking her conviction.
"Yes -- Ah will. I do."
Jean had smiled, and squeezed Rogue's gloved hand.
"Trust is always the first step -- and the hardest. I don't
think I need to tell you we have our work cut out for us --
control issues are always difficult. There may be times when
I may have to pull you along to get the results we need, but
there's only so much I can do. What you can do is what
will be key in the work we do together. I won't push you --
but you will have to push yourself when the time comes. And
that's never easy..."
That's never easy...
An don't I know it, Rogue thought, as she continued
to walk toward the mansion from the boathouse.
Lettin' Jean in on mah past is gonna be one o' the hardest
things Ah've ever done, right up there with leavin' Momma
and Reenie. Ah didn' even tell the Professor everything, an'
he thought havin' a few kills from sniper duty on Momma's
missions was bad enough -- Lord knows what he thought about
everything else he found in my head. Ah know Jean said that
everything would stay between us, an' Ah trust her. But I
don't see how we can keep it that way -- not if I'm ever gonna
get anywhere with this. Somehow, Ah just know that it's gonna
have ta come out. An' if tellin' Jean's going to be bad, how
much worse is tellin' Remy going to be?
Mind you, it was a question as to how much of her past Remy
already knew about. Due to his line of work prior to joining
the X-Men, he would have to have been reasonably well acquainted
with the Brotherhood -- on a couple of occasions, Mystique
had actually employed Guild members, though not from the New
Orleans chapter -- and the kinds of operations they had usually
undertaken. He had to at least suspect that her role might
have been more active than she had let on -- hell, she'd just
about told him as much when he had made his own confession.
But even if Remy did suspect, for reasons she was not able
to understand, he still seemed to idealize her. She had learned
that much with their kiss in Israel. Seeing herself through
his eyes had been nothing short of a sublime experience --
moving, humbling, and terrifying all at once.
And that was a large part of the reason she had run away
from him when he had needed her most.
Certainly, the flashes she had seen from his memories of
the Massacre reminded her all too well of some of the work
she had done with Mystique, and that was another part of why
she had fled. But after Israel, what she simply could not
come to terms with were Remy's feelings -- not simply because
of their depth, but because they were unconditional. And that
had scared her to the bone...
Never in her life had anyone come to care for her so deeply
with no strings attached. Raven and Irene did truly love her,
she knew, but that had come with time. They had originally
taken her in because Destiny had foreseen that she would become
powerful -- an asset to their plans. The fact that they had
come to think of her and love her as their own child was,
for lack of a better term, an accident. And even that was
far better than her birth mother, who had almost never shown
her any kind of affection unless there was an audience --
or rather, a witness -- present.
She was accustomed to having affection as part of a trade-and-barter
system -- it was all she had known in her life, and as such,
she felt comfortable with it. She knew the rules.
Remy had essentially thrown them out the window -- and she
hadn't known how to deal with it.
She still didn't.
If you ever want ta grow, sometimes you've gotta break
out of your comfort zone -- an' being comfortable with bein'
used is mine. Lord, if that wasn't so pathetic, it'd be Goddamned
Still, she could adapt -- but if she told him the truth about
her past, would she ever have a chance to do so?
She knew Remy had killed before -- but only ever in defence
of himself or someone else -- never in cold blood. Not like
At the time, she had rationalized that what she had done
was self-defence -- of a sort, protecting her family,
or ultimately other mutants -- but she realized now that they
had been only rationalizations.
Could Remy handle the truth about what she had been?
Well, he was married to an assassin before -- ya'd
think he might not mind about bein' involved with a retired
one, she thought with grim humour.
There was no question that she was going to have to tell
him -- but not now. Remy had enough to deal with at the moment.
Once he was well again, then things would be different. And
maybe by then, she might have found a way to say the words..
In the boathouse kitchen, Jean Grey-Summers was preparing
a pot of herbal tea -- after her work with Rogue, she needed
It was true that things had gone well enough -- but after
taking her first good, long look at Rogue's psyche, Jean realized
just how daunting the task before them was going to be. She
had done her best to put on an optimistic front, but the southerner
had seen through it. Going into Rogue's mind in any real depth
promised to be the telepathic equivalent of waltzing through
The sheer number of psychic scars was enough of an obstacle.
Vestiges of personalities Rogue had absorbed in the past,
most of them should be harmless -- but that wasn't to say
that all of them were. Considering some of the people Rogue
had absorbed, Jean wasn't inclined to take any unnecessary
chances. Figuring out which of those vestiges weren't
harmless and working around them would be time-consuming and
painstaking work, but it could be done.
What worried Jean more were some of the blocks which were
clearly created by the professor. As her mentor, Charles had
always impressed upon her the importance of never doing any
more than was strictly necessary within another's mind --
to work within the framework of each individual's psyche,
rather than imposing structures that were foreign.
Some of the work Charles had done in Rogue's consciousness
was uncharacteristically heavy-handed -- and that was concerning.
Hopefully, once she had a chance to peruse the professor's
notes on Rogue's case, the reasons why that was so would become
clear. Most likely the mental battle Rogue had fought with
Carol Danvers for so long was at least partially responsible
for the amount of psychic wreckage Jean had seen in the other
Once Jean knew enough of Rogue's consciousness to help her
address her control problem, other factors would make themselves
known as well -- like background. An incident in childhood
was often at least partially responsible for how a mutant's
powers first appeared -- as Jean knew from personal experience
-- or how they developed.
She found herself wondering what kind of childhood Rogue
had had with her foster family. While the southerner almost
never spoke of the times when she was growing up, when she
did, she tended to recount stories of typical childhood escapades.
As far as Jean could tell, Rogue's family life with Mystique
and Destiny had been stable and loving. It was strange to
consider that Mystique -- an amoral international spy and
assassin -- had taken it upon herself to provide a supportive
family environment for a child -- especially one that was
not even her own.
It was an odd thought, but most likely in their work together,
Jean would be learning as much about Mystique as she did about
Also, in helping her teammate, Jean realized that she was
also being given a singular opportunity to really get to know
her. Although Rogue had been with the X-Men for years, they
still knew little more about her than they did when she first
joined. Rogue was always outgoing and social, but she still
held herself apart from the others to an extent, and remained
taciturn about her past. Rogue had never appeared to truly
confide in anyone.
Perhaps that was partially due to her powers -- knowing the
possible consequences of getting physically close to another
person, Rogue may have been subconsciously keeping her distance
in other ways as well. Then too, there was her sense of loyalty.
It was probable that Rogue never spoke of her foster family
in any detail because she felt she might betray them somehow...
As little as Rogue talks about growing up with Mystique,
she talks about her life before then even less. As a matter
of fact, I don't believe she's ever mentioned it at all while
she's been here ... strange...
Thinking about Rogue's childhood, Jean's thoughts turned
to children in general -- she was thinking about them more
and more these days...
She and Scott had discussed having children several times,
and always ended up postponing their decision. They both wanted
children badly, but they worried about what any child of theirs
would have to endure. Bigotry against mutants was still the
norm, not the exception; even if their child happened to be
a normal human, as parents, their biology would be a burden
for their offspring. Then with the risks they ran as members
of the X-Men, there was a good possibility that one day any
child of theirs could lose one or both parents. It wasn't
anything they liked to think about, but they knew it was something
they had to acknowledge, and take into consideration. They
had put off starting a family for years, hoping that one day
soon, the mutant situation would improve -- but it hadn't.
The last time they had discussed starting a family -- only
a scant two weeks ago -- they had decided that there was no
point in putting it off any longer. They weren't getting any
younger, and there would never be a 'good' or 'better' time.
They had even talked about what steps they might take to ensure
the safety of their child once they had conceived. Once those
plans were finalized, they had intended to begin trying for
Jean took a sip of her chamomile tea and smiled.
She wasn't sure yet -- but there was a chance they would
need those plans sooner than expected. And though she knew
it was premature, she couldn't halt the thrill of excitement
that coursed through her at that thought. She tried to contain
her hopes, but it was hard. She had always known she had wanted
to be a mother, but she had never realized how strong that
desire was until she was confronted with it head-on.
It might be nothing -- I could just be late, she reminded
There's no point in getting excited about anything until
I know for sure, and there's any number of things it could
be, not just pregnancy.
The problem was it would be at least another week or two
before she could be certain -- and not getting excited
was getting to be a harder and harder job. She would have
to make an appointment with Henry for later in the month.
Even if it turned out that she wasn't pregnant, it would still
be a good idea to get checked out, as her cycle had always
In the meantime, it would be business as usual.
But as she sipped her tea and looked through a furniture
catalog that had come in the morning's mail, she found herself
turning to the cribs first...
Continued in Chapter
"All warfare is based on deception." -- Sun-Tzu,
The Art of War
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