Valerie Cooper taps her foot impatiently. She tries not to
watch as Hank inserts the i.v. into Rogue's arm. There's no
love lost between her and the southern spitfire, still, she
shares Rogue's grimace as the metal pricks her skin, sending
another mixture of chemicals to invade her body. Rogue bites
her lower lip. Valerie's struck by the serious, attentive
demeanor Kurt Wagner displays to his adopted sister.
"You knew it would, liebling."
Rogue presses her cheek harder against the pillow.
"Ah wish Mystique was here."
"I wouldn't hold your breath on that happening."
Valerie's harsh words cut the air, earning her icy disapproval
from Dr. McTaggert. Dr. McTaggert's soft Scottish accent breaks
"I give ye one warning, lassie, ye'll nae be
gettin' another. I'll nae have ye disturbin' me patient!"
"Which is one warning more than I would have
A lithe, blue-skinned redhead saunters into the room. Scott
remains in the doorway as Forge also continues into the room.
The corner of Forge's mouth twitches in a brief flicker of
amusement at Valerie's obvious displeasure.
Mystique eyes her with cold fury as she roughly brushes past
Valerie. Valerie stiffens at the unwelcome contact.
Mystique turns slowly, deliberately at Valerie's contempt.
Scarlet lips broaden into a decidedly predatory smile.
"Recognize your own kind, my dear?"
Immediately Mystique's features soften into the genuine concern
of a mother for her child. She turns to Rogue. Kurt's eyes
catch hers, revealing the bleak frustration of a son who was
abandoned by the same woman who now embraces another with
more love than she has ever shown one born of her own body.
He hesitates. Mystique barely acknowledges him as she moves
to Rogue's side. Kurt quickly becomes preoccupied with double-checking
the i.v., then moves to the opposite side of the room to pack
Hank's medical bag.
"I'm here, baby."
Mystique takes Rogue's hand in hers. Valerie's lips tighten
into a thin, hard line as she steps back Forge's side. He
continues to study Mystique and Rogue thoughtfully. Valerie
clears her throat to distract him. He glances over. She keeps
her voice low.
"Do you have any idea of the security risk you've taken
in allowing Mystique to come here? I busted my ass to bring
her in. If anything happens to jeopardize the New Genoshan
assignment, I'll be on you so hard you'll be lucky to get
a job making Tinker Toys!"
Her clipboard slaps against her thigh in frustration.
"What possessed you to bring her here, Forge?"
"Dr. McCoy said it would be in Rogue's best interest.
Given the experimental nature of the treatment, I agreed."
Valerie again focuses her attention on the scene before her.
She tries to clear her thoughts of personal influences and
examine the situation from a neutral position. She was sent
here to gather and analyze information regarding New Genosha
and possible human rights violations for the United Nations.
She does not yet understand everything, but with sudden clarity
she realizes enough to send a cold chill down her neck.
Lying before her is one of the world's most powerful mutants.
A young woman who has pretty much been considered invulnerable.
Until her capture and subsequent attack by the Genoshans.
According to Dr. McCoy, something in the Genoshan collar she
was forced to wear is interacting with her physiology.
Something in the collar is damaging Rogue's body even though
several months have elapsed since she was in contact with
the metal. The fact that she wears the collar now, is only
due to Dr. McCoy's attempts to carefully monitor and detect
the precise cause of her distress. Valerie feels the blood
drain from her face at the implication that the Genoshans
may have developed a device that could cause a mutant's body
to deteriorate months, or even years after contact.
Forgotten in the doorway, Scott continues to silently observe.
He feels a familiar tickle as Jean's mind touches his, telepathically
reminding him of the exercise session they have scheduled
with Gambit. He feels her gentle probe deepen as soon as she
senses his concern.
>>She needs rest.<<
>>Are we going through this again?<<
>>Damn it, Jean, you know I agreed--<<
>>Maybe so. But I did agree to work with Rogue
on Gambit's rehabilitation provided it didn't cause more harm.
To Remy or anyone else.<<
He falls silent, absorbed by Hank's fidgeting with Rogue's
i.v. Jean allows him a moment, merely letting her presence
stay with him.
>>I can't shake the feeling that Rogue's willing to
do anything for Gambit. Even if it kills her.<<
>>Some people said the same about us, hon.<<
>>That was different.<<
Rogue gasps as Hank withdraws the i.v. Scott closes his eyes,
remembering everything he and Jean endured to be with each
other. The truth is, he has no right to dictate to Rogue how
to live her life. He smiles. Not that she would listen anyway.
He opens his eyes, again struck by the image of Mystique sitting
next to Rogue, quietly encouraging her. Scott sighs. A decision
snaps into place. He has a responsibility for everyone on
his team. And whether Rogue would approve or not, that responsibility
includes doing what he needs to in order to protect her well-being.
Continued in Chapter
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