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Warnings: Mature themes throughout the story, dealing with rape, torture and the psychological traumas of imprisonment in a concentration camp. Sexually explicit scene in Chapter 23.

Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Chapter 7
Chapter 8
Chapter 9
Chapter 10
Chapter 11
Chapter 12
Chapter 13
Chapter 14
Chapter 15
Chapter 16
Chapter 17
Chapter 18
Chapter 19
Chapter 20
Chapter 21
Chapter 22
Chapter 23
Chapter 24
Chapter 25
Chapter 26
Chapter 27
Chapter 28
Chapter 29
Chapter 30
Chapter 31
Chapter 32
Chapter 33
Chapter 34
Chapter 35
Chapter 36
Chapter 37
Chapter 38
Chapter 39
Chapter 40
Author's Notes



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.

"It's burnin'!"

"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 the silence.

"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 given you."

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.

>>How's Rogue?<<

>>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.<<

>>Oh, really?<<

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 19.


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