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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
Chapter 41
Chapter 42
Chapter 43
Chapter 44
Chapter 45
Chapter 46
Chapter 47
Chapter 48
Chapter 49
Chapter 50
Chapter 51
Chapter 52
Chapter 53
Chapter 54
Chapter 55
Chapter 56
Chapter 57
Chapter 58
Chapter 59
Chapter 60
Chapter 61
Chapter 62
Chapter 63
Chapter 64


Written by Valerie Jones
Last updated: 05/10/2010 11:31:24 PM

Chapter 62

The inside of the limousine was filled with tense silence.

Scott and Jean sat with their fingers twined tightly together, identical expressions of quiet terror on their faces. When the X-Men had contacted Sinister to make the final arrangements to meet, the geneticist had added a requirement, refusing to attend unless both of the Summers came. Rogue could only imagine the dreadful thoughts that had to be swimming through their minds.

Rogue glanced at her husband. He sat beside her, one hand resting on her thigh just below the hem of her short skirt. He continued to stare out the window, his thoughts sealed up behind a flat mask. Every so often he would glance across the limousine to where Ororo sat on Jeanís far side, but he said nothing. As far as Rogue could tell, Ororo had not so much as acknowledged his presence, but she caught the other woman watching him when his gaze was elsewhere, her blue eyes full of reproach.

Seated on Rogueís far side, Logan was the only member of the group who looked even remotely relaxed. They were meeting Sinister in a neutral, high end nightclub-one not affiliated with either the Guild or the mob-but one which had recently opened its doors to mutants. Logan had cleaned up in order to fit in with the crowd where they were going and now, clean shaven and dressed in casual slacks and a blue shirt that matched the color of his eyes, he looked more than ready for a night on the town.

The sounds of the late evening traffic came to Rogue, muted through the thick, bullet-resistant glass of the windows. The limousine was a virtual tank-the same kind used by foreign dignitaries and executives when they had to move about the city-and as safe as the thieves could manage. There was no direct underground route to where they were going, so theyíd been forced travel above ground despite the risk of a sentinelsí overflight. Every so often Rogue heard the tinny crackly of the earpiece worn by Bishop, who sat in the front passenger seat, as the teams shadowing them reported on the sentinelsí locations.

The Guild rumor mill had eventually gotten hold of most of the story behind the strange relationship between their Guildmaster and the time-lost mutant and had, in almost unanimous accord, accepted Bishop as a Clansman.

Unfortunately, their driver wasnít Guild at all. The Guild didnít own any armored cars so theyíd been forced to lease one, much as the government and other agencies often did. The man who sat in the front seat had said no more than necessary when he arrived to pick them up, and though heíd been unfailingly polite, he carried himself with a self-assurance that marked him as being more than just a driver. Logan had sized the man up and given his approval with a terse nod.

Scott cleared his throat, breaking the deafening silence in the car. He looked over at Remy.

"I think Iíve figured out why Sinister did it."

The rest of them gave him curious stares, and he waved one hand in a vague, conciliatory gesture. "Why he went to all the trouble with you and the Marauders, I mean." He shrugged. "He obviously wanted to accomplish more than just killing off the Morlocks."

Rogue felt Remy tense. "You waní talk about dis now?" he asked sharply, his gaze flickering toward Ororo.

Scott shrugged again. "I need the distraction," he admitted with the faintest touch of sheepishness.

Remyís only response was a snort. He looked back out the window but his fingers maintained their taut grip on Rogueís thigh. She could feel the hard edge of the body armor he wore beneath his clothes pressing against her side. The council had been adamant that he wear it as a precaution, and she was inclined to agree.

"So whatís yer theory?" Logan asked after a moment. He leaned back, crossing his arms over his chest.

Scott adjusted his grip on Jeanís hand. "I think killing the Morlocks was the secondary objective."

That brought Rogueís head up. The Morlock Massacre had been her first large scale, close-up experience with human carnage. The sounds and images from that night were burned into her brain. They echoed in her nightmares.

Scott went on. "Like Bobby pointed out, there are much easier and more reliable ways of killing those people."

Logan nodded. "He wanted a team capable oí takiní on the X-Men."

"Yes," Scott agreed, "but even that was just gravy. We donít give Sinister enough credit. Heís very smart, and even more cunning." He leaned forward. "What I keep coming back to is the fact that he willingly took an omega mutant out of play."

Rogue glanced over at her husband, but he was pretending to ignore them. Uneven bars of light rippled across his face, reflections from the passing streetlights.

"You are correct, Scott." Ororo spoke reluctantly, her gaze shadowed. "Sinister values mutants-and mutations-too highly. He should not have been willing to help-" She broke off abruptly as if unwilling to say Remyís name.

Rogue bit her lip against the harsh words that wanted to leap off her tongue. She understood how hurt Ororo must be, but that didnít give her the right to use her pain as a weapon. Remy didnít deserve that.

Across the car, Jean met her gaze with quiet sympathy in her eyes. Then she broke away to look over at Scott. "So what did he hope to gain?"

Scott flashed a thin, sardonic grin. "It would be interesting to know whether Sinister knew about Remy before Remy contacted him. I donít think he did."

Remy turned at that and Scott met his gaze, eyebrows raised. "I think meeting you scared the socks off him."

Remy shook his head in disbelief. "Sinister ainí scared oí notíing."

"Heís afraid of me." Scott leaned back in his seat, his stance deceptively casual.

Logan made an amused noise. "Thatís because ya can put large, bloody holes in him with those optic blasts oí yers."

Scott tipped his head to the side, his gaze still fixed on Remy. "Right. So imagine what he thought of a mutant who could literally take him apart on the subatomic level."

Remyís gaze narrowed. Rogue found herself staring at Scott, her stomach squirming. She hadnít really thought much about what Remy had been capable of with his powers at their highest level. There had been too many other things crowding to the front of her awareness.

"Ah guess that explains why heíd be williní ta do the surgery," she finally said. "But why bother with all the rest of it?" She laid her hand over Remyís, needing the reassurance of his touch.

Scott sighed and ran a hand through his hair. "Well, Iím just speculating at this point, but I think he saw a way to kill several birds with one stone. The surgery solved his immediate problem, but didnít give him any kind of guarantee about the future." He glanced at Jean. "Given how many of us have died and been reborn, been cloned, swapped bodies, et cetera, itís not hard to imagine that something, someday, might restore Remyís powers."

Beside Rogue, Remy went rigid and then just as quickly relaxed. She doubted anyone not touching him would have noticed the reaction. His face showed nothing. She bit back a sigh. She hated that blank expression.

Logan shifted in his seat. "Aní killiní the Morlocks somehow gave him that guarantee?"

"Guarantee? No." Scott shook his head. "But he needed to hedge his bets somehow. Think about it. What would scare Sinister more than either Remy or I individually?"

Across the car, Jeanís eyebrows hiked in a small "ah" of understanding at the same time as the pieces clicked together in Rogueís mind.

"You and Remy working together," Jean answered, looking between the two men, and Scott nodded. Rogueís stomach twisted.

She glanced over at her husband. "If Sinister was tryiní ta keep Remy away from the X-Men, he failed miserably."

Scott speared her with a solemn gaze. "I donít think that was his intent." He turned to Remy. "I think he figured contact was inevitable-Charles was always searching for new mutants so itís not unreasonable to think we probably would have crossed paths eventually. Instead, he used the Morlocks as a wedge that he hoped would keep any kind of trust from ever developing. That might, in fact, turn us into enemies."

Remy stared at him, pain flickering in the depths of his eyes, and Scottís tone softened. "It almost worked."

Logan pursed his lips in a silent whistle and sank back in his seat. "That makes a lot oí sense, Cyke."

The car pulled over and rolled to a stop. Outside, people milled up and down a well lit sidewalk. Directly opposite them, a dark awning covered a set of stairs leading downward. White letters proclaimed the name of the club to be Avante.

In the front seat, Bishop put his hand to his ear, listening. He turned to look back at Remy.

"Weíre clear, sir." The honorific fell from Bishopís tongue without the faintest hint of resentment or even any sense that the other man had noticed. Rogue had the strangest feeling that Bishopís acceptance by the Guild had given him back some small piece of the home heíd lost.

Remy nodded in acknowledgment and Bishop opened his door and stepped out. The long, black duster he wore flared in the evening breeze, revealing a glimpse of the laser rifle hidden beneath it. He came around to open the rear door for them.

Scott straightened in his seat as they prepared to disembark. "Anyway, we need to make sure Sinister thinks his wedge is still in place when we talk to him," he said with a quick look into each of their faces. The X-Men nodded.

Rogue let Remy help her out of the car and squeezed his hand tightly. The wind tugged at her hair, whipping a few errant pieces around her face, and she nervously smoothed them into place.

Remy straightened his shoulders and flashed her an empty smile. "Here we go, eh?"

They followed Scott and Jean into the underground nightclub, with Bishop bringing up the rear. They left Bishop outside an imaging station much like the one leading into the Club, where he took up a position that would let him watch everyone who came through.

Continuing on, they found themselves facing an enormous, raucous sea of people. Unfamiliar techno music pounded through the darkened room, so loud Rogue could feel the vibration in her chest. Strobes flashed overhead, searing still-frame images into her mind. Tables ringed the dance floor and on the far side of the room she caught sight of a maze of alcoves separated by gauzy curtains. Hidden lighting threw the occupants shadows large against the draping fabric, filling the area with flickering, erotic images.

Scott plowed straight into the crowd and the rest of them had no choice but to follow. Rogue braced herself against the claustrophobic press of writhing bodies. She clung to Remyís hand, hating the limbs that brushed against her-the sense of being touched without her consent.

She breathed a sigh of relief once they reached the far side of the dance floor, but then her breath froze in her chest. One of the nearer alcoves had its curtains drawn back along two sides, exposing a pair of well-upholstered chaise lounges that faced each other across a low table. The table was set with a wine service.

Sinister sat in one of the lounges. He looked almost dapper, dressed normally and with his black hair pulled back in a neat queue. The red diamond in his forehead glinted in the light. But that wasnít what stopped Rogue in her tracks.

Sinister was getting a lap dance. From a woman in an obscenely skimpy red mini dress, with long, dark hair tumbling down her back and her arms stacked in bangles almost to the elbows. Sinister watched her gyrate with lascivious interest, running his fingers over her stomach, across her back, and around the circle of each shoulder socket. Rogue felt an almost overwhelming urge to rub her eyes.

Scott and Jean exchanged startled looks.

"I guess heís still a man, after all," Scott said after a moment.

Logan growled low in his throat, the sound raising goosebumps on Rogueís arms. "Yer not lookiní close enough, Slim." He nodded toward Sinister. "Look how heís touchiní her. That ainít a man touchiní a woman. Those are dissection cuts heís markiní out."

Rogueís breath caught. Little chills chased down her back.

"I think I am going to be sick," Ororo said from behind her, and Rogue could only nod.

"Ah hear ya, sugah."

Scott glanced back at them. "Keep it together, folks. Right now we need him."

Rogue glanced up at her husband, who gave her a single, haunted look before his expression disappeared completely. Her heart twinged. It was no wonder he couldnít stand being around doctors. She couldnít imagine how hard it must have been for him-how desperate he must have been-to have voluntarily laid on Sinisterís operating table.

Scott moved forward, taking Jean with him, and the rest of them were obliged to follow. Rogue was suitably impressed with her team leader when he calmly walked over to the lounge opposite Sinister and sat down. Jean copied him, crossing her legs and folding her hands in her lap. Ororo went around to seat herself on the single arm of the chaise lounge beside Scott, and Logan took up a position behind her with one hand resting on her shoulder. That left Rogue and Remy to find a place near the other end of the chaise, a bit removed from the other four, which they did. They werenít there tonight as part of the X-Menís leadership-at least, Sinister wasnít supposed to think so. But Scott hadnít wanted to go into a meeting this important without having Remy at his back.

"Hello, Nathan," Scott said.

Sinister raised an eyebrow at the greeting. "Good evening, Scott. Itís been a long time." He pushed the woman off his lap with a curt "Get lost," then returned his attention to the Summers. The woman flounced away, straightening her dress as she went.

Sinister shifted his attention to Jean. He studied her intently, his lips curving into a small smile when he apparently found what he was looking for.

"Youíre looking quite radiant, Mrs. Summers," he told her.

Jean raised a hand to her hair, the gesture nervous, then dropped her hand back into her lap. Her eyes narrowed.

Loganís lip curled in a silent snarl. "Cut the crap, Sinister. Weíre not here ta trade social niceties."

Sinisterís expression thinned. "That doesnít mean one canít still be polite." He turned to Remy. "For instance, I havenít yet had the chance to congratulate Mr. LeBeau, here, on his recent... promotion within the Thieves Guild."

Scott turned a quizzical look on Remy, which Rogue echoed. Remy had been Guildmaster for more than a year, now, which didnít really qualify as recent, so she wasnít sure what Sinister might be referring to.

Remy met Scottís gaze with a frown and a shrug. "I didní get a chance tí tell yí before we left." He glanced down at Rogue for a moment, his irises molten in the dim light, then returned his attention to Scott. "Breakiní into dat sentinels final assembly plant really impressed some people. Iíve been bumped up tí second rank."

Rogue couldnít help but smile at the surprise announcement. Second ranked Master Thief in the world sounded oh so very impressive. Remy deserved the recognition. She squeezed his hand.

Sinister reclined in his chair and threw one arm across the back, his smile widening. "My my. Someone has been unusually forthright."

Remy threw him a dirty look tainted with just the right amount of disguised fear. Rogue did her best to appear oblivious. She couldnít wait to rub Sinisterís nose in the failure of his cold-blooded machinations, but not until heíd helped them. Until then, they had to play along.

Scott sighed, sounding annoyed. "Gambitís Guild affiliation isnít exactly a secret. We owe the thieves a great deal for their help these past months."

Sinister raised his eyebrows. "Accepting help from criminals isnít like you, Scott."

Scott shrugged and looked away. "Beggars canít be choosers."

Sinister seemed to find that tremendously entertaining. He grinned at Scott and tapped his fingers on the back of the chaise.

Logan crossed his arms over his chest. "Can we get on with it already?"

"Of course, of course." Sinister straightened and schooled his expression to one of polite interest. "Tell me, how can I help the X-Men?"

Scott cleared his throat. "Weíd like to use your tesseract to get up to Bastionís space station."

Sinister didnít seem particularly surprised by the request, though Rogue hadnít really expected him to be. He cocked his head.

"And what are you offering in return for my aid?"

Logan snorted. "The satisfaction oí saviní mutants from OZT ainít enough for ya?"

Sinister looked up at him. "Philanthropy has always been Professor Xavierís pursuit, not mine."

"Youíd benefit as much as we would," Scott told him. "We all have reason to want mutants to get their powers back."

"Yes, but I have something you want rather badly, so I would be foolish to simply give it away." A hint of Sinisterís smile returned. "Everything has its price, as you well know, Scott." He turned to Remy. "Or you might ask Gambit. He knows how expensive my help can be. Donít you, Remy?"

Scott followed his gaze, his brow wrinkling in consternation. "What is he talking about?" he asked Remy. Rogue wondered how horrified Scott would be if she told him what a good liar he had become.

"Nothiní," Remy answered, the single word clipped and harsh.

It wasnít hard for Rogue to summon the frightened dread Sinister would expect of her. It still hurt, what Remy did. Deep in her heart where she was most vulnerable. She moistened her lips and didnít say anything.

Ororo straightened in her seat. "We have little to offer you other than freedom from the threat of OZT," she told Sinister, her tone composed.

Sinister smiled at her, showing pointed teeth. "Oh, youíd be surprised how much the X-Men might have to offer that I would be interested in, Ms. Munroe." His gaze drifted back to Remy. "Perhaps an exchange of professional favors might be in order."

Rogue felt Remy tense as her own stomach plummeted toward her feet. Remyís expression went sick with dread, which seemed to please Sinister.

The geneticist returned his attention to Storm. "Or personal, perhaps," he suggested casually, looking her over.

Storm stiffened, her expression darkening with outrage. "I would die before I let you touch me," she said coldly. From behind her, Logan growled, the sound openly threatening.

Sinister simply shrugged, unperturbed. "I believe you would." He returned his gaze to Scott and Jean and his expression turned businesslike. Rogueís gut clenched in expectation.

"I can tell by looking at you that youíve recently given birth," he told Jean.

Her face went white and she shot to her feet. "No! Donít you dare, Sinister." She glared at him, fury snapping in her eyes. "Youíre not going to lay a hand on my daughter, do you understand?"

"Oh, I wouldnít dream of it," Sinister assured her. "The baby is healthy?" He looked between Scott and Jean. Neither of them answered him, but he seemed to take their silence as an assent.

"What do you want?" Scott finally growled.

Sinister shifted in his seat. "You know how interested I am in the combination of your DNA with Jeanís," he said with a nod in Scottís direction. "Cableís blood has proven to be an utterly fascinating study subject, but, being only a single sample, I can hardly draw any concrete conclusions."

"You want a sample of Havenís blood." Rogue could see Scottís throat working as he forced the words out.

Sinister nodded. "Along with bone marrow and a healthy sample of her umbilical stem cells, which Iím certain Dr. McCoy has preserved."

"No!" Jeanís hands clenched into tight fists. "Never!" She turned imploringly to her husband. "We are not giving any piece of our daughter to this monster, Scott."

"Those are my terms," Sinister told her, his tone cool. "Take them or leave them."

Scott had gone pale, but he met Sinisterís gaze unflinchingly. "On one condition," he said, and Jean collapsed into her seat next to him, her eyes wide with horror.

"Scott, no-"

"We arenít in much of a position to argue," he told her firmly, and Rogue saw the impact of the words in her eyes. Remy had said the same thing just a few days before.

"What condition?" Sinister asked.

Scott reached over to take Jeanís hand. "This is a lifetime agreement. For the rest of Havenís life, this is all you get of her."

Sinister gave him an appraising stare as the silence stretched between them, thick and frightening. Rogue felt like she couldnít breathe.

Finally, Sinister nodded. "Agreed."

Jean yanked her hand out of Scottís grip and wrapped her arms around her waist, doubling over. She stared at her husband with angry, wounded eyes.

Rogue could see the muscle flexing in Scottís jaw as he gritted his teeth. "Then weíre done here." He rose to his feet and the rest of the seated X-Men copied him. "Once weíve assembled the teams weíll contact you with when and where to meet. Youíll get your samples as soon as weíre onboard the space station."

Sinister nodded. "Very well. Iíll be waiting."

Scott stepped away from the chaise. Feeling cold, Rogue waited for the others to pass them, then she and Remy fell in behind. Ahead of her, Jean walked stiffly, her arms rigid at her sides. Scott wisely didnít try to touch her.

As soon as theyíd passed through the imaging station into the clubís reception area, Jean turned on her husband with a snarl.

"How could you do that to our baby?"

Scott faced her, arms crossed over his chest and his expression stormy. "What do you want me to say, Jean? The whole world is depending on us to find a way to stop Bastion. Besides, Sinister would have gotten Havenís DNA. You know heíd find a way eventually."

"Thatís not the same as giving it to him!"

Scottís expression thinned. "No, it hurts more, which is exactly what Sinister wanted."

At that, Remy snorted sourly. "Ainí so easy when itís your life gettiní torn apart at de seams, is it?" he asked Jean, faint mockery in his tone.

She turned to stare at him. Tears leaked from her eyes, cutting watery trails through her makeup. Finally, she shook her head and with a sniff, looked back at her husband.

"Iím sorry, I just-" With a helpless gesture, she swiped her eyes with one hand.

Scott just nodded. "I know, honey."

Bishop stepped forward, breaking the awkward silence that followed. "We need to go. Weíve got about eight minutes before the next sentinels overflight."

Scott acknowledged him with a curt nod and gestured for him to lead the way.

They went outside. Sporadic raindrops spattered on the sidewalk and blew into Rogueís face. She shivered, sidling closer to her husband who wrapped one arm around her waist.

Their car waited on the curb directly ahead of them. As soon as they appeared, their driver stepped out, raising an umbrella against the rain. He came around the nose of the car toward them, umbrella held high.

The gunshot came from a distance, its harsh rifle crack echoing between the tall building faces surrounding them. Before Rogue could even react, Remy staggered against her and a searing pain exploded in her cheek. He fell, knocking her down with him. Rogue hit the ground on her hands and knees, staring in horror at her husband sprawled on his back a short ways away. She couldnít see any blood against his dark shirt, but his eyes were closed and he didnít move.

She raised one hand instinctively to her face as she crawled toward Remy, feeling the sticky warmth of blood on her fingers. As if in the distance she could hear screams and shouting but she couldnít understand the words through the pounding of her own pulse.

She reached Remy just as hands closed on her shoulders, pulling her away. She fought them until Loganís voice penetrated the dull roaring in her ears.

"Rogue, get in the car!" He dragged her toward the open door of the limousine. Jean was already inside, gesturing urgently for them to hurry. Bishop crouched next to the door, his rifle trained on the rooftops as he searched for the source of the shot.

Rogue turned to look over her shoulder as Logan shoved her into the back of the car. Scott and Ororo had Remy by the shoulders and were dragging him toward the limousine. He hung limply between them, either unconscious or dead.

Not dead, she told herself fiercely. Thatís why he was weariní armor. With the gusting wind, the Assassin would have been forced to aim for center mass rather than risk a head shot. Stark hatred burned in her heart for Marius, and Bastion, and whichever Assassin was out there with a rifle in his hands.

"Go!" Scott shouted to the driver as they manhandled Remy into the car and piled in behind him. Bishop dropped into the front passenger seat as the car peeled away. Rogue could hear him giving the driver instructions but didnít try to listen in. Bishop would find them a safe route back to Thief territory.

Rogue pushed herself out of her seat and dropped to her knees beside her husband. Her fingers immediately went to his neck, searching for a pulse. She found it, reassuringly strong and regular. Remy lay sprawled across Ororoís lap. The other woman held him in a tight grip, her eyes full of fear.

Rogue looked up into Ororoís face. "His pulse is good," she told the other woman and saw the fear ease. Her own face throbbed painfully in time to the racing of her heart.

Turning back to her husband, Rogue yanked his shirt open, revealing the sculpted black paneling characteristic of Reed Richardís body armor. One of the panels had a hole the size of her fist torn in it, the edges lined with shredded fabric. It smelled faintly of chalk and burnt oil. She felt the impact site and nearly went limp with relief when her questing fingers struck hard material at the bottom of the hole.

"Did the bullet go through?" Scott demanded.

Rogue shook her head. "No, the vest stopped it."

From the size of the hole, she guessed the bullet had shattered on impact. It had to have been a solid round, though, to do that much damage. She suspected the Assassin had used armor piercing bullets in expectation of Remy wearing some kind of protection. He just hadnít known how good Reed Richardsí stuff was.

A moment later, Remyís eyes opened. He reared up, eyes darting around the car in search of the threat, and immediately doubled over in a brutal coughing fit, both hands clamped to his side near where the bullet had struck. Ororo shifted her grip, bracing him with a firm grip on both shoulders.

Remy straightened eventually and looked around the car as if verifying for himself that everyone was there. He paused when he got to Scott.

The X-Menís field leader gave him an aggrieved look. "I am never taking you out in public again," he said, but he sounded more relieved than angry.

Remy flashed his troublemakerís grin as, beyond him, Ororo gave Scott a slightly scandalized stare. Remy didnít seem to have realized that Ororo still had one arm wrapped around him, or if he did he was doing his best not to make an issue of it.

Rogue sighed and rested her hands on her husbandís knee, feeling suddenly weak as the adrenaline rush drained away.

"Ah guess Marius decided heíd waited long enough," she concluded. Talking made her jaw ache fiercely, and she pressed her fingers against her cheek, trying to push it back.

"Probíly," Remy agreed, wincing at the effort to say even the single word.

Scott watched him in concern. "You okay?"

Remy nodded. "Goní need an x-ray," he answered. He pressed his hand against his ribs and leaned a little more into Ororo. Rogue saw Scott and Logan exchange looks and knew what they were thinking. If the bullet had broken a rib, it would set their timetable back once again.

Scott accepted that and turned his attention to Rogue. He gestured for her to move closer. "Let me see your face, Rogue."

Remy straightened in alarm and Rogue realized he had been unaware sheíd gotten hit. He couldnít see the blood. She held up a hand to forestall him.

"Ahím okay, sugah," she assured him, but she let Scott take her face in his hands for a critical examination anyway. "Ah caught a piece oí shrapnel from the bullet. Thatís all."

Remy acknowledged that with a nod, but she could see the realization in his eyes of how much worse it could have been.

"Youíll need a couple of stitches," Scott concluded as he released her and Rogue nodded. She felt strangely calm. She could have lost Remy again. Standing beside him, she could have easily died herself if that little piece of shrapnel had hit her someplace more critical. But somehow it just didnít seem worth getting angry about. She could have lost everything but she hadnít, and right now she was simply grateful that she got to keep it all for another day.

Remy seemed to sense her feelings. He reached out to take her hand, squeezing tightly, and Rogue returned a flickering smile.

Scott sighed and leaned back in his seat. "Weíve got to take Bastion down," he said, looking around at each of their faces. His voice was grim. "It doesnít matter how much it costs."

Across the car, Jean looked away but after a moment she nodded and the others silently echoed her. Rogue could only nod along with the rest. It didnít matter how much it cost. Bastion would eventually hunt each of them down, starting with Remy but not ending until mutants had lost all hope of ever living normal lives.

"Weíll get him," Remy said quietly, his tone assured.

Scott gave him a sour look. "You say that like you know something the rest of us donít."

Remy shook his head, wincing as the motion jostled his ribs. "I doní know anytíing, mon ami. I believe." A hint of his smile returned as he made a circular motion with his free hand. "You lot are de ones dat taught me dat."

Scott stared at him for a long moment, but then he nodded. "In the end, I guess thatís what makes us X-Men."


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