Because Thorns Have Roses

Part 2



An uncanny silence had draped the school as Rogue pulled up to the main entrance. It felt empty rather, a pointed difference from the quiet of the night or exam time when no one spoke but the building seemed to inhale and exhale with life. She jerked to a stop right in front of the steps, alarm seeping into her stomach.

"Who taught you how to drive, girl?" groused Remy, releasing his death grip on the dashboard.

"Good ol' boys on back country roads," Rogue answered distractedly. Sliding out of her seat, she hefted the bag back over her shoulder. "Hurry up; I think people are still in."

Hobbling after her, Remy whistled. "You live here? Damn, girl, why'd you ever want to leave? Those doors alone probably cost more than a Mercedes."

Rogue whipped around. "Don't even think about stealing anything. We're going to help you out; stealing from us is just low"

He raised his hands, palms up. "I'm just saying, sheri. I would never do such a thing. There is thing as honour among thieves."

Voices drifted out of the professor's antechamber, the room immediately to the right of the main entrance. Rogue recognized Ms. Munroe, Kitty, Bobby and that blue guy, Hank, but she couldn't quite hear what they were saying until she reached the threshold.

Ms. Munroe's voice came through first. "-- up the students. Tell them we're staying open. Xavier's will always be here for mutants who need help."

"Thank you," said a new voice, male, not quite young enough to be a student. "But before you do anything, I'd like to put all my cards on the table." He cleared his throat. Rogue thought she heard something rustling under his trenchcoat. "My name is Warren Worthington III. My... my dad owns the labs that made the cure."

"I see," said Hank. Rogue came through the door in time to see him get up. "Well, what your father may or may not have done doesn't matter here. Bobby can get you settled and-- what have we got here?"

Rogue smiled weakly. "Hi."

Instantly, the others swarmed her: Bobby nearly knocked her over with his embrace, Ms. Munroe clucked officiously and Kitty grinned, waiting for her turn. Only when their combined enthusiasm pushed Remy against the wall did they notice him.

"We seem to have another enrolment," said Hank.

"Not exactly." Rogue handed Hank the bag. "This is Remy. I caught him breaking into the cure clinic in Vermont stealing medicine for ammo."

"The cure guns I spoke of this morning," Hank told Storm.

"Guns?" Warren's face fell. "This wasn't supposed to be a weapon."

"Well, at two grand a magazine, it's a damn expensive weapon," said Remy. "Easy to convert, too. You just gotta get your hands on a tranq gun, modify the darts to hold a larger dose and pop one in. The real things have magazines that hold six at a time, automatic, of course, but the first shot tend to stick." Rogue and the rest of the room stared in horror. "They're working on fixing that bug."

Logan returned while Hank fixed Remy up, just in time to see the news report about Magneto taking over the Golden Gate Bridge. Rogue found herself more nervous about facing him again than Bobby or even Ms. Munroe who could and did give her a lecture.

"I don't think I have to tell you how disappointed I am," she said, arms crossed in front of her desk. "How could you do such a thing, Rogue? After everything the professor-- that all of us-- tried to teach you, how could you deny your gift?"

Rogue crossed her arms, too. "I'm not so sure what I have is a gift."

"Rogue, that is--"

"There was a kid in the clinic," she said, unable to keep from interrupting. "She couldn't stop bone spikes from growing out of her. One was popping out in front of my eyes, Storm. This little kid's always in pain because of her 'gift'. Can you tell me one good reason why she shouldn't take the cure?"

"That's not the same."

"Why not?" demanded Rogue, backing away from the desk. "I been here a year and I can't find anything remotely 'gift-like' about my gift. I don't see why it's so bad to try to fix something genetically wrong with you."

"There is nothing wrong with you."

"Tell that to the little girl," Rogue threw out as she stalked out of the room

Logan ran into her as she was on her way... somewhere. She didn't care where as long as it was away from Ms. Munroe and her perfectly controlled "gift."

"Hey." He grasped her shoulders. "What's the rush? You just got back."

"Oh. Hey." Rogue tugged her sleeves down, a nervous gesture. "I wasn't going anywhere. Nowhere outside of the grounds. I just needed to... get some air."

His lips quirked upward, his gaze shifting from her to Ms. Munroe's office and back. "Cut her some slack. She just got the boss' job with Cyclops and the Professor both gone."

There was a very unwelcome reminder. With both Dr. Grey and the Professor gone, there were no telepaths strong enough to help her out with her mental exercises. If this wasn't a sign to take the cure, nothing was.

Logan pulled her into a rough, one-armed embrace. "We'll get through this, short stuff. You'll see." He led her to a sub-basement elevator, maintaining the awkward contact. Rogue shifted, still too agitated to accept comfort.

"So what'll we do now?" she asked.

"If I know these people-- and it's pretty easy to read them-- we're probably going to San Francisco to try to stop Magneto and his Brotherhood." He clapped her shoulder. "Time to put those Danger Room sessions to work, eh?"

Rogue snorted. "You mean the Danger Room Sessions where I ran around and ducked behind things while everyone else actually had something to do?"

The murmurs from the council room drowned out Logan's response. Rogue swung into a chair beside Bobby who immediately turned to take her hand.

"I'm glad you're back," he whispered.

She smiled and squeezed his fingers. This was why she loved Bobby; without meaning to and completely devoid of artifice, he had a knack of saying the sweetest things at just the right moment.

"Magneto has an army," Storm began. "He is generating the war he's been prophesising for so long. No matter how many armies go against him, no matter how many alliances he will win. He's got Je--" She visibly swallowed. "He's got the Phoenix with him and she's more powerful than any of us can imagine. I don't have to tell you what this means for the entire mutant community. If we manage to take the Brotherhood down, there will surely be a backlash. Now, more than ever, we have to personify this school and the professor's dream. We have to show a united front."

The words felt like arrows straight at her forehead. Rogue let Bobby's hands go to tug down at her sleeves.

"I can give you information on the building," said Warren. "I have clearance for the whole place. I've even met Leech-- uh, I mean, Jimmy, the little boy. He knows me. We have Playstation marathons once in a while."

"Thank you," said Storm.

"Don't forget those cure guns," Wolverine said. "I'll bet the army's going to have them instead of the standard weapons. Probably made of plastic too; they know how Magneto's going to act."

Kitty raised her hand. "Would they have so many of them? I mean, they're pretty new technology right?"

"Remy said the military's probably had the technology for as long as they've been making the cure," Rogue said.

"Yeah but how do we know he's telling the truth?" asked Bobby. "He's a thief."

"We should plan for the worst," said Storm. "Let's assume that everyone will be armed with cure guns and that Magneto will use the Phoenix to destroy the lab and everyone in it in the same way that she... well, using her full power." She cleared her throat. "Warren, there may be a spare uniform in the lockers; Bobby, you can show him. Kitty and Piotr, suit up and prep the Blackbird for any medical emergencies. Rogue, I'll need you to stay here and take care of the students."

"What?" Rogue jumped to her feet. "That's not fair!"

"This isn't a light task," she said. "Someone has to ensure that our guest in the medlab doesn't get sticky fingers. There is also every possibility that this mission will be less than successful. In that case, you'll be safe here to take care of sending all necessary information to Muir Island then taking all the students to a safehouse until someone comes back. If no one does--"

Bobby drew a sharp breath.

"-- you will have to make travel arrangements for everyone either to Muir Island or West Coast Academy, shut down all the computers and destroy both Cerebro and the Danger Room."

"I want to fight," said Rogue.

Storm stared at her steadily. "I know. But you're not ready for this one."

Only Bobby's grasp on her hand kept Rogue from running out of the room.

Perhaps sensing her temper, Mrs. Rasputin delivered tea and a reuben to the medlab where Rogue sat, fiddling sulkily with the computers. Remy stirred just as the care worn lady left. He had red eyes, Rogue noted when he came fully awake. Instead of whites around his irises, his eyes were matte black. It was kind of creepy and she wondered if it was part of his power.

"All that for you?" he asked, shifting to a seated position. The blanket slipped from around his shoulders, baring his naked chest. Why the hell he needed to be bare-chested was beyond Rogue's understanding; he'd gotten shot in the leg not his stomach.

She got up to give him half the sandwich. "Knock yourself out. It's not like I'm going to need the energy; I'm stuck here with you."

"Ouch. That mean you don't like my company, sheri?"

If she had Mr. Summers' power, Rogue reflected, Remy would be dust by now. A pang of sorrow tightened her chest at the thought of her teacher. He hadn't known it but he was her favourite of the entire Xavier's staff. She liked his quiet support and he understood what it was like to have an uncontrollable power. He let her work on a classic '67 Chevy Impala, helping her out in shop class even while he was still grieving for Dr. Grey. Alkali Lake messed everything up.

"You get grounded or something for getting the cure?" Remy asked around a mouthful of sandwich.

"Or something." She might not be a tactical expert or a professional con-man but Rogue knew when someone was fishing for information. Considering the guy's line of work, he probably cased the medlab as soon as his eyes opened. Well, two people could play at that game. "Do you turn everything you touch into a bomb?"

He shook his head, chewed and swallowed. "Nothing alive. And the bigger it is, the longer it takes to charge."

"Just from your hands?"

"Naw, I can charge anything that touches my skin, me." Remy waggled his eyebrows. "Makes for interesting conversation, hein?"

Drawing away, Rogue curled her lip up. "No."

"You're too young to appreciate it, I guess." He bit happily into the sandwich again. It was nearly half gone.

"How did you learn to control it?" she asked. "I mean, you're not charging the bed or the blanket or anything."

"I just do," he said. Without her prompting, he elaborated. "It's like the first time you put clothes on-- you feel the texture and the weight and all. Then after a little while, it's like it's not there any more. When I first got my power I charged everything and, co', I do mean everything." Remy turned to show her his back. Shiny patches of burn scars angled from his right shoulder to the base of his spine. "That was me not getting my clothes off fast enough." He faced her again, this time holding out his arms and hands. "Clothes again. I thought to wear gloves at first but that didn't work. Then things would explode before I could let go. Made it hard to pick pockets, let me tell you."

Rogue almost reached out to touch the scars. "How did you stop?"

"Went out in the middle of nowhere for a week and blew a whole bunch of shit up. That's where I got most of the scars on my hands. Tried to get a feel for the warning signs and then stopping it when I caught them."

He seemed pretty happy to talk about himself so Rogue just passed the other half of the sandwich and the rest of her tea to fuel his mouth.

"It felt kind of like taking a leak." She could help but let out a burst of laughter and he grinned in response. "I could feel the tingles building up and building up and I learned to just hold it the whole day if need be but once a day, I gotta charge something."

"I wish my powers worked like that," Rogue said. "It's more like a switch that's stuck on 'on' and no one's figured out yet how to turn it off. I hate it."

"Brain drain and power snatching sounds pretty cool to me," said Remy. "I could sure use something like that in my line of work. The blowing things up gets handy once in a while if I'm opening up a safe or something but otherwise, it's a party trick. But touching someone and getting into their heads? That there has loads of potential."

"Gee thanks, I guess my guidance counsellor missed a few career options."

Ignoring her sarcasm completely, Remy asked, "The brain drain-- that permanent or only when you're touching someone?"

"Um, sorta permanent I guess."

"What do you mean 'sorta' permanent?"

Flustered, Rogue said, "I... If I concentrate real hard, I can remember the other memories but most of the time, I just kind of tuck them away."


"Because it gets confusing to have voices in your head, that's why."

"Are they actual voices that talk to you or is it like remembering scenes from a movie?"

"I don't know. I never really-- why're you so interested?" Rogue demanded.

Remy's eyebrows rose to his hairline. "I didn't know it was a crime and believe you me, I know about crime. It's just-- damn, girl, I wish we could trade powers. I'd eat my boots to be able to do what you do."

"Try not being able to control it," Rogue snapped. "Try having to watch yourself every second of every day, making sure you don't touch anyone for longer than a couple seconds because if you hang on too long, they go into a coma. I haven't touched--" She took a deep, calming breath. When that didn't work, she marched to the other side of the room, bracing herself against the countertop with her jaw clenched and her fists tight. Damned if she was going to cry in front of a complete stranger.

"Sorry," he said quietly. "I couldn't imagine that. People... people need to be touched."

A harsh, curt laugh left Rogue's mouth. "Well, I'm getting homicidal for it. Does that count?"

Well, there was no need to go into a mental breakdown in front of a prisoner either. Or was he a guest? Rogue didn't much care right now; he was the only person she could talk to. She walked back to Remy's bedside.

"You done with the tea?"

"Oh, yeah, sure." As she took the dishes away, he asked. "What does it feel like?"

"Using my powers?"


Rogue arranged the plate and the mug artfully near the sink and brushed the crumbs off the countertop as she sought an answer. "It's the opposite of what you feel. A slow trickle of... stuff at first, things like immediate thoughts and emotions, whatever's on the top of your mind. Then it's like... something pops and everything rushes in like a bathtub faucet."

"So why don't you just turn the faucet off?"

"Turn the faucet off," she repeated, deadpan. "Wow. Why didn't I think of that before? Congratulations; here's your Nobel Prize." She hoped her glare was sufficient to burn any more idiot thoughts from his head.

Remy raised his hands up, palms out. "It was just a suggestion."

"You think I haven't tried?"

"Y'know what they say: keep on practicing. Here, have a try." His arm snaked out, his hand clamping on her wrist."

"What? No!" She tried to wrest her arm away but he had a firm hold.

"C'mon. What's the harm in testing it out on me?" asked Remy. "I ain't your friend so you don't got to worry about hurting me."

"Why're you pushing this?" Rogue asked, now picking at his fingers, trying to bend them back.

"It's an interesting power," he said simply. "I'm curious."

"You've heard what happens between curiosity and cats."

He shrugged, a nonchalant one-shouldered affair that Rogue was beginning to recognize as a signature gesture. "I figure I got at least another seven so I ain't worried. Besides, do you got anything better to do?"

He had a point, sour as it was. "Fine. You don't have to touch me for me to get your memories."

"What then?" he asked, still not releasing her.

"Smells trigger memories," she found herself explaining. "When I smell things that remind me of a person, the memories come back."

"Can you do the same with powers?"

Rogue shook her head. "We got it figured to a ratio; it's not permanent." Realising what she'd given away, Rogue added, "It still lasts a good long time. And the memories never go away."

Chuckling, Remy said, "That is one of the neatest things I ever heard of. Got a test? Absorb the teacher the night before. Want some access codes? Absorb a security guard. Need some night vision? Absorb a cat."

The image of herself with car ears was so absurd that Rogue couldn't help but laugh, too. "It doesn't quite work like that."

"How does it work?"

Considering her two options, Rogue opted for the one with least contact. "Give me a stick of your gum."

"My... gum." Bemused, he pointed at the plastic bag at the foot of the bed. "All my stuff's in there."

"You smell like cinnamon gum."

"You smell like roses," he quickly countered. "The real thing-- the five-petalled kind that grow in the bush."

Rolling her eyes, Rogue finally pulled free of his hold and headed for the plastic bag. There was only one stick left in his pants pocket; Rogue shook it out and waved it under her nose.

Lapin rubbed his hands, avarice giving his smile an extra edge that hadn't been existed before the last turf war. "I don't care who it cures; we've already got orders for 'em on the street."

11093985-0D304-90104. Sunshine. Butter on toast with a side of café au lait sat near at hand as she typed on her laptop. She was another couple thousand richer.

A woman's silk-clad toes sliding up her leg, tickling her knee.

A card sizzled in her hand, absorbing the heat that slid down her arm. The plastic coating burned off first, emitting a burnt-caramel scent. The card left her hands, whining slightly, leaving a trail of bright pink and orange as it sailed to its target.

The guns rested against a dozen others on a wire rack. Discs hung on the next shelf, each one designed to spit out thirty darts. Cure rifles filled the top rack. Underneath, taking up the whole shelf, was a cannon.

Rogue's brow furrowed. She pressed the gum closer to her nostrils and took a bigger sniff.

She came around through the back of the garage, closing the chain-link gate carefully behind her. For a job that paid a lot, the digs weren't the best but maybe that was the point.

Lapin met her at the door with a "Hey, Remy" and a complicated handshake.

"What do you think?"

Her cousin lifted a shoulder. "Won't let me in until you came. Makes me think it's exactly what they say it is."

Fingering the deck of cards in his left pocket, she said, "Guns that can get rid of mutants."

At that statement, Lapin rubbed his hands, avarice giving his smile an extra edge that hadn't been existed before the last turf war. "I don't care who it cures; we've already got orders for 'em on the street."

"You're worried about this," Rogue said as she pulled out of the memory.

Remy looked at her strangely. "About what?"

"The cure guns. You're going to sell them but you're worried about it."

"I worry about all sorts of things, sweet thing, but in the end my friends, Benjamin, Ulysses, and Andrew more than make up for it. Ain't the guns that're scary; it's all the stupid people in the world." He lifted his arms and folded them behind his head. "Then again, they make my job a lot easier, too."

"I have to tell the others about the cannon." Rogue rose to head for the hangar but Remy spoke up again.

"What's your hurry?" he said. "There's at least another four hours to prepping that jet. Why don't you practice turning off the faucet a while longer so when you finally tell them, you'll have an argument for going to fight."

Rogue paused. Even though she knew he was just telling her what she wanted to hear, she couldn't help but pause.

"In my not so humble opinion," Remy continued, "you're better off going than that girl who goes through walls. Shadowcat, right? 'Least if you go, you have a two-way offence: knocking people out with the brain-drain then taking their friends out with some borrowed powers."

She turned. He was smiling at her, the smile of a coyote before it pounced on a particularly fat rabbit. "What do you want, really?"

His eyes widened. "What do you mean?"

"Why are you saying all these things, wanting me to absorb your memories and talk about my powers?" Rogue crossed her arms, leaning away towards the door. "What's your cut?"

"I can't just be interested in a beautiful woman?"

Her lip curling, Rogue said, "First of all, you're not my type. Secondly, I've been in your head and I know all your lines. Thirdly, you're a thief. Just tell me what you want and I'll go see if someone can give it to you 'cause charming me ain't the way to go, swamp rat."

Remy shook his head, a small movement that most would take as surrender. "You cut right to business, sheri."

"I try to avoid bullshit, especially the expensive, fragrant kind now that I've got--" she checked a wall clock-- "less than a day before all hell breaks loose."

"That hurts, it really does." He sighed and tucked himself deeper under the thin hospital blanket. "Even more than losing my payment for this job."

"You want to get paid," said Rogue flatly. "Fine. I'll tell Storm. Anything else?"

"Mais yeah, sweet thing." His expression softened, the cocky smile slipping to a less certain angle. "Promise me you'll work on your powers a while longer before you take the cure. A girl like you with a gift like that shouldn't feel the need to change herself to fit in."

Even knowing he was just playing her and recognizing the con that his own memories spat out at her, the flattery still hit the mark.

With Cyclops around, prepping the Blackbird took twelve hours on average and that was only because of the jet's many modifications. Once, he and Rogue timed themselves and got through the whole maintenance sequence in ten hours. They were drenched in sweat and incapable of speaking in full sentences by the end but it had been a silly, mechanical-geek sort of fun. Without him, it would have taken a full day but thankfully, Kitty had programmed a systems self-check that took care of half the problems

Rogue missed the routine she and Mr. Summers set up. Going through the prep procedures with Storm, Bobby, and Mr. McCoy felt bulky and awkward; it was all Rogue could do not to scream at the sluggish pace. Storm would probably continue her flying lessons but it wasn't the same. Storm flew the jet because it was a requirement for missions. Mr. Summers loved to fly and, by example had taught Rogue to do the same.

"How do you think we'll stop Doc, erm, th-the Phoenix?" asked Bobby as he helped her service the hydraulic system. No one could quite make the leap between quiet, gentle Dr. Grey and the Phoenix.

Rogue handed him a wrench back, which had been the wrong size, and waited with barely disguised patience as he rooted in the tool box for the proper one. "I don't know. If her mutant power lets her do whatever she thinks about, maybe we should hit her with that cannon and take her powers away."

He hummed thoughtfully. "That's a good idea. Unless she's powerful enough to disintegrate the darts before they hit her. Hey, can she even undo the effects of the cure once it's in her body?"

Rogue loosened a lug nut, oiled the joint it had held together and tightened it again. "Maybe. Only Storm and Wolvie know how strong she is and they ain't telling us."

"I asked Storm to let you come," Bobby said. "Even if you just stayed with the plane or helped out with injuries or something, at least you'd be able to go."

"Someone needs to co-pilot," Rogue agreed.

"That's what I said, too, but she said the autopilot would work okay because we're not going to be used evasive manoeuvres or anything." He scratched at his arm. "She really wants you to stay here and take care of the school. She said you're the only person who can do it properly."

She must have made a face because Bobby earnestly continued. "She said it she had more reasons to keep you here than not being combat ready. You hung out with Mr. Summers the most and he was teaching you all procedures with the sub-basements and stuff--"

"Only 'cause I couldn't do some of the proper Danger Room exercises. Hand me the rivets for this fillet panel."

Bobby poured the rivets in her open palm. "But still, it's really useful. Look, Storm said she's only taking Kitty 'cause she can sneak in and out without getting hurt. Pete's going 'cause he can't get hurt either. I'm only going 'cause I've got long distance powers."

"Why's the new guy going?" asked Rogue.

"Warren? He's got all the information we need about the compound," said Bobby. "He's actually pretty funny. Nice, too; he's keeping the call-sign Angel just 'cause Kitty suggested it."

"Great. Maybe you all can watch movies and share popcorn on during the in-flight movie." Rogue drilled one of the rivets a little too hard, causing it to drive in at an angle and dinging the panel. Cursing, she reversed the drill to do it over again.

Bobby drew back. "You're being a little unreasonable about this."

"This is the wrong size rivet," said Rogue. "Give me the proper ones, Bobby. You should've grouped them together near the panel so you wouldn't have to dig through all the different kinds."

She felt him step back. "What's wrong with you?"

Exhaling through gritted teeth, Rogue pulled her head out of the hydraulics and turned around to face him. "Nothing's wrong with me except that if I put the wrong rivet into this panel, it'll pierce the tank and you'll have a fuel leak which we're going to have to patch and then we'll have to haul out a half dozen other pieces of equipment so we can refuel the damn jet to make sure you don't drop out of the sky over Colorado. Now can you please give me the proper rivets?"

Silently, he dropped four rivets just the right size into her centre of her gloved hands. Rogue snapped her fingers over them.

"Thank you."

"I'm going to see if Mr. McCoy needs help."

Way to go, Rogue, she scolded herself as Bobby stalked away. You always do that. You always try to piss off other people when you're pissed off. That's so childish.

The rivets went in smoothly this time without the broken, jarring growls of a misaligned screw.

Maybe Storm's right about keeping you here. If you can't even control your temper, what's the chance you'll ever control your powers?

Because no one was around, Rogue didn't have to pretend that something caught in her eye. She sniffled as she performed the rest of the hydraulics checks by herself. The acrid smell of gas flickered in her mind, pressing against some memory synapses that she hadn't known existed.

The train jerked around a corner and she was thrown to the floor, slipping on a puddle of petrol. Her palm caught on something sharp. The skin ripped; she fancied it sounded like paper. She hadn't had anything to drink since the soldiers leaded her into the railcar. Someone beside her gagged, adding the sourness of vomit to the already putrid interior.

She glared at the thing that caused her pain. It was a nail, badly driven or perhaps worn through the old wooden floorboards. She knew the nail didn't really cause the pain in her stomach or the throbbing gaps in her gums left by loosened teeth. The nail didn't tear her parents from her arms and made them disappear. But right now the nail was the only thing she could fight.

So she reached out with all the hatred and agony and desperation and twisted that nail's head off its point.

Rogue gasped, nearly stumbling off the stool. Before her, the fillet panel shook as its rivets twisted in and out of their sockets. The wrench to her left shook as well, a small vibration that hummed down the jet's sheet metal casing.

Just as a thick, invisible blanket was about to wrap around her body, Dr. McCoy called out something-- she never found out what-- and jerked her fully out of the memory. The humming stopped, the rivets stilled, and Rogue held her breath, afraid to smell any more gas.

"Omigod," she whispered. Staring at her hands then at the panel then back at her hands, she repeated the epithet. "Omigod."

Twelve months and two weeks ago, Magneto kidnapped her and forced her to absorb his memories and powers. His personality was so strong that for a week, she couldn't separate his thoughts from hers. She'd constantly felt the ebb and flow of magnetic fields against her skin, like a thick, invisible blanket rustling around her body.

Steadying herself on the opening into the hydraulics' guts, Rogue took another deep sniff--

The whine of train brakes.

Mother melting cheese over bread on a fireplace grill.

Iron was naught but clay.

-- held it.

She flicked a finger and the bolt unlocked. Flicked another and it locked again.

Dear God, would Wanda's tooth never come out?*

The electro-magnetic blanket drifted around her hand--

*Cobbles, slippery with mud, in a cold, wet October.

The magnetic field was an extension of her fingers, her arms, her very will.

-- held it.

The wrench vibrated again. Harder. Rattled the casing like a snare drum.

"Rogue is everything all right over there?" Dr. McCoy's question snapped Rogue's concentration. The wrench fell with a clang.

She stared at it, her eyes wide. "Everything's fine, sir," she said, lifting her hands closer to her face. They still smelled like gasoline.

A secret, pleased grin appeared on Rogue's face.

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