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Holding On and Letting Go

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It had started with a look and an almost-touch in a trashy trailer. She’d developed a silly crush on him, he’d treated her like a little sister, but underneath it all their connection had been steady and strong. She’d started dating Bobby, innocent and chaste because neither one of them could quite shake the fear of her power, and he’d pursued Jean, safely married even if she flirted back sometimes. They might have fooled the world, they might even have fooled themselves, but in the wilderness of Alaska Wolverine and Rogue, two basically untouchable, isolated people, had forged an unbreakable bond.

It was this bond that Rogue held on to more than anything after the Sentinels captured her in order to decode the secrets of her DNA. It was the second time they’d looked at each other and everything had changed that kept her sane among the horrors she experienced in the camp.

Marie had left after taking the Cure, unable to face the mix of disapproval and pity in the other mutants’ eyes, especially since Logan, the one person who’d always taken her as she was, had also taken off after what happened to Jean. She’d come back when her powers had and the new generation of Sentinels had been unveiled to an all-too-easily scared public. Ironically it had taken near-extinction that made her embrace what she could do, since it enabled her to fight, to survive, and to help those precious few that were left. It had been surprisingly easy to let Bobby go, the war stripping away all pretences, and seeing him with Kitty even made her smile. Just like the humans that insisted that they were nothing alike, even in the midst of death and destruction mutants still found reasons to smile, to laugh. To love.

Weeks after they had to abandon the School Logan had tracked them down, bringing with him hope, in the form of Professor Xavier, miraculously alive. But to Marie, his arrival had meant more than that: The moment their eyes met, everything changed - Logan’s usually unreadable face betrayed the sheer relief of finding her alive, and that had been all that was needed. Years of denial and pretence had been wiped away from one moment to the next, and Marie hurled herself at him, barely greeting the Professor, his arms tightening around her without hesitation.

Whatever reasons Logan had before to ignore the emotions simmering under the surface, they certainly didn’t matter to him one whit when she whispered his name and heard him say hers like a prayer that had been answered. His lips claimed hers first, a moment stolen from the reality around them during which nothing mattered but the two of them. Not the lives lost, the battles still to be fought, even the friends to be greeted - Logan kissed her and Marie poured all of herself into the touch, leaving no room for doubt. Her powers kicked in shortly after, but Logan traced half-healed wounds even as they disappeared and simply laughed, coaxing an answering, rueful smile from her. After all, he’d always been the one unafraid to touch her.

Now Rogue was alone again, more than she’d ever been, and she could hear herself scream in pain. Anaesthesia was not considered necessary as the scientists probed, scanned and cut her, although she had no idea what her captors still hoped to discover after such a long time. Logan had screamed, too, when they took her, her name, her real one, torn from his lips the last thing she remembered before everything went dark. She’d been Rogue ever since, Marie safe in the one place no knife, no laser, no drug could reach, buried so deep that the real world receded when Rogue allowed herself to sink into the memories, until she felt barely tethered to her body anymore. Lost in her mind, she stretched out every precious minute she’d had with Logan, which had turned out to be all too few, stolen away from the others whenever they could.

Having to hide, scrounging for food and gear, always ready for battle, passion had always been close to the surface once they’d let go of pretence and denial. In addition she unavoidably absorbed some of Logan’s powers when they touched, everything becoming vivid and intense. They learned together how far they could go, how long it took before lust turned to pain for him, and Marie could read Logan better every time. She’d even come to relish the feeling of his life force rushing through her, of the way she could suddenly feel every shuddering breath he took, smell his rocketing arousal, hear his heart hammer in his chest.

Not that they’d had nearly enough time to explore one another. She was captured not long after the Professor had brought Magneto onboard, whose bitter hatred seemed to have disappeared even as his most dire predictions came true. What did ideology matter when every day could be their last? Seeing the two old men bowed over a chessboard in between battles fought side-by-side softened something inside Marie. But then, forgiveness came easy when she had Logan right next to her, all sarcastic remarks, deadly claws - and eyes full of warmth and love whenever he looked at her. A part of her had actually begun to think that they might survive this, that somehow they would find a way to end the terror that were the Sentinels and their masters.

Rogue did no longer believe in happy endings. Her tormentors had taken great pleasure in telling her how her own gift had been used to make the Sentinels pretty much invincible. They had all known that Mystique’s powers had been used to build the Sentinels, and those had already been dangerous enough to cause the end of their world. Rogue couldn’t bear to think what they were like now, able to take on any power and use it against the mutants, against her own people. She was the reason most of her friends were probably dead by now. Maybe even Logan was gone, maybe the new Sentinels had been too strong even for him... Rogue always cut herself off at this point, afraid the enormity of it all might crush what was left of her spirit, drive her mad.

She was no longer surprised that Mystique had always seemed more than a little unhinged, they had her for years. Whatever had happened, whether they’d let her go or she’d escaped on her own and found her way back to Magneto, it had been too late, the damage already done, the Sentinels almost a reality. Just as it was too late for Rogue now. She had stopped looking for a way out, needing every last ounce of strength and willpower to stay alive. It would be so easy to surrender to the pain, the peace death would grant a siren call in the darkness.

Instead Rogue held on, although she no longer believed in rescue or escape. It was the part of her that was Marie who was convinced she owed it to herself, to the Professor and her friends - to Logan. It was Marie who believed that Logan was still out there, that she’d know if he was dead. It was Rogue whose job it was to ensure Marie would survive until this changed. And it was Rogue who the Professor and Magneto found when they arrived in the hush of time frozen, the metal holding Rogue in place giving way with barely a snap.

Her captors had become careless, not wanting to waste precious non-magnetic material on a well-guarded lab. But then, they had no way of knowing that, in the fires of an armageddon they had caused, Charles Xavier and Erik Lehnsherr had reforged a bond broken long ago. Even Rogue, who’d witnessed their reconciliation, needed a moment to remember that Magneto’s face was a welcome one. The Professor’s gentle voice in her head soothed and reassured, and Rogue finally relaxed enough to allow him to envelop her in his mental shield. They slipped out as silently as they had come, a path of bent metal the only sign of their passing.

Rogue didn’t know where she’d been held captive, and the dead landscape of industrial wasteland did not offer up any clues to their location. Most of the world was part of the battleground in this never-ending war, so they could be anywhere. All she could tell was that it was night and that the Professor’s hand was on her back, warm like his presence in her mind.

Not sure whether it was safe to speak, she tried to formulate her questions mentally, but there were so many of them, she herself wasn’t certain which one she wanted to ask the most. Why were they here? Why hadn’t they come earlier? How long had she been captive? Was Logan still alive?

“Yes, he’s still alive, my dear,” the Professor replied out loud, having chosen which question was foremost in her mind. “He’s alive and has been desperate to find you ever since you were taken, almost two years ago. I’m truly sorry we weren’t able to rescue you earlier, but after they took your gift we barely managed to stay a step ahead of the Sentinels.”

Two years? Rogue shuddered: “How many did my precious gift kill, Professor?” Her voice was scratchy, no longer used to forming actual words, only screams of pain. The part of her that was Marie didn’t want to feel bitter, wanted to hold on to the Professor and hear that everything would be alright, but Rogue could not risk it. Not even when she made the man who’d rescued her flinch, sorrow clear in his face.

“Can we please not start with the guilt? Not that I don’t understand how you’re feeling after everything you’ve been through, but what’s done is done, and Charles and I are here now because your gift might just be our last hope.” It was Magneto who replied, his voice even and his eyes free of censure but his hand squeezing Xavier’s shoulder in what could only be called comfort, as incongruous as the term felt when it came to Erik Lehnsherr.

The Professor repaid his friend’s kindness with a warm glance and a smile that said much. It made something inside of Rogue soften, and somewhere deep inside of her Marie uncurled slightly. His response to Rogue was equally gentle: “He’s right. I dearly wish I could say we came solely to rescue you, but the truth is that we need you, Marie. Logan needs you.”

“Logan?” This brought Rogue up short, the protestation that she was no longer Marie dying on her lips. “What has happened to him?”

Before the Professor could reply, Magneto held up a hand and silenced them both. Holding her breath in fear, Rogue cowered next to Xavier and waited. After a moment she could hear it, too, the sound of drones approaching, and the Professor’s hand dropped to her shoulder, offering comfort that she gratefully accepted. She felt drained of courage, scared of being recaptured and what that would mean, but she would be brave a bit longer if it meant that she got to see Logan again.

They hid until danger had passed, then Magneto led them further until they reached an abandoned junkyard. There, hidden between old cars and other wrecks Rogue saw a small jet that was obviously to be their mode of transport. With a smile the Professor encouraged her to climb across the wreckage as fast as she could. Magneto was right beside her, his eyes focused inwards, and a glance back showed her that he was levitating Xavier’s chair carefully. They reached the jet safely, and Rogue slumped into one of the passenger seats, breathing hard. There had not been much call for physical exercise in the camp and she’d spent a great part of the past… two years… strapped down anyway.

Magneto sat down in the pilot seat after strapping the Professor in, shaking his head curtly when Rogue offered to do it, but instead of turning on the engines right away the jet lifted silently. They ghosted through the darkness until they’d left whatever city they were in far behind. Only then did Magneto switch to regular flight, and Rogue relaxed some more when no sign of pursuit followed in the wake of their passing. The Professor used their journey to explain everything that had happened to Rogue, showing her mentally when she had problems wrapping her head around the enormity of what they were attempting.

Towards the end the Professor took her gloved hand in his: “You see, we desperately need Kitty in order for Logan to succeed. She’s trying but failing to hold on, close to exhaustion. That’s why we came for you, my dear - if you absorb her powers you can take her place and our plan might still work.”

When they finally reached their destination, it was to find Bobby bodily holding Kitty upright as she clutched Logan’s prone form. There was blood staining Kitty’s clothes, and Ororo explained that they’d been attacked but had managed to destroy the drone and the Sentinels it carried before it could report back. She looked at Rogue, who was standing half-hidden behind the Professor, and gave her a warm smile: “I am so glad to see you again, Marie.”

Strangely tongue-tied, Rogue only managed a nod. They kept calling her Marie and she wondered what they’d think if she told them that Marie was lost, if they’d mourn her. But before she could form any words, her eyes were drawn to Logan when he made a sound full of pain. Of course she’d seen him the moment they stepped off the jet, but he’d simply looked as if he was sleeping then.

“Is he in pain?” she asked, worry taking precedence over all other emotions. Instinctively she took a few steps towards him, wanting to touch him, to make sure he was warm and alive. It was the first time she’d wanted to reach out to anyone since she’d been taken, and she almost screamed in frustration when Storm held her back. But in captivity Rogue had learned acceptance, so she acquiesced and remained where she was. It helped that Logan was quiet again.

It was the Professor who finally answered her question, rolling up beside her and laying a comforting hand on her arm: “You know Logan can take a lot - but he is experiencing everything his younger body is going through back in the past. Pain can disrupt the connection, especially if Kitty isn’t strong enough to keep him under.” He sounded calm, but deadly serious. “Which is why I would ask you to take over before her strength is gone. It might be our only chance, Marie.”

Kitty was half-slumped forward, resting in Bobby’s arms, but Rogue focused on the familiar lines of Logan’s face. They might be able to fix this, to make sure the Sentinels would never be built - would never use her own powers in order to kill her fellow mutants. It would mean she’d never be captured, never be tortured. It would also mean she wouldn’t get to kiss Logan, wouldn’t get to hear him say that he loved her. Rogue hesitated. She had held on to Logan all through her captivity, should she let go now?

“Alright, show me what to do.” It was Marie who stepped forward, who made the only decision she could. The tension around them dissipated, and Bobby moved to the side, nodding at her gratefully as she prepared to absorb Kitty’s powers. It was crucial that there be no interruption, that Logan was kept under and in the past without disturbance. But Marie wasn’t worried. She had learned how to endure more than most could imagine, she could handle this.

Determined she laid one bare hand on Kitty’s neck, the other on Logan’s cheek. She could feel his stubble under her palm and almost smiled at the familiar sensation. Then power rushed through her and everything went dark for a moment. When she opened her eyes, Bobby was carrying Kitty away and she had both her hands on Logan, feeling the connection strong and steady. She was holding Logan’s consciousness under, felt it stretch from here to…somewhere. Sometime.

Across Logan’s body the Professor smiled at her, relief and pride mingling in his gaze. On the edge of her awareness she realised that the others were also smiling, and through the haze of Kitty’s powers Marie managed to smile back.

Hours passed, maybe even days, and she kept a hold on Logan, both in the present and the past - until time ran out. And as their friends died and the world exploded around them, Marie leaned down and brushed her lips across Logan’s clammy forehead before whispering: “Logan, listen to me. You’ll make it - and when you do, promise me we’ll be together again. Just… promise.”

She swore she could see the vein in his temple twitch in response and relaxed, reassured. He’d never let her down, not when it counted, and she had to trust he wouldn’t now either. The noise around them grew thunderous, waves of burning heat washing over them as the Sentinels closed in. The end was here, one way or another.

“I love you,” was the last thing she said before shrapnel buried itself in Rogue’s body, but Marie simply closed her eyes and held on. She’d always been good at that.