Ashes to Ashes

Part 2 - Smoke and Mirrors

Rogue disappeared from their bed every night for the next three nights, and every night she managed to do so without Gambit noticing...until he inevitably woke up during her absence. But he never caught her in the act of leaving, and couldn't force himself to stay awake until her return. On the fourth night, he decided enough was enough. This time, upon finding her missing, he got dressed and began a top-to-bottom search of the mansion. When that didn't turn anything up, he took his search outside, beginning with the roof. Though he hadn't expected to find her there, he figured that it would at least give him a decent view. Surveying the grounds from above saved him a lot of time - it didn't take him long to notice an eerie blue glow in the distance. Rogue or no Rogue, this was definitely something he had to check out.

It took him several minutes to get close to the source of the blue glow - a decidedly female figure floating a foot above the ground, surrounded by blue flames. He watched her for a while, but she did nothing. After considering his options, he circled around her at what he thought was a safe distance, and began to slowly approach her from behind.

"There is no need to skulk in the dark," a soft, gentle voice stated. "I am aware of your presence. Come closer if you wish, I will not harm you."

Gambit was surprised...he had quite literally been quieter than a mouse. He was leery of the strange woman, but if she already knew he was there, there was no point in his keeping his distance. He walked around to face her, and took his time taking in every last detail of her appearance. Her hair was long and blue, the same shade as her eyebrows, eyelashes, lips, fingernails, and toenails. Her skin was liquid oil, as black as a starless night sky. She didn't seem to have any clothes on, yet she wasn't naked. On closer inspection, she looked like she was wearing a skintight cat suit that matched her skin perfectly, the only indication of which was the ever so slight bumps at her wrists and ankles where the outfit ended. Additionally, she was surrounded by blue flames that began just below her feet and reached up above her head, her hair dancing in the flames despite the lack of any type of breeze.

The woman waited patiently for him to finish his inspection. When she sensed he was done, she smiled slightly and opened her eyes. Gambit gazed in wonder at those eyes, which lacked any kind of iris or pupil. They completely glowed with the unnatural electric blue color that can only be found in glaciers.

"Hello, mademoiselle," he began slowly, giving her a slight bow. "Sorry I snuck up on you jus' now, but..."

"No apology is necessary. I am sure I must be a strange sight to you, I understand the need for caution."

He felt himself oozing charm, trying to impress the creature in front of him...he instinctively treated her with the utmost respect and humility. Like she was royalty. "Allow me to introduce myself..."

The woman smiled again. "I know who you are. You are the gambit...Remy LeBeau. You belong to the rogue."

"Well...never heard it put dat way before..." He smiled shyly back. "And who might you be?"

The woman's face fell, then changed into an expression of deep thought. She was troubled by the simple question. After much consideration, she ventured a reply. "I am...of the Phoenix."

"I don' understand."

She helplessly threw her arms in the air. "I am of the Phoenix," she repeated.

"So you don' have a name?"

"No." She looked relieved that he had been able to articulate an idea she had not been able to put into words.

Even in the muggy stillness of the summer night, the name "Phoenix" sent shivers down his spine...he had not borne witness to the events surrounding the plight of the real Phoenix - the Phoenix Force - but he had heard the stories. Now that he thought about it, she certainly resembled descriptions of the Phoenix, aside from a few color variations. But this Phoenix did not have the air of supremacy often attributed to the mystic force. Her divinity was something he sensed, rather than an attitude she projected. In fact, if anything, the creature before him behaved like a child. Still, a child with unlimited power was still dangerous.

"Can you...explain how you are 'of the Phoenix'?" he asked after some time.

Before his eyes, her entire countenance shifted from that of a curious child to one of a patient mother. "When the rogue touched Jean Grey, she absorbed part of her that was the Phoenix. A portion of that part became angry that she had been involuntarily trapped in another person's body, and became what you know as 'Dark Phoenix.' Dark Phoenix attempted to take over the rogue, but failed because she both overestimated her own powers, and underestimated the rogue's strength. With the help of Jean Grey, the rogue locked Dark Phoenix in a prison from which she is not likely to escape. Unbeknownst to the rogue, her inner struggle also resulted in awakening me."

They were back to the beginning. "And you are...?"

"I am of the Phoenix, a piece of the force that saved Jean Grey from death. I am but a shard of the shattered image that is, and always will be, the primal force of the universe. I am not the dark version of the force, rather, I am the mirror image, the exact opposite of the one that did so much damage in your world, and tried to take possession of the rouge."

Gambit wasn't sure if he bought her story...he didn't know if he could afford to. There were several problems with her explanation, but as he never encountered the real Phoenix in person, he didn't know if the superficial holes in her story were a result of his unfamiliarity with the cosmic force, or if the creature was lying to him. As he searched its face, he wondered if its very existence was beyond human comprehension. Not that he wasn't going to try to understand what was going on...

"So where's Rogue?"

The more complicated task of explaining who she was completed, at least for now, she went back to her childlike state. "Do not be concerned with the rogue, she is safe. She is still here."

"But..."

"She is asleep, her essence remains in this body, but her mind is in a deep sleep. Do not worry, I will return her body to her before she returns to her conscious state."

"You're the reason why she's been feeling funny lately," he thought aloud.

The figure became embarrassed and looked at the ground. "I did not mean to cause the rogue any kind of discomfort...I merely wanted to observe. I thought I had hidden my presence well, but her powers of perception are greater than I had anticipated."

"Why didn' you jus' introduce yourself...?"

"I was not sure what the best course of action would be. I did not think she would appreciate finding out that yet another personality was living in her head. Rather than making my presence known, I decided to watch the world through her eyes, and learn as much as I could about her. Now that I have finally made contact with you, one of her closest friends, perhaps you could make a recommendation."

Gambit shook his head. It didn't matter how the entity announced its presence to Rogue, she was going to have a fit when she found out. "Haven't de foggiest idea."

"Then I am at an impasse."

"Don' fret, petite, I'm sure if we put our minds to it, we'll come up with somethin'."

She looked up at the sky, then back at him. "I fear our time grows short...the sun will rise soon. The rogue will be needing her body, so my problem will have to wait until another time."

"May I speak with you again tomorrow."

"Of course. Meet me here at your leisure."

The figure began a slow flight back to the mansion...but a thought that had been nagging at Gambit finally surfaced, and he called after her. "Wait..."

She paused where she was and waited for him to continue.

"Would it be ok if I brought someone else with me tomorrow night?" There was no way he was going to try and deal with the new incarnation of Phoenix on his own...at the very least he wanted to bring Jean in on this. But he didn't want to do so without permission, afraid that he might frighten, or worse, anger, her.

Turning to face him, she thought for a moment, then smiled again. "The rogue trusts you with her life...I will follow her lead and put myself in your hands." The matter closed, she resumed her previous heading, and disappeared into the night.

Gambit took his time making his way back to the mansion, in no rush to encounter the being that referred to itself only as "of the Phoenix" again. When he reached their room, he found his girlfriend fast asleep.

~

Elsewhere in the mansion, Jean Grey awoke with a start. She was drenched in sweat, her heart pounding in her chest. Scott was still sound asleep next to her, and though she was tempted to wake him, she was reluctant to do so. Because her nightmare, still fresh in her mind, was not a nightmare at all, but the memory of a nightmare that had been part of their lives a long time ago. It had been a difficult period, back in the old days when their numbers were few. No one had suffered the way Scott did...watching her die, seeing her reborn, watching her die again...only to discover years later that she had actually survived the ordeal. She may not have the Phoenix's powers, but she certainly earned the title. She had more lives than a cat.

Ultimately, Jean decided not to disturb her husband with her silly dream. Instead, she slid silently out of bed, grabbed the robe she had carelessly thrown over a chair, and made her way downstairs. She needed to calm down and clear her head. As she passed the living room, a small flame appeared and disappeared, followed by a puff of smoke.

"Can't sleep?" the gravelly voice asked from the abyss of the dark room.

"More like I sleep too much," she replied.

Logan turned on the lamp next to him, and Jean blinked at the brightness. Once her eyes adjusted, she sat down on the couch opposite him, tucking her legs under her.

Her hair was a mess, disheveled from tossing and turning...her robe, which covered very little, though more than her nightgown, clung to her body, still damp with sweat. She was pale and her eyes still had a touch of terror to them, like an animal recently caged. He thought she was lovely. "Wanna talk about it?"

"It's nothing...a nightmare..."

Logan took a puff of his cigar. "From the looks of it, one hell of a nightmare."

Jean reached up and felt her tangled hair, then looked down at her robe sticking to her thighs. "I'm a mess aren't I?"

"Haven't seen you this rattled in a while...come on, Red, give it up."

It was no secret that Logan was in love with her. In fact, if it hadn't been for Scott, who knows what could've been...but she had met Scott, and fell in love with him long before she'd set eyes on Logan. There was no denying her attraction to him, however. Even after she'd gotten married, there were times when her mind had gone astray and she had been...tempted.

It was out of consideration for his feelings that she hesitated to discuss her dream with him. He was the only person whose anguish over her deaths could match Scott's. And yet, she found herself wanting to tell him about it...because she didn't think it would have the same effect on him as it would on Scott, despite both of their strong feelings for her. The two men were very different. Scott Summers was no Logan.

"I dreamt about Dark Phoenix," she admitted after a pause.

He'd be lying if he said that he had closed that chapter of his life long ago. True, as time passed, he thought of it less and less, but every so often he'd catch a glimpse of the Phoenix in Jean...then everything would flood back, and it would be as if it had all happened yesterday. Since the Phoenix they'd known hadn't been Jean at all, but an excellent facsimile, he didn't understand how it was possible for him to see such things That didn't change the fact that he did. Not that he ever told anyone.

"Okay..."

His reaction, or lack thereof, was exactly what she had expected from him. "You don't find it the tiniest bit odd that I'd be dreaming about her after all this time?"

Logan shrugged. "You're the one who specializes in people's thoughts...but if you ask me, there's nothin' strange about it. Just your brain gettin' rid of extra information."

"Normally I'd agree with you..."

"...but..."

"...but," she continued, "there's something about the dream itself that's bothering me. It was so vivid, so real. And when I woke up, there was this terrible sense of foreboding." She inadvertently shivered at her own words.

"Why don't you start at the beginning, and tell me the whole dream."

"Now that I think about it, I can't remember much of it. All I know is I was Dark Phoenix, and I was doing all these horrible things...I couldn't stop myself. And the worst part was, I liked the way it felt."

Jean was looking for two things - on one hand she wanted someone to tell her that everything was going to be ok, and on the other, she needed a plausible explanation why Dark Phoenix was haunting her now. In short, he was going to have to address both her heart, and her head.

"Well...it could be that the stress of playin' hostess is taking its toll, an' has brought repressed memories back to the surface."

She shook her head. "Impossible. I never was that Phoenix, you know that. It was the Phoenix Force posing as me. How could I have memories of things I didn't even do?"

"Could you be pickin' up on someone else's memories of the Phoenix? I mean...Worthington hasn't seen you in a while, neither has Petey. Maybe seein' you again brought back not-so-pleasant recollections of the past, and you've subconsciously picked up on it."

"It's possible."

"Or," Logan went on, "it could be like I said at the start - your brain is throwin' away stuff that's been locked away in your subconscious. You may not have lived it, but you've heard the stories."

"I don't know..."

"Jeannie, sometimes a dream is just a dream."

"Maybe you're right," she smiled. "Maybe I'm making too much of this."

He didn't quite believe the smile, but he let it go. "I'd be lyin' if I said I never had a dream that bothered me. It happens to everyone at one time or another. Sometimes dreams mean somethin', sometimes they don't. Most a' the time ya need to wait a while before ya can tell the difference."

This time when she smiled, it didn't look forced. "So you think I should nix the early morning dream analysis and go back to bed?"

"I don't think you're gonna figure anythin' out tonight, but that don't mean I want to deprive myself of your company."

She was feeling better, but wasn't ready to face the possibility of more dreams just yet. She got up and crossed the room, settling next to Logan on the couch. She considered putting her head on his shoulder, but dismissed the idea almost immediately. Jean didn't like doing anything that could me misconstrued...she didn't want to toy with his emotions. In the end, it wasn't up to her. He put his arm around her, pulling her closer, until her head rested right where it belonged. For his part, Logan said nothing else, he just held her as he slowly finished his cigar.

When he finally ground what was left of it into a nearby ashtray, Jean forced herself to escape the embrace, feeling much better. "Thanks, Logan. I needed that."

"Ya need it again, ya know where to find me."

She got up and walked back to her room. She climbed into bed, where Scott had apparently not missed her, and pulled a blanket over her. As she drifted back to sleep, a thought popped into her head...that maybe Logan's theories weren't entirely exclusive...that maybe her dream was the result of her picking up on someone else's memories plus the surfacing of her own repressed memories. Although it wasn't disturbing enough to prevent her from falling back asleep, she remembered the ominous thought the next morning. And she was afraid she was right.

Logan remained in the living room long after Jean departed, sitting in the dark, thinking.

~

The following day was the actual date of the party, the reason why so many X-Men had flocked back to their beginnings...to celebrate the birth of Professor X's vision. Today was the day he had formulated the idea of the X-Men...exactly how many years ago no one knew, but it didn't matter much. The professor's dream of creating a safe haven for mutants until a time when mutants and "normal" humans could live together in harmony, a day that he optimistically still believed would come to pass, had succeeded beyond his wildest hopes. Whether his students became X-Men or moved on to live normal lives, he had given them the gift of unconditional love and acceptance, had helped them learn to control their powers, and above all else, had taught them that they shouldn't hide from who they were.

Up until now, the reunion had had few planned events, mostly consisting of a pleasant, spontaneous chaos. Today was the exception, with a barbecue, swimming, and a variety of "powers free" challenges and games on the agenda. It began a little before noon and lasted long after the sun had set. And even though there were a few squabbles over whether or not so-and-so was using his or her powers during the supposed "powers free" events, all in all, it was an exceptionally enjoyable day for everyone involved.

As the crescent moon rose and the party died down, Jean began the tiresome job of cleaning up. Several of her teammates immediately pitched in when they noticed her picking up used napkins and paper plates, in spite of her protests that she didn't need any help. After all, the mansion had been her home since she was a little girl...she felt like she was its mistress, and as such, the hostess of this grand affair. Still, it was nice to have the help.

She entered the mansion with an armful of various condiments, closing the door behind her with her foot. It was dark, but she knew every inch of the building like the back of her hand. She hummed softly to herself as she put everything back in the fridge, and was starting to make her way back outside when a hand grabbed her and pulled her into the hallway she had just passed.

"Oh..."she muttered, startled, but not frightened.

"Don' fret, petite, it's jus' me."

"Remy LeBeau, what on Earth are you doing lurking around in the dark?"

"Waitin' for you."

"Why, if I wasn't a married woman, I might take that the wrong way."

"Hey, dat never stopped me before," he joked before becoming serious. "Actually, Jean, dere's somethin' I need t' talk to you about...in private."

"I don't think I like the sound of that," she replied uneasily. "What's up?"

"You ain't gonna like d'sound of anyt'in' I'm gonna tell you..." he began, and proceeded to tell her everything, from Rogue's "feeling funny," to the previous night's encounter with the entity that not only claimed an acquaintance with the Phoenix Force, but was somehow related to it.

By the time he'd finished, her eyes had adjusted to the lack of light, and she could see anxiety distorting his typically easygoing features. "It sounds like this...new being...is innocent, or at least she is right now. I'd like to meet her before I make any judgments. We can discuss this further afterwards."

"I asked if it would be all right t' bring someone wit' me tonight, an' she said yes."

"Then it's settled, I'll come tonight, and we'll take it from there." Jean patted his arm reassuringly. "Don't worry, it'll be ok."

She moved to leave, but he put his arm across the passage, blocking her way. He leaned forward until their noses were almost touching. "Don' sugar coat it, chere. I've heard de stories...I know just as well as you, dis don' look good."

Jean took his free hand in her own and squeezed it. "Don't lose hope just yet. Let's see how things go tonight."

"What's goin' on tonight?" Logan asked, turning on the light in a nearby room. Because he only caught the tail end of their conversation, he had missed the central point. But what he did hear piqued his interest, especially when he saw the intimate pose his friends were in.

He raised his eyebrows at them, and Jean hastily dropped Gambit's hand. "It's not what it looks like," she said hurriedly.

Gambit backed off slowly, allowing his arm to fall from the wall to his side, and leaned back against the wall behind him. "It's not?" he asked teasingly. "Why, Miss Grey, you were singin' a dif'rent tune jus' a minute ago..."

Jean turned red, gave him a dirty look, and pushed past Logan, who watched her storm out of the room before turning back to Gambit.

"What can I say, she's got no sense of humor," Gambit complained, shrugging.

Logan didn't believe there was anything going on between the two, nothing romantic anyway. Aside from the fact that both were otherwise spoken for, Jean was too staight-laced for the mischievous thief. "What was that all about?"

But Gambit was already walking away down the hall. "Women," he said, disregarding the question, "can't live with 'em, can't live without 'em."

Something was going to happen tonight...and his presence hadn't been requested to participate in whatever that might be. But that never stopped him before. Invited or not, this was one party he was going to crash.

~

Hours later, after the festivities had been gently put to rest, when darkness had fallen to its most extreme, the heir apparent to the Thieves Guild and the woman who had once been in the presence of a goddess walked towards the door with silent steps. The clock had just begun to strike twelve as they left the safety of their home for the uncertainty of the outdoors. The air was not as hot as it had been earlier, but it was still thick with humidity. Both were nervous as they walked into one of the many tree-riddled parts of the grounds, both for different reasons. Gambit thought only of the fate of Rogue, while Jean was concerned with the bigger picture...because if what Gambit told her was true, the entire universe was in jeopardy.

The rustling of leaves overhead brought an unwelcome addition to the party. Gambit and Jean looked up just in time to watch Logan jump down from his perch and land skillfully on the ground below. "Now, one a' ya gonna tell me what's goin' on?"

Gambit knew how much Logan and Rogue meant to each other, how alike they were deep down. It was this very bond that tempted him to tell Logan all about his discovery last night...but he also knew that Logan was one of the few who had known the Phoenix, who lived what was merely a legend to those who had not seen it firsthand. Gambit was afraid he'd tell them that there was no hope for Rogue. He did not respond to Logan's question.

Jean looked back and forth between the two men before taking it upon herself to answer him. First, she telepathically warned Gambit of her course of action. "He's going to find out whether we tell him or not, and I think it's better to tell him than go on with the knowledge that he's following us. When he sees for himself, he may do something rash."

That said, she did precisely that. Gambit didn't try to stop her. "Rogue has apparently, unknowingly, manifested one of the personalities she's absorbed."

Logan relaxed a notch. That didn't sound too bad. "Nothin' that hasn't happened before. What's with all the sneakin' around in the middle of the night?"

"The personality only makes an appearance when Rogue herself is asleep."

"An' this personality is..."

She glanced at Gambit. "Phoenix."

Jean waited for the news to sink in. His first reaction was barely noticeable, but as the seconds passed, she saw understanding wash across his face. It was not the essence of the woman standing before him, but the actual cosmic force that was channeling itself through the body of his friend.

"Just point me in the right direction (snikt), I'll do the rest."

Gambit finally spoke. "It ain't like dat, Wolverine."

"How do you know, Cajun? You weren't there the last time. We gotta kill it, and kill it now."

"I'd rather err on the side of caution..." Jean began, but Logan cut her off.

"Tried that last time, an' it almost cost us everythin'."

Gambit wished he had brought his bo-staff...or at least a deck of cards. He crouched down and picked up a handful of pebbles, preparing to charge them. "Don' make me fight you, homme. I know you're scared, but so are we. Still, no one's touchin' de girl, not while I still have breath in my body."

Logan retracted his claws and shook his head. "You don't know what you're up against."

"That's what we're trying to find out," Jean said. "Look - whatever this thing is, it's only part Phoenix...its power has limits. Besides, from what Gambit says, it sounds amicable enough."

"Come with us, talk to her...you'll see."

Gambit's words had little effect on Logan's impending sense of doom, but he kept his thoughts to himself, if only because of the flicker of hope Jean managed to ignite with her words. If this Phoenix had limits..."I'll give 'er a chance, but I don't like it."

Gambit dropped the pebbles, and the three continued in the same direction. As the trees began to thin, the telltale blue glow could be seen, and shortly thereafter they reached the clearing where Gambit had found the Phoenix-like creature the night before. He motioned for the others to remain at the edge of the tree line so he could approach her alone.

Once again, the opening of her eyes was preceded by a smile that had been triggered by his presence. "Ah, the gambit...you have returned, as promised." She glanced behind him into the shadows. "And you have brought guests."

"S'all right if dey join us den?"

"Of course."

Gambit motioned to Logan and Jean, and they reluctantly came over. Her eyes focused on Logan first, looking him up and down before commenting. "You are the wolverine, you are very close to the rogue. You have a connection deeper than that of lovers, yet neither of you wish to be anything more than friends." She paused, and closed her eyes. "You knew the Phoenix. You watched her powers accrue until they were twisted out of control. You are the one who did not hold back when fighting the Dark One." It looked like she was going to say something more, but she stopped herself.

She opened her eyes and respectfully bowed her head to him. "You are a fierce warrior and loyal friend. I hold you in the highest esteem."

The entity then turned her attention to Jean. Her examination lasted less than a second. "You are Jean Grey!" she exclaimed excitedly. "You are the mortal who once wielded the full force of the Phoenix." She calmed herself almost immediately, her tone changing from one of surprise, to one weighted with deep reverence. "I thank you for blessing me with your presence."

"I didn't exactly 'wield' the Phoenix's power," Jean protested, embarrassed by the praise she didn't deserve. "I mean...it wasn't me at all, it was always just Phoenix."

"I am aware of these facts, but the situation is far more complicated than you have been led to believe, Jean Grey."

Jean was about to ask her what she meant by that, when the entity changed the subject. "I have almost forgotten to introduce myself...I am the rogue's Phoenix." She glanced at Gambit for approval. "How is that for a name?"

He smiled warmly at the childish pride in her voice...she was like a little girl who had just tied her shoes all by herself for the first time. "It's better, but still needs a little work, I t'ink."

Rogue's Phoenix considered his words. "It is too long."

"Most of us don' have de responsibility of choosin' our own names, our parents do it for us. Don' worry, you'll find somethin' dat feels right...'til den, Rogue's Phoenix it is."

Gratified by his praise, her smile widened before she turned to Logan once more. "You do not like me."

"Nope."

"May I ask why?"

"'Cause I saw the way this played out once before. We didn't know what was gonna happen back then, but we got a good idea what's gonna happen now. An' I think we should do somethin' about it."

"I appreciate your honesty," Rogue's Phoenix replied, "but I disagree with your assessment. I have not come to you under the same circumstances as the Phoenix came to Jean Grey, and my powers are not as potent...my access to the cosmic power is not of the same magnitude as that of the real Phoenix. In a battle, I could no doubt defeat you, but I could not survive an attack by several of the X-Men at once."

"How do we know you're tellin' us the truth?"

"You do not...but if I am lying, then there is no point in trying to stop me, as I could easily destroy you all."

"That response doesn't give me a whole lotta confidence," Logan muttered to Jean.

"I don't understand," Jean began perplexidly, "how you've come to be."

"Do you not?" Rogue's Phoenix asked patiently. "You have all the answers, you just need to put them together. I will leave you to accomplish this task on your own."

Her reply annoyed Jean to no end...who did this thing think it was, talking to her as if she were nothing more than a child?

These thoughts were answered by the newest incarnation of the Phoenix. "I may not have the power of the Phoenix, but I have her memories, which include those from before the beginning of time. We have existed for longer than you can possibly imagine. I may be a child myself, but I am centuries older than any of you. I am sorry if I offended you, Jean Grey, my intention was not to patronize you. I just feel that it would serve you better to come to the answer yourself, rather than my handing it to you."

Jean didn't like the idea of this Phoenix poking around in her head. "You know, around here, we don't read other people's thoughts without permission."

Rogue's Phoenix's face fell...she almost looked like she was going to cry. "I am sorry."

"S'ok, chere, everyone makes mistakes," Gambit said reassuringly, throwing Jean a dirty look.

Rogue's Phoenix turned to him. "I try not to enter the minds of others because I know it is wrong...I know this from the rogue's thoughts, though perhaps I should not be listening to hers either. But it is difficult to regulate the volume of the inner voices of others, especially another telepath. I am not yet skilled in the arts of control."

Despite his aversion to the entity, Logan's attitude softened a notch...he was always a sucker for lost little girls. "Ya know, if learnin' control is what you're lookin' for, you've come to the right place."

She brightened at his words. "I am fully aware of the purpose of this school, and would readily accept any assistance Charles Xavier is willing to provide...but that brings me to the problem the gambit and I were discussing last night."

"Rogue doesn' know about her," Gambit offered, "an' she isn't sure how t' go about introducin' herself."

"I do not want to harm the rogue...I know she has had difficulties with personalities she has absorbed in the past, and I do not wish to alarm her. Do either of you have any ideas?"

"We could tell her," Jean proposed.

"I somehow doubt she would believe you...not even the gambit or the wolverine could convince her. I need to take some kind of step myself."

"She ain't gonna like this, no matter how you go about it," Logan told her.

"I know," Rogue's Phoenix said, "but it must be done. Since you have no suggestions, I will have to determine a course of action on my own. Even if she does not understand, you should recognize my attempts, no matter what they may be. I depend on the three of you to help her through this difficult time."

"De X-Men are always dere for each other," Gambit stated.

"I have observed as much. I will make my move in the next several days...watch the rogue closely for signs of change." She rose then, tripling the space between herself and the ground. "I will return this body to the rogue so it may rest while she sleeps. The days ahead will be trying for her. I will see you soon, my friends."

Rogue's Phoenix flew back to the mansion, leaving the charmer, the clawed-one, and the telepath alone to reflect upon everything that had just occurred...

"Jeannie?"

Logan's voice interrupted her thoughts, and she looked up at him. "I don't know yet. Give me a couple days, and maybe I'll have some answers." She remembered Rogue's Phoenix's words - she had all the information she needed to decipher the riddle. "Maybe."

 

Part 3