So Impossible

Part 6 - Tourniquet

...I lay dying,
And I'm pouring
Crimson regret and betrayal.

I'm dying,
Praying,
Bleeding,
And screaming...

Am I too lost to be saved?
Am I too lost...?
¹

* * * * *

Her powers were a conundrum, an enigma wrapped in a puzzle that lived in her very skin. A blessing and a curse. She had inherited a gene that triggered her mutation at puberty, and became a freak of nature...with the innate ability to steal the memories, powers, and life force of anyone she touched. She was a real life vampire that fed on people's souls. What good was that? What kind of gift did she have?

Lying on the cold floor, Rogue stared at the ceiling as she went over her life with a fine toothed comb...her memories consisted of a relatively balanced amount of pain and joy, good times and bad. She had made mistakes, but who didn't? Looking back, even the ones that had at one time seemed heinous were now small and insignificant. There were exceptions, of course, and she had regrets. Most of all, she regretted pushing Mystique's petrified body off a cliff. She hadn't forgiven her foster mother for what she had put her through, but Rogue knew that her impulsive act was vicious, and made her no better than the woman she had lashed out against.

Reviewing her life didn't take as long as she expected...she supposed it was because it hadn't been very long...but she still had time, and inadvertently focused on what had happened a month ago, when Gambit gave her a present that became a source of both great pleasure and intense pain. Another conundrum. Her dreams had been haunted by the kiss he never should've given her, and they were always the same - Gambit would walk up to her and begin kissing her without a word...time and again she was shocked that she wasn't absorbing him, but chose to take advantage of the situation...they'd inevitably end up in her room, and even as he gently placed her on the bed, she was willing to let him do whatever he wanted...at which point the dream ended, and she woke up more depressed than before.

But her dreams had also been plagued by violence...knives, claws, axes, all coming after her. And the blood...all that blood pouring out of her veins...she blamed her love of horror movies, and the recent marathon of movie firsts - Halloween, Nightmare on Elm Street, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Friday the 13th - was probably responsible. She had stayed up late with a large bowl of popcorn and a bottle of Coke to enjoy the blood and guts fest, so it was no surprise when the nightmares began the following night. But she found the alternating "kiss" and "die" dreams especially disturbing.

She began to think about her life again...and became increasingly critical of her actions. All the things she should've done, could've done, would've done if only she had the chance. But it was too late now, the past was past, it was dead. Nothing could be changed.

~

"Can't catch me," Kitty squealed, rocketing up the stairs.

"Wanna bet?" Kurt replied, running after her.

Gambit shook his head and hung his trench coat in the nearby closet. It had been a long, though amusing, night. With most of the adults gone - the professor and Storm had taken the X-Jet to Europe to do some kind of research, Beast was attending a science convention in NYC thanks to his new image inducer, and Jean and Scott had already returned to their respective colleges - it was only Logan and the kids. Gambit was now an X-Man; although there hadn't been any formal ceremony to that effect, his involvement with the group had increased to the point where it was only natural to consider him one of the team. He still needed his space, however, and opted to keep his own apartment off the premises, though he often found himself crashing in a spare room. In fact, he would be staying there for the next week or so, at professor's request, to help Logan keep an eye on the X-kiddies. Gambit thought that Rogue would've lent a hand as well - she had graduated high school 6 months ago, and was "taking a year off" - but she had been especially moody ever since he kissed her, so he and Logan pretty much left her alone.

They had all just returned from a night at the mall, something that their younger counterparts appreciated much more than they did. Gambit was tired of paying chaperone, though he suspected Logan was even more so, but indulged his high school teammates, allowing himself to be dragged into this store and that, and pretending to be interested when the girls asked his advice on which outfit looked best or what color eye shadow they should purchase. Logan was a little less tolerant, but still surprised Gambit with the amount of patience he exhibited during the shopping spree.

Upon pulling the vehicles into the garage, Logan had jumped out and announced he was going for a walk...not that Gambit blamed him. He needed a break as well. After Kitty and Kurt raced up the stairs, he too made his way up the main staircase and walked down the hall until he reached Rogue's door. She hadn't wanted to go out with the rest of them, which wasn't exactly a shocker, and Gambit just wanted to make sure she was all right. He knocked lightly, and cautiously opened the door when she didn't answer. No one was there. He closed the door behind him and went up to the third floor, where "his" room was, along with the other adults', hoping that she'd be in there waiting for him. But again he was welcomed by an empty room. He turned around and was heading back downstairs when Kitty unexpectedly phased through a wall and backed into him.

"Better watch where you're goin', petite, you might..." his voice trailed off when he saw the unmistakable look of terror on her face. "What?"

She just stared at him, her eyes wide and mouth agape, unable to speak.

Gambit grabbed her arms and shook her. "What is it, Kitty? Somethin' in there?" he asked, motioning to the wall she had come through with his head.

She managed a nod, and he walked down the hall a few feet to the door and tried the knob. Locked. He was going to pick it, but thought better of it...if there was someone in there, they didn't belong...he should try to get a drop on them. He grabbed a few cards from his pocket and prepared to charge them. "Get me through the wall," he demanded, taking her hand.

But she just stood there, frozen. "Come on, I'll protect you." He pushed on the wall with the hand that held the cards. "Phase...now..." Suddenly the wall was no longer solid to the touch, and they walked through it as if it wasn't there.

The room was dark and cold...too cold. French doors leading out to a balcony were wide open, the long sheer curtains framing the doorway fluttering in the January breeze. Not far from the doors was a figure lying awkwardly on the floor, surrounded by a large dark pool of blood, which was black in the moonlight.

Gambit dropped the cards - which he had luckily not charged - as Rogue painfully turned her head to face them. She had made it...she wanted to see him one last time before she died, and here he was...

If she had been able to speak, she wouldn't have been able to explain what had happened...she was in her room when she heard a noise upstairs, and went to investigate. When she walked past the professor's open door, she noticed that the French doors were open. She had just stepped into the room when she was ambushed. She didn't know how many people attacked her or what kinds of weapons they used, and remembered little of the attack itself...the next thing she knew, she was on the floor in excruciating pain, bleeding and broken, unable to do anything but think about the life that was slipping away...

Gambit was just coming out of shock when Kurt teleported into the room. "Gotcha!" he declared proudly, grabbing Kitty before he saw Rogue. "Oh my God, Rogue..."

Gambit threw his arm out to stop Kurt from rushing over to her. "The downstairs closet, my coat, right hand pocket," he instructed quietly. Kurt was gone for a few seconds, and returned with his full fingered black gloves, which he handed to Gambit. Slipping on the gloves, he walked through the puddle and knelt next to his girlfriend's mangled body, covered with so much blood he couldn't tell where her clothing ended and her bare skin began. He gingerly picked her torso off the floor and cradled her in his arms. He briefly considered letting her absorb him, but dismissed the idea...her injuries were obviously so severe that she wouldn't survive much longer, his life force would do little more than prolong her suffering...and prevent her from spending her last moments with him. He began to sing a lullaby from his childhood, one that he learned by eavesdropping on a local woman's nightly serenade to her children.

Rogue forced her head back, so she could look into his eyes...she was fading, night was falling, soon there'd be nothing left...and as her petty regrets poured through her, they moved from general ones regarding the X-Men - she should've been nicer to Jean, she should've been more patient with Kitty and Kurt - towards regrets concerning the most recent addition to the X-Men...the one who had picked her up off the dirty floor and did his best to comfort her even as her life ebbed...the one who loved her in spite of the fact he couldn't touch her...if she had the energy, she would've cried for the future they could've shared, but all her energy was focused on one goal - to live as long as possible.

Woulda.

Coulda.

Shoulda.

There was so much she still wanted to say, to do, to feel...as Gambit sang the French tune, his deep voice softer and gentler than she had ever heard it, as if he was afraid he might injure her further with the sound of his voice, she saw such love and compassion in his eyes that she was determined to tell him how she felt about him...but when she tried to speak, she could only produce a sickening gurgling sound.

It was Rogue's attempt to talk that helped Kitty find her own voice - she began to scream.

Kurt tried to quiet her while Gambit continued to sing his song, and Rogue laid helplessly in his arms, fighting death with every breath...but the pause between breaths gradually grew greater and the breaths themselves became more shallow...she was losing the battle...

Kitty's scream brought every person in the house to the still locked door. Piotr easily forced the door open, and the new recruits poured in after him. There were cries of surprise and dismay when they saw the scene, and Piotr forced the younger people out, though he remained. Logan arrived a moment later, pushing his way through the crowd of concerned kids, until he reached the dark room, where he instinctively turned on the light.

The black pool became a bright crimson that covered Rogue from head to toe, though there were patches of brown where the blood had dried. Gambit saw the light in her eyes dim, and a steady stream of tears began to run down his face, though he sang his song still. Rogue's senses had deteriorated - she could no longer hear his voice or feel his arms around her, and could barely make out his silhouette in the increasing darkness. Even her thoughts had been reduced to a couple lines of a song repeating over and over, "My wounds cry for the grave...my soul cries for deliverance...²"

Logan rushed to Rogue's side just as her eyelids began to flutter - her last attempt at staving off death. Without hesitation, fully aware of the consequences, he ripped off his gloves and placed his hands on her face. He had never touched her before, and felt the ever so slight tickling of what was left of her powers. It was encouraging that they were still functioning despite her condition.

He caught Gambit's eye while he still could. "Don't let her beat herself up over this...it's my choice."

"I'd do it if I could," Gambit replied, and Logan nodded. He knew the Cajun would. He also knew that Gambit wouldn't interfere with his sacrifice.

Rogue's eyes closed for what she thought would be the last time, her remaining sensations fading as she drifted into a comfortable numbness that was bathed in light...but she was suddenly yanked back, as if someone was pulling on an invisible rope tied around her waist. And the pain she had stopped feeling long ago returned in a slow but steady stream until she was in agony. But it came with another unfamiliar feeling - one of her bones mending and her skin knitting itself together...she felt herself healing.

Even before she opened her eyes, she understood what was going on. When saw she was right, she tried to struggle, but still lacked the strength to move. Her eyes the only way to communicate, she begged Gambit with a entreating look to stop Wolverine, but he either didn't understand, or refused to comply.

By now her sense of time was completely screwed up, so she didn't know how long she sucked the life out of Wolverine before his healing powers had sufficiently kicked in to allow her to talk. "No..." she moaned. "Stop..."

Neither Logan nor Gambit responded, so she turned her head to see who else was in the room. Kurt was holding Kitty, who was sobbing, and Piotr was just behind them. Rogue tried to pry Logan's hands off herself, but she was still too weak, and even with his own life flowing out of him, he was too strong for her. "Please," she pleaded, "stop him..."

Piotr, who until then was too shy to act as any kind of authority figure, approached the scene hesitantly. While Rogue seemed to be recovering, he was afraid that if she didn't absorb enough of Logan's powers, she would die in spite of his efforts. Still, he had not forgotten their brief conversation, and knew that her nightmare of accidentally sucking someone dry was rapidly becoming a reality. His eyes moved from Gambit, whose gaze hadn't left Rogue's face, to Logan, whose eyes were rolling into the back of his head as he clenched his teeth and willed himself to hold on, and finally to Rogue, whose resolve was strong even though her body was weak.

"You promised..." she whispered, her gloved hand tugging at his sleeve.

"I did," he replied, and pried Logan's hands off her face. The smaller man fell backwards into unconsciousness, and Rogue struggled to stand.

"Get yer hands off me," she growled, feebly pushing Gambit away. "How could you...?" But the dizziness and nausea were too much, and though her wounds had healed, the blood that she'd lost had yet to be replaced. Her legs gave out and she mumbled something else, but she was out before Gambit caught her.

~

Everything grew quiet in the room that had become a battlefield, even Kitty's sobs had dissipated. Gambit's mind flew into action...this type of scene wasn't exactly new to a man who spent a good part of his life fighting against a gang called the Rippers. The smell of death hung thick in the air, and he knew that both of his fallen teammates were still in danger.

"Piotr, get Logan to the infirmary...Kurt, I need you to get in touch with whoever you can - preferably the professor, but McCoy, Summers, Jean...anybody you can find." The men left, and Gambit turned to Kitty, who was calmer, but clearly on the verge of hysteria. "I need you to clean Rogue up."

"But," she began, getting all worked up, "like...I mean..."

"I can't do this without you," he said firmly. "I need you to wash her up the best you can, and then come find me, ok?"

She nodded, and followed him into the bathroom, where he placed Rogue in the tub. "I'm going to make sure the others are ok...do you want me to ask one of the girls to help you?"

"Get it together, girl," Kitty scolded herself. "You're an X-Man...you're supposed to be able to handle things like this..." She took a deep breath. "No," she replied, her voice a little stronger. "I don't want them to see her like this. I can handle it."

"Just be careful...put a pair of those yellow rubber cleaning gloves on so you don't touch her."

Still covered in Rogue's blood, he left the women in the bathroom and returned to the hall where the new recruits were still gathered, talking in hushed tones. "I want everyone to get ready for bed, and report to the living room...no one sleeps alone tonight." He paused for a moment and spoke again. "In fact, I want everyone to buddy up. No one goes anywhere alone."

The teenagers scattered to their rooms, frightened by a combination of the little they had seen and the tone of Gambit's voice. He walked into what would've been a crime scene, if the police had been called, and did a quick walk through. The French doors weren't broken, the lock wasn't damaged in any way...there was no evidence of forced entry. He had seen enough police shows to know that he shouldn't touch anything, but he closed the doors anyway...it was far too cold to keep them open. He wanted to preserve as much of the evidence was possible, but knew that the scene had been compromised by every person who had walked into the room. Now was not the time to worry about it, though. He left then, locking the door behind him.

There were so many things to do, so many things to worry about...how had someone managed to infiltrate the Institute without setting off one of the many alarms? What would he do if they couldn't reach anyone else? He was barely an X-Man, and was surprised that his authority had yet to be challenged, but knew it was only a matter of time. How was he supposed to protect everyone else from the unknown assailant/assailants? What was he going to do about Logan? About Rogue? He was no doctor...

"Gambit," Kitty called, "I think this is as good as it's gonna get."

He returned to the bathroom, and found Rogue in the tub with a towel covering her torso. Her skin was clean, though her hair had not quite returned to its original color. Gambit took off his blood soaked sweater and undershirt, and sent Kitty down the hall for a clean top. She returned with an old sweatshirt, which he put on before lifting Rogue and carrying her to her room. He laid her on the bed, and examined her body for any open wounds, but found none. He grabbed an oversized t-shirt and pair of underwear from her dresser, and had Kitty put them on her, before heading for the infirmary.

He placed Rogue in the bed next to Logan's, and asked Piotr for an update. "How is he?"

"I have no idea," Colossus confessed, "I know there is more that should be done, but cannot do it myself."

Kitty, who had gone to check on Kurt, returned with a report. "The professor, Storm, and Jean are their way...Mr. McCoy isn't in his room, but Kurt left a message. I forgot to ask about Scott."

"Do me a favor and get Kurt back in here," Gambit said, and a few minutes later, the oldest, most experienced X-Men still standing were gathered in the infirmary.

"What's the plan?" Kurt asked nervously when he arrived, and all eyes fell on Gambit.

"The way I see it, we got more problems than these two dyin' on us...someone got past all our defenses...we'll have to keep watch tonight."

The others nodded in agreement, and he continued. "I've already told everyone else to sleep in the living room, I figure there's safety in numbers. Colossus, you and Kurt go up there and keep an eye on the kids. Kitty will stay down here and monitor the security cameras, and I'll do what I can for Logan and Rogue."

No one complained about their assignments, so Gambit decided he had a decent job delegating. "Try to get them to go to sleep...I want them in school tomorrow. They didn't see much, did they?"

"Not more than a glimpse," Piotr asserted, "I got them out of there as soon as I could."

"Good," Gambit said. "Do you think you guys can manage to stay up?"

"After all this...no problem." Kurt replied, glancing at Logan and Rogue. "I'd just have nightmares anyway."

They split up, and Gambit did his best to hook Rogue and Logan up to heart monitors. He also put them both on IVs, though that proved more difficult. His experience as a member of the Thieves Guild came in handy, as their scuffles with the Rippers often ended in bloodshed. Neither gang was eager to send its members to a hospital, so they routinely tended to their own wounds.

Not knowing how long it would take for help to arrive, Gambit kept himself busy by regularly checking in with the others and keeping an eye on his patients. But it was not enough...his mind wandered as he sat in the infirmary.

"How could you...?"

Rogue's words weighed heavily on him. How could he what? Let Logan save her life? How could he not? Didn't she know that he would've done the same thing if his powers allowed it? He would gladly trade his life for hers in a heartbeat...and felt guilty enough that his contribution to her rescue had been so insignificant without her accusing him of...whatever it was she was accusing him of.

~

Her dream was always the same. Gambit entered and began kissing her...but this one was different. She was absorbing him, so she tried to pull away, but he refused to let go. All his memories, his powers, his life rushing into her...but she opened her eyes and it wasn't Gambit at all...it was Logan. Confused, she broke the kiss, but he grabbed her face with his bare hands, and she continued to absorb him. She was screaming for him to stop, but he wasn't listening to her...and then suddenly they were surrounded by a crowd of people - X-Men, new recruits, the Brotherhood, the Acolytes, classmates - they just stood there and watched, like a bunch of mindless zombies. Logan fell to the ground, and then Gambit walked out from the crowd and kissed her until he fell...then Kurt grabbed her face and fell...then Kitty....then Piotr...a pile of lifeless bodies were at her feet, yet the crowd continued to reach out to her, and one by one each fell onto the pile...

Rogue shot up in bed, covered with sweat and gasping for breath. The professor rolled over to her. "Rogue, are you all right?"

"Yeah...ah...it was a dream..." she began, momentarily relieved...until she saw Logan in the bed next to her. She looked at the professor. "It wasn't a dream..."

"I'm afraid not. How are you feeling?"

"Ah'm ok," she stated, pulling the covers off her.

"No," he said. She stopped what she was doing and waited. "I'd like to do a few tests before I let you get out of bed."

"Fine," she growled, getting back in bed. She was not in the best of moods, but she was willing to let him do his silly tests. Once he had poked and prodded her to his content, Professor X asked her to rest a few more minutes before venturing out of bed.

Rogue rolled on her side, closed her eyes, and reviewed everything that had happened. Her thoughts wandered until they rested on her mutation. The one thing that separated her from the rest of the world was the one thing that saved her life. She had an epiphany then, finally understanding the blessing and curse that was her power. She was a killer. Rogue opened her eyes and stared at the comatose Logan across the room.

Her gift was death.

 

1, 2 - Excerpts from Tourniquet, by Evanescence

 

Part 7