Series: Companion piece to Terri Beri's Sleep Tonight. See the continuation after Casualties of War, Terri Beri's Disposable.
Disclaimer: Terri Beri owns the original concept. A whole bunch of people richer than me own the X-Men. I'm just playing.
Archive Rights: If you have Terri's story, you can have mine. Just lemme know.
Author's Notes: Who would've thought a woman so susceptible to plot bunnies could fling one so effectively? Terri, this is for you.
Summary: Scott faces the aftermath of a command decision.
I used to wonder what would have happened if Logan hadn't joined our fight against Magneto on the Statue of Liberty. We weren't a very experienced team, but it wasn't our first mission. It was at least our tenth. Sure, it was our first battle against the entire Brotherhood, but I used to think we could have beaten them. Of course, now I know for certain that we would have failed.
Rogue was kidnapped again. Mystique walked right through our increased security and dragged her out. No one even noticed until it was too late.
It was a Saturday afternoon. The kids had gone out to the mall and the movies, but Rogue decided to stay at the mansion. The last anyone saw of her, she was going for a walk. When her friends came back and looked for her without success, they went to the professor.
He tried to locate her with Cerebro, but he couldn't. She was unconscious. He did find Mystique, Sabretooth, and Toad, though. Mystique had Rogue. Sabretooth had freed Magneto. Toad was placing their new mutating machine on the roof of Madison Square Garden.
I never suspected that they could have managed such a well-timed and complex mission, but they were in position and ready before we even knew what was happening. It seemed Magneto was through targeting politicians or using national monuments to make political statements. This time, he was after numbers. The most humans in the shortest amount of time.
The Garden was filled to capacity that night for a Madonna concert. Over 20,000 humans. If Magneto hadn't fixed his machine, seconds after it started, they would all be doomed to death. If not, their lives would be changed forever by mutation.
It wouldn't stop there, though. The magnetic cloud would continue to spread, affecting millions of people throughout New York. Humans would die and mutants would be blamed.
The professor had managed to calm the mutant hysteria after the Statue of Liberty incident, but this... If Magneto succeeded, it would be the end of all mutants. Humans would fight back, and there would be a new holocaust. We had to stop him.
Jean, Storm, and I took the Blackbird, and the professor notified Hank. He was miles away in Salem Center, and we couldn't wait for him, but he would be there for our return.
By the time the jet passed the outskirts of New York, I could already see the machine powering up in the distance. The rings were spinning and the white mass of magnetic energy was starting to spread. I had a split second to make a decision, but it seemed like forever.
Rogue. In the months she's been at the mansion, we've become close. Brother and sister close. Both our mutations require protective gear that separates us from other people. No one can ever touch her bare skin or look me in the eyes. It was this distance that brought us together. I couldn't tell you the number of times we've met on sleepless nights, her because of nightmares and me because of headaches. We'd go to the kitchen for midnight snacks, to the den to watch infomercials on TV, or to the roof to stargaze and talk for hours. I knew her and loved her, but now...
If we landed the jet, fought our way through the Brotherhood, and stopped the machine, it would take minutes. Rogue would most likely be dead and so, too, would millions of humans. If I acted now, I would kill Rogue, but stop the machine.
I had to. There was no other choice. With tears welling in my eyes, and Rogue's gentle face burned in my memory, I reached a hand up to my visor.
"Scott?" Jean asked.
"Cover your faces," I responded, and then pressed the trigger.
I blasted through the cockpit viewscreen, across the distance to the Garden's rooftop, and into the machine. The explosion of metal could be seen for miles, but the magnetic field collapsed before it could expand. I'd saved millions of lives and killed one of my best friends.
With numb hands, I landed the Blackbird on the roof and we disembarked to view my handiwork. The mutating machine was a blackened mess of twisted metal. Toad's body lay here, Mystique's there. Even Sabretooth with his healing powers was dead. I guess it's hard to heal when the bottom half of your body is still on the roof and the top half is in the street below.
I didn't see Magneto and I really didn't care. It was all I could do to keep walking to the mass of metal where I knew Rogue lay. I killed her. I *killed* her, but I couldn't look away. I had to see her, to witness the full extent of my betrayal.
I was almost to the wreckage when my visor clamped down hard on my head. It had turned from simple eyewear into a vice digging into my skull. I fell to my knees and started clawing at the metal, but it wouldn't relent.
Hoarse gasping came from my right, and I saw Storm clutching at the X-necklace that always hung around her neck. It had tightened to the point where it was garroting her where she stood. Then, I shut my eyes in agony as more pressure was applied to my skull.
"You killed my brothers and stopped my machine. For that, you will die." Magneto's voice, twisted and vengeful came from my left.
Jean. Where's Jean?
Forcing my eyes open against the pain pressing into my head, I found her standing in front of Magneto. He was flinging the remains of the machine at her, and she was fending him off with her telepathy, but it was obvious who was the more experienced. I tried to stand up and help her, but the pain was so intense I could barely move. It felt like my skull would crack open like a coconut under the pressure at any moment.
Magneto was so focused on attacking, though, that he wasn't aware of the hunk of plastic torn off one of the Garden's satellite dishes until it slammed into the back of his head.
When he fell, the attack on Jean stopped, Storm started gasping for air, and I could finally pull the visor off. I couldn't see, but at least the pressure was gone.
"Scott?" Jean asked, worry filling her voice.
"I'm ok. Check on Ororo."
"I'm..." Ororo said before she was consumed by a coughing fit. "ok."
"Ok. I'm going to get a sedative from the jet so we can be sure Magneto's out until the police arrive. I'll grab your spare visor."
I nodded and then wished I hadn't, the headache caused by my visor exploding at the movement.
Still, when Jean gave me another visor, I opened my eyes and stood up. She was heading towards Magneto with a syringe and Ororo was rubbing her neck and coughing. I resumed my walk toward the wreckage and Rogue.
I found her easily enough, her broken body sprawled in the wreckage with a metal beam lying across her belly. She looked so small, so fragile, so innocent. I did this. I took this precious young woman out of the world. I killed her to save millions of strangers who would never know how wonderful she was.
Guilt consumed me, and then she coughed. Bright red blood blossomed on her lips and pain-filled, chocolate brown eyes opened to look at me. She was alive.
"She's alive! Jean, help me!"
I grasped the metal beam and lifted it from her body only to find a mass of blood. She'd been ripped open by the explosion, her internal organs exposed.
Biting back the bile rising in my throat, I said, "Jean, help her."
She did. Using her telekinesis so that Rogue didn't suffer any further damage, she lifted the young woman from the rubble and floated her to the plane. Ororo volunteered to stay with Magneto until the authorities arrived, and I followed Jean to the Blackbird.
With the viewscreen blown out, I had to fly with the metal blast screen up and navigate by instruments. Even then, we arrived at the mansion in record time.
As soon as we landed, I left the cockpit to help Jean with Rogue. Hank ran up the ramp with a stretcher as I asked how Rogue was doing.
Jean answered simply, "Get Logan."
"No," Rogue gasped. "Don't... want... kill him."
Jean looked up at me. "Her bowel's perforated. She's septic. Without Logan, she'll die of infection in a few days. Maybe sooner if I can't get this bleeding under control."
Carefully, Jean levitated Rogue onto the stretcher and she and Hank hurried out of the plane. Before they left the hangar, though, Jean said again, "Get Logan."
Fifteen hours. It took fifteen hours to pick up Logan from the middle of the Yukon and fly him back to the mansion. A lot can happen in fifteen hours.
When we finally arrived in the Med Lab, we were met with blood. Everywhere. On the metallic floor, on Hank and Jean's surgical gowns, on the surgical sheets, in the gaping wound.
"Aorta cross-clamped," Hank reported, pulling out of Rogue's chest to grab two, long, almost spoonlike devices. "Stop internal compressions."
Jean extracted two bloody hands from Rogue's chest, and Hank positioned the spoon-like objects in the wound, saying, "Clear,"
They both looked to a monitor which displayed a sharp spike before returning to a flat line.
"Internal paddles ineffective. Resume internal compressions. Charging to 30."
Jean reached back in, and I could see now what she was doing. She was manually pumping Rogue's heart. The rib cage had been spread and Rogue's chest and abdominal cavities were wide open.
"Logan. Let go!" Jean cried.
In my shock, I hadn't seen Logan approach them. He had flung the sheet off of Rogue's legs and was holding onto one of them, skin-to-skin. As I looked, the veins on his face and hands bulged out in sharp-relief and he started gasping for air.
"She's too far gone. It'll kill you," Jean insisted, but Logan didn't move from his position.
"Clear," Hank said again, and Jean let go of Rogue's heart for a moment.
"Nothing, resume compressions."
Jean did, but her focus was now on Logan. His legs became wobbly and he leaned across the edge of the bed for support.
"Scott, make him stop. He's going to kill himself!"
When she called to me, I finally snapped out of my trance and stepped forward. I tried to pry Logan's hand off of Rogue's leg, but it clung so tightly that his knuckles were white and I couldn't get it off.
"Logan, let go."
He didn't pay any more attention to me than he did to Jean. In fact, he didn't let go until his gasping breaths gave way to a long, final sigh. He stopped breathing and went limp, collapsing into my arms.
"Jean!" I called.
"Clear," Hank said.
A beep, then another, and another, filled the Med Lab. Rogue's heart was beating again. She was alive.
"Scott, how is he?"
"He's not breathing," I answered, lowering the heavy body to the floor. Pressing into his neck with two fingers, I added, "No pulse."
"I've got her. Help Logan."
Jean pulled off her bloody gloves and flung them on the floor in frustration, then she donned new gloves and helped me get Logan to another bed.
Over twenty minutes later, Logan still wasn't responding.
I let go of the air bulb and watched Jean shock Logan yet again. Then, I grabbed it and started bagging him again. The heart monitor spiked once and returned to a flat line.
"Jean," Hank said from where he's stitching Rogue's quickly healing wounds. "How long has he been down?"
"Twenty three minutes five seconds."
"Has there been *any* response to treatment?"
"He's not dying, Hank. I am not trading one life for another. Rogue came back, so will he."
"Jean," Hank said in a gentle voice. "Has he responded at all? Any change in heart rhythm? Any signs of life?"
"No... but he let her absorb so much. It's just going to take more time."
"He's gone, Jean. Stop beating up his body and let him rest."
"He's not! I've never lost a patient, and I'm not losing him. He wasn't even hurt. It's our fault he touched her. We should've locked the door!"
"Jean... stop. I'm calling it."
"No," Jean said, her voice choking up. "I'll call it... Time of death 10:35 a.m."
Jean ripped off her gloves and ran into the back of the Med Lab.
"Scott, you can stop bagging him," Hank said.
I let go, and looked down. Logan's pale, chalky face met my gaze. Dead. He was dead. Rogue's alive, Logan's dead, and it's all my fault. I blasted the machine. I brought Logan back to the mansion. Me.
Guilt, remorse, and sadness filled me only to be overcome by dread. Rogue's alive. I'm going to have to face her. She'll know that I tried to kill her, and that I did, in fact, kill Logan. I... I can't. I won't be able to bear her sweet face looking at me with betrayal and hurt.
Jean walked back in, tears streaming down her face, with a bag in hand.
"Jean, I'm almost done here," Hank said. "I can do the death kit."
"No, I killed him. I should do it."
"You didn't kill him, Jean."
"I didn't stop him. It's ok, Hank. Finish with Rogue."
I stayed with Jean and helped her complete the death kit on Logan. I was ultimately responsible, and therefore, I should have to deal with the consequences of my actions.
Jean removed the tube from his throat and the sensors from his chest while I took off his clothes. I folded them carefully, and stacked them next to his bed. Logan, once so vital, was now only a naked corpse on a cold, medical bed. We drew a white sheet over him and Jean sat down to write up the toe tag.
Hank finished with Rogue and was wrapping her injuries when Jean stood up and went to the foot of Logan's bed. I watched as she drew the sheet back from his feet and grabbed one of them to affix the toe tag. When the toes of that foot spread out in reflex, we both fainted dead away.
He's alive. Eight minutes and seventeen seconds after Jean pronounced him dead, he moved. Hank said it was a Babinski reflex. That particular reflex means that there's been brain damage, but it must've healed while he was in the coma because he was fine when he woke up. Well, maybe "fine" is the wrong word. He was pissed off.
"What the hell were you thinking? How did Magneto get her again? Where were you?"
"We cannot watch the students every minute of every day, Logan," Professor Xavier answered calmly. "As soon as her absence was brought to our attention, we acted."
"Too late. And you." His claws snikted out and he pointed them at me. "You blasted the machine with her in it. You tried to kill her."
"Logan," the professor interrupted, "Scott acted for the greater good. Tens of thousands of people were in Madison Square Garden, millions in New York. If Scott hadn't acted, we would have a war on our hands. Rogue's death was an acceptable loss."
From his reaction, it's obvious that was exactly the wrong thing to say.
"Acceptable?!" Logan roared, thrashing his claws through the professor's desk. "Acceptable?!" he asked again, throwing his chair against the wall. "It ain't *acceptable* to me, bub! She's everything to me, and I'm taking her outta here."
He stormed to the door and slammed it open, driving the knob into the oak panelling. I suppose we should be happy that both of us are still alive.
Rogue's gone to his room every night since he woke up. I watch her from the shadows as she wanders down the hall, sniffling from bad dreams. She used to come to me, but that's over now.
I know it's wrong, but I can't bear to look at her, to even be in the same room as her. The remorse weighs down on me until I can barely breathe, and I have to get away. Logan will take her from us in a few days, and it tears me up inside that I'm looking forward to her absence.
Professor Xavier says that I made a command decision, and I did the right thing. I can't help but wonder, though. If I sacrificed Rogue, I'll probably do the same to anyone else. Hank? Ororo?... Jean? Who will be the next casualty of war?