A/N I am appalled that it's taken so long for me to update this, my apologies!

Chapter 8

Bolivar Trask was not a patient man. If he was, he would have realized that two weeks was not long enough to wait before attempting to flush the X-Men out. He would have waited longer, maintaining the perimeter around the school before trying to force their way in. But Trask was not a patient man.

Despite the Mutant Control Taskforce's attempts to isolate the mansion from the outside world, the occupants were doing well. They were scared, but surviving just fine. Their power was cut, but the backup generators and energy generating mutants made that a non-issue. TV, internet and phone connections were also cut, but no one could keep Kitty from the internet so they were still connected to the news. Overall, they were functioning just fine.

Mentally functioning was another thing. It was exhausting for everyone to be living in a perpetual state hyperawareness. There were dozens of students not sleeping, so much so that Storm was considering having Hank give the students something to help them sleep. The teachers took turns on a sentry duty of sorts, each sitting for hours at a time in the War Room staring at security monitors.

Gambit tried to lighten the mood by bringing all the students to the Danger Room for a game of hide and seek tag, which seemed to do them wonders. They actually had to carry a few exhausted kids to their beds.

Two weeks into their lockdown, Gambit called everyone to the War Room with the ominous declaration of, "Something's happening".

Gambit flicked to the security cameras. "Dis was a few minutes ago," Gambit said, flipping to an image of the soldiers stationed around the mansion as they crowded around two men. One of them was immediately identifiable as Bolivar Trask.

"What're they doing?" Storm asked, leaning over to examine the screen. "What's he holding?"

"It's some kind of gas grenade," Gambit said, eyes grim. They watched as some clumsy assistant accidentally set one off, surrounding them all in red smoke. Coughing, the men glared at the assistant, one soldier actually about to hit the man.

"What'd it do?" Storm asked.

"I didn't think anything at first," Gambit said. "Some creative computer work told me it's a gas developed by de Mutant Control Taskforce to pacify mutants for easy capture so it makes sense it wouldn't do anything to dem."

"How'd you find that out?" Kitty asked.

"Petite, I'm really going t' need t' show yo' how t' get into government networks," Gambit said before turning back to the screen. "I assumed it had no effect on non-mutant humans but den…"

He switched the feed to real time. Soldiers were sprawled on the ground, leaning up against the mansion's outer walls, or doubled over. Trask himself was twitching on the ground. There was no sound but it was obvious from the twisted faces and the way they writhed that they were in pain. Everyone stared, unnerved. One soldier fell to the ground in an unmistakable seizure. A few men in gasmasks were running around between the dozens of soldiers on screen, trying desperately to assist the men. Two scooped up Trask and whisked him into a nearby SUV.

"They aren't planning on sending that in here, are they?" Jubilee asked, aghast.

"Dey probably were," Gambit said, his hand finding Rogue's waist. "I doubt dey can do much of anything now though."

Before he could finish the sentence, the men on the monitor abruptly stopped writhing. The closest man to the camera straightened, wide eyes darting frantically around him. He stared at the man next to him, apparently horrified, before seizing him and snapping his neck. Bobby and Jubilee gasped, Kitty hid her face in Pete's chest. Rogue merely paled and tightened her grip on Gambit's hand.

"Hallucinations," Hank whispered softly. They instantly knew he was right. Every soldier was freaking out, rushing around and batting at things that weren't there, much like a very bad acid trip. One rushed over to the nearest house and knocked the owner to the ground with the butt of his gun. Kitty squeaked in shock.

Pyro and Rogue exchanged a look and a sigh. "We're about to do something noble, aren't we?" he asked, though it sounded more like a resigned statement.

"We shouldn't," Logan growled.

"But we have to," Storm said. "They're hurting innocent people."

"Still the good guys," Pyro sighed dramatically, though he didn't look particularly upset.

They turned their attention to Emma. The telepath closed her eyes, reaching out to the soldiers in the streets. Everyone jumped as Emma winced and gave an audible gasp. When her eyes opened, the panic took a few moments to dissipate before she pulled her usual icy persona around herself.

"Hallucinating monsters, bombs, anything of the sort," Emma reported. "One even thought their daughter was being slaughtered by the Green River Killer."

"Everyone suit up," Storm ordered. "And remember, non-lethal force only. We don't want the country to see us murdering soldiers."

Pyro was having a hell of a time. Fire was good for destroying, but not subduing. Luckily he was working with one-punch-Wolverine who metal skeleton was perfect for knocking people out. Hank was wary about handing out tranquilizers, unsure of the effect the combination would have, but everyone was armed with a dose or two to give a soldier as a last ditch effort.

It was the most disturbing fight Rogue had ever been in. Half the men she was incapacitating didn't even register her being there and the other half saw her as something of a four headed monster. A soldier tackled her to the ground, hands wrapping around her pale throat. Rogue gasped for air, hands clawing at the huge man. She was very well versed in many types of martial arts and would place big money on herself over any opponent her size, but sometimes two hundred and fifty pounds of muscle just was something you couldn't win against.

"I don't want to do this," she coughed out before placing her ungloved hands on his face. Immediately the absorption began, draining the fear and life force from the man. He slumped on top of her, unconscious. Rogue looked up to see his body morph into a bleeding corpse, maggots crawling from empty eye sockets and dropping onto her skin. She threw the body off but it crawled after her, a bloody trail following like a slug's slime.

"Don't yo' love me anymore, chère?" it wheezed in Gambit's honeyed voice. Rogue screamed, scrambling on all fours until her back slammed against the brick wall. She was barely aware of the disjointed voices around her.

"What happened?"



Rogue swung blinding, hitting the nearest person. She wouldn't open her eyes, not willing to see another hunk of rotting flesh. She felt a hand on her shoulder and a presence at the edge of her mind but before she could react, she collapsed to the ground. The last thing she saw was a figure in white slump next to her.

Gambit, on the other side of the mansion with Storm, didn't hear Rogue scream. He did hear dozens of horrified yells from the soldiers. He gritted his teeth as he whacked a man unconscious with the end of his bo-staff. Experiments and bio-agents, two of his least favorite things.

He tried to remember it wasn't the soldiers' faults their government made a gas to incapacitate mutants, but it was hard as one tried to take a bite from his shoulder. He snapped his arm, landing a vicious hit.

Kitty and Pete worked quickly, Pete's steel arms getting the job done fast, but Kitty's tactic of phasing through them and around in circles to confuse and disorient them before beating them over the head was working well, too.

They stood, surrounded by unconscious bodies of the soldiers, the same soldiers who would killing kill them, all in the name of saving their lives.

Jubilee blinded the last soldier, who was aiming his gun at a nearby house, with her fireworks before landing a roundhouse kick that would've made Logan proud, dropping the man. Storm knelt down and pulled the headset from the unconscious man and put it to her ear.

"…report! Captain, what's going on?"

"Your gas had some side effects," Storm said into the mic. "I'd bring ambulances and restraints." She dropped the headset and ran with Jubilee and Gambit to the front of the school to regroup.

Gambit's breath hitched at the sight of Rogue crumpled on the ground next to an exhausted and groggy Emma. In an instant, he ran to her, skidding to his knees at her side.

"Rogue, chèrie, can yo' hear me?" he begged, pulling the hair from her face. "Rogue…"

"She can't," Emma said sluggishly. Pyro pulled the telepath to her feet and awkwardly supported her with an arm around the waist, hers over his shoulder. He made a valiant effort to keep his eyes away from her chest.

"Why?" Gambit demanded, wild eyes finding her eye lidded ones.

"She absorbed one," Emma slurred. "The hallucinations transferred to her…I knocked her out…to help…" Her eyes slipped closed and Pyro lurched, suddenly taking all of her weight.

Gambit turned back to Rogue, gathering her in his arms. Pyro struggled to get Emma in a similar position.

"Oh my," Hank said, coming around a corner. "Come on boys, let's get them inside."

All heads whipped to the side, an explosion and screams rocking the ground from blocks away.

"The hell…" Logan growled.

"I guess we missed some," Jubilee said. Storm nodded and they all ran towards the yells of terror, minus Hank, Gambit with Rogue and Pyro with Emma. They hauled the unconscious women inside, Hank directing them to the lab.

Emma was given a blanket and hooked up to sensors to monitor her. Rogue was given an IV (with a sedative ready just in case) and attached to all kinds of sensors, strapped to the bed by her arms and legs. Gambit winced at that.

"Is dat really necessary?" he asked, her hand clutched tightly in his.

"I'm afraid so," Hank said, glancing over. "We saw what happened with the men outside. Until we know if she'll be a danger to herself she needs to be restrained."

"I know, I know," Gambit said. He leaned over, forehead resting on hers, just listening to her breathe. Every time she twitched, Gambit's heart tried to escape through his mouth. He didn't know how long he sat like that, listening to the calming yet disconcerting beep of the heart monitor. He hadn't been to a hospital or lab of his own free will in years, but now nothing short of a nuclear bomb could move him.

It could have been minutes or hours, but eventually the rest of the team burst in. Pete was carrying an unconscious Jubilee who was bleeding heaving from her midsection, Logan was supporting a limping Storm and Bobby was holding a bloody rag to a gash near his ear.

"Hank!" Logan bellowed.

"Oh my," Hank hissed, running over to Jubilee. "Put her here, hand me that syringe there!"

Gambit saw the nasty hole in Jubilee's side and hissed, seeing parts of the human body that were never supposed to see light. Logan helped Storm into a sitting position on the last table next to Bobby.

"Kitty," Logan barked. Kitty ran forward, gloves already on. "You know how to stitch someone up?" Logan asked. She nodded, pale but determined. "Good, take care of Bobby."

"Couldn't wait to see my face, huh?" he joked weakly.

"I'm fine, Logan," Storm insisted.

"You leg's broken, I have to reset it," Logan grunted.

Storm nodded. "Fine, just do it."

"We're gonna get you some morphine first."

"Logan," Storm said, grip tightening on the feral man's hand. "Do it, then help Hank and Pete with Jubilee."

Logan growled but Storm's steel eyes left no room for argument. "Fine," he muttered, then leaned in and kissed her forehead. "One…two…three!" Storm made a grunting noise, nails digging into Logan's shoulder. Pyro winced, at the sight and turned only to gag at Kitty giving Bobby stitches before finally settling on watching over Emma.

"Squeamish?" Gambit asked the other man.

"Apparently," Pyro muttered.

"How'd yo' ever make it in de Brotherhood?"

Pyro leveled his gaze with Gambit's. "Stupidly."

Emma stirred, eyes fluttering open for a second before her hands flew to her head.

"Hey, you okay?" Pyro asked.

Emma gritted her teeth. "I need to put my shields back up before I drown in everyone's pain," she spat out through her teeth. Pyro shut up until Emma lowered her hands, face relaxing. "Okay, now, tell me what happened."

Pyro shifted. "I don't know really, Gambit, Hank and I stayed here to take care of you and Rogue. Uh, Storm's got a broken leg I think, Bobby a cut and Jubilee's…not good."

Emma nodded before her eyes slipped closed again. "Rogue should be out for at least three hours," she said, knowing Gambit would hear her. He didn't acknowledge her, merely continued to stare at his unconscious girlfriend.

There was chaos by Jubilee, a riot of red staining the floor at Hank's feet. "I have the bleeding stopped but she'll need a transfusion. Is anyone here AB negative?" Hank called. "Sooner than later is essential."

No one said anything until with a sigh, Emma's arm raised. "Seems to be the day for good deeds," she muttered. "It's just mental exhaustion," she assured Hank, sensing his hesitation.

As soon as Emma and Jubilee were hooked up and stable, Hank went to check on Bobby ("Kitty, marvelous work.") and Storm ("I'll need to cast that leg."). Eventually everyone filed out, having been tended to or no longer needed. Only Hank, Logan and Gambit stayed as well as the three unconscious women (Emma having fallen back to sleep). Logan hovered over Gambit's shoulder, neither man willing to leave. He glanced at Jubilee once in awhile, guilt stabbing him.

"What happened, mon ami?" Gambit asked quietly. Logan was quiet for so long that Gambit thought he wasn't going to answer.

"A couple of them went into an elementary school," Logan grunted. Gambit looked over alarmed. "All the kids are okay. One set off a bomb, I couldn't get there in time. Storm, Bobby and Jubilee caught shrapnel." Gambit winced, turning back to Rogue. "How's she?" Logan asked.

"No change," Gambit muttered. They sat like for the next few hours, neither man feeling the need to speak.

Rogue finally stirred, monitors beeping loudly. "Hank!" Gambit called. The blue man ran in from his office.

"She's waking up," Hank said, reading the screen with his fingers on her wrist.

Rogue groaned and her body jerked, trying to roll over against the restraints. Her eyes flew open, panicked and wide. She thrashed, trying to rip herself free.

"Chère! It's okay, you're safe!" Gambit said. "Deep breaths, it's going t' be okay." He whispered rapid French, trying to soothe her.

She blinked, panic ebbing away. "I-I caught I love you? I think…"

"Do yo' see anything scary floating around de room?"

Rogue scanned what she could see of the med lab. "Uh, no, just your guys' heads look pretty funny from down here."

Gambit ripped off the restraints from her wrists and ankles in seconds, gathering her in his arms. Rogue barely had time to wrap her arms around his waist before her face was crushed against his chest. "Don't scare me like dat again!" he mumbled into her hair. Hank coughed uncomfortably and turned back to check on Jubilee. Logan cleared his throat but Gambit paid him no mind.

"Gumbo," he growled. Reluctantly, Gambit let Rogue go only to be swept into a swift hug from Logan. "Don't absorb hallucinations again, kid," he growled before letting her go.

"Can I go?" she asked.

Hank nodded. "I have your blood samples to run, I'll let you know if there's anything bizarre. You're free to go."

Rogue's face turned to Jubilee. "I'll explain later," Gambit said, wrapping an arm around her shoulders and leading her out of the offending lab. Although she'd be knocked out for hours, she was suddenly exhausted. Gambit tucked her into bed, curling his body around hers. He breathed easily for the first time since he'd seen her on the pavement.

Rogue and Gambit didn't emerge until the next morning for breakfast. Storm was sitting in an odd position with her broken leg propped up on a chair. Bobby had to point the left side of his head to whoever was talking, the hearing in his right ear not quite back. Only Emma didn't look ragged, her white clothes and icy stare back in place.

Gambit and Rogue joined their table, both ravenous. "So we're all still here, no government raids in de middle of de night?" Gambit asked.

"Nope. The medics came, took the soldiers away and no one's been back," Logan said.

"Weird," Rogue said.

"Disconcerting," Emma said. "No doubt this will be twisted into another mutant attack on the military."

"Then why isn't de military back?"

No one had a good answer for that.

"How's Jubilee?" Rogue asked.

"Hank said with some physical therapy, she should be fine," Storm said.

"Oh, good."

Emma cocked her head to the side, her composure slipping and mouth forming a silent o.

"What is it?" Logan asked, half standing already.

"There will be no need for claws Logan," Emma said, trying to pull her expression closed. "But someone should open the gates. The president is here to pay us a visit."

No one at the table spoke, even the hushed conversations around them seemed much too loud.

"What?" Storm finally asked. "The president...of what, our country?"

Emma nodded. "He means us no ill will, he wishes to talk."

"…Talk," Logan repeated.

"Yes," Emma said standing. "And it's generally rude to keep the president waiting."

By the time the gates were opened and Emma felt the presence on the other side of the door, the kids were all in their rooms and told not to come out unless told. Storm opened the door to see two men in suits, the president behind them with six others behind him.

"Hello," he said, then lightly pushed through the secret service men. "I hardly think that'll be necessary," he said. The men glared but said nothing. "You must be Ororo Munroe, the headmistress." The president extended his hand.

Storm stared at it for a moment before slowly shaking the hand. "Yes," she said. "These are my colleagues."

They nodded, though no one was willing to give the president their name.

"Hank McCoy," the president greeted Hank. "It's good to see you again."

"You as well, sir," Hank said politely. "Though I must say your presence here is most surprising."

The president sighed. "Yes, I imagine it is. Is there someplace we can speak?"

"My office," Storm said. The president's secret service detail swept the room before letting them in, earning a growl from Logan. They kept eyeing him apprehensively as if the danger rolling off of him in waves was tangible. Storm took a seat behind her desk, the president taking another chair across from her. The rest of the X-Men perched various places around the room.

The room was dead silent. The president shifted minutely in his seat at the tension.

"You'll have to forgive us Mr. President," Hank said. "The government hasn't exactly been kind to us lately."

"I understand completely," he answered. "That actually is why I'm here. We have Bolivar Trask in custody."

"You have," Storm stated slowly.

"The incident yesterday made the news. They're saying it's a military training operation gone wrong. A lab stepped forward about the gas," the president elaborated. "The gas they'd developed was illegally made and Trask was warned it wasn't ready for use. We have taken him in for questioning."

"So you're not blaming us for this?" Logan asked bluntly.

"Of course not. In fact, I wanted to think you. The United States government owes you a great debt for what you did to contain the situation."

"How do you know what we did?" Storm asked.

The president smiled. "You aren't the only ones with security cameras. Not to worry, the tapes are being destroyed."

"That's good news, though I doubt it's why you came here," Storm said.

"You're quite right," the president sighed. "We're trying to quell the mutant fear that's being caused by the riots lately. I was rather hoping one of you would be willing to join me in Washington for a few months as an advisor and goodwill ambassador. A sort of face to the country."

There was a beat of silence before anyone spoke, then it was Logan who said, "You're serious?"

"We need to unite a country that's fallen into such chaos," the president said passionately. "And to do that, we need a united government, a united front."

"Well yo' can count me out," Gambit said from his perch atop Storm's filing cabinet. "I've been in de hands of government men before, never again."

"Same," Logan grunted. "I won't be part of some political ploy."

"I can assure you that's not what this is, in fact I've been told it's almost certainly political suicide." The president turned to Hank. "I could use your help with this Henry."

Hank was solemn but held the president's gaze. "If you remember last time, Mr. President, policy was made without me. I won't come back to be a poster mutant for the government."

"Nor would I expect you to," the president said quickly. "We need to better understand mutants and their needs. We need help."

"I'll consider it," Hank said slowly.

"That's all I ask," he said, then turned to everyone assembled. "That's all I ask all of you." He stood and the secret service converged around him. "If you'll excuse me, I have a function to attend."

The X-Men stared as Storm escorted the president out. "Well that was unexpected…" Rogue muttered.

"Oui." Gambit wasn't plastered to Rogue's side, but he was still close, as he always was when she was injured.

"I think I'm going to do it," Hank said.



"I seem t' remember dis ending badly last time, mon ami."

"The president's right," Hank said. "We need mutants and humans to be together on the same page with the same government protecting us all."

"It's your choice," Storm said from the doorway, arms crossed. "Our doors will always be open to you."

Four months later, to everyone's surprise, the president's plan seemed to be working. Trask was awaiting trial. In conjuncture with Hank, programs were put into place to help struggling mutants. A mutant and human committee called the Living Being Rights Group was established to hold peaceful rallies and educational summits to promote peace and understanding.

It was treated as a joke by many, but as it drew mutants and civil rights activists and young people to the cause, it eventually was hailed as the second civil rights movement. They even moved so far as the forced integration of mutants to 'human' schools. There were still riots, there was still violence, but slowly things were getting to a less hostile state. Luckily, the rights groups were heeding lessons from the first civil rights movement.

"Dis is going t' end badly," Gambit muttered. He was sitting in the rec room, draped over Rogue as they watched a news clip flashing between Hank, the president and mutants escorted by police into classrooms. "Dey're going t' get people hurt."

"It's better than it was," Rogue said, running her fingers over his hand. "There have been like half as many riots as last year, things are calming down."

"For how long though?" he asked. She turned to smirk at him.

"I thought cynicism was supposed to be my area of expertise," she joked. He smiled and leaned over, kissing her nose.

"And yo' do it so well ,chèrie."

She slunk down, laying herself across his chest, face rising and falling with his breath.

"In breaking news, the president, in a move reminiscent of President Kennedy, just ordered the National Guard to step in to escort mutant children to school in places where the integration has been met with violent resistance. The president had this to say mere moments ago."

The image on the screen flashed to the president in front of the White House, Hank quietly at his side.

"This country will not give in to hate. This nation has prided itself for years on being a land of tolerance, but we have magnificently failed. We will not condone the murder of American citizens and we will not punish all mutants for the actions of a few. My fellow Americans, I urge you all to reclaim the title of tolerance and earn the title of true, free Americans."

Rogue and Gambit stared at the TV, trying to squash the evil, creeping hope that crawled into their chests at the thought that maybe things were getting better.

End. Not my favorite, at all. Next will be better, I promise.