'Til Death Do Us
by
Khaki



DISCLAIMER: These characters don't belong to me, except for Anna and Mike.

Tissue/Prozac Warning: Character death ahead.




Anna sat on her soccer ball alone in the empty field, arms folded and face set in a frown. Finally, a familiar Jeep screeched into the parking lot. She watched as her harried mother burst out of the driver's side door and approached her in a quick walk/run.

"You're late."

Surprised by the venom she heard in Anna's voice, Marie stopped mid- stride. "Well, I love you, too."

"Everyone's been gone for twenty minutes, Mom," Anna whined.

Marie reached down and picked up her daughter's equipment bag, "I know, sugah, I'm sorry. I came as soon as I could."

They walked in uncomfortable silence back to the Jeep. As Marie threw the bag in the back of the vehicle, Anna opened the passenger door and asked, "Where's Dad? He was supposed to get me."

"He had a mission, honey. I just found out he was gone when you two didn't show up on time. How was practice?"

"Fine." Anna said, slouching in her seat and sulking.

"Kick any goals?"

"Yeah."

"You going to tell me about it?"

"No," Anna answered, twirling her shoulder-length dark brown hair around a finger.

Only the sound of the wind whipping through their hair in the topless Jeep kept them company as they drove through the residential streets and pulled onto the main, four-laned thoroughfare. Marie was the first to break the silence.

"Look," she said in exasperation. "It's not like this happens all the time. Your dad would've been here if he could, but an emergency came up."

"Why aren't you gone too if it's such an 'emergency?'" Anna said, rolling her eyes.

"It's not a full-scale mission, just a new mutant manifesting. The professor only sent Jean and your dad."

Anna scoffed. "If it's just a new mutant, why couldn't someone else have gone?"

"The girl's hurt. She needed a doctor, and her mutation makes her blood deadly. The professor thought Jean and your dad would be the best choices." Marie paused for a moment, and then asked, "Why is it such a big deal? This was only a practice, right?"

Anna sighed and unbuckled her seatbelt. Turning around in her seat, she fumbled through her bag, finally producing a piece of paper. Turning back around, she handed the paper to her mother. Marie glanced down, then back at the road. "I'm driving, sugah. What does it say?"

Anna cleared her throat and read, "For outstanding accomplishments both on and off the field, Anna Logan, has been voted Team Captain of the Spartans."

"Oh, Anna, that's wonderful," Marie said, reaching out to squeeze her daughter's hand. "Your dad'll be so proud. We'll go out and celebrate tonight, just the four of us."

"Do we have to bring Mike?"

"Anna," Marie said in a warning tone. "He is your brother."

"Yeah, but sometimes he's such a child." Anna said, in a haughty tone as she returned the certificate to her bag.

"Well, he is only five. Give him time. Now, where do you want to go?"

Anna settled back in her seat and replied, "I don't know... Could we go see Matrix: 5? That's supposed to be so cool."

"It's also very R. Pick something else. How about a dinner out?"

"Maybe," Anna said, playing with her seatbelt by hitting the buckle against the door. Marie noticed instantly.

"Put your seatbelt back on, missy."

Anna clicked the belt into place, pointing out, "You don't have yours on, either."

Marie looked down, surprised to see that she had, indeed, forgotten it. She was in such a hurry to pick up Anna and so distracted by their conversation that she, a stickler for safety, had forgotten. She turned, reaching around to grab it, when she heard the blare of a horn.

As she'd turned in her seat, the wheel had turned as well, and the Jeep crossed the yellow line into on-coming traffic. If she'd been paying more attention, if the truck hadn't been there in that one split-second, the accident would never have happened, but happen it did.

The crash was ear shattering as metal twisted and crumpled in ways it had never been intended to move. Marie was thrown forward into the windshield by the force of the impact as the Jeep and the truck glanced off each other, her forehead creating a star-like pattern in the glass. The Jeep spun ninety degrees and was struck again on the driver's side by the mini-van that had been following in Marie's lane.

The world spun out of control as the Jeep overturned and flipped three times down the road, coming to rest on its roll bar. Marie was thrown half out of the vehicle the first time it flipped, and the second time around, she felt a burst of agonizing pain in her neck and heard a loud crunch before the pain just as quickly disappeared.

Now, everything was eerily calm. She lay limp on the ground looking up into the passenger compartment of the Jeep as it lay atop her. She saw Anna bleeding and crying in the passenger's seat, suspended upside down from the harness. She wanted to say something to her, comfort her, tell her she loved her, but she couldn't breathe, and the image faded into darkness.

She could hear Anna calling to her, her voice getting more and more desperate even as it got fainter to her ears, "Mom?... Mommy?... MOMMY!!!"

She could smell gas and she could taste the coppery blood in her mouth, but like the others, these sensations quickly dulled and disappeared.

She felt herself getting lighter, her whole body just letting go. Her last thought was, `Logan, I love you.' and then she entered the light.

*****


Anna looked into her mother's eyes and saw, nothing. The vacant, glassy stare held no warmth, no comfort, just cold nothingness. Anna called to her, begging her to move, asking for her help, but aside from the occasional muscle spasms, Marie was eerily still.

Anna had never seen death. She'd never owned a pet, and never known anyone who passed away. Sure, people got hurt all the time. Dad got hurt more times than she could count, but he always healed. Even in her inexperience, she sensed that this injury was permanent. Even though her mother's body was still in the Jeep with her, the part that made her Mom was gone.

She hung from her seat in shocked horror, stunned at what she had done. It was her fault. If she hadn't said something about the seatbelt, if she hadn't distracted Mom at a critical moment, everything would be ok. She'd killed her mother, but not only that, she'd been so snotty when Mom was just trying to be helpful.

A strange man kneeled down beside the Jeep, distracting her from her thoughts and taking her gaze away from the body below her. He talked to her, trying to comfort her until help arrived. His name was David, and he was really nice. In an effort to be soothing, he grasped her hand, but she yelped as shockwaves of pain spread from her shoulder through her entire body.

Her shoulder was just one of the many places she hurt. The seatbelt dug painfully into her stomach as she hung from it, and she could feel an odd pressure starting to build. Soon, the pressure turned into pain, and by the time the paramedics arrived, she was clutching it in agony.

"She's in a lot of pain," she could hear David say, talking to people she couldn't see. "Mostly she says her stomach hurts, but she screamed when I touched her right arm."

"What's her name?" a woman asked.

"Anna."

"Anyone else in there with her?"

"The mother. She's dead."

"Ok, step aside, sir," a man commanded.

"Anna," David called. "These people are going to help you. You're gonna be ok."

"Ok," she answered weakly.

"Hi, Anna. I'm Natalie. David says your tummy hurts."

"Yeah," she whimpered.

"Ok, I'm going to put this collar on your neck and then me and Doug here are going to pull you outta there. Sound good?"

"What... what about Mom?"

"Um, some other people'll take care of her. They'll look after her real good. I promise, honey."

Anna couldn't help crying as she was pulled from the Jeep, the pain of her injuries almost overwhelming. Finally, she was out and strapped down to a backboard. She could hear Natalie and Doug talking about her, but they didn't understand most of what they were saying.

"Distended abdomen, could be the spleen. Must've been slouched in her seat or wearing the belt higher on her stomach."

"Shoulder looks bad too."

"Broken clavicle. Could require surgery."

Anna let their voices drift away as she finally succumbed to comforting, pain-free sleep.

-----


"What's the hold up?" Jean asked from the back of the van. Her patient was stable for now, but they were making lousy time back to the mansion.

"Gotta be an accident. I'll check the radio," Logan replied, adjusting the stations until he heard a broadcaster announce, "Traffic and weather: together on the nines."

It was 4:57 p.m., so he waited two minutes until the broadcast started. Sure enough, the reporter told of a three-car pile-up involving injuries on Foothill Boulevard backing up all the way to Center Street. Even as he heard the announcement, he saw an ambulance speeding past his van, heading back in the direction of the hospital he and Jeanie had just left.

Shelley lay across the row of seats in the back, resting until Jean could get her to the med lab and properly treated. She'd been in a minor car accident with her parents, but both of whom had been killed when they were splattered with blood from a cut on her arm. The doctors at Mercy Hospital refused to treat her, for fear of being killed themselves, allowing her to slowly bleed to death. Huh, some mercy.

After thirty minutes, they'd finally crept up to the scene of the accident. Tow trucks were picking up the damaged vehicles and clearing the road. Logan slammed on his brakes when he saw the familiar Jeep.

Throwing the van into park, he leapt from his seat and ran across the lanes of traffic towards the empty vehicle. Leaning inside, he smelled blood. Marie and Anna's blood. No, God, please, no! There wasn't just the smell of blood, though. He could detect the viscous smell of death on the interior. Marie? Anna? Both? NO!!!

Grabbing the tow truck operator and lifting him by his shirt collar he growled. "Where are they?"

The man shook in his grasp, visibly terrified. "They... Mercy Hospital."

Logan dropped the man, ran back to the van, and screeched a U-turn, heading back the way he had come, towards a hospital that treated mutants worse than animals.

*****


"Logan?!" Jean cried from the back of the van as it sped down the street. Looking out the window, she saw that they were now heading away from the mansion. Even without actively scanning his mind, she could sense the panic and terror emanating from him in waves. Still, Shelley needed medical attention, and it was her responsibility to ensure she got it.

"Logan. Stop the van," she ordered as she made her way to the front, grasping the seat backs as he made a dangerously sharp turn onto a side street. He ignored her command so she used her telekinesis to push down on the brake, slowing their speed considerably.

Logan roared and with a wet *SCHUKK* she heard and saw his bone claws emerge inches from her face. She could feel his powerful rage and knew that if she hadn't been one of his long-time friends, she'd already be dead. Immediately releasing the pressure on the brake, she backed away, allowing him to resume his attempt to break all land- speed records.

~Professor,~ Jean mentally called. ~Something's happened. Logan's emotions are out of control. Shelley needs help, and he's driving us in the wrong direction. I don't know what I should do. Should I scan him?~

After a pause, Professor Xavier responded, ~He's heading back to Mercy Hospital, and he needs you to stay with him. I'll send Hank to pick up Shelley. She's stable now?~

~For the moment, but what's going on?~

~His emotions are very strong. I can't get a clear reading, but something has happened to Anna and Rogue. Stay with him, Jean.~

-----
Logan barely registered the cars that shared the road with him. They were only obstacles to avoid as he made his way toward his goal.

The smell of death still lingered with him, but he couldn't accept it. There were all sorts of new medical advances. People died and were brought back all the time. Marie and Anna would be fine. If he could just get to them, he'd see they were ok.

What were they doing out here anyway? Marie taught late on Fridays and Anna... Anna had soccer practice. He'd forgotten. He always picked her up. Marie must've gone and... Guilt filled his soul as he realized, it was all his fault. He should've been the one to drive Anna home. If he had been there, maybe the accident wouldn't have happened. Marie would definitely be safe now, and maybe Anna would be all right as well.

No. He wouldn't let himself get distracted. He just had to get this insanely slow van another few blocks, and he'd see everything was all right. They were probably just bruised and scratched up a bit. The smells in the Jeep had probably been from the person they'd hit. Everything was gonna be ok.

-----


Logan screeched to a stop in front of the Emergency Room doors and ran into the hospital. Jean left Shelley with a few reassuring words and a promise that someone would be with her shortly, then ran after him. By the time she arrived at the check-in counter, she saw Logan holding a doctor up to the wall by his scrub front.

"You smell like Anna. Where is she? Where's Marie? What happened to them?" he demanded.

Jean could hear a nurse call for security, and she ran up to Logan, trying to calm him at least a little, so they wouldn't be thrown out before they got any information.

If Logan heard her, he gave no indication. His steady gaze was focused solely on the man in front of him.

Jean turned to the terrified man in his grasp, sending out feelings of soothing peace in an effort to calm him down enough to get some answers, then she said, "Anna is eight years old with dark brown hair and hazel eyes. She was probably brought here within the last hour after a car accident."

The man nodded. "Yes, I treated her. Bad case. She was bleeding internally. I sent her up to surgery about fifteen minutes ago."

Logan loosened his grip on the man slightly, anger being somewhat replaced by grief.

"Marie?" he snarled.

"The mother," Jean interpreted. "Brown hair with white streaks. Early- thirties."

From the look on the doctor's face, Jean knew what he was going to say, but before she could stop him, he said, "I'm sorry. There was nothing we could do. She was dead on arrival."

Jean expected Logan to slay the doctor where he stood, to howl in anger and pain, to destroy the emergency room in his grief, but he didn't do any of that.

Instead, he fell limply to his knees, like a marionette whose strings had been cut. Holding his head in his hands, he slowly rocked back and forth, and Jean could hear him whispering, "No no no" over and over again, almost as if he said it enough times, it would change what had happened.

The doctor backed away from him, and waved the security guards away as well, leaving him to his grief.

Jean stayed by his side, in shock at what had happened. Rogue, so young and full of life, was dead? No. Not like this. Not in some meaningless car accident. If anyone was going to die, Jean had been sure it would be in battle.

How could someone be alive one minute and dead the next? Even after all her years of medical training and work as a doctor, she had never been good at understanding or accepting death. It was an enemy to be fought and defeated, not a part of life to be accepted. She had considered them truly lucky that they had never lost one of their team in all their years of battle. Now death had come to claim one of their own.

Jean felt a tug on her pants leg as Logan reached out and grabbed her. Hugging himself to her legs like a child and still looking down at the floor, he whispered, "I I have to to see her, Jeanie. Please."

"I'll take care of it, Logan. Don't worry."

Jean pulled herself away from his grasp, and went to the check-in desk as Logan wrapped his arms around himself and resuming his rocking.

-----


Logan shuffled down the hall like an old man, one hand dragging along the wall for support. He could smell the formaldehyde and other chemicals mixed with the scent of death from the moment he stepped off the elevator. There were no windows down here in the basement and the walls where a stark, cold off-white. Finally reaching the double doors with the sign "Morgue" above them, he froze.

"Logan?" Jean asked, still by his side and ready to help where she could.

"Could you do me a favor, Red?"

"Anything."

"Check on Anna for me. See if they'll let ya into the operation. I don't trust these doctors." It was more words than he'd uttered since he'd heard the news. He didn't have the energy for speaking anymore, no energy for anything, in fact.

"Are you sure? I mean... I could go with you if..."

"Go on, Jeanie. Watch after my little girl."

Jean nodded and turned back down the hallway for the elevators. Logan remained standing before the imposing doors, finally pushing them open.

A bookish woman looked up from her dinner behind the desk, and after taking in his appearance, said, "Um, you're not supposed to be down here, sir."

He didn't hear her, looking around the room in shock. They were obviously backed up, as there were several covered bodies on gurneys waiting to be processed. Marie's scent drifted from one of them.

With shaking hands, he reached up and pulled back the sheet to reveal his wife's pale face. Her hair was matted with dried blood, the white streaks partially tinted with red. Her head was bent at an odd angle, and her eyes remained half-opened in a perpetual stare. Her expression surprised him, though, in that she looked almost peaceful.

He reached out and gently turned her head into a more natural position, feeling the broken bones shifting in her neck. The skin under his bare hands was cold and lifeless. How many times over the years had he wished that he could safely touch her, skin-to-skin? Now that dream had been twisted into a nightmare.

She was still wearing the outfit he'd seen her in this morning. It was dirty, grease-stained, and ripped in a few, little places, but the green material was still remarkably undamaged. How could her clothes have remained so untouched when the occupant was so badly broken?

Odd stains started appearing on her shirt, blossoming in little dots, and he realized he was crying. He hated showing weakness and had rarely cried in all his remembered life. Now, he sobbed openly for Marie pulling her body up into his arms and cradling her.

"I love you," he whispered.

*****


Jean was back on the first floor, heading towards the front desk, when she saw Scott at the entrance. Seeing him standing there asking the receptionist for help, she was struck by how quickly she could lose him, like Logan had lost Rogue.

Breaking into a run, she quickly reached him, throwing her arms around him even as her body was wracked with sobs.

"Jean? Jean, what's wrong? What happened?" Scott asked, but her choking, hitching breaths wouldn't allow her to speak.

She could feel his worry growing so she opened their mental connection. ~Scott, it's Rogue. She died. There was a car accident and she died!~

Scott reeled at the news like he'd been physically struck. He and Rogue had become close over the years. He'd come to think of her as sort of a little sister. But now, dead? No!

~What?... Accident?... Died?~ he asked, so stunned he couldn't form coherent sentences, even across their link.

Through gasps Jean answered, "Rogue... and Anna."

"They're both dead?!?" Scott asked, his voice rising in volume.

"No, Anna's... in surgery," Jean hiccuped. "I'm... Logan asked me... I've got to... observe the operation."

"Where's Logan?" Scott asked, his voice taking on the serious tone he used when he lead the X-Men into battle. He had to put on that mask to maintain what little control he still had over his emotions.

"In the... morgue. With Rogue."

Scott nodded tersely even though that statement cut into his heart. He had to be the strong one. Jean was already falling apart. "Ok. Get in to observe the surgery like Logan asked. I'll send him to the waiting room so you can keep him updated."

"Scott. What... what are you doing here? How did you know to come?" Jean asked, still clinging to him, but regaining some composure.

"I came with Hank when I heard there was something wrong. He's already left with the girl."

Jean sighed. She had almost forgotten about Shelley and was glad that Hank was taking care of her. Now she could focus all her energies on Anna... and Logan.

"Go, Jean. I'll deal with Logan."

-----


Scott was shocked by the image that greeted him as he entered the morgue. Logan was sitting on a gurney clutching Rogue to his chest, her head bobbing loosely on her shoulders as he stroked her hair and rocked her gently. Her face was a mass of cuts, her forehead and hair covered in brown, old blood.

Logan was whispering something as he rocked, but Scott couldn't make it out over the voice of the lab tech. She was on the phone, her abandoned sandwich lying before her.

"He's not supposed to be here... No, he's just holding one of the bodies... No... No... Look, are you gonna send someone or what?... Yeah, thanks for nothing!" She slammed down the phone and looked up at Scott. "Not another one! Look, you're not supposed to be down here. You have to leave, and take him, too, while you're at it."

Scott ignored her, walking up to Logan and placing a hand on his shoulder.

"Logan?"

The man continued rocking, but now that Scott was closer and that mousy, lab tech had finally shut up, he could tell what he was saying. Logan was whispering over and over. "Love you, Marie... Please... So sorry, baby..."

"What are you sorry about, Logan?"

Logan stopped rocking, but didn't respond. Rogue's head lolled to the side, and her half-opened, glassy eyes met Scott's in an empty stare.

A chill ran through him, and he said, "Logan, you have to put her down. Let her go and put her down."

"Can't..." Logan whispered.

"Logan, you have to..."

"NO!" Logan yelled, gripping his wife's body more tightly to his chest. "If I just... If I hold on long enough, it'll work... She'll come back... It'll work."

Scott shook his head. Rogue's injuries, her grey skin, blue lips, and sightless eyes proved that there was no hope. "Logan, she's dead," he said, his voice cracking with the effort to choke down the pain those words caused him. "She's not coming back."

He saw Logan stiffen as his words hit their mark. He expected rage, anger, violent protests that Rogue would be ok. He half expected three claws through the gut for his bluntness.

Instead, he heard Logan whine, "I know."

Scott watched as the man before him shook, his shoulders rising and falling as silent sobs wracked his body. Logan gently laid his wife back down on the bed, tears flowing freely as he positioned her just so, stroking one white streak lovingly.

Scott did the only thing he could think of. He pulled Logan into a strong hug. Instead of pulling away, Logan hugged him back tightly, his gasping sobs more vocal now. Finally allowing his own grief to reach the surface, Scott's vision blurred as he joined Logan in his mourning.

Hours could have passed as both men cried, unashamedly. Logan was the first to speak.

"Why? If it had to be one of us, why her?"

Scott pulled back to look into the other man's worn and pain-filled features. "I don't know."

"I would've died for her. I was ready to die for her, but I can't! Why can't I die?!?" Logan jumped from the bed and started pacing back and forth among the other shrouded corpses.

Scott just sat dumbstruck on the edge of Rogue's gurney, watching Logan fall apart.

"I've tried! Don't you think I've tried! Almost every day for those 15 damn years before Marie! I tried everything, but I always healed! Why!?!?"

*SCHUKK* Logan released a single bone claw on his right hand and dug it into his left arm, cutting deeply into the flesh from wrist to elbow. Even before he had finished cutting, the wound had started to heal. In seconds, the only evidence of the wound was a trail of blood down his arm.

"You see?!"

Logan's self-mutilation shook Scott out of his grief-stricken stupor, and he acted. "Logan, you can't die. Not because of your healing factor, but because of your children. Mike needs you. Anna's upstairs right now in surgery. She needs you. They've already lost their mother. Don't take away their father, too."

"Mike... Anna... Anna's hurt!" Logan said, rubbing both hands through his hair.

"You have to go up there, Logan. Jean will come out and give you updates."

Turning back to point at his wife, Logan said, "But, Marie. I can't... can't leave her down here. She wouldn't like... She wants to go home."

"I'll take care of it, Logan. I'll make all the arrangement and take her home myself. Trust me."

"Now!" Logan demanded. "Don't leave her here alone."

"Yes. Now," Scott agreed. "I'll make the arrangements from here right now... Go. Anna needs you."

Logan nodded returning to Marie's side one last time, he leaned over and kissed her softly on the lips before turning and leaving her to Scott's care.

-----


Logan paced. He couldn't sit. Not while Marie was dead, not while Anna was in danger of joining her. Jean had come out a few times in the last couple of hours. They'd had to remove her spleen. It was damaged too badly to repair.

"It's ok," Jean had reassured him. "People can survive and live normal lives without a spleen."

He had just nodded and told her to go back in. She had said that they were lucky this was a teaching hospital. The operating rooms were more like theaters, with seats where students could watch. With her credentials, Jean had been allowed to observe.

Logan had been furious at the thought of some snot-nosed, pimple- faced students watching his daughter's suffering, but Jean had quickly assured him that she was the only one up there now.

After a few hours, a young, blond woman had joined Logan in the waiting room. She told him her name and that her son was having surgery, but Logan didn't pay any attention to what she was saying, too caught up in his own worries and guilt.

"Coffee?"

Logan looked up at her, not pausing in his pacing. "What?"

"I asked if you wanted some coffee. I was going to get some and thought..."

"Sure," Logan said. He could use a cup, and it would get rid of her for at least a few minutes.

He was back in his own thoughts when he heard, "Cream, sugah?"

Freezing, his whole attention focused on her, he growled, "What did you say?"

She stepped back, shocked at his reaction to her simple question. "I... I asked if you wanted... cream or sugar."

"Black," he answered and resumed his pacing, shaking off the feeling her words had left him with.

*****


"Attention: Will all the faculty members please report to my office? All faculty members, please." a voice spoke over the school's loudspeaker.

The professor never liked to use his gift to broadcast into other people's minds unless it was an emergency. It was too disruptive and most people considered it an invasion of privacy.

Setting down the microphone, he prepared himself to deliver news he'd always hoped and prayed he'd never have to say.

-----


Kitty looked at Bobby, "It can't be a mission. He would've called us to the map room."

"Something to do with the school?" Bobby asked.

"At eight on a Friday night?"

"I don't know. In any case, one of us has to stay here with the kids."

"I will." Kitty offered. "Sarah has to be put to bed in a half hour anyway."

"Should I take Mike with me?" Bobby asked. "Rogue and Logan'll probably show up for the meeting."

Kitty shook her head. "No, let him keep playing with B.J. Besides, I've just gotten him to stop crying."

"You ever get him to say why he was crying?"

"No, just that he was sad. B.J. might've taken a toy from him. You know kids."

Bobby nodded and left their suite, heading for the first floor and the professor's office.

-----


"There is no easy way to say this," the professor began, looking at each of their faces. "Rogue and Anna were in a car accident this afternoon."

A cacophony of voices besieged him from all sides.

"What?" "Are they ok?" "How did it happen?" were a few of the questions he was able to make out in the chaos. Holding up his hands, he gestured for them to sit back down and allow him to finish.

When he finally had their attention again, he said, "I will answer all your questions, if you just give me the opportunity... The accident occurred at around 4:30. Anna was badly injured. She is in surgery, but expected to recover. Logan is at the hospital with her, and Jean and Scott are there as well, helping where they can."

The room was silent as everyone processed what he had said, then Jubilee spoke, her voice edged in tension and worry. "Uh, you didn't tell us about Rogue, Professor."

Charles cleared his throat and forced out the painful words, "I'm sorry, but she passed away."

He paused again as a gamut of emotions spread through his former students. Some cried, some sat in shocked silence, some loudly protested, refusing to believe it.

Jubilee's voice was loud enough to break through the noise, so again, she asked the questions for the group. "How? Where is she? Why did you wait to tell us?"

"I'm told she died almost instantly. She wasn't in any pain. Scott has arranged the transfer of the body, and they should arrive within the next hour... As for why I waited, I did not have enough information to answer your questions prior to this. I understand that this is difficult for all of us, but I will need your help informing the students."

Bobby looked up, "What about Mike? Who's going to tell him?"

"That's right!" Jubilee jumped in. "Does Mike know? Is anyone even watching him right now?"

"Kitty's watching him," Bobby answered, "but... I mean, should we tell him? Should we wait for Logan?"

"Logan will be some time at the hospital," the professor answered. "I'll have Jean ask him."

-----


Jubilee followed Bobby back to his room. Logan had decided to remain at the hospital, so it was up to her to break the news to Mike. She couldn't let Bobby or anyone else do it. It was what Rogue would want her to do.

She remembered all those years ago when she'd been on the receiving end of this kind of news. Both of her parents had died in a car accident shortly after her powers manifested, and she had ended up alone and on the streets at thirteen. If the professor hadn't found her, she didn't want to think of how her life would've turned out. Even now, all these years later, she still had down days. Their birthdays, her birthday, holidays. Now Rogue's children were doomed to the same fate.

As she walked into B.J.'s room, she saw the two boys playing on the floor with their trucks. "Hey, guys."

Both boys turned and greeted her. She'd never noticed before, but Mike had Rogue's eyes. Deep, chocolate brown orbs that expressed every emotion so clearly. She had to turn away from his gaze to keep from choking up.

"Uh, B.J., Mike and I have ta talk, ok? Your dad wants ya in the living room."

After B.J. had left, Mike stayed sitting, fiddling with his truck as he asked, "What is it, Aunt Jubes?"

Jubilee sat down beside him, moving toys to make room. "Mike... your mom and Anna were in an accident today."

He looked at her blankly, not understanding what she was trying to say.

"They were both hurt real bad, and they went to the hospital."

"Why didn't they go to Dr. Jean or Dr. Hank?"

"It was an emergency and they were too far away."

Mike nodded, "How long 'til they're ok?"

"Anna's gonna take a long time to heal, and your mommy... well, she passed away."

Mike looked at her in puzzlement. "When's Mommy coming back?"

This wasn't working. How do you get a five year old to understand death? "She died, Mike. She's not coming back."

Mike's face fell. "Not ever?"

"No... not ever."

"Why'd she leave?..." Mike asked, tears blossoming on his face. "Was I bad?"

That small, worried voice cut deeply into Jubilee's heart and she felt tears burning in her eyes as well. Pulling the boy into her lap and hugging him tightly, she answered, "No. Don't ever think that, Mike. It wasn't because of you. She didn't want to leave. She had to."

"Why?"

"Her body was really hurt, and it just stopped. She couldn't stay in it any longer."

"Where'd she go?"

"I don't know, Mike," Jubes replied, brushing the tears that had escaped to her cheeks and looking down at him. "I'd like to think maybe she's hanging around and looking out for us. We just can't see her."

"How'd she get hurt?"

"She was in a car crash."

"Like on TV?"

Jubilee nodded.

"Where's Daddy? Where's Anna?"

"They're at the hospital. Anna's hurt real bad, and your dad's staying with her."

"Is she gonna go away, too?"

Jubilee shook her head. "I don't know, Mike. I don't think so."

"Is Daddy hurt, too."

"No." Jubilee said firmly, trying to reassure him. "Your Dad's fine. He's just staying with Anna for now. He should be back here sometime tomorrow."

Mike looked up with fear in his eyes. "How will he get here?"

"What do you mean?"

"He can't come back in a car. He'll die, too."

"No he won't, Mike. You've been a car. They don't crash all the time."

"But what if his does? What if he goes away, too?"

Jubilee shook her head vehemently. "I've known your Dad for lots of years. He's a real tough guy to hurt. You'll see him tomorrow, Mike. You'll see."

-----


Logan sat in Anna's room waiting for her to wake. She looked so small, so fragile, lying there in the big hospital bed. Her right arm was in a thick cast, the upper part pulled out from her body in line with her shoulder while the lower part rose from the bed at a 90 degree angle from her elbow. That wasn't even the worst of her injuries. When he'd pulled back the sheets, he could see a bandage running from her hips to her lower chest.

Jean had said it was the seatbelt. The lap belt was riding too high on her waist, and the force of the crash had caused massive internal bleeding. She should've been wearing the seatbelt lower or maybe even been in a booster seat. Who the hell knew that kids were supposed to be in booster seats until they were around 9? If he'd known, he and Marie would've...

The now familiar, almost painful emptiness in his chest grew stronger.

'No,' Logan mentally reprimanded himself. 'Not gonna think about that. Gotta be strong here, for Anna. She's gonna wake up any time now. If she sees me cryin', she'll think there's something really wrong with her. Think of something else, anything else.'

His thoughts drifted to Mike. During the surgery, Jean had come out with both an update for him and a question from the professor. Did he want them telling Mike about... well, what had happened?

Even now, hours after the decision was made, he felt the bitter guilt rising in his throat. He should've been the one to tell Mike. He owed him that, but with Anna's operation, he didn't feel he could leave. Even now, he wondered if Anna hadn't been in danger would he have still pawned off the responsibility of telling Mike to someone else. Was he really that cowardly when it came right down to it?

Anna's head moved, and he jumped out of the chair to stand by her bed. He wanted to grab her uninjured hand, but it had an I.V. tube and a blood oxygen sensor attached to it, so he satisfied himself by gently stroking her hair.

-----


Anna felt the stroking and opened her eyes to see Dad's worried face looking down at her.

"Hey, kiddo. How're you feeling?"

Anna took a moment to check her injuries. She could still feel some pain in her belly and arm, but it seemed far away, like it really didn't matter. It wasn't even close to the razor-sharp agony she'd felt back in the Jeep.

"Better," she croaked, throat dry from the medications and a lack of water. "Water?"

"Sorry, pun'kin. They said you can't drink anything yet. The nurse can bring you ice chips? Do you want that?" Logan asked, hand already hovering over the nurse's call button.

She nodded and soon he was feeding her little ice chips, one at a time. As they melted in her mouth, they helped ease the dryness, and it became easier to talk.

"Mom?" she asked. She had seen the body, but she'd hoped that maybe with her mutation, if someone had touched her soon enough...

"She's... she's gone, baby." her father answered, starting to tear up.

She'd only seen him cry a few times in her entire life, and now, knowing that she had caused this, that it was her fault that Mom was dead and Dad was hurting, it was too much. The guilt rushed through her only to be quickly replaced by fear. If Dad knew what she'd done, he would hate her. He might not give her time to explain that it'd been an accident and that she hadn't meant to distract Mom. She could never tell him. He could never know what had really happened.

"It's ok, baby. Jeanie says when you're stable, she'll transfer you out of here to the med lab at the mansion. Until then, I'll stay right here with you. You don't have to be scared."

Crap! He could smell what she was feeling. At least he hadn't understood why she was scared. She'd have to work on that and get control of her emotions, or he might guess right the next time.

*****


It was a day and a half before Anna was well enough to be transferred. The professor rented an ambulance, and Logan, who hadn't left her side since she'd gotten out of surgery, ensured the move went smoothly. He could tell that she was tired by the time he got her settled in a private room off the main med lab, but he hoped this change of scenery would help with the fear and worry she'd been plagued with since she'd woken up after the accident.

Mike had joined them the moment they were off the ambulance. As soon as he saw Logan, he'd insisted on being picked up and held, and all day Mike hadn't let him out of his sight. Even now, in the early morning hours, Mike slept on a cot that Hank had brought into Anna's room for Logan.

It had been a quiet night. Anna had only woken with nightmares twice. She always refused to tell him what they were about, but he figured it had something to do with the accident. When the professor had acquired the police reports, he'd discovered that Marie had died almost instantly. Anna had been forced to sit in an overturned Jeep with her dead mother for minutes. No wonder she had nightmares. If she wouldn't talk about them, the least he could do was be with her when they happened, ready to comfort her when she woke up.

Now, at the start of a new day, Logan heard the heels clicking down the hallway and smelled a familiar scent long before Jean Summers appeared at the doorway. She looked surprised when she saw that he was awake and Mike was on his cot.

Taking in his haggard appearance, she asked, "Have you gotten any sleep these past few days?"

He just shook his head, rubbing at his eyes and sighing. "I'm too tired to sleep, Red."

"Even a healing factor like yours isn't a substitute for a good night's rest."

"When have I ever had a 'good night's rest,' anyway?" Logan retorted. 'without Marie,' he silently added.

If he was truthful with himself, he was afraid of going to sleep. What kind of nightmares would his guilt-ridden conscience come up with? Marie, still broken and bloody in the morgue, opening her dead, clouded eyes in an accusatory stare? No, sleep was impossible.

Logan shook off those thoughts and asked, "What's up, Jeanie?"

"We did everything you asked. She's laid out in the library. I thought you'd like to check the arrangements before the ceremony."

"Thanks, I'll do that... Um, will you stay with the kids 'til I get back?"

Jean nodded. "Logan, I know I've said this before, but I'm just... I'm so sorry for your loss. We all loved Rogue so much. If you or the kids need anything, you'll let me or Scott know, right?"

"Yeah, thanks, Jeanie," Logan replied automatically. Even though he had only been back in the mansion since yesterday afternoon, he could swear he'd seen every occupant, and they'd all given him the same trite condolences, the same reassurances and promises of assistance. He didn't need anything they could provide. He needed Marie!

Even before he was half-way to the library, he could pick up her smell, fresh and clean. Upon entering, he half-expected to see her sitting at a desk working on an article, in her favorite chair grading English papers, or just draped across one of the couches reading. Instead he saw the open casket at the far end of the room.

The library had been rearranged, tables and couches moved out to make room for rows of chairs. Marie loved books, and this was her favorite room in the mansion besides their suite. It was only fitting that her memorial service be held here.

Forcing himself to walk across the room, he finally reached the casket and looked down at Jean and 'Ro's handiwork. Marie was beautiful. The cuts on her face had been covered up almost flawlessly, and she looked almost as if she were sleeping in her white summer dress. That was, of course, if you didn't have Logan's heightened senses. There was something not right about her, and it only took him moments to realize that he couldn't hear her heartbeat or breathing. He usually just blocked out those extraneous sounds people made, but the absence of them in Marie were unnerving, reminding him again that she was never coming back.

Reaching into the coffin, he pulled out her left hand, now gloveless and safe. The skin was cool but soft. Jean and 'Ro had done a good job of cleaning her up. They couldn't erase the smell of death and decay, but it was muted now, covered with the scents of the lotion, soap, and shampoo she always used.

Pulling off her wedding ring, he slipped it onto his own pinky finger and gave her hand a kiss before returning it to her side. "I know you promised to wear this always, darlin', but I need something of yours I can always have with me. I hope you understand."

Reaching into his pocket, he pulled out the worn dog tags. She'd returned them immediately upon his return only a month after he'd given them to her the first time. He'd worn them up until he and Marie had been captured by Project X, but he'd still kept them, locked in a drawer as the only reminder of his past. Now, he slipped them around his wife's neck.

"You took such good care of 'em last time. I... I want you to keep these safe... just until I see you again. You'll do that for me, won't you, darlin'?"

Next, he pulled out a folded piece of paper and a sealed envelope from his other pocket. Unfolding the paper revealed a crayon drawing of their family, happy and together.

"Mike drew this for you and wrote a note on the back. It says, 'Love you, Mommy. Miss you.' I helped with the spelling, but he wrote it on his own. Anna gave me this letter for you. Took her a long time to write it with her left hand. She made me promise not to open it, so I'll just leave it here," he said, putting the drawing in one of her limp hands and the letter in the other.

"I just miss you so much, darlin'. It should've been me. I should've been there, not you. I'm just so... so sorry. I love you," he whispered, leaning over to kiss her cheek. Then he turned and left the room to get dressed for the ordeal to come.

-----


Logan dressed in the bathroom adjoining Anna's recovery room. He couldn't stand to be in their suite any longer than it took to grab the suits he needed and run out again. Marie's scent was so intoxicating, still so alive in their rooms, and the place was heavy with good memories. There wasn't a single thing, not one stick of furniture, that didn't have a story behind it. He didn't know how they would return to it once Anna was ready to leave the med lab.

Once he was dressed, he got Mike ready, pulling him into the suit he'd worn at Easter. It'd only been a few months, but it was already beginning to get tight on him. Marie always complained that he outgrew his clothes before she could even get them home from the store.

Marie. She rested on the edge of his thoughts at all times. He'd never realized how much he evaluated his opinions against her perspective until she was gone. Now, every train of thought brought images of her, and every image made the emptiness in his chest hurt a little more.

-----


The memorial service was difficult as people got up and shared their memories of Marie. To them, she was always Rogue. They were her friends and family, but they didn't know her as deeply as he did. He felt they needed to know the real Marie, but he couldn't get past the tightness in his throat or the overwhelming emptiness in his chest to tell them. Instead, he sat, head bowed and eyes closed, twisting her wedding ring around his finger and trying to hold back the tears. He had to be strong for Mike.

For his part, Mike fidgeted in his seat, not understanding most of what was going on. He wanted to get up and move around, but he behaved himself and stayed in his seat so he could remain with his father. It was only at the graveside service that Mike's fears overcame his attempts to be good.

"You can't put Mommy in that hole!"

Logan looked over at his son from his place by the casket. He was serving as one of the pall bearers, and they had just set down the coffin on the straps that would slowly lower it into the grave when the time came.

"Mike..."

"You can't. It's dark down there. She'll be scared. It'll be lonely."

Logan picked up his son and left the group of mourners. He needed to talk with him, to try to explain things. He couldn't do that with the population of the school surrounding them.

Carrying him across the well-tended lawns away from the edge of the woods where Marie was being put to rest, he set Mike down on one of the many benches spread out around the mansion.

"You're mad."

"No," Logan said, shaking his head wearily. "I'm not mad."

~Logan?~ the professor's voice interrupted his thoughts.

~Later, Chuck. I'm talkin' ta Mike.~

~Should we wait for you or continue with the funeral?~

Logan didn't know what to tell him. There were good and bad aspects to either decision, and he was just too tired to think clearly. ~Do whatever you want. Just give us some privacy now, ok?~

Logan focused his attention back on Mike, looking so forlorn on the bench. "I'm not mad, Mike. I just thought we should go somewhere to talk. I want ta help you understand what's going on."

"Why does she haveta go in the ground? Why can't she just stay with us?"

"Your mom died, Mike. What made her your mom is already gone."

"But I saw her. She's in that box!"

Logan sighed and began to pace. How could explain this to Mike so that he could understand why Marie had to go when he himself didn't understand it? In frustration, he jabbed his hands into his jacket pockets. Feeling the dress gloves he had left there since Easter, he struck on an idea.

"Mike, you heard people talking about your mom today. A lot of them said she had a good soul, right?"

Mike nodded and Logan continued. "Well, your soul is different than your body. Even when your body dies, your soul keeps living."

"How?"

"Well, let's say my hand is your mom's soul and this glove is her body. When she was born, her soul entered her body," Logan said, illustrating by putting on the glove.

"Now you can see how my hand is alive, right?" he asked, waving his fingers. Mike nodded and Logan continued. "Now is the glove moving my fingers or is my hand moving them?"

"Your hand."

"That's right. Now when your mom died, her soul left her body," Logan said, removing the glove and setting it down on the bench. It lay there, lifeless.

"Now the glove, her body, is dead, but my hand, her soul, is still alive, right?" Logan said, waving his fingers again.

"Where is her soul, Daddy? Why can't we see her?"

"I don't know, Mike. Some people say she's in heaven waiting for us. Some say she's watching out for us here on Earth. I don't know what's true. I just know that she's still alive somewhere, and that we'll see her again."

"But not soon, right?" Mike said, anxiety creeping into his voice. "Not if we have to die to see her."

"No," Logan reassured him. "Probably not soon, but we will see her again."

*****


Two nights after the funeral, Logan learned what he needed to know.

Still unable to go in his bedroom, still unable to sleep, he wandered around the darkened suite, each item he came across causing a separate pain. Anna had been released from the med lab that afternoon on the condition that she didn't overexert herself, and now he had to face the flood of memories his surroundings inspired.

Soft whimpers drew him to Anna's room. She was having another nightmare. She couldn't toss and turn effectively with the clumsy cast on her arm, but her whines and kicking legs made it very clear that she was upset.

"Pun'kin, wake up," Logan whispered, grasping her left hand and stroking her hair.

Anna continued to sleep, mumbling incoherent words in a nervous, scared voice.

"Anna." Logan said louder.

Her eyes snapped open and she said, "I'm sorry," her voice full of guilt and regret.

"What?"

Blinking up at her father in the dim light, she realized what she had said, and her scent immediately changed to fear. "N... nothing."

"Anna," Logan said in a soft, almost pleading voice as he sat down on the edge of her bed. "Tell me what's botherin' you. I can't help you if I don't know."

"Nothing's bothering me."

He didn't need heightened senses to know that was a lie. She was almost shaking with emotion, twisted up in the sheets of her bed.

"You said, 'I'm sorry.' What are you sorry about, darlin'?"

Anna just shook her head. "You'll hate me."

Logan pulled her up into his arms, hugging her tenderly before pulling back. He grasped her cheeks in both hands, gently turning her to face him. "There is *nothing* you could ever say that would make me hate you."

"This will," Anna said closing her eyes.

Dammit, the girl had his and Marie's combined stubbornness. He decided to try a different tactic. Hazarding a guess, he said, "The accident wasn't your fault."

"Yes, it was!" Anna blurted out before she could stop herself. She brought her hand up to her mouth, but the words were out and she couldn't recapture them. "I didn't mean to. I'm sorry. I'm so sorry, Dad. Please don't hate me."

Quietly he said, "Tell me what happened."

"I was mad... Mad 'cause you were late, and Mom had to come get me. Mad 'cause I had to wait after everyone else was gone. She was just trying to help, and I was being so snotty. How could I've acted like that? I mean, that's the last thing she knew of me. Me actin' mean. I didn't even tell her I loved her before... well, before..."

"She knew you loved her, baby. She loved you with all her heart." Logan tried to reassure her, wiping the wetness from her cheeks.

Anna just shook her head, tears falling in earnest now. "But that's not even the worst of it."

"Tell me."

"I... she told me to put on my seatbelt... I did, but, well, she didn't have hers on, either, so I... I told her." Anna stopped talking, sobs starting to shake her body. Her cast jiggling up and down with every hitched breath.

"What happened, baby?"

"She... she turned... to get it, ya know?... and there was this big crash and it hurt so much and everything was spinning and she died. She died, Dad. I killed her."

"Look at me," Logan commanded. When tear-filled hazel eyes met weary, almost broken hazel eyes in the dimness of the room, he said, "It was *not* your fault. You didn't do anything wrong. It was an accident."

"But, if I hadn't said..."

"It could've happened anyway, darlin'. Accidents happen," Logan pulled her into a strong hug, his shirt growing wet as she sobbed against him.

After a long time, Anna's tears finally dried up, and she pulled back to look in her Dad's face. Unshed tears glistened in his eyes as well. "I miss her so much, Dad."

"I miss her too, baby. I miss her too."

-----


After Anna had fallen back asleep, Logan retreated to the living room. Emotionally and physically exhausted, he collapsed to the couch. Speaking to the empty room, he said, "How am I gonna do this, darlin'? How can I raise them without you?"

A whisper of sound caught his attention. It was a soft footfall coming from his bedroom. A sliver of light peeked from under the closed door. Mike. He must've woken up and gone in there when he was with Anna.

Opening the door, he was assaulted by Marie's scent as well as the bright light flooding the darkened living room.

"Mike?" he asked, blinking away the black dots dancing in his vision.

"No, sugah, not Mike."

Her voice was as soft and sweet as he'd remembered. It had been almost five days since he'd heard it, but it seemed like an eternity.

"Marie?"

She was sitting on the edge of the bed, smiling brightly, her streaks complimented by the white summer dress she wore. The same dress she'd been buried in. Buried. She was dead.

"This is a dream," Logan said, sadness filling every pore of his body.

"Yes," Marie confirmed with a sad smile.

"Oh, darlin'," he whimpered, leaning against the door frame, "I've missed you so much."

Marie rose and came to him, pulling him into a tender embrace. Her smell flooded his senses as he buried his face in her hair. The feel of her arms around him, her body pressed to his, it was everything he wanted and couldn't have again.

"I'm so sorry," Logan apologized. "I love you. I'm just so sorry."

Marie pulled back so she could look at him, holding his hands in hers. "Sugah, it was an accident. It wasn't your fault any more than it was Anna's."

"But if you hadn't been driving, you wouldn't have died."

"Maybe not, but as you told Anna, accident's happen. If it was anyone's fault, it was mine."

"No."

"Yes. I'm the one who always went on and on about seatbelt safety, and then I die because I'm not wearing a seatbelt? You must be furious with me."

"No. Never."

"Oh, c'mon. I'm pissed at myself. Why shouldn't you be, too?"

"I can't, Marie." he said, wearily shaking his head. "I just miss you too much."

"Oh, sugah," Marie said, hugging him again. "I miss you, too. I wish I could still be here. I worry about you. You, Anna and Mike."

"Don't worry, darlin'. I'll take care of them."

Marie looked at him with a wry grin, "You promise?"

"Yeah," Logan replied, choking up as he whispered, "I promise."

Marie looked up, head cocked to one side as if she was listening to something he couldn't hear. "I have to go."

"No," he begged, despair filling his voice.

"I have to, Logan. It's time for you to wake up."

"Will I see you again?" he asked desperately.

"Absolutely," Marie replied, a smile brightening her features until she shone with radiance. "Not for a long time, but I'm good at waiting for you."

"I love you, darlin'."

"And I love you too, sugah. See ya later."

Logan woke in their bed, clutching her pillow to his chest. The smell of Marie surrounded him in the empty room, and even though it still saddened him, it comforted as well. He could hear Mike already up and watching cartoons in the living room. He and Anna'd be wanting breakfast soon. It was time to get up and start fulfilling his promise to Marie.



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