shallowness: Movieverse Rogue leaning against a blank wall. (Rogue X-Men Films)
[personal profile] shallowness
Title: Turned into gold in the sunlight
Author: shallowness
Fandom: X-Men (movieverse)
Rating: PG.
Characters/Pairing: Scott/Rogue (mentions of Rogue/Bobby and Scott/Jean).
Word count: 3,395.
Summary: Saying goodbye reveals some things to Marie.

Disclaimer: None of the characters are mine, and I make no profit from this fan-written fiction.
Author's Note: The title was inspired by Florence and the Machine’s ‘Raise it up’. Written for the prompt ‘Experiments’ as part of Everyfandomfest(although I missed the date and wasn’t able to post a link there, so I don’t know how to reach the person who asked for this prompt). With big thanks to FridayAngel, Pyroblaze 18 and Aphrodite_mine for beta reading this; all errors and idiocies are my fault. The story is set after the events of X2.


Turned into gold in the sunlight: shallowness


It’s Rogue’s last full day at the Mansion, and she’s been working through her list of things to do. She comes downstairs and asks Piotr to write out her parents’ address on a reinforced envelope. He hesitates, looks at her searchingly, but does it without pressing her for an explanation. It's nearly two years and she still isn't sure whether they would throw away an envelope addressed to them in her handwriting. Both paranoid and sentimental, Marie wants them to have this picture, proof that she’s safe and well, and that she graduated from school.

Carrying the sealed envelope, she weaves her way through the Mansion. There’s less noise than would be usual this late in the afternoon, as a lot of kids have already left for the summer. There’ll always be those who‘ve had to make their home here, and the X-Men who stay and take care of them. One or two people are upstairs, packing as Rogue has been doing all day. For most, there’s no timetable and nothing arranged, just the whole summer to enjoy. Most of Rogue’s graduating class — Jubilee, Piotr, Bobby and Kitty — are at a loose end. She hasn't seen the last two, and assumes they found something to do together. It's an assumption she’s been making more and more over the past few weeks, and it’s months since she had a right to care.

The afternoon sun is golden and hazy through the windows. She hasn't been out all day, as packing turned into clearing out and tidying. For a girl who came here with only what she wore, she’s accumulated plenty — clothes that speak of the changing style of your average teenager with confidence issues who’s also a mutant with dangerous skin. She sighs. She’s mostly done, having filled a small case and a bag of what she thinks she will need. What she wants to leave is folded away more neatly than it’s ever been before.

She heads for her car, telling herself that when she’s put the envelope away there, she’ll take a last stroll in the garden. She can’t face taking the bags out of her room until she has to.

“Oh,” she gasps. She wasn’t expecting to find Scott Summers seated in the front of her car.

He hears the noise and leans out, half-turning to greet her, his sunglasses glinting red in the sunlight descending through the high windows of the garage. His smile seems rueful.

“What are you doing?” she demands, not sure what’s going on or how she feels about seeing Scott Summers, in his version of casual, coming out of her car, caught in the middle of doing something.

He raises his hands pacifyingly. “I'm making sure you’ll be in touch.”

“Of course I will. I have everyone’s numbers programmed into my cell, and anyway, if anything big goes down, the Professor can find me through Cerebro—oh.” She gasps in anticipation and rushes towards her car. “Am I gettin’ one? One of those communicators for the team?”

Grinning, he steps back, giving her enough space to pass him to go in and see his work, but not more than he’d give anyone else. It’s a small thing, one that she’s noticed peripherally as she’s got to know Cyclops, but his comfort with her has always helped her comfort levels around him. But as soon as she’s in her car, her attention is all for the communicator, nested in its cradle on her car’s dashboard, with its protective casing open. It's surreal, unbelievable to see an object that belongs on the jet or in one of the real X-men’s hands there, in her car.

“I wanted to clean up the mess before you saw it,” Cyclops says, after opening the passenger door, and Rogue sees the pieces of the dashboard he cut out and the dust that’s all over her car. It doesn’t dent her excitement. Her eyes keep darting back to the communicator. He moves his toolbox to the floor so that he can sit to her right and Rogue smells the evidence that he used the soldering iron on top of the toolbox. “It wasn't the easiest installation job.”

“The car is old enough that cell phones were science fiction when she was built,” Rogue says, stroking the dash, her gloved hands heading towards the new addition as if she needs solid reassurance that this isn't a trick her brain’s playing on her. Despite the smell, everything seems to fit well.

“You could have got a new car. The Professor would have—“

“He's given me enough. Besides, this baby’ll be less conspicuous, and I need all the help I can get to pass as your average girl.” She picks up the communicator and flips it open. “Is this operational?”

“Try it and see,” Cyclops all but smirks, and she throws him an amused look in the midst of her excitement.

“This is Rogue. Does anyone copy? Over.” In the following second of silence, she feels like she's been caught playing a children's game. She stares straight forward at the garage wall.

“Rogue? I hear you. It was successful, then! Scott made it work? Good.” Hearing Kurt’s voice makes her smile wider.

“Yup, he did,” Rogue says. “I’m reading you loud and clear. Over and out.” She switches it off and turns to Cyclops. “So who else apart from you and Kurt knew about this? Did everyone?”

She knows she’s almost attacking him, but dammit, it’s her car for her vacation trip. They could have asked. He doesn’t seem fazed.

“No, the Professor and I agreed you should have one in case…something came up. I only told Kurt this morning because he’s monitoring channels and I needed to check that it would work.”

Rogue frowns.

“I didn’t know we had someone monitoring things. Is there trouble? I thought the politicians were on holiday and Magneto’s being quiet.”

“Exactly. Don’t worry, we’re just being careful. Over-careful, maybe. You probably won’t need to use this at all.”

“You’re not holding out on me?” she asks anyway, scared that, despite all the hours she’s spent in the Danger Room, learning to fly on the X-jet and in simulation, she’s still not proved herself to the real X-men. After all, her power is to steal someone else’s. What control she’s developed has only been in absorbing a mutation more cleanly. She still wears her gloves, wary of accidental contact.

Picking up on her anxiety, his voice is firm—the ‘You have to trust me, I'm Cyclops’ voice. “We’re not. I just wanted this to be a surprise. A good one.”

It’s her turn to hear doubt in his voice.

“It was. It’s great—the best leaving present.” Her gaze moves down to the communicator. “It shows that you guys care.”

She hears him exhale, and she freezes. Of course they care. She belongs. She isn’t running away this summer, not like Logan, who still comes and goes, leaving Marie tongue-tied at his grief and anger and further and further away from the girl who believed she could break through his barriers. Maybe it didn’t work out for her and Bobby, but she trusts him just like Ororo and Kurt. Then there’s the Professor, who suggested that the man sitting beside her teach her to fly. She hadn't wanted to sit in the pilot's chair ever again, but reason fought and won out over fear. If she had known what she'd been doing at Alkali Lake, she would have landed the jet safely and Jean wouldn't have sacrificed herself. She too would have been carried away safe.

But before her first lesson, Rogue was fresh from a nightmare where Nightcrawler hadn't stopped her fall and wishing hard she hadn’t agreed to the lessons. Still, she went underground to stand next to Scott.

Scott’s reasons for not re-entering the jet were more powerful than hers, but he led her in. She followed him up the stairs all the way into the cockpit. His voice stayed steady as he talked her through the names of the dials, buttons and gauges and what everything did. She hadn’t taken much in that day, but she hadn’t broken down and they both came back for another lesson. He had to repeat most of what he’d said in the first lesson, but never commented on it. He didn’t seem to notice that for a while, she found doing up the belt nerve-wracking either. She couldn’t tell when she had first done it without fumbling.

The next time she flew solo, after all the lessons she’d had, she knew what she was doing, but it struck her as dumb that she couldn’t drive, so she asked him to teach her that too. Being Scott Summers, the lessons also involved emergency maneuvers and repairs to both car and jet. She thought about billing him for the damage to her gloves, and when she told him so, he smiled. She’d felt a glow run through her, but assumed it was just relief that she’d been able to make him smile.

Those one-on-one lessons weren’t the only time Cyclops, the team leader, had been teaching her. She and the others ‘wannabes’ had sessions in the Danger Room that made Rogue, at least, wonder whether she was crazy for thinking she could be one of the X-men or could even help. For a while, it was mainly Storm and sometimes Logan who took these sessions. When they’d heard that Cyclops was back on the roster, Jubilee and Piotr had thought their training might get easier. Marie wasn’t so sure; she knew that if Cyclops was ever going to okay their getting the suits permanently, he’d have to be damn sure they were up to it.

The first session he took was grim. He was in charge in a simulation involving a young mutant girl who’d just come into her power, she was scared, unpredictable and causing havoc in a densely populated area. Oh, and her power seemed to be pretty much the same as Pyro’s. Cyclops asked for suggestions as to how they were going to get her out safely and demolished most of them. Rogue stayed quiet. He gave orders for them to move in, she, Kitty, Bobby and Jubilee were meant to be causing a distraction while Piotr and Scott came from behind to subdue and take away the girl. She and Kitty were mostly back-up for Jubilee and Iceman. And then people started shooting at them and the comms went down. It felt like a nightmare. Jubilee hot-wired a car to get them away, while Rogue tried to get in touch with the other two.

“…Cyclops, report status. Can you hear me? We’re in a vehicle, getting’ away…Answer me!”

“…What? Get out now. You and Kitty have to phase the others out. Now.” Rogue knew the others had heard, even as she dropped the comm unit to take off her glove. Kitty was seated behind her, and not-quite flinching.

“You heard him. You take Bobby, I’ll take Jubilee.” Rogue said hurriedly and loudly, not knowing what she was doing only that it was orders and so she had to.

As soon as Rogue let her go, Kitty seemed to sway towards Bobby before pushing him through the metal frame of the moving vehicle. Taking a deep breath, Rogue grabbed for Jubilee with her still-gloved left hand and concentrated on getting out, trusting that the borrowed mutation would work. The consistency of the metal felt like water, but it was all so fast, and they were rolling on to the floor, coming to a rest when the car blew up.

A few seconds later, the simulation was over. Jubilee had thanked her shakily, and it was that and Scott’s “Good work, Rogue,” that Rogue tried to focus on when she remembered Kitty and Bobby’s silent, freaked reaction. Even after the debriefing session, it had felt natural to sit with Scott at supper. By dessert, Rogue had managed to ask jokingly if he’d had to program for the car to blow up. She noticed that he’d been about to react in instructor mode, but, at the last minute, he’d said,

“Of course I did, it was a crossover sport van.”

“Oh well, then, I completely understand.” She’d answered in kind.

It hadn’t been the last time she’d sat with just him at supper. She didn’t realize it was becoming habitual until Logan commented. But she didn’t stop –Scott always made her feel welcome, glad that some days weren’t days for jokes, days when they both knew that the gloves and visors felt like weights, and if they tried to express that to anyone else, they’d try to make them feel better.

She’d asked Scott for advice on where to buy her car. He’d come with her, admitting that he’d mainly been thinking about impressing Jean when he’d brought his first wheels.

“I’m just thinking about what can take me up to Alaska and back,” Marie said.

“I know. No thought of fuel efficiency or what kind of engine you need. First-time car buyers.” Despite his words, Scott had approved of her choice, giving her a half smile and a nod when she’d said she’d made her choice.

For most of the journey back to the Mansion that evening, Marie had been dreaming of the next week, when her very own car would be delivered. But as she saw familiar landmarks, she roused enough to break the silence and say, “I’m sure she was impressed. Jean. By the wheels. And the fact that you wanted to make a good impression.”

It was her way of thanking him, for the day and for opening up to her. She didn’t think he’d volunteered much to anyone about Jean since losing her. She still doesn’t.

Marie had decided she was going away on her ‘adventure’ long before telling anyone about it. That was why she’d wanted her own car, instead of sharing a newer model with her friends. When she started talking about her plans to really see Alaska, Jubilee and Kitty had tried to talk her out of it. They wanted to spend the summer together, but she’d held out. Then she had had to spend most of an evening persuading Bobby that the vacation wasn’t about either him or Logan. That same week, Scott had bought her a map—and, apparently, discussed how she’d keep in touch with the X-men with Professor Xavier.

When he’d given her the map, he’d asked her about an itinerary, but she’d told him that she was going to take it day by day. His jaw had tightened, but he’d only offered to tune up the car, which she wasn’t doing as she was concentrating on graduating. She told him he didn't need to, asking him why he didn't trust the people that he'd recommended. He’d answered that you couldn't be too careful in a voice that made her say thank you nicely.

Here and now, she realizes that Scott’s been lost in thought too.

“I’ll be back in time for fall. Or if the Brotherhood or anyone causes any trouble, you can get in touch and I'll come back.” She taps the communicator.

“I know.”

“And then I’ll be staying here, just going to the campus for lectures with Jubilee and the others.” She has no idea why she’s babbling about her college plans, which he already knows. “I’ll be back in time for supper most days.”

“It’s okay, Marie,” he says. She glances at him quickly, then looks away. Never able to see his eyes, she’s always relied on Scott's body language and voice to read him; she’s suddenly sure that they’re in new territory and that it’s because she’s going to be saying goodbye, something she deliberately left to last with everyone, but especially him. And she’s run out of time.

“When you were with Bobby, I always wondered something,” he says in a conversational tone. The unexpectedness of his words pulls her eyes up to scan his face.

“What?” she asks.

“If he’d ever thought of trying this,” and he reaches towards the cotton scarf wound around her neck with his exposed hands. She stills, but time and his hands carry on. He pulls the light material up, until the lower half of her face is covered. He smiles, and she sees her wide eyes reflected in the red lenses of his glasses.

Covered by the scarf, the pads of his fingers hold it in place. At the pressure on her cheeks, jaw and neck, she gasps, her eyes fluttering in surprised hope. He doesn’t make her wait long, his lips seeking hers through the material. She closes her eyes reflexively, but she wants to wait, keep her wits about her, because if the pull comes, she’ll have to keep her eyes closed and move away, but desire, unacknowledged until now, makes it the most natural thing in the world for her lips to respond. He deepens the kiss and it isn’t like Bobby, isn’t like other people’s memories in her mind. She’s shuddering at the intensity.

He pulls back slightly and the sound of his breathing, hers and her heartbeat are so loud to her. His hands are still warming her neck. She opens her eyes and smiles because her scarf worked as a barrier, and this man, who’d made his way back from despair, was willing to try this experiment to kiss her.

“Well, okay,” she says, somewhat breathily. It’s a dumb, nothingish thing to say, but it proves she still has a voice and this is real.

“Okay?” he teases.

“Very, very okay, sugar,” she drawls, mainly for play, but a part of her wonders if he likes the accent. Wondering if she could pin him down and get him to tell her what he likes about her, so she could tell him too. “You?”

“Oh, I’m doing fine,” he says, his thumb moving to sweep across her lower lip. The scarf is damp and she’d blush if she wasn’t flushed already. Then she feels him tense and his voice loses its playfulness. “I wasn’t planning on any of this. I mean—when I said I wondered, it was a stray thought back then. Curiosity. And even if it’s something I’ve been wondering more about lately, I never meant to put pressure on you today or—I was just wondering how I could tell you that I wanted you to come back.”

“Message received loud and clear,” she says quickly, wanting to keep it light before he starts worrying. “And I will come back in the fall, and we’ll...pick up from here and see where we end up. Okay, Scott?”

It’s the first time she’s said his first name to his face. She lifts a hand to cover one of his.

“Okay?” she repeats.

He’s silent for a little while and she wishes she had sight of his eyes. She doesn’t want him to regret this or to feel guilty about Jean, and she’s sure she wants to try out some more experimenting with him, no-one else, but she wants him to feel the same way.

“Very, very okay,” he says, and she trusts his word and the fact that his hands have stayed firmly where they are. So, for now, she’s the one who lets him go, lowering her own hand. He mimics her, taking his hands away and she rearranges the scarf a little awkwardly.

“I should tidy up your car,” he says, nudging a piece of dashboard with his foot. She looks down at the gearstick they leaned over and the mess all over her car, all of which she’d managed to forget.

“Yeah, that would be good. Er, I’m going to take a walk,” she responds very quickly, nervous but determined, because she isn’t staying tomorrow and it wouldn’t be fair to pretend that she is. Besides, a walk in the garden will be a chance to cool down, to take in that when she comes back her life could change more than she’d expected. She looks back at Scott before exiting the garage, not surprised that he’s gone straight back to his self-imposed task, not blaming him for staying concentrated to acknowledge her. Later, she tells Jubilee that she never noticed how beautiful the gardens are before.

Fin.

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