The Funeral

Silken strands of white blow against the chestnut in the light wind. He wants to reach out and capture them, but she is fragile, emerald eyes breaking when they cannot soften.

"We are gathered here today..." 'Crawler opens with traditional, familiar phrases for those gathered around.

Carol's teammates, family, friends, the X-Men, the students who wish to support her, the students who just wish blessings on the recently departed. He has eyes only for her.

She hunches her shoulders. Her face is a study of confusion and tears. "Remy..."

He hears her soft whisper, permission, and finally draws her gently, tenderly into his embrace. She is so fragile.

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She clings to him, one hand gripping the front of his suit jacket, the other holding to the arm he has wrapped around her stomach. She leans against his strength at her back as she—no, not she, Carol—is lowered into the earth.

No... A horrified whisper uncurls from the back of her mind. No. It can't be. I can't be.

I'm alive, her own mind whispers. I'm Rogue. I'm...

Her minds struggle within her and it is her face in that casket. She struggles, holds to him holding her.

I can't be dead.

"I'm alive," she whispers low, so low he should not hear it, but he does.

He holds her closer, breathes warmth against her ear. "Rogue," he whispers.

She hears her name. She is Rogue. She takes comfort in this firm reminder of who she is and who she is not. He is someone that belongs wholly to her, for Carol cannot touch it and Pulse can never give her anything she desires. For a moment, she is entirely herself, lost within his touch, his scent, the gentle murmur of his voice reminding. Her strength is not that strength. She does not feel the urge to fly.

It never lasts. The dark cover is over the casket, and Carol's voice is pleading.

It can't be. Please! I can't be dead.

Frantic as the earth is spread over her—not hers, but Carol's—casket. She closes her eyes, but she cannot fight the voice. It washes over her, becomes her.

I'm alive! I'm right here! I'm not in there. I'm here! I can fly.

Carol cannot accept, and so neither can she.

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Emerald eyes break into silent tears. He wishes so badly he could do more than hold her, touch her, keep her anchored. Somehow, she's slipping out of his grasp, and he does not know how to help her.

And somehow this wind of Storm's—or at least, that she is allowing—seems right as it tosses about the silky strands of white, blowing against the chestnut. This is her moment. They're here for her, doing this for her. She's opening her eyes and desperately holding him tighter.

She is so fragile.

He gently, tenderly reaches for those silken strands of white and captures them.