Where the Raven Flies

Taking out Gyrich is too easy. Raven's kind enough to leave him alive—if unconscious. SHIELD doesn't like it when her targets end up dead. She is just stepping out, adjusting his earpiece, when she's blasted by a raging inferno in her mind. Streams of information, memory, and thought roar through her skull.





She curses, but not aloud. She's one of few agents that refuses to outwardly respond under core dump.

I'm not pleased, Raven snaps, knowing full well Phoenix has yet to leave.

A moment's hesitance, a lull in the outpour, then a final summary and report. Sage thought I should hit you while asleep. Small mental smirk and an exit.

Raven curses again.


potential - can't actually find this bit


Irene frowned slightly, her blind eyes yet showing faint worry. "Raven, I do not think this is the right time for you to go," she said from the doorway.

Raven did not bother to glance up from her packing. "Your visions were quite clear, weren't they?" Her tone was sharp, allowing that only such a reason could deter her.

But Irene came forward and, stepping between Raven and her suitcase, sat down lightly on the bed beside it.

Raven stopped, leaned back, and slid both hands to her hips. "What is it?"

Irene did not do such things without a purpose. She did not get this thoughtful frown. No, she was always so calm and knowing.

"She's the key to everything, Destiny," Raven said, leaning forward, putting a hand to the other woman's shoulder. "No one else will rescue her.

"She is key, it's true," Irene allowed, "but I have seen things for you if you go. I am afraid you will not come back to me."

Raven frowned.


An anti-mutant crowd cheers at Senator Kelly as he gets out of his limousine and into a helicopter. Inside, he talks to someone about the vote on the Mutant Registration Act. The man sitting next to him, Agent Henry Gyrich suggests that he will speak in the UN summit, as the whole world will be watching. Kelly says that he is only worried about America, not the rest of the world, and that if it were up to him, he would lock all mutants away. He looks outside the window and sees the ocean. He gets confused and wonders there they are, as Gyrich morph to the true form of a blue-skinned woman – the shape-shifter, Mystique – another of Magneto's minions. Kelly is terrified, and for a good reason. Mystique easily defeats him and angrily tells him that people like him are the reason she was afraid to go to school as a child. She then kicks him until he is knocked out cold, and goes to sit next to the pilot – Toad. They fly to Magneto's base.


Sage, etc.


Report from Phoenix or Sage:

In Westchester, Jean is running tests on Logan. He apologizes for hurting her earlier. Later, Jean explains to Professor X, Cyclops and Storm her findings about Wolverine – a supposedly indestructible metal called adamantium is attached to his entire skeleton. Ororo asks how could he have survived a procedure like that, and Jean explains that his mutation is a healing factor, which also makes his age impossible to determine – he could very well be older than the professor. Xavier asks who did this to him, and she says that he does not know, nor does he remember anything that happened before it. Xavier explains that it must have been experimentation on mutants. Cyclops asks him what does he thinks Magneto wants with him, and Xavier says that he's not entirely sure that it's him Magneto wants.


In Magneto's base, Kelly is tied to a chair. Mystique, Sabretooth and Toad are standing in the dark room too, hardly moving. A bug flies by, and Toad immediately shoots out his long tongue to catch it, much to Kelly's disgust. Magneto enters and tells the senator that Toad has a wicked tongue, just like him. He asks them who they are and where Henry is, and Magneto answers that Mr. Gyrich has been dead for quite some time and Mystique has been impersonating him in the mean time. Kelly tells them that if they will hurt him, they will only prove him right, but Magneto does not seem to care. He tells Kelly that he is only afraid of him and his Brotherhood because he doesn't understand mutants, but he has no reason to fear him – not anymore. He steps into some sort of a big tall machine. Kelly asks him what is he going to do to him, and Magneto tells him that God works too slow. He then starts the machine, and it starts using his magnetic power, creating some sort of a field around him, which then grows bigger and spreads past Kelly and the Brotherhood members. Both Magneto and Kelly are obviously in pain from the process and scream. At once, the field grows small again until it goes out.


Unseen Witness

He remembers when he'll kiss her and hold her in his arms for the first time. "You promised." "I kep' m' promises." He remembers her, the taste of her, the sigh of defeat in her eyes as she surrenders to him willingly.

The True Phoenixes

“Our passions are the true phoenixes; when the old one is burnt out, a new one rises from its ashes.” ~ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Dat's de diff'rence between you and me, Phoenix. You make dem do it. I make dem want it. You manipulate. I persuade. De diff'rence between influence and control. In de end, de only person she'll 'ave t' blame is herself.

You mislead her.

Didn't. I tol' her dere's a price t' pay for control, and control is de only t'ing I promised her.

The Phoenix Hope

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The Worst Rogue

"The informer is the worst rogue..." ~ unknown

"What are ya doin' in here?"

"At de moment, enjoyin' de incredible view."

...kisses on stomach


"Raven sent de job over."

"Ya can look but ya can't touch, Witness."

"And yet y' let me touch y'."

"Only when Ah'm feelin' generous."

"What are y' so afraid o'?"

"Ah'm not afraid."

"Dat right?"

"Don't touch, Witness." ... "Ya ever think ya push too hard?"

"Maybe you do."

"Ah said, don't touch."

"Oui. Y' did." ... "Y' know, your hair never did absorb. Dis ain't touch, c'est vrai?"

"What makes ya so confident that Ah want ya?"

"What makes y' so confident that y' don't?"

"Don't touch, Witness." ... "What's the job from Raven?"

"What do y' t'ink?"

"Ah'll do it."

"You're sellin' your soul, chère."

"Is that raght?"

Bearing Witness

"Remy. Please don't."


"Please go. Ah need to think."

"Every time y' t'ink, y' get farther and farther away."


"Y' ever t'ink dat maybe you'll push too hard and end up all alone in dere?"
Story Summary: How dark the mind when absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Canonical Notes: Set one year after Finding Omega and sometime around X3. AU

Acknowledgements: Current inspiration comes heavily from Spikey44, Ludi, and all the lovely reviewers of Carnal and Going Omega.
Story Summary: The Omega Team infiltrates the X-Men with a new target and terrible consequences.

Canonical Notes: Set one year after Going Omega and sometime around X2. AU

Acknowledgements: Current inspiration comes heavily from Spikey44, Ludi, and all the lovely reviewers of Carnal and Going Omega.

No Witnesses

She'll be beautiful.

White hair will flow around her face, framing pale silken cheeks, full pink lips, flashing emerald eyes. The rest of her hair, shiny chestnut, will be pulled back in a loose chignon. Her strappy dress will be green, short, hugging the curves of her body, showing off the long, slim legs, the stiletto heels. She'll wear opera gloves. White.

"Chèrie," he'll whisper close against her and she'll shiver. She won't notice him approach until he's there, standing behind her, one hand trailing down her side to trace the curve of her hip.

But she'll smile dangerously up at him, leaning back to give him the full view of her full lips, her high cheekbones, the faint blush across them. "Witness."

He'll want to kiss her, but he won't. Instead, he'll order her another drink, whatever she's having, and pay for it.

She'll let him.

They'll dance, hip to hip, thigh to thigh, holding her close so their bodies whisper together with her warmth pressed up against him, moving rhythmically in time with the beat of the music. The lights will be dim in the club and it'll be all too easy for the world to shrink to her and him, the time and sound of their breaths mingling together, the feel of her heat, the scent of her perfume, like faint sweet magnolias, and the burning of more than just mutation or even desire.

He'll want her more powerfully than he ever wanted a woman, and he'll touch her in every place she allows, holding her, caressing her, murmuring sweet nothings against her soft white and chestnut hair, so beautiful.

Then the moment will be over, all business again, as he'll force himself to draw away from his feelings and into his job. He'll keep touching her, but the movement will have a different quality, a different meaning, as he draws out the word, "Chère?"

She'll turn just enough to whisper her warm sweet breath against him. "Ah'll do it."

She won't be talking about sex.

The streets of New Orleans had seen their share of urchins and tyrants wandering about among the restless crowds of tourists every year. But the small, lithe form darting in and out of the celebrants of Mardi Gras had his own qualities, unique from those who had come before. He was a scrawny thing, not much to look at, thin and wiry, a mop of auburn hair falling into his eyes and hiding the look of hunger and cunning on his young face. He wore little more than tatters but carried himself with a confident air. He wove in and out of shadow, like a shadow himself, mostly invisible in the easy way he traversed the crowd. He never seemed to touch any of the milling tide of humanity, never made himself significant, never even stopped to beg for a penny or a treat. He was quiet, unnoticed.

Or so he thought.

The crowd parted around him and he slid easily along. He was one of the best. It was nothing to him, like breathing. He took. Wallets, change purses, cell phones, cards, golden watches, silver watches, cash stuffed into pockets. He took because no one ever gave, because he was a street rascal with no other option, because he was a thief.

He paused next to a street corner and leaned against the back of a bench, casually surveying the world around him. His city, La Belle Ville de la Nouvelle-Orléans, his home.

The revelers of Mardi Gras seethed around him, filling the streets and the square. A small, black-haired girl sat perched up on a wall on the other side, affording her a good view, almost as good as his. Pigeons and swallows fought over fallen scraps or lined the corners of the rooftops. A pair of well-to-do men swaggered through the middle of the square.

The boy flashed a grin and vanished into the sea of people. He had a target, a mark.

He never knew that he was theirs.

He sits at a bar, tapping his thumb against the counter. Smoke roils around him and the scent of alchohol and sweat coats the air. A thrumming beat pounds in his ears and his blood. People are dancing to the music, close, hot. He occasionally touches the shot of bourbon on the counter in front of him, turns it with his finger, feeling the molecules glow with heat and then fall back to their state of "rest." His gaze never wavers from its focus on the door. He's waiting for somebody, as anyone can surmise. But they cannot see his eyes. He wears dark, black shades.

He's had a few approaches, girls that think he's out for a night on the town, for sex, for forgetting. They take one look at the bourbon, the long, unruly auburn hair that brushes his collar, the lean muscle showing through the shirt beneath his coat, the shades. It doesn't hurt that he's handsome and confident with a cocky smirk that takes in the world and gives as good as he gets. They think he's there for them.

He isn't.

"Penny for your thoughts?" The bartender is a pretty little thing, redhead, long legs beneath her mini, bright strawberry breath in the middle of all this alcohol and common swill.

Witness barely glances at her. He's waiting for purest white against the brown, green eyes that sparkle like gemstones, glitter like water, dance like flame.

"Non." He lifts the shot glass to his lips and pours back the bourbon. It burns against the back of his throat and settles with a familiar dullness in his stomach. He has drunk for longer than he could drive. This is nothing.

"Waiting for someone?" the girl persists.

He doesn't even glance her way this time. He's staring at the door, at the quiet, dark-haired girl walking through it, wrapped up in her long coat and peering out from beneath the hood. The eyes are green, if frightened. But what stops him is the flash of white that isn't there, the pristine strands to frame the face.

No matter.

He drops his money on the counter and leaves the bartender, who sighs but says nothing at all. He is casual in his approach, simply snagging her elbow and guiding the girl away from the rowdier side of the bar. She looks up at him, startled and shy as a deer. She's skittish. Her eyes glance away.

She drawls softly, "Who are ya?"

Witness blinks in surprise. Sage neglected to mention she was southern. He frowns and sorts through his memories of her.

She'll be beautiful.

"Ah'll do it."

She is southern. He shrugs. "Witness. Sit here." He directs her to a clean booth and settles across from her.

She eyes him warily but drops into the seat. "Whah should Ah trust ya?" she asks, even while removing her long gloves and laying them on the table beside her. She pulls over a menu ringed with residue from all the wet glasses ever set atop it.

He raises both eyebrows and leans back. "Who says y' should?"

She glances up sharply. "Cajun, are ya? Hmm." She peruses the menu.

"Why so covered up?" he asks, curious.

Her eyes darken and she looks away again. This time, one slender hand comes up to tuck a wayward strand of chestnut hair behind her ear. He is fascinated by the sight, by the dark brown color.

She shrugs, returns her gaze to him, and smiles. "It's Alaska."

It's an excuse, but Witness isn't about to call her on it. "Pick somethin' yet?" He indicates her menu.

She blows out a long sigh. "No."

"Try de special. It's bien." He chuckles at her perplexed frown. "Good. It's good."

"Oh." She smiles with him. "Okay then." She lifts her chin, and a tiny bit of the sparkle he remembers enters her eye. "And whiskey."

"Legal now?" He clucks at her in disapproval. "Dat'll be a Shirley Temple for the lady and de special," he says to the busboy that's been waiting almost out of view to take the order. He considers. "Anot'er bourbon for moi."

He looks back at the girl. She's crossed her arms over her chest and wears a pout.

"Y' look prettier when y' smile," he says.

Her eyes widen. Green, glittering like water, sparkling like gemstones, then dancing like flame. Her mouth sets. "Flirt," she accuses.

He chuckles. "Oui."

She doesn't quite know what to say to that. He sees the faintest hint of a smile tugging at her lips.

He stretches his arm across the table and brushes his gloved fingers against the ripple of mahogany near her face. She catches her breath and her eyes widen further. She holds very still.

"Your hair," he says. "It's brown." He drops his hand back to the table.

The light tension runs out of her, ended off with a toss of her brown hair. She smirks at him. "Last tahme Ah checked, sugah."

He shrugs, as if it doesn't matter, but he's frowning inside.

He'll touch her hair, running his fingers through it in fascination with the white strands sliding over the smooth, silky hollow of her neck. He'll kiss her there where the white bathes her ivory skin. She'll make a small sound in the back of her throat that just makes him want to kiss her again.

Now isn't the time.

Witness shakes his head thoughtfully, staring at his hand against the table. It's close to hers. Two fingers have been cut off and are dangerously close to the pale slender hand in front of him. She notices. She draws away.

Her eyes dart nervously over the bar, taking in the boisterous crowd, the heavy scent of drunks and smokers, the vague tantalizing aroma of food. They stop on his. She doesn't seem to be breathing out.

"Let me see yahr eyes," she says, abruptly almost.

He cocks his head at her, a small smirk quirking his mouth upward. He obliges, removing and pocketing the shades. She sucks in her breath, but does not turn away.

He knows what she sees, the blazing ring of bloody color circling the dark pupil in the night darkness of his eyes. Crimson on black. The auburn hair falls forward into his eyes as he leans toward her.

"What d' y' t'ink?"

Something flickers in the depths of emerald pools. She closes her mouth, then licks her lips as she tilts her head appraisingly. "Beautiful," she says. Suddenly, she drops her gaze to her hand still on the table. She curls her fingers loosely, then flattens her palm against the hard surface and looks up. "You're a mutant."

"Oui." Another shrug. "Dat a problem?"

She hesitates on the answer. "Whah are ya buyin' me food?"

"Y' looked hungry." He chuckles. "Y'd have t' be t' come in here."

"It's the only place in town," she replies drily.

He raises both eyebrows and gives her his most playful grin. "Y' call dis a town?"

Her shoulders convulse and shake. Her head drops forward and she lifts one hand to her mouth, stifling a laugh. The action has brought a bright flush of color into her cheeks and a sparkle into her eyes. Something inside him tightens.

Now is not the time, he realizes yet again. Part of him shrugs off the inevitable consequences he'll have to face. The other seethes at Raven's assignment. The bartender's arrival saves him from an outward reaction.

"There you go, darling," the girl says, dropping the plate of potatoes and vegetables in front of his companion.

She looks up, one hand tightening on her gloves. "Thank ya," she drawls.

The bartender nods curtly, turns and offers him a winning smile as she gives him his bourbon, and sashays back to the counter.

He shakes his head. Any night but tonight.

The girl across from him fixes him with an intent gaze. "Sure are friendly folks around here," she says leadingly, tracing a finger around the rim of her plate. Her green eyes darken and deepen.

He looks her over slowly, appreciatively, imagining the body he knows is beneath those thick layers of clothing. A faint blush stains her cheeks as he appraises her. His lips curve in a slow, languid smile. "Y're prettier dan dey are, chère."

Her mouth forms an 'o' and the soft pink hue that settled beneath her skin flames into a dark shade of rose. She glares at him. "So is that whah they're all looking at me lahke they want to off me somehow?"

He chuckles and shrugs at her before lifting his glass and sipping the bourbon.

She grumbles something under her breath and takes her first bite of food. Her eyebrows draw together and a slight frown puckers her mouth. She chews thoughtfully and swallows. "Not bad."

He studies the small details, the delicate curve of her jaw, the high cheekbones, somewhat haughty, the finely arched brows, the way her long, slender fingers flex like playing the piano. He imagines what else they could play so well.

She picks up a napkin and wipes her mouth, then very deliberately folds the napkin over once, then over again and tucks it beneath the edge of her plate. She plants her elbows on the table, drawing a grin from him at the flaunting of manners, and clasps her hands beneath her chin. She then proceeds to regard him brazenly, eyes ablaze with interest as her gaze wanders over him. She starts at the tabletop level, gliding gradually up his chest and arms, then giving the most thorough of inspections to his face.

He leans back and enjoys her consideration.

Finally, with apparent satisfaction, she resumes her meal and doesn't bother to glance his way again.

He allows her the opportunity to eat. On a journey like hers--"running," what else could you call it?—a place to rest, something to eat, maybe a bit of companionship are small, but necessary comforts. He waits until she is halfway through her plate before he speaks again.

"Where y' headed?"

Her head pops up and he chuckles at the open surprise in her open gaze. "Whah would Ah tell ya that?" she asks, neither demanding nor surrendering. The surprise outweighs all else.

"Jus' wonderin'."

Witness knows the art of silence and he wields it effectively on her, turning slightly to survey the bar as he drinks his bourbon. He can see her perk up further out of the corner of his eye and the slight furrowing of the brow that indicates her perplexed wonder. She looks out over the crowd with him, as if wondering what has drawn his attention. Finally, she blows out a breath in annoyance and tosses back her chestnut hair again.

The lack of white bothers him. Shouldn't he remember this moment?

He turns to her with a smile and gestures at her plate. "Y' done?"

"Who are ya, Witness?" she asks, demanding for real this time, no longer content with the stolen moments of peace that come from the company of a stranger.

He studies her, making no secret of his thorough evaluation. He sees none of the signs he's looking for, nothing familiar to guide him.

"Ah'll do it," she'll say.

And he wonders what it is that gives him pause. He gives her a sidelong stare.

"So y' trust me now, hein?"

A frown troubles her expression, then smooths away. She sips on her Shirley Temple. "Do ya promise not to lah?" she asks, a soft, coy tone, a drawing away of the eyes.

He nods his assent. "I promise I'll neve' lie t' y'. But it'll be up t' y' t' listen. Too many people jus' hear."

She frowns again and sets down the glass.

"Ninety percen' o' evasion is lettin' de other person draw deir own conclusions an' not correctin' 'em when dey're wrong," he states matter-of-factly.

"Ah suppose that's true," she allows. "All raght. Ah'll listen."

He slides one ungloved finger across her uncovered hand. Instantly, she draws it back as if burned. Shaking, she reaches for her gloves. He stops her by laying the leather-clad palm of his hand across her fingers. She stares at him, eyes wide, hands trembling.

"What is it?" he asks, genuine concern softening his voice. He reaches out, looks deep into her eyes, overwhelming her slowly with his emanations of calm.

Slowly, so slowly, she quiets beneath him. Still, she swallows and glances about nervously as she admits, "Ah'm a mutant too."

He raises his eyebrows, as if he didn't know. He didn't know she was afraid. He catches her palm between both of his, and a helpless, panicked desperation shifts and dances within her eyes. Her body heat flares into an inferno, such terror and sweet fire at the awareness of his nearness. He feels the intensifying of her emotions and reaches to calm her again. He rubs her hand soothingly between his.

"Y're okay, chèrie," he whispers to her, focusing on maintaining eye contact, pouring comfort across the gap between them. "Not'in' bad is happenin'."

The heat in her goes cold, and it's too slippery to keep a hold on. "But it could," she whispers, eyes wide and dark with fear.

He shakes his head. "It won't."

She looks down at her hand, captured between his. Her next breath is a shuddering gasp. "Please, don't." Her eyes come back up to his.

He stills, tilts his head, reading her, then gently sets her hand back on the gloves.

She stares at it. A shiver runs down her and she hurriedly pulls on the gloves. "Ah just...it's not..." She stops, a faint flush of embarrassment spreading across her face. She doesn't look up. "Ah can't control it."

He gently places his hand beneath her chin, carefully avoiding direct contact skin to skin, and lifts it to see her face.

She's keeping her breath even, her face still with effort, not showing him the extent of her emotions.

"Y're not de only one," he says.

Something burned fiercely throughout his cells and rippled under his skin, like an alien within.

He dropped hard to the paved street with a sharp cry, agony ripping through his body, fiery and unrelenting. A man's face suddenly neared to his, hovering just above him. It was the well-to-do gentleman he'd been eyeing up for the pinch. Just a minute ago, he'd been feeling the rush of closing in on the prize, then a flash of dark hair in his eyes and this.

"Y' all right, fils?" the man asked, voice creased with worry and a thick Cajun accent that was only too familiar to the boy's ears. A heavy hand settled on his shoulder.

"It hurts," the boy whispered.

He tightened his embrace around himself and groaned as another wave of heat washed through him. He flinched as the man brushed back the auburn hair, revealing his eyes, those devil eyes that had earned him his pitiful life of thievery and hunger. He tried to turn away, but the man's grip was firm.

An accepting smile formed on the man's face. "I coul' take y' home, see if Tante Mattie coul' patch y' up?"

The boy could not believe the words. He stared into the man's eyes, searching for a lie. He only found sincerity. It scared him. "Home?"

"Where's it hurt?" He tried to lift the boy up, see his stomach where he clutched it so tightly.

The boy dropped his hands to the street to support himself.

It was a mistake.

"What do ya mean?" she asks, a brief look of confusion in her eyes.

Witness releases her chin, but she continues to look at him as he shrugs and leans back again, putting some distance between them.

"We all start out dat way," he says. "Out of control. It hurts, maudit. If not us, someone else." He doesn't tell her the story of his own period of gaining control. Too painful. Too full of betrayal. He wonders sometimes what would have happened if he hadn't hesitated, hadn't dropped his hands to the so easily chargeable ground.

She looks up sharply anyway. "Ya have control?" Disbelief colors her tone.

"Oui," he replies drily. "Comes wit' de territory. Control for service."

She stares at him, eyes troubled at his words. Service. She starts to speak, then thinks better of it and sips on her drink.

He waits patiently, knowing she will ask, that soon his work will be done. For now.

"What kahnd of service?"

His conscience doesn't even twinge, a fact he doesn't want to think about. "Mostly crime-fightin'. Intelligence." He shrugs. "Dey give y' control t' make y' useful."

Her finger wanders along the rim of her plate again. Her eyes stare into nothingness.

He aims carefully. "It's what dey specialize in," he says, all casual, then waves for the bill.

Her gaze snaps back to his. "Where are ya goin'?" she asks, suddenly panicked.

He chuckles. "Nowhere if y' want me t' stay." He eyes her up flirtatiously yet again and is rewarded with a shy, nervous expression and a flare of heat through her body.

"Do ya ever give up?" she demands in exasperation.

"Non." He grins at her unrepentantly.

The busboy comes back over and he pays for the bill before looking at her again, sober now.

"Mais, I do have t' be goin'. An old kitty cat t' meet up wit'," he says. A ripple of disgust curls up his lip, but he shakes his head and any thoughts of Sabretooth away. He focuses back on her. "Y' need somet'in' else?"

"Ya never told me who ya are," she says. Her voice is high. She has more to say. "How...do they help just anybody?"

Both eyebrows come up. "Non. Only de ones wit' some sort of talent and a lot o' power." He looks her over. "Y' might do."

She takes a deep breath. "And was mah meetin' ya here an accident, Witness?" She stares at him, her eyes clouded over in suspicion.

He laughs then. "Not'in' wit' de Witness ever is." He rises from his seat and drops a small card in front of her. It's a white cardboard rectangle with ten digits typed across the center. "De number if y' ever wan' t' call."

He doesn't give her a chance to really answer, just flips up the collar of his trench coat and starts toward the front door of the bar.

"Wait—" she starts to call out after him.

But he steps out into the Alaskan outdoors, letting the slamming door steal away her words.

Now isn't the time.

He holds out a playing card, the ace of spades, and lights it up with a brilliant pink glow. He grins with predatory anticipation.

"I see y', kitty-cat," he whispers to an image of two feral mutants fighting in the snow that only he can see. "I'm comin'."

Witness was a child when he fought Sabretooth first. Fourteen years old. The Omega Team had been assigned to stop Weapon X from destroying the target.

Raven chose well.

It was the only thing that could force him to go omega.

The target was a small, quiet village that had seen too much, known too much. Phoenix took the Silver Fox and the teleporter. Sage took the Deadpool and the other fellow, Zero.

Witness took Sabretooth.

He was sniffed out before he attacked. When he brought his bo staff down, the kitty cat was ready for him, grinning with malicious intent. He fought like an animal, a trait Witness had yet to appreciate.

He charged the beast's clothes. The beast regenerated and kept on coming.

He charged the feral's hair. The feral healed and kept on coming.

He charged the claws that found purchase in his body. He went down before those claws and stared up into the deathly eyes delighting in his death.

"Raise," he whispered.

Sabretooth didn't understand. Not until the fire burned through his very bones and his entire body exploded.

Witness thought he was going to die.

He didn't.

He has settled high up in a tree, ready and waiting for what he knows will come. Far in the distance, a truck is rattling down a long, winding road in the Alaskan wilderness, pulling a trailer behind it.

He fans out a brace of cards, reads their faces.

The king of hearts.

He'll pull himself out of the snow, his injuries healing over after being launched through the glass of his windshield. He'll stop, smelling the enemy. Claws will break through the skin.

Bleeding drops against the snow.

He'll fall beneath those clawed fingers, those bloody hands.

The two of clubs.

He'll change things. He always changes things.

Witness. Wheel of time. Spin the circle. Watch the blood red, sin black cards against the white. How will he make them fall?

"Do you have any idea what you're capable of?" Raven asked, will ask, has asked, will have asked.

What is time to him?

He'll pull himself bloody out of the snow, breathing through blood, seeing through red, claws in his flesh. He'll let the cells burn.

It'll be the only way to live.

The joker.

Kitty cat. "Here, kitty, kitty," he'll taunt the beast, the animal, the man, the feral who has lost his way so deep in primal instinct, hunger, wrath, what humanity is left? "Come to play?"

Who will the joke be on, hein?

Claws will tear his flesh. He'll find the dog tags. He'll live to see another day.

The queen of hearts.

She, her hair brown from crown to ends, she'll live.

He'll watch her fly away, black doors to the jet will shut.

The ace of spades.

Blood will spatter the snow. Red, crimson red, red as the devil, red as his eyes, against the pristine, pure white, as white as her perfect hair.

Whose will it be, that red, red crimson blood?

Dog tags will twirl at the edges of clawed fingers.

Scars will line his stomach, ripped again with bloody claws.

The girl will be safe then. She isn't the one. It's not yet time.

Somebody's going to die.

Who will die today?

Memory fades.

What is now, what is then, what is future?

Witness tightens his grip on the cards and lifts an ungloved finger to test the wind. It's blowing hard. He tilts his head into it, waiting. It shifts.

He charges the cards.

The boy tried to stand, gripping the ground to give him leverage.

It was a mistake.

A glowing red pool of color spread out slowly from his hands. Hot. Burning.

Someone swore and pulled the man back as he stared, wondering what was happening, why his hands hurt, why the world hurt and slowly began to pulsate in a red glow before his eyes.

The paved street beneath him was so hot. He pulled his hands away.

It exploded from beneath his feet. He was flung back in a pile of bleeding flesh and torn clothes. Agony wracked through his skin. He hit the ground, rolled into a bench. They both began to glow.

People backed away, screaming. All he could hear was the screaming. He pulled away from the bench.

His world exploded again.

A truck pulling a trailer rattles down the long, winding Alaskan highway. Witness watches from overhead until the tree falls across its path. The truck veers, crashes. A man flies through the glass windshield, shattering pieces into the surrounding area.

The wind picks up. A dark figure inside the truck is struggling.

It is cold, almost still.

Witness waits, watching his breath pour out into the thin air.

The feral's arm moves. The man pushes himself up onto his knees, his feet, staggering to a stand out of the snow. The glass and the fall has cut him with jagged edges. Dark red blood has pooled across his skin. It is rapidly disappearing as the feral wipes at it, like scratching an itch and calls out to the dark figure in the truck.

He stops, smelling the enemy. Claws break through the skin with a metallic ring.

Fire breaks out in the back of the trailer.

It is yet time.

The first attack. The choice is his to change the flow of time.

The two of clubs.

Clubs are for war.

The hands of the clock wound through his fist, pushing each other like cogs in the clockworks, driving each other like ticks in a race course. Wind it tighter, Witness; wind the hands of time.

He slams his bo staff into Sabretooth's back, drawing the man's--beast's—attention. Sabretooth drops the other feral and snarls at Witness before launching toward him.

Witness laughs. "Here, kitty," he taunts and charges the staff just as Sabretooth meets it with his body.

Snow begins to blow around them. The winds are changing. Fire from the trailer pours up to stain the sky with its orange glow. He knows she'll live. He focuses on the claws on Sabretooth's hands, the direction of his eyes, the smell of his fury.

The other feral is rising in the howling gale of snow.

Who will die today, homme? Tu? Moi?

Witness attacks the Sabretooth. It's charge and claws and burning across his skin. He's losing blood. He'll go down, won't he?

He'll be ripped again with bloody claws.

The feral's after the girl. Sabretooth has no time for anything but Witness. He charges his fur, his hair, the clothes on his back. Red glow burns over Sabretooth. Blue glow joins the red, running like electric currents.

Witness tastes the blood in his mouth. "Sure y' wan' t' play, kitty cat?"

Sabretooth growls and launches all his exploding body into Witness, sinking in his claws. The explosion rocks him, and he shoves the mangled corpse of the kitty cat off his body.

A black jet is howling in the background.

Blood spatters the white, white snow. Pure pristine. The color of his eyes. The color of her hair.

She does not see him. None of them see him as he wipes the blood from his mouth and begins to charge his cells, turning the ache into burning blue fire.

They're in the jet. The Blackbird flies.

Witness laughs.

"Kitty cat, y' died today," he gurgles through the blood, waiting for his cells to change, the skin to shift to fire, matter into energy. He burns, he changes, he witnesses.

Witness. Wheel of time. Spin the circle. Watch the blood red, sin black cards against the white. How will he make them fall?

He glances over at Sabretooth, already healing as he is. "Anot'er round?" He cocks an eyebrow and grins when he hears the answering growl.

She'll slam her fist down on the desk. "I gave you a direct order! How hard can it be for you to accomplish?" Raven's dark eyes will gleam with an inner flame and her red hair will fan down around soft, smooth blue skin.

He'll shrug, leaning his shoulder against the wall. He'll leave his hands in his pockets, resisting the urge to shuffle the cards together in his fingers.

"Witness." Her voice will carry a faint warning. He'll know that she'll make good on it.

"It wasn't time," he'll say nonchalantly, all casualness and the flash of an innocent smile. That smile will not reach his eyes.

Her eyes will flatten. Her tone will follow suit. "You witnessed it." She'll look at him, keenly evaluating.

He'll shrug again and push off the wall. "She'll come, Raven. Just bide your time." He'll turn to leave.

Raven's voice will give him pause, high, worried. "She could die!"

Sharply, he'll glance back, narrowing his demon-eyed gaze upon her. "Like you ever cared."

His powers were eating him from the inside out. He lay curled up on the floor groaning with the agony of restraining the deadly charge.

"Let it out," the black-haired girl would tell him.

She'd press her hands to face, no matter how he pushed her away. The red glow of charge would flow from his skin to hers, writhing upward until he called it back, forced it under his own skin again.

Sage would look at him, panic in her eyes and drop down next to him, meet his blazing blue eyes with her own. "Let it out," she would say. "Please, Witness. You'll kill yourself."

Raven watched. She was always there, waiting for the inevitable he fought with all his might.

He screamed as his powers eventually unleashed themselves. His whole world exploded in blue and red glow.

Phoenix is angry when he walks into the home base. There is a darkness in her eyes and a melding of the flesh to show her powers. Dark angry red light emanates from beneath her skin, slipping out of the cracks.

"You almost died," she says. There's a telepathic echo, but he does not reach to hear it, and she cannot force it upon him. "She almost died. Have you forgotten our mission?"

"Where's Raven?" he cuts her off and pauses briefly in front of her.

She clamps her lips shut into a narrow line. Power licks out in reddish fiery tendrils, but then sink into her body and disappear as though they never were. Her eyes are a normal green, vivid and clear. Her skin is a normal ivory with the common faint freckles of a redhead. Her hair is red and falling softly around her face, instead of floating on a sea of telekinesis.

"She's waiting for you in the office," Phoenix says softly. "Please don't get yourself hurt," she says. "We need you."

He looks her in the eyes for a moment. He takes her head in his hands. "I'll live."

The words are hard, direct, but it is the only reassurance she needs.

She lets him pass.

Raven will not be so kind.

Strong, wiry arms grasped him from behind and held his mouth shut. He struggled, fought, but no one noticed his battle with the unknown woman. Or else no one cared.

"Be quiet and all will be well," a treacherous whisper echoed in his ear. A cold, sharp knife settled against his stomach beneath his shirt.

Angry fire welled up beneath his skin, and the knife pressed closer, deeper. He could feel the hum of the glow that moved, coming from him.

He quieted.

The knife drew away and he prayed silently it would not explode. He was bleeding. He was hurting. Please just make it stop.

"Good boy," the woman said.

The seething, mingling, milling, restless crowds closed around them. When they opened again, he was gone.

Phoenix Fires

Phoenix was angry when he finally walked into the home base. Raw, angry power licked out of her and she narrowed her eyes at Witness's easy nonchalance.

"You almost died," she said harshly.

There was a telepathic echo, but he clearly did not hear it and did not want to. His face was utterly impassive as he regarded her.

"She almost died," Phoenix reminded him. "Have you forgotten our mission?"

"Where's Raven?" he cut her off and paused briefly in front of her.

She clamped her lips shut into a narrow line. A wave of intense power pushed further out of her skin, lifting her hair in a sea of telekinesis, but she reigned it in until it hummed quietly under her skin.

"She's waiting for you in the office," Phoenix said softly. "Please don't get yourself hurt." She hesitated, just for a moment. Witness's gaze lingered on her. "We need you."

He took her head in both of his hands. "I'll live."

The words were hard, direct, but it was the only reassurance she needed. If he'd witnessed it...

She let him pass.

Raven would not be so kind.

Phoenix has to force herself away. It would be pointless anyway to attempt to get a read on the most invisible mind she has ever encountered, and so she walks away and lets Witness deal with Raven on his own while she heads downstairs into the team's private area.

She finds Sage in her computer alcove, red glasses shoved on, a light frown on her face.

A hint of disapproval color's Sage's voice. "What is she saying?"

How am I supposed to know? Phoenix snaps sharply. I can't read him any better than you can.

Sage swivels in her chair. Her thick black hair is pulled up in a tight updo, a clear sign she's working. "You can read her."

It's a point, Phoenix has to grudgingly admit, but she's loath to actually do so. If Raven detects the intrusion, the consequences will be severe—and certainly not worth it. So she settles on a small shrug and curls up on the big sofa behind the coffee table.

But it's Witness...

She frowns and reaches out swiftly toward the kitchenette, yanking a mug out of the cupboard with her will and sending it swinging toward the coffee machine.

Sage wings one eyebrow upward over the ridiculously large red shades. "You could always just walk over and pour like a normal person," she says quietly.

Phoenix laughs. A harsh sound. We're not normal, she replies curtly. So stop trying.

The now-full coffee mug flies to Phoenix's hand, and she drinks from it. Dark thoughts swirl about her head like so much detritus. It takes an act of will to hold the objects around her in stillness. She closes her eyes and drifts upward toward Raven.

Raven looks up at the tall, lean man walking into her office. He moves like liquid, deliberately casual, every movement choreographed, graceful, artless. He draws attention only when he wants to. He stops in the doorway, leans against the frame, and she curses his shades that hide those red on black devilish eyes as he studies her.

"Witness." She slams shut the file drawer she was perusing before his entry and drops into the leather chair behind her desk. "Shut the door."

She melds, shifts from a dark-haired, fair-skinned beauty into her natural form. Smooth blue skin, long red hair, sharp features. She knows herself without a mirror.

Witness shuts the door.

He slides the sunglasses into one hand and they vanish into one of the many pockets of his trench coat. Raven is struck with the full onslaught of his knowing crimson gaze. From the time she wrangled him as a child into her custody, Witness has never been a boy. Always a man. Even now with his nineteen real time years, he is already far older. His eyes are like those of her one-time lover, eyes that see, that pierce, that know. He is the one person she cannot fight, the only man she's ever met that has no fear. And even this meeting, this sitting in judgment as his superior, seems to her sometimes a farce, a charade, his humoring of a lesser being.

"Where is the girl?" she asks abruptly.

He raises one eyebrow with that knowing gaze and smirks at her. "You t'ink I'm hidin' her somewhere?" His eyes dance with amusement.

Raven clenches her jaw. "Witness..."

"Quoi?" He raises his hands as if innocent. "I don' have her."

She slams one fist down on the desk. "I gave you a direct order! How hard can it be for you to accomplish?" She feels the brief flickering of her eyes from yellow into a darker, angrier color and yanks back her control, reins in her anger, and fixes him with a warning glare.

The light in his eyes banks and suddenly, she is staring into almost entirely black orbs focused far elsewhere on something else. He comes back to her, tilts his head slightly toward her, deciding...

Her blood runs cold.

He's witnessed this?

The tension in his eyes relaxes and he shrugs, leaning his shoulder against the wall, hands in his pockets. His expression is languid, casual.

"Witness." Her voice carries a faint warning. He's not telling her everything.

"It wasn't time," he says nonchalantly, all casualness and the flash of an innocent smile. That smile does not reach his eyes.

She stares at him and her tone is flat. "You witnessed it." Raven sits back in the chair, evaluates him.

He flips out his deck of cards. "What do you want with her, Raven?" he asks.

Her own eyebrow wings upwards. Curiosity. A strange occurrence. Not that the answer shouldn't be obvious.

"We've been over this," she says wearily. "She is an Omega mutant when fully powered, and SHIELD is unhappy with the threat of the Brotherhood. The same Brotherhood that intends to use her powers against international dignitaries, I might add. A double mission that makes perfect sense."

He nods, absently shuffling through spades, clubs, hearts, diamonds. As if he hadn't even cared.

She blows out a sigh of frustration. "Get out of here!" She spits out the words, distasteful as they are.

He stops, stares at her, the faintest hint of surprise flaring in his eyes. Red overtakes black. Slowly, his expression slips into his practically trademarked smirk. He chuckles and slips out the door before she can ask him why.

Why does Raven always think he's playing her?

"Havin' fun yet?"

Phoenix comes out of it with a start, spilling warm coffee towards her lap. It stops midair and pours slowly upward into the cup as she regains her head and her composure. She looks up at Witness.

His dark red eyes burn over the black, eerie glow bright and flickering dangerously. Every muscle is tense. His anger is directed at her.

Phoenix feels herself darken, lets the fluid power pour through her limbs. She narrows her own eyes and feels the coursing raw control ride outward into the air around her, the objects nearby, all burning with the barely contained charge of his powers. Her lips curve wickedly upward. She pulls the molecules under her mental grasp and they seethe within it in expression of his will.

"So you want to play?" she asks, seductive coyness caressing her voice, drawing it out, and making it echo.

His eyes nearly slit. He can feel the edge of her powers feathering his consciousness and his deep shields like shadows on the astral plane.

"Phoenix." He clips the name. It's a warning.

She shrugs and backs off, allowing mental tabs on the elements near her but leaving him space of his own. "Go away then," she says absently and sips on her drink, now tepid. She grimaces.

Sage studies the two of them, the deliberate indifference amid their tension. She too is invisible to Phoenix's telepathy, having turned her own inward and out of the way, but her clear blue eyes are knowing. It bothers Phoenix.

"I have a report to finish." She glides up and out of her seat and towards her quarters.

Raven wouldn't want to be kept waiting.

Darkness surrounds him. He hears something, uncertain of just what.

Then he feels something.

He's up before he even stops to think, claws out against a smooth neck. He stops himself before going further, noting simply that it's a woman, dark skin, thick braids, glasses, white coat, trying not to choke.

Unfamiliar smells and sounds. So much like the labs, and then he's off of her and out into the hallway. An very unladylike curse flits through the air behind him.

Where is he? he wonders. And where's Rogue?

Dip in to taste his mind. It's rough and dangerous and so many things she's imagined that Witness's would be. Darkness bristles in the corners and further back...

A call has been sounded. Skirt the edges of his consciousness, his instincts on full alert, brush over the thoughts of the woman he touched with those pain and claws. There is no fear.

But a soothing voice...

"What is your name, child?" The Professor was a gentle man, hands folded neatly on his lap. He was sitting in a wheelchair.

Jean squirmed a little on the couch but shook her head. She was frightened. She could feel the fear in her parents' minds, see her mother's furrowed brow, the hand clenching her father's arm.

"This is our daughter, Jean," her father said easily. Underneath he said, I'm worried. It's never been like this. He saw cars moving about in their driveways on the street, heard the crashing and whirling of every object in his daughter's bedroom spinning through the air as her body shook and she cried in the throes of a nightmare.

She woke to his fear.

"Jean." The Professor's voice was kind.

She looked up from her crossed arms and met his gaze.

You're not the only one.

He spoke the way she heard and she stared at him in blinking shock. She pulled herself to with a start when she realized he was speaking out loud.

"We can help her learn to control this gift," the Professor said smoothly, still kindly. His smile took her in even as she watched her parents relax slightly. "Jean is very talented and I believe she would do well."

"She's our only child," her mother began.

"I assure you," the Professor answered, "I will care for her as if she were my own."

"I've got him, Cece," he says, as calm, as gentle as ever.

A hiss of anger. Phoenix fires burn. Clamp down hard. You're here to observe. You're on a mission. Reeling back into herself.

Glide out, circle cautiously, just brushing the edges of a dozen minds. Tumbling through the empty gaps. Rogue...

Rogue fiddles with the edge of her glove, staring at it as she listens to the woman's explanation. She was introduced as Storm. She seems nice. Calm, caring. Professor Xavier is upstairs teaching a class. Rogue's mind swirls with all the faces she's seen in the last twenty-four hours, the things she's been told. She clamps her hand down tight over her wrist for a long moment, breathing in. Words flit around her. She catches a few, glances at them.

Will she ever shut up? a male voice pleads from the back of her head.

Rogue's eyelids grow heavy. She soothes and hushes the voice, the personality.

He hunches over, annoyed.

Guilt wars with pain and fear, squeezing at her insides. She can't breathe. All these clothes... She has to get out of here.

"Rogue?" Storm asks with gentle concern.

Rogue's eyes come open and she stares at the dark-skinned, white-haired mutant goddess standing before her. She's so beautiful and Rogue aches for something as beautiful as the weather within her power to make her special and different.

Not this poison skin.

She swallows in a dry mouth and works out the words. "So he can't cure me?" she asks, faint drawl still with her from the south. She wishes she could scrub it out of her mouth as easily as she scrubbed away her name from her own mind. In time, it will fade—like the voice in the back of her head.

Storm's eyebrows furrow and her mouth troubles about the edges. "It doesn't work like that," she says softly. She too wears an accent, one Rogue does not recognize.

What does it matter? Rogue turns away.

In a blinding moment, she remembers the white card hidden in her clothes and has to catch her breath.

"Control f' service."

Rogue shrugs one shoulder, pretending to sulk. She has an ace up her sleeve, a real bona fide card from a real player.

Tempted to smile, she coaxes out that voice inside her head and, warily, he comes forward. He stretches a little. She encourages him. In a moment, he fills her and the bitter, aching sadness at all he lost when she kissed him all those months ago turns her tempted smile into a bittersweet frown.

"Thank ya, Storm." She stands up from the chair across from the older woman with those caring eyes. "Ah just want ta go to mah room now, if that's okay."

Of course, it is.

Of course.

Of course, she doesn't want to go to her room. She wants to see Logan. Now. To ask him what in the world he thinks she should do about these people who offer no hope and a devil-eyed man that offers her service. She quells at whatever veils those remembered eyes, the darkness and fire blazing from them.

She doesn't know who to trust, but she sure as anything isn't going down without a fight.

A taste too familiar to ignore. Forget them, Phoenix. You're not that girl anymore. You're Phoenix.

But it's not so easy to forget.

The mansion was large and frightening at first. Her footsteps echoed and strange thoughts skittered around her own. Long words that had no meaning.

Galactosemia. Phenylketonuria. Mucopolysaccharidoses. Neurofibromatosis.

Short words she could not even pronounce came swirling down from somewhere above.

"You will understand better when you have learned to listen to the thought itself and not the words," the Professor said.

She didn't understand. She hugged herself in the cold, large hallway, walking beside his rolling wheelchair.

I miss my brother. Is he even alive? What's going to happen?

Hypophosphatemic rickets. Incontinentia pigmenti. It's the X. It has to be. Chromosomal heredity.

Images of the rolling breeze, the strength of the earth beneath her, tides moving out...

Jean closed her eyes.

She didn't want to be here.

She doesn't want to be here.

It's not that it isn't nice and all the easygoing talk around her isn't nice and not being looked at as a freak isn't nice and being flirted with and smiled at and told she can take off her gloves if she wants isn't nice. It just...isn't right.

She moves off the couch in the big media room Jubilee showed her into, declaring it was way too early to be hiding away in her bedroom. Who would want to anyway? Who wants to be alone?

Rogue does.

It's safer.

But what she really wants is Logan. He was hurt and they're not letting her see him. She wants to know what he thinks. He's tough and smart and he can probably survive anything her skin can do to him—not that she's about to test the theory.

Nobody stops her from leaving and moving out down the long, branching hallways, hoping against hope she'll actually succeed at finding her bedroom even without the bubbly firecracker's help.

Better yet if she can find Logan.

She has another half hour before the bell rings again and she'll have to be in another class with Storm. What kind of people put girls into school within twenty-four hours of watching their only companion thrown from a vehicle and just about gutted on some mutant feral's claws? What kind of people won't let her see him?

They're nice. They are. She should be grateful for their rescue and, in a way, she is.


She stops around another corner. The hallway branches here again and she comes to the startling, dismaying conclusion that she's totally and utterly lost.

She watched them from hidden places. In her room looking out the window at the yard. On the security cameras in Xavier's control room. In her mind, windowing her own way into their thoughts. He was right. She understood better once she went under the words.

Underneath. Lower.

They had headaches when she did that.

But she could not resist the bitter sweetness of tasting another's mind, their thoughts, their feelings. She tasted each of them and learned their flavor.

She liked it.

The Professor introduced her to a young girl with dark skin and white hair swirling around her shoulders, piercing blue eyes that turned white when she played with the elements. He wanted them to be friends. Jean wondered how that would ever be possible when he usually wouldn't let her near them.

She had to work on her powers constantly.

"Try to restrain them," he told her. "Access to another's mind is a grave responsibility."

Like she asked for this! To dream their nightmares, to shriek when she woke to the maelstrom of everything in her room flying over her head, whipped into a windy frenzy, to rip out whole walls of the Danger Room every time he had her practice, to give herself migraines just trying to shut out the voices.

They grew louder. From the distant neighbors. The mailmen. The animals. The suburbs. The far-off city.

Maybe she was going slowly but surely insane.

He doesn't trust them, doesn't like them. The kid was making it fine without him. He's tempted to just leave her, walk away.

"This is the stupidest thing I've ever heard."

Wolverine heads for the door, only to find "Cyclops" standing in his way. The animosity that springs up between the two men is almost instantaneous.

Cecelia Reyes and Ororo Munroe—Storm—both take a step backward, let them piss off on their own time.

But it's that soothing, calm, friendly voice again.

"How long has it been?" he asks. You're not the only one with gifts.

And for once, someone catches the Wolverine off guard and he looks about as he remembers. "What is this place?"

She clung to the one voice that was always soothing. He built a wall around her mind to shut out the voices.

Then one day, he shut out everything.


The girls found her and laughingly led her to the next class. Rogue can't concentrate. She's worried about Logan, about herself.

"He can't cure me?"

"It doesn't work like that."

Why not? Why can't it?

She tries to bury herself in schoolwork, to answer the gossipy questions of the girls. She tries not to blush at the unfamiliar attention of boys, flaming apples, icy hearts. Tries not to remember the white cardboard rectangle with ten black digits across the center of it. Tries not to see burning devil eyes in the fire. Tries to think they can help her.

No one's offering to take it away.

She smiles shyly at the proffered heart. Bobby is so much like Cody. Boy next door. Sweet. Softspoken.

But over his shoulder, she catches a heart-quickening glimpse of the rough face of a rough loner.


He's looking at her through the door. His eyes say, "I'm okay. Just checking up on you. We'll talk later."

She believes those eyes.

Don't we always believe?

A mere shadow through the inky night slipped out the side door and walked slowly up the path toward tall, wrought iron gates. She lifted her hand and gave a single, sharp tug.

The gates creaked and rattled, but remained shut.

She frowned. Anger forked inside her and she tugged again. Open!

With a shrill screech, the gates swung toward her, stopped on their locks, then suddenly screamed toward her, metal bending and twisting. Sweat broke out on her brow, but they were open. She released her hold and picked her way between them.

Cool interest brushed against her thoughts and she stopped cold, jerking her head up to see.

Directly across the road, a small whip of a girl stood in front of one of the old growth trees. Inky black hair ran down her back. Her skin was so pale it almost glowed in the moonlight.

You came.

Jean studied this apparition of the night. I'm leaving.

The girl shrugged. Not much difference.

She had heard this voice, this cool, lucid mind so similar to the Professor's and yet so different. Warily she eyed the girl. Can you bring it back? She never thought she would miss her powers so badly in this dampened state. But it was herself trapped beneath the surface. She could not stay. Not even for--

She couldn't stay.

Can you?

The dark haired girl turned and walked slowly down the long road. Is it worth it? The thought floated behind her, swelling rather than fading.

Worth what? Something gnawed against the inside of her stomach.

The girl turned and clear blue eyes met hers. There was something so familiar, achingly, painfully familiar in the expression in those eyes. Her stomach lurched. A remembered friend. A similar soul.

Against her better judgment, Jean followed.

She slips out of the classroom. Finally, Kitty, another of the girls who seemingly has a more level head and smaller desire to interfere, shows Rogue where her new room is.

"I'm right next door if you need anything." Kitty smiles before digging out homework books on her way into 'next door.'

Rogue closes the door. She is alone.

She pulls out a card and turns it over in her palm.


Phoenix opens her eyes and groans at the weariness in her body. She feels limp. Her head throbs. She staggers to her feet, then blinks a few times.

She hadn't felt him enter.


He shrugs one shoulder and casts an odd look her way, some combination of resentment, annoyance, apology, and compassion, but there's an openness in his face as he looks at her.

She accepts it as the truce that it is. "I need more coffee." She gives him a weak smile, but grimaces at the increase in pain it causes.

A smile quirks about the corners of his mouth and the brilliance of red behind his eyes banks into mirth.

She snorts at him. "You try weaving around that telepath in a half dozen heads and making him think you're just part of the scenery."

Witness raises both hands in mock surrender. "Non. Non. 'M sure y're tired."


He laughs and catches her waist, drawing her beside him. "Coffee. Den y' c'n heckle me if y' still feel up t' it."

She leans her head on his shoulder and tightens her arm around his waist, pretending for a moment that this care of her is more than it is and they aren't just teammates, friends, that he doesn't eye her warily from across the room most days, that all this tension between them isn't pain and power and games of manipulation, but that there's something genuine beneath their skins.

He leads her into the kitchen and helps her up on a barstool as if she's a lady and he is a gentleman. She watches as he applies his considerable kitchen expertise to the brewing of a cup of coffee the way she likes it with extra cream and sugar and a dollop of his mystery flavor that she still can't figure out.

She rests her chin in her open palm and simply enjoys the moment.

Sage sits up on the barstool beside her. They don't talk. It's companionable. Raven would like that.

Phoenix frowns. She still has to report.

"Forget about it," Sage says lightly. "Raven's gone to the base. Some ops."

"The Brotherhood?"

Witness looks up sharply.

Sage nods. "We won't be seeing her for a couple days.

"She'll still want the report," Phoenix insists.

She catches the narrowing of scarlet fire. He doesn't like it when they talk underneath about important things. Sage doesn't seem to notice. Or else she doesn't care.

"It'll keep. Give it tonight." Sage smiles. "Wake her up."

Phoenix scoffs at the bad idea (Raven would hate it), but she smiles in return. "Coffee ready?"

Witness nods once, curt, and slides the mug over the counter to her. "How much I miss?"

"Nothing important," Sage answers and gives a pointed look toward the coffee pot.

He chuckles that rich, rumbling sound and Phoenix revels in it while sipping on her coffee. He pours out another cup for Sage.

It took weeks for Scott to leave her mind. His quiet sorrow. His determination to succeed where once he failed. She had loved his mind, stolen moments to rest in it when the Professor wasn't training her. But it was gone now. She had left and chosen a different path.

She was Phoenix.

Witness had called her that when he saw the radiance burst out of her like a nova sun. Death. Rebirth. Violent wings of fire. His voice held admiration. His touch...

Sage told her it would be like that. They couldn't just bring back her powers. She had to be feeling something.

She was.

God, she was.

And it was that shaggy auburn hair, those burning red and black eyes drowning her, that rolling Cajun voice that just got more and more thick with his rich accent that slowly drowned out the memories of what she had wanted with Scott.

Witness never knew. She hoped.

The coffee eases the pain behind her temples and finally she lets out a soft groan.

"Better?" His smirk belies his words.

She lets it go with a hummed affirmative.

The Cajun slides around the counter to stand behind her chair and begins to massage her tense shoulders and neck. She makes a small sound of pleasure.

Sage shakes her head. "Sometimes I think you favor her," she teases.

Phoenix feels the air around him move. His hands don't stop what they're doing though, and she feels no urgent need to interfere.

"Non, chérie," he rumbles out in that rich voice of his. "Y' jus' like diff'ren' t'ings."

What does she like?

Phoenix stiffens and swivels around on the stool, frowning.

Witness gives her that questioning look of his. He knows he has said something that bothers her, but he won't touch it if she won't.

"Let it go," Sage advises.

Phoenix really wishes she would speak underneath. She shoots Sage a glare, but only gets a shrug in return.

His fingers haven't left her shoulder. She slides out from under the warmth of them. He lets her.

"I should go give that report," Phoenix says. There's a slight challenge in her voice.

Sage purses her lips and looks away.

Who would challenge Phoenix?

A flash of anger. Phoenix fires burn. Clamp down. Put them away. You're on a mission.

You know what you want.

Raven hardly knows what hit her.


    FANDOM: X-Men: The Movie

    STORY SUMMARY: As the governments of the world developed their teams of powerful Alpha-level mutant supersoldiers, international espionage and law enforcement organization SHIELD recruited its own: Omega-level mutants. Omegas are so rare, even Charles Xavier isn't sure if they really exist. But they do. Their lives are about to become intertwined with the X-Men's.

    DISCLAIMERS: All characters and organizations (with the exception of small, mostly unnamed minor characters) throughout the series are the product of Marvel.

    CANONICAL NOTES: This story arc utilizes movieverse canon for events, beginning with X1 and following through the events of X2 and X3, but ignoring the events of Wolverine: Origins (XO). The story is, however, AU due to large changes to the ages and events in the lives of several characters. Story diverges from canon almost immediately and will be less and less like the movies the further it goes along. The story utilizes comicverse canon for characters and powers. SHIELD diverges from canon, but is largely drawn from comicverse. The Weapon X Program will be based on comicverse canon, as a department of the Canadian government.

    LANGUAGE AND ACCENTS: Cajun French is courtesy of Heavenmetal (many thanks). I will attempt to reproduce accents in this story arc.

    (UNBOUND) entries are in drafting phase and are likely to change radically before complete.



    1. Going Omega
    1.0 Prologue: The Huntress
    1.01 No Witnesses
    1.02 Phoenix Fires
    1.03 Where The Raven Flies
    2. Finding Omega
    2.01 Bearing Witness
    2.02 The Worst Rogue
    3. Burning Omega

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