Disclaimer: Not mine, no money, you all know the
drill. This is a prequel to 'Falling In Love Again.'
As before, it has large mush-components, and this
time there's a bit of Science Talk as well. *g* I am
Approaching Rogue's Powers With Logic, or trying to.
I apologize if I get anything largely wrong - I'm not
a scientist myself, I just hang out with them.
Falling In Love For The First Time
She was laid out as carefully as a corpse, her head on
a small, flat pillow, her arms by her sides, dozens of
electrodes stuck to her skin. She'd been like this
for hours, helpless, immobile, being poked and prodded
like a lab-rat.
Rogue sighed quietly.
"I am sorry, Marie," Hank said, giving her socked foot
a little pat without looking up from his computer
monitor. Like Logan, he always used her real name
except in battle situations. "I know you must be
"Can't you rig up a tv-screen on the ceiling or
something?" she asked hopefully. "I mean, if I have
to keep doing this..."
"I'll try." He poked a button on his keyboard and
made a dissatisfied noise. "However, I believe we have
gone as far as is possible as regards testing your
body's natural electrical field under laboratory
conditions. Tomorrow we will try something else."
Rogue sighed again, careful not to move. "Like what?"
"Crystals," Hank said solemnly. "I plan to hang a
rose quartz around your neck, insert amethysts into
both your ears, and chant over you until you are
Rogue giggled. "Aww, Hank..."
He grinned, and patted her foot again, then started
carefully unsticking the little sensors from her arms
and legs. "Well, technically I HAVE spent the last two
days studying your aura," he pointed out. "But no,
actually, tomorrow you're going to be back to your
favourite, the treadmill."
"Aww, not again!" she complained. "Why?"
"So the nice sensors can examine your aura while
you're exerting yourself," Hank explained, carefully
peeling the little white things off her palms. He was
wearing gloves, but even so, his hands were warm, and
he didn't flinch when he touched her. Still, the idea
of going back to the treadmill made her wrinkle her
nose, and he gave her another big, humourous, fangy
grin. "Now, now, I know it's dull. But you know why
we're doing this." He paused, and when she didn't
speak he fixed her with a patient look.
"Because if I want to get my powers under control,
it's no good sitting around waiting for it to happen
by magic,"she said in a patient sing-song. "Almost
all mutant powers can be scientifically measured, and
in defining the nature of my powers we might find out
how to control them."
He pulled off the last sensor. "There. I know you're
tired of hearing this, Marie, but I know you want
control of your powers. Sometimes the best approach
is the methodical one. We've already established that
you have higher than usual levels of serotonin and
norepinephrine in your brain. Serotonin and
norepinephrine-" He paused, and she could almost hear
him editing all the long words out of the immanent
explanation. "Those are chemicals that help
information of various kinds to be transmitted in your
brain. That's probably an important part of *how* you
absorb people's thoughts and memories. With more
study, I hope that we will learn why, as well."
"I know." She smiled lopsidedly at him and stretched,
enjoying the feel of air instead of fabric on her
skin. "I just get tired and bored, you know?"
"I know." He perched on the examination bed beside
her, patting her back gently. "As I know that three
years without real human contact is a long time. You
have born up well, Marie, and I'm glad that you have
not given up hope."
"I did for a while," she reminded him, looking down at
It had taken less than a year for Xavier to be sure
that there was no telepathic way to force her powers
under control. By the one and a half year mark, Jean
had used her own basic training in psychology and the
expertise of a psychologist friend of hers to
determine that there was no underlying trauma or
childhood fear behind the fact that her powers
couldn't be turned off. And then...
Then it seemed that everyone had just given up. She'd
finished high-school, become a full-fledged X-Man, and
no more had been said about her powers. She'd gotten
used to wearing gloves, and most of her teammates got
used to being careful around her. She'd shrouded
herself in an isolated sort of normality, where she
couldn't touch anyone, but she wasn't especially
freakish because of it.
And then Hank had turned up, six months ago.
Apparently he'd once been an X-Man, but had left to
work in the private sector researching the nature and
effects of mutation. He was the one who'd given Jean
most of the soothing facts she used in her lectures to
counteract the sensationalist fictions of the
After three days, he'd given her a puzzled look and
asked her why she always wore gloves. She'd told him.
He'd asked her who was in charge of studying her
mutation. She'd said no-one.
Ten minutes after that, she'd been in the medlab, in
her underwear, being enthusiastically poked and
prodded by a giant blue teddybear. Ever since then,
except when out on missions, she'd spent a couple of
hours every day being carefully and exhaustively
Careful not to touch anything but fur, she turned and
gave him a quick, fierce hug. "Thanks."
He returned the hug, looping one big arm around her
and engulfing her in soft fur. "You are welcome," he
said gravely. "I only hope that we find the answer to
your difficulty soon."
"We might not find it anytime soon," Rogue said
softly, letting her head rest on his shoulder for a
minute. "But we will find it. You will. I know you
"I am touched," he said softly, giving her another
little squeeze. "Your faith in me is humbling, my
dear. I hope I am worthy of it."
"You are." Rogue snuggled into the hug with a little
sigh. Hank was the only person besides Logan who ever
really hugged her, and they both did it often because
they knew that she liked the tactile reassurance of
it. Skin to skin wasn't the part of touch that really
mattered, it was feeling someone's arms around you,
the pressure of their flesh against yours, even
through clothes or fur. As long as she had that, she
thought she could be fairly happy even without control
of her powers.
Being held by Hank was subtly different to being
hugged by Logan, though. Logan's feelings for her
were paternal, and she liked it that way. Liked the
fond, awkward way he fussed over her, as if she was
still a little girl. He was her family, and even
though he headed off into the wild blue yonder now and
then, it didn't matter too much. He'd always come
Hank ... well, he was a good friend. And she liked him.
A lot. A really lot. He was kind and funny and
patient and devoted hours of his time to her every
single day just because he knew she was unhappy. Men
like that were rare creatures.
And there was nothing really passionate or crush-like
about it, which somehow made it worse. He was sweet,
and gentle, and she loved just being with him, even if
all he did was pat her socks. She kept finding
herself wandering around the mansion when they weren't
together, feeling lost and lonely and hoping to
'accidentally' run into him.
Because no, her life just wasn't complicated enough.
Two days later, they were in the Danger Room. For
once, she only had a couple of sensors on her - one
under each shoulderblade, one just above each breast.
Hank was up in the control booth, peering down at her
with a reassuring smile. "Remember, Marie, we can stop
at any time," he told her through the intercom. "I
don't want you to feel pressured on our first day, all
"I know." She waved at him. He'd told her yesterday
that her body's electrical field hadn't done anything
strange at all while she was on the treadmill or the
rowing machine ... right up until a spider had dropped
onto her arm and skittered up into her hair. It had
moved fast enough that she hadn't drained its
life-force, and it didn't have enough mind for her to
take thoughts from it, but while Hank calmed her down
and carefully picked the bug out of her hair he'd told
her that in the moment of panic when those nasty legs
had been running over her, the sensors had all gone
So today they were going to try triggering an
assortment of emotions in her, to see what happened.
"Starting now," Hank said, voice tinny but encouraging
through the intercom. "If it gets too much for you,
Marie, just tell me to stop." He waved at her, then
blanked out the windows of the booth so as not to
interrupt the projection.
"I will." She closed her eyes for a moment, bracing
herself. When she opened them again, she was in a
pretty, sunshiny meadow. "What the ... you know, Hank,
maybe fuzzy bunnies and dandelions scare YOU, but-"
"I just thought we should start slow," Hank chuckled.
"I want you to take a few deep breaths, enjoy the
ambiance, and get nice and calm. You're a little
nervous right now, and I want to start from a base
state of nil agitation, okay?"
"Okay." That made sense, and Rogue took a couple of
minutes to enjoy the pretty afternoon. Hank had
included several cartoonish pink bunnies and blue
songbirds, and sent them to bob around her feet and
flutter around her head, making her giggle.
Slowly, the afternoon became overcast. The birds and
bunnies flew or hopped away, and it started to get
colder. There was a faint hint of ominous music in
the air, and Rogue grinned a little. She was
feeling a little apprehensive now, but it was somehow
less scary for knowing that it was being artificially
As the 'afternoon' dimmed as clouds piled up in the
air, Hank ran her through a gamut of
apprehension-inducing events - spiders running over
her arms, sudden cracks of thunder, Ororo appearing
waving a report card with big red F's all over it,
Scott telling her that she'd let the team down, and
several other things. Eventually, she found herself
at the end of the meadow, and standing on an
impossibly high, rocky cliff. She gulped.
"I know you're afraid of heights," Hank's disembodied
voice said comfortingly. "But I'm right here,
"I know." She gulped again, and started walking along
the narrow path that ran along the top of the cliff.
She had to keep reminding herself that it wasn't real,
but it wasn't too bad. Cliffs she could more or less
cope with. It was high buildings - or statues - that
really freaked her out.
But none of this was real. It was okay. She could
handle it. She was in control of what was going on,
and she could make it stop any time she wanted to.
That felt kind of good, despite the way her heart was
pounding and her palms were sweating. Most of her
fear-things - like heights, or when the team had
battles, or the nightmares borrowed from Logan and
Magneto - involved being helpless, out of control.
Here, even though it was scary, she wasn't helpless.
It was a good feeling.
Then the simulation disappeared, and she was standing
in the Danger Room again. Rogue blinked. "That's it?
Are we done?"
"I don't think so. We have some unfinished business,
It was Magneto. It was Magneto, hovering slightly
above the floor and coming slowly towards her, that
Mournful Martyr expression on his face. "No..." Marie
whispered, backing away, starting to shake in earnest.
"No, you can't be here ... it's not possible..."
"All things are possible to our kind, Rogue. You
should know that by now." He was coming inexorably
closer, raising those wrinkled, harmless looking hands
towards her face. "You will know that, soon enough,
when we are one again..."
Marie shook her head helplessly, still trying to back
away. "No," she whimpered. "No, please, don't, not
"It is for the greater good, child," Magneto said
implacably. "You will understand, once it's all over,
how much I regret having to do this-"
"No," Marie wailed, backed up against a wall now. He
was getting so close, reaching out towards her face,
preparing to take her mind again, to rape her thoughts
with his own... "No ... no no no no no no no..." She
was so scared, she couldn't move, he was going to hurt
And then sudden, violent fury shot up her spine,
grabbing her and flinging her off the wall and at
Magneto, who looked considerably startled. "No!" she
shrieked. "You are NOT going to do that to me again!"
A good solid kick to the stomach doubled him over and
then she was on him, knocking him down and pinning him
under her. He was an old man, for all his power, and
she had super-strength, and it wasn't hard to get his
arms pinned under her knees, hold him down, punch his
sanctimonious old face again and again and again until
her knuckles split but she didn't care he would not
control her he would not violate her nobody was going
to do that EVER AGAIN!!
"Marie. Marie!" Then Hank was there, grabbing for
her arms, and she realized that Magneto had
disappeared and she was punching the floor. "Marie,
She stared at him, then made a dive for him in turn.
"How could you DO that!?" she shrieked. "How could
you put Magneto in the simulation!?"
Hank fended her off easily, ducking a few punches then
just grabbing her arms in his big hands and holding
her immobile. Which he couldn't normally do, what with
the whole tank-juggling-strength thing she'd gotten
from Carol Danvers, but right now she was too weak and
shaky with reaction to hit very hard. "Marie, I didn't
put anyone in the simulation," he gritted out while
she yelled and struggled. "I planned to do so
tomorrow, but there was nothing today. When I turned
off the simulation, you said "That's it? Are we
done?" and then you turned around and started talking
to someone who wasn't there." Her struggles trailed
off, and he wrapped her in his arms, holding her close
and stroking her back soothingly. "Magneto, I
"Yeah," she whispered, starting to shake in reaction.
"I ... he was here, he was going to use my powers
again, enter my mind ... I was so scared, I couldn't
move, I couldn't fight him..."
"But you did fight him," Hank pointed out, still
stroking her back soothingly. "At least, I assume you
were aiming for Magneto when you started punching the
She rested her head on a broad, furry shoulder.
"Yeah," she whispered slowly. "I just ... I was just
suddenly so ANGRY, he thought he could just do
anything he wanted to me, that I was helpless, and I
wasn't ever going to let anyone use me that way again,
not ever. And I started hitting him, with my bare
hands, and it didn't even occur to me that I should
have been absorbing his powers while I was touching
"Not, I suspect, because he was a hallucination."
Hank smoothed her hair gently. "If you were
hallucinating Magneto, I assume you could have
imagined your powers working. But you didn't ...
perhaps because you didn't want to."
"I didn't," she said softly. "I felt ... there was
just this big angry NO-feeling inside me, and
everything else just sorta bounced off it." She
leaned back a bit, looking up at him inquiringly.
"Then I suggest that a small experiment is in order,"
he suggested, stepping back just a little, then
leaning forward. "You should try to conjure the ...
no-feeling ... within yourself again, then attempt a
small skin-to-skin contact. If you object to taking
the risk with me, we can find Logan, but I promise
you, I do not mind." He smiled reassuringly at her.
"You can pull away at once if you feel anything."
Marie nodded. She was still fizzing with righteous
anger, and anything was worth a try. Before she could
change her mind and get frightened again, she reached
out and very carefully touched his lower lip with one
fingertip. Nothing happened right away, but it always
took a second to work, she had a grace period of at
least a second and a half, maybe two...
Okay, three seconds, nothing was happening, but maybe
it was just ... just because he was furry or something,
or he resisted it somehow, or...
Five seconds, six, seven, nothing was happening...
Nothing happened. She took her finger back
eventually, and they both stood there grinning like
"See?" Hank said, looking rather smug. "In exploring
the nature of your powers, methodically and
scientifically, a solution was found." He smiled at
her. "Your powers are triggered by fear. They are, I
believe, a form of self-defense mechanism. I
understand that the first time it happened was during
your first kiss?" Marie nodded. "And I expect you
were very, very nervous at that moment?"
Marie nodded again. "I was," she said softly.
"And your powers kicked in along with the adrenaline."
He peeled off his heavy rubber gloves, pontificating
happily. "I believe that now that you understand the
nature of your powers, you will be able to learn to
control them at will. The reason you could not do so
before was that you were afraid of them, and afraid of
using them, and that fear exacerbated the problem.
Then, of course, any form of physical contact became
frightening to you, so your powers just kept working
all the time. With practice and the maintenance of
emotional self-control I believe you will in time
Marie blushed, breaking the kiss after a long, sweet
moment. "Sorry. I just ... uh ... got a little carried
away. It won't happen again."
Hank was gasping for breath, a rather glazed
expression in his eyes. "Did I object?" he said
weakly. "I didn't hear me objecting."
Marie grinned slowly. "No, I didn't hear you
objecting either." She peeked a little shyly at him
from under her lashes. "Does that mean you liked it?"
"No. Definitely not. Hated it. When my knees go all
shaky and my heart pounds and my ears blush like that?
That means I'm not having fun," Hank said, lips
curling up at the corners. "Of course, it's not any
fun spending many, many hours stretching out each test
as long as I possibly can in order to spend more time
with you, either. Because spending most of my time
with charming, sweet-natured, brave, intelligent,
attractive young women such as yourself is a terrible
trial to me. I'm just incredibly brave about it and
The kiss lasted longer this time, and Marie didn't
even try to move out of the big arms that wrapped
tightly around her. "You talk too much," she breathed
when they finally came up for air.
"I know. It's a terrible failing," Hank said meekly,
gazing down at her with a wonderfully soft, loving,
proprietary look. "I must be punished with more
"Maybe," Marie purred teasingly, enjoying the smitten
expression on his face. "If you're good."
"If? IF?" He laughed softly, and pulled her in for a
long, expert kiss that left her limp and whimpering
happily. "I'll have you know, madam, that I am ALWAYS
"That I believe." Marie snuggled some more. He
smelled nice. And felt nice. And she was feeling very
warm and mellow all of a sudden.
"I just hope Logan doesn't kill me," Hank said with a
resigned sigh. "Still, I shall simply have to point
out to him that I am fine boyfriend material. I'm
sober, responsible, I have a job and my own car, I
have good personal hygeine and he knows where I live."
"He'll say you're too old," Marie pointed out.
Hank gave her an adorably anxious look. "You don't
think so, do you?"
Marie smiled. "Nope. Just right." Hank was nearly
thirty to her twenty-one. A bit of an age-gap, but
not too much. Besides, she liked more mature, settled
guys. She had Logan for adolescent rampageousness.
"Then I do not care what Logan thinks," Hank murmured
happily, giving her a delicate little kiss on the
nose. "I am quite on the top of the world just now."
"Oh, me too," Marie assured him, standing on tiptoe to
return the favour. "I liked you before, you know. I
mean, before I got the powers under control. I just
couldn't do anything about it."
"Oh, and dear girl, I liked you very much too," he
said with a rather silly grin. "Would you care to
have dinner with me this evening, my lady?"
"I'd love to." She grinned bashfully. "You know, the
gym-class is gonna be in here any second..."
"Yes. Right. Absolutely." He reluctantly broke the
hug, but took her hand tenderly in his. "We will go
tell the Professor that we have made a breakthrough."
He stroked her hand gently with one broad thumb. "You
realise, dear heart, that this is going to take time.
You will still experience periods of loss of control,
and there will be accidents. You *will* have perfect
control eventually, but it's going to take time."
"I know." And she did. She also knew that Hank would
continue to care for her even if she never did get
full control, and that if she ever accidentally
absorbed him, he would forgive her. For once, the
thought of having someone else's mind within hers
wasn't frightening, and she understood at last why
Scott liked being linked to Jean. "But we'll do it
eventually, right? Together?"
"Most assuredly together," he said softly, kissing her
hand as he led her out of the Danger Room. "I hope
for a long time to come."
Continued in "Falling in Love Again."
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