Once, on a vacation down south years ago, they'd gotten caught in a summer storm. Remy had wandered out into the middle of a freshly-sown field and stood in the downpour, shouting exultantly into the wind at every snarl of thunder.
She'd told him he was crazy, but she'd gone out to meet him anyhow, and the two of them had laughed at the blackened sky like children, too flushed with life to care that they were soaked to their skins. They'd waited the storm out in the hayloft of someone's barn, wrapped up together in a horse blanket, and when it was over the world seemed fresh and new, scrubbed sparkling clean and bright with sunlight under a clear blue sky.
Rogue thought of that summer afternoon more than she liked to admit. Sometimes the memory even made her laugh. But not often, and never without an edge to it. There seemed to her to be a certain irony in the situation.
But she didn't often have the energy to laugh, anyhow.
Forty days and forty nights of rain, the old story said, flooded the entire world. Rogue had kept count for a while, but somewhere along the way she'd lost track of time as anything but periods of light and dark. The rain kept falling, sometimes in drizzles and sometimes in thick sheets of water, but it never stopped, and the wind tore at everything, stripping leaves and branches from trees and moaning around buildings, howling at doors and boarded-up windows like a beast demanding to be let in.
You didn't realize how dark the world could get until the power went out, until there was no amber glow of light pollution to cut the smothering darkness, and moonlight and starlight were distant memories buried in storm clouds. Flight was a battle against the wind; in daylight she could risk it and frequently did, forging her way stubbornly through the violent gusts and the sheets of rain they carried to reach another swamped car or another cluster of people huddled on the roof of a submerged building. But at night, with fatigue taking its toll, it was too easy to find herself buffeted about until she couldn't tell up from down in the dark. She'd tried it a few times, early on, until a sudden sickening impact with the ground had left her winded and dizzy.
Now at the end of the days she walked, and every step squelched, mud and ankle-deep water dragging at her feet as though to hold her back.
She wasn't sure why it felt like a betrayal. She knew that Remy mourned for New Orleans, the French Quarter and all its many secrets lost to the floods and the hurricanes that savaged the coast. But for Rogue, watching the Mississippi rising up to swallow the land was like a nightmare of a childhood playmate coming back to chase her through the night with hands outstretched for her throat. She'd loved the river, had grown up on its banks, but now every day she watched the water rising, uprooted trees and drowned livestock and bits of crumbled lives swept along in its muddy currents.
She wore a raincoat, but it was never enough; by the end of the day she was always soaked and shivering. Within her gloves, her fingers were rough and pruned and aching, tugging the coat uselessly tighter around herself while rivulets of water trickled down the back of her neck, down her spine through clothes too saturated to absorb any more. She'd cut her hair just shy of her chin to keep wind and filthy water from snarling the curls into a hopeless mass - Remy had smoothed a hand gently over the shorn length of it and told her she was still beautiful, and she'd laughed, helplessly, wondering what good beauty was going to do them now.
With the wind battering in her face and lashing the wet strands of her hair against her skin, she trudged doggedly on, picking her way mostly by muscle memory between the looming shapes of solid brick buildings. She knew that there were other people there - more every day, running from the murderous cold that had settled over the northern half of the country only to find the south not much more welcoming. Some moved on, hoping to find someplace safer. More stayed, holing up in the dorms and offices and classrooms of the college campus that had become their shelter, believing what Rogue herself was beginning to fear - that there was nowhere safe any more.
They were there, huddling in the glow of candles and flashlights and listening to the wind and the white noise of the rain, but the windows were boarded up tight, sealed with every scrap of lumber she'd been able to salvage, and Rogue knew she wouldn't see a single glimmer. They were hiding from nature, children pulling their blankets up over their heads to escape the attention of the monster that howled on the wind.
The last stretch was the worst - the university's commons, a broad expanse of open ground with nothing to blunt the force of the wind except the bronze statue that kept its vigil at the center of the drowned lawn. The cold, weary trek across campus always made Rogue think of another school, and faces she hadn't seen since the skies first clouded over. There'd been no word from the other X-Men, and the silence out of Westchester left her fearing the worst. Struggling across the commons in the dark, in the teeth of the wind and the rain, it was all too easy to think that she must be the last person on earth.
But as Rogue crouched in the lee of the statue, leaning against its rain- slicked base and wondering dimly if she'd be able to muster the energy to hike the rest of the way across the commons, a light flared to life at the far end of the muddy lawn. A tiny beacon, steady and unhindered by the storm, to lead her in.
When she finally reached the door of the student union, Remy was waiting for her, a playing card still glowing brightly in his hand.
He looked old, his rough-hewn face lined and harshly shadowed in a way that couldn't entirely be blamed on the biokinetic energy that lit the card. His trenchcoat was stained and tattered, but he wore it anyway, with the same stubborn determination that sent Rogue out to fight her daily battles against the storms.
She wondered, as he wrapped an arm around her shoulders and guided her through the door into the stillness of the candlelit building, how many people today had told him that freaks like them were the ones who'd driven nature insane.
Neither of them spoke. He helped her struggle out of her raincoat, draped a towel around her shoulders while water collected in muddy pools on the linoleum at her feet. In spite of her best efforts, Rogue found herself shivering; it wasn't much warmer indoors than it was outside, winter temperatures in June, and she wasn't sure what they'd do when the days started getting shorter.
She made a token effort to resist when Remy pulled her against him, thinking foolishly of his dry clothes, but he ignored it, and Rogue was too drained, too cold - needed him too much - to do anything but let him have his way. Her eyes slid closed and she leaned against his chest, let his arms around her take some of her weight.
His lips touched her forehead, and her mutation soaked him in with the shock of a shot of whiskey, a stolen bit of his power scorching through her to drive back the chill. With it came a wisp of thought, blurred at the edges by fatigue but warm with everything he felt for her. Images more than words - dry clothes, hot soup, a nest of blankets in the third-floor break room they'd claimed for their own. A bottle of wine he'd scavenged somewhere and hidden. She jerked her head back, breaking away from the contact to blink stupidly up at him.
The corner of his mouth turned up in a crooked little half-smile. "Saved it for a rainy day, hein?"
Something thawed inside Rogue. Her head bowed against the shoulder of his trenchcoat, and in spite of herself, she started to cry.