Review responses have moved back to their original location at the end of the chapter, in an effort to make room for the Things of Note section:
1) On Joseph. I didn't really give any history on Joseph because I figured a lot of people would remember him from the comic canon, and those who didn't weren't really missing out. But, people think he's old! It's the hair, isn't it? In the comic canon, Joseph was a clone of Magneto and appeared to be young, and though worthy of painful torture because of his role in keeping R & R apart, was actually kind of pretty. Like him, the Joseph in this story has white/silver hair but is Remy's age.
2) Review please?
That in mind, I ask you to read on.
Joe's heart beat faster as he unlocked the closet door. From the corner of his eye, he could see Rogue waiting, her hands folded across her lap, expression empty and he thought, it his first chance to fill it with something good: a smile, a twinkle, an amused raise of the eyebrow. Ever since he'd been brought to the house, he'd waited for that chance. It was stupid, his infatuation, but like a moth to flame, he'd been guided towards her against all reason. Here he was, a man of numbers and logic and cold, hard facts, how was it possible that he'd fallen victim to the oldest romantic cliché in the world: love at first sight? And not even that, but love at first sight of a picture. A two-dimensional photograph.
Pathetic, pathetic, he told himself, not quite caring either way. All that mattered was that she was around and waiting patiently for him to show her what he'd built so far of the Chamber. What would she think of the room?
His hand hesitated on the handle. Joe knew what lay on the other side of the door, knew the twisted path of colorful wires that were attached to his computer and the scattered gadgets, some he needed for the Chamber, others he'd built when his mind was too restless to focus on the project. It was all he had of himself, really, just that ability and those creations.
Of course, he reminded himself; Rogue would be must more interested in the Chamber than in any of his random projects. He gave her a small smile and pulled open the doors. There was a moment of silence. He saw her lean forward, as she tried to get a better view, no doubt. Then, she laughed. "Joseph." She murmured, "What is that?"
"It's the Chamber," he tried to explain. "I still have to-"
"No…that." One pale, pointy finger stuck out, indicating a direction totally opposite of the Chamber. He frowned.
He walked over to the area and bent down. His hands lifted up a tiny Robot Joe. "I couldn't sleep one night," he explained. "I came in the room and started working. I hope you don't mind that I took your likeness too-" He glanced at the Robot Rogue. She sat in the center of a small town, with streets made out of flattened aluminum and buildings of smudged copper. All around her, there were others. A little Mystique was halfway through morphing into one of her alter egos. Irene was nearby, with glasses and a cane. Behind them, there was a gathering of people.
"How did ya work the metal like this?" Rogue asked.
"Just talented, I guess."
"Wow." She breathed, clearly impressed.
He skimmed over her with his eyes. "My thoughts exactly."
Gambit thought very bad thoughts about Rogue's cross. And then, because he'd spent too many years in the company of nuns, forced his mind away before he started feeling guilty. There was a very real chance that Rogue was being pursued by an evil organization of scientists, and that left him no time to stop by the confession booth and clear his conscience. He stared at the receiver in his hand –turned off for the protection of his sanity- and wondered how things had spiraled out of control so fast.
He knew, by this time, that Rogue and Joseph were not, in fact, sleeping together. That crazy assumption had lasted only for a moment, before the conversation crackling along the line had turned towards some kind of toy city. But it didn't change the fact that Rogue had sounded so comfortable around this Joe person.
And Joe? That had to be the most common name in the whole history of common names. Joe. Joseph. Jose. Giuseppe. No matter how it was pronounced, it sounded dull, plain, and stupid. But Rogue was with Joe and Remy was stuck… in the van.
They were five minutes or so away from the mansion, and all crammed into a van. It wasn't quite most comfortable of places to be, when one considered everyone present: him, a brooding Acolyte, the traitor Carol, arrogant Pietro, and Jean Grey the Obviously Troubled. They were a strain on even Scott's mediation skills. It helped, somewhat, that Kurt Wagner was around, to break up the tension, but…
"Hey." Jean, who happened to be sitting shotgun, adjusted her position so that she could look at him better. "That was a good idea with the cross. Putting it in there in the first place was obviously an incredibly dumb thing to do, but it'll probably come in handy now. I've been communicating with Kitty and she thinks she can tap into the satellite receiver and give us an exact location for Rogue."
"Good news," he answered.
"It's not enough that we find her," Scott said. "We need to know more about this Society of Good Men. If they're determined, they might make a second attempt at capturing her and we need to be prepared."
"What part of secret society don't you understand?" Carol scoffed. "These guys are just shadows. Untraceable. It's not like they advertise: this week only, special Society of Good Men t-shirts on sale at Macy's!"
"The back could read: Smart and Psycho," Kurt mused.
"Or, 'evil fits me to a T'."
"Is dat a syringe o' poison in yo' pocket, or are you just happy t' see me?" Everyone shared a smile, until they remembered who they were sharing with. Eyes were quickly averted.
So… there was a serious Russian boy standing on the front porch. Kitty Pryde cast a nervous glance behind her, worried that someone would notice her out of bed; but Xavier had left a message requesting assistance and the people that weren't caught up in helping Rogue went to help him instead.
She leaned a great deal of her weight on the doorframe, because her legs weren't nearly as strong as she would've like, and watched the Russian boy –Piotr Rasputin, the file said- gather up his thoughts enough to speak. Waiting was just fine for her; it gave her a chance to study him up close. He was so tall she had to lift her chin into the air to get a good look at him, so broad around the shoulders she wondered how he managed to find clothes that fit that well, and so handsome she hated that Magneto had gotten to him first.
Sure, the file said 'bad guy', but there was an endearing quality in the way he looked, like a child trying to face a reprimand with grace. Her hand wanted to reach out and pet him, but she held it fast to her side. Luckily this was an easy accomplishment: the hand in question was wrapped up in a cast.
"I'm here for Rogue," he said finally. And she'd had a dream like this once, where the mansion had been flooded with adorable guys all looking for Rogue, Rogue, Rogue.
She'd cut back on the Brady Bunch marathons after that.
Kitty said, "She's not here. Can I take a message?"
He shifted his weight to the other foot. "Yes. I'd her to know that what she saw earlier wasn't what it seemed. Gambit and Belladonna aren't a couple. Belladonna's been trying to force the issue, but Gambit has remained steadfast and faithful."
A short laugh escaped his lips and Piotr shook his head. "I feel like I'm in one of those shows…"
"A soap opera?" Kitty supplied, as she laughed, too. "I know what you mean."
"Are you… all right?" Piotr asked, while he passed a gaze over her. He looked startled at her appearance, like he'd just seen her condition for the first time.
"No," she answered. "But I will be. You're Piotr, aren't you?"
"And you're Katya. I suppose we've both read the papers."
"Listen, we're still trying to locate Rogue right now, but Gambit and the others are on their way back. If you want, you can come inside and wait for them." She flashed him a grin. "I could use the company."
"You don't mind that I'm an Acolyte?"
"Oh, don't get the wrong idea. This new girl we've got, Betsy, can totally kick your ass if you make any evil tries at something." She pulled back the door a bit. "Come on, Petey. You look like you need a rest anyway."
Carol literally flew out of the van, and Jean couldn't blame her. The atmosphere was close to suffocating. So many people with so much on their minds, it was… chaotic for a telepath. Everyone always assumed that when she knew things about them, it was because she'd been nosy and searched their minds, but honestly, she had little choice in the matter. People were always projecting. It took an honest effort on her part to keep them out. With the strengthening of her powers –or, with the rise of the Phoenix, as she liked to call it, for she still believed there was another being acting in conjunction with herself, some symbiote they'd yet to discover- it was even harder to keep other people's thoughts out of her head.
She closed her eyes to the breeze and felt the wind move through her. The unsettling feeling she'd had during Carol's interrogation was being to dissipate somewhat. Jean tried to concentrate on Franklin, who'd passed by her so often and had never given off any strange vibe.
"Come on," Scott whispered in her ear, as he urged her on. "We have to go inside."
But she'd latched on to a certain something and needed a moment. "Scott," she said.
"What is it?"
"Why weren't we able to tell about Franklin? We should've."
"You didn't know about Carol, either. It's okay. No one expects you to do a thorough scan of everyone's mind as soon as you meet them, Jean."
"But Carol gave off some senses," Jean argued. "I could tell when she was annoyed, when she was tired, there were a couple of random sentences I heard. I got nothing from Franklin. I assumed it couldn't have been important since the professor didn't mention it to me, but now that I think of it, it's weird. Its like his mind was blank."
Scott frowned –she felt that. "Could they have done a mind wipe to prepare him?"
"I guess," she agreed. "It's just that people, even people without memories, they experience and think and project. That's just how it works."
"So you're saying…"
"It's almost like he didn't have a mind at all."
"But he talks." Scott reasoned.
Jean shrugged. "So does your computer." She sighed and moved along inside the mansion walls, and wished all the while that Xavier were around so she could discuss it with him.
With all that shared time between them, Remy had thought he really knew Rogue. But as he walked through the halls towards the kitchen with her teammates, it dawned on him that their secretive relationship had left him with only part of her. They didn't discuss any of the daily stuff, like who ate her cereal and hogged the bathroom and needed her advice. There was a whole chunk of her life he didn't know about.
He saw a picture of her hanging on the wall, some random photo of her rolling her eyes while Kurt Wagner and Kitty Pryde made rabbit ears behind her head, and couldn't suppress the sigh. When she came back… they would get rid of the rules. Get rid of his affiliation with Magneto, if that's what it took. Gambit promised himself this.
"Kitty!" He heard Kurt exclaim as they entered the kitchen. He looked and saw the small brunette seated on a chair, just across the way from…
"Piotr?" Gambit crossed his arms and glared down at his teammate. "What are you doing here, mon ami? You Magneto's little errand boy now?"
"No." Blue eyes turned away from him. "You were right, Gambit. I've been trying so hard to convince myself that I was working for the right side, for the right reason and it's a lie. Magneto is not a good man. I should never have given you advice on the girl. I came to speak with Rogue and explain, but Katya tells me that she's missing now."
"Thanks for sharing top secret information, Kitty," Kurt groaned.
"Top secret? Look who else already knows: Gambit, Carol, and Pietro, of all people. You really want to start because I told Pete?"
"Why aren't you in bed?"
She wrinkled her nose. "Because I'm sick of that bed. I've seen too much of it lately. Thanks, Carol," she told the blonde, who was just stepping into the kitchen with the rest of the collective. She received a shrug.
"Casualty of the game," Carol said.
"How about we play again when I'm better and actually know we're fighting."
"That's enough," Scott said, as he and Jean came inside last. "Kitty-"
"I'm sitting down. I'm not exerting myself in way, all right? Just let me stay." She glared and looked resolved to remain with the rest of her friends.
Scott blinked. "Fine. I was going to ask where everyone else is."
"Oh. We got a call from Xavier. He needs some help on his front, so they figured since Rogue has you and Jean and the rest of us, they'd go to him."
"Huh. Kurt," Scott said, "Go see if you can find anything that might have a sample of Franklin's DNA and fingerprints. Brushes, papers, just whatever."
"Why are you testing his DNA?" Kitty asked, as someone handed her a laptop and the receiver. Her good hand began to move over the keyboard. "Don't we already know who is he and all that?"
"We're thinking maybe he's not who he said he was…"
"But he was an old friend of the professors." She pointed out.
"No. Johan Franklin is a friend of the professor. Maybe this wasn't the real Franklin."
"You think he's an imposter?"
"I trained for years to be able to slip past this place undetected," Carol said. "There was no way you could just shove any random person in and have them not be detected."
"I don't think he was a random person."
"I think he might have been a clone."
Secret agents didn't pout. So she wasn't pouting. She wasn't brooding either, although she certainly had cause. Forced into cooperating with a group of disgustingly optimistic teenagers, it was enough to drive anyone mad. This wasn't what she signed up for. She wanted that assignment in Eastern Europe, but no. Carol Danvers was destined for the X-Men and the Brotherhood and years of training that would be blown because someone underestimated Jean Grey.
She dug the toe of her black into the floor and listened to the plan. Katherine Pryde would locate Rogue Darkholme and the lot of them would rush off to rescue her from evil forces. They'd run a DNA scan on the crumpled, used tissue they'd found in Franklin's room –gross, but the only way to conduct the test. They were hoping it'd show something strange, something that would help them verify that Johan Franklin wasn't quite human.
It was a simple plan. But they worked fast and Carol had to admire them for that, however begrudgingly she did it. It was easy to see why her organization had thought the X-Men trouble. Xavier wasn't churning out lackeys at his institute: he was creating talented, ambitious crusaders. It was almost enough to make Carol…
But… no. She wasn't even a teenager anymore, not where it counted. And she was only helping the X-Men until she had her check verified, at which point she'd be setting sail for some far away and exotic isles, where no one cared about powers or politics or genetic experiments. At least in the meantime, she didn't have to suck to up anyone anymore. No pretty smiles to make her the innocent ingénue.
She noticed Pietro watching her with narrowed eyes. "What?"
"I didn't say anything," the Magneto spawn spat.
"Keep it that way." She responded.
"Or I'll rip out your spine and mail it to daddy dearest as an early Christmas present. I haven't used my powers to their full extent in a long time. This will be the perfect chance to find my groove, back stabber."
"Me?" Pietro said. "You were using me to tear down my father's dreams."
"Like you would've cared if I told you. All you wanted was Rogue."
At this, Remy LeBeau looked up from his position beside Pryde and Rasputin. His eyes narrowed on the pair of them, like he thought they might be lizards wearing human skin as disguise. Not that there was any reason to believe them trustworthy, but still, Carol huffed silently, it wasn't like he was the epitome of all things honest and good. If he had been, maybe they wouldn't be looking for Rogue and-
"Got her!" Kitty said suddenly, grinning from ear to ear. "She's in… Mississippi."
"She went south," Scott said. "To her old house with Irene and Mystique. If she's gone back to them, we have to consider that she might not be willing to return with us on request. We don't want a confrontation with her. She's our friend." His words were clearly aimed at Gambit, who rolled his eyes.
"I just want my chance t' explain," the Cajun said.
"Then we want the same things," Scott responded. "Someone go check on Kurt and the DNA tests. Everyone else, get ready to leave in five minutes. We're going to Mississippi. Kitty, go back to bed."
"No way!" She protested. "I want to come!"
"I'm sorry," he said, apologetically.
"Yeah," Kitty grumbled, "So am I."
"I'll walk you," Piotr said, as he stood and offered his arm.
"We're leaving to find Rogue," Jean said, as Kurt Wagner recorded numbers for Dr. McCoy. The lone adult left in the mansion after Xavier's request, he inclined his head towards Jean. She grinned. "We'd like you to finish these tests. The results could be really important, Dr. McCoy."
"Kurt, you stay too. If we need you and Beast, you can get him here faster."
Jean turned to go, but a large hand wrapped around her wrist and tugged her back. She looked at Beast, who was studying her with careful eyes. "You look unwell."
"I'm worried about Rogue," Jean confessed. "And… I think my prescription might not be strong enough anymore. I'd like to talk to you about strengthening it once this is over, if you don't mind."
"We'll discuss it."
"Thank you," she said, and then left the building. Outside, they were waiting for her. She took a deep breath and joined them. Together, they left to talk sense into Rogue.
"What kind of ice cream do ya want?" Rogue asked Joseph, as they stared into the cold freezer located in the far corner of the local 7-11. "Are ya in a 'Mocha Mint' mood, a 'Nutter Butter with extra nuts' mood, or a 'strawberry an' cream' mood?"
The boy licked his lips and shook his head. "Its hard to choose."
"Practically impossible," Rogue acknowledged. "Ah want it all."
"If anyone deserves it, it's you," Joseph said, as he reached out to brush hair from her face, ruddy from the cold freezer air. She rolled her eyes and made a face.
"Ah've heard that line before. But it ain't helpin' me pick an ice cream."
"Let's go with the Rocket Pops." He decided.
"Rainbow colors an' a burst o' flavor?" Rogue read the wrapper aloud. "All right." She pulled out two and handed one to him. "Your treat," she told him, while she unwrapped hers and exited the store, her entire being lighting as she moved into the sunlight, an incandescent pearl.
The cashier behind the store shook his head. "Girls. How do we survive with 'em?"
"I have no idea," Joseph sighed, as he took out his wallet and paid.
Another chapter done! Ta da! I know that it's been a while, but I've been busy. Thanks to everyone who reviewed. Questions, Comments, and perhaps Coconuts can be sent to me; I am Eileenblzr at Yahoo. Come talk!
PS. I'm trying to keep this story consistent. If you notice any glaring inconsistencies, just drop me a note so I can fix it? Thank so much.
Chico De Los Ojos Café: I have every intention of finishing this fic, but it's nice to know that other people care about it too and I'm not just typing alone. Thanks for all your nice compliments!
IvyZoe: I actually like Scooter, and I try to let other people see why. I'm glad it worked and you found him acceptable. Thanks!
Sweety8587: Ahh! I need to protect my characters from you. You're always trying to kill them! Well, so long as you review. Thanks so much for that!
Jade, Wanted, enchanted light: You guys rock. Seriously, thank for all your support!
Ish: I trust that your usual brilliance has carried you through the stress of finals –I, sadly, am just approaching the evil things. I'm glad you've found amusement in Pietro's terrible luck. You've predicted that there'll be conflict when the X-guys come to claim Rogue, but for that… well, you'll have to wait. Ha. Thanks so much!
Neurotic Temptress: She IS Stormer from Jem! And she was my favorite Misfit, too! Your knowing that is good. It's truly, truly outrageous. By the way, if I had my own Synergy, she'd do all this updating junk for me. It's great to see you around again.
Randirogue: The X-men knew about Carol was involved in black ops because Jean recognized the Falcon Four name that Kitty heard Carol mentioning. I guess they kind of assumed that she was an agent. Something you should never do, but they did. At least they were right about it. Thanks for the review!
Molly Mo: There's a reason why the professor didn't know about Franklin. But speak of this to no one, for all shall reveal its course in due time –identify that quote and get a cookie.
Cursedchick55, Betrayeddaughters: Thank you both! Your encouragement is much appreciated! Hope to see you both around again soon.
Howlerdrode: As a general rule, I don't particularly care for Carol, but she's an essential part of Rogue's history. I'm really glad you read this and thank for reviewing! You're awesome. Keep writing yourself.
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Elena: Woah. You read it all in one go. That actually scares me, 'cause then I have to make sure that the consistency holds up, you know? I'm glad you found this worth your time! I actually have considered letting Rogue and Joe be together. Don't worry. I'm nowhere near done with Joey.
Lonewolf44, MwrulesC, Silver Ink, jeremie, cat2fat900, faire childe, scarey-kid, Kitsu Lebeau: Hi. I tried to go out and buy you all presents in honor of your too-kind reviews, but alas, I am but a poor college student and apparently, fifty cents buys you jack in this world. In lieu of expensive presents, I offer you my greatest thanks instead. And this piece of lint.
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