I humbly present an idea that has been tumbling around in my mind for a while.
This idea came to me one night as I watched an old monster movie. I pondered what about a monster story with an X-Men: Evolution twist? Sounded like an intriguing development so I decided to pursue it. In the end I settled on one of my favorite stories, from novel and play, The Phantom of the Opera.
Thus I now present The Phantom of the Institute.
Thanks go out to the lovely Spiffythefaery for volunteering her time to beta reading this and many other stories that I have in my warped mind.
I don't own X-Men: Evolution or the Phantom of the Opera. I know Stan Lee owns the former and the latter was created by Mr. Gaston Leroux.
"Little Lotte thought of everything and nothing."
It was summer in Mississippi. Which meant that the sun was out in all its glory, shining light and heat upon the earth. Especially heat. Summer meant ridiculous warmth swept through the southern states. The torridity swarmed over the land, affecting everything that was foolish enough to be in its path. Crops faded from crisp green to dead brown in the sweltering temperatures, unable to stay healthy with the sun blazing above.
But as bad as the warmth was, it was bearable. However in Mississippi, the heat was never alone. It was always accompanied by its older and meaner cousin, humidity. The blazing sun drew water from the river basin, making the air thick and heavy. It made the heat worse; made the summer unbearable for those who lived in the river basin of Mississippi.
Even those who had lived their entire lives in Mississippi were unable to truly adjust to the heat and humidity combo. Of course, everyone wore short shirts and shorts during the summer if they needed to evacuate their homes, hoping that the lack of clothing would provide some sort of relief from the barrage of heat.
Silently the girl known only as Rogue cursed the fact she always had to stay covered up despite the sweltering heat. Even though she was only lounging on the porch in front of her home, Rogue was swathed with long clothing, in order to prevent any 'accidents' from occurring with the unsuspecting bare skin-wielding neighbors.
Rogue made it habit to stay inside as much as she could during the summer, to keep cool and to avoid the nasty glares that she received from the less tolerant neighbors. For Rogue was a mutant, a person born with a special mutation in her genetic makeup which gave her an ability that a normal human didn't possess. While many mutants saw their abilities as a gift, Rogue saw hers as a cruel joke of nature.
Growling at this cruel twist of fate, Rogue couldn't help but wonder why she was sitting on her porch in the middle of the day while still being covered up. The only reason Rogue was even outside was because of her foster mother's insistence that they would be having a visitor show up sometime during the day. When Rogue pressed for details about the mystery guest, she was answered with "I don't know's" from Irene.
While most teenagers would spend time arguing with their parent about such a wild prediction, Rogue had learned that it was best to believe what Irene said. And with good reason. Irene, like Rogue, was a mutant. She too had a gift that could be, and Rogue often did, construed as a curse. Irene had the ability to see images of the future, letting her know what was going to happen before it did.
Rogue failed to understand why Irene chose to act the way she did with her gifts. If Rogue could see into the future the first thing she would do was invest in the next through the roof stock. But Irene had flatly told Rogue that she refused to use her powers for her personal benefit.
Rogue sighed as she waited for this guest to arrive. Irene was inside, preparing a dinner for them with an extra table setting for the guest. Glancing up into the sky, Rogue saw that the sun was slowly sinking towards the horizon. Not as if night brought much respite from the heat and humidity of the day. Rogue had five fans going day and night and her room was still too hot. The sky was darkening from light blue to indigo. Shortly the sky would be filled with various colors, ranging from red to violet, before finally fading to black.
"Rogue," Irene called from inside the house. Rogue rolled her eyes. She may have loved Irene, but she was still a teenager and didn't want to do any chores.
"What?" Rogue called back, not bothering to move from her position on the porch. Her emerald eyes were scouring the street, trying to see the visitor as he approached. Rogue's watching was interrupted by a soft poking in her back. Turning her head Rogue saw her foster mother standing behind her, her walking stick thrust out in front of her. Irene happened to be blind, a side effect of her powers she said. Still she carried on as well as she could, not letting her physical disabilities hinder her from living her life. A lesson which Rogue could have done well to learn.
"Our visitor approaches," Irene said from the doorway of the house, pointing her stick towards the end of the street. Interested at finally seeing this person, Rogue shifted her position to get a better view of the end of the street. For a few moments nothing happened, no one came around the corner. Rogue knew better than to give up so quickly though. As he rounded the street corner, Rogue knew immediately that he was the person she had been waiting for all afternoon.
He was tall or at least that's how he seemed from Rogue's vantage point. His rustic brown hair was waving about his face, reaching down to the level of his eyes which were obscured with dark sunglasses. His walk was swift with purpose, but not rushing. The most intriguing thing that Rogue could see was that, despite the overwhelming heat, he was wearing a long trenchcoat. The brown duster flapped alongside his body, bouncing lightly with each step he took.
As the visitor approached the house, his features became clearer. Rogue couldn't help the thoughts that shot across her mind as she got a good look at his face. He was gorgeous. She felt a slight pang of disappointment that she couldn't see his eyes, but she held her tongue and kept her thoughts to herself. She'd be damned if she would let this man know what she thought about him before they had actually met.
His stride slowed as he stepped onto the porch, a few feet away from Rogue. Reaching up to remove the glasses on his face, Rogue saw why he wore the dark glasses. His eyes were black with red pupils. Shooting Rogue a smile that sent shivers through her spine, he turned to face Irene.
"Mademoiselle, my name is Remy LeBeau," the visitor stated with a slight bow. Rogue rose to her feet and made her way over to Irene. She was right, Remy was quite tall. He was several inches taller than her, her eyes reaching his chin. A grin wormed its way onto his face, a sparkle growing in his eye.
"Hello Mr. LeBeau. This is my daughter, Rogue," Irene said, introducing Rogue to the guest. Reaching out, Rogue was surprised to see Remy grasp her hand and not let go.
"A pleasure, Cherie," he said as he bent over to kiss her gloved hand. Her open backed gloved hand. Jerking her hand from his grip before his lips could caress her skin, Rogue glared at Remy. He was still smirking, either aware of what caused her reaction or totally oblivious. Rogue wouldn't put either one past him.
Irene turned to enter the house and Remy quickly followed her inside. Rogue hesitated for a moment before following the two.
The sun had long since sunk behind the horizon and with it the light that had lit up the sky. Night had snuck up on the land, bringing darkness. The heat from the day had slightly decreased, but was still enough to make people uncomfortable in their sparse clothing. The humidity, however, did not abate with the lack of light.
Still this was Rogue's favorite time of the day. Just after the sun had set and night had settled in. Rogue felt a sense of peace permeate through her as she found herself on her porch once more, this time looking out at the night. She didn't understand why this time of day brought such comfort to her, and let her mind wandered over the events of the day, including the fairly pleasant dinner.
Not much had occurred at dinner. Irene and Remy had politely talked while Rogue spent the entire time poking at her food. Remy was nothing but polite to Irene, answering all her questions and never once showing any sign of irritation of Irene's peculiar questions. Rogue hadn't been paying much attention to what Irene was asking; she didn't particularly care about what her mother wanted to know. Often times Rogue found it better not to ask.
Remy was answering questions dealing with the social atmosphere of some mysterious place, the teachings, and the like From what Rogue picked up from the limited amount of questions that she actually listened to, it sounded like Irene was inquiring about a school, which made absolutely no sense to Rogue.
Rogue had finished her food quickly and excused herself from the table making her way outside to the porch. Rogue was so involved with her thoughts, she failed to notice that she had company.
"What you tinking about?" Remy asked, his voice making Rogue jump.
"Yah scared me!" Rogue snapped at Remy, who responded with a winning grin.
"Can Remy join you, Cherie?"
"It's a free country." Remy moved next to Rogue before sitting down on the porch, letting his legs hang of the edge of the wooden structure. Neither spoke for a moment, letting silence fill the air. After a few moments Rogue asked a question that had been on her mind since Irene informed her that Remy would be coming earlier in the day.
"Can Ah ask you something?"
"Why did yah come here?"
"A good question. But Remy got one dat answer it. Why you so covered up in dis heat?" Rogue turned her head to look at Remy. His red eyes were even more noticeable in the night, the red standing out among the darkness surrounding him.
"Cause Ah'm a mutant. If somebody touches my skin then Ah absorb their memories and energy. And the person Ah touch ends up taking a nap," Rogue responded, wondering how Remy was going to answer her with this line of questioning.
"Doesn't it make you feel weird, having to walk around like that? Don't you get the feeling that you don't belong with everyone else?"
"Ah guess so. Why?"
"Cause Remy knows exactly what you go through. Remy went through it. Everyone stared at Remy's eyes. And den had insults thrown Remy's way. Some said freak and others said demon. Remy hated it."
Remy paused as his memories overwhelmed him. Rogue chewed her lip thoughtfully. She had never thought that there would be people with mutations that made them physically different. Mutations which led to even more ridicule and pain.
"To make a long story short, Cherie, Remy thought dat dere was no where he could fit in. But den a man came to meet Remy. A man who could offer a place for Remy to live without being rejected. A school for mutants, where dey could learn to control deir powers and find a people like dem."
"A school for mutants?"
"Yep. A school for 'de gifted.' Remy found a home dere. A life too."
"You're still in school?" Remy raised his eyebrow.
"Remy? Non. Remy left school a while ago. But Remy keeps in contact with de headmaster. He told Remy dat he found a mutant here and asked if Remy would extend an invitation to de femme. And dat's why Remy's here Cherie."
"Cause yah want me to go ta school?" Remy nodded, never losing his grin. "Ah already go to school."
"But dis is a school where you'd fit in Petite. A place where people won't talk behind your back cause your different. In fact, once you go to the Institute you realize that you don't have it dat bad."
"Ah can never touch another person! Ah fail to see how it can get any worse!" Rogue snapped. Remy may have been serious about this 'school for freaks' but Rogue had no intention of being uprooted and leaving Irene alone. She may be seen as a freak, but it was home.
"Maybe you can't touch because you haven't developed your powers Cherie. De instructors at the Institute would help you to do dat. And den you might be able to touch." As appealing as this prospect was to Rogue, she still chalked it up to fantasy. Irene had told her that she doubted she would ever be able to touch, and she could see into the future.
"Thanks for the offer, but no thanks. Ah'm fine where Ah am. Ah don't need to go to a school for freaks. Ah'll be fine here," Rogue said, her voice filled with conviction.
To her surprise, Remy didn't try to argue with her. He got up to his feet and looked down on Rogue, his hand vanishing into his trenchcoat. "If dat's your choice, den so be it. But in case you change your mind," Remy pulled his hand out of his trenchcoat, a small business card clenched between his fingers. He reached out with the card, presenting it to Rogue. Rogue snatched at it but didn't bother to look at it.
"Give us a call and Remy be down to get you in a flash. Take care petite. Maybe we met again," Remy raised his hand to his eyebrows, giving a mock salute to Rogue while still flashing his grin. Turning on his feet, Remy walked off the porch and down the sidewalk, his figure disappearing in the darkness.
Rogue watched Remy walk off into the darkness, her eyes trained on the night even after he had vanished from her view. Realizing that she was still holding on to the card Remy had given her, Rogue deigned to look down at it. It was plain, no borders or pictures adorned the card. A large X inside a circle was engraved on the side with the words Xavier Institute for the Gifted printed beside the logo. The card went on to list the phone number and address of the Institute.
Rogue had the urge to tear the card into pieces and throw it away but something stopped her from carrying out her desires. Sighing to herself, Rogue slipped it into her pocket, thinking that she could always trash the card later. She remained on the porch staring out into the darkness, the small card forgotten.
Rogue stomped into her home, slamming the door shut as fiercely as she could. Storming off to her room, Rogue flung her book bag across the small living room, not particularly caring where it landed. To say that her day had been lousy would be an understatement.
Rogue was always forced to put up with the usual taunts and insults, something she had grown quite accustomed to. Sure, it stung slightly but Rogue was learning to deal with it. Being a mutant meant she had to endure far worse. Whenever something went wrong, she was immediately blamed for it. Even though the teachers knew exactly what her powers were, Rogue still was the one punished for any misdeeds while the rest of the school silently snickered.
Today everything had gone wrong. Someone had stolen the supplies for a chemistry lab and Rogue had gotten blamed. A teacher was hit with a spitwad while writing on the board; Rogue had taken the punishment. Rogue had bombed a test despite having the correct answers. When Rogue asked why she had done so poorly her teacher had flippantly replied that she had cheated, despite not providing details of how.
Now Rogue had gotten no credit for a test, had several hours of detention to serve, and owed the school several thousand dollars for supplies which she knew could cost no more than a hundred bucks. So involved with her thoughts of revenge, Rogue failed to notice Irene tapping at her door.
"Rogue," Irene gently called as she cracked the door open. "Honey, what's wrong?"
"Everything!" Rogue snapped at her mother, anger still dominating her voice.
"What happened today?" Irene questioned, her voice soft and reassuring. Rogue proceeded to spill out the contents of her day. Irene listened to everything she said, never once interrupting.
"You know this has been happening quite a bit since school started," Irene stated after Rogue had finished.
"Ah know! And Ah always get blamed for something that ain't mah fault! Just because Ah'm a mutant," Rogue growled. Irene made her way through the room to join Rogue on the bed. "Ah just hate being treated like this cause Ah'm different."
"I know. And since that's the case, maybe you should go somewhere where you wouldn't be different," Irene replied, her face full of resolve.
"You remember Mr. LeBeau's offer? A school filled with mutants, a place where you wouldn't be different."
"Ah don't want to go to a school for freaks."
"It isn't a school for freaks, Rogue. You're not a freak and I'm not. It's a place for people like us."
"Ah still don't want to go!"
"Why not? You're miserable here Rogue. People shy away from you, you take the blame for everything that goes wrong. You're grouchy and snap at me. This isn't who you are, I know it. You can't be yourself if you stay here. I think you need a change of scenery."
"But this is mah home. Ah don't want to leave," Rogue said, her resolve starting to crumble.
"And it will always be your home. Going to the Institute isn't going to change that. And sometimes you have to do things that you don't want to Rogue. I think this is one of those times."
"But Ah…" Rogue was cutoff by Irene getting to her feet.
"No buts Rogue. You have to do this. I would be a poor parent if I let you stay here to wallow in your misery. Now start packing. I'll go make the call."
Rogue watched Irene make her way out of the room. For some reason Rogue was glad that Irene had been so forceful about this issue. Cracking a slight smile, Rogue made her way over to her closet to decide what to pack for her trip to the Xavier Institute.