Rogue pulled back carefully on the bow string. They were alone in the wooded park – the practice target seemed out of place in surrounding that otherwise showed no signs of human habitation.
"More tension," Mystique said softly. She was standing so close behind that her warm breath condensed on the girl's hair. "Use your entire body as a frame for the power."
Her daughter strained against the bow, and the string slipped off her fingers. The arrow flew wide of the target and clipped a tree, bouncing into the grass. "I don't think I'm strong enough," Rogue complained. "Why do I need to learn this, anyway?"
"There will be times when your power will be useless to you, my child," her mother replied patiently, "and for these times you must excel at fighting without your gifts. Now, let's try again." She picked up an an arrow, and gripping Rogue's hand that was on the bow, slotted it between the child's finger and the wood. She fit the butt of the arrow between Rogue's fingers, and pulled back on the string with her.
"There," she said. "Hold it there." She let go and stepped back from her daughter. "You feel that?"
This time the bow slipped out of Rogue's hand and snapped back into her arm, the arrow falling to the ground. The girl pouted.
"Hmm," said Mystique, and took the weapon from her unresisting daughter's hands. She picked the arrow up from the ground, and slotted it into the bow again. "Now you see what I'm doing here? I keep my leading arm bent, pull back gently, but firmly, and..."
The arrow sailed through the air neatly, and struck the target dead-on the centre of the bulls-eye.
Rogue put her hands on her hips. "I know the theory."
"Do you?" said her mother. "Hmm. Well perhaps I should start you on a weaker bow."
"Give me that," the girl said, and took the bow from her mother. She selected an arrow, pulled back on the string, and let it fly.
The arrow slid to a halt in mid air about half way to the target. Birdsong stopped, and Mystique was frozen in her odd smile.
"Are you still asleep?" asked Emma, marching across the wood towards them. In this place, she made the sun shine off her in a way that caught the eyes with a pretty glow.
"I believe the term is 'comatose,' Frost," replied Rogue, straightening up and turning to face her. "What do you want?"
"Well I've been having Betsy keep an eye on you. It's been a couple of weeks. You might like to know that Xavier's going to try something drastic to wake you up, so you better stop thinking of her." She pointed to the metamorph.
"What's with the sudden concern?" asked the southerner.
"I look after my business," Emma replied, then looked at the frozen arrow. "Hey, this one's hilarious," she said, and let time return to the memory.
The arrow continued to fly straight, but clipped the top of the target and shattered. Emma burst out laughing.
"I mean, come on," she said. "That, from you! Classic!"
"Better," said Mystique, oblivious to Emma's giggling. "You'll get it with practice."
"Get out!" snapped Rogue, glaring at the blonde.
"Yeah, yeah," said Emma, and disappeared.
Kitty eyed the professor suspiciously. "What are you going to do?" she asked, blocking the door to the theatre. It had proved impossible to move Rogue in any way, and she had been lying on the operating table in the same position for the last three weeks, skin still hard as diamond and the same dull glow surrounding her. Kitty wouldn't move from the doorway unless Lance or Fred came to take over for a while.
"I just want to try and find out what's keeping her from waking up," Charles replied. "Kitty, attempting to reach her with telepathy is the only course of action that makes any sense."
"Well I don't trust you!" the girl retorted.
"Kitty, just what do you think we're going to do?" asked Jean, standing behind the professor. "Honestly. We want Rogue back as much as you do."
"I doubt that. You would've gone back for her."
"Wewanted to," replied Jean. "The professor believed there was no point."
"Yeah, the professor 'believed.'" Kitty made quote signs in the air. "And I was the only X-Man to argue with him. Looks like the Brotherhood has more respect for her than any of you do."
"And what can they do?" asked Kurt, teleporting behind Kitty. "Shake her awake?"
"Hey, other side of the door, Kurt!" yelled the girl, and phased through him, pushing him back out with the others.
"You can't keep us out forever, Kitty," said Logan.
"Get that woman down here."
"Kitty, even if we could contact her, there's a fair chance she won't want to help Rogue," said Charles. "She may well have been in Jean's mindscape because Rogue had absorbed her personality. I'm sorry, but I can't let this continue. Nightcrawler?"
In a rehearsed movement, Kurt grabbed Kitty by the wrist and teleported both of them out to the common room.
Kitty slapped him across the face. "Don't you ever do that without my permission."
"I'm sorry, Kitty!" said the teleporter, lifting his arms theatrically. "But the professor is right. It's the only way of finding out what's happening with Rogue. She's stuck in some kind of stasis, and I really want to know she's going to get better. She's been like a sister to me."
"Right she has!" the girl exclaimed, poking him in the chest. "More than you know. Why didn't you speak up at the time?"
Kurt looked at the ground. "I was afraid," he replied.
"I... that I might... I mean, Mystique. I still didn't want to accept that she might be my mother. I can't help thinking, did Rogue do that for me?" the boy said, and raised his head again.
"Oh." Kitty tried to find fault in this, but she couldn't pin it down. "That's.... Oh. Um, I don't think she did it for you. I mean, not just for you."
Rogue sat back on her chair, eyes closed, listening to the waves. She dragged her fingers through the sand, relishing the unusual experience.
"You know, we should do this more often," she said. "Take some time...."
"There's so much to do, though," said Irene, who was sitting bolt upright on the next chair over. "We haven't the time for frivolities."
"Oh relax, Destiny," said Mystique, raising her glass. "If we don't make time to have fun–"
"Oh, give me a break!" shouted Rogue as time stopped again. She sat up sharply, and turned.
"Hey, I don't like this either!" replied Emma, walking up to her, hands on hips. "But while you've been sitting around feeling sorry for yourself, I've had Psylocke watch what's going on around you. Xavier is this far –" she touched her fingers together "– from going probing. I can't hold Jean in and him out at the same time."
"Well what do you suggest, Gracie?" asked the southerner as the scene around them changed to the inside of a diamond geode. Sitting in between them was Jean Grey, trying to use her telepathy. "If you remember, it's preventing little Red Riding Hood here from crying wolf that's got my body in this state."
Jean looked up. "You are not getting away with this," she said, glaring at Rogue. "You or Mystique."
Rogue punched her in the face. "Sometimes I just love my dreams," she said, kneeling over Jean's now prone form, "because you can't do jack all to me, and I can do whatever the hell I want to you. You're just a figment of my imagination." She dropped forwards onto her hands, and brought her nose to within an inch of Jeans. "I saved your hide and this is the thanks I get? The real you would keep a godamn secret."
Jean spat in Rogue's face, resulting in the southerner smacking her forehead into the redhead's nose.
"Much as I'd love to watch you beating the crap out of this 'figment of your imagination,'" said Emma, "it's not getting us anywhere. Or, should I say, it's not getting you anywhere. No skin off my nose when you get caught."
"Yeah until you have X-men poking around in Massachusetts. Then where you have X-men, you get Magneto too, and sooner or later the govern—"
Around them the crystals of the geode rumbled.
"That's not good," Emma inferred.
"You are sooooo busted," said Jean, grinning.
Rogue sighed, and smacked the redhead in the face again, this time with the palm of her hand. Leaning down on Jean's face, she raised her other hand to her temple, and let out a psychic blast. A massive tremor rippled through the geode, and a giant crystal broke loose directly above Emma, who dived away just in time, landing on her face.
"Well shit," the blonde said, getting up. "That broke right through."
"Yeah, she's immensely powerful. I know. It's not gonna take much more for her to break through your stone temple with actual telepathy."
"You think she can do it?"
"Only about a thousand times over. I said immensely powerful. Can end the world with her mind kinda powerful."
Out in the real world, Xavier was thrown across the room, his chair striking the wall and throwing him out.
"Well, this is most unexpected," he said, as Hank helped him up.
"That was Jean's power," remarked Beast.
"Indeed. It seems she reacted to me trying to break through the mental block set up by this... form...."
Hank looked up at the monitors, still showing no life signs. "I wonder what's going on in there," he said.
"I also," replied Charles. "She could be trying to protect us from Jean's remnant. If only I could get in without hurting her... I could help to purge it. It must be quite a battle in there."
In the corner of the room, the shadows moved. In Rogue's mindscape, Emma advanced on the southerner.
"I do not want Magneto near my children," she yelled, and grabbed Rogue by the collar. "Get this under control. Learn. To. Use. Your. Damned. Powers."
Rogue kneed the telepath in the stomach and twisted her around, hooking her arm under Emma's throat. "—!" she started.
She didn't continue, because behind them, Jean was giggling. Slowly it became a cackle, but this didn't last long.
The redhead collapsed to reveal Psylocke, who waved vaguely. "Uh, hi," she said. "Am I interrupting anything?"
"We were about the break out the psychic strap-ons," Emma sardoned.
"I believe it," replied Betsy. "Um. Just wanted to say, they believe there's some kind of battle between Rogue and Jean's remnant going on in here...."
"That has the essence of truth," said Rogue, releasing her choke-hold on Emma and looking down at Jean. A purple protrusion was apparent in the small of her back. "What did you do?"
"Oh, that's just a pseudo blade. It sort of gives the my opponent the impression they've been stabbed while not actually doing the physical damage."
"But it can still kill."
"Why didn't you bring this up when I interviewed you?" asked Emma.
"I figured by the time I realised it was that kind of job that you already knew," said Psylocke. "Besides, you gave me the job anyway."
"How long will that last?" asked Rogue, indicating the blade.
"Oh that's just a simple one. It shouldn't really even be having that much effect, but I've never tried it on a psycho-avatar before. It'll last until I go away. But I can make a more permanent effect if you want."
"Do it," said Emma.
Psylocke grimaced for a moment, and a psionic blade appeared in her hand, shimmering purple as it grew to a length not less than two feet. She slid it slowly into the back of Jean's neck, pushing it up into her skull as the redhead screamed, until finally Psylocke's hand was on the back of her neck. Jean fell silent, catatonic, and the other two noted that there was no further protrusion, merely a purple glow in her eyes.
"And that will last?" asked Rogue.
"She's completely incapacitated until one of us dies," said Betsy. "It's a sort of full cortex mental block, but with sharp edges. I don't know quite how your powers work, though. I'd recommend against trying to access hers. The repercussions could be anything from her waking up fully, or the blade leaking out into your own mind."
"Extraordinarily. You may also be able to expect all sorts of weird nightmares – and they'll be dangerous. Whatever you do, don't touch her."
"But she'll be quiet now?"
"As the grave. Trust me on this."
"Miss Braddock, I do believe we're done here," said Emma. She turned to Rogue. "You better not put a foot wrong with this."
"Like I would?" replied the southerner, but Emma had vanished. "How did you get in here, anyway?" she asked Psylocke.
"It's complicated," said Betsy. "A different psionic power. Moving through shadows. Works across some dimensions, and all. The mind is a very shadowy place."
"So... are you going then?"
Psylocke looked around. The geode had disappeared, replaced by nothing but blackness and the three girls. "Curiously enough, when a world is made entirely of shadow, I cannot enter or leave it. Would you mind very much imagining a light? I can't stress enough on you how much this little trick is costing in terms of thermodynamic balance."
Rogue raised an eyebrow. "Thermodynamic … ?"
"First law of thermodynamics; Energy, and as a side effect matter, cannot be created or destroyed. Because I'm not present in the physical universe, the matter that would normally be, well, me, doesn't exist. As such energy expands to take its place, roughly the same amount by the speed of light squared. This speeds up the universe. Only a little bit now, but just you wait a few hundred thousand millenia and the difference—"
"Alright, alright, if it stops you give me a physics lecture." A light burst into life behind Rogue, and Psylocke vanished.
The southerner looked down at Jean. "Remind me to beat the crap out of you later," she said. "I mean really, not just here," she continued, before closing her eyes.
Rogue sat up suddenly, and looked around. She was in the operating theatre at the Mansion. Professor X was by the bedside, and Jean, Scott, Logan, Ororo, and Evan were standing behind him with another blue furred man.
Suddenly Kitty ran into the room, Kurt close behind.
"I couldn't stop her–" the teleporter started to explain.
"It's okay," said Charles. "We're... finished here."
Kitty looked up at her old friend. "Rogue!" she shouted, running to her. "Did they do anything to you? What did he do?"
"Ah'm fine, Kit," replied the southerner. "The prof didn't do anything. Maybe wants to ask some questions."
The younger girl glared at the professor. "Hey, she's recovering, you know," she accused.
"Ah said I'm fine. Calm down. Now if someone could tell me what's been going on the last little while. Start with who this guy is," Rogue said, indicating Beast.
"You remember Mr. McCoy from your school?" Xavier said. "Well, he went through a bit of a transformation. Meet 'Beast.' He's an instructor here now."
The blue man held out a hand. "Pleased to meet you."
"Why does everyone keep doing that?" asked Rogue. "Ah'm Rogue....
"Ah'm not gonna shake your hand, because Ah think I've absorbed enough people for a while. Anyway, Ah've been in at least four of your classes."
"Yes, of course," said Beast. "I just, um.... Well it amused me, anyway."
"...Amused you," muttered the southerner. She swung her legs off the table and stood up. "Ah'm sure there's more news than that," she said. "It's kinda oppressive in here, isn't it? Let's go outside."
Silence followed her with the younger X-Men and Wolverine all the way out into the gardens; Charles, Hank, and Ororo claimed to have some administrative thing to attend to. "Oh, come on," Rogue said when it was obvious no one was saying anything.
"I, uh– I'm going to check how Duncan's doing," said Jean.
More excuses were mumbled until only Logan and Kitty remained.
"Well, that was anticlimactic," said the southerner.
"Well, I have to say myself, 'Wonder why you went back to rescue Mystique,'" said Logan.
"They're all suspicious of you," whispered Kitty. "I wouldn't hang around here if I were you."
"Where else am Ah gonna go?" asked Rogue.
"No-where," replied the Canadian gruffly. "You both belong here."
"Well I'm not staying!" said Kitty. "Not if you all treat each other like this."
Wolverine just grunted and stalked off.
"Anyway. You ran off and joined the Brotherhood?" Rogue said. "Whatever possessed you to do that?"
Kitty glared at her. "How did you know to find me there?"
"Let's just say Ah ran into some people with information on my way back. For someone who just said everyone else was suspicious, you're sounding pretty snappy yourself."
"It was just the way everyone like, turned their back on you completely. I didn't want to be part of that."
Rogue grinned. "Well thanks for the thought, Kit, but these guys are one thousand percent better than those creeps you're hanging out with now."
"I don't think they're that bad after all. I got them organised better, and–"
"And they're going to depend on that if you keep hanging out with them, Trust me, Ah know. Let Magneto keep them in line." Rogue started walking towards the mansion's garage. "Hell, Mystique's probably gonna show up any day soon anyway, and she'll kick you out for sure."
"You can't really want to like, stay here, can you?" asked Kitty, following her.
Rogue opened the garage and pushed her bike out. "There's worse places," she said, handing Kitty a helmet. "Come for a ride?"
"I'm... not sure," the younger girl said, taking it cautiously. "I mean, you just woke up from a coma...."
"So I've had three weeks sleep. Oh come on, what harm can it do?" asked Rogue, kicking the bike into life.
"All right," said Kitty nervously, and she clambered onto the pillion seat and strapped the helmet on.
"Great. Let's hit the road!"
"And you just left the two of them alone?" asked Charles.
"Something supposed to be wrong with that, Chuck?" asked the room's other incumbent. "You said yourself that Rogue seemed to be better than ever."
"I... I guess not," replied the telepath, moving to the high-arched window to gaze over the grounds. "I just worry about Kitty. We're going to have to work hard to regain her trust."
"You're changing the subject, Charles. If I didn't know better I'd say you were suspicious of Rogue." Logan ambled to Xavier's chair. "Most of us are, me included. But I didn't worry about it 'til now."
"If I believed she was any danger to anyone–"
"Yeah, right. You'dve told us. But I can tell you have reason to doubt."
There was a soft knock at the door.
"Come in, Jean," said the professor, turning to the door as the redhead opened it. "How can I help you?"
"I was just... I'm trying to find Rogue," she replied.
"Took off about an hour ago with Kitty," said Logan, still facing the window. "They'll be back. Stripes' stuff is still here."
"How's Duncan?" asked Charles.
"Getting better," said his student. "But the doctors are still puzzled by the nature of his injuries."
"It's for obvious reasons that we can't tell them the truth. Don't blame yourself, Jean – you had no control over what happened."
"Why are you looking for Rogue, anyway?" asked Logan, now turning to face Jean.
"I wanted to thank her for helping me out back there." Jean held up a box by way of demonstration. "I mean, she didn't have to do what she did."
Wolverine smirked. "She really thought she did. We can all thank her for that. But you wanted her to answer some questions, too."
"I do have a couple. Everyone does. But they can wait." The last sentence was spoken darkly.
"I believe that's not the general feeling," said Charles, going past Jean into the corridor. "I know that Scott, at least, is doubting her motives. Ororo, Kurt, and Evan don't know what to think."
"What about Kitty?" asked Jean, following her teacher in step with Logan.
"Indeed. What about Kitty? Yet another series of questions to be answered." Charles sighed as they arrived at the mezzanine overlooking the atrium, where the new recruits were at work and play. "However, we must ask ourselves the question: What are they to make of us?"
Evan bounced the basketball a couple of times, and lined his shot up carefully. "C'mon man, I mean the first thing she did when she came back was totally save our butts," he said, and tossed the ball. It bounced off the backboard and rolled around the hoop before falling through. "You gotta respect that."
Scott caught the ball and dribbled it out to the key as Evan stood aside. "Yeah, the first thing she did." His shot went wide and the rebound left the court. "We hadn't heard a thing from her until then, either. Every time the professor tried to find her, he couldn't. Oh, and she just happened to turn up with half the Brotherhood in tow and a telepath in her head to help straighten Jean out."
There were a couple of bamfs and Kurt appeared hanging from the backboard his feet, the ball held in his hands. "The lady could've been there by coincidence," he said, and dropped the ball through the hoop while simultaneously somersaulting to the ground. He smacked the ball to Evan. "And I don't think she could have got in by herself. The Brotherhood house isn't far away, so she could have gone to them for help. That Kitty was there was a bonus."
"He's got a point," said Evan, and executed a perfect lay-up, passing the ball to Scott afterwards. "Then again, that she didn't call up is kinda suspicious."
"Whatever" said Scott, and stalked off, tossing the ball over his shoulder as he did so. "I have some serious questions for that girl." The ball swished through the hoop, and Kurt caught it behind the line, he and Evan watching the Alaskan go with puzzled expressions.
"What is his deal?" asked Evan. "Jean means everything to him. Shouldn't he be thankful for Rogue doing what she did?"
"Scott tries to look out for all of us," replied Kurt. "It must get to him. I can't help thinking we could have avoided all of this if I'd gone back."
"Hey, it was hardcore back there."
"I could have done it. If not for mother, then for Rogue."
"Hey, she got out, didn't she?"
"But what happened since then?"
"That is the big question." Storm descended onto the court from above, touching down lightly. "Perhaps not so important as the fact that she came back, though. Come, boys, the Professor wants to see everyone in the library."
"Why didn't he just send out a call like normal?" asked Kurt.
"I don't know," replied Ororo, "but I'm sure he had a reason. Have either of you seen Scott?"
The two girls lay on the grass of the hillock, their heads about a foot apart, staring up at the sky.
"You know, I haven't looked for pictures in the clouds since I was a kid," said Kitty.
"You are a kid," replied Rogue. "You can look for pictures if ya want, but I ain't ever seein' anything but clouds."
"You must be pretty worn out from that coma."
"Worn thin, maybe. It was actually pretty restful. Ah don't get to dream my own dreams very often."
"The people Ah've absorbed... they never leave. Not properly. It gets a bit crowded in my head."
"Oh. I didn't know."
"That's 'cause I never told anyone."
Kitty turned around to face the southerner. "Why not?"
"My problem." Rogue shrugged. "Ah deal with it."
Kitty lay back down and they remained silent for a while, though the girl was fidgety. Eventually, she spoke up again.
"So, I guess I know why you went back for Mystique. How'd you survive the asteroid breaking up? Jean said the main corridor like, collapsed on you."
"Well Ah can't say I didn't have some help there. Jean reached out, put a bubble around me, Ah think — it stopped the concrete actually hitting me. Then, as it happened, I was right under the main ventilation shaft. It was already pretty broken up, so I could punch through it."
Kitty sat up suddenly. "Whoa, whoa, whoa. Punch through it? Concrete?"
"And steel. Lots of steel – Ah thought afterwards that maybe the only thing holding it together was Magneto's power. Anyway, you saw me in that stasis. Hard as diamond."
"You can move like that?"
"There's limits to it. Had an advantage for a while because of remnants of shape-shifting."
"Oh." Kitty paused for a moment. "The strength you'd need, though...."
"Of course, ya didn't see the bit where I absorbed Sabretooth... again."
"Ya seem to be sayin' that a lot, Kit. Something on your mind?"
"What happened to Mystique?"
Now Rogue paused. "Well, she survived, if that's what you're asking. Ah got her out."
"How'd you get out before it exploded, though?"
There was another pause while Kitty waited for the rest of the answer. There didn't seem to be anything else forthcoming.
"You jumped? From over 200 feet up?"
"Well Ah was in the air for a while. Ah was kinda hoping for a mid air rescue, but Ah guess you guys were otherwise occupied. Ah won't say landing wasn't tricky – the diamond form helped there, too. Hit the ground real hard."
"Huh. So why didn't you call?"
Rogue smiled. "You and Ah both know you skipped the mansion within a couple of days of gettin' back. How could you possibly know Ah hadn't called?"
"Well, I just figured– Hey, how did you know that anyway? You never really told me."
"Some of us know people outside of the Institute, ya know. Emma told me. Well, someone who works for her, anyway. Courtesy call when Ah got back or somethin'."
"Anyway, Ah left an obvious enough trail for the prof' to follow. Ran into some old pals down there. And Magneto again. He's got more cronies."
"Well that's great," said Kitty sarcastically. "What about your mom?"
"Who knows what she's doing? Ah mean, she fell out with Magneto, that's for sure." Rogue picked at her fingernails. "Maybe if certain X-geeks had come back for me we'd know exactly where she is and what she's doing, but Ah guess that wasn't a priority."
‹You do know exactly where she is, though,› Emma accused. ‹And what she's doing.›
'What I'm saying here concerns you – how?' replied the southerner.
‹So sue me for taking an interest. Are you keeping secrets from this girl or not?›
"Do you really think she'll lead the Brotherhood again?" asked Kitty.
"Those losers? In their nightmares. Which probably means yes."
Now the Chicagoan was on top of her peer, glaring down at her. "I don't get it. Whose side are you on? I mean, like, what the hell was that supposed to mean anyway?"
"An' here Ah thought you'd got it worked out." Rogue licked her bottom lip. "What ya gonna do now, girl?"
"Urgh!" Kitty stood up and walked over to the bike. "Like, take me home."
The southerner leaned up on her elbows. "And just where is that, Kit? You don't wanna go to the X-men, you can't go back to Chicago – not now. You know you don't belong with the Brotherhood."
"What, you read my mind now?"
"Not yet, but Ah could." Rogue walked up behind the younger girl. "You want that?"
Kitty narrowed her eyes. "Are you, like, trying to take advantage of me?"
"So, you admit you're confused and vulnerable, then?"
"What?!" Now she turned to face Rogue, flinging her hands into the air. "I mean it, really. I don't get anything you're saying."
"You're the one who insisted Ah joined the X-men, then turned your back on them as soon as anything went wrong. Let me tell ya something, Kit. They did everything they reasonable could. The professor knew Ah was alive– and kickin'. Ah let them know Ah'd left that desert. They knew Ah'd met up with some other folks. Ah didn't let them know where to look for me. Ah'm a lot more precocious than any of 'em, an' really you shoulda' known that already."
"They abandoned you."
"They didn't know how to say they couldn't find me, and you wouldn't let them, Kit. C'mon, it's the best place for you. Don't you just wanna help people?"
Kitty nodded sullenly in response.
"Well you'll find out eventually that the Brotherhood ain't about that. Be sure, Kit, Magneto's got his thumb on them, and do ya really want ta end up doing his dirty work?"
"I- I guess not."
"Then do yourself a favour and come back to the X-men." Rogue straddled the bike and started it up. "If you want ta help those boys, maybe you can get them to come too, but Ah doubt it."
"What if Mystique–"
"Mystique's a transient, Kit! She'll only come lookin' for someone if she thinks she has a use for 'em."
Kitty clambered onto the pillion seat. "But she's your mother!" she yelled over the noise as Rogue revved the engine.
The southerner laughed. "Well o' course! Why don't you ask Kurt 'bout that?!" she shouted back.
Charles looked over the assembled mutants. "Thank you all for coming," he said.
After a short pause, Scott said "What's this about?"
Wolverine, behind the professor, snorted. "What's everything been about recently? It's Rogue."
"Thank you, Logan," said Charles darkly. "It is, indeed, about Rogue."
"What about her?" asked Jean. "She's back, everyone rejoice. Yay."
"It's not as simple as that," replied the professor. "For one thing, Rogue has every reason to feel betrayed by us, since we – since I left her alone in the desert. Another concern is that I have seen evidence to suggest that perhaps the only reason she joined us is that Kitty asked her to. With Kitty in the brotherhood it's reasonable to expect Rogue to go back to them.
"And can we really blame her if she does not wish to stay with us? Trust has to go both ways. I know that many of you are conflicted, and it does, indeed, seem rather convenient that Rogue arrived with just about everything that was needed to dispel a situation that was occurring at the time. If we are suspicious of her, she will be suspicious of us – and isn't that fair?"
"Well, would she even've come back if she didn't have some kind of outside information?" said Scott. "Where did it come from? Why didn't she tell us? How are we supposed to trust someone if they keep secrets from us?"
"She saved my life, Scott," said Jean. "Probably all our lives. I was losing myself in there – I don't know what would have happened. Of all of us, you should remember how I was when the professor brought me here; And Rogue had a lot of options back there. She could have saved everyone else by crippling me, did you think of that? You remember how brutal she was when she was working for Mystique? Maybe it would have been easier on her. But she chose not to hurt me. I'm happy for that. I'd put my life in her hands. Wouldn't you? Everyone has secrets. Even the professor."
Wolverine perked up, hearing a noise that no one else did.
"So where's this going, prof?" asked Evan.
"I intend to welcome Rogue back with open arms, and I'd appreciate it if you all endeavoured to do the same," replied the Professor. "That is, of course, assuming, that she wants to come back," he continued, turning to the door.
Momentarily afterwards, Kitty and Rogue phased through the large oak doors, giggling.
"Well, Ah'm sold!" said the southerner. "Not like I was goin' anywhere else, anyway. What d'ya say, Kit?"
"I'm– I'm still not sure," replied the other girl, sobering up. "I, uh–"
"Ya really don't know who to trust, huh?" Rogue turned to the adults present. "Ah'm ashamed of you. Couldn't even work out how to help one little girl. Ah mean, come on! Her room-mate vanished, probably dead, and you thought she could work through it herself?!"
"Well–" started Jean.
"And you! You thought it would be okay to just run in there and blow the memories away? That's the lowest of insults." Now Rogue turned on Logan. "You let her get captured by the brotherhood. Shame on you."
Stunned silence filled the room.
"Did I miss anything in that?" Rogue asked aside to Kitty.
"Well, I let the whole thing happen, I guess..." said Kurt.
"Is that what you think, is it? Well Ah s'pose no one thought to counsel you about it either, did they?"
"I'm gonna pack the rest of my stuff," said Kitty after a while, and phased out through the doors again.
"Vhy did you go back for Mystique?" asked Kurt. "I'm sorry, but I have to know."
Before the girl could speak, Xavier said "When Rogue made the decision to join us, her motivations were unclear. What she told me was that she felt she had a better chance of learning to control her powers here. I believe that she joined us because she shares the knowledge that we're all in this together now, and in going back for Mystique embraced that vision better than any of us. She has put her life on the line to save all of us, no matter our leanings."
'Oh you are so full of yourself,' thought Rogue, making Emma giggle. Out loud, she said "You make me sound like the freakin' messiah of all mutantkind."
‹Just what would they do if they knew the truth that you're only hanging on to them because they might be useful later?› wondered Emma.
"I know all of you have homework to attend to," said Charles. "Rogue, if I could have a moment?"
Rogue followed the professor up to his office. Once there, Charles moved behind the desk and said nothing.
"Look, professor, I ain't got beans to spill on some big secret if that's why you asked me here," said the southerner.
"I'm concerned, Rogue," Xavier said, "and I think you know why. Your return has been a blessing and a curse. I have reason to believe that there are things you have been keeping from us, and you should be aware that if I deem that they are threatening I will find out what they are, with or without your co-operation. I must put the protection of my students above your personal privacy."
"That's pretty funny, professor, after your little speech about trust."
"My position is that I will trust your discretion. If there is anything that could harm your peers, I want you to tell me."
"Well that's interesting, professor. Very interesting, but right now, Ah need to stop Kitty from doing something else stupid."
"One other thing, Rogue," started the professor suddenly as the girl made for the door. "In Jean's mind.... Did you sense any kind of … dark foreboding?"
Rogue turned abruptly, and looked contemplative for a moment. "Ah sense forebodings, dark and otherwise, on everyone nearby, all the time. Ah don't know, maybe that just rubbed off on you."
On Xavier's desk, an ornate Gothic knife rose into the air and spun gently around the blade's axis, before diving point first into the woodwork between two of the telepath's fingers with a loud thunk, appearing to burn momentarily. When he looked up from it, Rogue was gone.
‹Don't see why you need me around if you can manipulate Xavier's thoughts like that,› remarked Emma as the southerner ran through the halls to her room.
'You mean the trick with the letter opener? He was already thinking like that. What I felt in miss Grey's mind.... I'm not sure I shouldn't have killed her then. Although, given, I'm not sure that'd work.'
‹You've got balls using her telekinesis after what Psylocke told you, anyway.›
Kitty stood up guiltily when Rogue burst through the door of their room. She barely had time to brace herself before the southerner was on top of her, tackling and bearing her down to the bed behind her.
"You're not seriously gonna leave me here by mahself, are you?" Rogue asked, almost sobbing.
Kitty looked shocked momentarily, but shoved her friend off. "You don't seriously believe I'm going to believe that act, do you?" she accused. "I told you, come back to the Brotherhood with me. They'll accept you."
Rogue laughed. "They won't," she said. "They don't accept you. They're in awe now, they're scared of you. When that wears off, no respect. We'd end up beating 'em into submission, sugah. And we could do it, too, but it's the wrong way. No, Ah can't go back there."
"Freddy got a job," replied Kitty.
"That might last a little while, but you know Dukes. He means well, but – well you remember when he first arrived right? With Jean?"
"But surely, that was under Mystique's orders, right? He–"
"Uh-uh." Rogue shook her head. "Mystique actually asked me to go sort it out before he made a scene."
"Oh. Anyway, I'm sure with a little help, Lance could–"
"Not that boy. Never keep him outta of trouble."
"There was one night, he could've had me. I wanted him to. But he wouldn't."
"Sure, Kit. He wants to make an impression now. But what he's got for you is just clinging onto the past, anyway. Poor guy never wanted to leave Chicago, now the Brotherhood's all he's got. He ain't changin' them, and he ain't changin' away from them. Oh he might try, but he'll never get away from what he used to want."
Kitty grunted, and picked up the duffle bag she'd filled with stuff. Phasing through Rogue, she made for the balcony door.
When the southerner spun around and grabbed her wrist, Katherine Pryde had a few choices. She could, for example, have phased through the other girl's grip and kept walking. She could have yelled out. She could have slapped Rogue.
What she chose to do, however, was phase her friend and herself, and used her unique leverage against nothing to throw Rogue through the window, only letting go when the southerner was clear of the glass.
The result of this was the Rogue, moving at a speed that Shadowcat in normal circumstances would not be able to achieve upon an adult "human" body, hit the stone balustrade – which cracked and fell away, allowing the southerner the cruise further onto the lawn below. Except that in this instance she hit a stone path instead.
Sauntering easily down from the balcony, Kitty walked unconcernedly past her. "Didn't see that coming? Or didn't want to admit you could?"
"That really hurt, y'know," said Rogue, slowly standing up as blood dripped from her mouth. "Could've done some real damage there."
"I've seen you walk away from worse," replied Shadowcat, shrugging as she continued walking away. "Hell, seen you leap and bound away from worse."
Rogue grimaced and dashed in front of the other girl, whereupon she fell on her, wheezing. "Ain't so... easy... when it's just me. Got no regen– reg–"
Kitty winced as the southerned coughed violently then hacked up a large gob of blood that coated both their shirts. "Oh shit," she whimpered, dropping her duffle bag as she fell to her knees, Rogue now leaning on her entirely.
"Christ, Half-pint," said a familiar gruff voice behind her. "Most unlikely pair possible. Never expect anyone to get the better of Stripes like that, didn't expect you to have it in you."
Rogue chuckled. "Guess it got so unlikely it was inevitable."
"You should not be talking," said Logan. "Reckon you've got yourself a punctured lung."
"Oh my gosh I'm so sorry!" cried Kitty, as the Canadian pulled Rogue off her and lay her down on her side.
"Spare a thimble, guv?" the southerner said before falling unconscious.
Soon Hank was there too, carrying a stretcher with Scott in tow.
"Sheesh, what happened here?" asked Scott as Beast arranged Rogue onto the stretcher.
Logan merely grunted, but then Kitty burst into tears. "Kitty," he started, moving to comfort her.
Shadowcat flinched away from him, and fled. Wolverine crouched to chase, but then stopped.
"I think she'll come back," said Hank, reaching down for one end of the stretcher.
"Yeah," sighed Logan, and picked up the other side, the two of them lifting it to hip height to carry Rogue to the infirmary.
Further apologies for the long delays. Seven months this time. Well and truly a habit now, I guess. My only excuse this time is that it's chapter 13. I've actually rewritten large amounts of it several times, and it still feels a bit forced. In fact I had to deviate from my outline a long way for it to make any sense in the context of later chapters at all.
So, again I thank RogueNya, Murasaki Tsukimaru, Cosmic-lover, Dark Inu Fan, S*, woohoo*, Bets*, and spiritgirl* (*anonymous) who reviewed the last chapter, and all you readers who still haven't given up on this rarely updated lamefest.
Next Chapter: Something actually interesting happens. I promise.