I'm back! …After a several-year hiatus of posting. I KNOW, I'm horrible. I have been writing, but since some was actually published locally, I cannot put it online. And look at it this way—this way you (hopefully) won't have to wait months in between updates. :)
Anyway, this is a ROMY, hopefully an interesting, new take on the pairing. Some angst, some humour, action-adventure, lots of romance.
Info You Need To Know:
Rogue and Remy have not met before; but this IS after Self-Posessed (where Rogue's absorbed powers go… well, rogue…), Rogue's only been back "in the field" for a short while at the beginning of the story. Also, in this A/U story, Rogue deals with the first use of her powers alone; when she is chased by Mystique, picked up by the X-men in the graveyard, and convinced to come to Xaviers', it is the SECOND time she has used her powers.
Rogue is 18 when the story begins, Remy is 21.
Thoughts are in italics, and while I will put in some of Rogue and Remy's accents, I am not going through the headache of writing, for instance, all of Rogue's "I"s as "Ah"s. You all know she speaks with a Southern accent, and spellcheck goes nuts trying to deal with that sort of thing.
Hopefully that gives you some frame of reference to set this in. I'll take suggestions for titles; "Xanadu" is a place-holder I'm not sure I entirely like. Here we go--!
6 April 2005—Added Prologue—so do read!
Rogue shuffled into the kitchen, yawning at the early morning hour. Damn Logan and his dawn Danger Room sessions, anyway, she thought, blearily reaching for the burbling coffeepot. A large mug and some sugar, and she was ready to be caffeinated. As she sipped the steaming liquid, she leaned against the doorframe, looking out across the fog-laden grounds. It looks so peaceful out there, she mused to herself. I could just go out and disappear, be swallowed up and left alone. She sighed to herself. That'd be nice…
Rogue was getting awfully sick of the people around here. Well, maybe not Ororo or Logan, but most of the students were getting on her nerves. It had been a little over a month since she had lost control over the psyches in her head—a month when, it seemed, no-one trusted her anymore, despite Professor Xavier's assurances that she was unlikely to lose control like that again. It was aggravating. Bobby and Evan avoided her when they saw her coming. Scott and Jean didn't avoid her exactly, but whenever they were around, she could tell they were watching her warily, like she was a bomb that might go off at any moment. They always stayed long enough to say hello, pretend nothing was wrong, but they always were quick to get themselves out of whatever room Rogue was in at the time.
Even Kitty and Kurt, her best friends here, didn't trust her. Rogue knew that was true; she'd accidentally overheard part of a conversation they'd had about her.
"But what if, like, it happens again, Kurt?" Kitty had asked. "It took the entire team to take her down the last time!"
Kurt had sounded tired when he replied. "I know—it's dangerous. She almost killed all of us when her powers went wild, but we almost had to kill her to get her to stop! I don't know what the Professor is doing about it, but I'm sure they're working on her control more than ever now."
A bitter look crossed Rogue's face as she stared into the fog, remembering the conversation. Poor Kurt. He apparently hadn't noticed that the sessions with the Professor became shorter after her loss of control—not longer. I've got the world's most powerful telepath afraid I'm going to accidentally kill him, she thought, and the thought was not a happy one. It only increased the distance she felt was between herself and the rest of the team.
Part of that distance was her own fault, she knew—since her powers first manifested, she had cultivated a prickly Goth personality to keep others at arms' length, the better to avoid accidentally absorbing them. And the better to avoid getting hurt. Her few friends in Caldecott had said they were okay with her being a mutant—after all, it wasn't exactly something she had decided—but after she absorbed Cody, the darling of the school, at that party, her friends had kept their distance. Oh, sure, they'd call to talk once in a while, but they never really 'hung out' anymore after Cody had recovered from his Rogue-induced coma.
Then she had run into Jenny—literally run into her one evening—and was suddenly thinking, 'Oh. My. God! I don't know what cheerleading routine we should use for the state competition! And it's only two months away!' That thought was so foreign to Rogue that she realized what she'd done. Fortunately, she hadn't absorbed Jenny much, just knocked her out for a moment, but as soon as she began to move on her own, Rogue ran. She had ended up in the graveyard with Mystique and the X-men trying to find her. At first she was with Mystique's Brotherhood for about a month, but her powers didn't get any better. Confused and scared, she'd decided to go with the X-men, figuring that they as mutants wouldn't shun her.
Well, look at them now. A burning tear slipped down her cheek; she started and quickly wiped it away. Now, quit it, girl! You're the Rogue, you don't feel lonely! Funny how telling herself that never seemed to work. For all of her rough attitude and her touch-me-not demeanor, she had to admit that her teammates' avoidance, well, it hurt. A lot. She swallowed the lump that rose in her throat at that thought. She needed their support more than she'd ever admit. Now, with that support gone, she was left adrift and feeling like she'd been kicked out of a club that she'd been a member of—until now.
An ugly, upset look crossed her face as she glared into the swirling fog. Yeah. Nice friends in Caldecott, nice friends in New York. Lose control once or twice and you're OUT.
She tossed back the last of her coffee and turned to go get ready for Logan's Danger Room session. Why he was making her get up at dawn, she didn't know. She was not really a morning person, and getting up this early only made her more sour-tempered than usual.
She arrived at the Danger Room, where Logan was waiting for her. He muttered a "morning" at her, then turned to go into the control room. She stopped him.
"Why… How come I have extra DR sessions? Am I in trouble for something?" She tried not to whine.
"I told you before, Stripes, you need extra time in the Danger Room to get back into field-ready condition after…uh…"
"After I lost control." Rogue finished bitterly for him. "Well, how close am I to being ready? I'm getting sick of being left here when there's a mission to go on, and it's been a month since I got out of the infirmary!"
"You're close," he admitted. "But let's see how today goes. Get in there; I'll start the program."
An hour later, Rogue gratefully fell into a hot shower. Damn, but that had hurt. She'd been walloped by a couple of robot-like 'enemies,' after which Logan had stepped up the level and had her dodge laser blasts. Unlike the rest of her teammates, when Rogue was in a solo session in the Danger Room, her powers did her no good. It was all skill and training that kept her in one piece. Though it would be nice to use Kurt's teleporting or something on my own will sometime. She sighed quietly as she got herself ready to go to school. Somehow, a version of what she had done was circulating the school. Considering how much damage she'd done to Bayville, it wasn't surprising that the kids at school avoided her more than before. Oh well. At least she didn't have to wait in line for lunch anymore.
That afternoon, a call came in for the X-men. Rogue was permitted to go on the mission. She didn't have to do much, and the mutant—a crazy fire-wielding minion of Magneto's—was subdued without her help. She had had the opportunity to take him out early in the fight, and had offered to do so. Scott, however, had refused to let her get close to the mutant. He said it was for her safety—"We want to keep you in one piece, now"—but for the rest of the fight, Rogue could have sworn that Jean was keeping an eye on her, apparently suspicious that she'd disobey Scott's order.
A few weeks later, Rogue was walking home from school. Kurt and Kitty had gotten a ride with Scott and Jean, but Rogue really couldn't stand being around the redhead; she opted to walk. All Jean seemed to feel for her anymore was distrust and contempt. Not that they'd had a great friendship before her loss of control, but at least Jean hadn't watched her like a hawk all the time.
As she walked along Bayville's streets, Rogue decided to go to the bookstore. That's a good way to avoid going home for at least an hour, and besides, I need something new to read. She perused the shelves, but didn't find anything that caught her interest. She glanced at her watch—whoops! She'd spent more time than she thought she had. If she didn't get home now, she'd miss dinner.
Quickly, she exited the store, and didn't notice the man following her at first. But when she took a shortcut through a little-known alleyway, and he followed too, she figured it out. Oh my God. The anti-mutant fervor had been rising nationwide for some time now; Rogue had been wondering when one of the Institute kids would be harassed. Just my luck it's me. The crackle of a walkie-talkie from behind startled her. She heard the man say, "—auburn, with white—" The response came back, "It's a go, then. Move in!"
The footsteps behind her quickened, and Rogue dropped her schoolbag and began running toward the mansion. Briefly, she thanked God that Logan had made her run as part of her DR sessions. She hated running, but was it ever coming in useful now! She kept pelting toward the familiar wall, now rising in the distance. She risked a glance behind her: he was gaining. Crap, she'd have to try to lose him. Matching action to thought, she ducked down a short alleyway, dodging the debris that cluttered it. She came out the other side and nearly ran down a businessman talking on a cell phone. Without hesitating, she grabbed it. "Sorry—have to borrow—life or death—" she gasped out, and dialed the mansion's number as she took off running again, ignoring the man's surprised "Hey! That's my phone!"
"Kitty—Kitty, it's Rogue. I'm on—" she peered at a street sign "Magnolia, near Oak Street, there's someone after me, you've got to help—"
The phone exploded into shards of plastic in her hand. A wild-eyed look behind her showed that the chaser had found a friend—a friend with some kind of hunting rifle. Holy shit!
It seemed like an eternity of running; a cramp started to stitch into her side, but she ignored it, instead scanning the sky and the men behind her. Finally, she saw what she was looking for—Ororo and Jean were dropping in gracefully from above; a sulphurous smell announced the arrival of Kurt, Kitty, and Scott.
Rogue was about to yell at them, let them know exactly where she was, when a sharp pain lanced through her head from her neck. She reached to the source: A dart? What the hellllll…. Her vision began to swim. The chaser-man finally caught up with her. She swung at him, but somehow he wasn't where her eyes said he should be. Sound and sight distorted as the world tilted crazily around her. The man slung her over his shoulder and moved toward a van that was just stopping.
Scott couldn't believe his eyes: whoever these guys were, they were talking Rogue! He fired an optic blast at the gunman, who avoided the red beam. More thugs poured out of the van, making room for the kidnapper and Rogue as they advanced on the X-men. A fight ensued, but apparently these guys were ready for their powers, since they seemed practiced at avoiding them. There was a whoosh and Kitty slumped over; Kurt ran to her aid, and pulled a feathered dart out of her shoulder. "Tranquilizers!" he shouted in surprise. "Zey are trying to capture us!"
Crap. And they already had Rogue. It began to rain as Ororo called in lightning to try and take out the gunman, who was now drawing a bead on Kurt. Scott leapt for him and knocked him down as the dart passed over their heads. "Thanks, mein freund. Vere is Rogue?"
"In the van. "
"I can try to 'port in, try to get her out if I can," Kurt offered instantly, and Scott agreed.
"Fine, but they try to get hold of you, you get out, all right?"
"Right!" Kurt disappeared. Scott blasted another two thugs into unconsciousness, but they seemed endless. Suddenly, the van's engine revved, and Kurt was kicked out of the back door. A hand swung the door shut as the van tore off down the street.
The walkie-talkies on the thugs' belts crackled. "Abandon mission; chief objective accomplished. We have her. Repeat, if you are mobile, abandon mission—"
Scott's heel broke the walkie-talkie in two, silencing further comment from Rogue's kidnappers.
Chapter 1: "And close your eyes with holy dread"
"Suffering has been stronger than all other teaching…" —Charles Dickens
Rogue jerked awake, pulse pounding in her throat. A tremor hummed through the floor, impacting her ear. The first few weeks, she hadn't noticed; now she marveled that she ever had missed it—it thrummed through her bones, mimicking her trembling limbs as she desperately pressed herself still, so still, against the linoleum. In her mind she could backtrace the sound: form her ear to the smooth cool floor, under the heavy sealed door to the harshly-lit hallway to the sound's source:
The Cart. It was coming down the hallway, inexorably, that one damned wheel squeaking every third rotation, as always.
She swallowed raspily, her throat suddenly dry, prayed desperately. O Gawd, please don't let it be for me this time, please, please, take someone else…
It wasn't that she wished—Them—on someone else; it was that she didn't think she could stand it anymore. She never slept now; it seemed as thought they were coming for her every few hours, day or night.
She choked back a bitter laugh at the thought, swallowed it, lest she attract Their attention to her. Day and night. Since she'd been captured, the hours had ground into days into weeks 'til the words "day and night" ceased to have meaning, except as a distant memory of light.
At first, she had been afraid for her teammates, thinking the rest of the X-men had been captured, too. Snatches of stolen conversations of the nursing aides, though, informed her that her friends remained free:
"Can't believe they only got one of 'em. Those Xavier kids are more trouble, left running around. "
"Yeah, but we got the one from that group Trask wanted. The others were just gravy. You know that. And we've got most of the others he wanted, too. Should be a good holiday bonus in that this year."
The knowledge that the others remained free buoyed her fading hope—for a time. But as time went on, Rogue began to realize she would never be rescued. When they took her from the cold cell, they'd talk casually about the X-men's feeble attempts to rescue her. Each time, it seemed, they were easily rebuffed; in any case, the rescue attempts didn't seem to worry them at all. Rogue noticed that the X-men were being very careful that no-one else was captured—they broke off their attempts at rescue as soon as any X-man was in danger. Finally the rescue attempts stopped altogether.
They had abandoned her. Just like Irene, just like Mystique, once she became more costly than useful, she was kicked aside.
She had been given up for good.
The knowledge was almost enough to break her, but her pride reared its head, lashed her with its sting, and insisted she be independent, as so often before. Her pride demanded that she live, damnit, and screw the X-men if they'd given up on her. She wouldn't give up on herself.
Ironic, to think that They valued her more than her teammates—they were willing to fight to keep her, for whatever reason. She still didn't know why they had captured her, though she knew she wasn't the only mutant here. The experiments they did on her seemed to have neither rhyme nor reason: they'd removed squares of slowly-healing skin from her arms, legs, back; another time, they'd recorded her brainwaves as she absorbed someone—street kids, mostly, filled with fear and hunger and loneliness which Rogue now shared. They had injected her with unnamed substances, X-rayed, poked and prodded her, silently recorded the effects on clean white tablets. Pressure points were pierced, to bring intense pleasure, deep pain. They took blood samples, the needles seeming ever larger, more painful, more invasive. In response to all of this, she glared at them silently or spat curses at them while they worked on her.
Some days they seemed only interested in how much pain they could inflict, how much she could take, surgical slices along non-essential lines, just deep enough to watch the red spatter on the shining sterile floor. Those days, cursing wore out quickly, and she could only weep, brokenly.
While her mind flashed across all this information, Rogue remained frozen, breath shallow, heart thundering in her own ears but still not loud enough to drown out the rattle and rumble of The Cart, still moving down the hall, still moving closer. Every second the sound continued was a second it came closer to herself. Her cell, she knew, was at the end of the hall. Six cells, evenly spaced, neatly lined each of the two long walls, pacing their way to that bright window of harshest light in the too-clean chamber where they performed their experiments.
Quickly the sinking realization set in: they were coming for her again. She tried to shake off the dread, choked back a sob. I can't take this personally. They don't think I'm human, it's like I'm a thinking lab rat. She took a deep breath. Still, I won't let them dehumanize me. I'm better than that. Rogue knew she was being worked on more often than any of the other captives. She knew when anyone was taken out, since the same lightning-bolt of fear pressed her to the floor whether it was her turn or not. When she bothered to keep count, she had been taken about every eight turns or so. Assuming each of the other cells had one prisoner in them, for a total of thirteen, she was being taken about one and a half times as often as anyone else. She wished she knew why they had singled her out. She'd tell them, her mutation wasn't a useful one like Kurt's teleportation or Kitty's phasing or the Professor's telepathy. Her poisoned skin only hurt people, herself most of all.
The Cart rattled to a halt outside her door. She took a breath, braced herself. The door creaked open, and she flung herself at it, shrieking as she always did, clawing, seeking any bare skin, any weapon at all with which to free herself. They knew better, of course, and were well-covered in cleanroom suits. Still, she had to try. Then, a familiar sting in her leg. After a few repetitions of Rogue systematically attacking whoever came to get her, they came prepared with a sedative dart. Otherwise, it took them ten minutes to strap her to The Cart. As her eyes suddenly crossed of their own accord, and her knees gave way beneath her, Rogue smirked inwardly to herself. Damned if I'm not going to make things as difficult and expensive for you bastards as I can, she thought grimly, as her weakly kicking form was lifted by the two dispassionate aides to The Cart and strapped on to it. If you're going to experiment on me anyhow, you're going to pay as much as I can make you pay.
The light hit her eyes with almost a physical blow as she was wheeled from the dimmer hallway to the antiseptic lights of the experimentation room. With brisk efficiency, she was stripped of clothing, a hospital gown loosely wrapped around her; wires were attached to her skin, to her temples, heart, pulse-points, anywhere they could get information from her. Machines began to beep steadily as her heart tatted out a rhythm, her breathing, her brain waves. Rogue's eyes hazily searched what she could see of the room as they rolled a privacy screen away from the corner, desperate to get some warning of what they would do to her—or make her do—today.
Her heart sank; there was a pitiful street urchin, not more than 12 years old, eating a peanut butter and jelly sandwich in the corner. The kids' psyches had less impact on her than a fully-willed adult; the impressions she received from them faded much more quickly, and thankfully They had not made her absorb someone twice—yet—nor had they made her absorb a mutant's powers. No-one had been absorbed fully, though they did make her absorb them for longer each time. It was still harrowing, though, having the ghost of a child in her head for any time. Most of the impressions she picked up were centered on fear, or loneliness. Occasionally, she'd get a glimpse of the real or imagined horror that had chased the child from its home. And Jeeesus, the mouths on some of these kids—!
Rogue had no more time for pity for the kid as he was led toward her, crumbs still hiding in the corners of his cherubic mouth. She steeled her will, readying herself for the onslaught of image—thought—memory—feeling—being that came with absorbing someone. Her teeth ground together as a kind-voiced aide told him that the girl on the bed was very sick, and needed a nice kid like him to hold her hand and cheer her up. The same story they told every other poor kid. Adrenaline started to chase away the tranquilizer lurking in her bloodstream, her heart flushing the poison out. She braced herself as his fingers crept toward her own. She wanted to warn him, "Don't!" but her tongue was thick with the sedative, moved like a glacier. Warmth against her cold, cold skin: his hand touching hers.
For one long instant, nothing, no pull, no eyes suddenly rolling into the head. No-no-no-no-won't absorb you, I refuse to absorb you— The mantra rolled in Rogue's head, pounding, splitting her head in two. Her mind stretched impossibly thin, rejecting this child, for once not absorbing him—
A sound like a wire breaking, and the familiar flood pushed into her mind, flickered across her eyes for a brief instant before her mind locked around them, sequestered them away, punched them down to bite sized pieces to be spit out later. Reaction set in, and her body shuddered violently against the straps as one of the aides carried the unconscious child away. The chief scientist examined the charts, the sloppy jagged lines of the moniters, tapped a pen against his teeth as he considered the information.
"How'd the mutant do?" asked one of the aides, curious. The chief worker didn't answer him directly, but clicked on an audio recorder.
"Mutant Subject 13 has made progress since her last session, it seems," he said consideringly. "Subject willfully retained control of her mutation for 3.26 seconds during Touch Test Trial 33. Forthcoming will be a complete physical of Mutant Subject 13 and the human control for Trial 33. This information to be forwarded to Sgt. Trask at Priority Classification Level 6. End recording."
Three and a quarter seconds! That's better time than the Prof and I ever made! For a brief moment, Rogue exulted in that brief time of touch; how could she not? Then, concern for the child crashed down. Shit. What am I? I can't stand this; now they're giving me what I always wanted—but not this way! Not this way. But still…Maybe if I do get control over my powers, they won't experiment on me so much anymore… Faint hope, but it was all she had at this point—hope that they wouldn't take her as often. It didn't matter what they started with, she always ended up hurting in the end, a seemingly never ending dull ache all over at least. If given a choice, she'd endure that as little as possible.
Sure enough, nearly four hours later, when she was dumped, unresistingly, back into her cell, every bone, every muscle hurt. They had run a complete physical of her, inside and out. She felt like a piece of beef cattle being inspected for market. Besides the inevitable blood tests—were they going to drain her dry? She was sure she was anaemic by now—they had carefully, meticulously scraped every inch of her skin with a scalpel, gently peeling off the first few thin layers of skin, collecting them in precisely labeled containers. It was like a deep rugburn all over, her whole skin smarted. And like all small injuries, it hurt out of all proportion to its size. Then again, every single pore in her body was just-barely-bleeding; probably she should feel like crap. When they shoved food in the magnetically-sealed slot an hour later, she weakly ate the nutritionally-balanced but tasteless food, and collapsed into sleep, hoping that this time she'd get more than a few hours of sleep before they came again.
Well, what did you think? I know this one was more thoughts/feelings, but I like to set up what's going on in the first chapter. Don't worry, Remy makes an appearance in the next chapter—which, hey, look, is up too!
If you have reactions, comments, &c, to this chapter, please put them in a brief review on this chapter—that way I know when you say "I like the imagery" or "I hate the imagery" or "what imagery" (or whatever) I know you're referring to stuff in THIS chapter, not just chapter 2.