Ok, this started out as an epilogue, but grew into a whole final chapter… enjoy nonetheless! –Alara
Black is the Color
Chapter 10: Full Circle
Once everyone had calmed down, Logan checked on the Professor, who seemed to be resting comfortably, considering he'd just nearly been smothered. He remained unconscious, though, and when Logan announced that they would, unfortunately, have to spend at least the rest of the day there, everyone started to groan: they wanted out of here!
Then the collective groan stopped abruptly, as they all remembered they'd nearly killed the Professor an hour before, and so they really oughtn't begrudge him a day's rest.
"Besides," Kitty remarked, "the ghosts are, like, gone, so we totally don't have anything to worry about except who's going to make the hot chocolate."
The others, sprawled in weary positions around the spacious room, nodded their agreement.
"Who is making the hot chocolate, anyway?" Rogue asked interestedly from where she lay, her head in Remy's lap, her eyes closed. "'Cause I'm not moving, and that means Remy's not, either."
"I don't know. Someone's in ze kitchen, though." Kurt commented, and peered across the room at them half-suspiciously. Remy had maintained a constant contact with Rogue, and just now had a hand firmly tucked around her arm, his fingers moving against the smooth skin thoughtlessly. "Hey, vhy do you two get to take up ze whole couch? Move over." He started toward the couch, intent on getting Rogue to at least sit up to make room—and quit half-lying on Remy.
Her eyes opened to slits, and one eyebrow rose. "I'll say it again: I'm not moving, and Remy's not moving. We get the couch because, for the first time in—what, three days?–there are two and only two people sitting here. Next time, you can be possessed, and you'll get the couch to yourself."
Kurt subsided, grumbling, but quieted when Amanda smiled and leaned against him. "Behave, Kurt." The whisper was much sharper than her smile.
He turned to her, surprised. "Vhat?"
"Don't be such a jerk to them. Don't you trust Rogue at all?"
"I trust her. Not him, though."
"Huh," she said thoughtfully. "That's what my daddy says about you, y'know."
He sputtered. "I vould never—"
"Of course you wouldn't. But he's assuming the worst of you because you're a mutant. Just like you're assuming the worst of Remy because he was a thief."
"I—that—that's not the same."
"I can't help being a mutant. He chose to be a thief!"
"I thought he was raised to be a thief?"
"Vell, yes." He didn't like where the eminently logical Amanda was taking him.
"Then I would say he never really had a choice until recently, and didn't he give it up?"
"Well, yes. Apparently, at least," he had to admit.
"Didn't he give it up for Rogue?"
". . ." His chagrined silence answered for him. He had been expecting the worst from Remy simply based on his reputation—but whose word was that reputation based on, anyway? No one he'd assume was telling the truth, certainly. And he knew how rumor distorted things; once they'd been outed as mutants at school, there were a host of former friends who refused to believe they were anything but power-hungry maniacs, despite knowing them well.
"And in any case, you're totally dissing Rogue by not trusting Remy."
"You're not trusting her to make her own decisions, or trusting that she can deal with a bad decision on her own. Trust me, if she needs help, she'll ask for it, but you really need to give her credit for being able to take care of herself and for having a brain. No wonder she gets mad at you and Logan for being so ridiculous!"
"We aren't—it's just—" he sputtered, indignant, for a moment. Then his sense of fairness asserted itself. "Vell. It's vhat brothers are supposed to do! But I'll try not to be so…obnoxious," he added, at her pointed glare.
"Good." She tucked her arm through his, and snuggled against him. "'Cause I, at least, want to make better use of your time."
He turned to look at her, confused. "Like wha—"
She grinned even as she kissed him, and laughed as he fell off his chair in shock. Amanda didn't usually indulge in PDAs, but if this was what she meant by 'better use of his time…' His mind spiraled off onto new, interesting paths, and wasted no time scrambling back up to his perch.
Rogue sat up abruptly, and glared at them. Inwardly, Kurt groaned. Why would she choose now, of all times, to pay him back for his policing of Remy's movements?
Then he realized she was glaring at someone behind him, and spun. Rogue glaring was rarely a good thing.
Old Robert stood in the doorway to the kitchen, a tray of mugs in his hands.
"Hot chocolate?" he offered, smiling.
After the resulting furor settled down, it was established that Old Robert had one final task to fulfill before he, too could 'move on,' and it was, inevitably, for Remy and Rogue to help him. Them alone, and Old Robert threatened to haunt them forever if anyone followed.
Puzzled, Rogue and Remy pulled on their boots and followed him outside where he indicated they should pick up two unnoticed, small shovels leaning against the wall. Then he led them unexpectedly up an old, old track that led up to the moor.
Once they were at the windswept top—a task that took about forty minutes—the corporeal ghost turned to them. "Now, I'm sure you're wondering why I've brought you here."
"Yeah." Rogue waved a hand at him irritably, hunching into her coat. "You don't have to make a big speech; just tell us. It's freezing up here."
He nodded complacently, turned, and started to walk away. Startled, Rogue and Remy simply stood where they were for a moment, then jerked into a fast walk as the old man turned and shouted at them, "Well? What're you waiting for? Come along!"
They followed him for about a half-mile along a windy, windswept path that was just the slightest bit familiar to both of them, a sensation they were by this point heartily sick of. It was just as well, though, as the path darted around marshy areas and deadly bogs, and was often difficult to see. Old Robert, too, seemed to be gradually becoming less substantial as they walked along.
Eventually they came to a low stone wall, and Old Robert stopped abruptly. "We're here." He announced.
Remy looked around. "Um, homme… where?"
"The monastery, of course," Old Robert said impatiently, and then relented when he saw the confusion on their faces. "Of course. You might not remember." He walked through the wall and continued for some thirty feet, then indicated they were to join him. Once she stepped over the wall, Rogue could see the foundation and ruined walls of the monastery more clearly; obviously, the place had not been in use for quite some time. The moor seemed to be swallowing the very walls, and the local flora was assisting in obscuring the rest.
Old Robert was fading visibly as he spoke quickly. "Now, I haven't much time; dig, here, straight down, 'til you find what was left there. Bess and Roarke ask that you put what you find to good use, and that you tell people how it really was, who they really were. Bess was no minx, and Roarke no indiscriminate robber. When I was alive, I tried to tell the villagers, but no one believed me. They preferred to believe what they wanted to believe. Perhaps you'll be able to rectify that inadvertent wrong so I, too, might go to my rest." The longing in his voice was unmistakable.
"You mean you don't get to, well, rest in peace 'til that's done?"
He smiled sadly. "The curse I laid upon myself was that I would not know any rest until Bess and Roarke were reunited, Snythe was banished, and all of the wrongs caused by my foolish actions were set right. This," he indicated the ground, "and the story are all that is left to correct. My thanks to both of you—" His form faded entirely, and for a moment, only his voice remained: "I'm sure you'll do a fine job of it, a fine job indeed."
The voice faded, but they could still sense the unrest in the air, attuned as they both now where to ghostly maneuverings. Shrugging at each other, they began to dig where Old Robert had indicated. At least the work kept them warm.
"So," Rogue panted, as they heaved shovelful after shovelful of dirt away, "Are we going to tell Logan?"
"Tell him 'bout what? Wait, there's a rock."
"About you—and me." She leaned down to take the sizeable rock he handed up, tossed it some distance away, and then resumed shoveling.
"What about—you'n me?"
"That we're sleeping together." She said matter-of-factly.
He nearly chopped through his own foot with his shovel. "You want t' get me killed, cherie?"
"Am I a one-night stand?" she countered, then continued, "I figure we tell the Professor first, so he can soften Logan up, 'cos you know the Professor will know as soon as he wakes up and sees us in a room together. He doesn't try to pry, but I've been on the other side of his powers a time or two. Sometimes stuff just won't be ignored."
"Mmh." Remy grunted, whether in reply or with the effort of shoveling, she couldn't say. Undaunted, she continued.
"And then Logan can blow up at us, threaten to kill you, threaten to throw me in a convent, but at least he can't accuse us of sneaking around or lying. He'd hate that worse."
"Says you," Remy half-smiled. "I'm perfectly content wit' lyin' t' Wolverine as long as it keeps Remy alive."
"T'ought y' wanted me t' keep dis body in one piece fo' you?" he said. "What's changed?"
"I realized that I'm eighteen now and I have the ultimate weapon to use against Logan."
He frowned at her. "What's dat?"
"I can threaten to elope with you."
He did drop the shovel this time. "What?"
"Were you planning on dating me for the rest of our lives?" she asked. "I know that you love me, and I know that I love you. Thanks to recent events, we know that it's the kind of love that will make it through hard times and will grow as we do. That pretty much sounds like the 'til death do us part' kind of love to me. Wouldn't you marry me, if it meant being together?" she asked, a touch worriedly.
He stared at her, dirt spattering both of them, openmouthed.
"Say something," she urged.
His mouth stretched into a grin. "Was dat a proposal, chere?"
Her own jaw dropped, then snapped closed. "I guess it was." She blinked. She hadn't intended for the conversation to go quite this way, but… "Yeah. Would you marry me, Remy?"
"In a minute," he said swiftly. "Would you marry me?"
"For a lifetime," she returned, smiling. "But we knew that already."
"Yeah." He resumed shoveling. "For several lifetimes, apparently." He considered. "Dat could get boring."
Her next shovelful hit him across the chest.
He smirked, then stopped mid-strike as his shovel scraped across something wooden.
Carefully they sifted through the dirt 'til they uncovered a small wooden, iron-bound trunk. The lock was as soft as butter to Remy's expert fingers as he charged the lock slightly and detached it from the trunk.
The lid creaked open, and they gasped as the contents were revealed.
Coins of all shapes and sizes, of gold and silver and copper and tin, littered the trunk, as did several necklaces, rings, and assorted gems. The cloth bags they'd apparently been in had fallen away to vague scraps of fabric, and the silver and copper were black and green with tarnish. A few leather satchels had weathered the centuries far better, and one contained the distinct crackle of paper. Gingerly, Remy pulled out a letter written in two distinct hands.
The first portion seemed to be an official document of some sort; the other was written in a bold scrawl, obviously added to the bottom of the document later, as well as the edges and back. This second portion read:
I include this document in my trunk to safeguard the good monks who pardon my many sins to help me remedy far larger ones committed by others in power. Some of the items contained within this chest shall be easily recognized as Church property, and so as to avoid any blame falling on them, I attest that the following is a true and full account:
On the 28th day of November, in the year 1751, I, Colin Roarke did arrest and rob the Archbishop of York while he travelled the highway running hard by this monastery. I did not know him for the archbishop until after he had already divested himself of purse and jewellery at my behest; I believed him to be another Church official, an individual much corrupt and in need of correcting. Once he revealed himself to me, I submitted myself to his keeping, as he is much spoken of as a man of humility before God, as befits one in his station, and has been rare in these recent times.
He proved his humble reputation to be true as his retinue was quite small—hence why I robbed him and mistook him for that other—and even after my having robbed him, invited me quite politely to eat with him. His sense of humour is to be commended, as well, as he solemnly told me that it would be unsafe for me to venture forth, as highwaymen were known to traverse the same road upon which we then stood.
Thus defeated by kindness and gentleness both, I agreed to sup with him, and once we few sat round a fire, he demanded of me my name, which I meekly gave.
"Colin Roarke," he repeated thoughtfully, as though it meant something to him, though what that was I should not discover until later. Then he urged me to tell him my story, and how I, obviously an educated and decent man, had fallen to highway robbery.
I poured out my sad tale, how I had joined the king's army and fought well and honorably for some several years. During that time, I drew the eye and enmity of my commanding officer, as he reckoned some of my honours ought to be his. Thus, when the army was reduced, I found myself no longer in the king's employ, though I had thought my experience sufficient to guarantee that I be one of the soldiers kept on in service.
Upon returning to my home district to see the girl I loved, I saw how the reduction of the army had led many former soldiers to turn to brigandage and robbery to support themselves, and (more grievously I thought) thus allowed petty officials to abuse their positions, blaming any suspicious blanks in their ledgers on those same brigands' theft. The officials grew fat and rich off their people's misery, and were above the law as it could not be definitely proved that the funds had not been stolen. I vowed to do what I could to set it right, but quickly discovered to my dismay that the only way to do so would be to turn to robbery myself; or call it reverse-robbery if you will, for I stole from those I knew to be stealing from the people.
Eventually I acquired a name amongst those same people, who glibly said they hadn't seen me when I'd just ridden by, and who helped my dearest, my 'Bessa, distribute the monies I'd stolen back. I'd been setting aside small amounts for us, as well, so that as soon as I might, I could leave the deceitful life I was leading and marry and live in relative peace.
I flatly informed the archbishop that I'd fully intended to rob one of his prelates that night as my final act of brigandage, and had merely mistaken the archbishop for that man. To my surprise, instead of growing angry with me, he laughed.
He had, it transpired, been on his way to personally investigate allegations that the prelate in question was stealing Church funds, and to a degree quite applauded my aim. He had in his past been a soldier himself, he told me, and so understood what a blow it was to lose occupation and vocation all at once.
"But," he told me sternly, "I cannot have a highway in my diocese threatened by a robber. You said this was to be your last ride; why should I believe that?"
I explained to him that I had made a promise to my sweet Arabessa that I should quit the robber's life as soon as I might collect enough for us to live on so I could learn a new, honest trade. She hated that I must rob to help the unfortunates, but understood the necessity. I hate to grieve her in any way, though, and so had been working my hardest to achieve my goal and quit the illegal life as soon as I might.
To my surprise, the archbishop smiled at this reply. "I have heard of you, Highwayman Roarke," he informed my astonished self. "In fact, it was in hopes of meeting you that I chose this particular route to traverse to meet with my prelate." I was agog and could form no reply. "I have a proposition for you; it would be a shame to put to disuse such martial skills as you possess, but neither can I allow you to continue abusing those skills, even in a good cause."
He paused, thought, then put the following extraordinary proposal to me: "The king has commissioned me to find a bailiff for these parts, as the robbery on the highways has become such a hazard to the common traveler. I can say I had heard of your prowess while in the King's army, and so came to seek you out and request that you fulfill that position. Your duties would include keeping the roads safe from these selfsame brigands, patrolling them, defending their victims to the death if you must, and also to assist me when I am in the area when allegations of corruption arise. In return, you will receive a very little bit of land, a house, and a salary from the king's purse. Of course, you must solemnly swear to me that you shall never again engage in any act of theft or robbery so long as you live."
This was all I had ever looked for—so of course I gave my glad consent to the arrangement, and was ready to race off and tell my 'Bessa immediately. The archbishop smiled at my excitement, and requested that I stay until morning so that his clark could write up an official writ indicating that I was, once again, a king's man, any past wrongs I had committed were pardoned, and that I should be able to walk again as a free, unhunted man.
In the morning, true to his word, he had the document written up and several copies made that I might have one for myself, another should be kept with him, and yet a third to be sent to the king so he might know he had a new bailiff.
He further pressed upon me the same purse and jewellery I had so rashly tried to part from him the previous night; I refused, but he pressed it upon me nonetheless, calling it a wedding present to my future bride. He also wrote out the banns for my Bess and me, and promised to read them in church that morning, that we might marry as soon as all could be made ready.
Then he bid me travel with him for part of the day so he might further acquaint me with my newfound duties. It was not an arduous task, as the archbishop is a lively and understanding man, and toward sunset he gave me my leave to go and tell Bess the astounding news.
I went to Dawson's Inn to tell her, but before I could approach the building, a shot rang out; ironic, that the Redcoat troops should finally discover my place just after I am no longer a wanted man. I shall have to wait a day or two for my new status to become more generally known, but then can let my 'Bessa know all of our hopes have been fulfilled!
It is late now, well past midnight; the bells should be tolling one in the morning soon. I leave this document, sealed above by the archbishop, signed below by myself, in the keeping of the monks with all of my accumulated wealth, including those gifted to me by the archbishop.
With so much corruption about I should hate for any monk to be accused of theft, and so I will charge them to keep this document with the chest, and produce it should any question whence came a chest of gold to a poor monastery in the midst of such times as these.
—Colin Roarke, Bailiff
They were silent for a moment. "Wow." Rogue said finally. "That jerk Snythe didn't even have the right to lie in wait for him—if the archbishop's decree had been made even one day earlier, Bess would never have been killed, Roarke wouldn't have gone after Snythe, and you and I wouldn't be sitting here with a fortune in gold."
"Yeah." Remy agreed blankly, then brightened. "Still. If all dat hadn't happened, you and I wouldn't be engaged, right?"
She laughed. "Right. Hey, the ring'll have to be something special, you know, after all this."
"Hmm." He was bent over the chest again, apparently ignoring her. Convenient, she laughed to herself, and marveled at the paper she held.
"Aha." He muttered, and pulled something out of one of the other leather bags. "How 'bout Roarke's ring for Bess, Rogue?"
"What?" Startled, she turned her attention to him, and found her gaze rived by a gorgeous ring of pale gold, ruby, onyx, and diamond. "Is that really--?"
"As soon as I saw it, I knew it was de ring he bought fo' her…" he said, half to himself. "Actually, he had it made for her. Gold fo' her skin, ruby for her lips, onyx for her hair, an' diamond for her eyes."
She sighed and reached out for the ring. He took her hand and gently slid the ring on to her finger. It fit perfectly—and it felt right. "I really shouldn't," she began. "Won't the country want to keep everything found in the chest? I thought that's what they usually do with found treasure."
"True 'nough. But who's to say I didn't give you de ring?" he asked, a devilish grin slashing his face.
She laughed. "We are engaged, after all." She put her hand out and admired the new addition.
He stood. "Now, let's get dis all back to de inn so we can get out o' here—finally."
"What do you think Cyclops an' de redhead will say about our time here?" he asked her curiously.
She snorted. "That we're making it all up, probably. Except the engagement thing. That'll piss them off—that we beat them to the punch."
"Know what'll piss 'em off even more?"
"Learning we've slept together when it's still hard for him to even kiss her properly," he snickered.
She stopped. "Ooh, they will hate that. Didn't realize that would be a side benefit." She chuckled evilly, then helped him heave the trunk free.
"What are we going to do with the money?" she wondered, as they hauled the heavy trunk out of the hole.
"Hmm. Use it t' finance our elopement?" he suggested.
"Nah. Let's buy you some Kevlar so it'll be harder for Logan to skewer you."
"Hmm. How 'bout we use it to bribe Professor X to hold Wolverine and Kurt still when we tell them?"
She paused, considering. "Mmh… no. He won't be bribed."
"Magneto, on the other hand…"
"I knew I loved you."
"I love you, too."
They walked off into the bright sunlight, hauling the heavy chest back towards their friends, their family, as they discussed their equally bright future together.
Behind them, ghostly chuckles rippled across the ruins of the abbey, and one final whispered message:
Well, that's the end!
And, for those curious but too lazy to Google it, here is the full text of Alfred Noyes' The Highwayman.(His name is sometimes spelled "Noyce.")
Below it is the folk song "Black is the Colour of My True Love's Hair," which also has contributed themes and ideas (and the title) for this piece. And before someone gets smart, there are at least four different versions of the song that I know of, so if you've heard the words a little differently, that's ok.
THE wind was a torrent of darkness among the gusty trees,
The moon was a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas,
The road was a ribbon of moonlight over the purple moor,
And the highwayman came riding—
The highwayman came riding, up to the old inn-door.
He'd a French cocked-hat on his forehead, a bunch of lace at his chin,
A coat of the claret velvet, and breeches of brown doe-skin;
They fitted with never a wrinkle: his boots were up to the thigh!
And he rode with a jewelled twinkle,
His pistol butts a-twinkle,
His rapier hilt a-twinkle, under the jewelled sky.
Over the cobbles he clattered and clashed in the dark inn-yard,
And he tapped with his whip on the shutters, but all was locked and barred;
He whistled a tune to the window, and who should be waiting there
But the landlord's black-eyed daughter,
Bess, the landlord's daughter,
Plaiting a dark red love-knot into her long black hair.
And dark in the dark old inn-yard a stable-wicket creaked
Where Tim the ostler listened; his face was white and peaked;
His eyes were hollows of madness, his hair like mouldy hay,
But he loved the landlord's daughter,
The landlord's red-lipped daughter,
Dumb as a dog he listened, and he heard the robber say—
"One kiss, my bonny sweetheart, I'm after a prize to-night,
But I shall be back with the yellow gold before the morning light;
Yet, if they press me sharply, and harry me through the day,
Then look for me by moonlight,
Watch for me by moonlight,
I'll come to thee by moonlight, though hell should bar the way."
He rose upright in the stirrups; he scarce could reach her hand,
But she loosened her hair i' the casement! His face burnt like a brand
As the black cascade of perfume came tumbling over his breast;
And he kissed its waves in the moonlight,
(Oh, sweet, black waves in the moonlight!)
Then he tugged at his rein in the moonlight, and galloped away to the West.
He did not come in the dawning; he did not come at noon;
And out o' the tawny sunset, before the rise o' the moon,
When the road was a gypsy's ribbon, looping the purple moor,
A red-coat troop came marching—
King George's men came matching, up to the old inn-door.
They said no word to the landlord, they drank his ale instead,
But they gagged his daughter and bound her to the foot of her narrow bed;
Two of them knelt at her casement, with muskets at their side!
There was death at every window;
And hell at one dark window;
For Bess could see, through her casement, the road that he would ride.
They had tied her up to attention, with many a sniggering jest;
They had bound a musket beside her, with the barrel beneath her breast!
"Now, keep good watch!" and they kissed her.
She heard the dead man say— Look for me by moonlight;
Watch for me by moonlight;
I'll come to thee by moonlight, though hell should bar the way!
She twisted her hands behind her; but all the knots held good!
She writhed her hands till her fingers were wet with sweat or blood!
They stretched and strained in the darkness, and the hours crawled by like years,
'Til now, on the stroke of midnight,
Cold, on the stroke of midnight,
The tip of one finger touched it! The trigger at least was hers!
The tip of one finger touched it; she strove no more for the rest!
Up, she stood up to attention, with the barrel beneath her breast,
She would not risk their hearing; she would not strive again;
For the road lay bare in the moonlight;
Blank and bare in the moonlight;
And the blood of her veins in the moonlight throbbed to her love's refrain.
Tlot-tlot; tlot-tlot! Had they heard it? The horse-hoofs ringing clear;
Tlot-tlot, tlot-tlot, in the distance? Were they deaf that they did not hear?
Down the ribbon of moonlight, over the brow of the hill,
The highwayman came riding,
The red-coats looked to their priming! She stood up, straight and still!
Tlot-tlot, in the frosty silence! Tlot-tlot, in the echoing night!
Nearer he came and nearer! Her face was like a light!
Her eyes grew wide for a moment; she drew one last deep breath,
Then her finger moved in the moonlight,
Her musket shattered the moonlight,
Shattered her breast in the moonlight and warned him—with her death.
He turned; he spurred to the West; he did not know who stood
Bowed, with her head o'er the musket, drenched with her own red blood!
Not till the dawn he heard it, his face grew grey to hear
How Bess, the landlord's daughter,
The landlord's black-eyed daughter,
Had watched for her love in the moonlight, and died in the darkness there.
Back, he spurred like a madman, shrieking a curse to the sky,
With the white road smoking behind him and his rapier brandished high!
Blood-red were his spurs i' the golden noon; wine-red was his velvet coat,
When they shot him down on the highway,
Down like a dog on the highway,
And he lay in his blood on the highway, with the bunch of lace at his throat.
And still of a winter's night, they say, when the wind is in the trees,
When the moon is a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas,
When the road is a ribbon of moonlight over the purple moor,
A highwayman comes riding—
A highwayman comes riding, up to the old inn-door.
Over the cobbles he clatters and clangs in the dark inn-yard;
He taps with his whip on the shutters, but all is locked and barred;
He whistles a tune to the window, and who should be waiting there
But the landlord's black-eyed daughter,
Bess, the landlord's daughter,
Plaiting a dark red love-knot into her long black hair.
Black is the Colour
Refrain: Black is the colour of my true love's hair
Her lips are like some roses fair
She has the sweetest face and the gentlest hands
I love the ground wheron she stands
Vs.1: I love my love and well she knows
I love the ground whereon she goes
But sometimes I wish the day will come
That she and I will be as one
Vs.2: I walk to the Clyde for to mourn and weep
But satisfied I never can sleep
I'll write her a letter, just a few short lines
And suffer death ten thousand times