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Everything hurt. Even though she could feel someone's eyes on her, suspected that Magneto was watching her again, she couldn't quite restrain the groan of pain that escaped her as she shifted on the firm mattress. It wasn't quite comfortable, but it was far better than the stone floor she'd woken up on the last time.
"Awake at last, are we?"
Rogue opened her eyes slowly, blinking as the light in the room made her eyes water. Magneto was standing several paces away, looming over her despite his cautious distance. He had changed sweaters, and she suspected that some time had passed since she was knocked unconscious. She tried to sit up and found that her wrists were restrained on either side of the bed. Even the attempted movement sent her head pounding and made her want to vomit up everything she'd eaten in the past week, not that that had been much.
Since she couldn't stand up and face Magneto on more equal footing, she settled for glaring at him. Apparently, both the Magneto in front of her and the Erik in her head found that somewhat amusing, and she grimaced at the thought that she'd be tormented by one or the other until she died, however soon that might be.
"Ah, there's that defiant spirit that was hiding away the last time we spoke," he said, his lips quirked up in a smile. "You play the part of shrinking flower quite well, my dear, but I find this version of you eminently more pleasing."
"Well, as long as you're happy," she muttered sarcastically, ignoring the way his gaze darkened at her words and tone. She pushed herself up onto her elbows so that at least she wasn't looking at him from flat on her back. "What do you want?" she demanded rudely, wondering why he was in her cell. Didn't he have somewhere else to be, some more nefarious plans to concoct?
He raised an eyebrow at her tone. "Merely to commend you for your escape attempt. Well-executed, except for that hiccup at the end; if you were in my Brotherhood you would have proven yourself quite nicely. You understand, of course, that another such attempt will be met with a sterner punishment. You would do well to watch your tone, as well -- I cannot abide disrespect."
She stared at him in disbelief. "Who do you think you are? My father? I hate to break it to you, Magneto, but you're my kidnapper, and I ain't inclined to do what you tell me."
He twitched slightly, and she could tell he was just itching to reprimand her for her grammar. She hid a smile; that was what she had been going for, after all. She found herself rather surprised by her own behavior. When she'd thought before about what she'd ever do if she found herself being held captive, or in a dangerous situation, she'd always been afraid that her courage would give out, that her fear would overcome her. She never would have thought that she'd be so angry, so uncaring of her own fate next to the need to tell her captor exactly what she thought of him. The Southern belle image, after all, had not been entirely a façade when she was younger, when she went by the name Marie. Now, however, she was Rogue…and she began to wonder at the mutations in her character that accompanied those of her body.
"Nevertheless," he responded, his tone brooking no argument, "continued disobedience will merit punishment. You have been warned." Without turning away from her, or waiting to hear her angry reply, he backed to the metal bars that acted as the door to her cell, bending them to allow himself through and then straightening them again. Then, he gave a wave of his hands to detach the metal cuffs around her wrists from the bed, allowing her to sit up fully.
Her first act upon doing so was to lift up her shirt a little to look at the wound in her side. Something about it felt different than she remembered. She stared in surprise at the neat line of stitches that held the wound together, then raised her gaze to Magneto, who stood watching her as if she were a specimen he was observing. At her inquiring glance, he stiffened slightly.
"The wound required treatment," he said flatly, then stalked away before she had a chance to respond. She watched his retreating back in some puzzlement; true, she might have bled to death if the wound had remained completely untreated, but the stitches were only really necessary to keep it from scarring, and she knew that if Magneto had his way she wouldn't have nearly enough time left on this earth for that to happen. She shot a wordless query to the Erik in her head, but he just replied with a feeling of smug amusement. The Logan in her head gave her the mental equivalent of ruffling her hair affectionately.
Feeling uneasy, wondering what to do with herself until Magneto was ready to use her for the machine, Rogue sank down onto the floor again and stared at the wall across from her. She was in pain, injured, trapped in a madman's lair with said madman's presence in her head, waiting to be sacrificed for the supposed liberty of a group of people she had never considered herself a part of. This sucked.
She was on the other side of the building from where the machine was housed, she knew from Erik's memories, which meant that the first sign she had that something unusual was happening was when the strange light seeped slowly into her room, expanded to fill it, and then abruptly contracted away again. She watched it with a kind of detached interest, confident enough in Erik/Magneto's abilities as an engineer to know that the light wouldn't harm her. She was less sure about its ability to harm Senator Kelly, who she knew had been intended as the test subject for the device Magneto planned for her to power. She wondered if this meant that it would soon be her time to die.
She must have drifted off to sleep again -- there wasn't much else to do there after all, other than ponder her situation, and she'd done quite enough of that already -- because she woke up from a nightmare about rain and metal and an emotional agony the likes of which she had only ever felt before in relation to her inability to touch. She thought if some unconscious part of her brain hadn't known that she was being watched she might have woken up speaking German; as it was, she forced herself to remain mute through the mental anguish she felt.
To her surprise, it was not Logan but Erik who soothed her. It's all right, Rogue, it's all right, he seemed to whisper in her mind, and she almost felt the sensation of ghostly hands stroking her hair, a comforting, almost sensuous, motion. How she longed to feel another's touch again, if only even for a short while. A hug, a brush of hands, even contact with someone she hated or distrusted would be better than this all-consuming ache she felt to make physical contact with another person. She imagined herself back in Auschwitz, offering a hug of comfort to the young boy she could remember being, and she knew how thankful he would have been for even that much kindness. She felt Erik frown in her mind as he told her, I would never have wanted you to have to endure those memories.
Strangely, the thought was comforting, even though she knew not to fool herself into thinking that Magneto would care for her well-being the way his presence in her head did. She was unsurprised when she opened her eyes to find Magneto standing outside her cell, watching her intently. Her lips tightened in embarrassment at her weak state and annoyance at him. Doesn't he have somewhere else to be?
"I find myself perplexed by your seeming lack of curiosity about your current situation, my dear," he said at last, breaking the uncomfortable silence between them. "For example, you seem not at all intrigued by the white light that must have illuminated your room a short while ago. I am quite certain that were I in your position I would wish to know everything I could about the impact my impending sacrifice would have on the world, and what form my sacrifice would take."
Well, unfortunately you're not the one in my situation, she thought savagely. "I know enough," was all she said, her brown eyes flashing in angry defiance.
Again, when she thought he might be angry his eyes instead lit up with a light that might have been admiration. Unwittingly, she admitted to herself that with that particular look on his face he was a very attractive man, with his soft white hair a little disheveled and his chiseled face and jaw set in an expression that was not a glare. And those eyes…She could understand how he so easily ensnared followers. Having him in her head also meant that while she vehemently disagreed with some of his conclusions she couldn't help but understand where he was coming from. It was almost difficult to hate him.
"Nevertheless, I feel inclined to tell you," he informed her peremptorily, and she wondered, not for the first time, whether he wanted to tell her things because he truly wanted her to know, or whether he somehow made himself feel better by justifying himself out loud. "I have built a machine, a device with the power -- "
She found that she didn't feel inclined to listen to him lay out his plans for her demise. What good was her secret, anyways, considering she was going to die in a few days time?
"The power to change regular humans into mutants," she interrupted. She knew him well enough to know to take a moment to appreciate the flabbergasted look on his face. "You've tested it on Senator Kelly, and if it works you're going to use it, and me, to change all of the world leaders at the United Nations conference into mutants so that the world will be forced into sympathy with your cause. I know." She tapped the side of her head with one finger, a gesture eerily similar to one he had used several times during encounters with Charles.
He stared at her speculatively, intently, obviously thinking over the ramifications of what she had just said. "My dear," he breathed out at last. "That is quite a gift you have."
"More a curse than a gift," she told him tartly. "And the name's Rogue, not 'my dear.'" Then, in a moment of true daring, she turned her back on him and sat on the bed facing away from him. When she risked turning back to look several minutes later, he was gone.
Time flowed strangely in her small cell, with Rogue sleeping intermittently and meals always being passed through the bars while she was asleep so that she could never see who brought them. Regardless, she knew that it had not been long since his last visit when Magneto came to see her again. She was a bit puzzled by his behavior, since she knew that when he first captured her he had intended only to speak with her that first evening and then to leave her alone until the day of action came. Something about her had changed his mind, given his frequent visits, and though the Erik in her mind tried to help her understand, she still didn't quite grasp the reasons.
His visit this time did not last long. "I brought you some reading material," he said pleasantly, eyes and face calmer than they had a tendency to be during their interactions. Without changing facial expressions he used the cuffs on her wrists to hold her against the wall, then spread the bars to her cell enough to push a thick album through. He closed the bars again and left, his power releasing her as he did so.
She watched him cautiously as he left, then picked up the album and opened it to the first page. Her breath caught in her throat at the sight. It was a photograph of a boy, a mutant with blood red eyes, his face caught in an eternal expression of suffering. He had been crucified.
She turned the page. A picture of a young girl in blue jeans and a plaid shirt: drawn and quartered.
She turned the page. An article commending a human child for savagely beating a mutant boy who was "obviously a danger to himself and others."
She turned the page. Three mutants, dead by firing squad, their bodies riddled with bullets.
She turned the page. A brief article discussing a school for the "gifted" somewhere in Westchester.
She turned the page. An older mutant who had committed suicide, blood dripping from his wrists.
She turned the page in her mind. A boy in a prison camp, torn from his family.
She turned the page in her mind. The boy with numbers tattooed on his wrist, a sign of slavery and oppression.
She turned the page in her mind. A man crying out in agony, under water, strange markings on his skin.
She turned the last page and let the album fall gently shut, disregarding the tears inching their ways down her face. She leaned back against the wall and gratefully slipped into the arms of Morpheus, unsurprised to find once she had done so that her dreams were no longer filled only with her own nightmares, or Erik's memories, or Logan's flashbacks, but a combination of the three, and an added element: the images of her fellow mutants, murdered and tortured simply because they were the next stage in the evolution of man.
She slept, and dreamed, and she couldn't be sure whether it was her own mind, or Erik's, or Logan's, or even David's, that influenced her the most, but she dreamed of justice. She dreamed of revenge.