Disclaimer: Wolverine, Rogue, and any other X-Men characters are the property of Marvel. I do not claim ownership of them. I simply like to pretend that they're my little pets and I manipulate the hell out of them.
Nothing Else Matters- Rogue has nothing left at the Institute, except for Logan. But, he pushes her away and she finds herself torn and broken. What's a girl to do? She leaves, knowing that she can never return once she leaves the safe walls that have caged her in. Broken and lost, a battered and soul searching Rogue returns to her roots against her true wishes to find that leaving was her only option, but not necessarily the best.
A/N: What is there to say other than I'm terribly sorry? To be honest, once my flash drive died, I sort of lost interest in this story. It nearly broke my heart losing all of my hard work. But, I've recently realized that it's just not fair to have abandoned the story and left it as is. That being said, please allow me to apologize to those of you that have been waiting so long for this update. I know that there are still some out there that are interested, and I hope that you will all enjoy this chapter. Please, keep in mind that this isn't full of action and doesn't end things. But, we're working our way to that point!
-Nothing Else Matters-
Life as Victor Vanzetti's girl definitely had its perks. I was treated like royalty, I was escorted to the finest restaurants, the finest shopping boutiques, and I was admired. But, even while I was showered in gifts and adoration, I was also nothing more than a piece of well-dressed eye candy.
In the eyes of the people that Victor associated with, I didn't have a mind of my own. Hell, to them, I wasn't even capable of speech, let alone sight.
I was an invisible accomplice, one that was easily forgotten when the stakes were high or when the subject at hand was dipping more toward the illegal spectrum of things than not. In the minds of Victor Vanzetti, his buddies at The Club, and even the strangers we sometimes passed on the streets, I was nothing.
But, throughout it all, I had two people that I could count on no matter what. Cherry and Cinnamon were my closest friends, and the three of us spent a great deal of time together in and out of The Club. Granted, we didn't have as much time to ourselves at The Club, despite the fact that I had to work at least two nights a week when Victor was in one of his meetings. We served drinks together, earned outrageous tips together, and outside of work it only grew more and more awkward.
I had been working at The Club for almost three months when I finally admitted aloud that I shouldn't have stayed.
"But it's too late for that now," Cherry assured me, her eyes trailing over my face as she picked at her salad. "Listen, sweets, we've been there a lot longer than you and we know that there are bound to be doubts, but-"
"Your chance, your one and only chance to escape was a long time ago," Cinnamon finished for her, perfectly sculpted brows drawn in a worried crease. "Look." She shifted in her chair, a few strands of her hair falling over her eyes and masking her expression slightly. "Right now, it's probably looking like the end of the world. But, after awhile, you start to realize that there are worse things. This isn't the bottom of the barrel, that much is certain."
Biting my lip in thought, I tapped the heavy fork against the side of the salad plate, ignorant of the few patrons that glanced over at our table at the quiet ruckus. Platinum streaks of hair fell over my eyes, offering me at least a bit of privacy in my own thoughts as I mulled over the things that had been churning in my head for weeks. "Ah know that, y'all, Ah know. But- But what if it's about more than that? What if Ah..." I trailed off, lips pursed in annoyance.
The two woman across from me had been at my side for three months, three long months. They had tried to warn me not to stay at The Club, and Cherry had even tried to give me a rolled up wad of cash so that I could escape. And yet, I had ignored their pleas, had ignored their words of wisdom and thought mainly of the cash.
Gawd, yah are just a kid. Uh stupid little kid.
"Rogue," Cinnamon sighed, her risotta completely forgotten as she reached across the table and squeezed my clammy hand. I jumped slightly at the contact, dark eyes drawn down to where our hands were connected atop the lace tablecloth. "If this is about Victor, I'm sure that we can distract him until he loses interest. He's just a man, and he's bound to lose interest sooner or later. We can make it sooner."
"No, it's not just him," I admitted, slowly pulling my hand out of her grasp as a heated shiver raced upwards from my fingertips. "Ah- Ah need to tell y'all somethin', somethin' that ain't gonna sit well." Hesitantly, I lifted my gaze, dropping my hands into my lap so that I could meet their gazes evenly. I knew, just knew, that the next words out of my mouth would probably destroy the fragile friendship that we had built, that all of the time that we had spent together would be seen somehow as lies, as manipulation. But, I couldn't do it anymore. I couldn't lie.
They looked at each other, sharing a look that they probably didn't suspect I would notice. After an uncomfortable silence, they both stared at me levelly, nodding their heads slowly. "We're your friends. So, no matter what you say, we want you to know that we're here for you," Cherry murmured, her voice a bit huskier than normal.
Blankly, I stared down at my lap, ignorant of the sound of the lively café around us. We'd dined there several times before, both because it was rather upscale and because we'd never run into anyone we knew from work. The maître d' knew us by sight, and always had a table near the kitchens ready for us if we wandered in for a late afternoon lunch.
And yet, suddenly, it seemed like the worst possible environment for the conversation that we were about to have. Suddenly, it seemed like I couldn't have chosen a more inopportune time to share my news.
"Ah- Y'all know that y'all are lahke mah closest friends, right?" I asked quietly, almost afraid that they would laugh in my face and reveal that it had all been some clever game, made up to gain my trust so that they could tear me down. "Ah- Ah need tah tell yah somethin'."
"Okay," Cherry drew the word out, the sound of her plate being pushed away from her the only sound that greeted my ears. "Rogue, just tell us. It can't be as bad as you're making it out to be. Come on. We're here for you."
Just do it, I urged myself mentally, attempting to gather my wits.
Gaze focused on the untouched plate in front of me, I clasped my hands together in my lap and drew in a long, calming breath.
"Y'all know what mutants are, right?" I asked, waiting for a short moment before I continued. "O' course yah do, everyone knows what they are. Ain't lahke it's some sorta secret, now is it? They're- They're a little different, Ah'll give yah that much. Some yah wouldn't know it from lookin' at 'em, and others..." I trailed off, brows furrowed as I hid behind the platinum streaks of hair that were a subtle reminder of my run-in with one of the most diabolical mutants on the plant. "Others yah just know. Either they look a little off, or they just got that look in their eye that ain't quite natural."
"Okay," one of them replied, probably Cinnamon. Unable to look them in the eye, I focused on the roasted nuts that were scattered in the salad in front of me, partially wondering why anyone would put nuts in a salad.
"Awhile back, this company came on out and announced that it could change mutants, that it could cure 'em," I continued deliberately, keeping my voice as normal as possible. "Lotta people, mostly mutants that didn't think nothin' was wrong with 'em- Well, they weren't too happy. Some gov'ment company's gone and told 'em 'Hey, y'all ain't quite normal. Don't worry, we gonna fix you right up'. But others," I closed her eyes, willed herself to forget the moment that she'd seen the broadcast on the news. "Others thought that fer the first time, they might've had a real chance at'a real life."
I could still remember that elation, that feeling of disbelief as I'd swept into the Professor's study full of hope. The four of them had stared at me with varied looks of confusion, some even with remorse. But, it'd been only Ms Munroe that had really lit into me.
"Lotta mutants went straight out and got 'emselves cured right up." I nodded my head slowly, as if I was personally agreeing with their decisions. "Most o' 'em were doin' it 'cause they were scared, worried 'bout what the world was comin' to. People up in the White House been pushin' for more laws against mutants, and a lotta folks was scared, worried that their very way o' life was gonna be taken away. Not that yah could blame 'em, mind yah."
"My cousin went out," one of them spoke up suddenly, causing me to whip my head up so quickly that I probably suffered whiplash. Cinnamon was staring at me with eyes full of wonder, full of worry. She worried at her bottom lip for a moment before she tilted her head to the side slightly, her hair falling over her right eye at the movement. "He had a hard time at school dealing with the bullying. He was a scrawny little thing," she smiled sadly, a wrinkle creasing her brow. "Travis- Well, he could hear people's thoughts sometimes. When he was younger, it was kinda cute."
"I remember you talking about him," Cherry added, her voice filled with warmth. "Isn't he the one in that picture where you're at a pool party?"
Cinnamon nodded her head slowly, her gaze never leaving mine. "His mom, my Aunt Sharon, passed it off as a parlor trick when he was still just a kid. But, the older he got, the harder it was to kind of shield him. He started getting all these headaches, these migraines that would put him out of commission for days at a time." She pursed her lips as she idly lifted a piece of the olive bread and tore off a tiny, mouse-sized piece. Pinching it between her fingers, she took a small bite and chewed slowly. "Things were tense for a long time when he started high school. We went to the same one, but he was a few years younger than me. It was hard to look out for him because we didn't see each other all that often. And..."
"An' what?" I prompted, twisting my hands in my lap in an attempt to keep my voice as steady as possible.
"This kid, this Devon kid, always fucked around with him, with Travis. Was always calling him a freak and saying his headaches were caused by his period. Always seemed to call Travis a little pansy, a girl, because he was scrawny and quiet." Her eyes went blank for a moment and the olive bread pinched between her fingers was forgotten as her hand was slowly lowered to the surface of the table, where it rested. "I remember this one day, right before an assembly, Devon started shoving Travis around, slamming him against the lockers and stuff. I remember hearing someone yell Travis' name and turning around and somehow seeing him through the crowd of people. Devon had him by the throat," she lifted her hand subconsciously, her fingers brushing over her delicate neck lightly. "Had him by the throat and was yelling at him and everyone was just watching. They were just standing there."
Slowly, I untangled my hands and reached across the table, well aware of her sharp intake of breath as I wrapped my clammy hand around her own, offering her what strength I could. "It's a'right. Tell us, sugah."
"I remember shoving through all of those people, dropping my books and losing a heel as I shouldered my way through. And then- And then the screaming began. I was confused, but I kept going," she paused, her breathing staggered as her hand shook in mine. "Devon was on the ground and Travis was just standing there, just standing there and looking down at him. The kid, Devon, he was twitching and screaming and-" she cut off suddenly, swallowing thickly as tears peppered her perfectly curled lashes.
Ah sometimes fahget that Ah ain't the only one that's seen some unforgettable stuff.
"The principal was there suddenly, and I remember kneeling there, staring down at Devon as Travis sat beside me, so fucking calm. It was like out of some horror movie, Rogue. Like someone had just uprooted my life and dumped me, my friends, that stupid jerk Devon, and my little cousin onto some movie set. And it just got worse." Tears built in her eyes as I stared at her, and I knew that it was through will alone that the tears hadn't fallen. "Turns out Travis was what my Aunt Sharon had been afraid of: a mutant. The doctors did lots of tests and some specialist from over in Europe came over. They locked Travis up in this ward for crazies, claimed that he was delusional. Poor Devon- Devon ended up six feet under a few weeks afterwards. He suffered a terrible series of strokes that left him completely comatose."
Silence filled the air around the three of us. The sounds from the patrons around us, the servers that bustled to and fro with platters laden with drinks and appetizers- we heard nothing. I knew, sensed somehow, that no matter what happened, no matter what I told them... It would all be okay. I wasn't positive how Cherry would react, but I knew that Cinnamon would never give it a second thought.
Cinnamon sucked in a deep breath as she slid her hand out of mine, busying herself by tearing off another small piece of the olive bread and rolling it between her thumb and forefinger. "Travis was a mutant. Or is. The doctors categorized him as a telepath, someone that can hear your thoughts, and can kind've make you hear their's. As if that makes sense." She rolled her eyes as she stared down at her hand, ignorant of the knowing smile that curled my lips slightly. "He was locked up for a good year by the time I moved up here and found The Club. I still hear from my mom now and then, and I still get e-mails from my Aunt Sharon. Turns out once that cure thing came out, Travis was one of the first in line."
"So he's not like that anymore?" Cherry prompted, drawing my gaze to her. She sat rigid in her chair, her shoulders straight and her jaw clenched tightly. It was obvious that she was uncomfortable with the conversation. Not necessarily disgusted, but certainly not comfortable. "He's okay now?"
"He's better now," Cinnamon nodded in agreement, bobbing her head up and down in three rapid successions. "Last I heard, he'd finally gotten his GED and was working at his dad's law office, doing a lot of filing." The words seemed to carry a tinge of grief that was matched by her somber expression. Another long moment of silence passed before her eyes met mine again, searching. "You're a mutant, aren't you?"
The question startled me as it exited her lips in a calm and smooth fashion. She ade it sound like such a simple question, like she had just asked my shoe size, as though she had merely asked if I was enjoying the weather. But, it wasn't a simple question, and it certainly didn't have an easy answer.
"Ah- Yeah, Ah am," I managed choppily, my heart thudding wildly in my chest. "At least, Ah used to be. Ah took the cure as soon as Ah could. Ain't been- Well, ain't exactly been one for about three months now."
As soon as the words left my mouth, I simply waited. Their reactions were completely different, and I couldn't help but feel a little amazed at how different the seemingly similar girls actually were. Cinnamon seemed satisfied as she smiled at me, a knowing look on her face. But, Cherry, Cherry seemed blown away by the news. Always known for her rather perfect posture, she was leaning back in her chair sloppily, a dazed expression on her face.
"Ah know that this ain't easy," I tried to get the words to form around my suddenly thick tongue. "But, Ah know y'all two deserve the truth. Ah should've told yah from the beginning, Ah know that now. Ah'm just hopin' that y'all ain't gonna hold it against meh, that somehow our friendship is strong enough fah somethin' lahke this." As I stared at them, I found myself clinging to the hope, the need, for them to understand and accept the part of me that I'd kept hidden from them. I'd told them that my name was Rogue, and yet I'd been acting like Marie for so long that I couldn't help but feel so disconnected from the girl that I'd become that warm day in my bedroom with Cody.
Cinnamon was the first to speak, and she said the words that I needed so desperately to hear. "It's okay, hun," she reassured me, her tear-laden lashes fluttering as she smiled across the table at me. "I understand. I really do."
But, Cherry seemed less sure, less able to accept the news. Her eyes were as wide as saucers, and her usually tanned complexion seemed pale, nearly translucent. She opened her mouth, her red-painted lips quivered, and then she shook her head once. Shakily, she lifted a hand and rested an elbow on the corner of the table, dropping her chin into her awaiting palm as she eyed me with a look of thoughtful contemplation.
"Cherry, Ah know that-" I began, only to have her cut me off with a jerky shake of her head.
"Rogue, you know that I really care about you, and that you're my friend," she murmured, her eyes glassier than normal. "But, this is a lot to take in over lunch, girl. It's a lot. I- I thought there was something different about you, something that was a little off. Cin agreed with me when we first met you." A quick glance in Cinnamon's direction revealed that she was nodding slowly in agreement. "I don't know what you want me to say."
"Ah dunno either," I admitted foolishly, my hopes dying at least a little bit. "But, Ah do know that Ah feel at least a little bettah 'bout all this now. Y'all deserved to know. And Ah really hope that you will forgive me, and that y'all will still want to be mah friend. 'Cause, Ah ain't no different than yah or Cin. Ah'm still Rogue. Ah'm still meh." I wanted to sob, I wanted to beg them to understand and accept me and tell me that I'd made the right decision. I wanted to tell them about everything: Cody, my travel plans to Anchorage, the School, Bobby, the Cure. Even Logan.
Cinnamon seemed torn, her eyes flickering between me and the shaken woman beside her. I knew that they'd been close friends for years since meeting at The Club ages ago. They had more history between them than I had with any of my former friends, even those before the School. Ideally, it wouldn't be out of the question for them to pick up their handbags, tell me to pick up the tab for lunch, and get the hell out of Dodge before I dragged them any further in. Instead, they seemed hesitant. United, and yet hesitant as I sat there waiting for them to rip into me and tear down the foundations of my new life.
"So, you're not now then?"
Blinking, I nodded my head in Cherry's direction, shuffling my hands back into my lap under the table so that I could keep them busy. Part of me wanted to explain what it was like to be free from the curse, what it was like to get a manicure and feel my bare fingertips brush over a glass, over a stranger's hand- and not have to worry. Part of me thought that if they could understand what it had been like for me before, that they could accept what I was like after.
"You- You've seen the news reports lately then?" she asked quietly, her dark brows furrowed. I could almost see the wheels turning in her mind, could see her piecing things together as she clawed at the lace tablecloth with her crimson-painted nails. "You know what's going on?"
"Of course," I huffed, straightening my shoulders in an attempt to look more affronted than I really was. "Ah know what's goin' on. Trust meh."
Silence fell over the table quickly, engulfing us in an uncomfortable reverie that I knew simply would not last. And, it didn't.
"They're saying that a lot of mutants aren't staying cured," Cinnamon continued hesitantly, her eyes thoughtful. "Come to think of it, my Aunt Sharon said something awhile back in an e-mail. A lot of the clinics that were issuing the cure, the ones that weren't destroyed in those terrorist attacks, that is, are apparently doing tests on mutants that got cured. To," she paused, perfectly sculpted brow lifted in contemplation, "make sure that they're still cured."
"Yeah," Cherry's head bobbed twice in rapid succession as she leaned forward, her meal completely forgotten. "Rogue, are you telling us this because- Well, because it's not working anymore?"
The question shocked me, and I involuntarily flinched as I looked down at my hands. It was a curse. It had been a burden not knowing touch, not being able to even get close to another human being, or even a cat for that matter. It had made me ache for some sort of physical touch, some sort of actual companionship with every passing day. At some point, Bobby had almost filled the void. But, just like my parents, eventually he distanced himself and physical touch was no longer something that he sought.
Ah can't do it again, I realized as I stared down at my naked hands, free from gloves.
It was liberating, really, simply knowing that some months ago I had been covered from head to foot in layers of clothing and scarves and gloves. I'd only been able to show skin from my neck up, and it was suffocating.
"Ah'm fahne," I managed to explain, the words shakier than I had expected. Nervously, I worried at the inside of my mouth and laced my fingers together, eyes drawn to the largest reminder of the fact that I was indeed fine. "Really, y'all," I attempted to reassure them when I finally noticed the worried expressions that marred their carefully made-up faces.
Slowly, Cinnamon exhaled, a long breath exiting her diaphragm shakily as she shook her head. Her unpainted lips curled into a smile as she tore off yet another piece of the olive bread and rolled it between her thumb and forefinger. "Okay then," she stated simply, nodding her head once before popping the bread into her mouth and chewing it thoughtfully. "Thank you for telling us, Rogue."
"Could you read minds too, Rogue?" Cherry asked suddenly, causing me to stiffen in my chair. Her eyes were filled with a mixture of wonder and trepidation as she stared at me. "I mean, what is it that you could do?"
The question sounded innocent enough, and yet I couldn't find a way to properly reply. Licking my lips, I drew in a quick breath and lifted one shoulder in a jerky shrug. "Ah hurt people," I found myself responding quietly. "When Ah touched people, Ah hurt 'em." Shame coursed through me as I slowly lifted my clasped hands and placed them on the edge of the table, drawing their gazes to my carefully manicured fingers.
Ah put mah first boyfriend in a coma, I thought to myself, fighting the urge to spill the horrible truth. Ah nearly killed the first person that cared other than mah Momma and mah Daddy. Ah almost caused a war when Ah almost turned a bunch o' folks into some mutants. Hell, Ah almost died. And that's just the tip o' the iceberg, sugah.
Instead, I kept the thoughts to myself and merely stared across the table at the two women that were my only real friends. They were the only people that I knew actually cared. Anna made sure I had food in my stomach and that my apartment was locked up tight. Hell, Victor made sure that I always wore the latest fashions and that I always knew just the right things to say to some of his so-called buddies. But, neither of them actually cared.
"It's okay," Cherry whispered, tears peppering her lashes as she hesitantly reached across the table and squeezed my hands. I saw the fear in her eyes, recognized it well. But, instead of pressing for more details, she accepted the explanation at face value.
Which is probably why both Cinnamon and Cherry were at a loss for words two weeks later when they walked into the lounge to find me kneeling over a patron's still body.
A/N: Any errors are my own, as I lack a beta and such. Love my spelling and grammar errors!