Author's Note: Hello, everyone. So, this is the first chapter of an X-Men story that spans all three movies and then continues post X3. This is the first time I've published this story, so I hope you enjoy it, and please review!
There were lights ahead. Not very many, but lights meant buildings. That was good. She had walked the last six miles through the snow on foot. Her black Converse were soaked through, as were her jeans to the knee.
Now it was dark, growing darker, and for the first time in a long time, she was the tiniest bit relieved to find a place inhabited by people. She was hungry. She was tired. Her russet hair was cold against the back of her neck. The ring and chain around her throat felt frozen to her skin. Her entire body was numb. Her hands, partially covered by fingerless gloves, shook from the cold, and her teeth chattered. She could see her breath in the air, coming through her emerald green knitted scarf. She reached over her shoulder and pulled up the hood to her zippered sweatshirt. She pulled her scarf back up so it covered her nose again, and pulled her skull cap down on her forehead so only her eyes were visible.
The only time she'd been driven to use her powers was when she had been hitchhiking, to keep whoever she rode with concerned with only the road. She was glad she had finally reached a town. Towns usually meant she could get lost in a crowd and pretend she was normal for a few short hours.
She pulled her small, black rucksack higher onto her shoulder, and continued forging her way toward the lights. The sign she passed said Laughlin City, Alberta, Canada.
She glanced up at the buildings around her. Not much of a city.
A large, rectangular sign caught her eye; she turned to look at it. It was rusted, and banging against the building it was bolted to, but in faded red letters it clearly read 'Diner'.
She climbed up the three steps off the snow-covered road, and pulled open the wooden door. It creaked, and a few people looked up from their tables. She rubbed her hands together and stomped each of her feet twice in the doorway. She silently crossed the dirty, wooden-slatted floor and sat on a stool at the bar two down from a girl in a green hood, pulling her scarf down from her face.
The bartender, in a red and blue lumberjack shirt, stopped in front of her. "If you're not going to order anything but water, get out." As he spoke, he threw a look at the girl down the bar. She glanced at her from under the edge of her hood. The girl swallowed somewhat nervously.
Reaching into her back pocket, the newcomer pulled out the last of her money. She studied the cardboard menu written in thick black marker tacked against the wall above the tap behind the bar.
"You've got soup?" she asked, her voice husky from the cold.
The bartender nodded. "Chicken noodle," he said.
Pulling a ten from the thin fold of Canadian money, she placed it on the bar. "Two," she said.
The bartender punched the cost into the cash register, and the drawer popped open with a ding. He handed her her change, and she put her money back into her pocket. He went around back, for some reason taking the tip jar with him, and came back five minutes later, placing the bowls in front of her.
She pushed one of the bowls to the next seat. Warily, as if she was only teasing her, the other girl reached for the bowl. The girl who had entered the diner second pulled her arm back, and picked up her own spoon.
"Thank you," the girl down the bar said. The girl who had paid let the warm broth sit in her mouth for a moment, and then swallowed. Anything tasted good at this point. She hadn't eaten in two days.
"Don't mention it," she replied softly, putting a spoonful of limp noodles in her mouth.
Both girls finished supper relatively quickly, and the bartender took away their bowls. Basking in the heat of the diner, the second girl sipped a glass of water slowly.
"I'm Rogue," the first girl said, almost hesitantly. She had a slow, kind of drawling American accent, probably southern. The second girl suddenly knew the first was a mutant, and that she was on the run because of it, just like her.
Her powers were acting by themselves again. Sometimes, she simply envied other mutants, instead of normal humans. At least their powers seemed to be definite. Hers was never the same. When she chose to use them, she could make her curse do whatever she wanted it to; if she could picture it, she could do it. Sometimes, just like now, however, they acted by themselves.
She swallowed hard, and put the glass of water to her forehead. "My name's Bane," she replied, barely moving her lips, mouth dry. Usually the nauseous feeling that came over her when her powers acted of their own accord faded quickly. This time, though, it seemed to be getting stronger. She felt shaky, and she knew her face was pale. Sweat beaded on her forehead. The bar in front of her wavered, and images replaced it, all fleeting and shooting by in rapid succession. The diner door opening. A glass falling on the floor and breaking. Rogue ignoring Bane. Two men entering the bar. Bane lying on her back in the road, looking up at the clear night sky.
The vision suddenly vanished, and she brought the glass to her lips and drank. Now the feeling of nausea began to fade. "Rogue," she said quickly and quietly, as the bartender went behind again.
Yeah?" she replied, giving her a quick, furtive glance and adopting Bane's quiet speech.
"Whatever happens in the next few minutes, you should pretend you don't know me."
Now Rogue looked openly at Bane. "What?" Bane continued to stare at the bar. Her hand tightened on the glass.
"Don't look!" Bane hissed. Rogue gulped, and turned her face back down. "Please, promise you'll do this!" Bane glanced at her. "Consider it payment for dinner," she added.
Rogue nodded. "Okay."
For the next few minutes, there was no communication in the bar. The only noises came from a heavy man snoring on a bench in the back of the diner, and from the television fastened in the corner. It was tuned to the global news channel, where a female anchor was reporting on the U.N. Summit to be held in New York on Ellis Island on the topic of mutant registration. The very idea made Bane shudder.
The bell above the door chimed, and Bane glanced at the two men who entered. Neither was very attractive; they were scruffy and unkempt. As they approached the bar, she was overpowered by the smell of alcohol. Bane noted the wedding rings on both of their left hands. They took the two seats on her other side. Rogue dutifully kept her eyes down at her hands on the bar.
"Two beers, 'tender," the one closest to Bane said. She looked down at her hands. Her fingers clenched the edge of the bar.
"Are you sure that's what you really want?" she asked quietly. The man who had ordered turned to her with a sneer.
"What was that?" he snarled.
She turned to look at him. "I'd say you and your friend are blitzed enough as it is. Maybe you should order ginger ale so you at least look sober when you head home," she told him. He leaned in on his elbow so quickly he hit her glass of water. It fell off the bar and shattered, just as she had foreseen. Bane maintained her outer calm, not even flinching.
"I don't really think it's any of your business, girlie," said the second man.
Sighing, she stood, avoiding the broken glass. Holding her power in check, she carefully probed the minds of the two men. "I suppose you're right," she said loudly, picking her rucksack up from where it had been resting against her stool and sliding it onto her shoulder. The diner had fallen completely silent, and the low number of occupants all watched the scene that was unfolding at the bar. "It's also probably none of my business that you both have wives waiting at home who think you're at work right now." Bane narrowed her eyes, concentrating. "And you," she said, pointing at the second man, "have two young children who are lying awake in their beds waiting for 'Daddy Dearest' to kiss them goodnight and tell them there aren't monsters under their beds or in their closets."
The two men stared at her, slack-jawed. "You," Bane continued, pointing at the man who had ordered, "aren't even going to go home after having a few with your boy here. Don't you have a lady-friend you're going to go see after this?"
The first man stood up so roughly his stool fell into the other man and then landed on the floor with a clatter. "I have never cheated on my wife, you little bitch!" he hissed.
"Is that so?" she promptly replied. "So, when you told Cheryll you were going on a business trip in September, you weren't really going to Sandra's house for, and I quote, 'a good fuck'?"
The second man had now stood up. "How, how did you know that?"
Bane put her hand forward, focusing on the shattered glass. "You know what I loathe even more than liars?" she asked. The broken remnants of the glass began to slowly rise from the floor, and as they floated towards the top of the bar, they began to meet and fuse together. "People who don't appreciate what they've been given." A completely repaired glass landed gently on the countertop. Rogue gasped slightly, but quickly swallowed and was silent once more.
"Mutant!" the first man said. Rolling up their sleeves, the two advanced on her so quickly she was taken by surprise. The first man grabbed the collar of her shirt and pinned her up against the far wall near the door. He got right in her face, his breath rank. Bane craned her neck, trying to breathe.
"Now… is that any way to… treat a lady?" she asked. The man's friend held open the door, and she knew how her last vision came about.
"You're no lady," he said, pulling her off the wall and carrying her, still by her collar, to the door.
"You're a monster," his friend finished. With that, she was hurled unceremoniously from the diner and into the street. Sliding back several feet, she came to a rest with her back in the snow, the stars staring down at her.
Coughing, trying to regain her breath, she sat up, shaking the snow out of her hair. The door to the diner slammed shut. She sighed, standing. The entire back of her body was now wet.
Bane had no clue what had just come over her. She hadn't ever done anything like that before. She began to feel a tense knot forming in the pit of her stomach.
She shouldn't have made a scene like that. It wasn't right. Once again, her curse showed its true colors. She turned, hand to her forehead, and ran into the front of a tall man. He deftly caught Bane's wrist before she toppled backwards, catching her halfway. If it had been daylight, she were sure he would have posed as a very frightening presence, with hair that was styled to stand on end and silver dog tags around his neck, partially covered by a worn leather jacket.
"Mutant, eh?" he said.
Bane broke into a cold sweat. She jerked her arm away, and ran recklessly down the road leading out of town.
After several more hitchhiking sessions, Bane finally made it across the border into the United States. It wasn't like they could deny her access; one, they didn't know she was a mutant, and two, she was a rightfully born American citizen.
She hadn't really intended to come into the U.S., not to begin with. She had been trying to go east, maybe to Newfoundland. She just wanted to be someplace where there weren't a lot of other normal humans she could hurt.
That all changed after Laughlin City. Now she was just trying to make her way south, to the desert. So she had backtracked, and crossed the border. Since she was here, though, there was one stop she had to make.
Seattle wasn't very far from where she crossed. Long ago she had memorized the way to the cemetery, and she could still walk it by heart even though she had been gone for years.
Bane crouched down in front of a wide granite headstone. Etched at the top was an angel in flowing robes, her left arm full of roses and lilies, and her right hand raised to the heavens. Her flowing hair was blown back from her delicate features. Below, carved deep into the stone, read:
Trisha Hope Torrence
Beloved Daughter and Sister
"Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these."
Bane leaned back and sat on the ground, knees drawn to her chest.
"It's been a while, huh, kid?" she said to the grave. She rested her chin on her arms. "Five years, if my math's right." Her voice became strangled, choked with tears. "I don't think I've ever told you how sorry I am. It was an accident, Trisha, I swear. God…"
She sniffed, and looked away, wiping her eyes.
When she could see clearly again, she pulled a chain and ring out from under her shirt. The chain was plain silver; the ring was tiny, and could probably only fit on Bane's pinkie finger. It was silver as well, and set with a tiny garnet and diamond cross. Garnets were Trisha's birthstone. It had been going to be her First Communion gift. Bane's parents had given it to her as a memento of Trisha after she had passed.
"I still wear this, you know," she said. "Guess it's like my guilty conscience." She stood. "I'm gonna go away. Just disappear. Head down south, somewhere, maybe Arizona. Someplace remote." Bane sighed. "I'm a mutant, kiddo, in case you hadn't figured me out yet. And not a good one, either. I'm cursed. I killed you, and almost killed Mom and Dad. They don't remember me anymore. I can't make you forget, though. Please forgive me."
Bending down on one knee, she placed a hand on either side of the ground beside headstone, and closed her eyes. Trisha always ran around in the summer at the park and picked as many daisies as she could find. Bane would make daisy crowns out of them to put on top of her curly, golden head.
Bane opened her eyes, and watched as green shoots pushed out of the ground, growing rapidly and blooming into large white daisies. Standing, she kissed the tips of her fingers, and pressed them against Trisha's name.
Bane took a few steps towards the path, and then raised her head, stopping. A tall man had stopped in the middle of the gravel walkway, and had raised a shaking hand to point at her. "M-mutant!" he said hoarsely.
Bane quickly assessed her chances. The man was tall, and had a broad chest. He appeared fortyish, and was graying slightly at the temples. There was a dropped bouquet of small, pink flowers wrapped in brown paper at his feet.
She could see the gate not far behind him. She glanced over her shoulder, and could see the black, wrought iron fence far back beyond the graves. She decided it would be better to take her chances with the man in front of her.
With a running start, she leapt over the man, jumping higher than any normal human could ever jump. She landed in a crouched position behind him. He whirled around as she started running towards the gate.
"MUTANT!" he started yelling after her. "MUTANT!!"
People on the street stopped and turned as Bane passed beneath the black-and-gold arch that read 'Saint Hope's Cemetery'. The man followed her, yelling ever louder. Mothers shielded their children from her, as though the mutant gene were contagious. Men yelled after her as she ran past them, calling her obscene names. She pushed past all of them, barreling forward.
She passed a group of young men smoking against the brick wall of some building. One elbowed another, and they began following her, matching her pace. Civilian traffic began to move back to normal.
The man from the cemetery, silent now, started walking down the sidewalk. He turned into an alley and stopped just before a thin, small man crouched atop a metal trashcan. Mystique shed her previous form.
"Did you find her?" Toad asked. The blue woman smirked, and slightly nodded her head. Toad grinned. "Excellent."
Bane turned onto a side street, and leaned against a wall, hand to her chest, panting heavily. She bent over, hands on her knees, trying to catch her breath.
"Hey," a voice said above her. She looked up, and a fist collided with her face, knocking her to the ground. Gasping and clenching her teeth in pain, her hand flew to the side of her face. She looked up to try and face her attacker. Four men towered over her as she lay on the ground, each appearing very young, perhaps in their early twenties.
"What the - NGH!!" As she had tried to push herself up, the man who had punched her kicked her square in the stomach. She instinctively curled up on her side.
All four of the men started kicking her. Some of their blows even hit her head. Bane brought her knees up to protect her stomach and wrapped her arms over her head and face. The beating must have only gone on for a little more than five minutes, but it seemed like an eternity.
"Does it hurt, bitch?" one of the men asked. "This is what's coming to you, and all of your kind!" He bent, grabbed her hair to hold her up, and punched her again, knocking her back to the ground on her other side. She rolled slightly onto her stomach, and coughed up a little blood on the pavement. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw another man pull his leg back, and braced for the impact.
The blow never came. Instead, there were shouts and the sound of fighting. Bane glanced up through her arms. Two of the men were now running from the alley. One was knocked out cold, a thin trickle of blood running from one nostril. Another was being mercilessly beaten by a woman who was clearly a mutant. Her skin was blue and scale-like, she had golden-colored eyes, and had short, red hair slicked back against her head.
Breathing labored, Bane scrambled up off the ground and began moving towards the street and the daylight. Something wrapped around her ankle, though, and pulled sharply. She fell forward onto the pavement again, and landed on her stomach.
Looking over her shoulder, she followed the wet, greenish-black rope around her ankle to where it seemed to be coming from. As Bane realized with terror, however, it wasn't actually a rope, but a tongue belonging to another mutant squatting at the far end of the alley. She screamed as it – he – started pulling her towards him. She started scrabbling at the ground, trying to get a grip to pull herself away from him, or at least to a stop, but only succeeded in breaking off nearly all of her fingernails. Bane rolled over so she was being dragged along on her back. She felt her shirt catch and pull up, and felt her bare back scrape along the rough asphalt.
The mutant's tongue had nearly retracted all the way now, and she quickly devised a plan she thought might get her loose. As soon as she was close enough to the mutant, she bent her knee and planted her tennis shoe right into the mutant's face.
As she had hoped, the man pulled his tongue back completely into his mouth, releasing her, and his hands flew to his face. She hoped she had broken his nose, Bane thought, as she started running toward the end of the alley again.
She watched as the blue mutant woman hit the man in her grasp, and then dropped him on the ground. The woman turned to look at her, but Bane was nearly frantic now, and she wasn't going to let herself get caught up again. She had heard stories of mutant experimentation, and sometimes scientists procured new test subjects with the help of other mutants. She wasn't going to be some kind of lab rat.
She focused her mind on the woman, threw an arm forward, and then out to the side. The blue mutant was lifted off the ground and slammed into the left side of the alley. Bane sprinted past her.
Due to her injuries, this much effort was making her entire body throb in agony. Her lungs felt like they were on fire. She kept pushing herself, though, trying to get away from that alley.
There was a cut on her forehead, and it leaked blood down her face. Her legs and arms allowed her to move jerkily at a strange gallop, but barely. She could finally no longer go on about three blocks later, and she came close to a dead halt. Bane's mouth felt dry, and her throat made a rasping noise as she sucked in air. Every inch of her body was screaming for her to stop.
She managed to stumble into a small playground. She dragged her feet through the sand, and the tiny grains filtered through the bottoms of her shoes.
She dropped to her knees. Several tiny children around her shrieked and ran away. She tried to concentrate on healing, but she was too tired and in too much pain to call upon even the tiniest ounce of her curse. Accepting the inevitable and closing her eyes, she fell forward onto the cool sand.
OK, so, technically, there were no X-Men in this chapter. But the story's got to start somewhere, so please wait for Chapter 2. Thanks!