The brunette scanned the wide expanse of desert beneath her. This was not what she had been expecting. They had said California and her thoughts had strayed to cities, people, vineyards, orchards and beaches. Not this barren expanse of dirt and dying plant life. Not the heat either. Her uniform was stifling in its dark color and think leather life materials. She was sure she'd gotten sand in her eyes as she flew against the moderately strong winds of the valley.
Why would he be here? She questioned herself. But after two months of searching, this was the best lead they'd followed yet. It had been that long since he'd contacted them on the emergency one way communication device he'd been sent with. No one had heard a thing since and a few had begun to give up hope. She knew better though. The Logan in her head told her that while Death Valley might totally suck, it wouldn't kill him. She wondered what could be out there that would keep him from reaching them though.
Glancing back, she was able to make out the Blackbird landing in a small canyon. This must be it, she thought. She leaned down toward the ground mid flight, effectively allowing her to plummet to a graceful landing in the dirt beside the plane.
Brushing herself off hastily, she made her way to the team assembling in the glaring sunlight. Everyone else was pulling at their X uniforms while wearing sour faces that told as much of their dislike for the mission as their physical discomfort.
Scott was briefing the team one last time for this scouring mission. "I know we're feeling the pressure since this is our last current lead, but we don't need to be finding trouble or taking unnecessary risks. And yes Pyro, I get to decide what risks are and are not necessary. Everyone will report back at hour intervals and be sure to stay well hydrated out here. Rogue, there are many mines and caves, if you could check those out, fly on down, see what's there. Alright team, let's get the Wolverine and the whole team back safely."
Rogue lifted off the ground slightly before Scott's gloved hand grabbed her arm and compelled her back to the ground.
"I mean it Rogue. Nothing unnecessary. If you need help, you call for it."
Rogue nodded and saw the desperation in his eyes. They were family, she more like his sister than anything else now. She knew it would break him to lose more of his family. She wouldn't be able to handle it if he disappeared again himself.
She allowed herself a moment to remember how they had found him in a hospital in Sacramento with no recollection of himself or his life. A nurse had made sure his visor stayed on and had even tried to explain his mutation to him, being a mutant herself.
They had found him just as a recovered Magneto had. They knew they were both on the trail and Storm had made sure they arrived just before the metal maniac and his newly restored team. Wolverine had been there that day and it had all taken place just after she herself had returned, changed and recovered.
The Rogue shook her head and brought herself back to the mission before them. It wasn't abnormal for Logan to leave. It had become tradition and even a regular routine. Every summer, he'd take off for a month. This time it had been two months and no word. They had begun searching and making underground contacts two weeks ago when that final communication had come in. Whatever was going on, it was making her nervous and the Rogue didn't get nervous anymore. They had a feeling that Wolverine was not the only mutant involuntarily involved.
Flying across the desert valleys, Rogue swooped down here and there to get closer looks at abandoned shacks and rusted stripped cars from who knows when. The movements helped to ease a bit of the tension she was holding onto that marked her stress level. She couldn't give up on Logan like others seemed to have already. Another mutant lost to the ever worsening world they now lived in. The trail was cold from the start and of the few leads they had, this was the last. Just a year earlier she'd lost her real family in Mississippi. Her heart skipped a beat as her thoughts took their own flight. Still bitter, she'd pushed much of those experiences beyond her normal thoughts so she didn't have to deal. It was easier than recalling the cruel way her family had reacted to her return and subsequent relapse. It was too fresh, too new even still and the people she was with now were her real family, even if a few were missing right then.
After the cure and the battle, Rogue had spent a total of two days at the mansion. During that time, her eyes had been opened as she finally saw Bobby's underlying affections for Kitty. Part of her understood. They were all young and love came and went. It was nothing so deep as to cry about. So, feeling out of place and a bit empty without her powers, she packed and bought her bus ticket to go home. She phoned ahead and everyone seemed welcoming at home. Before she'd stepped out of the door with her bags and the cab waiting outside, Logan had called her name. He'd called her Marie and she supposed she still was then, as messed up in the head as she already was.
Marie had turned and smiled genuinely at her friend and protector. "I know you already understand why I'm leaving. Plus, I'm young Logan and at home in Mississippi, maybe I can still be that way for a little while longer."
The Wolverine had grunted and paused before responding. "Be careful kid. Remember you're older inside already than you're realizing right now. Remember the family you're so set on going back home to, turned you out when your powers showed. I don't trust 'em and I don't trust the cure. So be careful and remember you have family and a home when you need."
There was an understanding there and Rogue nodded before leaving without a hug. She was beyond needing him like that. She'd chosen her own path and following it meant leaving the old one behind. She'd wondered then if she'd ever see him or the mansion again. In the back of her mind, a twitching told her that she'd be back. Even still, she'd had to leave them and she had taken that early train right back to her small town Mississippi home and her parents' southern two story.