Disclaimer: All recognizable characters, settings, and other plot elements belong to Marvel. All other products and copyrighted works mentioned belong to their respective owners. I don't own anything, and I do not gain any profit from this page.
Author's Note: The views and opinions expressed in the story content do not correlate with the views and opinions of Artemis's Liege.
To be truly logical about the situation, Hank had no genuine reason to be worried. Teenagers were frequently late, because they had yet to learn responsibility, and often simply lost track of time. However, he was unable to prevent himself from thinking of awful scenarios such as car crashes and house fires that could have occurred. Especially where Rogue was concerned.
Doing his best to remain calm and attempting to reassure himself, after ten minutes had passed, he eventually dialed the cell phone number Rogue had distributed to everyone at the Xavier Institute, only stating that they should call her if any of them ever needed her.
It was an unusually thoughtful gesture from her, but the the sense of sentiment rapidly evaporated when Hank called and reached her voicemail, complete with the alias she used for school.
"Hello, you've reached Rose Malentire. I am emotionally unavailable right now. Leave a message at the sound of the 'I don't care.'"
The recording was irritating, but at a distance, and Hank was sure that was exactly what Rogue had intended. He firmly placed receiver on the phone base, trying resist the temptation of wondering just many weeks he could give detention for skipping a Danger Room practice, just as Logan ambled into the kitchen and opened the refrigerator, removing a bottle of beer.
"Should you really be drinking before the training session with the students?" Hank asked.
"I'm drinking because of the training session with the students," Logan replied flatly. "You still worrying about that kid?" He twisted the cap off and took a long swig.
"'That kid' is late," Hank replied in a level tone. "She's in your training squad. Would you rather wait, or simply commence despite her absence?"
Logan shrugged. "Eh, we'll wait as long as it takes me to finish this beer. If she doesn't show up by then, we'll just start without her."
"Your nonchalance is perplexing," Hank commented.
Logan scoffed. "She's a kid, Hank. They're late a lotta the time. I don't like it, but there's nothing me or you can do about it at the moment. Might as well deal with it."
"This an exceptional occurrence, however," Hank responded. "Rogue isn't frequently late. I wonder if she hasn't found herself in some sort of trouble."
Logan rolled his eyes."Right. Look, the only trouble she might've gotten into is detention at that high school, and in that case, some poor teacher has to deal with her attitude instead of me. I'm not all that broken up about that. I like Stripes," here Logan used his nickname for Rogue, which Hank supposed originated from her punk hairstyle, "but sometimes she's not all that pleasant. We'll get by without her for one day."
"If there was a car crash- " Hank began, but Logan cut him off.
"She's too young to have a driver's permit, let alone a license, and where would she have gotten a car from?" Logan asked.
"Logan, you and I both know that if Rogue truly desired a car, she would simply steal the model she found the most appealing," Hank said flatly. "She's a delinquent, although I will concede that she has yet to be officially arrested."
"She doesn't really have a motive to steal a car," Logan pointed out. "Stripes is a smart kid, even if she doesn't flash it around like Jean does. Hey, you know, if you really want to talk about Rogue missing this session, there's someone who would love an avid discussion. I get the feeling that she really isn't happy that Rogue's not here."
"Well, why would she be?" Hank asked rhetorically. "She's a co-leader of your team, and Rogue's absence is a challenge to her leadership."
Logan groaned. "Jesus Christ, that's ridiculous. Does Stripes always have to have some kinda ulterior motive against Jean? Yeah, Stripes doesn't like her very much, but she doesn't advertise it. Stripes probably just forgot and went to make someone else's life more difficult with some of her human friends."
"I've seen the company she keeps," Hank said grimly. "Considering Rogue's personal tastes, I wouldn't have expected Rogue associate with cheerleaders, but the four she's closest to are a malicious, petty, self-centered, and not very bright group. Not a good combination."
"It's not your problem Hank, so don't try to fix it," Logan informed him. "I don't think Stripes would appreciate the thought, either."
"Her behavior concerns me," Hank said. "It's not normal for a teenage girl."
"Suits her pretty well, then, considering she ain't normal," Logan said, finishing his beer. "She'll never have the chance to be, either. She's Mystique's daughter, after all."
Hank froze. "I beg your pardon?"
Logan looked at him. "You didn't know? I thought it was obvious."
The sounds of pop music and laughter filled the air as Hank, all the way from the library, heard a car pull to a halt in the driveway, then pull away. From the hum of the engine, it was a recent sports model, stylish, but fast. A metal door opened and shut, and then footsteps proceeded to the front door.
Hank exited the library and managed to intercept her as she was about to mount the staircase.
"How good of you to come home," he said without greeting. He wasn't in the mood for pleasantries. He had known that Rogue had trained under Mystique before, but her daughter? He still felt slightly shell-shocked.
She turned, a for a split second there was a genuine smile on her face before it faded at his disapproving tone. Normally cold and remote as statue, with disdain gleaming in her icy green eyes, the change the expression of happiness brought to her face was astounding, but Hank didn't have the patience to marvel at her uncommon display of bona fide emotion.
"Is there a problem, Dr. McCoy?" Rogue inquired, arching a dark eyebrow that contrasted with her ivory complexion.
"Your absence from the combined Danger Room training session today was noted," he informed her.
She stiffened, as if steeling herself. "I didn't know about the Danger Room session until Kitty told me at school."
"Why not?" Hank frowned. "There was an announcement at dinner last night."
"I wasn't at dinner last night, and no one let me know." She did a good job of hiding the irritation in her voice, but some still slipped through.
"And what, pray tell, were you doing instead of dining with us?" Hank asked, knowing that he most likely wouldn't appreciate the answer.
"I was at a tennis match," Rogue said without hesitation.
"Tennis," Hank repeated. It wasn't the response he had expected.
"I play for the Bayville High team," Rogue said. "I had match again today, directly after school, and when Kitty told me about the Danger Room session, I asked her to let you and Logan know where I was. I'm guessing that she didn't."
Another time he would have difficulty discerning whether this statement was the honest truth or not. Rogue was a very good liar; he perceived that from watching her mannerisms. But as it was, he could see that she was wearing vaguely normal clothes rather her usual goth ensemble: form-fitting black jeans with black and silver sneakers, a hooded black track jacket that was only zipped halfway up the front, revealing a plum-colored shirt beneath, and of course, gloves, which were a plain black. Her semi-damp sleek hair had been combed back and twisted into a loose knot, and the scent of her shampoo and lotion, which were both a blend of peach and mango, indicated that she had showered recently.
A smile tugged at the corner of Hank's mouth. So Mystique's daughter enjoyed playing tennis, of all things.
"This clearly was a misunderstanding," Hank said calmly. "I'll allow this to slide, Rogue. But be sure to grace us with your presence upon the next Danger Room session."
Her green eyes flashed with glacial cold as she looked at him, but the girl merely nodded curtly and proceeded up the stairs.
But for a moment as Hank's gaze locked on to hers, it was Mystique who coolly returned his stare.
A fews day later, Hank was sitting outside on a stone garden bench, enjoying the gorgeous autumn afternoon, when he was approached by his old friend Ororo Munroe.
"Do you mind if I join you?" She asked with a smile that only served to enhance her already beautiful features.
"Certainly not," Hank responded promptly.
She settled next to him, and they sat in companionable silence for several minutes as they watched the game of soccer between the New Mutants and the teenage X-Men.
"Do you remember when we were students here?" Ororo smiled fondly.
"Yes," Hank said, recalling the time in his youth when S.H.I.E.L.D. worked with Professor Xavier to set up the X-Men team as an experimental program. "I'll never be able to forget those days."
"We had some good times," Ororo said, at ease. "And now that initial program is done, here we are again, starting anew. The only difference this time is that Professor Xavier isn't working with S.H.I.E.L.D."
"So much has changed since that time," Hank said. "Yet it was hardly more than half of a decade ago."
"Betsy is working with her brother in Britain, Sean has a normal life in Ireland, John is a government official as a liaison to the Native American community, Shiro seems to have dropped off the face of the earth, the last time I saw Emma she was part of The Hellfire Club, and Raven is a terrorist." Ororo's serene tone never changed as she listed her former teammates.
"Is that she's calling herself these day?" Hank inquired grimly.
"Yes," Ororo replied. "Although 'Mystique' is what she considers to be her true name."
"It astonishes me that she retains her sense of sentiment enough to appreciate an alias, let alone care for a daughter," Hank said, an edge of bitterness in his tone.
"Charles and I suspect that Raven's unofficial adoption of Rogue was because of her potential mutant abilities than any sort of maternal affection," Ororo stated.
"So Rogue isn't Raven's offspring by birth," Hank observed. His gaze fell upon the girl, playing soccer a number of yards away. Looking back on it, he wasn't quite sure how he missed seeing her resemblance to Mystique; it was present in her mannerisms: her cold tone of voice, the catlike way she moved, her aloof gaze, the smirk at the corner of her full lips.
"Kurt, however, is," Ororo said quietly.
Hank started. "Are you serious?"
Ororo nodded. "Since the program ended six years ago, and Kurt recently celebrated his sixteenth birthday, it's safe to say that Raven didn't actually want any children, and had given him up by the time we met her. Kurt was adopted by a couple in Bavaria who thought that he was a sign from God."
"Mystique didn't raise him, then," Hank mused. "How exactly did Raven discover Rogue?"
"She had a clairvoyant friend who predicted that Rogue would play a pivotal role in the conflict between humans and mutants." Ororo's voice was carefully neutral. "Through her contacts in the Brotherhood of Mutants, Raven was able to pose as one of Rogue's private tutors for a short time, in order to ascertain her identity. Rogue is from wealthy family, but her mother is estranged and has never contacted her, and her father didn't care to raise a child on his own. He sent her to a strict Catholic boarding school. The first year that Rogue attended, Raven deceived Rogue's father into believing that she was Caroline, the half-sister of Rogue's mother. And so Rogue's father allowed his daughter to live with her 'Aunt Carrie' during the summer months. Thus Raven trained her as an operative, waiting for her mutation to manifest, and came to care for Rogue in some twisted way, considering Rogue her 'daughter.'" Ororo sighed after relaying the story.
Hank stared in disbelief. "And you're telling me that if either of Rogue's parents had taken the time to care for their own child, Rogue never would have met Mystique?"
"Presumably Raven would have eventually found a way to get to her," Ororo said with shrug.
"How in God's name do you know all of this in the first place?" Hank queried.
"After Rogue decided to leave the Brotherhood, she allowed Charles to check her mind to ensure her sincerity," Ororo replied heavily. "She had recently absorbed fragments of Raven's psyche, and possessed all of her memories. However, beyond Logan, Rogue, and ourselves, Charles has never shared the information with anyone else."
Hank shook his head. "What is Charles thinking, keeping her here?" He watched as Rogue aggressively shoved an opponent aside to score a goal, the sunlight glinting on her bound auburn hair. "The entire reason the original X-Men program was terminated was due to Mystique joining Magneto, the very man we were assembled together to combat. Even prior to that, she had shown her true colors. She ceased to disguise her sociopathic tendencies shortly after S.H.I.E.L.D. forced her into the program. And now Charles trundles out Raven's contribution to the next generation of mutant terrorists?"
"What else would you have him do, Henry?" Ororo inquired calmly. "Allowing Rogue on her own is guaranteeing her return to the Brotherhood. Rogue is dangerous, but I would rather have her with us than against us."
"She's a threat to the other students," Hank said emphatically.
Ororo let out a deep exhale. "What concerns me is that Raven has yet to so much as attempt to approach Rogue. After Rogue's discovery that Raven was her adopted mother, she vanished, which makes me wonder if Charles accepting Rogue as part of the X-Men was exactly what she wanted."
"If that's so, then Mystique has the advantage," Hank said. "What about Rogue's loyalty?"
"Charles claims that she wants to help others," Ororo said. "And Rogue doesn't seem to be all that malevolent. Just quiet, and somewhat reserved, although her lack of emotion is startling."
"I don't want to think that Charles is being foolish," Hank said. "But I can't help but wonder about his reasons for this. Does he consider Rogue to be a chance for him to correct some sort of perceived failure with Mystique?"
Ororo was silent for a few moments. "I don't know, Hank. I just don't know."
They sat outside for a while longer, not talking, watching the children they were expected to aid, train, and most of all, protect.
The early X-Men who Ororo mentioned are Betsy Braddock A.K.A. Psylocke, Sean Cassidy A.K.A. Banshee, John Proudstar A.K.A. Thunderbird, and Emma Frost A.K.A. the White Queen.
I totally made up Rogue's alias for school. "Rose" sounds similar to "Rogue," anyway.
If you're interested in what Hank thought of Rogue before he found out about her background, I have a few other fics, such as "Observations of an Oddity" and "Detention Disclosures" that involve the two of them.
Also, the background I use for Rogue is detailed upon in "Discord."
Let me know your thoughts. Constructive criticism is always appreciated.