I looked up, meeting Logan's steady gaze.
"What's it like? Where you come from."
I wondered what he wanted to hear--because I couldn't be sure this wasn't
exactly the kind of world he wanted. Mutants won, humans were trapped, and
my Logan had never exactly been fond of regular humans.
But he'd never exterminated them either.
--Hush up, sugar. I need to think.--
"Different." I shook my head, bracing my hands on the edge of the mattress
as if it would give me strength. "There was no war. We're still being
discriminated against. No one's died. You're looking for your past. The
X-Men do stuff. Big differences." Huge. My face wasn't the one on
statues that talked about martyrdom. People knew I hadn't gotten into that
My friends hadn't lost their ethics, their ideals. And mutants hadn't won
Logan nodded slowly.
"And you and me?"
Oh dear God. Get to the complicated questions.
"You and I--we're friends." More than that. I tried to put it into words.
"You left for awhile--after the Statue." He winced a little and I hurried
on. "But you came back. You trained me. You--you took care of me. You
were on my first mission with me." I wanted more, you didn't. No, won't go
into that. "You're my best friend. Always have been."
He accepted this--God, he was taking it way too calm.
--Logan, help me out. What's going on?--
--Depends on which one of us you're talkin' to, baby.--
I froze. No. No no no....
--I'm still here. Just--adjusting.-- A pause. --You're not gonna like
this, darlin'. He doesn't know what to do now.--
Seven years of difference, of conditioning, of becoming the man he was now.
Seven years of difference between the man that climbed that Statue for me
and the man that sat on this bed.
--Run. Pick you up and run as far as possible. Get you out and not
I looked up to see him watching me again--still unreadable, still
"You don't know how you got here?"
I mutely shook my head.
"Tell me what happened when you crossed over."
I told him, trying to remember every detail--the door, my chin, the
blinding headache, my scraped knee, and the frightened man that helped me
and handed me the wrong change.
"Two days ago?"
He nodded slowly, scratching the back of his neck. It was endearing--he
did that when he was thinking.
"And you found out Mags is running his machine again."
"Yeah. They--he--you're--people are being gathered to use it--he found a
girl he can use. Polaris. She--she volunteered to die in that thing." I
choked, remembering the pain of the ripping out of my powers, the feel of
my soul being drawn out through my skin. Shivered a little--I'd always
wondered if that was how Carol felt, how Logan felt, when they touched me.
--Not exactly. But close. It didn't hurt that much.--
Logan nodded--well, of course. He was helping to run this hellhole.
"I don't--I don't understand. Where I come from, it didn't work."
Suddenly, my shoulders were in a tight grip, turning me around to face him
"It didn't work?" There was a strange intensity to the question--I
couldn't get around it, couldn't define it.
"Senator Kelley--he died."
"But up on the Statue--"
"Scott wrecked the machine before the wave hit New York. But here--here,
Senator Kelley *survived*, he changed. I don't--"
"He didn't. He died in the Mansion. In the lab."
I jerked my gaze up--my hand went to my pocket and Logan tensed, but I only
pulled out the money, and it fell from my fumbling fingers onto the floor.
Slowly, he picked it up, frowning as he studied the worn bills.
"He's on there." I flipped the dollar bill over so the portrait was
visible. "President Kelley." That was Kelley. I knew the man's face like
"No. She's on there, Mystique." A little smile turned up his lips--almost
amused. "No one knows, 'cept the X-Men. Shape-changing, that was what was
given out that happened to Kelley, that was his mutation. Mags's trial run
failed and Kelley died. He succeeded on the Statue." A pause. "He needed
you to make it work. He doesn't know why."
"But that girl--" Polaris. He was putting someone else in that damn
"It'll fail or succeed. He thinks it might need the death of the mutant to
bring it to full power, not necessarily your presence."
The death of a mutant, or that special blend of magnet-and-rogue power. I
stared down at the money in his hand, blinking. Logan went up that Statue
to fetch me. I didn't go willingly. Everything matched up to--
"Then that's when the split occurred. I died here, lived there."
"He ran Polaris in the machine for a test two days ago. Ring any bells?"
My mouth went completely dry.
"You mean--that--that machine is responsible for this?" I remembered what
Bobby said--how Polaris wanted to be as brave as Rogue. As I had been. I
wondered what she would think if she knew how I'd screamed for help and
begged Erik to let me go.
"God," I heard myself whisper. I couldn't even begin to figure this out.
"How the *hell*--"
"God hasn't answered in awhile. Try again." Logan shifted on the bed
beside me. "You gotta get outta here, baby. Mags finds out you're another
absorber, you're might be playin' the part again. And you didn't like it
the first time."
No. No, I hadn't.
"If I don't, Polaris dies instead." And maybe all those desperate people,
who just wanted to survive in this horrible, horrible world would die too.
Who would do anything to be free. God, this wasn't Xavier's dream, how
could Scott fool himself into believing that? How?
"Why the fuck do you care?"
I jerked, looking up at him in surprise.
"She's--" I stopped short. What did he mean, so what? Polaris was going
to *die* in that thing. Well, shit, look who I was talking to.
--That isn't me.--
--You think? Shit, Logan, this is too weird. I can't handle this. I look
at him, and I see you.--
--Well, it ain't any easier from in here either.--
Logan was still staring at me.
He shook his head, that strange smile back. Oh yeah, I'm dead here. This
must be--freaky as hell. And he was still taking this rather well, all
things considered, and that bothered me even more.
"Fuck." He stood up again, pacing to the door--typical-Logan reaction to
stress, movement. With a growl, he went to the dresser, fumbling through,
and pulled out a cigar. I restrained myself from asking for one
myself--wrapping my hands together on my lap, I tried to think of something
"You gotta get outta here--Marie." Hesitation--also lots of shock, but
also typical-Logan, tuning it out because he wasn't sure how to deal with
it. His eyes slid down my body hungrily and I resisted the urge to stand
up and let him look his fill--he had to believe, I needed one person to
believe me. But the hazel eyes focused suddenly on my hands, still coated
in my leather gloves.
"You didn't learn to control it?"
I shook my head.
"No." I paused, remembering the hours in meditation. "Soon. I know it'll
--That's right, darlin. Soon.--
Logan stood up abruptly, capturing my full attention.
"I can fix that now."
Without a glance to see if I was following, he walked out the bedroom door.
A lot like my Logan, actually, taking my obedience for granted. For a
second, I didn't move, but curiosity got the better of me and I followed
him into the living room. He was at the desk, pulling out a key from the
top drawer and then turning to the wall. Ran his hand along the wood,
growling something softly--
"There." Pressing his hand against the wall, he paused, taking a step
:::Voice print accepted.:::
Startled, I crossed to stand behind him as an invisible panel clicked ajar
and he flipped it completely open, reaching inside. Out came something
that looked--well, that looked remarkably like a collar. Metal, gleaming
silver-bright in the darkened room, picking up the lights of New York. It
"What the hell is that?"
He flipped the collar in his hand and grinned, before shutting the panel
and turning around.
"Genoshan specialty. Camp control. We kept the technology--turned out
useful sometimes." He flipped it over again, putting the key in. I
shivered as I watched it slide open. "Com'ere."
--Don't.-- That was Carol, a hiss across the top of my head that made my
scalp itch. --Genoshan collar, Rogue. You've heard the rumors.--
I hesitated, and Logan's head tilted, a slightly sardonic smile curling the
corner of his mouth.
"You come here and tell me this crap, *now* you don't trust me. Irony,
darlin'." I still couldn't read him--I needed to sit down and assimilate
him in my head, get a better feel for the man in front of me. My
usual-Logan couldn't help much with this.
"What will it do?" I took a step, pausing to eye the collar uncertainly.
"Turn you off. It won't hurt." A long pause, while I stared at it, taking
in everything that could mean. Turn me off. Everything--skin, strength,
flying, invulnerability. As helpless as I hadn't been since before I
manifested. "Trust me or not."
Oh. That was the way of it.
And I had no idea what voice said that.
Slowly, I walked over and turned around. The long fingers lifted my hair,
pressed the collar around my throat. I heard the click of the key and
then, suddenly, everything in my head shifted.
*Shifted* three inches over, as if the entire world was trying to get away
from my feet and leave me lingering in limbo.
"Oh *fuck*." I grabbed for my throat as a wave of dizziness threatened to
overcome me. Strong hands braced themselves under my arms and I drew in a
deep breath, letting it out slowly, and even more slowly, the arms
withdrew, touching my face lightly.
"Yeah." I moved slowly, testing out the feel of this--my body felt
different. Heavier, almost. I concentrated--nothing. No float, no hover.
--God, Logan, this is weird.--
And--and nothing. I raised a hand to my head in shock.
--Logan? Logan! Carol! What the hell--
"My--" I stopped, pushing down raw panic. "The voices are gone.
Everyone--there's no one there." I ran around in my head, but only my own
thoughts were there. Nothing else. I felt--strangely empty. Like a
warehouse emptied of all merchandise, alone and yelling, only hearing the
echoes of my own voice.
Then a hand brushed across my face and I stiffened automatically, beginning
to jerk away, but Logan grabbed my shoulder, pulling me closer. The feel
of bare skin on mine--I drew in a breath as every nerve came alight,
shocked into the reality. I could touch. I could *touch*. He tilted my
head up, looking into my eyes, and I felt my body begin to shiver.
I'd seen that look on Logan's face before. But never directed at me.
"How does it feel?"
I opened my mouth, trying to speak. Bare, wonderful skin against mine--I
wanted to taste it and breathe on it, run my tongue over every inch of the
hand against my chin, explore the textures and the warmth. Wonderful.
Amazing. Incredible. Bare fingers on my cheek, on my neck, touch, it ran
all through me and a wave of pure arousal flickered through my body that I
tried to control, remembering all those lessons from Jean in control of my
mind, all those meditation exercises, all those years and years of work to
make myself strong. They flipped into place, but--but God, he had to sense
it on me.
I'd always wanted his touch and he had to know that too. God, what a time
to get this. What a damn *awkward* moment, but I couldn't help it. I'd
wanted this for years.
"Most people stay dizzy for awhile. Sit down, get used to it."
Oh. *Oh*. He wasn't talking about the touch--he was talking about the
collar and my new powerless state. Good Rogue, make everything about sex.
There were more important things to be worried about here, like, hey,
survival. I nodded slowly and he removed his hand from my skin--it was
like withdrawal, I staggered a little, and his hand caught my elbow,
helping me sit down.
"Weird," I whispered. Beyond words to describe. Jerking off a glove, I
stared at my fingers and turned, seeing Logan so close beside me--
--I had to. Simple, instinctive, he was inches away.
He didn't move when I reached out, my finger hovering a breath away from
his cheek, and then his fingers covered mine, pushing down until warm skin
was beneath the tip of one finger. I cupped the skin and sideburns, and
there was *nothing* that could be better than this, nothing that....
He pulled my hand away and I almost jerked my hand back to touch him.
"Here." Then he pressed something into my hand. "This'll unlock it. The
lock is behind your left ear." A smile now--he was showing I could trust
him. Damn me, and I'd hesitated when he'd taken the collar out. I nodded,
putting the key carefully in my pocket, feeling the metal with bare
fingers. Texture was still something relatively different to me. "It'll
help you on campus--just keep it covered with somethin'."
Shit, that was a good idea. Brilliant, even, and I fingered the collar
again. Granted, I was no longer invulnerable and I couldn't fly or use my
strength, but at very least, if someone touched me, they wouldn't get their
brains sucked out.
"So what do you plan to do exactly?"
I shrugged, still exploring the curiously empty arena of my mind, the
undeniably strange feeling of skin that didn't injure. Shaking myself
clear of self-absorption, I looked back at Logan.
"I don't know. If the machine is the reason, if he runs it with Polaris, I
may be able to find a way back. But--" But I needed Hank, Xavier, someone
who understood this crap. Someone who would know advanced physics and math
and weird parallel universes. Someone who could explain why I crossed over
and how on earth it had happened. "But I don't know how it happened." And
I didn't want Polaris to die because of it either.
The machine had worked with my death. And now, seven years later, he took
it on a test drive with Polaris and it did--*this*. For no reason--there
was no reason that the store had been an entry point. There was no reason
--oh *shit* did I need some serious thinkers to help me out here.
"I think I know who you need to talk to." I started, but Logan wasn't
looking at me, gaze fixed on the far wall as if it could solve every
problem in the universe if he just stared at it long enough. To me, it
just looked like cream paint.
"Who?" Who could I trust, who wouldn't turn me over to Magneto, who would
"Hank McCoy'll be in town. I think he might be interested in this little
"Hank?" What kind of Hank? A good, nice, ethical doctor Hank, or did I
want to know what he could be doing in this brave new world?
"Let's say he's not a fan of the new world order, darlin'. Or big into
Mags's latest enterprise."
I nodded numbly, and realized that I was still fingering the collar.
Reaching up, I pressed the key into the slot--with a little fumbling, it
slid smoothly in and I turned it sharply, feeling it slide off effortlessly
and into my lap. The rush was extraordinary--my skin, for the briefest
instant, felt as if it were burning, and the tingling of invulnerability
settled around me. When I looked up, I felt Logan's intent gaze again and
felt myself begin to flush under it.
He was just surprised. I wasn't the little girl he remembered. That was
all, it had to be.
The voices were faint but beginning to return, and I wondered,
light-headedly, what Logan and Carol would say to *this* development.
I turned my head to see Logan paused at the kitchen door, a strange
expression on his face--half frown, half curiosity.
"Why'd you get in the trailer?" he asked softly, and I blinked at the
question that seemed to come out of nowhere. Sheesh, good question. Why
*had* I gotten in the trailer? Strangely, I'd never asked myself that. It
was all mixed up in desperation and fear and hunger, but more than that,
because, frankly, there *had* been better options that night.
Turning it over in my mind, there was only one real answer I could make.
"I knew you wouldn't hurt me. Not ever."
There was a flicker of something in his eyes, before he disappeared behind
the dividing wall and I leaned back into the couch, taking a long breath.
--So, Inner Personalities, how'd I do?-- I teased. Logan and Carol were
I really didn't care.
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