Logan went back to the school and I got rid of my guards by sheer dint of
perseverance--Hank was supposed to come by today and I knew there was no way
in hell he would bother stopping by if he saw the X-guards playing outside
to see it happen. Taking a shower, I changed clothes and thought about what
I was going to do.
Two days. Last trial tonight, and that had to mean something. Hank didn't
believe the machine would work without me, but--but maybe he'd found a way
around that. Though his description alone--I pulled my knees up to my chest
and thought about it, reaching for the coffee I'd made as soon as I got
home, and taking a long drink.
There had to be a way. Short of assassinating Erik and Polaris, I couldn't
quite see a way out for anyone, and everything in me shuddered at the idea
of killing them outright. No matter where or who I was, murder was
And so the machine would still run, and those people would die, and I wasn't
sure I could live with that either. If I could be sure--absolutely sure,
positively sure--they'd just be changed, then maybe. Maybe.
But death? I couldn't accept that. And God, please, never let me able to
accept it. Even if they were norms, even if they were responsible for the
hell that lived in the minds of Jean, of Kitty, of St. John--for Jubes and
I wasn't that cold. Staring at my ungloved hands, I wondered what Hank
would say, what he could think to do, why....
The knock on the door startled me from the vicious circle of unproductive
thoughts and I sighed, crossing the room and opening the door. Hank, big
and worried and a little pale, stood waiting, and I stepped back to let him
in, shutting and locking the door behind him.
"Where's Logan?" he asked, frowning as I passed him to go back to the
"With Scott--cleaning up after the executions." I shook my head slowly and
picked up my coffee cup, glancing up to catch an unguarded expression on
Hank's face. "You don't approve."
"It's murder, Rogue."
Rogue. Jarring to hear that still, and I took a drink of coffee to cover my
"It was--precautionary." I sighed, staring down at the cup as if it would
suddenly answer all my unspoken questions. "I know--but they were going to
kill us, Hank. It was fast. If this sort of thing became standard, it
could be so much worse for the norms--what?"
The big brown eyes were fixed on me with naked shock. Frankly, I was rather
surprised by the words trickling out of my mouth as well, and shut it with a
snap, frowning to myself.
"You--were there?" His voice was stripped of expression. I nodded warily.
"I--they died because of me. I thought--"
Soft, choked laugh, and every hair on my body went stiff and straight as
Hank dropped heavily into a nearby chair. The creak seemed to echo in the
silent living room like an accusation.
--"If this sort of thing became standard...."-- It was a shock to realize I
meant it. More of a shock than landing here had been, more than bedding
Logan, more even than the realization that my death had changed so much.
"A lot of people have died for you, Rogue," Hank murmured, as if to himself.
"So many people for that lie." The clear gaze was fixed on the far wall,
and I tried not to shudder, tried not to remember everything that lie was.
How true it was. "You watched. I thought--"
"Thought what?" Putting down my cup, I stared at Hank for a few long
minutes. "What did you think? That I'd stop it? It was Scott's orders,
Hank. I'm one mutant--and he had a reason. It wasn't just because--"
"Because they were humans that dared lay a hand on two mutant women?" Hank
answered sharply. "No, I suppose it was clothed with pretty words and lofty
thoughts, but young Lucas who attacked you was merely sent from the zone.
Or did you see him out there?"
My mouth dropped open--I couldn't even begin to form a response to that one.
"That's different! Lucas was--"
"A mutant." Cold, more than simply angry. "That makes all the difference,
"He wasn't trying to hold me hostage for--"
"No, he believed you were merely a human woman to assault. And you say it
He was misinterpreting the entire thing, and the unjustness of it brought my
"My life isn't a fucking poker chip!" I found my feet, almost knocking into
the coffee table. "How--you think those norms should have just been patted
on the head and told better luck next time they decide to attack us? *Kill*
"They shouldn't be trapped there in the first place! If they had held you
and Kitty, they could have negotiated the others out--" Hank stopped short,
but the words were sinking in between us, hard and cold and utterly
The silence stretched until I could hear the blood rush in my veins, hear
the soft, uneven pressure of my breath in my throat.
It was like falling, like landing, like realizing that you've jumped
worlds--everything condensed into perfect, clear realization of what I
should have known. What Logan, what Johnny, what Jean said--but I hadn't
figured it out.
Nothing. Hank stared back at me, unspeaking, undenying. Everything right
there on the surface and I remembered. Hank was a believer.
"Rogue." Nothing else for an endless moment, and Hank studied me for that
time, looking for something--God knew what. Whatever he was looking for, he
didn't find, and the brown eyes dropped to the floor. "I knew."
Slowly, I reached out, grabbing the arm of the couch, then took a step
toward him. God knew what I'd do or why, but--he, Hank--he was a believer.
A true believer, any sacrifice worth it, any evil accepted, any darkness
allowed, if it served the cause. Like Magneto in his own way, and something
in me seemed to shrivel.
"You helped plan it." A pulse began to beat steadily in my head and my
hands shook as I straightened, taking another halting step toward him. "You
knew about it, you helped--that whole illness thing was dreamed up by you?
You wanted Jean. To negotiate with. You--instead, Jean was busy, so you
got Kitty and me." Jean, who if they could overpower her, would have made
such a fine hostage, though God knew, they hadn't been as prepared as they
could have been. Control collars would have been good, but they had the
guns, and all they would have had to do was shoot once.
I swallowed hard, trying to breathe through the shock of realization. True
believer, willing to die for his cause or take anyone else down if it would
serve. I bit into my lip, tasting blood.
"There wasn't any choice, Rogue."
"There's always a choice!" Always. There's always another way, a better
way, if you have patience, and Hank had--oh God, Hank had just--
"Who--someone at the school is helping you. Someone is--someone has got to
be. Their timing was too good, someone must have saw us--someone must have
known--" Because they'd expected one telepath, not two girls. They'd been
ready for two people.
It was easy to figure out that part, easier than I wanted to believe, and I
took a breath, hands clenched at my sides.
"That--that attack on Jean in New York--it was by mutants." I sucked in a
breath. "You planned that, too. Without Jean to keep camp control, the
Polaris Project could fall to pieces with norms making a break for it." I
shuddered--it was assassination, pure and simple. That's what that had
been, and it was only luck that had helped us get away. "You let them try
to assassinated Jean!"
And his helper in it all, sitting at the school and playing X-Man, and God,
I should have told Logan so long ago. If I had--God, if I had, this might
never have happened.
"One life against the thousands that will die, Rogue." His voice softened,
turning inward, as if seeing something entirely different from the room we
both inhabited. "The machine will never work, and those people will die."
I wanted to kill him. My mind shifted, shields moving softly and
precariously, and in a breath I could have him. Bare skin of his face
against my hands, and I'd know every traitor, every plan, every thought he'd
ever had. I'd know--
It would be so easy. So easy, so quick, let him fall down on the ground and
die right here and now, one less enemy to deal with, one less traitor.
X-Men had the right of execution for treason. No trial and no jury, judge
and executioner all at once, and I was an X-Man. I could do it.
My hands clenched into fists as I remembered what I'd said about myself, the
one thing I wouldn't become. I wouldn't be a killer.
"Get out of the zone," I whispered, and the blue head came up sharply. "Get
the fuck out of New York zone or I will turn you over to Scott before you
have time to fuck us over any more."
Standing up, he stared at me with a painful look of utter disappointment,
before he walked out. As the door shut behind him, I grabbed my coffee cup
and went into the kitchen, taking a long, deep breath.
I blinked, almost dropping the mug, and grabbed for the counter in shock at
the pressure in my head. It was Logan, he was awake, and God, I'd never,
ever felt him this angry. Ever.
Slowly, the pressure eased and he slipped back into the edges of my mind,
warm and dark and God, so real he could have been in the room with me. He
should have faded more by now, he should have been....
--Jeannie's shields are pretty good. You don't need the collar anymore,
--Felt all that?-- Angry, I grabbed the pot blindly and poured myself a cup
of coffee, taking a long drink. Some people liked cream and sugar--I'd
picked up Logan's preference for strong, black, for my first cup. --Jean
thinks she can burn you out of my mind.--
--Probably can. Wouldn't put it past her.-- The slow boil of anger rushed
over my skin and I grabbed the counter again, trying to keep my hold on
reality. It was harder than I thought. I was seriously out of practice
balancing the inner and outer worlds.
--You can't take me over anymore. She said....--
--I don't want to. Never did. You know that.-- The pressure eased back
again--either he was controlling himself better than he ever had before or
the shields were still holding pretty well. I could feel a light buzz on my
skin and tried to rebuild like Jean taught me, tried to patch up the kinks.
Had to be breakdown in the shields. Had to be.
--How's Hank, baby?--
I closed my eyes tight, putting down the mug before I dropped it.
--He betrayed us--betrayed me.-- God, in so many ways, and if anyone could
understand, inner Logan would. Betrayal was anathema to him, always had
been. --In that--in the camp, I could have been killed. Kitty too. He--he
set that *up*, Logan!--
--Noticed that.-- A little edge of anger that was different, directed at
Hank, but far less than I'd expected and that threw me hard. Logan had
always been hyperprotective of me, and this almost afterthought of
displeasure was nothing like I would have expected.
Curious, I pushed forward, trying to take his temper, and was pushed
unceremoniously back into my body. Unbalanced, I stumbled back against the
refrigerator, sliding down onto the cool tile floor. Opening my eyes in
shock, I stared into the opposite wall.
--Logan!-- I caught my breath, the heels of my hands growing cold on the
floor. --What the hell is wrong with you?--
Better question would be, how the fuck did you get through Jean's shields?
I followed them in my mind, cool and seamless and there was nothing wrong
with then, nothing seeping through except--except this Logan, here, and he
shouldn't be, not ever again. I should be free.
--What the hell could be wrong, Rogue?--
I felt the jerk, knew he'd just been distracting me, and was pulled inside
my head. I grabbed for grounding in the outside world but was terribly out
of practice, so out of practice because I'd had the collar, then Jean to
handle all this for me.
Blinking, I was in the white-washed laboratory of Jean's shields, and Carol
and Logan were staring at me. Ghostly behind them were the other
personalities--the man I'd killed outside that lab only a week before, Erik
Lensherr, Cody, Kitty, Scott, too many other brief touches to name. Thick
with the ghosts that filled my head and my soul, that had given me my liking
for blackberry pie and chocolate-covered almonds and horseback riding,
cigars and whiskey and late nights in run-down bars, and told me how to kill
and when not to.
Blinking, I felt the rush all around me and wondered how on earth they'd
"You can't do this," I whispered. Carol looked back at me--green eyes,
short blonde hair, Johnny's once upon a time protector and abuser, arms
crossed over her chest. Like moral indignation could possibly suit her.
Like it meant something. I realized I'd almost forgotten what she looked
like alive. "You're nothing. Just pieces of me--I don't have to be--I don't
have to be all of you anymore. I'll burn you all out."
"Lose the cigars and pie, the horseback riding, the taste of chocolate in
Belgium during the Depression, the smell of a woman's perfume in August when
you learned to dance. Rogue, we aren't the enemy. They're cutting you
apart from the inside out. Don't you see what they're doing?" Carol took a
step forward, but Logan's hand on her elbow stopped her.
They were saving me from--this. From the hell of revolving personalities,
of being who and what I was. I'd be free, like I hadn't been since I'd
become Rogue. I'd be Marie again. Just Marie.
"I'll be me again," I whispered.
"Who the hell is that?" Logan's anger was even stronger in here, and the
deathly white of my mind vibrated with it. "Who the hell are you? You, the
woman who just threatened to kill Hank because he wanted to save lives,
lives *you* as an X-Man said you'd protect? You, who absorbed and killed an
FoH member in cold blood? You're willing to kill for them now--what the
*fuck* do you think you're doing? When the hell did you stop caring?"
I couldn't believe they didn't understand. They'd seen--they'd seen as much
as I had.
"The norms will destroy us! Didn't you feel--when that FoH officer I
absorbed, didn't you *see* what he was going to do to us if norms got free?
Kill us all, store us in labs again, torture us to find out how we work and
what we can do--" I choked out the words. They didn't understand--they
were too much a part of the other world. They didn't get the reality here,
what the mutants here had to do just to survive. "There's no other way."
"And you believe that." Carol's voice was utterly flat. I whirled on her.
"You were Brotherhood, Carol. You said this was a damn good world for a
mutant." We weren't persecuted, we didn't worry about being attacked just
for being different. "This is the world you would have fought for, would
have died for. What the *hell* is your problem?"
Slowly, the blonde head shook and I clenched my hands together as her smile
"I don't know." She sounded honestly puzzled, and that froze me in place.
Logan was watching her with a peculiar expression I couldn't even begin to
interpret--though it might have been respect.
God, this was too surreal.
"I don't know," she repeated, and her voice dripped uncertainty. "Would you
die for this, Marie?"
I blinked, staring back at her. I couldn't answer the question.
"Why are you calling me Marie? You never call me Marie."
"Because Rogue was an X-Man. And you're not Rogue anymore." She paused,
throwing a glance to Logan, before the clear green eyes met mine. "Strange,
isn't it, to know how thin the skin of morality really is, how far you can
push the line? Fifteen years as a human being and seven years as Xavier's
student, and it only took two weeks to make you Brotherhood. It took you
two weeks to become a believer in Erik's dream, not Xavier's. Two weeks for
you to kill without remorse, and two weeks to be a racist." She smiled
wistfully. "Erik would be so proud."
I took a steadying breath. They'd never understand.
"I'm not a racist. I don't--it won't be like this always. Just for now.
You don't understand." And they didn't, that was the hell of it. They
didn't understand, and they never could.
"Just for now," Logan murmured mockingly. "Just for now, just for the next
ten years, just until it's what you are and what you do and what you've
become. Just until it's so grounded in the reality of this place that no
one remembers there was another way."
"Things aren't what I thought--they aren't that simple, Logan."
Logan's head tilted and his eyes dropped to my bare throat. Suddenly, I
wondered where the tags were.
"Rogue would have died before letting this happen," Logan said softly,
meeting my eyes. I didn't know how to make him understand, why I had to do
this. Straightening my spine, I forced my gaze steady. I wasn't his and
never had been. "And I would have let her."
There was nothing I could say to that--nothing that could stop those words
from burning into my heart, denying seven years of love and support,
rejecting everything I had ever been to him. I'd once wondered, in an idle
moment long before, what hold I had over Logan, what it was that bound us.
Now I knew what could break us.
"Let me go."
Logan's head tilted, giving me a long look. There was nothing in it. No
warmth that was reserved just for me, no protective love and caring--there
"I already have."
I opened my eyes on the blank kitchen walls, sprawled across the floor. My
mug had rolled inches away, spilling black coffee across the clean tile and
It was cold.
My mind was completely empty. Jean's shields were in place, just like
before. As if nothing had happened.
Slowly, I levered myself up on one arm, shaking my head a little before
pushing myself completely upright. The towels were under the sink--I
fumbled the cabinet open and pulled one out, covering the coffee and
cleaning it up completely. Grabbing the mug, I stood up and poured another
cup, taking an absent sip before shock made me spit it out. The taste was
I stared into the mug. I'd always liked my coffee black.
* * * * *
--Barney is fun in the middle of the night, but wake up and you just feel
cheap and dirty, and not in a good way. -- Beth, AIM convo on Barney the