Title: Jus Ad Bellum Part V: True Believer
Author: jenn (jenn@...
Codes/warnings/summary/etc see Part I
Author Notes: To Andariel for the beta and handholding and tons of love.
Lateo for encouragement. *g* And my girls in CLex who didn't look too
shocked when I whined, but really, I CAN work on thirteen stories at once.
Author Notes #2: Home stretch. Thank God.
"Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not
become a monster. And when you look long into the abyss, the abyss also
looks into you."
--Frederick Wilhelm Nietzche
--The room was stacked with cold bodies, bagged and tagged.--
--Laboratory. I recognized it, remembered it from another life, another
time. I paced the room, my white coat fluttering around me, giving orders
in a shrill voice as someone kept calling the evacuation codes.--
--"We have to get out, Doctor," someone told me, grabbing my arm and I
jerked away, yelling
something. Something about neutralizing the other
subjects, something about
about, yes, those other mutant bitches downstairs.
If they took this lab, they'd only get mangled bodies, nothing else, and I
had given the order hours ago, so why the hell weren't they all dead
--"Doctor, your staff left. No one wants to be here when Summers arrives."
Cowards, I spat. Cowards. Filthy muties outside, and everyone ducked like
they were a real threat, when we had the way to kill them all. Angrily, I
turned around and there was a sharp sound. The person holding my arm
collapsed onto the floor, blood dripping over the pristine white tile.
--I already knew what I'd see, with the red visor of the man appeared, hand
touching the controls.--
--"Where are they?"--
--I darted for the far door, the beam just missing me. I remembered in
Tucson, when this man had been in my laboratory, and I smiled a little as I
thought of the tissue samples in this very lab. I wondered what he'd think
to know his body had made so much possible for us
so damn much.--
--Something pushed me into the wall, and I was lifted against it, my head
jerked around before I could find a clear breath--and a hand closed with
casual strength around my throat.--
--"Downstairs," the man behind me
not man, mutant. Not human. "What are
the codes, doctor?"--
--I spat blood into the wall and wondered if someone had started the gas
downstairs. God, let something go right.--
--"Dead," I choked out and was turned around, my feet dangling from the
floor. Cool hazel eyes studied me without a trace of anything recognizable.
Not human, I reminded myself. Less than lab animals; at least they were
natural, not these monstrosities. The hand on my throat lightened a little,
and he tilted his head.--
--"Trial or casualty?" asked the man of someone, and there were others
coming through the doors--more of the mutants, but I didn't recognize any of
them. Summers walked up behind the man holding me and gave me a long look,
and the cruel animal cunning on his face chilled me. Humans didn't look
--"I remember him," the mutant answered. "Send him to New York with the
--Summers grinned then and touched the other man on the shoulder.--
--"Only when necessary. Shadowcat's in the computers now. She's getting
the locations." A pause. "Make sure the doctor can stand trial on his own
--The man holding me smiled slowly, and I felt the hand on my throat
tighten, breath stopping.--
--Bastards. Let the gas work...--
Hands were around me, holding me down, the fucking muties trying to--trying
"Marie, baby. Wake up."
I jerked from the restraining hands, found the floor on my knees and tried
to struggle to my feet. They'd flipped the lights of the lab off, how the
*hell* had they gotten to the power generator so damn fast?
"Marie, baby." Warm fingers on my face. "Marie, it's okay. Look at me."
Blinking, I took in the warm, dark silence of the apartment and collapsed
onto the floor, looking up at Logan sitting on the edge of the bed.
"God," I whispered softly, and he dropped to the floor beside me, gathering
me into a close embrace. "Oh God, Logan, he was--" Filthy with hate; this
was what they'd seen, what they'd lived with? Shuddering, I wrapped my arms
around Logan and buried my face in his shoulder as his hands smoothed down
my back. My teeth chattered together from the force of my shaking.
"Jeannie's shields were temporary--just a second." He pulled back a little
and then the cool metal of the collar encircled my throat. My mind
magically silenced, the crawling sick feelings slipping backward and out,
disappearing into the haze of my mind. With painful gentleness, Logan's
hands stroked down my back again, soothing tight muscles, kneading my
shoulders until the last of the tension faded.
"Logan," I whispered, wondering how I could tell him. "He--he was--he
worked on Scott."
There was the briefest stiffness to his body, damning for someone who had so
"You have a name?"
"Dr. Michael Perry." I breathed out. "He--he escaped before the trials,
"He's dead. I killed him." Something like satisfaction chased itself
through me, and I couldn't--I didn't even try to stop it.
No answer--he knew I didn't need one. Fingers moved gently into my hair,
easing against my scalp in an old caress, one the other Logan had used often
enough. I opened my eyes, keeping them fixed on the dark room--nothing like
that coldly sterile lab, Logan's body nothing like the corpses that man had
dissected with such pleasure.
"He didn't think of us as people."
"They couldn't and still do what they did, Marie."
Was that comforting? I leaned into each stroke, trying to push the thoughts
aside, ground myself back in the room again, but the images--God, this was
I'd never really understood--I'd suffered prejudice since I'd manifested,
all kinds, all ways. From snubs when I went shopping to the anti-mutant
rhetoric regularly screamed at any mutant fundraiser or across national
television. I'd lived with the reality of the Sentinels, the FoH, the
congressmen who'd followed Kelley's lead with such pleasure.
It was the difference between dreaming and waking. That room was the real
thing, all in stark white and grey. That's what the prejudice really
meant--not little cards for us to carry to tell what we were. Living bodies
to experiment on, less than people, less than sentient.
"I'm sorry," I whispered against Logan's shoulder, and his hands slid to my
face, drawing my head back. Serious hazel eyes studied me carefully.
"You--all those things I've said, I've thought--they were wrong, Logan.
That--that was what you went through, wasn't it? All of that."
A pause, then Logan nodded slowly, and I bit into my lip, pushing the images
"Come back to bed." An arm slid around me, pulling me up, cradling me like
the child I'd been years before. No, hours before. Nothing in the camp,
nothing I'd seen or heard, could compare with *knowing*. I'd always known
they'd hated us.
I'd just never known how much.
"We have to meet with Jeannie and Scooter in the morning," Logan said as he
laid me down, sliding in beside me, large and warm and soothing. A powerful
talisman against nightmares, and he let me wind myself all around him,
burying my head against his chest and closing my eyes tightly.
I needed him to remind me--that dream, those people, that place, were over.
Before I'd stepped foot in this world, he and Scott had destroyed it.
Well, my life was taking a serious turn for suckage, no question.
Scott, Logan, and I gathered in the conference room, trying to look casual
about the fact that the girl they thought was seven years dead was living,
breathing, and fucking the X-Men's second in command. I'd turned off the
emitter, shrugging at Logan's raised brows--there was no reason to use it
now. Brown hair slid in front of my eyes, and it jarred me a little to see
it outside of our bedroom. A little desperately, I pushed the short hair
back behind my ear, trying to find a safe place to rest my gaze.
The floor seemed the only logical choice. Seemed like every time I found a
good wall, Scott moved in that direction.
Jean had run her last test and was still in the lab, correlating results or
something along those lines. Logan hadn't let me any farther away from him
than the length of his arm and was currently seated beside me, warm and safe
and utterly at ease, as if he protected random Rogues on a yearly basis and
it was quite the thing to do. Scott was leaning against the wall by the
door, watching me as if he expected me to bolt at the slightest hint of
He wasn't far wrong. Logan's hand on my thigh was the only thing keeping me
in place. I couldn't help the involuntary twitch of my muscles every time
Scott's gaze rested on me, taking in again the difference between the Marie
Danvers he'd known and the Rogue he'd watched die. Had to be something of a
shock, even with the link between him and Jean confirming my identity. All
things considered, this could have gone much, much worse.
Though really, not by much.
Logan and I hadn't managed to get back to sleep the night before. I'd been
shaking so badly that I hadn't even been able to relax, and his arms had
tightened around me and he'd told me that everything was fine, everything
would be fine. That it had just been the dream.
Dawn had brought the knowledge of this interview. Logan made me drink half
a pot of coffee and sat me down, telling me nothing would change.
Riiight. Nothing at all. Two of the most powerful mutants on the planet
and designers of the Polaris Project were now aware that the live and in
concert Rogue was back, perhaps for a repeat performance. Something was
going to change. And it didn't look good any way I sliced it.
With Jean's shields more stable this morning, I had safe skin but no inner
Logan or Carol, and the emptiness of my mind was disconcerting. I searched
a little, then settled back into the real world, discomfited. It felt
wrong, unnatural. I'd been too many people for far too long. It was too
much change for me to absorb this fast.
"Rogue," Scott said slowly, tasting the name as if he'd never heard it
before, flickering a glance to Logan. It wasn't my imagination--Logan
shifted a little closer to me, gaze fixed on Scott with something that was
two steps from hostile. "When were you going to tell us?"
"I didn't think it'd come up."
An eyebrow raised slowly--sometimes, it was disorienting to see how much
Logan and Scott echoed each other. I shifted in my seat, felt Logan's hand
tighten on my leg in warning. Ah, alpha male crap. Got it. Go right on
"Not come up?"
"You know the dangers, Scooter."
"'Seven years of trust against one choice'," Scott quoted mockingly, and I
felt myself flush. "Glad to see it goes both ways."
Logan winced from the accurate shot, and I knew Scott had to have seen it,
no matter how brief it was. This Scott knew this Logan far too well. I
wanted to step between them, say something. This was just
wrong--completely, absolutely wrong on so many levels.
"It was my fault, Scott," I heard myself say, Logan's soft groan a breath
behind, and pushed through anyway. I'd never been noted for my subtlety
before, after all. "He--I put him in this position. I didn't--I didn't
know what you'd do if you--if you found out who I was. What I was."
Scott's gaze was fixed on Logan with utter absorption, but the answer was
"What did you think I'd do?" Scott pushed off the wall with easy grace,
pacing to the far wall. Scott had to be moving--it was almost intrinsic,
something I was used to seeing. A stressed Scott was living perpetual
motion, needing action and reaction as he organized his thoughts. A pissed
Scott was that times ten. The red gaze fixed on me with something very,
very close to rage. "Lock you downstairs and hand you over to Lensherr
without a thought? What the *hell* do you think I am?"
I got the feeling that what I'd witnessed in the tower would be nothing
compared to this if it wasn't played right. Getting to my feet, I stepped
between them, getting all of Scott's glare. Crap, I'd never stand up to
that. I'd never been able to, not in the other world, not here. He'd
always known how to make his authority into a weapon. The only difference
was this Scott was sharper, harder in different ways. He'd learned more
about power and how to use it than the other Scott ever had--or ever would
have wanted to.
"I don't know," I said softly, keeping my back straight, meeting his gaze
without flinching. It was the bravest thing I'd ever done in my life. "If
you were dropped in the middle of an FoH camp, would you tell them you were
The white teeth were bared in almost a smile. No humor there. No
"I'm not FoH."
"No, " I answered, holding his gaze. "You're Scott Summers, leader of the
X-Men, who gave the okay for Polaris to be butchered in my place. Tell me
to believe you wouldn't strap me into that thing again to die for the
greater good of mutantkind if that was necessary."
"Don't." It was low, even, and raised all the hair on my body. I locked my
hands behind my back, trying to conceal their shaking, hoping the rest of my
body didn't betray me too. "Don't even try. That's bullshit"
"I made the decision, Summers." Oh fuck, Logan, he doesn't *need* two
targets here. Logan's hands closed over mine and he must have felt the
shaking. I didn't need supercharged senses to pick up active hostile anger.
Logan passively hostile was never a good thing, but when he let it loose,
scary things were known to happen. The Brotherhood knew this intimately.
In this world, stripped of the entrapments of the X-Men's ideals--I didn't
want to know. I really didn't. "Take it up with me, not her."
"Marie." Jean was at the door--from the look on her face, the hurried step
as she entered the room, she'd picked up what was going on in here. Oh
thank God. I certainly didn't know how to handle this, what to do with it.
I'd never been strong enough to stand up to this sort of power. "Marie,
come with me, please."
"Jeannie--" Logan turned toward her, keeping his tight grip on my hands,
and Scott stiffened. This was going worse than badly, and Jean saw that
too. Before the tension could get worse, I turned around, getting a hand
free, and reached up, catching his jaw in one hand, forcing him to look at
There was a tense moment, where I thought he'd fight it--and he very well
might have. He wanted out of here so badly I could taste it, could feel it
crawl along every nerve in my body. After a moment, though, the hazel eyes
met mine and held for a minute, and I tried to put everything of reassurance
I could into my face and body. He squeezed my hand, lifting it to brush a
kiss across my perfectly safe wrist, before nodding. Reluctantly, I turned
away, and Jean stepped aside to let me pass in front of her. Almost
instantly, she shut the door, just in time to muffle the sound of metal and
She stopped me from going back with a hand on my arm.
"Don't. This is between them, Marie."
No, it really wasn't. It was me--what I'd done to make him betray his
friends. I wondered what I'd see when I looked into Jean's eyes, kept my
gaze fixed on the door. No raised voices yet.
"I reopened the link," Jean said, pulling me gently down the hall. "It's
harder for them to fight when they can feel how badly they hurt each other."
Blinking, I looked up at Jean. That was inspired. She caught my gaze and
grinned with all the charm of a little girl with the perfect plan to steal
cookies. She knew these men far too well.
"I've had a lot of time to figure out how to handle them. They don't like
it, but at least they blame me for making them sensitive instead of thinking
it reflects on their masculinity if it's all my fault that they make up
fast. Don't worry about it."
"It's my fault," I answered as she gently pushed me into the lab, and the
door shut behind us on its own. The room was chilly and quiet, sterile
white, and flashbacks from the night before crowded into my head. I
stiffened automatically, but Jean's gentle touch was everywhere--the masses
of papers that looked like a mess but was actually a cleverly disguised form
of Jean-specific organization. I almost expected her to push me to the
medical bed I'd spent the better part of the morning in, but instead, two
chairs skittered out from behind blinking medical machinery I couldn't
recognize and situated themselves near a small table. She smiled at my
reaction and took one of the chairs, waiting patiently as I hesitantly took
"It *is* your fault, but under the circumstances..." she shrugged a little,
taking a breath and letting it out slowly, her hand back on her abdomen,
rubbing slowly, almost as if to comfort herself. "Scott understands.
That's what's frustrating him most. Once he believed, that is." She
shrugged, and a carafe of water hovered over the table suddenly, before
seating itself between us, followed by two glasses. I'd never get used to
this or stop enjoying when Jean played with her TK.
Looking at Jean, there was very little of the shock I'd been
expecting--she'd taken it very coolly on the plane, though later Logan told
me I'd been pretty out of it for over two hours. She'd had a good
adjustment period there.
"You believe me, don't you?"
"I was in your mind," Jean answered, pouring a glass of water by hand and
taking a drink. Fixing the brown eyes on me, she shrugged. "It would be
very difficult to create memories, and I'd feel the difference between
reality and artifice. Gene tests don't lie either, and before Rogue's body
was buried, I took samples. Most of our records were transferred to Canada
before the war, so I have the originals still."
Practical, that. Slowly, I poured some water myself, taking a drink more
for something to do than anything else. I wondered what I could say to her
"I--I'm sorry," I blurted out, and recieved the clear gaze of two very
steady brown eyes. Flushing, I looked back down at the glass. "I don't--I
don't know what I can do or say that will make it make sense, but I
couldn't--I mean, Logan never would have--"
"Logan would let the school burn if he thought it would help you, Marie." I
winced, turning my head away. "His concerns about Erik are understandable,
though. Erik's uncertain whether the machine will perform properly--several
volunteers died in the trial run with Polaris. Logan is right--Erik can't
know who or what you are." She paused for a moment, sipping from her glass
idly. "You consulted with Hank?"
Jean frowned a little as her fingers traced over the surface of the table in
"What? He's against the project."
"He's also opposed to more human deaths."
A horrible suspicion uncoiled in my mind.
"You--he wouldn't tell Magneto, would he?" No, he wouldn't. Turning a few
thousand humans into mutants had to be against the code of ethics.
"If he thought that there was no choice--" Jean frowned again. "I don't
know. Hank's a believer--sometimes, I'm not sure what it is he believes."
She shook her head slowly, brushing a strand of hair behind her ear. "We'll
cross that bridge when we come to it. Are the shields holding up well?"
Blinking, I touched my forehead uncertainly.
"Little rough last night, but yeah." I paused, trying to think of a way to
frame the question, then gave up and went for the bald approach. "How? I
mean--my power is in my skin, so why--"
"Your skin absorbs the energy, yes, but everything starts in the brain,"
Jean answered easily. "It's similar to empathy, except for the ability to
mimic, or copy, other mutations. Currently, with my shields in place, there
is nowhere for the energy to go--a breaker has been pulled, so to speak."
She smiled again at my gape-mouthed shock. I suppose I must have looked
pretty funny at that. "It's a temporary measure, but it should help you a
little until I can begin analysis on your mutation and find a way for you to
build these yourself."
I tried to think through that and couldn't.
"I don't--there is no way to control it."
Jean's head tilted a little.
"What makes you think that?"
Well, seven years of trying everything known to man or beast, actually, and
some things just thrown in for the hell of it. I couldn't quite answer, but
Jean must have read it on my face, and she leaned forward, her hand touching
mine. Instinctively, I jerked away, but the long fingers closed on my wrist
and stayed there.
"We'll find a way."
I shook my head.
"You couldn't in my world."
Jean grinned then, brown eyes warm and filled with light, her power
thrumming through us both as she strengthened her shields inside my mind,
inch by inch, walling away every foreign memory and every grafted person
that wasn't Marie until the silence was so deafening I wondered if anyone
else could hear it.
God. It was so strange, and scary, and addicting as all hell. So much like
the collar and so very little.
"I'm not her."
No, she wasn't. Staring at those brown eyes, feeling her power against my
skin like heat, I felt my mouth go dry.
"I've wondered why you look at me like that," she commented, freeing my
wrist and picking up her glass. "I suppose I'm different as well?"
Blinking, I considered, nodding a little.
"Yeah." Needed water now, definitely. Taking a drink, I tilted my head.
"You're not--not this strong."
"Hmm." Jean nodded a little, obviously thinking about it. "Is there--Scott
and I--" she paused, obviously searching for a way to ask the question.
"Together; happy," I answered easily, taking another drink of water.
"Though as far as I know, no plans for conception." Suddenly, it occurred
to me what had happened the day before--oh God, they'd hurt her. "Are
Jean laughed softly.
"Fine, Marie." A hand unconsciously dropped to her stomach, rubbing softly.
"I checked myself out the second we got back. Everything is fine."
I blew out a breath I hadn't known I was holding and leaned back into my
chair, smiling a little.
"That's good." Really good, actually. Jean had a strangely absent smile on
her face, and it sent a strange pang through me--God, obviously I was
post-menstrual here, if I was feeling cuddly maternal feelings. Shaking it
off, I took another drink of water and stared at the door. "You think
they're done yet?"
Jean cocked her head briefly, a little flash of mischief lighting her eyes.
"They're trying to figure out how to apologize without saying anything.
Scott suggested they check out the jet." The grin widened. "Little
post-bonding ritual--during the war, it was cleaning the weaponry." Jean
gave me a smile. "Come on--we can watch and mock them a little."
Grinning, I stood up, finishing my glass of water. There was still so much
to talk about--but at least now, there was a future to talk about. I was
all for that.
--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