Between The Darkness & The Light 22a/?
- Disclaimer: Marvel owns most of them. I own Azimuth, Lynch and a few of the
others. I've been working on this for way too long to be taken out by a
late-game corporate tackle, so I can only hope that I don't get sued.
Between The Darkness And The Light
Jean and Scott on one side of a table, half-lost in dim light. Rogue,
opposite them, in bright light, arms folded in defiance, her back stiff
with pride and (not that she would admit it) fear. For a moment, as he
leaned forward, it looked like Scott was going to ask, "When did you last
see your father?".
What he said, however, was, 'You know why you're here.'
'Because that whiny bitch can't take a fight?' sneered Rogue. 'Because she
can make yah believe what she wants yah to believe? Because the X-Men
suddenly think Ah should hold back in training sessions? No, Cyke, Ah don't
know. Y'all can tell me why Ah'm here.'
'Azimuth,' Jean emphasised the name lightly, 'wasn't lying.' She leaned
forward into the light, tapped her fingers on the table. 'I may not be able
to easily read what's in your head, Rogue, but Azimuth doesn't have those
sort of shields. I read what she saw in you and she was not lying. You
tried to kill her.'
Rogue's face went white, but her expression didn't change. 'So this is what
it's about. You don't trust me any more.'
'No,' said Scott, harshly. 'We don't.'
'And why exactly?' asked Rogue, her voice tight. 'What have Ah done that
all of a sudden yah don't trust me?'
'You attempted to murder someone,' he replied. 'For the third time. How
many times do you think the X-Men can keep overlooking that?'
Rogue looked shocked and genuinely puzzled. 'Three times?' she said in a
'Carol Danvers when you were with the Brotherhood. Gambit in Antarctica.
And now Azimuth.' Scott leaned forward, stared at Rogue through his visor.
'You can say what you want about them being unintentional or accidents or
mistakes, but I want to know the truth. And I'm afraid I'm no longer
willing to accept your word for it.'
Rogue's distress was evident in the tight clench of her arms around her
body. 'Then what are yah gunna do, Cyke? All Ah can tell yah is the truth.'
'Or lies,' replied Jean. Her voice was cool as she said, 'You haven't been
in a stable mental state since Erik the Red's "trial" of Gambit. You agreed
to counselling but you haven't been particularly forthcoming during it. I
thought that we could trust you in a group training session but it appears
that I was wrong. We have trusted you, Rogue, ever since you arrived here.
We haven't held you to account for your crimes with the Brotherhood - not
in any way that would satisfy the legal system. We haven't prevented you
spending time with Mystique. We accepted your explanation of why you left
Gambit in Antarctica. We haven't even asked for your real name. I think
it's time you let me in your head.'
'Yah can't,' whispered Rogue. 'Yah know Ah got psychic shields. Yah can't
touch me like that.'
Jean noted Rogue's phrasing, the obvious and absolute revulsion at the
thought of being touched so intimately, mentally or physically, but she had
little patience for Rogue's sensitivities. 'You're resistant to psychic
probes, Rogue, not immune. You can let me in.'
'And what if Ah don't?' asked Rogue.
'Then I'm going in anyway,' replied Jean, her voice steely. 'You may be
resistant, but I am Phoenix.' Fiery wings spanned behind her for a moment
and were gone.
'Even if Ah say no? That's - that's -' Rogue trailed off, horrified.
'It's necessary,' said Scott quietly. 'You tried to murder someone, Rogue.
What do you want us to do - turn you over to the police? We need to find
out if you're a danger. Or in danger. You're hearing voices in your head
that tell you what to do. Are we supposed to trust them as well?'
Rogue stared at him for a moment, looked away. 'Fine,' she said harshly.
'Whatever. If yah want to rummage around inside mah head that much, go
Jean sighed at the angry, terrified look on Rogue's face but she was used
to using telepathy in the face of hostility. So she turned her mind
inwards, focused it and took one step forward, through the harsh static of
Rogue's natural resistance, and into her head.
* * * * *
The shape of the mind always intrigued Jean.
There were few lies on the astral plane. A telepath could show you what
they wanted you to see, but those without telepathy showed only the truth.
Stylised truth, shaped truth, almost Freudian truth, but what you saw was
what they were.
Houses were common. People shaped the space of their mind into houses with
locked rooms and mysterious basements and things that lurked in the attic,
but mostly the houses were open and brightly-lit, with childhood memories
hidden in toy-chests in corners behind the furniture of adult thought.
Rogue's mind was a city.
A derelict city.
Cracked and stained concrete fell away from beneath Jean's feet. Tall
buildings rose about her, but the facades had crumbled down onto the street
and the exposed steel girders stood, starkly broken, against a dark and
roiling sky. Somewhere, far away, the wind was howling.
Jean stepped forward into the astral landscape and the concrete slabs
tilted and tipped beneath her feet. She was Phoenix, however, and with an
effort of will she felt the ground harden beneath her feet, support her as
she walked through Rogue's mind. Behind her, even as her feet lifted, the
ground fell into ruin again. At the shuddering clatter of her heels,
buildings quivered and subsided further in upon themselves, the dust of
their collapse drifting outwards on the wind. The only word she could think
of to describe it was desolation.
Once Jean had walked through a mind there was always a resonance, a
thrumming in the chest of her astral projection, when she came near the
shape of that psyche again. She had never walked through Rogue's mind,
expected no resonance, and yet now her chest thrummed with the deep beats
of a familiar mind.
She made swift mental adjustments, changed her perceptions so the colour
drained from the scape around her, leaving only the broken steel girders
glowing blue with the force of Xavier's mind.
Levitating, Jean raised herself up to the nearest girder, perched neatly on
a cross-beam. Laying her hand lightly on it she could feel the power of
Xavier, the way that his mind had shaped the space of Rogue's psyche. The
fagade was Rogue but the struts that held it all together were purely the
'So that's what he's been doing,' breathed Jean. She had long wondered why
Rogue had stayed with the X-Men and remained so loyal to Xavier when there
had been so little progress in controlling her powers. Beneath her hand,
she peeled away the layers of the Professor's work, the story rising into
her consciousness as she reached the core.
Already unstable, riven by her power and other, older factors that Jean
could not grasp, Rogue's psyche had been destroyed by Carol Danvers. Once
absorbed, Carol's mind had battered away at the structures inside Rogue's
head, trying to take it over, driving Rogue to seek the help of the
Professor. Xavier had been kept busy shoring up Rogue's psyche,
reconstructing the framework so she could keep the tattered fragments of
her personality together. In the end Carol had been expelled, but she had
ripped apart those foundations before she had gone. After that, the need to
control Rogue's power had been subsumed by the need to keep her sane. The
long sessions that Xavier and Rogue had together, the ones that had
appeared to be failed attempts to control her powers, had, in fact, been
Xavier slowly reconstructing Rogue's mind, anchoring her psyche around the
strong pillars he built for her. Then - and Jean winced at the dark
purple-red fractures that weaved and twisted the length of the girders -
there was Onslaught. Long before it had physically manifested the Onslaught
entity had sabotaged its own efforts within Rogue's mind, introducing
stresses and flaws even as it built. Those flaws had fractured apart in
Antarctica, under the strain of Gambit's trial, and Rogue's mind had begun
the long descent back into the madness and ruin that now surrounded Jean.
'You should have told me,' Jean whispered to the Professor's ghost.
If only she had known she could have taken over the Professor's work, known
what was going wrong in Rogue's head long before this. It had been working
- before Onslaught it had been working - with Rogue approaching a state
where control of her powers had been a distinct possibility. Until
Antarctica, Rogue had almost been happy. Since Antarctica, everything -
happiness, personality, sanity - had gradually crumbled away and the
Professor had not been there to help her this time. No, not just crumbled.
Corrupted. The dark, bile stain of Onslaught, Rogue's old hates and hungers
made new and fresh, some strange shaping of Erik the Red's - all of these
things joined together in a hungry, murderous, mindless ache of hate and
rage. Jean, quite frankly, was surprised that Rogue had managed to function
as a human being for as long as she had.
Jean let her hands fall from the girder, changed her perceptions so colour
tinged the astral plane again. Close behind her something howled and it was
not the wind.
Slowly she turned, putting her back against the girder.
Something - amorphous ghost something - hovered in front of her, howling. A
despairing howl, lonely and filled with old pain and hate and a desperate
'Rogue?' asked Jean softly, but the ghost flickered more substantially for
a moment and she saw someone else's face. An empty face, lost, ripped
untimely from its own body. Then the mouth opened, widened, grew fangs and
the ghost attacked.
The mental exertion was minimal and Jean's punch ripped open the head of
the ghost, tore it into pieces. As it dissipated, shreds drifting away on
the wind, she glimpsed a shadow of Rogue in the place where it had stood,
before it vanished altogether.
Lightly Jean drifted down from the beam until she stood in the street
again. 'Come,' she whispered and her word drifted out, expanded until it
filled the plane, a siren song. She saw them coming then, flickerings
around corners, the drifting shapes of old forgotten ghosts and her steps
took her to them as she chased them through the fractured landscape of
Rogue's mind. Again and again she faced them and they attacked, howling,
wanting, needing. Each time she ripped them apart with no effort and each
time, before they winked into nothingness, she saw the empty-eyed, hollow
shade of Rogue.
Finally, long after she had lost track of time, she sent the siren call
again and nothing responded. Satisfied, Jean blinked once and vanished back
Behind her, though she never noticed it, the landscape was dotted with the
places where she had fought and killed each ghost-thing. Where she had
stood, the concrete now was whole and solid once again.
* * * * *
It must have been some time, Jean realised as she emerged back into the
world, since she had entered the astral plane. Night had fallen and Scott
had a coffee and a half-eaten apple in front of him. Idly she wondered how
long she had walked through the space of Rogue's mind. Then idle thoughts
fled as the white, white face of Rogue swam into her vision.
'What did you see?' asked Scott, but Jean ignored him.
'Why didn't you tell me?' she asked Rogue, her tone gentle. 'What Xavier
had been doing?'
'Ah didn't . . .' Rogue trailed off, waving her hand aimlessly in the air.
Tears glimmered and spilled over her cheeks. 'Yah hurt me,' she accused
'They were you,' replied Jean. 'The voices in your head were always you. I
had to destroy the ghosts. There's so much damage in your mind. It's all
broken into pieces.' She ached to reach out, draw the younger woman into
her arms and comfort her, but knew the gesture wouldn't be appreciated.
'You need help, Rogue.'
'Help? So you can get in mah head and hurt me again?' Anger flushed Rogue's
'No,' replied Jean. 'The voices are gone. You won't hear them any more. But
if you don't let me in and let me rebuild your mind, you're never going to
be sane again.'
'What did yah do, Phoenix?' sneered Rogue. 'Kill all mah demons for me?'
'They were you,' reiterated Jean, patiently. 'It was your own psyche
turning on itself. They sounded - they looked - like the people you've
absorbed in the past, but they were nothing but manifestations of your own
traumas. I've removed them from your mind. But you need more help. I can
help you the same way the Professor did.'
'Ah don't want yah inside my head,' Rogue replied sullenly.
'Then you can't be in the X-Men any more,' said Jean. Shock rippled across
Rogue's face and Jean felt Scott's urgent question down the psychic link
but she lightly shunted the request aside. 'If you won't allow me to repair
the damage that's been done to your mind, then I can no longer allow you to
be a part of the X-Men. You aren't sane right now, Rogue, which means you
can't be trusted. Unless you are willing to let me into your head, then I'd
suggest you go back to Mystique because you will no longer be welcome
'Scott?' breathed Rogue, turning traumatised eyes on the X-Men's leader.
'Yah going to kick me out?'
He nodded once, sharply, and Jean felt the momentary warmth of his absolute
trust in her. 'If Jean says you need help, then you need it. If you won't
accept it -'
'Then no more X-Men,' Rogue finished the sentence for him. 'Ah need - Ah
need time to think. Jean, Ah don't want, Ah can't . . .'
'I know,' said Jean, and she let the sympathy she felt warm her voice. 'I
want to help you, Rogue. I need to work inside your head. It won't be as
bad as you think. Let me help you.'
'We'll talk to you again in the morning,' said Scott. 'Think about it
tonight.' Jean had let some of the urgency she felt flow down their link
and he knew they couldn't wait too long for Rogue's decision.
'Yeah,' said Rogue. 'Ah need to go - Ah've got a headache.' Blindly she
stumbled from the room.
'Will she be alright?' Scott asked as Rogue's footsteps faded away.
'She'll survive one night but I'm not sure how much longer. Scott, her mind
was just - pieces. Fractures. I don't know how she's lasted this long.'
Jean turned to face her husband. 'If she won't let me help her, she has to
go. She's not sane. Azimuth was only the first - if she stays the way she
is then no X-Man will be safe.'
*Reassurance/belief/warmth/love* - all of these things flooded down the
psychic link to her and finally she let Scott take her in his arms and hold
her as she cried for the sake of the shattered mind of Rogue.
* * * * *
Continued in next post
"You fit into me, like a hook into an eye - a fish hook, an open eye."