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6385Point of Departure 1/2 (Drama, G)

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  • Avi and Mara
    Sep 23, 2006
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      (Sorry for the screwy formatting in my last post. ::blush::)

      TITLE: Point of Departure
      AUTHOR: Mara Greengrass
      RATING: G
      DISCLAIMER: These characters belong to Marvel Comics, Twentieth Century
      Fox, etc. I just fantasize about them.
      SUMMARY: "An involuntary return to the point of departure is, without
      doubt, the most disturbing of all journeys."
      CONTINUITY: This story begins after X3. However, be aware that in my
      version of the movie, the Phoenix storyline DID NOT happen.
      NOTES: This story is for Tommygirl (storydivagirl) for the 2006 XMM
      Ficathon. Thanks to Lilacsigil for research assistance. And my undying
      gratitude goes to Seema and Blue Braces for their betas, which pointed
      out all the bits where the reader would have needed to be psychic to
      figure out what I meant. I managed to answer Seema's comments, but most
      of Blue Braces' suggestions will have to wait for the day that I can
      tell the *whole* story of Rogue's return to the mansion.

      * * * * *

      "An involuntary return to the point of departure is, without doubt, the
      most disturbing of all journeys."
      -- Iain Sinclair, "Riverside Opportunities"

      Marie decided that snuggling on the couch was the best thing *ever*. Not
      that she'd say that to anyone, because it'd probably get turned into a
      dirty joke or something. But in the privacy of her own mind, she
      relished the ability to rub her cheek against Bobby's neck and tuck his
      arm more firmly around her.

      Well, there was also the little matter of the voices in her head fading
      quickly until all she retained was an odd fondness for Canadian beer.
      And that was no small matter most of the time, but just now, it was
      subsumed by the pleasures of touch.

      Bobby absently stroked the palm of her hand with his thumb as he debated
      some arcane sports question with Angelo. Marie was content to rest there
      and let them argue while the words washed over her.

      A couple of the younger kids were playing a board game and Kitty and
      Jubes were watching TV, so apparently they'd finally found something
      they could agree on. Marie heard a laugh track and spared a moment to be
      glad the sound was on low, because she loathed sitcoms.

      Eyes drifting shut, she let everything wash over her, glad to be home,
      glad to have everyone friendly again. The few days she'd been gone
      getting the cure had been hell, and the reaction when she got
      back...well, that was better forgotten.

      Her peaceful half-sleep was disturbed by some hubbub on the other side
      of the room. If she had to get up to referee the younger kids' game, she
      thought with a mental growl, somebody was going to hear about it.

      "Rogue! Rogue!" That was Kitty, and she sounded *panicked*.

      Marie sat up abruptly, ready to launch herself at whatever supervillain
      was threatening her friends. Bobby turned, face scrunched adorably in
      confusion. "What the--" he began.

      Kitty and Jubes were staring at the TV, jaws hanging down and so still
      they looked like they were watching the apocalypse. "Get over here!"
      Kitty yelled, not turning her head.

      Shaking off the last of her sleepiness, Marie grabbed Bobby's hand and
      dragged him over to see what had them so het up. Around them, everyone
      else in earshot followed, several students even leaning in through the
      doorway.

      The phrase 'Special Report' scrolled across the screen and a grim blond
      newscaster read his teleprompter in a voice of doom.

      "--our top story: Reports are trickling in from all over the country of
      mutant powers returning to those who received the Worthington Industries
      cure. In Denver..."

      Marie didn't hear anything else over the roaring in her ears. The
      newscasters' mouth continued to move and Bobby's hand closed over hers,
      but her vision narrowed in on the television like a tunnel, closing in.

      Mouth opening a closing a few times, Marie couldn't find any words. She
      snatched her hand out of Bobby's and backed toward the door, still
      staring at the television.

      She ran into someone coming in the door and leapt away as if she'd
      touched a hot stove.

      "Rogue," Ms. Munroe said softly, brow furrowed, "perhaps you should come
      speak to the Professor."

      * * * * *

      Bobby tried to take her hand and follow, but Marie shook him off,
      holding her chin up through force of will. "I'm fine," she said,
      marching after Ms. Munroe. "I'll talk to you later."

      Professor Xavier switched off the small radio on a bookshelf as she came
      in and rolled his wheelchair around the desk toward her. She took an
      involuntary step back.

      "I won't touch you if you don't wish it," he said, the mild reproof
      making her face flush.

      "I know, it's just..."

      He compressed his lips. "Yes, I know. I'm sorry, this is a shock to all
      of us. Please sit down."

      Marie perched on the edge of a chair, hands twisting in her lap.
      "Professor, I need to go. I need to get to my room." Ms. Munroe reached
      out to pat her hand and Marie drew back. "Don't...don't touch me."

      Ms. Munroe's face fell. "Honey, it's all right--"

      "It's not!" Marie drew back in her chair. "Everything I went through was
      for nothing, because it's all coming back. All the fighting with my
      friends, the arguments, were a waste, because I'm going to be a mutant
      again whether I like it or not." Tears dripped down her nose and she
      dashed them away.

      "We don't know that for certain," Professor Xavier said, leaning
      forward. "Perhaps certain mutations are rejecting the cure, or some
      batches may have been faulty." She knew he was trying to help, but she
      couldn't help wondering if he was pleased by this turn of events.

      "Or..." Marie took a deep breath, "the cure is going to fail and we
      could give me another dose. Leech is here."

      Professor Xavier gave her a look of such utter disappointment that she
      had to turn away. "Yes, James is here. But for you to suggest that we
      use him in the same way that Worthington Industries did...He is not a
      machine or a cow to be milked."

      "But what if he volunteers?" She worked up the courage to look the
      Professor in the eyes.

      He exchanged a look with Ms. Munroe that Marie couldn't read. "We need
      to think about this--" Ms. Munroe said.

      Professor Xavier held up a hand to stop her. "Dr. McCoy is on his way,"
      he said. "I received a call from him just a few moments ago, and he's
      arranged to conduct research here to determine what is happening. We
      will not make any rash decisions until he has studied the situation."

      Marie hugged her stomach and tried to remember how to pray.

      * * * * *

      Bobby found her in her room an hour later, where she was trying very
      hard not to cry. "Rogue," he called, knocking on the door, "are you there?"

      "Where do you think I'd be?" she asked, clutching her pillow tighter to
      her chest. "Maybe I went dancing?"

      "Rogue?" Bobby sounded confused, and she could hear Jubes and someone
      else whispering behind him.

      Pushing her hands against her eyes, she took a shaky breath. "I'm sorry,
      Bobby. I kind of want to be alone."

      "You said you'd talk to me later. It's later." She could imagine him,
      scowling at the door in that way that made him look *just* like Mr.
      Summers, although he didn't realize it. More whispers, probably him
      telling the others to go away. "C'mon, please?"

      She'd have to face him eventually. Moving slowly, she bent to remove a
      cardboard box tucked under the dresser. Peeking out of the half-closed
      lid, there was the corner of a black scarf. The tears tried to come out
      again, and she grabbed the box and ripped it open like pulling off a
      bandage, grabbing the first scarf and gloves she found.

      "Come in," she said, her voice shakier than she'd have liked as she put
      the gloves and scarf on.

      When she turned, Bobby was watching her, looking like a kicked puppy,
      and she wanted to throw herself against him and hug him until he stopped
      looking like that. Instead she crossed her arms and swallowed her tears.

      "It's go--"

      "If you say 'It's going to be okay,' then I won't be responsible for my
      actions," she said.

      He shut his mouth.

      Closing her eyes, she took several deep breaths before reopening them.
      "I'm sorry, Bobby, I'm a little upset."

      "I..." He looked like he'd been about to say 'I understand,' before
      realizing that was even more dangerous. "I know," he said finally.

      "I don't think you do, Bobby." She sank down on the bed, her anger
      deflating as reality set in. "I got a look at what it's like to be
      normal and I liked it."

      "Rogue," he stepped forward and grabbed her chin before she could move
      away, "I don't care if you're normal or not."

      "I know, Bobby. But I do." She took his hand off her chin and held it in
      her gloved hand. "I'd forgotten what it's like to be able to bump into
      someone in the hallway and not worry. To touch you without *killing* you."

      "I'm willing to take that risk."

      "And maybe it's not all about you." She let go of his hand. "I don't
      need any more voices in my head, thank you very much. I don't need to
      acquire new powers and possibly kill someone in the process. I know my
      powers can be useful, but they're too much for me."

      "I'm sorry." Eyes soulful, he looked down at her. "What can I do to help?"

      She started to say 'Nothing,' but changed her mind. "Well, it'd help if
      you'd come with me. There's something I've gotta do."

      "This isn't going to get me in trouble with the Professor, is it?"

      "Probably not," she said. "C'mon."

      * * * * *

      Bobby followed Marie down the hall, down one set of steps, across the
      hall past the dining room, up two flights, and around several corners.
      She knew he figured out where they were going early on, but at least he
      chose to say nothing, just hovering by her side as they walked,
      obviously resisting the urge to hold her hand or put his arm around her
      shoulders.

      As she neared her destination, her steps slowed. There, ahead of her,
      was a nondescript wood-paneled door, next to a painting of two ships on
      the ocean that she suspected was worth more than her parents' house.

      "Rogue..."

      "Here we are," she said to stop him from talking. She was fairly sure
      she wouldn't be turned down, but...Taking a deep breath, she knocked on
      the door.

      "Come in!"

      Marie opened the door slowly, mock-scowling at Leech--at Jimmy--as he
      looked up from his computer. "Playing that game again?"

      "Doing my homework this time, I swear," he with that sweet smile that
      briefly made her forget her worries.

      "But you're still hiding from everyone." She pointedly looked around the
      room. "Classes will start again soon and you're going to have to face
      the students soon."

      "I know." He shrugged as if it didn't matter. "I'll deal with it then."

      Marie sighed and motioned to Bobby to come in from where he hovered just
      outside the door. "Well, I've brought someone with me and I promise he
      won't bite. Jimmy, this is Bobby."

      Bobby stood just inside the door, blinking rather stupidly at her and
      the larger than normal student bedroom. "Uh, hi, Jimmy," he said.

      "Hi, Bobby. You can come in. You won't lose your powers if you don't get
      too close." Jimmy turned and drew his legs up under him in the chair.

      "Come in and sit down, Bobby. It's okay."

      "I know!" He seemed annoyed at their reassurance. "I just didn't know
      that you knew each other."

      Marie looked at Jimmy, who shrugged. "We had a lot to talk about," he said.

      Marie sank down in the worn leather chair across from Jimmy. "Have you
      heard?" she asked.

      He nodded. "Mm-hmm. Ms. Munroe told me. I'm sorry."

      "Don't be. It's not your fault."

      "You're here to ask if they can make the cure again for you."

      His smile hadn't dimmed a whit and she relaxed. At least he wasn't angry
      with her for asking. She couldn't take it if this kid who'd become like
      a little brother hated her.

      "Yeah." Marie took a deep breath. "I don't *want* my powers and I can't
      spend the rest of my life sitting in the chair next to you so I don't
      hurt someone."

      Bobby stuck his hands in his pockets and gave her a disappointed look,
      which she ignored. He'd said his piece and she'd said hers.

      Jimmy leaned forward and looked her in the eyes. "Are you sure?"

      It felt like a punch to the stomach, and she leaned back. "Not you too!
      I thought you, of all people, got it. I thought you understood, I mean,
      with how other people have treated *you*."

      "Are you sure?" he asked again, looking at her intently. "Because I
      won't let them take my blood if I don't think you're sure."

      "Rogue, maybe we should--"

      "I've never been so sure of anything in my life." She bit her lip. "I
      don't want to kill someone by accident."

      "So you're afraid."

      "No!" She breathed in a laugh. "Well, yes, but that's not all of it. I'm
      like a land mine sitting in a field, dangerous but not useful."

      "Rogue, that's not true. If you'd been there at Alcatraz--"

      "Bobby." Beginning to regret bringing him, Marie turned.
      "Please...don't. I want...I just want to never kill someone."

      Bobby bowed his head and she turned back to Jimmy, who nodded once. "Okay."

      She let out a breath she didn't realize she'd been holding. "Thank you."

      The door opened and Bobby jumped like he'd been hit by a cattle prod.
      The Professor rolled in, followed by Dr. McCoy, neither of them looking
      terribly surprised to see her.

      "Rogue, Bobby," Professor Xavier said, "if we might have some time to
      speak to Jimmy..."

      "Oh, right." Marie jumped up. "You'll let me know..."

      "As soon as we know something," Dr. McCoy said, "I can assure you that
      you will be the first to be informed."

      "Thank you, sir," she said, evading Bobby's hand as they ducked out of
      the room.

      * * * * *

      Someone had cleaned out Dr. Grey's office, Marie noticed as she fidgeted
      in her seat. All the little touches that had made it not quite so
      scary--the photo of her and Dr. Summers in the woods, the drawing of the
      mansion Artie made her when he first arrived--were gone. Now there were
      just reference books and a computer and an empty desk chair. And her own
      thoughts, which weren't much better.

      She crossed her legs, then uncrossed them, picked up the textbook she'd
      been carrying when she received the summons, put it down.

      There were footsteps in the hall and the doorknob turned in what
      couldn't possibly be slow motion. Marie swallowed as Dr. McCoy came into
      the room.

      She knew instantly what he was going to say--for a guy working as a
      diplomat, he was remarkably bad at hiding his emotions. His entire body
      drooped, even the fur.

      "I'm sorry, Ms. D'Ancanto," he said with a frown, "but if the cure
      fails, we cannot give you another dose."

      Her fingers dug into the seat cushion until she could feel the staples
      holding it down, and her breathing was sharp and shallow. "Why not?"

      Dr. Grey's decrepit desk chair creaked as Dr. McCoy sank into it,
      clutching a fistful of printouts. He stared at them for a long moment
      before meeting her eyes. "It would most likely kill you."

      "Most likely?"

      He shook his head. "Don't even consider it, young lady. I would give you
      a 3 percent chance of survival, perhaps even as much as 4 or 5 percent
      if you are in incredibly good health, but no more."

      Closing her eyes, Marie concentrated on her breathing. When she opened
      her eyes again, she asked, "Why?"

      He understood. "Although I believe we could synthesize the cure here
      from the young man upstairs, your body would react to it as if to a
      deadly disease. In essence, if the medical reports I've received are
      correct, the bodies of those whose mutations have returned have rejected
      the foreign elements of the cure, destroyed them like an invader. Their
      bodies have been primed to fight the cure."

      Marie thought about this for a moment, before something occurred to her.
      She put a hand to her mouth. "Somebody's already tried it, haven't they?"

      Dr. McCoy sighed heavily. "I'm afraid so. Several people around the
      country managed to procure a second dose of the cure from the limited
      stocks still available. All developed immediate and devastating
      reactions, so fast and unpredictable that medical treatment was
      inefficacious."

      "They died."

      "Yes. All of them." One of his fists clenched. "I believe that a few
      people might survive, if their symptomatic treatment was prompt and
      aggressive. But that's only a theory at this point. I'm very sorry. And
      I am afraid that these deaths are only the beginning."

      Marie nodded.

      "But there is still no guarantee that your powers will return," he said,
      obviously trying to look hopeful.

      "What do you think, Dr. McCoy?" She held her breath one more time.

      He held her gaze, lips compressed. "I think that they will return. But
      we cannot predict when, as the timeline appears complicated by numerous
      factors."

      "That's what I figured." She plucked at the scarf that hung across her
      shoulder. "Guess I'd better get used to these again."

      "I am sorry. I wish...well, there's no point in that. But know that I
      and others continue to conduct research. I will keep you informed if we
      make any progress in understanding what has happened."

      "Thank you." She stood, swallowing hard.

      "Rogue..."

      Halfway to the door, she turned.

      Sighing, Dr. McCoy shook his head. "Although I chose not to take the
      cure myself, I understand your decision. And I would not have wished
      this for you or the others under any circumstances."

      Marie gave him a sharp nod, unable to speak. She could feel Dr. McCoy
      watching her as she left the room, and as the door shut behind her, she
      saw him put his head in his hands.

      --concluded in part 2--