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FIC: Jus Ad Bellum Part II: 4/4: MA: Rogue, others

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  • Jenn
    4/4 The garden was beautiful and silent, Bobby sitting less than a foot away, watching me with quiet interest. I wasn t up to being social. It was sick
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 4, 2001

      The garden was beautiful and silent, Bobby sitting less than a foot away,
      watching me with quiet interest. I wasn't up to being social.

      It was sick curiosity that had driven me to look for one more thing--just
      to see. Maybe I hadn't believed they'd still be there. But they
      were--long, neat rows of glass cases holding the uniforms of the X-Men.

      That final nail, that tiny straw I didn't need at all, and why the hell had
      I stopped by there anyway?

      They still had the uniforms, and I'd stared at them for an endless moment
      of pure shock, everything snapped completely out of focus. Completely.
      Absolutely. They had the uniforms of the X-Men and it looked like--dear
      God, they were still being used.

      They'd set up chain-link camps with razor wire and humanity was locked
      behind fences or into inner city ghettos that couldn't be much better. But
      they still wore the uniforms of the people who followed Xavier's dream.
      I'd spent ten minutes staring at Scott's, barely caring if anyone caught me
      down there--he had to know the difference. He had to. When he put on that
      uniform at home, he wasn't Scott Summers or a mutant-rights activist or a
      man--he was a superhero, a defender of innocents. A *leader*. What the
      *hell* was it to him in this place?

      I could handle so much, but those uniforms in their cases just froze

      "I wanted to see if you wanted me to supervise your evaluation tomorrow."

      "Sure," I answered a little blankly. I should eat something. Me and the
      fruit had parted company the second I'd gotten out of the sublevels and
      into the downstairs bathroom down the hall from the former Calculus
      classroom. I'd been lucky to get that far. The banana was still in my
      pocket, but even the idea of it sent my stomach rolling again and I covered
      my mouth with my hand.

      "Great." A big smile. "It'll be fun."


      I turned my full attention on Bobby, blinking at the sight of the clear
      blue eyes filled with afternoon sunshine. God, he was beautiful. God, I'd
      just agreed to something that maybe I shouldn't have.


      He patted my arm lightly, almost a squeeze.

      "Nothing to worry about. Three Danger Room scenarios, one hand to hand, to
      evaluate your combat experience and your control of your powers. Don't
      worry--we have training available for almost anything you can do. I'll
      make a report after I've seen you fight and place you in class."

      He was going to--fight me. Oh, this couldn't be good.

      I blinked, opening my mouth and trying to find something to say that would
      completely contradict my yes as well as not seem suspicious. Nothing
      emerged that sounded vaguely believable. And by now, Carol and Logan were
      so utterly beyond words annoyed with me that they didn't even bother to

      "Logan usually does the evaluations, but since he's working on the project,
      he probably doesn't have time," Bobby continued, in blissful innocence of
      my appalled shock. "Don't worry--I'm qualified to place you."

      So my other choice would be Logan. Okay, I was officially in the
      Bobby-camp. I was Rogue, after all--I outclassed most living mutants, so
      beating him wouldn't be a problem. Psis couldn't easily get into my mind;
      very little could pierce the invulnerability of my body. I didn't age at
      anywhere near normal rate (as far as Jean's tests could ascertain), and I
      could fly. Throw in the skin, I could kill anyone and anything at all if I
      needed to, take their mutations as my own. Bigger plus--I'd been trained
      by some of the best combat experts in the world before I'd ever absorbed
      Carol's gifts.

      Sort of disturbing, come to think of it. But Bobby's evaluation would not
      be a problem--just ignoring the skin thing. Which was going to be tricky
      as hell to get around--he *was* going to touch me if we went head to head,
      and unless I wanted to climb into something out of a BDSM video, there were
      going to be problems.

      On the other hand--biggie indeed--Logan would know something was off the
      second he got my scent. And yes, he was different in this world,
      granted--but I suspected his natural paranoia would not stand me in good
      stead. He'd prod until he figured out *why* the scent was so familiar, and
      I couldn't count on him dismissing out of hand the idea that a New Rogue
      had somehow gotten herself tossed over here, no matter how much I wanted
      to. He'd seen shit I couldn't even begin to imagine, things that when I
      sorted them in my head, I still had trouble believing.

      --Thanks, darlin'.-- Logan did irony well.

      --Don't start, sugar.--

      But--But I may need Logan for this world--it was getting clearer every
      second I was here that I couldn't do this alone. I needed help, and God
      knew, my options for it were whittled down to--one.


      So Logan wasn't completely on-board with the plan. Well, if he had a better
      one, I'd love to hear about it.

      "Hey Bobby, Marie." I squinted into the general west, from where the voice
      originated, raising a hand to shield my eyes as Scott emerged into view
      from the other side of the house. There were grease stains on his
      otherwise immaculate shirt and his hands, while clean, had grime worked in
      under the nails. All unconscious, I smiled, remembering when he taught my
      shop class and we ducked our heads into a car's engine so he could teach me
      about the properties of a internal-combustion motor. Watching him rub his
      fingers into his jeans absently, I laughed softly.

      He'd always hated getting grease under his fingernails.

      "Hey, S-sir," I answered, catching Bobby rise from the corner of my eye.

      "You finished?" Faintly excited, and Scott grinned.

      Finished with what?

      "For now, anyway." Absently, Scott rubbed his hands on his denim-clad leg
      again and shook his head briefly, careful not to dislodge his visor. I
      could see the cling of grease to the ends of some of his hair under the
      sunlight, drawing fine black lines on his forehead. "Your car should be
      ready by tomorrow." Ah. Bobby's car. He and Jubes should never, ever
      have been given licenses. Their vehicles tended to spend a lot of quality
      time in the garage. "What are you two up to?"

      Bobby shrugged with elaborate casualness, and Scott relaxed onto the bench
      in front of us, running a hand carefully through his hair. Missed the
      grease, though.

      "Just setting up Marie's evaluation, sir."

      Scott's eyebrows arched over his glasses.

      "You talk to Logan yet? He's the one that'll place her in class level..."
      Scott trailed off, apparently reading something in Bobby's face. I wished
      my angle of observation was better, because hell if I knew exactly what
      that was he saw there. "Suit yourself." A wide smile, before he flicked
      his gaze to me. "Marie, are you settling in well?"

      I tried to think of a way to answer that truthfully. Yes, no, I'm in
      shock, thanks. Probably *not* a good idea.

      "It's still very--new, sir." There, that sounded reasonable. Not too bad,


      "Scott. Thanks for--for everything." I wanted to ask if he still had the
      name Cyclops but decided against it.

      "No problem." Absently, he stretched slightly, then stood up. "Jean asked
      me to take you down to see Kitty after lunch." I blinked, realizing that
      it was well-passed noon, probably edging toward two. Shit, I'd been in the
      sublevels longer than I thought. "If you're ready--"

      "Oh yes." Ooh, maybe shouldn't have shown such naked enthusiasm there. I
      felt my face heat at Bobby's start and Scott's slightly surprised glance,
      before the older man rose gamely. "I mean, thanks. I was worried about

      The visored eyes looked into me for an endlessly long moment, before he
      nodded slowly. I wondered what was going through his mind.

      "All right. Come on."

      It was a quick walk to the lower levels, mostly in silence--Scott wasn't a
      talker and I wasn't feeling terribly chatty myself. In the lab, Kitty was
      still sleeping, her head bandaged, and I tried to feel more righteous about
      the fact I'd given her a concussion. Granted, I'd had to--but still...

      --You aren't getting a guilt trip, are you? Shit, Rogue, you just want to
      march up to Magneto and apologize for damaging one of his pets and
      volunteer for the project yourself?--

      Okay, that was extreme sarcasm, even for her.

      --Don't fucking start with me, Carol. I hurt her.--

      --She'll live. You're safe, and now you have some concrete memories to
      work with. This was a win-win situation. You think anyone is going try to
      touch you without your permission when you took out Kitty for waking you

      I hadn't thought of that.

      --So think of it now, honey.--

      I watched Kitty for a few more minutes, then turned away, surprised to see
      Scott's steady gaze still fixed on me. I tried not to twitch under it.
      His instincts were too good, and he read body-language better than even
      Logan did. He'd figure something was up.

      "She's gonna be okay, right?"

      Scott's head tilted in thought, then he shook himself and nodded quickly.

      "She'll be fine. Probably wake up later. Come on." Scott pushed the door
      open for me and let me back into the hall, where I looked curiously around,
      as if I didn't know every single inch of this floor far too well. "Bobby
      didn't include this in the tour?"

      "Nope." I smiled up at Scott winningly.

      --Go gently, Rogue.-- Carol's voice was suddenly very serious. --He's

      Well, no shit. I could smell that from ten feet away. Every reason to be,
      too--I'd shown up close to the newest pet project and took out one of his
      team members. I waited as he glanced around, trying to decide whether to
      give me a tour or wait on that until one of the resident telepaths could
      perform some serious scanning and find out what I was here for.

      "You spent time in the south?" he asked, as he let the door close and led
      me down the hall back to the elevator. Choice number two, get the newbie
      away from the cool stuff. Smart guy. I thought about his question
      carefully. It didn't seem casual.

      --Do I still have an accent?-- Except for my extended vowels under stress,
      seven years in New York had cleared the heavy drawl of Mississippi from my

      Carol snorted.

      --Not much, honey. There's something in the south that's worrying him,
      I'll bet. Pockets of human resistance, maybe? Mutants not thrilled with
      the status quo?-- Carol snickered softly and I found myself echoing her
      silently. --Not that I can see why. This isn't bad, you know. For

      She would think so. Of course, she *had* been Brotherhood, and I'd bet
      anything if I went back home and asked Erik what his dream world would be
      like, it might very well resemble this.

      --Pockets of mutants against all this crap?--

      --Isn't that a unique thought. And you being a mutant who is against all
      of this crap, the logic.--

      Sometimes she could be a bitch. I tuned her out and realized we were
      standing in front of the elevator and Scott was giving me those long looks
      that made me wonder yet again what other people saw when I went into
      Internal Conversation Mode.

      "A few times--Mississippi, Alabama. I moved around a lot." True. Very
      true. I had visited most of the deep south states and the entirety of the
      east coast during my misspent year as a hitchhiker, not to mention my
      vacations in Louisiana with Remy. "Bobby said this used to be a school."
      When in doubt, change the subject.

      "Yes, it was, and will be again. We're reopening the school soon--there's
      a lot of children who lost their chance to finish their education during
      the war. For now, we've focused on training."

      Combat, of course. Get these kids ready for another war, if necessary. I
      had strange and uncomfortable visions of Scott calmly explaining the
      fastest way to kill, instructing them on the finer points of bomb-making,
      going over tactical simulations and showing the students one by one how
      their powers could be lethal. With a start, I realized the memories were
      Kitty's, and shifted uncomfortably, trying to find something to say.

      "Oh? You're a teacher?"

      "I was." A slight shadow crossed over his face, so quickly that if I
      hadn't been looking directly at him, I would have missed it. I wasn't
      quite sure how to define what I read there, not for the first time hating
      that his eyes were always hidden. He could keep the most perfect facade of
      equanimity of anyone I'd ever met, just using that visor. Reading him was
      all body language, all intuition, and I'd sometimes wondered if his mental
      link with Jean was just so his wife could figure out what was going on in
      his head when there was no possible way to read it in his face.

      "What subjects?" I asked as he punched in the codes.

      "Mathematics, English--shop, sometimes."

      He'd hated teaching English, and when we'd gotten a permanent English
      teacher, he'd thrown himself out of the class with such naked enthusiasm
      that the rest of us had been tempted to follow him. More time to indulge
      himself with advanced mathematics that only he and Hank could possibly
      understand, work on engines all hours of the day and night, and spend
      serious quality time in the garage debating engine mechanics at the top of
      his lungs with Logan, who had specific ideas on the subject that rarely
      meshed with those of the Fearless Leader.

      So the rest of us students had hung out around the garage when that
      happened and had tried not to get caught. It'd always been better than a

      "Did you finish high school?"

      Actually, got a bachelorate, but why did I think that info probably
      wouldn't fit very well into this world?

      "Yes." Here. You taught me to conjugate verbs, differentiation in
      Calculus, and engine repair. Ethics too, but I'm guessing that's not your
      specialty now. Wrapping my arms around myself, I watched the doors open,
      Scott pausing briefly to glance inside before ushering me through with his
      usual excellent manners, and as he turned around, I saw the scar crossing
      the back of his head, just below the hairline. Thick white tissue crawled
      just above the spinal cord, over the skin that protected the bundle of
      nerves of the brain stem, but the fall of his hair completely covered it
      within seconds.

      "How'd that--" I bit my tongue. Oh stupid, how the hell do you *think* he
      got it? Scott half-turned and I knew, with a sudden sick certainty, that
      there were worse on his body. Much worse.


      Absently, I noted how his back wasn't to the elevator door--a half turn,
      just enough to see me and keep an eye on the door. Interesting.
      Gentlemanly manners concealing a dislike of turning his back on a threat.
      Reminded me of Logan, who always kept a secure wall to his back and stayed
      within six feet of any possible exit.

      "--that you teach three different classes? Short on teachers?" Whew. And
      I mean, whew. Good save there, Roguey-girl.

      He smiled a little and I stepped back, trying to watch him and take in the
      New Scott Summers. I hadn't seen anything in his fluid walk or movements
      to tell me if he'd been injured in other ways. Of course, it'd been years
      since he was in the camps, and Jean was a doctor, so she probably had fixed
      what she could when they got out. Maybe that on the skull was about it.

      Shit, I wished. I'd seen Kitty's mind.

      "Very short on teachers. We recruited where we could, before the war.
      We're doing so now, actually."

      I smirked a little.

      "I couldn't teach if my life depended on it, so don't even think about it."

      That got me a grin, a real grin that seemed to light up his face, and he
      shook his head, that little oil-slicked strand brushing backward and
      clinging to the rest of his hair. The doors opened and Scott took a step
      to glance out briefly before he ushered me out.

      --Reconnaissance.-- Logan would know that. --Checking for enemies. I'll
      bet this place has security unlike *anything* you're used to. Listen to
      the buzz just below normal hearing--that's video monitoring. And I'll bet
      that there's weaponry scattered everywhere through here, not to mention
      technology that constantly scans the perimeter and all sensitive areas.--

      Interesting. And slightly panic inducing--hadn't I been wandering around
      the sublevels earlier? Crap, that might be on tape. Someone might have
      seen me.

      Before I could work myself up into a serious froth, I reconsidered. If
      they'd seen me live on tape downstairs, they'd already have me in for
      questioning. Nothing about these people was telling me they'd be
      subtle--if Betsy and Jean were willing to scan me on first acquaintance,
      then they *weren't* going to wait and see what I did. So okay. Maybe the
      sublevels weren't monitored as heavily, since they were restricted access

      --How would you know?-- I asked, addressing Logan's comment on the security
      issues of the Mansion itself.

      --Who was called paranoid at the last meeting with Xavier back home,

      Ah, yes. Got it. I grinned a little as I waited for Scott to come out.

      "Is there anything I need to be--doing or something?" I asked awkwardly as
      we seemed to start a trek in the general direction of his office. Maybe he
      had more questions. Scott paused his stride, tossing me a glance.


      I shook my head.

      "Just feeling--loafish."

      That earned me a laugh and a long look that I couldn't interpret. He began
      to say something when he frowned at something over my shoulder, and I
      turned my head to catch Bobby barreling down the hall toward us, reminding
      me irresistibly of an eager puppy chasing a bright red ball.

      "FoH activity in Virginia, sir." Sir? I stepped back a little, giving
      them space but trying to keep close enough to figure out what's going on.

      --Anyone but me find it slightly annoying that the Friends of Humanity
      really are the cockroaches of the planet? Shit, what does it take to make
      them die?-- I sighed, then remembered not to draw attention to myself.
      Luckily, the boys were in Combat!Mode and had forgotten all about the
      noncom listening in on them from less than a foot away.

      "--I'll be ready in five." Scott dismissed Bobby, who was already turning
      toward the elevator, when he paused, blue eyes searching Scott's face.

      "Extermination procedures?"


      "Yes. I'll be down in a moment." The red gaze was fixed back on me and I
      tried to look uninterested. "You're not loafing, you're decompressing." A
      quick, strained smile--he wanted to be downstairs and be Leader-like. Got
      it. "If you get bored, repaint the Mansion while we're gone. Something in
      sky blue should work."

      Scott Summers and weird humor. I giggled and Scott touched my shoulder
      lightly, ignoring the automatic stiffening of my body, before meeting Bobby
      at the elevator. Overhead, I heard the alarms going off and turned in a
      slow circle, blinking in shock.

      --Alarms? But--

      --They probably learned the value of being prepared, darlin'.--

      I'd say so. Those things were loud enough and high enough to drive Logan
      up the wall. I wasn't doing much better.

      "Marie?" St. John, right behind me and *definitely* in my personal space.
      I jumped (a very little though) and turned to face him, trying not to look
      as startled as I felt.


      "Come on--while the first team's gone, we're on alert."

      That was interesting.

      "What's that?"

      "Second team goes on alert, defenses go on full lockout. Stay inside the
      Mansion, no non-team members outside, and stay near exits to underground."
      St. John blew out a breath in exasperation at my blank look. "Of course
      Bobby would forget to explain this. Stay with me, all right?"

      Why did I get the impression that St. John wasn't inviting me along
      spontaneously? Dollars to donuts, Scott was having me watched. Nice job,
      Leader. A little late, but nice job.

      "You're second team?" I asked as I fell into step beside him. There was
      something faintly different about him now. I'd never seen St. John in
      command before--he'd always shirked the very concept, with a witty phrase
      and a fade into the background that never seemed anything less than smooth
      and logical and you'd forget minutes later what you were going to ask him.

      "You got it." A pause, blue eyes giving me a sharp look. "You're really
      not used to this, are you?"

      No shit, Sherlock. And should I be?

      "Interesting life you must have had on the outside before you got
      here--you'll have to tell me about it sometime."

      Okay, that was weird.

      "Sure," I said finally, not sure what he wanted me to say. Then I looked
      around--there definitely was a tension in the air that I could almost
      taste, and below the alarms, the normal sounds of Mansion life had dribbled
      down to nothing. "Um...what do I do?"

      "As long as we're inside, it doesn't matter." For the first time, I
      noticed St. John had one of the comm units in his ear, tiny and almost
      invisible. Scott had just started using those at home. Seeing my gaze, he
      smiled. "I take reports from here. It's just rounds, checking security.
      No one's tried to attack the Mansion in a year or so--we should be fine."

      A *year*?

      "You mean, the first team might have been called away as a distraction?"

      "Yes." A slightly tight look. "It happened once. We had to rebuild the
      east wing."

      They'd rebuilt it identical twice.

      "Okay." We'd started walking and I struggled for conversation--St. John
      Allerdyce wasn't far famous for his talkativeness, after all. "Bobby's
      first team?"

      I got an odd look--shit, shouldn't've mentioned old Bobby.

      "We vary team composition depending on the situation. Kitty, Piotr, Remy,
      and Kurt are on second today too." I tried to look blank on the last three
      names--after all, I hadn't met them. "Come on--I want to do a perimeter
      run, and if you're thinking of joining, you'd probably like to see it."

      Actually, I would like to see it, whether or not I was planning to join

      The perimeter sweep was both thorough and familiar. I could see an
      interesting blend of Scott and Logan in it--quasi-military, but slightly
      variated for use in a civilian compound. In some of the interior rooms, I
      could faintly hear voices and activity--I had to guess that's where the
      other residents were restricted during alerts. Watching Johnny listen
      intently to the comm as he walked the corridors, giving short orders that
      didn't mean much to me, the sheer routine efficiency--this had to happen

      After several minutes of silence, St. John and I came to rest near the
      kitchen entrance, where he rummaged through the refrigerator and produced
      two sodas, neatly placing one on the table in front of me.


      A shrug for my trouble as he popped his soda, drinking it thoughtfully,
      eyes scanning the kitchen.

      The silence between us wasn't uncomfortable--but the silence around us was
      beginning to grate on my nerves. I wished--

      "You st--smoke?" Raised eyebrows greeted my choppy question--was I
      actually gonna say *still*?

      --Why yes, you were, honey.--

      I wished Carol would leave me the hell alone for a few minutes--I didn't
      need a committee vote on my own thoughts right now.

      "Yes." A rummage through his pockets before he produced a slightly
      crumpled pack--and he pulled out two, tossing me one and cupping a hand
      around it when I raised it to my lips. It flared into life and I drew in a
      breath of smoke. Cigarettes had never been favorites, but under stress, I
      was used to absconding with a cigar and a fifth of whiskey and heading to
      the roof, sometimes not alone. I grinned a little in memory, letting the
      familiarity of having a cigarette with Johnny soothe my nerves.

      St. John straddled the chair beside me, pushing his sleeves above his
      elbows as he lighted his cigarette, and I noted the line of needle-scars at
      the juncture of his elbow and down his forearm. Older scars--in a few more
      years, or if he had lighter skin, I wouldn't be able to see them at all,
      but the rich tan was revealing the vivid white in sharp relief.

      Kitty's memories would tell me where he got those. I decided that, for
      now, I didn't want to know.

      "So you like it here so far?"

      I sighed without even meaning to, catching myself quickly and giving him an
      apologetic grin. Resting my fingers on the worn kitchen table, I focused
      on the vase of freshly-cut flowers in the center--had to be Ororo's touch.
      She'd always been fond of filling the house with the smell of whatever
      flowers were in season.

      "Sorry. I get asked that a lot. I'm fine. It's nice here." Creepy, but
      nice. Just like home, in all the ways that tended to do a number on my
      head. St. John nodded, taking another drag before picking up his soda.

      "It's natural--a lot of people come here pretty paranoid. As mutants go,
      you're pretty well-adjusted."

      That told me things I seriously didn't want to know about post-war mutant
      psychological health, and I took another pull from my cigarette to hide my

      "Thanks," I mumbled over the smoke, trying to think of a way to turn the
      conversation somewhere else. No inspiration was coming very fast. It
      figured. "I'm glad I came."

      "You've been here before."

      I didn't choke on my soda, one of the greatest accomplishments of my life
      to date. Logan and Carol were suddenly up close and personal in my head
      and the pressure was startlingly intense.


      --You think?--

      Holding my soda, I leaned back in my chair.

      "I knew about the school." Better try and go with partial honesty. "From
      other mutants."

      "Hmm." Nothing else for a few minutes. "You know the place pretty well
      already." He gave me a slight smile, but it didn't hide the suspicion in
      his eyes. Well, it was hard to walk around home and pretend you weren't
      familiar. I wondered how I'd slipped up.

      --Fishing.-- Carol hissed.

      --No joke. Gimme a second here.--

      "The school is pretty well known," I answered, leaning back into my chair
      with careful casualness. "Homebase to the mutants and all that jazz." I
      took a moment to let him process that.

      "It is that. I lived here before I started college," St. John answered,
      turning his attention to his cigarette.

      "Where'd you go?" My Johnny was USC all the way, but--

      "NYU." A pause. "One of the deans' daughter was a mutant. He faked our
      gene tests through." Slightly wistful. "I wanted to go to USC, but--" A
      shrug that could have meant anything. I nodded, sipping the soda.
      "Anyway, the war began and everything changed."

      "Yeah," I answered, remembering the information I'd gleaned from the
      database. The first organized rebellion against the restrictions of the
      MRA, when seventy-nine gamma-class mutants had refused to do a gene test.
      They'd been cited for illegal terrorist assemblage and arrested. Opening
      salvo--they'd never been found, and their names were inscribed on a
      memorial in Washington DC that Sen--President Kelley had ordered erected
      his first day in office. The destruction of Xavier's school had been next.

      The wholesale arrest of mutants and, later, sympathizers and family members
      suspected of being carriers of the gene, had happened soon after. I bit my
      lip, studying St. John over my cigarette. I'd never known anything about
      his family before--it made me wonder if he'd lost them during the war.

      "So you lived here before the war?"

      Tipping forward, he picked up his soda, regarding me calmly over the lid.

      "No. I was born in Australia, actually--but I've been in the US since I was
      twelve and here since I was thirteen." He shrugged. "Manifested here
      during vacation, parents took it badly and forgot to pick me up before
      making for the airline."

      Fuck. I hadn't known that. Covering my reaction, I took another sip of my
      soda--Johnny had never talked about his past. Standard operating procedure
      for mutants, true, but--but I'd never asked. The most I knew was from
      Carol--he'd spent close to a year with her before Xavier had picked him up
      and Carol made a run for the Brotherhood operatives and pretty much
      disappeared from sight.

      Now I had to wonder why I hadn't ever asked him about his childhood, or
      anything at all. Mutants were private at the best of times, but seven
      years of friendship should have counted for something. I should have

      "You ready for another sweep?" he asked as I finished the cigarette in the
      quasi-comfortable silence between us. Grabbing the ashtray, I stubbed out
      the butt and took a last drink of soda, nodding.

      "You're really nice, to let me tag along," I told him--and meant it. St.
      John gave me an indecipherable look, but there was amusement in it,

      "Always a pleasure, Marie." He straightened, tossing his can away. "Come
      on--I'll show you the outside sweep patterns."

      I stared down into my soda, feeling that piercing gaze--every instinct
      coming up on full alert.

      "Sure," I answered slowly, staring at the can. I had to talk to Logan.
      That was all there was to it.

      --Yeah.-- To my surprise, Inner Logan was thoughtful--I'd expected an
      empathic no, and it was almost a let-down that he didn't respond as I'd

      --Why'd you change your mind?--

      His hesitation was obvious and stretched out for so long I almost thought
      he wasn't going to answer. All this morning and early afternoon flashed
      across my memory--every look, every question, and now Johnny, who was
      smiling at me beneath eyes that were fishing for something.

      --Instinct, darlin'.--

      And that's all the answer I got. Truthfully, that was all the answer I
      really needed.

      * * * * *

      It was easy enough to find a car once the teams returned--Kitty, in our
      room, was less nervous around me than I expected and was even cautiously
      sympathetic to my "bad nights", as she labeled them. I got the distinct
      impression she had some of her own--the bits of her I caught floating in my
      head confirmed it. With some guilt, I asked her if there was a way I could
      get into the city to look up someone, and she paused in surprise.

      "In the camp?" The slightest wrinkling of her nose, before she cleared her
      expression and waited for me to answer. I sensed edges of suspicion there
      as well. These people made me look easy-going in the paranoia department.

      "No, in the restricted zone--someone who knew my sister." I paused,
      dragging up the information I'd pulled off the computer and hoping this
      would work. The restricted zone was where the non-locked-up humans got to
      live, lucky things. I hadn't seen it yet, but I was pretty sure I didn't
      want to. "She died early on, but there's so little information. I traced
      a name of a...a collaborator who was stationed at the facility she--died
      in. I wanted to know..." Know what? How she died, if it hurt, how the
      *hell* did you kill someone invulnerable, because seriously, that would be
      information I'd need to know. Jean and Hank had never found my weakness
      yet, and we'd run every test in the book. Off-subject thought there
      though--I met Kitty's eyes and saw her nod, eyes softening and growing
      large and possibly wet. I didn't want to make her cry.

      "Yeah. I lost my parents," she murmured. "Here--take my car. Scott said
      yours was stolen in Salem?"

      I nodded and made up my mind to get a look at that report the Reherr had
      assembled on me. I was getting the distinct impression it was something I
      *seriously* needed to see.

      Handing me her keys, she gave me a description, and I was a little
      surprised she didn't offer to go along with me--weren't they watching me?
      Good question, I needed to watch for that. With a smile and a thanks, I
      left our room and tucked the keys in my pocket, heading down the stairs
      without running into anyone else, and glad to see that the dinner was
      holding most of the population hostage. So meatloaf wasn't my favorite in
      any universe--it didn't count as food as far as I was concerned. Maybe I
      could find that McDonald's after all. My stomach twisted a little at the
      thought of food and I remembered I still had the banana tucked into my
      pocket. Even the thought made me a little nauseated.

      Okay, so no food.

      Stopping on the porch, I took a deep breath in sudden realization--I didn't
      know where Logan lived. I knew he didn't live on campus--even this Logan
      would need privacy and space, which was convenient, but to find out where,
      I'd have to follow him. I didn't even try to fool myself into believing
      that I could do so without him catching me, either, and while
      theoretically, it didn't seem like a problem if he caught me and asked me
      what the hell I was doing and I revealed who I was--I wanted to do this
      somewhere fairly far away from the Mansion and its inhabitants.

      Instinct I trusted, and it said, get him alone and preferably a good
      distance from the X-Men.

      While searching out the car in the garage, I reconsidered how I was going
      to go about doing this. Following Logan home was out, talking to him here
      was out, so I needed an option three--which would be, who would know where
      Logan lived. And how I could get that information. Scott would know and
      Logan's second would know--if Logan headed security on campus, he left his
      second in charge for nights and kept a cell-phone or home phone number on
      call. Very Logan, same as at home. Surely, someone knew where he
      lived--with his position, Scott, Logan's second, and Magneto, definitely.
      Jean, possibly. The information wouldn't be in the computers, but--

      --but phone records would have what I needed.

      Turning back around, I jogged back to the Mansion. Scott's office would be
      ideal, but also probably a secure area, and I didn't know enough about
      their security systems to bypass. I knew procedure, however--Scott was
      Scott in any universe. The house accounts were kept separately from the
      regular, and I tripped into the small, musty, non-secure office off the
      kitchen because, really, who wanted to steal or spy out grocery receipts?

      Organization--Scott's great forte. I grinned as I ran my fingers over the
      files, then plunked down on the desk by the computer. Color coded.
      Scott's special arrangement. The good things sometimes stay the same.

      Going through the files, I searched out the phone records and flipped
      through the pages, looking over the numbers called. Night would be most
      likely for a call to go through, so I focused there and pulled out several
      with prefixes I recognized. So far so good. Dozens of different local
      numbers--but if Logan lived in the city, I needed to narrow. At home, he'd
      had a place in Manhattan--

      --and at least fifty calls within the last month at midnight and four to
      the same phone number. In Manhattan. Clockwork, very organized, military
      precision--very Logan.

      I pulled it out and grinned to myself.

      We had a winner.

      End Part II

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