by Nancy Lorenz.
Rating: PG-13. Some violent, disturbing themes. Swearing.
Archive: XMMFF, WRFA. All else, all ya gotta do is ask.
Classification: General, L/R UST, S/J content.
Series: Manus Mortiferum
Spoilers: The Movie.
Synopsis: Continues on after the movie. The Mutant Situation is
worsening and Erik Lenscherr escapes from prison. Rogue suffers
a terrible mishap during the mission to stop him that shakes the
foundations of her psyche and changes her life completely.
Disclaimer: All characters copyright Marvel and Fox.
Feedback: Enjoyed, responded to, adored and worshiped. Respond
to the email above :)
Author's Note: This is beta read, but not to the fullest extent
that it can be. Some comma and semi-colon confusion occurs. Does
that really bother you? I figure it's only fan-fic, and I have a
comic to ink so I don't have the energy to break my back over
this thing. But I did get rid of the spelling mistakes and the
grammar mistakes. Most of them anyways :) Very big thank you
to my Betas - JennyEdu, Jennifer Hallmark, Shaz Nolan, and I
swear there must be someone else. I can't remember right now.
E-mail me, smack me up the side of the head and I'll rectify it
in the next chapter posting. Love ya's alls mates! Oh - and I
know I said I'm releasing it a chapter a day, but I'll forget to
do that I think, so I'm just doing it bunch by bunch :)
Dedication: To the WRGrrls. You've been around for over a year,
and the fandom is still going. That's majorly cool. Without
your support, your enthusiasm and love, I'd be nowhere. This
tenacity and companionship has helped me improve the crafts that
I want to take into a career. For that, I thank you and love you
always. Thank you girls.
She needed new clothes. She wasn't sure why, she just did.
There was a flowering, yawning, waking part of herself that she'd
been scared to revel in ever since her skin became poison. She
could sense the other woman within her, aching and yearning that
if she had to be stuck in Rogue's body, that at least Rogue do a
little redecorating. Normally Rogue would have been offended at
such a comment, but she knew all too well what she really wanted
to do with her swelling hips and luscious curves. But my skin,
she'd counter to this inner sexual predator inside of her, and
this predator smiled. My dear child, she said, Whoever said that
sexual allure came purely from the revealing of flesh? Besides,
they make such secure and sheer garments nowadays...
Like many a woman, strong willed or weak, buxom or beanpole, she
had the urge to spend money and come home with an armful of
Jubilation could smell this yearn for the gathering of bounties,
probably sparking some long-dead instinct that women have had
from their hunting/gathering days, and she stood vigil at the
front door of the mansion, satchel, purse and Mastercard in
hand. She pulled Rogue up short at the door, cocking a well
"Hello... you're going shopping without me?"
Rogue blinked and smiled. "No, I assumed that you'd know the
Out into New York they ventured, swooping down upon the best of
the local malls and invading the retail distributors of fine
garments and fashion accessories. They knew what they wanted to
buy, and a woman that knew that had a certain air of
dangerousness about her, that frivolity and carelessness could go
hang. There was a very distinct list of things that she wanted,
so all the perfume dispensers better get the hell out of her way.
Rogue riffled through clothes racks, lips pursed and brows
knitted. "Nope, no, no, no - too light. I want dark." She
abandoned that rack and descended upon another, "God what's wrong
with this shop?"
"It's Old Navy," supplied Jubilee.
Rogue glanced up around her, as if noticing where she was for the
first time and lifted a nostril. "Oh. Figures. Let's go."
They found shops that were darker lit and less flashy, fishnet
toting mannequins wearing pleather, leather, faux snakeskin and
leopard fur. The corner of Rogue's mouth turned up in a smile.
"This is more like it."
Jubes lifted a brow and turned to Rogue. "Hon, you certain? I
didn't think this stuff was your style."
She shrugged. "It wasn't. It is now." Striding in she eyed the
shelves and racks. Flicking through the store's goods she yanked
out the odd thing, draping it over her arm. Dark glittery
sleeveless turtleneck. Gauzy sheer shirt - black, purple,
paisley dark green. Black pleather pants. She went on like this
till she had a sizeable collection of clothes. A ridiculously
slender young woman edged from behind her counter, tapping the
dumbbell piercing in her tongue against her front teeth
"Hey... can I help you?"
Rogue smiled. "Sure. I wanna try these on."
A few size changes and some grunting later, she piled the clothes
onto the counter. Jubilee stepped up to the counter faintly,
eyes stuck on the merchandise.
"Rogue... what the hell are you doing?"
Rogue shrugged, "Sharpenin' up mah look."
"You kidding?" Jubilee squeaked. "Honey - you're giving it a
Rogue sighed, a little wistfully. "I dunno. It's just I was the
nicest girl for years and years in Mississippi, and I had no idea
what the world was really like. And then when I got here, I got
pushed around by Magneto, and I learnt. Knowing now what I
didn't then, I couldn't bear to be what I used to be - I
couldn't." She looked to the clothes and patted them. "Black
widows let you know that they're dangerous."
"Hey," Jubilee pulled Rogue around, meeting here eyes. "We're the
good guys, remember?"
The platinum bolt tressed girl looked to Jubilee, nodding, then
giving a glance to her new wardrobe. "I'm good. I just think my
look needs some tweakin'."
The assistant grinned at the purchases as the girls left, knowing
that the manager would be kissing her feet on payday. Rogue and
Jubilee were well on their way, on the hunt for a new shop to
One bedecked with varnished pinewood and with hiking gear in the
window was across the way, and Rogue's eyes gleamed. Jubilee
spun about, then cringed.
"Dude - just when you were doing so well..."
Rogue shrugged, "Well I am a Southern gal. I need some good
boots anyhow." She entered the store with determination, Jubilee
staggering in with the bags from the last shop behind her.
"Hello girls, can I help you?"
Rogue turned around, greeting the young male shop assistant with
a gentle smile. "Sure Shoogs, I was just lookin' for a nice
sturdy pair of shit-kickers."
The shop assistant stopped, blinked, grinned then nodded.
"Suuure... uh - this way."
She found a nice pair in black with thick jagged soles and heels
and steel toes. They were exactly what she was looking for,
exactly what she needed. It was when she was paying for these
beauties when she noticed a jacket that seized her, captured her
and enchanted her, gave her a thrill and made her smile dreamily.
"That!" she said, pointing at it up on a display dummy on the top
shelves of the woman's clothing section, "The jacket, I want it!"
The assistant turned about, spotted it and nodded. "Aah, the
suede mid-brown leather duster. Nice choice."
Jubilee yanked Rogue's arm and hissed in her ear. "Babe! It's
ugly and it's probably way too expensive!"
"It's not ugly. It's unique." She shrugged and sighed.
"Besides, the Professor said if I needed to explore my new and
growing identity, that I should go to the mall and play with my
self image a little."
"Dude, I don't think he meant for you to go spend a few grand!"
"Oh please," Rogue sighed, "I've spent a few hundred. Don't
exaggerate." She took the laden plastic bag from the shop
assistant, took her card and her receipt from him, and made her
way from the store. She looked about herself, and then pointed
up ahead. "Next..."
Jubilee followed where she indicated. There lay a hairdresser's
salon, and Jubilee shook her head.
"No no no," she said, "Impulse hair-cuts always a bad idea! No
shorn do's, no drastic changes!"
Rogue narrowed her eyes and smiled in incredulity, and gave a
light laugh. "You think I'd do that?"
Jubilee's eyes widened in defense. "You bought those!" She
pointed to the bags of clothes.
"Yeah but - cutting off all my hair?" Jubilee shrugged, and
Rogue pulled her along to the hairdressers. It was an angular
silvery and glass affair, the woman behind the front counter
topped with an interesting crop of bright red hair. She smiled
at Rogue with all obligation and a touch like an automaton.
"Hey, how may I help you?"
"Ah'm here for the 1pm appointment."
"Yes..." The girl looked in her book and smiled. "Marie, is it?"
Jubilee eyed her. "When did you make-"
"This morning," Rogue said. "Did some name dropping from some of
the folks that frequent Xavier's functions and they made me an
Jubes cocked a brow, nodding. "Good one."
The appointment didn't take too long, and Jubilee amused herself
with some glossy magazines she'd never buy and a coffee from the
folks at the hairdressers. They were all too willing to oblige a
friend of Charles Xavier, humanitarian and socialite of the hour,
with all his helping of children and such. She had to remember
the name-dropping thing, because this service was terrific. She
listened as the hairdresser prattled on mindlessly to Rogue.
"Oh your hair is so glossy," she said. "That natural streak is
so very strange! You know if you ever want to to colour it-"
"No thanks," said Rogue. "I like it."
Rogue emerged from the hairdressers, her previously long single
length hair now feathered and fringed. After a light snack of
bagels and cookies, Rogue was about ready to head for home, and
Jubilee felt a definite sense of relief.
"Swear to my Gods," Jubilee said, throwing down a double
butter-nut, "This is the first day in my many lives someone has
"Don't worry," said Rogue, "It's not a habit I intend to keep."
Jubilee scoffed, "And the Professor's accountant will be *so*
There was a sudden chirrup, digital and annoying, and Rogue dug
around in her backpack, searching out her mobile phone. Locating
it, she pressed it on and put it to her ear. "Hello, this is the
Pink Power Ranger speaking."
Jubilee spat her Fanta in her lap.
"...Yeah. Rogue, this is Scott. You better come back, the
Professor wants to call a team meeting."
Rogue paused at this, bewildered. Team meeting? What was he
calling her for, she wasn't on the team? "Sure. That's nice,
Scott. Make sure to call me when he goes for a leak too."
There was a humouring breath over the speaker and Scott
continued. "Rogue. The meeting is about you. He wants you
"Me?" She swallowed, rubbing her brow as a weight of stress
settled upon her. "Wh- no never mind why. I'll be there."
"No problem. Hey - why didn't he just mind-buzz me or whatever?"
Scott paused then said, "Because you're shopping, and the last
thing you need to be doing is talking to yourself in public."
"Oh okay. Seeya."
She clicked the phone off and threw it in her bag. Jubilee,
munching on the last of her bagel, looked to Rogue.
"Wha-wuz that about?"
"They want me to go to one of their team meetings. They're gonna
yap about me, so I guess they want me there, which is decent of
Jubilee snorted, "Dude! You get to go to a team meeting? No
"Hey, it's not my idea." Rogue threw her rubbish in the trash,
and stuffed the last of her cookie in her mouth. Hefting her
bags, she cocked her head towards the exit. Jubilee nodded,
pulling up bags filled with things she didn't buy, "Go have a
mental breakdown and destroy some stuff and you're in, I assume."
Her friend just rolled her eyes, following her out to the car
park. She looked up then. "Pink Power Ranger?"
Rogue gave a wry smile, "Stupid show," She looked down to herself
and shrugged, "Stupid gig."
"Right," agreed Jubes. She glanced at her own yellow pleather
jacket and smiled. "Does that mean I'm the Yellow Power Ranger?"
Rogue was late. Logan tapped his fingers on the brushed steel
table, trying to avoid the gazes of the team members around him.
Beast, Cyclops, Jean and Storm sat in their chairs around Xavier,
each of them passing the time in their own way; Beast had
enfolded his large blue furry clawed fingers and gazed at them
thoughtfully, Cyclops and Jean exchanged the odd look, Storm
crossed her arms and sighed on and off and Xavier steepled his
fingers, a wrinkle of deep thought on his brow.
"Is she here yet?" asked Cyclops.
"Indeed," Xavier said, lowering his hands and smiling lightly.
"She should be here in a moment."
It wasn't long after this statement that a woman strode into the
room. Logan had to double glance, cause the woman smelt like
Marie, but didn't look exactly like her. He blinked, looking
over her from head to toe, bewilderment barging through him along
with a few other nondescript emotions. He croaked.
Rogue wore a pair of her regular jeans, the huge black chunky
boots she'd bought, and a gauzy blouse that was tied in the
middle. Over this was her light brown leather duster, on her
hands a set of short grey silvery gloves that had a definite
sheen about them. Her hair... her hair was different. Shorter.
Her beautiful long hair, a part of him moaned, She cut it all
off... He didn't like the new hair do. It was too - too adult.
To swish and too elegant. It made her look older and he didn't
like her looking older because it made him forget that she was
supposed to be young.
He almost couldn't breathe. It wasn't just the new clothes, or
the new hairstyle that framed her face delicately. There
something imperceptibly different about the girl, about the way
she moved. It wasn't something not of her, it was her in every
way. It was something he expected to see grow in her over the
next few years, not suddenly appear in her after a couple days,
and he knew exactly what it was that had done this to her.
Carol. That bitch Carol.
He wasn't sure if he should have been angry or worried, because
for all intents and purposes she seemed fine. She seemed more
than fine - she seemed a reformed woman. Where there had been
uncertainty and self-depreciation in her movements, now there was
a cool understanding of what exactly she could do. She smiled
coolly to Logan before *slinking* to her place at the table. He
tried not to be so very happy that it happened to be next to him.
He cleared his throat, trying to get his voice box to work.
"What happened to ya, Kid?"
It said everything. It said how thrown he was by her sudden
shift in appearance and guise. Rogue smiled then, smiled softly
with a gentle tilt of her head, and a warmth of relief and
familiarity flushed through Logan. There she was, his little
Marie. It was her, he realised, all of this, all this newness.
It was all her. Somehow, she'd gained a freedom in her tragedy,
and he didn't begrudge her it, not one iota.
"Ah told ya I went shopping," she said, her voice reflecting the
timidness that used to show in her gait. "D'ya like it?"
"Yeah," he said, nodding faintly, "You look great."
Her smile widened and she dipped her head away coyly. He could
tell she was enjoying her newfound confidence. He looked to the
head of the table where Xavier sat, smiling saliently at the
final member of the discussion.
"Welcome, Rogue," he said, "I'm glad you could make it."
Rogue gave a smile. "I'm glad to be here, but if you don't mind
me asking... why am I here?"
Xavier's smile widened in approval at Rogue's curiosity, and he
nodded. "Yes, to the point of this meeting. I wanted to talk to
everyone about the advent of your newest abilities, Rogue. It's
come to the attention of the team that with your augmented
mutation you've become one of the more powerful mutants here at
the School for the Gifted."
Rogue's eyes flickered with worry. She glanced to Logan for a
brief moment before looking back to the Professor. "Is - is that
a bad thing? Are y'all angry with me for flying around in the gym
yesterday cause I won't do it again-"
"No," said Xavier, calming her with a warm gaze. "We're not
angry. There's no reason why you shouldn't be free to explore
your newfound mutations. They are a part of you now, and to deny
them would most likely be non-beneficial in the long run."
Cyclops stroked his chin with his fingers thoughtfully, his brows
dipping down behind his red shades. He looked to the Professor
then, an obvious expectancy in him.
"Usually," said Xavier, "We do not consider our X-Team trainees
for full team status until they've graduated high school and
completed their full training, but you are a most exceptional
Rogue's eyes widened, and she glanced to Logan again. He
practically bristled; his lips pressed together, his brow dipping
down in thinly cloaked anger.
"Chuck, she's too young," he said.
"Yes, Logan," said the Professor, "This is so. In my dealings
with Rogue and her mind, however, I've come to the decision that
the option should be open to her sooner than the other trainees."
"Professor, what are you saying?" Cyclops asked. "Do you want
her to be an X-Man?"
"Not yet," Xavier said. "Logan is right in some ways. Rogue
needs to be trained to be proficient in her new abilities,
undergo the mind control sessions with me that we've scheduled -
get a handle on who she is and how she'll fit into the world now
that she has a new personality to accommodate in her mind. What
I'm suggesting is that perhaps we should consider Rogue to be one
of our top candidates for a place on the X-Men team, and treat
her development and consequent readiness in a different light to
the other students."
Rogue shifted uncomfortably. "Isn't that a little unfair?"
Xavier cocked a brow. "Rogue?"
"Well," Rogue shrugged, "The other students... Jubilee, Kitty,
Bobby... they're all workin' just as hard as me. Why am I so
"Because you could probably level a wall with a few punches,"
said Logan, "And wouldn't have a scratch to account for it. To
put it simply, Kid, they need you - badly."
"Is that true?" asked Rogue.
Xavier sighed, nodding very slightly. "Partly so, yes. I won't
try to play down the crises that face us. You know them as
intimately as we do. We can afford to let the others take their
time to develop into fully-fledged members. You, however, could
be of invaluable help to us."
Rogue cocked a lip. "Why do I feel like I'm bein' drafted?"
The sentiment startled Logan, the very thought running through
his mind at that moment.
"You're not," Xavier said. "You're being considered for early
"I can understand if you have your reservations, Rogue, and it's
very noble of you to consider your team-mates before yourself.
Let's look at this in another way." The Professor steepled his
fingers, brow wrinkling as he looked to her in deep thought. "If
you were fresh off the streets as an adult, you would be admitted
into the X-Men after a reasonable amount of training. We do this
because we want to run a safe and efficient base of operations
here. Our students are not a part of the team as yet because
they have still to mature, to become strong enough in their minds
as well as their bodies."
Rogue's brow dipped down. "This applies to me how? Just spit it
Xavier smiled at her up front manner, and nodded. "I believe
with all the additions to your psyche, and the very nature of
your mutation, that you've matured much faster than the other
students, and that you'll be ready sooner to take your place
amongst the X-Men, if you so wish."
She crossed her arms, glancing to the other X-Men with a firm,
reserved look. Jean seemed cool, unreadable. She's panicking,
Rogue thought, voice flitting in her head, She doesn't want
this. She looked to Cyclops. Fearless leader needs more muscle
on his side, he's afraid. She sighed. He doesn't want this
either, shit none of them do.
"It's still not fair to the others," she said. "It doesn't matter
what mutation I have, I'm still only seventeen years old."
"Eighteen in a month," grunted Logan. The others glanced to him.
He shifted. "...What?"
Only shaking his head a moment, Cyclops looked to Rogue. "Rogue,
we wouldn't be offering this to you if we didn't think you were
ready. We know you're not stupid, and we know you understand the
way things are." He looked around to his comrades then back to
her. "Simple thing is that Magneto has a lot of new recruits on
his side, that he's willing to throw into the deep end. I know
trained organized muscle is stronger any day, but having you on
the field for us would be invaluable."
Rogue felt a chill as Cyclops spoke to her, his voice laced with
the passion of belief, and although she couldn't see his eyes,
she could feel his imploring gaze biting at her.
"This is more than us drafting you, as you put it," he continued.
"We're asking for your help. Not just for us, but for the people
we want to so desperately protect."
Rogue could feel Logan growing very tense beside her, and she
knew that Cyclops' sterling speech had really shat him off. Damn
thing was, she was feeling herself cave. People protecting, she
thought. She was sure if she could read Cyke's mind like a book,
he'd be transmitting images of happy laughing babies in the arms
of the X-Men, saved from evil mutantkind and bigoted bad folk.
She sighed, sticking out her bottom lip in resignation.
"You were the high school debating team captain before you ended
up in this freak-house, weren't ya, Cyke?"
Cyclops smiled, nodding slowly. "State champion, Rogue."
"I'll think about it," Rogue said, sitting back in her chair.
"Talk to a few of the others, see what they think. You're cool
with that, right Chuck?"
Xavier nodded, a softness in his eyes. "Of course. A decision
such as this needs to be made carefully. I commend your
Rogue nodded gracefully back at him.
Xavier looked to the other X-Men, weaving his fingers together on
the table in front of him. "Now, onto some rather urgent
matters. With Magneto's escape I think it would be prudent for
us to step up our patrol roster, bring in the trainees into the
perimeter watches and begin a programme to acquaint them with the
Blackbird, see if we have any would-be pilots in our classes-"
A demure cough floated across the room, and all heads turned to
the chocolate and champagne tressed woman at the other end of the
conference table from Xavier. Lifting an enquiring brow, Xavier
"Yes, Rogue? Did you want to say something?"
Rogue glanced around herself, clutching her chair with
uncertainty before speaking. "Uhm - isn't this team business
Cyclops looked to Xavier with his usual stoic, yet open,
expression, and Xavier shrugged, then looked to Rogue blankly.
"Well," She wriggled a little, "What am I still doing here?"
Xavier pursed his lips to counter a smile. "I thought that maybe
Magneto's escape and future capture may be of concern to you,
considering recent events. It was also decided that perhaps
sitting in on one of our meetings may be a beneficial experience
"Huh!" Rogue smirked, shaking her head. "You are one sneaky son
of a gun, Professor."
Logan crossed his arms. "Chairman, I second that motion."
"Whatever do you mean?" Xavier asked, a little too innocently.
"All this talk of patrols and all the bad things Magneto has in
store for us - you know it's gonna make me itch for a fight."
The Professor tipped his head, nodding slightly. "I can see
where one might think that, but it was truly not my intention."
Rogue chuckled quietly. "Sure, Big Man. Well keep goin', we're
all listenin'. Sorry to interrupt."
"Uh... no, that's quite all right, Rogue." Xavier cleared his
throat, gathering his thoughts again. "As I was saying, offering
lessons to our trainees in the operation of the Blackbird should
get us a step closer to establishing a reliable watch on
anti-mutant activities in the area. In addition, Jean and I are
currently utilizing a comprehensive mental callisthenics
programme to strengthen her abilities, so that she may use
Cerebro to help us search for young mutants in need of our help.
Furthering her abilities should also aid us in further missions."
Jean nodded. "In the past all I've been able to pick up from the
Professor at long distances is brief flashes of information.
With the help of this programme, I should be able to hold
long-range conversations with him."
"Ones that no one will be able to detect," said Cyclops.
"Exactly," Xavier agreed. "Now, Cyclops has already drawn up the
new roster, which he will brief you on shortly. I know this will
leave us all little time for rest and relaxation, but we are in a
crisis situation, and I think you all knew that such times were a
possibility when you joined my team."
As the Professor spoke, and the new roster arrangements were
outlined by Cyclops, it soon became very clear to Rogue that the
X-Men, for so long, had been sleeping, hibernating like a big old
bear, just waiting to wake and fully utilize it's claws. Now
that danger lurked and that real trouble drew near, they were
slipping into the rhythm of war, the mechanism of preparation
sliding into the shank and groove of action. It was thrilling
and terrifying at the exact same moment. She could taste the
slight sourness of desperation, she could see it in all of their
eyes that they were afraid, they were under-manned. Fairness and
equality were fading from her justifications of refusal, and the
need of her team-mates, of the people that did so much for her,
were slowly coming to the fore.
She glanced to Logan. He had been watching it all quietly,
slowly steaming away like an angry volcano. She knew he wanted
to erupt, but the pressure built inside of him, and the man
showed restraint. He deserved a damned medal because she knew
how much he didn't want her on the team. If there were an issue
to send the both of them in to teeth-spitting fisticuffs, it was
Underneath all of this, she felt afraid too. She understood that
her life had long since been one of normalcy. The thought that
the state of human affairs had gotten so bad that civilians,
people like Professor Xavier, who were the very measure of
kindness and culture, were forced to take what they had and use
it against others was a painful one. Any kind of war was a
terrible heart break, but there was something about the thought
of mankind disintegrating before her very eyes that steeped her
in an encompassing sadness.
And perhaps, just a little, she felt guilty. It was mutants that
brought on this, the worst case of hate-driven warfare to hit the
United States since the LA Riots in the nineties. Why it was
guilt that plagued her in this instance mystified her. It wasn't
HER fault, it wasn't any mutant's fault, they just existed. They
didn't ask for how they were made or what they could do. Somehow
though, it was the very fact that people like her existed at all
that made her soul sink inside her. It was that existence that
She pulled her thoughts away from such deep issues, trying to
catch up with what was going on. They were talking about the
Blackbird now, and Cyclops was discussing when he could begin a
training programme. She knew Bobby would be thrilling over the
chance to sit in the pilot's seat of an aircraft he probably had
wet dreams over at least five times a week. She also worried
about Jubilee, and how she would react to the idea of Rogue being
a fully-fledged team member earlier than the rest of her
friends. If there was anyone who was more dedicated to the cause
of freeing mutants from human cruelty than the people in the room
at that moment, it was Jubilation Lee. Underneath the rapier
wit and sarcasm was a heart as huge as the whole of New York
Rogue sighed and looked to Logan. He was listening to Cyclops,
features hard. In a moment of silence where Jean waited to
speak, he glanced to Rogue. For a moment, his look softened, and
eyes narrowed a touch, lips twitching a little in a worried
little purse. He was afraid too; she could feel that.
In his visions he saw the military, and around Rogue's neck was
a token of ownership that the Canadian Government had branded him
with. It was war, the kind of war that the X-Men were preparing
themselves for now, that left him broken and violated. He was
walking into it, all over again.
She reached for one of the hands sitting in his lap, caressing it
gently. She would look after him this time. She wouldn't let
anything happen to him. If anyone wanted to fuck with him,
they'd have to get past her first.