Fic: Falling Into the Sky 7/8
Choosing to retrieve their friend was an easy decision. It was one borne of
responsibility, of concern, and most of all, out of worry.
Rogue's voice had faltered on the other side of the phone as she let the
story of her escape and fall from grace tumble out of her mouth.
Jean said the girl cried after hearing her voice.
Flexing her fingers on the steering wheel, Ororo Munroe sighed, turned up
the volume on the CD player in the black Lexus and resisted the urge to turn
Rogue needed someone. And Ororo would not deny the girl her need.
But, nobility aside, she had still not told anyone she was going across the
border to retrieve the Southerner. It felt like deception in her mind, but
the look of quiet encouragement Jean had given her as she packed a small
duffel bag had quieted the louder critics in her head.
However, a telepath's confidence-- one meted out through clenched teeth as
the redhead was battling her own body for the right to function normally
again-- wasn't enough to keep the former thief from her worrying.
In her youth spent in Egypt, picking the pockets of the people coming from
opium dens had always been the easiest for her. The intoxicated were too
disconnected from the rest of the world and a very quick handed girl to
notice their wallet gone. They were too lost in their own worlds to give a
damn. Drowning in the spell of a chemical.
Ororo shuddered and forced herself to focus on the highway ahead of her.
The exclusive, mutant-only rehab clinic/retreat was thirty minutes out of
Toronto, Ontario, the directions guiding her through the outskirts of
Buffalo, through the border between the two countries and into the Canadian
realm past the CN Tower.
Crossing the border had been grimly surreal. Planning ahead, the wind
mistress had brought her ID, her passport, and a certified copy of her
social security card for the wary border guards and their freshly unlocked
They checked all three, and upon asking her why she was coming to Canada,
she said she was bringing an ex-student home from a clinic. The comment had
resulted in a quick inspection of her belongings and the close examination
of a document she had in her purse.
Ironic how her recent trip to the notary had involved making a copy of her
certification to teach in New York-- she was the only one on the team
credentialed as a full teacher-- which had saved her. She was a black
woman with snowy white hair driving a pricey car and sporting an exotic
But paranoia had given way in the face of a friendly educator behind the
Pacing the car back to the speed limit, ruing the time lost at the border,
she wondered about the girl she was fetching. Rogue had been through a
regular hell since the events at the house-- hell, all of her friends had--
Running was something too many of them understood. It was the turning to
drugs that ate at Ororo's heart.
Even as a child, she saw the addicts and didn't understand them. They acted
so strangely, so out of touch. The African sun that beat down on them was
like an irritating fly as they dared to step outside in the heat of the day
while the rest of the people lingered in shadows. They ate with little
concern, laughed out of step with the rest of the crowd, and disappeared
into dark buildings that the authorities stalked in search of criminals.
And Rogue had entered into this world by choice?
Turning up the CD and forwarding to the last track, Ororo shook her head and
concentrated on listening to Melissa Etheridge. She needed distraction
before she faced her errant teammate and friend.
To her optimistic but distant eye, the retreat seemed strangely sterile for
all its attempts at feeling like home. The forest was dense, but too well
tended by human hands. The wildlife was too sparse, the ground too free of
natural debris. The buildings, though unimposing, were surrounded by walls
too tall to be anything but barriers.
Leaving her duffel in the trunk of the car, throwing the strap of the simple
purse over her shoulder and fighting for the genuine smile eluding her mood,
Ororo crossed the parking lot, passed through the open gate and headed for
the lobby of the rehab clinic.
The sight of a teenager with stark yellow hair and black eyes, playing with
a empty shot glass in his hand as he tried to look anything but gloomy in a
corner seat, unsettled her stomach.
The perky attitude of the receptionist was even worse. Avoiding the woman's
curious gaze as she typed rapidly at her computer, Ororo couldn't help but
touch her braided hair and smooth the wild bits, momentarily seized by the
worry that they might think her here to seek help.
The flash of Rogue's picture, however, ended the worry. The receptionist
nodded animatedly, typed more and then brought the phone to her ear. She
then directed Ororo to sit near the bleary-eyed teen while she waited for
Rogue to come to the lobby.
Eternity loomed up in front of her like a hunting jackal as she avoided the
eyes of the clinic's residents.
The voice broke the reverie that had settled into the Kenyan's gaze.
Lifting eyes up to the backlit figure, the sunlight dancing around Rogue
like an aura, Ororo held her breath to suppress the gasp.
The girl-- rather, the dark shadow of the girl that had come to them years
ago-- was thin. Damn thin. Her cheekbones seemed higher than before, more
visible in the increased thinness of her face, the loose sweatpants and
University of Toronto t-shirt hanging off her frame like a caftan. Her hair
was unevenly short above her shoulders and suffering from a lack of
conditioner, the white bangs sloppily tucked behind an ear.
It was the slight glow of green behind once deep chocolate irises that made
Ororo pause, however.
"Ya wanna walk for a spell?"
Ororo could only nod. The room, though airy and almost excessive in its use
of windows, was suffocating her. "Please."
A gloved hand was held out past the perky receptionist as the X-Men's
weather witch took the lead, heading for the expansive balcony overlooking
the forest. Waiting until the Southern girl joined her, the younger woman
moving to lean on the railing with a distant stare across the trees, Rogue's
voice made Ororo jump.
"So, tell me 'bout home."
The elder woman drew in a breath, held it and sighed it out in a long
moment. Leaning into the redwood railing and joining the gaze into the
woods, she tried to break down eight months of daily life in Westchester.
"It's as normal as we could ever have it until the attacks. Betsy got leave
from her brother to work with us for as long as we need her, Kitty has been
promoted to Blue Team, and we've not been on our normal routine. Scott and
I have been lending a hand to the rescue efforts in Manhattan when we can."
"I saw the footage on the news," was the quietly drawled murmur.
"That 'footage' is pushing the Mutant Registration Act on us as we speak,
which is not to forget the Genosha Law." Ororo let the anger sweep into her
voice. There was no reason to fight it; she was arguably safer where she
was at the moment then at home. "The destruction of the Twin Towers has set
a paranoia over the people, and because of that we've held back. Some news
agency fostered a rumour that tried to put mutant activity behind the
terrorism; none of us back home wish to become the focus of irrational
"Magneto has been unaccounted for these last few months, but it is not his
hand behind any recent violence. The Professor was adamant about that
"He's got a sense of decency."
"Amongst other things, such as the use of power-induced prowess rather than
rough brutality. Come home with me, Rogue, but do not expect it to be
normal. Most people are not used to the uncertainty we-- you, I and the
rest of the people at the school-- live with. It is not their companion."
The green ringed eyes drifted back to the other. There was flicker of
doubt, of pain, that registered briefly, but it disappeared with the shrug
Rogue offered. "Jean... ?"
"She told me to tell you that your accent is missed echoing down the halls,"
there was a brief, genuine smile, "and that you were never not welcome."
"I saw the impact, most people woulda died."
"Most do. But she's nearly off the crutch, and testy because the 'boys'--
Xavier and Scott-- are still denying her active duty." Ororo tapped the
railing thoughtfully. "Are you curious about Logan?"
"I-- yeah, shit, yes I am."
"Well," the smile fell away again, "we were actually hoping you might know
where he is."
"He hasn't come back?"
"I understand why." Rogue stood up and hugged herself, the wrist length
gloves slipping free of her sleeves. Letting the exposed skin be cooled by
the slight breeze, she let the memory of Carol's drift over her. Of another
day like this one, with Wanda next to Carol as they discussed home and what
would happen next.
Rogue shook her head in bitter irony. "Think he'll come back?"
"We were no more certain about him than we were you, Rogue. You turned to a
demon that makes that... thing from the house seem tame, you do realise
There was a derisive snort. "At least that demon bought me a little peace."
"Silencing Melissa is not worth the price."
"Matter of opinion, sugar."
Ororo held back the stern response. She had to change tactics, fast.
"She's a helluva screamer. I liked it when she stayed quiet, though with
Carol in my head now, I'm not the only one irritated by the girl. Carol is
starting to control her, to quiet her... thank God. Still hafta deal with
Carol myself, though."
"In the bitchy spirit."
Ororo frowned. She really didn't like the feeling the retreat was giving
her. For someone that wasn't fighting off a destructive addiction, she felt
perilously out of place. "Your time ends here in three days; I have a hotel
a few miles off this road where I'll wait. If you wish to come home, I'll
pick you up. If not... I wish you well and hope you'll not go back to your
opium den to hide from the rest of us."
Pondering her choices, Rogue turned to face the Kenyan and offered a sad,
surrendered smile. "I'll see ya in three days; either to say good-bye, or
to hitch a ride."
[concluded in part 8]
"Life? Life's pretty much a knife fight in a dirt covered bar; and if they
get you down, you best get back up." "Last Call at the Broken Hammer,"