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SHADOW MAN--CH 8: ROGUE 8/15--

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  • razberrybullet
    Chapter 8-Rogue The timid knock on Xavier s office door was so faint that of the four people in the room only the Professor heard it. But after all, Xavier
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 10, 2002
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      Chapter 8-Rogue

      The timid knock on Xavier's office door was so faint that of the four
      people in the room only the Professor heard it. But after all, Xavier
      told himself, he had been mentally monitoring the knocker's hesitant
      progress down the hall for the past three minutes, and he not only
      knew the identity of the person outside but had a good idea of the
      reason behind this visit.

      "Come in!" he called, and in response to the startled glances of the
      other three: "It's Rogue."

      The girl peeked around the door. "Professor, Ah— Oh! Oh, Ah didn't
      know you had company. Ah'm . . . Ah'm sorry. Ah'll come back later
      when you aren't busy."

      He smiled and sent out feelings of tenderness and warmth. "You aren't
      interrupting anything, Rogue. We're just relaxing, chatting. Please,
      come join us."

      "Well, if it's really awright."

      "It's really alright."

      But it wasn't alright, he realized at once when she entered and stood
      there, hesitant. Of course! The only available seat was the couch
      which was already occupied by Storm and Jean. Far too close proximity
      with others for the girl's comfort. He turned to Scott at his side.

      "Do you mind sharing the sofa with Jean and Storm?"

      Scott laughed. "My pleasure." He got up from the chair beside the
      desk and went over to insert himself between the women, throwing an
      arm around each.

      "Please have a seat, Rogue." Xavier indicated the vacant chair.

      She perched on the edge, picking at her gloves.

      "We were just talking about Logan," Xavier said in a quiet,
      encouraging voice.

      Storm looked surprised at this news and Scott was clearly irritated.
      He could have sworn they had been discussing modifications for his
      pet, the Blackbird. In fact, the air craft's plans were still on the
      desk.

      Jean, however, had also picked up what was worrying the girl. "Yes,"
      she now said. "Logan's been gone almost two and a half months. We
      were just wondering how he's doing. If he's hurt or in trouble."

      At this Rogue looked up and Xavier saw the tears welling in her
      eyes. "Ah— Ah think he is," she said softly.

      "Which?" asked Jean, leaning forward to catch the answer. "Hurt? In
      trouble?"

      "B-both!"

      "Serves him right," Scott muttered to Storm. "The jerk stole my bike!"

      Storm ignored him, focused on Rogue. "How do you know Logan's hurt
      and in trouble?"

      "Ah feel him. Inside my head Ah feel him."

      "Explain to me, please, Rogue, this 'feeling'," Xavier asked gently.
      What was it the girl received? Not telepathy. An empathic connection,
      perhaps?

      A little crease formed between her brows. "Ah don't know, Ah . . . Ah
      just feel him."

      "So how do you know it's Logan?" Scott didn't try to hide his
      exasperation. "You could be 'feeling' anybody. You could be 'feeling'
      me."

      Rogue looked at him a moment and her mouth hardened. "Ah haven't
      never touched you. Yet."

      "Oh." He sank back in the sofa cushions, stunned, as if a kitten he'd
      been teasing suddenly turned into a tiger.

      "Ah've only ever touched just three people," she went on. "Logan,
      that Magneto man, and David back home, and Ah know it's him. It's
      Logan."

      "And what does Logan feel like, Rogue?" Xavier asked again.

      "Cactus?" Scott suggested brightly.

      Xavier gritted his teeth and was about to give that young man the
      mental equivalent of a good, strong, tweak on the ear, but Rogue was
      nodding thoughtfully.

      "Y'all ever eat a peach?" she suddenly asked the room at large. "Ah
      mean a really ripe peach, still firm but just this side of goin' bad?
      All prickly and bristly on the outside, but inside it's sooooo sweet."

      Xavier saw the image in her mind. "With a tough, hard pit for a
      center."

      "That's it!" Rogue turned to him in delight. "That's him. That's
      Logan. Prickly, sweet, and tough all at once."

      Jean laughed. "That's Logan, all right! What does Magneto feel like?"

      The girl shuddered. "That Magneto man— He's cold. Cold as ice. But
      like ice in your hand that starts burnin' and hurtin', it's so cold."

      Xavier felt a surge of pity. Erik, has it come to this? he wondered.
      No warmth of humanity, just fire and ice? He glanced up, realizing
      Storm had asked a question.

      "David?" Rogue smiled to herself. "Soft as a baby's bottom, gentle as
      a rain of rose petals."

      Storm gave a sigh of pleasure. "I'd like to meet somebody like that.
      Enjoy the quiet life."

      Scott snorted. "Good luck finding it around here! So you feel Logan,"
      he turned to Rogue and got back to the matter at hand, "and you think
      he's both hurt and in trouble. How do you know? What's different?"

      Rogue's face crumpled and she twisted her fingers. "It's like— It's
      like when Ah first touched him . . . Each time when Ah first touched
      him he's like the peach, firm and sweet and all, but then the longer
      Ah touch him the peach goes all squishy, squashy and even that tough
      old pit gets mushy and it's like Ah can almost reach through
      him . . . And— and it's getting' like that now. And Ah think he needs
      help."

      *******

      He was drowning in a sea of pain. It was agony to breathe, to think,
      to dream . . . He had almost succeeded in blanking out thought,
      replacing it with obedience and endurance. Endurance also hurt, but
      to a lesser degree. It was a cooler fire. However, the dreams
      continued to seethe and boil in his brain and each breath scalded his
      throat.

      "Come, my boy—"

      The quietly spoken words seared him like a splatter of hot grease.
      Boy flinched, his eyes skewing over to the Man and a sudden blaze of
      fear threatened to consume him.

      "Over here."

      Another test. A test that he would fail like those he had failed
      countless times before, and then as punishment—the burning. But
      though he knew the foreordained outcome, it was impossible to disobey
      the Man. If ever he had attempted such foolishness before, the memory
      of it had long since been charred to ash.

      He made to rise and found that he had been standing in the corner the
      Man allotted him, so he shambled toward the gray-haired figure
      slowly, mechanically. The Man did not like him to move quickly except
      when he fought the dreams. He shuffled to a stop, head bowed, docile
      before the Man, and stared at the dirty white floor tiles.

      "Look at me."

      In panic his eyes flicked up, shot away, slowly returned to focus on
      the long, unforgiving face. He blinked repeatedly, trembling with
      terror inside. Had he done wrong? It was so hard at times to remember
      what the Man wanted of him.

      But the other merely studied him with his habitual frown, then
      circled him so that Boy did not know whether to stand still or turn
      also in order to 'look' at the Man as ordered. Indecisive, for the
      wrong choice would result in further pain, he remained motionless,
      hunched, still trying to determine what to do when the Man once more
      confronted him.

      The Man was smiling at his creation. In the warmth of his maker's
      approval the creature felt a knot of tension in his chest slip loose,
      just a little, and he ventured to take a deep, relieved breath. The
      air immediately stuck in his throat at the Man's next words.

      "Are you ready?" Without waiting for an answer, the Man went over to
      the console with its knobs and dials and flashing lights.

      The trapped air hissed from between Boy's clenched teeth like a blast
      of steam and claws shot out of his fists. He crouched, eyes darting
      around the room. It was the dreams again. He hadn't killed them after
      all. But where were they?

      There! Lurking in the dark, as always. He sprang at them, roaring,
      slashing. The young man with the red glasses, the older man in the
      chair, the two women, the girl with the white streak in her
      hair . . . He attacked them one after the other, cutting, hewing.
      They trembled when his blades sheared through them, shimmering like
      disturbed reflections in water, then they steadied and were whole
      once more. So he must attack again, and again, and again, and—

      "Stop!"

      He halted in mid-stroke, remained that way, panting, sweat streaming
      down his body, waiting for the command to continue. But when that did
      not immediately come the dread that always smoldered in his gut burst
      into flame and he tasted acid bile on his tongue.

      "Sorry . . . I'm sorry. Let me try again. I can be faster. Please!"

      "You did fine," said the Man over his shoulder. He was busy at the
      Table, arranging the binders and setting out the instruments. "Just a
      few minor adjustments. Sheathe your claws and come lie down."

      Please. Please. The word flitted around inside his skull like a
      trapped bird searching in vain for escape. But the claws slid home
      and his feet obediently took him to the Table. He lay down and
      watched the Man light the torch. Please . . .
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