Rogue waited in the Blackbird's storage compartment until all sounds
of the team's departure had ceased and the door was firmly shut on
silence. She had felt relatively safe stowing away in the bin that
held the life vests, correctly assuming that Cyclops would not set
down on the lake where he could be easily seen from any of the three
Now she climbed out into the cockpit and peeked through the craft's
window at the little forest clearing in which he had chosen to land.
It was near dawn and a mist rising from the lake sifted through the
trees, rendering everything vague and dreamlike. If she didn't hurry
she would miss them in the fog. Once she found the team she knew it
would be impossible for Cyclops to send her back, which is why she'd
waited until they had gone. If she'd revealed herself earlier she
felt sure Mr. High 'n Mighty would have tried to lock her in the
A moment later she was outside and swallowed up by the forest. She
stopped in her tracks, listening for some sound of the team's
passage, but the quiet was unbroken save for the occasional creak of
branch and a faint drip-drip as moisture condensed and fell off pine
needles. She couldn't have lost them already! Her heart began to beat
faster as she looked around wildly.
Think, you little baby, think! she told herself fiercely as the
ghostly trees closed in on her, beautiful and threatening. Awright,
they gotta be goin' towards the lake and water goes downhill,
so . . .
There was a slight slope to the land and she followed its gradual
descent eagerly. Even if she didn't meet up with the team in the
woods, she'd be sure to spot them on the lake shore. Or so she told
herself as the slope became steeper and she must thrash her way
through crystal-jeweled brambles and clamber over wet-slicked,
She paused to catch her breath and a faint rattle of branches made
her jerk around. At first she didn't see anything in the gloom, then
a vagrant breeze shredded the mist an instant and she found two
enormous eyes staring at her from behind a leafless bush. Her hand
flew to her mouth to muffle a shriek.
"Are you lost?" asked a soft voice, a girl's voice.
Rogue gave a ragged laugh. "Ah'm just fine. Thank you. It's my
friends that are lost!"
"Two women and a man? I saw them go that way."
The girl came out from behind the bush and pointed to the left.
Draped over one shoulder was a squirrel, on the other perched a
large, black bird.
Raven or crow, Rogue didn't know which. "Are those your pets?"
The girl smiled, stroked the squirrel's tail. "Friends."
Peering closer at the stranger, Rogue thought that the two of them
were about the same age, but it was hard to tell in the mist. The
other's skin and hair were so light that all Rogue could really make
out in the dimness were the large dark eyes. The girl was taller,
though, and much more sensibly dressed for tramping through the
forest than Rogue in her long, green coat, which had already picked
up a bulky collection of leaves, twigs, bark bits, and mud. The other
girl, however, looked at home in the woods in her sturdy boots,
jeans, sweater, big leather jacket
"That's his jacket! You're wearin' Logan's jacket!"
The girl glanced from the jacket to Rogue, puzzled. "Who's Logan? I
got this from Dr. Lehnsherr down at the base. He said Wolverine
didn't need it anymore."
"That's him, that's Logan! Logan's called Wolverine 'cause he's got
The stranger slowly shook her head. "Wolverine doesn't have any
claws. He's called that because he thinks he is a wolverine."
Rogue flipped a hand in dismissal. "Whatever. The important thing is
my friends and Ah are here to get him and take him home. He's hurt,
isn't he? Ah felt him hurtin' inside my head. But . . . "
She frowned at the toe of her shoe without seeing it. "He's not
hurtin' so much any more," she said slowly. "Now, he just feels
sorta . . . hollow."
The girl stepped closer. "You're here to help Wolverine? I'll show
you where he is. Oh, by the way, I'm . . . Fauna."
The two girls sized each other up, liked what they saw, smiled.
"Let's find your friends before they attract attention." Fauna stared
at the bird and it suddenly launched itself into the air, but the
girl made no move to leave.
"Aren't we goin' to go look for the others?"
"In a moment." She turned to Rogue, her brow creased. "I thought he
was crazy. Wolverine. He told me Dr. Lehnsherr was experimenting on
him. Cutting him. Burning him. But I didn't believe it because he
didn't have any scars."
"Oh, Logan heals up super fast. He was cut real bad once savin' my
life. But a couple three days later he was good as new and nothin'
"I know that now. When Dr. Lehnsherr took him to the lab that last
night, I followed and hid. He and Toad did terrible things to
Wolverine. And he screamed so and they wouldn't stop and . . . and I
ran away. Again." Fauna blinked rapidly and when she looked at Rogue
her smile was tenuous and her cheeks were red with embarrassment.
"Ah ran away from home too," Rogue offered shyly. "That's how Ah met
Logan. But shouldn't we be findin' my friends?"
"In a minute Finally, here you are, slowpoke!" The bird landed on
her outstretched hand and the two looked at each other. "Come on!
They're just inside the tree line going around the lake. If we hurry
we can head them off."
She zipped up the jacket with the squirrel inside and set off going
straight downhill at breakneck speed. The bird flew overhead.
"You talked . . . to that . . . bird!" Rogue panted, chasing along
Fauna flashed a grin and leaped over a fallen tree. "And he talked to
Wolverine grabbed Mystique's wrist as she came down the hall, jerked
her into his cell with such force that she struck his chest. He
imprisoned her in the steel circle of his arms.
"My turn, darlin'."
Her eyes glittered with anger and her tongue tip flicked out like a
snake's. She struggled in his gripbut not too hard, he saw. He had
taken her measure.
Still holding her pressed against him, pinning her arms to her sides,
his hands caressed the silky smoothness of the scales on her firm,
round bottom, her narrow waist and supple back, while his tongue and
lips explored the contours of her delicate blue ear, her throat, her
cheek, the salt/sweet of her mouth until with a convulsive gasp she
went limp, slipping out of his rough embrace to sink onto the stained
mattress, lifting her arms to him in invitation. Smiling, he lowered
himself on her.
"Now we'll be even," he promised
Rogue managed to skitter down onto the lake trail just before the
three came around the turn. "Hi, y'all! Nice day for a rescue, huh?"
Cyclops jerked to a stop, his hand at his visor. "Rogue? How did you
get here?" The hand dropped along with his jaw.
"She was hiding in the Blackbird, Scott," Jean said matter-of-factly.
He turned on her. "You knew? And you didn't tell me?"
"Rogue deserves to be here. This is her fight too."
The girl looked at the woman with new eyes. Why, sure! Jean must have
psyched me out, hidin' there in the bin. And she never said nothin'
to nobody. That's one awright lady, Rogue decided.
"Like she says, it's my fight too. And Ah got us some help! This is
Fauna." Rogue looked around and didn't see anybody behind her. She
studied the foliage suspiciously. "Now stop that and come on out!
These are friends."
Slowly the girl emerged from behind a tree, looking as timid as a
forest animal. She nervously twisted the squirrel's tail around a
finger, her cheeks pink. To put her at her ease Rogue made the
"This is Cyclops. He can blast things with his eyes, so he wears that
little blinder thingy so he doesn't fry anybody that doesn't need it.
Storm over there does wild things with the weather, and Jean can move
stuff with her mind as easy as look at you. She can read your mind
too, so watch what you're thinkin'. And me . . . " Rogue's face
fell. "If people touch my skin they get hurt real bad," she said,
"H-hello . . . "
Rogue heard the girl's hesitation and pulled herself together. "Like
Ah said, this is Fauna and she talks to animals and they talk to her
and she's goin' to take us to Logan and she knows just 'bout
everythin' there is to know about this here base."
"I'm surrounded by women!" Cyclops groaned.
"So?" Storm's eyes started to simmer.
He looked at the four, who between them controlled weather, objects,
animalseven his own power, should Rogue touch him. "Uh . . . I like