TITLE: Point of Departure
AUTHOR: Mara Greengrass
SUMMARY: "An involuntary return to the point of departure is, without
doubt, the most disturbing of all journeys."
--complete headers in part 1--
Marie walked back to her room, feeling like she was walking through a
fog. A few people tried to speak to her, but she just shook her head and
She stumbled through the door, nearly tripping over outstretched feet.
Logan, arms crossed and scowling from his position in her desk chair,
said, "Sorry, I didn't know when you'd be back."
"What are you doing here?" She sat on the bed, hoping he'd go away soon
so she could cry in peace.
"I..." He fidgeted. "I heard the news from the Professor. And, uh..."
"I understand what you're feeling," he said in a rush. "Kind of."
That wasn't anything like what she'd been expecting and she blinked a
Having gotten that out, Logan relaxed fractionally. "Everybody keeps
talking about gifts, but they don't get what it's like for some of us."
She nodded. "It's not like I've got a receipt and I can return this."
She plucked at a glove.
"Neither can I." Logan shrugged. "I was experimented on and I have to
live with that."
She scooted back against the headboard, drawing her knees to her chest.
"Does it help to know why you have the claws?"
"Oh." Marie sniffed once or twice. "I like my life here, but I, I don't
want to think that it's only a matter of time before I kill someone."
The tears she'd been trying to ignore started to leak out.
"Fiddlesticks," she said, wiping them away.
"Fiddlesticks?" Logan stared at her.
"My momma would be shocked if she knew how much cursing I did," Marie
said absently, "so I'm trying to cut back."
"Okay, but fiddlesticks?" Shaking his head, Logan looked her over. "I
dunno, maybe that shot did something to your brain."
That made her chuckle even through the tears. "My brain is fine, Logan.
Unfortunately. I *wish* there was something we could fix."
"If you say so." He leaned back in the chair and waited for her to get
Having him there helped a little. He was pretty much the only mansion
resident who'd never judged her because of her choice to get the cure.
That was restful right now.
"Thank you," she said eventually.
"Any time, kid."
* * * * *
In the subsequent days, Marie avoided the evening news and the company
of most of her peers, although Bobby and Kitty and a few others insisted
she at least come out of her room for meals. She couldn't take the sad
looks, the constant reminders, the daily special bulletins, and the
ignorant television commentary.
Dr. McCoy commuted between the UN in Manhattan and Westchester, looking
grimmer with each trip. From the short conversations she had with him,
she learned that, despite warnings, mutants were trying to take the cure
again. And he seemed to take each death personally.
Professor Xavier did his best to look optimistic, but even he could be
seen frowning into his soup upon occasion after looking at her. He and
Dr. McCoy both reminded her regularly that not every mutant was getting
their powers back, so she still had a chance. But neither sounded like
they completely believed it, and she knew they were worried about her,
even if Professor Xavier seemed rather pleased that the cure hadn't
worked for most people.
People kept asking Marie how she felt. They thought she was pushing them
away when she said "Okay," but she didn't really have another answer.
She didn't have the words to describe the mixture of fear and
resignation and worry and...so she told everyone she was okay. It was a
good a description as anything.
Classes went on as usual, and eventually people stopped giving Marie
funny looks when she walked down the hall, as if she'd either suck their
life or their mutation out from across the room. (She found it ironic
that people were either afraid of her for *having* her mutation or mad
at her for trying to get rid of it. It just proved that her daddy had
been right when he said that sometimes you just couldn't win for losing.)
One or two of the younger students could be heard to say that it served
her right for trying to be a flatscan, but after they were assigned to
extra self-defense classes with Logan, that stopped as well.
Warren Worthington came to teach a business class for upper-level
students, and a woman named Elizabeth Braddock arrived from England to
teach the classes in controlling powers. Marie hoped she never had to
take that class, as the woman gave her the willies, studying her like a
particularly fascinating bug.
Three weeks after the first news reports, Marie snuggled into her
favorite chair in the mansion's library, which she liked because it was
big enough for her to draw her legs up under her, with leather arms wide
enough she could rest a book and notebook on them to take notes. It was
also in the farthest corner, under a tiny window most people didn't
realize was there, hidden well enough that nobody would bother her.
Absently she tugged at her silk gloves, making sure they reached up
under her sleeves, and opened "To Kill a Mockingbird," looking for the
paragraph she remembered that she was sure would prove her essay's thesis.
Pen held in her mouth so it wouldn't roll onto the floor, she flipped
through the book, past the scene where they go to the church, past the
Before she could react, Bobby did exactly what she'd told him not to do
just last week: He swooped in around the pen and kissed her on the cheek.
Like a tractor trailer slamming into her, she was hit by a wave of cold,
as her whole body became attuned to the moisture in the air and
instinctively tried to put up a wall between her and Bobby.
It took all her strength, but she pushed Bobby off her and flung herself
off the chair in the other direction, skidding across the ice that now
coated the floor around them. Bobby lay still, but his chest rose once
while she was watching, so he was still alive.
Her breath was caught in her throat, she wanted to scream, but it
wouldn't come, there was too much, Bobby was there, still there,
memories of his classes of the day, his brother, his elementary school
"What--" someone hollered nearby.
"Help," Marie croaked out.
"Rogue?" Kitty skidded around the corner and nearly fell on the ice. Her
eyes looked like they were going to bug out, but she didn't pause to ask
any stupid questions, just sank through the floor. "I'll bring help,"
she said as she disappeared.
Gasping for breath, Marie pulled herself to her knees, desperate to
check if Bobby was okay, but unwilling to get any closer. She pulled her
scarf closer around herself, whimpering once as chunks of ice flaked off
it and clattered to the ground.
Footsteps pounded down the corridor and through the shelves. "Mind the
ice," Marie heard Kitty holler.
Within moments, a knot of people surrounded Bobby, led by Ms. Munroe.
"Is he okay?" Marie whispered.
Kitty--at the back of the group--turned, nodding slowly. "Yeah, I think
so. Dr. McCoy's on his way, in any case." She focused on Marie, face
scrunching in concern. "How are *you*?" she asked, stepping forward.
Marie fell on her ass trying to push away. "Stay back."
"Rogue, it's okay."
"No. It's not. I told him not to. I told him--" That was when it hit
her: This was really it. That last bit of hope that she'd be one of the
lucky ones whose powers didn't return...gone.
Stumbling to her feet, she said, "I've got to get out of here."
And she ran, as she'd always run from her power. Blindly, she ran
through the halls, automatically avoiding everyone, slamming through the
nearest door and into the woods surrounding the school. Tears blurred
her vision as she tripped and scraped her way deeper and further.
Branches and thorns tore at her hated skin, but she didn't care, hoping
it would all be ripped off.
Her breath was ragged from crying when she finally tripped over a log
and was flung to the ground. Curling into a ball, she rolled against the
nearest tree and cried and cried until she had no more tears left.
Eyes closed, she lay on the ground, wrung out and empty.
It took a long moment before she realized she wasn't alone. Her eyes
flew open, expecting Bobby or Logan.
"Feeling better?" Mr. Summers asked, handing her a wad of tissues
without rising from his seat on the log she'd tripped over.
Speechless and still numb, she automatically took the tissues, wiping
her face and blowing her nose.
He hadn't shaved and looked like he hadn't slept or eaten in a week. He
also didn't look like he was going to try and lecture her about the
wonders of her gifts, so she relaxed.
Mr. Summers wasn't even looking at her, instead he stared down at his
hands and occasionally up at the trees, apparently content to sit there
"How'd you find me?" she asked when the silence grew oppressive.
"Professor Xavier," he said with a lopsided shrug. "His wheelchair
doesn't mix well with oak trees."
She almost smiled, distracted by the image of the Professor trying to
follow her through the woods.
He finally looked at her, the vague look he'd had since Alkali Lake
replaced with the teacher she remembered. "I promise," he said, "that I
will never ever say 'It's not that bad' or 'You'll be fine' or any
similar platitude. I may be the only person here who has a chance of
Marie drew her knees up and rested her forehead on them. Mr. Summers
couldn't ever take off his glasses or he might kill someone. "It's not
the same," she argued feebly.
"No, it's not. And I'm not saying it is." He sounded stern, like when
Bobby and John had screwed around in class one too many times for his
temper. "Pain can't be measured and compared in a test tube. Suffering
can't be weighed on a scale. They..." his voice broke, "just are."
Rubbing her eyes, Marie remembered her last glimpse of Dr. Grey, just
before she'd left the plane. Face grim and set, she still hadn't looked
like a woman about to die, nobody had thought...until it was too late.
Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Mr. Summers, who looked like he
was remembering the same thing. His jaw was clenched so hard, she
expected his teeth to break.
"I miss her too," Marie found herself saying, and she winced.
But Mr. Summers didn't glare. Instead he sighed, rubbing his temples.
"We all do," he said. After a pause, he turned to look at her. "She was
afraid of her powers, you know."
He nodded. "She could tell they were growing, and she didn't know what
would happen. She had the potential, well, you saw her potential. And
she was frightened of what she might do."
Marie watched an ant crawl around her foot as she digested that, trying
to imagine the cool and collected teacher she remembered afraid of
anything. Then she thought about having enough power in her body to hold
back all the water from a broken dam, while repairing and lifting a jet
full of people. She shuddered.
"Believe me, Rogue, we will never stop trying to find a way for you to
control your powers. Without Jean," his voice held, barely, "it will be
more difficult, but we will try."
Marie felt the tears trying to flow again and she swallowed a few times,
scrubbing at her eyes. "It's just so hard, I have to worry all the time
about touching someone, hurting someone. Knowing it might never go away."
Two birds dove through the trees, chirruping madly as they chased each
other around and around. Marie took a deep breath. "What do I do now?"
"Go on." Mr. Summers shrugged. "What else can you do? Other than run
"You did." She turned an accusing glare on him. "Logan told me you left
just before Magneto showed up and attacked Alcatraz."
He smiled slightly, a twitch of the lips. "I never said I was perfect.
And I did come back. If I promise to stay this time, will you stay?"
She studied him. "Only if you promise to shave. And eat dinner."
Mr. Summers choked on a real laugh. "I promise."
Marie nodded. "Then I'll stay."
"It's a deal?" He held out his hand, the set of his jaw saying he knew
exactly what that meant to her.
She hesitated, tugging at her glove several times to make sure the palm
hadn't gotten ripped in her run before she slowly took his hand. "It's a
* * * * *
The TV was blaring American Idol when Marie leaned her head in, and a
dozen of the older students sprawled across the floor heckling. Nobody
noticed her, which gave her a chance to scope things out and tuck her
scarf more firmly around her neck.
Bobby was on the floor, leaning against the corner of the couch, pelting
Peter with popcorn. Although she couldn't see his face, his laughter was
obvious as Peter tried and tried to ignore him.
She took a deep breath, stilled her hands, and walked rather unsteadily
toward him. Peter noticed her first, smiling at her with obvious
approval. She nodded to him as Kitty looked up from the crossword puzzle
she was doing on the floor at his feet.
Kitty looked briefly startled, but almost immediately grinned broadly
and waved a hand in greeting.
That got everyone else's attention as Marie came around to the front of
the sofa and conversation came to a halt as she stood next to Bobby.
"Hi," she said, focusing on keeping her voice even as she looked down at
"Hi," he said. "Come to watch with us?"
She smiled. "Only if you promise not to sing along."
Jubes snickered. "She's got a point there, Icepop."
Bobby threw a handful of popcorn at Jubes and she blew most of the
kernels up with her sparklers. Rogue took another breath and slid down
to the floor next to Bobby. He grabbed her hand and tugged her closer
without saying anything.
With the greatest of care, she scooted next to him and put her head on
his shoulder. After a moment of silence, Peter said, "So, explain to me
again why these people are willing to humiliate themselves on national
Jubes and Angelo groaned. "See, it's like this," Jubes said. "They think
Marie chuckled and tuned out the continuing debate, which she'd heard at
least three times. Bobby rubbed her shoulder with his right hand and
continued pelting Peter with popcorn with his left.
Okay, Marie thought, maybe I can do this. She rubbed her cheek against
Bobby's shirt and he hugged her closer. Even through the layers of
clothing, she could feel the warmth of his body and it was enough.
Enough for now.