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Stories by Alara Rogers

"And After the Battle"
As the X-Men celebrate their victory over the Phalanx, Joseph stands in the background, observing the woman who at one time helped him find acceptance with the X-Men.

"The Damned Have No Right to Weep"
A companion piece to Melodist's "Innocent Hearts, Guilty Memories" series, told from the point of view of the man who killed the X-Men.

"A Death in New Orleans"
Annoyed by the inconsistencies in Rogue's backstory, Alara constructs a tale with her own version of how Rogue came to be with Mystique and Destiny.

Sometime betwen UXM #196 & 199. Kitty Pryde and Magneto discuss old habits and rye bread.

"The Mother of All Retcons"
When Polaris and Havok have a baby, the Summers family tree gets a whole lot more complicated.


Websites: Shifting-Sands, Alara's Now Rather Spiffy Magneto Page, Alara's Mystique Page, Chuck Amuck!, Cyphered Text, Crossroads X and Alara's Happy Happy Text-Only Site

Hey, everybody, it's an Alara story with no Magneto in it! No, not even a tiny baby Magneto! :-)
I wrote this story four years ago, back when I was actually buying the comics and not flipping through them in stores because they suck too much to buy. Back in those days,nothing had yet been revealed about how Rogue met up with Mystique. Since then, the studded boots of canon have stomped all over my little story, and I had retired it.
It occurs to me, though, that if we can have alternate universes galore here, we can certainly have an alternate history of Rogue. Besides, a person does not take up calling a woman Momma if she meets her when she's an adolescent. That's very poor psychology on someone's part. Finally, no one likes XMU #4 anyway. :-)
So here we go. Despite the title, Gambit is not in this story, so don't worry that the death refers to him. As usual, anyone can archive if they just write and tell me they're doing it.

a story based on Marvel's X-Men

Jessamy glanced into the back seat, where her five-year-old daughter Henrietta was curled up asleep. They were supposed to look innocent and peaceful when they slept, she thought; they were supposed to look like they hadn't a care in the world. But Ettie was curled into a tight, painful-looking ball, her eyes scrunched shut and fists wound tightly in the car blanket covering her. The strain showed even when she slept. Poor kid, she'd had nothing to eat in three days but sandwiches and greasy burgers, and little enough of that. It was hardly her fault that her mother was a monster, running for her life.

Tears stung Jessamy's eyes. She had tried so hard to control the hunger, had starved herself the six years she'd been married to Richard, feeding only from him and only in tiny quantities. She hadn't had a kill in years. And then one moment of carelessness, of lost self-control, and now a man was dead and her beloved husband was hunting her down with intent to kill. Monster, he'd called her. Vampire. Witch.

Jessamy didn't feel like a monster. She felt like a very tired mother, a woman who had been driving for three days without sleep to protect herself and her daughter. Richard had connections. Jessamy had changed cars three times on the journey, had doubled around and taken unnecessary detours of three or four hours more than once, and still she wasn't certain she had lost him.

If it were only her own life Richard wanted, Jessamy might have given herself up. She was a killer, after all, a creature who needed the life force of other people to survive,and the fact that she could go without killing made her only more monstrous for the murders she had committed anyway. But even monsters loved their children. Richard wanted Ettie dead as well, and Jessamy would do anything to protect her daughter.

So here she was on the road to New Orleans, back to the beginning again... she'd grownup in Louisiana, though nowhere near Orleans or any other city, before she'd moved to Oregon to be with Richard. There was a woman in New Orleans with connections of her own, a fellow mutant who had offered to protect her in exchange for services rendered. Jessamy had no illusions. The services rendered would probably include assassination for hire;Mystique was a criminal by her own admission, and it wasn't too difficult to imagine what a criminal would hire a woman who could kill with a touch for. But that was all right; she was damned a hundred times over for the deaths she had already caused. If by causing more deaths she could save her daughter, she would do it.

In the back, Ettie stirred. "Momma, are we there yet?"

"Not yet, honey. Soon."

"I'm hungry."

So was Jessamy. She hadn't been able to stomach food since they left, and she hadn't fed in any other way either since the kill four days ago. Normally a kill would last her,but she hadn't slept or eaten since. All the energy was drained out of her. "Go to sleep. When you wake up in the morning, we'll have us a real nice breakfast at a good restaurant, and then we can stay at a nice hotel and you can swim in the pool and play with other kids..." She realized she was babbling, and fell silent.

"Where's Poppa now?"

"I don't know."

"Is he in heaven?"

Jessamy wished. It would have been a lot simpler if she'd been able to kill Richard."No, he's not in heaven."

"Why does he want us to go to heaven?"

Actually Richard wanted them in hell, but Jessamy wasn't going to argue the point."He thinks we're bad because we're mutants. He thinks all mutants should be dead and us 'specially."

"I don't want to be dead, Momma."

"I don't wan' you be dead either, Ettie. I'm not goin' let Poppa get you. We're goin' meet a lady tomorrow morning who'll give Momma a job and protect us both. Okay? Now go to sleep."

"I'm hungry."

Jessamy sighed. "You eat all the Ritz crackers?"


"Then I'm sorry. It's late at night. There isn't goin' be anyplace open." She fished her purse off the floor under the passenger seat and tossed it into the back."See if I got any mints left. You can have 'em if you find some."

"Thanks, Momma." Ettie began rummaging through Jessamy's purse.

The talk of food had reminded Jessamy of her own needs. If she didn't get some energy soon, she was going to fall asleep at the wheel-- or worse, attack Ettie. Jessamy had never fed from her daughter before and didn't intend to start. She exited the interstate and began driving through the town on the other side of the exit, looking for a population center that would still be inhabited at 2 AM. "I'm goin' try to find us a place to eat, okay, honey?"

"Okay. 'Cause you don't have any mints." The contents of Jessamy's purse were now strewn all over the back seat.

"Put all the stuff you took out of my purse back." The lights of a 24-hour truck stop shone ahead. "Stay in the car, Henrietta. I'm goin' in and get us some food."

"I want waffles."

"They don't have waffles.You wan' a hot dog?"

"I'm sick of hot dogs. I want a waffle."

Jessamy sighed. "I'll try to get you a waffle. If they don't have 'em, you eat what I get you. Fair?"


Jessamy got out of the car and headed for the truck stop. There were two truckers there, grimy men who ogled her as she came into the restaurant. The waitress looked fifty and weary as time. "Kin Ah help you?"

Unconsciously Jessamy slid back to the accent of her youth. "Kin Ah git th' waffles take-out?"

"Sure can't, hon, not less'n you want 'em without a plate t'carry 'em on."

"Ah'll git a burger then. An' onion rings with that." Ettie liked onionrings. "Ah don't need a plate if you kin jus' wrap 'em up in paper for me."

"It'll be $2.95. Anythin' to drink with that?"

"No thanks, ma'am."

"Set down an' wait. It'll be a few minutes."

Instead of sitting down, she walked over to one of the truckers. The two were seated separately, and there were two trucks in the parking lot. "Ah'm sorry to bother you,mister, but after you finish your meal, do you think you could look at mah car? It's been soundin' real funny and Ah got to make it to New Orleans by mornin'."

"Well, sure, ma'am. Always glad to help a lady out. What's the trouble?"

"Sounds like somethin' rattlin' round in mah engine. Ah don't know the first thing 'bout cars, but if you would..."

"Just let me finish up here, and I'll take a look at it."

Jessamy filled up her thermos bottle at the water fountain in back and walked back to the counter. The hamburger and onion rings arrived. She took them outside and handed them to Ettie in the car.

"I wanted a waffle, Momma." "We'll have waffles tomorrow. for breakfast. I gotta go back in, Ettie. Stay in the car."

The trucker was finishing his meal as she came back in. "Okay, ma'am. I can take a look at your car."

"Thanks. Ah don't know what Ah'd do if Ah ended up breakin' down on the interstate."

Rather than lead him to the car where Ettie waited, she led him around the side of the building, where the windows stopped and the people inside wouldn't see. He looked around,puzzled. "Ma'am, where'd you say your car..."

He never finished. Skin to skin, flesh to flesh, Jessamy grasped his face with her hands and pulled. The circuit established, energy flowed from him to her. He was paralyzed rigid as Jessamy sucked his life force into herself, feeling the dull ache of exhaustion wash away in his warmth.

Through force of will, she tore herself away before the kill. The trucker's lifelight was dim but steady, not flickering. He would live. With speed no longer human, Jessamy run back to the car, climbed inside, and started the engine.

"Was that a bad man?" Ettie asked.

Startled, Jessamy hit the gas harder than she meant to, and the tires screeched as they lurched forward. "Was who a bad man?"

"The man you made go to sleep. Was he bad?"

How could she answer that question? No, he wasn't bad-- he was a devoted husband and father with a little girl two years older than Ettie, well-liked by the guys in his hometown and kind to his old mother. He just happened to be convenient when Jessamy needed to steal some life energy. "Yes, he was bad, Ettie. He wanted to make me go away with him." He had wanted it, in a way-- Jessamy knew he had offered to help because he thought her attractive, and on a deep level had fantasized about her a bit-- but it hadn't been an active desire, nothing he could prevent. On the other hand, it wouldn't be the first time she'd lied to Ettie.

"Oh. I'm glad you made him go to sleep, then."

They got back onto the interstate. NEW ORLEANS 62 MILES, a sign said. Only another hour, and they would be home free.

At 10 AM, after a few fitful hours' sleep in an expensive hotel, Jessamy and her daughter headed downstairs to the hotel restaurant. A tall, elegant-looking woman with curly black hair met them inside. "Hello, Psychophage? I'm Mystique. Pleased to meet you." She put out her hand.

Jessamy took it and shook it, noting that either Mystique had the female equivalent of cast-iron balls, or she was careless as hell-- she knew that Jessamy could drain her through the flesh-to- flesh contact of their handshake, and she had offered to shake anyway. Perhaps a gesture of trust, or a statement of invulnerability-- or perhaps she just hadn't thought. There was no way to tell at this point. "I take it you've set up someplace private to talk?"

"Certainly. Is this your daughter?"

"Yes. This is Rogue. Rogue, this is Mystique. She's going to help us." Ettie had wanted her code name to be Robin Hood. Jessamy thought calling her something that shortened to Robin was a terrible idea, and got her to compromise on Rogue, telling her that Robin Hood was a rogue, and a rogue was a dashing adventurer who lived outside the law. As they all were forced to, now, but she hadn't said that. Ettie had decided she liked the name and agreed to it-- Jessamy didn't want Mystique knowing Ettie's real name,or even nickname, until she was sure she could trust the woman. After all, Mystique hadn't given her real name.

"What a beautiful child," Mystique said. "You take after your mother,Rogue."

"Momma's prettier," Ettie said solemnly. Mystique laughed.

"Come on. Let's get you two some breakfast."

They headed for a private corner table in the back, shielded by wooden lattices on either side. A woman with sunglasses and graying blonde hair nodded at them as they entered. "Psychophage and her daughter Rogue, I take it. I'm Destiny. Welcome."

Jessamy went cold. "How did you know my daughter's name?"

"I see the future," Destiny said calmly. "I saw the moment you would tell Mystique Rogue's name, over a year ago. It was a moment of great significance."

"Significance? How?"

"I'm sorry... I can't explain now. It'll all come clear soon."

"Destiny, our guests aren't here to listen to vague oracular pronouncements,"Mystique said, with some impatience. "If you can't tell them anything concrete, don't tell them anything."

Destiny smiled sadly. "As you say, Mystique."

A waiter came around the wooden lattice to take their orders. Ettie, predictably,wanted waffles. Jessamy still wasn't very hungry, but thought she should force something down, to shift her metabolism back to a food-based one, so she ordered as well. The other two women placed their orders, and the waiter left. Mystique leaned forward.

"Rogue, do you know what a mutant is?"

"It's a lady with special powers. Like Momma has, and I'm gonna someday too."

"It doesn't have to be a lady," Mystique said. "Men can be mutants, too.But you're right, it does mean special powers. I, for instance, can do this--" and her face seemed to blur. Jessamy's own face looked back at her and Ettie from Mystique's chair.

"My God," Jessamy whispered.

"Oh, wow! You look just like Momma! Can you do me?"

"I could, but you're too young. It would hurt me to do you. This--" and she blurred again, reforming as a woman with red hair, blue skin and iridescent gold orbs in place of eyes-- "is what I really look like. I tell you this so you can understand at the beginning why you need to keep everything we say here absolutely secret. If normal humans were to see us--"

"They'd want to make us dead," Ettie interrupted. "Like Poppa does." Her eyes grew bright with tears.

Jessamy put a protective arm around her daughter. "Enough of the games,Mystique," she said. "Rogue understands keeping secrets perfectly well.'Specially mutant secrets."

"All right." Mystique leaned back. "No more games, Psychophage. I believe that the time is coming when mutants will 'come out of the closet', so to speak,like the homosexuals did a few years ago at that bar in New York. Mutants will stop keeping themselves in such terrible secrecy-- but the price we'll pay for our openness will be awfully high. Humans, realizing the threat mutants represent, will try to destroy us-- and they'll have force of numbers. The only chance we'll have is to prepare for war long in advance, so when it finally comes, we'll be able to strike the first blow."

"What makes you think mutants are coming out of the closet? I kept my secret all my life." Until five days ago.

"More mutants are being born, and are transmitting their mutation. Neither of my parents were mutants, but my son was. According to you, neither of your parents were mutants, but your daughter will be one-- and not that I'm disputing you, but how can you tell?"

"Mutants feel different," Jessamy said. "When I drink people, I can touch their minds-- read their memories like I'm them for a second. Mutants feel different, even when I don't drink them-- even if I just touch them. It's almost like a smell. Or a glow. I can't explain it in human terms-- but I've drunk four or five mutants who knew what they were, and I've learned to tell the difference. I'd never drink Rogue,but I can taste that she's a mutant. Goin' be a strong one, too."

"You can sense relative power levels, too? That's very useful. We could use you to help recruit mutants to our cause."

"You haven't answered my question. So maybe there's more mutants around nowadays--why do you think they're goin' start bein' open about bein' mutants?"

"That's actually me," Destiny said. "The far future is vague-- there are too many different timelines to see any one thing clearly, and there's no such thing as binoculars for the mind's eye." She smiled, then sobered. "Every timeline I can perceive shows me that soon, mutants will become public. As time continues, more and more mutants will be born, spawned of the chemicals in our food and the atomic fires we awakened in the nineteen-forties. It will come to a point where mutants cannot hide--there will be too many, too obvious. And in some possible futures, humanity will slaughter us any way they can, fearing what we represent."

"I presume there're some futures where they don't, or this conversation'd be utterly pointless."

"Even when one can see a fate clearly, it's hard to know what's pointless," Destiny said.

"My point," Mystique said, "is that we need to be prepared. You've already learned the hard way what happens when mutants are revealed. I've been working my way into a position of trust at a government agency-- by the time war comes, I plan to be a highly placed spy for mutantkind. But I need a network of agents. My own powers lend themselves to subterfuge and espionage-- I need people who can handle less subtle work."

"Mystique, the waiter," Destiny warned.

Mystique turned back into the woman with curly black hair as the food arrived. No business was discussed as the four female mutants dug in. Destiny asked Rogue a few questions about the kinds of games she liked to play. After the meal was done, Destiny stood up. "Rogue, I'd like to go outside and sit in the sun. Would you like to come with me? There's a nice playground here, and I could use a pair of eyes to guide me."

Ettie's eyes went wide. "You're blind, aren't you? Did humans do that?"

"No, dear. I was born this way. And yes, I'm blind. Could you help guide me to a bench outside?"

"Sure. Can I, Momma?"

Jessamy understood why Destiny was doing this, and nodded. "Go on, Rogue. You can play on the swing set if you promise to be careful."

"I will, Momma! Come on, Destiny!"

"You can call me Irenie," Destiny said, as the two left.

Jessamy looked over at Mystique. "So now that my daughter won't hear. You want me to be your assassin, don't you?"

"You need life energy. I need people killed tracelessly. It seems like a fair trade to me."

"Not hardly, actually. I'd take the life energy anyway. You're payin' me money and givin' me protection for doin' somethin' I can hardly stop myself from doin'. What's in it for you?"

"It's not an effort for me to pay your salary, Psychophage. I've got money. The protection is so you kill who I need killed and not whoever's most convenient. Also, you said that after you feed you get extra speed and strength?"

"Depends on how much I take. Right after a kill, I could lift a car... or outrun a deer."

"I might need someone like you as a bodyguard. Certainly there'll be mutants more powerful than you, but against normal human beings you're pretty formidable. And,something I didn't know before, you can tell a mutant by touching them. I can think of a lot of uses for that."

"I can't outrun a bullet."

"I know." Mystique sipped at her coffee. "Why didn't you just kill your husband?"

Jessamy squirmed. She had asked herself the same thing. If she had only killed Richard,she wouldn't need protection -- deaths by energy loss always looked like heart attacks,strokes, pernicious anemia or something else natural. Richard would be stopped, and no one else would know she was a mutant, or a killer. And Ettie would be safe. But... "I don't know, Mystique. Part of me still loves him, I guess. If he showed up in my face now,I might kill him-- or I might just run. If he threatened Rogue, I would kill him. But at the time... it seemed like it would be better if I just ran away."

"If you see him again, kill him." With her irisless, pupiless golden eyes, it was almost impossible to tell where Mystique was looking, or what she was thinking.Jessamy wondered how she saw anything, and how she would know to turn back to human before the check came, now that Destiny wasn't here to warn her. "I've done some investigating. Your husband works for the FBI."


"I can't match those kind of resources yet. If he turns you in, I'll have to get you out of the country, and I need you here. So far, he hasn't turned you in-- he probably considers you his own personal demon, not something he can afford to let others deal with.But the safest way to make sure is to kill him."

"I will. If I see him again."

"And I'll track him down and kill him myself if you don't. He's too dangerous to let live." Mystique shifted back to human form just in time as the waiter arrived with the check. "Let's go pick up your daughter."

Ettie apparently liked Destiny, who she called Irenie and Destiny in about equal portions, a great deal. She said that Destiny knew that her name was Henrietta, but that Destiny said Rogue was a pretty name and so she was going to keep calling Ettie that.Ettie had thus decided that she liked to be called Rogue a lot. It was just as well.Jessamy was probably going to have to change her own name and Ettie's anyway, and if Ettie could get used to a name like Rogue, she could get used to a new real name as well.

They headed up to their hotel room, leaving Mystique and Destiny behind. "Can I go swimming, Momma? Destiny and I saw the pool-- well, I saw it, Irenie didn't see it 'cause she's blind, but we went there-- and it was huge! And there were lots of kids playing in it, and I wanna go swimming too."

"Sure. We brought bathing suits, and it's been half an hour since breakfast. We an go swimmin' if you wan'." The maid had been to the bedroom already; the beds we remade and the carpet had been vacuumed. "Get your bathin' suit out of the bag. I'm goin' take a shower."

"Okay." Ettie began rummaging through the bag, dumping most of the clothes on the floor. Jessamy sighed. She'd pick it up later.

After three days' straight driving, her body felt grungy. She hadn't had time this morning to do more than wash her face and arms for the meeting with Mystique. Now she sudsed her hair and luxuriated in the joy of having a chance to shower again. It felt as if she were washing away her old life with the dirt.

Ettie screamed. "Momma! It's Poppa!"

Jessamy was out the bathroom door, naked, with dripping wet hair, in seconds. Richard stood in the door of the hotel room, holding Ettie in a headlock with one hand. In the other he held a gun. "Nice long chase, Jessamy."

"Richard-- Richard, let her go, it's me you wan'--"

"Not even going to ask how I found you?" He smiled ferally. "You made your reservations under one of your old pseudonyms. I had you investigated before I married you-- you think I didn't know your old names?"

Oh God-- Oh God, she hadn't even thought-- "Richard, please. Ettie's innocent.She hasn't done anything."

"Not yet. Bet you hadn't killed anyone when you were five, either." He shook his head. "For what it's worth, Jessamy, I'm sorry about her at least. It wasn't her choice to be born a monster. I guess it wasn't yours either. But hell, it isn't a dog's choice to get rabies, and you've got to put it down anyway because it's too dangerous.That's what you and Ettie are. Rabid dogs." He stepped into the room, still holding Ettie and the gun, and shut the door behind him. Jessamy backed up.

"It was my choice," Jessamy said. "I could have not killed. Ettie doesn't have to kill. Not all mutants do. Just me. She isn't going to have my powers,Richard, she'll have something different. Something so she doesn't have to kill. Please! She's your daughter!"

"She's not human, Jessamy," Richard said quietly.

Jessamy lunged at him. The bullet caught her in the chest and flung her back in a wash of pain. Distantly she noted that the gunshot was much quieter than she'd thought it would be-- a silencer? Of course, if he was going to kill a woman and child in their hotel room,he'd need a gun with a silencer.

With pain-hazed eyes, Jessamy saw the door slam open behind Richard, hitting him in the back. He spun to face a policeman with a leveled gun. "Freeze, mister!"

Richard released Ettie and raised his hands, dropping his gun. The policeman motioned for Ettie to move away from Richard. Ettie did so-- toward the policeman. Blocking his line of fire for a crucial second.

In that second, Richard moved. He twisted and kicked the policeman's arm, so the policeman's gun flew off in the opposite direction, and then kicked the policeman in the crotch. The policeman staggered backward but did not gasp. Richard ducked down and recovered the gun, bringing it up to aim at Ettie, who was frozen behind the policeman,eyes wide and terrified.

As Richard moved, Jessamy did as well. Agony shrieked through her as she used all of her energy to force herself to her feet, and run to Richard. And as Richard leveled the gun on Ettie, Jessamy wrapped arms around him from behind, grasping his face and draining his life force.

The policeman became Mystique, who gathered Ettie to her. "Don't watch,Rogue," Jessamy heard Mystique whisper as Richard's life force roared into her."Don't watch."

Richard's mind was an open book to Jessamy-- his terror, his resolve. She knew what he was going to do, but could not tear herself away from her feeding to stop him as he used a supreme effort of will to overcome the paralysis, turn his body slightly, and fire the gunpoint-blank into her chest.

Jessamy staggered backward, falling. Grimly she fixed her eyes on Richard. His lifeforce kept her going when she should have been dead already. With inhuman endurance, she staggered toward him again. Too weak to run, Richard lifted the gun again-- and Mystique,behind him, reached down and yanked it out of his hand. He looked up at Mystique's mutant form and back at Jessamy's blood-streaked one with despair and horror in his eyes. Then Jessamy reached him again.

His death was sweet. She felt his terror and pain and savored it, drinking him ruthlessly, tearing his life force out of him and reveling in the sensation of his death.

As the energy flow stopped, she returned to herself. Mystique was standing up, holding Ettie pressed to her chest. Ettie was sobbing. The gun was nowhere visible.

"Mystique," Jessamy began, voicelessly-- she had no breath. "I--"Then the weakness hit and she pitched over backward.

Mystique dropped Ettie, lunged forward and caught her, and lowered her gently onto the floor. "Don't talk," Mystique said. "I'll get a doctor."

"A doctor?" Jessamy whispered, and would have laughed if she could. There was a huge gaping hole where most of her chest used to be. No lungs, no heart-- nothing but blood pouring out everywhere. The only thing keeping her brain functioning was the lifeforce she'd absorbed from Richard, and that was leaking out with the blood. "Can't--live. No way."

Mystique was pressing a blanket against her chest. "I'll bandage you-- you won't lose any more blood--"

"Mystique." A harsh croak. "Don't fool yourself... ain't foolin'"

"Momma?" Ettie's voice trembled with sobs. "Are you-- are you gonna go to heaven?"

Jessamy doubted it. Killers went to hell. "'Yeah," she whispered."Poppa... killed me. Just like... ah did... him."

Ettie screamed. "Don't die! Momma, don't die! Don't die!" She flung herself across the blanket and Jessamy's chest, pressing down. If Jessamy could still breathe,could still feel pain, it might be uncomfortable. She could barely feel her daughter's weight at all through the cold enveloping her.

"Can't... help it... Ettie." She looked up at Mystique. "Mah daughter..."

"I made you a promise. I failed you," Mystique whispered. "I said I'd protect you..."

"Take... mah daughter. She needs... a mutant momma. Someone... t'understand...when the powers come in. Please."

Mystique shook her head. "I-- I can't raise a child, Psychophage-- I abandoned my own son, I'd never make a good mother--"

"Mah name's... Jessamy. You owe... me, Mystique. You gotta."

"My name's Raven," Mystique whispered. "I'll find her a good home, I promise--"

"No. You. She needs... protector... a mutant momma... with connections... please,Raven..."

Mystique nodded, the golden eyes glistening with unshed tears. "All right,Jessamy. I'll raise her as my own. Better than my own."


"Your momma wants to talk to you, Rogue," Mystique whispered.

Ettie looked up with a blotchy, tear-streaked face. "Momma?"

"Mystique's... goin' be... your momma now... okay? You mind her... like you would me..."

"I don't want Mystique to be my momma! I want you!"

"Ah'm dead, Ettie..." Jessamy could no longer hear any sound from her own lips. She spoke, but the ruined remains of her lungs couldn't give her a voice, and her vision was growing dimmer and dimmer. "Ah can't stay... you mind Mystique, you hear?Promise me?"

"I promise, I promise, Momma..."

"Love you... Ettie..."

Ettie sat staring at her mother's mouth, waiting expectantly for another message. None came. After a moment Mystique reached out and gently closed Jessamy's eyes.

"Momma!" Ettie screamed, clinging to the body and sobbing.

Mystique moved her legs so she could pull the cooling body and the little girl both onto her lap. After a moment, Ettie released her dead mother and clung to Mystique instead, sobbing heartbrokenly. Mystique held her and rocked her, tears stinging her own eyes.

Why hadn't Irenie warned her earlier? If she'd gone up to the room before Jessamy had been shot, before Richard had even arrived, couldn't she have prevented all this?... or would that have ended in her death? Irenie was a sweet, gentle woman, but with a core of ruthlessness-- if it was a choice between the death of a stranger and possible harm to Mystique, she would choose the death of a dozen strangers rather than let harm befall her best friend and lover. If Irenie had chosen not to tell her of Psychophage's danger until it was too late, it was probably because she sensed that doing it any other way would result in harm to Mystique. So Mystique was left unhurt, and a five-year-old girl was made an orphan.

She thought of the son her fragile sanity hadn't let her raise, left with a gypsy woman in Germany, and vowed it would be different this time. Psychophage-- Jessamy-- had been someone she barely knew, a killer whose death should hardly bother Mystique... but holding the dead assassin's daughter in her arms, her heart nearly broke for Jessamy's death. Rogue will grow up in a world where mutants aren't murdered by their loved ones in front of their children. I promise you that, Jessamy. Whatever it takes, I promise you that.

Mystique, Rogue and Destiny are copyright Marvel Comics Group.Psychophage/Jessamy copyright Alara Rogers. The name Henrietta (Ettie) for Rogue's original name was invented by Alara Rogers and almost certainly bears no resemblance to whatever her original name actually is in the comics.


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