Stories by Latex
"Ain't Nothin' Like Regret"
Not long after the death of Colossus, Wolverine and Rogue run into a ghost from Logan's past.
After the trauma of Inferno, Rogue and Havok commiserate on the failures in
After breaking up with Rogue and sleeping with Marrow, Gambit must face both
women's wrath when Marrow learns the truth about the Mutant Massacre.
Price of Coffee"
Beast, Iceman, Rogue and Mystique battle the Sentinels at Starbucks.
Disclaimer: The X-men, as if often
the case, belong to Marvel and not to me. I'm using them without
permission but, given the fact that I'm making no money from
this and that imitation is, they say, the sincerest form of
flattery, suing me would be both financially unrewarding and
petty. This story takes place shortly after the Inferno
storyline and is set somewhere between UXM #s 243 and 244
(although after X-Factor #39). Precisely where, I'll
leave up to you J . Feedback of any nature, so long as it's
constructive, is welcome and actively craved, and should be
sent to Latex1@tinyonline.co.uk.
Rogue sat, legs pulled up and arms wrapped around them, chin
resting on knees, and looked out from the hilltop as the dawn
spread its gentle fire over the horizon, the rosy light washing
across the land and creating a warm glow around the edges
of the buildings of the remote, ramshackle town in the Australian
Outback that the X-Men were calling home. This was a preternaturally
calm and still time of the day, cool but not uncomfortably
so, although within a few hours the heat would become oppressive.
Rogue had half expected to find Gateway there, the old Aborigine
keeping his customary silent vigil over the town and the X-Men,
but had found the hilltop deserted when she'd arrived. Not
that she was unhappy about that, as she'd come there to be
alone, but Gateway had been there long before any of them
and she could hardly expect to have a greater claim on the
land or that time than him.
If she were being honest, she'd come there not so much to
be alone as to think, to brood. Right at that moment, though,
she was content to observe the sunrise, allowing her subconscious
to order her thoughts and feelings while her eyes took in
the majesty of the dawn's illumination of the vista laid out
before her from her vantage point on the mountain. As the
growing light brought contrast to the world, at once illuminating
and adumbrating, Rogue's eyes took in the town, settling briefly
on the basketball court, peopled with the ghosts of memory.
Improvisation had been the watchword for the X-Men's time
here, used as they were to the comforts of the mansion in
Westchester and the luxury of the Danger Room (although more
than one would have debated the applicability of that particular
term) and it had been Logan's idea to utilise the court not
only for recreational purposes but also to help Peter refine
his control and his fine motor skills, trapped as he was in
his metal form. Peter's ability to judge his own strength
had improved considerably since they'd first started the games,
and they lost far fewer balls to his enthusiasm, although
the road to control had been arduous and one littered with
the corpses of basketballs which had literally exploded when
Peter's zeal met the court's surface with devastating results.
In her mind's eye she could see Longshot bounding about the
court, sailing through the air with an almost peerless grace
matched only by the simple and unadulterated joy he took from
the game, scoring basket after basket but happy just to be
playing, victory or defeat being of little consequence. There
had been little enough joy in the X-Men's lives of late, adulterated
or otherwise, so even those brief moments of carefree activity
were to be cherished, where nothing more than a few beers
were at stake and a mistake might not cost a teammate his
or her life. Recently it seemed as though life had been nothing
but a succession of battles against various foes, one blurring
into the next. The Reavers, the Brood, Genosha, Inferno, one
trial after another for the team to endure both individually
and collectively, with no time in between the separate events
to catch their breath, lick their wounds, or be anything other
than mutant superheroes, feared and hated by the world they
would die to protect but never seemed to be part of.
Thoughts of Longshot inevitably became thoughts of Longshot
and Alison, prompting something not entirely unlike jealousy.
When Alison had first joined the X-Men, more out of necessity
and a sense of self-preservation than any genuine desire,
there had been a considerable degree of awkwardness between
the two women as a result of their prior history of enmity
when Rogue had been part of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants
under the leadership of her foster mother, Mystique (not that
any of them had genuinely considered themselves evil, the
name was merely a dig at the perceptions of the world at large
and, ironically, the X-Men in particular). Over time, they'd
worked through that, becoming teammates if not exactly friends,
but Rogue could not suppress a twinge of envy at Alison's
relationship with Longshot, a relationship she could never
have -- with Longshot or anyone -- because of her uncontrollable
ability to absorb others' abilities and personalities merely
by skin-to-skin contact. Not that Longshot had the faintest
idea of the competition between the two for his affection,
of course; he went through life blithely oblivious to such
nuances, taking everything at face value with an innocence
that would have been exasperating had it not been so endearing.
It was merely that Rogue had not felt this attracted to anyone
for a long time, and the fact that she could do nothing about
it even if Longshot were available just brought home to her
once again how isolated her powers made her. Most of the time,
she took it almost for granted, avoiding physical contact
having become second nature over the years, but every so often
she was reminded -- hard -- of her enforced loneliness. More
worrying was the fact that Carol Danvers, for so long relegated
to Rogue's subconscious, had begun to make her presence felt
more forcefully, especially since the incident in Genosha.
Logan and Rogue had been stripped of their powers and Rogue's
helplessness exploited by a group of Magistrates, the unaccustomed
sense of powerlessness and the accompanying panic forcing
her to retreat deep inside herself and allowing Carol to take
control of the body they shared.
Rogue had thought that after all the years since she'd accidentally
absorbed Carol's psyche permanently, and the guilt she'd carried
around with her for that mistake which effectively cost another
person their life, a balance had been reached, but Genosha
had upset that obviously precarious balance and Inferno had
reopened the wounds. Carol's voice was becoming louder, more
insistent in her head, and harder to ignore. Rogue feared
that, should she allow Carol freedom, in so doing she would
lose herself. More worrying still, there was really no-one
she could talk to about her concerns, as so many of the X-Men
had known Carol and considered her a friend, Logan especially,
and she feared she would receive little sympathy, that they
would blame her as she blamed herself, leaving her feeling
even more isolated and friendless.
Inferno had affected them all to a greater or lesser extent,
all with the exception of Peter whose physical form made him
more-or-less impervious to magic; they were all just dealing
with it in different ways. Logan and Ororo seemed least affected,
mainly she suspected because they'd already come to terms
with the darker sides of their natures. In that sense Longshot
had been the most profoundly changed, feeling himself tainted
-- maybe for good -- by the malevolent forces and demons behind
the spell. Still, he had the support of the team, and was
not inclined to hide his feelings, his natural openness ensuring
that his emotional needs would not go unrecognised.
Rogue's eyes and attention were drawn from thoughts of Longshot
to the motion of an object at the edge of her vision. Turning
her head slightly, she focused and realised that it was Alex,
out for a run, taking the opportunity before the sun rose
too high. That, however, was only part of the reason. Alex,
like Rogue, had been unable to sleep, and sought to exorcise
his emotional problems through exercising his body, pushing
ever harder and punishing himself for all the transgressions,
all the failures real and imagined, whose weight he took on
his shoulders. Madelyne's death weighed heavily upon him,
but he wasn't talking about it and, when Alison had tried
to broach the subject, he'd clammed up completely. Rogue watched
as he drew nearer to the outskirts of the town, the light
growing with every pace and Alex himself glowing both from
the exertion and the corona lent him by the rising sun.
Brooding was getting her nowhere, Rogue decided: she couldn't
even concentrate sufficiently to do that. Not entirely certain
whether she was doing the right thing, or what kind of reception
she'd get, but knowing only that she couldn't stay on the
mountain forever, Rogue stood. She stretched, working the
kinks out of her spine and hearing that vaguely disturbing
popping sound from her joints and tendons and, fixing her
gaze on Alex once more, lifted gently off the cliff and headed
through the air toward her teammate, leaving only a small
puff of dust to swirl and settle in her wake.
Some sixth sense warned Alex of Rogue's approach, although
the passage of her body through the air made next to no sound
as she was not travelling that swiftly. Without breaking stride,
he turned his head to see what had intruded on his focused
solitude. Raising his hand in acknowledgement, he continued
to run. Rogue was too far away to see his expression, and
couldn't be sure if he genuinely welcomed her presence or
whether he was merely being polite.
Nevertheless, he slowed as she neared, although it was as
much because he'd reached the town proper as because of her.
She touched down a short distance from him and walked toward
him as he stood, hands on hips, breathing deeply and raggedly,
head turned slightly to survey the horizon as the sunlight
seeped into the world.
"Rogue," he panted, returning the greeting.
"You're up early." Obvious, but an opening conversational
gambit rather than an attempt to impart information. He nodded.
"Best time of the day for a run, now or sunset. At least
at this time, you don't have to worry about losing the light."
Rogue wasn't quite certain whether that was meant as some
oblique metaphor or not, so she took the statement at face
value. "What brings you here?" he continued.
"Couldn't sleep. Y'know, when your brain just won't shut
off an' all the thoughts're whirlin' round your head?"
"I know." He paused. "So, what's on your mind?"
"Guess Ah'm just feelin' sorry for myself." She smiled self-consciously.
"Y'know, wallowin' in self-pity an' stuff."
"Anything you want to talk about?"
"Ah could ask you the same question, Alex," she replied,
neatly avoiding the issue. "Seems like you got somethin' on
your mind recently an' Ah don't wanna pry, but if you need
to talk Ah'm happy to listen." He looked at her for a moment,
considering. Wiping a hand across his forehead, he said
"You want to go somewhere, spill our guts? Do that whole
"Where you got in mind?"
"I hadn't planned that far ahead," he admitted with a wry
smile. "Just thought we could both use some time away, and
nothing seems to be threatening existence as we know it right
"Okay," Rogue responded, inclining her head with a half smile,
"but you can have a shower an' change first. Ah ain't goin'
nowhere with you lookin' an' smellin' like that."
By the time they reached the hilltop they found Gateway sitting
there in cross-legged, sunlit serenity, as if he'd known they
would have need of him at that time and in that place. Rogue
was about to speak, to ask Alex their destination or request
that Gateway help them, when seemingly unprompted the old
Aborigine began to swing his bull-roarer in circles around
his head, his bonfire flared to life and a portal blazed into
existence, just hanging in mid-air a few inches off the ground.
Alex looked at Rogue.
"Seems Gateway knows where we're going already," he observed.
"Thanks." This addressed to Gateway, although the man gave
no sign of having heard him or even that he'd observed their
presence there at all. It was rare that he acknowledged any
of the X-Men; he just served his purpose, transporting them
to and from their various destinations, in some uncanny and
unfathomable way always knowing where they wished to go, and
when they wanted to come back. Most of the rest of the team
had just accepted it as his way, Logan and Longshot first
among them to reach that conclusion, although for different
reasons, but Rogue still felt the occasional urge to reach
out to him, to ensure that his service was not taken for granted,
to extend him at least that courtesy. Not that he seemed particularly
concerned either way, but she did it nevertheless. It was
her way. Echoing Alex's sentiment, she followed him
through the portal.
The sunlight as they stepped out of the other side of the
portal was less bright only because they'd stepped out into
an alleyway. Emerging onto the street, they were once again
dazzled by the glare and glad they'd brought sunglasses. It
was not even immediately apparent where they were, although
by the accents of the multitude of people crowding the streets
and the tumult of their voices, they were no longer in Australia
but rather back in America.
By the time they'd located an establishment that served food,
was not too crowded and offered booths and therefore a modicum
of privacy, it was clear that where it was early morning for
the rest of the X-Men, it was early evening here. Bright though
it was outside, the interior of the bar was dim, and they
both had to take a moment to readjust to the decreased illumination,
Rogue pushing her sunglasses up onto her head to hold back
her hair while Alex merely hooked the arms of his over the
neckline of his T-shirt. Given that neither of them had eaten
breakfast, the timing was fortuitous and so they located a
booth near the back and ordered, the silence between them
tense and pregnant with unspoken words and unexpressed anxieties.
Drinks came while they waited for their food and sat on the
scarred wood between them, beads of condensation running down
the sides of the bottles and creating moist rings around the
bases. Rogue toyed with her beer bottle, picking at the label,
tearing pieces off. Alex watched her impassively for a while,
the shadow of a smile on his lips. Eventually, he spoke.
"Ready for that soul-baring we talked about, or are you just
going to carry on destroying Budweiser's distinctive likeness?"
Rogue looked up at him, smiling sheepishly. "What's been on
your mind, Rogue?" he prompted more directly, raising his
own bottle to his lips. Rogue sighed.
"Just goin' through one of them low periods. With all we've
been through recently, all the sacrifices we've made, an'
we don't seem no closer to achievin' world peace or harmonious
coexistence for mutants an' humans. Kinda makes you wonder
whether it's been worth what we gave up. At least back in
Westchester, we had some kinda life, y'know? Occasionally
mingled with the rest of the world, saw people outside of
the team. At least then we weren't livin' in each other's
lives the whole time." Their food arrived, interrupting the
conversation. As they began to eat, Rogue resumed speaking.
"Only ones seem to be enjoyin' it at all are Ali an' Longshot,
an' sometimes it seems that's only ‘cause they're too wrapped
up in each other to notice what the rest of us are missin'
"Sounds like a touch of the green-eyed monster," Alex observed
"Tact like that, sugar, is liable to make a body think you
been spendin' entirely too much time with Wolvie." Chiding
and teasing at the same time. "B'sides, even if you were right
-- an' Ah'm sayin' if, mind -- how could Ah compete
with the kinda closeness him an' Alison can have when all
Ah could offer would be to steal his consciousness? Kissin'
for me, Alex, ain't an act of tenderness, it's an act of theft,
even if it's only temporary. Most of the time, anyway." Thinking
of Carol, not needing to spell it out. "In his place, who'd
"Choosing the right woman isn't exactly my speciality," returned
Alex with quiet bitterness. "In case it escaped your notice,
my track record recently hasn't been particularly enviable.
Lorna got possessed by Malice and was last seen leading the
Marauders and we all know what happened to Madelyne, so being
the woman in my life isn't really a recipe for happily-ever-after,
at least if recent history is anything to go by."
Madelyne's death, his failure to protect her, had hit Alex
hard, and his bitterness was exacerbated by the fact that
he was unsure how genuine any of his feelings for her had
been. Had she just been manipulating him, using him to serve
her ends and to get back at Scott, her husband and Alex's
brother, playing on the tension and resentment already there?
Alex had always measured himself against Scott, the great
Cyclops, the X-Men's first and best leader, and had always
hated the fact that he did, and Madelyne had known that. He'd
failed to protect her, from S'ym and N'astirh, from herself,
from Sinister, even from Scott. And now Sinister's discarded
experiment, his clone of Jean Grey who'd fulfilled her purpose
and given birth to Scott's son, and was then rendered obsolete
when the genuine article returned from the dead, was gone,
leaving nothing but a sense of waste and failure.
Her son, hers and Scott's, renamed Nathan by his mother,
was well and with his father, but the child's life had never
touched Alex's to the extent that Madelyne's had and so that
success was, for him, overshadowed by the failure represented
by Madelyne's death.
"It wasn't your fault, Alex, what happened. Ah don't think
anythin' could've saved Madelyne. We don't know how long this
whole Goblin Queen thing'd been goin' on, how long she'd been
manipulatin' us all, but in the end all she was interested
in was gettin' her own back on Scott an' Jean an' the whole
world. An' to do that she was willin' to sacrifice her own
son. Whatever Inferno did to her, Alex, she wasn't the woman
we knew any more."
"And that makes it okay? Rogue, she was screwed over from
day one! Sinister created her to be a baby factory and once
she'd served her purpose he tried to dispose of her. Scott
left her, and no matter why he left, whether it was Sinister
playing with his mind or not, she was still just as abandoned.
She looked to us to protect her, and we failed. I failed.
"So yeah, maybe she used us, but she'd been used all her
life as a substitute for Jean, by Sinister, even by Scott.
She never had anything, Rogue; everything she believed she
had was a lie, or taken away from her. Is it any wonder she
was so full of anger?"
"You angry for her, or at her?" Rogue asked. Alex paused.
"I don't know," he admitted quietly after a moment. "Both,
I guess. She used all of us, Rogue, but she used me in a very
personal way. I needed to feel like I could be relied on to
protect her, like I couldn't protect Lorna, and Madelyne played
that role, letting me be the white knight to her damsel in
distress. And I still don't know if it was just a role, or
whether it was real. Were my feelings for her genuine, or
just something she needed me to believe in so I'd play the
role of her protector? How much was me and how much was her
using what was already there and amplifying it, twisting it
for her own ends?" He shook his head, a rueful yet entirely
humourless smile on his lips. "She used me, manipulated me,
so how come I feel like the bad guy?"
"Ah don't have the answers," Rogue replied. "You just followed
your heart an' did what you thought was right. You tried your
best to save her, Alex, from life, from herself, but maybe
she just didn't want to be saved. She committed suicide rather
than accept Jean's help, an' Ah don't think you or anyone
else tryin' any harder would've stopped her. In the end, all
she was lookin' to do was hurt Scott. The rest of us, X-Men
an' X-Factor both, even their son, were just innocent bystanders
who got caught in the crossfire." Alex looked at her.
"Ironic, isn't it? We save the world on a regular basis,
but where our own lives are concerned, we haven't got a clue.
Well, here's to us," he said sardonically, raising his bottle
in mock salute. "Two of love's losers." Rogue had to acknowledge
the sentiment, the glass of her bottle ringing as she tapped
it against his.
"Still, seems like all the good we do should count for somethin',"
she pointed out.
"Yeah," Alex responded, "but all the good we do seems to
benefit the rest of the world at our expense. When do we get
anything out of it except a sense of martyrdom? When do we
get the happy ending?"
"Ah guess you take what you can get."
"Or get what you settle for," Alex countered.
"What do you want me to say, Alex? We deserve more appreciation?
It'd be nice if sometimes we got the credit an' not just the
blame? Life is unfair, Alex, an' anyone who tells you different
is sellin' somethin'. You want to give up because of that?"
"Why not? Let someone else take on the responsibility for
a change. Maybe I'm just tired, Rogue. You asked me earlier
if it was all worth it: well, maybe it isn't."
"Ah was just thinkin' out loud, an' Ah was referrin' to hidin'
out in Australia, not doin' what we do. We stand for somethin',
for a dream, an' someone's gotta fight for that dream. That's
us. It ain't always easy, an' no-one ever said it would be,
but it's worth doin', even when there's a price to be paid."
"Maybe," Alex retorted with quiet venom, "that price is too
high, and it's always the wrong people paying it. And maybe
the dream's a pipe dream."
"That's what the X-Men do, sugar," Rogue told him, gentle
but forceful. "We tilt at windmills an' we fight the good
fight an', although it may not seem like it, we make a difference.
Maybe it is just a dream, but it's a good one an' it ain't
never gonna get any nearer to becomin' a reality if we give
"And how does Xavier's dream of peaceful coexistence for
mutants and humans get any closer to being reality when we
segregate ourselves voluntarily? How is it served by the X-Men
living in the middle of nowhere and only emerging to meet
the threat of whoever or whatever's threatening the universe
"Can't argue with you on that one," Rogue conceded. "Especially
since Ah been thinkin' much the same thing. Ain't no point
savin' the world from the Brood, demons or the Adversary if
we ain't gonna live in it an' at least try to enjoy what we've
fought so hard for."
The rest of the meal was spent in conversation on rather
less weighty topics, such as what to do when they'd eaten.
Seeing a movie seemed like a natural progression, although
neither Rogue nor Alex knew what was showing. Nevertheless,
it was a beautiful evening and the air pleasantly warm, becoming
pleasantly cool, and a leisurely walk in order to find a cinema
did not seem an unpleasant prospect. So it was that they paid
for their food and left in search of a cinema.
The shadows lengthened as they walked, the dying sunlight
all the more fierce as the blazing orb sank toward the horizon,
and a light, cool breeze had picked up.
"Been too long since Ah did this," Rogue commented. "Just
walked on a beautiful summer evenin', like normal folks. Not
worryin' ‘bout Sentinels or the Marauders or any of that nonsense.
Just takin' a moment to enjoy life, appreciate the simple
things, an' not concern myself with the next crisis, y'know?"
Traffic, both auto and pedestrian, was becoming sparse at
that time of the evening, the rush hour long over and the
commuters safely back at home. They saw others out for a walk,
like them enjoying the evening, walking the dog, children
playing. Signs of humanity, of a normality far too often absent
from the X-Men's daily life. Up ahead, a group of children
were tossing around a football as they made their way along
the street. Rogue watched them for a while, the children -both
girls and boys- oblivious to life outside of their game.
"I know," said Alex quietly. "I used to have that with Lorna,
in New Mexico, before the Brood crashed there and I left to
find the X-Men, and then Malice possessed her when I was gone.
I had a life, Rogue. Seems like that's one of the many things
that got sacrificed along the way for the greater good." Rogue
was given a chance to formulate a response as a truck rumbled
"We all got regrets, Alex," she said, "but livin' in the
past ain't gonna solve anythin', an' you can't bring that
time back again. What happened to Lorna was no more your fault
than Madelyne, an' beatin' yourself up over it does no-one
any good. You gotta move on."
The squealing of brakes caught their attention and, looking
up, they saw a bus bearing down on one of the children, who'd
run into the road to retrieve the football. He stood there,
frozen in the path of the bus, and the driver's expression
of horror was plainly visible through the glass as he realised
he wasn't going to be able to stop in time.
Rogue's feet left the ground as she flew toward the boy,
closing the gap as the bus closed on him. She reached him,
stood there in terror, clutching the football to his chest
like a talisman to ward off evil, a moment before the bus
hit. Taking him in her arms and clutching him to her, she
twisted in the air in an attempt to shield his body with her
own and felt the bus plough into her back.
The force of the impact bounced them down the street, Rogue
curled desperately around the boy as they tumbled to a halt,
bodies intertwined and cheeks brushing together and, dimly
aware of the bus shuddering to a halt mere feet away, Rogue
suddenly found herself sharing her skull with nine-year old
Greg Doyle as, both psyches together, they stared down at
his body cradled in her arms.
And then she began to feel his consciousness slip away, the
clarity of the memories which defined him becoming blurred,
although they both shared a moment of helpless terror as she
realised what the angle of his neck meant, his confusion becoming
comprehension and fear as whatever part of him she'd absorbed
recognised that it was returning to a corpse. And she knelt
there, his body in her arms, powerless to do anything but
bear witness to his death as his psyche slipped from her grasp
and the last remnants of his life slid away. In the background
the screams of Greg's friends, the praying of the bus driver,
all of it seemed muted and somehow unreal as tears fuelled
by some complex and ambiguous mix of grief and anger and loss
and failure rolled down her cheeks.
Then Alex was there, helping her to her feet, prising Greg's
body from her arms and leading her away from the rapidly growing
crowd of friends, passengers and passers-by drawn by the unerring
human instinct for tragedy. The darkness of an alleyway, the
bright light of Gateway's portal, arriving unbidden but at
precisely the moment required, and Rogue stumbled out into
the heat of the Australian Outback, supported by Alex and
barely managing to put one foot in front of the other.
Rogue's hand found an outcropping of rock and she leaned
on it, retching, as the partially digested components of the
food she'd so recently eaten spattered hotly onto the dusty
ground at her feet. Once her stomach had been completely evacuated,
her dry heaving gave way to wracking sobs as she rolled off
the rock and sank to the ground.
"Oh, God," she whispered through her tears. "He died." She
looked up at Alex, kneeling beside her and unsure of what
to say to comfort her. "Ah felt him die, Alex, felt him slippin'
away from me an' there wasn't a goddamn thing Ah could do.
He knew. He knew he was dyin', an' Ah could feel his mind
tryin' so hard t'hold on, not t'let go, an' he couldn't,
an' Ah couldn't, an' he's dead. Ah couldn't save him.
"What's the point, huh? We save a world full of people we'll
never meet, who never know an' most likely wouldn't care,
but Ah can't save one child from bein' hit by a bus. What're
his family gonna think?"
"It wasn't your fault, Rogue. You tried your best to save
"Don't make the boy any less dead, Alex, an' you didn't feel
him in your head as he died without you bein' able to do a
damn thing about it."
"Sometimes, there's nothing you can do. No matter
how hard you try, no matter how much you want to save a person,
sometimes it's beyond your power. Believe me, I know all about
"You don't have the slightest idea how Ah feel, mister!"
snapped Rogue, tears of shock and grief changing to ones of
anger. "You may believe that you failed Madelyne, an' there
ain't nothin' Ah or anyone else can do to stop you beatin'
yourself up over that, but don't you even pretend to
understand what it was like for me! You saw it all from the
sidewalk: Ah had Greg's memories inside my mind, blinkin'
out one by one as he died, an' that's a kind of up-close-an'-personal
acquaintance with failure you can't even begin to lay
claim to. So don't you patronise me, an' tell me you understand,
because you don't, an' you never will."
"Rogue, I didn't mean..." Alex began, startled, but was cut
off before he could continue.
"Ah gotta be alone right now, Alex." Brushing tears from
her eyes with the back of her hand, Rogue climbed awkwardly
to her feet, not even giving Alex a chance to offer her his
hand. She lifted off with a swirl of dust and accelerated
away through the sky, in moments becoming a receding speck
on the horizon.
Alex contemplated the dusty ground before him for a moment,
then looked up to meet the gaze of the old Aborigine staring
impassively in his direction, if not quite directly at him.
"Guess I didn't miss my calling as a therapist, huh?" he
said ruefully, although no response was forthcoming and he
hadn't expected one. Rising from his crouch, he set off down
the mountain toward the town, leaving Gateway to keep his
solitary watch from his vantage point over the town.
On the way back to the residence he'd chosen from the many
available buildings left absent by the Reavers' departure,
Alex passed by the basketball court where Logan and Alison
were teamed against Longshot and Peter in a lively game. The
court was in the shade of the buildings, a necessity given
the fact that Peter tended to become very hot when exposed
to direct sunlight in the furnace-like temperature of the
Outback. Alex toyed with the idea of watching the game, but
the events of the morning (or, where he had been, evening)
meant he was in no mood for company. He returned to his domicile
and attempted with absolutely no success to settle to some
activity. In the end, frustrated with his own restlessness,
Alex changed into his costume and headed off to a spot a little
way from the town.
An hour or so later he was still there, headpiece lying discarded
on the ground and Alex himself drenched in sweat, laying waste
to all around him, his plasma beams turning rock after rock
into expanding clouds of powder. His black costume was coated
with the dust of the rocks he'd turned to ashes, and Alex's
face was streaked with a mixture of perspiration and dust,
his eyes red-rimmed from the irritation of both salt and grime.
Nevertheless, he continued to fire at rock after rock with
a grim determination.
As yet another rock exploded in a shower of chips and dust,
Alex stood staring at the smoking remains for a moment before
sinking to his knees, panting from the exertion. He heard
a subdued voice behind him ask
"Is it workin'?" He waited a moment, head downcast, before
slowly raising himself up on one knee to look over his shoulder,
seeing Rogue sitting on one of the rocks he'd left intact,
curled up foetus-like.
"Not really," he responded. "Not much seems to be, today."
"Alex, Ah'm sorry Ah bit your head off earlier."
"It was a dumb thing to say. I didn't mean it to come out
like that, like I was turning it into some kind of contest.
And, you know, if you want to talk about it, I'm here."
"Not right now. Ah just spent a long time goin' over it an'
replayin' it in my head, an' Ah really don't wanna think about
it no more." She paused. "You told the others?"
"No. I wasn't feeling too sociable." Rogue nodded her acceptance
of his decision.
"You want me to leave you alone?"
"No, that's okay. I think I've caused enough destruction
for one day," Alex answered. "It wasn't doing much good anyway.
They say time's a great healer, so maybe giving it time's
the answer." Rogue wasn't certain whether he was referring
to Madelyne or Greg or both, but she acknowledged the sentiment
anyway. "It's probably a better solution than blowing rocks
up. Any chance of a lift back to town? I'm pretty tired after
all this ... havoc," he smiled ironically, indicating
with a sweep of his arm the desolation to which he'd added.
"It failed to accomplish anything anyway. Rogue," he added,
"are you okay?"
"No, Alex, Ah'm not. But Ah'm gettin' there. Like you said,
maybe what we both need right now is time."
Sliding down from her perch, Rogue walked toward Alex as
he bent down to retrieve the headpiece to his costume. She
extended her hand and, when Alex gripped it, the action communicated
much more between them than the simple need for a solid hold
on one another during the impending flight.
"C'mon," she said, squeezing his hand, "let's us two failures
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