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"A Time for..."

Stories in this series

"A Time for Family"
"A Time for Homecoming"
"A Time for Giving"

Disclaimer: Mystique, Destiny and Rogue are all property of Marvel Comics. I am profiting in no way from their use here.

A Time for Family

With a keen eye, Raven Darkholme moved from room to room in the luxury penthouse, looking to see if there was anything she might have missed -- there wasn't.

The palatial dwelling boasted elegant design, tastefully appointed furnishings, and stunning works of art -- but something was missing from the rooms she passed through. As beautiful as each one was, there was something strangely antiseptic and impersonal about them. You had to look past the opulence of the surroundings to see what it was -- there were none of the personal touches which made a house a home. And that was just how she wanted it.

She was going to miss this place.

As B. Byron Biggs, billionaire financier -- one of her oldest, and by far the most successful of her many identities -- she had established this apartment as an inner sanctum. It was the only real home she had -- the place she kept all that was most precious to her. But no more.

Since she had been forced by circumstance to divulge the existence of this place to Rogue and Shadowcat, she could no longer count it absolutely secure -- and she was here to finish packing.

Having passed through the perimeter, she returned to the one room which still possessed that personal touch. It was a small room, but cozy, comfortably furnished, with a sofa facing the fireplace in the far wall. Most of the other furnishings were strewn with the last of the personal mementos that had remained in the apartment -- the things she hadn't been quite able to bear packing away so soon.

When she was younger, she had had no use for keepsakes -- with the life she led there was no room for emotional attachment to people, let alone things -- but that was before she had met Irene Adler.

She remembered the Christmas concert vividly -- the invitation had arrived at her office, along with a plea for help. Intrigued, she had accepted both the invitation, and the request for a meeting afterward. After all, she had reasoned, even if nothing came of it, she would be well-paid for her time -- and it had been a while since her last job...

From the moment her prospective client walked onstage and was escorted to the dais, Raven had been unable to keep her eyes from Irene, and had known this was one client she wouldn't be able to refuse. Mystique never would have guessed all that would come of that Christmas Eve so many years ago, though she had often wondered how much Destiny had already foreseen of their life together.

Irene's mask was on its stand on the mantel, away from the clutter of pictures, books, knick-knacks and packing boxes which filled the room. Tenderly, Raven traced a finger down one golden cheek. She wasn't as angry as she had been -- as she had told Rogue earlier, she had realized that it was easier to remember the love than to hold on to the hate -- but she knew the rage and the hurt would never completely fade away.

Irene had deliberately sacrificed herself, and had left no explanation why. It wasn't the first time Destiny had kept something from Mystique, but it was the last, and most hurtful. Logically, Raven knew that Irene had to have had a reason -- and a good one -- for what she had done. But knowing that did nothing to lessen the pain -- especially since Raven had a healthy suspicion as to what Irene's reason had been.

You always had to be the self-sacrificing one, didn't you, my beloved friend?

They hadn't even had a chance to say goodbye...

Raven picked up the mask and turned it over, pressing her nose to the soft cotton padding where the disguise had rested against its owner's brow. Even after three years, a faint trace of Irene's scent remained, which brought back other sense-memories -- the sound of her voice, the silk of her hair, the soft brush of her lips...

Slowly, Mystique replaced the mask on its stand -- she would pack it away last of all.

Mechanically, she began going through the items in the room, sorting them first by size and shape, then approximate date. As she did so, she tried not to examine the things too closely, and so be drawn into her memories -- she wanted to get this over with as soon as possible.

Since Irene's death, Raven had done her level best to avoid thinking of the past. It was less painful, especially at this time of year. Christmas had always been Irene's favorite holiday, even before they first met. Mystique had little use for religious holidays or religion, yet at Christmas she indulged her partner's beliefs, even going so far as to accompany her to Midnight Mass. Raven had done so partly to please Irene and commemorate their first meeting, and partly because if there was a God, Raven wanted to thank whatever it might be for causing her path to cross Destiny's.

Raven had always been a hard woman -- she had to be, to survive -- but before Irene had entered her life, she had had no time for love or compassion. None had ever been shown to her, so why should she lavish it on others, who would only hurt her in return?

Irene had changed all that, opening Raven's heart in ways she had never believed possible. And yet, there was more to come -- for Irene had given her a family.

Mystique paused as she looked at the picture she was about to pack -- it was of the three of them: herself, Irene and Rogue.

Rogue was laughing and carefree as Raven held her in front of the Christmas tree, Irene beaming in the background -- their daughter's first Christmas.

It was hard to believe it was the same child they had adopted less than a year before. Certainly Rogue had had little enough to smile about before they had taken her into their home and hearts. From time to time, Raven still found herself wishing that she had simply gone with her initial judgement and killed the sick bitch who had dared to call herself the child's mother. That such a creature could have birthed a child like Rogue was proof of the infinite variety of genetics...

With time, care and love, the fearful child who never smiled, always flinched at sudden movements, and suffered night terrors had metamorphosed into the happy, laughing little girl in the picture. And though her nightmares still came from time to time, there were comforting arms to hold her, and a soothing voice to sing her back to sleep.

How Raven missed her.

Counter to Mystique's best intentions, memories began to surface: Rogue learning to ride a bike; Irene teaching Rogue to bake; the three of them picnicking by the riverside near the house; the first time Rogue had called her 'Momma'.

When Rogue had left them, it had hurt, but it wasn't completely unexpected -- Irene had foreseen that their daughter might choose a different path in life -- and at least Destiny was there to help her come to terms with Rogue's departure. But there was no one to help her accept Destiny's own...

To cope, Raven had buried herself in work, as she had done so many years before, often taking refuge in this home -- but now that too would soon be gone, along with her family.

Everything was neatly packed away, with the exception of the mask. Raven supposed she should call the shipping company -- service at this time of year was always a nightmare...

Just then, she heard footsteps in the hall.

Raven immediately morphed, taking the shape of Biggs' butler, and took the safety off her sidearm. Silently, she rose and stalked toward the source of the sound. As the footsteps grew louder, she ducked behind a nearby column, and crouched in a firing stance as the intruder approached.

"Momma?" a voice called out uncertainly.


After a darting glance around the column, Mystique reverted to her true form and stood upright, tucking her weapon away as she went to greet her daughter.

"I would ask how you got in, but I'd like to think my training had something to do with it..."

Rogue turned toward the sound of her mother's voice with a smile.

"Like ridin' a bicycle ... an' Ah see you haven't lost yoh touch, either. I didn't even hear a thing."

"So what brings you here, child?"

"You do, Momma," Rogue said softly, "Ah wasn't sure if you'd already pulled up stakes after Kitty an' I were here, but I was hopin' you'd still be around. It's Christmas Eve, after all..."


"An'  I was wonderin' if we could spend it together. Reenie always said it was a time foh family -- an' this is the first one Ah ever belonged to. I haven't forgotten that, Momma -- an' I don't want to. You an' Reenie gave me a life that was worth livin'. She might be gone, but you're still here -- Ah was hopin' we could make up foh lost time, that is, if ya want to..."

Raven smiled.

"Of course, darling -- I'd like that very much. Just give me a minute to get my coat."

As she entered the room where she had been packing, the tear that she had fought off successfully when facing her daughter fell from her right eye. She carefully wiped it away as she retrieved her coat from the sofa. Sparing a last look at the gleaming mask on the mantelpiece, she paused for a moment before leaving the room.

A time for family, indeed...

"Thank you," she whispered, then hurried to meet their daughter.

This story was largely inspired by X-Men issues 93-94 -- especially by one picture of Rogue, Irene and Raven at Christmas which Kitty was seen to be examining in the apartment. There isn't a lot of canon reference to Destiny (unfortunately), so I had to make it up as I went along. However, I didn't do that without guidance from a number of people who were able to supply me with what hints have been canonically dropped over the years. Tilman Stieve and Karolina Phillips were both invaluable resources, and I don't think I would have been able to write this without the information they generously gave to me. As well, thanks go to both Redhawk and Phil Hartman, who also took the time to respond to my posts begging for information :-)
Thanks also to Tilman (again) and to Valerie Jones, who very graciously found the time to beta-read.

"Be as hard as the world forces you to be -- and be as soft as the world allows you to be." -- Sensei Chuck Merriman


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