Rating: PG-13 for violence, disturbing
imagery, and a touch of bad language. But mostly the first
two. This ain't a cheerful story, folks. You have been warned.
Summary: Poor little Marie. She just hasn't been herself
since this one battle...
Setting: Two or three years after the movie.
Archive: Please ask. I'll say yes, I just want to know
where it goes.
Author's Note: Without giving away too much, I'll just
note that I'm going by comic canon on one detail: that Cyke
can't control his optic blasts because of a childhood brain
injury, not through any inherent flaw in the power itself.
Man, I haven't written an X-Men story in AGES...you people
are a bad influence! Bad!
Disclaimer: Marvel owns these characters, not I. "The
Persistence Of Memory" was painted by Salvadore Dali,
and I chose the name for this story not just because the name
itself works but also because the twisted imagery fit my mood,
too. Feedback is treasured at firstname.lastname@example.org.
No profit is made herein and no harm was intended ... except
perhaps to readers' delicate psyches. Mwahahah. Enjoy...
The Persistence of Memory
She could hear them better with her eyes closed.
"You haven't been eating enough lately, honey." That was
Jean; she could almost feel the doctor's slim, cool fingers
brushing her cheek as a mother would touch her child. A touch
that could not be, of course, but Jean was always kind enough
to at least make the gesture, and she appreciated it.
"Of course I haven't," she replied, barely above a whisper.
"You should at least try." Scott. Always at Jean's side,
always a strong presence -- for the team, for the children
who depended their protection, for her. A good man, despite
whatever Logan thought. It had taken her a few months to realize
this, impeded as she was by both the Canuck's lingering effect
and a teenager's automatic aversion to authority figures,
but she'd done a lot of growing up since then. A lot. Too
She winced away from that thought and clutched her knees
a little tighter to her chest, managing a weak smile for Scott's
benefit. She still did not open her eyes. She knew he felt
helpless with his eyes shut; she, on the other hand, felt
only safe. Protected. Not alone. Not any more. Never again.
"I'll see what I can do," she promised. It wasn't a promise
she intended to keep; she wasn't very hungry. In fact, lately,
she was hardly ever hungry at all. She could almost sense
Scott's frown, but he said nothing; he knew when to give orders
and when to back off from a delicate situation. He'd probably
scold her again later, but for now he tactfully let the subject
The Professor, on the other hand, did not.
"You cannot continue to let yourself go like this, child."
She winced at word "child," but then she sighed and did not
react. She was used to it. To Charles Xavier, everyone was
a child. Someone to be taken care of. Someone in need of his
wisdom. It was his strength, and his failing. She wondering
if he knew this.
"We have been over that argument before," he chided gently
- - of course he'd overheard what she was thinking, he always
could -- "and I'm certain we will go over again in future.
Now, however, is not the time. I must concur with the others:
you cannot go on like this."
She pressed her forehead against her knees, and this time
she did sigh. Noisily. "What is this, an intervention? Don't
y'all have anything better to do?"
"Not really. Not much going on nowadays, y'know," Logan drawled.
She could almost smell the tobacco on his breath. If she imagined
hard enough, she could almost scent the sour tang of a metal
that should not exist, mingled with a hint of blood. More
than a hint of blood. So much blood--
She jerked as if struck by a fist, frantically windmilling
her figurative arms to drag her mind back from the edge. The
edge she no longer looked over. The edge which had turned
her into what she was today. The light behind her eyelids
rushed red as her heart lurched; she fought the fear down,
dragging a mask of anger over it and nailing the edges into
place with a healthy dose of sarcasm.
"If you guys think you can emotionally blackmail me by bringing
him into this," she snapped, "I'm ashamed of you. And
you call me 'kid'? Honestly."
Logan snorted derisively. "It wouldn't hurt you to at least
take a bath. And you call me 'beast-man'? Honestly."
His gravelly falsetto impression of her was actually fairly
good, and she laughed despite herself. For a moment she was
annoyed that he'd tricked her into a smile, but once the frown
had been broken it was hard to piece back together. "All right,
all right, sheesh! You win! I promise I'll get something into
my stomach. And I'll get cleaned up. A bit. Okay?"
"Some good food would make you feel much better, I am certain,"
Storm chimed in, her voice softly exotic. "I cannot remember
when you last had a hot meal."
"You know, now that you mention it..." She couldn't help
thinking back, trying to remember when -- and her smile froze.
The last time she'd -- the last time she'd sat down to a homecooked
dinner had been--
"Oh, shit. Nice going, 'Ro," Logan snarled, but it
was too late. The edge suddenly yawned before the girl's horrified
imagination -- her chain of thought had drawn too close to
escape this time, and her consciousness pinwheeled down into
And the memories closed over her head without a sound.
It had been Christmas.
Well, not exactly Christmas -- the X-Men had been off saving
the world or something on Christmas itself, so it was the
day after Christmas, but that didn't matter. The point was,
everyone was there, crowded around the table in the main living
room of the Xavier mansion. Most of the year this table was
covered by a dropcloth; massive, resting on hand- carved legs,
and gleaming a rich deep red when properly polished, it was
an Xavier family heirloom. Kids did homework on it, or played
Monopoly on dull evenings, but only once a year was the plain
cloth replaced with an embroidered spread and loaded with
a holiday feast to outshine any shindig in Whoville.
Some of the students had gone home for Christmas, but not
many, and some had already returned on the heels of the holiday.
Thus, more so than on any other year anyone could recall,
the room was jam-packed with laughter and bits of wrapping
paper and tinsel as the combined faculty and student body
of the Xavier School For Gifted Youngsters mobbed the buffet.
There were even some unfamiliar faces in the assembly; some
of the Professor's former students, a handful of significant
others (both mutant and human), and a few parental types open-minded
enough to meet their children's mutant classmates.
All in all, a happier holiday scene could not be fermented
in the sugar-soaked imagination of Norman Rockwell.
You can tell something horrible is about to happen, can't
To be honest, it could have been much worse. The mansion's
perimeter alarms had worked precisely as designed; just as
they had in numerous danger drills, the X-Men had efficiently
rushed the children (and guests) down to the Blackbird's hanger,
where a secret hatch led to a steel- reinforced tunnel which
in turn led to a car-stocked garage several miles distant.
The possibility that the mansion might be attacked was remote,
but contingencies had been planned.
Several of the party guests had powers and "hero experience"
of their own -- they'd been quick to take over the shepherding
tasks, to leave the resident adults free to man the defenses.
She remembered their allies' faces -- the beautiful purple-haired
woman, the guy with wings, the handsome blue "demon" who'd
bowed charmingly over her gloved hand and asked her for a
dance after dinner less than an hour before -- as they'd vanished
into the tunnels with the last of the guests.
She remembered the cold lump in her stomach as the massive
steel panel hissed back into place without a seam, protecting
the innocents' whereabouts from whatever had been about to
befall the breached school. She remembered turning away with
her lip caught between her teeth, silently vowing to be as
brave as the others looked.
For the X-Men had remained behind to defend their home, and
as the newest member of the team she'd stayed with them.
Logan had argued, had even tried to force her into the tunnel,
but for once she'd defied his incessant smothering and sided
against him. Sided with Cyclops. Logan had never quite forgiven
her for that, but it couldn't be helped now.
What had happened next was a blur, a shattered mosaic of
shouts and flashing energy and falling plaster and the rumble
of jets overhead. If it hadn't been so terrifying it would
have been funny: giant robots? Like something out of a bad
Japanese cartoon. Someone had sent giant robots to
bring the mighty X-Men to heel? It was almost laughable...
...Until the first blinding wave of plasma struck the mansion,
shearing through high-tech defense systems and colonial-era
brickwork alike in a terrible howl of destruction.
In the blink of an eye the first floor had caved into the
underground levels, and then the second story had collapsed
in around them--
It was ironic, really, that when the rubble had settled the
only defender left standing was the one who could do absolutely
nothing against enemies made of cold metal. The newest member
of the X-Men.
It had happened so fast, so much raw power channeled into
one pre-emptive strike, that even the battle-hardened veterans
had been caught off-guard. She'd been astonishingly lucky
-- the first shockwave had flung her against a stout support
beam, which had tilted but held just long enough to prevent
her from being crushed by a barrage of flying bricks.
The others had not been so lucky.
The silence in the wake of that onslaught had been uncanny.
She now realized that the attackers had been waiting to see
what emerged from the twisted wreckage of what had once been
a peaceful safe haven -- waiting to adjust their attack accordingly,
to pick off survivors at their leisure.
At the time, however, she thought she'd been deafened by
the thunderous devastation...and by the shock that turned
her blood to ice, her knees to water as she stared numbly
around at what had only moments before been the main lobby
of the Xavier School For Gifted Youngsters. Now it was nothing
but shattered debris, glass, wood, stone, plaster...
...and here a limp hand...there a sprawled hip...a face so
covered in plaster dust that she could not tell who it was,
dull eyes staring sightlessly at a patch of sky...
Surely they weren't dead. They couldn't be dead. She'd grasped
at straws, frantically -- Logan! He had to be alive, at least!
He couldn't die! He couldn't! But nothing moved, and she couldn't
recognize him in the strewn rubble -- and outside something
hissed and clanked as if revving up for a second attack, and
she was alone, and she couldn't fight them, she couldn't,
she was going to die too...!
It was then that she'd been struck by a flash of desperate
inspiration. A monstrous idea that she would never have conceived
if she had not been standing amidst the bodies of her only
friends in the world, about to die -- or worse -- at the hands
of the monstrosities that had murdered them in cold blood.
An idea she could not, dare not pause to consider in the long
An idea that had to work now -- or never.
With a gasp (she hadn't realized that she'd been holding
her breath, as if something in her wanted nothing more than
hide like a mouse in a hole) she stumbled forward and dropped
to her knees and tore off her gloves and gripped that bleeding
hand hard in both of her own. Bare skin to bare skin--
The woman was on the verge of death, one final breath trembling
in her punctured lungs, but the spark had not yet fled. Rogue
held on for grim life, resisting a wordless wail of protest
from her own heart as she felt all that was Jean Grey flow
into her mind.
Dimly, through the pounding of her pulse, she felt a new
presence settle into the violated depths of her mind...and
almost sobbed with relief as the presence understood. And
Quickly, quickly, there isn't much time! this
new voice sang. Blinded by tears yet unerringly guided by
her new spark of telepathy, Rogue obeyed -- she fell forward
and stretched out to press her bare palm against the curved
hip that jutted from a mound of bricks. Flesh sought flesh
through a torn hole in leather, and just in time -- as Ororo's
heart fluttered to a halt, her rapport with the elements roared
into the girl, granting her sudden comprehension of flight,
of rain and thunder and lightning - - of the terrible (vengeful)
beauty of nature.
The sky darkened ominously overhead as Rogue reached out
again, this time taking the devastation behind Scott's eyes
into her own.
And again, shouldering the immense burden of the Professor's
(why had he stayed to fight? why?) mind.
Gaining the Professor's psionic muscle had forced her mindscape
open to a terrifying deluge of psychic NOISE. The last shreds
of her sanity were now buffered only by the presence of not
one but two telepaths in her skull. She'd been too swamped
by the sudden intrusion of humanity's voice to keep track
of who she'd absorbed.
The ankle in her fingers was Logan's
By now, however, she was too weak to fight the rushing tide
of her voracious own mutant curse, too weak to let go...
She took him too.
The huge metal butchers waiting patiently for their prey
to emerge never knew what hit them.
Above them, friendly gray snow clouds were rapidly mutating
into a churning mass of black, lit from within by an ugly
green glow that would have sent any smart midwesterner running
for the storm shelter. Without warning the heavens tore asunder,
pounding the earth with a torrential sheet of rain. One robot
was abruptly torn away from its post as a tornado smashed
into it like the hammer of God -- an instant later another
was struck by lightning, again and again and again and again...
And something small exploded from the ruins as if borne on
the sonic brunt of an unearthly howl of loss and rage. Impervious
to the driving ice, heedless of the deadly tracking systems
that were locking onto its small outline, its new target soared
up into the lashing storm.
The third killer caught on too late. As the electrocuted
robot finally crashed to the ground in a smoking heap, its
sole remaining brother was startled (if a robot can be startled)
as its head, neatly severed just under the jaw by a slash
of hard-edged red light, slid from its shoulders to land on
the school's driveway with a resounding clang.
If the robot could be said to have been surprised, its operators
-- thirty miles away in a top-secret shielded bunker -- were
downright astonished. Despite the loss of transmission, the
heartbroken scream they'd overheard briefly through the microphone
hookup was still resounding, reverberating, mercilessly echoing...
Through their minds.
Clapping hands over ears didn't help. Begging for mercy didn't
help. The terrible psionic wail merely grew inexorably louder,
and louder, and LOUDER -- and then they were
no longer surprised.
After all, it's hard to be surprised -- or to feel much of
anything, really -- when your brain has just exploded into
"It's okay, sweetie, it's okay now, you're safe, we're here..."
"C'mon, kid, come back to us..."
The voices filtered in faintly as she slowly, slowly came
back to herself. Her eyes were squeezed shut but she knew
where she was -- damp concrete under her cheek, the itch of
filthy ill-fitting clothes swathed in stifling layers over
her lethal skin, the smell which not too long ago had been
an unbearable stench. A smell she had gotten used to.
She was not home. But she was as close to home as she was
ever going to get, ever again. Because didn't they say that
home is with the ones you love?
And she had that. Oh yes...she had them, all right.
With a deep breath, the girl planted one woollen-mittened
hand on the cement and pushed herself back up onto her butt
and scraped a hank of oily hair out of her eyes...and opened
them. The voices receded slightly as she let the real world
invade all of her senses at once, but it was a real world
she no longer comprehended -- everything she saw, heard, felt,
whirled with connotations from multiple schismed slices of
She couldn't tell if she liked the smell of Italian food
wafting from a nearby shop or if she hated it or was indifferent
to it, but her patchwork memory was telling her all three
plus an amusing memory of a vacation in Rome and the recollection
of a grandma who'd cooked great spaghetti.
(Had she ever been to Italy? Did she even have a grandma?
Some of her said yes, some said no...and they were all right,
and they were all wrong too.)
She couldn't tell if she'd been here before or if that'd
been someone else. Couldn't remember if she'd once killed
a man in an alley, or had always avoided them, or had never
seen one in her life, or had lived in one for months now.
The last...perhaps...but she shied away from trusting her
own (?) thoughts. She couldn't.
She couldn't even tell what her favorite color was, now.
She didn't know which thoughts were her own.
In the back of her mind some of those shattered bits of cognizance
were moving to lock the bad memories away again, to shove
them over the edge into the yawning abyss at the heart of
her soul -- to protect her -- but there was nowhere to hide
in her own head. She would find them again, and relive them
again, and it would never end.
To the rest of the world, she was just another dirty, crazy
bag lady lying forgotten against a dumpster in a neglected
Wouldn't they just laugh and laugh and laugh if they knew
that she, yes, she was the mutie who'd singlehandedly
murdered the X-Men?
"That's not true," something protested softly but urgently
from deep within one of the gaping crevices in the mind of
the girl who'd once been called Rogue. However, she was already
laughing hysterically at herself, caught up in a brittle mad
hilarity which crumbled abruptly into terrible muffled wracking
No one heard and no one cared as the sun set over Westchester
.-= FINIS =-.
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