Ummmm, this one has minor language and
violence in it. Go figure.
All characters, except the Bauers, belong to Marvel. I'm not
profiting by this.
Comments go to firstname.lastname@example.org
Flames will be blithely ignored.
There was delayed rumble from the passing thunderstorm over
the monotonous pounding of rain. Everything was gray, the
sky, the trees, the mud caked ground, even the air in front
of them it seemed. The lightening momentarily illuminated
three women running quietly through the edge of the forest.
One elderly in a mask and cloak, the second with blue skin
and feral eyes, the last an awkward teenage girl.
Rogue dared a look behind searching for tell tale flickers
of a laser sight. Her vision was marred by the haze of rain
blurring the forest and the drips from her hood. It had long
since ceased to be water proof and droplets now ran down her
face and into the collar of the burnoose.
"Come child, watch the path before you."
"Yes'm." Near tripping over the roots and bushes
in front of her, "Sorry, Ah'm comin'." She took
a tighter grip on her machine gun and leapt to follow her
parents. Up ahead was Victoria Bauer's estate. Behind them
was a posse of federal agents led by Clive Bauer, her husband.
Good luck schmucks! Rogue bared her teeth in a grin
as they broke through the tree line in a mad dash to the back
door of the house in the clearing. Wonder what good ol'
Clive would think if he knew his dear little Tori was in collusion
with such "bad elements". She grabbed the cape
snapping angrily behind her to run breakneck across the clearing.
It would be a damn shame, and Momma would kill her, if she
got shot on the eleven o'clock mark.
Tori hustled them in at the door frowning at the muddy tracks
left behind. "Raven, the mess."
"Yes, I know. Rogue."
"How come Ah haveta-"
"Do as you're told. We don't have time to argue."
The girl stuck her lip out but went in the direction Victoria
pointed her. It's not fair. She's just making me do this
cuz she don't want me to hear what her and Tori talk about.
Shucking her own boots, she grabbed the two pairs left for
her and proceeded to wash all traces of their entry away.
It was stupid to complain about this. One of the most important
Rules was not to leave any evidence.
The house was air conditioned so that gradually, she began
to shiver. Freaks, how can they stand it this cold all
the time? Ugh. It was tempting to burrow deeper into her
cloak, but she would dry quicker by taking it off. She tried,
she really did, but it was so hard to hold still and wait
patiently. There was nothing to do which was boring in itself
but also led to the temptation of finding something to do.
Luckily, or unluckily depending on one's point of view, her
hair had only begun to dry in short spikes before Victoria
ushered them down to the basement wine cellar. The three of
them fled up the old bootleg tunnel and back into the forest
behind the pursuing federal agents.
Rogue woke curled in a ball and a foul mood as the alarm
clock buzzed in synch with her ears. It wasn't quite worth
the effort of reaching out to crush the offending instrument
so she could buy a new one. It was morning. It was cold. Her
head still hurt. Hardly a surprise upon appraisal of last
night's dreams, if they deserved the title. The chronic nightmares
or terrors, someone else's and one easy step to becoming an
insomniac, were beginning to grate on her nerves. After a
try to two, she shoved herself out of bed, stretched the kinks
out, and headed for the shower.
The barren metal halls of the subterranean levels reminded
her of a psyche ward. Then again. . . . She let out
a huff. Probably would've been better off going straight
to a shrink instead of Xavier. The shadows thrown from
support beams by the unnatural blue lighting were shallow
and angular. Underneath her feet was a muted thrum like a
giant heartbeat caused by the power generator. What had she
accomplished during her entire stay here? Saved the world
and died a couple of times. That was all good and well, but
what about her original reason for joining? Lost in her musings,
she was unprepared to fight her reflexes. She whirled, grabbing
the person behind her by their hair and throwing them bodily
against an adjacent wall. What the hell?
Psylocke hit the steel with a hollow boom. Hand cocked to
her mouth as she rose with an indecipherable look. "My
apologies if I startled you."
Rogue flushed. "Betsy? Sorry, my fault. Ah think Ah
was runnin' on auto."
"Of course. I understand." The ninja brushed by
her and continued onwards.
Yeah? Well, if you understand, explain to me why you triggered
my Sense. You're a 'path Betts, you should know better.
Psylocke paused but deigned an answer. Rogue shrugged. Her
and Elizabeth had never been best of friends. Never enemies
or rivals, but there were certainly differences between them.
Yah, like class. Rogue found her snobbish and was considered
rude and uncouth in return. Yet, sneakiness aside, there was
no reason for Elizabeth to set her off like that.
"Okay everyone, pick your target. This is tag, everyone
Rogue immediately rose into the air with Angel. Psylocke
disappeared into a nearby shadow while Wolverine and Gambit
both hid to begin stalking each other. In short, no one felt
any particular initiative. Below them was a mock up of the
city, razed by Onslaught. Some building lay in heaps mixed
with the remains of a sentinel. Another stood undamaged.
"Remember, I want everyone to do their best. This is
a reassessment of abilities. Cyclops out."
Warren measured her and she crooked a finger at him. "C'mon
fly boy, your move." He gave a shrug and went into a
mandatory dive at her. Poor boy, without his metal wings
he don't stand a chance. Not unless he gets lucky. Below
her Wolverine and Gambit were already at each other's throats.
Psylocke was still nowhere to be seen. Now there was the wild
card. Betsy and Warren made sense in an odd sort of way. Like
I'm one to talk about bizarre relationships. Besides, the
wings are kind of kinky.
Speculating on this, she feinted at Angel. Her head hurt,
she was tired and cranky, nor was this a challenge. In fact,
it was almost insulting. What if I had a gun or a knife
on me? He'd be dead's what. Everyone was sluggish with
disinterest. The man looped back around behind her and she
pirouetted belting him in the face with more force than necessary.
"Rogue?!" Through the spots dancing in front of
his eyes he became aware of a serious, unsmiling face.
"Mornin', Wings." He looked so surprised and baffled
like a hurt child. Her mind superimposed the image of a guard's
crushed skull. He'd had the same expression on his face right
before she'd brought the butt of her gun down on it. Tackling
him with a sudden ferocity, they both crashed down into a
pile of jagged rubble. She wasted no time in grinding a knee
into his back and grabbing his wings.
"Ow, ow, okay already, you win."
"Yah?" She began twisting his wings. C'mon Betts,
I know you're there.
He cried out and arched backwards. "What are you doing?"
"Rippin' y'wings off. Ain't that obvious?"
Angel began to struggle in earnest. No matter how much he
fought, she refused to let go. In her peripheral vision, Wolverine
cracked Gambit's staff in half and lifted him off the ground
with a blow to the solar plexus. C'mon, can't waste any
more time. There! The prickle of warning as the hair on
the back of her neck rose. All or nothing, let's see if
her powers work when I'm prepared for them. She saw the
pink light of Psylocke's knife reflected from Warren's wings
long before it hit her.
Gambit heard Elizabeth scream in pain and surprise. The distraction
proved his undoing as Wolverine cracked him on the chin, then
turned in Rogue's direction. She was swaying drunkenly shaking
Betsy had rolled into a fetal position staring vaguely ahead
with blank eyes. Well, looks like she finally had the guts
to do it. It was one of only a few clear thought in the
muddied morass of her brain. It was going to explode any minute
now. Should be out cold. I guess sorting out memories is
what I do best. Rogue felt a brief twinge of remorse and
hoped Psylocke wasn't badly hurt. The warning growl from Logan
prompted a crack to Angel's temple but only her heightened
reflexes stopped him from pinning her.
"Cheatin' girl. What happens if your powers aren't handy?"
"Maybe, but them's the breaks. 'Sides, Cyke said this
was a 'reassessment of our powers'."
"Mmm." The older man began to circle. The ground
was even with no obstructions where they were presenting no
"Y'know, this is stupid."
Logan frowned. "Shouldn't have warned ya." He let
his claws retract. "'Kay Slim, games over." Turning
his head away, he reached for a cigar. As Rogue began to walk
past him, he violently reversed direction to swing at her.
She smiled and grabbed his arm to throw him straight up.
"Sorry Wolvie, but Ah did warn ya."
He had time to notice her mouth a "thanks" before
his legs shattered on the impact of landing. "Yah, I
know darlin'. Ol' Canuck had to try though." More importantly,
it would satisfy Cyclops.
Rogue folded her arms with a thin lipped frown. What's
this bullshit Cyke? Why you pitting me against small potatoes
huh? Storm, Joseph or Jean could have taken her out. Going
over to Logan, she tactfully waited for him to stand on his
own. He met her questioning look with faint smile and a dismissive
This wasn't going as he'd anticipated. Cyclops fumed in displeasure
while entering data into the computer. Gambit had allowed
himself to be distracted, Warren was outmatched. Neither Wolverine
nor Rogue seemed to be taking the session seriously. And
Psylocke, what happened to her? In short, none of them
were on task and that was simply unacceptable.
Now what. "Yes?"
Warren mantled his wings protectively, "Betsy's still
out. I can't get a response from her."
I heard, I'm already on it.
Red flared through his visor. Rogue. She'd used excessive
force, handicapped Gambit's performance, and now hurt Elizabeth
along with Jean. He watched as she tried to go to Psylocke's
side but was blocked by a beat from Warren's wing. After an
awkward pause, she left with Wolverine.
Scott? I've gotten to Elizabeth. She's shaken up but seems
fine. Apparently the sheer amount of information temporarily
Below, Betsy shook off Warren's hand and slowly got up.
Good. Keep and eye or her-
Until she tells me to bugger off.
Um, yah. One more chance, that was all. He didn't
have anything against her but right now the team couldn't
afford internal conflict. She would either deal with the problem,
or she was off.
Logan grinned and puffed on a noxious cigar. "Mind tellin'
me what yer so glum about?" Rogue gave him a noncommittal
wave in the general direction behind her. "It's the danger
room, not the playground, darlin'. You've warned her enough
times so she should know better."
"Yah, but that doesn't mean she dese'ves to have a bunch
of garbage in her head. 'Sides, can't rightly say Ah wasn't
tryin' t'hurt her."
"Hmph. That's the point. Why bother practicin' if ya
know ya won't get hurt? Ya think Sinny's gonna pull his punches?
She knew the risk."
"I didn't think the training session would be over yet."
Approaching them was Joseph. He had a bounce in his step and
smile plastered on his face. Rogue was still unnerved by that.
Magneto never smiled.
Wolverine's grin widened as he began to gnaw audibly on his
cigar. "Yah, bashful here helped move things along."
"Oh, um, well I just wanted. . . ."
"Yep, I think I'll just make myself scarce if y'don't
That's right pal, you just leave me to deal with Joseph.
Some friend you are. Rogue smiled brightly, "So,
"Well, I thought, that perhaps we could go out for lunch.
. . to talk."
Noooo, I don't want to "talk" with you.
"Honestly wish Ah could, but Ah promised t'help Jean
prepare lunch today."
"Oh. Do you have to?"
Nope. "Yup, mah turn and Ah can't weasel out
of it this time." As she watched him from the corner
of her eyes, his mouth dropped in disappointment.
"In that case, may I ask you something now?"
She rolled her eyes discreetly, Figures he'd really mean
talk. "Fire away."
"I don't mean to sound pushy, but why haven't you made
use of the Z'Noxx chamber?"
"How do ya know Ah haven't?" His protests were
cut off with the flat of her palm in his face. "Listen,
when Ah want to, Ah will but not 'fore then. It has nothin'
t'do with my 'preciation or lack of it." She turned her
face away to signal the end of the conversation.
The gesture had been very sweet of him. But she still doubted
his intentions. Was he really just thanking me or was he
capitalizing on the rift between me and Remy? That's what
Magneto would have done. Joseph was growing to be more
and more like his old self every day. Gambit was on to him,
so was Logan, him from the start. Everyone else seemed blissfully
Flirting with him was fun, but anything more was out of the
question. Nice enough body, charming in his own way, but unnerving.
So, she had used his height to her advantage and kept her
head down when he moved to kiss her up on the Twin Towers.
For that reason, and to disguise her disappointment that it
had been an amnesiac being nice in response to kindness given,
rather than Remy, who had made the effort. Maybe that's
why I don't tell him about it. Him with all his "Your
power's not a barrier" talk. Unconsciously, thin
lines formed at the edge of her nostrils and between her brows.
Of course it ain't a barrier to him. All he has to do is
hop on his Harley and ride to town.
Joseph sent her a hesitant glance but she had that look again.
Mouth set, eyes slit and unfocused, the planes on her face
hardened. It made him angry at the man responsible. Remy didn't
deserve her. When they had traveled up through the coast,
she had smiled every day. Now, she was grinding her teeth.
With false gaiety, he broke in, "Have fun then, I shall.
. . take a walk."
"Huh? Oh, yah, have fun."
Sounds of pots and pans being moved, water running, and footsteps
filtered through the kitchen door. The wood was warm to her
touch. Opening it, she was met with a blast of heat from the
oven and a harried once over by Jean. Rogue didn't terribly
care for cooking, but the kitchen was just about the only
place in the mansion. "Hi, y'need any help?"
The other woman was frantically juggling two bowls, one filled
with egg yolk, while stirring a pot of yellow something. "Fine,
Remy promised to be here, but for now..." Jean whipped
by and slapped a wooden spoon into Rogue's outstretched hand.
"Burn it and I'll kill you."
Idly stirring the pot of custard, Rogue was tempted to do
exactly that. It wouldn't be very diplomatic after all the
grief she'd caused her. Least she doesn't hold grudges
Don't know why she lets everyone use her like this. She shouldn't
have ever let the gang know she could cook. Watching Jean
go psycho trying to time everything made her glad she'd never
revealed that Irene had taught her some more than basic culinary
skills. Of course, the X-Men didn't let me cook for the
longest time for fear I'd poison them. The sudden draft
alerted both of them to Remy's entrance.
Jean pretended not to notice busying herself with some batter
when Gambit glared daggers at Rogue disguising his initial
dismay. Their relationship hadn't gone well these past few
weeks. To be more precise, it had dissolved into a war of
"T'ought y'be wit Magneto."
"Ah wish. Least he never pretended t'want anythin' other
'an he did. But Joseph's not Magneto." It was possible
that Remy seriously thought she was interested in him. More
than likely, it was simply another attempt to push her away
for her own safety.
"So he says. Heard him ask you out." He looked
past her shoulder.
"Then y'also heard me ditch him. What's yo' point?"
He crossed his arms trying for a nonchalant facade. "Nothin'
at all, jus' di'n' t'ink ya was done stringin' me up."
She was glad for the task currently keeping her hands occupied.
I don't believe this, he's trying to guilt trip me!
Pulling the spoon out to strike it on the edge of the pot,
she gave it to Remy with a blasť gesture. What's my line
now? Oh yah. "Up yours too."
Mouth open in a small "O" he craned his head to
watch her leave as Jean neatly let go of a cup of corn starch.
Rogue slammed the door for good effect.
Continued in Chapter
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