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Stories by Phillippa DaCosta

"A Shiver in the Shadows"
When stalked by a shadow, Rogue wonders whether she's still in control of her life and soon discovers things aren't quite what they seem. The shadow, becomes more than a chance meeting, but a fight for survival against a brutal killer.

"Two Sides of a Different Coin"
A chance meeting? Or perhaps something more sinister. A shared glance Rogue may wish she hadn't challenged.


You're going to recognise the beginning of this, that's because I couldn't get that damn short story out of my head, so here it is, in a longer (Wolverine included) version. This is the conclusion of the beginning, if that makes any sense at all. It ate away at me until I finally through my hands up in the air and said *oh for crying-out-loud, alright, I'll write you.*
Once again let me know what you think, oh, and at the end..... It's up to you to decide who or what you think Rogue has become.

A Shiver in the Shadows

Who knows what true loneliness is -
not the conventional word but the naked terror?
To the lonely themselves it wears a mask.
Joseph Conrad

Pray that your loneliness may spur you
into finding something to live for,
great enough to die for.
Dag Hammarskjld

He stumbled through the darkness, some would say trying to escape that which lay in wait inside his head, others would say it was the body he'd left behind. Which ever it was he needed to get away, needed it more than anything. More than life itself. Whatever that meant to him.

The pain, it was incredible, stretching through his every vein, his every thought, invading his soul, what remained of his soul.

He stumbled on blindly, a drunk man, a madman, a killer, a lover. He reached out towards the darkness, towards whatever it was that lay in wait for him inside the dark of the alley. It could take him, it could have him completely, steal him away from what he called reality, from what was verging on a nightmare reality.

The trash can clattered behind him, a startling slap in the face, snapping him back from the pale reverie. He staggered and fell against the wall. Shivering. So much pain. Why torture him so, centuries of pain, why let it go on?

"Why, you don't look so good... Hun..."

He snapped up his head, company not what he wanted right now. The woman stepped out of the shadows as if they'd been her maker. Her creator. He hadn't sensed her nor seen her.

Something made him look closer. As she stood across the alley from him, her hand planted on her hip, a few locks of her hair falling over her right eye ... He saw something, but what? Something in those eyes, a familiarity, a realisation. He saw loneliness.

"Sugah, you needin' a hand there?"

"No, stay away." He whispered, clutching at his heart as though he might still believe that it beat somewhere inside there.

She smiled, "Don't say ah didn't offer."

He swallowed, his throat dry, but his mind was clearing, his thoughts calming. He let his eyes roam her body rather than bid her farewell never to be seen again. Athletic, slim and strong, but he sensed no arrogance in her, it was survival. She was survival. It was in the way she stood, the way she moved, the way she spoke. She was watching him as closely as he her, she was reading him just as he was studying her. They were both predators, both striving for survival every night and both battling and endless game.

He narrowed his eyes, "Who are you?"

"You don't need to know." She nodded slightly, shifting her stare, defusing her powerful gaze. "Who mah't you be?"

He straightened up. "You don't know?"

She laughed softly. "What does it matter, we's just passin' in the street..." She glanced down the alley out into the street beyond. That wasn't strictly true. There were both in an alley, they were both hiding and running. And time was running short, "Can't stop and chat, hun, gotta train tah catch."

He narrowed his eyes further making sure she stayed where she stood. He'd seen her before, he was sure of it. The auburn hair, the flash of white ... No, perhaps not.

"You lookin' at me like ah--"

He approached her quickly, backing her up a little. Their gazes locked. She stood her ground and had he known who she was he wouldn't have dared get so close. "I wasn't here ... Tonight. You didn't see me." He advised with a lick of his lips.

She studied him closer. Dressed in black it should have been he that hid in the shadows, or perhaps he always did. She saw nothing in his eyes but darkness. He had the features of an angel, a gift from Heaven, or Hell. His hair black, his skin deathly pale. She lifted her gloved hand without thinking and gently touched his face with her finger tips, caressing the skin ever so softly.

He closed his hand around hers and lowered it back at her side. "I don't know who you are, but you shouldn't be here, these streets, they're dangerous at night."

"Ah can look after mahself, sugah, don't you worry 'bout meh."

She laughed and the life in her eyes startled him, the dancing inside her gaze striking amazement within him. He watched though, as her smile fell away as easily as it had arrived, only in it's place he saw the true loneliness. Her green eyes studied him further. He gripped her hand and lifted it almost as if he were about to plant a kiss over her fingers, instead he turned her hand over. Gloves. Why so beautiful yet covered from head to toe.

She snatched her hand away, "Ah believe that's mine."

He smiled and backed up giving her space once again.

"You think ah couldn't have left if ah'd wanted to?" She teased as she stepped further out of the shadows towards the street.

"I think you can do whatever you want." He admired her walking away.

"Hun," She turned, those eyes pinning him down once again, "Next time, pick another alley tah fall into, cos this one, she's mine."

He saluted, "There won't be a next time... Rogue."

She frowned and was about to ask how he knew her name when he was simply gone. Dissolved into the shadows from where she'd arrived. A smile danced across her lips, a little crooked one that said too much while remaining silent. She blinked and turning her back on where he'd stood she walked towards the street, the city bustle and life devouring her hungrily, the shadows she left behind rippling silently.

It was to be a meeting that changed everything.

Gambit was talking, she was watching his lips move and could hear his rich Cajun tones, but she wasn't listening. The meeting with the stranger bothered her. Wouldn't it bother anyone if you stumbled into a man on the street who knew your name? Someone who you knew you had never seen before in your whole life. Her spider sense was telling her something was very wrong about that meeting, and not just the meeting but the man. She couldn't shift the fact that by knowing her name he had some control that she didn't; and to Rogue control was one of the most important things in her life.

"Cher, you miles away? Anywhere ah can come with you?"

She blinked and realised Gambit was waiting for some kind of response. She smiled, "Ah'm sorry, sugah, ah's miles away." She cast a gaze around her and realised they were still at the club. "This ain't no good, Remy, ah may as well go. Mah mind aint on this planet."

"Sure, p'tite. Ah'll get yah coat."

He had known her name. But when they'd first set eyes on each other he didn't seem to know her at all. Perhaps he had remembered something. And anyway, she was an X-man, names got out in this business and she had to say she wasn't one to hide in the shadows and stay discreet. He'd seen her on the evening news, that had been it. That was all. Everyone knew the Professor, everyone knew Magneto. It was only natural that he'd seen her before somewhere, it had just taken him a while to place a name with the face.

Gambit drove her back to the mansion. He seemed to have a natural ability to keep talking even when nobody was listening. But it felt nice. His voice soothed her, of course it could be the two bottles of wine she'd consumed, either way she felt good.

She pulled her coat tightly around her. Autumn had taken hold of New England, the leaves were turning while the evenings were cooling. She missed the Southern states at this time of year. Missed the warmth she'd always had there. Of course, there were dozens of reasons why she didn't go back there, back home. She had enough bad memories as it was, it would do no good dredging them all up again.

"Cher, you wanna tell Remy about it?"

She cast a weary gaze across at him. "Hun, there aint nothing to tell. Ah's just a lil' tired."

She was entitled to her silence. Fair enough. But when Rogue got quiet he knew just a little better than anyone else that things weren't right. You see, Rogue and 'quiet' didn't go well together, she had too many voices in her head all competing at once for attention, it was his theory that the voices were the reason she was so damn temperamental, either that or it was the simple fact she was a redhead, in an auburn kinda way, a redhead, from Mississippi, with fire in her heart and a quick wit. You couldn't got a more dangerous concoction, and believe it when he says he's known a few women in his time.

"Now who's the one lost in his own mind, huh?"

He cast her a sly gaze. "Gambit simply telling 'imself tah keep his hands tuh himself."

She threw him a stare mixed with disapproval and an all-knowing grin and then returned to watching the forest blur past them. The moon shone brightly above, a half moon but bright enough to guide the way. The mansion would be warm and welcoming as soon as she'd step inside the door. She'd lost count of the times that house had been a refuge for her, the times she'd opened the door and felt genuinely relieved to be back... to be home. Funny what that Professor could do to a person, how he could turn a life right around when it seemed all hope was gone. He was a hero alright, and she'd met enough self-proclaimed heroes to know what a authentic one looked like.

Look what he'd accomplished with the X-MEN, not the good guys, y'know the ones, the rebels, the outcasts. Jean, despite her problems was pretty much normal as was Scott, okay so he had problems. But where the professor had succeeded was in Wolverine, in the Cajun here - Gambit, in Morph, in the lost souls, in the misguided and uneducated... In Rogue herself. She was the first to admit she had been on a road headed down and it had almost been chance that had torn her from that road and dumped her at the mansion doors all those years ago. The rest, well, she wasn't denying them their fair share of troubles but they could nearly always guarantee a safe and happy exit. Not for the ones like Logan. No, that was where trouble seemed to follow you around, seemed to haunt you, to paralyse you in your dreams with that all too familiar fear. She had it, Logan had it and so did Remy.

There was a definite line, even through the X-Men. A line Xavier fought damn hard to wipe out.

"Woah, watch out!" She'd seen the figure in the road before Gambit, who had been muttering away to himself about the music back at the bar. He'd slammed on the brakes and yanked on the steering sending the convertible into a spin and out of control. Rogue watched the wall of trees bare down upon them, watched the moon spin above them. This was not going to be pretty.

They skidded down into the slight ditch and slammed sideways on into the pines.

Rogue fumbled for the seat belt as the engine coughed and unceremoniously died. Finding the clip she released herself and reached for Gambit. Pulling him back into the seat she saw his eyelids flicker. "Remy, sugah, you alright?" She leaned forward again, shifting and wincing as she realised the door had buckled and bruised her leg. His pulse was strong. But he was unconscious.

Damn seatbelt, she cursed, if it weren't for them she could have stopped the car mid-spin.

The laughter from above snapped her attention away from Gambit. Peering up into the darkness she made out the silhouette of a man. Instantly she was out of the car and drifting a few feet above the ground in front of him. "Who the hell..." Her voice caught in her throat as she realised the stranger was familiar. How could she forget? The meeting in the alley. "Who the hell do you think you are?!"

He smiled, the moonlight flickering in his eyes giving him a surreal appearance. He looked past her as casually as if she weren't there. "You' better get your friend home, he doesn't look too good."

Rogue dropped to the ground and faced him. "You're gonna tell me right now what you think you're doing."

He stood his ground. "I remembered you. Funny how the mind makes it easy to forget."

She clutched at his shirt and pulled him to within inches of her face it was the groan from behind her that made her pause. "Ah should kill yer for what you just done." She hissed. Her stare boring straight into his eyes though causing little reaction in him.

He gripped her hand and with amazing strength prised her grip from his shirt. "Go, deal with him Rogue, you wouldn't want another death on your conscience."

Her strength was superior, it had to be. She was quicker. Despite this she was unnerved by his presence, not only by the fact he knew her but how his presence was affecting her. There wasn't any time for this.

She drifted back into the air a few feet, throwing him a last marking stare she turned and unclipping Gambit from the car she scooped him up and headed over the forest for the mansion. There was no point in looking back, she would have been alone again, just the same as she had been after their meeting in the alley.

Okay so she was hiding. Who cared. She certainly didn't.

She counted the seconds before someone would come up to her spot on the roof and pester her. There was always someone ready to lend a helping hand, sometimes it was just too much. Was it so hard to just leave someone alone?

The sun was rising to the East baking the gardens below in a warm orange glow, the pool shimmering with a soft breeze. She loved this time in the morning. So quiet. So calm. It reminded her of when she was a child, before her powers took over. She used to sneak out of her bedroom window and walk down to the river barefoot. She'd then sit at the bank and wiggle her toes in the water. The river was always calm, it didn't have a care in the world, drifting along at a snails pace with nowhere to go in a real hurry.

That was a long time ago. Things had changed since then.

"Gumbo's fine."

She smiled at the sound of that impressive gruff voice. She even heard him pull a hand across his unshaven chin. An odd choice to come and console her, but worthy nonetheless. "Hey there, Wolvie. Got nothin' bettah to do?"

"You know me." He stopped a few feet from the edge, a safe distance. "Ain't ever got anything to do."

She peered up at him, shielding her eyes from the suns glare. "You gonna ask me if ah wanna talk about it?"

"Nope. Just making sure you don't jump."

She felt the smile and couldn't prevent the slight chuckle.

He looked down at her, "He wrote off the Cabriolet huh? Well, that'll teach Xavier to let him drive expensive toys."

Rogue felt the smile settle and stay. She leaned forward and looked down between her legs at the pool. "Does he remember anything?"

"You ask him. Why? Was there something to remember?"


"Just a Deer, right?"

"Right." She kept her gaze pinned on the view down. He already suspected she was lying, that man could sniff out a lie at a thousand paces.

She pushed herself off the side, twisted in the air and grinned at him a few feet from the edge of the gutter. "You gonna take mah way down or the ol' fashioned way?"

He signalled over his shoulder with his thumb. "The ol' fashioned way is fine with me." Watching her skip in the air and disappear out of sight he wondered what was going on with her. She was lying alright, but what would she have to hide? He didn't believe she would have intentionally done anything to harm Gambit, she was capable of it alright but he saw the way she looked at the thief. Even when she was cursing him into the ground there was a flash of something beyond all of her facades she'd created for herself. So, if she didn't hurt him then someone else did. Or, of course, it could have been a Deer.

Logan chuckled to himself. Time to get off this rooftop before he fell of it.

Sometimes she'd wished she'd kept something of home. Other times she was glad she didn't. Times like this, as she lay snuggled in her bed staring up at the ceiling, she was a little sad somehow. She didn't even understand it, why the hell would Xavier? He'd tried to probe her mind, especially in the first few months of her arrival. Her mind was chaotic, she could have told him that, in fact she did. He didn't believe her, or more of a case of he thought different. Well, no big surprises. Her mind was a maze of corridors and locked doors. She kept it that way. It was how she remained sane after absorbing so many alien emotions and memories. She weren't broken, so no point trying to fix her.

That was how Rogue saw it. Thing is, you get people like Xavier who have to keep on digging, keep on delving into secrets and things best left alone. People like him never stop until they've reached their goal. Now in some cases that was good, but in hers all it did was open forgotten wounds.

She'd been told once that there was never anyone so vulnerable than those who didn't know themselves. Her strength was supreme, her stamina vastly superior to that of a hundred athletes. She would be another Juggernaut if it weren't for her damn mind, and her heart.

Hell, she was a powerful weapon, you couldn't count the times on your fingers that she'd been manipulated for her powers. In fact, if she had to sum herself up she would say she was a liability.

This wasn't doing her any good. Laying here staring up at the ceiling. These quiet times were always the worst, her damn mind again, always had to stick it's oar in.

"Dammit..." She sat up abruptly and threw the covers back. "This is ridiculous, may as well do something with mahself."

She walked slowly and quietly down to the Danger Room. Now, at this time of the morning, perhaps around two, she often found herself walking the mansion alone. However, to her surprise the Danger Room was already taken.

Flicking on the lights in the preparation room she paused. A familiar character catching her eye. She watched the charged aces fly and narrowed her eyes. It wasn't like Gambit to brood alone, if anything he loved attention.

She stood against the glass and pressing her gloved hands against the surface she watched him intently. She marvelled at his poise. Many a time he'd left her smiling behind him as he'd launched himself in through a window or leapt from one building to another. His grace was indeed unique. A thief he was, it ran through his blood like the Mississippi through Louisiana. He moved like a cat, every step, every breath timed for efficiency. Oh, and could he dance! She'd seen him, rarely been a partner with him. Dancin' jus' weren't her thing.

She laughed softly. He reminded her of that actor, what was his name... A great sword fighter. Ah, Gene Kelly.

She laughed again. Perhaps not. Stick a long leather coat on Gene, fingerless gloves, a Cajun accent. Smack the man in the face with some charisma and shove him out into the rain of alluring and flattering phrases, then you'd have Gambit.

He saw her suddenly and instantly commanded the programme to stop.

She swallowed, knowing exactly what was coming, then shifted uneasily as he fast approached her.

The door open with a whoosh of air and his eyes met hers. She smiled letting her innocence diffuse him, even if it was only by a fraction. He wasn't taken in by that smile, he'd seen it too many times. He stopped there as the door swung shut behind him. "The next taime yah wan' me to lie for you do yah wanna let me know first?!"

She swallowed again. "Remy, ah didn't have time." She explained, her pitch of voice a little higher than she wanted it to be.

He flicked his fingers at her, opening his half gloved hand in a gesture. "Ah get the Prof coming to me asking how it happened, if it hadn't a' been for Logan's expression you're lie woulda been out deh in broad daylight for everyone to see."

She drew in s breath. "Ah told you, ah'm sorry-"

"-Wait, ah don' recall you tellin' me that cher."

She snaked her arms crossed. "Look, you oversized swamp-rat, ah did what ah did, ah got mah own reasons that you don't need to know. Why don't you stay outtah it, Remy"

He played at being shocked, "I don' need to know? Oh really. Right, so this guy forces me off deh road and Remy gottah stay out of it? Ah don' think so, cher, you gonna tell me right now what's goin' on."

She fixed her gaze on his. "Ah don't have to tell you anything."

"You think not? P'tite," He smiled, a smile filled with irony. "Xavier already knows I was lying, nobody can get anything past hem, you goin' to explain to the Prof that you lied to protect someone who ran meh off the road!"

She backed up a little. He was right. Xavier always found out what he wanted to know. He would come to her and ask her straight out and she would have to tell him the truth this time. "Gambit, ah don't know who he was."

He didn't believe her. "Ah thank you for saving me, cher, dis only a shame that you cannot trust meh." He turned his back on her and quickly left.

Rogue slouched back against the glass. She didn't trust him, she never had done. But why was she protecting that man. It was true he'd run them off the road with purpose. There was something though, something she wanted to know before the others got themselves involved.

She activated the Danger Room and set about forgetting, for a while at least.

She remembered the district of New Orleans from when she was a child, she'd visited there a few times; enough times to know the place was an intoxication of enigmas and sins, of the amazing and the dangerous. Not unlike her own home New Orleans sweltered in the summer heat making men appreciate the cool summer evenings. Heat haze rippled up from the ground distorting your vision, making all the peculiar European buildings take on the unreality of a mirage. Nothing in New Orleans was real, it was all a dream. She remembered thinking that, even now she felt sure that her judgement as a child had been correct.

There was something making her remember. Something digging inside her mind, picking at the cracks in her barriers, flicking out chunks of security and leaking out the contents.

They were her memories alright, she could see herself in the dusty store windows, hear her own voice as she asked her Mama where she was being taken.

Where was she being taken? That she had yet to remember.

Now? Well now she had Logan, Gambit and Xavier giving her second looks. They wouldn't take much more of this, one of them was going to demand she trust them and when they did, she still wasn't sure she could. Well, how could she? She didn't even know what she knew, but what if it was bad, what if it as in fact about her? It was this that bothered her, this that kept he from spilling all. What if it all came back to her.

What had he said... 'You wouldn't want another death on your conscience.'

What had he meant by that? What did he know?

"Ah gotta find him." She whispered to herself as she sat alone in the kitchens.

It was the only way she was going to know, know for sure.

Back to the bar. At three in the morning it still buzzed with life. Even if the life to speak of was a little...odd.

The band that now played was headed by a female singer and the music, well, it could be described as soft rock. Rogue caught the eye of the singer purely by accident but recognised something in her straight away. Her blond hair was short, flicked out at the sides as if she'd slept on it then ruffled it briefly before facing her audience. Her eyes were a dazzling blue, almost too bright to be real.

Rogue turned her attention on making her way through the crowds to the bar. The girl had been the very same one Gambit had taken a disliking to, or rather hadn't appreciated. Not like Gambit to pass up an opportunity with the opposite sex.

This was a good a place as any to start looking for the stranger.

"Back for more?" The barman asked with a wide and wise smile on his face.

Rogue flashed a smile back, "Couldan' stay away, sugha."

This time of night, like New Orleans, things looked different. People acted differently. She's always considered the night another hiding place, and she wasn't alone. There was a particular breed of people that thrived at night, the rest went home at one in the morning and called it a night. She watched them now, out of the corner of her eye. The loners, the young, the hungry. There were those who watched as eagerly as she did but for different reasons.

Taking a sip of her drink she was reminded of the evening those few days ago when she'd agreed to join Gambit for a drink. She'd barely listened to a word he'd said all evening. Why did he insist on pursuing her, didn't he get it? She was out of bounds, off limits, untouchable, literally.

The singer slowed the beat and her smooth voice calmed the air as she began to sing a ballad. Rogue let herself slip into the atmosphere and slip at the same time into anonymity. The wine was nice, a little warm but nice all the same.

"You drinkin' alone sweetheart?"

She lifted her gaze to the man who had invited himself to sit next to her, brushing her arm as he did so. "No, hun, I's waitin' for someone."

"Really, well you been her a long time, maybe he aint comin'."

She studied the lines on his face and wondered what he'd seen to make him look so weathered. His eyes were bloodshot and his ability to focus practically non-existent. He displayed his drunkenness by reaching for her arm and gripping it tightly. Rogue pried his grip from her arm. "Sugah, wha' don' you go home, ah think you've had enough of that there Southern Comfort."

He grinned wildly, "You can be mah southern comfort sweetheart."

She smiled with her eyes narrowed. "Ah told you, ah got a friend ah'm waitin' for, you'd better find someplace else to sit."

She saw his expression change, saw the look in his eyes change from half asleep alcoholic to angered drunk lunatic. It was enough to warn her. She kept hold of his hand rather than letting him have it back she leaned close to him and began to tighten her grip. "Listen to me, you don't want to sit here, go pester someone else." She watched him begin to twist his body as her grip became painful, twisting himself he let out a whine.

She shoved him away from her and looked away as he stumbled and fell backwards into the crowd.

Men. If they figured out that being intelligent got the girls, well, there was no chance of that ever happening.

He picked himself up and casting her a last wary glance let the crowd swallow him up.

Rogue smiled into her glass as she took a sip.

"Well, well, well, fancy meeting you here."

That same old gruff voice, the same old scratching as he pulled a hand over his unshaven chin. Rogue looked over her shoulder, "All ah get is assholes buggin' me."

Logan played at acting hurt, "I've been called many a thing before-"

She slapped the seat beside her cutting him off in mid sentence, "You'd bettah sit da'n."

He took up her offer and ordered a Jack Daniels while Rogue watched him closely. He threw her a smile, "Nice singer."

"So, ah'm guessin' you were jus' passin' at three in the morning?" She said, still smiling and watching.

He lifted the drink to his lips and winked, "Of course, what else do you think I do at night? Cos I certainly don't sleep." His eyes returned to the singer as Rogue took a sip of her own drink.

After a few moments she asked softly, "You gonna ask me why ah'm here?"

"Nope." He replied, his attention still on the singer as she swayed like a snake to the song she was creating.

She found herself smiling into her drink again. Better Logan than Gambit, or worse, Cyc. Jubilee would have been fun, they could have got wrecked together, not that she condoned such things. Storm, nah, same as Cyc, too damn wrapped up in what's right and wrong. Now Beast was always worth sharing a drink with, he could baffle you in seconds or tell you the reason for living and leave you astounded for hours and unable to sleep for a week. Jean would have successfully persuaded her to go back and that wouldn't do any good.

Logan turned and faced her suddenly, "Stop thinking. Nobody sent me. I figured I may as well keep you company. Two insomniacs are better than one."

She blinked, her expression frozen for a moment as she decided what had brought on this sudden honesty. She the raised an eyebrow suspiciously. "You bidding for listener of the month award?"

"Damn, you got me all sussed out." He chuckled.

Rogue ordered another drink and relaxed as she watched the singer continue while at the same time watching Logan out of the corner of her eye. You never could be confident you'd ever figured him out. Just when you thought you knew him he'd turn round and slap you in the face with something new. She'd envied his freedom and felt his pain many a time. She'd watched him defy everyone, argue with everything and she'd wished it had been her saying and doing those things. He was a man of little patients but despite what others may think he had tremendous control. Something she lacked. Behind the anger and impulsiveness he was an animal, the military and Alpha teams had turned him into a killing machine.

She looked at him now while trying not to make it seem obvious. He sat as still as a statue, his eyes cold while his stare was unmoving. He was in a constant state of readiness. His muscles tensed, his mind alert. Before he met the Professor he was a machine, quite literally. Training like that forced itself to become second nature.

"What you lookin' at me like that for, kid?"

"Ah's wonderin' when it was yer last shaved, yah animal." He threw her a glance and a smile. Perhaps it was the alcohol, or perhaps it was the chaos of the last couple of days, but whatever it was that led her to her next question it seemed genuine enough, almost too genuine. "Logan, you ever wonder why we're here? Why this is all happening, what we're supposed to do?" She lifted her gaze from her drink and saw how sincere he was looking.

He leaned a little closer while concentrating on tracing the lip of his glass with a finger. "If I were to start thinking like that I'd shoot myself."

She smiled thinking he was joking then quickly dropped the smile as she realised he wasn't.

"Thinking never did me any good, kid. If I start to think- well, y'know what. I reckon you must know exactly what it's like. You tell me."

She finished her drink abruptly and began to wish she hadn't asked. "You start to think and things get outtah hand.... you er.... hell, you start falling."

He blinked slowly, meeting her stare briefly. "Exactly. An' I never liked fallin', from any height."

This time she held his stare. "So, why are you and I here Wolverine? Why us, huh. It jus' don't make no sense. If there's a God up there why choose us?"

"Cos he's-"

"No, wait," She laughed, "I know this one. Cos He works in mysterious ways?"

"Actually I was going to say, cos He's got a twisted sense of humour."

She smiled warmly and let him brush a lock of hair back from in front of her eyes. "Ah, yer big ol' softie. An' they say Wolverine's as hard as an ol' Chevvy pick-up."

He let his hand drop and finished his drink. "C'mon you. If we don't get back they'll all start talking an' I'll have Gumbo on me back."

They left with a last glance at the singer as she began to sing a soft rock number, her voice as intoxicating as at the beginning of the evening.

A light rain had fallen glazing the cars in the lot with a fine mist from which the light from the streetlamps glistened. The early morning air still held a chill that misted their breath while the stars peeked through the dark clouds above.

"You gonna tell me who that guy was that ran you an' Gambit off the road?"

Rogue stopped mid-stride as Logan unlocked the Jeep door. "Ah knew you were out here for a reason, ah jus' knew it."

"Don't get all bent outtah shape, I'm curious is all. You got a right to secrets, hell knows ah got enough of 'um to last a lifetime."

She hugged herself trying to keep the chill out while she contemplated telling him everything. What was there to tell anyway? "Ok. Ok. Alright. I stumbled into the guy earlier on in that evening. We said hello and that was about it, ah didn't think anything of it til', well, till' he ran us off the road." Logan listened patiently, all of his attention on her. "He says he knew me, says he knows me. He said something else too, something that if ah tell yah it don't go any further."


She shifted uneasily. "He er ... He said ah, er, that ah didn't need another death on my conscience."

Logan worked hard at keeping his expression motionless although his first reaction was one of shock, if a slight change in his breathing pattern could be described as shock. Rogue was what he called ultimate innocence. She was untouched and naive despite her experiences. She remained the most honest and probably the most reliable of all of the group. He'd trust her with his life, in fact he remembered he had, several times. Okay, so she could be a little wild every now and than but there was no crime in that.

She was watching him, waiting for some kind of a response. He glanced briefly away, up at the stars then back at her anxious face. "You gonna tell me what happened?"

She swallowed. A lump had suddenly appeared in her throat making it difficult for her to breathe. She cleared her throat and took a deep breath. Why was she doing this? Wait, she wasn't doing anything. She smiled a little, shifted her gaze perplexing him as he waited for her response. She simply rose into the air and out of sight.

Logan stood there for a while. It was like Gumbo had said. It was too easy for her to run away, all she had to do was take flight and literally she could get out of anything she didn't like.

He smiled and shook his head then climbed into his jeep.

Gambit looked eagerly around the group seated round the table while at the same time flicked a card between all of his fingers on his left hand. Xavier was talking, his cool dulcet tones filling the war room with it's authority while they all listened intently. All accept him. Storm was looking as serene as ever, her chocolate skin in direct contrast to her long white hair and her icy blue eyes. She caught his stare and frowned a little. He smiled, teasing her.

There was Jubilee, desperate to get out of here as always. She had such urgency for one so young, wanted to do and learn everything before she was nineteen.

Jean sat next to Cyclops. Gambit smiled internally, he bet they were talking to each other, muttering away inside their minds while still remaining role models for the rest of them.

Then there was Wolverine, looking as intense as ever. He never gave himself a break. If it weren't for the fact he would live pretty much forever he would have died of a heart attack by now.

Beast winked at Gambit and silently urged him to listen before he got caught.

Gambit continued passing the card between his fingers. Rogue was absent this morning. He'd been harsh, he knew it. She'd needed to hear it though. The world didn't revolve around her. Hell, no. The times she'd put herself before others. Well, there were plenty, there was that time... No. When she... No, that wasn't her fault. There had to be plenty of times.


The card stopped between his forefinger an thumb and he looked up. Okay, they're all lookin at yer Remy, they is waitin' for an answer...

"Yeah... Ah gotta agree with yah there Professor." The worlds rolled of his tongue like poetry and this time it did the trick. Xavier continued while both Beast and Storm threw him a look a disapproval.

"Does anyone know where Rogue could be this morning?" Xavier questioned.

Eyes once again fell to Remy, all eyes accept Logan's. Remy shrugged, "Wha you's all lookin' at me? Ah'm the last person she tells anythin' around 'ere."

Outside in the hallway as they all filed out Gambit caught Logan's stare and drew him away from the others as they left to carry out the days good deed. "Nah, Remy not usually int'rested in wot u' up to Wolvie, but when it involves mah-"

Logan narrowed his eyes. "Spit it out Cajun."

Gambit tensed his jaw and spoke through his teeth. "You know where Rogue is. You gonna tell me?"

"As usual, Gumbo, you got it all wrong. Ah don't know where she is. We spent a little time in the city last night, she left and ah ain't seen her since." Logan smiled crookedly, damn he loved to play games with the Cajun. Turning he started to walk away.

"You spen' deh night wid her?" Came the Creole voice behind him.

"I didn't say that."

"Then wha-"

Xavier voice interrupted. "Remy, can I please talk with you for a moment."

Logan chuckled to himself and slipped a thumb over his jeans pocket. Gambit ought to relax a little more often.

Sunlight brightened and warmed the coldest day of the year so far. The forest that enclosed and protected the mansion was a blush of reds and browns, leaves falling into the slow flowing river and collecting around the waters edge.

Logan heard the gravel crunch as Gambit approached him, he knew it was him, could smell New Orleans on him. Logan reached deeper into the V8 engine of the jeep. "What can I do you for?"

Before Gambit could answer the gentle hum of a cars engine rose above the trickling of the river at the same time demanding attention.

They both turned and watched the blue Convertible wind it's way along the drive until it reached the mansion and skidded to a halt on the gravel.

Logan leaned back against the front of the Jeep as Gambit immediately made his way towards the car.

Rogue opened the car door and stepped out into the sunlight. If she wanted to ruffle a few feathers she was certainly doing a good job. For one, Logan mused, that was Jean's personal car.

He watched her tense as she must have seen Gambit from behind her sunglasses. From where he was he could make out her expression. Damn, it was like they were married.

"Next time-"

She held up a hand, "-Don't. Jus' stop ra'ht there shugah."

Gambit lowered his tone. "Wad is goin' on wid you cher?"

She smiled. "Nothin'."

Logan returned to the engine waiting patiently for him to resume.

'Oh she may be weary, an' young girls they do get weary, wearing that same ol' shaggy dress, but when she gets weary try a little tenderness....

You know she's waitin', just anticipating, the things that she never never, never, never, never, possesses yeah, but while she's there waiting without you try a little tenderness.'

It was the image of Magneto showing on the television that stopped her singing. She twisted the volume knob on the midihifi and snatched at the remote to turn up the volume on the TV.

Moments later they were called to the war room. Rogue opened her window and looked out over the grounds of the mansion. She knew what they said about her, how easy it was for her to run away but did they ever think that it might be too painful to stay? No. It was brave to stay, it took courage and you were a real hero if you stayed and dealt with it.

Well, to hell with them.

She never said she was a hero, she never pretended to be anything other than what she was and that simple wasn't enough for them.

Logan caught her ankle and yanked her bank in through the window. She fell into him and twisted in his grip. "Get yer hands off'a meh!"

He caught her wrist and yanked hard snapping her back into reality. "Rogue, don't walk out on us."

"Ha, comin' from the man who can't be trusted to stay around-"

She struck him hard across the face, too hard. Forgetting her strength she knocked him back against her dresser, it's contents scattering.

Logan shook his senses back into their rightful places and saw the fear in her eyes. "Don't do it."

Too late. She was gone.

The air whooshed around her as she rose higher and higher into the night canopy. It's ice cutting into her eyes and freezing the air in her lungs. She didn't care.

Then she stopped.


They were right. She couldn't run. He was part of her. Inside her head, inside her mind and no matter how hard she tried to run and hide she couldn't get away from him.

The city welcomed her, wrapping her in it's steamy warmth and wan orange glow.

The same ally beckoned her. He'd been hunting her, when in fact she had found him. Landing softly the memory of that evening came back to her. He'd stumbled towards her oblivious that she was there watching him. He looked sick, frightened. She remembered thinking that he could do with someone giving him a hand.

His eyes were dark, they had held a dozen mysteries, pulling her inside and trapping her there amongst those mysteries. Pale, he'd been so pale. He stumbled towards her breathless and most certainly running from something.

Rogue touched the brick wall with her gloved hand. He'd looked at her hand, he'd wondered why she wore gloves and then realised that she was covered all over. It was then he must have remembered.


Those eyes. That gaze, filled with fear.

There was something there. Something making her remember. Something else familiar, something other than the loneliness inside him.

She stepped out into the light of the main street and for a moment cast a gaze over the stationary lines of cars, headlights peering into the rear lights of the car in front. Turning right she walked briskly down the sidewalk, passing under the neon lights and canopies. The next alley caught her eye. A strip of yellow crime scene tape had been tied to a post, it hung lose now, flapping back and forth, taunting her with it's obviousness.

She could smell the blood. It was all too familiar to her. The scratches on the bricks drew her attention, four scratches betraying the pale red underneath the surface. There had been a struggle, someone had died here. She knew. She just knew. The air, the chill. This place was set aside from time, from reality.


His name is Jason.

Oh dear lawd, ah remember...

New Orleans. She had been young. Naive. Her powers had just manifested themselves.

Rogue sank to her knees. The realisation of what she'd done ran through he veins making her tremble. She covered her face with her hands and fought for breath.

This couldn't be possible. He was dead. She'd watched him die. She'd killed him.

A city. The same as all the others. Accept this one was New Orleans, the city itself was alive. The streets hummed while the bars trembled with blues music. There was music on every corner and danger down every dark ally.

She'd been young, too young to know any better. It had been fun. A little trip that nobody knew about. She'd been here before, of course, and she had fallen in love with the place. But things were changing at home, soon she would have to leave if her papa didn't kill her before then. So this was a little treat. A trip for herself. Something nobody knew about and nobody would ever know about.

It had all gone fine. That was until night fell. She barely even realised it was dark. Wandering along the sidewalk, a hundred tunes from the day inside her mind.

Time passes so quickly when you don't watch it. It sneaks away from you then shocks you for fun.

She didn't know what the time was but it had been late. He'd stalked her for some time, watching her well before night fall, spotting her in one of the many bars. She stuck out like the country girl she was. A long way from home, he could tell. She walked as if she didn't have a care in the world, her hair tied back with numerous strands fallen lose as though she simply didn't mind.

She was freedom. He'd seen her, watched her and now he followed her.

Rogue lifted her head and looked down the alley, looked at the yellow crime scene tape. She could feel it, her body trembled, her skin crawled. It was all coming back and she was helpless to stop it.

Xavier could stop it. Before...Before she remembered it all.

"Professor?!" She called, flinging open the mansion door and bursting inside. "Professor?!" She marched down the corridors calling a he went but was met with silence. "Gambit!" She could hear her voice becoming more and more urgent, she could even hear her own fear growing.


Rogue swung around. "Storm, where's Xavier? I need to talk to him, now."

"He's left. Something's happened to Magneto."

Rogue felt her chest tightening. She was fighting her mind, fighting it all of the time, but it was winning. She clamped her hands aside her head. "Where's Jean, where is she?"

Storm approached her. "She's gone with the Professor, Rogue, what's wrong?"

Rogue backed up. "No. No. Nothing." She could see him. In her arms. Bleeding. Dying. "G-Gambit?"

Storm tapped the communicator on her shoulder. "Remy, please come to the lounge right away."

"...Der somethin' wrong Stormy?"

"It's Rogue."

Rogue backed up further and hit the wall. Squeezing her eyes shut she willed the memories away. Begged them to leave her, just for a moment. No, no use. With a scream she launched herself through the window and once again out into the night.

Storm quickly followed.

Rogue channelled all of her energy into her speed, every thought, every breath went into her need to travel faster. She left Storm far behind.

The landscape rushed by below her, rising and falling away into the sea.

She was winning. Her mind was clearing. She began to slow and calm herself.

'Ah, can see you Rogue, ah can see you runnin' from me. You can't run from me, Rogue. I'm part of you now. You're part of me. You killed me Rogue, now it's time ah returned the same to you. You're mind Rogue.'

It seemed that her breath caught in her throat, she fought for air but none came. She was passing out and even then she knew what dream awaited her, lurking there in the darkness of her mind waiting for it's chance to rear it's ugly head and bare it's sharp teeth.

She was first aware he was behind her when the silence fell upon them. The city seemed hushed suddenly, the music stopped and the life faded away. She felt her heart sink and the hair on the back of her neck prickle. It was then he caught hold of her and dug the knife into her back. Shoving her sideways into an ally she stumbled and fell over. She felt the wall meet with her forehead, felt the sting and then nothing for a few moments. When finally her senses came back the knife was once again in her back. She was pinned down, a heavy weight preventing her from moving.

If she could just gather her thoughts back together.

The knife dug in forcing her to scream. A hand clasped over her mouth and yanked her head back. She felt the cold of the blade on her throat.

This wasn't happening. Not to her. It was a dream.

"Scream an' ah'll cut yer wide open, yah hear me?" He waited. "Ya hear me girl?!"

She felt a dribble of something run down her neck and whimpered a yes.


Logan was the nearest to her location. When Storm had radioed him and told him of Rogue's whereabouts he told her he would be there in ten. In fact he made it in five after breaking several laws. She was unconscious and had fallen from some height by the looks of the small crater she'd created in the park grounds. He checked for a pulse and found it strong.

"Rogue... you in there kid?" He turned her head to face him and brushed her hair back from her face. "Rogue..."

She gasped and swung for him. He ducked, caught her wrist and pinned it down.

"No!" She screamed in sheer terror. "GET OFF ME!"

Logan slapped her and met her stare.

Her breathing slowed, she blinked. "Ah'm okay, ah'm alright, you can let me up."

He though about that for a moment then moved off her and stood up. He held out a hand.

She welcomed his help and on her feet brushed herself down. "Ah'm okay." She kept repeating.

Logan reached for the communicator on his belt when she planted a hand on his. "No. Don't"

"Rogue, I have to. They have to know, Storm has to know you're okay."


He hesitated. She certainly wasn't okay. Far from it. She was a wreck.

"Please." She whispered.

He let his hand drop to his side. "So, what is it you want to do? Where you going to go co I can't let you go alone."

She waved his help away and turning her back on him walked away. "You don't need to get involved."

"It's too late for that."

"Stay out of it." She called back.

He sighed and jogged after her. "You can fly away from me if you like, if not you got me for the ride."

She raised an eyebrow at him. "I'm fine. Really. Jus' need a lil' time a' mah own."

He chuckled ironically. "Look, ah been around the block a few times an' ah know a few things. One, you're scared. Two, you're dangerous. Look at the mess you made of this park. Three, you need help weather you like it or not. So I might not be your first choice but ah can listen as good as anyone and I think that's what you need."

She managed a fake smile. "I can manage. You go home, get some sleep."

He stepped in front of her. "Right that's it, woman. I don't have time for word games. This is about that guy ain't it. Don't turn away from me Rogue-"

Rogue closed her eyes and saw him there. Pale. Dead. "Ah killed him..."

He saw a tear roll down her cheek and resisted the urge to wipe it away with a thumb.

"That's it. That's all there is."

He narrowed his eyes. "That aint it."

Logan slammed his hand down on the desk. "Look, just give us the keys alright." The looks he was getting from the guy at the reception wasn't what he wanted right now.

Rogue turned away knowing she looked awful and was arousing suspicion.

They had driven in silence, both knowing where they were going. The elevator had delivered them to the third floor in silence and now they stood awkwardly in a little room. It's large window reflecting themselves back at them.

"If you ain't gonna go back to the mansion then you gotta stay somewhere."

She nodded.

He smiled wanly. "I don't bite."

"I've heard different." She replied, sounding bitter rather than jolly.

He closed the blinds making the room seem instantly smaller, if that were physically possible. "There's a minibar."

She smiled a little. "No thanks, hun." Her smile grew. He looked so out-of-place. His hair was unruly, a stubble of an early morning beard appearing. He was a mass of contradictions. A mess of everything else.

Rogue moved to the end of the bed and sat down. "He's er.... He's called Jason."

Logan crossed his arms and listened.

She smiled as if she was ashamed and looked down into her lap. "He.... Ah, ah was young, ah dun' ever know haw old ah was..." She swallowed. That lump appearing again. " New Orleans... Ah saved up and took mahsel' to New Orleans for a day." She looked up and laughed nervously. "Everybody thinks I'm the little innocent one. Everyone thinks I'm stupid. Don' know anything, po-white-trash..."

It was Logan's turn to swallow. "That aint true."

"Well, sometimes you do a great job of hiding it... but ah know," She shrugged and whispered, "Ah know."

Logan pulled a hand down his face and drew in a breath.

She looked up, expecting him to speak but he stayed silent and met her gaze.

"He er... He saw meh, saw poor country gal. Young, defenseless, easy prey." She shifted uneasily again. The memories were coming fast now, her body was crawling with sensations, her stomach sick. She laughed again and wiped a tear away, "He's insane. He'd done it before. Killed others, ah knew as soon as ah saw his face-he made me look him in the eyes. Forced me to look at him." Rogue sniffed and sighed heavily, "Nobody knows. Nobody. Ah didn't even know mahself. How's that for efficiency."

She should be talking with Xavier, not me. Logan thought. I can't do this. "One sec." He crouched down and opened the minibar then thought better of it and closed it again. "Okay."

She laughed despite herself. "You're mad, Logan, Xavier ever tell yah' that?"

"I think so."

"What the hell am ah doin' here, with you? I mean, no offence, but of all the people I could have picked to spill my history out to and it's you."

"I know. Tell me about it."

"Ah am..." She was about to laugh and stopped. Closing her eyes she brushed yet another tear away. Standing up suddenly she paced the three foot of room she had to pace. " I need to forget, dammit, not remember."

"Too late for that."

She met his stare again. "You've seen a lottah things Wolverine, this aint of any interest to you, ah don't why ah'm bothering."

He frowned. "What are you saying? That I don't care?"

"No.... Well, yeah, you seen people die, you seen people get hurt. What's my little life gotah do with anything?"

He gritted his jaw and ground his teeth. "Kid, listen to what your saying for a second will yer. If I didn't care would I have sat for hours in a bar with an awful singer, would I have broken six speeding offences to get to you when Storm told me about what had happened, would I have brought you here, would I be standing here now? You been around Gumbo too much, now there's someone who don't give a damn."

"What? You couldn't be more wrong about Remy."

"Yeah? So where is he?"

Rogue frowned. "You wish you weren't here don't you. You think this aint your job, it's Gambit's job to look after lil' ol' me and mah lil' ol' worries."


"No?" She marched up to him and met him in the eye. "All you care about is Jean and how to get her away from Cyc-"

He controlled his breathing, locked his jaw and clenched his fists. "Watch it Rogue. Jus' cos your a lass don't mean ah wont know yer on yah backside."

"Yeah, go on..." Inches from his face, the both of them breathing fast, thoughts racing. She backed off. "Aw lawd ah'm so sorry, Logan."

He saw she was stumbling and caught hold of her. She fell into his grip and felt him tense. She didn't care. All she wanted now was someone to listen, someone to care. When he closed his arms around her she sunk into the embrace and closed her eyes.

"It's okay..."

She wished it was.

"He stalked me. For hours, must have been. He knew my name, knew how much money ah had left, knew what time ah had to be back at the station. He got hold a me, threw me against a wall. It er.... it knocked me out for a few seconds. Enough for him to pin me down. He had a knife, one of those combat knives." She lifted her chin and stroked her throat as if soothing the memory away. "Held it to my throat, threatened to cut me open...

"Ah knew a's weren't normal then, but it was premature. I didn't understand what was happening to me so I didn't have a chance in hell of controlling mah powers back then. He pulled me onto mah back," She cleared her throat, "Pressed the knife against mah throat. He told me he was going to kill me anyway. Told me if I struggled he'd make it a quick death... told me...Aw...sweet jesus...."

Logan watched almost helpless as Rogue buried her head in her hands and let the sobs take her. What was he supposed to do? Comfort her? Go over there and tell her everything was okay and that the pain would go away. The pain doesn't go away.

"Ah er... I begged him not to hurt me and he pulled th-the knife.... across mah throat, jus' a lil'... Damn, ah could feel it cut intah meh, y'know, feel it slice into mah skin.

"He stole everything, which weren't a lot." She gasped, "He told me everything he was doing. Ah damn well would have rather not know! He.... er.... Ah feel sick."

She stood up and began to pace again. Breathing heavily she wished the nausea past. Opening her eyes she met Logan's stare and held it rigid. "He ripped mah clothes. Mah papa beat me for the mess ah came home in, called me trash, mutant trash."

Logan wanted more than anything to look away, to bow his head. Anything. By holding his stare she was taking him there and making him feel the pain. She was forcing him through it, making him see and understand.

"He tried to rape me. And he wouldah done had ah not been a mutant, ah'd be dead now if ah were normal. He ....touched meh."

She closed her eyes and fought the sickness again. You's mine, Roguie, ah got yer now.

"Ah couldn't do anything. Could barely breathe with that knife... He er... H-he tried to,er..."

Logan looked away, he had to.

"In that state ah guess it made mah powers worse, made 'em react. Ah didn't know what was happening. Ah mean, this was before Cody. Ah thought ah was dying when it happened. Thought it was mah life flashing before mah eyes, but it weren't, it was his. It made me insane, you have tah understand Logan that ah didn't know who ah was for a while, all ah knew was that ah was in danger and ah was gonna die if ah didn't do something quick.

"When his memories faded from mah mind he was bleeding, ah'd stabbed him. He died in mah arms. I felt him go. Watched him die. Nobody knew, til' now."

Logan sighed. He was exhausted. "Dear God Rogue..."

She caught his stare, made him look at her. "Ah'm still meh... Y'know..."

He smiled. "I know." Without thinking he stepped up to her and pulled her to him. The overwhelming need to protect her shocked the both of them but it soon subsided. Rogue leaned into him and closed her eyes. "Ah can't get rid of the memories now, it's all ah see when ah close mah eyes."

"It'll pass. Give it time."

Surprisingly she slept, even if her sleep was sporadic and riddled with bad dreams. He watched her from the chair in the corner, occasionally going to her side when her whimpers were too much to bare.

He thought back over what she had told him. It had been a lot for a child to cope with, a child who already had enough problems without being attacked. No wonder then that she had buried the incident so deep that even Xavier couldn't find it.

He woke to the sound of running water and shifted with a weary groan. He'd slept in some places but none so uncomfortable as that damn chair. Climbing to his feet he stretched and cracked the muscles in his neck.

Moving to the door leading to the en-suite he saw her silhouette behind the shower door. He looked away. "Rogue, you okay?" He called, lifting his gaze and watching her raise her arms and pull her hands down over her hair.


Now any gentleman would of course go back and sit down. It almost happened, his conscience getting the better of him. But his eyes stayed and therefore so did the rest of him. He stood a little transfixed as he watched her blurred image move under the jet of the shower head.

"You got some sleep then?" She called.

He swallowed and cleared his throat, "Yeah." This was no good. He turned away and made himself stand at the windows. The city gaped before him in the early morning sun. A little smog shifted as a mist through the streets while many of the cars heading for week still had their headlights on.


He turned and once again diverted his eyes elsewhere. "Hey, no problem."

She glanced back at the shower as she pulled the towel tighter around her. "Ah needed that."

"We should contact Storm." He replied as he looked out of the windows again. He could see her pale reflection. Quickly he walked into then steamy bathroom and filling the sink splashed cold water on his face and pulled his wet hands back through his hair.

"The comms have been on since ah woke up. They ain't tried to contact us yet."

He raised his head and looked at his reflection. She's telling you about her attack and you're thinking about hat it would be like to touch her. Get a grip. She ain't: one, available, two; willing... He bowed his head and looked into the water. Droplets falling from his face rippling the surface.

"You okay Logan?"

"Uh huh."

He was only human right. It was natural. But not Rogue. She was a friend, she was a companion. Nothing more and never would be anything more. Rogue was like a daughter to them all.

He snatched a towel, scowled at himself and returned to the main room.

She was dressed, her wet hair tied back and hung over one shoulder. She smiled, "Ah feel really weird... Logan, can we keep this to ourselves. Ah ain't ready for he others to know."

He heard the footfalls suddenly and frowned as his attention went to the door. Seconds later an explosion shook the room making them both flinch back in reaction. The door burst open, cracking it's hinge and falling lose. As the dust settled Logan and Rogue were faced with Gambit, Storm and Beast.

At first everything seemed fine, and then Logan witnessed the look of disgust on Gambit's face.

"Whad' deh 'ell is goin' on here?!"

Logan glanced at Rogue who looked equally shocked. Now, he couldn't say anything about what really had happened and gauging n the situation they'd been found in it was gonna be kinda difficult to lie his way out of this one.

They were waiting for a reply.

Beast sighed, "I believe this might be what one calls a sticky situation."

Gambit stepped forward, "This aint noh sticky situation, is it Rogue."

She licked her lips, "Well, ah...." She couldn't tell them, not here, not now It was all wrong. She looked at Logan for answers and he shrugged.

"Rogue...." Gambit urged. "Tell me this aint whad it looks like, cher."

"It ain't shugah."

"So what is it?"

She looked at Storm, at Beast and then back to Gambit. She closed her eyes and sighed. She heard Gambit push past the others and march down the hall. Damn, why did they have to find em' now. Why not just leave them alone.

Storm and Beast stood looking a little out-of-place. "Maybe we should leave you two to it." Storm said, her voice cold.

Logan shook his head, "It aint what it looks like, Storm."

"No? Then why did you not answer our efforts to try and contact you?" They both looked at the comms sitting neatly on the dresser.

Damn, what was he supposed to say?

"You could have at least let us know you both were alright. We've been searching all night to try and find you."

Logan scratched at the back of his neck and looked sheepish. He shrugged, there wasn't much else he could do. Storm left then, hurrying after Gambit.

Logan sighed and looked at Rogue. She shrugged sadly.

"I think I'd better follow. You two are alright?"

They both nodded and Beast left.

"Ah'm so sorry Logan." Rogue apologised the instant the others were out of hearing distance.

"Hell, forget it. Of they want to believe it let 'em. C'mon, lets get outtah here before we get charged for the damage."

The mansion looked darker. The grounds were quiet as Logan pulled the Jeep to a halt in front of the steps. "Well, home sweet home."

Rogue took a deep breath and summoned the courage from somewhere. "You think they're mad at us?"

"Oh yes."

She threw him a smile that said a lot and climbed out of the Jeep.

Gambit met her face to face as she opened the front door. She gasped, "Gambit, hun, listen-"

He slipped a card out from up his sleeve and charged it slowly. "Get outta mah way p'tite."

She pressed a hand against his chest. "Gambit, will yer stop and listen for a sec?"

He shoved past her and descended the steps toward Logan waiting beside his Jeep. Gambit stopped a few feet from him, the card buzzing in his hand.

"Don't do it, Gambit." Wolverine advised coolly.

"An' why the hell not?"

"If you would stop an' listen to her-"

Gambit gripped Logan by the collar and shoved him back against the Jeep. In an instant Logan felt the claws extract. He pressed them up under the Cajun's chin and sneered, "Get off a meh, now."

Gambit raised his lip in a snarl. "Ah should kill yer."

"You wont get the chance and you know it."

"Boys!" Rogue caught hold of Gambit and yanked him back away from Logan, she threw him against the steps. "Lawd, Gambit, will yer calm down!"

"You can't protect him Rogue." Gambit threatened as he climbed to his feet.

"What? What the hell are you talking about. Get some a' that spice outtah your damn skull and listen!"

"Ah don't need to hear whad you gonna tell me, cher. You think ah can't smell him on you! Ah know exactly what happened, don't waste your time trying to lie."

"Gambit, Remy... Do you think ah could do that to you?"

He smiled crookedly, "Ah know you could, cher." He climbed the steps and slammed the mansion door behind him.

Logan retracted the claws and stood staring at the door for a few moments. "This could get interesting."

The tension was what you might call suffocating. Few words were passed between Logan, Rogue and the others. In Xavier's absence the weaved quilt of the team was slowly unravelling.

"Hey." Logan greeted Rogue as she breezed into the kitchens. She stopped and looked at him warily.

She frowned. He was seated at the counter, a single claw protruding from his flesh. She watched as he proceeded to skin an apple with that claw.

"Can I do you for something?" He asked after several minutes of silence.

"Ah was jus' on the hunt for a snack but ah think ah'll pass... You gonna eat that?"

He lifted his gaze and smiled, amused by her apparent innocence. ""What else am ah going to do with it?"

She pulled up a tall chair and slipped onto it. "Isn't it, y'know, un-hygienic?"

His smile grew. "The story goes I use these things to cut. Cut anything, flesh, metal, even bits of spaceship when ah can get my hands on it. These claws, kid, retract back into my skeleton, back into my skin. I'm less likely to catch anything from an apple than I am.... an alien, for example. Ah aint that bothered."

Rogue swallowed. "Ah see."

He sliced the apple in half, "Want a bit?"

Her face screwed up in disgust, "Think ah'll pas on that one, Wolvie." She was about to get up and leave when his stare demanded her attention.

"You getting the cold shoulder?"

"Am ah! Ah can't do anything without eyes burning into mah back."

"Yeah, know that feeling. So, how do you reckon we set things straight?"

"You want me to tell them the truth?"

"Not if you aint ready."

"Well, ah aint."

"Okay, alright, don't ruffle yer feathers. We gotta do something, ah don't trust that Cajun, he's probably making a voodoo doll as we speak."

Rogue rested her elbows on the counter surface and searched his face for a sign that he might have an answer. "Ah gotta go after Jason." She finally said.

Logan neither agreed nor disagreed. "I'm guessing he has to be a Mutant. You killed him right, well he ain't dead any more."

She nodded. "Maybe Xavier has something on him."

"It's a start..."

"You can hack into this thing?" Rogue asked as she glanced over her shoulder at the door behind them.

"Rogue, you know me." He sat himself down in front of the computer terminal and began to decipher it's code.

Rogue watched eagerly. They were already in trouble in more than one way, she was just dragging Wolverine further and further into her mess. Still, she wasn't dragging him kicking and screaming. In fact if she didn't know him better she might think he was enjoying the whole thing.

Ten minutes later he was in but there was nothing in the files about Jason or anyone even similar to his description. Logan told her it didn't mean anything, a few well played moves and a bit of luck and a Mutant could remain undetected forever.

"Thinking about Gumbo? I wouldn't waste your time."

Rogue flashed him a warning. "What is it with you two. Anyone would think something happened to make you both hate each other."

"I never said I hated him."

She caught up with him as they walked towards the Library. "Alright, sugah, why don't you like him?"

"I'm not getting into this. We already got ourselves a rift in the team I don't want to go and make it worse."

"Maybe he got a bit personal with Jean, ah know how he can be with women."

Logan ignored her. "I'm gonna pull in a favour and see if we can track him the old fashioned way."

The library was uncomfortably hot and the stale smell of books familiar of school. Rogue hung around, pacing the room as she seemed to have found a habit of doing. Logan made his call and waited by the fax machine. "So, you love him?"

"Huh, you talkin' to meh?" She called as she pulled an old book from a shelf. She squinted at the writing on it's spine and wished the lights weren't so dull.


She laughed. "Who knows? What a question, you gettin' all personal all of a sudden." She cast a sly grin at him over her shoulder.

"Can't hurt asking."

She opened the book and traced a line down it's contents with a gloved finger. "I reckon but then what do ah know? Ah wouldn't know love if it bit mah behind. You love Jean?"

Logan fidgeted and urged the fax to hurry up. "It's been so long ah don't know anymore."

"Woah, that was a lil' personal for Wolverine." She slammed the book closed, replaced it on it's shelf and turned to look at him.

"You could do so much better than Gambit, he's a thief and a liar. You ever been on a guys night out with him? No. Believe me, you ain't his only interest, cher.""

Rogue frowned, "Wha you tellin' meh this?"

He shrugged, "Cos'..."

"Cos what? I'm too naive to know better?" She planted her hands on her hips defiantly and walked up to him. "Ah ain't naive, ah've seen enough horrors to keep me awake all my life. I've known and made enough mistakes to understand what ah get myself in to. You look at me and you think I'm innocent? Think I should be protected? You're naive Logan-"

The fax buzzed between them and churned out several pages. Logan gathered them up. "Three attacks in the last three weeks. Young women."

She snatched the data out of his hands. "Mah lawd, they're dead, all of them."

"All with the same M.O."

She remembered his face as he leered over her. She should be dead along with the rest of them. "How many since then...?" She whispered. And he had barely aged, he looked the same in the ally the few weeks before as he had done all those years ago. "Does it say where the attacks were?"

He snatched the data back. "Yeah..." Finding a map he spread it over the table and pinpointed the locations. They were within five miles of each other but that still left a huge area to search.

Drinking alone, well who cared? Nobody. Even Gambit didn't give a damn about her. Logan had showed her the truth she'd already known but ignored. She was nothing. A shell that could never be touched, never loved. Why was she even alive, why had she survived these years when those around her had died? What made her so special. She couldn't have children, couldn't even offer someone comfort. Wasn't that part of life, to live, to love, to care for. So what was her purpose. There wasn't one.

She angrily swept her tears from her cheeks.

What times was it? Three, four in the morning? This was wrong. So very wrong. Storm was denying her, ignoring her. Gambit, well, she would be lucky if he ever spoke to her again. They'd all trusted her and she'd let them down. She wasn't worth the air she breathed.


She jumped and sitting upright hid the bottle behind her. "Remy..." Her trembling voice betrayed her and she broke down.

He watched from the doorway, the light behind him throwing him into silhouette.

"Oh Remy, wha did Xavier bother to help me, of he'd left me alone ah would have been alright..."

She looked up and saw that he'd left her, she was alone. "Aw, lawd help meh, ah never wanted this to happen!" Her cries filled the corridors but went unanswered.

"Where's Rogue?"

Storm cast a powerful gaze around the tired looking group. Every one of them looked about to break down, all accept Beast who appeared to be immune to everything.


"Wha you askin' meh, ask him."

Logan clenched his jaw and flashed the Cajun a warning. "Storm, I don't know where she is."

Beast spoke up. "I found an empty bottle of Jack Daniels in the Library this morning while replacing some books, one glass beside it."

Storm's gaze darkened. "Logan?"

He shrugged.

"Then we can assume that Rogue drank it's contents."

"...Ah saw her." Gambit mumbled, "She was there." All eyes trained on him. "She er... she was pretty drunk."

Logan scowled at him. "And you left her there?"

"She don' need me, Wolverine."

"She needs someone!" He stood suddenly, the words on the tip of his tongue, the truth ready to be told.

"You seem a good a comfort as anyone of us here."

Logan snarled, "Cajun, you gotta get yer priorities straight. Have you even stopped to listen to her, EVER?!"

"Of course, mon dieu."

"Then you know why she's running scared? Then you know why she's reacting like this do you? Do you even have a clue, have you even considered that her reasons might be something different to what you've all assumed-"

"-Logan, do you know something?" Storm asked softly. Her voice calming.

He closed his eyes and saw her on the edge of the hotel bed, trembling all over, crying. "I er..." He shook his head and left the room. In the Library he found the bottle Beast spoke of, the smell of the alcohol filling the air with a sweet tang. "Rogue.... where are you?"

The television flickered in the corner of the hotel room, on it a tape and been paused. The man leaned forward and caressed the screen with his fingers. "Ah missed yah, Rogue. Mah you grew up good."

He'd watched the tape over and over. A news report he'd taken from the City Library. The X-Men. A collection of Mutants who fought for the side of the right. And there she was, his Rogue, his lost rose. There in front of him all of this time. He hadn't been sure he was looking for something until he'd finally found her again, now he knew what he had to do to make everything complete, to make it all make sense.

She was beautiful, and strong, a real challenge, not like the others who gave up too easily, oh no, not his Rogue. She was his, the only one to have connected with him. She'd killed him afterall, how much more personal could things get? His shadow, his companion. She was always meant for him, she was completion, she would make the pain go away.

Not long now, mah sweet. Oh no. There's no other way out.

Logan opened the Jeep door and peered inside. "Hey, you gonna tell me why you've picked my wheels as a hiding place?"

Rogue squinted up into the blinding sunlight. With a groan she shaded her eyes, "Man ah feel like cold molasses. Urgh, mah head."

"Rogue, you have to tell them."

She sat upright and frowned. "You seen me lookin' bettah right?"

"Rogue, are you listening to me?"

"Damn, see, ah aint so innocent. A pickled lizard all on mah ownsome."

He climbed into the drivers side and closed the door. "You smell like a brewery."

"Wha thank you kind sir."

"What ever has gotten into the pretty little head of yours you need to sort it out now. Things will only get worse."

She planted a hand on his cheek and brushed his skin as though she could feel it without the gloves. "Ah knew you were watching meh."

"Forget that. Listen to me, kid."

"In the shower, you remember, ah saw you watching me."

He brushed her hand away. "Snap out of it Rogue or I'll snap you out of it for yah."

"You wanted meh, they all want meh." She laughed ironically, "An' none of 'em can have lil' ol' meh."

He gripped her shoulder and forced her to meet his stare. "You've got people that care about you inside, they need to be told the truth. You owe it to them."

She met his lips with hers for a second, or what seemed like a second. In that one moment she felt his mind rush into her, flush through her memories and replace hers with his. It was over before she knew it but he was unconscious.

She clambered from the Jeep then thought better of it. Back inside she shoved Logan across into the passengers seat and starting the engine she sped away from the mansion.

Logan woke and was disorientated for a few seconds. He sat up, realised he was in his Jeep then saw Rogue ahead of the Jeep, the headlights bleaching her white as she stood at the rivers edge.

He stumbled out and waited a few feet behind her.

"Ah could say ah'm sorry for years. It's all ah ever do well."

"Rogue, you need help. We can call Xavier back."

"Help? No. I need to find him and put an end to this. You see, it's him, he's inside me, Logan, and the more ah think or him the more he changes me."

He stepped up behind her and gripped her shoulders. "They're waiting for you, they want to help you."

"No. This is nothing to do with the X-Men, this is all to do with me. They can't help me. This is mah life, ah have to do this." She turned and closed her arms around him, "Thank you for everything, Logan. Ah never knew you were such a good listener."

"Just don't tell anyone otherwise I'll never get rid of them."

She laughed softy and lifted her gaze to his. "Ah wont forget."

"Hey, this aint good bye."

She pushed away from him and walked towards the Jeep. "Ah owe you one, Wolverine."

"Rogue, this aint goodbye, you hear me?"

She saluted and shot into the air leaving him standing alone in the headlamp beams.

What kind of friend would he have been if he'd let her go alone. Now, he disliked people who broke any kind of promise, people who neglected a trust someone had out in them. But in this instance he had no choice.

The group gathered round him and for once he wished Xavier were here. The faces of his companions stared at him eagerly awaiting the reason for this meeting. Gambit's expression had fallen solemn since the last time they'd spoken.

He told them what he knew.

These people were all he had, and how he hated to admit it. But they were also all Rogue and they would never let her down. This band of the mismatched, of the odd, or the powerful.

A silence fell about them when he'd finished. He waited, taking in the chill in the air and the quiet around him. He would never say 'I told you so' but in this instance they already knew they had been wrong and very wrong at that.

"This man is a killer, and to top it all off he's a Mutant. Rogue thinks she's going up against the man she met years ago, I'm guessing that he's much more than that now. She believes she's strong, she believes she can deal with this on her own and she may be right, but just in case she's wrong we need to find her."

"She's turned her locator off." Storm said softly.

What better way to catch a killer than provide him with his prey. He would come to her.

She walked with her head down, her hands in her jacket pockets but she was far from vulnerable. He would expect her to be weak, he would expect her to be as she was when she was young. He wouldn't know she had controlled her powers, and not only that, now she was twenty times as powerful, one hundred times as powerful. She could break his neck at the click of her fingers should she wish it. It was her turn to play his game.

Of course he'd seen her drop out of the sky like a bird and land softly in the ally branching off from the street below. Ah, she was beckoning him, calling him out of hiding to her. Well, how could he resist. Closing his eyes he sensed her as she walked away from the building. Withdrawing inside himself he could feel her, hear her breathing, hear her thoughts. His memory flashed his death into his vision. The cold blade sliding into his stomach, feeling the metal cut into him. Even then she had been strong. Now she was beyond powerful. Her strength was astounding, her poise miraculous. Not only had she mastered flight but she had mastered the ability to fight.

Still, her mind was the same. And that was where he held her. That was where he saw her now, a frightened little girl, afraid of what she could do, afraid of what she had done. Inside she was completely different, inside she was weak.

She knew she was being followed and smiled, so many years since she had every felt threatened, so many years since she had been physically vulnerable. She may be a little nervous but that was all and that was perfectly natural. Her body was providing her with adrenalin as if she wasn't strong enough already.


She spun, "Logan, I told you..."

He smiled and shrugged helplessly. "It's my job to look after you."

"Your job?" She glanced behind him as he continued towards her. "Have yah been followin' meh for a while?"

"No, a few minutes, I was trying to catch up with you."

As he stopped in front of her she reached out to place a hand on his shoulder and advise him to take cover somewhere while she baited her. It was such a simple movement, a simple gesture, one of guidance, of condolence.

When he shrunk away from her as if her touch was poison she froze. There was something very wrong and in those milliseconds of realisation her heart sunk through the concrete below her.

He smiled. Okay so the charade hadn't lasted as long as he had hoped, but it had had the desired affect.

Rogue staggered back, then regaining her composure she reached for him, this time with conviction. "You ain't Logan." Her words slipped easily from her mind and into reality but the image was all wrong. Her outstretched hand went through his shoulder as though he wasn't there.

"No, perhaps i'm not." He looked down at her hand, at her fingers twitching as she tried to feel for something that wasn't there. Those gloved fingers reaching, stroking, touching but touching nothing.

Her hand shot to her mouth, "You aint real." She whispered, her eyes open wide with a new found fear of the unknown.

"I'm real alright, Rogue, jus' you killed me a long time ago."

She'd reached for him but he hadn't been there. Not physically anyway. He stood before her as Logan, his words sounding like Logan might.

She watched the image of Logan fizzle away, dissolve into something and someone that triggered vicious memories inside her mind.

"You know me Rogue."

The same man she'd seen in the alley, the same man who'd taken her hand and raised it as if to examine her, as if to kiss her fingers as though he were a gentleman, the same man that had tried to steal her life away from her, that had violated her, that she'd killed in cold blood.

He opened his arms, raising his palms to the sky, opening himself to her, welcoming her knowledge. "It's me Rogue, your rival, the only person who can compete with you. Touch me Rogue, feel me..."

She backed up. She couldn't touch him. Her hand had passed right through him which made him a ghost, ghosts are harmless, aren't they?

She smile with false enthusiasm, "You give yerself some credit, why would I even want to spit on yah. Ah aint that lil' girl you almost killed, not anymore, it's been a long time, a lot has changed stranger and you'd do good to leave me alone."

He stepped forward. "Or what? You'll hurt me Rogue? Try it." He laughed. The sound travelled around her, spiralling into her mind and pulling at the hooks embedded in her reason.

He stepped forward again, "If you can't touch me Rogue how do you expect to hurt me. All you are is a little girl, as helpless as you always were."

She flew at him with uncontrolled emotion and passed through him. A shiver swept through her and her strength was drained. Staggering back onto her feet she turned and met his powerful gaze at the same time he turned and marked her with his eyes. It was his turn.

He rushed her, slamming her back into the wall of the building with a speed she couldn't follow. Before she knew it her back was slamming against brick and her strength was leaving her.

He gripped her around the throat. "You may not be able to touch me but ah can surely touch you and ah's takin' what belongs to me, what ah should have had a long time ago. You made me like this, you made me."

She reached for him out of instinct and once again her flailing grip passed straight through him and she snatched at air. This wasn't right, it didn't make any sense. But she knew better than to expect any sense out of this world. She'd seen things that defied the laws of nature, the spat in the face of physics. She's seen such wonders and become one herself. He was no more unusual than she was.

He snatched at her inactive communicator and tore it from her suit, flinging it out onto the road.

Rogue searched desperately for a way to beat him, if she couldn't touch him what good was all of her strength going to be. There had to be another way around this, underneath all of her strength she wasn't a little girl, she was Rogue, she was powerful... her mind was strong...

His hand roamed her body snapping her back into what was supposed to be reality. Sneering, because that was all she could manage, she said, "Touch me and ah'll find a way tah kill yah again!"

"Too late!" He hissed, sneering in return and pressing himself against her. "That feel good Rogue, think of it, you unable to touch me but ah can sure touch you. Think, you who has been cursed with a vampires kiss, so defenceless. Ah, the irony, doesn't it make you wanna to cry."

She lashed out, tried to strike him but felt nothing underneath her palm. She kicked but her legs flailed in the air. How can he not be there and yet pin her down. It wasn't real, it couldn't be real. She closed her eyes and thought of Xavier:

>Help me, ah need you...<

The ice cold brush of skin against skin snapped her out of her mental plea. No, this was not how this was supposed to be, this wasn't how it was supposed to happen.

In the real world she would absorb his power, his life, he would be hers. But now? What was happening, why... why like this?

He stopped.

His expression froze on her, his body appearing to tense. He looked at her fiercely, his stare digging into her and all she could do was blink back at him like the innocent defenceless child she was.

A smile lifted one corner of his mouth, a smile filled with so many things. The same smile that a wolf might use while watching it's unsuspecting prey. His expression engaged her, trapped her under his spell.

She felt herself beginning to fall, a sensation familiar to her, but not a sensation such as this whereby she knew there was nothing she could do to stop herself. She was tumbling into the darkness and he was sucking her down, faster and faster. With his stare fixed on her he pulled her into him, drew all that she knew out of her and left her feeling barren, left her in the silence that she'd been so afraid of for decades. He knew her fears, knew her dreams, knew it all. While she felt herself slipping away she knew she'd made a fatal mistake.

The Blackbird landed with a rumble of the reverse engines and the burning hot thrusters of the directional turbines. Few curtains twitched and those that did watched in anonymity from the safety of their homes.

Gambit scooped up the communicator from the road and turned it over in his hand. The fabric attached to the back told him that the device had not left its host peacefully. So where was she? He lifted his head and looked around him.

"Anything?" Cyclops called as he descended the steps of the jet.

"Noh, jus' her communicator..." He continued to scan his surroundings. It was a crack branching up the side of a building that caught his eye, like a lightning strike trapped in brick it cried out danger. He began to make his way towards the alley every step causing his heart so sink further. "What is it?" Cyc's voice echoed through the street behind him.

The light from the street yawned into the alley opening and there she lay. He stopped, his feet frozen to the concrete suddenly. Perhaps it wasn't her, perhaps it was someone else.

"Gambit?" Cyc again.

He held up a hand as he looked closer. He could make out the dark green of the suit that covered her from head to toe, although it was streaked with something of a lighter colour.

He stepped forward once. "...Cher...?" He called, his voice barely above a whisper should he disturb her. It may sound insane but the peace was something he didn't want to shatter, not this time.

His pace quickened as he heard Logan's voice somewhere behind him.

As he drew closer he saw that her suit wasn't streaked with something but it had been torn, what he'd seen had been her bare flesh.

He knelt beside her and turned her face towards him. For a moment he thought she was dead, her eyes were open wide while her stare gazed up into the sky. Her lips were parted, her moist white teeth catching a glint of light from the street behind him.

His breath caught in his throat, "....Rogue....No, cher, you can not leave Remy... He won' led you."

He thought he saw her lips move, thought he might have heard her whisper. He felt for a pulse at her wrist where her gloves still covered her flesh. He wasn't sure if he could feel anything or not.

Scooping her into his arms he stood and turned back towards the Blackbird.

Both Logan and Cyclops were silence as Gambit emerged from the shadows, Rogue limp in his arms. Cyclops heard Jean gasp behind him but he didn't move to comfort her.

"She can't be..." Logan whispered without knowing he had even spoken. She can't be dead. He'd let her die? He watched Gambit approach them and snapped himself out of it.

"We hav' to ge' her back to deh mansion! NOW" Gambit called.

He would never truly leave her. She realised that now. He was part of her like all the rest only this time it hadn't been her own doing, he'd made it his way. He'd invaded her, slipped inside her soul and made himself at home.

Xavier had asked if he'd been real at all and at first she'd snapped back at him and accused him of calling her a liar. Only later had she realised that he may have been right about part of it.

Had he been real? She hadn't touched him, she hadn't felt him, she'd had no affect on him when she'd tried to retaliate. But wasn't that how he worked. In truth he had been like a Ghost, she'd killed him and he'd come back to haunt her. Wasn't it as simple as that?

No. He'd been the same as her. She'd killed him alright but it had triggered something, he'd died but at the same time he'd begun a new existence. When she'd run away from him all those years ago, when she'd realised what she'd done and she'd fled. She hadn't merely killed him, but she'd made him stronger. Made him a monster.

Had he been real? To her he was so much more than that. To others he was a Ghost, a shiver in the shadows as it were. To Xavier he was a mental apparition, to Logan he had been a challenger, to Gambit... the man who'd taken Rogue away from him, away from all of them.

So what was she supposed to do? Look at herself in the mirror, at her reflection at the waters edge and pretend it was actually her she saw staring back at her. Or the man with the features of an angel and the heart of a serial killer, if had had a heart at all. Well, now he had everything, he had a heart and soul and a life to go along with that. He had her. The one person who's alluded him both in his dreams and in his life.

She'd died, as Gambit had thought she had. She'd died and left all of herself behind, he'd taken from her what he'd promised he always would. Her innocence.

She was nothing.

She'd watch Logan watching her, she'd watch Gambit flicking a card between his fingers and know his thoughts were of how he'd let her slip away. Xavier spoke to her but she rarely answered, he could invade her mind but he would never allow himself to do that.

Jean whispered comforts but they were worth little and Storm would pray for her.

Rogue barely understood if she was alive or not. She barely understood anything anymore, anything other than the fact her home no longer existed, her friends... her love... All stolen. She watched in silence as the charade continued, as words were exchanged, battles were fought, won and lost. She watched lives fade away, dreams die. What was left for her in a world filled with so many shadows and no light to guide her.

"Rogue, I know you can hear me..."

She lifted her gaze and rested her soft stare on the lone man seated in the arm chair. A shot of whiskey in one hand, but untouched.

Could he know, could he sense her? Wolverine....?

He shifted slightly and looked right at her, moments passed, but then he shook his head, downed the alcohol, slammed the glass on the table and left the room.

She reached out for him, her gloved hand brushing the flesh of his arm but he barely felt her.

If only they could hear her, if only they would believe. For now all she can do is watch. Perhaps if she waits long enough they'll see her... or perhaps not.

Either way she was with them. Whether they knew it or not. She would always be with them.




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