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(Chapter 3: Child)
Rogue stands in the cool air of the Danger Room. It is scented
with metal and the perfume which she is wearing - an expensive,
elusive fragrance that defies description. She has not bothered
to change since returning home from her date with Gambit -
she is still wearing the long, green dress that she changed
into that morning. The skirt is folded concertina-style and
falls down from her mid-section in pleats. Her hair is upswept
in a loose bun and strands escape around the nape of her neck.
Around her neck is an old silver locket, battered and worn
"Forget me not," she whispers as she reads the
She had not expected to see Cody's cousin, nor to be reminded
of her own guilty past. A past which she is in the process
of exorcizing through blood and sweat and tears.
"Load sim: Caldecott," she says in a trembling
voice, clasping the amulet as if it will protect her.
"Loading . . . ."
The harsh metal of the Danger Room disappears to be replaced
by a verdant field, bisected by a river - the Mississippi.
Flowers are blown gently by a spring wind, tousled heads of
yellow midst long grass. The air is sweet with their scent.
"Sabrina. It's been so long," the blond haired
man opens his arms to embrace her, but she stands still, unmoved
"Cody . . . Ah . . . ."
"You've betrayed me, haven't you?"
"No . . . ."
"You love another now an' have forgotten all about me.
Me. The man you killed."
She nods slowly, "Ah do love another. But Ah haven't
forgotten. How could Ah?"
She holds out the golden locket to him. "Forget me not,
"What must Ah say, Sabby? What will make it right between
"Nothin' now. Ah'm here ta be punished, not ta reconcile."
"Sugah, you don't deserve that. We were kids - it was
as much mah fault as yours."
"Don't say that! It was mah powers that drained your
life away . . . ."
"It was me who kissed you."
"An' it was me who led you on."
Cody's face fades away with her anger to be replaced by a
much older, crueller face. A face which has haunted her nightmares
ever since she made her escape from her nightmare life.
"So. Mah baby girl has returned . . . ."
"You lost all right ta call me that when you turned
out ta be a freak."
"Shut up, freak."
He draws his hand back and hits her across her cheek. Physically,
it does nothing, but, psychologically, it smarts. Again and
again, he strikes while she stands passively and lets the
"Ah deserve this . . . Ahdeservethis . . . ohlawdpleasehelpmesomeone
. . . daddynonotagain . . . ." The confusion in her mind
clarifies to a single, crystal thought, "Remy . . . Ah
The door to the Danger Room opens, throwing light over the
rapidly dissipating scene. Green meadows become steel once
more. Flowers disappear abruptly to be replaced by the petals
of scrolling LCD read-outs.
"What de hell . . . ."
Rogue is kneeling in the middle of the Danger Room in supplication
or in prayer, tears streaming freely down her pale cheeks.
Gambit bites back his hasty words of accusation. Her mind-scream
had torn through his psyche, leaving him both worried and
"You came . . . . How?"
"Shhh. Oui . . . . I heard ya," Gambit bends down
and takes her into his arms.
"Ohgawdohgawdohgawd," she sobs against his shoulder,
repeating the words over and over again.
"Let it all out, girl. No-one has t'see dis."
"I c'n go if ya want me to."
"No . . . no . . . . Need you here. With me," she
sniffed, "Please . . . don't tell anyone."
"It be our secret."
"Ha!" Rogue laughs weakly, "Got enough o'
those between us."
"So we do, m'love. Don' t'ink dis one will hurt anyone
Time will prove him wrong as a third-party is privy to her
pain. A pair of malevolent yellow eyes watches over them like
a dark angel. An avenging angel. Marrow smiles and slips away
from the observation booth.
"Hey!" Joseph exclaims as Marrow bumps into him
as she flees down the passage.
"Out of my way, white-hair."
"Where have you come from?"
"The Danger Room. Not that that is any of your business,"
she smiles thinnly, considering something, "Skunkhead
is in there with Traitor. They're pretty cosy."
"Skunkhead . . . . Rogue?"
"Yeah. Traitor-lover was upset by a boy with golden
hair. A boy whose life she stole."
"I don't . . . ."
"Traitor heard her call him in her mind and came like
a knight in shining armor."
"I need . . . ."
"Now that golden boy is going to steal both their lives."
Marrow smiles enigmatically, "Why would I tell you,
white-head? You love the one who Traitor loves. You would
tell her and she would tell him."
"I . . . ." Joseph thinks desperately, "I
hate . . . ."
"Don't try to lie, boy. You don't have the intelligence
required," Marrow strokes his cheek with a bony forefinger,
"But . . . ."
Marrow disappears, taking with her her pain and her secrets.
Angel bends over the altar, picking up the photograph. The
young girl smiles back, fear in her eyes. It is black-and-white
- crumbling at the edges, brittle to the touch. Despite the
strangeness of the face, there is something familiar about
her as if he has seen her before.
"Why the fear?" he asks himself, "What does
she know about terror?"
Angel has known terror - seen it come in the Marauders who
flayed and killed and stole his wings. Watched impotently
as the Massacre unfolded before his eyes. Listened to the
screams and could do nothing.
"And how did one of my flechettes come to be here?"
There is a mystery to be solved in this choice of implements.
A ritual to be unraveled. Why the candle and the angel? The
girl and the cards? The bone knife and the flechette?
Footsteps echo hollowly down the tunnels and Angel swiftly
hides behind the rack. Tuneless singing crooning an ancient
lullaby accompanies the footsteps. Marrow emerges from darkness
"Here, my angel, is another offering. Another gift to
ease your years of torment."
Angel could hear something new being placed on the altar.
"A photograph of the two people whose blood will be
poured out in offering to you."
The child then thought that he was some kind of god to be
"You who live again must give me new life. Beauty for
my ugliness. I am unworthy to be called your servant."
More scrabbling on the altar and a sigh.
"Tell you what, Angela. I would give anything to be
you. To have your beauty."
Soft sobs begin as the footsteps fade away into the distance.
The child has left, but what of the offering which she seeks
to bring to him? Angel picks up the new photograph which is
lying face down on the altar. Two people smile out at him,
oblivious of the dark future which has been planned for them.
Angel drops the photograph - he knows who is to be the sacrifice,
but he does not know whether he wants to prevent it.
"That child is the wild card," Marie turns away
in impatience, "The one who will cause the game to be
won or lost. I had not foreseen her interference, Mattie."
"Shall we move now or wait?"
"Wait until the future clarifies so that we may better
"I have seen that the truth of your nephew's actions
will soon be revealed and I see that that may cause the most
pain of all."
"The truth is seldom easy."
"That it is not. But it will be the fire by which the
gold of their love is purified and tested."
"Unless they burn first."
"Have faith, Marie. If not in them, then in the ultimate
purpose of the universe."
"Sometimes the universe seems purposeless from where
"Then you are not looking hard enough. All fits into
a greater pattern."
"So we hope."
"So we trust."
"Let us continue in hope - soon will come the time to
"Too soon, I fear," Mattie looks very old all of
a sudden, "Too soon."
Joseph is slumped outside the locked door of the Danger Room,
cursing the archaic system for the millionth time. He has
been waiting here for half-an-hour, unsure of whether to go
or stay. The door slides open and her subtle, undefinable
fragrance fills the air.
"Rogue . . . ." he stands, suddenly aware of how
beautiful she is in her green dress with her hair taken up
upon her head.
Her eyes are startled, like a deer caught in the headlights
of an oncoming car, and, like that deer, it seems that she
wishes to run. To bolt but is trapped. Gambit stands behind
her, solid for all his lean height. His red eyes glow with
warning, sending a clear reminder of their earlier conversation.
"Yeah?" her voice is scared.
"You look lovely."
"Glad ta see that you're feelin' better."
"We need to talk. Marrow is . . . is . . . threatening
"Next he'll tell us dat de Titanic's sunk."
"Really? I thought . . . . Never mind. She says that
she'll use the golden boy to get to you."
Rogue looks up at Gambit in consternation and puzzlement.
"Th' golden boy?"
"Whose life you stole," Joseph adds eagerly.
"Cody," she whispers.
"Mon ami, dere ain't no way Marrow c'n use Cody t'get
t'Rogue - Cody be dead. Candra killed him."
"Oh but . . . ."
"Gawd. Why won't he leave me alone?"
"Ya heard de lady, Joe. Allez-vous tout de suite."
"Ah meant Cody, Remy. Seems like he'll haunt me ta mah
dyin' day at this rate."
"Non - Marrow can't use him t'get t'ya.Ya said dat ya
let him go back dere in N'Awlins. He got no power over ya
"No, he does - th' scene in th' restaurant proved that.
He still makes me feel . . . feel dirty an' guilty when Ah
think bout what Ah did ta him."
Gambit hugs her quickly and Joseph stiffens at the easy,
familiar gesture. "De Massacre has de same effect on
me, chere. Jus' need t't'ink o' de looks on de faces o' .
. . o' de children an' it makes everyt'ing I've done since
seem a pathetic attempt t'do penance."
"Lawd. We've both got our pasts, hon. They still have
power over us. We can't deny that - we've gotta accept it
an' move on. Why's it so hard ta do so?"
"At least, you can remember your pasts," Joseph
blurts out, "They say that a man is the sum of his actions
- I can't even remember mine. What does that make me?"
Rogue touches his shoulder gently and cold shivers run parallel
to his spine, "A man with a chance ta make a new start."
"A lucky dog wit'out baggage."
"Gawd. Why can't Ah have amnesia? Or at least one o'
th' minds inside me."
"Yes . . . an' no. It's kinda flatterin' ta know what
you really think about me," she smiles, a brief flash
of sweetness, "Ah nevah woulda guessed that you thought
Ah looked cute in spandex."
"Ya don' know . . . ."
"That y'all think that our first child should be named
Sabine? Ain't it a bit early ta be thinkin' o' that?"
"It never be too early."
Joseph clears his throat, uncomfortable with their intimacy.
"Ummm . . . what about Marrow?"
"We're dealing with her," Rogue suddenly becomes
the hardened fighter again, "We won't let her get ta
us. Even if'n she brings on Cody, Belladonna an' the rest
o' th' shadows from our pasts."
Joseph nods, satisfied and unsatisfied at the same time.
He needs to speak to Rogue alone - to discuss matters of his
life and his heart. For now, he turns away and walks slowly
down the passage to his room where he will think of what to
say when he gets the chance.
Continued in Chapter
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