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(Chapter 5: Dreams and Reality)
The nightmares echo through her head when the mansion is
quiet. They hunt her as silently as shadows. As callously
as velocioraptors. Always in packs. Always going for the jugular.
Always tearing her in two between future and past. Rogue descends
into the darkness of her subconscious, but the dream is not
hers. She is standing on top of a tower near Notre Dame in
Paris - the air is cold against her face, heightened by the
sweat that trickles icily down her forehead and cheekbones.
Nearby, a man-beast stands, holding two ropes to which a man
and a woman are tied. She clenches her fists - the pendant
that she is holding cuts into her hand but she barely notices.
Blood stains the starry brightness of the emerald. L'Etoile
"Your choice . . . ."
She throws the pendant, watching in horror as it clatters
to a stop by the feet of the man-beast.
He smiles and his white fangs gleam pale in the moonlight.
"You've got spunk, girl. I'll give you that," he
sneers, "Unfortunately, spunk doesn't make up for having
He drops the ropes and she dives desperately, snatching at
the nearest rope. It chafes against her raw hand and she closes
her eyes too scared to see who she saved. And when she does
. . . a man looks back at her, disappointment in his dark
She runs down, down, down into darkness. Until the streets
of Paris give way to green fields. To a broad river that is
brown with mud. There are two children playing in the river
and they motion her to come join them. One has golden hair
the color of daisies in the summer, the other has hair as
brown as the river with a streak of white.
"Come on . . . don't be afraid . . . ."
She strips out of her uniform, ashamed of the fact that she
is unashamed, then looks down and sees that she is dressed
in a pale blue costume. She steps into the warm water, allowing
her muscles to relax. The little girl looks at her with a
smile on her face.
"You sure are pretty. Do you have a boyfriend?"
Rogue hesitates, unsure of whether to tell herself the truth.
"Yeah. Ah do."
"So do Ah. His name is Cody."
"Sabrina," the golden boy splashes her with muddy
"Shut up. You're mah man, Cody."
"You have cooties," the boy retaliates, "All
girls do. Why did momma say Ah have ta play with you?"
"B'cause you're in love with me," the girl's voice
rises to a falsetto, "You said Ah was th' prettiest girl
you'd ever seen."
"Pfft," Cody sticks his tongue out at the other
child, "The homeliest you mean. You couldn't get a boyfriend
if'n you caught one with a fishin' pole."
"That's not very nice. Tell him, ma'am," the little
girl looks at her with pleading green eyes.
"Don't worry. Ah know that Cody secretly worships th'
ground you walk on."
"Told you so."
"She's an adult. She has a . . . ick . . . boyfriend."
"Is he cute?"
"Very," Rogue smiles, feeling like an adolescent
all over again.
"Bet he's not as cute as Cody."
"Shut up, Sabrina."
"Sabrina?" a voice calls from the bushes, "Sabrina
Celine Parker - if'n you don't come out here right now . .
The little girl shoots a worried look at her older self.
"Daddy. Lawd . . . Ah've done it now."
"He thinks Ah'll turn out ta be a slut, just like momma
was. Run away with Cody or else get inta trouble," she
climbs out of the river and Rogue can see the old scars and
welts that criss-cross her back as well as the new ones.
"But you're just a kid . . . ."
"Yeah. Tell that ta daddy."
"Maybe Ah will," Rogue climbs out of the river
as well, self-conscious of the wet costume that clings to
"Sabrina. There you are . . ." her step-father
looks at her with dislike, "Come on home."
"She's not goin' with you," Rogue says quietly.
"Who are you ta tell me what ta do, you jezebel?"
The holy Reverend Parker has obviously not missed too many
meals. He folds his arms across the paunch that strains his
severe black suit. Fat hangs in bags beneath his eyes.
"Your daughter . . . ."
"Jezebel. Lyin' witch," he lifts his hand and strikes
her and she cries out in agony.
Her back begins to bleed - old wounds and scars opening to
emit fresh blood. It pours in a torrent to her feet.
"Go ta Sheol," he pushes her into the river where
she sinks, deeper and deeper into muddy blackness.
She lifts her face to the sky, but only sees bricks and mortar.
She is in some sort of tunnel - has fallen asleep with a child
in her arms. Bones stick out from the little girl's face and
she whimpers as she sleeps.
"Wake up, sugah."
The child opens mad yellow eyes, watches her with intense
"Ah'm sorry, Sarah. Ah didn't mean ta . . . . Ah didn't
know it would be this bad," she finishes lamely.
"Doesn't give me back my life."
"Ah know an' Ah'm sorry."
"That all you can say. All you know how to do."
"Here," she digs in her pocket, surprised at the
fact that she is wearing a trenchcoat, and hands a thick wallet
to the child.
"Keep your money," the girl dashes it out of her
hands, the dollar bills flutter to the floor like leaves from
"Please. Ah don't have anythin' ta give you cept
"No. It will make you feel better and I don't want you
to. Not until the day you die."
"Can Ah take you to a shelter?"
"No. You've done enough," the girl pushes her away
and runs off into darkness. . . .
Gambit whistles tunelessly to himself as he pushes the front
door open with his shoulder. His hands are laden with parcels
and Storm follows behind him with equally much stuff. He clasps
the roses in a sticky hand, ignoring the thorns that prick
"How much further, Remy?"
"Up de stairs, chere, and den left a little way. Pourquoi?"
"I believe I am going to drop everything in a few seconds,"
Storm says from between clenched teeth.
Gambit laughs, "C'n I take somet'ing else?"
"No . . . I will be fine . . . ." Storm gasps,
"I hope . . . goddesspleasehelpme . . . ."
The parcels fall then halt midair, held by an unseen hand.
"I am afraid I am no goddess," Jean says with a
smile, "But I'll help anyway."
"Did you feel an urge to buy all of Macy's,
"Non, jus' a few floors."
"Those roses are lovely."
"Got dem from a femme called Sunset Grace. Old an' weird-lookin'."
"Sunset Grace?" Cyclops asks from behind Jean,
"I thought she had returned to her Neverneverland."
"She had," Phoenix lowers the parcels to the floor,
"I wonder what compelled her to return."
"Marie," Gambit says wryly, "M'tante's busybody
"I see," Cyclops rubs his chin, "Can we help
"Merci," Gambit dumps the entire contents of his
arms into Scott's, "I'll go back f'r de next load."
"Next load?" Phoenix goes pale, "Remy? Do
you really need this much stuff?"
"Not dat much," he protests, "Lot of it is
f'r redecoratin' de mansion. Stormy talked me into buyin'
Storm shrugs, "He seems to have more money than any
"Den dere's de year's supply o' playin' cards. I'm out,
save f'r one which I wouldn' t'row away if m'life depended
"Queen o' Hearts," he grins, "Actually m'life
probably does depend on it. Rogue'd kill me if I got rid o'
"You know how I asked you all that time ago exactly
what it was that you had with Rogue?" Cylcops says after
a momentary pause.
"Oui. I remember sayin' dat it depended on what day
of de week it was."
"What is it now?"
Gambit laughs, "Fear, mon ami. Fear."
Jean echoes his laughter, "Why can't I get my hubby
to be equally terrified?"
"Simple, cherie. Ya don' bench-press triple ya own body
weight f'r a light work-out."
"Hmmm . . . ." Jean says teasingly, "Perhaps
I should get out those Jane Fonda tapes again."
Cyclops laughs and begins walking up the stairs.
"Just as long as you don't think that it's my conjugal
duty to exercise with you."
Jean smiles, "You looked cute in spandex."
"Ha. Ha.. Ha," Scott says sarcastically, "It
obviously didn't work. My arms are falling off - this stuff
weighs a ton."
"Come on, oh whiny husband," Jean walks up the
stairs, keeping the parcels steady with her mind as she does
so, "Or else I will decide that you need five hours of
Jane Fonda's particular skills."
Storm smiles at Gambit as the married couple departs, teasing
each other as they do so.
"I don' t'ink dey realize how lucky dey are."
"People who are completely happy rarely do."
"Oui," he says quietly, "Wouldn' wish what
happened t'me an' Rogue on dem, even if it did help dem appreciate
what dey've got."
"At least you two still are together," Storm sighs,
"No matter how much I deny it, I miss Forge."
"So do I. He was de only person who could set de VCR."
"Remy . . . ." Storm cautions, her eyes growing
sad, "The strangest thing about it all is that I do not
miss the man, I miss the feeling of being in love. Of being
"Know what ya mean," he says, "Let's get de
rest o' de parcels, chere."
"I'll do it," she smiles, "With the help of
certain new members of the team . . . ."
Maggott, who has just walked into the room, pauses in horror.
"Certain members', skatjie?"
[darling - literally means, little treasure.]
"You are an X-Man. We help each other."
"Met bagasie ook?"
Storm and Gambit exchange a look of complete confusion.
"Ain't no language I ever heard."
"I believe it is Afrikaans."
"Ag . . . ." Maggott throws up his hands in defeat,
"I said . . . with baggage as well?"
"Yes," Storm grasps his arm and pulls him in the
direction of the door.
"Actually, liefling, this could be better than I thought,"
Maggott grins as they exit, leaving Gambit alone to climb
the stairs with the roses in his gloved hand.
Darkness. Deep, impenetrable darkness like a black hole,
sucking in all the light. It surrounds her, caging her in
from all sides. She feels so small, so weak and helpless against
this all consuming blackness. Suddenly, pale gray light fills
the landscape, revealing scrubby bushes and interminable sand.
On a twisted sign, where the words blur into dancing shadows,
sits a raven.
"Where am Ah?"
"At the cross-roads," the bird replies, "You
may go in any direction."
"But Ah can't read th' sign. Ah don't know where to
The bird laughs, hoarsely and mockingly.
"What makes you think that I will tell you?"
"Please . . . ."
The words in the sign become clear like crisp dagger-strokes
in the wood. Written on them are two unfamiliar names - Scylla
"Ah still don't understand."
"Maybe this will be more familiar."
The words shift again, phasing in and out like beating birds'
wings. The devil and the deep Blue Sea. L'Enclume et le marteau.
A rock and a hard place.
"There's no way ta win," she says.
The ground gives way and she falls into blackness. When she
looks up again, she is standing in a deserted alleyway. A
wind blows old candy wrappers across the cobblestones and
she bends and picks one up. The words on it are clear - "Forget-me-not
Chocolates." She flings the box away from her and runs
until her legs give out, hides in the darkest corner of the
"Come out . . . ." The little girl is once more
standing there, holding out a hand, "I'll not let you
She takes the child's hand and as she does so, the girl shimmers
and is replaced by a woman. An older one with bitterness in
her emerald green eyes.
Her lips curve in a secretive smile and she holds a card
out to Rogue.
"Take it . . . ."
Hands shake as she does so and she drops it, watching as
it flips it over. Ace of Spades that trembles and is replaced
by the Queen of Hearts. A voice fills the alleyway.
"What has come to pass is what I have always wanted,
we are one. I am you and you are me."
"I am the traitor betrayed by his love. The traitor
becomes the betrayed. The betrayed, the traitor. The circle
"Show yourself," she picks up the card and charges
it with kinetic energy. The alleyway is filled with sickly
A young man steps out, shrouded by darkness, wearing it like
a cloak. He drops the darkness, filling the alley with coruscating
light. Rogue covers her eyes, scared to be blinded yet again
as she was once by Strobe.
"No need to be afraid. I love you. Unconditionally."
The mocking echo of the words which she had spoken in Antarctica
tear through her heart.
"I can't. I am you and you are me."
"We are not th' same."
"Yes, we are," the light dims, leaving behind a
slender man with eyes that remember the color of blood.
"Remy . . . ." she whispers, "Please don't
"Ya be afraid, ma cherie. No need. I won' hurt ya."
"Non. But I won' save ya either. It's up t'you whether
you live or die. I don' care anymore."
"No . . . no . . . ."
The cobblestones vanish, becoming silver snow. Rogue sinks,
clawing desperately, fighting her way up to the surface. She
cannot fly. The snow closes above her head. Something touches
her shoulder and she looks up and sees the raven.
"Wake up . . ." it says.
"Wake up . . . ." Gambit shakes Rogue more than
a little roughly, worried by the words which pour out in a
meaningless stream from her mouth. The tears that still stain
her cheeks. Green eyes open and look at him with an ancient
weariness in their depths.
"Ya were asleep," he explains, "Havin' a bad
"Mmmm . . . a dream," she echoes, not properly
"Ya look - an' ya'll excuse m'honesty - like hell. Ya
been gettin' enough sleep, girl?"
She shakes her head, "No . . . not really."
"An' it doesn' seem like all de warm milk in de world
will help, henh?"
"Don't know," she props herself up, picking stuffing
out of her hair.
"Ya should go see Beast. Get a sleeping pill."
"That won't help. Ah'm scared . . . . so scared, sugah."
"Would it help if I spent de night?"
Rogue laughs, "Any excuse, huh?"
Gambit grins at her in return, glad to see that she has finally
snapped out of her somber mood.
"Dese are f'r ya."
He hands her the roses, wrapped in a torn brown paper bag.
Rogue takes them, lifts them to her face and inhales the sweet,
"These are beautiful," she leans forward and quickly
hugs him, "Ah love you so much."
"Glad ya like dem."
"Ah'll go get a vase."
"Are ya goin' t'be okay?"
"Fine," she smiles, "Ah think everythin' is
goin' ta turn out just fine."
Marrow smiles as she hears Rogue's last words, stroking the
knife which she holds in her hand.
"Yes, traitor-lover, everything is going to turn out
just fine . . . ."
Continued in Chapter
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