And moving through a mirror
That hangs before her all the year,
Shadows of the world appear.
~ from "The Lady of Shalott" ~
by Alfred, Lord Tennyson
It was too perfect. It couldn't be real.
But it was.
The barrier was gone, no longer isolating her in her prison
of pain. She would never again have to be so guarded, forced
to hold those she loved at arm's length.
She was free.
It had to be true. What else could explain the soft caress
of his hand on her cheek, his fingers lingering to trace the
light curves of her face?
His touch was so loving and gentle, so different from any
kind of touch she had ever known.
For how long had she dreamed of this moment?
Her heart began to ache with a strange, bittersweet sensation.
Looking down, she struggled to keep her tears of joy from
With that all-too-familiar smile of his, he put his hand
under her chin and lifted her face to his. He leaned over,
carefully kissing her tears away. She couldn't help but shudder
at his sweetness.
She craved more.
He kissed her lips, chaste but filled with promise, and held
her in his warm embrace. It made her, for the first time in
her life, feel truly warm and loved inside.
He felt the warmth of her kiss on his lips, and he treasured
the moment. She said she loved him -- unconditionally. She
gave him hope that maybe he could escape his past. Maybe her
love was the gods' way of telling him that his penance was
over, that he had finally redeemed himself for those shadowy
events in the past.
He was a different person now.
He felt alive, vital and ready to conquer the world -- with
her at his side.
Don't ever let this end.
His dream quickly shattered as the embrace turned cold.
It began as a small chill inside her, a flash of uneasiness
in her heart. From there the frost spread, coursing through
her veins to the outside of her body. It spread to him, covering
him with a rapidly thickening layer of slushy ice.
Instead of filling him with warmth, the kiss began to drain
him of it. Or was she simply returning the darkness of his
heart that he thought he had purged forever?
She stepped back as the metamorphosis began.
He felt the cold begin to envelop him, beginning as a burden
on his shoulders and then covering his body. Then it began
to penetrate, freezing him to the very marrow of his bones.
He opened his mouth to scream, but there was only a deafening
silence. He felt as if he was entering a cocoon -- but in
reverse. He feared what he would emerge as.
Would he emerge at all?
Redemption could only be an illusion for someone like him.
His look said it all.
Fear. Shock. Regret.
She stared at him with a look that could only be described
as one of betrayal. How could you do this? her
eyes seemed to demand.
And then he was gone, buried beneath his burden of snow and
He was trapped, alone.
But she was safe.
She was alive, but every beat of her frozen heart stabbed
her with shocks of pain and guilt.
He was gone.
Rogue awoke with a start, shivering from the cold.
A cold winter breeze whipped through her open window, chilling
her to her bones. But the cold she felt came more from her
insides than from the temperature outside. She rubbed her
arms feverishly, trying to warm herself as she raced to close
Disoriented by a wave of nausea and queasy uneasiness that
washed over her, she tripped over the cardboard box that served
as her makeshift dresser and fell to the ground.
Rogue lay there for a long while, feeling faint and helpless.
Was this how Remy had felt, watching her abandon him in the
wastelands of Antarctica? Weak, cold and alone, with the heart-sinking
realization that love didn't -- couldn't -- conquer all.
This was the fifth night in a row. Five nights since the
How much longer was this pain going to last?
The guilt. The pain.
Her pain, his pain. It didn't matter anymore.
It all blended together these days anyway. She didn't care
to make the distinction anymore.
After everything she'd done, she deserved it.
She wanted to die.
Her mouth twisted at the irony. Her power had caused her
so much pain, yet at the same time, her invulnerability --
absorbed through the use of that power -- kept her from physical
B'sides, she mused. Even if ah could do
it, ah wouldn't have the guts t' go through with it. For someone
who's never been all that religious, the idea o' judgement
day and the fiery pits o' hell right now, after all Ah've
done, scares me a little too much ta wish for dyin' just yet.
She closed her eyes, her head feeling light, dizzy. Her weariness
overtook her, and she lay on the hard wood of the floor, too
weak even to move over to her bed.
Soon, darkness claimed her, and she blacked out.
Wolverine found her early the next morning when he came to
fetch her for a morning sparring exercise.
Opening the door, he saw her limp form curled up on the floor.
Careful not to touch her bare skin, Logan put his hand on
her shoulder, protected by the cloth of her nightshirt, and
tried to wake her.
She didn't stir.
Something was wrong.
Logan quickly pulled a blanket off of Rogue's bed and covered
her with it. Carefully, he lifted her up and carried her out
of the room. In the hallway of the women's dormitory, he sniffed,
trying to find Cecilia. She wasn't in her room. Not surprising,
given that she was an early riser. As he gingerly carried
Rogue downstairs, Logan tried to sniff out Beast and Cecilia
again. Both were in the MedLab.
Beast and Cecilia were debating the ethics of the Hippocratic
Oath when Wolverine burst into the MedLab, Rogue limp in his
"Oh my stars and garters!" exclaimed Beast. "Logan,
"Don't know. That's why we're here," Logan answered.
"Found the kid lying on the floor o' her room, passed
"Let's get a look at her," Cecilia said.
Hank reached out and carefully took Rogue's body into his
arms. He and Cecilia proceeded to one of the makeshift examining
rooms, partitioned from the main room by a plastic green shower
Logan lingered for a moment, then decided to find Storm.
"Physically, our Southern belle here has a clean bill
of health." Beast stood next to Cecilia, in front of
Storm and Wolverine. "She does show some signs of emotional
distress, but it seems only normal after recent events. Instead..."
"It's almost like she's withdrawn into herself,"
Cecilia said. "She's not responding to anything."
"Can we see her?" Ororo asked.
"In a moment. There's one more thing...," Cecilia
answered. She looked over at Hank, who coughed nervously before
"Rogue is pregnant."
Continued in Chapter
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