Turning and turning in the widening
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
~ from "The Second Coming"
by William Butler Yeats
Bobby Drake could hear the wheezing of the Stairmaster from
halfway across the mansion. The new exercise equipment
is only a few days old! It can't be breaking already!
Only one other person was left in the mansion that day, the
others having gone to help Colossus battle the newly-reappeared
Omega Red in Russia. Bobby followed the sounds of the dying
Stairmaster to their source, expecting to find her
at the other end.
"Rogue? You okay?" he called down the hallway.
She hadn't been particularly thrilled at being ordered to
stay at home for this mission. Angry and indignant was a more
accurate description. But Beast was unsure how Omega Red's
death spores might affect the baby, despite Rogue's invulnerability,
and since her collapse three weeks ago, Rogue had refused
to spend any time in the MedLab to investigate much of anything
regarding her pregnancy.
So she had been left behind, and Bobby entrusted with keeping
an eye on her.
Bobby reached the doorway of the new exercise room, next
to the Danger Room, and popped his head inside.
She was on the Stairmaster, dressed in full uniform and stepping
like a maniac, all the while carrying a barbell across her
shoulders with, Bobby estimated, at least a few tons on it.
Well, that explains why the machine's screaming its last
Bobby entered the room and approached Rogue, who still had
not shown any sign of noticing his presence. He reached out
to put a hand on her shoulder, and the next thing he knew,
he was sprawled on the floor, pinned beneath the barbell that
Rogue had been lifting.
"Don't sneak up on me, Drake," he heard her say.
She didn't even look over at him as she stepped off the Stairmaster
and over to one of the abdominal crunching machines, setting
the weight load to max.
"What gives?" Bobby asked as he tried to squirm
out from under the weights.
Definitely more than a few tons....urk...remind
me not to make her mad...
"Whatever do you mean, Bobby?" she asked frostily
from the weight machine.
And they call me Iceman...
Bobby finally squirmed out from under the barbell. "I
dunno, Rogue...You just seem kind of...on edge lately."
Again, he moved cautiously toward Rogue, who was still avoiding
his gaze. "This about being left behind...or is it something
"Ah just don't see why Hank wanted to leave me behind,"
she said, continuing her exercises. "Ah'm perfectly capable
"No, you're not, Rogue," Bobby interjected, his
voice firm. "With your not-just-in-the-morning sickness
"Just a mild case of the flu..." she muttered.
"-- the nausea --"
"Not gettin' enough sleep..."
"-- and...and everything else, you're more a liability
than an asset right now." Bobby crouched down beside
her and grinned. "So just enjoy the break -- look at
it as a nice long vacation from saving the world...We'll muddle
through just fine without you for the next eight months."
Rogue's head snapped up, her green eyes blazing. "Eight
months?! Ain't no way Ah'm gonna stay cooped up in here for
eight months! Ah'm fine!"
"Rogue," Bobby began carefully, "you may be
fine to guard the mansion, but the way things have been going
this past month, you are definitely not okay
for battle missions."
"Like hell Ah'm not! Ah've fought through
Bobby was quickly becoming frustrated. "Look, Rogue,
if you won't take care of yourself for your own sake, how
about for the baby's? Who knows what could happen in battle?
And what you're doing now -- eating like a bird and punishing
yourself on the machines 24-7 -- isn't going to help the baby's
He looked at Rogue hopefully. "How about you get changed
and I take you into town for a hearty pancake breakfast?"
Rogue's eyes lit up with child-like excitement. "With
bacon and lots of sausage?"
"And biscuits and gravy, too?"
"And scrambled eggs and orange juice besides."
Bobby grinned, slightly relieved. "C'mon," he said,
putting his hand on her shoulder, "why don't you get
changed, and I'll wait for you --"
Rogue grabbed his arm and flipped him over her shoulder,
sending him flat on his back with a solid "Ooomph!"
Then she leaned forward and placed her hand on his windpipe,
drawing her face close to Bobby's.
"Now you listen t'me -- and listen good," she said
dangerously. "Ah don't like that patronizin' tone of
voice you're usin' with me. Ah'm a big girl, Drake, and Ah
don't need you -- or any of the other X-Men -- babyin' me!"
"You think you're a big girl? Then start acting like
it!" Angry now, Bobby changed into his ice form and used
his powers to throw Rogue off of him and pin her to the opposite
Those ice shackles won't hold her for long...
"Look, Rogue -- You want the truth? The brutal, awful
truth? Well, here it is: You're 21 years old and your life's
a mess. I warned you about Gambit, and look where it's gotten
you. You left him to die -- a traitor -- in Antarctica.
You're pregnant with his baby. So now you're going to be a
single mother -- just like your real mother was."
She flinched as he leaned forward and took her chin in his
iced hand, forcing her to acknowledge him.
"Look at me, dammit! You're a grown woman now, Rogue.
Take responsibility for your life while you can, because none
of us want to be there to pick up the pieces when everything's
He turned to walk out the door, and as he heard the ice shatter,
he braced for the punch he knew would be coming.
But no punch came.
He turned around and saw her curled up in a ball on the floor,
her body shaking and tears pouring down her cheeks as she
fought against the sobs that threatened to break free. Her
eyes were squeezed shut and her head was down, pressed into
her knees, so she could not see the tears threatening to spill
from Bobby's own eyes.
Reverting back to his flesh form, he knelt down and wrapped
his arms around her. She returned the embrace, resting her
head on Bobby's shoulder.
"Ah'm so sorry..." she said, finally succumbing
to the tears.
Bobby, for his part, tried to comfort her, patting her hair
and murmuring consolingly to her. He felt awkward, though,
given his earlier behavior and his own confused feelings about
Boy, if this isn't a 'When Harry Met Sally' moment...
he thought absently.
She cried for what seemed like forever, and when the sobs
died down, she broke away from Bobby's embrace, biting her
lip and feeling awkward herself.
So what next...? she wondered.
They stared at each other for a few minutes, neither sure
of what to say. Rogue finally broke the silence.
"You still up for breakfast?" She smiled weakly
Bobby smiled back at her, grateful that she had made the
first move. "Your wish is my command." He stood
up and offered his hand to her, helping her to her feet. "Shall
we be off?"
Rogue laughed, wiping the remaining tears from her eyes.
"Gimme a sec to clean muhself up, 'kay?" she asked,
her voice still thick. "Ah'll meet ya by the front doors
in ten minutes."
"Sounds like a plan to me," Bobby answered, smiling
warmly at her as she left the room.
Once she was gone, though, he slumped against the wall and
put his head in his hands.
I guess this was that "breakthrough" Betsy was
telling us to look out for. I'm just scared to death of how
much worse this is going to get.
He shrugged and stood up to leave the room. Take it as
it comes, I guess. Let's just see how breakfast goes...
As he walked out the door, the memory of Rogue's wide-eyed,
tear-streaked face flashed in his mind, and he groaned inwardly.
Why did I have to be such a jerk?
The way she was hunched over, looking like a frozen, frightened
child as she tightly held her mug of hot chocolate to her
lips, Bobby Drake could have sworn the woman sitting across
the booth from him was much younger than her 21 years.
Her haunted eyes haunted him as well. The woman before him
should be smiling and laughing, her emerald eyes dancing merrily
as she shared a joke or helped him plan a new prank on the
other residents of the X-Mansion. The melancholy woman with
him now was nothing like the Rogue he knew from before Christmas.
He reached out and put his hands over hers, gently bringing
her hands and the mug down to the table. She avoided his gaze,
keeping her eyes focused on the mug in her hands -- and the
warm hands that grasped her own.
"Rogue?" He spoke her name softly, trying again
to catch her attention. When still she would not respond,
he let go of her hands and sat back in his seat, this time
trying to look at anything but her as he let out a sigh of
"You know, if I'm such bad company, you could just tell
me and save us both some trouble," he said, trying with
little success to keep his voice light.
Bobby's sudden movement and abrupt comments jolted her, and
she looked up at him, startled out of her reverie. "Bobby,
Ah -- Ah ... It's not you, okay?" she stammered, forcing
an embarrassed smile. "Ah was just ... thinkin'..."
"You've been staring off into space like a zombie for,
like, the last 10 minutes."
He leaned forward and squeezed her hands, still clasped around
"Ummm...Rogue?" he stumbled, trying to collect
his thoughts. "I need to tell you something. I ... um
... just wanted to say that I'm sorry ... for what I said
to you earlier ... in the weight room and all. I had no right
to say those things -- I'm supposed to be your friend for
goodness sake -- and -- "
"But you meant it." Rogue's voice, cold and emotionless
in its tone, jarred him from his thoughts.
"Rogue -- I ... "
"Drake, nothing you said wasn't the truth," she
said wearily, pulling her hands away from Bobby's as she sat
back in her seat. "So don't apologize, 'kay?" She
raised her hand to motion for the waiter to come over. "Check
pl -- "
"Not yet." Bobby, in half desperation, pulled her
outstretched hand back to the table. "Can we talk for
a bit first? I mean really talk?"
The urgency in Bobby's voice surprised Rogue, and his sudden
assertiveness took her off guard. Settling back in her seat,
she pulled her hand back from Bobby's grasp. "Okay...
," she said cautiously, her voice soft. "What's
on your mind?"
"You, Rogue." Bobby looked down at his hands. "Rogue
- I'm worried about you. Been worried for a while - since
you and Gambit started getting serious." He paused, looking
up at Rogue, who was nervously shuffling leftover scraps of
food across her plate. "You just haven't been yourself
for...well...for the longest time. It's pretty obvious that
something's wrong. Do you want to talk about it?"
"Not really," she murmured, her words barely discernable.
Bobby leaned forward, trying to encourage Rogue to look at
him. "You sure?"
"Yes," she answered, this time with a little more
strength behind her voice.
Bobby pulled back from her and ran his hand through his hair,
trying to control his mounting frustration. Still, a sigh
escaped his lips. "If that's the way you want it, Rogue,
I'll leave you alone."
Tense, the pair sat stiffly in their seats and avoided each
other's gaze as they tried to nonchalantly sip their drinks
and stare, unaffected, into space. About five minutes into
the uneasy standoff, Rogue set her empty mug on the table
and began to absently poke at the leftover froth with a coffee
stirrer. Finally, she broke the silence.
"It wasn't supposed to happen," she whispered,
almost too softly for Bobby to hear.
"What do you mean?"
"Any of this - that night, that trial, what happened
... afterwards ..." Her voice, which had started out
strong, dropped down to a nervous whisper. "This whole
mess ... it's all my fault ..."
"Rogue what happened back there, in Antarctica? I mean,
I've heard some of what happened from the others, but there
was a lot that got ... left out."
Rogue quickly looked away from Bobby, biting her lip in an
attempt to suppress tears that were only a prelude to the
torrent of memories and emotions that she feared would quickly
overwhelm her. "God, Ah wish Ah could just close my eyes
and this would all go away like it had never happened...,"
she murmured as she lowered her head and massaged her throbbing
Bobby reached out his hand and cupped one of Rogue's. "Would
you like to talk about it?" he ventured again, his voice
There was a long silence, and Rogue finally responded, quietly
at first and then with slowly building strength.
"What happened - between Remy an' me - wasn't supposed
to happen. Any of it. After that night..." She stopped
for a moment, then resumed her talking. "At Christmastime,
before Lilandra called us all in, Remy an' Ah weren't exactly
on the best of terms. Ah was gettin' friendly with Joseph
- somethin' that pleased him none too well - an' he an' Ah....
well, let's just say that we were on speakin' terms, but that
was about it. Both of us, we knew somethin' was there, but
we never really talked about it after that whole Onslaught
mess. Just kinda walked around an' tried to avoid each other."
Rogue let out a low chuckle. "Ya know, as big as that
mansion is, it seems mighty small when you're tryin' to avoid
someone an' you've both got some 'a the same haunts."
Bobby smiled at her encouragingly, and she continued.
"Ah was almost absorbed by the Phalanx when we were
out in space. Ah thought Ah was done for, an' Ah said some
stuff that maybe Ah shouldn't have. Some stuff that Remy heard
when he saved me." Rogue paused to take a breath and
moved her hands from massaging her temples to gripping her
empty hot chocolate mug. "After that, we got closer -
a lot closer. An' then we were trapped in Antarctica..."
She squeezed her eyes shut for a moment, then took a deep
breath and continued.
"He started pushin' me away right after it happened...Kept
pushin' and pushin'... After Ah came to save him after Spat
an' Grovel took him away, he told me Ah didn't really know
him, an' that he didn't love me - never did. Ah shoulda left
him there and then. Findin' out the truth at the Trial - Ah
just got ta put a face ta all the nightmares Ah've been havin'
since Ah kissed him in Israel."
A small cloud of dust surrounded Rogue's hands as she unconsciously
started to grind the ceramic mug between her two hands. Rogue
shook her head and gave a wry smile as she continued. "Boy
shoulda known better than ta try ta sweet talk me after that.
Guilted me inta draggin' his sorry butt outta that citadel,
then tellin' me he loved me, tellin' me he'd changed, so's
Ah'd save him an' bring him back home." Sarcasm and anger
crept further into her voice, and she spat out her words with
bitterness. "After what he did - 'cause 'a him, Kitty
an' Pete almost died, an' most o' the rest of us X-Men at
the time weren't doin' so peachy-keen ourselves. He betrayed
us, an' he betrayed me, led me on all that time an' then tried
ta use it against me just ta save his sorry ass!"
Rogue's voice took on a steely, deadly edge. "He got
what was comin' to him. If he's dead, that's no less than
he deserves. If he's still alive, he's still got ta live with
himself, an' he's certainly got no home here ta come back
Bobby looked down at the pile of dust on the table where
her mug used to be. Rogue's tirade both confused and worried
him. He thought he had heard genuine remorse in her voice
just minutes ago, yet now she spoke with only bitterness and
self-righteous anger about what had happened. He knew, though,
that now was not the time to call her on it. He'd had no great
love for the Cajun, but at the same time he believed Gambit
had genuinely loved Rogue, at least at one time. Rogue's version
of the events seemed too subjective to be trusted as gospel.
"If he's alive, don't you think he should at least find
out about the baby, though?" Bobby ventured.
"Let him think it's Joseph's for all Ah care."
The cold, hard finality in her voice jarred Bobby, and he
decided not to push the subject for now. He'd talk to Hank
later to find out more details of what had happened on that
mission - and most especially what, exactly, had happened
during that "trial."
"Ah think it's about time ta get goin', dontcha think?"
Rogue smiled sweetly and folded her cloth napkin daintily
in front of her, seeming a completely different person from
the depressive that had sat before him earlier that morning,
or the bitter shrew that had spoken so venomously just moments
"Ummmmm, yeah." Startled, Bobby raised his hand
to call for the waiter. "Check please."
Continued in Chapter
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