But since, alas! frail beauty
Curled or uncurled, since locks will turn to gray;
Since painted, or not painted, all shall fade,
And she who scorns a man must die a maid.
from "The Rape of the Lock," Canto V
~ by Alexander Pope ~
"Drake!" Rogue hissed into Bobby's ear. "Wake
Curled up in his bed with a pillow, Bobby stirred slightly
and grunted in acknowledgement but didn't open his eyes.
Rogue, crouched next to his bed, narrowed her eyes in annoyance
and tried again. "Bobby, you need to wake up."
Bobby clasped his pillow tighter and squeezed his eyes shut.
Frustrated, Rogue said in a low voice, "Bobby, it's time.
I need you to take me to the hospital."
"Wha--?" Bobby jolted out of bed and began to quickly
dress. As he pulled on his jeans, he froze for a second in
realization. "Hey! That wasn't fair!" With that
he tossed aside his jeans and flopped back into bed.
"Serves you right." Rogue yanked on the pillow
Bobby had clasped in his arms, half dragging him out of bed
trailing sheets and blankets behind him. "Bobby, this
stupid prank was your idea. Gettin' up in the
dead 'a night to do this was your idea."
She pulled the pillow completely out of Bobby's grasp and
bopped him lightly on the head with it.
"Go 'way," Bobby grumbled as he moved to get back
"Ah can't believe you're going to pass up on an opportunity
like this," Rogue hissed as she tapped a gloved finger
on Bobby's nose. "An' 'redecoratin' the mansion at 2
in the mornin' was your idea."
Annoyed, Bobby gave up hope on going back to sleep. "And
you listened to me?" Pulling a blanket over his lap to
cover his bare legs and boxer shorts, Bobby sat up in bed
and blanched when he glanced over at his wind-up alarm clock.
"Geez, Rogue - It's two in the morning! Can't a man sleep?"
"Lazy-ass. Ah thought the 'Prince 'a Practical Jokes'
would make any sacrifice for a good prank," Rogue retorted,
hands on her hips.
"I hang up the crown between midnight and whenever I
wake up." Bobby picked up his pillow and stood up. "How
about this? I hereby dub thee 'Princess Prankster,'"
he said, tapping Rogue on either shoulder with the pillow.
"Now go do your worst - just leave me out of this one."
With that, he dived back under the covers.
"Wuss," Rogue said as she walked to the door. "Not
my fault ya probably stayed up 'til 1 watchin' Mystery Science
Bobby responded with a raspberry.
"Yeah, yeah...real mature, Drake..."
"As if playing practical jokes in the middle of the
Rogue barely managed to hold back her giggles until she slipped
out the door into the hallway. Real mature, girl.
Actin' like a teenager at a slumber party. She inwardly
chuckled as she glided noiselessly down the corridor of the
She and Bobby had gone to Harry's for milkshakes earlier
that day, spurred on by another of her sudden cravings for
an Oreo shake. Over their treat, the Rogue had complained
about how overly serious everyone was becoming, and Bobby,
true to form, had suggested some sort of prank to lighten
Rogue knew he'd been joking about the idea, but after tossing
in bed for what seemed like hours, pestering Bobby about the
prank didn't seem so bad an idea. Never prank a prankster,
She stopped short when she realized where she was: at the
end of the men's wing, in front of a door -- his door.
Rogue wondered for a moment why she had arrived there so automatically,
without even thinking about it. Over the past two and a half
months she had avoided even looking at his door, much less
entering it, and she had never been a frequent visitor even
when the room had been occupied.
Yet now she felt drawn to it, almost as if she was being
pulled in against her will.
As if it had a mind of its own, her hand began to turn the
doorknob and open the door. Unwillingly, she stumbled inside
the empty room and closed the door quickly behind her.
This room was one of the smaller ones in the Mansion, but
when it had been occupied, its decor had somehow managed to
make it seem larger than it was. Now, left empty and alone
for nearly three months, it was dusty and felt almost cave-like.
As soon as she entered, she wanted to leave, yet she couldn't
force herself to do so. Even though bright moonlight shone
through the uncovered window, the room felt dark and oppressive,
and with the door closed behind her, she began to feel almost
claustrophobic. Why am Ah here?
Rogue was drawn to the moonlight and moved to open the window.
She sank to her knees when the brisk March air hit her, and
she bit her lip hard to try to keep herself from crying. Done
too much crybabyin' already these days, girl...Hold it in,
put it behind you... She squeezed her eyes and fists tight
for a moment and regained control of herself. There...deep
Basking in the moonlight, Rogue idly traced the edges of
the floorboards beneath her. Out of the corner of her eye,
she noticed that one of the boards curved up slightly where
it met the wall. Somehow, she knew it would be there. Curious,
she reached over and tried to pry the board up; it moved with
little difficulty, as if someone else had done the same thing
The light shone into the opening, illuminating a small hoard
of photos and momentos that likely belonged to the room's
previous occupant. Rogue picked up the first item in the pile;
lifting it up, she realized it was a photo of herself, flying
up to grab the bouquet at Scott and Jean's wedding. She didn't
know he'd gotten a copy of the picture, yet she wasn't surprised,
Holding it close to her face, she studied the happy figure
in the photograph.
The wedding...That was what, a year ago? Gal in that picture
might as well be a different person; she's nothin' like me....
She had love, or at least a chance at it. Trust. Security.
Didn't realize what she had...
What do you have, gal? Killed two lovers in the
past year. Sleepin' on a mattress on the floor. Baby on the
She reached under the floorboard and pulled out another item:
a gold ring. Holding it between her thumb and index finger,
Rogue examined the jewelry. Probably his wedding ring...Ah
wonder...Is he still a widower, even though Belle came back?
Rogue pulled off her left glove and tried to put on the ring;
it would only fit on her thumb. Yeah...Him as the
lonely widower...never gonna happen...
She pulled the next item out of the hiding place and froze
when she recognized it: a photo of Gambit and Belladonna from
their wedding day. Both were laughing and ducking away as
each tried to smash a piece of wedding cake into the other's
Ah 'member that day like it was yesterday...Walkin' down
the aisle with my daddy...no...Watchin' her come toward me
in that beautiful white dress...
None of this was mine...No matter how much Ah wanted it
Rogue studied the happy couple and lightly traced their outlines
with her fingertip. Closing her eyes, she recalled how he
once traced the outlines of her face with his bare fingertip.
How he'd stared into her eyes. How...
Suddenly she realized she'd clenched her left fist, crumpling
the photo of herself. She quickly tore off the wedding ring
and threw it, along with the pictures and her glove, under
the floorboards, then deliberately put the missing floorboard
back in place.
Rogue stood and closed the window before leaving the room.
Too damn cold in here...
Idly stirring her hot chocolate, Rogue glanced up at the
kitchen doorway when Ororo entered.
Storm shot her an odd look. "Good morning, Rogue,"
she answered, reaching into the refrigerator. "You are
not normally awake at six in the morning; are you feeling
"Well enough, Ah guess. Just decided it was time to
get outta bed." Rogue resumed poking at the froth of
her hot chocolate with her spoon.
"Ah." Storm pulled a cannister of tea out of the
pantry and used her powers to prepare herself a cup of hot
tea. Holding the warm mug in her hands, she gazed out the
window and smiled. "Spring is my favorite time of year,
when the Goddess begins to awaken the earth and help give
birth to new life." She took a sip from her tea. "Perhaps
that is why I wake up early to watch the sunrise - It is like
witnessing a rebirth every day."
Rogue stood and joined Ororo by the window. "Ah've always
liked sunsets better myself, but maybe that's more 'cause
Ah'm usually not awake ta see the sunrise. An' when Ah am
awake ta see the sunrise, Ah'm usually too grumpy
to appreciate it." Rogue drained the last of the hot
chocolate from her mug. "It is really pretty,
"Perhaps we shall make a morning person of you yet."
Beast's entrance into the kitchen interrupted their thoughts.
"Pardon me for disrupting your attempt to convert our
unregenerate friend to being one who is most energetic in
the forenoon hours, but might I steal away our uncharacteristically
early riser for a moment to discuss a matter of a medical
"Of course, Henry," Storm said. "You may remain
in here, actually; I will go outdoors."
"Many thanks, Ororo."
Empty mug still in hand, Rogue stayed by the window, ostensibly
watching the sunrise outside. When Storm had left the room,
Rogue broke the silence. "So what's up, Beastie?"
"Given your reticence to call upon the good Doctor Reyes
or I at all since your first visit nine weeks ago, I have
decided that perhaps a 'house call' is in order," Hank
answered, his normally cheerful voice betraying a hint of
Rogue swiveled her head toward him, then turned back to look
out the window. "Ha, ha. Ah get the hint."
"I am not attempting to make merry. This is a serious
matter." He gestured toward the kitchen table. "Would
you like to take a seat so we can discuss this?"
"No, thanks. Ah'm fine," Rogue said frostily.
"Well, I shall sit down, then." Beast took a seat
near Rogue, turning his chair toward her. "To begin,
Cecilia and I have been studying your medical files, and we
have some concern as to whether you will be able to carry
a pregnancy at all." He looked up at Rogue, hoping she
would at all react to his statement. She said and did nothing,
so he continued.
"Because of the Kree DNA you absorbed from Carol Danvers,
the former Ms. Marvel, you have a certain immunity to poisons.
When your body is pregnant, it manufactures a number of hormones
and other chemicals to protect the fetus from your own immune
system, which at first sees the fetus as a kind of alien intruder.
Given your enhanced immune system, then, your body may reject
the fetus entirely, meaning you may miscarry."
Rogue's heart skipped a beat, but she remained silent.
Beast cleared his throat, then added, "This is possible,
but unlikely. Carol herself had a child several years ago,
although under very unusual circumstances."
"So what's the problem?" Rogue finally broke in.
Beast looked up from the table to find Rogue staring at him.
"The 'problem,' as you put it, lies more in your powers.
We have no idea if the fetus is immune to your absorption
powers, or even if they function internally. But if your powers
do not have an internal 'off switch,' the child may be born
effectively brain dead."
Rogue turned back to the window, crossing her arms across
her chest. Studying her face, Hank couldn't decipher what
emotions might be playing out within her.
"We do not know this for sure," he added. "You
know that we have long suspected that your problems with controlling
your powers are psychologically based. Even if your absorption
powers could operate in the womb, your block against controlling
your powers could be such that it only applies to skin-to-skin
contact, and not internally. Or, as the child is of your own
genetic material, perhaps the wee tyke is immune to your powers
"If you would come into the MedLab for an examination,
we could determine what is happening and then decide the best
course of action."
"That's not necessary, Hank," Rogue said stonily,
her back now turned fully toward the doctor.
"Rogue..." Hank's voice became sterner, as if he
were talking to a rebellious child. "Only after a thorough
examination can we truly evaluate your condition and find
any potential problems. You needn't be so stubborn."
"It's not necessary, Hank," Rogue repeated.
"Rogue, we no longer have the resources to restrain
you, and furthermore that would not be my means of choice
to convince you to submit to this exam. Please be reasonable..."
Rogue shot Beast an angry look and stalked out of the room.
Staring out the doorway after Rogue, Hank sighed as he ran
a hand through his hair.
Continued in Chapter
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