In sleep she seemed to walk
Till cold winds woke the gray-eyed morn
About the lonely moated grange.
by Alfred, Lord Tennyson
Rogue sat up suddenly in bed, gasping for breath as beads
of sweat trickled down her face. She leaned forward and rested
her head on her knees as she struggled to regain her composure.
"Just a dream...Just a dream...," she murmured
to herself as she rocked back and forth in bed.
She slept now to avoid the tedious hours spent awake, yet
she spent the hours awake trying to avoid the nightmares that
sleep brought, nightmares that had grown steadily worse over
the past three months. While she did not withdraw completely
into herself as she had once before, Rogue often awoke wishing
she could escape into her own mind once again. End the nightmare
by confronting it, by entering it.
By letting it win.
Once the shaking subsided, Rogue lifted her head and wiped
the sweat from her brow. Feeling almost suffocated by the
darkness of the room, she looked over at the only source of
light in the room: her alarm clock, whose glowing digital
display read 3:27 a.m.
Sleep beckoned her to return to her soft pillow, but she
resisted its call. The latest nightmare was still too fresh
in her mind to ignore. Restless, Rogue threw aside the covers
and stepped out of bed. Pacing across the cold wooden floor,
she tried to shake the memory of the dream.
A familiar face. Recognition -- and horror. Soft flesh. Hard
fists. Warm blood. Unrelenting fury. Muted cries for mercy.
A pool of blood, quickly buried under a cold blanket of snow.
Struck by a sudden chill, Rogue rubbed her hands along her
arms, trying to warm herself. Finally, overcome with frustration,
she threw open her bedroom door and stalked down the hallway
and stairs, hoping a stroll through the Mansion grounds would
help clear her head.
She sighed as she opened the Mansion's front door, letting
the cold air from the outside hit her full in the face. Trying
to ignore the cold March air, Rogue began humming a tune from
her childhood as she stepped outside.
Three hours later, she was sitting on an old log by the lake,
watching the sun slowly rise. She shivered from the cold,
but she ignored it, instead immersing herself in her thoughts.
Rogue's head snapped up as she heard a twig snap behind her.
Her eyes widened in shock when she recognized the intruder.
He said nothing, but snarled at her as he reached over and
pulled her to her feet by her hair. Rogue wavered, paralyzed
by pain and fear, as her knees threatened to buckle beneath
He glowered at her with cold eyes for what seemed like forever,
still holding tight to Rogue's hair. His face curled into
an icy sneer as he pulled her closer to him. Holding her face
just inches from his, he snarled, "You pull stuff like
that, girl, you know what the punishment is."
Tossing her to the ground, he laughed at the fear evident
in her eyes. "You think I wouldn't remember? You think
you'd be able to get away with that? You think wrong, girl."
He began a barrage of punches, kicks and slaps that stung
and bit. She tasted blood, and she thought she felt a rib
crack. And the cold morning air stung almost as much as the
Lying helpless on the ground, she idly wondered how it was
she could actually feel the assault, in light of her invulnerability.
This beating hurt almost as much as the ones her mother's
boyfriends would deliver when she was a child. At least
he doesn't have a whiskey bottle with him, she thought,
cringing at the memory she'd thought she'd managed to forget.
"Can't have you forgetting what you did wrong, girl,"
he growled as he slapped her face. Then, gripping her throat
so tight she couldn't breathe, he yanked her head toward him
and kissed her.
Rogue's eyes snapped open, glowing with anger, and she bit
down hard on his lip. She did not hear him hiss in pain or
see him react at all, but the taste of blood in her mouth
brought a glint of savagery to her eyes. In a white-hot rage,
she threw her assailant to the ground and delivered her own
barrage of blows, with her super-strength adding power to
He didn't show any sign of acknowledging the blows, even
though Rogue could see parts of his skin beginning to blacken
and swell from her assault. He only leered mockingly at her
as blood gushed from a wound on his forehead. His grin intensified
her anger and frustration, and she hit him harder and faster.
But still he continued to taunt her.
Rogue heard a branch snap behind her, and without thinking
she spun around and confronted the intruder. Lifting him nearly
two feet off the ground and pinning him against a nearby tree,
her right arm was pulled back, ready to deliver a hearty blow,
when she realized who her visitor was.
"Bobby?!" She dropped him to the ground in surprise.
Dusting the dirt off of him, he looked at her with annoyance.
"We're jumpy this morning. Geez, Rogue -- this how you
say hi to all your friends these days?"
"Sorry," she mumbled. "What are you doing
out here so early in the morning?"
"Danger Room session, remember? It's five til
seven, and since you weren't in your room, I figured I'd check
around to see if you wanted to train with us this time."
"Oh. Ah..." Rogue turned around and looked back
toward the lake. Her assailant was gone, and there was no
sign of any battle. She closed her eyes and briefly massaged
her temples. She noticed blood on her hand as pulled it away
from her forehead.
From behind her, Bobby commented, "What happened to
you this morning? You look like you've been through a war."
"So you're sure you want to do this, Rogue?" Bobby
asked as they walked down the long underground corridor to
the Danger Room.
"For the twentieth time this morning, Drake, yes,"
Rogue answered tersely. "Ah could ask you the same thing
about you after that rumpus with Sam an' Marrow yesterday,
not to mention the fight you had last night with Scott."
She added the latter part with some trepidation. Ah'm
not goin' insane...Ah'm not goin' insane..., she said
to herself, trying to fight her uneasiness.
Bobby looked at her quizzically. "Fight with Scott?"
Rogue's face flushed with embarrassment. "Never mind.
Ah must have been mistaken... Forget Ah said anythin'..."
"Oh. Okay...," Bobby answered, his voice odd as
he absently pressed his fingertips to a bruise on his left
Taking a deep breath, Rogue stopped in front of the Danger
Room. "Well, here we are..."
Bobby took a quick glance at his watch. "Yup. And 20
minutes late. Scott isn't gonna approve of such tardiness,"
he said teasingly, pointing a finger at her in mock accusation.
"Ah'll take the heat, no biggie...Well, no sense in
just standin' here. Let's get this mess over with."
Hesitantly, Rogue opened the door and stepped inside the
X-Men's large, but sparsely equipped, training center. All
of the other X-Men were already inside, sparring in pairs.
From the other side of the room, Cyclops shot the two latecomers
a look of annoyance. Rogue winced as his sparring partner,
Wolverine, took advantage of Cyclops' momentary distraction
and tackled his "fearless leader" from behind, sending
Cyclops sprawling to the ground in a very un-leaderlike fashion.
Assorted amused cheers from nearby X-Men punctuated his fall.
This further annoyed Scott, who leapt back to his feet and
sent a quick barrage of pulsed optic blasts toward Wolverine,
who staggered backwards briefly and then took on a defiant
stance against the assault.
"Time out," Cyclops said sternly. He walked over
to Rogue and Iceman. "You're late."
"We know," Bobby answered, almost challenging him.
Noting the tension, Rogue broke in. "Look, it was my
fault. Bobby came lookin' for me and..."
"It doesn't matter," Cyclops interrupted. Gesturing
back to the other sparring X-Men, he said, "We've paired
people up, and the winners go on to battle each other, and
so on. You two will come in with the next round. Rogue --
you're fighting the winner of the Beast/Reyes match. Bobby
-- you're up against the winner of the Angel/Maggott match-up."
Cyclops turned abruptly and returned to spar against Wolverine,
leaving Rogue and Bobby in the corner by the door. From their
vantage point, the latecomers kept an eye on all the matches:
Beast vs. Cecilia, Angel vs. Maggott, Cyclops vs. Wolverine,
Storm vs. Marrow, Jean vs. Psylocke and Cannonball vs. Jubilee
(who had come out the night before to visit).
Beast and Cannonball easily defeated their opponents. Rogue
noted the contrast between the two winners: Beast tried to
best his fellow doctor gently, while Cannonball seemed to
take pride in embarrassing Jubilee. Poking Bobby in the ribs,
Rogue asked, "What's wrong with Sam? He's never been
like this before. Even with my invulnerability, Ah have trouble
gettin' him ta hit me in trainin' sessions cause
Ah'm a girl, and now he's pounding the lights outta Jubilee?"
Bobby's eyes narrowed as they followed Rogue's gesture toward
the Cannonball/Jubilee fracas. "I don't know," he
answered. "It really is odd for him, I guess. He's gotten
more active in the training sessions these days. Maybe he's
just gotten carried away."
The other battles took longer because the combatants were
more suitably matched. Rogue giggled as she watched Maggott
spout gallons of trash talk (most of which no one could understand)
as he and his slugs finally defeated Angel. Phoenix won her
fight by using her telekinetic powers to catch Psylocke off-guard
in the physical plane as she battled her fellow telepath on
the astral plane. Storm lost her patience with Marrow and
knocked her unconscious with a strong lightning bolt.
The Cyclops/Wolverine battle lasted the longest, with Cyclops
using his powers to keep Wolverine at bay for as long as he
could. But Logan's healing factor gave him the stamina to
keep dodging his eye-beams and to bounce back from hits hits.
Wolverine played a waiting game as Scott tired himself out.
Eventually, the exhaustion began to take its toll on Cyclops,
and Logan closed in when fatigue caused Scott to briefly drop
his guard. Normally, Logan would have extended the two outer
claws of a hand on either side of his opponent's face and
asked him to surrender, but instead Wolverine finished off
Scott with a sharp left hook to the chin and a vicious knee
to the kidneys. Bruised, the Canadian mutant breathed heavily
and almost stumbled as he left the arena.
Jean stood, strangely unmoved, as she watched her husband
collapse in pain to the floor.
Rogue and Iceman joined the fray for Round Two. Here the
battles were less evenly matched, as Rogue faced off against
Beast, Maggott against Iceman, Wolverine against Storm, and
Phoenix against Cannonball. The fights tended to stay in the
same corner of the Danger Room, so the losers of the previous
round formed a kind of ring around the combatants to better
watch the fights.
Jean defeated her opponent first, using her telepathic powers
to deliver a strong telepathic bolt that knocked Cannonball
unconscious in mid-air. Jubilee cheered jubilantly from her
spot on the sidelines as she applied an ice pack to her swollen
Wolverine surprised everyone by being the next to fall in
battle. His stamina nearly maxed out from Cyclops' repeated
optic blasts in the previous round, Logan quickly succumbed
to Storm's powers and fell unconscious. Marrow, crouched nearby,
snickered at the sight.
It took Rogue a bit longer to defeat Beast, but not much.
Using her power of flight to keep herself out of Beast's grasp
until the last possible moments, she kept divebombing, delivering
hits at random and keeping Beast off-balance. She delivered
the final blow by colliding against her teammate at top speed
and slamming him against one of the Danger Room walls.
The Maggott/Iceman match-up took the longest. Maggott used
his slugs, Eenie and Meanie, to keep Iceman off-balance while
Maggott delivered his own blows. Bombarded by punches, slugs,
and the jeers of his other teammates, Iceman let his frustration
and mounting anger get the better of him. Anger in his face,
he batted the slugs across the room with an ice hockey stick,
aided in their travels by a burst of ice that slicked the
floor beneath them. Then he used his ice powers to pin Maggott
to a nearby wall and delivered an ice-enhanced punch to Maggott's
face that may have broken his jaw. Bobby was momentarily horrified
by what he had done, but his confusion was quickly shoved
aside by a growing sense of pride at hearing the cheers of
his other teammates after he delivered the coup de grace.
Down to the final four: Iceman, Phoenix, Rogue and Storm.
Iceman and Phoenix paired off, while Rogue and Storm prepared
to fight each other. The remaining ten X-Men formed a wide
circle around the area where the two battles would take place
so they could better watch the fights as they tended their
wounds. Even Maggott, who almost assuredly had a broken jaw,
warded off attempts to take him to the MedLab so he could
watch the remaining battles.
Cyclops, massaging his bruised temples from the first round,
called the beginning of the fight, and the combatants proceeded
to cautiously spar with their opponents, warily gauging possible
weaknesses and opportunities for victory. By the way the fighters
eyed each other, the audience knew these battles would last
Storm struck first, sending out a low-level lightning bolt
toward Rogue, who easily dodged it. Iceman followed Ororo's
example with an ice blast toward Phoenix, who telekinetically
lifted herself out of the way. Both battles continued as such,
almost like a game of chess as they dodged and parried each
other's moves. Rogue eventually defeated Storm by getting
close enough to her to absorb Storm and use her own powers
against her. By chilling the blood in her veins, Iceman knocked
Jean unconscious when the bloodflow proved too slow to keep
her body in sparring form.
All done to the cheers of a crowd that adored whoever seemed
to be winning at the time.
"Well, lookee here -- There's an ending ya wouldn't
expect," Logan said blandly. "Rogue and Drake --
Rogue and Iceman walked to the center of the "arena"
battle circle that had been formed by the other X-Men. The
two looked at each other almost bashfully as the level of
anticipation in the room heightened expectantly.
Bobby put out his hand, and Rogue shook it. "Well, let's
get this started...," he said.
They stood across from each other, shoulders hunched and
feet shuffling back and forth, like two wrestlers on the mat
seconds before the beginning of a match. Their eyes were narrowed
in concentration, as if pondering strategy, and their body
language exuded confidence and ability as they waited for
the okay to begin.
From his spot in the arena, Logan called out, "Ready?
On three -- One... Two... Three... Go!"
Their scuffle began modestly, much as before, as they tested
each other's capabilities and reactions, but the fight soon
escalated, much to the delight of the crowd. The cheers and
chants of the group that circled the combatants was intoxicating,
and Rogue was hard-pressed to contain the euphoria that filled
her at hearing her name chanted as Bobby began to falter and
the battle turned in her favor.
Keep throwing punches. Stay out of his way. Keep him off-balance
so he can't use his powers.
As she ducked away from a burst of ice, she felt her body
begin to grow cold, as if she was freezing from the inside
out. Looking at Bobby's face, she saw his narrowed eyes and
furrowed brow, exuding intensity and an uncharacteristic level
of disciplined concentration. She moved toward him, hoping
to deliver a blow that would shake him from his concentration,
but she stopped short, gasping from the pain as she felt the
blood in her veins begin to literally run cold.
She found herself drawn in by his eyes. Once friendly, now
hard. Once warm and inviting, now frigid and forbidding. An
angry shadow had settled behind them. Rogue began to falter.
A cold sneer settled upon his lips, and Rogue thought she
heard him say, "Thought you stood a chance, girl? Who
said you had the right to hope?"
Pushing past the cold of her body and the stabbing pains
in her chest as she fought to breathe and stay conscious,
she dived at Bobby and knocked him to the ground, breaking
him from his concentration. But despite the blow, he behaved
as if all was happening according to plan.
"You can't win, Rogue. You know that," he taunted.
"That's where you're wrong, Drake," she answered,
delivering a punch that should have knocked him unconscious.
Should have, but didn't. She looked at him in disbelief --
He was still awake and bleeding only slightly from a new cut
above his eye. "Thought you had me there, didn't you?"
Rogue felt the chill begin to spill over her again, and she
began to punch and kick him, sending him flying into the nearby
wall. Bobby only laughed and dared her to keep going.
Stop the cold. Stop the taunts. The others, cheerin' for
me. Have to be doin' somethin' right... Stop looking at me!
Ah'll wipe that smile off your face once and for all. Gotta
stop the cold...the taunts...
The room seemed to spin around her. The taunts, the cheers,
the cold. She was going to be sick soon. Why wouldn't he stop
laughing? Maybe another punch would quiet him down.
Another punch. And another one after that. And they just
kept coming....But his laughter only grew more grating as
her punches increased in strength and frequency, even as his
face became more and more bloodied.
Make it stop...make it stop...
The crowd's cheers grew louder.
Rogue suddenly stopped short, her fist ready to deliver the
final blow, when her eyes caught Bobby's. The cold, mocking
stare had been replaced by swollen, bruised eyes filled with
fear and confusion.
"Rogue?" he mumbled weakly, his eyes entreating
her to stop.
Rogue looked around in astonishment, as if for the first
time realizing where she was. She gazed in horror at Bobby's
crumpled form lying at her knees, with blood spattered everywhere
and evident signs of broken bones. She looked around at the
other X-Men, who stood uneasily in a circle around her, gazing
accusingly at her. No more cheers now.
She could feel the bile rising in her throat.
"What have Ah done?"
Continued in Chapter
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