With a glassy countenance
Did she look to Camelot
And at the closing of the day
She loosed the chain, and down she lay;
The broad stream bore her far away,
The Lady of Shalott.
~from "The Lady of Shalott"~
by Alfred, Lord Tennyson
Feeling the anger and disbelief in the accusing eyes of her
teammates, Rogue felt an inescapable sense of panic settle
upon her. She squeezed her eyes shut for a moment. This
isn't happening. This is just another dream. This isn't happening...
She looked back up. Everyone was still there, and Bobby's
limp, bloodied form was still at her feet. She felt the room
begin to spin around her. She had to get out of there.
Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Beast and Cecilia approach.
Bending down to lift Bobby into her arms, she caught sight
of her hands.
It was everywhere. Spilled on the floor. Spattered on her
clothes. Streaked on her arms.
Coated her hands.
She sank to her knees, staring at her hands in horror.
She didn't notice when Beast and Cecilia crouched down beside
Bobby. Didn't acknowledge when they began examining him. Her
hands held her full attention.
Rogue looked up, startled, when Storm put her hand on her
shoulder. She saw the anger, disbelief and shock in Ororo's
eyes, all directed at her. Rogue glanced back down at her
bloodstained hands and felt a wave of nausea hit her. Ah'm
gonna be sick...
Rogue stood quickly, making her dizzy and worsening her nausea.
"Ah have to go...," she managed to mumble as she
stumbled out of the Danger Room.
Struggling to keep her nausea under control, Rogue flew at
top speed from the Mansion's underground Danger Room to the
bathroom in the women's dormitory. Dashing inside and locking
the door behind her, she collapsed to the ground and tried
to convince her stomach that there was nothing in it to
throw up. It refused to listen to reason as she retched over
Once the nausea had subsided to some degree, she closed her
eyes and tried to collect herself. Upon opening them, she
caught sight of her hands, streaked with newly dried blood.
Seized by a sudden madness, she stood up and lunged for the
sink, turning the faucet and dousing her hands in the cold
Rubbing her hands frantically under the water, she tried
to rub away any trace of the blood. When water didn't work
to her satisfaction, she tried hand soap, then harsh household
cleaning soaps. Even though there was no longer any outward
sign of the blood, to Rogue, her hands still bore a certain
She thought she heard someone knocking at the door and calling
to her, but she ignored the interruption.
Tossing aside her bomber jacket, Rogue stepped into the shower,
still clad in her bloodstained uniform, and turned the faucet
to its hottest setting The warmth brought her no comfort.
Sitting down in the bathtub, she wrapped her arms around her
legs and buried her head in her knees, trying to find comfort
in the shower's pelting of water across her body.
Rogue didn't step out of the shower until she had exhausted
its supply of hot water, and even then, she did so reluctantly.
Blood still stained her uniform, probably permanently, and
she could not escape the feeling that she might never remove
the taint she still felt on her hands. Even after climbing
out of the shower, she felt compelled to once again wash her
After a time, she caught sight of herself in the mirror.
A haggard, panicked woman stared at her from behind the mirror
-- a woman that she only barely recognized as herself. The
apparition shocked her out of her daze, and Rogue took a close
look at the woman she saw in the mirror. Saw the limp hair
and the dark, panicked eyes. The bloody uniform that made
it painfully evident that none of this could have been simply
a bad dream.
Taking a deep breath, she opened the bathroom door and walked
uneasily into the hallway, wet clothes and all.
Hank and Warren were the only ones in the MedLab when she
arrived. Hank regarded her with a cold air of disdain, while
Angel was more open about his feelings, asking her as she
entered, "Haven't you done enough for one day, or have
you come to finish the job? Or maybe you want our blood, too?"
Rogue felt hot tears spill down her cheeks at his words,
but she did not respond and instead tried to get past Beast
into the adjoining room where they had put Bobby. Hank took
her by the shoulders and firmly guided her back into the main
"Hank, Ah need to see him. Please let me in!" she
"Rogue, I will phrase this as succinctly as I can,"
he answered sternly. "Bobby is in a lot of pain, and
his health is in serious danger right now. He does not need
the added stress of having to face you." Turning to go
back into Bobby's room, he added, "I'll let you know
if he wants to speak to you."
Rogue reached out and grabbed his arm. "Hank, if Ah
can't see him, could ya at least tell me how he's doing?"
Beast looked down at his hands and sighed before answering.
"I am unsure of a prognosis right now. Dr. Reyes and
I are running a number of tests to make sure that none of
his injuries are life-threatening, given proper medical treatment.
As it is, he is suffering from multiple fractures, internal
bleeding, and possibly a certain degree of cranial trauma."
"Now if you'll excuse me..." Beast returned to
Bobby's room and closed the door behind him.
Rogue stayed frozen where she was, staring at the doorway
and trying to hold back her tears. She heard Warren come up
behind her, but she said nothing.
"Happy now?" he asked, his voice thick with hostility.
She whipped around to face him, her face livid and eyes flashing
anger as she cocked her arm back to deliver a strong punch.
Warren stepped backward, believing she was going to punch
him, but at the last moment Rogue dropped her arm to her side
and darted out of the room. As she sprinted down the hall,
she heard Warren's voice echo behind her.
"Maybe it would have saved us all some trouble if we'd
just left you behind in Antarctica with Gambit."
Rogue ran through the house to her room, wanting nothing
more than to pack her bags and escape.
Escape and maybe find some way to be clean again.
*... El Niņo to blame?...*
The TV in the kitchen caught her attention.
*...much too early in the year for this to be happening...*
Someone -- Beast, probably -- had left it on, tuned to the
*...massive hurricane coming in along the Gulf Coast...Alabama,
Mississippi and Louisiana may be among the hardest hit...*
Her eyes widened as she saw video clips of massive trees
flapping in the wind, probably just minutes from being completely
*...100-mile-an-hour winds, and their strength is expected
A strange calmness came over Rogue as she walked resolutely
toward her room.
"Ah think Ah'll go home..."
Rogue peeled off her uniform and threw on a long, full skirt
and a stylish tunic-style sweater. Even though, three months
into her pregnancy, her slim shape had yet to show any outward
signs of her condition, she already felt self-conscious about
Rifling through her closet, she spotted another sweater in
a dark corner, a rich maroon one that was probably a few sizes
too large for her. She lifted it up to her nose and sniffed
it, immersing herself in the lingering scent of its former
owner for a moment.
"...Remy's old sweater...let me borrow it...oughta get
it back to him..." she murmured to herself.
Gambit had lent the sweater to her just before Christmas
when Rogue had gone to Harry's Hideaway on a burger run; she
had taken it off in the pub and forgotten it. Remy had been
annoyed at the loss, she remembered. Rogue had planned to
go back for the sweater, but then Joseph had come by and...she
had forgotten again. A month ago, when she and Bobby had gone
to Harry's for a milkshake, Harry remembered the sweater and
gave it back to her.
She tossed off her own sweater in favor of the borrowed one
and, after tossing a number of assorted items into her backpack,
opened her bedroom window. She paused to pull her hair into
Rogue popped her head out of the window and surveyed the
mansion lawn. No one was outside patrolling the grounds. No
one had been, actually, since Bishop had disappeared three
months ago, but she wanted to check just to be sure no one
would witness her departure.
"Where ya goin', darlin'?" At the sound of Wolverine's
gruff voice behind her, Rogue's head snapped up, bumping her
head on the hard wood window sash and cracking the window.
She glanced up at the window in annoyance, then turned to
face her teammate.
"What do you want, Logan?" she asked sweetly, turning
to face him.
"Just wanted to know what's goin' on, that's all,"
he answered. Motioning toward the yellow backpack in her hand,
he continued, "Ya didn't answer my question."
As if in reply, Rogue slung her backpack on her shoulders.
"Ah'm goin' home, Wolvie," she said, adding with
sarcasm, "if that's okay with you, o'course."
"However you want it, kid," Wolverine replied smoothly.
"Fine. Tell the others goodbye for me." With that,
she ducked smoothly through the window and flew off, disappearing
into the starlit sky within moments.
Logan leaned out the window for a moment, watching her leave.
"I've got a bad feeling about this..."
Wolverine walked downstairs and into the kitchen, where Storm
was sitting at the counter drinking a cup of herbal tea and
watching the hurricane's fury play out on the television.
Logan walked to the refrigerator to pull out a drink.
"What has become of us, Logan?" Storm asked, her
voice low as she idly swirled her spoon in the tea. "In
this group, we are supposed to be a team, if not a family.
How, then, do you explain what happened this morning?"
Logan sat down next to her. "I don't know, Ro...But
ya know things ain't right when Rogue's beatin' Drake half
to death and we're cheerin' her on as she's doin' it."
"While the Danger Room is not a place where we typically
rein ourselves in, I have never seen us so ruthless against
each other. Just the two of us -- I would not have lost my
patience as I did with Sarah." Storm turned her face
to look at Logan. "And you, my friend, would never have
fought Scott as you did -- you are too honorable for that."
Wolverine looked down at his beer and cleared his throat.
"Yeah, Ro...I know...," he murmured.
From the television, the announcer's words attracted Logan's
*...hurricanes are quite unusual for this time of year.
Shown here, Mississippi's Caldecott County has been ravaged
by the hurricane's fury, and things will only get worse as
Hurricane Nathan gets closer...*
Wolverine muttered a curse under his breath. "Shoulda
figured this out before..." Logan sprang from his seat
and darted toward the door.
"Where are you going, Logan?" Storm asked, standing
up from her own seat and placing her teacup and saucer on
"C'mon," he motioned for her to follow him and
walked out the door, toward the Blackbird hangar. "I'll
tell you on the way."
Rogue arrived in Caldecott a scant few hours after leaving
the X-Men's Westchester, NY mansion. The rain soaked her to
the bone within seconds, and the wind sent her wet ponytail
flying in all directions, lashing her face and body like a
whip. But she didn't seem to notice the chaos.
Her focus was on a single tree.
The Mississippi River had risen considerably, encroaching
on the shore some 30 feet. Wind and water had toppled most
of the nearby trees, but one lone oak stood tall and alone
in the raging river. A tattered rope, once a child's cherished
swing, swung wildly from the isolated tree's strongest limb.
Rogue reached out to grab at it.
This was where it all began...
Feeling giddy, she put her full weight on the rope, swinging
out over the turbulent water and giggling as she let the wind
pull her violently in all directions.
Me an' Cody used ta do this all the time in the summers,
swinging inta the river on this rope...Was the best time a
kid could have in these parts...Some a the best times
Ah ever had...
The wind tugged fiercely at her, pulling at her backpack
and soaked, heavy clothes. The gusts died down for a bare
second, dunking Rogue into the water, and then picked up again,
lifting Rogue back into the air.
Water was churnin' kinda like this over the San Francisco
Bay when Ah threw Carol inta it...
She had been dangling from the old rope for some 20 minutes,
and the wind and her wet clothes and hair began to instill
in her a chill that permeated to her bones. Her teeth began
to chatter and her body shiver involuntarily, but still she
gripped the rope.
Antarctica was colder, but it didn't have this bitter
wind... Bitter cold... Is he bitter, Ah wonder... Alive
or dead, Ah know he hates me... This kind of cold gets inta
your bones... your soul... and begins ta eat you from inside...
The wind, increasing in its intensity this time, again dipped
Rogue into the ferocious river, tearing the backpack from
her shoulders and carrying her back up.
Cold... Remy was cold... Buried, body and soul, in snow
and ice... At least Ah'm back home now...
She let go of the rope, and let the elements carry her away.
Storm and Wolverine, in the Blackbird, arrived in Mississippi
just moments after Rogue touched down in Caldecott, but with
the weather, they had to land the jet some miles from Rogue's
childhood stomping grounds. Using the Blackbird's on-board
instrumentation, they pinpointed Rogue's location along the
river and, leaving the plane cloaked in a vacant field, flew
toward the raging river, Storm holding Logan and using the
winds to carry them faster to Rogue.
"You can't kill any of this wind, Ro?" Logan
asked, using his free hand to peel his hair away from his
eyes, where the winds and rain had plastered it.
"I am...sorry, Logan. This hurricane is strong, and
I am still weakened by the tournament earlier today. It is
all I can do to keep the winds from carrying us away."
The water bubbled and raged around her, as trees, limbs and
assorted unidentifiable hazards bobbed on the water's surface
and assaulted her as the river swept her past them. But she
felt nothing as they ripped at her hair, clothes and skin.
The cold of the wind and water had surpassed the tolerances
of her nigh-invulnerability, numbing her entire body. As for
Her mind did not recognize the cold, nor the turmoil and
danger of her surroundings. It would all be over soon, anyway.
The backpack had been carried high into the air by the winds,
and deposited into a bramble of fallen oaks and tree limbs
further downriver. It had survived remarkably intact, for
all that its straps were frayed and the bag itself was still
completely soaked from the rain and river.
Wolverine and Storm located it quickly using Logan's enhanced
senses. "This is Rogue's, alright," Logan said,
picking it up and sniffing it carefully. "Lost it about
half an hour ago, I'd say." He sniffed the bag again,
then the air. "She was in the river when she lost it."
Storm felt the same urgency that Logan's terse comments conveyed.
"We must go. Now."
Holding tightly on to Logan, Ororo used the winds to propel
them downriver, at a faster speed than the river itself moved.
Feeling her body being dragged faster and further down the
river, Rogue began to feel the warm sleepiness of hypothermia,
further numbing her mind and body.
So this is what dyin' from the cold is like... at least
the end is merciful...
The longer she stayed in the water, the more her eyelids
began to droop, until she no longer had the will to fight
Tired of fighting, she closed her eyes and drifted away in
the midst of the hurricane.
Any remaining warmth began to quickly seep out of her body,
and she began to slip out of consciousness as the cold fully
enveloped her and river water began to surge into her lungs.
=Running away so soon, my dear? Why, the dance hasn't
even yet begun. But no fairy godmother will be there to save
you from this ball.=
Rogue's eyes snapped open, a mixture of horror and recognition.
She cried out as she felt a cold, searing pain inside her.
Fighting against the wind and the river's current, she grabbed
hold of a fallen tree and used it to pull herself to stable
land. She lay on the ground, coughing up water she had taken
Closing her eyes, she settled beneath the exposed roots of
Logan and Storm would be there soon to fetch her.
And bring her back to the mansion.
To the X-Men.
And a lone tear streamed down her cheek.
Storm and Wolverine found her an hour later, buried under
a pile of debris that the river had tossed at the base of
the huge oak tree. The two X-Men had flown over the spot dozens
of times before without seeing her; Logan had finally tracked
her down on the ground with his enhanced senses.
Ororo, gliding down to the ground, managed to calm the fierce
winds around them so they could better get to Rogue and free
her from her prison of tree limbs and debris. Logan, on the
ground, had begun hauling debris from the pile. Storm joined
the efforts, channeling the hurricane's winds to carry some
of the debris away.
After a few minutes of labor, they finally managed to get
to Rogue. She lay unconscious on the ground, entangled in
the tree's roots. Her face and body were streaked with dirt,
and her clothes drooped, tattered and heavy, from her frame.
Her skin was white and clammy, and on her face was an expression
so peaceful that at first Ororo and Logan feared that she
"By the Goddess..." Storm breathed.
Logan touched his gloved hands to Rogue's neck to check her
pulse. "She's alive, Ro, but barely. We've got
to get her back to the Blackbird. Now."
"Indeed. I will fly Rogue to the Blackbird, and you
will meet us there. Agreed?"
They managed to get to the jet fairly quickly, but the hurricane
prevented their departure for some two hours. The hurricane
was a particularly strong one, and Storm's already tired powers
were too taxed to try to use them to ease their takeoff.
While they waited for an opportune moment to leave Mississippi
and the hurricane, Logan and Ororo tended to Rogue, using
the equipment aboard the plane to warm Rogue's body and stabilize
her condition. Ororo sat silently at her friend's bedside
and held her hand as Wolverine stood by the window, intently
watching the storm. Now feverish and somewhat delirious, Rogue
moaned softly. Her words echoed in the silent cabin and mixed
with the sound of the pounding rain against the airplane.
"You... Leave me alone...Not gonna use me t'get ta them...
Not gonna let ya hurt em like ya did b'fore... Know
what yer capable of... Let me go...
"Only shadows now... Can't do anythin' right... Just
wanted to die in peace..."
Nearly five hours after finding Rogue, Storm and Wolverine
finally arrived at the mansion. Following Storm, Logan carried
Rogue from the plane hangar to the MedLab.
After being operated on by Cecilia and Hank, Bobby had been
moved out of the small side room into the main examination
room so the two doctors could better watch over him. Noting
that the only other bed in the still-bare clinic was next
to Bobby's, Logan reluctantly placed her on the cot and left
with Storm to find Hank.
Groggy, Rogue awakened about an hour later, at first unsure
of where she was. A glance around the room told her that she
was in a medical facility of some sort -- probably the mansion's
MedLab. Seeing the still form of Iceman on the neighboring
bed confirmed this.
She noticed that Bobby's head was turned toward her, his
face unreadable. But she could definitely read his eyes and
the potent mixture of pain, betrayal, anger, and accusation
they conveyed. She smiled weakly at him, and for a moment
she thought she saw a flicker of fear.
With a groan of pain, Bobby turned away from her onto his
side, making it obvious how much the effort was hurting him
and just where Rogue stood now with him.
Rogue's face contorted into an odd mixture of sadness and
amusement, and as she shut her eyes tight, everything went
The darkness smirked at Bobby. =I will overlook your
impudence for now, boy, but do not think me so lenient in
the future. You have paid enough -- for now. I will give you
just enough time to heal, so you can serve me once again.=
Locked within the darkness, another figure, frightened and
panicked, pounded at the walls of her prison. Let me out!
she seemed to scream, although no sound escaped her lips
-- no sound that anyone on the outside could hear, at least.
The harder she pounded the more solid her prison became.
Tears began to flow freely down her cheeks as desperation
sank in and hope began to fade.
The darkness watched her and laughed soundlessly.
=You like this one, don't you, little one? I shall
give him *special* attention, in that case.=
Her eyes widened, revealing a churning mixture of emotion
-- recognition, hatred, fear, anger, despair -- and she beat
even harder against the walls of her prison.
=Do not shed all your tears just now, pretty one. My
fun is only beginning.=
Continued in Chapter
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