Title: A Hazy Shade of Winter -- Part 2|
Author: Melissa Flores
Don't believe in fear
The calm that utterly surrounded her, closed off by the wall that hid the storm on the rooftop, was infectious.
Despite the unknown, the fear, the wonder at the oddness of the situation, Ororo's form that lay still in her arms, Rogue felt herself breathing normally, even the rage in her heart suddenly small... tainted... controllable.
And it was because of the man with the violet eyes.
He smiled, his eyes staring into her, looking at her fondly, almost as if he was looking at an old lover...
As if he could see inside of her.
And still she took a breath, finding the words to speak.
"You did this."
"You started it."
Her eyes widened, and she swallowed, looking down at Storm, who moaned as Rogue gently lowered her to the rooftop.
"Are you a mutant?"
"Sadly... no. I haven't been blessed with the gift of the future."
"Gift?!" she repeated, looking up, transfixed by the light that seemed to shine in his beautiful eyes. Dark... poetic...
"The gift. Of the future. You've been blessed. And those of us who are not..." He looked up, shrugging at the wall of the storm that surrounded them. "Must find... other ways to find our uniqueness." He smiled, raising an eyebrow. "You know you've got it all wrong."
"You are the future. Not humans. The human time has passed. Natural selection... you don't see it? We are governed by fear, because we KNOW... the mutant's time has come... and our own time has passed. The future is yours."
She was still, the familiarity ringing inside of her head... God it was so familiar... and it had made so much sense to him... to her... deep down... to the rage and the sorrow and never understanding WHY she was the way she was... for what purpose... what LIFE.
"You're an impostor," she whispered, shutting her eyes tightly, the rage in her heart suddenly splintering in her heart. "We're the future only if we choose to live with each other. Peace and harmony."
"Those aren't your words... those are someone else's words, some one else's beliefs... it's not what you think."
She swallowed, and her nostrils flared and she stood, facing him. "So why attack us? Why attack the mutants you seem to revere so much, cult guy?"
"You attacked me."
"You attackin' innocent people!"
"This is a base where the government holds and tests mutants. How can any of these people be innocent?"
She swallowed, looking down at the building on which they stood.
He stared at her, and suddenly smiled. "My God, you're beautiful. And you know it. It's in your name, in the way you move... you know its power... you see it in you, dying to come out and it's tearing you up inside, isn't it?"
He came forward, and she was still, frozen, for what reason she did not know... fear... anger...wonder...
She shuddered when he stopped an inch away.
"These X-men of yours are nothing to you. They mean nothing. They are nothing, because you know that the only thing they care about is themselves... THEIR survival, THEIR friendship... they want you to give up everything that means something to you."
Her eyes closed and she took a ragged breath, her body shaking as his velvet voice continued, pounding into her thoughts, into her mind.
"You're their little warrior, aren't you? Staying with them because they're all you have... because you don't see any other option... My beautiful Rogue... what if there WAS another option.
And suddenly there was an incredible sensation. Warm... soft... moistened feel of skin against her cold face.
His hand was on her face.
Her eyes shot open and suddenly her breath sucked in.
A thumb stroked the cheek tenderly, and she shook, waiting for the inevitable, almost wanting this to happen...
But it didn't.
The sucking, the energy, the cry of pain and ugly deadened look on his face never came.
Instead he continued to stroke her.
And then he whispered, "You are my destiny, Rogue."
And her eyes widened, and suddenly her fist lurched out, cracking him in the face.
He reeled back, and suddenly the wall broken and the winds hit her full force, almost knocking her down.
She kneeled down, balling herself up and reaching blindly for her friend, who was breathing raggedly, slowly.
"Hold on, Storm," she whispered, pulling her closer, stumbling up, her heart pounding in her chest. She moved, eyes narrowed, trying to see through the sleet.
She had to get away from him... she had to get away from here...
God, he had TOUCHED HER.
And her foot stumbled on the ledge, and she took a breath, suddenly jumping forward, diving down, away from the ledge, into an abyss of storm, praying she would be able to hold on until she found the ground.
Praying the beating would stop.
Praying the desperation would leave her.
Praying she wouldn't lose her mind.
And praying what had just happened what only a dream.
He had been damn lucky he had covered his face when the avalanche hit.
Gambit could barely move, he took a breath, and then reached for the cards, blinded but thankful.
He could feel the heat in his fingers, and with his eyes clothes and his face protected, he reached up, sticking it in the snow above him, and scrambled under the trench, feeling absurdly like the poof batman.
The explosion rocked seconds later, and gritting his teeth, he yelled, pushing up, the melting ice around him slick and heavy.
His palm struck icy air. The leather pads of his fingers gripped and he pulled, breaking through, his chest suddenly out.
He took a breath and pulled himself the rest of the way.
All around him, the winds beat down, and his fiery eyes looked wildly.
There was nothing but the singing winds of Storm that answered him, and he continued to turn, looking, until he saw something that made him freeze.
A flurry of sparks from a mound of snow a few feet away.
He stumbled forward, on his knees.
"JUBILEE!" Digging fiercely, he was met with another set of sparks as a hand reached out.
Waiting until the sparks subsided, he reached forward, grabbing it, pulling it out and finding the rest of the younger X-men coming with it.
She coughed, sagging against him for a minute, and then looked up, her black sunglasses glinting in the white sleet.
"Eh. Been better."
She took a breath, and sighed, breathing wearily. "What do you say we call this one a draw and call it a night?"
"I'm wid you there."
Holding onto each other for strength, the two mutants pulled up, knee deep in the snow, looking up.
"Where are the others?"
As if on cue, suddenly a blur of black and white dove into the sleet two feet away, and Gambit swallowed when he saw the battered Rogue emerge.
"ROGUE!" Jubilee kicked through the snow, reaching her, pulling the mutant into a quick hug before pulling back.
"You look like shit."
Rogue didn't even take offense to the remark as she turned, picking Storm up and swallowing.
With a gentleness that Gambit rarely showed, the mutant gathered Ororo in his arms, his eyes suddenly wide at the gash in her side.
"I'm still not sure," Rogue whispered, shaking at her head, as if trying to get some sort of ringing out. The beautiful young mutant looked haggard, tired...worn...
He swallowed. "You all right, chere?"
"Am ah evah?" she swallowed, closing her eyes for a second before looked at them. "Where are the others?"
"Jean got hurt, Scott took her back to the jet, and Wolverine and Bobby... they WERE right behind us... but there was an avalanche, and... and..."
At the mention of Logan's sur name, Rogue looked sharply at Jubilee. "Where?!"
Gambit nodded with his head, a finger gently tracing Ororo's face, and Rogue nodded, her face suddenly determined, the weariness that had invaded it before now replaced with a more assured, angry face.
"Take Storm back to the plane. Stay low, it doesn't look like they're attackin' any more. I'll go find Logan and Bobby and meet ya there."
Jubilee took a breath and nodded, muttering something about the professor not liking this AT all, and sending a flurry of sparks forward, melting the path.
Gambit lingered for a minute, and his eyes connected with Rogue's. "Be careful."
She froze, managed to give him an unusually uncertain smile before replying in a tight voice. "Raht."
Without another word she lifted into the winds, and flew above them, suddenly out of sight.
Her mind was a haze...
The touch burned on her cheek and the eyes seemed to haunt inside of her...
And she was so warm... searing... hot...
It seeped into her skin, into her clothes, and she wanted to tear everything off, she would give anything for a breath of air, of cold, even as the winds whipped about her.
Her heart tremored and her eyes opened, the blur of the white sleet below her making her heart sink, suddenly knowing how impossible this all seemed...
"LOGAN!" she yelled, her arms splayed out, fighting the winds, even as they seemed to carry her, guide her...
And in her mind, almost seeming to emerge from them, guiding the sound to her ears, she heard faintly, a pained voice... a cry of help...
And again the winds seemed to carry her, sliding, gliding, and she dove, moving faster her heart hammering and her body searing... so very hot...
Her mind was reeling, and she swallowed, trying to focus, ignoring the searing burn...
Her body flew over a clearing and the blurry forms suddenly became recognizable... she saw the young friend, and her heart leapt, relief flooding her with the realization that he was okay...
He looked up, and a smile of relief filled him.
He was half buried, and she swallowed, sliding down, pullling him up easily.
His eyes were wide, pain and tears filling them, as his hand was shaking, his teeth chattering with cold.
"Bobby..." she whispered, and swallowing, she realized on her fingers were blood...
Her eyes slid over his body, and suddenly she froze, her eyes wide, her heart ceasing to beat for a full minute.
Three claw marks marred his stomach.
Three very familiar claw marks marred his stomach.
Her chest began to heave, and her throat suddenly closed, her heartbeat suddenly racing...
NO. NO. NO. NO. NO. NO.
"Who..." she didn't finish the question, not wanting to finish this... not wanting to know who was responsible for the maiming of her best friend... at times her only friend...
And her eyes closed, she could almost hear the answer in her head.
Her eyes shot open, and her heart beat began to pound, the searing in her heart, moving over her, her body shaking Bobby suddenly closed his eyes... fell back.
And she turned, and suddenly there was a groan, and the man with the bloody claws lay not three feet away.
And her chest was heaving, she couldn't breathe, and for a second she thought she was blind... her heart wrenched into two.
She had never felt so much pain, so much searing, uncontrollable... rage.
And he had done this...
He groaned again, the bloody claws retracting as he stood shakily, his eyes wide, looking around as if he didn't know what was going on...
So innocent... so unknowing...
That wasn't him at all....and she knew it. She knew the beast inside... the harsh reality...
and the blood pounded in her ears... her mind... her thoughts....
She saw nothing else... the maelstrom of desperate want, need, rage, confusion, all sliding within her and in that moment...
Rogue lost herself.
He turned, saw her, and suddenly his eyes widened in relief.
"Marie," he whispered, coming toward her.
She slowly stood, letting Bobby's still form slide to the ground, and the movement caught his eyes, and he stood.
Everything seemed so still then. There was no wind... no bird chirping, no blasts... there was only the vision before him...
"Oh, no...." his eyes were suddenly moist as he looked at the desperate face of Rogue, and he froze...
There was a look in his eyes that he had never seen before, and suddenly his eyes slipped to Bobby again, and he saw the marks and his eyes widened, and suddenly, he understood.
"NO." he stumbled back, looking at his fists, fear, desperate worry in his face. "No... I didn't... I don't ... Rogue... I didn't-"
"I told you to take care of him," she whispered, her voice low... calm.. deadly, and full of painful rage.
'I didn't do-"
And suddenly she swept forward, her eyes wild, so different, so unlike his Marie that he was still for a second... exactly the second she took to grab him and pull him forward.
"Wanted me so desperately, did you, Logan?" she drawled huskily. "Take your reward."
And she pulled his head down and kissed him.
There was a choking in his throat as he struggled, pulling at her, trying desperately to break contact.
But her hold was strong, and in her anger, nearly unbreakable.
And as his hands pushed, and his heart broke, the bond started.
She was frozen, when suddenly he began to poor into her, she felt herself stumble back, falling backwards, as he began to slide inside of her, the sensation so familiar.
She felt herself gasp, her eyes wide as suddenly she saw everything through his eyes...
The blackness... the desperation... the fear at losing her... the panic...
And nowhere did she see claws extend, rip into Bobby's face...
What she felt instead was love... pure, unfiltered love...
And she saw her eyes, the hatred consuming her...
And she felt him seep into her... becoming her.... losing himself...
SHE WAS KILLING HIM.
And she jerked, pushing him away as quick as she could.
He landed with a dull thud, and he never moved.
She felt back, her mind suddenly battling twice for her sanity, her control, feeling Logan's rage, Logan's heartbreak...
"LOGAN." And she slid forward, her hands pulling at his still form.
He looked ashen... white... frail...
He wasn't breathing.
Oh GOD. OH GOD OH GOD. OH GOD.
The searing heat was suddenly gone, and suddenly her mind was clear and her eyes were wide, and her teeth were chattering from the cold... from the blistering cold...
Logan swam through her, and her eyes were teary and blurry as she held his body to her.
He never moved, and she suddenly felt herself sobbing, giving herself to the pain, the agony...
She clutched him to her, her tears a river of rampant pain, as her fingers tangled with his...
And there was no blood on his claws.
Two feet away, Bobby groaned.
She froze, turning to see the young man blinking his face a mask of pain...
And there were no claw marks in his chest...
OH GOD OH GOD OH GOD.
"LOGAN," she cried desperately, shaking at his form desperately. "God, No, Logan Ah'm sorry."
She was losing her mind... she was losing her mind and because of it she had lost Logan... she had taken... she had HURT the one man she had ever truly loved... the man who had loved her... unconditionally...
And a ragged moan burst from her lips in sync with the warm body on her lap.
God, he was bleeding... he was bleeding all over the place and he was alive... he was alive...
She had almost killed him... GOD she had told herself she would die before she hurt him...
And she would have killed him... she had wanted to kill him.
God what had come over her?
The cold seeped through her, and she sobbed, pulling his warm body close to her, the wind so still that her sobbing rang through the clearing...
It was a sound that mingled with no other... it carried with it the pain of four people, of four minds that had suffered and lost and it was all tangled into the mind of one woman...
It was the collective sound of four broken hearts.
The forms of Ororo and Jean were still... and in their sleep, they seemed above human ... they seemed goddesses.
Jubilee cocked her head, feeling her heart oddly empty as she watched the Gambit and Cyclops kneel over the women, tenderness in their faces in such a way she had never seen before...
She swallowed, her throat full as she walked to the open air way of the jet, where just forty minutes before Rogue and Storm had flown out...
Forty minutes... it seemed hours.
It always seemed hours.
The waiting was the hardest part... never knowing... almost not wanting to know if everyone she loved, and cared for and would die for had actually made it, or had they perished, while she lived...
She was young... they were older, more experienced, and yet she felt guilt, pangs at the thought of knowing that one day, a close call would be just too close... and they would lose someone.
She couldn't stand to lose anyone, and deep down, she always hoped that the person they would lose would be her... because she couldn't stand to see the look in Scott's face if Jean died, or the look in Jeans if Scott died...
Or Storm... or Gambit or Bobby or Rogue...
Or even the new guy... Logan.
The frost hit her fingertips, and gently, she let the sparks fly, warming them.
Looking out over the snow covered landscape, now calm, quiet, she wondered how on earth such a beautiful place could have held such bloodshed, such ugliness.
She would never understand her life.
Sometimes it just sucked.
There was a soft sound to her right, and she turned, and her heart jumped in her throat when the still form of Bobby landed at her feet.
Rogue didn't say a word, merely pointed to him and then flew up again, disappearing over the treetops.
Jubilee swallowed, and then gently pulled Bobby up, patting at his face.
He was cold, but then again, he was always cold, and his eyes opened groggily, dizzy with pain.
"Hey yourself." She grunted pulling at him, managing to get him halfway up. "Hey, guys!"
Gambit and Scott came forward, picking him up easily and depositing him with the others.
Another soft thud, and Jubilee turned, her smile faltering when she saw the state of the last X-men.
"GOD. what happened to him?"
Rogue didn't say a word as she placed her lover gently at Jubilee's feet. "He needs help. NOW."
"Right. GUYS! She's here with Logan! Let's move!"
And Scott slid into the seat and suddenly the jet hummed to life. Jubilee nodded, heard behind her the soft whisper, "Take care of him."
She froze, turned to ask Rogue what she was talking about, and then froze.
Where Rogue stood was nothing... only ice and sleet and snow...
Only the whispering wind deigned her important enough to answer.
"What do you mean, she's gone?"
He turned, his violet eyes flashing brilliantly for a second as he stared at the serpent.
"Ssssshe disappeared. We weren't able to track her."
He was quiet for a moment, hand on his chin. "Didn't go back with them?"
He was quiet, looking at the serpent as the mutant looked back with what could only be described as fear... blatant and terrified.
"Samuel, do you realize that that little illusion we pulled over her eyes was TEMPORARY?!"
"You also realize she is a bit of a loose cannon and we needed to get to her immediately afterwards?!"
Augustus took a breath, trying to calm his shaking nerves. With a chant, he took his breaths, soft, gentle, deep.
The serpent waited, the tongue slithering out for a second, testing the air, the scent... the mercy.
The eyes opened again, and the violet was deeper.. darker... and softer....
The Serpent breathed a sigh of relief.
"You will find her."
"Good." There was a pause, and Augustus turned, regarding himself in the mirror, at the bruise that was purple on his cheek, large and rather unattractive. "She is my destiny, Samuel. I will not lose my destiny." A cloth went to the cheek. "I have waited years for my destiny."
He had often wondered at the notion humans had to pray at their most desperate hour.
They were reaching for hope where there was only desperation... a way to guide them when everything was lost... and at the moment, he no longer wondered.
He swallowed, the great telepath, looking into the room that held four of his favorite children... each on a sterilized white bed... each asleep...
Each had come dangerously close to dying...
He had believed they had lost Logan at one point.
The three X-men who had made it back without nary a scathe hadn't moved from this room, and on their faces was the desperation he truly felt...
For while these bed ridden unconscious warriors he had only come close to losing, the truth was... there was one that was truly lost.
His hand gripped the sides of the wheel as he rolled to the bed where the gentle Goddess of the winds slept. Gambit sat at her side, his hand gently encased in hers, in his fiery red eyes a tearful desperation that told Xavier, that he was dealing with something inside his heart he had never dealt with before.
The loss of not one, but two people close to his heart.
On the next bed was the child who made his heart wrench. Jean Grey-Summers was bandaged, on her serene face a gentleness that exuded even while she slept. Scott, despite the glasses that hid most of his face, looked haggard, worn, as he slept with his head on her bed, refusing to leave her side even to change. He still wore the uniform of the X-men.
Bobby the Icemen, suffering the mildest of injuries, was awake, surrounded by Kitty Pryde and Jubilee, the three young mutants didn't move, or speak. Bobby's throat was full, in his blue eyes were very real tears... and even the always hip and modern Jubilee could think of nary a wisecrack, nor did she want to.
Logan was on the last bed, and Xavier took a breath, almost dreading to wake him, knowing the fierce battle he had undergone... knowing the biggest battle lay ahead.
The battle of his heart.
There was movement on the bed, and Charles, his heart heavy, rolled slowly to his side, leaning forward and waiting.
The dark eyes jerked open, and Charles managed a grim smile. "Welcome back."
Logan groaned, moving gingerly, his hand rising up and touching his face. "MAN."
"You're going to be fine."
He leaned up on his shoulders as the X-men who were waiting now moved forward. Logan glanced around wearily, looking from face to face, and suddenly froze, his face husky.
Charles soul cried out to him, and his voice was choked, as he answered, his words so final, so heavy, so full of pain, that they seemed almost the end... for all of them.
"Rogue is gone."
The sky was a hazy shade of winter.
The mountain top was frigid, and as she sat, the winds gust around her.
She had flown high, fast, trying to run from her head...
But she should have known better... she had run to protect him... to protect them all...
She had become a danger... a liability...
And she had hurt the man she loved... she might have killed him...
The searing touch burned on her cheek and gently, she lifted a finger to the spot where the skin had touched.
The rest of her was numb with cold, and she pulled the duster around herself, her teeth chattering, but she didn't move.
She wanted the numbness.... it kept her a prisoner to her thoughts... and she needed to battle her thoughts...
She needed to battle her mind...
Because she would have killed him.
A whimper escaped her throat and the mutant known as Rogue slid her fingers through her bangs as she looked up toward the dark sky, the blackness cloudy.. murky...
A hazy shade of winter.
And she bit her lip as the last tear fell.
It was time to run.
And she had no idea where.
BOOK FOUR COMING SOON.