Title: Do You Hate What You See?|
Fandom: X-Men (movie)
Summary: In the wake of something terrible, Rogue struggles to understand why Logan's feelings for her have changed.
Category: Logan/Rogue UST, WolvieAngst
Disclaimer: Not mine. Hell, the concept isn't even mine, really <waves at Diebin>
Author's Notes: Most of you romantic 'shippers are gonna want to beat the hell out of me when you read this in its entirety. <sigh> But I'm getting used to that. Forewarning to you all - this is angsty. We're talkin' MUCHO angsty here. It ain't pretty. This part isn't so bad, but once you get into the story...You will be plotting my death with frightening glee and precision. I beg of you - If you dislike angst and WolvieTorture, read no further. For your sake...and mine.
Dedication: This has ALL been for Diebin, who is a goddess. We must all bow before her, and bring her offerings like ambrosia and naked Wolvie clones. She is the one who made this story possible by unselfishly handing me ideas and acting as my sounding board. :) Die, you rock. There are no words for how much, girl. But it's also for Melissa, who not only beta'd me, but never fails to inspire and pain me with her angst. :) It's a compliment, really. It is.
<Telepathic "broadcasts" are in these thingies>
"Do you hate what you see when you look in the mirror? Hmm? Because from now on you will.You'll look and you'll remember what you've done, and you will loathe yourself until you're sick with it. Sick of it. Sick of yourself."
Delia, Alberta, Canada
Jean Grey shielded her face and stepped away from the door as her fiancé and teammate focused a red beam of energy on the knob, shattering the lock and splintering the wood. It took Scott mere seconds to kick the door in, and she and Ororo followed him inside the tiny motel room.
What they found was what she had expected.
Logan lay facedown on the floor, naked. Though he looked unharmed, his prone form was surrounded by dozens of dark splotches where large amounts of blood - his blood - had soaked into the dingy orange carpet.
Ororo immediately moved toward him, and Jean reached out a hand to stop her. "No. Don't, Ororo. Don't touch him."
The younger woman was shocked by Jean's command. "He could be hurt. We can't just stand here and do nothing to help him!"
Jean swallowed and closed her eyes, remembering what she'd seen and heard in her head over the last hour. "We can't fix what's wrong with him," she said cryptically. "And touching him will only get you killed."
Scott moved closer, calling the unconscious man's name. "Logan! Logan, it's us - Jean, Ororo, and Scott. We're here to help you."
It was only as he moved around in view of Logan's face that he realized the truth. The larger man wasn't unconscious; his eyes were wide and staring, and dried tears traced tracks across his skin. Scott's gaze flew to Jean. "Is he alive?"
She hesitated. "He's breathing," was all she said, and it didn't sound like an affirmation at all. She moved to kneel next to Scott. "Logan.I know you can hear me. Please get up."
It was a long time before he stirred.
At Jean's insistence, the X-Men had moved back to the far side of the room, away from Logan. They all turned their backs in deference to his nudity as he stumbled to his feet, disoriented.
"What do we do, Jean?" Scott whispered, and she shook her head to silence him.
<Leave him be, Scott. For now, just.Leave him be.>
So they listened in helpless dismay as the man named Logan staggered into the bathroom. They listened as he fell to his knees on the tile, retching loudly, and they listened as water began to run in the shower.
He was in the bathroom for over an hour.
Scott began to fidget, becoming more and more restless with every passing minute. They should have already been on their way back to the compound. There were preparations to be made, plans to be discussed.
They had to ready themselves for battle.
He started to speak, but the bathroom door opened and Logan stomped out, wearing nothing but a towel wrapped around his waist. He was about to ask what had happened when he heard Jean's voice in his head. <Don't do it, Scott. Trust me.>
Instead, they waited in silence while Logan dressed and threw his things into a duffel bag. He shrugged into his jacket and stopped in the doorway, turning to them. "Let's go." The words were harsh.
Scott was alarmed by the dead, flat eyes that stared at him from Logan's face. "We have a lot to prepare for," Scott informed him. "Magneto's escaped."
Logan simply stared, then said, "Yeah, so I've been told."
"Have you ever wanted to be someone else? To live inside their skin for just a short time? It can be fascinating, you know..."
Rogue noticed it at dinner, of all places.
She'd known for a year that Logan had a thing for Jean; having him in her head had actually prompted her to grab Jean's ass in the jet on the way home from the Statue of Liberty. So she knew. She'd had Logan in her head, and she knew how he wanted her. Wanted to touch her.
She just didn't realize he would still want to, after all this time.
He'd been back at the school for almost a week, and he hadn't spoken to her, not once. He wouldn't even look at her, and she was starting to wonder things.
Like if she was crazy. She thought he cared for her, at the very least as a friend, but nothing in his words or actions had indicated that he even wanted to talk to her. Friends talk. Enemies sometimes talk. Hell, even strangers attempt idle chitchat while waiting in grocery lines or at the bus stop.
Rogue supposed she was less than a stranger to him, then; she was someone that he had met and discarded as unworthy of acknowledgement.
But she knew that wasn't true.
He looked at her the night he came back. She had been sitting up with the Professor. Jean, Ororo, and Scott had taken off in the jet many hours earlier, and the Professor was using Cerebro to keep tabs on them. He wheeled out into the hallway, looking pale and disturbed, and told her that the others would be home shortly, that she should wait in her room.
She did as he asked. But when Rogue left her room later that night to get a glass of water, she ran into Logan in the hallway. She was startled to see him, and she must have surprised him, too, because he stumbled and nearly fell against the wall. She reached out a hand to steady him, and he shrank back from her, growling. Rogue didn't understand at all; she was wearing her gloves, so there was no need for him to worry about her skin. His face went blank, but there was a moment just before the emptiness descended.A single moment when so many emotions flitted across it that she couldn't keep track. She saw so many things that didn't make sense -anger, hope, guilt.
"Logan." She said his name, just his name, and he bolted for his old room, slamming the door behind him.
Rogue didn't see him again for three days.
Then, at dinner, nearly a week after his return, she saw it. Jean was passing Logan a serving bowl of mashed potatoes and, instead of taking it, his hand grasped onto hers, trapping it. He looked at her and suddenly his face was tight, his eyes darkening and then blazing with lust. Then he took the bowl with his other hand and let her go, murmuring quiet thanks.
He still wanted her.
Rogue glanced automatically across the table at Scott. He had caught the exchange; she saw it in the set of his jaw, the way his fingers tightened around his fork. She waited for him to do something, anything, but he didn't. In retrospect, though, she could see how challenging Logan at the dinner table would have been ridiculous.
After dinner, she wandered into the library for a book. She had gotten rather interested in Existentialist writings, and the Professor had quite a few works by Camus. She snagged the book she wanted and headed up the stairs, halting just shy of the corridor when she heard hushed voices.
Rogue peeked around the corner, and Jean was standing at the other end of the hallway with her back against the wall. Logan was leaning over her, one finger trailing lightly across her collarbone where it jutted out from her sweater. His face was almost smiling, and it reflected everything Rogue had ever wanted and would never have - desire, need, flirtation.
Knowledge. He was looking at Jean like he knew exactly what would make her scream his name, and Rogue hated them both for it.
She dropped her book from nerveless fingers as a chill coursed through her, and she spun away, nearly colliding with Scott. She must have looked pretty shaken up, because he immediately asked her what was wrong. Rogue just shook her head and glanced back at the corridor.
He stepped by her, peering around the corner much as she had. Then his throat worked, and he looked down at her. Rogue waited for him to explode in anger, to at least make his presence loudly known, but he didn't. He simply frowned, and she knew that if she had been able to see his eyes, they would have been sad and resigned. Then he walked back down the stairs.
She followed, unable to bring herself to walk down that hallway, and practically ran through the kitchen and out the back door. She needed to be alone. She needed to be far from the mansion and its dark paneling, far from remembering what Jean had looked like being pressed against it by the man Rogue loved.
"I know what you're trying to do, Logan," Jean sighed.
He smirked a little and leaned closer. "Yeah? Couldn't have been too hard to figure out, darlin', 'specially for a bright woman like yourself."
She sighed again. They hadn't spoken of what had happened to him the night they'd brought him back to the mansion, and he didn't know that she knew. He wasn't aware that she knew what kind of pain had been inflicted, the torment he'd endured. It was time to level with him. "No, Logan, you don't understand.I mean that I know why you're doing this."
His eyes were confused.
"I know, Logan. I saw it all in my head."
Understanding flooded him, and he backed away, hissing in a breath. "How?" he choked. "How did you see?"
She lowered her eyes. "The Professor had me open a telepathic link, sort of a tracking device--"
"How much do you know?" His tone was soft, deadly. "How much, Jean?"
She cleared her throat nervously. "Everything, Logan. I saw everything she did to you."
She flinched sharply as his hand punched through the wall a foot away from her head. "No one hears about it, got it?" he snarled. "No one!" Then he turned and began stalking away.
"Logan.You have to let--"
"No one, Jeannie!" he yelled, and she could feel the anger and shame pouring off of him in waves. Then his voice dropped to a bleak, shaky whisper. "Least of all Marie."
"Sometimes, when I do things like this to people like you, there's this moment where I almost feel bad. But that always fades, because your pain feels so good..."
Jean was getting ready for bed by the time Scott came back upstairs. He took in the hole in their wall, the cardboard taped over it, and Jean's sad, exhausted face. He walked in and sat on the end of the bed as she crawled under the comforter. "You know, Rogue saw the two of you in the hallway tonight," he said, staring at the paneled wall with its square patch of cardboard.
Jean was silent for a long time. "I'm sorry. It must have hurt her."
"Yes." He recalled the devastated look on the girl's face, how it had only deepened with his quiet acceptance of the scene in the hallway. "I was there, and she wondered why I didn't do something, why I didn't snatch Logan up by his collar and whip his ass for touching you."
"I told you, Scott, that's part of why he does it. He's spoiling for a fight."
"And damned if I don't want to give him one," he told her, turning to face her. She was tired and worried, and the lines on her face told him how strongly all this was affecting her. "I'm sorry, Jean, but it's gone on long enough. I can handle watching him try to climb into your pants, but Rogue is another matter. This is killing her, Jean."
"That's another reason why he does it, Scott," she murmured, and her voice was shaking. "He wants her to hate him."
"But why, Jean? What the hell has she done to him?"
"It's not what Rogue has done, Scott."
What she had left unsaid spoke volumes. "Mystique. She went to him as Rogue."
"Yes." Jean sat up and wrapped her arms around herself. "Scott."
"Dammit." He rose and ran his hands roughly through his hair. "She looked like Rogue and he let her in, and then she beat the shit out of him."
The haunted pain was back in Jean's eyes as she stared up at him. "Not only that, Scott. She hurt him very badly."
A thought occurred to him. "But why didn't he know it wasn't really Rogue?" he asked, perplexed. "Logan is the only one of us who can identify Mystique when she shapeshifts; with those animal senses of his, he can smell her. Why couldn't he tell?"
Jean shuddered and made a decision. Logan would despise her, but she had to make Scott understand what Logan had gone through. "It's amazing what a person will believe, Scott, when he wants it badly enough."
"When he wants it." His words trailed into nothingness as realization tumbled through him. "Logan wanted."
"Yes. He always has, Scott. He tries so hard to fight it, but.Rogue is the one person who made him feel safe, loved, and Mystique took that away from him." Anger swelled in her as she remembered the woman's harsh words, her fake tears. "It nearly killed him, Scott."
He sank to the bed next to her and took her hands in his. "What did she do to him, Jean?" he whispered, troubled. "I mean, they didn't." His eyes widened as another frightening possibility occurred to him. "No."
She was crying, and she couldn't speak, but her voice in his head was clear. <Yes, Scott. They did. And then she destroyed him.>
Logan splashed water on his face and tried in vain to still the shaking of his hands. Jean knew, and that meant the Professor knew. He hadn't really stopped to wonder how they'd found him; he was so wrapped up in his own pain that he hadn't bothered. But it made sense. Telepathy.
They knew, and Logan wanted to die. He deserved to die. He closed his eyes, grimacing, and Marie's face painted the backs of his lids.
["...how could you do this.trusted you, Logan."]
With a strangled groan, he wrenched his eyes open, relieved to find only the darkness of his bathroom, pale slickness of wet porcelain beneath his hands.
He hadn't slept since his return to the mansion. He didn't know if he'd ever sleep again. So far, his healing factor had gone a long way in helping him function without it, but he didn't know how long that would last. He didn't want to sleep, knew what new nightmares waited for him behind that veil of oblivion, but he'd read somewhere once that lack of sleep could drive a person insane.
A brittle laugh bubbled in his throat and escaped as a cough. He didn't need sleep deprivation for that; he was already crazy. Mystique's little visit had taken care of that.
[".you will loathe yourself until you're sick with it."]
His eyes landed on his reflection in the mirror. She had been right, damn her.
["Do you hate what you see.?"]
He hated what he saw.
The glass shattered when his forehead slammed into it, and he wished with everything in him that the wounds would not heal.
But they did. Only the lacerations under his skin, on his soul, remained. They always would.
["Do you hate what you see.?"]
He hated it more every day.
Hours after her flight from the mansion, Rogue returned, calm and determined. If she had to let go of Logan, she would. She could survive anything, and losing Logan would not kill her. She would be strong, and she would work through it.
She knocked on Logan's door and waited on trembling legs for him to answer.
He swung the door open and, for a moment, panic flared on his face. She looked into eyes that did not see her, and she stepped back.
When Rogue was seven years old, her grandfather had a stroke. Going to the hospital had both scared and fascinated her. While she hated its endless corridors and stifling scents - disinfectant and worry and death - she marveled at the doctors and nurses and machines. They were there to make sick people well, her mother explained. They were going to help, going to make her Grandaddy whole again.
Then she'd seen him, seen the blank, staring eyes that used to laugh and look at her with such love, and she'd known that nothing would ever fix him. He was still in there somewhere, but he was as lost to her as if he'd died. Nothing could bring him back.
She'd cried, and she almost cried when she saw Logan, because he had the same vacant eyes. Then they cleared, the emptiness taken over by confusion and then wariness, and she knew it didn't matter. He was still lost to her, and she had no idea why.
"I came to give you these, Logan," she murmured, reaching up to remove the chain from her neck. "I thought you might want them back."
He gaped at the tags lying in her open palm, then mumbled, "She didn't have those."
"Logan?" Rogue moved her hand closer to him, and he flinched. She didn't know why, but she could see that he was scared. Of her? It made no sense. "Take them, Logan. It's okay."
He was breathing faster, and she thought she could hear his heart pounding. "She wasn't wearing those." He shuddered and his voice was hoarse when he spoke. "Put them back on. Wear them and don't take them off, not for anything."
She shook her head. "I don't--"
"Do it, Marie." And he shut the door in her face.
Outrage and hurt vied for supremacy in her as she walked down the hall to her room. What the hell was wrong with him? He hadn't even spoken to her, and he still wanted her to wear his tags? And what had he been blathering about, anyway? Who didn't have his tags?
Rogue fought the urge to cry. She didn't understand anything that was going on, and she didn't want to anymore. She just wanted to get on with her life, and forget that Logan had ever been such a huge part of it.
With that in mind, she yanked open the lower drawer of her jewelry box and stuffed that tags, chain and all, inside. Damned if she was going to wear them just because he'd commanded her to. She deserved better. She deserved an explanation.
"How is it that a man like you came to love her? She's no fighter. She's nothing - a whiny slip of a girl who does little but cry and scream for help. She's a mere child. Or is that it? Is that what you love about her?"
Rogue didn't see Logan at all the next day, and that was fine by her. If he wanted to see her or talk to her, he could come find her. He could be the one to make the effort, although she highly doubted he would.
She tried to tell herself that she was fine with that, too.
She went to class and didn't listen; she went to meals and didn't eat. She wandered through her day, mindful of very little. Scott pulled her aside after dinner and asked if she was okay. She lied and said she was fine, and he didn't believe her, just flashed her another of his small sad smiles.
She wanted to hit him with something. She wanted to scream at him for being so accepting, for giving up so easily on Jean. How could he let her go? How could he stand idly by and watch her drift into someone else's arms? He was the one who had a fighting chance of salvaging something, of hanging on to the one person he loved. Rogue had nothing. She could rant and rave and rail against the Fates, but she could never win Logan back.
Because he had never been hers.
Maybe she still had Logan rattling around in her brain somewhere, because running away was starting to look awfully good.
It was evening when exhaustion finally beat Logan down. He was tired beyond belief, completely drained, but still he fought. If he slept, he would remember everything. He couldn't afford to remember. Therefore, he could not sleep.
But he did. He had to.
Half-delirious with fatigue, he crawled into his bed. For once, he prayed for nightmares of cold steel instruments and bubbling tanks, of delicate champagne flutes on trays and laughing officers in dress uniforms.
He didn't get them.
But he did dream.
Marie came to him, and his body sang with relief. He'd been longing to see her for so many months. He wanted to hear her voice around his name and bury his face in the cool softness of her hair. He wanted so many things.
Then she told him that she could control her powers, that she'd learned to touch, and his body sang with something else.
He fought himself, knowing that it would be wrong to give in, wrong to take what she offered with shy smiles and lowered eyes. He couldn't take advantage of her. But she saw his hesitation and she destroyed it, erasing his resistance with the sight of her small hands on his body. She brushed his good intentions away with tiny touches and whispered pleas. And he took her to his bed.
She rushed him. He tried to slow down. He wanted to show her how good it could be, like nothing else on earth, the way he knew it could be with her. Only her. But she twisted his body and mind with hers, and he was inside her, thrusting, and the world was right.but wrong.
Something was wrong.
He found a quieter rhythm, one that might convey what he felt, but it wasn't enough. So he whispered softly in her ear, her perfect ear, of love. "I love you, Marie."
And she just giggled, and her legs and hips and arms urged him faster, harder, and her own whispers held nothing of love. "Fuck me, Logan."
That was wrong, so wrong. It wasn't what their melded bodies meant to him, and he pulled away, shrinking back from the predatory gleam in her eyes, from the cold smirk on her face. He stumbled back, and she started to cry, her tears falling into his heart, branding him painfully.
"How could you do this to me, Logan? How could you?" she wailed, sobs shaking her small frame. "I trusted you, Logan, with my heart.with everything."
He heard her words, and he died inside. "Oh my God.Marie.I thought you wanted."
And she was on her feet, bruises marring her arms and abdomen. She shook as she screamed at him. "You hurt me, Logan! Look at me! Look at what you've done!"
And there was blood on her skin.
She hit him, knocking him to the floor, landing on top of him. She hit him again and again, and he wanted her to. He deserved the blows she rained down on him, needed them. He needed for her to hurt him as he had hurt her.
He was begging, he knew. "Please, Marie.Please.I'd die before I hurt you again."
"Would you?" she purred, and suddenly the face staring down at his was his own. He thought for a moment that his sanity had slipped and he was mad, truly mad, because of what he'd done.then the eyes in the face that was but wasn't his flashed yellow, and he knew.
"Do you hate what you see when you look in the mirror? Hmm?" The face above tilted to one side and smiled. "Because from now on you will.You'll look and you'll remember what you've done, and you will loathe yourself until you're sick with it. Sick of it. Sick of yourself."
Then she was Marie again, hitting him, making him bleed, and he wanted to die. But she kept him alive, kept him alert, and whispered and purred things to him that made him want to howl and cry and run.
"Have you ever wanted to be someone else? To live inside their skin for just a short time?" She ran her hands down over Marie's body, touching the beautiful form she had no right to steal. "It can be fascinating, you know...Suddenly, people who don't even know you love you, and you can do anything to them."
He didn't want to hear.
"How is it that a man like you came to love her?" she asked, twirling Marie's hair around her fingers and smiling uncaringly "She's no fighter. She's nothing - a whiny slip of a girl who does little but cry and scream for help. She's a mere child. Or is that it?" she asked softly, leaning down and running her tongue along his bloody jaw. "Is that what you love about her? All that innocence.So sweet." She bit into his skin. "But you'd take that innocence and you'd rip it apart, wouldn't you? If you had the chance, you'd make her dirty, sully everything clean inside her with your filth."
Then she pulled back and looked at him with scorn. "You know.Sometimes, when I do things like this to people like you, there's this moment where I almost feel bad. But that always fades, because your pain feels so good..."
He was whispering brokenly, pleading. She cocked her head. "What was that? I can't hear you, pet."
".kill me, please."
Then she laughed again, and her skin was a dizzying expanse of blue, scaly against his. "No, not tonight," she apologized, and her voice was an echo of itself, sound over sound. "Run on back to Xavier now. Magneto is no longer imprisoned, and he looks forward to seeing you again."
She landed one more kick to his ribs, breaking several and rolling him onto his stomach. Then she was gone.
And still Logan wanted to die.but he didn't.
It made him cry.
He jerked awake, and his scream pierced the air.
Rogue was rounding the corner of the hallway, her plate balanced carefully in one hand, when she heard Logan scream. She dropped her plate and ran.
A handful of students were congregated outside his doorway, and she brushed past them. "Excuse me," she ordered, bumping into one of the new girls and nearly knocking her over. "Sorry. Excuse me."
She opened the door and edged inside, quickly slamming it behind her. "Logan? Logan, are you okay?"
He wasn't in his bed, and she looked around the dark room carefully. Then she heard a growl that was less human than animal, and she was slammed against the wall. "Logan--"
"Don't give me that shit," he snarled, slamming her against the wood again. "I can smell you, you little bitch. Looking like her isn't going to save you this time."
"No, Logan," she whispered desperately. "It's me. It's Marie."
His eyes dropped to her neck, and he shook his head, his grin feral. "Got you this time. Marie has my tags. You don't." With that, he raised his fist to her throat, and Rogue barely heard the soft snick of metal being released before she felt blinding pain.and then nothingness.
"You'd take that innocence and you'd rip it apart, wouldn't you? If you had the chance, you'd make her dirty, sully everything clean inside her with your filth."
It took Logan only seconds to realize what he'd done.
She lay in his arms, slumped against the wall, and he waited for her to shed Marie's skin, to shift back into that blue shell he hated so much.
But she didn't.
In seconds, he was on the floor, his body comprehending what his brain could not. He cradled Marie in his arms, and his horror was too deep even for tears. He couldn't think, couldn't understand, could only murmur, "No, no, no," over and over.
He'd killed Marie. He'd killed her.
Only she wasn't dead, not yet. She was still breathing, and the air that was squeezing far too slowly in and out of her lungs also hissed through the holes in her throat, holes his claws had made. He stared at it, watched the blood bubble out of her skin even her breath wheezed through her mouth and nose.
"No, no, no."
He wouldn't let it happen; he couldn't. He'd fix it, even if it killed him.
Especially if it killed him.
With his free hand, he tugged off her gloves, taking both of her limp hands in his and pressing them to his bare chest, over his heart. [Please, God. Please let it work.]
He waited for the pull to begin, for the searing cold that he knew would rush through his veins as his life drained into her. It didn't come, and he howled with every bit of the anguish in him.
Then he felt it. The cold didn't come but warmth flooded him, unlike anything he'd ever sensed. He was engulfed in flames that didn't burn, and he knew it was working, knew she was taking his energy into her.
He was happy. It was a feeling he thought he'd never know again.
[Come back, baby.]
Then he slumped over her, his cheek pressed to her face.
[I love you.]
[Please come back, Marie.]
Rogue struggled. Something was roaring through her head, edging out the blessed darkness that had been there moments before. She didn't want the darkness to go; with it had come peace, and she longed for that. To be at peace.
[I love you.]
The thought was not hers. Whose was it? What was happening.?
[Come back, darlin'.]
Her eyes snapped open, and she felt suffocating weight on her body. She thrashed, instinctively fighting the oppression, and she thought that there was something, something she should remember.
She caught the edge of a memory and pulled it closer. Logan. He had stabbed her; he thought she was someone else and he had stabbed her. Now he was touching her, giving her his life, and she had to stop him.
She had to stop him.
"No." She fought and kicked, but his body didn't move. He was too heavy, and she was trapped, with her bare arms pushed against him. "No!" she screamed. "Get off me, Logan! Please! Get OFF me!"
The door burst open, and Scott and Jean rushed in. "I'm killin' him!" she shrieked at them. "Get him off me!"
They hurried to obey, but it wasn't easy to move the larger man. Logan was dead weight in their grasp, hanging.lifeless. Some part of Rogue thrilled at the sight, and she shook her head. That was wrong, she shouldn't be happy that she'd hurt Logan, shouldn't be.
Logan was glad.
How did she know that?
Rogue's heart and head were pounding, throbbing. There was too much in her head; she felt guilt and pain and shame and fear and elation, and it was too much. It wasn't like the other times she'd touched Logan. There was too much.
"Rogue, what happened?" Scott's voice was far away, but so loud, and she could smell his fear.
"I hurt Marie," she mumbled, then shook her head. That wasn't right; she was Marie, and Logan was the one who was hurt.
She sobbed at the things tumbling around in her head. Thoughts and memories and feelings were flying, and they made no sense. The bounded off each other in her head, echoing without meaning, like gibberish or a language she didn't understand. Then they began to click, to snap into place, piece by piece, like a puzzle, and they blanketed her mind, filling her with knowledge she didn't want, couldn't handle.
She sobbed harder.
[Do you hate what you see.?]
She saw herself naked under Logan, his body moving at a frantic pace, but it wasn't her, it wasn't her.
Logan had been hurt because of her, because he'd trusted her, and Mystique had lured him into a trap, had tricked him into doing everything Rogue had dreamed of. Had used him.
It was all her fault.
Her chest heaved with racking sobs, and each indrawn breath assaulted her newly-sharp senses with the scent of Marie's blood.
[NO! My blood.I'm Marie.I'm.]
She growled and tore her shirt away, desperate to get the sharp, coppery smell of her own blood away from her aching body. "No, I hurt him first.I hurt him."
"Jean." Scott's voice was muted.
She looked up from Logan's prone form at Rogue, who was crouched in the corner. Her eyes were wild and she was shaking and mumbling under her breath. She'd ripped her shirt almost completely off, and it lay in tatters around her. She glanced at Scott. She knew what he was asking and nodded.
So Scott did the only thing he could; he slapped her. The contact of his palm against her cheek was too fleeting for her powers to focus on his touch, but Scott still felt ill. He despised striking women, even in battle, and Rogue was no enemy. She was just a scared young girl.
But she stopped muttering and trembling, and that had to count for something. She was staring at the floor, and he nearly breathed a sigh of relief. Then she rose quietly to her feet, her head cocked, as if listening to something he couldn't hear. She looked at him, and her eyes were cool and determined. "I've gotta get out of here, Scott. When Logan wakes up, tell him."
He was almost afraid to ask. "Tell him what, Rogue?"
She smiled, cold and bright. "Tell him I took care of things." Without another word, she turned on her heel and strode purposefully out of the room.
He moved to follow, and he never saw her fist hit his jaw. He dropped, and she stared down at him remorsefully. "Sorry, Scooter, but you can't come where I'm going."
Rogue ran quickly by her room to get a sweatshirt, then crept to the end of the hallway, sniffing the air cautiously. Logan had smelled Mystique earlier, and that meant she was here. She closed her eyes and used a memory that wasn't hers, and she knew.
The new girl.
She had to be careful, so careful.There was too much at stake to screw things up. She owed it to Logan to get this right.
It was always easier to choose someone nobody really knew, someone incredibly shy or withdrawn or moody; it lessened the chance that anyone would notice slight changes in personality or habit.
It was so easy here at the school. With the new students, alone and lonely.Put on a friendly face, and it was never too difficult to convince them to agree to a hike in the woods or a swim in the lake.
Mystique stalked the hallways of Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters.
She was on a mission, one that had to succeed. She would bring Erik's most prized trophy to him, the one he'd lost just before his incarceration. She would bring him the girl with the shock of white hair that was his legacy. He wanted her. He wanted her power.
Mystique never failed Erik.
She ventured outside.
Rogue waited in the garden. Mystique would find her, she knew. It was only a matter of time.
"Rogue?" a timid voice called from the shadowed bushes. A figure emerged. "Are you okay? What happened?"
"I.I think I'm okay, Beth," she answered, calling on every dramatic impulse she'd ever possessed. "Logan was freakin' out, and he almost stabbed me. But I'm okay." She watched Mystique walk closer, watched her sit on the bench next to her. She knew that was all the woman needed - to be close enough to overpower her.
With Logan's senses, Rogue felt the blow coming. She took it. It was all part of the plan.
Mystique smiled. It was like taking candy from a baby. She quickly wrapped the girl's upper body in the blanket she'd snatched from one of the bedrooms, then shifted into a larger, more powerful form. She had a nice little walk ahead of her. She started out, dragging Rogue's feet along the ground. She wanted the Wolverine to have a trail to follow when he realized his little girlfriend was gone.
Inside the stiflingly heavy cloth, Rogue opened her eyes.and smiled.
Mystique's destination turned out to be a tiny cabin in the woods flanking the school grounds. When the weather was warmer, some of the students used it as a place to go be alone, maybe do a little making out. But it was technically off-limits to everyone, and Rogue supposed that was part of Mystique's plan - a deserted site, close enough to the compound for the others to hear her scream.
How clever. Of course, the woman didn't know that Rogue had no intention of giving her the satisfaction. Thanks to Logan's touch, she knew how Mystique saw her.
["She's no fighter. She's nothing - a whiny slip of a girl who does little but cry and scream for help."]
The bitch was in for one hell of a surprise.
She tried to act confused as Mystique shoved her in a folding chair and grinned down at her. Didn't want to tip her hand too soon, give away her game. She had Mystique's misconceptions on her side; hopefully, it would give her enough of an edge to best her.
She endured the woman's silent, leering grin for as long as she could, then demanded, "Well, what are you waitin' for?"
"For the Wolverine to show up," she answered. "I have plans for you, but it was so much fun the last time I ran into him.I thought we could all play together." She ran the back of her hand down the front of her shirt, and Rogue flinched away from the contact. "You're a shy one, aren't you?"
"He won't come here," Rogue informed her confidently. "He doesn't even know about this place."
"Liar," Mystique laughed. "Besides, even if he didn't know.I left a trail a child could follow. He'll be here."
"No, he won't." Rogue swallowed. "I almost killed him tonight. He won't be wakin' up anytime soon."
The blue lips faltered in their smile for only a second. "Then we'll wait. I have plenty of time, although much less patience." Her eyes gleamed. "But we can entertain ourselves in the meantime, can't we, pet?"
Pet The word sent cold chills down Rogue's spine, and she shuddered.
"Yes, it's a good plan, I think. Wait for your knight in shining armor to blaze in, and then he can watch while I make you squeal. Or vice versa, doesn't matter to me. But I need you alive."
"Erik fancies you, pet. He wants what belongs to him, and you belong to him now," she told her, running the tip of one blue nail down Rogue's snowy lock of hair. "He was so disappointed when you got away."
"So you think bringin' me back to him is gonna change things? You think that's gonna make him love you, Raven?" She smiled at the shock that froze Mystique's face. "That's right. I had your dear Erik in my head, remember? I know what he sees when he looks at you.what he feels." She paused. "Or doesn't feel."
The slap snapped her head back, and Rogue beamed, flashing bloodied teeth. Mystique was too incensed to notice the fact that her split lip healed instantly.
She kept on. She had to throw her captor off-balance, make her weak. "He'll never love you," Rogue whispered cruelly. "Not really. His heart belongs to someone else.forever." She titled her head and studied the angry, shaking woman with blatant pity. "Does he ever make you take his shape, Mystique?" she asked, arching an eyebrow. "Does he ever call you.Charles?"
Mystique roared, but she saw the glint in Rogue's eyes and stopped short of attacking. "You should know better than to anger me, child." Then she circled Rogue's chair, grinning once more. "Did your loverboy tell you about our time together?" she asked, and Rogue looked up into Jean Grey's face. "I fucked him, you know." She leaned close and whispered, "He screamed for me. Begged me for more."
Mystique looked slightly startled by the laugh that bubbled from Rogue's throat. "You know, that's funny, but I really don't think that's how it happened at all."
Mystique recovered quickly. "What you do want, little girl? To hear that he could tell the difference between your touch and mine? To know that he resisted once he knew it wasn't your body he was inside?"
Rogue stared into Mystique's cold eyes and shook her head. "I only want one thing."
"And what's that?"
"I want you dead. That's all."
It was Mystique's turn to laugh. "Are you thinking of fighting me, pet? That's a nice thought, but hopeless. We both know you're weak, with no weapon but that lovely skin of yours. And you wouldn't dare touch me, because you'd rather die than have me in your head with all the others." Jean's face rippled and her body shifted, and she became Logan. She moved closer, then leaned in and smirked. "Besides.You couldn't kill him.could you?"
It was what she'd been waiting for.
"Watch me," she hissed, raising her fist in a lightning quick motion. It connected with the soft underside of Mystique's chin, and shards of bone ripped painfully through Rogue's knuckles. The claws gouged into defenseless flesh, and Mystique howled. Rogue jerked her hand back, twisting it a little.
Logan's eyes stared at her for several long heartbeats, then yellow flared within the hazel and spread. She was Mystique again by the time she hit the dusty floor of the cabin.
Rogue stood on shaking legs, staring at the woman who'd nearly destroyed the mind and soul of the man she loved. She felt nothing - no guilt, and no joy. She felt.numb. She wondered detachedly if she should finish the job, make sure that Mystique never hurt anyone again, but the mutant at her feet took a deep, rattling breath - and then no more.
Her claws retracted, and she reached for the discarded blanket, draping it over the still blue form. Then she turned and walked out into the night.
Four days later.
Logan was worried as hell.
Two days had passed since he'd regained consciousness. Jean had been at his bedside, and she'd helped him understand what had happened in his room. Then she'd told him about Rogue's return to the mansion that night. She'd walked up to their bedroom and knocked on the door, then simply told Scott there had been a death, and he should go to the cabin outside the grounds immediately.
There, he and Ororo found Mystique's body. Marie had spent a good deal of time with the Professor in his office, talking things over, but that was it. She refused to speak with anyone else about what had happened. She told them only that Mystique had been posing as one of the new students at the school for days, with the intention of abducting Rogue. But her plan had gone sour, and Rogue had escaped.
He tried to talk to her the day he woke up, but she simply walked away. In the intervening days, she avoided him completely. Not that he blamed her; it was exactly what he'd done when he'd arrived at the school. He shuddered to think of what Mystique could have done to her to close her off so drastically, and he wondered if this was how Marie had felt when he'd returned.
Now, she rarely ventured out of her room. She took meals there, and when she came out for walks or class, she was alone. Always alone.
It scared him.
She was sitting on a bench in the garden when he approached her. It was late afternoon, and the slanting light gilded her skin. He hesitated, not really knowing whether she wanted him anywhere near her.
"Sit down, Logan."
He arched an eyebrow. That took care of that question. He sat, nervously shoving his hands in his jacket pockets and wishing like hell he had a cigar. And a case of bourbon. "Marie, I--"
She didn't look at him. "Shut up, Logan. I'm gonna tell you somethin', and I want you to listen, not talk, okay?"
"The night that you stabbed me, I went after Mystique. I let her find me here," she said, looking down at the stone bench. "I wanted her to find me, because I needed her close."
Tears clogged his throat. "Why, Marie?" he rasped.
She looked at him then, and her eyes were sad. "I wanted to kill her, Logan." She held up a hand to stop his protest. "I planned it out, Logan. I sat right here and I let her take me. And I did it. I killed her."
"Hell, Marie.There had to be so much of me in your head that night.It wasn't you."
"It was me, Logan. When you touched me, I saw all the things that she had.done to you."
She shivered, and he immediately removed his jacket, handing it to her. The fact that he didn't drape it around her shoulders himself wasn't lost on Rogue. She smiled desolately and clutched the worn leather to her chest. "She made you afraid of me, Logan, and I wanted her to die for that."
"I'm not afraid, Marie--"
"Save the shit for someone who doesn't know better, Logan. You can't even bring yourself to touch me, can you? You want to, but you can't. All because of what she did."
He clenched his jaw. It was the truth; he wanted nothing more than to gather Marie in his arms and hold her, make sure she knew he loved her, but.Every time he thought about really reaching for her, his gut twisted with dread. "I made it happen, Marie, any way you look at it. It's my fault."
"Dammit, will you listen to me?" she sighed in exasperation. "It's nobody's fault - not mine or yours. I made the decision. It was me. And I'm okay with it. It's just.I killed someone, Logan. I took a life."
He didn't know what to say to that. He'd probably never be able to remember what that felt like, knowing that you'd stolen the breath from someone else's body. The only thing he knew with certainty was that he'd done it long before he woke up with no memory of himself or where he'd been. "I'm here, Marie. If you need me."
"I do need you, Logan," she told him simply, staring at the fading sunset. "But I know it's going to take time to heal. For both of us."
Trembling, he scooted across the empty expanse of stone between them. His hand quaked as he placed it gently on her arm. "We have time, Marie."
They sat there, long after the last dregs of sunlight were drained from the sky and the stars appeared overhead.
They had time.