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Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Chapter 7
Chapter 8
Chapter 9
Chapter 10
Chapter 11
Chapter 12
Chapter 13
Chapter 14
Chapter 15
Chapter 16
Chapter 17
Chapter 18
Chapter 19
Chapter 20
Chapter 21

The Cast of Shadows - REVIEW THIS STORY

Written by NicoPony
Last updated: 04/17/2007 12:31:02 AM

Chapter 16

The Boy Scouts have a motto: Be Prepared. If there was anyone more prepared than Bella Donna Boudreaux, Rogue had yet to encounter such a person. Belle could have given a whole squadron of Boy Scouts a run for their money. At a roadside truck stop and restaurant, Rogue opened the trunk of the Ford Mustang Belle had given her. Rogue was half afraid of finding a dead body in the trunk, but her misgivings quickly vanished. She sighed with relief. Inside was the usual spare tire, tire iron, and an emergency road kit. Flares, a container for gas, a couple of blankets, and a duffel bag.

Not that there wasn’t anything unusual or incriminating in the trunk, however. There were also several out of state license plates, all with current tags, and a baseball bat (though Rogue knew Belle hated team sports and hadn’t so much as watched a baseball game). Rogue removed the duffel bag from the trunk and unzipped it. Inside were a change of clothes, a pair of boots, and a rain poncho. Then there was a hairbrush, travel versions of soap, toothbrush and toothpaste.

"Ah could kiss you, Belle," Rogue breathed. “After Ah brush mah teeth, maybe.” She took up the bag and hurried to the restaurant, keeping her head down so people couldn’t see the state of her face, bruised and battered as it was. Rogue sidestepped the hostess of the restaurant and went strait to the bathroom. Once inside, she peeked under the stalls to make sure no one was inside. Assured she was alone, she locked the door to the bathroom. Rogue took off her ruined tee shirt and ran the hot water in the sink. She scrubbed her face and neck with soap, then rinsed off. Her hair was next, but there was no time to wash it properly. Rinsing would have to do for now. She pulled several paper towels from the dispenser to dry her face and hands.

Her face was clean, but blotched with bruises. The black and blue injuries stood out in stark contrast to her pale skin. Rogue wrung out her hair over the sink and combed it back into a sloppy ponytail with the plastic comb from the bag. Then she pulled on a new shirt. It was a gray jersey with the name of a gym on the front, meant to be loose on a form much smaller than Rogue’s. The letters on the shirt stretched out across Rogue’s breasts, skewing the words.

"How embarrassing," she thought while looking in the mirror. She was in the process of pulling off her sneakers when someone knocked on the door.

"Hello!" called a voice. "Is there anyone in there? Open the door!"

"Would you give me a sec!" Rogue screamed back. She tossed her shoes in the sink. While trying to pull off her dirty jeans, she lost her balance and fell against one of the stalls. Her legs were heavily bruised and dotted with splotches of red where blood vessels had broken. Once free of the jeans, several of her injuries began to bleed anew. Cursing, Rogue blotted her bloody knees. The pounding on the door continued.

"Hey! Open up!"

"Momeee! I haveta go-oh!"

"Shut up!" Rogue answered while pulling up a pair of sweatpants and tightening the drawstring. She scrubbed the dirt from her shoes with some more paper towels and put them on hurriedly. Lastly, she pulled on her gloves. Tossing everything back into the bag, she started toward the door. She yanked it open just as the person on the other side was raising her fist to knock again. The woman looked startled and her child stared at Rogue with widening eyes.

"It’s all yours, sugah," Rogue said sweetly, gesturing to the door and the mess of dirty paper towels, mud, and less appealing things left in the sink.

Rogue bolted to the exit and ran back to the car in the parking lot. She threw the bag into the backseat and flopped into the driver’s seat with a groan. Rogue pulled down the sun-visor to find a pair of designer sunglasses. She put them on to hide her bruised eyes. Inside the glove compartment was the gun, which she tried to avoid touching, as well as the owner’s manual and a map. She pulled out the map, since she had no idea where she was, or how far she’d have to go. Unfolding the map revealed several cleanly pressed twenty-dollar bills. Rogue gasped and said another silent prayer of thanks to whoever was listening.

First and most importantly, she needed gas. Luckily, there was a station across the street, as well as a convenience shop. She pulled into the station and stepped out of the car.

"A dollar seventy a gallon?" Rogue said with horror as she stared at the fuel pump. "Highway robbery," she grumbled. After filling the tank, she stomped into the station to hand the boy behind the counter one of the twenty-dollar bills. Just as she turned back to the lot, she froze.

A motorcycle was roaring into the gas station. Rogue dove behind a rack of postcards. An enormous man with a mane of shaggy blond hair stepped off the bike. The boy behind the counter was watching Rogue with curiosity as she crept down one of the side aisles. A peek over the Doritos showed that the man was approaching the store. Rogue gasped and ducked behind the aisle. The clerk turned from watching Rogue to look out at the lot. His jaw dropped and he stared agog as the big man entered the store, causing the bell above the door to clang loudly.

"A dollar seventy a gallon?" the man growled, his voice was huge and loud. "That’s criminal!" He threw several bills down on the counter, and then burst out laughing. “Bra-ha-ha-HA!”

The terrified clerk shrank back from the man, then darted a look over his shoulder to where Rogue hid. "Oh, shit," Rogue whispered. Sabretooth had seen the boy looking in her direction. He stomped toward the aisle where she was hiding. She saw his big, clawed hand reach over the top of the aisle. It swooped down...

...and grabbed a fistful of beef jerky. "Add this to my bill," Sabretooth said, thrusting the dried meat at the clerk. The plastic cup, which had been holding the jerky, rolled round on its base before falling off the shelf and hitting Rogue in the head. She held her breath as the cup rolled down the aisle.

“Got any more meat?” asked Sabretooth.

“Uhm-ah…” the clerk stammered.

Rogue looked about frantically for an escape route. Why had she chosen this aisle? She was completely surrounded by Slim Jims! She began to creep backwards down the aisle.

“Well?” Sabretooth growled. “Answer all ready! I haven’t got all day!”

“Aisle—aisle two. By the Doritos,” the clerk finally replied and pointed to where Rogue was hiding.

“Dammit,” Rogue thought. She could just make out the top of Sabretooth’s head from where she crouched on the floor. He was heading her way. Rogue managed to hide behind a tower of 24-packs of Pepsi just as Sabretooth appeared in her aisle. He stood before the bags of chips, chin in hand as he contemplated. While the beastly man meditated on his decision between meat-flavored corn chips, and meat-flavored meat product, Rogue decided to make a break for the door. Rogue dashed to the door, yanked it open and bolted for her car. With a squeal of tires, she flew out of the gas station and onto the street.

Quick reflexes saved Rogue from colliding with another car departing from the restaurant’s drive. Horns blared and Rogue cursed. She prayed the commotion wouldn’t attract Sabretooth’s attention. She swung left into a parking lot of a fast food restaurant.

"There’s no sense in causing a scene. Ah’ll wait until he leaves," she thought to herself. "See where he’s going and head in the opposite direction." Rogue parked the car alongside a hedge of arborvitae and waited. She took deep breaths hoping to calm herself. A part of her thought about contacting the X-Men. Surely they would be interested in knowing Sabretooth’s whereabouts. Another part of her wanted a confrontation. The sensible self knew this was foolish. Rogue was beginning to wonder which thoughts, if any, were her own. She did not have long to wait before Sabretooth left the gas station. Through the bushes, she watched as the man mounted his bike and left the parking lot. In moments, he was gone, and the small roadside stop seemed hushed and silent in the wake of his departure.

Rogue let out a long breath. For several moments, she clutched the steering wheel as she gathered her thoughts together. With a shaking hand, she shifted gears. She put her foot down on the gas pedal a little too quickly and a little too hard. Unfortunately, the car had been put into reverse and Rogue was thrown forward. Before she could stomp on the brakes, she heard the sound of crunching metal and breaking glass. The car stopped.

"Oh no," Rogue said, as she put the car into park. "Please don’t tell me Ah ran someone over." She stepped out of the car to survey the damage. She felt the blood drain from her face as she saw what she had backed into. "Oh crap."

He saw the girl first. He just couldn’t help himself. She was standing beside a black car, wearing a shirt that was several sizes too small. He found himself smiling as he admired her figure. As he approached, he noticed the frantic look of panic on her face, partially concealed behind dark sunglasses. She was bending over, examining the tail end of her vehicle. His smile widened.

“Can I help you?” he asked as he approached. She jolted upright and Remy froze in his tracks. His mouth opened and the coffee cup he’d been holding dropped from his hands. He was staring agape at the girl before him. It took several moments before his jangling thoughts could coalesce. His eyes went from her to the motorcycle lying on its side. *His* motorcycle.

“Rogue!” he finally managed. Then: “My bike!”

Scott paused before the pay phone, shifting his weight from one foot to the other. In one hand he clutched a plastic bag, in the other, a fistful of change.

“I should call them,” he thought to himself. “It would be the responsible thing to do.”

He approached the phone and set down the plastic bag. Holding the quarter against the coin slot, he thought: “Then again, nothing I’ve been doing lately has been very responsible. Why should I start now?”

The change jingled in his pocket as he approached the car. The car’s top was down. Madelyne was sitting in the passenger seat, basking in the late day sun with her eyes closed. “Hey, Maddie,” he said and her eyes opened. “I got the stuff you wanted.”

She smiled up at him as he handed her the bag. “Thanks,” she said. She opened the bag. “Hey, these are pickles, not cucumbers. I wanted cucumbers.”

Scott climbed into the car. “Uhm, oops. I was close, wasn’t I?”

Madelyne crossed her arms over her chest. “No,” she said. “I wanted cucumbers and sour cream. Have you ever heard of eating pickles and sour cream? That’s disgusting.”

“How were you planning on eating a cucumber in the car anyway?” Scott asked.

“Subway has cucumbers,” Maddie pouted.

He sighed. “Oh, all right. We’ll go to Subway.”

Madelyne treated him to the full force of her smile. “You’re so sweet,” she said delightedly. “Anyhow, you shouldn’t get mad at me. It’s Christopher who wants the cucumbers, not me.”


“The baby,” Madelyne said, rolling her eyes and lifting up her shirt to reveal her stomach. “That’s his name. Do you like it?”

Scott stared, somewhat horrified at the sight of Madelyne’s swollen belly. “Wha-what?”

“Christopher, do you like the name?” she asked again.

“Y-yeah,” he stammered. “Yes. It was my father’s name, actually.” He tore his gaze away from her stomach.

“You’re freaked out, aren’t you?” she asked.

“Freaked out? No, I’m fine. What’s to be freaked out about?” His voice was strangely high pitched.

Madelyne began to giggle. “Why don’t you take a look at my belly button, Scott? It’s real weird. Look, it’s all stretched out.”

Scott was sweating. “No. That’s okay.” The last thing he wanted to do was look at a stretched out belly button.

“If you’re not freaked out you should touch my tummy. Go on.”

“No thanks. M-maybe later.”

“Touch it!” Maddie hissed, her eyes narrowed. When Scott looked at her with an expression of horror on his face, she began to laugh. “Oh, c’mon Scott. Don’t look at me as if I was an alien! Do you want to feel the baby? He’s moving around. I think he likes it when I laugh.”

When Scott didn’t reply, she took his hand and placed it on her stomach. “This feels like a foot to me, what do you think?” she asked.

“I don’t know,” he finally replied. “Like an alien maybe.” He took his hand away. “Let’s get you some cucumbers, okay?”

“Sure,” she smiled. Scott started the car and pulled out of the store’s parking lot. For a long time Madelyne was silent, and Scott risked a glance in her direction. Her expression was blank and she stared off into the distance.

“I’m sorry if I hurt your feelings,” he said to her, but she didn’t reply. “Maddie?”

Madelyne remained silent, her face turned slightly away to face the window.

“Maddie, I’m sorry. I won’t be freaked out anymore.”

Still she was quiet. Scott pulled the car over to the side of the road. “Madelyne?” he put his hand on her shoulder, but she did not turn. She did not seem to be aware of his existence. Scott shook her. “Madelyne, this isn’t funny. I said I was sorry!” He wanted to believe she was teasing him, but the sound of his heart pounding in his ears told him something was wrong. “Madelyne! Answer me!”

Maddie blinked and slowly turned to face Scott. She looked at him as if she didn’t recognize the face she saw before her. Then she shook her head slowly and her eyes swam into focus. “We’re going the wrong way,” she said.

Scott exhaled with relief. “What? Madelyne, you scared me!”

“Turn around,” she said to him. “We’re facing the wrong way.”

Scott shook his head. “No we’re not. We’re getting you some cucumbers, remember? What happened? Are you all right?”

Madelyne looked confused for a moment, and then shrugged her shoulders. “Of course I’m all right. Why? What’s wrong?”

He sat back in his seat. “You spaced out or something. Were you having a seizure? I knew this was a bad idea. We need to get you back home.”

“A seizure?” she asked. “No…” she shook her head. “Did I look like this?” She crossed her eyes and stuck her tongue out. “Icky icky uck uck uck, whoop boing!” she said while flailing and jerking her arms.

Scott shook his head in exasperation. “No,” he said. “And that isn’t funny.”

“Then it wasn’t a seizure. Now, turn the car around. We’re almost there.”

He put the car into drive, and pulled a U-turn in the empty street. “All right. We’re going,” he said, though where they were going was still a mystery to him.

“Destiny said that Ah would run into you,” Rogue was saying. “‘Run into him eventually,’ she said. Ah guess that was her idea of a joke. Ha ha.”

Remy glared at Rogue from the passenger seat. “Yes, very humorous. Now who’s Destiny, and why should I care what she said?”

Rogue let out an aggravated sigh. “Never mind,” she said. “Y’know, you could be a bit more appreciative of mah bein’ here. After all Ah went through t’find you.”

“And who asked you t’find me?” Remy snapped. “Why should I appreciate de fact you backed over my bike?”

“Ah said Ah was sorry!” Rogue yelled. She took her foot off of the accelerator, having realized she was traveling way over the speed limit. They were driving northwest, on Interstate 630, somewhere in Arkansas. A flat landscape whipped by. They’d had several arguments since they’d met in Mississippi. Most of them ended on the subject of the ruined Harley Davidson. All of them began in the same way, however.

“Ah think we’re goin’ the wrong way,” Rogue said for what seemed to be the millionth time. “We should be gettin’ back to the Institute. Not goin’ on some wild goose chase.”

“Nothing you say is goin’ to make me change my mind,” Remy told her. “And if you don’t want to drive, even though you trashed my bike, just drop me off here and I’ll hitch de rest of de way!” He grabbed at the door handle of the car, as if to jump from the speeding vehicle.

“Stop that!” Rogue cried, and grabbed at his arm. The car swerved dangerously into the berm. “Do you have a death wish?”

“If so, it’s been granted,” Remy muttered.

“Don’t talk like that,” she said, her voice more muted now.

“I didn’t ask you t’find me,” Remy said. “You should go back to the Institute, before somethin’ happens. I’ve caused you enough problems all ready.”

“There’s nothin’ gonna happen to me,” Rogue said with a shake of her head. Outwardly, her expression was set and brave. Inside, however, she was a mess of tangled emotions. “Listen, this is a bad idea, goin’ up to Nebraska. You don’t want to go there.”

“No, I don’t,” he replied. “But I have to.”


He gave no answer, but lapsed into a sullen silence.

“There’s something bad goin’ on,” Rogue said. “Don’t you think it’s a little coincidental that you and Sabretooth are on the same road, goin’ in the same direction? What are the odds of that?”

He shrugged by way of answer.

“And you don’t know what’s gone down at the Institute,” Rogue continued. “Seems everyone’s taken off on their own, even Scott. And Wolverine, he’s gone completely off the deep end. He attacked me. Ah think he woulda killed me if he had a chance.”

Remy looked at her from the corner of his eye.

“You wouldn’t believe what Ah’ve been through in the past couple days. A pervo on the bus has become the least of my worries. By the way, Bella Donna sends her regards.”

His head snapped around to face Rogue. “What?”

“Open the glove compartment,” Rogue said with a small smile.

He complied. The silver .45 compact pistol glinted in the late-day light. Remy quickly snapped the door to the compartment shut. “Dat’s Belle’s gun,” he said quietly. “Where did you get that? You didn’t kill her, did you?”

“No!” Rogue scoffed. “Of course not! She gave it to me. Then she gave me the car.”

Remy looked at her unbelievingly.

“She saved my life,” Rogue added. “She helped me t’find you.”

They were silent for several long minutes. Rogue yawned and rolled her shoulders. The events of the past few days were catching up to her.

“Are you okay?” Remy asked her.

“Yeah, Ah’m fine,” she replied. “Just tired is all.”

Don’t forget crazy, a voice in her head added. She wrinkled her nose in disdain.

“And you don’t feel,” he paused, “any different?”

“What do you mean?” she asked.

He sighed and turned away. “Nothin.’ Never mind.”

“Look,” she said. “Ah know about this virus thing, Remy. We need to be gettin’ back to the Institute so you can be looked after.”

“No!” he snapped. “Forget it!” He drew in a shaking breath and looked at his clenched fists. In a calmer voice he continued: “I’m not going back so dey can stick me in dat tube again. I won’t be stuck with needles and lay in a hospital room until I’m dead. It’s you who should go back, before I hurt you again. You might still have a chance. Maybe they can help you. It’s too late for me.”

Rogue was shaking her head. “What are you babbling about?”

Remy grasped her bare arm. The shock of his touch caused her to gasp. She jerked her arm away before she realized that his touch hadn’t affected either of them. His expression was pained. “I think I might have given you de virus,” he said quietly. “And I’d rather die than see you get hurt. I’m so sorry.”

“What? No, don’t be ridiculous,” Rogue replied. Her skin broke out in gooseflesh and she shivered though the air was hot. “Ah’m not sick.”

“When I pierced your ears…” Remy began.

“Shut up, Remy,” Rogue said stiffly. “There’s nothin’ the matter with me. And we can get you fixed up at the Institute. The professor and Mr. McCoy will figure out something. Look, here’s an exit comin’ up. We can just turn around and go home.”

Rogue flicked the turn signal and began to pull the car to the right.

“No!” Remy cried, and grabbed a hold of the wheel, jerking it from Rogue’s grasp. Rogue cried out and slammed on the brakes. The car came to a screeching halt in the dusty berm. “We have to keep going,” Remy said, his eyes boring into hers.

The expression she read in his gaze frightened her. It was a look of absolute determination. They stared at one another for several long moments, before Rogue finally swallowed and nodded. Wordlessly, she turned to the steering wheel and pulled the car back into the flow of traffic. Night fell, and still they drove on.


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