Home | Forum | Mailing List | Repository | Links | Gallery
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

Follow Me Until the End of the World: A Place Worth Saving? - REVIEW THIS STORY

Written by Sandman
Last updated: 01/02/2007 02:01:11 AM

Chapter 7

The bone cage creaked sadistically, playing its warped mind games with its prisoner. Rogue had grown to hate the thing, though it suspended her from death. She stopped treating it like an object and thought of it more as a suicidal captor, waiting until it no longer derived any more pleasure from wearing away at her mind to let go. That’s right girlie, you know what that means…just a little while longer and you’re in for the long fall…

The chasm underneath the cage reached endlessly into the earth. It hungered for everything looming above it. It was like an ever-hungry vortex hid miles below in the dark, swirling and sucking, swallowing and disintegrating. Trade winds blew from within it and whipped up around the entire chamber. Her tattered clothing lent very little protection from the bitter cold. She shook uncontrollably. Rats gnawed at the cables constantly, but Rogue had lost both the energy and the will to shoo them away. Men (or women, it was impossible to tell) drabbed in heavy black cloaks fed her a bowl of brackish water and hard biscuits intermitedly. By now, her appetite was nearly completely gone.

She had also more or less accepted that this was the first step towards surrender-that numbingly powerful sedative that ended all things. Little by little, the creaking was becoming a very distant noise. It still scared her to think that a time might come when she might actually welcome the end, though not much.

Chancre sores had begun developing along the edges of her lips and her body ached from lying on the jagged bones that formed the structure of the cage. Her stomach ceased rumbling some time ago, though it still twisted around in knots. Slowly, her body was wilting away, though Rogue tried not to think about it. She had only one chance to make it through this hell-to distract herself with any means possible to keep from thinking about her situation.

After all, Charles Xavier himself had instructed her about how panic tends to perpetuate itself.

The sad truth was that she had dealt with similar conditions all throughout her life, though nothing reaching this level of depravity. She didn’t ever have to remind herself that life had forced her to become tough.

The constant bombardment of misery, loneliness, disappointment, and betrayal that dictated the course of her life had begun at the very tender age of twelve. It pained her greatly to reach back into those dark years, but it was the only thing that blocked out the fear.

1 Cadlecott County, Mississippi

She had just entered the awkward stages of adolescence when her world came crashing down. The telephone rang twice. Marie slipped back into a dream a few moments later. Her stepmother Ramona rushed into her room and without a reason, told her to get dressed immediately. After a few moments of disorientation Marie had realized what must have transpired-her father was dead.

The two of them stood out on the porch of their home. All Ramona could do was to complain about the incessant heat while tears streamed down the side of her stepdaughter’s face. After an eternity of fifteen minutes, a sergeant from her father’s unit pulled up in a rusty sedan. Ramona sat in the front seat, stone-faced, feeling sorry for herself for now having to look after John Sadler’s bony, misbehaved daughter Marie, who had too much of her free-spirited mother to ever become a proper lady. How dare he do this to me?

That Ramona had no love for John’s daughter had never been much of a secret. After returning home from duty, John would hear an earful about the displeasures of trying to raise his daughter. Exhausted, he would try to defend her, which only seemed to inflame the woman even more. Normally a man strong in every sense of the word, he buckled in confrontation with his wife. Most nights, he would come home long after they had both gone to sleep. Though he hated not seeing his beloved daughter more, he secretly felt immense relief by avoiding his wife’s moods.

Sometime around evening, Ramona would begin her drinking mixed with other things, leading a lifestyle some cynics might label as better living through chemistry. With blood shot eyes, raging aggression, and a closed fist, she dispensed discipline on her stepdaughter, who never could get things right. She had threatened Marie not to disclose the darker part of their relationship with her father and had told her that he had little room in his life to worry about little-old-her. Whether because of fatigue or by denial, John had never seen the bruises over Marie’s body or the occasional burn-mark on her hands. Even now, as Rogue looked down at her palms, scars remained as testaments of her abuse.

Though Marie had urged, no, pleaded with her father to leave Ramona, he would never-he needed her to look after his daughter while he was away. And if the freak occurrence ever happened that he didn’t come home one night, she would have someone to care for her.

It had always been a possibility, and they had discussed it before. But now that it happened, it seemed nothing less than surreal. He was a captain in the local militia that carried a rifle, who fought like hell to keep their small town safe amidst growing anarchy in the land. A gentle man who loved his daughter and music, in that order, more than his own life, John never grew tired of Marie’s company. At an early age, he taught his daughter to play the guitar and the piano. Though she treasured these times with her father, her favorite pastime was listening to him enamor her with the stories of his life and rarely, on special occasion, told her about her real mother, who Marie, now 23, looked nearly exactly like (evening having the characteristic white streaks that were passed along as hereditary heirlooms through her mother’s line).

On this fateful night, John Edward Sadler returned home from a perimeter patrol of the surrounding area and a drunken sentry mistook him for a raider and put two bullets into his chest.

When they reached the hospital, Marie charged through the automatic double-doors and demanded that the front desk attendant told her where her father was being kept. Ramona walked slowly behind, still fighting sleep. While the attendant, looking mildly annoyed at having to do her job, one of the other militiamen came from the waiting area and escorted them both to John’s room. He put a sympathetic arm around Marie while leading them to the second floor of the hospital.

Outside of his room, nearly a dozen men in uniform stood, casting sympathetic glances at the two of them. Marie rushed through the door and burst into tears upon seeing her father with several IV lines and tubes up his nose. Blood had soaked through his gown. While Ramona talked to the doctor, who spat out college-fancy words like “catastrophic damage” and inoperable”, Marie knelt down by her father’s side, where she spent their last few moments together.

Through sedated eyes, John marveled at his daughter, weeping for him. Pride filled through him, numbing the pain that remained after the morphine drip. The conversation Ramona and the doctor were having was muted. The only thing in the room was his beautiful daughter.

“Marie, hi baby.”

“Daddy…” she sobbed.

He was having a great deal of trouble speaking. Through intense concentration and effort, he managed to piece together what his last words.

“You’re gonna have to be strong, darlin, stronger than you’ve ever been, stronger that you even think you can-but you can do it. Its gonna be a hard life ahead, but you don’t ever turn away from it. I know you won’t, cause you’re a fighter, just like your momma. I can’t tell you how proud I am of you, baby, and you need to know that I’m always gonna be with you, looking after you from above. I’m gonna ask you to do something, and then I’m gonna stop talking, but before that, I need to tell you that I love you Marie, don’t ever let your soul stop shinin’.”

He coughed violently, and then whispered a request for her to sing their song into his ear. She managed to quell her sobs and sang several verses of the song, before sensing the doctor and Ramona standing directly behind her. After pulling away, she realized that her father had left this world, and she felt alone.

Several months later, Ramona moved them to a different town, reasoning that it would make the adjustment easier. Though the setting was not the same, the pain never wavered for Marie. Ramona, however, almost instantly adapted to the new surroundings, taking a job as a bartender in one of its many shady nightspots. Almost every night, she brought a different man home and forced Marie to cater to them, making them food, getting them a beer, running to the store to buy them cigarettes. Ramona had loved them all through the night, and they thanked her with cash or drugs. In her time off from work, she stayed in a perpetual high, and lashed out at Marie for not holding up to her impossible standards of etiquette (no, Marie, a lady does not chew her food like that, a lady crosses her legs while sitting, a lady blah blah blah). Normally, she would just chastise Marie by calling her a gutter whore, or trailer park trash, though she had been known to fly off the handle on occasion, usually striking her across the face or sinking her claw-like nails into Marie’s arms.

When Marie turned sixteen, Ramona cut back her hours and pulled her stepdaughter from school. Rogue was given a job as a waitress in the same bar that her stepmother worked to help out with the bills (which meant supporting Ramona’s habits). About the same time, Ramona surprised Rogue that she had remarried (the owner of the same restaurant), and the tattooed- covered, six-three, three hundred and forty pound bastard moved in. Whenever they were alone, he would slurp back his beer and make crude comments towards Marie, rehashing the same tired line, “c’mon sweet thing, come to daddy…His laugh was awful, but it erupted frequently in her presence, almost as if he meant Marie to understand him as an amusing person with the answers to everything. Most nights, he would drink and complain about everything and everyone, spewing racial slurs and derogatory remarks about homosexuals and mutants. The bastard was particularly fond of reminding her how grateful Marie should be to have a guy like him around to protect her, to provide a roof over her head, to give her a job, and any number of things his simple mind could manage to think of. Occasionally, he would shoot up in front of her and even offered the heroin, which she refused and retreated to her room. While Marie tried to sleep, knowing that she worked tomorrow, he would blast country music to the highest levels of his sound system’s ability.

If her home life was bad, work was even worse. The dingy bar was filled to the brink with lowlifes, thugs, druggies, and perverts. It was a rare night when she wasn’t hit on, usually by men at least ten to twenty years her senior. Her beauty was unmistakably captivating, even bringing forth jealously from the other waitresses. Thinking themselves cute, the bar patrons would slap her ass and call her pet names like sweetcheeks. Then, after a few more drinks, they would approach her and ask her for a hand or blowjob in one of the men’s room stalls for money. Or they were feeling particularly in love with her, they would offer a night of fucking in a motel room.

After about a year of working there, a new cook/bouncer was hired. His golden blond hair, ample biceps, and sturdy frame had caught Marie’s attention. Cody O’Brien had tested the waters by flirting with her offhandedly, which she responded to positively. He asked her on a date and she accepted. A night out to eat and a movie was followed by him taking her home and more or less forcing her to let him inside. Both Ramona and the bastard were working that night, leaving, in Cody’s mind, a perfect opportunity to get to know one another much better.

Pouring on the charm, he managed to disarm her. With soft, romantic music in the background, he began to ask questions like, have you ever had sex before? Though she hadn’t, she had known more about the subject from her new stepfather and the bar then most seventeen year old girls should. When she shyly answered his questions, he began telling her that she was beautiful and that he never felt this way about a girl before, and she ate every lie up. Soon, they were engaged in a passionate bout of kissing, which graduated to him feeling her up. She asked him to stop, and he responded by telling her that he loved her. He obviously wasn’t listening to her telling him that she wasn’t ready, and she began to panic. The next thing she knew was that he pulled away and gasped for air, turning blue. He collapsed and she screamed.

When the paramedics came and she explained what happened, it was pretty clear what caused it. This was no accident, she was one of them…a mutie….

Cody recovered from his coma three days later, though Marie did not know it. Her guilt over the incident was allayed because of what he was going to do to her. Cody had played her, and she chastised herself for letting him get close enough to hurt her. Marie promised herself that it would never happen again.

Knowing how her parents would react to what she had done, and who she war, Marie packed a bag and left before Ramona and the bastard got home, never once looking back.

2 Westchester, New York

Rogue provided the headmaster, Charles Xavier with a false name and personal information. He sat across from her in his office with a terrible, imposing stature, despite being crippled. The diplomas on the walls, the thick volumes in the bookshelves, the smell of fine cedar wood furniture, all intimated the girl. The man was brilliant-so smart that he could help any mutant control their powers, if he helped them (or so she heard while passing through New York City). Xavier was looking over her entrance test scores carefully. Rogue knew that it revealed the fact that she was both ignorant and probably not cut out for this place.

When he finally spoke, she thought he had the voice of an accomplished stage actor. “Well, Rogue, I have your test scores here in front of me. I would be lying if I said that they were to our standard levels, but that only reveals that you haven’t had much schooling.”

The words stung her like daggers, and she fought to hold back her tears. This was the first place where she had tried to settle since leaving Mississippi and she would be turned away, though not before she was berated for being “substandard”.

Xavier threw down the score sheet on his desktop and picked up her essay, which was no doubt saturated with grammatical errors.

“This, on the other hand, was what I really focused on. Standardized scores can only tell someone a person’s ability to take a test, or to a lesser extent, how much knowledge they have accrued. Your essay, quite frankly, was brilliant. Your topic, how you have developed your morals in spite of your terrible hardships, not least of which is your inability to control your power, which prevents you from engaging in any skin-to-skin contact at all, was artistically crafted into a fine piece of writing. The style of the piece reveals your strengths in crafting a solid argument, personal reflection and understanding, and reaching your audience in a substantive way.”

He was smiling now. “Rogue, most importantly, I understand the strength of your character. I would be pleased if you would join us here- though, I have to warn you, it will be a lot of work. You will take academic classes as well as classes aimed at teaching you control. Also, your peers will be mutants like you. One of the primary goals of this program is to teach you to interact with both mutants and humans. But you won’t ever have to look far to find someone who understands how it is to be different, unwanted, or even hated and feared. In fact, you can always look to me, if needed-my door is always open, Rogue. I mean that.”

Her initial impression of him as the brooding academic was now gone. He had a grandfatherly feel about him, and she trusted Xavier for then on.

It took several weeks to adjust to the new life at the Xavier estate. There, life was pure. Food, nutritious food, was available when she wanted. There was always ample free time between classes and plenty of things to do to utilize it. The library always had a novel to offer. She also spent a great deal of her time working out or swimming out in the lake behind the estate (or the indoor pool, when it was cold or raining).

Most importantly, the folks living there were essentially all good-hearted. Though they all tried their hardest to reach out to Rogue, she refused to get close to any of them, believing all the while that she was merely protecting herself. Gradually she warmed up to her instructors. First, there was Ororo Munroe who worked with her on controlling her power. The lady had infinite patience with Rogue, even when she had none for herself. Storm would explain that it had taken her years to master control over her own power, and even then, she continued to refine it. They would often share coffee with each other and talked about the deeper issues in Marie’s life. Eventually, Marie had more or less accepted Ororo as an older sister.

Marie also met Henry McCoy, or the Beast, at the institute. He had taught the hard sciences, physics, chemistry, biology, and a few other courses that were so advanced that only a few of the most brilliant students enrolled in them. McCoy had a funny way of talking with people-it had taken Marie a long time to get the feel that when he was talking over her head, it wasn’t intentional and he wasn’t making fun of her. He was actually a very sensitive person, almost to the point of being shy. His razor-sharp wit never ceased to make her smile and he always had a piece of sage-like advice when it she needed it. At the end of her four years there, she had become more like a peer to Henry than a pupil, and had even begun instructing her own classes in both music (voice, guitar, and piano lessons) and in philosophy (the topic of many debates between she and the Beast). They had developed a very close friendship by the time the institute was forced to close, which had made his betrayal that much more painful.

There were plenty of others that she had missed dearly, but none more than her three mentors. Lakeside discussions past midnight with Xavier had fundamentally changed her outlook on life. Storm showed Marie that she had hope to lead a normal life once she had overcome the psychological barriers that caused her to mistrust everyone. That, she explained, was the source of her inability to control her “gift”. And it was McCoy that had taught her to find solace in the companionship of people like her-generous, intelligent, compassionate, and lonely. McCoy also showed her that happiness could be found nearly everywhere, if you looked hard enough.

Then one Sunday afternoon when a loll of nimbus clouds floated carelessly by, representatives of the Federal government rolled up in an SUV. These were the days when state governments were breaking away from the republic, and local governments broke away from them, and in certain cases, absolute anarchy reigned. The disintegration had led to open warfare and eventually, things just fell apart. The Federal government was struggling to regain its sovereignty through both diplomacy and brute force. This was a case of the latter.

Four men, heavily clad in golden armor and donning significant weaponry fanned out of the SUV and began assembling all of the students in the courtyard. Marie remembered one of the men in particular. A giant man with golden hair, almost like a lion’s mane, had cornered one of the instructors in an otherwise vacant room. Rogue watched from the vent she had hid within as the man, who was later called Victor, hovered over one of the students named Jean Grey. He had asked in a gruff, obscene tone if she believed in an afterlife. When she said she didn’t know, Victor had told her that she had better figure it out quickly and raised his rifle, intending to bash her skull in with it. Another one of the soldiers, who had the handle Wolverine etched into his breastplate, grabbed the rifle and pulled it away from Sabretooth (the handle that was on Victor’s armor). Then, Victor smiled innocently and explained that he was only teasing the girl. Wolverine told him to move back into the courtyard to help Deadpool and Maverick with crowd control while he looked for the remaining two students (Rogue could never figure out who the other one was).

Without an explanation, Xavier was loaded into the SUV and one of the men announced that the school was being closed indefinitely, that everyone had to vacate the premises immediately. When Beast tried to negotiate their position, the one known as Deadpool waffled him in the face with the butt of his rifle. In a deadpan voice, he had followed his action by saying, “that’s fuckin’ right kiddies. Class is canceled.”

3 Marietta, Georgia

And so Marie and Hank McCoy hit the road in search of new opportunities, taking them into the South, where the separatist mentality was strongest. On a shoestring budget, they managed to live out of their suitcases in a couple of dingy motel rooms. And it was by word of mouth that the name Nathaniel Essex was first heard by the two-a noble name that carried a promise of a better future.

At the time, Essex was holding public lectures about the political future of the land and winning over people with his grand vision of oligarchic rule that would eventually shift to democracy, once the order had been restored. Because the Federal government had done such a thorough job in alienating most of its former constituents with their heavy- handedness, Essex had little trouble in portraying it as a regime that favored the elitists and rode on the backs of the working class. In effect, he had energized Marxist theory (without directly calling it that) and won the hearts of thousands. Soon after, the Southern Cross was born.

They attended one of the lectures and were sold on the man’s vision. Rogue and Beast applied that very night.

As mutants, they were given special recognition in the new order (as it was called). They were screened only by a personal interview with Essex himself.

The interview reminded Rogue of the one at Westchester-Essex, like Xavier, had wore an appearance of greatness. His words were golden and his vision pure. That kind of leadership was inspiring beyond all else. Essex promised her a financially secure future and something else that shook her very world-he offered to biologically make it possible for her to control her power-to have the ability to touch another person, to know how to give and receive physical love and affection. The man was giving her life back.

After signing a contract for six years as a covert operative (he explained that she would be trained almost like a spy of olden times and would work alongside other mutants, including Beast), he surprised her by telling her that the operation would be conducted the same day. Essex drove her to a medical facility in a limousine, impressing her all the while with his power and wealth-though he was willing to devote time to her, who had known him for only a few hours. The operation was painless. She had slid into a machine (not unlike the kind that take CAT scans) and remained within it for only fifteen minutes while he conducted laser surgery along different nodes within her brain. When she came out of the machine, he offered his bare arm for her test its effects. Nervously, she clutched his meaty forearm. He smiled at her and congratulated her on entering a new, better time in her life. And that was how the devil had entered her heart.

That was the last time that she had actual direct contact with Essex for a year and a half. Her training was begun immediately after her living arrangements were settled-a posh high-rise furnished apartment overlooking a beautiful park. Rogue bought a dog for companionship (one of the contract stipulations was the limitation of personal relationships that stretched so far that background information could not even be shared between members on her team). The Golden Retriever was better company than most any human that she had ever met. Unwaveringly loyal, loving, and empathic to her master’s moods. Rogue could always expect extra attention when she came home from a particularly brutal assignment.

The day that she reported for her training, she sat among about thirty other people that were presumably mutants. Surprisingly, Beast was not among them (it was later explained to her by Henry that he was already on assignment). Rogue kept to herself as the others chattered among themselves. In walked two men, both dressed in fine imported Italian suits that probably cost more than Rogue would make her in three months. The first one had the look of a scrapper-thick shoulders, short red hair and a powerful chin. He was impressively tall and built. The other was slightly shorter (though still over six feet), quite a bit more lean and wore a pair of dark sunglasses. His movements were full of grace and seemed to walk into the room more confident than God. The aura of arrogant overconfidence announced him as the senior member of the duo. Later, Rogue learned that her predication was indeed correct. The man was Remy LeBeau, Essex’s right hand man. He rarely gave out the assignments, leaving that to his secondary, Graydon Creed, his larger accomplice. LeBeau worked alone mostly-the way he preferred it.

The fact that Creed resented LeBeau was obvious in the way he looked at his superior. LeBeau had won a special place in Essex’s heart, and through years of service, had acquired a sizable fortune. It was clear at the end of the meeting that the Cajun was calling the shots-the ones that really mattered, at least.

Rogue silently hated him because he was the embodiment of everything that had burned her over the years. Haughty, self-interested, and manipulative. No doubt, the man had gone through more women and had thrown them aside then he could remember.

LeBeau casually leaned back and lit a cigarette, making Creed conduct the meeting on his own. Rogue recognized it for it was-a calculated move to make people underestimate him, or at least to remain in a shroud of mystery, living off his reputation as a fighter and thief unequaled in skill. When the time was right, Remy would demonstrate his place.

Along with a few of his cronies, Creed trained them in the finer points of fighting, hand-to-hand (judo, taekwondo, boxing, tumbling, wrestling), weapons (blunt, sharpened, projectile), and arms. After a couple of months, they graduated to espionage (all the while, dropping those who couldn’t hack it through the program). In the final phase the remaining trainees (fifteen) learned intelligence and tactics before their first assignment. Rogue was assigned to a team of mostly rookies like herself, led by a green-haired lady with a fiery temperament that went by Polaris. Their tasks were mostly aimed at breaching minor level security complexes of opposing factions and state governments, bringing in supplies. A year passed, and then things began to accelerate. Their goals became much more aggressive-breaking into research laboratories, kidnapping or neutralizing threatening figures (usually politicians, scientists, or academics). People within her group were actually dying on missions, and it had once become clear why Essex wanted personal interaction limited-to prevent from emotional trauma from the loss of a team member from demoralizing the survivors. Despite it, Rogue felt it every time she saw one fall.

Eventually it began to effect her in other ways. Rogue had even killed a woman with her power-a mutant bodyguard that was pummeling Beast to death on one of the few missions that they were assigned together. By killing the lady, Rogue had permanently acquired her powers of near invulnerability and immense strength, making her a more perfect fighter.

She put two and two together and saw that these missions weren’t adding up to what Essex had promised. His brave, new world was designed to be one of peace, though it seemed more in more that it was becoming one of brutal domination. And he had fooled thousands of idealistic people into doing his bidding. And there was no way out.

Two years had passed before Rogue received a commission of her own unit. The graduation ceremony was followed by a grand celebration at Essex’s own estate. It was being held by the Hellfire Council, the sponsors behind the new order. They were a secret society not unlike the Free Masons that had more money than most underdeveloped countries before the war had wiped them off the maps. Before the war, they were mostly obscured from the public scene, while conducting their businesses and rites in secrecy. Now, with so much power ready to be taken, they emerged. Each member was given power over a newly acquired territory, like a feudal lord, they managed it and extracted its resources.

Rogue chose an exquisite green dress that fit that formality of the occasion perfectly. She wore white gloves that reached to her elbows and spent nearly an hour fixing her hair. While dressing, she had heard Ramona’s voice tell her, now, aren’t we just the fancy thing, now aren’t we?

Upon her arrival, she found the party utterly intimidating. She recognized very few people, let alone anyone that she cared to share company. Beast was occupied that evening, otherwise he would have escorted the young lady. Instead, Rogue became a fly on the wall, observing the party from afar.

White-bright lights illuminated the ballroom. A pit orchestra provided music from the classical European eras. Gray haired men of unspeakable power floated from one of their old-boy networks to the next while their wives congregated in vicious gossip-circles that destroyed the reputations (and at this stage, that meant lives) of anyone they deemed not fit for this status. Several times, Rogue had seen some of the withered bats look her way and break instantly into discussion.

Essex was there, of course, donning a Victorian-era suit, standing on the stage behind the pit, smiling and enjoying a vintage wine nearly a century old. To his side was the Council itself, with several of its members presiding over the ceremony, while the others mingled (scouting the talent, more like it).

Rogue had not fooled herself into thinking that this was anything more than a formality designed for the promotion of those loyal to Essex-it was the night of his inner circle. Rumors had circulated that LeBeau and Essex’s own swordsmaster, Gideon, were already in line for appointments in the Council. She had found that the only thing that seemed to make the intolerable night go by was indulgence of the fine alcohol being served. The more drinks that she put away the more she felt the cruel, evil stares of the powerful crones. Without so much as a coat, Rogue stormed to the outside balcony into the freeze.

Tonight, Rogue realized that she felt more miserable than when she could not control her power. Perhaps it was the alcohol, but a flood of emotion was overtaking her. Tears began to fill her eyes and she looked into the heavily clouded night sky. It took no sympathy on her, pushing a cold wind against her bare shoulders. The self-pity was more real than anything in her life, and it hurt badly.

“You cold, chere? Feels a bit cold out here to be without no jacket. Just so happens I got one here that I don’t need too much,” a voice said from behind, startling her.

Without turning, she knew it was the Cajun, who was no doubt out here to put a cap on his evening by seducing to celebrate his new appointment.

“Keep it. You don’t have anything I need,” she lashed out.

Without saying else, he leaned against the rail next to her.

Angrily, she turned to LeBeau and said “shouldn’t you be in there mingling with the uppity ups?”


Somewhat amused, she turned and looked at the Cajun. “What are you doin’ out here?”

“Avoiding all the excitement. You?”

“The same.”


LeBeau turned to her and looked at her for an uncomfortable moment. She glimpsed at him briefly, looking at his deep red eyes, trying to figure the man out.

“What’s wit’ the hair, chere?”

“Excuse me?” she snapped.

“The white streaks, I mean.”

“Not that its any of your damn business, but all the women from my mother’s side had them.”

The Cajun looked away and smirked. Rogue was sure that comment would send him on his way, but he stood his ground. He continued looking out over the parking lot.

It took Rogue a few moments before she realized that the arrogance that the man seemed to exude was not arrogance at all. It was emptiness. From her own experiences, Rogue could recognize it a mile away.

“Not meanin’ to pry, sugah, but shouldn’t you be all up an’ cheery tonight?” she asked, not entirely sure why.

He only shrugged. “I’d rather be out here in de’ cold with a lady that seems to hate me than be in there-what does that tell you, chere?”

“Oh-I had always figured that you had been working all your life to become a part of that”

His eyes narrowed with angry confusion. “Exactly what do you know about me that made you t’ink dat?”

“You’re right-I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have assumed,” Rogue almost stuttered. The blood was beginning to rush to her head and she was sure that her face beginning to turn red. “And I don’t hate you, whatever you might think. Maybe I thought that I did, but its like you said, I didn’t really know you.”

He was staring at her again, though this time she didn’t look away. His eyes were piercing, so much that the hair on the back of her neck stood on end. To admit that the man had a nice face was a blasphemous-it was perfect. And with that, Remy melted her with a look.

“I’ll accept your apology on two conditions,” he said, removing his tuxedo jacket. Rogue let him wrap it around her frigid shoulders, against better judgment. Your doin’ it again, girl, you know how this story ends, she thought.

The jacket was several sizes too large, but it was warm all the same. He was trying to not show signs of being cold, though he was shivering. No man, save her father, had sacrificed anything on her behalf.

“You know, I was thinkin’ chere-since we both hate bein’ here so much, let’s leave. I can think of at least a dozen t’ings that we could do other than stand out here all miserable-like.”

“Go with you? Sorry, Charlie, I don’t know you. Sides’ if you leave, won’t it look real bad, considerin’ that this night is about you?”

“What you fraid’ of, chere. You could knock me out wit’ a touch if you wanted to. You should take my word that I’m a perfect gentlemen. I’ll even let you decide what we do”

She smiled at him. “Have you been checkin’ up on me? How’d you know about my power?”

He returned her smile, devilishly.

“I have to say that I find yah’ offer flatterin’, but not tonight.”

“Perhaps another, then?”

Damnit, girl, end this here before it gets outta hand!, she thought, but instead, said “another time, then”.

“I’ll look forward to it, but I really don’t feel like goin’ home just yet. Mebbe’ you’d give me the honor of a dance-just one, to give them all somethin’ to talk about?” he asked, extending his hand.

In the moonlight, she noticed something very odd about his fingertips- they bore no prints.

“What happened to your hands?” she asked without thinking.

Leaving his hand out, he looked embarrassed for a moment, then answered her. “I come from a real traditional family chere-when I was fourteen, as a test of manhood, I had to burn my fingerprints off with chemicals, while my relatives watched. I guess you could say dat’ after dat’, they accepted me as one of their own.”

Her instinct was to look at her own hands, still with burn-scars, and realized that he was still waiting on an answer.

Though she hesitated a moment, she finally gave in and took his hand, allowing him to lead her back into the ballroom.

As Remy and Marie walked through a crowd that parted for them. Once on the dance floor, he drew her close, making her the slightest bit uncomfortable. The eyes of the cruel and bitter hens were mentally insulting her, taking apart her ordinary background and obvious lack of sophistication. The Hellfire Council sat high above them at their table, pretending not to notice.

As they swayed back and forth in perfect union with the music, none of that mattered anymore. Everyone else seemed to disappear, except the man leading her in dance. She had always guessed that he would be a good dancer, even if he was a bit aggressive. He held her closer than was respectable for such formality, though she correctly guessed that he could not care less what anyone had thought of them. Not once, did his eyes leave hers. At first, it made Marie feel nervous, though gradually it made her feel beautiful. And then it made her feel oddly comfortable, like a feeling that she could remember and relive the way she felt right then.

An hour ago, Rogue felt that she was drowning in a cacophony of voices that was saturated with class and wealth, making breath and concentration so difficult. When she left the ball that night, she had felt an internal happiness so potent that she could barely contain her soul from shining.

Though their contracts prevented it, the two of them tried to spend as much time together as possible. Usually their contact was confined to a few moments in the hallway, where they would confine their feelings to unspoken exchanges. They never saw each other more than a couple times a week, but they both looked forward to the few minutes they had together. Nearly five months after the ball, they were able to spend the day together.

Remy picked her up on his motorcycle, a Harley with chrome plating, and asked Marie what she had planned. Taking the poor guy completely off guard, she took him to church, where he looked (wearing blue jeans and a black t-shirt) and felt completely out of place. Rogue had worn her favorite sundress and had simply tied her back. The weak scent of lilacs danced off her skin, enticing the Cajun to enjoy the soft fragrance above all else from then on. Remy was not used to women not caking their faces in makeup and dousing their bodies with expensive perfume for him-and he found that Rogue looked more beautiful on that day than any other woman that he had ever seen.

She had taken him to one of those “active” churches, where the congregation sang with all of their hearts and erupted in fervor, exclaiming their love for the maker. Remy had found the entire thing awkward, thinking that most of the people were imbalanced. Most of the time, while he silently mouthed the words from the hymnal that they shared, he watched Rogue and listened to her voice, which was nothing short of angelic. The lady had a musical way of talking that was always pleasing to the ears, though when she sang, the woman had the power of bringing a piece of heaven to anyone within an earshot.

The rest of the day was spent at the lake with her dog as the chaperone. She had cooked Southern style fried chicken, assorted greens, made fresh iced tea, and baked an apple pie for a picnic. As perfect as the day had gone, there was one thing about it that she remembered most clearly.

The dog was chasing down a tennis ball that Remy was tossing into the water. The Cajun stood in the water with his jeans rolled up past his knees, making her think of him as an older Huckleberry Fin. For a moment, it seemed like he was reliving his youth (which she later learned was taken from him in his family’s sick plot to render him into a tool to serve their own purposes). He smiled and laughed, petting the soppy-wet dog whenever it faithfully returned the ball. It was about then when Marie realized that she was falling in love with the boy.

She stood up and charged towards him. Turning suddenly, Remy noticed her reaching out for the ball, swinging it around and relying on his height to keep it away. Instead, she tackled him into the water, and he caught her in his arms. When he stood, she was relying entirely on his arms’ support. Smiling, she prepared for him to dunk her into the lake. Instead, he leaned forward and kissed her deeply. It was their first.

A week later, she learned that Charles Xavier had been abducted from his protective custody. Realizing that freeing the man was far beyond her own ability, she needed someone with a thorough understanding of Essex’s security systems. It killed her to put him into danger-if he only knew how much-she had pleaded with Remy to free her mentor, and he did.

When Rogue learning of his death from the Beast was only the confirmation that she had more or less accepted. It was a risk with fatal consequences-they both had realized it. She believed that Remy thought that she had no grasp of the magnitude of what Essex was, what he really was-definitely no man. He was wrong-she knew that he was a cancer that was slowing eating away at the world. That was why Xavier had to live, no matter what the cost. His dream may have been the world’s only hope. She hoped that Remy realized what his sacrifice had bought before closing his eyes forever.

The flood of memories left Rogue utterly alone, as she had been most of her life. They had forced her to re-focus, to channel her undying spirit once again. The fighter within would never surrender.

Rogue pulled a split piece of bone from the cage and began filing away at the cage’s door. Remy would have wanted her to go on fighting.


GambitGuild is neither an official fansite of nor affiliated with Marvel Enterprises, Inc.
Nonetheless, we do acknowledge our debt to them for creating such a wonderful character and would not dream of making any profit from him other than the enrichment of our imaginations.
X-Men and associated characters and Marvel images are © Marvel Enterprises, Inc.
The GambitGuild site itself is © 2006 - 2007; other elements may have copyrights held by their respective owners.