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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
Chapter 22
Chapter 23
Chapter 24
Chapter 25
Chapter 26
Chapter 27
Chapter 28
Chapter 29
Chapter 30


Written by Valerie Jones
Last updated: 03/23/2007 01:26:56 AM

Chapter 15

Renee looked over at Cody and they both giggled. Daddy was kissing Momma again. Momma had her arms around him, but she kept her hands stuck way out because they were covered with flour. Eventually, Daddy let her go, and she turned back to the cookies she was making.

"Remy, y’all’re incorrigible." Momma smiled at him over her shoulder as she stirred.

Renee went back to playing with her tinker toys, but she kept part of her attention on her parents. It always started something warm and happy inside her when they were like this. Even if kissing was gross.

"Moi?" Daddy asked, trying to look innocent. "It’s all your fault, chere."

Momma turned around and put her hands on her hips, pretending to be angry. "Me?"

Daddy grinned. "Oui, chere. Y’ jus’ so incredibly beautiful, how could I possibly leave y’ alone?"

Momma laughed and put her arms around him again. "Such a charmer. Sweet words’ll get ya everywhere." She was wearing that smile that Renee knew was reserved just for Daddy.

"I know," he answered. "I figured dat one out years ago."

Renee squealed in delight as the swing arched ever higher. She was so high up that her crossed toes blocked out the sun for just a moment before she started backwards. Then the fast drop back toward the ground was exhilarating and scary, and she swung her legs straight out as the swing carried her high into the air in the other direction. Below her, she could see her mother, smiling and waiting for her to swing down again so that she could give Renee another push.

Renee giggled. "Higher, Momma!"

She felt strong hands on her back, pushing her back up toward the sun. Daddy was a little ways away, watching. He had Cody sitting on his shoulders, and he waved at her as she swung past him.

"No, Rogue. Absolutely not."

Renee snuggled closer to her brother. They were huddled together at the top of the stairs, listening to the argument below.

"Ah’m not askin’ permission!"

"I never said y’ had to!" A pause, followed by a frustrated sigh. "But it’s a decision we both have t’ agree on, neh? An’ if we don’ agree... "

"It wouldn’t be like last time. Ah promised ya I’d stay off the missions, no mattah what."

"Dat’s not de point, an’ you know it."

"Then what is?"


"Y’ almost died, Rogue." They could barely hear him, his voice was so low.

She paused. "Ah know. But it was a bad situation. If ah’d been in a hospital, or even in the Blackbird’s medlab, Hank says it wouldn’t—"

"Wouldn’ be as bad?" Renee cringed at her father’s scathing tone. "Chere, it’s because y’ human. Y’ can’ carry a Shi’ar baby wit’out it nearly killin’ y’." Then his voice softened. "I love my chillen wit’ all my heart, Rogue. But it’s not worth losin’ you."

"Grandpa! Look!" Renee ran toward the smiling man in the hoverchair, her prized possession held above her head. It was a book, the new one he’d given her, and she’d been looking for him all morning. "Will you read it to me?"

"Of course." He picked her up over the side of his chair and settled her in his lap. Then he took the book from her fingers and opened to the first page. Renee settled against him happily. She was just beginning to realize that the letters on the pages meant something, but more, she just loved to look at the funny animals and touch the portions of each page that were fuzzy or scratchy or bumpy.

"Here we go." He started on the first page. "Fuzzy yellow circle." Renee swept her fingers across the yellow fur that poked through a circular cutout. Then Charles unfolded the page. "Ducklings." The inside of the folded page was full of baby ducks, playing together. Renee giggled and snuggled closer. She loved the book, but mostly she loved finding a reason to sit in Grandpa’s lap.

"Ewwww! Daddy, that’s gross!"

Daddy reached for her, his hands dripping with slimy orange streamers. "Would y’ like some pumpkin guts, little girl?" he intoned in his best monster voice.

Renee shrieked and jumped back, but then immediately started giggling. Daddy grinned, and went back to scooping all the gross stuff out of the pumpkin.

"Why are you taking all that stuff out?" she asked as he worked. She was standing behind him, leaning over his shoulder to get a good view. He paused and looked back at her as he answered.

"Well, b’cause we gon’ put a candle in here t’ make de face glow. An’ if I don’ take all de pumpkin innards out, dey jus’ catch fire an’ burn. Besides, if we didn’ scoop out all de insides, we wouldn’ get t’ eat de seeds."

Renee glanced over at the pile of orange mush that had come out of the pumpkin. Scattered across it she could see the fat white seeds, but they looked slimy and not very good to eat.

Daddy saw her expression and chuckled. "After y’ Momma toast dose up wit’ butter an’ salt, y’ gon’ love dem."

Renee doubted that very much, but she didn’t want to hurt her Daddy’s feelings, so she didn’t say anything. Instead, she changed the subject.

"Are you going to be a scary monster again?" Daddy didn’t have to do much to look scary since his eyes glowed red. But last year (which was the only Halloween Renee remembered), he’d worn a black cape and fangs when they went out trick-or-treating. Renee thought he’d had an awful lot of fun scaring all the kids. Especially the bigger ones, if they were being mean.

"Would y’ like me to, petite?"

Renee nodded vigorously and then hugged him from behind.

"Cody." Renee hissed and shook the still form of her brother. Their bedroom seemed awfully dark as she stood beside his bed, the shadows looming across the walls.

He groaned and she shook him harder. "Cody!"

"What?" He raised his head to look at her.

"I’m scared."

"You’re always scared, Rennie. Go back to bed." He rolled over on his side, back to her.

Renee began to cry, and hugged her stuffed rabbit more tightly.

"Aw—" Cody rolled back over to look at her. "Did you have bad dreams again?"

Renee nodded. Horrible dreams about the man with pointy teeth. He always hurt her in her dreams, though she could never see what he was doing.

Cody sighed and scooted over. "All right. Get in."

Renee smiled hugely and climbed in bed next to her brother. He immediately turned his back to her and snuggled down under the covers. They wrestled with the blankets for a while, until both were fairly well covered. No longer afraid, Renee hugged Mr. Rabbit and closed her eyes.

"Don’t you dare wet the bed, Rennie."

Renee was terrified. She clung to her mother with all of the strength in her six year old arms. Daddy was holding Cody, and the house was full of people. Renee knew most of them, but everyone was so quiet it scared her. Something awful was going to happen. She could feel it, lurking just around the corner like a horrible monster. Momma and Daddy could feel it too. They hugged each other, squeezing both Cody and Renee in between them. Normally, Renee loved these family hugs—she and Cody would beg for them until their parents laughingly surrendered. But this time, Renee just squeezed her eyes shut and clung to her Momma. She didn’t care that she could hardly breathe, they were holding her so tight. She could feel the warmth of their arms around her, and that reassurance was the only thing that held her terror at bay.

But then something... lurched. It was like part of the world had suddenly broken. The pressure on her lungs disappeared. Everything seemed to stand still for moment. Even though Renee had her eyes closed, she could feel the waiting. Then Cody began to bawl, and Renee jerked her head up to look at him. He was sitting in the middle of the floor, head back and mouth wide open as he cried. But even worse then that, Momma screamed and sank to her knees on the floor.

"Nooooo! Remy... " She was crying too, and she pulled Cody up into her lap, rocking both of them while she sobbed.

Bewildered, Renee started to cry too. She didn’t know what was wrong, but suddenly Daddy wasn’t there and Momma was crying so hard she was shaking, and the people were all pressing in around them, reaching out to touch them. Renee struggled to free herself, but that was impossible. Her mother was much too strong. Finally, Aunt Ororo coaxed Momma into letting them go, and Renee crawled into Ororo’s arms, which cradled her with familiar gentleness. But even Ororo was crying, silent tears running down her face.

Ororo stroked Renee’s hair. "Rogue, look at your children." Her voice was full of wonder.

Momma looked up, then over at Renee, and then Cody, who was curled in Uncle Logan’s lap. She seemed stunned. "Ah still remember..."

Renee settled on the damp grass and looked around. Mist hugged the tombstones, darkening their pitted stone faces. It was a little scary to be in the graveyard by herself, but she was a big girl, old enough to know that she wasn’t likely to meet any ghosts. And besides, all she had to do was yell if something did happen. Cerebro would hear her.

She laid the flowers she’d picked from the garden down in front of one particular stone. They were blue irises, her favorite. Aunt Storm had helped her plant her own flower garden, and Renee felt a special joy in being able to bring flowers that she had grown herself.

"Hi, Daddy," she said quietly. She pulled her knees up, wrapping her arms around them. This was her special place—where she came when she needed to think, or to talk to someone she knew would listen. She understood—vaguely, at least—that her father wasn’t actually buried beneath the ground where she sat. The tombstone was just a marker, and that he had disappeared instead of dying. But still, she felt closer to him here than anywhere else.

"I hope it’s all right to ask you about this Daddy," she began. "I don’t want to get Momma in trouble." Renee imagined his face the way she remembered him. Handsome and smiling.

She took a deep breath before going on. "Momma went out and had dinner with a man last night." She paused. "I hope you already knew that." She shrugged. "Anyway, I guess I just wanted to know if that’s... all right with you. Aunt Jean says it is, and that it would be really good if Momma found someone else to fall in love with."

Renee hugged her knees more tightly. "But I really hope she doesn’t."

"Marco!" Remi called as he swam slowly towards Renee. She could see that he had his eyes tightly shut, as he was supposed to. Not that she was surprised. Remi didn’t cheat at these kinds of things.

"Polo!" she yelled directly into his face as the others in the pool echoed the call from their own places.

He jerked in surprise, then leaped toward her. Renee dove for the bottom of the pool, twisting as she did so. Remi missed her feet by nearly six inches and she swam away, coming up for air in another part of the pool.

Renee sat next to her mother on the garden swing, content for the moment to lean on her shoulder. Rogue rocked them lazily with one foot, humming to herself. The summer sun was almost hot, but not quite. Renee felt like it was kissing her skin.

Out on the grass, Cody and Remi were wrestling with Bishop. Not very well, of course, but Bishop was pretending that the two boys were capable of pinning him to the ground.

Rogue chuckled. "Ah sure wish y’ Daddy could be here ta see this."


She shrugged, eyes glinting with humor. "Well, because when Daddy was alive, Bishop was always such a stiff ol’ thing. Now look at him." She stroked Renee’s hair with gentle fingers.

Renee thought for a while. She had some questions that she had always been afraid to ask. "Mom? Why does Remi look so much like me? I met Tracy’s uncle at her house the other day, and he doesn’t look anything like her at all. Tracy told him that me and Remi look like twins, and he said that was really strange."

Rogue sighed. "It is strange, sugah. And right now, ah don’t think ah can explain it to ya. Not ‘til you’re a little older."

"Please, Mom, can we keep him?" Rachel was holding the puppy that had found them as they walked home from school. It was horribly skinny, with its ribs showing through the ragged coat. But it had cute floppy ears, and had bounced and yipped all around their feet until Rachel had picked it up.

Jean looked between the two girls, her expression torn between the instinct to say "no", and the plea in her daughter’s eyes. Finally, she sighed. "It’s all right with me—"


"—but you’ll have to ask Charles. This is his house."

"Thanks, Mom!" Rachel darted forward to hug her mother, and then both girls were gone, racing through the house towards Renee’s grandfather’s study.

"Skunk girl!"



Renee was thirteen years old, and she’d been in the seventh grade for four days. As the boys closed in on her, she tried not to cry, but all she could think of was that she hated this new school. All six grades, seventh through twelfth, were together in the new building, and some of the older kids had immediately picked her out as a good one to torment. Just because she was shy, and her hair looked funny.

Renee backed away from the three boys. They were the worst school bullies. She’d figured that out on the first day when one of them had tried to trip her in the hall. But with her Shi’ar reflexes, she’d been able to keep her balance and not drop any of her books. They were also Seniors, and they seemed awfully big compared to her.

A hand closed on Renee’s shoulder and she jumped. Cody stepped around in front of her and faced the three. He was more than a head shorter than the smallest of them, and still boyishly slim. "Leave my sister alone!"

The bullies looked him over and started to laugh.

"Hey, this one looks like a skunk, too!"

"What are ya gonna do, skunk boy? Fight us?"

In response, Cody executed a completely passable spin kick. The boy went down with a face full of blood. Cody, too, had inherited their father’s speed and agility, and despite his size was quite capable of planting his foot in the taller boy’s chin.

"Cody, no!" Renee jumped back as the small area dissolved into chaos. Renee hated fights, but she joined in to the extent of planting her shoulder in one boy’s chest, pushing him back so that he and his friend couldn’t gang up on Cody. The boy staggered back, but then regained his balance and came after Renee with a roar. Her training kicked in, and then Renee was in it for good, until several teachers arrived to break the combatants apart.

Renee sagged against the arms that pulled her away. Another teacher held Cody by the arms. His face was smeared with blood that welled out of his nose, but other than that he looked all right. The other boys weren’t in as good of shape.

Renee cringed under the glare that Principal Morrow pinned on her. Cody had gotten in trouble for fighting before, though not in this school. And this time, they were both going to get it. It wasn’t a very auspicious start to the seventh grade, she thought.

Renee ran lightly up the mansion’s front steps, following just behind Rachel. She was grateful when Jean greeted them at the door with a cheerful smile and a hug for both girls. Rogue was off campaigning, and she wasn’t going to be home for another couple of days. Renee knew it was important for her mother to make so many trips, and that it was important that she was running for office. But deep inside, Renee hated coming home to find that her mother wasn’t there.

Frizzles bounded into the kitchen to greet the girls. The scrawny puppy had turned out to be part curly-haired terrier and part horse. He stood as tall as Renee’s hip, and his coat was a cinnamon-colored mix of straight and curly hairs. No matter how much the girls brushed him, he always looked unkempt.

"Frizzles! Get down!" Renee’s arms were full of books for a history report she had to do and she vainly tried to keep them from falling victim to the dog’s enthusiasm. She turned away, hunching her shoulders, as Frizzles did his best to get to her face. Normally, she would have gotten down to hug him and suffer the slobbery dog kisses, but she really didn’t want to drop her books.

Rachel caught Frizzles’ collar. "Here. I’ve got him."

Renee heaved a sigh. "Thanks. Just let me put these things down." She suited actions to words and dumped the entire stack on a nearby end table. "Whew!"

"How was school?" Jean asked.

Rachel shrugged. "O.k. I got a B on my math test."

"All right, Friz." Renee patted her thighs. "C’mere."

Rachel turned the straining dog loose.

"That’s good" said Jean.

Frizzles bounced across the short space, and Renee sank her fingers into his wiry coat and felt his tongue on her cheek. But his cheerful snuffling turned into a sudden squeal of pain. Renee jerked her head back to look at him, frightened by the sound. As she watched, leathery growths sprouted across his skin, swelling with terrifying speed until his fur coat was entirely swallowed up. In the space of seconds, more growths formed on top of the first, obliterating Frizzles eyes and covering his nose so completely that his jaw dropped open to allow him to breathe. The only sound he made was a piteous whine, while his body continued to mutate at a furious rate. Only then did Renee begin to feel the tingle in the palms of her hands. The sensation of something going out of her.

Horrified, Renee shoved the dog away. The nearly unrecognizable form tumbled to the floor and lay there, twitching. As if in the distance, she heard Jean order Rachel to go get Beast, but it didn’t matter. Renee already knew what had happened. She had been waiting for her powers to surface for almost a year.

Jean’s steps echoed loudly on the wood floor. She knelt down just behind Renee, and Renee could imagine Jean reaching out to comfort her. Renee ached for the gentle touch, but pure panic slammed through her as she stared at Frizzles’ ruined form.

"NO! Don’t touch me!" Renee jumped to her feet and ran for the door. Sobs shook her as she crashed down the front stairs and started across the lawn toward the trees. All she could think of was that she would never be able to touch anyone again without killing them.

The adults found Renee in the graveyard, shivering in the damp air, her tears exhausted. And though all of the X-Men gathered as the word spread that they’d found her, only Ororo and Jean approached. Behind the two women, Cody and Rachel stood with Scott, each clinging to the arm that encircled their shoulders.

Renee shrank back as Ororo knelt next to her. "He’s dead, isn’t he?" she asked without looking directly at Ororo.

"Yes." Ororo’s voice was sad.

Renee felt fresh tears well up. "I’m so sorry," was all she could think of to say. "I didn’t mean to hurt him. I—" She choked on her words and felt Ororo’s arms close around her. Terror filled her until she saw the gloves on her godmother’s hands. Then she sank into the warm embrace and cried.

Renee walked quietly through the upstairs hall. There was no way she could sleep. Not tonight. Her bare toes sank into the thick carpeting with a familiar feeling of comfort, but then she paused. Was it all right to wander around without anything on her feet? She wasn’t likely to touch anyone with them. She needed to be able to let some body head escape. The gloves and long-sleeved robe over her pajamas made her uncomfortably warm.

Renee started to turn toward her mother’s room, but then decided to go on downstairs. Rogue was likely to still be up anyway. She’d dropped everything with her campaign for a few days at least, to come be with her daughter. Renee wasn’t sure how to feel. Her mother’s eyes had filled with so much pain when she’d looked at Renee, and somehow, Renee couldn’t help but feel like she’d disappointed her in some way.

Strident voices from the living room made Renee pause while she was still on the stairs. People were arguing. Frightened, Renee crept closer. They had to be arguing about her.

"Beast, we had this conversation fifteen years ago!" Rogue sounded like she was on the verge of tears. "Y’all promised me they wouldn’t get mah powers!"

"No, Rogue." Hank sounded tired and sad. "I didn’t promise. I said it was unlikely. Remy’s Shi’ar DNA makes it harder to say for sure, but my models have always indicated that his genetic attributes would be dominant. Considering their physical appearances, I’d say that’s mostly true."


"Rogue, please calm yourself." Ororo’s voice was firm, but very gently.

"How can ah?" The question was so piercing that Renee bit her lip. From the living room, she could hear the sudden sounds of someone crying, and guessed immediately who it had to be. Unable to hide in the shadows outside the doorway any longer, Renee burst into the room.

"Momma, stop it!" She was nearly in tears herself.

Everyone turned to stare at her. Rogue’s hands flew to her mouth. "Renee... baby..." She crossed the room with uneven strides and wrapped her arms around Renee. Renee knotted her hands in the fabric of her mother’s jacket and held on to her in desperation. She was terrified by the anguish in her mother’s voice and the confusion in her eyes.

"I’m sorry, Momma," she whispered, and felt Rogue’s arms tighten almost painfully around her.

"Look! Look! Check him out!" Rachel nudged Renee rather forcefully. Renee turned her head, trying to see who Rachel was talking about, but with the throng of teenagers crowded into the tiny mall eatery, she wasn’t sure.

"Who, that guy?" Remi nodded toward the thickest part of the crowd. They were a mixture of guys and girls, mostly older than Renee.

"Which?" asked Cody.

"Blue shirt. Yankees hat." Remi sipped his soda.

"I see him," said Renee.

"Isn’t he gorgeous?" Rachel had turned sideways in her chair and crossed her legs, on the off chance, Renee supposed, that the guy might turn around and notice her. Of the four of them, she was the only one who was allowed to date, officially. Well, Remi was, too, but only on Chandilar. And that was only because he was the Prince.

"You’ve got to be kidding." Remi grinned at Rachel’s glare. "He looks like somebody stuck a tire pump up his—"

"Remi! Behave!" Renee swatted his shoulder.

Remi ducked ineffectively, his eyes never leaving Rachel. "Don’t tell me you think all that really looks good," he told her.

Rachel managed to look disgusted. ""All that’ is called muscles. And yes, I do. Renee does, too. Don’t you?"


"So why don’t you go introduce yourself?" Remi ignored Renee entirely. His smile held a dangerous challenge.

Rachel flushed bright red. "No way."


"I am not."

"Yes, you are."

"Am not."

"Are too. I dare you."

Renee stared at the maelstrom created by the portals that Cody and Remi had overlapped. The Gamemaster’s words rang in her ears with frightening implications. She wanted to wait, to think things through for a little while. But she knew there was no time.

More afraid of being left behind—being left alone—than of what might lie on the other side of the portal, Renee followed Remi into the swirling darkness. But as the sickening sensation of the portal overtook her, she felt an overwhelming sense of loss.

"We didn’t say goodbye."

Rogue grasped desperately at the memories as they slipped away. Not yet! There were so many that she wanted to hold on to, but they faded away as Renee’s consciousness returned. Renee turned her head slowly on the pillow, groggy from the effect of Rogue’s powers.

Rogue wasn’t certain she could stand to look into the girl’s eyes. Her life was so full of things Rogue had given up dreaming of. Quietly, she rose from her seat and walked to the door. With her hand on the doorknob, she paused, fighting the urge to look back. Eventually she opened the door and left.


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