"Mixed Feelings" [Movieverse, Rogue, Xavier]
Disclaimer - The X-Men belong to Marvel, and Fox also has a share in these particular versions. Heck, if they're going to make movies like that, I don't mind if they hang on to them a bit longer :).
Never thought I'd be writing Rogue fanfiction, and I kinda feel as if I'm going over old ground here, in more ways than one. But here it goes anyway . . .
This one's rated at least PG-13, maybe even R, for some rather nasty imagery in the first couple of paragraphs.
Feedback to Andraste@white-star.com
I am in the train again. We are packed in tight, relatives and strangers forced into bizarre intimacy in these, the last hours of our lives. The smell is strong in my nostrils once more, not only the smell of vomit and excrement, but the smell of death itself. Not just the death that may already be among us (for I know, in my dream state, that some will be pulled from this carriage corpses already, saving those who wait for us the trouble of gassing them), but the smell of the death that is to come. In my dream, not even the smallest child is ignorant of our destination. There is no uncertainty, only barely restrained terror or grim resignation.
Then, as always, the dream changes from a repetition of events to a true nightmare, as those around me begin to silently decay before my eyes; flesh falling from their bones, bones crumbling into dust and ashes. I turn to my parents, but all that remains of them are their skeletal hands still clutched in my own, and a scattering of gold teeth . . .
In a bed almost fifty years and several thousand miles removed from the scene in her head, Marie woke with a start and a cut off scream for the third time that night, and wished that she could fly away to Canada.
On the other side of the school, someone else woke, without moving or screaming, or even opening his eyes. He lay in bed for some time, wondering weather he could, in all conscience, stay there; decided that he couldn't, sighed, rolled over, and began the arduous process of getting himself down to the student lounge.
Marie rifled through the cupboard with growing frustration. Bad enough that she had to cope with cravings for almost-raw steak at three in the morning, now she couldn't even find what *she* wanted . . .
"If you're looking for the marshmallows, I'm afraid that John used the last of them in class, while practicing the finer control of his powers. Rather unsuccessfully, I'm afraid."
Rogue spun around, nearly leaping out of her skin. How did he *do* that, when the sound of the wheelchair should give him away?
"I was . . . uh . . . I couldn't sleep. So I got up and made hot chocolate."
He said nothing.
"Um, would you like one too?"
"That would be extremely kind of you," he said, wheeling himself over to the table and resting his elbows on it. He watched her over his steepled fingers as she found another mug and poured their drinks.
Marie sat down opposite him, and blew on her chocolate, searching her brain for a suitable topic of conversation. What were you supposed to discuss with your headmaster at this time of night? Why you hadn't handed in your latest physics assignment?
Charles Xavier sipped his drink, and she saw a flicker of surprise in his eyes. It was exactly the way he liked it.
"Perfect," he said. And that was all.
Of course, she could also discuss Cerebro's programming, or point out for the thousandth time why his foolish plan for human / mutant peace was doomed to fail . . .
"Would you like to tell me how long you've been having his nightmares for? Or why you haven't come to me for help?" the Professor asked gently.
Rogue blushed and looked away from his strong, steady gaze.
"I really didn't want to bother you . . ."
". . . and I am not Wolverine," he finished for her.
She started and looked back at him earnestly.
"Professor, you're a great teacher, and you've taken me in . . ."
". . . but the person you actually *want* to pour your heart out to is some hundreds of miles distant, heading north on a stolen motorcycle. I quite understand."
She stopped again, a sliver of suspicion entering her head. Did she feel that faint, barely experienced, yet oddly familiar, tickle in her brain?
"No, I'm not reading your mind," the Professor said again, favouring her with another smile.
She wasn't going to fall for *that* one.
"Then how the heck did you know that I was thinking you were?"
Suddenly, his expression was deadly serious.
"Because, dear child, I have seen that look far too many times not to recognise it. Believe me, I would not dream of prying into your mind. I am only sorry that even my shields are sometimes not equal to the task of keeping everyone's thoughts and dreams at bay."
She looked deep into her hot chocolate, as if there might be some answers hidden there. Part of her was ashamed of her accusation. The other parts pointed out that he had just *admitted* to reading her thoughts, accidentally or not, and that she should really build herself a helmet to block his probes, or maybe just threaten to gut him.
"It's OK. I know what it's like not to be able to control your powers."
Charles stretched a hand across the table until it lay uncomfortably close to her own.
"Marie, if you are worried, you know that you are free to talk to me at any time. Or to any of the current and former students - you are not the only person here who has had trouble adjusting."
Marie felt anger and frustration, only partly her own, boil up inside her.
"But, don't you see, it's not the same for you! I know everyone's got their problems, but no-one else put the first boy they kissed into a coma. I'll probably never get to kiss another one. That's what you think, isn't it," she said, unable to keep the accusatory tone out of her voice, "that I'll never be able to touch anyone?"
Xavier leaned back in his wheelchair, brushing his fingers against the armrests lightly but deliberately.
"It is possible that your powers are indeed uncontrollable, but we have yet to establish that for certain. You might be surprised at how many things in life can be overcome with a little creativity and perseverance."
All the people in Marie's head had to grudgingly concede *that* point. They certainly believed that you could get a long way on sheer stubbornness. Maybe he did understand, after all.
"Was it hard for you? Getting your powers, that is."
"I can honestly say that developing telepathy was the most frightening experience of my life," he said, encircling his mug with both hands, "and that for the first six months, I was afraid that I would drown in the voices that filled my head."
Marie looked at him consideringly. It was hard to imagine the man before her, full of charisma and apparent equilibrium, as a frightened child. Yet she had seen him, so much younger, in Erik's memories . . .
"I guess that's what scares me too. I mean, everyone has to change when they get their powers, but I'm scared that soon there won't even *be* a me anymore. It's not just wanting to drink beer or knowing how to speak German; it's their ways of thinking about everything. Like now I'm just bits of Cody and Logan and Erik . . ."
She paused, somewhat startled that she had used his first name. Yet it was hard to think of someone you shared the inside of your skull with by anything else.
"I take it that it is Erik's dreams that have troubled you tonight?"
She sighed. "Yeah. I guess Logan didn't have enough memories to fill his own brain, let alone mine. But Magneto . . . he's got a good, strong voice in there, I'll give him that."
Charles chuckled, and developed a nostalgic look in his eyes.
"He always was a strong-minded man, perhaps stronger than anyone I have ever known. Sharing his nightmares was one of the lesser prices I paid for our association."
"I . . . you were his best friend, weren't you?"
She thought about pointing out that Erik still thought of him like that; but he probably already knew.
"He was my colleague, my friend - my brother, he always used to say. That all mutants were of one blood was what he generally meant, however."
"You've known him a long time, haven't you?"
Magneto's later and happier memories weren't as strong in her mind as his nightmares, but she could see his time with Charles spread out like a series of photos in an album.
"I was about your age, when we met, and he was not a terrorist then. Just a frightened young mutant, as was I. When I found him, I did not even have a word for what we were."
His voice dropped almost to a whisper.
"After his powers manifested when the brought him to Auschwitz, they took him to Mengele. He spent the remainder of the war in the laboratories with the doctor's other human rats; but he never showed them his powers again. After the liberation; he ran from everyone. Eventually, God knows how, he reached Paris. From there he came to America, to New York, and to me."
He paused for a long moment, until the silence grew uncomfortable.
"Tell me, how well do you understand his beliefs, his experiences?"
She shuddered, knowing that if she'd seen half the things he's seen without the distance of nightmares, she would have gone crazy. But he hadn't gone crazy, or not in any way she could understand. What had scared her most when he'd kidnapped her was how *calm* he was, how rational all his plans seemed from his point of view.
"I think I understand, now, why he thinks that there'll be a war. Why he thought killing me was worth it. He kept thinking of how many dead children there would be if he didn't intervene now. But . . . I know that people aren't the way he thinks they are. Not all of them, anyway. Like Logan - he's done some bad things, but he's a good person."
"We are fortunate, Marie, that our powers let us know that for certain. I fear that I could never make Erik understand that his experiences, while appalling, were not typical - that there was more to the human race than that."
"I guess I never thought of that. I'd like to be alone in my head, but it's good to be sure that there really are other people behind all those faces on the street."
She thought of Logan again. "People who care about me."
"That is a good lesson to bear in mind, child. I am certain that, in time, you will learn to deal with your powers better. In the mean time, I can use my telepathy to ensure that you sleep more soundly in future."
"Thanks," she said, her own honest gratitude quickly silencing any reservations about letting him read her mind.
He pushed his empty mug away, a subtle change in posture signaling to Rogue that their talk was somehow over, that they were back to their daytime teacher / student association from this point on. She felt rather relieved.
"Now, Marie, I think that it would be best for us to go back to bed. You wouldn't want to fail your Geography test in the morning, would you?"
"No, Professor. I guess not."
She got up to leave, filing away the Geography test she hadn't actually studied for, along with the more pressing problems of the evening, to be worried over tomorrow.
Putting the mugs into the sink and filling them with water, she turned to talk to her headmaster once again.
"Professor? Do you think that I could see Erik, next time you visit him in prison?"
Charles Xavier raised an eyebrow in mild surprise.
"I'm not entirely sure that would be a good idea. The authorities were very reluctant indeed to allow me to do so, and I don't want to draw attention to you by taking you there. I'm not certain that I managed to wipe your face from the minds of all those who saw you kidnapped at the train station."
She turned to go.
"Marie? What was it that you wanted to tell him?"
"Just that . . . I don't know. That I understand, I suppose. After all, I've *been* him."
Charles Xavier rolled himself out of the door, and turned his chair down the corridor.
"I will pass your message on, child."
Marie flicked the lights off, and went back to bed, to rest easier.