|John Kress KRESSJA@ctrvax.Vanderbilt.Edu
Wed, 12 Apr 1995
Rogue: Day One
Here's a story about Rogue, and how she came to join the X-Men. Enjoy. Comments, criticisms and suggestions welcome.
[Rogue, the X-Men and all constituent characters coptwrite 1995 Marvel Comics Group. This story is not for profit. Distribution and reproduction without the author's consent is fine, so long as it isn't for profit.]
Rogue: Day One
It's funny how the past looks different when you look back on it than it did when you were really there -- like how one of the days you thought was one of the worst of your life turns out to be one of the best... or at least one that turns out for the best, in the long run. I guess maybe there's truth to that old saying about going through suffering's making you a better person; I like to think that I'm a better person now than I was then, but whether that's true or not, one thing's for sure -- I was going through my fair share of suffering at the time.
The thing that really made up my mind to leave was the dream. Now I'm no stranger to bad dreams, and that was more true then than now, but _this_ dream was like nothing I'd ever experienced before ... mostly because it wasn't me who experienced it, at least not the first time around. But I'm already starting to get ahead of myself....
There wasn't anything different about the night itself, at least not that I remember. I'd been upset that evening -- but that was pretty common in those days. Earlier that day, I'd had an 'episode', and that was what really had me keyed up. I don't know if that had anything to do with what happened later, but it sure couldn't've helped matters, and it does explain my mood that night.
Right after dinner, I'd been going through some boxes of my old stuff, just digging around in my closet, when I dug up some of my old tapes -- things I hadn't listened to in years. Mostly they were a bunch of bands that I'd either outgrown or else'd replaced with CDs -- but I'd listened to them all the time when I was younger, and I'd never thrown any of 'em away. I had few enough keepsakes as it was.
I started fishing through the box to see what all was in it. The first thing I pulled out was Duran Duran's "Seven and the Ragged Tiger" -- I'd really liked it a few years ago, but that was kind of embarrassing now. There was also some less 'pop' stuff: a couple of old Nazgul albums, some Blackoak Arkansas, some Joan Jett tapes and even a copy of Lila Cheney's first album, back when her stuff was a lot less technically proficient than it is now, but also a lot rawer and more intense.
So I was going through my tapes, thinking how much fun they'd been to listen to, and generally thinking about the good feelings associated with what was probably the happiest time in my life: the first few years after Mystique and Destiny had taken me in. Given all that I was having to deal with then, I welcomed the excuse to just let myself drift back to simpler days, days when I didn't have a worry in the world.
As I sat there looking my tapes over and kind of reminiscing, it occurred to me to wonder where my record albums were as well. That sent a little pang of anxiety through me: I really couldn't think where I'd put them. That was particularly distressing since I had every last one of the Beatles' full-sized records, and it'd really taken some effort get them all. _Well, they're a lot bigger than tapes_, I thought, _It shouldn't be too hard to find them_.
With that thought, I started going through the closet in earnest, turning things over, and spilling boxes out everywhere, all with no success. I was fixing to be really upset if my albums had gotten thrown away -- I'd always regarded it as something of a moral victory that I'd managed to hang on to them as long as I had, after all the arguments I'd had with dad about playing them, when he'd repeatedly threatened to throw them away --
_Dad_? The realization was sudden and startling, like having a bucket of ice water dumped on you. _I don't_ have _a dad_.
It all came apart from there, one thought tumbling after the next. _Of course_ my albums weren't here. They'd _never been here_. I'd never even owned any albums, 'cause Mystique had first bought me a cassette deck and then later a CD player -- never a record player. I didn't even like the Beatles... and I'd certainly never had arguments with my father over them; I'd never had a father to have arguments with. These were all _Carol's memories_.
I tired to block the images out, but they just kept coming. Pictures of good times and bad times, times with family and friends, memories of childhood joy and disappointment, paraded in my head -- but it was all a cruel lie. None of these memories had anything to do with my life, but I couldn't shut them out, couldn't stop reliving them. Not only that, but a part of me didn't _want_ to shut them out, since they were memories of a life which in a lot of ways was a lot better'n mine had been. These were memories of a life that I'd not only never had, but that I _could never have_, no matter how much I might've wanted to.
I let out a shriek of mixed anger and frustration, and started kicking things around and generally pitching a fit. It seemed like nothing in life was ever going to be fair, and that all I could do about it was scream and yell and hit things -- nothing out of the ordinary for a troubled seventeen year-old, I suppose, but I was a troubled seventeen year-old mutant, and that puts a whole diff'rent spin on things.
Y'see, the thing that makes my tantrums different from most folks's is that I can lift somewhere upward of fifty tons and punch my fist through steel plate without so much as bruising a knuckle. When you consider that, and then you consider the durability of your average household furniture -- or the durability of your average house for that matter -- you get an idea of the kind of destruction I can cause when I cut loose.
Fortunately, I didn't get an opportunity to do too much damage before an angry voice snapped, "Rogue! Control yourself!"
I stopped and looked up from the pile of flinders that a moment before had been my chest o' drawers. Mystique was standing in the doorway, fuming. "Haven't I taught you the importance of keeping your temper? If Irene hadn't sensed this... this childish outburst a moment ago, who knows but you might have brought the entire house down on us, before you were stopped." Destiny stood behind her, her head tilted the better to hear what was going on. "But Mama," I protested, guilty realization of what I'd been doing settling me down, "I can't get _her_ out o' my head. I keep thinkin' her thoughts."
"That is no excuse for this sort of behavior, Rogue," she said. "Your mutant absorption power has permanently integrated Carol Danvers' memory into your own mind. You must learn to deal with this."
"But you don't understand what it's _like_," I said, sobbing. "It's not just information. Sometimes it's like I'm her and me at the same time, and I can't tell us apart." I looked at Mystique through a haze of tears. "Why won't she leave me alone, Mama?"
"Raven," Destiny said, speaking at just the right moment before Mystique could reply, "Though I am blind, I often see matters more clearly than others. Rogue is deeply upset. This incident is but an occasion of her ongoing difficulty." She put her hand on Mystique's shoulder. "Be gentle."
There was a brief struggle on Mystique's face between anger and sympathy -- sympathy finally won out, and I could see the fury drain from her face. I guess I looked pretty pitiful anyway, and that probably helped some. She sighed, and then came over to me and took me in her arms. "Everything is all right, Rogue," she said, "I understand how hard this has been for you." She looked into my eyes. "But you must realize that such displays of rage only compound the problem."
I nodded weakly. She was right of course, but how was I supposed to control my temper when I couldn't even control who was in my head from moment to moment?
She held me reassuringly close -- one of those hugs that almost makes you believe that everything's going to be all right, even when you know it's not so -- almost. "We will continue to seek help for your problem, daughter," she said. "We will get through this... together. Irene and I are your family, and we will always be here for you." Destiny nodded from the doorway.
I didn't have anything else to say, and I really needed the hug, so I just stood there as Mama held me and cried in her arms. Deep down, I knew there wasn't a blamed thing that she or Destiny could do to help me, and that made me cry all the harder.
Mystique shook her head, wondering what to do about her foster daughter. There was no doubt that Rogue's mental condition was deteriorating. Her mood swings were becoming more frequent and more pronounced, alternating between violent rages and severe depressions -- very unlike the brash and vivacious young girl that Mystique had raised these past several years. Certainly, Rogue's recent obsession with the mutant songstress Dazzler, and her repeated failures to best the woman (Mystique could only attribute _that_ to Rogue's unstable psychological condition), had only exacerbated the situation. And this evening's fit of temper...
Mystique sighed, and resigned herself to the fact that the solution to Rogue's problems would not be forthcoming that evening. _Rogue's problems are not strictly psychiatric in nature_, she thought as she climbed the stairs to the room she shared with Irene, _The difficulty is due to Rogue's mutant power. What she needs is someone who not only has an understanding of the special problems involved with mutants, but who is_ also _capable of examining her mind in order to determine the extent of the damage her incorporation of Danvers' psyche has caused_...
She cut the thought off -- there was only one man she could think of who satisfied both requirements... and it would be a dark day in Hell before she'd let _him_ get his hands on another of her children. But if not him, then who? Irene had already contacted a mutant esper, through her connections in the mutant underground, but all they'd been able to learn from him was that since absorbing Ms. Marvel's abilities, their daughter had acquired a nearly impenetrable mind-shield... a situation at which Mystique would have been overjoyed in any other circumstances. It was as if fate was mocking her... or else Danvers was, damn her to Hell.
Irene was already in bed when Mystique entered the room, reading, her long, thin fingers caressing the pages as they glided over the raised rows of braille characters. She finished the chapter she was reading and set the book aside mere seconds after Mystique came in, just as she always did, since, just as she always did, she had begun reading at exactly the right moment so as to finish at the same time that Mystique came to bed. Their long years of companionship had accustomed Mystique to Irene's precognitive abilities, after a fashion, but that made them no less astonishing or remarkable... and no less valuable to the Brotherhood.
"Raven," Irene said, understanding her preoccupation, "we are doing all we can to help Rogue, and we will continue to do so. You must not torment yourself needlessly." Mystique never knew if Irene's uncanny ability to sense her thoughts and worries stemmed from her mutant power to 'see' the future, or simply from their long, intimate acquaintance. "Perhaps Rogue's problems will resolve themselves, in time."
"Is that what you've 'seen', Irene?" she said, crossing the room. Sitting on the bed, she took Irene's hands in hers.
"Rogue's future is not clear to me," Irene said, "I believe that Ms. Marvel's own precognitive abilities, which Rogue logically must have assimilated, are interfering with my own -- at least as far as Rogue's long-term possibilities are concerned."
Mystique considered this. "In all these months, we've seen no indication that Rogue possesses such an ability..." she said.
"Not consciously, at any rate," said Irene. "Perhaps its use is only negative, so as to prevent Rogue's future from being accurately discerned by a precog such as myself. Or perhaps she makes use of it on a subconscious level, without even being aware that she does so."
"That could explain it," Mystique granted. "If only we had some way to examine her mind..."
"But we do not," Irene said. "I am afraid, Raven, that, mutant powers notwithstanding, we shall simply have to cope with raising a daughter in the 'old fashioned way', by trial and error... unless of course, you think the problem is serious enough that you'd consider sending her to --"
"No!" Mystique snapped. "_We_ are Rogue's parent's, and _we_ shall deal with her problem." She softened immediately. "I'm sorry Irene, I didn't mean to snap at you."
"No offense taken, Raven. I understand your possessiveness of Rogue. We need not pursue the thought." She smiled impishly. "Perhaps I'm simply becoming senile in my old age."
Mystique smiled and ran her hand through Irene's hair, which over the years she'd watched turn from a deep, chestnut brown to today's silver-gray. In the course of their long relationship, she'd felt guilty from time to time that her own mutant shape-shifting ability regenerated her cell-structure, fantastically increasing her longevity, whereas Irene aged normally, growing older while she stood nearly still. It was Irene who had never minded this state of affairs, who had often chided her for worrying about it, and made a jest of it whenever she or Mystique brought it up, as she did now. "Dear heart," said Mystique, laughing, "if you were going to go senile, you'd have predicted it ten years ago."
"I would at that," Irene replied, still smiling. "At least I _was_ able to predict that you would be in need of something to take your mind off your worries tonight."
"And so you planned to tell me jokes?" Mystique said, amused.
"That, among other things..." Irene said, her long, delicate fingers caressing the neck of bedside lamp, as they gently slid up to the switch and flicked it off.
It's amazing how crying can tire a body out. After I'd had a good, long cry, Mystique and Destiny comforting me as best they knew how, I was ready to call it a night. Not only was I dog tired, I really wanted the day to be _over_ -- just so I wouldn't have to deal with it any more. _Things'll look better tomorrow_, I told myself. _But they won't_ be _any better_, I added bitterly.
As it turned out, I was wrong on both counts.
Even tired as I was, sleep was a long time in coming. I was exhausted, but at the same time I was wired up with nervous energy. I was also a little afraid of sleep, seeing as how when I'd dream, my own memories and Carol's'd get all jumbled together, and I'd dream about places I'd never been or people I'd never met.
That wasn't too bad when I was asleep, since it all seemed natural then, but it was really awful sometimes to wake up and not know who you are for awhile. Fortunately, I almost never remember my dreams after I wake up, but that night, when I did finally drift off to sleep, it was into a dream that'll haunt me 'til the day I die.
You've got to understand that it never even occurred to me that I might be dreaming. It was just too real -- the experience was far more intense than any ordinary dream, although to this day I don't know why that was. I never doubted for a second the reality of what was happening, and it's important to understand that, so you can understand the effect it had on my emotional condition -- which was none too steady in the first place.
I remember dreaming that I'd just gotten back from a trip to the supermarket...
I was carrying three bags of groceries as I opened the little gate to the enclosed courtyard I shared with my neighbor Martha and stepped inside, closing the gate behind me. I made my way along the little brick pathway to the front door of my flat, and as I was trying to get ahold of my mail with my left hand, I felt Ms. Marvel stirring inside me, trying to get out. _Stop it_, I thought savagely. _I want nothing to do with you_.
She and I had been becoming closer to one another ever since she had first manifested, ever since the accident which had overlaid the Kree Captain Mar-Vell's genetic structure on mine. At first, living with Ms. Marvel was akin to being two people who shared one body, but as I grew to accept her and what she stood for, and as she recovered more and more of my memories, and understood Mar-Vell's to be alien, a side-effect of her creation, we'd grown steadily together almost to the point of there being no distinction between Carol Danvers and Ms. Marvel at all.
My experience with Marcus had changed all that. He had been a godlike man-child who conceived a mad desire for me, which he was foolish enough to think was love. He used strange machines, created by his father Immortus, the mysterious ruler of the dimension called Limbo, in order to bend my mind to him, to make me love him, as he thought he loved me. Not satisfied with that, he next used Immortus' machines to force-grow a new body for himself, so that he could escape to earth. My body, he decided, would be his ticket out of Limbo -- in less than three days, against my will, I was made to undergo a full term of pregnancy, and to give birth to a child which had no father but himself.
However, Marcus' attempt to escape ended in disastrous failure, and he was forced to return to Limbo. Unable to face the lonely emptiness of that place alone, he used his machines to "convince" me to go back with him, as something of a consolation prize, I suppose. But Marcus was too clever for his own good -- in aligning his body with earth's time stream, even imperfectly, he'd misaligned himself with Limbo. Aging at a fantastic rate, he was dead within a week of our return.
Utilizing Ms. Marvel's knowledge of Kree technology -- Mar-Vell's knowledge really -- I'd been able to figure out enough about Immortus' devices to return myself to earth. After that, Ms. Marvel and I had become increasingly estranged. I'd been through more emotional stress than anyone should ever have to deal with, and I blamed her for it. She'd go charging off on this or that mission or adventure, and I'd end up suffering as a result. I vowed no more; I wanted to be done with her, with superheroes, with Kree warrior ideals, with the Avengers, with all of it. I wanted simply to get on with my life, with _Carol Danvers' life_, _not_ Ms. Marvel's life.
She'd been quiescent for several weeks, and I was beginning to think that I'd heard the last of her, but here she was trying all of a sudden to get control of me, me trying to get inside my house with the week's groceries. _Leave me alone_, I thought as I raised my right knee to balance two of the bags and began to dig for my keys with my right hand. _Stay out of my life_.
I'd just gotten my keys out of my pocket when I heard a female voice behind me say, "Ah've got you now, you Yankee witch." I felt hands grabbing from behind, clutching at my face -- and the instant they touched me I was paralyzed.
I tried to scream but managed no more than a gasp, as all the energy in my body began to flow out of me and into my attacker. Someone was _draining away my life_. To my horror, that was not all: my mind, my consciousness, my _very being_ was being ripped away from me at the same time.
Words fail me to describe the awful, sickening quality of the experience. It was like falling unconscious, but much more horrible; I was being smothered in an enveloping numbness, losing not only feeling, but the very awareness of feeling. The light within my mind was being _extinguished_, and all I had left was the dimming awareness that I'd soon be gone, perhaps never to reawaken.
I made an effort to struggle, but I hadn't the strength even to raise a hand. It was no use: I was helpless and dying, someone was killing me, and I didn't even know why. I wanted to scream, to fight, to cry, to do anything at all rather than simply let myself die, but I couldn't. My consciousness began to flicker out like a dying candle-flame. _It isn't fair! I don't want to die!_ I cried out silently, hopelessly, as I spiraled down into darkness.
I went limp in my attacker's arms as I felt the last of my mind, all that was left of _me_, being sucked away into the blackness. My last dim awareness was one of light as... I succeeded in forcing the change. _Hala, Carol!_ I thought. _Would you rather die than make peace with me?_
I had no time to waste considering my recent difficulties with Carol. The assassin had to be dispatched quickly, before she had a chance to do to me what she'd done to Carol. _And if she has harmed Carol_, I thought grimly, _Ms. Marvel shall make her pay dearly for it_.
I reached behind me and grabbed hold of my assailant, throwing my body forward as I did so. One of the first things they teach you at the Imperial Academy on Kree-Lar is not to attack your opponent from above, since it leaves you particularly vulnerable to having your own weight used against you. Given this principle, and the fact that I am far stronger than either human or Kree, it was a simple matter for me to throw my attacker over my back and out towards the street.
The woman flew at least forty feet, clearing both the courtyard fence and the street, and impacted with bone-jarring force on the steps of the building opposite mine. A heartbeat later, I was flying after her, my hands raised in attack position, automatically preparing to kill or maim my enemy, as I had been trained to do. The vague thought flitted across my mind that Carol had sworn never again to take a life, but I was a Kree-born warrior, and sympathy for an enemy was madness -- such thoughts were weakness. I paused only to take stock of my foe.
She was a young woman, little more than a cadet's age, dressed all in green, with a matching pair of white stripes streaking short, brown hair. She was lying very still, her body twisted at a painful angle on the steps. I recognized her as Rogue, a member of the so-called Brotherhood of Evil Mutants -- one of Mystique's henchmen. I'd battled them not long before my encounter with Immortus' mad bastard. Mystique, the Brotherhood's leader, hated Carol Danvers past all reason and had employed the Brotherhood in an attempt on her life -- but she had not reckoned with the power of Ms. Marvel. During the conflict, I'd incapacitated most of the Brotherhood, including Rogue, whom Mystique had seemed willing to sacrifice in her insane hatred.
Mystique had obvously learned of my return to earth, and had once more sent her mutant minions to attack me. _It is improbable that Rogue is alone_, I thought, as I flew to where she lay. She wasn't moving at all, which was not surprising considering the force with which I'd thrown her. For all her mutant energy draining power she was no more durable than an ordinary human, and she was most likely dead or unconscious. I bent to examine her, while scanning about me for other members of the Brotherhood, who might be waiting in the wings.
She was alive, and remarkably, although unconscious, she appeared to be substantially uninjured. Perhaps she had managed to acquire a degree of my invulnerability, when she'd attacked Carol? That thought led to another: what exactly had she done to Carol, anyway? What had she done to me?
Frowning, I tried to ascertain Carol's condition. Normally, when I change, "Carol Danvers" becomes a dormant presence "inside" of Ms. Marvel. I've never known if we were really two distinct personalities -- sometimes it seemed so, and sometimes not.
But now, things were different. I could detect no sign of Carol's presence within me. Alarmed, I tried to draw from Carol's memories, which I'd been able to do since shortly after Carol had first been transformed, only to find that I could not. I realized with a shock that I had no memory or awareness apart from memories I'd accumulated since becoming Ms. Marvel, and the alien memories I'd 'borrowed' from the Kree warrior Mar-Vell. Of Carol Danvers, there was nothing left.
As I stood desparately trying to detect some trace of Carol's self within me, I noticed too late that Rogue had recovered consciousness. Suddenly, while I was distracted, she reached up and grabbed hold of my bare shoulder. "Honey," she said. "you picked a bad time to go nappin'."
For the second time that night I felt the awful pull of Rogue's mutant ability. She was draining my energy and my mind just as she had done to Carol. I could feel strength and memories and thoughts slipping away from me -- instinctively, obedient to hours of training on Kree-Lar, I struck out at her, as hard as I could.
I don't know why Ms. Marvel wasn't paralyzed in the same way that Carol Danvers had been, but my arm responded, and I delivered a punch to Rogue which should have killed her outright. As it was, I knocked her almost a block and a half, down the street towards the Golden Gate Bridge. As I flew up into the air, I could see her shakily trying to regain her feet.
"Oh no you don't!" I cried, diving at her. She'd gotten up on one leg when I hit her again, knocking her into the air once more, this time as far as the entrance ramp of the bridge.
As I rocketed toward her harsh awareness of what she'd done burned inside of me. This time, she'd emptied my mind completely -- there was nothing left, nothing of Carol, nothing of Mar-Vell, nothing even of Ms. Marvel -- except for awareness of the past ten minutes, my mind was an utter void.
Everything that makes life meaningful, loves and hates and friendships and a sense of yourself, of who you are -- all that was gone was, ripped from me by this mind-stealing, mutant harlot. In a real sense, I had just been killed, but since I wasn't physically dead, I was also newly born -- and I was a creature of the circumstances of my birth, born out of pain and loss, anger and hatred. Inside the emptiness of my mind, expanding to fill that blank void, there was a blinding, murderous rage. I embraced it as it filled me. After all, my anger and my hatred at what had been done to me were all that was left of me, were all that I was.
"Calot-spawn! You've destroyed me!" I shrieked, insane with fury, hurtling after Rogue. "You've stolen my life!"
Rogue had regained her feet once more, and stood unsteadily, clutching an embankment railing, looking at me with an expression of fear and amazement. I didn't care.
"That's it! Get up, so I can knock you down again!" I screamed, crashing into Rogue for a third time. She had no chance to avoid me. This time I knocked her a fair distance out onto the bridge itself.
She must have absorbed some degree of my superhuman resistance to injury, because I was hitting her hard enough to pulverize tanks, and all it was doing was staggering her. _Very well_, I thought, _I'll hit her as many times as it takes, as many times as it takes to finish it_. I flew over the bridge, landing next to her as she lay against the rail.
She hadn't been able to get to her feet this time, so I grabbed her collar in my left hand, and picked her up, dangling her in front of me, my right hand cocked to deliver a devastating blow.
"Please..." she said weakly, finding her voice. In other circumstances such a plea would surely have touched some chord of pity or mercy in Carol, or in Mar-Vell, or even in Ms. Marvel -- but now they were gone. Now there was only me, and I was nothing but pure fury and hatred... and vengeance.
"It's too late for that," I said coldly, and hit her again. The blow sent her angling from one side of the bridge to the other edge, smashing her _through_ the trailer of a passing truck. She landed hard, and it was fairly clear that she wasn't going to be able to get up without help.
Once more, I flew to her side. I could see from the look in her eyes that she understood my intent, and I found satisfaction in that knowledge. Once more, I took hold of her collar preparatory to knocking her off the bridge and into the icy waters of the San Francisco Bay below. Once more, I drew back my arm to strike her, this time for the final time.
Desperation must have given her strength, because she groped wildly with her hand and managed get hold of my face. The realization was instantaneous: _If I let her drain me, I'm finished_. We fell to the ground, locked together, and as we dropped, I let go of her collar and took hold of her windpipe, trying with all my strength to throttle her.
It was a last, desperate effort, on both our parts. Each of us was making an all or nothing attempt to finish the other. It was really only a question of whether or not I could snap her neck before she could drain off enough energy to keep me from doing it. It was a race between Kree-born fury and mutant power. For a few, agonizing seconds the outcome was in doubt, but then I felt myself weakening, losing my grip, while Rogue's grew firmer, fiercer.
_No!_ I thought. _Not now! I've come too far to fail, now!_ But it was too late. I could feel what little was left of my psyche beginning to discorporate. I sagged in Rogue's arms. _I'm sorry Carol_, I thought as blackness claimed me for the final time, _I've failed you. I've failed us both_....
"Nooooo!" I screamed, jerking awake, my heart pounding a mile a minute. I was breathing in ragged gasps and covered in a cold sweat. I thought I was dying for sure.
I sat up in bed, trembling, clutching the blanket around me, trying to get a grip on myself. I was shaking uncontrollably. _It was a dream_, I told myself. _I'm okay... I'm okay... It was just a dream...._
After a bit, I began to calm down a little and accept the idea that I was home in bed, and not fighting for my life up on the Golden Gate Bridge. But as immediate panic and fear for my life began to die down, the full horror of what I'd been dreaming about started to dawn on me: I'd just experienced myself being killed, not once but three times -- and it'd been real as could be -- it felt the same as if it'd really happened.
And that was the most horrible part of it, because I knew it _had_ happened. I wanted it to be just some awful, awful dream, but it wasn't just a dream. In my heart of hearts, I _knew_ that that'd been exactly what had happened, that what I'd just experienced was exactly what Carol had experienced when she died -- when I killed her. All that pain and terror and loss, all she'd gone through, and it was all my fault.
They say that the essence of moral awareness is being able to see things from another person's point of view. I'd been bitter over what my accidentally stealing Carol's memories'd done to me, over being driven crazy on account of it, but I'd never really let myself think about what it must've been like for her. And now all of a sudden I knew, and knew more intimately than I'd ever've wanted to. I'd just lived through all her pain and terror with her, _as her_, and I'd seen myself through her eyes, as she'd seen me then. And I sure didn't like what I saw.
Everything that I was going through wasn't anything compared to what I'd done to her that night. I hadn't meant for it to happen, hadn't really been aware of what I was doing -- but that was beside the point. I was responsible for my actions, and whatever I was suffering as a result was no more'n I deserved.
_Oh Carol!_ I curled up on my bed, sobbing. _Oh I'm sorry, I'm so sorry. I'd give anything for it never to'a've happened_.
By the time I'd finished my second cry of the night, I knew I had to leave. I knew that I couldn't stay there with Mama and Irene anymore, or I'd go mad for sure. Maybe not that day, or the next day, or the day after that, but little by little, just as sure as the sun comes up. I didn't think I could face many more bouts with Carol's memories. Now that I'd seen things from her side, I knew I wouldn't be able to blame it all on her anymore, which'd been the way I'd been trying to keep myself sane. I also wasn't sure I was up to putting the blame for my problems where deep down I knew it belonged.
I went to my closet (which was still a mess from earlier) and fished out my old, leather duffle-bag. Then I went around my room packing everything I could fit into it, everything that I'd want to take with me. I did all this pretty mechanically, without really letting the idea that I was planning to run away from home sink in.
When I'd packed what I could, I put on my costume and my coat, shouldered my bag, opened my window and dove out into the cold night air. As usual, there was a rush of excitement as my body caught the wind and succeeded in ignoring gravity. There's no thrill quite like flying under your own power.
I shot up into the air, but then stopped and looked back at the home I was leaving. My eyes, which were already red from crying so much, misted over with tears again. Living with Mystique and Irene had been the only real family I'd ever had, and here I was running away from them. _Please understand_, I said silently to them, _I gotta do this, or my life'll be as good as over anyway_.
Turning around, I dropped back down to the side of the house, next to the window of Mystique and Irene's room. Hovering just outside, I could barely make out their sleeping forms in the dark bedroom. I kissed the window softly. "Bye Irene," I whispered. "Bye Mama. I love you."
With that, I flew out into the world, leaving behind everything and everyone that I'd ever loved.
As I flew high above Washington, I tried to figure out what to do next. I knew I needed help, and more than Mystique could provide for me at home, but the question was where I could get it. Running away wouldn't do a whole heck of a lot of good if it didn't help me to get my head straight. I ran over my options as I flew across town to the bus station. They were few and far between.
I thought about going to the Avengers for help, even though I'd fought them in the past, and they'd probably try to arrest me. After all, two of their members, Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch, had been members of the original Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, and the Avengers'd accepted them, in spite of their past. Maybe I'd have a shot with them, especially if I could talk to the Beast -- he was one of the most compassionate people I'd ever met, mutant or human...
_Whoa_, I thought, _hold_ that _thought_. I'd never met the Beast, or any of the Avengers, except on the other side of a pitched battle. Any impressions I had of what they were like would've been Carol's, from her days as one of them. Ms. Marvel had had a place with the Avengers. _And I'm the one who killed her_, I thought. _Stole her powers and used 'em to attack the Avengers_. No matter how nice they'd been to Carol, they certainly wouldn't welcome ry. No help there.
Who then? There was Magneto, who was sorta informally recognized as the protector of all mutants everywhere -- he'd certainly be able to figure out what was wrong with my powers, if anyone could, but even assuming I could reach him, who knows how he'd react? He'd always fought for the cause of mutantkind, but I had no idea what he'd do if a half-crazy young mutant member of the group that had swiped his group's name showed up on his doorstep and asked for help....
_Prob'ly tell me to take a hike_, I thought. _On the other hand, who knows? Maybe we'd hit it off_. I smiled at the idea of me being friends with the most powerful and dangerous mutant in the world.
But even if I was willing to give it a shot, I didn't have the faintest idea where or how to get in touch with him. Magneto hadn't been seen or heard of since his attempt to blackmail the world into nuclear disarmament a couple of years back. No one knew what'd happened to him since then, or even whether he was alive or dead. So that pretty much left him out of the picture.
Besides which, even though my powers were the ultimate source of my problems, they weren't the direct cause. My problem was with my head, what with it having one too many people inside of it. What I needed was somebody who could help with that, and _also_ help me get my powers under control.
Much as I didn't want to admit it, there was only one person in the world who fit the bill: Charles Xavier, the mutant telepath who led the Brotherhood's worst enemies, the X-Men.
I'd never met the man, but Mystique sure had no love for him, although I didn't entirely understand why. Certainly, he and the X-Men had defeated the Brotherhood back when Mystique was out to knock off the anti-mutant senator Robert Kelly ("Told you so," I'd said, "told you you should have let me come with y'all."), but Mystique seemed to have something personal against him. She was convinced (or at least pretended to be) that he used his mental powers to brainwash the X-Men into being loyal to him, and betraying the cause of mutants everywhere.
On the other hand, Destiny pretty clearly respected the man, even if she thought he was misguided and overly idealistic -- not to mention just too darn rich to really understand the problems of the majority of mutants. "If only he'd lived through Vichy," I once overheard her say in an argument with Mystique about him.
In fact, it occurred to me to wonder whether Destiny hadn't dropped his name for my benefit -- it's real hard to eavesdrop on somebody who can sense the future -- especially since Mystique'd go ballistic whenever anybody brought his name up. It wasn't like Destiny to irritate people without a reason.
But that was probably just wishful thinking on my part. What it was was that I already knew deep down that Xavier and the X-Men were the only people I could really turn to, even before I'd thought seriously about going anywhere. Going to the Avengers would be a dumb thing to do -- and hey, this gal's no fool -- and Magneto was just an idle fancy.
Mystique's theory about brainwashing or no, Xavier had a reputation in the mutant underground as being a compassionate man who'd stop at nothing to help a fellow mutant, and the X-Men were pretty much the nearest thing that the world had to a mutant superhero team. In a weird sort of way, even the mutants who didn't agree with the integrationist ideal that the X-Men stood for kinda felt proud on account of them. And that applied to me too -- I mean, sure, I'd wanted to take them on and all, but that was mostly because the X-Men were the people to beat in the mutant community. They more or less set the standard.
I dropped out of the air in a dingy alley out back of the Greyhound station, startling the heck out of an old wino, who was lying back in the shadows there. "Sorry, sugah," I told him, and left him a couple of bucks for a half-decent meal somewhere.
Circling around the building, I went in the main entrance and up to the ticket counter. I stood there for a minute, with my stomach tightening over what I was about to do. _You can still go back home_, I thought, _They prob'ly won't even have missed you yet_.
But it was too late for me to go back, even if I wanted to -- which I did -- 'cause things had changed. I'd woken up out of my dream a different person, in more ways than one. It'd taken a dream to wake me up for the first time, so to speak. This was the point where I either had to give up or to take a stand and try and do something about the mess my life was in. And I wasn't about to give up just yet, not while there was still fight left in me.
"Miss?" said the little man behind the ticket counter. "Can I help you?"
I only hesitated a little before saying, "Give me a ticket to Salem Center, New York."
1407 Graymalkin Lane proved to be a fancy gate in a high brick wall. Beyond the gate a tree-lined driveway stretched out of sight into a wood. Beside the gate, set into the wall, was a big plaque which read: XAVIER School for Gifted Youngsters
_Well, I reckon that's one way to describe us_, I remember thinking.
Charles Xavier's estate is a pretty expansive piece of land, at least three or four miles long -- all of it lakefront property, too, in a pretty affluent and exclusive part of Westchester County. The main building on the grounds is a large mansion, which you can't see from the road, but which I'd spotted as I'd flown along Graymalkin Lane, looking for the place. As the lady at the little restaurant in Salem Center where I'd had dinner'd said, there wasn't much else out this way. I guess the X-Men liked their privacy.
At first, I'd thought about flying directly to the mansion, but apt as I am to go off half-cocked sometimes, it didn't take a genius to figure out that a member of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants just flying up to the headquarters of the X-Men as carefree as you please was liable to give the wrong impression. The last thing I wanted right about then was to get into a scrap with the X-Men.
So I'd set down right outside the main gate, and I was standing there, wondering how best to go about approaching the place. There didn't seem to be an intercom or anything like that, so I guessed visitors were expected to walk right in -- which was a pretty odd policy, considering who lived there. Of course, at the time I had no idea how extensive the X-Men's security systems really are, or how well they're hidden, so as not to arouse suspicion. Considering what I know now, it's a good thing that I decided to walk to the mansion, nice and slow and unthreateningly.
My stomach was all full of butterflies as I flew up over the gate and touched down on the other side. _Oh Lord, what'm I gonna say when I get there_, I wondered. _Oh well, there's only one way to find out_. I shouldered my duffle-bag, and started trudging down the driveway.
From the main gate to the mansion is only a little over half a mile, but it seemed to take forever for me to make it -- but when I got there, it seemed way too soon. Before I knew it, I was standing on the main porch of the X-Men's mansion. I didn't feel at all ready to go through with it.
I set my bag down, and was working up my courage to ring the door-bell, when the door flew open without warning. Standing there, filling the doorway, was one of the biggest men I'd ever seen -- not only did he tower over me, but to top it off, he was made all of shiny steel. I knew him right away, although I'd never met him. After all, there weren't likely to be two metal giants hanging around the place. His name was Colossus, and he was supposed to be even stronger and tougher'n me. "You!?" he demanded, recognizing me, clearly ready for trouble.
I was so surprised that all I could do was stare at him, with my mouth hanging open. Incongruously, he was wearing tennis shoes and a big blue sweat suit. The thought _Do metal guys sweat?_ flashed through my mind. His left hand was clenched in a fist. He took a half-step towards me, raising his fist.
"No, wait!" I said, taking a step back. As I did, my foot caught on my bag and I missed my balance and fell over backwards down the porch steps. I landed on my backside, but I was too scared that Colossus would attack me to be properly embarassed. "Don't hit me, please -- don't hit me!" I blurted out, "I don't want a fight. I need the X-Men's help -- I gotta have it -- or I'm as good as dead."
Colossus didn't look very convinced, but at least he held off attacking me. I was getting back on my feet when a very regal looking black woman appeared behind Colossus. She had long, flowing white hair and was dressed all in black. "Peter?" she said, "Is something the matter?"
When she saw me, her whole posture changed. She tensed up immediately, and her eyes narrowed as she assessed the situation. We'd met before -- she was Storm, the X-Men's field leader -- and she took charge right away.
"Rogue," she said, simply making a statement of fact, "One of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants." There was something different about her since I'd last seen her. Her eyes seemed harder now, less forgiving. Invisible menace gathered in the air around her as she spoke. "Explain your presence here," she demanded. "At once."
I was just about to say something when there was a soft "Bamf" sound from up on top of the porch's overhang. With a puff of smoke, another of the X-Men made his arrival -- Nightcrawler, the blue-skinned, blue-furred teleporter. "Unglaublich!" he exclaimed, staring down at me with yellow eyes.
I looked from face to face. Nightcrawler seemed watchful and curious, Colossus tense and wary. And Storm? Everything about the way Storm held herself said _danger_. "Well?" she pressed, raising her hand.
"Wait, please," I said. "Gimme a chance to explain. I don't want a fight, I'm not -- I need your help, the X-Men's help. I don't know who else to turn to."
She looked down at me for a long moment, her face an expressionless mask. When she spoke, though, there was a touch of harshness in her voice. "You are not welcome here," she began, "You must leave or..."
"Don't you think, Storm, that it would be worthwhile to hear what she has to say?" said a voice from the doorway, interrupting her. It was a quiet voice, but one that carried an unmistakable tone of authority. I looked up as a bald man in a wheelchair emerged from the doorway, behind him a tall woman with... feathers?... for hair. The man had high, arched eyebrows and one of the most penetrating gazes that I'd ever seen. When he looked at you, you felt like he was seeing right through you, right into your soul. It was my first glipse of Professor Charles Xavier.
"Professor..." Storm began, but he spoke again, addressing himself directly to me. "Welcome to my house, young lady," he said. "Please come inside, and we shall discuss matters in a _civilized_ fashion." He emphasized the word for the general benefit. "Ororo, Peter, if you will accompany our guest to the day room? Kurt, please see to her coat and bag. And Kitty -- as long as you are about," he said, talking to nobody I could see, "kindly bring us some tea."
Without a backward glance, he adroitly spun his wheelchair around, and reentered the mansion. The X-Men stared after him, frowning. After a moment, there was another "Bamf," and Nightcrawler appeared right beside me. "If you will follow me, Fraulein?" he said. I stared at him. It was amazing how much he looked like Mystique -- almost disconcerting. I think, though, that he got the wrong idea from my long look, because he turned away abruptly, and walked toward the mansion.
I didn't know what to say, so I just followed him, Storm preceeding us, Colossus following close behind. Inside, Nightcrawler took my coat without a word, and led me down a long hallway into a well-lit corner room, which had a bunch of chairs and a long corner couch, and rows of windows on two sides. Xavier was already sitting on the couch, wrapped in a purple bathrobe, with the "bird lady" sitting next to him. His wheelchair was neatly parked out of the way in a corner.
As we entered the room, Nightcrawler set my bag and coat down on one of the chairs at the side of the room, and hopped up onto the back of the couch, where he sat... or perched, more like it. Storm and Colossus remained standing. Xavier gestured to me, and said "Please help yourself to a seat. Kitty shall bring us drinks momentarily."
I mumbled a scarcely audible, "Thanks," and sat down in the nearest chair.
"Let us begin with introductions," said Xavier. "Storm, Colossus and Nightcrawler are members of the X-Men. Beside me is Lilandra Neramani, Princess of the Shi'ar." He referred to the bird woman. The name meant nothing to me. "And I am Professor Charles Xavier, Headmaster of this school."
I was wondering if he expected me to say something like "I'm Rogue, and I'm a member of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants," when two young girls, teenagers by the look of them, but younger'n me, came into the room. One had long, straight, blond hair, held back in a ponytail, and was carrying a tray with a teapot on it; the other had curly, brown hair, and she was carrying a tray with several cups and tea-bags, and frowning. "Ah, thank you Kitty, Illyana," said Xavier. "If you would serve our guest?"
"No problem," answered the blond, and proceeded to pour some hot water into one of the cups. She dunked a bag in it, as the other girl went and sat on the far end of the room. "Here ya go," she said, handing the cup to me. She looked at me curiously, but without hostility, as I took the cup from her. Then she joined her friend on the couch.
My hands were trembling as I sat there, in what felt like a roomful of accusers. I tried to keep them steady, as I took a sip of hot tea, but I wasn't doing too good a job of it. I stared at the rug as Storm filled the group in on who I was, and the X-Men debated whether or not I was there as part of an attack plot. After a moment, Xavier commanded them all to silence, and then turned those penetrating eyes on me again.
"Why are you here child? What do you want?" he said.
_I wish I knew_, I thought. I figured he could probably read everything in my mind anyway, probably already had, so I said, "You're the telepath, Xavier, you tell me." It didn't come out the way I meant it; I really did hope he'd be able to just _understand_, 'cause I didn't have too great a track record at explaining my problems to people.
"_Professor_ Xavier, if you please," he corrected. I blushed a little. I hadn't meant to be disrespectful -- 'Xavier' was how Mystique'd always referred to him, and that was how I was used to thinking of him. "I cannot effectively read your mind, Rogue," he went on. "You possess two diametrically opposed thought patterns, one of them alien. It sets up an interference pattern I am thus far unable to penetrate." Even so, he'd just managed to make more sense out of what was going on in my head at a glance than that mutant esper that Mystique'd hired had been able to after several hours.
"That's the persona I absorbed from Carol Danvers when I absorbed her powers last year," I said. I felt the intensity of the X-Men's stares on me when I mentioned Carol's name. "I didn't intend the transfer to be permanent," I added, "It was an accident."
I paused and looked up at Xavier. He was watching me intently, thoughtfully. I tried to meet his eyes as I said, "It's driving me crazy, Professor. You've gotta help me. You're the only one who can."
"You've got some nerve, Rogue," exclaimed the brown haired girl, "asking that after all you've done!"
"Hush, Kitty," admonished Xavier. "Go on, Rogue," he said, in a surprisingly gentle tone.
"My powers are out of control, Professor. The slightest touch triggers the transfer," I said. "But that's not the biggest problem. It's getting harder and harder to hang on to my self whenever I absorb someone's powers. With Carol Danvers' persona stuck in my head, it's gettin' so I don't know anymore which thoughts -- or mem'ries, or feelings -- are mine."
I felt my eyes beginning to fill with tears. "I look into a mirror and I see a stranger's face!"
"If you ask me, a most apt punishment for your crimes," said Nightcrawler sharply, from the back of the room. I remembered that he'd been with Carol at the Pentagon, when I'd fought the X-Men there. I couldn't deny what he said. In fact, I pretty much had to agree with him: the punishment sure fit the crime. But I wasn't saying I _deserved_ help. The X-Men would've been within their rights to condemn me, which would've been as easy as kicking me out, right then and there.
I buried my face in my hands, sobbing, words spilling out in a rush. "I tried to make Mystique understand, but she wouldn't listen -- she was certain that we could work things out on our own. I love her, Professor -- she's been like a mom to me -- but I knew she was wrong. I turned to the X-Men -- even though we're enemies -- because you're my only hope." I was really crying by then. The people who loved me didn't understand, and the only people who might be able to understand all hated me. It would've been funny, if it hadn't been so pitiful.
"Kitty!" Xavier snapped, abruptly, angrily.
"I didn't say anything," Kitty protested.
"Your thoughts were plain enough," he said evenly.
"That's not fair!" she said.
"Are you being fair to Rogue?" he said. The question earned him startled looks from everyone except the blond girl and the bird lady. I was trying to wipe the tears out of my eyes, so I'm not sure, but I could've sworn that the blond girl winked at me.
"I accept your dislike and distrust of her, X-Men," Xavier was saying, "but I would rather not conduct an examination with such concentrated, negative emotions so close at hand. Lilandra and I shall continue this interview without your presence. I'll summon you when I'm finished." His voice'd assumed that same tone of authority I'd heard earlier. He seemed angry, for some reason.
"Professor," said Storm, "are you sure this is wise? She _is_ dangerous." _I sure am_, I thought, _dangerous to everyone I touch -- and most of all to myself_.
"Lilandra and I can take care of ourselves, Storm," he said. "And as for Rogue -- I believe we have nothing to fear from her." At the time, I'd curled up into a little ball on the chair, hugging my knees and crying. "So if you please, Storm...."
Reluctantly, the X-Men left the room, some of them with puzzled or hurt expression on their faces, Storm scowling deeply. Xavier waited 'til the X-Men'd gone and closed the door behind them. "Rogue?" he said. His voice had become gentle again. "Child?"
I tried to get a grip on myself, without much success. I was still shaking on the chair. "I'm sorry, Professor," I said, tears streaming down my face. "I can't help it, I..." I broke off again, sobbing.
"It's all right, child," said Xavier. "Take as much time as you need to compose yourself. You need not feel that you are surrounded by enemies. You are a guest in my house." He paused. "Lilandra? I believe that there is a box of tissues in the kitchen...."
"Are you sure you don't want to talk about it?" said Kitty, still unconvinced. "I'm your best friend -- you can tell me anything you want to." "I appreciate the offer, Kitty," said Illyana, "but talking doesn't always help. There are some things that you shouldn't talk about to your worst enemy, much less your best friend...." Her voiced trailed off momentarily. "I'm okay now, really, thanks. At least as okay as I ever am. Let's just let it drop, okay?"
Kitty Pryde looked over to the bed where her best friend, Illyana Rasputin, sat with her legs drawn up, her eyes staring fixedly ahead. She knew better than to press Illyana on the point, since it would only make her more upset. Still, there was a whole lot that the X-Men didn't know about the seven years which Illyana had spent in the hellish, other-dimensional realm of Limbo, after she'd been kidnapped by the demon-sorcerer Belasco. Since Illyana's return to earth, she and Kitty had become the closest of friends, but she still refused to speak of her experience, either to Kitty or to Peter.
Sometimes, however, the X-Men would get an indication of just how affected Illyana had been by those years. Only moments ago, apparently without being aware of what she was doing, Illyana had programmed the Danger Room to call up a holographic version of Limbo, complete with images of Belasco and his chief-enforcer demon S'ym. Seeing these, she'd gone berserk, and attacked Kitty with a strange sword she'd seemingly pulled out of thin air. Worse still, she'd managed to cut Kitty with it, even though Kitty had been phasing, which should have allowed the weapon to pass harmlessly through her.
Reacting from countless hours of training in the Danger Room with Wolverine, Kitty had disarmed her friend and swept her off her feet, a manoeuver which had proved sufficient to snap her out of her trance. Illyana didn't remember anything since seeing Belasco and was greatly upset, so Kitty had returned with her to their room. Illyana had soon stopped crying, but was still morose and withdrawn.
What a lousy day this was proving, all around.
"All right," said Kitty, giving in, "but it you _ever_ want to...." She broke off as Illyana grimaced. "Okay, all right, consider it forgotten." But Kitty wasn't prepared to give up quite so easily: if Illyana didn't want to talk about what had happened in the Danger Room, she still needed to talk to _someone_ about _something_, whether she wanted to admit it or not -- anything would be better than allowing her to sink back into the brooding silence that had characterized Illyana's first several weeks back on earth.
Kitty decided to switch to the other big issue of the day, one which they hadn't yet gotten a chance to discuss and one which she was more than ready to pontificate on. "So....can you believe Rogue just showing up here and expecting the X-Men to help her?" she said, her voice full of righteous indignation. "She's got a lot of nerve, after what she did to Carol!"
For a moment, Kitty wasn't sure if Illyana had even heard her, but after a moment, she answered. "She said it was an accident," Illyana said quietly, as if to herself, still staring at the wall.
"Oh I'll just bet it was," said Kitty. "About as accidental the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants' attempt to assassinate the Professor in Washington! Rogue is _exactly_ the sort of evil mutant that the Professor founded the X-Men to fight. She's probably in there right now, planning something."
"Kitty," said Illyana, suddenly looking at her with red-rimmed eyes, "you should be careful how you use certain words. I know what real evil is... and Rogue isn't it."
"How can you say that, 'Yana? Rogue _destroyed_ Carol's mind, put her in a coma -- it was the next best thing to killing her! What Rogue did is no different than what the Brood do! I don't know what else to call that."
"She said that it was an accident, Kitty, and I think she was telling the truth. Besides, can't we hope that what you've done in the past doesn't decide who you are forever.... that everyone deserves a chance at redemption, somehow?" Illyana was speaking in a very heartfelt manner, and it occurred to Kitty that maybe the subject of their conversation hadn't really changed that much.
"Well," Kitty said, "if you put it that way....I guess everyone deserves a second chance -- but I don't see why _we_ have to be the ones to do something about Rogue's problems."
"No reason," said Illyana, "expect maybe that she asked us to." She paused, studying her friend with an unreadable expression. "Kitty?" she said slowly, "Would you stop being my friend if you found out that I'd done something really awful? Something even worse than Rogue?"
Kitty took that one in. "That's silly, Illyana," she said, frowning. "Of _course_ I wouldn't stop being your friend. But I also know you'd never do anything like that, unless you had a good reason that I didn't know about or you didn't really know what you were doing. I _know_ you. You're not like that."
"Thanks for the vote of confidence, Kiddo," said Illyana, smiling again for the first time. "But if that's so, then riddle me this: what do you really know about Rogue, anyway?"
Kitty opened her mouth to answer, but couldn't think of anything to say. While she was mulling it over, her thoughts were interrupted by the abrupt appearance of a familiar telepathic _presence_ in the room -- one which filled Kitty's and Illyana's minds rather than physical space, although each of them seemed to see a ghostly image floating in the air.
*Kitty... Illyana...* Professor X's voice rang in their minds. *I have concluded my interview with Rogue. Please join us in my study immediately*. The mental image faded away.
"Y'know," said Illyana, as the two friends hurried out the door, "I don't think I'll _ever_ get entirely used to that."
"Just relax, Rogue, and let all the tension drain from your body," said Professor Xavier. "Allow your mind to drift freely."
"Whatever you say, Professor," I said, trying to lie still and do as he told me. I was lying on a long leather couch in the Professor's study, where he'd had us relocate for our interview. It was a comfortable room, lined with bookshelves on all sides and done up with dark wood and leather furniture. The Professor was sitting in his wheelchair, right behind where my head lay, as he prepared to try and see if he could make any sense out of my mind telepathically.
"The interference generated by the dual personae in your mind creates a formidable barrier for my telepathic scans," he said, "but we may be able to overcome this difficulty if I can teach you to work with me. In general, telepathic contact which is hostile and invasive is far more difficult than that which is cooperative."
"Sorta like the difference between kickin' down a locked door, and havin' somebody let you in, huh?" I said.
"Yes," he said. "Precisely." He flicked a switch set onto the side of his large, oak desk, and there was a soft "whirr" of machinery. A funny-looking metal helmet with all sorts of cables attached to it descended from the ceiling, right over the Professor's head.
"What's that?" I said, as he slipped the gizmo over his head. With it on, he looked weird, like something out of a sci-fi movie.
"This is Cerebro," he said. "It is a device which under certain circumstances can be used to augment telepathic abilities. I concede that it does contribute to a rather strange appearance -- ah, good, with Cerebro's help I was able to pick up your surface thoughts: that I look odd while wearing Cerebro's cyber-helmet. That is promising, as perhaps is this...."
*Rogue? Can you hear me?* he said.
"Of course I can, Professor -- you're only sitting over...oh" I broke off when I realized that he hadn't _spoken_ at all. I'd heard his voice _inside_ my head, just as clear as crystal. "Yes, yes I can hear you," I said.
"Good," he said. "Please relax as I make the final adjustments to Cerebro."
It's real strange havin' somebody else lookin' around inside your head, who isn't you -- even for me. _At least with that 'Cerebro' thing, the Professor'll be able to poke around in my head and see what he could do_, I thought. That thought made another one pop up: _Just what might he do, while he's in there?_ If what Mystique thought was true, then _this_ might be the way that Xavier brainwashed people -- with that funny gadget -- and that might be what he was planning to do to me. The thought _Maybe he's already started!_ leaped up. I was beginning to get alarmed, when he spoke again.
"Rogue," he said, reading my distress, "I give you my word that I have no intentions of tampering with your mind in any way. I understand your concern -- telepathy is often frightening to those who are unused to it." He took off the 'Star Wars' helmet. "We need not continue, if you do not wish."
He wheeled about and looked at me directly. "But you have asked me to help you," he went on, "and for me to be able to do so, you must trust me... as I have trusted you. Some would argue that I am foolishly placing myself in danger by being alone in a room with someone of your physical capabilities, but I have accepted your word that you mean me no harm -- are you willing to accept mine? Will you give me your trust?"
"I'm sorry, Professor," I said, feeling ashamed, "you've been more than fair to me -- I didn't mean anything, I...I trust you."
"Your hesitation is quite understandable, Rogue," he said, "and I hope in time that your trust will proved deserved. But now..." He put his headgear back on. *...we must begin our examination*...
*Please just relax as I attempt to ascertain your mental condition*, said the voice in my head.
"Okay, Professor," I said. "Do you want me to think about anything in particular?"
*That will not be necessary, Rogue*, he 'said.' *You may think of anything you wish*.
At first I tried to focus on what the Professor was doing in my mind, but it didn't really feel like anything, so I just did like he asked and let my mind drift. Not surprisingly, I started thinking about the events of the last hour or two, from my arrival on the X-Men's doorstep to the long talk I'd just had with the Professor.
He'd asked me all sorts of questions, everything from detailed accounts of my spells with Carol's memories to questions about my schooling (he seemed pleased that Mystique'd been careful to make sure I had a good education); from questions about how I'd practiced in the use of my powers to questions about my relationship with Mystique and Destiny. I kept waiting for him to get into asking me questions about the Brotherhood, but he never did, much to my relief. My life was in his hands, more or less, but I couldn't betray my family to him, not even if it cost me my only hope of getting better.
From there, I drifted into something of a reverie. I was just thinking about good times I'd had as a child in Mississippi, half asleep -- it was real pleasant. I was thinking about a time when I'd snuck up on some of the boys while they were skinny-dipping -- when I heard the Professor's voice saying, "Rogue...?"
"Hmmm?" I said, coming back to consciousness. "Professor? I was dreaming..." I stopped. "Professor! There weren't any of Carol's mem'ries! They were all my own mem'ries. Does that mean...?"
Professor Xavier smiled slightly. "Yes, Rogue. It means that I will almost certainly be able to help you. I believe that I can help your mind to integrate your two discordant thought-patterns through telepathic therapy." He paused, his expression becoming more serious. "You must understand, however, that such treatment will of necessity be a lengthy and ongoing process. I am hopeful that we can work together to control your problem, but your mind is extraordinarily difficult to access -- it will not be an easy task... for either of us."
"If you think it'll work, Professor," I said, "then I'm willing to give it shot. This time yesterday, I didn't have any hope at all. I'm all yours."
"I'm glad to hear you say that," he said, "since we have yet to discuss what you can do for me in return."
My heart sank. _Here it comes_, I thought. _My last hope is gonna be pulled right out from under me_. "I know what you're gonna say, Professor," I said, "and I can't do it. Not even if it means you won't help me -- I can't tell you the Brotherhood's secrets. They're the closest thing I have in the world to a real family -- it...it just wouldn't be right." My face was the perfect picture of misery.
Professor Xavier didn't seem too surprised or angry at my answer -- in fact, he seemed slightly amused. "Such loyalty is commendable, Rogue," he said. "I would expect nothing less from a member of the X-Men."
That brought me up short. It sure wasn't what I'd been expecting to hear. Heck, I wasn't even sure I'd heard him right. "The X-Men?" I said. "You mean you want me to...? You _can't_ be serious, Professor."
He chuckled softly, but then when he spoke, his voice was completely sincere. "I am perfectly serious, Rogue, I assure you. I wish you to become a probationary member of the X-Men, as well as a student at the School -- although little remains to your formal education at the sub-collegiate level. Your powers and abilities should make you a considerable asset to the team, and I believe that you can profit greatly from close interaction with the other X-Men -- interaction that might otherwise be quite limited, were you not a member of the team. In addition, of course, I shall develop a systematic program to train you in the use of your mutant powers, as I have done for all the students here."
"Professor, I... I don't know what to say..." I said. "The X-Men'll never accept me as one of 'em!"
"They will in time, Rogue," he said, "if you are allowed the opportunity to earn their trust -- which you can best do as one of them. I concede that it will not be easy for you, but I have my reasons for requiring this of you. Will you agree to my terms?"
About a thousand things went through my mind all at once. I'd had all sorts of hopes and doubts about whether Professor Xavier could help me or not, or even if he'd be willing to, but never in my wildest dreams did I expect to get drafted into the X-Men. Not that I had any objection, mind you, but it was something that'd never even crossed my mind.
He waited patiently as I stared wide-eyed at him. He was really serious -- he wanted me -- me! -- to become an _X-Man_. I'd been prepared for any number of other things he might've asked me, but now he'd pulled the rug right out from under all my expectations. I suddenly had a feeling that this was a much bigger decision than I could make out right then; it seemed to stretch off into the future, so that I had no idea where I'd end up if I started down that way. _Well, I guess there's no goin' back now_, I thought. _I knew when I set out that I was leavin' my old life behind -- I'm in this forneed and her sincerity. Therefore, I have decided to admit her not only to the School... but to the X-Men, as a probationary member."
He drew a breath as he prepared to continue, but he was interrupted by a single, very definite syllable: "No," said Storm.
Professor Xavier was clearly taken by surprise. I think I've already mentioned that he isn't someone who's used to having his authority challenged. He didn't take long to recover though. "I beg your pardon Storm?" he said, his eyes narrowing a little, as they fixed intently on Storm. One stare from the Professor is enough to make most people back off.
But then, Storm isn't most people. "I lead the X-Men, Professor," she said, meeting his fierce gaze with one of her own. "I think that entitles me to some say in this matter."
She surged to her feet, speaking forcefully. "You know Rogue's history," she said. She jabbed an accusing finger at me. "Are we expected to fight beside someone we do not -- _dare not_ -- trust? -- Who might betray us at any time?"
Her question drew angry nods of agreement from Kitty and Nightcrawler. Colossus was as impassive as the statue he looked like. Professor Xavier's face was unreadable as he folded his hands in front of him and looked up at Storm. "Storm," he began, "I respect your position as the X-Men's field leader; however, in this case I believe my judgement..."
Whatever he was going to say was interrupted when a strange voice said "Where is everybody?" as the door to the Professor Xavier's study opened. A woman with bright red skin and corona of fiery light surrounding her head stood framed in the doorway. Little flames played up and down her arms and legs. "What's going on?" she asked, sweeping the room with white, glowing eyes, a look of mild puzzlement on her face, "What's the big meeting about?"
Her expression changed entirely when she saw me. Her face darkened as a murderous scowl appeared, and the flames surrounding her flared up hotly and more intensely. "Rogue!" She spat out my name like it was the worse curse word she knew.
Almost faster than I could follow, she moved across the room and snatched me out of my chair with one hand. The X-Men only had time to gape at her with stunned amazement. "Now..." she hissed, and hit me.
It's hard to give the right impression of what I mean when I say that she hit me. Now, I'd been hit pretty hard before then, and I've been hit hard since. I've been hit by folks like Iron Man and the She-Hulk and even by the Juggernaut, but I've never been hit so hard as that strange red woman hit me then.
There's a metaphor you sometimes hear about being hit real hard: folks talk about being 'knocked into orbit.' Well, that's the best phrase I can think of, 'cept in this case, it isn't a metaphor. That red-skinned, flaming woman knocked me through the mansion's roof and literally into a near earth orbit. I'd've been killed outright if it weren't for the fact, thanks to Ms. Marvel's powers, I'm able to survive outside the earth's atmosphere for a little while -- as I first learned right then and there.
Now, if you stop and think about it, probably the smart thing to do after finding yourself still alive after being hit like that is to light out as fast as you can go -- but my first reaction when somebody hits me has always been to hit 'em back, and that's just what I set out to do. _I dunno who that hussy is -- or why she slugged me --_, I thought, as I rocketed back towards Xavier's estate (heck, back towards the earth), _but I aim to make her regret it_.
By the time I came back in sight of the X-Men's mansion, I had a full mad on. Sad to say, it was the best I'd felt in a while -- at least when you're angry you don't have time for self-pity. I spotted the red, flaming woman on the back lawn, between the mansion and the lake, and I charged right at her.
"That's the spirit, kiddo," she said, "Come and get me --"
When I was scant inches from her, she lashed out faster'n I could see, and hit me again. "-- if you can," she added, as I flew away from her. I'd been flying at near my top speed, and she'd reversed all my momentum with a single punch, sending me careening backwards.
I landed hard, shearing through a couple of the big tress on the estate, and plowing a sizable furrow back in the little copse. _Lordy_, I thought, _this's gonna be harder than I thought_.
By the time I climbed out of the trench I'd plowed and came back out of the woods, the red woman was being held by Colossus while Princess Lilandra wheeled Professor Xavier towards her. "I went vengeance, Peter," the red woman was saying, "is that so wrong?"
"So long as Rogue remains under my roof, Binary," said Professor Xavier, taking charge of things, "she has my protection."
"How can you say that, Charles?" 'Binary' demanded. "You know better than anyone what she did to me."
_Huh?_ I thought. As far as I knew, I'd never laid eyes on her before -- she was the sort of person that you'd remember meeting.
I didn't get much time to puzzle over it, before the strangest thing happened. One of the X-Men spoke up in my defense: Storm, who'd been against me right from the start. "The child repents, my friend, and had been forgiven," she said. "Behold our newest X-Man."
The red woman, Binary, pulled away from Colossus and confronted me. "What? Is this true?" she demanded. Her eyes blazed, literally, as she glared at me. "I wouldn't have thought you capable of such cruelty."
Her hatred was like something solid. I could almost feel it beating on me in waves. But I didn't know why. "What're you talkin' about?" I said. "What's my life got to do with you, anyway? We never even met before today." At least the X-Men had a reason not to like me, but here this total stranger wanted to kill me....
"Perhaps this will help," Binary said, and abruptly the fires surrounding her vanished, leaving a good looking blond woman underneath. I knew her face as well as I did my own.
"Carol Danvers," I said softly, understanding.
"The woman whose life you destroyed, Rogue," she said, her hurt and anger making her voice raw. "Except that now I possess the power to do the same to you."
I guess it should've been obvious from the start that Carol might still be with the X-Men. After all, she'd been with them the last time I'd met the X-Men, at the Pentagon, when we'd gotten in a scrap. But for some reason, the thought had never even occurred to me -- maybe I just hadn't wanted it to, hadn't let myself realize that there was a real good chance I'd run into Carol if I went to the X-Men.
When I'd last seen her, I'd tried to kill her, and only the X-Men's interference had stopped me. Then, I was still blaming her for what I thought she'd done to me. I hated her, or I thought I did, and I was reacting accordingly -- but since then, I'd learned to look at things in a different light.
Now, face to face, I didn't know what to say to her, or what to do. She wanted to kill me, like I'd wanted to kill her, and I couldn't say I blamed her for it. I wanted to tell her I was sorry that what'd happened had happened, and that it was an accident, and that I didn't know what I was doing -- but all that didn't amount to a hill o' beans compared to what she'd suffered on account o' me. Anything I might've said would've been hollow, so I didn't say anything -- I just waited to see what'd happen. At least the X-Men seemed set on not letting her kill me, which was something.
As it was, it was Storm who took the initiative. "Professor," she declared, "if Rogue stays, I go." You could tell just from listening to her voice that she was serious. She was ready to leave the X-Men altogether, then and there, rather'n accept me as one of 'em. I guess the Professor'd overestimated the degree to which the X-Men'd act on just his say so.
Nightcrawler spoke up. "My apologies, Herr Professor," he said, "but we _all_ go." His voice, though, held something of an imploring note, as if to say, "Don't make us do this."
Professor Xavier drew himself up in his chair and faced his X-Men stiffly, disappointment plainly written across his face. "I see," he said, in a heavy voice. "We pick and choose whom we help -- is that it? Some are worthy, others not?" His eyes fixed on Storm. "Who was it, Ororo, told me Wolverine was an X-Man not because of his 'sterling' character, but his potential for good?" he demanded. "That to deny him -- though we abhor his violent nature -- would thereby deny our true reason for being, which is to help him achieve that potential? The same argument holds for Rogue, does it not? Should she not have the same chance? Of course, there's a risk in accepting her, and I am not blind to it -- but consider the alternative. At least with us she has a chance for a better life. Deny her and we condemn her outright... and _that_ I will never do -- to _any_ mutant -- so long as breath remains within me. My purpose in founding the X-Men was to help all mutants in need of help, to the best of my ability -- and Rogue is desperately in need of such help. I cannot force you to stay, my X-Men -- it would break my heart if any of you were to leave -- but I will not turn Rogue away."
His words hung in the air as he faced his students, waiting. I could here the wind slightly stirring the grass, as the each of the X-Men weighed what he'd said. After what seemed like a long time, Colossus spoke up.
"I trust you as I would my own father, Professor," he said. "So I will put aside my fears and give Rogue her chance. I ask my friends to do the same."
"I will if I have to," said Kitty, finding her voice, "But I won't like her -- ever!"
"All right, mein herr," said Nightcrawler, with a stiff nod, "-- you win."
Professor Xavier turned to face Carol. She'd regained control of herself, but she was still seething. "Carol...?" he said softly, waiting on her.
She regarded him. "What do you want from me, Charles?" she said. "Understanding? Approval? -- I'll concede the one but not the other. Rogue tore my life -- my very soul -- to shreds. And those scales can never be balanced. I'm sorry, I'm just not that forgiving."
She drew herself up, and the flames sprang up again, surrounding her like the aura of some beautiful, avenging angel. She looked over her friends, as if seeing them for the first time. "I have nothing to lose here, Charles, no real ties to break. That makes my decision an easy one." Her power flared up around her, almost blinding in its brilliance.
"I'm not an X-Man," she said "and all of a sudden, I'm glad." With that, she shot up into the sky like a blazing comet, leaving a fiery trail behind her. We all watched her vanish in the distance, a bright, shrinking point of light against the gathering dusk.
I knew that nothing I could've said to her could ever've put things right between us, but I'd wanted to say something to her anyway -- maybe just tell her that at least I _understood_ now what I'd done to her and how awful it'd been, for whatever it was worth -- but it seemed like I wasn't gonna get the chance. I hadn't wanted things to just end like this between me and Carol, even if there never could be a happy ending. "Will she be back?" I asked no one in particular.
It was Nightcrawler who answered me. "In her own time, perhaps, Fraulein," he said, "when the hurt is less."
The X-Men were starting to drift back towards the mansion, all except Storm, who was still standing in the same spot, looking after where Carol'd disappeared.
"Ororo...?" said the Professor. His tone made his concern clear.
"Carol is right and you are right, Professor," she said, "so which is the better road to follow?" She looked at the sky again for a moment, before saying, "Like all of you, that is a decision I must make for myself." She began to walk towards the lakefront, her hair swirling in a wind that had suddenly sprung up.
"Professor?" said Colossus, "Should we not go to her?"
"Storm must come to her own decision, Peter," he said. "It is enough that she knows we are here for her, should she wish our counsel or our understanding." He sounded very sure of himself, but for a moment, you could see that his eyes were troubled. He shook his head and cleared his throat. "For now, however," he said, "we must see about locating a bedroom for Rogue...."
JOURNAL ENTRY 13316: Charles Xavier, March 15, 19XX
Today I have welcomed an enemy into my school, and in so doing I have driven away a dear friend, perhaps forever.
It had been my intention, upon conducting debriefings with Storm, Nightcrawler, Colossus and Angel, to spend the day considering the implications of an autonomous mutant tribal community, the so-called "Morlocks," living beneath the streets of New York. Surely, such a community cannot remain undetected indefinitely, especially as both the technological capacity to detect mutants and the desire to exploit mutant abilities increase... No, this is a subject for another time. (cf. 13320-25)
However, my plans were disrupted by the arrival on my doorstep of the young woman called Rogue. She is a member of the second incarnation of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, founded by Mystique, and has on various occasions clashed with the Avengers (cf. Hank's report on the affair at Ryker's Island) and with my X-Men. She is also the mutant responsible for the near obliteration of Carol Danvers' mind. She now claims, however, to be suffering from severe mental problems, and has implored me to assist her in coping with them.
I have, for a number of reasons, both moral and practical, acceded to her request, and have admitted Rogue both to the School and to the X-Men, on a provisional basis. In so doing, I have confused and angered my X-Men, who directly blame Rogue for the damage suffered by Carol Danvers in their fateful confrontation. My actions have also caused Carol to leave earth entirely, perhaps never to return. Nevertheless, I believe my reasons are sound.
The most obvious and immediate danger is that Rogue has been sent here as a Trojan Horse, sent by Mystique to betray the X-Men from within at an opportune moment. I think this to be highly unlikely, however, as Rogue is obviously distressed and genuinely in need of help. Special circumstances prevent me from scanning Rogue's mind in a comprehensive fashion, but not so much as to prevent my discerning her sincerity, anxiety and need. Too, Rogue is a remarkably straightforward and guileless young woman, whom I think most unsuited to subterfuge. More importantly, I think it unlikely that Rogue would have been sent to betray us based on my assessment of her character. She is fiercely loyal, and seems to prize such loyalty above all else -- she was unwilling, for instance, to divulge Brotherhood secrets, even if I had demand that she do so as a condition of treating her.
It is for this reason that I would have accepted her even if I thought she had been sent to betray us -- from what I have been able to determine, Rogue's allegiance to the Brotherhood has little or nothing to do with their professed cause of mutant supremacy and everything to do Rogue's love and loyalty to those whom she perceives as family. In short, Rogue is a young woman of great promise and strong character, but with little self-esteem and no moral center apart from her familial bonds -- a young woman who is in desperate need of moral guidance, perhaps even moreso than of mental therapy.
Rogue herself does not fully understand the nature of the crisis which has driven her to the X-Men. She tells herself that it is because she wishes help with her mental condition -- and this is true up to a point -- but less, I think, than the whole story. She truly desires help, but at the same time feels that she is unworthy of such help, and that her suffering is a just punishment for her actions. This is the crux of the matter: what Rogue is seeking, first and foremost, _although she herself is unaware of it_, is a chance to redeem herself -- not only in the eyes of the world, but most of all in her own eyes -- and indeed, _this_ is the one thing that can help her in the long run, whatever the outcome of my telepathic therapy.
I can indeed alleviate Rogue's mental turmoil, but even more importantly, I can at the same time teach her how to value herself and her powers for the good they can do in the world. It is this lesson that she is most sorely in need of, and it is for this reason that I have insisted that she become a full-fledged member of the X-Men. True, the X-Men are suspicious and hostile to her at present, but they are all fair-minded people -- I am sure they will come to accept Rogue in time, if she is given the opportunity to prove herself to them. And she _must_ be given this opportunity, because proving herself to the X-Men is her first step towards proving herself to herself.
Only when Rogue is able to accept and value herself will she be able to overcome her difficulties with her mutant powers, which are at present uncontrollable. It is my belief that Rogue's problems of control are psychological in nature, relating to her inability to accept responsibility for her past actions. Chief among these events is her battle with Carol Danvers, in which she permanently absorbed Carol's psyche and powers.
Having had direct access to the minds of both persons involved, I understand much about the incident, about how it escalated into a battle of life and death which neither of its participants had intended. Rogue found herself fighting for her life, and I believe, permanently absorbed Carol's psyche because she _willed_ to do so -- more specifically she willed Carol's _death_, and her powers responded accordingly. Now, unable to deal with responsibility of such an intentional killing, Rogue has created a vested psychological interest in believing her powers to be uncontrollable... for if they are not, then she would be a murderer -- a judgement which is not strictly accurate, since she was battling for her life against a berserk adversary.
It is my hypothesis that Rogue will regain control of her powers only when she is able fully to come to terms with these mental blocks and safeguards, which may be possible in time. Of course, as in all things of this nature, the ultimate outcome is uncertain. Nevertheless, I am optimistic, as Rogue has exceptional courage -- I do not mean the kind of courage required to challenge the X-Men or the Avengers in combat, but rather the kind of courage required to go to one's enemies and ask for their help. This alone speaks much of Rogue's character. I see great potential in this brave young woman, coupled with the determination to achieve this potential, if only she is permitted the chance to do so.
As matters now stand, I and the X-Men are perhaps the only ones capable of giving her that chance. Therefore, I shall do everything within my power to see that she has such an opportunity.
A little later, I found myself sitting alone on the bed in 'my' room. They'd given me a real spacious room on the second floor of the mansion, along a long hallway where all of the other X-Men's rooms were -- all except for Storm, who lived in an attic loft.
The room itself was sparsely furnished, less so than a couple of the guest rooms, but the Professor'd explained to me that we could see to furnishings and decorations and such the next day -- he'd asked if there was anything I needed for the night, and I'd told him, "Nothin' but good dreams."
"I certainly wish you those," he'd said. "And perhaps, in time, we can together succeed in bringing you more peaceful nights."
"'Night, Professor," I'd said as he wheeled out of my new room.
"Goodnight, Rogue," he'd replied. "I shall see you in the morning."
And so there I was, sitting on the bed in a nearly empty room, in a house full'a people who'd as soon hit me as look at me, with only a green coat and a leather duffle-bag to remind me of home. It occurred to me that things'd come full circle: this time last night, I'd been sitting on my own bed back home, wondering what I could do about my life, and now one day later, I'd left everything I knew behind, and was sitting on a new bed in a new place, wondering if I'd done the right thing. I'd tried to do something, and here I was confused as ever. _Does this sort o' thing happen to everybody?_ I wondered.
My train of thought was interrupted by a soft rap on the door. _Who could that be?_ I thought. I sure wasn't expecting visitors after all. "Come on in," I called.
The door opened to reveal Nightcrawler carrying a double armload of linen and such. "Pardon me, Fraulein," he said, "But the Professor felt that you would need such things as these for the night." His voice had a moderate German accent to it. He stepped just inside the room and nodded to his load. "Where would you like this to be set?"
"Oh," I said, "You can just drop 'em anywhere."
He set the pile of stuff down on top of the chest o' drawers, and made to leave, but before he could get out the door, I said "Nightcrawler?"
He turned, and regarded me with his yellow eyes. "Ja, Fraulein?" he said.
"Listen..." I said, "Thanks." I looked up at him. "Thanks."
I wasn't really talking about the linen, and I could see he understood that. He looked at me for a long moment, and then he said, "It is nothing." I couldn't tell what he was thinking, and after a minute I looked away from him and down at my hand, where I was tugging up little creases in the bedspread.
I ran my hand back and forth aimlessly along the ridges. As I did, I could feel Nightcrawler hesitating in the doorway, deliberating. After a moment, he reached some sort of decision. "Goodnight, Fraulein," he said. "Sleep well." He quietly closed the door behind him, as he left.
I kept on picking at the bedspread for a while, thinking things over and wondering what chance I had of ever fitting in with the X-Men. _About the same as a kerosene cat in Hell_, I thought, as the folks in Caldecott County'd used to say. All of the X-Men were ready not to like me one bit, on account of their friendship with Carol -- which was ironic in its own way, since none of 'em would probably ever've even met Carol, if I hadn't done what I'd done to her.
Carol sure enough hadn't been glad to see me -- not that I would've expected her to be -- and now she was gone off who knows where. I wondered where she'd go, and whether or not she'd ever be back... and whether or not I'd ever get a chance to say anything to her. As if I hadn't already done enough to her, now I'd ended up costing her her new home, just by coming here. Everything I did seemed only to multiply misery: I was already unhappy, Mystique and Destiny'd be unhappy on account of my leaving, the X-Men were unhappy that I was here, and I'd hurt Carol again, by driving her away from her friends.
_It's never gonna end_, I thought, forlornly. _Coming here was a mistake -- all I'm gonna do is make more people miserable_.
The sadness welled up inside me again, and I felt myself sinking into another bout of misery, but then I thought of Professor Xavier and the way he'd treated me.
The Professor'd been willing to listen to me right from the first, and even if he'd been cautious, he'd also been fair. Once he'd concluded that I really did need help, he'd been prepared to pull out all the stops to help me. Heck, he'd been willing to break up the team on account of me -- to let the X-Men leave just so I could stay -- and for no other reason than I needed his help.
I thought that over. No one had ever gone to bat for me like that before. Even Mystique, who loved me dearly, had always had one eye out for how useful I could be to the Brotherhood, even when she took me in -- she really cared for me, sure enough, but I'd always wondered whether she'd've let herself care in the first place if I hadn't been a mutant with a useful power.
But Professor Xavier was different -- sure, he'd asked me to join the X-Men, but the simple fact that he was willing to let the X-Men break up was enough to show that it wasn't on account of my powers that he'd done what he'd done. No, the only possible reason he had to try and help me was that he thought that _I_ was worth the trouble -- me, a person, Rogue. I sure didn't feel like I was worth all that much -- and I certainly wasn't worth risking the X-Men's splitting up -- but the Professor obviously thought different, and suddenly, as I thought about it, that made a big difference to me.
_If the Professor's willing to have that much faith in me_, I thought, _then the least I can do is have a little in myself_. I felt my eyes beginning to tear up -- only this time it wasn't on account of the mess my life was in, but just over the fact that somebody who had no reason to was willing to do so much for my sake. Somebody was willing to give me a chance.
I came to the simple realization that things didn't _have_ to be the way they were, that maybe I really could do something after all. Of course, that's what I'd been trying to do, coming to the X-Men in the first place, but that's one thing -- actually having someone extend a hand and show you that you don't have to be alone with misery and self-pity is another. I'd been reaching out blindly, almost by instinct, and the Professor'd understood that and he'd met me halfway. Thinking that, I felt an overwhelming sense of gratitude towards him.
"Thanks, Professor," I said out loud, "Thanks for believin' in me." The words tumbled out in a rush. "I won't let you down -- I promise. I'll make you the best darn X-Man you've ever seen! And I'll win the X-Men's trust too -- that or I'll die tryin'!" Right then, nothing seemed impossible, not even proving myself to the other X-Men. I smiled giddily when I realized I'd thought of them as "the other X-Men."
"Well, why not?" I said, still speaking out loud. "After all, I'm an X-Man now." I paused, startled by my own words, and by what they meant. Slowly, I repeated them, "I'm an X-Man now."
I felt a lot better, after I'd said that. I was still crying, but I was smiling too. Things'd just fallen into perspective, into a kind of balance that'd been missing from my life for some time. I felt good about myself for a change. Don't misunderstand: all my problems were still there -- and for that matter, there were a bunch of new ones keeping 'em company -- but right then, bad as they all were, they suddenly didn't seem insurmountable anymore. For a long time, I'd felt as if my life were totally out of my control, without even the slightest possibility of setting things right; but now I had one single, simple thing that hadn't been there the night before: hope.
That was it, in a word: the Professor'd given me _hope_ -- hope for the future, a way to fight back against the depression and despair. That didn't mean that the fight was over, or even begun, but it did mean that the outcome wasn't decided against me in advance -- it gave me the courage to really try.
I got up and went over to the stack of linen that Nightcrawler'd left and pulled out a fresh sheet and pillowcase. _If I try my hardest_, I thought as I made up my new bed, _then maybe, just maybe, I'll be able to take on my problems -- fix what's wrong_.
I smiled to myself as I fluffed up my pillow, complete with the fresh case. _One thing at time_, I told myself. _Just take on one worry at a time, and bit by bit, before you know it, ever'thing'll be better_.
The thought was a comforting one as I undressed and slipped into the unfamiliar bed. I turned off the bedside lamp, and settled down into the soft bed, in order to spend my first night amongst the X-Men. Today had been one of the longest days of my life. _I'd better try and get some sleep_, I thought. _I'll have a lot to do tomorrow_.
I was sure that there'd be a million things I'd have to take care of if I was gonna stay with the X-Men... but in the end, they all came down to just one thing: I had a promise to keep.