Sun, 24 Dec 2000
Alara Rogers
Roman A Clef 1: 4 AM

Slightly revised to bring it in line with the Moebius universe. Archivists, please replace your current copy with this one.

Roman A Clef 1

4 AM

Alara Rogers


He's sleeping now. It took a few hours to calm him this time, and now I can't sleep. I'm staring outside at the sky still dark-- we're not even getting a false dawn yet -- wondering what I'm doing here. Wondering why I'm doing this, why I've rejected everything I believed in and everything I loved to run off here, with him. And hating the people who used to be my best friends, because of what they're doing to him.

Today he offered to let them come here, to see for themselves what he'd built. I wanted them so badly to agree, to see how much better things are here in Genosha than they were before, to see that he's not the monster we feared when we all fought him, back when Rogue died and the UN gave him the country. Yeah, I *know* how angry we all were, how it felt like one of our number, one of our oldest friends, had died to stop this, and we'd *won*, and the UN buckled anyway. I know how sick we all felt. I know how enraged we all were when Joseph defected, how we felt like he was spitting on Rogue's grave. But things have *changed.* Magnus really has turned the country around. He really has made this place-- not a Utopia, I don't think anyone could, but a good place. A place where I'm happy to live.

They refused.

Scott spoke for all of them, or they let Scott speak for them, which is worse, really. He said that the X-Men had no interest in a propaganda show put on by a terrorist dictator. And none of them spoke up against that. None of them contacted us separately, even though I doubt very much Scott would have hidden the invitation from them. Not Ororo, not Kurt. Hell, not even Piotr, and I expected *he* at least would want to be here.

When I came here I accepted that maybe our methods weren't the only methods there could ever be, that maybe the Dream was good in theory but lacked when we put it into practice. Maybe there needed to be alternatives. I didn't expect them to turn on me for thinking so. I didn't expect that they'd attack Magneto for "brainwashing" me and try to kidnap me.

Ironic, that, considering I did the same damn thing to Piotr, in another life. Maybe I was just short-sighted not to realize what they'd do, to realize that they'd call me a traitor and then cut most contact with me, sharing only the barest minimum of information about the people we'd all loved, the things we had in common. They don't tell me anything they think might be of "strategic" importance, they don't reveal weaknesses, and they talk to me-- when they talk to me, when they bother to answer my phone calls-- in generalities. Sure, everyone's doing well. No, Kurt and Amanda are still separated, no we don't know what Amanda's doing with the Soulsword. Yes, Dr. MacTaggert is still hanging in there. You know, I'm not sure they'd tell me if she *did* die. Because, see, I'm sleeping with the enemy, and god knows that if I told Magnus that Dr. MacTaggert had died, he'd summon demons from hell to carry off her soul, right?

I hate them.

But I wanted to believe. I always want to believe, always want to hope, that *this* time they'll open up, this time they'll look at the evidence and not the knee-jerk reaction they seem to have brainwashed themselves into. So I hoped that when he made the overture, they would accept it. That for once they'd actually deign to *look* at the reality of the situation and not at their prejudices.

And they didn't. And they hurt him, I can tell. He won't admit it, but I know it. It's like a stab to his heart that even Ororo is going along with this. So his solution is to work harder, and stay up later, and then wake screaming with nightmares.

He told me about his dream. Normally he doesn't make himself so vulnerable, but he was so desperate, clinging to me, burying his face in my hair, trying to convince himself I was here and real. I've seen that before. He's not the first lover I've had with ghosts. So I talked him into telling me, and he told me. It was a nightmare where Wolverine was trying to kill him, and I stepped in to try to talk some sense into Logan, and he cut me down, snikt, sliced in half. Magnus wasn't that graphic, but I get the idea. The thought chills me. I *loved* Wolverine, loved him like he was my dad, my favorite uncle, the big brother I never had. Hell, the dad I never had. The dad I did have was a poor second at best, more likely a fourteenth. And I'm not entirely sure that Magnus's dream wouldn't go exactly like that, if it happened.

Except no, it wouldn't go like that. How it would go is, Logan would try to get through me to kill Magnus, and I'd get in his way, and he'd *try* to kill me. But I wouldn't be stupid enough to let him. And then I'd kill him.

I feel sick. Magnus is sleeping again. He doesn't know that the poison he let out of his own system is poisoning me; I'd never tell him or he'd never open up to me again. But I just keep thinking about how hateful the people I loved are being to the man I love, and it's killing me.

And the thing is, I might still be one of them. Might still be a happy sheep, believing everything Almighty Father Xavier and his high priests tell me to believe, if not for Pete--

--sometimes I think Magnus *is* Pete, when I'm just waking up from one of those dreams where I'm still in Excalibur and we haven't broken up and everyone's alive. I think he is, and I'm going to talk to him, and then I see silver hair in the moonlight and I remember. Pete's dead.

If he'd been killed in the line of duty it'd hurt like hell. If he'd drunk himself to death or fallen off a bridge during a particularly heinous pubcrawl I'd have cried my eyes out for days. But it wasn't like that.

In bloody fucking England where he bloody fucking sold his soul to protect the bloody fucking humans who *used* to accept us, back in the Excalibur days, he got shot in the back of the head by human supremacists and the police did nothing. Nothing. NO THING with all caps. It took my connections and old friends of his to track down what happened.

Hey, good show, Prof. Ever since you started your brave little Dream with us X-Peons going out in our spandex to save the world, not only has the good old US of A started to periodically hunt us with Sentinels or look the other way when someone else does, but the poison's even spreading to other countries that hadn't *had* it before. And I'm supposed to risk my life for this? I'm supposed to sacrifice everything, for this?

I believed in this. Since I was a teenager, I gave myself to this, heart and soul. I was one of the most devout followers of the Dream. And I managed to overlook that it wasn't *working* until a man I loved got killed by its failure. And then the X- Men acted like this was just a momentary lapse brought on by grief, that I wasn't being rational and of course I'd come to my senses as soon as I got over Pete's death, and why was I so upset when after all I dumped the guy, and all in all it really made me angry. Treating me like a child, again, or like some poor lost sheep who needs guidance back to the One True Way.

Magnus contacted me about something entirely different; he wasn't trying to recruit me to Genosha, he was trying to get my advice about something pertaining to computers. Magnus is a first-class programmer and computer wizard, but he's a mainframe kind of guy; he has relatively little experience with PC's, the Internet, or hacking. Specifically hacking. Magnus was too old for hacking when he first got into computers; it's something you get into when you're young. But we started to talk, and I started to realize that if I was questioning everything else, I might as well question our recent "Magneto has reverted into the ultimate evil" attitude. I mean, he'd been my teacher. He was the only one who could get through to 'Yana after everything happened. He'd saved my life and Rachel's sanity. And I'd tried to kill him by phasing an icicle into his chest, for no better reason than Professor Xavier told the X-Men to stop him. Okay, yeah, he was being a terrorist, threatening the entire world again just like he did when I was a kid, the first (and up till then only) time I'd fought him. And he was in the middle of a pitched battle with Joseph that was threatening to destroy the magnetosphere, and we had to stop it.

I found out later that if we hadn't intervened and attacked Magnus, Rogue might not be dead. Joseph and Magneto were fighting in a burning building because Astra was forcing Joseph to, and if we'd chased her off and separated the combatants *without* trying to kill one of them, maybe the two of them would have been able to work together to heal the damage they'd done. Magnus couldn't do it alone, he was already half burnt out, but he might have been able to lend guidance to Joseph so the poor guy wouldn't discorporate himself trying to fix the problem-- or to Rogue after she intervened to save Joseph. If Rogue hadn't taken Joseph's powers, if she hadn't thought she needed to because it was killing Joseph to work alone and she thought she was strong enough to survive it, she wouldn't be dead. If Magneto and Joseph, or Magneto and Rogue, had been able to work together, no one would have died. Instead we assumed Magneto was in the wrong, that the wild storm threatening to destroy the magnetosphere was *caused* by him and not by Joseph attacking him, and we tried to kill him. I tried to kill him. Without thinking, without questioning. And I believed that X-Men shouldn't kill!

That was wrong. My attitude was wrong. The X-Men's attitude was wrong. We were condemning a man without actually looking at what he was doing, based solely on past knowledge 'cause he used to be a big mean bad guy, see. And I hated him for what he'd done to Wolverine, without quite considering that Wolvie had sliced the man's guts open while the Professor and Jean were doing the same thing to his mind. I loved Wolverine like a father, but how was I supposed to argue with the fact that Wolverine had tried *several* times to kill Magneto, and this was the first time Magneto had seriously struck back, and he was being driven out of his head by the Professor at the time? I'm not that much of a hypocrite. I'll defend the people I love to the death... but not if they were in the wrong.

So I went to Genosha. I checked things out. I was impressed, and disturbed, and upset. Magnus was trying to turn the country around, but the fact that even though the UN recognized Genosha no one else did, and the only thing the Russians and Americans and Israelis could agree on was trade embargo to Genosha, and the only thing keeping the country fed was Magnus dealing with rogue states like Latveria for trade... and there was this huge population of mutates who couldn't breed, or even enjoy a sex life, because of their skinsuits, so they were focused on brooding on their hate and the way they'd suffered instead, and what was left of the human population was living in terror because of it... all these things. The Legacy virus running rampant, affecting something like 40% of the mutate population. Poverty. Filth. Magnus with no powers, depending on Joseph, who he didn't trust and so he brought in a backstabbing scumwad like Cortez, who he *knew* he couldn't trust. And with all this he was *still* turning the country around, slowly but surely.

I decided to help.

The X-Men called me a traitor.

I did the same thing to Piotr. I guess maybe I deserved it.

I never expected to fall in love with Magnus.

In the beginning it was purely business; I joined his cabinet as the token former X-Man. Given my age I think a lot of people thought I was only there as a dig at Xavier. I was 20. Even Moreau and Ransome, previously the kids on the cabinet, were older than me. Okay, technically Joseph is much younger than me, but with most of Magnus' memories rattling around in his head now he might as well be the 30-something he now looks, a contemporary of Pietro.

But Magnus always respected me. Always respected my mind. He said he put me on the cabinet because I was a genius and because unlike half of his cabinet, who were all playing some kind of double games, he knew I would be totally focused on doing the best I could for the mutants of Genosha. He said that my age and naivete meant I might be able to come up with creative solutions, since I wouldn't know what was generally accepted to be a stupid idea, and maybe I might be able to make a stupid idea work. He said he needed someone at his back who he could trust not to try to kill him if the political winds shifted, and he couldn't even trust his own son, or his own clone, for that.

I don't know when things changed, when I went from seeing him as a former teacher who'd gone psycho and maybe was managing to work his way back to sanity, to a man. Things change, in seven years. I was a kid when I'd last known him, still barely getting over Piotr, and the idea that Captain Forrester would actually *kiss* him totally grossed me out. There's been a lot of time since then. Pete was twelve years older than me. Once you start dating people that much older than you are, once you're an adult and you can prove you're an adult, you start losing any sense of age distance. I broke up with Pete because I wanted to date men my own age, I said, but that was an excuse and I knew it. I was scared of how close we'd gotten, how fast it had gone. I was scared I was going to be tied down for the rest of my life. So I broke his heart, and now he's dead. I won't make that mistake again.

I know Magnus was reluctant to start anything with me. He acted like I was still a kid at first, like seeing me as anything other than that was some sort of vile betrayal of trust. I had to prove it to him, as I'd been proving it to him since I first came to Genosha, that I'm a grownup now. I make my own choices, my own decisions. I chose him.

And I don't regret it. I've thrown aside everything else, shattered my life for the sake of what I believe, undergone a sea change in who I am and how I live, and it's all going to be worth it someday. It's worth it now. But I can't get any sleep, because I'm trying so hard to help him, while my former friends are tearing me to bits. This isn't the first time. It won't be the last.

If I could only make them see, if I could only get *through* to them, hello, this is your old teammate Shadowcat, you used to think I had a brain in my head, why won't you *listen* to me? Do you seriously think I could stay brainwashed this long? The *Shadow King* couldn't hold me this long. This is Magneto we're talking about, not an evil telepath. If you ever respected my opinion, why don't you respect it enough to listen to me now? Are you so convinced of your hatred, so fixated on your opinion and your conviction that you're right that you can't change? *Professor Xavier* cuts him more slack than you do, though he lies about it and tells you all he wants Magneto defeated because Magneto is evil, all the while having conversations with him and arguing with him and negotiating with him but it's all behind your backs, because the Prof is too much of a hypocrite to admit to you that Magnus is *not evil.* And *you* are so focused on defending the honor of Professor Xavier's Dream that you won't recognize that it doesn't need defending, not this way, not from him. How could you be so stupid? So shallow? You were my best friends; I thought better of you.

My stomach hurts. I want to cry, but that will wake him up, and I just managed to get him to go to sleep. I'm younger than he is, and I have fewer responsibilities, and less messing me up in the head. I can take it.

It's 4 AM and I have to be up at 7, to begin the work I came here for, the work of saving a country. Almost no point in going to sleep at all. I stare out the window, just barely beginning to lighten with false dawn.