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be properly worshipped.
Through a Mirror Clear
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
Bobby Drake could hear the wheezing of the Stairmaster from halfway across the mansion. 'The new exercise equipment is only a few days old! It can't be breaking already!'
Only one other person was left in the mansion that day, the others having gone to help Colossus battle the newly-reappeared Omega Red in Russia. Bobby followed the sounds of the dying Stairmaster to their source, expecting to find her at the other end.
"Rogue? You okay?" he called down the hallway.
She hadn't been particularly thrilled at being ordered to stay at home for this mission. Angry and indignant was a more accurate description. But Beast was unsure how Omega Red's death spores might affect the baby, despite Rogue's invulnerability, and since her collapse three weeks ago, Rogue had refused to spend any time in the MedLab to investigate much of anything regarding her pregnancy.
So she had been left behind, and Bobby entrusted with keeping an eye on her.
Bobby reached the doorway of the new exercise room, next to the Danger Room, and popped his head inside.
She was on the Stairmaster, dressed in full uniform and stepping like a maniac, all the while carrying a barbell across her shoulders with, Bobby estimated, at least a few tons on it.
'Well, that explains why the machine's screaming its last breaths.'
Bobby entered the room and approached Rogue, who still had not shown any sign of noticing his presence. He reached out to put a hand on her shoulder, and the next thing he knew, he was sprawled on the floor, pinned beneath the barbell that Rogue had been lifting.
"Don't sneak up on me, Drake," he heard her say. She didn't even look over at him as she stepped off the Stairmaster and over to one of the abdominal crunching machines, setting the weight load to max.
"What gives?" Bobby asked as he tried to squirm out from under the weights. 'Definitely more than a few tons....urk...remind me not to make her mad...'
"Whatever do you mean, Bobby?" she asked frostily from the weight machine.
'And they call me Iceman...'
Bobby finally squirmed out from under the barbell. "I dunno, Rogue...You just seem kind of...on edge lately." Again, he moved cautiously toward Rogue, who was still avoiding his gaze. "This about being left behind...or is it something else?"
"Ah just don't see why Hank wanted to leave me behind," she said, continuing her exercises. "Ah'm perfectly capable --"
"No, you're not, Rogue," Bobby interjected, his voice firm. "With your not-just-in-the-morning sickness --"
"Just a mild case of the flu..." she muttered.
"-- the nausea --"
"Not gettin' enough sleep..."
"-- and...and everything else, you're more a liability than an asset right now." Bobby crouched down beside her and grinned. "So just enjoy the break -- look at it as a nice long vacation from saving the world...We'll muddle through just fine without you for the next eight months."
Rogue's head snapped up, her green eyes blazing. "Eight months?! Ain't no way Ah'm gonna stay cooped up in here for eight months! Ah'm _fine_!"
"Rogue," Bobby began carefully, "you may be fine to guard the mansion, but the way things have been going this past month, you are definitely not okay for battle missions."
"Like _hell_ Ah'm not! Ah've fought through worse..."
Bobby was quickly becoming frustrated. "Look, Rogue, if you won't take care of yourself for your own sake, how about for the baby's? Who knows what could happen in battle? And what you're doing now -- eating like a bird and punishing yourself on the machines 24-7 -- isn't going to help the baby's health, either."
He looked at Rogue hopefully. "How about you get changed and I take you into town for a hearty pancake breakfast?"
Rogue s eyes lit up with child-like excitement. "With bacon and lots of sausage?"
"And biscuits and gravy, too?"
"And scrambled eggs and orange juice besides." Bobby grinned, slightly relieved. "C'mon," he said, putting his hand on her shoulder, "why don't you get changed, and I'll wait for you --"
Rogue grabbed his arm and flipped him over her shoulder, sending him flat on his back with a solid "Ooomph!" Then she leaned forward and placed her hand on his windpipe, drawing her face close to Bobby's.
"Now you listen t'me -- and listen good," she said dangerously. "Ah don't like that patronizin' tone of voice you're usin' with me. Ah'm a big girl, Drake, and Ah don't need you -- or any of the other X-Men -- babyin' me!"
"You think you're a big girl? Then start acting like it!" Angry now, Bobby changed into his ice form and used his powers to throw Rogue off of him and pin her to the opposite wall.
'Those ice shackles won't hold her for long...'
"Look, Rogue -- You want the truth? The brutal, awful truth? Well, here it is: You're 21 years old and your life's a mess. I warned you about Gambit, and look where it s gotten you. You left him to die -- a traitor -- in Antarctica. You're pregnant with his baby. So now you're going to be a single mother -- just like your real mother was."
She flinched as he leaned forward and took her chin in his iced hand, forcing her to acknowledge him.
"Look at me, dammit! You're a grown woman now, Rogue. Take responsibility for your life while you can, because none of us want to be there to pick up the pieces when everything's over."
He turned to walk out the door, and as he heard the ice shatter, he braced for the punch he knew would be coming.
But no such punch came.
He turned around and saw her curled up in a ball on the floor, her body shaking and tears pouring down her cheeks as she fought against the sobs that threatened to break free. Her eyes were squeezed shut and her head was down, pressed into her knees, so she could not see the tears threatening to spill from Bobby's own eyes.
Reverting back to his flesh form, he knelt down and wrapped his arms around her. She returned the embrace, resting her head on Bobby's shoulder.
"Ah'm so sorry..." she said, finally succumbing to the tears.
Bobby, for his part, tried to comfort her, patting her hair and murmuring consolingly to her. He felt awkward, though, given his earlier behavior and his own confused feelings about her.
'Boy, if this isn't a "When Harry Met Sally" moment...' he thought absently.
She cried for what seemed like forever, and when the sobs died down, she broke away from Bobby's embrace, biting her lip and feeling awkward herself.
'So what next...?' she wondered.
They stared at each other for a few minutes, neither sure of what to say. Rogue finally broke the silence.
"You still up for breakfast?" She smiled weakly at him.
Bobby smiled back at her, grateful that she had made the first move. "Your wish is my command." He stood up and offered his hand to her, helping her to her feet. "Shall we be off?"
Rogue laughed, wiping the remaining tears from her eyes.
"Gimme a sec to clean muhself up, 'kay?" she asked, her voice still thick. "Ah'll meet ya by the front doors in ten minutes."
"Sounds like a plan to me," Bobby answered, smiling warmly at her as she left the room.
Once she was gone, though, he slumped against the wall and put his head in his hands.
'I guess this was that "breakthrough" Betsy was telling us to look out for. I'm just scared to death of how much worse this is going to get.'
He shrugged and stood up to leave the room. 'Take it as it comes, I guess. Let's just see how breakfast goes...'
As he walked out the door, the memory of Rogue's wide-eyed, tear-streaked face flashed in his mind, and he groaned inwardly.
'Why did I have to be such a jerk?'
The way she was hunched over, looking like a frozen, frightened child as she tightly held her mug of hot chocolate to her lips, Bobby Drake could have sworn the woman sitting across the booth from him was much younger than her 21 years.
Her haunted eyes haunted him as well. The woman before him should be smiling and laughing, her emerald eyes dancing merrily as she shared a joke or helped him plan a new prank on the other residents of the X-Mansion. The melancholy woman with him now was nothing like the Rogue he knew from before Christmas.
He reached out and put his hands over hers, gently bringing her hands and the mug down to the table. She avoided his gaze, keeping her eyes focused on the mug in her hands -- and the warm hands that grasped her own.
"Rogue?" He spoke her name softly, trying again to catch her attention. When still she would not respond, he let go of her hands and sat back in his seat, this time trying to look at anything but her as he let out a sigh of frustration.
"You know, if I'm such bad company, you could just tell me and save us both some trouble," he said, trying with little success to keep his voice light.
Bobby's sudden movement and abrupt comments jolted her, and she looked up at him, startled out of her reverie. "Bobby, Ah -- Ah ... It's not you, okay?" she stammered, forcing an embarrassed smile. "Ah was just ... thinkin'..."
"You've been staring off into space like a zombie for, like, the last 10 minutes."
He leaned forward and squeezed her hands, still clasped around the mug.
"Ummm...Rogue?" he stumbled, trying to collect his thoughts. "I need to tell you something. I ... um ... just wanted to say that I'm sorry ... for what I said to you earlier ... in the weight room and all. I had no right to say those things -- I'm supposed to be your friend for goodness sake -- and -- "
"But you meant it." Rogue's voice, cold and emotionless in its tone, jarred him from his thoughts.
"Rogue -- I ... "
"Drake, nothing you said wasn't the truth," she said wearily, pulling her hands away from Bobby's as she sat back in her seat. "So don't apologize, 'kay?" She raised her hand to motion for the waiter to come over. "Check pl -- "
"Not yet." Bobby, in half desperation, pulled her outstretched hand back to the table. "Can we talk for a bit first? I mean _really_ talk?"
The urgency in Bobby's voice surprised Rogue, and his sudden assertiveness took her off guard. Settling back in her seat, she pulled her hand back from Bobby's grasp.
"Okay... ," she said cautiously, her voice soft. "What's on your mind?"
"You, Rogue." Bobby looked down at his hands. "Rogue - I'm worried about you. Been worried for a while - since you and Gambit started getting serious." He paused, looking up at Rogue, who was nervously shuffling leftover scraps of food across her plate. "You just haven't been yourself for...well...for the longest time. It's pretty obvious that something's wrong. Do you want to talk about it?"
"Not really," she murmured, her words barely discernable.
Bobby leaned forward, trying to encourage Rogue to look at him. "You sure?"
"Yes," she answered, this time with a little more strength behind her voice.
Bobby pulled back from her and ran his hand through his hair, trying to control his mounting frustration. Still, a sigh escaped his lips. "If that's the way you want it, Rogue, I'll leave you alone."
Tense, the pair sat stiffly in their seats and avoided each other's gaze as they tried to nonchalantly sip their drinks and stare, unaffected, into space. About five minutes into the uneasy standoff, Rogue set her empty mug on the table and began to absently poke at the leftover froth with a coffee stirrer. Finally, she broke the silence.
"It wasn't supposed to happen," she whispered, almost too softly for Bobby to hear.
"What do you mean?"
"Any of this - that night, that trial, what happened ... afterwards ..." Her voice, which had started out strong, dropped down to a nervous whisper. "This whole mess ... it's all my fault ..."
"Rogue what happened back there, in Antarctica? I mean, I've heard some of what happened from the others, but there was a lot that got ... left out."
Rogue quickly looked away from Bobby, biting her lip in an attempt to suppress tears that were only a prelude to the torrent of memories and emotions that she feared would quickly overwhelm her. "God, Ah wish Ah could just close my eyes and this would all go away like it had never happened...," she murmured as she lowered her head and massaged her throbbing temples.
Bobby reached out his hand and cupped one of Rogue's. "Would you like to talk about it?" he ventured again, his voice soft.
There was a long silence, and Rogue finally responded, quietly at first and then with slowly building strength.
"What happened - between Remy an' me - wasn't supposed to happen. Any of it. After that night..." She stopped for a moment, then resumed her talking. "At Christmastime, before Lilandra called us all in, Remy an' Ah weren't exactly on the best terms. Ah was gettin' friendly with Joseph - somethin' that pleased him none too well - an' he an' Ah.... well, let's just say that we were on speakin' terms, but that was about it. Both of us, we knew somethin' was there, but we never really talked about it after that whole Onslaught mess. Just kinda walked around an' tried to avoid each other."
Rogue let out a low chuckle. "Ya know, as big as that mansion is, it seems mighty small when you're tryin' to avoid someone an' you've both got some 'a the same haunts."
Bobby smiled at her encouragingly, and she continued.
"Ah was almost absorbed by the Phalanx when we were out in space. Ah thought Ah was done for, an' Ah said some stuff that maybe Ah shouldn't have. Some stuff that Remy heard when he saved me." Rogue paused to take a breath and moved her hands from massaging her temples to gripping her empty hot chocolate mug. "After that, we got closer - a lot closer. An' then we were trapped in Antarctica..." She squeezed her eyes shut for a moment, then took a deep breath and continued.
"He started pushin' me away right after it happened...Kept pushin' and pushin'... After Ah came to save him after Spat an' Grovel took him away, he told me Ah didn't really know him, an' that he didn't love me - never did. Ah shoulda left him there and then. Findin' out the truth at the Trial - Ah just got ta put a face ta all the nightmares Ah've been havin' since Ah kissed him in Israel."
A small cloud of dust surrounded Rogue's hands as she unconsciously started to grind the ceramic mug between her two hands. Rogue shook her head and gave a wry smile as she continued. "Boy shoulda known better than ta try ta sweet talk me after that. Guilted me inta draggin' his sorry butt outta that citadel, then tellin' me he loved me, tellin' me he'd changed, so's Ah'd save him an' bring him back home." Sarcasm and anger crept further into her voice, and she spat out her words with bitterness. "After what he did - 'cause 'a him, Kitty an' Pete almost died, an' most o' the rest of us X-Men at the time weren't doin' so peachy-keen ourselves. He betrayed us, an' he betrayed me, led me on all that time an' then tried ta use it against me just ta save his sorry ass!"
Rogue's voice took on a steely, deadly edge. "He got what was comin' to him. If he's dead, that's no less than he deserves. If he's still alive, he's still got ta live with himself, an' he's certainly got no home here ta come back to."
Bobby looked down at the pile of dust on the table where her mug used to be. Rogue's tirade both confused and worried him. He thought he had heard genuine remorse in her voice just minutes ago, yet now she spoke with only bitterness and self-righteous anger about what had happened. He knew, though, that now was not the time to call her on it. He'd had no great love for the Cajun, but at the same time he believed Gambit had genuinely loved Rogue, at least at one time. Rogue's version of the events seemed too subjective to be trusted as gospel.
"If he's alive, don't you think he should at least find out about the baby, though?" Bobby ventured.
"Let him think it's Joseph's for all Ah care."
The cold, hard finality in her voice jarred Bobby, and he decided not to push the subject for now. He'd talk to Hank later to find out more details of what had happened on that mission - and most especially what, exactly, had happened during that "trial."
"Ah think it's about time ta get goin', dontcha think?" Rogue smiled sweetly and folded her cloth napkin daintily in front of her, seeming a completely different person from the depressive that had sat before him earlier that morning, or the bitter shrew that had spoken so venomously just moments before.
"Ummmmm, yeah." Startled, Bobby raised his hand to call for the waiter. "Check please."