Sat, 07 Nov 1998
Alykat alykat@asu.edu

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Through a Mirror Clear

Alykat

Chapter Six

September 1998

 

If at his counsel I should turn aside
Into that ominous tract which, all agree
Hides the Dark Tower. Yet acquiescingly
I did turn as he pointed and neither pride
Nor hope rekindling at the end decried,
So much as gladness that some end might be.
~From "Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came"~
by Robert Browning

Something was wrong.

Rogue could neither explain nor describe it, save to say that everything seemed...off...these days in the land of X. Tension in the mansion was at an all-time high, and she saw even the closest of friends snap harshly at one another, sometimes even poking at emotional scars and bruises that hadn't quite healed over. Rogue herself had walked in on at least three heated arguments between the normally calm Scott and Jean.

She had observed the slow degeneration from her now-customary seat at the kitchen table. The others left her alone for the most part, awkwardly trying to avoid her, but even from her vantage point, she could see the changes playing out in the people with whom she lived. And she noticed as well the suspicious glances some of them directed at her.

Breakfast had been hours ago, but the dirty dishes still lay in piles on the table and around the sink. It was Rogue's turn to do the breakfast dishes, but she felt no motivation to begin the chore. Instead, she sat at the table as she had for the past three hours, listlessly twirling her hair around her finger as she watched the other X-Men play a heated game of football outside, just beyond the kitchen window.

It had started out as a game of football, at least.

Within half an hour the competition had become about much more than the customary post-game round of dinner and drinks at Harry's that had been the original wager. The assorted X-Men played against each other with uncharacteristic ferocity, with far more shoves, trash talk and dirty looks than was usually present - and necessary - in the team's previous athletic ventures.

Noting the more physical tone to the day's game, Logan soon suggested a change of sport from football to the more...unstructured...rugby. That had been two hours ago.

"Hey, darlin'...Why aren't you out there havin' fun with the rest o' us?"

Logan's greeting from the kitchen doorway broke her from her reverie.

"Huh? Oh - Ah - Ah just wasn't feelin' up to it today. Tryin' ta kill my friends ain't exactly my idea 'a fun, anyway."

Wolverine raised an eyebrow at her comment, but said only, "Suit yerself." With that, he walked over to the refrigerator and pulled out a beer. After downing the contents of one bottle, he reached into the refrigerator again for a second.

"Seems ta me y'ain't 'feelin' up to' many things these days," Logan commented. Rogue rolled her eyes as he looked pointedly at the dishes. "You haven't even tried to train with the team in months. S'pose we should feel grateful you at least eat with us."

He chuckled as he brought the bottle to his lips. Instead of feeling at ease, however, Rogue felt the hairs on her neck begin to prick up at the gutteral sound. "Next thing we know, you'll be takin' yer meals in yer room, an' we'll never see ya again."

Logan cut short Rogue's attempts to protest. "I know that with the baby an' all, McCoy's taken you off active duty, but don't mean yer too good ta train with the team. I know yer exercisin' on yer own - don't think I haven't heard you grindin' that Stairmaster inta dust - so I know yer capable of working out with the rest of us."

His voice lightened a bit and became less gruff, friendlier. "Not that I'm one to talk about bein' a loner, but we miss seein' yer face around."

Logan drained the remainder of his beer. "Next training session's tomorrow morning, 7 a.m. in the Danger Room. You know the drill."

Tossing the empty bottle into the trash, he started out the door. "I'll be expectin' you."

Rogue breathed a sigh of relief at his departure and then questioned her reaction. Logan was her friend -- had been for some time. Why now, then, did she feel such tension -- almost a sense of fear -- as he entered, and such relief at his departure?

'What's wrong with me these days?'

She sat stiffly in her seat, uncomfortable with the notion of staying, yet at the same time unwilling to deal with the possibility of running into any of the other X-Men. Unconsciously drumming her fingers on the tabletop, she stared off into space and tried to solve the puzzle.

"Hey, Rogue -- ?"

Bobby's voice sounded from the doorway, startling her. Rogue's head snapped up at the sound, and her eyes widened in shock at the sight of him.

"Bobby! What the hell happened to you?!"

He limped into the kitchen and took a seat at the table, gingerly pressing his hand to his eye. Blood was drying on assorted small cuts and bruises on his arms and face, and a thin stream of blood trickled down the side of his cheek from a cut above his eyebrow. Bobby grunted in pain as he brushed blood from a cut on his limp and discovered a new bruise on his chin.

"Remind me to get the name of that truck that hit me..." he joked feebly.

"What happened?" Rogue asked again, visibly concerned.

"Sam an' Marrow ganged up on me." Bobby made an effort to stand and walk over to the refrigerator, but the look Rogue shot him, combined with the growing pain in his limbs, made him think better of it.

Raising an eyebrow at Bobby, Rogue stood up and busied herself with gathering ice, Band-Aids and antiseptic to minister to Bobby's injuries, all the while ignoring his protestations that he could take care of himself.

Rogue sat down next to Bobby and began applying alcohol to disinfect the cut above his eye as she instructed Bobby to hold a cold compress over the other eye, which had begun to swell.

Despite the pain he was in, Bobby had to fight back a grin and smart remark at Rogue's concerned ministrations.

After cleaning and bandaging most of the major abrasions, Rogue set to attending to some of Bobby's more minor cuts and bruises. Pausing to make sure Bobby was still holding the compress correctly over his eye, Rogue noticed a stray streak of dirt on his neck. Almost automatically, she dabbed a tissue to her mouth and used it to clean off the dirt.

This proved to be too much for Bobby, who remembered the "mother's saliva cleans all" trick from his own childhood. "I guess that trick's like an innate 'mother thing,' huh?" he commented, a jovial grin on his face.

Rogue dropped the tissue on the table and walked out of the kitchen, shooting Bobby an odd look as she passed through the doorway.

"Rogue? What'd I say?" Bobby yelled after her, confused. "Wait up!"

Bobby tried to stand up, but a sharp pain struck him in the back and made him grunt in pain as he eased himself back into his seat. "Rogue? Come back! I'm sorry, whatever it is I did!" he called feebly down the hall.


Rogue came down from her room later that night, hungry and aiming to make herself a snack in the kitchen. As she walked the hallway, she heard sounds of arguing coming from her destination. Cautiously, she peeked inside the kitchen to see who was there, then ducked back into the hallway to eavesdrop.

"South Park!" That had to be Bobby.

"Babylon 5!" That was probably Sam, by the sounds of it.

"Babylon 5's syndicated - You can probably watch it later this week."

"But it's a brand new episode, and Ah want to find out if -- "

"Well, it's a new episode of South Park, too! I want to know who Cartman's father is."

"_That_ fatass? Who gives a crap who his father is?"

A new voice chimed in. "I do -- And I am shocked to hear such language coming from you, young Samuel," Hank said. "Now pass the Cheesy Poofs."

"That show is horrible," Scott retorted. "We should watch something more mature than that."

"Thanks for backin' me up, Cyclops, sir. You're the leader -- tell 'em to let me watch Babylon 5 -- a _mature_ show."

"Actually, I was going to suggest Law & Order..."

"You upworlders are pathetic," Marrow sneered. "Forget arguing and trying to agree - The person with the remote control has the power here."

"Hey! How did you -- ?"

Rogue could hear the smirk in Marrow's voice. "Now, I have the power, and we will watch what _I_ say."

"Not Kenny's Greatest Death' _again_!"

"Kick ass!" Bobby yelled, doing his best Cartman imitation. "Play away, Sarah!"

"I would have to agree with young Samuel here," Beast interjected. "There is more to South Park than simply Kenny's multiple deaths. Perhaps, then, if we are not going to watch an entire episode of the program, we watch something else instead?"

"No way! I thought you were on my side!"

"I am not on anyone's 'side.' I would say, though, that our fearless leader's suggestion of Law & Order has its merits."

Said fearless leader interrupted Hank's comments. "Sarah, that's gross and immature. Turn that off now!"

"You can't order me around, 'One-Eye.' I have the remote control."

Rolling her eyes at the utter nonsense of the conversation, Rogue decided to go back to her room. However, five minutes later, her stomach's grumbling protestations spurred her to go back to the kitchen -- and actually go inside this time -- to get some food.

Walking through the doorway, she blinked in disbelief at a spectacle of violence that was almost on par with that of South Park. The only difference was that this was real.

Bobby and Cyclops were boxing in a corner, alternating jabs, hooks and uppercuts and adding to the earlier injuries that Bobby was apparently ignoring. Cannonball perched on Hank's shoulders, trying to wrestle the massive blue-furred doctor to the ground. In the midst of it all, Marrow sat happily on the countertop, a sinister grin on her face as she played and replayed some of her favorite South Park deaths of Kenny.

The violence did not stop when Rogue entered the room; rather, it intensified to almost cartoonish proportions.

A giggle of amusement escaped Rogue's lips as she fetched a carton of double-chocolate ice cream from the refrigerator. Spooning ice cream into her mouth, Rogue chuckled to herself as she walked slowly back to her room.

Once back in her "sanctuary," she felt a sense of pure shock and horror come over her. "What the hell--?!"

A look of distaste on her face, Rogue threw the spoon into the now half-empty carton and started out the door, melting ice cream in hand, to stop the fight in the kitchen.

Rogue stopped suddenly in the doorway, rubbing her eyes in disbelief to make sure she wasn't seeing things.

No one was there, and there was no sign that any kind of violence had occurred.

She looked at the remaining ice cream in her arms and took another spoonful. Wrinkling her nose with disgust, she tossed the carton into the trash and walked back out of the kitchen.

'What's wrong with me?'


Note: The South Park/Babylon 5 argument was inspired by a rec.arts.comics.marvel.xbooks thread from February 1998.


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