|Sat, 07 Nov 1998
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Through a Mirror Clear
In sleep she seemed to walk forlorn,
Rogue sat up suddenly in bed, gasping for breath as beads of sweat trickled down her face. She leaned forward and rested her head on her knees as she struggled to regain her composure.
"Just a dream...Just a dream...," she murmured to herself as she rocked back and forth in bed.
She slept now to avoid the tedious hours spent awake, yet she spent the hours awake trying to avoid the nightmares that sleep brought, nightmares that had grown steadily worse over the past three months. While she did not withdraw completely into herself as she had once before, Rogue often awoke wishing she could escape into her own mind once again. End the nightmare by confronting it, by entering it.
By letting it win.
Once the shaking subsided, Rogue lifted her head and wiped the sweat from her brow. Feeling almost suffocated by the darkness of the room, she looked over at the only source of light in the room: her alarm clock, whose glowing digital display read 3:27 a.m.
Sleep beckoned her to return to her soft pillow, but she resisted its call. The latest nightmare was still too fresh in her mind to ignore. Restless, Rogue threw aside the covers and stepped out of bed. Pacing across the cold wooden floor, she tried to shake the memory of the dream.
A familiar face. Recognition ' and horror. Soft flesh. Hard fists. Warm blood. Unrelenting fury. Muted cries for mercy. A pool of blood, quickly buried under a cold blanket of snow.
Struck by a sudden chill, Rogue rubbed her hands along her arms, trying to warm herself. Finally, overcome with frustration, she threw open her bedroom door and stalked down the hallway and stairs, hoping a stroll through the Mansion grounds would help clear her head.
She sighed as she opened the Mansion's front door, letting the cold air from the outside hit her full in the face. Trying to ignore the cold March air, Rogue began humming a tune from her childhood as she stepped outside.
Three hours later, she was sitting on an old log by the lake, watching the sun slowly rise. She shivered from the cold, but she ignored it, instead immersing herself in her thoughts.
Rogue's head snapped up as she heard a twig snap behind her. Her eyes widened in shock when she recognized the intruder.
He said nothing, but snarled at her as he reached over and pulled her to her feet by her hair. Rogue wavered, paralyzed by pain and fear, as her knees threatened to buckle beneath her.
He glowered at her with cold eyes for what seemed like forever, still holding tight to Rogue's hair. His face curled into an icy sneer as he pulled her closer to him. Holding her face just inches from his, he snarled, "You pull stuff like that, girl, you know what the punishment is."
Tossing her to the ground, he laughed at the fear evident in her eyes. "You think I wouldn't remember? You think you'd be able to get away with that? You think wrong, girl."
He began a barrage of punches, kicks and slaps that stung and bit. She tasted blood, and she thought she felt a rib crack. And the cold morning air stung almost as much as the blows.
Lying helpless on the ground, she idly wondered how it was she could actually feel the assault, in light of her invulnerability. This beating hurt almost as much as the ones her mother's boyfriends would deliver when she was a child. 'At least he doesn't have a whiskey bottle with him,' she thought, cringing at the memory she'd thought she'd managed to forget.
"Can't have you forgetting what you did wrong, girl," he growled as he slapped her face. Then, gripping her throat so tight she couldn't breathe, he yanked her head toward him and kissed her.
Rogue's eyes snapped open, glowing with anger, and she bit down hard on his lip. She did not hear him hiss in pain or see him react at all, but the taste of blood in her mouth brought a glint of savagery to her eyes. In a white-hot rage, she threw her assailant to the ground and delivered her own barrage of blows, with her super-strength adding power to her fury.
He didn't show any sign of acknowledging the blows, even though Rogue could see parts of his skin beginning to blacken and swell from her assault. He only leered mockingly at her as blood gushed from a wound on his forehead. His grin intensified her anger and frustration, and she hit him harder and faster. But still he continued to taunt her.
Rogue heard a branch snap behind her, and without thinking she spun around and confronted the intruder. Lifting him nearly two feet off the ground and pinning him against a nearby tree, her right arm was pulled back, ready to deliver a hearty blow, when she realized who her visitor was.
"Bobby?!" She dropped him to the ground in surprise.
Dusting the dirt off of him, he looked at her with annoyance. "We're jumpy this morning. Geez, Rogue ' this how you say hi to all your friends these days?"
"Sorry," she mumbled. "What are you doing out here so early in the morning?"
"Danger Room session, remember? It's five 'til seven, and since you weren't in your room, I figured I'd check around to see if you wanted to train with us this time."
"Oh. Ah..." Rogue turned around and looked back toward the lake. Her assailant was gone, and there was no sign of any battle. She closed her eyes and briefly massaged her temples. She noticed blood on her hand as pulled it away from her forehead.
From behind her, Bobby commented, "What happened to you this morning? You look like you've been through a war."
"So you're sure you want to do this, Rogue?" Bobby asked as they walked down the long underground corridor to the Danger Room.
"For the twentieth time this morning, Drake, yes," Rogue answered tersely. "Ah could ask you the same thing about you after that rumpus with Sam an' Marrow yesterday, not to mention the fight you had last night with Scott."
She added the latter part with some trepidation. 'Ah'm not goin' insane...Ah'm not goin' insane...,' she said to herself, trying to fight her uneasiness.
Bobby looked at her quizzically. "Fight with Scott?"
Rogue's face flushed with embarrassment. "Never mind. Ah must have been mistaken... Forget Ah said anythin'..."
"Oh. Okay...," Bobby answered, his voice odd as he absently pressed his fingertips to a bruise on his left cheekbone.
Taking a deep breath, Rogue stopped in front of the Danger Room. "Well, here we are..."
Bobby took a quick glance at his watch. "Yup. And 20 minutes late. Scott isn't gonna approve of such tardiness," he said teasingly, pointing a finger at her in mock accusation.
"Ah'll take the heat, no biggie...Well, no sense in just standin' here. Let's get this mess over with."
Hesitantly, Rogue opened the door and stepped inside the X-Men's large, but sparsely equipped, training center. All of the other X-Men were already inside, sparring in pairs.
From the other side of the room, Cyclops shot the two latecomers a look of annoyance. Rogue winced as his sparring partner, Wolverine, took advantage of Cyclops' momentary distraction and tackled his "fearless leader" from behind, sending Cyclops sprawling to the ground in a very un-leaderlike fashion. Assorted amused cheers from nearby X-Men punctuated his fall.
This further annoyed Scott, who leapt back to his feet and sent a quick barrage of pulsed optic blasts toward Wolverine, who staggered backwards briefly and then took on a defiant stance against the assault.
"Time out," Cyclops said sternly. He walked over to Rogue and Iceman. "You' re late."
"We know," Bobby answered, almost challenging him.
Noting the tension, Rogue broke in. "Look, it was my fault. Bobby came lookin' for me and..."
"It doesn't matter," Cyclops interrupted. Gesturing back to the other sparring X-Men, he said, "We've paired people up, and the winners go on to battle each other, and so on. You two will come in with the next round. Rogue ' you're fighting the winner of the Beast/Reyes match. Bobby ' you're up against the winner of the Angel/Maggott match-up."
Cyclops turned abruptly and returned to spar against Wolverine, leaving Rogue and Bobby in the corner by the door. From their vantage point, the latecomers kept an eye on all the matches: Beast vs. Cecilia, Angel vs. Maggott, Cyclops vs. Wolverine, Storm vs. Marrow, Jean vs. Psylocke and Cannonball vs. Jubilee (who had come out the night before to visit).
Beast and Cannonball easily defeated their opponents. Rogue noted the contrast between the two winners: Beast tried to best his fellow doctor gently, while Cannonball seemed to take pride in embarrassing Jubilee. Poking Bobby in the ribs, Rogue asked, "What's wrong with Sam? He's never been like this before. Even with my invulnerability, Ah have trouble gettin' him ta hit me in trainin' sessions 'cause Ah'm a girl, and now he's pounding the lights outta Jubilee?"
Bobby's eyes narrowed as they followed Rogue's gesture toward the Cannonball/Jubilee fracas. "I don't know," he answered. "It really is odd for him, I guess. He's gotten more active in the training sessions these days. Maybe he's just gotten carried away."
The other battles took longer because the combatants were more suitably matched. Rogue giggled as she watched Maggott spout gallons of trash talk (most of which no one could understand) as he and his slugs finally defeated Angel. Phoenix won her fight by using her telekinetic powers to catch Psylocke off-guard in the physical plane as she battled her fellow telepath on the astral plane. Storm lost her patience with Marrow and knocked her unconscious with a strong lightning bolt.
The Cyclops/Wolverine battle lasted the longest, with Cyclops using his powers to keep Wolverine at bay for as long as he could. But Logan's healing factor gave him the stamina to keep dodging his eye-beams and to bounce back from hits hits. Wolverine played a waiting game as Scott tired himself out. Eventually, the exhaustion began to take its toll on Cyclops, and Logan closed in when fatigue caused Scott to briefly drop his guard. Normally, Logan would have extended the two outer claws of a hand on either side of his opponent's face and asked him to surrender, but instead Wolverine finished off Scott with a sharp left hook to the chin and a vicious knee to the kidneys. Bruised, the Canadian mutant breathed heavily and almost stumbled as he left the arena.
Jean stood, strangely unmoved, as she watched her husband collapse in pain to the floor.
Rogue and Iceman joined the fray for Round Two. Here the battles were less evenly matched, as Rogue faced off against Beast, Maggott against Iceman, Wolverine against Storm, and Phoenix against Cannonball. The fights tended to stay in the same corner of the Danger Room, so the losers of the previous round formed a kind of ring around the combatants to better watch the fights.
Jean defeated her opponent first, using her telepathic powers to deliver a strong telepathic bolt that knocked Cannonball unconscious in mid-air. Jubilee cheered jubilantly from her spot on the sidelines as she applied an ice pack to her swollen left eye.
Wolverine surprised everyone by being the next to fall in battle. His stamina nearly maxed out from Cyclops' repeated optic blasts in the previous round, Logan quickly succumbed to Storm's powers and fell unconscious. Marrow, crouched nearby, snickered at the sight.
It took Rogue a bit longer to defeat Beast, but not much. Using her power of flight to keep herself out of Beast's grasp until the last possible moments, she kept divebombing, delivering hits at random and keeping Beast off-balance. She delivered the final blow by colliding against her teammate at top speed and slamming him against one of the Danger Room walls.
The Maggott/Iceman match-up took the longest. Maggott used his slugs, Eenie and Meanie, to keep Iceman off-balance while Maggott delivered his own blows. Bombarded by punches, slugs, and the jeers of his other teammates, Iceman let his frustration and mounting anger get the better of him. Anger in his face, he batted the slugs across the room with an ice hockey stick, aided in their travels by a burst of ice that slicked the floor beneath them. Then he used his ice powers to pin Maggott to a nearby wall and delivered an ice-enhanced punch to Maggott's face that may have broken his jaw. Bobby was momentarily horrified by what he had done, but his confusion was quickly shoved aside by a growing sense of pride at hearing the cheers of his other teammates after he delivered the coup de grace.
Down to the final four: Iceman, Phoenix, Rogue and Storm. Iceman and Phoenix paired off, while Rogue and Storm prepared to fight each other. The remaining ten X-Men formed a wide circle around the area where the two battles would take place so they could better watch the fights as they tended their wounds. Even Maggott, who almost assuredly had a broken jaw, warded off attempts to take him to the MedLab so he could watch the remaining battles.
Cyclops, massaging his bruised temples from the first round, called the beginning of the fight, and the combatants proceeded to cautiously spar with their opponents, warily gauging possible weaknesses and opportunities for victory. By the way the fighters eyed each other, the audience knew these battles would last a while.
Storm struck first, sending out a low-level lightning bolt toward Rogue, who easily dodged it. Iceman followed Ororo's example with an ice blast toward Phoenix, who telekinetically lifted herself out of the way. Both battles continued as such, almost like a game of chess as they dodged and parried each other's moves. Rogue eventually defeated Storm by getting close enough to her to absorb Storm and use her own powers against her. By chilling the blood in her veins, Iceman knocked Jean unconscious when the bloodflow proved too slow to keep her body in sparring form.
All done to the cheers of a crowd that adored whoever seemed to be winning at the time.
"Well, lookee here ' There's an ending ya wouldn't expect," Logan said blandly. "Rogue and Drake ' yer up."
Rogue and Iceman walked to the center of the "arena" battle circle that had been formed by the other X-Men. The two looked at each other almost bashfully as the level of anticipation in the room heightened expectantly.
Bobby put out his hand, and Rogue shook it. "Well, let's get this started...," he said.
They stood across from each other, shoulders hunched and feet shuffling back and forth, like two wrestlers on the mat seconds before the beginning of a match. Their eyes were narrowed in concentration, as if pondering strategy, and their body language exuded confidence and ability as they waited for the okay to begin.
From his spot in the arena, Logan called out, "Ready? On three ' One... Two... Three... Go!"
Their scuffle began modestly, much as before, as they tested each other's capabilities and reactions, but the fight soon escalated, much to the delight of the crowd. The cheers and chants of the group that circled the combatants was intoxicating, and Rogue was hard-pressed to contain the euphoria that filled her at hearing her name chanted as Bobby began to falter and the battle turned in her favor.
'Keep throwing punches. Stay out of his way. Keep him off-balance so he can't use his powers.'
As she ducked away from a burst of ice, she felt her body begin to grow cold, as if she was freezing from the inside out. Looking at Bobby's face, she saw his narrowed eyes and furrowed brow, exuding intensity and an uncharacteristic level of disciplined concentration. She moved toward him, hoping to deliver a blow that would shake him from his concentration, but she stopped short, gasping from the pain as she felt the blood in her veins begin to literally run cold.
She found herself drawn in by his eyes. Once friendly, now hard. Once warm and inviting, now frigid and forbidding. An angry shadow had settled behind them. Rogue began to falter. A cold sneer settled upon his lips, and Rogue thought she heard him say, "Thought you stood a chance, girl? Who said you had the right to hope?"
Pushing past the cold of her body and the stabbing pains in her chest as she fought to breathe and stay conscious, she dived at Bobby and knocked him to the ground, breaking him from his concentration. But despite the blow, he behaved as if all was happening according to plan.
"You can't win, Rogue. You know that," he taunted.
"That's where you're wrong, Drake," she answered, delivering a punch that should have knocked him unconscious. Should have, but didn't. She looked at him in disbelief ' He was still awake and bleeding only slightly from a new cut above his eye. "Thought you had me there, didn't you?" he jeered.
Rogue felt the chill begin to spill over her again, and she began to punch and kick him, sending him flying into the nearby wall. Bobby only laughed and dared her to keep going.
'Stop the cold. Stop the taunts. The others, cheerin' for me. Have to be doin' somethin' right... Stop looking at me! Ah'll wipe that smile off your face once and for all. Gotta stop the cold...the taunts...'
The room seemed to spin around her. The taunts, the cheers, the cold. She was going to be sick soon. Why wouldn't he stop laughing? Maybe another punch would quiet him down.
Another punch. And another one after that. And they just kept coming....But his laughter only grew more grating as her punches increased in strength and frequency, even as his face became more and more bloodied.
'Make it stop...make it stop...'
The crowd's cheers grew louder.
Rogue suddenly stopped short, her fist ready to deliver the final blow, when her eyes caught Bobby's. The cold, mocking stare had been replaced by swollen, bruised eyes filled with fear and confusion.
"Rogue?" he mumbled weakly, his eyes entreating her to stop.
Rogue looked around in astonishment, as if for the first time realizing where she was. She gazed in horror at Bobby's crumpled form lying at her knees, with blood spattered everywhere and evident signs of broken bones. She looked around at the other X-Men, who stood uneasily in a circle around her, gazing accusingly at her. No more cheers now.
She could feel the bile rising in her throat.
"What have Ah done?"