Down-Home Charm Photo Album Songbank Fan-Fiction History Books Fan Art Miscellania Links
Fan-Fiction >
Post-Claremont >
"Tales of the Twilight Menshevik"

Stories in this series:

Sisters under Their Skins
Midnight Sun
A Year in the Life
October 6: A Night 2 Remember
A Day's Work
Late Summer Interlude
The Time the Twain Shall Meet
Message to a Grandchild
Ergo Bibamus 1: Eat, Drink and Be Merry
Lights in the Dark
Between the Woods and Frozen Lake
Ergo Bibamus 2: There's a Tavern Near the Town
Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Someone Blue
Valentine Allsorts
The Ballad of Trish and Henry
Rogue's Fairy Tale
Magneto, My First Love
To My Dark-Haired Lady
The Raven and the Oriole
Trish -- A Rapture

Val and Ray at the Movies
March 2002
July 2002

Tales of Future Twilight
Ergo Bibamus 3: Drink to Me Only With Thine Eyes
They Will Always Be Penny and Max to Me
Getting to Know You
Fourth Thursday in November
The Iceman's Tale
Pictures at an Exhibition
The Survivor Has a Different Kind of Scar

Twilight Yet to Come
Hang on to Your Ego
Strange Headfellows
Sonnet for Magnus
Between the Winds

DISCLAIMER: This is an unauthorized work of fiction using characters that are (c) & TM by Marvel Comics Group. No profit is being made on this story, so I think I'll invoke The Marvel Readers' Bill of Rights (for the full text see Stan's Soapbox in some of the May 1998 comics, e.g. Generation X #38):
"8. The right to practice scripting and drawing our Marvel characters for your own pleasure and amusement."
The story is (c) Tilman Stieve ( You can download this and copy it for your entertainment, but don't sell it for profit, or Marvel will set their lawyers on you. Please do not archive this on your website without informing me first.
This story features sexual scenes [M/F], although they are not really more graphic than what you would find in the steamier kind of romance novel or in a science-fiction story sold without age restrictions.

Valerie Cooper's Diary

9/15/96. as yesterday. Irene was christened today. Quite a crowd, w/ Raven's family, mine, X-Factor & a few guests from out of town. Thankfully Mom & Dad had been prepared what to expect when they first met Kurt -- Dale was of course unfazed. I was especially grateful that Captain America came to represent the Avengers, considering that our previous relationship was not always the smoothest one. Forge, Polaris & Audrey were the godparents, we also took advantage of the occasion to have our family blessed (R. did not grumble too much when I suggested that, saying "so long as there's no talk of a wedding" -- as if that was a realistic proposition for the 2 of us, not just because of the gay thing, but also for personal reasons &c). It really brought home that Raven, Irene and I now really are a family of our own (Mom & Dad sat behind me at the time, so I'm not sure how they felt during that rite), and it is a little daunting with a woman like Raven. What makes things more complicated is that I now also have 3 'foster children', although I guess that Graydon C. won't be expecting any Xmas presents & only Rogue seems to be keen on the idea. K. has just begun to accept the fact that he is R's son, & w/ the age difference he feels more like Irene's uncle than her brother, so we'll still have to work out our relationship. It is noticeable that he is much less comfortable with R. than Rogue -- she probably left it too long, while her relationship to Rogue was close enough that they could talk about a lot of things even when they still were on different sides of the fence. The reception was nice & not too exhausting. Many of the guests had to leave in the afternoon & by the evening most had left. D. & A. took Mom & Dad to the airport before setting off themselves, and in the end only Rogue remained of the out-of-towners. She'll be staying the night at our home & will go on a little vacation on her own tomorrow. Irene, your parents will always look after you and care for you, but it is good to know that if anything should befall either of us, there are people who love you too -- your godparents, your siblings Rogue and Kurt, and so many others. We'll all do all we can to make a world in which you can live and shape your destiny in peace. And with God's help I hope we succeed.

9/16/96. sunny, humid, thunderstorm in the evening. Rogue had breakfast w/ us. Her eyes became all misty when I nursed Irene afterwards & she was rather distracted in the conversation. She does not open up easily about what ails her, but it wasn't hard to tell that she was thinking that breastfeeding a child is something she won't be able to do for quite a while yet. Still, when I mentioned the possibility of Forge building some device that might allow her to touch another person's skin w/o wearing gloves, she gave the air of being strangely uninterested. But maybe that has to do w/ a certain Darkhölme antipathy to X-Factor's techno-wizard. Later, after Rogue had set off on her one-day vacation, I discussed this w/ Raven, who also said she was a bit surprised, but was otherwise rather non-committal. I wonder if it had anything to do w/ R & R's little 4-eyes talk before Rogue's departure. So there may yet be things still that Rogue does not trust me with. In the afternoon we held our usual X-Factor monday meeting. Thanks to Raven's help, I am able to slowly return to my normal official duties w/o Irene being neglected. But it isn't always easy to adjust our daily lives to the changes our love & Irene's birth has caused. When I compare my current situation with that a year ago, it really is unbelievable. The same probably goes double for R, especially today, the 3rd anniversary of Destiny's death, and the day after the baptism of the daughter she had not expected to have. We had a lot to ponder this evening, sitting in the living-room & watching the rain beat against the window.

9/17/96. sunny all day. Not much to record today, which we appreciated, as we were still recovering from the big weekend event. I did a bit of work at the office at home and took care of Irene, while R. went to HQ & reports it was an uneventful, routine day there. In the evening we went to see 'Bound', a thriller (w/ Gina Gershon and Jennifer Tilly as a couple trying to outwit the mob) that we really enjoyed & which R. declared 'our' movie, although I'm not sure how seriously. Shortly after we returned home (Lorna had looked after Irene), Rogue called to tell us she had arrived safely at Xavier Mansion. She sounded very preoccupied. There seems to have been some argument going on there, but obviously she would not tell about it on the phone. Ah well, there's always something going on in Salem Center, I guess we'll hear about it soon enough if it's important.

Monday Morning

Because she had gone to bed late after the party in honor of her sister's baptism, Rogue had hoped to stay in later than normal, but -- as she had feared, or at least expected -- Irene would have none of it. Her cries woke up her mothers at what felt like the middle of the night, and Valerie and Mystique decided to have breakfast early after their baby was fed. Rogue would have felt churlish not to join them, even though Mystique had told her in the evening that she would not have to. It did not actually come that hard to her -- even though she did not go to the lengths Logan did (he usually had completed a jog around the Xavier estate before most of the others got out of bed), she was reckoned an early morning person by her teammates.

And she would not miss this opportunity for the world. It was years, in fact the first time since she joined the X-Men, that she woke up in her mother's home and could break fast in an intimate family circle. Granted, over the years some of her teammates had become trusted friends -- Ororo, Logan and Bobby, especially -- and when they gathered informally in the kitchen or went out together, it almost felt like family. She also had fallen in love: first with Magneto, then with Gambit -- dear, undependable Rémy-the-Fair, whose inability to trust her and to face up to his own past destroyed what might have been -- and now with Magneto again. But it was not the same as with Mystique. Even after Rogue had left the Brotherhood, even after she had discarded Raven's terrorist (later opportunist) political agenda, even when their teams faced each other in battle, their love endured, and it always had been wrenching to part after their far too infrequent peaceful meetings.

The last time she had sat together at breakfast in the kitchen with Raven, Destiny, Rogue's other adoptive mother, had been with them. Today was in fact the anniversary of her death, which stressed even more the gap left in their lives after the death of the gentle old woman, Kurt's mother, whose outward frailty belied her inner strength, and whose sensitivity and wisdom had quietly counteracted the desire Mystique once had to shape Rogue into a likeness of herself. Thinking of Irene Adler on this of all days brought tears to Rogue's eyes. She discreetly wiped them away.

Destiny had loved Raven and Rogue with all her heart, and had not wanted them to beat themselves up over her death. She had foreseen it, or rather her mutant power of precognition had enabled her to see that in her last battle on Muir Island either she or Mystique would be killed. Unhesitatingly she had seen to it that she, and not her lover, would die. Days earlier, she had already started to act as a matchmaker for Mystique and Forge, so that even after she herself was gone, Raven would have someone else to love and be loved by.

It turned out differently from the way Irene Adler had foreseen or expected it to happen. Destiny's precognitive powers had been such that they grew less precise the further she looked into the future. While it had been comparatively easy for her to 'see' which of several possible sequences of events would come to pass in an hour or even a day, the future becomes more fluid the larger its distance to the present is, and so it had been much harder to assess which strands of reality were the ones that would actually happen -- for the most likely sequence is not always the one that in the end will come true. Even telling someone what would happen may in some cases affect the future, making a prophecy a self-fulfilling or a self-defeating one. In this particular case, Raven blamed Forge for Irene's death and actively resisted the idea of a romance with him. Instead, she went off on her own for a time, seeking solace in a succession of short sexual adventures and, as the expression goes, went 'rogue' again. Another thing was that the effect of time-travelers and their activities on the fabric of reality always hampered Irene Adler's powers, and about a year after her death there was a quite serious event that threw everything into confusion: David Haller -- Legion -- traveled back in time to try to kill Magneto before he could embark on his career as the foremost mutant supervillain. An attempt that for a time threatened the very fabric of history, of time and space even, in ways entirely unforeseen.

But in the end things worked out for the best, and in a way, Rogue felt, that would have satisfied Destiny, had she foreseen it. Dr. Valerie Cooper caught up with Mystique and corralled her to work for her and the US government again. She made her an offer she could not refuse, to become a member of the new X-Factor team in exchange for a reinstatement of her conditional pardon. Much to their surprise, the two strong-willed women, forced into closeness by their chosen professions, fell in love with each other. They even conceived a child whom Valerie insisted on naming Irene. And so, it seemed, stability was finally returning to Raven's private life.

Because the new X-Factor had been initiated by both Val Cooper and Charles Xavier (who wanted there to be a high-profile, government-sanctioned team to improve the image of mutant superheroes with the American public), it even became possible for Mystique to see Rogue more often and finally to open up to her son, Nightcrawler.

In their guest's honor, Mystique was more elaborate that morning: so instead of their usual -- muesli and tea for Val, coffee and a glass of orange juice for Raven -- they had a big spread with bacon, eggs, griddle cakes, biscuits, grits and pancakes, with several varieties of jam, syrup and juice, pretty much anything you could think of.

"Mah stars," said Rogue, "reckon we won't have to think about lunch today."

Mystique smiled like a contented cat: "You said you were going to leave around noon, so it seemed the logical thing to do."

Everyone at the table was relaxed, and the conversation flowed easily. Not surprisingly, it turned to some aspects of politics that affected mutants, and to recent developments at the Xavier Institute. The day before, Valerie Cooper had gathered a handful of details about Xavier's School relaunching its entrance class at the Massachusetts Academy, and so Rogue had to help explain about the new group of freshers (nicknamed 'Generation X' by their elders) and their headmasters, Sean Cassidy and Emma Frost. It was a combination that struck Mystique's sense of humor -- the ex-Interpol agent and the former White Queen of the Hellfire Club. "And," she added with a grin, "there's bound to be sparks if they're supposed to cooperate as equal partners!"

Which got her a snort from Valerie: "As if a fixed chain of command eliminated frictions! You're supposed to be subordinate to Forge, Alex and me, and I don't recall that ever being a smoothly running arrangement." But she smiled when she said it -- these days, she knew, Forge and Havok bore the brunt of the problems, because at the end of the day Raven did not go home with them.

The three women also talked about the last time they had been together, earlier in the year at the NATO Metapowers Conference in Hamburg. And that brought up the strange matter of the fracas that had broken up the press conference, when a group of inept supervillains found itself behind bars much faster than expected because their electronic weapons seized up. Both Mystique and Valerie speculated that some outside agency might have intervened, and since electromagnetism was involved, Valerie said she had wondered ever since if Magneto had been involved.

Raven disagreed: "I think you're engaging in wishful thinking, my love. You would so much enjoy seeing Magneto 'on the side of the angels' again, that you'd seize upon the slenderest of clues to fuel your hope. What do you think, Rogue?"

But Rogue refused to speculate, saying that she and Val had not been there at the fight, so Mystique, who had been, would probably be best qualified to judge.

If Mystique was not satisfied with that answer, she betrayed no sign. The conversation now became more family-oriented, turning towards the huge pile of cuddly toys, dolls and various baby bric-a-brac the guests had brought as presents for Irene yesterday -- just about doubling what she already had. "If things go on like this," Valerie comically groaned, "we'll have to add to this house just to get enough storage space for Irene's toys!"

Having deposited the dirty crockery in the dishwasher, Rogue and Mystique took Irene out into the garden to give Valerie a chance to catch up on her paperwork before the afternoon meeting. Rogue and Raven sat down with Irene beneath the big willow tree at the lower end of the garden. Rogue enjoyed playing with her baby sister, even if she was hampered by having to wear gloves and even if she had to keep watching out that Irene's tiny hands did not come too near to her own face. Raven took advantage of the opportunity for a little mother-to-daughter talk. Her opening shot struck uncomfortably close:

"You know more than you let on just now, don't you?"

Rogue tried to reply, her mouth dropped open, but Mystique went on regardless: "Don't worry. I don't think Val suspects anything. But then she did not raise you from childhood and doesn't know the signs on your face when you're hiding something."

"And you've known them almost from the start," answered Rogue in resignation. "Guess ah should've moved behind you when ah talked about Hamburg."

"Rogue, I have to notice these little signs if I want to use my power to its full potential. Even so, if you know someone really well, if you love her, you learn to know what to look for. I mean, you can see through my disguises a lot of the times, and I expect one of these days so will Valerie." She allowed herself a rueful smile. "Okay, you're hiding something, and maybe my guess as to what it may be isn't too far off the mark. But listen me out before you give in to a sudden urge to confess."

Rogue cautiously nodded. She had not bargained on being rumbled so quickly. Did Mystique suspect what was up with Magneto since they met again in that little hotel outside Hamburg?

"Now it's either some X-Men secret that Uncle Sam does not have to know," Raven continued, "but that's unlikely given Xavier's current more cooperative attitude, and from what I've seen of you and Val I'd say there is not much left that you would not trust her with. To you, she's become almost family, and though I'm not sure how to take it that you two have hit it off so well after so short a time, I'm not against it. I know you've been inside her head, so I guess you have the advantage of me on that."

Rogue's lips pressed together. It was not a memory she looked back on with relish.

"Or it is something private that only concerns you ... and another." Mystique was either stabbing in the dark or pretending to. "Either way, I won't press you in the matter, even though, if it is what I think it is, it comes as a surprise to me."

No kidding, Rogue thought, recalling what Mystique had said about Val's 'wishful thinking'. "Ah c'n 'preciate that, momma," she said, visibly relieved. "Ah'd rather not tell at the moment, but hopefully..."

There was a brief silence. Mystique shifted next to Rogue and ran her gloved hand through her daughter's hair. "Rogue, dear, you are your own person. It took your adoptive mother some time to realize that, but she finally learned to live with it."

She leaned back and sighed, her mind wandering off into the past: "You know, when Irene and I first took you in, what made up my mind was your spirit, the qualities that had already earned you your name. They reminded me of what I was like when I was a girl. Which blinded me a bit to the differences between us. After your powers manifested themselves, it became even easier, even more seductive to look on you as a young version of myself..."

"But there was more to it than that," Rogue protested, "Ah know what you felt for me came with no strings attached. Otherwise you'd never've accepted that ah joined the X-Men!"

"With time, with time. You became my daughter through my choice, and no matter what happened or happens, I've never regretted that choice and never will. Even if it was painful to accept that your new ideals and your loyalty to your new friends would become so important to you that you would not return to me to save your life. To see you knowingly go to certain death in Dallas."

Rogue breathed in deeply. "For what it's worth, ah'm sorry for the hurt ah caused you. Ah never meant to, but ah did what ah thought was right."

Raven Darkhölme smiled indulgently at her daughter's subdued defensiveness. "Well, I wanted you to be as strong-willed, or should I say stubborn, as me." She seemed to want to say more, but thought better of it, and Rogue could read in her mien that whatever she had just been about to divulge, there was now nothing she could say to pry it from her lips. Rogue wondered what her mother had been about to say. After an awkward pause, Raven finally said: "If it hadn't been for Irene, I probably would have made a dreadful mess of raising you."

The thought of her departed leman took hold of her. "Oh Rogue, I still miss her so," she said with tears welling up in her eyes.

Rogue could not but put her arm around her shoulder. "Ah miss her too, momma."

"I know. There isn't a day when I don't feel the loss. Her ashes may be scattered all over the Atlantic Ocean, but she'll always be in my heart."

They stood a while in silence. In the distance, a bird was singing, its voice almost drowned out by the noise of the Georgetown traffic.

"But you told me you were happy with Valerie," Rogue cautiously suggested.

Oh, we're happy enough," said Raven, smiling at her concern, "happier than I ever dared hope after Destiny was killed. But what we have is different. Irene was the calm center to my life, Valerie is too young and too much like me to play that part. With her, it is less predictable, more passionate, more volatile. Irene had more patience with me, even when we both were younger. And I am glad about these differences -- I would not want Val to be a one-for-one replacement, a surrogate for Irene. I think she understands that though I continue to cherish the memory of the love Destiny and I shared, it does not diminish my feelings for her."

"You think she understands?"

"We don't always talk about our feelings for each other, we show them in different ways. We kiss more often, for instance." Surprisingly, Raven seemed a bit reluctant to talk about this. The conversation then shifted to another family matter, first the presidential candidacy of Mystique's oldest son, Graydon Creed, on the anti-mutant Friends of Humanity ticket, and then about Kurt Wagner's current activities in Britain and the way he was slowly adjusting to the idea of being related to Mystique and, by extension, Rogue. In the end, Mystique put on her old ironic smile, and winked at her daughter: "You realize of course that if you breathe a word of all this to Val, I'll utterly disown you."

Later in the morning, everybody was back in the house, talking about this and that -- recent developments with X-Factor, including the private lives of various members, little Irene's crawling progress on the road to mobility, and some of the gossip overheard at the reception yesterday. Valerie wanted to discuss the agenda for the afternoon meeting with Mystique, but Raven managed to fob off her attempts.

Then Rogue's little sister loudly announced that she was hungry again. Raven moved towards her, but Valerie insisted: "Uh-uh, you fed her this morning. It's my turn now."

She sat down on the couch with her baby, opening four buttons of her blouse. With a few practiced movements she bared her left breast, providing Irene access to its swollen nipple. She lay down on her side with the child and began to suckle her.

Rogue watched in fascination, almost mesmerized by the remarkable contrast between the white and powder pink of Valerie's tautly-filled breast and the sky blue and mauve of Irene's face and lips. It was strange, she reflected, not that long ago an experience like this would have been unattainable for her, but now that Magneto had discovered that by projecting a biomagnetic field over her body he could enable her to experience skin-to-skin contact, her outlook had changed. Instead of wondering if she would ever be able to touch someone, she was now wondering if it would be possible for her to have children. Would a developing child in her be immune to her power, or would she drain it of all its thoughts, its personality, maybe even of whatever powers it might have through the umbilical cord and the walls of her womb?

She realized that Valerie noticed that she was staring at her, and blushed a little. Trying to hide her embarrassment, Rogue blurted out: "Guess this must be the first baby that's breast-fed by both parents, right?"

Valerie smiled, but Raven said: "Actually, in quite a few lesbian families both women breast-feed the baby to both bond with it. It is possible to induce lactation without giving birth."

"Although," said Valerie, who had read up on the subject in a book, "the milk you produce that way is not as nourishing as that of the biological mother. There Raven's handy control of her bodily functions is a godsend that allows her to produce the full-calorie article."

Irene meanwhile did not let the conversation distract her, and her lips and jaw continued to move rhythmically as she drew in her birth-mother's milk. Valerie suddenly frowned, no doubt in reflection of Rogue's interest in what she saw. But she made no comment, and for that Rogue was grateful, as she usually did not like to have to reply to expressions of sympathy with her not being able to touch another person's flesh. But no, there appeared a twinkle in Val's eyes: "So, Rogue, what do you want for lunch?"

And the two older women took a wicked delight in Rogue's pink embarrassment. Raven, who happened to be wearing her gloves gently let her fingers run through her foster-daughter's hair: "Come on dear, let's go pack something for your trip. There's still tons of leftovers from yesterday."

When they returned, Valerie was just depositing Irene in her cot.

The three grownups went out into the garden again for a final round of coffee and tea before Rogue's departure. Then, after fetching her carrier-bag, Rogue hugged both Val and Raven and took off.

Monday Afternoon

Shortly after noon, Rogue soared across the line originally surveyed by Mason and Dixon. She took the normal precautions that had become second nature to her when she still was in the Brotherhood, when her lifestyle was still shaped by Mystique's clandestine operations. Once Washington had disappeared under the horizon behind her, she changed course several times to shake off any pursuers she might have failed to detect, while almost brushing the treetops of the woods over which she was flying. Having left the more populated areas behind, she now only saw the occasional picnicking family outing or backpack-laden overland hikers beneath her. The roads were also noticeably less traveled.

Finally, she arrived at the pre-arranged place of rendezvous. Magneto was already waiting near a dilapidated and abandoned sawmill.

"Sorry ah'm late," she apologized as they embraced in greeting, "my new family held me back longer than expected."

"Be grateful for what you have." Magnus gently said, but there also was a regretful quality to his smile that made Rogue feel a little embarrassed. He was probably thinking of his own family, murdered by the Nazis and their henchmen in World War 2. Of Anya, his eldest daughter, who had died in a burning house in Vinnitsa. And perhaps not least of his surviving children, Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch. He had destroyed the chance to be a father them when he had made them join the join his Brotherhood and held them in it, not knowing that they were Magda's twins. Wanda and Pietro still bore the scars of the harsh autocratic leadership that had been his trademark in the days when tyranny was his only solution to the conflict between Homo sapiens sapiens and Homo sapiens superior. Rogue wished to console him, to help him to effect a reconciliation, but she did not know what to say.

Magneto sensed that she had deduced what he was thinking -- or at least some of it -- but brushed the sad thoughts aside: "It is good to see you again." And, using his power to raise a bio-magnetic field that isolated him from her power, he kissed her on the mouth.

The day was sunny, so they decided to talk a longish walk into the woods to a secluded lake Rogue had seen from above on her way from DC. The air was warm and fragrant, and they could hear all sorts of birds. They even saw the odd woodpecker passing by in its characteristic flight, going and down with every stroke of its wings.

They spoke little as they went, enjoying the quiet and that they were together. Occasionally they stopped to gaze into each other's eyes, hold hands and do other things lovers do. For that was what they had become again after their reunion in Hamburg. They had met surreptitiously a few times since then, but of necessity only for a few hours at a time. This was the first time they had an entire day and, perhaps more significantly, a night together. They knew they could make the most of it and they could afford to take it slowly. And walk, not fly, to 'their' lake.

When they got there, they spread out the blanket, and took their afternoon tea from the thermos and box of sandwiches and fruit Magneto had brought with him. Rogue supplied cold meats and cake from Irene's baptismal buffet. She had to tell him all about that family gathering, which apparently interested him more than the more official matters she had come across. He told her of his old base in the Allegheny Mountains of West Virginia which he had just reactivated as his new American home. Earlier in his career, Magneto had set up bases all over the globe, although he had so far only used two of them with anything approaching regularity -- one in Antarctica on the edge of Pangea, the other on an uncharted island in the Bermuda Triangle. The complex in the Alleghenies was smaller than the one in Antarctica, and he had only lived in this one a handful of times after he built it deep under a disused mine, about a decade ago. Now, he found his old continental base useful as a place to stay before or after one of their secret 'dates'.

Rogue took out a few CDs with European popular music from the 1920, 30s and 40s which she had bought in her favorite record store in Salem Center. Her own tastes tended towards '60s and '70s rock (and she had also brought Nazgul's remastered Music to Wake the Dead), but as she remembered from their short times together, his were even more conservative, so she opted for easy listening. The first one she put in her little portable player began with La mer, on her somewhat tenuous reasoning that they were sitting next to a body of water. Listening to Charles Trenet's deceptively easy-sounding warblings reminded them of Paris and the time they had been there for Magneto's trial before an international court, too busy to appreciate the beauties of the city, or to sample any of the cafés and restaurants. And so the afternoon wore on, the soft tones of old-time old-world music counter-pointing their relaxed conversation.

A while after their tea, Rogue decided to go for a swim. When she tested the water temperature with her hand, she confirmed her suspicion that it was rather colder than back home in Caldecott County around this time of the year, but it was acceptable. Having forgotten to take a swimsuit on the trip, and since no one else was around, she simply shed her clothes. Considering where she had grown up, she would probably never be able to think it as innocent as Ororo did to bathe in the nude in the presence of others who wore more, but then she did not necessarily want it to be 'innocent'. She rather liked the idea of showing off her body to Magnus -- he had seen it without clothes before, and it certainly was not a body to be embarrassed about! She laughed prettily as she looked at him, and he smiled back, not turning his gaze away, reacquainting himself with the flat of her stomach and well-turned navel, with the roundness of her breasts (a shade or two less tanned than they had been in the Savage Land), the triangular patch of auburn between her legs, and, when she turned around and dove into the lake, the rippling of her muscles in her back and buttocks.

The coolness of the water came over her in a big splash, and she shivered involuntarily before she adjusted to the temperature. Gooseflesh appeared everywhere, but disappeared within a minute or two. Rogue settled into a lazy backstroke and looked back at their picnic site on the shore, where Magneto had risen to his feet, evidently liking what he saw.

"Dontcha wanna come in?" she sang out to him. "The water's lovely!"

He shook his head, preferring to watch as the young woman began to circumnavigate the lake, flipping over into a breaststroke to see where she was going. Magneto just sat down at the shore, gazing as she drew further away from him.

The good thing -- one of the good things -- of having him around was that you could be reasonably sure that you would not be surprised easily. Years of a life spent in illegality had honed his instincts of self-protection to an extent where it would take a bit of an effort not to notice a person's approach by the minute distortion in the Earth's magnetic field -- and it was not just those carrying objects made of ferromagnetic metals, like guns, cameras, watches, belt-buckles etc., but also batteries and, in the right conditions, even the charge of static electricity of a cashmere sweater. But all was peaceful. Only a mallard and her ducklings retreated into the reeds at the far end of the lake when Rogue swam too near.

When she had finished her second tour of the lake, Rogue called out again: "Aww, c'mon in, you ol' stick-in-the-mud!" and playfully splashed some water at his feet. Or rather, somewhat misjudging the distance, she sent a big spray in his direction that would have soaked him, had he not raised a protective field at the last moment. A variation on the trick he used so he would not be bothered by flies and mosquitoes. ("It's simple," he had once told her, "all you have to remember that the same magnetic poles and electric charges repel each other.")

"Ooops." Rogue's face was a struggle between embarrassment and laughter, and laughter was winning.

"Very well, young woman," he said in theatrical outrage, "that does it!"

His clothing dissolved off his body -- as usual, he was wearing iron -- except for his underpants. Honey, you really have the oddest taste in underwear, she thought as she turned in simulated flight. In the Savage Land it was that strange dhoti thingy, and now pin-striped boxer shorts??

She was swimming down the length of the lake, so she switched to doing the backstroke again so she could watch him as he prepared to get in, splashing himself with water before leaping in. He really is a specimen, she thought, struck once again by his muscular frame. You look after yourself well. Yum!

She used just her feet now so it would not be too hard for him to catch up. She could have gone faster, but that way he did not have to boost his speed with his magnetic powers, and so they would not alarm the local fauna too much. Playfully she allowed him to dunk her under, using the momentum to dive, surprise him and quickly redress the sartorial imbalance between them (taking advantage of the fact that he had already raised his protective field).

"Sugah, you're overdressed for this event," she shouted as she came up to the surface twenty feet away, proudly raising her white and blue striped prize in the air.

"Rogue, you're being childish!" But despite his best efforts, Magnus could not stay serious.

"Ain't ah though," she said as she took to the air and relocated to their spot on the shore. Grumbling under his breath, Magneto swam back towards her.

Since neither of them had thought of bringing towels, Rogue lay down on a sunny patch of grass to dry. Her body shimmered in the bright late summer light. When Magnus came up to her, he could see her nipples were still puckered from the time in the water. She insolently looked his athletic body up and down when he climbed out of the water to join her. She held up his boxers for him, but he shook his head and grinned.

"I'm not putting those wet things back on," he said, lying down beside her. "Dear, dear, the last time someone pulled that stunt on me was before I was a teenager. Actually it was in a place a bit like this."

"Really?" Rogue frowned a little. At their few meetings she had not asked him much about his early years. "Come to think of it, ah don't even know where you're from originally. B'fore..." She stopped dead. Mentioning the past could be a good way to spoil the moment. From the two times she had absorbed parts of his memories, once in a battle, the other time in Hamburg, she had this impression that for him the Holocaust was this big black blot that darkened his entire past. So she was afraid that thinking of some happy episode of his childhood might somehow trigger something bad -- maybe the guy who had pulled down young Magnus' swimming-trunks was later battered to death in the invasion, or maybe it had been a cousin who later was shot along with his family, or died in Auschwitz -- and that would then fill his mind with a storm of those memories that had been so overpowering the first time she had been inside his head, of what he had gone through, what he had done just to survive in that death camp...

But Magnus continued as if nothing remarkable had happened. Well, life had gone on for him, in spite of everything, five decades of it, she thought hopefully.

"A town in Lithuania, directly on the border to East Prussia," he explained. "And at least in my days, the picture postcards they sold in that part of the world either showed the sand dunes on the Baltic coast, or a moose drinking from a forest lake. Maybe that's what still sells. I haven't actually been back there again. Too many memories."

He noticed her tense expression and gently put his hand to her cheek, looking deep into her moss-green eyes. "Rogue, not all my memories are terrifying or tragic, even if you may have got that impression from what I normally mention. You don't have to fear them."

"Oh, my fears ain't the problem here, or I don't think they are" she said, slightly unsure, "ah want to know you, to understand you as well as ah can, and in the fullness of time, ah'd like to know pretty much your entire life story. If you'll let me." She looked up into his eyes with utter sincerity. You can trust me with anything, and I'll try to understand as well as another person, as well as someone who wasn't there can understand. "Only maybe not today, or leastways not right now."

"Yes, judging by your antics and your dress..." his eyes strayed and rested on her naked bosom, "... it's obvious you already had plans which involve less talk, don't you?" She smiled, somewhat reassured. "Don't worry, those plans will be addressed, I'm lying on my stomach for a reason." He was rewarded with a relieved schoolgirlish peal of laughter. "But I'm glad you care. I'll promise you I'll try to answer all your questions if you'll stop fretting. I love you, Rogue. From the moment I you appeared on my monitor in the Savage Land."

"An' ah love you. From -- oh, who cares about chronology! Ah love you, ah never want to lose you again -- that's all ye need to know."

Their lips came together in a long kiss, and then they both sat up, looking at each other. Once again Rogue was struck by the contradictions of his body -- the youthful muscles and skin, legacy of the two occasions his age was changed, first by Alpha, then by Eric the Red's, the silver-white hair caused by his mutation, and the steely blue eyes that spoke so eloquently of his past, of his true age. There were times when the nearly fifty years difference between them seemed an awesome challenge, but this was not one of them. Right now it only added to his sex appeal. As he took her in his arms for seconds, she registered that his arousal was indeed becoming apparent. She resisted an urge to lower her hand down there. Let's not rush things, she thought, as she languidly let her tongue insinuate itself between his lips.

When they had made love for the first time, over two years ago, in the Savage Land, Rogue had been temporarily stripped of her powers and so did not have to watch out for what they could not forget now. Today, Magneto could not relax his protective field for one instant if he did not want her absorption power to send him into a coma in mid-romp, and she had to watch out with her super-strength, so she did not accidentally hurt him in the throes of passion. At least she thought she'd better watch out. In actual fact, she remembered from a number of fights that his magnetic powers made him a lot tougher than a normal person.

As their tongues sinuously danced with each other, Rogue pressed against his chest, flattening her breasts on his ribcage. Magneto's right hand slowly moved from her back into the squeeze to cup the left one. It was warming up, its tip stiff with arousal now, no longer because of the cool water. A low moan escaped from her mouth, but because of their deep kiss it was immediately captured in his. They separated to catch their breath, and Magneto's freed hand began to caress her breast more intently, squeezing, stroking, tracing little circles around the tingling bud.

His lips did not return to hers, they began to move, with tantalizing slowness, from her chin and throat downwards. At last, he toured around her left breast -- kissing, nuzzling, drawing in her fragrance -- and at last his lips closed moistly, then wetly, around the morsel at its end. Rogue threw back her head and groaned as she gave herself to her feelings of growing arousal as she felt his lips, teeth and tongue alternating all the while on the distending nipple, while his left hand now began to work on her right breast. Her hands ran through his hair and held his head in position as she whispered encouragements to him.

He rolled her onto her back and extended his oral attentions to her other breast. After bringing both nipples to throbbing rigidity, his mouth continued its downward trail, lingering for a while at her navel. He finally arrived at the juncture between her legs and was somewhat surprised at the excited state of her femininity.

"My, you are ready for this!"

"Haven't touched mahself in days. Ah wanted this t'be special." She easily flipped him over and began to repay his attentions. He sucked the air in sharply as she gently pinched his nipples and began a sensual attack on his body that surprised him by its expertise. Where had she learned to do that thing with the tongue?

"That's one of the advantages of mah power," she answered his unspoken question, "ah never had t' rent an instructional video. There's tons of stuff ah want to try out just in what ah got from Wolvie's memories..."

He groaned heavily under her nonstop assault. "Slow down, Rogue," he panted between ragged breaths, struggling to retain control in the press between her breasts. She reluctantly paused, but as she looked down on him a somewhat goofy smile appeared on her face. She wanted to tell him how much she loved him, but, unusually for her, she felt tongue-tied. So instead, she took one of his hands, slowly raised it to her lips and kissed its palm. Then she picked a condom from the belt-pouch beside the blanket and tore open the package. She went down on her haunches and rolled it on him, before moving herself above his crotch into a position where her sex was above his erection. Their eyes met, and by silent consent their two bodies rushed towards each other to become one.

She relished the feeling of him moving inside her and took his hands to press them against her swelling breasts. Rogue and Magneto moved in unison, adapting their rhythms to each other. But they were already so keyed up that their ascent to climax was easier and somewhat quicker than she had expected. They rolled over a few more times during the crescendo and accelerando that preceded the finale. The sounds issuing from their mouths became louder and more inarticulate, until at last they came to a shuddering climax and collapsed in a sweaty heap. A short while after, by no means sated by the experience, they made love a second time.

Later they dried off and dressed, and lay down in each other's arms. With the CD player once more in use, the two basked in the afterglow of their afternoon of passion. Rogue began to tell him of her youth in Mississippi, when she used to go for swims in the 'Father of Waters', and of the time she first experienced her power when she was necking with Cody Robbins under 'her' tree on the river bank, and he suddenly fell into a coma that lasted for almost a quarter of an hour, during which time she experienced his thoughts and memories in her own mind. "Ah haven't been in Caldecott County often since my family moved away," she finished her account, "but things don't change much there. Last ah heard, Cody got married an' moved 'cross the river to Louisiana."

The last record Rogue had put on was one of the Comedian Harmonists, one of the most successful acts in Germany (and Europe) before 1933. When the Nazis came to power, they were forced to break up, as only half of them were Aryans and their style of music was not to the new rulers' liking. Kurt had introduced Rogue to them, and she had been rather tickled by their version of songs like Night and Day -- a German singing quintet (and pianist) performing American classics in the French language. Now they launched into one of their German successes, but when they went into the chorus, for the first time (In der Bar zum Krokodil/Am Nil, am Nil, am Nil,/Verkehren ganz inkognito/Der Josef und der Pharao/Dort tanzt man nur dreiviertelnackt/Im Rumba- und Dreivierteltakt...)* , Magnus fell silent and she was shocked to see that his face turned pale and tears slowly welled up in the corners of his eyes. Instinctively her hand moved to switch the CD player off, but he stopped her. With a faraway look on his face, he listened to the song until its end.

"That was one of my sister's favorite records," he at last told her. "She used to play it so often it drove my parents to distraction. My grandfather did not like it at all, as it is based on the biblical story of Joseph and he thought it made fun of holy writ. And it was in her suitcase the day..." He wiped his eyes and cleared his throat. Rogue started to say she was sorry for selecting that recording, but he would have none of it: "Actually, I'm glad of the coincidence that you chose that record. After 55 years, memories grow hazy. I had all but forgotten about that record until I heard the song again just now. My family exists only in my memories now, and so I can only cherish when a memory is returned from oblivion to the front of my mind." He paused a short while. "You said you wanted to understand me, Rogue. But talking about these things with you will also help me to understand myself better, if it helps bring back some of what I forgot because I never discussed many aspects of the story of my life and that of my family with anyone."

They hugged, and as she buried her face in the crook of his neck, Rogue felt strangely, silently happy. All of a sudden, her anxiousness about touching Magneto's past were for the greatest part laid to rest, looked largely irrational in retrospect. She even felt a little ashamed: "Ah'm sorry. Ah'll try not to treat you like a raw egg in future. It was wrong of me to doubt your strength. If you ever catch me at it again..."

He stopped her flow of words with a kiss, after which he said: "Strength can be illusory, as I learned when Fabian Cortez inveigled me to trust him. But from now on, we'll assume we can talk about everything until one of us says he'd rather not discuss it. No more presupposed taboos. Agreed?"

Rogue nodded in silent, grateful assent.

They turned to other subjects. The afternoon's activities brought back memories of the first time they had made love, back in the Savage Land. Magneto remarked on the fact that this time around they had brought condoms, and got an unexpected response.

"Actually, maybe ah did catch then," Rogue said, suddenly looking very serious again. "Ah was a bit late when ah arrived at Muir Island and fell under the Shadow King's control. He made me 'n' Strong Guy fight in an arena so he could get his jollies, an' ah got knocked around a bit. That night ah got my period, more violently than in quite some time..."

He held her close, not sure what to say. Her eyes blinked a couple of times as she tried to control her emotions. "Ah'm not sure if ah really was pregnant. Ah'm not even sure if ah can complete a pregnancy without technological aid. Maybe mah cycle had just been thrown out of whack by the Siege Perilous. But ah couldn't help thinkin' what if ah had had your child."

"Why didn't you ever tell me?"

"Well, the first few times we met after that, you weren't really in the mood to listen t'me," she said with an ironic, but slightly sad smile, "'sides, ah reckoned you'd think ah'd try to get you around by goin' all mushy on you. An' like ah said, ah never was sure, so ah kinda hesitated to tell you in Hamburg or later. Ah only mentioned it now 'cause ah just saw li'l Irene and that got me thinkin' about what it would be like to have kids of my own."

The next couple of hours passed easily as the two talked about whatever the meandering stream of their conversation washed ashore. Without them noticing, the sky clouded over, and suddenly they heard portentous rumblings of thunder in the distance. Already, the first raindrops were falling. Rogue said: "Damn, we'd better go somewhere where it's dry. What do you say Magnus, mah place or yours?" She grinned.

Magneto had to laugh out loud. The thought of him going with her to her home -- Charles Xavier's mansion -- was too humorous. He was not yet ready to go there. Besides, it was so far away, that they'd probably get out of the rainstorm before they even got halfway there.

* In the Crocodile Bar/On the Nile, on the Nile, on the Nile/ There visit all incognito/Joseph and the Pharaoh/There they only dance three-quarters naked/In rumba and three-four time...

Monday Evening

In the end they decided to look for a hotel to spend the night, which they already had half-planned to do from the start. They found a small Bed & Breakfast in a nearby town. This part of Pennsylvania did not attract many tourists -- too far both from 'classic' Amish Country and from Gettysburg -- so they had no trouble getting a double room at such short notice. Magneto idly watched as Rogue took care of the formalities. He was a bit surprised by the name under which she checked in, but his features betrayed nothing to the owner, a middle-aged Englishwoman.

Once they settled in their chintzy room, he could no longer contain his curiosity: "Persephone Adler? Is that your real name?"

"That's what it says on mah driver's license," she replied as she dropped her bags on the little shelf at the foot of the bed, "of course Mystique helped me get it when ah was still livin' with her and Destiny. It was either Darkhölme or Adler, so we chose Adler figurin' that's the more common of the two. As for the Persephone part, let's just say my late biological mother had an unfortunate thing 'bout classical names that did not go well with her last name." Rogue's smile turned a little sad when she talked of her. "Anyway, ah never really liked that name. And it wasn't just the sound. Okay, Greek goddess of spring ain't so bad, but bein' remembered practically for nothin' but gettin' herself kidnapped -- sheesh! Bein' a victim is something ah never was keen on..." Her eyes became a bit dreamy as she remembered those long-gone days. "So once people started callin' me Rogue, ah never used any other name 'round people. But as there never was any name a particularly wanted to have besides that, ah kinda fell back on Persephone for mah official identity when ah was still with the 'Brotherhood of Evil Mutants'."

They changed into different clothes for supper, with Rogue putting on the dress she had worn at the christening. It made her feel a bit overdressed when they entered the small Italian restaurant two streets away, but that could not be helped. But they enjoyed the meal, which oddly enough was accompanied by canned Andrews Sisters songs. When they got out again, it had stopped raining, and they decided to take a walk around town before retiring to their room. The dinner and the walk both were occasions where the two lovers spent a lot of time in the kind of conversation that consisted of holding hands and looking into each other's eyes in silence.

Back in their room, Rogue was still feeling amorous and suggested making it three times that day. Magneto was amenable, and after drawing the curtains they undressed and made love on the old-fashioned bed. But Magneto was more tired than he thought, and when he reached his climax, he momentarily dropped his biomagnetic shields. Rogue's power immediately struck and he swooned into unconsciousness beneath her.

Rogue was in the throes of her own orgasm and could not do anything about it. In fact, being charged with the wave of his climax she felt her own jump off the scale. When it finally subsided, she gingerly got off him. She sat down on the edge of the bed, careful not to touch his comatose form.

Whew, that was something, she thought. Ever since the day Ororo had offered herself to her on the banks of the Mississippi, she knew what it could be like to absorb the fullness of the personality of someone who trusted her, someone she loved. She knew what sex was like, obviously. But to have it all combined in one experience was unbelievable. Also, from the flashes of memories she had absorbed from Logan, Kurt, Piotr and others, she already had some idea of what sex was like from a male point of view, but to experience it as it happened was something new. Glad you liked it, Magnus, she thought, smiling.

But there was something else, she slowly realized. A very intense memory that occupied a large part of his consciousness as he raced towards his climax...

-- our bodies in perfectly synchronized rhythm dampness under the small of my back Rogue rampant above me majestic her bosom swaying from side to side juddering arousingly she loves this my hands gripping her buttocks she bows down so hot inside my lips try to capture your breasts the springs of the old bed squeaking like cries of seabirds sound of seagulls smell of the sea in the nostrils taste of salt in the air, lying with the woman on a shattered bed her blond hair shining in the moonlight silver and gold woman in a flimsy nightgown the glistening pool of sweat between her breasts moving in the rhythm of my body in oh Aleytis! out you don't in know out what this in means to me! she pants beneath me her eyes are shut tight beads of sweat break out on her brow deeper my heart beats harder the dark tips on her silver globes deeper move in rapid circles thy navel is like a round goblet, wherein no mingled wine is wanting oscillate in crazy orbits 'Harder' she cries didn't wear a condom then her head thrashes left and right her throat laid bare as if in offering she trusts me I thought I'd never trust again it has been so long how pretty her little nostrils flare her moans and whimpers louder her fingernails scratch across my back this new really is great I had forgotten how good making love can be thy two breasts are like two young roes that are twins, which feed among the lilies we're both out of breath but too far gone to stop Rogue above me her full breasts leaping up and down faster and faster the tips a much deeper pink than Lee's this thy stature is like to a palm tree, and thy breasts to clusters of grapes and that pretty little mole on the underside of the left one I said I will climb up into the palm tree and take hold of the branches the sound of waves in my ears oh the softness and hardness of Lee's body she cries ecstatically yes I'm coming I'm coming oh Rogue but there is no one to hear us hundreds of miles of ocean I answer oh Aleytis oh Rogue oh Lee I cannolongerholdback oh R--

And then blackness.

Rogue sat stunned, shaky in the backwash of the experience, breathing heavily, trying to sort out what she had just seen and what she should feel about it. She was not happy that Magnus had been thinking of another woman when he was making love to her. She felt reminded of what she and Mystique had been talking of only this morning, about how Raven still missed Destiny, even though she found happiness again with Valerie. But as far as she could tell the memory had come to Magneto unbidden and she the other thoughts she had just absorbed indicated that Lee Forrester was not a rival anymore. She would have liked to feel angry at Magneto but she was struck by another thought: Before they had parted, before Dallas, Lee had been Magneto's girlfriend. In the Savage Land, she had not hesitated to act on her new-found passion for him, partly because she did not know if she was going to see the end of the next day, but Lee might not see things that way. A bit late to suddenly have scruples, but still...

After a few minutes, Magnus came to again. He took a while to find his bearings. "Uhhh," he groaned, "that... really was..." He stopped, noticing her look. It was not angry or mocking, still there was an unspoken question. He collected his thoughts, racking his head trying to remember what had been on his mind before...

Rogue finally could no longer hold back her question. No more secrets between us she thought, he said so himself. "Lee really was special to you, wasn't she?"

His face reddened in realization and then assumed a sober expression: "Yes, she was. And still is, but on a different level." He reached out to her, once more protected by his biomagnetic field. She felt uncomfortable, but did not resist as he put out his arm around her. "She saved my life, in more ways than one. If it had not been for her, I would have ended up as breakfast to some sharks, and she also taught me things I had forgotten when I became Magneto, the terrorist mutant master of magnetism."

As was his custom now, he recited his old appellation in such a self-ironic way that Rogue could not help but gently smile.

"That it was possible after all," he continued, "that a 'normal' human looked at me without fear and that I did not have to feel fear myself. That it is possible to be forgiven for some things, if not for all one did." Rogue nodded -- she had had similar experiences after she reformed, with Mariko Yashida, with Alison Blaire. "You probably know what happened the first time we met, when she still was Cyclops' girlfriend. Yet Lee did not hold my treatment of her against me, she gave me another chance. I discovered I could trust her in a way I had not trusted another human being -- mutant or not -- probably since my way and Charles's parted in Israel. For a while, we became lovers. Or so we thought. Later we discovered it had been largely a 'Samaritan effect' and grew apart. Then I had my ... relapse. I met her again a few times after I finally came back to my senses..."

"Ah had never really thought about her and you," Rogue said pensively, "must've been at least in part denial. Ah remember her arrivin' together with you when we had all that hassle with the Beyonder fella, and ah only thought of her as your girlfriend. Ah had never considered that she might be partly responsible for your changed outlook on life..."

"So your not angry at me for thinking of her when...?" he cautiously asked.

"Heck, no!" she said, perhaps a fraction too readily, "ah might as well ask you if you're mad at me f'r ... intrudin' and then makin' a fuss..." She leaned closer to him. "Who knows what you might find if the process worked both ways and if ah had a bigger body of experiences of mah own." She paused in thought. "No, ah'm glad we had this out. A gal can't help wonderin' about her man's old flames, and ah knew about you and Lee anyway. Leastways now ah have a better idea of what she means to you. Did you ever tell her ... about us?"

"I told her about the Savage Land. She said she was surprised herself how little it bothered her." Magneto sighed. "But then I only told her about it after we had finally faced up to the fact that we had not been in love with each other as much as we thought we had. In a way, we were both relieved, because we no longer felt obliged to look on each other as lovers, which had become increasingly hard for her as well, and could go on to being friends, although mainly at a distance. The life of a fishing captain seems even less conducive to frequent meetings with me than that of an X-Man. The last time we met -- this was before Hamburg -- she even made jokes about it and warned me not to fall in love with Amelia Voght just because she helped me."

Rogue exhaled, audibly relieved. "Ah'd be lyin' if ah didn't say ah'm glad turned out this way. Ah know it sounds selfish, but bein' in love don't always bring out the best in a person." She grimaced and her brow furrowed in contemplation. Maybe she really ought to call on Lee one of theses day, if not exactly to apologize, then to talk things out, perhaps even thank her for what she had done for Magneto. "Ah know what ah feel for you, Magnus, and you c'n be sure that if any woman tries to take you away, she'll have a fight on her hands. Still, ah can't really begrudge Lee the part of your heart she holds. But as for the other parts of your body...", she finished on an unspecified, half-serious threat.

"Guess I should keep working on that isolating field," he said distractedly. "or maybe we could use one of my neutralizing machines..."

But Rogue relented and relaxed: "Ah think it'll be enough if we become so good at makin' love that all your past experiences pale in comparison." She winked and briefly grinned, then she put her hand to his cheek: "Seriously, Magnus, ah'm of two minds on this, like ah usually am where my power's concerned. It's a two-edged sword -- sometimes ah hate what it does t'me, sometimes ah wouldn't miss it for the world. Just now, ah'm glad that we talked things through, even if it wasn't exactly pleasant. But ah'm not sorry it happened, and ah can't beginn t'tell you how much it means t'me that you trusted me so much that you took the risk even though you knew since Hamburg what would happen if you let your concentration slip. Ah'd rather wish for it to work both ways than for a perfect isolating field. So less'n you'd rather use one o' your machines... Ah mean, ah'd understand if'n you wanted your thoughts to be private, but ah'd rather we made love less often or not at all than now go back to usin' that kinda thing."

"Of course it would be a lot easier if you could learn to control your power," Magneto suggested. "Are you sure that's impossible?"

Rogue pondered a while. "No, not really. Years ago the Prof helped me to extract Cloak and Dagger's powers from Rahne and Berto without affecting their own. So ah'd say evidence says it can be done. It's just that more important seemed to crop up all the time. Or when there would've been time Professor Xavier was gone. And after a while it seemed less urgent to try. But ah guess if we put our minds to it..."

"Well, let's make it a priority again," Magneto suggested, "surely Charles, Moira and some of the others should be able to come up with something...!"

It had grown late, and they ended on that hopeful note and got under the sheets together. The night was quiet, and Rogue slowly slipped away. "Everybody's got a mania," she drowsily hummed as she fell asleep, "to do the polka in Pennsylvania."

Magneto looked at the sleeping form beside him. Strange that you should be named Persephone, he mused. Though you don't like name, it is appropriate to you in one respect: Persephone lived both in the world of the living and that of the dead, embodied by her mother Demeter and her spouse Hades. You never stopped loving your death-obsessed foster mother (or what else is the significance or Mystique's skull fetish?) and now embark on a romance with me, a man haunted by death, and yet you never lessened your commitment to Xavier and his followers, whose creed is the preservation of life regardless of the consequences.

But maybe, he continued thinking through the analogy, maybe Rogue really is a reverse Persephone, for she had gone from the realm of death to that of life when she joined the X-Men. Well, at least according to chronology, if not by biological age we two are very much spring and autumn. How full of vitality, of restless energy she is! How much activity and exchange of thoughts she had crammed into half a day. How confident she is that she and her friends can make a difference, help change the world for the better. And now she lies beside me, sleeping like a baby. She is happy just to be with me.

By a constellation of fate and choice, Magneto had spent most nights of his long life alone. After living through the enforced intimacy of the crowded barracks of Auschwitz, he valued his privacy, and after Magda had left him, he was reluctant to let even his lovers get too close. With Isabelle and Aleytis it had somehow worked out that they slept in separate quarters, most of the time. With Rogue this was now only the second night they spent together, and the first one in a real bed, but already he sensed that he would be missing her in 24 hours' time, when she would be back in Westchester, and he would be back in his technological underworld in the Alleghenies.

He bowed down to kiss her on the cheek, then lay back to let his exhaustion overtake him.

Monday Night

A black column of oily smoke rose from the burning factory building that just came into view. She flew at supersonic speed, trailing a booming shockwave behind her. She must not be late, Mystique was counting on her, she must not fail! Better not think of what may have happened in the minutes since she received her call for help.

She crashed through the skylight, into the cavernous assembly hall, which was filled with smoke. Landing on the floor, she tried to find her bearings. It was not easy to see anything, nor could she hear much over the crackling of the blaze to her left, the occasional crash of falling debris. She poked around in the murk, and suddenly stumbled over a body. A huge body, male, dressed in a costume suit, with a dark bloodstain on his chest. The face was unrecognizable, transformed into a bloody pulp by a spray of bullets at close range.

"Is that you, Rogue?" she heard Mystique call out.

"Yeah, momma." She ran in the direction of her voice, suddenly filled with apprehension. She turned around a corner, and found Mystique crouching over something... or someone, an Uzi and another, bigger firearm carelessly dropped on the floor beside her. As Rogue came nearer, she was filled with dread. Why wasn't Mystique turning around to look at her?

Then it became only too obvious: Raven Darkhölme was kneeling next to Valerie Cooper, whose lower body was not visible, crushed beneath the huge cylinder of the rolling mill. The iron mass must weigh tons, and the pain felt by the woman who was both X-Factor's government liaison and Mystique's leman was sharply etched into every line of her grimace. Mystique's face was scary: Rogue could not remember ever seeing such an expression of utter helplessness on her features. Heedless of the tears running from her eyes, Raven was cradling her lover's head in her hand and futilely stroking her hair.

Rogue moved to lift the huge cylinder off Valerie, but Mystique stopped her. "It's no use," she said in a hoarse, almost gruff half-whisper, "she's dying. It's too late... she'll be gone in a few minutes. No time to get her to a hospital, even if we could carry her there without killing her."

"At least I went out with a bang," added Valerie, but the humor was as forced as her voice.

Rogue kneeled down beside her mother, tears welling up in her eyes as she bowed down to Valerie's face. "Too late," she sobbed, "oh, Val! Ah--"

Suddenly a thought hit her: "Wait! Maybe there's still something ah c'n do."

Mystique immediately understood and gasped: "You don't mean... but when you absorbed Danvers' mind it drove you insane... surely you can't."

But Rogue could also see that she was torn up over this, worried about the well-being of her chosen daughter, yet at the same time desperate to save her mate's life, even if only in this reduced form.

"If'n we both want this, ah think it can work out fine." Rogue turned to Valerie: "Looks like your last chance is to transfer your essence to mah mind. Ah'm willin' t'take the risks. We'll think of a way to share mah body. Ah was away when Destiny got killed, ah don't want momma to lose you as well. Or li'l Irene. Heck, ah don't want t' lose you. Or would you rather leave us behind?"

Val's voice was low and reflected her physical agony: "I just wish this would stop, Rogue ... if it only ended ... Raven ... Irene ... Irene ... No! I want to live!." She looked at the young mutant imploringly.

"Okay, let's do it" She moved forward, but Mystique held her back to kiss Valerie one last time while she still was in her own body. It only took a few seconds, then it was Rogue's turn. Remembering their first long conversation in Hamburg, and wanting to make the transfer from brain to brain easier, she had decided to kiss Val. Her lips were softer than Magneto's or Gambit's, and on them was the salty taste of tears and the metal of blood. Immediately she felt the surge as Valerie's memories and personality passed through her, like a golden glow filling her field of vision. She could feel the difference to other times -- not only was Valerie offering no resistance, her inner self was positively rushing from one body to the other. It suffused Rogue's mind, and at the same time she felt Valerie's pain from her short-term memory. Her abdomen went through a spasm of sharp sympathetic pain, and she collapsed on top of her, but she managed not to let the skin-to-skin contact break. Valerie went limp, as she immediately fell into a coma, but Rogue could feel how Val's personality began to reconfigure itself inside of her mind, settling down in a corner, or so it seemed to her.

She had absorbed Valerie Cooper's mind before, years ago, when she and Henry Gyrich had tried to capture Rogue (who then was sought for a murder she hadn't committed), but instead had hit Storm with Forge's experimental Neutralizer, depriving her of her powers for several months. Rogue had been separated from the X-Men's leader and later ambushed Val Cooper to track her down -- as fate would have it, she had to save her from a Dire Wraith attack first -- and put her into a coma that lasted over a day. On that occasion, the transfer had been anything but peaceful -- her mind had been filled with the clamor of Valerie's fear and resistance, and also with her own desire to punish Dr. Cooper for what she had done to Ororo. Now there was nothing of that; the only parallel to the earlier transfer was her fierce determination not to fail her friends. What she felt from Val was gratitude and relief at escaping from her dying body, at not having to abandon her loved ones. She also felt her own worries of what it would be like to live out the rest of her life sharing her skull with Val Cooper. Minutes passed slowly, seemingly turning to hours. Rogue maintained the flesh-to-flesh contact, while Mystique felt the comatose body's pulse.

At last it was over. The heart gave out, and the body that had been Valerie Cooper's died. Rogue rose, and Raven drew down the lids over her lover's eyes.

Rogue was sure that the transfer was permanent, she did not feel the almost imperceptible draining pull she normally felt after absorbing someone's powers and personality temporarily. So far, so good. But what had she got herself into? Wasn't it almost incestuous to share her own body with her mother's mate? Okay, Mystique was not her biological mother. And whatever would Magneto say when he heard the news???

She awoke with a start, both eyes simultaneously popping open. She looked around. Magneto lay beside her, breathing regularly. It had been a dream, or maybe it should better be classified as a nightmare.

Or maybe even ...?

She broke out in a cold sweat. She only rarely experienced the seventh sense she had permanently absorbed from Ms. Marvel, but she knew that Carol Danvers sometimes had had these precognitive visions. What if this dream was actually a vision of the future? Or rather, of a future, since Ms. Marvel's visions showed what could happen, not what necessarily had to happen. Carol had on occasion prevented the catastrophic events she foresaw from becoming a reality, maybe she could do the same. Or maybe it really was just a dream, caused not by the most erratic power she had absorbed from Carol Danvers, but just by something she had eaten the preceding day.

Magneto was sleeping quietly beside her. Her heart swelled with love for him. This was their first night they spent a night together since the night before the final battle with Zaladane.

So much had happened since then. Their sad parting. His mercifully brief return to the role of the X-Men's prime enemy. Their clashes and battles. His giving up what they had had in the Savage Land when he no longer wanted to listen to her appeals to his reason and his better self, when he had Moira try and put her under mind control and make her forget she had loved him. At least he had attempted to make a clean break, knowing that the love of a thrall to his will would be no replacement for the real thing. The last fight against the X-Men, in which Logan lost his adamantium implants, and Magneto for a time lost his mind. Her own romance on the rebound with Gambit. The way slick Rémy had played her like a fiddle -- feeding the idea that he might be immune to her power, asking her to trust him without giving any trust back -- in order not to ask him about his past. The sudden discovery that he had a wife, who then apparently died. His possessive annoyance at her growing friendship with Bobby Drake. Bobby's concern. Belladonna's return and her own sin, when Rémy took advantage of Belle's fortuitous amnesia to keep her in the dark about their marriage, and she let him, when she should have insisted on calling on one of the many X-Men's telepaths to help heal her condition. But she had been to afraid to lose Gambit totally, so she remained passive. And then, when they thought the world would end, the kiss that spelled finis to their romance, when she absorbed his memories and -- after some months, during which she was almost driven mad by what had passed from his mind directly into her subconscious -- learned what he had tried to keep from her, his deepest shame. She learned that he was not the man she had thought he was, that the strength and confidence she had admired was to a large extent bluster, that indeed he was not so much a man as a boy, and one who was always tempted by the easy way out, who could not bring himself to face up to his past without a lot of help. Slowly and painfully she came to reassess her own feelings, losing the illusions she had nursed far too long, realizing where her love -- or was it an infatuation? -- with Rémy had been taking her. She had to make a break or lose the chance of regaining her self-respect. The painful, difficult moment when she tried to explain her changed feelings to Rémy, make him see that she did not hate him for what he had done for Mister Sinister, that she sympathized, but that he could not be his girl, his prop, the way he subconsciously needed her to be. The heartbreak at the breakup, mixed as it was for both of them with a relief they dared not acknowledge openly. It was the right thing to do, she no longer was mad at him for playing with her mind, or at herself for permitting it. It still hurt to see how Rémy tore himself up over the guilt he could not, despite her best efforts to persuade him, admit to any of the others, but there simply was no base left for a relationship anything like the one Rémy once had had with Belladonna. She came out of the dumps when she got back into touch with her mother after Valerie Cooper pressganged Mystique to join X-Factor. Suddenly, Rogue found herself part of a family again, with a 'foster-brother' across the Atlantic and soon a baby sister on the way.

And then Magneto reappeared from nowhere.

The way their old, suppressed feelings reasserted, especially after it became clear that Magnus had turned away from his old ways once more (and, Rogue was confident, for good), that he no longer was an enemy, was overwhelming. But they both had been changed to a greater or lesser extent by their experiences in the meantime, so it was never a question of simply picking up where they had left off in the Savage Land. They were a touch more cautious, more deliberate now, making sure they understood and trusted each other before proceeding to the next level. Rogue's deflowering in the Savage Land may have been more spontaneous, born of a passion felt more immediately and made more urgent by the possibility that they might not survive the battle the next day in their weakened states, but their love-making today was the expression of a more mature love, a deeper understanding of each other, of an unspoken commitment. With a flash of realization, Rogue acknowledged to herself that she was now thinking in terms of wanting to make their relationship work, of making it something that would only end when one of them died. There obviously would be problems on the way, but -- by nature or because of their different experiences -- she was much more of an optimist than he, and confident that they were capable of rising to whatever challenge life would throw at them. Magnus' inner strength had of course long been legend, but he was a considerate lover; being with him did not diminish her confidence in herself. When she was with him she knew she remained her own woman and that he respected her for making her own choices and her ability to stand up even to her friends for what she believed in. When she had been in love with Rémy (or thought she had been), she had always been plagued by self-doubt, and on occasion acted against her better judgment in order to conform to his wishes. With Magneto she knew that she would not grow in his affection by acceding to his wishes, that she would lose not only her own respect for herself if she did not stick to what she thought was right, but also his. Should there ever come another situation where their philosophical differences led to their separation (her secret fear, for who could hope to foretell the future if even Destiny could get it wrong?), it would break both their hearts, but their love would endure as a memory because they loved each other too much to want the other to betray their principles, their true self in a misguided bid to 'save' their love. In the past, both had tried to convince the other that their own view was the right one, but they would never try to use their feelings for each other as a lever to achieve that end, for that way they would destroy those very feelings.

A deep sigh interrupted her train of thought. Magnus too seemed to be having bad dreams, his head and upper body suddenly thrashed left and right for a few seconds, before he subsided again. He mumbled a few words, but they were so indistinct she could not even decide what language they were in -- Yiddish, German, Lithuanian (she had no idea what that sounded like), or maybe one of the languages Magnus learned later in his life, like Modern Hebrew? Impossible to tell. And what was he dreaming about -- the horrors he lived through in World War 2 and after? Or was he haunted by some deed of his own, by victims like the sailors of the Leningrad? In an attempt to comfort him, she wrapped him in the blanket and held him in her close embrace, for she was not sure whether or not his control over his powers slipped when he had a nightmare. She whispered to him soothingly until at last he quitened down and sank back into a deep sleep. And a while later, she fell asleep once more, content in their closeness.

Tuesday Morning

Rogue washed and showered thoroughly before breakfast. Considering Wolverine's sense of smell, she felt it would be better not to return to the Mansion reeking too much of sex and of Magneto. Logan might ask questions.

When she returned to their room, she asked him, toweling her hair: "Hmm, the obvious is out. Any suggestions, what we're doing today? Blast, no dryer. Guess ah'll have to go back to the old style."

"Well, we could go to the Antietam battlefield." Magnus pointed to an article in the local newspaper. "They had a big re-enactment nearby on the weekend and there's some commemorative ceremonies today, for the anniversary. So you could cover up my smell even more with some black powder..." He smiled.

Rogue began to put on a pair of jeans and black shirt, part of her traveling outfit. "It's a thought. Funny, ah hadn't pegged you for a Civil War buff, sugar."

"It fits in with my ... usual obsessions. Man's inhumanity to man, fearing the different and unable to coexist as equal. I'm not really interested in the military aspects, more in the political ones, the abolition of slavery and the subsequent impact on race relations here."

"Yeah, where ah come from, a lot of people still like to b'lieve it was about states' rights. Ah personally tend to agree with something ah read somewhere: The South used the fight for states' rights to try an' preserve slavery, and the North used the fight against slavery to preserve the Union. But maybe," her eyes twinkled, "just maybe ah was corrupted by my foster-moms, since they didn't come from the South. Or America, for that matter. You prob'ly would get on well with Raven. She tole me the Confederacy was a great example of 'flatscan stupidity', since without secession and all that, slavery wouldn't and couldn't have been touched in the Southern states."

"Yes, I recall Lincoln's finance minister said something like that, about secession being the greatest folly committed by a class, the thing that made emancipation possible..."

The two walked downstairs into the dining room. As they were not the only guests having breakfast, they kept their voices fairly low and were a bit more careful in what they said.

"Actually, before we met yesterday, I was in Lancaster to see Thaddeus Stevens' grave," Magnus continued after he sat down.

"Ah don't think ah remember that name..." she said doubtfully, "'course ah wasn't always very attentive in class."

"Sic transit gloria mundi," he replied in theatrical resignation. "In his day, he was one of the most admired and most hated politicians in the USA, and now he is all but forgotten. When I asked a woman at the tourist information for directions to the cemetery, she had to ask her colleague. But she could have told me where President Buchanan was buried, no problem."

He shook his head in mock exasperation and went on to explain: "Thad Stevens was one of the leading anti-slavery and anti-discrimination speakers in Congress during the Civil War, one of the fathers of Reconstruction and the 14th Amendment, you might say. To tell you the truth, I sometimes see in him a kindred spirit, both to myself and to Charles."

He took in Rogue's slightly surprised look and went on: "Like me, he was a radical, and when the opportunity arose to enact his program in the context of a war, he did not hesitate to seize it. Like Charles he was a publicly known spokesman about his cause, and like Charles he felt he could not be totally candid because of widespread prejudices. Stevens could not marry the woman he loved because she was Black, and Charles... has not come out of the closet to this very day. Like Charles, Thaddeus Stevens believed in the equality of all men..."

"And women?" Rogue could not help asking.

"I'm afraid I don't know about that. A few of his political friends were also active for women's rights, but as to his own views... Anyway, he believed in equality, but like me he had moments when he despaired of living to see it become a reality. And sadly he didn't. But he kept fighting, even after he died, shouting out defiance on his gravestone and even getting re-elected."

He paused in somber thought. But then the owner brought the toast, tea, bacon and eggs, and thanks to her arrival the conversation turned to more pleasant matters, such as the weather and the beautiful sights of the region in late summer. She also offered to lend Rogue her blow-dryer when she noticed her damp hair, an offer she was happy to take advantage of after they had finished the meal.

It proved possible to fly to the Sharpsburg area undetected, but after that they found themselves somewhat handicapped because they did not have a car. Antietam National Battlefield Park was too large to be covered on foot and there were too many sightseers to fly from observation point to observation point without attracting undue attention. So Rogue and Magneto first had a look around the visitors' center and then decided just to go to the Dunker Church. Rogue was from Mississippi, and some Mississippi regiments had fought there, in the ranks of Hood's Division.

They looked around the cornfields that covered the setting of the bloodiest day in the Civil War. Rogue read the explanatory texts on display while Magneto inspected the row of cannons across the road. In the distance they could make out a few of the literally dozens of state and regimental monuments that dot the battlefield.

"So, how do you feel about your compatriots who fought here?" Magneto asked Rogue gently after a while.

"It is an eerie feeling," she said, "ah mean, on one level these were my people. Maybe one or two of my ancestors fought or even got killed in this spot. Ah know Sam's proud of his Confederate ancestors, but ah mostly feel sad. People expect ya to support the 'Lost Cause', but when ah think that meant that my ancestors -- whether they admitted or knew it, or not -- gave their all, fighting Professor Xavier's and some of my other teammates ancestors to try to ensure that life stayed miserable for Ororo's ancestors... An' when ah then think 'bout the cause Mystique an' me fought for in our Brotherhood days..."

Magnus nodded almost imperceptibly. In his past he too had once been obsessed -- to the point of madness, even -- with an ignoble cause, that of mutant domination of the world. Granted, he really did have mental problems at the time, from his body's difficulties in coping with an overuse of his powers, but knowing that did not necessarily make it easier to remember.

"So ah reckon that if mutants are Homo superior, the superior part don't necessarily apply to their intelligence." She smiled ruefully, and Magneto just had to smile back. They turned to walk back to the visitors' center.

On their way, they were passed by a metallic-green stationwagon with Mississippi plates and a bumper-sticker "Re-enactors do it again and again". Rogue, still immersed in thoughts of her thinking of her home state, semi-automatically gave the driver a wave. A bit unexpectedly, the car pulled up next to the road and waited for them. As they approached, the driver called out: "Y'all want a lift to the re-enactors' encampment?"

They looked at each other. "Sure, why not?" Rogue turned towards the man and said: "Thanks for the offer. Don' mind if we accept." As they crammed into the back, they noticed he his old-fashioned checkered shirt and patched butternut-brown homespun trousers, obviously part of a recreated uniform.

"Hi, Jed Coote the name, ah'm with the 11th Miss." He shook Magneto's hand and then Rogue's (Magneto quickly put up an isolating field; gloves would have looked out of place in the weather). Magneto gave his name as Max, Rogue opted for the more stereotypical Penny-Sue. When Jed heard that she too was from the Magnolia State, he was very much pleased and determined to show 'Max' that what she said about Southern hospitality was no exaggeration.

Once they arrived at the camp, Jed showed them around and introduced them to his friends and to his wife, Sumitra. In ten minutes, the two learned more about Confederate camp equipment and 19th-century camp diseases than they ever wanted to know. Rogue also got her chance to 'change her smell' when one of Jed's pals let her try what it was like to fire a Springfield musket and a 'Navy' Colt.

Magneto meanwhile talked with Mrs. Coote, a second-generation Indian immigrant whose subcontinental features added a dash of the big wide world to the otherwise almost parochial surroundings. Magneto could not help asking how she felt about her husband's hobby in view of her own background.

"Oh, we have fun, even if I cannot go on the battlefield with him," Sumitra said with a smile. "And if we recreate an old CSA regiment, it does not mean that we are everybody like the originals in our politics and all of that. Many of us just enjoy being Rebels or enjoy the romantic aspects of the Old South. You know, even Joan Baez had her The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down. But then we're not as dogmatic as some about historical accuracy in camp as some of the other units. We don't feel we have to recreate the dysentery and other camp sicknesses, and we have the best Chicken Korma in the Army of Northern Virginia."

"I was wondering about these scents," 'Max' interjected. "But it is a lot more relaxed and easygoing than I expected."

"Oh, you do not know half of it," she replied. "Re-enactment is a funny world, with all these idiosyncrasies, inter-unit politics, differences of re-encatment philosophies etcetera. So we get on better with some of the Union units than with some of our fellow Confederate ones. Speaking of which..." She turned towards a man dressed in a dark blue uniform and a black hat who was approaching in a most unmilitary shuffle.

"Howdy, minions of a corrupt and crumbling oppressive society!" the new arrival cheerfully greeted the camping Confederates.

"Hello, agent of the evil capitalist Northern aggressors!" Jed gave back with a broad grin.

"Hi Tom, meet Max," Sumitra said, "Max, this is Tom Calani, of the 6th Wisconsin and California. And Penny-Sue should be around here somewhere..."

Rogue was indeed around, having just been decked out in the full regalia of a captain of the regiment and having Polaroid photographs taken (Magneto of course made sure that he did not appear on any of them). When she took off the gold-braided cap and shook out her hair, Tom suddenly raised his eyebrows, but did not say a thing.

Of course Tom and Jed, too, were drawn into the discussion 'Max' had started, and of course, as he had a reputation as a troublemaker to maintain, Tom propounded a definitely radical view of the Civil War, while Jed became more apologetic for the Old South than he otherwise would have been. Finally Sumitra called an end to proceedings, adding: "And anyway, Mississippi is the only state that elected Blacks into the US Senate during Reconstruction."

After that, the conversation turned to other matters, and after about half an hour 'Max' and 'Penny' said their good-byes. Tom went with them part of the way. As they walked through the trees, he took Rogue aside and almost blurted out his question: "Excuse me for asking, but aren't you one of the X-Men?"

Rogue might have said yes immediately under normal circumstances, but with Magneto around she was a bit wary: "Now whatever gives ya that idea?"

"Well, about three years ago I was on a train going into Edinburgh, Scotland, when suddenly there was this superheroine who looked a lot like you -- especially the hair -- and she flew by, dropped this little blond fella into the carriage I was in, and then she stopped the train just in time to prevent it from derailing. And then, a few weeks later I move to San Francisco, and suddenly the X-Men are in town fighting some super bad guy. And you were with them, weren't you?"

"What if ah was?" was Rogue's guarded reply.

"Well, I'd like to thank you, obviously, for saving my life, or at least from injury."

"Really?" Rogue smiled, a bit relieved, "that's very nice of you. A lot of the time we tend to get blamed for the damage ourselves, so ah'm glad our work is appreciated by some. So, you're from San Fran?"

"Yup, moved there three years ago. Originally I'm from Monterey."

"We always liked it in San Francisco, people always were much friendlier'n pretty much anywhere else. Seem to have much fewer problems 'bout livin' together with mutants."

"Oh, but we don't a monopoly on that, I think," Tom said modestly, "there's good people everywhere..."

"Ah wasn't gonna deny that," Rogue replied, "there's usually just a few hard-shell mutant-haters, and a lot of those who give us a hard time are the same way to non-mutant superheroes. But to balance it, there's also people who stick up for 'mutie rights', even if they usually don't seem to make the news," She sighed. "Friends of Humanity seem t'make better copy..."

"Yeah, they seem to be on the news a lot, don't they, especially with their head guy running for President."

"Uh-huh," Rogue said noncommittally.

"And the others -- for instance, you just met Jed and Sumitra. They were very active in organizing protests to prevent a child people said was a mutant from being driven out of their local high school. But that never made the national news..."

"Really?" Magnus, who had listened in silence up until now, joined in. "What happened?"

"Oh, in the end the boy turned out not to be a mutant after all," Tom explained, "it had started with him trying to draw attention to himself and then got out of hand. But everyone thought he was when they started the protests. I guess it's the principle that counts."

"You're probably right," Magneto replied.

Tom now turned to him: "D'you two know each other long? Are you also with... I don't remember seeing you with the others in '93..."

"Now, now," Rogue interrupted him, "let's not ask too many questions. Max is a friend, let's leave it at that."

"Oh, I suppose you have your reasons," Tom shrugged. "Superheroing really is a funny business, I guess." He pulled out his pocket watch to check the time. "Well, I got to hurry back to the Iron Brigade camp now, or I'll only get leftovers. Do you want to come?"

Rogue and Magneto thanked for the offer, but sadly declined, saying it was time for them to be on their way home anyway.

"Well, it was a pleasure meeting you," Tom said, "and if you're ever in San Francisco again, I'm in the phone book." And with that and friendly wishes they parted, Tom turning right into the bushes, and Rogue and Magneto left, ostensibly towards the road, but really to find a spot where they could take off unobserved.

"I guess you would have gone with him or have stayed longer at the other camp if it wasn't for me," Magneto said after Tom Calani had passed out of view and hearing.

"Maybe," she said reluctantly.

"It's really envy you for this," he said quietly, "you make it look so easy, making acquaintances and pleasant conversation. Sorry being around me spoils things for you." Tom remembered Rogue, who knew if he might not also recall the media coverage of Magneto's trial.

"You spoiled nothing, sugar," Rogue insisted, "ah'm here 'cause ah wanted to be with you. Ah... love you. And if that means puttin' up with some... inconvenience from time to time..."

She moved closer in order to kiss him, but suddenly shrank back. "This really sucks. Can't even touch you too much 'cause of Wolvie's nose." She kicked up some dirt in frustration. Magneto sighed sympathetically, but that did not help. "Magnus, what are we goin' to do? Do we keep meetin' just once every month or two? How long do we want to keep this a secret? How long can we?"

Magneto was a bit taken aback by her sudden vehemence. "Do you think they suspect?"

"Ah'm pretty sure momma, uh, Mystique suspects. And as for the others -- well, it's impossible to tell what Wolvie thinks if he doesn't tell you. And ah hate lyin' to friends and fam'ly 'bout something ah'm not ashamed of!"

Magneto was hesitant: "But after what happened when I tried to be an X-Man, and after that. When you just think about what I did to Wolverine..."

Rogue earnestly looked him in the eyes: "Look, ah don't want you to become anything you don't want to be. But ah want to be with you more, and ah want to be upfront about it. Would it be too much just to talk to the Prof and some o' the others? You could do your own thing as you do now, but at least try and talk with 'em. Ah'm sure ah can get 'em to listen. Ah mean, you haven't tried to take over the world ever since our last battle, you even gave everybody some help in Hamburg, and ah'm sure we can work something out with Logan, he always is more, uhm, interested in people who hurt his friends than those who tried to kill him..."

Magneto had to smile. "Well, if you're as persuasive with them as you are with me, how can I say no? I'll talk with Charles. But how are we going to go about it?"

He barely was able to finish his last question before Rogue had him in her embrace and connected in a long drawn-out kiss. When she was finished, she said: "Well, if you're game, ah'm for the direct approach. Let's just go."

And after a final moment of hesitation, Magneto acquiesced, and the two mutants took to the air, setting off north towards New York and Salem Center.


The End

For this story, which was first printed in Hamburg Menshevik #50 for the May 1998 mailing of MZS-APA, I made use of some of my experiences of my journey across the US in 1993. I then visited Washington, parts of Pennsylvania and the Antietam battlefield. When I was in Lancaster, PA, I too found it rather difficult to locate Thaddeus Stevens' grave. However, I have no firsthand experience of what American Civil War re-enactors in America are like, the ones that are here are partly based on what I remember from my experiences with Napoleonic re-enactors, mainly in Britain, in the 1980s, and partly simply made up.
The MZS-APA homepage is at
In der Bar zum Krokodil is by Engel, Berger and Beda. Pennsylvania Polka is by Lester Lee and Zeke Manners.
Professor X helped Rogue to control her powers to heal Wolfsbane and Sunsport in NEW MUTANTS #25.
Rogue was possibly thinking of the following quote from George Washington Cable: The Negro Question (New York 1890) p.24:
"Emancipation of the negroes was not what the North fought for, but only what it fought with. The right to secede was not what the South fought for, but only what it fought with. The great majority of the Southern people loved the Union, and consented to its destruction only when there seemed no other way to save slavery; the great bulk of the North consented to destroy slavery only when there seemed no other way to save the Union."
Magneto was thinking of something Salmon Portland Chase said at one of the celebrations after the announcement of the Emancipation Proclamation (recorded by Lincoln's secretary John Hay):
"This is the most wonderful history of an insanity of a class that the world has ever seen. No party, no public feeling in the North could ever have hoped to touch what the rebels have madly placed in the very path of destruction."
The inscription on Thaddeus' Stevens' grave reads:

Mississippi elected two Black US Senators during Reconstruction: Hiram R. Revels (1870-71), who ironically held Jefferson Davis' old seat, and Blanche K. Bruce (1875-1881).
Useful books include: Fawn M. Brodie: Thaddeus Stevens. Scourge of the South (New York 1959) and Stephen W. Sears: Landscape Turned Red. The Battle of Antietam (New Haven 1983).

Thanks to Rivka Jacobs and Alara Rogers for their input.
The characters in this story are copyrighted and trademarked by Marvel Comics, with the following exceptions: Dale and Audrey Cooper (née Horne) belong to David Lynch and Mark Frost; Tom Calani, Irene Cooper, Jed and Sumitra Coote are mine.


Down-Home Charm / Fan-Fiction / Fan Artwork / History Books / Photo Album / Songbank / Miscellania / Links / Updates

Legalese: Rogue, the X-Men, and the distinctive likenesses thereof are Trademarks of Marvel Characters, Inc. and are used without permission. This is an unofficial fansite, and is not sponsored, licensed or approved by Marvel Comics.
Privacy Policy and Submission Guidelines