Disclaimer: The X-Men and all associated
characters are Marvel's, and no financial profit is being made from
this work of fiction. All other fictional characters, songs and things
of that nature are the property of their respective owners and are
being used without permission, although no infringement of copyright
is intended. Any references or similarities to any movies you may
detect -or think you detect- reflect not a lack of originality on
my part but are rather what we'll choose to term in-jokes or tributes
(thus neatly avoiding the charge of plagiarism). That's my story,
at any rate, and I'm sticking to it. :). The review Bobby quotes is
paraphrased from Kim Newman's. Apart from all that, the rest of it
is nobody's fault but mine. Feedback is sought (well, let's be honest
- actively craved), so any comments of whatever nature, so long as
they're constructive, would be more than welcome and much appreciated
The Price of Coffee
The expletive accompanied the sound of shattering crockery and the
spillage of hot coffee on the kitchen floor. Rogue stood, hands fisted
by her sides, eyes closed, internally counting to ten or some other
analogous and allegedly stress-reducing number. With a sharp intake
and lengthy exhalation of breath, she bent down to gather the fragments
together, sorting the pieces of plate from the toast which had, in
accordance with that well-known law of physics, landed condiment side
"Least tiles don't stain," she muttered to herself, brushing her
hair back with an irritated gesture from where it had fallen over
her face, attempting in the process not to smear condiment and coffee
into coiffure. In that, at least, she succeeded.
"Should I infer from your less-than-overjoyed countenance, your exclamation
of displeasure and the presence of your breakfast on the floor that
this morning is not proceeding as smoothly as one might hope?" inquired
Hank McCoy, putting his head tentatively around the doorframe and
squinting as he moved into the path of the morning sunshine streaming
through the kitchen window.
"That'd be one way of puttin' it," Rogue agreed, scraping the last
of her intended breakfast into the bin and reaching for a cloth.
"Can I be of assistance?"
"You can put on some more coffee," she suggested.
"How serendipitous," Hank beamed, "I was coming here for that very
purpose." Hank had, of course, been up for hours, working on a cure
for the Legacy Virus, a cause to which he devoted much of his free
"You even been to bed?" Rogue asked.
"I have," Hank responded, an injured tone in his voice.
"An' how many people had to nag you before you went?"
"Just the three," he admitted, although it sounded more like a protestation
than an admission. "Although Bobby did enough nagging for two. Sadly,
my sleep-deprivation has availed me naught. I'd discovered a number
of potentially promising avenues of inquiry, but unfortunately none
of them bore fruit. They involved..." Rogue closed her eyes and put
up a hand to forestall him.
"Coffee first, Hank" she decreed, "then technobabble."
"As you wish, dear lady," replied Hank, graciously acceding to her
command. Rogue finished clearing up and sat down, chin in hands, elbows
propped on table, and watched Hank prepare coffee, saying nothing.
As his fingers did the work, Rogue watching the muscles and tendons
work in perfectly synchronised order under his blue fur, Hank said
without turning around "The unfortunate fate of your intended meal
notwithstanding, you present the appearance of a woman with something
on her mind. Care to share?"
"Clearly not entirely true," he replied with a smile in his voice,
back still turned, "or your dolour would not be quite so observable
a phenomenon. Come, Rogue, you can tell me: I'm a doctor." He turned
to face her, a mug of coffee in each hand, and placed one in front
of her while perching himself in what for anyone else would have been
a precarious position on the chair opposite her. Clearly, he was not
going anywhere until she talked. She sighed.
"It's Mystique," she admitted. "Remember a few weeks ago when we
all lost our powers an' still went up against the High Evolutionary
"Heroism is a bad habit, but a hard one to break," Hank replied with
a smile. "I remember."
"Well, when it happened, Mystique was in the process of doin' extralegal
things to the NSA computers. She got caught an' put away, an' was
goin' crazy, bein' trapped like that. She turned to me for help, was
even askin' me to bust her out. An' then you discovered what the long-term
effects of losin' our powers were gonna be, not just for us but for
all life on the planet, so we all went off an' saved the world like
we do. Ah told Raven that somethin' had come up an' Ah'd be back,
not to do anythin', but she didn't take it too well. By the time we
got back an' Ah called to find out how she was doin', she'd busted
"Last conversation we had, Hank, ended with her screamin' at me,
cursin' me for choosin' the X-Men over her. Again. Ah did what Ah
had to, Hank, but Raven feels Ah rejected her for the X-Men, like
she feels Ah've always done, time an' again. Way she looks at it,
she needed my help an' Ah blew her off, an' Ah don't know if she's
gonna forgive me this time."
"You did the right thing, Rogue," Hank answered her. "The needs of
the many and all that. And what you did was as much for Mystique as
anyone. Without powers, you'd still have been powerless to help her,
and she'd still be imprisoned. The way it worked out, everybody wins
(with the possible exception of the Federal Government and the Department
"Yeah, but she don't know 'bout all that an' even if Ah'd had the
opportunity to explain the situation to her before she hung up on
me, Ah somehow doubt she'd see it that way."
"You've had your differences and disagreements in the past," Hank
pointed out. "I'm sure that, given time, you'll be able to resolve
this too. As you yourself said, incarceration was making Mystique
crazy, and I'm sure once she's had the chance to cool down she'll
be more disposed to view the situation logically and dispassionately."
"Ah don't know. Raven ain't exactly what you'd call the trustin'
type, but she trusted me to get her out of that situation, an' as
far as she's concerned, Ah betrayed that trust when Ah chose to go
with the team. When Ah first joined the X-Men, she felt rejected,
but then she had Irene to argue the other side. Now with her dead,
Raven ain't got that emotional balance. An' Ah don't think, despite
what she says, that she's really come to terms with Irene's death.
It's like Irene was a calmin' influence on her, an' she's lost without
her, like when Irene died she didn't just lose someone she loved,
she lost part of her soul." She paused, looking at Hank.
"You really want to be hearin' all this first thing in the mornin'?"
Hank reached over and squeezed her arm through the baggy sweatshirt
"What are friends for?" he asked rhetorically, his voice warm with
affection. The sound of approaching voices interrupted the moment
and, as they got nearer, Rogue and Hank could hear that it was Bobby
"Do you take nothing seriously?" Kurt asked Bobby with mock
"Hey, Fuzzy, people say I'm the life of the party 'cause I tell a
joke or two," Bobby sang at Kurt as they entered the kitchen. "But
though I may be laughing loud and hearty, deep inside I'm … Blue!"
He looked at Hank on the last word, turning it into a greeting. "Settle
a bet for us. My friend with the tail here seems to think that the
Rambo films are nothing more than a glorification of violence and
a dramatic enactment of and metaphor for American foreign policy during
the 80s, and most especially the Reagan Administration, while I contend
that they can equally be read as a homoerotic S&M fantasy." There
was a moment of stunned silence.
"What?" asked Hank in a surprised voice coloured with undertones
of very real concern for his friend's sanity.
"Think about it. In the trilogy, there's only one significant female
character, the guerrilla girl in the second movie, and she's shot
dead after she kisses Rambo. And the third movie? C'mon! The 'love
interest' is either the father figure colonel or the teenage boy,
and you've got this buff, oiled, semi-naked muscle guy taking multiple
beatings, brandings and piercings and grunting in a way that implies
he enjoys it! So, Hank, what do you think?"
"I think, Robert," replied Hank with an appropriate degree of gravity
in his voice, "that you have entirely too much time on your hands
and nowhere near enough to occupy your mind. In short, my friend,
you really need a hobby. And why were you watching such tripe
"Okay, you got me," Bobby admitted. "I was just repeating a review
I read. Still, I used the word 'metaphor'. That's got to count for
something, although it probably just means I'm spending too much time
"Or, arguably, not enough," Hank countered. "Those fortunate individuals
who are blessed enough to spend extended periods of time in my august
presence generally are not afflicted by insanity as a result, so I
hardly think you can lay the blame for your wayward musings at my
door." His smile robbed the statement of any pomposity it would otherwise
have had, indicating as it did that his tongue was lodged firmly in
"Worth a try, though," Bobby winked at him, helping himself to some
coffee and pouring one for Kurt too.
"Am Ah alone in thinkin' that it's too early in the mornin' for biochemistry
or homoerotic fantasies?" asked Rogue of no one in particular.
"You're not alone," Kurt assured her, taking a seat beside her.
"Homoerotic fantasies do indeed have their place, Bobby," Hank allowed,
pointedly ignoring the biochemistry part, his statement implying that
he had both the moral high ground and the support of Rogue and Kurt,
"but the breakfast table is not it."
"There are those who'd disagree," replied Bobby with a vaguely lascivious
smile and a mildly suggestive waggle of the eyebrow.
"Not if they want to live through breakfast, they wouldn't." This
from Rogue, in a tone of voice intended to convey the impression that
a change in topic would be in everyone's best interest, and Bobby's
most of all.
"Good point." Bobby turned his attention to the far less controversial
matter of refilling the toaster. "Everybody want toast?" There were
various nods and grunts of affirmation. While the bread turned to
toast, Bobby joined his teammates at the table, sliding in next to
Hank. "So, gang, what's the plan for today?"
"I'm not certain we have anything I'd choose to dignify with the
term 'plan'," Hank answered him, "but my research on the Legacy Virus
has reached an impasse and I feel the need for a change of scenery.
With that in mind, and the fact that our Southern belle here is a
little down in the dumps, I recommend retail therapy. Copious quantities
thereof. How about it, Popsicle?"
"Why not?" Bobby responded magnanimously, with a flamboyant gesticulation
that sent his coffee slopping around in his mug and coming perilously
close to spilling over the lip.
"I am afraid not. I've already promised to help Ororo rearrange her
"Well, then, just the three of us, unless you can think of anyone
else to invite, Rogue."
"Ah don't know, Hank," Rogue began to demur. "Ah'm not real good
company right now."
"I beg to differ. I can think of nothing more pleasant than time
spent in your company and, even if you were right, that's all the
more reason for you to accompany us. Come on, Rogue: live a little,
spend money! It'll be fun."
"Besides," Bobby added, hastily swallowing a mouthful of coffee,
"you know he'll just keep nagging you until you say 'yes'."
"I can be most persistent," Hank agreed with mock solemnity.
"Okay," Rogue smiled, acquiescing gracefully, "but Ah'm gonna need
more coffee first."
Raven Darkholme was not having a good morning. Coffee was an integral
part of her morning routine, and she was very particular about how
she drank it. Lots of milk, lots of sugar. So after rising late she'd
leaned against the breakfast bar, listening to the comforting, rhythmic
sound of the coffee percolating. She'd taken the mug out of the cupboard,
poured the dark, gently steaming liquid into it, opened the refrigerator
and discovered that she was out of milk. She'd briefly debated drinking
the coffee black, but it just wouldn't have been right.
Therefore, Raven had dressed, morphed into a form less likely to
draw attention than her natural one (an attractive blonde woman who
bore an uncanny resemblance to Val Cooper) and sallied forth from
her domicile, her frustration completely impairing her ability to
enjoy the weather.
Her mood was not improved by the fact that, once she located a convenience
store and found the milk she sought, she had to wait in line behind
a succession of people who, for one reason or another, seemed to conspire
to keep her from purchasing the milk within the foreseeable future.
Some didn't have the correct change. Some spent what felt like an
eternity hunting for the correct change. Some spent what felt like
an eternity hunting for the correct change, only to find that in fact
they didn't have it, and so had to wait for change of their own anyway.
Right then, Raven hated them all and would cheerfully have slaughtered
every last one of them if she thought it would help her get out of
there any sooner. Part of her wanted to kill them anyway just for
being slow, stupid and, most of all, in front of her. Finally, she
was the only one in the queue and she approached the counter and placed
her milk on it with rather more force than was, arguably, strictly
necessary. And then the phone rang, and the clerk, some pimple-faced
child not yet old enough to shave, answered it without so much
as an apologetic glance in her direction.
"Yeah? I can't, I'm at work. I know, but he called in sick. What
was I gonna do?" He paused. "It's not my fault! No, no, I'm sorry,
I didn't mean to yell at you. I just can't get into this right now."
Another pause. "I'm not avoiding the issue, I'm at work! Look, I really
can't talk right now. Yes, of course I love you, but..." Raven coughed,
loudly and obviously, glaring at the boy. He glanced her way, irritated,
and then returned to his conversation. "Can we talk about this later?"
A pause. "I don't care what your sister says!"
Raven leaned across the counter, taking his wrist. She twisted it,
eliciting a yelp of pain from him and causing him to drop the receiver,
which she caught.
"He'll call you back," she said into the phone, deadpan, and then
slammed the receiver back onto the cradle.
"Lady, what the fuck do you think you're doing?" the clerk demanded,
outraged and nursing his wrist. Raven reached out, took a handful
of shirt and pulled him toward her across the counter. When they were
nose to nose, she said calmly
"I have been waiting in line for a long time while cretin after moron
after imbecile completed their transactions. I did not suffer in silence,
you little shit, so that you could ignore me and pursue your pathetic
adolescent romance on my time. So either you give me your undivided
attention and let me pay for this milk, or I will happily kill you,
and in so doing save the world from the disturbing prospect of you
perpetuating your genetic code. Am I understood?"
He opened his mouth to retort and then stopped, seeing from the look
in her eyes that the threat had been a sincere one. He gulped, nodded.
Raven paid, received her change, turned on her heel and stalked toward
the door, all in stony silence.
"Bitch," she heard the clerk mutter as she neared the door. Snatching
a tin of cat food -- the nearest available item -- from a shelf, Raven
whirled and, with unerring accuracy, flung it at the clerk. It hit
him in the face, and the crunch of cartilage as his nose broke was
audible from across the shop. He staggered backward, blood streaming
down his face and a dazed look in his eyes.
"And then some," Raven murmured in satisfaction as she turned and
left the store, the door swinging shut behind her.
As it turned out, she'd waited so long in the store that her craving
for coffee compelled Raven to locate a more immediate source than
her abode, so she found a Starbucks and, ordering, settled against
the bar to await the arrival of her coffee. She closed her eyes, breathing
deeply and savouring the aroma of the coffee, beginning to relax and
feeling the tension in her neck and shoulders dissipate for the first
time since she'd woken up.
It was shortly thereafter that everything went straight to hell.
"Do the words 'cruel and unusual' mean anything to you?" Hank asked.
"Hey, it was your idea," protested Bobby.
"And not one of my better ones," Hank retorted. "If I have to render
an opinion on one more silk shirt which is almost identical to its
predecessor, swift and extreme violence will be visited upon
your person, Robert. I proposed this shopping trip to cheer Rogue
up, not so you could inflict upon me The-Death-of-a-Thousand-Garments
(which is like the Death of a Thousand Cuts but more painful)."
"Look, Hank, I need someone to give me a second opinion and Rogue's
in the changing room. It's a position of the utmost responsibility,"
he added, attempting to sway his friend. "I wouldn't trust just anyone,
you know." Hank sighed.
"Very well. I preferred the previous one. Smaller collar, but the
blue went well with your colouring." Bobby raised an eyebrow. Catching
the glance, Hank answered the unspoken question. "I may spend much
of my time bounding heroically about in a lab coat and something resembling
underwear, Bobby, but I am not impervious to the aesthetic nuances
of clothing. It is, after all, my own sartorial flair which is reflected
in the attire the image inducer clothes me in." He spread his arms
and twirled to give Bobby a better view. "Besides, yellow is so
not your colour."
"This from a man who wears Hawaiian shirts," muttered Bobby in response.
"You may mock, but it is my belief that they will be coming back
in a big way," replied Hank haughtily, and to emphasise his point
he located one such item and held it up against himself for Bobby
"You're considerin' payin' money for that?" The question was
rhetorical, the voice Rogue's.
"A prophet is never appreciated in his own time," lamented Hank,
a sigh of resignation escaping his lips as he replaced the shirt on
the rack. "However, may I be the first to observe that you look stunning,
my dear. That, Robert, is how clothes should be worn."
"Well, thank you, sugar," said Rogue with a delighted smile. "Ah'll
be sure to take you shoppin' more often in future."
"Is there anything you don't look good in?" asked Bobby.
"Nobody looks good in pink," Bobby admitted.
"Molly Ringwald excepted," Hank added.
"Your John Hughes obsession aside, Hank, not even Molly Ringwald."
"We'll just agree to differ on that issue."
"Well, while you two boys debate movies an' fashion, Ah'm gonna change
back an' pay for this." So saying, she left Hank and Bobby by the
shirts and headed for the changing room, returning a few minutes later.
She made her purchase, Bobby also buying the shirt he and Hank had
been discussing. Their newly acquired possessions bagged, by mutual
consent the trio decided to take a brief break from retail therapy
and, exiting the store, they went in search of somewhere to get a
Raven's coffee had arrived after what seemed like an interminable
wait but was in reality less than a minute, and she settled gratefully
into a seat at a table in the corner, propping her elbows on the table
alongside her recently purchased milk and inhaling the steam rising
from the coffee in front of her, eyes closed and an expression approaching
ecstasy on her face. True to form, the moment didn't last.
"Excuse me," said a voice. "I was over there with my friend and I
couldn't help noticing that you seemed a little preoccupied when you
walked in. I bet him I could tell what was bothering you." Raven opened
her eyes and looked up to see that the voice belonged to a not-unattractive
man in what appeared to be his late twenties.
"What's your name?" she asked politely.
"Alec," he responded with what he obviously imagined was a devastatingly
"Alec," Raven said evenly, "I don't mean to be rude, but fuck off."
Holding up his hands in a defensive gesture, Alec complied with her
instruction. Sighing, Raven raised the coffee to her lips and gently
took a small sip. The warm liquid passed her lips, washed over her
tongue and flowed down her throat, caressing her taste buds en route
and eliciting an entirely involuntary groan of pleasure from her.
The second mouthful, larger than the first sip, was -- if possible
-- even better.
And then they walked in. A couple of men in business suits
but, more significantly from Raven's point of view, Iceman, someone
she assumed was the Beast, as it looked like Hank McCoy before he
became blue and furry (although he was presumably using an image inducer)
and her foster daughter. Rogue.
"Shit," Raven hissed under her breath. She did not
want to deal with this now. She and Rogue had things to discuss, things
appertaining to Rogue's recent decision to leave her foster mother
languishing in prison while she once again prioritised the X-Men over
the woman who'd raised her. The woman who was, by Rogue's own admission,
more her mother than the person who had given birth to her. But she
was just not prepared to face that confrontation before her first
cup of coffee of the morning was even halfway drunk. She averted her
gaze and concentrated on being inconspicuous.
Over by the counter, the three X-Men ordered their respective beverages,
but Rogue's attention was drawn for some reason she couldn't quite
identify to a woman sat at a table in a corner. Her eyes narrowed
and her lips parted slightly.
"Hank, Bobby," she began, "y'all recognise that woman over in the
corner?" Hank and Bobby looked, but responded negatively.
"Why?" Bobby inquired.
"Just seems familiar is all," replied Rogue, her brow slightly furrowed.
"Ah can't quite place her, but Ah'm sure Ah've seen her before."
In her peripheral vision, Raven could see Rogue staring at her. She
willed Rogue to look away or to be drawn into a conversation with
her friends. Anything to distract her. Those two men who had followed
them in were staring at the group quite intently; that might occasion
comment, or at least attract Rogue's attention. Raven would settle
this business with Rogue, but it would be in a time and place of her
choosing. Raven got her wish, and Rogue looked away, but not for any
of the reasons Raven had imagined or hoped for. As Raven watched,
the two men who'd come in with the three X-Men began to change; for
Raven, it was like looking at an eerie, distorted version of what
she saw when she looked in a mirror while morphing.
Their features became harsher, more angular, and their eyes and the
tips of their fingers began to glow dull red. They moved away from
the counter, adopting aggressive postures. The three X-Men turned
as one of them spoke.
"Mutant designates: Iceman, Beast and Rogue, you are genetic anomalies
and must be purged from the gene pool." Even as he spoke, energy shot
from his hand, splintering the wooden bar and causing the customers
to dive for cover, screaming and fighting their way toward the nearest
exit. The next blast narrowly missed Hank, who bounded away, gathering
a customer under each arm before leaping over a table, flipping it
over as he went and forming a makeshift shield to protect both himself
and the terrified customers.
"I thought we'd seen the last of you assholes when Operation: Zero
Tolerance was cancelled," snapped Bobby, icing up and encasing the
Sentinel in a block of ice, temporarily pinning his arms to his sides
and immobilising him. "Didn't S.H.I.E.L.D. take them all away?" he
asked of no one in particular. As Hank and Bobby concerned themselves
with the first Sentinel, Rogue turned toward the second, but his attention
was focused on the woman in the corner.
"Mutant designate: Mystique, your existence is an affront to the
genetic purity of the human race. Prepare for termination," he intoned
emotionlessly, raising his arm in Raven's direction. Raven began to
rise out of her seat, surprise on her face that the Sentinel had recognised
her in this form. She moved into a patch of sunlight streaming through
the window, but with the realisation evident in her look of apprehension
that the Sentinel would fire more quickly than she could evade him,
and that her morphing ability was no defence against his firepower.
"Raven!" cried Rogue, both in concern and recognition, striking the
Sentinel's arm so that the shot went wide, instead shattering the
window and sending glass spraying into the street outside. The Sentinel
responded by backhanding her across the face, sending her stumbling
into an adjacent table. He brought his arm to bear on her but Rogue
scythed his legs from under him and, as he fell, followed his head
down toward the floor with her fist, punching him in the face and
driving his head into the tiles. He lay still, the cracks radiating
out from where the back of his skull had impacted with the floor.
"How do you figure you're protecting humanity by shooting up a coffee
shop filled with innocent humans?" Bobby demanded of the Sentinel
he'd imprisoned. "From where I stand, you pose a far greater threat
to humanity than we do."
"Your very existence endangers the future of humanity," replied the
Sentinel coldly, visibly struggling against the bonds of ice that
Bobby had formed around him.
"Then explain why we're the ones who just saved these people from
your attack," Bobby retorted. "No, don't even bother. It'd just be
more bullshit about 'the Mutant Menace'."
"You and your kind are a menace," said the Sentinel as the
ice cracked around him, "but not for much longer." He swung his newly
liberated arms toward Bobby but was prevented from saying or doing
anything else by Rogue, who stepped forward and slammed his face into
the remains of the counter, even as Bobby moved to counter the Sentinel's
"There's only so much ignorant an' prejudiced anti-mutant rhetoric
a girl can stomach in a mornin'," she muttered, kicking the Sentinel
hard in the head to ensure he stayed down.
"They won't be down for long," Bobby warned, covering the pair in
ice to buy them all some time. "I've seen others like them shot: even
bullets only slow them down, but they're not machines, they're still
alive, so we can't just tear them apart. Any suggestions?"
"I may have a solution," volunteered Hank, "provided that some altruistic
soul allows me the use of a phone." The two people he'd shielded from
the Sentinel's attack simultaneously held out cellular phones in quivering
hands. They were the only people who were left in the place apart
from Raven, the X-Men, the Sentinels and the manager of the shop,
who raised a dishevelled head from behind the ruined bar to survey
the damage to his establishment, a stunned expression on his face.
"My gratitude," said Hank with a gracious smile, taking the one nearest
him and punching in a number.
A short while later, Hank and Bobby conferred with Captain America,
Thor and Iron Man as the Avengers took the Sentinels into custody.
Hank's status as a member of that group (albeit in a reserve capacity)
meant that he had access to their resources which, in this case, were
far more appropriate to the task of keeping the Sentinels contained
-- or, as Bobby had quipped to withering looks from all, 'on ice'
-- than anything the X-Men could muster on short notice. Other than
the Sentinels, no one had been hurt in the attack, although those
who'd been in the coffee shop at the time were more than a little
"We can hold them temporarily, until I can contact Nick Fury and
have S.H.I.E.L.D. arrange for something more long term." Even standing
still, doing nothing special, the man radiated authority.
"Thanks, Cap. I appreciate it," replied Hank.
"My pleasure," the living symbol responded with a warm smile. "It's
good to see you again, Beast, even like this."
A little way from the crowd that had been attracted by the noise
and activity of Avengers, NYPD radio cars and a paramedic truck that
had been called, Rogue and Raven sat at a table outside another cafe,
awkward in each other's presence. Raven cradled a mug of coffee in
her hands, its warmth radiating through the mug to her fingers. Rogue
broke the silence first.
"Ah'm glad you're okay, Raven. Didn't recognise you back there. Not
right away, at any rate. Was a time, Ah'd've known you no matter who
you looked like."
"We've been strangers for a long time, Rogue, growing further apart
ever since you left me to join the X-Men. If it were up to you, girl,
I'd still be rotting in jail," Raven retorted bitterly.
"That ain't true," Rogue protested. "Ah had no choice."
"Of course you had a choice!" hissed Raven, anger flashing in her
eyes. "And you chose the X-Men, just like you always do."
"Raven, Ah couldn't help you like that, not without powers, an' we
had to do what we did for everyone's sake, you included. An' you got
out by yourself, didn't you?" she added, a touch defensively. "How
was Ah gonna bust you out without any powers?"
"You'd have found a way for one of them." She spat the word.
"If any one of them had asked you to break the law for them you'd
have done it. In a heartbeat, without hesitation. But you wouldn't
do it for me. It's pretty clear where your loyalties lie, Rogue. It
has been for years. When it comes to you making a choice, I always
come off second best. And I'm tired of taking second place to Xavier's
"You're makin' it out to be an either/or decision, an' Ah don't wanna
have to choose between y'all, Raven. You're my family, but so are
"You choose between us all the time! You chose to go to Xavier rather
than trust me to help you control your powers. And has he helped?
Can you control them? And Dallas: I warned you not to go with them,
I told you Irene's prediction, but you turned your back on me and
you died, Rogue. And when you were resurrected, did you let
me know? Did you tell me you were alive? No, you stayed with the team,
chose them over me. It's not just this last time, it's every time:
it's all the time!"
"That's unfair. It wasn't like that at all."
"It's exactly like that. If I want your attention, your loyalty,
even your love, I've got to stand in line behind the X-Men, and I'm
sick of it. I took you in. Irene and I raised you, and for what? Oh,
Rogue," she said, anger suddenly replaced by emotional fatigue, rubbing
her forehead, "you and Irene are the only two people I've ever loved,
and now she's dead. You're all I've got left from that time when we
were a family, and time and again I have to see you choose your other
family over me. Do you think that kind of rejection's easy to take?
This last time was just the latest in a long line of rejections, and
I'm not going to keep coming back for more. I love you, Rogue, but
I just can't do this any more." Abruptly, she stood up, blinking away
the tears that had begun to well up in her eyes and picking up the
milk that had miraculously survived the Sentinels' attack.
"Raven," Rogue began as she started to walk away.
"Don't," Mystique replied, her voice thick with emotion, the profound
depth of bitterness and hurt in her tone cutting Rogue to the quick.
With that one word, she shouldered her way into the crowd that had
gathered, as crowds always do, and by the time Rogue had stood up
to look for her, she looked like someone else, one more unfamiliar
face in a sea of alien features. Rogue sat down again and rubbed her
hands over her face. Sitting there with the sounds of the crowd and
the noise of the emergency services in the background, alone with
Mystique's unfinished coffee, watching it grow gradually colder.
Later that day, as evening turned to night, Rogue sat at the edge
of Breakstone Lake, arms rested on knees and back against a tree that
overhung the water, eyes looking unseeing over the lake, but gaze
directed somewhere else entirely. The fiery ball of the setting sun
ignited the tops of the trees, the waters around its reflection turned
angry red and bloody. Rogue was oblivious to the beauty of any of
it, her thoughts on darker and more troubling issues, her expression
preoccupied and her eyes sad.
One of the many lengthening shadows detached itself from the others
and resolved itself into the form of Kurt Wagner, his yellow eyes
glowing gently out from the deepening gloom into the fading light.
"How are you feeling?" he asked tentatively.
"Ah'll let you know when Ah figure it out myself," replied Rogue
with a mirthless chuckle and a rueful shake of her head. "Pull up
some ground, Fuzzy Elf. Ah'm not gonna bite." Smiling, Kurt settled
down on the ground beside her.
"Hank and Bobby told me what happened," Kurt offered by way of a
"It has been an intense day," agreed Rogue in a non-committal way.
She sighed. "Kurt, am Ah a fool for wantin' to believe that Raven's
more than just another crook? An' who am Ah to judge anyway? Let's
face it, Ah ain't always been the paragon of virtue Ah am today,"
she said with a wry, self-mocking, almost imperceptible smile
"We all want to believe the best of those we love," Kurt answered.
"She's my family, Kurt, as much as the X-Men, an' Ah don't wanna
lose her, but the lives we lead mean we're more often than not on
opposite sides. Today, she accused me of always sidin' with the X-Men
against her, an' of always puttin' you all before her. How do you
deal with it, havin' your mom on the other team? So to speak."
"She gave birth to me, Rogue, but that's the only sense in which
she's my mother. We're connected biologically, not emotionally. Mystique
and I have always been on opposite teams, and I've never known her
as anything other than an adversary. In that, your relationship with
her is the antithesis of mine. She didn't give birth to you, but she
is your mother in every other way that matters, and so you have far
more emotional complications to overcome that I do. I never knew Mystique
or Destiny as anything other than members of the Brotherhood of Evil
Mutants, and I dealt with them on those terms.
"You saw another side to them, a side that was loving and nurturing,
and who's to say which is the truer picture? You've always done what
you believed was right, and she can't blame you for being true to
yourself. In fact, Kitty told me that Mystique said something like
that to you herself, not that long ago." Kurt squeezed Rogue's shoulder.
"Give her time, Rogue, let her calm down. She'll forgive you."
"Ah don't know, Fuzzy. Ain't no one can hold a grudge quite like
"You are the only real family she has left, Rogue. I don't count,"
he continued with a gentle, almost wistful smile, cutting off her
disagreement. "It may take a while, but I truly believe that she will
get over it. At the risk of sounding like a cliché, it will
be all right."
"Ah hope you're right. Anyway," she said, forcibly making her tone
lighter, "ain't nothin' Ah can do about it, so Ah guess we just play
the hand we're dealt." They sat there in wordless companionship for
a while, staring out over the lake, silent by mutual but unspoken
accord. The sun sank lower in the sky, touching the horizon and setting
it ablaze, a smear of orange-red in the deepening blue of the sky.
"Should we go inside?" asked Kurt presently. "I believe that The
Princess Bride is starting on Channel Seven shortly. Come on:
adventures; fencing; chases; escapes; giants; monsters; miracles;
True Love. You wouldn't want to miss all that, would you?" He gave
her his most charming smile.
"Ah guess not," replied Rogue with a smile of her own, pushing herself
up off the grass, using the tree for balance. "B'sides, Fuzzy Elf,"
she continued with affection, taking Kurt's hand and pulling him to
his feet, "Ah could really use a coffee."
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