"Either you deal with what is the reality, or you can be sure the reality is going to deal with you." -- Alex Haley
When she woke up, Jean said she was dying.
Some things drown in pain. Rogue knew this, and what was left of Marie knew it, too; the two of them knew it and in that way, one way of so very few, they were one. They knew it on the Statue, screaming for help and whispering for a mother, and they knew it when Logan walked out and left her to the X-Men. To her future.
//We're trying to find him.//
How she ever learned to live with dichotomy was a mystery. Or none at all: Logan and Magneto faced off more than once within her brain, and it was all over for her. Magneto wanted Rogue, but no Marie; Logan wanted to pretend Rogue didn't exist, wanted Marie at the forefront. He didn't want the girl who'd said her real name with instinctive distrust in her eyes-- he wanted the girl behind the name. He wanted to believe life didn't have to be about the mutation, and she failed him. From the beginning.
Jean told her he'd woken up and she raced to the medlab, and the instant she reached his side the tags around his neck tugged, strained towards her flesh with the influence of her waning power.
She blinked slowly and stepped back.
He just smiled and sat up, wincing slightly at the deeper damage, deeper than flesh, that hadn't quite healed yet. "Good to see you're okay," he said lightly, running that strange scan of his eyes over her body. Taking account, noting detail, lingering on the hair. She was marked; it was the first moment he started pulling away.
"You, too," she said shyly. "I... thanks. I mean, you saved-- all of you, you saved my-- thanks."
"Hey," and he looked uncomfortable. Moment number two, and she took another step back as the tags jerked again. "I promised, right?"
"Yeah," she whispered. "Yeah, you did."
"This metal thing happen often?"
"It's getting weaker. And pretty soon I should be forming bruises again."
"What are you doing to get bruises?" he demanded, glaring at her.
"Jubilee and Kitty-- they're students here, in my classes-- they're helping me train a little. Seniors get to, to train and all, if they want to stay here later on... I was thinking maybe it'd be a good idea."
//Rogue, the dose of radiation you endured was so high-- //
"It isn't," he told her flatly, and she wondered why he looked so angry. And moment number three, and things couldn't be the same after that. "Don't make yourself into that, Marie."
"Marie's gone." She shook her head and saw the distance even as he put it between them. "And Rogue doesn't have anything else to be."
And she backed away, far enough, once and for all, and he really did look mad. "I gotta go to class. Jean only excused me for a few minutes."
//I know. I listened to all your lectures back in school, Jeanie. I know what it will do to me. Leave him out of this.//
She tried again, as he left, tried to bridge the gap. And she thought it worked. She thought she was bound to him through the slip of metal she could no longer control.
She thought he meant it when he said he'd be back. But he never was, and she knew he knew that she'd chosen.
Jubilee beat her down time and again, and she got stronger. Kitty wasn't so strong, or vicious, but she had a clever tactical streak and Marie got smarter. And finally Scott said she was ready, and took her on as a trainee, and at some point Jean talked to Logan and he knew.
And he didn't come back.
//We're going to find him, in case you change your mind. Don't do this, Rogue.//
Magneto won. He said the mutation was what mattered, and she started to believe him. He said she should be who she was, and she obeyed.
He said there was a reason Marie couldn't go on, and Rogue pushed the girl down, under the water, under the noise, and she became a warrior.
Logan should have been proud.
//I did this a long time ago, Jeanie. I won't change my mind.//
He wasn't, or he would have been back.
Jubilee's face made an odd sight when sad. Conflict of name and expression, of personality and mood. She looked at Rogue and accusation poured out into the air, and all she said was, "You're nuts."
"I'm not," Rogue whispered, the burns on her face stinging with every motion.
"Fuck you, Rogue!"
"no," Jubilee said, shaking. "You don't get to make decisions like this. You don't get to-- you have no right."
"I have every right." She was tired, exhausted; there wasn't enough energy in the world to get her through an explanation. "I have to. Let me be."
"Sometimes I hate you," Jubilee told her softly, backing up. "Sometimes I hate you for hating yourself."
"... kidding me? She wouldn't... "
"I'm afraid... have to listen, Logan... saying no. I don't understand... "
"Where... dammit, you're letting... give up! Where is she?"
And his face didn't match that drifting tone, when he loomed over her. Gently curious, cautious, but she could see the impatient anger behind his eyes.
It made her want to laugh that he thought he could still save her. The her he wanted. And she did, she chuckled lightly, and when her lips parted they cracked and bled; she could see the horrified astonishment flicker across his features. "Marie," he said softly. "Listen, we can fix this-- "
"Rogue," she whispered. God, that hurt, her lungs betraying her and aching under the strain of a simple word, the only word she was sure she still knew. "It's... Rogue."
"No fucking way. That's never been true."
"Is now... killed her, Logan, I'm sorry, I did, you didn't come back... only way I could... "
She needed to scream, she realized suddenly. She needed to shriek the pain away, but she couldn't muster up that kind of sound. Logan's eyes flashed across her flesh; she hadn't been able to lift her head to look at the damage in hours, but she knew what he saw. Burns, ruined skin, blood and she felt like she was melting, is that what she looked like, too?
"I won't let you say no," he snapped. "I didn't fucking save you, haven't worried about you so you could turn suicidal on me, Marie. Get ready."
"I won't let you," she insisted. "I can. I can control it. I can.. I won't let what's left of me take you in."
And he sneered at her. Smiled cruelly and leaned in and hissed, "You're dying, Marie. You can barely move, barely stay awake. We'll just see how long your control lasts."
"Don't!" she tried to shout, but his hand came down on perhaps the last small patch of clear skin she had left, and she had lied. She'd lost the capacity for control long ago, and now she could scream. Scream her way though searing agony worse than any burn, through cells reversing in their path towards death. Scream her way back to health and hate him more than she'd ever hated anyone in her life.
He fell to the floor long before she finished healing. She cursed at him and screamed some more.
What she found strange, when she settled and went quiet, was how empty she felt. Logan was there, for sure, but oddly quiet where he'd always been loudly fighting Magneto.
She wondered if that meant there was just no one left inside to fight, not even herself.
Kitty tried to talk to her the first day, and she turned away in silence, running fingers over flawless flesh.
Jubilee was crying in the shower the second day, after Rogue moved back upstairs. She could hear it, through the closed door, and she smiled bitterly.
The third day, Xavier said she wasn't an X-Man anymore. He looked so terribly sad as she pleaded with him, begged, told him, "This is all I have, Professor."
"That's precisely why I can no longer let you have it... Marie." So sad, and he wheeled away.
And Logan woke up on the fourth day. She really had pushed him close to death this time-- close, but not quite. He found her sitting in a windowsill on the third floor. "I had to," he said, from yards away.
She blinked out into the sunshine. "I told you, Logan. Marie's gone. You saved the one you hated."
"I saved who you've always been, kid. She's in there."
"Don't lie to me."
"I never have."
Turning angry eyes on him, she ripped his tags from her neck and threw them at him. "Yeah? Then where the hell have you been?"
He didn't answer, didn't move to pick up the chain. "I don't think I ever met the person you restrict Marie to. Used to think I had. But... what was it, kid? Eight months before you met me? Eight months she'd been gone, then."
"I don't... then why do you call me that?"
"Because you were already different from that Marie when you found me. And Rogue is just another Marie, but trying hard not to be. I met the one still willing to find a life that would work out, not this- this shell clinging to her surest path to death. Rogue's a psychotic bitch, kid," he said, his tone deadly.
"Rogue is the only thing left."
"And Marie was never a thing, dammit!" Logan yelled. "Rogue is gone, okay? She has to be. You're not on the team anymore. You're not doing this anymore. Let. Her. Go."
"I don't know how!" she yelled back.
Logan suddenly smiled calmly, his dangerous smile, his calculating smile. He had her, and he knew it, and that scared her. "Come with me," he said softly.
"I'm comfortable here."
"When I leave. You can come with me. I was thinking about heading to Alaska soon."
"I went," she snapped, but she wanted to cry. "It was cold."
"Ever been to Mexico?"
She blinked at him, and she frowned, and she didn't have an answer for the question he hadn't really asked.
But she might be able to think about it.