(AN: This takes place after issue 16)
What’s in a name? Why do people insist on going by a label someone else gave them? Why is there only one way to really set ourselves apart from the billions of other folks out there? They’re walkin’ the streets, goin’ about their business and not giving two hoots about the rest of the world. So what do we gain when we throw on a high tech uniform, run out to where we’re least welcome, and try to save a world that would rather ignore us? Ah used to ask mahself that question all the time. Now Ah’m wondering why more people ain’t askin’ it.
Marie Anna Darkholme, or Rogue as she preferred to be called now, was in one of her harsher moods. It was almost three in the afternoon and class was set to begin in ten minutes. But she was in no hurry. She was never in a hurry. Since she officially joined the X-men, everybody pretty much expected her to be late. There was rarely a reason. Sometimes she slept in, sometimes she got caught up in something more interesting, and sometimes she just didn’t care. It was part of being Rogue. She was a rebel and much of her life had been spent not sticking to someone else’s time tables. Even at the Xavier Institute, the only place where she felt comfortable in her own skin, was a challenge at times. At the heart of that challenge was learning to identify as someone completely opposed to the person she was raised as.
For the past half-hour, Marie had been drowning her mood in cigarettes. Even though she had cut back lately, she still found herself needing a few smoke breaks here and there to hold herself together. It used to be she smoked out of frustration. Life had given her plenty of reasons to be bitter. Even when her life took a turn for the better, old feelings died hard.
Ah’ve done so much thinkin’ ever since Ah joined the X-men. Time was, thinkin’ was about sixth or seventh on mah list of responses. Ah know full well how dumb it is to just act without thinkin’ things through. Ah’ve been on the wrong end of way too many shenanigans these past few years. Cuttin’ class, goin’ to clubs, foolin’ around with exotic medicines when Ah ain’t sick…heck, Ah’m the kind of gal that ought to be boasting about her arrest record by now. It’s crazy how so much can change even for an unapologetic rebel.
Rogue exhaled deeply before taking one last drag of her cigarette. Once it was done she casually flicked it across the front yard and lay back on the bench she was sitting on. The sky was gray with heavy overcast and it looked like it was going to start raining at any minute. For a moment Rogue contemplated reaching for another cigarette, but decided against it. There was only so much smoking could do to settle her nerves.
Ah’ve officially divided mah life into two phases. Before the X-men Ah was Anna Marie Darkholme, the problem child with an eccentric foster mother whose idea of bonding time involved teaching advanced kung-fu techniques. Ah was livin’ the life of someone who had no future. Ah was angry at the whole dang world. Guess that qualifies as an overreaction of sorts because Ah really didn’t start lashing out until mah mama jumped ship. But even before that, Ah knew something was seriously wrong.
Professor Xavier once told meh we’re all products of our parents in some ways whether we like it or not. He never said if that applied to adopted kids, but he doesn’t really have to. Ah got the answer first hand. So much of mah childhood was spent training. Mama and Irene went out of their way to make sure Ah was the toughest, strongest kid in Mississippi. Ah don’t know if every parent wants their kid to be tough, but even if they do Ah’m pretty sure Mystique overdid it. She didn’t just teach meh to defend mahself. She taught meh to fight the whole world. Nobody could be trusted and everybody could be a potential enemy. That kind of mindset will scare the heck out of an eight-year-old girl and make her pretty dang paranoid in the process.
Ah don’t know if it was Mama’s intention. Heck, it could’ve been for all Ah know. But all that trainin’ had meh fighting back at a world that didn’t understand meh. Problem is, Ah didn’t understand it either. It ain’t like I didn’t try. For reasons Ah still ain’t sure of, mah Mama cut meh off from the world. Ah wasn’t allowed to have friends. Ah wasn’t allowed to put mahself out there. Ah wasn’t allowed to be normal. By the time she left meh with Irene, it was too late. There was no goin’ back.
Irene thought Ah earned a little independence. Ah bet she regrets that decision every day of her life. The woman can see the future, but even she can’t predict how an unstable teenage girl is gonna thrust herself into the world. It sure didn’t help mah first taste of the world was Mississippi public school. Ah might as well have run naked through a mine field. Ain’t no way that was gonna be anything less than a disaster. The sad part is public school was almost as rough as mah Mama’s parenting. Only this time Ah wasn’t afraid to fight back. It sure got meh in trouble. Heck, the only good that came out of it was Ah met people who introduced meh to smoking, drugs, and clothes that weren’t hand-picked by a blind woman.
It was an endless cycle. People tried to control meh so Ah fought back. They tried to control meh even more so Ah fought back even harder. Ah really didn’t have a chance. Everybody just assumed Ah was angry, but the truth is it wasn’t like that. Anger is easy. Any fella can lash out at something they don’t like. Hell, Wolverine practically makes it an art form. Mah problem was never anger. It was isolation. All mah life Ah wanted to reach out to people, but there was always something in mah way. First it was mah Mama. Then everybody else joined in. When she got out of the way, Ah couldn’t find anybody who understood meh. Ah couldn’t relate to anyone on damn near anything. Ah wanted to and for a time Ah was ready to give up. Then Ah entered the next phase of mah life.
When Ah met up with the X-men, Anna Marie Darkholme took a back seat and Rogue took over. Some still don’t understand why Ah go by Rogue now. That new girl, Kitty, sure can’t resist running her yap about it. Everybody assumes it’s mah way of flippin’ the bird to the world of conformity. It’s a totally rebel thing to do. You abandon the name you were given and take on one you pick for yourself. But the reason Ah’m Rogue has less to do with hatin’ the world and more to do with takin’ a new path in life.
Rain started falling from the clouds. Rogue felt small drops strike her face. Yet she did nothing to avoid it. She didn’t even flinch when the drizzle turned into a light rain. She kept on staring at the clouds as if to fight back against the very nature that seemed to be complimenting her conflicted mood.
Being an X-man hasn’t just given meh an opportunity to make mah life worth a damn. It’s given meh a new identity. Ah didn’t like who Ah was as Marie. Ah didn’t like what Ah was becomin’ and what mah Mama was trying to turn meh into. When Ah started thinkin’ of mahself as Rogue, Ah finally pulled away from that life and suddenly Ah have a lot less reasons to hate the world. Ah may be a rebel, but Ah ain’t gonna be a bitter old bitch like mah Mama.
It took something big to shake meh out of that mindset and boy did Ah get it. The day mah powers manifested Ah got a quick lesson in humanity. Suddenly, Ah had something Ah couldn’t rebel against. It wasn’t so much the fact that Ah’m a mutant that messed meh up. Mah mama had been preparin’ meh for that a long time. It was the kind of mutant Ah was that really messed meh up. Ah didn’t shape shift, teleport, or see the future. Ah drained the life outta people just by touching them. Suddenly, it wasn’t just that folks didn’t reach out to meh when Ah wanted. They couldn’t without puttin’ themselves in a world of hurt.
It was rough, that’s for sure. But in a ways it was good for meh. It put meh in a place where Ah never would have gone otherwise. It forced me to look at mahself in the mirror and stop fighting things Ah shouldn’t fight. Ah had to suck it up, humble mahself, and forget a lot of what Mystique taught meh about the world. That’s what ended up makin’ me Rogue. Ah realized mah life was never gonna be the same. Ah would be a danger to mahself and others if Ah didn’t take control. It’s a good thing the X-men were there to help meh because now Ah’m in a place where Ah feel like Ah can turn that danger into something positive. Ah ain’t just what Ah wanna be. Ah’m what Ah should be.
The rain fell harder, but Rogue found herself smiling. It was something she used to do so infrequently before she joined the X-men. The mere act of smiling used to be a luxury because life was just one long string of frustration. She could have ended up like her mother easily. Hell, she could have ended up like Magneto or the goons at Weapon X, devoid of hope and driven only by anger and hatred. How she managed to avoid that path seemed like a miracle. The circumstances behind it, however, were anything but.
A few months before mah powers kicked in, Irene sat meh down and tried to lecture meh again. Ah honestly didn’t hear much of what she said, but Ah remember the parts that mattered. She pointed out how Ah’m still holding back. For all the bullshit Ah put her through, it could have been a lot worse. She called mah attitude petty. She went so far as to say she knows Ah’m still a good girl at heart because Ah haven’t shut everything out. Her mistake was assuming that she was one of them. She was dead wrong.
Irene’s heart was always in the right place, but like Mystique she’s cold. Empathy really ain’t one of her strengths because if it was, she wouldn’t have underplayed all those letters Ah still kept in mah dresser. Those letters weren’t from Mystque. Ah stopped gettin’ those a long time ago. Those letters were from mah foster brother in Europe. Those dirty pieces of paper kept meh in line than all the parenting Mystique and Irene could ever muster. Those letters helped meh remind meh that the world ain’t always what we’re conditioned to accept.
It’s pretty messed up. Ah’ve only seen pictures of mah foster brother and he’s only seen pictures of meh. For whatever crazy reason, mah mama was pretty serious about keepin’ us apart. But that didn’t stop us from connecting. It says something about mah family when the guy Ah ain’t ever seen face-to-face understands meh better than the two people who tried to raise meh. That was mah anchor. That’s what kept meh from goin’ over the edge. Ah ain’t heard from him in a while, but Ah managed to get one last letter to him lettin’ him know Ah’m startin’ a new life wit the X-men. If it wasn’t for him, Ah never would have made all the right decisions that led meh here. There ain’t a better place for a girl like meh…one who has the god-awful luck of having a power that has way more potential for harm than good.
Rogue’s eyes drifted down to the necklace she had on her neck. It was the only real piece of jewelry she wore consistently and for good reason. This seemingly bland metal necklace was crafted by Mr. McCoy from power suppressing collars they obtained from Weapon X. With these collars, she could hold back her powers and touch others without hurting them. It allowed her to live as normal a life as a girl like her could possibly live while also putting her powers to good use on missions.
That’s what gave her the most satisfaction, being able to take a power that in most every way was a source for great harm and turning it into a force for good. She couldn’t have pulled this off anywhere else besides the Xavier Institute. It didn’t just help her cope with her abilities, it helped her accept them. The collar also gave her a way to catch up on the life she had taken for granted.
That really could have been the kicker. The night mah powers manifested, that could have turned meh into something way worse than Mystique or Weapon X ever could have done. It was bad enough when Ah started absorbing people, takin’ on not just their memories but their identities as well. Mah brain ain’t built for that kind of capacity so it got crowded real fast. For a while Ah wasn’t even sure who Ah was or which identity was mine. It’s a good thing the X-men showed up when they did because both Marie and Rogue may have been gone for good.
Them saving meh was the easy part. Wrappin’ mah head around this power of mine was the real challenge. It still bugs meh that Professor Xavier can describe everyone else’s power with the kind of big words that you never hear in a Mississippi public school, but for whatever reason can’t make sense of mah powers. He’s tried to use more technical words besides ‘life absorption’ and whatever the hell is behind it. So far he’s almost as confused as Ah am. It’s scary to think that mah powers work in a way that even the best mutant experts can’t describe, but since Ah ain’t the fearful type Ah’ve been more hung up on coping with it.
Ah know there are plenty of things folks take for granted. Ah hear it all the time. There’s always someone out there who ain’t as fortunate as us and somehow that’s supposed to make us feel better. Ah sure don’t get it and Ah find it pretty damn annoying. Now ain’t nobody can throw that sad excuse at meh because Ah lost something nobody gives a second thought or a first thought for that matter. Ah lost the ability to touch another human being. Little things like holding hands, kissing, or even a simple hug was risky business because Ah could end up killing someone. You can still live your life, but it’s a life where you’re cut off in one of the most meaningful ways.
The rain kept pouring and Rogue’s gaze remained fixated on the necklace. She casually trailed her fingers over it, feeling the cold metal of the device that was so key to her life now. It was daunting to think that she was reliant on something that looked so innocuous. Sometimes it was a crutch and sometimes it was a miracle cure. While she was grateful for what it gave her, she still had mixed feelings about it.
It still bugs meh every day. Mah whole life is basically dependant on this little piece of glorified jewelry. Without it, Ah completely lose control. Ah get cut off from the world again. Ah sure as hell don’t want that to happen, but Ah can’t help but wonder…is this gonna be part of who Ah am? This whole mess with meh bein’ careful around the people close to meh has kind of been a good thing. It’s forced meh to reach out to people in other ways and some of those ways have worked.
As Marie, mah main way of reaching out to people involved trying to get close without saying too much. That way Ah could skip the formalities and get to the deeper stuff. Ah see now how that put a lot of people off. It sure didn’t help when mah most common reaction was to get all vindictive on people. Guess that’s one lesson mah mama taught that Ah couldn’t unlearn. Then mah powers manifested and Ah had to change mah methods. Ah join the X-men and now Ah have to be careful before Ah start reaching. Ah have to talk all this hard stuff out to break down barriers and actually open up to people. Even without touching, it’s worked pretty damn well.
For the first time in mah life Ah have friends who give a damn. Ah have people who will run through a brick wall (in some cases literally) to save meh. That gives meh something to fight for that mah mama could never understand. Having these friends that Ah’m so close to but can never touch fills a void Ah’ve been tryin’ to fill for years and failed miserably at any turn. Ironically, it was all because of mah powers.
That’s part of what really messes with meh. Nobody would blame meh for hatin’ mah powers, but Ah actually kind of like what they’ve done. They ain’t just given meh a healthy shove in the right direction. They’ve made meh a better person. They are part of Rogue, the girl who came after Marie. They’ve made meh an X-man and there ain’t a price you can put on that. Now that Ah got this necklace, Ah’m worried about fallin’ back into old habits. Ah don’t wanna go back to bein’ Marie again, the strange girl who rebels against everything for all the wrong reasons. Ah wanna be Rogue, the strange girl who rebels because there’s somethin’ worth rebelling against. Ah got that here with the X-men and Ah wanna hang onto it. Now that Ah can control mah powers, Ah often need other forces to be pushin’ me in the right direction.
In a growing daze Rogue took the necklace in her hand and let it dangle in front of her face. She was almost mesmerized by little device that had such a huge impact on her life. She was so focused on it she practically forgot about the rain falling around her. At this point she was getting pretty soaked and it seemed the rain was poised to come down much harder.
Rogue could have stayed out through the entire storm. Then a voice from just outside the front door of the mansion rang out and broke her from her daze.
“Hey Rogue! Are you okay? I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but there’s a nasty storm coming in!”
Shooting up from the bench, Rogue looked back towards the mansion to see Scott Summers standing there with a worried look on his face. His presence brought Rogue out of her daze and put a smile on her face. The concerned look of her lover was almost humorous. He was always so serious, even over menial moments like this. It showed to her just how much he cared and that was one of the many reasons there were to love this man.
“No need to call the calvary, sugah. Just takin’ a little break in between classes,” Rogue called out.
“In the rain?” Scott questioned, “Are you sure nothing’s wrong?”
“Course Ah’m sure! You don’t always have to assume the worst with meh, Scott. Hell, even if it were picture perfect day Ah bet you’d still be fussin’ over how Ah’m lying around under the blistering sun,” she teased.
“Even if I did, is it such a crime to be a concerned boyfriend?”
“Even if it was, you know Ah wouldn’t mind if you broke it.”
Her witty remarks helped set Scott’s mind at ease. His demeanor relaxed as he started making his way towards her, braving the pouring rain as any fearless leader would. Rogue rose up from the bench to meet him, tucking her necklace under her shirt in the process. Already, her mood was getting better.
Now here’s a force that’s really been pushing meh in all the right ways. Scott Summers is pretty much the opposite of everything Ah once was. He’s calm, collected, and assertive. He thinks before he speaks and thinks even more before he acts. Moreover, he’s a total boy scout. He’ll stand in line, follow the rules, and do the right thing even if it makes him look like a stiff. What really makes him stand out is that he does all of this without comin’ off as a self-righteous jerk. For a gal like me to have a fella like him is like a blizzard in July.
It’s one of the first things Ah did when Ah got mah ability to touch again. Ah made a move on a man who has done more to pull me back in line than anyone else. This fella put his life on the line the night mah powers went nuts. He actually let meh touch him knowin’ full well he was gonna get hurt. Ah’m glad he had the stones to go through with it because that little insight into the mind Scott Summers sent him to the top of mah list for potential boyfriends.
Ah get why Scott catches so much flack for bein’ a straight-arrow. He really does come off as reserved, tough, and downright cold sometimes. But the fact is there’s a lot goin’ on behind those ruby shades of his. Ah have the benefit of insight. When Ah touched Scott that day, Ah felt his thoughts and memories. Ah got a small taste of what he’s been through. He’s a guy who lost his entire family, grew up in an orphanage, and had to fend for himself at a tender age when most boys are obsessing over video games and sneakin’ Playboys. Yet he found a way to become the better man that few others in his shoes could’ve been. Ah don’t know all the details since he does keep a lot to himself, but Ah know enough to understand and relate to him in a way no one else can.
The others say we’re a classic case of opposites attract. He’s the uptight grade grubber and Ah’m the rebellious troublemaker. That kind of prejudice would make all the anti-mutant folk in the world cringe because ain’t nothing further from the truth. Scott and Ah are alike in more ways than we’re different. We’ve each had to claw our way out of a shell that’s been put over us by our childhood, our powers, and plenty of other shit we ain’t got the slightest control over. It’s a tough path to walk alone. It’s a whole lot easier and a lot more fun when you have someone by your side.
When Scott reached her, his concerned look gave way to a smile. The rain was really starting to come down now. Rogue was practically soaked and he was well on his way. Despite this, he still offered Rogue his jacket as any good boyfriend should.
“Here…might as well spare you the added discomfort of wet clothes,” he said.
“A little late for that, sugah,” joked Rogue, “But since Ah ain’t about to start takin’ gents like you for granted, Ah’ll humor you.”
“I appreciate that. You have more manners than you give yourself credit for.”
“Ah reserve them only for the special folk in mah life. Like say…mah handsome boyfriend who’s nice enough to walk with meh in the pouring rain,” she said in a more serious tone as she latched onto his arm.
“Guess that makes me a lucky guy.”
“It ain’t got nothin’ to do with luck. You earn that kind of respect. Just as you earn little treats like this…”
Rogue’s little treat entailed a wet kiss on the cheek. It further widened Scott’s smile. The rain started pouring even harder, yet they were in no hurry as they started making their way back to the mansion. They might as well have been on a romantic stroll on a sunny day. This strange collection of circumstances, sharing a romantic moment in the middle of a storm, seemed like a perfect summation of their relationship and how far Rogue had come.
Ah seriously don’t deserve to have a boyfriend like Scott, let alone mah very first. Ah’m the daughter of Mystique with a knack for attracting the worst kind of trouble. Yet this fella still loves meh. It’s probably the biggest sign that mah life is on a better track with the X-men than it ever was with Mystique.
We’ve already done our share of loving. Scott and Ah haven’t wasted a moment of time. Mr. McCoy still warns me every now and then that there’s a chance mah necklace will stop working and Ah won’t be able to touch again. In the meantime we’ve made every touch count. Ah’ve given Scott mah heart and mah body. Yeah, we’ve moved a little fast, but Ah ain’t ashamed in the slightest. It helps that Scott is as handsome as he is righteous. It helps even more he’s dang good in bed. With him Ah get to feel everything Ah might have missed out on. Even if the day comes when mah powers cut meh off again, Ah’ll still have some pretty fine memories to boot.
A few times Ah’ve wondered if maybe Ah’m movin’ too fast. Ah’m in good company too because the others have brought it up a number of times, especially Jean Grey. Ah still can’t stop mahself from butting heads with that girl. I swear she and Scott have some strange stuff going on, but so long as his eyes stay on meh Ah can deal with it. He’s worth it. That’s exactly why movin’ fast is the only way to go in mah mind. Ah can’t worry too much about the future. It’s all about the present right now. By making the time we have meaningful, we’ll have everything it takes to handle whatever the future throws at us.
In the end that’s what truly makes meh Rogue. Ah ain’t dwelling on the past no more. Ah ain’t makin’ the same mistakes and lettin’ mahself drift further away from the world. Ah’m gonna turn mah powers from a curse into a blessing. Ah’m gonna use them to be the best damn X-man Ah can be. If anyone wants to get in mah way including mah own mama, then that’s just one more thing for meh to rebel against.
By the time Scott and Rogue reached the mansion, they were fully drenched. Even the cover of Scott’s jacket couldn’t make a change of clothes necessary. But neither of them seemed to mind. For Marie Anna Darkholme, this was just another opportunity to make the most out of her new life as Rogue.
“It’s official. We’re soaked to the bone,” said Scott as he wiped his glasses off.
“So we are,” said Rogue casually, “In that case what do you say we get out of these wet clothes and into something more comfortable.”
Doing little to hide the subtext of her tone, Rogue slithered her arms around Scott’s neck and drew him into a deeper embrace.
“In the middle of the afternoon? I have an engineering test in an hour and if memory serves me right you have a class in fifteen minutes?” Scott pointed out.
“If Miss Munroe ain’t gotten used to meh being late by now she never will,” Rogue shrugged, “Besides, fifteen minutes is still plenty of time to warm up in our own special way.”
“You’re not going to let go of me until I give in, aren’t you?” the X-leader surmised, not fighting Rogue’s grasp.
“Ah’m an X-man, sugah. You, the Professor, and everyone here helped make meh one. And part of bein’ an X-man means toughing out the bad times and savoring the good times. So let’s be the best dang X-men we can be and do all the savoring we can!”
Next Issue: Kitty Pryde
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