1. actual existence, typically as contrasted with what was intended, expected, or believed.
My eyes are playing tricks on me. They must be, because I keep seeing the faint flash of white stripes, ghosting in and out of the darkness as I stare out into the black void of the night. As if any minute now, she'll come flying back through this window and into my arms. Not likely.
And why would she? The way I acted. The way I...forced myself on her, kissing her with anger instead of tenderness. The things I said. I can't think of it without wincing.
I think somewhere in the back of my mind, I might have suspected that Rogue would be a little different in this life, but I didn't want to think about it. I was just so happy to wake up and see her, alive. And then when she came to me unexpectedly that first night, and we made love, and she wanted to be with me as much as I wanted to be with her, I just...
I've had so little happiness in my life that I was starving for it. Starving for her. Like a hungry dog who by some stroke of luck had found a bone, I just wanted to grab onto what was in front of me and run with it before someone or something took it away.
There are some things you can't outrun, though.
I've been trying so hard to not look too closely at things, since the moment I woke up in the new timeline. Trying not to figure out how or why I had been given a second chance. Trying not to tempt Fate by asking too many questions, so that maybe, maybe just this once, I could fool her into overlooking something good in my life. The only one I was fooling was myself.
Is this how it's going to be for me and Rogue? Over before we really began like last time? I stare out the window, still looking for that flash of white stripes. The sun is almost over the horizon now, and the sky is turning a soft pink.
"Fuck fate," I growl to myself. I throw on my jacket and head out the door to get some answers. This old dog isn't giving up without a fight.
"Ah, Logan. Good morning; please come in. Can I offer you a drink? Some tea, perhaps?"
The Professor offers me tea, but even as he speaks, he's wheeling over to the liquor cabinet and reaching for the scotch. Before I even say anything, he pours a glass and places it in my hand. There is a spark of humor in his eyes, but there is also the warmth of understanding.
"I hope you'll forgive me for presuming to know what your beverage of choice would be, especially at this hour of the morning, but you looked like you could use something a little stronger than tea."
"Hmph. You're not wrong about that. Thanks, Professor."
"Not at all. So what can I do for you, Logan?"
I sink into the deep leather chair and stare at my drink, swirling the liquid around the glass slowly. The Professor waits, patiently, for me to say what he probably already knows I'm going to say.
"You were right," I finally admit with a sigh. "About needing to know our history. I should have come to you sooner."
I look up to read his face, expecting a lecture; but there is no look of judgment in his eyes, only kindness.
"You're here now, and that is all that matters."
"Yeah. I'm here now," I say quietly. "I'm ready to hear what you have to say."
He smiles. "Very good. So, where to begin? There is so much to tell you," he says thoughtfully.
I know where I want him to begin; more than anything, I need to know about Rogue. But somehow it doesn't feel right to just come out and ask about her. Her words from last night are burned into my mind. Nobody really knows me. And I like it that way.
The memory is a sharp pain in my chest. She obviously wants to keep some things in her life private, and that probably includes our relationship. If I ask about her directly, I might let on some things to the Professor that she doesn't want anyone to know.
I want to get to the bottom of all this...but I don't want to violate her trust. Fuck. I'm stuck between a rock and a hard place.
"How about we start at the beginning," I say finally.
Half an hour later and I've heard some crazy ass shit. How we've all ended up here together at Xavier's school in this new timeline is nothing short of a miracle.
Mystique is actually one of the good guys this time around, if you can believe that. I can't. I'd trust that blue bitch as far as I can throw her. But the Professor tells me that she actually helped the X-team save the world back in the 80s from some asshole trying to bring about the apocalypse, so now she's everybody's friend and is welcome to come and go at the mansion whenever she pleases. Hank actually has a thing for her, and they've been an on and off item for years. It's a good thing she hasn't come around before this, or I probably would have clawed her.
And Storm was one of the bad guys at first, which shocked the hell out of me. She was actually one of the four mutants helping that apocalypse maniac destroy the world. Storm, miss Earth Mother, of all people.
Magneto was one of the four, which doesn't shock me at all, but he changed his mind at the last minute and helped save the X-team, so they're supposedly on good terms. You never know with that one. I put him in the same category as Mystique; I'd trust him as far as I can throw him.
Not everything is different; Scott and Jean are together per usual. Kurt is his same old self, and so is Piotr. I'm here, and so is Rogue.
But as I listen to the Professor, I'm beginning to see that even if most of us did end up in the same place, not everyone took the exact same path to get here as they did the first time around. Kurt came to the X-men a full 20 years earlier than he did in the old timeline. Quicksilver, too. Angel was fucking born 20 years earlier than last time, and he was one of the four horsemen of the apocalypse. What the hell?
And if they took a different path to get here...what about Rogue?
"You seem troubled, Logan." He watches me with perceptive eyes. "Perhaps we should finish up for today and pick up where we left off another time."
"How did I get here?" I blurt out. It's the closest thing to asking about Rogue that I can manage without giving everything away.
"Indeed," he nods. "My apologies, Logan; I'm sure you must be anxious to hear about your own history."
My history. I've been the man with no past for so long that the idea of having a history feels like an almost foreign concept. I spent a lot of time searching, just trying to find out simple things, like what my real name is. Where I came from. How old I am. Why my whole damn skeleton was covered in adamantium.
I still want to know that stuff, but the funny thing is, there's something far more important to me now.
"We have some information that we recovered from an old military base near Alkali Lake, which was once the headquarters for a secret government program called "Weapon X". But it is rather incomplete, since most of their records were destroyed when they moved their operations." He looks at me apologetically. "We spent many years looking for you after the standoff at the Whitehouse in 1973. We had no idea that Stryker had taken you."
Fucking Stryker. The mere mention of his name makes me want to put my claws through a wall. If he's still alive in this timeline, I'm gonna fucking kill him. Right after I fix things with Rogue, I'm gonna find him and kill him.
"It was more than a decade before you crossed our paths again--Jean, Scott, and Kurt had a brief chance meeting with you inside the Weapon X compound, though they were merely teenagers then and had no idea who you were. The state you were in...Jean said that they had taken all your memories. Used some method of mind control to reduce you to your feral state. They had turned you into a weapon."
A growl slips from my throat, and I have to repress the urge to spring the claws.
"Sounds about right," I grumble, tossing back the rest of my drink.
"This happened to you before, in the old timeline, I gather."
"Yeah. I think so. I got pretty much the same amount of info as you; just pieces here and there. I was close to getting more, but Stryker was...killed before I was able to get all the answers I wanted."
"I see." The Professor says nothing more; he looks saddened. I know he wishes he could have prevented all this from happening to me again.
"Hey, it's ok, Professor." I lean forward and put my hand on his shoulder. "You did your best, and that's good enough."
He gives me a pained smile. "Thank you, Logan. You did tell me that once before, all those years ago, when you asked me to find everyone and bring them to the school."
"I remember. And you did. We're all together now, thanks to you."
He drops his gaze, nodding slowly. "I wish I could have done more for you, Logan. Even if that technically was the 'old' you, had we been able to prevent Stryker from taking you, perhaps...you could have gone back to your old life in 1973. The groundwork would have been laid for a whole other life, with a complete history. A home. A family."
"Hey, don't think like that, Professor. You can't think about the what ifs. I already have a home and a family, right here. The history's not complete, but two out of three ain't bad."
He looks up, both surprised and touched. "You will always have a home and a family here with us."
We both sit there for a moment, not saying anything, but affirmed by the words we both needed to hear. I smile and break the silence by handing him my glass. "Thanks. Now don't get all mushy on me, Professor. We're good, so how 'bout another scotch?"
He laughs and wheels over to the liquor cabinet with my glass. "It took us another 15 years to find you," he says as he pours. "We used Cerebro, of course, but it was difficult to pinpoint your signature brainwave patterns. I believe it may have had something to do with the way they tampered with your mind." He returns and places the glass in my hand.
"Well, as a wise man said to me not so long ago, I'm here now, and that's all that matters."
"A wise man?" He chuckles warmly. "I don't know how wise this man is, but there is truth to his words." I'm glad that I'm able to lighten the mood for him. I don't want him to be burdened with guilt over my life, this man who has been like a father to me.
"We found you in Laughlin City, in the Canadian province of Alberta. Causing ruckus at the local fight bar," he says with a smile.
My smile fades. Laughlin City. This is it; the point where I met Rogue...or should have met her.
"I'm sure it comes as no surprise..." The Professor trails off when he notices the look on my face. "Are you alright, Logan?"
My mouth is suddenly dry and I can't speak. I take a gulp of my scotch.
"You look troubled again. What's wrong?"
"Was there...anyone with me?" I ask carefully.
"There were plenty of people there, but none that I would qualify as 'with you', per se, like a friend or traveling companion."
My heart sinks, and the dead weight in the pit of my stomach grows heavier. And I have to ask. I have to.
"Was--Rogue there, by any chance?" I manage to stammer.
"Rogue?" He tilts his head. "Not that I know of. We only just recruited her this past year; prior to that we had no knowledge of her."
I think I'm going to be sick.
I can see her in my mind. Sitting at the end of the bar, wearing that hooded green coat and looking like she hasn't eaten a good meal in months.
Standing up in my trailer, sassing me as I throw her duffle bag onto the ground. (Where am I supposed to go?) I don't know. (You don't know or you don't care?) Pick one. (I saved your life.) No you didn't.
Climbing into my cab, after I admit that I can't leave her alone to freeze to death on that snowy road. I'm not gonna hurt you, kid. (It's nothing personal; it's just that when people touch my skin, something happens...)
Asking about my claws. (When they come out...does it hurt?) Every time.
Telling me her true name. So what kind of a name is Rogue? (I don't know, what kind of a name is Wolverine?) My name's Logan. (Marie...)
"You were close to her, in the old timeline." The Professor watches me intently, a look of comprehension passing through his eyes. "And you care deeply for her now."
My eyes snap to his. "You reading my mind, Professor?"
"No. I don't have to. I may be a telepath, but your love for her is plain to see."
"Shit." I run my hand through my hair. "Is it that obvious?"
He smiles kindly. "Only just now."
I lean forward to rest my elbows on my knees and hang my head with a sigh.
"I cared for her very much in the old timeline. Loved her, though I didn't realize it at the time. But she died, and I never got to tell her."
"I see," he says softly.
"When I woke up in the new timeline, and I saw her alive--I thought I might have a second chance with her. That we could pick up where we left off."
"But you're discovering that she isn't exactly the same person as she was before."
"She's still the Rogue I know," I say with a little too much vehemence. "Shit." I sit back and scrub a hand over my face. "She's still the same person, even if there are some things that are different. I don't know how to explain it, but I just...know."
He listens, saying nothing, but his eyes are filled with compassion. And suddenly I'm not sure who I'm trying to convince, him or myself.
"We had a lot of history together in the old timeline. But if she only got here this past year, then...that history is gone. So...am I crazy to think that I know her at all?"
"No. You're not crazy to feel that you know her."
"I want to believe that..." God, I really want to. But after last night...
"Logan, when it comes to a person's true self, I'd like to believe that the whole of our being is greater than the sum of our parts. And though we are shaped by our experiences in life, the core of who we are remains the foundation. In this new timeline, Rogue has taken a different path than before, and so therefore, she herself may be a little different than you remember. She's had different life experiences that influence her attitude, her decisions, her emotional reactions. In other words, she's carrying different baggage on this journey. But she has arrived here all the same, hasn't she? And something has drawn you two together again, even though the circumstances are different this time."
I let his words sink in. "This whole time travel thing with different timelines is so f-- messed up," I huff, standing up and walking to the window in frustration. "I don't know what to think."
"Then don't think." I turn to look at him, caught off guard by his counter response. "Feel." He wheels closer. "What do your instincts tell you?"
I close my eyes for a moment, then open them again. "They tell me that she's still the Rogue I know, even if she's...carrying different baggage now. She's still my Rogue."
"Good. Then you need to meet her where she is right now. Start over, and get to know her again. Don't think of it as getting to know a stranger, but rather, think of it as a renewal. And trust that the forces that drew you together, the instincts that drew your 'true selves' to each other in the old timeline, will be there again in this one."
I sit on the ledge and look out the window with a sigh, trying to wrap my head around all of this. It's late morning now and the campus has come alive with students. And I'm reminded that Rogue was never one of them. I wonder where she has been all this time if she hasn't been at the school. And what finally led her here?
"Professor? In the old timeline, Rogue and I came to the school together. How did...can you tell me about how she came to join the X-men in this timeline?"
"Yes, of course." He nods in understanding. Then a little smile creeps up as he prepares to tell me the story. "It seems that Rogue is an appropriate name, if her first encounter with the X-men is anything to go by. The team was on a pick-up in New York City, a young boy who had been thrown out of his foster home when his mutation manifested and so he was living on the streets. They knew he would run if they approached him in their uniforms, so they were dressed in plain clothes and planned on a subtle introduction to slowly gain his trust. Just as Scott was about to engage the boy, Rogue passed by and picked his pocket."
My eyebrows fly up. "Rogue picked Cyke's pocket?"
"Yes, I'm afraid so," he chuckles. "Scott would have let it go, except that she didn't just steal his wallet. She stole one of our communicators."
I shake my head. Mr. Perfect made such a rookie mistake; first, he kept his X-phone in his back pocket unsecured, and second, he let someone sneak up on him. Classic. I'm filing that one away for a later time when I need to bust his balls about something.
"Scott ordered Kitty to follow the boy while he went after Rogue, which unfortunately spooked the boy and he started to run. Rogue, meanwhile, seemed to disappear into thin air. Sensing that they were about to lose the boy, Scott, Kitty, and Jubilee all attempted to intercept him, but he managed to evade them by getting lost in the crowd. Just as they located him again, the boy saw them and darted into the busy intersection, directly into the path of speeding vehicle. He would have been killed in that instant, had it not been for Rogue, who flew in from seemingly nowhere and swept the boy out of harm's way."
"Damn..." I feel a swell of pride in my chest thinking about Rogue saving that boy.
"Indeed. She set the boy down next to Jubilee...and then she did something equally unexpected. She gave back the wallet and the communicator. Jubilee instantly recognized Rogue's potential as X-men material, and asked her if she would come to the school to see if she might like a place to stay and a possible spot on the team. She declined, and took off like a shot into the sky before Jubilee could say any more. They never expected to see her again. But then, a week later, she showed up at our door."
"And who answered the door?" The words are out of my mouth before I even realize what I'm saying. The only thing I'm thinking right now is that I hope it wasn't Bobby. I still remember looking in on Rogue while she was in her first class and seeing Bobby try to charm her with that stupid ice rose.
"I believe it was Bobby who welcomed her in."
Fuck. It figures. My fists clench and I suppress a growl.
"They were never an item, you know. Rogue and Bobby."
My eyes snap to his again, thinking that he's reading my mind again; but his expression is one of understanding and I realize sheepishly that the jealousy is probably written all over my face.
"He might have tried to pursue her for a short time, but she never reciprocated his attention. She mostly keeps to herself, though looking back I suspect that she might have had eyes for someone else," he says with a knowing smile.
"She did?" My heart feels like it just skipped a beat.
"Strange how she seemed very reluctant to join the team despite all our efforts to entice her. But then suddenly she changed her mind, and agreed to join the team on a trial basis. I'd like to think it was my powers of persuasion that did the trick. But really the only difference that time was that you walked into the room."
"Yeah?" He nods, and there goes my heart again. I'm like a damn schoolgirl hearing about her crush. Somehow I manage to keep a straight face.
The schoolbell goes off, and we both realize that it's time to wrap it up.
"Thanks, Professor," I say, standing up.
He smiles. "Until next time. There will be a next time, won't there?"
"Heh, yeah. Sooner than later this time."
"Very good. I shall look forward to our next history lesson," he says, wheeling back to his desk.
I head for the door, but stop at the threshold. There's still one more question on my mind, though I think I already know the answer. I turn around and try to prepare myself for the inevitable kick to the gut.
"Professor...there's just one more thing I wanted to ask you."
"Yes, of course. What is it?" He looks up from his notepad.
"Did Rogue...have the white streaks in her hair when she came to the school?"
"Yes, she did," he says with a nod. "Did she not have them in the old timeline?"
His words bring the expected kick to the gut, and I try to hide my disappointment. Another piece of our history gone.
"They're not natural or a part of her mutation...I was there when she got them. She almost died that night; her hair turned white from the trauma. They're a scar."
"I see," the Professor murmurs. "She's never mentioned how she got them; she is a very private person who doesn't like to speak of her past. And for some reason I never was able to get a clear reading from her, so I don't know very much about her history, unfortunately."
"You tried reading her mind?"
"Initially, yes. I try to respect the privacy of the people who live here, Logan, but I do have to keep the safety of the school in mind. Everyone gets scanned when I first meet them."
"So...if you couldn't read her mind, how did you know for sure that you could trust her?"
"I didn't." He smiles. "I trusted my instincts, and took a leap of faith."