Author's Chapter Notes:
Some violence and attempted sexual assault present in this chapter, be warned.
She must have fainted, because she didn’t remember falling to the ground. Rogue groaned as she pushed herself up and felt a burning sensation in her arm. Huh. She didn’t remember slicing up the underside of her forearm on the wicked length of broken glass that was jutting up from the pile of debris she’d fallen into, either.

She didn’t know how long she’d been unconscious. Though the blood which stiffened her blouse sleeve seemed to indicate at least a few hours had passed. Of course, she’d never admit to any of her teammates she’d fainted. It just wouldn’t do for them to think she’d been so - well, fragile.

Maybe she had a concussion. Maybe that blast of energy, or whatever the hell it was Rift had produced, had knocked her into the wall at his parents’ house, and she was hallucinating. That was a perfectly reasonable explanation for what she was seeing. Because the reality of what she was seeing was too painful, too awful, too impossible for her to comprehend.

Rogue walked forward towards the destroyed structure in front of her, high heels teetering unevenly on the rubble beneath her feet. She swore in exasperation as she nearly turned her ankle for the dozenth time. If she wasn’t worried about needing a tetanus shot, she’d have shucked off her heels and chanced wading through the debris. But she didn’t like the look of some of that rebar, and she’d already cut her arm and banged up her head, so she’d be dammed if she gave this place anymore of her blood.

She’d never been so unprepared to be in the field before, and it was making her anxious. She didn’t like feeling anxious. Feeling anxious made her feel as though she wasn’t in control. And she liked feeling in control. Needed to be in control. Control was critical for her. The lives of her teammates depended on her maintaining control over her skin. If she weren’t careful, if she slipped up, even a little, it could mean the end of one of them, and lifetime of guilt for her.

So now, as she carefully moved through the remains of the ruined building in front of her, she desperately clung to the hope that this was all just a sick vision pressed upon her by damaged brain, and that she was safely back in the mansion’s med bay by now, Hank or Jean monitoring her vitals as her body worked to regain consciousness.

Rogue stopped her ambling and took in the scene in in front of her. Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters lay in ruins. The beautiful stone mansion had been ripped apart by some unknown force, though Rogue strongly suspected explosives had been involved. There was simply too much rubble strewn about for it to have been destroyed by anything else. Jagged chunks of charred wood stuck out here and there at odd angles, any traces of fire long since extinguished.

But even as disturbing as the image of her home having been blown up was, the worst thing about the image in front of her was that none of the debris looked fresh. It looked slightly weather worn, with no evident attempts to rebuild or even clean up. A chill settled deep in the pit of her stomach, and her throat swallowed convulsively as she pondered what could have happened to the X-Men in the short amount of time she’d been on her recruiting mission with Remy.

She shook her head suddenly, trying to ignore the stab of pain that pulsed through her temples at the motion, forcing that thought away. Concussion, remember? It’s not real. She told herself. She tried to calm her stubbornly rising panic by taking a few deep breaths in through her nose. After several moments, her heart rate began to return to normal and she closed her eyes briefly to center herself again, reminding herself that this was all just some bizarre concussed dream she was having, that nothing here could hurt her.

The sudden sound of skittering debris to her back caught her attention and she jerked around to see what had caused the noise. Her heart leapt with fear as she saw the towering form of a man emerging from one of the shadows of what used to be the south wall of the mansion.

“Hello, frail,” the huge man said as he emerged into the late afternoon sunlight. “What’re you doin’ here? This place is off limits.”

The sight of Victor Creed made her sigh in relief. Here was something familiar, at last. An occasional teammate of the X-Men, Sabretooth had become a reluctant ally over the years, proving himself to be a reliable bit of muscle when some of their more interesting missions required it. Rogue didn’t know him too well, as he would come and go as he pleased, always restless, always searching for something outside the mansion that seemed to elude him. But she did count him as a friend. And in her current situation, she’d take what she could get.

“Victor,” Rogue said, her voice voice full of the relief she felt. “It’s good to see you. Although what you’re doin’ in my addled brain is beyond me. I’d just as soon fantasize about my actual boyfriend if we’re talkin’ about men making an appearance in a hallucination.”

He tilted his head to the side, a puzzled expression on his face. “If you want somethin’ to fantasize about, pretty one, I’m more then willin’ to make your dreams come true,” he growled as he stepped forward, a cruel smile appearing on his face.

A chill ran down her spine at his expression and she unconsciously took a step backward. “Cut it out, Victor,” Rogue barked back at him.

“Don’t know how you know my name, don’t really care,” he sniffed the air as he continued to stalk her. “Mmm, you smell good, pretty one. Let me have a taste.” His dark eyes were fixed on her, eagerness etched in every line of his face.

She was seriously brain damaged. Why the hell would her mind come up with this shit?

“I don’t think so Creed, you know I’m with Remy,” she was pleased that her voice didn’t betray the nervousness she felt, though that was countered by her attempts to glance down at the wreckage for a weapon of some kind. Of course all that helpful rebar and broken glass she’d spied earlier was nowhere near her current surroundings.

Creed’s face had flashed at her mention of Remy and he momentarily stopped his slow press toward her. “You know the Cajun.” It wasn’t a question.

Rogue looked him straight in the eye, willing him to back down. “Don’t be stupid, Creed. You know I do.”

He shook his head, quick to dismiss her. “I think you’re lying. See, ‘cause I’ve never smelled you anywhere near the Cajun before. And I’d never be able to forget your sweet smell,” and he began to resume his stride toward her.

She was drastically unprepared and outgunned for this fight, the uneven ground beneath her feet was proving an unavoidable obstacle. She knew what Creed was capable of and her own combat skills were wildly inadequate to face him. Her only chance would be to somehow get a grip on his skin, a task made more difficult by the long trench coat he wore. Not to mention, he was a hairy mother, and getting in an unobstructed touch would be close to impossible.

Shit. She was in seriously deep shit.

He charged her without warning, though she would swear she’d been looking in his eyes for any sign of his decision to pounce. She turned to run, but let out a frustrated yell as her right heel snapped as it was caught on a piece of stone and she stumbled as she fell forward, scraping her palms as she went down. She scrambled, trying to gain a foot hold but Creed was on her, pinning her painfully to the hard ground.

His hot breath panted against her and before she had a chance to react, had licked a path from the nape of her neck to the temple that was pasted with her dried blood.

“Mmm, you taste delicious, pretty one. You’re gonna be fun to explore.”

“Fuck you, Creed. Get the hell off me! What is wrong with my brain!” She cried out, her panic starting to overcome her again.

“Don’t care about your brain, I’m more interested in this sweet body that’s wriggling beneath me.” He had begun to stroke her through her clothes and he thrust crudely against her back.

Rogue ceased moving immediately at his words, nausea roiling in her stomach. If he was going to rape her, she’d at least have a chance at dropping him with her skin. As abhorrent of the idea of Victor Creed’s diseased mind rattling around in hers forever was, she’d take it over the thought of him violating her.

“Let her go, Creed.”

A low, rough-edged voice had come out of nowhere and Victor had ceased his groping at once. Rogue heard him sniff the air but she was unable to turn her head to see who had spoken since Victor’s hands kept her body immobilized.

“Finders keepers, runt,” he pressed down hard with his body and Rogue couldn’t help but let out a cry of pain as her sliced forearm dug into some sharp object beneath her.

“The Brotherhood raping girls now?” The stranger asked, disgust and loathing evident in his tone.

“Get your own puppy. This one’s mine.”

“This one doesn’t look too willin’ to participate. Think I’ll fight you for ‘er instead.”

Rogue heard the sing of metal and a loud popping noise and then let out a sigh of relief as she felt the weight of Sabretooth moving off her.

Creed stood in front of her, facing the stranger and blocking him from her view. She scrambled and got to her feet to back away from Creed as swiftly as possible, but after a quick glance at the stranger was more concerned with getting away from the fucking twelve-inch metal blades coming out of his knuckles of his gloved hands. If he was about to fight Creed, he was obviously another mutant, but she’d never seen anyone who could take Creed on before. It was one of the reasons the X-Men had been so glad he was on their side.

Creed didn’t wait for a signal but attacked the man, going at him with his own set of claws. The man was ready for him, however, and met his charging body with a fist full of metal through Creed’s right shoulder. Creed howled in pain but quickly recovered and grabbed the man by the forearm that was flush against his chest and ripped out the metal claws embedded in his body. He used the momentum to throw the man backward into one of the still standing walls of the mansion. The man hit the wall face first with a surprisingly heavy sounding clink. He dropped to the ground and shook his head as the gash that had appeared on his forehead instantly healed.

Holy shit, Rogue thought. He’s like Creed.

The stranger growled as he charged Creed, this time slicing both claws into Creed’s abdomen, the impact of which forced Creed to step back a few paces. As Creed was forced backward, he lost his footing over one of the larger dislodged stones and fell. The man took advantage of the opportunity to slam Creed’s head back into another stone, over and over again, until he was breathing hard, and Creed ceased moving.

Rogue was panting heavily, the adrenaline of the fight pulsing through her veins making her jumpy. “Is he dead?”

At her voice, the man froze. He shook his head in response to her question and stood up, his back to her.

“Shit. Thank you. For helping me. Fucking hell, are those knives comin’ out of your hands? Never seen a mutant who could do that before,”

And before she had a chance to breathe, the stranger, who had been staring at Creed’s unconscious form, jerked back to face her and charged forward, slamming her backward into the half-crumbled wall behind her. Her head hit the stone and she resisted the urge to groan from the fresh wave of pain and spots that swam in front of her. She forced herself to look at his face and memorize every feature so she’d be able to find him and kick his ass later. Once she wasn’t in such a fucking ridiculous weakened state.

The man’s scruffy face was frozen in a look of acute distrust. One leather gloved hand held her by the throat, the full weight of his body forcing her back into the hard ruins of the building by the forearm he had pressed against her chest. She felt the heat of his body through her thin silk blouse, even from a distance and she shivered slightly in the crisp air.

“Who the fuck are you?” He asked, his lip curled in a snarl. He sniffed deeply and then his eyes widened, an infinitesimal degree. “How are you doing this?” he asked again, this time his voice slightly hoarse with some unknown emotion.

“What the hell are you talking about?” Rogue gritted out through clenched teeth. If she was confused, it seemed to be nothing compared to how the man holding her by the throat was feeling.

He leaned forward and sniffed her again. First, her hair, then down the column of her throat. “How do you smell like her? What did you do?”

“I didn’t do anything. Get your hands off me!” She rasped out as her airway was slowly constricted by one of his large, rough hands. At his look of incredulity, she gave up on waiting for some semblance of logical thought to return to the man. Rogue quickly raised up both arms, clasped her hands together and brought them both down and to the left, breaking his grip on her neck. She must have surprised him, because she didn’t think she’d been able to get the jump on him otherwise. This was a man who’d taken down fucking Victor Creed, after all. Free from his grip, she didn’t hesitate, and began sprinting away from the man before he could detain her further, as fast as her damaged high heels would allow her.

Her heart was pounding with adrenaline as she stumbled away from the crumbled walls of what had been her home, and she chanced a look back over her shoulder to see if he was pursuing her. To her surprise, the man had not moved from his position.

“Marie.” He spoke her name softly, her name barely more than a whisper on the air.

But she froze at the sound, and slowly turned back to face the man, his face suddenly haggard with a grief-stricken expression as he gazed at her.

“How do you know my name?” she said quietly, her brown eyes staring into his hazel ones.

“’Cause you told me,” he growled out, impatience seeping into his voice.

Rogue shook her head, spots swimming before her eyes. She was starting to feel really nauseous. “I’ve never told anyone my name. Not even Remy.”

A flash of anger crossed his face. “LeBeau?” he spewed the name as though it were some vile object. “What does that Cajun rat have to do with anything?”

Rogue raised one eyebrow at the man. “How do you know Remy?”

The man countered her question with another one of his own. “How do you look and smell like Marie when she’s been dead for two years?”

Rogue felt the blood begin to drain out of her face and she felt perilously close to losing consciousness. Again. “Who - ,” she started as her voice broke. “Who are you?”

The man jerked his head to one side and held up a hand silencing her. He sniffed the air, once, twice, and jerked his head to one side, as if straining to hear something. He must have heard whatever it was he was waiting for turned back to her, his face once more impassive.

“Time to go, kid.”

“Kid? I ain’t a ‘kid’, buddy. ” Rogue said, her accent becoming more pronounced with her anger at being so addressed.

She could have sworn she saw a hint of a smile on his face before he closed off all emotions again. “We’re goin’.”

Confused by the abrupt change in his mannerisms, Rogue planted her feet as firmly as she possibly could on the ground beneath her and put her hands on her hips. “What do you mean, ‘we’? Who the hell are you?”

He didn’t respond, but a dark, predatory look entered his eyes and he suddenly charged her. Panicked by his sudden movement, she tried to turn and run from him again. But her legs were no match for his long ones and he caught up to her easily, especially since he was clad in much more appropriate footwear. Too dizzy and shaky from the stress of the past several hours, she couldn’t prevent the man from grabbing her by the waist as he ran and draped her over his shoulder in a fireman’s carry. He ignored her screams of fury and the pounding of her fists into his kidneys. All it earned her was a hard smack on the ass and a few grunts from him as he continued to tear away from the remnants of the mansion.

“A word of warning,” he said. “Never run from a predator, Marie,” his voice a low growl that vibrated against her thighs.

She shivered as his words registered in her brain and she tried to ignore the tingle of pain from his brief assault on her buttocks. “Don’t call me that,” she said, each word punctuated with the jostling of his muscular shoulder into her stomach. “My name is Rogue.”

His only response was a single grunt, which left her to interpret his monosyllabic animal noise however she wanted. His gait slowed after several minutes, Rogue becoming more and more disoriented and dizzy in her upside down position. The man finally stopped and she felt his head look up toward the sky.

Unable to crane her neck around to see what he was looking for, she suddenly heard the familiar whine of the Blackbird engines and she let out a sigh of relief and relaxed her tense body. The destruction of the mansion had not been the end of the X-Men. Just the end of their home base. Which really, hadn’t happened, because this was all related to her concussion. And with that thought foremost in her mind, Rogue relinquished control and succumbed to the pulsing darkness at the edges of her vision. Hopefully, she would regain consciousness and would find herself back at the mansion, safe in Remy’s familiar arms, rather than those of the strange man who currently held her. And with that final comforting thought, her body went limp.

Rogue didn’t see the pained expression on the man’s face as he felt her lose consciousness. Didn’t see him gently shift her body to his front so he could cradle her in his arms. Didn’t feel his hand lightly come up to run his fingers through her stark brown hair, wondering at the absence of her characteristic white streak. Didn’t see the look of fierce tenderness on face before he clenched his jaw in stout resolution as he boarded the jet, the woman he’d loved, the woman he’d been unable to protect, unable to save, clutched tightly in his arms.
Chapter End Notes:
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