Rogue felt herself rush toward consciousness. Her head was swimming and her stomach was roiling with nausea. She bolted upright from the hard surface she found herself lying on, and promptly vomited all over the shoes of a red-haired woman. Her face was vaguely familiar, but the pounding in Rogue’s temples was too intense to allow her to think clearly to place her accurately.
She groaned as the pain her her head was fully realized and let out a small noise that sounded like, “Sorry,” but was almost unintelligible to anyone within hearing distance. She laid back down as she felt the lure of unconsciousness pulling her back down into darkness. She willingly began to submit, wanting to escape the pounding pain in her head, the unsettled feeling in her stomach. But she was shaken gently, and she groaned as the soft touch of a hand at her shoulder urged her to sit up.
“I don’t want to,” she whined. The pain in her head was making her weak and irritable.
“You’ve suffered a moderately severe concussion. You cannot go back to sleep right now. We need to keep an eye on you, make sure you don’t have any severe bleeding.”
“’Cussion,” Rogue said, her voice stumbling over the word. “Knew it,” and her eyes began to flutter shut. “Knew it wasna real.”
Jean Grey stared down at the young woman on the metal table in front of her, feeling the others on the jet projecting their utter shock and disbelief at her sudden appearance. The woman was the spitting image of her dead friend, barring a few minor differences. Her hair, for one. The scars on her back, for another.
After Logan had boarded the jet with the unknown mutant in his arms they’d been sent to retrieve, his face closed off in an unreadable expression, Jean had forced everyone - with the exception of Logan who failed to comply - back to their seats as she gave the woman a cursory examination. She needed to ensure the woman didn’t have any severe injuries, and the presence of blood on the woman’s head, arm, and clothes had prompted her to quickly check for any major trauma. She’d run her hands down the woman’s legs and arms, pressing gently, feeling the bones for fractures. Finding none, Jean moved on. The cut along the woman’s forearm, though deep, was clotting nicely and was no longer streaming blood. The same for the gash at her temple; it appeared to be worse than it really was. What troubled Jean was the woman’s unconscious state. It seemed as though she’d hit her head hard enough to sustain a severe concussion. Her fingers itched to be at the controls of an MRI or CT scan machine to see what type of damage they might be dealing with, but she had no chance of that anymore. She hadn’t had access to that type of equipment since the Mutant Registration Act was passed and the mansion was destroyed.
As the woman’s blouse also had signs of blood, Jean had gently turned the woman on her side and lifted up the blue silk shirt to ensure there were no additional injuries. She drew in a sharp breath as she caught site of the woman’s back. It was covered in thin white scars which crisscrossed the length of her, from hips to shoulder blades. But seeing no fresh injuries there, Jean had quickly pulled the shirt down and gently laid the woman back down on the table.
The sight of the woman’s back made Jean sick to her stomach. The woman had clearly been through some sort of trauma in her past; the scars were not new, but had faded to a silvery shade of pink. Jean furrowed her brow as she realized the marks must have been inflicted by a person. The lines were spaced in deliberate patterns, carefully covering the entire expanse of what must have at one point been a lovely back. The Rogue that Jean had known had never borne any such scars; and any evidence of such an injury would have been erased after any of the times that Logan had given her some of his healing ability.
At the thought, Jean glanced over to where Logan paced. His jaw was clenched and he hadn’t torn his eyes away from the woman since he’d boarded the Blackbird with her. She saw him turn back towards her and she caught a glimpse of his eyes as they flashed deep gold. Shit. He was perilously close to losing control then, and unless they wanted a rampaging Wolverine on their hands, someone was going to have to calm him down. Jean couldn’t imagine what he must be going through, and she didn’t want to risk losing him walking away from the X-Men again. He’d only recently agreed to come back to work with them, and that battle long fought and hard won.
After Rogue’s death, Logan had stayed on with them for nearly three months. Lost in his grief, he became an animal, lashing out at anyone who tried to comfort him. Soon, he began to withdraw from the team entirely, disappearing for days and weeks on end, until finally once morning he left the mansion without a word. The Professor had spent nearly a year afterward tracking him down, and then another six months trying to convince him to rejoin them in their renewed fight to take down the Friends of Humanity. Scott was convinced that the only way he would rejoin them was for a chance at revenge. Turns out he’d been right. Logan had made it very clear that the only reason he’d come back was to destroy the Friends of Humanity.
Jean moved away from the woman who, though groaning and holding her head, was sitting upright under her own power. She walked over to where Logan was pacing and gently reached out to stop him, her hand resting lightly on his forearm. He stopped reluctantly and looked down at her, eyes narrowing, glinting dangerously.
“Let me touch her, Jeannie. I can fix her.”
“No, Logan,” Jean said shaking her head as she removed her hand from Logan’s arm. “We don’t even know if she is Rogue, or even capable of the same mutation, for that matter. Didn’t you say that she was being attacked by Sabretooth?” Jean waited for a response and after a moment he jerked his head in acknowledgment of this fact. “The Rogue we knew would have been able to know how to handle herself against Victor Creed. We don’t know what’s going on, and until we can get this woman to the Professor, I’m not letting you touch her.”
“Rogue?” The woman asked giggling, having apparently overheard their hushed conversation. “Not m’name. Not really.”
“Fuck it, Jeannie. It’s her,” Logan growled. “She can’t fake her scent.”
“I don’t smell. I showered today.” The woman frowned as she spoke, then scrunched up her nose apparently deep in concentration. “I think it was today.”
“I think you smell just fine, darlin’,” Logan said as he strode towards the woman, his intentions clear on his face.
Jean couldn’t let him touch her. Not until the Professor could figure out what was going on. She reached out with one hand and concentrating, forced Logan to stop in his tracks.
“That’s enough, Logan. You don’t know who she is, or what she’s doing here. You heard her; Rogue’s not her name.”
His claws released with a metal twang and growled. “Jeannie, you’d better cut that shit out before I gut you.”
“Ooh, you have knives in your hands!” The woman said, excitement in her voice. “I remember you from the mansion.” Then she frowned again as she remembered something. Something bad. “There was somethin’ wrong with it. It was all broken.”
“Stand down, Logan.” Scott barked out as he turned his attention from the controls to the rising tension in the back of the jet.
“Make me, Cyke,” Logan said as he popped the joints of his neck in anticipation of a fight.
“I don’t have to, Wolvie,” Scott retorted, derision edging his voice at the moniker. “Jean’s doing just fine without me.”
“Shouldn’t fight. Be nice,” the woman mumbled shaking her head at the childish display.
Logan clenched his jaw and rumbled deep in his chest. But his eyes darted quickly toward the woman, and he retracted his claws with a heavy sigh. Sensing the lessening of Logan’s tension, Jean let out a shaky breath and released him from her hold.
Scott spoke up from the cockpit, breaking the silence. “We should be touching down in five minutes.”
Jean tentatively reached out to touch Logan again, this time, at his shoulder. He jerked away from her touch though, and strode over to where the woman sat, guarding her.
“The Professor will be able to tell us what’s going on, Logan,” Jean said softly. “She’s not in any danger from us, and she’s not going to keel over before he has a chance to see her. Her injuries are mostly superficial. She’ll heal.”
A growl of annoyance issued from Logan as he took in Jean’s words. But before he could react further, the woman spoke up again. “You’re very growly,” she muttered, narrowing her eyes at Logan. “Remy’s not so growly. He’s pretty, though,” she sighed, a wistful expression crossing her face as she twirled a strand of hair between her fingers. “And his eyes turn red. And he likes me. My head really hurts. Are you taking me back to Remy?”
Logan clenched his jaw at her words and shifted his body weight away from her slightly. He didn’t answer her as she continued to ask question after question, but he didn’t leave her side as the jet descended.
Professor Charles Xavier sat in his wheelchair, at a loss for words. The woman sitting in front of him was practically identical to the Rogue he had known.
When the woman had walked into his room of their the X-Men’s new headquarters, accompanied by Logan, Jean, and Scott, she appeared to be close to tears as she started toward him, relief spreading over her face.
“Professor! I’m so glad to see you. Jean and Scott and this hairy knife man are being really confusing. And I don’t know what happened to Remy after we went to pick up Rift. Do you know where he is? Did he come back with Rift? I really want to go lay down because my head is killin’ me, but Jean told me no. She said I had a concussion and I knew I did, but I don’t know how the mansion got destroyed or how I landed on it, or why Victor was bein’ such an asshole. And how did I get all the way back to the mansion from Rift’s parents’ house?”
Scott, Jean, and Logan were all silent at this outburst, having apparently, from their facial expressions, already been subjected to this barrage of questions.
Charles had cleared his throat and patted her lightly on the hand. “My dear. I am sure we can figure out the answers to your inquiries. If you would be so kind as to take a seat?” He asked, motioning toward the empty chair across from him.
The woman moved somewhat awkwardly, seemingly lacking the grace Charles had associated with Rogue, but sat easily enough, a look of attentiveness on her slightly unfocused gaze. Seeing this, Charles glanced at Jean for confirmation. Concussion? He asked silently.
Yes, Jean replied. She was unconscious when Logan brought her on board, but was awake within ten minutes or so.
Very well. I hope it doesn’t interfere with what I’m about to attempt.
“My dear,” he said turning back to the woman. “I wonder if you will permit me to explore your mind? I am sure it will help with your questions.”
The woman wrinkled her nose in confusion at his words. “But,” she began. “Why would I have the answers to my own questions?”
Charles moved forward and placed one hand at his temple. “All will be made clear. Just relax.”
The woman let out a shuddering breath as Charles closed his eyes and concentrated. The woman followed suit and the room was quiet.
Logan stood watching the silent display, arms crossed at his chest, knuckles itching. He had to trust that Charles knew what he was doing and that this was the quickest way to find answers. Logan concentrated on the even sounds of her breath, the delicate scent of her on the air, the subtle pulsing of her heart beat which was just visible at her throat. It was killing him; being this close to her, seeing her, smelling her. And not being able to touch her. He clenched his fists, fighting the urge to release his claws, desperate to act somehow, desperate to help her anyway he could.
After what seemed an interminable length, Charles opened his eyes and dropped his hand from his head.
“Well?” Logan asked, impatiently.
The woman raised her eyebrows at him as she glanced his way and Logan’s heart stopped. He couldn’t count the number of times he’d seen that same look on Marie’s face right before she gave him an earful about one thing or another. Usually he’d made her forget whatever she had been upset about by distracting her with more interesting physical pursuits. She had never seemed to mind. And hell, he’d started to look forward to that expression on her face. Maybe even purposefully done something guaranteed to piss her off, just to endure the consequences of his actions.
Charles cleared his throat and turned his chair to face Logan, Jean, and Scott. The woman turned her attention back to the Professor, and waited, a hopeful expression now on her face.
“This,” Charles began, “is Rogue.”
Jean and Scott looked at each other, their faces a mirror of the other’s confusion.
“How?” Jean asked. “How is it possible, Professor? Rogue,” she hesitated, looking at the woman, a look of apology on her face. “Rogue, well, died two years ago.”
“Our Rogue died two years ago,” Charles corrected.
“I didn’t die. Definitely not dead,” Rogue said.
“Chuck,” Logan ground out through gritted teeth. “Please get to the fuckin’ point already.”
“Very well, Logan. This is Rogue,” he repeated. “Rogue, as she is, in an alternate dimension.”
Scott, Jean, and Logan all turned to look at Rogue as one.
“Don’t look at me like that,” Rogue said, chidingly. “I didn’t do anythin’ to your Rogue. Seems like you’re the ones who didn’t take too good of care of her, if she’s dead.”
Jean winced as she took in Rogue’s words and looked at Logan to gage his reaction. He visibly stiffened and clenched his jaw, but made no further reaction to the accusation in Rogue’s voice.
Scott shook his head. “Professor, it doesn’t make any sense. How is this possible? How is she here?”
“Yeah! Why am I here? And why isn’t Remy here?” Rogue asked.
Charles sighed and closed his eyes for a moment, rubbing his temples with both hands as if a headache was looming. “It is difficult to put into words, exactly what happened. But I will try to explain as best I can. Essentially, in this other dimension, my,” he hesitated, “counterpart, for lack of a better word, sent Rogue and Remy - ”
Logan’s growl interrupted the Professor’s explanation.
“Honestly, Logan, if you continue to growl every time I refer to Remy LeBeau, we will be here for a very long time, indeed. If you can keep the interruptions to a minimum, I will be able to enlighten everyone in a much shorter time span.” When Logan said nothing, Charles continued. “My counterpart sent Rogue and Remy to retrieve a newly manifested mutant, whose power appeared to be creating portals between dimensions.”
“Holy shit. So that’s what that blue light was,” Rogue breathed, comprehension dawning.
“What, so her interrupting you is just fine and fuckin’ dandy?” Logan rumbled.
“It appears,” Charles continued, glaring at Logan, “that Rogue was inadvertently sent through one of the portals this individual - “
“Michael McMahon,” Rogue supplied. “Or, Rift.”
“Rift,” Charles agreed, “created.”
“So why doesn’t she know me? But she knows you and Jeannie and Scooter?” Logan asked.
“Because she has never met you,” Charles responded. “She knows Scott, and Jean, and me because she has met us, or our counterparts, in her dimension.”
“So, there are other mes?” Scott asked, confused. “Other Jeans, other Logans, other yous?”
Charles nodded. “Yes. Though it’s hard to fully explain or understand, there are an infinite number of dimensions. Each one is slightly different than the next, based on he untold number of possibilities that exist within it. The mutant in this Rogue’s dimension, has apparently developed a mutation which allows him to open a doorway or portal between these worlds.”
“So,” Logan said, turning to Rogue, a note of accusation in his voice. “The words, ‘Laughlin City,’ ‘Liberty Island,’ and ‘Friends of Humanity’ mean nothing to you?”
If he hadn’t been watching her so intently, he would have missed the slight widening of her eyes that occurred right as he’d said Friends of Humanity, before she shook her head quickly, then grimaced as the motion appeared to hurt her.
“Logan,” Charles cautioned, “This Rogue may have had some experience with these places or groups, but she did not experience them with your counterpart, if he exists, in her dimension.”
“How did you not know it was her?” Logan asked, eyes flashing a dangerous gold as he turned toward the Professor. “When you asked us to go pick up this new mutant you detected?”
“Logan. All mutants have a certain characteristic that sets them apart from other humans. While I am able to distinguish some similarities in the brain waves of mutants, no two are exactly alike. I was sure that I had made a mistake when I sensed this Rogue’s presence. That the mutant I had detected just displayed a similar brain wave as Rogue. But -.”
“You haven’t answered my question about Remy,” Rogue interrupted apparently not caring for the content of Charles current topic. “Is he,” she swallowed hard, “Like me? Is he dead here?”
Logan was itching to release his claws at the longing and fear evident in her voice. To have her be concerned about such a fucking piece of filth as Remy LeBeau enraged the animal within. That on top of the possibility that this Rogue didn’t know him, didn’t share his memories was a real kick to the fucking stomach.
“No,” Charles said softly. “He’s not dead here. Rogue, I must caution you though,” his voice suddenly stern as he met Rogue’s eyes. “The Remy you know, the Remy from your dimension, does not exist in this dimension. This Remy works with the Brotherhood of Mutants, and is a very, very different and dangerous man. You experienced the vast differences of our two dimensions already when you encountered Victor Creed this afternoon. But you must remember. Neither man shares your memories, or loyalties. They will likely harm you if you encounter them again, Victor, certainly, for no better reason than you are with us.”
“And where are the rest of the X-Men? Why was the mansion destroyed? Where are we now? Where’s Jubilee? Why is this hairy knife man so angry with -”
“It’s Wolverine,” Logan interjected.
Rogue scoffed, “What kinda name is ‘Wolverine?’”
Before he could stop himself, Logan retorted with the first words that came to mind, “What kinda name is ‘Rogue?’” And he tried to ignore the stabbing pain that went through his heart as he realized what she’d said. And what he’d said. Fuck. She was so like her.
Charles held up his hand. “Please. Both of you. Stop. Rogue, I promise I will answer your questions in time -”
“You have been through quite an ordeal in the past day. Your body needs rest. I insist you go with Jean and take some time to recover.”
Jean started toward Rogue, taking the very loud psychic hint that Charles was sending her. She held out a hand to help Rogue up and she took it, standing up with a slight wobble. As Jean started toward the door, Rogue stopped just before she exited the room and turned back toward Charles.
“But, Professor,” she said, her voice tight with unshed tears. “How do I get back? How do I get back to my own place?”
Several seconds passed as Charles contemplated whether or not to tell her the truth. It was better she knew now, he supposed, than to find out later. A sympathetic look was on his face as he stared at her. “I’m afraid I don’t know.”
Logan breathed a small internal sigh of relief. Chuck hadn’t been lying. He didn’t know how to send Rogue back.
And as far as Logan was concerned, that was the way it was going to stay.
He wouldn’t lose her again.