Marie woke and found herself back in the cage. A cry of despair escaped her as she tried to turn around in the cramped space. Fear rose up from the pit of her stomach and she tasted bile at the back of her throat. How was she back here again? She had sworn she’d never be back here again. She was locked in the cage, the ceiling of which wasn’t tall enough to allow her to sit up and barely allowed her to turn around. She spent most of her time on her hands and knees as a result, like an animal. Which was just as well since the most recent whipping she’d endured prevented her from putting even the slightest pressure on her back. The thin blanket at the foot of the cage did nothing to soften the feeling of the hard grid of bars that dug unto her shins and hands. Her legs were one big bruise, marred a constant shade of purple and green from the constant pressure and slow healing of her body.
As best she could figure, she hadn’t eaten in at least four days now, and her limbs felt weak and shaky. She leaned down toward the water bowl and tried to bring it up to her mouth. But the movements caused agonizing pain in her back and she cried out as she dropped the metal bowl with a loud clang. The scant amount of water left sloshing out almost entirely.
She felt the barely healed skin of her back crack open and felt the fresh oozing of blood. She could tell it was infected. Her skin felt hot nearly all the time, and even the slightest movements were excruciating. She let out a sob as she leaned down and licked up the precious remaining droplets of water in the bowl, desperate to ease her thirst, shame staining her cheeks red. She was amazed that she could still feel shame after all these months in here. By this time she had lost track of exactly how long she’d been locked in the cage. The days and nights ran together in a miserable blur of pain, shame, and despair. Her time was interrupted only by the all too often appearance of Father Emmett Knox or one of his other psychotic Church of Humanity followers.
Marie curled up to one corner of the cage, moving as delicately as possible to try and limit any pain the movements might cause to her back, and started crying. She could smell herself, she was starving, thirsty, uncomfortable, and in so much pain.
Her tears fell faster as she relived exactly how she’d become locked in this damned cage. She could only blame herself for her current situation. If she hadn’t tried to run away from home, this never would have happened. She should have listened to her mama and stayed put. But she’d refused the help her parents had offered after the incident with David in her bedroom.
The stigma of what had transpired tainted her, marked her as different. She couldn’t go to school anymore, couldn’t go shopping, couldn’t go out in public at all, without being subject to the cruel words of the normal humans around her who feared her.
After their initial freak out of finding their only child was a mutant, her parents finally realized what had happened to David and they had done countless hours of research, trying to find a cure, or other ways to remove the unclean mutant manifestation from her body. After many weeks of trying to convince her of the latest nonsense they’d discovered on the internet, Marie had told them she wanted to leave. Despite this, her parents wanted her to stay. They’d fought for days about her decision, the arguments becoming more and more heated, until Marie had stormed up the stairs, slammed her bedroom door behind her and yelled that she would be leaving the following day.They were convinced they would be able to help her, but Marie had made up her mind, and six weeks after she’d kissed David, she packed her bag and headed out into the dark of the night, intent on setting down her original path toward Anchorage.
She hadn’t made it past the end of her street.
She’d quietly closed the front door of her house behind her, green duffel bag slung over her shoulder, and headed out on foot down the street toward the nearest bus terminal. Her street was quiet at this time of night, and she took the time to inhale the deep thick scent surrounding her. She trailed one gloved hand over a bunch of wild hyacinth blooms, and the mulberry bushes of Mrs. Barnhill’s front yard. She was going to miss the sounds of a Mississippi summer night when she was up in Alaska.
The sudden screech of tires made her jump, and before she’d had time to realize what was happening, a black van had sped up along side her. Two men jumped out of the sliding door and grabbed her with gloved hands before she could react. They had masks on which obscured their features, and Marie felt fear bubble up inside her as she realized the danger she was suddenly in. She opened her mouth to scream, but one of them had a syringe and jammed it into her thigh through her blue jeans. He depressed the plunger and Marie felt an instant calm flood her body before she fell unconscious.
When she’d woken up, she found herself in an unknown, unfinished basement, locked in a cage wearing a hospital gown. That’s when her nightmare had truly begun.
The sounds of footsteps coming down the basement steps roused her from her unpleasant memories and she found herself looking up into the hated face of Father Emmett Knox. His short gray hair was parted on the right, and slicked tight against his head. His standard black suit was pressed into neat lines, his white shirt crisp with starch. He never had a hair out of place, never a speck of lint on his suit, never a scuff on his impeccably shined shoes.
“You’re awake,” he said as he rapped the shock stick he always held when he visited her against his black trousers.
Marie said nothing as she wiped the tears from her face using the edge of her stained and filthy hospital gown. She’d learned it was best not to speak to him if she could help it. And she was too weak to want to start anything with him today.
His cold blue eyes took in her grimy state and his nose wrinkled in disgust. “You smell,” he said, his voice thick with scorn.
Marie couldn’t help the words that issued from her mouth. “Maybe if you didn’t treat me like an animal and let me clean myself, I wouldn’t smell so bad!”
“I treat you like an animal because you are an animal,” Father Emmett said, his voice going cold with rage.
“I’m not an animal! I’m just a girl,” she retorted, already regretting her outburst.
“I beg to differ, you mutant filth. Only man alone was created in God’s image. How many times must I tell you this? How many times must you be reminded of your lessons? How many times must I beat the impure filth from you?”
Marie felt feverish and sick. She never would be so reckless otherwise, she was sure of it. Again, she couldn’t help the stream of words that escaped her mouth. “Maybe God was a mutant. Ever think of that? Otherwise, how’d he do all that stuff in the bible?”
“Blasphemous filth!” Father Emmett reached through the cage with a shock stick and struck Rogue hard in the shoulder. She grimaced as lightning bolts of pain raced through her body. It was pure agony. Her back was on fire and her bones ached.
“You will repent and accept the healing light of Jesus into your damned soul! Only then will the abomination of your abnormality leave you. Only then can you rejoin your brothers and sisters in the light!” He violently retracted the stick from the cage and smoothed back a stray strand of gray hair that had come loose from its plastered confines with his rough movements. “No food for you again today, I think.”
Marie hunched in the cage, breathing hard, nerves on fire, determined not to let him get to her, determined to have faith in herself to make it through this. “My parents will find me” she muttered quietly. “They’d never give up lookin’ for me.”
Father Emmett walked back up the stairs of the basement, polished shoes echoing off the cold cement floor. He turned back to face her from the top of the landing, a cold smile plastered on his face. “Your parents were the ones who gave you to us, you stupid mutant filth.”
Rogue jerked upright, drenched in sweat, borrowed pajamas plastered to her body. Her shallow breathing failed to normalize as she took in the unfamiliar surroundings of the bedroom she was in. The unfamiliar scent of the sheets, the strange shadows cast by a half-moon shining its blue light in through the window, all causing a deeper sense of panic as flashes of yesterday came back to her, along with a low-grade headache which was pulsing in time to her racing heartbeat.
“Oh, God,” she muttered as she threw back the sheets and ran toward the window. She fumbled with the lock and then threw open the window, gulping in lungfuls of the cold fresh air that raced in. The harsh scent of pine trees seared her nasal passages, wiping the remembered stench of her own stale fear-soaked sweat from her mind.
She hadn’t had any nightmares about the Church in several years now. Not after the hundreds of hours she’d spent with the Professor, leaning control, learning to empty her mind before bed. She could only imagine that due to the events of the previous day with the Professor combing through her memories, and the fact that she’d collapsed into bed after Jean had showed her to one of the spare bedrooms without practicing her nightly meditation, that the unpleasant memories of her past had taken the opportunity to surface.
Rogue shivered as her sweat-soaked clothes became chilled with the rushing of the outside air. She tried to calm her breathing and the racing of her heart. “I’m free, I’m safe,” she repeated the mantra several times and stretched out her arms at her sides to their full length, taking comfort in the fact that she was able to move about unencumbered by the metal bars of a cramped cage. Though her immediate panic eased somewhat, she realized that she would not be able to calm down enough to fall back asleep. With the fear of her nightmare slowly ebbing away, the memory of her conversation with the Professor and all of the events of the previous day came flooding back.
She was alone in another dimension. Though their faces were familiar enough, she didn’t know this Professor, this Jean, this Scott. And they didn’t know her. It was unbalancing, and disturbing to think that there were an infinite number of dimensions out there, an infinite number of Rogues/Maries that existed with only slight differences between them.
She wondered what this dimension’s Marie had been like, and how she’d come to be with the X-Men.
She wondered, a shudder running through her at the thought, how she’d died.
The one that called himself Wolverine seemed particularly upset at her appearance. When they were speaking with the Professor, he hadn’t taken his eyes of her, a constant scowl on his rugged face. Back at the site of the destroyed mansion, he’d called her by her real name. How had he known that about her? He’s said that this Rogue had told him. But she couldn’t fathom how any version of herself had trusted that man enough to confide in him. She’d never told anyone her name once she’d left Mississippi behind. Would never trust anyone enough again to let them truly know her. She thought briefly of Remy and felt a twinge of longing. Not even him.
She wrapped her arms around herself and decided to explore her surroundings. The Professor had not said where they were, but she could tell by looking out into the night they were somewhere in the mountains, somewhere isolated. She couldn’t make out a single light shining back through the darkness.
She left the window open and grabbed a blanket from the bed to wrap around her shoulders. She was chilly now that her damp pajamas had evaporated in the cool night air. Padding quietly toward the door, she hesitated as she reached for the handle, convinced for a moment that she would find it had been locked from the outside.
Her fear was misplaced though, and she let out a shuddering sigh as the handle turned easily in her hand. She headed down the dark hallway, past a number of closed doors until she found an open one that led to the bathroom. She quietly closed the door behind her and moved to the sink to splash some water on her face, removing the last traces of her nightmare.
As she looked back into the mirror, she noticed the cut and dark blossoming bruise at her right temple where she’d first struck her head. Jean had cleansed her wounds as best she could before she’d sent Rogue to bed. She’d determined the laceration on her head hadn’t needed stitches, and had used two butterfly bandages to help seal the wound. Her arm hadn’t been as fortunate, and Rogue grimaced with the remembered uncomfortable pinching of the needle as Jean stitched up the four-inch long gash. Looking down at her arm, she found its hasty wrapping had come undone in her sleep and hung loosely off her arm exposing the coarse black thread of Jean’s neat stitch job. She sighed as she tried and failed to re-wrap the wound, ending up only having loosened the bandage further.
She flung off the gauze in frustration and disposed of it in the trashcan next to the toilet. Placing the blanket back around her shoulders, she left the bathroom and continued down the hallway.
So far she’d only seen Wolverine, Jean, Scott, and the Professor. She was uneasy at the thought of where her friends from her own dimension might be in this world. Given that Remy and Victor were apparently the bad guys here, she was desperate to know the whereabouts of Ororo, Kitty, Jubilee, and Bobby. The house she was currently exploring wasn’t tiny by any means, but it wasn’t nearly as large as the mansion back in Westchester had been. She’d not seen any students since she’d arrived, and she went cold as she thought of what might have happened to all the children at the mansion.
She quietly walked down the stairs and looked around at her surroundings as she reached the bottom floor. The house was fairly rustic, its log walls having been hewn from what appeared to have been decently large trees. But the place still had an air of sophistication, and warm comfort that she associated with the mansion. The furnishings were slightly worn, with a lived-in look that Rogue found herself liking. She wondered just how long the X-Men had been here, exactly, and whether or not the worn look was due to their presence, or the previous occupant.
She continued through the downstairs space to the kitchen which was illuminated by a single night light next to the stove. Her stomach gave a sudden rumble and she realized it had been close to 24 hours since she’d last eaten. There was a glass bowl of fruit on the counter and Rogue picked out a shiny pink apple and bit into it eagerly, letting out a small sigh of satisfaction at the tart juiciness of the fruit. Polishing off the apple in record time, she found herself still hungry and opened the fridge to find a wedge of cheddar cheese calling her name.
She broke off a large piece from the wedge and placed it on the counter while opening the cabinet doors looking for a cup. Finally finding what she was looking for in the door to the left of the fridge, she filled it with water from the kitchen tap and gulped down several glassfuls before stopping suddenly as she remembered something she’d seen in the fridge. She set down the glass in the sink and tuned back to the fridge, pushing past a couple cans of soda until her fingers curled around the cold bottle of what was unmistakably a beer.
She pulled out the bottle and found a handy magnetic bottle opener stuck to the side of the refrigerator. She popped the cap off the bottle, and smiled as she tugged the mouth of the bottle to her lips and enjoyed several chilled hoppy gulps of the brew. She let out a sigh of contentment as she grabbed the cheese from the counter and continued through the house, nibbling from the hunk of sharp cheddar every now and then. It wasn’t sweet potato pie and Mississippi punch, but it would do nicely.
Rogue headed to the far end of the living room, where a pair of wooden French doors appeared to lead out to a patio or balcony. Curious to get another view of her surroundings, she turned the round door knob and stepped out into the chilly night, cheese and beer clutched in one hand.
The wooden deck was large with a hodgepodge of outdoor seating strewn across the surface. She started out toward the railed edge, wanting to see exactly how the house was situated in the mountains, and stopped dead in her tracks seeing the glow of a cigar rise out of the moon-lit darkness. Turning away before whoever it was could spot her, she was startled by a low, deep voice that reached her across the deck.
“Might as well come on out. I ain’t gonna bite ya, kid.”
Her spine stiffened at Wolverine’s words and she couldn’t help the response that tumbled from her lips, “I am not a kid.”
He made a scoffing noise but didn’t speak further as he waited for her to make up her mind.
Frozen with indecision, she was torn between wanting to join him on the balcony and pick his brain for every bit of information she could glean from him, and running back up to the temporary safety of her room. His words from the mansion suddenly came floating back to her at the thought of running and she shivered with the memory of him saying, “Never run from a predator, Marie.”
Straightening her shoulders and drawing the blanket tighter around her, she walked out onto the balcony toward where Wolverine sat, determined not to show him how nervous she was around him. She continued past him to the railing and stared down at a deep canyon of pine and aspen trees. There were rocky mountains shooting up across the canyon and off in the distance, the even higher peaks had a dusting of snow at their summit. The aspens were turning golden, and she could see her breath on the air. It must be fall here, then. It had been early spring yesterday when she and Remy had left for Rift’s house. She found herself suddenly dizzy with the thought and backed away from the edge of the balcony. She turned around and sat in a comfortable looking chair, across from Wolverine, sipping her beer in silence.
“Couldn’t sleep?” He asked after several uneventful moments passed between them.
She couldn’t bring herself to tell him any details of her nightmare, so merely shook her head instead. She noticed he had a beer of his own, which currently sat untouched on the arm of the deck chair he was occupying.
He took a drag from his cigar, letting out a puff of smoke as he grunted. “Me neither.”
Several more seconds passed as she sat across from him, not knowing how to start asking him questions. If it were Jean sitting out here, she might at least have an idea of where to start, or how to approach her. But this man was a stranger, and she knew next to nothing about him other than the fact that he knew enough about fighting to take down Sabretooth, and had foot-long metal claws that he could release from his knuckles. She found herself unconsciously looking at his hands, curious if experienced any pain when he extended them.
“Nightmare?” He asked softly, and Rogue jerked slightly at his voice. She looked up at his eyes, which were fixed on her with an intense focus.
“How’d you know?” She asked quietly, startled at the accuracy of his guess.
He shrugged, unconcerned at her reaction. “I heard you.”
She frowned, completely confused by this statement. “What, from out here? How?”
He raised one eyebrow at her, and she couldn’t help the fluttering deep in her stomach as she looked at him. This man’s face was fierce, ruggedly handsome, with an animalistic edge to it. He wasn’t built like Remy at all. Remy was long and lean, his musculature compact and graceful. This man was tall and broad-shouldered, and practically bulging with muscles. She could see the lines of said muscles beneath the red flannel shirt he wore as he moved the cigar back between his lips to chew on it. His jean-clad legs were stretched out in front of him resting on a table, crossed at the ankles. The glint of a silvery belt buckle winked with the light of the reflected moon and she struggled to tear her eyes away from the sight, back to his face.
“Part of my mutation. Heightened senses, hearing, sight, smell -”
He grinned at her as she found herself blushing somewhat. “Yeah, smell.”
Wolverine removed the cigar from his lips and picked up the beer from where it rested on the chair’s arm. “Hell’s Basement Brewery. Polly’s Pale Ale”, he said as he glanced down at the beer bottle in his hand. “I guess Scooter couldn’t find any Molson’s in town. Don’t know how that’s possible given our current location.”
Rogue looked down at the label of her own beer in mild shock. She hadn’t read the label before taking the bottle from the fridge, and shuddered as she took in the words. She suddenly found the taste souring in her mouth and she set down the beer, no longer interested in its formerly comforting taste.
“I say somethin’?” He asked, frowning at her reaction.
She shook her head quickly. She was quiet for several minutes until she was confident her voice wouldn’t betray her emotions.
“Nothin’ you did. Just made me think of -” she stopped abruptly, shocked at what she’d been about to say. Wolverine carried a certain degree of confidence about him. She didn’t know what it was exactly, but she ground her teeth as she realized she had a sudden urge to confide in him. Tell him all about the Church and her year of imprisonment and abuse.
“Don’t worry about it,” he said as she failed to elaborate further. “I won’t pry.”
His voice was rough and gravelly and Rogue closed her eyes for a moment as she wrapped the blanket more securely around her. The temperature was dropping with every minute and she wasn’t sure how much longer she could stand the chill in the air, despite having the blanket. She swallowed past the lump in her throat and turned her attention to more pressing matters.
“So where are we, anyway?” She asked Wolverine. She was determined to get at least a few more answers before the night was over.
Logan sat across from her, trying desperately not to take her in his arms and warm her. He could see her shivering from where he sat, and he clenched his jaw, fighting to retain his control over Wolverine. Wolverine was going berserk with the smell of her. He’d never expected to inhale the unique scent of her again, and here she was. So close he could reach out and touch her, feel the silkiness of her hair, kiss the small freckle in the hollow of her left cheek, bury himself deep inside her, marking her as his once more. With an effort that went unnoticed by the Rogue in front of him, he wrenched his thoughts away from that path and focused on her question.
“Huh,” she said, a smile entering her voice. “Always wanted to go to Canada.”
He frowned at this admission and he realized this Rogue must never have made it up to Laughlin City. Never found him in the dive that was the Lion’s Den Bar and Grill, never seen him in the cage fight, never stowed away in the back of his camper. Was that where their different lives had started? Or had something else occurred prior to that that caused her to lead a different life than the Rogue he’d known?
Seemingly encouraged by his one-word answer, Rogue apparently decided he was in a talking mood and asked him another question. “Can you tell me what happened to the mansion?”
He grunted. Of course she would ask that. Though to be fair, he understood her interest in finding out the answer. If she’d spent any time at the mansion in her own world, he could imagine it would be more than a little upsetting to come across it in its current state. Maybe he could tell her the bare facts, just to satisfy her curiosity, without going into some of the deeper, more troubling details. He nodded to himself and prepared to deliver a bare bones explanation.
“Blown up. Friends of Humanity nut jobs decided they’d had enough of our meddling. Dropped explosives on it from a military plane.”
Rogue’s face drained of blood as she processed what he’d said. Spots danced before her eyes and she heard a ringing in her ears.
Alarmed at her appearance, he exploded out from his chair and reached her in two strides where he gripped her by the back of the neck and forced her head down between her legs, the blanket she’d had clutched around her shoulders falling to the deck floor from her limp hands. “Jesus, kid. Breathe!”
Rogue focused on inhaling deeply through her nose for several moments before she felt well enough to push back against his hand. She could feel the warmth of him, even through the veil of her hair and it troubled her to realize that she liked it. She needed to remind herself that she was still Remy’s girl, even if she didn’t know how she was going to find her way back to him yet.
He stepped back, releasing her from his hold at once. “You alright?” he asked her, his voice low with concern.
She could not speak yet, too disturbed by what he’d said, but nodded her head jerkily. Apparently, the Friends of Humanity were just as bad in this dimension, as they were in her own.
She exhaled a shaky breath and looked up at him, staring into his eyes, which she could now see were hazel. He was still too close to her for her to feel comfortable and she shuffled back in her seat, putting a few more inches between them. A deep frown was carved into his face. She didn’t like him being this concerned about her. This, along with his declaration that the other Rogue had told him her name, led her to think something might have been going on between the two of them. The thought left her somehow both intrigued about any relationship they might have had, and jealous of her other self at the same time. And she had absolutely no reason to be. None at all. She had Remy. She didn’t need anything else.
She dropped her eyes from his, unable to withstand the intensity she saw within them and looked back out into the darkness, seeing the pale moonlight reflect off the snowy capped mountains in the distance.
“You should get back to bed,” he said gruffly after several minutes had passed. “Jeannie’ll have my balls if she finds out I let you sit out here all night.”
She nodded her agreement and stood up, feeling suddenly very, very tired. She didn’t look back at him as she headed inside, but jerked as she felt him return the blanket to her shoulders. He was careful not to touch her directly though, and he followed her inside, closing the door to the deck quietly behind him.
They silently headed up the stairs of the house, which creaked under the weight of his body, and Rogue felt a tingling at the back of her neck as he followed close behind her. When they reached the top of the landing, she turned left intending to head back to her room, but stopped and turned when he spoke again, his low gravelly voice causing her skin to break out in gooseflesh.
“Need help wrappin’ that back up?” he asked, jerking his head toward her arm.
She hesitated, but decided that she should actually have the stitches covered before she went back to bed. Since she’d already found herself to be inept at the task, she supposed she should accept his offer of help.
“Sure,” she whispered back. She didn’t know why she was being so quiet. It wasn’t like they were being overtly noisy or doing anything wrong. She went to follow him as he headed down the hall to the bathroom.
She stepped in the room behind him, and he flipped on the light switch at the wall. Her eyes squinted at the sudden brightness and she jumped as he reached past her to shut the door. The bathroom suddenly seemed much smaller than it had earlier and she fought to control the claustrophobic feeling that began to creep over her.
He must have sensed her growing panic, for he spoke low but urgently, drawing her attention back to him. “Hey, it’s okay. I can open the door again if it bothers you.”
She nodded quickly and he quickly opened the door halfway, to prevent the light from spilling too far into the darkened hallway.
The feeling of being entombed started to leave her and she blew out a shaky breath to move some of her hair out of her eyes.
“Careful,” she said as he moved one hand toward her exposed arm. “My skin,” she said as he looked at her puzzled. “I don’t usually have problems with focusing on maintaining control, but the last day has been a bit - stressful,” she finished lamely.
He jerked his head in understanding, but continued his slow movement toward her arm. “You don’t haveta worry about me, darlin’,” he said in a quiet voice. “Super-healer.” His touch was soft and warm against her skin, but she inhaled with a slight twinge of discomfort as he turned her wrist to examine the gash on the underside of her forearm.
“Like Victor?” she asked, suddenly recalling some of the details from the fight she’d witnessed at the mansion.
He clenched his jaw, but nodded. “Yeah. Like him.” He released her arm from his inspection. “Looks okay. Jeannie did a good job with the stitches.” He cleared his throat and turned his back to her. “So, you’re able to control your mutation?” He asked as he rummaged in the medicine cabinet for a fresh roll of gauze and some medical tape.
“It took me a long time,” she said, hesitantly. “But, yes, for the most part.”
Rogue allowed her eyes to follow the strong lines of his shoulders as he moved things around in the cabinet.
He didn’t ask her anything else, and she didn’t offer any additional information as he continued to search for the supplies he needed.
“Ah.” He said finally, after locating the bandages and tape that were tucked behind a bottle of mouthwash. He took her injured arm back in his and turned her body so that the light from above the sink shone directly onto the dark stitches. He reached past her, back into the mirrored medicine cabinet and grabbed a small bottle of antiseptic spray “This might sting a little,” he said as he aimed the nozzle at her arm.
Rogue hissed with pain as the spray came into contact with her raw skin. Wolverine let out a low growl at the sound of her pain and she noticed his eyes briefly flash a deep golden color. Interesting, she thought to herself as found herself staring at him. There must be more to his mutation than he’s letting on.
“Sorry,” he muttered thickly at her reaction. He brought her arm close to his mouth, and Rogue watched, fascinated, as he gently blew over the stitches, easing the pain somewhat as the antiseptic began to evaporate. “Don’t move,” he said as he grabbed the roll of gauze from the counter behind her and gently began to re-wrap her arm.
He was so close to her that she could smell him. And he smelled good. Really good, if she was being honest with herself. Remy smells good too, a part of her brain quipped. She blinked rapidly as felt herself blushing again and a ripple of shame ran through her at the path her thoughts had taken.
Wolverine ripped off a length of tape using his canines and Rogue suppressed a shudder at the sight of his teeth and lips. He sniffed the air suddenly and dropped his eyes back down to meet hers. Her eyes were wide with surprise as he made a rumbling noise deep in his chest. He quickly and expertly taped the gauze so that it would remain secured. When he was done, he didn’t move to release her, and Rogue found herself unable to draw her hand away from his.
“I always knew you’d learn how to control it,” he said softly, brushing a calloused thumb over her knuckles.
Heart hammering in her chest at his deliberate touch, she realized what she was allowing to happen and slowly withdrew her hand from his. She was intent on ignoring the slow, deep fluttering in her belly as she looked up at him to see an intense look of longing on his face.
“What was she to you?” She found herself whispering, unsure of whether or not she wanted to know the answer.
His face began to close off and he stepped back from her, seeming to come back to himself.
After several tense moments, he responded in a growling, tortured voice, “Everything.”
He was breathing hard as he looked down at her, fists clenched at his sides. “Good night, Rogue,” he said and he turned and left the bathroom. She didn’t see which room he disappeared into, which was just as well.
After a shaky minute alone leaning against the bathroom counter, she flipped off the light and headed down the hall towards her room. She gently closed the door behind her and moved to the still open window to shut out the cold air streaming in.
Heading to the bed, she realized she’d dropped her blanket somewhere between the downstairs deck and her room. She didn’t want to go back into the hallway and sighed as she shivered beneath the cool sheets.
Where she’d been exhausted just moments ago, she now found herself wide awake once more, mind racing over what she’d learned that night.
She tried not to panic as she thought of being stuck here, away from her friends and everything familiar to her. As her thoughts tumbled about in her head, she realized she needed to meditate. There was no chance she was going to risk another nightmare.
Rogue sat up in bed and crossed her legs, allowing her hands to rest softly in her lap. And she began to focus on her breath. In, and out. In, and out. Eventually, she laid back, her mind temporarily calm, and finally felt the pull of sleep claim her.