I sat staring blankly out the large windows of the library of the Xavier School for Gifted Youngsters. The information lain out in front of me swirled through my head like a maelstrom. So far off in my thoughts I never heard Scott approach.
“Rogue? Are you all right?”
I jumped at the sound of his voice, “Yeah Scott,…..I-I’m fine.”
“You don’t look fine,” he countered, “as a matter of fact you look like you were off in la-la land.”
I quirked my head, “Well, I guess I was a little distracted.”
Scott snorted back a laugh, “ ‘Distracted’ would be an understatement! You’ve been going around in your own little world since we got back from the Kominski Library last week. Care to share what’s got you off on an almost permanent mental vacation?”
I thought for a moment about all the things that were storming around in my head. Not sure if I dared to share my thoughts, but the need to share my secret was too much. I simply had to talk to someone before I exploded.
“I found it.”
Scott looked at me puzzled, “Found what?”
Two months ago
Yet another attack by the Brotherhood had been thwarted. A summit, once again heavily attended by global leaders, at the world renowned Kominski Library, had been only the latest target for Magneto’s latest plan in attempting to force the world’s powers into subjugation.
The director of the library, Mr. Hardwin Chazzinoff, had been beside himself with gratitude for the X-men’s intervention. The noticeably obvious way in which they had moved the fight with Magneto and his followers out of the library’s main building had sent Mr. Chazzinoff’s benevolent disposition into the stratosphere. He simply insisted that Professor Xavier bring all the students to the library for a once in a lifetime tour of it’s history filled halls. Over the course the ensuing month, grouped by grade level, every last student at Xavier’s school got the royal treatment from all that the Kominski Library could offer.
The senior class, being the one most able to appreciate the tomes and papers housed at the library, were treated to an extended stay. Nearby dormitories were assigned to the class and the seniors had an unprecedented two weeks in which to use the Kominski’s vast warehouse of knowledge to start, add to, and/or finish the final assigned to them by Xavier himself.
Rogue, Jubes, and Kitty were a perfect example of the different stages the students were at with their papers. Kitty, ever the honor student, only had to add to her already finished paper if she wished. Rogue was in the throes of rapture being able to add such rich detail and information to her paper with the resources the Kominski offered. Jubilation Lee, surprising no one, had yet to even start her paper.
The three friends were making their way up the stairs to yet another area of the library. Another group of students, on their way down, accosted them in their ascent. Rogue’s hearing, still quite sharp from the last time Logan touched her, caught a familiar sound.
“…..so dear old Brantley, dear and true…..we proudly sing our praises to YOOOOUUUUU!!!”
The raucous group of kids was thrashing what Rogue assumed was their school song. But there was something familiar about the school name.
She stopped on the landing between stair levels, “Excuse me?” she caught the attention of a trio of children that could have been Jubes, Kitty and herself in another life.
All three no older than eighth grade she expected, the smaller version of Kitty responded, “Y-yes?”
Rogue could tell the kids were not used to being approached by strangers, they stuck beside each other in an unconscious show of solidarity. Rogue spoke softly and clearly, “I’m sorry if I startled you, sugar, I just couldn’t help hearin’ y’all singin’ out. Was that your school song?”
The younger Jubes version spoke up, “Yes ma’am! Good ol’ Lake Brantley High, our alma-mater.”
Rogue’s interest was now peaked, hearing the full name of the school. “Are y’all from up north?”
Jubes the younger once again responded, “No ma’am! We’re from A-la-baym-a.”
Rogue recognized the accent as soon as the state’s name was mentioned and silently cursed herself for not immediately recognizing the sound from the state neighboring her own home state.
This was when her own clone spoke for the first time, “What made y’all think we were from up no-arth?”
“I have a friend who went to a Lake Brantley High and he’s from Canada, I don’t guess your school an’ his are the same ones now, huh?” Rogue said.
Once again, the younger version of Kitty spoke, “I don’t s’pose it could be, ma’am. But our school has been around for better’n a hun’erd years. Are ya sure he went to school in Canada?”
Rogue thought for a moment, “Actually sugar, no, I’m not sure his Lake Brantley is in Canada, I s’pose I’m jus’ guessin’ cause that’s where he’s from. Thank y’all for talking to me, ya better go on and catch up with your class, I don’t want to getcha into trouble.”
Throughout this whole exchange the elder Jubes and Kitty stood off to the side of the landing and stared at their friend in confusion. Once their younger versions were gone, Jubes was the first to start the interrogation.
“Dude! What the heck was that all about??”
“Yeah!” Kitty echoed, “What’s so interesting about a bunch of kids warbling out their school song?”
The three compatriots had resumed their trek up the stairs. Rogue was deep in thought and almost didn’t hear her friend’s queries.
“Wh-wha? Oh! Oh yeah, the song. I just thought the name of the school sounded familiar, that’s all”
Jubes and Kitty exchanged the classic, ‘duh!’ look. “Well yeah! We sorta figured that out from the convo!” Jubes said in exasperation.
“Yeah!” Kitty echoed, only to receive an elbow in the ribs from Jubes. The furrowed brow she shot her friend was met with a whispered, ‘you sound like a broken record!’ Kitty stuck her tongue out at Jubes.
Rogue was still in deep thought as the three came to an empty table in the middle of the large, bookstacks filled room.
Undaunted by Jubes, Kitty continued, “So, ya gonna explain the interrogation of the little ones, Rogue?”
Rogue shook herself out of the self-imposed fog, “What’s there to explain? The school sounded familiar, I asked, it wasn’t the one I thought it was, end of story! Now can we please get to these damn finals papers? I’d rather not even begin to consider summer school for my senior year!”
Her friends took a mental step back as Rogue practically imploded. Kitty and Jubes went off together, as Jubes needed Kitty’s help more than anyone else in the senior class, while Rogue plopped down in a chair and huffed out a sigh of frustration. Absently mindedly she began to finger the fine-balled chain that circled her neck. Looking around to see if anyone was near, she lifted the chain until the ornaments it held dangled in front of her eyes.
No one had seen the latest edition to the twin tags that always hung around her neck. Two rings had joined the slightly heavy tags just a while ago. Rogue was still unsure of what the significance of these objects were but knew it had to be big. Just as big as the tags they jangled against. Rogue recalled how the rings came to accompany the tags……
Cyclops slammed the door of the reinforced police wagon shut on the sturdily restrained Sabretooth and breathed out a sigh of exhaustion. His fellow X-men were gathered on the steps of the Kominski Library in various states of personal wreckage and destruction. It had been a long, hard battle, but in the end the good guys had won.
They’d more than won, the Professor had exclaimed. Not only had they once again thwarted another of Magneto’s attempts at world domination, but they had also saved a world-renowned landmark. The surrounding grounds of the Kominski would need repair, and several large statues had been all but destroyed, but it was of little consequence when compared to the irreplaceable papers and tomes that could have been lost.
Logan and Rogue, both needing some space from the crowd of people that had come to form around the conquering heroes, were walking together around the rear gardens of the library. Or, at least what used to be the rear gardens.
“You put a hell of a hurtin’ on Sabretooth today, sugar”
“Yeah, well you know damn skippy that nobody gets away with layin’ a hand on you! Cocky bastard!! Thought my attention was too caught up with that blue bitch! That SOB is gonna learn one o’ these days!”
Rogue chuckled quietly to herself, “D’ya really think so, Logan?” her tone turning serious, she added, “He seems to get some kind o’ sick pleasure outta tormentin’ you.”
Logan thought about that for a moment, “I suppose he does, but he’s the one that really pays for it in the end.”
They continued to walk in companionable silence for a while longer until they came to what was once the fountain. They each took a seat on the now water-less decoration, facing each other with legs astride the concrete edging.
“I’m sorry you had such a lousy homecoming this trip, sugar. You barely had time to dump your bag in your room before we had to scramble up here and tangle with Magneto.”
“Aw, it ain’t nothin’, darlin’. A bad day of breakin’ heads is still better then a good day chasing dead ends.”
“How did your trip go this time? Sounds like another big goose egg.”
Logan was staring down at his hands, still colored with Sabretooth’s blood. He glanced around and found a puddle left in the fountain just big enough to run his hands through. As he came back and sat before Rogue, she reached out and took his hands in her own.
Running her fingers over the grooves between his knuckles, then bringing his hands to her face to run them over her own cheeks, she said, “I’m sorry it took me so long to get to Magneto, sugar,” one lone tear ran down her face. “I can’t stand the thought of you bein’ hurt because o’me.”
Logan brushed the tear away with an index finger and took her by the chin, ensuring she was looking at him when he spoke, “Darlin’ that don’t have anything to do with you!”
Rogue opened her mouth to protest, Logan shushed her with a finger to her lips, “What ol’ Buckethead does, he does because he can. If he had psychic abilities, he’d aim for Jeannie or the Professor, if he could manipulate ice or fire he’d go for Bobby or John. He happens to be able to control metal, and because of that, I just happen to be the one at the top of his dance card.”
Rogue was still holding his hands in her own. She still wondered at the skin to skin feel of him. There was no way to repay Carol Danvers for the gift of controlling her mutation, but Rogue tried her god’s honest best to continue the good fight that Carol had fought right up until the end. Carol’s other powers made that fight a little easier and Rogue smiled at the thought of the look on Magneto’s face just before she knocked him in the head with a tree trunk. His helmet had gone flying, giving the Professor the opening he needed to exercise his psychic abilities over the anti-human mutant. Once their leader was subdued, the others lost most of their itch for a fight.
“Didja see the look on Magneto’s face just before I walloped him?”
Logan actually let a sly smirk escape his lips, “Yeah! He’ll learn one day too, not to mess with my girl!”
Rogue smiled at that exclamation. Unconsciously running a hand over the chain around her neck, happy to once again wear Logan’s mark no matter what the circumstance.
“Don’t tell him I said so, but it was pretty smart of ol’ One-Eye there, thinkin’ up that aluminum chain. Made real quick work of Magneto thinking he could use my tags against you!” Logan said, reaching out to run his fingers over the chain on the opposite side from Rogue. He pulled slightly on the length of non-magnetic metal and pulled the tags from where they nestled in the valley of Rogue’s breasts.
He fingered the small squares, ~They’re so warm.~ “I-I ah, ahem,” Logan cleared his throat loudly, catching Rogue’s attention, “I got somethin’ I want ya ta keep a hold of, like ya keep the tags...”
Logan reached into his uniform and pulled something out, looked at it for a moment and then handed it to Rogue. She peered at her open hand and realized he had laid two somethings in her palm. Picking one up, Rogue saw that it was a circle of some sort of stone; heavy, black, and cold to the touch. She took the other item and examined it. It was a ring. Squinting her eyes, she realized it was a class ring!
Rogue removed the chain and tags from her neck and with hands she hoped he wouldn’t notice were shaking, added the rings to the slim chain. “L-Logan, where did y-…..?”
He cut her off in mid sentence, “Don’t get all sappy on me, Marie, I don’t even know if those things have anything to do with me….”
“Then what-…, why…?”
“I got to the place the Prof had told me about. It wasn’t much different than Alkali Lake. Years and years of dust, what little was left was all busted up. I spent a week goin’ through the place. Even though it didn’t look promising, I didn’t want to look back and think, ‘what if I woulda checked…..’ So I tore the place apart, literally!”
Logan reached out to finger the stone-like ring as he continued, “I think it was the last room I searched. What’s that they say? About finding something in the last place you look? Well this was the last place to look in the whole damn place!” He took a deep breath, letting his head loll back and audibly sighed.
“It was some sort o’file room. Rows and rows of file cabinets, some knocked over, some still standing. Everything covered with what seemed like fifty years of dirt and crud. I knew there was nowhere else to look after this room and I sort of lost it. Got a little pissed, sliced and diced a few cabinets, threw a couple around. Made me feel a little better, but not much.”
He let the stone ring drop and took the other one; “I was turnin’ to leave, still pissed, and kicked a couple of cabinets just for the hell of it. Inside one of ‘em, somethin’ rattled. Not the sound of drawers jigglin’ around but an honest to god rattle, like something was loose. I picked the cabinet up and shook it, sure as shit, something was tumblin’ around inside the damn thing! I stood the thing up straight and started openin’ drawers, I found these inside.”
Rogue sat quietly and didn’t speak. Logan could tell by the look on her face that she didn’t understand why these two objects seemed important enough to take with him.
Logan continued, to explain just that, “Didn’t notice until I slammed the last drawer shut, but...,” he paused, taking a deep breath and dropping the ring to finger the worn tags, “this number was painted on the front of every drawer of that cabinet.”
Logan was still running his fingers over the tags, staring blankly at them. Rogue’s sharp intake of breath brought him out of the haze. He looked up at her and was surprised by the look on her face. All color had drained away; she was white as a ghost. Even the small spattering of freckles across her nose were gone. Her mouth hung open in an unspoken gasp.
Sitting there in the library, with the few lines of that school song stuck in her head, Rogue couldn’t help but feel that something or someone was trying to make a point. She was not one to really believe in fate, but the facts of the matter really couldn’t be ignored. One, she was sitting in one of the, if not the most information rich site on the planet. Two, just a measly month or so ago, Logan returned with what has so far been the only piece of information with any possibility of relating to him. And, three, a group of kids, out of the blue, within her earshot, break out in song with their school song, which happens to match the barely legible inscription on the ring Logan found!!
It was obvious to Rogue, this was too much coincidence to ignore.