Author's Chapter Notes:
It's...been a while...
Is that funny? Embarrassing?
The only thing more silly than me updating this story *now*, after so long, is the expectation that there's anyone left who might want to read it...Er...Again.
Still, with fewer real-life demands than normal and a stomach ulcer keeping me housebound, I find myself coming back and back to this site. In part because I'm trying to crack my Writer's Block, and because "Story Completed--No" irks me in a way either symptomatic or egotistic. But what the heck. Let's do this.
To Run in Circles:
Chapter Ten


It happened on a Thursday night, just minutes shy of a Friday morning. Friday the thirteenth, obviously, because what her life needed was irony.

It happened during a nightmare. It happened with a crowd of onlookers.
It happened to Jean.

They’d placed her in a dorm with two other mutants, although she protested as much as one could a thing freely given. The road might have taught her that, but as a Southerner those travel-sized morals packed into her already from a very young age. Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth, Marie. Kids are starving in China. Hey is for horses. Keep crying and I’ll give you something to cry about. All the standard correctors of behavior and hope.

Xavier’s gift horse had three futons and a communal dresser, one roommate who spent an hour in the bathroom every morning and another who entered without knocking—and not always through the door. Single suites were for the X-Men and Special Cases. Apparently, she didn’t qualify for the latter; was too young for the former. “I hope soon you will be past the need or desire for isolation,” The Professor had told her warmly, over a cup of get-to-know-you tea. He was referring to her control. Not that she had control. Not that she was gaining control…Not that she had any reason to believe Control was more than the Santa Claus of Mutant High.

Her roommates were polite if distant—which was only to be expected, considering that her presence shrank valuable closet space—and they had too much experience with nightmares to condemn hers. Still, they’d been told about The Skin Issue, so when the new girl started kicking off the sheets and thrashing around on her bed, Kitty melted right through the walls to fetch a teacher. In a ratty t-shirt, without hair gel or foundation and looking far more like the child she denied herself to be, Jubilee pressed herself against the panels, wishing she could follow. But instead, she was stuck. Stuck in this room with someone arching their back as if they’d been electrocuted, like that creature from that horror movie they’d watched last week. Any animal making the noises that new girl was making would be put down. Should be put down. Gargles and groans and screams.

She’d find a way to turn it into a joke tomorrow. She couldn’t, just then. Jubilee was relieved beyond humor when Dr. Grey swept in, silk dressing gown trailing like the feathers of a bird in flight. Composed, compassionate, competent. As always. Good ol’ Jean.

The new girl didn’t see good ol’ Jean’s composed, compassionate, competent face no more than she saw the lamp go crashing to the floor or her new roommates rushing to get backup. She was aware only of the cage of her own mind-- a pink, fleshy room--every stolen voice in her head screaming to be let out.

She heard one even after she opened her eyes, even when she saw her fingers closed over Jean’s—not the woman’s hands, which were covered, nor her shoulders, which were covered--but her neck, which was bare and leaning so alarmingly above her. Veins jumped beneath the doctor’s surprised expression. The paleness of her, the cold, skin-colored ice. Ice her fingers were stuck to. Frozen. Only Jean’s eyes moved, and they darted over the girl’s face like the hopping steps of a finch. Asking a question that joined the chorus. It wasn’t unexpected. It was the first question. The one they always, always asked:

What’s happening to me?
And then the second, as terribly familiar:
Why is this happening to me?

The room had begun to shake. Bottles of nail polish, books, cups sliding off the dresser. The other beds lifting and dropping like bucking horses. She couldn’t tell who was doing it—herself or Jean or both, but it was clear they couldn’t stop it. The voice in her head was loud, louder than the crash of their furniture, louder than the shouts of the students gathering at the door. Teenagers frightened and sleep-tousled back into the shape of children. Their shouts were earnest but collectively ineffectual at separating Jean from the girl, and they were unwilling to do more. What if the new girl’s powers were like some electric current that could continue through a chain of bodies? For mutants, this was not so unreasonable a theory. It took Scott, wearing his glasses and pajama bottoms and nothing else, to wrap his arm around his wife’s waist and finally drag her out of Rogue’s grip. Together the couple crashed against the other bed, which lay still now, immobile as an inanimate object should be.

Everyone was staring at her. The kids, Scott. She didn’t need borrowed telepathy to know what they were thinking, but she had it anyway and they were exactly the kind of thoughts you’d expect.

And Jean stared, too, before her eyes rolled back in her head and she began to seize. She was looking at Rogue, and the gaze that had darted before was fixed, focused, as was the question running through her head. The most honest thoughts Jean Grey would ever share with the girl, amplified a thousand times between them:

What does Charles want with you?


“Jean doesn’t blame you, Rogue. Nobody blames you.” She sat sideways on the train seat, knees angled toward the girl.

“It was an accident.”

“Of course it was.” Ororo didn’t say it reassuringly, she said it with surprise as if there wasn’t any doubt. The girl appreciated this, especially because the telepathy she’d borrowed from Dr. Grey had worn off and she couldn’t hear the knives behind the soft words. She didn’t want to. Nice to pretend they weren’t there. She turned away from the teacher, the forgiveness burning like a match held to her throat. Outside the window, the station attendants were arguing with a blue-haired passenger who seemed to have lost her purse on the last train. She was gesturing quite emphatically and the employees kept rolling their eyes at each other—she was going to slow everything up.

“You’re not in trouble, Rogue.”

“That’s not it.” Or, at least, not all of it—or too much of it. Ugh. She barely knew her own thoughts.

“What is it, then? Look—look at me. I know you’re worried about hurting someone. We all worry about that, with our mutations—I’m sorry, our gifts. See, even I have trouble sometimes remembering that the abilities I have are a blessing. We’ve all been where you are. Just come back to the mansion. I’m sure, in time, you’ll come to see—well, The Professor says you show a lot of promise.” Ororo paused. She looked closer at the young girl. “What is it, Rogue? What aren’t you saying?”

She played with the edge of her gloves, trying to find words that wouldn’t sound petulant. Or paranoid. “It’s been weeks. He doesn’t--the sessions don’t seem to be helping much,” she confided. It was true. So far the meetings with The Professor consisted of them sitting knee to knee, his hands hovering around her head. She’d kept her eyes shut to avoid awkward eye contact, but it still felt weird—not least because of the sensation of knuckles knocking on the wall of her mind. Nothing else had come of it, although—

--although. She thought hard. Although—the last person she had touched had stayed in a coma for three weeks. Jean had already woken. That was an improvement. Was it Control? And if so, was that Xavier’s doing, or hers? Maybe--

But this hope was punctuated when she thought of touching Jean, what she’d heard as she fled through the mansion, doors opening and closing, objects flying from shelves, flukes of a borrowed mutation. What does Charles want with you?

“Does The Professor need me to do something?”

“Why would you say that?” For the first time, Ororo’s brow creased and her smile dropped. “Rogue, why would you say that?”

She looked at the teacher, everything about her the epitome of trust, and found herself wishing that Jean’s power had lingered just a bit longer. “Would you still help me if I didn’t want to go back to the mansion?”

“Of co—,” the teacher started to say.

And then the train tore in half.


In fact, she was told more about what had happened to her than she actually remembered happening to her.

What She Was Told:

Jean, despite being in a state of recovery, rallied immediately when she heard her student was in trouble.

How did they know? When had Scott had time to call them? How did they get there so quickly? Had they been waiting outside the station the entire time, while Ororo went in to speak with her?

Xavier had done everything he could to talk Magneto down, but when it came down to a choice between letting her go with them or the death of a dozen police officers, what could he do? What could he do? He’d erased the memories of the witnesses, of course. To protect her.

To protect her?

The Professor was gravely injured by the serum Mystique had placed in Cerebro. She wasn’t to blame for this, of course. Truly. The whole team came to save her and the city from Magneto.

And an entire summit of people in powerful positions.

They thought she was dead. If Scott had blasted the torch a minute later, she would have been. She was lucky. She was so lucky.
She should be grateful.

What She Remembered:

The blades swirling around her. A silver tornado with fingers of light reaching, stretching out—from the machine, from her--as if they wanted to caress the city below. The city she glimpsed in slats and gasps, beautiful as the light washed towards it. Magneto’s thoughts in her head and his power—blistering, joyous power—lifted from her veins. And then a flash, a flush, a sword of red. Disrupting the blades, sending them tumbling and shrieking like acrobats from the trapeze. And her, too, because Scott’s laser had cut right through her side. A shark bite. Toothy flames.

All the beautiful lights went out.


What She Was Told:

She was safe now. She was safe, thanks to the team. Erik Lensherr had been arrested by the authorities and pending trial. And best of all—Was she paying attention? The Professor sat at eye level next to her bed in the med lab. The lines in his face smoothing out in some places and doubling in others because this was good news, and he relished delivering good news. Best of all—he’d taken the liberty of walking through her mind while she lay in the coma. And he believed he’d found the key to Control. For her, that is. Over her powers. Now, now. No need to speak, she was perfectly welcome.

Lifting her head up to see the length of herself under the thin lab blanket. The warm, long-lost sensation of a hand holding hers. The Professor’s hand. Skin soft and hairless and remarkably strong for its age. She found herself crying, couldn’t wipe her face until he let go. He didn’t.

What She Remembered:

Cracks in the wall of her mind, widening. Bricks pulled loose and a voice whispering through the stone.

Listen to me.


They were gathered in the entertainment room, sardine-close so that they could see the television. All the students, the ones old enough to understand, all the teachers, except those minding the ones too young to understand. The room was hot with their collective breath. There’d been various bids to get another set installed in other rooms, but Xavier was old-fashioned. He said it would rot their brains. Rogue didn’t mind the closeness, even though some of the boys had just come in from a basketball game and brought the sweat to prove it.

For once, no one seemed to mind sharing the room with the girl. Although they’d celebrated her control (with a cake, red velvet) weeks ago, overtures of friendship had come slowly from those who had witnessed her ‘attack’ on Jean Grey. Fear runs deep, and even among outcasts, there exists a hierarchy of Odd. Even now, it was one of the teachers who made room for her on the sofa, and an embarrassing show of calling her over. That’s how she ended up with a prime seat for the show, between Ororo and Bobby (who was holding tight to Kitty’s waist). The screen featured only a curtain at the moment, and a ribbon of words already read and reread.

…despite the surprising renunciation on the part of Senator Kelly, now facing heated criticism from his longtime supporters…Mutant Registration Bill passed almost unanimously……many such measures enacted around…the terrorist attack on Liberty Island…Attorney General stated yesterday in his…

She was aware of Ororo’s perfume—spicy, exotic—and of Bobby’s shoulder against hers, chilly beneath his sweater. She was aware that Jubilee’s hair was puffing with static and John, at a loss for what to do with his hands since the confiscation of his lighter, was chewing his cuticles. Scott was gazing somberly at the screen as if to set an example for all of them;and Jean kept glancing around to make sure they followed it. The only real missing link to their nervous little tangle was The Professor. He mingled less and less with the residents of the mansion these days. Some said he’d never quite recovered from the Cerebro poisoning. Rogue guessed it had more to do with the verdict in the Erik Lensherr trial. He was the only one who’d seemed surprised, just as Senator Kelly was the only one to condemn it.

On their TV screen, and on screens all around the country, the little clock in the corner changed silently to 5:55. The curtain drew back. The picture quality was rough, because of both the distance of the camera to the subject and the many layers of plastic in between. It was as if they’d scored theater tickets only to discover theirs were the worst seats in the house. The actors wore shapeless clothes and masks, gloves. It was a degree of coverage exceeding even Rogue’s, but Ororo explained, almost to herself, that this was to prevent identification, not contact. The government was concerned about mutant retribution against the employees. They were thorough—all four figures were the same height, whether naturally, or because their shoes had been adjusted to make it so. Their genders couldn’t be told apart. The walls in the little room were bare, the same color that the curtain had been. Grey, like steel, though it was anything but.

The only person they knew was the old man on the table, and only because it wasn’t likely to be anyone else. He wasn’t struggling, just lying there, perhaps already drugged. He was not asked to speak and didn’t. A voice, digitally altered, read Magneto’s crimes and the sentence, in case there were any uninformed viewers left. She doubted it. The seconds ticked down. At 6:00 exactly, one of the four disguised figures inserted a special needle—glass—into his arm, and at 6:06 Magneto was pronounced dead.

Public executions had, of course, been banned several years ago. But after Liberty Island, they’d written an amendment for nonhumans.
There was murmuring in the room around her, but for the most part, the students were still, quiet as if buried under invisible snow. They hardly seemed to breathe. Rogue asked herself if she felt relieved. Magneto had, after all, kidnapped her. Threatened her life and those of so many people. Innocent people, a term which stretched to include humans but no further. She should be relieved. It wouldn’t be wrong.

Instead, she shivered, recognizing the world around and inside her as a much colder place than it used to be.
Chapter End Notes:
Okadoke. See you guys in two years!

Just kidding.

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