No one ever says anything, not to her face or loud enough for her to overhear, but Rogue knows they talk about her out of earshot, when she leaves. She can see it in their faces, in the line that forms between Ororo's perfectly plucked eyebrows, the downturn at the corner of Remy's mouth, in the dark eyes of Kitty. They worry, they grieve perhaps, and Rogue can't bring herself to address it.
She catches a glimpse of herself in the window of the train, looking at herself in the scratched glass. Auburn hair with the now all too familiar white streak, falling in thick waves to her midback, her eyes slightly wide, her imperfect hint of a smile. Her years sit lightly on her, looking still like a kid fresh out of high school in her mid-twenties. An unasked for gift from her one time curse, after an extended contact with Creed during a scuffle with the Brotherhood. A gift...
Eyes are distracted away from her reflection, body rising and in motion without real thought, as the car comes to a stop at the Salem Center station. Her high heeled boots make sounds against the pavement, muted by the damp of the misting rain. She pauses long enough to bring up the hood of her long, green coat, a fashion habit she can't seem to break, gloves tugged on as she walks down the side of the road to the familiar gates and slips through onto the front lawn.
Rogue feels the uneven tread of her steps as she walks around the mansion, avoiding the front door for now, her heels sinking slightly into the damp ground. Ghosts stream by in her peripheral vision, memories faded to shades of blue and gray like old photographs. She can hear them, calling out in youthful teenage voices, playful, frightened, overlapping each other until she has to lift gloved hands to cover her ears and force it all away.
Eyes lift, looking at a familiar window, a hint of a smile at the stained glass suncatcher that hangs just inside. A joking present, but it had been kept and hung to catch the light. Her mind wanders, remembering afternoons curled up in a chair with a book, fingers twisting her hair, colors streaming from the windows over the pages, over his hair.. She used to watch him from under her lashes, cheeks flushing barely pink, pretending not to be paying him any mind as her heart would flutter with teenaged infatuation.
Another memory intrudes, the streams of colored sunlight streaming over her skin, the lazy, sleepy stretch of her body as she admired the patterns it made against magnolia pale flesh. The way she felt warm full through in a way she hadn't since she had kissed David back in Mississippi, a deep down warmth of being whole, being a real person again. She can almost still smell the moment, her sandalwood perfume, scent of musk and first sex on the sheets. There's a pang of ache in her thigh, a phantom pain of memory of that morning... how even that had made her smother a smile against the pillow.
She's imagining that window opening, a familiar head popping out to yell down to her, ask her what she's doing, even if she'd been reading and it was obvious. But of course the window stays closed, no one lives in there anymore.
“Hey there, chere, you lost?” It's Remy's Cajun accented words that pulls her out of rich, color drenched memories back into the gray, dreary day that's neither winter or spring. She can feel her smile, forced like Ororo's bulbs in the not too distant greenhouse, curving her mouth.
“Just walkin' for some fresh air, before I was gonna come in and visit, Remy. No fresh air in the city, and I miss it, sometimes.” She could bite her tongue at the last, hoping there isn't yet again another pushy invitation for her to come back, to move back into the mansion. Ororo has been relentless, the last few times she's come out, almost aggressively cornering the belle to insist she come back. There's been pleading emails from Kitty, as well, over the last few months. Remy, however, lets the comment slide, and doesn't push or mention the fact her old room is empty and waiting. The Cajun instead slides his arm casually over her shoulders, herding her to the door and inside.
She barely has her coat off before Jubilee is coming in for a hug, in her own coat and on her way out. Rogue nods to the request for coffee and catch up sometime soon, her eyes drifting to the staircase. She barely focuses enough to politely decline Remy's offer to make tea, before she's moving up the stairs as if she's iron and there's a magnet pulling her along. Wood makes a soft, sibilant sound under her hand as she drags it along the railing long smoothed by dozens of young hands moving over it.
The tread of her boots is muted by the thick runner that covers most of the hardwood floor in the hallway. But there's two beats as she steps off of it, in front of a door. Leather strokes along the wood of the door, before it curls in her grasp around the old brass knob. There's a twist, a grunt of wood scraping against wood as the door is pushed open, before she's looking into her old sanctuary.
Her heels click on the wood, the sound filling in the absence as her heart stills a moment, the door shoved shut behind her. There's dust motes moving in the air, as a beam of weak, watery sunlight finds the window. Rogue tells herself the dust is why her eyes sting, why they water. She exhales in a rush, the dust dancing wildly in the soft push of breath.
Her hand reaches out, but doesn't touch... the dust undisturbed on the short stack of books on one end of the dresser, the neatly laid out pad with the top sheet still half torn off, the pen parallel to the side. She can smell the dust, but now there's the faintest ghost of slightly burned scrambled eggs and extra crisp bacon.
She's smiling as she steps in front of the window, not seeing the expanse of the lawn, the trees beyond that stretch out in front of the window. She instead feels the warmth of arms around her, her name whispered in her ears.
As always, she's not ready, not prepared, when it hits. Her vision is no longer of grass and trees, a flash of light before all she can see is smoke and ruin. She can taste the ashes in the air, choking on the thickened, hot air. She can feel the damp, the faintest coolness from tears on her cheeks. She's being shaken, brought close, kissed roughly before she's pushed away. She watches him retreat, his form silohuetted against the flames, the sound of gunfire.
The world tilts at a crazy angle, and she can see herself. Her own ghostly reflection in the window glass is staring back at her. Leather covered fingers wipe away any trace of tears, before she turns and rushes for the door. She pauses when it opens, looking over the bed, the things that linger in so many memories. “Could you be dead?” She whispers, despite the sick feeling it causes in her stomach. “I miss you.”
That's enough, too much, to make her turn and flee, the door jerked shut behind her in her wake. She rushes down the stairs like she did for years before, and keeps the pace as she hurries out the door before anyone can intercept her. Feet hurry over the pavement, still running as she reaches the station, as if she could outrun memories, outrun pain.
She barely has time to catch her breath before she's stepping up onto the next train back into the city, back to the tiny apartment she hides in. She's barely slid into her seat before she's staring at the window, wondering why she came back again. Why she keeps coming back.
She feels the seat next to her sink down with the weight of a body, eyes closing. “Can I confess, I've been hangin' around your old address. The years have proved to offer nothing since you moved.. You're long gone, but I can't move on.” Eyes open, and while she sees his face behind her eyes, the seat beside her is empty. It's years since he's been there, disappeared somewhere... some better place?
She closes her eyes against the pain, swallows the ache in her throat. She leans her forehead against the glass, letting the sound of the train wrap around her and try to shut out her yesterdays.