Part Three: Thursday
Fights, Bets and Nasty Things in the Sewers
Disclaimer: All belongs to Marvel. etc, etc, etc.
Authors notes: This is an AU ending to Season 2 and the timeline begins during the first half of 'Hex Factor', with references to 'Operation Rebirth' - where events have been changed for the purposes of this story (and will be explained - don't worry! ).
Words in //slashes// indicate telepathic conversation.
The conversation at the breakfast table was muted the next morning, as everyone tried to come to grips with last nights revelations that Rogue still possessed the magnetic powers of Zaladane.
"So, she's not going to go all freaky?"
"No! You heard what the Professor said. The memories seem to have died away but she's still got the powers."
"And Zaladane's in the stasis thingy right? Like Juggernaut? Maybe if she comes out of it, Rogue'll lose the abilities."
"Yeah, but didn't the Prof say Zaladane still hadn't come around by the time they locked her up? That's like four hours! Rogue's NEVER knocked anyone out for that long."
"So she could really take our powers for good?"
Everyone glared at Amara, who blushed and shrunk down. "I'm only asking?"
"Maybe it was something Zaladane did?" Jean suggested. "After all, she did grab on to Rogue and wouldn't let go."
"SHHHH! She's coming!" Jamie hissed from the door. He dove for his seat as Rogue walked in the door. Silently, she took her seat and grabbed some toast.
"Uhm, good morning Rogue," Kurt said. "How are you today?"
In answer, Rogue levitated the orange juice towards her. "Well at least Ah don't have to HIDE it anymore Ah guess," she said harshly, without meeting their eyes.
"Rogue, we're sorry, we..."
"Save it!" Rogue snapped.
"No Rogue, you really need to listen to us," Jean said forcefully. "We're sorry we reacted that way last night. We really are. And none of us are very proud of it. You're one of us, and we're here to help you in any way we can. We know you would never hurt any of us."
Rogue glanced at the rest of them through her hair. "Hmph." She stood up and walked off.
"Well that went better than I expected," said Kitty.
"Sadly, I have to agree," said Jean.
Erik walked into the room. "Is there any orange juice left?"
Everyone glared at him.
"What? WHAT? I didn't do anything!"
Scott wandered down the corridor in-between first and second period, trying to avoid the crush. He was still thinking about the events of last night and what it would mean to the team, when he spotted a familiar length of red hair. He immediately remembered something else that he had promised himself he would do today.
"Jean! Hey!" Scott ran over to her.
"Oh Scott, hi!" Jean smiled at him.
"So, um, how are things going with the ticket selling for the charity ball?" Scott asked.
"Great! Nearly sold out!" Jean enthused. "You're coming too, aren't you?'
"Oh yeah, of course," Scott cleared his throat. "I'm sorry I didn't get around to buying any tickets yet."
"That's okay, I've still got a couple saved," Jean felt around in her backpack. "So, how many tickets?"
"Er, so, uh," Scott faltered. "Um, two?"
"Okay!" Jean started leafing through an envelope. "Who are you going with?"
"Duncan's already asked me..." Jean's voice trailled off suggestively. She looked away and carried on "But I..."
When she turned back, Scott was gone.
Meanwhile, Scott stomped back to his locker and was halfway there before realising he already had his books. Growling, he turned around and smacked into Evan.
"Yo dude, what's the rush?" Evan rubbed his shoulder.
"Oh, ah! Nothing!" Scott responded angrily.
Evan looked at him nervously. "Aw man, don't tell me – you asked Jean to go to the Charity Ball but she's already going with Duncan?"
"DAMMIT!" Evan griped. "Now I'm out ten bucks."
Evan grinned sheepishly. "Uh well, you see, me and Kurt had this bet going that you'd and Jean would go to the ball. He said you wouldn't, I said you would." Evan sighed. "Oh well, maybe I can win my money back on this Rogue/Erik thing."
"What Rogue/Erik thing?" Scott demanded.
"Oh! Kitty dared Rogue to go to the ball with Erik, and Kurt said yes and I said no way, but we haven't heard..."
"Rogue's gonna ask Erik to go to the ball?" Scott asked.
"Yeah man, haven't you noticed how close they've been getting?"
"Rrrgh! I don't believe this!" Scott turned on his heels and stormed off.
Evan stared after him. "Man… what's his problem?"
Scott strode down to where Rogue's locker was located and found the skunk-haired girl there. She had just taken out her books when Scott braked beside her. "Ah! Scott!" Rogue blinked. "What are you doing here?" she felt her heart beat a little faster. "Can Ah help you?"
Scott drew in a deep breath. "Rogue, I want you to be my date to the ball this Friday," he said quickly.
Rogue nearly dropped her books. "Wh… wha… huh?" she stammered. "Oh… Ah… Ah can't."
"Why not?" Scott felt a cold chill run through him. "Oh no, you've asked HIM, haven't you?"
Rogue flushed at his accusatory tone. "If by _him_ you mean _Erik_, then… yeah…"
"I don't BELIEVE it! How could you?" Scott demanded.
Several students paused to watch, some whispering and snickering.
"What's going on?"
"I don't know!"
"It looks like Summers is have some sort of… lovers quarrel with Rogue…"
"Rogue? I didn't think he was in to HER."
Rogue's eyes widened. "What do you mean, how could Ah? What business is it of yours who AH go to a stupid ball with?"
"He is NOT good enough for you! You know who he is! How can you trust a guy like that?"
Rogue's temper flared. "Who are you to tell who's good enough? You're not my brother! OR my BOYFRIEND!" she yelled. "You can't control who or what Ah do!"
"I am NOT trying to control you! All I'm saying is that you'd be better off going with ME!"
"Oh my God! Did you hear that?"
"Rogue turned down Scott Summers to go with the new guy!"
"Wow… this is like a soap opera! A real love triangle!"
"If you wanted to go with ME, then you shoulda asked me FIRST! Like, maybe two days ago? Not the day BEFORE the ball when you have OBVIOUSLY already been turned down by Jean!" Rogue screamed at Scott. "Now leave me ALONE! Ah don't want to be someone's second choice!" And with that parting shot, she ran off down the corridor leaving a flabberghasted Scott staring after her and million whispers circulating.
Oblivious to the controversy raging around him, Scott slumped against the lockers. "Is there any way that could have gone worse? Nope… I don't think so…" he sighed. "Oh well… at least that's as bad as it's going to get…"
The lockers gave a collective jump and Scott whirled to face Erik. The silver-haired boy was glaring at him, fists clenched and eyes blazing. "What did you DO to Rogue?"
"Go away, Lehnsherr!" Scott snarled. "I really don't want to talk about it."
"Too bad!" Erik slammed a fist into one of the lockers. "She was crying! What did you say to her? Is this about last night?"
There was a collective gasp from the multitudes assembled around them.
"No, but we ARE going to talk about that sometime soon!" Scott replied angrily. "I was just trying to tell her how you can't be trusted!"
"What is your problem, Summers? I have _never_ done ANYTHING to you!"
"Ha!" Scott snorted. "I know your past record and leopards don't change
their spots! You're treacherous,
"Successful with women?" Erik smirked. "That's what this is about, isn't it Summers? You're jealous!"
Scott's fists clenched. "I AM NOT!" he yelled. "I am just concerned about Rogue!"
"Well you can STOP being 'just concerned'!" Erik snarled. "I'll look after her much better than you EVER could!"
"Achem!" the potential fist fight was abruptly interrupted by the appearance of Principal Kelly. "I don't know if any of you have noticed, but the bell for class rang five minutes ago!"
There was mass exodus and soon the corridor was empty of all except for Kelly, Erik and Scott.
"I am disappointed in you, Scott Summers, I would have expected better from a student of your calibre, but here you are starting a public brawl!"
"You both have detention. I will see you both at lunchtime in my office!"
They stared after the Principal's retreating back. "Detention? With _you_?"
Rogue slid into her normal lunch seat, looking around in confusion. Normally either Risty or Wanda would have been here by now. Or at least Erik. But she was all alone. Rogue wondered where they were, then she wondered since when she included Wanda and Erik as part of her "normal" life. It was all so confusing.
It had been a very strange day. And a very strange week. In fact, most of her life had been strange, but this morning was certainly taking the first prize award for strangeness right now. First that insane blow-up with Scott, then she'd been plagued all morning by people saying 'hi' to her, and asking how everything was. Girls chatted to her in the bathroom as she reapplied lipstick, guys smiled at her in class, and she'd had two offers of dates this weekend. She'd turned both of them down, and had been further confused when the guys had just smirked at her, and said they understood, she was probably too busy. What was going on?
"Hey there Miss Popularity," Risty dropped into the seat opposite her. "So, I hear you've been cutting a swathe through the men today?"
"What are you talking about?"
"Oh?" Risty looked at her sideways. "It's all everyone's talking about – you're the dark horse of romance in Bayville."
"Oh you know, Scott Summers asking you out, but you going with Erik, a steamy love triangle, the two boys fighting over you..."
"They had a fight?!" Rogue was alarmed.
"Why do you think they're not here?" Risty laughed. "They're in detention, the pair of them."
"Ah can't believe this!" Rogue cried. "Can't leave them alone for a moment! Men!"
"So," Risty smirked, "is this your big plan? Gonna finally get Scott Summers by making him jealous?"
Risty pouted. "But it's such a _good_ plan. I mean, he did ask you to the ball, right?"
"Yeah! But only because JEAN wouldn't go with him."
"Are you sure?" Risty inquired. "Cos I overheard some girls talking to Jean, and _she_ says he never even ASKED her. She seemed quite annoyed about it."
"Well, he was being a total jerk and all, 'you must do what I say', 'Erik's not good enough for you'..."
"Well he isn't!" Risty blurted.
"Risty! I thought you would be a little more supportive! Erik is just fine," Rogue snapped. "He's polite and... mostly nice…"
"And arrogant, not like Scott," Risty interjected. "Now he's sweet, and so cute too!"
"Erik's cute," Rogue responded angrily. "And at least he's prepared to be more flexible about the rules and everything. Not like 'everything has to be perfect' Summers."
"Ah've had enough!" Rogue stood up. "Ah'm going to the ball with Erik. If YOU like Scott so much, why don't YOU ask him!"
She stormed off.
Risty watched her go. A thoughtful expression crossed her face.
"Scott! Oh Scott!"
Scott paused and glanced over his shoulder.
"Oh, hi Risty." He said. "What's up?"
"Nothing special," Risty said. "I was talking to Rogue at lunchtime, and she told me about what was going on. I'm so sorry Scott. You know, I always thought that you and Rogue would make a nice couple."
"Uhm thanks, I think," said Scott.
"So, I had an idea," said Risty. "YOU don't want Rogue to be with Erik, and I don't want Rogue to be with Erik..."
"You don't?" Scott was surprised. "I thought you liked him!"
"There's just something about him I don't trust," Risty answered. "I'm worried about my friend, and she's not listening to me," she shook her head sorrowfully. Tears glimmered in her eyes. "I'm afraid he might do something bad to her. He can be so... cold."
"You don't know the half of it," Scott said morosely.
"Anyway, my idea was for you and me to go to the ball together and keep an eye on them both," Risty said.
"I don't know, I don't think Rogue would like it if she thought we were spying on her." Scott said. "She'd think we didn't trust her."
"We're not going to spy on Rogue, we're going to keep an eye on Erik," Risty said.
"Well, when you put it that way, okay I'm in." Scott decided.
"Excellent!" Risty said.
"Where do I pick you up?" Scott asked.
"Uh... why don't I meet you at the mansion," Risty said. "My place is a little out of the way."
"Okay, see you at 7 tomorrow!" Scott waved and headed off.
Risty grinned ferally behind him. "Oh, this should be entertaining. And, if dear little Erik places ONE finger wrong, I will enjoy ripping it off."
"Some people have all the luck!" Evan was grumbling when Kitty walked into the lounge. She watched in puzzled astonishment as he reluctantly handed over some money to Kurt who was grinning broadly.
"What's going on?" she asked.
"I have won two bets today!" Kurt gloated and Kitty's eyes widened.
"Oh. My. God! You mean Rogue, like, asked Erik to the ball and Scott isn't going with Jean?"
"Yeah," Evan flung himself down on the couch. "Although I guess that news pales in comparison with the rumours flying around school today."
For a minute Kitty was a little puzzled, but then the light dawned. "Oh yeah! I heard the weirdest thing… that Scott actually asked Rogue to the ball!"
"He did," said Kurt. "And…"
"HE DID WHAT?!"
The three turned to see Jean standing in the doorway, her fists clenched and several objects hovering around her. "Scott asked ROGUE to the ball?" she said incredulously. "ROGUE? He never even asked ME!"
"Uh… Jean? You're ummm…" Kitty backed away nervously.
Jean's eyes flicked to the side and she noticed the things floating around her. Drawing in a deep breath she controlled her telekinetic power and carefully lowered them to their rightful places. A small part of her felt embarrassed by her outburst, but the rage that had filled her once she overheard Kitty and Kurt had just burst out before she could control it. The fury still filled her, fed by fierce jealousy as one thought ran around and around in her mind: Scott had asked Rogue to the ball, not Jean… Scott had asked Rogue…
"Are you okay?" Evan asked and Jean blinked. Shaking her head, she managed a tight smile. "I'm perfectly fine," she said stiffly and walked out of the room with her head held high.
The three younger mutants looked at each other. "Think we should warn Scott?" Kurt asked finally breaking the silence.
"Warn me about what?" Scott asked from the doorway. He smiled at them, but even with the ruby glasses covering his eyes they could tell that the smile was forced – much like Jean's had been seconds earlier. "Are the New Mutants planning some big joke I should know about?"
"Er…" Kitty hesitated. "It's just… well… Jean found out that you… ummm… asked Rogue to… the…"
Scott's expression changed to one of utter horror. "Oh… &^$%!"
"Language, language, Summers," Erik chided, pushing past him. "Aren't you supposed to be the responsible one, setting an example for the younger members of your team?" He picked up a discarded newspaper from the table and smirked as he sat down.
"YOU!" Scott felt his eyes burn. An ominous red glow shone from behind his glasses as he advanced on Erik, his whole body tense. "This is all YOUR fault!"
Erik dropped the paper and stood up, his expression harsh and cold. "My fault? You're the one who stuck both his feet so spectacularly in his mouth! I had nothing to do with it!"
"Shut UP! Everything was fine before you came here! But now you're tearing everything apart… I'll bet you haven't even lost your memories! This is all part of some plot!"
"Oh, sure…" Erik crossed his arms and shot Scott a disgusted look. "I turned myself into a teenager and voluntarily went back to high school so that I could undermine the X-Men… Honestly, Summers… you can be very stupid when you're acting this irrational."
"I am going to wipe that smirk of your face!" Scott reached up for his glasses.
"SCOTT!" Evan, Kurt and Kitty dog-piled him, wrestling him to the floor. "NO!"
"This is, like, totally wrong," Kitty said, sitting on Scott's left arm. "I mean, I know you're mad, but I really don't think you can blame Erik."
"Yeah, man," Evan gripped Scott's right arm. "I know he's a pain in the butt and he might go mega-evil on us at any moment, but you gotta face facts… you're the one who didn't ask Jean out first."
"And I heard what you said to Rogue," said Kurt, perching on Scott's chest. "It's not surprising that she got a bit mad…"
"And that's the biggest understatement I've heard for a while."
"Erik," Kitty looked up. "Can you NOT be so aggrevating? Like, it's not helping, you know."
Wanda closed the front door to the Brotherhood house with a bang and immediately went up to her room, ignoring Todd's greeting. She had just laid her hand on the door handle when Mystique appeared beside her. The older woman glared at the girl, her yellow eyes glinting.
"Just what do you think you're doing, associating with the enemy?" she demanded.
Wanda stared coldly at her. "If you're talking about me and Rogue, then I'm not doing anything differently from what you're doing."
Mystique frowned. "My dealings with Rogue are completely different and none of your business," she snapped. "So I'm telling you to stay away from her," she said and walked away.
"Why?" Wanda yelled. But Mystique ignored her and morphed into a bird, flying out of the window. "Rgh!" Wanda stomped into her room and slammed the door shut. She threw herself on her bed and stared at the ceiling. "If she hadn't promised me my revenge I wouldn't stay here," she said to herself.
Todd winced when Wanda's door slammed. "I wonder what Misty said to her, yo," he said to Fred who was coming out of the kitchen carrying a huge BLT (with cheese) sandwich.
Fred shrugged and plunked himself down on the middle of the sofa, which bent under his weight. "Who knows, who cares," he took a bite out of the sandwich. "Anything good on TV?" he asked, spraying bits of food from his mouth.
"Yuck," Pietro arrived downstairs in time to avoid a piece of masticated tomato. "You mind not sharing your food?"
"Hey, hey!" Todd hopped up to Pietro. "What's the deal with your sis and the boss lady? You know?"
Pietro shrugged. "Not really, but I bet it has something to do with Rogue," he grimaced. "Wanda's awfully friendly with her."
"Did you hear the stories about Rogue today?" Fred asked. "What's the deal there?"
"Yeah," Todd snickered. "Weird... she's not someone you can get close to... if you know what I mean, but suddenly she's Miss Popularity."
"I really don't give a damn about Rogue," snapped Pietro. "I've got other issues and..."
There was a sharp knock on the front door and they all paused.
"Who could that be..." Todd started to ask, but Pietro answered the question by zooming to the door and throwing it open, revealing the person outside, her hand poised to knock again.
"Rogue?" Pietro gawked at the girl. "What are you doing here?"
"Ah came to see Wanda," said Rogue walking past him. "Shut ya mouth. Speedy, you look like a fish standing there."
Pietro recovered his wits and zapped in front of her, blocking her path. "Now look here, Stripes," he said in his most arrogant tone. "We didn't invite you in and…"
"WANDA!" Rogue yelled at the top of her voice. "Tell your brother to stop being such a jerk!"
Wanda's door opened abruptly and the short haired brunette appeared at the top of the stairs. "Rogue?" she murmured and then smiled. "He was born a jerk. Come on up."
"B-but…" Pietro started to object, but a fiery glare from Wanda made him stop. He scowled and moved out of Rogue's way, crossing his arms and muttering under his breath.
"Why are you here?" asked Wanda once Rogue was in her room.
Rogue sighed and plunked herself down on the bed. "Ah… Ah didn't really feel like going back to the mansion just yet," she confessed. She eyed Wanda. "Ah guess you've heard the rumours going around school?"
"I don't listen to gossip," Wanda said flatly, sitting down in the chair by her desk. "But there was some weird talk about you…" she admitted. She shrugged. "It doesn't really matter to me."
"Yeah, well that's why Ah thought of coming here," said Rogue. "They'll all wanna talk about it at the mansion, Ah'll NEVER hear the end of it and plus Ah'm still too mad at Scott AND Erik right now."
There was a lengthy silence. Wanda fiddled with the ends of her shirt and Rogue stared moodily at the floor. Then Rogue looked up. "So… are you going to the ball?"
Wanda's eyes widened. "Me?" she asked incredulously. "Are you nuts? Why would I want to go to that stupid thing?" she shook her head. "I'm not very good with crowds and that just seems like the worst kind of crowd to be in."
"Ah know," Rogue sighed. "Ah wish Ah didn't have to go. Ah'm not good with crowds either… for obvious reasons."
Curiousity overcame Wanda's usual indifference. "So what made you agree to go?"
"Kitty," Rogue said with an even heavier sigh. "You really have to watch out around her or you find yourself agreeing to something that you never intended to agree to. Ah swear it's some mutant power… like her ability to talk at super-speed."
Despite herself, Wanda laughed. "I thought that was Pietro's power!"
"Kitty comes a very close second! Anyway…" said Rogue. "Ah wound up asking Erik to the ball – God, was that EVER embarrassing! – so Ah'm going," she shrugged. "It might be okay. The last school dance was invaded by weirdo monsters from some parallel dimension – that was entertaining!" she frowned. "Although Ah think the entertainment is gonna be me this time and Ah ain't looking forward to that."
"Maybe I should go," Wanda mused. "It'd be interesting to watch a real-life soap opera."
Rogue looked sharply at her new friend. Was Wanda teasing her? "Humph," she said. "Don't get your hopes up."
There was another long silence that was once again broken by Rogue. "So how're you getting on here?" she asked. "This place has… umm… changed a bit since Ah lived here."
"It's okay," Wanda said. "Much better than my last place of residence… at least here I'm not placed in a strait-jacket and poked and prodded all the time. Apart from my annoying brother, the boys are okay," she wondered whether to tell Rogue about Mystique, but after a brief internal struggle she decided to keep quiet. Rogue would probably feel obligated to tell the rest of the X-Men, plus it would undoubtably be hurtful to find out that your friend was really your enemy. Wanda frowned slightly, perhaps she could drop some hints… no, subtlety wasn't really her strong point.
"Earth to Wanda!" Rogue's voice broke in on Wanda's musings.
"Huh? Oh," Wanda turned her attention back to the other girl. "I was thinking about something."
"Yeah, Ah could see that!" Rogue smirked. "Ah was asking how you were getting along with Tabitha."
"Tabby… Boom-Boom… blond girl who makes little bombs?"
"Oh, her," murmured Wanda. "She moved out when I moved in."
"Really?' Rogue's brow wrinkled. "That's odd… she didn't come back to the mansion. Ah wonder if she moved back to her parents'… although Kurt said that she and her Daddy weren't getting along very well."
"Maybe she did," Wanda said disinterestedly.
Rogue saw that this topic was clearly not going to go any further and dropped it after making a mental note to tell the Professor about Tabby's absence. Instead she stretched and looked out of the window at the darkening sky. "Hey, want to grab a bite to eat and then go down to the park? Ah've decided that Ah'm gonna try one more time to catch the kidnapper…"
"Why not," said Wanda, standing up. "It's not as if I have anything better to do," she opened her closet and pulled out her long trenchcoat. "Is Erik coming?"
Rogue wrinkled her nose. "Ah don't know and Ah don't care," she said defiantly.
Dinner at the X-Mansion was slightly awkward that evening. Jean was Ignoring Scott. She was doing a magnificent job of it too. If they gave out Oscars for Ignoring People, then Jean would have been a shoe-in. Unfortunately, the whole effect was somewhat ruined by the fact that Scott was so busy glaring murderously at Erik, he didn't actually notice. Scott had been spending most of the meal attempting to manifest some sort of psychic ability and strike Erik down where he sat. So far, all he'd managed to do was give himself a headache, strain his eyes by trying to fire THROUGH his glasses, and scare the people sitting on either side of him into total silence. If looks could kill, (although actually, in Scott's case, they could. But never mind.) Erik would have been a small pile of smoking ash before he had even finished the first course.
In actual fact, Erik was so engrossed with consuming his dinner as quickly as possible, he missed the entire Jean and Scott show. This fact was so amusing the rest of the diners, they were almost disappointed when he finished and oblviously began to clear his plate away.
"Thanks. Going now. Back later." He headed for the kitchen.
"Hot date?" Kurt asked him mischeviously.
Erik, Jean and Scott speared him with fiery glares. Kurt clutched at his chest and feigned an elaborate death scene. "Ah! I am struck! Cold, dark death awaits me! Kitty! Evan! Swear that you will carry on my legacy and bring joy, love and the Fuzzy Way to all! And thus, without even a kiss, I die!" He collapsed theatrically under the table. There was a round of applause from the rest of the audience, including Erik and Professor Xavier.
"So where ARE you going?" Scott demanded as Erik headed for the front door.
"Out," Erik's lips twitched briefly, before he sternly controlled them.
"And you'll be back when?"
Kitty, Amara, Jubilee and Rahne broke into giggles.
Kurt popped his head up from under the table. "Don't do anything I wouldn't do!" He yelled happily.
<Please remember the curfew this time Erik>, Xavier projected to the young man, who was already heading for the gates.
<Yeah, yeah, yeah.> Erik formed the response in his head and felt Xavier sigh mentally before he disengaged.
"I'm going out too," Scott stood up decisively. "See ya."
He headed out for his car.
"Quick!" Kurt and Evan sprinted to the window to watch as Scott got into his convertible, fished out his keys, and paused.
His car keys had been somehow twisted into a artful Moebius spiral.
"Yes!" Kurt rejoiced. "I TOLD you he wouldn't go for the car itself. He's more subtle."
"No!" Evan moaned. "Aw man!"
"Aw yes. Pay up!"
Evan dug around in his pockets. "You're beginning to scare me with how well you can tell what he's going to do," he grouched.
Kurt just grinned at him.
Storm sighed and turned her attention back to the table to see Amara, Jubilee and Rahne suddenly cease their conversation and look innocent. *Oh no.*
Rahne looked across the table and nodded to Roberto, Bobby and Jamie.
Storm sighed again. This time Professor Xavier joined her.
It was going to be another long night.
"This'll do," said Rogue, hopping onto a low, broad branch of a tree that stood close to the main path of Bayville Park. "We can see quite a lot and are still concealed."
"Mmm," Wanda looked around. "What's that big black grate over there?" she pointed.
"Uh… Ah think it's the entrance to an old sewer system," Rogue said vaguely. "Not sure though."
"Sewer system huh?" Wanda murmured.
"THERE you are!" A familiar voice hailed them. Rogue made a face as Erik ran up to the two girls. He glared at her. "Where have you been? I had to eat dinner surrounded by a thousand snickering faces and Scott bloody Summers!"
"Scott huh?" Rogue smirked. "So you've fought with him, had detention with him, and now spent dinner with him."
"Sounds like you two are really bonding," Wanda grinned.
Erik glared at the girls. "I hate BOTH of you!" He stated.
"Good!" They responded in unison.
Erik sighed. "What time is it?"
"You have a watch," Rogue pointed out.
"Yes, and if I wanted to know which way due North was, I would find it useful," Erik said.
"I overused my magnetic powers while wearing it," he said sheepishly. "It screws the whole circuitry."
Rogue blinked. "Aw hell." She checked her watch and groaned. " According to MY watch it's 00:00, blink blink blink. Great. There's 10 bucks I won't see again. Wanda?"
"I don't have a watch," Wanda said, shrugging. "Never needed it."
"Swell," Rogue sighed. "We'll just have to guess."
"We'll have to guess low," Erik informed her. "The Professor reminded me to be home by curfew tonight. I think he's going to check up, and he'll probably ask us some pretty pointed questions if we're in late. Not to mention the reactions from everyone else." He shuddered.
"What WERE the reactions from everyone else?" Wanda asked curiously.
Erik blinked. "Oddly enough, nearly everyone was... positive. Evan and Kurt have even offered to show me a place I can rent a tux for the dance tomorrow."
Rogue winced at the thought of what Evan and Kurt could do when they were in a mischevious mood.
"Well, if we're on a time limit, maybe we should just do a really thorough sweep of the park?" Wanda suggested.
"That sounds reasonable," Erik agreed.
Wanda laughed harshly. "I think that's the first time anyone's ever called me _reasonable_."
The trio turned to begin their pass through of the park. The sun finished setting behind them, and the lights began to flicker on. Rogue took one step and felt something cold, hard and _strong_ wrap around one ankle.
"Wha..? AAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHH!!!" She couldn't help herself screaming as she was pulled off her feet and swung into the air.
"ROGUE!" Erik and Wanda both took one step forward to help her, and then jumped aside as metal vines lashed out of the sewer opening and attempted to ensnare them. There was a sickening snap, and Erik's body flew through the air as he was lashed by one of the tentacles.
"GET OFF ME!" Wanda screamed as they wrapped around her. She couldn't move. She couldn't MOVE! Memories of the institution she'd spent most of her childhood in, and the dreaded straightjacket, filled her mind. "NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!" Around her, the trees began to warp in strange ways. "LET ME GO! LET ME GO! LET ME GO!" She chanted it over and over again, unable to move her arms or fire hex bolts. "LET ME GOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!"
Trapped in her own private hell, she collapsed to her knees.
Rogue too was having problems. The vines which had twined themselves around her legs had taken her on a wild ride through the air, like some kind of rollercoaster from hell, her joints aching from the sudden snap changes in direction and her head reeling as the world turned upside down and sideways. She closed her eyes and tried to at least control her stomach. It wasn't that she didn't want to be sick, but that she was afraid of where it would go if she did.
Down on the ground, Erik moaned and rolled over onto his back, then gently ran a hand down the burning line of fire across his chest. Bringing his hand away he was relieved to see there wasn't any blood, but a sudden pain in his side made him wonder if he might have fractured a rib. Breathing shallowly, he sat up, only to see more tentacles arrowing towards him. With a snarl he lashed out with his powers, and they were magnetically "knocked" away from him. Looking around he saw Rogue being twirled around like a doll.
"Rogue..." he coughed and tried again. "Rogue! ROGUE! Magnetic powers! REMEMBER YOUR POWERS!"
Above him, Rogue could barely hear through the ringing in her ears, but she caught the mention of powers. Groggily, she tried to use her magnetic powers to tear apart the tentacles binding her legs, but couldn't keep a grip on her abilities long enough to loosen them. She wasn't strong enough to break the tentacles by flying, and she couldn't fire bolts... Her mind spun and she tried to grasp on to a half-forgotten memory. It wasn't one of hers, but it was... there! Jean could form a force shield with her telekinesis, and Rogue had her memories of doing so. Therefore if she concentrated on herself...
Rogue screamed as the tentacles snapped her straight up into the air. Flinging her hands out either side, she concentrated as hard as she could on pushing everything away from her. The vines were ripped apart as a magnetic shield tore them away and formed a bubble around her. Unfortunately, the momentum from the swinging flung her, shield and all, high into the air and she arced away from the park. With a mighty effort, she focused her will, banished the shield and managed to hover in mid-air, where she promptly threw up everything she'd had to eat that afternoon.
Below and further away, Erik battled to keep the tentacles from striking him. Denied Rogue, the vines which had held her now lashed out at him. Gritting his teeth, he formed a magnetic barrier not unlike the one Rogue had just created. "WANDA!" He yelled. "Are you alright?"
Wanda was now screaming incoherently, vines binding her completely from shoulder to knees. Once she was immobilised, they began to draw her into the sewer opening.
"No! Wanda!" Erik gasped as a new wave of tentacles came in. Too fast, too many!
Suddenly the tentacles began to loop and spiral off in all directions. Rogue landed beside him in what was more of a half-fall than a true landing and braced herself against his shoulder.
"Ah'll keep them off, you get Wanda." She hissed.
Freed from the pressure of fighting the vines, Erik bent all of his concentration on the now nearly-cocooned Scarlet Witch. Her bindings literally ripped apart, spraying metal fragments and fibres in all directions. Suddenly freed, Wanda began to fire wildly in all directions, still screaming.
With the tide of power now turned, the tentacles retracted, disappearing back down into the darkness. However, Wanda still continued to scream and blast everything in sight, lost in her tormented memories.
"She's gone crazy!" Erik yelled.
"She didn't have that far to go," Rogue snapped. "Dammit!" She removed a glove.
Erik looked at her, "You're not seriously going to..."
"You got any better ideas?!" Rogue snarled. "You think I WANT to do this?"
Erik nodded resignedly. "I'll shield you. Go."
Rogue ran slowly over to Wanda, dodging the odd blast as best she could. The ground around her began to melt.
"Ah'm sorry Wanda," she said. "Ah really am."
Reaching out, she touched the Scarlet Witch's face.
Memories flooded into her, and she couldn't help but join Wanda in screaming as they flowed into her body. The cells, the straightjackets, the punishments, the dark places... she lived them all through Wanda's memories. The pain, the fear, and the hatred. Oh the hatred. It burned through her, like the power. Fiery, untamed, burning burning burning...
Erik watched in fear as Wanda collapsed and Rogue began to claw at her own face. St Elmos fire flickered all over her body and her hair stood on end. Her eyes were drowning - turned completely pitch black. She fell to her knees and he rushed forward.
She surged to her feet and punched him as hard as she could in the jaw (fortunately with her still-gloved hand). Erik slammed to the ground and stared up at her as she loomed over him, tears pouring down her face.
"How could you DO that to me?" She screamed.
"Rogue," Erik was lost for words.
"Do you know what they did to me in there? Do you? DO YOU? I TRUSTED YOU! I LOVED YOU! AND YOU BETRAYED ME!" Rogue's eyes were glowing and the wind whipped around her. Reality began to *twist*.
"ROGUE!" Erik yelled. "Rogue, listen to me! Whatever I did, I'm sorry!"
"SORRY? Sorry doesn't give me back my life!" Rogue screeched.
Erik took a deep shuddering breath. "Rogue, please..."
"You're a MONSTER!" She raised her hands, now glowing with power.
"Am I?" Erik asked her softly.
"What?" Rogue stared at him in confusion.
"Am I a monster?" He asked her quietly. "I don't know." He held out a hand towards her bare hand. "Why don't you tell me?"
She stared at it. The anger slowly drained out of her face. She reached out her gloved hand and gently clasped his hand, then released it. "No. Ah don't need to. Ah know who you are. You're Erik. That's good enough for me."
Erik looked almost disappointed. "I want you to be able to trust me." He said quietly.
"Ah do. That's why Ah don't need to do that." Rogue said. "Ah'm sorry."
"It sounds like _I'm_ the one who should be sorry." Erik said despondently, staring at Wanda's limp form.
"You probably should be. But Ah'm not the one you should be apologising to. And Wanda doesn't appear to be in any condition to hear it now." Rogue shuddered. "We should probably get out of here before that, whatever it was, comes back." She put on her other glove and helped Erik to his feet.
"What should we do with Wanda?"
"You should help her up," Wanda growled quietly as she opened her eyes. "What are you two blabbering away about?"
"It's... a long story," Rogue sighed.
"Then you can tell me later," Wanda sat up. "My head is killing me and my bruises have bruises. Let's get out of here."
They helped the girl up and slowly headed back to the Brotherhood of Bayville Boarding House.
"Don't worry about it," Wanda snapped. "You got those things off me. That's all I care about." She shot Rogue a look. "But I'm not going to thank you."
Rogue looked at her for a long moment. "Fine." She said finally. "Because you're very definitely not welcome."
The two girls exchanged a long stare, then burst into giggles.
"Women," Erik said in exasperation, then had to dodge two sharp elbow jabs. "Not the ribs! Not the ribs!"
"Ow," Rogue winced as the ground moved too quickly. "Well, it's official. Today sucked."
"And we haven't even got back home yet," Erik said. "I hate to think what the Professor's gonna say about this."
Rogue groaned loudly.
Go on to Part Four
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