Remnant of the Past: Chapter Two
Marvel owns everyone but Remnant, so this qualifies as textual poaching.
She did not turn at the sound of the door opening. "An elegant prison, Professor."
"This is not a prison, my lady," Xavier replied as he wheeled himself into the room, closing the door behind him. "You are not being held here."
"Somehow, I doubt that phoning Erik to retrieve me is an option." Remnant made sure her mental shields tightly in place, just as Emma taught her all those years ago. Emma had tried to school her in the tricks of telepathy after it became obvious that Remmant was leeching her powers, but it was a haphazard affair with one self-trained mind-witch teaching another. Emma may have been a power on the level of Charles Xavier, but she wasn't in his league when it came to researching the gift they both were granted. Regardless of their provenance, Remnant just hoped her shields, evolved since those early days with Emma, were enough.
Xavier did not comment on either her spoken words or her unspoken thoughts, if he could read those.
"This is a very beautiful home you have, Professor," she said after a moment, looking out the window. "Erik's memories do not do it justice."
Is she hinting that she is a telepath as well, Xavier mused to himself. His own mental shields were permanently in place -- the result of a lifetime spent in the presence of loudly broadcasting minds -- and he had trained all of his students (both the telepathic Jean as well as the headblind) to shield their thoughts on some level. It was both for their own safety as well as for his and Jean's peace of mind, but it was more the former that concerned him now. Detente with the opposition was one thing, but inviting a telepath of unknown power into the home he shared with innocent children was quite another. He sent out a gentle psionic probe. It bounced harmlessly off Remmant's own shields, but earned him a sharp glance. Her shields are strong but simply constructed, either built for her or done without trained assistance. A telepath of some sort; those shields are too strong to be of anything but her own energy."He has not been here since I opened the school," Xavier finally answered. "It is the children that bring it life."
She nodded and then turned back to the window. "Am I a guest here until I come around to your way of thinking, or until I provide you with a good reason for why we were all traipsing around northern Alberta the other night?"
"I would hope for both, but I would be pleased with either. I am not here to take. I am here to hope that you will give."
"I envy your relentless optimism, Professor, I really do. And I respect your work on behalf of these children," she sighed as she nodded towards the window. Outside in the distance, a soccer game was being played. "But I cannot share your hope. I've seen a little too much hatred to have any faith in a world where we can all co-exist in perfect harmony. Or even just slightly out of tune. So while you go your way, I will go mine. And that includes not undermining Erik."
"There is a middle road. Somewhere between my 'relentless optimism' as you like to call it, and Erik's apocalyptic vision."
"Is there?" She didn't turn around. "And if it is, is it any more practical?"
"Bloodshed is not the answer. It rarely is."
"It depends on the question, Professor. It depends on the question," she answered grimly as she looked at her coat hanging from a hook behind the door. "I am not being held here, correct?"
"Then I think it's time that I left." She walked over to the door. "I know better than to ask for the return of my holster and its contents."
"One thing before you leave, Remnant, if you would?"
"Why do you carry one pistol loaded with tranquilizer darts and one with bullets?"
The question seemed to surprise her, but the furrowed brow quickly melted into a smile as bitter as it was cold.
"Primum non nocere," she answered. Letting down her shields for a moment, she aimed a memory at Xavier, who looked at her wide-eyed for a split-second. "That should solve your curiosity. The problem with oaths is that you have to live up to them. The tranqs are often enough to do the job and it's so much easier than shooting to disable."
"First, do no harm," Xavier nodded. "You could have been a brilliant physician. Your empathy -- that's what it is, isn't it? -- your abilities, your medical training... You could have devoted your life to saving others."
"But I have, Professor," Remnant replied. "That's what you don't understand. We have the same goal, you and I. To save mutants from the grabbing hands of those who cannot understand us."
"And if you succeed, do the ends justify the means?"
"If we fail, does it matter?"
With that, she took her coat and left the room, borrowing the thoughts of a passing student to find the way to the front door.
He awoke with a start. He felt electrodes and the smooth coolness of a lab table, heard the beeping of medical monitors, smelled the antiseptic scent of a lab. Still groggy, all Logan could think about was how his nightmare had come to life... or had the last fifteen years been the nightmare?
He remembers almost nothing from before then. Even those first few years are hazy. Wandering around the Canadian Rockies, no-name town to no-name town, holding down any job that didn't require a resume, a background check, or a reference, moving on as soon as someone got suspicious about the wound that had healed in record time or the lack of history that always spelled bad news in small towns where everyone knew everyone else.
And then there were the nightmares... or were they memories? Logan had been cage-fighting for years, had battled everything from bears in the woods to overturned trucks after one too many drinks, but the nightmares still woke him up bathed in sweat.
They all started the same, with him walking in the snow through the woods. But then he's laying on a table with doctors all around, the tang of blood in the air and the unforgettable smell of cooking flesh as molten metal met bone. And then drowning, pulling on the cords that ran from the electrodes to the monitors, feeling the water fill his lungs... Until he woke up screaming.
So in that split second after he realized his surroundings and before he realized that this was a different lab, Logan felt true panic. What if this is reality? What if the past that I have been looking for has found me instead? What happens if I was wrong that the truth couldn't be worse than punching drunk bastards in seedy bars? What if I can't do anything about it?
He opened his eyes and jumped off the table all at once, grabbing the scared woman standing nearby. Knuckles to her forehead, he could smell that she knew exactly what he was threatening. The door, the door, he saw it and ran through it, tossing the woman aside like a rag doll, like the drunks in Laughlin City and a thousand other places just like it. And then he ran.
Antiseptic hallways, clean in a military fashion, not in a hospital one, added to Logan's sense of alarm as his dogtags rattled around his neck. But the voices... where were they coming from and how did he know whether to run towards them or away from them? Stumbling across a stash of clothes, workout uniforms from the looks of them, he hid behind crevices as the voices echoed. But the walls were metallic and the echoes weren't those of sounds bouncing off of metal. He leaned against one to ponder strategy when suddenly it shifted behind him... and he found himself in a mahogany wonderland. Teenagers wandered too and fro, the voices still ringing in his ears (but they aren't those of the kids?) urging him to come this way.
Logan hadn't survived fifteen years by putting blind faith in anyone, so he ran in the opposite direction and ducked into the nearest open room to catch his breath and his bearings... and landed right in the midst of a lecture?
"Welcome, Logan," the voice in his head no longer echoed.
"They call her Remnant," Scott Summers explained as the picture came on the overhead screen. Rogue sat next to Logan, guests at this meeting of the X-Men. Rogue was curious about why she was included in this seemingly adults-only conversation, but if it meant getting out of Mathematics for a day... and getting to spend some time with Logan, who clearly was not either used to or very receptive to being hunted down on a friendly social level.
The photograph was of Remnant not as she had first appeared to Rogue at the side of the crashed truck, but as she had become as soon as Cyclops and Storm had approached, all black clothes and those terrifying black-on-violet eyes.
"We aren't really sure what her actual mutation is," Scott smirked ruefully. "She's some kind of empath, we do know that, but what kind... we don't know. In contact with human and most mutants, all that means is that she knows what you're feeling. With some mutants, however, that empathy seems to allow her to tap into their powers."
"Like me?" Rogue sat up straight.
"Yes and no," Professor Xavier smiled. "Remnant does not necessarily need physical contact to 'borrow' someone's mutation, but from what we can tell, proximity is an important factor in how strong and how long her borrowing lasts. Since her association with Magneto, she seems to have picked up a little of his mutation permanently, a remnant of it, so to speak. That is what makes her so unpredictable -- we don't know what other 'remnants' are floating around inside her."
"Does she... do what Ah do?" Rogue whispered. No explanation was necessary.
"Contact or not, she doesn't seem to draw anything from the giver, essence-wise," Jean Grey shook her head, feeling her heartstrings tug as she watched Rogue's eyes fall. "Nor does she absorb memories or feelings."
"So she's like a leech, but without the blood loss," Logan mused. "How dangerous is she?"
"Her danger lies not in her powers, whatever they may be," Storm spoke quietly, "but in her willingness to use them to further her aims, or the aims of her companions. She's ruthless and will stop at nothing to get what she needs. She is so dangerous because she does not lose control."
"So how come she only knocked ya out instead of killin' ya when she tried to grab me?" Rogue knew it sounded petulant, but she was genuinely curious.
"Remnant has a strange compassionate streak," Cyclops explained with a shrug. "She doesn't hesitate to kill, but she doesn't kill unless she has to."
"She's an assassin with a conscience."
"She's a doctor gone astray," Xavier said quietly. "All the more reason we should seek her support, not her destruction."
Cyclops murmured something under his breath, Jean Grey and Storm looked impassive.
"Ms. Gratton let down her psi shields for a moment this morning," Xavier explained to his dubious students. "And I've been doing a little research based on what she let me see."
There was a murmur around the table.
"Remnant's real name is Amalie Gervais, born Amalie Gratton," Xavier explained, indicating that Scott should move the slide on the projector. "She is the wife of Pascal Gervais, now a powerful member of the Canadian Parliament representing Quebec. Amalie was in her second year of a pediatrics residency at Montreal General when she was attacked by mysterious assailants."
The slide showed a newspaper headline and clipping: MP's Wife Killed Protecting Infant Son From Attackers.
"So she's a ghost?"
"Not hardly. Her husband is a very outspoken anti-mutant advocate, Canada's answer to our own Senator Kelly. He tried to have her killed when he discovered her mutation, but she anticipated the attack and survived. She has spent the time since then plotting a way to retrieve her son."
"So tell me how a guy can marry a girl and not notice those eyes," Logan asked incredulously.
"Apparently, her current... striking appearance is a result of the attempt on her life. As we have seen, she does have the ability to switch between this version and one that is less... remarkable."
The projector whirred once more. A photo of a smiling young mother and child was now on the screen.
"Holy Fuck!" Logan spit out. "Mali."
Rogue awoke for no reason, the way you do in the middle of the night only when you really need to sleep. Deciding to get a drink of water, she wandered down the hall to the bathroom. Passing by Logan's room, she paused.
Was that a whimper?
Feeling a little foolish standing stock-still, ear cocked towards Logan's bedroom (as if there was going to be anyone awake to watch her), she waited. And just when she had convinced herself that she was hearing things (the old house does creak), a moan from the other side of the door proved her otherwise.
"Please, no more..."
It was the words themselves, more than the gasp that carried them, that scared Rogue enough to open the door to Logan's bedroom. She did not know him well, but she knew that it was better than anyone else here did, probably anyone else at all. And one thing Logan did not do, no matter what the situation, was beg.
With everyone, Logan was brusque -- okay, to Scott he was usually rude -- but with her, it was almost (not quite) evened out by a sort of crude consideration. He did not ask how your day was, but Rogue was sure that he wanted to know if something was seriously amiss. He did not want to know if she had caught Bobby Drake staring at Kitty, but if someone had threatened her, Logan would be expect to be told. And so Rogue crossed the threshold of his bedroom with the same principles in mind -- this was no ordinary moment.
He was turning his head back and forth, trying to deny his dream, Rogue imagined as she walked towards the bed. The hands that were usually deadly weapons were instead clutching bedsheets until those otherwise frightening knuckles were white with the effort.
He's not going to want me here, Rogue realized as she sat on the edge of the bed. He's not going to want me to see him as weak, as scared, as anything other than invulnerable. Because nobody wants to have to keep an eye on their bodyguard, and that is really what he thinks himself to be to me. Not a friend, Logan doesn't have friends, not a kindred spirit, but I am his charge. At least until Professor Xavier has proved himself as a worthy caretaker, until he knows that these are people I can be left with (he doesn't want that burden himself).
Rogue pondered whether to leave Logan, better to let his sleep go disturbed than to wound his pride, when he moaned again.
Can people cry in their sleep? Rogue wondered. Is that a tear?
She leaned over him and reached for the sheet, a part that Logan didn't have wrapped around his clenched fists, and through it touched his arm. "Logan?"
He didn't still, instead another tear slid down his cheek as he thrashed quietly.
"Logan!" Louder, poking his arm harder. Still nothing.
Rogue pondered her next move. There wasn't enough sheet available to do more than poke at his forearm, which obviously wasn't going to get the job done. She couldn't call any louder or she'd wake up half the floor in addition to Logan, thus making any potential embarrassment even worse... Of course. The old pillow snatch. Her cousin Katie used to do that to her when they'd have sleepovers at their grandparents', pulling the pillow out from underneath Rogue's head and waking her up for no good reason.
Rogue moved further onto the bed, far enough to reach across Logan and reach the pillow -- he was too close to the near end to be able to grab on. She was balancing herself to lean over when Logan cried out and sat up.
Oh god in heaven, that hurt. Rogue kept her eyes closed. She didn't need to look down and see claws in her torso, not when she could feel one grind painfully against a rib.
She opened them finally when she heard Logan gasp. She saw his eyes wide, not with terror from his nightmare, but horror at what he had done. They stared into each others eyes for what seemed like eternity, but couldn't have been. Before she closed her eyes again from the pain, she could have sworn he mouthed "I'm sorry" to her.
She felt rather than heard the claws retract, adamantium sliding against bone, and the force pulled her forward, towards Logan. She fell towards him, her hands landing on his clothed shoulders. He put his hands on her sides to steady her, grief making them shake.
Rogue opened her eyes again, determined to look him in the face, determined to let Logan know that this wasn't his fault. One look in his eyes assured her that he'd never believe her.
She reached up, suddenly wanting to touch him. I want to feel another person once more before I die. Then I won't be alone. I'm probably too weak to do harm...
Rogue placed her hand gently on his cheek, trying to comfort Logan. His eyes went wide, surprised at the gentleness, but then suddenly in shock. Rogue felt the charge as soon as it started. The same way she felt it when she kissed Cody, when she accidentally killed the neighbor's cat (at least she hadn't gotten any feline memories from that experience), when one last doctor had tried to examine her.
She saw Logan's eyes close in pain and then open in agony. She wanted to let go, but she knew what was happening, she felt the throb of the wounds lessen, felt the lightheadedness from the blood loss fade. You wanted to save me Logan, she thought, well, you just did.
Rogue let go when she heard Logan gasp for air, a catch in his breath that belied his attempt to suffer in silence. Her hand dropped and Logan fell back to the bed and Rogue knelt there like she was in a trance.
All of a sudden, memories flashed before her eyes. Bar brawls, feeling nothing but blackness, late nights on the Trans-Canada highway, lone forays into snowy forests, pain -- unbelievable pain -- mixed with the unmistakable odor of burning flesh... Mine? Logan's!... more dark roads, a lumberjack camp, making love (oh, my!), sitting at the bar in Laughlin City, finding Marie... (me!) crouched next to the bike, a vicious fight with a bear-man, running back to the truck to find Marie (me!) standing dumb with a body lying at the feet of her (my) would-be rescuer...
A hand shook her arm and Rogue turned in surprise to see Jean (so beautiful!) looking at her with fear on her face.
Turning back to Logan, she saw Ororo feeling for a pulse. Oh god, what did I do?
Jean and Scott helped her off the bed. Professor Xavier was behind them and most of the students whose rooms were on this wing were behind him.
When asked later, the next thing Rogue remembers is waking up on her bed, Ororo sitting nearby. Wondering why Storm would be in her room, wondering why her claws didn't come out like they usually did when she was awakened by surprise, then realizing what had happened and bursting into tears all over again, only stopping after Ororo repeated for the umpteenth time that Logan would be fine with a little rest.
Down the hall, Xavier sat with Logan, watching him sleep, amazed that even in his weakened state, his mental shields were still in place, making it impossible for Xavier to either aid or pry. Not that he would do the latter.
Rogue tried to visit Logan's bedside, but he was always asleep when she came. She strongly suspected he wasn't really asleep -- "Ah know you now, Logan," she had chided gently -- but hadn't done anything about it. When he was finally up and about, he avoided her at all costs, his heightened senses making him harder to catch than her own newly heightened (but already starting to fade) ones could match.
Finally, she cornered him out on the grounds of the estate, far from the basketball court and play grounds. He was fishing in the brook and she knew there was no way for him to pack up his things or abandon the rod without looking completely obvious.
They had sat in silence for a while, each afraid to start the discussion they both knew they had to have.
"Ah'm glad you're startin' to stop prancin' through mah head," she had said by way of introduction. "Ah don't think Ah've eaten this much meat in mah life as Ah have the past few weeks."
He had been forced to smile at that. "At least you won't have to eat moose for yourself to know how bad it is."
They discussed, indirectly, the memories that she had seen. Logan had not objected to her going to the Professor to get them sorted out and filed away -- "Ah like ya a lot Logan, but you're startin' to make me a little nuts" -- in the hope that maybe Xavier could see something in them that might provide a clue to his past. If the Professor had, he hadn't said anything to either Logan or Rogue.
When Rogue left Logan to his fish, she had been smiling. They had ended on a positive note, he thought, as Marie didn't seem to hate him for nearly killing her. So he was very surprised to find the house in a flummox when he returned for lunch.
"Rogue is missing," Ororo explained.