So Impossible

Part 7 - Numb

I've become so numb
I can't feel you there,
Become so tired
So much more aware...
¹

* * * * *

In the days that followed the attack, Rogue's personality was overshadowed by Logan's, making her even more irritable and detached than usual. The first time someone annoyed her, which wasn't particularly hard given the state she was in, bone claws unexpectedly ripped out of the back of her hands...and so the X-Men learned that Logan's claws were not pure adimantium, but rather, a natural part of his mutation that was coated with the indestructible metal when the rest of his skeleton had been tampered with.

Once his personality had sufficiently worn off, Rogue wandered the halls of the mansion like a ghost - without speaking to or looking at anyone she came across. She became an empty shell, void of emotion, unwilling to do anything more than go through the motions of staying alive. She ate, drank, breathed, slept, but did little else. She continued her habit of covering most of her body, but inexplicably left her hands and feet bare. Everyone stayed out of her way...after several attempts at coaxing her into conversation, they decided to keep their distance and left her alone to deal with whatever inner demons she was facing.

Gambit was tremendously distressed by her behavior. She was distancing herself from the people who loved her in every way possible. Even though he knew that leaving the rogue alone was sometimes the best way to help her, he continued his attempts to get through to her. Time and again he was silently rebuffed by the lifeless glass eyes, a doll's eyes, that saw him without seeing him.

He was quick to share his concerns with the professor, who had a million other things on his mind. "Give her time," he urged as he worked with Beast to upgrade the security system.

But he felt like he was running out of time...or, more accurately, she was running out of time. Logan was still in a coma, and showed no indication of recovering, though his life signs were stable. Jean, who was already determined to become a doctor and had been volunteering at a hospital near her college, was taking care of him. The older X-Men, the ones that knew Rogue best, were surprised that she didn't keep a constant vigil at the bedside of her mentor...but most wrote it off as just another eccentricity that stemmed from her near-death experience.

"If Logan was awake, he'd know what to do," Gambit thought. After all, he was the source of the foreign memories floating around Rogue's head...maybe they were the cause of her strange conduct. But while he considered it a possibility, he didn't think this was the case. There was something else troubling her...something so painful or traumatic that she had shut herself off from the rest of the world. She was obviously upset that Logan was in a coma, especially since she was the cause, but Gambit thought there had to be more to it. And for the life of him, he couldn't figure out what.

In lieu of helping her, he spent most of the day silently shadowing her. Of course, by the next day, he had thrown out this idea, as she spent the majority of the previous one locked in her room. Instead, he turned his focus on the "crime scene," which was still cordoned off. Other than the fact that the bloodstains were long dry and the French doors were closed, the room was exactly the way it had been the night of the attack. Gambit took his time going over every inch of the floor, but found nothing. There weren't any bloody fingerprints on the walls, no bloody footprints...it was impossible that whoever did this escaped without getting any gore on him/her/them. The lack of clues didn't make any sense. He reexamined the French doors, this time taking a closer look at the lock. He still didn't see any evidence of tampering, which either meant that the intruder was a master lock picker or...Gambit stood up straight. "Or he didn' come in through the French doors." All this time everyone had assumed that the individual/individuals who attacked Rogue made their entrance through the French doors...but what if that wasn't the case at all? What if he/she/they came in another window? Or even the front door? What if he/she/they only left through the French doors? Better yet - what if the open doors were just a red herring...what if no one had gone through them at all? As a variety of possibilities bombarded his brain, Gambit was struck by yet another theory - what if the doors had been opened to prolong Rogue's suffering? Once the professor and Beast had looked at the physical evidence and spoken to witnesses, including Rogue, they decided that her wounds were probably relatively shallow. As a result, she had bled slowly, almost as if her assailant intended her death to be as long and painful as possible...if he/she/they opened the French doors to lower the room temperature, it would have also decreased Rogue's body temperature and slowed her bleeding.

The X-Men had enemies, but none were cruel enough to do something like this...or were they? Was Rogue the target, or was she just a convenient victim? Did someone try to kill her to send the rest of them a message, or was it directed at one of them in particular? There was something all wrong about this...something didn't fit. Until he figured out what it was, his questions would remain unanswered. As for suspects, he had his own ideas, but couldn't come up with a decent motive for any of them, so he kept them to himself for the time being.

With more questions than answers, Gambit left the room and locked the door behind him, before checking in on Rogue. He found her door uncharacteristically open, and her room empty, so he checked a few other rooms, namely the bathrooms, kitchen, and infirmary, but still no Rogue. His perturbation growing by the second, he informed the professor that he was unable to find her, and the leader of the X-Men telepathically instructed his students to search the Institute for her. But it was to no avail.

She was gone.

~

Wanda was listening to music in her room when she heard a crash downstairs. It wasn't unusual for her teammates to break things during their frequent scuffles, but she was rapidly getting sick of all the mindless destruction. She turned off her CD player and stormed down the stairs. "Can't you guys go for five minutes without..."

Toad jumped at her, knocking her down in mid-sentence. "Shhhhh..." he hissed in her face.

"Get off me, slimeball," she demanded, pushing him off her and attempting to stand.

"Get down," he replied, yanking her arm and forcing her back to the ground. "We're under attack."

"What are you talking about?" she asked, lowering her voice.

"It's the X-Men."

Wanda glanced around the room...the large picture window had a gaping hole in it; amongst the shattered glass on the floor was a large rock. Just then, Lance and Pietro, wandered in from the kitchen. "I'm sorry, we interruptin' somethin'? Lance asked with a sly grin.

Pietro looked past the "happy" couple on the floor and noticed the broken glass. "Hey, what happened?"

Wanda squirmed out of Toad's grasp and walked over to the window. Rogue was standing in the middle of their front lawn in a black cloak. "It's Rogue..."

"Oh my God, I told you," Toad began, a touch of panic in his voice. "Man, she's the worst one, the way she just touches you and then..." he shuddered at his memories of her taking his powers.

Lance joined Wanda at the window to see for himself, while she turned to her brother for an explanation of their absence. "Where were you guys when all this was goin' on?"

Pietro held up a bowl of freshly made popcorn in response.

"Don't worry," Lance assured Toad, "I'll take care of her..."

"Wait," Wanda said, grabbing his arm, "this doesn't make any sense...I mean, think about it a minute. When have the X-Men ever attacked us without provocation?" She bent down and picked up the rock. "And since when do they throw rocks through windows?"

"You've got a point, sis," Pietro admitted. "Give me a few seconds to check things out." Quicksilver put the bowl on a nearby table, and was back only seconds after he left. "She's alone."

"There's something very wrong here," Wanda said, heading for the front door.

Toad jumped in front of her, blocking her path. "Don't go out there, there might be more of 'em."

"I said there wasn't," Pietro growled. "You callin' me a liar?"

"Guys, if there's a bunch of X-Men out there, we can't afford to fight amongst ourselves," Lance jumped in.

"Now you're callin' me a liar?"

Wanda sighed in disgust and opened the door while the boys duked it out...but the yard was empty. She boldly walked over to where Rogue had been standing and retrieved he dark piece of cloth that she'd left behind, then returned to the house. She went up to her room and turned the music back on...but she couldn't regain her previous sense of contentment. The cloak she had draped over a chair silently implored her to do something. After a half hour of debating whether or not she should get involved, Wanda grabbed the article of clothing and once again headed downstairs.

The boys had hurriedly taped a piece of plastic over the window, and were currently focusing their attention on the TV. If she wanted the glass replaced, she was going to have to arrange it herself...but not now. Now she had more important things to do.

"Lance, can I borrow your jeep?"

"Sure," he said, his eyes glued to the screen. "You know where the keys are..."

"Thanks," she muttered, grabbing the keys. "Later."

The others mumbled distracted good-byes, but Toad followed her outside. "Where ya goin'?"

"Out."

"No kiddin'...out where?"

"Outta your sight."

Todd Tolensky was used to Wanda's rebuffs, and each harsh word only made him more determined to win her heart. He liked her...a lot. He'd do just about anything for her. Except leave her alone. "Come on, cuddlebug, don't be like that."

"Why don't you just go back inside and make yourself a fly sandwhich...?"

" 'Cause there's a X-Man runnin' around throwing rocks...someone's gotta protect you."

"I can take care of myself."

"I know that...it's just...y'know, there's safety in numbers."

Considering how scared he was of Rogue, Wanda knew how difficult it was for him to volunteer to accompany her. This somewhat heroic gesture made her soften a little towards him. "Fine...but I'm only letting you come 'cause I know you'll just follow me anyway."

"Sweet," he said cheerfully, hopping into the passenger side. "Where we goin'?"

"You'll see."

Ten minutes later they pulled up to the gates in front of Xavier's Institute. "Are you kiddin' me...what're we doin' here?"

"There's something wrong with Rogue...somebody should tell them."

"And how do you plan on gettin' in? It's not like we can just ring the doorbell and they'll let us in..."

Wanda rolled down the window and pressed the button on the intercom. "Hello...?"

The camera on the gate focused on them, and a quiet male voice responded to her greeting. "Wanda, how can we help you?"

She hadn't really thought this through, and didn't know what she should say. "Um...I need to talk to someone about...Rogue. She came by and..."

She wasn't given the opportunity to finish. The gates in front of them opened, and Wanda drove the jeep to the front steps of the mansion. "What d'ya know," Toad commented as they walked up the steps, "it worked."

Before she could respond, the door opened. When Toad saw Gambit standing there, he cowered behind Wanda. The Cajun glanced at him before giving Wanda a puzzled look. "Some protector you turned out to be," she murmured before entering the building.

The two were escorted to the den, where Professor X and the other X-Men anxiously awaited some kind of news about Rogue. Wanda handed over the cloak, and described what had happened. She saw their disappointment when they discovered that she had only the barest of facts to relay, and regretted that she couldn't tell them more.

"She had this crazy look in her eyes," Toad announced when she was done. "Like she was gonna..."

"You're exaggerating," Wanda interrupted, annoyed. "She didn't look crazy, she looked..." she paused, searching for the right word. "She had a blank expression...it was almost like she was lost, but didn't care."

"It was creepy," Toad stated.

"It was," she agreed. "I was gonna talk to her, but by the time I went out there, she was gone."

Although Lance and Kitty had been growing apart in the past few months, they were still somewhat of an item, and as such, Kitty had the most contact with the members of the Brotherhood...she knew how hard it must have been for Wanda to cross team lines and bring them this information. In return, she felt like someone should give her an idea of what was going on, to show their appreciation. "She left sometime yesterday...we haven't been able to find her..."

"Kitty!" Kurt exclaimed, uncomfortable with her divulging any information relating to their problems.

"It's all right, Kurt," the professor said patiently. "Wanda and Todd have come here on their own accord, in an attempt to help. It's only fair we fill them in on some of the more pertinent fact surrounding our situation."

Once a brief description of Rogue's behavior and disappearance had been explained - leaving out the mysterious attack, Logan's coma, and Rogue's brush with death - Wanda turned the professor inquisitively. "I don't understand...can't you just read her mind or something?"

"When Rogue absorbs someone, she also absorbs their memories and personalities...because of this, it's difficult for me to get into her head unless she volunteers to let me in. Furthermore, Cerebro can only identify the general location of a mutant, and then only if that mutant is using his or her powers."

"If there's anything we can do..." she offered.

"Yeah," Toad jumped in. "I mean, we got nothin' better to do..."

Wanda glared at him, irritated at his insensitive addition to her sincere remarks. "We could always use an extra set of eyes or two," the professor said. "If you don't mind driving around looking for her."

"Count us in."

~

Gambit rose early the next morning. Today was Sunday. Rogue had been AWOL since Friday night. They would continue their search, but he knew it would once again be fruitless. If Rogue didn't want to be found, she wouldn't be, case closed. After eating a quick breakfast and checking on Logan, Gambit went to the roof. "Let them run around chasing their tails," he thought to himself. He was going to stay behind today...just in case she decided to come back...as unlikely as that might be.

He watched as Wanda and Todd drove up in Lance's jeep, mildly surprised that they had decided to join the hunt. Several minutes later, groups of X-Men in a variety of vehicles departed to begin another day's worth of pointless searching.

Around 11:30, the professor's voice snuck into his head. "Gambit, you have a phone call."

It was James Wallington; Gambit had informed him of Rogue's absence, and asked him to keep an eye out for her. Apparently, someone had broken into The Dungeon some time during the night, but nothing seemed to be missing. Although they had no proof it was her, both men surmised that Rogue had spent the night in her favorite hangout, if for no other reason than to keep from freezing to death, since the temperature had dropped to the single digits. Gambit thanked him for the information and hung up.

The good news was that she had enough sense to stay out of the cold. The bad news was that she was still gone.

He was making his way back to the roof when Jean contacted him telepathically. "Gambit, Logan's awake...he's asking for you."

"Wonderful," Gambit muttered to himself as he descended to the mansion's lower levels. "I get t'be the one who tells him about what's goin' on..."

He entered the infirmary, where Jean was studying the readings of one of the many machines. She looked up when she heard his footsteps, and approached him. "He's still pretty weak," she warned in a hushed voice, "but he'll be good as new in a day or two...still, try not to get him too worked up."

Jean abandoned him then, and Gambit was left to be the bearer of bad news alone. He sat in the chair next to the only occupied bed in the room, and Logan turned his head to face him. "How's the kid?"

"Didn' you ask Jean?" he asked, stalling.

"I'm not askin' Jean, I'm askin' you."

Gambit was going to have to word his response carefully. "Physically, she's fully recovered...in fact, right after you...did what you did, I checked her for wounds, and they'd already healed. We just had to wait for her body to replace all the blood she'd lost. After a day of bed rest, she was up an' around."

"What about the rest of her?"

"Huh?"

"Don't play dumb with me, physical scars ain't the only ones we're dealin' with here."

Gambit took a deep breath. "She ran away."

Logan nodded. "I'm not surprised...when?"

"Two nights ago."

"Tell me everything..."

Finally able to confer with the one man who might know what Rogue was going through, Gambit told him everything that had happened in the week before she left, down to the smallest detail. Logan listened patiently, and said nothing until he was finished.

"They're not gonna find her."

"I know...why d'you think I'm not out there with 'em?"

"But," Logan continued, "You better hope she turns up soon, before..."

Gambit waited for him to finish, but he didn't. "Before what?"

Realizing he had said too much, Logan clammed up. "Nothin'."

"Oh no, you're not gonna pull that nothin' crap on me...what aren't you tellin' me?"

"She might try an' hurt herself."

"No...Rogue's not that kind of girl."

"She's not. But with my memories, my personality, my rage..." his voice trailed off, and he sighed. "I know what she's doin'...she's copin' with her feelings by shutting herself off. That's how I deal with...well, let's just say that's the way I keep my more animalistic tendencies under control. An' it works for me. But I've also mastered it...when my emotions are dangerous, I know how to handle 'em...and when they're not, when it's safe, I can let my guard down."

Gambit thought back to the bayou, when Logan had nearly taken his head off...and he remembered the look in the other man's eyes. It was the look of a wild animal whose young had been snatched by another. It faded when Rogue voiced her objection to Logan's intended action, but there was still a glimmer of feral protectiveness even as he released him. "So what're you sayin'?"

"She's buried her feelin's down so deep that she can't find them anymore. An' she'll do anythin' to get 'em out..."

~

John Allerdyce was bored out of his mind. Sitting in the control room watching movies in the building that had once been the Acolytes' center of operations had finally lost its charm. He stood up and stretched. He needed to get out...set a stray cat's tail on fire or something. He had hung around all day waiting for a call about a job, but the phone had yet to ring. Another day wasted. He was about to go to his room to change out of his uniform when something caught his eye. Motion. His eyes excitedly scanned the seven small screens attached to security cameras that were scattered around the warehouse, hoping to spot an intruder he could have some fun with. But whoever, or whatever, he had seen moving out of the corner of his eye was camera shy.

Determined to get the drop on his mystery guest, Pyro ran up to the roof and surveyed the area below. He wasn't really expecting to find anything...a bum wandering around in a drunken haze, maybe. Those guys came around often enough, but he usually left them alone. They were easy targets, too helpless for him to get any pleasure out of hassling. Just as he was about to give up, he saw Rogue's head poking up above crate.

Pyro suppressed a giggle. Things were lookin' up. This wasn't the first time she'd dropped by without an invitation, but this time the joke was on her...he spotted her before she could sneak in and pull any of her absorbing nonsense.

Quickly and quietly he made his way down from the roof by leaping on shorter and shorter stacks of crates until he jumped in front of her, fires blazing from both wrists, ready to singe her within an inch of her life. "So...ya thought ya could just waltz on in and..."

His stopped his clever speech and extinguished his flames, his mouth dropping open ever so slightly. Rogue stood before him motionless, wearing a black tank top and shorts. She didn't flinch when he had threatened her. This was not the same woman he had faced before. "Hey...are you all right?"

A blank stare was her only response.

"If this is some kind a' trick..."

She blinked. There was no recognition, no feeling, no life in her once bright green eyes.

Confused, but concerned, Pyro scooped her up and brought her inside.

~

The sun was setting when the troops regrouped at the Institute - still no sign of Rogue. While they tried to decide what, if anything, should be done next, Pyro walked up to the front gates.

He had kept her in the warehouse in front of a blazing fire, provided by himself, of course, until he was satisfied that she had sufficiently warmed up. Then he put a pair of thick socks on her feet, wrapped her in a blanket, and carried her over to the Institute. It was a long walk on a cold day, but he didn't want to chance putting her on the back of his bike...in her state he wasn't sure she'd hold on to him. Besides, he was the master of fire, lord of the flames...whenever he got tired, he'd set her down and create a circle of fire around them.

When he reached the gate, he had a couple of options...but since he thought he'd never have the chance again, he decided to make a game out of it. After carefully putting Rogue down, and making sure she'd stand on her own, Pyro pointed his flame throwers at the gates. With a gleeful giggle, he threw a huge fireball at the metal, instantly melting it into a mangled pile of useless junk.

"Now wasn't that fun?" he asked Rogue, picking her back up.

Some of the X-Men had seen the fireball, but those who had not were informed of the intruder by the alarms echoing through the mansion's halls. Everyone waited, their muscles tense, ready for the professor's instructions. Logan wandered over to the control room, where Storm and Gambit were flipping through every security camera's feed until they came to the one they wanted.

"Pyro..." he growled behind them, his claws coming out with a snikt.

"I'm goin' out," Gambit said quietly. "Alone."

"Like hell you are..."

"Five minutes. That's all I need."

Gambit took the elevator up to the ground floor and walked out the front door. He had once told Rogue that he and John weren't friends...that wasn't exactly true. While they weren't exactly bosom buddies, they got along better than any of the other Acolytes, and had spent many a night in bars just hanging out. So he knew there was more to Pyro than just a psychotic little firebug looking to torch everything under the sun. Still, he had several decks of cards in assorted pockets, and his collapsed bo-staff in his hand as he approached his former teammate on the front lawn. Just in case.

"John...long time no see."

"Ah...you're a good guy now? Neva woulda guessed."

"Yeah, well, you know me, always a sucker for a pretty face."

Pyro looked down at Rogue. "I thought the pretty faces were always a sucka for you."

Gambit stopped where he was, a few feet from Pyro. "Things change."

Pyro's eyes had a touch of resentment in them when he looked up. "Apparently."

"I didn' come out here to fight you, homme."

An insane laugh erupted from his lips. "You think I came here to fight?" He walked up to Gambit and handed Rogue over. "If I wanted to roast the sheila, I would've saved myself the trouble of walkin' all the way ova here and done it on my own turf. Besides," he continued, backing off, "the girl's obviously not right in the head...that's not a fair fight, mate."

"Thanks," Gambit said, turning back to the house.

"Hey...wait. What's wrong with her?"

Gambit didn't answer. The older X-Men rushed out of the building, eager to make sure Rogue was all right, while the new recruits were instructed to hang back. Logan led the pack, and though he had not fully recovered, he was a force to be reckoned with. After motioning to Gambit to put her down, Logan roughly grabbed her wrist and dragged her across the lawn. Everyone followed him without a word...even Pyro joined the crowd of onlookers, his curiosity getting the best of him.

They ended up on the side of the pool. Logan let go of Rogue, who had dropped the blanket and was standing there in nothing more than her skimpy outfit and Pyro's socks, and tore the plastic blue tarp off the top of the pool, only to find the water coated with a thick layer of ice. His eyes skimmed the crowd until he found who he was looking for.

"Hey, pyromaniac, come here."

Pyro proudly stepped forward. "What can I do for ya?"

"Melt the ice," he said, pointing to the pool. "But don't warm up the water."

"No problem." Using only his right hand, he sprayed flames over the frozen coating for a few seconds.

"Good."

Logan grabbed Rogue once again and flung her into the deep end.

Even though the others had suspected he was going to do something like that, they were nonetheless astonished when he actually did it. Gambit went to jump in after her, but Logan held him back. "Wait for it..."

Rogue sank to the bottom without much of a reaction, but after a few seconds, she came back to life. The cold water had been enough to shock her back into the real world, and the second shock of the even colder air that welcomed her when she rocketed to the surface ensured that her return was absolute. She swam to the side of the pool and climbed out of her own accord, refusing the hands that were offered to her. Gambit covered her near-naked body with his trench coat, and was thanked by a look that blazed with icy hatred.

Wanda stepped out of the small crowd to support her, and she finally allowed herself to be helped inside by several of her friends. Everyone else followed suit, except Pyro, who wandered off into the night, and Logan and Gambit, who remained at the pool.

"Is she gonna be all right?" Gambit asked.

"Yeah," Logan replied. "Eventually. But wakin' her up was the easy part...helpin' her deal with all those pent up emotions...that's gonna take time."

"Did you see the look she gave me?"

"The girl's hurtin'. Bad. She almost killed someone an' nearly died herself...at least she's startin' to let it out now."

He knew Logan was right...she'd been through a lot, and it was good for her to get it all out. But he also knew who her rage would be directed at, and he didn't understand why, of all people, it had to be him.

 

1 - Excerpt from Numb, by Linkin Park

 

Part 8