Wolverine is unable to save Rogue's life and has to deal with the consequences.
Categories: X3 Characters:
Inspired by Yasona Black’s fic “Sworn to Protect,” the De/Vision song “Miss You More,” and a challenge to myself to write a story with only one spoken word. Rated PG-13 for language.
1. Chapter 1 by rogueslove
2. Chapter 2 by rogueslove
It had been two years since she died. Two years since he slashed through the steel doors and soft flesh of the laboratory and the scientists to arrive seconds too late. Two years since he cradled her marred body in his arms, feeling the blood in her veins grow cold while he clutched her head to his chest.
They had mangled her body with their experiments, the purpose of which he never bothered to find out. She was malnourished, her body scared by a patchwork of incisions, her lips dry and cracked. It was her hair that bothered him the most, but it took him ages to understand why. They had dyed her tell-tale white streak brown, making it indistinguishable from the rest of her hair. Perhaps they had even done something chemically or genetically to make it return to her natural color. No matter how they had done it, it drove him mad. The simple white streak in Rogue’s hair had been a constant reminder to Wolverine of the history the two shared, how much he had been willing to risk for her, how much she meant to him. And the fucking scientists had erased it.
He often wished that there had been even just a breath of life left in her when he found her, so he could tell her something, anything. But he never could figure out what would have been the right thing to say. He never had been good with words.
These days he hardly ever said a word. There was no one worth talking to, nothing worth saying. Officially, he was still an X-Man, the mansion was still his home. Yet he spent most of his time treading the grounds, occasionally killing a stray deer that crossed his path. Once in a while he would go to a bar to try to get good and drunk, which was difficult for him. He needed to be fully intoxicated to even attempt to fuck one of the bar-room skanks, something that had never been an issue before. The release that had once been so easy, now became a struggle for him. Any human interaction was.
The other X-Men had tried to console him at first. They reminded him that she would have died years earlier if it had not been for him. Told him how important he was to the cause and to the young mutants still alive in the mansion. He couldn’t force himself to care about the kids or the cause, but he kept fighting for them. He saw it as penance for the greatest failure in his life. For not saving her. Maybe if he saved enough of them, he would in some way be worthy of her memory, worthy of being beloved by one so kind, so pure.
In the days immediately following her discovery and death, his mind was focused not on penance, but revenge. The military research organization that was responsible had not hidden their tracks well, and the X-Men were able to ferret out all their facilities and backers. Storm and the others had mostly used legal means to destroy them, but even the highly ethical X-Men were happy to hand over the names and whereabouts of the most vile culprits to Wolverine.
He had made them suffer. But never enough for his liking.
Neither vengeance nor atonement had appeased him, for neither could bring her back to him. It had taken him the last two years to realize that not only had Rogue died in that cold lab, but the last shred of his humanity. When she had first found him, he was still struggling to try and find the man inside the monster. Not only had she seen that struggle when she peered into him mind, but she had accepted him – both sides of him. She trusted him, enjoyed spending time with him, even loved him. She was the final piece of the puzzle, although he realized it too late. He had long thought that the only way he would have ever truly be loved was to find a way to be human. It had been the reverse.
The moments of introspection that led him to these conclusions invariably took place as he stood vigil at her grave. No one disturbed him there, no one was foolish enough to. Once or twice he tried to work the mess that was his own mind out while visiting the graves of Jean or the Professor. It wasn’t the same, they may have meant something to him, but nothing on the level of what Rogue had.
It was deep into a moonless night when Storm hesitantly approached Wolverine in the graveyard. She whispered some information about a facility that might have been connected to the organization that had taken Rogue, the one they had thought they had taken out. He nodded to confirm that he heard her, but stayed planted to the spot, looking down at the grave and silently promising her to prolong the suffering of anyone who had a hand in her death.
The X-Men’s attack on the facility went as planned until they broke up to try and find any stragglers or valuable pieces of information. Wolverine found himself barreling through a series of heavily reinforced doors, half-mad with blood-lust that he was unable to sate with the cowering peons he encountered. His feral rage gave way to confusion as he entered a room filled with sights and smells unlike any other. Half-formed bodies suspended in green, brackish water brought back flashes of memories that he struggled against. Scents both familiar and foreign assaulted him. Through the sensory overload he was able to hear the cocking of a gun.
Slashing through the weapon with a swift swipe of his claws, he pointed the adamantium spikes menacingly at the man’s throat. The man gasped and whispered his name. From the resulting interrogation and beating of the man, Wolverine learned a few things. First, that the organization that had caused Rogue’s death had merely been a puppet of this, the far more sophisticated research organization. Second, these people had the ability to clone and accelerate human growth. Third, the Rogue that had died two years previous, had not been Rogue.
The last confession of the beaten and bloodied man made Wolverine halt in his tracks. The barely breathing man gestured towards a barely visible door before passing out. Wolverine could not find the strength to move, his mind still reeling. Pushing back the creeping hope that was invading his mind, he radioed for Beast, who showed up seconds later. Wolverine gestured towards the door but did not follow Beast through it. He didn’t wait around to find it empty, which was what he assured himself it was. Just another tactic used by the sadistic scientist fucker to save his own hide. He walked out, even as he heard the Beast’s gasp and radio for Colossus’ help.
With uncharacteristic lethargy, he walked to the X-Jet and waited. The other X-Men shuffled in, Storm greeting him with a look of shock upon her face, but no words, as she passed him heading towards to cockpit. The last to board were Colossus and Beast.
He couldn’t look at them, he didn’t want to see that body that they were holding. The body that they surrounded and put on the single medical alcove. People buzzed around the body, but he turned his eyes downward, ignored the worried and exited tones of his fellow mutants, and tried not to breathe in the smell – her smell.
Something caught his eye. A wisp of white hair standing out amongst a sea of brown. He choked out a sob he didn’t know was there and barreled over to her unconscious form. Glancing at the various monitors hooked up to her body, he could tell she was alive, but weak.
The others fell back to take their seats, leaving Beast to monitor her and Wolverine to protect her. Disbelief did battle with joy and despair in his mind. She was alive, but it had been two years. Two years since they took her away from him. Two years of experimentation and torture. Two years of her constant questioning of why he had abandoned her. He realized that it was now that his real penance would begin.
He gently grasped one of her delicate hands in his gloved hand. He watched as her eyelids started to flutter and her breathing became more regular. Slowly opening her eyes, which were assaulted by the harsh light, she struggled to discern her surroundings.
Her eyes fully opened and focused on him, looking at him with disbelief. He held her hand tighter as a tear rolled down his cheek. The edges of her lips crept up into a small, sad smile that was echoed in her eyes.
She opened her mouth to speak, but seemed as tongue-tied as he was. She pushed out a single syllable, so soft it was audible only to him. “Hi.” He never heard sound that rivaled its beauty.
I am bowing to public pressure and writing more of what was originally a one-shot. Thank you to everyone for their encouragement. It took me a while to find an angle that coalesced with the first portion, and I hope you enjoy the results.
He hated the Institute’s lab. It was an irrational hate, he realized, as it was a center of healing, but hospitals and labs always made his blood run cold. Once in the confines of the Xavier Institute, Rogue had been shuffled to the basement levels for treatment, with Logan following closely behind. He had fought back the growing panic to assure her that he was still there, but his anxiety increased tenfold once the med-lab doors opened and Rogue was overcome by the same fear that gripped him. Though weak and disoriented, she started to struggle against the firm but gentle hands of Beast and Storm.
At seeing her distress, the Wolverine’s instincts kicked in and he pushed his teammates aside and cradled the fragile girl in his arms. Through the stiff leather of his uniform, he could feel her nails digging into his forearms. Exquisite pain. Her staccato heartbeat matched his own, and he drew her in closer till they beat in time, gradually slowing.
He wove his hands through her hair, adoring the play of white and brown strands as they glided through his fingers. He cursed himself for not seeing it sooner, for not recognizing that the girl that had died in his arms two years previous was only a pale imitation of the girl he now held. The absent white streak had disturbed him at the time, but it should have been obvious to him that his Rogue always would bear the mark of their connection. Her breathing steadied and Dr. McCoy’s low and temperate voice beckoned Logan to release the girl into his care.
He still held her tight, but he carried her into the medical lab, as requested. Placing her gingerly onto the bed, their eyes met for the first time since stepping out of the X-Jet. There was still panic in her gaze, but it was fading. He had hoped that some joy or understanding would trickle through her velvety brown eyes, but there was none. Just the ebbing panic being replaced by pain and recrimination. He stayed by her side until the sedatives kicked in and she drifted into a dreamless sleep. Only then did he allow himself to be led out of the lab by Storm into a nearby waiting room, where he sat and ruminated on his failure to protect the girl.
The others seemed to delight in telling him at the relief he was feeling at finding her alive. Funny, he didn’t recall feeling relief. Shock, yes. And guilt. So much guilt he could fucking choke on it. She had been in that Hell-hole for over two years. He didn’t remember how long he’s been stuck in the government facility before they tore open his body and filled him with metal, but he was damn sure it wasn’t anything close to two years. And the experience had cut him so deep that even he couldn’t heal from it. He had no idea how she was expected to deal with it. He absently wondered if it wouldn’t have been kinder to sink his metal claws into her, take away the pain and anger that would inevitably claim any shred of humanity she had left. But he knew he couldn’t do it, even if she begged him. He would split open every vein in his body, bleed to death for her, but he could never harm her. Not again.
Rogue was malnourished and scarred, inside and out. Beast analytically laid out her situation to the senior staff. Wolverine barely heard a word he said. The doctor said some shit about therapy and helping her readjust. He would occasionally snort derisively at McCoy’s clinical suggestions and the questions posed by the other mutants, who sounded more like students kissing up to their teacher than people concerned about their abused friend. Anger welled up inside him, realizing that few of her former teammates truly gave a damn about her. Part of him wanted to gut the fuckers, but a small logical part of him realized that wouldn’t help a damn thing.
When she awoke the senior members of the X-Men slowly laid out their story for her, bit by bit, in hushed tones. They told her about their frantic search after she was taken, the horrors of laboratory where they found the body that was genetically the same as her own, and the steps, sometimes unethical, that they had undertaken to make sure that the organization responsible paid for its crimes. Every word out of their mouths dripped with apology and a deep need for her understanding. She sat there unmoved, seemingly unaffected by their tale. Only he picked up the distress that wafted from her when they told her about her clone.
When she was well enough to walk, he pulled on a pair of weathered brown leather gloves that had lay forgotten at the back of his closet for the last two years, and silently led her by the hand to the graveyard. She followed, angry and saddened, but mute to the world. He showed her the polished granite tombstone that bore her name and her breath hitched and lip quivered. The form of the scrawny, pale girl who had been stolen from him seemed to be revived at the sight of her supposed resting place. But as the proceeding weeks came to show, it was anguish that controlled that form.
She would rage and scream, cry and sob, be aloof and cold. No matter what form her outburst took, if it resulted in harsh words being hurled at him, her tears staining his shirt, or her pointed avoidance of him, he took it in stride. The short-tempered feral would meet her anger with abject apology, her sadness with comfort, her distance with kindness. None of the other mutants knew what to make of it. The Wolverine was anything but accommodating, even to the children at the Institute. But in her presence, he was different. He had the patience of a saint and the contrite heart of a repentant sinner.
He deserved it all, he reckoned. All the bitterness and pain she presented him with were his by right. He had not seen the obvious, he had not searched hard enough, he had not been worthy of her. This was not only his penance, it was an opportunity to do right by her. And by the end of every tantrum, break-down, and stand-off, he found her once again in his arms. Soothed but sad, he would pet her hair, his digits fondling the blanched tresses amongst the ocean of mahogany. He likened those white strands to a veil, one that was unwillingly forced upon her when Magneto had sacrificed her, and in turn, Wolverine had sacrificed himself for him, binding them. It was her mourning veil, her bridal veil.
His unwavering dedication to her left room for little else in his life. He would go on assignments, but only after she would nod affirmative when he recited Storm’s mission objectives to her. He would train, but only with her at his side, hoping that the sweat and exhaustion would be as distracting and gratifying for her as it was for him. The two would silently eat their meals away from the rest of the household. When she was busy being talked to by the resident therapist Betsy, or was dragged out shopping with Kitty, he would return to his old routine of stalking the grounds. He would wander into the woods, let his rage and self-loathing take over till his claws would unsheathe of their own volition. He would slash and howl and beat himself into a muddy, bloody mess. At those times, he was unsure if it was himself he wanted to destroy, or the world around him.
The animalistic fury would eventually die out, replaced by exhaustion. He would stagger back to the mansion, careful to avoid the prying eyes of the X-Men. He would return to his room, feeling ill at ease with the fine trapping of the cage that he had placed himself in. The remains of his pride revolted at the convention that he needed to clean himself of the grime and blood, to wash away the evidence of his feral nature. And so he would stand there, the wolf amongst the sheep, and wait. She would come to him, eventually, never saying a word. She would just look him over carefully, her eyes eventually meeting his.
Even since that first touch years ago, she had understood him better than anyone. She had a piece of his mind in hers, and while that had disturbed him at first, the fact that she still cared for him after seeing his true nature made him feel like there was something about himself that wasn’t completely disgusting. For years she had understood him, but she hadn’t felt what he felt. She didn’t feel out of control, she wasn’t overwhelmed by rage, she didn’t have to put on one face to please society while hiding her own behind indifference. Now she did. He could see that every time her eyes trailed up his bloodied and soiled body to meet his gaze. They were the same now. Whatever the bastards had done to her, it had stripped her of her innocence.
Part of him, a selfish part that he wished he could beat into submission, reveled in the knowledge that she was like him; the rest of him mourned for the sweet sixteen-year-old runaway with the purest heart he had ever known. When their eyes met, he knew that girl was gone, she had died in the lab, just as her clone had. And while those feral threads of fury and rebellion were now a part of her, he saw that the loving, understanding, and strong-willed girl he had once known was still there. Her heart may have been turned to steel by her experiences, but that didn’t bother him. He was already in her heart when it closed off, and by closing it to everyone else, she was trapping him in with her. Just as it had been with him when he thought she had died.
As the weeks turned into months, her ferocity and bitterness remained, but became increasingly internalized. Instead of hating the bastards from the lab, the X-Men, or Wolverine, she hated herself. Blamed herself.
And that’s what killed him the most. That’s what broke him. He barged into her room late one night to find her bundled up in grey flannel pajamas and begged her to let him help – help him find some way to make it up to her, to make it all better. She obstinately refused to even respond to him, unwittingly unleashing his wrath.
Decimating the furniture in her room, he raged at her stubbornness, her inability to respond to reason, her determination to stay a broken shell of what she once was.
Exasperated but fearless, she yelled at him, “You can’t fix this, Logan!”
He halted. She repeated in a whisper, “You can’t fix this.”
He knew she was right. He couldn’t erase two years of fear and torture from who she was. He also knew that it was the first time in two and a half years that anyone had dared to call him by anything other than the Wolverine. The rage that consumed him disappeared, and all that was left was her name on his lips. He couldn’t fix her, but he could try and make her understand that she wasn’t alone.
He lunged at her, eliciting a startled gasp, but no resistance. His lips crashed down upon hers, and he only pulled away once he felt the agony of her mutation run through every nerve in his body. He backed away exhausted, resting his back on the wall, and stared at her shocked face.
Her eyes darted about the destroyed room, never focusing on anything. Her breath was rapid, and her scent ever changing – first fear, than anger, sadness, bemusement, and then finally, a hint of joy. Her eyes refocused and met his. A genuine smile, one that he recognized from her runaway days, made its way onto her face. He forced himself away from the wall and staggered over to her. She let him wrap his arms around her, content in their silent understanding. He breathed in her calm, and rested his weary head upon her own, shielded by her white streaked hair.
Despite kissing her, he didn’t feel like he had crossed a line. There was no line to be crossed. They weren’t lovers, they weren’t friends, they weren’t family, they were just them. A relationship that spanned all those categories and yet didn’t fall into any of them. They belonged together – to each other, and that’s all there was to it. Whatever they were, whatever they would be, they’d be it together.
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters and settings are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. No money is being made from this work. No copyright infringement is intended.