1. the coexistence of opposing attitudes or feelings, such as love and hate, toward a person, object, or idea.
2. uncertainty or indecisiveness as to which course to follow.
"My dear...please don't do this to yourself." A gentle hand touches my arm, stilling my body; I look up, and realize that I have been rocking back and forth, bumping my head against the locker.
Steel grey eyes, familiar and yet not; they belong to a man who was once my captor; a man who raped my mind and almost killed me, a lifetime ago it seems. Steel grey eyes, now warmed with a compassion that I've never seen in them before; they belong to a man who reached into the depths of hell to pull me out.
Magneto is crouched down next to me, watching, waiting. "There now. It would be a pity to go through all that trouble to save you, only to have you hurt yourself, wouldn't it?" He looks at me with a faint smile. I'm staring back at him, slowly putting the pieces of myself back together.
I blink a few times. My mind is stumbling at the idea of Magneto offering me comfort; it's so incongruous with what I know to be true, the image I have of him burned into my brain. The man who tried to kill me. The man who saved me. I'm trying to wrap my head around it all.
"The world really has gone to hell in a handbasket, hasn't it?" I muse. "Everything is... topsy turvey. I used to know who the good guys and the bad guys were."
Magneto's eyebrow lifts a little, but otherwise his expression doesn't change. I think he's somewhat surprised, or maybe amused, by the irony of it all.
"Well, that depends," he says, shifting himself to sit on the floor across from me, "on your definition of 'good' and 'bad'."
I let out a little huff. Just like him to put his own spin on things to twist reason and logic towards his favor.
"Well for starters, I would have said that anyone who tried to use me as their own sacrificial lamb in order to gain world domination...probably bad." The biting remark is out of my mouth before I can stop it. Not a very nice thing to say to the man who just rescued me, though I wasn't trying to be mean. I just seem to have lost my filter.
"Ah yes. That." He lifts his eyes to meet mine. "I am sorry that I had to sacrifice you for the sake of our mutant brothers and sisters."
Ok, now I know we must be in really big trouble. Magneto, apologizing? Things must be very dire indeed. Before I have time to truly process the implications of such an earth-shattering occurrence, he immediately brings me back to earth.
"It was nothing personal," he continues. "I was only trying to prevent the very future that we are living right now. Your sacrifice would have meant the survival of so many."
Well, damn. What am I supposed to say to that? Part apology, and part 'I would have been justified in killing you because the world would have been a better place'. Should I be thanking him, or apologizing that his plan didn't work out? It's so fucked up, just like everything else in this world.
"You know, my mama used to say that people are never all good or all bad," I say, looking down at my gloved hands. Hands that have hurt and killed people. "Nothing is ever black or white. Truth is, most of us live our lives in the grey." I give him a sideways glance. "But you? I'm pretty sure you've never stepped one toe in that grey area your entire life. For you, there's only ever been Magneto's way, and then everyone else's."
The corner of his mouth pulls up in a wry smile and he half chuckles. He doesn't even try to defend himself. I can't help but think that maybe he shouldn't, knowing what I know now.
Maybe it would have been better if Logan had never saved me that night. Maybe Magneto is right, and my death would have meant the survival of millions. What right do I have to be here? So much suffering could have been avoided, both theirs and mine.
It's not like anyone would have missed me anyway. Sure, maybe at first, everyone would have been all, "Oh, that's so sad. Alas, poor Rogue, we hardly knew ye." They might have had a small memorial service, but then life would have returned to normal. And this hellish nightmare we are living now would never come to be. No Mutant Registration Act. No Sentinels. No mutant concentration camps. No worldwide destruction and death.
Magneto is still sitting across from me, saying nothing, but I wonder if he's thinking the same thing.
"When I was just a boy, I killed my mother."
My eyes grow wide. That was unexpected. He couldn't really mean that, could he? Magneto was never going to be mistaken for a saint, but I can't imagine that he would be capable of doing something like that.
"I didn't pull the trigger," he continues. "But my failure...my failure to control my powers was, indirectly, the cause of her death." He leans his head back against the wall, his eyes staring off to a faraway memory. "In 1944, my parents and I were taken prisoner by the Nazis and sent to a concentration camp. It was a terrible time. Families destroyed, millions of people murdered--all because they were deigned to be different than those in power." He turns his face to me and the look he wears sends chills down my spine. "History has a tendency to repeat itself, doesn't it?"
I just sit there, mute. He's right, and it's a disturbing thought that I understand all too well.
"That night, hundreds of us stood there in the rain, cold and afraid, as they sorted us like cattle. When they came to my family, they were shouting and pointing their guns; they began separating us, and I knew then that I would never see my parents again. I fought them with everything I had, but what can a young boy do against men with guns? Still, I fought, and screamed, and reached out for my mother as they dragged me away. I could still see her there, crying, watching me through the iron gate as my feet slid through the mud. And that's when I could feel it. I didn't understand what that feeling was in my frantic state, but something was pulling me, pulling my outstretched arms towards her like a magnet. I locked on to that feeling, and continued to reach for my mother, struggling with all my strength as the soldiers began piling on to stop me. Finally, one of the soldiers marched over and struck my head with the butt of his rifle. It was only after I awoke hours later that I found out what I had done to the wrought iron gate, which had been bent and torn from its hinges. I didn't understand it then, but that was the day that my powers had manifested."
"Is that how you escaped? By using your new powers?" I ask. "And...your parents..."
I watch as a flash of pain passes over his features; it's barely perceptible and only lasts for a second before he schools his features back to the unreadable expression he usually wears.
"I saw my mother one last time."
There is a lump in my stomach as a cold feeling of dread creeps over me. I already know this doesn't end well.
"A Nazi scientist named Dr. Schmidt, later known as Sebastian Shaw, saw what had happened to the gate when I was taken from my parents, and was enthralled with my ability to control metal. He wanted to use me for his own purposes, use my abilities to advance his own agenda. When he called me to his office, I nearly leapt for joy when I saw my mother standing there. However, I soon discovered that this was not meant to be a joyful reunion."
Magneto reaches into his pocket and pulls out a small object. He opens his hand and shows me a coin, resting in his palm; I watch as it levitates and begins to spin slowly above his hand.
"So simple," he murmurs. "Move the coin. Ask me now and I could practically move mountains. But when Sebastian Shaw ordered me to simply move the coin across his desk...I could not do it. I didn't know how to control my powers yet. Even when he held a gun to my mother's head...I tried with all my might, but I could not move the coin. He may as well have asked me to move the earth itself."
The coin drops to the floor and makes a clanging sound as it hits the floor and rolls to a stop.
"I never felt so helpless in my entire life as I did the moment I looked into my mother's eyes, knowing that she was going to die. And die she did."
Once again I am struck mute. Horrified by man's inhumanity to man. And suddenly filled with a new understanding of Magneto's driving force. What can I say to so much pain? Nothing that will take any of it away.
"I'm sorry," I say quietly.
He turns his face to me once more. "I vowed that day...never again would I allow anyone to control my fate. And I would fight to secure my freedom and control, by any means necessary."
He holds my gaze with his steel grey eyes for a long moment, before picking up the coin and putting it back in his pocket. We both sit in silence.
"All my life, I've never felt in control," I murmur. "I've tried. Lord knows I've tried; but I've never succeeded. I've always been swept away by a current too powerful for me; taken to places I never intended to go, forced to do things that I never wanted to do." I look down at my hands again, and slowly pull off the gloves. Pale skin, so soft. So deadly. And so coveted by those who would use me for their own purposes.
"My own body was the first thing to take away my control. When I was 17, I kissed a boy and put him into a coma for three weeks. That's how I found out about my 'gift'. After that everything changed; my own parents didn't want to have anything to do with me any more.
I couldn't believe that they could just cut me off like that, throw me out into the street like garbage. It was like they didn't even know me at all, and that was what hurt the most. I wasn't their daughter; I was a freak."
Magneto listens intently. He doesn't say anything, but I can see it in his eyes. This is the very thing he has fought against his entire life.
"I was on my own for about 8 or 9 months, just barely getting by, doing whatever I could to survive. But I stayed strong. I had a goal in mind. I was going to make it, you know? One way or another, I was going to not just survive, but thrive, despite my parents, even if I was all alone. I was going to make it an adventure like I always dreamed about; see the world, starting with Anchorage. Of course, you know how that ended up," I say shooting him a knowing look. "I met Logan, who was going to give me a ride to the next city; but your crony Sabretooth came along to attack us, and boom, next thing you know I'm living with the X-men. Not what I intended, but I swam with the tide and made the best of things. And just when I was starting to get used to the idea of a semi-normal life..."
"...I came along," Magneto finishes the sentence for me.
"You came along," I say, nodding slowly. "Kidnapped me. Cuffed me to that machine; forced your powers and your mind into my body. Then took my life." I look directly into his eyes. "You took my life, and gave it away to our fellow mutants. But it wasn't yours to give."
Magneto remains silent for a moment. But at least he has the decency to look me in the eye. "I took away your control..." he says finally. "And for that, I am sorry." We sit there, just looking at each other. He doesn't pat my arm or squeeze my hand or any of that sentimental nonsense. That wouldn't be him. But an understanding passes between us, and it's enough.
"Thanks," I whisper. We both know that, given the chance, he would have done it all over again. But in some warped way, I find it comforting that he at least regrets something.
"Maybe everybody would have been better off if your plan had worked, though," I say with a pained smile, hastily wiping a tear away. "That seems to be all I'm good for anyway. Who knew my skin would be so useful?"
I slide open the zippers that were built into my specially-made prison uniform, the ones that run all the way from wrist to shoulder, and gently brush my fingertips over the marred skin. It hurts to look at my arms, riddled with ugly scars; a testament to just how useful my skin was to the scientists.
"You know, I spent years in that lab, praying for someone to rescue me. Feeling so very alone. Hoping that somewhere out there, someone was looking for me; maybe worrying about me...waiting for me, the way you might anxiously wait for a loved one to come home from a long, arduous journey. But there wasn't."
I think of my parents. Bobby. Logan...
"In fact, no one even missed me while I was gone. At least, not until my ever useful skin was needed again." Magneto's eyes travel down my scar-covered arms and then back to my face again. There is almost a shadow of sympathy about to cross his face, and I hurry to look away, zipping my sleeves and pulling on my gloves.
"I'm so tired of being used," I mutter. My voice is bitter and resentful, but I can't hide the tear rolling down my cheek. "Why should I even go through with this crazy-ass plan that you've all cooked up anyway? Why should I care what happens to the rest of the world, when I don't even care what happens to me? Why should I care about fixing the future when there's never gonna be a real future for me? What if I choose to just say 'screw everybody' and let it all end? At least my suffering would be over then."
Magneto considers my words for a long moment. I'm expecting him to look angry, or to narrow his eyes at me with contempt for my utter selfishness. But he doesn't. Instead his expression is one of...recognition. Empathy.
"My dear..." he says finally. "If there is anyone in this world who understands how you feel at this very moment, it is the man you see before you.
I wait for him to continue, maybe launch into some passionate rant to convince me that I should set aside my pain and do this for the sake of the X-men, for mutantkind, for the world! But he says nothing more.
"And?" I ask with trepidation.
"And after all these years of bitterness and hatred," he says wistfully, "the only thing I am left with is regrets."
Again, I'm expecting more, but that's all he has to say. Why is he holding back? Is this some tactic or mindgame to manipulate me? I don't understand it.
"Tell me this, do you think anyone regrets leaving me in that hellhole all that time?" I demand.
"Bobby and Kitty were the only ones who knew where you were. Charles was unable to make contact with you because they kept you within the walls of Cerebro; he thought you were dead."
"And do you think anyone would have saved me if they had known sooner? Would anyone have even attempted to rescue me if they weren't completely desperate and needed me to take Kitty's powers?" I ask, my voice trembling. Another tear rolls down my face and falls with a splash onto my hands. Magneto's eyes lock with mine for a long moment.
"I don't know," he says gently.
A sob escapes from my throat. The honesty is too much. "Shouldn't you be comforting me right now, telling me what I want to hear so that I'll go along with your plan?"
He slowly reaches forward his hand and touches a white lock of hair by my face. "You once asked me if I was going to kill you...and I said yes. Do you remember?"
"Yes," I whisper. "On the torch...the Statue of Liberty."
"That's right. I've never lied to you before, Rogue, and I promise you, I will never sugarcoat the truth."
I look into his eyes, and I know in that instant that he really does mean it. His honesty is brutal; his truth is painful to hear, but at least it's real, and for that I'm grateful.
"The truth is, my child, your powers could give us all a second chance, and second chances come so rarely in life. The rest of us want to live. We desperately want the chance to live a better life."
With his last words still hanging in the air, Magneto rises to his feet. He turns and looks at me once more with an expression that is part hope, part stoic resignation.
"We could try to force you to use your powers to help us, but the truth is, you hold all the power at this moment, Rogue. For once...you are in control."