Disclaimer: I don't own the X-men or Marvel, if I did I would not be boycotting the latest comics! I swore I was not going to do an X3 fic, but I was so frustrated with the way that they portrayed Rogue in the film, especially with her choice to get the cure when they'd already done the "cure" storyline in the comics and she realized she couldn't go through with it in the end, that I just had to do it. So this is my version of how the writers could have still done their whole plotline without screwing over the character of Rogue so entirely that she's no longer recognizable.
Worthington Corporation, Clinic Three
Protesters lined both sides of the streets, chanting with signs hoisted into the air.
Some were there to protest the cure, others to support it.
The police had put up barricades, and uniformed officers stood between the crowd and the long line twisting its way out of the clinic doors and spilling onto the sidewalk for a good dozen blocks.
It seemed that she wasn't the only one who saw the cure as a godsend.
Turning away from the window overlooking the protesters on the street outside, Rogue looked down at her gloved hands.
It was a warm day, and her palms were sweating beneath the satin material.
But she'd grown accustomed to it over the years, to the oppressive feeling of having every inch of her skin smothered with clothing, with extra layers to reinforce the precautions.
The Professor had assured her that her classmates would respect her personal space, that it wasn't necessary for her to cover herself from head-to-toe, but Rogue had never been able to relax enough to really shed the protective clothing.
It was her safety-net, she supposed.
She could hide beneath the long sleeves and the gloves, the hooded sweatshirts.
And a chance accident, a single moment of bare skin brushing against bare skin as she passed someone in the hall, would never happen.
That was her burden to bear, the price she paid for her mutant gift.
Every power is a gift, even yours, you just have yet to discover its value.
She could still hear Professor Xavier's voice, gently chastising her with fatherly concern as he had so many times when it came to her powers, and Rogue found it difficult to breathe. Her vision blurred around the edges as tears welled in her eyes, and she blinked several times to keep them at bay.
Now was not the time to be crying.
The Professor was dead, and Scott as well, and there was an emptiness in her heart when she thought of her teachers, her mentors, but she couldn't dwell on them now.
If she did, her thoughts would inevitably turn to Jean Grey, to all that the woman had done and all that she had become.
And to Logan and Ororo, who were even now preparing themselves to face her.
You should be there with them, a traitorous inner voice accused her. Instead, you turned your back on them, left them when they need you the most.
Except they didn't really need her, now did they?
Her powers were useless, she couldn't defend herself or attack unless she was within touching distance of the enemy, and even then she had to be lucky enough to find a bare patch of skin to latch onto.
In the Danger Room, she could hold her own, but that was a different matter.
That was a simulation, it wasn't life or death, it wasn't real.
Not even Logan's training could keep her alive in the middle of an all-out war, without any offensive powers she was more of a liability than an asset to the team.
Some X-man I am, Rogue thought with a bitter laugh.
She was a danger to her own teammates, not just as a potentially fatal distraction in the midst of battle, but even the faintest touch of her skin against theirs could cause them serious harm.
Even the briefest kiss could render them unconscious.
Bobby still continued to insist he didn't care, that her powers didn't scare him, but she knew better.
She'd seen the look in his eyes the first time they kissed, in his bedroom at his childhood home while they were on the run after the commandos had swept into the mansion in the middle of the night.
One kiss, and she'd nearly sucked the life out of him.
It had been months before he worked up the nerve to try again, to brush his lips across hers for just a single, fleeting second, and even then he'd been trembling.
He wanted to kiss her, to do so much more than that, she could see it when he looked at her, she could see the hunger swirling in his eyes. They were young and in love, and the desire to touch one another the way they did in their dreams burned them both far worse than the frostbite that had seared her lips the time they tried to kiss with a thin sheen of ice between her lips and his.
The passion was always there, churning between them, but they held back.
Giving in wasn't an option, not when a kiss that lasted a moment too long or a touch that lingered just a second longer than permitted could be the end of Bobby.
They'd been together for nearly two years now, and Rogue still couldn't touch her boyfriend.
And she was painfully aware of the fact that Kitty could.
She wanted to be angry with Kitty for the innocent flirting, for the smiles that were just a little too friendly, for the way Bobby's hand always seemed to rest on her bare shoulder, but she found she couldn't.
Instead, she was angry with herself, for being naive enough to think it could ever work.
How could two people who could never touch have a future together, regardless of how much they might love one another?
She'd been asking herself that from the moment Bobby first smiled at her in Ororo's class after she and Logan arrived at the Xavier Institute, and she still didn't know.
Maybe the cure was the answer.
"Just make sure you aren't doing this for some guy."
Logan was too observant sometimes, he could see through her in ways that no one else, not even the telepathic Professor Xavier, had ever been able to.
Rogue liked to think that she could see through him, too, in kind.
But Logan had been wrong, or at least, he hadn't been entirely right, because it wasn't just about Bobby.
It was about Cody back home, who she'd put into a coma that lasted for weeks, about that day on Liberty Island when Magneto channeled her powers into a machine that nearly killed her, about little Rhane Sinclair's skinned knee that she couldn't even help clean up because she'd just gotten out of the shower and hadn't brought her gloves into the bathroom with her.
Because of her powers, she couldn't get close to anybody.
She couldn't kiss Rhane's scrapped knee or give Jubilee a high-five without gloves, she couldn't hug Logan or Ororo without making sure that every inch of her skin was covered.
Ever since the day that her powers first manifested while she was kissing Cody, she'd been a prisoner to her mutant gene, a prisoner in her own skin, and she'd resigned herself to an eternity trapped behind gloves and thick clothing.
But now Worthington Corporation was offering her the key to her freedom.
"Worthington didn't expect such a big turnout."
Startled, Rogue looked up to find a woman had moved up alongside her at the window, so silently that she hadn't even noticed.
"It's disgusting how they clammer at the door," the woman said flatly, her lip curling up in distaste, eyes narrowing sharply at the crowd outside. "Like dogs begging for scraps from the bone."
Rogue bristled, anger stirring in her throat, but she swallowed it down.
"They just want the chance to live normal lives," she said lowly. "Is that so bad?"
"They're not normal," the woman snorted, as if this was the most ludicrous thing she had ever heard. "And this so called 'cure' won't change that."
"Maybe not," Rogue replied after a pause. "But it's better than nothing."
The woman finally turned to look at her, and Rogue found herself pinned under a sharp emerald gaze that was somehow even more chilling against the black hair veiling her eyes. "That's a decidedly fatalistic point of view for someone so young," she commented coolly, and Rogue couldn't help shifting uncomfortably.
"My powers are of the fatalistic nature," Rogue said grimly. "Or rather, the fatal nature."
"Any power can be fatal," the woman scoffed dismissively.
"Yeah, well, most powers don't suck the life outta someone the moment your skin touches theirs," Rogue snapped heatedly. "Do they?"
A smile that was half-smirk tugged its way onto the woman's lips. "No, I suppose not."
Satisfied, and feeling more than a little embarrassed for getting so worked up, Rogue started to turn away and head back to her chair along the back wall of the lobby, but the woman wasn't quite finished with her yet.
"This poison isn't the answer to your problem, Rogue."
Rogue stiffened, and slowly turned back to stare at the dark-haired woman, who was gazing passively out the window once more, but Rogue got the feeling she was very aware of Rogue's gaze boring into the back of her head.
"Who are you?" Rogue demanded lowly.
"A friend," the woman said simply, and glanced back at her before amending with a smirk at the sight of Rogue's suspicious frown. "Of sorts."
"Oh, really?" Rogue replied with a scowl.
"Touch me and find out for yourself," the woman answered casually, and nodded at Rogue's hands. "That is what you were about to do, isn't it?"
Looking down, Rogue blinked, discovering she had been in the process of removing one of her gloves without even realizing it. Blushing, she tugged her glove the rest of the way on and shoved her hands into the deep pockets of her jacket.
"Don't do that," the woman scolded her. "Your powers are nothing to be ashamed of."
"You don't know the first thing about me or my powers," Rogue snapped, drawing her jacket closer around her. "If you'd put a boy into a coma for two weeks just by kissing him, you'd be ashamed, too."
"He woke up, didn't he?" the woman asked with a shrug.
"That's not the point," Rogue cried. "I'm dangerous and I can't do anything about it! I can't touch anyone! Not my boyfriend, not a kid that falls off his bike... not even just a brush of my finger against theirs. A single second, just a little touch, and I could kill them! You don't have any idea what that's like!"
"And you think this 'cure' is the answer to your prayers?" the woman challenged haughtily. "You can't change what you are, Rogue."
"I'm not trying to," Rogue said hotly. "I just wanna be able to touch somebody without killing them!"
"Even if the price is poisoning your own body?" the woman demanded. "This 'cure' isn't the answer, it's unnatural. We were born different, we were born special. Taking away our powers would be like changing the color of someone's skin just to fit in, in order to make us more acceptable to society!"
For a moment Rogue was silent, uncertain what she could say to that, and Ororo's passionate words flooded over her memory.
"There's nothing to cure, because there's nothing wrong- with any of us!"
She knew, on a fundamental level, that Ororo was right, that this crazy woman- whoever the hell she was- was right, but they didn't understand.
No one did.
To live her entire life forever denied even a single touch...
She'd rather die.
"And what happens when the cure isn't voluntary anymore?" the woman demanded furiously, and Rogue took a small step back at the blazing rage in her eyes. "When they start forcing it on us? When they use it is a means to neutralize and control us?"
"That won't happen," Rogue protested weakly.
"It already has," the woman said bitterly.
Rogue went deathly still, her breath catching in her throat, and stared.
The hair was the wrong color, just like the skin and the eyes, but if she looked closely the face was the same, with the same nose and the same unpleasant set to the thin mouth.
"Mystique," she murmured.
The former shapeshifter regarded her coolly, the steel in her gaze unfazed by the change in color. Where fierce yellow had once burned, there was now only a sharp emerald green, not so unlike Rogue's own eyes, and she found herself numbly transfixed by the older woman's gaze.
"When I was your age," Mystique said after a long moment of appraising her. "I would have seen the 'cure' as a blessing, too."
Caught off-guard by that admission, Rogue fell silent.
"I was born with an outward mutation, even though my powers didn't develop until adolescence," Mystique told her, in a tone strangely devoid of emotion. "In fact, the first time I ever saw the face you see now was on the prison transport where Magneto abandoned me after I'd been contaminated with the cure."
Pursing her lips together, Rogue plastered an indifferent expression on her face.
She refused to feel sorry for the woman.
Not when Mystique had been an active participant in Magneto's plans at Liberty Island three years ago, plans that would have sacrificed Rogue's life without a second thought.
"As a girl I was hated, abused, tormented ... all because of the color of my skin," Mystique said, her lip curling into a pronounced sneer. "My ability to change forms didn't manifest until I was about twelve or thirteen, and for the longest time I was obsessed with staying in different bodies. Anything, to fit in. Erik found me when I was sixteen. I'd been discovered as a mutant and on the run, when our paths crossed." Here, the shapeshifter looked at her with a touch of a wry smile. "Much, I understand, like the way you came to join up with Wolverine."
"His name is Logan," Rogue said flatly.
"How can you be sure?" Mystique retorted coyly. "He doesn't remember anything about his past, after all. And his real name happens to be James, by the way."
For a moment, Rogue was so thoroughly startled by that casual revelation that she gaped at the woman for several long seconds before clenching her jaw and fixing Mystique with a fierce glare. "What difference does it make to you what I call him?" she demanded, unconsciously tightening her gloved fists at her side. "And come to think of it, what the hell are you doing here in the first place?"
"If I meant you any harm, girl, you would have been dead before you even knew I was next to you," Mystique sneered, amusement displaying in her haughty smile.
"Like I'd trust a word out of your mouth," Rogue scoffed. "I haven't forgotten your part in what happened at Ellis Island."
"Oh, that," Mystique mused dismissively. "That was a long time ago."
Rogue gritted her teeth. "Not long enough."
"You seem quite determined to wallow on that little incident-"
"Little incident?" Rogue echoed incredulously, and her voice drew glances from others in the waiting room, so she lowered it to a harsh whisper. "I nearly died!"
"You would have," Mystique agreed with a serene smile that sent chills down her spine. "If fate had been less kind to you."
"If not for Logan, you mean," Rogue cried sharply. "His healing factor is the only reason I'm still alive."
"Wolverine's healing factor didn't save your life, Rogue," Mystique responded flatly. "It would have been utterly useless, much like Wolverine himself, if not for your own power."
Rogue opened her mouth, but how could she argue with that?
"Your power has saved your life more than once," Mystique reminded her, and Rogue was struck by the sheer absurdity of the situation, that her mortal enemy was standing there and nagging at her like a mother hen. "For all that it's taken from you, it's protected you more than you know. Why are you so determined to throw that away for some boy?"
Maybe, had she been in a less emotional state, Rogue would have wondered how Mystique knew about Bobby, how she even knew about Rogue's decision to take the cure in the first place when no one but Logan knew she'd even left.
As it was, though, it was all Rogue could do to blink back the tears beginning to sting her eyes as desperation rose up in her chest. "Ah need this," she gasped.
Mystique's gaze seemed to soften then, and a sad smile played across her pale lips.
"You have a gift, Rogue," she said softly. "I know you don't see it that way, but it's true. Yes, your powers are a burden, they isolate you from the world around you, but they also give you the ability to help protect that world. You believe so much in Charles Xavier's dream? Then use your powers to help bring it about!"
"I can't," Rogue cried in frustration. "All my powers are good for is hurting people!"
"Rogue, with a handshake, you can absorb the information needed to solve any crisis, to dismantle any problem," Mystique responded sharply. "You can take whatever power you need to save the day. How can you think your powers are useless, when your power is having the ability to become any power you can touch? In the grand scheme of things, does it really matter that you can't kiss your boyfriend, when you can save the world with a single touch?"
Closing her eyes as the tears really did start to fall now, Rogue swallowed a shuddering breath.
"Your powers are a part of who you are, they make you... you."
"I don't even know who that is anymore," Rogue confessed in a hoarse little chuckle.
"You do know," Mystique's harsh voice seemed almost gentle now as it filled her ears. "Just look inside of yourself, and follow your heart. It won't lead you astray, Marie."
Rogue's eyes flew open, but Mystique was gone.
Whirling, she scanned the lobby, but there was no sign of her, and she hurried across the waiting room to the door leading out to the hallway, pushing it open just in time to see a head of raven hair disappearing into the crowd of protesters outside.
The first time the nurse called her name, Rogue didn't even process it, but the second time she jerked away from the door and turned to find the nurse waiting for her.
"Are you ready, Marie?" the nurse asked with a friendly smile.