1. So what now

A shadow of a slender figure fell on a green dusty carpet of a hotel room. Through a window shone the light of the setting sun, once barred by wooden desks that now laid on the floor next to it. A mouldy grayish-yellow wall paper hung down in little stripes under which you could see how the termites ate their labyrinths in the old wooden wall. In the corner was a broken ash-tray next to some half empty bottles of bourbon. Some of them were broken and the old liquor perfumed the room with a sweet fermenting and peppermint-like scent. The person who was looking out of the window, now turned around to sit on the parapet. The movement of feet made the ash raise from the ground, swirl all over the room and join the old bourbon scent. The hotel room itself was covered in a blanket of dust, thick old air and long gone memories which will never be re-told. Loud music and peoples laughter echoed through the streets of New Orleans, reaching the abandoned and without a humans touch and care decaying buildings around. The whole city seemed to be lifeless except of the streets near the center, but this part of Orleans was like a ghost city, with only some homeless´ showing up from time to time. Of course, abandoned, silent and for the police invisible city parts like this were often used by drug dealers, gangs and criminals. But it seemed like today, all the life, criminal and uncriminal, with or without homes, seemed to concentrate itself in the heart of New Orleans, far away from the „Lucky Cajun" hotel where our story begins.

„So what are we her´ fo´?" She popped off of the parapet, turning to face the room with her arms crossed on her chest.

„Mission? Hidin´? Holiday?" He shrugged „How should I know? Mystique ain't a very communicative person the past few weeks." Said Lance, not bothering to look up from the newspaper he was reading all day long,

„Yeah, like she ever was!" Came Fred's voice from the kitchen. He grabbed a pack of crisps and settled himself down on the old fashioned flowery couch, next to Lance. The couch gave a cracking sound as he did so.

„Argh, and where the heck did frog-face disappear?"

„Todd's of stalking Wanda," commented Lance „what else."

He turned the mini transportable TV on and it didn't take long until he turned if off again, smashing the remote control on a sofa.

„Those damn assholes! They´re still showing that fu-"

„Whoa yeah, you guy shoulda been out there, yo!" Rogue was shoved into the wall as Todd made his entrance by jumping through the window and bouncing up on all four walls, landing on one of the sofas. He played with a bunch of colorful pearls hung around his neck, ignoring the annoyed Rogue behind him standing up and walking up to him.

„You shoulda seen it-"

„Hey! Watch out where yo´re jumping frog-face!" she hit the back of his head with her covered hand.

„Oh calm down, sweetie."

„What did you-"

„Stop that." for the first time, Lance looked up from what he was reading „ Where did you left Wanda? She kicked your ass? Again?" he smirked.

„Oh babycakes got a little bit ...angry when she found out I was following her and well..." the corners of his mouth fell down „you know what happened next."

„I don´t get why you´re still trying. She´s gonna kill you one day" Muttered Fred as he shoved another handful of crisps into his mouth.

„Nah, babycakes is in luv with the toad-man... she just doesn't know yet." Everyone except for Todd burst out in laughter, making him frown deeply. Fred almost let his pack of crisps fall on the floor narrowly catching it with both hands, discovering that it's up side down and all the crisps fell on the floor making him whimper. That amused everyone even more.

Lance was the first one to stop laughing. He frowned, his look full of concern and anxiety as he spoke up. „Did anybody see her hex you on the wall or you catching flies with your tongue or something?"

All got silent in the moment as mixed emotions filled the air. Was it anger, frustration, sadness, hatred or fear? Or was it all together? None of them knew exactly. But fear had the upper hand.

The memory of the Sentinel attack still burned in their souls, feeding the unknown feeling. It´s been more then 5 months ago, but the news still showed pictures of that day. „Mutant menace" wasn't going to disappear very soon and Trask got more power then ever before. He convinced the president about us being the menace, the plague of mutants that going to take over humanity, use our powers as weapons to enslave them if he," the salvation of humanity", won´t stop us. Such a dickhead!

After the attack, they had to leave. They had to leave Bayville, Mystiques house and school. Okay, that might not be such a great loss.

Mystique had been sending them from town to town, from state to state on, in Rogue's opinion useless little missions.

Hmm, did she ´ctualy care about us? sendin´us to who knows where else every couple ´f days so they won´t capture us? Those stupid missions ain´t making no sense. Rogue laughed mentally at herself. Nah nevar. Mystique nevar cared about anybody but Mystique. But … what if she reahly did care? Why else would she still be with us... and throw a fit whenever one of us used powers? Or did she just -

She was thrown back into reality when Todd sighed. It was silent for a couple of minutes, for sure cause every one of them imagined what happened and what everything would happen if some filthy human would discover them and call the Sentinels. They would fight them of course, but they couldn't win over more then two of those machines. They weren´t enough to fight them and they were weak.

Running away from everyone and everything, hiding even from other mutants, which would send thousands of their one race to death just to save their own meaningless lives and fearing even their shadows made them weak.

„Nah nobody seen her nor me doing something that's ´not-normal´. We ain't stupid, yo!"

You could feel it as relive flew over them like a dark shadow was lifted from their shoulders.

„Uhm... the people here ain't that ignorant dickheads like in the rest of the world." He said with a low voice.

„What do you mean?" Asked Fred who was eating another pack of crisps or sweets or some stuff like that.

„They are nice actually. And here we look al normal, yo! They won´t notice who or what we are!" Todd smirked „And even if the did, i don´t think they wouldda babble it out to FOH yo."

„How do you know?!" asked Lance suspiciously with a hint of annoyance and disbelief in his voice „Have you done something?! Did they discover you? You jeopardize us all!"

„But -" Todd's weak attempt to protest was shortly cut off.

„It´s Mardi Gras, damn it! Just cause they did not look at you like at a megalomaniac frog doesn't mean anything at all..." Lance eventually yelled, standing up from the old couch, walking up to the other side of the room and propped himself up on it looking down on his feet „They fear us …and they never gonna stop..."

The bitterness of an agonized child was flashed all over the face of that man, thorned by his memories and anger that came from human which don't understand him. Him and them. All of his race. So special but so misunderstood.

„Still could go out and have some fun...now that´s Mardi Grass and well don´t look suspicious, yo."

Rogue and Fred, who had been looking at this scenario without saying a word, seeing a broken man and trying not to pour more salt into the open wound, looked up at him asking for answers.

„Oh c´mon, Mystique ain´t gonna come back soon and we have no missions, yo! And you MUST see what´s going on outside." He jumped over their heads to the door, opening it with one kick of his left frog-leg.

„There's a freakin' party going on, yo! "

Rogue sighed.

It had been years since she was so near to home... or what's she thought for so long was her some. With Iren. In Caldecott. The unique smell of New Orleans reminded her of the times when Iren went there with her on Mardi Grass and on very special occasions. She wasn't allowed to go out too much, wasn´t allowed to go to crowded places, to ever touch people. Irene knew her mutation would once kick in and overwhelm her whole being. She tried to protect her the only way she knew, keep her away from others. And whenever Irene went with her to Mardi Grass...well, it was something indescribable for a child like Rogue. The scent, the noise, the music, the colors, the laughter, the costumes, and the people.

Oh Irene... wish Ah couldda turn bac´ tahm.

She knew it wasn´t a good idea. She knew well that if Mystique found out, that she definitely will, she's gonna throw a fit and punish her for leaving their hideout. But she did not care at all.

„Let´s go, frog-face." She grabbed her brown jacket and walked out of the front door, leaving the guys motionless in confusion and wonder.