You treat ‘er right o’ I break yo’ face.
Treat who right? Ah think ah been treatin’ everyone as good as ah can.
This was home, Rogue was now an Avenger but she had been an X-Man first and she would be until the day she died. The X-Men were her family, they were perhaps the only true family she had, the ones that had accepted her for who she was, for what she was, without any gain from her abilities. Sure, once upon a time she had love mothers but that love had turned out to be something complicated, something that had never been what it seemed. Charles and the X-Men had been something else entirely. Even though she had attacked them, even though she had been the last person to trust, they had taken her in.
That had been a long time ago and she had come a long way since then. Sometimes, it was hard to remember all she had been through with these men and women by her side. No one could understand the true bond they shared but them. No one could understand the decisions they made, how they could easily sacrifice themselves for the life of another. It was easy to be the outsider, to judge and to criticize. The criticisms were always hard but at the end of the day, they had one another.
She sat on the edge of her bed as she looked at herself in the mirror, yet she wasn’t looking at her reflection. She was looking past it, lost completely in thought. She took a deep breath as she thought over her past, what she had been, what she wanted to be.
She was only certain of one thing, she never wanted to lose herself again.
She heard the knocking at the door, she turned her head and it took a moment for her to realize someone was there. She rose from the bed at the sound of Sam’s voice. She hadn’t been expecting company, far less Sam. A small smile traced over her lips and she opened the door to look at him. “Howdy Sam, there’s a sight ah wasn’t expectin’ to see tonight.” She stepped out of the way, only to welcome him in her room.
It was a little messy, more so clothing and books scattered. “Don’t mind mah mess, ah’ve just been goin’ through a few things,” but she wasn’t going to find herself at the bottom of the closet. “Why you off visitin’ me tonight? Thought you’d have somethin’ to save.” The comment was made with humour, trying to lighten the mood. If there was one thing Rogue was good at, it was never admitting defeat. No matter how she felt, she’d swallow it back and smile. She had this much, nothing to lose. She’d never be defeated.
Sam offers Rogue a warm smile, stepping inside her room. “You kiddin’? Ah lived with Dani an’ the other new mutants for years. This ain’t nothin’.” Reassuring though his tone is, it’s true. You might not guess it by looking at Illyana now, but she could even be one of the worst offenders. And of course, there’s Berto, and the way Dani tells it, half his things are still in the house in San Francisco.
He has to wonder, fleetingly, if Rogue even remembers another conversation in another room similar to this one. She hadn’t been herself, then, in every possible meaning of the term. Sam should have been frightened, maybe, but he could never be scared where Rogue is concerned. In a way, she’s like a little bit of home no matter where he is. And it’s not just the accent.
It already feels good to be here. Not so much here in Rogue’s room as here at the school. Being an Avenger, it doesn’t fit quite right yet. Granted, nothing’s felt quite right since what Serafina had done, and Sinister had only made it worse. He hadn’t even had time to catch his breath before he found himself leading a team. Being at the school with Rogue and Bobby and his sister had been the first time in a long time he’d felt a little peace.
"You know as well as ah do there ain’t always somethin’ to beat up in the Avengers." His smile is friendly, then he steps closer to Rogue, holding out his arms. "Anyway, me and ‘Berto got to have a little rest after he went an’ bought us a few AIM agents. Now, are you gonna give me a hug or what?"
No, he’s definitely never been afraid to touch her. Not even when the threat was immediate death. Then again, if the stories are true, Sam could well be immortal (but he prefers to pretend that’s not a possibility). It doesn’t matter. No one deserves to feel like a pariah in their own home. and no one deserves to feel alone the way Rogue must have sometimes. He might not know much about the latter, but he’s got an experience or two with the former.
tabby, but why are you banging a student
it’s all cool rogue he’s 18
he’s a drunk student
The Avengers have a more people from the X side of things these days. From the one who didn’t want to be affiliated with any team, to the one who wanted to be affiliated with every team, allegiances and loyalties among the mutants is all over the map. ‘Berto, of course, had taken to the Avengers life instantly. His enthusiasm is overwhelming enough that it’s easy to let yourself get swept up in it.
Sam hasn’t fully decided how he feels about it yet. The life is certainly less stressful than that of an X-Man. The same world-destroying threats, only with more idle time spent in kitchens or other common areas. But there’s something missing, one little key that made the X-Men feel better in one regard, and Sam isn’t quite able to pin it down until he steps onto the school grounds.
The last time Sam was here, he’d still been on Rogue’s team. He’d been a teacher. Teaching flying had its perks, but he’d felt stretched so thin and he still isn’t quite settled on his feet yet. Better, though, than he’d been. Rogue, she’d gone back to the school quickly. Even spent most of her time here still, despite being on an Avenger team herself. Knowing what he does about Rogue’s history and the way she’d grown up, it’s easy to pin a name on the feeling that’s almost palpable around him. The thing that had drawn her back, and the thing that had compelled him to visit.
It’s not even subtle. It’s readily apparent in the way the other staff wave at him and greet him as if not even a day had passed. So many kids are scattered on the lawn and in the hallways that it even feels a little like home, his home, back in Kentucky. A smile tugs at his lips as Sam stops to talk to an old friend here and there. The path, meandering as it is, has a destination that Sam probably could have predicted if he’d been paying attention.
Moments later, he’s standing outside the door to Rogue’s room, hand poised to knock, wondering if she’s even on the grounds right now. Most likely, he thinks. Probably. Hopefully. Lifting one shoulder in a shrug to himself, Sam raps his knuckles gently on the door. “Rogue?”
Memories do not always soften with time; some grow edges like knives.
Blinked at the voice and grinned widely as she looked up “SAMMIE!” she pushed her chair back and ran over to her big brother throwing her arms around his neck. “When did ya get back into town?” she knows she should be too old to get so excited at seeing him again, but with all that’s happened she doesn’t even care.
Sam leans down to catch Paige in the hug, holding her close for several moments before releasing her. “Wasn’t all that long ago. Me an’ Bobby got called back to be Avengers.” It’s pretty big news, but Sam brushes right past it anyway. “Couldn’t stand another moment without checkin’ in on you, though. How are ya feelin’? It’s been so long, Ah was worried ‘bout you.”
This is why nobody likes you, Doug.
Regan smiled at Sam’s apparent loss of balance, her other hand reaching to grab one of his arms to keep him steady. She didn’t need to, but for her purposes she didn’t want to come off as too much of a threat. She wanted him to trust her, adore her, maybe. With what she had in mind, he couldn’t fear her at all.
“Shhh, Sam,” she hushed him, her other hand brushing through his hair in a soothing manner as the hypnotic effects of her illusion took hold. He wouldn’t remember this interchange, at least he shouldn’t, but it didn’t hurt to keep him at ease. “I’m just gonna help fill some of those holes for you. Fix what was done to you.” She continued smile and soothe him, even as her form began to vanish from his sight, her wide grin the last to disappear as if she were Lewis Carroll’s Cheshire Cat. “Just relax, Sam. Your mind is in good hands.”
Serafina had left a literal patchwork of photographs, memories, in Sam’s mind, covering up the gaps left as she distorted the perception of time. It made her work in his head a lot easier, gave her places to insert herself fluidly so she could alter his memories without too much interference. The first memory she chose to work with was one Serafina had attempted to erase, one where Sam was a father. It was still in her own mind, so she was easily able to find it, despite the fact that it had been hidden from most of Sam’s conscious memories of the time. It was also right when Sam had figured out that something was off, his mind beginning to fight back against the powers being used on him. It was the perfect point to pull herself in, make him see her as a friend, someone who actually tried to protect his fragile mind in the past.
She let that memory take hold of Sam’s consciousness, sending him back to that time where he began to doubt his would-be wife. There he sat, enjoying breakfast with his illusory family, at ease, unaware of any problems, at least until she began to whisper in his ear and alter the illusion. “Guthrie,” she growled into his ear in Serafina’s illusion, getting his attention, more or less, as the false reality seemed to waver around them. Her own illusion held, keeping him blissfully ignorant that it was her doing right then, but the illusion that had once been Serafina’s seemed to distort slightly, just enough to make him question that reality, that memory. It was all blurring together, her illusion overriding an old illusion that had turned into a real memory to his confused mind; as long as in the end he only remembered her and what she had done, then the complexity of it all didn’t matter.
“Guthrie,” she growled again, sounding more desperate as she seemed to be ‘helping’ him fight off Serafina’s illusion. “Get your head together! This isn’t real and you know it!”
With Regan’s hand on his arm and her fingers threading through his hair, Sam’s eyes flutter closed. Her voice washing over him feels nice, relaxing. Like a cool breeze on a summer day, bringing with it the scents of his home. Eyes open a moment later, cadet blues watching Regan with a much more sedate expression. “You can do that?” He so wants his mind fixed. He wouldn’t trust just anyone in there, but this is Regan. He can trust her. Right?
The drink is a raspberry lemonade. The breakfast is simple enough, healthy. Sam and Sarah have a good life together. His fingers are tracing lines over the condensation of the glass as he watches his eldest son eating (and making a mess of it). His own family is huge; Sam wants a family smaller than that, but he’d still like a few sons and at least one daughter to dote on. Maybe the next one will be a daughter.
Sam shakes his head when he hears a noise, looking over his shoulder. Nothing there, and his wife remains oblivious to his sudden confusion. Sam turns his attention back to his son, but then starts when he hears that voice again, enough that his eldest pauses in eating to watch.
That growl, that voice. It’s familiar. He puts his hands flat on the table and inhales, eyes squeezing shut as he tries to focus. No, not quite familiar, but… He knows her.
'Ah reckon this is who Cerebra picked up. Regan Wyngarde— Lady Mastermind. Trace musta been faint on account of she's in a coma.'
'Looks like we've got another live one, too. I mean— maybe. Partly. Hard to tell.'
That’s right, that’s who it is. Regan. The pieces fall into place, which only serves to shove other pieces violently out of place. He’d found her really recently. Bobby was with him. They took her out, took her back to the Institute. He’d been the one wheeling Karima, he remembers that now. He remembers Creed, he remembers Mystique. He remembers everyone but the person across from him.
Who is Sarah, then? Who are the kids? What— “What is this?!” Sam rushes to his feet, knocking the lemonade over without even noticing.