Nigh-absolute darkness. Dressed in a green hooded outfit, reminiscent of her original costume, Rogue leans above Wolverine, who’s been sleeping on a chair, inside an otherwise bare room. She momentarily wonders what she’s doing. “Huh...?! Rogue?” a surprised Wolverine mumbles, as he wakes up and sees her... and then Rogue ruthlessly grabs him with her bare hands and begins to drain him. “Nnnoooo!” Wolverine screams. An ecstatic Rogue gleefully ‘apologizes’ but stresses that she has to touch him. She needs him, his life, his thoughts, his powers!
Wolverine groans it may be but this isn’t the way to go about it – and then musters enough strength to push Rogue off of him! Rogue warns him he shouldn’t have done that. Now she’s going to have to hurt him. “That so?” Logan snarls and unsheathes his claws. Rogue, however, catches him off-guard as she jumps at him and strikes him in the face.
Without holding back now, Wolverine’s claws penetrate Rogue’s stomach. Her face splattered with blood, Rogue cackles that time was that might have killed her, but that time’s done and gone now that she absorbed his healing ability into her... and all his delicious memories! Indeed, her normally lethal wound heals itself in a matter of seconds. Grinning deviously, Rogue scolds Wolverine: he never told them he had a son! She wonders what his touch is like; does good taste run in the family? Like father, like cub, she sneers, as claws similar to Wolverine’s manifest in the back of her hands. Exasperated, Wolverine vows she’s going to pay for this!
An excessively bloody fight ensues between the two clawed warriors, before Logan finally prevails and has Rogue riveted to the floor, about to deliver the coup de grace. Rogue begs him to do it; she can’t control herself. She urges him to kill her! “No!” Wolverine screams but still plunges his claws in the mortally wounded Rogue. The word “No!” echoes across the room, as Logan stabs Rogue repeatedly. The sprouts of blood gushing from her body suddenly transform into feathers...
... and Rogue abruptly wakes up in her bed, screaming “No!” pillow feathers floating all around her. Bathed in sweat, she wonders what’s happening to her. She thought leaving Remy in Antarctica was the worst memory she had to suffer through this lifetime, but now these dreams start coming and just won’t stop. It isn’t fair!
Rogue is suddenly bemused by the appearance of mist in her room. Storm steps forth. Rogue sounded troubled, so Ororo came to see if she might offer some relief. Rogue thanks her and tries to explain that she was just... well... she doesn’t know what she was doing. Ororo remarks it sounded like she was having a nightmare. Thoughts of Gambit that refuse to leave her? Rogue said she absorbed some of his persona. Perhaps the decision to leave him was as much as his as hers, if not more so.
Rogue mumbles it wasn’t that. At least, she doesn’t think it was. She asks her if she’s got a minute to talk about serious stuff. Of course, Ororo replies. She is always here for her and willing to listen. Rogue explains she had a dream where she touched Logan... drained him dry. Storm reminds her that dreams are not reality. Where they, Professor Xavier’s vision of peaceful co-existence between man and mutant would’ve come true long ago and there would be no need for the X-Men. She has no control...
Rogue interrupts her and clarifies she liked it. She relished it. She thought she was over that but in Antarctica, something happened. Their powers were taken away for one night and Remy and she were closer than she’s ever been before to… anyone. In those few moments, she felt how real a touch could be. They made the rest of her life so empty and meaningless. They made her feel like she’s been on auto-pilot these past few years and...
Storm tells her she does not have to explain further to her. She felt a similar rebirth when she first found Forge. But the fact is that Rogue’s powers carry with them the repercussion of assimilating those she touches into her own psyche. Rogue retorts it wasn’t that way – not in that moment with Remy. “Would that we could live in the moments we cherished, child,” Ororo remarks – but they cannot. She should savor her memories of the past, but find a way to cope with her present. She can either touch the world or not touch it. One carries grave consequences, the other not. But only Rogue can choose which path shall be hers.
Beginning to leave, Ororo adds that Rogue slept late this morning, and she initially came to invite her to the pond with the others. “The pond? What for?” Rogue asks her. For fun and nature, Ororo replies – two things one should not long neglect. Rogue is confused: isn’t it winter...?
Meanwhile, high above the snowy New York City, on the rooftop garden of his Soho penthouse apartment, Archangel is mentally as far from ‘fun’ as a man can be. A fact not lost on his girlfriend, Psylocke. She asks him what’s troubling him. Warren retorts what isn’t. He was thinking about everything with the team. After all he said and did in Antarctica, he felt bad just dumping them off at the empty mansion and coming here where he – they – have all of this but... it’s just not his responsibility, is it?
Betsy advises him not to punish himself and just decide which is more important to him, their life here or his life there. Warren retorts it’s not that simple. Psylocke doubts that. Since her transformation under the Crimson Dawn, she’s learned that souls are primal; that one has to go with one’s heart. Seeing her close to falling off the ledge, Warren calls after her. Psylocke insists that she’s learned life is easy but only if you make the hard choices. She provokes him to choose. That life... or this one?
Without hesitation, she jumps from the roof. Archangel screams her name and lunges forward, flying all the way down and grabbing her before she is splattered below on the streets. Returning her to the roof, an enraged Warren asks her if she’s crazy. Smirking, Psylocke clarifies she’s alive – now more than ever. And so is he. He knows exactly what he wants. It’s here. It’s her. It’s them. He just has to shut out that bloody little voice in his head that tells him to question that.
Warren retorts that if he doesn’t know what he’s thinking, he sure doesn’t know how she can believe she does. But he does know one thing: he doesn’t appreciate what she just did and she’s going to find it a lot more difficult to survive the next fall if there’s no one there to catch her. Psylocke argues that he just doesn’t like that she made him see the truth in himself. As an indignant Warren takes off, Betsy calls after him.
Storm asks if everyone’s ready. Cannonball enthusiastically replies that he sure is! It’s been ages since they did anything just for the fun of it. Amen to that, Wolverine concurs, before he remarks that it looks like Maggott forgot his bathing suit. He hopes he isn’t planning on skinny-dipping. Maggott apologizes but he doesn’t swim. However, he did ask Marrow like Logan said. He quotes the bony little lass: “I’m staying in the basement and you can tell Wolverine that’ll come up when Hell freezes under”. “Freeze?” Iceman exclaims. He could just turn the basement into one big meat locker and spare them all years of torment from...
Jubilee, currently a guest at the mansion, distracts Bobby, playfully ambushing him from behind with a water pistol. Iceman groans that it better not be her or... “Or else what, Frosty?” Jubilee teases him. As Rogue steps into the kitchen, dressed in tank top and jean shorts, Wolverine mumbles “Look who finally heard the rooster.” Rogue nervously greets everyone. Logan asks her if she’s okay. She looks a little...
Rogue almost hysterically implores him not to come near her! Wolverine reasonably wonders what that’s all about. It’s not like he’s got the plague. Rogue apologizes and struggles to form a coherent sentence, still reeling from her dream. Cannonball asks her if she’s coming to swim with them. Hesitantly, Rogue stammers that she will meet them out at the pond in a bit; she wants to talk to Joseph first. Watching her leaving, Wolverine grumbles that this bunch is getting way too moody for him. He may have to take off soon. Ororo urges him to calm himself. She tries to justify Rogue by claiming it’s just… female troubles… Rogue is merely…
Suddenly sniffing something, Logan tells her to keep that thought – they’ve got a visitor. He announces he’ll go meet with him and meet them at the pond after. Quickly rushing into the woods, Wolverine muses that even though he doesn’t why Storm was trying to cover for Rogue, he’s known Ororo long enough to know when she’s keeping something in. He sure doesn’t like the way things are going here lately. If his oldest friends can’t be straight and narrow with him and if he’s going to lose his temper on little punks with big mouths like Marrow, then maybe it is time he took a breather and hit the high road. He has to give that some serious thought once he’s done with the gatecrasher, he concludes, as he climbs on a tree and rests on a branch.
Jumping on the ground beside the intruder, Wolverine startles her, growling “Freeze, lady!” The intruder, a middle-aged, uptight woman in white coat and skirt spontaneously exclaims “Oh, my world!” She asks him who he is. “Who’re you?” Logan snaps back. She introduces herself as Margaret Stone, an inspector for the Board of Education. Slightly embarrassed, Wolverine tells her the pleasure’s all his, then, and introduces himself as Logan. Margaret asks him if that’s his first name or his last. Wolverine invites her to take her pick.
Margaret explains that they sent a note regarding an impending inspection of the school. She asks for confirmation: this is the Xavier Institute for Higher Learning, isn’t it? Logan wonders what she’s doing way back here. He didn’t mean to scare her, but these grounds are private and they’ve had… trouble with intruders before. Margaret brusquely clarifies that she chose to begin her inspection with the grounds.
Producing some documents from her bag, Margaret informs Logan about their contact with the board, a Mr. Charles Xavier. Wolverine corrects her: that’s Xavier with a long “a,” not a short. Undeterred, Margaret debriefs him that Mr. Xavier has not filed his biannual report in over two years. She was sent to inquire as to why, and to re-accredit the institution. Having a look at the documents, Wolverine stresses that this isn’t a good time. She might want to come back in a month or so. Margaret briskly retorts that she has the authority to conduct her inspection now and she will complete it today. “Now, if you would be so kind as to show me to your student buildings…?” she tells him, before suddenly wondering why it’s so warm up here.
Deep in silent space, in a spacecraft, Bishop sleeps. In his dreams, he pulverizes Cyclops with his energy blasts. Deathbird leans above him and softly touches him. Addressing him as her ‘love’, she announces they’re on their way back to the realm they will soon rule together. She reassures him that his crippled body heals with remarkable speed now and…
Bishop, incapacitated and connected with various devices, releases a gurgling sound. Deathbird deters him from speaking or moving or even thinking. He’s in no condition to do anything right now, save bask in her all-consuming care and her undying love.
The Xavier Institute
Rogue is trying to speak to Joseph, who is thoroughly ignoring her, watching something in the television. A man is being interviewed. He claims that his work has shown that mutant genes can be countermanded – reconfigured – to mirror the genes of normal men and women. He argues that they in the Agee Institute will one day be able to unlock the mutant gene problem entirely…
“Rubbish,” Joseph snarls and smashes the TV set with a magnetic bolt. Rogue again tries to gain his interest. Oblivious to her presence, Joseph wonders aloud about this man, this Doctor Agee. “Unlock the mutant gene problem?” The world he has returned to is as ghastly as ever it was. Were he a different man, he would crush this Manhattan clinic with his own two hands.
Rogue addresses him for a third time and Joseph is finally alerted to her presence. He apologizes and asks what he can do for her. Rogue retorts it’s more what she can do for him. Does her remember when they were in space? She said she’d help him remember everything about the man he was. Well… she was thinking that there’s one way she could do that. A risky way, but a surefire one. Realizing what she’s insinuating, Joseph hopes she’s not suggesting… “A touch,” Rogue confirms his suspicions. Just a little one – enough to look inside his thoughts and…
Feeling increasingly unwell, Joseph turns his back on her. He thinks her absorption of Gambit has gone to her head. Rogue insists she’s just trying to help him. Joseph coldly stresses that if she believes that, it is she who needs help. Rogue stutters she’s sorry… she just thought… she just… “Never mind!” she huffs and takes leave, without taking notice of Joseph writhing in agony in the other end of the room.
Outside, Wolverine presents Margaret with the main facility. He apologizes but they’ve cleaned out the place between terms so they can get the floors refinished, but he’s sure she’ll see…
A crying Rogue suddenly storms out of the building. “’Scuse me!” she sniffles. Margaret deduces she must be one of the students here. She introduces herself and extends her hand. Even more upset, Rogue blurts out that she can’t shake her hand… she has a condition… a skin condition… she has to go now! “Pardon me?!” a flabbergasted Margaret stammers. Rogue apologizes as she takes flight. “Well, I never…!” an indignant Ms Stone exclaims. Female troubles, Wolverine tries to appease her – she knows how it is; no call for alarm. He assures her there’re people down that path that’ll take care of her. Why don’t go have that look inside?
Wolverine guides her through their main rec room, where suddenly they confront a delirious Joseph. Squirming with agony on the floor, Joseph groans that he is near! Appalled, Margaret wonders what is wrong with him – and what is heavens’ name is going on here? That boy needs help! Joseph shrieks they stay away from him! Margaret tells Wolverine this is not acceptable – not at all! Wolverine admits they’ve had some setbacks but… Margaret dryly announces that this institution is officially on probation! They’ll receive a notice from her office as to her recommendations. “Good day!” she adds as she hastily takes flight. “Ah, cripes…” Logan rubs his face.
Meanwhile, the X-Men are having fun at the pond. “Bombs away! Whoohoooo!” Cannonball shouts, hanging from a rope fastened around a tree branch above the pond. Jubilee is comfortably seated on Iceman’s shoulders. Isn’t he supposed to be at his father’s, she asks him. Bobby explains he was. Now he is back – and she is going under! “Says you, cold mister!” Jubilee snaps. Right by the pond, Maggott offers to rub some oil on Storm’s back for her sake. The sunbathing Ororo explains she doesn’t burn. Maggott suggests he does it for his sake then. Ororo turns down the offer.
Throwing Jubilee into the pond, Bobby cheerfully proclaims “He shoots! He scores! Jubilee is doused!” Imitating the voice of an interviewer, he asks himself “Bobby Drake! How do you stay dry?” He replies in his normal voice: “By dunking everyone else in the pool, Bob, and…” Storm intervenes and generates a mini-shower above him, leaving him soaked. She points out that what is fun for him may not be so fun for his victims. Indeed, Jubilee resurfaces, spitting out pond water! “Yes, mommy,” Bobby quips before he dives into the water, screaming “Look out beloooow!”
Wolverine rejoins them. Storm realizes he looks angry and asks about the intruder. Logan explains she was a Department of Education inspector. Big problems; he’ll tell her later. He asks her if she’s seen Rogue down here. Storm reveals she has not yet arrived. Logan remarks that’s weird. She was ahead of him…
All of a sudden, Iceman tosses a snowball on Logan’s face. “Uh-oh,” Ororo exclaims, realizing what is about to follow. “Drake scores from thirty yards out and the crowd goes wild!” Iceman enthuses. Berserk, Wolverine suggests he goes for the field goal then. “Calm down, Wolver-mean!” an uneasy Iceman snaps. He was only…
Wolverine darts to Bobby violently clasps him, dragging them both into the pond. Shocked, everybody turns their attention to the fight, unaware that someone is stalking them from afar, feeling an intense need to touch Wolverine. A feral Logan extracts the claws of his right hand, while keeping Iceman still with his other hand and growls that maybe he should go for a hole-in-one – or better still, a hole-in-three!
“Nice to see you don’t just pick on little girls,” a voice harshly reprimands him. Logan turns around to see Marrow resting on the tree branch. “First the ones you don’t like, then the ones you did? Is that it?” she hisses in a vitriolic voice. Logan warns her to go back in the basement and hide there or he’ll give her another dose.
“You don’t have the…” Marrow is about to bite back when an incensed Storm releases a thunder. She demands they stop it this instant – all of them! They came to this place to enjoy the serenity of nature. Let them not have it disrupted with these childish vendettas! Logan angrily concurs and takes off, announcing he’ll go make his own party. Jubilee calls after him. “Not now, Lee,” Wolverine replies without looking back. He’s not in the mood. He suggests she leaves him be. Alone… yes… good… the mysterious stalker contemplates, watching Logan take off.
Storm notices that Bobby’s right foot is bleeding. She wonders if Logan cut him. Cannonball, however, didn’t see him use his claws. Iceman confirms that midget maniac didn’t do this. Something in the pond cut him. There’s something in there. Something metal. Maybe some ice can help clarify exactly what it is…
“What the…?” Bobby exclaims after he ices up the pond, only to reveal an aircraft concealed at its bottom. Storm recognizes it as the original Blackbird. She told Forge he should hide its remains after crafting the new one. She had no idea he had been this resourceful. Iceman suggests they get it out. Now that they’ve got zilch to their name, maybe they could sell it for scrap or something. Perhaps, Storm replies. Rogue could lift it out. She suddenly wonders where Rogue is.
In the woods, resting on some rocks and using his towel as a pillow, Logan mocks himself: “Good goin’, Logan. What’s next? Old women? The sick an’ the infirm?” He decides to face facts: he’s a loner; he’s always been a loner. Domestic garbage may work in the short term, but it always loses its hold on him in the long run.
Suddenly, a pair of hands grabs his head, while a voice whispers, “Dear Lord… please forgive me!” The stalker touches Logan’s face and begins draining him dry. Wolverine reacts to the unpleasant sensation by letting out a scream.
The X-Men hear his howling and, at Storm’s behest, quickly rush to his aid. Cannonball offers to take the lead. “Not if I can beat you to it, Kentucky!” Iceman retorts. In no time, the X-Men discover Wolverine in the woods, lifeless, with Rogue kneeling above him. Shocked, Ororo asks her what she has done to him. “Done?” a confused Rogue exclaims. She was on her way over, when she heard him screaming and found him here – honest! Ororo asks her to step away from Logan. Rogue is surprised: she… she doesn’t believe her? Ororo replies they will sort that out. For now, though, she implores her to stand away from Logan. Mortified, Rogue takes flight, whimpering that she trusted her! Ororo urges her to wait.
Maggott tells Storm that Wolverine got some serious hurt on. Storm fears she already knows his symptoms. They must get him into the house immediately. Easier said than done, Maggott replies as he struggles to carry Wolverine – he’s no lightweight! Jubilee hopes that Logan will come around: “Logan? Speak to me, big fella!”
A voice behind them assures them that he can no longer speak to anyone! Storm wonders if that’s Marrow. Her voice is… “No!” Cannonball retorts, pointing up to the sky. “Over there! It’s a…” Before he can complete his phrase, the X-Men’s old enemy, Sauron, flies down on them, sarcastically quipping “It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s… Sauron! Evil incarnate is among you once more!”
Cyclops and Phoenix have finally reached their new home, only to discover it buried under tons of snow dropped by an unexpected blizzard. “Great!” Cyclops grouses. This is just what they need! He tells Jean to give him a minute and he’ll try to blast it away. Jean disagrees: using his optic blast will just fatigue him and they came here so he could recuperate from his injuries. “Let me do it,” she volunteers. “You?” Scott replies in disbelief. That snow has enormous mass. Her telekinesis won’t be enough to displace it all without putting even more stress on her and…
Jean cuts him short and reveals she’s been practicing lately. She can do this with no problem. All they need here is a woman’s touch, she asserts and begins to work her magic. “There, you see? No problem at all…” Jean tells him as soon as she clears the snow. The couple walks into the house, leaving behind a cleared area that bears the shape of the Phoenix bird.