, that I hadn’t yet mentioned her kind reviews in my story. This chapter is for you. You’ll notice the scene at the end where I weaved in your suggestion. And to everyone who has added me to their favorite authors or favorite stories lists: all I can say is I am very flattered and grateful. This story has been an epiphany for me. It has revitalized my love of writing and taught me to believe in my own ability. I have you all to thank for that.
Chapter Seventeen: My Secret is Hidden Within Me
Magneto and Rogue:
When faced with great suffering, the human soul has two options: it can overcome its pain or it can die. Rogue knew what it meant to be a survivor; she had dealt with the tramatization of her parents abandoning her. She overcame her suffering because she had to. One either went on and continued living life or one died. There was no in between. Carly had to learn the same hard truth.
At first Carly had been quiet and disoriented at suddenly finding herself in the care of the Brotherhood of Mutants. But Carly adapted quickly, finding easy friends in Rogue and Catalyst, both of whom had young faces and bright smiles that the girl liked immediately. As the months of her stay with the Brotherhood continued, the miraculous happened. She seemed to forget about her rape as an event of the distant past although it was still recent; as only children with their short memories are able to do.
Often Magneto thought of sending the girl to live with the X-Men; despite how much the idea disgusted him. He felt as though she should be around mutant children her own age. But he kept putting the date off in order to enjoy watching how well Rogue took to taking care of the young girl. They were inseparable and whenever Rogue was not working with Magneto on her mutation she spent her time playing with Carly. Rogue had even begun to tutor her in subjects like math and reading so that she would not fall behind in her school work. It would seem with or without the X-Men, Rogue had been destine to teach elementary school. Erik couldn’t help but find Marie’s behavior endearing.
Rogue was not alone in her love of Carly; every one at the fortress had taken to her as their little mutant princess. Catalyst was a second mother to the girl; looking out for her when Rogue was unavailable. Whenever she cooked a meal that Carly seemed hesitant to eat, she would slip back into the kitchen and return a few moments later with pizza, chicken fingers, or macaroni & cheese. Mystique made endless trips to the main land, at first for necessary items like clothes and school books; but later she was bringing the girl toys nearly daily. It was not an odd sight to find Barbie and Bratz dolls scattered around the common room and a disc of The Little Mermaid in the DVD player. Underneath all the muscle Juggarnaut had a heart of gold and became a favorite of the girl’s because he was very good at squashing bugs.
Rogue was deeply touched by Erik’s interactions with the girl. He acted like the girl’s grandfather and even went so far as to let Carly play on his office computer which remained off limits to all including Rogue. Erik told Carly stories at night that he had created himself about a little mutant girl named Princess Cathleen. Princess Cathleen solved mysteries and saved her kingdom from destruction by evil humans countless times. Carly smiled throughout every story, drifting off to sleep to the sound of Erik’s soothing voice. But when Rogue listened in one night, she started to cry. It was very touching to see a man who had once been imprisoned in a Nazi concentration camp offer comfort to so young a sufferer of intolerance, abuse, and rape.
Rogue grew very attached to Carly; but it wasn’t that much longer until they were parted. It was sad to see the girl go…but she couldn’t have thought of a better home for her. When Johnny Unitas Hepburn came to visit, back from one of his recruiting missions, he fell instantly in love with the young girl. The two victims of mutant discrimination made a perfect pair. Hepburn had children of his own about Carly’s age, though he wasn’t allowed to see them anymore. Carly thought the 6 foot 5 inch tall ex-football star was a big teddy bear. It was a match made in heaven. Although sad to see her go, the Brotherhood relinquished Carly to Hepburn’s care and the two traveled around the world together campaigning for mutant tolerance and preaching the Brotherhoods’ message to the masses. In so many ways, it was Carly who gave Hepburn the foundation and love he needed after his life had been destroyed by mutant discrimination.
Hepburn was a gift the Brotherhood could not possibly have done without. Magneto, despite all his charisma and savvy public speaking ability, could never have brought in the numbers of recruits Hepburn did. Mutants from around the nation and around the globe flocked to hear him speak. Suddenly, branches of the Brotherhood of Mutants were popping up all over the country. Magneto could hardly keep up with all the correspondence between their Camden, New Jersey branch and their Atlanta, Georgia branch, and their Missouri branch, etc. etc. The Brotherhood’s numbers had swollen to over 10,000 members. Realizing one person alone could never possibly run all this, Magneto called upon a mutant friend of his named Professor Jeri Kojak.
Professor Kojak was a female mutant with abilities not much different from Charles Xavier’s. She could pause time and read minds, but not at the level Charles had. Professor Kojak had been a political science theorist before losing her university chair because she was a mutant. She and Magneto had had a short-lived affair several years ago. Because of this, she was one of the few people Magneto trusted enough to organize the Brotherhood’s fledgling branches.
Professor Kojak along with Multiple Man began to travel back and forth overseeing the start of several Brotherhood branches that began training mutants in earnest. Meanwhile Magneto began negotiations with the mutant dictator of Bangladesh. If he was going to successfully conquer and occupy Australia, he would need all the help he could get.
Rogue had been reminiscing about Carly with Catalyst one night five months into her stay at the island fortress when she finally learned why Catalyst had joined the Brotherhood. Trying her best not to cry, Catalyst had described her human older brother’s struggle with stage four stomach cancer. Although Catalyst was able to slow down the cancer’s growth with her mutation, she couldn’t cure it. So Catalyst had tried her best to develop an anti-cancer drug to target the tumor’s cells. However, the scientific community is a tight-knit one. There are very few scientists in the world and it is an elite profession where peer review is given credence. When it became obvious Catalyst was a mutant, she had been unable to receive any more research funding. Magneto had stepped in and offered the required money out of his own pocket.
Rogue was learning that there was even more to Erik then his memories told her. He was so much more complex than he had seemed to her four years ago on top of the Statue of Liberty. Although she did not always agree with his methods, she was beginning to understand the passionate need behind them to help mutants everywhere. Often he took things to extremes, but after suffering so much persecution at the hands of the Nazi’s Rogue couldn’t help but forgive him his zealotry. Slowly, very slowly, the idea that the Brotherhood might be doing some good crept into Rogue’s mind and she found the thought hard to dismiss.
Sitting in Erik’s study one day, Rogue called him out on where he had been sneaking off to early in the morning. His head rose from the charts he was studying and gave her a wide-eyed startled look.
“I don’t know what you are talking about.” He went back to his charts.
“You’re not getting off that easily, Mister. I’ve heard you take the launch at six o’clock the last few days in a row. Where have you been sneaking off to?” Marie had the audacity to wave her index finger at him.
“If you must know,” Magneto let out a sigh, “I have been going to a construction site on the main land to practice using my mutation to manipulate large quantities of metal.” He didn’t like admitting out loud the way the Cure had weakened him. Erik stared at the picture of the Golden Gate Bridge next to his bookshelf. Rogue for her part politely switched the topic of conversation, noticing how uncomfortable it made him.
“Do you mind if I switch the music that’s playing?” She walked over to his Bose stereo, holding a pack of CDs Erik hadn’t noticed before. She had brought them from her room that morning when she came to his study to work on her mutation control.
“I thought you enjoyed Puccini’s Madame Butterfly, Marie?” Erik played either opera or classical music exclusively. He took great delight in introducing Rogue to cultural experiences the Southern girl had missed out on. She had never objected to his love of opera before. Rather Erik had often seen her smile at the graceful arias and rousing chorus numbers. She had asked him on a number of occasions to play his Mozart albums.
“I do. I never thought I would, but I do. But Erik… can’t I play some of my own music for once?” It was not lost on Magneto how hard Rogue worked to say “I” and not “ahh”. Her bright smile was impossible to resist and with a wave of his hand he used his power to pop open the CD tray and yielded the stereo to her. After a few moments the high strumming cords of country music began to play through the Bose’s $300 speakers. Brad Paisley’s soft crooning voice sang “Little Moments Like That” as Marie began to sing a female accompaniment with a twang that said her attempts to change her accent where purely for his benefit.
“I am willing to let you play music you pick Marie, but this,” he motioned to the speakers, “is not music. If these cowboys are so depressed and heart broken over women why don’t they just commit suicide or become gay like in Brokeback Mountain?” Clutching her stomach, Rogue dropped to the rug and rolled around caught in fits of hysterical laughter. Magneto begrudgingly realized he enjoyed making Marie happy. He wanted to hear her laugh like this often. Finally she was beginning to see his dark humor.
“Okay, you may play one hour and not one second more of your music per day. The rest of the time we will listen to what I want. Is that acceptable?” From her spot on the carpet Rogue looked up at him sitting behind his desk. Her smile was infectious and Erik’s eyes roved over her svelte form lying on display before him. The mounds of her breasts were clearly defined by her tight shirt covering them. He felt himself grow hard at the sight and almost missed Rogue nodding her head in acceptance.
Rogue was eating some toast for breakfast a few mornings later in Magneto’s study. They had been making steady progress controlling her mutation. Rogue found that stopping the pull of her skin was like trying to hold her breath. As she practiced she could do it for longer and longer each time. Magneto was unsure if she would ever be able to stop it permanently, but she could stop it long enough so that she would no longer accidentally harm those around her. Erik wondered why she still wore his gloves around when she hardly needed them anymore.
“Let’s see how long you can control your mutation for today.” Magneto said sitting next to Rogue on the couch. She set down her toast and pulled off the large black Gucci gloves, eager to test herself. Taking a few deep breaths, which were completely unrelated to controlling her mutation but helped to calm her, she took his hands in hers.
They held hands and watched the clock tick slowly by. At first Rogue showed no signs that stopping the pull was hard for her, but after the clock passed three minutes she clenched her teeth, willing herself not to give in to it. They continued to hold hands and Magneto waited for her resolve to falter. It didn’t. Four minutes passed by. Rogue’s forehead began to bead with sweat and her grip on his hands grew tighter. The two watched in silent excitement as the clock hand passed the five minute mark. Letting out a breath Rogue hadn’t realized she was holding, she wrenched her hands away from his as the pull began strongly. She fell back against the couch, smiling as though she had just won a marathon. Magneto raised his magnetic shield back in place and smiled back at her.
This was the longest Rogue had ever controlled her mutation for and five minutes was a huge milestone. Her joy radiated from her and she leaped across the couch into his arms, hugging him tightly against her. It had been several months since their urgent tryst in the airport hanger and Rogue had begun to wonder if he was no longer interested in her in that way. But as she held him, feeling his cheek pressed against her own, she felt his erection grow hard against her stomach. She gulped, sucking in a hurried breath and pulled back from him, unable to meet his eyes. She had waited so long for him to acknowledge her attraction to him that she was afraid of his reaction now that she knew he at least somewhat felt the same way.
Desperate not to continue the awkward moment, she grabbed Erik’s hand and pulled him from the couch.
“Come on, let’s show the others. Pyro will be so happy!” She dragged him behind her running at full speed down the hallways of the island fortress till they found Pyro watching TV in the common room.
“Pyro I can stop it for five minutes now! Let me show you.” Rogue took his hand in her own and stopped her mutation in the same manner she had done before. As the minutes ticked by Pyro echoed Rogue’s excitement. After a few minutes he gave her a friendly hug. Rogue, effervescent in her happiness, squeezed him against her body and gave him a kiss on the cheek.
When she pulled away she caught the angry snarl Magneto was casting in Pyro’s direction. It took her a while to realize her mistake and his jealousy made her heart leap in hope.
A week later, Magneto lied to Rogue. He justified it in his mind as for the sake of the surprise he had planned for her. Still the words made his mouth turn sour in disgust. He didn’t enjoy misleading her so completely. He told her he needed to attend a UN summit meeting in New York City that week and that he thought she should accompany him. As the tensions between humans and mutants had been steadily rising for the last several months, most of the Brotherhood including himself and Rogue had been cooped up in the island fortress. He wished to change that and give Marie a reward for how hard she had worked at learning to control her deadly skin.
Taking the helicopter, they set out on Friday morning and arrived in NY in the early afternoon. Rogue had stopped wearing his gloves as she no longer needed their protection. If someone touched her she could stop the pull of her mutation and no one would ever suspect she was a mutant. Rogue had looked over at Magneto as their taxi passed by the UN without stopping and headed South to the garment district. In front of a tiny shop that had bridal gowns in the window, he told the cabbie to pull over and wait, as he held the door open for her to step out. They entered the formal wear shop and Erik approached the counter and addressed the woman behind it.
“Do you have the order for Erik Lensherr ready?” The woman searched a rack behind the counter and pulled out two plastic garment bags.
“Yup, Mr. Lensherr. We have a men’s tuxedo in size 38 and a woman’s ball gown in size 4. Will you be needing shoes?”
“Yes. Size ten for me. And Marie?” Rogue was so taken aback it took her a few minutes to collect herself. He wears size ten shoes…
“What size shoes do you wear?” The woman asked.
“Size seven and a half.” Rogue had no idea what was going on here. She kept glancing at Magneto but his calm, cool, collected demeanor gave nothing away. The woman handed them the bags and gave them shoes.
“We have changing rooms in the back.” She pointed to the rear of the shop.
“Change into your dress Marie.” Erik said as he put his arm on the small of her back and ushered her to towards the changing rooms. They each took one and Rogue opened the opaque garment bag to reveal a stunning floor length gown in an ivory cream color with a halter top and backless cut. There was no why she could possibly wear a bra with it, the strap would show plain as day. She got undressed and made to put the gown on, when the label caught her eye. It read “Donnatella Versace Original” and bore her signature in blue pen.
When she had finished she stepped out of the cramped room to see Magneto waiting outside for her, clothed in his black tuxedo. She loved the way black set off his white gray hair and she couldn’t take her eyes off him. He looked regal, and Rogue wondered if he knew how handsome he was when he wasn’t trying to look like Magneto, the terrifying mutant leader.
“Do you approve of it?” He asked.
“It’s too stunning for words. I just wish I still had my opera gloves. They would have gone perfectly with this. If only someone hadn’t burned them.” She raised one eyebrow at him saucily. Magneto was very serious when he replied.
“If I had my way Marie you would never wear a pair of gloves again.”
They dined at The 21 Restaurant and throughout the meal the curiosity was killing Rogue to know why they had gotten so dressed up.
“I take it there ain’t no UN meeting.” She stated the obvious.
“Mind your accent Marie,” and he pushed an envelope across the table to her. She opened it in her lap and out fell two tickets. They were going to the Metropolitan Opera Company’s production of Puccini’s Turandot. An hour later they were sitting in a box on the right side of the theater, no one suspecting there were two powerful and dangerous mutants in the audience. As the curtains opened Marie asked him what the plot of Turandot was because she was unfamiliar with it.
“Turandot is a princess of Peking, China. There is a magic spell on her that says she can only marry the Prince who correctly answers three questions. Princes who answer incorrectly have their heads chopped off. Finally one prince gets all the questions correct and is able to marry Turandot. But he sets a condition up for Turandot, who is known to be a cold unfeeling Princess. If Turandot can guess his real name before dawn, she will not have to go through with the wedding and instead the Prince will be killed like all the others before him.”
“Why would he make such a condition? It only hurts his chances.” Erik gazed at her, feeling his heart beat wildly in his chest. Would she see the hidden meaning in taking her to see this opera? Would she understand what he meant to say by this? He was very scared of her rejection. He was an emotionally cold person, several decades older than her, and still weakened from his battle with the Cure. Could she understand his intentions and accept him despite his faults?
“Because the prince wants to be sure Turandot loves him and is not marrying him out of necessity.” Rogue turned a little pale at this. She turned her head back to the stage before Erik could tell if she got his veiled hint.
The opera was well performed and Magneto’s heart swelled as the tenor belted out the famous aria “Nessun Dorma” at the beginning of the third act. He looked over at Rogue to see her face wet with tears as she read the translation projected above the stage:
“No one sleeps, no one sleeps...
Even you, o Princess,
In your cold room,
Watch the stars,
That tremble with love
And with hope.
But my secret is hidden within me;
My name no one shall know, no, no,
On your mouth I will speak it
When the light shines,
And my kiss will dissolve the silence
That makes you mine.
Vanish, o night!
At daybreak, I shall conquer!”
Rogue felt the tenor’s strong voice vibrate in her chest and she knew in her heart what Erik meant to tell her. No words were needed between the two as they left the opera house and flew home in the helicopter. On the ride back Marie feel asleep on his shoulder.
Author’s Notes: As Nathalia Potter suggested to me: "Every time you leave a review, an author's inspiration begins anew!” That’s so true. So be a dear and review.
The Princess Cathleen stories are real (though they never featured a mutant). My Dad used to tell them to me every night to go to sleep.
Thanks for comparing me to Shakespeare KumaDaPuma. That’s what every writer dreams about.
Many asked to see Johnny Unitas Hepburn make a second appearance, so here he is. Hmm, where did I get the name for Professor Kojak’s character? From one of my most faithful reviewers and good friend of course. If you haven’t yet figured it out the character of Catalyst is the author’s attempt to write herself into the story. It’s my Hitchcock appearance. I walk on the screen quick and then I’m off again. I lost two of my family members to stomach cancer and it is a terribly underfunded disease. I spent a summer researching anti-cancer drugs, although I did not make much of an impact.
The scene where Rogue eats toast: that goes straight to you evilerk.
And wow! So many good suggestions from so many loyal readers. I did not anticipate such lovely interest in my story. You guys make me blush. I love you all. Someone even called me the best fanfic writer ever. My heart is gushing. I cannot tell you enough. I love you all.
Let me leave no doubt in your mind. The next chapter is what we have all been waiting for. Go to Chapter 18