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Minute Change

Part 2

Karolina Phillips



Jean rubbed her arms to get rid of the unease crawling over skin. Her pace slowed as she neared the boathouse and embarrassment set in. She prided herself on her ability to remain calm and collected and running away doesn't exactly inspire respect. But it was the third time in as many weeks. In every session with Rogue, there was a perceptible tension that steadily grew until it reached a breaking point. As if though my presence is an unwelcome intrusion. This outburst had been different though. It's like she lost all sense of self-restraint. In all the cases Jean had been in contact with the other woman's mind, it had been inactive. Nothing "material" had ever moved, changed or hunted her. Definitely not that. She hated to admit it, but the human like form suggested that It was a manifestation of Rogue's core Psyche. If that's true, then it means she deliberately attacked me. A defensive reaction?

Scott met her at the door with an expression blending both anger and concern. "I felt that Jean. Care to tell me what it was?"

She continued past him to lean against the counter and weigh her words. "For lack of a better explanation, it was Rogue."

The muscle in his jaw tightened. "And you were that. . . upset?"

"Scared? No, not really. Something unexpected happened and I over-reacted, that's all."

"Over-reacted?! You were terrified. I can't-" He took a deep, calming breath and counted to ten. Arguing wouldn't be productive. "I think, maybe, you should tell me exactly what Rogue's problem is. It could be a threat to the team." It could be a threat to you.

I'm a big girl Scott. She's no threat to me. "And I'm sorry, but she's my. . . client. What's between us is confidential, even from you."

A moment passed. "All right. But I need to know one thing. Is this condition of hers dangerous in any way?"

Only to herself. Jean quickly censored the thought. "Walking the plane is always risky. But if she's a threat, I'll tell you."

Rogue watched the dust motes swirl in the sunlit area in front of her. The patterns they created reminded her of Storm's powers. Just what the life energy looked like through her senses. So much to control. Compared to that, her own lack of control was deplorable. 'Roro wouldn't try and hurt someone who was helping her. More so than that, it was the lack of guilt that disturbed her. She kept searching for the elusive feeling but, I just don't feel sorry when I know I should. Getting up on one knee, she was startled by a brief pain in her temple. Okay, probably just a result of the psi-bolt. Nothing to worry about. The headaches were nothing more than a stress reaction brought about by the strain of controlling certain unwanted memories. . . and behaviors. Nothing more than a minor nuisance really.

Strolling over to the collection of stuffed animals she eyed them conversationally. Maybe I should have a chat with Logan, he'd probably have some good advice on controlling violent urges. Fading light glinted off the inanimate glass eyes and her attention wandered. Good thing I don't really expect them to answer me, a smile quirked her lips, then Jean would seriously think there was something wrong with me. Nevertheless, she waited for some hint of what to do. A sigh. That's right, Logan has a thing for Jean. Rogue draped an arm over the commode leaning over to study the frayed teddy bear that normally resided on her pillow. "What do you think, 'Roro?"

Storm often understood her even better than Mystique had. Of course, even she gets a bit sanctimonious at times but at least she can accept my past unlike certain other folks I can think of. They didn't mean it of course, but none of them liked to remember her past. First I was too nervous to tell them anything, now they don't want to hear it. After a while, everyone seemed to tactfully forget. And that's perfectly fine with me. Floating the last distance to Storm's room, she waited to be acknowledged.

Storm straightened and looked to the open door where her visitor hid behind the door jamb. She seemed to take a moment in appraisal. "Good afternoon, please, come in and make yourself comfortable."

Rogue fidgeted for a minute after settling down on the couch and began to watch Ororo weave through her miniature jungle. So poised and confident of her position, almost wish I could be like her. Having been her though, Rogue was very conscious of Storm's stifling level of self-control. Worse than having none. Good thing she gets to let loose sometimes. The other woman continued watering her plants and spoke.

"I do not mean to pry, but something troubles you." Patiently, she waited.

"Ah had another one. Same one from Remy." Ororo caught a glimpse of the young woman's scowl. "Ah wish he'd jus' up an' tell me instead of all this malarkey 'bout makin' me preten' Ah don' know."

"I see. Perhaps you should tell him." Certainly it was Rogue's own business how she dealt with Remy but she could not help feeling disapproval. In many ways, Remy was a dearer friend and she did not like seeing him put through this misery.

"Sheeyah, right. He wouldn't believe me. Mule headed boy don't listen t'me 'less it suits him."

Neither do you. "Do not be so quick to ju-"

"Judge. Ah know, been over this befo'. He's got his reasons, Ah got mine. Problem is, he's so caught up protectin' me he don't know when he needs some of the same."

"From who, child? I do not believe you would intentionally harm him."

"Not intentionally I wouldn't-" Mystique. Shaking her head to clear the association, she murmured to herself. "Stompin' on his heart don't count, huh?"

Storm came to sit gracefully beside her. "I have known you for many years and you are not malicious or cruel."

"Really? Y'sound pretty sure o' yo'self, 'Ro. Well, Ah almost hurt Jean 'gain. Ah let it happen this time!"

Storm almost smiled as the young woman's temper defeated her yet again. Here was the true conflict. "I have hesitated to say this, but it is time. Perhaps your actions reflect the nature of your mutation just as Logan's reflect his." It was a risk to say it to her face. Although she demands them, Rogue does not respond well to unpleasant truths.

The words were a bare, incredulous whisper. "What? You tellin' me it's mah nature to. . . rip folks 'part? Jean's supposed t'be mah friend!"

Disturbed, Storm stood and tilted her chin up. "I did not mean to anger you."

"Congratulations." Rogue shoved herself off the ottoman and stalked out.

Back in her room, she sagged against the closed door. This day had quickly gone from mundane, to bad, to worse. And with my luck it ain't over. No account being so rude to her just because she surprised me. Especially since it was something she'd heard before in different words, from a different person, but with same meaning. 'Stop that pathetic whining girl. You were born with it, that means you're supposed to use it.' It was difficult to use her power nicely and Mystique certainly hadn't bothered teaching her any methods of doing so.

Consequently, Rogue had spent the last few years doing just that. Over the years, though, various scrapes, she'd learned not to depend on her powers as a crutch. Not to breath with them but to use them as the abhorrent mutation they were. To fight them. To have Storm of all people practically quote Mystique was shocking. Not what I was looking for. I've changed and I'm not going to let 'Roro set me back like this. Besides, not like Cyke would let me practice anyway. If there was a small voice inside her that insisted that Storm was right, it was ignored.

Before the incident with Carol she had been slowly but steadily gaining control of them. Got it down so I could choose what I wanted to absorb. She couldn't figure out what had gone wrong with Carol. Following it by the book, Rogue had held on, controlled the influx of memories, subdued Carol's persona and timed the whole affair. So why didn't she fade? What went wrong? Even Xavier had been unable to answer that question. She wasn't about to try another stunt like that just to find out.

The sunlight had taken on a red-orange glow so that she almost didn't see the insistently blinking light of the answering machine mocking her with its innocence. Wonder who might be calling me? No, let me guess. 'Rogue, this is your mother, bomb someone.' Giving an indelicate snort, she hit the play button.

"Rogue? This is Sarah. It's about my brother."

For a moment she glared at the machine. It didn't help. She looked to her left back at the pile of creatures. Finally, she turned back and hit the replay button, naturally, the message remained the same. "Shit, jus' my luck." Knocking commenced on the door prompting her to fumble for the delete button. "Who is it?"


Cyke huh? Not Scott? "See, told ya so." The teddy bear made no reply. "Door's open."

He saw Rogue sitting on the edge of her bed. Part of her was in shadow behind the drape of the window. The rest was bathed in red. Mahogany furniture, upholstery and drapes, his visor. Even the white of her hair had picked up a sickly salmon tint. Brought back to task by the whir and click of the answering machine, he began. "Jean's brought it to my attention that you've been having certain difficulties."

"Well, Ah s'pose you could say that. Course, it's nothin' new." A brief urge to play dumb was quickly tamped down. Cyclops could make life miserable.

"Can I ask exactly what 'it' is?"

Rogue smiled blandly at him. "The Prof di'n' tell you? Ah won'er why."

Scott lost his benign expression. "I'm going to ask one more time, what is Jean treating?" He was disgusted with himself for needing to ask twice, for feeling uncomfortable asking. It struck him that he didn't know Rogue well at all. She was just someone to give orders to on field, who disappeared into the woodwork, who the Professor would occasionally send on reconnaissance missions with Wolverine. He frowned.

She rolled to her feet and went to the window so he couldn't see her face. "Y'know, Ah practically lived in the Pentagon for a couple years. Ah know how the army works." She rounded on him. "An' the X-men ain't."

"No, we're not. But I'm responsible for the safety of the team. If you prove a risk, I can-"

"You can what? 'Less y'got a badge an' a license t'show me, you can't do nothin'! Ah'm he' of m'own free will and 'cause the other membe's want me 'roun', not on yo' say so!" Just as suddenly, she stopped, clamping her jaw shut with a click of teeth.

He leaned back in brief surprise. Behind the visor, his eyes narrowed. "This isn't like you."

"Ain' it? Sure it is Cyke. It's just me minus the kowtowin' Ah been doin' fo' my entire stay with y'all so far. You could say it's a real'zation Ah came to while drivin' cross the country."

She's changed, maybe. I wasn't here when the Professor admitted her. "What did you mean about this not being new?"

"The Prof's been treatin' this fo' most the past fi' years. He jus' did a better job of it than Jean. Sometimes Ah remember garbage at inconvenient times. Nothin' serious, jus' inconvenient."

Cyclops was appalled. He'd known that the Professor had kept regular appointments with her, but what if we'd been in the middle of a mission and she broke down? How could the Professor keep something this important from me? "I. . . . Fine, if the Professor thought it was acceptable I'll let it go. But report to a group training session tomorrow morning." I need to see if she can handle stress after one of the "minor inconveniences".

I swear, that's the boy's solution to everything. Rogue kicked her shoes off and plopped back down on the bed. I could've handled that better. A suspicious Scott on top of the call from "Sarah" wasn't auspicious. She'd never expected "Sarah" to call. If Tori Bauer's asking me for help it must be about her husband. And if it's what I think it is. . . . Serious business. The shadows in the room began to lengthen. Regular quandary I'm in now.

The X-Men stood for something better than hate, blind violence and intolerance. Something better than Mystique. But sometimes they need a reality check. Slapping the baddies on the wrist simply didn't work in every case. She wasn't sure how to work Bauer around her responsibilities as one of the "good guys". I suppose I could just take a leaf from Logan's book. Course, they won't look the other way with me like they would with him. This is going to require some delicacy.

The situation wasn't particularly unusual or surprising, but it was awkward. Destiny, Irene, had helped them avoid this for the most part, but it still happened. A loose end from the past would pop up, tracks that hadn't been covered. Not enough so twerps like Belle get any real dirt on me, but I still have to take care of this since Momma can't. As she mused, the excitement of the evening bore down and she drifted off into a troubled, healing sleep.