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Minute Change

Part 4

Karolina Phillips



Well, that wasn't very mature of me. He's just so transparent when he acts like that. Does he think I don't see the way he creeps off whenever I pay attention to Joseph? Ironically, Remy was attempting to drive her off in the same manner she had him. They were at a standoff, he refused to tell her about the memories, she refused to let it pass. He probably thought she'd ditch him but she wouldn't trust him or her own sanity until he did. Wish I could just turn a blind eye to his memories. Maybe I should let him drive me off. Be best for both of us.

He could be right to push her towards Joseph. At times she felt like kicking herself for thinking that it might be something more permanent. There was no such thing. I accepted that when I was just a kid. How could I forget? Yet, when she turned around, he was still there even though she'd never had any intention of starting a relationship with a snake like him. Just a little bit of fun, scavenging, knowing no one would get angry at her for stealing a bit of attention. He had seemed perfectly content to play along. When he'd come on too strong, she'd thought maybe he misunderstood and handed him an ultimatum. Figured he'd dump me like a hot potato, not grab the ball and run. Well, the field's run out and there's nowhere to run. Time to stop grasping at straws. She wasn't sure if she would be able to keep a straight face if he chose to tell her it was over. Letting it end would at least save face. It made her feel ill.

Futile hopes like the Z'Noxx chamber. Felt like patting Joseph on the head when he showed me the doohickey. He was so proud of himself. If someone asked her, she wouldn't be able to explain the trapped sensation that had built inside of her as she stood underneath the machine. The minute the chamber had been activated, her seventh sense screamed at her to get out. It was like being blind-folded too long, or held under water, that not feeling of something missing or just out of reach. She rolled a shoulder to banish the prickle down her spine. I was probably just projecting.

In her room, she tapped the answering machine in friendly greeting. There were more important and less troubling things to worry about than her love life. Work always helped. She had business to attend to and needed a valid excuse to hare off without arousing suspicion. And maybe I can get two birds with one stone while I'm at it. Lunch wasn't for a couple of hours, so there was time to think, plan and prepare. Rogue sank down in the fautelle resting her chin on clasped hands.

Tori Bauer had been instructed to call for one reason and one reason only. Mystique, who had been contacted as well, no doubt, was successful and Rogue was alive because they both kept their word. No one crossed them unless ignorant of their identities. Clive was a dead man. The X-Men don't kill. . . officially. But I'm not acting as a team member here.

There might be a way to stop the leak without killing him. My powers? Could I just grab him and the info? There would be no guarantee that the information wouldn't return as it had in Carol's case, that another telepath wouldn't pick up on it -- like Jean --, that Bastion wasn't watching, that the data hadn't been already copied. The unexplained death of a low ranking agent would surely draw attention in the current political climate. On the other hand, it would most likely be blamed on the "mutant menace".

Was it possible to just let him go, to turn the other cheek and forget? Clive wouldn't. It was his job to bring the information in to his superiors. Ignoring problems only brought them down on a person all the more swiftly. I'm not quite that unselfish. Wish I was, but I'm not. Guess I just have too much survival instinct drummed into me. It would be one thing if letting him go affected only her but both Mystique and Tori would take the fall as well. Chances are, we wouldn't stay in Federal custody either. The Professor had gone in good faith and for all the team knew, he'd fallen off the face of the earth. She rubbed her temples in acceptance before leaving to fetch the Chamber.

It was close to ten o'clock when he finally decided to out for the night. He saw Rogue standing there, lock-kneed, arms crossed, beside his bike keeping it company. Her body was held tensely, motionless except for the agitated tapping of one foot. There was no point in avoiding her, yet he hung back warily. Right about . . . now. She cocked her head testing the air and then turned in his direction.

"Now chere, you not be standin' dere givin' me evil looks wit'out wantin' to say somet'in'."

"Mmmm hmm, sorry 'bout spoilin' yo' plans fo' th'evenin', but Ah thought we might take a li'l walk."

With a last forlorn look at his bike, Remy snuffed out his drag and followed her. She didn't say anything until they reached the woods. Her face was unusually closed off; normally emotions on it showed clearly. After her first comment, she gave no inclination towards jealousy. Don't know what I'd tell her if she did ask. Yes I do, but it's not as fun as it used to be, or no, of course not? He sent a tentative strand of empathy outwards and was immediately slapped back by her shields. The aggressive reaction in itself was interesting. Still can't decide what floors me more, that it reacts so quickly, or that she doesn't notice. It was cold and the only sound was the crackle of ice and snow beneath their feet. Moonlight glared back up off the ground making the path visible despite the dark. He didn't dare joke.

"Wan' talk 'bout Seattle an' my powers."

He didn't understand why she seemed to set about it like a dog with a bleached bone it refused to release. Or perhaps he did. It was there, underneath the anger she projected, an open concern. But if he told her, she'd feel obligated to protect him, involve herself. "We already-"

"Shut-up. If y'not gon' answer my questions, then y'gon' listen to what Ah have t'say. Not expectin' any type of answer 'cause every time Ah bring this up you either clam up or give me some line 'bout overcomin' our pasts. Fine. But ya gon' hear me out this time."

The poker face delivery made him nervous. Her behavior for the past few months confused him. She didn't act angry or hateful or even ignore him. He'd catch her watching but not quite seeing him. It was the same look she directed towards Scott and Jean, frightening and aggravating at the same time. Yet, instead of going to him, she would search out Joseph.

"Were ya really willin' t'let me take yo' hand?"

"Woulda given ya all, still will if ya wan'."

"Yo' mind, body, soul, hopes, dreams, nightmares, an' responsibility for what y'done. Don't put words in my mouth when Ah ain't askin' for it all. Got 'nough o'm'own. Lousy sonuvabitch, you'll give me everythin' but a straight answer." Her breath puffed out in a cloud of frost. "Right charitable of you, sugar. You can't run away from yo'self that easy." A heartbeat passed.

Eyes glowing fiercely, he pulled his collar up. She misunderstood. I wasn't trying to pass on my fear and. . . guilt. I wanted her to see my love. How much more intimate can you get? "When ya gon' stop pushin' me 'way?"

"Why won't ya tell me?"

"Why d'ya need to know? I don't ask 'bout your past, why d'ya need to know everyt'in' 'bout mine?"

"KNOW EVERYTHIN'?!" Her face snarled up and she waved a fist in his face dangerously close to breaking his nose. He started backing up and she brought up a second fist continuing on incredulously. "Did Ah know you were married? Did Ah know ya had a family, a clan? Did Ah know Sabretooth had a personal grudge 'gainst you? Did Ah ask? Don't know nothin' 'bout you 'cept what comes back t'haunt you so you watch what y'accusin' me of! Ah don't care what yo' precious secret is but Ah'm goin' crazy lookin' over my shoulder or watchin' yo' back not knowin' what the danger is!" Pushing hair out of her eyes and turning back to the path, "An' while Ah realize my record is a public file, it'd be nice if y'jus' asked. Ya haven't answered my question."

He tried for a cool and calm dodge. "Dat's okay, ya haven' answered mine." How could she possibly not care about his past? She'd been curious enough to ask Creed. Despite his best efforts, it was insistently catching up with him. Her own still baffled him to a degree. The record on her only went back to the day she fought the X-Men in the Pentagon. Very little was said about her days with the Brotherhood. He'd heard quite a bit. Led by a shapeshifter whose true identity was unknown, aided by a precognitive, several petty assassins, and Mystique's somewhat vicious young protégé. Never thought I'd actually meet her and live to tell about it; her Momma would've turned me into fish bait. Catching an inappropriate smile before she broke any of his bones, he cleared his face. She had a point though. Whether or not the memories surfaced, his enemies could and would use her against him. It wasn't fair to cripple her defenses like this. But every time he thought about telling, the words choked in his throat. That was what it came down to after all. She was terrified of losing him to some unknown factor, fretting herself into a panic. He was making it worse, but if he told her, he'd have to see the Look on her face, betrayal.

"All right, Ah want t'know Ah can trust you-" She cut him off when he started to protest and jabbed at her chest, "to trust me. That when somethin' important, somethin' that scares you comes up, ya won't go playin' Han Solo, you'll come t'me an' let me help."

So it was that. "Last time I let ya help. . . ." She jerked as if shot and crammed her hands in the jacket's pockets. He hadn't meant to say that. It was just, whenever he was around her, his brain and mouth didn't quite work at the same speed. "I'm sorry, shouldn't've brought it up." Already talked to Xavier about Belle. He hadn't seemed surprised, just disappointed in her. Oddly enough, that reaction had made Remy furious. Apparently, the professor had never talked to her about it either. And me? I know why she did it. No need to make her feel ashamed about it.

"Naw, 's'alright. Fair's fair. Ah tried t'tell ya 'bout that, wanted to, but Ah di'n'." When she swallowed, he tried to reach out again and as before, was cuffed but more sharply. "If. . . if ya feel ya got to hol' it 'gainst me," she shrugged, "that's t'be expected. Not goin' t'blame ya f'that."

"Permission granted to blame me for doing what comes natural-like". She had pulled further against the edge of the path away from him. He had to fight the urge to go to her, offer comfort, because experience said she wouldn't accept it. He reached out a third time, but unlike the other attempts, pulled back hovering on the edge when her psionics rose in defense, holding it there testing her tolerance. Rogue gave a violent shudder abruptly turning to glare at him. Quickly, to derail her, "If ya not blamin' me an' y'already know, den why ya keep demandin' I tell you?"

"Because Ah don't know, Remy. Jus' 'cause they're in my head don't make 'em mine. They way y'keep stonewallin' says y'don' want me t'know an' Ah respect that. But Ah have to sort 'em out if only t'make the nightmares go 'way. Ah want hear it from you first."

"Ya tellin' me, all this hurtin' was 'bout de principle o' de t'ing?" The words came out more tired than angry.

"No. Secrets kill!"

"Ya don' know de half of it."

"What don't Ah know? What it's like t'have a messed up childhood, a skewed sense of reality, t'be used, t'kill?"

"Not de way I. . . have."

"Yo' right, Ah was a whole lot more directly responsible for the folks Ah murdered."

"T'ought ya said, y'di'n' know."

"Ah saw 'nough to stop lookin'. But Ah am privy to scuttlebutt, heard of Remy LeBeau an' suspected for a good time before ever kissin' ya."

His eyes fixed on her without volition. This changed. . . things since the truth wouldn't be a surprise to her. "Still knew 'nough t'run. If ya knew dat much, why don' y'know how much I love you?"

Nodding slightly to herself in apparent disappointment, she tucked her elbows in hunching slightly. "Ah know you do. Don't know how or why, but Ah know. But love won't solve the world's problems, save the whales, or much of anything on its own. My powers don't let you off the hook that easy."

"Wouldn'ta hurt to try. If dat's d'only way I can get close t'ya, so be it." Too late he saw her stop and bow forward spreading her arms. In the next instant, his feet dangled off the ground as she shook him.

"YOU! You-" She snarled shaking him until her eyes fell to her grip on his lapels. Grimacing, she set him down. "You romantic , takin' th'easy way out. What the hell was goin' through yo' min'?!" Her voice turned low each word bitten out, "Been there, done that. The last thing Ah want is yo' ha'f dead ghost rattlin' 'round 'side o'my head! Ah want you live, an' breathin', an'. . . ." He dodged a disgusted wave. "Ahhhh, never min'."

Dumb, dumb, dumb, he thought while trying to preserve some small fragment of his dignity. She wouldn't try an hurt him, nothing crippling at least, but this was the woman who accidentally snapped trees down. Right now she was genuinely upset; enough so she chose to restrain herself.

"Besides, they don't work that way."

Was she lying to him? That would be atypical and easy to discern. While excellent at concealment, she was a lousy liar. "I read de files on y'powers, you tellin' me dey wrong?"

"No, it just ain' on file." She looked back at him briefly noting the bland polite expression. "Once, Storm let me use my powers on her to prove a point. Everythin' worked jus' like normal 'cept Ah di'n' get any mem'ries."

If she's bluffing, she's doing a damn good job of it. His words came out testier than he intended. "Why not?"

"Don' know f'sure. Pro'ly has somethin' t'do with the fact she consented. Then 'gain, could jus' be a fluke." She had no difficulty meeting his eyes.

"What was it like?"


Guess no one ever cared. "What was it like?"

". . . beautiful. Ah almos'. . . ."

Keeping his tone equally gentle, "Almost what?"

"Nothin'. Quit tryin' t'change the subject."

"Almost did it again." No need to feel guilty about that, chere. He had a thing or two to say about the way he saw the team treat her powers. "So ya sayin' dat you wouldn't have gotten any o'mine, eh? Why di'n' y'jus' tell me den? Why fly off an' lea' me hangin'?" He saw her bite her lip and turn away slightly. Not going to give me an answer, neh?

Rogue continued on relentlessly. "Did you know that touch is the most basic fo'm of commun'cation?"

What? "Yep, Psyche 101. An' I also know dat ya couldn' get 'way from mine fas' enough." What did her refusal have to do with touch?

"You're not even going to listen to me are you? I'm sorry then." Swallowing, she tucked her face deeper into her parka. "You wanted t'get close f'all the wrong reasons, Remy. T'prove that you were right an' Ah was wrong. It's too much, too close f'that kinda foolishness. Ah don't want t'know all yo' secrets like some type o' god. It ain' natural." She drifted in silence for a second, then murmured, "Ah jus' want t'touch you."

It was the only way he could think to adequately explain, the easiest and only way to prove himself. Damn. He'd forgotten under all the fear of the moment and tried to take advantage of her powers just like everyone else. Maybe I should just tell. A bitter silence fell between them, neither looking at the other or listening.

"Can I go now?"

"No. Still got somethin' t'show you."

She watched obliquely as he squared his shoulders and looked about expectantly. In front of them was a somewhat monstrous form, gray, looming, refracting the pale light in harsh patterns. Small multi-colored flickers ran across its surface. Remy's brows rose as he pursed his lips.

Rogue almost cracked a sympathetic smile at his quizzical reaction. You and me both, I'm not that desperate for touch, never will be. This machine isn't control, it's just a window giving me a view but not letting me hold on to anything material. "This here's the Z'Noxx Chamber. Joseph modified it so it protects folks from my powers." She flew up to and on one edge while Remy vaulted up on the other side. He was still listening. The surprise made her feel both guilty and relieved.

"You sayin' mebbe we can touch?" His entire manner radiated wary hope.

Looking down into the yawning chamber, she fought to hide her discomfort. He wouldn't like this, didn't like tests. But she didn't like uncalculated risks. Her lungs didn't work right, heartbeat interfering causing her head to feel light. "Maybe." She re-pocketed her hands. The tension was building just like last time.

Remy's face went slack before straightening into his usual impassive expression. "Maybe?"

"Yah, maybe."

"I see den, you gon' make me fee guilty dat I di'n' t'ink of dis? Or mebbe tryin' t'punish me, neh?" She winced as he leapt back down on the ground turning his back on her. "Raisin' m'hopes up jus' to t'row 'em in m'face!"

At least Joseph tried. Don't know if it was for me or for him, but he made an effort. All of Remy's bluffing had been for naught; her powers worked on him same as anyone else. His reaction, his acceptance, made her furious. He's putting me on a pedestal. I'm already putting up with that. I'm not going to give him slack over this too. He wanted her to commit to him, which was all good and well, but still expected to live his closed off secretive life. "You gon' tell me 'bout the mem'ries?"

At a loss for words, he was unable to contain his shock. His mouth opened, then closed and he began shaking his head slowly from side to side. "Non, non, NON! You t'ink y'can get rid of me dat easy?! Rogue, tell me you're not doing this. Please?"

She closed her eyes and pretended not to understand. "Sorry, Ah don' un'erstan', try English." I can't cave in now, gotta finish the job as Momma would say. Otherwise, we'll just dangle forever and that isn't fair to either of us. "Didn't think so. Well, that's okay. Ah was just makin' sure you'd made up yo' mind. Ah can't wait anymore, yo' mem'ries startin' t'become mine."

"Wait, I. . . ." His throat worked spasmodically. "I can't." He turned back extending his hand. "Please?"

Of course he couldn't say it out loud. She approached him as cautiously as a stray cat would a stranger. "You sure? Even after what Ah jus' tol' ya?" She ducked away when he tried to meet her gaze. Shit Remy, you trusting fool. Finally, she stripped her glove off. "Fine, go 'head an' tell me yo' way."

Rogue grabbed him under his arm when he buckled. Hook line and sinker. At least there was no expression of horrified shock on his face like last time. Somehow that made it worse. Not a single memory had been transferred. Guess he really did trust me. It would only last a few minutes and then his powers would fade and he'd waken. She lay him down gently in the snow crouching beside him with the pad of a thumb and a knuckle pressing her eyes shut before rocketing high into the stratosphere.

Jean looked up from her book with relief that Scott hadn't been watching her. A psychic disturbance had just occurred, a familiar one. She pretended to read while scanning for the source. Without any surprise, she located Gambit just recovering. His mind was fuzzy, uncollected, and Jean politely refrained from nosing through it. Are you all right?

Fine. Just fine.

He is, that's odd. This happened with Rogue's powers only rarely. For a second, she considered telling Scott, but his patience was running thin these days both with tasks and that particular woman's behavior. Besides, this doesn't have anything to do with the team and it's not our place to interfere.

Remy lay peacefully in the snow. His body still felt weak and shaky, powers barely returning. Like last time but his thoughts were intact with no gaps in his mind. I guessed wrong. She didn't get any of it. But she had in Israel. Angrily, he grasped a handful of snow. Why hadn't she told him before? I wouldn't have fought her, I would have told her, I. . . . The snow melted. Who am I fooling? I hid from her last time, just like I always hide. He awkwardly rose to his feet to avoid getting more cold and wet. The Z'Noxx Chamber beckoned hollowly. He spared a glance upwards before trudging back towards the mansion. Rogue had been reduced to attempting to barter for the truth, trying to make him angry, make him leave and prove her right and almost succeeding. Put too much time, too much heart, into this. If I gotta knock your head against a wall, I will.