All characters, except the Bauers, Uncle Lucien, and Miss Goetmeiller, belong to Marvel. I'm not profiting by this.

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Minute Change

Part 7

Karolina Phillips

11/15/97

 

Bruised pride aside, his temper had cooled quickly in the winter night. Now, he stood indecisively in front of Rogue's unlocked door. Her room was empty. Remy chewed on his lip studying the tarnished doorknob. Downstairs, in an isolated portion of the mansion, he located her signature. There was little motion from it. Glowering at shadows again, her favorite past-time. Should leave her alone. She didn't need sleep, not in the way most did, not physically. More than once, he had crept through the door after a long night only to discover her lost in memory. He reached for the handle. Rarely was he given invitation, but it was almost dawn. She should be back by now. If not, she would be. Her absence was disconcerting and worrying. Swiftly, before he could change his mind, he pulled the door open.

The blinds were drawn throwing narrow bands of light on the floor and fautelle outlining in black the discarded parka.. His conscience scolded him for being curious, but he smiled. The room was an interesting combination of Spartan and hedonistic: Few bric-a-bracs, a couple of bland posters to cover the white space of the walls, a work desk that appeared to have been struck by a typhoon, the incessantly humming stereo system, a clutter of books over her collection of stuffed animals, and a carved four poster bed complete with red satin sheets and velvet drapery. Materials pleasing to the touch were neatly tucked, excluding the edge marred by a congregation of wrinkles. Seen beds like that in other places.

She going to stay downstairs all night? Scanning the room once more for clues, he spied the closet. Shouldn't go peeking. Already gone this far. The door was slightly ajar at the end of a carpet trail. Inside were secrets of a sort. He crammed his hands in his pockets. Shuffled cards. Re-pocketed them. Waiting was driving him crazy. This is nuts, I'm getting all worked up because I want to reveal horrible secrets and Rogue isn't here. He searched for a cigarette but his hand merely bumped an empty shirt pocket. Then he opened the closet door.

The cured scent of leather enveloped him. Pieces of it, jackets, pants, boots, hats in myriad dark colors. Don't recall seeing her wear those. Or the suits. Pushing aside the facade, he found the back of the wardrobe. Or the kevlar body armor with night vision goggles and ammunition belt. He crouched down with a nervous glance over his shoulder feeling like a kid pilfering cookies. Be just my rotten luck for her to walk in now. Behind the shoe menagerie light glimmered from the edges and folded handle of a pebbled carrying case. It was an unpretentious blue-black, scarred across the plastic sides, well used. There was no label identifying it as a gun case, no reason to think it. The Prof really have her do stuff like that? A minuscule movement and the legging from the armor above tapped against the case. After the initial tinge of dismay, he sighed. Enough Remy, you're here to apologize not get an eyeful. It would probably be best to let her bring this up on her own.

After a final thoughtful look at the closet, he launched himself onto the bed with a satisfying bounce. He drummed his fingers together while examining the intricate patterns of the half-canopy. Maybe I should just come back tomorrow. Tell her about him and we see if she keeps her end of the bargain. Then I'll strangle her. An image of the Z'Noxx chamber came to mind offering a solution to one of their problems. He'd asked Joseph about it. Protect my mind but not my body. He grinned at his own double entendre. She looked awful jumpy around that thing, didn't like it. The light on the wall was changing from gray to lavender to pink. Clasping and unclasping his hands, he put them under his head, scanning the room yet again. The trusted teddy bear beckoned to him. It was the ugliest thing he'd ever seen, in a loved sort of way. It was also somewhat heavy for a cloth and polyester toy, but that was Rogue's own business. Okay, it's been five minutes.


This section of the mansion was directly beneath the women's' dorms and fairly undamaged. There was no one about, most of the lights were off and only a weak glow emanated from unshaded windows. She was here, moving jerkily, in the small study crammed between two other storage rooms. He'd never entered it, for somehow, this room was more sacrosanct than her own. There was a series of bumps and thumps as Rogue fussed with the study door, then with an especially loud thump, kicked it. Remy opened it before it broke.

"Hey, y'open the door? Ah di'n'. Didja?"

"Yup. How y'doin'?" She looks rough. Her eyes were bloodshot, shoulders slumped, mouth slack and skin flushed as she swayed precariously staring at him in bewilderment. He grabbed her elbow to aid locomotion while trying to pry a bottle out of her hand. She positively reeked of alcohol. Look hard enough and maybe I can see the fumes rising.

Her grip tightened stubbornly. "Wuzzat?" The simple words took all the air from her lungs. A clumsy hand pushed hair out of her face on to have it flop back down again.

"I said, how ya doin'?" Locating his gloves in a pocket, he pulled them on and tucked her hair back. There was only one reason he could think of for this. He'd never found her well and truly drunk, he'd never given her cause to, nor ever meant to. Apparently, their...discussion that evening had upset her more than she let on. Typical, always trying to be aloof, trying not to get hurt. Looks like you fooled yourself, girl. So she hadn't meant to drive him off with the charade earlier tonight. It hurt to realize she'd gone to such petty lengths to discover the truth.

"Oh, oh, neve' bette', jus' fine, uh huh." She shook his grip off and elbowed him in the stomach. The same hand came up to grab his arm. "Lea' me 'lone, don' need yo' help."

"Ya sure, c'mon, dis way." She might not want his help, never did, but that did little to alleviate his concern. This wasn't good. He'd found her hung over twice, once for certain, the second time a possibility. According to her file, she was resistant to most toxins but it didn't say whether or not that was a conscious ability. Highly susceptible to opiates, enough tranqs put her to sleep, but alcohol? How much she need to chug? His immediate worry was that in her carelessness, she might hurt him. Then again, she'd not flying or pushing me around either. Regardless, the intently vacant expression on her face confirmed it. She's wasted.

"Ah don' wan' go that way. Y'coul' be a shape shifter like back in N'o'leans, y'know, Belle's awful dumb but Ah di'n' kill 'er 'cause y'like 'er an' Ah di'n' really min' 'cept she tried t'kill me, or... Where we goin'?"

"We're goin' to ya room, dis way."

"Oh, 'at's good. Y'comin' wi' me?" She veered in the direction of the Rec room and he steered her back towards the stairs.

She was going to kill Belle?! No wonder she didn't want me to follow. He couldn't see it, not Rogue. She's always the one who goes on and on about holding back, being better than your enemy. The gun case in her closet popped to mind and just as quickly, exited. It had been covered by a fine film of dust. Nor could he recall her carrying any weapons with her when she traveled down south. No warning, she didn't have time to prepare. Furthermore, she would have been able to pick up any one of the knives Belle threw. The Professor had asked about that, if she had tried to kill, but he'd been unable to give an honest answer. Was in the other room, didn't see. Xavier had also asked him not to mention it again in front of Rogue, he'd cited emotional insecurity and psychological instability. Maybe I should've just asked, chewed it out with her.

Taking her by the shoulders, he leaned closer to look her in the eye. She gave a loopy smile. "Now, I'm goin' t'talk real slow so dat y'can un'erstan' me, okay?"

"Uh huh, 'kay."

"I'm takin' ya to y'room. Den I'm puttin' ya t'bed. Got dat so far?"

"Uh huh. Y'goin' t'bed with me?" She sidled up to him with a sinuous stretch and ran her hands up his chest.

It was very tempting. Any other time and he would've followed her without qualm. Tonight, she wasn't in possession of her faculties. He held still but that resulted in her touch being more exploratory. Not to mention she'll kill me in the morning and that's after breaking a few bones and gouging my eyes out with a spoon. This was just the alcohol talking but his body wasn't paying mind to the healthy common sense. "No, I'm not."

"Why not?"

She was groping him. Either that or she can't keep her balance. Nor could he decide whether it was the alcohol on her breath or, possibly, the hand she was working under his waistband that disturbed him more. He tried to remove her hands discreetly, to no avail. She slapped his hands away. "You're very confused right now and you don' really wan' do dat." Not that I really mind. "You don' know what you wan'." Her hands darted back towards his shirt and he grabbed them. Got'em.

She shook her hands with a flop attempting to break his grip. "Uh huh. Ah do too." Taking a deep, preparatory breath, she segued into a raucous rendition of Closer.

Immediately following comprehension, he felt pain. I love her, I really do, but I hope she never does this in public. Also hope no one else but me awake right now. She started tottering and he held her up. "Chere." No response. "ROGUE!"

"Wha'?" The idiotic smile was still glued to her face. The white of her hair picked up the gray and blue light meandering lazily through the hall. Underneath the blur, her eyes were revealing shadows.

There was no point. Even if she was sincere, this was not the time or place. What if she is? If she was and this wasn't just the alcohol, his judgment had been misguided. From the time their relationship had become more serious, he had assumed, based on her shy or angry attitude, that sexual attention wasn't appreciated. She's the honorable sort, would've felt pressured to give me what I asked for in return for the attention. He pushed her onwards until they were almost at the end of the hallway. "Dere's no need t'be crude 'bout it. I t'ink, dat mebbe tomorrow mornin' we should have ourselves a nice long discussion 'bout-"

She wasn't paying attention. "Stairs." Her face mashed up ferociously at the unexpected obstacle. "There's stairs."

He sighed in comic relief. "Yes, dose are stairs."

"But they' stairs."

"Yes, I know. C'mon, hol' on t'me an' I carry you." An elevator would be real useful right about now. The instant he picked her up, she wrapped her arms around his neck in a hold that threatened to suffocate him. She stroked his jaw with the palm of one hand.

"Ah can't feel it." Disappointed, she tucked her chin against his collar bone. "Stupid gloves, hate 'em, hate'em, hate'em.... They hot an' make my han's sweaty an' Ah can't feel nothin' an' Ah hate'em."

He couldn't think of anything to say if he'd been able to say anything. It occurred to him that she rarely attempted to touch him, even with gloves or through cloth. Maybe that habit ought to be broken. "Well, um, uh-"

"Y'got awful pretty eyes."

"Um, t'anks." Pretty? Dangerous, seductive, frightening, but pretty? Surmounting the stairs, he paused to take deep breaths. Heavy. He took a left and headed past closed doors to her room. No sound or movement came from behind the sheets of wood. Jean lived with Scott, Elizabeth was with Warren, and Storm resided in the attic which left Rogue as the sole occupant of this wing. .

There was another problem; her bedroom door was closed. I put her down, she falls. I hold her, she'll probably fall asleep. So she falls or she falls. He put her down but she only collapsed halfway retaining a loose hold on his jeans. He opened the door, and pulled her back up. "Walk."

"Huh?"

"Hush. Follow me, no, no, dis way, to de bed."

"Hush y'self! Remy?" She tugged on his sleeve pointing to an empty space in the room. "Bed's ove' the', see, ain'...." Puzzled, she rubbed her forehead with the tenaciously held bottle. "It moved."

"Yup. Dey do dat sometimes. C'mon."

"'Kay."

Taking her by the shoulder, he pushed her towards the bed and turned her to face him. She sat when the backs of her knees hit the mattress. "Now, y'gonna go t'bed, by y'self, an' take a long-"

Zzzzzzp

"Whoa!" Leaping back, he snatched her free hand away from his fly. "I jus' told you, dat's not what I came here for." Very good aim for someone who can't see straight. Nevertheless, this bore thought and serious consideration. She always shied away when he touched too much, too long. He's assumed it s reminded her of her powers. His earlier thoughts returned. She might be jumpy, but with a power like her's, she was informed. Look like maybe I was mistaken, maybe I've been neglecting her.

"Why not?" she asked in an exceedingly disappointed tone.

"'Cause ya drunk as a fish." Shaking his head in bemusement, he re-zipped his pants.

"So?"

He rambled to distract her. "So, no. I rode out for a while but when m'fingers and toes froze I came back. Speakin' of fingers an' toes, I got t'take y'boots off if y'be kin' 'nough t'hold still." He knelt with one shoulder between her knees and untied her shoe. "Was gon' tell you somet'in' important, nice long story, but y'don' seem up to it right now so I figure dat maybe ya jus' gi'me de bottle y'holdin' and I put ya t'bed." The boot was untied, but her foot was firmly planted on the floor. Trying to pick it up was like moving a tree with one hand, in short, impossible. What is this? Selective use of powers just to make things difficult?

Watching him struggle with her leg, she giggled, making no effort to be helpful. "A secret? What kin' secret?" She played with his hair, running it through her fingers and dropping it in his face. "Ah bet Ah can guess! Ah know lotsa secrets. It is a surprise?"

"T'ought it was, I bet not anymore. I tell y'about tomorrow, okay?" Her foot was not moving. He sat back on one foot, one finger curled against his lip, ignoring the tangles she was creating in his hair. "Rogue, please pick up y'foot so I can take off y'boots."

"No."

He tickled the back of her knee and she doubled over with a shriek. The bottle flew dangerously by his ear to collide with a solid thunk against the side of the bed. He grabbed her arm while getting his knee under hers. Now that her entire right side was immobilized, he took her shoe off. Seeing that the other leg was laying half bent, he removed the other one as well, then blinked. She had a hand up his shirt. The seams of her gloves scraped lightly over his abdomen and chest. Judging it to be fairly harmless, he let it remain, while standing and still trying to pry the Vodka out of her hand.

"Mine."

"Me or de happy poison?"

A fierce scowl developed on her face. "Mine." Saying this obviously required all her concentration because her hand went lax.

"Hey, I don' have a problem wit' dat." Triumphantly, he swiped the bottle waving it out of her reach. "Hah!"

"Heeeey, gi' it back!" She lunged up lethargically grappling onto his waistband for support heedless of his balance or good intention.

He planted his feet twisting backwards. She wrapped a leg behind his knee and pulled harder until they both fell unceremoniously on the bed while the bottle landed on the floor with a solid thunk. She laughed, nuzzling him, while he tried to disentangle himself. Damn octopus. "NO. What did I tell you?"

A goofy smile answered him when he gripped her wrists. "No?"

"Dat's right. Very good, you remembered." His cheeks felt hot as he leapt back to sit on the edge of the mattress. She have you fooled or what? This is embarrassing. This was too elaborately insane to have been planned but it stank of improvisation. Don't get it. She's so cozy with Joseph and ignores me. True, but he'd never seen her allow him touch beyond a shoulder or arm. Always telling me not to touch. "You did dat on purpose di'n' you?"

"Nuh-u-uh," she drawled in denial. Her arms snaked under his to wrap around him from behind.

"Y'know, if you were any other woman I -- OW! Don' bite!" A barely audible murmur was his response. An angry murmur. He looked over his shoulder and lightening quick, she kissed him.

"Dieu! What y'doin'?!" He bolted up as if burned. "Ya-" With a bit of effort, the stale words were choked back. Butthead. Wonder how many times she's heard that? Her dark mutters had subsided and she lay curled on one side watching him curiously. Enough times to believe it. He rubbed his neck slowly. This was unprecedented as far as he knew. There had been a slight tingle, but he was definitely conscious. "Let's try dis 'gain'."

"'Kay."

"No, no, no." Her eyes crossed when he shook his finger scoldingly. "For all de complainin' y'do, ya sure have a one track mind. Guess dis is somet'in' else we have to discuss, eh?" Batting aside the hand roaming up his leg, he hauled her into the center of the bed. "Stay."

"Whe' y'goin'?!" Leaning unsteadily on an elbow, she entreated, "Y'a'ready wen' out 'night an', an' it's 'mornin', y's'pose t'be sleepin' an'...." Her voice trailed off with a sigh and she lay back down in slow, painful movements.

Wincing, he sat again beside her. She was crying in a frighteningly dispassionate way, not seeing him. Assuming the worst, eh? Real open-minded of you. Then again, not like I tell her what I'm about. "I'm not goin' anywhere if you don' wan' me to. Y'listenin'?" Her eyes flickered and he sat back yet again.

She was tugging on his shirt. "You want me t'stay here tonight?"

"Uh huh."

"All right. But don' you go scoldin' me for it later." He shucked his boots.

"Ah won't."

As soon as he lay down, she hooked an arm and leg over him using his shoulder as a pillow. Shifted fractionally, she pressed an ear to his arm for a minute then relaxed. He kept an eye on her hand as it hovered in the air before falling with fair accuracy over his heart. Main artery going down the arm, heard my pulse. Taking a firm grip in his hair, she relaxed the ghost scowl along with her hold on consciousness. Guess I'm not going anywhere.


"Disgustin' piece of shit! Git the hell outta my sight!" The frightening impact of glass crashing on a heavy carved door punctuated the slurred shout.

She skidded into the stairwell in her haste to escape. Whining rather than crying lest her mother seek her out, the girl nursed fresh bruises. Usually, Mother drank in the side room by the kitchen in back. So, she'd used the front door. This time, Mother had been in the living room which was the only way through the front. It was awful bad luck. But she was safe now for a little while. Mother got in a bad way every day. In the morning, she was just real quiet like and pretended not to hear folks talking to her. But soon, she'd get loud and mean. She wasn't mean on purpose.

The front door opened with a muffled rattle that Mother hated, then slammed. It rooted her to the spot. The little hand of the grandfather clock was on six. Two voices emerged through the walls and down the hall. One rising and falling eventually becoming unintelligible. That voice was angry, scared, saying things like, "No, I didn't, No, I'm not, She deserved it, Useless." It kept making noises until there was a big thud from the chair. It had fallen over again. The second voice, which had been quiet and steady before, got loud. It got really loud, and then really quiet. It made agreeing noises, soothing, gentle like a lullaby. But it was scary. It said stuff like, "Yes, I perfectly agree, You're right, You can't ignore her, Patient teaching, Firm hand to improve behavior...." And it talked, and talked, and talked until the first voice didn't talk anymore.

There were footsteps, click of loafer heels, approaching the hallway door. The girl cringed, daring a look up the stairs. He would follow her up to her room. Or outside, or downstairs in the leaky cellar where all the bottles came from, or anywhere and Mr. Marcus and Miss Goat, which wasn't her real name, would help him. Miss's Goat's real name was long and sounded funny. Uncle Lucien said "Goat-am-iy-er". Uncle Lucien was behind the hall door. Half-sobbing, she crumpled on the bottom step to wait. She'd done bad.

The hall door opened washing her in dim light. She could see all the dust in the air. It moved around making everything look kind of gray. Pretending not to see Uncle Lucien, she stared at the hairline break in the wall. It started over the trim and wandered up a few inches before disappearing. The wood trim below had two small dents in it. That's where the nails were.

"Well? Stand up properly, I'm talking to you."

She stood, trying not to fidget or crumple her dress. Uncle Lucien was a gentleman. He wore fancy suits, Mother called them fancy duds, but they didn't look fancy to her. They were brown, and black and gray and some had stripes. Mother called him handsome too. He had kind of yellow hair, called blond, and a mustache, and really green eyes and- "Ow!" She pulled her shoulders up gingerly.

"Pay attention." He loomed over her. "That's exactly the problem with you. You never listen. Young ladies do as they're told."

"Yessir."

He was pacing back and forth in front of the stairs with his arms crossed wrinkling up his jacket sleeves. "I don't understand this. Are you just stupid or don't you remember what I told you about obeying your mother? She counts on you to help her, to be obedient when she's not well. Do the other children act so irresponsible? I can't believe you were gone all day. Look at you, you're filthy! Filthy!"

She wasn't supposed to answer those questions. He always got mad at her if she did. Every time he looked at her his eyes got squinty and his lip twisted up like a caterpillar. He was very mad. She'd gone to play with Cody and his friends on account that all the girls had a secret clubhouse and she wasn't in it because.... She didn't know why. Anyway, they'd gone frog chasing over by the loch where it turned into a muddy pond.

"Look at me when I'm talking to you!"

She jerked her head up from the brown leather of his shoes and backed up a step.

He moved in a rush, grabbing her shoulder and dragging her back. "Did I give you permission to go anywhere?"

"No." She looked straight ahead at the corner of his lapel. She had to be real careful not to look right at him or he'd tell her not to "look at him like that" whatever that meant. Her hands felt awful cold and her stomach felt funny like she was going to throw up. She tried to swallow except it didn't work.

Gently patting the bruise on her shoulder, he smiled. It was one of those fake smiles that people at stores always gave her when saying stupid things because they were grown-ups. "Good girl." The pressure increased, crushing her to the spot as his smile went away. "Now, honey, what you did today was very unladylike. In fact, I would go so far as to call it unhealthy. We both love you very much and the least you could do is act maturely. As her daughter, it's your duty to take care of her when she's unwell and until you act more responsible...."

Her knees buckled and her shoulder dropped under the force of his grip. Her mouth felt dry and sticky. All his talk was running together into a big muddy mess and none of the words made sense. They weren't mean words, and he was smart so he knew what he was talking about but it made her feel bad. Mother had gotten mad for no good reason, like always, and started hitting and yelling and there had been nowhere to go. It made her feel so angry she wanted to hit him, but if she did, he'd hit her back and he hit very hard.

"How can I take you in public when you exhibit such atrocious behavior? Where did you learn such foul language? Where did you learn that such violence is acceptable? Where?"

All the colors ran together and she blinked. He hated when she cried. He said she did it on purpose to get sym-pa-thy. The real, honest-to-goodness answer was "From you" but if she told him that he'd get madder and if she didn't say nothing he'd be even madder than that. "From school?"

He nodded slowly. "From school." Then, brushing her cheek with the back of his knuckle, "You aren't lying are you?"

She hunched away. It was worse than hitting. "N-no."

"Young ladies don't lie. Then don't use vulgar language. They don't raise they're hands against their parents." His eyes looked funny. They had the scary look. And he wasn't her father. Her father was gone somewhere. She didn't miss him or anything because she'd never met him. "And they obey their parents. You don't want to make me angry, do you?"

"No." She tried to lean away from his hand the scary look.

"I'm going to ask you nicely one more time. Where did you learn that?"

The words got stuck in her throat with all the air to say them with. She was going to start crying again. It wasn't fair. "I...uh...um...." Her whole body was shaking. It hurt to stand still. Uncle Lucien got real close so she could see the different colors in his eyes and all the lines on his nose and forehead. It was hot and cold at the same time. The light hurt her eyes so nothing was real anymore. "I don't know."

"You lying bitch. You just never learn do you?"

The last thing she saw before squeezing her eyes shut under braced arms was his saccharine smile.


PART8

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