Chapter Six – One Second of Truth

Author's Note – My beta-reader, Freeverse, asked me if I thought it was lame that Rogue rode a moped. Well, no, no I don't find it lame. I find it amusing. I think its awesome. And I think it makes Rogue's character just that much better. So she will continue to ride her moped. Thank you and now onward to the chapter!

Lost in the depths of worry, Rogue was unable to make a decision. Her hands gripped the handlebars so tightly that her knuckles turned white. Her body was tense. She had even forgotten to breathe for a moment.

Smoke puttered from the small exhaust of the moped as the engine continued to whir, steadily emptying the gas tank. The gates of the institute were closed and towered before her. It seemed almost as if they were daring her to come in, which made her even more uncertain. She didn't want to face the slightest possibility of encountering Kitty.

Rogue had been in such a hurry to flee from the red-eyed mutant and escape her embarrassment that she had forgotten why she had been out: to avoid Kitty. Now, as she sat outside the mansion, she was faced with the prospect of finding her here. Maybe she would be in their shared room upstairs, or maybe they would collide going in and out of the bathroom. Then what would that lead to? More ridicule and more insults… derogatory remarks that she just didn't want to hear. As childish as it was, she was afraid to face her.

Although her mind currently revolved around Kitty, it began to drift off course onto a different track. It unwittingly brought her back to her earlier confrontation with Remy and brought back the warm sensation of embarrassment to her cheeks. To get away from that she turned back to her previous thoughts, but like a circle, it was a never-ending cycle.

She needed to calm down and think – and that was something that she probably should not be doing outside the prison bars of the mansion. It would probably just make her appear even weirder to her friends. To her supposed friends. So, she turned her moped around and sped off.

Away from the place with the people who were just like her, yet where she still didn't belong.

Away from the guilt that would inevitably be thrown at her… as if she didn't have enough of her own already.

Away from everything except for her life, which she just couldn't seem to escape.

Rogue's vehicle chugged down the narrow dirt path, slipping in the loose sand so much that she finally had to cut the engine and roll it the rest of the way. She leaned it against a nearby tree, a few steps away from the cozy gazebo built on the cliff. A safe railing of wood encompassed it and the bushy trees that lined the path to the trellis provided ample shade. Rogue stepped onto the platform and immediately went to the far side and leaned over the railing, closing her eyes a moment before she looked down.

The menacing rocks were cut almost completely vertical, though there were a few rebellious jagged pieces that protruded. Further down was the hard, stone beach that gradually shifted to the rough sand that was sprinkled with sharp pebbles. The sand led into the calm the water - water decorated with many unfriendly boulders, most of which had been eroded into threatening points.

For a moment, she felt as if she wanted let go and fall. She wanted to fall onto the rocks and finally escape from the one thing that was impossible to escape from. But as quickly as the idea had come it had already vanished. Her mind had already imagined the pain and injuries that would come with it if her attempt at death failed: either earning a snapped spine or a cracked skull or fractured a limb. Fear suddenly seized her, making her breath catch in the base of her throat. She stumbled away from the railing and tripped over her heavy boots, falling on to her butt.

She sat there for some time with her mind blank and her chest heaving as if she had held her breath for too long. Recollections from earlier in the day began to invade her mind again and once more her cheeks flushed a flaming pink. She forced herself to roam further back, searching for that feeling that had overcome her when he had looked at her. It was almost an indescribable feeling; it was like perfect bliss and she wanted to feel it again. She struggled to find it, but it only got further from her touch of remembrance. She knew she didn't deserve the feeling, she just wanted to feel some sort of happy comfort. What else did she have?

Her eyes began to water when she realized that she was incapable of grasping the feeling again. She pulled her knees up under her chin and curled up onto her side, sinking into a miserable ball that couldn't even get the tears to leak out of her ducts.

A miserable ball incapable of saying one simple phrase that she knew, or at least thought, might bring her suffering level back down to a minimum: I'm sorry, Kitty.

Rogue knew that it was a sentence that needed to be said, but what difference would it make now? It wouldn't change what had happened or fix what she had done. All it would do is give Kitty the right to abuse her even more because she would be admitting fault.

Yes, she was at fault, but she wasn't ready to believe it yet.

"I do believe you're in my way," the lazy voice drawled.

John looked back over his shoulder at the spacious room behind him, then to the doorway he was standing in. His eyes drifted down to his feet, planted apart so that his body blocked anyone else from getting by. A sparkle of humor lit in his eyes as he said, "I do believe you're right, mate."

In a blur of black, gray and brown, Remy had his bo staff out of his duster and fully extended. The silver metal pressed unkindly into John's windpipe.

"C'mon, matchstick, get out o' de way. Not really feelin' playful at de moment."

"Jeez, man, wha–"

The butt end of the staff pushed harder against his throat and he choked on his words. He smiled then, despite his current breathing difficulties.

"So, where ya been?" he coughed out.

"Ah, dat not be any of your business," said Remy, retracting his staff with a shlink. "Now get out of Remy's way. I have news for Magneto."

"Touchy, touchy."

John stepped out of the doorway and bowed courteously, extending his arms to make an entrance for him.

"You may be needin' some psychiatric help soon."

"Ain't that what they all say," John said with a grin.

Remy moved swiftly passed him. He had a unique walk that combined suave, grace and speed. Cockiness radiated from each clunk of his boot against the aluminum floor. Magneto had made certain that their latest hideout wasn't as easy to burn down as the previous ones... that and he could use the entire base as a weapon if he so desired.

He hopped into his chair in front of the monitor – the "super-sized jumbo screen" as he liked to think of it – and idly began flipping through the few channels they received. Most of them were news stations. John listened for the knock, then for the quiet squeak that came when the door opened. A loud click followed and he immediately bounded out of the chair and to the door. He pressed his ear against the door and, surprisingly enough, could actually hear the conversation resounding through the metal.

"…found the girl, Magneto."


Darn it, he thought. He was going to have to play fill in the blank.

"What… you want wit' her?"

"…ystique wants her for something, Mesmero has only one key… to find… She might be useful to us. Her powers are very unique. But Mystique… not be allowed to reach her."

"How you want dis to play?"

"…doesn't matter to me as long as she does not end up with..."

Already bored with eavesdropping, John went back to his recliner and propped his feet onto the control desk. He stared at the screen, though his mind really wasn't on the reporter. His thoughts flitted around abstract ideas regarding his book and incomplete sentences that his inner voice was trying to finish, but he was even distracted from that. What his mind was focused on was piecing together another story, this one involving the reality he lived in.

The logic behind Magneto's plan was weak, if there was any. They didn't really know why Mystique was after Rogue, but Magneto was certain that it had something to do with Mesmero. And Mesmero wanted to unlock the end of the world… or something like that. Rogue had some part to play, and since Mystique wasn't on their side, she was on the wrong side, so Rogue had to be on their side…

It all made John's skull hurt. He gave his head a shake and his train of thought instantly derailed – and he had no intention of trying to find the tracks again. Honestly, he didn't care about the logic. After all, his actions were irrational and never really thought through, so why should he search for logic?

All that really mattered was the gist of it: Rogue was somehow important to their future, the future of mutants, and possibly to the future of mankind. They needed to have her away from Mystique, which meant away from the institute and hidden with them.


John mentally cringed when he heard the steely voice, but he turned around with a ridiculous grin.


"What have you found out?" Magneto demanded.

"Nothin' important, really. Ya don't get much from the first conversation. All they do is yammer on while I stare at their knockers…," he said with a casual wave of his hand. "I really don't see the point in minglin' with the goodie-goodies. They ain't got much of a chest."

Magneto grabbed the collar of John's shirt with his fist, lifting him out of the chair and onto his feet. The fabric twisted until he could feel it tightening around his windpipe.

"Do not fool around this time! I want to know everything! And entrusting you to do a task as simple as that could very well put the entire planet in jeopardy!" he bellowed. The shirt constrained further as Magneto's voice lowered, slow and frigid. "If you fail me, Pyro, you will find yourself burning in Hell."

"Hakuna Matata. No worries. Ya'll 'ave all the info ya want."

He mock-saluted, daring to meet Magneto's hardened gaze. Finally Magneto released the shirt collar and, to John's distaste, it had been wrinkled.

Kooky old bastard.

He preferred working with Mystique. Not only because she looked better, but because he didn't have to bite back remarks. Holding his tongue was the most difficult thing anyone could ask him to do – he was just a vocal guy.

And especially because, with her, he wasn't forced to have conversations with air-headed girls who were unable to control their powers. With Magneto, he was now obligated to see her again and again. He would have to endure depressing mood swings and unhappy talks, he would have to feign sympathy for her and act as if he cared about what she had to say when he could really care less. Worst of all, he would have to suffer through the boredom – and he could only do that for so long.

John stuck his tongue out at Magneto's back. Remy, who had been watching the altercation from the opposite side of the room, raised his brows.

"Mature," he said, almost amused.

"Very," John agreed.

Author's Note – I've got a spiffy poster picture that I made for this fic. It's not lettered yet (and the lettered version probably won't ever get put up), but here it is: deviantart.com/view/3496334/ Be sure to check it out!

Also, mucho apologies for getting this out late! I have several other projects that I am working on, so updates will probably come once a month. ^_^;; Sorry if this disappoints anyone.

Thank You's – To my beta-readers, Ice Princess, Freeverse and K-chan. I love you all! And to my absolutely wonderfuly reviewers, whom I love and cherish: kulerka, Rogue77, FaDiNgSiLvErStAr, RiverX-girl, I'm an Angry Gumball (Aww, I'm sorry you don't like Kitty's portrayal. But you also have to imagine how she feels. She has to worry about falling to the very core of the Earth, she can't go without her dephaser equipment, and the very powers that make her a mutant shunned from mankind have been taken away from her control. Kitty is going to learn how Rogue feels… by acting like her. :P), JainaGal0715, and Freeverse!