Disclaimer: I don't own 'em.
A/N: Here's something to tide over those of you still waiting on something from me; specifically, for those of you waiting for the sequel I promised for Inappropriate Conduct. I'm swamped with uni-work, so...yes. For now, this is the best I can do. The sequel itself might be a long time coming, but I'll definitely have something more substantial for y'all when exams are done with. Now...this contains X3 spoilers and it's a one-shot. So...
Love it or shove it.
Good Girls Don't Even Consider It
She refused outright to turn to look at him.
He may not have even been aware that she was conscious of his presence. He may have set out with the specific intention to not be found. He certainly hadn't arrived in a conventional manner or alerted anyone else to his being there. Why would he want to, in any case? Technically it was trespass, but considering that he wasn't making a scene of arriving, of making a point of getting under the skins of those who so despised him...it spoke volumes of silent and reluctant respect. He'd waited for the cover of darkness to come here, to steal a moment of time with this bleak tombstone...this lackluster monument to a great and good man. To be away from the prying eyes that would question his being there. To say goodbye again.
...Just like she had.
Frowning to herself, she closed her wandering mind from making further comparisons between him and herself, and focused more intently on the grave in front of her.
"Of all of Charles's students...you were quite possibly the last I had expected to find here."
She bit the inside of her lip to keep from shooting something back at him. He may have been hit with more than one dosage of the cure, but so what of it? Rumors were already circulating that he'd regained his powers, much like she unfortunately had. After a measly six months - months she'd wasted in 'taking things slowly' with Bobby - she was back to square one. Again. And with the Institute still in an upheaval over the Phoenix's rise and demise...it wasn't likely that she'd know the touch of skin to skin for a long time to come...
...If ever again.
She sighed heavily and turned on the stone bench she sat upon to glare at the old man behind her. "What's wrong with me paying my last respects, Magneto? You aren't the only one who feels the loss."
He looked at her quizzically, perhaps surprised that she would know he still held a grudging respect for his former colleague and old friend. He shouldn't be surprised, though. He'd obviously spent as much time researching her as she had spent picking over his memories, sorting them out from her own. He should've remembered what she could do. It was quite a slip-up, considering it was him, and it made both of them uncomfortable. "So...he endeared himself to you while he was suppressing you, did he?" His expression molded into a cold smile. "Quite an achievement, on his part."
"Suppressing," she repeated dully. She wasn't in the mood for a confrontation, particularly one that she had no hope of winning in, but it was evident that he had something to say to her as much as it was clear that he had a final parting word for Xavier. "Just how, pray, was he suppressing me?"
He laughed, though the sound was chilling. "Rogue, isn't it obvious? Look at yourself, for a moment." His eyes turned mockingly piteous. "You have unlimited potential, don't you know that, girl? But you squander it and deny it. And where else would you get the idea that you need to hide yourself, lower yourself...but from a man who believes that we should be groveling for the humans trust." He frowned at himself. "Believed, that is," he corrected.
Rogue turned away, feeling suddenly tired and heavy-limbed. "This isn't going to turn into that 'god amongst insects' crap you spouted to Pyro, is it? I'm really not in the mood to get worked up over my supposed supremacy right now." Truth be it known, she'd come out to this very spot thinking just what he was saying - that Xavier and the rest of the Institute had been keeping her afraid. With so much time on her hands, with the Institute still trying to pull itself together in the face of all this loss, she'd had far too much time to think about things like that...things that she felt guilty for thinking. She knew they hadn't even given her a fair chance to train and control her powers; she knew that they never would, either. But she was damned if she'd admit it, lest of all to him. Hell, she was still having trouble admitting it to herself. Ignoring it made it easier for her to deal with the fact that the cure hadn't worked.
The crunch of dried leaves on the grass behind her told her that Magneto was moving towards her. "I only deliver that speech to those who already believe in it. Why would I waste my time preaching your genetic superiority when you won't listen?" He moved to stand beside her bench, turning his eyes towards the grey marble in front of the both of them. "Besides, my dear...we both know that you wouldn't take my words seriously. None of your kind would."
She frowned and turned her face up towards him again. "My kind?" she repeated.
"Yes. Your 'kind'." Surprising her, he sat on the bench beside her. His eyes remained fixed on the tombstone. She wasn't certain whether to feel nervous, contemptuous or...anything. "The good girls, Rogue. You're one of the 'good girls'."
She laughed and it sounded hysterical. Her nervousness at his closeness, not to mention his mere presence. "Good girl...right." She shook her head, trying to fight back the uneasy feeling mounting on her. "Since when have I fit into that category? I'm a misfit amongst mutants."
"Hardly." Magneto leaned forward slightly, resting his elbows on his knees. He turned to look at her, and there was nothing discernable in his eyes. "I imagine that if you listened to your peers when they thought they were speaking out of your hearing, they would focus very little on your powers and more on your achievements."
Rogue shook her head. "What achievements?"
"Well, I wouldn't call them that, ordinarily, since they impede my own designs..." A slight smile picked up at one corner of his mouth. "But you have survived an attack by myself. Your admittedly lackluster skills with an aircraft saved your teammates. I'll wager that you've improved since then, however - out of a phobia that such an occurrence will come about again, if for no other reasons..."
She was silent; that was all the answer she would give. But it was enough. His smile spread just a little more.
"I'm also willing to wager that you finished high school as the exemplary student you were when I first began researching you," he went on. "How did you rank, academically, amongst your peers?"
Thankfully, the light emanating from the mansion's windows couldn't quite reach the memorial site - her reddening cheeks were obscured in darkness. "I was valedictorian of my class. Highest scores."
"Ah. Congratulations." She shot him a surprised look as he sat upright once more. "And are you attending university now?"
She nodded. "Externally, anyway."
"Where? And what are you studying?"
"Yale?" He laughed a low, surprisingly warm laugh. "Astounding." He paused for a moment. "And I'll wager that you aren't lazy socially, either? You have a wide variety of friends; you're generally liked by all..."
Rogue shrugged. "I don't know."
"Well, have you ever been the end of bitter rumors? Have your peers ever been anything but kind when talking of you or to you?"
"I...don't think so."
Magneto smiled slightly, a hint of triumph in his expression. She got the feeling that maybe she shouldn't have been so honest. "You're very much in the image of Jean Grey for that, you know."
Rogue blinked, stunned.
"I know that the good doctor, while she was still 'herself' as you knew her, would have seemed like a lofty idol to compare yourself to," he went on. "More than likely, some of the younger female students might emulate you in the same way. You may not have control of your powers, but the sum of your self is not dictated by that. They would see you as an example of what is expected of a young woman in the Institute."
"And what's that?" she asked, for want of anything else to say.
"What else? A studious, social sweetheart. A girl with more concern for those around her and their happiness rather than her own. One who shelves all selfishness in favor of mindless altruism. Just like Jean Grey." His mouth twisted again. "It seems that the woman herself is dead, but - as the eulogy went - her spirit lives on."
Rogue winced at his callous tone, his disrespect. "I'm not Jean Grey."
"No?" Magneto gave her a curious look. "You side yourself with the morally upright, don't you? You have rigid expectations for yourself that you must adhere to, though you don't expect anything of anyone else. You have untapped power that Xavier hid from you - power that you aren't even aware of. You have become romantically involved with an incarnate of Scott Summers, for heaven's sakes. What more proof and convincing do you need, girl?"
She frowned. "I'm not Jean Grey," she maintained.
"You seem almost offended by the idea that I'm comparing the two of you. Why is that? Because she killed so many with so little thought? Or is it your own sense of self-depreciation, telling you that I'm besmirching the deceased woman's name by linking her to you?" He shook his head at her, the disappointment, before turning reflective. "I once overheard her talking to Wolverine...regarding his constant perusal of her. That was roughly a day before our united forces moved against Stryker...she said something to the effect of 'girls flirt with the bad guy, but they take the good guy home'."
"That's got nothing to do with..."
"My dear, please...my point here is that you're twice as confounded by expectations and rules than Jean Grey ever was. While a girl flirts with the wrong men, a good girl never even considers it." He turned to face her again. "And have you? I understand that when you first came to this school, both Iceman and Pyro did what they could to attract your attention. You chose Iceman in the end, but I have to wonder if Pyro was even given your consideration. Your sincere consideration."
Rogue got to her feet, suddenly angry. "What's that matter to you, anyway?"
Magneto nodded, as though he were conceding a point to her. "I wish to know if there's still hope for you, Rogue."
She ground her teeth, sick of his cryptic words. "What's that supposed to mean?"
He stood as well, staring down at her angry expression with a blank face. "You are intelligent; you have the potential for great power; I could even go as far as to call you attractive, inappropriate as it is for me to do so...yet you squander it all. And for what? To touch a boy you feel obligated to stand beside? To fight for a team that you were delivered to by mere chance? You make yourself subdued to keep from incensing worry in those who fear nothing more than having their feeble moral ground shaken. You keep yourself plain and dispassionate to stop from thinking of these things, even internally. You refuse to question out of imagined obligation to the cause propagated by these people who suppress you. You would forsake your gifts for freedom, but no one understands your logic..."
"Tell me that isn't why you took the cure, then." His eyes hardened; his expression had turned fierce in the middle of his tirade. "Tell me that your need for freedom didn't drive you away from your God-given gifts. Tell me it was only a selfish need to appease a hormonal, low-level of a mutant; a boy who is your peer but your inferior."
"I did it for me!"
"Yes, but why? Because you needed to touch, or because you needed the freedom to do it?"
Rogue choked as her rebuttal caught in her throat in surprise. "What?"
"No one would help you, Rogue. Perhaps they won't, even now. Perhaps your powers will remain uncontrolled forever." He seized her shoulders tightly and forced her to meet his intense stare. "Perhaps it is not the lack of touch, but the lack of control that made you seek the cure."
She drew in a shaky breath, all her anger subsiding and something akin to horrible, scared relief flooded her. "I hate...being so helpless. So useless."
"Why did you do it?"
"I can't stand the way people look at me when I don't have gloves on...like I'm volatile..."
"Why did you do it, Rogue?"
"I can't even run a Danger Room session alone..."
"Rogue. Why did you take the cure?"
She drew in another deep breath, her mouth trying to form the words as, surprisingly, saltwater tears blurred her vision. She clenched her jaw, closed her eyes and turned her head away from him. "I couldn't get help anywhere else. I...need the freedom. I need to have control."
"And without it?"
A laugh escaped her; it was cold and bitter. She turned back to look at him through her watery, angry eyes. "Without it? Without control? Look at me!" she hissed. She clenched her hands into fists. "I'm pathetic. Weak. I can't do anything for myself. I'm...too afraid I'll hurt someone I'm not supposed to. I'm too afraid to lose control even further, when I use my power on someone."
"And no one will help you."
She closed her eyes again and sighed through her clenched teeth. "No. No one will."
"No one within the Institute will, in any case."
Rogue shook her head and tried to draw back, to no avail. Relief left her; exasperation returned. "Right. Here it is."
"Here what is?"
"The pitch. This is the part where you promise me the world, if I sign over my eternal soul or something."
Through her hazy film of tears, she could see his mouth twist wryly. "I'm hardly Satan, my dear."
"But this is the pitch, isn't it?"
"Of sorts. But I'm not asking you to sign your soul to my book. The Brotherhood is hardly Hell."
"Maybe not for the guy at the top."
Magneto laughed in pure, unaffected good humor. Rogue smiled at him slightly, and he released her arms. "I want to give you the opportunity, my dear. To experience something beyond the cut and dried life of a recruit in an appeasing peacekeeper force."
That wasn't all though; they both knew it. "And what would you get out of it?"
"Hopefully, I would find someone worth coaching in their power; someone who can do more than parrot others in their physical form, spew unfocused energy at various targets or move quickly. Someone who could possibly do all of those things, and far more."
It sounded more appealing than it should, but she knew what it meant. "You want to make a weapon out of me."
"No. I want to make a soldier out of you. I wish no ill towards any of my fellow mutants. The war we sit on the brink of is still very much a possibility, and I would have no mutant unprepared for it, given my choice. As it is, I would train any who came to me with a mind ready to learn."
Rogue stepped away from him, and as she did so realized just how close they'd been standing. She cast a look up at the windows of the main building, thankful to find no silhouetted form watching them from above. Biting the inside of her lip in slight paranoia and redoubled nervousness, she turned back to Magneto. "I'm always willing to learn," she admitted quietly after a silence.
He smiled down at her. "So I gathered."
"But I'm not saying yes," she quickly stated.
"I didn't expect you to. Not yet, in any case."
"Maybe not ever."
"But no one could say that I haven't given you to the chance to learn your limits, to broaden your powers...to finally shake off the expectations you've become entrenched in."
She shook her head to herself and wrapped her arms around her middle. "You've got a knack for knowing just what people want to hear, Magneto."
"Indeed, I do. But my words aren't empty promises. Ask John, if you need further convincing. He, too, felt the restraints that are becoming more apparent to you now. Though I know he gave it far less thought, it was certainly a determining factor in his departure from this place. Were you to do the same, I will make certain that every last thing I have offered you will come to pass. All you would need to do is join me." He turned from her, finally, to look at the grave - finally, he was focusing on his original intention; paying his final respects.
Rogue took this as her cue to leave and began to walk away, still with her arms wrapped around herself. "I'll...just go now." She tore her eyes away from him, from the monuments he stood before. "I won't even set Wolverine on you, or anything."
"Thank you, my dear." There was a faint hint of humor in his voice, again.
She paused, almost upon the stone stairs leading into the back entrance. She cast another looked at Magneto as he sat back down on the bench in front of the monument to his former friend and her headmaster, and she bit the inside of her lip again. "One other thing?" He looked up at her and she dropped her arms from their defensive position over her stomach. "Why would you be so...helpful? A soldier's bound to die, no matter how well you train them."
"Indeed. But not one with the power to continue to live through a barrage of bullets, or the ability to redirect the path of missiles...or the knowledge of how to dissuade an attacker with a mental suggestion."
"That's not what I meant."
He looked away from her, back to Xavier's tombstone. "My dear Rogue, since you first evaded my grasp...I've become rather determined to turn about your point of view." The smallest of smiles spread over his features. "Jean Grey's philosophy of men has prevailed in most cases, you see - especially throughout my time as Charles's friend, with his shining example to make me appear tarnished and inferior...I must admit that I want to know if I can persuade the good girl to consider the 'bad guy'."
A/N: Whoo! Leavin' it there. Reviews, please?