Fumbling Towards Clarity

by willowaus

A/N: Set after Uncanny X-Men 275 before X-Men (2cnd series) 1.

She couldn't believe she was doing this, that she hadn't told anyone about where she was going or who she was meeting at this small Italian restaurant. Not that any of them could really blame her. The man before her would have caused alarm in all of her teammates and she knew they'd, at the very least, force her to endure lengthy diatribes on why she shouldn't go. And she also knew there'd have been at least one man, probably the one with claws, following her the entire way.

Lips pursed, she perused the menu, gloved fingers sliding along the linen table cloth, not bold enough to take them off even though they were in a secluded corner. He was watching her, she could feel his gaze burning a hole in the menu, but he had yet to speak up, to start any type of conversation since he'd met her outside of the Met. She could still feel the heat of his hand against her back, guiding her through the streets, and she longed for him to do it again.

Heck, it could be anyone, as long as they weren't so damn afraid, she thought ruefully, brow creasing in agitation. "You look troubled," he stated, his voice crisp and polite with an undercurrent of worry.

"It's nothing." She looked up at him, forcing a smile on her face. It quickly faltered when his stare didn't waver. If she didn't know better, she'd have thought he was a telepath, looking at her inner demons. Man just has so many of his own, girl, he recognizes when others are being plagued by theirs.

She sighed and tilted her head. "Nothing I ain't used to dealing with," she amended, looking away under his inscrutable gaze. "What's good here?"

"I would not know," Magneto replied, and she looked back up, raising an eyebrow.

"You brought me to a place you've never eaten at?" she asked, unable to withhold the mirth in her voice.

"I thought it would be prudent for us to meet in a place Charles would not think to look."

She leaned back in the chair, fingers gripping the table. "I didn't…I didn't tell him, not any of them."

His expression didn't reveal anything as he leaned back. "Why not, dear girl?"

Rogue rolled her eyes and shrugged. "Didn't want to deal with the array of questions or the attacks that would have followed. You ain't exactly the X-Men's favorite person, sugar."

"I suppose not," he replied, with a smile as he brought the wine glass to his lips. "You did not have to accept my invitation."

"Don't exactly agree with their evaluation of you." Her fingers skirted along her glass, unable to meet his gaze. "Not saying they're wrong but they definitely don't know the whole picture."


She'd never been more pleased to see their waiter than at that moment, avoiding looking at Magneto as she ordered. She played with the folds in her cloth napkin as she listened to his, reaching for a piece of bread as the waiter left. His hand brushed against hers and she pulled back like she had been bit by a snake, eyes wide as she looked at him. His narrowed, mouth tight in anger and she looked away, gasping when she felt him grasp her wrist.

"You'll ruin your gloves," he stated and her eyes widened with disbelief as he removed the glove. She pulled back, tucking her bare hand under the table, casting a fearful look at the other patrons.

Reluctantly, she placed her hand back on the table, removing the other glove as well. Look foolish if I didn't. "I…I ain't used to people not being afraid," she said, frowning as she looked at him.

"No one will be allowed within a five foot radius without my knowledge," he informed her, voice softening.

Rogue nodded, reaching for the bread again, delighting in the feel of the bread beneath her fingers, rough and soft at the same time. "Hard to break old habits," she ruminated, slowly buttering the bread.

"Especially when those around you will not allow you to grow."

"Now you're sounding like momm—Mystique," she said, pointing the knife accusatorily in his direction.

"I do not usually agree with that woman, but her evaluation of the X-Men is not too far off," Magneto stated, causing Rogue to sigh exasperatedly.

"If you invited me out here to give a recruitment speech, we might as well call it a night right now."

He pursed his lips in answer, his butter knife floating up to meet him. Her eyes widened anxiously, taking a quick assessment of the other patrons. "Why does it matter what they think, my dear?" he asked, his voice hard.

"Because that's life," she replied, her own bread forgotten.

"It does not have to be."

"And what do you propose?" Images of Zaladane screaming, magnetic spears impaling the woman's body, rose in Rogue's mind. He frowned as he watched her and she had no doubt he knew what she was thinking of.

"There was no other way," he stated, his voice calm with a trace of sadness.

"Yes, there was," she replied, looking away from him, startled when she his hands grasped hers.

"She would have destroyed the Earth," Magneto continued, letting go before the transfer started. "Would have managed to kill thousands."

"You could have locked her away," Rogue protested, shaking her head. "Like you did the others."

"Only to have to deal with her again once she reached the surface." Rogue frowned, hating that he spoke the truth. "I am sorry you had to see her death."

She looked back at him at that, searching his gaze for something, she wasn't sure what. "Can't be undone."

"No, it cannot." He sighed, and she watched as the silverware rose a few centimeters before setting back down. "Can we never move past it?"

"If I can look past all that Mystique has done, if the X-Men can forgive me for what I did…" She fell silent for a few moments before nodding. "Where've you been? You just kind of took off after…everything…and then I get a message on my e-mail asking to meet you. Wasn't all that sure it wasn't a practical joke by Jubes."

"I went to recuperate." He didn't offer anything further, sipping slowly at his wine.

"Course." She quickly tucked her hands under the table as she saw the waiter returning with their food. She waited until the young man left before setting them back on the table, ignoring Magneto's frown.

"You should not be afraid…"

"When your power can kill cause someone accidentally touched you then you can finish that sentence," she interrupted, eyes flashing in warning. She cut into the chicken a little harder than was necessary. "Why did you contact me?"

Rogue looked up at him, waiting for an answer. "I wished to see how you were fairing." He had not touched his entrée. "It took awhile longer than I expected for you to be back to normal, I wanted to make sure everything was fine."

"Perfect," she replied, looking back down. Still deadly, thank you.

"You are only deadly because you lack control." She glared at him. "In order to obtain mastery of your power, girl, you need to practice using it."

"Yeah, I can just see people lining up to have me…"

He reached his hand out, looking intently at her. "I would hardly crumble."

She stared at his bare flesh and shook her head. "You don't know what you're doing."

His hand grasped hers, fingers entwining with hers and she gasped as the transfer started, sensing no fear before he broke free. Her eyes widened as she glimpsed something else from him, a need curling deep in her stomach and making her lower her gaze briefly. "Its…its not that easy," she protested.

"Excuses do not become you." She glowered at that before shaking her head. "Or perhaps you do not wish for control."

"The hell I don't." She was fuming, her hands clenched in her lap.

"Then, I would think you'd look into anything that might help you obtain it." He raised the wine glass again to his lips and she frowned, hating that he was right.

"I don't think you'd be welcomed with open arms again to the mansion." She tilted her head in thought. "Well, not by anyone besides the Professor."

"I have no intention of going back there, dear girl," he informed her.

"Well, then how would you be helping me? We can't meet like this again, the others would get too damn suspicious."

He merely smiled at her and her eyes widened in disbelief, shaking her head adamantly. "You expect me to go with you."

"I wish for that to be the outcome, yes," he replied, crossing his arms. "However, I am never quite sure what to expect from you."

"I don't believe in your cause. You know I don't."

"I wish to help you, Rogue," Magneto stated, his face expressionless. "I have no doubt in time you will see the truth."

"You really are an irritating man."

He laughed and she sat back, shocked at his mirth. "So I've been told."

"I…" God, this was happening so fast.

"I do not expect an answer tonight," he interrupted, raising his glass. "I merely wanted you to know your options."

She sighed exasperatedly. "You sure know how to confuse a girl."

"Confusing you was hardly my preferred outcome."

"Are you always this difficult?"

He smiled at that. "I'm sure Charles would answer that in the affirmative but I do not think I am."

"Exasperating man."

"Not if you would simply agree."

"I haven't disagreed," she countered, watching the flash of delight in his eyes.

"Now who is exasperating?"

She grinned at that, turning back to her chicken, knowing she had a lot to mull over once she got home.