With all the medical attention required, the Professor wasn't interested in more than a simple report at the moment. He watched Jean work on Storm's leg and let the others go to get cleaned up before dinner and the debriefing.
Kitty left to help Jay up to his room, Remy hadn't even come down to the infirmary with them. Logan had disappeared after passing Storm over to Jean and Scott.
"Hey, sewer rat," Logan called from the doorway of the hangar. Gambit, who had only one foot on the stepstool and was leaning into midair to reach a box on top of the storage lockers, lost his balance and fell to the floor. As he slowly got back up, he glared menacingly at Logan. Logan grinned.
"What do you want?" Gambit demanded.
"I want to know what you did to piss off Rogue so bad."
"Don't see how that's your business."
"Just sating my curiosity. 'Course, I could get her side of the story first. She seems awfully upset with you."
"My chere will forgive me," Gambit answered stubbornly. "She always does."
"You don't sound too certain of that."
Gambit lifted his chin defiantly. "Possibly you know of Rogue's powers? She is most adverse to being touched. Perhaps Gambit stole a kiss. Perhaps the chere took offense."
"Ah. An unwelcome touch. Now I understand." Logan nodded to himself and left. Gambit glared at the doorway before righting his stepstool, this time closer to the box.
In the hallway, Logan listened to the footsteps approaching and recognized them. He leaned against the wall and waited for her. Rogue smiled slightly when she saw him. "There you are. I thought you might have gotten lost."
"Were you going to send out a search party?"
"Considering just how occupied everyone else is right now, I think that search party would have been pretty small. Just me."
"What's the plan?"
"We're going to meet back in the conference room in a few minutes. Now that everyone's cleaned up and relaxed we'll discuss the mission, chat a bit, loosen up. Everyone will probably want to know a little more about you so they can form their own opinions. I'm not entirely sure what your place here is going to be. I don't even know why the Professor wanted us to find you."
"I have a few ideas."
She shook her head immediately. "When we fight, we fight smart. I don't think the Professor wanted you for that."
"You reading my mind?"
"That's the Professor's ability, not mine. I touched you earlier. My mutation allows me to absorb memories."
"How many . . . how much did you get?"
"Enough. Your mind is a bit different than most."
"The memories were . . . strategically arranged. Ordered. Categorized. No one else I've ever imprinted remembers like that. Your memories were easy. They absorbed more quickly than I'm used to because they are so conveniently ordered. I absorbed everything. Not that there were a lot of memories to absorb."
"I know how badly you want to remember your past. The Professor might be able to help with that. I know that's the reason you came with me. You're right to hope. It might be within his power to help you."
"I scratch his back, he'll scratch mine?"
"He'll try. I don't know if it will work, but I promise he'll try. Maybe that's why he wanted to find you. Maybe he wants to see if he can help. Even the Professor likes to challenge himself occasionally."
"All altruism? You make your Professor sound like a pretty nice guy."
"He is. He doesn't consider people just in terms of their usefulness to him." She stepped in front of him, stopping him, and lifting her eyes to meet his. "He would never think of you as just a weapon to be used," she said. The sincerity in her eyes, the steady unfaltering rhythm of her pulse, the certainty in her voice, all assured him of her honesty.
But that didn't convince him that she was right about her Professor. Logan didn't believe in the existence of pure good. He knew without a doubt that humans were just another species of animal, and just as selfish, just as focused on their own survivals. Everyone had an agenda.
She apparently had enough of his memories to follow his thoughts because she pushed a firm hand into his chest. "This is not childish optimism," she insisted. "I am not a fool. I know as well as you do what people are like. I might even know better, considering the mountain of experiences I have in my head. I trust the Professor. He takes care of us."
"If you're not a fool then you know that your Professor's no angel. He's a man, just like everyone else, and he's using you the same way everyone uses everyone else. You put him on a pedestal because you're grateful to him. And I'm guessing he lets you because like any person he likes it and it's useful to him."
"Go to hell. You don't care. I can feel however I damn well please about the Professor because no matter what the reason, he took me in. He gave me a home. He didn't abandon me. I trust him because he has never abandoned me when I needed him."
"Are you still holding that against me after four years?"
"I ain't holding nothing. I have all your memories. I know without a doubt that if I had waited on that road for another ten seconds you would have stopped."
"You know that for sure?"
"I know it. Some people only remember sensory input. Some people shade memories to their liking, everything pretty and colorful and perfect weather even in their worst experiences. Some people remember odd details like the color of a woman's dress, a particular dog barking. Some people only remember the very most pertinent facts, everything around them a gray blur except for the face of the person they were listening to. Some people remember emotions but usually only a powerful sensation of fear or rage or contentment or pleasure."
"And my memories are different?"
"Your memories are more vivid than most because your mind registers everything. Every increase of heartbeat, every bird chirp, every flicker of expression, you remember. You remember your own thoughts, emotions. Every bit of them. Your mind is completely there."
"Is that unusual for you? I thought you'd done this before."
"I have, but not like this. Perhaps I held on too long. Perhaps you're just different."
He heard the omission and guessed at the one reason she didn't want to think about. "Perhaps you're growing stronger." Her answering expression told him that he'd gotten it right. "How many people have you absorbed like that?"
"Why are you so curious?"
"Apparently, you know everything there is to know about me. It's only fair that you tell me a little bit about you."
"You're right. That is only fair."
"You can't control it at all?"
"It comes as it wishes."
"So if you were caught by surprise, say, by a kiss . . ."
"He told you?!"
"I asked. The rat was rather defensive about it. Seems to think he did nothing wrong."
She snarled. "Nothing wrong, my ass."
"If he had asked?"
"He always asks. A second too long and he could have died. The fool."
"You didn't like what his memories showed you."
Rogue bit her lip. Her breath came out a bit heavier. "He's not what he pretends to be. He's a man, same as everyone else, but he has act to seem normal. It's not in him. He'd rather lie than tell a truth. Kill a partner than share a treasure. Start a fight than appear a weakling. Let a burglar rob a house than call the police. He is selfish and spiteful and cowardly."
"You're describing the majority of the species."
"He has no honor." She stared at Logan, daring him to challenge that.
"Honor's a rare thing to find."
"It's worth finding." It only took a second for him to grasp her meaning. He opened his mouth but she turned away. "Come on. We shouldn't leave them waiting for us."
The room Rogue led them to was busier than he'd expected. He'd assumed that their meeting was just going to be a calm debriefing and cool off with introductions. By the taken aback expression on Rogue's face, the level of activity had also surprised her.
"What's going on?" she asked as she led the way in.
The Professor turned to her. "Rogue, something has come up. I know you were planning on leaving today but we're needed and I know I can trust you best to take care of things here."
Rogue's face tightened in a scowl, her jaw clenched as if she were barely managing to hold back from cursing. The Professor's eyes widened in surprise as he recognized abnormalities in her thoughts. His gaze flickered towards the newcomer who managed to appear more than vaguely threatening while leaning unobtrusively in a corner.
"Rogue, I shouldn't need to remind you how damaging it is for you to imprint."
"Then don't," she answered curtly. There was a bit of shuffling in the room during their exchange, firstly because no one else had noticed Rogue touching anyone, and secondly because Rogue was always respectful towards Professor Xavier. He had been more sympathetic to her than anyone else in her life and she looked to him as a father figure.
"Will you do this for me?" he questioned softly, sounding uncertain if she would obey him.
"Yeah. Whatever, bub," she answered carelessly before turning and stalking over to a chair which she reclined comfortably in, her legs draped over the armrest.
"A few of the older students have been informed of the situation and will be keeping an eye on things to help out in case there's any trouble, but you're in charge."
"And since I doubt you'll be sleeping tonight, please help with some of the usual chores after you get our guests settled, and have the hangar prepped for our return."
"Yes, sir, Professor."
"So, what about you?" Logan asked after she'd run through the list of everyone he'd met today along with their powers and back stories.
"What do you want to know?"
"You said you trusted your Professor. Way you talked about him, I was under the impression that you liked the guy. But you were treating him like a complete prick a few minutes ago. From everyone's horrified shock, I'm thinking that's not normal behavior. So what was that back there?"
"That was your distrust of authority figures. The more recent an imprint, the harder it is for me to control the emotions of a personality. It takes time to develop self-control."
"You should be careful about that. Don't want to get on the bad side of your boss."
"He's not my boss. And my relationship with the Professor is very solid. He understands the change in my behavior is not a reflection on how I feel about him. He knows better than to take it personally."
"Just what kind of relationship do you have with the Professor?"
"He is my teacher; I am his student. I'm part of his team. He's helped us, and we help him."
"Sounds like an excellent deal for everyone."
"It is. We have a good team." Rogue turned and paused before a doorway which opened before them. Lights above turned on, and Logan saw that they had returned to the hangar. This time he took a moment to fully examine the room, memorizing its size, the exits, and the placement of equipment.
Rogue went around the room, closing a few open storage lockers, moving a cart of tools, folding a ladder, and picking up a broom to sweep the debris off the floor. Logan was taking in their surprising selection of neatly arrayed wrenches when he heard her stop moving suddenly and then the fainter sound of an increased heart rate.
"Something wrong?" he asked.
She was staring at an empty locker. "They took the plastic."
The statement meant nothing to him. "Yeah?"
"The Professor must suspect Magneto."
"A mutant by the name of Erik Lensherr. He manipulates metal. You would have a bit of a problem."
"What's he up to that the Professor needs to be involved?"
"He wants to subjugate the human race. According to him, mutants are superior, and should be ruling the world."
"You're scared of this guy."
"Go to hell."
"Just an observation. Don't you think your team is up to the challenge?"
"We're more than capable of dealing with this."
"So you're scared of him. This Magneto guy." He observed her reaction again. "Is he that dangerous? Too tough for your team to take?"
"We'll get him this time."
"You know him personally?"
"I've had some contact."
"What did he do to you?"
"Who have you been talking to?"
"Only you. Don't get all paranoid. You said 'I', not 'we'. I'm going to assume that you meant that you've had contact with him, not your team."
"I didn't mean that."
"Slip of the tongue, I'm guessing. What did your previous experience with Magneto entail?"
"He tried to kidnap me. To use me in one of his schemes to 'take over the world for mutants'."
"What did he want you for?"
"For my power. He forced me to absorb his power to run a machine whose purpose was to cause mutation in normal human beings."
"So he didn't just try to kidnap you, he actually succeeded."
She didn't say anything.
"You didn't mean to tell me that, either, did you?"
"Another slip of the tongue."
"Regrettable, how often that happens to you."
"I'll work on it."
"I hid here in the mansion for months. Long enough to make him miss the window he wanted to use. His opportunity passed and we thought he'd given up. I thought I was safe, time passed, and I got sloppy. Careless. Of course, he had a back up plan. I think he always does."
"But you'll get him this time?"
"That's me being optimistic. Magneto is very intelligent. Someday though. Maybe."
"Maybe I'll stick around for awhile then."