AN: What good is DOFP if we can't screw with continuity, right? AU from events of the movies (instead of having the timeline reset around X3, it resets towards the beginning of X2), and based largely on speculation in regards to Rogue's cut subplot in DOFP. Eventual Rogue/Pyro, with residual Rogue/Bobby

A Lot Like Never

Part One: An Ending

In the not too distant future…

She's a powdered keg of dynamite, and no one knows how long the fuse is going to be.

It's hard to stop watching the news as it blares throughout the rec room, but Rogue tells herself it's for the best if she does. She's been telling herself that for the last few hours, as CNN keeps circulating around its biggest, breaking news:

Update! Boy in El Salvador accidentally ignites supermarket-

Breaking! Woman in Britain suffers mental breakdown after psychic powers re-emerge-

Newsflash! Man in Russia kills self, three others after mutant powers reactivate-

Rogue folds her legs against her chest, and wraps her arms around her shins. As if having that added layer of a physical barrier is enough to make reality go away. She rests her chin on her knees, brown eyes unmoving from the screen as story after story goes reported.

Just In! A-list actor Chad Core exposed as a mutant at film premiere after the Cure-

Update! Confirmed 11 dead, seventeen injured in El Salvadorian supermarket explosion-

She should get up. Do laundry. Make coffee.

Breaking! The President of the United States has formed an emergency meeting of his cabinet to discuss-

Maybe finish her essay. She was still trying to make it through the Institute's college courses. Rogue had once entertained the thought of applying outside of the state for college, maybe going back home in the South, but after Alcatraz she couldn't leave. Not in good conscience. Not after Dr. Grey and Mr. Summers and Dr. Xavier. Not when Logan was…in whatever place Logan was. So she'd thought she'd stick around, get things right at the Institute. Maybe leave in a year or two, for a while. Maybe finally see Alaska.

But now she was a powder keg. And there were little boys exploding in super markets.

-Prime Minister is proclaiming crisis-

-Chad Core banned from upcoming Cannes Film Festival-

Rogue rubbed her fingers together. They were dry, or at least, they felt dry. Part of wearing gloves nearly nonstop for a decade was that it was hard comparing the feel of skin to silk. She'd just started wearing rings. Maybe she could give them to Jubilee, or Kitty. Rings weren't any good under cloth. She traced a finger pad over one of her nails. Maybe she'd paint them before it was over. Some ridiculously bright color, like turquoise.

Poll: What should be done about mutants in America in light of Cure's failure? 67% support mandatory registration-

She should really get up and make some coffee.

Riots in Vancouver today over the recent decision to implement what's being called a "mutant police force"-

"Turn this crap off, kid."

Rogue's eyes sluggishly drifted from the screen to Logan. He was standing to the side of the couch, and judging by the crossed over arms and the raised eyebrow, he'd been there awhile. Rogue plastered on a smile, hating how practiced it was.

"What? You don't want to hear the news?"

Logan snorted, half-sitting on the sofa's armrest, "It's not news."

Mutant terrorist group still at large-

His voice changed. It became lower or softer, "How long you been sitting here?"

Rogue closed her eyes, "A while," she admitted.

"Since this morning?"

"I got up at four."

Logan looked at his watch, shook his head, "You know it's almost noon, right?"

She said nothing, only tilted her head down so her forehead rested on her knees.

"C'mon, get up."

Could the Cure have been a plan by mutant terrorists-

"Just another minute-"

Mutants or monsters?-

Rolling his eyes, Logan walked over to the television and stabbed through the side of it with a short punch of his clawed hand. The words died on the perfectly coiffed anchor's lips in a short blip of the power cutting out and a shower of sparks. Logan retracted his claws.

Rogue stared at him, open-mouthed.

He rose an eyebrow.

"Now you don't have an excuse to sit around moping all day."

Takes one to know one, came a petulant voice in her head. She wasn't sure who it belonged to, but a small part of her agreed with it, "Y'know Ms. Munroe'll make you pay for that."

"I got a tab."

"For busted TVs?"

"It's an inclusive tab. Now let's go break shit in the Danger Room. It'll be good for you. Exercise. Or something."

Rogue sighed, sending a last stare to the television before following Logan out. He probably needed it more than her.

So Rogue tried her best to stop watching the news. But news travelled regardless. The air was thick with tension at the Institute, only getting worse as the weeks rolled by and the news stories grew more and more frantic. As more students started getting pulled out of school by their parents. As the seats around the table gradually emptied, like some perverse game of musical chairs.

She remembers a time where supper was an event. Lorna would make her cutlery dance across the table and Piotr would watch the demonstration with an uneasy stare. Kitty would ramble about a software program she was working on, and Bobby'd responded with polite questions as he'd squeeze Rogue's knee under the table, sending smiles her way when she looked over at him. Ms. Munroe would chastise John as he'd click his lighter, because apparently steak needed to be charbroiled. He'd flip the top of his zippo open over and over until he was sure she'd rolled his eyes at him at least once, before he'd grin and stop.

But now, supper felt like a countdown. Lorna got sent home. Piotr took dinner in his rooms alone. Kitty's computer had been trashed when she had to phase away from rioters and she'd had it in her backpack. Bobby's hand would hesitate over her, like a man trapped, where any gesture he'd make would be the wrong one. And no one knew where the hell John was after Alcatraz. After Alkai.

And she was back to being a powdered keg.

A month or two after Logan blew up the television, just when she was learning to tune out the news and keep her shock of white hair under a hat, Rogue came home from the supermarket to see graffiti plastered over the gates of her home.





And, because she couldn't think of anything else to do, she walked past the signs, and calmly put her groceries in their allotted places once she was inside. Then, she walked to her room, and she put on gloves with only slightly trembling fingers.

She eventually gave her rings to Kitty. And her friend had the good grace to look confused at the gift.

"I love you, you know."

The confession is surprising, especially since the last hour or so of their date at the local bar had been spent nursing cheap beer and watching the television in silent horror. But there's something in his voice that makes Rogue think he's sincere, and she turns away from the television—something about counteractive forces being developed to deal with the mutant problem—to look over her shoulder at the man sitting on the bar stool next to her.

The date had been her idea. To get out of the Mansion, maybe shoot some pool. Have a few beers. Pretend like he was still her committed boyfriend and that she wasn't an indeterminate amount of time away from becoming poisonous. Get away from that darkening blanket that was covering them.

Bobby had agreed. And they had shot pool. And had a few beers. And he'd even kissed her on the forehead, an arm wrapping around her waist with only a second of hesitation. And it felt like maybe there was the possibility at light at the end of the tunnel for once. That Alcatraz, the Cure, and Dr. Grey hadn't left them all behind to suffocate.

But then someone had asked the bartender to change the channel from the football game to the local news. The pool cues were put down, and the pair of them were drawn back into that black hole, that uneasy, syrupy feeling of being in quicksand and having nothing to grab.

Rogue looked at her boyfriend- was he her boyfriend? What were they?- and the only response she could muster was a confused frown, "What?"

Bobby smiled, but it was thin and since when had he started looking so…so Scott, "I do. And whatever happens…" his hand reached out to grab her own, gloved one. And Rogue closed her eyes. Because it always came back to that elephant in the room, didn't it? "It doesn't change things for me."

Rogue looked up at him, meeting his blue eyes with her own brown ones. Trying to see an answer in them, not sure what she was asking, "We know what's gonna happen."

The smile fell from his face, and his grip tightened on her fingers, "Maybe. But…I know things haven't been the best, back at the Mansion," and she sees Kitty on his face just as clear as if it'd been stamped red on his forehead, but he juts his chin at the television screen above the bar, "And I think things are only going to get worse. For all of us."

Rogue has to look away from him then, and away from the television. Which leads her to staring intently at a bowl of shelled peanuts placed in front of her, because it was that kind of bar. Rogue took a second to mentally blame the absorbed psyche of Logan's running around in her head, the same psyche that taught her what snooker was and which end of a cigar to cut off before smoking.

And she still feels Bobby in her head, too, from that time in Boston. From all the times after it, before the Cure. So she knows he means it, when he says it. But those words still shouldn't feel an awful lot like being dumped.

"How'd we get here, Bobby?" She asks the peanuts.

He looks away from the television to look at her, and she can feel his desperately hopeful stare, but she doesn't look away from the bowl in front of her. "I don't know," he admits.

She lets her gloved thumb run over his knuckles, "I hate admitting it, but I'm scared."

"Me too."

The television cuts to another puff piece. The news scroll at the bottom of the screen says something about re-instating a military contract from the 1970s with a supposedly disbanded production company. Trask Industries. Rogue's never heard of it.

The bartender swings by to pick up their bottles, but he pauses, staring at Bobby like he's seen him before, like he's making his mind up about something.

"You're from that school, aren't you?"

And that gets Rogue looking up from her peanuts. She sees the tension coil around Bobby's shoulders, feels his hand withdraw from hers as he looks the bartender straight in the eyes and keeps his tone cordial.

"Yeah, a mile or two from here."

The bartender leans forward, and Rogue doesn't like that look in his eyes, doesn't like that it's getting sent in her direction now too, "The big one? With the gates, right?"

"That's right."

The bartender snorts and the noise makes a few other patrons look over. Rogue feels her stomach start to twist, and she shifts in her seat. "Is it true what they say?"

"What who says?"

"About the muties. You got muties there?"

And the bar is silent. Deadly silent. The quiet before thunder. She feels sick.

Rogue discretely puts money on the counter to pay for their beers. Bobby gives her an infinitesimal nod.

"Xavier's is a prep school, nothing more," he hedges, standing and waiting for Rogue to do the same. When she moves, he throws an arm protectively over her shoulders. As a pair, as a team, they start walking towards the door.

Rogue doesn't look back, but she can hear the bartender clear as day behind them.

"You freaks just stay behind that gate, you got it? Keep the animals in the zoo!"

Bobby's arm doesn't leave her shoulders. And Rogue doesn't comment about the frost forming on the lapel of her jacket as they begin their way back to safety. Tries not to notice Kitty's wounded look at the contact when they walk back into the Mansion.

Someone blows up a community center.

Though calling it a community center doesn't seem right. Because most community centers Rogue knows don't do what that place was doing. They don't host mobs in their basement. They don't beat teenagers who had done nothing wrong other than use their power at the wrong time. They don't call themselves Friends of Humanity but endorse the harassment of anyone whose only difference from them is an invisible chromosome that they can't see or fathom.

It's not a community center. Not really. It's a place where people who hate people like her go to congregate. It could've grown into something worse- a base, a detention center, or a prison.

Blows up isn't accurate, either. The news says arson. And that word puts an ugly pit in her stomach, a stabbing of something that can only be called grief. People, trapped in a building, and burned down with it. And Bobby's expression shows that even if Rogue's doubts can't be confirmed about what caused the fire, they aren't unfounded. They might not be separate from John.

The authorities don't find the culprit. But they blame the mutants. And the media doesn't see a difference between community center and base, of non-profit organization and hate-group. In the weeks that follow, a burned down community center is joined by an exploded hospital, a disintegrated government office, and a pro-registration congressman is assassinated by a burst of kinetic energy from two hundred yards away.

It sparks off a witch hunt, and all fingers are pointed at them.

Two months after the community center, registration becomes mandatory for mutants and the use of powers in public avenues becomes illegal.

Rogue's powers manifest in her sleep. She's fully clothed (because they can't take chances now, can they?), curled against Bobby in bed when her shirt accidentally rides up and his hand grazes across her side.

She's dreaming about snowboarding, of teasing her younger brother and building her first snowman when his convulsions wake her.

She screams. And it's David all over again. It's David all over again and she's screaming for help, for someone, anyone to do something as she tries her best to hold her boyfriend still without touching him. Until someone who isn't a powder keg can hold him still instead.

The next morning Bobby's physically fine, if not unnerved and exhausted, and finds her curled up in the corner of the library. When he goes to touch her gloved hand she flinches and yells at him to get the hell away from her. Her eyes are red.

Bobby stays nearby, but follows her wish. And after five attempts of saying it's okay, really it's okay, and an hour of sitting in awkward frustration as she refuses to look at him, he leaves.

Rogue is dry-eyed and alone when she registers. The line at the DMV is boxed in by police escorts, and checkmark after checkmark is entered as she files everything in detail, in triplicate.

The attendant sneers at her before he takes her paperwork and gives her a new driver's license. This one has a thick, black M below her name.

An unarmed mutant is shot by a policeman. It's unclear if they were actually robbing the gas station, but the judge ruled the murder justified since a new legal clause states that any mutant is an armed mutant.

The robber was a sixteen year old, stealing Mountain Dew and some condoms.

Riots happen in the mutant's hometown within an hour of the verdict being made public. Sixteen people are thrown in jail, and a local policeman sent to subdue the riots is killed by a regular, old-fashioned human with a handgun in the confusion.

A week after registering, Rogue can finally admit that she is avoiding Bobby.

Another Friends of Humanity building is burned down.

A month later, Bobby and Rogue finally admit to each other that maybe it's best to take a break. Until things settle.

The graffiti and the vandalism to the Mansion has spread to the grounds. To the memorial benches and plaques. And Rogue sits with Logan in a furious silence in front of the tree they had planted for Dr. Grey, wrapped in toilet paper that should be harmless but instead feels like a knife in the ribs, stealing breath from her lungs.

By the time the Sentinels finally come, they're down to twenty students at the school, with six faculty and a Logan. And it's nothing like Stryker. Theresa is killed when a wall is torn from the side of the building, crushed by a support beam and concrete. Artie is torn from his bed by metallic cables.

Rogue tries to help where she can. She works with Piotr to get the remaining younger students out first, borrowing his metallic form long enough to help him clear out the debris in front of the hidden panels. She registers Kitty phasing others through the floors, out of harm's way.

But it's too fast. They're too fast, and Xavier's has been dealt many hard blows over the years, but nothing can prepare a handful of students for something like this.

Rogue remembers Stryker's men. How they moved like ghosts, how her and Bobby and John and Logan had managed to get out. She sees her own fear in the younger kids' faces, and Rogue reminds herself that this time she's the grown-up. She's the X-Man. And she's getting them out.

She's helping Piotr clear the last dorm room when they're suddenly surrounded by the things. Four, then five, then six. And Rogue hears the protests of several psyches ricocheting around her skull as she tells Piotr to take Victor and Alisa and get the hell out of there. He refuses at first, but when she threatens to drain him dry afterwards he reluctantly takes the children and runs.

Rogue puts up a good fight. But she's outnumbered. And Piotr's powers are temporary.

A robotic hand extends towards her as she staggers from a blow given by another Sentinel, and Rogue can almost make out the sound of Bobby and Logan screaming her name, her real name from down the hall. Lord, she hopes they're not stubborn asses and that they just go.

The fingers wrap around her, tightening and emitting some kind of high-pitched wail that makes black spots form in front of her eyes. She's lifted off the ground and the wailing grows louder, making everything else around her go white noise and static. And as Rogue finally loses the fight to retain consciousness, she hears one final word, hitting her like a nail on a coffin: