Story of John & Rogue

By: Storydivagirl copyright@2003

There's this story I know. It's about this kid, this lanky freak of a kid that was well aware of how different he was from everybody else. He was no more than ten years old, but always behaved like he was older, never fitting in with his classmates or anyone for that matter. So this kid caused a lot of trouble-a lot-but if you asked him that wasn't the case. He never saw his behavior the way that everyone else did. In his eyes, it was Darwinism at work, survival of the most cunning-if you weren't willing to play unfairly at times then you deserved the crap that fate dealt you. Like the time he stole a stick of dynamite from a construction site and set it off in his arch nemesis' (aka the town bully's) backyard. He hid in the bushes and laughed hysterically as the lazy-eyed, chubby blonde jumped up and down in a panic as if a jar of ants had been poured down his shirt, wind flanking the demon bully's denim vest.

Anyway, this kid's parents never knew what to do with him. They tried teacher's conferences and quality time together and shrinks and whatever else they could think of (Unfortunately this included a "paint me a picture of what you're feeling, John" ordeal that the child has been unable to block from his mind since. He is psychologically scarred, forever traumatized, etc, etc, etc.), but their efforts were fruitless. The boy didn't allow them to understand the motivation behind his behavior. It was as if, even at the age of nine, he knew that his family would never understand him, never grasp the power biding its time beneath the surface, and most assuredly run in terror when they discovered the truth about him.

And the boy was right.

One night, right after his tenth birthday had passed and he was home alone, there was a bad storm. One of the worst in years- lightning taking down trees and cable poles left and right while the rain flooded the streets of town. His home resembled a haunted house at Halloween as shadows of lightning striking the ground invaded the solemnity of the darkness. The crackles of electricity ricocheted off the walls, thunder rumbled around him, and not a light in the place worked. The floorboards and doors creaked and squeaked, very much in the same way the song Thriller began. He stumbled through the house, looking for a flashlight, but every single one he found either had no batteries or the ones inside its casing didn't work-typical of his father, Mr. Survivalist Freak. Who needs batteries when you can rub two sticks together to create a smoke signal?

He had about given up when he noticed the candlesticks perched on the top of the dining room table. He slowly weaved his way through the piles of recycling bundled together for pick up in the hall and tapped his hands along the sides of the table until his fingers grasped the handle of the drawer. He felt like he was stuck in the middle of a bad trust game that resembled those his school therapist used to shove down his throat-the darkness was his blindfold and the goal was not to fit in, but to find light.

His hands grasped onto the matches and when he struck the top edge to light it, a strange surge passed through him. He felt hot. Sweat poured down his face as if he was trapped in a stove (Hansel, he was not), and the tips of his fingers burned-feeling as if they were about to melt off-but oddly enough remained their normal white color. Even stranger than his physical reaction to the flame was the fact that when the match dwindled down, he was still able to control the last embers of fire long enough to light the candle.

And then the fun began.

He imagined what it would be like to no longer look at the ugly olive- colored curtains his grandmother had made (which you would surely believe to be an act of cruelty if you had the misfortune of seeing them up close- seeming that parents and children in his family had a long history of hating one another in a passive aggressive manner that went back generations) and suddenly a beam of fire moved from the wick of the candle. Soon nothing was left of the curtains except for smoke and ash. Before the fire continued on, something clicked in his head. A thought. A passing idea of what if that quickly became a certainty, so he grinned and motioned for the fire to dissipate. And it did.

The flames seemed to flow and ebb from him, and, depending on how much concentration he put into it, he controlled the way the fire moved and shifted. He regulated how big a flame got and how little. With each experiment involving the lit candle, the energy streaming through him became less and less painful. He noted that his fingers no longer burned, but tingled, the way his feet did after the pins and needles feeling took over.

The power moving through him wasn't frightening. Nothing frightened him, not really anyway, well, not that he admitted to himself. It was the most natural thing to ever happen to him and a light bulb flashed in his mind's eye, similar to those in comic books and cartoons. It was almost fun and suddenly, he was whole. It sounds rather ridiculous to say "complete", but he was, and yet, never more positive that this was the end of life as he knew it. You see, his parents, god-fearing folk, would see him as an omen of evil; they wouldn't get it. They never could grasp his full potential, sure that he would end up working at some grocery store for the rest of his life. Paper or plastic? Paper or plastic? This development would only further disconnect him from his life and he thought about hiding his discovery.

Then thought better of it. He was who he was and he wasn't going to be sorry for it.

He picked up the candlestick, pondering his options, and a trail of flames followed him up the stairs. It wasn't until he heard the gasp from the landing that he realized his secret was out whether he wanted it to be or not. His parents were home and they saw him manipulating the fire.

They never looked at him the same again. He was no longer their son, no longer human, no longer worthy of a second thought, and all that time put into correcting him and fixing his detachment from others was written off as wasted energy. What were their exact words? A lost cause. John was a lost cause.

Freak. Loser. No good. Lost cause. Evil. A mistake. Damned.

Needless to say, it wasn't very surprising when the boy ran away and even less shocking that his parents didn't bother to look for him. He didn't care though. He told himself he didn't care, that they didn't matter, and invoked his new mantra to live by-Fuck them. If his father wouldn't take his phone call when he considered turning around and going home, fuck him. If the kids on the street stared at him with fear and hatred, fuck them. If the cops tried to teach him a lesson about freaks, fuck them too. He didn't need anyone or anything.

It wasn't until a few years later that the boy found out that there were others like him, other lost causes that had created a home together. A small, secluded world where they attended classes and lived and were accepted for all their good and bad traits. But the boy never felt like a part of that home either. He tried. He wanted to belong, to discover that potential for greatness within through another person's eyes, but the harder he tried, the more isolated he felt.

Until she came along.

I told her this story on a few different occasions and every single time she responded the same way. She rolled her eyes. She rolled her eyes in the nonchalant way that she has as if to say "you bore me with the banal, John," but I was never fooled by her bravado. Her mouth betrayed her-her teeth chomping into the flesh of her bottom lip, slightly quivering-and her hand instinctively ran down the length of her white stripe of hair.

I tried not to let on that I studied and stored away each of her movements and facial expressions. I liked her thinking she was fooling me. God help me, it was almost endearing (if I were the type of guy to notice such things, that is).

She smirked at me and said, "Well, John, that was an interesting story. Almost as interesting as the first five hundred times you told it to me." Each time she would lean closer to me, so close that I could smell the cinnamon from her gum, and add, "I'm much more interested in what happens to the boy when he finally grows up.

And I guess that's really where this story begins. Because nothing mattered until her and even now, I'm not sure anything ever will again.

**

"How are we friends? How?" he complained, banging his fist into his right temple. I guessed he was imagining it was me he was pummeling. Bobby always was the type to keep things bottled up, inflicting injury upon himself rather than letting his temper get the best of him. Stupid idiot.

"I ask myself that question all the time," I muttered, forcing a smile in Bobby's direction. I leaned against the back of my chair and stretched my arms over my head before adding, "I'm just saying to go from making Terminator 2 to Titanic.that's pathetic."

Bobby shook his head and said, "Storywise I agree with you, but the effects in that movie were amazing, man."

I rolled my eyes, eliciting a frown from Bobby, and countered, "Not really."

"Yeah, they were."

"No way. Anyone with access to a decent computer system could create those special effects."

"You're totally missing the point."

"The point is that you're wrong, Bobby."

"John," he said with a tone of warning as if to say that he was bordering on angry, but I didn't care. Bobby didn't know what real anger was. He was too good, too precious, to ever entertain such thoughts. Those were reserved for me. I mean, that was why we hung out together. I provided him with the bad angel on his shoulder that got him to ditch Physics and he was supposed to act as my inner conscience when I had the sudden urge to hotwire a car and go joyriding. I grinned and added, trying to instigate a fight, "Besides, you would think as an expert on freezing temperatures and such, you'd expect a bit more realism in pieces involving hypothermia."

"Would the both of you shut up?" Rogue interrupted. She sat down on top of the table, creating a barrier between Bobby and myself, and folded her legs and arms accordingly in an attempt to convey her annoyance. She looked at me and said, "You couldn't do a better job simply because you have access to the same computer program, John. That's like thinking you can beat Team Canada at hockey because you have a hockey stick in your hand and you're pretty sure you can figure out how to use it."

I grimaced at her when Bobby laughed, but before I could insert a remark of my own, she went on, "And Bobby, Titanic sucked no matter how you look at it." She winked at me as she stood up and said, "Moving on now, boys."

We both watched her disappear through the doorway and up the stairs. It was the first time I decided that she was wrongly matched with Bobby. Together they would be sickeningly sweet, disgustingly happy without any explosive energy. A girl like Rogue needed someone to tempt her with debauchery, to provide an outlet for all her pent up sexual frustration, and I was more than willing to be her crash test dummy. After all, she was the only person I ever found myself feeling sorry for. She said I felt that simply because I knew she hated it. She would sigh-this strange exhalation that was reserved for me-and explain how she hated pity more than she hated my uncanny ability to get her to embrace her deviant streak, simmering under the surface of her chaste smiles and hand holding with Bobby.

I was extremely gifted at getting her to join me on my adventures. Her and me. Me and her. The two of us against everyone and everything else.

"Where are you going, John?" she asked simply. Arms crossed as she rested her body against the wall adjacent to the stairwell. She caught me staring at her and grinned shyly as she said, "It's a little late for an evening stroll, don't you think?"

"Work for class. I need to find Pluto on a telescope."

She chuckled lightly and walked over to me. She looked me over appraisingly; practically through me, viewing every single thought that I kept hidden from the world. She furrowed her brow like she was displeased about something-whether it was me or her or something else completely, I never knew-before saying, "You might want to think up a better excuse for Professor Xavier."

"Are you going to tell on me, Rogue?"

"No," she said. She brushed her gloved hand over my arm and rested it on my shoulder. I ignored the strange way my muscles reacted to her touch, causing me to practically lean into her like I was the Tower of Pisa. She whispered, "I'm telling you that when you get caught, which is bound to happen, you should have a better excuse for the Professor."

I tilted my head slightly as if this was the first time I had ever seen her. The moon dancing down on her cheeks, glistening in the shadows and giving her the appearance of a china doll. Fragile and requiring my constant protection. Jesus. Fucking beautiful. I was never good with things like that. My sister had a porcelain doll and I shattered it into a hundred pieces. I removed her hand from my shoulder, but didn't let go. Instead I started to walk away, tugging on her to follow me.

She laughed in shock and shot me an irritated leer though we both knew she wasn't as mad as she was pretending to be. She used her free hand to push her hair back out of her face and as we continued walking down the hallway (more accurately, me walking and her sliding along the floor behind me), she asked, "Are you kidnapping me, John?"

"You wish."

"Doubtful."

I stopped walking and raised my eyebrow, "Are you telling me that you wouldn't enjoy some quality alone time with me? I find that hard to believe."

"You're quite sure of yourself, aren't you?"

"Well, someone has to be," I replied. I grinned at her, nudging her in the side, and said, "Besides, I need you there to come up with a believable excuse, right? You're wise and I'm diabolical. Perfect match if I say so myself."

"Yeah, John Allerdyce, diabolical man of mystery," she scoffed, garnering a scowl from me. She shook her head and added, "You're a legend in your own mind, aren't you?"

"You love me for it."

"Bobby's right about you."

"Maybe, but he's wrong about you," I countered. I crept down the stairs, careful to avoid the places in the flooring where it squawked out alerts to movement, and when I reached the landing I called out as softly as I could, "I know you're coming, Rogue, so let's get on with it."

I raised my hand and started to count to five. Sure enough as my thumb rose up on the fifth number, Rogue joined me at the bottom of the stairwell. She pinched my chin, the way scary Aunts with big moles do to a little child, and said, "I'm only here to keep you from getting kicked out."

"Right."

"I mean it."

"Sure."

"John." That was all she said before starting to walk off toward the backdoor. John. She said it so simply, yet her voice was able to convey every emotion she felt for me. I got a glimpse of her. Not of the peeping Tom variety or even one of those "how did I never notice you" types that tomboy girls went gaga over, but a ridiculously romantic sort where a guy was almost willing to change his bad boy ways for the right girl. I found myself watching Rogue in that moment, replaying the way my name fell off her lips, and had the fleeting thought that she was the right girl. Not for Bobby, never for Bobby. He didn't get her. He didn't see her the way that I did. He saw her as an injured bird requiring rescue, but Rogue didn't need our protection. I never understood why everyone thought they had to shield her from life or why she thought she had to protect any of them from her.

It was never about protection with me. It was about enjoyment and meeting a challenge and that smile. It was my job to get her to see that. My goal was to get her to see me, and to do that, of course, without making it blatantly obvious that I wanted anything. Mr. Cool (oh the irony) and Collected.

Easier said than done.

I've never been very good with charm. Rogue says it has to do with my inability to think that anyone could not enjoy my company let alone dislike me, so I feel no need to disarm people with kindness. I don't know, maybe she's onto something. I'm also pretty sure it has to do with the fact that there's rarely someone deserving of such expended energy. After all, my philosophy is fuck 'em. While a great attitude to employ, it makes for an interesting come on line at the mall and I'm afraid that I'm out of practice with any other type of interaction.

"Always so confrontational, my John. He doesn't quite grasp the old saying that you get more flies with honey," Rogue once said to a younger student as she shook her head in faux annoyance and smiled at me out of the corner of my eye.

"I think it would be much more appealing to say something like 'you get more nookie with honey' or at the very least 'the things I could do to you with a jar of honey'." I paused and met her amused-but-exasperated expression and questioned, "What? I'm being honest. If we're going to use antiquated aphorisms, isn't honesty the best policy? Unless of course, I was to say that those clothes make your ass look big-that would be considered bad form not honesty." I grinned at her haphazardly and added with a nudge of my hip into hers, "Not that I've got any complaints about your ass, snookums."

"Right. I forgot you're nothing if not a paradigm of truth, justice, and the American way," she replied, ignoring my attempts to bait her. I had to fight for every verbal sparring with her, earn it like an after school cookie. She patted the younger girl on the shoulder and spoke about me as if I wasn't there, "It's almost endearing the way he fumbles around the female gender. You would expect more from such an arrogant fool."

I glared at her, but I could hardly disagree. I was arrogant and, for some ungodly reason, when it came to women, I had a tendency to always say the wrong thing.

It starts out rather well-I crack a joke and the girl smiles sheepishly-but things always go horribly awry. It's the one area I truly envy Bobby. He has that stupid aww-shucks smile that wins over the heart of every female within a hundred mile radius. He says the right thing, offers his undivided attention even when his favorite action movie is on (Titanic in his case, the weirdo), and shares just enough of his feelings to warrant him the ardor of the female populace without coming across as too much of a girl (though I've been known to worry about him when his eyes mist up while watching The Yearling for the umpteenth million time). Whereas I, if you haven't noticed, have an uncanny knack for inserting my foot into my mouth on an hourly basis and even worse, months can pass by before I even realize what I've done. Some call it my pomposity, an inability to see that I behave improperly, but truthfully, well, okay, that's pretty on the mark.

Until her. I didn't expect to care about her. In the beginning, that first day when I tried to show off during class, it was because she was pretty. Typically pretty like almost every mutant girl at the school. So shy, so scared, so worried about fitting in-but there was also something beyond ordinary, a glow that set her apart from the others. I saw the inferno in her eyes and the brilliance of her smile when she caught onto my sarcasm. After that, once Bobby made his "big move" (yawn), it was more about one-upping him at any given opportunity (rather easy to do) than pining in quiet desperation for Rogue. Things like spending time with her, hanging out, purposefully draping my arm over her shoulders, were harmless flirtations for my amusement. I loved jerking Bobby around, watching how annoyed he got and calculating how far I could push him before his nostrils smoked out ice and his eyes metamorphosed into tiny slits.

Then one day it was all about her.

It's a pathetic, unoriginal story. Perfectly sane male wakes up one morning, the same way he does every day, except on this particular day, the world is different. To his abject horror, he's smiling at the memory of a girl--the way she smells of raspberries, how her hair frames her face with that one piece that catches in the sun like electricity, the satisfied smile she wears in class as if she's home, as if she finally found where she belongs, and the wink. My god when she winks at me it takes all my willpower not to pin her against the wall and trace my lips along her whole body. I have to constantly remind myself that she's not mine, not yet, maybe not ever, that maybe I'm meant for a life of solitude.

I think that now. Looking back on how things were, glancing through those memory blinders we all wear to filter out the bad and confront those comments I said to her only half-kidding because I was too chickenshit to admit the validity of anything--choices I made and things I did, like leaving her behind.

I didn't want to leave her behind, but I couldn't exactly run back to the plane and ask her to come with me, could I? Bobby would've talked me out of leaving. I would've let Bobby change my mind, remind me that we were "kids", and all the while, even when I was retaking my place and buckling my seatbelt, I'd be thinking, "I only came back for her. Not to fucking stay."

And I was afraid, scared to death that I would start to hate her, that I would look into those eyes and know I had come back for her and ended up stuck once again. I couldn't let that happen. She was the one thing I couldn't lose to my anger. If I didn't have one thing to love, something enjoyable that was all mine in some sense, what was the point in preparing to fight a war? What the hell would I be fighting for?

Her.

So that she could stop being afraid, stop crying out in the night and acting as if it never happened the next morning.

She never pretended with me. She would appear in my doorway, wrapped up in her quilt, and stare at me for what felt like hours before slipping into bed next to me. She was so careful to make sure no portion of her skin touched mine and all the while I kept thinking, "What a way to go."

I still remember the first time she appeared in my bedroom, some mutant goddess of the night. I'll never forget the first time.

"John?" her voice called out. I was sure that I was still dreaming, in that freaky half-awake-half-asleep world where I was never sure what was fucking real and what was imagination.

I rubbed my eyes, allowing her silhouette to go from blurry to clear, and there she stood, a patchwork Marie with a small smile creeping out of the corners of her lips and a nervous shuffle of her feet. I immediately straightened up in bed, worried about what would bring her to my bed-why my bed and not Bobby's-in the middle of the night, and said, "Rogue?"

"Are you awake?"

"I am now," I replied and before I could stop myself I scooted over to the edge of my bed and patted on an empty spot for her to sit.

She moved cautiously, glancing over her head and to my roommate's bed as if she needed to bolt if anyone else saw her. I secretly hoped that they would catch her, would force an explanation out of her that I couldn't bring myself to request, so that I would know that I wasn't crazy or dreaming or both. She stopped mere inches from the bed and said, "I'm sorry. I couldn't sleep."

"It's okay."

"You were asleep."

"Yes."

"I woke you up."

"Uh-huh."

"And you're mad."

"Rogue, if I were mad, you would have a pair of smoking eyebrows right now," I replied with a smirk, lifting my pillow and revealing my prized possession.

She rolled her eyes as she took those last few steps and slipped into bed next to me and she said, "I should've known."

"I don't like to find myself vulnerable."

"Worried that Professor Xavier's going to try and force himself on you while you sleep?"

My face contorted in horror and I had to shut my eyes against the frighteningly vivid image in my head. I groaned loudly, causing the bed next to me to stir, and covered my mouth with my hands. Once I had calmed down some, I opened my eyes and pointed at her, "That was disgusting. He's like old and unattractive. I could do much better than that."

She laughed and patted my cheek, "Of course. How could I have been so nasty as to insinuate you weren't deserving of a more attractive attacker?"

"Like Cyclops. Not that I'm gay or anything, but Jesus, could we avoid men bordering on a century in age."

"I happen to think Professor Xavier is quite sexy."

"I'm going to be sick."

"He's got the accent and he's so.so."

"Near death?"

"Stop."

"Old?"

"John."

"More wrinkled than a raisin?"

"John."

"What?"

"Are you telling me you never liked an older woman?"

"Older as in Storm? Sure, of course. She's hot and I'm breathing. Older as in Mrs. Roper from Three's Company? God no! That sounds like a painful form of castration. You've got it, but never want to use it. Ever."

She giggled, her cheeks flushing with color, and she shook her head, "Men.always so superficial."

"Don't group me in with every evil male to have passed through your life. I'll have you know it's not superficiality on my part."

"No?"

"Nope," I paused and grinned smugly before adding, "The fact is that I'm too good-looking and cool to waste my mojo time on Granny. She wouldn't be able to keep up with me, if you know what I'm saying" I replied with a wink.

"That's what you'd like to think."

"Rogue, you're in my bed and doubting my masculinity. Not a good combination," I warned.

"You're all bark and no bite, John. I know you too well."

"So you think."

"So I do," she replied. She laid down, splaying her hair across my pillow, and the only clear thought I had was now my bed will smell of her, how every time I laid down, her shampoo would linger on my sheets. She closed her eyes and said, "Goodnight John."

"No goodnight kiss."

"Goodnight John," she repeated in a loud whisper.

"Goodnight Rogue," I replied as I stretched out my arms and laid down next to her, my head skimming the top of hers. I found myself lulled to sleep by the sounds of her breathing and the motion of her chest rising and falling.

I grew so used to it throughout the months that it became nearly impossible to fall asleep without her there. In those hours, she belonged to me. She would appear long after everyone else had joined the land of dreams and sneak out before the sun rose. We never spoke of it outside those moments. Never mentioned Bobby or what any of it meant or our feelings. Our secret existence involved inane conversations and cheesy banter that was addictive and challenging and terrible-because it was too important to me. I had always praised myself on not caring about anything, my ability to take nothing and no one seriously, and then she stepped into our history class and wreaked havoc on my world.

I've got permanent insomnia now and the only cure is miles away.

At night I wonder if she misses our talks the way I do, if she remembers how she would slip the "my" in front of my name when she was talking to other students as if she was the only person to truly know me-and she was- or if I've been replaced by Bobby. Does Bobby know about our late night rendezvous or how I was the only person to ever get Rogue grounded while on campus?

Then I force myself to stop with the nonsense. War is coming. I'm a soldier with no attachments. I am alone in the world. The way it was meant to be. The way my father and mother said it would be as they picked at the ruins of the curtains. "You're damned, boy, and the damned end up alone."

But I have my story to fight for and it's definitely worth it.