Between Two Fires

Author's Notes: I don't know why I've written this, but I haven't been able to get the X-Men movies out of my head lately. Thanks to Sethoz, whose awesome X-Men fics were a big part of my inspiration!

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Rogue was with Bobby.

They were happy together. He was perfect, and he loved her.

It should have been enough.

But just seeing him again reminded her it never would be. John was leaning against the small shop, flicking his lighter as she watched him. Neither of them spoke. She had been praying for a chance to talk with him ever since he had left, but now that she had one she couldn't think of anything to say.

She wanted to be with John, it was him she would choose first every time if not for one small thing. He terrified her. The fire and the promise she saw in his eyes terrified her. She wasn't scared for her life, not of being physically hurt. But one false move and John could have more power over her than she ever wanted to give.

Bobby was safe. Never out of control. She made the limits, drew the lines, and Bobby would never dream of crossing them.

John burnt his way steadily through all of her boundaries without a care. He slipped into her mind, her soul, just by smiling. Not that John did that often, not like Bobby who sometimes couldn't seem to stop. John gave smiles infrequently, and when they were genuine they meant that much more.

She loved him. She could admit that to herself now, but it didn't matter, she would never be strong enough to be with him. She didn't have the strength it would take to love someone like John, things were complicated enough with Bobby, and he was as together as anyone she had ever known.

But it really didn't matter now.

He had left.

He'd left her, just like he had kept telling her he would.

John was never patient, and he had told her how he felt the moment he realized what he was feeling. She'd already been with Bobby, but it had been the hardest thing she had ever had to do when she turned him down.

John took everything in stride, and at her answer all he had done was smile. "Maybe someday," he had said.

And it was not until later she'd realized just how much he'd meant by that sentiment. He had been waiting for someday. He told her, only a few weeks before the invasion on the school, he was thinking of leaving. Told her that she was the only reason he'd been staying, but he had watched her with Bobby too long--and she'd become the reason he had to leave.

Then he had whispered that all she had to do was ask and he would stay.

She couldn't find the courage she needed to say the words, but John must have seen something in her eyes, because he didn't leave right away. Not completely. Though it seemed he was fading every moment he remained at that school.

He began to lose control, and Rogue had began to keep her distance. She didn't fear anything more than a loss of control.

It didn't seem to bother John, though. Rather, it seemed to free him. It became commonplace to see him leaning against a wall, clicking his lighter methodically with a smirk that kept everyone from coming too close.

They were losing him, and still, Rogue couldn't say the words that would bring him back.

She couldn't say them even now.

"Not even a hello?" John asked quietly, finally breaking the thick silence.

Rogue's eyes were wide, her gloved hands twitching nervously at her side. "John," she whispered.

He smiled wryly at her. "Hey, Rogue."

"Are you okay?" she demanded, wondering why she had to know. He had betrayed them, she shouldn't care.

"Fine. You?" John's countenance went solemn. "I heard about Jean. I'm sorry."

"You should be," she snapped, not caring when he winced. "It was hard enough on all of us without losing you as well."

John sighed at this, at least she wasn't blaming him as he had believed she might. "You're probably the only one that missed me, Rogue, if even you did."

"Of course I have. We all have. Just because you're acting like an idiot doesn't mean we'll forget you."

"I'm not!" he protested. "I'm doing what's best for me."

"And that was always the only thing that mattered to you, wasn't it?"

"It had to matter to someone," he snapped.

"John, god, how can you do this? How can stand to be with that monster? Are you really going to fight against us?"

"I don't want to fight you, Rogue," John said softly. "My battle isn't with you."

"No, just the world, right?"

"I should go."

Rogue grabbed his arm as he passed, John had always been one of the only people she was never afraid to touch, even with her gloves she kept her distance from most. Not with John, though, and not because she didn't care if he was hurt. She just knew somehow he wouldn't be.

"Come back with me," she asked. The words were as surprising to her as they were to him.

John carefully pried her hand from his arm. "Nothing has changed, Rogue. You can't ask me to go back."

"I just did. You told me all I had to do was ask you to stay and you would." She was pleading now, and she couldn't understand why. John had left them. He had a piece of her heart, but he'd taken it with him, so why should she care now where he went?

"It's too late for that now. I'm sorry. I can't be what you are, Rogue. I'll never be a hero. I don't even want to be. Go back to Bobby, go back where it's safe."

Rogue knew she would. She always did. But this time she didn't know if she could survive John not coming with her.

"Please, John--we'd take you back. All of us would. Everyone makes mistakes."

He smiled slightly, his fingers unconsciously clicking the lighter open, then clicking it closed. "That's the problem, Rogue. I don't see this as a mistake."

"But you betrayed us," Rogue whispered.

John stepped up to her then, and if it had been anyone else she would have stepped back. "I'm sorry if that's how you see it, but, Rogue, it wasn't like that. I was just being true to myself. I never belonged with the X- Men, I never will."

"You're better than you think, John. You could be so much more than you believe."

John touched the ends of her hair. "What if I said I didn't want to be more? What if I just wanted to be me?"

"John, please, don't do this--I couldn't stand it if you were hurt because of us. Or if one of us was hurt because of you. I can't be your enemy."

"Then don't be," he told her simply.

"Neither of us have a choice in the matter," Rogue said softly. "Do we? I won't leave the X-Men, and you really aren't ever coming back."

"No," he said. "I'm not ever going back."

"Tell me this isn't my fault," Rogue asked softly. "Don't leave because of me."

John smiled slightly. "You were only part of the reason I left, Rogue, but not even that was your fault. I can't stand the rules. If I had stayed, I'd only break them. I was a liability, even you know it."

"And so you're doing us a favor by joining our enemy then?" Rogue demanded.

"I'm just doing what the Professor won't, the road to peace is bathed in blood, but he can't see that. A revolution is coming, Rogue, and I'm going to be on the side that's fighting."

"I thought you didn't want to be a hero."

"I don't. I'm the bad guy in all of this, we both know it. But the world needs its bad guys as much as the good ones."

John raised his hand, and placed it gently on Rogue's cheek. Both gasped at the contact, but neither moved. He leaned forward, resting his forehead on hers, feeling even as he did a piece of himself draining away. She closed her eyes to stop any tears.

"Just, whatever happens, remember me like this," he whispered.

"John, stop," she pleaded, even though she couldn't bear to pull away. She was killing him and he didn't seem to care.

He moved away at last, but part of him stayed within her. She gasped at the shock of losing contact with him, and when she opened her eyes he was gone, and his lighter had somehow ended up in her hand.

She spun around, searching for him in the crowd of people around her, but he had disappeared--and if not for the indisputable evidence of the lighter, she could almost have believed she imagined the whole thing.

She looked down at the piece of metal in her hand. She couldn't believe he had given it to her. Since the moment she had meet him, she had never seen him without it. She clicked it open, and lit the flame. She wondered what it felt like when he touched fire. Then she wondered what it had felt like when he had touched her.

She clicked the lighter closed, and a tear slid down her cheek.

. |The End|