Warning: Some bad language

Bobby hadn't seen him since he had left, and the circumstances had changed so drastically since then that he found he couldn't speak. They had been best friends once, though no one, not even them, had ever quite understood why. But Bobby had never imagined he would become the enemy.

For all their disagreements, every real fight Bobby had ever been in, John Allerdyce had been beside him. Not on the opposite side. Not until now.

Rogue was right behind him, and Logan and Cyclops were in front. A few feet away, to the left of Magneto and Mystique, was Pyro.

"Well this is a surprise," Scott said evenly. His eyes inevitably flickered to John. "Hello, John."

John nodded, clicking his lighter open and then shut. "Cyclops."

Magneto looked at the four X-Men appraisingly. "We aren't here to quarrel with you."

"Then leave," Logan growled.

Magneto shook his head. "I'm afraid I can not. I have business here."

'Here' was near a top-secret -- formally top-secret -- anti-mutant base that the X-Men had come to do recon on. And the Brotherhood had come to destroy.

The building was just barely in sight, and the two rival groups stood facing off in an empty clearing. The Brotherhood had the advantage at the moment, having the building behind them, while all the X-Men had at their backs was a forty foot drop.

"Let me guess," Scott said disgustedly. "You plan to bomb the place."

Magneto smiled, but didn't answer.

He allowed another of his team to provide a response. John sparked a flame with his lighter, and grinned in a way that the X-Men had seen only few times. Usually right before something went up in flames.

"Actually," he said. "We were kind of thinking about burning it down."

"You can't do that!" Rogue cried.

John's grin slipped at her protest, and he glared at his former colleagues. "Maybe you don't understand what that place is planning to do."

Mystique moved to place a hand on John's arm, telling him silently to keep his composure.

"There are people in that building," Scott said warningly.

"People that don't give a damn about us," Mystique told him coolly. "And are probably, at this very moment, planning new and inventive ways to torture and kill us."

"That doesn't justify sinking to their level," Scott said, and Bobby and Rogue weren't sure if Logan's answering growl was an agreement or dissent.

"You do not want to fight us," Magneto said dangerously, tilting his head back slightly to watch them.

"We've got you outnumbered," Wolverine growled.

Mystique grinned. "But only in number."

And then, as quickly as if someone had flipped a switch, pleasantries were forgotten and they were fighting. Magneto took out Cyclops first--using the metal in his visor to pull it off and send them off the cliff. The team leader shut his eyes tightly and cursed. Logan ran to his side to make sure he wasn't attacked, his claws pushing out from the flesh of his hands as he moved. Magneto just smiled and used the metal running through the Wolverine to hold him in place.

Mystique was fighting with the two less experienced members of the X-Men, with just as much ease as Magneto. A kick to his ribs had sent Bobby flying backwards, too stunned to try and freeze her into a nice ice sculpture.

Rogue had removed her gloves, and with a growl she darted forward and tried to make contact with Mystique's skin. Mystique dropped to the ground before Rogue reached her, and with a sweeping kick knocked the younger woman's legs out from under her, sending her backwards, and almost over the edge of the cliff.

Mystique watched her just for a moment, making sure she wasn't close enough to fall off the cliff before leaving her there and going on her way. She didn't want to kill any of them, annoying as they were, it wasn't necessary.

But she hadn't anticipated that the ground at the edge of the cliff was unstable. Rogue groaned as she tried to pull herself into a sitting position, but froze when spider web cracks began to form in the dry dirt. Her eyes went wide and she didn't dare to move.

John was the first to see her. He had run to over to Bobby to keep him from icing Mystique after the X-Men had regained his bearings. But when he saw the look of terror in Rogue's eyes, and the land that was about to give way under her he kept running. When he got closer, he lunged, sliding across the ground in a way he hadn't done since little league.

He reached her just as the ground fell away, and grabbed her hand tightly before she could fall. When their hands made contact, he gasped, feeling like he had touched a live wire. That was when he noticed. Rogue wasn't wearing her gloves.

He knew this feeling. Had felt it before. It was like everything was draining from him slowly and he couldn't even breathe. She was pulling everything he had straight out of him, but he couldn't let her go. He wedged his hand in a crack in the ground, using it to stop their momentum. He put all of his strength into not letting go. He couldn't let go. Even if it killed him.

His mouth opened in a silent scream as it got worse. It really was going to kill him.

"John!" Rogue cried. "Let go! You have to let go!"

John didn't have the strength to answer, but he used the last bit he had to tighten grip on her hand. She was just foolish enough to do something like let go--just so he would still be safe.

"I'm killing you!"

John looked down at her, there was a deep fear in her eyes, but he knew instinctively it wasn't for herself. It was for him. He only held on tighter.

He could feel himself slipping over the edge, and tried his best to hold on. They were both going over but it was too late now to let go even if he wanted to.

It couldn't have been longer than a minute, even though it was an eternity for him, before he heard someone's frantic footsteps behind him and someone grabbing his leg.

Logan had grabbed onto John just as the young man lost his grip was about to slip over the edge, and pulled him roughly back. Once John was back on solid ground, Logan reached down and grabbed a hold of Rogue's arm, pulling her up and then quickly letting go of her when she had been hauled to safely. He had made contact with only the smallest amount of her skin, and a shake of his head allowed him to recover.

John, however, was much worse off. He had held onto Rogue far longer than was safe. He was gasping and on his knees, trying in vain to get to his feet and make his way back to Magneto and Mystique. Just as he finally managed to stand, Logan was behind him, grabbing him from behind and pulling the familiar lighter from the young man's left hand.

Logan gripped him tightly. "Hold it," he snapped. "You're not going anywhere. Especially not in this condition."

Wolverine had been expecting a suitably caustic remark to this, and was shocked when Pyro fell slack in his grip. He turned to see the boy's face and realized with some trepidation he had fallen unconscious.

Logan turned around to look at the others. Rogue had tears trailing down her cheeks, but there was an expression on her face that wasn't hers. Mystique and Magneto were both glaring at the X-Men, and was he imagining it or did they actually look concerned?

Magneto and Mystique walked up to him. It was surreal. A moment ago they had been fighting, and now everyone was quiet because one of them had actually been hurt. But hadn't that been the point, to hurt each other?

"Give him to me," Magneto demanded.

Bobby, who was leading Cyclops over to them looked stricken. Scott just looked out of it. His eyes were pressed tightly closed, and it was obvious he had no idea what was going on.

Wolverine lay Pyro down, and wasn't happy when the young man didn't so much as twitch at the movement. The kid had made a bad choice, gone with the wrong people, but he'd just risked his life to save Rogue--and he wasn't about to leave his life in the hands of a maniac like Magneto.

"I don't think that's a good idea," he growled.

"We'll take care of him," Mystique said, almost softly. "He chose to come with us."

Logan could feel Rogue slowly moving up behind him, but was too focused on the two Brotherhood members to pay much attention to her.

"We're better suited to treat him," Logan snapped. "And we've had experience in dealing with this kind of thing before."

Of course, the last time, the victim had been him. And he had healing abilities that Pyro didn't.

"I will not ask again," Magneto said.


The voice startled the X-Men and Brotherhood alike. It was Rogue's voice. But it held John Allerdyce's inflection.

"Don't ask again," she said coolly. "Leave John with us and get the hell out of my sight."

"My dear," Magneto started.

But Rogue wasn't listening. She had picked up John's lighter from where Logan had placed it, and with eerie familiarity she clicked it open and commanded the fire into her hand.

"Leave. Now," she demanded. The 'or else' was implied.

Magneto glared at her. He didn't know how well the young girl could use Pyro's powers, though he had heard from John himself she had mastered it without difficulty once before. Rogue wasn't herself right now, and she could easily injure him or Mystique. But John, on the other hand, would be safe with them. For now. And if the X-Men left to care for his young protégé, he and Mystique would be free to finish their mission.

"We will want him back," he said as he motioned Mystique to fall back.

The shape-shifter backed up reluctantly, and Magneto followed her. Only when they were almost out of sight did Rogue close her hand and put out the fire that had been resting there.

Bobby was watching her with a nervousness that had never been directed at her before, and she found she couldn't meet his eyes. This always happened after she touched someone, but she couldn't expect any of them to understand.

Pieces of the people she touched melted into her, not just their powers. She could feel John inside of her. She just hoped there was still something left inside him.