Summary: Even with the Cure running through her veins like a stark reminder, Rogue still feels alienated and isolated. She finds herself at a deserted bus stop after running away from the Mansion, craving for some time alone. Will she find her path towards emancipation with the help of an old friend? (Intended RoguexPyro / MariexJohn) X3 spoilers.
She could just imagine the stranger leering at her. She could almost feel his gaze lingering over her, but she chose to ignore it. After all, she knew she could take him out anytime if he tried anything on her. Even without her powers. Those Danger Room sessions they had back at the Institute had seen to that. And to top it all off, the self-defence lessons that she took all those years ago could resurface. Bobby had been her tutor.
She recalled that one time; that one day; that one memory where he had given her pointers on how to send an assailant flying over her head. She used to think that it had been one unforgettable memory. Now, all she just wanted to do was to forget.
"So, you grab him by the arms like this," Bobby said, demonstrating as he took hold of Rogue's own two arms, careful not to touch her skin but the long sleeves of her coat instead. "And then you thrust your hip against his lower torso and pitch him forward and up, over your back."
John, who was there all the while, watching, burst out laughing.
He let go of her then.
"What's so funny?" Bobby looked annoyed.
John, after calming himself down, which took awhile, replied, "Did you have make it sound so… explicit?"
Rogue smiled wanly, recalling the way John always used to get under Bobby's skin and vice versa. Those were the cherished days when he'd still been there with them, the days when they weren't so distant, the days when she and Bobby were still-
Screw this, she thought sullenly. She knew things have changed. Things always do. And as much as she didn't like it, she had to move on. Had to move forward. And never look back.
A lone bus came roaring up the empty street. The only other vehicle she'd seen since her own bus had dropped her off. It came to a grinding halt in front of the bus stop. No one got off, but the disturbing stranger got on, much to her relief.
It drove off again, leaving a grey cloud of smoke in its wake. Rogue resisted the urge to cough and choke on the fumes.
And then she was alone again. More alone than ever this time. But it didn't matter. She liked to be alone, after all, it was what she had endured all her life before taking the Cure. Only this time, she finally came to that realisation. Ironic she thought, that it was only when I cured myself of this curse that I've realised how alone I had been and how alone I will STILL be.
She sighed. Maybe running away wasn't such a great idea.
She needed more time to think it over.
Therefore, when another unknown stranger appeared at the bus stop, she was slightly annoyed. Damnit. Can't I just have some privacy here? She inhaled deeply, and exhaled silently. She reasoned to herself that she wasn't being disturbed by the intruder anyway. She couldn't even see him. But she knew he was standing somewhere behind her, out of view, probably leaning against one of the pillars.
Unzipping her bag, she reached to grab her wallet to check that she had enough to get her back to the mansion. That is, if she ever did want to go back. As she looked through her wallet, her eyes came to fall on the single picture that was displayed proudly in the single photo-holder. It was her. And Bobby. They both looked very much in love. A love that she knew never existed now. She had a sudden image of another girl replacing her in the picture. Kitty Pryde.
She wrenched the photograph out her wallet in fury, stared at it a second time, and then promptly ripped it in two. We're done, she thought bitterly before throwing the two pieces of paper to the ground.
For a fleeting instant, she wanted to get up and start stomping on the torn picture. Maybe trampling it would ease the pain. Trampling and exploding into a fit of tears. But no, she didn't. Wouldn't…
Couldn't. Because the tattered photo had just burst into flame.
All Rogue could do was stare. How the hell had that happened? And the flames disappeared as instantly as they came, leaving behind a trail of smoke and the ashes of what had once been the photograph of her and Bobby Drake.
"Didn't they ever tell you that littering's bad for the environment?" came a lazy voice from behind her. Fuck. It was the stranger talking.
Only, it was no stranger. Rogue could recognise that voice anywhere. Admittedly, she was surprised. It's been awhile since she actually last heard it.
He gave a short laugh and she knew it was him. The laugh itself damn well proved it. Rogue turned in her seat to find the pyrokinetic manipulator staring back at her, amused. She eyed the boy. Only, she knew he wasn't a boy anymore.
"So it's Pyro now, huh? You always ever called me John. Never Pyro. What gives?"
She was startled at how much he had grown. But in her eyes, she knew that he would only ever be the ignorant, uncouth youth she was used to. Wearily, she recalled how the name 'John' had irritated the hell out of him. He had always insisted that people call him 'Pyro' instead.
"I'm sorry, John," she corrected, a hint of sarcasm in her voice, and all the while looking for any signs of a change in expression.
Not even a flicker of annoyance. Why she decided to test him, she didn't know. Maybe it was to make certain, to see , if he had changed since she last saw him. To see if there was any of the old John left in him.
But he simply replied, "Nah, just stick with calling me Pyro. It sounds so much more-"
"Cooler," Rogue finished for him, "I know."
Rogue only shook her head, a gesture so small that she knew he probably didn't catch, and turned to look back at the deserted road in front of the bus stop. The sun was going down now, and an orange glow was cast upon the both of them.
"Aren't you even gonna' offer me a seat? Or should I just stand here?" John drawled.
Rogue kept silent. However, she shifted to one side on the bus stop seats, indicating that she didn't mind if he came to sit next to her or not. She was indifferent either way.
John was equally as silent as he sat down. Close. She didn't move away, but she still didn't bother to look at him.
Although it wasn't an uncomfortable one, the silence was almost deafening to her; almost suffocating, and she was glad when he decided to finally break it.
"So," he started lightly, "aren't you afraid I might try to kill you or something?"
Rogue tilted her head towards John, finally looking at him full in the eyes. He was so close to her, but she felt no intimidation. None.
"Yup. Me apparently being an evil bastard and all that jazz. I could kill you with the flick of my wrist if I wanted."
Rogue wanted to laugh. He looked serious. So incredibly serious. But she knew there was a kind of hidden humour in his voice, one that no other would have been able to identify. He was testing her. Just as she was testing him before.
"No. I'm not afraid. You wouldn't kill me," she replied simply. And she was sure of it. He wouldn't and she knew it, even if he himself didn't.
John stared at her for a couple of seconds and then nodded, "I guess you would know," he said offhandedly.
Rogue knew what he meant by that. But she decided not to comment. The sky was darkening now, the orange glow around them was turning blood-red.
They lapsed into silence once again. Rogue had so much in her head right now that she didn't even care.
Finally, she spoke up, saying the one thing that was on her mind for so long. "I thought you were dead." Her voice was deathly quiet.
"Yeah? Everyone else thinks so. But I guess they're all indifferent about it, huh? They don't care if I'm dead or alive."
Rogue had a strong feeling that he was referring to the people back at the Institute. And she knew that it was true. Hell, the only time she recalled John ever being mentioned after his 'supposed' death was when Bobby had given her all the details about their face-off at Alcatraz just before Jean Grey decimated everything.
This reminder of the man who froze her heart made her want to ground her teeth in exasperation. But instead, she started talking again.
"Many people died, you know?" She was careful not to mention Magneto's name for the sake of it.
John nodded once, his mind going to the Professor. Charles Xavier.
"Logan killed Dr. Grey." Rogue continued, looking up into the bloody sky, "she killed Professor Xavier and Mr. Summers."
This was something new. John never knew Scott Summers was dead; much less that he was killed by the woman he loved. But then again, he didn't see him at the battlefield that was Alcatraz. He didn't see Rogue either. And he knew why.
"How's the Cure working for you?" he sounded nonchalant. But Rogue knew better.
Shuddering, she recalled the day she took the cure. Immediately after the needle pierced her skin, she felt genuine regret. Not pain. Just genuine, heavy regret. But she couldn't reverse the choice she had made. And what made it worse was the fact that she still didn't feel as though she were one of them, didn't feel as though she fit in. Despite the fact that she could touch others now. John asking her how it was working for her made her want to kill him. How he knew about her taking the Cure, she didn't want to know.
She smiled wryly. "I gave up so much for so little," was her reply.
John's head whipped around so suddenly that Rogue was sure he saw right through her and was going to say something about Bobby. But she relaxed. Why would he have any reason to? Maybe-
"I had a chat with your boyfriend the day you decided to take the Cure." Maybe not.
She tried not to look too surprised.
"Believe me," John continued, "when he confirmed my doubts that you were going for it, the first thing that crossed my mind was could you get any more pathetic? You betrayed us. Your own kind. But I guess I kinda' knew why."
And why's that? Rogue wanted to ask. She knew damn well he didn't know why. He knew nothing about what it's like to be someone who couldn't touch another person in fear of killing them. He knew nothing about how lonely she felt all the time, every time.
"It's not that simple, Pyro. It never was. You know it. So stop acting like you know me so well, oka-"
"Again with the Pyro. What the fuck, Rogue. You never, ever used to call me that," and then much more seriously he said, "But I do know how you feel. You feel cold and lonely. Like all purpose has left you for some other world."
Rogue stared at John for a long while. And in a new light. Why didn't she see it sooner? She should have known; he was as cold and lonely as she was. He had been. Ever since his fall from grace. His fall from good to corrupt. From moral to immoral. What caused his descent, she would never know. So many questions unanswered. So many different paths to take.
"What made you leave?"
"What made you?" he countered almost immediately.
Rogue blinked. She knew she had been caught out. He knew she ran to get away from the Institute. To get away from them.
"Well?" he demanded.
Rogue only shrugged.
The fire manipulator laughed. "Was it because you wanted independence? Wanted the power to feel like you're in control? Wanted freedom?"
God, this kid still doesn't get it, does he? Rogue glared John.
"Ah, I know," he said softly, "you left because of him didn't you? Because of love." Damn.
Rogue stood up suddenly, seething with anger. "And what do you know about love?" she snarled.
For a second, he looked surprised. But not because of her sudden flare. It was what she had said.
"Alright," he said at last, "I'm sorry," he sounded almost as though he was. Almost. "There's obviously something shitty going on between you and your boyfriend. But whatever it is, I won't be a part of it."
"He's not my boyfriend, you prick!" Rogue almost yelled, "He has a name and you bloody well know it. So stop calling him my boyfriend!" she kicked at the ashes that once had been a perfectly good photograph, tears already blurring her vision. But she wasn't going to cry. Not here. Not now. Not in front of him. Not like this.
Her breathing was heavy and ragged and full of pent-up frustration. She tried hard not to, but she blinked. And a single tear escaped her eye.
John stood. Rogue knew he was a lot taller than she was but she couldn't care less. If he was going to harm her, she didn't give a damn. If he was going to walk away, all the better. But what she didn't expect was the embrace that he gave her.
It wasn't a friendly hug, ones that didn't have meaning. It wasn't a close hug either, ones that lovers shared. It was a tight, rough hug full of shared feelings and emotions. She cried in his arms and never wanted to let go. So much had been lost between them and so little had been rekindled so far. And she knew that for him to embrace her like this was probably hurting him even more than it was hurting her.
She finally let go of him. And then apologised.
She looked helplessly at the floor. "For everything."
"You don't need to apologise, Marie. It was my feelings to begin with. You were never meant to know."
Rogue frowned. Marie. He never called her that. "But now I…" she searched for words. Everything was clouding her mind. When she had deliberately touched John to stop his rampage back at Bobby's house all those months ago, she had absorbed so much. Too much. And what she found out was unbelievable. She was so surprised that he didn't say anything. Didn't tell her.
And then he just left.
"But now you what?" John prompted. She knew he wanted to hear what she was about to say. There was hope in his voice. As though the hug they just shared meant something so much more. She was torn.
She couldn't bring herself to say what she wanted to. What was she going to say? That she no longer loved Bobby but someone else instead? Him? She shook her head slowly.
John nodded. As though her answer was what he had expected all along. But Rogue knew. Hell, John knew that Rogue knew.
"I can't. Every day I wake up with memories and thoughts of someone else and they can't get out of my head. Every day I go through hell and back even though I took the Cure. I thought it would help me; it only made things worse. So much worse. He doesn't care anymore, John. Bobby doesn't care. And now… I can't," she said simply, "I can't go on."
John stared. She had called him John. And he knew now, how much Bobby had hurt her.
"So you can't go on just because you sacrificed all that for the ice cube?" it was more of a statement than a question, "Want me to go kick his ass for you then?"
She ignored his snide offer. "No, John." Her voice was quiet. "I can't go on because I've fallen for someone else. But it's too late now to do anything."
"Someone else," John repeated although he knew full well who that 'someone else' was. And he was filled with regret. It was too late.
"It's much too late. We've gone so far in different directions. And now I don't even know if he still shares the same feelings."
John looked away.
It was pitch dark outside now. All the light that was available was from the overhead lamp above the bus stop shelter. Another bus finally roared towards them.
It went past them, with neither of them flagging it down.
And then silence again.
It was getting colder as the night progressed and Rogue couldn't help but shiver. She finally sat back down and bathed in the awkward silence. Her head was surprisingly empty. Which was strange. Just a moment ago she had so much to think about. Now, nothing really mattered anymore.
"He still does."
She looked back up at John.
"He still does," he repeated.
And for the first time in weeks, Rogue smiled a real smile.
-A/N-: I thought it was really annoying the way they ended X3 like that. Rogue shouldn't have taken the cure (no matter how temporary it was) and what the heck happened to Pyro? They couldn't have just killed him! Whatever. There should be more RYRO fanfics out there. Period.
Anyway, there were probably some parts of this chapter that you didn't understand. Believe me though, the whole thing has meaning behind it. Kudos to those who understand some parts that were pretty obscure.
Reviews are greatly appreciated.
NOTE: This fic was meant to be a one-shot. But due to overwhelming response, I've turned it multi-chaptered.