Title: Burn

Fandom: X-Men: The Last Stand (character spoiler warning!)

Pairing: Rogue/Pyro

Rating: R

Note: I've only seen the movie once, and that was when it opened so it's been awhile - thus, details may be off, the time frame may be wrong, but whatever :) - it's just a ficlet, a little something I felt like writing because both of these characters pretty much got the shaft... actually I think all the characters did... but ah, that's another story... I don't know, I just sat down and started typing and this is what came out.

Note 2: I've edited this part from the original posting, fleshed it out a little more, fixed some things that were bothering me. As of now, this is the finished version.

o0o

Imagine your insides peeling off in layers, settling deep in your center and then boiling there. Think of them bubbling up inside you, making you shimmy and shake and groan and cry and marvel that while you were writhing in agony on the tiled floor they never tried to hold you down, to at least hold your head so you wouldn't bite your tongue while those pieces of you, the pieces that have made you miserable for so long erupt.

They watch you squirm like a fish on a hook and for the first time you wonder if this was a trick all along and you are going to die right here on this immaculate floor with black and white checked tiles. They are going to kill you and you paid them to do it, stood in line for three freaking hours

And then just as suddenly as it started it stops and you are left gasping, panting, choking on your own breath.

They help you to your feet. They smile, congratulate you, welcome you to your new life and when you go to the bathroom to see if you look different all you see is a smudge of red at the corner of your mouth.

Your tongue hurts. You taste blood and you spit it out into the sink.

The white streak is still in your hair.

When you were in the waiting room there was a girl sitting beside you with scars under her eyes. She caught you staring and smiled, wordlessly held out her hand to show you diamonds shaped like tears. When she came out she was crying with that smile, her tears no longer made of glass, but you're not sure if it has worked on you.

You're afraid it hasn't, that you were right the first time. There is no hope for you. Whatever it was they injected won't take. It can't be that easy. All those years of frustration, longing… it can't really have been as easy as that. Life - especially your life - is never that simple…

As simple as a shot in the arm given with no more ceremony than a flu vaccine.

You don't feel any different except for the uncomfortable warmth still baking your insides, but when you take a deep breath and expel it it seems better.

You're not sure what this means and you don't ask.

You come out of the bathroom, you shake hands with your gloves still on, you say thanks and you leave.

You walk past the protesters hurling insults and sometimes bits of food breathing long deep breathes, tasting the dirty air of the city and taking it inside you until you feel the last sizzling remnants of what you hope is your mutation slide away, sloughing off like dead skin and you allow yourself to believe that that is what is really happening.

When the heat has cooled… when you feel normal… you will be.

The girl cried real tears when she came out, real tears that didn't make her bleed and cry harder.

You take more deep breaths.

Someone calls you "traitor" someone calls you "gene trash", "reject", "wannabe", "bitch" and you are pelted with something hard that hurts and you flinch despite how used to all this you should be by now, except the jeers and insults are coming from the other side now, your side now, and really it just goes to show you can never win, ever. There will always be strangers that hate you no matter what you do, who you are, and you cry out as something, a rock maybe, hits you square on the jaw.

And then there's a hand on your arm and it's yanking you into an alley and another wave of heat comes, again you feel like your insides are boiling, but you lash out with one fist, the other splayed open against your burning stomach.

You don't connect with anything because you are not being held onto anymore. You realize you were just pulled out of the line of fire and you lift your head to say thanks, still clutching your stomach like it's going to melt off and you are surprised to see John two feet away glaring at you, lip curled, fists clenched - the "Pyro" pose minus a lighter clacking open and shut open and shut…

"You get hit?" he's looking at your chin where the rock has probably left a mark, a bruise, and you stare at him, mute, because you haven't seen him since that awful day when he walked away, when you flew the blackbird, when Ms. Grey was crushed by a wall of water.

He waits for you to answer, juts his head forward with eyebrows raised like you're retarded, a move that a few months ago would have earned him at least an eye roll and a tsk, but you don't know how to act around him now that he's "the enemy", so you don't acknowledge his crossing his eyes at you at all, you just say, "you here to burn down the clinic?"

He doesn't smile, doesn't laugh, doesn't pause.

"Yeah."

He moves in closer, that familiar stalking gait he has forcing you into stepping back so you're stuck between him and the wall.

His eyes narrow.

"Were you checking the place out?" he asks and his voice is hard. "Maybe thinking about going in?"

You lick your lips, unsure if you should be nervous being alone like this with him, with him looking at you the way he's looking at you. You maybe don't have your powers anymore to protect you if he tries anything.

You glance to your left, the open mouth of the alley.

There's a crowd just around the corner, but it's screaming loud enough that any cry for help you might make would be lost in the cacophony…

They don't like you anyway…

Well, you don't like them either.

You look back into his narrowed eyes and you're not afraid of John Allerdyce, especially not when he wants you to be. You know he gets off on intimidation and you know better than to give him what he wants. He used to know better than to try this with you. It's why you two had started smoking together on the roof last year. You always call his bluff.

"Wasn' thinkin' 'bout it," you pull up your sleeve, hold out your arm so he can see the little butterfly bandaid on the inside bisecting a long vein pale blue beneath your white white skin that hasn't seen the sun in over two years. "Thought about it. Did it."

His eyes flicker to the bandaid and there's that curling lip again as he grabs your gloved hand, pulls you out of the building's shadow and into the sunlight so he can see better and you let him.

It's only when he drops it and looks at you like you're something he's going to have to scrape off the bottom of his shoe do you remember that John may be a guy who used to let you smoke his cigarettes when Bobby wasn't around, but he's also a guy who follows a man that attempted to annihilate all the "straight genes" in one fell swoop.

You remember you're a "straight gene" now too, maybe. You're a target now too, maybe, and you've just painted a bullseye right on your forehead…

But he doesn't take aim like you half expect him to, at least not in the way you thought he would…with fists and fire and-

"What the fuck did you do that for?" he steps away from you, looks disgusted to the point of retching and spits out, "For him? That fucking…walking…popsicle?"

You yank your sleeve back down over your skin, the needle prick, the bandaid. "I did it for me," you say and you hate the way your voice shakes and gives out a little on you at the end, because you're not sorry for this, if this has even worked...

You didn't think long and hard about your decision. You didn't have to. This - or even the possibility of this – freedom from a mutation that kept you a prisoner inside your own flesh – is something you have been praying for since the day it happened. You made your decision years ago, before you even met Bobby.

You clench your fists, your jaw, furious with John for trying to make you feel guilty for wanting something he, and everyone else in the universe, takes for granted. His mutation doesn't bar him from living a normal life – he can choose to use his power, can switch it on and off at will, what right does he have to make you feel like shit?

He has no idea what it's like to constantly be worried about hurting people just by existing, to have to evaluate and ultimately censor almost every physical impulse you have. Even with people who trust you, who know you will not hurt them… it's still at the back of your mind (and theirs too) that you could if you're not careful which casts a pall over everything from someone passing you a test booklet to your boyfriend holding your hand. Standing in line at the cafeteria or walking through a crowded hallway between classes can result in a tension headache that can take hours to get rid of, meanwhile every muscle in your body is constantly clenched from trying to make yourself as small as possible so as not to brush up against anyone even though you are fully clothed, and that's not who you were before all this started. This timid girl who keeps herself curled in a ball even when she's walking tall and looking confident and comfortable with herself, is not you.

So no, this isn't just about Bobby and wanting to keep him, wanting to have him like any other girl could have him.

This is about feeling like a human being and not a black hole. This is about experiencing life and everything it has to offer, and you should be allowed the chance to do that without John or anyone else making you feel like you've betrayed somebody, like you've betrayed yourself for wanting to.

"I did this for me," you say it again, your voice does not quaver now, you say it loud and clear now and he sticks his face in yours with that look still on it, like he's smelling something awful.

"Bull. Shit."

He steps in closer, that look closer.

"He asked you to do it didn't he? I'll bet he fucking paid-"

You punch him in the face.

Your knuckles crash into his cheekbone and it makes you both gasp in pain, but he recovers first, forces you back against the wall again practically snarling and he reminds you of Logan when he does that and there's a flash of heat again, deep in your belly that has nothing to do with the injection.

You feel his breath on your face and he's staring down at you and his chest is pressed against yours and suddenly he doesn't look angry, doesn't look like he wants to murder you right there in broad daylight on a Sunday afternoon and you get a glimmer, a little flash of a memory that isn't yours.

For about thirty seconds when he was a student at Xavier's he'd had a thing for you. Not a big thing, not a crush exactly. He thought you were beautiful. Not hot, not fine. Beautiful. He liked the way you held the smoke in your mouth for a moment before letting it go. He liked your eyes, the way they'd close when you did.

He's looking into them now and you know that he's wondering if you're lying. A bandaid's just a bandaid, you can get them anywhere. His eyes flicker to your lips and you know he's wondering if he should risk it. Kissing you.

He wants to kiss you.

Your heart jumps, a little hop like a hiccup.

You tell yourself you don't necessarily want to kiss him (after all, it is John), but you figure he's as good a test subject as you're likely to get short of grabbing some stranger and laying one on him just to see if he doesn't start convulsing.

Besides, at this point, you don't care if John flops over and starts foaming at the mouth. Serve him right for being such an asshole.

So you tilt your chin up, you part your lips.

But you don't close your eyes.

He's still staring into them anyway.

You can taste his breath and you wonder suddenly if he's stopped smoking because it tastes good.

You tilt a little more - just the teensiest bit - until you feel it… his bottom lip grazing your upper.

Barely a kiss is happening and happening and happening and his hands are still on your arms, looser now, but his chest is still hard, is still pressed against yours and when you breathe you breathe deep and in synch, his in to your out, his out to your in.

The chanting from around the corner gets louder suddenly as another patient leaves the clinic and he whispers against your mouth, still barely touching it, "Let's get out of here".

He takes you to his place, a loft in Soho with a slanted wall of plated windows that is half open letting in the air, the noise from the street. There is a TV, a couple video games scattered across the floor, a mattress with the sheets dripping off the side and trash everywhere, empty cigarette cartons (so he didn't quit?), cans of beer, soda, bags of chips, carcasses of microwave dinner packaging.

There are also scorch marks on the floors, the walls, an accordian of condoms by the bed.

He doesn't say anything. He stands in the middle of this mess and looks at you and you look back at him feeling a little sad for him, that he thinks this place is better than Xavier's and it seems almost like he's asking you to say it is, to reassure him that it is.

But you're not here to make him feel better about the choices he's made.

You're here to test, to practice. A different kind of simulation minus the observation room. There's no one here to grade you but John and you can give two shits about what his opinion is of your "technique". Or lack thereof.

You keep your eyes on his and your right hand drifts towards your left grazing your wrist slightly before sliding up the inside of your arm to the edge of your glove.

Bobby's grandmother's glove…

You shake the thought of his blue eyes out of your head, that first kiss…

Your fingers hook over the material and you pull – slowly – you peel it off and then do the same with the other.

This- what you're doing here now with John- this is for Bobby.

John's throat shifts as he watches you and you tell yourself to keep going, to go through with this because really, you have to know if it really worked and your boyfriend is probably with Kitty right now and you know for sure she has kissed, really kissed before and is probably better at it than you are just by virtue of having done it at all for more than 5 seconds at a time.

John has kissed.

Your eyes flicker to the bed.

John has fucked.

You swallow, you say, "Take off your shirt."

He blinks, he says, "You take off yours," and suddenly you feel a surge of power that has nothing to do with mutation but everything do to with the fact that you are a girl alone with a boy and you can maybe do whatever you want to each other and it probably (please God) won't result in one of you dead and the other crazy.

You start unbuttoning your blouse with shaking fingers and he watches a safe distance away. You shrug it off your shoulders, let it fall to the dirty floor and then stand there in your bra and skirt and boots realizing that this is the most anyone has ever seen of you since your skin became toxic and short sleeves and tank tops and bathing suits became things of the past.

John's hands go to the edge of his t-shirt, pull it up over his head and he is leaner than you remember, wiry but not in a scrawny way. He looks strong without advertising it with row after row of muscle upon muscle.

You can feel his eyes on your body, your breasts, your stomach. You think he likes what he sees despite the fact that you are not his type. You've been in his head, you know his preferences, and skinny brunettes are not particularly high on his list. He likes blondes. Of the big breasted variety. You glance down at your chest thinking that while not exactly small, you can't quite compete with the women in the magazines he'd kept hidden under his bed at Xavier's, but figure that a half naked girl is a half naked girl and to a boy, that's always better than a fully clothed one regardless of her cup size.

He's still not making a move though, and as appreciative as his gaze is, you're starting to feel self-conscious.

And then you remember something.

You remember that he knows what it feels like to be absorbed.

You've never asked anyone what it's like because, frankly, you don't want details. You don't need them. You already know it's bad. You've seen the look on their faces… on his face.

You know it's bad.

But if he didn't want this…even a little… if he wasn't willing to take the risk…he wouldn't have brought you here right?

Besides, there's a good chance it did work… granted, your little not-quite-kiss was barely a touch at all, but you didn't feel any of the signs you usually do when your power is starting to activate. All you felt was his breath and the whisper of his mouth...

That was the moment you decided you would use him if he was up for it. Use him to learn on, to find out what boys liked…

But that's not going to work if he's way over there.

You bite your lip. You go to him and he tenses slightly but doesn't step back because John doesn't back down. Ever. Not from anything. No matter how obviously freaked he is.

"Are ya scared of me?" you ask and he shakes his head slowly watching you in a way that makes you think he is lying.

You think he's right to be scared. You are too. Because in about five seconds you will both know for sure…

You lift your hand and reach out but pause before you touch. Your palm hovers above the skin over his heart, and you say, "Ya want me to stop?" because you feel like you should at least give him one last chance to get out of this, but he shakes his head again, shuts his eyes, and you close the gap between your skin and his and

Nothing happens.

All you feel is his heart beating against your palm. No rushing chaos hurtling at you from all sides, no screaming in your ears just… skin.

You look at John and his face is tilted up to the ceiling, his throat working, but not gasping.

He's fine. You are fine.

You put both your hands on his chest now, awed by the fact that you can, and he is warm and solid and smooth. You run your palms over his shoulders down his arms across his stomach. His eyes are clenched shut and he's breathing hard and you suddenly feel guilty about the freedom you're taking with him. He's obviously still terrified of having his soul sucked out at any moment and here you are happily feeling him up and trying not to cry because you never would have thought skin could feel so good…

You let him go, but you don't step back.

He opens one eye, looks down at you.

"What's wrong?" he asks and his voice sounds like gravel and it shakes right through you, turns you on more than touching him had.

"You tell me… ya look like ya trying not to jump out the nearest window."

"That's not… what I'm trying not… to do…" he mutters in that voice again and you flush because you get it. You finally get his lower lip caught behind his front teeth, his breath making his chest rise and fall, rise and fall quickly, rapidly, and you feel hot, jittery, on fire like something he could mold and sculpt and completely control.

"John?"

"…yeah…"

"Do ya…wanna…touch me? I mean… ya can…if ya want."

He doesn't answer, but after a moment he puts his hands on your waist, his thumbs and just his thumbs on your skin, his palms on the waistband of your skirt.

And then another moment and his hands are sliding up until they cup your ribs, his fingers lightly drumming your sides.

Another and your shoulders now, thumbs tracing your collarbone, now your neck, your jaw, back to your shoulders and the straps of your bra sliding down your arms. He pauses and you don't put them back so he steps forward, even closer, lowers his head and his mouth is on your shoulder, open and slowly making his way up your neck to just behind your ear and you're gripping his upper arms, your fingernails sinking in as he takes your earlobe between his teeth, just the slightest pressure.

The breath you hadn't realized you were holding leaves you in a shuddering rush and he puts his arms around you holding you up.

You can't believe this is you, this is happening to you, that you're feeling what you're feeling... naked skin and a pounding heart you're not even sure is yours...

You can't believe it's John making you feel it when you've only ever thought of Bobby (and in your weaker moments, Logan) like this…

You pull back slightly and he looks rumpled, dazed, softer than he's ever looked and suddenly he closes, thinking it's done, he went too far and that hardness creeps back in but you touch his cheek, one finger sliding down the bone that is a little pink from where you slugged him, to his lips that part…

You should go, you should leave. Now is the time to do it.

But you trace his lower lip, feel his breath on your fingertip… breath that's warm

You want more. Just a little more. Just to see what it's like...

Every kiss you've ever had has been cold.

Even through the sheets, the silks scarves you've tried, Bobby was still so cold, and you've always wondered if it was just him or an extra precaution he was taking, not trusting the barriers that were already there to protect him from you.

You wonder if Kitty knows that cold or if he gives her the warm part of himself because he can with her.

He can with you now too you remind yourself, but John's hands are on your hips and they feel good there. He feels good.

You back away from him slowly, your fingertips still on his lips making it clear you want him to follow and he does.

You lay down on his bed, pull him on top of you relishing the contact, his bare stomach against your bare stomach and you haven't really kissed each other yet, not on the mouth although he's licking your neck and making you shiver and you shimmy and shake your way little by little until your pelvis is flush with his and you wrap your legs around his waist, your skirt sliding back and he is where he's supposed to be, hard and right there, right against you. He feels like a fist and you move a little liking the texture of his jeans on your inner thighs and he groans dropping his forehead lightly against yours, clutching your hips in his hands and holding you down, to stop you from moving like that, like that, like that

He's staring right into your eyes again, and for the first time you notice his aren't brown like you thought. They aren't brown at all.

They're blue.

He presses down slowly, shifts his weight, up and down, side to side, around and around and around still holding your hips motionless. He bites his lip hard, his eyes never leaving yours and you can barely think at all but

What am I doing… cuts through the haze of what he's making you feel, what you're clutching to you and you know

This shouldn't be happening.

Not with John.

John left them.

He left you.

"Marie…" he whispers hotly against your ear and you shove at his shoulders, angry at him all over again for leaving, for switching loyalties like a pair of jeans and never saying goodbye. You shove him back, but your legs are still around his waist and can't seem to drop away.

He runs his hands though his hair, his chest heaving as he looks down at you, at your skirt bunched around your waist. He's breathing hard, you're panting. His fingers drop down to your abdomen that spasms and your legs finally fall away as he scoots down to kiss it, to tongue your belly button and your fingers twine in his hair now too and it's softer and silkier than you expected and you are flushed with heat, helpless with want and shivering, shivering.

When his fingers find the edges of your underwear, his cheek hot against your stomach, you finally stop it. You push his hands away because if you don't now you won't later because you already want it too much. You want him too much and it's something you never anticipated when you decided to come here with him. You weren't prepared- you- you're not prepared for any of this.

You wiggle out from under him, claw at the sheets to pull yourself away from him, and stumble from the mattress crashing painfully to your knees before shakily getting to your feet.

You brought it to the bed and that… that means what it means, but you've only just made out for the first time in your life, you can't have sex… not now, not with John when John left… when John…isn't Bobby.

You're supposed to be doing this stuff with Bobby, your boyfriend.

John is just… he's just practice. The real thing is reserved for the guy that won't fry you on an order. The real thing is for the guy you've already decided is the one.

You want to make sure he knows this, that this wasn't anything, didn't mean anything, but when you look back at him… he's flushed and young looking and you lose your words because he's so handsome right now… and he's looking at you with that knee-weakening intensity he has when he's focused… and wanting… and you'd never have thought that look would be directed at you because for all John's heat he can be so cold... colder than Bobby even...

But now... now...

He catches hold of your skirt but he doesn't try to pull you back.

His eyes that aren't brown like you thought for the past two years, they look up at you and he says, "I'm sorry… moving too fast…we can take it slower-"

You step back until he lets your skirt go. He stares at you and you've never seen him patient before, never seen him gentle. It's unnerving. You want him to stop.

You should never have let it get this far.

You got what you needed. You got it twenty minutes ago when you put your hand on his heart and he didn't collapse. Proof of purchase, another satisfied customer.

It doesn't matter if he is.

You don't care if he is.

You don't.

"I'm not doin' this… not with you…"

I can't.

You back away and he stays where he is, on the mattress, on the sheets. You're waiting for him to get hard, get mean. You can't quite bring yourself to leave when he's not giving you a reason. When he's not making you want to go...

Make me go John… make me go…

You want to stay. You want to crawl back under him and have him look at you that way again… the way Bobby hasn't looked at you since he and Kitty started hanging out.

But you can't. There's nowhere for this to go anyway. He's one of the bad guys now.

And if he wasn't?

"He doesn't deserve what you did, you know. He's not worth it." He clears his throat, mutters to himself, "I'm not either but at least I know it." He reaches over, takes his t-shirt from the floor where he dropped it and pulls it on. He looks at you for a long moment and you feel rooted to the spot surrounded by all his garbage, the scorch marks, his violent life. "You wanna go, go." He says it softly, no malice, none of the anger you've been expecting, none of the bitterness that anyone who has ever met John Allerdyce would be expecting. "At least you know you can do it, right? That was the point, right?" He gets to his feet, turns his back on you, reaches into his pocket and your heart clenches when you hear the familiar click-clack of his lighter, all your muscles tensing, feeling sick and wondering if you can make it to the door before he-

He turns back around again, a cigarette dangling from his lips and he mumbles over it, not looking at you now, "Whatever. Thanks for letting me be your test subject. Don't forget your shirt."

You swallow. He won't look at you. You pick up your blouse with a shaking hand and pull it on, button it slowly.

You want to say something.

Sorry, maybe.

John…

Come back with me, maybe.

John…

We never kissed. I never kissed your mouth…

And you want to. You really want to.

But it's too late now.

He's looking at you with that shit-eating grin reserved for faculty members and policemen.

"See you around Rogue."

He waits about three minutes after you've left – enough time for you to be down the stairs and out the front door before he cuts loose on the apartment. You can hear the whoosh and crackle of flame, you can hear him kicking things, shoving things over. You put your palm to the door and it's hot.

You pull your gloves on and slowly make your way down the stairs still feeling him on your body. You think of Bobby. Bobby skating with Kitty. Something he used to do with you.

And you think of John. John tender and softly kissing your collarbone. John thinking you were beautiful on the rooftops but keeping his distance. Not because of your powers. Because you were Bobby's.

You thought getting rid of your mutation would make things less complicated, would make you happy, but now…

Now there's this burning…

You get to the street and you run. You have to see Bobby. Have to touch him and see if he can fix this, wipe out this confusion…

You're not supposed to feel like this about anyone else.

But you do, you do…

You burn, you burn...

And you want John to touch you again.

And again and again.