Summary: Eight months after Alcatraz, Rogue runs into someone she doesn't expect. Ryro Pairing.

Disclaimer: I don't own the X-Men.

Author's Note: Rewritten with major editing.


Chapter I

Rogue's Point of View:

I sat quietly on the curb, never moving an inch from where the police officer had planted me. Stationary, oblivious to the mayhem overrunning the city streets with police units, paramedics and the media, I stared at my hand. What was supposed to be dripped in blood was clean and free of the substance that declared my own mortality. I couldn't imagine how such an occurrence had come about. And I didn't want to think about it. Thinking gave rise to old fears that had haunted me long before I had taken 'The Cure' to rid myself of my mutation.

I gripped the blanket and brought the edges tightly around me as whispers began to assault my eardrums. Co-workers, acquaintances and life-time devotees to the First National Bank stood in the far ground trying to make sense of the madness that had struck hours earlier. It was an attempted heist gone terribly wrong, although no one was hurt, everyone was still reeling from the effects. Everyone except me. I didn't want to be reminded of the incident within the financial building. I wanted to escape. To head home and forget what had transpired.

"She was shot," I heard one of them say and turned ever so slightly.

A wealth of eyes bombarded me and I huddled inside the heavy, coarse, blanket to escape the inquisitive, fretful expressions on their faces. My hand slid across the lower part of belly, grazing my blouse which had been shredded and singed from the gun fire. A trembling finger poked the four holes resting against smooth skin. I shivered in great alarm. Thoughts overrun my mind with images of a fateful second that narrowly had me close to the gates of some alternate world or heaven. Instead, I was sitting on the corner of First and Third Avenue trying to decipher how and why I was still alive.

A stream of murmurs ensnared my attention again. I knew what those standing behind me were pondering at this moment. Mutant. Freak. A threat to society. I heard it all before. Seen it. Lived it. It was one of the reasons I had taken 'The Cure'. I wanted to save myself from a life of persecution and injustice. Some would call it the coward's way out, but I grew tired of the difficulties that came in life. And I got tired of my skin. I got tired of never being able to feel or touch without regret or apprehension. I got tired of not being able to truly live.

Weary of the conversation swelling behind me, the distance, the eyes pressing into the small of my back, I rose and turned to glance behind me one more time. A police officer was questioning a group of people. I met the eyes of a thirty-two year old woman; her countenance blackened as she looked me over with a dark animosity and pulled her two small crying children closer.

"It was a two man team," a man said and others nodded, corroborating with his story. "She was shot."

The officer rotated his body and directed his eyes at me. His dark eyes trailed down the length of my figure before settling on my face again. A frown intensified his heavyset face and leathery skin. He seemed unsure of his approach as he tucked his pen and note pad into his shirt pocket. Old fears renewed their spirits when I noticed one of my colleagues mouth the word mutant. It was then I turned and fled into the chaotic disorder flooding the streets.

"Hey, miss wait!"

I heard him calling after me but didn't stop. I weaved through two police cars and disappeared behind a large fire truck. Ahead of me, a host of people stood on the sidewalk observing the traumatic spectacle. I dove into the crowd and felt safe momentarily till I heard the officer forceful command that I stop. I didn't. I wanted to get out of there and head home. Thrusting deeper into the crowd, I bumped shoulders with someone of medium height, and staggered backwards.

"Hey, watch it!" The person she collided shoulders with bellowed.

Disbelief flooded into me. The voice was familiar. Too familiar. It hit me with a garish attitude I had not heard since the X-Mansion. I turned and sought out the bearer of the voice and locked with two steel, cold eyes. They stared at me in a mild hostility. I focused to take in his whole face. My mouth fell open.

St. John! Pyro?

I thought he was dead; a victim of Jean's explosives powers that had leveled Alcatraz to a pile of rubble. Bobby had told me John had perished. Surprisingly, I was deeply saddened by his lost. Once upon a time we were friends, a threesome like the three Musketeers. Yet inevitably we were divided by ideals that thrust us on different paths.

"P-Pyro?" I said softly so none other could hear.

He blinked. His azure eyes scratched the surface of my face, turning harsh and cold in recognition before relaxing into a confused air. "Who? I'm sorry but you must got the wrong guy, lady."

I drew back, perplexed. "John, it's me. R-Rogue."

His face grew stern then traveled past my face to the eye the cop coming toward me. "You have me mistaken for someone else." He said loud enough for the officer coming up behind her and people in the vicinity to hear.

"John—" I said irritation evident in my voice.

"Thanks," the officer said. He bent over wheezing, struggling to catch his breath. His corpulent size added to strain on his heart as his fat belly rose and fell with each intake of breath. He tipped his head to the group he had left behind. "They said you were injured. I need to escort you to the paramedics."

"Oh, that won't be necessary officer," I replied, my accent growing heavier as the tension within me mounted.

He dimmed his eyes on me. "I have to be certain miss."

"There's no need." I swept my right hand over my chest to show no harm had befallen me. I noticed the look in John's eyes and the doubt glimmering in the overweight officer.

"That may be," he said wiping the sweat off his forehead with the back of his hand. "It's procedure to have you taken down the emergency room plus some detectives would like to take your statement."

I became impatient. So impatient I literally wanted to stamp my feet. "Is this truly necessary?"

"Yes," he frowned.

"Lead the way."

I surrendered and followed him to the nearest ambulance where a female paramedic came to assist me. I climbed into the back of the vehicle and sat on a gurney. There I searched the crowd for John. He was gone.

()()()()

I had an enormous amount of sick days. Why the hell didn't I use them? If I had I wouldn't have suffered the indignity of being belittled by an arrogant doctor or questioned as if I were a criminal by two detectives. What made matters worse? The nurse had been unable to take samples of my blood because the needles broke each time she poked my skin. Her apathetic manner reduced to a natural phobia everyone undertook when they were afraid of something that was different or misunderstood.

I was soon herded out of the hospital—once they realized I was a mutant—so that I wouldn't upset the other patients and staff members. Upset? Gritting my teeth, I stuck my key into the door of my apartment and entered. Closing the door, I leaned into the hard surface and took three deep breaths to slow my thundering heart. Upset! I'm the one who should be up. I was treated like monster because I bore one extra gene. And I was peeved about this substance Worthington Labs had the nerve to call a 'Cure'.

A 'Cure' to what?

It was supposed to vanquish the mutation that had held my life hostage. So what was taking shape beneath the layers of flesh and bone? I faced a small mirror hanging on the door to my left and trembled. I was changing right before my eyes and didn't know what to anticipate next or how to stop it. It was at this moment I wished for the Professor's counsel. He would always have a logical reason for things that were unexplainable, things that were beyond my control. But the Professor was dead along with two other formidable members of the X-Men. Lives lost all because of 'The Cure'.

Tears brim the edge of my lashes but I fought them. It made me yearn for the comfort of another and the motive for journeying three thousand miles to San Francisco to live. I was still clueless to the grounds on why I had chosen the focal point a furious standoff between mutants and humanity. I could have chosen Seattle, Washington but it rained too often. I would never have a good hair day. Nevada was way too hot and L.A. was far too expensive. In truth I flipped a coin. I was either Sacramento or San Francisco; the city meant nothing to me but a place of residence.

Besides, it was the distance I desired. I wanted as much land between me and Bobby Drake as humanly possible. Also, I didn't speak another language so leaving the country was out of the question. Pain squeezed my chest and I flinched. Eight months and I was still thinking about him. I was still shaken and hurt. When I expressed doubt on the choice I had made to take 'The Cure' his response foretold his aims and purposes. To Bobby Drake, I was unconquered vessel, and 'The Cure' had finally given him liberties that could have never occurred formerly in our relationship.

I slammed my fist on the door and pushed away from it. Storming to my bedroom, I kicked off my shoes and walked into the bathroom. I crawled out my clothes and jumped into the shower, lingering for nearly an hour. I came out and dressed in pink pajamas and pulled on my slippers. A ravenous hunger gripped my stomach. I hadn't eaten since lunch which was a mandarin chicken salad from Wendy's and that was it. Opening the refrigerator door I scanned measly the contents within and settled for left over Chinese tucked in the far corner.

"I need to go shopping," I said and popped the item into the microwave.

I then went into the living room and turned on the news. Surprise. Surprise. The robbery was on several new stations including video images from inside the bank. I dropped into my sofa when I saw myself being assaulted by the second gunmen. His partner—on the other hand—was terrified. I could see it in his eyes. I thought I could reason with him, which was why I foolishly came away from my post to implore him to put down the gun. Instead, four shots hammered me and I fell not in pain but fright.

Disgusted, I watched the replay before rising to retrieve my dinner. I shared it onto a plate and on my way back to the couch I pressed the answering machine. Over a dozen messages flashed wildly. The first was Jubilee's squawking nervously on the other line. Two others were Kitty and Siyrn. I made a mental note to return their calls once I had finished eating.

The fourth was Logan and I smiled warmly when he demanded I return home. His concern was earnest and sweet. I would be lying to myself if I didn't acknowledge the feelings I held for him. It was love. But it was strictly platonic, not romantic. True, I once had a crush on once him and he played a part in a few vivid nighttime fantasies. However, as time went by, the feelings changed to friendship and adoration. Logan filled the void my real father abandoned. He was a protector and true companion.

Ororo Munroe graced the voice box next then several others whose names I had forgotten. I was surprised to hear my manager call and say the work was suspended till further notice. I smirked. It took heaven and earth to ask that man for a day off and here he was telling us to take a break. I would have laugh if the situation hadn't been serious. He gave me several contact numbers including a therapist.

"Nice," I frowned and munched on an egg roll.

Beep. Beep. The machine played its final message.

"Hey Rogue? It's me. I know you said you never wanted to speak to me again, but I had to call and see if you were okay."

I almost choked. Bobby! How the hell did he get this number? Who gave it to him for that matter? Frozen, I listened to his sorry appeal.

"Rogue, please," he sighed. "Call me. I need to speak to you."

I rose and marched towards the answering machine. My heart raced with each step.

"Rogue. I miss—"

Deleted.

I couldn't hear anymore. I didn't want to listen to his excuses or be swayed by his words. I wanted to forget about him and move on. I returned to the couch. A strange coldness raced through my body. I sat quietly for a while and stared haunted at the TV screen. I felt a single tear slip down my cheek and seethed angrily. Wiping my face, I picked up the remote and surfed through the channels, dead set on forgetting Bobby Drake.

A meteorologist on the Weather Channel reported a severe thunderstorm set to happen later in the evening. Completing my meal, I placed the plate on the floor and lay back on the couch, pulling a woolen blanket across my legs. I continued flipping the channels then landed on the Soap Net, a station that recycled the morning soaps, and got comfortable. I was grateful such a channel existed that way I could watch the Young and the Restless without missing a beat.

I awoke to darkness and heavy rainfall drumming my windows. I leaned over and tried to turn on my lamp but it didn't work. Panic seized me and I shot upwards in couch. It was so dark I could barely see my hand in front my face. Slowly rising, I staggered to the window. Darkness shrouded a three block radius of neighborhood. A good distance away, I could see a street lights breaking into the darkness and sighed. Power outage. Wonderful. Ever careful I crossed the living room to my bedroom, remembering I kept a flash light in one of the nightstands. I found it and flicked it on glad to have some light. I flashed it on the clock on the wall. It was one-thirty.

Balancing the flashlight on the dresser, I started to take the quilt and decorated pillows off my bed when I heard a noise that startled me. Frozen stiff, I listened for a moment but heard nothing, only the pounding rain and thunder clapping in the darkness. I brushed the noise aside as an aftermath of the turbulent storm outside and resumed getting ready for bed. The noise came again; a strange scratching and bumping against my veranda door. Hesitant, I walked slowly to the door and thrust it open. Rain water poured inside.

"Who's there?" I called out, using the flashlight to scan the darkness. I screamed when something moved and pinned the light on a black cat hunkered in the shadows. "Hey," I said, sighing in relief. "How in the world did you get all the way up here?" The animal crouched low and hissed. "Don't be frightened." I scooped the animal up and held it close. It was shivering and wet and I felt sorry for it. "Poor thing." I carried it inside. I got a towel and dried it off. "Want some milk?" I asked it once it was warm and dry. "Sorry but I have no cat food so tuna fish will have to do."

In the darkness I retrieved the items and put them in two small bowls for the feline. I watched it eat and smiled, curious as to how the creature had gotten all the way up to my apartment, particularly when the only fire exit was the staircase located inside my apartment building. "I bet you have a family somewhere," I said. "Someone who might be missing you." Mystical green-yellow eyes rose to mine. "No, me too, no one is missing me either. At least not my parents." I swallowed, the anguish bubbling inside and sniffed. "Well enjoy and I'll see what to do about you tomorrow." I left the animal to its feast and went to bed.

I awoke the next morning to a wet sensation on my face and startled. "Hey," I laughed, spying the cat resting on my chest. "Either you're hungry or looking for attention." I climbed out bed and went to bathroom to take a shower and brush my teeth. Wearing fresh clothes, I went to the kitchen to see about breakfast. Unfortunately, the power had not returned.

"Great." I huffed and slammed cupboard doors closed. I looked down at the feline sitting beside me, twitching its tail. "Looks like its milk and tuna for you again and Denny's for me." Assured the cat had enough to last, I grabbed my purse and jacket, and also decided this was the day I was going to stock up on groceries.

I took a cab to a Denny's I knew that was close by and had a hearty breakfast. Afterwards, I took in a little shopping before going to the supermarket. It was three p.m. when I finally came home to an angry little feline meowing at the door. "Well," I said dumping my bags on the kitchen counter after I put the closed I had purchased on the bed. "Getting comfortable aren't we. I should have known. Feed them twice and they don't want to leave. Well, don't worry. I got you enough food to last about a week or so. You're on probation. I'm still deciding whether or not I want to keep you." I fixed the inquisitive cat some food and watched it eat. "I think I'll call you Ebony, regardless if you're male or female. With your black shinny coat it fits you." I was happy to see the power had returned and prepared my own lunch.

I went into the living room and sat on the couch ready to watch some TV. To my dismay I received snow on all the channels. "Great," I scoffed and tossed the remote aside. I guess it was to the movies tonight. Before heading out, I kept my promise and called everyone who had left a message on my answering machine. Everyone except Bobby. I made it a point never to speak to him and I wasn't going back on that promise.

()()()()

Two days passed and when the cable had not been restored I notified the company. They were deeply sorry for the trouble and claimed the storm had knocked out many systems and would send someone to restore it within two to three days. Glorious. Another it would be a week almost before I saw TV again. Not that it troubled me but since I was not to return to work until further notice, it did put a damper on the afternoons when I really had nothing to do. I would have to find ways to make the time pass. Just so, I went to the public library, and for the first time in almost five years got a library card.

"Cable guy," came a voice after the doorbell rang.

I lowered the book I was reading and stared eyes wide. "They're early," I said to myself one afternoon and got up to open the door for them. Naturally, I was expecting to suffer two more days before anyone arrived to fix my cable. I removed the chain and turned the latch and stood paralyzed in horror once I pulled the door open.

"Marie D'Ancanto. So, you do have a name after all."

"John," I gasped, completely stupefied.

He was in a blue and white uniform and a cap with the company insignia printed and name plate pinned on shirt. He stared grimly at me. "You gonna let me in or what?"

"You're a cable repair man?"

"Like it's hard," he scoffed. "You take the course. You pass the test. How fucking difficult is that?" I made a face. Same ole John, not even a dress code and a job had changed him. He was still a harden rebel, pessimistic ass, with a snide tongue to match. "Look Marie," he checked his watch. "I'm press for time here. You want your service restored or not?"

I stepped aside and widened the door. He walked into my apartment with a confident swagger that left me shaking my head. Indeed, he hadn't changed.

"Nice digs," he said complimenting my household.

"Thanks," I replied, somewhat nervous he was in my home, shocked he was even alive.

"I live in a one room rat's nest on the on the east side." He scoffed.

"Bummer," I said absently, folding my arms over my chest. I closed the door. "Can we get this over with?"

He regarded me and smiled. "Already want me gone huh?"

"You're here to work John." I said. "This is not a reunion. Don't expect me to be cordial, especially after you deserted us to join the Brotherhood."

"What's wrong with following an ideal? What's wrong with the ideal of mutant liberation or do you want to be treated like parasite for the rest of your life. But I'm not surprise you're literally a bloodsucking leech." He saw a flash of hurt emerge in her eyes and grinned.

"Go to hell, John," I spat, rigid with anger. I shied away to dry the tears from my eyes. "I don't want to argue with you John. Just repair the cable and go."

I whirled around and headed for the kitchen, wanting to escape his cruel gaze, twisted philosophy and unquestionable anger. He always seemed to get a rise out of me. Even at the mansion he always managed to work my nerves and frustrate the hell out me. It was strange to think about. I admit he had a flare that made him alluring and it tempted a part of me I kept suppressed and hidden. I don't know why. I guess I was afraid of that sort of freedom. I couldn't risk reveling in its nature where my skin was concerned. Perhaps that was the reason I was dated Bobby. He was safe. He was responsible. He was sensible. Nevertheless, there was a time I was drawn to John's alluring psychedelic appeal.

I crept out of the kitchen once I had put the dishes away and watched him work. He unloaded several electrical instruments and placed them on the floor. He rose to his feet and turned the box so the back faced front and inserted a gauge into a slot then turned on the TV and box. He frowned and removed the gauge and shut off the TV and system. He proceeded to open the cable box and inspect its internal mechanism. I must say I was deeply impressed by how attuned to his task he was. As I watched him I grew curious, questions coming to mind.

"I—I thought—you—they told me—you were—dead."

"Who told you? Bobby? Yeah," he snorted. "I bet he did."

I stepped to him. "Alcatraz was completely destroyed John."

"I was lucky," he said impatiently as he worked. "I don't know how but I was. I woke up six weeks later in a hospital and they told me I was the only survivor."

"Oh," I exhaled.

He looked up at me. "Then those bastards, figuring I was a mutant and wanting to play it safe, they gave me what they had of that fucking 'Cure'."

"What?" I cried.

"Yeah," he said, his mouth twisted bitterly. "Exactly what I said."

It was one thing to take 'The Cure' by choice, another to have it administered without consent. It was a violation of rights and civil liberties. I cringed. Although, I had doubts and regretted taking the Cure. John's case felt like absolute rape. I could understand why he didn't want to be referred to as Pyro. He wasn't Pyro anymore.

"So, where's Bobby? You two shacking up. Never did thank him for that little stunt he pulled." He grumbled reminded of the nasty bump on the head. Yet he had to give him his due. When came to war fighting dirty sometimes went with the territory. Though he must say it was something he never expected from Bobby.

"He's not here. He's back in Westchester aiding Miss Munroe with the school, finishing college there, blah blah blah, why do you care?"

He shrugged. "I don't. I'm just surprised he's not glued to your side. I figured where you go, he would be there that's all."

"We're not together anymore."

"Really," he said looking me over. "What happened?"

"Nothing," I snapped, folding my arms. "Look, just finish your job then leave." I spun around and headed to the kitchen again.

"Alright," he fired. "Don't get all bitchy because Bobby dumped you."

I felt as if he had slapped me in the face and spun around fuming. "You asshole."

"I never denied it," he laughed.

I wanted to kill him and would have choked him to death if the Death Penalty wasn't so enforced in this state. Pacing the kitchen I tried to bank down the rage splitting me in two. How could he be so callus? Why do I always let him get to me? Leaning against the sink, I took deep breaths to calm myself.

"You're gonna need a new system. Whoa! Calm down," he said when he saw me jump. "It's only me."

"That's what I'm afraid of," I seethed. "What is it now?"

He lifted my box and showed it to me. "This box is fried I'm gonna run down to the truck and get you a brand new one."

"Oh," I said. "It must have shorted out when the power went out."

He nodded. "That's why you should always turn if off before you got to bed."

I glared at him. "I fell asleep. Sue me."

"I might," he grinned and departed for his truck.

"Ugh," I growled when he was gone and threw a dish towel at the wall. He returned minutes later and headed towards the living room.

"I'll soon be out of your hair."

"The sooner the better," I muttered.

He gave me a guarded look. "I heard that." He set up my box and within a few minutes civilization had returned to large TV screen. "Voila."

"Great," I said exhilarated

He picked up the remote and sat down on the couch. He looked quite comfortable there. It was then Ebony came out of her hiding place and jumped on the couch. She stared at him curiously. "I didn't know you adopted a cat."

"I didn't. He or she adopted me actually," I said scooping the cat up and stroking its black fur.

"You don't know what sex your cat is?"

"I found it on my veranda purring and scratching my door. What?"

"Nothing."

"I need to feed him or her."

"I'm not stopping you." He waved me away.

I shook my headed and returned to the kitchen. Once Ebony was set I grabbed a Pepsi from the fridge then wondered if John might want a cold drink.

"Thanks." He popped the lid and took a hard swig.

I noticed he had stopped on the Soap Network and hadn't changed the channel since. "You like watching Soap Operas." I was greatly surprised.

He hardened. "What of it?"

"Big bad Pyro likes soaps."

"It's my thing Marie, leave it the hell alone."

We sat watching without saying another word to each other, yet every often I stole a glance at him. He made no further mention of Bobby to which I was eternally grateful as I reached for my soda. Our hands met accidentally and rush of warmth raced up my skin on contact. I drew back alarmed spilling my soda on the carpet. "Shit!"

I raced to the kitchen. Snatching a towel I hurried back and started to dab at the spot. I felt him watching me and sweat broke out on my back. Anxious, I rose and disappeared in the kitchen, glad to be out of his sight. I didn't know what was happening, not to mention my reaction to his touch. It was an accident and yet something occurred. Something fleeting. Something I didn't want to acknowledge. Feeling hungry I started to make a sandwich when he startled me again.

"Jesus," he said noticing I had stabbed my hand. He took it and inspected it. I was sure what startled him even more was that his fingers were touching my bare skin and there was no deadly effect. "You should have a war wound by now." He lifted his eyes to mine.

"I—I—know," I yanked my hand away from him. I looked at him and saw a somber look on his face.

"You took 'The Cure' didn't you?"

I stiffened, ever ready for an attack. "I had to. It was ruining my life John. But it was all for not." I looked away, hurt.

"Bobby?"

I nodded.

"Son of a bitch."

"Tell me about it." I glanced his way. "I don't know what's happening to me John and quite frankly I'm scared."

"I know how you feel, particularly when I can now do this." He opened his hand and a small flame was danced in the center of his palm. I stood stunned by the sight. He was no longer manipulating the fire he was now creating it. "Want to know what I think? It's not a 'Cure' at least not anymore."

We talked for a while, coming to our own brand of conclusions about 'The Cure'. Almost loosing track of time, John packed up his equipment and tug on his hat. I was almost sad to see him leave. But he told me he was running late and had other places to go to. I paid him with a check and escorted him out the door. "It was nice to see you John."

"Yeah," he said and started down the hall then stopped. "Hey, why don't we go out for a drink some time?"

I wanted to jump at it but deep down I was still dealing with my break-up. Still healing. It wasn't a date but drinks always led to dates. "I'd like to," I said, "but that's highly unlikely."

John merely shrugged and headed on his way.